THE UNBIASED OBSERVERS, Issue 43


From 1 September 2011 this newsletter service is subscription only. See Balkan News Service for details. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Politics and others:

Albania

  • The Albanian Foreign Minister Discusses Albania’s EU Integration with US Ambassador Alexander Arvizu
  • Italy and Turkey Help Albania to Extinguish Raging Wildfires

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on a Three Day Visit to BiH
  • The New OSCE Head of Mission to BiH Received by Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj

Bulgaria

  • Bulgaria’s President Confirms his Return to the Socialist Party

Croatia

  • Serbia’s President Tadic Sees Serbia-Croatia Relations as Very Important to be Upset by Tactless StatementsМCroatia’s Prime Minister Kosor Responds that She is Not Convinced There Is Need for Reconciliation
  • Croatia’s PM Criticized of Spending Taxpayers’ Money on Election Campaign

Kosovo

  • U.S. Diplomat John Clint Williamson, Who Handled Cases Against Milosevic and Arkan Before ICTY, Appointed as Lead Prosecutor for EULEX Special Investigative Task Force
  • UN Security Meeting on Kosovo Postponed

Greece

  • “No Chance” for a Coalition Government in Greece

Montenegro

  • Language Issue Still On Montenegro’s Task List
  • Another Vehicle of Vijesti Media Put on Fire

Serbia

  • The Czech President “Serbia Should be Given the Same EU Preconditions as the Other Aspirants”

Turkey

  • 145-160 PKK Members Killed by the Turkish Armed Forces
  • Turkey’s President Gül Receives Greetings on the Victory Day 

Economy:

Bulgaria

  • EUR 100.1 M Offered for Bulgaria’s Bulgartabak

Greece

  • Troika Disappointed with Greece’s Pace of Reforms

Macedonia

  • A New EUR 11 M Electrolytic Copper Plan Starts Operation in Radovis, Macedonia

Romania

  • New Head of the Environment Agency after Romania’s Suspension from Trading Green Certificates

Turkey

  • Turkish Banks Have Worst Reputation According to a GFK Survey 

BALKANS – POLITICS & OTHER

Albania

The Albanian Foreign Minister Discusses Albania’s EU Integration with US Ambassador AlexanderArvizu

Tirana, U.S. Ambassador to Tirana, Alexander Arvizu said, after a meeting with Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edmond Haxhinasto, held on 29 August, that USA would support Albania’s integration into EU. Ambassador Arvizu has pointed out that the integration process is an important step for Albania and the country can take this step if there is unity among political forces over the fulfillment of the required standards. On his part, minister Haxhinasto has said that Albania enjoys the full support of European partners, as well as USA, in terms of Albania’s integration into EU. He also has underlined the necessity of drafting a national pact for Albania’s EU integration, ATA reported.

Italy and Turkey Help Albania to Extinguish Raging Wildfires

Italian and Turkish helicopters have provided help to Albanian fireguards in their fight with over 10 wildfires in different areas of the country. Albania’s General Directorate of Civil Emergency informed that thankful to the assistance the fire in Pish Poro, Vlora has been extinguished. The air operations have been extended in the forest of Morava, Korca district, Lura National Park and in the territory of the region of Kukes. Albania has seen over 320 fires in August, ATA reports.

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on a Three Day Visit to BiH

Sarajevo, Upon his arrival on a three-day visit to BiH, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu has emphasized that Turkey supports the prompt formation of state authorities in BiH. The Turkish official was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa by rector of the University of Tuzla, Ph.D. Enver Halilovic on 29 August, Fena reported.

The New OSCE Head of Mission to BiH Received by Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj

Sarajevo, Ambassador Fletcher M. Burton is the new Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ambassador Burton had a meeting with BiH Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj on 29 August, FENA reported.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s President Confirms his Return to the Socialist Party

Sofia, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, whose second and last term in office nears, has said that his return to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) would reinforce the formation and open it to new partners. Last week, Bulgarian media hinted at intentions of the head of state to return to the left-wing party from which he started his political career and even become its leader. The idea was instantly dismissed as “impossible” by Sergey Stanishev, current leader of the political formation.

Croatia

Serbia’s President Tadic Sees Serbia-Croatia Relations as Very Important to be Upset by Tactless Statements

Croatia’s Prime Minister Kosor Responds that She is Not Convinced There Is Need for Reconciliation

Belgrade/Zagreb, Serbian President Boris Tadic is quoted by Croatian media as saying that some recent statements by Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor and Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic were “absolutely unacceptable.” Serbia’s President Tadic has emphasized that Serbia-Croatia relations are extremely important to be upset by tactless statements. Tadic noted that dialogue is the only way.

According to the Tanjug news agency, President Tadic asked to comment on the recent cooling of Belgrade-Zagreb relations, answered: “Relations between Serbia and Croatia are too important to be brought into question with tactless statements.” Tadic added that the relations between the two countries were of “the utmost importance for stability in Southeast Europe.”

“We have to go back to dialogue, we have to solve concrete problems and build the closest friendship possible between the Serbian and Croatian peoples, between Serbia and Croatia,” Tadic said, adding that he had put a lot of effort with Croatian President Ivo Josipovic to develop the relations between the two countries to the highest level and that this must be pursued.

After her recent visit to Kosovo, Croatian Prime Minister said that she would not ask for Serbia’s permission in terms of what messages to give. This was her response to Belgrade’s criticism over her statements made during her visit to Pristina.

Asked about media speculations that Slovenian PM Borut Pahor had offered to mediate between her and Serbian President Boris Tadic, Croatian Prime Minister Kosor said she was not sure there was a need for reconciliation.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not fighting with anyone, only stating the Croatian government’s national and strategic interests. The Croatian prime minister is allowed to state historical facts and boost her country’s economic potential. That was the case with my going to Kosovo and on Victory Day, when I was only stating facts and that we had been a victim of aggression and that we had defended and liberated our country. In this, nobody has to make me make peace with anyone,”Kosor commented.

Croatia’s PM Criticized of Sepnding Taxpayers’ Money on Election Campaign 

Pula, Asked by the press to comment on the opposition’s accusations that she was spending taxpayers’ money on a pre-election road show, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said in Pula on 29 August that the opposition’s only programme was to criticise, where the government had to work and pass important decisions, such as calling an international tender forBrijuni Rivijera, a project she said was important for tourism, tPortal reported.

The next parliamentary election to the Croatian Parliament will be held on 4 December 2011.This will be the 7th parliamentary election in Croatia since independence. The main actors of the election remain entrenched from the previous election cycle – the right-centre block led by the Croatian Democratic Union, or HDZ, and the left-centre block led by the Social Democratic Party of Croatia, or SDP. HDZ’s nominee is Jadranka Kosor. Her rival is Zoran Milanović, backed by SDP and Alliance for Change.

 

Kosovo

U.S. Diplomat John Clint Williamson, Who Handled Cases Against Milosevic and Arkan Before ICTY, Appointed as Lead Prosecutor for EULEX Special Investigative Task Force

Pristina, U.S. diplomat John Clint Williamson was appointed as EULEX lead prosecutor for investigation into human organ trafficking allegations.

U.S. diplomat John Clint Williamson, who has been appointed new EULEX lead prosecutor for investigation into human organ trafficking allegations made by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, has worked as a trial attorney in the cases against former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic and paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic alias Arkan before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

From late-2001 through 2002, he served in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations as the Director of the Department of Justice in the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, overseeing the justice and prison systems. From 1994 to 2001, he worked as a trial attorney at the ICTY in The Hague, Netherlands. While at the ICTY, he supervised investigations and field operations in the Balkans, compiled indictments, and carried out criminal investigations.

Among the cases handled by Williamson were those against Slobodan Milosevic and the notorious paramilitary leaderZeljko Raznatovic alias Arkan, as well as cases arising from the Yugoslav National Army attacks on Vukovar and Dubrovnik, Croatia. At present, Williamson is working as a Special Expert to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The special team will look into the accusations made by Swiss senator Dick Marty in a Council of Europe report, which was first made public in December 2010, reads a release issued by EULEX.

A preliminary investigation into these allegations was launched by EULEX on January 27 this year, the release adds. It is highly important that American diplomat John Clint Williamson was appointed as lead prosecutor for EULEX special investigative task force, EULEX spokesman Nicholas Hawton told Tanjug, adding that the official should shortly assume his duties. He underlined that Williamson, who currently serves as a special expert to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, underwent the EULEX standard recruitment procedure. The special team is not complete yet. The recruitment procedure is still underway, he explained. It is important that the lead prosecutor was appointed, and that he can soon get down to work, Hawton said. The special team will include 15-20 people, mostly prosecutors, investigators and administrative staff, he said declining to go into further detail.

UN Security Meeting on Kosovo Postponed

New York, The UN Security Council has postponed its meeting on Kosovo for 30 August, according to what Tanjug has learned at the UN headquarters.

The meeting was scheduled for 29 August, but the problems caused by hurricane Irene in New York resulted in the postponement. The earliest available date was 30 August.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will present his quarterly report on Kosovo during the meeting, but the focus is expectedto be on the recent crisis in the north of Kosovo, which started late July as the Pristina authorities attempted to take over administrative crossings with central Serbia.

Although the report only covers the period ending 15 July, the council will be informed about the latest events by Head of the UN Mission in Kosovo Farid Zarif, while the ambassadors will have an opportunity to present their countries’ views.

The Serbian delegation is headed by Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, who told Tanjug earlier he expected an extremely difficult session, since the members of the council are divided regarding the presidential statement proposed by Russia.

The statement condemns Pristina for its use of force and demands the situation be reverted back to its original state.

The document also calls on all international agencies in Kosovo, including NATO’s Kosovo Force and the EU Mission in Kosovo, to adhere strictly to their mandate and UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Greece

“No Chance” for a Coalition Government in Greece

Athens, “There is “no chance” of early elections or of PASOK forming a coalition administration with New Democracy,” Greek government’s spokesman Ilias Mosialos said on 29 August, Greek media reported.

“There is not even a chance of [snap] elections, nor of any shared governance,” Mosialos said.

Rumors about the socialists [PASOK] and the conservatives [New Democracy] working together have been driven by their agreement last week on university reforms.

 

Montenegro

Language Issue Still On Montenegro’s Task List

Podgorica, “The offer made to the opposition to name the school subject Montenegrin language/mother tongue and literature is the biggest concession the government could make,” Prime Minister Igor Luksic has said. The opposition parties have declared their support for the election law, which is a key prerequisite for Montengro’s integration in EU.

Montenegrin Prime Minister and opposition leaders have not managed to reach an agreement on the status of the Serbian language in Montenegro’s educational system, after trying to settle the issue 29 August, for the fourth time in total, Tanjug reported.

The opposition said they would call for boycotting the classes in schools if no agreement was reached before the new school year began. Luksic met with President of the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) Srdjan Milic, Leader of the New Serb Democracy (NSD) Andrija Mandic and Movement for Changes (PZP) President Nebojsa Medojevic.

After the meeting, the reporters were told that Luksic had not accepted the opposition’s proposal to call the school subject “Montenegrin, Serbian language/mother’s tongue and literature.”

Luksic said that the title of the subject might be “Montenegrin language/mother’s tongue and literature,” indicating that it would be the greatest concession that the government could make, but the opposition had found that unacceptable.

Another Vehicle of Vijesti Media Put on Fire

Podgorica, Another vehicle owned by the Montenegrin daily Vijesti was damaged by fire in the Podgorica suburbs of StariAerodrom early on 27 August, and the police suspect an arson attack. According to a police press release, the fire broke out during a blackout in that part of the city. The newspaper already suffered two previous vehicle damages, the first being an explosion.

 

Serbia

The Czech President “Serbia Should be Given the Same EU Preconditions as the Other Aspirants”

Prague/Belgrade, Czech President Vaclav Klaus stated after the talks with Serbian President Boris Tadic on 29 August that the European Union (EU) should give the same preconditions to Serbia as those which were given to other EU aspirants.

“I believe that Serbia should be given the same preconditions as all other EU aspirants, and that it should not be faced with additional requirements which others did not have,” Klaus said.

The Czech President underlined at a joint press conference in the Lany Chateau near Prague, where he welcomed the Serbian president with highest state honors, that he has full understanding for Serbia’s EU ambitions.

“We will offer full support to Serbia on its EU pathway,” Klaus said.

Serbia’s President Tadic emphasized that Serbia would be consistent in terms of implementing reforms to become an EU member.

“We are realistic, and we are aware of the internal problems of the EU,” Tadic noted.

He said that Serbia’s EU accession is of great importance not only for the country but also for the EU since, as he put it, Serbia’s EU integration will be a stability factor for all Western Balkan countries, including the EU countries.

“I told my European partners that by accepting the situation created by violence they are accepting the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo and taking responsibility for it,” Tadić said and added that Serbia would never accept ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo.

“I expect the European institutions to contribute to a peaceful solution and  I expect continuation of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue. We don’t need anybody pushing us to continue the dialogue because it is in our interest to find a modus of joint existence and to decrease security risks,“ the president was quoted as saying.

Belgrade negotiations team chief Borislav Stefanović said abolishment of Serbian institutions in northern Kosovo would not be a topic in the upcoming talks on 2 September.

Meanwhile, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić commented that he expected the UN Security Council’s meeting to beexceptionally difficult, having in mind conflicting stands regarding presidential release of Russia. He specified that Russia filed the draft presidential release which condemned Priština over its decision to resort to force and calls for restoring the situation to its previous state, that is, before the beginning of the violent intervention.

 

Turkey

145-160 PKK Members Killed by the Turkish Armed Forces

Ankara, The general staff of the Turkish Armed Forces said on 29 August that they have killed an estimated 145 to 160 members of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and injured at least 100 others in the past three days.The general staff informed in a statement that Turkish jets conducted “21 effective sorties” between 25 August and 28 August in northern Iraq, targeting PKK camps in Zap and Gara regions. The statement made it clear that intelligence aerial vehicles had identified possible PKK targets between 23 August and 24 August before the air raids. 38 targets were heavily shelled in coordination with air raids during the cross-border operation in the same period. All targets were carefully pinpointed through repeated reconnaissance flights before the operations and that the military had taken necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

The air strikes on suspected PKK targets in northern Iraq between 17 August and 22 August killed an estimated 90 to 100PKK members. The general staff of the Turkish Armed Forces warned that it would press ahead with offensives against the PKK group both inside Turkey and across the border.

Listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK took up arms in 1984 to create an ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey. More than 40,000 people have been killed in conflicts involving thePKK during the past over two decades.

Turkey’s President Gül Receives Greetings on the Victory Day

Ankara, The removal of a 2007 memorandum criticizing the nomination of President Abdullah Gül from the Turkey’s military website has marked the latest in a series of symbolic steps related to the influence over the Turkish army, Hurryiet Daily reports.

The new momentum in normalizing civil-military ties was accelerated by new top commander Gen. Necdet Özel’s proposal that President Gül, in a break with decades-old tradition, would receive greetings on Victory Day, the 30 August holiday that commemorates the final battle in the Turkish War of Independence in 1922.

Since Gen. Özel’s appointment as chief of General Staff following Gen. Işık Koşaner’s resignation in late July in protest against the arrests of high-ranking officers, a number of steps have been taken to cement the elected government’s oversight of the military. Gül’s new role at Victory Day was preceded by milestone changes in the seating arrangements at both the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, and the National Security Council, or MGK. Illustrating the growing civilian control over the army, these symbolic moves have had visible effects on the Turkish political landscape as both sides show willingness to adopt a more European standard in defining civil-military relations in Turkey, which has experienced periodic military coups d’état since the 1960s. 

BALKANS ECONOMY

Bulgaria

EUR 100.1 M Offered for Bulgaria’s Bulgartabak

Sofia, The only candidate to buy Bulgaria’s state-owned cigarette producer Bulgartabac Holding, the Austria-registered firm BT Invest owned by Russia’s second-biggest bank VTB, has offered a price of EUR 100.1 M

Bulgaria’s Privatization and Post-privatization Control Agency opened the only binding offer for the sale of Bulgartabac as the deadline expired on 29 August.

VTB-owned BT Invest’s offer of EUR 100.1 M for the purchase of 5 881 380 shares, which are 79.83% of Bulgartabac’scapital, is EUR 100 000 higher than the minimum required price of EUR 100 M set by the Bulgarian government.

The Russian-owned bidder – which was the only company that reached the last stage of the privatization procedure after British American Tobacco and Austria-based CB Family Office Service abandoned the sale earlier in August – has also pledged in its offer that it will be buying a minimum amount of 5000 metric tons of Bulgarian-produced tobacco in the first five years after the sale. The amount in question is about 15% of Bulgaria’s 2010 tobacco production.

It has also promised to invest in Bulgartabac EUR 1.02 M in the first year of ownership of the cigarette-maker and EUR 2.5 M in the second year.

BT Invest’s offers is now set to be reviewed by the privatization commission and the consultant on the deal – Citigroup. Bulgaria’s authorities have vowed that if the offer does not meet the set requirements, the deal will not go through.

Russian media have reported that VTB is only acting on behalf of one of its clients which remains anonymous, and that it is going to sell Bulgartabac after it acquires it. The Bulgarian Privatization Agency has made it clear that it did not have additional information about bidder BT Invest other than what was announced publicly.

In the event that the consultant Citigroup and the privatization commission approve the sale, the deal is to be given a green light within a week, and is then subject to approval from Bulgartabac’s supervisory board. At present, Bulgaria’s former cigarette monopoly Bulgartabac has a market share of 34% in the country.

Bulgaria’s tobacco industry trade unions have announced their position against the sale of state-owned cigarette-maker Bulgartabac to Russian-owned bank VTB.

“The tobacco unions are preparing protest rallies against the planned privatization of Bulgartabac Holding,” the head of the Tobbaco Industry Union at the Podkrepa Labor Confederation Yuliy Manoylov told the Focus agency late on 29 August. He pointed out that the privatization procedure of the tobacco company has not been designed in a way to serve the interests of the country.

Bulgartabac Holding AD, the state-owned Bulgarian cigarette maker which is on sale, ended the second quarter of 2011 with a profit of EUR 1.48 M.

According to the consolidated account of Bulgartabac, the company registered total revenues of EUR 90 M in the second quarter, an increase of almost 30% compared with the second quarter of last year. Its total spending rose to EUR 88.34 M, an increase of 36%.

Bulgartabac’s own capital amounted to EUR 142.03 M at the end of June 2011, a decrease of 12.25% compared with the second quarter of 2010.

Greece

Troika Disappointed with Greece’s Pace of Reforms

Athens, Top-ranking officials representing Greece’s foreign creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – Monday reportedly rebuffed appeals by the government for more time to meet targets for reducing the country’s huge budget deficit, insisting that authorities move fast on implementing an across-the-board wage structure for public sector employees and slashing public spending.

According to sources of Kathimerini newspaper, the visiting officials – who met with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Administrative Reform and e-Governance Minister Dimitris Reppas – showed no willingness to renegotiate the deadlines to which the government has committed itself.

The officials are also said to have expressed disappointment with delays in the drafting of a wage structure for civil servants and in the enforcement of an agreement according to which surplus staff in the broader public sector remain on a labor standby status for 12 months, receiving just 60 percent of the basic salary, before being reassessed.

The inspectors expressed further dissatisfaction over the fact that a new rule – foreseeing just one hiring for every 10 departures from the civil service – is not being properly enforced.

The Greek officials were told that the number of contract workers in the civil service would be reduced by 50 percent compared to 2010.

The inspectors, who are also to discuss a range of thorny issues including tax evasion with Venizelos, are to round off their meetings by 5 September.

Macedonia

A New EUR 11 M Electrolytic Copper Plan Starts Operation in Radovis, Macedonia

Skopje,  A new plant for production of electrolytic copper started operation at the mine Bucim in Radovis on 29 August. The new EUR 11 million plant annual production is expected to be 2.000-3.000 tonnes of electrolytic copper, MIA reported. The new facility opens 60-70 new jobs. There are about 100 mines in Macedonia, employing over 8,000 people. Mining industry covers close to one third of the country’s production and registered a 8.6% annual growth.

Romania

New Head of the Environment Agency after Romania’s Suspension from Trading Green Certificates

Bucharest, Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc on Monday appointed Gabriel Abos head of the National Environment Protection Agency (ANPM), replacing Iosif Nagy, who resigned after Romania was barred from trading green certificates,Mediafax reported. Abos, who was deputy commissioner general with the National Environment Guard, was proposed for the position by Environment Minister Laszlo Borbely.

The Kyoto Protocol committee has decided to suspend Romania from trading green certificates, after it noted breaches in the national inventory of carbon emissions, and the decision will apply until the county meets all requirements.

 

Turkey

Turkish Banks Have Worst Reputation According to a GFK Survey

Ankara, The banking sector has the worst reputation in the eyes of consumers among a wide range of Turkish businesses, according to a recent study by GFK Turkey, the local branch of the company. Big holdings, telecommunication companies and fast-moving consumer goods firms topped GFK’s reputation index, Hurryiet writes.

The RepMan index is a result of more than 20,000 interviews and was carried out for the first time in Turkey, GFK said.

(Mariela Zamfirova, MBA; 30 August 2011)

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About Johann Brandstätter

Photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Bulgaria, working mainly in the Balkans and the Middle East. Conflicts & crises, social and environmental issues, defense & military, travel, transportation.
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