Balkan News

Rehn welcomes signals from Turkey about amending controversial law

BRUSSELS, Belgium — EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on Monday (November 6th) welcomed a signal from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his government is prepared to amend controversial Article 301 of the Penal Code, which has led to several journalists and writers being put on trial on charges of insulting Turkishness. Rehn issued a statement saying he believes good intentions would translate into concrete action.
The deadlock over opening Turkey’s naval and airspace to Greek Cypriot traffic continues to present problems, however. In an interview published in Monday’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey risks a crisis in its accession talks if it does not comply with an extended customs protocol that includes Cyprus. On Wednesday, the European Commission is due to issue a new report evaluating Turkey’s progress.

Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s new presidents sworn in

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The three members of the collective presidency were sworn in on Monday (November 6th), five weeks after Election Day. Serb Nebojsa Radmanovic of the Independent Social-Democrats, Muslim Haris Silajdzic of the Party for Bosnia, and Croat Zeljko Komsic of the Social Democrats will rotate as presidency chairman over the next four years. Radmanovic will be the first, serving for eight months. He called for decisive steps, enabling BiH to move forward on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration and economic development.

Serbian parliament to certify new constitution Wednesday

BELGRADE, Serbia — Parliament Speaker Predrag Markovic says Serbia’s legislature will hold a special session Wednesday (November 8th) to formally proclaim the new constitution. Lawmakers first adopted the document on September 30th. It was then confirmed in a nationwide referendum on October 28th-29th.
On Monday, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, leader of the Democratic Party of Serbia, began consulting with leaders of the main parties regarding dates for parliamentary and presidential elections.

Rumsfeld reaffirms full US support for Montenegrin PfP bid

PODGORICA, Montenegro — US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has reaffirmed his country’s full support for Montenegro’s bid to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme. A delegation visiting from the Pentagon Monday (November 6th) delivered a letter Rumsfeld wrote to Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic. The US experts are in Montenegro to assist in the military’s reform process. Later on Monday, the Pentagon representatives held talks with Foreign Minister Miodrag Vlahovic and Army chief General Jovan Lakcevic.

Mandic’s war crimes trial begins in BiH

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The war crimes trial against Momcilo Mandic, the former Republika Srpska justice and interior minister from Radovan Karadzic’s government, opened before the BiH Court on Monday (November 6th). Mandic is charged in relation to the April 1992 attack on Sarajevo and the establishment of detention camps in Ilidza and Foca. Prosecutors plan to summon 51 witnesses and present 147 items of material evidence, including transcripts of tapped phone conversations between Mandic and senior Bosnian Serb military and police officials. Last week, Mandic received a nine-year prison sentence for abuse of office and forgery, in a separate trial related to embezzlement at Privredna Banka Srpsko Sarajevo.

Turkish police smash drug trafficking ring

HAKKARI, Turkey — Police in the southeast province of Hakkari have smashed a criminal gang that was smuggling drugs into Turkey from Iran, according to local authorities Monday (November 6th). Police seized over 100kg of heroin, hidden in 119 packages in a lorry, as well as weapons. Eight people were arrested.
In Croatia, meanwhile, local police and customs authorities in Osijek-Baranja County said Monday that they have broken up cigarette smuggling ring. Customs officers in Osijek seized more than 8,000 boxes of cigarettes, found in several lorries belonging to a Serbian firm.The items were allegedly being smuggled to EU markets.

US envoy says EU membership will strengthen Bulgarian-US partnership

BOURGAS, Bulgaria — US Ambassador to Bulgaria John Beyrle said on Monday (November 6th) that the country’s upcoming EU membership would boost its position in NATO, as well as its bilateral partnership with the United States. In a speech at Bourgas Free University, he also stressed the importance of a strong Bulgarian economy, noting that after its EU entry, Bulgaria would become part of US-EU trade relations and would attract more US investment.

Small party joins Macedonia‘s ruling coalition

SKOPJE, Macedonia — The minor Democratic Republican Union for Macedonia (DRUM) has decided to join the ruling VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition. DRUM leader Dosta Dimovska announced on Monday (November 6th) that the party rank and file are willing to help implement the cabinet’s reform programme. She added that smaller parties are realising that, since the July elections, their future depends on joining efforts with the VMRO-DPMNE.

Macedonian, Bulgarian defence ministers discuss reforms

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Defence Minster Veselin Bliznakov met with visiting Macedonian counterpart Lazar Elenovski on Monday (November 6th) to discuss defence sector reforms and bilateral military co-operation projects. Bliznakov used the occasion to repeat Bulgaria’s full support for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations and expressed a willingness to share experiences in army modernisation. Elenovski in turn promised continued co-operation in the reconstruction of Bulgarian military cemeteries in Macedonia.
At a press conference before he left for Sofia, Elenovski announced that Macedonian peacekeepers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia and Herzegovina would receive $1000-$1300 in performance-based bonuses.

Belgium considers labour restrictions for Bulgarian, Romanian workers

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The foreign ministry says Belgium is considering restricting the access of Bulgarian and Romanian workers to its labour market after the two countries’ EU accession in January. In a statement Monday (November 6th), the ministry said Belgium would likely introduce such restrictions for a two-year period. A limit on access by workers from the ten countries that joined the Union in 2004 remains in effect.


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