Balkan News

Bulgarian interior minister visits Tripoli to discuss nurses on trial

TRIPOLI, Libya — Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov met with Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in Tripoli on Wednesday (November 22nd). He also visited five Bulgarian nurses who have been detained for more than seven years for on charges widely disputed outside Libya — of deliberately infecting hundreds of children with HIV. Petkov brought medicine and books to the nurses and briefed them on Sofia’s efforts to resolve the long-standing case.
Due to procedural violations, verdicts in their first trial were thrown out. The verdicts in their second trial are expected on December 19th. A Palestinian doctor who treated the children is a co-defendant.

Belgrade, UNMIK to hold talks on Kosovo’s energy problems

BELGRADE, Serbia — Representatives of the Serbian government and UNMIK will meet on Friday (November 24th) in Pristina to discuss problems with electricity supplies in Kosovo. Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Radomir Naumov said on Wednesday that, after the talks, he would send a draft resolution to EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
The energy crisis in the province also was a main topic of discussion in Brussels, at the first working meeting of European Parliament (EP) and Serbian parliament members. Belgrade wants a joint team of experts formed to manage the province’s power utility, KEK. Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, meanwhile, told the EP that Serbia would never recognise independence as a solution to the Kosovo status issue.

Turkish deputy prime minister to meet with Pope in Ankara

ANKARA, Turkey — Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin will meet with Pope Benedict XVI on behalf of the Turkish government during his visit next week, according to an announcement Wednesday (November 22nd). Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul will be in Riga at the time, attending the NATO summit. The foreign ministry says the Vatican had been advised of the scheduling conflict, but insisted on the pope arriving on the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the founder of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
Turkey is mounting one of its largest ever security operations to ensure the safety of the pontiff. On Wednesday, Istanbul police detained 39 people who participated in a rally protesting the trip.

EP panel backs possible easing of deadline for closing Bulgarian nuclear reactors

STRASBOURG, France — The European Parliament’s (EP) external relations commission voted on Thursday (November 23rd) in favour of possibly delaying the decommissioning deadline for two reactors at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Bulgarian National Radio reports that the end-of-December deadline might be extended by eight months, given concerns over energy supply stability in the Balkans, where Bulgaria is a major energy exporter.
In other news, Russia announced on Wednesday that it might impose a ban on meat imports from the EU, amid concerns over the quality of meat products from incoming members Bulgaria and Romania. A government spokesman in Moscow said everything would depend on steps taken by the EU regarding these products.

US urges BiH authorities to form post-election blocs, implement reforms

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The US embassy in Sarajevo issued a statement on Wednesday (November 22nd) urging BiH’s parties to form the political alliances they need to begin governing and implement reforms, weeks after the October 1st general elections. The statement, quoting US State Department spokesman Tom Casey, urged the parties to reach rapid agreement on the issue of police reform, a crucial criterion for Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks with the EU.

Romania‘s top security panel wants all energy contracts made public

BUCHAREST, Romania — The Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) decided on Wednesday (November 22nd) that all energy privatisation contracts should be made public, in light of a number of cases of possible non-compliance with energy security policies. Economy and Trade Minister Codrut Seres will contact all holders of such contracts. Related documents will then be published on the ministry’s website.
CSAT also decided to establish a special commission that would draft a new energy security strategy and submit it to the cabinet within six months. The document will propose ways to reduce foreign dependency and boost domestic energy-generating capacity.

Tariceanu wins round in bid to sack agriculture minister, but loses broader support

BUCHAREST, Romania — President Traian Basescu on Wednesday (November 22nd) approved a request by Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu to seek the dismissal of Agriculture Minister Gheorghe Flutur. Tariceaunu says Flutur can no longer serve as a representative of the ruling National Liberal Party (PNL), now that he has announced plans to affiliate himself with the Liberal Platform, a bloc founded by former PNL chairman Theodor Stolojan. The latter was expelled from the party a few weeks ago, after a dispute with the current leadership.
Local analysts say sacking Flutur could threaten the PNL’s parliamentary majority. Nearly 30 PNL members of the Senate announced on Wednesday that they have withdrawn support for Tariceanu.

Croatian parliament allows deputy’s prosecution for war crimes

ZAGREB, Croatia — Parliament voted on Wednesday (November 22nd) to lift MP Branimir Glavas’ immunity from prosecution, so he can be tried for war crimes. Glavas is accused of ordering the execution of Croatian Serb civilians in the Osijek area at the beginning of the 1991-1995 conflict. He was arrested on October 26th and has been on a hunger strike ever since. Glavas is the first Croatian lawmaker to be arrested for war crimes.
In other news Wednesday, Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj refused to appear for a pre-trial hearing at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The leader of the Serbian Radical Party has been on a hunger strike for ten days, demanding unrestricted visits by his spouse, full rights to defend himself and the right to appoint his own legal counsel.

Bulgaria’s Stanishev wraps up visit to China, heads to Vietnam

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev wrapped up a four-day visit to China on Wednesday (November 22nd). He held a series of talks with senior officials and sealed a total of four bilateral co-operation accords. Later Wednesday, Stanishev travelled to Hanoi, where he met with Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung. Bilateral agreements on co-operation in the economic sector, tourism and healthcare are being signed during the trip.

Tirana hosts high-level CEI economic forum

TIRANA, Albania — Tirana is hosting a two-day economic conference of the Central European Initiative (CEI) that wraps up Friday (November 24th). Over 900 government officials and business leaders from 18 Central and Southeast European states are on hand to discuss regional economic collaboration, joint investment projects, and reforms undertaken to boost foreign investment and create competitive local markets.

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