Balkan News

Sanader: Croatia deserves to join EU within two to three years
ZAGREB, Croatia — Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said on Wednesday (October 4th) that his country deserves to join the EU in the next two to three years, adding it would be unacceptable for accession to occur after 2010. Speaking at a Zagreb conference on politics and democratisation, Sanader reiterated that he expects the Union to settle its internal disputes and institutional issues by the time Croatia is ready for membership.
Meanwhile, wrapping up a two-day meeting in Brussels, the joint EU-Croatia inter-parliamentary committee adopted a declaration Wednesday, backing Croatia’s efforts to enter the EU by 2009. Committee co-chairman Pal Schmitt praised the country’s determination to proceed with reforms
Montenegro’s ruling party chooses Djukanovic’s successor
PODGORICA, Montenegro The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has picked a successor to Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, whose resignation was announced earlier this week. Meeting on Wednesday (October 4th), the DPS selected current Justice Minister Zeljko Sturanovic, 46. The choice must be approved by the party’s board and then by parliament. Analysts expect smooth sailing, as the ruling coalition enjoys a strong parliamentary majority.
KFOR troops discover munitions cache in Kosovo
PRISTINA, Kosovo, Serbia — Austrian troops serving with KFOR have discovered a large munitions cache while patrolling a forest area near Malisevo, southwest of Pristina. The soldiers found 68 anti-tank mines, 92 land mines, 20 hand grenades, 1,200 rounds of ammunition and about 600kg of explosives, an Austrian officer reported on Wednesday (October 4th). There were no reports of arrests.
Rehn wraps up visit to Turkey, hopeful about EU negotiations process
ANKARA, Turkey — Wrapping up a three-day visit to Turkey on Wednesday (October 4th), EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn voiced his belief that Ankara and the EU would step up joint efforts to resolve problematic areas in the accession process. Speaking at a news conference after a meeting with Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Rehn stressed the importance of freedom of speech. He reiterated a call to change or annul the controversial Article 301 of the penal code, which has led to a number of trials against prominent intellectuals. He also urged Turkey to accelerate the pace of reforms, and to fully implement the 2005 extended customs union protocol with the EU, including Cyprus.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed that theme Wednesday during her first visit to Ankara, urging Turkey to make good on its promise to open its ports and seaports to Cypriot traffic. Germany assumes the EU’s rotating presidency on January 1st.
Albania’s Moisiu calls for more independent judiciary
TIRANA, Albania — President Alfred Moisiu called for a stronger, more independent judiciary, during a speech to a regional forum in Tirana on Wednesday (October 4th). He warned against continual political interference and attempts to influence judicial decisions.
On Thursday, the president again tried to get leaders of the 12 main parties to agree on a date for local elections this winter. The main opposition Socialist Party wants a postponement of the vote — which by law must be held between December 20th and January 20th — in light of the traditionally heavy snows that would affect turnout in mountainous areas.)
Romanian parliament elects new heads of two intelligence agencies
BUCHAREST, Romania — Parliament endorsed on Wednesday (October 4th) the appointment of new chiefs of the country’s two intelligence agencies — George Cristian Maior as head of the Romanian Intelligence Service and Claudiu Saftiou as head of the Romania Foreign Intelligence Service. President Traian Basescu nominated them last month. The previous intelligence heads resigned in July after a scandal related to the disappearance of Syrian businessman Omar Hayssam, who was charged with terrorism.
Basescu, meanwhile, visited Yerevan on Wednesday, telling Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian that Romania considers ties with Armenia a priority in its Black Sea policy. Separately, a bilateral memorandum of understanding regarding co-operation in European and Euro-Atlantic integration issues was sealed.
Bulgarian interior minister, chief prosecutor set deadline for completing 20 top cases
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Around 20 top cases dealing with corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking and misappropriation of state funds will be completed by the end of November at the latest, according to an announcement following a meeting between Interior Minister Rumen Petkov and Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev on Wednesday (October 4th). They also agreed that while collaboration between their organisations is solid, more should be done to improve co-operation from other state institutions such as the Commission for Confiscation of Property and the Agency for Financial Investigation.
In other news Wednesday, parliament’s presidency council concluded that lawmakers could not remove Dimitar Stoyanov — of the ultranationalist Attack coalition — from his position as observer at the European Parliament (EP). At issue were controversial remarks he made last week regarding a Hungarian Roma EP deputy, Livia Jaroka. Earlier this week, EP President Josep Borrell Fontelles demanded that Stoyanov apologise to Jaroka
British ambassador to Skopje vows continued support for integration
SKOPJE, Macedonia — British Ambassador to Skopje Robert Chatterton Dickson vowed on Wednesday (October 4th) that his country would continue supporting Macedonia’s EU and NATO integration bids, as well as the implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement. Dickson told Deputy Prime Minister Imer Selmani, who is overseeing implementation of the accord, that Britain would back Macedonia via concrete projects in various sectors including public administration and healthcare.
Greek prime minister outlines measures to combat corruption
ATHENS, Greece — Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced on Wednesday (October 4th) that the government has prepared a set of measures to fight corruption. Addressing a caucus of his New Democracy party on the 32nd anniversary of its founding, Karamanlis cited public procurement procedures, issuance of licences and business start-ups as areas in need of special attention.
Karamanlis also referred to ongoing protests by teachers, who are demanding a 40% salary hike. He said the government would not undermine fiscal stability for the sake of popularity.
PIC ambassadors urge BiH parties to focus again on constitutional reforms
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The ambassadors of countries on the Peace Implementation Council’s steering board issued a joint statement Wednesday (October 4th), calling on BiH’s politicians to focus on constitutional reforms. After the ongoing elections process is completed, parties should concentrate their efforts on reaching agreement on crucial constitutional amendments, the steering board said.

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