Balkan News

Del Ponte submits negative report on Serbia to EU, SAA talks to remain frozen

LUXEMBOURG — UN chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte presented her report on Serbia’s co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to the EU Troika — top diplomats of former, current and future EU presidency holders — during a meeting in Luxembourg Monday (October 16th). She said there is no political will in Serbia to meet its international obligations, particularly the requirement to hand over war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic.
Later Monday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, confirmed that Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks with Serbia would not resume, due to the lack of war crimes co-operation. Their announcement followed a meeting in Luxembourg with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

US Secretary of State voices support for Croatia’s Euro-Atlantic bids

WASHINGTON, United States — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed full support for Croatia’s aspirations to join NATO and the EU, during a meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in Washington on Monday (October 16th). They discussed bilateral ties and the situation in Europe, the Balkans and crisis areas in the world. Sanader’s agenda Tuesday includes meetings with US President George W. Bush and other senior administration officials.

Kosovo’s Thaci visits Bulgaria

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The main opposition leader in Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, who is also a member of the negotiation team for the Kosovo status talks, paid a visit to Sofia on Monday (October 16th). He met with Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin about the pace of status negotiations and the political situation in the province. Thaci reiterated Pristina’s demand that the negotiations be completed by the end of this year, and said independence would ensure stability in the region. Kalfin in turn stressed that Sofia would back any solution that results from dialogue and consensus.

Macedonian delegation visits Kosovo

PRISTINA, Kosovo, Serbia — Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Imer Selmani, accompanied by the education and local self-government ministers, visited Pristina on Monday (October 16th) to meet with their Kosovo counterparts and President Fatmir Sejdiu. Talks between Sejdiu and Selmani focused on the border demarcation issue; Sejdiu insists the 2000 border agreement between Serbia and Macedonia is not legitimate. Both officials expressed confidence the issue will be resolved in a timely manner with the participation of the international community.

Turkish prime minister praises Nobel Prize winner

ANKARA, Turkey — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the public to put past controversies behind them and show their appreciation for novelist Orhan Pamuk, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Nationalists unsuccessfully sued Pamuk earlier this year over an interview in which he said many Armenians and Kurds had been killed in Turkey over the years. “The prize is a first for a son of Turkey and it would be wrong for us to underestimate it,” Erdogan said.
In other news, a Turkish F-16 fighter plane crashed near the southeastern town of Siverek during a training flight Monday (October 16th) killing the pilot. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Also Monday, Turkish Airlines announced that it has begun to install surveillance cameras on some of its aircraft. The system allows pilots to monitor passengers.
The Vatican meanwhile confirmed on Monday that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Turkey in late November, visiting Ankara, Istanbul, Ephesus and Izmir. The trip was briefly in doubt following protests over papal remarks on Islam.

EU may sue Greece over toxic water

ATHENS, Greece — The EU has threatened to take Greece to court over the quality of its drinking water, claiming more than 18,000 people are being exposed to toxins. It said the Greek Health Ministry and an unnamed international institution conducted tests that found dangerous substances in water supplied to 18 municipalities, mostly in the northern province of Macedonia. According to media reports, Greek authorities have been aware of the issue since 1999.

BiH election commission not yet ready to present official results of October 1st vote

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The Central Election Commission (CEC) has not yet presented the official results of the October 1st general vote, despite promises they would be issued by Monday (October 16th). CEC Chairman Branko Petric blames the delay on local election bodies, who he said lack training. The deadline for presenting final results is October 21st.

Albania‘s ruling party vows to continue efforts to sack chief prosecutor

TIRANA, Albania — Despite President Alfred Moisiu’s refusal to fire Chief Prosecutor Theodhori Sollaku, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) is not giving up. Following a meeting Monday (October 16th) with DP’s parliamentary caucus, Prime Minister Sali Berisha said his party is determined to find another legal way to sack Sollaku, whom DP accuses of links to organised crime. At a news conference Monday, Sollaku praised Moisiu’s decision not to sign a decree for his dismissal. He again denied all allegations and challenged Berisha to submit evidence of any crimes.

Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey participate on UN force for Lebanon

NEW YORK, United States — The UN announced on Monday (October 16th) that Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey are among the countries participating in the newly launched naval force, patrolling in Lebanese territorial waters as part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL).
Separately, local Ankara media reported on Monday that Turkish land forces participating in the mission would be deployed in the southern village of Shadiyah. Originally, they were to be deployed in the northern Baqbuq region.
In other news, Turkish Army chief General Yasar Buyukanit will visit Athens early next month. The focus would be on additional confidence-building measures and avenues for co-operation.

Ruling ND wins most local elections in Greece, runoffs scheduled for Sunday

ATHENS, Greece — The results of Sunday’s (October 15th) local elections indicate the ruling New Democracy (ND) dominated the main opposition PASOK. Mayors were elected in the first round in 45 out of the 52 prefectures. Runoffs will be held this Sunday in seven district centres. ND candidates won a total of 26 prefectures in the first round, compared to 15 for PASOK candidates, plus two other prefectures where the winners were nominated jointly by PASOK and the Coalition of the Left.

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