Balkan News

UN envoy says Kosovo process on track to meet year-end deadline

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Martti Ahtisaari, the chief UN mediator for talks on Kosovo’s future status, told reporters Wednesday (October 18th) that he would present his plan for the future of the province by the end of the year, as planned. Ahtisaari added that he would discuss the blueprint at meetings with the international Contact Group in late October and early November. The Serb and ethnic Albanian parties will be able to comment on the draft before it is approved by the UN Security Council. In Brussels, Ahtisaari met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who reaffirmed the Alliance’s continued commitment to preserving security and stability in Kosovo.
In other news Wednesday, KFOR Commander Lieutenant General Roland Kather met with Montenegrin Army chief General Colonel Jovan Lakicevic in Podgorica, discussing issues related to bilateral co-operation. This was the first such meeting since Podgorica declared independence in May.

US ambassador says Serbia cannot join NATO programme with Mladic at large

BELGRADE, Serbia — Speaking at a meeting of US and Serbian businessmen Wednesday (18 October), US Ambassador Michael Polt said Serbia would not be able to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme until it captures war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic and sends him to The Hague. Membership in NATO would also require Serbia to accept an internationally-endorsed solution on the future of Kosovo, he added.
Separately Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer denied reports that Serbia could join the PfP with Mladic at large. He urged Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to issue a public appeal for the arrest.

EU completes screening of Croatian legislation

ZAGREB, Croatia — The process of screening the level of harmonisation of Croatian laws with those of the EU was completed on Wednesday (October 18th). Announcing the news, the Croatian government noted it took one year to complete the screening process. The European Commission will now make recommendations on launching talks on each chapter. Zagreb has opened and provisionally closed negotiations on one chapter.

Amnesty International seeks probe into allegations of torture in Montenegro

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Amnesty International has urged Montenegrin authorities to launch a full investigation into allegations that ethnic Albanians accused of plotting terrorist acts were abused by police. Some 14 suspects were arrested on September 9th, shortly before Montenegro’s general elections. Five of the detainees say police repeatedly beat them. Local ethnic Albanian leaders condemned the arrests, saying most of the detainees were either members or supporters of a local political party.

Top Bulgarian judicial panel fires two prosecutors

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The High Judicial Council Wednesday (October 18th) fired two prosecutors who have been charged with abuse of office and the deliberate delay of criminal proceedings. The two — Zdravko Yordanov of the Supreme Cassation Prosecution and Lom Regional Prosecutor Veronika Kolyova — were sacked following an internal investigation ordered by Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev. It found they had hindered work on cases for years. Kolyova, for example, blocked 1,422 prosecutorial procedures from 1989-1996. She faces up to eight years in prison.

20 injured by huge explosion at Serbian military depot

BELGRADE, Serbia — At least 20 people were injured by flying glass after a huge explosion at a military depot near Paracin at about 4 am local time Thursday (October 19th), according to statements by the ministries of interior and defence. All of the injured were residents of the town, not army personnel. The base was immediately evacuated and traffic into the area was restricted amid fears of further explosions.

Macedonia‘s Gruevski invites Stability Pact’s Busek to advise government

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said on Wednesday (October 18th) that he has invited Erhard Busek, the special co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe, to advise the government on EU accession issues. Following a meeting with Busek in Skopje, Gruevski said the Austrian official could significantly contribute to Macedonia’s membership bid, given his experience and contacts. Busek, in turn, said he has accepted the invitation and believes that, after Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession and the launch of EU membership talks with Croatia, Macedonia would be the next regional success story.

Albanian pensioners rally in Tirana, seeking pension hike

TIRANA, Albania — Hundreds of pensioners protested in Tirana on Wednesday (October 18th), demanding that the Democratic Party-led government keep its campaign promise and raise their pensions next year. The demonstrators called for the funding to be included in the 2007 budget law.
In neighbouring Greece, meanwhile, protests by pre-school and primary teachers continued for a fifth week Wednesday. Teachers are seeking raises of 40% and say they will continue protests until Christmas, prompting the education ministry to consider extending the school year.

BiH Election Commission releases more results

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The Central Election Commission (CEC) released further results Wednesday (October 18th) from the October 1st general elections, which — if not contested by candidates — would be considered as final. The CEC confirmed that the tripartite presidency would consist of Haris Silajdzic from the Party for BiH (SBiH) as the Bosniak member, Zeljko Komsic from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as the Croat one, and Nebojsa Radmanovic from the Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) as the Serb one. The Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), SBiH, SDP and SNSD dominate the BiH Parliament House of Representatives. SDA and SBiH also control more than half the seats in the Federation of BiH House of Representatives, while the SNSD is one seat short of an absolute majority in the Republika Srpska Assembly.
In other news Wednesday, a panel examining the granting of citizenship to foreigners from 1992-2006 has decided to nullify 156 cases so far. The commission started looking into specific cases in February. Those denied citizenship would be deported, according to BiH Security Minister Barisa Colak.

Two dead, one missing after heavy storms batter southern Greece

ATHENS, Greece — Two British tourists drowned and one is missing after heavy storms lashed the southern Greek islands of Crete and the Dodecanese, where a state of emergency was imposed on Wednesday (October 18th). Heavy rains also flooded houses and roads, forcing evacuations.
In other news Wednesday, experts from Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey met in the Greek town of Alexandroupolis to discuss ways to resolve issues related to the trans-border Maritsa/Evros River. The three neighbouring states will draw up a joint action plan, aimed at improving communication and co-ordination and preventing floods in the area.

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