Balkan News

Rehn: EU constitution debate should not block enlargement

ATHENS, Greece — Debates over the European Constitution must not block negotiations on the EU’s future expansion, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Thursday (October 19th). Negotiations with Croatia and Turkey should proceed despite Europe’s attempts to sort out the problems with its constitutional reform, he said.
“We must continue making progress on this area in parallel with the accession process and not hold the Western Balkans and Turkey hostage to our internal debates,” Rehn said. Croatia could be ready for membership in the EU by the end of the decade, he added.

Turkey, EU negotiate on Cyprus deal

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey and the EU are engaged in negotiations on a Finnish proposal to end the deadlock over allowing Cypriot vessels and planes into Turkish ports and airfields, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Namik Tan said Thursday (October 19th). Turkey has said it will open its ports to Cyprus only if the Union ends economic sanctions against the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The proposal reportedly calls for allowing partial access to Turkish ports in exchange for opening the Cypriot port of Famagusta, located in the Turkish-run part the island, under EU supervision. Tan said there were “unbalanced” elements in the draft, but the stalemate could be overcome soon.

EPP to push for Croatia‘s accession to NATO in 2008

HELSINKI, Finland — At a meeting in Helsinki on Thursday (October 19th), the European People’s Party (EPP) voiced support for Croatia’s accession to NATO in 2008. The leaders of Europe’s conservative parties said they will push for the country’s admission into the alliance at the NATO summit in Riga next month.
Also on Thursday, the prime ministers of Croatia and Slovenia, Ivo Sanader and Janez Jansa, rejected speculations that Slovenia is blocking the start of Croatia’s EU accession negotiations on the fisheries chapter of the acquis. Jansa said that although some open bilateral border issues exist, Slovenia is among the EU members that most strongly support Croatia’s EU integration course. The officials were in Finland to attend the EPP summit.

Ahtisaari’s mandate extended to June 2007

BELGRADE, Serbia — UN special envoy for Kosovo status talks Martti Ahtisaari’s mandate has been extended to June 2007, spokesperson Hua Jiang confirmed Thursday (October 19th). However, the extension is of a technical character and is not a signal that the Kosovo talks will be extended further, she said. The international Contact Group has said a solution to the Kosovo issue should be found by the end of this year.

Kosovo Parliament adopts declaration against draft Serbian Constitution

PRISTINA, Kosovo, Serbia — The Kosovo Parliament on Thursday (October 19th) adopted a declaration condemning the inclusion of Kosovo in the new Serbian constitution. The document contains text saying Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. It will be put to a referendum in Serbia on October 28th and 29th.
Also Thursday, Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku told his French counterpart Philippe Douste-Blazy that Kosovo is fully prepared for independence. Ceku, on a visit to Paris, said that the province has developed all necessary democratic institutions and is functioning in line with the international principles. He requested that France — a member of the Contact Group on Kosovo status talks — defend the position of ethnic Albanians and help prevent any further delay in resolving the province’s status.

Parvanov likely to be re-elected

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov is leading ahead of Sunday’s (October 22nd) elections, according to opinion polls released Thursday. They suggest Parvanov will receive between 45% and 50% of the vote in the first round. Coming in second is ultranationalist Volen Siderov. The joint candidate of several right wing formations, Constitutional Judge Nedelcho Beronov, appears to be third.

Athens hosts annual EIB conference

ATHENS, Greece — The annual European Investment Bank (EIB) conference opened in Athens on Thursday (October 19th). It is expected to draw more than 550 delegates and representatives of Southeast European governments, including EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn. The two-day summit, titled “Southeast Europe — A Region on the Move”, will focus on Bulgaria and Romania’s EU accession and on co-operation between the public and private sector in healthcare and education projects.
On the sidelines of the conference, Rehn met with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to discuss the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s EU bid. They agreed that Turkey needs to relaunch its reform process with full determination, and that the issue of opening Turkish ports and airspace to traffic from Cyprus must be resolved.

Exercise on WMD response held in Sarajevo

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The BiH Interior Ministry — with the assistance of the US Department of Defence and the FBI — launched a two-day exercise Thursday (October 19th) on response preparedness in case of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction. The focus is on the readiness of public institutions to deal with such an incident.

Turkish contingent sets out for Lebanon

ANKARA, Turkey — The first group of 95 Turkish military engineers was deployed in Lebanon on Thursday (October 19th), becoming the first Muslim peacekeepers to join the UN Interim Force (UNIFIL). They were followed by the remaining peacekeepers on Friday. The contingent comprises 237 soldiers and 24 civilians, and is stationed near the port city of Tyre.
Also Thursday, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) advised Turkey to reconsider its economic reform programme. The OECD said high tax rates and bureaucracy impede economic growth.

Government, CEC strike accord on Albanian elections

TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian government and the Central Election Commission (CEC) sealed a memorandum Thursday (October 19th) on co-operation in the upcoming local elections. Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Rusmajli said the accord would ensure the cabinet provides all necessary financial and logistic support to the CEC to guarantee the smooth conduct of the elections. Due to the ongoing quarrels between the majority and opposition, it is still not certain when the next local elections will take place.

BiH High Representative holds talks with key party leaders

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — High Representative Christian Schwarz-Schilling on Thursday (October 19th) summoned the state’s influential party leaders to discuss the reform agenda and all the open issues. The members of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC), numerous ambassadors and US Deputy Undersecretary of State Rosemary DiCarlo also attended.
According to an spokesperson for Schwarz-Schilling, the international community’s message is clear — it is not important who will be in the next government, but it is necessary that it be formed as soon as possible in order to immediately launch the EU-related reform agenda.

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