Balkan News

Bulgarian presidential runoff officially scheduled

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The Central Election Commission (CEC) formally confirmed that incumbent Georgi Parvanov of the Socialist Party and ultranationalist Attack coalition leader Volen Siderov will square off in a runoff next Sunday (October 29th). The CEC released the final results of last Sunday’s first round, in which Parvanov won 64% of the vote, compared to 21.5% for Siderov. The level of turnout — 42.51% — fell short of the required 50%, forcing the runoff.

Germany to restrict access of workers from Bulgaria, Romania after EU accession

BUCHAREST, Romania — Germany will restrict the access of workers from Bulgaria and Romania to its labour market after the two Balkan countries join the EU in January, German Labour Ministry State Secretary Gerd Andres announced during a visit to Bucharest on Monday (October 23rd). Andres cited the high unemployment rate in Germany — some 10% on average but soaring to 22% in eastern areas — as the main reason.

UN tribunal allows Seselj to defend himself

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Vojislav Seselj, the jailed leader of the Serbian Radical Party, can defend himself in his trial at The Hague, the UN tribunal ruled on Monday (23 October). A different panel of judges had appointed a lawyer to defend the nationalist leader because of what was described as the Seselj’s obstructive and disruptive behavior. He is accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy to evict non-Serbs from areas in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, and has also pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the 1991 Vukovar massacre.  

US urges resumption of political dialogue in Macedonia

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki met with US Deputy Undersecretary of State Rosemary DiCarlo in Skopje on Monday (October 23rd). She told him that the United States expects Macedonia to accelerate the pace of reforms and re-establish political dialogue between the ruling coalition and the opposition. DiCarlo reiterated US support for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic prospects but stressed that political consensus and communication among all parties is vital.
In other news, Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska announced on Monday that new passports, fully meeting EU security requirements, would be introduced in the first quarter of 2007. She said new, well-protected personal documents are a main requirement the EU has set to liberalise its visa regime with Macedonia.

Berisha says Albania ready to boost participation in peacekeeping missions

TIRANA, Albania — Prime Minister Sali Berisha said on Monday (October 23rd) that his country is prepared to boost its contribution to international peacekeeping missions, particularly the one in Afghanistan. He was addressing a regional conference in Tirana, dedicated to NATO integration issues. The two-day event drew parliamentary representatives from the Adriatic Charter countries — Albania, Croatia and Macedonia.
Separately, the chiefs of the three Adriatic Charter countries’ armed forces met in Plitvice, Croatia on Monday, agreeing to enhance military co-operation. They also voiced a readiness to share experiences regarding army modernisation with other states in the region.
Also on Monday, the US guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio arrived in Tivat, Montenegro. The three-day visit is aimed at enhancing bilateral partnership and regional co-operation.

EUFOR finds arms stash in eastern BiH

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — EUFOR troops, acting on a resident’s tip, discovered an illegal arms depot near the eastern BiH village of Susike on Monday (October 23rd). They seized weapons and munitions including 35 hand grenades and 10kg of explosives. EUFOR says the stash represented a significant danger, particularly if children had come upon it.

Small Bosnian Serb party signals readiness for coalition with RS election winner

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The small Bosnian Serb Democratic People’s Alliance (DNS) expressed its readiness Monday (October 23rd) to join a government coalition in Republika Srpska (RS) with the election-winning Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). DNS leader Marko Pavic said the decision was in response to an invitation from SNSD’s leader Milorad Dodik. A meeting on the possible coalition is expected within days. In the October 1st general elections, SNSD won 41 of the 83 seats in the RS parliament, one short of an absolute majority. The DNS won four seats.

Court orders continued custody for Croats charged with Osijek war crimes

OSIJEK, Croatia — The Osijek County Court ordered on Monday (October 23rd) that six people, arrested last week on suspicion of war crimes against Serbs, should remain in custody for a month, as requested by prosecutors. The six, whose names have not been released, are charged in connection with the murders of at least four people in the Osijek area at the end of 1991 and early 1992.
In other news Monday, a British court announced that an extradition hearing would be held on November 9th in the case of Croat Serb Milan Spanovic. In 1995, a Croatian court sentenced him in absentia to 20 years in prison, for war crimes committed in Glina in August 1991. Spanovic, living in Carshalton for 15 years, was arrested in Great Britain for shoplifting earlier this year. A police check established that his name appeared on Croatia’s international arrest warrant list.

Croatia, ODIHR seal accord on combating hate crimes

DUBROVNIK, Croatia — Representatives of the interior ministry and the ODIHR sealed an accord Monday (October 23rd) for co-operation in the fight against hate crimes. In part, the document envisions incorporating measures against hate crimes into the existing training curriculum for police.
Also Monday, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader met with Moldovan counterpart Vasile Tarlev in Zagreb and voiced his country’s support for Moldova’s European prospects. Sanader said that Croatia is ready to provide assistance regarding reforms needed for the EU integration process.

Serb municipalities in central Kosovo complain of chronic power cuts

LIPLJAN, Kosovo, Serbia — Serb residents in several central Kosovo municipalities complained on Monday (October 23rd) about continued restrictions on power supplies, accusing the Kosovo Albanian authorities and the province’s power utility KEK of discrimination. Lipljan Deputy Mayor Borivoje Vignjevic says electricity supplies to Serb villages in the municipality, as well as the Strpce municipality, is being cut for up to 20 hours a day, while temperatures fall. The Red Cross in the Strpce municipality warns of a potential humanitarian crisis if the issue is not resolved quickly.

Final results of Greek local elections released

ATHENS, Greece — The cabinet released the final results Monday (October 23rd) of local elections held earlier this month. The ruling New Democracy won prefects’ seats in 30 of the 54 district centres, while the main opposition PASOK won in 22. The last two prefect seats went to candidates backed jointly by PASOK and the Coalition of the Left.

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