Macedonia, Croatia to step up economic co-operation
SKOPJE, Macedonia — President Branko Crvenkovski and his visiting Croatian counterpart, Stipe Mesic, vowed Tuesday (October 24th) to step up bilateral economic co-operation. The two heads of state signed a joint statement defining the basic principles of co-operation and pledging to contribute to the strengthening peace, stability, prosperity and the region’s Euro-Atlantic prospects.
Also Tuesday, Macedonian Defence Minister Lazar Elenovski met with German counterpart Franz Josef Jung in Berlin. Jung expressed support for Macedonia’s NATO and EU membership bids. The ministers also discussed ongoing defence reforms and participation in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Parliament members from Croatia, Macedonia, Albania push for NATO membership
TIRANA, Albania — Parliamentary delegations from Albania, Croatia and Macedonia met in Tirana on Tuesday (October 24th) to discuss measures aimed at bringing their countries closer to NATO membership. They pledged to continue to develop democratic institutions, defend human rights and strengthen rule of law. The MPs also agreed to promote political, military and economic co-operation and to accelerate the fight against organised crime and corruption. A joint declaration on these matters is to be presented at NATO’s November summit in Riga.
In other news Tuesday, Croatian Parliament Speaker Vladimir Seks met in Helsinki with Finnish officials, who pledged to support Croatia’s aspirations to join the EU in 2009. Seks says he was told there are no institutional or constitutional barriers to membership, as along as Croatia meets all criteria.
Croatia, Romania participate in NATO-Russia military drill
MONTELIBRETTI, Italy — Croatia and Romania are participating in a joint NATO-Russia consequence management exercise that wraps up Thursday (October 26th) in the Italian town of Montelibretti. The anti-terrorism drill involves 250 rescue workers from several NATO and European nations and is aimed at improving emergency response co-ordination involving a radiological substance.
Meanwhile, KFOR’s Multinational Task Force South began a five-day military drill Tuesday, covering the areas of Prizren, Dragas, Suva Reka, Orahovac and Malisevo. No other details were released.
Belgrade renews offer to deliver electricity to Kosovo
BELGRADE, Serbia — Belgrade renewed on Tuesday (October 24th) an offer to deliver electricity to Kosovo as humanitarian assistance, in response to chronic shortages in some Serb municipalities. Sanda Raskovic-Ivic, the head of Serbia’s Co-ordination Centre for Kosovo, and representatives of the Serbian power utility EPS are again seeking talks with UNMIK on a solution. After complaints earlier this week and allegations of discrimination, it appears full power has been restored to the largest Serbian-populated area in Kosovo, Strpce, for the first time in ten days.
Fourth BiH contingent heads to Iraq
SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The fourth Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit of the BiH armed forces left for a six-month peacekeeping mission in Iraq on Tuesday (October 24th). The 36 Bosnian mine-clearing personnel were sent off with an official ceremony in Sarajevo. The third unit returns home early next month
Support for EU membership declines sharply in Turkey
ANKARA, Turkey — Less than a third of the public now believes Turkey must join the EU, a sharp decline from previous years. According to a poll published in Tuesday’s (October 24th) Milliyet, 32.2% of Turks feel strongly that their country belongs in the EU, compared to 57.4% in 2005 and 67.5% in 2004. Some 25.6% of the respondents say Turkey should not join the EU, up from 10.3% a year ago. The country has been recently criticised by the EU for slow reforms and failing to implement its obligations under an extended 2005 customs union protocol that includes Cyprus.
In other news, local media reported on Wednesday that 26 suspected aides of the terrorist organisation Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were arrested in the southeast province of Siirt. Information that led to the arrests reportedly was supplied by a senior PKK member, who surrendered last week.
Debate on draft prosecution law starts in Macedonia
SKOPJE, Macedonia — Public debate on a draft prosecution law began in Macedonia on Tuesday (October 24th). According to the bill, the appointment and dismissal of prosecutors would be the responsibility of the Prosecution Council. The only exception would be the chief prosecutor, who would be selected by parliament. Another proposal would establish a special prosecution office to fight organised crime and corruption. It would be fully independent, under the supervision of the chief prosecutor.
Serbian municipalities seek relocation of military depots
PARACIN, Serbia — The local authorities of Paracin, Cuprija and Krusevac will ask the government and army to relocate current military depots from their municipalities, following last Thursday’s (October 19th) blasts at the Paracin base that injured over 20 people and damaged thousands of buildings. According to statements by Cuprija and Krusevac officials Tuesday, the three municipalities would request that the arms and munitions depot currently based in Krusevac be moved away from inhabited areas. Investigators are working to determine the cause of last week’s blast.
Main Bosnian Serb and Croat parties agree on forming state-level coalition
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — The country’s main Serb and Croat formations — the Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) BiH respectively — agreed on Tuesday (October 24th) to form a coalition at the state level. HDZ BiH leader Dragan Covic suggested that the coalition might be expanded to include other parties to ensure a parliamentary majority at the BiH legislature.
Separately Tuesday, SNSD chairman Milorad Dodik met with the leader of the Socialist Party (SP) of Republika Srpska, Petar Djokic. He agreed that SP would be part of the future ruling coalition in the Bosnian Serb entity. Dodik plans to talk with other parties too.
Bulgaria‘s chief prosecutor tries to lift immunity of two more magistrates
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev said on Wednesday (October 25th) that he has asked the High Judicial Council to lift the immunity of two more regional magistrates — Toni Tomov and Karen Beylerian from Varna — so they can be investigated for alleged violations. These apparently surfaced during a recent internal investigation of all prosecutors. (Dnevnik, BG Radio, Albanian News – 25/10/06)
Romanian Conservatives launch no-confidence motion against deputy prime minister
BUCHAREST, Romania — The Conservative Party (PC), a junior government partner, submitted a request Tuesday (October 24th) for a no-confidence vote against Deputy Prime Minister Marko Bela, leader of the ethnic Hungarian UDMR. PC deputy chairman Nicolae Popa explained that the party wants Bela dismissed from the cabinet for “anti-constitutional” remarks he made recently in favour of territorial autonomy for the ethnic Hungarian-populated Zseckler County.
In other news, Defence Minister Teodor Atanasiu, suspended by President Traian Basescu one month ago, announced his resignation Wednesday. Basescu refuses to cancel his decree removing Atanasiu from the cabinet, despite the fact prosecutors found no hard evidence that Atanasiu revealed the classified locations of Romanian troops abroad.