Balkan News

Bulgaria‘s Kuneva to get EU’s consumer protection portfolio

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Almost immediately after being selected to represent Bulgaria at the European Commission (EC), Bulgarian European Affairs Minister Meglena Kuneva was asked to assume the Commission’s new consumer protection portfolio. She met in Brussels on Thursday (October 26th) with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso and other officials. The European Parliament appears likely to approve Kuneva without any difficulty late next month.
Meanwhile, Romania’s nominee for European commissioner, Varujan Vosganian, ran into problems Thursday. The EC requested additional vetting amid reports Vosganian may have been an agent of the communist-era Securitate.
The same day, the lower house of the German parliament voted to ratify the accession treaties of Bulgaria and Romania. But the ruling conservatives and their allies called on the EU to adopt safeguards, in case the two countries fail to reform their judiciaries or to adopt measures related to EU farming assistance.)

Croatian lawmaker arrested for war crimes

ZAGREB, Croatia — A prominent lawmaker was arrested for war crimes on Thursday (October 26th), shortly after a parliamentary committee lifted his immunity from prosecution. Branimir Glavas was accused of ordering the murder and torture of Serbs in Osijek during the 1991 conflict. Prosecutors are investigating him in connection with two separate incidents. Glavas denies the charges, accusing the government, prosecutors and the police of fabricating allegations. He was expelled from the ruling Croatian Democratic Union after a dispute with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader last year. He became an independent and then formed his own party that saw some success in the last local elections.

SIPA arrests Croatian-born Serb suspected of war crimes

BRCKO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — Members of the BiH State Investigation and Protection Agency arrested a Croatian-born Serb who is accused of crimes against humanity. Jadranko Palic, 37, was detained Thursday (October 26th) in Brcko, where he has been living since 1996 with BiH citizenship. According to local media reports, Palic was apprehended at the request of BiH prosecutors, who acted on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by Croatia. He reportedly is charged with war crimes committed in Pakrac, Croatia, in 1991, when he was a member of Republika Srpska’s Krajina military police.

US General Shoomaker visits Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey — US General Peter Schoomaker, commander of US land forces, began on a visit to Turkey Thursday (October 26th) at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart, General Ilker Basbug. They reportedly met on Friday morning to discuss efforts against Kurdistan Workers’ Party terrorists, as well as the situation in Iraq. Schoomaker also will be meeting with Turkish Army chief General Yasar Buyukanit.

Serbian court says probe against alleged Mladic aides will be expanded

BELGRADE, Serbia — The Second Municipal Court confirmed on Thursday (October 26th) that, at the request of prosecutors, the probe against alleged aides of top war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic would be expanded. Court spokesperson Marina Klaric-Zivkovic told B92 Radio that a hearing against four new potential suspects is scheduled for late next week. On Wednesday, prosecutors said they want to add more names to the investigation against 11 people suspected of helping Mladic evade justice between June 2002 and January 2006.

UNDP urges Macedonian government to pursue further reforms

SKOPJE, Macedonia — A new report issued by the UNDP urges the government to vigorously pursue further reforms aimed at better integrating the country into the global economy, efficiently prepare for EU membership and boost economic growth. The document, titled “Blue Ribbon Commission Report”, was officially presented at a news conference Thursday (October 26th). Praising the completion of a “tough” first round of reforms to stabilise the economy, UNDP experts now recommend that the government take measures to balance the budget, increase lending for export-oriented activities, and remove barriers to foreign trade and investment.

NATO official predicts boost for Croatia‘s membership bid

ZAGREB, Croatia — NATO Military Committee chairman General Raymond Henault said on Thursday (October 26th) that, given the progress achieved in terms of military reforms, Croatia’s NATO membership bid would likely receive a strong boost at the Alliance’s November summit in Riga. During his visit to Zagreb, Henault also praised the stabilising role Croatia plays in the region and its participation in international peacekeeping missions.
In other news Thursday, President Stipe Mesic met with visiting Maltese counterpart Edward Fenech-Adami, who stressed Malta’s full support for Croatia’s EU membership bid. The two leaders also discussed boosting bilateral economic ties.

Serbia prepares for weekend constitutional referendum

BELGRADE, Serbia — The two-day referendum on the new constitution begins on Saturday (October 28th). Passage requires 50% plus one, which translates into 3,319,693 of the total 6,639,385 eligible voters, including over 100,000 in Kosovo and thousands more living abroad. The draft constitution, adopted recently by parliament, stipulates that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia.

Montenegrin parliament endorses procedure for adopting new constitution

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Parliament passed a law Thursday (October 26th) regulating the procedure for adopting a new constitution. It calls for a referendum to be held if a draft constitution fails to receive a two-thirds majority in the legislature. Should such a referendum be held, a simple majority would be required for approval. The law passed without the support of opposition parties. They had left the assembly, angry that more discussion was not allowed before the vote.

EU urges Albanian parties to participate fully in election preparations

TIRANA, Albania — European Commission Delegation chief Helmuth Lohan and German Ambassador to Tirana Hans-Peter Annen called on all political parties Thursday (October 26th) to help prepare for municipal elections this winter. At separate meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Rusmajli and the leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Edi Rama, the diplomats stressed that Union would be monitoring the vote closely, in the context of Tirana’s bid for EU integration. The main parties are still squabbling over the exact date of the elections.

Bulgarian customs officials seize 21kg of heroin at Serbian border crossing

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Customs authorities have seized over 21kg of heroin at the Kalotina border crossing with Serbia, according to a press statement issued on Friday (October 27th). The drugs, worth an estimated 1.3m euros, were found in 41 packages, hidden in a car travelling from Turkey to the Netherlands.
Separately, Bulgarian authorities announced the arrest of a Lebanese citizen in connection with a cocaine bust in Plovdiv earlier this week. Officials say the man has lived in Bulgaria for 20 years, has his own business, and has no police record.

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