Balkan News

EU cancels talks between Turkish, Cypriot ministers

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The EU has halted plans for a meeting between European officials and the foreign ministers of Turkey and Cyprus. Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said arranging the two-day meeting had proved impossible. The EU was attempting to find a way out of an impasse over Ankara’s accession talks. Turkey has refused to open its airports and seaports to traffic from EU member Cyprus, demanding that the EU first lift restrictions on trade with the Turkish Cypriots.
The Cypriot government immediately blamed Turkey for the cancellation and pledged to continue working towards a solution. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in turn accused the Greek Cypriots of abusing and blocking the process. In Athens, meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told parliament that it is unacceptable for an EU candidate to refuse to recognise an EU member state. The European Commission issues a progress report on Turkey next week.

Albanian parties clash again over electoral reform

TIRANA, Albania — During a debate in parliament on Thursday (November 2nd), the various political parties again failed to reach a consensus on electoral reform. This time, the sticking point was the mandate of the Ad Hoc Commission on Electoral Reform. The majority wants it to wrap up work by November 10th, while the opposition insists its mandate should be extended until January. The larger issue is exactly when local elections will be held. The opposition wants them delayed from winter to spring, to prevent harsh weather from affecting turnout. OSCE Ambassador to Tirana Pavel Vacek weighed in on Thursday, telling Panorama newspaper that the election should not depend on the weather.

Montenegrin president signs law on adopting new constitution

PODGORICA, Montenegro — President Filip Vujanovic signed into law Thursday (November 2nd) a measure that launches preparations for a new constitution. It would first require approval by two-thirds of parliament members. Failing that, a referendum on the constitution would be organised.
Also Thursday, Podgorica hosted a round table on the future constitution, aimed at providing guidelines on principles related to human rights and democracy. A number of politicians and legal experts took part in the debate.
In other news, the Vijesti newspaper reported on Friday on the composition of Prime Minister-designate Zeljko Sturanovic’s new cabinet, which will be unveiled next week. Vijesti says Milan Rocen is the likely new foreign minister, Boro Vucinic would be defence minister, and Miras Radovic would serve as justice minister.

Ceku, Ruecker warn again against delay in Kosovo status settlement

PRISTINA, Kosovo, Serbia — After their regular weekly meeting on Thursday (November 2nd), UNMIK chief Joachim Ruecker and Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku again warned against any delay in resolving Kosovo’s final status. The two insisted a solution should be found by the end of the year, as scheduled. Ruecker added he is certain that this deadline would be met. The two also talked about transferring jurisdictions to the Kosovo institutions and about UNMIK’s quarterly report, which is to be submitted to the UN Security Council at the beginning of December.
On Friday, Ceku is visiting Montenegro for talks with counterpart Milo Djukanovic.

Alija Izetbegovic’s son likely to be new leader of main Bosniak party SDA

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — Bakir Izetbegovic, the son of former BiH leader Alija Izetbegovic, is expected to take over as leader of the main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Nezavisne Novine reported Thursday (November 2nd), quoting an unnamed party official. The same source says the move is due to poor election results. The SDA remains the most powerful party in the Federation of BiH after parliamentary elections last month, but current leader Sulejman Tihic lost his bid for re-election as the Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency. Bakir Izetbegovic would only confirm that the party has internal problems.

Croatia establishes special panel to co-ordinate NATO membership efforts

ZAGREB, Croatia — President Stipe Mesic, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and Parliament Speaker Vladimir Seks decided on Thursday (November 2nd) to establish a state committee for Croatia’s membership in NATO. In a press release, the officials said that this underscores the country’s strong commitment to join the Alliance. In addition to Sanader, Mesic and Seks, the panel includes representatives of the defence and interior ministries, presidential advisers, Croatia’s ambassador to NATO and the national co-ordinator for NATO.

Serbia announces final results of constitutional referendum

BELGRADE, Serbia — The country’s Republic Election Commission announced final results late Thursday (November 2nd) of the weekend referendum on the new constitution. In all, 53.04% of all registered voters supported the new constitution, while turnout stood at 54.91%. Parliament will likely make an official declaration next week. Less clear is the date of presidential and parliamentary elections. Some want them as early as next month. Informal talks among parties began on Friday.

Floods claim at least 33 lives in southeastern Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey — At least 33 people are dead in flash flooding and more severe weather is on the way, according to forecasts. The latest casualities were in the impoverished southeastern town of Batman, where 11 people, most of them children, were swept away. Governor Haluk Imga says damage in the province tops $8m. Rescue operations continue, as other people remain missing.

Bulgaria likely to hold elections for European Parliament in May

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The country will probably hold elections for European Parliament on May 12th or 13th, the EU observer from the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, Kristian Vigenin, said on Thursday (November 2nd). The date will probably coincide with the election in Romania, he added. According to the accession treaty, Bulgaria has to elect its 18 members of the European Parliament by the end of 2007.
In other news Thursday, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin met with Harald Kreid, the general director of the Central European Initiative (CEI). Kalfin briefed him on efforts to take over the CEI chairmanship next year. It has 18 member states, including all the Balkan countries.


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