Balkan News

Annan sees possible delay in determining Kosovo’s status

ZAGREB, Croatia — The determination of Kosovo’s future status may be delayed until sometime in 2007, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in an interview with Croatian daily Vjesnik, published on Saturday (November 4th). “Considering the referendum, and the fact that they want elections in Serbia, we have to be cautious… so that the issue of the final status of Kosovo is not used for pre-electoral purposes,” he explained. “We may not stick to the deadlines we had originally planned,” Annan said, shortly after meeting with UN mediator Martti Ahtisaari.
In other news, Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku told reporters that he still hopes the future status would be determined before the end of the year. “I am sure that the outcome will be an independent Kosovo with all guarantees for national minorities, with the help of the international community,” he said. Ceku went on to add that as prime minister, he feels responsible for the wellbeing of Kosovo’s Serbs. Ceku was in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, for talks with local officials — a trip that drew criticism from Belgrade officials. Serbian President Boris Tadic described it as “unacceptable and unnecessary” as negotiations on the province’s future status continue.

European Commission draft report calls for enlargement slowdown

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European Commission’s progress report on the Western Balkans is expected to tell Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania that they would not be able to join the EU in the near term. Citing a draft copy of the document, which is to be released on Wednesday (November 8th), the BBC says that the European Commission expects the next wave of accessions to take place “in the medium to long term”. Macedonia would be told to speed up democratic political reforms, settle remaining problems with the ethnic Albanian minority and do more to fight crime and corruption. The draft reiterates that Serbia must arrest Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic if it wants negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU to resume. Belgrade also would be urged to adopt a more pragmatic approach regarding Kosovo.

SEE law enforcement agencies’ reaffirm desire for partnership

ANTALYA, Turkey — The interior ministers of nine Southeast European (SEE) countries reaffirmed their common desire for partnership, during a meeting in Antalya on Saturday (November 4th). This was the first such meeting of interior and public order ministers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey since a March gathering in Vienna. A declaration, sealed on Saturday, stressed the regional law enforcement agencies’ determination to fight organised crime, human, arms and drug trafficking, terrorism and money laundering.

Serbian foreign minister visits Israel

BELGRADE, Serbia — Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic began a three-day formal visit to Israel on Saturday (November 4th) which includes meetings with counterpart Tziipi Livni, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and opposition leaders. Issues related to bilateral co-operation, the situation in Kosovo and the Middle East dominate the agenda.

Macedonians to enter Bulgaria using free visas next year

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin signed an agreement with Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milososki in Sofia on Friday (November 3rd) that would allow Macedonians to enter Bulgaria with free visas as of next year. They agreed that Bulgaria would introduce visas for Macedonian citizens in line with its obligations as an EU member after January 1st, but that there would be no charge for them. Kalfin also stressed that Bulgaria would continue acting as a lobbyist for Macedonia’s integration in NATO and the EU. As for Bulgaria’s repeated refusal to register the pro-Macedonian OMO Ilinden as a political party, Kalfin noted that Bulgaria was fined once by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the case and had paid the fine. The ruling, he insisted, did not oblige Bulgaria to register OMO Ilinden.
On Saturday, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov visited the Macedonian village of Novo Selo for a ceremony opening the restored Bulgarian military cemetery from the Balkan conflicts and WWI. Macedonia recently allowed the Sofia-funded renovation of the site, sought by Bulgaria for years.

Bosnia and Herzegovina sentences two Serbs for war crimes

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — A Bosnian court on Friday (November 3rd) sentenced two Serbs for war crimes committed during the 1992-1995 conflict. In the longest such sentence ever issued by the BiH judiciary, defendant Marko Samardzija received a 26-year sentence for the 1992 torture and murder of Muslims in the town of Kljuc. He commanded a Serb unit at the time.
Nikola Kovacevic, 38, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in a separate trial. He was found guilty of transporting Muslims and others to concentration camps in the Sanski Most area at the beginning of the conflict in 1992. Prosecutors say they will seek a harsher sentence for him.
Also Friday, the BiH Court announced that the war crimes trial against former Republika Srpska justice and interior minister Momcilo Mandic would begin on Monday. The former close ally of fugitive Radovan Karadzic is accused in relation to the April 1992 attack on Sarajevo, and of establishing detention camps in Ilidza and Foca. Separately, Mandic was convicted of financial crimes last week.

EUFOR commander says situation in BiH allows for downsizing of troops

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — EUFOR Commander Major General Gian Marco Chiarini says he believes the situation in BiH allows for a reduction in the number of EUFOR troops there. In an interview in Saturday’s (November 4th) edition of Dnevni avaz, Chiarini downplayed concerns expressed in both BiH and the West against the possible reduction, saying it would instead reflect real progress achieved by BiH in terms of stabilisation and security.

OSCE report urges more efforts to build stable, transparent Albanian judiciary

TIRANA, Albania — A trial monitoring report, issued by the OSCE Presence in Tirana on Friday (November 3rd), stressed the need for more efforts to build a stable and transparent judiciary in Albania, based fully on the rule of law. According to the document, the country has made considerable progress in reforming its judicial system but further improvements are needed as regards the human rights of detainees and access to information.
Separately, President Alfred Moisiu stressed the importance of improving judicial standards and independence, during a visit to Vlora on Friday. He helped inaugurate a new building in the Vlora court of appeals, financed by the EU CARDS programme.
In other news Friday, Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced that his government has decided to deploy peacekeepers in the UN force in Lebanon. The Albanians will serve under Italian command. (Albanian News – 04/11/06; OSCE website, Albanian President website – 03/11/06)

Death toll from Turkish floods reaches 40

ANKARA, Turkey — The death toll from heavy rains and floods in southeast Turkey rose to 40 on Friday (November 3rd), according to local media reports. They cited information from regional authorities in Mardin, Batman, Sirnak and Mersin that said that floods claimed seven more lives, including two children. At least six people remain missing.

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