Balkan News

Albanian president schedules municipal elections for January 20th

TIRANA, Albania — President Alfred Moisiu has set January 20th as the date of Albania’s next municipal elections. A press release issued by his office Saturday (December 2nd) voiced the president’s deep concern over the continued failure of the Albanian political powers to agree on crucial electoral reforms. He noted the importance of the municipal elections for Albania’s Euro-Atlantic prospects.
The Central Election Commission, meanwhile, drew lots Friday regarding the appointment of the seventh members of local election panels. The two main parties have been squabbling over the issue for months.

Ceku, Croatian leaders agree Kosovo solution must boost regional stability

ZAGREB, Croatia — President Stipe Mesic, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and visiting Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku agreed in Zagreb on Friday (December 1st) that the solution to the Kosovo status issue must contribute to the further stabilisation and normalisation of the region. Ceku stopped in the Croatian capital as part of his ongoing diplomatic tour, aimed at boosting international support for Pristina’s independence aspirations.

BiH marks first Day of Joint Armed Forces

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — A ceremony held on Friday (December 1st) marked the first Day of the Joint BiH Armed Forces. In a speech, the BiH Presidency’s Serb member, Chairman Nikola Radmanovic, praised those involved in the defence reform process, stressing that the best indication of success was NATO’s recent invitation to join the Partnership for Peace programme.
In other news, Dirk Lange, head of the BiH unit of the European Commission Western Balkans directorate, called on officials Saturday to push ahead with talks on police reform. Lack of progress on the issue is the main obstacle to signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), he noted. If signed this winter, the SAA could be in effect by summer.

Montenegro wraps up technical talks on SAA with EU

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Minister for European Integration Gordana Djurovic announced on Friday (December 1st) the completion of technical negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU. If formally signed within a few weeks, it would take effect in the first half of 2007, after ratification by the EU member states’ parliaments.

Germany reaffirms support for Serbia’s Euro-Atlantic bid, urges war crimes co-operation

BERLIN, Germany — Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed on Friday (December 1st) her country’s continued support for Serbia’s efforts to proceed on the road to Euro-Atlantic accession, but also stressed that full co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal remains the key requirement. Meeting with Serbian President Boris Tadic in Berlin, Merkel noted Germany’s interest in the stability of Serbia and the Western Balkans, and vowed to further assist the process using political and economic means.

Hague tribunal suspends Seselj’s trial

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The UN war crimes tribunal decided Friday (1 December) to suspend the trial of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj because of the defendant’s weakened condition as a result of a 22-day hunger strike. The judges also signaled that they could order medical intervention if Seselj continues to refuse to take any food.
On Saturday, thousands of SRS supporters held a rally in Belgrade on behalf of Seselj.

Croatian court releases Glavas, adjourns trial

ZAGREB, Croatia — The Zagreb County Court’s investigative judge handling the case of Branimir Glavas, a parliament member charged with war crimes, postponed the trial and effectively ordered Glavas released on Saturday (December 2nd). The reason was Glavas’ health, which has deteriorated during a 37-day hunger strike. He left the prison hospital later Saturday for his hometown of Osijek. He is accused of crimes committed against ethnic Serbs there in 1991. Glavas initially was placed in custody weeks ago at the request of prosecutors, amid concerns over witness intimidation.

Germany donates military vehicles to Albania

TIRANA, Albania — Germany donated 28 military vehicles, worth a total of 150,000 euros to Albania at a ceremony Friday (December 1st). The German Ambassador to Tirana, Hans Peter Annen, and Albanian Deputy Defence Minister Zana Xhuka described the donation as an indication of Germany’s firm support for Albania’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
Hungarian Parliament Speaker Katalin Szili delivered a similar message of support Friday during a visit to Tirana. She stressed the positive signals concerning Albania’s Euro-Atlantic bid, including the sealing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU earlier this year and, more recently, the praise Albania received at NATO’s summit in Riga.

Czech Republic to open labour market to Bulgarian, Romanian workers

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The government has decided to open the local labour market to workers from Bulgaria and Romania after the two countries’ accession to the EU next January. Prime Minister Marek Topolanek explained on Friday (December 1st) that while Prague does not want to impose restrictions, the government is prepared to protect the labour market, if necessary.

Nicosia seeks stricter EU measures for Turkey

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The government expressed dissatisfaction Saturday (December 2nd) with the European Commission’s approach to Turkey and called for stricter measures to guarantee compliance with EU-related obligations. Late last month, the EC recommended that the EU Council partially freeze membership talks with Turkey, by suspending the opening of eight negotiation chapters. Following a lengthy meeting of the Cyprus National Committee, President Tassos Papadopoulos said these measures were insufficient and that Cyprus would propose changes to the EC’s final instructions regarding Turkey before the summit of the EU Council later this month.
On Friday, Turkey’s EU bid and Ankara’s refusal to open its naval and air space to traffic from EU member state Cyprus were the focus of a visit to Nicosia by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

Turkey‘s Erdogan visits Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Tehran Sunday (December 3rd) for daylong talks on the situation in the Middle East. He also planned to discuss measures to boost bilateral relations, regional stability and prosperity.
Pope Benedict XVI, meanwhile, wrapped up his visit to Turkey on Friday with a message of hope. “Istanbul is a bridge that unites sides  I hope that this dialogue continues”, he said referring to efforts to reconcile differences between the world’s major religions.

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