Balkan News

Macedonia’s ruling coalition, DUI set basis for negotiation process  13/03/2007 

SKOPJE, Macedonia — Representatives of Macedonia’s ruling coalition and largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), met on Monday (March 12th), in another step aimed at resuming long-stalled political dialogue. Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska described this first meeting as constructive and said talks would continue later this week. She also noted that experts have started to compile the list of laws to be adopted according to the Badinter principle, which applies to bills that affect minorities. In other news Monday, a DUI delegation led by party chief Ali Ahmeti began a working visit to Britain. DUI members are scheduled to meet with members of Parliament and with European Affairs Minister Jeff Hoon, before travelling on to Belfast. 

Also Monday, Gjorgji Orovcanec, who recently left VMRO-People’s Party, announced that he is forming a new opposition party. It will be called “New Alternative”. 

Kosovo government adviser arrested for suspected money laundering  

13/03/2007 PRISTINA, Kosovo, Serbia — Members of the Kosovo and UNMIK police arrested two officials — Prime Minister Agim Ceku’s adviser for security and political issues Jahja Luka and the head of Kasabank, Milazim Abazi — for suspected money laundering Monday (March 12th). They were picked up during a raid on the Pristina headquarters of the Alliance for the Future of Kosova, the party of former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who is on trial at The Hague tribunal for war crimes. According to local media reports, Luka and Abazi — both close associates of Haradinaj — are suspected in connection with a defence fund established for him in March 2005. 

Lab tests rule out claims Ocalan has been poisoned 13/03/2007 

ANKARA, Turkey — Tests conducted by a laboratory in Istanbul have ruled out alleged attempts to poison jailed Kurdistan Workers Party leader Abdullah Ocalan. According to an official announcement Monday (12 March), the Istanbul Criminal Medical Laboratory conducted tests of hair, blood and urine samples taken from Ocalan, and found no evidence to support the claims. His lawyers had claimed that earlier hair samples contained traces of toxic metals. Ocalan is currently the sole inmate at a prison in Imrali. 

PACE political committee backs Montenegro’s accession to CoE 

13/03/2007 STRASBOURG, France — The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) political committee adopted a draft declaration Monday (March 12th), backing Montenegro’s accession to the Council of Europe. The document was written by PACE’s special rapporteur for Montenegro, Jean-Charles Gardetto. While praising Montenegro’s political will for reforms, the committee also underscored the need to implement commitments such as the introduction of a new constitution within one year. It also urged concrete measures to boost the newly independent country’s administrative capacities, strengthen the judiciary and combat corruption. 

Serbia’s Tadic rejects notion of one party holding both presidency, premiership13/03/2007 

BELGRADE, Serbia — President Boris Tadic, leader of the Democratic Party, rejected on Monday (March 12th) the need for debate over whether one party could hold the posts of both president and prime minister, during negotiations on forming a new government. Tadic said that such discussions were pointless, as the president is elected by the public, not by parties. He acknowledged that the ongoing coalition talks have not been easy, but said he remains optimistic about the chances of forming a new cabinet by the end of the month. 

Albania’s Berisha makes government changes 

13/03/2007 TIRANA, Albania — Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced on Monday (March 12th) that he made changes in the Democratic Party (DP)-led coalition government, in a bid to boost the pace of reforms. The post of deputy prime minister, held by Ilir Rusmajli, is going to Gazmend Oketa. Rusmajli replaces Aldo Bumci as justice minister. Bujar Nishani is the new interior minister, succeeding Sokol Olldashi, who resigned to run for mayor of Tirana last month. Majlinda Bregu replaces Arenca Trashani as European integration minister, Ylli Pango takes over the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, Youth and Sports from Bujar Leskaj, and Nard Ndoka replaces Maksim Cikuli as health minister. The changes require the approval of President Alfred Moisiu and Parliament. 

SEE countries urge EU to reopen Bulgaria’s older nuclear reactors 13/03/2007 

SOFIA, Bulgaria — At an international energy forum Monday (March 12th), representatives of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia issued a joint declaration asking the EU to allow the re-opening of two older reactors at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear plant. They were decommissioned at the beginning of the year in line with the country’s accession obligations, though Bulgaria supplies energy to much of the region. In response, Michael Humphreys, the head of the EC Delegation to Sofia, said turning the units back on would be “out of the question”. He stressed that such changes to the EU accession contract are unacceptable. 

Leading Bosniak politicians demand district status for Srebrenica 13/03/2007 

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — Leading Bosniak politicians demanded on Monday (March 12th) that Srebrenica — a city where genocide against Bosniaks was committed in 1995, according to the recent ruling of International Court of Justice in The Hague — should receive the status of a district. Srebrenica Mayor Abdurahman Malkic organised the meeting after Bosniaks threatened to leave the city. Meeting participants, including the Bosniak and Croat members of the country’s tripartite presidency, Haris Silajdzic and Zeljko Komsic, insisted Srebrenica should be under state jurisdiction, rather than that of the entity, Republika Srpska. Neither international community representatives nor Serb politicians took part in Monday’s meeting. RS President Milan Jelic and RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said it violated the Dayton Peace Agreement. 

Turkey offers to host international meeting on Iraq  13/03/2007 

ANKARA, Turkey — The country’s special envoy to Iraq, Oguz Celikkol, said on Monday (March 12th) that Turkey has offered to host a meeting in April regarding Iraq. The forum in Istanbul would include the foreign ministers of all Iraq’s neighbour states, as well as representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the G-8 countries. In other news Monday, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said in a TV interview that Turkey is not receiving sufficient international assistance to fight terrorists. He was referring to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party activities in northern Iraq. 

Croatian, Montenegrin hostages rescued in Nigeria 13/03/2007 

LAGOS, Nigeria — Security forces have rescued two Croatians and a Montenegrin who had been held as hostages in Nigeria for about a month. A spokesman for the Nigerian Special Forces reported that the three oil workers were freed after a quick operation in Port Harcourt, which encountered only minimal resistance from the kidnappers. 

Serbia convicts 12 of human trafficking 

13/03/2007  BELGRADE, Serbia — A court in Belgrade on Monday (March 12th) sentenced 12 people, including three Chinese nationals, to a total of 45 years in prison for running a human trafficking ring. The defendants were found guilty of smuggling an unspecified number of Chinese nationals to Italy via several Balkan countries.  


In other news, customs officials in Bulgaria and Croatia seized large quantities of heroin at the weekend. Officers at Kalotina, on the border with Serbia, found more than 150kg of the drug in a Turkish truck travelling to Austria. In Croatia, customs officers at the Bajakovo checkpoint discovered about 30kg of heroin in an Italian-registered car owned by a Macedonian national. Officials say the drugs were bound for an unspecified West European country.

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