Hague prosecutors consider combining Karadzic, Mladic trials

31/05/2011

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands -- The Hague tribunal prosecutor's office is mulling whether to combine the trial of former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic with that of former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, Frederick Swinnen, political adviser to the prosecutor, said on Monday (May 30th). He pointed out that all options are under consideration at the moment, but no decision has been made. Karadzic's war crimes trial started in 2009 while Mladic's extradition to The Hague is pending. A court in Serbia on Tuesday rejected an appeal filed by Mladic's lawyer, Milos Saljic, who said his client is too ill to stand trial. (Beta, B92, Tanjug, Politika - 30/05/11)

Peter Sorensen to head EU delegation in BiH

31/05/2011

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Danish diplomat Peter Sorensen has been appointed as the head of the EU delegation to Sarajevo, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced on Monday (May 30th). The decision comes in the wake of an EU foreign ministers' decision in March to strengthen the EU's presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The move also follows Ashton's recent visit to Banja Luka where she talked leaders out of holding a referendum on the Bosnian judiciary. Sorensen's appointment comes at a crucial time for the Western Balkans region and BiH in particular, Ashton said in her statement. Sorensen currently heads the EU delegation in Skopje. (Radio Free Europe, RTRS, MIA - 30/05/11)

Serbian farmers protest cuts in subsidies

31/05/2011

BELGRADE, Serbia -- A farmers association launched protests Monday (May 30th) after the government decided to cut agricultural subsidies. Farmers from Vojvodina headed to Belgrade and blocked several roads near Pancevo, but were prevented by police from reaching the capital. The agricultural producers demand that the government maintain 2010 levels of subsidies, when they received 144 euros per hectare for up to 100 hectares of arable land. The cabinet decided to keep subsidies at 14,000 dinars but limited the amount of eligible land to only ten hectares, in a bid to trim public spending. (RTS, B92 - 30/05/11)

Dacic says Serbia does not face suspension of visa free regime

31/05/2011

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic attends a briefing Tuesday (May 31st) in Brussels for visa experts from missions of EU member states. On Monday, he met with EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to discuss visa issues. After the talks, he reiterated that the EU's visa free regime for Serbia is not at risk at the moment, and he voiced determination to continue implementing measures aimed at preventing visa abuses. Last week, the European Commission (EC) proposed the introduction of a safeguard clause that would allow for the temporary reintroduction of visas for citizens of a third country. The mechanism would be applied under certain exceptional conditions and as a last resort. The EC is talking to authorities in Serbia and Macedonia to find ways to reduce the number of asylum seekers. (Tanjug, Blic - 30/05/11)

Privatisation plans spur more protests in Greece

31/05/2011

ATHENS, Greece -- Ports will be blocked for four hours Tuesday (May 31st) due to protests by workers against the government's privatisation plans. Port workers will gather outside of the Merchant Marine Ministry in Athens. On Monday, about 300 employees of the telecom OTE blocked the entrance to the company's office in the centre of the capital to protest government plans to privatise it. Workers at Hellenic Postbank, which is also on the privatisation list, have announced a 24-hour strike Tuesday after marching in Athens on Monday. (Imerisia, Eleftherotypia, Nafthemporiki, Ethnos, Kathimerini - 31/05/11)

Kosovars convicted of drug trafficking, organised crime

31/05/2011

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- A mixed panel of two Kosovo judges and a EULEX judge of the District Court in Pristina sentenced three people Monday (May 30th) in a case related to drug trafficking and organised crime. Defendant Ilaz Kurtaliqi was found guilty of buying 7.5kg of heroin from Faik Mazreku and attempting to smuggle it into Switzerland. Two other people remain at large. Kurtaliqi and Mazreku pleaded guilty and got sentences of six years and nine months and four and a half years respectively. Accomplice Shyhrete Hasani was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison. They were also fined a total of 35,000 euros. (Kohavision, Klan Kosova - 30/05/11)

Kosovo's agreement with IMF at risk

31/05/2011

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Kosovo is at risk of breaking its agreement with the IMF less than two years after gaining membership. The deterioration in relations stems from the government ignoring IMF recommendations to lead development policies that would spur economic growth. On Tuesday (May 31st), media quoted a blog by the former head of the economic unit at the International Civilian Office (ICO), Andrea Capusella, where he said that Kosovo's programme with the IMF is off track, describing it as a failure for the country. According to Capusella, it is rare that governments breach their commitments to the IMF. He also said the IMF is expected to officially announce the break of the agreement with Kosovo. Salaries of most public sector employees have risen since January, as promised by the ruling Democratic Party during the December elections campaign. (Express, Zeri, Koha Ditore - 31/05/11)

Albania ranks second in Europe for smoking rate

31/05/2011

TIRANA, Albania -- Albania is home to the second largest number of smokers in Europe after Turkey, according to figures published by the Public Health Institute in Tirana to mark Tuesday's (May 31st) World No Tobacco Day. The data suggests about 40% of Albanian citizens smoke regularly. Specialist Roland Shuperka says one of the most concerning trends is the increasing number of young, female consumers. According to him, urban women smoke about 2.5 times more than those in rural areas. (Telegrafi, Ora News, ABC News - 30/05/11)

Shifts cause Romania's ruling coalition to briefly lose Senate majority

31/05/2011

BUCHAREST, Romania -- The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party (PDL) and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians on Monday (May 30th) restored its majority in the Senate after independent Ion Toma moved to the group of the National Union for the Progress of Romania, which supports the coalition. Earlier in the day, Senator Serban Radulescu announced he is leaving PDL's parliamentary group, thus causing the ruling coalition to lose its majority. After Toma's move, the ruling coalition will have 69 of 137 senators. The opposition Social Democratic Party and the National Liberal Party have a total of 68 senators, but Catalin Voicu is currently under arrest for corruption charges, which essentially means the group has 67 votes. (Hotnews.ro, Romania Libera, Realitatea, Ziare - 30/05/11)

Turkey's Davutoglu says government cannot prevent another aid flotilla to Gaza

31/05/2011

ANKARA, Turkey -- Democratic governments cannot stop citizens from sending a new humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday (May 30th), a year after a Turkish vessel was attacked by Israeli commandos, leaving six Turkish activists dead. His statement was in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who on Friday urged governments to try to persuade activists to give up plans to send a second aid flotilla. "No democratic country can think it has general control over NGOs," Davutoglu stated. NGOs are planning the second flotilla next month. (Hurriyet, Internet Haber- 30/05/11)

Turkey's Erdogan visits Georgia

31/05/2011

TBILISI, Georgia -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be in neighbouring Georgia on Tuesday (May 31st) to attend the inaugural ceremony for a new border checkpoint. The two countries are expected to sign an agreement facilitating visa regimes for their citizens, due to take effect in July. (Anadolu news agency, Trend, Hurriyet - 30/05/11)