Τρίτη, 30 Νοεμβρίου 2010

Danilo Turk welcomes new mechanism to curb EU crisis

bbc news
video video

The European Union is in a survival crisis. That is what the president of the EU Council says, and he ought to know.
At the heart of it are fears for the future of the eurozone as the debt contagion which first afflicted Greece continues to spread. Slovenia, joined the eurozone in 2007.
Back then it seemed to offer long-term economic security to one of the EU's smallest nations, but what does the President of Slovenia Danilo Turk think now?

video: bbc news

Serbia jails two for war crimes in eastern Bosnia

bbc news

22 November 2010 Last updated at 18:27 GMT

A court in Serbia has given prison sentences to two men in connection with crimes committed in eastern Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war.
Branko Popovic was sentenced to 15 years and and Branko Grujic to six years over the torture and killing of 700 Muslims near the town of Zvornik.
Prosecutors called the sentences too lenient, and said they would appeal.
The trial is part of Serbia's efforts to deal with its wartime past as it seeks to join the European Union.
Correspondents say the area around Zvornik saw some of the bloodiest crimes committed on Bosnian territory during the war.
It fell under the control of the Bosnian Serb army, but paramilitaries from both Serbia and Bosnian Serb territory operated there.
They rounded up and tortured Muslim civilians, then killed or expelled many of them. Hundreds of bodies were later found in mass graves nearby.Sentences 'inadequate'
The court found Popovic, a local military official, and Grujic, a former mayor of Zvornik, guilty of aiding in the killings of 700 Muslims in 1992, and doing nothing to prevent them.
The two were arrested in 2005, which means that Grujic has less than a year left to serve in prison.
The prosecutors' office said the sentences were "inadequate, considering the responsibility of the accused with regard to the number of victims and the brutality of the crimes".
Serbia is keen to move towards EU membership and has tried a number of Serb and Bosnian Serb war crimes suspects as it seeks to face up to its past.
But it has been criticised for failing to cooperate fully with the UN war crimes tribunal in finding the former Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, who remains at large.
He has been indicted on charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity, including the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

read more: bbc news

Bulgaria attacks EU over crisis

bbc news

26 November 2010 Last updated at 15:15 GMT

Bulgaria's finance minister has hit out at European institutions which failed to prevent the eurozone crisis.
Simeon Djankov told the BBC that he had been involved in talks to build new supervisory bodies.
But he said no one had "dared to ask what happened to the current institutions".
However, Mr Djankov made it clear that Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, still wanted to join the euro.'Not bothered'
"Once you design a new currency you need the institutions to go with it and the recent troubles showed we don't have the institutions," he told BBC World Service's Business Daily.
And he added that the current approach of setting up more supervisory bodies for banks, insurance firms and other sectors was missing the point.
"Nobody is daring to ask what happened to the current institutions," Mr Djankov said, accusing the European Commission and the European Central Bank of not being rigorous enough in monitoring the economies of eurozone countries.

He also criticised Eurostat, the official statistics body at the EU, saying: "Didn't they know about Greece's problems, the Irish problems? They seem to not have bothered doing as much analysis as they should."
"The institutions themselves need some health checks and then some changes."


read more: bbc news

Turkey’s government suspends generals


military, world news

25/11/10 07:30 CET

Several generals have been suspended by Turkey’s government in the latest episode of a power struggle between the ruling party and the military.
Reports say a decision by politicians to remove officers of such high rank from duty is a first in the Turkish Republic.
Accused over the so-called ‘Sledgehammer’ case, involving an alleged plot in 2003 to overthrow the government, they were suspended by Turkey’s Interior and Defence Ministers.
With his AK Party rooted in political Islam, critics accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of trying to turn secular Turkey into an Islamic state. He denies this. He has however undertaken reforms to curb the influence of Turkey’s military to reduce the risk of coups that have blighted the republic’s history.

read more: euronews

Kosovan on FBI most wanted list lives freely


terrorism, world news

24/11/10 16:16 CET

Kosovan Bajram Asslani is wanted by the FBI on charges of conspiracy to support terrorism.
But due to Kosovo’s weak legal system, EU law presides there, and to date EU judges have rejected all US requests for his extradition.
So, far from hiding, he lives right next door to a UN building.
Asslani had this to say about the situation:
“If I am armed, the police are 10 metres away from my house and they would know it. If I were armed and dangerous, I would not be in this situation but I would have a better life. It is up to them if they want to suspect me, but the reality and truth are on my side.”
EULEX is the EU civilian taskforce put in place to support the authorities in Kosovo. It made the ruling on Asslani’s case.
Kosovo spokesperson Kristina Herodes said:
“To extradite somebody, some crime has to be commited in Kosovo, but allegedly it was unclear whether they were commited in Kosovo or not.”
Asslani stands accused of attacking a US Marine base and supplying material to suspected terrorists for attacks on people in Kosovo, Jordan and the Gaza Strip.

read more: euronews

Croatia’s hidden village


Environment, world news

30/11 18:52 CET

Kruscica is where 70-year-old Mate Balenovic once called home.
But his village in Croatia’s central Lika region no longer exists.
It was swallowed up by a man-made lake 44 years ago when authorities gave the go-ahead to build a hydro electric power station closeby.
Every ten years, the lake is emptied out to reveal where Mate used to live before it is flooded again two weeks later.
When the power station went up, Kruscica’s 387 residents had to make their homes elsewhere.
Very little remains of the village these days, although some ruins still stand.
Mate points out where the local shopkeeper used to live and where he kept his shop.
The Kruscica plant now supplies electricity to the Lika region.
“I’m seventy years old now,” says Mate. “I’m still alive in ten years time perhaps I’ll come back again.”


read more: euronews

Turkey takes stock of Wikileaks disclosures


Diplomacy, world news

30/11 18:03 CET

The Wikileaks revelations have put international relationships on the line. But they have also sparked lively internal debates in the countries concerned by the disclosures, nowhere more so than in Turkey.
The newspapers are full of it. “Wikileaks becomes a Wikiflood in Turkey” headlines the Turkish Daily News. A bombshell has hit the country as it digests apparent US scepticism over its leadership, portrayed as divided and permeated by Islamists.
Turkey’s Prime Minister cast doubt on the site’s credibility before leaving for Libya. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has good reason to play it all down. According to claims in the secret US cables, he has eight Swiss bank accounts.
And the documents seem to reveal internal tensions in Erdogan’s team. However Turkish Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul denies he described the now Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as “exceptionally dangerous” because of his alleged Islamist influence on the government.


read more: euronews

Belvedere: the legacy of Srebrenica


Drama, Cinema

30/11 17:17 CET

Belvedere by Bosnian director Ahmed Imamovic deals with the legacy of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which some 8,000 men and boys were killed.


read more: euronews

Romanian band raps Sarkozy for Roma expulsions


Music, le mag

25/11 12:36 CET

The controversy over the plight of the Roma people in France has hit the world music scene with Romanian rock band Vama.
Entitled “Sarkozy versus Gypsy”, their hit song is a parody of France’s expulsion of hundreds of Roma people back to Romania and Bulgaria in the summer.

read news: euronews

Police Drama at Macedonian A1 TV

balkan insight

25 Nov 2010 / 23:26

Special police units were deployed in front of Macedonia’s national broadcaster A1 TV on Thursday evening after the building which houses the station was raided by agents of the financial police.

Sinisa Jakov MarusicSkopje
It has still not been confirmed that the TV channel was in fact the target of the original raid but the drama played out during a live broadcast throughout the evening. The situation grew tense as several hundred people tried to break through the police cordon around the building.
The station’s journalists, who were initially trapped inside the building, claim the raid was an attempt to shut down the TV station which is known for its criticism of the government. They say the police blocked them from doing their jobs and that two of their colleagues were physically attacked by the officers.
Prominent politicians from opposition parties and human rights activists arrived at the scene of the incident throughout the evening to show their support for the broadcasters. Many of them eventually made their way through the police lines and their statements of support were broadcast live from the studios.
Macedonia’s Journalist’s Association condemned the intrusion. “This shame should stop. The police should retreat and let the journalists carry out their work” its president Robert Popovski urged.
The EU ambassador in Macedonia, Erwan Fouere urged the police minister Gordana Jankulovska to give a full public explanation of the events surrounding the raid.
Police spokesman Ivo Kotevski told Balkan Insight that journalists at the station had been manipulated and that the police are not there to shut down or block the work of the TV channel.
“The police are there to assist the public revenue office and the financial police in financial inspections of several trade firms registered at the same address as the A1 TV”, Kotevski said.

read more: balkan insight

Croatia and the European Union

balkan insight

15 Nov 2010 / 11:51

Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said in Split on Saturday that the decline in domestic support for the country's EU entry seen in recent surveys was "partly expected" because the accession process was taking too long.

17 Nov 2010 / 12:08

Croatia's EU entry and the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area will be among the priorities of Hungary's presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2011.

25 Nov 2010 / 17:16

Slovenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Milan Balazic said on Thursday that Slovenia is not blocking policy chapters within Croatia's European Union accession talks.

26 Nov 2010 / 11:09

The border arbitration agreement reached between Slovenia and Croatia will enter into force on Monday, a further step forward in resolving the 18-year dispute between the two countries.

30 Nov 2010 / 11:25

The European Commission said in Brussels on Monday for the first time that Croatia could wrap up EU accession negotiations towards the end of the first half of 2011.

read more: balkan insight/ eu focus

Western balkans and European Union

balkan insight

09 Nov 2010 / 19:03

Montenegro and Croatia have most reason to celebrate as European Commission releases 2010 progress reports on Western Balkan countries.

09 Nov 2010 / 19:17

The report on Kosovo, released in Brussels today, notes progress in decentralisation but says concerns remain regarding the rule of law.

12 Nov 2010 / 11:06
While the European Commission blames Kosovo for not doing its homework, others say EU states’ immigration worries were the real reason why Kosovo failed to make progress on visa liberalisation.

12 Nov 2010 / 16:08

Brussels officials in Sarajevo on Friday reminded Bosnians that they will have to respect the terms of the deal, or it may be suspended.

24 Nov 2010 / 14:39

Greece plans to fix dates for the EU entry of Western Balkan states when it holds the bloc's rotating presidency in 2014, an idea that runs counter to the current EU stance.

26 Nov 2010 / 10:02
The European Parliament will call on member states to grant Montenegro EU candidate status without delay in a resolution set to be tabled on December 2.

read more: balkan insight: eu focus

Kosovo - Albania visa liberalisation

balkan insight

More Kosovars Seeking Albanian Citizenship - report

15 Nov 2010 / 12:07
The number of Kosovo Albanians applying for Albanian citizenship has increased since the EU lifted visa requirements for Albanian citizens last week, Pristina-based media report.

Tanjug, B92
In the wake of the reports, Albanian Ambassador to Kosovo Islam Lauka said that his country’s law allows foreigners to apply for Albanian citizenship but several criteria must be met before citizenship can be granted.

“There are at least eight documents, i.e. criteria that need to be met. It is very important to provide a document which proves that a person has been living in Albania for five consecutive years and for citizens of Kosovo that period is three years,” the ambassador explained in an interview for Albania's top-channel TV.

“There are mitigating circumstances in those three years, if a person from Kosovo has been married to an Albanian citizen for at least a year, for which they need to have a document from the Albanian Interior Ministry,” Lauka added.

After Albania and Bosnia achieved visa-free travel to most European Union member states on November 8, Kosovo is now the only country in the region that has not been granted visa liberalisation for travel to the EU, a situation that some observers say risks isolating the population there.

balkan insight


Albania Travel Agencies Warned Over Asylum-Seekers
Tour operators told not to tempt people to go West on false promises, following the EU decision to lift the requirement for short-term Schengen visas from Albanians.

Besar Likmeta Tirana
Albania's Interior Minister, Lulzim Basha, told travel agents that the government expected them to act responsibly with the public, following the relaxation of the visa rules with the European Union.
"We consider you, and you should consider us, as partners in the initial phase of informing the public about the rules on freedom of movement," Basha told tour operators on Wednesday.

Albanians had "dreamed for a long time" about obtaining the right to free travel within Europe, he said, “and we are prepared to defend it [that right] at any cost".
The minister that said "strict monitoring of the process" was required in order "to avert what happened in Macedonia and Serbia".

Travel agencies in Macedonia and South Serbia are suspected of having lured people to travel to Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland on false promises of easy asylum.

Thousands of poor citizens from the two Balkan countries, mostly ethnic Albanians and Roma, duly headed off on buses into the European Union and sought asylum there.

Sweden's National Migration Board registered 5,300 asylum applications from Serbia alone in 2010, officials told Balkan Insight.

In the wake of the rising number of asylum-seekers, the Council of EU Interior Ministers has tasked the European Commission with publishing reports on the success of the visa liberalisation scheme every six months.

If the influx continues, the Commission may propose suspending the visa liberalisation regime in accordance with the terms of the Lisbon treaty.

Stricter rules will be applied for Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, whose citizens will be able to travel inside the EU without visas from December 15.

Basha said the police would provide phone numbers on which people could find out more information concerning the visa regime.


Kosovo Ready for Visa-Free Regime, Pristina Officials Say

29 Nov 2010 / 12:22
Kosovo’s government stresses that it has fulfilled the criteria set by the European Commission on visa liberalisation, as it gears up for an expected EC mission in December.Petrit Collaku Pristina
“There is a team from the EC coming to Kosovo next month and I am quite sure we will get the [visa liberalisation] strategy this year because all the criteria have been fulfilled,” Islam Caka, head of migration department within the Interior Ministry, told Balkan Insight.Kosovo is the only state in the region which has not been granted a visa-free regime with the EU.

The European Commission said on November 9 in its yearly progress report that it is not ready to start negotiations with Kosovo over visa liberalisation because Pristina has not completed a reintegration package for its returnees, but Kosovo government officials argue that the requirements have been met.

Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green MEP and European Parliament Rapporteur for Kosovo, said that Kosovo should expect the EC to send a team before long and convince the EU member states that Pristina has done its homework.

“Not necessarily the ones that do not recognise Kosovo’s independence but others who have new governments to convince and reassure them that Kosovo’s government has done what has been asked,” Lunacek said in Pristina last week after meeting with Besim Beqaj, Kosovo's Minister for European Integration.

Caka outlined the steps that have been taken by Kosovo's government to take back and re-integrate returnees, noting that Pristina has reached six bilateral agreements with EU countries on repatriation.“Most of the agreements have been reached with countries where the majority of Kosovars living abroad are located,” Caka said.

He added that two meetings were held with the Czech Republic in November and the paperwork to finalise the agreement is expected to be finished shortly.“Also, very soon we will have agreements with the Benelux countries,” Caka said.

Caka explained that the office has established two offices at the airport to meet and host the repatriated Kosovars.

“We are building a shelter at the airport which will be opened soon and host repatriated families for a short time,” he added.Caka added:

“In meantime, Kosovo is continuing to repatriate its people from EU countries and the number so far has reached more then 4,300.”“By the end of the year, that figure will stand at some 4,700,” said Caka, adding that the number of returnees will be more or less the same as last year.
According to Caka, European countries sent back more than 4,800 persons in 2009 after turning down their asylum requests.


read more: balkan insight / visa liberalisation


Serbia FM Says Pristina Not Ready for Talks

balkan insight
18 Nov 2010 / 12:03

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic says that that unlike Belgrade, Pristina is still not ready for a dialogue, at least not before elections in Kosovo scheduled for December.
Tanjug, B92
Explaining that Belgrade was ready for talks, the minister underscored that the official Serbian stance is clear.
“We shall never recognise the unilaterally declared independence by Kosovo.
We will use all diplomatic and political means to find compromising and rational solutions," Jeremic said in the central Serbian town of Cacak late on Wednesday.
According to the minister, talks can start on less contentious topics, such as missing persons or mine clearing along the administrative line.
"In that way a better atmosphere can be created for more serious talks," he noted.
Jeremic also said that the Belgrade-Pristina talks will be held under the umbrella of the United Nations and with the mediation of EULEX (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo), making sure that the status of Kosovo and Metohija is in keeping with Resolution 1244.
Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister Hajredin Kuqi said recently that talks would begin after Kosovo's December 12 general elections, which Belgrade has told Kosovo Serbs not to participate in.
“Our government was unanimous in its call to our citizens not to take part in the elections, because the elections were not called in keeping with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244, according to which only the chief of the the UN foce in Kosovo (UNMIK) can call them, which he failed to do,” Jeremic said.

read more: balkan insight

'Wrong Answers' on Kosovo Could Threaten Serbia EU Bid

balkan insight

17 Nov 2010 / 12:47

When European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele hands the pre-accession questionnaire to the Serbian authorities during his visit to Belgrade next week, a few 'wrong' answers on Kosovo could prove costly.

"Serbian answers should be status neutral and respect UN Resolution 1244 as well," an EU member state diplomat told WAZ.EUobserver.
"That means Serbia will not be forced to recognise Kosovo's independence in the questionnaire but Belgrade should accept in the answers the reality that Kosovo is not under Serbian sovereignty or control."

Serbia's replies to the list of questions will largely determine the European Commission's assessment of the country's readiness to become an EU candidate and a positive opinion by the Commission is usually essential for an aspiring country to become an official candidate.

Either the European Commission or the Council of Ministers could advise against granting Belgrade candidate status or the decision could be put on hold until Belgrade has clarified contested positions, according to EU officials dealing with Serbia.

The questionnaire itself is 'status neutral' regarding Kosovo, and takes into account UN Resolution 1244, which set up an international military presence in Kosovo in 1999.

But even questions which were very easily answered by other potential candidate countries – state size, border length and other statistics concerning the number of municipalities or amount of agricultural land – are highly politicised in the case of Serbia.

"The elegant solution for the EU and Serbia could be using an asterisk for Kosovo," said an EU commission source. "Belgrade could present all dates for Serbia without Kosovo. Inserting the asterisk would mean that Serbia treats Kosovo in respect of UN Resolution 1244.

"This solution could satisfy all, having in mind that Kosovo is still not recognised by five EU member states. And Serbia, by recalling the Resolution 1244, would not harm its politics towards Kosovo."

Serbian officials, according to interlocutors in the EU institutions, are very well aware of the complications that could result from providing certain replies about Kosovo.

"Some important EU countries have already signalled they will veto Serbia's candidate status if Belgrade tries to use the questionnaire to affirm sovereignty and territorial integrity in Kosovo," an EU diplomat explained.

read more: balkan insight

Δευτέρα, 29 Νοεμβρίου 2010

High expectations, limited resources: The bottlenecks of EU civilian crisis management in Kosovo

europe's world

Author : The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
By Tanja Tamminen

The EU Rule of Law Mission, EULEX Kosovo, is the biggest and the most expensive operation ever conducted under the CSDP. It was warmly welcomed by the Kosovo population in 2008, but it has proved difficult for the EU to live up to the high expectations.EULEX suffers from a number of political constraints, as not all EU member states have recognized the independence of Kosovo. International coordination in Kosovo is particularly complicated as the international actors live in parallel realities when it comes to the status of Kosovo: some recognize its independence, some do not, and others are status neutral. EULEX also suffers from slow procurement procedures, as well as from inadequate recruitment policies.Constant evaluation shows that the Kosovo rule of law institutions are steadily developing under EULEX monitoring and mentoring, but in key areas such as the judiciary and the fight against organized crime the progress is slow.

read more: europe's world

the finnish institute of international affairs

WikiLeaks documents point to Turkish-U.S. tensions


LONDON Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:18am EST

(Reuters) - U.S. diplomats have cast doubts on the reliability of NATO ally Turkey, portraying its leadership as divided and permeated by Islamists, according to the German Der Spiegel magazine's website.
Der Spiegel, citing U.S. diplomatic documents released on Sunday by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, said advisers to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were described as having "little understanding of politics beyond Ankara."
Erdogan has introduced sweeping liberal economic reforms in pursuit of Europan Union membership since his AK Party was first elected by a landslide in 2002. He denies accusations by secularists that he harbours secret Islamist ambitions.
Der Spiegel cited a cable as saying Erdogan had surrounded himself with an "iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors."
Turkey has traditionally close relations with Washington, but ties have been strained of late, partly as a result of Ankara's falling out with Israel over its invasion of Gaza.
"The leaked diplomatic cables reveal that US diplomats are skeptical about Turkey's dependability as a partner ... The leadership in Ankara is depicted as divided and permeated by Islamists."
Der Spiegel's website gave few details or direct quotations from the cables but said its magazine would provide a broader account Monday.
(Writing by Ralph Boulton, editing Ralph Gowling)

read more: reuters

Is Kosovo ready for visa-free travel to the European Union?


Nov 24, 2010 11:34 EST

Weeks before a parliamentary election in Kosovo that could decide the course of democratic reforms there, the European Union is struggling to decide whether to offer Pristina encouragement or reproach.
The country, a former breakaway province of Serbia, is the poorest and smallest in the Balkans and riddled with problems. Unemployment rates are near 50 percent, state institutions are weak and per capita income is just $2,500 — one of the lowest in Europe. Five EU members do not even recognise it as a state. Yet it may also hold the key to stability in a region marked by decades of ethnic conflict.
On the whole, Brussels has a clear policy towards Kosovo. It says Pristina could become an EU member, but only when ready. Exactly what steps are needed to push it along the path towards membership, and when, are the subject of debate.
The most pressing discussion in Brussels now is whether to begin talks with Pristina about visa-free travel: from the middle of December, citizens of Kosovo will be the only ones in the western Balkans who need a visa to travel to the EU.
Some EU officials say that in the next few weeks, or at least before the end of the year, the bloc’s executive Commission will starts discussions with Pristina on a roadmap on how it should fix its border and security policies to qualify for the visa-free perk. That would be an important coup for the government and a signal that Kosovo is firmly on the EU integration path.
Some proponents go further, arguing that the sooner visa dialogue starts, the better, because Kosovo needs encouragement to start important talks with Serbia on practical cooperation. Relations between Belgrade, which refuses to recognise Kosovo’s independence, and Pristina have improved somewhat in recent months after Serbia agreed to negotiations on technical issues such as customs stamps and telephone codes.
But neither side has yet to make a move towards formal talks — a critical step in efforts to soothe Balkans’ tensions — and diplomats worry they may never materialise. Kosovo policymakers could, for example, refuse to come to the table if Brussels does not launch visa dialogue, they say.
The EU home affairs chief Cecilia Malmstrom, who oversees visa policies, is reluctant to start talking about scrapping visas just yet. Illegal migration is a concern. When tourist visas were scrapped for Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro last year, thousands left immediately, seeking better opportunities in western Europe. Requests for asylum in some EU member states from citizens of the three countries increased by as much as four times.
Kosovo may be small, with a population of about 2 million, but its citizens already make up the fifth-largest group of asylum seekers in the EU. Thousands also pay the 2,000 or 3,000 euro price demanded by smugglers to get them across borders.
Malmstrom argues Kosovo’s nascent state institutions are simply not ready to take the steps needed to secure borders and prevent passport fraud.
Delaying visa dialogue would amount to a reproach: get your house in order before you are welcome in ours.

read more: reuters

Macedonia and Greece could look to EU for help


Nov 19, 2010 11:40 EST

“What’s in a name?” asked love-struck Juliet by way of justifying her love for Romeo, whose Montague family was so loathed by the Capulets.
For Macedonia, rather a lot.
The name has been fought over by Greece and “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” for nearly two decades. Now European Union diplomats are telling them to ask for mediation help from the bloc. It may be the only chance, they say, for the two countries to solve a dispute that is preventing Macedonia from joining NATO and starting accession negotiations with the EU.
After a decade of talks facilitated by the United Nations to try to get the two to agree a new name for the former Yugoslav state, there is little sign of progress. EU diplomats argue that closer involvement in the talks by, say, the EU’s executive Commission or representatives of its new diplomatic service, might help the two come to an agreement.
The lack of progress frustrates some officials in Brussels, who say it sends the wrong signal to the rest of the EU-bound Balkans. It tells them that bilateral disputes can effectively block the Commission as it steers the bloc’s enlargement policy. Having officials from Brussels directly involved in talks would make it easier to use EU policies as ‘carrot and stick’ to coax the two capitals towards agreement, they say. “The EU is the missing link,” one EU official said recently.
At the core of the dispute is the insistence by Athens that Skopje has usurped a name that implies a claim on Greece’s own region of Macedonia. A U.N.-brokered deal in 1995 allowed the newly independent Balkan state to join the United Nations under the temporary designation “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. A fair amount of diplomatic creativity followed. Its envoys have sat at U.N. meetings between representatives of Thailand and Togo — the country name being considered to start with “The”. A handful of proposals for a new name have been circulated, mostly tacking on a descriptive word such as ‘Upper’ or ‘Northern’ to the name Macedonia. Other suggestions included Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia and Republic of New Macedonia.
But the two capitals have dug in their heels, even though both say publicly they want a solution. The latest round of talks between Macedonian and Greek leaders, who met in Brussels in October, produced no result so far.
The idea of asking the EU for help has won little airtime in Athens. And Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, when asked about the matter on a visit to Brussels this week, appeared hesitant. “The official mediator is the United Nations and it’s doing the job very well,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar organised by conservative members of the European Parliament.
EU diplomats say bringing a new player into the game may be unpalatable to the United Nations, because it could amount to conceding defeat and requiring some kind of exit strategy. But they point out that EU mediation in the Balkans has had some success in recent months. For example, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has convinced Serbia to soften its stance towards Kosovo, a major turnaround in Belgrade’s policy that has given a boost to Serbia’s EU hopes. Perhaps, a similiar diplomatic success will be possible for Skopje.

read more: reuters

EU takes new step on Serbia bid, warns on war crimes


By Branko Filipovic
BELGRADE Wed Nov 24, 2010 10:46am EST
BELGRADE (Reuters) - The European Union moved closer to starting membership talks with Serbia on Wednesday but its top enlargement official said that further progress depended on the arrest of remaining war crime fugitives and on key reforms.

"Top priority must continue to be given to ... the successful tracking and arrest of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic," Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said after handing over a questionnaire about Serbia's readiness to join the bloc to Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic.
The questionnaire is necessary for the bloc to decide whether to grant candidate status to an applicant country.
Cvetkovic said answers to the document, containing 2,483 questions, would be prepared by the end of January, "aiming that, by the end of 2011, we receive candidate status."
EU governments want Belgrade to arrest Mladic, a Bosnian Serb wartime commander indicted for the 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, and Hadzic, a leader of Serbs in Croatia during the 1991-1995 war there, and hand them over to the UN war crimes tribunal.
Top Serbian officials have repeatedly said the country's law enforcement and intelligence agencies are doing everything possible to find the two fugitives.
"We have investigative activities every day and I believe this will be resolved within a reasonable period of time," President Boris Tadic said during a visit to neighboring Croatia on Wednesday.
Developments around Mladic are particularly watched in the Netherlands, an EU member that had insisted on close monitoring of efforts to capture him.
Dutch troops were protecting a United Nations safe haven for civilians in Srebrenica in July 1995 when it was overrun by Serb troops commanded by Mladic. Around 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the next few days.
Fule said Belgrade must also reform its administration and judiciary, and step up the fight against organized crime, corruption, nepotism and red tape.
Earlier this year EU foreign ministers agreed to ask the bloc's executive commission for an opinion on launching entry talks with Serbia.
Belgrade has gained more support for its EU bid since agreeing in July to negotiate with its former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, bowing to demands for better regional cooperation.
Of the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia is already in the EU and euro zone and Croatia hopes to join in the next couple of years, while Macedonia and Montenegro are also ahead of Belgrade in the integration process.
(Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Jan Harvey)

read more: reuters

"A very special relationship. Why Turkey's EU accession process will continue"

europe's world

22th November 2010 / Opinión CIDOB núm 91

The widespread sense among observers that the Turkish EU accession process might be headed for imminent failure has been present from its very outset. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, however, the risk of a “train crash” in the accession talks is minimal. The reason for this is reassuringly self-evident: it is neither in Turkey’s interest, nor the EU’s, to derail the accession train.
We predict that even ten years from now, unless Turkey will have joined the EU as a full member, the accession process will be ongoing. Today’s relationship between Turkey and the EU is like a Catholic marriage: divorce is not an option for either side. The only question then is whether the couple will be happy or not and the only special partnership that is acceptable to Turkey and to the vast majority of EU members is one they have today – an open-ended accession process.
There are only two ways for the current accession talks to end or be suspended: one is for Turkey to give up and walk away from the negotiating table; the other is for the EU member states to decide on a suspension. The first of these scenarios would require a major policy shift inside Turkey, which is very unlikely. Imagining a scenario whereby the opponents of Turkish accession inside the EU succeed in suspending the negotiations is just as difficult – not only because it is not in their interests, but also because it is not in their power. The combined votes of Germany, France, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Austria (to name some of the countries where skepticism about Turkey’s EU membership has been an important part of the domestic debate) would fall far short of the 255 needed to suspend the negotiating process. Barring a return to the pattern of human rights abuses of the 1990s, a reintroduction of the death penalty or a military takeover in Turkey, the EU cannot unilaterally stop a process to which it has committed itself under the Negotiating Framework. Here, all the cards are in the hands of Turkey’s politicians.
There is a perception among many in Turkey that the EU has consistently discriminated against their country. Yet since 1999 Turkey has often been given the benefit of the doubt. In 1999 it was given candidate status despite failing to meet the EU’s Human Rights criteria. In 2004, despite only “sufficiently” meeting the Copenhagen political criteria, it was allowed to open accession talks – the only candidate country to be allowed such leeway. It was a policy of positive encouragement, and it worked well and in the European interest.
At the same time, any objective assessment would conclude that Turkey remains some way from meeting the conditions for accession. Turkey’s human rights record – though vastly improved over the past decade – remains dismal by European standards. Restrictions on free speech, the number of minors in prison (2,460 as of July 2010) and the situation of women (Turkey ranked 101st out of 110 countries in the UN’s 2009 Gender Empowerment Measure and 126th out of 134 in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Index) are all matters of serious concern. The EU is also worried about the security and economic situation in South East Anatolia, by far the poorest region in Europe.
One area where the EU has discriminated against Turkey has been in the field of visa-free travel. This suggests an obvious way to show that EU conditionality vis-à-vis Turkey remains “strict but fair”: to offer Ankara a visa roadmap similar to that which has been given to Western Balkan countries. Once the roadmap requirements are met, Turkish citizens should be able to travel to the EU without a visa. Visa-free travel to the EU is a right enjoyed by Central Europeans (since the early 1990s) and by most people living in the Western Balkans (since 2009). The EU already promised it to Turkey under the 1963 Association Agreement. A credible visa liberalization process would provide tangible evidence to ordinary citizens that the EU remains committed to a future integration perspective. It would also be a useful tool to advance the implementation of non-discrimination policies and promote further improvements in Turkey’s Human Rights record, bringing down still high rates of asylum requests granted to Turkish citizens in EU member states. Such a reform process would be a win-win proposition for the EU and Turkey and a big shot in the arm for the accession process.

read more: europe's world, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs

Naipaul, Turkish Authors Pull Out of Istanbul Event

wall street journal

BOOK, NOVEMBER 25, 2010, 6:02 A.M. ET

ISTANBUL—Nobel Prize-winning author Sir V.S. Naipaul has pulled out of a writers' conference in Istanbul that starts Thursday, pressured by religious conservative media in Turkey that objected to statements he has made on Islam.
The move sparked two Turkish authors to pull out of the event, its organizers said Wednesday.
Mr. Naipaul, author of some 30 books, had been due to give the opening speech at the European Parliament of Writers, a literary event organized here to mark Istanbul's status as a European Capital of Culture this year.

For the past week, however, religious conservative Turkish newspapers, including Yeni Safak and Zaman, have been campaigning against the decision to honor Mr. Naipaul, a 78-year-old Trinidadian of Indian origin. While some Turkish authors supported his right to attend the conference, defending him on grounds of free speech, others said they would boycott the event if he attended.
"How can our writers bear to sit by the same table with Naipaul, who has seen Muslims worthy of so many insults?" wrote poet and Zaman columnist Hilmi Yavuz, who initiated the planned boycott last week and described Mr. Naipaul as "an enemy of Islam" and "a colonialist."
The uproar over Mr. Naipaul's participation exposed the continued sensitivity of religion in modern, officially secular Turkey, even as it seeks to join the European Union. Free speech also remains fragile, with hundreds of journalists facing trial over their articles and thousands of websites banned under a 2007 law.
"In these days when it is often said how we are opening up to the world, this case showed how closed we still are," liberal journalist Ece Temelkuran wrote in Haber Turk newspaper.
Mr. Naipaul, through his agency, declined to comment. A statement by the agency confirmed that the writer had decided not to attend due to the strong Turkish reactions, a decision it said was made Tuesday by Mr. Naipaul and the event's organizers.
"The politicization of the conference in the Turkish media in regards to Sir V.S. Naipaul's participation has altered the original conception of the event and [his] contribution to it as a celebrated author," the statement said.
"We feel disturbed about how things came to this point and how meaningless [the debate] has been," said Ahmet Kot, literary director of the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency.
The organizers said that by Wednesday evening in Istanbul, Turkish writers Murat Uyurkulak and Cem Akas, the latter of whom was scheduled to moderate a panel discussion, had withdrawn to protest the cancellation of Mr. Naipaul's visit.
Mr. Akas couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Mr. Uyurkulak said in a telephone interview he made his decision in support of freedom of expression.
"I am not a fan of Naipaul. I don't really like him. But I don't want to take part in a literary event where somebody is being boycotted because of what he says," Mr. Uyurkulak said. "If we cannot host someone who represent opposing views as he pleases, if we cannot listen to them, we have a problem."
The organizers added that all foreign writers were already en route or already in Istanbul, and that none had so far canceled appearances.
Mr. Naipaul's views on Islam, including those in 1981's nonfiction "Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey" and the 1998 "Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples," have sparked anger in the Muslim world. Opponents of his visit to Turkey have cited several of his books as offensive and objected to his characterization of Islam as "imperialist."
Islam "has had a calamitous effect on converted people," Mr. Naipaul said in 2001 after a book reading in London. "To be converted you have to destroy your past, destroy your history. You have to stamp on it, you have to say, 'my ancestral culture does not exist—it doesn't matter.'"
The European Writer's Parliament was conceived by Turkey's sole winner of a Nobel Prize for literature, novelist Orhan Pamuk, together with Jose Samarago, the Portuguese Nobel winner, who died in June. The event aims to bring together around 100 writers from around Europe.
Jason Goodwin, author of "The Janissary Tree," had just arrived in his hotel in Istanbul on Wednesday when he heard word of Mr. Naipaul's cancellation.
"I can understand why Turkish writers might be upset" by Mr. Naipaul being an honorary guest, Mr. Goodwin, who has written about the Ottoman empire, said in a telephone interview. "My impression is that he also doesn't know Islam as deeply he should. Personally, I would have wanted to hear Mr. Naipaul speak as he would have been an interesting voice, an interesting person."
Mr. Goodwin also said he understood Mr. Naipaul's decision. "We are all here as guests," he said. "And who wants to be an awkward guest?"

read more: wall street journal

Bosnie: les victimes dénoncent l'"ignorance" d'Angelina Jolie

le monde

AFP 29.11.10 16h06

Une association bosnienne de femmes victimes des violences sexuelles pendant la guerre a dénoncé lundi l'"ignorance" à leur égard de l'actrice américaine Angelina Jolie qui a achevé récemment le tournage d'un film dont le scénario a fait beaucoup de remous en Bosnie.
"L'ignorance à l'égard des victimes dont a fait part Angelina Jolie nous en dit suffisamment sur le scénario et nous donne le droit d'avoir des doutes" quant à l'histoire racontée dans le film, a affirmé l'association "Femmes victimes de la guerre".
Dans une lettre, adressée au Haut Commissariat des Nations unies pour les Réfugiés (HCR), dont l'actrice est une ambassadrice de bonne volonté, les membres de l'association se disent "profondément préoccupées".
La vedette d'Hollywood, qui est cette fois la réalisatrice, a tourné le film du début octobre à la mi-novembre en Hongrie.
Après des problèmes d'autorisation de tournage d'une partie du film en Bosnie, en raison de la pression des associations de victimes de la guerre sur les autorités locales, seules quelques séquences panoramiques ont été tournées en Bosnie, en l'absence de la réalisatrice.
Selon le synopsis, le film a pour thème une histoire d'amour pendant la guerre de Bosnie (1992-95) d'un geôlier serbe d'un camp de prisonniers qui se démène pour protéger son ancienne petite amie, une musulmane, qui est détenue.
Mais des rumeurs sur le scénario, relayées par la presse locale, ont provoqué de vives réactions de l'association de victimes.
Angelina Jolie a demandé à rencontrer ces femmes pour "clarifier les malentendus", mais cette rencontre n'a jamais eu lieu.
Selon la présidente de l'association, Bakira Hasecic, des membres de l'association avaient été invitées par l'actrice à Budapest pour la rencontrer durant le tournage, mais cette proposition a été refusée.
"Des crimes ont eu lieu ici, en Bosnie, et nous voulons la rencontrer ici", a déclaré Mme Hasecic à l'AFP.

read more: le monde

La BEI ouvre un bureau régional pour les Balkans occidentaux

le monde

AFP 29.11.10 16h26

La Banque européenne d'investissement (BEI) a ouvert lundi à Belgrade un bureau régional pour les Balkans occidentaux et a octroyé des prêts à la Serbie pour une valeur totale de 325 millions d'euros, notamment pour des projets d'infrastructures.
Un prêt de 195 millions d'euros est affecté à la construction dans le sud de la Serbie de 36 kilomètres du Corridor 10, l'axe routier reliant l'Europe occidentale à l'Europe du sud-est, a annoncé la BEI dans un communiqué.
Un autre prêt, d'un montant de 90 millions d'euros, est destiné au projet de pont enjambant la Save à Belgrade.
"Nous avons déjà signé pour près de 3 milliards d'euros de prêts en Serbie, avec le secteur public et le secteur privé", a rappelé le président de la BEI, Philippe Maystadt, lors de l'inauguration du bureau régional de la Banque.
M. Maystadt a souligné que la BEI avait diversifié ses domaines, centrés d'abord sur les infrastructures, mais concernant aujourd'hui la rénovation urbaine, l'efficacité énergétique, la recherche et le développement, ou encore la santé et l'éducation.
Interrogé sur les effets de la crise irlandaise sur les Balkans occidentaux, le Premier ministre serbe, Mirko Cvetkovic, a déclaré ne pas s'attendre à des conséquences "significatives".
"Nous vivons dans la région avec des pays voisins connaissant des problèmes, comme la Grèce, la Hongrie et la Roumanie. Nous sommes pour ainsi dire habitués à vivre dans cet environnement", a déclaré M. Cvetkovic.
"Nous ne voyons pas d'impact pour le moment", a renchéri M. Maystadt, se félicitant que les finances publiques soient placées en Serbie sous le signe de la "stabilité et de la continuité".

read more: le monde

Business: Macedonia, EU fight unemployment

se times

Macedonians will be offered the chance to upgrade their skills and become more competitive in the labour market. Also in business news: Credit rating agency Fitch revised Turkey's long-term foreign and local currency ratings outlook.

The EU has granted 1.3m euros to promote employment in Macedonia. An agreement on implementing project was signed on Thursday (November 25th) by Macedonian Finance Minister Zoran Stavrevski and EU Ambassador to Macedonia Erwan Fouere. Under the project, 8,000 unemployed people will get the opportunity to upgrade their skills and become more competitive in the labour market through various programmes. There are about 290,000 unemployed in Macedonia, according to national statistics.
Albania has great tourism potential and the World Tourism Organisation will support its development, Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said on Wednesday (November 24th). However, infrastructure must be improved in order to attract more tourists, Rifai said after meeting leaders in Tirana.
Foreign investors in Kosovo say that problems with courts and administrative procedures hinder their businesses, according to a survey conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo released on Wednesday (November 24th). After investing in Kosovo, businesses are also faced with dysfunctional systems that only exacerbate the problem.
Credit rating agency Fitch revised Turkey's long-term foreign and local currency ratings outlook on Wednesday (November 24th) to positive from stable and affirmed them at 'BB+', one notch below the investment grade. The revision took into account Turkey's strong economic recovery with no indications of a double-dip recession and improving public finances, leading to strengthened creditworthiness.
Macedonia has the easiest tax payment procedures in the region, according to an annual study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Bank published on Tuesday (November 23rd). The country is ranked at 33 of 183 countries surveyed. Albania and Romania are closer to the bottom of the list, sharing the 149th position due to their relatively complicated procedures. Croatia is doing relatively well at 42nd, followed by Greece and Turkey at 74th and 75th, respectively, and Bulgaria at 85th. Bosnia and Herzegovina is at 127th, while Serbia and Montenegro are at 138th and 139th, respectively.
A total of 2.77 million or 13.1% of all Romanians have emigrated, World Bank chief economist for Romania Catalin Pauna said. Most of them have moved to Italy, Spain, Hungary, Israel, the US, Germany, Canada, Austria, France and the UK.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Finance Minister Dragan Vrankic and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) office in BiH chief Giulio Moreno signed an agreement Tuesday (November 23rd) for a 30m-euro loan to finance the reconstruction of the water supply system in the Sarajevo canton. The loan will be disbursed in two equal instalments of 15m euros each and will be repaid over 15 years.

Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac said on November 19th that the government has signed contracts worth $400m for the construction of three military factories in North Africa. Serbian companies Jugoimport-SDPR, Krusik, Sloboda and Prvi Partizan have been contracted for the deal and are expected to begin construction in 2012.
Japanese company Panasonic will launch production in its plant in the central Serbian town of Svilajnac in January. The 2,250 square-meter plant will manufacture energy-efficient electronic devices for lighting fixtures and will employ 60 workers initially.
(Various sources -- 19/11/10-26/11/10)
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

Former Bulgarian interior minister gives up immunity

se times

Former Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov has called for a probe into allegations he met with organised crime bosses back in 2006 to discuss the redistribution of the local drug market.
(Sega, 24 Chasa - 25/11/10; The Sofia Echo, Sofia News Agency, FOCUS News Agency, Dnevnik.bg, Mediapool - 24/10/11)

Former Bulgarian Interior Minister Rumen Petkov said Wednesday (November 24th) that he was ready to give up his immunity as a member of parliament so that the prosecution can investigate his alleged involvement in drugs crimes.
"I will do this so that the whole truth could be revealed," he said in an interview with Sofia-based private television channel bTV.
A senior member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Petkov was appointed interior minister in the Socialist-led three-way coalition government that took office in the Balkan nation after inconclusive parliamentary elections in June 2005.
He resigned in April 2008 following revelations that he had met in 2006 with suspected crime bosses Plamen Galev and Angel Hristov, who are known as the "Galevi brothers" although they have no family relationship. At the time, the notorious businessmen from the southwestern town of Dupnitsa were under investigation for tax fraud and drug trafficking.
The revelations prompted speculations in the local media that the purpose of what Petkov had described as a "working meeting" was to persuade the duo to stop shooting members of a rival gang in the run-up to Bulgaria's EU entry in January 2007.
The meeting was arranged and attended by then-secret agent Alexei Petrov, who later became adviser to the former head of the State National Security Agency (DANS) and served in that post until last year when he was jailed as part of a high profile anti-mafia police operation, dubbed "Octopus," not related to the events surrounding Petkov's resignation.
Petrov, who said to have shares in an insurance company and other private firms, was released and placed under house arrest last month, after a Sofia court downgraded the organised crime charges pressed against him.
Last week, incumbent Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov and the head of Bulgaria's customs agency, Vanyo Tanov, alleged that the real purpose of the 2006 meeting was to discuss the rearrangement of the country's illegal drug market.
Tanov, who formerly headed the unit tasked with combating organised crime, claimed that Petkov reached a deal with the Dupnitsa businessmen that defined their area of operation and that reserved for Zlatomir Ivanov, "the Beret", another key figure in Bulgaria's underworld.

He and Tsvetanov also said, however, that all records from the Petkov-Galevi meeting were destroyed. Bulgarian media reports noted that, in the absence of any solid evidence in support of their allegations, it would be extremely difficult to establish the truth about the former interior minister's discussion with the "brothers".
On Tuesday, Volen Siderov, the leader of the nationalist Ataka party, who currently heads the parliamentary committee supervising DANS's work, sent a letter to Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev, asking him to demand the lifting of Petkov's immunity from prosecution.
While noting that he was willing to give up his immunity voluntarily, the former interior minister claimed Wednesday that he was the victim of a campaign, aimed at diverting public attention from the real problems facing the country. Petkov called Tsvetanov and Tanov's allegations an "absolute lie and slander," saying he was planning to file a defamation case against the two officials.
He also said he had sent a request to Velchev's office, asking him to order an investigation into the allegations against him.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

read more: se times

Κυριακή, 28 Νοεμβρίου 2010

Serbia eyes swift response to EU questionnaire

se times

Stefan Fuele delivered a set of around 2,500 questions while in Belgrade on Wednesday. Serbian officials hope to have them answered by January.
By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 25/11/10

In another milestone for its EU bid, Serbia on Wednesday (November 24th) received the official questionnaire assessing the country's readiness to become a candidate for EU membership.
Stefan Fuele, the EU's enlargement commissioner, presented it during a visit to Belgrade on Wednesday (November 24th). It contains about 2,500 basic questions covering all areas of political and economic life.
Serbian authorities were confident that they could submit the answers to Brussels by the end of January.
According to Fuele, the questionnaire for Serbia was modeled on those already given to Montenegro and Albania. He pointed out, however, that there were certain specific questions Belgrade would have to answer.
The questionnaire does not include direct questions about the topic that may be the most controversial in relations between Belgrade and Brussels – namely, the status of Kosovo.
Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said that the issue was raised during the meeting with Fuele, and that it was confirmed the questionnaire treated Kosovo in a status neutral manner, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
A similar statement was made by the commissioner as well. "Kosovo is not included in the questionnaire. In spite of that, there are a number of issues concerning co-operation between Belgrade and Pristina. But they too treat Kosovo in a status neutral way, as did the Stabilisation and Association Agreement," Fuele said.
He said delivery of the questionnaire opens a new stage in EU-Serbia relations. "I am confident the Serbian government will take this chance and carry out the necessary reforms," Fuele said.
The EU's main expectations are for Serbia to wrap up co-operation with the Hague tribunal, successfully reform the judicial sector, consistently fight corruption, and implement laws in a manner that will convince Brussels of its readiness for EU membership.
A source from the Serbian European Integration Office told SETimes that setting January as the completion date for the questionnaire is extremely ambitious. If successful, the source said, Serbia would be among the countries that had spent the least time filling out the questionnaire.
The same source said that the job had been made somewhat easier for Belgrade, because it can rely on the previous experiences of other countries in the region.

Serbia will treat Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia when answering questions related to the province, but will stress that responsibility for the implementation of reforms there does not lie with Belgrade, the source added.
"We have made very serious preparations and will directly start working on preparing answers to the questionnaire we have been given," Cvetkovic said. "The work practically starts today."
A former head of the European Integration Office, Tanja Miscevic, said the European integration process facilitates the introduction and comprehension of European values as domestic values, and amounts to more than simply meeting a set of EU demands.
"By giving answers, one is actually giving oneself a starting point. One in fact sets the grounds for an assessment of one's level of development with regards to the meeting of standards and starts making own plans for negotiations on future membership," Miscevic told reporters in Belgrade.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

read more: se times

Greece calls for new EU roadmap for Turkey, fixed dates for Western Balkans

se times

Greece suggests the EU adopt a new strategy for Turkey's integration and give Western Balkan candidates specific dates for entry.
(Zaman - 24/11/10; WAZ.Euobserver, FOCUS News Agency - 23/11/10; ANA-MPA, Reuters, ISRIA - 22/11/10)

The EU should hold a summit with Turkey after the 2011 parliamentary elections there to adopt a new roadmap for the country's accession to the 27-nation bloc, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said on Monday (November 22nd).
"I think this is really the time to have a frank discussion with all the member states and also with Turkey," Greece's top diplomat said at a seminar, hosted by the European Policy Centre (EPC), a Brussels-based think tank. "We have to make our minds up again within the European Union, what our expectations are concerning Turkey."
The roadmap, to be discussed with the government that will take office after next year's elections, should clearly spell out Turkey's obligations and define the timeframe for implementation, according to Droutsas. That new strategy should also set "a specific date for Turkey's accession to the EU -- assuming, of course, the relevant ratifications are forthcoming from the member states and Turkey," he added.
Turkey began membership talks in October 2005, but the process has been moving at a snail's pace, largely due to Ankara's sluggish reform progress and its refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU member Cyprus.
In addition, some influential member states have been arguing that Ankara should be offered a "privileged partnership" rather than full-fledged membership -- a position Droutsas takes issue with.
"I do not question the qualms some member states have," Droutsas said. "What I am asking is that they not be allowed to prefigure the result or move the goalposts in mid-game. The rule we must abide by says that the road to full accession must remain open."
The prospect of eventual EU membership has proved an important catalyst of democratic reform in Turkey, so it should be encouraged to make further progress along that road, he adds.
"The more alive the European process is, the more democratic Turkey becomes," Droutsas said.
Although many of the bloc's citizens are opposed to the predominantly Muslim country's eventual EU entry, attitudes may change as Turkey implements change, he added.
"I know that when this question is put to European citizens a few years down the road, it won't be about today's Turkey," Droutsas said. "It will be about a European Turkey that respects international law and honours the principle of good neighbourly relations. A Turkey that protects the religious freedom of all its citizens and respects the rights of all the minorities living within its borders."
But he also said that Ankara cannot hope to join the EU as long as it keeps thousands of Turkish troops stationed in Cyprus's north and that the Greek Cypriots may continue to block its accession process.
Droutsas, whose country is scheduled to take over the six-month rotating EU presidency from Lithuania on January 1st 2014, also sees the need to invigorate the process of further expansion, despite the "enlargement fatigue" felt in many member states today.
Greece's previous chairmanship of the Union in the first half of 2003 ended with a successful summit dedicated to the Western Balkan countries' EU integration and the adoption of the Thessaloniki declaration, outlining a series of measures to facilitate the process.

Seven years later, Croatia is on track to join the Union as its 28th member by 2012, while the rest of the region's EU hopefuls are in various stages of the accession process.
Droutsas said that, during its 2014 EU presidency, Greece would push for a new Thessaloniki declaration, setting specific benchmarks for progress and target dates for the Western Balkan nations' admission into the bloc.
Reuters quoted him as saying that the EU could consider setting 2018 as a target date. He stressed, though, that setting a date would not mean that countries could join at that time if they have not met all conditions.
Droutsas also said that despite its current financial problems, the EU should be able to find the needed funding to assist the aspiring countries in their reform efforts.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

read more: se times

Kosovo, Macedonia roll out new bus regulations

se times

Kosovo and Macedonia are taking steps to tame a largely unregulated market.
By Muhamet Brajshori in Pristina and Misko Taleski in Skopje -- 24/11/10

Passenger transportation should be regulated through issuing licenses, a joint Kosovo-Macedonia commission on international road transport agreed recently. Such a move, officials say, will help make bus transport safer, more professional and more reliable.
Representatives of the two countries' transportation ministries have signed a protocol establishing the criteria companies must meet in order to receive a license. An estimated 150 licenses will be granted by 2011, each good for a period of five years.
"The protocol will fulfill the standards assigned by the EU, and with it we will also practically implement the Law of [passengers and goods] road transportation," Macedonian Transport Ministry spokesman Dragan Simonovski said.
He said the protocol will help standardise the industry, obliging carriers to respect regulations and removing illegal competitors from the market.
Likewise, Kosovo Transport Minister Fatmir Limaj said it will "introduce comfortable conditions for passengers, while safety is a priority".
Some carriers, however, say they were not granted a significant enough role in framing the protocol.
Speaking to SETimes, Jakup Berisha of the Kosovo Association of Transporters said the decision making process "should have included more of the opinions of the carriers in both countries, and also respected their interests".
But customers appear satisfied. "This sphere should have been regulated long ago, and it is positive that the authorities in Skopje and Pristina achieved an agreement. It is better to have a document to guide us rather than work individually, illegally, and then pay fines," Skopje resident Jeton Idrizi, 39, told SETimes.

Commenting on the comfort and quality of the transport conditions at present, passenger Huseyin Silman told SETimes that apart from road work, conditions are not that bad.
"The road between both countries can be improved to the level of a motorway so the road safety issues can be ensured. ... The buses are good, but there can be improvements, newer buses with improved comfort, even though current ones are not intolerable," Silman said.
The signing of the protocol was preceded by a Macedonia-Slovenia transportation commission meeting -- also relevant for Kosovo -- which resulted in agreeing to liberalise the transportation between the two countries and agreeing to issue 200 licenses from and to third countries that are valid in both directions.
Macedonian transport ministry officials said a similar agreement is expected with the Czech Republic by the end of the year.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

read more: se times

OHR gives more responsibility to Bosnian leaders

se times

Candidates for the Council of Ministers will no longer need approval from Valentin Inzko.
By Ljiljana Smiljanic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka – 24/11/10

Earlier this month, the Office of the High Representative (OHR) said it will stop vetting candidates for political posts in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including the Council of Ministers.
High Representative Valentin Inzko said it is time for political parties to take more responsibility for the future of their country. He called on them to recommend candidates whose records are clean.
"Now all parties participating in entities and cantonal government will be responsible for choosing candidates that were not involved in obstructing implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, or accused of war and other severe crimes," OHR spokesperson Ljiljana Radetic said.
"The High Representative expects authorities at the entity and cantonal level to introduce their own means for checking these candidates, just like there are means to do so on the state level," she said.
Critics, however, say the move is premature. The Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) argues that political parties must first show they have all necessary checks in place. Most members of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) also oppose the decision.

Positive responses came from the leading party in Republika Srpska (RS), the Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD).
"It is an act of liberation from occupation and protectorate", said the party's leader, Milorad Dodik. Dodik responded immediately by signing a state-level co-operation agreement with the opposition Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). If SNSD wins four seats on the Council of Ministers, they are willing to share them with SDS.
"We are offering the fastest way to form state institutions in the interest of all citizens, and we think it is necessary for other political factors in BiH to talk, especially SNSD and SDS," said Mladen Bosic, SDS leader.
The SNSD and SDS say their priorities are constitutional reform and NATO. They will also work on sharing of VAT income, changes in election law, foreign politics and reduction of BiH armed forces. Closing the OHR and a referendum on NATO membership is also on the agenda.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

read more: se times

Kosovo local vote tests political parties

se times

Many viewed Sunday's vote as a gauge of party popularity ahead of snap elections, while monitoring organisations say they saw few improvements.
By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 24/11/10

Voters in Orahovac (Rahovec) headed to the polls Sunday (November 21st) to elect a new mayor after the Constitutional Court ruled that the resignation of former Mayor Qazim Qeska is binding. However, the vote did not result in a clear winner.
Preliminary results, not officially confirmed by election officials, suggest that Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) candidate Ibrahim Kryeziu will face Smajl Latifi of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) in a run-off on December 19th.
However, Latifi is still battling for the spot against the Kosovo Democratic Party's (PDK) candidate, Xhelal Canziba, as the votes are counted.
Trailing behind the top three were Rexhep Oruqi of the New Kosovo Alliance (AKR) and Luljeta Kadiri of the Democratic Party of Dardania (LDD).
The decision to hold the extraordinary election came after the PDK's Qeska resigned for personal reasons in July, and then later said he wished to return to his post. Then-President Fatmir Sejdiu asked the Constitutional Court for its opinion.
Sunday's election was important for the parties, not just because of the mayoral post, but also because it served to test support ahead of the December 12th general elections.
The vote was also of interest to NGOs, who say they saw little evidence that shortcomings in the election process have been overcome.
"The process should have demonstrated that political parties are taking the issue seriously, but we do not see any improvement and it's the same situation as in 2009," Ismet Kryeziu, the head of Democracy in Action, told SETimes.
"Our concern is the presence of a high number of political parties' observers, more than 60 in the village," Kryeziu said, explaining that voters felt pressured as a result. In addition, he said, there were clear cases of fraud.
"In one voting centre, we had a case when a person voted more than 12 times," Kryeziu said.
Democracy in Action says it has identified 23 cases of family voting in one constituency, but those allegations have not been confirmed by Kosovo's election commission.

The five political parties that participated in the vote -- PDK, LDK, AAK, AKR and LDD – are accusing each other of responsibility for the incidents.
According to the AAK, senior PDK officials were in Orahovac on Sunday pressuring voters. The AKR says photos of the PDK candidate were visible in some cars, violating election laws. The PDK has rejected the accusations.
One analyst, Mufail Limani, says the results of Sunday's election will not affect the upcoming December vote. The Orahovac elections, he says, were more a mirror of the Constitutional Court decision on the mayor.
Voter turnout was 40.5% -- 5% less than the municipality's mayoral vote last year.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.

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