The Balkans Today: 10th - 14th October 2016
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 10th - 14th October 2016

Our team brings you live updates of the most important events and developments in the Balkans as they happen.

    The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether the proposed acquisition of Cemex Croatia by Hungarian company HeidelbergCement and Schwenk is in line with the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission has concerns that the proposed takeover may reduce competition for grey cement in Croatia.

    Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "The construction sector, like any other sector needs competition. As cement is an essential part of the sector we need to make sure that consolidation does not lead to higher prices for construction companies and ultimately consumers in Croatia."

    The Commission has preliminary concerns regarding the supply of grey cement in southern Croatia, including in particular in Dalmatia, where Cemex Croatia operates three cement plants in Split and faces competition from DDC's imports from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    #Croatia President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarević hands HDZ conservative leader Andrej Plenković mandate to form new gove……

    Bosnia's state prosecutor started to grill low-ranking officials from Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, on Monday as suspects in a criminal investigation against the entity’s President, Milorad Dodik, for failing to enforce a decision by the Constitutional Court which had put a ban on the referendum which took place on September 25.

    The prosecution has questioned Goran Zmijanjac, a member of Republika Srpska's commission for the implementation of a plebiscite on the entity's statehood day on September 25.

    It is expected that the prosecution will also hold a hearing today with Banja Luka-based lawyer Milan Petkovic, also member of the referendum commission.

    Republika Srpska president Milorad Dodik. Photo: Beta.

    Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:
    • While Bulgaria’s main left and right-wing candidates battle it out to become head of state, a number of less serious candidates have their eyes on the post. Read more.
    • The key to a lasting solution to the crisis in Macedonia lies partly in determining the truth about the wiretap allegations – but going ahead with the early elections is also an important step, British Ambassador Charles Garrett says. Read the full interview.
    • Events in Srebrenica and the recent controversial referendum have been like salt in the wounds for many Bosniaks living in Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity. Read more.
    Serbia could not make “any concessions to Albanians from Kosovo” in its dispute with Pristina over the ownership of telecommunications property and the Trepca mining complex in northern Kosovo, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said on Tuesday.

    “We have already made a lot concessions to Albanians. Somewhere there should be a line,” Nikolic told Serbian daily Blic. “That is why we cannot give up on Trepca or Telekom [Srbija].”

    He also stated that Belgrade should not accept Brussels’ terms for continuing negotiations on Serbia’s path towards the EU if it means relinquishing the property in Kosovo.
    #Montenegro PM Milo Đukanović visits the construction site of the Bar-Boljare motorway at Vjeternik Tunnel.…

    Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama raised the issue of Kosovo while in a debate with his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic at the sixth Security Forum in Belgrade on Thursday, claiming that “as soon as Serbia recognises Kosovo as independent state, it will be better for everyone.”
    Although Belgrade-Tirana relations are improving, Rama added that the Kosovo issue is one of the things that he and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic disagree on, and also expressed his support for dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade to normalise their relations.
    Touching on another contentious subject, Rama also stated his belief that the Trepca mining complex in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo should be under Pristina’s control, saying it belongs to Kosovo and its citizens, regardless of their nationality.
    Albanian PM Edi Rama and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic will participate in business and security forums in Belgrade and Nis this week. Photo: BIRN/Natalia Zaba.
    Bulgaria is at risk of being overpowered by Russia’s interests in the Balkan country and is highly vulnerable to Moscow’s political influence, a joint report by the US Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Bulgarian Center for the Study of Democracy, released on Thursday, shows.

    The report, titled ‘The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe’, states that Russia’s footprint on Bulgaria’s economy, in terms of its corporate presence, foreign direct investment, trade relations and private investments, amounts to 12 per cent of the GDP – a level of interference which they qualify as very difficult to control.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Friday:
    • The launch on Friday of a joint Serbia-Albania Chamber of Commerce in Nis is intended to enliven currently weak economic ties between the two countries - but not everyone expects it to succeed. Read more.
    • Bulgaria remains convinced it can become the gas distribution hub for the Balkans - despite Turkey’s own, more advanced, plans. Read more.
    • The vice-president of Montenegro’s ruling party, Dusko Markovic, tells BIRN that the DPS will romp home again in ‘absolutely fair and free’ elections on Sunday. Read the interview.
    • EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn's visit to Skopje on Friday is aimed at securing the December 11 early election date, which he says is only the first step towards leading the country out of its current crisis. Read more.
    Officials in Bosnia today signed a protocol to reconstruct the Arnaudija mosque in Banja Luka, according to news agency Fena.
    Director of the Waqf fund of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina Senaid Zajimović signed the document with Adnan Ertem, general directorate of Turkey's Waqf.
    Dating back to the late 16th century, the mosque was destroyed by Bosnian Serb forces during the war, in 1993. 
    Local media reported that technical preparation to rebuild the historic holy building could begin this coming spring, once the tender process has been concluded.
    After meeting with EU Enlargement Commission Johannes Hahn on Friday morning, Menduh Thaci, head of the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians, said that his party would support the proposed law changes aimed at helping the work of the Special Prosecution, which is tasked with investigating high-level crime.
    The chief Special Prosecutor, Katica Janeva, also expressed hope that the changes to the law will pass before parliament dissolves ahead of the December 11 snap polls, following her own meeting with Hahn the same day.
    Having just started his visit to Macedonia, Hahn has also already met with civil society representatives, interim Prime Minister Emil Dimitriev and the head of the junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, Ali Ahmeti, in separate meetings during Friday morning.
    According to a tweet he sent, the talks on credible elections, reform priorities and inter-ethnic reconciliation were comprehensive and constructive.
    Hahn will also meet with main opposition SDSM and main ruling VMRO DPMNE representatives before he holds a press conference scheduled for 2pm.
    EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn at a meeting with DPA leader Menduh Thaci
    The digital era has begun in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the first digital TV test signals were sent out today at midday. 
    Minister of Communications and Transport of BiH, Ismir Jusko, pushed the button to send public TV signals out through the towns of Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka.
    It is only the first phase of the digitisation of transmission and broadcasting in BiH, so citizens were warned not to buy their own digital receivers yet. Public broadcasters will continue to use an analog signal for the time being.
    Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica Camil Durakovic has conceded defeat to his rival, for now, in an interview with Sarajevo-based news website
    The Central Elections Commission updated its website today, giving Serb mayoral candidate for Srebrenica, Mladen Grujicic, 4,675 votes against Durakovic's 3,897. 
    Durakovic said there were a small number of absentee ballots still to process, but that the result would not change significantly.
    "[There will be] another 100 or 200 absentee votes, and although all the votes are for me, there will not be big changes - Grujičić is the winner with 600 or 700 votes more. I did not expect a much different situation, but we will wait until Monday to confirm the election results," Durakovic told Klix.
    He said the possibility was open to him to appeal the result.
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