The Balkans Today: 13th - 17th June 2016
 
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 13th - 17th June 2016

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

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Monday:

    • A Bulgarian company with ties to organized crime is in the process of securing a lease to a Communist-era weapons factory in the small Albanian town of Polican. Read more.

    • Moscow issues veiled response as a US Navy destroyer is slated to begin joint drills with the Romanian navy. Read more.

    • Former industrial buildings in downtown Belgrade’s Cetinjska Street are slowly but steadily becoming a brand new alternative hub, but the place has yet to gain its momentum. Read more.

  • Macedonian anti-government protesters painted a giant number six on the pedestrian bridge leading to the Constitutional Court in the capital Skopje on Sunday night, reminding authorities that they have six days to meet the deadline set by demonstrators for their demands to be fulfilled, or else more radical protests will commence.

    The protesters have set a deadline of June 18 for the Constitutional Court to guarantee that it will not deem the Special Prosecution, tasked with investigating high-level crime, as unconstitutional, to agree to a court specifically for high-level crime to be created, and for an interim government to be formed that will organise free and fair elections.
     
    The protesters are also demanding that criminal charges and fines against some of the protest participants be halted.

    Photo by: Vanco Dzambaski


  • Parliament of #Hungary ratifies Protocol on Accession of #Montenegro to #NATO. Thank you! twitter.com/vladacg/status…

  • Police in northern Greece are clearing makeshift migrant camps along the border with Macedonia after creating more shelter space to house stranded refugees and migrants, news agency Reuters reported.

    Scores of riot police were deployed Monday as more than 400 Syrians and Iraqis were moved from a camp set up around a gas station near the Greek border with Macedonia and moved by bus to a shelter near the northern city of Thessaloniki.

    Authorities said a site previously used to store grain had been modified by the army and was being used as a shelter where the migrants were being taken.

    Journalists were not allowed access to the site during the police operation. Read more.

  • A controversial referendum in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska over its annual Republic Day holiday could be organised for October 2, together with local elections, the entity’s president, Milorad Dodik, said during a press conference in the northern town of Brod on Sunday.

    Dodik claimed that one of the most important reasons to hold the referendum on that date was so authorities would then have enough time to then organise the celebrations, held annually on January 9. He also argued that holding the referendum, to decide if the holiday should be abolished, is for the benefit of Republika Srpska.

    Bosnian Serb political parties initially agreed to a referendum after Bosnia’s Constitutional Court ruled in November 2015 that Republic Day was unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminated against people of other ethnic and religious backgrounds. The decision was firmly opposed by all political parties in Republika Srpska, who claimed the decision was an attack on the autonomy of the entity.


    Milorad Dodik. Photo: SNSD


  • Areas of Albania’s north and south have been left flooded after a heavy downpour started in the early hours of Monday.

    The coastal town of Vlora in the country’s south and Lezha in the northwest were among those worst affected, with water blocking the roads, but the waters are now receding.

    The capital Tirana, which has frequently been affected by flooding in the past due to problems with the city’s drainage system, also experienced some issues from the downpour, but the situation is now returning to normal.
    A Vlora's road in the morning. Photo: Facebook 
  • Bulgaria will be able to import a third of its annual consumption of natural gas from Greece, after a modernized gas compression station was opened on Monday in the southwestern town of Petrich.

    The station, which allows the transportation of up to 3 million cubic metres of natural gas per day to the gas liquefaction station in Ihtiman, near Sofia, has been modernized by the state-owned gas operator Bulgartransgaz at a cost of over 17 million euros.

    Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who attended the opening ceremony of the renovated facility, said that it has marked the finish of the first stage of modernization of Bulgaria’s gas transportation system.

    “With the infrastructure we have built no one will have any benefit to go around us anymore. We have done our homework and now we are waiting for the Balkan gas hub to start distributing gas for the region,” he added, promising that Bulgaria “will never stay cold in the winter anymore”.

    Boyko Borissov at the opening ceremony of the renovated station. Photo: Facebook 


  • Albanian political sphere was dominated by negotiations on Monday between key political figures in the government and opposition, as well as EU and US ambassadors to Tirana, during which headway was made on reaching consensus on important judicial reform, intended to curb corruption and help the country’s bid to join the European Union.

    At the conclusion of negotiations and his meetings with EU ambassador Romana Vlahutin and US ambassador Donald Lu, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced the ruling and opposition parties are on their way to reaching agreement on the proposed draft for the reform.

    The opposition leader, Lulzim Basha (in front) and the Albanian PM during a meeting. Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra 
  • Several countries - members of NATO, have ratified the Protocol on Accession of Montenegro to the Alliance, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday.

    On May 19, NATO signed a protocol on accession of Montenegro to the Alliance, which provides it with observer status at the meetings. After its ratification by all member countries Montenegro will become a full member of NATO.

    "Montenegro is getting closer and closer to full membership,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Photo: NATO.


  • The Bosniak member of the Bosnian Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, who is also leader of the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, paid an official visit to Kazani, near Sarajevo, to commemorate the Serbs that were killed in the area by a group of Bosnian soldiers during the war. 

    "I should have come here earlier to make my condolences... these things should not happen anymore to anybody," Izetbegovic said during the visit, noting that he hopes it “will encourage other people to take similar steps."  

    Izetbegovic was accompanied by a delegation of his party members.

    Bakir Izetbegovic (second from the left) in Kazani on Monday. Photo: Anadolu 


  • The reconstruction of Slavija Square, one of Belgrade’s largest urban traffic projects in recent memory, is due to begin this month. But what impact is it going to have on the city? Find out in our latest issue: http://bit.ly/1S0qvyU

  • protest of support for editors and journalists sacked over the past few months from Radio Television of Vojvodina, RTV, the TV station in Serbia’s northernprovince, is to be held at 7pm in the city of Novi Sad on Monday evening.

    This is the third “Support RTV” protest in which Serbian journalists and citizens will voice their opposition to the alleged politically inspired purge of editorial staff from the broadcaster.

    The dismissals at RTV came after Prime Minister Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party won political control of the province following elections in Vojvodina in recent provincial elections, ending 16 years of dominance in the province by the Democratic Party.

    Support RTV banner on a previous protest. Photo: Facebook 


  • Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:

    • Against a deadline set by the anti-government protesters, Macedonia's parties are considering a fresh round of leaders' meetings this week to discuss ways out of the ongoing political crisis. Read more.

    • Free-trade deal with Russian-dominated economic bloc offers Serbia little - and could damage Belgrade's relations with the EU, experts warn. Read more.

    • Montenegro's opposition party says it will seeks education minister's resignation because of what it calls discrimination against the Cyrilic script in schools. Read more.

    • A new generation of young Albanians are using their online technological  skills to make their way on the global scene and are making profits that most Albanians can only dream about. Read more.
  • Criminal defamation provisions protecting heads of foreign states infringe on media’s right to report on issues of public interest, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said on Tuesday as she presented a set of recommendations on the issue.

    “Media freedom is dependent on journalists being able to freely report on and criticize even the most senior public officials, it is part of media’s vital role as public watchdog,” Mijatovic said. “Laws protecting the dignity of foreign heads of state are especially problematic in this regard.

    To promote the abolition of all criminal defamation laws has been a strong position and consistent policy of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media ever since it was established in 1998. The Office shares the position of the European Court of Human Rights, that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider with regard to a politician acting in a public capacity than in relation to a private individual.

    “Public figures must display a greater degree of tolerance, especially when he or she makes public statements that are subject to criticism,” Mijatovic said.
    Photo: OSCE.


  • More than 80 Bosnian children are in ISIS-held territory in Syria and Iraq and represent a "time bomb" that could pose a major security risk when they return, Reuters reported on Monday, quoting a new report by Bosnian think-tank Atlantic Initiative which is not yet public.

    The study found that the total number of adult male fighters from Bosnia currently in the Middle East is 91, having dropped from an estimated 188 in the three-year period ending in December 2015, after 47 returned home and 50 were killed.

    As of April, less than half of the Bosnians in Syria were men of military age, while there were also 52 women and 80 children. 

    Some children who went to the region with their families have joined ISIS combat units, the study said, and at least one minor from Bosnia had been killed as a combatant.

    "We are seeing a completely new generation of children who were raised on the battlefield or near the battlefield," Vlado Azinovic, a co-author of the study, told Reuters. "They are like a time bomb for any country they may end up in."

    The number of Bosnians departing for and returning from the Syria had almost completely stopped in 2016, because of an increase in the number of prosecutions against them by Bosnian authorities.



  • The mayor of Albania’s capital Tirana, Erion Veliaj, announced via Twitter on Tuesday that the number of stray dogs in the city has finally started to decline as a result of a neutering process that was started in February.

    Packs of stray dogs have been terrorizing Tirana’s citizens for over a decade, with almost daily recorded accounts of people being bitten. To tackle the ongoing problem, city authorities implemented a process whereby stray dogs are collected and taken to a centre on the outskirts of Tirana to be neutered. 

    While Veliaj did not give concrete figures as to how many dogs now roam the Tirana’s streets, but animal rights activists claim the number is around 5,000, although official data on the issue does not exist.
    A stray dog in the municipality shelter. Photo: Tirana Municipality 
  • The Prime Ministers of Bosnia’s two entities, the Federation’s Fadil Novalic and Republika Srpska’s Zeljka Cvijanovic, organised a video conference with Bosnian premier Denis Zvizdic, to find an agreement on the country’s coordination mechanism, one of the conditions imposed by the EU to allow Bosnia to proceed in its path to EU integration.

    The three could not reach consensus and a new meeting will be organised soon, although a date has not been set, Bosnian media report. 

    Bosnia’s Minister of Finance Vjekoslav Bevanda, Republika Srpska’s finance minister Milan Tegeltija and his counterpart in the Federation Jelka Milicevic, as well as the EU special representative for Bosnia, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, also attended Tuesday's meeting.

    Bosnian PM Denis Zvizdic. Photo: Anadolu. 


  • Croatia’s environment minister Slaven Dobrovic, from junior government party Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, said that his party still considers Tihomir Oreskovic as the legitimate prime minister.

    Dobrovic also claimed that the move by leading government party Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, to remove Oreskovic "goes towards the direction that leads to nowhere".

    Oreskovic will face a no-confidence vote in Croatian parliament after HDZ filed a motion against him over his handling of a row between the two other main players in the government, vice prime ministers Bozo Petrov of MOST and Tomislav Karamarko of HDZ.
  • Representatives of the four main Macedonian political parties attended renewed crisis talks at the EU residence in Skopje on Tuesday to discuss ways out of the country’s ongoing political crisis.

    The meeting has paved the way for talks between the party leaders, during which the main topics expected to be discussed are the date for early elections and the format of the new government tasked to prepare the country for the polls.
  • The railway between Serbia and Montenegro, the Belgrade-Bar line, will see its first significant reconstruction in the last four decades, Montenegrin public broadcaster RTCG reported.

    The works on the first phase of reconstruction are expected to start in July, when 77km of the line from Belgrade to the Serbian town of Valjevo will be reconstructed.

    The works should last 14 months and cost 80 million euros. The contract between the Serbian and Russian national railway companies, envisioning the reconstruction, was signed last year.

    Photo: Wikimedia/Pristina.


  • Bulgarian defence minister Nikolay Nenchev and his Romanian counterpart, Mihnea Motok, have expressed their shared concerns about the security of the Black Sea region during a bilateral meeting in Brussels on Tuesday where NATO defence ministers have gathered ahead of the Warsaw Summit in July.  

    According to a statement from Bulgaria’s Ministry of Defence, Nenchev and Motok are very satisfied with the results the two countries have achieved in the field of defence, and the efforts to create a NATO Multinational Division Headquarters for the southeast. 

    Bulgaria has also declared its support for the formation of a new multinational NATO brigade in Romania, as announced during the meeting of the Alliance.
  • Bosnia’s Council of Ministers has not asked the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina to withdraw its decision to publish the results of the 2013 census without consensus from the other statistical agencies in the country, Velimir Jukic, the Agency’s director, said during a press conference on Tuesday.

    His announcement comes after he faced questioning over his decision to go ahead with publishing the data by Bosnia’s Council of Ministers in its session earlier in the day. 

    Explaining why his decision stands, Jukic said it was “taken in accordance with the law and the international standards," adding he is confident the census results will be published by the legal deadline of July 1.

    Velimir Jukic. Photo: Anadolu 


  • The Slovak Parliament ratified Montenegro’s NATO membership on Tuesday, with 78 MPs voting in favour of the NATO Accession Protocol.

    NATO foreign affairs ministers approved the invitation for Montenegro to begin accession talks in December 2015 and the Slovak government last month greenlighted the protocol.

    The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry underlined that Montenegro’s NATO membership will considerably bolster security and expand the zone of stability and freedom in the western Balkans, the TASR newswire reported.

    Photo: Twitter.


  • Top stories from the Balkans this Wednesday:
    • Macedonia's government has ordered an evaluation of the damage done to official buildings and monuments as a result of protesters' paint balls - further annoying the protesters themselves. Read more.

    • With early elections becoming ever more likely, Croatia's leftist opposition  expects to profit from voters' anger about the current muddle in the governing coalition. Read more.

    • The special prosecution for organized crime in Montenegro will probe allegations that ruling party committed electoral fraud in the run-up to the October elections - if an opposition motion secures a majority of votes. Read more.

    • If UK voters opt to quit the EU on June 23, which recent polls suggest they might, the negative effects will be felt as far away as Belgrade and Tirana. Read more.
  • Bulgarian Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova has won an award as the biggest contributor to Balkan tourism at a Montenegro conference, local media reported.

    Angelkova has been named as "Balkan Person of the Year 2015" by the Balkan Alliance of Hotel Associations, BAHA, one of the co-organizers of the conference, according to the daily Vijesti.

    Titled "Destination as a Brand", the event in the coastal town of Herceg Novi is aimed at exploring ways to jointly promote the Balkans as a tourism product.
  • The mayor of Bosnia’s western city of Bihac, Emdzad Galijasevic, was arrested by officers from the Federal Directorate of Police on Wednesday morning on suspicion of having received around 10,000 Bosnian marks (5,000 euros) in bribes, the Prosecutors’s Office of the Closely-Sana Canton confirmed, having ordered the action.

    Galijasevic’s wife, a counselor and chief of the municipality’s services were also arrested in relation to the allegations.

    Emdzad Galijasevic. Photo: Youtube


  • Members of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, CSU – both part of the country’s ruling coalition alongside the Social Democrats - are urging German Chancellor Angela Merkel to start an initiative inside European institutions to change Bosnia’s Dayton agreement, which ended the Bosnian war and set out the country’s constitution, Belgrade-based Danas reported on Wednesday.

    "There is need to give Bosnia a new constitution,” a high-ranking inside source told Danas.

    The source also noted that Berlin has already showed its concern for the situation in the Western Balkans, particularly in terms of the refugee crisis, and argued that "it is necessary to put Bosnia and Herzegovina again between our working priorities, because that country really needs constitutional reforms."

    Angela Merkel. Photo: Armin Kübelbeck / Wikicommons


  • Bulgaria has decided to spend an extra 44 million leva (around 22 million euros) on finishing the last 61 kilometres of the barbed wire fence it is building along its border with Turkey, Valeri Simeonov, MP from the nationalistic Patriotic Front, announced on Wednesday. 

    The fence, aimed at halting illegal migration from Turkey, has already absorbed over 100 million leva (over 50 million euros) of public money, allocated without a tender as it is considered a crisis measure.

    According to Simeonov, the first 130 kilometres of the wall have been completed and another 40 will be finished by the end of July. 

    The total length of the so-called “border equipment” will be 230-240 kilometres, Simeonov estimated, also inviting everyone to “come and take pictures with it for the next generation” because of its huge scale.

    Photo: Facebook 


  • A draft law on the reform of Bosnia’s state television, BHRT, presented as a possible solution to the broadcaster’s critical financial situation, failed to obtain the necessary votes to be passed in Bosnia’s House of Representatives on Wednesday.

    The draft was opposed by politicians from Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska.

    At the end of May, BHRT’s board of directors announced that the broadcaster would temporarily go off air on June 30 if a stable solution for its financing is not found.

    The building of BHRT in Sarajevo. Photo: BiHVolim / Wikicommons

  • Azmont Investment, a subsidiary of Azerbaijan Global Investments (AGI), officially launched operations of its bank in Montenegro's capital Podgorica on Wednesday, SeeNews reported.

    As a newly established commercial bank in Montenegro, Azmont banka AD Podgorica is registered with a capital of 11.98 million euro ($13.4 million) and will offer services to corporate and private clients, Azmont Investment said in a statement sent to SeeNews.

    "Azmont banka is yet another great opportunity to contribute to overall development of Montenegro and in particular the finance sector," Miodrag Radonjic, executive director of the bank, said in the statement.

    Azmont is currently involved in the construction of the Portonovi resort which will cover an area of 26 ha and feature a luxury hotel, 500 residential units and villas, a marina with 220 berths for super yachts, yacht and beach clubs, spas and restaurants.

    Azmont is currently involved in the construction of the Portonovi resort. Photo: portonovi.me


  • Albania’s ruling and opposition parties remain divided over the country’s judicial reform, a condition set by the EU for the country to move ahead on its accession path, following negotiations on Wednesday in which they were unable to agree on how members of new institutions within the justice system will be elected. 

    The opposition claims the ruling party wants to find a way to have control over the election process.
    The latest negotiations were a last-minute attempt by Prime Minister Edi Rama to attain consensus with the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, on the reforms before the draft goes to a plenary session for approval in coming days.

    On Tuesday, the cross-party “ad hoc” parliamentary commission approved the draft reforms without the opposition’s consent.
    The opposition leader, Lulzim Basha (in front) and the Albanian PM during a Monday meeting. Photo: LSA/Malton Dibra


  • Croatian Vice Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko, also head the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, resigned from his post on Wednesday, as was announced he would on Tuesday.

    Karamarko said his reason for stepping down was to ease tense relations within the ruling coalition, although he also announced that his party will form a new majority within the government.

    He also reiterated his previous calls for Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and the Croatia’s other deputy PM, Bozo Petrov, who also leads junior government party MOST, to resign as well, claiming that both politicians did not act with full respect towards him and HDZ.

    While a parliamentary commission ruled earlier the same day that Karamarko was in a conflict of interest over his links with a lobbyist for the Hungarian energy company MOL, he refused to admit this to be true during his resignation announcement. 

    On Thursday, Croatian parliament will decide upon a no-confidence motion against Oreskovic initiated by HDZ last week.

    Tomislav Karamarko. Photo: BETAPHOTO HINA Damir SENCAR DS 


  • Top stories from the Balkans this Thursday:
    • Complicated relations between Russia, the EU and United States are delaying the formation of a new government in Serbia. Read more.
    • Although Albania was electrified in the mid-1970s, three villages in the Burrel area lost their power years ago - and have only just got it back. Read more.

    • Montenegrin institutions are under pressure to recover around 230 million euros in unpaid taxes from companies seen as close to the ruling elites. Read more.

    • The current neglect of Macedonia by the EU and US undermines democracy and stability in the Balkans. Read more

  • A draft law to reform the financing of Bosnia’s state television, BHRT, was approved on second reading in Bosnia’s House of Representatives.

    The law, which is supposed to create a solution to the critical financial hardships BHRT is experiencing, obtained the necessary majority after it failed to do so on the first reading on Wednesday at the opposition of representatives from Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska.

    According to BHRT’s management, the main problem contributing to its poor finances is the fall in revenues from taxes, which the new law aims to solve by getting cable TV operators to make up for this with payment. 

    The law now needs to pass the amendment phase before it can come into effect.

    At the end of May, BHRT's board of directors announced that the broadcaster would temporarily go off air on June 30 if a stable solution for its financing is not found.

    The building of BHRT in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo. Photo: BiHVolim for Wikicommons 


  • The court in Skopje has pronounced Macedonia’s Special Prosecution – tasked to investigate high-level crime - as incompetent to pursue the case codenamed “Fortress” in which five people, including former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska, are being investigated for alleged illegal destruction of equipment used for large-scale illegal wiretapping.

    In March, the prosecution said that it suspects five people misused their office to organise the destruction of surveillance equipment between March and May 2015 that was used for illegal eavesdropping that was revealed that year by the opposition.

    Macedonian special prosecutors. Photo by: MIA

  • The doors of the European Union are open for Bosnia and Herzegovina, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic during a meeting on Wednesday in Sarajevo.

    During his official visit to Bosnia, Hahn also expressed his hope that the Balkan nation will receive a positive answer to its candidature, which was submitted on February 15, before the end of the year, Sarajevo-based website Klix reported.

    During their meeting, Zvizdic informed Hahn on Bosnia’s progress for the key requirements set by the EU to make the country’s application to the 28-member union credible.

    These include updating the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, adopting an efficient coordination mechanism, and publishing the results of the 2013 census before the legal deadline of July 1. 

    Denis Zvizdic (right) with Johannes Hahn | Photo: Anadolu Agency  
  • A debate on the no-confidence motion against Croatian PM Tihomir Oreskovic is underway in Croatia’s parliament.

    Ministers from the leading party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, which initiated the motion, are not present at the session, with only those from junior government party MOST, which supports Oreskovic, in attendance.

    Before entering the parliament’s plenary hall, Oreskovic said that "history is being written".

    So far in the session, the president of HDZ's parliamentary club, Ivan Suker, has informed MPs of the reasons for which his party wants Oreskovic to be removed, claiming that the government is not functioning.
  • Montenegro has joined the protocol on explosive remnants of war to the UN Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons. The purpose of protocol is to prevent and alleviate the suffering caused by explosive remnants of war and addresses post-conflict remedial measures. 

    Montenegro suffered serious contamination from explosive remnants of war during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.


    “We have much to learn from Montenegro’s experiences of clearing explosive remnants of war and securing stockpiles of munitions with limited resources. I look forward to formally welcoming Montenegro to the Tenth Conference of Protocol V, which will take place on 29 August 2016 in Geneva,” ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, President-designate of the Protocol’s Tenth Conference, said.
  • During his address to Croatian parliament during its session to vote on his no-confidence motion, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic said that all accusations against him that form the basis for demands for him to resign are "false and unfounded".

    He said that one of the reasons that the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, filed the no-confidence motion against him is because he "didn't succumb to the pressure" to appoint non-qualified persons to the head of the Security and Intelligence Agency, SOA.

    Oreskovic claimed that the bid for his removal is a result of his will to protect national interests and resolve the issue surrounding Croatian energy company INA, which is currently the subject of a dispute over its management rights between Croatia and Hungarian energy company MOL.

    "The government fell because of the personal interests of individuals, and I wanted to prevent it," he added.

    Tihomir Oreskovic addresses the parliament. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Damir SENCAR/DS 


  • Bulgaria will have to pay 550 million euros in compensation to Russian company Atomstroyexport for the failed Belene nuclear power plant project, an arbitration court in Paris has decided, Bulgaria’s energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova announced on Thursday.

    The money the Bulgarian state is obliged to pay is for purchasing equipment, produced by the Russian company for the Belene project, which was blocked by the Bulgarian parliament in 2013. 

    The equipment was ordered in 2008, during the Socialist-led government of Sergey Stanishev. 
    According to Petkova, the decision of the arbitrary court is fair, as the initial compensation demanded by Atomstroyexport was 1.2 billion euros. 

    PM Boyko Borissov also said that he is “content with the objectivity of the arbitration”, and added that now Bulgaria has two options – either to purchase the produced nuclear reactor and to carry on with the project, or to sell it to another country.
  • Turkey has not blocked the migrant readmission agreement with Bulgaria, the Turkish Embassy to Bulgaria said in an official statement on Thursday.

    The announcement came as a reaction to media reports, quoting government sources as saying that the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has personally ordered the agreement, signed between the countries at the end of May, to be suspended.

    According to several media reports, Turkey’s alleged move was in response to Bulgaria’s refusal to join a NATO naval fleet to defend against possible Russian aggression, proposed by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Wednesday.

    PM Boyko Borissov said on Thursday that Bulgaria has received no official decision from the Turkish side on quitting the agreement, which allows Bulgaria to send migrants who illegally crossed into the Balkan country’s territory back to Turkey as of June 1. 

    He added that out of the 200 requests Bulgaria has sent to Turkey for migrants to be returned there, all have been cancelled.

    Photo: Beta 


  • Croatian independent MP Stipe Petrina made a montage of a photo of himself in mockery of his statement to the chair of Croatia’s parliament, Zeljko Reiner, that "he'll be back" after Reiner ordered him to leave the parliamentary hall for arguing.

  • Macedonia’s foreign minister Nikola Popovski stressed the importance of regional cooperation between the Balkan countries during a press conference held after a meeting between foreign ministries of Central European Initiative member countries on Thursday in the Bosnian city of Banja Luka.

    "Every country in the region is in a better situation when every one of us cooperate," Popovski said, adding that "[Nations of the region] need to focus on infrastructural issues, because connecting our countries is what makes the life of our people better." 

    Popovski also noted that "countries who are in the EU, and those who are not, have common interests," and stressed that "the EU is the best project for establishing peace." 

    The meeting on Thursday was attended by the foreign ministers of Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Belarus, Sarajevo-based website Klix reported.

    Nikola Popovski. Photo: vlada.mk 


  • Swedish police arrested a Bosnian citizen, Osman Kekic, on Thursday when he landed at Malmo airport in southwest Sweden on suspicion that he is "a dangerous jihadist associated with Islamic State". 

    Kekic, arrested on France’s request, was travelling from the Bosnian city of Tuzla with four children and, according to local authorities, will soon be extradited back to Bosnia. 

    Kekic was already arrested six years ago in his home country, together with members of a Salafi community who were accused of sharing propaganda material that would incite religious and ethnic hatred.
  • Top stories from the Balkans this Friday:
    • Serbia is raising security measures to the highest level ahead of Friday’s 'historic' arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Read more.

    • As parliament readies to approve concession contracts for oil and gas drilling in the Adriatic Sea, the watchdog body MANS has questioned the public interest in the deal. Read more.

    • Anti-government protesters in Macedonia say that if the authorities have not met their key demands by Saturday, they can expect more trouble. Read more.

    • Former landowners' organizations have again denounced the terms offered under the new compensation law - which the government has now started to enforce. Read more.
  • Vladimir Taleski, the mayor of Bitola in southwest Macedonia, who is currently under investigation by the Special Prosecution - tasked to investigate high-level crime - has been given 30 days home detention by a Macedonian court.

    Taleski, who comes from the ranks of the main ruling VMRO DPMNE party, is among the persons being investigated in the case codenamed “Transporter” relating to the alleged misuse of 360,000 euros from the state budget, believed to have been transferred to the Municipality of Bitola to pay for the bus transport of school pupils for two years.

    Bitola mayor Vladimir Taleski. Photo by: Municipality of Bitola

  • The Prosecution of the Una-Sana Canton in Bosnia has ordered that Emdzad Galijasevic, the mayor of the western Bosnian city of Bihac, and his counsellor Smail Toromanovic, be detained for one month after they were arrested on Wednesday, regional TV network N1 reported. 

    According to the prosecution, the two suspects were arrested on accusations of corruption. 

    Galijasevic's wife, Adelaide, and another of the mayor’s advisors, Jasmin Stambolij, who were both also arrested on Wednesday in relation to the same case, were released on Thursday.

    Emdzad Galijasevic. Photo: Youtube. 


  • A long-term 250-300 million dollars loans package to help Montenegro to cope with a growing national debt and unemployment has been approved on Thursday.

    "The new framework will selectively support Montenegro’s development agenda, with a particular focus on creating employment and economic opportunities, and restoring fiscal balance in order to accelerate long-run inclusive growth," the press release reads.

    Montenegro faces the significant challenge of creating good jobs for its people. Solving this problem requires actions to strengthen the supply of labor as well as increase demand for labor from potential employers, the organization said.

    “Creating better economic opportunities for the people of Montenegro is at the heart of our new strategy,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Country Manager.

    Photo: Pixabay


  • MPs in Montenegrin parliament will vote today on a resolution to support the country's in NATO. A statement from the government said that Montenegro has shown strong vision and fortitude in accomplishing its strategic foreign policy priority.

    “We are not choosing between the US and Russia. We are choosing a lasting benefit for Montenegro and its citizens. Membership in NATO will provide us with a secure border which is important when we take the history of the Balkans into account", an MP from the Democratic Party of Socialists, Misko Vukovic, said.

    Pro-Serb opposition parties in Montenegro strongly oppose the country's membership in NATO and have called for a referendum on the issue.

    Photo: Montenegrin parliament.


  • Social media and smartphones are creating problems for Albania’s Ministry of Education with final tests for students finishing high school are being leaking online before all pupils have taken the exams.

    The ministry stated on Friday that a math test that had been circulating on social media for two days had been leaked from a high school in the eastern town of Librazhd by either teachers or students.
    Officials from the ministry said they will take the case to the prosecutors.

    Illustrative picture of a math test. Photo: Flickr/Wendy Berry
  • The gun battle at Bulgaria’s largest tourist resort, Sunny Beach, on June 8 that left one of the country’s most notorious drug lords, Dimitar Zhelyazkov, seriously wounded and an associate dead, was a result of a territorial fight between two rival criminal groups, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov announced on Friday.

    Tsatsarov dismissed the initial version of events by investigators, who claimed the shootout was provoked by a parking dispute between the owner of the restaurant where the incident took place, and one of Zhelyazkov’s associates. 

    Three people have been charged with attempt of murder for the shots fired at Zhelyazkov and the assassination of his fellow gang member Alexander Alexiev.

    A team of 50 prosecutors, police officers and experts are investigating the criminal incident, which have evoked associations with the gang wars in Bulgaria during the 1990s and 2000s.

    Dimitar Zhelyazkov. Photo: Facebook 


  • Montenegro’s parliament approved on Friday a resolution on support for NATO membership with 66 per cent voting in favor.

    Photo: natomontenegro.me


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