The Balkans Today: 16th - 22nd May 2016
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 16th - 22nd May 2016

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

    The average income of Bulgarian households has grown by 4.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year, Bulgaria's National Statistics Institute announced on Monday.

    The latest statistics show that while salaries and pensions in Bulgaria have increased by 8 and 4 per cent respectively, profits from entrepreneurship have dropped by 9.7 per cent in Q1.

    The profits from social benefits have also decreased, with Bulgarians now receiving 7.5 per cent less on average per household member compared to the first three months of 2015.
    Romania's National Anti-Corruption Directorate, the DNA, accused Romania's former foreign minister Titus Corlatean of power on Monday for allegedly blocking Romanians living abroad from taking part in the country's 2014 presidential elections.

    According to the DNA's indictment, many people in cities with large Romanian populations perceived to be hostile to leftist candidates were unable to vote as Corlatean refused to open more polling stations.

    Centre-right candidate Klaus Iohannis was a surprising winner in the November 2014 elections, with a large number of votes in his favour coming from Romanian expatriates.


    The minimal conditions to enable credible elections in Macedonia on June 5 have not been met, the European Commission, EC, said in a press release on Monday, adding: "under the current circumstances, any government resulting from elections in which three [out of four] major parties are not participating would not be a credible partner for the International Community."

    The EC also reiterated "the need to clean the voters' list, ensure balanced media reporting and investigate the intimidation of voters" before Macedonia is ready for snap polls.

    The EC's statement comes after the ruling VMRO DPMNE party, led by Nikola Gruevski, pressed on with its plan to organise elections for June 5 despite almost all other parties boycotting the idea.

    The union of Macedonia's court administration workers will hold a general strike on Wednesday, which will continue until their demand for higher wages is met, the union announced on Tuesday.

    The union claims it was duped by the government, which allegedly promised them higher wages but never fulfilled the assurance.

    The Romanian with the biggest debt to the state budget is the mayor of Bucharest's District 3, Robert Negoita, who has an overdue tax debt of more than 232 million lei (51.5 million euros), according to a list published on Monday by Romanian tax agency ANAF.

    Among other prominent names that appear on the list of individuals owing to the state budget are Romanian Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea, former Finance Minister Eugen Teodorovici, former Tourism Minister Elena Udrea, the wife of former Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Daciana Sarbu, and the daughter of former president Traian Basescu, Elena.

    Romania's King Michael also appears on the ANAF's list, which includes over 187,000 taxpayers with a total debt of 3.4 billion lei (755 million euro).
    Several activists from Bosnia's LGBT community have organised a peaceful gathering on Tuesday in the capital Sarajevo to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. 

    "The level of prejudice and hate against LGBTI persons [in Bosnia] is extremely high... and if you take into consideration the total lack of regulation on same-sex unions and the rights of transsexual persons, we can conclude that LGBTI persons are citizens of second category," Sarajevo Open Center, a local NGO which supported the protest, told local media.

    "Institutions and politicians need to take decisive action in order to change this situation," it added.

    Activitsts during Tuesday's gathering | Photo: Facebook 

    Thousands of teens in #Croatia celebrate their graduation from high school in Zagreb's Ban Jelačić Square

    Bulgaria will offer the Sofia airport a private concession for a 35-year period, the country’s government decided on Tuesday.

    The state will seek a profit of 1.2 billion leva (around 600 billion euros) for the full concession period, of which 600 million euros will be demanded as an upfront payment, Bulgarian transport minister Ivaylo Moskovski told the Bulgarian national radio. 

    By offering Sofia's airport to private investors, Bulgaria hopes to raise funds for repaying the debts of the state railway company, totaled at 470 million leva (around 235 million euros).

    Sofia Airport. | Photo: Apostoloff 

    The son of Albania's former communist Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu, Skender Shehu, has been arrested in the Swedish city of Solna during a police anti-drug operation, Albanian media reported on Tuesday evening.

    Skender Shehu was detained after police found a considerable amount of marijuana in the house he was staying in.Though he has denied any direct connection with the drugs, Albanian media report he is still currently held in detention.

    Skender Shehu has lived for many years in Sweden where he worked as a teacher on the outskirts of the capital, Stockholm.

    His father served as the longtime Prime Minister of Albania from 1954 to 1981 as the right-hand man of the country's communist dictator Enver Hoxha.
    Skender Shehu | Photo: Youtube screenshot 
    Bulgarian MPs elected Zornitsa Rusinova as the new minister of labor and social policy on Wednesday, after Ivaylo Kalfin, who was also deputy Prime Minister, resigned on March 10.

    Kalfin’s party, the Alternative for Bulgarian Revival, ABV, officially left the coalition government on March 15 and joined the opposition.

    Rusinova was a deputy labor minister in charge of European programs and international cooperation before she was appointed to her new position. 

    The move marks the fourth reshuffle in Boyko Borissov’s coalition government, after the ministers of interior and justice resigned in 2015 and the education minister left in January 2016.

    Zornitsa Rusinova. | Photo: Bulgarian Ministry of Labor and Social Policy 

    After three weeks of failing to do so, Croatian parliament finally reached its quorum on Wednesday, with 129 out of 151 MPs present at the session.

    With a quorum achieved, the parliament approved a law that abolishes the office of former President Stjepan Mesic, with 81 votes in favour, 44 against and four abstinations.

    Session of the Croatian parliament. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Denis CERIC/MO 

    Serbia is late in reducing the number of employees in the public sector and in reforming public enterprises, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Tuesday after meeting with representatives of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, in Belgrade.

    "The great and difficult tasks related to structural reforms are ahead of us,” Vucic said.

    The next visit of the IMF is expected in June, after the new Serbian government is formed.
    Montenegrin parliament voted on Thursday to oust the speaker, Ranko Krivokapic, after the ruling coalition in February submitted a motion to remove him.

    The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and its allies among the ethnic minority Bosniak, Croatian and Albanian parties, supported the dismissal.

    The vote came after after Krivokapic's own Social Democratic Party party in January backed a failed no-confidence vote in the government. The no-confidence vote terminated the almost two-decade-old alliance between Djukanovic’s DPS and Krivokapic's SDP. Read more.

    Ranko Krivokapic | Photo: Montenegrin parliament.

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