The Balkans Today: 26th - 30th September 2016
 
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 26th - 30th September 2016

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

  • The number of articles published in Serbian media that violate the Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which governs the actions of journalists and their editors, has risen by 30 per cent in 2016 compared to last year, the Serbian Press Council’s Complaints Commission said on Wednesday.
     
    According to the Commission, in the last six months alone, over 3,000 articles it deemed problematic were published in eight Serbian newspapers.
  • A Montenegrin citizen Vlatko Vucelic was handed a four-year jail sentence in Germany on Thursday for heading to Paris with assault rifles and explosives hidden in his car shortly before the November Paris attack claimed by the ISIS.

    The 51-year-old was arrested during a routine check on a Bavarian motorway on November 5, just over a week before 130 people were killed in a coordinated suicide bomb and gun assault in the French capital.

    The accused told the superior regional court in Munich at the start of his trial this month that he was aware the weapons were in the car but he denied any knowledge of an attack being planned.
  • Ahead of this Sunday's local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the OSCE has urged citizens to turn out to vote.
     
    "Mayors and members of municipal and town councils and the Assembly have a very important responsibility. Throughout BiH we have seen how smart, energetic and dedicated local officials lead to positive change and prosperity for all," said the OSCE's statement issued this afternoon.
     
    It added that voters should elect candidates who will address the needs and interests of cities and municipalities.
     
    The OSCE mission to BiH will monitor the elections. It encouraged voters to report irregularities to the Central Election Commission or the coalition of NGOs Pod Lupom ("Under the Spotlight"), which has 3,000 volunteers on hand across the country to oversee this Sunday's polls.
     
     
  • Around 1,500 people have already gathered and more are arriving at the City Hall in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, for tonight’s fresh protest organised by civic movement “Let’s not drown Belgrade” ["Ne davimo Beograd"] over the nocturnal demolitions in the city’s waterside Savamala district in April.
     
    The protesters will march to the Prosecutor’s Office and reiterate their calls for the resignations of the city officials responsible for the demolitions, which took place on grounds where the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project is to be built.
     
    Five months after the event, it remains unknown who demolished the buildings with official silence on the issue.
     
    The protest, scheduled for 6pm tonight, is yet to start.
     
    Protesters gathering in Belgrade. Photo: Ljubisa Banovic
     
  • “This is the sixth time that we gather to show our determination in our demand for an answer to who did the night demolition in Savamala,” Virginija Djekovic from the “Let’s not drown Belgrade” ["Ne davimo Beograd"] civic movement told the crowd of protesters, now believed to number around 5,000.
     
    She also read a letter of support from a Spanish civic initiative called "Together for Barcelona".
  •  
    Activist Filip Vuksa told the crowd of protesters, now estimated to number around 7,000, said that police in Serbia act more like personal guards than a municipal force.
     
    "Private laws are made and the Assembly behaves like there is no Constitution. I am a citizen and I will not be silenced,” he said, adding: “We want functional institutions.”
  • Radomir Lazovic, an activist from the civic movement “Let’s not drown Belgrade” ["Ne davimo Beograd"], claims the initiative discovered there was an order for an internal investigation to be conducted within the police force over the nocturnal demolitions in Belgrade’s Savamala neighbourhood, but it was never started.
     
    “We also found out that there is no prosecutor in this case, so that means there is no case. That means that [Belgrade] Mayor [Sinisa] Mali will never face justice,” Lazovic said.
     
    He then reiterated the purpose of tonight’s protest, which organisers have said is to “remind the prosecution of their duties” to deliver justice to those responsible for the demolitions.
  • The protesters, now estimated to number around 10,000, are currently walking to the Prosecutor's Office building in Belgrade where they will call on the prosecution to deliver to those responsible for the nocturnal demolitions in the Serbian capital’s Savamala district, where the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project is to be built.
     
    Protesters take to the streets of Belgrade. Photo: Milivoje Pantovic
     
  • Signs reading “No more war!” can be seen among the crowd of demonstrators currently walking towards the Prosecutor's Office building in Belgrade in the fresh protest organised by “Let’s not drown Belgrade” ["Ne davimo Beograd"] civic movement.
     
    Photo: Pedja Urosevic
     
  • A family friendly atmosphere is evident at tonight’s rally with children and pets among the crowd, with many people blowing whistles and music being played.
     
    There is a minimal police presence and no incidents have occurred.
     
     
     
  • The protesters have arrived at their final destination, the Belgrade High Court, in which the Prosecutor’s Office is also located, and are calling for justice for the nocturnal demolitions of buildings in Belgrade’s waterside Savamala district in April.
     
    The crowd is chanting “Vucic, thief!”
     
    Prior to the protest, representatives of the Ne davimo Beograde civic movement, which organised the protest, said the aim of the rally was to “remind the prosecution of their duties”, as five months after the demolitions, those responsible have not been punished.
  • Tonight’s protest in Belgrade has ended peacefully and the crowd are slowly dispersing.
     
    This latest demonstration, organised by “Let’s not drown Belgrade” ["Ne davimo Beograd"] after a summer break, saw an estimated 10,000 people rally on the streets of Belgrade to reiterate their demands for those responsible for the nocturnal demolitions in the Savamala district in April to be held accountable.
     
    The rally started at the City Hall and finished at the Prosecutor’s Office, some 2km away, where protesters went to “remind the prosecution of their duties” to deliver justice on this issue.
  • Top stories from the Balkans this Friday:
     
    • Macedonia's government said it is confident that the country can manage next year's largest-ever state budget - whose adoption in parliament arrived earlier than usual. Read more.
       
    • The controversial Bosnian Serb referendum has added to the existing ethnic and political tensions in the largely impoverished Bosniak-majority Sandzak region of southern Serbia. Read more.
       
    • Kosovo’s legal framework may give women equal rights to inherit property but too many women in the country are still reluctant to use it. Read more.
    The controversial Bosnian Serb referendum has added to the existing ethnic and political tensions in the largely impoverished Bosniak-majority Sandzak region of southern Serbia. - See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/serbia-s-bosniaks-fret-over-bosnian-serb-referendum-09-29-2016#sthash.1hpuMmHv.dpuf
  • The European Commission warned Croatia on Friday that it is lagging behind other EU nations in terms of development of its digital network, claiming that the cost of broadband internet should be 30 per cent lower.
  • Bulgarian police forces and prosecutors have undertaken a special operation at the Kapitan Andreevo checkpoint on the border with Turkey, with policemen being investigated for corruption and smuggling of migrants, media reported on Friday.

    According to the Bulgarian National Radio, four border policemen have been arrested during the operation, which is still ongoing. 

    The Ministry of Interior still has not officially announced details about the operation, which blocked Bulgaria’s biggest border checkpoint for five hours on Friday morning.

    Meanwhile, the police announced it has arrested 56 undocumented migrants, including men, women and children, on Friday in the southeast Bulgarian town of Svilengrad where they were found on board a cargo train.

    Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint. Photo: Hristo Rusev 



  • Poland will support Serbia on its path towards EU membership and hopes to discuss bilateral cooperation with the Balkan country at the next meeting of the Visegrad group – made up of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia – Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski told Aleksandar Vucic during his official visit to the Belgrade on Friday.

    "We [Poland] should not only to strengthen bilateral cooperation, but to support your road to the European Union,” Waszczykowski said. “We went through a process of negotiations with the EU successfully and we'd like to offer you our experience and help in the process of negotiations with the EU.”
  • Croatian centre-right Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, wants to install its person as chair of Croatia’s new parliament, daily newspaper Jutarnji list reported on Friday.

    The centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, MOST’s senior partner in negotiations on the future government, which began on Wednesday, already offered the party five ministries and the vice prime minister positon.
     
    According to Jutarnji list, HDZ was not keen on giving MOST the chair’s position as well.

    On Thursday, MOST left the negotiations with HDZ, which began two weeks ago, announcing it will continue the process on Monday instead.
     
    MOST-HDZ negotiations. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Denis CERIC/DS
     
  • While attending talks in Brussels on the telecommunications agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, Kosovo’s Minister for Dialogue, Edita Tahiri, raised the issue of the arrest of the director for Kosovo Police in the Mitrovica region, Nehat Thaci, and demanded Serbian authorities immediately release him.

    Tahiri, who is Kosovo's chief negotiator in the Brussels-led dialogue, said that Kosovo's delegation in Brussels will continue to apply pressure for Thaci to be released as soon as possible, saying “This behaviour [by Serbia] has damaged dialogue on normalisation of interstate relations.”

    Tahiri also called Serbia’s actions “arrogant”, claiming that “instead of taking responsibility for genocide in Kosovo, [Serbia] is violating the Brussels agreement on free movement and the European Union should increase attention to prevent violations of the agreements.”

    Nehat Thaci- the director for Kosovo Police in the Mitrovica region | Photo: BIRN 


  • The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has ruled that Republika Srpska has failed to meet essential deadlines to harmonise its national holidays with the country's constitution.
     
    The court found that the National Assembly of Republika Srpska had not taken concrete action to implement a decision by the court from November 2015. Therefore the RS's law on holidays will be repealed.
     
    The court noted that the deadline for implementation of its decision passed on June 25, 2016. 
     
     
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