The Balkans Today: 27th - 31st March 2017
 
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 27th - 31st March 2017

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:
     
    • Amid growing impatience in the White House over the issue, the US Senate is due to vote on Monday on whether Montenegro should become the next member of the Western alliance. Read more.
       
    • A new EU report reveals the value in 2015 of Zagreb’s controversial arms trade with Saudi Arabia, which is routinely diverting weapons and ammunition from the Balkans to Syrian rebels. Read more.
       
    • Romania has only recently started trying the former wardens of the communist-era political prisons – and some say it is too late now for justice to be done. Read more.
  • Russian journalist Andrej Malosolov published a photo of a chauvinistic sticker with an anti-Serb, anti-Kremlin message that he found in Zagreb before a football match between the Croatian and Ukrainian national teams on Friday.

    The sticker shows the Croatian and Ukrainian flags with a Celtic cross in the middle - the symbol of the extremist right - with hands shaking and text in Croatian saying "Hang the Serbs from the willow trees" - popular among Croat radical nationalists - alongside text in Ukrainian saying "Put the Muscovites to the knife".
     
    Sticker. Photo: Twitter/Andrej Malosolov
     
  • A Bosnian Taekwondo champion has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records by smashing 111 concrete blocks with his head.
     
    Kerim Ahmetspahic, 16, from Visoko, broke the slabs - which were arranged in 16 stacks - using only his head in 35 seconds.
  • Serbian businessman and owner of industrial giant Delta Holding, Miroslav Miskovic, will step in to help revive Agrokor, Croatia’s biggest private company, in its operations in Serbia, Vecernje novosti newspaper reported on Monday.
     
    The pro-government daily cited multiple sources, including Western investment funds, which have taken over part of the debts of troubled Croatian company Agrokor.
     
    Under the title “Russians call Miskovic in [one of the Agrokor’s companies] Idea,” Vecernje novosti reported that there is no interested buyer for Agrokor’s businesses due to its immense debts.
     
    “Therefore, the trustees decided first to repair and make profitable [Agrokor’s owner Ivica] Todoric’s jobs,” Vecernje novosti wrote.
     
    Miskovic has previously had poor relations with the Serbian authorities who have numerous times accused the businessman of tax fraud, with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic even backing the claims in the past, Novosti recalled in its report.
     
    Last year, a court in Belgrade sentenced Miskovic in the first instance to five years in prison and a fine of 8 million pounds for helping his son, Marko Miskovic, commit tax evasion.
     
    Agrokor, which is facing a financial crisis due to large debts and lowered credit ratings, has a large impact on Croatia’s economy, with revenues of 6.5 billion euros in 2015 – almost 16 per cent of Croatia's total GDP – and around 40,000 employees.
     
    Agrokor employs also about 11,000 workers in Serbia.
  • The train that made headlines around the world when it set off from Serbia for Kosovo covered in nationalist slogans and pictures will operate regular routes between the Serbian cities of Kraljevo and Jagodina beginning on Tuesday, Kossev web portal reported today.
     
    The train, painted in the colours of the Serbian flag and bearing the words “Kosovo is Serbian” in 21 different languages, including Albanian, left Belgrade on January 14 headed for the Serb-run town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, but was stopped in the town of Raska before it crossed the border.
     
    The event caused a severe deterioration in relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
     
    In its statement, public company Serbian Railways said to Kossev on Monday that the public will be informed about additional routes that will commence soon.
     
    Photo: Beta
     
     
  • Representatives of Croatia’s biggest private company Agrokor - currently going through a major financial crisis - will meet on Monday with representatives of its biggest suppliers, Croatian food companies, who are owed over 2.1 billion euros.

    It is still unknown if Agrokor's owner, Ivica Todoric, will join the meeting that was scheduled on the initiative of economy minister Martina Dalic, who met with the suppliers last week.

    Unofficially, it is reported that the suppliers disagree with the government's idea to pass the law on crisis management in companies important for Croatia's economic system, as it appears that Agrokor would be the only company in the country to meet the criteria, which is to have over 8,000 employees and be in over one-billion-euros of debt.
     
    Agrokor's logo on company headquarters in Zagreb. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Lana SLIVAR DOMINIC/MO
     
  • After the yellow duck, which has become a symbol of the protests against the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project in the Serbian capital, also appeared at anti-Kremlin protests in Russia on Sunday, Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic stated that both of the protest movements “comes from the same place”.
     
    Vucic, who is meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin today, told Serbian media on Sunday that for him it is interesting that the same symbol is used in protests around the world, but added that it is hard for him to believe that “different people came up with the same symbol in Belgrade, Brazil and Moscow”.
     
    Anti-corruption protests were held in several Russian cities on Sunday organised by the leader of the Russian opposition, Alexei Navalny, who was, together with several hundred people, arrested by the Russian police on the day.
     
    Photo: Twitter
     
  • The party of Bulgaria’s ex-PM Boyko Borissov, centre-right GERB, has kept its lead of over 5 per cent over Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, following Sunday’s snap parliamentary vote, after 98.5 per cent of the votes have been counted by the Central Electoral Commission. 

    GERB has attracted 32.64 per cent of the votes compared to 27.12 per cent for BSP.

    Another three parties – the nationalistic coalition United Patriots with 9.06 per cent of the votes, the ethnic-Turkish dominated Movement for Rights and Freedoms with 9.04 per cent, and the newly formed populist project of businessman Veselin Mareshki with 4.15 per cent – will have MPs in Bulgaria’s next parliament.


    Photo: Georgi Licovski/EPA


  • Croatian energy company INA confirmed on Monday that used pipes for drilling oil were sent back to Croatia from the Italian border due to radioactive emissions.

    INA sent the pipes to an Italy-based company that stores such material, but Italy refused let train cars that had been carrying the material onto its territory.

    While the source of radiation is to be investigated, the Croatian Ministry of Environment Protection and Energy said that registered radiation on the material is not harmful to people or the environment.
  • The leader of civic initiative SDP, Oliver Ivanovic, told Serbian media on Monday that it is a good thing that Srpska Lista (Serbian List), the main party representing the Serb community in Kosovo, is returning to Kosovo parliament, after it had staged a boycott over MPs’ approval of a law putting the Trepca mining complex under the control of Pristina’s authorities.

    "Serbian List needs to be a serious factor in the Kosovo Assembly,” Ivanovic said. “It's normal that specific moves of Kosovo representatives need to have a political reaction, however, one cannot leave the Parliament without having an idea how to come back.

    Ivanovic also pointed out that representatives of Serbian List should connect with Kosovo Albanian representatives who they are in coalition with.

    Meanwhile, the director of the Serbian government’s Kosovo office, Marko Djuric, told media that the Serbian List MPs are returning to the Kosovo Assembly in order to actively oppose the formation of a regular Kosovo Army.
  • Montenegro’s trade deficit increased by 14.3 per cent on the year to 203.6 million euro in the first two months of 2017, the country's statistical office said.

    See News reported that the country's exports jumped by an annual 30.1 per cent to 50.3 million euro in the January-February period, while imports rose 17.1 per cent to 253.9 million euro, the office said in a statement on its website on Monday.
  • Montenegro's main opposition alliance said it will file a criminal complaint against the prosecutors and witnesses in the alleged coup case, accusing them of planting evidence against the opposition Democratic Front's leaders Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic.

    The alliance said it will sue the prosecutors Milivoje Katnic and Sasa Cadjenovic, and also the protected witnesses Sasa Sindjelic and Mirko Velimirovic, who testified on alleged links between the Front and Serbian and Russian nationalists who it was claimed planned to kill then-PM Milo Djukanovic on Montenegro’s election day in October.

    Photo: the Democratic Front.


  • The Kremlin has no intention to interfere in the upcoming elections in Serbia, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, Russian Tass agency reported.

    The Kremlin spokesman thus commented on a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic scheduled for March 27.

    Vucic is paying a visit to Russia a week before the Serbian presidential elections on April 2. The Serbian premier is the main contender for the post of the head of the Serbian state.

    "No doubt, there can be no talk that the Kremlin interfered in any electoral processes," Peskov told journalists.

    "Russia and Serbia have a special nature of mutual relations and it determines a high pace of maintaining a political dialog at the highest level," he said.
    Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: sns.org.rs


  • The long-awaited session of the Macedonian Parliament, in which a new parliament speaker is intended to be elected, looks set to become a marathon session given the number of announced discussants.
     
    Macedonia's Social Democrats, SDSM, who lead the new parliamentary majority, have accused their bitter opponents from the right-wing VMRO DPMNE party of deliberately stalling the session after all 51 MPs from that party applied to be discussants and are currently mostly talking amongst themselves.
     
    Despite being banned in the parliamentary rulebook, the provisional parliament speaker Trajko Veljanoski, who comes from the ranks of VMRO DPMNE, allowed for replies between MPs from the same party to happen because, as he said, party caucuses have not yet been formalised.
     
    The new majority hoped to get the session, which comes after a three-month delay and amid a deep political rift, finished as soon as possible, which would pave the way for the new government to be swiftly elected.
     
    Macedonia's parliament. Photo: MIA
     
  • Montenegro is on the verge of becoming NATO's newest member, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

    Ratification of the tiny Balkan nation's admission into the alliance is expected to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Monday, setting the stage for a final vote later this week.

    Montenegro is in the middle of a clash between the West and Russia over influence in the Balkans. The outcome could determine the way the region is heading: toward NATO and the European Union, or back to Russia's sphere of influence.
  • Speaking on the Senator floor in support of #Montenegro joining #NATO. Watch here: bit.ly/1n5dEfd

  • For decades nato has been an organization where the U.S. Disproportionately spends our blood and our treasure.

  • The US Senate voted late on Monday to advance the Montenegro's NATO bid after the process had been blocked for months.

    Montenegro’s accession to NATO passed a key hurdle on Monday after the senators agreed overwhelmingly, 97-2, to end debate and hold a final vote later this week.

    Republican senators Paul and Lee were the only two lawmakers who voted no.

    Photo:  Pixabay.






  • Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:
     
    • After coming first in Sunday’s general election, it will not be easy for Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party to put together a stable coalition with a majority in parliament. Read more.
       
    • As the Vatican dispatches another papal envoy to the controversial shrine of Medjugorje in Bosnia, a British journalist recalls his first trip there in the 1980s. Read more.
       
    • After 26 years of muddle over where people live and work, a government project aims to finally give every family and business in Albania their own fixed address. Read more.
  • At 5:50am, the first passenger plane took off for the southern coastal town of Dubrovnik from the newly built terminal of the Zagreb airport, now renamed into Franjo Tudjman Airport - after the first democratically elected Croatian president from the 1990s.

    At 6:35am, a Qatar Airways flight from Doha became the first plane to land at the new terminal.
     
    Franjo Tudjman Airport Zagreb. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Damir SENCAR/DS
     
  • Veteran Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic will lose the upcoming local elections in May, according to a survey conducted by private Nova TV on 600 people in Zagreb in late March.

    According to the results, the centre-left candidate Anka Mrak Taritas will come first with 27.8 per cent of votes, followed by Bandic with 24.1 and centrist candidate Sandra Svaljek with 21.2 per cent.

    Rightist candidate Bruna Esih would finish fourth with 9.3 per cent, followed by Drago Prgomet, candidate of the ruling centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, with 6.8 per cent.

    The survey also showed that in the second round of elections for mayor, Bandic would lose to both Mrak Taritas and Svaljek.

    Svaljek would beat Mrak Taritas if they entered the second round, according to the survey.
     
    Milan Bandic. Photo: Beta
     
  • The value of the bonds of Croatia’s biggest private company Agrokor - currently going through a financial crisis - have dropped further on the Berlin Stock Exchange, with them now listed 57 per cent below their nominal value.
     
    Agrokor's logo on company headquarters in Zagreb. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Lana SLIVAR DOMINIC/MO
     
  • News that a Bosnian Taekwondo champion snagged a world record by breaking 111 concrete blocks using only his head has provoked discussion and even reached comedy legend John Cleese.
  • Pensioners dissatisfied with annuity cuts are currently staging a protest in Belgrade, asking Serbian authorities to return pensions to their pre-reduction levels.
     
    The demonstrators announced that they will go to a protest march to the Constitutional Court and the Government of Serbia, and ask for what has been “hijacked and stolen” from them, N1 television reported.
     
    Among the protest, banners reading "Robbery of pensioners is not reform," "Abolish the unconstitutional law", "We want to live, not only to survive" and "Vucic deceives pensioners, that how he keeps his word" can be seen.
     
    The pensioners are also claiming that the elections are being financed with the money that has been cut from their annuity.
    The protest was organised by the Association of Unions of Pensioners of Serbia and the Association of Unions of Serbia retired military personnel.
     
    Photo: Twitter/@AleksPuskic
     
  • Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic will be declared an honorary citizen of Beijing as part of his two-day official visit to China starting on Thursday, Tanjug news agency reported on Monday.
     
    Nikolic will have numerous meetings with top Chinese officials and businessmen during his trip, according to Tanjug.
     
  • Bosnia's Council of Ministers has approved a draft law to increase the excise tax on fuel, which was a requirement of the country arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.
     
    The initial deadline for Bosnia to comply with the requirement was last Friday, but the IMF extended it until March 31.
     
    The draft law received enough votes, despite a lack of support from ministers from the Alliance for Changes.
     
    The Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations, Mirko Sarovic, from the ranks of the Alliance, said the increase of 0.15 Bosnian marks (0.08 euro cents) per litre would be the hardest on farmers in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, who have already been put in a difficult position since the implementation of the amended Stabilization and Association Agreement beginning in February.

    The law is now to be discussed in parliament.
  • At least three persons suspected of paedophilia have been apprehended in a police action codenamed "Armageddon" which began yesterday, Serbian media are reporting.

    The suspects come from the western town of Bajina Basta, eastern city of Pozarevac and the town of Mladenovac near Belgrade.

    One French citizen in the central city of Jagodina was also identified among the suspects, but had left Serbia before he could be apprehended and is now wanted by Interpol.

    The suspects were allegedly exchanging pornographic material via the internet and police have confiscated their computers.
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoyt Yee is visiting #Kosovo, busy day today, meet with assembly speaker, minority and d… twitter.com/i/web/status/8…

  • #Senate voting now on treaty to allow #Montenegro to join #NATO; 60 aye votes needed
  • The US Senate on Tuesday approved a treaty allowing Montenegro to join NATO.

    The treaty was supported by most members of the Senate, although the vote is still required in parliament in Spain, the government in Podgorica hopes the process will be complete by May when the next NATO summit is scheduled.


    The only two ‘no’ votes in the procedural ballot on Monday came from Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, both of whom had been blocking the progress on the vote for several months.

    Photo: Pixabay.


  • The European Union peacekeeping force (EUFOR) in Bosnia warned its political leaders on Tuesday it was prepared to intervene at short notice should violence resume two decades after the end of its ethnic war that killed 100,000 people, Reuters reported.

    Concerns are rising about increasing instability in the historically volatile Balkans including secessionist pressures in Bosnia, a parliamentary boycott in Montenegro and renewed tensions between Serbia and its former province of Kosovo.

    "A lot has been achieved but a lot can be lost again," Major General Anton Waldner said at a ceremony in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo marking his takeover of the command of EUFOR, which has 800 troops deployed in Bosnia.

  • Top stories from the Balkans this Wednesday:
    • Watchdogs say Aleksandar Vucic broke the law by using his post as Prime Minister to campaign for the presidency. Read more.
       
    • As Balkan members of the same centre-right bloc in the European Parliament feud openly with other, EPP leader Joseph Daul says the bloc cannot ‘point fingers’ but does its best to find compromises. Read more.
       
    • While it is a delusion to expect the EU to solve problems in the Balkans through accelerated enlargement, so is the suggestion that it can be a mere spectator to a deepening crisis which it has enabled. Read the comment piece.
     
  • Bosnia's prosecution has put together a case against Sakib Softic, the agent who attempted to lodge an appeal at the International Courts of Justice against the Bosnia-Serbia genocide judgment of 2007.
     
    News agency SRNA reports that Bosnia's state prosecution confirmed the information.
     
    The ICJ told Softic last year that he was no longer considered an agent before the court, but he nonetheless filed a request for appeal at the behest of the Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency Bakir Izetbegovic in February this year.
  • Serbian Prime Minister and presidential candidate of the ruling Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, announced on Tuesday that he would not attend a party rally in the town of Leposavic in Kosovo’s north during his visit to the region today, Beta news agency reported.
     
    "They [the Pristina authorities] won't be telling me if I should come with [Minister of Labour Aleksandar] Vulin, [Interior Minister Nebojsa] Stefanovic or someone else. It's not happening," Vucic said, adding that he had decided not to go to Leposavic, because he didn't want to inconvenience the Kosovo Serbs.
  • Romania’s former tourism minister and former presidential candidate Elena Udrea was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday for taking bribes and abuse of office in a case involving a boxing gala in Bucharest in 2011.

    The sentence is not final.
     
    Former Tourism Minister and 2014 presidential candidate Elena Udrea.
     
    Prosecutors claim that the gala, which featured a fight between Romanian-Canadian boxer Lucian Bute and France’s Jean-Paul Mendy, was financed illegally from public funds managed by the Ministry of Development.

    According to the National Anticorruption Directorate, DNA, the ministry signed a contract in the summer of 2011 with a company belonging to the ex-president of Romania’s Boxing Federation for organising the gala.

    The state paid 8 million lei (around 1.76 million euros) for an advertising campaign for the boxing match.

    Over the past few years, Udrea has claimed that she was the victim of a plot that was masterminded by the DNA and the country’s intelligence service, SRI.

    This is not the first time case Udrea has been accused of wrongdoing. At the beginning of 2015, she was placed in preventive detention in a case related to state-acquired Microsoft software licenses from a Romanian distributor, and in 2009 she was prosecuted in a separate case related to the financing of the election campaign that won Traian Basescu the presidency.
    by ana.maria.luce edited by emma.krstic 3/29/2017 9:15:20 AM
  • Residents of the village of Hoqa e Madhe/ Velika Hoca in northern Kosovo staged a protest on Wednesday morning against the Serbian election campaign being held in Kosovo.
     
    According to the spokesperson of Kosovo Police for the region of Gjakova, Lirije Prodrimaj, four cars with 15 people gathered at the crossroad to Hoqa e Madhe/Velika Hoca, but a police patrol kept the road open.
     
    Protests against the Serbian election campaign took place in various parts of Kosovo, with demonstrators blocking road between Pristina and Peja and between Pristina and Mitrovica, among other locations.
     
    Serbian Prime Minister and 2017 presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic planned to visit the north of Kosovo on Wednesday after getting approval from Pristina authorities to do so, but he cancelled it on Tuesday evening.
     
    Protesters against the Serbian election campaign in Kosovo | Photo: BIRN  
     
     
  • Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic confirmed on Wednesday that the government will do everything in its power to discuss the proposal of a new law on helping systemic companies on Friday.

    Plenkovic said that government wishes to help systematic companies, the ones with an important role in Croatia's economy, when they are in financial trouble and that the law will be used for any future cases where this occurs.

    The law, which has been nicknamed in the media as 'Lex Agrokor' as it is widely believed that it is specifically for the company that is currently going through a financial crisis, envisages the state's role in crisis management in companies with over 8,000 employees and which are in over a billion euros in debt.

    The only company in Croatia that meets this criteria is Agrokor.
     
    Agrokor's logo on company headquarters in Zagreb. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Lana SLIVAR DOMINIC/MO
     
  • Ivica Todoric, the owner of Croatia’s biggest private company Agrokor, which is currently going through a financial crisis, is close to sealing a deal with creditors, as well as the Russian state-owned Sberbank, US business news agency Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing multiple sources.

    According to Bloomberg’s report, Sberbank and other creditors are willing to put Todoric’s debts "on hold" for six months, but he has to allow creditors' representatives onto the executive board.
     
    Agrokor's retailer Konzum. Photo:Agrokor Press kit
     
  • Congrats to Podgorica: US Senate voted to approve #Montenegro´s admission to #NATO. Good call. Looking fwd to welcoming our new ally soon.
  • Following Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s decision to cancel his Pristina-approved visit to Kosovo on Wednesday, the head of Serbia's Kosovo office, Marko Djuric, and ministers Nikola Selakovic and Bratislav Gasic, have gone instead of the premier.

    According to an announcement that BIRN has seen, Djuric, Selakovic and Gasic will hold a meeting with citizens in the town of Leposavic, a northern Serb-majority municipality in Kosovo, at 1pm.

    Besim Hoti, the spokesperson of Kosovo Police in the Mitrovica region in Kosovo’s north, told BIRN that Djuric has authorisation to enter the country.

    The announcement about Marko Djuric's visit in Kosovo


  • Moldova’s pro-Russian President Igor Dodon announced that he plans to sign a cooperation agreement on April 3 with the Eurasian Economic Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alternative integration project to the European Union. 
    Moldovan president Igor Dodon.
     
    Dodon said that the agreement will be signed regardless of the opinions of pro-EU Prime Minister Pavel Filip, who is in Brussels on Thursday for the EU-Moldova Association Council. 

    Dodon presented a report on his first 100 days in office at a press conference on Tuesday evening during which he also signed a decree calling for a referendum to be held on September 24. 

    Moldovans will be called to the polls to decide on replacing the Romanian history classes in schools with ones on Moldova’s history instead and on expanding the president’s prerogatives so that he can dissolve the Parliament. 

    PM Filip, who is currently on an official visit to Luxembourg, did not comment of Dodon’s statements.
  • Lyutvi Mestan, the leader of Bulgaria’s ethnic-Turkish dominated party DOST, will file a court case against Bulgaria in the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg for allegedly preventing thousands of Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey to vote in last Sunday’s elections.

    Mestan told Nova TV on Wednesday that blockades at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, staged by supporters of nationalistic coalition United Patriots in the week before the election, prevented thousands of Bulgarian citizens from using their right vote.

    DOST, which was accused of being the long arm of Ankara in Bulgaria, will also officially demand for the results of the March 26 vote to be annulled because of alleged violations of the Bulgarian constitution.

    Lyutvi Mestan. Photo: DOST 




  • Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci called demonstrastors’ road blocks, staged in protest of a Serb delegation’s visit to northern Kosovo, “totally unacceptable” in a Facebook post on Wednesday. 

    “This approach is totally unacceptable because the freedom of movement, freedom of gathering, freedom of political thinking and freedom of speech are guaranteed with Kosovo Constitution and its laws,” Thaci wrote. “No one will be allowed to infringe these rights.” 

    Protesters staged the roadblocks in the regions of Pristina, Gjilan/Gilanje, Shterpce/Strpce, Mitrovica and Rahovec/Orahovac on Wednesday morning to stop local Serbs from joining a meeting with the delegation from Serbia, scheduled for 1pm in the town of Leposavic, a northern Serb-majority municipality in Kosovo. 

    According to local media in Kosovo, the protesters were holding banners reading “[Serbian Prime Minister] Vucic leave us alone”, “Let’s build Kosovo together” and “You belong to this country, not to Vucic”.

    The delegation was led by the head of Serbia’s Kosovo office, Marko Djuric, after Prime Minister and 2017 presidential candidate Aleksandar Vucic cancelled his trip the night before because he did not want to abide by the conditions authorities in Pristina has set.

    Blocked road by protesters near Mitrovica | Photo: BIRN   


  • Bulgaria’s Special Criminal Court again failed to launch the trial on the 2012 terror attack at the Burgas Sarafovo airport in the country’s southeast in which five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian were killed in a bus bombing. 

    The launch of the trial, which was initially set to start in August 2016, was again prevented from taking place due to a failure to properly inform all the Israeli citizens injured in the bombing about their rights to constitute themselves as parties. 

    The start of the trial is now set for May 31, 2017.
  • Romania’s Supreme Court sentenced Ion Ficior, a former warden of the forced labour camp in Periprava, to 20 years in prison on Wednesday.
    Ficior, 89, was the warden of Periprava labor colony, in the Northern Danube Delta, between 1958-1963, when over 100 political detainees perished due to torture, starvation and ill treatment. 

    Ficior was indicted in August 2014 and was found guilty of crimes against humanity.

    The former warden’s case is one of the very few that went to trial in Romania for crimes committed during 1954-1964, when the communist regime in Romania  was engaged in the so-called “class struggle” and had set up political penitentiaries to re-educate and exterminate opposition politicians. 

    Historians of the country’s Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and Memory of Romanian Exile filed 35 complaints against former wardens and guards, but 12 were dismissed due to statutes of limitations or death of the accused.
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