The Balkans Today: 31st October - 4th November 2016
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The Balkans Today

Up to the minute news and updates from the Balkan region

The Balkans Today: 31st October - 4th November 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:
    • With only a few percentage points' difference between the two frontrunners, Tsetska Tsacheva, the candidate of GERB, and Rumen Radev, nominated by the Socialist Party, the Bulgarian presidential contest is hard to call. Read more.
    • Hildigund Neubert, a former commissioner for East German 'Stasi' files in Thuringen, says it is high time that Albania bit the bullet and opened up its Communist-era secret police files. Read more.
    • Former intelligence chief Dusko Markovic Montenegro could become Montenegros’ new PM, in what looks like a manoeuvre to strengthen the shaken power of the current elite. Read more.
    • Castle Bran in Transylvania is attracting growing numbers of foreign tourists over Halloween thanks to its connection with the world's most famous vampire, Count Dracula. Read more.
    “If Serbia would turn its back on our friend Russia and impose sanctions over it, that would be devastating and, I might say, treacherous policy,” Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, said in an interview with Serbian daily Novosti, published on Monday.

    He added that he believes that joining the EU is a strategical goal of Serbia, however, by turning away from Russia, it would also open the door for Kosovo to become a full member state of the United Nations.
    The Serbian Army is to host a large-scale joint military exercise with armed forces from Russia and Belarus starting on Tuesday near the Serbian capital of Belgrade, continuing until November 15, Serbian national television station RTS 1 reported on Monday.
    Residents of Himara, a touristic town in southern Albania, protested on Monday morning against the decision of the municipality to demolish 19 buildings in order to continue its plan for the reconstruction of the city centre

    Locals have long had a dispute with the municipality over this decision, while even the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reacted with concerns over plan, as some of the families protesting are part of the Greek minority in Albania.

    Inhabitants of Himara during a protest in August. Photo: Facebook
    Almost 80 per cent of Croatian citizens save around 57.5 euros a month - some 2.6 euros less than the last year - a survey conducted on 500 Croatians in September and published today by polling agency IMAS shows.

    According to the Croatian National Bank, Croatian citizens collectively have around 22 billion euros of savings held in the country’s banks at present.
    The Croatian Bureau of Statistics reported on Monday that Croatia's industrial production in September has grown by 3.6 per cent compared to August, and 1.9 per cent compared to September 2015.

    This is the 20th month in a row that the industrial production grew in comparison to the same period last year – a long-running consecutive growth which has not happened since 2007.
    Shipyard in the coastal town of Pula. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Orlovic
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay another visit to Croatia on November 12 upon invitation from Croatia’s President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, for the laying of the foundation stone for an Islamic centre in the town of Sisak in central Croatia, daily Vecernji list reported that Erdogan’s advisor for the Balkans Sabir Demir had announced.

    While the head of the Croatian President’s office, Luka Djuric, stated that no official invitation was sent to Erdogan, Vecernji list claimed that the details of the Turkish President’s last visit to Croatia in April were also kept secret.​
    Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: BETAPHOTO/AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici
    Sasa Lekovic, president of the Croatian Journalists' Association, HND, will file a report to the police regarding last week’s incident when somebody allegedly cut the screw on one of the wheels of his car, which he claimed almost caused him to have an accident, Croatian news agency Hina reported

    Lekovic will also report previous cases when someone allegedly tampered with his car, and when he received direct and indirect threats.
    Sasa Lekovic. Photo: Facebook/Sasa Lekovic
    Croatian police confiscated almost two million euros’ worth of drugs on Saturday in the biggest haul in a single day this year, the police reported on Monday.

    Forty seven kilograms of heroin was found hidden in a car being driven by a Bulgarian citizen, while 15.7 kilograms of marijuana was confiscated from another car, driven by a Serbian citizen.
    Bulgarian cargo trucks blocked key border checkpoints for over two hours on Monday, including at Kapitan Andreevo on the border with Turkey, Kulata at the crossing with Greece and access to the Danube bridge, linking Bulgaria with Romania. 

    The blockades were supported by all unions of Bulgarian carriers, who are protesting against the slow processing of cargo trucks at all Bulgarian borders, which they claim has caused serious damages to the transport business.

    Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint. Photo: Hristo Rusev 

    The unions say they will demand the resignations of the heads of Bulgaria’s police and customs offices if the issue is not resolved in one month.
    The risk of corruption in public procurements, financed fully from the Bulgarian state budget, is at least four times higher than the risk of frauds with EU funding, an analysis of the Sofia-based Center for the Study of Democracy, presented on Monday, has shown.

    Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister in charge of EU funding confirmed the existing problem with the public procurements on Monday. 

    He mentioned the planned launch of e-procurements and limiting the state subsidies for municipalities and institutions, involved in corrupt practices, as possible measures against the widespread fraud with public funds.
    Serbia has made a moderate improvement in the areas covered by Chapters 23 and 24, dealing with the rule of law, the judiciary and human rights, in its EU accession talks, and has recorded stagnation or negative results in a number of areas, it was announced in a presentation by the PrEUgovor coalition on Monday, Beta news agency reported.

    Representatives of PrEUgovor, which brings together seven non-governmental organisations, also assessed in their presentation that the EU is preoccupied with its own crisis, so that it is less interested in the accession process and reforms, and there has been a dilution of the process.
    The Kosovo government has approved the draft state budget for 2017, which is expected to be set at close to 2 billion euros, and will now be sent to the General Assembly for MPs to debate and vote on.

    Finance minister Avdullah Hoti said that economic growth next year is expected to be 4.4 per cent, and that the budget has received approval by the International Monetary Fund, adding that the budget has two main objectives that are to do with controlling costs and creating more space for capital spending.

    Kosovo Government meeting | Photo: BIRN          

    Foreign minister of Albania Ditmir Bushati was visiting the Bosnian capital Sarajevo today to meet with Bosnia's minister for communications and transport, Ismir Jusko, and sign an agreement to encourage cooperation between businesses and institutions in the industry of cargo ships.
    The agreement will allow each of the two countries to establish relevant offices in the other's territory - a welcome opportunity for Bosnia, since Albania has a long coastline and much potential for cargo industry development, said the two officials.
    The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has sentenced seven people to a total of 11 years and two months in prison for activities linked to fighting with terrorist organisations in Syria.
    Bosnia passed a law in April 2014 to punish those who travel abroad to fight on foreign battlefields - a regulation that analysts believe has succeeded in reducing the flow of extreme-leaning Muslims from Bosnia into the arms of ISIS in Syria.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Tuesday:
    • Fahrudic Radoncic’s controversial testimony at a drug lord’s trial in Kosovo has shaken the ruling coalition of Bosniak parties in Bosnia. Read more.
    • Montenegro is hosting the largest-ever NATO exercise on its soil amid allegations that Russia was behind a recent alleged coup attempt, designed to stop the country from joining the alliance. Read more.
    • The US is not asking Serbia to 'choose' between Washington and Moscow, the US ambassador to Serbia, Kyle Randolph Scott, says - downplaying talk of a rift over his remarks about the Savamala demolitions. Read more.
    • European Federation of Journalists voiced concern over threats and hate speech used towards journalists in Croatia and will report the case to the Council of Europe. Read more.
    The trial against Macedonia's opposition leader Zoran Zaev, in which he among others are accused of espionage and blackmailing the then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, is expected to start today in the capital, Skopje, after a 15-month delay.

    However, following several previous postponements, the start of the trial remains uncertain.

    The Special Prosecution, which took over the case, has not revealed whether it will revise the charges against Zaev that were originally raised by the regular prosecution, which has been compromised by the wiretapping scandal.
    Albania opened an honorary consulate in Bosnia in a ceremony held in the capital, Sarajevo, on Monday evening, attended by the foreign ministers of both countries – Ditmir Bushati of Albania and Igor Crnadak of Bosnia.
    The consulate was opened in a historic neighborhood in Sarajevo called "Albanians’ home" and will be a contact point for the intensifying economic and trade relationships between both nations.
    Albanian foreign minister Ditmir Bushati (left) and his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak on Monday in Sarajevo. Photo: 
    by fatjona.mejdini via null edited by emma.krstic 11/1/2016 9:40:38 AM
    Albania’s Foreign Ministry has called for the Greek ambassador in Tirana to give further clarification on Greece’s objection to the planned demolition of 19 houses in the southern Albanian town of Himara, where Greece claims a number of families protesting the destructions are part of their minority in Albania.
    Amid the already deteriorating relations between the two countries, Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, fuelled the debate on Facebook, posting a status referring to events during the Great Turkish War in the late 1600s between the then Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire, in which he claimed a man with Albanian origins was responsible for stopping the Acropolis in Athens from being destroyed.
    Part of Rama's Facebook post reads: “If the old Acropolis [in Athens] is still erected in glory for humanity and civilization this is because of the courage and the vision of the Albanian primate of Athens, Gjergj Dushmanit! He in 1686 negotiated with the Venetian fleet of Francesco Morosini not to bomb the city, although there was a Turkish garrison in it.” 
    by fatjona.mejdini via null edited by emma.krstic 11/1/2016 10:58:33 AM
    Canada will lift visa requirements for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens on December 1, 2017, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, John McCallum, announced on Monday afternoon.

    Before the full visa removal, Canada intends to implement partial lifts for eligible Romanian and Bulgarian citizens travelling to Canada from May 1 next year, the Canadian government explained in a statement.

    “Romania and Bulgaria have worked very closely with us, and we will continue to collaborate on the transition to visa-free travel in order to ensure that once the visa lifts occur, they are sustainable over the long term,” McCallum said. “Lifting the visa requirements for Romania and Bulgaria will mean visa-free travel to Canada for citizens of all EU member states. We will all benefit from the increase in travel and trade that results.
    Albanian President Bujar Nishani will call the National Security Council to discuss the problem of the prevalence of cannabis cultivation in the country. He announced the decision during a meeting with students in the northwestern city of Shkodra on Tuesday.
    National Security Council during a meeting. Photo: 

    The security of the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was in jeopardy in relation to the recent discovery of a weapons stash close to his home near Belgrade, and there were a number of security oversights to do with this, foreign minister Ivica Dacic said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

    He also stated that Serbia should not choose between the EU and Russia, but if it did, it would always side with Russia, Belgrade-based television network N1 reported.
    Macedonian criminal court judge Ljubinka Bashevska has indefinitely postponed the start of the high-profile trial for the so-called “coup” case, involving opposition leader Zoran Zaev, after several members of the jury were found to lack the security certificates required to follow the trial, which involves numerous pieces of evidence that are classified as ‘top secret’.
    The head of Macedonia’s Special Prosecution, SJO, Katica Janeva, protested the postponement, insisting that the court is making up excuses to stop the commencement of the trial.
    Hundreds of pensioners protested in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Tuesday over the reduction of pensions and, as they claim, the abolition of their acquired rights, Belgrade-based news agency Beta reported.
    Representatives of the Union of Pensioners of Serbia and a collection of unions for retired servicemen in the country handed over their demands to the Serbian government during the protest, the most important of which they claim is to restore pensions to the levels they were at before reductions were introduced in November 2014.
    The pensioners are also demanding that their annuity be coordinated with price increases twice a year.

    “Our request has been approved for release from detention of Nehat Thaci. He is now going home,” Vladimir Gajic, one of Thaci’s lawyers, told BIRN.
    Kosovo authorities have seized religious books from correctional facilities in the country, in order to assess whether they contain hate speech. 

    Orhan Hajrizi, spokesman of Kosovo’s justice ministry, told BIRN that the Islamic Community of Kosovo is tasked with evaluations, adding that the same thing has been done with Catholic literature.

    The books were seized under Kosovo’s Strategy for the Prevention of Religious Extremism.
    Belarus and Montenegro have plans to boost bilateral cooperation in all fields, the press service of the Belarusian Embassy in Russia told the BelTA agency after a meeting between Belarus and Montenegrin ambassadors Igor Petrishenko and Igor Jovovic in Moscow on Thursday.
    The diplomatic relations between Belarus and Montenegro were established on 8 August 2006. In 2015, the bilateral trade totaled 2 million dollars.
    Police investigating threat to #Serbia PM Aleksandar Vučić discover car full of weapons in Belgrade, in the second……

    NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller will pay a two-day visit to Montenegro starting from Wednesday, where she is expected to meet top Montenegrin officials.

    Gottemoeller is expected to meet with Montenegro's President Filip Vujanovic, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Deputy Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and Defense Minister Milica Pejanovic Durisic.

    During the second day, she will attend the closing ceremony of the 16th international field exercise organized and conducted by NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC), the first of its kind hosted by Montenegro.


    Top stories from the Balkans this Wednesday:
    • Despite unconfirmed media claims that Russian spies were recently expelled from Serbia, the two countries are set to hold their second joint military exercise in less than a month. Read more.
    • If the new Hague-based Special Court indicts senior politicians for war crimes and political killings, it could bring down Kosovo’s governing coalition and undermine the major parties, experts suggest. Read more.
    • Most Bulgarians back holding a referendum on changing the political system together with presidential elections on November 6 - but many also seem confused about what they are being asked to support. Read more.
    The Centre for Investigative Journalism, CINS, announced on Wednesday that over the past five days, unknown persons followed and photographed its journalists on several occasions outside its editorial offices in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and in public places around the city.

    "CINS considers these incidents as an attempt at intimidation to discourage our journalists and reporters in their work,” the NGO said in a written statement.

    Concerned for the safety of its journalists, CINS said it has reported the incidents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Belgrade’s First Basic Court.
    A bomb threat has forced the evacuation of Air Serbia’s premises in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on Wednesday morning with police currently at the scene and an investigation ongoing, Serbian television network N1 reported.

    Employees of Serbia’s national carrier told N1 that the bomb threat occurred at 10am, after which they were instructed by management to immediately leave the building, located in the Belville estate in the suburb of New Belgrade.
    On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Committed against Journalists the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, called on OSCE participating States to step up their investigations and identify and prosecute those who commit crimes against journalists.

    “Authorities throughout the OSCE region are failing to take action to reduce the high number of attacks against journalists, and they are failing to confront the issue of impunity.

    “The grim facts are that nine out of every ten murders of journalists are never solved and that the vast majority of physical attacks against journalist are not investigated. These statistics alone show that we can never give up and never give in to the fight for journalists’ safety and media freedom,” Mijatovic said.

    The long list of murdered journalists in the OSCE region in whose cases the perpetrators still remain at large includes, among many others, Serbian Slavko Curuvija (1999) and Milan Pantic (2001), as well as Montenegrin Dusko Jovanovic (2004).
    Miro Bulj, an MP from the junior party in Croatia’s government, the Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, requested a 15-minute break in the parliament session on Wednesday in order to spotlight his disagreement with the arrests of ten former Croatian Defence Council fighters in the northern Bosnian town of Orasje.

    Bulj claimed earlier on Facebook that since the arrested men are also citizens of Croatia, this endangers the security of all Croatian citizens, the position of Croats as one of the three ‘constitutive peoples’ of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and thus Croatia's national security.

    Bosnia arrested the men on Monday on suspicion of war crimes against local Serbs in the Orasje region between April 1992 and July 1993 – a move that has already been criticised by Croatia’s foreign ministry.
    Serbian national Aleksandar Sindjelic has been arrested on suspicion of organising terrorist attacks in Montenegro on October 16, the day of the general election, Montenegrin media reported on Wednesday.

    Sindjelic is reportedly in custody in Podgorica, but the Montenegrin Prosecution has not confirmed nor denied the arrest, saying the investigation is confidential.

    Media are speculating that Sindjelic was arrested in Belgrade on Monday. Along with Serbian retired
    police general Bratislav Dikic and Serbian citizen Kristina Hristic, Sindjelic is also suspected of running a criminal group and planning an attack in Montenegro.
    Overall business in Bulgaria makes one of the biggest profit margins in the EU, while paying among the lowest salaries in the 28-member club, the Confederation of Independent Syndicates in Bulgaria, or KNSB, announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

    As an example of the pay gap between Bulgaria and other EU member states, KNSB states that while a worker in the clothing sector in Bulgaria makes around 276 euros per month, those in Spain earn an average of 1,606 euros.

    Additionally, the average salary of a miner in Bulgaria is 16,353 lev (around 8,150 euros), while the profit the mining companies make from one worker is around 78,000 lev, or 34,000 euros, KNSB noted.

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

    The Bosnian state court has remanded ten Bosnian Croats in custody for a month, after their arrest on suspicion of committing war crimes in the northern town of Orasje – a case that has sparked discontent in neighbouring Croatia.

    The court said it believes that, from the evidence put in front of it, there are reasonable grounds for suspicion that the men might be responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes against Bosnian Serb prisoners of war captured between April 1992 and July 1993.
    Over 30 Bulgarian customs officers have been arrested during a special police operation at the Lesovo border checkpoint with Turkey. 

    The ongoing operation, conducted by the counter-organised crime police and the state security agency, has caused a line of traffic over 4km-long at the border, the Bulgarian National Radio reported. 

    According to the head of Bulgaria’s special prosecution, Ivan Geshev, the number of arrests is still growing, and those so-far detained are suspected of bribing carriers.

    Bulgarian border police officers.  Photo: BIRN

    A protest was held outside Bosnia's Central Election Commission today to call for the elections in the municipality of Stolac to finally be annulled.
    Local elections on October 2 in Stolac descended into chaos as physical scuffles followed accusations that voters had been allowed to cast their ballots using Croatian passports as ID.
    The Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] Caucus of Bosnia's Republika Srpska entity today said they vetoed a law to make January 9 the "day of Republika Srpska".
    The draft law was passed in an RS National Assembly session on October 25, which was boycotted by Bosniaks.
    "This new proposed law is unacceptable for Bosniaks," said head of the Caucus, Mujo Hadziomerovic.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Thursday:
    • After Turkey's Foreign Minister named Albania as the centre of 'Gulenists' in the Balkans, local experts say the country should investigate the claims with due caution. Read more.
    • While most Serbian Americans champion Donald Trump, most Albanians, Bosniaks, Bulgarians and Montenegrins lean towards his rival, Hillary Clinton. Read more.
    • Belgrade is refusing to extradite three wanted Serbian Radical Party members to the Hague Tribunal, sparking claims that it’s trying to avoid the UN court hearing how PM Aleksandar Vucic was accused of witness intimidation. Read more.
    Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic told a government session on Thursday that Zagreb will provide legal and consular assistance to ten Bosnian Croat ex-fighters, arrested last week on charges of committing war crimes in the Bosnian town of Orasje, as they also hold Croatian citizenship.

    Plenkovic said that Croatia's independence and territorial integrity was defended in Bosnia in the 1990s as well as at home, so his government will do all it can to protect the country’s national interests.

    He also said that it was suspicious that the men’s arrests – which have sparked criticism in Croatia – came just after his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina last week.
    Former Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic will be nominated as a candidate for the position of mayor of Zagreb by the junior coalition government partner, the Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, in the local elections in spring 2017, Croatian weekly newspaper 24 sata Express reported.
    Tihomir Oreskovic. Photo: Beta
    The Special Chamber of Kosovo’s Supreme Court has asked the Constitutional Court to reassess the law on the Trepca mine, which transforms the complex into a shareholding company, claiming that it is unconstitutional.

    The request was made by the judge who has been assigned to the Trepca mining case. 

    According to a press release from the chamber, a EULEX judge previously concluded that the law is unconstitutional on the basis that it allows the land that the mining complex is on to be expropriated without compensation, and will benefit private persons rather than the public without any justification. 

    On Monday, the President of Kosovo signed the new law, after the Constitutional Court deemed it to be in accordance with the constitution.

    Trepca Mines | Photo: BIRN      

    Macedonia’s former secret police chief, Saso Mijalkov, arrived at Skopje’s Criminal Court today as a suspect in the so-called “Trezor” case recently opened by the Special Prosecution, SJO, accusing him and three others of illicitly acquiring hundreds of thousands of euros of budget money for procuring and then maintaining telecommunications surveillance equipment.
    A judge is expected to decide whether Mijalov’s passport should be taken and his movement restrained, and whether his financial assets should be frozen.
    As civil emergency exercise CRNA GORA 2016 wraps up, #NATO Dep SecGen @Gottemoeller thanks #Montenegro for hosting.……

    Twenty-two people have been arrested in Albania in a police operation that uncovered a stash of cannabis in a warehouse in the northern Albanian town of Rreshen. Albania police have not yet revealed the amount of cannabis that has been found.

    The cannabis warehouse in Rreshen. Photo: State Police  
    Bosnia's Central Election Commission (CIK) has finally taken steps to resolve deadlock in the municipality of Stolac, where polling stations were closed during municipal elections on October 2 after physical fights broke out.
    The CIK initiated proceedings today against the president of Stolac's municipal election committee as well as other members, and six election candidates.
    Bosnia's Council of Ministers has adopted its draft budget for next year. 
    950 million Bosnian marks (about 485 million euros) were allocated for spending on public institutions and services - the same budget as last year.
    A total of 6,834,278 Bulgarians will have the right to vote for a new president at the upcoming elections on November 6. 

    In the national referendum, scheduled for the same day, to vote for changes to the country’s political system, around 2,000 less people will be eligible to participate, the spokesperson for Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission, CIC, announced at a briefing on Thursday.

    Bulgarians pass by a polling section in Sofia. Photo: Denis Sarkic/Flickr

    After five days of silence about the car accident he caused and then tried to cover up, Macedonia’s deputy labour minister Dime Spasov accused the opposition Social Democrats of attempting a “criminal-police set up” against him, during a short interview he gave to TV Nova on Thursday.
    According to Spasov, the opposition is trying to frame him in order to stain his and his party’s reputation.
    Amid widespread calls for Spasov to resign over his alleged reckless behaviour, the minister insists that he was the victim and that he was first chased in his car on Friday night and then held at gunpoint by armed individuals.
    A video footage appeared on Youtube allegedly showing people chasing Macedonia’s deputy labour minister Dime Spasov and pointing guns at him during Friday night. The footage came out just minutes after Spasov in a TV appearance accused the opposition Social Democrats of attempting a “criminal-police set up” against him.
    Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski who comes from the opposition ranks at today’s press conference announced civil suits against Spasov for the accident that he tried to cover up.
    Top stories from the Balkans this Friday:
    • A number of opposition parties have scheduled a joint meeting for Friday to discuss the creation of conditions for free and fair presidential and local elections in Serbia. Read more.
    • Surrounded by controversies throughout his life, former journalist-turned-tycoon Fahrudin Radoncic has stirred up a regular firestorm with his incendiary words at Naser Kelmendi’s trial in Kosovo. Read more.
    • In a wealthy district of Belgrade, people shot by the Yugoslav Communists after World War II lie buried in an unmarked grave - but now their relatives are calling for a permanent memorial. Read more.
    The Interior Ministry of Republika Srpska, the Serb-led entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has announced it will call president of the SBB party, Fahrudin Radoncic, for a hearing after his testimony at the high-profile trial of Naser Kelmendi in Kosovo.
    During his testimony, Radoncic told a court in Pristina that Bosnia's SDA party had ordered the murder of a guest at a Serb wedding party in early 1992, an event that helped trigger the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1995.
    Serbia police are continuing their search for two sailors who went missing after the cargo ship they were travelling on overturned on Thursday near the town of Smederevo, about 60km south-east of Belgrade, Serbian national television network RTS 1 reported on Friday.

    The boat remains stranded on the sandbank where the Jezava tributary, which runs through Smederevo, meets the Danube river, and an investigation into the incident is due to commence today.
    A warehouse in the northern Albanian town of Rreshen, which was raided by police on Thursday, contained 4 tonnes of cannabis, Albania Police confirmed on Friday after taking count of the seized drug.

    Over the past three months, police have seized hundreds of kilograms of cannabis on a daily basis, while Albania’s opposition believes that government officials are helping this illegal industry to flourish.
    The cannabis's warehouse in Rreshen. Photo: State Police  

    Access to social media remains blocked in Turkey on Friday, following the arrest of 11 MPs on Thursday night from the country’s biggest opposition party, pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, including its leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.

    Hours after the arrests, a car bomb killed eight people and injured more than 100 in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir.

    Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev warned of increased Russian influence in Bulgaria and across Europe, calling for the EU to take a tougher stance, in an interview published by the BBC on Friday. 

    Plevneliev, whose mandate expires in January, told the British news outlet that Europe has not returned to the Cold War, but is in a new "dangerous and unpredictable" conflict, which he calls "Cold Peacetime".

    He stated that "What today Russia is trying to achieve is to weaken Europe, to divide Europe and to make us dependent."

    Plevneliev also commented on Russia’s alleged use of cyber-attacks aimed at destabilising its foes, explaining that Bulgaria was a victim of an unprecedented cyber-attack last October, when the websites of the electoral commission, presidency and other institutions were hit on the day of a referendum and local elections.

    Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev. Photo: 

    #Montenegro’s accession to #NATO “moving forward smoothly”, Deputy SecGen @Gottemoeller tells…

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