News from Central and Eastern Europe, Friday 29th March 2013

BOSNIA

Balkan Insight : Bosnians Must Solve Federation Crisis, OHR Says. ‘A meeting on Tuesday of the Peace Implementation Council, the international body charged with overseeing the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, said Bosnia’s High Representative will not intervene to solve the ongoing political crisis in the country’s Federation entity.

“The authorities must stop expecting the International Community to do their job for them and instead explain how they intend to move forward,” the PIC said in a statement.’

BULGARIA

Focus : Bulgaria’s Ataka party leader tries to invade Council of Ministers. ‘Chairperson of the Ataka party, Volen Siderov, tried to forcibly enter into the Council of Ministers, after he was refused access to the building, FOCUS news Agency reporter informed.

Siderov wanted to attend the sitting of the cabinet. He stood in front of the building of the Council of Ministers and talked to the journalists for an hour.’

JTA: Bulgaria: EU could still act against Hezbollah. ‘Bulgaria will provide further evidence to persuade the European Union to designate Hezbollah’s armed wing as a terrorist entity, the country’s interim prime minister said.

Marin Raikov said in Brussels on Wednesday that some EU countries were “not sufficiently convinced” by Bulgaria’s evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in a suicide bombing last year that killed five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver.

“We will continue the investigation,” he said. “We will continue to work on this very seriously, very actively. We will provide the needed evidence”.’

The Sofia Globe: Bulgaria will not initiate procedure for EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation, caretaker PM Raykov says. ‘Bulgaria’s caretaker Prime Minister Marin Raykov has reiterated that his country will not initiate the procedure for the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation but will offer further evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Bourgas Airport bombing and awaits EU consensus on the issue.

This emerged from reports of comments made by Raykov while at Nato headquarters in Brussels on March 27 2013 for a meeting with the alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.’

Bulgaria’s electronic media regulator urges restraint in coverage of self-immolations. ‘Against a background of a series of people setting themselves on fire during the past weeks of nationwide protests, Bulgaria’s statutory Council for Electronic Media (CEM) has called on television stations to exercise restraint and sensitivity in their coverage.

The statement was issued after CEM discussed a report on the coverage at its most recent meeting.

The media should not be showing traumatic images, such as details of charred clothing from the scene or visuals of faces that allowed them to be clearly identified. Journalists should avoid secondary victimisation of relatives of the victims.’

CROATIA

B92: Croatia’s president to shun UNGA debate on Hague. ‘“I will neither speak nor attend the debate at the UN General Assembly,” he stressed.

Therefore, the debate would not be heard by those because of whom it would be held in the first place, the daily notes.

Zagreb has not yet decided whether it would take part in the debate on the Hague Tribunal which UNGA President Vuk Jeremić scheduled for April 10.’

CYPRUS

BBC News: Cyprus jails Hezbollah operative for Israel attacks plot. ‘A Cypriot court has jailed a member of the Lebanese militant Shia movement Hezbollah for three years for plotting to attack Israeli targets there.

Hossam Taleb Yaccoub, a Lebanese Swedish national, admitted collecting information on Israeli tourists, but denied planning to attack them.

The court heard how Hezbollah paid him to carry out six missions since 2011.’

The Voice of Russia: Turkey offers Cyprus new settlement plan. ‘Turkey has presented Cyprus with a fresh new plan to solve the decades-old territorial dispute between Turkish and Greek Cypriots in the light of natural resources issue following the discovery of gas deposits off the island’s coast.

The roadmap has been disclosed in an interview of Turkish foreign chief Ahmet Davutoglu who spoke with the Daily Star.

Cyprus has been de facto divided between Greeks and Turks in 1974 when Turkey used an   attempted coup d’état to invade the island’s northern areas.’

GREECE

Greek Reporter: Golden Dawn Boycotts Estee Lauder. ‘After World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder demanded that Greece outlaw the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that has 18 seats in Parliament, the extremists called for a boycott of cosmetics made by his company Estee Lauder.

In a statement on the website of Golden Dawn’s New York branch, the party stated that it was taking the action and said, because of a “hostile attack on Greek sovereignty, freedom, and interests, Lauder’s cosmetics monopoly Estee Lauder must be boycotted”.’

Comment – Open Democracy: Violent extremism in Greece: focusing on the far-right. ‘Perhaps the most challenging domestic security issue facing Greece today is the presence and emboldening of violent far-right militias and gangs. Incidents of far-right violence in Greece saw a steady ascent in the 2000s, overwhelmingly targeting immigrants but also leftists and anarchists. By 2009, far-right platoons of thirty to forty men dressed in black and armed with sticks had established a regular presence patrolling immigrant-dense neighbourhoods of Athens, unchallenged by the police, intimidating local shopkeepers and residents and engaging in violent assaults against immigrants and their property.’

HUNGARY

Politics: German politician heaps scorn on claims Hungary no longer democracy. ‘The activities of the Hungarian government can be criticised in many ways but it is wrong to say that Hungary is not a democratic country, German Social Democrat politician Klaus von Dohnanyi said in Berlin late on Tuesday.

He told a podium discussion held at the Hungarian embassy that he had met Prime Minister Viktor Orban and several senior politicians in Hungary last year, and though “mistakes have been certainly made,” it is “sheer stupidity” to say that Hungary is not a democracy.

Dohnanyi, a former mayor of Hamburg and a former minister of education, was among renowned German personalities with Hungarian roots invited to the event.’

Hungarian ambassador to Serbia in war of words over claims of territorial revisionism. ‘The Hungarian ambassador in Belgrade has resolutely rejected a charge by a Serbian daily that territorial revisionism is a central aspiration of Hungarian politics.

Oszkar Nikowitz responded in an article “We are Happy to Share Trianon” to Vecernje Novosti’s recent article entitled “Greater Hungary, Without an Apology”.

The article said Hungary’s government is not even trying to hide its claim to neighbouring territories. The paper quoted historian Dragan Petrovic saying that “ever since 1991, Hungary has repeatedly expressed an interest in neighbouring territories”.’

KOSOVO

SETimes: Kosovo parliament withdraws from court case involvement. ‘After facing strong criticism, MPs of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) withdrew their request to establish an ad-hoc committee in parliament to examine alleged procedural violations in the Kicina court case.

Critics said that reopening the case, which was closed by the Supreme Court, would encroach on Kosovo’s judiciary sector.

The Kicina case concerns the killing of an Albanian man who worked as a Serbian policeman prior to the 1999 Kosovo war, as well as his family. Three people, including two former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, received 30-year prison sentences but a man who was involved in the killing and provided statements of evidence of criminal wrongdoing received an 11-year prison sentence.’

LITHUANIA

B92: “Lithuania won’t block Serbia’s EU pathway”.Even if it gets a date for the start of the EU accession negotiations in June, Serbia will face an uncertain period in the integration process bearing in mind that Lithuania will take over the EU presidency in the second half of 2013, the daily writes.

Relations between Serbia and Lithuania have been tense since the election for the UN General Assembly president and unsuccessful privatization of the BIP brewery.

Linkevičius admitted that the two countries’ relations were not at the best possible level but stressed that this should not halt Serbia’s progress in relations with Brussels.’

MACEDONIA

Balkan Insight: Local Election Leaves Macedonia Opposition in Tatters. ‘The first round of local elections in Macedonia has sealed the dominance of the centre-right VMRO DPMNE party over its bitter political rivals, the Social Democrats, SDSM, led by Branko Crvenkovski.

While few doubted that Nikola Gruevski’s ruling party would win its seventh election in a row since 2006, the severity of the defeat of the opposition surprised many.’

ROMANIA

Balkan Insight: Romania Ordered to Compensate Victims of 1989 Revolt. ‘The European Court of Human Rights has fined Romania 350,000 euro in a case involving 72 victims, or heirs of victims, of the anti-Communist revolt that started in Timisoara in December 1989.

The applicants complained that the authorities had never properly investigated the deaths of their family members, or the ill-treatment to which they themselves were subjected, as the then authorities battled the demonstrations of December 1989.’

RUSSIA

RFE/RL: Daghestani Local Official Killed With Suspected Militants. ‘One of the suspected militants killed by security forces in the Russian North Caucasus Republic of Daghestan last week has been identified as a local lawmaker.

A spokesman with Daghestan’s Investigative Committee told journalists on March 28 that 35-year-old Magomedkhabib Magomedaliev was among the suspected militants killed on the outskirts of the republic’s capital, Makhachkala.’

RAPSI: Bill banning registration of extremist religious organizations sent to Duma. ‘The government has sent a bill to the State Duma banning the registration of religious organizations of extremists. According to the government’s press service, the bill stipulates that registrars responsible for religious organizations have the right to refuse to register organizations whose founders or members are involved in extremist activities.

In early February, President Vladimir Putin called for “beefing up the measures” to ensure law and order.

“You must act firmly to prevent extremist organizations’ activities and take swift action against any forms of extremism,” he said at an expanded meeting of the Interior Ministry Board.’

Human rights violations common in Russia according to poll. ‘The majority of Russians (63%) believe that human rights violations are common in Russia while nearly one third of the population (27%) believes the opposite, according to a poll published by the Public Poll Foundation.

The survey found that over the past two years, 72% of respondents had not been in a situation where their rights or the rights of a family member had been violated.

The most important rights, according to the poll, are the right to free medical help (71%), the right to have a job (57%) and the right to a free education (54%). The right to offer input into public administration and the right of freedom of assembly were very important to only 3% of the respondents.’

The Moscow Times: 3-Year Anniversary of Metro Bombings Commemorated. ‘Memorials were set up Friday morning at the Lyubyanka and Park Kultury metro stations to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the metro bombings that took the lives of 40 people and injured over 100.

Police were standing by at both Lyubyanka and Park Kultury on Friday morning as commuters and relatives of those killed stopped to pay their respects by placing flowers at the scene.

At both stations, tables were set up in the middle of the hall with a red tablecloth featuring the inscription “At this site on March 29, 2010, a terrorist act was committed and people died.”’

The Prague Post: Putin’s allure in Europe on the rise. ‘A surprising phenomenon is increasingly apparent in Western Europe: Far-right parties are moving away from their traditional anti-communist and anti-Russia ideologies, with many expressing admiration – and even outright support – for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

To be sure, several former and current European political leaders have sought to ally themselves with Putin’s regime. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, for example, joined the board of the Nord Stream gas-pipeline project (ensuring Germany direct access to Russian supplies via the Baltic Sea) immediately after leaving office. Similarly, The Economist described former Czech President Václav Klaus, a prominent Euroskeptic, as one of Putin’s “warmest admirers abroad.” But opportunism is not ideological affinity.’

The Voice of Russia: Moscow slams European Parliament hearings. ‘Moscow describes as ‘cynicism and interference in Russia’s internal affairs’ the European Parliament’s hearings held on March 19, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.

He added that during the hearings called ‘Small-numbered People Under the Oppression of Totalitarianism’, the European MPs drew parallels between Nazism and the Soviet regime.

Lukashevich said that ‘such an approach is an attempt to falsify history, an open cynicism and blasphemy with respect to those  who liberated the world from the horrors of Nazism.’

South Caucasus stability project postponed. ‘The participants in international discussions of security and stability in the South Caucasus that took place in Geneva on the 26th-27th of March have postponed the adoption of a draft declaration of the non-use of force until summer, the Russian Foreign Ministry reports.

This is due to Georgia’s unpreparedness for expert consideration of the project.

The next meeting in Geneva is scheduled for the end of June.

The Russian Foreign Ministry reports that South Ossetia and Abkhazia stressed the priority of signing binding bilateral agreements with Georgia on guaranteeing security and the unacceptability of Tbilisi’s attempts to shirk this subject.’

Vestnik Kavkaza: Russian military in Armenia conduct tactical exercises. ‘The Russian military base located in Armenia has organized bilateral tactical exercises in the Kamhud mountain chain.

“The exercises involve more than 700 soldiers and 100 items of military equipment,” a message reads. During the exercises soldiers practised ways of repelling enemy air attacks and attacks of sabotage and reconnaissance groups to conventional enemy, management engineering and NBC reconnaissance, overcoming zones of radioactive, chemical and biological contamination and fires.’

SERBIA

B92: Serbs unblock court in Kosovska Mitrovica. ‘Kosovo Serbs, who blocked the First Municipal Court building in northern Kosovska Mitrovica on Thursday morning, have in the meantime unblocked the building.

Marjan Ilinčić, 63, was sentenced to 20 months, Dragan Milojević, 27, to 18 months and Zoran Čavić, 47, to nine months in prison. Miodrag Ralić, Nebojša Jović, Aleksandar Arsenijević and Avni Krasniqi were acquitted.

The convicted men will also have to pay EUR 500 each for the trial costs. Their defense attorneys have announced they will file appeals. ‘

SLOVAKIA

Reuters: Slovak court moves toward imprisoning Hungary war criminal. ‘A Slovak court has commuted a death sentence imposed on a Hungarian World War Two criminal to life imprisonment although he remains under house arrest in his native country, the prosecution said on Thursday.

Laszlo Csatary, 98, was found guilty in absentia in 1948 of whipping or torturing Jews and helping to deport them to the Auschwitz death camp when he served as police commander in the eastern Slovak city of Kosice. He was sentenced to death and lived on the run for decades until Hungarian authorities detained him and put him under house arrest in Budapest in July last year.’

TURKEY

Ekathimerini:Turkey’s worldview evolves with a promising shift to West.The recent drama over the euro area’s bailout of Cyprus diverted attention from two important events, both of which feature the island’s old nemesis, Turkey.

The first was a cease-fire declaration on March 21, made by the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. His decision was the result of overtures made by Turkey’s government, after more than a year of escalated conflict in one of the world’s longest and bloodiest insurgencies.’

Reuters: Turkey denies mass deportation of Syrian refugees. ‘Turkey denied on Thursday it had rounded up and deported hundreds of Syrian refugees following unrest at a border camp, highlighting the strain the exodus from Syria’s civil war is placing on neighboring states.

Witnesses said hundreds of Syrians were bussed to the border after Wednesday’s clashes in which refugees in the Suleymansah camp, near the Turkish town of Akcakale, threw rocks at military police, who fired teargas and water cannon.’

Vestnik Kavkaza: PKK militants to leave Turkey by late June. ‘It is expected that the militants of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party will leave Turkey by the end of June, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Bekir Bozdağ said, Sabah newspaper reported on Thursday, says Trend.

According to Bozdağ, there is no need for a legal framework to ensure security for the PKK.

“Earlier, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he will ensure the exit for PKK members from Turkey, and there is no need to create a legal framework as a guarantee to his words,” Deputy Prime Minister said.’

Turkey deports Syrian refugees over camp unrest. ‘Turkey has sent hundreds of refugees back to Syria after clashes with Turkish military police at their camp near the border in a protest over living conditions, officials said on Thursday, the first such mass deportation since the conflict began, reports Reuters.

Refugees threw rocks at military police who fired teargas and water cannon in the unrest in the Suleymansah camp, near the Turkish town of Akcakale, on Wednesday.’

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