News from Central and Eastern Europe, Monday 27th May 2013

BALKANS

B92: K. Serbs want guarantees they will be Serbian citizens. ‘Ex-Ministry for Kosovo State Secretary Oliver Ivanović says Kosovo Serbs want guarantees from the government that they will be Serbian citizens.

 

“They request guarantees that they will have political security and economic perspective and only our government in Belgrade can guarantee that,” he stressed.

“If our government does not guarantee that, nobody else can give good enough guarantees because Serbs in Kosovo trust neither Priština nor Brussels,” Ivanović told Jagodina-based Palma Plus TV.

He stressed that the “government will not change the agreement because it works and speaks on behalf of seven million citizens of this country, regardless of how politically important we (Kosovo Serbs) are, the government simply will not allow us to change something it initialed, agreed on and tested in parliament”.’

Ria Novosti: Serbian Govt. Approves Plan to Improve Relations with Kosovo. ‘The government of Serbia has approved a plan to improve relations with Kosovo in line with the April 19 agreement, the government’s press service said on Monday.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic immediately informed EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton about the move. The implementation of the agreement is vital for the start of the talks on Serbia’s accession to the European Union.

Kosovo and Serbia signed a groundbreaking accord to normalize relations on April 19.

During an EU-chaired meeting in Brussels on May 22, Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and his Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, have reached a preliminary agreement on a plan laying out actions and deadlines to implement this accord.’

SETimes: Roma union targets inclusion issues. ‘Representatives in the parliaments of Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovakia created the Roma Inter-Parliamentary Union in order to resolve the lack of institutional state support for Roma communities in the region.

The union aims to initiate Roma inclusion in all life areas, support governments in resolving Roma issues and foster better co-operation with international organisations.

The Serbia parliament, which hosted the first meeting of the union earlier this month, adopted several laws to improve the Roma position, including legislation on Roma integration and on judicial proceedings that contribute to the visibility of a minority without identification documents.

“By adopting such laws and by initiating such activities … we recognised Roma people as a potential stability factor, which provides new qualities in the approach to Roma integration in social and political life,” Nebojsa Stefanovic, the president of the parliament, told SETimes.’

Rising extremism in Europe causes concerns in the Balkans. ‘The rise of extremism in Europe and its possible threat to the region concerns Balkan analysts, who said the solution is in close political, security and judicial co-operation.

“The Balkans was always one of the most risky terrorist threat areas. It’s the only part of Europe [excluding former Soviet Union] that had brutal wars at the close of the 20th century,” Dragan Popovic, executive director of the Belgrade Policy Centre, toldSETimes.

He said the key element in fighting terrorism is regional co-operation.

“It is impossible to deal with such a threat without strong and substantial co-operation within the Balkans, including close co-operation on political, security and judicial levels,” he said.’

GEORGIA

RFE/RL: Georgian PM Calls For Tolerance, Respect For Human Rights. ‘Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has said that democracy, respect for human rights, EU and NATO membership, and the “de-occupation” of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are essential elements of Georgia’s independence.

Ivanishvili made the remarks on May 26 during a televised address to mark Georgia’s Independence Day.

He said that Georgia must become stable and economically viable in order to win the hearts and minds of citizens in the breakaway regions.

In reference to a violent attack on May 17 against a gay-rights parade in the capital, Ivanishvili said: “I promise no one will be punished for being different, for free opinion and speech.”‘

RUVR: Georgian Court of Appeals rules to keep ex-PM in custody. ‘

A court of appeals in the West Georgian city of Kutaisi turned down an appeal from former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili, charged with corruption and abuse of office, and ruled to keep him in custody.

“The court of appeals considered an appeal from Merabishili’s defense lawyers and ruled that the previous court’s ruling would remain in force,” the court’s press service said in a statement.

Merabishvili and former Labor, Health and Social Security Minister Zurab Chiaberashvili, who are considered key allies of embattled President Mikheil Saakashvili, were detained on Tuesday. The court of Kutaisi ruled on Wednesday to put Merabishvili in custody, but released Chiaberashvili on bail of 20,000 lari ($13,000).

Both men have been accused of giving fictitious jobs to hundreds of United National Movement (UNM) activists who were involved in the party’s parliamentary election campaign in 2012.’

GREECE

Al Jazeera: Protest held against Athens mosque plan. ‘Members of the ultra-right National Front have led dozens of protesters in a march against the Greek government’s plans to build the first state-funded mosque in Athens, the capital.

The government has budgeted about one million euros ($1.3m) to build the mosque at a reduced price because of the country’s economic crisis, which has delayed the process. However, construction was expected to begin next year.

The protesters, including a woman dressed in nun’s clothing, waved Greek flags at the rally on Sunday as they shouted: “We don’t want sharia, we want Greece and Orthodoxy” and “No to mosques, give money to the schools.”

Emmanouil Konstas, the National Front general secretary, said that plans to build the religious centre were unacceptable and that the government should refrain from catering to the religious needs of immigrants while the country faced an economic crisis.

“It is unacceptable in every way,” Konstas said.

“The religious needs of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants shouldn’t be a matter of concern for the government; they should be deported since they came here illegally. And for the rest who are here legally, there are enough places for them to pray,” Konstas said.’

Greek Reporter: Koran Lessons In Greek Ires Muslims. ‘The Greek government has appointed 90 chaplains to teach the Koran in Greek to minority children at mosques and state schools in the northwestern province of Western Thrace, annoying Muslims who said it is a violation of the freedom of religion in the country.

“The children of minority families studying in government schools in Western Thrace will be taught the Koran in the Greek language,” an addition to the legal regulation 240 Imams law prepared in the Parliament was quoted by The World Bulletin and reported by OnIslam. The law states that the chaplains will be Greek citizen and members of the minority in Western Thrace.

The law, which was drafted unilaterally without consulting the minority population, was adopted despite strong opposition from members of the Turkish minority and criticized by the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN.)’

HUNGARY

JTA: Jobbik lawmaker says Auschwitz museum ‘may not reflect historical facts’. ‘A lawmaker for the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party in Hungary said the Auschwitz death camp museum “may not reflect real facts.”

Tamas Gaudi-Nagy made the statement Thursday during a discussion in parliament on a proposal to facilitate visits by teenagers and young adults to the former Nazi camp in Poland.

The Hungarian news agency MTI reported that Gaudi-Nagy said the site “may not reflect the real facts of history,” and that schools should not be “forced to take up such an expensive venture.”

The statement drew condemnations from Hungary’s ruling party as well as from its leading Jewish group.

“Nobody has the right to question the Holocaust, the suffering and death of millions of people,” the leader of the ruling Fidesz party, Antal Rogan, said in a statement Thursday.’

MONTENEGRO

Balkan Insight: Montenegro ‘Failing to Prosecute War Crimes Properly. ‘No final war crimes conviction has been achieved so far because international law is not properly applied at trials, claims a new report from a Montenegrin rights group.

Legal failings and passivity by the prosecution and domestic courts have meant that there has not been a single final conviction in war crime trials in the country, Human Rights Action said in a report published this week.

The report argues that the state prosecutor has failed to use the concepts of complicity with or support for war crimes in any of its indictments.

It has also failed to use the concept of command responsibility for the prevention of war crimes, the report said.

The report also noted that the Podgorica and Bijelo Polje superior courts, which are in charge of first instance war crime trials, as well as the appeals court, haven’t taken advantage of their ability to examine the potential liability of defendants for anything not listed in the indictment.’

ROMANIA

Independent Balkan News Agency: Romania expels ‘cowboy’ jihadists. ‘Two foreigners suspected of planning terrors attacks have been arrested and then expelled by the Romanian authorities, the Romanian home intelligence service SRI announced today.

According to the expulsion file submitted to Bucharest’s Court of Appeals, the two suspects are Salid Harba, a Lebanese national born in Syria, and Abdul Razak Harba, an Iraqi citizen. The two owned several livestock farms in Romania and dealt in selling meat. They were also associated in two companies based in the Braila County, south-east Romania.

“Two foreign nationals have been declared personae non-grate or the next 15 years because they have given financial and propagandistic support to Jihad oriented groups acting in the Middle East” according to SRI.

“The two citizens have been involved in facilitating illegal entry of different persons originating in areas under terrorist scrutiny. The two have also financially supported persons with radical views on the Romanian territory” it added. The suspects displayed a radical Islamic specific behavior and promoted ideas, conceptions and attitudes which lie at the base of religious intolerance.’

RUSSIA

The Guardian: Suicide bomb widow injures 12 in Dagestan attack. ‘A female suicide bomber identified as a widow of two killed Islamists blew herself up in the southern Russian region of Dagestan injuring at least 12, including two children and five police officers. She detonated an explosives-laden belt in the central square in the provincial capital, Makhachkala, Dagestan’s police spokesman, Vyacheslav Gasanov, said.

The bomber was identified as Madina Alieva, 25, who married an Islamist who was killed in 2009 and then wedded another Islamist radical who was gunned down last year.

Since 2000, at least two dozen women, most of them from the Caucasus, have carried out suicide bombings in Russian cities and aboard trains and planes. All were linked to an Islamist insurgency that spread throughout Dagestan and the predominantly Muslim Caucasus region after two separatist wars in neighbouring Chechnya. The bombers are often called “black widows” in Russia because many are widows or relatives of militants killed by security forces. Islamist militants try to convince them that bombing will reunite them with their dead relatives beyond the grave.’

The Moscow Times: Russian Pro-, Anti-Gay Activists Arrested After Defying Ban.Russian police detained about 30 pro- and anti-gay activists in central Moscow on Saturday, imposing the city’s ban on gay rights demonstrations.

The arrests, underlining Russia’s tough response to public demonstrations by gay groups, coincided with the first ever gay rally in neighboring Ukraine, which was allowed by the authorities and protected by the police.

Russia’s parliament has given preliminary approval to a ban on “homosexual propaganda” targeting minors, which critics say would effectively ban gay rights demonstrations.

The legislation has prompted condemnation from abroad, but President Vladimir Putin has rejected that criticism, saying Russia did not discriminate against gay people.’

RAPSI: Immigrants to pay for potential deportation on entry to Russia. ‘The Moscow police have proposed introducing mandatory deposits to cut the costs for deporting illegal immigrants from Russia, deputy Moscow police chief Vyacheslav Kozlov said on Friday.

He said this initiative has been discussed at a roundtable in the State Duma.

“All immigrants should be required to deposit an amount covering the cost of a return ticket and to show a medical insurance policy,” Kozlov said. “They would have their deposits returned to them when they leave the country legally.”

This policy would help cut the country’s costs for deporting illegal immigrants. He said these costs include identifying the individual through their country’s consulate in Russia and their return ticket.

He also believes that police officers should be given the authority to take decisions on violations of immigration laws that they record, as this would significantly speed up the decision-making process.’

Ria Novosti:Police Apologize for Beating Russian Activists. ‘In a rare display of public humility, head of police in the Russian city of St. Petersburg publicly apologized to motorist rights activists allegedly beaten up by his subordinates.

But Sergei Umnov’s apology, published on the city police’s website late Friday, never specified what caused the conflict between traffic police and activists of the Blue Buckets group.

The victims said they chided two traffic police officers in the city of Kolpino outside St. Petersburg for parking on the sidewalk.

But then they were suddenly jumped by five men in plainclothes, including at least one more traffic police officer, Blue Buckets said in their Livejournal community, ru-vederko.

The attackers beat up the activists in plain view of the officers on duty, who smiled and refused to interfere, the report said.

One of the victims of the incident, which took place last Sunday, was hospitalized with skull fracture and possible kidney trauma.

Three officers involved in the incident were sacked earlier this week, along with three of their bosses.’

Moscow Police Release Unsanctioned Gay Rally Activists. ‘Police have released all participants of an unsanctioned gay pride rally detained in the Russian capital on Saturday, the Moscow Interior Department said on Sunday.

“Administrative violation reports were compiled for 39 detainees: protocols for the breach of the established rules of holding gatherings and meetings were drawn up for 29 detainees and protocols for petty hooliganism were completed for the other ten,” the Interior Department said.

Several dozens of LGBT activists were detained in the Russian capital on Saturday during a string of gay pride events in the city’s center.

The majority were held during an attempted gay pride rally in front of the City Hall, which refused earlier to sanction the event.

Several gay rights activists were also held by the State Duma’s building when attempting to stage consecutive solitary pickets, which require no official permits.’

UPI: Russian ‘Facebook’ inadvertently put on Internet blacklist registry. ‘VKontakte, a Facebook-like social networking site that is Russia’s largest, was put on a state registry of blacklisted websites by mistake, officials said.

A spokesman for Russia’s telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor said the site was mistakenly placed on a registry created by the Russian Parliament last summer intended for blacklisted websites containing what authorities deem “harmful content,” RIA Novosti reported.

“This was a mistake. Our employee put a tick in the wrong place,” Vladimir Pikov said Friday. “We will remove VKontakte from the registry and it should be accessible for everyone.”‘

Vestnik Kavkaza: Two militant caches found in Dagestan. ‘A militant cache belonging to the Tsumadinskaya Group of militants headed by a local from Echeda was found at Bolshoye Ozero in the Tsumadinsky District yesterday. It contained food, medicaments, bomb components and religious literature, RIA Dagestan reports.

Another cache was found in Prirechensk and belonged to an arrested resident of Buynaksk. The cache contained bomb components and a plastic container with 76 7.62-mm bullets.’

Militant cache found in Chechnya. ‘A militant cache with an RPG, machine gun, four AKs and four AK clips and RPG shots and about 2,000 machine gun bullets were found at Elistanji near River Khulkhulau in Chechnya, RIA Novosti reports.’

Dagestani leader calls terrorist attacks agonized. ‘Dagestani acting President Ramazan Abdulatipov said that the terrorist attacks that had happened in Makhachkala last week had been “an agony” of militant groups, Interfax reports.

Abdulatipov noted that locals were helping the police fight militants. Local communities were driving out people promoting Wahhabism and extremism.

15-17 people gave themselves up in the past several months.’

SERBIA

B92: Serbia cannot afford divisions, president says. ‘Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić has stated that the Serbian people cannot afford any more divisions while PM Ivica Dačić called for national unity.

Dačić called for “national unity and reconciliation” after the burial of the remains of King Petar II, his wife Queen Aleksandra, mother Queen Marija and brother Prince Andrej on Sunday in Oplenac on Sunday.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle that speaks of history of our people and the country. The past cannot be changed but mistakes can be fixed today. This is why it is important for the Serbian people to be united in the future and not to make mistakes,” he explained.

“There are many ideologies but there is only one Serbia,” the prime minister said and added that his presence at the funeral was a contribution to national reconciliation between those who had had been on opposing sides in the past.

The president noted that the Serbian people could not afford division and injustice and added that a step toward unity had been made on Sunday.’

TURKEY

UPI: Erdogan visits Turkish town hit by bombings. ‘Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Reyhanli on the Syrian border Saturday and met with families of those killed in recent bombings.

Erdogan first addressed local residents at a mass meeting, Today’s Zaman reported.

He talked of the town’s role in giving shelter to about 25,000 Syrian refugees living there.

“I believe that Reyhanli residents will embrace them,” he said.

The May 11 bomb attacks killed 51 people. The Turkish government has blamed forces fighting for President Bashar Assad in Syria, but the Damascus regime denies carrying out the bombings.

Erdogan said Syrian refugees will return to their homeland once Assad has been ousted and the civil war is over.’

UKRAINE

Translated from German – Der Spiegel: Despite court ban: homosexuals demonstrate in Ukraine. ‘In Kiev gays and lesbians held the first Gay Pride parade in Ukraine.At the 20-minute march near the city center, around a hundred activists involved, even though a court had banned the parade before .

The participants waved rainbow flags and held banners with slogans such as, “Homosexuality is not a disease” high. A delegation from Munich and homosexuals from the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway marched. The rally was accompanied by a massive police presence.

“This can be regarded as a historic day,” said co-organizer Elena Semenova.In the former Soviet Republic, where the Orthodox Church has great influence, homophobia is widespread. The organizers of the parade had advised the participants to comfortable clothing and flat shoes, so that they could more easily escape from potential attackers.’

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