The Greek debt crisis has led the government to consider selling or leasing national assets. The government has said that there are at least 40 Greek islands that could be leased as a means of reducing debt. Leases could run for up to 50 years. The government development agency charged with finding ways to raise money from national assets, reported that leasing is preferable to selling and, as it is, that current Greek law prevents selling islands. The islands that Greece might make available for leasing are close to the mainland and already have some infrastructure in place. This story raised few eyebrows until an Israeli newspaper reported that the Israeli government had considered buying or leasing a Greek island for conducting naval training exercises. An Israeli government source confirmed that Israel had made an inquiry but then decided that the option did not meet defense training needs, so the idea was dropped.
September 17, 2012: After much delay, and accusations of corruption in defense ministry procurement, Romania is once again considering buying used F-16s. When Romania joined NATO it committed to modernizing its military forces. Romania had approached the U.S. and Holland about buying used F-16s but those deals never materialized. Now Romania is discussing buying some of Portugal’s used F-16A/B fighters. Both countries face budget crises. However, Portugal needs immediate cash and Romania needs fighter aircraft desperately. According to the ministry of defense, Romania’s fleet of Cold War-era Russian-made aircraft is no longer in flying condition. Unless the government buys the Portuguese F-16s Romania will not have a fighter-bomber force, only transports. If Romania and Portugal go through with the deal, Romania could acquire up to 45 F-16s. Romania had talked to the U.S. about purchasing 24 planes.
Stories about NATO intelligence activity in southern Turkey are getting a lot of play in Turkish media. One source said that fifty senior intelligence agents from Germany, Great Britain, France, and the U.S. are now working out of the city of Adana or the big NATO air base at Incirlik. The U.S. CIA agents are working closely with Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT).
September 16, 2012: The Turkish government estimated that 80,000 Syrian refugees are living in camps near the Turkey-Syria border. Another 40,000 (perhaps more) are living outside of the camps, many in rented apartments or houses in Hatay province and some in make-shift shelters. The government wants the refugees outside the camps to either move to the camps or move into the interior. The refugees outside the camps have severely strained local water and health resources, and moving the refugees to locations near urban areas in the interior would ease the burden.
Syria accused Turkey of letting Al Qaeda and Wahabi terrorists use Turkish territory to launch attacks into Syria. The Syrian accusation echoed charges made by some Turkish opposition politicians that the government was ignoring the presence of militant Islamists in the Syrian rebel movement. The Turkish government denied the charges but acknowledges monitoring the 900 kilometer-long border is difficult. The government noted that Turkey has been the victim of Al Qaeda attacks and has arrested scores of suspected Al Qaeda members and sympathizers.
September 15, 2012: The Greek government once again said it must have more time to meet budget targets demanded by international lenders. Greece can meet the targets by 2016 but not by 2014, which is the current target date.
September 12, 2012: Several large anti-austerity protests took place in Greece. The most significant protest occurred in Athens where protestors demonstrated against cuts in pay, pensions, and medical disability benefits. Greek media reported that Greek military personnel and policemen participated in the demonstrations.
It appears Russia is once again threatening to use natural gas exports as a diplomatic weapon. A Russian government official told Moldova that it may have to choose between joining a European energy initiative and receiving low-priced gas from Russia.
Greece has appointed a special study group tasked with finding out if Germany may owe Greece money as reparations for war crimes committed in World War Two. The study group is a political sop to both the far left and far right in Greece. Both political extremes routinely refer to Germans as Nazis and accuse foreigners (usually Germans) of trying to economically subjugate Greece. This is in response to German complaints about being forced to pay for money the Greek government illegally borrowed to subsidize a standard of living that Greece could not otherwise afford.
September 11, 2012: Russia said that despite the formal end of international supervision in Kosovo, Kosovo remains "a quasi-state that lacks a legal international existence." Russia is contesting the International Steering Group’s (ISG) claim that the end of supervision means Kosovo will have full sovereignty. Russia backed their Serbian "Slav brothers" in protesting NATO forcing Serbia to give up Kosovo, and its majority Albanian population, to become an independent state.
September 10, 2012: Formal international supervision of Kosovo by the International Steering Group (ISG) ended today. There were 25 nations involved in the ISG, 23 EU members plus the U.S. and Turkey. However, NATO’s KFOR peacekeeping force remains on duty and the EU’s EULEX judicial mission is still basically running Kosovo’s judiciary.
September 8, 2012: Turkish media continue to report on allegations of Iranian spy activity in Turkey. Turkish television has shown video clips made by counter-intelligence officers who were tracking a group of seven alleged Iranian spies. The alleged spies were arrested in late August. The government claimed that the suspects were paid for the information they provided on Turkish military and police facilities by Iran’s intelligence agency, SAVAMA.
September 7, 2012: Slovenian Army Brigadier-General Bojan Pograjc has become deputy commander of NATO's KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
The Greek government has decided to take a harsh public stand against nepotism. Greek cabinet ministers are now banned from giving family members jobs. The new rule came after a member of parliament gave his daughter a job the day after taking a senior administrative post in the parliament.
Several Romanian center-right political parties have agreed to form a new political alliance. The Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), the Christian Democratic National Peasants Party (CDNP), the New Republic Party, the Right of Center Civic Initiative, and the Christian Democratic Foundation party said their new group will be called the Right Romania Alliance.
September 6, 2012: A huge explosion at a Turkish Army ammunition depot in Afyonkarahisar (western Turkey) killed 25 soldiers and wounded four. The blast was caused by an accidentally dropped hand grenade. The single hand grenade set off a stockpile of grenades which the soldiers were inspecting. Most of the soldiers were draftees. Government investigators reported that thousands of unexploded hand grenades remained in the area.
Serbia’s new prime minister, Ivica Dacic, said that Serbia will never recognize Kosovo independence. The declaration presents real problems for Serbia’s entry into the European Union. Several EU political leaders have indicated that Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s independence will likely be required for admission to the EU.
September 5, 2012: A proposed law that would give military veterans of Macedonia’s 2001 civil war special recognition and privileges has ignited a political firestorm. The law would apply to veterans of the Macedonian armed forces and police forces, whose ethnic make-up at the time was predominantly Slav. The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) party, which is an ethnic Albanian party, argues that the same rights should be extended to former Albanian guerrilla fighters, or it should not be passed. The DUI is part of the political coalition which currently governs Macedonia. The DUI has threatened to quit the government if the law is passed.
September 4, 2012: Bulgaria and Romania have agreed to increase bilateral defense cooperation. The nations already conduct several joint training exercises, but the new deal will include close cooperation in logistical support. The new agreement mentions joint logistics for military transport planes
Israel’s ambassador to Bulgaria reiterated the claim that Iran was behind the July 18 terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists. The Israeli statement also said that Hezbollah was involved in the attack. Iran denies the Israeli accusation.