Balkans: Haunted By Ottoman Ghosts

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October 26, 2012: Greece’s weak coalition government is getting weaker. One of the government coalition parties, the Democratic Left party, opposes a package of labor reforms that creditors demand if Greece wants a two-year extension to meet its budget reduction targets. The labor reforms involve severance pay and regulatory allowances that make it easier for companies to lay-off workers. Meanwhile, street protests continue in Greece’s major cities.

October 25, 2012: Investigators have found that the Turkish government is suppressing free speech. The government is accused of conducting a planned and systematic campaign to intimidate Turkish media (particularly news reporting media). There are repeated violations of freedom of expression by the government and the use of legal action (in court) by government officials to intimidate press critics and reporters. Turkish media today is concentrated in the hands of large corporations which have broad economic interests. These conglomerates can practice self-censorship in their media operations in order not to offend government officials and bureaucrats who make economic decisions which affect other corporate interests. (Austin Bay)

October 23, 2012: Police in Kosovo had to break up a demonstration by members of Kosovo’s Self-Determination Party. The rock-throwing protestors objected to holding any negotiations with Serbia. Kosovo’s government has said that it wants to reach several agreements with Serbia and normalize relations. The Self-Determination Party is small but has become the hard-line Albanian Kosovar opposition group.

October 22, 2012: Several dozen Albanian ultra-nationalists protested the visit of Serbia’s Foreign Minister to Albania’s capital, Tirana. The protestors belong to the Red and Black Alliance party. The protestors shouted that "Kosovo is Albania." Balkan Slavs hear this shout as a demand for a Greater Albania. Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s prime minister, who was also visiting Albania, said that all Balkan countries should join NATO and the European Union. That would help insure Balkan stability. Bulgaria recognizes Kosovo as an independent country.

The Greek government acknowledged that its revised deficit and debt figures for 2011, are higher than the figures it provided earlier this year. Last year the deficit was 9.4 percent of GDP. Total public debt at the end of 2011, was 170.6 percent of GDP.

October 20, 2012: Bosnia and Croatia are continuing to discuss ways to directly connect Croatia with the city of Dubrovnik. A five-kilometer long strip of Bosnia (where Bosnia has access to the Adriatic Sea) cuts direct land access to Dubrovnik.

October 19, 2012: Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Serbian Hashim Thaci met in Brussels, Belgium. It was the first official public talks between the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo. The EU arranged the meeting.

October 18, 2012: Several thousand Greek blue and white collar workers participated in another general strike in Athens to protest the government’s austerity budget disrupted Athens. It was the 20th general strike in the last two years.

October 15, 2012: The Turkish Disaster Management Agency (AFAD) provided detailed official figures on the number of Syrian refugees now in Turkey (100,363 in 14 camps).

Turkey announced that it has begun construction on a 107-kilometer long water pipeline that will run from the Alakopru Dam (near Anamur on Turkey’s Mediterranean Sea coast) to a reservoir near the town of Gecitkoy in Turkish Cypriot northern Cyprus. The project should be finished in March 2014. This is not a new proposal. In the past Turkey has said that the pipeline could easily supply water to the entire island, including the Greek Cypriot side of the island. Turkey has also said that can occur once the island is reunified.

October 13, 2012: The Turkish government rebuked the UN Security Council for its continuing failure to act to end Syria’s internal conflict. The Turkish statement compared the UN’s inaction to the institution’s failure to deal responsibly with the Bosnian crisis in the 1990s.

October 12, 2012: The Turkish government announced that the Turkish Army has deployed more tanks and anti-aircraft weapons along the Syrian border. Turkish fighter jets also scrambled to intercept a Syrian military helicopter that was flying too close to the border. There are now 99,500 Syrian refugees in Turkey and another 14,000 refugees want to cross the border into Turkey.

October 11, 2012: In the week since Turkey’s parliament gave the government a mandate for combat action against Syria, Turkish media report that Turks do not want a war with Syria but they do not want Syrian forces shelling Turkish towns. The Turkish government has noticed that the Syrian government has taken a conciliatory tone since the parliament passed the resolution. The Turkish government had said that the parliamentary mandate could have a deterrent effect on Syria.

October 8, 2012: Today marks the 100th anniversary of the First Balkan War. On October 8, 1912, Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Montenegrin forces deployed along the Albania-Montenegro border and attacked Albania on October 9, 2012.

October 5, 2012: Macedonia wants The Name War to end. In 1995, Greece and Macedonia signed an interim agreement to resolve The Name War. Greece insists that Macedonia be called The FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and won’t budge.

Bulgaria held several events throughout the country commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First Balkan War. Some of the events were described as celebrations: Bulgaria won the First Balkan War. However, the Bulgarian government is also treating the commemoration as a sobering lesson in Balkan history. It has created an on-line digital library with information on the 50,000 Bulgarian soldiers who died in the First and Second Balkan Wars. The website has information on over 48,000 soldiers.

October 4, 2012: Greek shipyard workers battled truncheon-armed police as a protest over back wages turned violent. Police responded after the shipyard workers stormed the Greek Defense Ministry in Athens. A Greek Army general tried to talk with the demonstrators but was shouted down.

The Turkish parliament voted 320 to 129 to authorize the use of combat troops in a cross-border operation against Syria. The parliament voted after Syrian mortar shells hit a Turkish border town and killed five Turkish citizens. The government said that the parliamentary vote was not a mandate for war but it was an important political signal to Syria. The resolution gives the government permission to take military action inside Syria for up to a year. Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican Peoples Party (CHP), opposed the resolution as did the pro-Kurd Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

The UN Security Council condemned Syria’s shelling of Turkey and called it a violation of international law.

Bosnia’s National Museum closed after 124 years of operation. The Bosnian government decided to close the museum as a budget-cutting measure.

October 3, 2012: The Bosnian war crimes court acquitted two Bosnian Serbs who were charged with participating in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The two men were policemen at the time. The court ruled that the government failed to prove its case that the men were involved in rounding up victims for execution.

October 1, 2012: Moldova’s controversial law which bans the use of Communist symbols went into effect today. The ruling Alliance for European Integration coalition passed the law in July, over severe objections by Moldova’s Communist Party which called the law an anti-political opposition tactic. Of course the Communist Party, under the Soviet Union, had far worse anti-opposition laws, but the Communists are right. Moldova’s Communist Party said that it will keep its hammer and sickle symbol, despite the law.

Cyprus (Greek Cyprus) held a military parade commemorating 52 years of independence. Greece’s Defense Minister attended the ceremonies. The Cypriot president wants the island reunified by political means.

September 29, 2012: Kosovo‘s prime minister said that Kosovo and Serbia must normalize relations so that both countries can integrate with the rest of Europe. However, he insisted that Kosovo will never cede ethnic Kosovar Serb enclaves to Serbia.

September 27, 2012: The Romanian Supreme Defense Council approved a plan to buy 12 second-hand F-16 fighter-bombers from Portugal. Romania will get the jets in 2016, and will cost $500 to $600 million.

The European Union announced that Serbia has signed a technical protocol that will allow a joint Serb-Kosovar presence at border crossings between the two countries. The EU’s EULEX legal and police operation in Kosovo will support the program, which is part of the Integrated Border Management Agreement.

September 26, 2012: Russia once again warned Moldova to end its efforts to join the European Union. Russia has said that it will provide Moldova with cheap natural gas if it curtails political cooperation with the EU.

Greek police broke up a riot in Athens. The police fired tear gas at anti-austerity protestors who were throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks.

September 25, 2012: Albanians in Macedonia’s parliament said that they will attempt to block passage on a proposed law that would give veterans of Macedonia’s 2001 civil war special rights. The law does not provide any special rights and compensation for Albanian rebels. One Macedonian Albanian parliamentarian (a member of the Democratic Union for Integration party) said that his party would conduct a filibuster with marathon speeches.

September 22, 2012: A Turkish civilian court convicted 330 military officers (active and retired) of participating in a plot to topple the government. Another 34 officers were acquitted. Three former senior commanders (Army General Cetin Dogan, Turkish Navy Admiral Ozden Ornek, and former Turkish Air Force commander General Ibrahim Firtina) were among the officers convicted. All three flag officers received sentences of 20 years in prison. The convicted officers were accused of participating in a plot called Operation Sledgehammer. According to prosecutors, Sledgehammer was a military exercise that masked a coup d’etat to overthrow the government run by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).  Sledgehammer was organized in 2003.

 

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