Balkans: Violence Grows Against Corruption and Tyrants

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July 18, 2013: NATO has declared that the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) has attained full operational capability. The KSF, which is armed with light infantry weapons, is trained to conduct civil protection operations and assist in responding to natural disasters. Civil protection operations are defined as non-military security operations for which local and national police are not appropriate. These include ordnance disposal, search and rescue operations, handling and clearing hazardous materials (eg, mines), and fire-fighting. The KSF has 2,200 personnel.

July 17, 2013: For 35 straight days Bulgarian demonstrators have conducted anti-government protests in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia. The demonstrators insist that the government is corrupt and must resign. Many are calling the protests the Ostavka (“resign” in Bulgarian) movement. The government is worried that the protests will become violent. Meanwhile, the former ruling party, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) has demanded new elections.

Anti-austerity demonstrators in Athens, Greece protested a government decision to lay-off an additional 4,000 state workers.

Gunfire from a skirmish between Syrian rebels and pro-Assad regime Kurdish fighters killed a Turkish teenager and wounded two other Turkish civilians. The Turkish citizens were in Turkish territory and the firefight occurred on the Syrian side of the border. The Turkish Army retaliated by firing on the Syrian rebels and pro-government militiamen.

July 16, 2013: An estimated 16,000 Greek workers participated in a general strike in Athens. Union leaders called the strike to protest another round of government budget cuts.

July 13, 2013: Greece continues to block Macedonia’s bid to join NATO. The U.S. State Department recently issued a report discussing Macedonia’s desire to join NATO. The report noted that in 2008, NATO determined that Macedonia met membership requirements. NATO said at the time that Macedonia would receive an official invite once the name dispute with Greece was resolved. Greece insists that Macedonia must call itself the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Macedonia refuses to do so, preferring the Republic of Macedonia.

July 11, 2013: The IMF said that Greece will not need another loan until July 2014. On July 8th, Greece received a loan of almost nine billion dollars from other euro-zone countries.

Kosovo’s government announced that it will give amnesty to Kosovar Serbs who rebelled against the Kosovar Albanian government’s unilateral declaration of independence in 2008. The pardon is part of a complex diplomatic deal brokered by the EU.

July 10, 2013: Greece’s public television channel, ERT, returned to the airwaves.  The government had shut down the service to save money. The decision was widely criticized in Greece. The return of ERT shows just how hard it is to cut the national budget.

Turkey reported that a college student who was hurt in a riot last month has died from his injuries. That brings the death toll to five in the Taksim Square/Gezi Park movement protests. Approximately 8,000 demonstrators have sustained injuries out of an estimated 2.5 million Turks who have participated in the protests.

July 6, 2013: The Council of Europe may conduct an investigation into allegations of police brutality and excessive use of force against Taksim Square/Gezi Park movement demonstrators by Turkish security agencies.

July 5, 2013: The Turkish government claimed that agents of foreign countries have helped orchestrate some of the anti-government protests in Turkey.

July 3, 2013: The European Union said that it is prepared to open accession discussions with Serbia. The accession talks would begin in January 2014. The offer is a political reward for Serbia. Meanwhile, Serbia and Kosovo have conducted a series of direct negotiations and have reached several bilateral agreements, to include exchanging liaison officers to facilitate further talks. The EU will also begin accession talks with Kosovo. Discussions with both Serbia and Kosovo raise many diplomatic issues. For example, five EU members do not recognize Kosovo’s independence: Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Spain.

July 1. 2013: Croatia became the European Union's 28th member on July 1st, and it’s roughly 1,400 km of land border with non-EU neighbors Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro will become the bloc's new external frontier.

June 27, 2013: The government of Turkey continues to spar with both Facebook and Twitter. Now the government has asked Twitter to establish a business office in Turkey so that the government can directly express its concerns to Twitter corporate officials. The government said that both Facebook and Twitter have been used as media for organizing illegal demonstrations.

Several hundred demonstrators protested in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. The demonstrators barricaded a main street and chanted anti-government slogans. A spokesman said the protest was organized to show that the anti-government demonstrations, which began in Istanbul in late May, have not disappeared.

June 26, 2013: Albania’s opposition Socialist coalition has claimed it will control 84 of the parliament’s 140 seats. This means the Socialists have defeated prime minister Sali Berisha and his Albanian Democrat party and will form Albania’s next government. Election officials confirmed that the Socialists would win a majority of the seats. The election was held June 23rd.

June 24, 2013: Protestors in the Bulgarian capital have held eleven straight days of demonstrations. The protesters are objecting to the government’s nominee to head Bulgaria’s intelligence agency, the National Security Agency (DANS). Many Bulgarians believe the nominee is corrupt. The demonstrations have consistently drawn crowds of 7,000 to 10,000 protesters. Several protesters have declared that they are fighting against Bulgaria’s corrupt political class (sometimes called the oligarchy).

June 25, 2013: Greece’s governing coalition reshuffled the cabinet after the coalition’s junior partner, the Democratic Left party, quit the coalition. The Democratic Left quit to protest the government’s decision to close down Greece’s public broadcast system, ERT.

June 22, 2013: Turkish riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse several thousand protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The demonstrators were protesting the police crackdown on demonstrators in Gezi Park which took place on June 16th. The demonstrators also claimed that the riot police fired rubber bullets at the crowd and injured ten people with the bullets.

June 21, 2013: Turkey announced that the court hearing the Ergenekon conspiracy trial will announce verdicts on August 5th. The trial has been going on for five years and many Turks believe it is a government vendetta against the military.

June 17, 2013: Serbia and Kosovo have officially exchanged envoys. The envoys, however, are not called ambassadors. Both countries refer to them as liaison officers.

Turkish riot police used water cannons to disperse 1,000 trade union workers who were demonstrating in Turkey’s capital, Ankara.  The government announced that over 440 people had been arrested in Istanbul for being involved in a violent demonstration which led to a violent clash with the police on June 16th.

June 16, 2013: Turkish riot police clashed with demonstrators in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The police ordered demonstrators to leave the park and many refused. The police then forcibly evicted the demonstrators. According to reports, many demonstrators fought with the police. Several hundred demonstrators were arrested.

June 14, 2013: The Greek government, responding to intense criticism of its decision to shut down the public broadcasting system, said that it was considering hiring a small number of people to run a public broadcast news operation.

The Turkish government announced that it would not begin redevelopment of Gezi Park in Istanbul until a court ruled on the legal challenges to the development project. This is a major concession by the government.

June 13, 2013: An estimated 13,000 demonstrators in Athens protested the Greek government’s decision to shut down the ERT public television and radio broadcast service. The government said the service cost too much to run. This is true of most government operations, which are full of unneeded (except by politicians) patronage employees and corrupt deals with politically connected suppliers.

The Turkish government told demonstrators in Istanbul that they were being given a final warning. They must evacuate Gezi Park or the police will throw them out of the park.

June 11, 2013: The government shut down Greece’s public television and radio channels (ERT). The government said austerity budget requirements took precedent over maintaining the service. ERT employs some 2,200 people.

Turkish riot police broke up barricades erected by demonstrators in Istanbul's Taksim Square.

June 10, 2013: The government of Cyprus said that it is developing a new contingency plan in case a major war erupts in the Middle East. The government believes that a new Middle Eastern crisis will lead to a mass evacuation of civilians and many of them will come to Cyprus.

June 9, 2013: For the tenth day in a row, Turkish citizens continue to protest against the government (and in particular prime minister Erdogan). Riot police in Ankara used water cannons and tear gas to disperse several thousand demonstrators. Erdogan has demanded that the protests end and today, he said his patience with the protests has a limit. Protesters nation-wide are angry with what they perceive as increasingly authoritarian behavior by Erdogan.

 

 

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