No participation of 8 ethnic groups including "Omonia"
Minority groups in Serbia are preparing to boycott the country’s census due to disagreements over the ethnicity of data collectors and the language the census forms have been written in.
Ethnic Albanians in South Serbia and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) from the southwestern region of Sandzak, are set to boycott the population count when it commences tomorrow until its scheduled completion date on 15 October.
Leaders of ethnic Albanians, which make up over 60,000 out of the seven-million-strong population in Serbia, have made a joint declaration calling for the boycott of the census.
“Two formal reasons for the boycott are the fact that questions are in Serbian and Cyrillic and the fact that there is no reciprocity among Serbian and Albanian data collectors,” Riza Halimi, the only ethnic Albanian leader in the Serbian parliament, told Balkan Insight.
With the latter point, Halimi was referring to the pact that only eight of the 22 data collectors expected to conduct the census in Bujanovac, a southern town, would be ethnic Albanians.
Meanwhile, the biggest Bosniak party in Serbia, the Bosniak Cultural Community, BNV, led by radical mufti Muamer Zukorlic, has called upon its supporters to also refrain from taking part in the census.
"Language is one reason and the other one is our previous experience with [the] 2002 census and Belgrade falsifying data in order to decrease [the] number of Bosniaks," Samir Tandir from the BNV, told Balkan Insight.
A statement issued by the Serbian Statistical Office said that a computer program for processing statistical data could work only with one language.
The Office has also printed all the forms in the languages of minorities, English and Latin alphabet for the data collectors in order to "facilitate communication between citizens and enumerators in multiethnic communities."
The Law on Population Census envisages a fine of 20,000 to 50,000 dinars (about €200-500) for anyone who refuses to answer questions or provides incomplete data.
The head count in Serbia was originally supposed to take place in April 2011 but was delayed by six months due to a lack of funding. The survey will be partially funded by the EU.
The last population census was carried out in 2002.
BELGRADE -- Serbian President Boris Tadić’s office denied Thursday that the president and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed partition of Kosovo last week.
Belgrade-based daily Danas wrote in its online edition, quoting diplomatic sources, that Clinton believed the meeting was without content, and that she did not hear anything new which would convince her Belgrade was still not playing the “Kosovo partition card”.
"Clinton expected to find out about some new plan or initiative for Kosovo from Tadić, but she heard only what she already knew, including the story about efforts for Serbia's European integration and excellent relations with the U.S., with 'red lines' in Kosovo, which Belgrade cannot cross," Danas wrote, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.
“These are complete fabrications,” Tanjug was told by Tadić's office.
"There was no talk of any partition of Kosovo at the meeting of the Serbian president and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York," said the office, adding all other claims from unnamed sources were also untrue.
Albania’s Foreign Ministry says Belgrade is responsible for recent violent clashes between local Serbs and NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo’s volatile north.
|KFOR soldier stands guard at Kosovo roadblock | Photo by : FONET|
Albania is “following with particular concern the repeated violence [instigated] by Serbia’s parallel structures and criminal organizations in Northern Kosovo against KFOR troops close to the border crossings,” the Albanian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
“[We] strongly back the extension of the sovereignty and rule of law from the government of the Republic of Kosovo over all its territory with the support of NATO and EULEX [the EU rule of law mission],” the statement added.
Northern Kosovo, which borders Serbia, has long been prone to bursts of violence. Its population, which is almost entirely Serbian, does not recognise Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence or the ethnic Albanian-led government in Pristina.
While officially part of Kosovo, it is under the de facto control of so-called parallel institutions funded by Serbia.
These parallel institutions include decision-making bodies such as town councils and mayors.
From its declaration of independence in 2008 until the middle of July this year, northern Kosovo's two border points had been manned only by the international rule-of-law mission, EULEX. However, on 25 July the Kosovo government deployed a number of its special police to these two checkpoints to enforce a recent trade ban on goods entering the country from Serbia.
The presence of Kosovo police officers in northern Kosovo caused friction and a short-term burst of violence erupted. One police officer was killed, one checkpoint was burned down and a significant diplomatic effort ensued with more peacekeeping troops being deployed to the area to restore peace.
“The violence against KFOR troops, the attack on three Albanians in Mitrovica, destructive declarations and the obstruction of the technical dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels are a not a way forward for the European Integration,” Albania’s Foreign Ministry said.
“The dismantlement of the parallel structures and criminal organizations that produce instability and insecurity in this part of the Balkans are a duty and responsibility of Serbia on its road to the EU,” it concluded.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is paying an official visit to Skopje, aimed at closening the already warm political and economic links between the two countries.
Erdogan was greeted by his Macedonian counterpart, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, at Skopje airport where they held bilateral talks.
The two leaders viewed the recently launched new passenger terminal, part of a 200 million euro investment by Turkey's TAV holdings, which runs Macedonia’s two civil airports.
“At the moment there are around 100 Turkish investors in Macedonia but we would like to see that number grow,” Erdogan told a press conference in Skopje.
The hopes are that this year’s trade exchange between the two countries will amount to some 300 million euros, which would be 30 per cent up on last year.
Both Erdogan and Gruevski stressed that the potential for the future is much greater.
The Turkish leader will also meet President Gjorge Ivanov, Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski, and Ali Ahmeti, head of the ethnic Albanian junior ruling party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.
Gruevski thanked his guest for Turkey’s continuous support for Macedonia’s bid to become a member of NATO, as well as Turkey's support for Macedonia in the bilateral name dispute with Greece.
Greece has prevented Macedonia from joining NATO, arguing that use of the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim towards the northern Greek province of the same name.
In the early 1990s, Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Macedonia under its chosen name.
Since then Turkey has become one of Macedonia's most important regional political and economic partners - and a vocal supporter of Macedonia’s NATO entry.
The exceptionally warm ties were additionally strengthened in 2008 with a treaty for strategic partnership.
Over 70,000 Turks live in Macedonia according to the last census in 2001.
Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, accompanied by a number of Cabinet ministers, is set to visit Ankara late October or early November.
Despite regional tensions over a Greek Cypriot gas drilling operation in the Mediterranean, the prime ministers of Turkey and Greece have expressed commitments to push ahead with bilateral cooperation talks planned for the coming weeks.
The Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs of the Ministry of Defense of Israel, the most important security adviser in Israel, comes to Athens to meet with the leadership of the Greek MoD.
This visit, with the tension rising in Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey provoking Israel, Cyprus and Greece, cannot be considered accidental.
The contacts Mr.Gilad had so far with Greek officials in Greece and Israel, have left the best impressions on the Greek side, primarily because of the level of information on issues of interest to Greece. This knowledge is very useful during this period.
Mr.Gilad’s latest statements about Turkey are indicative: “Turkey has a lot to lose with an extremist policy.”
The island of Limnos is protesting against its inclusion in a new video game called ‘ARMA III’.
The inhabitants and local authorities of the island claim that the video game is harming its reputation as a peaceful place and constitutes a security threat to the island by exposing its terrain in high-definition, a newspaper reported on Monday.
“We cannot fathom that our island, a place of peace and creation, will be turned into a scene for violence and battle,” Limnos Mayor Antonis Hatzidiamantis told Eleftherotypia daily.
‘Arma 3’ was designed by award-winning Czech developers and in one of its levels a scenario is being played, where NATO Special Forces must destroy an enemy factory, which is actually the local factory of PPC (DEI).
The island lies close to Turkey and this could mean possible national security problems, another official said.
“There are national reasons to keep certain areas on the island secure but (in the game) they are shown in high-definition,” said Kostas Adamidis, head of the local municipal council.
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey is using its navy and air force to escort a ship conducting oil and gas exploration off Cyprus, an official said Tuesday, in the latest development in a disagreement over the ownership of the disputed island nation’s natural resources.
Cyprus is divided into the Republic of Cyprus, in the south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north which is recognised only by Turkey. The Cypriot government began exploratory drilling for oil and gas last week, prompting strong protests from Turkey, which alone doesn’t recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.
In response, Turkey signed an oil and gas exploration deal with the illegal government of the occupied north and sent a Turkish research ship to the Mediterranean to start exploration.
“We will try all channels of peace, but we will also protect our country’s interests until the end,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said Tuesday at an unrelated ceremony to mark the delivery of the first Turkish-made corvette warship to the navy.............http://www.defencegreece.com/index.php/2011/09/turkish-ship-begins-oil-exploration-off-cyprus/
BELGRADE -- Serbian President Boris Tadić has expressed concern over the latest clashes and deterioration of the situation in northern Kosovo.
He called on Kosovo Serbs to restrain themselves and be peaceful.
The president has strongly condemned use of force and called for calming of the situation because preservation of peace and dialogue were the only way to solve problems.
He added that the international forces were there to protect unarmed citizens and not to clash with them.
“I call on maximal restraint of KFOR,” Tadić stressed.
He repeated that KFOR troops needed to be status neutral and that they must not use force against citizens, adding that Kosovo Serbs needed to remain calm and to avoid reacting to provocations.
“Not a single problem can be solved with violence and endangering of human lives does not contribute to protection of our interests. Human lives are the ultimate value and they need to be protected,” the Serbian president concluded.
The start of the controversial population census in Albania is approaching (1 October) and the climate remains tense because of the Albanian provocations against the Greek minority living in the country.
The Northern Epirots are in difficult position, after receiving more provocations, not to declare their religion and Greek ethnicity. The Albanians aim at the greatest possible reduction of the power of the Greek minority.
However on such an important national issue, it seems that the Greek minority is divided. On the one hand there are those who say that everyone should participate in the census and declare without fear their Greek nationality and Orthodox religion.
“Only this will give a definitive answer to … the tricks of the Albanians’, they say. Please note that the Albanians have announced even penalties for those that will not declare Albanian ethnicity, creating strong reactions to minority populations.
On the other hand, the organization of the Greek national minority “Omonia” has expressed the view that Northern Epirots should not participate in the census, because this census will not be based on international standards.
Omonia announced yesterday that it will hold an event in Hotel Divani Caravel, on October 2, at 11 am. Omonia will inform the expatriates, “about the reasons for non participation in the census. We will denounce the parody of this proceeding and we will report the continuing provocative violations of our rights by the Albanian government ” as it is stressed on the announcement.
“What to do?”
So, many are wondering what to do eventually. “Participate in the census, or not?” they ask.
The anxiety is aggravated by the fact that the other Greek party, MEGAN, and virtually all other organizations (Associations, Fellowships) of Northern Epirots have not decided about what ultimately the Greeks must do!
Moreover, the Greek government’s position on the issue remains unknown! Despite the constant exhortations of parties of the opposition- from Nea Dimokratia mostly – to the government to express its position on the census, the government remains “silent”, something that certainly does not help Northern Epirots.
“Just a few days before the census and there is not a common and unanimous effort” say many Northern Epirots who live in Ioannina.
They also stress, that all expatriate organizations, in cooperation with the Greek Government must immediately determine the attitude against the census, whatever might that be as long as everybody will follow it.
Otherwise, if this confusion, that now prevails, continues, “there is a danger that Greeks will be counted as fewer than what they really are, allowing the Albanians to redouble their efforts to shrink our strength.”
Please note that Northern Epirots, according to estimates are around 400,000.
Not credible …
The report states that there are no credible statistics on religious stratification in the country, since the last census in such a subject was done in 1939! The issue of religion is directly related to the population census and, as the reliable website borioipirotika.blogspot.com wrote, it has to do “with the objections of the Muslims not to record the religious strata of the Albanian society.”
The Americans see positively, that the great Cathedral of the Resurrection in Tirana is under construction, but they are worried because no land and permission was given for the erection of the cathedral in Vlora as they consider rightful the request of the Church to grant land. Please note, that the Cathedral of Gjirokaster is built, but with many obstacles from the Albanians.
PANEPIROTIC FEDERATION OF AMERICA
P.O BOX 20314
WORCESTER, MA 01602
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PANEPIROTIC FEDERATION OF AMERICA RAISES ALARM IN U.S.
ON ALBANIAN CENSUS
The Panepirotic Federation of America is urging the United States to take measures to ensure that next month’s census in Albania, which will count ethnic and religious minorities for the first time in decades, is conducted without manipulation, harassment or intimidation.
Earlier this year, the Albanian parliament passed a law stating that a fine of $1,000 will be levied on those who declare an ethnicity in the census that was not previously registered on their family records. This law violates the human rights of Albanian citizens, and the Albanian Constitution and international law, which state that individuals have the right to declare any ethnic identity to which they feel they belong.
This law is a direct attack on the ethnic Greek minority and their basic human rights. During communist rule, members of minority groups in Albania often abstained from officially declaring an ethnic or religious identity out of fear of government reprisal. Now that the opportunity has arrived for the citizens of Albania to freely state their identity, the Albanian government is reverting to its old ways. Ethnic Greeks again have reason to fear openly and officially stating their identity.
As proud Greek-Americans, the Panepirotic Federation of America condemns these actions. The ethnic Greek minority in Albania has faced prejudice for many years. The Albanian government has closed Greek schools, prohibited the teaching of the Greek language, confiscated private land and homes of Greeks, and stolen property of the Orthodox Church. Now the Albanian government seeks to extinguish the Greek identity.
The Panepirotic Federation of America implores Washington to have its representatives in Albania issue statements assuring the country’s citizens that they may declare their ethnic and religious affiliations without fear of reprisals, including the payment of fines.
Demetrios Koutoulas Father Kosmas Karavellas Theodore Retzios
President Head chairman Co- ChairPanepirotic Federation Northern Epirus Issues
Socialist leader Edi Rama on Friday outlined his shopping list of conditions for rebuilding a political consensus in the country and resolving a two-year divisive political stalemate
|Edi Rama | Photo courtesy of the Socialist Party|
Underlining the opposition’s vital role in passing reforms that require more than a simple parliamentary majority, Rama said a possible political agreement would speed up Albania’s EU integration process.
His proposal includes new rules and procedures for MPs in the assembly and the creation of a new commission for the institutional reform of parliament.
The Socialists also want the signing of an agreement between political parties to complete electoral reform before March 2013, based on the recommendations of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The proposal also includes the selection though consensus of a series of high state officials, such as a new governor of the central bank, the ombudsman, and the director of the High State Auditing Office.
The Socialists also call for the creation of parliamentary commission to discuss an amendment to the constitution remving top officials' immunity from prosecution.
Rama also said the agreement would include a joint request by both main parties to the prosecutor’s office to probe the deaths of four protestors during the January 21 anti-government riots, and a request for prosecutors to question all officials that are described as corrupt or tied to organized crime in the US secret memos released by WikiLeaks.
The opposition leader also said that they would request a new media law, which would put a stop to political pressures and create political balance on the board of directors of Albania’s state television.
Its unclear what the response of the government will be to the opposition’s proposal. The Socialists and the Democrats, Albania’s main political parties, have been at loggerheads with each other ever since the 2009 disputed parliamentary elections.
NEW YORK -- Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha said in his speech at the UN General Assembly that Dick Marty’s report on human organ trafficking was a “fiction”.
He tried to explain that the crisis in northern Kosovo had occurred because criminals were resisting Priština's alleged attempt to introduce the rule of law.
The Albanian prime minister almost idyllically described the situation in Kosovo. He said that it was a place with the highest standards in protection of freedom and minority rights in the region, where the Serbian cultural heritage was more protected than ever.
“The biggest problem for Kosovo Serbs today is that tensions were caused and orchestrated with a nationalist aim. The only threat they are facing is the fact that they are means of goals from the bitter past that must never return,” Berisha said.
He claimed that Priština’s attempt to take over the checkpoints in northern Kosovo was in accordance with the agreements reached during the dialogue in Brussels, adding that the Priština authorities did not want anything else but to establish a constitutional order on its sovereign territory.
“The effort, however, caused a strong resistance of criminal groups and organized gangs,” he pointed out.
According to him, parallel structures financed by Belgrade have turned three Serb communities north of Kosovska Mitrovica into a safe haven for organized crime and all kinds of smuggling.
“Belgrade’s efforts to keep the parallel structures in those three communities show that it still believes in the change of borders in our region based on a failed and long outdated idea of ethnic clean territories of Greater Serbia,” Berisha said in his speech.
Pointing out that respect of the existing borders in the Balkans was a fundamental condition for permanent peace and stability, the Albanian president called on the UN members to recognize unilaterally declared independence of the southern Serbian province.
Kosovo, according to him, represents a significant factor of peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
Berisha said that Marty’s report on human organ trafficking represented an attempt to draw the attention from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was not against the international law.
He stressed that the report reminded him of Agatha Christie’s novels and that it was in fact a copy of Serbian War Crime Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević’s report.
“The report is fiction and its only purpose is to divert attention from the International Court of Justice's decision in favor of Kosovo's independence,“ the Albanian official stressed.
He confirmed, however, that Albania had officially called on EULEX to conduct the human organ trade investigation in its territory as well.
Bulgaria has granted citizenship to 11 441 people since the beginning of 2011 until mid-September.
Meanwhile, 125 individuals have given up on their Bulgarian passports.
The data comes from the Justice Ministry. The fastest processing of the applications for citizenship has been declared a priority by the cabinet of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, party after it took office in the summer of 2009.
The frontrunner of the initiative was the Minister without Portfolio for Bulgarians Abroad, Bozhidar Dimitrov, who later resigned, but a record number of applications were approved in 2010 under his leadership – nearly 15 000 compared to 9 000 in 2009 and 7 113 in 2008 with the trend continuing in 2011, according to the data.
The most passports in 2011 have been granted to people with Bulgarian origins – 5 533 from Macedonia and 1 593 from Moldova. 26 passports were given for important contributions to Bulgaria in the public and economic sector, science, technology, culture and sports; 9 competitors and coaches have also received Bulgarian citizenship, compared to 32 and 21 respectively in 2010.
In 2011, 78 people became Bulgarian citizens under general naturalization which includes marriage with a Bulgarian while 352 have reinstated their Bulgarian citizenship, compared to just 78 in 2010. 19 people have given up their Bulgarian passports in 2011, compared to 125 last year.
A total of 16 271 applications have been processed and 4 514 have been rejected with the main and most common reason being false documents.
From January 1, 2002, until June 30, 2011, Bulgaria has received 127 006 citizenship applications and has granted passports to 68 539, according to data from the President's Office – mainly to people from Bulgarian origins or having at least one Bulgarian parent - 35808 from Macedonia, 18 646 from Moldova, 3 318 from Serbia, 2 733 from Russia, 2 526 from the Ukraine, 2 081 from Israel, 1128 from Albania.
Talking on the Athens 9,84 radio station, vice president Theodoros Pangalos said no to early elections but yes to a coalition government made up of the two major political parties.
“Elections should be held within the time frame provided for by the constitution, which is every four years. Traditionally, and on principle if you will, I am an enemy of early elections", he said.
But he welcomed the possibility of a PASOK-New Democracy coalition government, due to the crisis in the country, and seemed positive towards "a government that will result from the support of both parties. I'm not saying whether it will be the same persons, how they would regulate their relations, and the correlations of powers. This issue is not my concern. I'm not the leader of my party and obviously all the elected members of the party will express their opinion, including the Bureau of the Parliamentary Group, the PASOK Political Council etc., as well as their New Democracy counterparts."
He clarified that he prefers the exhaustion of the four years to "having someone else, about whom we know nothing beyond generalities, who says 'I'll do other or better things', and vote upon this basis, solely motivated by the current discontent and pressure on public opinion."