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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Balkans’

UN judges increase sentence for Bosnian ex-leader to life

March 20, 2019
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — United Nations appeals judges on Wednesday upheld the convictions of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and increased his sentence from 40 years to life imprisonment.
Karadzic showed almost no reaction as presiding judge Vagn Joensen of Denmark read out a damning judgment, which means the 73-year-old former Bosnian strongman will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In increasing the sentence, Joensen said Karadzic’s original 40-year sentence “underestimates the extraordinary gravity of Karadzic’s responsibility and his integral participation in the most egregious of crimes.”
Defense lawyer Peter Robinson said Karadzic vowed to fight on to clear his name. “He says that politics triumphed over justice today,” Robinson said. “The appeals chamber whitewashed an unjust trial and an unfair verdict.”
Robinson said Karadzic felt “moral responsibility” for crimes in Bosnia, but did not believe he was criminally responsible. Karadzic had appealed his 2016 convictions for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as his sentence for masterminding atrocities in his country’s devastating 1992-95 war — Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.
The former leader is one of the most senior figures tried by the Hague war crimes court. His case is considered as key in delivering justice for the victims of the conflict, which left over 100,000 people dead and millions homeless.
Joensen said the trial chamber was wrong to impose just a 40-year sentence given what he called the “sheer scale and systematic cruelty” of Karadzic’s crimes. Applause broke out in the public gallery as Joensen passed the new sentence.
Families of victims who traveled to the Hague welcomed the verdict. Mothers of victims, some elderly and walking with canes, wept with apparent relief after watching the ruling read on a screen in Srebrenica.
Bosnian Serb wartime military commander Ratko Mladic was also awaiting an appeal judgment of his genocide and war crimes conviction, which earned him a life sentence. Both men were convicted of genocide for their roles in the slaughter by Serb forces of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnia’s eastern Srebrenica region in July 1995.
Last week, Bosnian war wounds were revived when it was revealed that the white supremacist suspected in the mosque shootings that left at least 50 people dead in New Zealand appeared to show admiration for Karadzic and his legacy. In a video, the self-proclaimed white supremacist is seen driving apparently on his way to the attack and listening to a wartime Bosnian Serb song praising Karadzic and his fight against Bosnia’s Muslims.
Prosecutors had appealed Karadzic’s acquittal on a second count of genocide, which saw Serb forces drive out Muslims and Croats from Serb-controlled villages in a 1992 campaign. Judges on Wednesday rejected that appeal.
At an appeals hearing last year, prosecution lawyer Katrina Gustafson told a five-judge panel that Karadzic “abused his immense power to spill the blood of countless victims. Justice requires that he receive the highest possible sentence — a life sentence.”
Karadzic has always argued that the Bosnian Serb campaigns during the war, which included the bloody siege of the capital, Sarajevo, were aimed at defending Serbs. After his indictment by the tribunal in The Hague, Karadzic remained at large for years before he was arrested in Serbia in 2008 disguised as a new-age therapist.
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Croatia’s top oyster farmers in alarm after norovirus found

March 11, 2019

MALI STON, Croatia (AP) — Oyster farming is the pride of this small town in the south of Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coast. But tasting the famed local delicacy may not be a good idea at the moment. Authorities have detected norovirus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, in parts of the Mali Ston bay — triggering shock and alarm among the breeders.

The traditional oyster-tasting feast in March has been canceled and fears are mounting of huge financial losses to the local community that harvests about 3 million oysters each year. Experts are pointing their fingers at the outdated sewage system in the area that has seen a rise in the numbers of tourists flocking to Croatia’s stunning Adriatic coast.

“I am really sorry but people themselves are to blame that something like this happened,” explained Vlado Onofri from the Institute for Marine and Coastal Research in nearby Dubrovnik. “It’s something that has to be solved in the future.”

While some stomach bugs can be eliminated with cooking, norovirus survives at relatively high temperatures. “The problem with oysters is that they are eaten raw,” Onofri said. Stunned locals pointed out their oysters are famous for high quality — a 1936 award from a London international exhibition still hangs on the wall in Svetan Pejic’s La Koruna restaurant in Mali Ston.

“Our oyster here is really a special oyster … and this is the only place (in the world) where it can be found,” he insisted. “Everyone wants to take our oysters and try to breed them elsewhere.” Navigating the oyster fields in their small boats, the farmers proudly show visitors rows and rows of oyster-filled underwater farm beds spreading through the bay.

Top municipal official Vedran Antunica questioned the assumption that the local sewage system was to blame for the outbreak. “Viruses are everywhere, now as we speak, the air is full of viruses,” Antunica said. “We had the same sewage system in the past, so why wasn’t it (norovirus) recorded? What has changed?”

Bulgarian nationalists march in honor of pro-Nazi general

February 16, 2019

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarian nationalists have marched through Sofia, the country’s capital, to honor a World War II general known for his anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi activities. The annual Lukov March, staged by the far-right Bulgarian National Union, attracted hundreds of dark-clad supporters who walked through downtown Sofia holding torches and Bulgarian flags and chanting nationalist slogans.

It came despite strong condemnation by human rights groups, political parties and foreign embassies. The city mayor had banned the rally but organizers won a court order overturning the ban. A heavy police presence blocked any clashes between nationalists and their opponents.

Ahead of the march, the World Jewish Congress warned about the rise of far-right activities across Europe aimed at promoting anti-Semitism, hatred, xenophobia and Nazi glorification among young people.

“We urge governments across Europe to prioritize the introduction of administrative bans against such marches. This is not just a problem of the Jewish communities, but of European citizens and governments at large,” the organization’s CEO Robert Singer said.

In Sofia, the marchers praised Gen. Hristo Lukov, who had supported Germany during World War II and was killed by an anti-fascist resistance movement on Feb. 13, 1943. The general served as Bulgaria’s war minister from 1935 to 1938, and led the pro-Nazi Germany Union of Bulgarian Legions from 1932 until 1943.

Organizers deny that Lukov was an anti-Semitic fascist or that they are neo-fascists, but claim that the descendants of the murderers of Lukov are afraid of the event. Zvezdomir Andronov, leader of the Bulgarian National Union, says the group’s main objective is “the salvation of the Bulgarian people” from the social and economic crisis the country has been facing for many decades.

Nationalists from other European countries voiced anti-globalist and anti-EU slogans at the march and called on their peers from across the continent to join forces. “We want to get in contact with other nationalists in Europe, as we strongly believe that free, independent countries are very important. We want to regain the power from the globalists — the people who are running the EU, the people who are devastating Europe,” said Per Sjogren of Sweden’s Nordic Resistance Movement.

Road signs replaced to reflect North Macedonia name change

February 14, 2019

SKOPJE, North Macedonia (AP) — It’s official: The Republic of North Macedonia has replaced Republic of Macedonia as part of a historic deal with Greece. The government gazette formally published the name deal Wednesday, opening the way for the renamed country’s accession to NATO and eventually the European Union. The United Nations announced late Wednesday that it had been officially notified that the North Macedonia name agreement with Greece had gone into effect.

As a first practical move, workers were replacing road signs on the border with Greece to reflect the name change, which ends a nearly three decade-long dispute with Greece over use of the term “Macedonia.” Later, the country will change signs at airports and on official buildings, web pages and printed materials.

Vehicle registration plates will also change, while passports and currency will be replaced over the coming years. The dispute dates back to the country’s 1991 declaration of independence from Yugoslavia. Athens argued the name implied claims on the northern Greek province of Macedonia and usurped its ancient Greek heritage. Although more than 130 countries did recognize the country as Macedonia, the United Nations and other international bodies used the cumbersome moniker “Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia,” agreed in an interim accord in 1995.

Hundreds of rounds of United Nations-brokered negotiations floundered until last year, when Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras agreed to a compromise. The deal was has been met with vociferous objections by large sections of the public on both sides of the border, with critics in both countries accusing their respective governments of conceding too much to the other side.

As their country’s new name became a reality, reactions were mixed in Skopje. “I’m glad that we are moving forward. After 30 years of difficulties and isolation, my country has a future,” said Suzana Alcinova Monevska, a 55-year-old meteorologist. “I’m already feeling that with the new name, obstacles are removed. My company has already got many invitations in recent days to participate in EU-sponsored projects.”

But others were angered by the name change. Skopje resident Marinna Stevcevska, 55, said she was “deeply disappointed and emotionally hurt” by the change. “I will not change my passport as long as I can and I’m hoping that something will change to have the old name back,” she said. “I’ve promised to myself that if Macedonia changes its name, I’ll be leaving the country. I’m still thinking where to move.”

Among the first practical steps North Macedonia must now take is to inform the United Nations and all the countries that had previously recognized it as Macedonia that its name has now changed. The country’s customs administration will change all its digital records to reflect the new name within three days, while signs at airports and border crossings will be changed. Vehicle license plates will be changed within four months, while new passports will start being issued at the end of the year.

New currency will also be printed, but not quite yet. North Macedonian authorities say the National Bank will create a plan for the gradual replacement of the currency, with the first new banknotes being drawn up early next year.

Macedonia prepares for name change by removing signs

February 11, 2019

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Authorities in Macedonia have begun removing official signs from government buildings to prepare for its new name: North Macedonia. “Government of the Republic of Macedonia” signs were removed from the country’s main government building early Monday in the capital Skopje.

The small Balkan country will change its name to North Macedonia after reaching a landmark agreement over the summer with neighboring Greece, which has a neighboring province called Macedonia. Macedonia is due to become a NATO member now that Greece’s parliament approved a measure Friday that would allow the country to join the alliance. Previously, Greece had blocked Macedonia’s accession to NATO.

Macedonia will now publish the deal with Greece in its government gazette so that it’s officially enshrined in law.

Macedonia admitted to NATO after resolving Greece dispute

FEB. 6, 2019

By Clyde Hughes

Feb. 6 (UPI) — Macedonia officially signed on Wednesday to become an official member of NATO, after resistance from Greece was settled last month.

Greece had long objected to membership over a dispute with the Macedonia name, which Athens uses for a Greek region in the north. Last month, the two countries settled the dispute when the country agreed to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia. In exchange for the name change, Greece agreed to drop its veto toward Macedonia’s NATO admittance.

The signing allows the Balkan nation to take part in NATO activities as an invitee while the 29 member nations ratify the agreement in their own countries. Macedonia will formally change its name after Greece’s ratification.

“NATO keeps almost one billion citizens across Europe and North America secure and with you joining NATO there will be thirty countries committed to protect each other,” NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“Your accession will bring more stability to the Western Balkans. This is good for the region and for Euro-Atlantic security.”

Macedonia already contributes to NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan and the alliance’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

“This wasn’t inevitable — this wasn’t even very likely to happen,” Macedonia Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov said. “The impossible is actually doable. This is a family that strives to make our world more peaceful and a better place.

“This is a journey that has made us more mature… we have proven that we can assume our responsibility, face a problem, and resolve those problems.”

Macedonia and Greece have squabbled over the name — which has been around since Alexander The Great’s reign in the region during late B.C. — since 1991 when the country broke away from the former Yugoslavia.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/02/06/Macedonia-admitted-to-NATO-after-resolving-Greece-dispute/6431549457608/.

Macedonian PM: Greece’s turn to make history with name deal

January 12, 2019

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Macedonia’s prime minister says he expects Greece’s parliament to do its part and ratify the deal changing his country’s name to North Macedonia so it can soon join NATO. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told reporters in the capital of Skopje on Saturday that he expects neighboring Greece to be the first country to sign the accession protocol for Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th member.

NATO formally invited Macedonia to join the military alliance in 2008, but Greece vetoed the move, claiming that Macedonia’s name implies territorial aspirations toward Greece’s northern province with the same name as well as appropriating Greece’s historical heritage.

Zaev said that Macedonian lawmakers had “made history” Friday with their decision to back the constitutional changes associated with the name change. “I know how difficult that was … we are putting the bitterness in the past and we are looking now proudly to the future,” Zaev said.

He said he now expects Greece’s parliament to convene and do the same, and unblock Macedonia’s NATO membership. Zaev said that Greece has “got a new friend now North Macedonia,” adding that he hopes the two nations will build up trust and open “many new windows” for cooperation.

But in Greece, the upcoming parliamentary vote on the name change ratification has frayed relations between Greece’s coalition partners. Greek defense Minister Panos Kammenos, leader of the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party, is vehemently opposed to the deal. He has repeatedly threatened to pull his lawmakers out of the government, although he has sent mixed signals on whether he will bring down the government in a vote of confidence.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Kammenos will meet Sunday morning to discuss their differences. A Greek government spokeswoman told The Associated Press that by Monday, or at least later in the week, the timeline for ratification will be clearer. The vote could possibly even take place this month, unless a confidence motion, invoked either by Tsipras or by the opposition New Democracy party, is discussed first.

Several lawmakers from small center-left parties, as well as at least two from Kammenos’ party, have indicated they are ready to vote for the name deal. Tsipras, who has the unquestioned backing of the 145-strong Syriza parliamentary group, has repeatedly expressed certainty that he will find the 151 votes to ensure ratification of the name deal by a majority in the 300-member Parliament.

The Macedonian parliament’s ratification has been hailed by several foreign leaders, including NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Adding his congratulations late Friday, was Matthew Nimetz, the U.N. Secretary-General’s personal envoy on the name dispute since 1999, saying that the agreement paves the way for “a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans.”

“I wish to congratulate the (Macedonian) parliament and the country’s citizens for this accomplishment and for the democratic manner in which this important process was undertaken,” he said.

Nellas reported from Athens, Greece.

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