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Croatian police raids unearth classified files

2009-12-10 08:42 PM

Croatia's police say they have discovered classified documents and maps during house searches for wartime files requested by the U.N. war crimes prosecutors.

The Wednesday and Thursday raids were aimed at finding records of Croatian army's attacks on Serb rebels' strongholds in 1995. The U.N. court is seeking the documents for its ongoing war crimes trial of three Croatian generals.

Police official Krunoslav Borovec said authorities found the documents and maps during raids on some 20 houses but it was not clear if those were the file sought by the U.N. prosecutors.

Croatian media say police searched homes of former military and police officials and have questioned a lawyer for one of the generals on trial.

Signature of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Cyprus and UNITAID

- 10/12/2009

A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed tomorrow Friday 11 December 2009, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 11.00 am, between the Republic of Cyprus and UNITAID.

The Memorandum will be signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chairman of the Executive Board of UNITAID, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Mr. Philippe Douste-Blazy as well as by the Executive Secretary of UNITAID, Mr. Jorge Bermudez.

By signing the Memorandum, Cyprus will be actively participating in UNITAID with a contribution of 2,5 million euros over a six (6) year period.

UNITAID is an international innovative financing mechanism, set up to accelerate the treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries. Founded in 2006 by the governments of Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom, it aims at creating ‘healthy markets for medicines’ which will facilitate access to drugs and treatments in developing countries.

By joining UNITAID the Republic of Cyprus reiterates its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and actively contributes to international efforts to address current global development challenges.

Crisis-hit Greece scrambles for measures 

Published: Thursday 10 December 2009   

Two months after coming to power pledging to revive the economy, Greek socialists face pressure from the markets to give up generous pre-election handout pledges amid violent street protests over possible austerity measures.


Plagued with a sharp economic slowdown, scandals and violence, recent forest fires further weakened the centre-right government of Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, who was forced last August to call for snap elections (EurActiv 03/09/09). 

On 4 October, Greece's Socialists won a landslide election victory on promises they would tax and spend to battle an economic crisis that the incumbent conservatives failed to get to grips with (EurActiv 05/10/09). 

In a clash between heirs of famous political dynasties, socialist PASOK leader George Papandreou defeated outgoing Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis at the third attempt, having lost the last two elections in 2004 and 2007. 

Prime Minister George Papandreou, who won 4 October elections vowing to tax the rich and help the poor, assured EU allies and investors that the euro zone's weakest member would cope with a financial crisis hitting its markets but fell short of spelling out the unpopular measures needed. 

"The criminal policies of the previous government have led us to an unprecedented dead end," Papandreou told a cabinet meeting, setting the scene for a difficult road ahead. "We are determined to do whatever it takes to control the huge deficit." 

With 160 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, he has a solid majority to back hard policies but analysts say his government is walking a tightrope. Going back on election promises would fuel long-lingering public anger, strikes and crippling street protests that would undermine its mandate. 

Revised figures showed the defeated conservatives had under-reported huge deficits. Greece, in fact, had been in recession for the whole year, the first time since 1993, with its key tourism and shipping sectors hit by the global crisis. 

The bad fiscal news led to downgrades of Greece's debt and concerns it may not be able to raise money to pay for pensions and public salaries. EU partners told the socialists they had no choice but to take tough measures, like Ireland. 

"Markets are not giving the new Papandreou government the time it asked for," political commentator Antonis Karakousis wrote in the prestigious To Vima daily. "The change must take place now, while there is still time." 

Papandreou had promised to bring about deep changes in the public sector in his first 100 days in office, cutting waste and pumping those funds into his 'green growth' plan, but the extent of the crisis took the socialists by surprise. 

Tough measures needed 

On Tuesday, Fitch ratings downgraded Greek debt to a 'B' rating for the first time in 10 years, hitting Greek stock and bond markets, and leading to fears that it may have to resort to the IMF, a scenario denied by both the government and the EU. 

It cited concerns about deficits and a debt burden that would come to over 120% of GDP in 2010, surpassing Italy's for the first time in years. Agencies and EU partners remained unconvinced Greece could meet its 2010 budget deficit target of 9.1% of GDP without extra measures. 

Although the government said it would submit to the EU an additional budget if needed next year, it did not spell out extra fiscal moves, fearing a political backlash. 

"There is a general belief that public spending is inelastic but I believe there is room for cuts if one works hard to find them," said Gikas Hardouvelis, professor of finance at Piraeus University. "For example, if one looks at overtime pay in the public sector." 

EU ministers have warned Greece should expect no bailout from Brussels and EU pressure could help sell a restive Greek public, which took to the streets several times this month over political and labour issues, the austerity measures needed. 

"What is the government waiting for? Why does it not take the brave decisions," said the conservative Kathimerini daily in its main editorial. "In a few more weeks, it will be forced to both take stricter measures and assume the responsibility for a crisis not of its own making."

PM calls for party leaders meeting on corruption


Prime minister George Papandreou on Thursday asked President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias to convene a meeting of the political party leaders to discuss combating the problem of corruption, during a visit to Papoulias at the Presidential Mansion.

    Papandreou told reporters after the more than one-hour meeting with the President that he briefed Papoulias on the hard times Greece was facing, and also on the decisions and initiatives he intends to take, the first being the commencement of a broad dialogue with the social partners and society in order to create a large alliance of social forces for the advancement of major changes needed on the country's chronic problems, and especially in the operation of the state.

    The premier noted that the Greek economy has its own peculiarities, while its main problems were a lack of transparency, widespread corruption and clientelistic practices and perception that prevailed in recent years, which have resulted in wasteful spending of substantial resources of the Greek people, and lawlessness, which in turn resulted in widespread contribution evasion and tax evasion.

    "I asked of the President of the Republic -- and he agreed -- to convene, under his chairmanship, a meeting of the leaders of all the political parties, precisely for the purpose of rallying together in the fight against corruption, in the fight for transparency and the proper operation of the state, with a correct and fair taxation system that will be adhered to by every Greek citizen," Papandreou said, adding that, with such actions, "we can send a resounding message internationally that we are determined, as a country, to forge ahead, put order in our economy, to create the prospect for a different kind of growth, on that will give hope and prospects to each and every citizen," Papandreou said.

Greece's fate a joint euro zone responsibility-Merkel

2009-12-10 13:55:49 GMT (Reuters)

BONN, Germany, Dec 10 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed solidarity with Greece over its debt problems on Thursday, saying countries in the euro zone had a collective responsibility for the country's fate.

She did not say what common responsibility would mean in terms of any action over Athens' difficulties, but said the subject would be discussed at a summit of European Union leaders later on Thursday in Brussels.

"What happens in one member state affects all others, especially as we have a common currency, which means we have a common responsibility," Merkel told a news conference.

Greek debt and stock prices have taken a beating after a downgrade from rating agency Fitch this week because of the country's huge budget deficit and public debt.

The 10-year Greek/German yield spread , which earlier blew out to 267 basis points -- the widest since April -- tightened to 232 bps on Thursday.

"I am certain that we will discuss the situation of Greece at our meeting later this afternoon. I talked about the Stability and Growth Pact during my speech and this is what we are using as a basis," Merkel told reporters after addressing centre-right party leaders in Bonn before the EU summit.

The Stability and Growth Pact is a set of EU rules limiting government deficits to 3 percent of GDP and debt to 60 percent of GDP. The executive European Commission sees the Greek budget deficit at 12.7 percent this year and debt at 112.6 percent.

To put its public finances on a sustainable path, Athens needs to launch structural reforms, primarily of its pension system, as it faces one of the biggest fiscal challenges in Europe from the ageing of its population.

Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Tuesday the government would submit such a bill to parliament in the summer, but some economists expect strong public opposition to such reforms.

Yet without reforms Greece is unlikely to be unable to respect the EU budget rules, which were designed to limit government borrowing and underpin the common euro currency.

In her speech to centre-right party leaders Merkel said a key question for the EU was the tenuous relationship between national social policies and the uniform European economic and monetary policy.

"If, for example, there are problems with the Stability and Growth Pact in one country and it can only be solved by having social reforms carried out in this country, then of course the question arises, what influence does Europe have on national parliaments to see to it that Europe is not stopped," Merkel said.

"This is going to be a very difficult task because of course national parliaments certainly don't wish to be told what to do. We must be aware of such problems in the next few years."'s-fate-a-joint-euro-zone-responsibility-merkel-106750

Trichet Confident of Greece Steps

DECEMBER 10, 2009, 4:05 A.M. ET

FRANKFURT -- European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet is confident that debt-laden Greece will take needed and "courageous" action following the loss of its A credit rating.

"Given the severity of the situation, I am confident that the Greek government will take the necessary and courageous measures in the near future," Mr. Trichet said in an interview with two Belgium newspapers, De Tijd and L'Echo, published Thursday.

Fitch Ratings on Tuesday cut Greece's credit rating to BBB+ from A-, highlighting "concerns over the medium-term outlook for public finances given the weak credibility of fiscal institutions and the policy framework."

As for the euro zone, which boasts a population of 330 million, economic growth is set to continue in the fourth quarter, Mr. Trichet said, while the bloc "could see an increase in unemployment even with growth rates returning to positive territory."

A week ago, the ECB said it projects annual real economic activity to contract at around 4% this year compared with 2008 and rise around 0.8% in 2010.

Moderate growth prospects have no bearing on the ECB's record-low rate level at present. The ECB's 22-member rate-setting council last week decided to leave its key refinancing rate for banks unchanged at 1%.

"On the question of signals regarding [future] rates, I want to be extremely clear," Mr. Trichet said. "The intention of the .. council was to give no signals at all on interest rates. We consider that the current level of interest rates is appropriate."

He added that markets have "understood this message well."

Mr. Trichet previously said that he sees a stabilization in financial markets and that current economic growth rates are due to a trend to replenish inventories that may peter out.

"We will continue to be very vigilant and to carefully assess risks of all kinds without having an a priori bias," Mr. Trichet said, adding that the ECB is amidst an "extremely difficult period."

Greece, Russia boost transport ties

10. December 2009. | 07:30

Source: ANA

Visiting Russian transport minister Igor Levitin and Greece's minister of infrastructure transport and networks Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday discussed further development of bilateral cooperation in the sectors of road, rail and air transports.

Visiting Russian transport minister Igor Levitin and Greece's minister of infrastructure transport and networks Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday discussed further development of bilateral cooperation in the sectors of road, rail and air transports.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Reppas noted the traditional good relations between Greece and Russia, and announced that a committee of experts of the two ministries has been set up which will have completed its work in 2010 aimed at the signing by the two ministers of a new agreement on road transports, which he said will boost the trade cooperation and economic relations between the two countries.

On air transports, the two ministers stressed their determination to improve the existing framework, aimed at boosting tourism movement between Greece and Russia.

Regarding rail transports, Reppas did not rule out the prospect of a Thessaloniki-Moscow route being established within 2010, with a frequency of two routes weekly.

Levitin, in turn, described his talks in Athens as very satisfactory, stressing that the dialogue on the transports sector will continue, adding that there is a series of topics that could be advanced so as to facilitate the work of the transport companies of both countries

It's official: Romania's incumbent President Traian Basescu was reelected for a new five-year term

Date: 10-12-2009

The Romanian Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) Wednesday evening completed centralizing data on Sunday’s presidential elections, showing Traian Basescu as the winner, with 5,275,808 votes.

According to BEC spokesman Marian Muhulet, social democrat candidate Mircea Geoana got 5,205,760 votes. The official report on the elections' result was signed by all BEC members except for those who are members of the Social Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Liberal Party and Greater Romania Party. The report will be sent to the Constitutional Court for validation.
Muhulet said only the BEC president's signature on the report is mandatory; the lack of signatures of party officials is not an obstacle in forwarding the data to the Constitutional\'s official: romania\'s incumbent president traian basescu was reelected for a new five-year term

Romania Spy Chief Probed Over Elections

Bucharest | 10 December 2009 |

A parliamentary committee has questioned the chief of one of Romania's secret services over allegations that his agency was involved in alleged fraud in Sunday's presidential elections.

The opposition Social Democrats alledge that Marcel Opris provided a software to the Liberal Democrats, who support President Traian Basescu, that enabled them to access voting figures data.

Opris has denied the allegations and on Thursday called them "a grave attack on the agency", which monitors all telecommunication networks for the president, government, parliament and top judges, according to media.

Romania's opposition is contesting the outcome Sunday's presidential run-off elections, claiming fraud, and has filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court.

Basescu narrowly defeated the opposition leader Mircea Geoana in Sunday's presidential runoff. The vote gave Basescu 50.3 per cent against Geoana’s 49.7 per cent. The poll outcome was a reversal of earlier exit polls Sunday night that showed Geoana in the lead, again by less than one per cent.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday started legal procedures. A Constitutional Court judge said that it will take "one to three days to reach a conclusion and communicate it".

Geoana has said he will respect the court ruling but has refused to work with Basescu afterwards.

Social Democrats claim there was a suspiciously high number of voided ballot papers, and accused Basescu of organising “massive electoral tourism” by transporting people between polling stations to vote several times in different locations.

The claims, together with Basescu's victory, will undoubtedly prolong Romania's political crisis and affect its relations with its creditors.

Traian Basescu has been unable to oversee the appointment of a new government since October, when the government headed by current caretaker Prime Minister Emic Boc, collapsed. Opposition parties in parliament have refused to approve Basescu's two subsequent nominations for the role of prime minister.

The political impasse prompted the International Monetary Fund to suspend the disbursement of further tranches of a €20 billion loan, which is dependent on the government pushing through unpopular budget cuts, and cutting the size of state administration.

Gov’t asks Parliament to urgently ratify Nabucco agreement

10 Decembrie 2009

The Government has approved on Wednesday the bill for the ratification of the international agreement on Nabucco gas pipeline construction and urged the Parliament to ratify it in an emergency procedure.

‘This is an extremely important project on which, to a great extent, Europe and Romania’s energy security depends upon, given that Romania has an energy dependency of approximately 35 percent. This project, with the participation of six companies – Transgaz from Romania – will secure the gas pipeline construction in total length of 3,296 km., of which 460 km. on Romania’s territory’, stated Premier Emil Boc in the Executive’s meeting.

According to the Prime Minister, the implementation of this project will offer the opportunity of creation of jobs, investments and diversification of sources and energy routes for Europe. The project value is estimated at more than eight billion euros.
The inter-governmental agreement for the construction of Nabucco gas pipeline was signed on July 13, in Ankara, by representatives of the five participating states – Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Turkey.

Nabucco gas pipeline will transit Romania on a length of 460 km., of the total of approximately 3,300 and, through Transgaz, it will come up with a financial share of approximately 417 million euros to this project.

Nabucco project was launched by five companies in the field OMV (Austria), MOL (Hungary), Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania). Last year, Navucco consortium included the sixth partner, RWE Co. from Germany.

The signature of the inter-governmental agreement on Nabucco is viewed as a Romania’s success, because it insisted to be maintained on the priority energy projects list of the European Union. On the occasion of the European Council in March the EU decided to financially back up this project with 200 million euros.

Nabucco is going to transport to the EU up to 31 billion cubic meters of gas per year, from Central Asia, passing through Turkey and Southeastern Europe, avoiding the Russian territory. But some of the participating countries in Nabucco also gave their accord to get involved into the construction of the Russian gas pipeline South Stream, namely Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary and, a short time ago, Turkey.

Launched in 2002 Nabucco is aimed to reduce Europe’s dependency on the Russian gas supply, whereas South Stream, launched in 2007, pursues the opposite, namely to consolidate Russia’s role as the top natural gas supplier to Europe. A quarter of the natural gas volume consumption in the EU is bought from Russia.

Romania agreed that Gazprom could make measurements in the Black Sea for South Stream project

Date: 10-12-2009

Romania agreed that Gazprom could make measurements in the Black Sea for the project of the gas pipe on condition that the biggest gas producer in the world, Gazprom, should observe the Romanian law, the secretary of state in the Ministry of Economy Tudor Serban declared for NewsIn.“Gazprom requested Romania to make measurements in the Black Sea for the South Stream project and Romania agreed, on condition they observed our laws” Tudor Serban says.

These measurements have not started yet and the meeting between the two sides which should have been held in October was delayed because of the political situation in Romania.

Representatives of the gas transporter in Romania, Transgaz, declared for NewsIn that they had sent Gazprom a few technical details they had requested.Adrian Videanu, the minister of economy often said that South Stream would pass anyway through the Romanian part of the Black Sea.The South Stream project, which supposes construction costs of 15 billion euro provides the annual transport of 31 billion cubic meters of gas - with the possibility of increasing the capacity to 63 billion cubic meters later on- from Central Asia to Europe, avoiding Ukraine, with which Moscow has already had many conflicts about the transit of Russian gas to the main European markets.

The first deliveries through South Stream should begin in 2015, although initially they said 2013. South Stream will be supplied with gas from Russia, Central Asia and Kazakhstan, according to Moscow. South Stream will pass under the Black Sea connecting Russia and Bulgaria, where it will divide into two, a part going to Serbia and Austria, the other to Greece and Italy. Some observers doubt South Stream economic arguments and feasibility because of the fact that the specificity of Black Sea bottom supposes an advanced technology with high costs.romania agreed that gazprom could make measurements in the black sea for south stream project

Alstom: Wins EUR700 Million Slovenia Steam Power Plant Order
Publié le 10 Décembre 2009

PARIS -(Dow Jones)- French power plant and rail transport engineering group Alstom SA (ALO.FR) said Thursday it won a contract worth about EUR700 million from Slovenian state-owned utility, Termoelektrarna Sostanj d.o.o. to construct a 600 megawatt coal-fired steam power plant.

-The plant will be built at Sostanj in northeast Slovenia.
-Alstom Power will supply the complete power island, comprising the steam turbine generator set, the water-steam cycle, the boiler and the ALSPA distributed control system to the new unit 6.
-The new plant, operational by the end of 2014, will double the customer's generation portfolio and generate approximately one third of Slovenia's power production, thus allowing the country to reduce its dependency on energy imports.
-The project will have an important local impact, enabling production of the nearby coal mine to remain at full capacity instead of being reduced by half, and will secure employment in the region, especially at the power station, the coal mine and in ancillary industries.
-This unit, which will be added to the existing Sostanj power plant units, will be the country's first power plant with supercritical steam parameters, allowing it to achieve the highest possible efficiency using local fuel.

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