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Government, troika discuss privatization of public gas corporation

Greek Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis was locked in talks with the troika technical experts on Wednesday, over the government’s obligations in terms of energy sector reforms, in the context of the fourth review of the Greek bailout program. The Greek public gas corporation, DEPA, topped of the agenda of Wednesday’s talks. Stathakis was expected to brief creditors on the signing of an agreement that will see the company sell a 51% stake in Zenith – the EPA Thessaloniki-Thessaly gas supply company – to Italian energy giant Eni which holds a 49% stake in the firm. The deal is reported to be worth approximately 57 million euros. Mr. Statakis was also set to inform creditors of an agreement between DEPA and Shell with which the former will acquire the latter’s 49% share in the EPA Attiki gas supply company. This deal is worth about 150 million euros. The privatization of DEPA will also be discussed. According to sources with knowledge of the issue, Stathakis will present possible scenarios to privatize the group, while securing the maximum revenue for the State. These scenarios include: Stripping the company of networks and transferring them to a separate company. This will include the networks of Attica, Thessaloniki-Thessaly and DEDA (the network for the rest of Greece). The Energy Ministry’s proposal foresees the privatization of this company through the sale of a 34-49% stake. The State will retain control of the majority stake. DEPA and the remainder of its activities will then be privatized via the sale of a 65% stake in the company. An alternative scenario calls for the establishment of a holding company to serve as an umbrella for three new subsidiaries. The one with the distribution networks will be privatized via the sale of 34%; the second company will hold the commercial arm and up to 66% of it will be sold; the third company will cover international projects. The majority of the holding company will be floated on the stock market…. / IBNA

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BiH has successful young entrepreneurs

In order to present the positive and successful ideas of young innovators and entrepreneurs across Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU Info Centre launched a Vlog competition “Tell us a story of a successful young BiH entrepreneur”. The creative and innovative potential of young people through entrepreneurship is one of the key ways of achieving the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of any society.

The aim of the competition was to highlight human potential and bring new perspectives and various visions to the key questions of understanding how young people navigate in the labour market, how creative and successful their business ideas have been, and how they can inspire future generations.

During the award ceremony, Richard Masa, Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, handed out the awards to the winners and thanked all of the competition’s participants.

“These successful and inspiring stories are not a surprise to me as this country has remarkable young people who work hard and are pushing boundaries. It is important to provide them with opportunities and encourage them to research, create and promote their ideas. It is also important that their stories are heard and shared, in order to inspire and encourage more young people in BiH to pursue their ideas and realise their goals – this is what this competition was all about”, Masa said.

As it was announced in the press release from EU Delegation to BiH, the winners of the competition now have the opportunity to select IT equipment in the amounts of 1,200 BAM for first place, 900 BAM for second place, and 600 BAM for third place. A team of young innovators from Tuzla – Makerspace – received the first place award for their innovation of an SOS bracelet called Trace Brace.

“We will use this award to continue developing our ideas and products. We plan to buy a laptop for one team member – the only one who does not have a laptop – so we can continue working and competing. There are many opportunities for youth, and they need to try to find themselves in any number of industries. The youth are full of energy and they are the ones who should make changes and create a better world – the future belongs to us”, said Tarik Džambić, who received the award on behalf of Makerspace Tuzla.

The second place award went to Nađa Zubčević, a young scientist from Sarajevo who created an antibacterial toilet seat – LooSeat – and plans to start a crowdfunding campaign in the summer.

“If everyone were like Armin” is the title of the third place awarded vlog, submitted by Mirza Hadžić, which tells the story of a 20-year old self-employed mechanic, Armin, from Goražde./IBNA

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Serbia, Russia demand UNSC session over Kosovo army

After the parliament in Pristina adopted laws that pave the way for transforming Kosovo Security Forces (KSB) into an army, Serbia and Russia have signaled that they will demand urgent session of the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, Belgrade media report that president Aleksandar Vucic inspects the units of Serbian military “in unknown locations” in the south of Serbia.

Serbia will demand calling an urgent session of the UN Security Council “over the most flagrant violation of the UNSC 1244 resolution with the creation of the so called Kosovo Army”, said foreign minister Ivica Dacic. “This is the most direct threat to the peace and stability in the region as well as to the security of Serb people who live in the Kosovo and Metohija”, Dacic told Tanjug news agency.

The decision of Pristina has to be discussed in the Security Council, said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council. “It is highly possible that Pristina prepares itself for war and it’s not likely that these preparations are defensive”, Kosachev said. “I believe that this should be the subject of discussion in the Security Council”, he went on. Kosachev said that “United States are behind this illegal and impudent act”.

However, Germany and United Kingdom have also supported Pristina’s move. “As an sovereign country, Kosovo has the right to create regular armed forces”, said Rainer Breul, spokesman of the German foreign ministry. He added that this process should be “inclusive” and “involve” the Serb minority in Kosovo.

Earlier this week British ambassador in Pristina Ruairí O'Connell said that official London considers that the interim institutions in Pristina have the right to an army.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic, according to the accounts, inspects the units of the Serbian military in the unknown locations in the southern part of the country. It is announced that he will give a statement later today. Prime minister Ana Brnabic said that Pristina’s decision “does not contribute to regional stability”./IBNA

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Positive climate (again) for the Prespes Agreement following the amendments

Calm after the storm. This phrase could describe the climate among the parties in Greece regarding the Prespes Agreement. The content of the amendments adopted by the cabinet in fYROMacedonia has reassured the reactions and intense concern raised by Zoran Zaev's references to "Macedonian ethnicity" and the teaching of "Macedonian language" in Greece.

Thus, following the satisfaction expressed by the Greek Government in keeping with the spirit and the letter of the Agreement, The River confirmed after a meeting of its members the confirmation in their support to the Prespes Agreement, putting as a precondition that the amendments to be voted in fYROMacedonia "will not have the problems that have arisen lately". At the same time, objections have been filed from at least one member of the Democratic Coalition, while some MPs of ANEL have expressed their support for the Agreement, despite their leader's, Panos Kammenos, objections.

Tsipras in Thessaloniki

In the meantime, the Greek prime minister will send a unity message from Thessaloniki. Alexis Tsipras will address a political event in SYRIZA which, among other things, is expected to underline the importance of implementing the Prespes Agreement for the benefit of both countries. He will also reiterate that a prerequisite for this is the compliance of the Government of fYROMacedonia with the obligations deriving from the Agreement.

The presence of the Greek Prime Minister in the largest city of Northern Greece is of particular importance, as this is where there has been the greatest discontent for the Prespes Agreement, and extreme protests have also taken place. For this reason the central slogan of the rally is: "Yes to the Macedonia of Democracy and solidarity. No to hatred and nationalism".

At the same time, rallies are being organized in Thessaloniki against the Prespes Agreement, with SYRIZA speaking of "extreme right-wing counter-rallies", "seeing" an indirect support to them from New Democracy. "We have nothing to do with the counter-rallies of Thessaloniki," Kyriakos Mitsotakis's party stressed, accusing SYRIZA of communication diversion against the main opposition conference that begins today./IBNA

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Senior officials in Tirana praise the creation of the army of Kosovo

Senior politicians in Tirana have praised the decision to form the army of Kosovo. The Albanian president, Ilir Meta commented that this historical decision shows that Kosovo is capable of assuming new responsibilities.

“But also to contribute for peace, stability in the region and good neighbouring relations”, he said.

PM Edi Rama has decided to praise this decision through a photograph where the Kosovar president, Hashim Thaci appears wearing a military uniform.

On the other hand, Albanian minister of Foreign Affairs has praised the role that KFOR has played so far in Kosovo.

Stopping on the challenges that the region faces, Bushati said that “we have expressed our readiness to collaborate in order for NATO’s influence for economic stability in our region and beyond to be unthreatened”. /ibna/

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“Albania’s engagement as NATO member is serious”

The Albanian minister of Defence, Olta Xhacka has met in Tirana with NATO’s deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller. During this meeting, Xhacka told the NATO senior official that Albania’s engagement in the Alliance’s preservation of cohesion is a serious one.

Stopping on Albania’s contribution in the Alliance, Xhacka said that “in less than 2 years, Albania has trebled the presence of its troops in Afghanistan and it has supported KFOR in Kosovo."

As far as the situation in the region is concerned, Xhacka said that Albania will continue to be a strong factor of stability and peace.

According to her, the decision to form the army of Kosovo “is a historic decision which will assist peace in the region”. /ibna/

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