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OSI poll: Most Bulgarians support Western Balkans countries, but not Turkey, joining EU

Most Bulgarian citizens would support the accession of the Western Balkans to the EU, but not that of Turkey, if a referendum were held on the issue in spring 2018, according to a survey by the Open Society Institute – Sofia.

According to the survey, done in April 2018, among the Western Balkan countries fYROMacedonia would receive the strongest support as it gathers the approval of nearly 83 per cent of respondents who have an opinion on the issue, followed by Serbia with support of nearly 82 per cent and Montenegro, 76 per cent support.

The membership of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be supported by more than 73 per cent of Bulgarians polled, of Kosovo, nearly 55 per cent and of Albania, 52.4 per cent.

Support for Turkey's candidacy was expressed by just more than 38 per cent of those Bulgarians polled with an opinion on the issue.

Turkey's membership bid would receive the strongest opposition with about 62 per cent share of "against" four of those who of respondents who has an opinion, followed by Albania with nearly 48 per cent and Kosovo with over 45 per cent.

Slightly over one quarter of those who expressed an opinion, 26.7 per cent, would be against the accession of BiH to the EU and 24.2 per cent would be against the membership of Montenegro.

Serbia's membership would receive disapproval of 18 per cent and that of fYROMacedonia of 17.4 per cent of those polled.

The survey included questions for all candidate and potential candidate countries – the Western Balkan countries and Turkey. The question was formulated as "How would you vote if a referendum were held today on the entry of the following countries as fully-fledged members of the EU?"

When all possible answers are taken into consideration in regard to possible EU membership of the Western Balkans and Turkey, the candidacy of fYROMacedonia receives the highest support with nearly 49 per cent of all respondents with just 10 per cent disapproval, and Serbia has the support of about 47 per cent of those who took part in the survey with about 10 per cent disapproval.

The question of the membership of Montenegro in the EU receives the approval of close to 40 per cent with 13 per cent disapproval, of BiH – 37 per cent support and about 14 per cent disapproval, Albania – 25.5 per cent "for" and 23 per cent "against", Kosovo – 27.3 per cent "for" and 22.7 per cent "against".

The question about Turkey’s candidacy receives 21.5 per cent answers "for" and 34.5 per cent answers "against" and it is the only case with higher disapproval than approval.

When all possible answers are considered, between 41 per cent and 51 per cent of respondents did not have an opinion or did not answer at all. The highest level of uncertainty is registered in the cases of Albania, BiH and Kosovo – about 50 per cent and the lowest level – in the case of fYROMacedonia with 41 per cent of respondents, who did not have an opinion or did not answer.

In regard to political preferences, the highest support for the membership of fYROMacedonia and Serbia is registered among the voters of the smaller parties (i.e. those beside GERB, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms) – respectively 62 per cent for fYROMacedonia and close to 67 per cent for Serbia, followed by the GERB supporters – respectively 60 per cent and 56 per cent, and MRF supporters – respectively 48 per cent and 50 per cent.

The comparatively lowest support is registered among BSP supporters – 43 per cent for fYROMacedonia and 39 per cent for Serbia. BSP supporters are not against the membership of Bulgaria's neighbours, but have the highest share of people with no opinion on the issue – 45 per cent and 47 per cent respectively said they don't know.

Turkey's membership bid receives the highest support among MRF voters – 50 per cent of them say they are "for" it – but there is also a high level of uncertainty among them – over one third of MRF supporters do not have opinion on the question of Turkey's accession to the EU.

There is a considerable split within GERB supporters in regard to Turkey as close to one quarter would vote in favour of Turkey's membership bid, but 40 per cent would reject it. There is hesitation among BSP supporters too in regard to Turkey as nearly half of them had no opinion, one third would reject it and only 14 per cent would support it.

Among the supporters of small parties, only 16 per cent would vote for Turkey's membership bid and over 57 per cent would reject it.

There are no substantial differences in regard to the demographic characteristics of respondents with just a few exceptions.

For example, in regard to the questions of membership of fYROMacedonia and Serbia, the biggest support is registered among people between 45-59 years old with respectively over 56 per cent and 55 per cent, followed by those between 18-29 years old with respectively 48 per cent and 50 per cent and this group has the highest level of rejection of Turkey’s membership bid – over 43 per cent (with 34.5 per cent for the country).

The group of people over 60 years old has the highest level of uncertainty in regard to Serbia and Turkey – over 45 per cent, and in regard to fYROMacedonia – over 42 per cent.

… / 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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Tsakalotos’ “do it like the Italians” plan to reduce “red” loans

The Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos presented the Asset Protection Scheme (APS) proposal, based on the Italian model, during a speech at the Capital Link conference held in New York over the past few days.

The criteria

Mr. Tsakalotos said the soon there would be announcements and described the three criteria that will determine the final form of the project, which is the speed of implementation, the compatibility with EU law and the absence of risks.

He pointed out that for banks "the challenges are ahead" with regard to "NPLs" although he said have been recapitalised and have been shown to meet the endurance test objectives.

He pointed out that an APS scheme is being considered based on the FSF proposal. "We will announce it when we are ready", he said, adding that this "will happen soon".

Easy scheme

Therefore, the Greek Finance Minister explained, a scheme that is easy and has already been tested is required, and invoked in this context the Italian experience already followed by other states.

In essence, Mr. Tsakalotos submitted for January a proposal for the drastic reduction of non-performing loans, which he has set as dominant, as the Bank of Greece has published a different type of proposal. The ECB and the ESM must also give their approval.

The plan of the FSF provides for the provision of state guarantees for troubled loans that banks will securitize and sell to investors and the proceeds will be put into a special account. Implementation of this plan requires approval by DGComp, due to the fact that guarantees can be considered as State aid./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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