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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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New EBRD loan in energy area

People and businesses in the Republika Srpska will benefit from a more reliable power supply and improved energy efficiency thanks to a loan provided by the EBRD with the support of Taiwan ICDF.

The EBRD issued the press release saying that the loan of €15 million will finance the reconstruction of the medium and low-voltage power network in Elektro Bijelijina’s distribution area, as well as the installation of smart meters. Losses in the distribution of power and high consumption due to outdated and inaccurate meters, EBRD stress, are major contributors to the high-energy intensity in BiH, which causes additional costs to consumers.

“Investing in a more modern, efficient and flexible power distribution network will promote improved efficiency through reduced power losses and greater awareness of energy consumption patterns. It will also facilitate the penetration of higher levels of distributed renewable energy”, EBRD says.

Head of the EBRD Office in BiH, Jan Brown, said that the loan would be used to finance the reconstruction of the distribution network and the supply of meters, saying it will provide a reduction in distributive losses to a technical minimum of 6.5 percent, which is standard in Western Europe. The financing is provided as a loan to ZEDP Elektro – Bijeljina A. D. Bijeljina, the entity-owned power distribution company in RS. Up to €7.5 million of the loan will be provided by the Green Energy Special Fund, established and administered by the EBRD with the contribution of TaiwanI CDF. Previously, the EBRD also provided a loan to ZP Elektrokrajina A.D. Banja Luka for a similar purpose.

RS Minister of energy, industry and mining, Petar Đokić, said after the contract signing ceremony in Bijeljina that in this way RS rises the total value of energy system, strengthening its capacities, improving the function and doing all of this in favour of quality supply of all consumers with electricity.

"Implementation of this project will contribute to the improvement of key parameters, such as the reduction of distribution losses, through the reconstruction of low voltage and medium voltage installations and replacement of the meter to the consumer", Dokić said.

EBRD added that supporting energy saving and improved energy efficiency, as well as promoting sustainable sources of energy is a key activity of the Bank.

“Last year alone, the Bank committed 43 per cent of its €9.7 billion in new investments under its Green Economy Transition (GET) approach. The Bank is a major investor in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the beginning of its operations in the country the EBRD has invested €2.1 billion in around 150 projects”, EBRD concludes./IBNA

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Tsakalotos raised the issue of pensions cuts to Scholz

The issue of the abolition of the pension cuts measure raised to his German counterpart, Greek Finance Minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, calling for the dialogue to be concluded as soon as possible, not only for the 2019 fiscal space, but until 2022.

Mr Tsakalotos defended the government's position, arguing that the surpluses would exceed 3.5% in 2019, but in the next three years as well, to convince Scholz and Moscovici, with whom he met today on the sidelines of the ministerial network meeting Of Economic Affairs of the European Socialist Party (PES Ecofin Ministerial Network).

During the meeting, he expressed the view of the Greek government that based on the latest data, there is a budgetary space beyond the target of 3.5%, both for the year 2019 as well as for the following years, the exact size of which is discussed and will continue to be discussed with the institutions. He also expressed the view that it would be a good idea to start a debate on how best to make the best use of this space, not only for 2019 but also for the years up to 2022.

However, the issue of pensions is unlikely to close in the Eurogroup on November 5, but on the one in December 3, 2018, on technical grounds, as the financial data are not sufficient to draw clear conclusions. The government's next goal is to postpone the measure of pension cuts and re-examine it in the first quarter of 2019./IBNA

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Albania with the highest number of convicts in the region

Albania has the highest number of convicts per 100 thousand residents among Western Balkan countries.

This is suggested by the latest figures published by World Prison Brief.

According to the report, in the list of Western Balkans countries, Albania is followed by Montenegro with 174 convicts per 100 thousand residents. Serbia comes third with 174 convicts per 100 thousand residents, while FYROM ranks fourth with 134 convicts per 100 thousand convicts.

Meanwhile, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have the lowest number of convicts per 100 thousand residents with 106 and 73 respectively.

The US has the highest number of convicts in the world with 655 convicts per 100 thousand residents. Latin America countries also have a high number of convicts with Brazil leading the list with 323 convicts per 100 thousand residents. /ibna/

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Albanian president receives US State Department official Elisabeth Millard

President of Albania, Ilir Meta received today in a meeting the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Elisabeth Millard.

During this meeting, the pair discussed the importance of the reforms for the rule of law and European integration.

President Meta assured Mrs. Millard that Albania is determined in delivering its obligations set out in the Strategic Partnership document between Albania and the US.

The meeting also discussed the developments in Western Balkan region. President Meta stressed the importance of the finalization of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia through an agreement which guarantees European perspective.

The pair also underlined the important of a successful referendum in neighbouring FYROM considering it as crucial for the European future of the entire region. /ibna/

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Germany reiterates its support for the integration of Albania

Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati received Germany’s Foreign minister, Heiko Maas who arrived in an official visit to Tirana.

Minister Maas’ visit coincides with the 31st anniversary of the signature of the Economic Cooperation for Development Protocol between the two countries.

Minister Bushati praised the excellent relations that exist between Germany and Albania and thanked the German minister for the great support offered by the German government in the difficult process of the implementation of reforms for more democracy, rule of law and good governance.

On his part, the German minister praised the efforts made by the Albanian government for the reforms about the country’s European integration, stressing that Germany will continue to offer its support for Albania in this path.

At the end of the meeting, the two ministers delivered a joint news conference. /ibna/

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