Weekly News 8 – 12 October 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 8 October 2018

Bulgaria: The European Commission urged Bulgaria on Monday to conduct a rapid investigation into the killing of journalist Viktoria Marinova as hundreds of mourners held vigils in her hometown and cities throughout the Balkan country. Prosecutors said the 30-year-old had been raped, beaten and suffocated. Marinova’s body was found in a park near the Danube river in Ruse on Saturday. “There is no democracy without a free press … We expect a swift and thorough investigation to bring those responsible to justice,” the European Commission, the European Union’s executive said in a tweet. (Reuters)

BiH: Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik and Sefik Dzaferovic, the candidate of the largest Muslim Bosniak party, have won the Serb and Bosniak seats in Bosnia’s triumverate presidency, the election commission said early Monday. Moderate Croat Zeljko Komsic, who already served two terms in the presidency, won the Croat seat with 49.5 percent of the vote, winning over nationalist Dragan Covic from the largest Croat party, HDZ. (Reuters)

France: Emmanuel Macron is keeping France in the dark about how extensive a cabinet overhaul he’s planning to give a new impulse to his presidency. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is expected to present the government’s resignation early Tuesday with the list of new ministers presented later the same day. The new team should be in place for Wednesday morning’s weekly cabinet meeting. (Bloomberg)

Egypt: Egypt confirmed on Monday that senior Islamist militant Hisham al-Ashmawy was captured in Libya, an Egyptian military source told Reuters. The source gave no further details. A spokesman for the Libyan National Army, which controls eastern Libya, said that Ashmawy, one of Egypt’s most wanted men, was apprehended in the city of Derna. (Reuters)

Egyptian security forces killed 52 suspected militants in North Sinai, the military said in a statement on Monday. Security forces launched a large-scale operation in February to crush militants who have waged an insurgency that has killed hundreds of security forces and residents over many years. (Reuters)

Romania: A referendum to change Romania’s constitution to prevent same sex couples from securing the right to marry failed to draw enough voters to validate the result on Sunday, after a campaign that led to a rise in hate speech against the gay community. The vote has also been seen as popularity test of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) that supported the change and whose attempts to weaken anti-corruption legislation have drawn criticism from the European Union’s executive (The Standard)

FYROM: At an extraordinary session on Monday, Macedonia’s Social Democrat-led government adopted a motion on making constitutional changes to change the country’s name into the Republic of North Macedonia. “There are four substantial changes to the [Macedonian Constitution], that the government proposed to parliament,” the government’s spokesperson, Mile Bosnjakovski, told a press conference. Тhe first change will be the addition of the adjective ‘North’ to the name of the country, as stipulated in the ‘name’ agreement. (Balkan Insight)

Libya: Libya’s U.N.-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj changed the interior minister and reshuffled other cabinet posts on Sunday in a move seen as a bid to broaden his support nationwide and bolster security in the capital after weeks of clashes. (Reuters)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Turkey: Turkish authorities detained 90 people on Tuesday over suspected links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, the Interior Ministry said. The operation across eight provinces was carried out to prevent the activities of PKK members and the operation was ongoing, the ministry said in a statement. (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saudi Arabia should prove that missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has, in fact, left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. “He entered the general consulate himself and if he has entered by himself and if he did not exit it, of course this should be proven by the general consulate,” Erdogan said at a press conference in Budapest. Erdogan said the Saudi consulate should have CCTV cameras and should be able to show the video of Khashoggi leaving the building. He mentioned that there are no documents or evidence that show the journalist departing. (CNN)

UK: The name of the second suspect in the Salisbury case is actually Alexander Mishkin, the BBC understands. The Bellingcat investigative website says the man who travelled under the alias Alexander Petrov is in reality a military doctor working for Russian intelligence, the GRU. Last month, Bellingcat named the first suspect as Anatoliy Chepiga, a claim rejected by Russia. (BBC)

Libya: Italian foreign minister Enzo Moavero said Tuesday that Libya could not be considered a safe port from a legal standpoint and that it was being treated accordingly by rescue vessels. The comment came in response to a question at a press conference with his Norwegian counterpart. ”The notion of a safe port and a safe country is linked to international conventions that for the time being have not been signed by Libya,” Moavero said. (ANSAmed)

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Tunisia: The Tunisian Parliament has approved the law to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, by a large majority. The aim of the law is to protect the dignity of the person and establish equality among people with respect to rights and responsibilities, under the Tunisian Constitution and international conventions ratified by Tunisia. According to Article 2 of the law, “racial discrimination is considered to be any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, family heritage, or any other form of racial discrimination according to ratified international conventions, that is capable of hindering or impeding the enjoyment or exercise, based on equality, of rights and liberties, or bringing further burdens”. (ANSAmed)

Romania: Romania’s government has approved a plan to more than double state pensions over the next four years for the country’s 5.2 million retirees, a move that critics say will put heavy strain on public finances in the long run. Under the plan, pension-related spending in the social security budget would rise steeply to 142 billion lei ($35.12 billion) by 2022, from about 62 billion set aside for this year. (Reuters)

Spain: At least 10 people including two Britons were killed as heavy rain and flash floods hit the Spanish island of Mallorca, authorities said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

Belgium: Belgium has charged an Iranian diplomat and three other individuals with planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France in June, Belgian prosecutors said on Wednesday. The diplomat, identified only by his given name as Assadollah A., worked at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. He was arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack against the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile. (Reuters)

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday spoke about the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, who disappeared nine days ago after entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul, saying Ankara is ”investigating the issue in all its aspects”. ”It is an incident that occurred in our country, we cannot remain silent because it is not an ordinary incident”, he added. ”Is it possible not to have a video surveillance system in a consulate or an embassy? They can even find a bird or a mosquito with the advanced systems they have”, said Erdogan. Nevertheless, the president remained cautious: ”It is not right to draw conclusions based on conjecture, but we are worried. And we see that the United States share the same concerns”. (ANSAmed)

Jordan: Jordan’s Prime minister Omar al Razaz on Thursday reshuffled his cabinet, leaving the major portfolios of foreign, interior and finance ministries unchanged, as he seeks to extend its duration, according to official sources. “This is a cosmetic change. The prime minister wants to buy time for his government, but in reality new faces replace old faces,” said a senior former official. Razaz was appointed by king Abdullah several months ago in order to absorb growing public anger over government fiscal policies and infested corruption. (ANSAmed)

Schengen Area: The European Commission confirmed Thursday it received notification that Austria intends to continue temporary checks at its internal borders with Slovenia and Hungary until May 2019, based on Article 25 of the Schengen Borders Code, said Natasha Bertaud, EC spokesperson for migration. “Brussels will now evaluate the notification and will continue to monitor the implementation of the checks,” she said. (ANSAmed)

Lebanon: One of Lebanon’s leading newspapers printed a blank issue Thursday to protest the country’s long-running political gridlock and the failure to form a government five months after elections. “We are ringing the alarm bells,” Nayla Tueni, editor-in-chief of An-Nahar daily, told a press conference at the newspaper’s headquarters in Beirut. The issue consisted of eight blank pages. (ABC News)

BiH: Hundreds of demonstrators waving Croatian flags took to the streets of Mostar on Thursday to protest against the election of a moderate politician as the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, saying he did not represent them. (Reuters)

Friday, 12 October 2018

Freedom of Speech: Media companies are pulling out of a Saudi investment conference because of growing outrage over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist in Turkey. Economist Editor-In-Chief Zanny Minton Beddoes will not participate in the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, spokeswoman Lauren Hackett said in an email. Andrew Ross Sorkin, a CNBC anchor and New York Times business journalist, tweeted that he was not attending the conference, saying he was “terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder.” Pressure has mounted on Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policies, went missing. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. (Reuters)

Brexit: British Prime Minister Theresa May was struggling on Friday to find consensus on Brexit proposals that would be acceptable to her ministers, her Conservative Party and the Northern Irish lawmakers who prop up her minority government. Brexit negotiations with the European Union have accelerated and become more positive over the past week, though significant hurdles remain, finance minister Philip Hammond said. (Reuters)

Turkey: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that the Kurdish YPG militia has not left the northern Syrian town of Manbij, contrary to a U.S.-Turkish agreement, and Turkey will do what is necessary. “They are now digging trenches in Manbij. What does this mean? It means ‘we’ve prepared the graves, come and bury us’,” Erdogan said at a rally in southern Turkey. “They said they would abandon the area in 90 days, but they haven’t. We will do what is necessary.” (Reuters)