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Balkan developments

Tens of thousands protest in Greece over deadly train crash

Greeks continue to protest after the deadly train crash (on February 28) near the town of Larissa which claimed the lives of 57 people, mostly students. On March 8, Greece was blocked by a large-scale 24-hour nationwide strike. Protesters called for judicial proceedings against those responsible for the train crash. State institutions, universities and ports remained blocked during the strike. According to the trade unions, 50,000 protested in Athens alone. Students and pupils chanted “Murderers” and “We pay your profits with our lives”, the BNR’s correspondent in Greece Katya Peeva reported. Greek Minister of Transport Kostas Karamanlis resigned and the Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis assumed political responsibility for the train crash. According to the Rail Workers’ Union, the accident was the result not only of human error, but also of inaction by the transport ministry in recent years. Automated traffic management systems are not operational and practically everything is done manually. The rail workers, who have been on a strike since the train crash, have announced that they will run trains only when full safety guarantees are provided.

Albania to be subject to monitoring by the US ahead of the local elections

Albania will be subject to reinforced monitoring by the US ahead of the local elections which will be held on May 14, 2023, the Albanian Radio Television reported.The monitoring will mainly focus on candidates' clean criminal records, guaranteeing the right to free and anonymous elections, measures against vote buying and personal data protection. The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Albania Yuri Kim met with the leaders of the Socialist Party of Albania, the Freedom Party and the Democratic Party of Albania, except for its co-founder Sali Berisha. Ambassador Yuri Kim emphasized the importance of conducting local elections in a fair and transparent manner under Albanian laws and international standards.

Turkiye lifts ban on tomato exports

Turkiye’s ban on tomato exports lasted only five days. The ban was lifted following protests by local producers. The ban also caused concern in Bulgaria related to possible shortage of tomatoes. Turkey exports tomatoes to 54 countries. Bulgaria is third in the ranking by import of tomatoes from that country. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Bulgaria imported 75 000 tonnes of tomatoes in the first 10 months of 2022, as 46, 000 tonnes came from its southern neighbour. Initially, Turkiye introduced the ban until mid-April as a measure to "guarantee food security and stabilise prices" after the catastrophic earthquake. The measure sparked discontent among local producers and led to road blockades.

Romania to be awarded a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label for the "Dobrogean Pie"