Balkan Developments

First case of Omicron registered in Greece

The first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Greece has been registered on the island of Crete, BNR correspondent Katya Peeva reported. A Greek citizen returning from South Africa tested positive for the virus. Health Minister Thanos Plevris said that the man was under quarantine and that those in contact with him had tested negative. The patient is fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms. Meanwhile, the Greek parliament has approved mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for citizens over 60. Failure to do so will result in a fine of 100 euros per month. The government's arguments are that 70% of those who need intubation in hospitals are over 60 years of age. Opposition parties, with the exception of New Democracy, voted against the decision. SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras said the requirement was "punishing the poorest of the Greeks".

Turkey's finance minister resigns

Turkish Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan has resigned, the country's State Gazette reported. His assistant, Nureddin Nebati, has been appointed in his place. The media in the country describe the resignation as "Erdogan's midnight decision", Nahit Dogu of BNR Kardzhali reports. Economic observers point out that Lütfi Elvan did not support low interest rates, unlike President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said high interest rates cause high inflation. This has been the third shift in Turkey's finance ministry since the beginning of the year. Despite the new appointment, the Turkish lira continues to record new historical declines in its exchange rate against other currencies.

Fifty refugees will fly from Cyprus to Italy together with the pope

Following the five-day visit of Pope Francis to Cyprus and Greece,  50 refugees will fly from Cyprus to Italy with him. This was announced by the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, quoted by BGNES. The purpose of the papal visit is to draw attention to hard situation of migrants at Europe's borders. Anastasiadis thanked the pope for the initiative and said Cypriot people "know better than anyone the pain of fleeing their homes". Pope Francis will leave for Athens on December 4th, and his program in Greece includes a visit to the refugee reception center on the island of Lesbos, which was at the forefront during the 2015 migration wave to Europe.

Balkan agencies become part of European Newsroom

The European Commission will allocate 1.8 million euros to help create a "European Newsroom" that will unite 16 news agencies on the continent, DPA has reported. Part of the funds will go to additional training for journalists and a new multilingual website with materials on EU issues by the participating news agencies, the European Commission said. The DPA-coordinated project includes several Balkan news agencies - Romania's Agerpres, Albania's ATA, Bulgaria's BTA, Croatia's HINA, North Macedonia's MIA, Slovenia's STA, Serbia's Tanjug and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s FENA. The newsroom is expected to start operating by the middle of next year, BTA reports.

Albania and Kosovo lift border controls

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and Kosovo counterpart Albin Kurti met in Elbasan, Albania. The meeting focused on border security and the free movement of goods and people between the two countries. The two signed an agreement to abolish border checks on vehicles traveling between Kosovo and Albania. This is expected to happen by the summer. There will be cameras at the border crossings between the two countries that will record the license plates of passing cars. It was also agreed to open a new border checkpoint in Shishtavec , Albania. Kosovo citizens will be able to obtain a five-year residence permit and a work permit in Albania under a simplified procedure. The same will apply to Albanian citizens who want to move to Kosovo. The construction of a railway line between Durres and Pristina is also expected, BGNES reported.

Compiled by: Miglena Ivanova

English: Alexander Markov

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