Welcome to Hajde London’s first weekly news roundup where each week, we will be compiling the top stories from around the Balkan region. 

On Monday 04th March, Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci and his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic met in Brussels for the sixth round of EU-mediated talks with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The main topic on the agenda was how the municipalities in Northern Kosovo will be run, and though a compromise has not yet been reached, Ashton believes that progress has indeed been made and is looking hopeful to the next stage of talks scheduled for March 20th. These talks come at a crucial stage ahead of Serbia’s EU accession talks, as the ‘normalisation’ of relationships between Belgrade and Pristina comes as a prerequisite to Serbia’s EU membership.

Last week, FYROM was embroiled in clashes between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians. This was a result of an attack made to Albanian youngsters after the appointment of former NLA (National Liberation Army) commander Talat Xhaferi as defence minister. Protests then erupted during the weekend in Skopje, which escalated in clashes with riot police. However, on Tuesday 05th March, former Macedonian officials blamed existing politicians of intolerance and  claimed that the ethnic tensions were as a result of uncertainties ahead of the upcoming local elections on March 24th.

The US State Department published its Narcotics Control Report on Wednesday 06th March. Among its findings, it provided that the numbers of cannabis seizures in Albania in 2012 have experienced a 175% increase from the previous year. It is suggested that this figure implies a significant rise in local production.

With the continuous occurrence of violence in sporting events in Serbia, it was announced that special prosecutors and courts will be introduced to handle such cases. On Thursday 07th March, Serbia’s Council for the Prevention of Violence in Sport, chaired by PM Ivica Dacic, found that such a measure was mandatory in order to curb hooliganism in sports. This is following clashes between fans in a basketball cup final match last month, and after recommendations by UEFA urging authorities to ‘do more’ in tackling this issue.

And finally, the prospects of Romania and Bulgaria entering the EU passport-free Schengen zone have once again been postponed. The European Council for Justice and Home Affairs will now aim to make a final decision by the end of 2013. Several countries, including Germany and Finland, believe that Romania and Bulgaria are not yet ready to join the zone; underlining corruption in the two countries as their main concern.

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