Saturday, June 18, 2011

Serbia to propose new draft to UN Security Council

NEW YORK -- Serbia has made a slightly altered draft decision for the UN Security Council regarding organ trade probe, Serbian Ambassador to the UN Feodor Starčević says.

The UN Security Council (Beta, file)
The UN Security Council (Beta, file)

“This is a revised draft, prepared to see what the formulation that could be adopted should look like,” he told Tanjug.

In April, Serbia submitted to the UN a “concept paper” of its initiative to establish an independent investigative mechanism to check the allegations contained in a report by the Council of Europe (CoE) Special Rapporteur Dick Marty. Since then, the country has been working on a draft proposal that could be put on the UN Security Council agenda by a member of that body so that the issue could be discussed and a relevant decision reached.

Serbia proposes that a team be formed under the auspices of the UN Security Council that would be comprised of independent, competent and impartial investigators and headed by a special representative of the UN secretary general.

“During consultations between UN Security Council's permanent members held last week, Russia and China advocated reaching a decision on initiating the investigation, while some countries still opposed the idea,” Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić said earlier, pointing out that Serbia should be armed with patience.

The announcement that UNMIK Chief Lamberto Zannier will soon leave that position and become the new head of the OSCE, Starčević said that Serbia was having consultations at the UN regarding the matter.

“If UNMIK appoints an unsuitable person as the body's new head, or if it delays the appointment, it can cause damage to us,” he concluded.

Greek PM addresses new Cabinet

(ANA-MPA) -- Prime Minister George Papandreou on Friday addressed the first meeting of his new cabinet immediately after it was sworn-in.

"We are still at a turning point, in the middle of a tough negotiation that will determine the country's future and we are called to reach a viable solution to an immediate and major national problem - namely, the debt problem that threatens to ruin us, destroying the lives of millions of Greeks -- while guaranteeing that this course will be safe and reliable," Papandreou said.

He said that a restart is being made through the new government, stressing that the previous government performed a "monumental, impressive and historic work".

Papandreou referred specifically to former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, stressing that "he shouldered unthinkable burden in crucial times for the country" and said that his work was of national importance, adding that he "honored the country and government by giving tough battles".

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Russia puts Serbia on list of "complicated countries"

MOSCOW -- The Russian government has put Serbia on a list of countries with “complicated social-political situation” together with Tajikistan, Georgia and Abkhazia.

The Kremlin (B92, Željko Andonov)
The Kremlin (B92, Željko Andonov)

Guatemala, Israel, Sudan, North Korea and Chad are also on the list.

The countries on the list are described as states with explosive social-political situation as a result of central governments’ inefficiency, backward economic system, energy dependence, low standard of living and rise in crime rate.

Russia included the countries that are in vicinity of those countries on the list as well because they are affected by the negative factors “due to common history or economy, common borders and migrating population”.

The Russian diplomats assigned to those countries will have accelerated retirement annuity due to stress and their wages will be 20 percent higher.

The Russian government has assessed that Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, South Ossetia and Palestine are countries in which state of emergency is in effect.

Diplomats working in those countries will have 40 percent higher wages.

Visa-free Travel to Albania for Ukrainians

Ukrainian citizens could now enter Albania and stay there for up to 90 days within 180 days from the date of first entry without visa, a Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman said here on Wednesday.

"The decision of the Albanian Government provides the abolition of visas for citizens of Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan who hold foreign passports," Alexander Dykusarov told a briefing.

The new rules apply to tourists as well as business people and participants in international and cultural events.

The visa-free regime will be permanent. In 2009 Tirana introduced a visa-free regime for Ukrainian nationals for the summer holiday season from June 1 to October 31.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Military conference ends in Belgrade

BELGRADE -- Participants of the Strategic Military Partner Conference in Belgrade adopted conclusions and wrapped up the conference on Wednesday.

Participants of the conference (FoNet)
Participants of the conference (FoNet)

Representatives of 60 countries, including members of NATO, Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, took part in the conference.

The conference dubbed “After Lisbon – implementation of transformation” discussed joint training, partnership and mutual help, access to global resources and efficient development of armed forces’ capacity.

Serbian Army (VS) Chief of the General Staff General Miloje Miletić said earlier today that analyses from the conference would contribute to further development of military partnership.

“What's specific is that the conference does not draw conclusions and determine tasks, but instead certain teams in the Allied Command Transformation analyze all discussions, proposals and documents after the meeting ends,“ he pointed out.

Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac, Miletić and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Stephane Abrial opened a working part of the conference on Tuesday.

Serbian officials said that our country was committed to preservation of regional and global security and that the entire region would benefit from strengthening of relations between NATO and Serbia, which would not affect Serbia’s neutrality.

The defense minister said that Serbia was committed to regional cooperation, security and good neighborly relations as well as global peace by participating in UN and EU peacekeeping missions.

He stressed that the Defense Ministry had been completely aware of the emotions that NATO triggered in Serbia when it accepted to host the military conference.

Abrial pointed out that Serbia was a key security factor in the Balkans and added that strengthening of relations between Serbia and NATO would help the entire region. He said that official Belgrade would decide on possible membership in NATO and added that NATO wanted a level of relations that Belgrade wanted.

The conference started on June 13 and was organized by the Allied Command Transformation. Macedonia, Norway, Albania and Finland had previously hosted the military conference.

Brussels concerned about Albania

The European Union on Tuesday expressed concern about the political developments in Albania, created after the elections. European Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Fule in his speech, held yesterday afternoon in the European Parliament has expressed concern about the political situation in the country, created especially during the process to declare the results of local elections for the Municipality of Tirana.

According to Brussels the situation may be solved if the parties dialogue with sincerity. CoE cautions to avoid similar situations in other electoral processes, indicating a possible way, like the Venice Commission.

"Skopje provokes Athens"

U.S. newspaper the Washington Post wrote today that Macedonia has begun the deployment of the statue of Alexander the Great, which seems like a provocation against Greece.

According to this newspaper critics considered the giant sculpture as a waste of money, while Macedonia′s government says it is an important part of rebuilding the city of Skopje.

"Greece and Macedonia are " trapped "in the 20-year dispute over the name, and the controversial Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, has regularly open the sensitive historical issue by appointing names of airports, stadiums, streets and he deployed the sculpture in downtown Skopje, WP writes.
Greek PM, ND leader discuss all-party gov't

(ANA-MPA) -- Prime Minister George Papandreou held talks with main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras by telephone on Wednesday afternoon, after a round of telephone contacts with the leaders of the other Parliament-represented political parties.

While an earlier official announcement by ND had declined to disclose the content of their talks before Papandreou had expressed his position, unnamed sources within the party said the Greek prime minister had described the situation as extremely difficult and that he was prepared to consider either an all-party government or a broad alliance government.

The same sources (ANA-MPA) said Samaras did not reject the proposal but made it clear that this could not work with Papandreou as prime minister. To this, always according to the same ND sources, Papandreou apparently replied that he was not concerned about whether he was prime minister.

Other sources within the party announced that there would be a second telephone communication between the two men later on Wednesday afternoon.

Samaras has apparently made it a condition that a substantial renegotiation of the terms of the Memorandum for the loans to Greece be initiated, in order to agree to an all-party government. (ANA-MPA)

The ND leader, who has been in continuous contact with his closest aides since the morning, is expected to head to his party's headquarters in a short while. (ANA-MPA)

Tirana in European Parliament with the communist flag

Albania was presented to the European Union with the communist flag. During yesterday′s meeting of EU-Albania, the Albanian flag alongside the EU, representing the Albanian state flag has a yellow star above the eagle, the same as that used in the communist regime.

Video and images published by website clearly show the Communist flag that stands near that of the EU. It is unknown if any of the Albanians members have noticed this detail.

EU-Albania inter parliamentary meeting comes at a time when the European Commission is preparing for our country the progress report which will be published in October, and will determine whether Albania will receive or not the status of candidate country.

Tourism: Albania hopes to build on record growth


Despite the country's ongoing political tensions, the tourism industry is banking on a repeat of last year's crowds.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Tirana – 15/06/11


Albania is hoping to attract waves of tourists. [Ana Pekmezi/SETimes]

It was a banner year for tourism: Albania had about 3.5 million visitors last year, a whopping 32% increase over previous years. Authorities are happily anticipating more of the same.

"Our expectations are based on the improvements we have done in infrastructure and improvements of the tourist environment in general," Endri Jorgoni, chief of cabinet in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, tells SETimes. "However," he acknowledges, "the political situation might have a negative impact on that".

Lack of infrastructure, including inadequate road connections to the most popular attractions, is one of the main problems hampering the country from realizing its tourism potential, Jorgoni said. The government, he added, is seeking to boost investment in the sector and has drafted new legislation to that effect.

Dritan Xhengo, 35, has been operating a tourist agency in Tirana for eight years now. It offers everything from tickets and packages to travel insurance.

"So far, so good," he says about tourism this year, though he agrees that Albania's turbulent politics could impact the number of visitors. Still, he adds, the industry has seen "extraordinarily positive change" compared to a few years ago.

Most of Western tourists prefer study tours, cultural tourism, and archaeology. Many come from Britain, Italy, Finland and Denmark. "Albania is cheap for them," says Xhengo.

Meanwhile, as more and more visitors come to Albania, Albanians themselves are going abroad for their holidays.

Albania still "exports" more tourists than it "imports", Xhengo said. The reasons, he added, include the comparatively low level of services in Albania, and an eagerness to see other cultures in Europe.............................

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 12, 2011
In Greece, Some See a New Lehman


LONDON — Bond traders and officials at the European Central Bank have been unified in their warnings that a restructuring of Greece’s debt would set off an investor panic similar to the one that followed the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

Others, however, have argued that Greece’s debt of 330 billion euros, or $473 billion, while too large for the country to bear, is small enough to allow banks and other institutions to take a loss without bringing the world financial system to its knees.

But the comparisons between Greece and Lehman grew more frequent last week as global markets reeled, spurred in part by the view that Germany’s insistence that private investors participate in a second rescue package for Athens would overcome the objections of the European Central Bank.

“It is a valid concern,” said David Riley, head of sovereign ratings at Fitch. “The Rubicon would be crossed — we would have a sovereign default event and that can be quite a shock, not just for the peripheral countries but for Spain and beyond.”

The thinking goes like this: though banks and other investors have done much to pare their Greek holdings in the last year, if they are forced to take a loss, and the ratings agencies declare Greece in default, investors would start selling in a panic. And they would not sell just the bonds of countries struggling with debt — Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. In a hasty retreat into cash, traders would unload more liquid assets as well, everything from high-grade corporate bonds to American and emerging market equities — as occurred in 2008 after Lehman failed.

To be sure, much has to be wrong for the European debt crisis to approximate what happened after Lehman failed in 2008. Not only did banks, hedge funds and insurance companies immediately seize up, but the effect on the broader global economy was also striking as trade flows nearly ground to a halt.

Analysts point out that the global financial system has survived sovereign defaults in the past, including Russia’s in 1998 and Argentina’s in 2001.

Also, since the prospect of a Greek default has been foreshadowed for so long, financial institutions have had sufficient opportunity to reduce their holdings of Greek debt. But in doing that, the private sector has passed much of the exposure to Greece and other troubled economies in Europe to public sector entities like the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That means that if a restructuring comes, the taxpayer — more than the private investor — will pay.

Lending weight to the fears of another Lehman crisis, regulators are warning that in such a situation, even super-safe money market funds may not provide the risk-free refuge they proclaim to offer.

According to a recent report by Fitch, as of February, 44.3 percent of prime money market funds in the United States were invested in the short-term debt of European banks. Some of those institutions, like Deutsche Bank and Barclays, do not have dangerous Greek exposure. But some of those funds also hold shares of French banks like Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas, which do have significant Greek bond holdings — about 8.5 billion euros, or, in the case of BNP and Société Générale, about 10 percent of their Tier 1 capital.

This month, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Eric S. Rosengren, warned that the large share of European banks in American money market fund portfolios posed a Lehman-like risk if, in the wake of a default in Europe, panicky investors took their money out all at once.

“Money market mutual funds have the potential to be impacted should there be unexpected international financial problems emanating from Europe,” he said in a speech at Stanford.

The idea that European banks, not those in the United States, would take a hit if Greece defaulted, has sustained a view that such a crisis might be containable. But according to a recent analysis by The Street Light financial blog, this misses the point. It will be American banks and insurance companies that will have to make the lion’s share of default insurance payments to European institutions if Greece fails.

Citing recent data from the Bank for International Settlements, the blog points out that in the event of a Greek default, direct creditors would be on the hook for 70 percent of the losses, with credit default insurance picking up the rest. Thus, if one includes credit default exposure, American exposure to Greece increases from $7.3 billion to $41.4 billion.

Again, a pinch of salt: such numbers in no way approach the wild bet that the American International Group made on the United States housing market, a wager that led to the company’s collapse. But they are a reminder that, as was the case with Lehman Brothers, the links that directly or indirectly bind investors to Greece extend far beyond Europe.

It is still unclear what type of loss private sector banks would suffer if the Germans overcame the central bank’s objections and got acceptance for their proposal for “reprofiling,”which would have investors exchange their shorter-term Greek debt for longer-term paper.

The ratings agencies have already determined that if there is any indication that banks are being forced to participate in such a reprofiling, that would constitute a “distressed debt exchange” and violate the terms of the original contract between Greece and its creditors.

But for many investors, such contractual niceties are largely irrelevant. In their view, it is only a question of when, not if, Greece defaults. They are already preparing for the Lehman-style panic that they believe will follow.

“This is not just about Greece,” said Steffen Gruschka of SG Alpha, a hedge fund focused on emerging markets in Europe. ”It is about the effect that a default will have on credit default swaps in Spain and Italy. You could see a situation where there is a domino effect.”

Mr. Gruschka said he had been broadly reducing his equity positions and he now has 70 percent of his portfolio in cash.

The stock market sell-off Friday, in which the Dow Jones industrial average fell below 12,000 for the first time in three months, suggested that Mr. Gruschka was not alone in adopting a “risk-off approach,” as investors now term a bias against higher-returning but riskier assets like stocks, commodities and richer-yielding bonds.

Indeed, the data has been suggesting just such a dynamic for a while now.

According to EPFR, a provider of fund flow data, American and emerging market equity funds experienced continued outflows in the first week of June, with investors redeeming $7.74 billion from equity funds and putting $5.98 billion into less-risky bond funds — a 47-week high.

To some, such a material shift suggests that the real worry should be the question of how larger indebted countries outside the euro zone — like Britain, Japan and even the United States — face the challenge of reducing deficits as their economies stagnate.

“We are too fixated on Greece,” said Stephen Jen, a widely followed currency expert who is now in the process of setting up his own hedge fund. “You can bail out Greece, but how much is it going to cost to bail out the United States and Japan?”

Ongoing challenges Albanian nationalist circles

Ongoing challenges Albanian nationalist circles without any reaction of the Albanian government.More specifically, on 10 June the Albanian judicial Skender Damini with his family tried to cross into Greece from the outpost of Kakavia. His father Skender Damini had a passport indicating that he was born in the village of Mazrek "Tsamouria.

As expected, the Greek authorities banned to enter Greece because there is no recognized country called Tsamouria. So both Skender Damini and his family decided to return home to Albania to protest the racist behavior as reported by the Greek authorities.
This is the advantage of the well-known Albanian nationalist and Vice President of the Supreme Council of Justice Kreshnik Spahiu, which has become widely known because of public support for neo-Albanian nationalist organization "Alliance Red and Black."

In statements to the Albanian media Spahiu requires by the Greek Foreign Ministry to explain the behavior of the Greek authorities towards the judge Skender Damini. In addition, the Greek Foreign Ministry has not made an announcement about the incident and the statements of the Albanian nationalist, let alone the Albanian government has commented on the continuous challenges of the Albanian nationalist circles trying to poison relations between the two countries with provocative moves such as above.

"Official Belgrade to decide on NATO membership"

BELGRADE -- NATO Commander of Allied Command Transformation Stephane Abrial says a decision on NATO membership will be a sovereign decision of official Belgrade.

Abrial and Miletić (Beta)
Abrial and Miletić (Beta)

He added that NATO wants the same level of relations as Serbia.

NATO is open for cooperation, but it fully respects the decision of any sovereign country, Abrial stated at a joint press conference with Serbian Chief of General Staff Gen Miloje Miletić, held in the break of the Strategic Military Partner Conference.

Abrial stressed that Serbia is a crucial factor of stability in the Balkans and added that the strengthening of relations between Serbia and NATO will benefit the entire region.

So as not to get confused, partnership is not the recruitment of countries and peoples to fight for NATO's aims, but rather a strategic tool for the creation of a security network, Abrial pointed out.

Partnership is not a waiting room for NATO, he added.

According to him, the fact that Serbia wants to be military neutral does not mean it cannot cooperate with the North Atlantic alliance.

He said that, as member of the Partnership for Peace, Serbia cooperates with NATO, assessing that both Belgrade and Brussels benefit from it.

When asked about how he feels in Belgrade, the French general said that, considering that Serbia was bombed by NATO 12 years ago, people should be aware of what happened in the past and remember it, but that today they should look to the future.

NATO maritime exercises in the Gulf of Vlora, Southern Albania

Albanian political crisis, forcing NATO to perform strong security measures at ports of Albania

Greek frigate "Spetsai" of class "Meco Standard 200", and four Coastal Minehunters ships from Greece, Great Britain, Turkey and Spain, are training by one week, in the Bay of Vlora, in a joint drill mission in the framework of NATO.

According to sources, the NATO naval maneuvers are holding their training, in a hot climate Albanian politics, especially after the complex problems of the electoral process in Albania.

However, training of ships of NATO, has passed in silence by the Albanian media, the fact that the participation of Greek Navy by a frigate, is not reflected in the Albanian press.

Contingent of NATO soldiers, of 400 personnel (only Greek frigates "Spetsai" has on board 250 sailors, were guests of tourists in many of the restaurants in Vlora.

Albania Court Orders Recount of Contested Ballots

The Electoral College late Monday night ordered a full recount of the contested ballots in the key race for mayor of Tirana, throwing the results of the poll back into doubt.

Besar Likmeta
Ballots being counted at the Asim Vokshi Elementary School in Tirana on May 14, 2011 | Photo by : Besar Likmeta

The decision came after a Socialist opposition appeal which contested several decisions by the Central Election Commission, CEC, including the one that declared the ruling party candidate the winner of the race for the municipality of Tirana.

Contested ballots are ballot papers that have been designated by at least one representative of a political party in the counting stations as irregular. It is not yet clear what effect the re-evaluation will have in the final tally for the Tirana race.

The Tirana poll was considered the key battleground of the May 8 local elections, pitting Socialist leader and incumbent mayor Edi Rama and ruling party candidate Lulzim Basha against each other.

Albania's Electoral Commission on May 23 declared Basha the winner, following a controversial recount of stray ballots.

The recount gave Basha a lead of 81 votes out of a quarter million over Rama, who had a razor thin margin of ten ballots in the unofficial preliminary results before the stray ballots were added.

The dispute over the stray ballots came about because voters who had multiple ballots to put in designated boxes sometimes failed to do so correctly, in part because the ballot boxes were not clearly distinguished by color.

Monday’s Electoral College ruling annulled the CEC’s May 23 decision which declared Basha the winner of the contest. At the same time, it rejected the opposition challenge against the miscast ballots, which were deemed as valid.

Following the ruling, the CEC is now expected to begin a re-evaluation of contested ballots in 368 ballot boxes, whose results will be added to the final tally.

Albania’s May 8 local elections were considered as key for the country’s EU future, following a two year political crisis which has stopped the reform process dead in its tracks.

However, after a peaceful and quiet election day, the row over the miscast ballots has heightened the political climate once again, adding to Brussels’ doubts over the country’s EU future.

Extraordinary meeting with the President of the Republic Papoulias called Papandreou

Extraordinary meeting tomorrow afternoon at 13.00 and closed called Prime Minister George Papandreou and President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.

All options are open, even to seek dissolution of parliament and call early elections. Some political observers believe that just might be by a communication.... Tomorrow, around 14.00

Alexander the Great Statue Arrives in Skopje

The controversial bronze statue of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great arrived early Tuesday morning at the main square in the FYROM capital, Skopje.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The tall statue will be assembled on site | Photo by: Balkan Insight

The equestrian statue, which depicts the ancient warrior king riding his horse Bucephalus, arrived from Italy in several pieces and is expected to be assembled on site within the next ten days.

After assembly, the statue will be erected on top of a 12-metre-tall fountain pedestal. The entire structure is expected to stretch more than 24 metres into the Skopje skyline.

The erection of the monument has been highly controversial due to its estimated high cost, the manner in which the decision to commission the statue was taken, as well as its potential impact on relations with Greece, already strained due to the 18-year-long row over FYROM's name.

The origin of Alexander the Great is at the heart of the dispute, as the two neighbouring nations have different views on ancient history. The warrior king is one of many historic figures and symbols claimed by both states.

The bronze artwork was cast in Fonderia Artistica Ferdinando Marinelli, a well known foundry located in Florence, Italy, and will reportedly cost Macedonian tax payers some five million euros.

Together with the pedestal the statue will be over 24 metres tall | Photo by: Balkan Insight

The statue is seen as the pinnacle of the massive government-funded revamp of the capital, dubbed “Skopje 2014”.

The pricey makeover, expected to cost taxpayers several hundred million euros, involves the erection of a range of marble and bronze monuments of historic figures alongside sculptures, bridges, fountains, museums, a hall for the Macedonian philharmonic orchestra, a foreign ministry building, hotels and a church.

Most of the buildings and sculptures draw inspiration from classical architectural styles and are already under construction.

Del Ponte reacts to EU moves in Kosovo organ trafficking

BELGRADE -- Carla Del Ponte has said that she was not contacted as an EULEX team was being set up to probe allegations of human organ trafficking in Kosovo.

Carla Del Ponte (FoNet, file)
Carla Del Ponte (FoNet, file)

Belgrade daily Blic writes today that the former chief Hague prosecutor, who first publicly brought the issue up her book published three years ago, was surprised by the news that a competition was announced for the selection of a seven-member team, that is supposed to investigate the case within the EU mission in Kosovo, EULEX

"I know nothing about this, but we should wait and see what happens in the coming days," Del Ponte stated, and added that she was ready to take over the investigation at any time.

The daily writes that names of the prosecutors and judges the EU selected could be known this week.

They should "investigate the system of kidnappings, murders and sale of organs", and involvement of the leadership of the ethnic Albanian KLA in this.

According to the report, the team will join that already set up by EULEX in January, with some of its members based in Priština and others in Brussels.

A spokesperson for EULEX said the process "would be conducted under the jurisdiction of the Priština District Court, because Brussels cannot have jurisdiction in Kosovo".

A majority of the victims of the KLA atrocities are believed to have been Serb civilians, and Serbia wants the probe to be handled under the auspices of the United Nations.

Council of Europe's Dick Marty late last year submitted his report on the issue, while a month later the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution based on the report, calling for the independent investigation to be launched.

Albanian socialists charge more votes than voters in contested election win; vote annulled

TIRANA, Albania — Albania's top electoral court has annulled the governing party's marginal election win in the capital, Tirana, after the main opposition Socialists said there were more votes than voters.

In a brief statement late Monday, the court said it "partially" accepted the appeal. It instructed electoral authorities to reconsider all contested votes or those cast in the wrong boxes in the May 8 poll and add them to the final count.

Last month, the Democrats' Lulzim Basha was declared victor by 81 votes after authorities included ballots cast in the wrong boxes. An initial count had awarded victory to Socialist leader Edi Rama, by 10 votes.

It is unclear when a final ruling will be issued. Albania has been gripped by a political crisis for almost two years.

Monday, June 13, 2011

U.S. helps Albania fight cyber-security attacks

TIRANA, Jun 13, 2011 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- A United States agency started on Monday a one-year program to boost Albania's government capacity to deal with cyber-security threats ranging from hackers to more serious threats, Albanian and U.S. officials said.
After the signing of the agreement by Joseph C. Williams, the USAID Albania Director, and Albania's Information Technology Minister Genc Pollo, experts from Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute (SEI) will start the training.

Pollo said that in the last five years the Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha has made great progress with its Digital Albania project, which had even transformed the activity of many sectors.

"Quite a number of state agencies interact with officials, clients or the wider public through websites and interactive portals," Pollo said. "We, too, have registered attacks against websites, including those of simple hackers, who in most cases are youngsters with technical and intellectual gifts and a rebellious character." "But we should not forget that there are more serious aggressors than them. Such attacks could bring more serious consequences both for the state as well as for non-governmental organizations, if attention is not paid to them." Pollo explained that the United States had recently declared that if subjected to such an attack, it reserves the right to respond with a conventional military attack. Albania is a member of NATO and a close ally of the United States.

The initial week-long seminar, one of many training sessions for government agencies and ministries until March 2012, will aim to help officials understand cyber-security models, build skills to resist operational threats, and develop processes for managing cyber-security incidents.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, SEI will conduct several more workshops that will provide the necessary know-how to Albania's government to set up its own cyber-security facility that will protect Albania from cyber threats that result from natural disasters to cyber-attacks.

"Workshop topics will include: planning and implementing strategies, benchmarks, timelines, resources; gathering computer security incident reports; designing and maintaining a database of security incidents; publicizing the facility's role; developing a warning notification service; and building relations with peer security organizations," USAID said in a statement.

Former Kosovo Minister accused from EULEX

Fatmir Limaj appears on the list of defendants by EULEX. His name has already taken place on the official website of EULEX in the section of the trials.

"Limaj and others" is called the Monday′s hearing in which will be reviewed the request of the special prosecutor Maorizio Salustro, to continue the detention of some former comrades of the deputy Limaj suspected of war crimes against civilians and crimes against prisoners done 1999 in the village Kleçkë.

Koha Ditore reports that the indictment already is being finalized.

Serbia Hosts Major NATO Conference

A NATO conference in Belgrade this week will bring together scores of defence officials from across the globe, but it will not change Serbia's neutral stance towards the alliance, the government says.

Bojana Barlovac

Belgrade is set to host a three-day long annual NATO conference starting on Monday, but state officials have stressed that the fact that Serbia is holding the event does not mean that the country's stance towards the alliance has changed.

Tanja Miscevic, state secretary in Serbia's Defence Ministry, stressed on Sunday that the gathering will include NATO and non-NATO countries, including Russia.

Ever since NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 over the conflict in Kosovo, the issue of alliance membership has been politically sensitive, as protests on Sunday against the conference showed.

Several hundred people in downtown Belgrade chanted slogans against the alliance in the protest on Sunday, while some scuffled with police. More protests are planned for Monday.

Serbia's Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Miloje Miletic, will open the conference, which will cover international military cooperation, ensuring access to shared global resources and developing professional defense and security sectors.

The conference is the largest international military event that has ever been organised in Serbia.

Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac said on Friday that the Serbian Army will enjoy increased recognition among international military experts and the public as a result of the conference.

Serbia became a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace, PfP, programme in December 2006, after signing a cooperation agreement with NATO in which democratic, institutional and defence reforms were key.

As part of the PfP, Serbia has engaged in limited security and defence reform cooperation with the Alliance, while military officers and civilians have participated in various alliance activities.

But whether Serbia will ever join the Alliance remains a moot point. In April 2009, Serbia unveiled drafts of national security and defence strategies in which it maintained its doctrine of military neutrality.

According to the latest research carried out by Serbia's Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CeSID, in April and May on 1,200 respondents, two-thirds of Serbians are against NATO membership.

In an interview with Serbian daily newspaper Vecernje Novosti on Friday, Sutanovac said that after the NATO summit, Serbia will not be any closer or further away from NATO than it is today.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Multi-ethnic Kosovo is fairy tale, interior minister claims

BELGRADE -- Neither Serbs nor Albanians decide about Kosovo, but the most powerful countries instead, Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dačić has said.

Ivica Dačić (Tanjug, file)
Ivica Dačić (Tanjug, file)

He added that a fairy tale about multi-ethnic Kosovo should be forgotten.

The interior minster explained that it was clear to everyone that the Greater Albania project was at work here.

“Maybe not straight away, but Kosovo is not Monaco or San Marino – a small state, tourist heaven, so it can survive on its own. That’s why we should have talked to Albania. That way we would have avoided the Kosovo recognition process,” Dačić explained.

He says that the fact that school textbooks for Kosovo and Albania are printed together and contain ideas of joint protection of borders, shows that he is right.

The minister stressed that all this was his personal political position “even though they are telling him that he has violated state policy and that he is a traitor”.

“On the other hand, when the negotiations were stuck somewhere Kosovo team chief Edita Tahiri told (Belgrade team head) Borko Stefanović that he was having coffee with Ivica Dačić too often. I’m a traitor to some and a great-Serbian extremist to others. But I’m only realistic,” the minister concluded.

Greece will begin oil research in Ionian Sea

Greece has announced that will start a research program of oil and gas in the Ionian Sea, the marine area of Corfu, Albania′s neighboring city. Voice of America "in Albanian announces today that the program is expected to start next year and may include foreign companies for research in this area. Meanwhile, Greece and Albania have yet to finalize an agreement on maritime borders between the two countries.

According to Greek media sources, which refer to Greek officials of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the oil and gas research program is expected to include international companies engaging in research in this marine area. Research, according to one of the main Greek newspaper "To Vima", is based on the principle of "middle line", or equal-distance away in the middle of all territories of the countries concerned to set the boundaries of marine area of the Ionian Sea.

Sources from the Greek press claim that the Greek government will not participate in costs for seismic studies.

Albania mayoral vote gone awry threatens EU membership bid


As Albania’s two-year political crisis risks spiraling out of control, the opposition is now calling for international intervention.

Edi Rama, the maverick head of the Socialist Party (PS), called for urgent help to prevent the crisis from “turning into a time bomb for our country’s future.”

Albania’s political scene has been starkly divided since accusations of election fraud followed 2009 parliamentary polls. Since then, tensions have flared over the shooting of four antigovernment protesters by security forces in January and the ongoing dispute over a mayoral vote in Tirana, the capital.

Now, political tension appears close to the boiling point.

Mr. Rama, who was the incumbent in the Tirana election and deemed the loser by the country's election commission, says he was robbed in the close race and has refused to concede.

This week in an open letter to the Albanian people, Rama launched a stinging attack on Prime Minister Sali Berisha, whose Democratic Party (PD) was deemed the winner of the mayor vote, accusing him of “robbing” and “killing innocent people."

He also rebuked the country’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of turning “the loser into a winner” and breaking the law after it overturned exceptionally tight mayoral election in Tirana. It declared Lulzim Basha, a rising star of the PD, the winner by only marginally more votes after an allocation of miscast ballots.

EU membership

The local elections in May were meant to help break Albania’s political deadlock and mark a new stride forward in the country’s progress toward European Union membership, but have done quite the opposite.

Albania remains one of Europe’s poorest countries, still scarred by the legacy of eccentric Stalinist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, who led the country to a hermetic diplomatic and economic isolation. Transition since the fall of communism in 1991 has been exceptionally difficult, and the country came to the brink of civil war during unrest in 1997 during which 3,000 to 4,000 people died; divisions from that time and indeed decades before are to an extent reflected in the current political situation.

Mr. Berisha's party retained power in the hotly contested 2009 general election. The PS claimed the government’s tight victory had been fixed, despite international observers saying the vote was largely free and fair, and boycotted parliament for nine months in protest..................

NATO Weighs In On Kosovo Security Forces' Role

The NATO-led mission in Kosovo says that a recent government memo proposing a new policing role for the Kosovo Security Forces has no legal basis.

Petrit Collaku

“There is no legal basis that can give the Kosovo Security Forces, KSF, the right to carry out police duties,” Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Freier, a public relations officer for the the alliance's mission in Kosovo, told Balkan Insight.

“We are waiting for information from Kosovo's Minister of Security Forces, Agim Ceku, on this matter and we will look at it carefully,” he said, adding that after receiving this information they would forward it to NATO.

The internal memo, drafted by the Ministries of the Interior and of the Security Forces, proposed giving the KSF responsibilities that include riot control, holding individuals who have been arrested at protests at military barracks and work in protecting and escorting high-level local or international officials.

The document caused some controversy when it was published in local media, and Minister Ceku and Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi were summoned before a parliament security committee on Wednesday to explain the proposals.

The ministers told the committee said that they do not intend to make Kosovo a ‘police state’ but that their idea was to allow the security forces to help Kosovo police in emergency situations. They stressed that the memo was only a draft and could be reviewed. The ministers received a warm welcome in parliament, however, and the committee expressed their support for the two government officials.

Kosovo's Security Forces are governed by strict rules laid out under the Martti Ahtisaari’s package, which guides Kosovo's post-independence period.

According to the package: “The KSF will be designed and prepared to fulfil other security functions, not appropriate for the police or other law enforcement organizations. The International Military Presence, in coordination with the International Civilian Representative, will decide when to authorise the KSF to engage in these new security functions.”

The mission of the KSF is to conduct crisis response operations in Kosovo and abroad and assist the civil authorities in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies.

Such duties include search and rescue operations, explosive ordinance disposal, the control and clearance of hazardous materials, fire-fighting and other humanitarian tasks.

The KSF replaced the Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC, in January 2009. The territory's first quasi-military body was set up after the end of the 1998-99 war between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces, and overwhelmingly comprised ethnic Albanian war veterans.