Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Greece assumes EU presidency as anger towards Brussels grows

Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos hopes EU stewardship will show Greece is on the mend and boost its eurozone credentials
Syntagma Square protest
A Greek woman in Syntagma Square protests against plans for banks to repossess homes from those who have fallen behind on their mortgage. Photograph: Giorgos Panagakis/ Giorgos Panagakis/Demotix/Corbis
After years of allowing Athens's central plaza to bear the marks of riot and wrath, the Greek authorities have been tarting up Syntagma square as Greece prepares to take over the rotating presidency of the EU on New Year's Day.
Greece's assumption of the role – which comes with the ability to regulate policy in the 28-nation bloc – marks a major milestone for a state whose continued EU membership appeared far from assured a year ago.
Even now, four years after triggering the debt drama that would become Europe's worst crisis since the second world war, there is scepticism over whether Athens will last the course.
Monday's pre-dawn drive-by shooting attack at the home of Germany's ambassador to Greece underlined the volatile mood. The bullet casings found at the scene embodied the sentiments of a nation that blames Berlin for years of grinding austerity – the price of receiving more than €240bn (£200bn) in emergency loans from the EU and IMF. The fear of social unrest is never far away.
None of this is lost on Greece's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Evangelos Venizelos, who was quick to describe the shooting as an "attempt to tarnish Greece's image" before the EU presidency.
Greek antipathy towards Germany is one aspect of the crisis but so too is mounting hostility towards the EU.
"It's cost us a great deal," said Venizelos, rolling off a list of the sacrifices Greeks have made to stay in the bloc. "Greece stands alone in making a unique fiscal adjustment … in 3.5 years we have taken measures [worth] €70bn. That is the equivalent of 35% of GDP, " he added in an interview with the Guardian.
For Venizelos, the perceived irony of Greece "presiding over Germany" is further proof that member states remained far from equal. "The irony is to be found in the fact that the principle of institutional equality … is collapsing," he said. "Some countries decide and some countries execute [those decisions]."
But prime minister Antonis Samaras's conservative-led coalition also views the six-month post as an opportunity to ram home the message that Greece is both on the mend and taking its European credentials seriously.
"It's a chance for Europe, for the European Union, to show that a country that is in an adjustment programme is a normal country," said Venizelos. "And it's a chance for Greece to prove that it is a normal European country."
Athens will prioritise economic growth, immigration policy and youth unemployment, from which it suffers more than any other EU state. Privately, officials also hope that in allowing Greece to focus on European affairs, EU stewardship will give the government an unofficial grace period: a period of detente, free of the pressures to implement unpopular reforms that have not only polarised Greeks but steadily reduced the coalition's control of parliament to a majority of three.
With crucial elections for the European parliament in May – polls expected to bring anti-European sentiment to the fore – Venizelos said Greece is resolved to contribute to what is likely to be "a big debate" about Europe's future.
"Now that we are going to have the big debate … about Europe and the new narrative [of Europe], it is good that Greece, which has lived the experience of the crisis, is president. It is the laboratory of the crisis," he said.
Such goals may prove illusory. Despite achieving a primary budget surplus, Athens may miss new fiscal targets. On the street, passions are at boiling point following legislation that allows banks to repossess homes.
Amid speculation about a new bailout – vehemently denied by Samaras, who insisted on Monday that Greece will soon exit its rescue programme – fears abound that far from uniting Europe, the presidency will be overshadowed by Athens's often strained relations with the organisations that have kept it afloat. With EU members providing 80% of the rescue funds to date that will almost certainly reinforce the north-south divide.
"Our relations with the troika were always difficult," said Venizelos, referring to the recent inability of both sides to bridge their differences. "The troika is not behaving well in light of … our huge [financial] success," he added, insisting that Greece's rescue deals could have had a "more flexible and more clever approach".
In sharp contrast to other EU countries, Greece has kept pre-presidency refurbishments to a minimum. Apart from replacing the shattered marble in Syntagma square almost nothing has been done to adorn Athens. For many it is a sign of the times.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The top 10 most-read GlobalPost stories in 2013 prove you hate America, among other things


2. Europe’s marijuana capital isn’t Amsterdam

Lush strip of green: Nine-tenths of villagers are believed to take part in marijuana cultivation in Lazarat, Albania. (Besar Likmeta/GlobalPost)
Lazarat is known as Albania’s drug capital, notorious for its cannabis and lawlessness. The annual crop earns almost $6 billion, according to the Italian financial police. Although local police dispute that figure, they admit that marijuana production is booming.

See all the 10 list:

Greece: Former minister sentenced to 4-year suspended imprisonment

30/12 13:09 CET

Former Transport Minister Michalis Liapis was sentenced to four year suspended imprisonment, redeemable for 50 euros a day, after being arrested for driving an uninsured vehicle with fake number plates.
The former minister, who did not attend the trial , was imposed an additional fine of 3,000 euros because the vehicle was uninsured.

Earlier, the prosecutor had asked to declare him guilty without mitigating circumstances. Referring to the fake plates, the prosecutor said that the former minister acted fraudulently having premeditated the act.
The lawyers of the former minister claimed earlier that Liapis acted recklessly, adding that he feels bad and is remorseful. They also explained his absence from the court saying that there are 30 reporters and cameras outside that he wanted to avoid.
Source: Athens News Agency
Russia-Greece: significant room for further growth of trade relations

December 30 2013
[linked image]
"Voice of Russia"

Greece is probably Russia's oldest friend. The history of relations between the two nations is more than thousand years old. Economic and commercial ties between Greece and Russia do not reflect the excellent political relations at the moment, while trade relations have significant room for further growth.

Greek exports to Russia doubled in 2012 compared with 2004, and the positive trend is expected to continue. Around 150 mixed Greek-Russian businesses now operate in Russia, with a total turnover of 2.5 billion euro and 20,000 employees.

Speaking in Moscow, on the occasion of the Greek-Russian "Go International" forum in May this year, Greece's Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas said that a turn of the Greek economy towards exports was leading the economy out of the crisis.

"Russia has been upgraded at 10th from 12th place in terms of Greek exports and in 2016 I believe it will be in the top-five," Dimitris Kourkoulas said. "Exports, tourism and privatization will have a significant contribution to the rescue of our economy."

Russia looks upon the Greek market as a portal to a wider market of 65 million people. Tourism is the key sector for economic cooperation between the two countries right now. Greece, which will take over presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2014, is going to seek a looser EU visa regime for Russians in that period.

Greece needs Russian investments, mostly, in sectors like transport, agriculture, but most of all energy. Russia's Gazprom and Sintez, a private natural gas company, have recently raised more than 1.5 billion euro for a 65% share in Greece's DEPA state-owned natural gas group. Gazprom already uses DEPA capacities to supply some 90% of the Greek-bound gas.

A1 Report - Rama:Dosja Imami vetëm fillimi Statusi u bllokua nga radikalet

The battle ended of Albania in Europe, which are the reasons?

Edi Rama: Albania's status in the European Union, influenced by European radicals, who have nothing in common with the values ​​and ideals of the European Union.

Press Conference of the Albanian PM Edi Rana see video.
NYTIMES - The FILTH in Erdogan's Closet

December 30 2013

The Conquerors (Turkey) strongest words yet from an International paper...


ISTANBUL A wave of early morning police raids in Turkey on Dec. 17 gave the world a sudden glimpse into the murky inner workings of the countrys ruling elite, pulling back the curtain on astonishing scenes of bribery and graft.

The head of the state-controlled financial giant, Halkbank, had $4.5 million secreted in shoe boxes in his study. Istanbuls best-known real-estate developer was interrogated over bribes to evade zoning restrictions. The interior ministers sons home had so many strongboxes filled with cash, he needed a counting machine to keep the accounts straight. His father has now been forced to resign as part of major cabinet reshuffle. Another minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, who oversees the mega-construction projects that are transforming Istanbul, didnt leave quietly. He said hed done nothing without Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogans full blessing. To make people more comfortable, the prime minister should also resign, he told a private news channel.

These remarks from a lifelong political ally were particularly damaging. Billboards throughout Turkish cities feature Mr. Erdogan staring into the distance and proclaiming that he is on target to lead the Republic to its centenary in 2023. Suddenly, with four former ministers in his cabinet implicated in corruption and with newspapers suggesting that his own family may be next on the prosecutors list he looks like a man staring into the bottom of a well.

The allegations of high-level corruption threaten to undo Mr. Erdogans accomplishment of wresting Turkish politics from the military and overseeing a long period of economic growth. Like a Moses in the wilderness, he has led his people from one sort of bondage but appears unable to deliver them to a promised land of transparent government where people are ruled through consensus rather than bullying and threats.

Mr. Erdogan does not know how to play defense. Last weekend, he addressed rally after rally and cursed the international groups and dark alliances trying to undermine Turkeys prestige. Newspapers tied to his government named the culprits: Israel and the United States. One pro-Erdogan broadsheet demanded that the American ambassador, Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., be declared persona non grata for trying to punish Halkbank for its dealings with Iran.

While the government tries to shout down the opposition, it has done little to restore its own credibility. The compromised ministers werent the initial targets; rather, it was the officers involved in the investigation who lost their jobs first. A reported 400 officers have been removed from their posts or reassigned. To choke off the steady trickle of embarrassing leaks, the Interior Ministry has banned reporters from police stations. Procedures have been changed so that the police cannot assist the public prosecutor without first informing their superiors even if it is the superior who stands accused.
Absolute power corrupting absolutely tells only part of the Turkish story. Corruption and institutionalized greed can become a powerful engine pushing a government over the edge into absolutism. Its happening to a government that came to power 11 years ago promising to be the new broom that would sweep Turkish politics clean.

Some analysts believe that Mr. Erdogans Justice and Development Party (known as the A.K.P.) will lose a few percentage points in nationwide local elections this March, but that its standing is so strong that it will cling to power.

Yet this assumes that the A.K.P. has managed to plug the dam. The government is used to taking its gloves off against the radical secularists. It isnt used to dealing with waves of dissent from within its own camp. The brutal suppression of last summers protests in Istanbuls Taksim Square had already tarnished Mr. Erdogans image. Blaming America and the rest of the world for his troubles will only isolate Turkey further.

It is a country that needs to borrow liberally from abroad to finance its public debt. This week the Turkish lira fell to a record low against the dollar. The prospect of more political instability will make investors even more nervous.

Many commentators have framed the raids as evidence of an escalating row between Mr. Erdogan and the religious preacher Fethullah Gulen, who controls an influential network of adherents from a self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Its true that the Gulenists were natural allies of the A.K.P. when it first came to power in 2002. Zekeriya Oz, the prosecutor who initiated last weeks investigation, is the same official who launched the Ergenekon trial a successful criminal action against the top brass for plotting a military coup (he is believed to have Gulen connections). The speculation is that many of those police officers who lost their jobs in the last 10 days had Gulen affiliations. A recent brimstone sermon webcast by Mr. Gulen fueled speculation that new revelations about A.K.P. wrongdoing are in the pipeline.

But blaming the Gulen movement is a bit like blaming Zionists. Its a sad commentary on contemporary Turkey that people have to reach for conspiracy theories to explain why public officials are doing their job to prosecute corruption. It doesnt seem to have crossed peoples minds that disunity within the A.K.P. coalition has given wiggle room to those who actually believe in the rule of law and want to enforce it.

Until recently, the great cliché about Turkey was that its primary political fault line lay between secularists and the religious right. But the tremors that have shaken Mr. Erdogans government are emanating from a fault line within the religious right itself.
The government is treating the crisis as nothing short of a coup by those jealous of its success. This is nonsense.

The opposition it faces has emerged because of the A.K.Ps own lack of respect for the rule of law and a cynical disregard for public accountability. It can no longer hide behind conspiracy theories and bluster.

Andrew Finkel is the author of Turkey: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Visa-free travel regime with EU "threatened"

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission (EC) has said that the abuse of asylum had remained a threat to visa-free travel between the western Balkans and EU in 2012 and 2013.
(sxc.hu, stock)
(sxc.hu, stock)
In a report which the Beta news agency has seen, the EC also stressed that "the overwhelming majority of citizens from the region had honored regulations while using the opportunity to travel to the EU without having the requirement of filing for visas."
The report, submitted to the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament also said that "the situation with false asylum requests mostly stayed the same during the first nine months of the year, when the number of requests for asylum in the EU filed by citizens from western Balkan countries dropped by a little over five percent."

Conversely, in Germany, the number of asylum applications made by people from the region soared 70 percent in the first three trimesters when compared to the corresponding period in 2012, Beta quoted the document.

Like last year, the bulk of requests for asylum during the first nine months of 2013 were made by Serbians and Macedonians, followed by Albanians and Bosnian citizens, while the approval rate was only two percent last year, said the document.

The EC stressed that the vast majority of citizens from the western Balkans who enjoy the benefit of visa-free travel to the EU "traveled to the EU in good faith and with just cause," Beta reported.

New terrorist attack claims 12 lives in Russian town

VOLGOGRAD -- A new terrorist attack took place in the southern Russian town of Volgograd, only a day after an explosion that killed 16.
The scene of the Monday attack (Tanjug)
The scene of the Monday attack (Tanjug)
At least 12 persons died on Monday morning when an explosive device was detonated in a trolleybus, while 28 were injured.
The Russian media are reporting that a five-year-old child is among the victims.

Officials are also quoted as saying that there is a great chance that today's attack was connected to the one that took place at the railway station on Sunday, when 16 persons died, including the terrorist, a woman "suicide bomber."

It has been reported that "Chechen mujahideens" are behind both attacks, and that their goal is "to prevent the holding of the Winter Olympics in Sochi."

Russian news agencies also said that President Vladimir Putin has sent Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Aleksandr Bortnikov to Volgograd.

Athens: Shots fired at German ambassador's residence

ATHENS -- At least four shots were fired at the residence of the German ambassador to Greece early on Monday. Nobody was injured in the incident.
The scene of the shooting in Athens on Monday (Tanjug)
The scene of the shooting in Athens on Monday (Tanjug)
The bullets hit the metal gate of the high-security residence located in a busy street, police said, according to Reuters.
The news agency also reported that unidentified attackers used an assault rifle.

A police official who spoke on condition of anonymity said at least two assailants were involved.

After the incident, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras spoke o German Ambassador Wolfgang Dold, and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos expressed his "outrage and outright condemnation."

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Serbian PM warns EU may reimpose visas on Western Balkans 


The European Union may suspend visa free regime in January next year due the increasing number of asylum seekers coming from Western Balkan countries.

World Bulletin / News Desk 25 Dec. 2013

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic on Sunday warned that the European Union might reimpose visas for people coming from Western Balkan countries including Serbia.
“There is a real danger of suspension of the visa free regime which would be catastrophic for us, after all efforts we have made in the past,” said Dacic.
A big majority of asylum seekers headed for Europe come from the Western Balkans. According to the EuroStat, EU’s statistics authority, 37,350 asylum demands filed to EU countries from the region in the first 10 months of 2013.
Serbia placed first among the five Western Balkan countries with 16,070 asylum demands as Macedonia was second with 8,425 requests, Albania third with 7,125, Bosnia and Herzegovina fourth with 5,045 and Montenegro placed fifth with 685 asylum demands.
EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, has urged the Western Balkan nations to show solid progress in reducing the number of asylum seekers coming from their countries until spring next year, otherwise face risk of losing the free visa regime.
“Number of applications for asylum in the EU countries has quadrupled. The most of them come from the Western Balkan region, which is a big problem. It means that, if necessary, we may suspend visa free regime to some of the countries,” said Malmstrom.
“There is a real danger of suspension, because number of asylum seekers is concerning,” Tanja Fajon, European lawmaker and former rapporteur to the EP for visa liberalization, told Anadolu Agency.
The EU lifted visa requirements for Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia in December 2009 and for Albania and Bosnia in December 2010.
ANALYSISSunday, December 29, 2013

Albania, EU accession and security issues

By Ioannis Michaletos/ The present state of affairs in Albania regarding its impeding EU accession is far from rosy judging amongst other by the hesitation of countries such as UK, Germany, Netherlands and Czech Republic to accept an eventual inclusion of that country in the EU.

Concurrently Albania’s neighbor, Greece which assumes the EU Presidency 1st of January 2014 and for the next 6 months, appears to be as one of the most fervent supports for the case of Tirana. Below the surface though, tension brews which is illustrated by a set of developments. These include defense developments and serious security concerns regarding organized crime activities.

Tirana-Ankara line and the mistrust

In December 2013, the head of the Albanian PDIU political party, which has a clear-cut line in its foreign policy proposals against Greece, visited Ankara and was hosted personally by the vice-President of the governing AKP party. The Albanian press noted that this visit marked an intense and long-term cooperation between PDIU and the Turkish AKP. What is more interesting though is that Turkey proposed and PDIU accepted for common stance in the relations between Albania and Greece, which in diplomatic terms can be considered as a “non-friendly” gesture towards the latter.

In addittion the Albanian Armed forces received a 3 million Euros donation of military vehicles from Turkey. Since the early 00′s the Albanian Army has accepted a significant number of donations, whilst Albanian special forces regularly receive training by their Turkish counterparts, who in turn have as a basic doctrine the fight against Greek military targets in the event of an armed conflict between the two countries. In fact the definite assessment that has been formed in the Greek defense and security power circles for some time is that the Albanian forces are becoming “satellite-like ones” of the Turkish Army, an assumption that leads Athens to eventually consider Albania as a non-friendly state in all practical terms, apart from naming it directly. The aforementioned cover a very small part of the overall discussion regarding Greek-Albanian defense relations, which do not conclude with the involvement solemnly of Turkey.

Furthermore, in recent nationwide Gallop type surveys in both Greece and Albania which were conducted by the Albanian institute of international relations with the assistance of the Greek ELIAMEP foundation, interesting findings were laid down. 34% of the Greeks questioned consider the Albanian immigrants as a “threat” and 15% are worried about “Albanian nationalism”. Also 32% do not want Albania into the EU.

The Albanians questioned, 18.5% of them consider Greece as the “prime external threat”, more than the 17% which consider Serbia. Insignificant number mentioned also FYROM, Montenegro and Italy. These data further add to the general assumption that mistrust and a societal feeling of common opposition fills the bilateral relations between the two states.

Better safe than sorry

In Mid-December 2013 and in the midst of all the above culminations, the Greek Armed forces performed a military exercise in the Lake Prespes region close to the borders with Albania. The exercise was code named “Pyrpolytis 11/13″ and constituted a 24-hour rapid movement of elite forces aiming in theory to disband and neutralize incoming “irregular forces” from Albania, which would be assisted by “terrorist cells”. Several units from the Greek Alpine Commando force were used, along with 4 Chinook and 2 Apache helicopters and various specially designed vehicles for mountainous war.

The Prespes region is over the past few years a crossroad for drug traffickers from Albania, while the Greek security apparatus strongly believes that elements belonging to veteran members of the UCK are “testing” for years the preparedness of the Greek armed forces, especially after the commence of the economic crisis in the country in 2010. The information leaked so far by credible sources in the Greek media and amongst local stakeholders, talk about “loose cells” of UCK veteran members in Greece in the land axis between the lake Prespes and Tymfistros mountain in central Greece, along with a few dozen members in the outskirts of Athens. In total there are around 150 suspected persons that for the moment deal heavily with drug trafficking and arms contraband.

All the available information point out that ex-UCK members, which presently deal exclusively with the organized crime in the Balkans, have from time to time attempted to “test” the Greek border and domestic security system in a significant scale, nevertheless the attempts were thwarted so far. That has lead in a shift in strategy within the Greek Armed forces which now have developed a separate high-alert commando structure that will be aided by air force and heavily armed Police elements, exclusively dealing with the issue and fusing its operational aims with those of the border Police when in terms with organized criminal activities.

A distorted Balkan “Switzerland”
The small town of Lazarati, relatively close to the borders with Greece and FYROM, is the primal hashish production region in Europe. Lazarati’s 4,000 inhabitants are fully occupied with cannabis production, which reaches from 500 tons to 1,200 tons per year depending on the crop. It is estimated that the Lazarati region “pumps” 200-450 million Euros into the Albanian economy which is around 3% of its nominal GDP! Moreover the total revenue for the Albanian organized crime and their associates in several countries in wholesale and retail sales value of the drug produced, reaches from 2 billion Euros to more than 4 billion Euros per annum.

Division of labor: Women in Lazarati cutting and preparing the new crop.

Despite efforts by the Albanian police which has confiscated in its territory more than 100 tons in 2013, and the pressure exercised, especially by the Greek and Italian authorities, the Lazarati production is undisturbed and the whole town is armed to the teeth to protect its riches which produce an average 100,000 Euros per year for every person, making it one of the richest regions in Europe, bar several communities in Switzerland, Monaco and Lichtenstein.

The drug production in Lazarati is mostly exported to Greece, Italy, and to Central Europe (via FYROM and Kosovo and all the way through the Northern Balkan drug route). Apart from fuelling corruption in a social and political context in Albania it is also a major security concern for the whole of the region, due to the financial empowerment it boosts to the local criminal syndicates. Further, the hashish production is being greatly assisted by the massive use of chemical agents for fast plant growth which in turn causes long-term health hazards to the “consumers”, which in most part are EU citizens.

The Lazarati drug lords are also directly connected with arms trafficking of light weapons, especially machine guns and hand grenades which are being trafficked both to Greece and Italy, while it remains a mystery how money laundering takes place of such significant amounts of cash in a country with little developed financial sector services. Thus, it can be safely assumed that money laundering takes place outside the borders of Albania with likely territories, Montenegro, Istanbul, FYROM, Ukraine, Moldova, Kosovo, and Bosnia. Lastly great amounts of cash in the tube of tens of millions perhaps even greater would be “stashed” in the Lazarati town, literally hidden in mattresses and warehouses used as “safe deposits”.

In overall, Greek-Albanian relations and the ongoing EU accession of Tirana are filtered through the prism of the security concerns of Athens which tend to grow over time. On the other hand, the Albanian society is increasingly urbanized and getting into tune with the rest of the EU, requiring the rule of Law to be implemented within its territory and relinquishing role models of “guerilla behavior” that still dominate large stratums of the society in the peripheries of the country.

The fight between the two worlds will ultimately decide the fate of the likely entrance of Albania into the EU. Concluding it can be safely estimated that in 2014 no Western Balkan countries (Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, and FYROM) will get the “green light” ahead from Brussels and security concerns play a decisive role, apart from economic considerations and bilateral differences.
West fueling unrest in Turkey: Iranian MP
Turkish people protest alleged corruption in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, December 25, 2013.
Turkish people protest alleged corruption in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul, December 25, 2013.
Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:13AM GMT
Related Interviews:
Related Viewpoints:
An Iranian lawmaker says Western countries are making mischief to fuel unrest in Turkey as they benefit from conflicts in Muslim nations.
“The footprints of the US, Britain and the Zionist regime (Israel) can always be found in conflicts in Muslim countries,” Mo’ayed Hosseini Sadr, the head of the Iran-Turkey Parliamentary Friendship Group, said on Sunday.
“We should remember that the US has proved in the past that it is not happy with the progress of any country, particularly a Muslim one,” the Iranian lawmaker noted.
Iran-Turkey Parliamentary Friendship Group led by Hosseini Sadr recently visited Ankara at the invitation of Osman Askin Bak, the Turkish head of the friendship group.
During their four-day visit in Turkey, the Iranian delegates held meetings with Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Turkish Parliament Vulcan Bozakir and Turkish Minister of Economy Mehmet Zafer Caglayan.
“As a Muslim country, we are pleased with Turkey’s progress. But the US, Britain and the Zionist regime have never been happy with Turkey’s progress and are trying to create major problems for them by complicating issues as in the financial corruption case,” Hosseini Sadr added.
“Such mischief has affected and will continue to affect the value of the Turkish currency,” Hosseini Sadr said.
On Friday, hundreds of anti-government protesters took to the streets in Ankara and Istanbul, calling on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down. Police forces used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.
The crisis erupted on December 17, after dozens of government officials and prominent businessmen close to Erdogan were arrested on graft charges.
On December 25, Erdogan announced a major cabinet reshuffle, replacing 10 ministers including the economy, interior, and environment ministers, who resigned from their posts after their sons were arrested in the scandal.
Albania is negotiating for two US frigates

December 28, 2013

The frigate USS Ingraham (FFG-61) Class Oliver-Hazard-Perry (photo), The Albanian government is reportedly negotiating with the United States government to acquire 2 frigates by U.S. Navy.

At present not entirely clear whether it's frigates already retired or still in operating the U.S. Navy. The ship type has not been reported, but by historical information, can assume that this is the class ship, Oliver-Hazard-Perry.

This type of vessel is in operation since 1977 and US Navy has built 77 units. The United States is expected to put up for sale to third countries a total of 28 warships.

But sill no any Albanian sources made the decision. The bugged which passed yesterday by the Albanian parliament, for the Army, has not any prevision or founds both for navy and Air fighters, to be approved officially. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Albania: Budget passes in Parliament

Budget passes in Parliament
With 82 votes in favor and 27 against, the majority passed the budget of the next year by giving an end to the discussions with the opposition, which considers this budget the budget of crisis.

PM Rama blamed the opposition for the situation of the public debt, and accused it of bad governing in these eight years, and for abusing with the legalization process and funds for the homeless.

"It is painful to see Albania today without an alternative in opposition. You are talking as if we are around the end of our mandate, forgetting that 100 days ago it was you in power. You are talking as this debt was not made by you. We are not increasing the debt, but we are simply formalizing the one taken by you. We don't want to pass to businesses the burden of a crisis that yo have created with your short-term policies. In eight years you created a giant mess", Rama declared.

In the session that lasted seven hours, the majority rejected the amends proposed by the DP, which were based on the electoral program of the SP. The first amend that was rejected was  that of the former Minister of Finances, who demanded an increased tax for the large business.

"This proposition is based on our deep conviction that low taxes are an instrument that encourages the development of the Albanian economy, and also comes in full accordance with the electoral commitments and the electoral program of the Socialist majority, which has publicly declared that there will be no increased taxes for busines in the first year", Bode declared.

"There are 166.000 self-employed people who support 500.000 Albanian citizens. We have removed the small business tax and have reduced the tax on profit, and that's why our package supports the small business. You mentioned a 70 million USD here. Only in 2014, the government will return 350 million USD to the business companies", Ahmetaj declared.

The second most important amend of the package with 39, was that proposed by Prime Minister Berisha for cancelling the 10 ALL tax on gas for circulation.

The second amend of the list with 39 in total, was the one proposed by former PM Sali Berisha, to cancel the 10 ALL tax on a liter of gas.

"This tax will push Albania to recession. You will collect 80 million USD, but you will ruin 800 million USD. You are gamblers. You do you protect your gambling houses? Why don't you raise taxes on gambling, on the sin, but you raise it on gas", Berisha declared.

"Fuels prices are becoming relatively acceptable for the region. It is a necessary measure to reduce the traffic. The Albanian drivers will not have the same gas that used to destroy their vehicles, and in a long-term view, the public only profits and there will be no direct  influence", declared the Minister of Energy and Industry, Damian Gjiknuri.

The new tax system raises the annual burden for businesses and citizens with 20 million USD. The government says that they are making an equal distribution of the tax burden, but the opposition insists that this package will plunge the country into recession.

Russian vessel "Peter the Great" in Limassol, turkey SCARED

December 28 2013 
CYPRUS EEZ  (Login Fantaros)

The super-cruiser "Peter the Great" is in Cyprus- The Turks got scared and gathered "Barbaros"

The nuclear-powered cruiser "Peter the Great» (Pyotr Veliky), the strongest Russian ship anchored in the port of Limassol and is preparing to sail the Aegean with other ships were making to joint exercises with the Greek Navy. This is a clear message of support to Cyprus and Greece from Moscow sounds on the other side, Turkey.

This is shown by the fact that it is the first time the mightiest ship all uniforms Russia and the heavier equipped arrives in Cyprus port. " This is the first visit of the "Pyotr Veliky" at the port of Limassol in the history of international cooperation between Russia and the Republic of Cyprus , "said the spokesman of the Western Military Region Vadim Sergei.

The cruiser will visit the Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Stanislav Osantski, possibly a senior member of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic.

Russian clear message to the Cyprus and to Turkey. Already the wake of "Peter the Great" by the arrival in port of Limassol displaced Turkish research vessel «Barbaros» and its accompanying ships and sent by the Cyprus EEZ did he walks in Turkish waters.

For «Barbaros» Turkey issued NAVTEX, stating how you doing surveys west of Cyprus, within the Cypriot EEZ and direction Kastelorizo. presence in the "Peter the Great" and only gathered in Turkish waters.

After refueling with food and the rest of the crew of the Russian commandos and marines flying to Cyprus 'Peter the Great' will hold joint exercises with ships of Greek Fleet in the region between the Cyprus EEZ and Kastelorizo.

According to information will be coordinated antisubmarine exercises with one - at least - Russian submarine will also sail in the region.

This is a vertical upgrade of Russian naval presence in the Aegean, the time and the expected arrival of the aircraft carrier "Admiral Kuznetsov" which interrupted the modernization program to come to the Northern Ocean in the Mediterranean, a decision taken at the height of the Syrian crisis.

The 'Peter the Great' is heading Kirov, which is the largest class of vessels serving the Russian Navy today. vessel length stands at 252 meters, width of 28.5 meters and draft of 9.1 meters and the complete displacement is 28,000 tons.

The propulsion of the vessel is a combination of reactors and steam turbines CONAS and consists of two nuclear reactors KN-3 and two steam turbines GT3A-688 to give a maximum speed of 32 knots.

As for the weapons? Neither debate.

Has 20 missiles against surface targets P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck), 14 missiles SS-N-14 for anti-submarine missions, 96 (boat Pyotr Velikhy 48) anti-aircraft missiles S-300F (SA-N-6 Grumble recommended), 128 missiles 9K95 Tor (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) point defense, and missiles 44 OSA-MA (SA-N-4 Gecko for shorter distances. There is even a double cannon AK-130 eat 130 mm. and up to 6 AK-630 exakana 30 mm. 6 and end systems antipyraflikla 6 × CADS-N-1 Kashtan.

The crew stands at 710 people.

The agreement provides Avramopoulos Soigkou-how soon the Russian ships will be docked at Greek ports to provide support services, refueling etc. This agreement has already caused "consternation" in Turkey.
- - Barbaros


Greece eager to enhance image as EU president

On January 1, 2014, Greece will begin its term as rotating EU president. Despite its ongoing economic woes, the country is adamant it will be an "honest broker" at the head of the EU during the next six months.
At a presentation of Athens' top priorities during its six months at the head of the EU, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said economic growth, social cohesion and asylum policy would be paramount. The Greek head of government also said that the completion of the European banking union would be given due attention.
With regard to economic growth, Greece's coalition government of Conservatives and Socialists intends to provide an example for its EU partners, promising to leave the recession behind that has plagued the country for years.
However, few believe at this stage that Athens can make good on those pledges. Critics have even questioned whether the decision to place Greece in the chair of the European Council was a good one - in the face of its still withered economy.
Get out the polish...
Athens smog
(c) imago Greece will have work to do to clear the air - and its name - during the six-month stint
Despite its ongoing crisis, Greece will deliver a solid presidency, said Panagiotis Ioakeimidis, professor for European policy at the University of Athens. It's the least the country could do to improve its image within Europe and restore the credibility it has lost in recent years. "And I think this is exactly what will happen," Ioakeimidis told DW.
This confidence is shared by the Socialist EU parliamentarian Sylvana Rapti, who is a close aide of Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos. She is annoyed by skepticism as to whether Greece can function as EU chair: "Such distrust is born out of malevolence," an emphatic Rapti said in an interview with DW.
"Let's not forget: Belgium had to fight against such sentiments during its EU presidency in 2010. They didn't even have a government back then, and still they performed well; their crisis didn't affect Europe in the least," she added.
Social policy in focus
This will be Athens' fifth run in the rotating EU presidency; and, like before, Athens will continue to work for a socially conscious Europe, even if their successes have been moderate in the past.
Antonis Samaras
(C) picture-alliance/AP Samaras says it will be a presidency of 'opportunities, not crisis'
In 1988, for instance, Andreas Papandreou pushed for a European Social Charta, which only a year later was passed under the French EU presidency. In 1994, Athens' social agenda was set aside in the face of negotiations for an enlargement of the EU to the north. In 2003, the Greek EU presidency was completely shadowed by the Iraq crisis and divisions within Europe that emerged as a result.
In the coming year, Athens is looking once again to promote social cohesion within Europe. In particular, the government wants to devote attention to youth unemployment and ways the EU can subsidize the transition of young people into jobs. And this time attempts may not be in vain, says Sylvana Rapti.
Calls for a more social Europe are growing in frequency and intensity, she adds. Those who have long opposed the movement are becoming isolated, and not only in crisis-ridden Greece. "The time has come for a change in politics in all European countries, including those wealthy nations like Germany, France and Great Britain - where the people likewise yearn for a more social Europe."
Protest Athens
(c) Reuters The streets of Athens are still plagued by occasional unrest
Rethinking Europe's approach to refugees
"This presidency will be about Europe, and not just Greece," agrees Ioakeimidis of Athens University. The researcher knows what he is talking about: as an advisor to the Greek foreign office, Ioakeimidis was part of each of Greece's five stints as EU chair. In 2003, he was in charge of advising Costas Simitis on Greek policy in Europe.
Ioakeimidis is certain that asylum policy will play a decisive role in the upcoming presidency. But even here, it will be impossible to avoid a conflict of interest: "In the past, the Greek presidencies worked on the Dublin Regulation [Ed. note - a law regulating the asylum application process] despite the fact that the Greek government was against it. They feared it would force the countries on the Europe's periphery to take on responsibility for refugees."
Although Ioakeimidis doesn't believe that Athens will attempt to amend the Dublin Regulation, per se, he does think European asylum policy could be improved: "A reinforcement of the border control agency FRONTEX will most certainly be on the agenda, as well as negotiations with the newly implemented EU working group for Mediterranean members," said the Athens-based European expert.


Turkish military "won't be dragged into politics"

ANKARA -- Turkey’s military has said it will not be "dragged into politics" amid a deepening corruption scandal, the Associated Press has reported.
(sxc.hu, stock)
(sxc.hu, stock)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was forced to reshuffle his government after three ministers, whose sons were arrested, resigned.
The army on Friday issued a statement in reaction to an Erdogan adviser's claims that the scandal "may be a plot to trigger a coup."

The government has already blamed the probe on a conspiracy to bring down the government, the AP reported.

Turkey’s military has staged three military takeovers since the 1960s but has seen its powers curbed under Erdogan’s decade in power, the news agency noted.

Friday, December 27, 2013

  Picture: МВР
Albania seizes 1 tons of marihuana at Vlora Port
27 December 2013 | 15:02 | FOCUS News Agency
Home / Southeast Europe and Balkans
Tirana. Albanian authorities seized one ton of marihuana close to the Vlora Port, Macedonian Kanal77 Radio reported.

According to the information, the drug was aimed for the Italian market.

The marihuana was found in two freight vehicles with Albanian registration. The drug was supposed to be transported to the shore of the Ionian Sea and then shipped to Italy with motor boats.

"19,000 Serbian citizens sought asylum in EU"

BELGRADE -- The number of Serbian citizens seeking asylum in member countries of the European Union (EU) has not diminished over the year, says Sena Marić.
(B92, file)
(B92, file)
This political analyst with the Asylum Protection Center NGO added that the number will be about 19,000 by year's end, "just like last year."
But only about one percent of these are granted asylum, Marić observed.

“These are predominantly national minority members. Our sample was comprised of more than 90 percent of Roma, followed by Albanians and a small number of people of Serb ethnicity. The worrying fact is that when they return to Serbia, they see no future for them and are disappointed and pessimistic about their integration,” Marić said at a news conference held at the Tanjug Press Center.

In 2012, she said, Serbia was fourth in Europe by the number of asylum seekers, leaving even Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan behind.

Since the introduction of visa-free travel for Serbia in 2010, around 70,000 Serbian citizens have sought asylum in European countries, and the peak year was 2012, with more than 19,000 requests for asylum, she added.

“The number has not decreased this year and according to available data, it exceeded 16,500 around October. This is more when compared to the same period last year and at least the same number of requests (as in 2012), and possibly more than the 19,000, can be expected by the end of the year. And that is a major cause for concern,” said Marić.

Speaking about persons seeking asylum in Serbia, Asylum Protection Center Executive Director Radoš Đurović said that he expects there will be more than 5,000 requests by the end of the year.

A great number of people are arriving from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Algeria and Mali, and 63 percent of them are fleeing their countries to avoid armed conflict and persecution.

"About 25 percent of them are fleeing for economic reasons, such as poverty, shortage of food and water, and 12 percent are those who have combined reasons. When asked whether the people want to return (to their countries), 65 percent of those who left their countries to avoid persecution say they are willing to do that after the armed conflicts (in their countries) end,” Đurović said.

Đurović said that the asylum system in Serbia is facing an extremely difficult situation and it cannot deal successfully with this many asylum requests.
Greek - Albanian border, out of control

The day before the Albanian paramilitary, made ​​terror, to one Greek family,
near Ag Saranda, while today, the same Albanian criminal groups, terrorize the Albanians working in Greece

Even with the establishment officially, of the Greek Army at the border with Albania, terrorist acts continue to threaten the Greek people in both sides of the border, which indicates that these border is out of control, by both authorities, Greek and Albanian .

Albanian media informs that today, some illegal Albanian, which posed a paramilitary armed group, have threatened some employees of a farm in Igumenitsa region. By the collision, one of the workers was injured and was admitted to hospital in Igoumenitsa.

But no nothing changed. Albanian Greek border, as it has been without control continues to be and worse, be seen from Albania, where the Greek community feels threatened.

Albania hasp ersonel Army,10 thousand solders, in which one third, are in service of NATO in Iraq and Afghanistan, while on the border with Greece, is completely uncontrolled.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Greece.GreekReporter.com Latest News from Greece

Turkey: “There is No Cyprus”

turkey provocationThe Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs proceeded to make another provocative statement saying that “there is no Cyprus,” sparking a strong reaction from Nicosia.
This started on the occasion of an EU agreement signing concerning the readmission of illegal immigrants. Turkey, instead of conforming with this decision without any exceptions, chose unilaterally to meet this decision for all member-states of the European Union except for the Republic of Cyprus
A Turkish letter to the European Commission stated that the country will not conform to the agreement on readmission of illegal immigrants in the Republic of Cyprus because it does not recognize it. All this despite its obligation to the European Council to unconditionally recognize the Republic of Cyprus, to implement the Ankara Protocol and to work for the solution of the Cyprus dispute.
This action constitutes an intolerable challenge not only towards Cyprus but mainly to the European Union and the European institutions, said the President of EDEK Yiannakis Omirou, in Paphos.
He also said that the Union and the Commission need to compel Turkey to conform to this agreement and he called on the government to react quickly and decisively to Turkey’s provocation.
He stressed the fact that any tolerance of Turkey’s behavior that grossly offends the EU would amount to complicity and he said that it is time for Cyprus to claim all its rights as an EU Member State.
Livadhia: Christmas night, Albanian Paramilitaries, attacking a restaurant, with Greek owner

10 persons with camouflage uniform, have wounded several people, to a Greek family, during the Christmas night, in Livadhia

According to the information of the Department of Police Region of Saranda, during the Christmas night, in Livadhia village of Saranda Region, a group of 10 people, with masked uniforms, have used violence, and injured several people, the owner of a family restaurant with the Greek heritage.

According to some other sources confidential, armed paramilitary groups, in composition has been some persons, families from Chameria, of Konispol Municipality, who are arrested by police special forces.

The event occurred in one of the areas in the south of Albania, where the Greek minority lives, concerned for some time by vandals, who rob churches, homes and their properties.
Turkish Submarine accident in Cyprus 
Turoman submarine collides with a ship

[linked image]

209/1200 type submarine YILDIRAY S350 was hitting a cargo ship in area between Cyprus and Turkoland. The Cargo ship are reported to have been damaged in the accident in which there were no casualties. 

Also submarine reported to have serious damaged, the accident thought place by an emergency surfacing due to technical problems properly of bad maintenance/short resources. 

Turkoman submarine is properly knock out totally, so a tug towed YILDIRAY S350 to Mersin. 


Ekskluzive, grabitja në qendrën tregtare (pa koment) - Top Channel Alban...

Jewelry store robbed in Albania on Christmas Eve


Four armed robbers disguised as "Santa Claus" robbed jewelries worth of 410,000 US dollars from a store in the suburbs of Tirana, capital of Albania, on Christmas Eve, local media reported Wednesday.

The incident occurred on Dec. 24 at the "Tirana East Gate" shopping center where the robbers, who took the holiday atmosphere by dressing "Santa Clauses" costumes, passed security with two Kalashnikov rifles, according to media reports.

Surveillance video showed that they entered a jewelry store, keeping the store employee on gunpoint, then grasped a large amount of golden necklaces, bracelets and rings and put them into two big bags.

Two minutes late, the four robbers fled the scene to meet with their fellow driver who was waiting in a car at the shopping mall and they escape immediately.

Fortunately, no one got injured during the robbery, but the incident caused widespread panics while the robbers carrying guns rushing out.

The Albanian police came to the scene to investigate into the case. They checked the surveillance video and inquired 14 witnesses.

Local media said a police patrol reported an exchange of fire in the capital area with a gang, which was believed to be the same robbery gang after identified the plate on the Benz vehicle that they had drove.

The gang abandoned and burned the vehicle, and escaped on foot under the cover of darkness.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Albania; Celebration of Christmas

Celebration of Christmas
Orthodox believers were seen today in the Cathedral in Tirana, to celebrate one of the most important days in the Christian Calendar, the Christmas.

The archbishop of Albania, Anastas, appealed for more love and hope among all people.

The devotees present in the mess expressed their wishes and hopes for a better year for everyone.

Christmas is the day that symbolizes the hope for humanity, which will bring more peace and love through everyone.

After the mass, the celebration continues at home, where the family dinner is the main symbol of this celebration.
The president of the Albanian Nishani congratulates Easter, in place of Christmas

Nishani: I wish all the Christians of Albanians  for the resurrection of Christ

Spartak Ngjela: President should resign, is a political mistake

Christmas atmosphere is somewhat spoiled, last night, when a national message, the president of the republic Nishani, on the occasion of the feast of Christianity, is declared as celebration of Christ's resurrection.

The first reaction was of independent advertising Spartak Ngjela politician, who has called the "scandal" of presidential deklareten Nishani after offends all of Albanian Christians.

Orthodox community in Albania, have objected to a census developed in 2011 by the Albanian government, which counts four times less, from what is historical reality.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Decision: The Greek Army moves to the Albanian borders

Reopening military bases on the Greek-Albanian border surveillance

To stop the "Prespa Case" and the special activities such as smuggling of weapons from Albania attempt the GES with the reopening two outposts in the region.

The decision was taken at the highest level after the visit of Army Commander Lieutenant X.Manola, visited the area .

The follow mandated by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant A.Tselio, who gave the order to proceed directly the maintenance and repair of facilities outposts of St. Menas in Polyanemo and Vrondero.

According to information already in both outposts work is progressing rapidly and the respective Municipalities participating in the work using their technical staff.

All this shows that something is happening and something changes and have finally consider some of the special features on our site (Defencenet.gr).

Already the 574 Battalion motorized reinforced by staff and expected as shown in further reinforcing to staffed with greater force outposts.

The situation in the region has escaped terms of entry of illegal weapons (except other illegal activities such as drug trafficking , etc.) and the area often discovered caches of weapons.

And nobody knows if it is only for trafficking weapons or hiding and storing weapons for future suspensory from groups of UCC ...

Albanian gang in Greece

Albanian gang in Greece
The Greek Police has published photographs and personal data of a group of seven Albanian criminals who have been acting for more than two years in the suburbs of Athens and Argo.

The order was published after the Prosecution arrested one of the members of this group, who, according to the declaration, are dangerous and won’t hesitate to use their firearms.

They are accused of three murder attempts, two against police officers; ten robberies in malls and banks, six car thefts and three breaking and entering in private property.

Police has been able to identify one of the members, the 50-year-old Ilir Gjini, who tried to avoid a roadblock with his stolen car. Police caught him and seized two AK-47, one automatic rifle, one handgun.

Police says that their names are: Ektor Qiriazi, 30; Lulezim Elmazaj, 22; Agron Shakaj, 34; Arsen Selimaj, 39; Ervis Arapaj, 39 and Erion Peci, 27.


World Bank Helps Improve Water Supply and Sanitation for 400,000 Citizens in Albania

The World Bank Working for a World Free of Poverty 

WASHINGTON, December 20,  2013 – The World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors today approved a new loan to help Albania improve the quality of water and wastewater services in the coastal city of Durres area, and improve the financial performance of its water utility. An IBRD loan of US$85.3 million equivalent for the Albania Water Sector Investment Project aims to upgrade and expand the existing water supply and sewerage network in Durres, the country’s second largest city, one of the main tourist destinations, and primary port.
These objectives will be achieved through (i) priority investments in the water supply network and construction of water transmission pipeline to address water shortages during peak touristic season; secondary investments linking villages to the city’s water supply system; and priority investments to reduce losses in the water distribution network; (ii) priority investments in the sewerage network and its transfer capacity from the touristic beach area to the newly constructed Durres Wastewater Treatment Plant, and (iii) further support to the Durres Water Utility to improve the quality of its service and its financial situation.
The government has accorded priority to the water sector and has outlined the Durres area as a priority in its Government Program.  “The Project would therefore provide an ideal opportunity to advance the policy and institutional reform agenda outlined in the new Government Program and the recent Sector Strategy, coupled with financing for priority investments,” said Tahseen Sayed, Country Manager for the World Bank Office in Albania.

The project will build upon foundation established under earlier water investment programs in the Durres region and will scale up the Bank’s level of engagement. “The primary project beneficiaries will be up to 400,000 people in the peak season (330,000 off-peak), who would benefit from service improvements in the Durres region. This represents a crucial improvement, in terms of better water supply and treated wastewater, expanded coverage in urban and rural areas, as well as increased environmental protection of water sources and coastal waters”, said David Michaud, World Bank Senior Water Supply Specialist and Project Task Team Leader.

The Bank has funded three water investment operations in the area in the past. These projects provided investments in the rehabilitation of water supply network, strengthened capacities, and implemented institutional reforms. Lessons learned from the implementation of these projects have been incorporated into the design of the current project, including sufficient funds and investments in response to the needs, linking institutional changes to broader sector reforms, commitments to reforms, avoiding politicization of tariff setting, assessment of the political economy of the sector, and consultations with key stakeholders.
Albania became a member of the World Bank in 1991. Since then, 73 projects totaling US$1.2 billion have been supported by IDA and IBRD, and 49 projects totaling US$225 million by IFC. Currently in Albania there are 5 active projects in the social sector, natural resources, water, energy, and public sector management that are helping Albania to achieve sustainable economic and social development and pave the way for European integration.