Saturday, December 27, 2014


Vlora Gulf, in Albania is to send the FerryBoat   "Norman Atlantic" while, the Italian battleship, San Giorgio left Brindisi

Passenger ferry evacuated after fire breaks out off Greece


About 10 miles from Albanian maritime  borders of west of Sasan Island, between passengers Albanians tourists

ATHENS Sun Dec 28, 2014 

(Reuters) - An international rescue effort was under way in high winds after a car ferry carrying 466 passengers and crew caught fire while sailing from Greece to Italy and its captain ordered its evacuation, officials said on Sunday.

Passengers who telephoned Greek television stations gave dramatic testimony of conditions on the ship, which caught fire just before 6.00 a.m. local time (11.00 p.m. EST) while traveling from Patras in western Greece to the eastern Italian city of Ancona.

"They tried to lower some boats, but not all of us could get in. There is no coordination," one said. "It's dark, the bottom of the vessel is on fire. We are on the bridge, we can see a boat approaching... we opened some boxes and got some life vests, we are trying to save ourselves."

It was unclear whether there had been any casualties or whether any passengers were in the water, where cold winter temperatures would make survival difficult unless rescue came quickly.
The Norman Atlantic, carrying 222 vehicles, 411 passengers and 55 crew, was 44 nautical miles northwest of the island of Corfu when it sent a distress signal after a fire started in the lower deck, Greek coast guard officials said.

"The ship is already being evacuated," an official told Reuters, adding that 130 people had been transferred from a rescue boat to a container ship that had been nearby when the fire broke out.
Officials said both Italian and Albanian authorities were taking part in the operation, which was being conducted in difficult conditions with strong winds.

Seven other ships were in the area and rescue helicopters and a C-130 search-and-rescue support aircraft had also been sent.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by James Mackenzie and John Stonestreet)

Samaras: The country is dragged into election on account of the Tsipras – Kammenos duo


Furthermore, he launched an attack against SYRIZA and ANEL and referred to the Chaikalis case.

According to Mr. Samaras everything said by SYRIZA will lead our country outside the euro.

He continued by saying that “Liberation” revealed that SYRIZA is proof that if the troika leaves the Greeks will begin wastefulness and added that the more the Europeans hear what SYRIZA has to say the more they become appalled.

“If we go to elections we will win”, said the Prime Minister and added that: “The people do not want elections”.

Moreover, once again Mr. Samaras urged MPs to vote Stavros Dimas and to elect a president and not trigger early elections.

Minister of Defense Nikos Dendias on a frigate patrolling the Aegean

“Navarino” Navy frigate which is at sea in the Aegean is being visited by Minister of National Defense, Nikos Dendias.
The Minister will remain on the frigate overnight in order to have a complete picture on the operational activities of the Fleet.
With this move, the Minister sends a clear message to our country’s neighbors after the challenges with virtual dogfights in recent  days.
The Defense Minister is accompanied by Navy Chief, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis HN, and Fleet Chief Admiral Panagiotis Litsas HN.

Russia’s new military doctrine lists NATO, US as major foreign threats

Published time: December 26, 2014 
AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova
AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova
Russia has adopted an updated version of its military doctrine, which reflects the emergence of new threats against its national security. NATO military buildup and American Prompt Global Strike concept are listed among them.
The new doctrine was approved on Friday by President Vladimir Putin. Its core remains unchanged from the previous version. The Russian military remains a defensive tool which the country pledges to use only as a last resort.
Also unchanged are the principles of the use of nuclear weapons which Russia adheres to. Their primary goal is to deter potential enemies from attacking Russia, but it would use them to protect itself from a military attack – either nuclear or conventional – threatening its existence.
The new sections of the doctrine outline the threat Russia sees in NATO’s expansion and military buildup and the fact that the alliance is taking upon itself “global functions realized with violation of international law.”
The doctrine lists among major foreign military threats “the creation and deployment of global strategic antiballistic missile systems that undermines the established global stability and balance of power in nuclear missile capabilities, the implementation of the ‘prompt strike’ concept, intent to deploy weapons in space and deployment of strategic conventional precision weapons.”

The Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine.(RIA Novosti / Pavel Kononov)
The Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine.(RIA Novosti / Pavel Kononov)
Another new point in the doctrine is that one of the Russian military’s goals is to protect national interests in the Arctic region.
READ MORE: Sneak peak at Russia’s ‘under renovation’ Arctic base
The document also points to the threat of destabilization countries bordering Russia or its allies and deployment of foreign troops such nations as a threat to national security.
Domestically, Russia faces threats of “actions aimed at violent change of the Russian constitutional order, destabilization of the political and social environment, disorganization of the functioning of governmental bodies, crucial civilian and military facilities and informational infrastructure of Russia,” the doctrine says.
Moscow sees international cooperation with countries sharing its effort to increase security, particularly members of BRICS, the OSCE, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and others as the key to preventing military conflicts, the doctrine states.
Traditional threats that Russia must deal with mentioned in the doctrine include extremism and terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and rocket technology and actions of foreign intelligence services.
The document notes that modern threats are increasingly drifting from a military nature to informational, and states that the likelihood of anyone launching a fully-fledged war against Russia is decreasing.
The Greek WWII Hero and EU Parliamentarian Who Nearly Blew Up Winston Churchill 70 Christmases Ago

The Greek WWII Hero and EU Parliamentarian Who Nearly Blew Up Winston Churchill 70 Christmases Ago

Manolis Glezos, 92, is Europe's oldest member of European Parliament (MEP), and this Christmas marks the 70th anniversary of the day that he almost blew up Winston Churchill.
A Greek campaigner, politician, and nationally-revered war hero, Glezos was elected to the European Parliament earlier this year as a member of the Syriza Party (Coalition of the Radical Left).
In his new position Glezos is regularly put in chambers and debates with members of Europe's new far-right parties. These are the elected faces of a movement that — in various manifestations — is experiencing increased support across the continent. Glezos — who was imprisoned multiple times by the Nazis — told VICE News that reasons for this rise are obvious.
"This phenomenon of the far-right rising into power is always observed once austerity measures are enforced; once poverty, hunger, unemployment, misfortune, and despair befall the people," he said.
France's National Front, Britain's UKIP, the Freedom Party of Austria, Germany's National Democratic Party, Holland's Party for Freedom, and Hungary's Jobbik are all far-right groups that are increasingly garnering attention. While some of these parties wear their fascism a bit more discretely, Greece's Golden Dawn party's main spokesperson allegedly has a visible Swastika tattoo.
Glezos said that Golden Dawn's appeal was nonexistent for 99 out of 100 Greeks before the economy's collapse, but now people are beginning to identify with the issues they raise.
"Those in the European Union responsible for the situation must take this seriously into account," he warned, "unless they want to witness the far-right taking over Europe and the consequences that will follow."
In Photos: Years of Greece's Great Depression. Read more here.
Greeks are coming to the end of their fifth year living under austerity measures, and the effects have been devastating. One in four are out of work. Less available healthcare has led to soaring suicide rates, HIV infection, and child mortality. A UNICEF study of 23 Western countries found that Greece has had the biggest rise in child poverty since 2008, as it has risen from 23 percent to 40.5 percent.
At 89, Glezos was tear-gassed by riot policemen at an anti-austerity protest outside the Greek parliament. His party, the radical-left Syriza, is unreservedly against austerity, and they look likely to win the next general election. The most recent polls have them leading by a reasonable majority. If Syriza do come to power, they hope to renegotiate the bailout.
Glezos told VICE News that his party operates on the idea that money does not create value, only work does. Therefore, bailouts cannot solve their problems.
"When (Syriza) come into power they are capable to face and overcome all hardship and can create goods and culture for everyone," he said.
Glezos also said that he believes those who credit the European Union with stabilizing the continent and averting a third world war have been deceived.
"Unfortunately, the European Union still depends heavily upon the United States and NATO and acts under the absolute political and economic control of Germany and Merkel," he said.
Greece was occupied by the Nazis between April 1941 and October 1944. This period was incredibly difficult for Greek citizens, and an estimated 40,000 Athenians died of starvation. After the Nazis overran the city, they raised a huge swastika over the Acropolis — itself a symbol of the greatness of ancient Greece.
On May 30, 1941, Glezos and a friend — Apostolos Santas — heard that, in a speech from Berlin's Reichstag, Hitler had proclaimed his intention to liberate Europe "from the enemies of Germany."
The reaction of the two teenagers was instantaneous. Glezos told VICE News: "We decided to liberate the Acropolis, the temple of civilization, from the swastika, the symbol of the completion of the German occupation of Greece. Furthermore, we chose that very day in order to express a first reaction to Hitler's gloating. We fully realized the possible consequences and the meaning of our action."
Taking full responsibility for any consequences this rash act might cause, Glezos said that they informed only one friend of their plan "in case we got ourselves killed." In the dead of night, the two proceeded, armed only with a torch and a pocket knife. It took them three hours to scale the 50-foot flagpole. Glezos also said that they consciously and deliberately left fingerprints all over the flagpole.
"We did not wish someone else to be arrested and punished for our action," he said.
This act of defiance inspired others, and was given huge media coverage by local papers which, with Nazi approval, visibly and enthusiastically "condemned" the action. Glezos also avoided execution, though his younger brother was not as lucky.

However, Glezos's notable ability to take a stand would get him in trouble again.
After the German withdrawal, the Allies feared that the Communist group EAM/ELAS would take power. A small British force was sent to Greece to help maintain order, but ended up involved in the shooting of at least 15 unarmed protesters. With the prospect of a prolonged civil war looming, Churchill flew into Athens on Christmas eve, 1944, accompanied by his foreign secretary Anthony Eden.
That same night happened to be the date that Glezos and about 30 compadres had decided to blow up the British headquarters.
Glezos told the Guardian that he spent hours crawling through the sewerage system, fuse wire wrapped all around him, in an effort to plant the dynamite.
"We crawled through all the shit and water and laid the dynamite right under the hotel," he said.
However, when they discovered that Churchill was in the building, the order to detonate the dynamite was withdrawn. Glezos only recently admitted to his part in the plot, and VICE News asked him to explain his reasoning further — why was he happy to blow up the headquarters, but not Churchill?

"The British headquarters had to be brought to ruin, because this was the place from where the war against the Hellenic People (Greek) was being controlled," Glezos replied.

"Let us not forget that in a time of war the ultimate goal is always to destroy the enemy's headquarters. This, however, is different to killing Winston Churchill, one of the leaders of the Allied forces still battling against Hitler at that time," he said. "It was a time when no one would think to forgive us should we be responsible for Churchill's death."

Glezos himself has come close to death, surviving nine assassination attempts, one time that allegedly involved an explosive chocolate bar, Incidentally, Churchill was also targeted by exploding chocolate.

Glezos attributes his survival to a little help from his friends and the influence of his birth village.
"Of the nine assassination attempts against me, seven were avoided thanks to the immediate response of my friends, whilst the other two I managed to survive thanks to the natural survival instinct of any man from Aperathou," he said.

White-haired, but still a forceful speaker, Glezos is now actively campaigning for Germany to pay Greece about 162 billion euros in reparations for WWII. He also claims that Greece is the only injured country that hasn't been compensated for their suffering 70 years ago. He said that it is "inexplicable" that this money hasn't been handed over.

"The payment of the German obligations owed to Greece is a moral need," he said, adding that until these payments are made, there can be no peace treaty between the two countries, leaving them in the "rigged status quo of not at war."
"It is high time for this whole story to come to an end."

Albania to change energy price from next year

TIRANA, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- Albania energy regulatory entity (ERE) published on Friday its decision for the new energy price, Albanian Daily News reported.

"Households connected with 35 Kilovolt line will have a price of Lek 9.5 (0.08 U.S. dollar) per kwh. Consumers with 20, 10 and 6 kilovolt line will pay Lek 11 per kwh. The price for bakeries will be Lek 7.1 per kwh, for small businesses Lek 11 per kwh and for large businesses Lek 14 per kwh," explained the ERE leader, Petrit Ahmeti.

The new fees will take into effect on Jan. 1 and will be valid until December 2015.
The decision was taken after the entity reviewed the requirements of companies of the energy sector.
Currently the price of electricity for households was charged at two levels, Lek 7.7 per kwh up to 300 kwh and Lek 13.5 per kwh beyond this level. (1 U.S. dollar = 114.7 Lek)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Albania hikes electricity prices to help power company pay debts

TIRANA Fri Dec 26, 2014 

Dec 26 (Reuters) - Albania's power regulator ERE raised the price of electricity for businesses and scrapped its cheaper rate for households on Friday to help companies in the sector pay off debt to meet criteria set by international lenders.
The World Bank lent Albania $150 million in September for power sector reform and the government aims to return it to profitability in 2017.
Retail distributor OSHEE needs to bring its debt down to 22 percent in 2015 of total electricity billed from 48 percent this year, a level reached due to abuse of the two-tier price system, unpaid bills and an obsolescent distribution network.
ERE chairman Petrit Ahmeti said businesses using 35 kV electricity will start paying 9.5 lek per kWh from 8.5 lek per kWh throughout 2015, the price they used to pay at peak hours.
Industrial, agriculture, trade and service businesses using 20, 10 and 6 kV electricity will be paying 11 lek per kWh. They had paid between 8.7 lek per kWh and 10 lek per kWh.
Businesses using 0.4 kV electricity will be paying 14 lek per kWh, while bakeries 7.5 lek per kWh, Ahmeti said.
Households, which had been paying according to consumption, will pay a single price of 9.5 lek per kWh, he said.
Those consuming less than 300 kWh of electricity paid 7.7 lek per kWh and 13.5 lek per kWh for electricity above that.
ERE authorised the KESH electricity producer to raise its price to 1.45 lek per kWh from 1 lek per kWh, but did not change the price for the electricity transmitter monopoly OST from 0.65 lek per kWh.
OSHEE, KESH and OST are all state monopolies. (Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Louise Ireland)

"Serb held in Pristina in connection to explosives"

PRIŠTINA -- The Kosovo police after midnight on Friday removed suspected explosives from a Belgrade-license plates Renault Clio car in Pristina.
They also arrested the driver.
"The substance that is suspected to be explosives was taken and sent for expert analysis, while the arrested person is being questioned," police spokesman Bakir Kelani said.

The car was stopped at around 22:00 CET yesterday near the U.S. embassy in the Dragodan settlement, where most diplomatic missions are located, because it was suspected to carry explosives.

Tanjug quoted Kelani as saying that "a Serb resident" was arrested, and that the car was stopped because the police "had previous information" and thus "managed to stop the vehicle and arrest the driver."

"Clear intent"

Kosovo Interior Minister Skender Hyseni said on Friday that the suspect arrested in Pristina had "clear intent to carry out a terrorist act."

He told a news conference that the car was driven by "a citizen of Serbia born in 1968, with initials S.G.," and that "some 13 kilograms of materials for manufacturing of explosives" was found in is car.

However, Hyseni said that he "could not speak about the details of the investigation," but that the suspect's "biography" would be "revealed completely."

The Beta agency has named the suspect as Slobodan Gavric, and said he was "a veterinarian from Raska."

Meanwhile, the Albanian language media in Pristina said that the material found in the car, referred to as explosives, was to be used in "a terrorist attack on the Catholic cathedral in Pristina."

They also reported that "beside the explosives, details maps of Pristina were found in the vehicle."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

President reiterates Kosovo is "EU's condition"

BELGRADE -- Tomislav Nikolic says he does not support "quite every move made by the government," but claims they are "one team that will, if it so occurs, leave together."
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
"We are not in any kind of cohabitation," the president told the N1 television outlet in an interview broadcast late on Tuesday.
"That I support it publicly means that I stand behind it. If we go, we will all go," he said.

Nikolic noted that the measures taken by the government are risky for it, but that Prime Minister Vucic is "of an age when he can take risks and spend one mandate in opposition, and then be returned to power by the people," but added that he expects the government to "fully stabilize the situation in the country by the next election."

The president also said he thinks the government "has a chance of remaining in power despite the measures it is taking. "

Asked "who wants him to step down as president," Nikolic said those were "perhaps the ones who want and need a weaker Aleksandar Vucic," who, he pointed out, has his support despite the fact they have not held identical positions "on many issues in the past 20 years - but managed to solve all the problems."

Asked whether the Progressive Party (SNS) was "the last party in his career," he said the answer depends primarily on his health and what is ahead of him in life.

"It depends primarily on my health, I would not want to impose myself on anyone, and also to be competition to my own party, but I could again become a member of the SNS," Nikolic, who stepped down as party leader after he was elected as Serbia's president, said.

The fact that Serbia has not imposed sanctions on Russia is not the reason why the country failed to open the first chapter in EU membership negotiations this year, he said, and reiterated that Serbia "should become a member."

The president said that "it would not be good if there is no agreement with the government" when it comes to his announced plan for Kosovo, because, he said, the solution can be found easily.

While confirming he is working on the plan, Nikolic noted that "there is no need to hurry, because on the one hand, this question requires a serious approach, and then the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has been announced for early February."

"By then the situation will be much clearer because the Brussels administration will present the conditions for opening of (EU membership negotiating chapters) chapters and for Serbia joining the EU," Nikolic said.

He said he did not know what solutions his predecessor Boris Tadic and Vojislav Kostunica as prime minister offered in the past, but claims he is "the only president who dared to present a plan, from which originated the Brussels agreement, and present it to the public."

"The plan originated from me. I do not want to hide behind anyone," Nikolic said, adding that was the reason why "it would not be good" if he and the government failed to agree now - considering that they "managed to do that before."

Criticizing Hashim Thaci's statement that Serbia "already recognized Kosovo" Nikolic said that "the Kosovo minister knows that recognition of Kosovo was never put on the table," and added that this statement "only complicates the position of the interim institutions in Pristina ahead of the talks in Brussels - "because they will have trouble explaining why the agreement on the resolution of living conditions without prejudice to status is being interpreted as a de facto recognition of Kosovo."

Nikolic said that "a sensational recognition of Kosovo cannot and should not happen."

Nikolic also repeated his criticism of some diplomats posted in Belgrade, especially the German ambassador, referring to his public appearances as "meddling in our country's internal affairs."

This was "especially true" when it comes to "the talks with EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn, when, although he was present , the German ambassador had no objection to Hahn's statement that recognition of Kosovo was a condition for Serbia's EU membership."

Therefore, Nikolic believes, the diplomat "cannot say that Hahn did not say that" - adding that if he himself lied, "the recordings do not." The president also said this was "the first time in many years that he heard something of the kind during a formal conversation."

Such a statement should not be interpreted by anyone, he is convinced. Nikolic them added that "he interprets it in a simple way":

"The statement by European Commissioner Hahn was that Serbia will be faced with 'a complete agreement' with Kosovo and Metohija before entering the EU. And now I ask whether there is agreement with the Albanians and how Serbia can achieve it in order to become an EU member," he concluded Nikolić.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SManalysis wishes a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!

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Turkey-Macedonia economic ties should boost on heels of shared culture: Turkish PM
[linked image]
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski attend a press conference in the Government building in Skopje on December 23, 2014. AA Photo

Close cultural ties between Turkey and Macedonia are valuable for business and the two countries should elevate their economic relations to the level their historic partnership deserves, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said while visiting Macedonia.

“These lands are no stranger to us. The culture and texture of these lands are part of our culture and texture. This cultural closeness is important for the business world,” Davutoğlu said during a working breakfast with the representatives of Turkey-Macedonia Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 23, the second day of his visit to the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

“Macedonia has an atmosphere where one can easily communicate with everybody like they are in Anatolia. This is significant in terms of economic relations,” he said.

However, Davutoğlu expressed reproach that the two countries’ trade and investment relations are not at the desired level.

“Turkey currently ranks 13th in Macedonia’s exports. On the other hand, our exports to Macedonia are at eighth place. I wouldn’t even accept second place in Macedonia-Turkey relations,” he stated.
Once again referring to the shared history and culture of Macedonians and Turks, as well as the warm political ties between the governments, Davutoğlu said “economic relations should be at the highest level, considering the intensity of cultural and political relations.”

“If you were to ask me whether the statistics show our relationship in other fields, it doesn’t,” he stressed, noting he thinks there are enough materials to upgrade Turkish-Macedonian trade volume to a record level.

He also vowed to do whatever necessary to realize the long-lasting trade volume target of $1 billion, recalling the countries’ trade volume was at around $375 million in the 10 months of this year.
Dubbing Macedonia as the “heart of the Balkans,” Davutoğlu also said Ankara should plan its economic relations with Skopje regarding the country as a natural extension of Turkey.

“When there is political stability – which we have always supported Macedonia for – when there is peace and stability in the Balkans, it [Macedonia] is one of the countries that have become most important as a future economic hub. Today, there might be some problems regarding the country’s economic balances, and issues with its relations with the European Union, being the name of the country on top. However, we see this country as a natural extension of Turkey, a country integrated with Turkey, and we need to plan our strategic investments according to this,” he said.

Prime ministers meet

[linked image]Later in the day, Davutoğlu held a bilateral meeting with his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Gruevski, which was followed by a meeting with their delegations.

Both meetings were closed to the press, but the leaders briefed reporters shortly ahead of their tête-à-tête meeting.

When Gruevski pointed at the intense press interest for the meeting, Davutoğlu said: “The attention rises when the issue is Turkey-Macedonia. Moreover, it is my first visit to the Balkans, the former Republic of Yugoslavia, after becoming the prime minister.”

When Gruevski reminded Davutoğlu he was the first prime minister to visit Davutoğlu after he assumed office in late August, Davutoğlu said the two countries’ relationship is marked by several firsts.

“Turkey appointed the first ambassador to Skopje. It was the first country that recognized Macedonia with its constitutional name. And you were the first prime minister who visited me. Now, I am responding to that gesture,” he said.

Albania's main opposition ends parliament boycott

TIRANA, Albania - (AP) -- Albania's main opposition Democrats have ended a four-month boycott of Parliament in a deal brokered by two European Parliament lawmakers.
The walkout by the center-right party, headed by Tirana Mayor Lulzim Basha, was triggered by a fistfight in Albania's Parliament in July when two governing Socialist lawmakers allegedly attacked a Democrat colleague.
The Democrats started their boycott on Sept. 1 to protest the incident and demand that all legislation of major significance require more than a simple majority of votes.
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The impasse was overcome this week by European legislators Eduard Kukan of Slovakia and Knut Fleckenstein of Germany. Senior Democrat lawmaker Edi Paloka said Wednesday the agreement was accepted, but he provided few details.
The government, elected in June 2013, controls 84 seats in the 140-seat house.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Citizens should decide on Montenegro's NATO membership"

PODGORICA -- Russia's ambassador to Montenegro says it would be democratic to include citizens in the decision making process on Montenegro's NATO membership.
Andrei Nesterenko also spoke against the argument that membership in the military alliance "means more democracy."
"Let's look at what kind of 'democracy' NATO has brought to Iraq, Libya, and Syria," he told the Podgorica daily Pobjeda.

Despite the fact Montenegro joined western sanctions against his country - a development he described as "disappointing" - Nesterenko said that the Montenegrin-Russian relations "have a positive dynamic after all."

According to the diplomat, western countries "tricked" former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev into agreeing to the unification of Germany, with the promise that NATO would not expand.

"Unfortunately he believed them and there was no agreement that would guarantee these promises," Nesterenko said, and added that the military alliance has since been constantly getting closer to Russia's borders.

Vecer, Macedonia: Opposition MPs discontent with boycott

23 December 2014 | 09:59 | FOCUS News Agency
Vecer, Macedonia: Opposition MPs discontent with boycottPicture: Focus Information Agency
Skopje. MPs with the opposition met with the leader of the oppositional Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) Zoran Zaev, writes Macedonian Vecer daily.
The meeting was initiated by the MPs over their discontent with the boycott of the parliament.
They asked Mr Zaev on what would happen, if they were lefts without mandates and the ruling refuses to form an interim expert’s government.
Some of the MPs are considering terminating the boycott, withdrawing their resignations and returning to parliament.
Greek F16s exercise with nuclear weapons
December 23 2014

In the planning of missions with nuclear weapons was trained in 2014 the Air Base Araxos with their super F-16s under NATO exercise. The NATO-led activity was held last March (11-13) and was called STEDFAST NERVE II with exact object "training in planning for nuclear missions".

The nuclear planning exercise of 116 Combat Wing was announced by the Defence Ministry together with the list of the main International Operations Activities attended by the Hellenic Armed Forces in 2014. It has the character of the annual report.
Bear in mind that always Araxos air base (116 CW) was incorporated in the plans for nuclear weapons of NATO, it hosted nuclear warheads (11 nuclear bombs) of the US type B61 until 2001. The bombs were removed by a secret US operation to Italy and then to an unknown location.

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For the first time were put into Araxos nuclear weapons in 1962. Greece substantially participated in nuclear NATO air force with aircraft type F-104, known as the "Strike" squadron until 1992, when these aircraft were withdrawn from the Greek arsenal. Since then it seems that it has not included combat aircraft of the nuclear power of the Alliance, although theoretically the Greek F-16 is multirole and based on its modeling can carry nuclear weapons from a technical-engineering side. However oldest reference relevant sources say that the Hellenic Air Force has not obtained the relevant necessary software from the US.

Read more

Russia to probe media reports that Ukraine military shot down MH17

Published time: December 23, 2014 
Journalists look at parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Journalists look at parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Russia’s Investigative Committee is investigating a Russian newspaper report alleging that a Ukrainian military jet shot down Malaysian Airlines passenger plane MH17 over the rebel-held eastern part of the country last summer.
“Investigators have talked to the editor-in-chief and journalists of the ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’ newspaper and have taken the contact details of the Ukrainian citizen [cited in the report],” spokesman for the committee Vladimir Markin said.

He added that the witness would be interviewed as part of the Russian investigation into the use of banned weapons and methods of warfare in Ukraine. The information he shares will be cross-checked, he added.
The witness, who chose to remain anonymous, told Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP) daily that a pilot of a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet was behind the MH17 flight downing on July 17. He claimed that the pilot used air-to-air missiles to shoot down the Malaysian Boeing, which he concludes was probably mistaken for a military plane.
“About an hour before the catastrophe, three fighter jets took off [from Dnepropetrovsk]. One of the planes was an Su-25, which was equipped with these kind of [air-to-air] missiles,” the witness told KP in an interview, adding that he was on the airport grounds at the time.

Once the surviving pilot got out of the plane, he looked “very frightened.”
The Ukrainian pilot’s first words as he got out of the jet were: “Wrong plane,” the alleged witness claimed. Later in the evening that same pilot also reportedly stated: “The plane happened to be in the wrong place at a wrong time.”
While the daily could not immediately verify the interviewee’s claims, its readers soon discovered the allegedly involved pilot – Vladislav Voloshin – is real, and has been awarded for his role in Kiev’s so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern Ukraine.

Back in July, the Russian military said that it detected a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe.
READ MORE: Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash - Moscow
“A Ukraine Air Force military jet was detected gaining height, its distance from the Malaysian Boeing was 3 to 5km,” said the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov.
Kartopolov added that the presence of the Ukrainian military jet could be confirmed by video shots made by the Rostov monitoring center.
MH17 flight crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17. All 298 passengers and crewmembers on board the Boeing 777 were killed. The victims were from 10 nations, while most of the passengers – 193 in total – were from the Netherlands. The second-largest number of casualties, 43, was from Malaysia.

Stakes rise for Greece as risky election looms

December 23, 2014
greece flag
Early elections in Greece could derail the nation's fragile recovery.

Greece is digging itself into a hole again.

The Greek parliament failed to elect a new president Tuesday, bringing closer the possibility of snap national elections that could hand power to a popular anti-austerity party.
The government has one last chance to get its candidate elected by parliament on December 29. If it fails again, it will be forced to hold elections in January.
Opinion polls give a clear lead to Syriza, a party that wants to renegotiate the terms of Greece's bailout package -- worth a whopping 240 billion euros ($293 billion) -- with the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank.
The party has also vowed to reverse many of the reforms that have helped Greece return to economic growth, and said it plans to introduce billions in spending programs that would hike wages and increase pensions.
While Syriza's plans are popular among Greeks who have been hurting from high unemployment and years of recession, experts say they are unrealistic and irresponsible and could trigger a crisis that would ultimately lead to Greece leaving the eurozone.
Berenberg economist Holger Schmieding estimates there's a 20% risk that it "all goes wrong," with Syriza rising to power and following through on its plans.
"Greece may descend into a new deep crisis with potential euro exit. That is a significant tail risk," he said.
The main index in Athens dropped by 2% in reaction to Tuesday's vote. The yield on Greek 10-year government bonds increased to 8.25%. That's up from 7.8% a month ago, reflecting growing concern that Greece may be heading for another debt crisis.
Greece's massive bailouts from 2010 and 2012 kept the country afloat and within the eurozone, but left it saddled with a mountain of debt worth about 170% of GDP.
Syriza has been softening its tone recently as the chances of an early election rise, saying that it wants to stay in the eurozone.
But even if all hell breaks loose, experts think the eurozone is now better placed to cope with another Greek crisis.
"The eurozone could probably handle an unlikely but not impossible Greek accident with no more than very limited and temporary damage," Schmieding noted.
-- CNN's Elinda Labropoulou in Athens contributed to this report.

‘Counterproductive’: Ukraine seeking NATO membership ‘a false solution’, says Russia

Published time: December 23, 2014 
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (L) gestures during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (L) gestures during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)

Kiev’s latest move to become a NATO ally is counterproductive and gives rise to false hope for resolving its political crisis, Moscow said. The Ukrainian parliament voted to repeal a law that upheld the country’s non-participation in military blocks.
The move on Tuesday is a step towards becoming a member of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, a goal the post-coup authorities in Kiev have made a key point of their foreign policies. Kiev says that Russia is the cause of the civil war that led to eastern parts of the country rebelling against the central government and hopes that NATO’s military might will help resolve the situation.

READ MORE: Ukraine wouldn’t have civil war if not for West - Putin
“This is counterproductive. It only escalates the confrontation and creates the illusion that the internal national crisis in Ukraine can be solved through adoption of laws like that,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the new legislation.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov)
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov)
“A much more productive and sensible way would be to finally start a dialogue with the part of the Ukrainian people that were ignored when the coup was staged,” he added. Lavrov called on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to initiate a constitutional reform, which Kiev had pledged to do in April.
READ MORE: Pentagon confirms military buildup along Russian borders for ‘peace and stability’
The law revoking Ukraine’s military non-alignment stance was adopted by 303 votes against nine, with 2 MPs abstaining and 56 not voting. Now the law states that establishing closer ties with NATO and eventual membership in the military bloc is a priority for the Ukrainian government.
The alliance noted Ukraine’s move and said it “respected” the parliament’s decision. Earlier some major members of NATO like Germany voiced doubt that Ukraine could join the organization anytime soon.

A U.S. serviceman (front), accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, takes part in military exercises outside the town of Yavoriv near Lviv, September 19, 2014. (Reuters/Roman Baluk)
A U.S. serviceman (front), accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, takes part in military exercises outside the town of Yavoriv near Lviv, September 19, 2014. (Reuters/Roman Baluk)
There are numerous obstacles, including Ukraine’s political and economic problems, a territorial dispute with Russia, and Moscow’s critical attitude towards Ukraine becoming part of NATO. Arguably the most strongly-worded comment was voiced by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as the voting was about to start in Kiev.
With his move President Poroshenko “has made a de facto application to join NATO and turned Ukraine into a potential enemy of Russia,” Medvedev said.

Monday, December 22, 2014

China pledges to help Russia overcome economic hardships

Published time: December 22, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (AFP Photo/How Hwee Young)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (AFP Photo/How Hwee Young)
China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.
Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation," Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists, China Daily reported Monday. “If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity."

The offer of help comes as Russians are still recovering from the shock of the ruble’s worst crash in years last Tuesday, when it lost over 20 percent against the US dollar and the euro. The Russian currency bounced back the next day, but it still has lost almost half of its value since March.

At his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the ruble has been tumbling along with the price of oil, and estimated that Western sanctions account for 25-30 percent of the Russian economic crisis. However, the president’s economic forecast is that the slump will not be a lasting one.
READ MORE: Putin: Russian economy will inevitably bounce back, 2 years in worst case scenario
Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng proposed on Saturday to expand the use of the yuan in trade with Russia.

Reuters/Carlos Barria
Reuters/Carlos Barria
He said the use of the Chinese currency has been increasing for several years but western sanctions on Russia had made the trend more prominent, Reuters cited Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV as saying.
Gao said this year’s trade between China and Russia could reach $100 billion, approximately 10 percent growth compared to last year.

READ MORE: Russia-China trading settlements in yuan increases 800%

The minister said he did not expect cooperation on energy and manufacturing projects with Russia to be greatly affected by the current crisis.
Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other,” Jin Canrong, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, told Bloomberg. “For the sake of national interests, China should deepen cooperation with Russia when such cooperation is in need.

Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)
Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)
China has been increasingly seeking deals in its own currency to challenge the US dollar’s dominance on the international market.

READ MORE: Argentina to get $1bn in currency swap with China before end of 2014

And Beijing is not alone in attempts to counter the influence of Western-based lending institutions and the US currency.
BRICS, the group of emerging economies that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, accounting for one-fifth of global economic output, has been pursuing the same goal. The five nations agreed in July to increase mutual trade in local currencies, and also to create a BRICS Development Bank with investment equivalent to $100 billion as an alternative to the Western-controlled World Bank.

First Greek Hydroplane Airport to Be Built in Corfu

News from Greece


by Ioanna Zikakou - Dec 22, 2014

hydroplaneThe decision for the establishment of Greece’s first hydroplane airport was signed on Monday, December 22, by the Minister of Mercantile Marine and Aegean, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, and the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transportation and Networks, Michalis Papadopoulos.

The hydroplane airport will be built in the island of Corfu and will be operated by the local port authority. The decision was signed in the presence of Deputy Culture Minister Angela Gerekou, as well as Corfu Port Authority President Spiros Andriotis.

Varvitsiotis stated that this new form of transportation will contribute to Greece’s tourism and economic growth, while improving connections between the mainland and Corfu.

“Greece’s sea, lakes and landscape will facilitate the operation of hydroplanes. This was the first crucial step. We are planning on signing more hydroplane airport licenses across the country in order to establish more routes for this summer,” said Varvitsiotis.

On his part, Papadopoulos noted that “the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, in collaboration with the Ministry of Mercantile Marine and Aegean, paved the way for the establishment of the first hydroplane airport, which will be located at the port of Corfu. Today, we introduced a new means of transportation that will connect islands with the mainland, lakes and various destinations abroad.”
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U.S. ambassador denies interfering in Kosovo politics

PRIŠTINA -- U.S. Ambassador in Pristina Tracey Ann Jacobson says she "she did not interfere in the coalition agreement reached between the DPK and DLK."
Jacobson told the Albanian language daily Zeri that she was "merely an observer" during the post election deadlock in Pristina, denying also that she was against the Self-Determination Movement joining the Kosovo government.
"I never said that Self-Determination should not be part of the government. People occasionally attribute such things to me, but this is absolutely not true," the U.S. diplomat said.

She urged the public sector, seen as "the most corrupt," to "delegate credible people," the newspaper quoted her as saying.

Jacobson noted that there are still the mayors "accused of corruption who are remain in office."

The article said that commenting "on those convicted by the Special Court," she said they should "pay according to justice, although they are part of the institutions."

Speaking about religious extremism in Kosovo, Jacobson was quoted as saying the issue was "at the center of their attention during 2014, and will have priority in the new year as well."

Serbian mission chairs informal NATO group

BELGRADE -- Serbia's mission at NATO took over the chairmanship of the SEEGROUP during a meeting held on the ambassadorial level on December 16 at NATO's headquarters.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
The South East Europe Security Steering Group (SEEGROUP) is "an informal and flexible forum for security and political consultations on issues of importance to the region of Southeast Europe," according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia.
This forum "brings together partner countries of the Western Balkans, NATO and the Western European NATO partners," according to the same source.

The results of the chairmanship Macedonia's mission during 2014 were also presented during the meeting, the statement added.

Ambassador Miomir Udovicki who heads Serbia's mission presented the priorities of the Serbian presidency of the SEEGROUP and announced that its action plan will be presented in January.

Udovicki "particularly emphasized Serbia's commitment to further advance regional security cooperation and announced that one of the first topics on the agenda of the SEEGROUP in 2015 will be the priorities of Serbia's OSCE chairmanship," said the MFA.
High Commandant of Albanian special forces, removed from office for violating the military status 

Armed Forces has explained the reasons for dismissing Colonel Dritan Demiraj, adding that the decision was taken after finding out that Demiraj has repeatedly violated the law "for the military status", traveling abroad without permission.
In a statement distributed to the media, the Ministry of Defense informs the public opinion that they have classified information at their disposal that could affect national security.

"Armed Forces as any other institution in a democratic system fulfill their mission only based on the laws of the country. Everyone within AF must be punished when they violate the law and the military discipline. Everyone must respect the law, and unfortunately, this turns out not to be true for Colonel Dritan Demiraj, who repeatedly in more than one case violated law 'for military status', traveling abroad without permission.

These actions constitute serious violations of military discipline as long as these high rank officials dispose classified information that could affect national security This is not the first case we have acted in conditions of severe violation of discipline and the law. We acknowledge his contribution and wish him success in private activity, law enforcement and the future of AM always remain more important than one individual "reads the statement of the Ministry of Defence.

Germany's burgeoning anti-immigrant rallies

Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.

Last updated: 22 Dec 2014 

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A protester holds a sign striking out the words 'hatred', 'violence', and 'Quran' [Yermi Brenner/Al Jazeera]
Dresden, Germany - A movement called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) continues to grow in popularity, drawing thousands of people to a series of Monday evening marches in the city of Dresden.
On December 15, an estimated 15,000 people took part in PEGIDA's march, many came from all over Germany. One was Paul, a retired doctor from the capital Berlin, 200km away. He said it was important for him to march in order to show that PEGIDA is made up of ordinary people, not far-right ideologues. 
"I am not in principle against Muslims," Paul told Al Jazeera, asking to be identified only by his first name. "I say we don't want so many Muslims that our culture will be changed. We want to be Germans, we want to be Europeans, we don't want too many people to come here and try to get money from our social system."
Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the demonstrations, saying: "There is no place here for stirring up hatred and telling lies about people who have come to us from other countries." Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the demonstrations are "shameful for Germany", and several other politicians have referred to PEGIDA as "Nazis with pinstripes".
'Protecting West culture'
PEGIDA says it is against preachers of hate, no matter what religion they belong to, and against radicalism whether it is religious or politically motivated, according to its Facebook group, which has received more than 70,000 "likes".
The group is marching for "the right to preserve and protect our Christian-Jewish dominated West culture", and against parallelgesellschaft - a German term used to describe immigrant communities that maintain their cultural norms and don't integrate in local society.
The movement began two months ago with a small protest of 200 people in Dresden. Every Monday since, the number of demonstrators has increased; 7,500 on the first day of December, 10,000 a week later, and 15,000 a week after that.
Marching a few metres behind Paul was a protester who gave only one name Jorg, who is from Dresden. He held a sign that included three words - all crossed out with a red line: hate, violence, the Quran. He said Islam dictates hatred and violence, and endangers peace in German society.
Henrik, who came from Bremen, held a sign saying "No Sharia in Europe", because he said he does not want to see Christian traditions disappear. He said German politicians are wrong for suggesting that PEGIDA is an extreme right-wing movement. 
"I don't like these 'left' and 'right' titles," Henrik told Al Jazeera, also offering just one name. "I am a nationalist. My first interest is not the situation in Afghanistan or in Cuba. My main interest is the situation of the people in Germany... I am a patriot." 
Rise of the right
The public display of right-wing ideas at demonstrations has increased in the past few months, according to Gereon Flümann from the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. Flümann explained there are smaller but similar movements in other parts of Germany, such as the Hooligans Against Salafists in the city of Cologne.
"PEGIDA say they do not promote xenophobia," Flümann told Al Jazeera. "But if you look at the protests and how they make use of particular information, you see there might be xenophobia behind it."
The Dresden demonstrations have so far remained violence-free - unlike a Hooligans Against Salafists march in Cologne on October 26, which ended in a riot with police with protesters yelling "foreigners out".
PEGIDA marchers' main slogan is "We are the people!" - which was first used in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations against East Germany's government in the days leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
We all know from different surveys that the less diversity - less people with migration background - means more prejudices, more anti-attitudes towards migrants.
- Ralf Melzer, Friedrich Ebert Foundation
Several PEGIDA protesters in Dresden held up signs against Nazis, and one man marched with the rainbow-coloured flag of the lesbian-gay-bi-trans community that had the word PEGIDA written on it. He said he was warmly received by other protesters. In fact, PEGIDA's position paper clearly states they are for sexual self-determination.
Flümann said PEGIDA's popularity does not mean that right-wing radicalism in Germany is growing.
"The NPD has very low numbers of voters," he said, referring to the National Democratic Party of Germany, a far-right political party that is usually described as neo-Nazi. "So organised right-wing extremism is not on the rise. But I think some loose right-wing extremist attitudes have a very broad distribution in Germany, and that definitely is a problem that needs to be tackled." 
Increasing Muslim visibility
Muslims are the largest minority in Germany, making up about five percent of the country's 82 million population. Muslims have increased from less than 0.01 percent in 1920, to more the five percent in 2009, according to research paper by the International Journal of Environmental Science and Development.
Germany is facing a wave of incoming migrants. In the first six months of 2014, there were more asylum seekers in Germany - about 65,700 - than any other country worldwide. Many were from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
About one-third of Germans have an unfavourable view of the Muslims in their country, according to a Pew Research Centre survey, higher than in France and the United Kingdom. Twenty-nine percent of Germans said immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and social benefits.
One of the reasons for the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment is the growing visibility of Muslims - immigrants and German-born, according to Schirin Amir-Moazami, a professor at Berlin Free University's Institute of Islamic Studies.
"I think there is an awareness that Muslims have taken roots in German society and that they are not quiet actors any longer; that they are making claims in terms of political participation, public participation, public visibility," said Amir-Moazami.
"Muslims are becoming increasingly visible in many different ways, and people are disturbed by that. A lot of people have difficulty to accept pluralism in the broader sense."
PEGIDA activists are trying to benefit from attitudes, fears and prejudices towards Muslims and immigration and diversity in general, according to Ralf Melzer, who monitors extremism for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German non-profit. He said hostility towards immigrants exists throughout Germany, but it is more widespread in the eastern part of country.
Protesters hold a sign denouncing Islamic law in Dresden at last Monday's demonstration [Yermi Brenner/Al Jazeera]
"The number of people with migrant background in the east is much lower than in the west. There is much less diversity," Melzer said. "And we all know from different surveys that the less diversity - less people with migration background - means more prejudices, more anti-attitudes towards migrants."
Public debate needed
One of the participants in the latest Dresden demonstration was Leif Hansen, from the nearby town of Hertzberg. Hansen, 40, came to show his support for PEGIDA, even though he said the arrival of foreigners benefits German society both socially and economically.
Hansen said he felt constructive public discussion on migration and minority issues is missing from the public sphere. It is a suppressed topic because of the legacy of World War II, and there are many Germans who fear foreigners, he explained, so it is better to have an open discussion about it.
"That is their fear and that is their opinion, and I am really happy that they have the courage to voice it, and not hold it inside - the feeling of resentment," Hansen said.
"It is better to voice it out, to stand in public and say, 'This is my problem, now what do we do with it.' Then we can handle it all together. It shows the strength of our democracy I think to handle it without violence."
PEGIDA's next protest is planned for Monday evening. Germany is waiting to see if the number of participants will continue to grow. 
Follow Yermi Brenner on Twitter: @yermibrenner