Friday, September 14, 2007

Ancient Greek Jar Found on Albania Coast
Photo. Albanian archaeologist Adrian Anastasi right, U.S. archaeologist George Robb, centre, and dive master Howard.K.Phoenix hold an alleged 2,400-year-old Greek jar, part of a sunken shipment of up to 60 ceramic vessels, which was the top find from what organizers say is the first archaeological survey of Albania's seabed, conducted by U.S. and Albanian experts. The image was taken in the harbor of the Albanian southernmost town of Saranda, 300 kilometers (186 miles) from capital Tirana, on Aug. 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
SARANDA, Albania (AP) — Encrusted with tiny shells and smelling strongly of the sea, a 2,400-year-old Greek jar lies in a saltwater bath in Durres Museum, on Albania's Adriatic coast.

Part of a sunken shipment of up to 60 ceramic vessels, the 26-inch storage jar, or amphora, was the top find from what organizers say is the first archaeological survey of this small Balkan nation's seabed, conducted by U.S. and Albanian experts.

"Touch it, touch it. It's luck," said mission leader George Robb of the Key West, Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation. "You're touching something that was made before Plato was born."

Launched in July, the month-long survey was the first step in compiling an underwater cultural heritage map that could eventually plot the position of sunken fleets from ancient and mediaeval times believed to lie along Albania's 220-mile coastline.

Auron Tare, the project's local coordinator, said Albanian authorities were hoping to sign a deal with RPM, a non-profit foundation, late this year for a five-year survey.

"That would give a boost to a still nonexistent field of archaeological research in the country," Tare said. "It would be a great promotion for local tourism, especially diving tourism, and could possibly lead to the creation of an underwater archaeology museum."

Archaeologist Adrian Anastasi said the survey would help protect the country's marine cultural heritage from looters — an increasing problem since the collapse of the country's hardline Communist regime in 1990.

"(The survey) will help create the necessary legal and structural infrastructure to protect shipwrecks from looting," said Anastasi, Albania's only archaeologist specialized in underwater research.

Anastasi said the project — using state-of-the-art scanning technology — would likely have cost the Albanian government up to $5.4 million if they did it by themselves. "RPM has all the necessary modern technology, and is doing it with its own funding," he said.

Linking the western Balkans and the East with western Europe, Albanian waters were busy with shipping during ancient and mediaeval times.

"In those times ships usually stayed near the shore, to maintain visual contact with land, and all our coastline was a very intensive route for commercial and other traffic," Anastasi said.

The light-brown clay amphora, probably used to store wine or oil, was found on the last day of the survey off the ancient town of Butrinti near Saranda, some 186 miles from Tirana and opposite the Greek island of Corfu. It dates to the 4th century B.C.

The find will stay immersed in water at the museum in Durres, 20 miles west of Tirana. Museum workers will gradually reduce the water's salinity over the next year, to remove salt from the amphora ahead of its conservation.

"Based on what we can see on the surface, there is a high probability that (the amphora) is a sign of a shipwreck located deep there from that period," said Jeffrey G. Royal, archaeological director of RPM, whose Mediterranean operations are based in Valletta, Malta.

If so, it would be the first 4th century B.C. wreck to be located in Albanian waters, say survey organizers, who are keeping the find's precise location and depth secret for fear of looting. Only a handful of wrecks from that period have been excavated in the Mediterranean.

Anastasi said 50-60 amphorae were located on the seabed. Once the finds are assessed, an effort will be made to uncover the wreck, which would give information on the ship's destination and ancient naval architecture of the period.

Albanian officials also plan to ask permission from neighboring Montenegro for the RPM's Hercules research vessel to continue its exploration north of Albania.

The ship also located 14 other shipwrecks from the 19th and early 20th centuries, in the survey that ended Aug. 13.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ALBANIA; STRONG MEASSURES TO ANNY DESTABILISATION OF BALKAN REGION Photo left: A Greek Class Frigate patrolling the greek albanian waters border on the Ionian Sea
Photo down: During the meeting between Berisha and Rama on press conference.

By Stavros Markos*

The Albanian President Bamir Topi said: "The endless suspension of a final status decision was doing serious damage to regional stability. Albania should be prepared for any unexpected situation." That is a quote from Albania National Security Council President and Army Chief Bamir Topi as he describes the deteriorating situation in the Balkans. This should not be surprising since Albanians were given the impression by the European Union (EU) and some NATO countries most of this year they were willing to recognize Kosovo independence until the Serbian government in Belgrade and Serbian para-military nationalist groups openly prepared for war to retain control over the province.
In response, the United Nations and the EU advised all parties to wait in the desperate hope some negotiated solution could break the entrenched impasse. In the meantime Albanian nationalists in Kosovo, with the full support of Tirana, made unofficial claims of independence with the assumption they had Washington's support.
According to the Pristina daily Koha Ditore, for the last few weeks word began to circulate Serbia Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, without the knowledge of Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic, dispatched his private envoy, businessman Vojin Lazrevic to a number of European capitals to test their response to Kostunica's proposal on Kosovo being partitioned.
According to AKI, Lazrevic was in Rome last week. Kostunica's Belgrade office has responded with no comment to the reports and there has been no indication, officially, as to the responses so far from the European governments, but I suspect since they are desperate to avoid another wave of fighting in Southeast Europe they would be willing to support partition. However Lazervic may have informed them Tirana and the Kosovo Albanians would never support it even to the point of going to war to prevent it.
Lazervic may then mention since another war is inevitable the European Union and most of NATO should assist Serbia against any Albanian military unit, in Kosovo or from Albania itself and the reason being Albanian nationalists have support from Islamic militant groups. He should know of Tirana's increased relations with Tehran. Iran is eager to see any war that can be used to distract the West from attacking Iran. Tehran can also use the next war in Southeast Europe to silence Vienna and end the investigation into Iran's nuclear weapons program by the UN agency based there.
For the past three days Tirana has placed its military on "the second level of readiness" and all armed units set to active "pre-mobilization." In an attempt to defuse the situation Serbian Parliament member Dragan Todorovic is trying to portray reports of Albania's mobilization as "propaganda." Todorovic commented, "Still, I have to ask against whom Albania wants to go into war - Serbia, Montenegro or Greece."
Washington has expressed its serious concerns over these latest developments by sending CIA Deputy Director Stephen Kappes to visit Tirana Sunday evening where he held two hours of secret discussions with Albania Secret Service (SHISH) Director Bahri Shakiri.
The escalation of tensions in the Balkan area is making in alert also FYROM, Bullgaria, Montenegro and sure Greece which is going to politic elections. According to Macedonian Press Agency, the President Branko Cervenkovski, has rised in first level the Security Council of FYROM, after attack of Albanian paramilitary group against police patrol near Kumanovo.
Sofie continues to make propaganda about the rights of Bulgarian minority in Albania, "shutting down Skopie to silence his national rhetoric propaganda in Albania". Bulgarian government last year, has distributed about 50 thousand passports to Bulgarian in Albania, while the historians speak for about 100 to 300 thousands Bulgarian in Albania. But the Bulgarian offensive is making in difficulty Skopje after the decision of Former Macedonian Prime Minister Georgierwski to declare his nationality as Bulgarian. Georgiewski during an interview on TV Bulgarian station declares that, “The Macedonia state, must partition and Albanians can take Struga and Diber region, because after 5 years the Albanians could take more territories of this country”. Bulgaria is the second state after Greece which damages the rights of minorities in Albania, knowing also citizenship for Bulgarian who lives in Albania, after Athens, which gave citizenship for Greeks of Albania last year. Greece last year, now Bulgaria is riseing the diplomatic pressing to Tirana for counting proces popullation of Albania. Not only bulgarian academics are making the campaing, but also a decision of Association Municipalitis of Bulgaria to finance next year bulgarian schools in Albania has opened a large discution in Albanian opinion.
Anyway Albania is going to a large United Government after a meeting proposed from Albanian President Bamir Topi between the Prime Minister Sali Berisha and leader of Opposition Edi Rama. Last week NATO and Albanian Government put an agreement to friendly collaboration indicted for the rise of tension in Kosovo. Last month, Albania declared for the end of demilitarization Chemical Weapons process, financed from Washington with about 20 million $.

The rise not only of tenssion in the area but simmilar the organized crime and islamic groups in Albania had obligated FBI to estabilish in Tirana strong operators and aggents in accordance with albanian authority.

The Albanian Governament has also strong cooperation with EU and Europol under program "Intereg" financing albanian frontier authorities to be atented with communities who live in area with Greek borders.

Athens is going to anticipate politic elections but is seeing the tension in the area as protagonist of NATO and EU member. According to Greek media, is possibility to create a large government after elections including the Opposition of PASOK, seeing also for the strong measures of Greece for any escalation of conflict in Balkan Region(!).. The Greek National Army is in alert after catastrophic situation of fires in all the Greek territory and is including to the electoral process, but is observing his borders with Albania and FYROM for any extremely escalation from Kosovo in accordance with NATO and EU. ….In Southern Albania, (known as Northern Epirus separated province), lives a large Greek Community which obligates the Albanian government to be in attention for any provocation from Albanian national paramilitary groups. Athens always has been supporter of reforms of Albania to enjoy to NATO and EU but something is obligated from politically results particularly for the Human Rights values. During the visit of Under Secretary of State Department on 11 June 2007 in Athens Nicholas Burns, foreign Minister Dora Bakogianis declared that: "Albanian and FYROM to be clear, are not ready to enjoy to NATO next Summit of 2008 after no any progress in politically reforms”, while the Prime Minister Karamanlis during the electorate Campaign said “We will make veto "against any name of Macedonia" state to the NATO next year”.

Stavros Markos*
(Journalist, Member of the World Security Network Foundation -Southeast Europe Office)


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Kosovo Albanians shun Serbia, but not its passport.

Photo (AFP): An ethnic Albanian poses with his former Yugoslav republic passport (R) and his UNMIK (United Nations mission in Kosovo) travel document, 04 September 2007. Kosovo Albanians who normally shun anything do with Serbia are applying in their tens of thousands for the former Yugoslav republic's passports.

BERNICE, Serbia (AFP) — Kosovo Albanians who normally shun anything do with Serbia are applying in their tens of thousands for the former Yugoslav republic's passports. The scramble for the travel documents is continuing unabated even as the international community frets about deadlocked Kosovo status talks, and ethnic Albanians' thinning patience for independence from Serbia.
Thousands of such applications are awaiting processing, as the independence-seeking Albanian majority in the tiny Balkan territory seeks less restricted travel abroad.
Although she admits feeling "bad" about it, 23-year-old Majlinda says she has no option but to apply for a Serbian passport at the same time as wanting Kosovo to become the world's newest state.
"We want independence but we also want their passports. But I have no choice," said the Pristina resident.
Majlinda, who refused to provide her surname, brushed off the possibility of being branded a traitor by ethnic Albanian hardliners.
"If they want us to be patriots, let them provide us with Kosovo passports that make life easier for travelling abroad. If they did so, I wouldn't even think of asking for a Serbian passport," she said defiantly.
Ethnic Albanians have been fraught with travel problems since Kosovo's 1998-1999 war, when Serbian forces expelled hundreds of thousands of them from their homes and destroyed their identity documents.
The province has since been managed by the United Nations mission in Kosovo, which has been given the authority to issue locals passports bearing the mission's "UNMIK" acronym.
More than 40 countries recognise the UNMIK passports, but of neighbouring countries only Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro accept them without restrictions.
For Kosovo Albanians travelling under UNMIK's name, a simple journey abroad can turn into a wrangle of red-tape left over from the communist era.
Those carrying Serbian passports say they find it easier to obtain visas with the dark-blue travel booklets of the country from which they wish to separate.
Ramadan Shala, a 53-year-old maintenance worker from Pristina, travelled to Gracanica, a Serb-populated enclave near the Kosovan capital, to hand over the necessary documents for his son Rifat's passport.
"Rifat got asylum in London where he works now, but he has to submit a passport to the British authorities" in order to claim residency, said Shala.
Rifat left Kosovo for Britain two years ago, travelling with an UNMIK passport. But it expired and he has asked his father to get him a Serbian one, believing it would make it easier for him to settle in Britain.
"Rifat will be fired and expelled if he doesn't get a Serbian passport by the end of this year," a worried-looking Shala said.
Milos Tabakovic, a notary and registrar in the small village of Bernice, near Pristina, said he noticed an increasing number of Kosovo Albanians seeking Serbian passports.
Tabakovic, in charge of collecting applications for documents such as birth certificates and citizenship papers necessary for obtaining passports, said that "people want to solve the problem of unrestrained travel abroad."
"They do it by obtaining a Serbian passport which is valid from five to 10 years and is recognised by more countries than UNMIK travel documents," he said.
After filing documents to the administrative centre in charge of the southern part of Serbia proper in Nis, Tabakovic later receives passports to hand out to the applicants.
"Our administration has received more than 10,000 applications only in July, while we receive around 500 applications a day," said Goran Djurdjevic, an official at Serbia's Interior Ministry office in Nis.
Tabakovic is a small but crucial link in the chain of Serbian administration that has remained in Kosovo, mainly in Serb enclaves. Belgrade still considers Kosovo as a part of its territory and is happy to issue its papers to anyone in Kosovo who wants them.
Despite being the sole official provider of passports to the citizens of Kosovo, the UN administration has so far never tried to put an end to this booming activity.
According to its data, UNMIK has issued some 600,000 passports since 2001, while Serbian authorities say they have issued some 200,000 passports to Kosovo residents in the past eight years.
Kosovo is awaiting a decision on its future status due by the end of this year.
Ethnic Albanians want nothing short of independence, while Belgrade has staunchly been opposing these calls, instead offering the province wide autonomy.
Balkans 2007: The beginning?
By Ioannis Michaletos*
As the world moves fast towards the closing annual season of Autumn, an upturn in world politics is starting to emerge, and might signify for a third time in less than 100 years that the Balkans will be the locale “Where all silly things started”.
March 2007 was the decisive annum where the emergence of an “Orthodox Energy Axis” seemed to take place, signified by the agreement for the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline. For the first time in history Russia effectively by-passed the Bosporus with the assistance of Bulgaria & Greece, two NATO countries. Both countries were rewarded with the construction of two mega-warehouses of some 1,5 million tons of oil in their ports and Greece has already bought high-tech Russian weaponry that would constitute a real change in the balance of powers in the wider region. Three months later Russia, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy sign a large deal for natural gas transfer that further accelerates the projection of the Balkans right in the middle of the world. Moscow eyes Montenegro where it has invested heavily in the real estate sector and continuously projects its geopolitical role in all states with the exception of Albania for the time being.
In parallel the Western capitals were shocked by the adamant stance of Moscow to recognize a potential Kosovo independence, whilst it offered all means possible help to Belgrade to withstand pressure. Eventually Germany and France started cautiously to become neutral between USA and Russia and by assessing the drain of American forces in the multiple fronts across the world due to the war against terror; are trying to establish their own zones of influence in the Western Balkans and in contrast with all the “Deals signed” post 1999 war. The summer of 2007 revealed that the globalization process is a mimicry of the 1870-1914 period where all powers were competing each other and forming alliances for their own profit, as well as, colonizing the planet and subduing weaker cultures and societies.
Kosovo already hosts the Bondsteel camp with as much as 500 hectares of surface and over 300 buildings with thousands of personnel, military, civic and security forces. Virtually a castle in the midst of a poor underdeveloped area inflicted by organized crime, corruption and high birth rate that suffocates this Balkan hinterland. The main role of the “Castle” apart from constructing the security of the 1999 agreement; is to play a decisive role in safeguarding the proposed construction of the AMBO pipeline stressing from the Bulgarian –Burgas port, passing through FYROM and ending up to Vlore in Albania. Its construction was always in peril due to the fragile societal and ethnic composition of Western FYROM, an issue that cannot be examined without taking into consideration the developments in Kosovo. Actually any move towards independence would ultimately leave the government in Skopje in the unpleasant situation of neighboring with two Albanian states, with expanding population and with its own Albanian minority becoming a majority by 2020, if demographic trends continue. Already Bulgaria from its own part is securing its influence by issuing tens of thousands of passports for citizens of its Eastern neighbor.
Moreover the Greek-American consortium SENCAP lost the competition of acquiring the thermo-electrical power station Negotino; to a Canadian-Bulgarian coalition. Despite the fact that the former offered more, the governing party BMPO sided with the Bulgarian corporation and information from FYR Macedonia describe fierce American opposition to the whole development. It is interesting to note that widespread rumors for an eventual “Federal Union” between FYROM and Bulgaria are beginning to circulate, an event that will have ramifications probably more important and intense than Kosovo independence.
Serbia during the summer period achieved more or less to withhold its diplomatic points it gained during Spring, that are most importantly the ability to draw a red line under which it cannot retreat and also rejected an offer to become a member of the EU if it has to abandon K&M. Needless to say that this is more of a symbolic statement with long-term effects for other states wishing to enter the Union such as Turkey or even Ukraine. In reality Europe is not the attractive lady that it was five decades or even five years ago, and the ageing process is starting to affect its ability to negotiate actively in important and sensitive issues like the Kosovo one. Thus every nation state is filling the gap of the EU, as it was also the case in 1991, in most respects.
Albania, has the potential of becoming a hotbed of political developments over the coming months due to the rising opposition between the Berisha’s government and the opposition and the other grass roots movements across the country that demand alignment with Europe in terms of citizen’s rights, less corruption and decentralization of the incumbent heavy-handed political patronage. All these movements should be made visible by October if all conditions remain stable and there are not any sudden events that will draw the country into a political deadlock.
Greece is experiencing a fire-wave that according to governmental statements is conducted by a well-organized arson plan. Moreover the EU Commissioner Mr. Fratinni, commenting on this, stated that Europe is experiencing a new form of terrorism, “Territorial terrorism” that uses the environment as a “Weapon against the population, economy and the state”. In a few word Greece is the first country where this form of terrorism is being implemented, albeit with no concrete knowledge of the culprits.
Over the past few years the Athens government made some spectacular deals with Russia (See above), opened its market to the Chinese and Arab capital and cultivated strong ties with the USA multinationals, especially the East Coast ones, centered in New York. In a few words it has expanded its geoeconomic role and made itself a regional financial hub, a process that increases its role in the world commerce, both the official one and the “Parallel one” (Narcotics, trafficking, money laundering, etc”. Greece and consequently the Balkans are the gateway of Europe to the Middle East, N. Africa and the Black Sea, and any sudden change on the established balance of powers relates to wider shifts of the interests of the global economy, despite the miniscule GDP the regional states produce in comparison to the rest of the world.
The Balkans are experiencing a multitude of events that eventually will culminate in great events sooner rather later. The coming autumn period will be a revealing one, judging by the concentration of a plethora of unresolved issues in such a constrained geographical terrain and needless to say, a restive and rebellious part of Europe. The European, American and Russian leaders have the historical opportunity to compromise in a wide range of issues in Southeastern Europe and look further into the future in order to withstand the global challenges of environmental destruction, Islamic fundamentalism and the fierce economic competition from Asia. Otherwise the Balkans will once more play the role of the tinderbox for Eurasia with unknown consequences for the global security for decades to come.
Ioannis Michaletos Editor South East EuropeWorld Security Network Foundation Ioannis Michaletos was born in Athens in 1978. He pursued studies in the UK where he obtained a BA in Politics from Essex University and an MSc in Human Resources Management from Luton University. He is occupied as an HRM Consultant and a contributor to the News Agency –Balkanalysis-. He is also an Associate Analyst for the political forecasting service –ISRIA-. He has served as a Petty Officer of the Hellenic Navy. He speaks Greek, English, and French and has a passive knowledge of Italian. He is a member of the Governing Board of the RIEAS Institute and a Network Manager for an NGO –YUASEC Hellas-.