Friday, June 4, 2010

Army chief, KFOR commander on security
Source: Beta
PRIŠTINA -- Serbian Army (VS) CoGS Lt. Gen. Miloje Miletić and the KFOR commander, Lt. Gen. Markus Bentler, met on Thursday in Priština.

The meeting in Priština (Tanjug)
The meeting in Priština (Tanjug)

Serbian Army (VS) CoGS Lt. Gen. Miloje Miletić and the KFOR commander, Lt. Gen. Markus Bentler, met on Thursday in Priština.

The talks focused on issues of joint interest, such as fight against smuggling, security on the border line and problems of illegal crossing of the administrative line, KFOR said in a statement.

“High-level meetings of this kind strengthen the relations and cooperation between KFOR and the Serbian Army to the benefit of all people living in the region. The talks contribute to the preservation of region's peace and stability, it was said in the statement,” adding that KFOR “regularly informs Kosovo institutions” on this process.

In Belgrade, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the two generals discussed the overall state of security in Kosovo and Metohija, including attacks on mobile telephony transmitters and KFOR's obligations when it comes to protecting Serb religious and other heritage sites.

Thieves target historic 11th century monastery in south Albania

Unknown suspects broke into a church at the Douviani Monastery compound in the Kato (Lower) Dropoli district of Gjirokastr prefecture in southern Albania and reportedly removed an old wooden cross, icons, as well as an old embroidered cloth considered of significant cultural and historical value.

Part of church’s iconostasis (the screen decorated with icons that divides the sanctuary from the nave of an Eastern Orthodox church) was also destroyed.

This was the fourth time the monastery has been targeted by thieves and vandals.
A second church in the same village was also broken into but nothing was removed.
The monastery is dated to the middle Byzantine Era, circa 1089.

EU ‘Deadline’ on Albania Political Crisis Expires

Tirana | 04 June 2010 |
The European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France. Photo by  Davor Konjikusic
The European Parliament building, Strasbourg, France. Photo by Davor Konjikusic
An unofficial deadline set in a meeting in Strasbourg for Albanian political leaders to resolve the country's political crisis expired on Thursday with no solution in sight. After meeting with EU representatives in Strasbourg two weeks ago, Albania's main political parties have failed to reach an agreement to overcome the political stalemate that has plagued the country for almost a year.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha from the ruling Democratic Party and opposition leader Edi Rama of the Socialists have been locked in a stalemate over the results of the June 28, 2009 parliamentary elections, which Berisha's party narrowly won.

Berisha and Rama continue to disagree on the powers and procedures that should be followed by the parliamentary commission charged with investigating alleged fraud in the elections.

Rama and Berisha met with representatives of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on May 20. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele was also present for the talks.

A group of legal experts from Brussels visited Albania this week in an effort to find points that might bring the stances of the two Albanian political parties closer.

A new meeting sponsored by the European Parliament is expected to follow in the coming days. EU officials have previously warned that the country risks having its application for candidate status frozen unless a compromise to the crisis is reached.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Serb President opens business forum in Greece
THESSALONIKI -- At the end of his three-day official visit to Greece, Serbian President Boris Tadić today opened a business forum.

Tadić visits the Serb military cemetery in Thessaloniki (Tanjug)
Tadić visits the Serb military cemetery in Thessaloniki (Tanjug)

The event gathered leading businesspeople from Greece and Serbia in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.

The Serbian market has huge development potential and the prosperity of the Western Balkans can hardly be imagined without Serbia having a crucial role in it, Tadić said.

At the start of the forum Tadić underlined that Serbia offers the best business opportunities in the Balkans.

Serbia is the geographic, business and intellectual center of this region, and as one of the signatories of the CEFTA agreement and similar agreements with Russia, Belarus and Turkey, it offers the chance of export to the market with over 800 million consumers, the Serbian president said. ...

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Albania: Police seize 1,5 tons of contraband coffee imported from Macedonia

The Albanian police have seized 1,5 tons of contraband coffee imported from Macedonia into Albania, albanian press writes.

The media in Tirana write that the smugglers transported the coffee in 63 sacks by a boat through the Lake Ohrid.

They were found close to the town of Lin near Pogradec, while they were unloading the contraband. One of the smugglers was found by the license plate of the truck that was waiting on the coast.

The police are searching for the others. They suppose Macedonian citizens are involved too.

Ashdown "Considered" for Top Balkans Job

| 02 June 2010 |
Paddy Ashdown
Paddy Ashdown

Paddy Ashdown, a British politician and former High Representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina, is reportedly being considered for a role as a European special envoy for the Balkans, while EU leaders have said that such a post is not currently under discussion.

British daily The Guardian cited senior sources in Brussels as saying that it was possible that Ashdown, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, would be appointed to a new post in the region, the establishment of which is reportedly to be discussed at today's EU-Western Balkans summit in Sarajevo.

According to the report, Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign and security policy chief, will discuss Ashdown's possible appointment at dinner in London on Thursday night with William Hague, the British foreign secretary.

Meanwhile Ashton told reporters before today's EU-Western Balkans summit in Sarajevo that the topic was not “anything I had serious discussions about”.

“It is not yet on my agenda,” she added. Her comments were echoed by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who responded to the suggestion with “I do not think so…I do not see that”.

Hague’s office is headed by Arminka Helic, a Conservative party foreign policy analyst and a Bosnian Muslim who fled the country during the war, and who is a keen supporter of Ashdown, according to the British daily.

EU Supports Entry of Balkan States Based on 'Merit'

By June Kellum
Bosnian minister of Foreign Affairs, Sven Alkalaj (L) and EU Secretary for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (R) shake hands before the European Union-Balkans High Level Meeting in Sarajevo June 2. At the meeting the EU said it will welcome qualified Balka (Elvis Barukcic/AFP
In spite of concerns over enlargement in the wake of the Greek fiscal crisis, top European Union officials said they would extend EU membership to qualified Balkans countries.

The EU met with Balkans officials Wednesday for a one-day summit in Bosnia-Herzegovina capital, Sarajevo.

However, it appears that none of the applicant countries currently meet the required qualifications.

The EU stressed that each country would be evaluated based on "its own merits" and the countries will all have to make improvements to meet accession criteria, according to AFP.

Among the countries that emerged since the 1990 breakup of Yugoslavia, only Slovenia has EU membership. Croatia is currently in the membership negotiations process, while Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Albania are just beginning.

Monday, May 31, 2010

U.N. Security Council meets on Israeli raid

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 1, 2010 -- Updated 0323 GMT (1123 HKT)
Click to play
Israeli troops storm Gaza flotilla
  • NEW: U.S. official says flotilla should have observed blockade
  • U.N. Security Council holds emergency meeting on Israel's storming of Palestinian flotilla
  • Turkish Foreign Minister accuses Israel of murder conducted by a state
  • Israeli diplomat says flotilla was not a humanitarian mission, as portrayed in the media

New York (CNN) -- Israel faced condemnation and questions Monday at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting called by Turkey on the Israeli military's storming of a six-ship flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists headed to Gaza with aid supplies.

At least nine activists died in clashes that injured seven Israeli soldiers. Israel contends the flotilla intended to break its blockade of Gaza, while Palestinian leaders and allies said Israel launched an unprovoked military assault on civilians.

"No state is above the law," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the start of the meeting, adding that "Israel must be held accountable for its crimes."

Davutoglu called the Israeli assault "piracy" and "murder conducted by a state." Turkey helped arrange the flotilla bringing relief supplies such as medicines and building materials.

Greek-Israeli Military Manoeuvres Cancelled

The Greek-Israeli Air Force Exercise “Minos 2010” was cancelled today on the orders of Greek PM Papandreou. The order comes as a result of Israel’s intervention in the “Gaza Flotilla” in which 19 people have reportedly been killed.

The military action by Israel is making headlines all over the world at the moment. Israel had warned that it would intervene and not allow the flotilla to reach Gaza.

The baffling part of this whole story is that the Greek side has been lured into this conflict by having people and ships join the Turkish NGO on their quest to do something which was sure to end in violence. The flotilla is widely seen as a political statement against Israel by Turkey. By cancelling the military exercise the government is taking a firm position against Israel and is effectively siding with Turkey on the issue. Why?

Alt.FM on occupation troops

Nicosia (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos) -- Greece's alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas called on Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fully withdraw the Turkish occupation troops from Cyprus and to return the occupied sector of Famagusta (Varosha) to its legal inhabitants, the Greek Cypriots, in an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of the Cypriot newspaper Fileleftheros ('Liberal').

Droutsas also urged Ankara to abandon its "double policy" of verbal assurances of volition for a Cyprus solution while at the same time promoting partitionistic policies.

The alternate foreign minister explained that such moves as troop withdrawal -- "and I do not mean semi-measures but a clear-cut decision for full withdrawal" -- and the return of Famagusta to its rightful inhabitants are "actions that Mr. Erdogan can make, thus proving that he is a leader who is truly changing the face of his country".

Droutsas further said that Greece's support of Turkey's EU course is neither "random support" nor provides a "blank check".

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Socialist International calls for transparent elections in Albania


TIRANA, Albania -- A parliamentary investigation must be conducted in Albania to pave the way for eventual EU integration, the world organisation, Socialist International (SI), said in Tirana.

SI Secretary-General Luis Ayala of Chile stressed that the ongoing political stalemate is the direct result of a lack of transparency during the June 2009 elections.

If these problems are not addressed, the country will face the same problem in the future, he added.

KFOR stops clashes in northern Kosovo

30 May 2010 | 09:55 -> 14:13 | Source: B92

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Stones were being thrown between Serbs and Albanians across the bridge that separates northern and southern Kosovska Mitrovica.

KPS, KFOR and EULEX forces in the region stopped the conflicts from escalating.

There are no reports of injuries yet. The conflicts began at about 12:30 CET on the main bridge, where EULEX police are stationed.

Before the incidents occurred, there were some 2,000 Albanians protesting the Serb elections in the north on the southern side of the bridge, calling for a “defense of Kosovo’s sovereignty.”

The Albanians moved towards the bridge later, where local Serbs were gathering.

What Albania has in common with Thailand

The Albanian government is at a standstill as the EU tries to mediate between parties.

By Besar Likmeta — Special to GlobalPost
Published: May 28, 2010 06:54 ET

Tents are seen in front of Prime Minister Sali Berisha's office in Tirana on May 12, 2010. Blocking the main boulevard in front of Berisha's office, 22 lawmakers and about 200 supporters holed up in tents to stage a hunger strike against a vote they say was rigged. (Arben Celi/Reuters) Enlarge Photo

TIRANA, Albania — Earlier this month, European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele canceled a trip to Algeria to dine with Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Socialist Party leader Edi Rama at the posh Crocodile restaurant in Strasbourg.

But this was no social repast. Fuele hoped to talk down the two Albanian leaders from the war of words that has gridlocked the country since Berisha’s Democratic Party narrowly won parliamentary elections held on June 28, 2009.

Nearly a year after Albanians cast their ballots in the poll — considered a litmus test for the country’s fitness to continue the EU accession process — a wave of recent protests represent the latest escalation of a row that has poisoned the political climate.

Local elections in northern Kosovo underway

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Serbs are voting in local election in Kosovska Mitrovica and Novo Brdo on Sunday.

Albanians in the southern part of Mitrovica have announced that they would protest the elections.

There are 13 lists participating in Mitrovica and four in Novo Brdo.

In central Serbia, displaced persons in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kraljevo, Kragujevac and Niš would be able to vote as well.

The Serbian government dissolved the local governments in Kosovska Mitrovica and Novo Brdo on December 24, 2009, and established a temporary administration in the municipalities.

The polling stations will close at 20:00 CET.

Protests by former KLA members and the Movement for Unity have been announced against the organization of elections by the Serbian government.

President of the Serbian State Election Commission Veljko Odalović said that the protests aim to put pressure on the voters and international community in order to stop the voting.

South Kosovska Mitrovica Municipal President Avdi Kastrati said that the elections in the northern part of the city are illegal. He said that the residents of the northern part of the city need to turn towards the future and prepare for the elections that would be organized by the Kosovo leadership in September.

The NATO peacekeeping mission KFOR has stated that it would offer protection for all participators in peaceful protests, adding that it would take all necessary measures against any violent acts.

Russian citizens to travel to Albania without visas during the tourist season
Russians will be able to travel to Albania without visas as of Sunday, the Albanian Embassy in Moscow announced, cited by Interfax.

“According to the decision of the Government of the Republic of Albania in the term from May 30 to October 31, 2010 all Russian Federation citizens are allowed visa free stay on the country for tourist travel and private travel within 90 days”, a communication of the diplomatic mission says.