Saturday, August 28, 2010

Albania could join South Stream project!

Countries neighboring Albania have said they could build an offshoot from the planned South Stream gas pipeline to the Albanian port of Vlore. But analysts think Albania lacks promise as a potential transit country because of its internal political instability.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha said without elaborating that neighboring countries could build a branch from the South Stream gas pipeline to Vlore.

Berisha is reportedly on good terms with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi, and welcomes Italian companies' involvement in Albanian energy projects.

South Stream is a joint project between Russian energy giant Gazprom and Italy's Eni estimated at 10 billion euros. It will deliver Russian natural gas to Europe through a route charted along the bed of the Black Sea, bypassing Ukraine.

Russia has signed intergovernmental agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria on the implementation of the onshore part of the project.

The European Union is considering a rival project, Nabucco, in order to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. However, Nabucco will not reach Albania or its closest neighbors, Serbia and Montenegro, or Macedonia and Greece.

Europe's main gas pipelines bypass Albania, even though it is favorably located between eastern and western Europe. It could get gas in 2012 from the proposed Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will transport natural gas from the Caspian and Middle East regions via Greece, Albania, across the Adriatic Sea to Italy and on to Western Europe.

Albania is not vital to the South Stream project, said Alexander Kurdin, an analyst with the Institute for Energy and Finance think tank. It should import gas to ensure better economic development but has no future as a transit country because of its internal political instability. However, the pipeline could cross Albania to help ensure the diversification of gas supply routes.

Viktor Markov, chief analyst at the investment company Zerich Capital Management, said: "The EU's energy policy is based on a simple premise: The more pipelines, the better for consumers because competition between suppliers should push gas prices down."

Therefore, alternative gas pipelines and transportation routes will always be on the agenda.

"Given this policy, transit countries are likely to sign up to several projects simultaneously to make sure they get their fair share of the profits," Markov said.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

UNESCO Probes Albania’s Care of Butrint Heritage Site

Tirana | 26 August 2010 | By Ben Andoni
Butrint Roman Theater
Butrint Roman Theater

UN experts are to determine whether new road construction is damaging the archeological park, which conventions oblige the government to protect.

The expansion of the road linking the southern Albanian town of Saranda to the Butrint archeological park has stirred a row, with some local and international experts charging the government with poor management of the UNESCO world heritage site.

The 20-kilometre road, which was initially built in 1959, during the visit of the former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, was narrow and presented a risk for motorists visiting the ancient Greek and Roman city.

However, the way that a local company contracted by the government has moved to expand the road, damaging the surrounding olive groves, has alarmed some archeologists.

While the authorities maintain that the damage done to the park scenery is minor, a group of experts from UNESCO are soon to visit Butrint to assess whether Tirana is honouring its obligations under the 1975 World Heritage Convention.

Butrinti is considered one the most significant Classical archeological sites in the Mediterranean. Dating back at least as far as the 10th century BC, it was, in turn, a Greek colony, a Roman city and a Byzantine bishopric before being deserted in the late Middle Ages, after which its magnificent buildings sank into the marshes.

Serious excavation the site only began in the late 1920s, under Italian auspices. Still largely unknown to the outside world before the fall of the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha, the site now receives tens of thousands of visitors every year.

Construction of new Butrint road
Construction of new Butrint road

The site is managed by the Albanian authorities with the assistance of the London-based Butrint Foundation – until now often cited as example of fruitful collaboration between local and foreign expertise and money.

According to historian Auron Tare, the first director of the Buntrint Archeological Park, interventions in a UNESCO world heritage site must meet specific criteria, which does not seem to be the case with the new road.

“The construction of a highway of these proportions inside this area has no economic motive and destroys the park’s historical scenery,” said Tare.

The 2000-2005 management plan for the park envisioned the expansion of the old road only as far as the village of Ksamil, located only four kilometers North of Butrint itself. The rest of the track inside the protected area would only be repaved.

“The current project lacks a feasibility study and necessary consultation with the public has not been carried out,” Tare added.

In an op-ed in March, published in the Tirana daily Shekulli titled “Butrint 2013 - Trashed by Greed”, Professor Richard Hodges, former scientific director of the Butrint Foundation, condemned the new road unreservedly.

“Encouraged by the busloads of tourists, the Tirana authorities have driven a huge ugly road through the olives between Ksamil and Butrint, obliterating its magic,” Hodges wrote.

However, Ylli Cerova, until a few days ago director of the archeological park, defended the expansion on safety grounds. A bigger road would protect people visiting the site, which had seen too many accidents in the recent past.

“During the summer months thousands of tourists visit in buses, and every time two buses passed each other in the road there were problems,” Cerova said. “The narrow road, which was full of potholes, caused tragic accidents because of the traffic,” he added.

Brian Ayers, current director of the Butrint Foundation, which plays an advisory role in the management of the park, complained that the authorities had kept the proposal for the new road under wraps until construction started.

“When I did find out what was proposed, I wrote a long email to the Ministry [of Culture], pointing out Albania’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention and detailing the sort of procedures that ought to take place before any construction work went ahead,” he recalled.

“I asked the park director [Cerova] if he had been consulted about the road, if he had seen the plans for the road, if he had ‘asked’ to see the plans, and he said 'no' to all three,” Ayers added.

Contacted by Balkan Insight, officials from Albania’s Institute of Monuments and the Cultural Heritage Directorate in the Ministry of Culture said they could not comment until the UNESCO team, due soon in Tirana, had inspected the road works.

Construction of new Butrint road
Construction of new Butrint road

On August 14, the Minister of Culture, Ferdinand Xhaferri, fired Cerova as director with the justification that an inspection had found the park to be dirty.

Local media tied his dismissal also to complaints of financial mismanagement of the park, charges which Cerova has denied. Complaints over Cerova’s management of the park have also included allegations that after a theater festival in the summer part of Butrint’s Roman theatre were damaged.

According to Professor Hodges, the park management has failed to properly preserve the site, noting evidence of decay in the theater and broken lights in the museum.

His “j’accuse”-style open letter, set futuristically in 2013, ended on a pessimistic note, predicting that while time remained to reverse the damage, unfortunately that was unlikely to happen.

“This vandalism could have been stopped and the damage repaired even in March or April 2010; after that it was too late,” Hodges wrote. “Greed won; Albania and the world lost.”

Ben Andoni is deputy editor of MAPO magazine. Balkan Insight is BIRN`s online publication. This article is funded under the BICCED project, supported by the Swiss Cultural Programme.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mid-Air Collision between 2 F-16s

Earlier today 2 Hellenic Air Force F-16 aircraft collided in mid air during a training exercise south of Crete.

All reports indicate that one pilot is dead and one wounded.

The aircraft belonged to 340 Squadron based at the 115th Combat Wing in Souda. They were part of a flight of multiple aircraft, 6 or 8. One of the aircraft was a single seat C model and the other a two seat D model. Two pilots were rescued shortly after their ejection. The third was found dead several hours later.

This is the second mid air collision between HAF F-16s. The first happened in 2004 and involved 2 F-16D Block 30 aircraft.

Albanian big busted in NY slay, kidnap

A top aide to Albania's deputy prime minister has been busted in that country for murder, kidnapping and racketeering crimes committed in New York City on behalf of a vicious drug gang, authorities revealed yesterday.

Almir Rrapo, the senior administrative assistant to the deputy PM, was arrested by Albanian National Police at the request of American authorities on July 2, but US prosecutors only yesterday unsealed an indictment against him.

Another 16 people have also been criminally charged in connection with the marijuana-dealing ring allegedly operated by Staten Island brothers Bruno and Saimir Krasniqi in New York state, Connecticut and Michigan.

Rrapo, 27, is accused with the Krasniqi brothers of the July 2005 fatal drive-by shooting of Erion Shehu outside a Queens cafe during a turf battle over marijuana sales, the Manhattan US Attorney's Office said.

A month before the killing, prosecutors allege, Rrapo, the Krasniqis and other gang members kidnapped a rival drug dealer at gunpoint, pistol-whipped him and placed the gun's muzzle in his mouth while threatening to kill him if he did not reveal the locations of other members of his ring.

Rrapo, who faces a possible death sentence for Shehu's murder, also is charged with narcotics and robbery conspiracy.

Read more:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Υποκινούμενη τρομοκρατία στην Αλβανία

ΣΚΙΕΣ ΣΤΙΣ σχέσεις Αθήνας - Τιράνων επιχειρούν να βάλουν κύκλοι της Αλβανίας. Πεδίο δράσης έχουν βρει και συμφέροντα που το τελευταίο διάστημα επιχειρούν να αρπάξουν περιουσίες-φιλέτα της Αδριατικής, που ανήκουν σε Έλληνες ομογενείς. Κατά την τελευταία του επίσκεψη στην Αθήνα, στις αρχές Αυγούστου, και τη συνάντηση που είχε με τον αναπληρωτή Υπουργό Εξωτερικών Δημήτρη Δρούτσα, ο Υπουργός Εξωτερικών της Αλβανίας Ίλιρ Μέτα προσδιόριζε ως προτεραιότητες της Αλβανίας τη σύντομη απελευθέρωση του καθεστώτος των θεωρήσεων (visa) από την Ε.Ε. και την απόδοση καθεστώτος υποψήφιας προς ένταξη χώρας στην Ε.Ε. για τη χώρα.

Υπογράμμιζε, μάλιστα, το πόσο πολύ υπολογίζει η χώρα του στη σταθερή υποστήριξη που παρέχουν η Ελλάδα και ο Πρωθυπουργός της Γιώργος Παπανδρέου για την ευρωπαϊκή ολοκλήρωση στην περιοχή.
Την ίδια ώρα, η οικονομική κρίση στην Ελλάδα δείχνει, ανάμεσα στα άλλα, και πόσο πολύ εξαρτημένη από τη χώρα είναι η οικονομία της Αλβανίας. Οι εκατοντάδες χιλιάδες Αλβανοί μετανάστες έχουν βελτιώσει σημαντικά τη θέση τους στην Ελλάδα, ζουν ομαλά, ενώ με τα εμβάσματά τους επί χρόνια τροφοδοτούν την αλβανική οικονομία.
Η οικονομική κρίση στην Ελλάδα έχει ήδη αντανάκλαση και στην οικονομία της Αλβανίας, ενώ ένας σημαντικός αριθμός Αλβανών που δεν βρίσκουν δουλειά επιστρέφουν στη χώρα τους, προσθέτοντας πολλά προβλήματα και στην κυβέρνηση Μπερίσα.
Η κυβέρνηση του ΠΑΣΟΚ από τον περασμένο Οκτώβριο -παρά τις στενές σχέσεις του ΠΑΣΟΚ με το Σοσιαλιστικό Κόμμα του Έντι Ράμα- συνέχισε με την κυβέρνηση του συντηρητικού Σαλί Μπερίσα τις καλές και σταθερές σχέσεις των τελευταίων χρόνων. Ενώ, όμως, στην Ελλάδα ελάχιστοι ασχολούνται πλέον με τα αλβανικά και δεν υπάρχει πρόθεση για τη δημιουργία εντάσεων, στην Αλβανία αντίθετα υπάρχει μία υπολογίσιμη μερίδα του πολιτικού κόσμου και των ΜΜΕ που πυροδοτούν το εθνικιστικό κλίμα με στόχο την Ελλάδα.

Όπως σημειώνει σε εκτενή ανάλυσή της η αθηναϊκή εφημερίδα ΕΘΝΟΣ, το τσάμικο, η ένταση στη Χιμάρα, κάποια γεγονότα από την Ελλάδα που αφορούν Αλβανούς μετανάστες και παρουσιάζονται συνήθως μεγεθυσμένα από τα ΜΜΕ κ.ά. ανακυκλώνονται για να συντηρούν αυτό το εθνικιστικό κλίμα, ενώ το τροφοδοτούν σκόπιμα και κάποιοι κύκλοι που το τελευταίο διάστημα επιχειρούν να αρπάξουν περιουσίες μελών της ελληνικής μειονότητας και κυρίως τα φιλέτα των παραλιακών περιοχών στην Αδριατική.
Το έγκλημα στη Χιμάρα, με τη δολοφονία του 37χρονου Αριστοτέλη Γκούμα, από ομάδα νεαρών ατόμων που ήρθαν από τα βόρεια, από την Αυλώνα, για να προκαλέσουν Χιμαριώτες επειδή μιλούν... ελληνικά, τροφοδοτήθηκε από αυτό το κλίμα. Το πλέον ανησυχητικό είναι ότι τα φαινόμενα εθνοτικής βίας πολλαπλασιάζονται, ενώ την ίδια ώρα υπάρχουν ΜΜΕ που τροφοδοτούν αυτό το κλίμα και δεν λείπει και η οργανωμένη προσπάθεια... ηρωοποίησης των δολοφόνων.

Πλήθος κόσμου στο μνημόσυνο για τον Αρ. Γκούμα
«ΡΑΓΙΣΑΝ» καρδιές χθες το πρωί στην εκκλησία των Αγίων Πάντων στη Χιμάρα, όπου τελέστηκε το μνημόσυνο για τα εννιάμερα από το θάνατο του Αριστοτέλη Γκούμα. Οι γονείς του, ο αδελφός του Παναγιώτης, αλλά και οι δύο αδελφές του που ζουν μόνιμα στην Αθήνα, δεν μπορούσαν να συγκρατήσουν τα δάκρυά τους, ενώ ο ιερέας π. Παναγιώτης Μπιτζίλης ζήτησε από τους παρευρισκομένους να μην ξεχάσουν τον Αριστοτέλη.
Σχεδόν όλη η Χιμάρα, αλλά και κάτοικοι από τα γύρω χωριά ακολούθησαν την πομπή στο κοιμητήριο, όπου τελέστηκε τρισάγιο και οι συγκεντρωμένοι τραγούδησαν τον Εθνικό Ύμνο.
«Ας είναι το παιδί μου το τελευταίο θύμα ενός ακραίου φανατισμού. Τους δράστες τούς αφήνω στην κρίση του Θεού, ας το βρουν από αυτόν, τον υπέρτατο Κριτή», είπε ο πατέρας του αδικοχαμένου 37χρονου, Ηλίας Γκούμας, ευχαριστώντας όσους συμπαραστέκονται στην οικογένεια.

Ανησυχεί η Αθήνα
Η ελληνική πλευρά, παρά τους χαμηλούς τόνους που ακολούθησε το Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών διά του εκπροσώπου του, προειδοποιώντας ότι τέτοια γεγονότα μπορούν να έχουν απρόβλεπτες συνέπειες και να υπονομεύσουν τις σχέσεις Ελλάδας-Αλβανίας, ζητώντας να καταδικαστούν από το σύνολο της αλβανικής κοινωνίας και τους πολιτικούς εκπροσώπους της, παρακολουθεί με ιδιαίτερη προσοχή όλες τις εξελίξεις και δεν κρύβει την ανησυχία της για το γεγονός ότι οι προκλήσεις συνεχίζονται. Όπως είπε ο κ. Δρούτσας, «είμαστε σε συνεχή επαφή με την αλβανική πλευρά και λέμε αυτά που πρέπει να πούμε και τα λέμε με τον τόνο που πρέπει να τα πούμε». Αυτό που ξέρουν οι Αλβανοί είναι ότι η Ελλάδα σήμερα έχει διπλωματικά και άλλα πλεονεκτήματα, τα οποία μπορεί να χρησιμοποιήσει κατάλληλα, ώστε να γίνουν αισθητά και να έχουν πρώτα απ’ όλα επιπτώσεις στην ευρωπαϊκή πορεία της Αλβανίας.

Με αφορμή τα γεγονότα στη Χιμάρα και τις επιθέσεις που δέχονται οι ελληνικής καταγωγής κάτοικοί της επειδή και μιλούν ελληνικά και προβάλλουν την καταγωγή τους, να σημειώσουμε ότι η περιοχή δεν περιλαμβάνεται στις μειονοτικές ζώνες που είχε καθορίσει ο Εμβέρ Χότζα από το 1946-47.
Μέχρι τα τέλη της περασμένης δεκαετίας, η ελληνική πλευρά διεκδικούσε την αναγνώριση στην περιοχή της ελληνικής μειονότητας. Όμως, από το 2000 και μετά, ουσιαστικά το ελληνικό Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών ακολουθεί την πολιτική κατάργησης συνολικά των μειονοτικών ζωνών και την αναγνώριση του status του Έλληνα στην καταγωγή, οπουδήποτε και αν ζει στην Αλβανία, με βάση και τις σημερινές διεθνείς συνθήκες και την απόδοση των κατοχυρωμένων δικαιωμάτων των μειονοτικών.

Contractor in ammunition scheme now target of Orlando federal prosecutors

A 24-year-old Miami Beach man accused in a scheme to illegally ship nearly $300 million in Chinese-made ammunition to Afghan soldiers is now the target of an Orlando federal criminal investigation.

Efraim Diveroli, a military contractor who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in a South Florida federal case last year, was arrested Friday.

A criminal complaint filed in Orlando charges Diveroli with two counts: possessing firearms as a convicted felon and possessing firearms by a person under indictment for a felony offense.

At a hearing Monday in Orlando federal court, a magistrate judge found Diveroli is a flight risk and ordered he be jailed pending trial.......................,0,7978191.story
Albanian police arrest man outside US embassy over alleged threat after visas denied

TIRANA, Albania — Albanian police say they have arrested a man outside the U.S. embassy in Tirana after he allegedly threatened to set fire to a bottle of petrol, in an apparent visa protest.

Police say the 27-year-old man told them he was angry at having two applications for a U.S. visa rejected.

Police spokeswoman Alma Katragjini said Monday that the suspect was holding a bottle of petrol and matches outside the embassy entrance.

Katragjini says he was being questioned by anti-terrorist police.

A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment on the incident.