Saturday, November 19, 2011
Northern Kosovo "could declare independence"SOURCE: TANJUG, B92
BELGRADE -- Oliver Ivanović says he does not rule out the possibility that Serbs from northern Kosovo may "declare independence" of that part of the province.
This could happen if the West continues to insist on the implementation of the agreement on customs stamps and other issues in Priština's favor, the Ministry for Kosovo state secretary said in Belgrade on Friday, after a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Kosovo and Metohija.
Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in early 2008, but Serbia rejected it as an illegal act of secession. Serb north of the Ibar River in the province itself, who form a majority population there, also reject the proclamation, and the authority of the Kosovo Albanian government in Priština.
Now Ivanović told Radio Serbia International that a Serb move to "declare independence" would not be a good idea, "as it would have no particular positive effects".
However, the possibility has not been ruled out, because, as he said, Serbs in Kosovo were "carefully monitoring the moves of their neighbors (ethnic) Albanians".
In view of the announcements of the Serbs from northern Kosovo that they will not support the agreement with Priština on customs stamps which implies the deployment of Kosovo customs officers at the administrative lines, and in view of their request to reexamine further participation of Belgrade in the dialogue with Priština, Ivanović said there is no doubt that everyone has their own approach, noting, however, that "more transparency" was necessary.
"I am firmly convinced that Kosovo Serbs should be a part of the agreement from the very beginning, when different options are formed ahead of entering negotiations, simply because Serbs, especially those in the north, will be a part of the process of implementation of agreements potentially reached in the Belgrade-Priština dialogue," Ivanović underlined.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Greek Israel Air Exercises
Joint exercise between the HAF and the IAF in Israel
|November 18 2011, 3:12 PM|
From Monday 14 to Friday, November 18, 2011, a joint training team from the 110 Combat Wing, consisting of Flying, Technical and five (5) aircraft F-16 Block 52 + of 337 Squadron with aircraft of the Israeli Air Force in air base in Ovda Israel, under the Military Cooperation between Greece - Israel 2011.
Albanian police arrested eight officials from the department of metrology in the Ministry of Economy, accused of passive corruption, abuse of power and theft.
|Handcuffs | Source: Flickr|
The arrests follow a seven-month investigation by the Task Force Against Economic Crime and Corruption, which is part of the Tirana prosecutor’s office.
In a statement on Thursday, police said that the officials working in cooperation with one another conducted fictional tests and calibrations of machines in Tirana gas stations, rigging the pumps to give fake sale volumes to clients in exchange for bribes.
The arrested officials include the deputy director of the department of Metrology, the director for the Tirana area and six inspectors. Meanwhile police have issued an arrest warrant for another inspector from the same department.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy is controlled by the junior government partner, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI.
The head of the LSI, Ilir Meta, is currently on trial for corruption in the Supreme Court after a video was broadcast earlier this year appearing to show him discussing corrupt deals with another former minister, Dritan Prifti.
Meta has denied wrongdoing and has called the charges against him politically motivated.
Serbians top list of asylum seekers in GermanySource: Tanjug
BERLIN -- Serbia is again heading the list of asylum seekers in Germany with 620 asylum requests in October, the German Interior Ministry stated.
Considering previous few months, the number of asylum seekers from Serbia is on a constant increase, with 137 requests in August, 286 in September, and 620 in October, the ministry's data showed.
After a long period, Serbia is again ranked first on this list and followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Kosovo, which is treated as an independent state and placed at the ninth spot with 112 asylum requests in October.
There were 129 asylum seekers from Kosovo in August, 151 in September, and 112 last month, the ministry reported.
In the period between January and October 2011, Serbia came third with 2,826 requests, while the top two positions are occupied by Afghanistan and Iraq.
Kosovo is in the ninth place with the total of 1,133 asylum requests.
Germany received the total of 4,106 asylum requests in October, which is 0.6 percent less than in September, the German Federal Interior Ministry stated.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Lavrov: Russia to defend Serb rights everywhereSource: Tanjug, ITAR-TASS
MOSCOW -- Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that he "understands perfectly the motives" of those Kosovo Serbs who applied for Russian citizenship.
He added that Russia will defend the rights of Serbs wherever they live, taking into account all options stemming from international and Russian law.
The Kosovo Serbs are forced to follow the dictate from Priština, Lavrov said.
"We are very familiar with their demands. We are obligated to act taking into account several factors. Russia has a citizenship law which regulates how people from other countries can acquire citizenship," Lavrov said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.
He pointed out official Moscow "understands perfectly the motives of Kosovo Serbs who are in a desperate situation in which, despite UN Security Council Resolution 1244, they are forced to follow the dictate of Priština, which wants to deprive them of the right to self-government, with the direct support of NATO and EULEX".
Lavrov said NATO and EULEX are violating the UN mandate which obligates them to neutrality regarding Kosovo's status, adding Russia is strongly opposed to this.
"We intend to defend the rights of Serbs wherever they live, taking into account all options stemming from international and Russian law," Lavrov pointed out.
The minister said this was the response to a collective request of around 20,000 Serbs, mostly internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Kosovo who applied for Russian citizenship at the country's embassy in Belgrade.
2011-11-17 10:48 PM
King Leka, 72, was taken to intensive care two days ago, hospital officials said Thursday, adding he is under stable conditions.
King Leka, the only son of the late King Ahmet Zog who declared himself king in 1928 and ruled until the Italian army invaded the country in 1939, returned to Albania in 2002.
Albania's communist rulers abolished the monarchy in 1946, but even in exile, the royal family insisted that Leka Zogu was Albania's legitimate ruler.
The country's president and prime minister visited Leka at the hospital.
Sunday, November 20, Omonia in Korca, will celebrate its liberation from Italian occupation
For the first time, the Greeks in Korca, will celebrate the liberation of the city of Korca, where the Greek army, which on 22 November 1940, raised the flag in the Municipality of Korca, since replaced the fascist Mussolini's invading army.
This commemoration, makes at a time that representatives of the Greek Community in Korca region, stated that the completion of Census in Albania, according to sources from Omonia, were numbered about 30 thousand.
Albanian historians, have denied the day of release of Korca by the Greek army, claiming that "the Greek army was occupying in South Albania, the albanian territories and release the name of Northern Epirus"
I want guarantees for Serbs in Kosovo, president saysSource: Tanjug, B92
LONDON -- Serbian President Boris Tadić reaffirmed in London that Belgrade wanted a functional solution to the Kosovo problem as soon as possible.
“In order to achieve this, I want guarantees for the functioning of the Serb community in Kosovo,” he said late Wednesday in a lecture at the London Institute for Strategic Studies.
“If there is a will, and there is on the Serbian side, solutions can be found,” he stressed.
“We want integration of the entire region into the EU, and, of course, we want Kosovo to take part in regional forums,” the Serbian president pointed out.
He explained he advocated a fair and equitable solution when it comes to Kosovo.
Tadić said he had analyzed various solutions reached in similar situations and he was particularly interested in the agreement between the Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, as well as the practical solutions which followed from the document.
“For me, there are three principles which I drew from these solutions and which I would try to implement in our case. The first is that a substantive, sustainable and final solution can only be reached when two sides talk openly, directly and with the desire to find a common language,” the president explained.
In this context, he reminded that Serbia and other countries found Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence unacceptable.
“The second principle is connected to the fact people in our region are fated for EU accession. In doing this, we can and need to be creative, knowing that in the EU, borders are becoming less important than the quality of life of individual people and the communities they live in. I am talking about rights and prerogatives,” Tadić noted.
Solutions, he said talking about the third principle, should always take into account the fears and fate of the minority population.
“In this case, I am talking about the fears and fate of the Serbs in Kosovo,” said the Serbian president, pointing out these principles formed a foundation for a productive discussion.
Tadić also said that Serbia led by democrats showed readiness to find solutions for the most difficult problems inherited from the era of Slobodan Milošević.
“This would however be easier if Serbia had already launched membership talks with the EU,” he underlined.
As he put it, the citizens of Serbia will assess whether the ruling coalition has done enough to stay in power at the coming elections in a few months.
“I believe that the citizens will do that as this is the coalition which fought for a new democratic foundation of our country and which has always struggled for Europe as a choice. I am certain that the citizens have trust that we will do what is in the best interest of our country,” the president said.
Speaking about the region, he said that Serbia had a vital, strategic role and that it should be the initiator of economic development and political stability in the region.
“Highways, communication networks, energy supply routes - all this is passing through Serbia. Our economic welfare affects many people outside Serbia. Such a role is responsibility that I take quite seriously,” Tadić underscored.
He recalled that Serbia was trying to develop new trust with its neighbors, and that it has arrested the two remaining Hague Tribunal indictees, which was its moral obligation and also a crucial move in establishing of trust.
“When it comes to regional cooperation in different spheres, genuine progress has been made,” Tadić noted, adding that the political cooperation between Serbia and Croatia in the last three years was a very important stabilizing factor for Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“Our region - the Western Balkans - cannot wait for global circumstances to improve or foreign powers to resolve our problems. We have to move ahead together in order to build our future and security,” he explained.
"No parallel structures in Kosovo"
Tadić also stated on Wednesday in London that there were no parallel structures in Kosovo.
He pointed out that only legitimately elected local institutions existed in Kosovo and rejected claims that Serbia was financing criminal structures in the province.
“As a president, I do not always agree with their decisions, and they are often against my policy, but I respect them. They are politicians, not criminals, and they were legally elected,” he stated.
When it comes to criminal structures, the Serbian president said they existed everywhere, not only in the north, but also south to the Ibar River, and added the structures were cooperating closely.
He asked why the international forces in Kosovo were not arresting criminals, both Serb and Albanian, and recalled that according to the Kumanovo Agreement Serbia was not allowed to fight against the criminals and arrest them.
“Just let us, and we will arrest them,” Tadić underlined.
When a Kosovo Albanian from diplomat made a remark that Serbia should stop financing criminals, the president reacted strongly and said that Serbia was not financing any of them.
“This is not true, we fight against crime and will continue doing that. We will arrest all criminals, regardless of whether they are Serbs, Croats or Albanians. However, it would be against the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia not to finance our local institutions,” Tadić stressed.
When asked about partition of Kosovo, he said that this was an attractive solution, but yet again a model which could not function well.
“The citizens of Serbia will not accept that Kosovo is not part of Serbia. Common citizens cannot be talked into accepting this, and this is a political reality,” Tadić explained, adding that there were two realities in Kosovo - a Serbian and an Albanian one and that both sides should be taken into consideration when searching for a solution.
“We have to resolve this issue in the capacity of politicians, and the division of Kosovo is not a model which would function well,” he noted.
Asked what if the EU did not want to admit Serbia unless it recognizes Kosovo, Tadić shortly responded that in that case, the EU would make a mistake.
Answering questions about the regional cooperation and events in the 90s, the Serbian president said that he had apologized to all, bearing in mind the large number of victims of two world wars and the latest war conflicts, and also in order to protect the dignity of the Serbian people.
“The relations with Croatia have never been better in the last 20 years, and this is our common achievement,” he said, adding that he is in favor of the debalkanization of the Balkans, that is of its Scandinavization.
“Following my visit to the Olympic Park, an idea occurred to me that the region could jointly organize Olympic Games in future. We are good organizers, and the point is that we should make something together,” Tadić concluded.
Protesters charged over October 28 incidents
On Tuesday, charges were brought against 17 people identified by police as having participated in anti-austerity protests which led to the cancellation of the annual Thessaloniki military parade marking Greece’s entry into the Second World War in 1940.
The incident occurred on October 28, when two separate groups of protesters blocked the route, while a number of those present verbally attacked Greek President Karolos Papoulias.Source: ekathimerini.com
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Premier Berisha congratulates new Prime Minister of Greece Mr. Lucas Papadhimos
Premier Berisha has sent a congratulatory telegram to the new Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Papadhimos Lucas, on the occasion of his election to this office.
In this telegram to Prime Minister Berisha expressed:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
I have special pleasure, on the occasion of your choice in the position of Prime Minister of Greece and the establishment of a cooperation, to convey on behalf of the Albanian government and the cordial greetings and warm wishes of success full-friendly difficult tasks, but extremely important for the country and your nation of friendly neighbors.
I have followed with attention the commitment, vision and commitment to your professional, to keep a deep conviction that your selection at the top of government, in this delicate financial situation for your country, will bring an important contribution in overcoming it and move forward with reforms necessary to turn Greece into the path of development and further modernization.
I take this opportunity to assure you that the Albanian government and I personally remain determined and committed to further strengthen the good relations between both our countries and to expand further strengthen cooperation in all fields , to benefit the best interest of both our peoples.
With assurances of consideration and the highest respect,
Sali Berisha "
U.S. Congress voices different views on Kosovo issueSource: Tanjug
WASHINGTON -- A hearing on the situation in the Balkans held Tuesday in the U.S. Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs included different views on the Kosovo crisis.
The views ranged from the position that Serbia is the only one responsible for the latest developments to the idea that the division of Kosovo is the best possible and the only sustainable solution, but ended in a common stand that a dialogue is the only way towards the final solution.The participants urged the U.S. State Department to support the probe into the human organ trafficking in Kosovo and launch a detailed investigation into the allegations presented in the report by Council of Europe Rapporteur Dick Marty.
Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia Chairman Dan Burton, who recently visited the Western Balkans, stated that peace and stability in the area could be established only by people living there, and that this would be impossible for anyone else.
“The U.S. has decided to recognize Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence even before it let Serbs and Albanians agree, and that only aggravated the problems,” Burton stressed.
He noted that he was aware that the U.S. administration did not share his opinion, but added that he agreed with official Washington that the dialogue was the only way towards solution.
The Indiana congressman underlined that the issue of Kosovo should be resolved as part of Serbia's EU integration process, rather than be set as a precondition for the accession talks.
Burton and Texas representative in the Congress Ted Poe urged the U.S. administration to offer strong support to the investigation into the human organ trafficking in Kosovo, which was allegedly carried out by members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Assistant State Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon said that the probe would be carried out for sure, and that the U.S. was serious about Marty's report.
Washington, November 16, 2011
Obama called Papandreou yesterday, who resigned last week amid the country's massive debt
"As the president said, the bonds between the American people and the Greek people are strong and deep, and the United States will stand with Greece through these difficult times," the statement said.
Obama also thanked Papandreou for his "contributions to Greece and to Greek-American relations," the White House noted.
Athens is racing against time to adopt deeply unpopular reforms demanded by its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors before the release of bailout loans needed to avert bankruptcy in mid-December.
Last week, the United States saluted the designation of former central banker Lucas Papademos as Papandreou's successor, seeing it as evidence of a "consensus" in favor of reform.
"We welcome his appointment. We look forward to working with the new prime minister," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
"We also welcome the consensus that's been reached in Greece on the need to implement the country's reform commitments to the IMF as well as the European Union," he said.
Papademos' government, formed last week with the backing of the socialist, conservative and right-wing nationalist parties, is expected to be confirmed in a vote of confidence Wednesday but must hold early elections in a few months.
US Vice President Joe Biden is due to visit Greece in December.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Syria crisis: Erdogan steps up Turkey pressure on Assad
Turkey has stepped up its pressure on neighbouring Syria over the crackdown on protests by the Damascus government.
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the future could not be built on "the blood of the oppressed", and condemned attacks on Turkish missions in Syria.
Meanwhile, Turkey's energy minister announced that joint oil exploration projects with Syria had been halted.
Damascus is also facing increasing pressure from the Arab League, which has suspended its membership.
On Monday, King Abdullah of Jordan became the first Arab leader to openly urge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down.
The UN says more than 3,500 people have died since the start of the protests against President Assad in March.
The Syrian authorities blame the violence on armed gangs and militants.
In an apparent show of goodwill on Tuesday, the authorities freed 1,180 people who had been arrested during protests, Syrian state media reported. The state news agency said those released had no "blood on their hands".
The release of prisoners is among the demands of the Arab League, which is due to meet again on Wednesday.
All the fun of the Tirana book fair
Nov 15th 2011, 11:15 by T.J. | TIRANA
IN RECENT years the news from Albania has been dominated by the endless political struggle between Sali Berisha, the prime minister, and Edi Rama, the leader of the opposition. But suddenly, the clouds seem to have lifted. Mr Rama’s Socialists are back in parliament, talking to Mr Berisha’s people, and a resolution has been found to a disputed mayoral election in Tirana. Relieved Albanians are now talking about something else: books.
The event of the month has been the Tirana book fair, which ended on Sunday. I have never seen anything like it in the Albanian capital. Some of the more-than-80 stalls were virtually stormed by people waving cash in the hope of not missing out on the latest bestsellers. Ambassadors, bishops, celebrities and politicians were all out in force.
Yet the belle of the ball was Elena Kadare, who won an award for best writer of the year. Her new book is in part a kiss-and-tell memoir about life with her husband Ismail, who is regarded by many people here, himself included I believe, as the world’s greatest living Albanian. Much to the amusement of the local press Ms Kadare's book discusses her husband's various love affairs. The literary power couple, still very much together, spend half their year in Paris and half in Tirana.
Happily Albanians now seem keener to read about politics than to see it played out in the streets. The big political bestseller of the fair was Mr Rama’s book "Kurban" ("Sacrifice"), a memoir focusing on his time as mayor of Tirana, during which the city was transformed from a mess into a reasonably pleasant place to live.
After disputed local elections in May Mr Rama was forced from office by Lulzim Basha, of Mr Berisha’s party. When Mr Basha arrived at the town hall, a sheep was sacrificed there. This practice, which appears to hark back to Ottoman times, is what gave Mr Rama's book its title; its cover shows blood spattered over the image of a sheep.
Mr Rama's book-signings attracted large crowds (see footage from last Thursday). On Sunday an ecstatic Arlinda Dudaj, the publisher, shouted across the crowd to me that she thought 8,000 copies had been sold in a few days. Such figures would be regarded as a huge success for similar books in Britain, a far larger and richer country. But Mr Berisha has been busily denouncing his rival's book, and when he visited the fair he apparently refused to walk past Mrs Dudaj’s stall.
Henri Cili, another publisher, has also hit the big time. Among his blockbusters this year is a biography of Enver Hoxha, the Albanian communist dictator who died in 1985. “It is crazy,” said Mario Cili, Henri’s brother and the company’s managing director. He claimed that 14,000 copies had been sold in the past three weeks.
The book, by Blendi Fevziu, a well-known Albanian journalist, is the first serious account of Hoxha's life to draw on Albanian archives. With luck it will be translated for foreign audiences. Adrian Civici, an economist, told me that he had read the book in two days, and that it could have been subtitled "The man who killed all his friends".
Yet despite the hustle of the fair people are buying fewer books in Albania, just as they are across the world. Piro Misha, a well-known publisher, told me that sales were down as much as 30% compared to a year ago. And the eBook revolution has yet to begin here: few iPads or Kindles have been sold in Albania, and so few publishers have bothered digitising their books.
There was one more surprise at the fair. A big white marquee run by Serbs, selling grilled meat and beer to the sounds of Serbian pop, proved as popular with Tiranans as the books. On Saturday, a day before the fair closed, it was packed up and the Serbs left. Kosovars and nationalist Albanians were reported to have complained. A more prosaic account had it that people staggering out of the fair with heavy bags of books had simply guzzled all the meat and drunk the tent dry.
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the testimony of three local expert witnesses in the corruption trial of former deputy prime minister Ilir Meta, despite protests from prosecutors.
|Ilir Meta | Photo courtesy of Albania's MFA|
Meta was charged with corruption in May after a video was broadcast appearing to show him discussing corrupt deals with another former minister, Dritan Prifti.
But the three experts, Ardian Pollo, Ermal Beqiri and Artur Rrahmani, told the court that they thought the probability that the video was manipulated was “high”.
An earlier review of the video was conducted by British and American experts on behalf of the prosecution. These experts ruled that the tape was authentic but the court has since dismissed their review as inadmissible.
Prosecutors contested the qualifications of the three local experts and called for their testimonies to be thrown out. The judges' panel, headed by Ardian Dvorani, rejected the prosecutors’ request.
General Prosecutor Ina Rama filed charges against Meta in early May after a four-month investigation, following the broadcast of the secretly filmed video in January .
Transcripts appeared to show Meta asking Prifti, the former economy minister, to intervene in a hydropower plant concession tender. Meta also appeared to mention a bribe by a businessman of €700,000.
The tape also appeared to show him boasting about having influenced a Supreme Court trial involving the same hydropower plant.
Meta also appeared to ask Prifti to hire activists of his own party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI. The LSI is the junior partner in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. It controls the ministries of economy, foreign affairs and health.
Although it only holds four parliamentary seats, the LSI came out as a kingmaker in the 2009 parliamentary elections, which were narrowly won by Berisha’s right-wing Democratic Party. At the time of the recording Meta was both deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
Meta has repeatedly denied wrong-doing and has called the trial against him politically motivated.