Saturday, January 19, 2013

19 January 2013 | 21:13 | FOCUS News Agency
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Sofia. Bulgaria's veteran Turkish minority party leader Ahmed Dogan tendered his resignation Saturday, hours after escaping a gas pistol attack while addressing his party's national conference in Sofia, AFP reported.
"This time my decision is categorical!" Dogan said, proposing that his deputy Lyutvi Mestan replace him as head of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party.
The ethnic Turkish minority leader was addressing delegates at the conference earlier Saturday when a man carrying a gas pistol rushed up to his podium and pointed the non-lethal weapon at his head, video footage showed.
Dogan struck the attacker's arm away before he could fire a shot.
Delegates then wrestled the assailant -- a 25-year-old ethnic Turk from the eastern city of Burgas -- to the ground.
Police later arrested the man, who was also carrying two knives, a police statement said.
Dogan, 58, has led MRF since its formation 23 years ago.
Backed mainly by Bulgaria's 10 percent ethnic Turk minority, the controversial veteran politician has played a key role in Bulgaria's post-communist transition.
Dogan's ability to control his voters ensured the liberal MRF's participation in two successive coalition governments between 2001 and 2009.
The MRF is now in opposition to the right-wing government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Dogan was largely expected to step down on Saturday even before the attack.
His interrupted address, read out later in his presence by another MRF member, claimed that a recent "demonisation" of his image was detrimental to the party ahead of general elections in July.
He urged delegates to support Mestan's candidacy and to make "a common effort to change public opinion about the MRF and its leader".
Dogan lashed out at the premier, accusing him of seeking to "replace democracy with dictature" by stifling the market economy and controlling the media.
Dogan has prided himself for his role in maintaining Bulgaria's ethnic peace while ethnic conflicts raged in the country's Balkan neighbours in the 1990s.
The Turkish minority, which was subjected to drastic assimilation policies under communism, won key rights under his leadership including free religious expression, political representation in parliament, Turkish classes in schools and Turkish-language news broadcasts on the state television.
Dogan's political versatility and diverse coalitions with conservatives, liberals and socialists (ex-communists) over the years however attracted criticism from all sides, mostly for his authoritarian ways, political arrogance and alleged corruption.
Revelations that he had collaborated with the communist police before turning against the political regime and being imprisoned in 1985 also alienated many of his supporters.

ΕΠΙΚΑΙΡΑ: Αλβανία - Κόσοβο προχωρούν σε ένωση!

Albania - Kosovo proceed for unification

Every day, is becoming more as possible an unification Albania and Kosovo.
What will said the consolidation of the Greater Albania, for Greece and the other countries in the Balkans?

Taking all these into account, the Albanian question emerges as crucial to the Greek foreign policy, national security and stability throughout the region ...

By Sotiris SIDERI

The high mobility stated between Albania and Kosovo, to unify the two states are not firework for the elections of June in Athens as many appreciated the recent nationalist frenzy of political parties in Tirana. A reality, and every indication is a matter of time for a de facto consolidation that will change the balance in the Balkans, creating legitimate questions about stability in the region.

A series of moves towards unification of the two states shows that there is a strategic plan, which is naturally expressed through declarations, actions, steadily and strikes the apathy with which the European Union and the U.S. face the developments. After the crescendo last November when one of the events for the centenary of the founding of the Albanian state in the EU and the U.S. responded and urged Tirana to lower tones, many believed that the Albanian political system wraps. Denied, however, all these while, conversely, those who argue that confirmed the dynamic vision of "Greater Albania" remains strong, regardless of whether it may or may not become a reality in its entirety. The first steps, however, be a matter of time and cause reactions than other states in the region.  

The cooperation at the political level and the development of social relations between Albanians, is logic. But now, there is no such discussion, but promoted a new order, which dramatically affects the other countries that have Albanian communities in their territories.SpeculationIn particular are the problems for Greece is targeted not because of an insignificant minority as Chams, but because Tirana raise issues similar to those of Turkey on shelf / EEZ, while the anti-Greek is the most prevalent perception and will take a long time and attempt to reverse the image. The inability of the government to study the problem and move to prevent new fait accompli in the Balkans is given. It is given a new crisis in the region. Just a matter of time to break out.

The nationalist party Red and Black Alliance, filed days before application to the Central Election Commission, requesting a referendum on the unification of Albania with Kosovo a state entity. Do, ie, one step ahead. To place the referendum required 50,000 signatures, which, according to diplomatic sources, it is very easy to assemble. Whether or not to the referendum, as it is sure to engage the international community feared that would divert general, the dynamics and only the relevant discussion will fuel even more nationalism, will affect all Albanian communities in other Balkan countries such as Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. The leader of the Red and Black Alliance Kreshnik Spahiu said that "the two Albanian states should join the EU as a federation with two Albanian cantons, which," as stated, would "abolish the border, but to change."

Before fifteen days the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha, said it will conduct jointly promote football championship between Albania and Kosovo, which Albanian Prime Minister insists promote, despite the fact that this is not allowed by the Constitution nor the UEFA neither of FIFA.On 10 January, PM Sali Berisha, makes a new statement in the same direction, said "I am determined to unite the nation" in his meeting with the executives of "public broadcaster Kosovo» RTK. Kosovars thanked the Prime Minister of Albania on the idea of ​​establishing a common area of ​​broadcasting between Albania and Kosovo, which already promoted, as there is no legal impediment.

Competition for "Greater Albania"

The election campaign in Albania has taken the peculiar characteristics of a competition between the political parties over who will display more ideas for "Greater Albania" and who will look the most patriots. This development contradicts those both in Europe and particularly in Athens initially assessed that the nationalist rhetoric due to campaigning. Apparently the upcoming election in June increases the intensity of the debates, common, but denominator is unnecessary rhetoric, but concrete actions.

Thus, both the conservative party of Berisha and Rama's socialists, while initially thought to increase the nationalistic intensity in order not to have lost the red-Alliance, is now proving that this is not just rhetoric, but a plan. PM Sali Berisha loses large forces, but Rama appears high in the polls, over 40% - about the rate that was in 2009. Note that three years ago the red-right-wing Alliance and socialists allied lobbied the Constitutional Court to annul the 2009 agreement with Greece on the delimitation of maritime zones, including the EEZ.

The prospect of alliance or tolerance in a nationalistic policy towards Greece causing nightmares to those involved in Athens on the situation in Albania This is because the red-League, a few years ago started low, almost non-existent rates today has rocketed in the polls about 16%, which means that the nationalist and mainly anti-Greek positions will become systemic features, which will probably worsen a dangerous level of bilateral relations, if the socialists do not change their attitude, which is not in sight. This party, with striking kinematic characteristics, which moves the boundary of legality, with unrecorded financial resources, increasingly affect the political scene in Tirana. Parallel and influence the Movement "Self-Determination" of Kosovo-too-extreme nationalist, which in turn has already infiltrated organizations Albanians in Skopje. The Greek Government, having stagnated for years, now you have to anticipate the worst, though, of course, no plan and motivation, something that does not seem very likely. 

The mistake with Greece

On the subject of the agreement, eminent jurists circles indicate the "News" that until now Albania has not withdrawn its signature, that is, when the Law of Treaties, that the intention towards Greece is to hold open the prospect its entry into force. At the Convention on the Law of Treaties, has no obligation to ratify the agreement with Greece, but has "an obligation to up to validate refrain from actions that deprive the agreement of the object and purpose", ie not do something that would make it impossible to implement the Agreement enters into force.  

According to the same source, the Albanians "know that if you do not implement the agreement, they lose their ability to exploit the areas north of Corfu, as we do, failing agreement, will react; need to see their benefits in comparison to the low cost if you accept the agreement, and to understand their own goal to put constraints which make it difficult to go today. " This means that the Albanians, the appeal to the Constitutional Court and the "freezing" of the agreement, in Greece cause problems, obviously because of the involvement of Turkey, but also in their own country. Let alone that surveys of our country Ionian change the setting.

Taking all these into account, the Albanian question emerges as crucial to the Greek foreign policy, national security and stability throughout the region ...

Christos Pappas of "Xrisy Avgy" debate with Greek foreign ministry about Albania

Christos Pappas in the Greek Parliament: 

Both The Prime Minister, Sali Berisha and the leader of Albanian Opposition, Edi Rama, are ultra nationalists, who wants the Chamuria questions, and menace the Greeks  in Northern Epirus.

Govt. vehicles blown up in Priština "in protest over north"

PRIŠTINA -- Three official vehicles belonging to the government in Priština government were destroyed in three separate explosions.
According to reports quoting the Kosovo police, the incidents took place late on Thursday.
The three vehicles exploded at different locations almost simultaneously, KPS Spokesman Baki Kelani said, underscoring that no one was injured.

The blasts took place in the neighborhood of Lipljane, near the Lapska mosque, and in the neighborhood of Sunčani Breg.

More than two months ago, two vehicles belonging to the ministries of the Kosovo government were also destroyed in explosions.

A previously unknown organization calling itself "The Unsatisfied" sent a letter to the Priština's Albanian language daily Express, taking responsibility for the attacks.

The letter said that the group was spurred to action "because the traitors from the Kosovo government were handing over the north".

Northern Kosovo is majority inhabited by Serbs, who reject the authority of the government in Priština.

The incidents took place after the latest round of the Kosovo dialogue held in Brussels late on Thursday.

Friday, January 18, 2013


ISSUE OF THRACE - Foreign Ministry Slams Turkish Intervention In Greek Internal Affairs

Coat of arms of Greece since 7 June 1975.
 (credit: Wikipedia)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras stated the following in response to questions regarding a Turkish Foreign Ministry announcement on the legislative regulation of issues concerning Muslim preachers in Thrace:

“The Turkish Foreign Ministry announcement on an initiative that regulates issues concerning the status of Muslim preachers in Thrace in a manner that is positive for the Muslim minority itself – in light of information that has come out regarding the efforts of the Turkish Consulate in Komotini to impact the parliamentary process in Greece – is not consistent with the stated will of both countries to work to improve bilateral relations.

This announcement is another of the Turkish side’s familiar attempts to distort the reality of the Greek state’s treatment of the Muslim minority. It is a failed attempt, given that Greece – and Thrace, specifically – is a model of harmonious coexistence of citizens of different faiths, with one of the highest levels of protection of and respect for religious rights.

Greece is carefully monitoring the steps Turkey is taking to approach European standards in the sector of human and minority rights, which for Greece, as for the rest of the EU member states, are a given. And this is an important parameter for Turkey’s accession course, which, as is well known, Greece supports.

Information regarding the legislative regulation:
  • The new provisions remedy weaknesses that the minority itself identified in the previous draft law.
  • For the first time, provision is made for the teaching of the Quran in public schools in Thrace in which Muslim minority students are enrolled.
  • This initiative is part of the serious efforts Greece is making towards the religious and intellectual nurturing of our Muslim minority fellow citizens.
  • The potential for Muslim clergy, should they so wish, to attain public functionary status constitutes an upgrading.
  • Greece proves daily and by its actions its full respect for the religious freedom of the Muslim minority, in total compliance with all international obligations and standards.
Please read the following story to familiarize yourself with the present situation in Thrace, and why Ankara is angry.

Bosniaks protest over Serbian WW1-era song

NEW YORK -- The UN secretary-general's spokesman on Friday responded to protests voiced by Bosniak (Muslim) associations over a Serbian song performed at the UNGA.
The UNGA event on Monday (FoNet)
The UNGA event on Monday (FoNet)
Ban Ki-moon has expressed sincere regrets that certain people were offended by the performance of "March on the Drina" in the Plenary Hall of the UN General Assembly on Monday, Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Answering questions of a Bosniak correspondent, who, Tanjug said, "voiced a very negative opinion of the song", Nesirky said at a regular press conference in the UN seat that Ban "obviously was not aware what the song was about or the use that has been made of it in the past".

The performance of the song on the Orthodox New Year in the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday was condemned by the Congress of North American Bosniaks, civil societies of refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina in the U.S., and the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica.

The Bosniak associations said earlier in the week that the UNGA concert represented "a scandalous humiliation of the victims of genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, because the band played a notorious, violent Serb nationalistic song, March on the Drina".

And while the Bosniak associations on Friday asked for UNGA President Vuke Jeremić to be sacked over the concert, Ban's spokesman Nesirsky reiterated that the UN chief "did not issue an apology", but expressed his regret if the inclusion of the song in the program offended anyone.

In response to this, the UNGA chairman's office stated earlier in the day - "with solemn respect for all the victims of the wars in former Yugoslavia" - that the protests amounted to "regrettable attempts to twist the meaning of the song".

"Written around a century ago, March on the Drina is a song that takes a central place in our memory of defending our freedom from aggressors in the First World War, during which Serbia lost a third of its male population in the many battles fought on the side of the Allies," the statement adds.

"We are very proud of that, and we wanted to share this song with the world, with a clearly stated accompanying message of reconciliation for present and future generations," Vuk Jeremić's office said.

At the beginning of the First World War, Austria-Hungary used its territory across the Drina River from Serbia - what it today Bosnia-Herzegovina - to stage an invasion and occupation of Serbia.

March on the Drina glorifies the sacrifice of the Serbian Kingdom soldiers who defended against the invasion along the area of the river - which resulted in the first Allied victory of the war when the Serbians won the Battle of Cer.
Berisha provokes conflict with USA

Isola Saseno Albania

Berisha: Karaburun, Zvernetsi and Narta Bay, will be built for elite tourism, which will work thousands of citizens
But a decision by the Albanian government has announced Karaburun area, Sazan, protect natural resources

Pentagon, has signed agreements with the Ministry of Defense of Albania, the use the Karaburun Peninsula, and the island of Sazano, in the service of the Sixth Fleet of the U.S. Navy.

Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha, said the meeting of the Council of Territorial Adjustment of Albania, "all privatized military facilities in areas of Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island Narta Bay, tourist villages will be built, where be employed thousands of citizens. "

The statement is not taken seriously, for that during 2001, when the Prime Minister of Albania, was Ilir Meta, he led the government took a decision, to be built in the island of Sazan, many casino and tourist villages, but this plan was not implemented, from diplomatic intervention of USA.

As can be seen even today, attempt to build tourist villages by the Albanian government, there is no end. According to diplomatic sources the USA in Tirana, was surprised by this statement of Berisha, after bilateral military agreements, have decided that the Karaburun Peninsula and Sazan Island, to remain in available for use by the Sixth U.S. Fleet,

During a statement to the Minister of Defense Arben Imami, in Albanian parliament, the Albanian government has increased funding for the creation during 2013, living conditions, to accommodate the Marines of the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy, to perform military missions virgin coast Albanian from Karaburun in Himara Region.

Greek Flag on Sale Outside Utrecht Theater


A Greek flag seven meters long with the sale stamp on it, indicating Greece is sold out, was considered good advertising for the Dutch impresario who decided to display it outside his theater to attract the Greek audience.
Thirty Greeks from Utrecht had already warned the Dutch impresario that his act is a total insult to Greece, stressing that: “We love our flag but remove the word SALE from it”. The impresario responded by telling them: “Its cost is 2,000 euros. It is very expensive to ask me to remove it.”

The owner of the only Greek-Dutch website in the area(, who also lives in Utrecht, John Garlemos, stated to the newspaper Protothema: “We even called a Turk who lives in Utrecht and asked him what he thinks at the sight of our flag and the man was literally disgusted, yelling that this in an actual humiliation of Greece.”
Some of the 30 Greeks who had gathered outside the theater undertook to tear down the word SALE from the flag while the Dutch impresario remained locked in his office, for fear of a serious outbreak outside the theater. “He didn’t even venture out even for one moment. He just called the police and when they came they arrested the children who had been tearing down the filthiness that was written on our flag,”explained Garlemos.
Three Greeks spent the night in jail and a trial date has been set for Jan. 24. The Greek Consulate of Utrecht showed interest mainly for those outside the theater on the night of Jan. 11, and invited them to the consulate to express their displeasure.



Bosnia Plans Postponing Census to October

The census planned for April looks likely to be postponed to October on the advice of the international advisory body.
Elvira M. Jukic
Bosnia's state government told the Statistics Agency on January 17 to prepare changes to the census law in line with the recommendations of the International Monitoring Operation, IMO, the body tasked with overseeing the census preparations, and which has suggested moving the count from April to October.

The Statistics Agency is tasked with drawing up an action plan for all activities and deadlines in connection with the historic census, the first since the 1992-95 war.

“The need to solve open questions over unharmonized laws, undetermined entity lines and lack of a unique register of census areas was emphasized,” the government said, referring to the IMO's advice, noting also that financing the census is another unsolved issue.

The IMO advised Bosnian authorities in December to postpone the headcount on the grounds that the country is insufficiently prepared.

The EU delegation to Bosnia has agreed that Bosnia needs more time to ensure proper preparation for the census, avoid unreliable figures and improve coordination between all statistical agencies in the country.

Bosnia held a test census in October last year and planned the landmark nationwide count for this spring.

The last census was in 1991, just before the outbreak of the 1992-5 war, and the upcoming census is seen as significant, as it will likely reveal major postwar demographic changes that have taken place as a result of the conflict.

The 1991 census recorded a population of 4.4 million people. Bosniaks [Muslims] made up 43.5 per cent, Serbs 31.2 per cent and Croats 17.4 per cent. Another 5.5 declared themselves as Yugoslavs.

The United Nations estimates that Bosnia and Herzegovina today is home to only 3.8 million people.
"Forest Mafia robs Gramoz"
17/01/2013 19:45

"Forest Mafia robs Gramoz"
“Forest mafia robbing Gramoz”. This was the main title of the Greek daily newspaper, “Ta Nea”, reporting illegal deforestation in Greek land by Albanian organized groups.

According to this newspaper, the electric saws are heard each morning up to the Trilofo village, 1.5 km from the Albanian border, and the trees disappear each day.

Most of the trees are 30-year-old and were cut to the roots. The trunks are transported with animals in Albania, where there are sites that select the lumber.

The wood is then sent to Italy to build wine barrels, electricity poles and heating wood for Greece, where natural gas and oil prices skyrocketed recently.

According to the vicegovernor of Kostur, Dhimitris Savopulos, these mafia groups have deforested more than 300 hectares, which mounts up to 35.000 cubic meters of lumber.

“Ta Nea” also notes that the Greek and Albanian illegal merchants cooperate with each other and have even divided the working areas in the Gramoz Mountain.

According to the report, the main cause for this phenomenon is the absence of military bases that were shut down by the Greek government.

PM: Temporary agreement on customs reached

BRUSSELS -- Serbia's PM Ivica Dačić said in Brussels late on Thursday that a temporary solution regarding customs collection at administrative crossings had been reached.
Ivica Dačić, Catherine Ashton and Hashim Thaci (Maja Kocijančić, Twitter, @AshtonSpox_Maja)
Ivica Dačić, Catherine Ashton and Hashim Thaci (Maja Kocijančić, Twitter, @AshtonSpox_Maja)
Dačić added after a meeting with Kosovo's PM Hashim Thaci and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton that a topic about a special status for northern Kosovo had been started.
"We agreed that the money from customs would go to a special fund formed under the auspices of the EU, which would be used for the development of municipalities in northern Kosovo," he told reporters after a meeting with Ashton and Thaci that lasted over five hours.

“It is a temporary solution and some technical details have yet to be worked out, but the agreement is in accordance with the national interest and view of the Kosovo Serbs, who do not want to pay customs fees to Priština's institutions,” the prime minister stressed.

“The discussion was open and it was the first time the issue of parallel institutions and a special treatment for the Kosovo Serbs was addressed in a serious manner,” Dačić noted.

"It is a core issue that cannot be settled in one night, but the path to the solution lies open," he underscored, explaining that the solution was in forming new institutions in northern Kosovo that would be acceptable for both Priština and the Kosovo Serbs. He added that the subject would be discussed at future meetings as well.

Dačić explained that the topics would be discussed in future meetings and that the next one could be expected in the second half of February.

“It is important to make progress in dialogue by April, in accordance with the resolution and national interests,” he said and added that he was optimistic about Serbia’s chances to get a date for the beginning of the EU accession talks by the beginning of July.

The PM said that yesterday’s talks with U.S. State Department official Philip Reeker and Ashton had been very positive.

On the other hand, Priština media reported after the meeting that Thaci had said that “an agreement was reached to collect customs in accordance with the Kosovo law”.

The media also said that Thaci had stated that they had discussed abolition of the so-called parallel institutions in the north.

The meeting started a little after 20:00 in Ashton’s cabinet.

“We had a long and constructive talk and agreed to work on intensifying the dialogue and to meet again in February when we are hoping to make significant progress in accordance with conclusions of the European Council from December 2012,” Ashton said in a release.

Vlora Prosecutor seeks arrest of Vasil Bollano

Prosecutor of Vlora, signed prosecutions for 6 employees of the Himara Municipality, including the president of Omonia, Vasil Bolanos

Suddenly, escalating to any Greek terminology, including the Himara Municipality, the political leadership of Albania, based from the office of the Attorney General, asked the prosecution and arrest for Omonia chairman and former Mayor of the Himara Municipality, Vasilis Bollano and 6 employees this Municipality.

Prosecution in a report, has "found data corruption" for the third time, for the leader of the ethnic Greek minority in Albania, Vasil Bolanos, and his 6 employees, who are charged with that state have abused task with public funds, in the Himara Municipality.

But the member of the Himara Community, believe that the charges against Vasil Bolanos, made ​​to any Greek sense in Himara region, a region historically independent, joined to Albania, with the force of great powers illegally after 1921.

As the President of Omonia, The greek Organization in Albania, Vasil Bolanos, after the declaration of independence of Kosovo in 2008, has called the right of self-determination, for the Greeks in the province of Northern Epirus, known Southern Albania.

Omonia, opposed the population census in Albania, in 2011, the data of which give opposite results from the Albanian government.To challenge the results of which indicate that the Greeks in Albania are 0.7%, Omonia has started registration for members of the community, the result is expected to be announced in early May.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Response to AFP

Voskopoja, fshati dikur qytet me 24 kisha
Piktura ne kishat e Voskopojes
Orthodox churches of Albania, are Byzantine churches, belong to the property of the population of Northern Epirus with Greek heritage.

The news of the destruction of the Orthodox Church is not the first. With dozens of Orthodox churches in south of Albania (Northern Epirus), have been systematically subjected robbers, which are reported in State Department.

But a special news issued by the AFP (Albanian correspondent, who she`s son, a journalist forbidden to enter in Greek territory, because of nationalist rhetoric that he uses in the media), is the fact that the destroyed churches, are Albanian churches (?) although it is known that the Albanian Orthodox church, in essence, is the Greek Orthodox Christian Byzantine heritage, as shown in all languages ​​the church of Greece and Epirus.

The second fact abusive, that uses AFP in this report, unfortunately represents the population of Albania, mainly Muslims, according to Census 2011 data, which is contested by the Community and the Greek Orthodox Church, draw strong Christian 17% (10  Catholic% and 7%

Reporting is done mostly deliberate, presented in the international media, another Albania, with predominance of Muslims and Albanian inheritance, which is "non-existent", by virtue of the Byzantine Orthodox heritage of Epirus, nothing in common with Albanians

Meanwhile, the government of Albania, unjustly holds about 300 items and Byzantine churches, which are not returned, to the Orthodox Church, being robbed and destroyed in any time, thus losing the traces of ancient and Byzantine heritage. The Group cites by AFP, which has come out in defense of the church, there is nothing in common with the church, as belong to the Muslim community, manly MP from the opposition, and not an Orthodox church official response.



Ancient church frescoes created by renowned icon painter Onufri stolen in Albania

 Damaged frescoes painted by Albania's most famous medieval painter Onufri in The St Paraskevi church in the village of Vlash. A 16th century Orthodox church, considered a jewel of Albania's culture and being part its national heritage, was vandalised while some parts of its frescoes were stolen, an official said on January 16, 2013. AFP PHOTO / STR.

 TIRANA (AFP).- Several frescoes by a master painter were vandalised and some of their parts stolen from a 16th-century Orthodox church in southern Albania, an official said Wednesday. "Several frescoes were savagely damaged with axes and knives while some of their parts were stolen," Arber Kadija, a culture ministry official, told AFP. Fragments of the wall paintings were found on the ground at the Saint Paraskevi church in Vlash, a small village some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of the capital, Tirana, Kadija said. Police were investigating whether the incident was linked to illegal art trafficking or "an extremist act", he added.

The historic church was vandalised twice, on December 31 and January 4, Kadija said. It was unclear why the damage was not reported earlier. Art historian Auron Tare called the destruction of the frescoes a "most serious crime". Most of the frescoes, created by Albania's best-known icon painter, Onufri -- renowned for the intensity of his colours and his humanist scenes of Orthodox iconography -- were "badly damaged," he said. But Tare noted that the perpetrators neglected to steal the church's most prominent fresco depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. Most of Albania's 2.8 million inhabitants are Muslims. Orthodox and Catholic Christians make up around 17 percent of the population.

In the past two years, more than 20 Orthodox churches and monasteries have been looted, according to Gentian Stratoberdha, an official of the Albanian Orthodox Church. He insisted that the authorities should do more to protect some 170 Orthodox shrines in Albania. Since the fall of communism in the 1990s, more than 2,000 icons and hundreds of works of art have been stolen from museums, archaeological sites and churches in Albania.

In 2008, 18 icons were taken from the Byzantine church of Saint Mary in the southern town Labova. The perpetrators have never been found. In 2011, the government allocated some 200,000 euros ($266,000) for the protection of the country's cultural heritage, to the dismay of experts who said the amount was insufficent.

More Information:[/url]

Macedonia Opposition Threatens Bigger Protests

Opposition Social Democrats threaten to intensify road blockades after Friday, if the government has not by then accepted their terms for taking part in the next elections.
Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Opposition calls on ‘resistance against the regime’ | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
If the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski does not show real interest in dialogue by Friday, the opposition says its supporters will increase the frequency and size of protests aimed at blocking key roads.

“The current form of blocking only one junction for half an hour is just a warning that ends on Friday,” the Social Democrat candidate for the post of mayor of Skopje, Jani Makraduli, said on Wednesday at a blockade in front of the Macedonian government building.

Meanwhile, the ruling VMRO DPMNE party urged the opposition to end its boycott of parliament and its threatened boycott of the next elections.

“Makraduli and the entire opposition leadership must not keep holding the fate and future of the entire nation hostage to a fictional reality,” VMRO DPMNE said on Wednesday.

Last week, the opposition said it will only take part in the March local elections if the ministers in charge of police, justice and finance are changed and if parallel general elections are also held.

On Saturday, the ruling party refused opposition demands to hold early parliamentary elections along with local ones.

Macedonia's political crisis escalated on December 24 when government parties passed a budget for 2013 in only minutes, after opposition MPs were kicked out of parliament.

December 24 saw a tense stand-off in Skopje between several thousand pro- and anti-government protesters, separated by a police cordon.

Opposition MPs have since quit parliament and called on supporters to stage acts of civil disobedience against the government, which they call an undemocratic regime.

On Tuesday, during a meeting with the visiting EU head for enlargement, Stefano Sannino, the Social Democrat leader, Branko Crvenkovski, asked the EU not to turn a blind eye to the continuing political crisis in Macedonia.

Greek Parliament Decides Single Vote With 4 Ballots On Probe Of "Lagarde list"

English: The Greek Parliament in Athens
 The Greek Parliament in Athens (credit: Wikipedia)
The Greek parliament plenary decided that a single vote will be held with four ballot boxes - one for each of the four individuals on which motions have been tabled for investigation by a parliamentary preliminary investigation committee on accountability of political figures in the so-called 'Lagarde list' affair.  MPs decided that a single vote will be held, but with four ballot boxes, for each of the four individuals that political parties have proposed be investigated, in order to ensure that the secrecy of the vote is respected. Four ballots sheets will be handed out to the MPs for the vote, each containing the name of one of the four individuals and the specific wrongdoings that individual is being referred to the parliamentary probe committee for investigation.

Parliament later will be called on to decide whether the politicians that handled the 'Lagarde list' should face a criminal investigation over their failure to make use of the information this contained in order to uncover possible tax evasion or illegal income, and also in connection with the three names removed from the list that were family members of former PASOK finance minister George Papakonstantinou.

The ruling three-party coalition (New Democracy, PASOK, DIMAR) has proposed that there be a preliminary investigation only for Papakonstantinou, main opposition SYRIZA wants an investigation of both Papakonstantinou and his successor at the finance ministry, current PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, while the Independent Greeks party has motioned that the investigation also include former premiers George Papandreou and Lucas Papademos.

The 'Lagarde list', sent roughly two years ago to the then Greek finance minister George Papakonstantinou by the then French finance minister Christine Lagarde (currently managing director of the IMF), contained the names of 1,991 Greek citizens with sizeable bank accounts at the Geneva branch of HSBC bank. The list had ended up in the hands of French authorities about four years ago when they seized digital evidence from the house of former HSBC employee Herve Falciani. (AMNA)
Berisha-Ambasadori grek

Another "joke" of Tirana, requires Greece
After Prime Minister Sali Berisha's call for "Greater Albania" here's the official request for lifting the "law of war"
Socialist Party: Greeks turn the Albanians, from the border

Prime Minister Berisha and Foreign Minister Edmond Panariti, they met during the day separately, the new Greek ambassador to Albania, Leonidas C. Rokanas.
In a statement the Foreign Ministry said Panariti asked Greece lifting of martial law with Albania, and the Greek Ambassador said that will be forwards the request of the Albanian authorities in Athens.
Berisha turn has said he is following the developments of the important positive and extraordinary effort in the neighboring country to overcome the consequences of the crisis, which has a character, not only European but also global.
But, in both their meetings is not talking anything about the return of dozens of Albanian families at the border by the police, just because the latter had written in their passports in Albanian homelands.
PS: A serious offense and diplomatic blunder
For the event in question reacted Socialist Party, which has described it as a serious insult and diplomatic blunder.
"The claims of Greece for writing in Greek toponyms are conceptually unacceptable but also practically unenforceable. As a sovereign nation, nationality and language of its own, Albania can not be asked to write in the passports of its citizens in another language other than English. Even more ridiculous is in demand as long as the words and alphabets used by the two countries are completely different. This request by the Greek state is a diplomatic blunder and an open insult to the dignity of the Albanian state, as well as thousands of immigrants honest workers who have given so much Greece in the past two decades, "said the statement .
Socialist Party calls for immediate intervention of the Albanian authorities, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to resolve this situation which is creating major problems for Albanian immigrants at the border with Greece, recalling that the situation has been repeated several times since passed and no agreement has been reached to give her solutions.

Dačić, Thaci to continue dialogue in Brussels

BELGRADE -- Serbia and Kosovo’s Prime Ministers Ivica Dačić and Hashim Thaci will continue a dialogue in Brussels on Thursday in the presence of EU's Catherine Ashton.
Hashim Thaci, Catherine Ashton and Ivica Dačić (EU, file)
Hashim Thaci, Catherine Ashton and Ivica Dačić (EU, file)
It is expected that they will discuss the integrated crossings management and predominantly Serbian northern Kosovo.
This will be Dačić and Thaci’s fourth meeting. The first was held on October 19, 2012 and the last one on December 4 when the two PMs agreed on the beginning of the implementation of the agreement on the integrated crossings management.

According to announcements, Dačić and Thaci will today focus on the distribution of customs revenues from integrated crossings.

The Serbian prime minister has stated that he does not expect important decisions when it comes to the most difficult issues because they will be discussed in the future.

He added that the most difficult issues were the parallelism of institutions, specificity of Kosovo Serbs and organization of their institutions.

Dačić expressed hope that working groups in the technical dialogue would define proposals for the implementation of the agreements that had already been reached by Belgrade and Priština in order to avoid problems in their implementation.

Northern Kosovo Serbs have stated they will organize protests if they are forced to pay taxes to Priština, adding that they would only pay Belgrade.

The distribution of customs revenues from integrated crossings has also been discussed by the Belgrade and Priština technical teams led by Dejan Pavićević and Edita Tahiri.

Ashton’s Spokeswoman Maja Kocijančić said after their first meeting last week that the working groups had made “certain progress”.
smaAcid attack on Vlore judge

Acid attack on Vlore judge
Mirela Mishgjoni, Judge at the First Instance Court of Vlore, was attacked today by an unidentified person who threw acid to her face.

The 40-year-old judge was coming out of her house when a young male blocked sprinkled acid against her face from a bottle he kept in his hands.

Police says they have identified the author and are waiting for the arrest, while the judge was hospitalized with damages in her mouth, throat and cheeks, but in stable conditions.

The Vlore judges suspended all their cases for today and the High Council of Justice expressed solidarity to the Judge and her relatives.

Judge Mishgjoni has worked for several years at the Vlore Court. She was suspended in 2008 by the High Council of Justice, but she appealed and the decision was dropped, allowing her to return on duty.

Supreme Court, attack against the judiciary

The Supreme Court condemned the attack and considered it a threat against the entire justice system in Albania.

“The repeated violence is a serious attack against the system. This and other attacks against justice members, their relatives and their property are a serious concern not only for judges, but the entire Albanian society, whose interest is to have their justice and life guaranteed and an efficient the rule of law”, the reaction says.

The Supreme Court demanded the implementation of all legal dispositions for guaranteeing the security of judges. “The attacks against judges are a serious threat against the society, the public order, the democracy and rule of law. The public opinion and competent institutions must clearly know that courts serve to citizens and our society”, the declaration says.

“We demand for all legal measures to be taken by the competent institutions, not only to find the truth and bring the culprits to justice, but also to implement all legal dispositions to prevent these ugly events”, the declaration concluded
USA: Free and honest elections
USA: Free and honest elections
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State was interviewed by Top Channel in Brussels regarding the US expectancies about Albania’s next elections in June 2013.

TCH : The electoral campaign is showing signals from the past. The government, the parties and the institutions will face another democracy test. What are the expectancies and do you believe that the message of the US State Secretary Hilary Clinton was heard properly in Tirana by those who are responsible to turn democracy into reality?

Reeker: “If it wasn’t heard, they can play it again and read again the Secretary Speech before the Parliament in Tirana, which was really before all of the people in Albania, a message for them, a support and solidarity of the United States, our longstanding positive relationship with Albania. But indeed, I think this year for Albania is particularly important, because there will be elections in June. As you noted, the election campaign season is already pretty much under way. I could see that even when I last visited Tirana in September.

It is vitally important, not only for Albania’s European future in the EU, as outlined in the Councils’ conclusions and the European Commission’s progress report, that Albania continue to work on a number of areas in consolidating its democracy and undertaking reforms. That was disappointing that they were unable to pass some of the laws and take some of the actions that had been laid out in order to gain the EU candidate status formally.

But I think that more important for Albania’s European prospects, but even more fundamental for Albania’s future, for the people of Albania, these elections need to be good; they need to be free and fair. They need to be seen not just by the international community, as democratic free and fair elections, but also by seen by the people of Albania, the citizens of Albania, for whom the elections are undertaken. They need to have confidence in their leaders, so that will be an important signal to make sure that those elections will run free and fair, and with the standards that one would expect at this point in Albania’s history.

This election in Albania in June is an important opportunity to demonstrate that Albania has reached a new level. The elections have not been one of Albania’s strong points in its history.”

In his long comment about Albania, Philip Reeker expressed a special concern on the nationalist rhetoric which according to him only diverts attention and is unnecessary.

Reeker: “We have been concerned as the campaign moves forward by a lot of the nationalist rhetoric which we find disturbing and unnecessary. It is a distraction from what really is important. History has shown in the past 100 years and long before that this kind of rhetoric does not help citizens with their needs. It doesn’t create jobs; it doesn’t move the economic prospects forward.

It’s simply a distraction. It’s populous and often very unfortunate. I think it will be wiser for leaders to focus on how they can move their country forward, particularly on its European path that we see as important for Albania.

Albania is a member of the NATO, they did a lot to work on that process and become a full member of the Alliance in 2009. As such, they’re expected to live up to a certain standard and work on the reforms ahead.

Rather than taking dangerous distractions, I think they would do well to focus on the things that really matter for Albania’s future, particularly economically.

Reeker visited Brussels for the coordination and cooperation of US policies with the EU for the Balkan regions.