Saturday, December 14, 2013

Albania: Government, 400 million USD in loans

Government, 400 million USD in loans
The Albanian government is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a loan that might mount up to 400 million USD.

Top Channel has learned that the parties are in the final phase of the negotiations and are deciding the details.

The agreement will be made public this Monday in a joint conference for the media.

Sources from the Ministry of Finances say for Top Channel that the loan might be given through two installments in the next two years, and will be used for the debt that the state has to businesses.

The government and the International Monetary Fund have agreed for the conditions related to the budget indicators, such as the deficit, the income and spending, and they are discussing the final details related to the state treasury amends.

The concern of the international community is to not allow accumulation of other debts.

For this, they are discussing a series of legal amends. The loan of the International Monetary Fund is attached to that of the World Bank. All loans might reach 600 million USD or 5% of the Gross Domestic Product, which will be used for paying the debts to businesses and for financing the projects that have started.
Vlora: "Jon" apartment building demolished

Jon apartment building demolished
The explosion that marked the end of the operation for demolishing the “Jon Complex” in Vlore was completed today.

Experts used 400 kg of C4 explosives for the demolition, but only one tower of the complex was destroyed completely.

Experts say that the explosion continued according to the plan, and the operation continued with the vehicles of National Inspectorate of Urban Construction.

The vehicles will now work in parallel to remove the ruins and turn the territory in its original state.

The Ministry has sued several people who are related with the property return procedures, with the construction permits and those who have not intervened to stop this illegal construction.

US naval near-miss in South China Sea adds to tensions

Container ships sail in heavy rains as tropical storm Jebi passes nearby, in Hong Kong on August 2, 2013. Tropical Storm Jebi, which is currently in the South China Sea, is forecast to strike China and Vietnam©Getty
Japan and Southeast Asian countries called for freedom of the air and sea on Saturday, after the US revealed that one of its warships had been involved in a confrontation with a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea.
The US Navy said on Friday that the USS Cowpens, a guided-missile cruiser, had been forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a ship from the People’s Liberation Army Navy on December 5, the latest incident to add to the growing military tensions in the western Pacific. .

The US Pacific fleet said that the Cowpens had been “lawfully operating in international waters” when the near collision took place. “This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap,” it said in a statement.
Officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington were not immediately available to comment.
The incident took place during the international furore over the Chinese announcement in late November of an air defence zone in the East China Sea, which angered the US and several of China’s neighbours. US vice-president Joe Biden was in Beijing on the day of the new incident, which was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
It forms part of a broader picture of sharpening military competition between China and the US in the western Pacific, an area that has been largely dominated by the US navy since the end of the second world war.
Over the past year, China has also been involved in a tense test of wills with Japan over a group of contested islands in the East China Sea.
While the idea of a military confrontation between the US and China remains only a very distant possibility, officials are worried that an individual act of brinkmanship or a miscalculation could provoke a dangerous incident.
The US and Chinese navies were involved in another potentially risky stand-off in 2009 when a Chinese naval vessel and aircraft approached the USNS Impeccable, a surveillance ship that had been monitoring submarine activity in the South China Sea not far from China’s new submarine base on Hainan island.
In 2001 a US surveillance aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter jet and was forced to make an emergency landing, also on Hainan island. The 24 members of the US crew were detained for 10 days.
China has invested heavily in its navy over the last two decades, partly to try to exert greater control over the seas that surround it which include vital maritime supply routes. In the process, China has also pushed back against what it sees as aggressive US surveillance activities near its coast.
The US navy said the Cowpens had taken part in the relief operations in the Philippines following the devastating typhoon last month.
The air defence identification zone China has established in the East China Sea is unjustly violating the freedom of aviation over the high seas - Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister
A former Pentagon official said the vessel had then been operating near an area of the South China Sea where China’s new aircraft carrier had been taking part in exercises.
As well as being angered at possible US efforts to monitor the aircraft carrier, the former official said that China might also have been registering its displeasure at the fact that two B-52 bombers had flown through China’s new air zone a week earlier in order to show that the US did not recognise the new Chinese rules.
The Pentagon has said that it is eager to establish procedures with the Chinese military about how to deal with such incidents, including the sorts of communications hotlines that were used to manage military tensions with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed at a summit in Tokyo on the need for freedom of the high seas and skies and the peaceful resolution of disputes, Reuters reported.
The statement did not criticise China’s new air zone, which has triggered protests from Japan, United States and South Korea. Many ASEAN members have deep economic ties with China.
But Mr Abe minced no words at a later news conference. “The air defence identification zone China has established in the East China Sea is unjustly violating the freedom of aviation over the high seas, which is a general rule in international law. We are demanding China rescind all measures like this that unjustly violate the general rule,” Mr Abe said.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Catalonia sets date for independence referendum, but Madrid vows to block it

Catalan parties agree wording of proposed November 2014 referendum but Spanish government says it will
Artur Mas
Artur Mas announceas that political parties in Catalonia have agreed to hold a referendum on independence next November. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images
Separatist parties in Spain's north-eastern Catalonia region on Thursday agreed the wording of an independence referendum proposed for November 2014 but the Spanish government immediately said the vote was illegal and would not happen.
The Catalan regional government head, Artur Mas, said the vote would ask two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to be a state?" and: "Do you want that state to be independent?"
Spain's justice minister, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, immediately said the vote could not take place because the constitution would not allow it.
The ruling People's party and the main opposition Socialists have both decried Catalan breakaway rhetoric. Both have lost substantial voter support in the region as tensions between Catalonia and Madrid have risen.
Catalonia has strong historic and cultural roots and its own language, aside from Spanish. It wants more say over taxes and public spending, demands that have come to a head as Spain has implemented tough austerity measures to cut its budget deficit.
Polls show that around a half of Catalonia's residents would choose independence in a yes-or-no breakaway referendum.
The region, whose capital is Barcelona, makes up a fifth of the Spanish economy and around 15% of its electorate.

Trilateral summit canceled over Turkish PM's remarks

BELGRADE -- The trilateral summit of Serbia, Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina, planned to take place in Belgrade, has been canceled, the Belgrade-based daily Danas writes.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
The newspaper said it received a confirmation of this from the Serbian president's cabinet.
President Tomislav Nikolić, prompted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statement that "Kosovo is Turkey and Turkey Kosovo," in late October announced that he would freeze his participation in the trilateral initiative.

Earlier this week, Turkish website Today's Zaman reported that Serbia had "indefinitely postponed the trilateral summit with Turkey... as Turkey failed to improve relations with Serbs by expressing regret over the wrong interpretation of the remarks of Prime Minister Erdogan about Kosovo".

The website said that "attempts by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to smooth things over did not meet the expectations of Serbia."

Davutoglu told the Turkish television TRT 1 that "some nationalist circles in Serbia took the statement out of context and misinterpreted it."

"This response did not alleviate Serbia's anxiety over Erdogan's statement," a source told Today's Zaman.

At the session of the UN General Assembly in September Davutoglu, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkić, and Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija agreed that a new trilateral meeting would be held in December in Belgrade. Regardless of the cancellation of the summit, diplomatic sources told the Turkish media that "the trilateral mechanism is in place and functioning."

Faruk Logoglu, an MP from the ranks of Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party, reacted to the news by saying that "Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davutoglu either do not know where the state borders of Turkey are, or are not satisfied with them."

Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister Visits Italy - OpEd Eurasia Review

Edi Rama, Albanian Prime Minister Visits Italy - OpEd Eurasia Review

Albania's Edi Rama. Photo by Tomislave Medak, Wikipedia Commons
Photo of the Day

[linked image]

Greek Navy Frigate in Aegean Sea. What makes Greek navy in very bad weather when others do not dare get out?

Constitutional Court rejects normative act

Constitutional Court rejects normative act
Political sources have noted that the Constitutional Court has taken a decision to reject the normative act of the government for the civil employee status.

The Court has not published the arguments, but the news has been confirmed for Top Channel by the opposition, who were the first to announce it. After that it was also confirmed by the majority.

The judges have considered the act as against the Constitution, by accepting the argumentation of the Democratic Party.

But to understand the court’s reasons to reject the act, we need to wait for the official arguments that will be published in the days to come.

With the rejection of this act, the law that pass last spring enters in effect on the verge of these elections, although the sub-legal acts had not been created until September, when the new government came in power.

The decision of the Constitutional Court will open not only a political debate, but also a legal one.

Bomb Found Under Car at Albanian PM's Office

Exlposive under Vlore prefect car



TIRANA, Albania December 13, 2013 (AP)

Police in Albania Friday said they have found a bomb under the car of a senior official as it entered the compound of the office of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Security officials called in bomb disposal officers, who found 200 grams (7 ounces) of C4 explosive, two detonators and a cell phone attached under the car of Besnik Dervishi, the Socialist regional governor of the southwestern Vlore district.
The device was removed and destroyed in a nearby controlled blast, police said.
Rama was not at the office when the incident occurred. Police gave no other details, but said an investigation was underway and that additional security had been provided for Dervishi and members of his family.
Politics in once staunchly communist Albania has been marred by decades of volatile debate and violence, while public officials have also been targeted by criminal gangs.
In 2011, a judge was killed in Vlore when a bomb exploded under his moving car. There was no claim of responsibility for that attack and police made no arrests.
Rama took over as prime minister in September after a landslide win for the Socialists in June elections.
The incident sparked criticism from the conservative opposition, which hinted that the Socialists themselves could have been behind the bomb. They described it as a "spectacle designed to distract public attention from the premier's plans to raise taxes and put pressure on businesses." - Η πρώτη εκτόξευση πυραύλου S300 στην Ελλάδα

Greek Army: Successful the first shot under the operational plan of the Air Force defense system S-300 PMU-1 at USC, installed in Crete.

Netherlands vetoes Albania’s EU candidate status

Published 13 December 2013

EXCLUSIVE / The Dutch parliament has voted against a government proposal to grant Albania the status of EU candidate, preventing EU leaders from rubberstamping the proposal during a summit in Brussels on 19-20 December.
The Dutch parliament adopted yesterday (12 December) a decision which obliges the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to reject the European Commission proposal to give Albania EU candidate status.
The development is likely to inflict a heavy blow to the accession hopes of the Western Balkan nation, which according to the Commission has delivered on EU requirements and so should be granted the status of candidate country.
A spokesperson from the Dutch parliament told EurActiv that Rutte’s liberal VVD party (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) has voted against opening the doors to Albania, while its coalition partner PvdA (Labour Party), affiliated to the Party of European Socialists, has reportedly voted in favour.
Albania has a socialist prime minister, Edi Rama, who took office last June.
In all matters concerning EU enlargement, decisions are taken by unanimity. This means that Albania has lost the chance of becoming candidate country on the occasion of the 19-20 December summit, as it was expected.
Until recently, the Netherlands has been an obstacle also for Serbia to obtain candidate status.
The Hague also opposes opening the doors to Schengen membership to Bulgaria and Romania, in spite of the fact that the Commission considers that the two countries have met all conditions to accede to the borderless EU space.
This development is also likely to infuriate the European Parliament. Croatian MEP Nikola Vuljanić (GUE/NGL), the Parliament’s rapporteur for Albania, yesterday stated that the Council, where EU countries sit, should make Albania an official candidate for EU membership without delay, in recognition of its progress with reform. A resolution in that sense was passed on the same occasion [click here and go to page 208].
Speaking on Tuesday (10 December) in Strasbourg, following the presentation of the progress report on Albania, Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle said that 2013 had been a good year for the country.
He commended both the government and opposition cooperated to adopt a number of important legal acts in parliament, including the three measures that were required for the granting of candidate country status.
“We want Albania to continue delivering and we see the granting of candidate status as a further incentive for the country to continue its reform efforts,” Füle said.

Riot Police Remove Their Helmets in Solidarity With Italian Protesters

Riot Police Remove Their Helmets in Solidarity With Italian Protesters

Crucial round of Belgrade-Priština dialogue

BELGRADE -- The 20th round of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue is being held in Brussels on Friday, the discussion focusing on the functioning of the judiciary in Kosovo.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić are taking part in the talks held at the office of EU diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
Besides being the last of the year, this round is significant because the decision of the European Council on the start of negotiations on Serbia's EU accession will largely depend on its outcome.

During the previous meeting between Dačić and Thaci in Brussels last Thursday, an agreement was reached on the police, but not on the judiciary.

May Kocijančič, a spokesperson for Ashton, said on Thursday said that the topic will be justice, while goal of the meeting is to make as much progress on the eve of Ashton's report to the Ministerial Council of the EU, which will decided on the date of the start of negotiations.

Priština wants the seat of the court to be in southern Kosovska Mitrovica, with branches in the northern municipalities inhabited mainly by Serbs, while Belgrade's position is that the seat of the court should be in the north and separate from the court to the southern part of the divided town.

If Dačić and Thaci agree on this issue, Ashton will report to ministers of the member states, who will gather on Monday, that the application of the Brussels agreement was generally running on schedule.

Aleksandar Vučić said earlier this week that he believes a compromise would be achieved and that this will open the road to starting negotiations in January, as previously decided by the EU Council.

"I'm almost certain that Serbia will begin negotiations with the EU in January," he told RTS on Thursday.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Photo of the Day


Greek Army: Everything is ready for the first shot under the operational plan of the Air Force defense system S-300 PMU-1 at USC.
Netherlands confirms: Status, not now

Netherlands confirms: Status, not now
“Not now, later”. This is the position held by the Dutch government about Albania’s candidate status, as declared by the Foreign Minister of Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, at the Parliamentary Commission for European Affairs, where they discussed the position of Hague for the enlargement package of the European Commission before the Council’s verdict, which will be given on December 17th.

“The candidate status is a political decision. The argument of the Chamber’s majority for that region is their further, long-term integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures. When we speak politically, all those countries are candidate. This has been discussed in Zagreb in 1990 and there’s nothing new about it. Those countries have an European perspective and this is out of discussion. I don’t think anyone is against this. The issue is if we should do this political gesture and tell them that now they are a candidate country. To give you this status we need to see the conditions that we have given to Albania and how they have fulfilled them. The elections, corruption and so on. My answer to the question if they have progressed with these conditions, is: “Hmm, I need more time, because in such a short time I cannot value the implementation progress. This is what we said to the Albanian Prime Minister. He needs to show us that the implementation of these reforms can be made reality, but we need time for this. This is the stance of the Dutch government. Secondly, the stance of Netherlands is not alone at the Council. As far as I know, there are other who have the same goal as us. We want to give them the status, but not now. We need time to assess the progress. I may present this stance at the Council this December”, Timmermans declared.

While extremists mentioned Albania’s membership at the Islamic Conference and the reports of Transparency International, saying that the Albanian corruption is higher than in the African countries, there were other Parliament Members who insisted that Netherlands should not be the black sheep of the Council by saying constantly “no”.

“I’d be sorry to say ‘no, try later’, because Albania has done what has been required. I am returning to what I said before. My stance at the Council is that I and some other countries will say that we cannot give the candidate status right now. It will be given in 2014, on the right moment, if you keep taking the steps that you have promised. If you continue to bring to life what you have declared, because the Albanian government is not disappointing so far. On the contrary. I think that they are taking the necessary steps, regardless of the problems that they faced”, Timmermans declared.

The Dutch Foreign Minister promised to verify the stances of his homologues before the meeting of this Tuesday. Denmark and Great Britain seem to share the same opinions too, although there is no formal information. For the Germans it is unclear, while France is unhappy with the huge number of Albanian asylum seekers.
EP approves resolution for Albania

EP approves resolution for Albania
European Parliament voted the resolution for Albania, which says that the Council should make it an official candidate for the European Union membership, without any further delays.

“We are sending an unanimous message to the Council: Albania deserves the candidate status. The reform agenda advanced and a new level of political maturity has reached with a quiet power rotation after the elections of June”, declared rapporteur Nikola Vuljanic.

The resolution of the European Parliament says that the Albanian parties and society should improve the spirit of dialogue and compromise. Corruption and inpunity are prevailing, and there a need for rule of law reforms and more results in the fight against organized crime, corruption in all levels, traffic of arms, drugs and human beings.

“An independent and efficient justice system, righteous and more predictable, would return the citizens’ and business’ trust to the judiciary”, declared the European Parliament Members.

The resolution asks the Albanian authorities to take care of the poor law implementation and the wide informal economy; with the social policies, employment and creating a strong public administration.

Final variant of progressive tax

Final variant of progressive tax
Everyone with a monthly salary higher than 130.000 will pay more taxes after January 1st 2014. After several discussions, the government decided for the final variant of the progressive tax.

Top Channel ahs the scheme which is divided in three tax grades. Salaries from 0-30.000 will pay no taxes. Salaries from 30.000-130.000 will pay 13% for the value over 30.000.

Salaries over 130.000 will pay 23%. But how does the burden change? Everyone who earns less than 130.000 ALL each month will pay less taxes. Those who earn 140.000 will now pay 1300 ALL more. Salaries 150.000 will pay 2600 ALL more.

According to the Ministry of Finances, there are 8000 individuals who are paid over 130.000. This tax goes only for payments and bonuses. Other incomes, such as rents and other activities are no included in this scheme, but will have the same tax level. This could encourage individuals to deviate their incomes for paying less taxes.

The new scheme hits the most correct individuals, who declare the real income and favors those who make evasion.

Putin warns against "illusion of military advantage"

MOSCOW -- In his annual address to parliament Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that "nobody should cherish the illusion of military advantage over Russia."
Russia will not allow it, the Russian president told the Federal Assembly.
Putin said that he believes that the fact other countries are increasing their strategic potential, related to the U.S. missile shied, "could lead to cancellation of all previous agreements in strategic areas."

He stressed that "the missile shield is defensive in name only" while in reality it was "an essential part of the strategic offensive potential."

Addressing a wide range of issues, Putin, among others, touched on ethnic issues, and said that the society and the state must work together to combat inter-ethnic conflicts "in which are reflected all the problems faced by Russia."

"Inter-ethnic tension is provoked not by representatives of some peoples, but people who do not have any culture, the respect to the traditions, both their own ones and those of the others. This is some kind of amoral international, which includes reckless and impudent natives of several southern regions, corrupt law enforcers, who give cover to ethnic criminal groups and the so-called Russian nationalists, the so-called separatists, who are prepared to take any tragedy as a reason for vandalism and bloody bath,” the Russian leader stated, Itar-Tass reported.

Putin also told the assembly that offshore zones "still have to be taxed under Russian laws":

“Taxes on earnings of the companies registered in offshore jurisdictions but having a Russian owner - a final beneficiary - are to be levied under Russian tax rules. And taxes are to be paid to the Russian budget.”

Speaking about its relations with Ukraine, Putin said that Russia does not dictate anything to others, but is prepared to push ahead with integration projects with Ukraine if Kiev agrees.

"Russia is ready, in case an initiative comes from Kiev, to continue the work on the level of experts on Ukraine’s joining several agreements in the framework of the Customs Union," he said.

On the subject of his country's global role, the president stated: "Russia does not aspire to be a superpower and does not seek global or regional hegemony. We do not impose our patronage and do not try to teach others how to live."

Timmermans doesn’t want to do the “dirty work”

Minister Frans Timmermans (Foreign Affairs) does not want to the “dirty work” for other European countries by prematurely opposing Albania’s membership. He will look for allies within Europe to support his position.The European Committee wants to make Albania a candidate member. European heads of State and government leaders will decide on the matter later this month. The Dutch government does not feel Albania is ready yet to receive this status (‘a political gesture,’ in the words of Timmermans.) The country complied with the political conditions, but has not implemented all of them yet, according to Timmermans. If the Balkan country is ready by the middle of next year, it should be granted the candidate membership after all.
European Commission
European Commission / Flickr
A majority of the House (VVD, SP, PVV, ChristenUnie, and CDA) is against the candidate membership of Albania, revealed a debate about the expansion of the EU Wednesday. If the Dutch reveal their position now, the Netherlands will find itself alone in a corner of the EU, explained the Minister. Other countries who share the opinion that Albania is not ready, will leave the “dirty work” up to the Dutch. The Netherlands will have to deal with all the criticism, and other countries will stay “below the wind.” Timmermans does not feel like playing that game.
The House eventually agreed with the proposition of the Minister to give him until next week to find allies in other European countries.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

World Bank urges Albania to start reforms in energy sector.

December 11, 2013

The World Bank has called on Albanian authorities to find a lasting solution to the difficulties in the energy sector, which heavily relies on the budget's contingency funds and reserves, ATA news agency reported, citing bank representatives. Resolving the financial difficulties in the country's energy sector is one of the major challenges for the government. In this regards, the World Bank has proposed the government to rethink the electricity tariffs. 

In addition, the authorities need to address other key issues such as the power transmission and losses in the distribution network. In October the World Bank expressed readiness to assist the Albanian government in analysing the situation in the country's energy sector and finding alternatives for its development. 

The international institution has pledged to provide expertise regarding the renewable energy sector and the review of energy strategy as well.
Russians Want to Repair their Ships in Greece

RIA Novosti

The Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigou declared that his country wants to repair the ships of its National Navy in Greek Shipyards.
The Russian newspapers and news agencies support that the Russian Minister Mr. Sergei Shoigou, told Greek Minister of National Defense Dimitris Avramopoulos that Moscow wants to reinforce the presence of its navy in Greece.  There was also talk of the ship repairs in Greek shipyards.

The question is, will the Greek Shipyard still exist by the time this positive thought becomes a reality?

The problem that the Hellenic Shipyards S.A in Skaramagas near Athens has, is Germany. Despite the ownership changes, Germany has never stopped having a say in the company’s future.
Albania, "Lower taxes for 97% of tax payers"

Lower taxes for 97% of tax payers
The Albanian Prime Minister declared on his official Facebook account that the new fiscal package introduced at the National Economic Council reduces taxes for 97% of the taxpayers.

“At the National Economic Council for the budget and the first fiscal package. Lower taxes for 97% of the taxpayers. Small business tax will be removed. The 25% profit tax for small business is lower, while for companies goes from 10% to 15%”, Rama writes.

The Prime Minister says that besides the tax changes, the package foresees: “We are paying debts that state owes to companies for building roads and services. We will fully reimburse any bill for agricultural products. A plan for reducing informality and growing revenues. Fight against corruption in tax offices and customs. The economy revival and the recovery of our ruined finances is starting.” Latest News from Greece

Greece Responds to Erdogan’s Provocative Statements

tayyip erdoganThe statement made by Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, that Turkey’s borders reach Thessaloniki, provoked an angry reaction from the Greek government.

Responding to a reporter’s question about the Turkish Prime Minister’s statements in Kessani, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative, Konstantinos Koutras, said:
“The historical and geographical references to an area with such a strong historical significance as the Balkans should always be conducted with care. Today, the only criteria is to abide by the international law and the rules of good neighborly relations based on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the nations in the region.

For Greece this is a fundamental, self-evident and inviolable position.”
The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was in the city of Kessani near the Turkish border a few days before the scheduled visit of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, in Athens, Greece. In a nationalistic frenzy Mr. Erdogan said that Thrace is very important to Turkey.
During the municipal elections tour he said that “Thrace is also Thessaloniki, Komotini and Xanthi. It’s Kardzhali and Vardar. If we go a little further it’s Skopje and Pristina, it’s Sarajevo.”
He continued: “Thrace is the living witness of our common history with Europe. It represents our past in the region. Today, Thrace is in the center of all our Balkan relations along with Adrianople, Tekirdağ, Kırklareli and of course Instanbul.”

Greek Orthodox Bishop Declares War On Syrian Rebels

By Hellas Frappe

(Yalibnan) - According to a Middle Eastern newspaper, Bishop Luqa al-KhouryAuxiliary, Bishop at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East Luqa al-Khoury, has declared war on the Syrian rebels by calling on the Christians to carry arms to defend Syria and its its churches and monasteries.

         “Our men are ready and their fingers are on the trigger.”

He warned the rebels

         "I urge every Christian man capable of carrying weapons to defend Syria and its churches and monasteries that are being vandalized by armed groups,” Khoury said in remarks published in Az-Zaman newspaper at the weekend. “We will not stand by idly,” the cleric stressed.

He also noted that the men are “waiting for instructions from the Patriarchate,” but stressed that “we will wait for two days, not more, until we start acting.”

Christian places of worship are being subject to attacks by Syrian rebels, drawing international condemnation against the vandalism of religious sites.

Last Monday, 13 nuns were reported missing from Maaloula north of Damascus after rebel forces, including jihadists, seized control of the Christian town. (It should be noted that Maaloula is one of the few places on earth where Aramaic is spoken, which is the language of Jesus Christ)

At the Vatican, Pope Francis called for prayers for the nuns missing from the Greek Orthodox Mar Takla convent in Maalula and “for all kidnap victims in the conflict.”

Just before the weekend the nuns resurfaced in a video, saying that they had left with rebels to escape shelling in the area and were safe.


"Brussels agreement yet to be fully implemented"

BELGRADE -- The U.S. supports Serbia's EU integration and reforms, a U.S. State Department official has said as he met with Serbian PM Ivica Dačić in Belgrade.
During his meeting with Director of the Office of South-Central European Affairs Jonathan Moore, Dačić noted that it was "in Serbia's interest is to improve its political dialogue and economic cooperation with the United States."
The two agreed the talks between Belgrade and Priština and the implementation of the Brussels agreement on the normalization of relations were having "a positive effect on the situation in the region."

The local elections in Kosovo were organized well, they said, according to a release from the government office for media relations.

"The Serbian government is willing to address all issues efficiently," Dačić said, adding that he hoped the accession talks with the EU would start as soon as possible.

The government has adopted all the necessary documents for the talks, he said.

Moore visited Priština and Tirana before Belgrade and after Brussels, where he attended the talks between Belgrade and Priština on December 5.

In an interview for Tanjug, Moore said that all provisions of the Brussels agreement must be implemented in other to normalize relations, and that he hoped Belgrade and Priština would find solutions by the end of the week for the remaining open issues.

"This is an especially big and important phase of the dialogue," he was quoted as saying, and noted that he was present in Brussels during the previous round of the talks, held on December 5.

He then stated that his country "supports Serbia, but has the same message for it like the EU," that all conditions of the agreement must be implemented.

"I am telling you openly, I was in Brussels and it is clear that all conditions have not yet been met," the U.S. official said, according to Tanjug, and added that "various topics" remain to be resolved.

"For example, both delegations must yet discuss the judiciary, what will happen with the court in northern Kosovo, that is one of the main topics," said Moore.
Officially: Omonoia, In Albania over 300.000 Greeks declared

30 % or 86,000, are declared electronically and this process includes 85 % of the members of the Greek minority

Vlora Prefecture is the mostly populated by Greeks, there are about 90. 000 Greeks.

TIRANA - Democratic Union of the Greek Ethnic Minority, Omonoia publishes the results of the census of members of the Ethnic Greek Community, organized by it structures.

The Prime Census, was the decision of the General Council of the organization as members argued for exclusion of the Greek minority in the months Census October 2011, organized by the Institute of Statistics .

Omonoia says that individual questionnaires were completed 286,852 of which 30 % or 86,000, are declared electronically and this process includes 85 % of the members of the Greek minority.

"Overall results that emerged from this process are the expression of numerical size and geographic distribution simultaneously Greek minority.

286,852 individual questionnaires were completed of which 30 % or 86,000 electronically. Delivering care to supplement and collecting questionnaires was voluntary based omonoia 's subsidiaries that operate in all regions of the country , minimizing the cost of undertaking this process . Estimates of specialists to implement this process show that included 85 % of members of the Greek minority in this process . " - Said in the press release 's Omonoia Organisation.

Unrecognized Montenegrin Church wants "property and status"

PODGORICA -- The head of the canonically unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church (CPC) has said that this religious community was in a "humiliating position."
(B92, file)
(B92, file)
"We demand that the church property and the status of the CPC be restored to what it was until the decree of Regent Aleksandar in 1920, that is, for the Montenegrin parliament to invalidate state act of that year passed after the Podgorica Assembly had already annulled the statehood of Montenegro," CPC head Mihailo said in a statement.
"Montenegrin spirituality has not been returned to the Montenegrin state house. Without it, the Montenegrin state like any other has no future and ensured survival. The reason for this is the unresolved issue of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church," the statement added.

"We say that the CPC will not accept the imposed humiliating status stripping it of its rights, but will instead, in accordance with the Constitution, law, moral and customary norms, take legitimate measures to achieve its natural and inalienable rights," Mihailo said.

He also asked the Montenegrin authorities to "halt the devastating and denationalizing mission" of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Former Mayor of Himara Vassilis Bolanos, prepared to elect for President of the Regional Council of Vlora

But another compatriot of Bolanos is still in this post, Anesti Dhimojani, disagrees with this collision

Tirana. Many efforts to the direction of Prime Minister Edi Rama, continue to be made by the President of HRUP  Vangeli Doules, for the appointment of Former Mayor of Himara Vassil Bollano  simultaneously the president of Omonia, for an important post in the government of Albania .

Even today, in the day of Universal Human Rights , Vangel Doule, has urged the Government Rama, to review a Ministerial post for the party, of (the Greek Minority) HRUP .

According to the latest sources, the involvement of Vassilis Bolanos, in an attempt to get appointed to an political office, has support from Athens, but Prime Minister Rama, is skeptical of this candidacy of Bolanos.

However, Chairman of the District of Vlora Anesti Dhimojani, expressed frustration of that, this clash within "family himariotes" serves to close many problems, especially for properties in Himara Region.
  Picture: FOCUS News Agency
More than three times more road accidents in Albania, compared to Western and Central Europe
10 December 2013 | 15:08 | FOCUS News Agency
Home / Southeast Europe and Balkans
Tirana. The number of road accidents in Albania is more than three times higher than the number in Western and Central Europe. This is what Boris Miska, expert from the National Institute of Public Health, said for Albanian newspaper Gazeta Shqiptare, Macedonian TV channel Sitel reported.

“According to official data, 315 people die in Albania as a result of road accidents, each year, while hundreds are injured and many remain handicapped. Unfortunately, the number of victims is growing each year. A total of 1,104 serious road accidents with 155 deaths have been reported, for the first six months of 2013, alone,” Mr Miska explained.
10 Dhjetor 2013 - 07:41
Lettera ad un collega italiano
I pirati demodè
Të tjera rreth shkrimit
Buongiorno Alessio,
ti scrivo da collega italiano a collega italiano. Le nostre storie professionali sono diversissime, come lo sono le ragioni per cui io 21 anni fa,  e tu adesso,  ci siamo ritrovati a fare giornalismo in Albania. Ti scrivo oggi ma con un senso di colpa, perché forse avrei dovuto farlo qualche mese fa appena tu arrivasti, per spiegarti  qualcosa in più di questa terra. E' tradizone farlo tra colleghi, soprattutto quando uno nuovo arriva in un luogo che i "veterani" coprono da tempo: una specie di briefing professionale per evitare qualche gaffe e i soliti luoghi comuni.
Il primo luogo comune nel quale sei inciampato nei tuoi primi giorni a Tirana ma che mi pare non tia sia ancora stato chiarito, è che l'Albania di oggi non è quella che tu immagini, e che risale ormai a molti, molti, anni fa. Fino a metà degli anni '90 è vero che gli albanesi guardavano alla televisione italiana come ad un modello: ancora prima, durante il regime comunista, rischiavano addirittura l'arresto quando muniti di "kanoce" (una specie di lattina trasformata in ricevitore d'antenna) adattavano i televisori albanesi per captare le stazioni italiane e jugoslave, che i tecnici di regime avevano invece disattivato. Il luogo comune della stampa italiana sui primi dolorosi sbarchi sulle coste pugliesi (tra il 1992 e il 1993) era esattamente questo: gli albanesi sbarcavano da noi credendo che l'italia fosse come "Colpo grosso". Ecco, a sentirti parlare oggi con gli stessi argomenti , mi sembri sinceramente fuori dal tempo.

Il fenomeno della clandestinità verso l'Italia (tragico capitolo nella storia tra i nostri due paesi costato la vta a migliaia di albanesi) è fortunatamente concluso dal 2001,anche se in verità sono stati necessari alcuni anni prima che il luogo comune "albanese-gommone" sulla stampa italiana venisse finalmente superato . Nel sentirti rievocare questo stesso argomento  l'altra sera con i sottotitoli in albanese, mi sembravi dentro una macchina del tempo ferma a 20 anni prima. Un pezzo da teca d'archivio. Tu mi dirai: è stata Luciana Littizzetto a parlare di gommone e tu anzi la criticavi per questo. A dire il vero in quella brevissima gag tasmessa su Rai Tre, eri tu ad essere indicato come l'emigrante eventualmente partito col gommone verso l'Albania, e non il contrario: e in fondo era la metafora perfetta, sia pur resa grottesca dalla satira, di quel che sta effettivamente accadendo, con noi italiani che a parti invertite emigriamo in Albania per cercare lavoro.

Tu fingi di scandalizzarti sul luogo comune evocato dalla Littizzetto, ma ne rilanci uno anche peggiore: come mai i giornalisti albanesi, chiedevi ai tuoi interlocutori  in studio,  e come mai l'opinione pubblica albanese, non hanno solidarizzato con te che hai avuto l'idea di "rubare" qualche format televisivo italiano e lo hai importato in Albania? "Dovrebbero esserne orgogliosi" hai provato a spiegare, perché finalmente possono vedere in patria quello che fino a ieri dovevano spiare in Italia. Ecco, a sentirti trattare questo argomento oggi, nell'anno 2013, mi sembri fuori dal tempo in modo addirittura imbarazzante.  I format televisivi sono stati "rubati" in Albania (qualche volta rubati, qualche volta solo imitati) già molti molti anni fa, quindi come dire sei arrivato ultimo tra gli ultimi.  Ma anche questo è un fenomeno ormai vecchio, finito dal 2005, quando in Albania il parlamento ha adottato una legge sui diritti d'autore. Prima di allora si faceva esattamente come oggi fai tu, ma con 8 anni di ritardo. Insomma non sei un pioniere, tanto meno un benefattore.
Alla fine ammetti: «Diciamo le cose come stanno allora: abbiamo copiato lo studio di 2-3 anni fa. Comunque se ritengono che dobbiamo pagare qualcosa ne parliamo». E' come se un ladro sorpreso con l'auto rubata, risponda al proprietario: ok, è tua, dimmi quanto vuoi che te la pago. E se per caso lui non intendesse venderla? L'arroganza del denaro che genera impunità, è un'altra vecchia piaga in questo paese: non fartene portavoce.
Tu dici: «Guarda che qui non inventa niente nessuno». Non è più vero:  quello che ancora oggi si trasmette in molte televisioni in formato copy/paste è in gran parte nato in quegli anni di pirateria dilagante. Da allora in poi ci sono tantissime televisioni (ne esistono 94 in tutto il paese che trasmettono in segnale analogico) che inventano e producono programmi e formati. E chi proprio non ha idee nuove i format da anni ormai  li compra all'estero pagandoli centinaia di migliaia di euro. Come si comprano i diritti per le partite dei campionati di tutto il mondo, come si pagano i diritti d'autore sulle canzoni, come si acquistano i diritti su film, documentari e persino sulla Formula Uno, con fatture da molti milioni di euro pagate ogni anno dagli imprenditori albanesi. Se poi qualche pirata insiste a piratare, è illegale. Punto.
Tu non conosci questo paese e si vede quando ritieni che ci sia ancora qualche albanese che oggi, nell'anno 2013, sogni con la "kanoce" in mano di spiare immagini dalle televisioni all'estero. No Alessio. Oggi in Albania persino i cartoni animati sono doppiati in lingua albanese, ci sono 70 canali digitali in lingua albanese con documentari e film trasmessi nella lingua madre, con i diritti regolamente pagati. Anche per questo vedere oggi il tuo canale ricchissimo di soldi ma finora povero di idee che invece costringe gli albanesi a parlare in italiano, mi sembra frutto di una cultura neocolonialista vecchissima anch'essa. Paragonabile a quella di un grosso imprenditore straniero che gestisce qui una fabbrica i cui camini inodano di fumi cancerogeni le città intorno. E alla domanda di un giornalista sul perchè non adotti misure antinqinamento, ha risposto: "Lei sa quanto costa un filtro? Se avessi dovuto installare i filtri sarei rimasto a fare impresa a casa mia".

Gli albanesi aprono le porte agli imprenditori stranieri perché continuano a credere che i loro capitali sommati al loro know-how costituiscano valori ancora necessari  alla crescita del paese. L'Albania invece non ha più bisogno di quella imprenditoria furba e un po' pirata che approdò qui nei primi anni '90, ottenendo (talvolta illegalmente) privilegi, contratti e concessioni che poi non si sono mai tramutati in benessere per gli albanesi. Quei tempi sono passati, gli albanesi sono cresciuti e alcuni sono diventati a loro volta pirati. Tutti insieme dobbiamo combattere quelli che già ci sono, non abbiamo bisogno di accoglierne di nuovi . - See more at:

Obama And Castro Handshake At Mandela Tribute

The rare gesture between the leaders of the two Cold War foes at the Mandela memorial stokes talk of a possible rapprochement.

Barack Obama has shaken hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
The handshake between the leaders of the two Cold War enemies came during a ceremony in Johannesburg that is largely focused on Mr Mandela's legacy of reconciliation.
Mr Castro smiled as the US leader shook his hand on the way to the podium to pay tribute to the late South African president, a global symbol of peace.
It was an extremely rare gesture between the leaders of two nations that have been at loggerheads for more than half a century. US officials often have gone to great lengths to avoid having presidents meet Cuban leaders, even in passing.
It was Mr Obama who offered the handshake in a new sign of his willingness to reach out to US enemies, a US official told the AFP news agency.