Friday, March 14, 2014

If Putin is new Hitler, then monkey became of the man? – Kusturica

Accomodation In Serbia
Director Emir Kusturica criticized the statement of Hilary Clinton, who compared Russian President Vladimir Putin with Hitler over the intervention in Ukraine, saying that this is not an insignificant thing, “Blic” reported.
“To call Putin a fascist because of the intervention in Ukraine, and at the same time being one of the creator of wars in Iraq, Kosovo and Metohija, Afghanistan, Libya, Ossetia, is not a trivial thing,” said Kusturica in an author article in “Politika”.
He noted that Putin just his moves everywhere with the fear of his people from “bandera faction”, heirs of Ukraine fascists, “the contractors of the Second Ukranian Revolution”.
Kusturica reminded that Americans did not free Europe from fascism and that 20 million Russians were killed in the fight against Hitler.
“It does not matter that those you accuse have lost 20 million people in the fight against Hitler. Then you just call the inheritor of that tradition Hitler, and amnesty the actual fascist from the guilt. The truth is not cool, but what are we going to do, and if we agree to it, how we will react if soon a thesis comes up, let’s say, that monkey became of the man. The way things are now, that happening is not impossible,” said Kusturica.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ukraine to get $220M in financial support from Canada

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announces aid at Ottawa news conference

By Susana Mas, CBC News Posted: Mar 13, 2014 3:03 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 13, 2014 5:08 PM ET
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced that Canada will provide financial aid to Ukraine.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has announced that Canada will provide financial aid to Ukraine. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada will provide Ukraine with $220 million in an international effort to restore economic stability to the country.
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper is announcing $220 million in additional measures to promote sustainable economic growth, democratic development, and good governance," Baird said during a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday.
The majority of Canada's financial support, $200 million, will be conditional on the establishment of a broader package by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The other $20 million will be implemented by the IMF to ensure the government of Ukraine receives the expert guidance it needs to manage its economic transition.
Canada will also provide $900,000 to have the IMF provide Ukraine with the technical assistance it needs to strengthen its national bank.
Baird said although Ukraine appears to have enough money to stay afloat for a few more months, Canada wants to do everything it can to help stabilize its finances.
Canada continues to condemn Russia's "provocative and illegal" military occupation of Crimea, Baird said, adding that the Canadian government will not recognize Sunday's referendum results which he denounced as an "illegitimate stunt."
Baird said he took part in a phone call this morning, organized by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, where they discussed "these aggressive acts by Russia, which flagrantly violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Yatsenyuk asks Russia to pull back military

Speaking to the UN Security Council in New York moments before Baird's announcement, the Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on Russia to pull back its military forces and engage in negotiations instead.
"We urge the Russian Federation to pull back its military forces deployed in Crimea to barracks and to start real talks and negotiations."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday joined G7 leaders in calling on Russia to halt a referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region.
"All of the G7 countries remain collectively strongly committed to the view that we will not accept Russia's illegal occupation of Crimea," Harper said in B.C., where he stopped on his way back from South Korea on Wednesday.
The G7 group, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, said in a formal statement that a Russian-backed referendum would hold no legal weight.
"We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the constitution of Ukraine," the statement said.
"Any such referendum would have no legal effect. Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force. For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome."

Russia announces start of military exercises near Ukrainian border

Move comes as Ukraine backs creation of new force to keep Russian troops from advancing beyond Crimea
Link to video: Russia begins military exercises near Ukrainian border
Russia has started military exercises near the Ukrainian border, it has announced, in what is likely to be seen as a show of force in the standoff with Kiev and the west over Crimea.
The defence ministry confirmed on Thursday that exercises involving 8,500 artillery men had begun in the southern military district near the border. Pictures appeared on social media earlier showing military vehicles on the move in the area.
The announcement came as the Ukrainian parliament unanimously backed the creation of a force of up to 60,000 volunteers to keep Russian troops from advancing beyond the Crimean peninsula. The national security and defence council chief, Andriy Parubiy, said the new National Guard would "ensure state security, defend the borders, and eliminate terrorist groups" – a term many in Kiev use for the well-armed militias who patrol Crimea alongside Russian troops.
As tensions continued to rise, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, warned that if a planned referendum in Crimea took place on Sunday a "serious series of steps" would be taken by the US and EU against Russia. He said tension between Russia and the US over Ukraine had the capacity to affect attempts by the two countries to find a solution to the conflict in Syria.
Separately, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, discussed proposals for resolving the crisis during a telephone conversation with Kerry on Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Lavrov and Kerry, who are due to meet in London on Friday, discussed the situation, "taking into account existing Russian and US proposals to normalise the atmosphere and provide for civil peace", the ministry said.
Earlier, Angela Merkel warned Moscow it risked massive political and economic damage if it refused to change course on Ukraine, saying western leaders were united in their readiness to impose sanctions on Russia if necessary.
The German chancellor, using her strongest language since the start of the crisis and removing any suspicion that Germany might seek to avoid a confrontation with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said his actions would lead to catastrophe for Ukraine and much more.
"We would not only see it, also as neighbours of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union's relationship with Russia," she told the German parliament. "No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically."
Merkel has acknowledged that her efforts to persuade Putin to negotiate via a "contact group" with the transition government in Kiev – which he accuses of ousting the Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych unlawfully – have failed and time is running out.
Russian troops have seized control of the Ukrainian region of Crimea on the Black Sea, backing separatists who have taken over the local government and are preparing a referendum that could pave the way for annexation by Russia.
Merkel reiterated that if Putin continued to snub diplomacy and let the referendum in Crimea go ahead, the EU – in close co-ordination with Washington and Nato – would impose tougher sanctions than the largely symbolic measures taken so far.
Travel bans and asset freezes on people and firms accused by Brussels of helping to violate Ukraine's territorial integrity could be approved by EU foreign ministers on Monday. While next Thursday, European leaders will discuss action affecting trade with Russia.
"To be absolutely clear, none of us want it to come to such measures but we are all ready and determined to if they are unavoidable," Merkel said.
Germany receives more than a third of its gas and oil from Russia and more than 6,000 German firms are active there. A poll last week showed that a majority of Germans opposed sanctions against Russia.
Merkel grew up behind the Iron Curtain, speaks Russian and has tried to use her influence with Putin, whom she has known for 14 years, in countless phone calls. The former KGB officer, who himself speaks German, is said to respect her as a strong leader.
But in an unusually emotive speech, Merkel lamented that the Russian leader was destroying years of post-Soviet rapprochement and was dragging Europe back into "a conflict about spheres of influence and territorial claims that we know from the 19th or 20th century but thought were a thing of the past".
"The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be called into question," she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament, making clear that Crimea could not be compared to Kosovo, which seceded from the former Yugoslavia in 2008.

5 very important answers to 5 very important answers

Published time: March 13, 2014 20:14
Kiev, Independence Square February 19, 2014 (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)
Kiev, Independence Square February 19, 2014 (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)
Last week RT sought answers to some key questions on Ukraine. Among those who responded was Simon Smith, UK’s Ambassador to Ukraine, on a Foreign and Commonwealth Office blog.
RT welcomes the Ambassador, who coincidentally began tweeting on Nov 25th, to the conversation. Unfortunately his contribution is characterized by denial, not engagement. Have a look.
RT: Why did the opposition oust Yanukovich after he conceded to their demands?
Ambassador Smith: They didn’t. Yanukovich fled Ukraine before fulfilling his commitments under the 21 February agreement. [Spelling and punctuation preserved - RT]
Actually, no. After the ill-fated 21st Feb. deal was signed, the three opposition leaders went to Maidan to sell it. Not everyone was happy.
Renowned Maidan commander Vladimir Parasyuk responded furiously: “We don’t want to see Yanukovich in power. We don’t want deals with them. On Sunday at 10 a.m. he must step down. And unless this morning you come up with a statement demanding that he steps down, then we will take arms and go, I swear”.
Unlike Klitschko’s pitch, Parasyuk’s rebuttal was cheered by the crowd.

There was little doubt. Yanukovich had to flee or the unleashed radicals would deliver on their threat. The opposition leaders couldn’t stop them even if they tried.
Besides the fact Yanukovich fled for his life rather than break the deal, Russia’s point is that the deal was never about keeping him in power. Instead the deal would have ended violence and led to a unity government representing all Ukrainians, “not only those supporting Maidan, but also those skeptical or even fearful of it”.
RT: Why is the coup-appointed government replacing oligarchs linked to Yanukovich with… oligarchs?
Ambassador Smith: Who is appointed by the elected Government of Ukraine is a matter for the people and Government of Ukraine not any other foreign power – either the West or Russia.
Ask Victoria Nuland what is “a matter for the people and Government of Ukraine?”
Regardless, Maidan’s core grievance was the perceived corruption of Yanukovich and his officials, their links to big business who profited from his power abuses, wasn’t it?
If corruption delegitimized Yanukovich so profoundly why is the new government so clearly getting back into bed with the country’s richest men, in Donetsk and Dnepropetrovsk?
Ambassador Smith answers nothing.

Anti-government protesters from far-right group "Right Sector" train in Independence Square in central Kiev, January 25, 2014. (Reuters)
Anti-government protesters from far-right group "Right Sector" train in Independence Square in central Kiev, January 25, 2014. (Reuters)
RT: Why did the post-coup parliament strip Russian language of its regional status?
Ambassador Smith: This is not the case. President Aleksandr Turchinov refused to sign legislation repealing the existing language law. Instead he recommended drafting a new law addressing the interests of all language groups in Ukraine.
He did. Only after stalling so long that Crimea revolted against Kiev. And it really doesn’t answer our question. Given the ugly language legacy left by Yuschenko and the savage and unchecked violence that brought them to power, the new authorities couldn’t have better alienated Russian Ukrainians, such as those in Crimea
Unlike Turchinov, elected MPs who supposedly represent all Ukrainians, passed the bill. The Party of Regions, predominantly supported in the pro-Russian east and south, held a majority though reduced by resignations. How passing this bill served the interests of their constituency is beyond comprehension.
The MPs who backed changing the status of Russian only added to the xenophobic choir of radicals chanting slogans like “knife the Moskals” (perhaps akin to ‘Brit’) and “whoever does not jump is a Moskal.”

RT: Why did Kiev attack the Constitutional Court?
Ambassador Smith: It is clear that significant parts of the judicial system of Ukraine – including several of the judges in the Constitutional Court – had lost the confidence of the people and legitimate Parliament and Government of Ukraine.
Kiev’s ability to speak for all of Ukraine is far from established. Nor should any government dedicated to rule of law attack its own statutes, especially when it comes to a clear assault on separation of powers.
The new authorities ignore the law when it suits them. They didn’t bother impeaching Yanukovich properly; it would take too much time and was by no means a done deal. They didn’t bother to replace the supposedly corrupt judges as the law intends. Instead they ordered the judges be prosecuted before any evidence of wrongdoing was presented.
At least they didn’t propose “just digging up some dirt on them”.
In Russia this approach is called “revolutionary necessity”, and Russia saw plenty of it after the Bolshevik revolution. But the Bolsheviks never denied they took power in an armed coup, as is the case in Ukraine.

Dmitry Yarosh, a leader of the Right Sector movement, addresses during a rally in central Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014. (Reuters)
Dmitry Yarosh, a leader of the Right Sector movement, addresses during a rally in central Independence Square in Kiev February 21, 2014. (Reuters)
RT: Why would the West support the coup in Ukraine?
Ambassador Smith: There was no coup.
Actually, no. Here’s The Free Dictionary:
1. A brilliantly executed stratagem; a triumph.
2. a. A coup d'état. b. A sudden appropriation of leadership or power; a takeover: a boardroom coup.
One may argue this was a “democratic coup,” premised on the potentially false assumption Maidan represents the majority of Ukrainian people, but in every sense, Mr. Ambassador, this was a coup.
Arrested Imams: Religious tolerance, a trap!

Arrested Imams: Religious tolerance, a trap!
Genc Balla, self-declared Imam of the Mosque at the “Unaza e Re” area, considers religious tolerance as a trap set against Islam.

“They merge truth with futile on behalf of religious harmony, on behalf of co-existence between religions. This trap has taken international proportions. On behalf of peace, they want to destroy Islam. They want Muslims to pray in churches and Christian priests to organize masses in mosques. What’s the point of allowing a Christian priest in a mosque? Inviting priests to come and say ‘the father, the son and the holy spirit’ is one of the biggest traps against Islam”, says the self-declared Imam.

In another speech, Balla attacked politics, which, according to him, were submitted to the west.

“They say this is extremism, but they know the law of Allah has this issue covered. These people have diseased hearts. They see as religion only the religions depending from the Western Qiblas, not the Eastern Qiblas. They consider religion only what the West considers as religion. For them, what the West doesn’t consider religion, is just a shame”, were some of the speeches held by the suspect Genc Balla.

What attracts attention is the fact that Genc Balla never allowed to be filmed during his speeches, but only to be registered vocally.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bataan responds to vessel in distress

File:USS Bataan (LHD-5);10080504.jpg
Courtesy Story
Bataan responds to vessel in distress Michael Lieberknecht Sailors in the medical department of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) assess a Turkish mariner recovered by Bataan Search and Rescue. The Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group is on a scheduled deployment supporting maritime security operations, providing crisis response capability and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Michael J. Lieberknecht/ Released)
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark Hays
USS Bataan

AEGEAN SEA — The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) received a distress call at 1029 today.

When Bataan’s Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter arrived on scene the Hellenic Coast Guard was responding to a grounded Turkish Flagged Container Vessel, Yusuf Cepnioglu. The SAR team observed the Turkish vessel listing.

Upon request for assistance, the aircraft lowered a rescue swimmer and recovered two Turkish mariners and returned to Bataan. The rescued mariners were assessed by Bataan’s medical team, and were transferred to the Hellenic Coast Guard.
Albania: Arrests over terrorism charges

Arrests over terrorism charges
Seven people, two of them imams, one at the Unaza e Re Mosque and one at Mzez, were arrested by the police and the Prosecution of Serious crimes, accused of terrorism.

They recruited devotees and tried to send them at the war in Syria. The suspicions started 10 months ago.

There were several foreign agencies that signalized the Albanian Secret Service regarding the recruits. The Secret Service and the Prosecution started some investigations regarding a cellule they considered as terrorist. This Tuesday morning they arrested seven people in Tirana, Elbasan, Librazhd and Pogradec.

The Prosecutor of Serious Crimes, Eugen Beci, confirmed the arrest of seven people, who are charged of recruiting people for encouraging terror attacks.

“One of these citizens, Edmond Balla, has taken concrete steps for sending Albanians to Syria. Some of the defendants are accused of encouraging hate based on religion and nationality”, Beci declared for the media.

EU official in "warning" to Russia

BRUSSELS -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Russia to stop supporting the secession of Crimea or face sanctions.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
"We remain deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine," said Barroso, addressing members of the European Parliament and strongly condemning "the unprovoked assault of Russia on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
He then announced that the EU will on Wednesday, through a joint statement with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, once again call on Moscow to "withdraw the army to the barracks and to stop supporting the illegal referendum on the secession of the Crimea, or otherwise they will face far-reaching consequences."

"This announcement will leave no doubt about our determination," Barroso revealed.

"The ball is in Russia's yard," said he, and warned that the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis "will have effects that will last for years."

He recalled the conclusions of the extraordinary EU summit last week, in which they announced "three-tier sanctions against Russia."

The first phase, which includes the cancellation of the summit of the G-8 in Sochi and suspension of the visa liberalization has been applied, while in the second phase the EU could impose travel ban and assets freeze of some Russian officials.

A common response to the Ukrainian crisis was also the topic of yesterday's informal meeting of EU leaders in London, while next week meeting of ministers of foreign affairs will be held, followed by a meeting of EU heads of state and government that will take place in Brussels.
U.S. Navy Destroyer passed through Albanian waters
 The USA and other governments plan to take military action against the Syrian government.
Today a U.S. Navy Destroyer passed through Albanian waters as part of a joint exercise with Albanian military and law enforcement partners. 

The ship followed a single course, far off shore, and acted as a cooperative target as it transited the area, helping Albania test its recently repaired Integrated Sea Surveillance System—an array of radar equipment that detects vessels at sea from locations on shore.

 The exercise was another example of the great working relationships shared between the U.S. Military and its Albanian military and law enforcement partners.”

Explosion causes building collapse in Upper Manhattan

Published time: March 12, 2014 14:05
Edited time: March 12, 2014 16:06
Heavy smoke pours from the debris as the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) responds to a 5-alarm fire and building collapse at 1646 Park Ave in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan March 12, 2014 in New York City (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)
Heavy smoke pours from the debris as the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) responds to a 5-alarm fire and building collapse at 1646 Park Ave in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan March 12, 2014 in New York City (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)
The Fire Department of New York was on the scene of a fire at a large residential building in Upper Manhattan Wednesday morning after eyewitnesses reportedly heard an explosion at around 9:31 a.m. EST.
Firefighters were still fighting the blaze at 1646 Park Avenue in Harlem around an hour later, and eyewitnesses told Fox News that debris from the partial collapse had spread several blocks throughout the neighborhood.
Around that same time, the FDNY upgraded the incident to a four-alarm blaze and confirmed that it was being categorized as a “multiple dwelling explosion and collapse” being handled by upwards of 168 firefighters. By 11 a.m., it was upgraded to a five-alarm.
Shortly after that time, the New York Times reported two fatalities.

Russia allows Ukrainian surveillance flight to confirm no troops near border

Published time: March 12, 2014 14:11
Edited time: March 12, 2014 15:13
An Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 jet fighter (Reuters / Stringer)
An Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 jet fighter (Reuters / Stringer)
In a confidence-building step, Russia’s Defense Ministry has given permission for a surveillance flight by Ukraine over Russian territory near the border between the countries. Kiev had claimed Moscow was building up its military presence there.
“The Ukrainians have asked for an unscheduled observation flight over our territory,” Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters in Moscow.
Russia and Ukraine are entitled to surveillance flights over each other's territories following the Open Skies treaty signed in 1992, but Antonov said that Kiev had never asked for one before, and that Moscow was "under no obligation" to allow it immediately.
“We have decided to allow such a flight. We hope that our neighbors are assured that there is no military activity that threatens them on the border.”
Antonov vehemently denied a statement Tuesday by Igor Tenyukh, defense minister for the Kiev coup-appointed government, that Russia had amassed more than 220,000 troops, 1,800 tanks and over 400 helicopters in regions adjacent to eastern Ukraine.
“Ukrainian military officials know full well that the entire [Russian] Southern and Western Military Districts put together don’t have that much equipment. The only way you could arrive at that number of soldiers would be if you counted their families,” Antonov said.
"I would dissuade Mr Tenyukh from adding fuel to the fire of the crisis, which is what he appears to be doing. He openly outlined the reasons for this himself, when he asked the Ukrainian parliament to issue him with more funding," continued the Russian official.
Antonov added that continuing mass training exercises in eastern Ukraine, which Kiev began this week, could plunge Ukraine into even deeper turmoil.
“Staging exercises in an area that is gripped by mass protests against the new regime which came to power as a result of a coup is a risky endeavor, which could further destabilize the political situation in Ukraine,” Antonov insisted.
Ukraine is a test case for American power
If the Chinese leadership were ever to ‘do a Putin’, how could the US and allies react?
Ingram Pinn illustration©Ingram Pinn
A few weeks ago, even Europeans were paying little attention to events in Ukraine. Now the whole world is watching. This is because the Russian incursion into Ukraine is widely seen as a direct challenge to the US-led world order. If President Vladimir Putin gets away with it then other governments, such as China and Iran, may decide defying America is getting less risky.
Barack Obama’s opponents in Washington argue that the US president blinked over the use of force in Syria and has shown weakness in his dealings with Iran and China. Senator John McCain, Mr Obama’s defeated rival in 2008, claims that the Ukrainian crisis is “the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength any more”.

But the “weak Obama” story misses the point. This is not the cold war, in which US presidents were called upon to show unshakeable resolve, in a global struggle with an implacable Soviet enemy. Instead, the Ukraine crisis is a vital test of the foreign-policy rules of a new era – the era of globalisation, when the west’s most dangerous rivals are also often its key trading partners.
The one continuity with the cold war is that in Ukraine in 2014, just as in Hungary in 1956, the US knows that it cannot use force. The fact that Mr Obama appears to have ruled out a military response is proof not that he is weak but that he is sane.
However, the defining difference with the crises of the cold war is that nowadays a confrontation with Russia, and potentially one day with China, involves economic relationships that did not exist when the world was divided into rival political and economic blocs. What is not yet clear is whether the west has worked out how to play the economic cards that globalisation has dealt it.

The problem is that, while western powers know they could damage Russia economically, they also know that in harming Russia they would also inflict plenty of collateral damage on their own economies. Are Europeans and Americans prepared to accept that?
Faith in the potential power of economic sanctions has been boosted by the startling damage they have done to Iran, cutting the country off from the global financial and trading system. However, the economic pressure on Iran worked partly because that country had nothing that the west could not find elsewhere: Iranian gas could, ironically enough, be replaced with Russian gas.

Russia is a much tougher challenge. Western policy makers know that it is impossible to inflict real damage without exposing their own vulnerabilities, whether it is German dependence on Russian gas, Britain’s role as a financial centre, or France’s €1.2bn contract to supply ships to the Russian navy. America does less trade with Russia – but also knows that US sanctions would be much less effective without European participation.
The struggle with Russia has global implications because, potentially, it is a test case for an even bigger confrontation that might one day be staged with China. As with Russia, the US finds itself in an increasingly adversarial political and strategic relationship with a country that is also vital to the global economy. If the Chinese leadership were ever to “do a Putin”, and use military force in support of its dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands, how could the US and allies react? Unlike the Ukrainians, the Japanese have the protection of a security treaty with the US. But China, like Russia, might still calculate that America would not really risk going to war with another nuclear power – particularly over some uninhabited rocks on the other side of the globe.
Economic sanctions would then be considered. But the stakes would be even higher than with Russia, because China is now the second-largest economy in the world. In theory, the US could restrict the imports of Chinese goods – or even, in extremis, use the US navy to block China’s energy imports. But, like the Russians, the Chinese would have plenty of economic weapons with which to retaliate, from the disruption of the supply chains of American corporations to a refusal to buy US Treasury bills.

The knowledge that the Chinese – as well as the Iranians, Syrians and others – are watching increases the incentive for America to act over Ukraine. The “weak Obama” narrative, while unfair and oversimplified, has gained a certain currency around the world. If the president is seen to threaten “there will be costs” for Russia’s actions in Ukraine but then not to deliver, he looks foolish. America’s potential rivals might also conclude that global economic interdependence has not strengthened the west politically, but weakened it.
That could be right in the short term: we will see. In the long run, however, globalisation still works in favour of the west, even in political terms. It might have reduced the west’s ability to punish but it has increased its power to attract. Ultimately, the punishment that would most hurt Mr Putin is “losing” Ukraine. But, by occupying Crimea and threatening eastern Ukraine, Russia is likely to alienate the Ukrainian population permanently. At the same time, it is underlining the point that the west is more politically and economically attractive than the Russian alternative. Even if the Ukraine crisis makes the west look temporarily weak, the long-run trends are still much more favourable to the US and the EU than to Russia.

Could a new autonomous deal solve the crisis in Crimea?

If such an idea were accepted, Russia would keep its ability to threaten Ukraine via its henchmen in Crimea.

"The Greeks used the term autonomous republic during the Balkan wars that preceded World War I. There were two such Balkan wars in a nine-month period in 1912 and 1913. The Greek army captured a slice of the Ottoman Empire in what is today southern Albania"

By Asaf Ronel | Mar. 9, 2014 | 2:30 PM | 3 

Soldiers of the newly formed Crimean army attend the oath ceremony in Simferopol on March 8, 2014.
Some 100 soldiers of the newly formed Crimean army attend the oath ceremony in Simferopol on March 8, 2014. Photo by AFP

Whether he folded under pressure from the West, or whether he understood that the price of the Ukraine crisis was too high for the Russian economy, it could be that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to order his soldiers back to their bases.
If so, the reinforcement of Russian troops in Crimea is only another show of force meant to improve Putin’s position against the West.
In Putin’s hour-long telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama last week, many things were said that have yet to be reported. The bottom line is the White House’s brief announcement that there is a solution that will satisfy all parties.
The Russians were less optimistic. Their slightly longer announcement said there are still differences regarding the present situation and the reasons for the conflict. The Russians made clear they would continue to act as they saw fit.
The referendum on Crimea’s secession from Ukraine has been set for March 16, a long time in terms of this crisis, which only two weeks ago was described in terms of what would then-President Viktor Yanukovych do. It’s certainly possible that the referendum will be held, and there’s a good chance that if it is held, a majority will vote to join Russia.

Sixty percent of Crimea’s 2 million residents were described in the last census as ethnic Russians, though such definitions always blur a more complex range of identities. Twenty-five percent of residents are Ukrainian – according to the census – and 12 percent are Tatars, who are expected to lead the opposition to joining Russia.

Putin can continue on his current path. He won’t find it hard to ignore the sanctions the Americans have approved, not very happily, and which may tighten. The threats the Europeans so gladly make don’t worry him too much. And even if Obama and the Poles drag in the British, French and Germans to impose sanctions on Russia, the Kremlin can still do what it wants.

But before the referendum is held, or even afterwards, Putin can pull back his forces with honor if, for example, he demands a new autonomy agreement for Crimea. The agreement can include a batch of slogans and symbols that will satisfy Crimea’s nationalist leaders. Putin can also receive guarantees for the strategic issue that really interests him in Crimea: the military port.
The Greeks used the term autonomous republic during the Balkan wars that preceded World War I. There were two such Balkan wars in a nine-month period in 1912 and 1913. The Greek army captured a slice of the Ottoman Empire in what is today southern Albania.

In the agreement that ended the war, it was determined the region would be part of the newly formed Albania. The local Greeks refused to accept the decision and established the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus in February 1914. In May that year, the powers recognized this autonomous status. In October, after World War I had broken out, the Greek army recaptured the area. In the end, the Greeks lost control of the region in 1921.

The term autonomous republic returned for a few years when French colonialists used it in Africa in the 1950s, before their colonies gained independence.

Russia loves the definition. Out of Russia’s 83 federal units, 21 are autonomous republics. Georgia also uses the concept in two regions: Abkhazia and Adjara, the homeland of the Adjaran people, who speak a dialect of Georgian. Some of them are Sunni Muslims.

In the old Soviet Union there are two autonomous republics: Nakhchivan, an enclave under Azerbaijani control inside Armenia, and Karakalpakstan, which occupies the northwestern end of Uzbekistan and has a population 40 percent Uzbek, 20 percent Kazakh and 40 percent Karakalpak. The latter speak a Turkish dialect closer to that of the Kazakhs than the Uzbeks.

Putin can then look at his neighbors and draw inspiration for a new autonomy agreement for Crimea that he can dictate to the West in return for withdrawing his troops. He can also invent new ideas of his own.
One possibility is to demand that Russia become the guarantor of the Russian population’s security in Crimea. In the last century there were a number of agreements with such terms.
If such an idea were accepted, Putin would not lose face, nor his ability to threaten Kiev via his people in Crimea. Then he could continue to sabotage Ukraine’s efforts to draw closer to the West – just without using his troops and weapons.


The autonomy of Northern Epirus

The 28 of February 1914 also marks the declaration of the autonomous state of Northern Epirus

The autonomy of Northern Epirus
12 Mar 2014
The 28 of February 1914 was 100 years ago. It is a date that falls within the last gasp of the 'Belle Epoque', which is as historically remote to us today, as was the Battle of Waterloo to the people of the time. More significantly, it was a time of hope for Balkan nationalities, where borders were fluid and irredentist aspirations were rife. Identities were being formed and destroyed and the technological advancements of the age infused all with a sense of excitement for the 'modern era' and the 'new improved' human, who having harnessed nature, would tread upon a path leading to a golden age of rationality and modernity.

The 28 of February 1914 also marks the declaration of the autonomous state of Northern Epirus. This declaration came about because the Works Powers, not being able to work out exactly how to divide up the region between themselves, decided to award it to Albania, without regard for the wishes of its population, and with no safeguards as to its laws and customs. As Giorgos Christakis-Zografos, the president of Autonomous Northern Epirus stated: "Under these conditions and in the absence of a solution that would suffice to safeguard Epirus, a solution it would have been otherwise easy to discover, the Epirote populace is forced to declare to the Powers that it cannot submit to their decision. It will declare its independence and will struggle for its existence, its traditions and its right."

This plucky declaration was met with analogous enthusiasm by the Greek-speaking world. It was seen by the Greeks of Greece as yet another step towards the realisation of the Megali Idea - ensuring that all lands once ruled by Greeks are incorporated into one entity. For the Northern Epirotes, as well as sharing this ideal, it guaranteed the prospects of the area crawling out of the Ottoman yoke and into the twenty-first century. The ambitious social welfare program of the newly formed state, including free schooling and health care, also looked forward to the era of the 'new' human. The new state was to have freedom of expression in all languages, a gendarmerie and Greek speaking legal system, as well as a progressive system of local governance.
Unfortunately for the aspirants for local independence, the advent of the First World War and the subsequent occupation of parts of Northern Epirus by French and Italian troops ensued the ephemeral quality of the autonomous state. The treaty of Florence in 1918 returned the region to Albania and thereafter, the Albanian authorities began a targeted program against Greek cultural and religious expression in the region, culminating in the landmark 1935 World Court case, where Albania was ordered to re-open the Greek language schools it had closed down.
During the communist era, Greeks were seen as suspect owing to their cultural affiliations, and thousands were incarcerated in brutal work camps. Greeks also played an inadvertent role in prising Albania away from a dependence on the USSR, this taking place when Khrushchev suggested to Albanian leader Enver Hoxha that he should re-establish the Greek autonomous region in Northern Epirus.
Today, if one surveys the mouldering concrete bunkers strewn throughout Northern Epirus as well as the crumbling, faceless Eastern Bloc architecture of the government buildings and the rusted tank and tractor parts abandoned on the side of the road, it can be seen that the pipe-dream of 100 years ago has been shattered on the rock of totalitarianism, nationalism and despondency.

Few groups now advocate autonomy for this shattered region. For one, the ethnic composition has changed. Most Northern Epirotes have abandoned their homes and fled south in droves, while others, because they found it expedient to do so career-wise or because they were forcibly dislocated during the Communist era to the north, have become assimilated. It is no longer correct to speak just of Northern Epirotes in Northern Epirus, when they are diffused over the length and breadth of Albania. In 1914, the Northern Epirot city of Korytsa played a leading role in the struggle for autonomy. Today, the majority of its inhabitants, while Orthodox Christians, have Vlach or Albanian as their mother tongue. Of the Vlachs, a disquieting minority identifies with Romania. Even so, Korytsa is the only Albanian city that freely flies a Greek flag in its city centre. This is due to the stalwart efforts of the non-Greek speaking but patriotic Vlachs.

Traditional ways of life have also changed. The paranoid, totalitarian collectivised regime of Enver Hoxha, which did not allow people to move from their villages or even speak to others without being spied on, squeezed out initiative, the love of beauty and the progressiveness which Greeks of 1914 found so appealing in Northern Epirotes. Now the prevailing mood is one of immense fatigue and residuary paranoia. Everyone is tired, including the Albanians of the region, who are sick of being told they should be wary of a threat from the South, the illusion of which has kept them afraid for one hundred years and has never materialised. Northern Epirotes are also tired, of being afraid, of being persecuted but also of being ignored by their compatriots for so many decades as they suffered in silence.

Life is unbearably hard in Northern Epirus. Provision of basic services is intermittent and in winter, sometimes impossible. Those who remain behind eke out a living slowly and painfully, as if they were drops of water, eating away at the living rock. Meantime, the Albanian government is bent upon a course of denial when it comes to the Greek community of Cheimarra, a region comprised of seven villages sprawled upon one of the most captivating and investment-inviting coastlines of the world. The Albanian government refuses to accept that the inhabitants of that region are Greek, just as they refuse to return land illegally confiscated to its lawful Greek inhabitants.
In Athens, in Melbourne and wherever there are Northern Epirotes in the world, the century since the declaration of the autonomy of Northern Epirus has been commemorated. Impassioned speeches have been made, exalting the brave fighters who selflessly lost their lives, and curses hurled at those who allowed this region to suffer so much, or as the ultranationalists say, 'slip through our fingers'. These clichéd speeches, orated by people who have absolutely no idea about the current situation and view history as a set of lines and maps on a page rather than the collective and needless sufferings of a wretched people, usually end with the vow that one day, autonomy will return. Conversely, those Greeks who inexplicably sympathise with the collapsed regime, deprecate those who remember Northern Epirus, identifying in the place of historic commemoration, intolerance and jingoism.

All this may be fine and dandy, the event and the region being far removed from our daily lives. Yet one hundred years on, the grandiose promise of autonomy, the hypocritical assurance of Greek politicians who have divided the political leadership of the Northern Epirotes and enmeshed them in internecine conflict, that they have their best interests at heart, and the deprecation of the last of the hardcore ideologues, who cannot accept that the regime that was to be about paradise actually proved inimical to the existence of the Greek people in Northern Epirus, is of little consequence to the Cheimarriot whose child is not allowed to consider itself Greek. Nor will it make a difference to the migrant from Dervitsiani, who returns home and builds himself a modern concrete monstrosity in the middle of his beautiful traditional village.

The romanticisation of nationalism and a lack of respect for human dignity led to the Kosovo debacle just over the border. It is well that all Greeks remember the historical day of the autonomy as an important event in our history, signifying what might have been. Let them also know, however, that to the Northern Epirote, whose very existence was denied by many Greek Australians ten years ago, and whose suffering is still denied by just as many, cares not a fig for politics or autonomy. All he wants is to live and die as he has always done, in silence but without suffering.
*Dean Kalimniou is a Melbourne solicitor and freelance journalist.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"We always said NATO attack was aggression"

BELGRADE -- Ivica Dačić says a former German chancellor's statement about NATO's attack on Serbia being in violation of international law confirms that it was aggression.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
The outgoing prime minister and leader of the SPS party also said on Tuesday said Gerhard Schroeder's statement, made recently in the context of the Ukraine crisis, "has no legal significance for Serbia, except that it confirms what Serbia always said - that the (1999) bombing was aggression rather than a peacekeeping intervention."
Dačić, asked by reporters to comment on Schroeder's statement, added that it was clear to everyone around the world that NATO's military intervention against Serbia had nothing to do with the legal system and international regulations.

"The bombing of Serbia was carried out without the authorization of the UN Security Council. Later, there was a recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo and the whole process went completely outside of international law," said Dačić.

He pointed out that the current situation in Ukraine, in particular when it comes to Crimea, but also in other parts of the world "where similar scenarios occur," always leads to analogies with Kosovo.

"Everyone will bring up the question of Kosovo, because when principles are violated once, as in the example of Kosovo, why not violate them again when it comes to some other examples," Dačić said.

According to him, "once this issue comes before every country, everyone will remember Serbia's arguments, but, unfortunately, this does not mean much to Serbia because we continue to have that problem."

"I just wonder how some political parties in Serbia who said that (Slobodan) Milošević was to blame for the bombing will react now," Dačić said.

He added that he felt "no pleasure because of Schroeder's statement." Instead, Dačić revealed he felt "even greater antipathy towards such acts - especially toward the explanation that it was a humanitarian intervention."

NATO’s foreign ministers to reconsider relations with Russia

NATO’s foreign ministers to reconsider relations with Russia

The planned meeting of the foreign ministers of the 28-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is due to take place in Brussels on April 1-2, NATO’s press service reported.

"Work is currently being done to specify the agenda," a statement of the NATO press service reads.
On March 5, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that a full re-assessment of NATO’s relations with Russia, in view of the developments in Ukraine, would be carried out at a meeting in Brussels in April.
NATO has already frozen practical military cooperation with Russia and suspended the holding of all kinds of meetings at technical level with the Russian side, except sessions of the Russia - NATO Council at ambassador level.
The NATO alliance is demanding an immediate easing of tensions in Ukraine and the return of all Russian servicemen to the barracks.
Voice of Russia, TASS
Albanian National Security Council Gathered

National Security Council Gathered
The National Security Council gathered under the leadership of the Albanian President, Bujar nishani, with the participation of our country’s leaders.

The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, the Parliament Speaker, Ilir Meta, the opposition leader, Lulzim Basha, and other high-rank officials, all gathered in the same table, where President Nishani declared that we need a strategic review of defense.

“National safety is everything for a country. It needs to be implemented correctly. This meeting is related to the planning of a document that will be in effect for decades”, Nishani declared.

The Parliament leader underlined that we need to approach our security system with that of the NATO and European Union countries, and that Albania needs to show itself as a good member of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance.

NATO starts air drills close to Ukraine's borders

Published time: March 11, 2014 15:58
F-16 "Fighting Falcon" jets (Reuters/Staff Sgt. Greg L. Davis)
F-16 "Fighting Falcon" jets (Reuters/Staff Sgt. Greg L. Davis)
NATO has begun wargames in Poland as recently dispatched US jets are set to take part in the exercises. Poor weather has delayed naval maneuvers in the Black Sea, with the US saying both drills were planned before the outbreak of unrest in Ukraine.
The air drills began on Tuesday at the Lask Air Base in central Poland. Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski was present as the exercises commenced, standing by as four Polish F-16s lifted off. A US Hercules transport plane landed with support staff, while at least 12 US F-16 fighter jets and 300 personnel are due to arrive by Thursday.
Komorowski, without directly naming Crimea, said "events to the east" provided a reason to protect military spending in an age of austerity.
"I hope events to the east of the Polish border, which is also NATO's border, will encourage tough decisions regarding Polish security," Reuters cites him as saying.
The decision to deploy the US jets followed a phone conversation between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Polish counterpart Tomasz Siemoniak on Sunday. Washington insisted the air exercise was planned long in advance, though Siemoniak maintains the exercise was to have been smaller, only involving transport aircraft.
Following recent events in Crimea, however, Siemoniak asked the Pentagon to send fighter jets instead.
"This was our request," Reuters cites Siemoniak as saying at a Polish Rocket Defense site. "We really appreciate that the reaction was that quick and significant."
On Monday, NATO also gave the green light to Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) for reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania in order help monitor the crisis in Ukraine. The planes are slated to fly from their home airbases in Geilenkirchen, Germany and Waddington in Britain, from where they will cross Romanian airspace on Tuesday.
That follows a decision made by the US last week to send a KC-135 aerial refueling plane and six F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania to bolster NATO’ air patrol over Baltic airspace. Those ships will reinforce four F-15s, which arrived on January 1 to fill NATO’s Baltic Air Policing rotation. The rotations is scheduled to end April 30.
Baltic allies had requested the assistance amid a growing standoff between Ukraine and Russia on the Crimean Peninsula. Following the deployment, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the modest US military deployment should be viewed as “concrete steps to reassure our NATO allies.”
Meanwhile, strong winds and high seas have caused the US and its NATO allies Bulgaria and Romania to delay the naval portion of its military exercises by 24 hours, the Bulgarian defense ministry said.
“The weather is now improving, the sea is not that rough and I don't expect another postponement," Reuters cites Lieutenant-Colonel Dimitar Titev as saying.
Washington said both the air drills and the joint Black Sea exercises with Romania and Bulgaria, which were delayed due to bad weather, were scheduled long before crisis struck Ukraine.

The "USS Truxtun" destroyer (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)
The "USS Truxtun" destroyer (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)
On Saturday, US Navy destroyer, the USS Truxtun, crossed Turkey's Bosphorus strait and entered the Black Sea. The ship, with around 300 crew, was heading to “previously planned” training exercises with the Bulgarian and Romanian navies. The exercise is not expected to entail any live-fire component.
The USS Truxton, one of the largest destroyers ever built for the US Navy, had been expected to visit the Bulgarian port of Varna March 12-14. However, Titev said he was presently unable to predict what its estimated time of arrival would now be as a result of the inclement weather.
The Bulgarian naval frigate Drazki, and three Romanian naval vessels will take part in the drill, which will be held in international waters southeast of the Romanian port of Constanta. Constanta lies about 220 miles from the Crimean port of Sevastopol, where Russia's Black Sea fleet leases a base.
The exercises come as the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which precedes a referendum slated for March 16.
The United States says it will not recognize the referendum on Crimea, while Russia’s State Duma has said it will only debate the issue of Crimea joining Russia only after the referendum takes place.
The crisis first erupted on February 28 when forces with no national insignia occupied airports and other strategic locations in Crimea. The West says the troops are under Russian control, a claim Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied. Local authorities have said the troops belong to local 'self-defense squads'. Under a current agreement with the Ukrainian government, Russia is allowed to have 25,000 troops stationed on the Crimean Peninsula.
Washington has accused Moscow of committing outright military aggression in Ukraine, while Russia denies invading the region, saying any action would take place within a framework of international law to protect Russian citizens from attack.
Putin said that Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine would take place only as a “last resort.”
Hopes of a diplomatic solution to the crisis were severely dampened after Kerry decided to cancel a visit to Moscow on Monday to discuss the issue with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Crimea "declares independence," references ICJ opinion

CRIMEA -- The assembly of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea on Tuesday adopted a declaration of independence.
The declaration references the case of Kosovo and the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2010.
The declaration said that members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Crimea and the City Council of Sevastopol made the decision "based on the UN Charter and other international documents that recognize the right of peoples to self-determination and on the opinion of the International Court of Justice on Kosovo that stated that unilateral declaration of independence of a part of a state does not violate international law. "

The proclamation also states that the Republic of Crimea is "a democratic, secular, and multi-ethnic state," and comes ahead of a referendum on Sunday on joining Russia as a federal subject. The new, pro-Western authorities in Kiev on Tuesday "suspended Crimea's decision to hold a referendum" and asked the local authorities to bring it in line with Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions.

The ICJ advisory opinion, referenced in today's declaration made in Crimea, concerned what the judges said was "a specific and narrow question" forwarded by the UN General Assembly, on whether the ethnic Albanian unilateral declaration was in violation of international law.

The court found that this was not the case, "because international law does not prohibit such declarations."

The court also explained that it was not asked, and therefore did not declare itself on the legal consequences of that proclamation, and "in particular, whether Kosovo has achieved statehood."


Crimea parliament declares independence from Ukraine ahead of referendum

Published time: March 11, 2014 10:30
Edited time: March 11, 2014 12:11

A woman walking by a poster calling people to vote in the upcoming referendum, in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol (Reuters / Baz Ratner)
A woman walking by a poster calling people to vote in the upcoming referendum, in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol (Reuters / Baz Ratner)
The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which is necessary for holding a March 16 referendum.
“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.
The document was adopted during an extraordinary session of parliament.
78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration.
The Crimean parliament’s vote to become an independent sovereign state paves the way for the March 16 referendum for the Crimean Autonomous Republic and the city of Sevastopol to join Russia.


By Peter Tase

Despite efforts to join the European Union, Albania remains still quite distant from integration. The Albanian government remains weak and unwilling to prosecute former top level officials, including former prime ministers and former members of the executive branch. Another chronic problem is that the judiciary remains a tool of the opposition party – the Democratic Party of Albania – while the Prosecutor General’s office is weak and ineffective.

Public order and security remain under threat in Albania. For example, only in January and February 2014 there were at least twenty explosions of C4 and other bomb incidents in the major urban cities of Albania. As a result some of these victims were high ranking officials, including city hall mayors, National Police Chiefs, Prosecutors, Judges and locally influential business people; additionally a cell-phone activated bomb placed in the prefect’s car failed to detonate in front of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The United States and Albania had secretly arranged an agreement on the decommissioning of Syrian chemical weapons, of more than 1400 tons, that were to be shipped to Albania. Under the agreement, besides the Syrian weapons, some 30 toxic sites in Albania would also be cleaned up. Some of these toxic sites are believed to being causing cases of cancer and lung disease among people in the surrounding areas. The Democratic Party of Albania reneged on its promised support for the deal that was reached with U.S. Ambassador Alexander Arvizu, and instead supported peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Tirana against the deal. (A few days before marching in the streets, Democratic Party Leaders had agreed with Ambassador Arvizu that they would not place obstacles to the shipment of Syrian chemical weapons to Albania.

So long as Albania has corruption, impunity, traffic of influence and an unjust judiciary are not addressed, admission to the EU is unlikely. According to the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative, based in Germany, Albania is one of the most corrupt countries in Europe and the most corrupt in the Balkans. The German NGO ranked Albania 95 out of the 176 countries monitored in 2011. This ranking slipped to 113 in 2012 and 116 in 2013, on the RACI Corruption Perception Index. Transparency International, which advocates good governance and an end to corruption, wrote in a recent report, “In Albania corruption is registering a new physiognomy in a favorable political environment, with characteristics like a new systems for money laundering, financing of political parties from illegal activities, the capture of the state through the control of procurement and privatization, human and narcotics trafficking and the impunity of high State officials before the justice system and the law.”

Unlike almost every country in the Balkan region, Albania has not arrested any prominent figures or corrupt government officials to bring them into prosecution and press charges. Arrests have been made on corruption cases for the following: former Romanian prime minister Adrian Nastase, former Croatian prime minster Ivo Sanader, former Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša, and former prime minister of Bosnia-Hercegovina Franjo Tujman. What about Albania? So far there has been no one arrested, prosecution cases remain dormant in the courts for months or years, while in the end just punishment is not handed down.

While the issue of private property is a persistent challenge for Prime Minister Edi Rama, and illegal building of private residences and hotel businesses along the Adriatic and Ionian shores are coming to an halt, he has other challenges to address. For example, he must address Albania’s negative image that continues to be broadcast to the world. For example, on January 11, 2011, three innocent bystanders, in a peaceful protest were killed by members of Albania’s National Guard while standing on the boulevard near the prime minister’s office. For this crime, and others, such as the 2008 explosions at the Gerdec army barracks which caused the destruction of an entire village and the deaths of 27 people, there is no one in jail today. Moreover the defense minister of that time remains a member of Albania’s parliament. This is a genuine sign of how Albania’s justice system operates.

Incompetence, kleptocracy, lack of professionalism and political demagoguery have been at the center stage of Albanian society over the last 24 years of transition to democracy. Hope remains high for Prime Minister Rama’s government to improvement the nation’s image abroad, establish joint infrastructure projects with Kosovo, and make Albania a Balkan success story of trust and stability.