Saturday, July 19, 2014

 Photo of the Day 

The president of Himariot Lobby of USA Father Kozmas Karavellas with the Vice President Joe Biden, and Archbishop Demetrius of USA in their meeting last week

Friday, July 18, 2014

Archbishop of Ohrid Jovan remains in prison

SKOPJE -- The Macedonian Appellate Court confirmed the first instance ruling against Archbishop of Ohrid and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan Vraniskovski.
He was sentenced to three years of imprisonment on charges for embezzlement of EUR 250,000.
The Appellate Court also confirmed the probation for 18 followers of Archbishop Jovan, including his mother and sister, on charges of aiding the embezzlement, Macedonian media reported on Thursday.

The second instance court previously denied the appeal by Metropolitan Jovan as unfounded and found him guilty of embezzlement of funds which he used to purchase land in Ohrid during his mandate as the bishop of the non-recognised Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC).

Reports of Macedonian media state that the decision of the Appellate Court is crucial for further talks with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) on canonical recognition of MPC.

Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid was sentenced in Skopje on July 2, 2013 to three years of imprisonment and he appealed the decision in November.

In keeping with the ruling of the Skopje Criminal Court, the authorities seized MKD 4.9 million from the bank account of the Association for enhancement of civil and religious freedoms in the village of Nizepolje near Bitola to the benefit of the canonically non-recognised MOC as the damaged party.

Archbishop Jovan said in the appeal that the ruling is discriminatory and was adopted for political reasons, adding that the verdict is also unclear and is not backed by a single piece of tangible evidence.

The appeal Vraniskovski filed to the Skopje Appellate Court states that the Orthodox Archdiocese of Ohrid is being persecuted by the (Macedonian) authorities in various ways even though 12 years have passed since its establishment, adding that the request of the Archdiocese to be entered in court registers, whereby it would become a legitimate religious organisation, has been denied to this day.

Since 2003, Macedonian authorities have arrested Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski six times, on different charges, including public disorder when he tried to conduct a baptism ceremony in a church the MPC sees as its own.

He has also been charged with "inciting ethnic and religious hatred" for having "slandered the MPC" and has spent a total of almost 18 months in prison. The Veles Basic Court then sentenced him to 2.5 years of imprisonment for alleged tax evasion in the period during his mandate as the MPC bishop.

He was last arrested on December 12, 2011, upon entering Macedonia from Greece, on charges of embezzlement of EUR 250,000.

He returned to the country to request a retrial, but was arrested and taken to the Idrizovo prison near Skopje, where he is still being kept in, as his defence team says, very difficult conditions.

The MPC is canonically non-recognized, and the SPC considers it schismatic since it declared autocephaly unilaterally in 1967.

The MPC has defrocked Bishop Jovan and the SPC has appointed him as Serbian exarch in Macedonia.

The SPC believes Archbishop Jovan is a victim of rigged political trials because of his being against the schism, while Amnesty International and Freedom House have said that he is a prisoner of conscience.

Belgrade to back Serb participation in Kosovo government

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Office for Kosovo head Marko Đurić met with UNMIK Chief Farid Zarif and told him that Serbia intends to support Serbs' participation in a new Kosovo government.
Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)
Marko Đurić (Tanjug, file)
Đurić told Zarif on Friday in Kosovska Mitrovica that representatives of Serbs in Kosovo are taking an active part in the formation of the new provincial administration, new provincial government.
Strengthened with Serbs' participation in the parliament and government, Serbia will continue fighting for the interests and rights of its citizens in the southern province, Đurić said.

He underlined that the objective of Serbs' participation in the parliament and government is to resolve the backlog of problems facing them for quite long, such as the seizure of property and shady privatization deals.

“Our message to the UNMIK chief has been that we will continue fighting for each and every one of our citizens in Kosovo, each and every house, field, monument, the right to survive and live decently,” he said.

Đurić said that, in the coming months, the priorities will be the adoption of the statute and the formation of a community of Serb municipalities in line with the agreement on the normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština, which was reached in Brussels on April 19, 2013.

He noted that he also discussed with Zarif the current political and security situation in Kosovo, and underscored that the stability in the province is Serbia's key interest.

The meeting also addressed projects aimed at economic development in Kosovo.

Đurić voiced the confidence that Serbia, as a UN member state, can count on the support and understanding from the world organization.

“Our talks passed in the spirit of mutual understanding and desire to secure the stability in Kosovo and Metohija,” Đurić concluded.

Zarif did not address reporters after the meeting.
Territorial reform, Omonia: Dangerous deviations against the universal rights of the ethnic Hellenic minority

Reforma territoriale, OMONIA: Devijime të rrezikshme në dëm të minoritetit
TIRANE - Democratic Union of the Greek Organisation, "Omonoia", considers that the process of territorial and administrative reform are becoming dangerous deviations
against the universal rights of the ethnic Hellenic minority
In a statement distributed to the media, Omonia states that "the processes of this kind of care and attention should be directed towards vulnerable groups and communities at risk and not at the service of nationalist and racist views."

"In Paths dangerous procedure to manipulate the 2011 Census, the slide is aware of the Government's contribution to its competent institutions, the preliminary discussion on Administrative and Territorial Reform of the Albanian state. Avoiding the real essence and the need for improvements in the spirit of what prevails in Europe regarding further decentralization and independence of local government, the government is choosing which path signaling rotten show of the past and basements, in order to like fighting imaginary enemies. "- said in a statement.

"Once again the cunning ways is practicing focus on Hellenic Ethnic Minority. But not to be preoccupied with his own problems and to respect the principles of international documents on the protection of ethnic, cultural and linguistic, but to frustrate the public and in a public debate without the sense to hide other weaknesses reform attempted. There have to be slipped into this field that serves mikropolitike policies and nationalist desires! Will remain at the core, and this is that in many cases, based on the recent developments, as these statements transliretohen in public persons responsible government and parliamentary special committee, not simply ignored constitutional principles, arrangements arising European conventions, does not include any of the Hellenic Ethnic Minority positions from our side are officially filed in the competent authorities, but are warning of further deterioration. "- continues the statement.

"As Omonoia denounce these wings and manipulation. While in the country dominates a real institutionalization of local government autonomy, full respect to local communities and  their goals, and mainly applied in practice to the rights of minority, any development in sensitive terrain of the structure and functioning of local government, makes us fully interested and concerned. As omonoia, so that we are consistently not only with our principles and how we deposited specially written for such reform, but mainly to determine how those documents and European practices for minorities and the role of local government will continue to sensitize the local on these issues and conclude the violations that harm the interests of the Greek community. "

"We call direct international organizations to focus on these problems for great manipulation process, which are intended to be taken, even through these mechanisms supposedly territorial and administrative reform. The exercise by their more pressure on the Government so that the dialogue and conclude more transparency in variants that satisfy more
the Greek community.. In the process of this kind of care and attention should be directed towards vulnerable groups and communities at risk and not at the service of nationalist and racist views. "- Concludes the statement of Omonia.

Great Paradox: PJIU's proposals over territorial reform, Himara to remains within Albanian muslums

The Party for Justice, Integration and Unity presented a few days ago in the administrative-territorial special commission its proposals regarding this reform. The draft is based on three main concepts.

PJIU asks the creation of one new municipality of Konispol by adding to it the municipalities of Xarra and Markat. These areas Albanian areas where Chams live.

The representative of the working group of this party, Ardit Bido in an interview for “Albeu”, says that one of the proposals presented in the commission is the creation of over 60-70 local government units, by making possible the creation of functional units of local government. The third concept is the proposal to treat as a Sui generis the area from Konispol to Himara, because there, according to Mr. Bido are thinking of forming a dysfunctional minority municipality./

Questions over why Malaysian plane flew over Ukrainian warzone

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:48
Edited time: July 18, 2014 11:50
A man walks, on July 17, 2014, amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)
A man walks, on July 17, 2014, amongst the wreckages of the malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur after it crashed, near the town of Shaktarsk, in rebel-held east Ukraine (AFP Photo / Alexander Khudoteply)
As the world tries to cope with the tragic loss of almost 300 people in the apparent downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, questions have arisen over why the civil aircraft was directed over a war zone.
MH17, carrying passengers from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed on Thursday in Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, the scene of intensive battles between Ukrainian troops and local militias defying Kiev’s rule. In the last several days the militias scored a number of successes, including the reported downing of three Ukrainian military aircraft.
Despite the violence on the ground and apparent danger to aircraft, the Malaysian airliner was directed to pass right over the warzone and was apparently shot down by a sophisticated anti-aircraft missile fired by a Buk-type launcher. No one has claimed responsibility for the act, which resulted in the largest loss of life in the Ukrainian armed conflict so far.
“There are still question to answer like why this plane was flying over that area, whether it was on the correct flight path. It was flying over a war zone where missiles have been fired. It’s a war zone, so why was it flying over there?” blogger and writer Neil Clark asked in an interview with RT.
Now airlines and regulators are declaring Ukraine a no-go zone, but before the tragedy the route over Donetsk Region was considered safe for civil aviation despite the violence on the ground. Last week Ukraine closed the airspace in its east to traffic flying at altitudes of 7,900 meters or lower, but MH17 was flying at 10,600 meters.
Militias have been using relatively simple anti-aircraft weapons like shoulder-fired SAMs, which can engage targets up to 3,500 meters high, which apparently was good enough reason for airlines and Ukrainian traffic controllers to allow high-flying planes over the restricted area.
“MAS had used this route for years and it had always been safe. Fifteen out of 16 Asean Pacific airlines and even some airlines from Europe fly that route,” Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said at a media conference on Friday. “There were no last minute instructions to change the flight path to a different route."

Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight paths on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as reported by
Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight paths on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as reported by
The carriers had good reason to fly over Ukraine, because it’s the shortest route between many European countries and large cities in Southeast Asia. Shorter fly paths means less fuel spent and larger profits from the airlines. Hundreds of flights passed Ukraine daily before the conflict there escalated, and the traffic remained quite intensive before Thursday’s tragedy.
What’s peculiar about MH17 is that the ill-fated flight was different from its usual path over Ukraine. According to data at, a website tracking civil aviation traffic, the flight on Thursday diverted about 200km north from the paths the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 had used in previous days. And it led the plane right over the war-torn Donetsk Region.
So far no official explanation has been given as to the unusual flight path. But a conflict between Russia and Ukraine over the airspace above Crimea may have played a role. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAN), a UN watchdog, considers the airspace over the region part of Ukraine’s national traffic control responsibility. Russia has contested this ever since the former Ukrainian region became part of Russia.
Amid the conflict most carriers avoid flying through Crimean airspace. Malaysian Airlines is no exception, and MH17 flights were usually routed over the Azov Sea northeast of Crimea or over the Black Sea to the south of it. If flying over the Azov Sea was not available for some reason on Thursday, the carrier could have been advised by Ukrainian traffic control to divert the flight further north.

Israel threatens to step up Gaza invasion

Palestinian death toll crosses 274 mark as Israeli tanks and troops move in to target tunnels used by Hamas fighters.

Last updated: 18 Jul 2014 16:24

Israel says it may broaden a ground assault that is says is aimed at destroying Hamas' network of cross-border tunnels, amid a land, sea and air offensive that has killed at least 274 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
For their part, diplomats have stepped up efforts to halt 11 days of bloodshed in and around Gaza while Pope Francis has demanded an immediate ceasefire in a phone call with Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas.
INTERACTIVE: Gaza Under Attack
During talks on Friday in the Egyptian capital Cairo with Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, Abbas reportedly sought French help to lobby Qatar and Turkey to pressure Hamas into accepting a truce.
In the face of Israel's military offensive, Hamas remains defiant, however, and has warned Israel it would "drown in the swamp of Gaza".
As Gaza residents spoke of a night of terror, with fierce gun battles in the south and all-night shelling in the north, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, said the operation could yet be widened, despite growing international calls to avoid harm to civilians.
"My instructions and those of the defence minister to the military ... is to prepare for the possibility of a significant broadening of the ground activity," he said in Tel Aviv.
Immediately afterwards, Netanyahu convened his security cabinet to discuss plans for a possible expansion of the campaign, which began on July 8 with the aim of stamping out cross-border rocket fire.
'Gaza under Gaza'
Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza, said Israeli troops were targeting the tunnels which Palestinian fighters were using.
"Hamas has managed to set up a tunnel - the Gaza under Gaza - which is a new thing that didn't exist in the last conflict," she said.
Early on Friday, Israel approved the call-up of another 18,000 reservists, taking the total number approved to 65,000, the army said.
The ground operation, which began in the Gaza periphery at around 2000 GMT on Thursday, sent thousands of people fleeing west to escape the fighting along the Israeli border, a UN official told AFP news agency.
"People are fleeing from east to west, away from the border," he said indicating that so far, about 30,000 people were taking refuge in 27 UN schools and other institutions.

By mid-morning Friday, the road between Gaza City and Khan Younis was deserted, with only a single minibus, packed with passengers, heading south, its windows covered with makeshift white flags, an AFP correspondent said.
Ebaa Rezeq, a Gaza City resident, told Al Jazeera that while Israeli soldiers remained near the buffer zone, air raids and shelling were continuing to terrify civilians.
During Friday prayers, imams at Gaza's 1,400 mosques relayed a single message to the faithful: "Be patient and strong. Victory will come."
With food supplies running desperately low, the World Food Programme said had already distributed emergency food rations and food vouchers to more than 20,000 displaced people since the conflict erupted on July 8.
But with the ground operation, it was gearing up for a huge increase in the coming days, Elisabeth Byrs, a WFP spokeswoman, said in Geneva, Switzerland.
Gaza was also struggling with a 70 percent power outage after electricity lines from Israel were damaged, officials said.
"We usually receive 120 MW and now it is zero," Fathi Sheikh Khalil, head of Gaza's electricity company, told AFP.
"We asked the Israeli electricity company to repair some lines on their side but they said it's too dangerous. Now 70 percent of the Gaza Strip is without electricity."
Since midnight, 26 people have been killed across Gaza by Israeli fire, including three teenagers and a five-month-old baby, raising to 267 the total number of Palestinians killed in the past 11 days.

An Israeli civilian and a soldier have also been killed.
In one of the air raids, a building housing local media offices in Gaza City was struck by three bombs.
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said the attack was "just a small example of what's been happening here across the territory all night".
Network of tunnels
Israel has said the aim of its ground operation is to destroy Hamas's network of tunnels which are used for cross-border attacks on southern Israel.
On Thursday morning, 13 heavily armed fighters managed to infiltrate southern Israel before being spotted by troops, with one killed in an air strike and the rest fleeing back underground.
Israel pulled out all of its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but within a year it became the de facto seat of Hamas after it won a landslide victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, as Palestinian President Abbas headed to Turkey to further regional ceasefire efforts, Israel said it was pulling out some of its diplomatic staff following violent protests targeting the buildings of its embassy and consulate in Ankara and Istanbul.
Overnight, hundreds attacked the Israeli consulate in Istanbul in a violent show of anger, with police firing tear gas and water cannon at the protesters, an AFP correspondent said.
A similar number of protesters sought to break into the residence of the ambassador in Ankara, but police stood by and did nothing, another correspondent said.

Samaras on private visit to Italy; to meet with Matteo Renzi

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is paying a private visit to Florence, following an invitation of his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi.
Samaras travelled to Italy from Brussels. The Greek premier, who is accompanied by his wife Georgia, is scheduled to have luncheon with Renzi and his wife.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Photo of the Day

Representatives of Himariot Society with Congresmen John Sarbanis with Mayor of Annapolis Mike Pantelides and Chairman of Himarioton Lobby in USA, father Kozmas Karavellas today at Capitol Hill ..

Santorini Voted Best Island in the World


by Nikoleta Kalmouki - Jul 15, 2014
 305  38 Google +0  0  2  367

Greece-List_of_islands_of_Greece-Oia_Greece-Santorini1Travel + Leisure, a New York-based monthly magazine with 4.8 million readers worldwide, voted Santorini in the southern Aegean Sea, Greece, as the World’s Best Island for 2014.

The Greek island gained the first place with a score of 89.98 leaving behind other exotic destinations such as Maui, Hawaii (89.51) and Bali, Indonesia (86.82). In last year’s vote, Santorini ranked 4th. In the Best European Island category the island of Crete ranked 3rd with 84.30 points and Mykonos 5th with 82.55 points.

The volcanic island of Santorini has topped many international and European lists thanks to its beauty. Stunning beaches, picturesque streets with white-washed buildings, luxurious resorts with amazing views to the Aegean and the famous sunset in Imerovigli are a poll of attraction for both Greek and foreign tourists. More than 1.5 million tourists are estimated to visit the island, which has a population of around 15,500 residents.

The world’s top 10 islands are:

1. Santorini, Greece (89.98)

2. Maui, Hawaii (89.51)

3. Kauai, Hawaii (88.59)

4. Hawaii, the Big Island (87.89)

5. Bali, Indonesia (86.82)

6. Oahu, Hawaii (86.71)

7. Galápagos, Ecuador (86.37)

8. Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands (86.22)

9. Vancouver Island, Canada (86.20)

10. San Juan Islands, Washington (85.78)
- See more at:

Russia’s accusations - setting the record straight (July 2014)

Fact sheet

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has led to Russia’s international isolation, including NATO’s suspension of all practical cooperation with Russia. To divert attention away from its actions, Russia has levelled a series of accusations against NATO which are based on misrepresentations of the facts and ignore the sustained effort that NATO has put into building a partnership with Russia. Russia has also made baseless attacks on the legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities and has used force to seize part of Ukraine’s territory. This document sets the record straight.

Russian claims that the Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko was elected on 25 May with a clear majority in a vote which the OSCE characterized (report here) as showing the “clear resolve of the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms. ”The only areas where serious restrictions were reported were those controlled by separatists, who undertook “increasing attempts to derail the process.”
In other words, the President is legitimate, the actions of the separatists were not.
The current Ukrainian government was approved by an overwhelming majority in the Ukrainian parliament (371 votes out of 417 registered) on 27 February 2014, including members of the Party of Regions.
That parliament was elected on 28 October 2012. The Russian Foreign Ministry at the time declared that the elections were held “peacefully, without any excesses and in line with generally-accepted standards” and “confirmed Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” The statement can be read in Russian here. The parliament which Russia called legitimate then can hardly be called illegitimate now.
Finally, Russian officials continue to allege that the Ukrainian parliament and government are dominated by “Nazis” and “fascists.” However, in the presidential elections on May 25, the candidates whom Russia labelled as “fascists” received barely 1% of the votes. Ukraine’s electorate clearly voted for unity and moderation, not separatism or extremism.

Terror fugitive arrested in Athens shootout


Associated Press

Greek police arrested one of the country's most wanted men — a fugitive convicted of terrorism — during a shootout Wednesday in Athens' central tourist district that left four people wounded, authorities said.
Police said the wounded included two foreign tourists, a police officer and the fugitive, Nikos Maziotis. The 43-year-old has been on the run along with his wife Panagiota Roupa since June 2012 following their release from jail in 2011 after serving the maximum 18 months in pre-trial detention.
Maziotis and Roupa were convicted in absentia last year and sentenced to 25 years for participation in Revolutionary Struggle, a group active between 2003 and 2009 and best known for firing a rocket-propelled grenade into the U.S. Embassy and bombing the Athens Stock Exchange. Neither of those attacks caused injuries.
In January, authorities announced a 1 million-euro ($1.3 million) reward for information leading to each of the couple's arrest. Roupa is still at large.
It wasn't immediately clear how Wednesday's shootout began in the crowded Monastiraki district, near the city's main Syntagma Square and historic Plaka district.
Local media reported that police were alerted by a store employee about a suspicious customer who appeared to be carrying a gun. The customer, who turned out to be Maziotis, allegedly opened fire and tried to make a getaway in a taxi, but was stopped a short distance away by police and again opened fire.
Maziotis was undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the shoulder in a central Athens hospital under heavy police guard. Police were searching for suspected accomplices, and for where he might have been staying in Athens.
Photographs from the scene of the shooting showed the suspect lying in a pool of blood on a sidewalk, his hands handcuffed behind his back, before he was taken in a police-escorted ambulance to a nearby hospital.
Police said the others wounded were a police officer and two bystanders, both foreign tourists. Witnesses at the scene told the AP that an Australian tourist was lightly wounded in the leg. The other tourist was a German who was also lightly wounded, authorities said.
"The whole thing lasted about half an hour. We saw a lot of police running through the streets and later we heard the shots," souvenir store employee Makis Tourounias said.
"There wasn't much panic. Store owners and police were telling people to come indoors. But not everyone realized what was going on."
AP writer Derek Gatopoulos and photographer Thanassis Stavrakis in Athens contributed to this report.

Read more here:

Russian, Serbian air forces to hold joint drills

MOSCOW -- Russian and Serbian air forces will hold joint tactical drills in 2015, the press service of Russian Defense Ministry told ITAR-TASS on Wednesday.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
“During Russian Air Force Commander Major General Sergei Kobylash’s visit in Belgrade he met the assistant chief of Serbian Armed Forces’ General Staff and commanders of the Air Force and Air Defense Troops," the news agency reported.
They "discussed development of bilateral military and military-technical co-operation and Serbian Air Force’s tactical aviation exercises in 2015."

A Russian military delegation participated in Serbian tactical exercises Ravanica 2014, the report also noted.

France, Germany support Albania in fighting corruption, organized crime

TIRANA, July 16 (Xinhua) -- France and Germany have guaranteed their support for Albania in fighting corruption and organized crime.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere expressed the stance on Tuesday during a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana, capital of Albania.

According to Albanian Telegraphic Agency, the meeting stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation in fighting organized crime and corruption beyond a country's territory.
Rama briefed the ministers on the reforming and strengthening of Albania's law enforcement agencies, including the establishment of the Albanian National Bureau of Investigation (BKH), a project which was hailed by the two ministers.

Cazeneuve and De Maiziere recognized Albania's efforts in the fight against corruption and organized crime, underlining that cooperation and stronger communication between countries are important for success in this war.

The meeting also focused the success of the Albanian police operation in Lazarat, a village in southern Albania notorious for illegal marijuana production, as evidence of the government's strong will to fight the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics.

Last month, Albanian police destroyed about 3 tons of marijuana and some cannabis sativa plants and seized some weapons and ammunition in one day in an operation focusing on the village.
The operation came as part of the Albanian new Socialist-led government's campaign to wipe out the country's drug economy, in a bid to obtain European Union candidate status.

Russia could reopen Cuban spy base

MOSCOW -- During last week's visit of President Vladimir Putin to Cuba, a preliminarily agreement was reached to reopen a Russian "intelligence base" in that country.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
The facility was operational during the Cold War as the main location for spying on the United States, writes the Moscow-based daily Kommersant.
Citing "several sources from the circles of domestic politicians," Kommersant reported that an agreement "in principle" was reached to reopen the Lourdes station, which has been inactive since 2001, AFP said.

Russia closed the facility at the time on Putin's orders to save money - and in light of "closer relations between Moscow and Washington after the September 11 attacks."

Since then, however, "Moscow has again been showing interest in Latin America and its Cold War ally Cuba, while its relations with the West have worsened the crisis in Ukraine."

Lourdes was established in 1964, and is located just 250 km off the coast of the United States. At one point it employed up to 3,000 people. Radio signals, including those from submarines and ships, as well as satellite communications were intercepted from this base.

On the eve of Putin's visit to Cuba, Russia decided to write off 90 percent of Cuba's debt, which dated back to the Soviet era and reached about USD 32 billion.

During the last several years of its operations, Russians paid Cuba USD 200 million a year to use the Lourdes station.

Former director of Russia's foreign intelligence service Vyacheslav Trubnikov pointed out that the base will "strengthen Russia's international position."

"For the Soviet Union, Lourdes represented its eyes on the entire western hemisphere. For Russia, fighting for its legitimate rights and a place in the international community, it will be worth no less than it was for the USSR," says Trubnikov.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Albania’s Agon Channel to launch on DTT in Italy

Albania’s Agon Channel will launch on DTT in Italy in October or November this year, with a programme schedule mostly consisting of reality, variety and game shows, as well as interactive TV series, news and sports.

Capacity on an Italian DTT multiplex has already been leased and Agon Channel’s target audience will be young adults (aged 18-55 years).

The free-to-air channel was originally launched in Tirana by Italian entrepreneur Francesco Becchetti and its cast includes several well known names to the Italian public, including journalist and former CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci and sports journalist Giancarlo Padovan.

In less than a year after its début, Agon Channel has already made a name in Albania, both by increasing the standards of quality and production, and also by acquiring TV rights and licenses to many foreign formats. The channel currently employs more than 200 people both from Albania and Italy.
Natural Albania: Macedonia is dead, Serbia is next 
Today World July 15, 2014

 Koco Danaj from Tirana, a proponent of the idea of creating a Greater Albanian state and leader of the List for Natural Albania, said that Macedonia is already dead, and Serbia is next. Koço-Danaj According to him, Albania will occupy a large part of Macedonian territory and half of southern Serbia, and protests in Skopje are the expression of the fight of his compatriots who believe that they are treated in this country as second-class citizens. “Albanians rose up against the chauvinism of the Macedonian government.

During protests they clashed with the police, who were armed to the teeth. But protests in Macedonia must continue. Step by step this territory should be cleaned and freed of any religious or national diversity, and the rebellion should be transformed into a comprehensive movement whose aim is to eventually merge with Albania,” Danaj told Serbian Daily “Kurir”. He stressed that Macedonia in 2001 avoided breakup just because it signed Ohrid agreement with Albanians, but it has never accepted the document, and it was “buried, with it Macedonia also died”.

According to him, territory of the “natural Albania” would consist of Albania, whole Kosovo, parts of southern Serbia to the border with city of Nis, western Macedonia, several municipalities in the eastern part of Montenegro, as well as the areas of northern Greece. “Our neighbors, as long as they want to keep peace and stability in the region, must accept ‘natural Albania’,” said Danaj.

Natural Albania: Macedonia is dead, Serbia is next Today World July 15, 2014 0 Get Short URL Twitter6 Facebook24 Google Pinterest Reddit Tumblr Koco Danaj from Tirana, a proponent of the idea of creating a Greater Albanian state and leader of the List for Natural Albania, said that Macedonia is already dead, and Serbia is next. Koço-Danaj According to him, Albania will occupy a large part of Macedonian territory and half of southern Serbia, and protests in Skopje are the expression of the fight of his compatriots who believe that they are treated in this country as second-class citizens. “Albanians rose up against the chauvinism of the Macedonian government. During protests they clashed with the police, who were armed to the teeth. But protests in Macedonia must continue. Step by step this territory should be cleaned and freed of any religious or national diversity, and the rebellion should be transformed into a comprehensive movement whose aim is to eventually merge with Albania,” Danaj told Serbian Daily “Kurir”. He stressed that Macedonia in 2001 avoided breakup just because it signed Ohrid agreement with Albanians, but it has never accepted the document, and it was “buried, with it Macedonia also died”. According to him, territory of the “natural Albania” would consist of Albania, whole Kosovo, parts of southern Serbia to the border with city of Nis, western Macedonia, several municipalities in the eastern part of Montenegro, as well as the areas of northern Greece. “Our neighbors, as long as they want to keep peace and stability in the region, must accept ‘natural Albania’,” said Danaj.

Read More at © InSerbia News

RS leader says U.S. diplomat is "pathological liar"

ŠAMAC -- Milorad Dodik said on Tuesday that the U.S. charge d'affaires in Bosnia-Herzegovina Nicholas Hill is "a pathological liar and proven troublemaker."
(FoNet, file)
(FoNet, file)
As reported by the media Banja Luka, the president of Bosnia's Serb entity, the Serb Republic (RS), added that Hill "significantly contributed to bring about an escalation of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia."
Commenting on the American diplomat's statement about dissatisfaction in the RS over "endemic corruption of this entity's leaders," Dodik told reporters that Hill was "lying through his teeth - everything he said and everything he is saying is a lie."

"His statements regarding the leadership of the RS are primarily related to me. A story planted by the SDS (party) over ten years ago, about my property in Cyprus, is a complete lie. I believe Hill is doing this on purpose to support the SDS, and I also believe he is a pathological liar," Dodik said while visiting the town of Šamac.

Hill made his remarks several days ago to reportedly say that dissatisfaction was "bubbling" in the Serb entity over "endemic corruption of its leaders, deals that make rich their family members, stories about luxury real estate in Belgrade and Cyprus, RS judges who are pressed to ignore bribery and ensure that cases of corruption never see the light of day in court. "

Dodik believes it is "sad that a representative of an embassy, ​​such as the American one, is behaving in this manner in a country," adding that he was "sending back false reports."

"It's his personal position. As for the U.S., I think it is a prisoner of such frustrated and bad people, who are in the field and have for years justified their high salaries here by sending false reports back," the RS leader stated.

Dodik believes that this diplomat should not be in Bosnia - "but such troublemakers walk this country."

"Since Bosnia-Herzegovina is such as it is - good for nothing and silly, incomplete and unsustainable, such troublemakers can walk around, and some in Bosnia applaud these lie, and thus support such meddlers who in essence bring nothing good," he was quoted as saying.

Dodik then said that Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot survive without an agreement, but that "with people like Hill there is no possibility of agreement."

"Wish to God it (Bosnia) disappears as soon as possible," Dodik concluded.

Serbian President meets with Albanian counterpart during summit

DUBROVNIK -- Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić met on Tuesday with his Albanian counterpart Bujar Nishani while attending a regional gathering in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Nikolić is seen in Dubrovnik on Tuesday (Tanjug)
Nikolić is seen in Dubrovnik on Tuesday (Tanjug)
Nikolić congratulated Nishani on Albania's recently acquired status of EU membership candidate.
"Serbia embraces cooperation with all its neighbours," Nikolić stressed, adding that EU membership was a common goal of both Serbia and Albania and would improve their cooperation, the president's office said in a statement.

Nishani expressed regret over the recent floods in Serbia, underscoring that his country would give a contribution within its means at the donor conference in Brussels on Wednesday.

The two officials acknowledged that trade between Serbia and Albania was on the rise and agreed that cooperation should be improved in politics, economy and other areas to facilitate progress of both nations, the statement said.

Nikolić and Nishani were in Croatia on Tuesday to attend the annual meeting of the heads of state of Southeast European countries, whose guest this year was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nuland: Judiciary Albanian reform must continue

Nuland: Judiciary reform must continue
The Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State, Victoria Nuland, declared in an interview for Top Channel that the justice reform must continue and Albania needs to clean the judiciary from corruption and corrupted judges.

Nuland spoke about the investments of the US business in Albania, mentioning the TAP project and the oil researches at sea. She also commented the declaration of Secretary Kerry for the vacancies of ambassadors.

Mrs.Nuland valued the US Ambassador, Arvizu, and declared that his comments were addressed only to the Senate, since appointments were blocked after an internal political disagreement. The interview with Mrs.Nuland was held by the News Director on Top Channel, Bledar Zaganjori.

Top Channel: Mrs. Assistant Secretary, thank you for this opportunity.

Victoria Nuland: It’s a pleasure, Bledar.

Top Channel: You met all the Albanian political actors, and the new government might have told you about their plans for reforms and European integration, and also the opposition’s complaints for a series of matters. Where should reforms focus right now? What’s the advise of the USA, if the lack of consensus blocks the reforms?

Nuland: First of all, it is great returning to Albania. Two years have passed since my last visit. I want to use this opportunity to congratulate the Albanian people for the extraordinary step that you undertook two weeks ago with the EU candidate status. I know that the entire country and all politicians have worked hard to bring Albania to this phase. It is a real confidence vote for your progress, and we are proud to be your partners in all the reforms that have been necessary for this point, and for the reforms that are laying forward. You asked me what we discussed today. One of the things that has been discussed today, was our economic relation. I would like to see more US investments and businesses here. I would like to see more cooperation between us in energy and security. There is a huge potential, and we have plenty of projects to discuss with you, from the TAP pipeline to the reforming of your current system, and the possibilities for researches at sea. Certainly, we spoke about the continuity of the judiciary reform. I was pleased to see that all political actors were unanimous for the fact that this must go on; since this is what the Albanian people expects and deserves; going against corruption, having a clean system and a transparent judiciary, and we will keep being your partners in this path.

Top Channel: Corruption has been one of the biggest difficulties for Albania in the past 23 years. As it has been publicly declared by the European Commission and the US Government for years (also by various international reports), corruption has been a huge problem for us, from the lowest and to the highest governing levels. And so far we don’t have good track records of the law implementation and punishment of officials from all levels. The problem is not only political. It also has to do with a bad functioning of our justice system. We don’t have only corrupted politicians, but also corrupted judges. What should Albania do in this case? How deep should the justice reforms be? Do you think that we need to replace and punish only the corrupted, or we should change the entire system that has not worked so far?

Nuland: Fighting corruption is a challenge for anyone, anywhere in the planet. It is a challenge even in the USA. I don’t need to tell the Albanian people that they need a cleaner and less corrupted system, and that there is still a lot to be done here. From the US point of view, what we advise to all countries and what we try to do in ours, is trying to attack corruption from various angles. It is clear that cases must be built and the corrupted people must be arrested, may them be businessmen or public officials. You need to guarantee transparency in agreements, make sure that no bribes can be taken. There are various ways to attack this problem; from the law enforcing and justice side, but there are also things like e-governance, which makes it more difficult for bribes. There is also the cultural need, the education of the population for showing zero tolerance and report corruption. This can be done through the NGO sector, through education and community support. The advise we give to other countries is to attack corruption from various sides.

Top Channel: In a recent appeal about vacancies in strategic European countries such as Hungary, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Moldavia and Albania, Secretary Kerry declared, I quote: “Without the authority of an Ambassador, we cannot have a full engagement with high officials in countries where common democratic values are in danger”. Is Albania one of these countries?

Nuland: The editorial of Secretary Kerry was addressed to the US Senate, where we have dozens of ambassadors who are waiting for a confirmation from the Senate to start their duty, but things have been delayed due to internal political battles within the Senate. What the Secretary wanted to tell the Senate is that the USA pays a price when we have absences of Ambassadors. It is clear that in Albania we have our excellent ambassador, Mr.Arvizu. It has been like this for a long time. Our ambassadors usually stay for three years. We are lucky that he was ready to stay. I think that the message the secretary wanted to convey, is that in all these countries we work for democratic development. We work in the USA, and we also work here in Albania. The things that we discussed so far, the rule of law, the judiciary reform, are part of that.

Top Channel: Now you are on a Balkan tour. What’s your view on the situation in Macedonia, where ethnic Albanians are complaining about discrimination, and where the Ochrid Agreement has not been implemented for 13 years, after the big crisis in that country?

Nuland: I will be in Macedonia this Monday. As you know, I am on a Balkan tour with a delegation from several agencies. We are visiting five countries in this trip. One of the reasons why I wanted to make sure that we would go to Skopje was because we are concerned about the increasing tensions. We have worked hard as friends of Macedonia, to help building a strong multi-ethnic society, where the rights of both communities are protected. That’s why I am waiting with interest to hear by all parties about how things are going there, and how we can help. We discussed the situation in Macedonia here in Albania and also in Montenegro. All neighboring countries are eager to help.

Top Channel: My last question comes from the friends of the US Embassy in Facebook.

Nuland: We love our Facebook friends of the US Embassy. Thank you, friends.

Top Channel: “How do the US see the future of Albania? This question comes from Arlis”

Nuland: How do we see your future? I hope you know that I am a huge fan of Albania. I have worked twice with you when I was in the NATO. Once as Deputy and then as Ambassador in the NATO, when Albania made the last move to become a NATO member. I am very confident about your country. I think that there is a huge potential here. The people are extraordinary. That’s why I wanted to return, to see what can we do more together, especially in the economic sector.

Top Channel: Thank you for this interview, Mrs. Assistant Secretary.

Nuland: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Vučić and Dodik differ on Erdogan's statement

BELGRADE -- Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić says he "wants to believe" his Turkish counterpart did not make a controversial statement as reported over the weekend.
According to some media outlets in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that anyone who "touches" Bosniaks would have "100 million Turks up against them."
Bosnia is made up of the Serb Republic (RS) and the Muslim (Bosniak)-Croat Federation (FBiH) entities, and leader of the Serb entity Milorad Dodik arrived in Belgrade on Monday for "urgent consultations" with Vučić and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić.

They addressed a news conference together, and unlike Vučić, Dodik said he believed that Erdogan said "precisely" what was reported.

"Dodik has a right to his conclusions, and we to ours. I want to believe Turkish Ambassador in Belgrade Kemal Bozay who told me the statement was not made, but I have no right to negate or dismiss Dodik's concerns," Vučić said.

The prime minister then noted that "not all Turkish embassies in the region provided the same answer" when it came to Erdogan's reported remark, and also that "if he believed the statement was made, Serbia's response would have been much stronger."

Vučić also urged Ankara to bear in mind "the fragile stability" in the region.

But Dodik stressed he was "certain" Erdogan made the statement, noting that "if he is able to ban Twitter, he's able to remove his statement from some media."

"Turkey's intentions are dangerous to us because their policy is turning out to be one of taking sides and protecting only the interests of Bosniaks. I believe that the statement was made, in that manner. Turkey is a powerful country and can manipulate with, 'it was, and was not made'," Dodik was quoted as saying.

He stressed that the RS expected Erdogan's cabinet to issue a denial, "or at least that the (Turkish) foreign minister would do that" rather than the Turkish embassy in Sarajevo, "which twisted facts on previous occasions."

Ivica Dačić also addressed reporters to say that "Serbia does not know for certain" if Erdogan make the statement, and added that he "still expected international factors to react."

Dačić noted that such a statement would be "absolutely contrary to what Turkish officials are saying about wanting to be a constructive factor in the Balkans, and have good relations with Serbia" - something reiterated during his recent visit to Belgrade by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Tony Blair 'slammed' by Sun on Sunday to Rupert Murdoch's obvious delight

  The Sun on Sunday ran a spread yesterday headlined "Why is Blair risking migrant flood by helping Albanians to join the EU?"
But I am asking a rather different question: what prompted the Sun on Sunday to investigate Tony Blair's involvement in Albania?
According to a blog item ahead of the article's publication by Blair's former communications chief, Alastair Campbell, the moving force could well have been the paper's owner, Rupert Murdoch.
Why? Campbell argues that "Murdoch tabloids are not exactly noted for their fair and balanced coverage of Europe, or of the Balkan states, or, since the apparent fall out between TB and Murdoch himself, about TB's earnings".*
Indeed not. But let's indulge in a moment of fantasy by imagining that the Sun on Sunday came up with the idea entirely of its own volition, rather than as part of Murdoch's agenda, by considering the article's content.
The intro stated that Blair had been "slammed for the way he is helping to ease one of Europe's poorest countries into the EU."
Naturally enough, I sought the slammer and/or slammers further down the story. It turned out to be a singular supposed slammer - an obscure Eurosceptic Tory MP, Nigel Mills.
Why supposed? Because Mills, in saying that Albania was an unsuitable candidate for EU membership, did not mention Blair by name or implication. There was, in other words, no slamming of Blair. The intro was false
The real slammer was the paper itself, or - to be more precise - Murdoch.
Now, let me make it clear, I have no political axe to grind here. I lost all respect for Blair ages ago. But let's criticise him for his genuine crimes and not for helping to build a stable democracy in a poor country that has suffered so much.
I also spotted a pejorative reference to Campbell as a spin doctor. Firstly, this overlooks the fact that the greatest beneficiary of Campbell's spinning when he was in Downing Street was none other than The Sun itself.
Secondly, it is a rich to disdain spin in an article that amounted to nothing more than spin by the paper.
Finally, two points: first, see Campbell's blog to enjoy the faux polite email correspondence between him at the Sun on Sunday's reporter, Graeme Culliford.
Campbell accurately predicts the line the article will take as he details his own entirely reasonable relationship with the country's socialist prime minister, Edi Rama.
Second, since I remain on friendly terms with Campbell, let me state that I did not consult him, or even contact him, about writing this item. It's all my own spin.
*This paragraph was amended at 9.45am in order to correct the previous wrong representation of Campbell's quote