Saturday, October 11, 2014

U.S. Congressmen Visit Tirana

On Saturday, Embassy Tirana welcomed a bipartisan Congressional delegation led by Representative Gus Bilirakis of Florida, including Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia and Representative Gregory Meeks of New York.

In their meetings the Congressmen welcomed and praised the warm relationship between the United States and Albania, and expressed thanks for Albania's important efforts as a valued NATO Ally and friend of the United States. Albania has made important contributions to the coalition against ISIL, has strongly supported international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and has helped significantly to bolster peace and stability in the Balkans region. 

During their meetings, the Representatives also explored energy issues and opportunities to expand commercial ties between the United States and Albania, and discussed the situation of Albania's ethnic minorities. The Congressional delegation congratulated Albania on the very successful visit of Pope Francis, and expressed their individual respect and admiration for Albania's history of religious cooperation and tolerance.

The Congressmen visited Tirana as part of a regional trip, and met with Deputy Prime Minister Peleshi, Deputy Energy Minister Bejtja, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Vangjel Dule, and representatives of Albania's interfaith religious communities.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Did members of terrorist group cross Mexican border? Answer remains unclear

Tribune News Service
A fence that helps establish an enforcement zone for the U.S. Border Patrol runs parallel to the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego, Calif.© Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg A fence that helps establish an enforcement zone for the U.S. Border Patrol runs parallel to the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego, Calif. WASHINGTON — A series of statements this week from Obama administration officials have left a murky picture about whether four people caught last month crossing the United States border from Mexico had ties to terrorist groups.
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, raised the issue last month when he said he had heard that individuals with terrorist ties to the Middle East had been caught crossing the border. Other Republican members of Congress have made similar claims since.
Responding to news reports about those remarks, Marsha Catron, the Department of Homeland Security's press secretary, said Wednesday in a prepared statement that the suggestion that individuals with ties to the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, had crossed the border was "categorically false."
"DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border," the statement said.
Then on Thursday, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told an audience in Washington that four people had in fact been apprehended, but that their "supposed link" to terrorism was "a claim by the individuals themselves" that they were members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which Johnson described as "an organization that is actually fighting against ISIL and defended Kurdish territory in Iraq."
But while the four individuals might not have claimed membership in the Islamic State, the admission that they had claimed membership in the Kurdistan Workers' Party raised more questions. The workers' party, more widely known by its Kurdish initials as the PKK, has been on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997.
"Obviously, they're a terrorist organization," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Friday. Harf declined, however, to comment on Johnson's characterization of the group, saying she had not read his remarks.
Asked for a phone contact of someone who could discuss the specifics of the case, DHS spokeswoman Catron referred a reporter back to Johnson's prepared remarks from Thursday. A more detailed second email asking if DHS had determined if the four individuals were members of the PKK received no response.
Chaffetz raised the issue Sept. 17 during a meeting of the House Homeland Security Committee at which Johnson testified that "no specific case comes to mind" of a terrorist crossing into the United State from Mexico.
"My concern," Chaffetz said then, "is that I have a reason to believe that on Sept. 10th, there were actually four individuals trying to cross the Texas border who were apprehended at two different stations, that do have ties to known terrorist organizations in the Middle East."
Johnson clearly had Chaffetz in mind when he spoke Thursday on border security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
"In the absence of facts, the American public is susceptible to claims that we have an open, 'porous' border, through which unaccompanied minors and members of terrorist organizations such as ISIL may pass," Johnson said.
He added, "In September the public heard a claim that four individuals with suspected ties to terrorism in the Middle East had attempted to cross our southern border; far fewer know that, in fact, these four individuals were arrested, their supposed link to terrorism was thoroughly investigated and checked, and in the end amounted to a claim by the individuals themselves that they were members of the Kurdish (sic) Workers' Party — an organization that is actually fighting against ISIL and defended Kurdish territory in Iraq."
The role of the PKK in Iraq is a sensitive one. The PKK has fought a three-decade long war with the Turkish government. In its pursuit of a Kurdish rights and autonomy in southern Turkey, the PKK has been blamed for suicide bombings, kidnappings and the deaths of hundreds. Its founder has been imprisoned since 1999, and agreed in 2013 to a cease-fire.
But PKK-allied fighters played a key role in military operations to rescue members of the Yazidi religious minority who were trapped by an Islamic State offensive in early August — something U.S. and Kurdish officials there had tried to downplay because of the group's designation as a terrorist organization.
White House officials declined Friday to offer any clarification, referring inquiries to the Department of Homeland Security.
(Franco Ordonez, Hannah Allam and Anita Kumar of the Washington Bureau contributed to this report.)

ISIS now controls 40% of Kobani – top US official

Published time: October 10, 2014 
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border October 10, 2014. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobani, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc in the Sanliurfa province near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border October 10, 2014. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Islamic State forces have made new gains in Kobani, now controlling about 40 percent of the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border and might well capture it, Deputy US National Security Adviser Tony Blinken has said.
“I don't know what's going to happen because again in the absence of any ground force there, it is going to be difficult just through air power to prevent ISIL (IS) from potentially taking over the town," Blinken told reporters at a briefing in London on Friday.
This information is also confirmed by the the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"They have taken at least 40 percent (of the town)," the head of the monitoring group, Rami Abdulrahman, said by telephone as reported by Reuters.
Islamic State fighters were now in almost complete control of the "security quarter," which is home to the administrative buildings used by the local government, he said.

The IS militants have seized control over some of the eastern areas of the town and smaller areas in the south of Kobani, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.They have seized the Kurd headquarters also, a monitoring group said.
"They are trying to advance on the crossing from the east ... but the YPG [fighters] are resisting them," Ocalan Iso, the deputy head of the Kurdish forces defending Kobani, told Reuters.

Kurdish protesters set fire to a barricade set up to block the street as they clash with riot police in Diyarbakir October 7, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)
Kurdish protesters set fire to a barricade set up to block the street as they clash with riot police in Diyarbakir October 7, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)
Fighting is also going on between IS and Kurds near a building used by Kurdish internal security forces, according to Kurdish military official. He denied any major advance by IS, though.
Ocalan Iso, deputy head of the Kurdish forces, said Islamic State was still conducting air strikes in the town center with mortars.
"There are fierce clashes and they are bombing the center of Kobani from afar," he told Reuters by telephone.
Thousands of people "will most likely be massacred" if Kobani falls to Islamic State fighters, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Friday.
The UN envoy compared possible Kobani population fate with one of Bosnian town of Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were killed by Serbs in 1995, while UN peacekeepers failed to protect them.

A total of 200,000 people have allegedly fled the region over the last three weeks, horrified by IS’s rapid advance. The radical Islamist forces used heavy artillery to attack residential areas.
On Friday, fighting between IS and Kurdish forces in Kobani could be heard across the border.
The US-led coalition has also intensified airstrikes over the last two days around Kobani in response to the IS offensive.
Kurdish officials have been urging Ankara to allow weapons and fighters to flow into Kobani through Turkey. However, Turkish officials aren’t keen to help the town's Kurdish defenders, as they have strong connections with the PKK, considered a terrorist group in Turkey, the US and Europe.

A Turkish soldier sits on top of a tank, with the Syrian town of Kobani in the background, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc close to the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border October 10, 2014. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)
A Turkish soldier sits on top of a tank, with the Syrian town of Kobani in the background, as seen from the southeastern town of Suruc close to the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border October 10, 2014. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)
Turkish officials refuse to intervene unilaterally, as they are concerned they would become involved in Syria’s bloody war.
In Turkey, the situation in Kobani triggered violent clashes between rival groups in over a third of the country’s provinces, with 31 killed, according to Interior Minister Efkan Ala, Reuters reported.
Over a thousand people have also been detained.
Earlier this week, 25 people were killed after pro-Kobani rallies turned into bloodshed, local media reported.
The anger over Kobani revealed the decades-long conflict between supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkey, which is strongly against the PKK. Violent conflict between the two sides ended about a decade ago.
PKK has been waging a war against the Turkish government for 30 years, demanding more autonomy.

U.S. Congress Members Visit Greece

Greek Prime Minister Samaras with Congressman Gus Bilirakis (State Department Photo)

During the meeting with Greek Defence Minister Avramopoulos

Greek Prime Minister Samaras with Congressman Gus Bilirakis (State Department Photo)
The U.S. Embassy in Greece welcomed two delegations of members of the U.S. Congress this week, led by Congressman Gus Bilirakis and Congressman Paul Cook respectively.

The congressional delegation visits are part of a series of high-level exchanges between the United States and Greece that strengthen the bilateral relationship with a key ally in an important region.  The visits support Greece’s efforts to emerge from its economic crisis stronger and playing a stabilizing role in the region.

As part of this opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the United States and Greece, the congressional delegations discussed energy exploration, defense cooperation, regional security, economic recovery, tourism, and trade opportunities with a range of Greek officials, including Prime Minister Samaras.

One delegation comprised Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), while the other delegation comprised Congressman Paul Cook (R - CA) and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA).







 False Apocalypse: From Stalinism to Capitalism Paperback 

by Fatos Lubonja (Author), Andrew Gumbel (Author), John Hodgson (Translator)

This unique and disturbing work concerns the events of 1997, a tragic year in the history of post-communist Albania. After the world's most isolated country emerged from Stalinist dictatorship and opened to capitalism, many people fell prey to fraudsters who invited them to invest in so-called 'pyramid schemes'. At the start of 1997, these pyramids crumbled one after another causing wide-spread demonstrations and protests. 

The conflict became increasingly violent, leading to the collapse of the state and of the country's institutions. Prisons were opened, crowds stormed arms depots, and the country was abandoned to anarchy and gang rule. Lubonja has chosen to tell this incredible story through a narrative technique that operates on two levels: a third-person narrator, who describes the large-scale events that made international headlines, and the narrative of Fatos Qorri, the author's alter ego, who describes his own dramatic experiences in a personal diary. 

 The book begins with the synopsis of a novel entitled "The Sugar Boat" that Fatos Qorri intends to write about the spread of a small pyramid scheme luring people to invest supposedly in a sugar business. However, as the major pyramids collapse, real events overtake anything he has imagined and Fatos Qorri finds himself in the midst of a real-life tragedy.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Greek fighter F-16 sonic boom shock Albanian citizens

Two strong blasts have shocked Durres Region. Citizens have perceived the as explosions, and the authorities have immediately started searching the land and sea.
Several citizens from Durresi have reported seeing three airplanes that were flying very fast. The sonic boom happens when an object flies faster than the sound barrier, and it is similar to an explosion.

These citizen reports have engaged police forces for verifications. Durresi district police declared that it was a result of an emergency situation created in our air space.

The Minister of Defense gave an official version about this.

“A commercial Boeing that was traveling from an European capital towards the African continent lost its contacts with the central towers. Based on the international agreements with Albania, the NATO neighbors used their Greek Fighter F16-s to escort the airplane in question for 10 minutes. These airplanes have created a sonic boom that was perceived by citizens as an explosion. 

We guarantee that this is a procedure that was followed with high responsibility from the Albanian and NATO authorities”, the Ministry says. 


Italian Eurofighter Typhoons and Greek aircraft F-16 to Protect Albanian Air Space

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Italian Eurofighter Typhoons and Greek aircraft F-16 to Protect Albanian Air Space

As the Eurofighter press office blog reports, the Eurofighter Typhoon is yet again proving its worth in action as the aircraft has recently been chosen by NATO to protect an area of international air space. In a recent news story it has been announced that the Italian Air Force has been assigned to protect the air space of Albania, the Atlantic Alliance's newest member.

The 'air policing' mission which begins on Friday will also see support coordination from Greece's air force F-16 of air military base of Larissa. A statement from the Italian air force explained that "air policing consists of employing interceptor jets, in peace time, to patrol and protect the integrity of a specific air space".
Italy has been engaged in air policing Slovenia's air space for NATO since 2007.The mission over Albania will see Italy employ its Eurofighter Typhoon jets from the 36th Wing operating from the Gioia del Colle air base. While from Greek air base of Larissa F-16 will cooperate over Albanian air space under NATO command.

Last month Tirana had authorized Turkey air forces to control Albanian Air space, with out NATO comande autorisation. According to the Albanian newspaper "Gazeta Shqiptare" this is the first incident between Tirana and NATO after Albania joint to NATO alliance in April, 2009.

Anyway according to military information from NATO quarter, Italy and Greece will be authorized also from NATO to control the Albanian national waters in total 300 miles coast. A possible raising of clandestine imigration from Albanian coast borders, is previsted to confront new NATO operations including Greek and Italian frigates and other naval cooperation inside Albanian waters.

U.S. Embassy Notice (October 9, 2014)

On Saturday, October 11, a delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives will visit Albania as part of a visit to the region.  The delegation will include Representative Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, and Representative Gregory Meeks of New York.

During their one-day visit, the Representatives will be meeting with Albanian government officials, politicians, and representatives of Albania’s religious communities.  The delegation will discuss issues of interest to their constituents in the United States; will reaffirm the strong U.S-Albanian friendship; and will seek ways to enhance our bilateral relationship in the future.

Please visit the U.S. Embassy Facebook page for more information on the visit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Albanian Immigrants Leave Greece

Immigrants Massively Leaving Greece
by Nikoleta Kalmouki - Oct 8, 2014

Immigrants Massively Leaving GreeceA large number of Albanian immigrants in Greece are returning to their country because of the financial crisis, unemployment and reduced wages.

According to figures released on Tuesday by Albania’s Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), in the period 2009-2013 about 133,544 immigrants, mainly from Greece and Italy, returned to Albania. INSTAT reports that 70.8% of migrants came from Greece and 23% from Italy.

INSTAT figures also show that the average age of migrants returning home is 38.6 years. The number of Albanian immigrants returning to their country increased after the beginning of the financial crisis in 2011.

The Greek Statistical Service (ELSTAT) shows that the number of Albanian nationals who left the country in the period 2011-2012 amounted to 133,787. Moreover, the number of bank deposits from non EU citizens, mainly depositors from Albania, has decreased by 30 billion euros during the past 4 years, with deposits down by 3.5 billion in the period June 2013-June 2014 alone.

Data by Social Security Fund (IKA) show that the number of Albanian nationals insured in 2009 reached 121,902, while at the end of 2013 the number decreased to 85,893. The greatest drop was observed in the construction sector, where just one-third of those insured in 2009 are still registered, since construction is the sector most affected.
- See more at:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Albania "not considering Greater Albania option"

BELGRADE -- Albania "supports Kosovo's independence, but is not considering the option of a so-called Greater Albania," says Remzi Lani.
"No political party in Albania stand for anything of the kind. It's something you hear about more outside of Albania," the executive director of the Albanian Media Institute told the Belgrade-based daily Danas when asked about the Balkan country's "official position" on the idea of ​​forming a "Greater Albania."
The paper ran the article ahead of the official visit to Belgrade this month of the Albanian prime minister.

Lani, who was recently in Belgrade for the Belgrade Security Forum, believes that the visit of Edi Rama, the first by an Albanian prime minister in seven decades, will be "very important for relations between the two countries."

Rama's trip to Belgrade as been announced for October 22.


Sydney Morning Herald

 The Australians who go to war for the Israeli and Greek armies

Solidarity: The Machal program allows Jewish foreigners to join the army without becoming citizens. Solidarity: The Machal program allows Jewish foreigners to join the army without becoming citizens. Photo: Andrew Burton
When Adam Greene*, a Melbourne accountant, volunteered for 15 months of military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) he was well aware he could be putting his life on the line.
But when his first day of duty coincided with the outbreak of war with Lebanon the realities of his decision hit home hard. "It was a baptism of fire," Greene, 32, told Fairfax Media of his experience that began on July 12, 2006, the first day of the 34-day conflict in Lebanon, Northern Israel and the Golan Heights.
"Even though we weren't on the front line we were caught up in the raw emotion of a full fledged military campaign."
The then 24-year-old commerce-law student, who signed up for the 15-month voluntary Machal program, which allows Jewish foreigners to join the army without becoming citizens, spent his first three weeks of service in Israel's north unpacking mortars and missiles and disposing of used munitions in the "Middle Eastern heat".
"Physically it was very difficult and emotionally equally as difficult having to cope with the rigors of war albeit at a back stage level."
There are about 2500 foreign citizens from more than 60 countries enlisted in the IDF, of which it is believed 100 are Australian. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not keep figures on how many Australians are fighting in foreign armies, however the subject has received attention recently as the government looks to toughen laws preventing Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq from returning home.
Proposed counter terrorism legislation would make it easier to identify, charge and prosecute people who have engaged in terrorist activities overseas and would also make it an offence to travel without a valid reason to an area designated by intelligence agencies.
It is believed 60 Australians are currently fighting with Islamic State (IS), which is classified in Australia as a terrorist organisation.
Last month, during talks with Islamic leaders in Sydney, in response to a perceived double-standard that continues to allow Australians to fight for armies of states such as the IDF, Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the distinction between Australians fighting for designated terrorist groups like IS and dual nationals serving in overseas armies of nation-state.
For Greene, who lives in Caulfield, army service was not a tacit agreement with Israeli geopolitics.
"The army by its definition is an apolitical organisation. I felt my time in the army was not serving any sort of political agenda," he says. "I felt I was serving the IDF and in doing so I was protecting Israel's citizens and its borders."
Greene says he chose army service over the university student rite of passage - a backpacking trip - as a vehicle for personal growth.
The son and grandson of Polish immigrants who migrated to Australia just outbreak the outbreak of World War II, Greene says the spectre of the Holocaust weighed heavily on his decision to volunteer for the IDF.
His service was also a way of expressing his solidarity with the young Israeli men and women who face conscription.
"I don't judge those who don't enlist, but I didn't think it was fair that just because [my family] had a bit more money to get to Australia and not to go to Israel that all my contemporaries who were in Israel had to enlist in the army," he says. "I wanted to acknowledge that in a meaningful and significant way."
While Greene, whose father was a private in the Australian army in the 1950s, concedes he could have experienced the same personal growth in the Australian Army, he says it was the IDF that "needed" him more.
"At the time and unfortunately always Israel finds itself at a clear and present danger, facing existential threats. Fortunately Australia doesn't".
The war with Lebanon ended after five weeks, but danger loomed large for the duration of Greene's service. He faced a potential terrorist threat when a car crashed into the fence of a religious school he was guarding in Jerusalem's West Bank, and he spent five months on a military base on the border of Lebanon and Syria protecting Israel's northern borders.
"It takes one RPG [rocket propelled grenade] and you are gone. Your life is on the line every second that you are on the fence," he says.
Australians have a history of taking up arms abroad. In the 1930s, Spanish Australians fought on both sides of the Spanish Civil War and, in the 1990s, Australians fought for Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Slovenia and Macedonia in the Yugoslav wars. Jewish Australians have fought in all of Israel's wars from 1948 onwards.
When Greek-Australian Stephen Adgemis' growing marketing business precipitated a move to Athens in 1992 he knew that army service was part of the deal to get Greek citizenship.
But it wasn't until 2002, following ten years of red tape, that his Greek identity was established with authorities and he was sent for six months of army training in Crete.
"I wasn't motivated to go in … having a business and having to take six months off was hard," he says.
Greece has mandatory conscription for all men aged between 19 and 45.
Adgemis, now 52, was 40 when he undertook his training, which involved boot camp, weapons training and learning army protocols.
"Being older I think I saw it from a different perspective. It was an interesting experience. I can't say it was the best experience of my life, but it does discipline people and that is important."
Never coming close to combat was a relief for Adgemis although he did feel "nervous" about his safety due to the strained relationship between Greece and Turkey.
If Greece is at war Adgemis could still be called upon to assist. While he admits this is "disconcerting" he feels confident, in light of his age, he'd be tucked away safely behind a desk.

Read more:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Albania: One step forward, two steps back

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. One year after the new government led by Prime Minister Edi Rama was elected in Albania, IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the current political situation in that country. The most relevant and interesting sections from the comprehensive analysis entitled “Albania: One step forward, two steps back” are published below.

One step forward, two steps back

 In mid-September 2014 Albania marked the first anniversary since the new government led by Prime Minister Edi Rama (PS) was formed. The election held on 23 June 2013 was won by the large coalition known as “Alliance for a European Albania” led by the Socialist Party (PS) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) of former Prime Minister Ilir Meta. LSI is a renegade political party formed by Ilir Meta who left the Socialist Party which was the coalition partner of the previous government led by Sali Berisha (PD), which has devastated Albania.

 Edi Rama and his Socialist Party represent Albania of the next generation. During its first year in office Edi Rama's government has launched several reform processes, declared war against the urban mafia, and for the first time sent the police force to the village of Lazarat which was known for growing marijuana. In less than a week the police managed to conquer this “drug castle” that represented a true anti-state symbol. Subsequently, Albania was granted the candidate status for EU membership.

 Although the analysts have pointed to some mistakes made during the past year, Edi Rama's government has shown that it is possible to work better and in the interest of all citizens of Albania.

 With dynamite against urban mafia
 Before taking over the office, Prime Minister Edi Rama organised a conference in end-August 2013 entitled “Next Generation Albania” where he invited renowned architects from all over the world to help create a vision of Albania's urban development. The campaign launched against illegal construction throughout Albanian territory and notably along the coast has already brought some results. The government has literally attacked the urban mafia with dynamite. Blowing up houses, palaces and grandiose hotels built without building permits is perhaps not the right solution for a country hoping to become an EU member state, but in a society where violation of law represents a way of life this seems to be the only possible way to bring an end to abuses of public areas.

Today, one year after the campaign, no one dares even think about building illegal constructions and usurping a public area before submitting the necessary documents to the competent institutions and obtaining the building permits.  The dynamite has obviously achieved its purpose..............

- See more at:

NATO promises to protect Turkey against ISIS threat

Published time: October 06, 2014 16:30
Patriot missile batteries are pictured at their positions near the city of Kahramanmaras, Turkey (Reuters / Rainer Jensen)
Patriot missile batteries are pictured at their positions near the city of Kahramanmaras, Turkey (Reuters / Rainer Jensen)
NATO will not abandon Turkey if it is attacked by Islamic State fighters which are closing in on the member state's border from Syria, the alliance's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said.
“Turkey should know that NATO will be there if there is any spillover, any attacks on Turkey as a consequence of the violence we see in Syria,” Stoltenberg said, as quoted by Reuters.

On Monday, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants raised their black flag on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), which is situated near the Turkish border.

The secretary-general stressed that NATO's main task is to “protect all allied countries,” including Turkey, which joined the alliance in 1952.

“Turkey is a NATO ally and our main responsibility is to protect the integrity, the borders of Turkey and that is the reason why we have deployed Patriot missiles in Turkey to enhance, to strengthen the airfence of Turkey," Stoltenberg said during a visit to Poland.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (Reuters)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (Reuters)
Six Patriot missile batteries were delivered to Turkey in early 2013 after Ankara asked for NATO's help to bolster security along its 900-kilometer border with war-torn Syria.

Last week, Turkey's parliament authorized the presence of foreign forces on the country’s territory. The mandate came after Washington put pressure on Ankara to allow troops to use Incirlik air base in the southern Adana region.

MPs also gave the Turkish military the go-ahead to engage in military action against Islamic State insurgents in Syria and Iraq.

Previously, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the “Turkish military alone” would be able to protect the country’s borders from ISIS jihadists.

Turkey possesses the strongest army in the region, with over 400,000 active personnel, more than 3,500 tanks, and nearly 1,000 aircrafts, according to Global Firepower website.

In April, Business Insider included the country’s army in its list of the “11 most powerful militaries in the world.” It ranked eighth, ahead of South Korea, Japan, and Israel.

“Turkish military spending is expected to rise 9.4 percent in 2014 over the 2013 budget. The ongoing conflict in Syria and possible clashes with the Kurdish separatist organization, the PKK, were key reasons for the spending increase. Turkey's defense budget stands at $18.2 billion,” Business Insider said.

“The NATO member has contributed soldiers to various initiatives around the world. The Turkish military took part in operations in Afghanistan, as well as in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. Turkey also maintains a large military force in Northern Cyprus,” the publication added.

The violent Islamic Sate jihadist group continues to gain territory, despite airstrikes performed against it in Syria and Iraq by the US-led coalition.
Albanian Football Federation demands tickets for all fans in Serbia
Albanian Football Federation demands tickets for all fans in Serbia
The Albanian Football Federation reacted against the conditions set by the Serbian Football Federation for the match of October 14th.

“The Albanian Football Federation considers the conditions to play without fans in Belgrade as unacceptable. We cannot put all fans on a list and take their personal data. Secondly, there is no reason to do this. Thirdly, the Albanian Football Federation doesn’t have the time and the structure to make such registrations”, the Albanian Football Federation says.

“These conditions have never been required. The Albanian National Team is accompanied by fans anywhere in Europe. Even outside the continent, in Argentine and the USA. Due to the situation of our nation, since many of them live in Greece, Germany, England and the USA, we cannot deprive them of the right to follow our matches”, the declaration continues.

The Albanian Football Federation has reacted tickets for the Albanian fans, without conditions.

“We will distribute the tickets of your federation to our fans, so that they can watch the match in Belgrade, on October 14th”, the declaration concludes.

The reaction of the Albanian Federation comes after the Serbian Federation decided to accept in Belgrade only the citizens of Albania.

Albania’s Growth Slumps in Second Quarter of 2014


Albania's GDP fell by 0.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, the National Institute of Statistics said, frustrating government expectations of higher growth.
Gjergj Erebara
The National Institute of Statistics, INSTAT, said on Monday that the slump in the economy during the period was due to the poor performance of the construction and industrial sectors, although other parts of the economy fared better.
The construction sector posted a 2.8 per cent contraction due to smaller government investments for public works compared to the previous year, when Albania held general elections and public expenditures on major infrastructural projects were high.
Industrial production also contracted by 1.3 per cent as result of lower electricity production from major hydropower plants.
Electricity production fell by almost 30 per cent as a result of natural fluctuations in river flows. As result of lower electricity production this year, the government had to subsidise imports of electricity.
The rest of economy fared better, with manufacturing growing by six per cent while the trade and hospitality sector grew by seven per cent.
The government and the International Monetary Fund earlier this year forecasted GDP growth of 2.1 per cent for 2014, but the latest data suggests that overall growth for this year might be much lower than expected.
Lower economic growth has not caused major problems for government finances, which have performed well this year, but the government has faced difficulties in reaching an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for the next year's fiscal plan.
Under a three year agreement between Albania and the IMF, Tirana has to cut its overall public debt by an equivalent of three per cent of GDP per year starting from 2016. However, according to experts, the debt reduction could only be achieved if economic growth returns to three or more per cent per year.

Greek Navy under modernization of Submarines

Three new submarines to be ready by 2015

Construction of three Type 214 submarines, which has been stymied by technical snags, legal disputes and corruption probes, will be completed in the next couple of years, the Hellenic Navy has said.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, Chief of the Hellenic Navy General Staff Evangelos Apostolakis said that the three submarines – named Pipinos, Matrozos and Katsonis – will join the fleet by the end of 2015. A fourth vessel, a Type 209 submarine, the Okeanos, is also expected to be ready by that time following upgrade work, he said.

The Pipinos, which is 80 percent ready, will begin at-sea tests and evaluations in September while the Matrozos will be launched for trials two months later, Apostolakis said. Testing for the Katsonis will have to wait for 2015 before it is commissioned into service, he said.

The Papanikolis is currently Greece’s only Type 214 submarine in service. The boat, built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) in Kiel, Germany, joined the Greek fleet in 2010 after a four-and-a-half year delay caused by stability problems.

Greece’s submarine program, involving the procurement of four new craft and the overhaul of two older ones at an originally estimated cost of 3.5 billion euros, has suffered additional setbacks.

Former Socialist Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos was last year jailed after being found guilty of having received millions of euros in kickbacks for defense contracts during his tenure, including submarine orders placed in 2000 and 2002.

The program has been dogged by legal squabbles after the sale of Greece’s majority stake in Hellenic Shipyards from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) to Persian Gulf group Abu Dhabi MAR.

The Greek state has filed a lawsuit against HDW, TKMS and Abu Dhabi MAR for failure to fulfill the submarine contracts.

First Greek built sub launched 

The second of a total of four Type-214 submarine S-121 "Pipinos" was launched at Hellenic Shipyard in Skaramanga, Attica. This is the first of the class built in Greece, and is to be followed by a further two of the class.

The sub will undergo sea and port trials before joining the fleet. These are expected to take 8-10 months.
The submarine's launch and naming ceremony took place in the presence of the government leadership including PM Antonis Samaras and deputy government president Evangelos Venizelos, and many political personages.
The launching marks an end to the multi-year saga of scandalous contentions between the designer HDW-Thyssen and the Greek government, that left shipyard workers idle and the hulls of the nearly completed hulls rusting.
Papanikolis (S120), the first-of-class U-214, was laid down in Kiel, Germany in February 2001 and launched in April 2004. In January 2005, HDW’s ThyssenKrupp Marine (TKMS) parent company bought Hellenic Shipyards near Athens, Greece, and invested in modernizing it. Submarine work had already been underway since 2002, and Hellenic Shipyards built the next 3 Greek U-214 submarines: S121 Pipinos, S122 Matrozos, and S123 Katsonis.
Once the Papanikolis’ sea trials began in 2006, however, the Hellenic Navy found a host of issues with the new submarine. Poor performance from the AIP system that supplements its diesel engines for long underwater operations, problems with the ISUS combat system, poor surface seakeeping in high seas, and hydraulic system issues were among the major flaws reported. The Navy refused acceptance, leaving HDW to fix the boat.
HDW set to work on Papanikolis, but the submarine was docked in Kiel since 2006 waiting for Greek acceptance. In 2010, a provisional agreement was reached. Greece would accept the U214s, and would shift Project Neptune II from 3 upgraded Poseidon Class boats to 1 upgrade plus 2 new U214 submarines, giving Greece a total of 6 U214s on order.
HDW doesn’t seem to be part of that deal, and as of January 2014, S121 Pipinos, S122 Matrozos, and S123 Katsonis are all reportedly still in sea trials, instead of acting as operational boats. Actually, they’re That is somewhat odd, given that the last of these boats was launched back in 2008, but Hellenic Shipyards itself is in dire straits.

Al Jazeera – Balkans: Borisov wins elections in Bulgaria

6 October 2014 | 12:02 | FOCUS News Agency
Al Jazeera – Balkans: Borisov wins elections in BulgariaPicture: Focus Information Agency
Sarajevo. Rightist Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) of former prime minister Boyko Borisov won the early parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, Al Jazееra – Balkans reported.
The television comments that the CEDB gets 34% of the votes, followed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) – with 16.1% and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) – with 14.1%.
“The first thing we should do is form a stable government. Of course, this depends on the leaders of the rest of the parties, too. Otherwise, Bulgaria will enter into a severer political crisis. We will do our best and we will hope to succeed. We will hold consultations,” Borisov remarked speaking for Al Jazееra – Balkans.

ISIS militants come to Europe disguised as refugees, US intel sources claim

Published time: October 06, 2014 08:28
Syrian Kurds pull down a part of the Turkish-Syrian border fence, near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province September 26, 2014 (Reuters / Murad Sezer)
Islamic State militants are planning to insert operatives into Western Europe disguised as refugees, claim US intelligence sources, who unencrypted locked communications of the caliphate’s leadership.
The militant organization is afraid of using aircraft due to strict security rules, so they use land as an alternative, the US sources told Bild Am Sonntag, a German national Sunday newspaper.
Disguised as refugees from Syria, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) operatives will cross the border to Turkey. Then, using fake passports, they will travel further to European countries to conduct attacks.
“In view of the chaotic conditions on the Syria-Turkey border, it is nearly impossible to catch ISIS-terrorists in the wave of refugees,” wrote Bild Am Sonntag.
Because hundreds of refugees cross the Syrian-Turkish border every day, the jihadists have a good chance of remaining unnoticed in the crowds.
Turkey is also used by jihadists who want to join the IS in Syria, as they don’t need a visa to get there. They go on ‘vacations’ as tourists and upon arrival have almost no trouble finding a way to cross the border.
According to one of Iraq’s foremost security experts with unique access to intelligence, at least 100,000 jihadists were fighting in the ranks of the IS in August.
There are some 15,000 foreign fighters from the IS in Syria alone, including 2,000 Westerners, a US intelligence official told AFP in September.

Germany continues to be one of the main goals of IS

An official from the German Interior Ministry told the paper that the country is in the “focus of jihadist terrorism,” but there is no indication at this time of any concrete attacks.
German security says that about 450 extremist German Muslims traveled in the direction of Syria.
But it is still nearly impossible to track their country’s radicals when they are heading from Germany to Syria, as they don’t need a visa to travel to Turkey, a German official told the Jerusalem Post.
About 150 Islamic fighters have returned from Syria to Germany.

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag (Reuters / Stringer)
A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag (Reuters / Stringer)
Last week it was revealed that German authorities encouraged some jihadists to leave the country. Ludwig Schierghofer, the chief officer in charge of counterterrorism at Bavaria's LKA investigative police department, told public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk that such measure is aimed at "protecting our [German] population."
The issue was "to get people out of the country" if there was evidence that "the danger existed that they might commit attacks."
"If somebody had become radicalized and wanted to leave the country, then we tried to either let him depart, or even sought to accelerate their departure using legal means," Schierghofer said.
The measure was introduced in Bavaria, southeastern Germany, in 2009, but then abandoned in 2014 after the authorities understood that they were actually helping IS militants.

IS continues Middle East advance despite US strikes

US-led airstrikes on the Islamic State are failing to stop the advance of the jihadists.
The militants are reportedly approaching the outskirts of the city of Kobani, a town in the Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria near the Turkish border.
The situation in the town prompted some 186,000 Kurds to flee the area across the border into Turkey, and groups of Kurdish volunteers wishing to cross into Syria to defend the town against the IS on Saturday clashed with tear gas-firing Turkish security forces refusing to let them pass.
Around 100,000 people remain in Kobani amid the violence.
Enemy tactics: Kurdish female suicide bomber ‘attacks ISIS jihadists’ in Kobani
“Those who stay in the area are living in very poor conditions, there is drastic shortage of food,” Muhammad, a Kobani resident, told RT.
According to Osman, a Turkey-Syria border resident, Turkish security forces prevent them from helping the Kurds, but the residents of Kobani will continue to assist them where they can.
“We are eyewitnesses of the event. It seems that the whole world has abandoned Kobani,” he told RT. “If the Kurdish forces don’t get the supplies they need there will be a mass slaughter among the Kurdish population.”
He added that so far the local residents “haven’t seen any results of US strikes against the Islamic State.”