Friday, December 19, 2014

First-round failure

Stavros Dimas's chances look poor, while those of the anti-austerity left look good

Greek foreign minister Evangelos Venizelos at first-round presidential vote
FOR an election in which so much is at stake, the atmosphere in the first-round voting in Greece’s presidential election on December 17th was almost humdrum. As predicted, Stavros Dimas, the only candidate for the head of state’s largely ceremonial job, failed to gain the needed two-thirds majority, winning just 160 of Greece’s 300 parliamentary deputies. Mr Dimas's allies, including Evangelos Venizelos, the foreign minister (pictured), are growing worried. Should Mr Dimas’s backers fail to win over enough deputies by the third and final vote on December 29th, Greece must hold a snap general election. If current polls are to be believed, that could bring to power a radical left-wing government which would reopen the cursed issue of Greece’s public debt that first precipitated the euro crisis.
Mr Dimas could yet sneak through; all of the governing coalition’s 155 deputies supported him. But he attracted a disappointing five votes from the 24 unaffiliated lawmakers who could tip the balance in his favour. Political matchmakers from the centre-right New Democracy party of Antonis Samaras, the prime minister, and its coalition partner, Mr Venizelos's Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), must somehow put together 180 votes for Mr Dimas to be approved in the final round. In the corridors of  parliament on Wednesday evening, even some centre-right deputies warned that they would fail, and that new elections were coming.
The presidential vote was initially scheduled for February, but Mr Samaras brought it forward, saying the hard-left Syriza party’s calls for an early election were damaging the country’s fragile recovery. Syriza’s promises of a moratorium on debt payments and an expansive fiscal policy have met with a chilly response in Brussels and Berlin, but they appeal to austerity-weary Greeks. Since coming first in last May’s European parliament elections, Syriza has kept a steady lead in opinion polls. Alexis Tsipras, the party’s firebrand leader, accuses Mr Samaras and the European Commission of using scare tactics against his party. After Wednesday’s vote, a smiling Mr Tsipras declared that “you can’t blackmail democracy”.  
Backroom wheeling and dealing is rife. To scrape together a win for Mr Dimas, the government needs not just the independents (nine have vowed not to back Mr Samaras) but defections from two small parties, the moderate Democratic Left and the right-wing Independent Greeks. Recent polls suggest both parties would fail to win 3% of the vote at a general election, the threshold for entering parliament. Fotis Kouvelis, the Democratic Left leader, has sent ambiguous signals as to whether he will forgive any of his 10 deputies who decide to back Mr Dimas. But several Democratic Left deputies are reportedly negotiating behind the scenes for a place on Syriza’s electoral list.
Panos Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, insists his 12 MPs will vote against Mr Dimas in the final round. If the government falls, the consequences for Greece and for Europe could be dramatic. But some observers think this grave issue may be decided not by national interest or even party discipline, but by the self-interest of MPs in both splinter groups. If the government serves out the remaining 17 months of its term, lawmakers will be entitled to a significantly larger pension.

"Serbia should become Albania's ally"

BELGRADE -- Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama sayst Serbia "should become an ally of Albania, in order for the people in the Balkans to find peace."
"We have had a very difficult past, a years-long break in communication and a very dramatic period because of the regime in Belgrade and the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, but we are absolutely certain that a completely new period is in our hands and that an immense number of opportunities lie before our countries," Rama told the N1 television, Beta reported.
He reiterated his view that "the reality is that Kosovo is independent, because it has been recognized by more than half of the UN member countries," and that " it would be better for Serbia to accept this fact as soon as possible."

Rama was in Belgrade last month for an official visit fraught with tension, and again this week for the China-CEEC summit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Albanian PM fires deputy environment minister for allegedly not paying her electricity bills



  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: December 17, 2014TIRANA, Albania — Albania's deputy environment minister has been sacked for allegedly not paying her electricity bills — just as the government is striving to persuade Albanians to settle old power debts.
In a statement on his Twitter social network account Wednesday, Prime Minister Edi Rama said there can be no justification for non-payment, a major headache for the country's dysfunctional state-run power sector.
The dismissed deputy minister, Diana Bejko, had no immediate comment. Her removal followed local media reports that she owed money for power consumption in a holiday home.
The two state companies responsible for electricity generation and distribution lost $550 million (433 million euros) this year, largely due to unpaid bills. Some 600,000 consumers have had their power cut off over the past year due to debts.
Greece fails to elect president in first-round ballot: AFP count
Greece fails to elect president in first-round ballot: AFP count
Athens (AFP) - Greece's high-stakes presidential election -- and concerns about the future of its fiscal reforms -- went into a second round Wednesday after parliament failed to pick a head of state in a first ballot.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed to muster the required 200 out of 300 MPs to elect its nominee, former EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, meaning a second vote will be held on December 23.
"The required majority has not been met, hence the vote will be repeated after five full days, on December 23," said parliament speaker Evangelos Meimarakis.
The official count showed a total of 160 deputies voted for Dimas, just five more than the government majority of 155 MPs.
"We have two more votes," the premier said in reaction to the result.
"The country is facing difficult conditions and I am certain that MPs realise that the country should not face an adventure," Samaras said.
Should a third and final round be required on December 29, Dimas will need just 180 votes for the post -- but a third failure will bring early elections.
"Clearly this result means early elections," said Panos Kammenos, leader of the small nationalist Independent Greeks party.
The government brought forward the election from February, when it will be locked in delicate negotiations with the cash-starved country's creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
But the gamble to stave off uncertainty during those talks may well backfire, given the government's slender 155-seat majority in the chamber -- and the rise of the opposition radical leftist party Syriza, which wants to end a four-year austerity drive and re-negotiate Greece's bailout.
Analysts on Wednesday said the government was hoping to win over half a dozen opposition deputies tonight, and a few more next week, before the deciding vote on December 29.
But a number of deputies it had counted on voted the opposite way, or did not attend the session.
Conservative premier Samaras said just hours before lawmakers were due to vote that rejecting his presidential nominee could prove "fatal to the European development of the country".
Any snap elections would happen at a time when Syriza is leading opinion polls, and could therefore roll back years of painful reforms forced through by the government in exchange for bailouts worth 240 billion euros ($300 billion).
Samaras's gamble has sent shockwaves through the markets, with stocks in Athens last week losing more than a fifth of their value over four trading days.
They edged up on Wednesday and closed with a 3.33-percent gain.
The vote will be closely followed across Europe, where the fate of Greece, and its place in the eurozone, is not secure.
ING bank analysts said "today we have the beginnings of what could be a Greek tragedy," while IG analyst Stan Shamu said "the first round of voting in Greece... always has the potential to cause some volatility".
Bank of Greece chief Yannis Stournaras warned Monday that "the crisis of the last few days is now taking on a serious dimension".
A change in government could lead to market volatility that could pose a "great danger of irreparable damage to the Greek economy", Stournaras said.
Thibault Mercier, an analyst at BNP Paribas, said however that Greece's budgetary situation was better now than at the height of the Greek debt crisis in 2012.
The economy is forecast to grow at 2.9 percent next year, after six years of recession that left about a fifth of the population unemployed.
Its public deficit is now forecast to reach just 0.2 percent of output in 2015, down sharply from 15 percent just five years ago.
European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, on a visit to Athens on the eve of the vote, also argued the situation had improved since 2012.
"Greece's place is in Europe. That place is not threatened like it was in the past," he said.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NATO is not Russia’s enemy – Lavrov to French media

Published time: December 16, 2014 17:02
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (AFP Photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (AFP Photo)
The NATO military alliance is not Moscow’s enemy, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov told French media that suggested the opposite. Lavrov also expressed disappointment over the fact that Russia had overestimated EU’s independence from the US.
Speaking to France 24 in Moscow, Lavrov stated that the military doctrine of the country never mentioned that NATO is Russia’s enemy, even though the French media suggested that there is such an impression in the Western world.
“What [Russia’s military doctrine] says is that the security risks for Russia, among other things, are NATO expansion to the East and the movement of military infrastructure of NATO closer to the Russian borders – not NATO itself, but its militarized movement to the East is considered by the Russian military doctrine as a security risk and threat for Russia,” he said.
Lavrov said that, due to Russia’s stance in the Ukrainian crisis, NATO had cut off all ties with Russia, “severed all practical cooperative mechanisms, including on Afghanistan, including on counter-terrorism, some other specific things.”
However he added that the military alliance “quietly” asked Russia to continue working outside of “the context of NATO-Russia projects” on, for instance, training pilots for the Afghan Air Force.
“In other words, the substance, they want to continue, but for public consumption, they want to say that they are so firm with Russia that they severed all the ties. Childish, but what to do? Sometimes big boys play games.”
The Russian FM also said that Moscow had overestimated the independence of the EU from the US.
He recalled the public statement made by US Vice President Joe Biden that America’s leadership had to embarrass Europe to impose economic hits on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine – even though the EU was opposed to such a motion.
“I don’t believe [the sanctions] help Europe. As Joe Biden publicly said, it was the United States that ordered Europe to join sanctions against Russia, and frankly, it’s really a pity that we for some previous years overestimated the independence of the European Union and even big European countries,” Lavrov said.
READ MORE: Biden says US 'embarrassed' EU into sanctioning Russia over Ukraine
He reiterated that sanctions were a “sign of irritation” and not an instrument of serious policies. Lavrov elaborated that the last portion of sanctions was voted in the EU right after the Minsk agreement, which included a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, was signed on September 5.
“So the next morning after the huge achievement was reached, which was praised by everyone, the gentleman, what was his name, Van Rompuy, declared that there was a new round of sanctions being introduced on Russia. If this is the European choice, if this is what Europe has as a reaction to something positive, then I once again can only say that we hugely overestimated European independence in foreign policy,” Lavrov said.
The Russian FM also spoke on the Ukrainian crisis and the Syrian conflict, France’s sale of Mistral warships to Russia and Palestine’s independence. Read Lavrov’s full interview with the French media on RT here.

Greek radical left Syriza prepares for power under Tsipras

Leader of Syriza party Alexis Tsipras (file pic) Alexis Tsipras has warned the markets they will have to "dance to the tune" of a Syriza government

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A large portrait of Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg hangs in the Thessaloniki office of Nikos Samanidis, a founder member of Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left, better known as Syriza.
With many Greeks exhausted by five years of recession, tax hikes and record unemployment rates, Syriza and its firebrand leader Alexis Tsipras are tipped to win the early elections that must be called, according to the Greek constitution, if parliament fails to elect a new head of state by 29 December.
"After decades on the defensive, the left is staging a comeback. Not just in Greece, but in Europe and Latin America as well," said Mr Samanidis, a top official of Syriza in the country's second city.
Alluring as it may prove to Greek voters, the prospect of a leftist party coming to power in Europe's most indebted country is rattling the markets and European capitals.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has warned parliamentarians that if they fail to elect a new president, Greece could risk a disastrous exit from the eurozone.
Greek Syriza supporters in May 2014 Syriza won the European elections in Greece in May and are still leading in the opinion polls
The Athens Stock Exchange posted its biggest drop on record on 9 December, while borrowing costs for Greece have skyrocketed amid the political uncertainty.
A number of senior European officials have urged voters to support the ruling coalition of conservatives and social democrats. "I wouldn't like extreme forces to come to power. I would prefer if known faces show up," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently told journalists, commenting on the chances of a general election in Greece.
'Still radical' While Rosa Luxemburg may adorn its offices, Syriza is not the revolutionary force that her Spartacists represented in Germany a century ago.
As the party draws closer to real power, it has softened many of its sharp edges and tried to build bridges, even with City hedge funds. Syriza is vowing to keep Greece within the eurozone and has reassured creditors it will refrain from unilateral decisions on the debt issue.
Nikos Samanidis A portrait of Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg in Nikos Samanidis' office indicates Syriza's political leanings
Far from being destructive, Syriza's political proposals offer a reasonable way out of austerity and a chance to replace existing bailout laws with new ones, argues political economist Yanis Varoufakis.
"The first priority is renegotiating with creditors. Syriza needs to speak the language of truth about the continuing triple bankruptcy of the country - public debt, banks, private sector - something no Greek government has done so far. Then they need to table positions that the average German will find reasonable."

Start Quote

The top 10%, yes, they obviously do have reason to worry”
Nikos Samanidis Syriza founder member
But Syriza and its 40-year-old leader are still seen by many in the Greek and European establishment as unknown and potentially dangerous quantities.
Mr Tsipras has warned markets that they "will have to dance to the tune" of his government, while Syriza promises to boost public spending, reverse privatisations, increase salaries and pensions and repeal bailout laws liberalising the markets.
Nikos Samanidis emphasises that the prospect of power has not blunted the radical nature of the party, despite its meteoric rise from relative obscurity to frontrunner in little over two years.
"The rich, the elites, the markets, the super-rich, the top 10%, yes, they obviously do have reason to worry," he says.
"They will lose their privileges. Our voter base has expanded greatly, but the grassroots, radical nature of Syriza has been preserved thanks to the crisis. Our party has not and will not sever its ties with the streets, with the social movements it arose from."
Syriza was formed in 2004 as a coalition of groups and parties ranging from Maoists to greens. Before 2012 its electoral appeal had been of little consequence for Greece's political system, never exceeding 5% of the vote. It only became a unitary party in 2013.
But in 2012, in the apogee of the Greek crisis, Syriza took the political establishment by storm, polling close to 27% in the June general elections and eclipsing the social democrats to become the second-largest party in the country. In the European Parliament elections in May 2014, Syriza emerged victorious, polling close to 27% of the vote.
No fear
Alexis Tsipras at Athens protest in November 2014 Colleagues see him as an ordinary, decent man while critics see him as arrogant
Mr Tsipras, the youngest political leader in Greece's history, was instrumental in transforming Syriza from an also-ran to a potential ruling party. Known for his rhetorical skills, his dislike of neckties and his good looks, Mr Tsipras rose to the leadership of Syriza in 2008 and was elected to parliament in 2009.
"The economic crisis and the collapse of traditional parties certainly helped Syriza grow its influence, but it was Alexis Tsipras who catapulted the party," says Christoforos Vernardakis, Professor of Political Science at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and founder of the public opinion survey company VPRC.
"This happened because Tsipras is young and knows no fear. He took a defensive left and turned it into a credible choice for government."
Despite his undoubted charisma, several Syriza members and officials who know Mr Tsipras personally describe him as "an everyday, decent person".
"With Alexis we go a long way back. We used to hang out and I can tell you he is a normal, decent guy. Even as a leader, he likes collective processes and decisions," said Mr Samanidis.
Critics, on the other hand, see Mr Tsipras as arrogant, inexperienced and power hungry - a maverick politician willing to sacrifice Greece to rise to power.
Long-time friend Nikos Karanikas rejects this description of Syriza's "comrade-president".
"Although it was clear from the start he was a leader, it took some encouragement from us for him to come forward and take the lead - he had no lust for power," said Mr Karanikas, a member of the political bureau of Syriza's largest constituent group, Synaspismos.
Jean-Claude Juncker EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he would prefer Greece to maintain its political status quo
Tsipras, he argues, still lives in the middle class Athens neighbourhood of Kypseli, and cut his professional teeth while working as a civil engineer. He was one of the "700-euro generation" of youth who struggled to advance beyond the average Greek salary.
'Operation of terror' Eager as they are for a historic victory for the left, Syriza officials are also prepared for a long struggle. "My generation has a chance now with Syriza to stop the disaster. We have no fear of governing," said Mr. Karanikas.
The party's first battle starts on Wednesday, in the first ballot of the parliamentary election for president.
Some analysts predict that renewed fears for Greece's future in the eurozone will convince enough MPs to vote for the government's presidential candidate; or, in the event of a general election, convince enough Greeks to turn the tide in favour of the ruling coalition.
Alexis Tsipras has denounced this tactic as an "operation of terror" by Prime Minister Samaras and European officials.
Some Greeks seem to believe the danger is real, with weekend polls showing that Syriza's lead has narrowed slightly.
But others, like Panagiotis Makridis, a waiter at a Greek coffee shop, are enraged by what they say is blatant scaremongering from the government, Brussels and European capitals.
"So Jean-Claude Juncker is telling me who to vote for? I didn't plan on voting Syriza, but now I just might."

News analysis: Albania PM hails "new epoch of cooperation" with China


Placard Enlarge
By Benet Koleka, Liu Lihang
TIRANA, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Albania has signed a memorandum with China to build the road of the Arber (old name of Albanians) on Monday's night, ushering in a new epoch of cooperation between the two countries that are re-connecting their old ties.
The construction of the road of the Arber, signed between Albania's Finance and Transport Ministers and China's Exim Bank, would become "the first project that will open the curtain on a new epoch of cooperation between Albania and China," Albanian prime minister Edi Rama wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
The projects to be financed by Chinese Exim Bank are the first over more than three decades and signal both China's involvement in its former friend and Albania's need for foreign financing while its debt-ridden economy struggles to grow.
Speaking from Belgrade where he is attending the third meeting of leaders of China and Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs), Rama posted pictures of his ministers after signing memorandum of understanding "to open a site of projects in Albania with Chinese financing".
The deals with China received a thumbs-up in the Albanian press, with commentator Arben Rrozhani calling China "The Lion Albania needs".
He regretted that Albanian governments, focused on joining the European Union, had neglected without an "historical and economic logic the invaluable help the country would have received along these two decades from the unstoppable Chinese investments."
"Albania shut the door to the investment powerhouse as tens of other countries opened theirs to the third biggest investor in the world. Now our neighbours are rushing to draw Chinese investments," added Rrozhani, the editor of the Shekulli daily, owned by a lawmaker of Rama's Socialists.
Valbona Zeneli, an Albanian scholar at the George C. Marshall European Centre of Security Studies, said China was building assets and buying far-sighted shares in a region strongly connected to Western Europe.
Alqi Kociko, an Albanian journalist who has visited China, said it was time Albania considered the Chinese chances of investments seriously, to make sure it did not lose it like aid from Western Germany in the late 1980s.
Rama, the prime minister, received overwhelming approval in his Facebook page from commentators. "Well done, China is very powerful," commentator Ana Maria wrote on his page. Enditem.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Oposition in Albania, is preparing for large protests, after the Constitutional Court of Albania, decided for the New Territorial Division

The Hellenic Navy with four new modern submarines

Greece in a few months will have the most powerful submarine fleet after the states that have nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles. The Pentagon tries constantly "feverishly" to strengthen the defense of the country, without burdening the state budget due to the crisis the country is experiencing. A recent example is the integration of antiaircraft gun ZU-23 and BMP-1 armored vehicle as independent units was not something powerful; but their union created a very powerful weapon. The information they want, will soon announce utilization with some weapons systems that no one will expect.  
The Hellenic Navy, will have in a few months the most powerful fleet of submarines compatible with highly trained staff. Besides the 209 submarines that can not be considered under any circumstances outdated, the Hellenic Navy will have four submarines 214 and a retrofitted submarine type 209 to 214. All of these submarines are equipped with devices that promise the complete destruction of the enemy target. At the same time they have the mechanisms to support missions of Underwater Demolition Teams. Generally submarines type 214 are force multipliers of our deterrent force, until recently "rotted" in HSY.
[linked image]

Greece still several steps from chaos

By Hugo Dixon
December 15, 2014
By Hugo Dixon
Hugo Dixon is Editor-at-Large, Reuters News. The opinions expressed are his own.
Greece is still several steps from chaos. Athens has entered a period of political instability, which could lead to an election won by Syriza. This radical left group’s policies might prompt Greece’s exit from the euro if fully implemented. But for this to happen, a series of unfortunate circumstances have to occur.

First, parliament must fail to elect a new president. That could happen. A president needs the support of 60 percent of members of parliament (MPs) and the government can only count on just over 50 percent to support its candidate.
However, there is a slim chance that Antonis Samaras can persuade enough MPs to switch sides to cross the threshold. There is also a small chance that the conservative prime minister himself will be replaced by a technocrat as the price for cobbling together the majority needed to elect a president.
In either case, Athens could resume negotiations with the so-called troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – about future financial support. Greece would have to agree to tighten its 2015 budget a bit, continue with structural reforms and accept monitoring of its economic actions. It would be easier to accept these conditions after a successful presidential election.

In return, Athens would receive a final dollop of cash from its current bailout programme and a precautionary credit line from the euro zone’s bailout fund. It might also get longer to repay the money it has borrowed from the euro zone. With all this in place, Greece could tap the bond markets to fund itself.
However, the government will probably not be able to secure the election of a president. Although the post is largely ceremonial, the constitution says there would then have to be a general election.
If Samaras won that poll, which would be held around the end of January, he could then continue negotiations with the troika. He would seek to scare voters into backing him by painting a lurid picture of what a Syriza government would do.

But it is unlikely Samaras will succeed. Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza boss, has a solid lead in the polls. He has the best chance of emerging with the largest party.
If Syriza could implement its programme, Greece’s prospects would be bleak. Among its populist proposals are plans to write-off a chunk of the government’s debt and expand public spending. Both ideas would provoke a confrontation with the troika that would put Athens on a fast-track to bankruptcy.

While the euro zone might be prepared, as part of a negotiation, to vary the terms of Greece’s borrowings, it would not accept a write-off, or looser terms on Athens’ budget. Tsipras would not be able to blackmail the euro zone as a Greek bankruptcy would not trigger domino defaults elsewhere.
Without a deal with the troika, Athens would not be able to access the bond market. A run on the banks is then possible, followed by capital controls. If Tsipras still didn’t change tack, Grexit would loom.
The good news, though, is that the chances this particular scenario will unfold are slim. One reason is that Syriza might well buckle when it sees the troika remains inflexible.
Another reason is that, even if Syriza was the largest party after a general election, it would not have an overall majority. To form a government, it would need support from one or both of two centre-left parties: To Potami or Pasok. Both are pro-European, and wouldn’t agree to sign up to a programme that involved charging over the precipice.

Indeed, Syriza might struggle to form a government at all, as the compromises it would need to make to win over these other parties would be hard to sell to its radical wing.
In such a scenario, a second election would have to be called. The conservatives might then make a comeback – especially if they ditched the unpopular Samaras and replaced him with somebody like Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a younger, more centrist leader, who would then form a coalition with To Potami.

Such a scenario might actually be the best outcome. Samaras is preferable to Tsipras but he has been an erratic leader. His most recent error was to promise that Athens would exit its bailout programme – a move that frightened the markets and so made it impossible to secure a clean exit. This was a home goal, just as Greece was finally turning the corner after its terrible recession.
Another Samaras mistake was to close down the state-owned broadcaster last year without telling one of his coalition partners. That lost him a chunk of MPs and, with them, probably the chance to secure the election of the new president.
The Ancient Greeks believed in Tyche, the goddess of luck. Sometimes she brought good luck; sometimes bad luck.

Tyche is stalking her homeland again. Political risk has shot up. The various scenarios and sub-scenarios have multiplied. One of these – a Syriza government implementing its populist policies – would, indeed, spell disaster. But it is not the most likely outcome. And other scenarios are more benign.
Edi Rama: Serbia is no longer an enemy of Albania 

Dec 15, 2014

TIRANA – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said at a meeting with ambassadors in Tirana that Albania will “unreservedly” support Serbia during its chairmanship of the OSCE in 2015 and stressed that Serbia is no longer an enemy of Albania. 

“In 2015 Serbia will become the first country in the region to take over the presidency of the OSCE. Albania will unreservedly support Serbia in this very important task for our region,” said Rama in a speech to accredited ambassadors. He said that Albania hopes it will see the progress of its neighbors and that the progress will be observed through the apparent increase of the standard of freedom and rights of Albanians Presevo Valley. 

“This new era in the Balkans has finally brought peace among Albanians wherever they live, which makes it necessary for our country to not only keep up with European challenges in the region, but to continue the path of peace and dialogue with Serbia,” said Albanian Prime Minister. “Serbia is no longer our enemy, but a neighbor who became a true partner in order to build European future of the Balkans,” he added. “No one can, better than us Albanians, understand the problem of Serbia to accept the large, irreversible turning point in its traditional relations with the Albanians. But, on the other hand, no one can, better than us, understand that it would be inexcusable for us not to go further from that history, by rejecting and leaving behind any nationalist challenge and staying open and decisive, but also patient in this relationship which is hard but has strategic importance for our national interest,” said Albanian Prime Minister. 

Rama said that a stunning example – of believing in possibilities and potential of “this amazing collaboration” – comes from European history of relations between Germany and France. He acknowledged that “it is easier to think about it, but a little harder to pronounce it”, but that he believes that the two countries can succeed “because they are not alone in it” especially emphasizing the support of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He recalled that recently new Kosovo government was formed. 

‘The experience of this year gives me an opportunity to convince (Prime Minister Isa) Mustafa and (Deputy Prime Minister Hashim) Thachi that for us Albanians, who, because of the inability to agree on the leader, were often slowed down in large or small steps in history,” said Rama. “This year would not have been this encouraging without the summit in Berlin who opened the road of the new definition of coexistence among the countries of the region, but also between the region and EU,” said Rama, referring to the conference of the countries of the region in the German capital in August. “One sees, hears and better understands every day that this new era of the Balkans, to which Chancellor Angela Merkel dedicated a new initiative so that the region would be closer to itself and the Union in short time, does not come in good time for Europe,” said Rama. Rama said that the Union still needs the Balkans, as much as the Balkans needs the EU. “If the enlargement fatigue prevails in the EU, there will be no surprise if the patience fatigue prevails in the Western Balkans,” concluded Albanian Prime Minister.

Read More at © InSerbia News

Greek Opposition Syriza Party’s Lead Narrows

Polls Come Days Before Parliamentary Vote

ATHENS—Greek leftist party Syriza’s lead over the ruling conservatives has narrowed slightly, weekend polls showed, days before the government faces the first in a series of contentious parliamentary votes to elect a head of state.
The votes—the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday, the last tentatively for Dec. 29—will determine whether Greece will be forced to hold snap general elections next month. The move to hold the votes sooner than originally planned has reawakened fears of political turmoil in the country at the center of the eurozone debt crisis. Under Greece’s constitution, Parliament must elect a new president every five years. But if none is picked after three rounds of votes, the chamber is dissolved and national elections called.
Those fears came into sharp focus this past week as investors dumped Greek stocks and bonds amid the political uncertainty. Over the past four trading sessions, the Athens stock exchange has lost more than €10 billion ($12.46 billion) in value, and yields on benchmark 10-year Greek government bonds hovered close to 9% at the end of the week, erasing gains made in the past two years. Bond prices fall as yields rise.
According to the three polls published during the weekend, Syriza continues to hold a lead over the center-right New Democracy party, garnering between 24.2% and 27.6% of the vote—a position that Syriza has held since European Parliament elections in May.
But each of the polls, in the Proto Thema, To Vima and Parapolitika newspapers, show that the opposition party’s lead has shrunk, with Syriza now ahead by between 2.8 and 3.6 percentage points. That compares with a roughly four-percentage-point lead a month ago.
The polls also show that a majority of Greeks, between 54% and 57.8%, don’t want snap elections, up from a roughly even split a few weeks earlier.
John Dimakis at STR, a political communications consultancy in Athens, said the government faces an uphill struggle convincing lawmakers to back its candidate for president. But as the prospect of national elections looms, the latest polls show a growing unease among the public about the possibility of renewed political turmoil.
“It is very likely that we are heading towards general elections. But there is one factor weighing on the electorate that cannot be easily dismissed and that factor is fear,” said Mr. Dimakis. “And although Syriza has indeed held a consistent lead in the polls, that lead now appears to be shrinking.”
Greece’s coalition government, made up of New Democracy and its junior partner Pasok, currently controls 155 seats in Parliament—enough for a simple majority in the 300-member legislature. But that isn’t enough to elect a head of state, who must be supported by a supermajority of at least 180 lawmakers in the third and final round.
Estimates indicate the government can count on only about 175 of the 180 votes it would ultimately need to get its candidate elected. The government has expressed confidence it would get them, betting that undecided legislators have as much to lose from a new election and a potential Syriza win. The shift in the latest opinion polls, government officials say, shows that public sentiment is beginning to turn in their favor. Their hope: that public opinion will sway undecided lawmakers to back their candidate and that if the country is forced to snap elections, the conservatives could still win those elections.
“I think there is a high probability that we will be able to elect a president, and am much more confident now that we will be re-elected if we don’t,” a senior New Democracy lawmaker said.
Write to Alkman Granitsas at

Sunday, December 14, 2014



Situation in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea with the area equal to Belgium or Macedonia, financing and armament of terrorist groups in the East of Ukraine revealed a wide net of Russian agents in the European Union and unmasked Russian lobby opposed to United Europe.

Resulting from the election of May 25, 20% of the European Parliament members are representatives of parties supporting dissolution of the EU. Their core is made of right-wing politicians.

Despite the absence of direct contacts between the abovementioned members of Parliament and government of the Russian Federation, there are reliable facts and evidences proving their collaboration with the Kremlin.

For example, the winner in the election in France with 25% of votes is the National Front led by Marine Le Pen, who sees the Russian President Vladimir Putin as her ally, as a man who tries to protect traditional social values and Christian heritage. In June 2003, at the invitation of the Chairman of the State Duma (Lower House of the Federal Assembly of Russia) Marine Le Pen visited Moscow where she met Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin. In the spring of 2014, Le Pen supported the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Now, being elected to the European Parliament, she is going to make strategic alliance with Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, Hungarian Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary) and far-right National Democratic Party of Germany.

At the same time, in Britain the winner of the election to the European Parliament was UK Independence Party (UKIP) advocating withdrawal of Britain from the European Union. The party led by Nigel Farage received 29% of votes, which more than doubles the previous result obtained five years ago. Nigel Farage himself repeatedly expressed commitment to Vladimir Putin.

Moreover, among the parties supporting actions of the Russian President are Jobbik (Hungary), Golden Dawn (Greece) and Attack (Bulgaria). On April 01, 2014, a deputy of Bulgarian Parliament, member of Attack Party, stated that dismissal of the government of this country would be recommended in case sanctions against Russia in connection with the crisis in Ukraine were supported. Previously such opinion was announced by leader of the said party Volen Syderov. According to WikiLeaks, Bulgarian far-right Attack Party maintains very close relations with the Russian embassy.

In May of 2014, deputy Bela Kovacs, member of Jobbik Party was accused of spying for Russia. The member of the Russia-EU Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, being at the same time member of similar parliamentary cooperation committees of the EU with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, committees for cooperation with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia was accused of frequent contacts with Russian diplomats and monthly visits to Russia. The Alliance of European National Movements having Kovacs as one of their principal founders was also suspected of secret relations with Russia. Meanwhile the Greek Golden Dawn Party that has never concealed its links to Russian far-right forces is considered to be financed through Russian intelligence.

Those were representatives of neo-Nazi and far-right European organizations to observe the illegal referendum in Crimea which allowed Moscow to annex the Ukrainian territory. And these are members of Russian neo-Nazi organizations who right now fight on the side of pro-Russian terrorist groups in the East of Ukraine. Considering all the aforesaid, connection between the Kremlin and neo-Nazi groups in Europe is evident. The aim of Russia is to bring far-right forces to power in Europe, create pro-Russian leadership in the European Parliament and, finally, break down the European Union beginning with former USSR and the Warsaw Pact states split-off and proceeding with their engagement into the newly-founded Eurasian Economic Union. By the way, the leader of Jobbik Party already promotes withdrawal of Hungary from the EU and joining the Eurasian Economic Union.

Thus, Moscow seeks to obtain the leverage of influence over the EU policy and its decision-makers in order to control European energy market. Gaining on the consequences of the economic crisis, Russia will also increase its support to left political organizations, paying special attention to former Soviet countries and states of Southern Europe, where left-wing movements are popular due to the economic crisis.
Ex Defense Minister of Greece General Frangos Frangoulis visits Southern Albania

On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the December 12, 1990 of the murder of four Martyrs of the Greek Community, in Albanian  Greek borders, in Dropulli Region has been visited surprisingly by the retired honorary Chief of Army Staff and former Minister for Defence Mr. Frangos Frangoulis

The General Frangos Frangulis is very known by supporting the Northern Epirotes for their rights, during his military activity and as Defense Minister of Greece.




  • Updated : 14.12.2014
Turkish FM urges Greece to grant Muslim minority rights
KOMOTINI, Greece — Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has urged Greece to "grant the Turkish-Muslim minority in Western Thrace their rights."

The minister's comments came Friday during a meeting with the Turkish community living in the city of Komotini.

"This is Turkey's biggest request from Greece," Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the Turkish-Muslim community in Western Thrace constituted in fact "a bridge of peace between the two countries, just like the Greek community in Turkey".

Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey respected the rights of the Greek Orthodox community in the country, but that this practice was unfortunately not reciprocated by Greece.

"Greece is doing just the opposite, both with the legislation it approves and in its practices. This is not fair," he said.

Çavuşoğlu said that the two governments could differ on various policies, but the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights were non-negotiable, and had to be respected.

"However, Greece has not abided by the Court's decisions in years. When someone says 'I am Turkish,' you just can't tell them 'No, you are not.' This is against international law," he said.

Greek authorities prohibit the use of the word "Turkish," and minority groups have been closed down for making use of the term.
The minister called on Greece to be open to dialogue in order to resolve the contentious issues between the two countries, including the problem of Cyprus.

"All Turkey wants from Greece is to have a sincere dialogue to discuss all issues with a view to resolving them to the best of each other's interests. Do we want a solution or not? Do we want to live together or not?"

The Council of Europe warned Greece in June to comply with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in cases concerning the Turkish minority living in Western Thrace.

This was the second time the council's Committee of Ministers warned Greece, after a warning in December last year.

The committee, which controls the execution of the court's rulings, said that Greece failed to implement a 2007 ruling in a case filed by a Turkish national living in Western Thrace over violation of right to free association.

The case was filed by Hasan Bekir Usta in 1996, after a Greek court shut down a youth association he helped to found in 1995.

The non-profit association was intended to teach Turkish traditions to the minority's youth, to develop Turkish-Greek relations and to contribute to the development of human rights and democracy.

However, a Greek court ruled to close it, saying Western Thrace only recognized Muslim minorities, not Turkish ones, and that the association's aims were a threat to a democratic society.

The European Court of Human Rights said Greece violated "freedom of assembly and association" enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe said in a 2011 report that Greek authorities had closed down three minority associations since 1984, and prevented the establishment of new ones within the Turkish community.

Based in northern Greece, close to the Turkish border, the community of Western Thrace Turks is estimated to have between 60,000 and 150,000 members. They are a remnant of the Ottoman Empire, but are not recognized as ethnic Turks by the Greek government, which classifies them as Greek Muslims.

Crisis revisited

The euro is still vulnerable, and Greece is not the only problem

IT WAS almost exactly five years ago that the euro crisis erupted, starting in Greece. Investors who had complacently let all euro-zone countries borrow at uniformly low levels abruptly woke up to the riskiness of an incompetent government borrowing money in a currency which it could not depreciate. There is thus a dismal symmetry in seeing the euro crisis flare up again in the place where it began.
The proximate cause of the latest outbreak of nerves was the decision by the Greek government, now headed by the generally competent Antonis Samaras, to advance the presidential election to later this month. The presidency is largely ceremonial, but if Mr Samaras cannot win enough votes in parliament for his candidate, Stavros Dimas, a general election will follow. Polls suggest the winner would be Syriza, a populist party led by Alexis Tsipras. Although Mr Tsipras professes that he does not want to leave the euro, he is making promises to voters on public spending and taxes that may make it hard for Greece to stay. Hence the markets’ sudden pessimism.
As it happens, there is a good chance that Mr Dimas, a former EU commissioner, will win the presidential vote at the end of this month (see article). But the latest Aegean tragicomedy is a timely reminder both of how unreformed the euro zone still is and of the dangers lurking in its politics.
It is true that, ever since the pledge by the European Central Bank’s president, Mario Draghi in July 2012 to “do whatever it takes” to save the euro, fears that the single currency might break up have dissipated. Much has been done to repair the euro’s architecture, ranging from the establishment of a bail-out fund to the start of a banking union. And economic growth across the euro zone is slowly returning, however anaemically, even to Greece and other bailed-out countries.
But is that good enough? Even if the immediate threat of break-up has receded, the longer-term threat to the single currency has, if anything, increased. The euro zone seems to be trapped in a cycle of slow growth, high unemployment and dangerously low inflation. Mr Draghi would like to respond to this with full-blown quantitative easing, but he is running into fierce opposition from German and other like-minded ECB council members (see article). Fiscal expansion is similarly blocked by Germany’s unyielding insistence on strict budgetary discipline. And forcing structural reforms through the two sickliest core euro countries, Italy and France, remains an agonisingly slow business.
Japan is reckoned to have had two “lost decades”; but in the past 20 years it grew by almost 0.9% a year. The euro zone, whose economy has not grown since the crisis, is showing no sign of dragging itself out of its slump. And Japan’s political set-up is far more manageable than Europe’s. It is a single political entity with a cohesive society; the euro zone consists of 18 separate countries, each with a different political landscape. It is hard to imagine it living through a decade even more dismal than Japan’s without some political upheaval.
Greece is hardly alone in having angry voters. Portugal and Spain both have elections next year, in which parties that are fiercely against excessive austerity are likely to do well. In Italy three of the four biggest parties, Forza Italia, the Northern League and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement, are turning against euro membership. France’s anti-European National Front continues to climb in the opinion polls. Even Germany has a rising populist party that is against the euro.
It’s the politics, stupid
Indeed, the political risks to the euro may be greater now than they were at the height of the euro crisis in 2011-12. What was striking then was that large majorities of ordinary voters preferred to stick with the single currency despite the austerity imposed by the conditions of their bail-outs, because they feared that any alternative would be even more painful. Now that the economies of Europe seem a little more stable, the risks of walking away from the single currency may also seem smaller.
Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that the most dangerous moment for a bad government was when it began to reform. Unless it can find some way to boost growth soon, the euro zone could yet bear out his dictum.


Cheney says CIA interrogators were heroes

Ex-US vice-president insists CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques worked and says "I'll do it again".

Last updated: 14 Dec 2014 16:55
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Former US vice president Dick Cheney has described the Senate report as "terrible" and "full of crap" [AP]
Former US vice president Dick Cheney has defended America's now-banned programme that tortured al-Qaeda suspects, describing the CIA operatives who ran it as heroes.

"I'm perfectly comfortable that they should be praised, they should be decorated," former president George W Bush's right-hand man told NBC television's "Meet the Press" programme on Sunday, adding, "I'd do it again in a minute."
His remarks came days after the US Senate released a long-awaited investigation into enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the CIA to question terror suspects post 9/11.

In excruciating detail, the report described crude torture methods including waterboarding, hanging people for hours from their wrists and locking them in tiny coffin-shaped boxes.

The report questioned the effectiveness of such techniques, which it determined were actually counterproductive for getting actionable intelligence. The report said the methods used were "brutal".
'It worked"

Cheney strongly disagreed with the findings of the report.

"It worked. It absolutely worked," he said on Sunday.

The remarks echo comments made last week by the former vice president defending the interrogation programme and blasting the 500-page Senate report as "terrible" and "full of crap."

The report released on Tuesday said the CIA's interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects - including beatings, "rectal rehydration" and sleep deprivation - was far more brutal than acknowledged and did not produce useful intelligence.

It also concluded that the CIA deliberately misled Congress and the White House about the value of the intelligence its interrogators were gathering.