Saturday, January 24, 2015


Archbishop Anastasios of Albania is SYRIZA's names for the Greek President

The name of the Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios Janullatos are among those who have been on the table by SYRIZA for the proposal to be made for the new President of the Greek Republic......

Crisis in Ukraine is ‘all EU’s fault’ – France’s Marine Le Pen

Published time: September 06, 2014 13:49
Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party.(Reuters / Francois Lenoir)
Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party.(Reuters / Francois Lenoir)
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, says the EU is to blame for the crisis in Ukraine as it forced the situation where Kiev had to choose between East and West.
Now that France is joining sanctions against Russia over the alleged direct interference in the political crisis in Ukraine and Paris is considering suspending the €1.2 billion deal of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships ordered by Russia, the leader of the biggest parliamentary faction of the French parliament has her own opinion on Ukraine’s turmoil.
“The crisis in Ukraine is all the European Union’s fault. Its leaders negotiated a trade deal with Ukraine, which essentially blackmailed the country to choose between Europe and Russia,” Le Pen told Le Monde daily in an interview.
Le Pen has been a long-standing critic of Europe’s foreign policy and does not see how Ukraine could join the bloc.
“The European Union's diplomacy is a catastrophe,” Le Pen told RT's Sophie Shevardnadze in an exclusive interview in June.
“The EU speaks out on foreign affairs either to create problems, or to make them worse.”
“Ukraine’s entry into the European Union; no need to tell fairy tales: Ukraine absolutely does not have the economic level to join the EU,” Le Pen told RT.
In her fresh interview with Le Monde, the National Front leader had a positive attitude towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and the economic model he builds.
“I have a certain admiration for the man [Putin]. He proposes a patriotic economic model, radically different than what the Americans are imposing on us,” said Marine Le Pen.
As for France’s decision to suspend the delivery of the first of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia, it only shows Paris’ obedience of American diplomacy, Marine Le Pen said earlier.

AFP Photo / Anatolii Stepanov
AFP Photo / Anatolii Stepanov
"This decision (not to deliver Mistral ships) is very serious, firstly because it runs contrary to the interests of the country and shows our obedience of American diplomacy," Le Pen told France’s RTL radio.
France’s National Front and its leader Marine Le Pen, a party renowned for its anti-immigrant and anti-EU rhetoric, achieved unprecedented results at the latest EU elections, claiming nearly 25 percent of the votes and winning the election.
“Our people demand one type of politics: they want politics by the French, for the French, with the French. They don’t want to be led anymore from outside, to submit to laws.” These were the National Front’s slogans that garnered a quarter of French voters earlier this year.
President Francois Hollande’s popularity in France has hit a record low – just over 13 percent, according to estimates from the TNS-Sofres pollster, reported Reuters on Thursday.
Full of confidence, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen has no doubt she can head the national government today.
“I’m ready to be prime minister and implement the policies that the French are waiting for,” she said. “Hollande would be the president for representation and inauguration ceremonies, but that’s it. The government decides the policies and the political path to follow. He would have to submit to it, or he would have to go,” Le Pen told Le Monde.

Greater Albania picture removed from govt. website

BELGRADE -- An image showing the Albanian prime minister's residence with a display of the map of Greater Albania has been removed from the government's website.
Serbia had sent a demarche after the image was posted.
The map reflects Albanian expansionism and includes parts of the territories of four of Albania's neighboring countries, including Serbia.

The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti that the embassy in Tirana delivered the protest note to the Albanian Foreign Ministry.

NATO building KSF capacity "within present mandate"

PRISTINA -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that he "saw progress in the security and political situation in Kosovo but much remained to be done."
During a visit to Pristina, Stoltenberg met with the KFOR Commander, Major General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, and addressed KFOR troops, which he praised for their efforts in preserving security and stability in Kosovo.
The NATO secretary general also met with Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa. Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Stoltenberg said that NATO “has helped transform Kosovo into a safer place and helped make the Western Balkans more stable.”

”I see remarkable progress in the security and political situation in Kosovo. But much remains to be done,” Stoltenberg said, quoted by NATO’s website.

Asked about his views on Pristina authorities’ plans to form a Kosovo armed force, Stoltenberg said that “it is not up to NATO to decide how the security forces of Kosovo is developed.”

NATO is responsible for “capacity building for the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) within its present mandate,” Stoltenberg said.

"Whatever you decide to do, you should do it in a way that does not create new tensions … in a way which does not undermine the progress we have made together,” said the NATO chief.

Stoltenberg also stressed that he was “encouraged that a new round of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, facilitated by the European Union, will take place soon,” adding that he was looking forward to seeing its results.

"Bodies in NATO uniforms" found at Donetsk airport

DONETSK -- The Defense Ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) says that "bodies in NATO uniforms" were found in the Donetsk airport ruins.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Spokesman Eduard Basurin also said that "a great number of U.S.-made weapons" was recovered from under the debris.
“While examining the building of the Donetsk airport, we found a great number of American firearms, assault rifles and hand mortars, equipment and communications devices. We also found publications in European languages, including on religious matters," Basurin said, according to TASS.

Apart from that, “we found dead bodies in NATO uniforms under the debris in the new terminal. Personal belongings indicated that these people were foreign citizens contracted by private military companies who operated under the disguise of Ukrainian subversive groups,” he said.

The fighting around the airport was intensified lately, prompting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to order a new round of mobilizations.

However, Ukrainian troops on Thursday withdrew from the airport, where dozens of Ukrainian and pro-Russian fighters died during the past several weeks.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Marie Le Pen, National Front: Immediate cessation of Albania's accession negotiations with the European Union



déposée conformément à l'article 133 du règlement

sur l'arrêt immédiat des négociations d'adhésion de l'Albanie à l'Union européenne

Dominique Bilde, Steeve Briois, Sophie Montel

Proposition de résolution du Parlement européen sur l'arrêt immédiat des négociations d'adhésion de l'Albanie à l'Union européenne  
Le Parlement européen,

–       vu la décision 2008/210/CE du Conseil du 18 février 2008 relative aux principes, aux priorités et aux conditions figurant dans le partenariat européen avec l'Albanie et abrogeant la décision 2006/54/CE(1),

–       vu la communication de la Commission au Parlement européen et au Conseil du 12 octobre 2011, intitulée "Stratégie d'élargissement et principaux défis 2011-2012"(2),

–       vu l'article 133 de son règlement,

A.     considérant que l'Albanie a déjà bénéficié de crédits européens à hauteur de 315,5 millions d'euros pour 2000-2006 et de 306,7 millions d'euros pour 2007-2010;

B.     considérant que l'Albanie a présenté sa candidature d'adhésion à l'Union en 2009 et que celle­‑ci est reconnue depuis le 27 juin 2014;

C.     considérant que l'Albanie, en cas d'ouverture à l'Europe, ne serait pas en mesure de faire face aux pressions concurrentielles insoutenables et aux forces du marché;

D.     considérant que l'Albanie subit de graves problèmes de corruption et est une plaque tournante pour de multiples trafics (drogues, prostitution, etc.);

1.      exige l'organisation de référendums dans tous les pays de l'Union dans le cadre de tout nouvel élargissement;

2.      demande l'arrêt immédiat des négociations en vue de l'adhésion de l'Albanie à l'Union;

3.      charge son Président de transmettre la présente résolution à la Commission, au Conseil et aux États membres.

Patriarch Kirill greets Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church on the day of his patron saint

Source: DECR
admin | 23 January 2015
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has sent the following message of greetings to His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania on the occasion of his Name Day:
Patriarch Kirill greets Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church on the day of his patron saint

Your Beatitude,
Dear Brother and Concelebrant beloved in the Lord:
I cordially greet you on the occasion of your Name Day!
In performing your lofty primatial ministry, you seek to emulate the virtuous life and spiritual feat of your Heavenly Patron – the Venerable Martyr Anastasius the Persian. Strengthened by prayer and God’s grace, you teach your flock to keep growing in the faith and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18).
I wish Your Beatitude the abundance of spiritual and physical resources, peace and blessings from the All-Merciful Lord in your further primatial service for the good of the holy Albanian Orthodox Church.
With love in the Lord,
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

From prison, Greece's Golden Dawn runs quiet but vitriolic campaign

KOROPI, Greece Fri Jan 23, 2015
Far-right Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris (C), who is in custody pending trial, arrives escorted by plainclothes police for the Athens council swearing-in ceremony August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Far-right Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris (C), who is in custody pending trial, arrives escorted by plainclothes police for the Athens council swearing-in ceremony August 29, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis

(Reuters) - Nearly three years since entering parliament after rousing rallies and food handouts, Greece's far-right Golden Dawn is running a much quieter campaign for Sunday's election from a high-security prison.
With most of its top brass jailed pending trial on charges of being in a criminal gang, Greeks have seen little of one of Europe's most ardent anti-immigrant parties in recent weeks except for the occasional broadcast and odd leaflet.
Golden Dawn, whose leaders deny neo-Nazi sympathies, taps into the same anger at politicians seen as responsible for austerity, wage cuts and record unemployment that is expected to propel the radical leftist Syriza to power.
The party's resilience on Greece's turbulent political scene, it ranks as high as third in some polls, raises the prospect of an imprisoned far-right leader being asked to form a government if Syriza and the ruling conservatives both fail to win outright or form a coalition.
"The television stations might present (our candidates) as knife-wielders, criminals, uneducated, immature but as you can see... they represent the best that Greek society has," boomed the voice of prominent Golden Dawn lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris from a loudspeaker at a recent gathering in the town of Koropi, south east of Athens.
He was speaking from Korydallos prison, home to some of Greece's most dangerous criminals, where he is awaiting trial on charges of illegal gun possession.
"Golden Dawn is writing Greece's modern political history and we will be the winners," he told around 300 enthusiastic supporters packed into a hall where members sang the national anthem and chanted: "Homeland, honor, Golden Dawn".
Kasidiaris, leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos and five other outgoing lawmakers are behind bars, accused of being part of a criminal group that attacks immigrants and leftists, after a party supporter stabbed a prominent left-wing rapper in 2013.
In its manifesto, Golden Dawn, among the furthest parties to the right on Europe's political spectrum, argues all illegal immigrants should be rounded up, detained and sent home. The party, whose members have been seen doing Nazi-style salutes, also wants tax breaks to boost Greece's low birth rate to "avoid us becoming a minority in our own country".
One of the party's few lawmakers free to campaign, Artemis Mattheopoulos, said the election schedule revolved around infrequent calls with the leadership and prison lockdowns.
"The last election event we held in Thessaloniki had to happen early because at 8 p.m. the prison cell door shuts and communication is cut off so we held the event at 6 p.m. ... so that the leader could speak without being worried that his cell door is shutting," he said, saying the party was being "gagged".
Seven of the party's 16 lawmakers are in pre-trial detention and three under house arrest ahead of a trial due this year, as part of a government-led crackdown that was the most significant mass round-up of lawmakers since a military coup in 1967.
In the last nationwide ballot - for European elections held barely eight months ago - Golden Dawn polled nearly one in ten votes to secure a comfortable third position.
The party, which rose from obscurity to enter Greek parliament for the first time in 2012, is now being challenged by the newly-formed centrist To Potami (River) for third place, but pollsters say support for Golden Dawn could be higher than polls indicate.
One of the final surveys before Greece's last national elections in June 2012 put support for the party at 4.7 percent, days before it achieved a share of 6.9 percent.
"There is a so-called abstaining voter, who doesn't disclose who they will vote for to pollsters, and this is a factor for the extremist parties," said George Siakas, pollster and political researcher at the University of Macedonia.
"Every election has its particularities but from 2012 it seems that Golden Dawn has crystallized a voting public... There are people who will vote for Golden Dawn come what may."
Back in Koropi, Kasidiaris told gathered supporters to cast aside a corrupt Greek elite and send Golden Dawn to a triumphant victory.
"On Sunday, we will get more votes than we did in 2012 and we will be the third-biggest party!" Kasidiaris said, to loud applause and cheering in the hall displaying the party's swastika-like emblem, which it says is the ancient Greek 'meander' symbol. "Don't believe the fake pollsters."
(Editing by Deepa Babington and Anna Willard)

What Greece's Election Means For The Rest Of The World

Greece will vote in parliamentary elections on Sunday, nearly one month after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was forced to call a snap vote after parliament failed to agree on a new president.
Polls indicate that radical left-wing party Syriza is set to take the most votes. Whether Syriza gains an outright majority or forms a ruling coalition, the party's firebrand leader Alexis Tsipras looks set to become prime minister of the troubled European nation.
Samaras' popularity has declined significantly since coming into office in 2012, amid a strict austerity program imposed by Greece's "troika" creditors, made up of eurozone countries, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Greece received bailouts from the "troika" in 2010 and 2012 totaling 240 billion euros (or $283 billion), and continued funding is set for review again in February.
Despite recent economic gains, unemployment remains as high as 26 percent and the economy is still struggling, the Economist reports.
Tsipras has campaigned furiously against the austerity measures and vowed to renegotiate the country's huge debt burden. But countries who funded the bailouts, most notably Germany, have refused to negotiate debt relief. The potential standoff raises the prospect that Greece will default on its debt and leave the euro currency, causing economic and political reverberations around the world.
Here are some of the potential implications of Greece's election for the rest of the globe:
Analysts say that despite their threatening rhetoric, both Greece and Germany have more interest in striking a deal than a Greek default.
Tsipras moderated his talk about facing down Europe as the election got closer, the Guardian explained. The newspaper noted that Tsipras, if victorious, has a delicate balancing act ahead between the demands of Greece's creditors and his anti-euro political base.
Both Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel insist that Greece should stay in the eurozone. If Greece does leave, it would be the first departure in the currency's history.
Such a move would not necessarily prompt other European countries to follow. "Investors seem to be betting that the people of Italy, Spain and France will peek at the chaos in Athens, shudder -- and stick to the austerity that Germany’s Angela Merkel has prescribed for them," The Economist wrote.
Yet it would be a huge step into the unknown for the young currency union, particularly among weaker eurozone economies with political troubles of their own, such as Italy and Spain.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, concerns that Greece will default on its debt -- the highest in Europe relative to gross domestic product -- have repeatedly flared. Economists warn that a Greek default would undermine confidence that other debt-ridden countries will meet their obligations, sending financial markets into further crisis.
However, as Bloomberg noted, some of the most dire predictions were averted by European Central Bank guarantees, and Europe is less panic-stricken today about Greece's potential to destabilize the global economy.
But unpredictability is not good for financial stability. The Wall Street Journal reports that Greece's economy is already suffering from political uncertainty surrounding the elections.
Populist parties of both the left and right are surging across Europe, and could be boosted by a Syriza win.
"With similar anti-establishment parties gaining ground rapidly in a number of other countries scheduled to hold elections in 2015, the spill-over effects from a further period of Greek turmoil could be significant," The Economist Intelligence Unit warned in research for the BBC. "Anti-establishment sentiment has surged across the eurozone (and the larger EU) and the risk of political disruption and potential crises is high."
Anti-establishment parties have even rallied together despite radically different political leanings. The leader of France's far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, expressed support for the far-left Syriza despite their conflicting political backgrounds and immigration policies.
Syriza also send warning bells across Europe by supporting Greece's pullout from NATO and criticizing sanctions on Russia.
However, the party has also softened its stance on foreign policy issues in the run-up to the election, refocusing on the momentous domestic challenges in the country, Bloomberg noted: "Syriza is sacrificing its more revolutionary ambitions to the overriding goal of getting better terms for Greece’s economic aid package."

NATO Secretary General says KFOR is a success story in the Western Balkans

  • 23 Jan. 2015
During a visit to Pristina on Friday (23 January) the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that KFOR is a success story of cooperation between allies and partners.
The Secretary General met with COMKFOR Major General Francesco Paolo Figluolo  and addressed KFOR troops. “Sixteen years ago, NATO came here in the aftermath of bloodshed and war.  Today, Kosovo is a very different place.  Peaceful, stable, increasingly prosperous”, he said.  “Under a clear United Nations mandate, our mission has helped transform Kosovo into a safer place. And it has helped make the Western Balkans more stable.“  The Secretary General added that “every man and woman who has served under the KFOR flag has helped to change the course of history in Kosovo. And helped keep our neighbourhood stable. You have made a difference.”
Mr. Stoltenberg also met with local government leaders.Meeting Mr. Isa Mustafa, the Secretary General said that NATO will continue to help build a capable Kosovo Security Force within its current mandate. “A professional and capable force. And a source of regional stability”.  Mr. Stoltenberg said that he discussed the need for pragmatism. “For continued commitment to any effort that leads to the normalisation of the situation on the ground. And avoid creating tensions.” The Secretary General also stressed that he is “encouraged that a new round of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, facilitated by the European Union, will take place soon” and said that he looks forward seeing its results.  “This is a difficult path, which will continue to require political courage. But it is the path towards a better future”, he said. ”I see remarkable progress in the security and political situation in Kosovo. But much remains to be done”.
In Pristina the Secretary General also met with Ms. Atifete Jahjaga, with Mr. Haki Demolli, with Mr. Branimir Stojanović and with Mr. Hashim Thaçi for an exchange of views.
We discussed the next round of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue mediated by the European Union.  NATO fully supports this dialogue. Dialogue is possible because of improved security.  It offers the hope of a better future for people across this region. And it is vital to ensure that agreements are turned into realities”, the Secretary General said. “So this is a time of great opportunity for Kosovo and for this region. And I trust that all leaders and communities will use this opportunity to look to the future, not the past.
During the visit, the Secretary General also met with and with representatives from international organisations.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Paranoia over “Greater Albania” Returns

shutterstock 104639048Serbian officials have finally had enough of the menace that is Greater Albania – a political movement that aims to unify ethnic Albanians within Albania proper, Kosovo, Serbia, Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro under one state. The idea of unification has its origins in the events of the Treaty of London in 1913, when half of predominantly Albanian territories and almost half of the ethnic Albanian population were left outside the new country's borders.

Photo by Shutterstock

But today, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić sees the danger of Albanian expansionism everywhere – in the drone flying over the now infamous Albania-Serbia football match; at Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama’s residence, where a light display projected the map of Greater Albania for New Year’s; and in the West’s silence. As Dačić claimed, if his country were incorporating images of Greater Serbia in any public event, the West would have been up in arms long ago. According to Dačić, the time has come to eradicate this Western double standard – in fact, the West must, too, wake up to the threat of Greater Albania.

Clearly, to this Serbian official, these political images confirm the reality of Albanian expansionist ambitions and seem to be a threat to the stability of the Balkans as a whole. But before Serbia begins its defensive military build-up, it should take a short minute to verify its interpretation of this "threat" through actual Albanian policymaking. In reality, there is no such thing as a political campaign for Greater Albania – at least not one that includes the annexation of territory that belongs to other country. Instead, the concept of Greater Albania is an abstract call for solidarity across ethnic Albanian-inhabited territory within the Balkans. In addition, Dačić would do well to examine his own nation’s legacy of irredentist policies before accusing the world of unfair double standards.

In regards to Serbia’s relationship with Albania, Dačić was recently quoted as saying, “We will not ask for love, which was the most erroneousAlbaniansOutsideAlbania characteristic of the Serbian policy in the decades behind us, but will offer common interests." Perhaps Dačić’s memory needs a little refresher, given that his nation’s attempts at “Greater Serbia” characterised the later years of Yugoslavia – not love. That legacy produced several bloody civil wars, ethnic cleansing campaigns, and international interventions in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Indeed, the campaign for Greater Serbia has already occurred and has left behind a tragic warning in blood, and this gives the West and all regional actors plenty of reason to enact a “double standard.” Even recently, in a Gallup Balkan Monitor poll,only 12 per cent of Serbs said it was possible to live peacefully with Albanians, but a vast majority of Albanians (60 per cent) said it was quite possible to live peacefully with Serbs. According to such numbers, modern ethnic hostilities cannot be attributed primarily to ethnic Albanians ambitions or hostilities in the region.

Albania has given the world little reason to panic over its expansionist ambitions. On the contrary, Albania’s historical narrative speaks only to a desperate attempt to maintain a semblance of statehood, against the territorial ambitions of its Balkan neighbors. Even before Kosovo’s independence, a report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) suggested that Albania was more interested in developing cultural and economic ties with Kosovo as a separate state, not via unification. By 2007, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found that only 2.5 per cent of the Albanians in Kosovo saw unification with Albania as the best solution for Kosovo. Today, the idea of a Greater Albania or “Natural Albania” exists, but in a symbolic sense – so as to promote an Albanian collective identity across long-accepted national borders. In terms of actual territorial ambitions, the evidence is largely lacking. All Albanian political elites, including past Prime Minister Sali Berisha and current Prime Minister Edi Rama, have used the slogan of Greater Albania and related images to pander to nationalist constituents, but zero actual policy (and little political success) have come from such efforts.

The Red and Black Alliance in Albania, the only party in support of true territorial expansion, is increasingly seen as holding to romantic, yet useless notions in modern Albanian society. In many instances, even they claim to pursue only the protection of ethnic Albanian rights across the Balkans, which is not an irredentist agenda. Regardless of motives, the party received just a little more than 10,000 votes in parliamentary elections in 2013, with Albanian citizens eager to focus on the economy, corruption and emigration policies instead of nationalistic ambitions.

While ethnic Albanians across national borders generally support the notion of a Greater Albania, according to polls, they overwhelmingly agree that such a formation is highly unlikely. For the majority of ethnic Albanians in the Balkans, future EU membership appears as the only acceptable and realistic route for the ultimate unification of ethnic Albanians within official state borders. The younger generations, between 18 and 25 years of age especially, barely believe in "Greater Albania.” Thus, a typical Albanian citizen today will express desire for true irredentist policies, yet they will promptly offer many logistical reasons why Albanian unification will not and should not occur. These reasons include socioeconomic, cultural and historical differences between Albanian-inhabited states; domestic difficulties within individual states; the disapproval of the international community; and an aversion to regional instability.

Aside from lack of domestic support, the concept of Greater Albania is absolutely refuted by all of Albania’s allies – including the indispensable US and the EU. According to survey data, two thirds of Albanians (68 per cent) consider relations with the EU as the most important issue, with relations with the US coming in second. In addition, the majority of Albanians (92 per cent) support EU membership. Therefore, there is virtually no political motivation in modern Albania and Kosovo to enact any expansionist policies. Both Serbia and Albania have bigger issues to tackle in the near future, including stagnant economies, blatant corruption, fragile EU membership paths and security threats stemming from global terrorism. Fanning paranoia on Greater Albania helps no one – not even the political elites, who gain only brief political support at the expense of regional cooperation. Ultimately, both Edi Rama and Ivica Dačić should stop the smokescreens and focus on the real issues.

Sidita Kushi is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northeastern University. Her research focuses on military interventions, identity and security in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Odeta Kushi is an MA Candidate in Economics, also at Northeastern University. Her research focuses on economic development in post-Communist part of Europe, especially as related to privatisation.

Revenge of Disaffected Europe Risks Crisis Sparked in Greece

Photographer: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg
Syriza Party leader Alexis Tsipras reaches out and greets supporters as he arrives for a pre-election rally at the...bligation, as a... Read More

They speak different languages, they come from different backgrounds, yet all have the same message of frustration that’s threatening to redraw the European political map over the next year.
Starting with elections this Sunday in Greece and heading west to Ireland via Britain and Spain, polls show Europeans will vent their anger over issues from widening income disparities and record unemployment to unprecedented immigration.
For Athens pensioner Irini Smyrni, the moment she’d had enough was when her younger daughter lost her job with the government last year. For Dublin florist Nicola Johns, it was when her business fell behind on rent.
“We pay, we pay, we pay,” said Smyrni, 73. “Our homeland unfortunately is taking us backwards -- paltry wages, miserable pensions -- and we’re looking for something better.”
English electrical technician David Liddle wants someone to stick up for people like him rather than immigrants and “scroungers.” Virginia Sanchez, an unpaid university researcher in Madrid, said she just grew tired of being failed by the usual politicians unable to improve her prospects.
“I keep going because there’s nothing else to do,” said Sanchez, 23, who graduated in biology last year.

Lost Citizens

Disaffection with what is seen as a ruling elite and a sense of being left behind in an increasingly globalized world are complaints heard across Europe on varying points of the political spectrum as the continent struggles to recover from successive waves of financial and economic crises.
“Political elites have lost track of their citizens, who feel insecure amid all the economic and social pressures,” said Daniela Schwarzer, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Europe program in Berlin. “There’s a growing questioning of the political establishment across Europe.”
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi announced on Thursday the latest efforts by his monetary policy makers to foster economic growth in the euro region. The bank plans to inject about 1.1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) into the financial system. It’s unlikely to make enough of a difference to deter people from protesting at the ballot box.
People are abandoning parties used to being in government, those deemed safe to lead by creditors, investors and European bureaucrats.

Political Risk

“If the moderates of Europe do not get together and change things in a meaningful way, I believe there is a risk that the political extremists will be the biggest threat to the euro,” Ray Dalio, founder and majority owner of the $160-billion hedge fund manager Bridgewater Associates, said in a panel debate Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
This weekend, Smyrni will vote for Syriza, which has pledged to halt the spending cuts that were tied to Greece’s financial rescue. The party looks like it could unseat the government after narrowly losing in 2012. Liddle has switched allegiance to the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party before an election on May 7.

Disintegrating Europe

Sanchez says Podemos in Spain is giving her hope as the party, founded only last year, tops opinion polls before a vote by the end of this year. Sinn Fein is doing the same for Johns. Irish elections are due by April next year at the latest.
“The underlying current of voter migration starts in Greece and is reflected elsewhere,” said Jens Bastian, an economist and former member of the European Commission’s Greek task force. “If you look at what may happen in Britain or Spain, and you still have a Syriza government in power by then, you’re looking at a completely different Europe.”
In the extreme, it’s a period that could lay the foundations for Greece leaving the euro and the U.K. ditching the European Union, unraveling decades of integration since World War II. At the least, it’s likely to send shockwaves through parliaments and financial institutions.
The euro has declined more than 14 percent against the dollar in the past year. In other currency markets, traders expect the pound to react to political wrangling after the U.K. election, with implied price volatility against the dollar for the next six months climbing to the highest since June 2012. 


Dozen former French soldiers, including elite troops, join ISIS - reports

Published time: January 22, 2015 08:30
Reuters / Stringer
Reuters / Stringer
A dozen former French soldiers, mostly from special forces and the Foreign Legion, have joined jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, a defense ministry source confirms, as the government readies a new multimillion anti-terror plan.
Reports of French ex-military turning to jihad first appeared on Radio France Internationale (RFI) and in L'Opinion daily on Wednesday.
An anonymous defense ministry source later confirmed the information to AFP.
"We estimate around a dozen former troops have joined these networks," the source said. "Our concern is not former soldiers... It's preventing the phenomenon of radicalization within our forces."
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, however, would not directly comment on the issue at a Wednesday press conference on France’s new anti-terrorism measures.
"The cases of former soldiers being tempted by jihadist adventure are extremely rare," was all he said.
One shouldn’t underestimate those rare cases, David Thomson, RFI journalist and author of The French Jihadists, believes.
These people who come [to Syria and Iraq] are already fighters and they know the way the French troops fight,” Thomson told Le Figaro.
Among soldiers-turned-jihadists are those who served in the Foreign Legion and former paratroopers, RFI says, adding that some of the fighters confessed to being former French soldiers on social networks.
Others are explosives experts, young people in their twenties. Some have been converted [to Islam], others are from Arab-Muslim culture,” the RFI report says.
L’Opinion singles out a French jihadist of Maghreb origin, who served in the elite 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment for five years and underwent commando training in fighting techniques, shooting and survival.
The man was then hired by a private security company to work on oil facilities in the Arabian Peninsula.
"He was gradually radicalized, letting himself grow a beard and adhering to Islamist ideology," the daily writes, adding the man eventually went to Syria.
The Defense Ministry plans to monitor its recruits as well as ex-soldiers more closely to prevent possible radicalization. The army’s 1,000-strong internal intelligence unit will get 65 extra staff for that purpose, Le Drian announced on Wednesday.

NATO wants to 'reestablish communication’ with Russia’s military

Published time: January 22, 2015 13:14
U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)
U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)
NATO's top official has announced plans to re-establish contact with Russian military leaders after months of tensions, calling the relations "important."
"We have talked an awful lot about how we re-establish communication and the fact that the communication with our senior military interlocutors in Russia is important," NATO's General Philip Breedlove, who also serves as the Commander of the US European Command, said on Thursday as quoted by Reuters.
He said he had kept up contact with General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia's armed forces, after the Crimea referendum last year. No further details were given about that.
"We are going to re-establish that, we have talked among several of us senior military leaders how we will do that ... but yes, we are going to re-establish communication with Valery [Gerasimov]," he said.
READ MORE: Russia recalls chief military representative to NATO
In April, Moscow recalled its chief military representative to NATO for consultations after the North Atlantic Alliance suspended military and civilian cooperation with Russia over the Ukraine crisis. At that time. the bloc also said it would step up its cooperation with Kiev , promoting defense reforms and increasing the activity of a liaison office in Ukraine.

Tsipras aims at majority in the new Greek parliament

First entry: 22 January 2015 - 09:06 Athens, 07:06 GMT
Last update: 09:06 Athens, 07:06 GMTPolitics
Tsipras aims at majority in the new Greek parliament
With opinion polls suggesting that SYRIZA’s lead over New Democracy is growing, leftist leader Alexis Tsipras urged voters to give him the extra backing needed to gain a parliamentary majority in Sunday’s elections.
“An autonomous SYRIZA means a powerful Greece,” he said during speech in Patra. “A powerful SYRIZA means an autonomous Greece. It means an end to national humiliation. It means an end to the catastrophic memorandums.”
SYRIZA sources appeared confident of the party’s victory on Sunday but not yet clear on whether a parliamentary majority is within reach.
In his attempt to drum up support for the party, Tsipras appeared to reject all forms of possible cooperation after the elections. He dismissed potential coalition partners, such as PASOK and Potami, as “guarantors of the troika.”
“We will not govern with the troika,” he said. “Nor will we accept people who represent the troika’s views in our cabinet.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Syriza MEP Glezos says party is open to cooperation with Merkel

First entry: 21 January 2015 - 20:00 Athens, 18:00 GMT
Last update: 20:00 Athens, 18:00 GMTPolitics
Syriza MEP Glezos says party is open to cooperation with Merkel
Manolis Glezos, a Greek resistance hero and at 92, the oldest MEP, said on Wednesday his party is open to cooperation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a trip to Berlin to participate in an event organised for his party Syriza
Asked by Deutsche Welle whether his party is showing more flexibility on how to deal with Greece's debt, the Syriza lawmaker said that Syriza does not use "political jargon" but its "main line hasn't changed". 
"We're not going to depart from what we have promised the Greek people. They strangled the Greek people to save the financial sector....Concerning our lenders, we simply say, come if you want to discuss it," Glezos said. 
Discussing Greek-German relations, the MEP said a Syriza government would be open to a cooperation with Germany, but Berlin would have to take the innitiative. 
"If Merkel's government wants it, we can cooperate, if she doesn't we won't. We are willing to do it." 
For Glezos, the issue of German reparations and the forced occupation loan is still open. "Germany has not signed a peace treaty. It has imposed on us a no-war treaty. Why has it done that? Because once it signs a peace treaty, because it is a country that follows rules, it will immediately pay what it owes," the MEP commented.
Told by DW that it's impossible to ask Germany to reopen this issue with some 50 countries that had declared war against it, Glezos replied it is actually possible for Merkel to push for a peace treaty between the two countries. "I believe the German people will convince her (Merkel) to change her stance."  
Source: DW

French ambassador thanks Greeks for solidarity after terrorist attacks

First entry: 21 January 2015 - 12:33 Athens, 10:33 GMT
Last update: 12:33 Athens, 10:33 GMTPolitics
French ambassador thanks Greeks for solidarity after terrorist attacks
The French ambassador to Greece, Jean Loup Kuhn-Delforge, expressed his gratitude on Tuesday for the solidarity shown by the Greek people after the terrorist attacks in Paris.
In a message issued by the embassy, Kuhn-Delforge said thousands of Greeks protested "for our common values" adding that "the fight in defence of freedom, against anti-Semitism and darkness concerns us all."
"Personally and in the name of my colleagues at the embassy, I would like to thank each and every one of those who, with their many messages of friendship, stated their solidarity…after the attacks."
The ambassador said France was hit at its heart by actions of unspeakable violence and barbarity, as the French President stated.
"In Greece, the meaning of the emotion which overtook the world and of course France was shared by millions of people who protested in the same spirit, refusing to accept the misinterpretations which are a trap set by those who committed those terrorist acts," he said.
Kuhn-Delforge continued with a plea not to abandon a common determination to fight any type of intolerance. "We owe it to the victims of these heinous attacks."
Source: ANA-MPA

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Marine Le Pen: Yes! I Hope SYRIZA Wins

News from Greecemarine_le_pen 

by Aggelos Skordas - Jan 20, 2015

French far-right politician and xenophobic Front National (FN) leader Marine Le Pen said earlier today that her party would rejoice if leftist main opposition SYRIZA wins the upcoming elections in Greece. As expected, the controversial statement caused numerous reactions in Greece, mostly from ruling New Democracy and its coalition government partner PASOK.

The daughter of longtime FN leader and founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who led her father’s party to an unpredicted success during the latest 2014 European elections, managing to elect 23 out of a total of 74 French MEPs, argued that a SYRIZA win in the upcoming January 5 Greek elections would strengthen eurosceptics across the continent. “There is a revolt within Europe, led by people who are retaking control of power from the totalitarianism of the European Union and its allies,” Le Pen told French newspaper Le Monde earlier today. “This does not make me a far-left activist,” she added in relation to her support for SYRIZA.

“We do not agree with their entire program, specifically their immigration policy. But we would welcome their victory,” she said on the matter. SYRIZA, which is currently leading the opinion polls, just 5 days ahead of the snap general elections, has proclaimed it intents to cancel anti-popular austerity measures and renegotiate Greece’s debt and program, although it has declared it is willing to remain within the Eurozone.

On its behalf, FN is a clear anti-Eurozone party, calling Paris to drop the single currency, return to the national franc and toughen the country’s border controls with its European neighbors. Profiting from a wide distrust toward European institutions, the anti-immigration party managed to win the last European elections with 24.86% against 20.8% of Nicolas Sarkozy‘s conservative Union for a Popular Movement.

New Democracy commented that SYRIZA leader “Alexis Tsipras found his sole European ally in the face of Mrs. Le Pen,” underlining that “Mr. Tsipras and his party’s extreme components will isolate Greece,” while repeating that he is an accident that is not going to happen to the country. Coalition government partner PASOK said that it hopes SYRIZA will renounce the support of an extreme-right party, avoiding its inclusion in the parties that threaten the European family and its citizens’ democratic rights.
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"Property in Kosovo should be topic during dialogue"

BELGRADE -- During the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Trepca should not be a topic - instead, Serbia's property in Kosovo and Metohija should be discussed, says an official.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
"I think the topic should not be Trepca but the property of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija. Trepca is not the only public company. There is Skijalista (Ski Resorts), there is a large part of assets of Telekom, Post of Serbia, NIS," said Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Veljko Odalovic.
He told RTS that Serbia is still repaying international debts for property that it does not manage or exercise ownership over.

Odalovic said the case of Trepca was "an attempt to seize an institution," but that representatives of international institutions with which the government of Serbia talked "showed a high degree of understanding for this topic."

"The international community has recognized that this topic should be treated differently," said Odalovic.

He then added that "it should be seen what the part of Trepca that remained in the southern (ethnic Albanian) part of Kosovska Mitrovica looks like."

"Where there were Kosovo institutions, it is collapsed, abandoned, destroyed. Where there is Serbia in the north, everything works," he said.

The Kosovo Assembly adopted draft amendments to the law on enterprises of special importance during a session on Monday. Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa proposed during the extraordinary session that a separate law be adopted for the mining complex.

The changes to the law adopted yesterday do not concern ownership issues when it comes to the mining comple, postponing instead for two years the deadline for regulating the company's debt of some EUR 1.4, "thus avoiding its liquidation."

Pristina's original intention was to on Monday pass a law that would allow it to take ownership of Trepca, which caused strong reactions from the Serbian government.