Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dacic: Kosovo should be prevented from joining CE, UNESCO

Published: BELGRADE – Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Friday Serbia faced a difficult fight in trying to prevent Kosovo from becoming a member of the Council of Europe and UNESCO.
Ivica Dacic - Photo:
Ivica Dacic – Photo:
He also stated that Albanian, and sometimes US, officials asked at each OSCE meeting when Kosovo would take part in those.
As for Kosovo’s membership in the OSCE, it is impossible because such an issue is decided through consensus, he said at a meeting of the Serbian parliament foreign affairs committee as he submitted the 2014 work report.
Serbia does not dispute Pristina’s ability, right and need to take part in various regional meetings, but it is against Kosovo becoming a member of international organisations and institutions because it would be an indirect statement about Kosovo’s status, he explained.
That is why it is very important for Serbia to up its diplomatic activities towards preventing recognitions of Kosovo’s independence, which was declared unilaterally by the Kosovo Albanians in February 2008, he pointed out.
Serbia should focus on its traditional friends in Latin America, Africa and Asia in the near future, as they are being pressured to recognise Kosovo, he stated.

Prokopis Pavlopoulos Sworn In as the Seventh President of the Hellenic Republic

News from Greece
by Aggelos Skordas - Mar 13, 2015


Newly elected President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos was sworn in earlier today at a ceremony in the country’s Parliament, amid heavy rain. The new Greek President took the traditional oath administered by Archbishop Ieronymos. Pavlopoulos, who is Greece ’s former Interior Minister in Costas Karamanlis’ cabinet, is the seventh President of the Hellenic Republic.

The Greek President recited the following religious oath before the Parliament: “I swear in the name of the Holy and consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity to safeguard the Constitution and the laws, to care for the faithful observance thereof, to defend the national independence and territorial integrity of the Country, to protect the rights and liberties of the Greeks and to serve the general interest and the progress of the Greek People.”

After the ceremony, Pavlopoulos laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in downtown Athens and then went to the Presidential Mansion to assume his new responsibilities, replacing Karolos Papoulias, who headed Greece for 10 years.

The former New Democracy Minister was nominated for the Greek Presidency by newly elected Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last month. Pavlopoulos was elected in his new post on February 18 with 233 positive votes, while he needed to secure over 180 out of 300 votes in order to win the election. He was elected for a five-year term. Pavlopoulos’ nomination was also supported by New Democracy and junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL). The second candidate, nominated by opposition party “To Potami” and supported by PASOK was Nicos Alivizatos.

The Greek Parliament had failed to elect a new President three times in late 2014. The last attempt was made on December 29, 2014, and in line with the Greek Constitution, a general election was held in the country within a month of the failed vote. On January 25, leftist SYRIZA won the snap elections.

Who is Prokopis Pavlopoulos?

Sixty-four-year-old Pavlopoulos was born in Kalamata and attended the Law School of the University of Athens in 1968. In addition, he studied law at Universite de Paris II on a French Government scholarship and was awarded his postgraduate studies Diplome d’ etudes approfondies (DEA) in 1975 and his doctorate in Public Law in 1977 with honorable mention. From 1978 to 1979 he served his military service in Greece. He was elected a Lecturer at the University of Athens in 1980 and was promoted to Reader in 1981. In 1983, he became Assistant Professor and was later promoted to Associate Professor in 1986. In 1989, he was elected Professor of Administrative Law.

In 1974, he was appointed as secretary of Greek President Michail Stasinopoulos. He first served as an Alternate Minister for the Presidency from November 1989 to April 1990 and was also the spokesperson of Xenophon Zolotas’ ecumenical government. From 1990 to 1995 he was the legal adviser of President Konstantinos Karamanlis. He was elected as MP for the New Democracy party in the 1996 parliamentary election. He was appointed as New Democracy’s Press and Information Spokesman by party President Miltiadis Evert on April 1996. In 2000, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012, he was nominated and elected as MP representing the Athens First Electoral Constituency. He became New Democracy’s Parliamentary Spokesman in April 2000. Following the March 2004 general elections – won by New Democracy- Pavlopoulos became Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister in the new government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis on March 10, 2004. Following the 2007 general elections, won again by New Democracy, the Interior Ministry merged with the Public Order Ministry, of which Pavlopoulos became Minister.

Pavlopoulos is a member of New Democracy’s Central Committee and in 2004 was designated as a member of the party’s Political Council, as one of seven MP candidates.

He is married to Vlassia Pavlopoulou-Peltsemi and has two daughters and one son.
- See more at:

Friday, March 13, 2015

US, Bulgaria to hold Balkans military drills amid Ukraine crisis

Published time: March 13, 2015 18:53
Reuters/Ints Kalnins
Reuters/Ints Kalnins
NATO members Bulgaria and the US will hold a series of joint military drills in the course of the next three and a half months, following recent naval drills in the Black Sea and the shipment of over 100 US armored vehicles to Latvia.
About 350 US army officers, as well as US tanks, helicopters and armored personnel carriers will arrive in the Balkan country for the bilateral drills, the Bulgarian Defense Ministry said Friday, Reuters reported.
The drills are to begin Sunday and will be conducted at the Novo Selo training range in southeastern Bulgaria, with about $30 million spent by the US for the modernization of Bulgaria’s military infrastructure, according to Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev.
“The Bulgarian Army will use the drills to test its ability to react in crisis situations,” a Defense Ministry official said. “Of course, we cannot underestimate what is happening in Ukraine.”
The Bulgarian Armed Forces are also set to participate in a couple of annual drills to be held in Ukraine in July – the Rapid Trident and Saber Guardian military exercises, the ministry said.
READ MORE: 6 NATO warships take part in Black Sea naval drills
In March, Bulgaria, which joined NATO in 2004, also participated in naval drills in the Black Sea alongside Romania, Turkey, the US, Canada, Germany and Italy. Anti-air and anti-submarine exercises of six vessels were headed by a US admiral.
Upon finishing the exercises, the ships of the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) arrived in the Romanian port of Constanta on Friday for a scheduled visit. SNMG2 leadership is set to meet local authorities and Navy officials to discuss any further multinational exercises in the Black Sea, according to the NATO Maritime Command statement.

The presence of NATO warships in the Black Sea is likely to further antagonize already strained relations with Russia, as the US and NATO are outraged by Crimea’s decision to cede from Ukraine and join Russia. The Alliance has been increasing its military and naval presence in the sea, which borders Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and several other countries.
Previously, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, said Moscow would respond to NATO’s increased presence in the Black Sea with “necessary countermeasures.” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov says allied forces are ignoring diplomacy and NATO is using the situation in Ukraine to push closer to Russia's border. However, he dismissed the idea that the drills being carried out in the Baltic States, Poland and the Black Sea were a threat to Russia.

Baffling Kosovo mass exodus exposes domestic hardships

After travel restrictions lifted, waves of immigrants have left Kosovo to follow rumours of a better life abroad.

Stephanie Ott |
People from Kosovo wait to board coaches at the bus terminal in Pristina, Kosovo during a wave of mass migration [EPA]
Pristina, Kosovo - In a matter of a few months, almost five percent of Kosovo's population left in search of better opportunities in the EU as economic refugees because of unemployment, poverty and tumultuous politics at home.
Yet, most of them will have to return, back to square one, yet poorer.
About 100,000 have reportedly fled the country since the beginning of this year. It is the largest exodus since the war in 1999. Young people, members of the middle class, and families have left - 5,200 pupils are missing from school because their parents want to provide a better life for them elsewhere.
"Dreams stay dreams in Kosovo," said Ibrahim Haziro, 23, from Pristina. "There is no perspective and people have given up hope that things will change."
Haziro was unemployed in Kosovo and without an education degree.
"Germany is like the promised land," he said. "Here we can turn our dreams into reality." The Kosovar crossed into the EU illegally in February and requested asylum in Germany.
Dreams stay dreams in Kosovo. There is no perspective and people have given up hope that things will change.
Ibrahim Haziro, 23
Like thousands of others, Ardian Zeneli, 35, a taxi driver from Pristina, wants to leave, too.
"People don't want to stay here. We are 1.8 million people and it's been 16 years since the war, but there has been no progress." Working six days a week, he earns 250 euros ($271) a month.
Kosovo is one of the poorest countries in Europe with an unemployment rate of 55.9 percent among young people aged 15-24. Among young women, 68.4 percent are unemployed, according to the World Bank.
Both economic and political tensions in Kosovo sparked this staggering exodus.
"The mass emigration during the winter of discontent 2014-15, paired with a series of violent anti-government protests and strikes in key sectors, including health and education, reflect the social tension that has been brewing over the years and the perceived lack of an economic perspective even for the well-educated," Jan-Peter Olters, the World Bank country manager in Kosovo, said.
False rumours
Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is recognised by 108 UN member states. Europe's youngest country has been stricken by political unrest and turmoil. The new government was formed six months after inconclusive elections in June.
"Kosovo is the most isolated country in Europe. It is the only country that needs a visa to travel to the EU," Olters said.
In September, Serbia relaxed travel rules for Kosovars.
Crowded buses started leaving Pristina every night, bound for Belgrade. From there, they went to the Serbian-Hungarian border by bus or taxi, where many crossed on foot.
Once inside Hungary, they can travel freely to other EU countries thanks to the Schengen Agreement.
The destination for most Kosovars is Germany, the perceived economic powerhouse of Europe and home to the largest Kosovar diaspora aside from Switzerland.
The government was shocked by this sudden exodus. They didn't expect buses full of people leaving daily. It can affect the country's stability. It could also be a wake-up call.
Jan-Peter Olters, World Bank
About 20,000 have entered the country since January. Asylum applications from Kosovars increased by 572 percent year on year.
Haziro, who is now waiting in an asylum centre in Augsburg, decided to leave Kosovo after he heard rumours that Germany was looking for Kosovars, and that it has an "open door" policy.
Some even heard that Germany will give them 4,000 euros ($4,340) as a welcome gift.
"Smugglers and human traffickers have profited from the rumour mill and spurred it on," said Germany's Representative for the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, Hans ten Feld.
"They created false hopes among people that a better life was waiting for them in the EU."
Smugglers charged Kosovars about 250-500 euros ($270-$540) per head to help them get into the EU.
Some rumours are even true. Germany provides accommodation for every asylum seeker, gives them daily meals, and pocket money. After three months, they are allowed to work.
Road to illegal roads
However, most won't be allowed to stay for long. The approval rate for Kosovars is currently at 0.3 percent.
In January, only two Kosovar asylum requests were approved. That month, 3,630 had officially applied for asylum - the number of yet unregistered Kosovars is much higher.
In February, German authorities even decided to prioritise and expedite Kosovar asylum claims, to accept or reject them within 14 days.
Most Kosovars are being rejected because they are economic migrants and aren't fleeing from war or ethnic or religious persecution - the prerequisite for asylum.
Some Roma, members of the minority also called Gypsies, have been granted asylum because they could prove discrimination and that they fear for their safety.
Haziro was surprised when he heard most Kosovars have slim chances of getting accepted. He's been waiting for one month now, but, he said, "I think they will say yes because they need people for work."
Ten Feld said: "Seeking the asylum route isn't a viable option to gain access to the EU. The solution lies within Kosovo. It is in the interest of the government to retain its labour force and to be able to provide a future for its people and the country."
Germany, Austria and others have started an awareness campaign in Kosovo to dispel misinformation.
Kosovo's President Atifete Jahjaga urged people not to leave the country during a visit to Mitrovica with a German representative.
"We know that Kosovo is not the country we wished to have, but 15 years ago we have come out of a terrible war, which has left huge consequences. These are challenges of the transition, transformation process. These are the challenges of our state building," Jahjaga said in a statement.
"Our citizens must not fall prey of criminal groups and illegal groups, seeking to find a better life, because their life and their future is within Kosovo," she added. 
"The message is that all our citizens who have taken their road towards illegal roads, their asylum will be rejected and they will be returned to Kosovo."
Reintegrating returnees
The awareness measures seem to have been effective and numbers leaving have declined. New arrivals from Kosovo into Germany have stagnated.
However, the tens of thousands that have left are still waiting in EU countries for the outcome of their asylum claims.
Deportations have begun in Germany, Austria and Hungary, with many being put on charter flights back to Pristina.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledged one million euros to Kosovo, which will be used in projects to reintegrate returnees and to help people to set up their own businesses.
"Reintegrating the returnees will be difficult," Olters said.
 Drawing parallels

"Their disappointment will be worse than before they left. They have been unsuccessful in trying to start a new life abroad and they are returning poorer, because many sold their possessions and took on debt to pay for the journey."
"The government was shocked by this sudden exodus. They didn't expect buses full of people leaving daily. It can affect the country's stability. It could also be a wake-up call.
"Now, a page could be turned to create better opportunities in the country and provide people with a perspective."
It's a long road ahead that requires patience before any improvements can be seen. But if the tens of thousands who have left in a matter of just weeks are any indication, patience is a virtue that Kosovars have little left of.

Tsipras: 'Greece's problem is Europe's problem'

First entry: 13 March 2015 - 12:45 Athens, 10:45 GMT
Last update: 12:45 Athens, 10:45 GMTPolitics
Tsipras: 'Greece's problem is Europe's problem'
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday the problems facing Greece are the eurozone’s problems and its partners in the single currency bloc should send a message of solidarity to his country.
"Greece has already started fulfilling its commitments mentioned in the Eurogroup decision of 20 Feb so we are doing our part and we expect our partners to do their own," he said during a joint press conference with European Parliament Speaker Martin Schulz in Brussels.
"And I’m very optimistic...that we will find a solution because I strongly believe that this is our common interest. I believe that there is no Greek problem, there is a European problem."
He claimed Greeks need some support following five years of implementing harsh austerity.
"Now is the time to give a message of hope to the Greek people, not only implement, implement, implement and obligations, obligations, obligations."
He added that if the European institutions signal that they will provide help and solidarity in order to overcome "this very bad situation at the social level".
Tsipras reiterated his position that his government is pro-European and expressed optimism that "misunderstandings" will be solved and that an "honest compromise" will be reached.
"Our intention is to implement this decision in a constructive way, in a way that will help Greece to overcome the crisis and Europe to overcome the crisis," he added.
Guardian, Reuters

Serbia and Russia to conduct air force drills

MOSCOW -- Military pilots from Russia and Serbia will conduct joint training exercises in September 2015, the Russian Defense Ministry has announced.
A MiG-29 (Beta/AP, file)
A MiG-29 (Beta/AP, file)
"Air Force officials from Russia and Serbia agreed at planning conference in the Russian Defense Ministry on March 12 to carry out joint tactical drills in September this year," Col. Igor Klimov, a spokesperson for the ministry, said.
According to Russia's Sputnik website, Klimov added that pilots from both countries will represent tactical and ground-support units in mixed crews.

"Aircrew on MiG-29 fighters will perform tasks to intercept air targets, while Mi-8 military transport and combat helicopters will work on tactical landings, covering ground units from the air, firing missiles at ground targets at the site, as well as aircrew search and rescue operations," the spokesman said.

Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania Protests Removal of Cathedral Fences by Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania

Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania Protests Removal of Cathedral Fences
by Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania

The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania protests the Government’s decision to tear down the fences of the “Resurrection of Christ” Cathedral Church in the center of Tirana. This action jeopardizes the safety of this holy place, where people of diverse ages come, and in particular, many young people and children.

The Cathedral complex has three entrances to the underground floor (the Cultural Centre, conference rooms for youth and children, as well as the Bookstore). The preservation of all of these environments becomes almost impossible without an external elementary fence, especially when night falls and in the absence of security conditions in which we live today.

The Government’s decision was taken in October 2014, without informing the Orthodox Church. The first announcement and the delivery of the urban plan were made to the Church on January 12, 2015 by the construction company that undertook the work. On 14 January, a promise was given by the Government that they would draw up a new plan, in which a final agreement would be reached by both sides. The new plan was submitted just at the end of February, two-thirds of which was the same as the previous plan. The Church representatives responded that we did not agree at all with the new plan. On March 2 the workers of the construction firm, without an official announcement, cut down the iron fence railing and plucked out the string of cypress and other decorative trees and plants from the northern side of the complex.

The courtyard of the Complex is also the roof of the complex’s underground floors where there are expensive ventilation equipment, oil and water tankers and electrical installations. These arbitrary interferences pose a risk to the safety of the surface of the yard, as well as to the underground floors.
These actions are in defiance of Law 10057 / dated 22.01.2009, “The Agreement between the Government and the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania” which guarantees respect for and protection of the holy places of the Orthodox Church. We are forced to protest these violations which injure the feelings of Orthodox Christians and of peaceful religious coexistence.

The Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) is the official missions agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States dedicated to fulfilling Christ’s last command to make disciples of all nations.

Image Caption: The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania protests the Government’s decision to tear down the fences of the “Resurrection of Christ” Cathedral Church in the center of Tirana which they assert is in defiance of Law 10057 / dated 22.01.2009.

Serbian-language media in Kosovo "at risk of closure"

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- Many Serbian-language media in Kosovo could soon be closed as they do not have enough support of donors from the international community, or from Belgrade.
This was heard during a debate said in Kosovska Mitrovica on Friday.
Correspondent for Radio Belgrade Tanja Vujisic said that Serbian-language media are in a difficult position because of the small market and financial unsustainability, and voiced concern that, without financial assistance, only few will remain in northern Kosovo, in Strpci and Gracanica, where the Serbs constitute a majority.

Serb journalists in Kosovo have a problem with Kosovo's institutions who disregard the fact that Serbian is an official language, she said.

Biljana Radomirovic, a journalist with Belgrade-based broadsheet Politika, underscored that Serb journalists in Kosovo are working in tough conditions and under constant stress, sharing the fate of the people they belong to.

President of the Journalists' Association of Kosovo and Metohija and correspondent for Voice of America Budimir Nicic said that the Serb community does not have either a TV or radio with coverage in the entire territory of Kosovo, a news agency or daily.

RTK2, which operates as part of the public service broadcaster, is not an independent TV channel with the signal that would enable coverage in the entire territory of Kosovo, which, under the Constitution, the Serb community should have, Nicic underscored.

Customs cooperation deal approved by Albania and Kosovo

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama announced plans to form a customs union with Kosovo. A deal was reached during a recent visit to Albania by Kosovo’s Prime Minister Isa Mustafa.

“We consider that we have great possibilities for cooperation in energy and infrastructure, fields in which we will join also with others states in the region,” Mustafa told reporters.

In turn, Rama said: “We intend that documents recognised on one side of the border will be recognised automatically also on the other side, and that entrepreneurs will not lose more than five minutes when crossing borders.”

The governments of Albania and Kosovo will meet again on March 23 to discuss the customs cooperation in more detail, according to the Customs Today Report published on March 10. 

"Community of municipalities Serb List's condition"

BELGRADE -- The formation of a community of Serb municipalities (SZO) in Kosovo is a condition for the Serb List representatives to return to the Kosovo institutions.
The Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti further writes that this will be "one of the main conclusions" of the upcoming joint session of all Serb municipalities in Kosovo.
Another daily, Blic, writes that Serbian officials will once again ask Pristina to fulfill its part of the obligations stemming from the Brussels agreement during the next negotiating round at the EU seat.

According to this, PM Aleksandar Vucic will "insist" that the SZO is formed and operational, and that the organization has executive powrers instead of serving only as "fake decoration" in the province.

The newspaper notes that Albanian leaders in Kosovo had "signed that obligation" as part of the coalition agreement they have with the Serb List.

Kosovo Prime Minister Isa Mustafa said on Thursday that Serb representatives did not come up with any conditions for their return to this government, but also that no conditions would be accepted.

The Serb List and Serbian government officials said earlier in the week there would be no return to the Kosovo institutions unless ethnic Albanian parties respected the coalition agreement.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Albanian opposition demands Parliament speaker quit

AP Photo

TIRANA, Albania (AP) -- Several thousand Albanian opposition supporters have demonstrated peacefully in central Tirana to demand the resignation of the Parliament speaker, following accusations that he hired an assassin to kill two lawmakers.
The speaker, Ilir Meta, denies the allegations.
Prosecutors are investigating claims by Tom Doshi, who was expelled from the governing Socialists last week after making the accusations, that he and an opposition Democrat lawmaker were targets of the alleged plot. Doshi claims Meta paid 600,000 euros ($636,000) to someone to carry out the killings.
Democrat leader Lulzim Basha addressed Thursday's rally, accusing Prime Minister Edi Rama of involvement in the alleged assassination plot.
Albania holds municipal elections in June, in a first test for the government that has passed tough reforms since it was elected a year and a half ago.

Albania: Government urged to quit amid murder plot claims

12 March 2015 18:53 (Last updated 12 March 2015 19:59)

Demonstrators call on parliament speaker and government to quit amid allegations two MPs were targeted for assassination.

TIRANA, Albania
Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have protested in the Albanian capital of Tirana, calling for the resignation of the government amid claims that the parliament speaker ordered the assassination of two lawmakers.
The demonstration Thursday, organized by opposition parties, came amid allegations by Socialist Party MP Tom Doshi, who claimed Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta had ordered his killing and that of Democratic Party MP Mhil Fufi.
Democratic Party officials said 300,000 protesters gathered at the central square of Skanderbeg and walked towards the government building chanting slogans calling for the resignation the coalition government comprising Edi Rama’s Socialist Party and Meta’s Socialist Movement for Integration, which came to power in September 2013.
 Police did not provide estimates of the crowd size.
- 'Repression and taxes'
Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, who accused Rama and Meta of being "security threats" to Albania said in an address to protesters: "We all ask Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta to resign ... resign and face the accusations of commissioning the killing of two MPs.
 "Gangs negotiate in the state's top offices."
Basha went on: "Since coming to power, Rama and Meta have increased repression and taxes.
"Uncertainty threatens people everyday -- people live in fear. There is no greater crime than a security threat to the people."
"We will not stop until PM Edi Rama and Parliament speaker Ilir Meta leave," he said.
He also called on the government not to "put pressure on the judiciary and prosecution and to fully untangle these charges."
- Corruption claims
The Albanian prosecution last week questioned several officials and Rama after Doshi, the wealthiest MP in the 140-seat Albanian parliament who was expelled from Rama's Socialist Party last week, made the allegations.
Meta, Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, former PM Sali Berisha, two deputies and two prosecutors were also summoned over the claims.
Doshi had been a close ally of Rama over the past six years, but was expelled from the Socialist Party’s parliamentary group on March 2 after Rama said his criticism of some ministers and directors of government was unacceptable.
In January, 2011, Ilir Meta, then-deputy PM in coalition with the right-wing Democratic Party, was accused of corruption after being caught on video published by Albanian private TV channel Top Channel discussing a $700,000 bribe with Economy, Trade and Energy Minister Dritan Prifti, who was a member of his Socialist Movement for Integration Party.
The video led to a series of protests against the government held by the then-opposition Socialist Party led by Rama.
Four protesters were shot dead by security forces in front of the government building on Jan. 21, 2011.

Greece threatens to seize German property, Berlin refuses to pay WWII reparations

Published time: March 11, 2015
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis)
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (Reuters / Alkis Konstantinidis)

Germany says it won’t pay Greece World War 2 reparations after Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said Berlin is using legal tricks to avoid paying compensation. Germany says it’s honored its obligations, while Greece says it may start seizing German property.
Germany once again dismissed Greek demands to pay reparations for the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece.
"It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved," said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"We should concentrate on current issues and, hopefully, what will be a good future," Reuters reported him as saying.
A spokesman for the finance ministry said there was no point in holding talks with the Greek government concerning the issue of reparations. The spokesman also added that the demands from Athens were just trying to distract attention away from the serious financial problems the country is facing.
With Germany refusing to budge from its position concerning the payment of war reparations, Greece’s Justice Minister said Wednesday that Athens could start seizing German assets.
Nikos Paraskevopoulos said he was “ready to approve” a Greek Supreme Court ruling in 2000 that would allow the appropriation of assets belonging to Germany’s archaeological school and the Goethe Institute. Proceeds from the property would be used to compensate the relatives of 218 civilians who were massacred by Nazi troops in a village in central Greece in June 1944.
"The law states that the minister must give the order for the Supreme Court ruling to be carried out.... I am ready to give that order," Paraskevopoulos told Antenna TV, AFP reported.
On Wednesday, Berlin rejected the renewed demands.
"It is our firm belief that questions of reparations and compensation have been legally and politically resolved," said Steffen Seibert, the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A spokesman for the finance ministry also said there was no reason to hold talks with Athens about reparations and called the demands a distraction from actual financial issues facing Greece.
The issue of war reparations dating from the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece is likely to increase already heightened tensions between Athens and Berlin. The two countries are already squabbling over Greek demands to renegotiate the terms of a €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout. However, with Germany showing few signs of leniency, the new left-wing Syriza government has decided to raise the issue of war reparations again with Berlin.

The issue of war reparations dating from the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece is likely to increase already heightened tensions between Athens and Berlin. The two countries are already squabbling over Greek demands to renegotiate the terms of a €240 billion ($260 billion) bailout. However, with Germany showing few signs of leniency, the new left-wing Syriza government has decided to raise the issue of war reparations again with Berlin.
Reichsmarks, now worth roughly $12 billion. The loan was never repaid, while Greece is also seeking further reparations from Germany due to the destruction wrought upon the nation during the Nazi occupation.

Greece threatens to seize German assets over war reparations for Distomo

First entry: 11 March 2015
Greece threatens to seize German assets over war reparations for Distomo
Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos warned on Wednesday he is ready to sign a Supreme Court ruling giving permission to implement the order to pay the families of the victims of Nazi atrocities in Distomo during World War II.
The country’s top court ruled in favor of the Distomo survivors in 2000, but the decision has not been enforced.
The decision provides for the foreclosure of German assets in Greece and Paraskevopoulos argues that the ruling remains enforceable. The minister first stated his intention during a debate in Parliament on Tuesday, amid applause from lawmakers.
Speaking in Parliament before Paraskevopoulos, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Germany of using legal tricks to avoid paying reparations for the Nazi occupation of Greece and said he would support parliamentary efforts to review the matter.
"The law states that in order to implement the decision of the Supreme Court, the minister of justice has to order it. I believe this permission should be given and I’m ready to give it. Despite the obstacles," Paraskevopoulos told private TV channel ANT1.  "There must probably be some negotiation with Germany," he added.
The other side – Germany – has to respect the decision and "the facts", Paraskevopoulos said, but noted his decision would rest on contemporary "national issues."
"The time for enforcing of this process – considering the legal complexity of the issue and the national implications - will of course depend on the political negotiations the government is involved in and the Parliament’s opinion," the minister told Parliament.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Kammenos message to Turkey: 'We will not ask permission'

First entry: 11 March 2015
Kammenos message to Turkey: 'We will not ask permission'
Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Tuesday referred to the annoyance expressed by Turkey as regards his visits to military units and underlined that they were carried out on Greek soil and on Greek islands and that he flew inside Greek airspace and over Greek territorial waters.
“Other ministers have made such visits as well. I believe that what was probably most annoying was the fact that the Greek military presence on the land borders, along the Evros River, and on the islands has been reinforced,” he said, adding that “we will not ask anybody for permission to display our national sovereignty.”
Kammenos made the statements in Larissa, central Greece, where he attended the handover ceremony in the 1st Army HQ and the Hellenic Tactical Air Force (HTAF).
Referring to the March 25 Independence Day national holiday military parade in Athens, he said that there will be no barriers along the route to prevent the public from approaching, noting that it will held with the participation of members of the National Guard serving in the northeastern region of Evros and the Dodecanese.
The minister called on the people to come and watch the parade to send a message that the Greeks are united. He said that the military parade “is an act of national sovereignty” and “we should show what's obvious, namely, that it is the Greek nation and not just the Greek government that negotiates abroad.”
He noted that despite any political differences “we should show that we do not surrender our national sovereignty to anybody, regardless of whether the threat is military, political or economic.”

Secretary General discusses NATO-Skopje relations with Prime Minister Gruevski


  • 11 Mar. 2015
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹ to NATO headquarters on Wednesday (11 March 2015) for talks on relations between the Alliance and Skopje. “We share a vision of Euro-Atlantic integration, and we are committed to supporting you on your path towards NATO membership,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹, Nikola Gruevski
Calling Skopje “an important partner for the Alliance” and “a security provider”, the Secretary General thanked Prime Minister Gruevski for his country’s contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and for supporting NATO’s KFOR operation in Kosovo with lines of communication. Mr. Stoltenberg also commended the country’s progress in reforming its defence sector.
The Secretary General noted that the Alliance is following recent political developments in Skopje with concern. “Progress on reforms depends on effective democratic dialogue, widespread confidence in the rule of law and freedom of media,” he said, adding, “we count on you to ensure that they are fully respected.” Mr. Stoltenberg encouraged all political forces in Skopje to act responsibly, and to focus on the reforms necessary for progress on the country’s Euro-Atlantic agenda.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Greece warns it could allow migrants to flood EU

ATHENS -- Greece's defense minister has warned that "a wave of migrants" could be let through to the EU unless austerity demands put before Athens are withdrawn.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
"If they deal a blow to Greece, then they should know the the migrants will get papers to go to Berlin. If Europe leaves us in the crisis, we will flood it with migrants, and it will be even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants there will be some jihadists of the Islamic State too," Panos Panos Kammenos said.
Kammenos, who heads the right-wing Independent Party of Greeks, now in coalition with the left-wing Syriza, said that the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone left it vulnerable.

"If they strike us, we will strike them. We will give to migrants from everywhere the documents they need to travel in the Schengen area, so that the human wave could go straight to Berlin,” he said.

Kammenos noted that migrants are crossing Greece's borders every day, and that there are currently 10,000 of them held in centers throughout the country.

The Guardian writes that "EU officials have been so concerned by the Greek threats that the European Commission last week sought assurances that no measures to open up detention centers are being taken."

"Enough about Crimea - let's consider Kosovo, Libya, Iraq"

MOSCOW -- Russia's partners in the West should pay attention to NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia, to Kosovo, and the breakup of Libya, "and not just to Crimea."
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made this statement on Tuesday, TASS reported.
"Concerning international law and the attention that it has received lately, primarily in relation to Crimea, we would like our Western partners to treat other cases that have occurred in modern history no less diligently," he said.

The Russian official added Moscow was "consistently committed to respecting international law in the full capacity of its objectives and principles."

"That bombing by OSCE member-states of another member-state - and I have Yugoslavia (SRJ) in mind - the situation with the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo - without any referendum. Nobody raised their voice there, nor asked why this happened without a referendum," said Lavrov.

The Russian minister accused western countries of failing to react when nationalist leaders in Ukraine a year ago openly called for persecution or destruction of Russians in Crimea.

"The rush to abolish the status of minority languages ​​in Ukraine was accompanied by anti-Russian statements. Yarosh (Right Sector leader) said in late February of last year that the Russians will never accept Ukrainian culture, will never celebrate Bandera, that the Russians cannot change, and therefore there should be no Russians in Crimea, that they should be either expel or destroyed," Lavrov said.

According to him, U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was carried out under "openly made-up pretexts" - while in the case of Libya "a UN mandate was grossly abused."

"A country has been destroyed and now everyone is trying to repair it, while asking only one thing: how to prevent the breakup of other countries in the region," Lavrov said.

Pointing out that all these facts should be "investigated by historians," the Russian foreign minister said that "in practical politics results cannot be achieved unless what happened on the international stage by the gross undermining of international law is kept in mind."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tony and Cherie Blair in business with Albania and Kazakhstan

Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, gestures as she paticipates to a dialogue  for the World Assembly for Women (WAW! Tokyo 2014.

09.03.2015 - 17:22 
Albania and Kazakhstan, it seems, can’t get enough of the Blairs. The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is an advisor to the prime ministers of both countries. His wife’s law firm Omnia Strategy was awarded lucrative contracts in both countries.

While it is not known how much Albania is paying Cherie Blair for her firm’s services, her work in Kazakhstan was worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. She charged the Kazakh government £975 an hour for her fees – a discounted rate. She usually charges £1,150 an hour.
In Albania, Cherie Blair has been called upon to represent Albania in the country’s £250m dispute filed against the country by an American company commissioned to construct and operate special scanners along Albania’s border. The case is currently before the International Chamber of Commerce in Vienna.

Genc Pollo, a senior MP with the opposition Democratic Party and a former minister, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph: “Tony Blair… is a respected figure in Albania especially for his role in the Kosovo intervention. But the current dealings of the [Albanian Prime Minister Edi] Rama government… are concerning because of a lack of transparency and the not very obvious benefit to Albania.”

Florjon Mima, another Democratic party MP and former minister, said: “I am deeply surprised that the firm of the spouse of the former British Prime Minister Blair has been awarded a contract to render legal services representing the Albanian government, while… her husband is publicly recognised as an adviser to the Albanian Government and a personal friend to the Albanian Prime Minister.”

Julia Yun Hulme, Omnia’s managing director, refused to say what the latest legal contract was worth to the company, reports The Telegraph. She also declined to say if Omnia had won contracts in any other countries advised by Mr Blair.
Hulme said in a statement: “Omnia Strategy LLP is a law firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Mr Blair is not involved with Omnia Strategy LLP.”

Pristina official: Serbia must recognize Kosovo to join EU

PRISTINA -- Serbia is aware that it will have to recognize "the state of Kosovo" before joining the European Union, says Kosovo's minister without portfolio Edita Tahiri.
Edita Tahiri (Tanjug, file)
Edita Tahiri (Tanjug, file)
Ethnic Albanians in Serbia's southern province unilaterally declared independence in early 2008, a proclamation Serbia rejected as a violation if its Constitution and territorial integrity.
Tahiri, who responsible for the dialogue with Belgrade, added that the EU-mediated Brussels dialogue "will be considered a success once its objective - EU accession of both Kosovo and Serbia - is accomplished."

"The EU has bound Serbia by law to a normalization of good-neighborly relations with Kosovo and that condition is reflected in Chapter 35 of Serbia's accession process, and Serbia is also aware that it will have to recognize the state of Kosovo before joining the EU," Tahiri said.

In a statement to Belgrade-based daily Danas, she said that, "pursuant to Kosovo's laws and the Brussels agreement, a community of Serb municipalities will not have executive or supervisory powers, but a coordination and advisory role."

"Serbia is not only inefficient in implementing the Brussels agreements, but it also violates them," she said.

"Among other things, it still supports the parallel structures in northern Kosovo, which is contrary to the Brussels agreement," Tahiri said.

She added that Serbs have "greater rights than other minorities in Kosovo and the region and compared to the rights of minorities in Serbia, in particular ethnic Albanians in the Presevo valley, the rights of the Kosovo Serbs are far greater."

Noting that she has been Kosovo's chief negotiator since the very beginning of the talks, Tahiri said that "property (issues) have never been and never will be a topic in the Brussels talks."

"Serbia's attempts to raise that issue have been met with staunch refusal from Kosovo - sovereignty over property and assets belongs to the state of Kosovo because, I stress, the International Court of Justice upheld the legality of the declaration of independence in 2010," Tahiri said.

"Kosovo army would be contrary to UN resolution"

BELGRADE -- Serbian Government Office for Kosovo Director Marko Djuric has said that Belgrade opposes the establishment of Kosovo's armed forces.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
In addition, he pointed out that this would be contrary to "international documents."
"The creation of a Kosovo army is not mentioned in Brussels agreement, on the contrary, the agreement clearly stipulated that no type of armed forces can enter the north of Kosovo without the consent of the Serb community, and that is one of the postulates of the document," Djuric told the Russian website Sputnik.

According to him, UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo provides for "only two armed forces" in Kosovo - KFOR and the Serbian Army, the latter "with the approval of the commander of KFOR."

"We do not believe that it would be a good signal to build and form any kind of armed formations in a conflict zone. People who have had tanks in their streets for 15 years do not want to see any kind of army in the streets any longer," Djuric said.

According to him, the political leadership in Kosovo should deal with solving social and economic problems, not with "forming an army."

"In this regard, no one should fool themselves that this idea will meet with a positive response of the Serb community in Kosovo, on which, however, it very much depends how this issue will be decided in parliament," said Djuric.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

European Commission chief urges ‘joint EU army,’ Germany backs decision

Published time: March 08, 2015 15:15
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Reuters / Ints Kalnins)
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Reuters / Ints Kalnins)
The European Commission chief has called for the creation of an “EU joint army” that would “react credibly” to any external threat and defend the bloc’s “values.” While the UK and France are wary it could undermine NATO, Germany has backed the idea.
“An army like this would help us to better coordinate our foreign and defense policies, and to collectively take on Europe's responsibilities in the world," the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in an interview to Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
He added the EU’s image "has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don't seem to be taken entirely seriously."
"A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries," Juncker said.

With a joint EU army, the bloc could “react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighboring state.”
"You would not create a European army to use it immediately," Juncker said. "But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union."
Juncker’s proposal has been supported in Germany, where last month Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen also spoke of an EU army, calling it the main goal for the bloc.
In her comment on Junker’s proposal, she told Deutschlandfunk radio station that a “European army is the future.”
Chairman of the Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Norbert Rottgen has also told the Welt that "a joint army is a European vision whose time has come.”
"The European countries spend enormous sums on the military, many times more in total when compared to Russia. Yet our military capabilities remain unsatisfactory from a security standpoint,” he said. “And they will for as long as we're talking about national mini-armies, which are often doing and purchasing the same things in their minor formats."

According to Hans-Peter Bartels, the chairman of the Defense Committee of the Bundestag, “the past 10 years have added little to Europe's defense. It needs a boost.”
“It is important that we now swiftly implement concrete measures. We should not wait for an overall concept of all 28 EU members, but start with agreements between the nation states," he added.
However, Junker’s idea of an EU Army is a concern for some of the bloc’s members, particularly France and the UK. They are wary of granting a bigger military role to the EU as it could undermine NATO.
Meanwhile, former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana is planning to present a report called “More Union in European Defense.” It urges the creation of a new method for EU protection, which would have “a political and military ability to autonomously conduct intervention operations beyond the EU’s borders.” He also proposes to establish an EU military HQ in Brussels.
In the meantime, senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said the EU is paranoid about Russia.
"The European version of paranoia: declaring the establishment of a unified army to counterbalance Russia, which does not intend to go to war with anyone," he wrote on his Twitter page.
The “military” ambitions of the EC chief come right after the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini stressed that Europe has a realistic view of Russian events, but it “will never be trapped or forced or pushed or pulled into a confrontative [sic] attitude” towards Moscow.
On Saturday, the German newspaper Der Spiegel revealed that Berlin had slammed comments by NATO European Commander General Philip Breedlove on Ukraine as ‘dangerous propaganda,’ which put the West at risk of losing credibility.

Papandreou takes legal action against HSBC list tipster

First entry: 7 March 2015
Papandreou takes legal action against HSBC list tipster
Former Prime Minister George Papandreou filed a suit at the Athens Court of First Instance on Friday against Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee who leaked the details of thousands of depositors to authorities, including the Greeks included on the so-called Lagarde list.
In his recent book Falciani claims that Papandreou was blackmailed into signing Greece’s bailout so details of a 500-billion-euro account allegedly held by his mother in Switzerland would not be revealed.
In a statement issued after the suit was filed, Papandreou labeled the claims “terrible defamation.”
Papandreou has pointed out in the past that the claim about his mother possessing a large bank account abroad has been made before and that the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) has confirmed in writing that this is not the case.

Kosovars Who Fought for Land Are Now Eager to Leave

Slide Show By ALISON SMALEMARCH 7, 2015
The New York Times

STANOVC, Kosovo — The extended Cakaj family has built a few dozen homes here, along Tony Blair Street, between the Dubai supermarket and the French peacekeepers base, in a clannish faith that closeness would bring security. But recently the family of Kosovo Albanians has begun to splinter, as a disastrous economy, static politics and a newly created opening in the border with Serbia have enticed tens of thousands of Kosovars to leave their troubled land in search of opportunity and work.

“My son had no choice,” said Xhevat Cakaj, but to leave their enclave for Germany with his wife and their five girls. They had only one cow, he said, whose milk they sold in a market in nearby Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, and their only other source of income was running a minibus service until the local authorities clamped down.

Squinting to survey the land where his family hid from the Serbs in the 1999 war, he wept at the irony of fate. “No one leaves for pleasure,” said Mr. Cakaj, 64.

Afrim Syla, 48, of Pristina, who makes pancakes for a living and recently had a son join the exodus, concurred: Once, Kosovars were laying down their lives to stay here. “Now,” he said, “we have come to a situation where we leave of our own free will.”

The New York Times

Sixteen years after NATO, in its only war, drove out Serbian security forces so 850,000 Kosovo Albanians expelled by the Serbs could return home, the flow of Kosovo Albanians has reversed. For months now, buses have been bringing Kosovo Albanians through Serbia to the porous land border with Hungary, in the European Union.

The Albanians cross on foot, often undetected. When picked up by Hungarian officials, they have been detained only briefly. Many are enticed by the promises of a paid Serbian “guide” or have a friend or relative in Austria, Switzerland, Germany or Scandinavia and, moving freely among European Union nations, make their way toward them.

But Kosovo’s Albanians, most of whom are Muslims, are not being greeted with open arms. In another twist, they are being forced back to their land, deemed too physically — if not financially — secure to warrant asylum status.

The turnaround says as much about Western Europe’s struggle to handle its torrent of refugees and other immigrants seeking stability and opportunity, as it does about the isolation and deprivation of the people in the Balkans.

At Pristina’s grim bus station, the flow of buses leaving each night is down to two, from a reported 12. There, a large notice lists 10 reasons not to emigrate, first among them that the Kosovo state for which Albanians fought so hard needs people if it is to exist.

But persuading people to remain and reintegrating those who are being forced to return remains a challenge.

“It’s going to be a very difficult spring,” said Samuel Zbogar, a Slovenian diplomat who heads the European Union’s mission here.

No one seems to know exactly when and why the exodus started, but it has been startling in its swiftness and intensity. Officials in Austria and Germany sounded alarms in January, after registering huge increases in Kosovo Albanians seeking asylum.
Continue reading the main story

The immediate trigger was a fresh opportunity at the border. Kosovars — unlike impoverished Balkan neighbors in Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia — do not have access to European visa programs, contributing to their sense of abandonment and isolation, political leaders, officials and independent researchers say.

European-brokered agreements last fall — part of continuing Western efforts to foster cooperation between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs — created more entry points for Kosovars to enter neighboring Serbia and freer passage across Serbia, as well as broader mutual recognition of identity documents. The buses started to roll northward.

While Kosovars felt hope in the aftermath of their brutal war with the Serbs and their declaration of independence in 2008, many — particularly the young — say they now see few prospects.

Many feel a stifling sense of uncertainty rooted, in part, in the territory’s status. Russia, a longtime ally of Serbia, does not recognize it, and some nations see its independence as a signal to their own separatists: China, which is under pressure for a free Tibet and five of the 28 members of the European Union — most notably Spain, which worries about Catalonia.

Domestically, Kosovo is reeling. Elections last June went unresolved for months, until the party of the former prime minister, Hashim Thaci, a hero of the war against Serbia lately accused by critics of being power hungry and corrupt, muscled its way into a governing coalition. Mr. Thaci is now foreign minister.

Adding to this brew of troubles is the economy. In a region plagued by aging demographics, it is Europe’s youngest territory, with 27 the average age of its two million citizens. Kosovo would need an impossible 7 percent annual economic growth to offer work to the 25,000 to 30,000 youths the government says finish school each year. Direct investment from foreign sources is about $270 million a year, half what it was in 2007, said Lumir Abdixhiku, executive director of Riinvest, an independent research group.

Austria registered 1,901 asylum applications from Kosovo citizens in 2014, but saw 1,029 in January alone, said Karl-Heinz Grundböck of the Interior Ministry in Vienna. By mid-February, Germany had some 18,000 applications from Kosovars since Jan. 1.

Within Kosovo, the Education Ministry counts some 5,600 absent pupils.

But Western Europe is already swamped with refugees from war and turbulence in the Middle East and Africa, and is struggling to integrate Muslim immigrants. Accommodation is so scarce that some Kosovo arrivals were housed in old United States Army barracks in Heidelberg, Germany.

In Germany, the flood from Kosovo has now slowed to about 200 arrivals a day, from 1,400 a day in early February.

Children playing in a housing estate in Pristina. More than 5,000 children have disappeared from Kosovo's schools during the recent migration of Kosovars to Hungary. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa, 63, now faces the challenge of keeping Kosovo Albanians at home. A veteran of Kosovo politics, he said he hoped to ease youth discontent by spreading the city’s sports and cultural facilities across Kosovo — a region that broils in summer, but still has no public swimming pool — and improving education.

“We have to free people from this isolation,” he said.

Many here see the solution in a regulated flow of visas for Europe. Mr. Abdixhiku, the analyst, said providing 100,000 Kosovars opportunities in Europe could compensate for neglect. “It was not fair,” he said, “to leave Kosovo as a black hole for all these years,” limiting even business travel.

But European governments are troubled by rising populism and nationalism, along with voters’ complaints about immigration from even European Union member states like Romania and Bulgaria. Germany expects 300,000 asylum applications this year after just over 200,000 in 2014. So visas are unlikely.

Mr. Zbogar, the European Union diplomat, talked of an increase in European spending, to about $90 million this year, from $80 million. Germany and others are also promising more aid.

Critics said corruption is rampant, undermining development. They point to new government highways recently built, linking Pristina with Albania and its coast, whose costs ballooned.

Ardian Gjini, a leader of the opposition party Alliance for the Freedom of Kosovo, likened the highway project — and corruption in general — to giving one’s son a 100 euro note (about $110) and asking him to buy two glasses of wine. The son proudly returns with the wine, but cannot say where the change went, Mr. Gjini said bitterly.

For the Cakaj family, the problems have prompted some reinvention. Isa Cakaj, 42, showed a visitor around his neat food store and compound, including a two-story home, cow stall and apple orchard. He has a degree in geological engineering, but Kosovo’s mineral mines are either drying up, or still untapped. So he is retraining in forensics, supporting his wife, father and five children as best he can.

Opposite his home is the well-appointed but deserted compound of a cousin who works year-round in Germany and visits in summer — and is among those who send an estimated $650 million in remittances back to Kosovo each year.

“If you don’t have connections and know people, there is no way for you to get a job,” said Isa Cakaj’s father, Sherif. Officials, he said angrily, “don’t care if you have a job or not; they just want you to pay the utility bills.”

In his 75 years, he insisted, things had never been so bad. “The worst thing is when you are alive, but you are dead,” he said. “If I was not so old, I would leave myself.”