Saturday, March 28, 2015

British Museum could lend Elgin Marbles to Greece

The UK has refused to enter into mediation for the return of the sculptures, but has made tentative overtures towards arranging a loan

The River God Ilissos by Phidias, part of the Elgin Marbles and on display at the British Museum
The River God Ilissos by Phidias, part of the Elgin Marbles and on display at the British Museum Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
The British Museum could enter into talks with Greece to lend them some of the controversial Elgin Marbles, despite turning down a request for mediation.
In a letter to UNESCO, Sir Richard Lambert, the chairman of the British Museum's board of trustees, highlighted previous "joint ventures" between Greek and British museums.
He offered to hold talks with the Acropolis Museum over the pieces held by the British Museum, and pointed out that the Museum "has routinely lent to Greece".
"As Trustees we attach great importance to these joint ventures, and believe that both the study of the Parthenon Sculptures and their display to the widest possible audiences illuminates not only the Classical Greek achievement but also its impact on the world," he wrote.
"In conclusion, therefore, we would invite our colleagues in Greek museums to continue to work with us and to explore new ways of enabling the whole world to see, study and enjoy the sculptures of the Parthenon."
A Marble relief (Block XLVII) from the North frieze of the Parthenon
The Marbles left London for the first time in December last year when a headless statue of the river god Ilissos was lent to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
It has since returned to the British Museum and is on display as part of the exhibition Defining Beauty: the Body in Greek Art.
Greece has previously refused to consider a loan in case it signalled acceptance of the British Museum's right to the statues.
A statue by Phidias, 438BC-432BC
Ed Vaizey, the Culture Minister, also wrote to UNESCO to decline mediation, citing those concerns.
"While we remain keen to cooperate with UNESCO in its work, the fact remains that the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum were legally acquired by Lord Elgin under the laws pertaining at the time and the Trustees of the British Museum have had clear legal title to the sculptures since 1816," he said.
"Neither the British Government nor the British Museum are aware of any new arguments to the contrary since 1985, when a formal Greek request for the return of the sculptures was turned down by the British Government."
There was however "scope for further cooperation and collaboration", he said.
Eddie O'Hara, the chairman of the British Committee for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, said the UK's decision was "deeply disappointing".
He told the Independent: "They play the game of offering a loan because they know the Greeks would never accept a loan."

Italian coach de Biasi gets Albanian citizenship

| March 28, 2015
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania's national team coach, Italian Giovanni de Biasi, has received Albanian citizenship a day before the European championship qualifier against Armenia.
President Bujar Nishani on Saturday gave the coach his citizenship document at a meeting with the team in the port city of Durres, 33 kilometers (20 miles) west of capital Tirana, where they are training.
De Biasi, 58, has been leading Albania, which is third in Group I, since December 2011.
The Italian coach is married to an Albanian woman and will now have dual citizenship.

World Bank makes 266-million-euro loan to guarantee Albania's borrowing, improve roads

  • Article by: Associated Press
A statement from the bank Saturday said that 200 million euros would be used as guarantor for Albania to pay back a previous 300-million-euro international loan and also secure money for the country's budget.
The other 66 million euros will be spent on road network maintenance, which has been systematically underfunded.
Albania's government is suffering from a rapidly rising public debt that has reached 70 percent, up from 60 percent in 2012.
Last year, the bank gave Albania another budget support loan of $220 million and $150 million for its energy sector.


Grande affluenza di pubblico ieri (25 marzo) a Brindisi per la Festa Nazionale Greca organizzata dalla Comunità Ellenica di Brindisi, Lecce e Taranto.
Ospite attesissimo il noto giornalista e scrittore Pino Aprile mentre la partecipazione di Al Bano Carrisi è stata una graditissima sorpresa “fuori programma”.
Interessanti gli interventi dei relatori in programma: Isabella Oztasciyan Bernardini D'Arnesano, responsabile del “Centro per la Diffusione della Lingua e Cultura Greca – Dimitris Glaros”, Giacomo Carito, Presidente della Società di Storia Patria per la Puglia- Sezione di Brindisi, Francesco De Palo direttore del “Mondo Greco” e naturalmente quello i Pino Aprile.
Ha coordinato l’incontro il Presidente del sodalizio italo- ellenico Ioannis Davilis.
Si è parlato della Rivoluzione Panellenica del 1821 contro l’oppressore ottomano ma anche delle nuove sfide che la Grecia di oggi sta dando nell’ambito dell’Europa Unita.

PINO APRILE: “ Siamo tutti greci” e subito dopo "oggi la Grecia sta dando battaglia non contro la Germania ma contro l'oligarchia mondiale, se vince vince la democrazia per tutti, se perde perdiamo la nostra libertà!".

AL BANO CARRISI: “grazie a voi oggi mi sento più ricco, ho imparato cose che non sapevo!”
E poi a sorpresa canta “amara terra mia” ed in seguito ricordando l’amico Mikis Theodorakis canta “il ragazzo che sorride”.

IOANNIS DAVILIS: “la Grecia ed il suo popolo hanno le radici molto profonde piene di linfa di cultura, di storia e di democrazia. Sono radici che appartengono in parte anche al mediterraneo e all’Europa. Sono le nostre radici!”

Presenti alla manifestazione tra gli altri il Rettore della Chiesa Ortodossa in Puglia Archimandrita Arsenios, il Presidente dell’Autorità Portuale Hercules Haralambides, i consiglieri comunali in Brindisi Roberto Fusco, Riccardo Rossi e Giampietro Pennetta e l’esponente storico della Comunità Ellenica di Foggia YannaPapanikolaou. I consueti inni nazionali sono stati eseguiti in diretta dal cantautore, filosofo e poeta Pierpaolo De Giorgi.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Albania is ‘stand-out’ tourism and foreign property destination

Rising visitor numbers, new flights and low living costs are boosting overseas property demand in Albania, says a leading resort chief.
Albania chalked up a 167% increase in foreign visitors in Q3 2014, topping one million, according to the country’s national statistics office, INSTAT. Just two years ago, it attracted 390,454 overseas tourists.
Visitor numbers from East Asia and Pacific grew 42.34% year-on-year and Western Europe by 24.7%.
Peter Walshe, Marketing Director of Albania’s first high-end resort, Lalzit Bay Resort and Spa, says, “Albania is looking to be one of the stand-out destinations for travel this year and as the country begins to fully recognise the potential of its tourism market, this is sure to be just the beginning.
“In line with this, we are certainly seeing a growing number of enquiries from people interested in buying property in the beautiful coastal region of Lalzit Bay, for both their own use and having recognised its investment potential. Albania is proving a popular choice for buyers in a wide range of nations.”
Summer 2015 will see the launch of a host of new flight routes, linking Albania’s capital, Tirana, with more key cities in Europe and beyond.
A code-share deal between Czech Airlines and Travel Service will see new flights start between Prague and Tirana, and there will also be charter flights launched from Košice airport in Slovakia into Albanian capital. Kuwait investors are in talks about the potential launch of the new Albanian Airways plane which fly from Tirana t0 European countries that are home to expat Albanians.
With this expansion extending into autumn too, Italy’s Air Vallée is also set to start scheduled flights between the Italian destinations of Rimini, Salerno, Bari and Pescara, flying into Tirana, making the Balkan country even more accessible to its neighbouring nation.
The World Bank is preparing the Country Strategy for Albania for the next five years, which is focused on coordinating and maximising growth in the tourism sector.
The country is becoming renowned as an incredibly affordable destination to visit, which ensures it is becoming the top choice for a growing flank for property investors and holidaymakers, says Mr Walshe.
Numbeo’s Consumer Price Index, part of  its Cost of Living Index 2015, showed that Albania is some 40% cheaper than Italy which is just 45-miles across the Adriatic.
Lalzit Bay Resort and Spa is offering a range of beautifully-designed properties as part of a five-star, beachfront resort.
Properties are built at low density and to the highest of standards and range from one or two-bedroom apartments to three for four-bedroom villas with private pools. The properties, inspired by California’s beachfront real estate, are priced from €35,000-€360,000.
Lalzit Bay Resort is just 30 minutes from Durrës and features a beach club, range of top restaurants and bars, tennis courts and boutique shops.

World Bank Executive Director Concludes Successful Visit to Albania

March 27, 2015
Mr. Pagano met with Prime Minister Edi Rama, Speaker of the Parliament Ilir Meta, Minister of Finance Shkëlqim Cani, other members of government, Governor of the Bank of Albania, head of the opposition and Mayor of Tirana Lulzim Basha, as well as representatives from civil society, development partners and media.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Rama, Mr. Pagano praised the government’s reform agenda and the emerging good results, and expressed his support for the government’s efforts focusing on Albania’s comparative advantages, finding new sources of growth, and creating an environment conducive to investment and job creation. He also expressed his satisfaction for the dynamic collaboration between the government and the World Bank Group resulting in the timely preparation of programs and knowledge sharing in support of reforms necessary to achieve these ambitious objectives. Mr. Pagano listened to the Government’s views about challenges ahead and assured strong support of the WBG in the context of the new Country Partnership Framework.
I am impressed with the drive towards transformational changes demonstrated by the government in pursuing reform agenda in the country. Some of the reforms such as in energy and pensions are showing encouraging results, and I look forward to seeing more positive impact during the implementation of the upcoming World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework”, said Patrizio Pagano, Executive Director representing Albania in the World Bank Group’s Board.
Mr. Pagano also exchanged views on Albania’s short to mid-term challenges with the opposition and development partners. He underscored the importance of maintaining active dialogue and consultations to support the country’s continued progress.
Mr. Pagano participated in the signing ceremony of the recently approved Health System Improvement project, and expressed his satisfaction for the contribution to the improvement of health services and coverage.
During his visit to two hydro-powers in North Albania, Vau i Dejes and Koman, Mr. Pagano was briefed on the important measures taken to ensure sustainable energy supply for the population and the economy which are supported by the new project on Power sector recovery. During his visit Mr. Pagano was accompanied by Ms. Tahseen Sayed, Country Manager for Albania.

Outspoken Syriza MP praises Greek Special Forces – VIDEO

First entry: 27 March 2015 - 10:15 Athens, 08:15 GMT
Last update: 10:15 Athens, 08:15 GMTPolitics
Outspoken Syriza MP praises Greek Special Forces – VIDEO
Syriza MP, formerly of the populist Independent Greeks party (ANEL), Rachel Makri, expressed her support for the Greek Special Forces unit - known as OYK -following the controversial slogans they chanted on Wednesday’s military parade.
Makri posted a video of support on her Facebook account despite the backlash from governing party lawmakers and the opposition that accused OYK of nationalistic behaviour.
This is the video Makri posted on her official account.


Kombëtarja kërkon fat, falet në xhami para sfidës me Armeninë

Kombëtarja  e futbollit fotografi përpara xhamisë, revoltohen disa tifozë në Facebook

Albanian team soccer in an Mosque in Durres before the match between Albania and Armenia for Pivotal Euro 2016 Qualifier

Serb deputies continue to boycott Kosovo assembly

PRISTINA -- Head of the Serbian List group in the Kosovo assembly Sasa Milosavljevic has said that 9 deputies from this list will not show up for today's sitting.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
"We are still waiting for our coalition partners (the Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Democratic League of Kosovo) to fulfill their coalition obligations. These obligations have not yet been fulfilled," said Milosavljevic.
He, however, voiced his "personal stance" that Serb List deputies should return to the assembly in Pristina, "because that is the only way they can participate in solving those problems that are important to the Serb community."

Milosavljevic said that Serb deputies can live up to the promises they made during the campaign "only in that way," the Beta agency is reporting on Friday.

The Kosovo assembly is meeting today to discuss the establishment of a special court for KLA crimes, with Prime Minister Isa Mustafa expected to address the sitting.

The Serb List left the Kosovo government and other institutions after the sacking of Aleksandar Jablanovic from Mustafa's cabinet. This was done because Jablanovic described those Albanians who attacked Serb returnees in Djakovica with rocks on Orthodox Christmas Eve as "savages."

Additionally, the Serb List wants to stop privatizations in Serb areas, and is demanding that two new municipalities be set up in Kosovo.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vucic has telephone conversation with Kosovo PM

BELGRADE -- Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has had a phone conversation "with Prime Minister of the interim administration in Pristina Isa Mustafa," Tanjug said.
The news agency added it learned that Vucic and Mustafa spoke about "future cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina and the position of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija."
Vucic and Mustafa "agreed on Wednesday evening that all problems should be solved through dialogue and that after establishing direct contact, they will in the future directly communicate about all potential problems," Tanjug reported on Thursday.

Commenting in the conversation during a break in a conference in Belgrade's Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday, Vucic said Mustafa and he held "very different views of the world, the future, Kosovo - but it is normal that we talk."

"My job is to talk and I will always talk to him. Just as I am always pleased to talk with Angela Merkel, with (Vladimir) Putin, so it is normal for me to talk with someone who is not that popular. But, I cannot and do not wish to say a bad word about that, because it is my job and his to solve problems, " Vucic was quoted as saying.

He added that the conversation last night was "also about how to continue the (Kosovo) dialogue."

The EU-mediated dialogue has stalled as Pristina "wants all previously agreed on deals to be implemented before new topics are opened, while Belgrade wants to talk about forming a community of Serb municipalities," the Beta agency said in its report.

The last dialogue round was held in Brussels on February 9 and resulted in an agreement on the judiciary.

Albania: Immunity lifted for 2 MPs in murder plot claim

By LLAZAR SEMINI, Associated Press | March 26, 2015 | Updated: March 26, 2015 11:01am
  • Lawmaker Tom Doshi speaks to a Parliament’s commission discussing the prosecutors’ request to lift his immunity, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after his claims Speaker Ilir Meta had been behind an assassination plot. Parliament on Thursday, March 26, 2015 voted in favor of the prosecutors’ call to arrest Doshi, expelled from the governing Socialists three weeks ago after the claims, and also for Christian Democrat Mark Frroku for false testimony in the case. Photo: Hektor Pustina, AP / AP
    Photo By Hektor Pustina/AP 
    Lawmaker Tom Doshi speaks to a Parliament’s commission discussing the prosecutors’ request to lift his immunity, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after his claims Speaker Ilir Meta had been behind an assassination plot. Parliament on Thursday, March 26, 2015 voted in favor of the prosecutors’ call to arrest Doshi, expelled from the governing Socialists three weeks ago after the claims, and also for Christian Democrat Mark Frroku for false testimony in the case.
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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian lawmakers on Thursday voted to lift the immunity of two of their colleagues accused of false testimony claiming that the parliament speaker was behind an alleged assassination plot to kill two deputies.
Eighty of Parliament's 140 lawmakers voted to allow the prosecution of Socialist lawmaker Tom Doshi, while the vote for lifting the immunity of Christian Democrat Mark Frroku was 79 to one abstention.
Sixty lawmakers, all but four of them from opposition parties, were absent.
Doshi was expelled from the governing Socialists three weeks ago after claiming Parliament speaker Ilir Meta, a former prime minister, had paid 600,000 euros ($656,000) to have him and an opposition Democratic Party lawmaker killed. He has given no explanation for what Meta's motives might have been. Meta has strenuously denied the allegation.
Doshi had claimed that Frroku had first told him about the alleged plot. Frroku denies making any such claim.
The two lawmakers were formally accused of false testimony after a probe found no evidence of an assassination plot. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.
"We have seen no politician, lawmaker jailed for false testimony, which in fact did not occur at all in my case," Frroku said before the vote.
Prosecutors questioned Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama, his Democrat predecessor Sali Berisha and tens of others before deciding to ask for the lifting of the two's immunity.
Speaking at a Parliamentary commission meeting Wednesday night, Doshi described the prosecution request against him as politically motivated.
Prosecutors say that Durim Bami, who Doshi said was the assassin, has since claimed that Doshi and Frroku paid him and pressured him to make a false allegation about the assassination plot.
Forty of the main opposition Democratic Party's 41 lawmakers walked out of parliament before the vote, with the party saying it did not want "to be part of the farce," despite previously voicing support for the request to lift immunity for the two.
"The investigation cannot be trusted as long as the speaker maintains his post," said Democrat Eduard Halimi. The party has called for Meta to be removed from his post so he can be questioned again.
Italy and Albania arrest three ISIS recruiters

printable version

26 March 2015

Three suspects have been arrested in Italy and Albania, believed to be part of a terrorist cell that has recruited fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS.

Albanian police on Wednesday said they had arrested 38-year-old Alban Haki Elezi, from the village of Frakull, near the town of Kavaja in central Albania, acting on an Interpol warrant issued by the Italian authorities.

“His arrest was carried out based on a warrant issued by Interpol Rome and a ruling issued by a court in Brescia, on suspicion of terrorist acts,” the statement said.

Italian media reports said that apart from Alban Elezi, Italian authorities have also arrested his nephew, Elvis Elezi, in Turin and a 28-year-old Italian of Moroccan origin.

Italian authorities are increasingly concerned by the number of radicalized Muslims emigrants from the Balkans joining the ranks of the Islamist militants.

According to a document seen by BIRN, the Italian Interior Ministry has identified five radical cells from the Balkans operating in Italy and recruiting jihadist fighters for the Islamic State.

The cells located in Milan, Rome, Liguria, Lucca and Siena have allegedly infiltrated communities composed of Muslim emigrants from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia.

So far, eight of 59 people that Italian security agencies have identified as joining radical Islamic groups fighting in Syria and Iraq come from the Balkans. Four have already died in the Syrian war.

Because of its geographical proximity, Italian authorities are worried that ties between radical preachers coming from the Balkans and local Muslim communities could turn the country into a centre of radical Islamist activity.

By Besar Likmeta

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thousands turn out for Greek Independence Day parade

The Associated PressMarch 25, 2015 Updated 3 hours ago
The crowds at the parade, where tanks rolled down the street and fighter jets and military helicopters flew overhead, were in stark contrast to last year's event, which took place under heavy security. Spectators had only been allowed near the end of the route.
Authorities limited public access to national parades after protesters had heckled officials attending such events over the handling of Greece's financial crisis and austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans.
Parliamentary elections in January saw the radical left Syriza party form a coalition government with the nationalist right-wing Independent Greeks.
The two had been among the most vociferous critics of previous governments' handling of the financial crisis, and came to power on pledges of ripping up the bailout agreement which stipulated austerity measures in return for funds from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.
But the new government, faced with an increasingly severe credit crunch and strained relations with its European partners, has had to roll back on some of its pre-election promises.
March 25 marks the start of Greece's 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire. The end of Wednesday's parade was followed for the first time by traditional Greek folk dances in the street outside Parliament.

Read more here:

"Serbia won't sit quietly as Greater Albania is created"

BELGRADE -- Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic has said that the country "cannot and will not" react quietly to the creation of a Greater Albania.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
He remarked that "they need not hide it under any other guise, because (Greater Albania) is obviously what this is about," and "called on the EU to oppose it."
Selakovic spoke after Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Monday announced that several agreements signed between the governments of Kosovo and Albania represented "national unification" and that this had occurred "through the EU."

Kosovo is a Serbian province that unilaterally declared independence in 2008, an act Serbia considers a violation of its territorial integrity.

Selakovic said that while Serbia wishes to have the best possible relations with Albania, and for Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo to live in peace, "it will not react quietly to the forming of a Greater Albania."

"We are calling on the EU to oppose it, rather than keep quiet and look at it benevolently," the minister said late on Monday.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pristina "daydreams about Serbia's recognition"

BELGRADE -- Director of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric says that "people should not be fed the illusion about Serbia's recognition of Kosovo."
Marko Djuric in Kosovska Mitrovica (Beta, file)
Marko Djuric in Kosovska Mitrovica (Beta, file)
However, he added, that does not mean that residents in Kosovo and Metohija, both Serbs and Albanians, "should not live together, and live better."
Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 2008 unilaterally declared independence, which Serbia considers a violation of its Constitution and territorial integrity.

But Hashim Thaci, who serves as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the government in Pristina, told the Austrian APA agency he was "convinced that Serbia will in the near future" recognize its southern province as independent.

Reacting to this statement, Djuric said that "the road to normalization is irreversible, while the constant daydreaming about a Serb recognition of Kosovo's independence is a reflection of political immaturity."

"What is worrying is the lack of focus on the real problems of Kosovo and Metohija - unemployment, corruption, and bad inter-ethnic relations," this official observed.

Djuric also advised Thaci to "turn to the reality and take into account the fact that citizens suffer the most from any delays in normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, which at the same time represents a process to create the conditions for economic development of Kosovo and Metohija."

Thaci told APA on Monday that Serbia's recognition "will not happen tomorrow, but will come in the near future," and noted that Serbia's EU accession and recognition of Kosovo will be tied to one another.

During the same interview, Thaci mentioned "Islamic extremism and the rising influence of Russia" as the biggest threats faced by the Western Balkan region.

Keeping Greece in the euro: Mission impossible?

Grexit? Patience with Greece is running out

The make-or-break moment in the long running saga over Greece's debt is looming.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday in a bid to bridge a growing gulf between Athens and its European creditors.
Tsipras arrived in Germany -- the biggest single contributor to Greece's 240-billion euro ($262 billion) international bailout -- warning that Athens will find it "impossible" to avoid defaulting on its debt repayments without more cash from Europe.
"Servicing these repayments through internal resources alone would, indeed, lead to a sharp deterioration in the already depressed Greek social economy -- a prospect that I will not countenance," Tsipras wrote in a March 15 letter to Merkel first published by the Financial Times.
Greek government spokesman Gavriel Sakelarides confirmed the content of the letter. He said Tsipras was not threatening Germany but rather laying out the "reality" facing his country. "There is a liquidity problem and political initiatives must be undertaken," Sakelarides told Greek TV.
And here's the problem: Europe will only hand over more cash once it's satisfied that Greece is implementing reforms it promised in February to win an extension of its financial lifeline to the end of June.
Pressure on Merkel to hold a firm line with Greece is coming from two sources: German taxpayers who don't want to throw good money after bad, and European states who have stuck with painful austerity and believe they're beginning to see the benefits of those reforms.
Tsipras said he hadn't come to Berlin looking for money but rather to try to establish common ground and understand "what we agree on and what we disagree on," he told reporters.
Merkel said she wasn't in a position to promise any more help to Greece -- that would be a decision for eurozone finance ministers as a group. But she twice referred back to the February agreement, which Greece has so far failed to fulfill.
Related: Greece needs to behave like a startup
While the political wrangling continues, Greece's financial position went from bad to worse. Tax revenues fell short of forecasts by more than one billion euros in the first two months of the year, the economy is shrinking again and cash is leaving the country.
"Tonight, Prime Minister Tsipras has potentially his last chance to convince German Chancellor Merkel that he will ultimately do what it takes to keep Greece in the euro," noted Christian Schulz at Berenberg bank.
"If he fails to inspire any kind of trust in Berlin, securing the necessary funds to keep going, let alone the inevitable third bailout in July, will be a fantasy."
Greece repaid more than 900 million euros to the International Monetary Fund last week, but faces another repayment demand of about 470 million euros on April 9. Some analysts believe the cash crunch could come even sooner than that.
With its budget surplus fast evaporating, and unable to borrow from international markets, Greece's anti-austerity government would then face a stark choice: default or slash spending at home.
Some relief could come from the European Central Bank, if it agrees to relax the conditions attached to funding Greece's banks. ECB President Mario Draghi said Monday that he was prepared to do so, but Greece must first commit to honor its obligations to all creditors, and prove that it is meeting the conditions of its bailout program.
Would you be a tax spy for Greece?
-- CNN's Elinda Labropoulou in Athens contributed to this article.

Albania reaffirms commitment to NATO

Albania remains committed to the NATO Readiness Action Plan, which "ensures that the Alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges."
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 19/03/15
photoThe VJTF will be comprised of NATO Response Forces, and will consist primarily of a terrestrial component supplemented with air, sea and special forces. [AFP]
Albania's Ministry of Defence said the country continues to be engaged in the NATO Readiness Action Plan, and is focused on the two main pillars -- assurance and adoption measures -- which include "increased military presence and activity for assurance and deterrence" and "changes to the Alliance's long-term military posture and capabilities."
The Readiness Action Plan was approved at the NATO Wales Summit in September, "to ensure the Alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges." The plan provides measures to respond to changes in the security environment in and near Europe, challenges posed by Russia and threats coming from the Middle East and North Africa.
Last month, NATO and Albanian officials discussed the efforts to adapt to emerging hybrid challenges from the east and south. NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Sir Adrian Bradshaw and senior Albanian political and military officials also discussed the Alliance's plans to enhance and restructure the NATO Response Force (NRF) "into a division-sized force that can move at short notice in response to hybrid threats."
"NATO nations are resolute in their determination to respond to emerging security challenges, as evidenced by our ongoing and robust assurance measures, and our rapid establishment of an interim Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) capability," Bradshaw said.
The VJTF is envisioned to be a multinational brigade with around 5,000 troops and up to five manoeuvre battalions, supported by air, maritime and special forces.
"The Readiness Action Plan is the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. And it is my top priority to implement this plan in full and on time," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in November 2014.
"This plan has been in the focus of the last Summit of the Alliance in Wales, where the heads of the member states agreed to create [the VJTF], which would be capable of being deployed within a few days in response to the challenges that arise, especially on the periphery of NATO territory," Edlira Prendi, spokesperson for the Albanian Ministry of Defence, told SETimes.
The VJTF will be comprised of the NATO Response Forces, which are high-readiness forces, and will consist primarily of a terrestrial component supplemented with air, sea and special forces, she added.
Prendi explained that Albania contributes to the NRF with elements, units and capacities that change every year.
"This year, capacities of the military police have been declared, while for next year it will be the capacities of the ground forces. The willingness of the declared capacities is tested through military exercises organised by NATO. The [upcoming] exercise Trident Juncture 15 aims to test the capacities declared by the NATO member states for 2016. The exercise will take place in Spain and Portugal and the capacities declared by Albania will also attend," Prendi told SETimes.
Edith Harxhi, former Albanian deputy foreign minister and current executive director of the Albanian Policy Centre, said the government should maintain more resources for assisting the Alliance.
"An increase in the defence budget of the country needs to be reconsidered by the current government. At the latest NATO summit in Wales, the Alliance called on member states for more commitment -- both financially and physically -- to fight world terrorism and defy the Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant] as a real threat that is trying to penetrate in Europe," Harxhi told SETimes.
General Sheme Kosova, former Chief of Staff of the Albanian Army, said the rapid changes in the global security environment present a need for NATO member countries, including Albania, to adapt.

"NATO and the Albanian Armed Forces should build policies and structures for the new war. The problems in Iraq, Syria, anywhere, need to be confronted because they are not simply war soldiers, but destructors of democracy," Kosova told SETimes.
Harxhi agreed, and said that Albania is united in its objectives to support the partners within NATO and prevent evil forces from killing innocent civilians in the name of religion.
"Albania, as a NATO member country with a Muslim majority population, has an extra duty not only to fight extremism in its cells but also to help and assist other countries in the Western Balkans to fight extremist groups that appeal to vulnerable people to join them in the name of God and wealth," Harxhi told SETimes.
What steps can Albania and the Western Balkan countries take to assist NATO with the Readiness Action Plan? Tell us your thoughts below.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Serbia gives access to military facilities, special status to NATO soldiers

BELGRADE – NATO soldiers should in future have free transit through Serbia, use its military infrastructure and be “protected” with a special status while staying in the country, writes “Vecernje Novosti”.
Image from:
Image from:
This is only one of the obligations Serbia committed to with individual action plan (IPAP), whose entry into force was officially marked by the Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic.
IPAP, among other things, involves signing of the so-called SOFA agreement (which Serbia already has with the US) with NATO member states, which regulates border crossing and immunity level for the members of Alliance while they are passing through Serbia or are residing in the country, as well as access to military facilities.
Serbia also committed to open the regional training center “Jug” near Bujanovac for all the members of the Partnership for Peace and NATO, to gradually harmonize its regulation in the field of defense with the EU and destroy surplus weapons.
Particularly intriguing is the mandatory sentence of cooperation with NATO in the field of public diplomacy, but, as sources who spoke with the daily claim, does not mean that Serbia should “blindly” follow NATO military doctrine, actions and foreign and security policy, but to cooperate in raising awareness of NATO standards, activities withing the Partnership for Peace and promotion of regional stability.
Photo: MOD
Photo: MOD
According to Minister Dacic, raising cooperation with NATO to the highest political level “does not in any way obligate Serbia to become a member”, nor calls into question its military neutrality:
“This is the furthest step Serbia will make towards NATO,” said Dacic.
“IPAP represents the highest level of cooperation with a partner state which is not willing to become a member of NATO. We are developing cooperation with the Alliance within the PfP and thereby contribute to the achievement of interoperability in the Army of Serbia, building military capacities to contribute to international peace and stability,” said Minister Gasic.
Military analyst Aleksandar Radic also does not see obligations under IPAP as contestable. He says that not even the commitment to secure free movement and special status for NATO soldiers is not contestable.
“There is no mystery in these agreements and they serve to simplify customs and border procedures, as well as the conditions of transit through Serbia, when, say, foreign soldiers come here for a joint military exercise or on some other occasion. When we sign such agreement with a country, then our soldiers have the same rights in that country,” said Radic.

Eurostat: Citizens of Serbia and Bulgaria most unhappy people in Europe

Published: People in Serbia, along with Bulgarians, are the least happy people in Europe, show results of the most recent research conducted by Eurostat, “Blic” writes.
Of the 32 countries of Europe where the research was conducted, Serbia is second from behind. Worse than Serbia is only Bulgaria, with Hungarians, Greeks and Croats being happier people. The most satisfied people live in Switzerland.
These results were obtained from the issues that had to do with socio-demographic factors as criteria of satisfaction. Respondents declared that the most important factors are health, financial situation, employment, social relations and climate.
The most dissatisfied were given rating from zero to two, and completely satisfied ten.
These results do not surprise psychiatrist Slobodan Jovicic, writes the daily.
“A young man in Serbia has no perspective. He is initially hampered because it is impossible to live in Serbia with a salary of 39,000 dinars (~ $350) and raise a family. Even if he earned 2,000 euros, the only thing he can do is buy ‘quality salami’,” dr. Jovicic told “Blic”.
Sociologist Ratko Bozovic reminds that happy people are those who are free.
“Happy people are those who have control over their lives, who are capable to achieve their wishes. In Serbia this is non-existant. Happiness and satisfaction are reflected in fulfillment, bliss, harmony. These do not exist in Serbia,” said Bozovic.

Thousands gather for anti-austerity rally in Spain - PHOTOS

First entry: 21 March 2015 - 22:07 Athens, 20:07 GMT
Last update: 08:41 Athens, 06:41 GMTWorld
Thousands gather for anti-austerity rally in Spain - PHOTOS
Thousands of demonstrators from across Spain have gathered at one of Madrid's main squares to protest against the way the government has tackled the financial crisis by implementing harsh austerity measures.
Organizers had hoped to attract 20,000 protesters to the event, labelled Marches for Dignity, and as the sun set on Saturday much of Colon Square and part of Paseo de Recoletos boulevard were packed with people carrying republican flags and banners calling for a general strike.
Associated Press

NATO Secretary General discusses relations with Russia at Brussels Forum 


  • 20 Mar. 2015
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  • Last updated: 20 Mar. 2015 18:00
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to stop destabilizing its neighbours and respect international rules at the tenth annual Brussels Forum conference on Friday (20 March 2015). In the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, Mr. Stoltenberg underlined that NATO is responding by strengthening its collective defence and supporting regional partners – including Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
The Secretary General participated in a panel entitled “Zero-Sum? Russia, Power Politics, and the post-Cold War Era”. His co-panellists were EU High Representative Federica Mogherini; US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland; and Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on International Affairs. The moderator was David Ignatius, associate editor of The Washington Post.
Organised by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Brussels Forum brings together political, economic and intellectual leaders from Europe and North America to discuss key challenges facing the Euro-Atlantic area