Friday, April 10, 2015

Tsipras meets Kirill Patriarch of Moscow - PHOTOS

Tsipras and Kirill exchanged gifts
Photos source: ANA- MPA

New Ties Challenge Old Allies: China and Greece Compete With US, EU

Port of PiraeusSPUTNIK

As EU countries are continuing to speculate about Greece’s economic situation, the latter is staking on partners beyond the European region and expanding its international cooperation.

Over the last few months, many European countries and the US have increasingly criticized Greece and its new government for its inability to repay its external debt and pull the country from the brink of economic collapse, speculating about its possible withdrawal from the eurozone and even the EU.

However, despite the EU’s dark forecasts about Greece’s future, the country’s officials don’t seem to be as worried as their European colleagues, further expanding their economic ties with countries beyond the European continent.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, GreeceThe Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Athens, Greece
© Flickr/ Chris Hutchison

Could Greece Be Key to Restoring Ties Between EU, Russia?
Thus, Greece’s current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated that the Greek government will sell the majority of its share in Athens' Piraeus Port Authority, a government company providing services in the Port of Piraeus, a major see port of the country. The most likely potential buyer is China.

The state-owned Authority runs only one part of the port, while another part is under the supervision of the Chinese company (COSCO). The company was given the license to operate the port in 2008, what “proved to be one of the [best] investments of the past few years”, according to Former Greek Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.

Gas pipelineGas pipeline
© REUTERS/ Laszlo Balogh
Greece Expects Financial Dividends From Turkish Stream After 2019
Now, COSCO may get an opportunity to buy the other part of the port if the Greek government makes up its mind and allows privatization. The move could be beneficial for both sides as it would allow China to assert its economic position in Europe and help Greece to get additional investments. The company transfers about €30 million to Greece annually, according to the German magazine “Der Spiegel”.

At the same time, the initiative is considered controversial among a number of politicians and employees. The number of discharges may increase, while labor disputes and complaints about overburdened port workers could become common practice among those who work for the COSCO run sector.

According to “Der Spiegel”, workers have to follow the Chinese motto "hard work — happy life." Thus, increased Chinese investments may lead to toughened working conditions and to a situation where the social gains, particularly promoted by the new Tsipras government, may start to collapse.

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Albania and Serbia Are at Odds Again

Albania and Serbia Are at Odds Again

April 10, 2015 | 08:59 GMT
A Serbian soccer player grabs a flag with Albanian nationalist sentiments from a drone flown over a soccer match in Belgrade, Serbia, in October 2014.(ALEXA STANKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)


Political tension in the Western Balkans is running high again. On April 6, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama cautioned that his country would unify with Kosovo if the European Union failed to incorporate both countries into the continental bloc. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was quick to respond, accusing Rama of fomenting instability in the region.
Albania and Serbia have a complex relationship because of ethnic tensions and overlapping territorial aspirations. Complicating things further, Albania supported Kosovo's 2008 unilateral declaration of independence, while Serbia continues to resist its international recognition. Friction between Serbia and Albania will persist, but Albania's claims over Kosovo will remain rhetorical, and a more serious escalation is unlikely.


During a joint interview with Kosovar Deputy Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, Rama brought up two options for unification between Albania and Kosovo. The first would be for both countries to join the European Union. Though Rama has said this is the option he supports, he mentioned a second possibility: uniting Albania and Kosovo into one country. Serbia, which still considers Kosovo a breakaway territory, rejected the idea. Belgrade does not realistically expect to recover Kosovo, but it still opposes any move that would unify the two largest ethnic Albanian communities. On April 8, a European Commission spokeswoman categorized Rama's statement as "provocative."
Tension between Albania and Serbia is not new. The resurrection of irredentist claims has long been a common feature of politics in the Western Balkans. In a region with such a complex geographic and ethnic landscape, where official borders do not match linguistic or religious ones, most countries hold centuries-old grudges and make territorial claims on others. This situation has often led to violence, with the wars of the 1990s as the most recent example.

A Difficult Relationship

As the Ottomans expanded their empire from Anatolia to the Balkans in the 14th century, Serbian and Albanian lands progressively fell under Turkish rule. The immigration of Muslims from elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans and the conversion of many locals created a disruptive patchwork of Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim populations. According to the 2011 census, almost two-thirds of Albania's population is Muslim. In Serbia, on the other hand, more than four-fifths of the people follow Eastern Orthodoxy.

When the Ottoman Empire started to crumble in the early 20th century, several Balkan states saw the opportunity to repel the Turks and to acquire territory from their neighbors. The First Balkan War (1912-1913), which was key for the expulsion of the Ottomans from the region, also resulted in conflicts among the Balkan states. During the war, Albania declared independence from the Ottomans but was invaded by Serbian troops; Belgrade saw the conflict as an opportunity to gain access to the Adriatic Sea. Although the Treaty of London recognized Albania's independence in 1913 — and Serbian troops eventually withdrew — the treaty also introduced territorial adjustments that left almost half the ethnic Albanian population outside the new country's borders.
Albanian irredentism already existed under Ottoman rule, but the Treaty of London gave it new life. In its current form, it includes claims to regions in neighboring Kosovo and western Macedonia in addition to small areas in southern Serbia, southern Montenegro and northwestern Greece. Notably, some of these claims overlap with nationalist agendas in Serbia, which envisions a "Greater Serbia" covering territories of modern-day Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and, in some of its variants, Albania.
The situation of Albanian minorities in the former Yugoslavia and later in Serbia has been an enduring source of conflict between Tirana, the capital of Albania, and Belgrade. Ethnic Albanians account for 90 percent of the population of Kosovo, which has traditionally been under Serbian control and whose political status is particularly contentious. In the 1990s, Tirana called on the international community to intercede and stop the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in collapsing Yugoslavia. At the same time, Belgrade accused Tirana of supporting separatist groups in Kosovo. The bilateral relationship became strained again in 2008, when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Albania subsequently recognized Kosovo's independence, a move that irritated Serbia's leadership.

Potential for Social Unrest

Over the past year, Albania and Serbia have alternated diplomatic gestures with the usual provocations. In November, Rama visited Vucic in Belgrade for the first meeting between the two countries' leaders since the late 1940s. However, an incident during an October soccer match between Albania and Serbia clouded the talks. The game was suspended after a small drone flew over the stadium carrying a "Greater Albania" flag, triggering an exchange of harsh words.
But despite intermittent tensions, the borders of the Western Balkans are unlikely to change anytime soon. For most Albanians, the idea of a Greater Albania has symbolic meaning linked to a broader sense of Albanian identity and solidarity with ethnic Albanians in the region. Most Albanian governments have used the idea of a Greater Albania for political reasons, but little to no concrete action has resulted from the rhetoric.
More important, Tirana's main allies oppose any of its territorial claims. Albania is a NATO member aspiring to join the European Union and is unlikely to make any moves that could seriously destabilize the region. Opinion polls show that EU accession is popular among Albanians, a factor that will continue to deter Tirana from making any unilateral moves to unify with Kosovo. Additionally, with Kosovo suffering through dire economic conditions, Tirana cannot afford to unify with a region facing high unemployment and poor economic prospects.
Serbia's case is similar. For political reasons, Belgrade cannot officially recognize Kosovo's independence. The Serbian government also understands, however, that it will not recover the lost territory anytime soon. In addition, the European Union considers the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo a crucial part of Belgrade's accession to the continental bloc. As a result, the Belgrade-Pristina negotiations primarily focus on the status of the Serbian minorities living in northern Kosovo.
However, Albania's relations with Kosovo could generate problems in the future. Albania is an ethnically homogeneous country, particularly when compared with neighboring Macedonia or Bosnia-Herzegovina. Though Albania is familiar with domestic political instability, ethnic-fueled tensions are rare. But volatility in Kosovo poses a risk to Albania for several reasons. First, the conflict between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Serbians in Kosovo creates friction between Tirana and other regional players, most notably Serbia. Second, poor living conditions in Kosovo will force Albania to absorb increasing numbers of unemployed Kosovars over the long term. According to World Bank data, over 14 percent of Albanians live below the poverty line, creating the conditions for potential social unrest in Albania.

Pressuring the European Union

Though Rama's statements were mostly meant for a domestic audience, the Albanian government is using the idea of unification with Kosovo to pressure the European Union to speed up the accession process. Albania applied for EU membership in 2009, and the country formally became a candidate in 2014. Over the past decade, Tirana introduced several reforms to attract foreign investment, liberalize the economy and qualify for EU membership. The European Union is still demanding more reforms, however, especially with regard to corruption and organized crime.
More important, the European Union is currently suffering from "enlargement fatigue." After incorporating 12 new members between 2004 and 2007, the bloc has lost its appetite for new membership. The economic crisis has also led to a political crisis that complicates the accession of new countries. Croatia joined the European Union in 2013 but will be the last country to do so for a long time. Albania and Serbia are unlikely to join this decade. Kosovo, in the meantime, has long demanded visa-free access to the continental bloc. It was after seeing progress in negotiations drag that Tirana and Pristina threatened to pursue bilateral unification.
The overall popularity of EU accession within the Albanian establishment explains why Tirana will apply political pressure on the bloc without necessarily acting on the government's strong statements. However, Albania's negotiations with Brussels will drag out over many years, and a lack of progress could endanger this balance and lead to more regional instability.

US to Take Action if Iran Tries to Destabilize Middle East - Kerry

Militiamen loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi take positions at a street in Aden, Yemen, Thursday, April 2, 2015.
© AP Photo/ Wael Qubady

Gulf States Launch Military Operation in Yemen (160)

The United States could respond to Iran's possible attempts to escalate tensions in the Middle East, the US State Secretary John Kerry said Wednesday.

In this Saturday, April 4, 2015 file photo, Yemenis stand amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in a village near Sanaa, Yemen

US, Saudis Want to Reinstall Puppet Regime of Hadi in Yemen – Cunningham
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US top diplomat spoke in the wake of reports that Iran had dispatched two naval ships, including a destroyer, to waters off Yemen earlier in the day.

"Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines — international boundaries — in other countries," Kerry told the PBS television.

The US State Secretary added that the United States were able "to stand up to interference that is inappropriate or against international law."

Earlier, Yemeni officials had claimed that Iran was supplying weapons to the Shiite Houthi rebels, who control large parts of Yemen including capital Sanaa.

Tehran has criticized the Saudi-led air operation targeting the Houthi positions in Yemen and has called for a ceasefire in the country.

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Analisy of Fatos Lubonja about the "Greater Albania"

"No need for either hegemony or leadership in Europe"

MOSCOW -- A Greek government minister had told Sputnik that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' visit to Moscow this week launched "a new era" in the two countries' relations.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
"We are opening a new chapter, promoting our economic and political ties that could change the look of the region, and I can say, of Europe," Greek Minister of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Panagiotis Lafazanis said, and added:
"Of course, by developing relations with Russia, Greece is strengthening its international role and positioning itself better in a time of serious crisis."

He also called for "more equality" in Europe, saying there was "no need for either U.S. hegemony, or German leadership in Europe."

"Europe must be made up of equal countries, there has to be equality and mutually benefiting cooperation for the good of all people, for the good of the European development, for the future. Today there is no equality in Europe, Greece is treated like a colony of a new kind. That is completely unacceptable," Lafazanis said, and added that his country "deserved a completely different treatment."

"Greece is a sovereign country that must receive support to overcome the crisis instead of being pressured by measures that lead to recession, the nightmare of Greek society," he said.

Speaking about the Western sanctions against Russia, Lafazanis said:

"The sanctions Europe imposed on Russia are unacceptable. They have not reached their aim at all. On the contrary, I would say they increase problems on the European space as well. These sanctions have to be stopped. Greece would like to make a contribution in this direction."

"I believe that the relationship of Russia and the EU needs more sense, more dialogue, trust and understanding, more cooperation and efforts to make Ukraine a bridge for cooperation between Russia and the European Union, rather than a hotbed for tensions or a country that would try to block Russia out. Europe needs this today, so all countries and all people must help this," the Greek minister told the Russian website.

Albania "promised there's be no change of borders"

PRAGUE -- Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati has said that "the aspiration of Albanians is to join the EU because it unites people and nations."
He told Radio Free Europe (RFE) that "Euro-Atlantic orientation of both Albania and Kosovo is clear" and that "the Albanian Prime Minister gave a besa (Albanian word of honor) to the international community that borders will not change."
"The attitude of Albania, our attitude has always been crystal clear, consistent, and because of the constructive and dynamic attitude of our foreign policy in the region, Albania is considered an anchor of regional stability," said Bushati.

He was commenting on reactions coming from Belgrade - namely, a protest note sent to his country - over Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's statement about "a unification of Kosovo and Albania, either through membership in the EU, or the classic way."

"Politicians in Belgrade are free to interpret the statements coming from Albania as they want, even for their daily political purposes. It is not normal that they are misinterpreted, but I am not worried either by the manner of this interpretation, or by the abuse of these statements," added Bushati.

He then "stressed that there is great gratitude toward the EU and the United States for all they have done in the region, especially since the fall of communism until today," and expressed his belief that "both Albania and Kosovo have, through concrete processes and actions not only to benefit of the region but also beyond, proved that gratitude."

Asked "whether there is concern when it comes to EU's policy towards Albanians in the Balkans, as has been pointed out several times by Rama," he replied that there was "no discriminatory policy towards Albanians."

"I think the opposite is true, the EU has maintained a just and fair policy towards all countries in the region. What PM Rama and all of us are asking for is a predictable process," said Bushati.

"We welcomed the fact that Serbia was granted candidate status and started negotiations for membership. We did the same in the case of Montenegro and I believe that a possible decision to start negotiations with Albania would represent contribution of the EU toward the policies the EU itself has rooted in the Western Balkans. The same can be said about the visa liberalization process for Kosovo, the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo, because these are, in one way or another, an investment of the EU in the citizens of the Western Balkans," the Albanian minister said.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Serbia again sends protest note to Albania

BELGRADE -- The Serbian Foreign Ministry on Thursday in Belgrade handed a protest note to Albania's ambassador to Serbia, the ministry said in a statement.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
The protest concerns Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's statement about a future unification of Albania and Kosovo.
Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Thursday the protest note stated that Edi Rama's stance was "unacceptable for Serbia."

Dacic described it as "yet another in a series of provocative statements made by top Albanian officials that is harmful to bilateral relations and endangers the overall relations and stability in the region."

It is about "a dangerous call to redraw borders of internationally, the recognized boundaries between the region's states," he said.

Rama's statement, Dacic continued, is contrary to the repeatedly stated choice of Serbia and Albania to develop good neighborly relations, cooperation, mutual understanding and a shared future in the EU.

"Serbia expects its partners in the international community to support the condemnation of the statement made by the president of the Albanian government, which causes harm to peace and stability in the region," Dacic said.

The ministry also sent a letter to the UN Security Council, asking that it be circulated as a UNSC document, and instructed all its missions and embassies abroad and in international organizations, he added.
Earlier this year Serbia also sent a demarche to Albania after a map showing "Greater Albania - and expansionist nationalist project - was displayed "on Edi Rama's residence."

Foreign visitors to Greece expected to reach 25m in 2015

First entry: 8 April 2015
Foreign visitors to Greece expected to reach 25m in 2015
An estimated 25 million foreign tourists will visit Greece in 2015, according to the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE).
There were 810,000 international arrivals in the first quarter of the year (January-March), a 29% increase over the same period last year.
In Athens, international arrivals increased 29.5% and in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, they were up 22.3%, state news agency ANA-MPA reported.
Similar increases have been recorded in other airports across the country, SETE says.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet, in Mediteranean, Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean Seas

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

‘Dangerous process’: Russia warns against US, NATO military instructors in Ukraine

Published time: April 08, 2015 
Reuters/Gleb Garanich
Reuters/Gleb Garanich

A top Russian diplomat has promised that his country would push for removal of all foreign military specialists and illegal paramilitary groups from Ukrainian territory after US confirmed its plans to send about 300 instructors to train pro-Kiev troops.
Moscow is urging the removal of all foreign military formations from Ukraine, including the instructors from the United States and NATO, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.
We know that hundreds of US and NATO servicemen are planning to come to Ukraine to train the National Guard. The training camps are being set up not only in western Ukraine, but also in other parts of the country. This is a dangerous process. We would push for all foreign and illegal military units to be removed from Ukraine,” Karasin said.
In mid-March, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told the media that about 290 servicemen of the 173 Airborne Brigade will arrive to western Ukraine in late April to train three battalions of the Ukrainian National Guard. The planned location of the exercises was disclosed as the Yavoriv army training center near Lvov.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk promised that his government would sign a number of agreements with NATO concerning military-technical cooperation. These would include a memorandum on communications and intelligence that would pave the way to Ukraine’s deeper participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

Russia has previously denounced the increasing buildup of NATO forces in Eastern Europe as well as US plans to supply weapons and non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. The criticism became especially sharp when the House of Representatives in Washington passed a non-binding resolution calling on President Barack Obama to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, despite the ceasefire agreement between pro-Kiev forces and federalists in the east of the country.
Several Russian lawmakers have called the US Congress’ call to send “lethal aid” to Ukraine a threat to the peace process and a direct provocation aimed at Russia.

The head of the State Duma Foreign Relations Committee, Aleksey Pushkov, said in comments to the media that if the US president gave in to the pressure from Congress this would put an end to his reputation as “the president of peace” and make him equal to such politicians as George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney.

S-300 PMU-1 of Greece, threaten Turkey, which is preparing to buy weapons

Looking to improve its defense capability, Turkey has launched a tender for a stand-off jammer, an aircraft equipped with a jamming system. Several companies have proposed bids for the production of the plane.

The stand-off jammer will have the capability to paralyze air defense systems from a distance of 400 kilometers, an effective assistance in air raids. For instance, a jammer plane can render long-range, radar-guided missiles from the Syrian regime and S-300 missiles Greece deployed on the Aegean islands ineffective. The aircraft can jam radar, radio and phone systems effectively from a safe distance. Any long-range missile threat will be eliminated without the execution of the country's air defines systems, thanks to the airborne jammer. Warplanes escorted by the jammer aircraft essentially turn into "phantom" planes, as it makes their detection by enemy air defense impossible.

Currently, only Israel has the stand-off jammer in its military inventory. The project has been in the pipeline since 1999 and saw a revival in 2013 after the government ordered the Undersecretariat of Defense Industry, the top authority in the acquisition of the new military equipment, to resume the project.

Four companies including Turkey's ASELSAN, the main military contractor, as well as Duygu Aviation and Defense, Savronik and Tempus companies made their bids at the recently-held tender. Local contractors were prioritized for the acquisition of the plane.
Turkey had first announced plans to buy aircrafts with long-range jamming capacities in the late 1990s as well as several ground jammers.

The country aims to boost its defense capability further, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently announced. "We plan to eliminate external dependency on defense equipment supply with ongoing projects and investments by 2023. We will not allow the use of any ready defense equipment without our being involved from design to production," Erdoğan said.

Turkey is currently negotiating a $3.5 billion deal for a long-range air and anti-missile defense system, including local production, with suppliers from China and Europe. The country plans to spend around $70 billion on military equipment by 2023, when the country will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the modern republic.

Έντι Ράμα, επαναλαμβάνει Σαλί Μπερίσα, το 2012, για την Μεγάλη Αλβανία.


Αξίζει μια απάντηση από την κυβέρνηση Τσίπρας, συνεχής δήλωση του πρωθυπουργού της Αλβανίας, Έντι Ράμα, για την Ένωση της Αλβανίας και του Κοσσυφοπεδίου?

Νοέμβριο2012,  Αβραμόπουλοςκαλεί
Ηγεσία το ΝΑΤΟ, για να δώσουν εξηγήσεις για τη δήλωση του Μπερίσα από την Αυλώνα, όταν είπε ότι "η Αλβανία ξεκινά από την Πρέβεζα στην Πρέσεβο" ..

Δήλωση των πρωθυπουργών της Αλβανίας για την Μεγάλη Αλβανία, ματαιώνει τους Έλληνες της Βορείου Ηπείρου, να διεκδικούν τα δικαιώματά τους, που ζουν κάθε μέρα με την πίεση του αλβανικού εθνικισμού.

Will Pristina and Tirana merge into “Greater Albania?”

by in EuropeAlbanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. (Anadolu Agency/Getty)
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama. (Anadolu Agency/Getty)
Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania ruffled feathers Monday night with remarks he made during an interview on a Kosovar radio show. “The unification of the Albanians of Albania and Kosovo … is inevitable and unquestionable,” he said. “The question is how it will happen. Will it happen in the context of the E.U. as a natural process and understood by all, or will it happen as a reaction to E.U. blindness or laziness?”
Championing a so-called “Greater Albania” — the name coined for the hypothetical union between Albania and Kosovo — is a clear affront to Serbia, which considers the latter nation to be under the authority of Belgrade. Kosovo endured ethnic cleansing at the hands of Serbia before declaring independence in 2008. Since then, it has been diplomatically recognized by over 100 countries, but many doubts about its sovereign status remain. The Serbian reaction to Rama’s inflammatory interview was predictable: Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic tweeted that Kosovo would “never unite” with Albania, and one presidential advisor accused Rama of “banging the war drums.”
While the battle analogy may seem histrionic – many have argued that visions of a “Greater Albania” are more symbolic than actionable — metaphors of violence certainly ring true for the region. The former Yugoslavia famously devolved into ethnic and national conflict in the 1990s, with the ethnic Albanian Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo displaced, maimed and slaughtered at staggering rates. But Albania proper was not part of Yugoslavia, and the peoples of Albania and Kosovo thus developed under different national cultures. By 2008, when Kosovo announced its own statehood, Kosovar Albanian identity had become a sort of rallying cry for those who had suffered under the Serbian yoke.
Still, Albania and Kosovo share a long-standing kinship that has affected relations between Tirana and Belgrade. Long stretches of relative calm have a tendency to blow-up at slight provocation: in September, a soccer match between the two countries famously ended in nationalist riots after a politically-inclined reveler flew a drone over the playing field that was carrying a “Greater Albania” flag. In October, Rama’s met with Vucic to build bridges — marking the first time since World War II that an Albanian leader made a diplomatic trip to Belgrade. The uneasy truce between the two is underscored by the Kosovo issue, the transnational elephant in the room.
While unification with Albania still doesn’t attract much support in Kosovo, recent events suggest tension is mounting within the ambiguously independent republic as well. Violent clashes between protesters and security officials have erupted in recent months, sparked by controversies over boneheaded comments by a local councilman making light of the Bosnian genocide. Serbia and Kosovo also continue to play tug-of-war with the Trepca mine, which represents billions of dollars in mineral wealth and inconveniently straddles a hotly contested territory.
Albania may envisage absorbing Kosovo in the context of eventual E.U. membership, to which it is arguably closer than is Kosovo. But for Pristina, joining Albania would be admitting what the situation on the ground has hinted toward for a while — that despite an excess of enthusiasm, national feeling and Western support, many obstacles remain on the path toward becoming a viable state.

Albania 'Banging War Drums' Over Kosovo Unification Claims

© AP Photo
Serbia has accused Albania of "inciting instability," after Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said the unification of his country and Kosovo was "inevitable," with or without the support of the European Union.
In an interview with Kosovo broadcaster Klan Kosova, Mr Rama spoke about the urge for Albanians to unite with the majority-Albanian province of Kosovo, which controversially declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
Both Albanian and Kosovar leaders had previously spoken of their desire to unify under the EU, where the free movement principle would allow people and goods to move unrestricted through the region. 
"The unification of the Albanians of Albania and Kosovo… is inevitable and unquestionable," he said.
Despite continuing calls for Albania and Kosovo to be included in the EU, Rama said he was in support of unification, even if it wasn't approved or ratified by the bloc.
"The question is how it will happen. Will it happen in the context of the EU as a natural process and understood by all, or will it happen as a reaction to EU blindness or laziness."
Albania, Kosovo Will 'Never Unite' — Belgrade

The comments drew a quick reaction from officials in Belgrade, who were unimpressed with talk of an "inevitable" unification.
The issue of Kosovo's independence has been an ongoing source of tension between Serbia and Albania in recent years, following Kosovo's decision to succeed in 2008.
Serbia was vehemently against Kosovo's declaration of independence and has since stated that it will never recognize it as an independent state, with many Serbs citing the significance Kosovo plays in the history of Serbia and the Orthodox religion.
An adviser to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said Rama should stop "banging the war drums" over the tense issue. Serbian presidential adviser Marko Djuric told a news conference:
"We warn the Republic of Albania to stop banging the war drums, to devote itself fully to respecting its international and good-neighborly obligations." 
Meanwhile, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic took to Twitter to express his anger at Mr Rama's comments, saying Albania and Kosovo would "never unite." 
"I ask Albanian leaders to stop inciting instability in the region," Vucic tweeted.
The Paranoia of Greater Albania
The latest comments are sure to inflame fears in the Balkans of further Albanian expansion, with many commentators highlighting the concerns of neighboring countries in regards to Albanian borders. 
Critics of Albania have accused the country of pushing an aggressive, nationalist, expansionist agenda calling for the creation of 'Greater Albania' — a state consisting of all ethnic Albanians — which has increased tensions in the region.
This fear, dubbed as the 'paranoia of Greater Albania' was heightened in recent years with former Prime Minister Sali Berisha speaking of 'Albanian lands,' consisting of significant parts of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and even some small sections of Greece.
Despite these concerns, Albanian PM Rama has repeatedly refuted the suggestion that the creation of a 'Greater Albania' is an agenda of his ruling party, or any major party involved in Albanian politics, labeling it merely a "fear" held by some sections of the Serbian population.

Albania and Kosovo to unite, inside EU or not: Albanian PM

(Reuters) - The unification of Albania and Serbia's majority-Albanian former province of Kosovo is "inevitable", whether it happens through membership of the European Union or not, Albania's prime minister said on Tuesday.

The suggestion was denounced in Belgrade, where a senior official accused Tirana's Prime Minister Edi Rama of "banging the war drums" over Kosovo, which many Serbs regard as the cradle of their nation and Orthodox Christian faith.

Serbia and the West are sensitive to any talk of unification of Albania and Kosovo, something Western powers ruled out when they backed Kosovo's secession from Serbia in 2008.

Kosovo and NATO-member Albania have long said they hope to 'unite' under the flag of the EU, where open borders are more freely crossed by people and goods.
But many people in the Balkans, wracked by instability and war in the 1990s after the Cold War ended, are frustrated by what they see as EU reluctance to open its doors to the region.

"The unification of the Albanians of Albania and Kosovo ... is inevitable and unquestionable," Rama said in an interview late on Monday with the Kosovo broadcaster Klan Kosova.

"The question is how it will happen. Will it happen in the context of the EU as a natural process and understood by all, or will it happen as a reaction to EU blindness or laziness."
Criticizing the EU's reluctance to extend a visa-free regime to Kosovo, Rama said the bloc should think more strategically and "demand that the Balkans should become part of it as soon as possible.
"Then, of course, all ethnicities in the Balkans would be together without the need to deal with borders," he said.
An adviser to Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said Rama should stop "banging the war drums", while Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic took to Twitter to say Albania and Kosovo would "never unite".

"I ask Albanian leaders to stop inciting instability in the region," Vucic tweeted.
Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after NATO intervened with air strikes to drive out Serbian forces and halt the killing and expulsion of ethnic Albanian civilians during a two-year counter-insurgency war.

The young country has been recognized by more than 100 countries, including 23 of the EU's 28 members, but Serbia says it will never follow suit.

"We warn the Republic of Albania to stop banging the war drums, to devote itself fully to respecting its international and good-neighborly obligations," Serbian presidential adviser Marko Djuric told a news conference.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

EU reacts to Albanian PM's statement

BRUSSELS -- The EU has reacted to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's statement about "unification of Kosovo and Albania."
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
A spokesperson for European Commission officials Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn said that progress of aspiring countries toward the EU includes regional cooperation, reconciliation and good neighborly relations, and that "all provocative statements in this framework are unacceptable."
Rama earlier this week warned the European Union that Albania and Kosovo will be forced to unite unless the EU opened the path for European integration and abolition of visas for Pristina.

"Since we reviewed what Prime Minister Rama said in the interview, we underline that the Western Balkans has a clear European perspective, determined by the EU at the highest level. All partners in the region have confirmed commitment to this goal and determination to meet the necessary criteria, with full respect for the principles and standards of the EU," Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.

The EU also indicated that its partners in the region "are making progressing each at their own pace on this path," and are "expected to make the necessary efforts for further progress."

According to the statement, these commitments "also include regional cooperation, reconciliation and good neighborly relations," while "all provocative statements in this framework are unacceptable."


Avramopoulos`s speach during NATO meeting

Greece threatens Albania blocking the integration process after Berisha's statements

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, has expressed his concern at the NATO ministerial meeting about rising tide of nationalism in Albania and premature declarations of the government.

In a press release the Greek Foreign Ministry said that "the growth of nationalism and populism in some of our neighboring countries is a source of great concern."

"I made it clear in every direction that such behavior is unacceptable," Avramopoulos said.

Expressing Greek reaction to these statements, Avaramopulos threatened to compliance with European Union standards for countries aiming Brussels.

"Candidate countries (such as Albania) - if we are talking about NATO or the EU - must respect the principles and values ​​of Europe. The level of demand will not decrease and all terms and conditions will be met, "concluded Avramopoulos.

Berisha has increased nationalist rhetoric, fearful of a possible wave election pro Red and Black Alliance in Albania. He but spoke of the Ottoman borders to Preveza, called to enact 10 million citizens of Albania Albanian, seriously put into question the free movement of Albanians and relations with the European Union.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

U.S. warns Albania against stoking nationalism

Albania's Prime Minister Sali Berisha attends a debate at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, June 25, 2012. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

TIRANA | Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:32pm EST
(Reuters) - The United States has warned leaders in NATO ally Albania in no uncertain terms to stop stoking nationalism in the run-up to an election because they risk destabilizing the region.
Facing a close contest in the parliamentary election in June, Prime Minister Sali Berisha has been ruffling feathers in neighboring states that are home to millions of ethnic Albanians with his increasingly nationalist statements.
Last November, the foreign minister of neighboring Greece boycotted Albanian centenary festivities in Tirana after Berisha hailed a town over the border as "Albanian lands". The president of Macedonia, where a quarter of the population are ethnic Albanians, also stayed away.
In a memo to the Albanian Foreign Ministry reported on Friday by a number of newspapers, the U.S. State Department said Albania's leaders were wading into "potentially dangerous" territory, given the history of ethnic conflicts in the Balkans.
Such remarks "not only promote more inflammatory behavior and distract from this region's priorities, but also potentially incite violence, erode peace and stability, and impact our relationship", it said.
Even more bluntly, it told Albanian politicians to "stay out of the affairs of Serbia", which is in delicate European Union-mediated talks aimed at normalizing ties with Kosovo, whose mostly ethnic Albanian population broke away from Serbia in 1999.
A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment on the memo.
Berisha has repeatedly complained of foreign "Albanophobia", and raised eyebrows in Serbia last month when he referred to ethnic Albanian former guerrillas there as "heroes of the Albanian nation".
Ethnic Albanians waged insurgencies in both southern Serbia and Macedonia in 2000 and 2001. Those conflicts were a spillover of the 1998-99 war in Kosovo, which broke away from Serbia after a U.S.-led NATO air campaign halted a brutal Serbian offensive to quell separatism.
Kosovo declared independence in 2008. But poverty, unemployment and a lack of integration continue to fuel discontent among ethnic Albanians across the region.
Washington was the driving force behind Albania's accession to NATO in 2009, and is pressing Tirana to ensure that its election is free of the violence and fraud allegations of previous votes, so that its bid to join the EU can move ahead.
Analysts say Berisha may be responding to the emergence of a new nationalist party called the Black and Red Alliance, a name taken from the colors of the Albanian national flag.
"Berisha is wrong if he wants to build himself a flak jacket made of nationalism to protect him should the elections go wrong," opposition lawmaker and former prime minister Pandeli Majko told Albanian television.
But Berisha defended his approach.
"This nationalism does not have territorial claims," he told a session of parliament on Friday marking Kosovo's fifth year of statehood. "This nationalism is not based on doctrines of extermination, like the nationalisms around us."
(Editing by Matt Robinson and Kevin Liffey)

PM welcomes "EU's shy reaction to Rama"

KRUPANJ -- Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday "it was good that the EU reacted" to the Albanian prime minister's statements about "unification of Kosovo and Albania."
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
However, noted the Serbian premier, the organization did so "in a shy manner."
He added that Serbia "will continue its peaceful policy, but cannot remain silent after hundreds of such statements."

"It's high time for the redrawing of borders in the Balkans to stop. That's why I reacted and said it was really high time to stop with the redrawing of borders, to stop with something that will endanger both peace and stability in the Balkans. It's good, although the EU did so in a shy manner, that they reacted in any way," said Vucic.

In an apparent reference to an incident earlier this year when his Albanian counterpart displayed a map of Greater Albania, Vucic then added that "it must not be forgotten that I also asked 'what would happen if somebody drew a map of Greater Serbia on my father's house' or something similar, and what would they then do to me, to Serbia, in that case..."

"You kept mum, you did not say a word when that happened in Albania, and they said, well, you're right," Vucic was quoted as saying.

According to the prime minister "one then looks to react calmly, patiently and tolerantly to that kind of double standards or a different approach," and reiterated "it's good we've lived to see any, even a coy reaction of the EU on this issue."

"We will continue to seek good relations with Albania and we will insist on it, but we will let them know at any time what can, and what cannot pass in the Balkans," said Vucic.

Tsipras on EU partners' concerns of closer Russian ties: Greece is sovereign

First entry: 8 April 2015 - 16:52 Athens
Tsipras on EU partners' concerns of closer Russian ties: Greece is sovereign
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, during a press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin, replied to the warnings of EU leaders against stronger ties with Russia by saying that "Greece is a sovereign state...with its own, multidimensional foreign policy."
Tsiipras added that "Greece respects all its engagements with the international bodies it is a member of."

Energy deal

On the two sides agreeing to energy cooperation, Mr Putin describes possibility of a Greek-Russian pipeline as a "big project" but refrains from giving too many details.
Mr Tsipras says the Turkish Stream will be a Turkish pipeline, and not through Greece. "There is an opportunity of financing on our part, which will receive natural gas from the Turkish-Greek border."
After repreating the two sides historical, cultural, and religious links, Mr Tsipras and Mr Putin shake hands. That's the end of the press conference.

"Serbia received clear warning from EU"

BELGRADE -- An EP official's statement about the participation of Serbian soldiers in the Victory Day parade in Moscow is "a clear warning," says a former diplomat.
Serbian Army soldiers are seen during the military parade in Belgrade last fall (Beta, file)
Serbian Army soldiers are seen during the military parade in Belgrade last fall (Beta, file)
Eduard Kukan's reaction means that Serbia has been warned the decision could make its EU integration more difficult, Dusan Lazic thinks, and adds that "this could have unforeseeable and far-reaching consequences for our country."
According to him, Kukan's statement is "explicit" and "shows that Serbia has found itself in the focus of the confrontation between Russia and the West."

"This points to the conclusion that it is not changing, but on the contrary, ahead of the parade in Moscow it is gaining proportions that can be really worrying, especially for Serbia's international position and further development of our country," said Lazic, who is now a member of the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement in Serbia NGO.

He further stressed that before the decision was made to participate in the military parade, "all consequences that could stem from such a decision had to be carefully analyzed."

"I don't know if that was done, I suppose some of that had been done," he said, and added that the EP official's reaction shows there was "insufficient understanding of all the things that could happen."

According to Lazic, "Serbia must draw bug conclusions from this," so that in the future, "before we take some steps, we carry out detailed, essential international consultations about those steps."

Asked "what concrete consequences for the Serbia-EU relations the decision could have," he said the consequences "could be varied."

"For a long time our EU integrations have been very slowed down, there have been no results and adequate movement forward although we're always aspiring to speed it up," Lazic said, and noted that "for a long time" there has been no opening of chapters in EU membership negotiations.

For this reason the former diplomat concluded that "we should not bring the country into a temptation from which it is later exceptionally hard to exit."

On Tuesday, Lazic commented on the decision to send Serbian soldiers to the Moscow military parade that will mark the 70th anniversary of victory over fascism to say there were "differences among top Serbian officials" when it comes to the country's foreign policy.

Greece has not asked Russia for aid - Reuters

First entry: 8 April 2015
Greece has not asked Russia for aid - Reuters
Greece has not asked Russia for money to help cope with its debt and financial problems and wants to resolve them within the European Union, a Greek government official said on Wednesday.
"We have not asked for financial aid," the official said before talks in Moscow between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We want to solve our debt and financial issues... within the euro zone."
The Greek government official said the two leaders would discuss economic cooperation and bilateral investment and exports, but made clear that Greece would do so within the framework of the EU.
"Greece knows what to do within the EU framework but every country also has the sovereign right to look after and improve its bilateral relations," the official said.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz warned Tsipras before the visit not to break with the EU line on sanctions towards Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Tsipras's government also said before the visit that it would not seek aid from Moscow at the meeting but has failed to reach a deal with its EU/IMF creditors to unlock fresh funds.
The Greek official expressed optimism that the Euro Working Group which prepares meetings and decisions of euro zone finance ministers would pave the way for a positive outcome at a coming Eurogroup meeting.
Russia's agriculture minister said on Tuesday that Moscow could consider removingGreece, Hungary and Cyprus from its ban on most Western food imports, imposed in retaliation for the Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Greek FM meets Turkish, Serbian ministers in Budapest

First entry: 7 April 2015
Greek FM meets Turkish, Serbian ministers in Budapest
The most significant regional and international issues as well as cooperation issues of the two countries dominated a meeting on Tuesday between Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias met with Turkish European Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir in Budapest on the margins of the pentalateral Meeting on energy issues between Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Hungary and FYROM.
The two Ministers carried out a review of Greek-Turkish bilateral relations while special reference was made to energy cooperation between the two countries and jointly with the other countries participating in the pentalateral meeting, as well as to Turkey’s European perspective.
Earlier in the day Kotzias also met Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and discussed a wide range of issues and looked at the course of bilateral political and economic cooperation, with emphasis on the sectors of energy and transport.
They also exchanged views on Serbia’s European perspective, developments in the Western Balkans, and matters of international and regional interest.

Alexis Tsipras arrives in Moscow

First entry: 7 April 2015
Alexis Tsipras arrives in Moscow - VIDEO
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras arrived in Moscow on Tuesday late afternoon for an official visit that will include a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The premier' s visit will begin with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 10:00 on Wednesday, followed by a meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin at 13:00 that will last approximately an hour.
There will follow talks involving delegations from the two countries, the signature of bilateral agreements and joint statements by the two leaders.
 On Wednesday evening, Tsipras will meet the heads of expatriate Greek organisations and on Thursday he will deliver a lecture on "Greek-Russian relations and Europe: Challenges and Prospects" at the Moscow State Institute on International Relations (MGIMO) university.
The Greek premier will then have successive meetings with Russia's State Duma Chairman Sergey Naryshkin, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

Blackout on Capitol Hill: Washington Loses Power

A U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division patrol vehicle blocks eastbound traffic at the intersection of 18th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue after an electrical blackout affected the White House and other government buildings in the area April 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. The temporary power outage affected the U.S. State Department, the Department of Energy, the University of Maryland in College Park and other areas in the District of Columbia and Maryland.
Filed Under: U.S.
Washington D.C. was hit with a power outage Tuesday afternoon that affected the White House, Justice Department and State Department, according to a number of social media reports. Backup generators were used to regain power at the White House and United States Capitol Building. "The Department continues to carry out its essential functions throughout the outage," State Department acting deputy spokesman Jeff Rathke told Newsweek.
An official told the Associated Press there was an explosion at a power plant in Maryland. Reuters reported the explosion was not the cause of malicious intent or foul play.
At least 8,000 people were affected by the outage. Pepco, the local electrical company, told the AP they are investigating the outage.