Saturday, May 2, 2015

Macedonia Indicts Opposition Leader Who Denounced Graft

WARSAW — Macedonia’s main opposition leader has been formally indicted on charges of wiretapping and antigovernment activities after months of political turmoil, prosecutors said this week.
The leader of the left-wing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, was charged with “one continuous criminal act of unauthorized wiretapping and audio recording” as well as “violence against representatives of the highest authorities,” according to a statement posted on the state prosecutor’s website late Thursday.
The indictment came shortly after Mr. Zaev unveiled plans for a mass protest in the capital of the landlocked Balkan nation, Skopje, to be held this month — “the biggest one that the country has seen,” he said.
Macedonian politics have been rocked for months by Mr. Zaev’s release, bit by bit, of leaked transcripts of what he said were thousands of government-made recordings of conversations involving government officials and others. Mr. Zaev says they point to instances of corruption, vote-rigging and manipulation of the criminal justice system.
The leader of the left-wing Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, recently unveiled plans for a mass protest in the capital, Skopje, in May. Credit Robert Atanasovski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Officials in the conservative government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski have said that while some of the recordings appear to be legitimate, others are fabricated.
Mr. Gruevski has blamed an unnamed foreign intelligence service for making the recordings and instigating the scandal. Officials from his party have labeled it an attempt to topple the government.
The scandal is a blow the image of Macedonia, a poor country on the southern fringe of the Balkans, which has been seeking to join the European Union and NATO.
Mr. Zaev said at a news conference in Skopje this week that the opposition had more than 100,000 transcripts of conversations and over 18,000 text messages from more than 12,000 telephone numbers, and that it would continue to make them public and share them with prosecutors.
Western leaders have become increasingly alarmed over what they say is growing authoritarianism in Macedonia. Diplomats from the United States and Germany, among others, have called in recent weeks for a thorough and transparent investigation of the scandal.
“There are serious allegations about government abuse of power,” Jess L. Baily, the United States’ ambassador to Macedonia, said in an interview with a local television station last week.
Mr. Zaev was placed under preliminary indictment in January, and his passport was confiscated. The formal announcement of the indictment shows that prosecutors believe they have amassed sufficient evidence to bring him to trial, a date for which will be set shortly.
While Mr. Zaev remained free after the preliminary indictment, several others, including employees of Macedonia’s Interior Ministry, were placed in pretrial detention and will remain there now that the indictments have been formalized.
Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting from London.

Czechoslovakia? Czechs and Slovaks launch campaign for referendum on reunification

Published: PRAGUE – Czechs and Slovaks launched a campaign to collect 150,000 signatures in Slovakia and 50,000 in the Czech Republic in a joint petition to force officials in Prague and Bratislava to call for a referendum in 2018 on the reunification of Czechoslovakia.
The movement called “Czechoslovakia 2018″ states on its website that in 1992 it was decided, for political reasons, to divide the joint state which functioned well and citizens are not allowed to say in a referendum what they think about the division of Czechoslovakia.
“According to the surveys, a large part of the population believes that the division of Czechoslovakia was a mistake and would not have consented to it if they were allowed to vote on the issue. For example, in a survey conducted by Czech television, 70 percent of respondents found the division of the country as a misstep and they are bothered that they could not be heard. According to Slovakian magazine SME, 40 percent of Slovaks would like to live with Czechs again,” says the website of the movement.
The fact that former Czechoslovakia was divided by politicians, led by the then Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and Slovakian Vladimir Meciar, and that they categorically refused to give the chance to the citizens to express their opinion on referendum is one of the few stains on the Czech-Slovakian “velvet” divorce.
“The common state would have a greater importance in the world, it would be stronger, would better respond to external threats and more efficiently implement the independent foreign and domestic policy,” said the initiator of the campaign, publicist Ladislav Zelinka.
One of the arguments is that both Czechs and Slovaks, especially since the joint entry into the European Union in 2004, always mark each other as the closest and friendliest people in the world in surveys, and regardless of who is currently in power in Prague and Bratislava, the cooperation between the two countries is impeccable.
Year 2018 is chosen as deeply symbolic since then Czechs and Slovaks will celebrate the centennial of the creation of Czechoslovakia and realization of the vision of the first Czechoslovakian President Tomas Masaryk of the joint state.

German president: Berlin must be open to Greek war reparations claims

First entry: 2 May 2015
German president: Berlin must be open to Greek war reparations claims
German President Joachim Gauck expressed support on Friday for Athens' demands for reparations for the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War Two, even though the government in Berlin has repeatedly rejected the claims.
Gauck, who has little real power in Germany but a penchant for defying convention, said in an interview to be published in Saturday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that Germany should consider its historical responsibility to Greece.
"We are not only people who are living in this day and age but we're also the descendants of those who left behind a trail of destruction in Europe during World War Two -- in Greece, among other places, where we shamefully knew little about it for so long," Gauck said.
"It's the right thing to do for a history-conscious country like ours to consider what possibilities there might be for reparations."
Greece's demand for 278.7 billion euros ($312 billion) in reparations for the brutal Nazi occupation have mostly fallen on deaf ears, but some legal experts say it may have a case.
Many in Greece blame Germany, their biggest creditor, for the tough austerity measures and record unemployment that have followed from two international bailouts totaling 240 billion euros.
Last month, economy minister and vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel called the demand "stupid".
Gabriel said Greece wanted to squeeze some leeway out of its euro zone partners as they set conditions for further financial aid to help Greece avoid bankruptcy.
"And this leeway has absolutely nothing to do with World War Two or reparation payments," he said.
German officials have previously argued that Germany has already honored its obligations, not least with a 115 million deutsche mark payment to Greece in 1960.
Gauck, a former East German pastor, recently caused a stir by condemning the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces a century ago as "genocide", a term that the Berlin government had long rejected. Turkey denies the charge.

US Navy bolsters presence in Gulf after Iran seizure

First entry: 2 May 2015
US Navy bolsters presence in Gulf after Iran seizure
US warships protecting American-flagged ships in the Strait of Hormuz may extend assistance to other countries’ vessels, officials said May 1, after reports of Iranian forces harassing shipping.
The expanded US naval presence is intended to signal to Iran that Washington is ready to safeguard shipping along the vital corridor, even at a moment of delicate diplomacy with Tehran over its nuclear program, experts said.
American warships started "accompanying" US-flagged vessels in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday in response to two incidents in less than a week in which commercial vessels were coerced or harassed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter approved the operation and "this is going to continue for an indefinite period of time," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren said.
US Central Command, which oversees forces in the Middle East, said it was possible the assistance could be offered to other merchant ships sailing through the maritime chokepoint, a crucial route for the world’s oil.

Russian Embassy Will Decorate 24 Veterans of NLAW

  • Russian Embassy to Tirana will decorate 24 veterans of the Albanian National Liberation Antifascist War with the medal "70 years of victory". The ceremony will be held on May 4 in the premises of the Russian Embassy in Tirana. Albania Daily News learned that among the 24 persons that will be decorated is even the former President of Republic of Albania, Alfred Moisiu.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Turkish PM to visit Albania just for support of the Greater Albania idea

Turkish President RrexhepTaip Erdogan, will visit Tirana after two weeks, more precisely on May 13. This is known from government sources who say that Turkish head of state will be accompanied on this official visit by a group of local businessmen.

News of the visit comes two days after a visit by Prime Minister Rama in Istanbul, following his participation in a forum, but in Tirana political sparked much debate being considered unofficial and non-transparent motives, those from the opposition claimed.

This visit is of special importance in view curve of government relations with Turkey Rama, as Prime Minister did not hesitate to consider this country as a key strategic partner of Albania, immediately after took power on June 23.

The visit is happening precisely at the time when Tirana, has opened the question of unification under The Greater Albania, for which Turkey seems to play the role of "Big Brother", especially in the field of armaments, competing economic and political issues with Germany.

Russia Conducts Nuclear Bomber Flight Near Alaska

Two Bear H bombers intrude into air defense zone
Russian Bear H
Russian Bear H / Wikimedia Commons

Two Russian nuclear-capable bombers intruded into the U.S. air defense zone near Alaska last week in the latest saber rattling by Moscow, defense officials said.
The Tu-95 Bear H bombers flew into the Alaska zone on April 22. But unlike most earlier incursions, no U.S. interceptor jets were dispatched to shadow them, said defense officials familiar with the latest U.S.-Russian aerial encounter.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), declined to confirm the incursion. But he said no jets were dispatched last week to intercept intruding aircraft.
The incident was the first Russian bomber incursion of a U.S. or Canadian air defense zone this year. Officials said it likely signals the start of Russia’s long-range aviation spring training cycle. Further aerial incursions are expected.
Last year, U.S. and Canadian jets intercepted Russian bombers on at least six occasions, and intruding Russian long-range aircraft were detected on 10 occasions, Davis said.
Despite remaining in international airspace, “we believe that if the Russian military filed flight plans and self-identified—by ‘squawking and talking’—the overall safety of flight would be enhanced,” Davis said.
“And it could also reduce the number of times we scrambled fighter jets to intercept the aircraft, thereby reducing the potential for miscalculation.”
Davis said the increase in flights near North America coincided with Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine and Crimea.
“These flights often enter the U.S. or Canadian [air defense identification zone], but have not entered U.S. or Canadian sovereign airspace,” he said, adding that the flights are legal since the ADIZ is not sovereign airspace.
Last year’s intercepts included the following encounters, according to NORAD:
  • On April 2, 2014, two U.S. F-22 fighters intercepted two Bear bombers west of Alaska’s coast.
  • On June 9, 2014, two F-22s intercepted four Bears and one refueling tanker near Alaska. Two of the Bears later flew near the California coast and were intercepted by two F-15s.
  • Early August 2014: NORAD notes a “spike” Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. ADIZ.
  • On Sept 17, 2014, two F-22s intercepted two Russian IL-78 refueling tankers, two Russian Mig-31 fighter jets and two Bear long-range bombers in the ADIZ west of Alaska. The Russian aircraft flew a loop south, then turned west toward Russia.
  • On Sept. 18, 2014, two Bears were intercepted and identified by two Canadian CF-18 fighters in the western reaches of the Canadian ADIZ, in the Beaufort Sea.
  • On Dec. 8, 2014, two CF-18s intercepted two Bears near the Beaufort Sea off Canada’s coast.
In Europe, the latest bomber encounter took place on April 14, when two British Typhoon jet fighters intercepted two Bear H bombers near British airspace.
A Russian embassy spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.
Senior military officials have said Russia has stepped up such bomber flights near U.S. coasts as part of a strategic messaging and influence operation.
Northern Command commander Adm. William Gortney told reporters April 7 that Russia is developing a far more capable military than its predecessor, the Soviet Union, which made up for its poor quality of troops and equipment by deploying very large numbers of forces, he said.
Moscow also has published a new military doctrine that explains the military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and covert backing of armed rebels in eastern Ukraine, Gortney said.
“At the same time, they are messaging us,” the four-star admiral said. “They’re messaging us that they’re a global power—we do the same sort of thing—with their long-range aviation.”
Both numbers of flights and numbers of locations for the bomber flights “have gone up,” he said.
“So we watch very carefully what they’re doing,” Gortney said. “They are adhering to international standards that are required by all airplanes that are out there. And everybody is flying in a professional manner on their side and our side as we watch very closely.”
“But really, my question is, what is their intent long-term-wise?”
The latest Bear bomber intrusion near Alaska followed the intercept of a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over Baltic Sea on April 7 that the Pentagon said was provocative and dangerous.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Russian Su-27 jet conducted a “reckless” and “unprofessional” intercept of the RC-135 and noted that the Pentagon protested that U.S.-Russia aerial encounter.
Gen. Phillip Breedlove, commander of the U.S. European Command, told a Senate hearing Thursday that a “revanchist” Russia threat under Vladimir Putin is the most serious security worry facing the region.
“Russia is blatantly challenging the rules and principles that have been the bedrock of European security for decades,” Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“This is global. It’s not regional, and it is enduring, not temporary,” he said. “Russian aggression is clearly visible in its illegal occupation of Crimea and its continued operations in Eastern Ukraine.”
Breedlove said the Russians are waging “hybrid” warfare using both military forces and information operations. In Ukraine they have supplied proxies with significant assistance, he said.
“What worries me is Russia as a nation now adopting an approach that says they can and will use military power to change international borders,” Breedlove said. “That’s what I truly worry about every day.”

Makfax: EP concerned about Edi Rama’s statements about Albania, Kosovo unification

1 May 2015 | 10:33 | FOCUS News Agency
Makfax: EP concerned about Edi Rama’s statements about Albania, Kosovo unification
Tirana. European Parliament (EP) expressed concerns about the statements of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who speaks about possible unification of Albania and Kosovo, Macedonian Makfax agency reported.

The agency informs further that the position of the EP was sent after the adoption of the resolution on Albania, which highlights Tirana’s role in the strengthening of the regional cooperation.

The EP also welcomes Albania’s attempts to improve its relations with Serbia.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kosovo platform "after May holidays" - Nikolic

BELGRADE -- Tomislav Nikolic says Kosovo is crucial "although recognizing its southern province as independent has not been set as a condition for Serbia's EU membership."
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
"We are being asked to sign an agreement with the provisional institutions of self-government in Pristina, which would regulate mutual relations. Germany will not give up on that," the Serbian president told the May 1 special holiday edition of the daily Vecernje Novosti, and added:
"This demand was until recently hidden, but now represents the dominant opinion in Europe, especially since the formation of the current composition of the European Commission."

Therefore, he continued, Serbia must as soon as possible determine itself toward this demand that is becoming increasingly visible, and do so with a new state platform for Kosovo and Metohija.

"Immediately after the May holidays the platform should be on the prime minister's desk. The government will say whether the plan is feasible or not. Then the ministers will formally decide whether to send this or a slightly amended draft to the National Assembly. I think we should not take different roads on this issue," Nikolic said.

According to him, the core idea of ​​the new platform is that Serbia will never recognize an independent Kosovo, and to clearly show what the lines are that will never be crossed, but also "for everyone to stand behind such a policy and to let everyone know that is Serbia."

"We see that Pristina is gradually forming its own institutions. They insist on issues that also concern statehood, while eliminating the Serb influence in Kosovo in respect of property ownership, energy. They are ignoring the agreement on the community Serb municipalities. They are launching 'Greater Albania' issues. There's no more time," warned the president.

Nikolic said that he has been persuading all his western interlocutors for years that "there is a risk," and that their answer has always been that "the EU will never allow such a thing."

"I asked them - what if Kosovo, that you recognized, and Albania organize a referendum on unification. How would you prevent them," said Nikolic, adding that "the mild answer of the West " was now evident, although he added he "doubts the sincerity of those who said they will not allow the creation of a Greater Albania."

On the other hand, Pristina claims that Kosovo is an independent state and in this has the support of those countries that have recognized it.

"For us Kosovo and Metohija is an essential autonomy within Serbia. With such positions a final agreement (between Belgrade and Pristina) is not in sight. Who could give in," asked the president, and "admitted" that Kosovo is an issue on which everything will be decided.

He noted that Serbia has met the conditions for the opening of chapter 34, but that EU membership negotiations "are not beginning."

"Has chapter 35 on Kosovo been imposed on us so that we never join the EU," Nikolic wondered, adding that "some apparently expected that Serbia will be led by people who would accept the independence of Kosovo."

EP adopts resolution on Albania's progress towards EU

[ 30 April 2015 21:48 ]

Baku-APA. The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a draft resolution on Albania's progress towards European integration, compiled by rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein, APA reports quoting Xinhua.
The resolution urges Albania to make more efforts at five key priorities: corruption, organized crime, judiciary, administrative reform and human rights, which are set by the European Commission to open accession negotiations.
Although the resolution hails the beginning of the implementation of the law on civil servants, Albania is urged to make further steps in strengthening the capacity of public administration, which should be depoliticized and based on meritocracy. While supporting judicial reform, the EU wants Albania to reform the judiciary in order to be independent.
The resolution requires the strengthening of human rights, as well as deepening through concrete results of the fight against corruption and organized crime. EU also requires the agreement on decriminalization.
The resolution stresses that the ongoing and constructive political dialogue between political forces is the main premise for the country's progress on the path of European integration. 

Israel, US and Greece begin annual naval exercise

Noble Dina, which replaced joint operation with Turkey, gives IDF an ‘opportunity for strengthening cooperation with allies’

March 7, 2013,
An Israeli navy missile ship (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
An Israeli navy missile ship (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)
The navies of Israel, Greece and the US began a two-week joint military exercise Thursday for the third year in a row.

The annual operation, nicknamed Noble Dina, was established in 2011, after relations between Israel and Turkey soured.
In a statement released by the IDF on Thursday, Noble Dina was described as “part of the security cooperation between the Israeli navy and foreign naval forces… an opportunity for mutual learning and for strengthening of the cooperation with its allies.”
As was the case in Noble Dina in 2012, the exercise will include defending offshore natural gas platforms, as well as simulated air-to-air combat and anti-submarine warfare.
The US conducted similar exercises (“Reliant Mermaid”) with Turkey and Israel from 1998 to 2009, but these were canceled after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suspended military cooperation with Israel in 2010 on the heels of the Mavi Marmara flotilla raid in May of that year.
Since then Israel has entered deeper military and economic ties with Turkish rivals Greece and Cyprus.
While the long-running Reliant Mermaid was based on joint humanitarian search-and rescue missions, Noble Dina is much more military-oriented.
In October and November 2012, Israeli and US military forces held the Austere Challenge 12 exercise, a three-week joint drill that was the largest ever held between the two allies. Some 3,500 US troops and 1,000 Israeli soldiers took part in that drill.

A challenge in the south for Nato

Image Credit: REUTERS

The Cold War made Europe’s Atlantic identity paramount in the Old Continent’s dealings with the world and particularly with its American ally. Mediterranean and Central European countries developed habits of cooperation and consultation in Nato that promoted the flow of security commitments, commerce and ideas across the North Atlantic.

But the turmoil sweeping the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean today threatens to transform Europe’s strategic outlook on security matters. The US must pay careful attention to the growing gaps in the ways Washington and its European partners define the greatest dangers to their common well-being.

“For us, the biggest threat comes from the South,” says an Italian friend deeply experienced in Nato matters who now spends his time worrying about waves of migrants fleeing the wars, poverty and breakdowns in governance along the Mediterranean littoral. “Our nightmares are not about Russian tanks invading from the east. They are about the terrorists a short boat ride away in Libya.”

“Nobody in France is debating about arming Ukraine,” a conservative French parliamentarian once known for his hawkish Cold War views told me this week. “We are debating how much national surveillance we need to spot terrorists returning from war zones in Syria and Iraq, and how to stop Africa from completely imploding.”

Many Americans will be tempted to leave the Mediterranean crisis to the Europeans to deal with on their own. But the need for a new emphasis on alliance solidarity and burden-sharing is underscored at this moment by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and the uncertain Nato response it has provoked.

Nato is now, in fact, divided into three different factions on Ukraine.

Mediterranean countries are distracted and distant from any common effort to oppose Putin’s attempt to rewrite the rules of war and peace in modern Europe in Russia’s favour. Fatigue with economic sanctions against Russia is setting in for France, Italy and even Britain. (One measure of the decline of the Atlantic identity in European affairs is Britain’s growing absence in power projection and major-power diplomacy. The current election campaign has contributed to this tendency, but larger forces are shaping the pullback.)

Poland and the Baltic nations, fearing they could be next on Putin’s list, are at the other end of the spectrum. They take a tough, Atlanticist line and seek to deter Putin by multiplying the tripwires that would bring Nato troops to their aid in the event of Russian attacks across their frontiers.

The Obama administration occupies a shifting, reactive middle ground on Ukraine, letting German Chancellor Angela Merkel play the leading role in dealing with Putin while trying to reassure Poland and the Baltic states by rotating US planes and troops into their territories in an operation code-named Atlantic Resolve.

Driving a wedge

This approach has the merit of keeping Russian-American tensions at a manageable level. But it has not halted Putin’s buildup of Russian forces in Ukraine or prompted him to rein in military commanders who threaten the West with nuclear destruction when the whim strikes them. It will be surprising if the Russian leader does not see a golden opportunity here to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe and if he does not keep the opportunity alive as long as he can.

That alone is a strong reason for Americans to show solidarity with European allies confronting a traumatic redefining of the security challenges to their societies. This is particularly true of Italy, which has been left alone to cope with the swelling tide of refugees and migrants over the past four years.

Italy is likely to see 200,000 migrants come ashore this year, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told me this month in Washington, where he appealed to President Barack Obama for US support for European efforts to handle that tide. European Union leaders pledged ships and other help at a summit Thursday.

Washington should now see to it that Nato’s Atlantic Resolve mission to bolster Ukraine’s neighbours is matched by alliance involvement in the Mediterranean crisis. That involvement — call it Mediterranean Resolve — would take a different form, but it would also demonstrate that security is indivisible for all Nato members.

The forces driving desperate people from Eritrea, Syria, Mali and other failing countries to put their fate in the hands of human smugglers in Libya are global ones that require a coordinated response from history’s most successful alliance.

— Washington Post

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