Saturday, September 5, 2015

Auditors Query Albania Electricity Firm's Data

The refusal of independent auditors to give a verdict on the accuracy of the financial statements of the electricity distributor has shed light on the poor state of bookkeeping in Albania's state-run companies.
Gjergj Erebara
 Tirana | Photo by Flickr.  
A group of independent auditors hired by Albania's electricity distribution network operator OSHEE, to audit its financial statements for 2014, has refused to give an opinion, noting inconsistencies in the data.
The unaudited financial statements of the company shows that in 2014 revenues jumped to 47.2 billion leks (€337 million) from 37.7 billion leks (€269 million) in 2013.
“Our responsibility is to give an opinion on the financial statements based on the auditing. We have conducted our auditing based on International Auditing Standards,” the auditors report, obtained by BIRN, says.
“But we were unable to secure enough data to create a basis for this opinion,” it adds.
Auditors noted disrepancies between the company's billing system and its financial statements for 2014 that neither the management nor the auditors could explain.
They said the company's assets were not accurately registered in the national property register, claimed inventories were poorly kept and noted that conflicting claims from third parties were not satisfactorily resolved.
Answering a query from BIRN, OSHEE said its problems were inherited from the time when the company was under the ownership of the CEZ Group.
“The fact that the auditors refuse to offer an opinion did not have to do with the accuracy of the financial data but with the fact that the OSHEE has been in negative territory for years and with the problem of unregistered assets of the company,” OSHEE said in its reply.
The company said that it was working on improving its inventory reports and on registering its properties but warned that the process would not be finished within this year.
OSHEE has has a troubled history since it was created back in 2007 as an independent company, by dividing up the distribution arm of the Electricity Corporation in order to prepare it for privatization.
CEZ, the electricity giant from the Czech Republic, bought OSHEE back in 2009 but immediately claimed that the company's financial statements had been rigged by the previous administration by inflating the rate of electricity consumption.
CEZ said the company had declared much lower electricity losses and thefts than had actually taken place.
CEZ failed to turn the company's fortunes around and it accumulated heavy losses in the following years. It also had several disagreements with the Albanian energy regulator over its methods of purchasing electricity at inflated prices and over its financial statements.
An earlier investigation by BIRN found that CEZ engaged in a fraudulent scheme to distribute bribes among Albanian officials.
Albania nationalized its shares in the company in 2013 and then appointed its own management.
Since last October, the government has started a major crackdown on electricity theft, imprisoning about 600 people within months.

Albania PM Declares 'War' on Fiscal Evasion

Under pressure from the IMF over falling fiscal revenues, Prime Minister Rama has pledged to engage 600 teams to fight the widespread evasion of the use of receipts for goods - although many see the threat as empty.
Gjergj Erebara
  Edi Rama speaking to the media about his campaign against fiscal evasion on 31 August 2015. Photo: Malton Dibra/LSA
Albanians awoke on Tuesday to a new sense of alarm over fiscal bills. Coffee shops scrambled to use cash registers that were installed back in 2010 but rarely used since then.
Over the last month, several top officials including the Prime Minister Edi Rama have threatened taxpayers and consumers alike with heavy fines.
Owners of small enterprises like tailors and hairdressers have rushed to get registered in the National Business Registry, fearing reprisals.
“The war against informality [over payments] will be the focus of the next 300 days of the government with coordination between customs, tax directorate, labour inspectors and state police, as well as with the prosecutors service, consumers and businesses,” Rama said in a televised speech on Monday.
On Tuesday, Rama reinforced his initiative with another speech, adding that the campaign had been ducked for too long.
“For years, the necessary reforms had been avoided. Now it [Albania] has started to feel like a state. We are starting an operation against the chain of theft that in scientific language is called informality. The will and the attention of the government will be at a maximum. We are at war against informality,” Rama said.
Other officials warned that even consumers could be fined up to 1,000 leks (7.5 euros) if they leave a shop without taking a fiscal bill.
However, on Myslym Shyri street, one of the fanciest boulevards for shopping in the capital Tirana, things were running just as usual on Tuesday.
“They haven’t come here,” a shopkeeper told BIRN, referring to the inspectors. He continued selling fruits and vegetables to customers without bothering to print out any bills.
Albania signed a three-year agreement with the International Monetary Fund in 2013, securing cash in exchange for pledges to tighten fiscal discipline.
Following the agreement, the government increased taxes on profits, tobacco and fuel, hoping to increase revenues and so close the deficit.
This year, however, the higher taxation failed to result in an increase in revenues and the IMF mission ended discussions in June without an agreement, suspending its lending program.
While the government says it will end once forever the high rate of fiscal noncompliance in Albania, many doubt the campaign will bring anything new.
“There are several reasons to doubt whether it will work,” Ornela Liperi, editor-in-chief of Monitor, a weekly economic magazine published in Tirana, said.
“This campaign started well two years after this government came to power but after its experiments with tax hikes, it backfired,” she said.
“The government is also focusing on small businesses that are the main source of self-employment in the country but they don’t have the potential to increase budget revenue," she added.
"This [campaign] will only divert attention from the true sources of the tax evasion in the country, like traders of tobacco, big employers and big businesses. There is a widespread skepticism about how much the government is willing to do to punish big businesses that have strong political connections,” Liperi concluded.

Vladimir Putin greeted Steven Seagal outside the Eastern Economic Forum

Who’s the real action hero? Putin meets Hollywood star Steven Seagal as he claims to have secured deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to call snap elections

  • Hollywood actor is said to be one of Putin's favourite celebrity icons
  • Russian president said Bashar al-Assad is ready to hold snap elections
Vladimir Putin shook hands with Hollywood actor Steven Seagal in bizarre scenes in Russia today as he claimed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is ready to hold snap parliamentary elections and could share power with a 'healthy' opposition.
Seagal - said to be one of Putin's favourite celebrity icons - was photographed with the president outside Russia's first ever Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok.
The action hero is among the Western celebrities who have socialised with Putin and praised him, as well as Russia, despite the deep chill in diplomatic relations between Moscow and the West. 
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Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with movie actor Steven Seagal at the Russia's first ever Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with movie actor Steven Seagal at the Russia's first ever Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok
Vladimir Putin speaks with Steven Seagal who is said to be one of the president's favourite celebrity icons
Vladimir Putin speaks with Steven Seagal who is said to be one of the president's favourite celebrity icons
Russia, along with Iran, has been Assad's principle international ally in the war that has raged in Syria for four-and-a-half years and has claimed a quarter of a million lives.
Moscow has made clear it does not want to see Assad toppled and has seized on gains made by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq to urge his foreign foes, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, to work with Damascus to combat the common enemy.
'We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism,' Putin told journalists on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, saying he had spoken to U.S. President Barack Obama on the matter.
'We are also working with our partners in Syria. In general, the understanding is that this uniting of efforts in fighting terrorism should go in parallel to some political process in Syria itself,' Putin said.
'And the Syrian president agrees with that, all the way down to holding early elections, let's say, parliamentary ones, establishing contacts with the so-called healthy opposition, bringing them into governing,' he said.
Moscow wants the U.S.-led coalition carrying out air strikes on Islamic State positions to coordinate with the Syrian and Iraqi armies and moderate anti-Assad rebel groups on the ground, as well as Kurdish forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the Russia's first ever Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the Russia's first ever Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)
Assad's enemies have refused to cooperate with Damascus, fearing that would help legitimise his rule in Syria, where the West and Gulf states say he is part of the problem, not the solution, and must go.
A flurry of recent high-level diplomatic contacts have so far failed to yield a breakthrough with the question over Assad being the main point of contention.
'If it's impossible today to organise joint work directly on the battlefield between all those countries interested in fighting terrorism, it's indispensable to at least establish some sort of coordination between them,' Putin said.
He noted that the chiefs of general staff of armed forces of countries 'sitting close' to the conflict visited Moscow recently on that. He gave no details. 
Earlier this year, Seagal was spotted at Russia's biggest ever Victory Day military parade on the Red Square, and last year he was pictured pictured touring a Russian arms fair, days after playing a controversial concert in the Crimea.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Photo of the Day

Kind Constnatine I entereing Premeti in Northern Epirus (now Albania) after its liberation during the Balkan Wars.

Europe Rethinks the Schengen Agreement

Migrants board a train to Munich at Vienna's Westbahnhof railway station in the early hours of Sept. 1. (JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)


  • Rising immigration and fragile economic recovery in Europe will reduce political support for the Schengen Agreement, which eliminates border controls among member states.
  • The Schengen Agreement will likely be reformed to make room for countries to tighten their border controls more frequently.
  • Friction between Schengen members and other countries will remain, as will tension within the bloc itself.


When France, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed the Schengen Agreement in 1985, they envisioned a system in which people and goods could move from one country to another without barriers. This vision was largely realized: Since its implementation in 1995, the Schengen Agreement eliminated border controls between its signatories and created a common visa policy for 26 countries.
The treaty was a key step in the creation of a federal Europe. By eliminating border controls, member states gave up a basic element of national sovereignty. The agreement also required a significant degree of trust among its signatories, because it put the responsibility for checking foreigners' identities and baggage on the country of first entry into the Schengen area. Once people have entered a Schengen country, they can move freely across most of Europe without facing any additional controls.
The Schengen Agreement was implemented in the 1990s, when the end of the Cold War and the prospect of permanent economic prosperity led EU members to give up national sovereignty in many sensitive areas. The creation of the eurozone is probably the most representative agreement of the period. But several things have changed in Europe since then, and member states are beginning to question many of the decisions that were made during the preceding years of optimism.
The most important change of the past six years is probably Europe's economic crisis and its byproduct, the rise of nationalist political parties. Not far behind, though, is the substantial increase in the number of asylum seekers in Europe, which is putting countries on the European Union's external borders (such as Greece and Italy) and countries in the Continent's economic core (such as France and Germany) under significant stress. This is not the first time the Schengen Agreement has been questioned, but the combination of a rising number of asylum seekers, stronger nationalist parties and fragile economic recovery are leading governments and political groups across Europe to request the redesign, and in some cases the abolishment, of the Schengen Agreement.

On the one hand, countries in northern Europe criticize countries on the Mediterranean for their lack of effective border controls and for their failure to fingerprint many of the asylum seekers that reach EU shores. This means that the migrants can move elsewhere in the Continent to apply for asylum. In recent months, French and Austrian authorities accused Rome of allowing (and even encouraging) asylum seekers to leave Italy and threatened to close their borders with Italy; indeed, France followed through with its threat and briefly closed its border in late June.
On the other hand, countries in southern Europe criticize their northern peers for their lack of solidarity. Italy and Greece have repeatedly demanded more resources to patrol the Mediterranean and rescue immigrants, more funds to shelter asylum seekers and the introduction of immigration quotas in the European Union. Central and Eastern European countries, which think asylum seekers should be distributed on a voluntary basis, rejected the idea of quotas.
The migration crisis has also led to greater friction between Schengen members and their non-Schengen neighbors. The recent dispute between France and the United Kingdom (which is not a member of the Schengen zone) over immigrants trying to cross the English Channel at the French port of Calais was perhaps the most visible example of the growing tension, but the situation also led Hungary to build a fence at its border with Serbia and issue threats to militarize the border.

Rising Migration and Schengen's Shortcomings

The European Union is dealing with two overlapping problems. The first is its struggle to come up with a new immigration policy. Between September and December, EU members will hold a number of meetings and summits to reform the bloc's immigration rules. Germany, a country that only a few months ago was reluctant to change the Dublin regulations (according to which asylum requests should be processed in the country of a migrant's first entry) is now leading the push for a change. Germany expects to receive some 800,000 asylum seekers this year; meanwhile, attacks against immigrant shelters in Germany are spiking.

Berlin's proposals include the creation of a common list of countries considered safe, which means their nationals, in principle, should not be allowed to request asylum in the European Union. This list would largely include countries in the Western Balkans, such as Albania and Macedonia, which are not experiencing a civil war or any particularly serious humanitarian crisis that would justify a request for asylum. Germany's second proposal is the allocation of more funds and staff to centers in Greece and Italy to identify immigrants and process their applications. Finally, Berlin will also push for a proportional distribution of migrants across the European Union.
Each of these points is highly contentious. Asylum requests are a case-by-case issue, and it often takes a long time for authorities to determine who is truly seeking asylum and who is an economic migrant. Deportation will also remain problematic, since most countries in Mediterranean Europe lack the financial and human resources to expel illegal immigrants. In addition, Mediterranean countries are unlikely to simply accept the construction of larger immigration centers within their territory without a clear system to redistribute immigrants across the Continent. Several Central and Eastern European nations opposed a recent plan by the European Commission to introduce mandatory quotas of immigrants, and that opposition is not likely to end.
The European Union's second problem is what exactly to do with the Schengen Agreement. The treaty makes it possible for illegal immigrants to move freely among member states and raises some security questions. Several member states have expressed concern that some of the thousands of migrants arriving in Europe could be terrorists. Recent episodes, such as the attempted attack on a French train in which the attacker obtained weapons in Belgium before trying to kill people on a train going from the Netherlands to France, illustrates the problems linked to the lack of border controls. Although authorities do not have the resources to place every single potential terrorist under surveillance, the lack of border controls eliminates a layer of potential threat detection.
The rise of nationalist parties is also a threat to the Schengen Agreement. In Finland, a nationalist party is already a member of the government coalition, and Euroskeptic and anti-immigration parties are influential in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Hungary. In France, most opinion polls show that the Euroskeptic National Front will make it to the second round of the presidential election in 2017. All of these parties believe that national immigration laws should be toughened and the Schengen Agreement should be revised, if not abolished.

The Future of Schengen

The European Union probably will not abandon the Schengen Agreement anytime soon. Despite the criticisms, the treaty has reduced the time and cost of moving goods across Europe because trucks no longer have to wait for hours to cross an international border. It also benefits tourists and people living in border towns, because passports and visas are no longer needed. Finally, the agreement allows countries to save money, because governments no longer need to patrol their land borders.
The Schengen Agreement will probably be reformed before the end of the decade to make it easier for countries to reintroduce border controls. The first step in this direction happened in 2013, when signatory members agreed that border controls could be temporarily reintroduced under extraordinary circumstances (such as a serious threat to national security). But the reform is limited in its scope (border controls can be reintroduced for a maximum of 10 days, and only after consultation with the European Commission) and it explicitly says that a spike in immigration should not, in itself, be considered a threat to internal security.
In the coming years, member states will push to be given more power and discretion when it comes to reintroducing border controls. EU countries in northern Europe will also push for the suspension or even the expulsion of countries along the European Union's external borders that are seen as failing to effectively control their borders. New EU member states will have a hard time entering the Schengen zone, and the resistance from some countries to accept nations like Romania and Bulgaria (which have been in the European Union for almost a decade but are still waiting to join the Schengen area) will become the new normal.
Even without a proper reform of the Schengen Agreement, member states will continue to enhance police controls at train and bus stations and at airports. Several countries already employ sporadic police controls on trains and buses, a practice that is likely to grow. Under pressure from conservative forces, many EU countries (mostly in northern Europe) will also toughen their migration laws to make it harder for immigrants to access welfare benefits.
To a certain extent, the weakening of the Schengen Agreement is linked to the weakening of the free movement of people — one of the key liberties of the European Union. The treaty and the principle of free movement are not the same thing; any EU citizen has the right to transit and remain in any member state regardless of the existence of border controls. But the Schengen Agreement was designed to strengthen the free movement of people and create a Continent without borders. The likely reforms to the Schengen Agreement will hurt this basic principle. Once a basic principle is weakened, the door is open for other freedoms to be similarly affected. The main threat to the European Union is that the weakening of the free movement of people could precede the weakening of the free movement of goods, which would end the European Union in its current form.

Sunday, August 30, 2015



Nick Gage
The Panepirotic Federation of America vehemently condemns the brutal destruction by Albanian authorities on August 26 of a Greek Orthodox Church in the Chimara region of the former Communist nation that once prohibited all forms of religious worship.
The Church of St. Athanasius in the town of Drymades, known in Albanian as Dhermi, was completely destroyed by government agents acting on the authority of Albania’s Interior Ministry. The action has raised fears in Albania’s large community of ethnic Greeks of renewed persecution of the country’s Orthodox Christians, who constitute a third of the country’s 3.5 million people.
“The razing of St. Athanasius Church echoes the brutal actions of the Stalinist regime that ruled Albania for half of the last century when government forces executed priests, turned churches into stables and imprisoned anyone wearing a cross or reading the Bible,” said Nicholas Gage, president of the Federation. “It is a shameful act for a country trying to shed its violent past and become a member of the European Union.”
Mr. Gage said the only way Tirana can make amends for its brutal actions is to offer an alternative site for the construction of a new church and to provide the funds to build it.
St. Athanasius was first destroyed in 1972 by agents of Stalinist dictator Enver Hohxa and its stones were used to build a water depot. When communism fell in the country in 1992, residents built a new church on the site of the old one. It served the Orthodox Christians in the town as a place of worship for 23 years.
Last week as worshipers were observing religious services, local government agents acting on an order from the Interior Ministry removed icons and other religious objects and began to destroy parts of the building. The next day the agents returned in cars without license plates and continued the demolition despite the protests of the local priest who was almost crushed by falling debris. By August 26 the whole building was razed to the ground.
The Orthodox Church of Albania, leaders of the ethnic Greek minority, human rights activists and foreign diplomats have all condemned the destruction of the church by Albanian authorities as arbitrary, brutal and in violation of the country’s own laws. A spokesman for the Orthodox Church of Albania noted that Law 10057 passed in 2009 that ratified a previous agreement between the Albanian nation and the Orthodox Church guarantees the inviolability of places of worship and their protection by the state.
Reports from Tirana say that U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu met with Prime Minister Edi Rama to protest the destruction of the church as insensitive to the rights of the Orthodox faith in Albania and the ethnic Greek minority and to urge him to seek a solution to the problem acceptable to both.
Omonia, the largest advocacy group representing the Greek minority, and the Human Rights Party of Albania, the minority’s political organization, both issued statements condemning the brutal destruction of the church and warning that it will seriously harm relations between the government of Prime Minister Rama and all minorities in the country.
Those warnings were echoed by the leaders of the Panepirotic Federation of America both in the United States and in Albania, where the organization’s vice president, Menelaos Tzelios, is traveling to assess the treatment of minorities in the country. Mr Tzelios called on the Albanian government to move quickly and decisively to repair relations with its Orthodox Christians citizens if it wants to claim a rightful place in the community of civilized nations.

Albania seizes 500,000 cannabis plants in major crackdown

Associated Press

In this photo taken on Thursday Aug. 25, 2015, a police officer carries cannabis plants  in Kurvelesh commune, 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the Albanian capital, Tirana. Albanian police found and destroyed some 16,000 cannabis plants and arrested a suspect. So far half a million cannabis plants have been destroyed since the government set fighting drug cultivation and trafficking as a top priority. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)
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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian authorities say they have confiscated about half a million cannabis plants this year, arresting 240 suspected growers and drug traffickers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ardi Bita said Friday that fighting drug production is a "top priority" for police.
Some 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) worth of marijuana has been seized and destroyed so far, Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said.
On Wednesday, 100 police destroyed some 16,000 plants in Kurvelesh, south of Tirana.
Albania was long a major marijuana producer in Europe. A crackdown started last year, when police stormed the southern Lazarat village with armored personnel carriers — despite coming under automatic weapon and rocket fire by drug growers.
Prime Minister Edi Rama has set the fight against drugs as a main priority for his government, elected in 2013.

Russia, US, China Returning to Battleships Era?

Parade rehearsal for RF Navy Day in Baltiysk

© Sputnik/ Igor Zarembo
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Maybe it's time to build new big battleships, American scholar Robert Farley suggests, adding that he expects the return of the era of big warships.

Although big ships went out of style decades ago maybe it's time to bring back legendary battleships, Professor Robert Farley of  the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce notes, calling attention to the fact that Russia and China have kicked off separate projects aimed at constructing large surface warships.
"For decades, naval architects have concentrated on building ships that, by the standards of the World Wars, are remarkably brittle. These ships can deal punishment at much greater ranges than their early 20th century counterparts, but they can't take a hit. Perhaps it is time to reconsider this strategy, and once again build protected ships" Professor Farley wrote in his article for the National Interest.
The professor elaborated that the modern battleship originated from the British Royal Sovereign class vessels of the 1890s. These warships, equipped with two heavy guns each in turrets fore and aft and protected by steel armor, displaced almost 15,000 tons. Remarkably, the world's navies willingly adopted these design features, which allowed a vessel to fight and absorb punishment effectively.
"[L]ethality and survivability increased dramatically with ship size, and the navies of the world responded accordingly. By 1915 the first line battleships of the Royal Navy would displace 27,000 tons; by 1920 the world's largest battleship (HMS Hood) displaced 45,000 tons.  In 1921 international agreements would constrain warship size, although the Germans and Japanese in particularly imagined battleships of staggering proportions," the US scholar explained.
However, the Second World War maritime battles indicated that huge warships could not resist "concerted air and submarine attack," let alone striking back at sufficient range at maneuverable airplanes or underwater vessels. After the war big battleships had been little-by-little slipping into oblivion. The "battleship" had caught its second wind in the 1970s: the USSR launched a project aimed at building Kirov class heavy missile cruisers. In response, the United States refurbished its four Iowa class warships, which nevertheless remained in service for only a few years.
"More recently, Russia, the United States, and China have all considered the construction of large surface warships," the American scholar underscored.
"One of the [US Navy] proposals for the CG(X) program involved a nuclear powered warship approaching 25,000 tons," he pointed out.
Meanwhile, China is testing its Type 055 surface warship, Asia's largest military vessel. The Russian Navy, in its turn, announced that it plans to begin construction of new Lider (Leader)-class destroyers in 2019. According to designers, Russia's new battleships will displace about 17,500 tons and carry 60 anti-ship cruise missiles, 128 anti-aircraft guided missiles and 16 anti-ship guided missiles. The warship is expected to reach a speed of 30 knots and remain at sea up to 90 days without support.
Commenting on the issue, Professor Farley underscored that big ships still have lethality and survivability advantages. 
"For example, bigger ships can carry larger magazines of missiles, which they can use both for offensive and defensive purposes.  Advances in gun technology (such as the 155 mm Advanced Gun System to be mounted on the Zumwalt class destroyer) mean that large naval artillery can strike farther and more accurately than ever before," he noted.
"Larger ships can generate more power, increasing not only their lethality (rail guns, sensors) but also their survivability (anti-missile lasers, defensive sensor technologies, close-defense systems)," Professor Farley emphasized, adding that modern battleships will be most likely used to fight against shore-based systems.

Croatian President Calls on EU to Cooperate With Russia

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of the opposition HDZ celebrates her victory in Croatia's presidential run-off election on the stage at her campaign headquarters in Zagreb January 11, 2015.

© REUTERS/ Antonio Bronic
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Speaking at the European Forum Alpbach, the head of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said that the EU should work with Russia to resolve the Syrian crisis and other security issues.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović called on the EU to cooperate with Russia on resolving the crisis in Syria, which has become one of the causes of the "refugee crisis" in Europe.
"Today we confront Russia on the issue of the Ukrainian crisis. But we have to cooperate with Russia to resolve the Syrian crisis and a number of other crises," Grabar-Kitarovic said on Sunday.
According to the Croatian President, the current refugee crisis is just the beginning. Millions of people from the Middle East and Africa can come to Europe in search of a better life and Europe should be prepared for it, Grabar-Kitarovic stated, adding that the refugee quotas should not be imposed from Brussels, but indicated by countries themselves. Grabar-Kitarovic stressed that the European Union is currently undergoing a series of crises.
"We have a crisis of vision, strategy, and identity, and I fear, a crisis of leadership. These crises affect the level of unity, the level of solidarity," Grabar-Kitarovic said, adding that to respond to these crises, European leaders should coordinate their actions, rather than isolate themselves from the others, she said.
The annual meeting of European politicians and representatives of intellectual circles in the Austrian village of Alpbach has been taking place since 1945. This year, it focuses on the issue of "inequality" and the European refugee crisis caused by the inflow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa.

Syriza has slender lead in new polls - Graph

First entry: 29 August 2015 - 07:04 Athens, 04:04 GMT
Last update: 11:10 Athens, 08:10 GMTPolitics
Syriza has slender lead in new polls - Graph
A new poll published Saturday in financial weekly Agora gives Syriza a slender lead over main opposition New Democracy (ND).
According to the MRB poll Alexis Tsipras party gets 24.6% with ND following with 22.8%.
The poll suggests that the September 20 election will be a close call.
Up to 9 parties could be represented in the new parliament, the poll suggests.
At least 8 of the parties are comfortably passing the 3% threshold required by electoral law to have parliamentary representation.
Independent Greeks, junior government partners of Syriza, are below the threshold according to the MRB poll.
Other polls
Other opinion polls also indicated that the election race will be a close one.
A poll conducted by the University of Macedonia on behalf of Skai TV indicated that Syriza has experienced a dramatic slump in support, falling by 9.5 percentage points to 25 percent. In contrast, New Democracy has seen its backing increase from 16.5 percent in June to 22 percent this month.
Syriza was supported by 23 percent of those polled by ProRata for Friday’s Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper, with New Democracy second on 19.5 percent. The previous ProRata poll in early July showed a wider gap in SYRIZA’s favor, putting the party on 26 percent compared with 15 percent for New Democracy.
Syriza would get 29 percent and conservative ND 27.8 percent if elections were held now, a poll conducted by Metron Analysis for Parapolitika newspaper showed.