Saturday, November 7, 2015

For Archbishop Anastasios, "The Sciacca Award" 2015 by Vatican

Awards to Cardinal Pell, the Greek Patriarch Lahham and Archbishop Anastasios


Premi al Cardinale Pell, al Patriarca Greco Laham e all’Arcivescovo Anastasios
 November 4, 2015

Awards to Cardinal Pell, the Greek Patriarch Laham and Archbishop Anastasios, as like every year, "The Sciacca Award" gives recognition to outstanding young and representatives of religion, institutions and culture.

In this edition of the Culture Award goes to Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy established by His Holiness Father Francis. A Church historian, after his studies at the Pontifical Urban University and specialization at the University of Oxford, the Australian cardinal has directed the Institute of Catholic Education and, as Rector, Seminary Corpus Christi College.

The Patriarch of the Greek Catholic Melkite Gregorios III Laham is the Sciacca Award 2015 "Faith and the Sacred Liturgy." Fine scholar, with his high ministry has been deeply engaged in the propagation of the Faith through the Liturgy, publishing, among other things, the book of the Divine Liturgy. In 1962 he founded "Unité dans la foi", the first Arabic magazine that is ecumenism. He oversaw social projects in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and in Syria. He founded the Center for Religious Studies and the East has worked with determination and courage in the defense of the Christians of Syria.

The Sciacca Award 2015 "Action Missionary Works and the Social Solidarity" is Orthodox Archbishop Anastasios, head of the Orthodox Church of Albania and Archbishop of Tirana. Theologian and religious historian, author of many leading scientific publications translated into several languages, Anastasios devoted himself with extraordinary commitment to the missionary in Africa. He was responsible for the construction of 145 new churches and the restructuring of other 70. He has also great social works: schools, hospitals and vocational training centers, aiming to work not only care, but capable of educating people out of poverty through 'commitment to the initiative and to direct management by the various populations.

Numerous outstanding young, from all over the world, who will receive awards.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Déjà Vu in the Balkans

Migrants wait to enter a registration camp in Presevo, Serbia October 25, 2015

© REUTERS/ Ognen Teofilovski
Andrew Korybko

An eerily familiar sense of regional unease has crept over all the former republics of Yugoslavia.

Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar echoed the Balkan zeitgeist when he warned at a press conference this week that:
"If the migrant crisis is not adequately controlled as agreed at the summit in Brussels there is a possibility of conflict situations between the states of the Western Balkans. It is possible that a small conflict would initiate a wider reaction because of the very difficult recent history (of the region), which is why it is very important that we solve this crisis together as no country can solve this problem by itself."
It seems like everybody knows that something foul is afoot, and the unsettling and anxious mood that has swept over the region is reminiscent of the atmosphere of 1991.
From Slovenia to the Republic of Macedonia, each constituent member of the former Yugoslavia is now infused with their own destabilizing vulnerabilities that have only been exacerbated by the "refugee crisis". Just like the last regional crisis over two decades ago, this one's also influenced by external forces, but unlike 1991, 2015 doesn't have to be the year that conflict erupts, and it's still entirely possible that the Balkan states can pull back from the brink in preserving the regional peace.
Unipolarity vs. Multipolarity
The history of the Balkans after the 1999 NATO War on Yugoslavia has been largely about the West's "Drang nach Suden" (Drive to the South) through the institutional vehicles of the EU and NATO. Slovenia and Croatia are already in both organizations, while the Muslim-Croat portion of Bosnia is their semi-protectorate. On the other hand, Republika Srpska, Serbia, Montenegro, and the Republic of Macedonia still remain outside the clutches of either of these overlapping blocs. This defining difference separates the region into the unipolar-obsessed and NATO-controlled Western Balkans and the multipolar-focused and NATO-free Central Balkans.
The comparison between each Balkan sub-region doesn't end there, however, since another crucial factor separating them is that the Central Balkans are the location of two multipolar megaprojects by Russia and China. Russia would like to build the Balkan Stream (the author's more inclusive description of the Turkish Stream's full geographic scope) that would run through the Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, while China wants to build a "Balkan Silk Road" high-speed rail system between the Greek port of Piraeus and Budapest, transiting through Skopje and Belgrade. This has created obvious friction with the US, which plainly understands that the fulfillment of these complementary projects would spell the end of its domination dreams for the Central Balkans (and thus, the entire region), ergo its tinkering in trying to turn all of the Balkans back into a tinderbox.
Destabilization Everywhere
If the US can't bring the Balkans under its boot, it'll break the region up and attempt to reorganize it once more afterwards, just as it did in 1991 when it knew it couldn't control the whole of Yugoslavia. The asymmetrical catalyst meant to inflame intra-regional tension and move forward with this scenario is the "refugee crisis", which is actually an artificially manufactured and highly politicized socio-economic "virus" that's infected the stabilizing organs of each Balkan state (much like "independence" did before it). Other than the direct effects of this major pan-regional problem, each of the countries is going through their own unique challenges or making choices that contribute to the overall destabilization of the Balkans:
The Alpine republic has threatened to fence off its border with Croatia, which is causing the rest of the countries "downstream" to fret about where else they could possibly redirect the migrant flows. Also, migrants that reach Slovenia are at risk of becoming uncontrollable because of how close they are to finally getting into Austria's Schengen Area, and the case of them torching their own tents in Brezice two weeks ago out of impatience set a disturbing precedent.
Following the example of its former imperial hegemon in Budapest, Zagreb has decided to go forward with fencing off its portion of the Serbian border too, exponentially multiplying the uneasy feeling that many Serbs have that they're being boxed in and forced to become an unwitting migrant-hosting camp. Worse still, Croatia is purchasing American-made multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) that could potentially be refitted with 300 kilometer-range ballistic missiles, thus like forcing Serbia to seek a symmetrical response.
Other than what seems like an imminent arms race with Croatia, Serbia is battling asymmetrical aggression through Kosovo's campaign to enter UNESCO. Kosovar Albanians rampantly destroyed Serbian churches, cemeteries, and many other cultural monuments in over the past two decades, and UN "legitimization" of these ISIL-like crimes of historical destruction is absolutely unacceptable for Serbia, Russia, and other countries that vividly remember these despicable acts.
The Gulf- and Turkish-supported Islamization of society has led to intense social polarization, as did the failed UK-supported UNSC Resolution about Srbrenica that tried to pin all the blame on Republika Srpska. Russia responsibly vetoed the discriminatory measure, but the UK's sly move was indicative of the larger goal that the West and the Muslim-Croat entity in the country have of unilaterally revising the Dayton Agreement and dangerously trying to force a unitary state that would get rid of Republika Srpska.
A People's Revolution has sprung up against the corrupt and long-sitting leader's pro-NATO ambitions, but this has regretfully been met with unwarranted and excessive state violence against protesters, supportive parliamentarians, and reporters alike. As Montenegro approaches the December deadline where it might possibly be offered a NATO membership invitation, it's foreseen that the protests and reactionary state violence will only increase in crescendo.
The Republic is still under a Hybrid War threat, as the destabilizing Color Revolution and Albanian-affiliated terrorist scenarios remain very real possibilities in the near future. The crux of the issue is that the country's political crisis is intensifying due to the pro-Western "opposition's" refusal to abide by the original conditions of this summer's Przino Agreement. Zoran Zaev and Ali Ahmeti are fiercely trying to provoke social and ethnic discord that could horrifyingly result in a Hybrid War around this spring's early election. Solving The "Unsolvable"
The three thematic problems in the Balkans right now are the "refugee crisis", the American-initiated arms race between Croatia and Serbia, and the Hybrid War scheme against Macedonia. Here's how they can be resolved:
Macedonian Border Fence And Albanian Reroute
All the Balkan states have an interest in stemming the migrant flow, and the quickest and least regionally provocative way to do that is to pool their funds in fencing off the Macedonian border with Greece. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama warned last week that his country might become the next migrant transit zone owing to the very narrow Strait of Otranto that separates it from Italy, so the moment the Macedonian-Greek border is secured, these individuals will largely stop infiltrating north in favor of the more convenient Albanian ‘shortcut'.
Restoring the unity of the former Yugoslavia, even in a strategic multilateral sense between all of the currently independent former members, is just about impossible, but sub-regional integration within the Western and Central Balkans might offer the most pragmatic solution to easing neighborhood tensions. The Serbian and Croatian cores of each group have already decided on their divergent strategic orientations towards Russia and the US, respectively, and since not much can be done to temper their looming arms race, the most pragmatic thing each of them can do is consolidate and strengthen their existing regional partnerships. Democratic Security
Macedonians proudly showed the rest of the world that Color Revolutions can be defeated if the patriotic citizenry organized in defense of their country's sovereignty and proved that the majority of people are against the foreign plot. Their political awareness and understanding of the global context of their national crisis were instrumental in encouraging them to defy the destabilization attempt, and this model of resistance obviously rubbed off in encouraging their multipolar counterparts in Montenegro. Therefore, Democratic Security, the safeguarding and advancement of the true will of the people (as in Macedonia and Montenegro, respectively), will be the most pivotal factor going forward in determining whether the Central Balkans remain free or if they transform into Western fiefdoms.

Russian FM weighs in on Pristina's attempt to join UNESCO

The attempt to allow Kosovo to join leads to the politicization of UNESCO's activities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
Source: Tanjug
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
He made the statement after meeting with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.
"With all the complexities of international life it is important to avoid the politicization of the UNESCO activities, that's what we see now in connection with attempts to grant the organization’s membership to Kosovo in violation of Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council," Lavrov said, according to TASS.

He stressed the need "to offer support in every way in the spirit of compromise and consensus-based solutions."

According to Lavrov, Bokova "has the talent of the kind and is actively promoting constructive solutions."

Resolution 1244 was adopted on June 10, 1999, envisaging a series of measures to solve the situation in Kosovo by allowing it "essential autonomy and self-government," while at the same time respecting "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of (FR) Yugoslavia," the Russian news agency said.

Earlier in the day Serbia's Ambassador to UNESCO said that Pristina's bid will be on the agenda on Monday.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

NATO chief wants "response to Russian build-up"


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he is worried about "the build-up of Russian military forces from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean."
Source: AP, Tanjug
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
AP is reporting that he "called on the U.S.-led alliance to come up with a response."
According to Stoltenberg, "the Russians have concentrated military forces in Kaliningrad, the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, where they are assisting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."

Speaking on Tuesday at a news conference in Portugal, where NATO is conducting military exercises, he said that "some experts believe the force concentrations could lead to Moscow’s ability to limit NATO’s access to certain regions."

“We have to be sure that we are able to overcome these capabilities, so we can reinforce, so we can move and we can deploy forces if needed,” said Stoltenberg.

EU commissioner: Greek economy could return to growth in 2nd half of 2016, much work remains

US News

The Associated Press
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, left, meets with European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici in Athens, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Moscovici's talks with officials in Greece's leftwing government will focus on the progress of reforms demanded by the country's European creditors in return for a third multi-billion euro bailout. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's economy could start growing again in the second half of 2016, but much work remains to be done on reforms required for bailout loans, the European Union's top economic and financial official said Wednesday.
Pierre Moscovici said compromise was possible on how to tackle the problem of distressed mortgages but that decisions need to be taken quickly if Greece is to receive funds from its new 86-billion euro, three-year bailout. Pension reforms will also need to be made this month, he said.
A raft of spending cuts and tax hikes have already been passed in parliament. "We are impressed by the reforms voted on after August but we must keep the momentum," Moscovici said. Greece has promised to implement a series of reforms, including tax hikes, spending cuts and pension reforms, in return for the bailout, without which it would default on its debts and likely end up having to leave Europe's joint currency, the euro.
Despite initially pledging to repeal bailout commitments when he first came to power in January, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has since made a U-turn and agreed to implement the measures.
However, he said Wednesday that Greece should be given some lee-way as it is bearing the brunt of a massive refugee crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people streaming into the country from nearby Turkey.
"We are a country that has taken on a responsibility that is beyond its means," Tsipras said after a meeting in Athens with European President Martin Schulz focusing on the refugee issue.
More than 600,000 people have reached Greece so far this year, and hundreds have died attempting to make the short but dangerous crossing to Greek islands from the nearby Turkish shore. The vast majority don't want to stay in Greece and head north to more prosperous European countries.
Tsipras said the financial crisis had created "a humanitarian crisis domestically" and his government wanted European creditors to show "the same solidarity that we are showing to the refugees."
He indicated the creditors should ease demands on resolving distressed Greek mortgages, so as to not have too many people evicted from their main homes. Part of bailout conditions was to end consumer tax breaks for Aegean islands and to allow the repossession of homes from non-performing loans.
"While our islanders are opening their doors to the refugees, sharing their food and sometimes even the roof over their heads — at the same time the government is obliged to increase (consumer tax) to the islands," he said. "While we do our best to shelter refugees were are facing irrational pressure to stop protecting primary homes for Greek citizens."
But Moscovici poured cold water on the idea.
The bailout rules must be implemented and "nothing must lead to relaxing the reforms," he said.
The Commission was supporting Greece in its dealing with the refugee crisis, and while it could examine whether exceptional circumstances exist, this wouldn't lead to "a general relaxation or changing of the rules."
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press

Football club president facing extradition to Albania

Whilst Leeds fans think that they have worries what with Massimo Cellino and his ever changing whims, spare a thought for Leyton Orient fans and the issues that they could be facing, according to BBC Sport, with their president Fracesco Becchetti.

According to BBCSport, and other media outlets, Leyton Orient’s president Becchetti could face the distinct possibility surrendering to an arrest warrant, issued in June of this year, and then the extradition to Albania. The Mail Online say that the Italian, who had bought Leyton Orient in 2014 and also a satellite television station in Albania, is accused in the warrant of suspicion of money laundering. The Mail Online say that the charges stem from a project to build a power station in southern Albania where his company, KGE, contracted another company called Energji, which was controlled by his mother Lilliana Condomitti. Prosecutors allege that Energji inflated the price of works billed to KGE, the power station itself is still to be built. The prosecutors, according to the Mail Online, themselves say that they have sufficient evidence with which to charge Becchetti and all concerned with “collusion in forging documents more than once” and also with “laundering money from criminal deeds.”

Becchetti, at the time the arrest warrant was issued in June of this year, refuted the basis behind the warrant with the club website, quoted in the Newham Recorder, saying, “The allegations which have given rise to these Court orders are groundless and politically and improperly motivated. Mr Becchetti is currently involved in complex commercial litigation against the Republic of Albania, in which large sums of money are at stake…Mr Becchetti will vigorously contest the baseless accusations against him at the appropriate time.”
Becchetti’s next hearing is scheduled for Westminster Magistrates’ Court on December 7 with the fuller, more substantive hearing not expected to take place until some time next year. Until then, and with Becchetti having handed over his travel documents to British authorities, a statement released on his behalf said that the accusations will not affect his duties to the club with the Mail Online saying, “the Albanian requests should have no impact on his duties and responsibilities as Chairman of Leyton Orient.”

US Ships to Stay Permanently in Eastern Mediterranean Sea - Ankara

The U.S. Navy warship USS John McCain, an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer. File photo

© AP Photo/ Bullit Marquez
Military & Intelligence

Turkey’s foreign ministry announced on Thursday that US warships will permanently remain in the eastern Mediterranean in order to support Turkey’s defense needs.

"Recently, the American warship visited (Turkey’s naval base) Aksaz. Such visits will continue. The destroyer USS Donald Cook and similar ships will always be in the east of the Mediterranean Sea for the protection of Turkey, their presence will be increased," RIA Novosti cites Turkish ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgic as saying.
On October 30, an unnamed senior US defense official said that dozens of F-15C jets would join A-10 ground attack aircraft at the Incirlik Air Base in south Turkey. Earlier, around a dozen "tank killer" A-10s landed at Incirlik in mid-October. Although the Pentagon announced that the deployment is to ‘ensure the safety’ of America’s NATO allies, the move was seen by some as a counter to Russia’s airstrikes in Syria.
"I didn’t say it wasn’t about Russia," Laura Seal told The Daily Beast late Tuesday in a follow-up to comments describing the deployment as a way to "ensure the safety" of Turkish aircraft.
Earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is discussing the possibility of leaving SAM Patriot in Turkey for 2016, but the decision is still pending.

“Greater Albania” Is A Myth To Preserve The Country’s Unity (I)

Wed, Nov 4, 2015

“Greater Albania” Is A Myth To Preserve The Country’s Unity (I) Outside observers tend to think of Albania as a monolithic bloc, but just below the “Greater Albania” surface is a depth of societal division, periodically drained by the “unifying” valve of ethnic irredentism. The country is suffering from such a degree of corruption and mismanagement that thousands of its citizens have opted to flee and begin their lives anew in Germany, which has only contributed to the economic crisis that Albania has found itself in and raises fears of oncoming political unrest. Something else that needs to be spoken about when addressing domestic Albanian divisions is the potential for the Gheg and Tosk geographical dialect divisions to coalesce into concrete regionalist identities that weaken the cohesiveness of the Albanian state.
Squeezed between grassroots socio-economic pressures and the threat that the geo-dialect divide might one day take on political contours, the Tirana elite has resorted to the myth of “Greater Albania” in order to maintain ‘unity’ and redirect society’s growing anger towards a ‘regional crusade’. What they may not have calculated, however, is that the country’s strategic Christian minority might one day identify closer with their neighboring co-confessionalists than the with the diversion of “Greater Albania”, and if they take the lead in exposing this charade, then the entire national fabric might eventually unravel in unpredictable directions.
The article starts off by highlighting the economic desperation prevalent in Albania and its occupied colony of Kosovo and how the huge migrant flows this has stimulated have given Tirana’s elite a serious cause for self-interested concern. Afterwards, it explores the Gheg and Tosk dialect divide and the prospects for its politicization in the future, especially in the absence of a ‘unifying’ “Greater Albania” ideology or a major weakening thereof. Part II continues the research by examining the potential for Albania’s Christian minority to play the vanguard role in leading the domestic resistance to the “Greater Albania” ‘theology’. Following that, it looks at the possibility of the government responding through a Turkish-supported ‘soft’ Islamization of society to counter the Christian dissidents, with all of the unintentional and explosive problems that this could predictably create. Finally, the work concludes by assessing the most probable impact of all these processes on Albanian society and touching upon three interrelated scenarios.

The Other Migrant Crisis

The Albanian Exodus To Europe:
Lost amidst the news-grabbing headlines about the Mideast’s migrant crisis to Europe is the internal one that hit uncontrollable proportions at the beginning of this year, but was soon eclipsed by its more politically convenient counterpart. The Independent Balkan News Agency reported in April that 20,000 Albanians had already left their country in search of better opportunities in the EU, with The Telegraph writing in late February that 50,000 Albanians had left Kosovo by that time for the same reason. Taken together, that’s at least 70,000 Albanians that have fled the Balkans by early 2015, but unfortunately for observers, news coverage about this mass exodus was overshadowed as the Mideast migrant crisis began spiraling out of control, and it has since then been extremely difficult to find reliable figures about the number of Albanian migrants since, let alone any detailed coverage in general.
Step Out Of The Shadows, Get Deported:
A mid-summer article from Euroactiv counted around 8,000 Albanians requesting asylum in Germany, despite the 2% or so success rate for that group at the time. More than likely, the rest of the at least 70,000 Albanian migrants didn’t even want to apply for asylum because they knew the almost impossible odds of receiving this benefit and also suspected their departure entities would soon be put on a list of “safe countries” that would lead to the deportation of 98% of those said applicants. Choosing instead to treat their stay in Germany not as a lifelong new beginning but an indefinite working trip, they opted not to notify authorities of their presence. In hindsight, this was a wise decision on their part because Germany eventually did declare Albania and “Kosovo” “safe countries” and has already begun deporting 716 of the prior applicants (almost 9% of the total) back to Tirana within a month of making the decision.
Unwanted In Their Own Country:
Although proportionately small in number when compared to all the Albanians that have fled so far this year (and obviously more by now than the 70,000 that were counted in spring), Tirana is afraid that a large wave of deported individuals will soon arrive back in the country. These angry and unemployed individuals might rightly begin agitating against the government and demanding real economic change in their country, and that’s what really makes the elite anxious. Furthermore, deported Albanians that return to the occupied Serbian Province of Kosovo might refrain from making such a trip again and instead opt to find a job in Albania instead, which would further strain the domestic labor market and increase unemployment.
The Western Detour:
In August 1991 several ships carrying approximately 15,000 Albanian migrants entered the port of Bari, Italy
In August 1991 several ships carrying approximately 15,000 Albanian migrants entered the port of Bari, Italy
In response to this demographic ‘threat’ that could undermine their rule, the Albanian elite are preparing a backup plan to siphon migrants back into Europe under the cover of Mideast “refugees”. Prime Minister Edi Rama has “warned” that the narrow Strait of Otranto separating his country from Italy could be used as an alternative route for facilitating German-destined migration, but given how desperate tens of thousands of Albanians have proven themselves to be in leaving for the EU, it’s likely that they’ll join their Mideast counterparts in making the journey. From the perspective of an Albanian migrant eager to enter or return to Germany, it’s much easier to do so via the detoured route of Italy-France-Germany than to risk being sent back at the German-Austrian border, which is now under stringent security checks. What Rama basically did was to precondition Europe into accepting that this route will likely be utilized more in the future, all with the intent of drawing Mideast migrants to it that could serve as cover for the Albanian outflow that he wants to facilitate.
Demographic Compensation:
Due to the absence of dependable data since early 2015 reporting on the extent of the Albanian exodus from the Balkans, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly how many have already left and the number that will follow in their footsteps by the end of the year. It could even be that the 70,000 recorded from this spring is just the tip of the iceberg, and that the actual count is indeed much larger by now. It appears real plausible that this is the case and that Tirana is fretting the demographic bloodletting from the past year, yet reluctant to keep disaffected Albanians in the country out of fear that they may demonstrate against the government.
Thus, International Business Times’ report that Albania would accept a whopping 75,000 “Syrian” ‘refugees’ makes a lot more sense, since it looks like the government is seeking to compensate for the outflow of tens of thousands of angry and potentially politically charged Albanians by importing an equal amount of foreign and politically unassuming migrants instead. The major risk in this short-sighted strategy is that the ‘new neighbors’, many of whom are anti-government sympathizers (if not outright terrorists), might bring their Islamist ideology with them and explosively disseminate it all throughout Albania.
Ideological Innovations:
The Albanian government is expected to ramp up its campaign of “Greater Albania” in response to the deteriorating domestic conditions of the country, similar in effect to how they did after the 1997 internal crisis almost brought about the full collapse of the state. Whenever Albania is at its weakest, its leaders espouse “Greater Albania” the loudest, so 2015 and the coming years are expected to mirror those of 1997 and the disaster that came afterwards. The international conditions are different, however, and NATO doesn’t have as much of a “blank check” in carving out another “Greater Albanian” colony in Macedonia like it did with Serbia, for example, but this still doesn’t preclude the possibility of state-sponsored terrorists trying to exploit the engineered political crisis in Skopje in order to advance their territorial objectives.
To a greater extent than how it happened in Kosovo, this time any Albanian terrorists that decide to take up arms against the Macedonian state might be more openly infused with radical Islamic beliefs, partly owing to the dangerous contagion of such ideas via ISIL’s social media marketing, but also due to the dual factors of the undocumented migrant flows through the country (potential pro-Albanian “stay behind” insurgents, provided their disaffected elements can be KLA-armed) and the chance that Tirana might accommodate the Islamists views of its planned “new arrivals”. While traditionally a largely secular state, the Islamization of Albanian society isn’t as far off of a possibility as some think, and this will be described more in detail later when discussing the government’s potential response to any forthcoming Christian opposition to the irredentist myths on which its ‘legitimacy’ rests.

One People, Two Identities?

The Dialect Divide:
Albania is unquestionably a united country with a national culture, but it does have one dramatic internal division, and that’s the presence of two very distinct dialects, Gheg and Tosk, between its northern and southern regions, respectively. Right now the differences are mostly linguistic, although this has caused some underlying political resentment in Albanian society in the past. Gheg is the prevailing dialect that had been used for centuries in most of Albanian society, but its literary and ‘elitist’ reputation led to the communist government favoring the more ‘working class’ Tosk dialect for official correspondence. This policy is still in place today and has even been transplanted to the Kosovo colony, even though some of the Albanians occupying the Serbian Province aren’t too happy about it. This demonstrates that the issue could certainly be politicized in the future as an anti-centralization issue and be used to form the core of a regionalist identity focused on each respective dialect.
Identity Formulation:
Ghag and Tosk dialects map
Ghag and Tosk dialects map
In fact, it can even be suggested that without an external “crusade” to unify all Albanian speakers, the country’s Gheg and Tosk duality would naturally crystalize into two separate and distinct regional identities that transcend the linguistic divide and begin taking on a more socio-political character. More than likely they’d be complementary to one another, especially owing to their identical historical experience and largely overlapping cultural similarities, but there remains the possibility that one or both of the regional Albanian identities would one day want to more formally delineate the traditional Shkumbin River boundary between them into something akin to an actual political division, perhaps even a federalized frontier. This process could be accelerated by the fact or perception that the ruling party and/or the national elite are utilizing nepotistic practices in accordance with their geo-dialect identity, especially if this occurs to the detriment of the other side or brings both of them into heated competition over the corrupt allocation of economic resources to their respective geo-dialect partners or ‘constituents’.
Albania’s Version Of “Sunni-Shiite”?:
The emergence of a politically charged regional-dialect identity in Albania might be met with scorn and scoff from some readers, but they’d do well to turn their attention to the contemporary Mideast for evidence of how a previously unified demographic can be torn apart through an obsessive focus on differentness. The Sunni-Shiite divide had remained largely peaceful and apolitical for centuries, and it was never really a deciding matter in anything aside from personal choices on behalf of the adhering individual. That all changed in recent history, however, once the Saudis began using denominational differences in pursuing political ends, and since then, what was once a non-existent factor in regional politics has been artificially catapulted front and center in terms of grand decision making, despite the manufactured origins of this ‘rivalry’ over the past two decades.
The same pattern of politically dividing the once-unified Muslim community into Sunni and Shiite can even more easily and much more naturally be applied towards the still-unified Albanian dialect community of Ghegs and Tosks. The majority of Albanians speak Gheg, but are forced to handle their official business in Tosk owing to the ideologically driven policy still in practice from the communist era. Whereas Saudi Arabia’s talk of “Shiite domination” over Sunnis was nothing more than provocative misinformation meant to incite sectarian hatred, there is actually full truth to the statement that the Tosk dialect is being forced upon Gheg speakers, meaning that the level of preexisting resentment must be higher in this case than it was in the Muslim one prior to Riyadh’s manipulative mechanisms.
It’s also a lot easier to tell a Gheg from a Tosk simply because each dialect is so distinct, so the moment an individual opens their mouth to speak, it’s possible to tell which group they belong to. The same instantaneous evaluation can’t be said for the Sunni-Shiite divide, which requires at least some specific knowledge about the individual in question. This is another point, and it’s that language is something so subconscious to an individual and learned from the moment they are born that it’s extraordinarily difficult to adjust later on in life. It’s a lot easier for one to internally convert to a different religion or sect than to “convert” the dialect they’ve been speaking their whole life. The dialect that an Albanian speaks from birth is the one that they’ll likely retain until death, thus making it an exceptionally integral and intimate part of their personal identity that could understandably form the core of a possible regional-political one.
From Former Yugoslavia To Former Albania?:
The example of the former Yugoslavia provides perfect evidence of the last-mentioned point. Serbian and Croatian are dialects of one another, but they’ve become such an inseparable part of each geographic area’s given identity that no Serbian would accept anyone calling their native language Croatian, or vice versa with a Croat having someone label the language they speak as Serbian. This testifies to just how deeply ingrained dialect politics can become, and there’s no reason why Gheg and Tosk Albanians in the north and south of their country, respectively, should be any exception to this proven rule, especially since they are much more different to one another than Serbian and Croatian are between themselves. Yugoslavia had the communist ideology to unify the different identities in the country, just like Albania has the “Greater Albanian” one, but remembering what happened to Serbia and Croatia after communism, the Gheg and Tosk are guaranteed at least some level of inter-dialect tension after ‘Greater Albania” no longer holds them together.
It’s not to suggest that inter-dialect rivalry between the Ghegs and Tosks will descend into the large-scale internecine violence witnessed during the 1990s dismemberment of Yugoslavia or the contemporary chaos in the Mideast, but it should be clear to all that once the unifying ideology of “Greater Albania” is gone, so too is the idea of “unified Albania”. When the communist ideology faded in Yugoslavia, divisions (many of them largely manipulated by foreign actors) began to emerge, and something similar is witnessed in the Mideast as well. After World War II, all the Arab states were against Israel, but once tis ideology also began to fade and a handful of them recognized their former foe (Egypt, Jordan) or began entering into a de-facto strategic alliance with them (Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States), it became a lot easier for the US to tinker with the sectarian differences in the Muslim world in order to divide and conquer.
The situation in Albania is similar, albeit with the difference being that it’s much more natural for each constituent identity group to drift apart without any foreign interference whatsoever, and that on the contrary, foreign interference (in this case positive American and Western media coverage) is responsible for reinforcing the unifying ideology of “Greater Albania”, not undermining it. Nevertheless, in the event that domestic dissidents become brave enough to publicly speak out against “Greater Albania” (if this occurs, it’s predicted to happen first with the Christian community and will be described in the next part), then the whole ideological system could quickly become untangled and the dialect differences could turbulently come to the surface (most likely led by the suppressed Gheg majority). It might then come to be that “Albania” as the union of Ghegs and Tosks becomes just as much of an anachronism as “Yugoslavia” was for the union of Serbs and Croats (among others), although this might not take the form of a full-fledge dissolution, but rather of a barely held-together renamed federation between two fiercely independent parts.
To be continued…
Andrew Korybko is the American political commentaror currently working for the Sputnik agency, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.

“Greater Albania” Is A Myth To Preserve The Country’s Unity (II)

Wed, Nov 4, 2015

Oriental review
“Greater Albania” Is A Myth To Preserve The Country’s Unity (II) (Please read Part I prior to this article)

The Power Of The Christian Community

The State Of Religious Affairs:
What’s usually left out of the conversation when discussing Albania is the strategic Christian minority inhabiting the northern and southern border regions, and the potential for them to sympathize more with their co-confessionalists next door than with their “Greater Albania” ethnic counterparts in Tirana. It’s no secret that Christian influence is on the upswing in the Balkans, and this zeitgeist has even spread into Albania in the years since communism. Although recognized as a majority-Muslim state, the 2011 census surprisingly lists 10% of the population as being Catholic and 6.7% being Orthodox, with each denomination being clustered in the north and south of the country, respectively.
In total, this makes for a population that’s 16.7% Christian as compared to 58.7% who are Muslim, but there’s an important qualitative difference between the two, and it’s that the Christians are much more pious than the largely secular Muslims. After all, it wasn’t just for show that Pope Francis chose Albania to be his first European trip outside of Italy in September 2014, and scattered online reports indicate that Muslim conversions to Christianity (specifically Catholicism and its related sects) are on the rise. Concerning the Albanians that occupy Kosovo, Reuters even ran a 2008 piece detailing how some of them have decided to embrace their “crypto-Catholic” roots, which underscores the developing role that Christianity is playing in the Albanian-populated areas of the Balkans.
Catholicism On The Come Up:
An Ethnic Albanian couple carrying a portrait of Mother Teresa draped with Albanian Flag, as they attend a Mass in Pristina, Kosovo
An Ethnic Albanian couple carrying a portrait of Mother Teresa draped with Albanian Flag, as they attend a Mass in Pristina, Kosovo
One can also recall at this time the global renown of the late Catholic nun popularly known as Mother Teresa, an ethnic Albanian originally from the territory of the Republic of Macedonia (Skopje, to be exact). Her beautification by the Catholic Church has placed her on the short list to sainthood, and she remains one of the most well-known Albanians to this day. Because of her Albanian ethnicity and the warm feelings most of the world has towards her, she’s become a symbol of sorts for the country and is even quite popular within it. There has yet to be any quantitative evidence produced to establish the following, but it could be that the “Teresa Effect” has made some non-religious or even Muslim Albanians more receptive to Christianity, similar to how the so-called “Francis Effect” has invigorated many lay Catholics.
Of course, it goes without saying that the Vatican has its own self-serving interests in proselytizing the faith across the Strait of Otranto, but it’s undeniable that Christianity (most specifically of the Catholic denomination) has become a tangible fact of life in some parts of Albanian society nowadays. The author is personally impartial to this process and doesn’t want to come off as supporting any religion or denomination over the other, but it needs to be objectively recognized by the reader that Albania is, however surprising it may sound to some, one of the few places in the world where Christianity has grown since the end of the Cold War.
Switching Places:
As a self-assertive and proselytizing Christianity comes up against a secular and stagnant Islam, there are bound to be political consequences in the near future, especially as some representatives of the dominant faith become more conservative in reaction to the upstart religion. This is peculiarly ironic, since it mirrors exactly what’s happening in the EU, except with the roles of Islam and Christianity reversed. Just as there are some Christian-affiliated extremist groups that agitate for violence against Muslims, so too will there likely be Islamist-affiliated ones that target Christians. Neither of these faith-based radicals represents the bulk of their co-confessionals, but nonetheless, they’re the loudest, most visible, and most violent reactionaries from a largely passive majority.
In the EU case, many fret that there are foreign influences guiding the large-scale insertion of Islamic elements into their traditionally Christian societies, and a similar fear could predictably be felt in Albania as per the Catholic proselytizers (“missionaries”) operating in the mostly Muslim country. In both cases, it’s understandable that there’d be a domestic backlash of sorts by the host representatives against the “new arrivals”, even if they’re really native converts such as the Christians in Albania. It’s guaranteed that inter-communal tensions would skyrocket the moment any of these minority identity groups begin engaging in politics or pushing an agenda that is perceived (keyword) to be affiliated with their religion. The author doesn’t intend to justify any sort of violence between these groups, but rather hopes that the previous explanation can help the reader understand the process that is already taking place in Europe, and might soon develop in Albania if the structural similarities between the two’s relationship to upstart religions are any reliable indication.
Albania_declared_Catholics_census_2011Vanguard Dissidents:
The Christian minority in Albania is strategically positioned to become the vanguard dissidents against the Tirana elite’s ‘unifying’ ideology of “Greater Albania”. Like was mentioned at the beginning of Part II, the Albanian power-makers fear that this demographic might come to identify more with its co-confessionalists next door than with their ethnic counterparts in the capital, and that the first form of resistance this may take is in objecting to “Greater Albania”. They might have their practical and pragmatic reasons for this, such as not wanting to create another failed region in the Balkans like Kosovo, or it might be motivated by barely concealed religious concerns that “Greater Albania” is really a code word for anti-Christianity, again, as seen by the example of Kosovo. No matter what drives them to do so, the moment this demographic starts pushing back against “Greater Albania”, that’s when the country will begin entering the most serious crisis in its history, conceivably one which may reach existential proportions.
To explain, no other identity group in Albania is capable of coalescing into a unified bloc quicker than the Christians (and especially Catholics) are, and if they can mobilize any of their existing or soon-to-be-created civil society organizations to help advance a political goal, then they’d immediately emerge as a major force to be reckoned with in Albanian society. Neither Ghegs, Tosks, nor Muslims have as much potential in currently doing so as Christians because the self-awareness of their distinct identities has yet to set in, largely due to the distracting success of “Greater Albania”. Therefore, if the group least affected by this ideology turns into the first one to publicly oppose it (on whatever grounds, be they pragmatic, religious, or a hybrid of both), then it would prompt the government to react in some form or another in order to save the ‘unifying’ ideology that it so desperately needs in order to remain in power and keep “Albanians” from decentralizing into mores specific Gheg, Tosk, and Muslim identities.

The Islamic Backlash

The First Move:
There are many ways in which Tirana could respond to the Christians’ resistance to “Greater Albania”, but the shape it takes ultimately depends on what the dissidents do first. Although it’s possible to project some type of protests in the event that “Greater Albanian” rhetoric once more hits dangerous proportions in Tirana, it’s more likely that such resistance will first be passive and will refrain from physical manifestations until that point. To expand on this idea, it’s probable that local civic figures and Christian-identifying politicians could try to raise the issue whenever given the chance, preferably in a mass media or grassroots (canvassing) platform, despite the reputational and/or career repercussions this could have. The emergence of Christian individuals agitating against “Greater Albania” will be seen by decision makers as being religiously motivated and influenced from abroad (even if this isn’t the case and such actions are driven purely by domestic pragmatism), so they’d probably reactively resort towards encouraging the soft Islamization of society, which might even include enhanced cooperation with Turkish government-affiliated organizations in a hasty effort to emulate part of Erdogan’s ‘success’.
The Turkish Connection:
President of Albania, Bujar Nishani and President of Turkey, Recep Tayyp Erdogan attend the  foundation stone ceremony on Mosque of Namazgja site in Tirana, May 2015.
President of Albania, Bujar Nishani and President of Turkey, Recep Tayyp Erdogan attend the foundation stone ceremony on Mosque of Namazgja site in Tirana, May 2015.
At this point it doesn’t matter if the Prime Minister is Christian (like Edi Rami), Muslim, or Atheist – what’s critical to understand is that he and his elite cohorts have a high likelihood of responding to any Christian-affiliated dissent (even if not religiously motivated) by mechanically trying to ‘unify’ the population under the alternative ideology of Islamism (wrongfully assuming that this would succeed simply because a majority of the population is Muslim), following in the footsteps of their national ‘big brother’ in Turkey. It’s not coincidental that Albania has allowed Turkey to begin building the Balkans’ largest mosque in its capital, personally inaugurated by the strongman himself during his last visit to Tirana, since it’s a clear sign of the country’s strategic submission to its historical occupant.
Erdogan might already be entertaining plans to shift his failed Neo-Ottomanism away from the Mideast and towards the Balkans, and an Islamified Albanian society along the Muslim Brotherhood tradition of his preference would be seen as a red-carpet rollout for Turkey’s return to the region. Thus, Erdogan indisputably has a strategic stake in seeing his Albanian proxy following Turkey’s lead in Islamifying its society, and if there’s even the tiniest opportunity for him to convince his underlings in Tirana to go through with his preplanned vision for their country out of what he would characterize as their ‘national interest’ and/or ‘religious duty’, then he’ll surely seize It and supply all manner of support as necessary.
“Mission Creep”:
Some of Albania’s decision makers might rightfully feel uncomfortable about violating their country’s secularist traditions, but they’d probably be ‘assured’ that such steps are going to be incremental, ‘comfortable’, and nothing too extreme from the existing standard. Turkish strategists might even try convincing them that Islamization and “Greater Albania” could actually become complementary ideologies, with the former being ‘necessary’ in order to isolate the Christian dissidents so that the latter can ultimately be achieved. This line of thinking could come off as enticing and ‘manageable’ to the elite, who might agree that a ‘back-up’ ideology is necessary to embolden the Albanian base and discredit Christian naysayers.
As the Islamization of secular states historically shows, however, this could quickly become an uncontrollable process that swiftly eludes the management of the forces that initially set it into motion. When the time comes that an Islamifying government finds itself under the influence of the non-state actors that it had earlier set loose upon the secular majority (and this always happens sooner or later in such societies), then the threshold has irreversibly been passed to where religious-affiliated terrorism can endemically take root in the country, to say nothing of the assumed-to-be earlier advances of foreign-based terrorist infiltrators (be they in ‘hard’ militant form or disguised via ‘soft’ Wahhabist clerics). One mustn’t forget the tens of thousands of mostly Islamist-sympathizing Mideast migrants that Albania wants to bring into the country in the near future either, since it’s sure that they’ll have play an instrumental role in this process as well (and all to Erdogan’s nodding approval).

Assessing The Destabilization Potential Of Albania

Situational Review:
“Greater Albania” has consistently been pursued in one form or another as the country’s de-facto national ideology since the end of communism, and there has yet to be a moment when significant domestic dissent openly challenged the notions of this ‘unifying’ precept. It should be recalled that there are two parallel processes ongoing in Albanian society at the moment, with one being its Christianization and the other its inevitable return to the full-scale promotion “Greater Albania”. The reader would do well to remember that the latter is being evoked as a distracting response to the large-scale economic crisis in the country, following the pattern set out in 1997 in reacting to similar (albeit more political) domestic difficulties during that time. The “Greater Albania” trend will not turn against the country’s Christian population (although it didn’t spare any of Serbia’s during the Occupation of Kosovo), but Albanian Christians might turn against “Greater Albania” for whatever their religious or pragmatic reasons may be. This in turn would prompt a reaction from the authorities that is predicted to unintentionally open the Pandora’s Box of identity decentralization in Albania, with three scenario paths being the most foreseeable.
People’s Revolution:
This scenario is the least ‘sexy’ of the three, but is the one with the greatest chance of occurring. Once the ideology of “Greater Albania” is challenged from within and its hypnotizing effect on distracting the disaffected and impoverished majority of the country’s citizens has faded, they may snap out of their earlier induced ‘trance’ and begin attributing their plight to the elite that are truly responsible for it. The chain reaction of social activism that this would set off could turn Albania into the next “Moldova”, in the sense of civil society organizing against its corrupt overseers and attempting to finally free the country from their thieving clutches. A lot of this would be based in the naiveté that they’d be able to make a pronounced difference by enacting the symbolic retirement of one or two figureheads, but still, in the context of this article, it would satisfy the criteria for creating national destabilization, especially if the targeted leader refuses to steps down, or even worse, resorts to state or militia violence to disperse the protesters.
The difference between this scenario and a Color Revolution is that this examined situation is entirely natural and free from external tinkering. No foreign power manipulated Albania into creating the deplorable conditions that gave rise to tens of thousands of its citizens leaving their country and the colony of Kosovo this year alone, since nobody is to blame for this but the Tirana elite themselves. Additionally, it’s absurd to even conceive of a foreign power having a hand behind the protests, since the US and the West would be dead-set against them, while Serbia and Russia, aside from not having the operational experience in handling such covert operations, have no social capital whatsoever from which to recruit and influence Albanians. This possible People’s Revolution would be entirely by Albanians and for Albanians, and depending on the composition of its protesting elements, it might even take on an extreme nationalist angle similar to EuroMaidan (minus the foreign support in this case, it must once again be reminded). That course of developments would all depend on how the Tirana elite respond to the protest movement and exactly which social elements play the leading parts in organizing it.
Religious Warfare:
Albania has a history of waging religious conflicts both without and beyond its borders. During the leadership of Enver Hoxha, the state implemented a lethal atheization policy where religious practitioners of all faiths could be killed for their beliefs. This was an internal war within the state between the government and all religions. After communism ended, Albanian elements waged another religious war, also with government support, but this time outside of its borders and with the intent of brutally cleansing the Christian population out of Kosovo. The time seems to be coming for a new stage to Albania’s religious wars, and this time it might once again be concentrated within the country itself.
The uptick in Christianity, especially if it’s politicized to an extent, could lead to the ‘moderate’ state-sponsored Islamization of society under Erdogan’s supervision. It might ‘logically’ begin as a Turkish-advised reaction to any Christian dissent against “Greater Albania”, but it could quickly spiral out of control and turn into a bloody sectarian conflict that would inevitably involve the support of foreign actors on both sides (perhaps morphing into a Serbian-Turkish proxy war that takes on the misleading simplification of being Christian vs. Muslim). Amidst the violence (or at the very least, inter-communal tension), ISIL and other affiliated radical Wahhabist groups might find fertile ground for gathering recruits and setting up base in the increasingly fractured society, which would in any case bode extremely negatively for the entire Balkan region at large.
The Fight For Federalization:
Catalyzed by the Christians’ awareness of their particular sub-Albanian identity (no matter to what degree they express it, so long as they do), the Ghegs and Tosks might become emboldened enough to realize their own identity uniqueness, especially if society begins Islamifying per the abovementioned scenario and individuals begin searching for a ‘third way’. Understanding that the ‘unifying’ utility of “Greater Albania” might be irreparably damaged once one sub-national identity (predicted to be Christians in this case) begins expressing its distinctiveness, it’s safe to assume that a ‘race for identities’ would surely follow, and in this case, geo-dialect affiliation could possibly become the most popular. In this projected reality, it’s conceivable that the Gheg and Tosk spaces would make an effort to consolidate within their zones so as to protect their identities from the ‘security dilemma’ between one another, and between themselves and the religiously connected ones that have just begun sprouting up (and precipitated this whole identity crisis in the first place).
One of the most logical steps in this case would be for the Ghegs and Tosks (predicted to be the two most dominant of the competing identities) to formally delineate their spheres of geographic influence, which as was written in Part I, would traditionally be along the Shkumbin River. Having observed how state decentralization quickly spirals out of control in the absence of a unifying ideology to keep everything together, the only alternative to anarchy would be either a military operation launched by the centralized authorities or the federalization of the country along the lines of its most prominent politically represented constituent parties. In the case of Albania, it’s impossible at this point to predict if military force would be used in such a scenario (and whether the military could remain united among escalating identity tensions between its members), but it’s much more plausible to assume that federalization between the quickly consolidated Gheg and Tosk entities could seriously be discussed. In fact, depending on the organization of the Christian community prior to the outbreak of identity decentralization, they might even be able to attain a semi-autonomous status either within Albania proper or inside one or both of the two predicted federal entities (if it comes to it, most likely in the Catholic portion of North Gheg).

Concluding Thoughts

Albanian politicians agitate for the Fascist-era recreation of “Greater Albania” as a desperate measure to compensate for internal weakness. The country’s failing economy precipitates the need to distract the citizenry from internal woes, and the potential for a North-South regionalist identity forming among the Gheg and Tosk dialect communities compels the elite to continuously pursue this ‘unifying’ ideology. Largely neglected when discussing Albania but no less important than its economic woes and geo-dialect division is the emerging Christian community in the country, and it’s possible that this new domestic identity might be self-assertive enough to set off a chain reaction of identity decentralization in the future. If the Christians mobilize into a semi-unified movement or union of interest groups and begin pursuing a shared political cause, then they’d draw attention to the presence of sub-national identities (desperately impoverished citizens, Gheg speakers, and Tosk speakers) that the ‘unifying’ ideology of “Greater Albania” tries to soothe over.
Should the Christians begin directly campaigning against “Greater Albania”, be it through religious or pragmatic considerations, then that would be the greatest (unwitting) attack on national unity that Albania has ever experienced before in its history, and it would automatically result in some sort of state-sponsored response. The predicted Turkish-advised ‘soft’ Islamization of society, already apparently in the cards for a future deployment, would ultimately end up being disastrous for the unified state and would do more to polarize the country than save it, despite Erdogan’s predicted assurances to the contrary. In the ensuring tumult that’s sure to follow any revival of sub-national identity consciousness in Albania (whether or not the Islamist scenario comes into play), it can be heavily predicted that the Ghegs and Tosks will start forming more distinct geo-dialect identities that could pave the way for a weakening of the previously assumed ‘cohesive’ nature of the Albanian state. That by itself would probably kill the national mobilization of support necessary to revive the vague concept of “Greater Albania” once its citizens start thinking in terms of “Gheg-Albania” and “Tosk-Albania” (if not outright Gheg and Tosk identities outside the constructed Albanian nationality), and might perchance become the most long-lasting (and ironically self-imposed) deterrent to Albanian aggression, and consequently the most solid guarantor of Balkan peace for the coming future.
Andrew Korybko is the American political commentaror currently working for the Sputnik agency, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


New edition of Wikipedia, "The Himara revolt of 1912" Before of the proclamationj of The Autonomy of Albania on November 28, 1912, Himara People, under Comandant Spyros SpyrosMilos  (Vlore - Sarande) has opposed the decision of Great Powers to include Himara Region, inside the new Albanian State   
Wikipedia    ... Himara revolt of 1912 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search Himara revolt Part of the First Balkan War [Image]
Spyromilios in the entrance of the Himarë castle Date November 18 [O.S. November 5] 1912 Location Himarë Result Greek victory Belligerents [Image] Greece [Image] Ottoman Empire Commanders and leaders Spyros Spyromilios
 v d e First Balkan War The Himara revolt (Greek: Εξέγερση της Χειμάρρας), was a Greek uprising during the First Balkan War that took place in the region of Himara (Himarë, today southern Albania), on November 18 [O.S. November 5] 1912. It successfully overthrew the Ottoman forces of the region, thus securing the coastal area between Sarandë and Vlorë for the Hellenic Army.
Contents  [hide]  1 Background 2 Conflict 3 Aftermath 4 References 5 Bibliography [edit] Background During the First Balkan War, the Epirus front was of secondary importance for Greece after the Macedonian front. A small unit that consisted of local Epirote volunteers was stationed in the nearby island of Corfu under the command of Major Spyros Spyromilios,[1] who was a native of Himarë.[2] This unit was later reinforced by 200 Cretan volunteers sent by General Konstantinos Sapountzakis, commander of the Greek army in Epirus front.[1]

[edit] Conflict On November 18, 1912, the local population rose in revolt, while Spyromilios and his group landed in the region and quickly secured the coastal area between Sarandë and Vlorë without facing significant resistance.[3] After the successful uprising Spyromilios suggested to the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos that the coastal city of Vlorë should come under Greek control but he responded negatively in fear that this might trigger Italian military intervention.[3] After the Albanian Declaration of Independence in Vlorë, on November 28, Himarë was constantly attacked by Albanian units without success and the area remained under Greek control until the end of the Balkan Wars.[1]

[edit] Aftermath Under the terms of the Protocol of Florence, signed on December 17, 1913, the region of Northern Epirus, in which Himarë was part was awarded to Albania. This decision triggered a series of events that lead to the proclamation of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus in Gjirokastër by the local Greek population.[4]

NATO Land Forces at Trident Juncture

• 2 hours ago

NATO LAND FORCES. NATO's land forces are being put to the test during Exercise Trident Juncture 2015: the largest military exercise of the Alliance in more than a decade. Land Forces from 16 NATO allies are participating in exercises ranging from Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear decontamination, through urban combat operations, artillery training and airborne jumps.

Serbian FM urges UNESCO to postpone debate on Pristina's bid

Ivica Dacic on Wednesday addressed the UNESCO General Conference in Paris to say it was "necessary to postpone the debate on the admission of Kosovo."
Source: B92
The opening of the UNESCO General Conference on Tuesday (Tanjug)
The opening of the UNESCO General Conference on Tuesday (Tanjug)
According to the Serbian foreign minister, a sustainable solution must be given a chance.
A chance to talk and conduct dialogue instead of making unilateral decisions - that was Dacic's presentation to UNESCO members of Serbia's wishes when it comes to Kosovo's proposed membership.

In the event the process came to a vote, Dacic asked all countries to vote against, because they would otherwise breach international law.

"I appeal on you to postpone the debate on this issue in UNESCO and let us give a chance to dialogue, because it is the only way reach a mutually acceptable solution on this matter, and thereby avoid further divisions, politicization and confrontation within UNESCO. This approach is also in the spirit of the principles on which this organization was founded, and we are convinced, in the best interests of regional stability and cooperation," Dacic said.

The minister in this way also responded to Kosovo Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci's statement that "Serbia should support Kosovo's membership," and also, "look to the future of peace, reconciliation and respect for cultural and historic values."

With the message that Serbia believes in the noble mission of UNESCO, Dacic said his country "thus also safeguards the moral credibility of this organization":

"UNESCO should not make political decisions about statehood. In particular, it must not be allowed that the organization is put in the function of affirmation of the illegal and unilaterally declared independence of a part of the territory of a UN member-state, whose sovereignty and territorial integrity is guaranteed by a valid and legally binding UN Security Council resolution," Dacic said.

The Serbian minister pointed out that the request of the so-called "Republic of Kosovo" was unprecedented in the history of the organization, and that Serbia was defending international law by opposing it.

Dacic pointed out that the meeting of the Executive Board last month "also showed all the controversy of the issue, but also the deep divisions among the members."

"This is undoubtedly confirmed by the fact that out of the 58 members of that body, a majority, 31 of them, in fact did not support the adoption of the recommendation (to allow Kosovo to join)," said Dacic.

He added that Serbia "does not want to isolate anyone - but it is a fact that Kosovo and Metohija participate in the activities of the organization, only in a status-neutral manner, in accordance with (UNSC) Resolution 1244."

And while the foreign minister was presenting his arguments in Paris, the Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej addressed the issue of Pristina's UNESCO bid for the second time in as many days, this time via the Church's website.

"The Serbian Patriarchate calls all pious and Orthodox people, all people of good will and everyone who cares about the rights and justice in the world, to oppose the so-called state of Kosovo's membership in UNESCO, which threaten to cause a humanitarian disaster and destruction of Serbian Orthodox shrines and thus the UNESCO world's heritage," the message said.