Friday, November 20, 2015

Secretary General stresses value of NATO-Serbia partnership in visit to Belgrade

  • 20 Nov. 2015
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  • Last updated: 20 Nov. 2015 12:43
Both Serbia and NATO would benefit from closer cooperation, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday (20 November 2015) after talks with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and other senior government officials in Belgrade. Mr. Stoltenberg said his visit was part of “a fresh start” in relations between NATO and Serbia. “This is more important than ever since we face many common security challenges,” said the Secretary General. “Cooperation is a win-win. Working together keeps Serbian people safe and it keeps people in Allied nations safe too,” he said.
Mr Stoltenberg discussed NATO-Serbia relations and current security challenges in meetings with Prime Minister Vučić, Defence Minister Bratislav Gašič and Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović. He will also meet with First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dačić.
The Secretary General welcomed Serbia’s important role in building security in the Western Balkans, in Europe, and around the world. He noted that Serbia hosts thousands of refugees, promotes peace as current OSCE Chairman, and contributes to international security through its participation in United Nations and European Union mission.
Mr Stoltenberg commended Serbia’s strong commitment to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. “Normalisation and dialogue is the only way forward. I encourage both parties to continue on this path,” he said. The Secretary General further welcomed Serbia’s steps to build relations with its Balkan neighbours, promoting cooperation and integration. NATO and Serbia agreed an Individual Partnership Action Plan in January. "This offers a new opportunity to strengthen dialogue, understanding and cooperation," Mr. Stoltenberg said. He pointed to the start of a new trust fund to help Serbia safely dispose of up to 2,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition and the Secretary General announced that KFOR will fully relax the air safety zone, which has been in place since 1999.
The Secretary General will conclude his visit by delivering opening remarks at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Belgrade, where he will also take questions from students.

Russia told not to interfere in Montenegro's decision

The decision on Montenegro's membership in NATO will be made by Montenegro and by the members of the alliance, says NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Source: Beta, Tanjug
Nobody else has no right to interfere in the decision, he told reporters in Belgrade after meeting with Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic.
"Montenegro is a sovereign and independent country and as such has the right to decide on its own path, including the security alliances it wants to be a part of," said Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg added that foreign ministers of the 28 NATO member-states will meet on December 1 and 2 and decide whether Montenegro will be invited to join, adding, "no third country has the right to try to intervene in this process."

Russia on Thursday urged Montenegro to reconsider its NATO bid, assessing that Montenegro's membership would be "rash" and "seriously undermine the traditionally friendly relations" between the two countries, as well as to bring into question "the complete work on the formation of an pan-European security architecture."

"Any interference of Russia could lead to the strengthening of the readiness to invite Montenegro to become a member of NATO," said Stoltenberg.

Pointing out that it is the alliance's basic principle to respect decisions of individual sovereign states, Stoltenberg said that NATO "respects a country's wish not to join."

"No country has been forced to become a member of NATO," said Stoltenberg.

Vucic said that Serbia is "a sovereign and independent country that endangers nobody and has traditionally good relations with Russia, but is not a member of either NATO or CSTO (the Collective Security Treaty Organization)."

"Serbia has very good relations with NATO and wants to improve them, and we will work on it," Vucic said.

KFOR to stay

KFOR will remain in Kosovo, it is a conditional operation and work is underway to ensure that a time comes when its presence is no longer needed, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday.

Stoltenberg said that NATO's presence in Kosovo and Metohija is the organization's longest mission and added that this also demonstrates a commitment to working towards providing safety and security to the whole region.

KFOR also has a role in that it is crucial to facilitating the dialogue that is underway in Brussels, he said.

"We support that dialogue," Stoltenberg said.

Prime Minister Vucic said that KFOR has made a crucial contribution to protecting Serbian churches and monasteries, but also "represents the key of stability also in northern Kosovo and Metohija precisely because of the contract that was signed in Brussels."

EU agrees to tighten checks on all travellers at Schengen borders

Sources EU

Tighter checks on all travellers, including European nationals, will begin immediately after EU ministers agreement in Brussels
French police officers control a vehicle on the A31 motorway at the France-Luxembourg border, on 19 November 2015 in Entrange, eastern France (AFP)

Friday 20 November 2015

EU nations agreed Friday to immediately tighten checks on all travellers, including European nationals, at the external borders of the passport-free Schengen area following the Paris attacks, European sources said.

Interior ministers from the 28-nation European Union also backed France's call for a fundamental revision of the Schengen deal to allow the "systematic" controlling of EU citizens at borders, the sources said.

The agreement came as EU ministers held emergency talks on Friday in Brussels after the killing of the ringleader of the Paris attacks in an apartment in the French capital raised troubling questions about the bloc's security.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian of Moroccan origin suspected of masterminding the attacks that left 129 people dead in the name of the Islamic State (IS) group, died in Wednesday's assault by police on an apartment in northern Paris.

The 28-year-old was thought to have been in Syria - where he had boasted of planning attacks on the West - and his presence in France has raised questions about Europe's handling of the region's worst migrant crisis since World War II.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Paris had received no warning from other EU members that Abaaoud was in the bloc, and it was "urgent that Europe wakes up, organises itself and defends itself against the terrorist threat".

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said some of the killers in the Paris attacks had taken advantage of Europe's migrant crisis to "slip in" unnoticed and warned the cherished Schengen zone would be in danger if the bloc did not improve border controls.

Abaaoud was one of the most wanted men in the world, featuring in numerous propaganda videos for IS in Syria.

The group's top leaders chose him in June to organise attacks in France, Italy and Spain, according to an article in Intelligence Online, which monitors militant networks.

"It has to be said, Schengen has as many holes as a sieve," said a former high official with France's DGSE intelligence agency, who requested anonymity.

Schengen is the free-movement zone of 26 European countries, which until recently had no border controls, and has been seen as one of the EU's most treasured achievements.

"That such a guy was able to wander around like that without anyone noticing, that shows there's a problem - a big one," said the former official.

In the IS online magazine Dabiq, Abaaoud boasted of his escape back to Syria after police raided a cell in Belgium this year.

"My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them and leave safely when doing so became necessary," he wrote.

"I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance."

One of the attackers who died during Friday's carnage in the Bataclan concert hall, 28-year-old French citizen Samy Amimour, also escaped detection.

Amimour was charged in France in 2012 October with being part of a terrorist conspiracy over an abortive plan to travel to Yemen.

Yet he was able to jump bail and sneak out of the country the following year to Syria.

A subsequent international arrest warrant did not stop him re-entering France undetected to take part in Friday's attacks.

"Contrary to what we think, it's very easy to enter and leave the European Union without being spotted," said criminologist Christophe Naudin, a specialist in fake documents.

"We should think of Schengen's entry controls as pretty much non-existent."
Switching identities

Naudin said the most probable scenario was that the militants used the passports of people who look similar - which he called the "look-alike" method.

"(Someone doing this) will pass the border controls without a problem," said Naudin.

The first thing the militant groups do when they receive new recruits - the estimate is that nearly 30,000 foreign fighters have joined their ranks - is confiscate their documents.

"They don't touch the photo - it's the new user that does his best to resemble the picture," said Naudin.

"He might grow his beard and trim it in the same way. And, more than 99 times out of 100, it will work. There's no need to tamper with passports."

IS also has plenty of opportunities to buy top-quality fake documents on the black market. Its control of vast swathes of Iraq and Syria also means it has widespread access to unused passports.

"When Abaaoud says he has done return trips to Europe and Syria, I believe him," said Naudin.

"He's not the only one. The only solution is to employ biometric checks at the European level. All airports, all borders. But we're a long way from that."

The massacre of 13 November in Paris has already bolstered politicians across the continent who have been calling for a tightening of the borders and increased cooperation between intelligence services.
- See more at:

‘The Attacks Will Be Spectacular’


An exclusive look at how the Bush administration ignored this warning from the CIA months before 9/11, along with others that were far more detailed than previously revealed. 

“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The CIA’s famous Presidential Daily Brief, presented to George W. Bush on August 6, 2001, has always been Exhibit A in the case that his administration shrugged off warnings of an Al Qaeda attack. But months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.
By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me in his first interview in eight years. “The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.” The crisis came to a head on July 10. The critical meeting that took place that day was first reported by Bob Woodward in 2006. Tenet also wrote about it in general terms in his 2007 memoir At the Center of the Storm.
But neither he nor Black has spoken about it publicly in such detail until now—or been so emphatic about how specific and pressing their warnings really were. Over the past eight months, in more than a hundred hours of interviews, my partners Jules and Gedeon Naudet and I talked with Tenet and the 11 other living former CIA directors for The Spymasters, a documentary set to air this month on Showtime.
The drama of failed warnings began when Tenet and Black pitched a plan, in the spring of 2001, called “the Blue Sky paper” to Bush’s new national security team. It called for a covert CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat—“getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” “And the word back,” says Tenet, “‘was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’” (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.) Black, a charismatic ex-operative who had helped the French arrest the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, says the Bush team just didn’t get the new threat: “I think they were mentally stuck back eight years [before]. They were used to terrorists being Euro-lefties—they drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day, how bad can this be? And it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.”
That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof's fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.” Black and his deputy rushed to the director’s office to brief Tenet. All agreed an urgent meeting at the White House was needed. Tenet picked up the white phone to Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I said, ‘Condi, I have to come see you,’” Tenet remembers. “It was one of the rare times in my seven years as director where I said, ‘I have to come see you. We're comin' right now. We have to get there.’”
Tenet vividly recalls the White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda's intention is the destruction of the United States.’" [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”
“What happened?” I ask Cofer Black. “Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.” Remarkably, in her memoir, Condi Rice writes of the July 10 warnings: “My recollection of the meeting is not very crisp because we were discussing the threat every day.” Having raised threat levels for U.S. personnel overseas, she adds: “I thought we were doing what needed to be done.” (When I asked whether she had any further response to the comments that Tenet, Black and others made to me, her chief of staff said she stands by the account in her memoir.) Inexplicably, although Tenet brought up this meeting in his closed-door testimony before the 9/11 Commission, it was never mentioned in the committee’s final report.
And there was one more chilling warning to come. At the end of July, Tenet and his deputies gathered in the director’s conference room at CIA headquarters. “We were just thinking about all of this and trying to figure out how this attack might occur,” he recalls. “And I'll never forget this until the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, ‘They're coming here.’ And the silence that followed was deafening. You could feel the oxygen come out of the room. ‘They're coming here.’”
Tenet, who is perhaps the agency’s most embattled director ever, can barely contain himself when talking about the unheeded warnings he says he gave the White House. Twirling an unlit cigar and fidgeting in his chair at our studio in downtown Washington, D.C., he says with resignation: “I can only tell you what we did and what we said.” And when asked about his own responsibility for the attacks on 9/11, he is visibly distraught. “There was never a moment in all this time when you blamed yourself?” I ask him. He shifts uncomfortably in his chair. “Well, look, there … I still look at the ceiling at night about a lot of things. And I'll keep them to myself forever. But we're all human beings."
Only 12 men are alive today who have made the life-and-death decisions that come with running the CIA.
Once a year, the present and former CIA directors—ranging from George H.W. Bush, 91, to the current boss, John Brennan, 60—meet in a conference room at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The ostensible reason: to receive a confidential briefing on the state of the world. (Robert Gates, who hates setting foot inside the Beltway, is a perennial no-show.) “They mostly tell us stuff we already know, and we pretend we’re learning something,” says Tenet, the longest-serving director (lasting seven years, under Presidents Clinton and Bush II). But the real point of their annual pilgrimage is to renew bonds forged in the trenches of the war on terror—and to debate the agency’s purpose in the world.
And I'll never forget this until the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, ‘They're coming here.’”
On the burning questions of the day, the directors are profoundly torn: over the CIA’s mission, its brutal interrogation methods after 9/11, and the shifting “rules of engagement” in the battle against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. What is fair game in the fight against terrorism: Torture? Indefinite detention? Setting up “black sites” in foreign countries for interrogation? Should the CIA be in the business of killing people with remotely piloted drones? Was the agency really to blame for 9/11? Or did the White House ignore its repeated warnings?
On these and other questions, the directors were surprisingly candid in the interviews they did with me—even straying into classified territory. (They often disagree about what is actually classified; it’s complicated, as Hillary Clinton is learning.) A controversial case in point: drone strikes. “He can’t talk publicly about that,” protests Gen. David Petraeus when I tell him that one of his counterparts has opened up to me about “signature strikes.” (These are lethal attacks on unidentified targets—a kind of profiling by drone—that several directors find deeply troubling.) Gen. Petraeus might have had good reason to be reticent; only a week before he had accepted a plea bargain to avoid prison time—for sharing classified information with his mistress, Paula Broadwell.
Here are some of the other secrets we learned from the surprisingly outspoken men who have run the world’s most powerful intelligence agency.

Even CIA chiefs can’t agree about “torture”
“In the period right after 9/11, we did some things wrong,” said Barack Obama. “We tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values.” Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA’s so-called enhanced interrogation program (EIT), has a two-word reply: “That’s bullshit.” Tenet concurs. “People are throwing the word ‘torture’ around—as if we're torturers,” he complains. “Well, I'm not ever gonna accept the use of the word ‘torture’ for what happened here.” From sleep deprivation to waterboarding, Tenet and his lieutenant Rodriguez insist the techniques were all approved—by everybody.
“The attorney general of the United States told us that these techniques are legal under U.S. law,” says Tenet, “and do not in any way compromise our adherence to international torture statutes.” Contrary to the claim by the SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) Majority Report, Tenet insists: “We briefed members of Congress fully on what we were doing at all times. There was never a hint of disapproval.” And Tenet says that George W. Bush was so hands-on, “he read the memo, looked at the techniques, and decided he was gonna take two techniques off the table himself.” Tenet says he does not recall which EITs the president rejected (Rodriguez believes one of them was “mock executions.”)

Tenet and his post-9/11 successors—Porter Goss, Michael Hayden and acting director Michael Morell (sometimes called the “wartime directors”)—say the techniques were a necessary evil, justified by the context of the times. It was an article of faith at the CIA that the United States was about to be struck again in a “second wave” attack. And that “high-value detainees,” beginning with Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah, knew more than they were telling. “Every day,” says Rodriguez, “the president was asking George Tenet, ‘What is Abu Zubaydah saying about the second wave of attacks and about all these other plots?’ Well, he was not saying anything. We had to do something different.” Tenet says they had persuasive intelligence that indicated Osama bin Laden had met with Pakistani nuclear scientists—and was seeking the blueprint for a bomb. There was a credible report, he adds, that a nuke had already been planted in New York City. “People say, ‘didn’t you think about the moral and ethical consequences of your decision?’” says Tenet. “Yeah, we did. We thought that stopping the further loss of American life and protecting a just society was equally important.”
Did the techniques produce intelligence that disrupted plots or saved lives? The SSCI study looked at 20 cases and said no useful evidence was obtained. Tenet insists, “They are wrong in all 20 of the cases. The report is dead wrong on every account, period, end of paragraph.” But Tenet’s fellow spy chiefs are sharply—even passionately—divided about such procedures. “Our Constitution does prohibit ‘cruel and unusual’ treatment and if it’s cruel, we shouldn’t be doing it,” says William Webster, 91, regarded by his fellow spymasters as a voice of reason (and the only DCI who also served as FBI director). “You cross a line at some point in your effort to get the information when you go that route. There have to be limitations and monitoring and they must be observed. Our country stands for something and it loses something when we don’t.” Stansfield Turner, now 91—who as Jimmy Carter’s director authorized the ill-fated attempt to rescue American hostages in Tehran—agrees: “I just don’t think a country like ours should be culpable of conducting torture. I just think it’s beneath our dignity.”
The directors who oppose torture are not just bleeding hearts. “Nobody was responsible for more detainees than I was,” says Gen. Petraeus, who was commander of the multinational forces in Iraq. “We visit violence on our enemies, but we should not mistreat them, even though they have done unspeakable things to our soldiers and to civilians. That does not justify us doing it to them. You will pay a price for what you do, and it will be vastly greater than whatever it is you got out of taking this action.” And Director Brennan sees no circumstance in which the CIA would torture again: “If a president tomorrow asked me to waterboard a terrorist, I would say, ‘Mr. President, sorry—I do not believe that is in our best interest as a country.’” Hayden is even more emphatic. “If some future president is going to decide to waterboard,” he says, “he’d better bring his own bucket—because he’s going to have to do it himself.”

continues 2 Part  //

New Democracy elections will likely require a second round

The outcome of Sunday's critical elections will depend on the extent of voter participation

Friday, November 20, 2015
New Democracy elections will likely require a second round
The elections for a new leader in the main opposition party New Democracy are set to take place on Sunday, the 22nd of November, with the four candidates aiming to galvanize support and mobilize voters.
Any predictions regarding the outcome of the electoral process will depend on participation and the overall number of voters, with most estimations indicating that a second round – on the 29th of November – will be needed. With two days left to attract support from New Democracy voters, the tension amongst the four candidates who are currently on tour has begun to escalate.
Evangelos Meimarakis, who appears to be the favorite and has acted as the party’s provisional leader since Antonis Samaras stepped down in the summer, made an emotional appeal to New Democracy voters in his rally on Thursday, hinting that he intends to restore the party’s older logo.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas has emphasized in his election campaign how he represents a new generation of New Democracy supporters who want to bring pride back to the party. He also stressed that SYRIZA is making efforts to influence the outcome of ND’s election by promoting a ‘certain candidate’.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis has underlined the need for greater voter participation in the election process, warning that otherwise nobody will have the right to complain. In his statements he also appeared certain that a second round will be needed, which he argued would be an “entirely different election”.
Adonis Georgiadis, who has trailed in the polls so far, has defended the policies followed by the party’s previous leader and insists that he will make a “surprise” in Sunday’s election.

Avramopoulos proposes creation of a European intelligence agency

The Commissioner commented that he made a similar proposal after January's terrorist attacks in Paris

Friday, November 20, 2015
Avramopoulos proposes creation of a European intelligence agency
The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos has proposed the creation of a European intelligence agency, in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the lack of coordination between individual agencies.
Upon arrival at the extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council at the European Council that is being held in Brussels, Mr. Avramopoulos commented that the he had previously proposed the creation of an anti-terrorism center within Europol after the attack against the Charlie Hebdo offices in January.
Mr. Avramopoulos argued that a European intelligence agency is necessary and underlined that cooperation must be based on trust and efficiency.

Albania boosts security for potential terrorist attacks

  Xinhua News Agency
TIRANA, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- Head of the Albanian State Police Haki Cako declared on Thursday that Police in Tirana have boosted security measures.

State police in Albania has a long list of people who may have tendencies for violent extremism, according to Albanian Daily News.

This declaration came in the framework of terrorist threats following the events in Paris a few days ago.

"There's a risk analysis about all people who have been identified to have different tendencies. Control is necessary, but also intensive," the police head said.

"Police have undertaken extra security measures against terrorist threats, following the latest events in Paris," said the head of Albanian police.

Cako said that all necessary measures have been taken. According to the order, every patrol must be equipped with heavy guns, to react in case of a criminal or terrorist situation.

The decision to boost security measures followed an analysis by the State Informative Service, which suggests that Albania is threatened by terrorist attacks.

"Albania is part of the member countries of anti-terror global battle and for this reason, there is the potential that we might be an object of attack. But, we should evaluate this realistically. We should continue our life normally but with increased alert," Albanian Minister of Justice, Ylli Manjani declared on Thursday.

ISIL Militant Admits to Buying Arms in Ukraine, Sending to Syria Via Turkey

ISIL terrorist group has released images showing its members use an FN-6 portable air-defense system against the Iraqi army

© Photo: Youtube/PressTV News Videos
Middle East

Kuwaiti security forces have uncovered an international cell that supplied the Islamic State terrorist group with Chinese-made weapons purchased in Ukraine, funds and new recruits, US media reported on Friday.

Six members of the group were arrested but four others are still at large, AP reported, citing Interior Ministry officials in Kuwait City.
The leader of the group, 45-year-old Lebanese national Osama Khayat, was detained first and disclosed information about the rest of the members during interrogation, the ministry said in a statement.
According to the information provided by Khayat, the cell was involved in making arms deals on behalf of the Islamic State leaders in Syria, including buying FN-6 portable air defense systems and other weaponry, which were shipped to ISIL in Syria through Turkey. During questioning, Khayat also admitted to transferring money to Turkish bank accounts as well as spreading ISIL propaganda online to get new recruits.
Besides the Lebanese mastermind, Kuwaiti authorities arrested three Syrians, an Egyptian and a Kuwaiti and said four others — two Syrians and two Australians of Lebanese origin — were outside the country.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry denied that it had sold Chinese-made FN6 portable air defense systems to the Islamic State.
"We cannot sell or resell or make any deals concerning weapons. We are not a business entity and we do not have such weapons," spokeswoman Viktoria Kushnir told RIA Novosti.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Syrians with Fake Greek Passports Arrested in Honduras Trying to Reach U.S.

By Philip Chrysopoulos -
Nov 19, 2015

 Greek Reporter

passHonduran authorities announced on Wednesday that they had arrested six Syrian nationals traveling on forged Greek passports, including five who had been trying to reach the United States.

According to Reuters, Honduran police said there were no signs of any links to last week’s Islamic State bloody attacks in Paris that killed 129 people.

Five of the men were detained on Tuesday in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, on arrival from Costa Rica, and had been planning to head to the border with neighboring Guatemala, police said. The Greek passports in their possession had been doctored to replace the photographs with those of the Syrians.

Anibal Baca, a Honduras police spokesman, told Reuters the five were trying to reach the United States. “We received information from (fellow) police services that these five Syrians left Greece and passed through Turkey, Brazil, Argentina and San Jose in Costa Rica before finally reaching Tegucigalpa,” Baca said.

Honduran newspaper La Prensa said the five men detained on Tuesday were aged 23 to 33. “Greek diplomats arrived in the terminal area and confirmed the men didn’t speak a word of Greek,” the paper said.

A sixth man was turned away on Friday on arrival by plane from El Salvador, and was sent back. They are the first such cases of attempted illegal entry by Syrians into Honduras since the Central American country started compiling records in 2010.

However, the incident was not isolated. Police in the former Dutch Caribbean colony of St Maarten on Saturday arrested three men they believed to be Syrians who arrived on a flight from Haiti and were also traveling on forged Greek passports.

In Paraguay, police detained a Syrian man on Sunday who was traveling on a stolen Greek passport.

Joining Forces



A broad international coalition against ISIL seems to be forming as Russia and France are creating a joint work group to coordinate actions in Syria.

Joining Forces
"In accordance with the request from the Russian president, Russia’s General Staff is examining proposals on joint military actions with the French Navy against terrorists. After the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier reaches Syria a joint work group is planned to be organized," Russia's General Staff said Wednesday.
On Monday, Hollande called for a broad coalition including the United States and Russia to tackle ISIL which had claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks on Friday.

Pristina: Opposition promises "even more fierce" protests

A spokesman for the Self-Determination opposition party in Kosovo's assembly announced late on Wednesday that "the protests in Pristina were over."
Source: Beta, Tanjug
Pristina late on Wednesday (Beta/AP)
Pristina late on Wednesday (Beta/AP)
However, Frasher Krasniqi remarked, the protests will continue in the coming days and be "increasingly more fierce."
According to him, the Kosovo government has demonstrated it was capable of "doing anything just to preserve the Community."

Krasniqi was referring to the future Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo, to be set up in accordance with the Brussels agreement reached during the EU-brokered Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

The Kosovo government said in the wake of Wednesday's clashes between demonstrators and police that it was "extremely disappointed by the violence the opposition supporters demonstrated in the streets of Pristina" and that the violence had reached "absurd proportions."

The government also denounced "the wounding of innocent citizens, of the police and the material damage, as well as the terrible scenes seen on the streets of Pristina."

"The hypocrisy of the opposition can be seen in the fact they are allegedly protesting to protect the republic, but in the name of protecting it are trying to destroy it, attacking institutions and destroying everything that has been built with much effort," the Kosovo government said.

The unrest on Wednesday broke out after Kosovo police took Kosovo assembly member Donika Kadaj-Bujupi from the opposition Alliance for the Future of Kosovo into custody. Earlier in the week, she was among MPs who fired tear gas inside the assembly in a bid to interrupt its work.

Opposition supporters reacted to her detention by throwing rocks at the government headquarters in Pristina and at the police, the Beta agency reported. Police used tear gas to disperse the rioters, and shut down traffic in the area.

Four police officers were injured and 13 protesters were arrested during the unrest, Kosovo police said.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The end of Schengen as we know it? Greece, Spain and Italy will be kicked out of the current zone along with some Eastern European countries as free travel is blamed for migrant crisis

  •  Calls to redraw zone which is blamed for spiralling migrant crisis
  •  A new 'mini-Schengen' with fewer countries proposed to help ease flows 
  •  Emergency EU meeting on Friday will discuss new Schengen borders
  •  European Council president Donald Tusk says 'clock is ticking'
  • See more on Europe's migrant crisis at
Eastern European countries will be kicked out of the Schengen Zone along with Greece, Spain, and Italy under a radical plan to save the European Union passport-free travel area in the wake of the migrant crisis.
Belgium, France, German, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are set to re-draw the boundaries to just include the original members, creating a ‘Mini-Schengen’.
Strict checks could also be introduced at passport control to systematically compare the names of all arrivals against those on counter-terrorism databases – potentially leading to much longer queues.
Crossing: Migrants and refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. The EU will discuss redrawing the borders of the Schengen Zone
Crossing: Migrants and refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. The EU will discuss redrawing the borders of the Schengen Zone
Influx: Migrants and refugees enter a registration camp after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border. Greece is among the countries to be kicked out of the passport-free travel area in the wake of the migrant crisis
Influx: Migrants and refugees enter a registration camp after crossing the Greek-Macedonian border. Greece is among the countries to be kicked out of the passport-free travel area in the wake of the migrant crisis
The five countries removed all check points between each other 20 years ago, but the travel area has since grown dramatically to being 26 countries with a single external border.
The present-day zone covers all the EU Member States – except the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia – as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which are all outside the EU.
As the migration crisis has spiralled, the Schengen Zone has been blamed for allowing crowds of asylum seekers to make their way uncontrolled through the continent.
Kept out: A migrant is lowered down from a border fence by a Spanish Civil Guard at the border between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Melilla. The migrant crisis is leading to calls to kick Spain, as well as Greece and Italy and eastern European countries out of the passport-free travel zone Schengen
Kept out: A migrant is lowered down from a border fence by a Spanish Civil Guard at the border between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Melilla. The migrant crisis is leading to calls to kick Spain, as well as Greece and Italy and eastern European countries out of the passport-free travel zone Schengen
In response countries have been bringing back temporary check points between each other to stem the flow of people and get back control of who crosses their borders.
One of the suicide bombers involved in the Paris attacks is believed to have got to France after posing as a Syrian refugee on the Greek island of Leros.
An emergency meeting of EU justice and interior ministers – called following the attacks - will discuss re-drawing the Schengen Zone in Brussels on Friday.
In the zone: This is the Schengen area which could be a lot smaller according to EU plans to stem the migrant crisis.  The countries in red could all be kicked out, leaving in only the countries in blue
In the zone: This is the Schengen area which could be a lot smaller according to EU plans to stem the migrant crisis.  The countries in red could all be kicked out, leaving in only the countries in blue
Leaders have been holding behind closed door discussions ahead of the summit to work out if a much smaller passport-free travel zone could help ease the crisis.
The countries in the new area would work together to control their new external border more tightly and impose thorough checks on asylum seekers on arrival.
Refugee camps would also be set up close to the new frontier to help manage the flows.
An EU diplomat told the Daily Mail: ‘We all recognise that Schengen is in trouble and all parties are trying to find a way to ease the burden created by the migrant crisis.
Target: European Council president Donald Tusk says radical action is needed
Target: European Council president Donald Tusk says radical action is needed
‘We have not agreed a solution yet, but we are talking to each other and discussing different options ahead of Friday’s meeting.
But EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who has led the European Commission shambolic response to the crisis, insisted there was no need to discuss whether Schengen should be sheleved.
‘If we make full use of the tools given to us by Schengen our external borders will be protected in a more efficient way," he said.
‘We don't intend to open a discussion on Schengen's future. Schengen is the greatest achievement of European integration.’
EU leaders last week admitted they were in a ‘race against time’ to stop the impending collapse of Schengen as Sweden became the latest country to slam shut its borders.
The move was seen as particularly significant as the Scandinavian country has been one of the most hospitable to migrants with the highest number per capita in any of Europe.
European Council president Donald Tusk said the travel zone was destined to fail without radical action to secure Europe’s external border
‘Let there be no doubt, the future of Schengen is at stake and time is running out,’ the former Polish prime minister said.
‘The clock is ticking, we are under pressure, we need to act fast. 
Fight: Migrants try to get onto the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija. Eastern European countries could be excluded from the Schengen Zone under EU plans
Fight: Migrants try to get onto the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija. Eastern European countries could be excluded from the Schengen Zone under EU plans
Queue: Migrants  after disembarking from the Royal Navy ship HMS "Bulwark" upon their arrival in the port of Catania on the coast of Sicily
Queue: Migrants after disembarking from the Royal Navy ship HMS "Bulwark" upon their arrival in the port of Catania on the coast of Sicily
‘Saving Schengen is a race against time, and we are determined to win that race.’
Mr Tusk, who chairs the meetings of all 28 EU leaders, said urgent measures needed to be implemented. ‘This includes, first and foremost, restoring external border control,’ he said.
‘Without effective border control, the Schengen rules will not survive. We must hurry, but without panic.’
The Schengen Agreement includes strict rules that mean police are not allowed to conduct identity checks on those going between countries if they have ‘an effect equivalent to border checks’.
Border controls can only be temporarily re-instated for a short period if this is necessary for ‘public policy or national security’ reasons.
The agreement is named after the town in Luxembourg where it was signed in 1985, a decade before the borders were removed.


The European Union said it will push through plans to tackle the trade in illegal firearms, ahead of a crisis meeting of interior ministers in Brussels following the Paris attacks.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos also urged member states to make better use of intelligence-sharing tools to protect Europe's borderless Schengen area, which has come under scrutiny after the attacks. 
'We will soon present a communication with concrete actions to tackle illegal firearms trafficking and explosives. We need actions to protect our citizens from the harm caused by smuggled Kalashnikovs,' he said.
Brussels also aims to have agreement by the end of the year on a controversial plan for the US-style sharing of air passenger name records, regarded as a key step for maintaining security within the passport-free Schengen zone, he said.
France requested the emergency meeting of interior ministers in the wake of Friday's carnage in Paris in which 129 people were killed in a gun and suicide bomb rampage claimed by the Islamic State group. 

Officials: Carrier Truman may launch strikes against Islamic State group from Mediterranean

The carrier Harry S. Truman is on its way to wage war with the Islamic State group, and may launch airstrikes from the Mediterranean, joining the French carrier in a show of force and solidarity.
Officials are discussing whether the five-ship armada should linger in the Eastern Mediterranean to pound IS targets in Syria rather than continue immediately to the Middle East.
European Command, Naval Forces Europe, Central Command and the Office of the Secretary of Defense have discussed the possibility of keeping the carrier in Europe for several days or longer, three Pentagon officials said.
The decision hinges on a shifting security situation as responses ramp up in the wake of Friday's Paris attacks that left 129 civilians dead and hundreds more wounded in a brazen attack.
The French carrier Charles de Gaulle is preparing to depart on a scheduled deployment Thursday for the Middle East ahead of Truman, but reports from French media have indicated that the carrier might stay in the Eastern Mediterranean.
"They were scheduled for two-carrier ops with Truman in the Persian Gulf," said one defense official, who like others asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. "But if I was a betting man, I'd say the Charles de Gaulle stays in the Eastern Med."
The French military is launching strikes into Syria from aircraft in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, according to media reports.
The deliberations come against the backdrop of a fast-changing security environment in Europe. On Tuesday, France invoked the European Union's mutual-defense clause, which received unanimous support from the member nations. It is unclear if France intends to invoke NATO's collective defense agreement, as the United States did after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.
On Monday, Russia said a homemade bomb brought down a Russian airliner, killing 224 people, and vowed retribution. IS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that he has ordered his military to make contact with the Charles de Gaulle carrier group and to treat them as allies in the fight against IS, which adds a new wrinkle for U.S. planners that could impact Truman.
A request for comment from the French Embassy in Washington on whether Charles de Gaulle would proceed as planned to the Persian Gulf for strikes was not returned by press time.
The Truman is currently conducting carrier qualifications on its way to Central Command, and is scheduled to arrive in the Persian Gulf by mid-December, barring any changes. CENTCOM has been waging war against ISIS for the past month without the benefit of a flattop; the fleet has been stretched trying to fulfill missions in CENTCOM and in the Asia-Pacific region, where tensions have flared between China and its neighbors.

Corruption and Clientelism: How are broken South of Albania (Himara Region)

Tirana Observer

Some government projects for the "Rebirth of the South Coast" in Vlora, Saranda and Himara Region, are turning to clientelism and benefit plans

 Former Deputy Minister of Defense, Dritan Hila, wrote on his Facebook profile to an act of "donation" that Minister of Tourism has made the adjustment plan to coast. Hila says the act itself, given that in his opinion, the default studio "Atelier 4", the owner Alban Eftimiu only for 2015 received by the Albanian state projects worth 8 million dollars.

"Englantina Gjermeni Minister has signed the plan for regulating the coast of southern Albania, it makes a studio called" Atelier 4 ". Its owner isAlban Eftimiu. This has been an employee of the Municipality of Tirana at the time was chairman Edi Rama. Now is "Private" in alliance with Koco Kokëdhima PM of Socialist Party and coolaborator of PM Edi Rama. I do not want to settle how they will tear apart the south of Albania. It's a plan that will describe later, because not in vain placed for mayor of Saranda and Vlora two strangers.

It's a disgusting plan that has nothing in common with the hope that those hundreds of thousands of Albanians voted left. But I want to say that the studio "Atelier 4", received by the Albanian state institutions only in 2015 without a tender, neither less nor more, but 8 million for projects city centers. Do not tell me that there is no corruption, "says Hila. Further, Hila notes with irony: "Do not tell me that there is no patronage. Do not tell me this is not the Albanians looting money. That if you tell me this, then everyone chooses revenge ye have done had the collar on the neck that you have made history, "says Hila.

While the newspaper "Tema" says the five companies that competed in the race for consulting services on "Development of Local General Plan in 26 municipalities, with the subject" Development of Local General Plan for the municipality of Vlora, Himara, Saranda, Konsipol "Commission evaluated with the most points, the only company that did not have an international partner and that their bbackgrounds from anonymous work, primarily topographic and without any public acceptable performance.

 But, According to the "Tema" Newspaper, the winning company is joining the CEC Group with Erald - G, the first company based in Kucova, with previous work mainly topography road, after which stands Koco Kokëdhima, and the second a company without any public performance from the periphery of the North, after which stands a deputy. Four other companies are true studio and urban architecture with renowned international partners, who have been ignored.

"Theme" writes further that "it is a project which will have its influence on the future of most beautiful territory of Albania, the Albanian Riviera, from Vlore in Cape Stillo, and that seems to me More attention is made to remain in the hands of Kokëdhimës, than to find a serious company to give her ideas. "

8 Steps to Defeating ISIS


Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Admiral James Stavridis makes a speech at the departure ceremony for OTAN Rapid Deployable Corps - Italy bound for Afghanistan at Ugo Mara Barracks in Solbiate Olona, Italy, on Jan. 10, 2013.
Pier Marco Tacca—Getty Images Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Admiral James Stavridis makes a speech at the departure ceremony for OTAN Rapid Deployable Corps - Italy bound for Afghanistan at Ugo Mara Barracks in Solbiate Olona, Italy, on Jan. 10, 2013.
James Stavridis, a former NATO Commander and retired four-star Navy Admiral, serves at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is the author of the upcoming memoir The Accidental Admiral.

The former supreme commander of NATO says we must build a coalition and offer a plan of attack

As the world prepares its response to the recent trio of high visibility attacks by the Islamic State—destroying a Russian civilian airliner over the Sinai desert, blowing up a bustling marketplace in Lebanon, and multiple attacks in Paris—we will need a coalition campaign plan to respond effectively. No single nation has the will and the capability by itself to destroy the Islamic State.
The good news, such as it is, would be that ISIS has managed to infuriate much of the world through its strikes; as a direct result, creating a coalition to respond with military force is relatively easy in political terms. Indeed, the current coalition nominally has about 65 partners, according to the White House (although not even a third will likely actively participate in military operations at a significant level). Current or potential partners include the U.S., other NATO nations, countries with experience in Afghanistan (including Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Georgia), Arab partners from the Sunni world, and even unconventional partners like Russia (and perhaps even Iran under certain circumstances).
The hard part will be drafting a military campaign plan to meld together disparate forces into a coherent fighting force. This will require cultural understanding, patience, ingenuity, determination and—above all—leadership. Each of the nations will probably come with so-called “caveats,” which will restrict their forces from certain activities. They will all have different capabilities, cultures, languages, supply systems, value sets and plenty of other differences. Coalition warfare is not for the faint of heart.
Ideally, NATO would lead the effort. The alliance has conducted extensive out-of-area combat operations over the past two decades in the Balkans, Iraq, at sea against piracy off the Horn of Africa, Libya, and above all for more than a decade in Afghanistan (where the alliance fielded more than 140,000 troops from 50 nations during my time as Supreme Allied Commander). For NATO to become the lead entity would require the 28 allied nations to all agree (as was the case in Afghanistan and Libya). Those conversations have not yet begun in earnest, but hopefully they will begin soon.
No matter the construct of the coalition—a coalition of the willing, a NATO-based operation, an E.U.- or U.N.-led mission, or some combination—there needs to be careful staff work to prepare the outlines of a successful campaign plan. This kind of thinking and planning is underway now in various capitals as military planners create options to present to civilian leaders. Here are some of the key elements that the leading planners should consider.
1. Establishing a robust and dependable command and control backbone. Without a defined chain-of-command, an integrated intelligence and targeting center, an operational command center with satellite entities in force concentration areas, a state of the art combined air operations center and an information technology system, the coalition campaign will be hamstrung from the start. The overall effort will need to be commanded by at least a 3-star General Officer (probably from the U.S.) with a capable and robust staff of several hundred experienced officers and senior enlisted. His deputy should be an international partner, with a senior Ambassador as a political advisor or even a civilian deputy.
2. Increasing intelligence sharing across the coalition. At the moment, the best intelligence is “owned” by the U.S. and shared via the so-called “Five Eyes” agreements to traditional partners like the U.K. Intelligence should be more broadly shared throughout the coalition, especially to technologically capable nations like France, Belgium, Denmark and the Nordics. We should also explore limited intelligence sharing with Russia and encourage our Arab partners to provide intelligence from what is, after all, their region.
3. Incorporating a strong cyber element into the plan. ISIS has shown increasing facility in the cyber world in three ways: recruiting and proselytizing on the Web; cybercriminal activity for profit; and operational command and control. We should vigorously attack them in all three dimensions. There needs to be a small cyber element forward to support the commander, perhaps 100 experts.
4. Creating a Coalition Special Operations Task Force as the forward boots on the ground. The NATO Special Operations Headquarters should build a campaign plan to provide intelligence, spotting for air strikes, raiding, and other traditional SpecOps capabilities. This will need to be at least several hundred operators, with aviation support and dedicated intelligence. All in, this would be in the range of 1,000 operators initially, with a 1-star commander.
5. Integrating with other government agencies. The Central Intelligence Agency and similar organizations have a reasonable level of operational capability that should be incorporated into the campaign plan. While not numerically overwhelming, they would bring niche capability in intelligence, targeting, raiding, and interrogation. The CIA should lead an international effort with a senior commander.
6. Setting up an effective training mission in Iraq. This is where we will need the greatest number of “boots on the ground,” and it would be the heart of the campaign plan. We would need between 15,000 and 20,000 U.S. and coalition troops to conduct two robust training missions, one centered with the Kurds in Irbil and the other with the Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad. This should be multi-national, with a 3-star commander from the U.S. (who would provide about 60% of the forces) and a 2-star from one of the other leading national contributors.
7. Increasing the air campaign to broaden its base of targets and increase its tempo. We should set up an integrated, coalition-friendly Air Operations Center which could broadly support coalition forces, either in Turkey, the Gulf States or eventually forward in Baghdad. We will need a shared logistics and ordnance system to get more of our allies and other coalition partners into the fight. This Combined Air Operations Center should be commanded by a 2-star US Air Force Officer with a deputy from the second largest air contributor, probably France.
8. Bringing boots on the ground into the urban centers. After significant air operations to degrade ISIS (going after their sources of finance, electricity, water, transport, ordnance, logistics, training, and command and control), the campaign would need to move into the two key centers: Mosul (first) and then Raqqa. The campaign would operate on a three-axis approach: Kurds (and Yadzidi) from the north; bombing aggressively in the west and in tactical support of ground operations; and the Iraqi Security Forces from the south.
Hanging over everything like a dark shadow obscuring the sun is the Bashar al-Assad regime. Given Russian and Iranian sponsorship of Assad, there is not a purely military solution in the offing ahead of us; we will need the best work of our diplomats and political leaders to craft an agreement that eventually moves him out of power and establishes a path to democracy and justice. That appears a long way in the distance at the moment, but the talks in Vienna are a start.
All of this will take time. This would not be an insignificant effort by the U.S., nor would this be undertaken lightly by our friends. But hopefully the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan will inform our efforts here, and we will succeed. The brutality, venality, and potential danger posed by ISIS justify the efforts. Let’s build a campaign plan, find the right mix of allies and partners, and go to work.
Admiral Stavridis retired in 2013 after serving four years as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO. He is today the 12th Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Greek authorities investigating Syrians with suspected ISIS ties

The two suspects were located on Kos - One suspect was pictured posing in front of an ISIS flag

Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Greek authorities investigating Syrians with suspected ISIS ties
Two Syrian refugees who were located in Kos on Tuesday are being investigated by Greek authorities in Piraeus over possible ties with the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist group. According to reports the two refugees were located at the port on Kos while waiting to be registered. The Coast Guard officers decided to transfer them to Piraeus.
An article in the Eleftheros Typos newspaper claims that the two Syrians were under surveillance by the National Intelligence Agency (EYP) over possible ties with ISIS. Photographs of guns, knives, ISIS flags and hooded men were found on their mobile phones. One of the two suspects was pictured posing in front of an ISIS flag.

Albania 25 years after the fall of communism: the long road of the European dream

Alba Çela
November 18, 2015
Albania 25 years after the fall of communism: the long road of the European dream
It was this time 25 years ago when the Albanians joined together to overthrow a brutal communist dictatorship under the slogan “We want Albania to be like the rest of Europe!” While they knew nothing of the long and arduous procedural tasks that align the integration process with the many bureaucratic steps of candidate status and negotiations, the Albanians had a European dream. They wanted a free, democratic and modern state where economic welfare and the rule of law and justice were available to all, just like they thought was the case in western Europe. In the early 1990s, hopes were high that Albania would soon join the European Union.

Today, a quarter of a century later, Albania has barely managed to gain official EU candidate status after long and repetitive attempts.  Albania remains one of the laggards of EU integration and of transition in general, despite being one of the few countries in the region free of legitimacy, border and minority problems. Apart from technicalities, deep and extended internal political conflicts combined with the low degree of state presence and functionality has been holding Albania back.

This is not to say that there have been no important changes during the last 25 years.  In fact, the process of change in Albania has been quite radical, and the country looks, feel and operates in a completely different way now. However the challenges of building a full democracy, a functional market economy, and of achieving the major milestone of becoming an EU member state have become increasingly daunting.  As the majority of opinion polls show today, Albanians have very little trust in their political and economic systems.


Rule of law is the essence of what does not go well in Albania, from the cumbersome daily life details to the grand stories of state capture. The state has often faced problems related to the complete control of its territory and now it is facing difficult reforms of the judiciary as well as targeting corruption. As laws are constantly being fitted to the acqui communitaire, the state is yet to guarantee their implementation fully, transparently and consistently for all of its citizens.

Albania has yet to find its economic niche, exploring and focusing on many options from tourism to agriculture, from services to the mining industry. A long-time dependent on foreign remittances, Albanians now have seen this source of income being cut off from the financial crisis hitting its neighboring countries, Greece and Italy, which host the overwhelming share of Albanian migrants. The economy still needs major infrastructure investment in order to be connected to the rest of the region; hence it has eagerly welcomed the recent Berlin Process, which strengthens the interconnectivity approach to regional cooperation and economic development.

Finally, the Albanian society has been, for most of its transition time, in upheaval seeking to accommodate the new values of capitalism and consumerism and slowly shedding the traumas of dictatorship. However, a lot of necessary changes are required in order for the citizens to become more responsible, more involved and more active so as to keep their politicians accountable and also to contribute to the integration into the EU itself.

Albania meets the world

During its time as a communist state, Albania was so isolated from the rest of the world that the best example to illustrate its situation would be today’s North Korea. The country broke all relations, even with its communist counterparts – first with Yugoslavia, then with the Soviet Union, and finally, even with its last anchor in the global system, the People’s Republic of China. After the regime change, Albania started to establish its presence in the international arena. Its relations with many neighbors and other states in the region such as Serbia or Greece have gone through many changes. From an optimistic view, the country’s current trends seem to be heading towards normalization. Albania is praised by the international community as an exporter of security in the volatile western Balkan region, having primarily maintained a cool head towards ethnic nationalism.  Albania has been a NATO member since 2009, which strengthens its position in the region and enables it to take part in the global dialogue about security and peace.

Where are we going?

Considering recent developments, such as the reluctance of the European Union itself to keep pursuing enlargement and the simultaneous crisis in Greece, Ukraine and Syria (with the aftermath of the refugees crisis), it is safe to say that accession still remains a pipe dream for the time being. It is important to highlight that the EU, even now, is a much different entity than the one Albania began the process of joining in the 90s. What better witness to this than the famous declaration of Commissioner Juncker that there would not be any new accession within his mandate! Even though this declaration reflected the mere reality that no country would be ready in the western Balkans anyway, the symbolic negativity it conveyed about enlargement resounded throughout the region.

In fact, the European Union institutions are doing overtime in many countries of the region, trying to convey the message of unyielding European perspective in the face of ever-more reluctant attitudes towards enlargement, both from various member states and from political figures in the European Parliament.

Albanians, trapped in the difficulties of transition, have had very little time to reflect on whether their European dream still fulfills their aspirations. However given the strong pro-western sentiment in the country, both on a societal level and within the political elites, the entire system is geared towards integration with no qualms and very few questions. Integration continues to provide the impetus and legitimacy for many national reforms and actions. The next step in line for the process is to set a date to open negotiations.

As we say in Albania, there is no Plan B.
Alba Çela is Deputy Director at the Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana based think-tank.