Saturday, January 30, 2016

Erdogan Wants to Talk to Putin Following Alleged Turkish Airspace Violation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) hold a joint press conference at Turkey's Presidential Palace in Ankara

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he wanted to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin after an incident with a Russian aircraft, which had allegedly violated Turkish airspace.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it had summoned the Russian Ambassador to Ankara over an alleged Turkish airspace violation by a Russian jet.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Summons Russian Ambassador Over Alleged Airspace Violation
ANKARA (Sputnik) — The alleged incident involving a Su-34 fighter bomber took place on Friday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day, adding that the plane had been warned by Turkish air radar units.
The Russian Embassy in Ankara confirmed on Saturday that the ambassador had been summoned, however, did not disclose the reason for the meeting.

"Yesterday there was a violation of our airspace by a Russian aircraft. Such irresponsible steps in which we see an escalation of the crisis are not beneficial either for Russia or the NATO-Russian relations, or regional and global peace," Erdogan told reporters.

"I asked the deputy foreign minister to contact the Russian side, and inform that I want a personal conversation with President [Vladimir] Putin. Our ambassador informed that this information had been transmitted [to the Russian side], but so far we have not received any response," the Turkish leader said.

Russia's Reaction to Turkey Downing Su-24 'Is More Than Reserved' – Putin
On November 24, a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber with two pilots on board over Syria. Ankara claimed it had downed the Russian warplane as it had allegedly violated Turkish airspace. Both the Russian General Staff and the Syrian Air Defense Command have confirmed that the Russian jet never crossed into Turkish airspace.
In response to Ankara's "stab in the back," as the incident has been described by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow imposed a number of economic measures on Turkey.

Ksera: My arrest is politically motivated

Former Minister Spiro Ksera said that his arrest is politically motivated. He was arrested in a bar near his residence in the village of Dervican in Gjirokastra and then was taken to the police station without being handcuffed.

In his first comments Spiro Ksera said that his arrest is politically motivated, due to the strengthening of the Democratic Party in the area of Dropull in the recent years.

He added that all accusations will be proved over time. Ksera is accused of theft and abuse of office for a fictitious tender worth ALL 30 million for Roma community.

K. Mitrovica: Citizens rally in support of Oliver Ivanovic

Citizens gathered on Friday in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica in support of leader of the Citizens' Initiative SDP Oliver Ivanovic.
Source: Tanjug
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He was last week found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Protesters are carrying Serbian flags and banners reading “Freedom for Ivanovic”. Serbs from all parts of Kosovo have come to the protest, including the displaced ones.

Ivanovic was last week convicted of war crimes that took place in Kosovska Mitrovica in 1999. On Thursday, he was transferred from home detention to prison after the Court of Appeals in Pristina upheld the prosecution's appeal.

Ivanovic's defense attorney said on Thursday evening that the decision was completely unnecessary, and that the defense would appeal the first-instance judgment.

PACE passes resolution on Kosovo "favorable to Serbia"

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Thursday passed a resolution on the state of human rights in Kosovo.
Source: Tanjug
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It was tabled by Rapporteur Augustin Conde of Spain.
Head of the Serbian parliamentary delegation to PACE Aleksandra Djurovic told Tanjug that a plenary vote resulted in a resolution that is "favorable to Serbia" as all three amendments by Kosovo Albanians were rejected.

"The resolution is favorable to us and it contains much criticism regarding corruption and respect of human rights. The position of Mr. Conde and the Council of Europe (CoE) is that they insist on status neutrality and respect of values that the CoE deals with," Djurovic said.

The Kosovo Albanian side sought that the obligation to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities be dropped from the resolution, she said.

"An amendment whereby they wanted to alter the statement that UNESCO has rejected their membership bid and just state the result of the vote was also rejected. They also wanted to include a direct cooperation of Kosovo with Europol and Interpol, rather than through UNMIK, which is a part of the resolution," she said.

She noted that Kosovo Albanians wished to use the fact Conde is no longer a member of PACE to change the draft, but failed.

Anther member of Serbia's delegation, Zarko Obradovic, commended Conde's work on drafting the resolution, saying it was "a high quality document that deals with CoE standards in areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and appraises to what degree all these are respected in Kosovo."

He added that since neither Serbia nor the UN and a large number of CoE members recognize the so-called independence of Kosovo, he was "welcoming the status-neutral approach that Mr. Conde applied in drafting the resolution."

"The resolution states the numerous negative events and occurrences that Serbia has been pointing out to for 17 years, and that remain without an answer to this day," Obradovic stressed.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Turkish Jets Violate Greek Airspace on National Heroes’ Commemoration Day

Turkish F16 jets

Turkish jet fighters violated the Greek airspace and were intercepted, according to Greece’s defense minister. The incident took place on the anniversary of the end of the 1996 Greek-Turkish crisis.

On Thursday, Turkish jets violated the Greek airspace while Greek military commanders were laying flowers at the Imia islets where Greek servicemen were killed during the conflict 20 years ago, Minister of National Defense Panos Kammenos said.

In early-1996, a territorial dispute over the two small Imia islets of The Dodecanese archipelago in the Aegean Sea triggered a crisis in Greek-Turkish relations. Two countries, both NATO members, were at the brink of war for a few days. The conflict was settled with the help of foreign mediation, including NATO and the US.

Turkish Fighter Jets Violate Greek Airspace Over Aegean Sea… Again

During the last days of the crisis, a Greece naval helicopter crashed in the crisis zone, killing three officers. Technical failures were named the reason of the crash. Since then, Greece has honored annually the memory of the killed officers.

On Thursday, Kammenos laid flowers in the sea, in the area where the helicopter crashed. After the ceremony, he said that no one will ever challenge Greece’s sovereign rights in the Aegean Sea.

"Some try to challenge our sovereignty in the Aegean Sea. And I want to say here, at a place of national commemoration, that they will not succeed," the minister was quoted by RIA Novosti.

"Even today, when we were laying flowers to commemorate our heroes, 26,000 feet [8 km] south of Imia, Turkish jets violated our airspace and were intercepted by the Greek Air Force," he added.

According to him, everyone wants dialogue and peace, but talks must not place in doubt national priorities and political responsibility to protect the homeland.

In Tirana today evening, was arrested former Labor Minister, Spiro Ksera.

Ksera belonging to the cabinet of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

According to prosecutors, he is suspected of embezzling public funds.
Ksera is the first senior official to go for arrest by the prosecution of Albania, which is at the center of allegations of failing to arrest of senior officials of Albania ..

But the arrest of Spiro Ksera puts in doubt the transparency of the prosecution, which has very easy to arrest citizen's Albanians with Greek Nationality, than lobbying of politicians linked to criminal gangs in Albania

Spiro Ksera is an Albanian politician. He was Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Albania. He was initially a member of the Greek minority's Unity for Human Rights Party but later became a member of the Democratic Party of Albania.
Ksera, an ethnic Greek, was born in the town of Derviçan, in Dropull region and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Tirana. During the period 2005-2009 he was the prefect of Gjirokastër County, in southern Albania.

Ilir Meta: George Soros, scenarios against his Political Party SIM

Speaker of  The Albanian Parliament, Mr. Ilir Meta said that the businessman George Soros has planned a series of scenarios to "eliminate" SIM, The Socialist Integration Movement Party.

Invited to show "Free Zone" of Klan TV,, Meta said that the news published by BIRN agency, funded by the Soros Foundation, has been a movement against it. Regarding his successive charges, Meta said he does not feel at all concerned, adding that his attacks launched since 1993. "Who is behind the attacks is a matter of institutions not of the head of the assembly.

These charges, the Albanians condemn with votes during elections. I will not step because the trial court makes the best people to vote, "said Meta.

ANALYSIS: Turkey’s Balkan policy not interest-oriented

Examination of Turkish policy in the Balkans
ANALYSIS: Turkey’s Balkan policy not interest-oriented
By Selin Calik Muhasilovic
 The Balkans, which are crippled with many chronic issues such as minorities, deepening religious and ethnic divisions, and the Dayton Agreement, which gave an end to the bloody wars that erupted following the breakup of Yugoslavia, yet imprisoned the region to “a political deadlock,” are on the verge of a new process which will either lead to a “permanent and institutionalized stability,” or a new wave of violence.

Global actor’s intervention on “stability” grounds toward Balkan countries, in the last instance, takes place in the backup of strategic goals such as alliance axes and procurement of energy routes.

Turkey, which has deeply-rooted historical and cultural ties with the Balkans, has identified the region as one of the key elements of its foreign policy; and continues its activities in the region with an embracing perspective that is in the words of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu “not crisis but vision-focused”.

These activities are pursued in a way that goes beyond all current areas of conflict despite the “jarring voices” that have come out as a result of the recent political polarizations and hidden agendas.

Three main grounds of Turkey’s Balkans policy

Policies perused by Turkey in the region, are established based on a multilateral approach and on participating in international peace initiatives. According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s 2013 strategy, the Balkans policy is being shaped based on three main axes: “High level political dialogue”, “safety for all, maximum economic integration" and “preservation of region’s multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious social structure”.

With this approach, Turkey is concentrated on the social and cultural dimensions alongside economic activities. Turkey’s focus to these soft power instruments is being perceived by region’s people as a well-intentioned step toward increasing confidence and stability.

Nevertheless, some section’s criticism and accusations without objective reality toward Turkey regarding recently increasing the Daesh threat in the Balkans, can be explained with Balkans being at the focus of covered strategic war regarding alternative energy routes and, on the other side, by the great powers’ competition in economic, politics and culture.

However, experts think that this kind of approach carries the danger of being converted to black propaganda and deepening divisions in the Balkans’ fragile multiethnic and religions structure.

TIKA’s activities in Balkans

Turkey, like the U.S., Germany and the Vatican, provides its services of education, health, humanitarian aid, restoration and providing employment in the Balkans through various institutions.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), one of the institutions whose presence in Balkans is mostly felt, has a wide field of activity in the region. According to the activity report made public, the sectorial distribution of projects and activities carried out by TIKA and their proportional values are as follows: 45.5 percent health, 20.49 percent administrative and civil society, 15.81 education, 14.78 cultural cooperation and restoration, 3.45 percent water and water hygiene.

Churches and monasteries are also being restored

The fact that TIKA is making public works and restoration projects for Christian places of worship in the countries as a minority is another key sign of its conducting of efforts in Balkans region with an inclusive approach without any discrimination. Within the framework, a restoration company commissioned by TIKA upon request of the Republic of Macedonia National Conservation Center handled the surveying and land works of Saint George Church near the Macedonian city of Kumanovo.
TIKA also established alarm, surveillance, fire alarm and response systems for Fojnica Fransisken Monastery in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and made the environmental planning for the Macedonian Orthodox Church Dormition of the Most Holy Virgin Mary that hosts the Christmas and Easter services of the Orthodox Christian community in the country.

Huge financial support for 5-percent minority

It is remarkable that other actors actively working in the region are usually conducting their efforts towards a goal that prioritizes the welfare and interests of a certain group. For instance, Christians in Kosovo constitute the five percent part of the Kosovar community and the Holy See are providing support to the government in opening a number of places of worship so that the Christian minority could properly perform their religious services.
Accordingly, a cathedral was built in 2010 in memory of Mother Teresa -- a key historical figure for the Christians in the region. Moreover, Catholic NGO Caritas continue its efforts including provision of social support projects for Kosovar Christians like education, health and employment with its Ferizaj-based organization that consists of 153 personnel and 400 volunteers.

U.S. efforts in Balkans
Most of the projects of the U.S., one of the most influential countries in Balkans, get completed through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and focus on health, education and employment.
USAID conducts support investments in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro via its Support Fund for Micro entrepreneurs SEAF South Balkan Fund that it launched in 2005 in Balkan countries. Serbia-based supermarket chain GOMEX is one of the key investments that the USAID made via SEAF in the area of employment. USAID also acts in cooperation with other NGOs in the region. It provides financial support for the NGO named “Balkan Sunflowers,” which makes cultural and educational efforts, together with the Rome Education Fund founded jointly by the World Bank and Hungarian businessman George Soros.

Mosque restoration is the fourth priority

Long used as a pretext for the criticism against Turkey’s rising influence and efforts in Balkans, the efforts of mosque restoration is the top fourth priority for TIKA – which David Phillips, U.S. academician and former advisor at the Department of State, from Huffington Post mentioned in one of his latest articles.

In the article, Phillips mentioned TIKA’s restoration efforts for the places of worship that are among key elements of historical and cultural heritage in Kosovo – where ninety percent of the population is Muslim – in a baseless accusation that “religious radicalism spreads via these places of worship.”

The timing of the article – as it was written just the day after Serbia-Turkey Business Forum held on Dec 28, 2015 one of Turkey’s key strategic initiatives in Balkans – arouses suspicion that there might be some other motives behind his accusations.

"Turkey’s presence smooths out the extremism"

The experts and academicians who know and monitor the region closely agree that Turkey’s activities in Balkans have a critical importance in prevention of radical tendencies unlike the contrary criticisms and evaluations.
Within this perspective, Joseph J. Kaminski, an American Ass. Prof. at the International University of Sarajevo in Bosnia, said these kinds of counter-discourses have been increasing along with the strengthening presence of Turkey in the region.

“The number of the Kosovan Muslims joining into the radical-prone groups is not high. Its reason is that the Kosovan Muslims’ sense of religion is based on Hanafi sect along with the fact that the religious tendencies triggering the extremisms have been balanced by the temples reconstructed by Turkey as a Hanafi-based country,” said Kaminski.
Underling that his impressions on the field also confirmed his opinions, Kaminski said, “Turkey has a rich heritage across Balkans. I was in Prizren last summer. The people I met there said they had been appreciating Turkey’s efforts. Turkish language has widely been used by Prizren people and the city’s architectural style and the cafes were definitely in Ottoman style. It’s very meaningful that President Erdogan had made one of his speeches in Sep, 2013 in this city strongly clinged to the Ottoman style.”

“Turkey: The shield against religious extremism in Balkans”
Prof. Dr. Metin Izeti at the University of Tetovo in Macedonia said along with the increasing effective position of Turkey in the region, the religious and cultural activities of the NGOs have become more visible, which annoys some people and has led them to carry out incitement activities among the people living there.

“As a result of this annoyance, they try to label Turkish foreign policy as ‘Neo-Ottomanism’," said Izeti adding, “I really can’t understand what harm or danger Turkey’s activities in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Montenegro can cause in the region. It is obvious that they are sowing discord among the Balkan people who are grateful from Turkey’s efforts to maintain the cultural inheritances."

“Unlike some people said, Turkey had never carried out forceful religious activities in the region. On the contrary, Turkey has always expressed its support against the violent groups which are causing bad attributions to Islamic ideology and tried to prevent their extremisms to be spread among large masses.”

“The presence of Turkey in the region,” continued Izeti, “will definitely be the most important factor to prevent these extremisms. Turkey is the shield against religious extremism in Balkans.”
"Opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Anadolu Agency's editorial policy."

Albanians perceive their country as doing better

The Corruption Perception Index of 2012 signaled out Albania as the most corrupt country in Europe. Transparency International figured Albania was the most corrupt sountry in Europe, after Kosovo, and the 95th most corrupt place among the 176 nations it monitored at the time. The trend was similarly disappointing until 2014, when Albania was pronounced the most corrupt state in Southeastern Europe.
And then something happened. In 2015, the picture is dramatically different.  The very same index published on Wednesday, January 27th, suggests Albania has jumped 22 places in a single year and leads the Balkans. Albania of course lags behind most EU member states, except Bulgaria, the worst among the 27 member states.
Albania still fairs worse than Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia; most of these countries have all made substantial gains as well and so Tirana must make strands even to stand still. And it is making strands.
Not everyone is doing better, in the region or in Europe. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was seen sliding on ratings, as did Hungary and Turkey.  But, what made a difference in Albania was a campaign, launched in September in 2015.
The key to the improvement of a country’s position in the rankings is the word “perception.” The government went out of its way, for the first time, to find out what people thought.
In February 2015, the government launched an anti-corruption portal allowing citizens to record anonymously unscrupulous practices in 12 key policy areas, including police, health and customs. In March the government used a World Bank program to start asking citizens by SMS. Prime Minister Rama was arguing that perception is often about stereotyping, but then also admitted that one can only break “perceptions” by fighting corruption, the Guardian reported at the time.

The clash of Kokedhima with Dule, raises xenophobia of Tirana in Himara Region


During a meeting with Socialist Party electorate in Vlora, the powerful MP of Socialist Party in Southern Albania, Koco Kokedhima, has accused Charmain of HRUP Vangjel Dule, for away from Government Coalition, raising new chauvinists issue in Himara Region.   

A day earlier, HRUP and Omonia, accused Kokedhima that he destroys the Greeks in Himara businesses, making ethnic cleansing to the Greek popullation.

Kokedhima: Himara is Albanian land and Greek chauvinists should know this

Koco Kokedhima accuses Vangjel Dule left for corrupt methods by coalition with the Socialist Party, and betrayed the Greek Minority.

Kokedhima: Himara there is a minority, but are we are albanians .Dule accuses us of Greek chauvinists of Himara, that have destroyed three buildings of the Greeks, when they are from Piluri, Albanian.

Kokedhima, "we will build a European Albania in Himare and develop tourism in the interest of Albanians, not to the Greek chauvinists. Greeks strongly support the Socialist Party in Minority area, but not chauvinists of Himara.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Interview of The General Secretary of Greek Foreign Ministry Georgios Tsipras to the Albanian TV Vizion Plu

During this interview, Tsipras has analyzed, the good friendly Relations between Greece and Albania and opportunities to add further good spirit, which is linked to the respect of the ethnic Greek minority and Albanian immigrants in Greece.

Meanwhile, not knowing what talks held Tsipras for the situation of the Greek minority in the Region of Himara, for which there is an escalation tough in practice, by the government, by destroying the assets of Greek residents, as well as charges of extortion of property and favoring Albanian oligarchs.

However, the visit of Tsipras, is considered important by the fact that he is the person close to the Prime Minister Tsipras and both are from the region of Epirus.

Also today, Omonia, The Greek Political Organizations in Albania,  has made a strong statement, which parallels the Albanian police attacks against the destruction of Greek properties of Himara, as "ethnic cleansing".

Omonia accuses The Albanian government that is organizing ethnic cleansing in Himara, through the destruction of buildings that belong Hellen community

HRUP: The action of Albanian Inspectorate in Himare against Greek citizens properties, is selective, and performed by Kokëdhima "Klan"

Tow month ago SManalysis, has analyzed the raise of tensions between people of The Himara Region and the Albanian Government, particularly after demolition of the Agio Athanassios Church in Dhermi, and a series of initiatives of the Albanian Parliament, to changes the Laws, factorizing the Albanian Oligarchs, to take lands and properties by 1 euro, from Himara Region.     

HRUP through a press release calls the illegal actions of government selective action IKMT take a few days ago in Himare.

These actions "have only one goal: to harm repeatedly and adjusting economic activity and demographics of the Hellenic community in Himare" declared in a joint statement of HRUP and Omonia branch Himare

"On 01/25/2016 phalanxes IKMT's illegal actions destroyed three objects which exercised their economic activity over 30 years, on the grounds that an investment will be made for reforming the center of Himare.

But all this destruction, like background, demolitions that belong Greeks of Himara Region and exchange of population with Albanian inhabitants, considering that this is an action for ethnic cleansing in Himara by the Albanian government.

Tow month ago SManalysis, has analyzed the raise of tensions between people of The Himara Region and the Albanian Government, particularly after demolition of the Agio Athanassios Church in Dhermi, and a series of initiatives of the Albanian Parliament, to changes the Laws, factorizing the Albanian Oligarchs, to take lands and properties by 1 euro, from Himara Region.

Reports of "ethnic cleansing" in Himara Region, are made by The Himara Community, which said the fact that leaders of the Albanian politics, have created favorable conditions, through changes in the Constitution, that the lands of Community, to be administered by the Albanian State, and after, to be distributed for the oligarchs, in the name of tourism development of the country.

The whole process of "ethnic cleansing" is a formalized  after the decision of the Albanian Parliament, to organize the Territorial Division, which unites the Himara region inhabited by oldest Greek Christians, with another area, Albanian


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NATO, Russia Should Talk Face-to-Face, Not Through a Megaphone

The NATO emblem is seen before a defence ministers meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 22, 2013


Munich Security Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger has urged NATO and Russia to settle their differences and called on NATO to revive the NATO-Russia Council; both sides, he stressed, have in their possession thousands of nuclear warheads, which will pose a real danger if a military conflict escalates.

In the run-up to the 52nd annual Munich Security Conference, its Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger delivered a speech during a press conference at the Federal Press Office in Berlin on Wednesday. Ischinger has called on NATO and Russia to set aside their differences and resume actively exchanging information bi-laterally in order to avoid new conflicts and unnecessarily aggravate relations.
He reminded the journalists that the relationship became strained due to the Ukrainian crisis and both NATO and Russia should bring the “diplomatic machine” back into action.
“It is important to talk to each other not only through a megaphone, and I think there is an urgent need for the Alliance to increase its already growing struggle to revive the NATO-Russia Council,” RIA Novosti quotes him as saying.
Ischinger added that the danger of escalation became only more evident after Turkey downed the Russian bomber over Syria. The incident highlighted the danger of military escalation between NATO and Russia, which, since the end of the Cold War has never been as high as it is now, as Turkey is a NATO member state. He called on all the parties not to forget that both sides have in their possession thousands of strategic nuclear warheads, and tens of thousands of non-strategic ones.
 “Only imagine if Russia, also by mistake, have reacted by downing an American jet. The problem should be treated seriously,” concluded the top diplomat.
The NATO-Russia Council (NRC), was established at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome on May 28, 2002. It replaced the Permanent Joint Council (PJC), a forum for consultation and cooperation created by the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, which remains the formal basis for NATO-Russia relations.
It is a mechanism for consultation, consensus-building, cooperation, joint decision and joint action, in which the individual NATO member states and Russia work as equal partners on a wide spectrum of security issues of common interest.

Community of Serb Municipalities will be formed - Kosovo PM

The Brussels agreement will be implemented and the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO) will be formed, says Kosovo PM Isa Mustafa.
Source: Beta
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
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However, he added, Pristina "will continue to insist on abolishment of parallel Serbian institutions in Kosovo."
"While dialogue in Brussels is ongoing, the Serbian government nominates or determines parallel authorities in education and health care in Kosovo municipalities," Mustafa told Vojvodina's provincial public broadcaster RTV in what Beta agency said was his first interview with a Serb media.

According to the report, he added that "the formation of parallel institutions is unacceptable for the Kosovo side and announced that further dialogue will concern the process of abolishment of Serbian parallel structures."

"Until Serbia abolishes these institutions, it will seem that it is not willing to participate in adequate normalization," said Mustafa.

He "added that he feels bad when he goes to Brussels for talks, while his fellow citizens have not yet been enabled visa liberalization with EU countries."

As Mustafa announced, one of the topics of this year's first meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will be air travel. He said they will discuss an agreement on rail and air traffic between Belgrade and Pristina, but also Macedonia.

Mustafa added that this would enable for "shorter flight times, reduced costs, especially of transportation of goods by rail."

He also said he occasionally hears from Vucic, and that their last conversation was about the flooding in Kosovo.

"We have no problem in communication. He called me to express Serbia's readiness to help during the floods we've had," said Mustafa.

Mustafa stated there was "no political crisis in Kosovo" - because the government has a two-thirds majority in the assembly.

"Parliament and the government can function without any problems, but the opposition, being the opposition, have their reasons to interfere," said Mustafa.

EU warns Greece could be sealed off from Schengen zone over its handling of refugee crisis

Refugees arrive aboard the passenger ferry Nissos Rodos at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, January 27, 2016. © Alkis Konstantinidis
Athens “is seriously neglecting its obligations and there are serious deficiencies in the carrying out of external border controls that must be overcome and dealt with by the Greek authorities,” according to a Schengen Evaluation draft report, which was discussed by the Commission on Wednesday.

The report is expected to be adopted by the EU Commission, which would then recommend that Greece take specific measures to remedy the situation. Greece will then have three months to correct the deficiencies and comply with the Schengen rules.

Should it fail to meet the deadline, it could face the deployment of European border guard teams on its borders or even be suspended from the Schengen free travel area, with the Commission recommending that “one or more Member States reintroduce border controls at all or at specific parts of their internal borders,” the press release says.

“If the necessary action is not being taken and deficiencies persist, there is a possibility to ... allow member states to temporarily close their borders,” the Commission’s Vice President, Valdis Dombrovskis, said during a news briefing.

Athens rejected the criticism, saying that the Schengen Evaluation visits were conducted at a time when the situation differed greatly from the current one, the Guardian reports.
“Greece has surpassed itself in order to keep its obligations,” government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili told the paper.

Greek authorities also accused Turkey of not fulfilling its part of the deal, which was struck between the Turkish government and the EU in November of 2015. According to Athens, Turkey has failed to clamp down on people smugglers and curb the refugee inflow.

At the same time, the report admits that Greek authorities are under pressure and stresses that Greece “can be assisted in fulfilling the recommendations via practical and/or financial measures from the Commission, Frontex or other EU bodies.”

In the meantime, Greek migration minister Ioannis Mouzalas said that his country is seeking help from the EU to swiftly deport refugees who are denied asylum. According to the minister, EU-supervised screening centers established on the Greek islands could be used to send such refugees back “the next morning,” Sky News reports.

Mouzalas stressed earlier that his country is doing everything possible to ensure better control over its border with Turkey and accused other EU countries of not sending enough help and not fulfilling their promises, stressing that only 800 agents from Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, had been dispatched to Greece, while the EU had promised to send 1800.

In interview with Die Zeit last week, Mouzalas said that the Greek border is “perfectly protected” and stressed that threatening to suspend his country from the Schengen area was “absolutely senseless,” adding that “[European] politicians resort to the populist accusations only to appease their own voters.”

Justice and Economy Test Albania’s Fraying Coalition

EU and US support seem likely to guarantee eventual adoption of major changes to the justice system – but the ruling coalition will continue to struggle with internal rifts and a stagnant economy.

Aleksandra Bogdani
 Albanian parliament | Photo:

The US ambassador to Albania, Donald Lu, has intensified meetings with local leaders lately in an effort to secure the votes needed in parliament for the passage of a radical reform to the justice system in the spring.

Lu, who has been called the “godfather” of the reform by the local media thanks to his tirades against corrupt judges, needs 94 votes in favour of the bill in the assembly of 140 MPs.

The ambassador has taken on the role of negotiator with political leaders and justice officials who still oppose the proposed changes to the system, which is widely perceived as corrupt. 

“There are people who are afraid of losing their jobs and dirty money,” Lu said at a year-end public appearance. “These people are afraid of going to prison. Maybe they should be afraid,” he added.

Albanian on trial for allegedly joining IS group in Syria

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
TIRANA, Albania (AP) — An Albanian Muslim cleric has been put on trial in absentia in Tirana on terrorism charges for allegedly joining the extremist Islamic State group in Syria with his wife and two children.
Prosecutors say Almir Daci, 31, a former imam in an eastern Albanian village, left the country in 2013 with his family, and fought with the group.
His father, Xhevahir Daci, denied his son had joined the group, saying he left Albania to seek a job abroad.
The trial opened Wednesday.
Separately, another nine Albanian Muslims, including two preachers, are on trial accused of allegedly of recruiting more than 70 men to fight with rebels in Syria.
About two-thirds of Albania's 3.2 million inhabitants are Muslims. Mainstream religious leaders have asked believers not to join rebel groups in Syria.

Headliner: Noam Chomsky on ISIL, Turkey and Ukraine

Image result for noam chomsky

The author discusses the war against ISIL, his public spat with the Turkish president and Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Noam Chomsky has been described as "arguably the most important intellectual alive". And as one of the world's most celebrated academics, he has published more than 100 books and is a leading critic on US foreign policy. 
In the first of a special two-part interview, Chomsky sits down with Mehdi Hasan to discuss the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, Ukraine and Turkey.
Chomsky and other "so-called intellectuals" were recently criticised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for supporting Kurdish separatists.
The author and activist, who has accused the Turkish government of waging a "terrorist war" against the Kurds, tells UpFront that President Erdogan is "undoubtedly carrying out vicious repressive actions attacking the Kurdish population", adding that he would call him a "murderer".
Chomsky also talks about imperialism, and comments on the row between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Part two of the interview to be aired Friday, January 29 at 1930GMT includes who Chomsky would vote for in the US presidential election, why he doesn't support a full boycott of Israel, and the impact of the rise of Islamophobia.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Seaplanes Routes Over Ionian Sea To Be Launched Summer 2016

Geek Report

By Ioanna Zikakou -  Jan 25, 2016

The Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry and the Shipping and Island Policy Ministry in cooperation with the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) are planning to grant licenses for the construction of waterways on the islands of Paxoi, Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Lefkada as well as in Patras with the view to creating the first network of waterways in Greece.

The first waterway in Greece will operate at the port of Corfu. Procedures for the licensing of another 50 waterways are underway.

Police in Albania say they have arrested five suspects as part of a crackdown on an international human and drug trafficking ring, coordinated with authorities in Italy, Slovakia and Belgium


Image result for associated press


TIRANA, Albania — Police in Albania say they have arrested five suspects as part of a crackdown on an international human and drug trafficking ring, coordinated with authorities in Italy, Slovakia and Belgium.

Police said Tuesday that the operation, codenamed Tempesta 2015, was launched in Italy. It also led to the arrest in other participating countries of 12 people suspected of criminal activity in prostitution and drug trafficking between September 2014 and June 2015.

Post-communist Albania has been a major source of human and drug trafficking.
In the past two years, Albanian police have destroyed more than 100 tons of marijuana and about 1.3 million cannabis plants, with a total estimated value of 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) — equivalent to more than 60 percent of the country's annual GDP.

Greece Furious Over Schengen Suspension Plans


10/09/2015_Macedonia Refugees
Migrants and refugees beg Macedonian policemen to allow them across the border from Greece. European leaders have threatened to effectively exclude Greece from the Schengen zone. Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Greece has responded furiously to proposals to modify the Schengen agreement which would see the country’s borders effectively sealed off from the rest of the continent.
EU interior ministers meeting in Amsterdam on Monday discussed moving the southern frontier of the passport-free travel zone, which includes most of the EU, to the north, deploying joint police forces along the Macedonia-Greece border. Other European states piled pressure on Greece to do more to control the influx of migrants into Europe via its shores.
Athens’s Syriza-led government denounced the plans, with Ioannis Mouzalas, the migration minister, calling it an “experiment” that would turn Greece into a “cemetery of souls,” according to reports. He warned against turning the migration debate into a “blame game.”
Subscribe now - Free phone/tablet charger worth over $60Greek public order minister Nikos Toskas said, “It is very difficult to stop small boats coming [to Greece]...except sinking or shooting them, which is against our European values and Greek values and we will not do that.”
The Greek government also stresses that other EU member states need to start taking their share of refugees. Plans agreed in 2015 are supposed to see 160,000 refugees relocated from Greece and Italy but thus far only 331 have been moved.
“If we cannot protect the external EU border, the Greek-Turkish border, then the Schengen external border will move towards central Europe,” said Austria’s Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner at a meeting of interior ministers in Amsterdam on Monday, Reuters reports.
“In the end, if a country doesn’t live up to its obligations, we will have to restrict its connections to the Schengen area,” Sweden’s Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said.
Proposals to be considered by the European Commission following the meeting would allow passport checks within the Schengen zone for up to two years. Germany, France, Austria and Sweden have already introduced some level of border controls as the continent struggles to deal with the arrival of millions of refugees and migrants on its shores.

EUROPOL: Islamic State focusing on EU, terror threat imminent

PHOTO: Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters

Published: Jan 26, 2016

BELGRADE – Islamic State is expanding its activities to a global level, with a particular focus on the European Union, which should be getting ready for a growing number of terror attacks similar to the ones that took place in Paris, the chief of EU police agency Europol said.

“The so-called Islamic State has developed a new combat-style capability to carry out a campaign of large-scale terrorist attacks on a global stage — with a particular focus in Europe,” Europol director Rob Wainwright told media at a news conference at the Europol headquarters in The Hague on Monday.

Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) has “a willingness and a capability to carry out further attacks in Europe, and of course all national authorities are working to prevent that from happening,” Wainwright said.

The news conference was dedicated to the presentation of Europol’s report on changes in operational tactics by the jihadist group.

“Both the November Paris attacks and the October 2015 bombing of a Russian airliner suggest a shift in IS strategy towards going global,” the report said.

The publication of the Europol report coincided with the release of a new terrorist propaganda video from ISIS, featuring the Paris attackers apparently participating in gruesome murders somewhere in an undisclosed desert location before they infiltrated the EU and subsequently conducted attacks in the French capital.

The video depicting the nine terrorists who participated in the November 13 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead threatens the countries of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.

“IS is preparing more terrorist attacks, including more ‘Mumbai-style’ attacks, to be executed in member states of the EU, and in France in particular,” the Europol report says, specifying that the attacks will be primarily aimed at “soft targets,” i.e. vulnerable installations and civilians, because of the “impact it generates.”

To implement those plans for terror on an international level, ISIS has developed an “external action command” capable of staging “special forces-style attacks,” the report says.

Europol downplayed the fears that Islamic State is using the influx of refugees coming to Europe to infiltrate the EU, stressing there is no “concrete evidence” that terrorists are using the migrant influx “systematically.”

However, the report notes, newcomers to Europe remain highly vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment to the terrorist group. The agency reports that there is evidence that jihadist recruiters are particularly interested in operating in refugee centers.

The spike of terrorist activities in Europe has become Europol’s primary interest for quite some time, as the agency has just launched its new counterterrorism center in The Hague.

According to Europol’s chief, Europeans who have joined the jihad in the Middle East remain in the spotlight of the agency, which is collecting information on them.

“We already have details on 3,700 fighters actively engaged in the conflict zone, but that’s not the full picture and it’s something we will be addressing through priority work by the new center,” Wainwright said, estimating the total number of EU citizens that have joined terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria at 5,000.

Albanian women trafficked in EU: abused, rejected, abandoned

  • Tens of thousands of women are believed to be trafficked into Western Europe from the Balkans (Photo: Kat Northern Lights Man)
Abused by gangsters, disowned by their families, and let down by the state, Albanian women who were trafficked as sex slaves face an uphill battle to build new lives.
The area around the Place de I’Yser in Brussels is the Albanian sex workers' patch. Their territory is just a couple of kilometres from the city's central square, the Grand Place, where thousands of tourists flock every day, and from the EU institutions.
  • The US accuses Albanian authorities of failing to tackle sex-trafficking (Photo:
After a coffee at a corner cafe around midday, the women wait for clients on the streets. Ten minutes of sex costs no more than €50.
Voluptuous, with long curly hair and big black eyes, 31-year old Eva speaks without embarrassment about the clients she goes with, how much she charges, sexual positions and even the fights among the women who share the street.
"I first came here with my fiance 14 years ago," recalls Eva (a pseudonym, like the names of all current or former sex workers in this story). The man she had fallen for told her she needed to make a "sacrifice for the sake of our love" - to have sex with other men to earn some money for them as a couple.
Without realising, at first, what was happening, Eva had become a victim of sex trafficking - or, as it is more formally known, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation.
There may be as many as 140,000 sex-trafficking victims in Europe and around a third come from the Balkans, according to a UN report from 2010.
Thousands of women and girls have been trafficked from Albania alone to western Europe as sex slaves in the last two decades. Well-organised criminal gangs control the trafficking, sometimes with the complicity of the victims' own family members, and launder profits by buying property back in Albania, police and experts say.
Efforts to crack down on the gangs face serious obstacles. Complex international investigations are required and it is widely accepted that criminals can buy influence in the justice system of Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries.
"Corruption and high rates of turnover within the police force inhibit law enforcement action to address trafficking. Official complicity in trafficking crimes remains a significant concern," says the section on Albania in the US State Department's 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report.
It also notes that when the report was published, in July, “a sitting member of [the Albanian] parliament had prior convictions for trafficking-related crimes”.
Meanwhile, many victims who escape from the gangs end up back in the sex trade after being shunned by their own families and communities and after receiving only modest help from the Albanian state to build a new life.

Abused by their families

A previously unpublished Albanian police report from 2007, obtained by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, says at least 5,162 women and girls were trafficked to be exploited as sex workers between 1992 and 2005.
Some 22% were minors when they were trafficked, 7% of all victims were kidnapped, raped, or had their families threatened, 4% were sold into forced prostitution by their own families.
Since the period covered by the report, around 1,000 more trafficking victims have been identified, according to annual crime reports issued by the Albanian state prosecutor.
Sobering as they are, the statistics tell only a small fraction of a bigger story. The true number of victims is likely to be much higher, as the official figures only include women known to authorities.
The numbers, in any case, hardly convey what each individual woman has suffered.
Interviews with trafficked women reveal that, in some cases, they were subjected to violence and sexual abuse by members of their own families.
"One night my dad drank a lot and sometime after two o’clock I found myself naked and he was over me," recalls Vera, a 27-year old woman at the Different & Equal charity centre in Tirana, which offers help to trafficking victims.
"I felt totally numb … and left home with the first man who promised to marry me and who, the moment we arrived on the outskirts of Tirana, forced me to have sex with other men for money," she says.
She adds, between sobs, that her father raped her so often that she does not remember how many times he did it.
Vera’s mother took her own life in 2009. Police believe she committed suicide after discovering her husband was sexually abusing their daughter.
Maria, from the Malesia e Madhe region in northern Albania, was only 16 when her father married her to an older man. Her new husband forced her into prostitution in Greece.
"Every night, it was like I was being raped," she recalls in another centre for trafficking victims, in the city of Elbasan. "When I told my mum, she would scream that I couldn't go back home, telling me that I had walked out of that door for good."
Elsa, from the northern town of Kukes, became a target of her father’s rage after her mother died when she was six.
"When he would return home, he would beat me with a water hose just because I existed," she says in a low voice, as if still gripped by fear.
After being raped by her brother at the age of 13, she ran away and was forced to work as a prostitute, first in Tirana and later in Kosovo.
"No one understands the pain of passing through the hands of many people, of going through these things in your family, of losing your innocence without knowing why," she says at a centre for trafficking victims in the town of Vlora.
"No one taught me what love is, what right and wrong are. I've been stigmatised since I was a child and as far as everyone's concerned I'll always be a whore."

Low conviction rates

In their 2007 report, Albanian police identified more than 2,000 people suspected of trafficking over the past decade and a half. But only 23% of them were in prison, in Albania, or abroad, for trafficking or other crimes.
Tougher sentences for human trafficking of between 10 and 15 years in jail were introduced in Albania in 2013 but the number of convictions has been small. Albania convicted nine people of trafficking in 2014 and three people the previous year, according to the US State Department.
Some convicted traffickers manage to avoid jail by pursuing appeals.
Hysni Sokolaj, a 43-year old man from the town of Tropoje, was found guilty in absentia in 2011 of human trafficking and prostitution. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His conviction was upheld by a higher court, but later overturned by the Supreme Court.
Sokolaj was accused of deceiving an 18-year old woman with false promises of love and marriage, and then of trafficking her and forcing her into prostitution in Belgium and in the UK, according to a copy of his case file obtained by BIRN.
In 2006, after he was deported from Britain as an illegal alien, the woman returned to Albania, found refuge at the centre for trafficking victims in Vlora and filed charges against him.
"When she came she was traumatised, fearing her pimp, who had threatened to kill her brothers," recalls Enkelejda Abdylaj, a coordinator at the centre.
"She was ashamed to say what had happened to her and felt guilty for running away from home with him [Sokolaj].”
The case against Sokolaj was first registered in the prosecutor’s office in Fier, which refused to start criminal proceedings against him, saying it could not collect any evidence. Following protests from victims' support groups, the case was transferred to the Serious Crimes Prosecutor’s Office in Tirana.
The office brought charges against Sokolaj, who was believed to have returned to Britain, and an international warrant was issued for his arrest. In 2012, British police declared Sokolaj one of the most wanted foreign nationals in the country.
But in December the same year, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction, saying the lower courts had deliberately misinterpreted the law.
Sokolaj’s lawyer, Ferit Muca, says his client, who does not live in Albania any more, has always maintained he is not guilty.
"The Supreme Court delivered justice because my client was innocent," he says.
"He lived with the accuser and didn’t traffic her. The charges against him were filed on the basis of manipulations by prosecutors. The girl was unstable."

Family business

One recent case investigated by serious crimes prosecutors in Tirana involves two brothers, Bledar and Shyqeri Stafuga, aged 33 and 24, respectively.
Two courts found them guilty of being part of a criminal gang which trafficked at least six young women into sexual slavery. The Supreme Court is considering an appeal against their conviction.
One woman testified that she was only 16 years old when Shyqeri Stafuga trafficked her to Switzerland and Germany and forced her to have sex with 10 men every day.
"He put a knife to my throat; he would stub out his cigarette on my body ... He would threaten to kill my family if I didn't make 1,000 [Swiss] francs every night," she said.
In November 2014, Bledar and Shyqeri Stafuga were convicted of human trafficking and trafficking of minors by the Court of Serious Crimes in Tirana and sentenced to 12 and a half and 12 years in prison, respectively.
Anila Trimi, an anti-trafficking expert with the Albanian state police, tells BIRN the brothers were part of a larger, well-structured criminal organisation and investigations continue into other possible members of the group.
Dolores Musabelliu, a prosecutor in the Serious Crimes Prosecutor’s Office, says human trafficking and prostitution cases are difficult to prove in court.
"The reasons behind the failure of many cases is that prosecutors base their charges only on the testimony of the victim," she says.
However, victims often decide not to testify or withdraw testimony because they cannot face a drawn-out court case and fear vengeance from the traffickers.
"So I denounced him and what did I gain?,” asks Lola, a 21-year old woman from a small village north of Tirana, who filed criminal charges against her pimp in late 2014 and who lives in Albania's only state-run shelter for trafficking victims.
"He knows where I live, knows everything about me and is still free," she says.

Asset unfreeze

The Albanian government's national anti-trafficking strategy, approved in November 2014, named Belgium as one of the main destinations in Western Europe for Albanian women trafficked for prostitution.
In Brussels, Didier Dochain, the deputy head of the federal police's anti-trafficking unit, told BIRN the Belgian authorities are focusing increasingly on trying to seize the assets of foreign traffickers.
"This is the motivation, of course, of all these criminal activities - it's to gain illegal profit and so if we can cut, seize, confiscate ... this profit, then it's a good thing," Dochain said.
But, he added, traffickers generally send their profits back to their home countries so Belgian police needed cooperation from authorities there.
"They invest in land, houses, expensive cars and things like that and they live a good life back in their own country," he says. "They can live as barons or princes because they make a big profit and big money but the problem is first of all to trace this illegal money flow."
Unfortunately, Dochain says, the response from foreign authorities in many cases is that they cannot find the money. Often this is because financial transactions were not recorded as thoroughly as they are in Belgium, he explains, but he cannot rule out that corruption also plays a role.
Back in Tirana, Dolores Musabelliu at the prosecutor’s office says Albanian authorities face their own problems getting information from foreign countries for complex investigations.
"Investigating these cases depends on legal assistance requests, to which the responses are often late, and this is often the reason cases are dismissed," she says.
While some officials and MPs work to counter sex trafficking, two Albanian politicians have been accused of active involvement in it.
Belgian prosecutors have accused Mark Frroku, a lawmaker from the Christian Democratic Party, of murdering another Albanian in Brussels in 1999. The victim was allegedly blackmailing a woman who was exploited by a prostitution ring run by a brother of Frroku.
An Albanian court is considering a Belgian request for Frroku's extradition. Frroku has denied any wrongdoing and described the charges against him as politically motivated.
Arben Ndoka, who served as a member of parliament from the ruling Socialist Party, has admitted he was convicted by an Italian court in the 1990s for running prostitutes and kidnapping.
Ndoka made the admission last year after his criminal record was exposed by the opposition. But he maintained that he was innocent of the charges and stayed on in parliament, before eventually resigning in September 2015.

Shunned by society

Even though they are victims, many women who have been trafficked and forced into prostitution are disowned by their own families and stigmatised by society.
The mother of the woman who was allegedly being blackmailed in the Frroku case lives in the small town of Puka in mountainous northern Albania.
Her home is a ground floor flat in an old apartment block. She is 63 years old, but looks much older, with dark rings around her eyes. For her, any connection with the sex trade is a source of shame. As far as she is concerned, she no longer has a daughter.
"I don’t know what happened to her," she says, standing on her doorstep. "All I know is what I've heard in the news."
Over the past 25 years, 83 young women and girls from Puka have been trafficked into prostitution, according to local police. Their stories are still the talk of a town of just 3,600 inhabitants.
Zajmira Laci, a doctor and women’s rights activist in Puka
Zajmira Laci, a local doctor and women’s rights activist, says that, just like the woman in the Frroku case, many trafficking victims have never returned to Puka.
"Because of the shame, their families don’t accept them," Laci says. "Girls also haven't returned because they fear everyone will be pointing fingers at them."

Road to rehabilitation

Many Western countries now have well-resourced programmes to help victims of trafficking make a fresh start.
In the Belgian city of Antwerp, Patsy Sorensen, the director of Payoke, a charity that helps trafficking victims, can point to dozens of examples of women reintegrating into Belgian society.
The women can request a work permit and can attend education and training courses free of charge, Sorensen explains. They also receive a basic income of around €800/month even if they are not working.
"They have a lot of possibilities to rebuild their lives and most of them like to work as quickly as possible," Sorensen says.
Women she knows have found work as cleaners and shop assistants. Others have started nail studios, Sorensen says. Others yet, including some Albanian women, have gone to university.
However, Sorensen admits, there are cases where women have ended up being trafficked again.
Patsy Sorensen, director of the Payoke anti-trafficking organisation in Antwerp
In Albania, after women are identified as trafficking victims, they are generally referred to the state-run shelter or one of three rehabilitation centres.
The shelter in the village of Linze, near Tirana, houses victims awaiting the results of preliminary investigations. The centres in Tirana, Elbasan and Vlora are run by non-profit organisations and offer courses in skills such as cookery and hairdressing with the aim of helping women find employment.
The US State Department's 2015 human trafficking report says psychological, medical, and reintegration services at the shelter are inadequate and the government has not given enough money - even though it could have used a special crime prevention fund which held at least 25 million lek (about €180,000).
But even after going through rehabilitation programmes, trafficking victims struggle to find work.
"We've had only one case of employment in a state institution and this was due to our mediation," says Enkelejda Avdylaj, the coordinator at the Vatra centre in Vlora.
"We talk to businesses, but when we tell them the profile of the employee they refuse to hire them."
If trafficking victims are able to find a job, even a poorly paid one, they still suffer the stigma attached to their former lives.
Diana Kaso, executive director of the Another Vision centre in Elbasan, says that 80% of the women who go through its rehabilitation programmes aim to rebuild their lives away from their home towns.
Maria, the woman who was forced into prostitution in Greece, is following that path.
She lives in a city far from her birthplace with her 12-year-old son, whom she says is the only source of joy in her life.
After a rehabilitation programme, she worked for years as a cleaning lady in bars and is now a pastry chef on a monthly salary of about €110, half of which goes on rent.
"Many people have tried to exploit my misfortune rather than help," she says. When she goes to a government office to claim a small payment for trafficking victims, officials ask for sex, Maria says. "It’s scary to enter an office.”
Kaso says that few women have the strength Maria has shown to build a new life.
Of all the cases she has handled, about 100 women have ended up back in prostitution.
"Sometimes they don’t have the necessary support or they think that because of the stigma they have no other options," Kaso explains.
At the Place de l'Yser in Brussels, Eva is one of those women who reached that conclusion. She first lived in Belgium for five years with her fiance-cum-pimp, until he disappeared with all their money.
Eva returned to Albania for a while but decided to go back to Belgium and work again in the sex trade. This allows her to send money back to her family, who think she is a care worker for an elderly couple.
"In Albania, there was no job for me," Eva says. "The only job that I know how to do is this one. And here I can earn much more."
This article was produced as part of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, supported by the ERSTE Foundation and Open Society Foundations, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network