Saturday, March 5, 2016


Donald Trump, influential billionaire and a candidate for the president of United States, back in the 1999, as a guest of the famous host Larry King on CNN, spoke about that time ongoing topic of the bombing of Serbia.

Asked by Larry King, what does he think and what would he do if he was in Clintons place, Trump criticized the decision to bomb Serbia.
“So, I would do something different and I know it will sound ghastly to everybody. But, look at the chaos which we created in Kosovo. I think, we can say that we lost only few people. Of course, we were in the airplanes 75 hundreds of meters above the ground and we were throwing bombs. But, look what we did to that country, to those people and how much death and suffering we have caused” said Trump.
“We should have gone there with the troops. There would be killings probably even then, but less. We would not have that chaos which we have now” said the influential republican.

“I am not sure if that is considered as our success, but I would not call that successful” explains Trump, condemning the bombing of Serbia.

“People are being expelled from their land, from the whole territory, everyone is running away from there, and nobody knows what is happening. There are thousands of dead.” said Donald Trump.
We remind, Trump is against most of the US military actions, he criticized bombing and aggression against Serbia on many occasions.

Donald Trump wants to change the course of foreign affairs of the US and highlights that he would be a friend with president Putin, which sparkled great attention by the American public.

Greek PM Tsipras Satisfied with Meeting Over Refugees, Opposition Leaders Differ


By Philip Chrysopoulos -  Mar 5, 2016

Greek Reporter

Greek_political_leaderGreek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told associates that he is satisfied with the outcome of the meeting between political leaders on the refugee crisis, but the opposition leaders seem to differ in opinion.

Several negative statements from the opposition side leaked after the 8-hour meeting, presided by President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

In the meeting, only the minimum consensus required was achieved, as opposition leaders had several different proposals. Nevertheless, the prime minister will appear at Monday’s European Union summit with a proposal to tackle the refugee crisis, in which, the government and opposition will have a common national line to follow.

According to sources from the Maximos Mansion there is satisfaction for the joint communiqué as they claim that the opposition accepted the government plan to be presented at the summit.

However, at New Democracy headquarters they claim that Tsipras had a hard time with the opposition leaders and his position has weakened. In the main opposition party circles they say that the prime minister received very harsh criticism at the meeting.

The conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis believes that Tsipras received so much pressure from the opposition that he finally accepted positions that go against his leftist ideology.

At the same time, the Democratic Coalition, composed of PASOK and DIMAR, insists on a national unity government. “We need a national unity government,” PASOK chief Fofi Gennimata said.

“The national line, in order to be effective, requires a strong and capable government to implement it. The country needs a government of national unity, of all pro-Europe forces,” said the head of the Democratic Coalition.

Gennimata also asked that the meeting should be recorded, saying that since the last time political leaders met and discussed measures, there was communication but the government has not implemented what had been communicated in the least.

HSA President Fr Kosmas Karavellas honored with Patriot Award

HSA President Father Kosmas Karavellas was honored with the Spiro Spiromilios Patriot Award at the occasion of the "Together We Can Make Himara Great" Symposium on February 20, 2016.

Father Karavellas received the award in recognition for his ceaseless efforts on behalf of the Himarrioton Society of America and for Himara and her people. He has been instrumental in making HSA a strong voice in the defence of human rights and progress for all Himarriotans, raising the issues of Himara with the United States government, and continues to lead the Society's advocacy and charitable efforts.

Father Kosmas is the first recipient of the Patriot award, which was presented by fellow members of HSA's Board of Directors in conjunction with the Symposium dinner/dance on Saturday evening.

Macedonia's Albanians Wage Increasingly Violent War of Monuments

Macedonian Orthodox believers sit around a massive metal cross during its sanctification ceremony on top of Mt. Vodno, just above Macedonia's capital Skopje, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2002

© AP Photo/ Boris Grdanoski

Macedonia's Albanians put up monuments in the shape of Albania's coat of arms in Macedonia's capital, while demolishing a construction site for a Christian monument in an increasingly violent conflict.

While both sides deny their monuments are meant to be divisive, Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia's capital Skopje are pursuing an increasingly violent war of monuments.
Ethnic Albanians attacked a Macedonian man who funded a new monument in Skopje's Cair district, a Christian cross, and later bulldozed the construction site. Demonstrators also set up tents on the site and put up Albanian flags.
In February, the DUI party installed a monument in Cair commemorating the beginning of the 2001 conflict between Albanians from the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Macedonian government. On that day, eight Macedonian soldiers and policemen were tortured and burned in a fire after being ambushed and kidnapped by Albanian militants.
Local government chairman Izet Medziti claimed that Skopje must resemble Brussels, not Beirut, as a city of ethnic harmony, where minarets are put in mosques and crosses are kept in churches.
Macedonian authorities previously put up two other monumental crosses, including the Millenium Cross, a local landmark, which angered ethnic Albanian politicians in the country.
The demonstration was attended by parliamentarians from Macedonia's ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration party, which is allied to the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). Education minister and party member Abdulakim Ademi was also in attendance. Macedonia faces elections in April, to which local media have attributed the conflict. The country's United States embassy also takes an active position in the country's tense ethnic and political landscape.

ORF: Albania sends police to border to Greece

4 March 2016 | 13:59 | FOCUS News Agency
ORF: Albania sends police to border to GreecePicture: Focus Information Agency
Tirana. Albanian government decided to commission 450 officers with the special police forces to the border to Greece, Austrian ORF reported.
Tirana’s decision was motivated by the concerns about the division of the so-called Balkan route of the migrants through the territory of Albania.
The extra police forces will be deployed in the sections of the green border.
In the meantime, the Albanian authorities keep constant contact with the Greek colleagues to monitor the situation at the border regions of the two Balkan countries.

Human Rights Group Commends Albania for hosting Camp Liberty Iranians

The Italian Helsinki Committee for human rights supports Albania's attitude towards Iranian dissidents, condemns Tehran’s demonization campaign.
Statement by Italian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights:
The issue of Iranian dissidents living at Camp Liberty, Iraq is a pressing humanitarian issue that deserves our immediate attention. They have been subject to several deadly attacks by terrorists affiliated with the Iranian regime and Iraqi security forces during the tenure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, resulting to 140 being killed and more 1300 injured. The last attack on these defenseless refugees took place on October 29, 2015, resulting in the deaths of 24 of them. In this light, the efforts of the government of Albania to host the Iranian dissidents are commendable.
The Italian Helsinki Committee has for several years been following the plight of Iranian refugees in Iraq, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), the principal Iranian opposition movement. As such, the Secretary General of the Italian Helsinki Committee was part of the last delegation of foreign dignitaries who visited Camp Ashraf, the former place of residence for Iranian dissidents in Iraq, in 2008 prior to its hand-over to the Iraqi government and the imposition of a total siege on the camp at the behest of the Iranian regime.
We would like to take the opportunity to warn about the obstacles of resettlement of the residents of Camp Liberty.
There has been a growing international consensus across Europe and the US over the need to relocate the members of the MEK in line with their status as protected persons under the Geneva conventions. The only parties that have been obstructing these efforts throughout the past decade have been the Iranian regime and its agents in Iraq.
Tehran wants to see the MEK destroyed for two reasons: On one hand it represents a formidable opposition to Tehran’s theocracy, and on the other it has been a bulwark against Tehran’s campaign to export Islamic fundamentalism. The Iranian regime wants to see the residents of Camp Liberty either massacred or forced to surrender to Tehran.
Our committee has noticed that since 2011, when the Iranian dissidents agreed to the European Parliament plan to be relocated to third countries, Tehran has been engaged in an organized, orchestrated campaign to derail the process and has used a variety of means to pursue this purpose. The regime has not been coy about its intentions of massacring the Iranian dissidents, but has made its sinister objectives known publicly and has devoted considerable resources to this goal over the years.
Parallel to the military attacks, the Iranian regime, through its intelligence agents, has resorted to a malicious demonization campaign to obstruct the transfer of the Iranian dissidents to safe locations, thus setting the stage for their massacre.
In this light, the Italian Helsinki Committee commends the attitude of the government of Albania to host a significant number of Camp Liberty residents. It indicates the correct value that both the government and the people of Albania place on human rights. In our view, the EU countries and U.S. should commend the noble position of Albania on this pressing humanitarian issue.
Albania’s attitude is not only commendable on humanitarian grounds but also points toward a correct policy vis-a-vis the Iranian regime, which has the highest number of executions per capita the world over, is the central banker of terrorism and has been the main backer of Bashar al-Assad in massacring Syrian civilians and causing an influx of refugees to Europe.
We have noticed that subsequent US Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Albania on February 14, the Iranian regime has stepped up its demonizing campaign against the Iranian dissidents and against the government of Albania.
Anne Singleton and Massoud Khodabandeh (who, according to an investigative report by the Pentagon released by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress in December 2012, are agents of the mullahs' Ministry of Intelligence and Security) are active in this campaign.
The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, a cross party committee in the UK Parliament that enjoys broad based support in the Parliament, broke the cover of these two individual in a 2007 report titled “Spying for the Mullahs.
The objective of this campaign is to dissuade third-party countries and in particular the Government of Albania from hosting the residents of Camp Liberty, by repeating and disseminating unfounded malicious allegations against the Iranian dissidents.
The Italian Helsinki Committee has been scrutinizing the dreadful situation of human rights in Iran and has dealt with Iranian dissidents for the past three decades. In this capacity it has become familiar with these allegations, and has studied them carefully. It is totally clear to us that all of the allegations and the smear campaign against the Iranian opposition are orchestrations of the Iranian intelligence service and its agents.
The MEK is the pivotal force of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. It advocates a democratic, anti-fundamentalist Islam. The activists of the MEK have been the primary victims of the Iranian regime’s brutal theocracy and some 120,000 of them have been executed in the past three decades. Maryam Rajavi, the President of the NCRI, has articulated a ten-point plan for the future of Iran that stipulates total gender equality, abolishment of the death penalty, a non-nuclear Iran, free and fair elections, an end to institutional discrimination against women and minorities, a free-market economy, and freedom of expression and association.
Over the years, the Iranian Resistance was instrumental in revealing the most secret sites and aspects of the Iranian regime’s clandestine nuclear projects, at tremendous risk to the MEK activists. If it were not for these revelations, Tehran might have obtained nuclear weapons by now. The network of the Iranian resistance has also been instrumental in exposing Tehran’s gross human rights violations and its terrorist conduct worldwide.
The MEK enjoys extensive support among the Iranian Diaspora. More than 110,000 individuals took part in the last major gathering of the Iranian resistance in Paris in June 2015.
On the international front, the MEK enjoys the support of a majority of members of more than 45 national legislatures. That includes bi-partisan support from a majority of the US House of Representatives and dozens of US Senators. Scores of the most senior US officials dealing with national security matters in four administrations, along with top US military commanders, have expressed their support for the MEK and the need for necessary steps to guarantee the safety and security of its members at Camp Liberty, Iraq.
Many Nobel laureates have also expressed support for the safety and security of these people.

Migrant crisis: Greece 'overwhelmed' by arrivals

A migrant who is waiting to cross the Greek-Macedonian stand by the border fence at a makeshift camp, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, March 4, 2016

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption More than 125,000 people have arrived on Greek shores so far this year
Europe's most senior official for migration has told the BBC that Greece is "overwhelmed" by new arrivals and that the whole world must react.
At least 2,000 new migrants are registered in Greece every day.
But more than 10,000 are stranded on the northern border with Macedonia, as EU countries have re-imposed internal border controls.
Dimitris Avromopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration, said other states needed to support Greece.
"Greece is overrun, is overwhelmed by all these flows," Mr Avromopoulos, who is Greek, told the BBC.
"We have to mobilise the whole European Union...we must see this situation as a global issue rather than a regional one."
Earlier this week, EU officials announced an aid plan that would allocate €300m (£233m; $325m) this year to help any EU state deal with the migration crisis. In all, €700m would be made available over three years.
Migrant crisis in depth
Have EU promises been kept?
Why is EU struggling with migrants and asylum?
EU migration: Crisis in seven charts
More than 125,000 people have arrived on Greek shores so far this year, close to 12 times more than arrived in the first three months of 2015.
Most are fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and have travelled from Turkey.
Eight countries in the 26-nation passport-free Schengen area have imposed restrictions on their borders, leading to a build-up further south in Greece.
And EU countries who approved a plan to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece, Italy and Hungary have been slow to do so, with some filing a lawsuit against the plan.
Media captionGavin Lee says many migrants on the Greece-Macedonia border are living in flimsy tents
On Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk said the number of people still arriving in Greece from Turkey was "far too high".
But, he said, there is hope the number of arrivals will soon drop considerably.
Speaking after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Mr Tusk said that, for the first time, a "European consensus" was emerging over how to handle the crisis.
Mr Tusk, who is on a diplomatic tour ahead of an EU-Turkey summit on Monday, also said he had been told by Mr Erdogan that Turkey was ready to take back all migrants apprehended in Turkish waters.
On Thursday, Mr Tusk issued a warning to illegal economic migrants not to try to reach Europe,
He also proposed "a fast and large-scale mechanism to ship back irregular migrants" arriving in Greece.
On Friday, Mr Erdogan suggested a new city could be built for migrants in northern Syria, with the support of the international community.
In other developments:
  • the number of people seeking asylum in the European Union in 2015 reached 1,255,600, more than double that of the previous year, Eurostat says
  • polls have opened in Slovakia, one of the countries that opposes the relocation plan - anti-immigration PM Robert Fico is expected to win a third term
  • the EU on Friday has announced the first payments of a €3bn ($3.3bn; £2.3bn) package aimed at helping Turkey cope with migrants on its soil
Image copyright AFP
Image caption More camps are being set up near the Macedonian border to cope with the influx
On Friday, the European Commission unveiled a proposal to restore a fully-functioning border-free area by the end of the year.
Among the measures, it says countries must stop the "wave-through" procedure of allowing migrants to move from one country to another, along with support for external border controls, particularly for Greece.
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

Can Albania Meet its Obligations and De-radicalize an Influx of Terrorists into Europe?

President Bujar Nishani and Prime Minister Edi Rama

Situated on the east of Europe, Albania applied for membership of the European Union in 2009. As the poorest country in Europe and designated the most corrupt, there is a lot of work to be done before this country of 3 million people is accepted into the Union. A recent visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry does indicate that this work is well underway. But Albania's efforts to reform and strengthen its political, security, judicial and civic institutions after years of dictatorship, could be drastically undermined if the country ignores or underestimates the threat posed by the arrival of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK) from Iraq.

Albania is the target location for the transfer of the notorious terrorist organization Mojahedin Khalq into Europe. Currently based in Iraq, the MEK is now being transferred to Albania under a deal struck with America in 2013.

Since the 1980s the MEK were paid and trained in terrorism by Saddam Hussein to effect regime change in Iran. After his ouster in 2003 the MEK aligned itself variously with the US army - during Senator Kerry's visit to Albania, the MEK was described as "a group that has supported the US in military operations in the Middle East and in its fight against terrorism" - as well as former Saddamists headed by Ezzat Ibrahim and more recently Al Qaida insurgents and Daesh in Iraq. Each successive government of the newly sovereign Iraq tried repeatedly to evict the group from their country, but the MEK leader Massoud Rajavi - himself a fugitive from justice - ordered his followers to put up violent resistance.

Even if they would agree to go willingly, the United Nations refugee agency has struggled to find third countries to take them in. It seems that, although Western countries have benefitted openly from the MEK's sometimes violent anti-Iran activities, and found the group particularly useful as a thorn in Iran's side through the period of nuclear negotiations, the MEK is deemed too dirty for them to willingly host any of them even as refugees.

In an attempt to encourage other countries to take some of the MEK, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton persuaded the then Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha in 2013 to take just over 200 MEK members on humanitarian grounds. That process got underway, but in 2016 Albania is now expected to take up to 3,000 MEK after the President of Romania, Traian Basescu, refused to take them in 2014.

This agreement has attracted surprisingly little attention from either inside Albania or even from a world media sensitive to terrorism and organized crime. The reason is partly because the transfers are taking place in small groups of around twenty at a time in a piecemeal fashion as the UNHCR is forced to defer to Massoud Rajavi's demands in order to circumvent threats of violence. Rajavi hand-picks the members he allows to be transferred, many using false identities. He ensures that each group of ordinary MEK members is accompanied by minders and enforcers to keep them under control and prevent them breaking loose. In order to accomplish their mandate to remove the MEK from Iraq, UN officials have had to accede to transferring the refugees under such conditions even though it reinforces the concept that the members belong to the MEK in conditions of modern slavery.

Once they arrive in Albania, the MEK leadership takes charge of the transferees. Although the US made a donation of $20 million to the UN refugee agency to help resettle the MEK, and according to a State Department official the US has provided the Albanian government with "security and economic development assistance, to help the country build up its physical capacity to house the refugees", none of this benefits the individual refugees. In Tirana the MEK has purchased an abandoned university campus into which it has corralled the new arrivals and recreated the conditions of isolation and cultic control which have always prevailed for the membership. What started out as a humanitarian gesture has turned into the mass relocation of a terrorist group to Europe. The MEK has created a de facto enclave in Albania which is outside the law, just as they did in Iraq.

This has put the refugees out of the reach of the Albanian authorities and because they are not free to mingle with Albania's citizenry, the influx of over a thousand trained terrorists has cleverly avoided detection and therefore controversy.

However, even though it appears that the MEK are somehow quietly contained, the citizens of Albania are entitled to ask whether the new refugees pose any actual threat to their civic life, to their security and to their ambitions to accede to membership of the European Union.

To answer this, we must ask why the Iraqi government is so desperate to expel them and why other Western countries are so extremely reluctant to accept them.

As a violent criminal organization, the MEK thrives where the rule of law is weak - in countries like Iraq and Albania which are emerging from past turmoil and troubles. In such conditions the MEK can be dangerous through criminal activity and violence.

As expert propagandists and manipulative persuaders, the MEK leaders have no problem making connections with and bribing government officials, power brokers and media types - let's be clear, the MEK has always been well financed. Former MEK have also reported that the MEK leaders are already vigorously pursuing links with Albania's mafia-like gangs. The MEK will work with these gangs for mutual benefit as they did with Saddam Hussein's regime. In the long run, if the MEK organization does become established Albania - with the quiet collusion of political circles who benefit from the cult's track record of terrorism - they will be better placed to do from Tirana what they can't do from Paris.

The CIA characterizes Albanian corruption as a 'transnational' problem involving drugs, money laundering and illegal aliens. In this sense it is the very location of the country which makes it attractive to international criminal organizations and thereby creates huge problems for law enforcement agencies. Albania essentially acts as a gateway into Europe from the rest of the world.

Now, while the various routes to Turkey, Syria and Iraq are under stringent scrutiny, terrorist commanders from any mercenary group can slip beneath the radar and seek training and logistical support in Tirana. What better location to establish a clandestine terrorist training camp than in Albania? It is in Europe, but not in the EU and therefore not so open to scrutiny by the international community.

With the changed political mood following the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1, the MEK is looking for new friends and benefactors. The group has already aligned itself with the Syrian Free Army and has offered to help the Saudis fight against the Shias in Yemen. The MEK has over forty years of experience in terrorist activities. The real danger posed by this group is not only that they can re-arm themselves in Albania, but they can invite other groups in for training.

The worry is that the MEK has branched out and is open to do business with any terrorist group.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that MEK members are radicalized to the core. They are not ordinary refugees. Enough of them have been trained in Iraq by the former Saddam regime for terrorist activities as well as forgery, intelligence, military operations and even torture methods, to make them extremely dangerous. Above all, the nature of the MEK leadership style is cultic. This means the followers are not able to resist the orders of the leaders even if they wanted out. So there is a danger they will be used for a variety of criminal activities without their real consent. There are already examples of people trafficked by the MEK from Albania to Western Europe and used for money laundry activities in Germany.

However, the refugees could also be described as extremely vulnerable. Another reason they have not attracted attention is that the MEK can easily be dismissed as a defunct fighting force; the average age of its fighters is sixty years old and many of them are ailing with mental and physical disease after years of punishing training in the Iraqi deserts. But while this is true of the majority, there are still many among them who are expert terrorist recruiters and trainers, people who know how to train others for suicide missions; strangely transferrable skills in today's world of global terrorism.

Not all the members who arrive in Albania do stay with the MEK. There is a growing community of formers - around two hundred to date - who have turned their back on the group and want to return to their families and to normal life. Interestingly, it is from this pool of former members that the US has carefully selected a quota of eighty individuals to be given asylum in America. They have undergone rigorous interviews to ascertain that they have completely rejected the MEK and so no longer pose any danger. Some others have been accepted by other European countries under the same conditions but the rest remain in Albania under conditions of hardship.

With the stakes set very high, Albania's authorities will need to stop this organization from covertly establishing a terrorist base in Europe. The first step would be to remove the MEK members from the source of their radicalization. If this doesn't happen, the problem will simply have been moved instead of being solved.

The authorities in Tirana can ensure that all the newly arrived refugees are treated as individuals, not as belongings of the MEK leader. They should be given protection and helped with accommodation and financial support as people entitled to determine their own future paths. Experience in Iraq has already shown that once these people are physically removed from the coercive atmosphere imposed by the MEK leaders and reinforced by their peers, they very quickly find that their commitment to terrorism evaporates and the de-radicalization process can begin.

De-radicalization is greatly helped when they have contact with their families. There are numerous examples of former MEK who managed to leave the cult and establish new and successful lives. Some now live in various western European countries because they have family there who have been able to help them. Some have returned to Iran - even though Iran doesn't want them back - where they have been granted amnesty and lead normal lives under the supervision of the UN and ICRC. Some others now live in Iraqi Kurdistan and have transferred their family assets there from Iran there so they can set up in business.

Once they are out of the 'pressure-cooker' of the cult their lives can be sorted out through humanitarian organizations. As a Red Cross official told the authors, 'As individuals, three thousand is nothing, we sort out millions every year. But as a group, neither us nor any other organization can deal with or help them.' It is a choice the Albanian government cannot ignore, for to do nothing is to risk everything.

By Anne and Massoud Khodabandeh

Friday, March 4, 2016

'Together We Can Make Himara Great' Symposium

The Himarrioton Society of America held its first Symposium with the theme “Together We Can Make Himara Great,” on February 19-21, 2016 in Annapolis, Md. Attendees came from Himara, Athens, Tirana, Slovenia, Canada, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and the Washington, D.C. – Baltimore metro area to participate in this historic event focused on the future of Himara.
Attendees arrived Wednesday and Thursday with the Himarrioton Society of America hosting the guests with activities before the Symposium began Friday morning at SS. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Annapolis, MD.

The Symposiums four main topics of discussion were:
1.Development of coalitions with political parties in Albania
2.Economic Development and Technology
3. Properties
4.Minority and Human Rights

A variety of guest speakers and panelists addressed the participants on the matter of the four topics, followed by a round table discussion Friday, and a dinner / dance on Saturday evening.
The Symposium concluded on Sunday with Divine Liturgy which included a Memorial Service for all the Himarriotes who have fallen asleep in the Lord, followed by a final Luncheon gathering.
The Himmarioton Society of America presented the First Patriot Award to individuals that have assisted the Society in becoming a strong voice for Human Rights, Minority Rights and Religious Rights in Albania. The following individuals were honored with the Spiro Spiromilios Patriot Award:

Rev. Fr. Kosmas Karavellas
Congressman Gus Billirakis
Mr. Andrew Manatos
Mr. Michael Karloutsos

HSA would like to thank all attendees, guest speakers, panelists, and members of our community who participated in the Symposium and whose concern and dedication to the future of Himara brought them together for this historic event.

Together we can make Himara Great!

Greece lashes out at Slovak PM in spat over migrants

Financial Times

Greece has questioned Slovak prime minister Robert Fico’s ability to head his country’s turn at the EU’s rotating presidency in July, in the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter war of words between Bratislava and Athens.

Mr Fico, who has deployed strong anti-immigrant rhetoric alongside sharp criticism of Greece in his bid to be re-elected on Saturday, this week said he thought Greece should be “sacrificed” and kicked out of the Schengen free movement area to stop migrants arriving on its shores entering the rest of the EU, writes Henry Foy.

Athens, which summoned Mr Fico’s ambassador in Greece to complain, on Friday said his “delirium” called into question whether he could lead his country when it assumes the rotating presidency of the EU in July.

    It is obvious that the Slovak Prime Minister, just a few days before the elections in his country, wants to invest his election campaign with vitriol and human drama.

    We are unable to witness his delirium and understand how he hopes, if re-elected, to carry out his duties as prime minister of a country that will soon assume the presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

Mr Fico, who is forecast to win Saturday’s election but lose his majority, has stoked fears of migrants entering Slovakia to whip up votes, despite refusing to accept any refugees under the EU’s redistribution quota and granting asylum to just eight people last year.

This is not the first contract that the LSI has reached with US lobbying firms.

In 2009 and 2010 it engaged two other US companies, DUTKO Worldwide LLC and Blue Star Strategies, on retainers of $30,000 and $22,500 per month respectively.

Albania Ruling Party Hires New US Lobbyist


The junior party in Albania's government, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, has hired a powerful Washington lobbying firm to boost its profile in the US.

Besar Likmeta

The LSI, the junior party in Albania's Socialist-led government, has hired a US firm to improve its image in Washington.

Global Security and Innovative Strategies LLC, GSIS, is being taken on for a monthly retainer of $30,000.

The scope of the contract, according to documents made public by the US Justice Department, is “educating United States governmental officials... regarding the LSI's commitment to implement justice reforms, enhance Albania's economy, strengthen security approaches and food security programs.”

GSIS is a Washington-based consulting firm whose principals include the former head of the US Secret Service Marc Sullivan, and the former Deputy Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, David Aguilar.

Over the past year, Albania has been engaged in a major US-sponsored effort to reform its justice system, which is widely perceived as corrupt.

Parliament is due to vote on a number of constitutional changes in the spring, which will open the way for the creation of a number of new institutions and measures that aim to stamp out corruption in the justice system.

Queried by BIRN over the contract, the LSI said in a statement that the US company had been contracted on the decision of the party leadership, which authorized deputy chairman Petrit Vasili to reach an agreement with Global Security and Innovative Strategies.

“Based on this agreement, GSIS will advise and consult the LSI, its leadership and representatives on issues of importance for the country,” the LSI said.

“GSIS will advise the LSI on policies and its engagement and commitment on key reforms for the country, specifically on justice reform, transparency, Albania’s economic development and security issues, development of agriculture, transportation and food security," it said.

According to the LSI, the contract with GSIS is monthly, with the right of renewal or cancelation.

The funds for the contract come from “the budget, party membership quotas and donations in accordance with the law on the financing of political parties.” 

The LSI explained that its 2016 draft budget set aside funds to cover the contract for three months, after which it will be evaluated and possibly renewed.

“At the moment of evaluation of this contract, after three months, a decision will be taken on whether to continue it,” it added.

According to party budgeting data published by the LSI, the contract with GSIS accounts for 26.1 per cent of its entire expenses in 2016.

EU official asks Albania to improve judiciary to start talks

The European Union's foreign policy chief has told Albania's parliament that tackling corruption and lack of professionalism in the judiciary is fundamental to launch full membership talks with the bloc.

Federica Mogherini on Thursday called on opposing politicians to work more on the country's interests rather than those of their political parties.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, was granted EU candidate status two years ago and it is expecting to launch full membership talks sometime this year.

Mogherini said that judicial reform "will open the way for a European Commission recommendation to launch negotiations."

Albania Lures Investors With Free Land Leases

Albania plans to boost the under-performing tourism sector by offering to lease land for development at a symbolic price of only one euro.

Fatjona Mejdini

A secluded beach in South Albania | Photo: Wikimedia

Albania is going to lease state land and properties with tourism potential to investors for the symbolic price of only one euro.

The decision taken on Wednesday does not target everyone. "Strategic investors" must be able to stump up at least 50 million euros for a touristic project.

In return, aside from almost free land and properties, the government will offer them up to 99 years of the return of their investment. After that, the investment will be considered state property.

"This agreement is required to pass through parliament," the draft cautions.

The decision follows a low rate of foreign investment in the tourism sector, which the Albanian government considers a priority for development.

In its draft, the government asks the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism to lead the process of identifying all state-owned tourist sites and pitch them to interested investors through public calls.

The Council of Ministers and in some cases parliament will to give their approval first for certain key investments.

"The application becomes unsuccessful if the Council of Minister does not give its approval," the draft notes.

Numerous criteria are set for the companies or consortia that want to invest, starting from past financial statements to a guarantee that they are in a position to invest now at least 10 per cent of total amount that they plan to invest.

Arben Malaj, a former minister of Finance and Economy and head of the Institute for Public Policy and Good Governance, told BIRN that the government is involved in a "regional fight" for foreign investment by easing fiscal burdens and other tactics.

“The removal of high prices for land in the touristic areas may bring in potential investors,” he explains.

Since property issues in some touristic areas are complicated and have involved the courts for years, Malaj says the government must be careful not to impinge on private properties when a potential investor seeks to acquire land.

“These cases create serious struggles, dragging out the process and making it fail,” he warns.

Malaj believes the imitative creates a risk of corruption as well.

“The process requires professional and transparent selecting procedures. The government has to prepare the map of potential projects and conduct the most competitive process,” he advises.


January 28, 2016

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

 Berisha promises lower taxes

During a meeting with business representatives, the Prime Minister Sali berisha declared that the government will adopt a new regime for stimulating the private enterprising.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Proto Thema: Το αλβανικό lifestyle γοήτευσε τον Ελληνα πρεσβευτή


Ο Λεωνίδας Ροκανάς «διαφημίζει» από το κανάλι του μεγαλοκατασκευαστή, καναλάρχη και καταπατητή της περιουσίας των ομογενών στη Χιμάρα, Σαμίρ Μάνε, σε εκπομπή με παρουσιάστρια το γνωστό μοντέλο Φλοριάνα Γκάρο, τη νέα πρεσβευτική κατοικία στα Τίρανα

Τις πολυτελείς βίλες του μεγαλύτερου καταπατητή των ελληνικών περιουσιών της Χιμάρας «διαφημίζει» ο Ελληνας πρεσβευτής στα Τίρανα Λεωνίδας Ροκανάς, μέσω lifestyle εκπομπών, στην αλβανική τηλεόραση.

Τη «χλιδάτη επίπλωση και τους ακριβούς πίνακες» της νέας πρεσβευτικής κατοικίας στα Τίρανα παρουσίασε πρόσφατα εκπομπή του τηλεοπτικού σταθμού TV Klan, που θεωρείται ένας από τους μεγαλύτερους στην Αλβανία. Πρόκειται για τη lifestyle εκπομπή που προβάλλεται στην prime zone του σταθμού με τίτλο «Δεν είναι μόνο μόδα» και παρουσιάστρια το γνωστό μοντέλο Φλοριάνα Γκάρο, η οποία αφιέρωσε ρεπορτάζ 35 λεπτών στο ελληνικό πρεσβευτικό ζεύγος. Η εκπομπή έδειξε πλάνα από το εσωτερικό της νέας πρεσβευτικής κατοικίας, το σαλόνι, την κουζίνα και το γραφείο του πρεσβευτή, καθώς και την τραπεζαρία όπου το ζεύγος Ροκανά παρέθεσε δείπνο στην Αλβανίδα παρουσιάστρια.

Στο «Beverly Hills» των Τιράνων

Η νέα πρεσβευτική κατοικία βρίσκεται στο νεότευκτο πολυτελές συγκρότημα «Rolling Hills Luxury Residences», το οποίο αποτελείται από 122 κατοικίες και απλώνεται στην τοποθεσία Πετρέλα στα περίχωρα των Τιράνων, ενώ πολλοί τη χαρακτηρίζουν «Beverly Hills» της αλβανικής πρωτεύουσας. Οι ιδιοκτήτες και οι ένοικοί του συγκαταλέγονται στην αφρόκρεμα της πολιτικής και οικονομικής ζωής της Αλβανίας. Το συγκρότημα, που έχει σχεδιαστεί από το διάσημο αρχιτεκτονικό στούντιο «Three» που εδρεύει στο Ντάλας των ΗΠΑ, διαθέτει αθλητικές και ψυχαγωγικές εγκαταστάσεις, ενώ πολύ σύντομα πρόκειται να λειτουργήσει και μεγάλο εμπορικό κέντρο που θα φιλοξενεί γνωστά brands. Οι βίλες είναι χτισμένες με όλες τις σύγχρονες ανέσεις, ενώ όλα τα υπνοδωμάτια διαθέτουν δικό τους λουτρό καθώς και γκαρνταρόμπα. Τα μεγάλα μπαλκόνια και τα παράθυρά τους βοηθούν ώστε οι κατοικίες να είναι λουσμένες στο φως της αλβανικής πρωτεύουσας. Οι τιμές ενοικίασης ξεκινούν από τις 3.500 ευρώ, ανάλογα τα τετραγωνικά και τις ανέσεις που προσφέρουν (πισίνα, γκαράζ, κελάρι κ.ά.).

Ο κ. Λεωνίδας Ροκανάς μιλάει στην εκπομπή «Δεν είναι μόνο μόδα» με παρουσιάστρια το γνωστό μοντέλο Φλοριάνα Γκάρο

Το πολυτελές συγκρότημα είναι ιδιοκτησία του μεγαλοκατασκευαστή και καναλάρχη Σαμίρ Μάνε, ο οποίος θεωρείται σήμερα από τους πλέον ισχυρούς ολιγάρχες της Αλβανίας, με υψηλές διασυνδέσεις στην κυβέρνηση Ράμα. Το τελευταίο διάστημα ο κ. Μάνε έβαλε στο στόχαστρό του περιουσίες ομογενών στην παραθαλάσσια περιοχή-φιλέτο της Χιμάρας. Εχοντας μάλιστα πάρει το πράσινο φως από την αλβανική κυβέρνηση, προχώρησε στην παράνομη οικειοποίηση έκτασης 278.000 τ.μ. στην παραλία του χωριού Παλάσα, δρομολογώντας την κατασκευή μεγάλου συγκροτήματος κατοικιών. Ο κ. Μάνε είναι επίσης ιδιοκτήτης του τηλεοπτικού σταθμού TV Klan, στο οποίο πρόσφατα ο Ελληνας πρεσβευτής παρουσίασε τη lifestyle πλευρά του.

«Θεωρώ προκλητικό το ελληνικό κράτος να μισθώνει κατοικία για τον εκπρόσωπό του στην Αλβανία με ιδιοκτήτη τον μεγαλύτερο καταπατητή ακίνητης περιουσίας που ανήκει σε ομογενείς της Χιμάρας», λέει στο «ΘΕΜΑ» ο αρχισυντάκτης της ενημερωτικής πύλης Θεόδωρος Γκούμας, καυτηριάζοντας παράλληλα και τη lifestyle εμφάνιση του κ. Ροκανά στον τηλεοπτικό σταθμό του κ. Μάνε: «Είμαι σίγουρος ότι η διαφήμιση του Ελληνα πρεσβευτή στις βίλες του κ. Μάνε θα βοηθήσει τον επιχειρηματία να τις μοσχοπουλήσει, αποφέροντάς του κέρδη που θα επενδύσει στην έκταση που έχει καταπατήσει στη Χιμάρα. Δυστυχώς ο κ. Ροκανάς έχει γοητευτεί από το αλβανικό lifestyle», τόνισε ο κ. Γκούμας.

Ο κ. Μάνε θεωρείται από τους πλέον επιτυχημένους επιχειρηματίες στην Αλβανία. Στον όμιλό του, το Balkan Finance Group, περιλαμβάνονται περισσότερες από 18 εταιρείες (real estate, τουρισμού, λιανικού εμπορίου, μεταλλουργίας κ.ά.) σε 7 χώρες, με 3.000 εργαζομένους.

Κατάγεται από την Κορυτσά και μετά την πτώση του κομμουνιστικού καθεστώτος ξεκίνησε την επιχειρηματική του δραστηριότητα πουλώντας ηλεκτρικές συσκευές. Είναι παντρεμένος, έχει 4 παιδιά και από το 2012 είναι επίτιμος πρόξενος της Ταϊλάνδης στα Τίρανα.

Η 29χρονη Φλοριάνα Γκάρο είναι μοντέλο και παρουσιάστρια lifestyle εκπομπών της αλβανικής τηλεόρασης. Το 2012 είχε εκπροσωπήσει την Αλβανία στον διαγωνισμό ομορφιάς «Μις Κόσμος». Τα τελευταία χρόνια συνεργάζεται με τον τηλεοπτικό σταθμό Klan, παρουσιάζοντας την εκπομπή «Δεν είναι μόνο μόδα»

Ευάερο, ευήλιο και… τσουχτερό

Μέχρι πρότινος το πρεσβευτικό ζεύγος της Ελλάδας διέμενε σε διαμέρισμα που μίσθωνε το υπουργείο Εξωτερικών στο συγκρότημα «Sky Tower» στο κέντρο των Τιράνων και παλαιότερα σε μια βίλα πίσω ακριβώς από το πρωθυπουργικό γραφείο.

Από τις πρώτες ενέργειες του κ. Ροκανά μόλις διορίστηκε στη θέση του πρεσβευτή στα Τίρανα τον Απρίλιο του 2014 ήταν η αναζήτηση νέας πρεσβευτικής κατοικίας. Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, η επιλογή έγινε μέσω μεσιτικού γραφείου που δραστηριοποιείται και στην Αθήνα, με μηνιαίο μίσθωμα τις 4.140 ευρώ, περίπου δηλαδή 50.000 ευρώ ετησίως. Να σημειωθεί ότι το μίσθωμα μιας αξιοπρεπούς κατοικίας στο κέντρο των Τιράνων δεν ξεπερνάει τα 500-600 ευρώ μηνιαίως. Οπότε μόνο πρόκληση μπορεί να θεωρηθεί το μίσθωμα των 4.000 ευρώ σε μια εποχή ιδιαίτερα δύσκολη οικονομικά για την Ελλάδα.

Δεν πήγε ποτέ στη Χιμάρα

Ο Ελληνας πρεσβευτής στα Τίρανα με τις lifestyle τηλεοπτικές εμφανίσεις και τις δημόσιες σχέσεις, τον τελευταίο 1,5 χρόνο που είναι επικεφαλής της ελληνικής διπλωματίας στην Αλβανία μαθαίνουμε ότι δεν έχει… προλάβει να επισκεφθεί την περιοχή της Χιμάρας προκειμένου να ενημερωθεί για την προσπάθεια υφαρπαγής των περιουσιών των εκεί ομογενών, στην οποία πρωταγωνιστεί ο σπιτονοικοκύρης του!  Η υφαρπαγή παραθαλάσσιων εκτάσεων στην περιοχή της Χιμάρας, οι οποίες είτε ανήκουν σε ομογενείς είτε στην Εκκλησία, αποτελεί μόνιμο στόχο μεγάλων πολιτικών και οικονομικών συμφερόντων, που φτάνουν έως το πρωθυπουργικό γραφείο στα Τίρανα. Είναι χαρακτηριστικό ότι οι «νότιοι» Αλβανοί, ανάμεσά τους και ο πρωθυπουργός Εντι Ράμα, κατηγορούν τους «βόρειους» πως έγιναν ιδιοκτήτες τεράστιων εκτάσεων στο Ιόνιο ενώ προηγουμένως στη ζωή τους δεν είχαν δει ποτέ θάλασσα. Ο πόλεμος κυβέρνησης και αντιπολίτευσης στα Τίρανα για τα φιλέτα της Χιμάρας στο Ιόνιο συνεχίζεται σε βάρος ομογενών που βλέπουν τις περιουσίες τους να χάνονται.

Η βίλα στην οποία διαμένει ο Ελληνας πρεσβευτής Λεωνίδας Ροκανάς στο συγκρότημα «Rolling Hills Luxury Residences»

«Δυστυχώς είναι σε πλήρη εξέλιξη η απόπειρα Αλβανών καταπατητών-μεγαλοκατασκευαστών να υφαρπάξουν περιουσίες Ελλήνων της Χιμάρας, με τις ευλογίες της κυβέρνησης Ράμα και τις πλάτες του δημάρχου Γιώργου Γκόρου», λέει στο «ΘΕΜΑ» ο κ. Φρέντυ Μπελέρης, πρόεδρος του παραρτήματος Χιμάρας της «Ομόνοιας» και επικεφαλής της αντιπολίτευσης στον εκεί δήμο, σημειώνοντας με νόημα ότι ο προκάτοχος του σημερινού δημάρχου -κ. Βασίλης Μπολάνος- είχε αντιμετωπίσει σθεναρά και με επιτυχία τις απόπειρες των Αλβανών επιχειρηματιών να καταλάβουν τις ιδιοκτησίες των ομογενών. Οι μεθοδεύσεις της κυβέρνησης Ράμα στην περιοχή της Χιμάρας εξυπηρετούνται πλήρως με την ελεγχόμενη δημοτική αρχή που εξελέγη πριν από έναν χρόνο, μετά την εφαρμογή του αλβανικού «Καλλικράτη» και τη συνένωση με το Λούκοβο, στο οποίο επίσης κατοικούν ομογενείς, αλλά και τον μουσουλμανικό Δήμο Βράνιστας που έκρινε και το αποτέλεσμα της κάλπης. Στόχος, ο σταδιακός αφελληνισμός της Χιμάρας, όπως συνέβη με τον ελληνισμό των Αγίων Σαράντα και του Αργυροκάστρου. Η επίσημη Αλβανία αναγνωρίζει ότι κατοικούν Ελληνες μόνο στην αναγνωρισμένη «μειονοτική ζώνη» στην περιοχή του Αργυροκάστρου, που αποτελείται από 99 χωριά. Οι Ελληνες της Χιμάρας και της Κορυτσάς θεωρούνται για τα Τίρανα… ελληνόφωνοι Αλβανοί. Να σημειωθεί ότι έως το 1945 η Χιμάρα ήταν επισήμως αναγνωρισμένη από την Αλβανία ως ελληνική μειονοτική ζώνη.

Το εσωτερικό της κατοικίας του Ελληνα πρεσβευτή

Gunning for Lebanon?

Gunning For Lebanon?

It sounds like joke: Greek Coast guards have seized Turkish vessel loaded with Lebanese weapons.

Gunning For Lebanon?

Media reports revealed that the vessel headed from Turkish Izmir port to Lebanon and was stopped by Greek coast guards. Large ammounts of weapons and ammunition were found on board of the ship. Greek authorities opened an investigation.

Greece's Coast Guards Seize Turkish Ship Carrying Weapons to Lebanon

Greek Coast guard officers stand outside their vessel at the port of Kalymnos island. (File)

© AP Photo/ Dimitris Drosos

Turkish media reported that the Greek Coast Guards stopped and confiscated a Turkish ship carrying weapons to Lebanon.

The incident took place on Monday. The ship reportedly departed from the port of Izmir on February 4 and was loaded with six containers, two of which contained weapons and ammunition. Greek authorities arrested all crew members, among them six Syrians, one Indian and four Lebanese.
Turkish authorities were repeatedly accused of providing weapons to radical groups, including those in Syria. The supplies are reported to have occurred in various forms, including deliveries using columns with humanitarian aid.
According to some experts, relations between Turkey and Greece may further deteriorate amid a recent NATO operation in the Aegean Sea, which is aimed at stopping the influx of refugees to Europe. The Aegean Sea islands have been a major source of tension between Greece and Turkey since the 1970s, bringing the two countries to the brink of military confrontation in 1987 and 1996.

Turkey’s mosque project in Albania on schedule, says engineer

TIRANA – Anadolu Agency

A mosque in the Albanian capital, Tirana, that will be one of the largest in the Balkans is continuing on schedule, according to an engineer working on the project.

Hüseyin Şentürk, an engineer involved in the Namazgah Mosque’s construction located next to the parliament building in Tirana, recently said: “People come and tell us how happy they are with the [construction of the] mosque.”

Şentürk said the construction was on schedule, adding that they were currently trying to complete the underground part of the project, which includes a car park, conference hall, library and offices.

A “co-existence museum” is also being planned in the mosque.      

Turkey’s Diyanet Foundation (TDV), a foundation functioning under the Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet), is behind the project. The construction of the mosque on a 10,000-square-meter parcel of land was inaugurated in May 2015 with the participation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Namazgah Mosque will put an end to praying on the main Boulevard Martyrs of the Nation during Muslim religious ceremonies, where the current Et’hem Bey Mosque can hold up to only 60 people at the same time to worship.

İsmail Palakoğlu, the head of the TDV, said in 2014 that the mosque would have four minarets and that a total of 4,500 people would be able to pray at the same time.

Almost 60 percent of Albania’s more than 2.8 million population is Muslim of either the Sunni or Bektaşi persuasion.

Drug Report of State Department: Albania is a main source of marijuana

In the latest report of the US State Department for the fight against drugs, Albania remains a major source country for production of marijuana and a transit point for shipments of cocaine and heroin with final destination the European markets.

The report said that in 2015, the authorities conducted a series of arrests and seized a large quantity of drugs from manufacturers and traffickers operating in the country, continuing the trend of 2014. This success is mainly due to the continued cooperation with the Italian authorities and increasing the engagement of the political leadership and the police.

With the exception of cannabis, Albania is not leading in the production of other narcotics, basic chemical substances or synthetic drugs. Albania's government does not keep statistics on drug use. With the exception of marijuana, other drug use is not common, the State Department report states.

According to the Albanian police, the report said, during the first 10 months of 2015, 6.87 tons of marijuana were seized, 689.815 marijuana plants in an area of ​​44 hectares were destroyed. Authorities also seized 55.3 kg of heroin and 26.4 kg of cocaine, reports Voice of America.

Albania continues to receive aid from the United States and the European Union to improve its capabilities in the fight against narcotics.

Minister of Interior Affairs, Sajmir Tahiri said that the report is an evaluation for the work of every police officer, while democrat MP, Flamur Noka said that the report confirms that the state is connected to drug gangs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Turkey Objects to German Defense Minister Landing on Greek Island

The Turkish government wants to prevent Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen from landing on the Greek island of Lesbos on March 6, arguing that the region is a demilitarized zone, which is closed to any military transport, Greece's Skai TV reported.

© Wikipedia/ Owen King
Get short URL
Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1139)

The Turkish government wants to prevent Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen from landing on the Greek island of Lesbos on March 6, arguing that the region is a demilitarized zone, which is closed to any military transport, Greece's Skai TV reported.

Ankara, according to Skai TV, has also refused to allow the German minister to visit the Turkish coast to assess the situation with refugees and human traffickers. Germany has received 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015 alone – a record for any European country – and is trying to enlist Ankara's support in helping to curb immigration from the Middle East to the EU.
The media outlet described Turkey's decision as a "provocative action". 
After visiting Lesbos, Ursula von der Leyen is expected to take a NATO helicopter to the German supply ship Bonn, which participates in the bloc's mission to tackle migrant smugglers in the Aegean Sea.
Refugees and migrants massed onto an inflatable boat reach Mytilene, northern island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on February 17, 2016
A similar incident took place in February when Turkey refused to allow Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to land on Rhodes for refueling en route to Iran. The military aircraft had to change course after Ankara announced that it would not let the plane into its airspace if it landed in the demilitarized area. The aircraft then reached Iran by flying over Egypt, Cyprus, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The Aegean Sea islands have been a major source of tension between Greece and Turkey since the 1970s, bringing the two countries to the brink of military confrontation in 1987 and 1996.

Albania's crucial role in the refugee crisis

Syrian refugees cross a bridge in Gjirokaster, Albania, near the Kakavia border crossing from Greece, in a 2014 photograph.
Syrian refugees cross a bridge in Gjirokaster, Albania, near the Kakavia border crossing from Greece, in a 2014 photograph.


In a previous article, “The Balkans and migratory flows” (, 26/10/2015) we glimpsed at the Austrian policy of erecting walls and the risk of accumulation of refugees on Greek territory, and especially in the Balkans, with consequences for regional geopolitical security and stability. With the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) closed, Greece appears to be isolated from the neighborhood and the European mainland. While the problems are growing, the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras trying to improvise a solution and Brussels still looking, Greece seems again favored by geography.

Among Greece’s long Greek borders with its Balkan neighbors, only the Greek-Albanian one cannot be controlled because it is mountainous and with a large number of accessible paths. Therefore, the government of Edi Rama may verbally express its opposition to the possibility of migration flows going through Albania but it is impossible to implement such a decision. The reasons are obvious. Nobody can stop the peaceful determination of populations to move. Given Skopje’s policy of closed borders and the willingness of immigrants to move northwards, as well the failure of each transit country to provide them with the basics for a temporary stay, it should be viewed as certain that in the coming days and weeks, with the arrival of spring, the migrants now trapped in Greece will head towards the border with Albania. What will happen then?

Albania will try to stop this flow through the Greek border stations of Krystalopigi, Mertziani and Kakavia – but in vain. No wall can be erected on uneven terrain. Parallel paths are not patrolled because they are numerous, anomalous and extensive. Therefore, the Albanian authorities will not be able to stop the flows peacefully. Albanians know this and although the prime minister has expressed his opposition, he has already ordered the construction of two reception centers for a total of 10,000 immigrants in Korce and Gjirokaster.

Such a development would essentially mean the cancellation of the Austrian refugee policy in the Balkans because immigrants will be able to access the FYROM territories and Kosovo from Albania and therefore to move northwards to Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia.

Additionally, the problem will be internationalized once more and put more pressure on Brussels to find an effective solution. Austria is expected to attempt to erect a new wall to the north, but to no avail, because the problem will be shared not only by Greece but the whole of the Balkans.

The Albanian corridor can give Greece a chance to gain some time in dealing with the influx from Turkey, to relieve the Greek-FYROM border and to provide the EU with a final opportunity to prove that it is a union of friends and not enemies.

* Dr Evangelos Venetis is a specialist in refugee and migration studies. The coordinator of the Middle East Research Project of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) recently joined the Refugee Studies Program at the Stavros Niarchos Center for Hellenic Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

Turkey Blocks NATO Ships from Tackling Refugee-Smuggler Boats in Territorial Waters

By Philip Chrysopoulos -
Mar 2, 2016
Greek Reporter

668809D238B4D249A8BEE7162B0EFC9ATurkey blocked NATO ships from patrolling its territorial waters in order to intercept people-smuggler boats carrying refugees to the Greek islands.

It has been previously agreed that NATO warships would be patrolling Aegean waters between Greece and Turkey in an effort to deter human traffickers from carrying refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece on their way to northern Europe.

NATO warships located in the Aegean under German command are to monitor the movements of smugglers. However, according to an AFP report citing diplomatic sources from Brussels, Ankara said “no” to the demands of the German command of the NATO naval mission.  This claim was confirmed by a second diplomat.

The first diplomatic source commented that this problem was known from “the beginning” and further revealed that Turkey wants the German commander, Rear Admiral Jörg Klein, to travel to Ankara and outline the area where the NATO vessels will be deployed.

Furthermore, the same source pointed out that despite the assurances of Greek and German officials, Turkey appears to have little to no interest in receiving refugees rescued by NATO during the operations.

Divorce Czechoslovakia-Style: Can Kiev and Donbass Call it Quits?

Map of Ukraine

© Flickr/ Prachatai

The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine has suggested an “amicable divorce” a-la Czechoslovakia as a way to end the long-running conflict with Kiev.

Normandy Format Meeting
© REUTERS/ Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service
If Kiev agrees to a peaceful breakup with Donbass, just like the Czechs and Slovaks once did, it would be the easiest way to end this war,” Alexander Zakharchenko said. The idea was readily echoed by Jaroslav Doubrava, the deputy head of the Czech Senate’s European Affairs committee, and a onetime observer at the local elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
“Judging by my personal experience of visiting these two regions, I can say that this is the only viable and sensible way of ending the conflict after all the crimes Kiev committed there… At the height of the war in Donbass I kept saying that after all that nightmare keeping the eastern regions part of Ukraine was now a mission impossible,” Jaroslav Doubrava told Sputnik.
When asked to comment on Alexander Zakharchenko’s alternative option of a confederative treaty which, if implemented in good faith by both sides with due regard for the legitimate interests of the people of Donbass, would effectively end the war, Doubrava said that it had already been turned down by [President Petro] Poroshenko.
“This leaves Donbass no option other than demarcate the border of the de-facto independent Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,” Jaroslav Doubrava stated.
He added that the DPR and LPR would be better off as independent republics than as part of their Ukrainian stepmother, “because people always take better care for what is their own.”
When asked about the prospects of a “peaceful divorce” ever happening, Jaroslav said that the Kiev authorities who came to power as a result of a coup, ought to get back to the negotiatiing table.
“There is no way they can resolved this conflict by force. They need to repent for the crimes they committed in Donetsk and only then discuss a “divorce.”
 “But I fear that Kiev and Donbass will be able to do this the way the Czechs and Slovaks once did after all the blood that has been spilled there,” Jaroslav Doubrava said.