Saturday, April 2, 2016

Turkish Military Stands By Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz

Turkey supports Azerbaijan in the renewed Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The town of Stepanakert in the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic: Azerbaijan to Blame for 'Unexpected' Consequences of Conflict
BAKU (Sputnik) – Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz on Saturday backed Azerbaijan in its renewed struggle with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
"Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and Turkey’s Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, as well as the chief of [Turkish] General Staff Hulusi Akar held a phone conversation and discussed the current situation. The Turkish side expressed support for Azerbaijan," Azeri Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargakhly told RIA Novosti.

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Armenian-held area flared overnight after heavy fighting was reported on the line of contact. Both nations accused each other of starting the fighting in violation of the 1994 ceasefire.

Friday, April 1, 2016

PM says Serbia "at crossroads"; criticizes Hague Tribunal

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told a press conference after a meeting his cabinet on Friday in Belgade that Serbia is "at a crossroads."

SOURCE: B92 FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2016 | 13:48
 Vucic addresses his news conference in Belgrade on Friday (Tanjug)
Vucic addresses his news conference in Belgrade on Friday (Tanjug)
Vucic addresses his news conference in Belgrade on Friday (Tanjug)
"Serbia is at a crossroads, political and economic, after years that passed in senseless wars, plundering privatizations, corruption, and a multi-year recession. We were able to stop a further decline of the country, we have excellent results in the first quarter of this year," said Vucic, and continued:

"In the first three months there has been no new borrowing, but not because of our excellent results, but because of the changes in the euro-dollar exchange rate, so public debt has been reduced by 316 million."

However, he continued - "new political turbulences then came before the Hague (Tribunal), which is ending the political rather than legal role that it had."

"One of the three goals was to lead to reconciliation of the peoples in the area of ​​the former Yugoslavia that has lost tens of thousands of its sons and daughters in bloody conflicts. That basic goal has not been fulfilled in any way. The whole time it (tribunal) has been hammering nails into the coffin of the sleeping Balkans," said the prime minister.

Vucic pointed out that the Hague Tribunal passed many judgments "that others did not speak about" as well as those that have not been spoken about in Serbia, which according to him "best paints the Hague Tribunal's picture - that it act as a political court, not as a legal institution."

According to Vucic, after the announcing of the guilty verdict in the Karadzic trial his government "came out with a most responsible, most clear, and most serious response for the public."

"Others in the region, and other officials in Europe did not. We said that we would not go into the content of the verdict. We said only one sentence, that we will not allow the judgment to undermine the Serb Republic and Serbia. These are our legal and constitutional obligations," said Vucic.

He added that only 48 hours after this "reconciliatory message, when we created no drama - we only said that Serbia is important as a state and the RS as an entity" came "the attacks on Serbia."

The prime minister further stated said that Serbia "responded to the reactions to the Karadzic verdict, and said they were not in the spirit of reconciliation, peace and stability in the Balkans.

"This story is over as far as we are concerned, and we are still ready to talk to Bosniaks, and to believe in a future where there can be no place for political, legal or any other judgment against Serbs," he said, adding that "some found the 40-year prison sentence too little, and attacked Serbia because this punishment was handed down to Karadzic."

"1,040 years would not have been enough for them," said Vucic.

The prime minister then commented on the acquittal of Vojislav Seselj to say it was "clearly a political process from the beginning - when they were looking for him, and when he was released, and when they were looking for him again."

"Can you imagine what kind of disgrace we would have been exposed to had we acted on their orders 25 days ago when they wanted him back, and they knew already what the verdict would be. I am proud that the government protected the laws and the dignity of the Republic of Serbia and the dignity of citizen Seselj. I have no personal animosity towards him, I wish him and his family all the best, we have a problem with his policy, not with the verdict. We will oppose his policy that pushes Serbia into the past and instability, troubles and problems and economic woes," said Vucic.

He then told "citizens of Serbia and Serbs wherever they are" that "we will hardly see others respect our victims the way we have an obligation to respect theirs."

"I am quite certain that nobody will be held responsible for the murder of the four children on Petrovacka Cesta (road)," he said, in reference to the killings that occurred during Croatia's 1995 Operation Storm that targeting Serbs, and added:

"It is known that the planes took off from Split, nobody has been held responsible for that, and as long as it is their business, nobody will be. We need to learn that our tears have their parents only in Serbia. That remains ours and we remember our victims, but it is important to show the Serbian largeness, that we can and know how to talk to everyone."

"We want to understand others, as we waited and hoped that others would us. We no longer expect that. We will not make ourselves seem worse than we are for that reason. It would represent a great danger for Serbia if irresponsible forces gained the support of the people. I am not speaking only about elections, but also about the streets," said Vucic.

According to him, it is "disastrous that some leaders offend minorities only because they belong to another party."

"Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians, have a right to belong to any other party. We must wash such stains from our face in the future," he said.

The prime minister then said that "his call" was perhaps the last warning to citizens because he "knows well how something can be easily appealing and how something can easily and quickly derail one and lead one into the abyss."

"Will I be hearing from others, 'we know where you were 20 years ago'... that shows they live in the past and cannot switch to a new gear," said Vucic.

Vucic also advised "people" to consider "whether they want Serbia to be stable and safe, or go back to the time of uncertainty."

Speaking about the Seselj ruling. Vucic said that the leader of the SRS party had spent "11 or 12 years there (in Hague's detention)" and that it would be "ridiculous to talk about the Hague's attitude toward him."

"Did they know when elections would be held as they announced the content of the verdict... they knew, just as they knew its contents," said the prime minister.

Greece to move forward with deportations despite concerns

01/04/2016 - 16:18:32Back to Refugee Crisis World Home

Greece is pressing ahead with plans to start deporting migrants and refugees back to Turkey next week, despite mounting concern from the UN and human rights organisations that Syrians could be denied proper protection.
Parliamentarians in Athens are due to back fast-tracked draft legislation to allow the returns to begin as soon as Monday.
The operation would see migrants and refugees who arrived on Greek islands after March 20 put on boats and sent back to Turkey.

Greek officials said deportations are likely to start from the island of Lesbos, with migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries whose asylum claims are considered inadmissible.

The transport is set to be carried out under heavy security escort - with one police minder for every migrant - using buses that will travel from island detention camps and are likely to board straight onto chartered vessels.
The imminent deportations, which are backed by the European Union following its recent agreement with Turkey, have triggered more violence at detention camps in Greece.
Authorities on the Greek island of Chios said several hundred people broke out of an overcrowded detention camp and headed to the island's main town on foot, following overnight clashes between Syrian and Afghan detainees that left five people injured.
The clashes are the latest in a series of violent incidents at shelters and gathering points across Greece, where more than 50,000 migrants and refugees are stranded following Balkan border closures supported by the EU.
More than 10,000 of those stranded remain camped out at the Greek-Macedonian border, ignoring calls by the government to move voluntarily to organised shelters.
In Geneva, Switzerland, the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, urged Greece and Turkey to provide further safeguards for asylum seekers before the returns begin, noting that conditions are worsening by the day for more than 4,000 people being held in detention on Greek islands.
Amnesty International, which has strongly opposed the EU-Turkey agreement from the start, said it has evidence of Turkish authorities rounding up Syrians and sending them back across the border to their conflict-torn country.
The group said Turkey has been expelling around 100 men, women and children on an almost daily basis since mid-January.
Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen said: "EU leaders have wilfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees."
Greek officials did not respond to the criticism directly, but insisted the rights of detained asylum seekers are being protected.
Migration affairs minister Ioannis Mouzalas told the Greek parliament: "I assure you that we will strictly observe human rights procedures, not what people are inventing, but what is required under the circumstances.
"I was yesterday in Geneva yesterday, and the UNHCR tweeted positive things about our country."

Albania will protect its external borders


By Ilir Meta / The refugee current crisis is a problem that affects all of Europe, so it requires a pan-European approach and a full coordination.

Its solution must be an absolute priority for all of Europe, because its potentially destabilizing consequences could be incalculable.

For this reason, even Albania is ready to contribute with what it can. Every state has the right to control its borders and decide on whether to admit asylum seekers or economic migrants. But every state has the obligation to provide humanitarian assistance to people in need.

The current crisis will last as long as there will be violence in their countries of origin. When violence ceases, the phase of reconstruction of these countries will begin. If the country of migration will be far away from their home country, their possibility of return will be lower.

This is another reason to reflect, because such massive waves of uncontrolled migration because of war, bring negative consequences in the long term. The risk to have among them terrorists who enter Europe is real. The recent events in Paris and Brussels have proved this.

Albania has deep understanding of what is happening, because of our experience in the '90 or during the Balkan crisis. Over a million Albanians fled from Albania and began a new life in European countries. We welcomed Kosovars during the war in 1998.

But modern-day Europe is no longer the same. Today nationalist currents are becoming more and more powerful, with countries often taking decisions at the expense of refugees. Meanwhile, these people are at a crossroads and are leaving their countries because of the terrible circumstances. Humanism and solidarity in Europe must be stronger than fear.

Over the past year, more than a million refugees left their countries and arrived in the EU via Greece. This number exceeds the capacities and resources of the countries of transit, particularly those countries that are not yet members of the EU.

And we should be clear that as long as corridors through the Balkans remain blocked, they may soon be targeted by other means, to attempt passage through Albania to the north or crossing the Adriatic to Italy. They are already near our borders.

As a European country, Albania will assume its responsibility towards its citizens as well as the EU, as will provide assistance to people in need. In cooperation with the EU and with our neighbors we will take preventive measures to cope with such a situation. Meanwhile, Albania will act proactively to avoid an uncontrolled migration flow.

We are working with our partners to strengthen our capacity for border control. But we will not build walls. We must also take measures against the real risk of terrorist infiltration.

Meanwhile we are taking steps to strengthen the capacity for registration and a more complete verification of those who may enter our country. For this, it is necessary to have a better exchange of information and cooperation of law enforcement agencies, as well as a broader support from the EU.

Any transit country affected by migratory flows must be able to verify that all persons who appear as Asylum seekers from war countries are really who they claim to be. We must be able to ensure that these persons have no connection with terrorist groups and this requires a quick exchange of bio-metric data in the EU countries.

This great humanitarian crisis that is getting worse every day more and more can be resolved only with the active participation of the great powers. It belongs to the US to take a leading role in the international efforts for a solid and long-term solution of conflicts in countries in crisis.

Meanwhile, the European Union must work with determination, so that refugees in Greece and Turkey can stay in humane conditions. Desperate people, react with despair. There may be cases of outbreak of violence if large groups of migrants are found trapped and hopeless. And this is happening.

Therefore it is very important for those people who seek asylum, to be admitted to a place closer to their country of origin. This will increase the chance of an immediate return to their countries as soon as situation changes. For this reason we welcome in particular the newly completed agreement between the EU and Turkey.

The Balkan countries have common strategic interests and should cooperate to cope with this crisis through a constructive approach. For us in the Balkans, it is very important that the US maintains its presence as a decisive factor for security and stability in the entire region. But the European Union should not stop the process of expansion due to the current challenges.

We consider that we, as candidate countries must find a Europe-wide solution to these problems and we are determined to do everything possible so that this humanitarian crisis does not become a threat to our common security. /

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hague Tribunal finds Seselj not guilty on all charges

(Getty Images, file)

The Hague Tribunal has acquitted Vojislav Seselj on all counts of the indictment against him in the first-instance ruling announced on Thursday.

SOURCE: B92 THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2016 | 15:05

The leader of the SRS party stood accused of committing crimes against humanity and violating the laws or customs of war.

Presiding Judge Jean Claude Antonetti said the Hague Prosecution failed to present enough legal arguments to supports its allegation that Seselj committed crimes against humanity.

The tribunal also announced that the prosecution failed to prove the existence of a joint criminal enterprise. The Trial Chamber made a unanimous decision only on one of the nine counts of the indictment.

"Vojislav Seselj is a free man," Judge Antonetti said as he concluded the reading of the verdict.

The summary of the judgment is available here (PDF file hosted on the website)

Four years after the end of the trial, the Trial Chamber announced its judgment to Seselj, who was accused of crimes against Croats and Muslims in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Serbian province of Vojvodina, in the period between 1991 and 1993.

Seselj turned himself in to the Hague Tribunal in early 2003 and was kept in detention there until late 2014 when he was granted provisional release on medical grounds. He was not present in the Hague courtroom today for the reading of the verdict.

The Hague prosecution asked the court to find Seselj guilty and send him to jail for 28 years, while in his final argument Seselj asked to be acquitted.

The indictment charged Seselj of nine counts of individual criminal responsibility for persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, forcible deportation, murder, torture, wanton destruction, destruction, or willful damage to religious and educational institutions, as well as plunder of public and private property.

The indictment alleges that Seselj planned, ordered, instigated, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of these crimes.

According to the indictment, Seselj was "propagating a policy of uniting 'all Serbian lands' in a homogeneous Serbian state, which he referred to as 'Greater Serbia'."

Alleged Killer of Russian Su-24 Pilot Detained in Turkey

 Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber

© Sputnik/ Dmitriy Vinogradov

16:57 31.03.2016
According to Dogan News Agency, the alleged killer of the pilot of the downed Russian Su-24 flight has been detained in Turkey.

The man, who is believed to be responsible for the Russian pilot's death, is identified as Alparslan Chelik.

​According to Hurriyet newspaper, Chelik was detained Wednesday evening in Izmir. Alparslan Chelik has reportedly been fighting against the government forces in Syria.

No official explanation for his arrest has been circulated yet, but Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Moscow will study the reports on Celik's arrest and closely follow the developments.

The body of the pilot of Russia's Su-24 bomber that was shot down by Turkey last week has arrived at the Chkalovsky Airport near Moscow

The Russian Su-24 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 jet over Syria on November 24, falling 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Turkish border. The crew of the plane ejected and one pilot was killed by fire from the ground, according to the Russian General Staff. The co-pilot survived.
Su-24 pilot Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov killed by fire from the ground after ejecting from a Russian Su-24 jet downed by Turkey over Syria was posthumously awarded with a Gold Star medal, Russia's highest honorary title.


Turkey Not Fully Ready to Take Refugees Back from Greece


By Philip Chrysopoulos -  Mar 31, 2016

Greek Reporter

Five days before Turkey is due to begin taking back illegal asylum seekers from Greece as it has agreed with the European Union, neither side is fully ready, says a EurActiv report.

The returns of migrants who crossed to Greece from Turkey are to begin on April 4. However, there is uncertainty over how many will be sent back, how they will be processed, and where they will be housed. The plan is at risk of being overwhelmed by the continuous flow of migrants to Greece, where arrivals rose sharply on Wednesday.

Both countries have to make arrangements regarding transport of the migrants, but at the same time there is no clarity as to how Turkey will treat non-Syrian refugees.

Rights groups and European politicians have raised concerns whether Turkey is a “safe third country” or not, thereby questioning the legality of the European Union-Turkey deal. EU has advised its member states to portray Turkey as a safe third country.

According to EurActiv, the first returnees are expected to be taken by boat from the Greek islands to Dikili, north of the city of Izmir on Turkey’s Aegean coast. However, it remains unclear where they will be housed over the long-term.

“Our worries are that not just Dikili but the whole region’s infrastructure is not ready if they stay here – whether it’s health or education facilities. We have expressed these worries,” Dikili’s mayor, Mustafa Tosun, told Reuters.

According to Habertürk newspaper quoting district governor Mustafa Nazmi Sezgin, the plan was not to set up a refugee camp but just a registration center, from where refugees would be sent on to Izmir or other areas within 24 hours.

Kerem Kinik, vice president of the Turkish Red Crescent, said his organization was preparing a camp with 5,000 places in the province of Manisa east of Izmir after being asked for help by the government, although it would not be ready immediately.

“We will host the first returnees most probably in hotels, seaside holiday camps,” he told Reuters. Some might then be housed in refugee camps, but others were likely to return to the Turkish provinces where they had previously settled, he said.

Turkey claims that it has spent almost 10 billion dollars since the start of the Syrian conflict, much of it on refugee camps close to the border with Syria whose standards have won international praise. A new law gives migrants permission to work in Turkey, although there are limitations on where and in which sectors.

According to the report, Turkey’s refugee camps house fewer than 300,000 of its migrant population, who mostly fend for themselves. Critics of the EU-Turkey deal fear some of the returnees from Greece will also end up forced to take illegal jobs or beg on the streets.

Under the pact, Ankara will take back all migrants and refugees who cross to Greece illegally by sea. In return, the EU will resettle thousands of legal Syrian refugees directly from Turkey – one for each Syrian returned from the Greek islands.

At the same time, Turkey is to send non-Syrians who do not meet asylum criteria back to their countries of origin, under readmission agreements which Ankara already has with some states and is negotiating with 14 others – including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea and Somalia – according to foreign ministry officials.

Western Balkans foreign ministers gather in Albania

Western Balkans foreign ministers gather in Albania

Non-EU Balkan countries will discuss connectivity and refugee crisis during their two-day meeting

World Bulletin / News Desk

The two-day meeting of foreign ministers from Western Balkans region has begun in Durres city, a coastal city near the Albanian capital Tirana, which will discuss the ongoing refugee crisis among a host of other issues.

The Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, will attend the meeting, which ends Thursday, alongside foreign ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

The meeting will discuss “improved infrastructure and connectivity in the region, focusing on transport and energy,” a statement posted on an official EU website said.
Local media in Albania said the refugee crisis in Balkans and Europe will also be a key point on the agenda. Borders in Balkan states were shut down one after the other in efforts to stem the flow of refugees. Thousands of refugees now remain stuck on the Greek side of the Greek-Macedonian border.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek and the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Vincenzo Amendola, are also participating in the meeting.

Italy has been increasingly concerned about a possible alternative route for refugees in Greece, who could reach Europe through Albania and cross the Adriatic Sea towards the Italian coast.
The meeting comes months ahead of the Conference of Western Balkan States to be held in France this summer, where heads of government, foreign affairs and economy ministers of six non-EU Balkan countries will meet with EU leaders to discuss joint projects and the region’s EU integration.
The summits are being held within the framework of the “Berlin Process”, which since August 2014 has been demonstrating strong political support for the European perspective of Western Balkans.
- Albania’s EU integration process -

Hahn is expected to spend half of his three-day visit to Albania trying to push for reforms that aim to enable the integration of the Balkan country in the EU.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Hahn met with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, President Bujar Nishani and Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta to discuss Albania’s EU integration process.
“I conveyed EU Commission’s full support for Albania’s EU integration process,” Hahn tweeted Wednesday following his meeting with Nishani.

Hahn and Rama also co-chaired an EU-Albania High Level Dialogue meeting on key reform priorities, including comprehensive justice reform.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Muslim country that loves America

By Frida Ghitis
 March 30, 2016

Story highlights
Frida Ghitis: U.S. foreign policy has found a merger of idealism and action in Albania
America's close ties with Albania have not prevented Washington from speaking honestly to it, she says

Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent. Follow her @FridaGhitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

Tirana, Albania (CNN)In this time of dispiriting headlines -- when Islamist terrorists target Christian children and their mothers on an Easter Sunday outing in Lahore, Pakistan; when an American presidential candidate advocates stopping Muslims from coming to the United States; when ISIS terrorists have just killed dozens in Brussels; when the very possibility of peaceful coexistence sometimes seems remote, there is a place that may just restore our faith in the future: Welcome to Albania.

The small Muslim majority nation in the Balkans, a region that until recently was synonymous with political turbulence, is a model of inter-religious coexistence. And it is also one of the most pro-American countries on Earth.

How did that happen? The answer contains important lessons for America on the global stage.
Walk around the airy streets of the capital Tirana and ask people what they think about the United States, and you will be met with almost uniform responses of admiration, respect and gratitude.
Just as uniform is the reaction to the U.S. presidential election.

Albanians say they are not following the primaries closely, but they react without hesitation when they hear the name "Trump," with some laughing, some shaking their heads, and others wincing. Most have not heard of Ted Cruz, and seem enthusiastic about a possible Hillary Clinton presidency. But when it comes to Trump, reaction is a mixture of disbelief, amusement and revulsion. "He seems a little crazy, but clever," Aurora Xhixha, a microbiologist, told me. "Selfish," is how Endri Hasanaj described him.
Discussing Trump's call to stop Muslims from entering the United States, Adelina Bego, a doctor, sounded pained. "Here in Albania we live together, without considering religious differences," she said. "We have seen America as the symbol of democracy, a symbol to emulate." Trump's proposal, she said, would destroy that symbol.
U.S. secretaries of state from James Baker to John Kerry have received rock star treatment in Albania. Republicans and Democrats are admired here by people of all parties and religions. And the reason, in a word, is integrity.
American foreign policy, which so often suffers from the conflict between ideals and practical considerations, has found here a merger of idealism and action.
Albanians fell in love with the United States in 1919, when world leaders gathered at the Paris Peace Conference to redesign the world after World War I dismantled the empires that had held sway over much of the planet. President Woodrow Wilson stood up for Albania, stopping a plan to dismember the country and hand the pieces to its neighbors, Italy, Greece and Serbia.
That's why in Tirana today you can see Wilson's statue on Wilson Square.
Albanians, who endured the most repressive of Communist dictatorships under Enver Hoxha, admired the United States as a beacon of freedom, approved of Ronald Reagan's "Tear down this wall" words, and deeply valued the efforts of the George H.W. Bush administration, which helped pave their path to NATO. In 1991, some 300,000 Albanians chanting "USA! USA!" came out to hear Secretary of State James Baker declare that "Freedom works."
Affection for America grew passionate when Bill Clinton led a NATO operation next door in Kosovo to save ethnic Albanians from a genocidal campaign. Clinton is a superstar in Kosovo and here. Years after that war, George W. Bush visited Tirana. Back then, Tirana's socialist mayor, Edi Rama, famously declared "Albania is for sure the most pro-American country in Europe, maybe even in the world." Rama is now Prime Minister.
America's close ties with Albania have not prevented Washington from speaking honestly to a country still riddled with problems, including entrenched corruption. But the consistency of American behavior, putting action behind its words, has given it a measure of moral authority among the people.
You might think a Muslim-majority country is a poor candidate to be America's cheerleader, but Albania is uniquely suited to emulate the United States. As much as two-thirds or more of the population is estimated to be Muslim, but coexistence, tolerance and patriotism figure much more prominently than religion.

Centuries of invasions and foreign conquerors have made the need to unite take precedence over private religious differences. And Muslims here have some of the most strikingly moderate views of any Muslim-majority country -- about one-fifth are Bektashi, followers of a moderate Sufi sect, while others follow Fethullah Gulen, U.S.-based Turkish advocate of modern democratic Islam. Most others are just as moderate. There are relatively few mosques in town, and I have only seen a handful of women wearing hijab, the veil, much less a burqa.

A member of the tiny Jewish community, meanwhile, told me he has seen no anti-Semitism here. Last December, when Prime Minister Rama visited Israel, with which Albania has very good relations, Israel's prime minister praised Albanians' actions during the Holocaust, noting that Albania is the only European country with more Jews after than before World War II.
During the Hoxha dictatorship, religion was forbidden and brutally suppressed. Today, the constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Albanians are proud of their tolerance and coexistence. True, extremism is not completely alien; a number of Albanians have joined ISIS. But extremism is undoubtedly rarer here than in the Middle East or even Western Europe.

Ultimately, the brand of Islam widely practiced in Albania is more easily compatible with America. But I believe it's clear that the foundation of Albanian affection for the United States is America's integrity in its actions toward Albania and the Albanian people, standing up for them, upholding America's own pluralistic democratic standards, and not apologizing for helping them gain their freedom.

In a presidential campaign season where the rhetoric has too often been about fear and looking inward, this is a lesson worth remembering.

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British foreign secretary: Russia is threat to everyone

(Beta/AP, file)
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says Russia represents a threat to everyone.


(Beta/AP, file)

The reason, Hammond explained, is the country's "disregard for international norms."

The British official made these comments in reply to a reporter's question, during a news conference on Wednesday in Tbilisi, Georgia.

According to Reuters, when asked "whether Russia still posed a threat to countries in the region such as Georgia and the Baltic states," he replied:

"Russia ignores the norms of international conduct and breaks the rules of the international system. That represents a challenge and a threat to all of us."

Also on Wednesday, reports cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying tat the Pentagon would deploy an armored brigade in Eastern Europe in February 2017.

The Pentagon announced this would take place within “continuous troop rotations of combat teams."

A U.S. European Command press release said that the purpose is to "demonstrate our strong and balanced approach to reassuring our NATO allies and partners in the wake of an aggressive Russia in Eastern Europe and elsewhere."

Tomorrow is a Big Day for The Hague, But Not for Me – Vojislav Seselj

Војислав Шешељ

21:46 30.03.2016
The Hague tribunal is set to give its verdict on charges against the leader of Serbia's Radical Party Thursday; Vojislav Seselj told Sputnik Serbia that "tomorrow is an ordinary day."

Ex-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic sits in the court of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague, the Netherlands March 24, 2016

ICTY Sentenced Ex-Bosnian Serb Leader Karadzic to 40 Years in Prison
On Thursday morning the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will give its verdict on charges against Vojislav Seselj, the leader of Serbia's Radical Party.
Seselj, who was first indicted by the ICTY in 2003, is currently in Serbia after being released from imprisonment in The Hague so that he could receive treatment for serious illness.

The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) leader told Sputnik Serbia that regardless of The Hague's judgment tomorrow he will not be paying attention to the verdict, and refuses to return to the Netherlands voluntary to serve any sentence the court gives him.

Instead, Seselj is focusing on the campaign trail ahead of parliamentary elections in Serbia on April 24, about which he is feeling "very optimistic."

"Tomorrow I'm carrying out party business, we have our regular press conference, a meeting in Pancevo at 17.00, and in the evening I'm appearing on a television program."

Russian Foreign Ministry Blasts the Hague for Unfairly Targeting Serbs in Prosecutions
Seselj said that if he is sentenced to prison he will not return to The Hague voluntarily, and shared a rumor he heard that he will be sentenced to 25 years in prison.
"I'm definitely not going voluntarily," he said.

"Bruno Vekaric (Serbia's deputy prosecutor for war crimes) told some Croatian officials while he was in The Hague and in Zagreb that he had found out that my punishment will be 25 years imprisonment. I informed the public about that straightaway. I don't know if his information is correct."

"The verdict doesn't interest me at all," said Seselj, adding that he does not believe it will have any consequences for Serbia.

"The country is not involved in any way in what I am charged with. They could sentence me to 100 years, the country wouldn't have any consequences."


Reform the judiciary to start membership talks, EU tells Albania

Source: Reuters - Wed, 30 Mar 2016 16:32 GMT
Author: Reuters

By Benet Koleka

TIRANA, March 30 (Reuters) - The European Union urged the Albanian government and opposition on Wednesday to set aside their differences and quickly pass a sweeping reform of the judiciary to secure the start of EU membership talks.

A candidate to join the EU since June 2014, NATO member Albania still needs to do more about crime and corruption, the public administration and human and property rights, but reforming a tainted judiciary is the EU's top priority.

While the government and opposition both back judicial reform, the opposition first wants to see implementation of a new law to kick anyone with a criminal record out of politics.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the Commission not only wanted the judiciary reform to pass soon but also see it heading in the right direction before the EU's executive body gave its opinion to EU member states on starting accession talks with Albania.

"Therefore we need now decisions very soon...this is decisive. Definitely my aim is to present to the European member states a positive report in the course of this year, to give them something on their hands to take a decision," Hahn said.

"Because I believe the next step should be the opening of negotiations in order to start this process," he told a news conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Hahn urged opposition and government to work together to serve the interest of citizens, saying EU accession must be a national effort.

With EU and U.S. expertise contributing, the reform aims to remove corrupt judges after vetting them and then to create an independent judiciary.

Rama, who had hoped parliament would pass the reform before Hahn's visit, appealed to the opposition to sit down to discuss the issue without conditions. (Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Adrian Croft/Mark Heinrich)

Albania Vies for Russian Travelers

2016-03-30 BY PHIL BUTLER


Hotel Yearbook 2036

The Albanian government has launched a campaign to attract Russian tourists diverted by crises in Turkey and Greece. Holiday makers in Russia face tough decisions in choosing Summer vacation destinations owing to the refugee and political crises. With the touristic season approaching, can Albania resorts attract Russians via this new campaign? Here are some pluses and minuses facing Albania’s touristic businesses.

Jonufer Beach

Jonufer Beach, Vlore, Albania (From godo godaj)
According to news from Balkan Insight, the Albanian National Tourism Agency is forging new cooperative arrangements with various Russian tour agencies. Ardit Collaku, director of the agency had this to offer:

“I just came from a visit to Moscow and Kazan where I meet my counterparts to discuss tourism. The Russians appreciate the fact that Albania is not touched by the refugee crises and we found a high level of interest on their side.”

Collaku told reporters of a delegation of Russian tourist agencies set to visit Albania next month. There are also plans to host Russian businesses to invest in Albania’s tourism industry as well. Albania has already dropped the visa regime for Russian visitors during Summer months, and Collaku emphasized the need to create a more continuous strategy to attract Russians to the country.

Ksamil Beach, Albania
Ksamil Beach (From Artur Malinowski)
Despite the initiative, problems exist for Russians wanting to visit Albania. Matilda Naco, Director of the Albanian Tourism Association, pointed to such hurdles as capacities, a lack of flights from Russia, and other infrastructure problems which need to be addressed.

In an interview with RT this month, Dmitry Gorin, Vice-President of the Russian Tour Operators also pointed out how “tricky” the Albanian’s task of attracting Russians is. Besides the fact most Russians may have already booked trips to these other countries, the small Muslim country has to compete with neighboring Montenegro and Greece as well as Bulgaria, Cyprus and Russia’s own Black Sea resorts.

“First and foremost, Albanian tour operators will have to motivate  Russians to visit Albania, Gorin said, recalling that there are no direct flights between Moscow and Tirana and that it would take a Russian tourist about eight hours to reach the destination.”


Dhërmi is one of the nine villages of the Himara region/municipality, in Albania. (From City & Architecture)

Furthermore, Russians are quite used to the all inclusive Turkish style of accommodations, which Albania’s compliment of providers is ill equipped to support. Albania’s best resorts are stunning and include; Saranda, Dhermi (above), Himara, Durres, Shengjin, Ksamil and Vlore, on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea coasts.

The Russian tour executive concluded with concerns over safety, another key hurdle he said could only be addressed by the appropriate recommending agencies. As for short term Albanian tourism campaigns, Gorin aptly noted that any Albania-Russia tourism growth will show minimal results. Attracting Russian tourists, like any other segment, is surely a long term proposition. As for individual resorts and hotels, marketing efforts are sure to provide better ROI in the short term.

Reaction to the Albanian Football Association for the raise of the Flag of Northern Epirus during the Match Greece - Montenegro

The National Association of Northern Epirus 1914 has made the statement for the declaration of the Albanian Football Association..

Incredible audacity distinguishes the complaint of the Albanian football association to FIFA in which reproaching the Greek side "appearance of a giant flag" in the stadium Karaiskakis during the match Greece - Montenegro, on 24 March, which it claims "causes a spirit of open hatred '.
As noted by the Football Association of Albania "these incidents are not related to football and breach of FIFA rules," and completes its complaint citing that "the competent committees of FIFA will have to take a stand on this nationalism promotion case and it has nothing to do with the spirit of Fair Play ».

The cause discomfort both the Albanian federation and united the Albanian press, is to post large flag of Northern Epirus by our Association during the recoil of Hymn to Freedom before the start of the friendly match, the eve of the national day of 25 March.

On all sides we note the following:

1st) The flag hung the flag of the autonomous state of Northern Epirus, which was recognized on May 17, 1914 by the Protocol of Corfu by the Great Powers and Albania itself, which has not been repealed. Thus a historical and internationally recognized local symbol has no right to claim that "causes the open hate spirit".

2nd) by the entire Albanian society (politicians, people, SMEs) celebrated freeboard displaying large flag with the map of "Greater Albania" over the stadium of Partizan Belgrade during the match Serbia - Albania on October 14, 2014.

This particular map, which the Albanian footballers defended with passion in the episodes that followed, containing territories of Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the next president of the Albanian democracy greeted majestically international country at presidential palace .
Obviously for Albanian these events had little to do with football and not violate the rules of FIFA ...

3rd) During the football match Albania - Greece in Tirana on September 4, 2004, Albanian fans in the stands waved banners which referred to "Tsamouria" and "United States of Albania" and waved flags and the puppet regime in northern Cyprus.

For the Albanians but these images are not a "nationalism promotion case" ...

4th) Before the start of the football match Skanderbeg - APOEL Korca on July 13, 2011 for the qualifiers of the Champions League, from the loudspeakers of the pitch sounded Albanian nationalist songs with irredentist references against Greece and other neighboring countries. Also attendance spectators hoisted placards that read "Cyprus is Turkish"!
But the Albanian side the specific moves were under the Fair Play spirit ...

These then all conclude that the Albanian side following as always regular "ours ours and yours ours' is bottomless impudence and not allowed to make objections of" hatred "and" fair play spirit, "he says and a wise Greek proverb "in glass houses should not throw stones."

We call while the Greek Football Association and the competent Greek authorities not to retreat in the face of Itami and unjustified Albanian challenges.

National Association of Northern Epirus 1914
March 29, 2016

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, DCWhy Trump's 'America First' Doctrine Could Actually Save Planet From WWIII

 Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, DC

© Flickr/ Gage Skidmore
19:26 29.03.2016
Last week, Donald Trump expanded on his views on foreign policy, including America's role in NATO, suggesting that it's time for the US to adapt the alliance to focus on terrorism, and renegotiate defense deals with its allies. For his part, veteran commentator Pat Buchanan says Trump's position has another advantage: preventing a nuclear war.

On Friday, The New York Times conducted an extensive, 100-minute interview with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, getting him to explain his views on foreign policy, from the use of American troops abroad to US engagement in the Middle East, to the drama in the Korean peninsula and on the South China Sea.

But the policy position which garnered the most talk, and the most criticism from domestic pundits, was his position on NATO, and his views on Washington's military commitments abroad in general.

In the interview, Trump emphasized that he believed that NATO was 'obsolete', because it was "formed many decades ago [when] we were a different country," and "there was a different threat," in the form of the Soviet Union, which no longer exists.

Donald Trump works at his desk.
Trump Calls for NATO Replacement, Shift Focus to Anti-Terrorism
"The point is the world is a much different place right now," Trump noted, adding that in his mind, the biggest threat to the world today, and one which NATO has been unsuccessful in combating, is terrorism.
The defense bloc, he suggested, "has to be changed" to include counterterrorism, and "from the standpoint of cost, because the United States bears far too much of the cost of NATO." The US, Trump said, can no longer afford to be "ripped off" paying for the security of its allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Trump's exposition on foreign policy has led to criticisms from all the usual suspects, from the neocons to the liberal interventionists. NYT columnist Roger Cohen offered one of the most strongly worded critiques, worryingly suggesting that a Trump presidency would mean the end of Pax Americana and the ushering in of a 'New World Disorder'.

In an op-ed piece written with apocalyptic overtones, Cohen suggested that Trump's outlook is exactly what power-hungry Russia and China want, i.e. to challenge the global peace and stability supposedly guaranteed by the United States since the post-WWII era.

"…His version of 'America First' – which interestingly converges with the view of many on the left who are convinced that the United States should stop policing the world – looks like a recipe for cataclysm," the columnist suggested.

US Army soldiers from 2-506 Infantry 101st Airborne Division
Most Americans Think US Should Stop Building Democracy in Islamic World
But not everyone is pessimistic. In an op-ed which has since gained widespread circulation in alternative media, paleo-conservative commentator Pat Buchanan proposed that far from being dangerous, Trump's nascent 'America First' doctrine may just be the key to keeping America and the world safe in the 21st century.
"Beltway media may be transfixed with Twitter wars over wives and alleged infidelities. But the ideas Trump aired should ignite a national debate over US overseas commitments – especially NATO," Buchanan suggests.

Making a foray into the post-WWII history of US foreign policy, the commentator remembered NATO's first supreme commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who "said in February 1951 of the alliance: 'if in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed.'"

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the media following victory in the Florida state primary on March 15, 2016 in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump Wants US to ‘Renegotiate’ Relationship With NATO
"As JFK biographer Richard Reeves relates, President Eisenhower, a decade later, admonished the president-elect on NATO. 'Eisenhower told his successor it was time to start bringing the troops home from Europe. 'America is carrying far more than her share of free world defense,' he said. It was time for other nations of NATO to take on more of the costs of their own defense.'"
Unfortunately, Buchanan notes, "no Cold War president followed Ike's counsel."

"…When the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 nations, a new debate erupted. The conservative coalition that had united in the Cold War fractured. Some of us argued that when the Russian troops went home from Europe, the American troops should come home from Europe."

"Time for a populous, prosperous Europe to start defending itself," the logic went. "Instead, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush began handing out NATO memberships, i.e., war guarantees, to all ex-Warsaw Pact nations and even Baltic republics that had been part of the Soviet Union."

View of the Moscow Kremlin towers, Alexander Garden and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
The Road to US National Security 'Still Runs Through Moscow'
In the 25+ years since the end of the Cold War, Buchanan notes, "the US [has] moved its 'red line' for war with Russia from the Elbe River in Germany to the Estonian-Russian border, a few miles from St. Petersburg."
The significance of this "historical provocation" is difficult to measure, the commentator suggests. "No Cold War president ever considered issuing a war guarantee of this magnitude, putting our homeland at risk of nuclear war, to defend Latvia and Estonia."

"Yet here was George W. Bush declaring that any Russian move against Latvia or Estonia meant war with the United States. John McCain wanted to extend US war guarantees to Georgia and Ukraine. This was madness born of hubris."

"And among those who warned against moving NATO onto Russia's front porch was America's greatest geo-strategist, the author of containment, George Kennan [who wrote]: 'expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era. Such a decision may be expected to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking."

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs for supporters at the conclusion of a Donald Trump rally at Millington Regional Jetport on February 27, 2016 in Millington, Tennessee

"Kennan," Buchanan notes, "was proven right. By refusing to treat Russia as we treated other nations that repudiated Leninism, we created the Russia we feared, a rearming nation bristling with resentment. The Russian people, having extended a hand in friendship and seen it slapped away, cheered the ouster of the accommodating Boris Yeltsin," and the rise of Vladimir Putin, "who would make Russia respected again."
Ultimately, Buchanan notes, the national debate which Trump has reignited over foreign policy should focus not on the cost of the US's NATO commitments, but on "the risks we are taking," which are of a kind "no Cold War president ever dared to take."

"Why should America fight Russia over who rules in the Baltic States or Romania and Bulgaria? When did the sovereignty of these nations become so vital we would risk a military clash with Moscow that could escalate into nuclear war?"

More broadly, Buchanan asks, "why are we still committed to fight for scores of nations on five continents?"

"Trump," Buchanan notes, "is challenging the mindset of a foreign policy elite whose thinking is frozen in a world that disappeared around 1991. He is suggesting a new foreign policy where the United States is committed to war only when we are attacked or US vital interests are imperiled. And when we agree to defend other nations, they will bear a full share of the cost of their own defense. The era of the free rider is over."

Soldiers from NATO countries attend an opening ceremony of military exercise 'Saber Strike 2015', at the Gaiziunu Training Range in Pabrade some 60km.(38 miles) north of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, June 8, 2015

"Trump's phrase, 'America First!' has a nice ring to it," the commentator concludes.
A veteran political commentator, columnist and writer, Pat Buchanan is also the former White House Communications Director for the Reagan Administration, and a former Republican presidential candidate.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Turkish-US Tensions 'Wouldn't Go Away Even if Obama Did Meet With Erdogan


 © AFP 2016/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais
20:31 29.03.2016
The current tensions in Turkish-US relations wouldn't dissipate even if the Turkish president did manage to meet with his US counterpart, Faruk Logoglu, the former Turkish ambassador to Washington, told Sputnik.

Over the weekend, US media reports suggested that President Obama had rejected a one-on-one meeting with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and refused to attend the opening ceremony of a mosque in Maryland built using Turkish money.

For his part, the Turkish president has denied knowledge of any cancelation, insisting, even as he departed for Washington on Tuesday, that he will meet with the American president.

Erdogan Says Expects to Meet With Obama During US Visit
Asked for comment on the confusing diplomatic back-and-forth, Osman Faruk Logoglu, the former Turkish ambassador to the United States, suggested that even if the two men were to meet, it would do nothing to lower the level of tensions between the two countries.
Speaking to Sputnik Turkey, Logoglu, who served as ambassador between 2001-2005, emphasized that the diplomatic spat is a reflection of deeper issues in Turkish-American relations, which have several underlying causes.

"There are differences on the Syrian conflict, differences with regard to the position of the PDS [the party of the Syrian Kurds], the [US] arrest of Riza Sarraf" (a Turkish businessman accused of corruption with ties to the Turkish president).

"Additionally, the ambassadors of many countries, including the US, are participating in numerous court proceedings being in Turkey in connection with the infringement of the freedom of the press and freedom of speech."

"All this is a reflection of those thorny issues that have ripened in relations between Turkey and America," Logoglu noted.

"In this sense," he suggested, "Erdogan's visit to Washington comes at a difficult period in bilateral relations between the two countries. The key point to pay attention to is whether Erdogan ends up meeting with Obama or not. Such a meeting could occur; however, in any case, it will not be able to remove the accumulated tensions between the two countries, because even if they do meet, the two leaders will each assert their own point of view. In such circumstances, building a constructive dialogue is not possible."

Ultimately, avoiding the topic of the Turkish Kurds, Logoglu suggested that differences on the Syrian issue may very well be the main cause of the deterioration of relations.
"Over the past two-three years, fundamental contradictions have grown between the two countries on the strategy for solving the Syrian crisis. Among them, the most important is the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Another divergence of opinion stems from the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization" (and the US does not).

"Moreover, a considerable role in the cooling of Turkish-US relations is the result of Turkey's inaction in the [US-led] anti-Daesh coalition, especially in the first months after its inception."

HSA president Father Kozmas Karavellas , and board members , at Capitol Hill Honoring congressman Gus Bilirakis and Mike Karloutsos with " Spiro Spiromilios" Patriot Award 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Τζορτζ Τένετ: Νέα καριέρα για τον Έλληνα πρώην διεθευντή της CIA ως «μυστικός» τραπεζίτης

Ο Τζορτζ Τένετ δεν θα περάσει σίγουρα στην ιστορία της CIA ως ένας από τους καλύτερους διευθυντές της κεντρικής υπηρεσίας πληροφοριών των ΗΠΑ. Για πολλούς όμως πράκτορες που υπηρέτησαν υπό τις διαταγές του ήταν ένας διευθυντής που κατάφερε να αναγεννήσει τη CIA, να την εκσυγχρονίσει και να αναβαθμίσει τα τμήματά της.

Ωστόσο, η αποτυχία των πρακτόρων της να προλάβουν και να αποτρέψουν τις επιθέσεις της 11ης Σεπτεμβρίου είναι αυτό που θα τον στοιχειώνει για πάντα, σύμφωνα με πρώην αξιωματούχους και άριστους γνώστες του σκοτεινού κόσμου των μυστικών υπηρεσιών. Μόνο που αυτά δεν φαίνεται να απασχολούν πλέον τον ομογενή με καταγωγή από την Χειμάρρα της Βορείου Ηπείρου, ο οποίος ακολουθεί μια εντελώς διαφορετική πορεία, αυτή του τραπεζίτη. Μια πορεία όμως που χαρακτηρίζεται από μυστικοπάθεια, αφού η επενδυτική τράπεζα Allen & Co είναι ίσως το πιο «μυστικό» χρηματοπιστωτικό ίδρυμα του κόσμου.

Δεν διαθέτει εταιρική ιστοσελίδα, δεν προβαίνει σε ανακοινώσεις ή στην έκδοση δελτίων Τύπου για τις δραστηριότητές της, ενώ η φήμη της ως του πιο «απόρρητου» και απρόσιτου επικοινωνιακά χρηματοπιστωτικού ιδρύματος στον κόσμο έχει γεννήσει ακόμη και αστικούς μύθους.

Κοινωνικός μεν, απολύτως εχέμυθος δε
Οπως ήταν αναμενόμενο, η έλευση του πρώην διευθυντή της CIA Τζορτζ Τένετ στη θέση του διευθύνοντος συμβούλου παρέμεινε επτασφράγιστο μυστικό για τουλάχιστον δύο χρόνια από τη στιγμή, καθώς τοποθετήθηκε σε αυτή τη θέση. Για πολλούς ήταν ο κατάλληλος άνθρωπος στην κατάλληλη θέση ειδικά από τη στιγμή που λόγω της θητείας του σε μία από τις πλέον νευραλγικές θέσεις των μυστικών υπηρεσιών των ΗΠΑ ήξερε πολύ καλά να κάνει ένα πράγμα: να κρατάει το στόμα του κλειστό, όπως και οι υπόλοιποι 135 υπάλληλοι της συγκεκριμένης τράπεζας, η οποία διαθέτει στο πορτφόλιο των πελατών της εταιρείες-κολοσσούς και δισεκατομμυριούχους των μίντια και της βιομηχανίας.

Πολλοί απ’ αυτούς είχαν γνωρίσει τον πρώην πανίσχυρο διευθυντή της CIA, τον μοναδικό μαζί με τον Αλεν Ντάλες με τόσο μακρόχρονη θητεία σε αυτή τη θέση, ο οποίος εκτός υπηρεσίας ήταν άλλος άνθρωπος και σαφώς πιο κοινωνικός. Οταν εγκατέλειψε τη CIA, στην ατζέντα του είχε κρατήσει επαφές με δυνατά ονόματα, ανάμεσά τους και δύο πλανητάρχες, οι οποίοι τον εκτιμούσαν παρά τα λάθη στα οποία υπέπεσε. Ολα αυτά διερευνήθηκαν ενδελεχώς από τον Χέρμπερτ Αλεν τζούνιορ, τον ισχυρό άνδρα αυτής της boutique investment bank, ο οποίος τον προσέλαβε αρχικά ως μέλος του διοικητικού συμβουλίου. Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, ο ομογενής από τη Χειμάρρα υπέγραψε συμβόλαιο εχεμύθειας το οποίο τον δεσμεύει να μην αποκαλύψει ποτέ οτιδήποτε έχει να κάνει με το αντικείμενο εργασίας του στη συγκεκριμένη τράπεζα, η οποία ειδικεύεται στις υψηλού επιπέδου διασυνδέσεις μεταξύ επενδυτών, top στελεχών της βιομηχανίας των ΜΜΕ και ισχυρών broker.

Ινκόγκνιτο και διακριτικός
Σχεδόν καθημερινά, ο Τένετ περνάει την είσοδο των γραφείων της Allen & Co στο νούμερο 711 της 5ης Λεωφόρου στο Μανχάταν συνήθως μόνος του, αφού οι εποχές που είχε προσωπική ασφάλεια ως διευθυντής της CIA έχουν παρέλθει. Το πρόγραμμά του περιλαμβάνει πληθώρα ραντεβού εντός και εκτός γραφείων, επαγγελματικά δείπνα και ταξίδια εκτός Νέας Υόρκης, οπότε η παρουσία του κρίνεται απαραίτητη. Παρόλο που του ζητήθηκε πολλές φορές να δώσει μια συνέντευξη για τη καινούρια του ζωή, αρνήθηκε ευγενικά μεν αλλά κατηγορηματικά, έχοντας εισπράξει αρκετή πικρία από τον τρόπο που τον αντιμετώπισαν τα ΜΜΕ των ΗΠΑ μετά την αποχώρησή του από την ενεργό δράση. Μίλησε μόνο τρεις ή τέσσερις φορές όταν έβγαλε το αυτοβιογραφικό βιβλίο του «At the center of the storm: My years in the CIA», για το οποίο δέχτηκε σκληρή κριτική. Διέψευδε, τότε, κατηγορηματικά ότι η Κεντρική Υπηρεσία Πληροφοριών της χώρας βασάνισε με διάφορες μεθόδους (εικονικό πνιγμό, ηλεκτροσόκ) Αραβες υπόπτους για τρομοκρατία σε μυστικές φυλακές ανά τον κόσμο. Ηταν η εποχή των περίφημων πτήσεων με τα αεροσκάφη της CIA, που μετέφεραν κρατούμενους σε διάφορες μυστικές τοποθεσίες στην Ευρώπη, προτού σταλούν στο στρατόπεδο X-Ray στο Γκουαντάναμο της Κούβας.

Δυστυχώς για τον ίδιο η επιβεβαίωση για όλα τα παραπάνω ήρθε στις 9 Δεκεμβρίου του 2014, όταν η επιτροπή της Γερουσίας που ερευνούσε τις καταγγελίες για τις απαγωγές, την κράτηση και τις μεθόδους ανάκρισης υπόπτων για τρομοκρατία από τη CIA έδωσε στη δημοσιότητα την έκθεσή της.

Μια έκθεση που επιβεβαίωνε όλα όσα αρνούνταν κατηγορηματικά ο Ελληνας πρώην διευθυντής της πανίσχυρης μυστικής υπηρεσίας, που αρνήθηκε κατηγορηματικά να κάνει οποιοδήποτε σχόλιο. Επέλεξε να αποστείλει στα ΜΜΕ μια γραπτή δήλωση στην οποία έλεγε πόσο λυπόταν για τη δημοσιοποίηση της έκθεσης, «η οποία προκαλεί ζημιά στην εθνική ασφάλεια των ΗΠΑ, αλλά και στους άντρες και τις γυναίκες της CIA». Υπεραμύνθηκε των χειρισμών του, είπε ότι το πρόγραμμα κατευθυνόταν από τον πρόεδρο Μπους, ότι όλοι όσοι έπρεπε να γνωρίζουν γνώριζαν και μετά από όλα αυτά επέστρεψε στη συνήθη καθημερινότητά του και τις νέες επαγγελματικές του ευθύνες στην πιο μικρή αλλά και πιο «μυστική» τράπεζα της Αμερικής.

Albanian edition of Fehmiu's memoir presented in Pristina

The National Theater in Pristina hosted a promotion of the second part of the "Brilliant and Horrible" memoir of famous Yugoslav actor Bekim Fehmiu.

SOURCE: B92 MONDAY, MARCH 28, 2016 | 13:42

After the original publication in 2013, the Samizdat publisher translated and printed the book in Albanian, Fehmiu's mother tongue.

The promotion attracted great attention of the Kosovo public, international diplomats and relatives of the famous actor Bekim Fehmiu, who left a significant mark on domestic and foreign cinema.

"It means a cultural and educational recognition and bringing people together not only within a nation but between peoples as a whole," said Arsim Fehmiu, the brother Bekim Fehmiu.

The Kosovo public is now able to read in Albanian a book about the actor who was born in Kosovo, about his life and successful career that ended abruptly. Bekim Fehmiu was one of a few people who tried to show to Serbs the Albanians that they do not know.

"In addition to the artistic value, the book carries a unique value in the context of the memory of culture of Serbs and Albanians," said Anton Berisaj, a professor of Albanian literature.

"This is the best way to boost communication and awareness of language and topics on that are being communicated, and that's s actually life," said Veton Surroi, a journalist and publisher. Three years after the release of the second part of the book Samizdat published it in Albanian with the help and support of Kosovo professors of literature, Western diplomats, organizations and institutions in Pristina and Belgrade.

"The next book we are preparing is 'Serbs and Albanians Through Centuries' by Petrit Imami, which will be printed in Serbian and Albanian and will have promotions, like this here today, also elsewhere in Kosovo, Serbia and Albania," said Veran Matic.

After Pristina, the book will be promoted in Prizren.

The promotion of the second part of the "Brilliant and Horrible" memoir is the result of cooperation between Samizdat and festivals "Miredita, dobar dan", organized by the Center for Practical Policy and Civic Initiatives from Belgrade and Integra from Pristina.

Albania Experts Dispute Plan to Lease Historic Sites

A goverment decision to lease heritage sites to the private sector has worried experts who fear that historic monuments could end up damaged and stripped of their identity.

Fatjona Mejdini


Petrela castle in the outskirts of Tirana turned into a restaurant | Photo: Wikimedia

The Albanian Culture Ministry plan to lease cultural monuments for up to 20 years has sparked a fierce debate about possible damage to historic sites.
Some heritage experts say the decision was not transparent, was decided without a proper debate and could result in damage to monuments, as has happened in past.
Leasing the medieval castles of Petrela in Tirana and at Lekursi in Saranda in early 2000s was cited as a bad example of public-private partnership, which had damaged heritage and history.
Auron Tare, an expert on heritage and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of UNESCO, told BIRN that Albanian monuments should not undergo the same fate as Petrela and Lekursi.
"They are no longer castles but just restaurants. Nobody can learn about their history by visiting them now," he said.
However, Culture Minister Mirela Kumbaro said that the decision followed a two-year study of the situation of monuments in Albania.
"Public-private partnership is one of the ways to administer cultural assets... and our decision on the issue is more careful than those of former ministers," Kumbaro argued.
Tare said he was not against public-private partnership over cultural monuments in principle, but in his opinion Albania is not ready for it.
"The country still lacks good practice in doing this, and the state control mechanisms over the private sector are very weak. We also lack private companies with experience in restoring monuments," Tare said.
"It is important to have an open debate on the issue that includes tourism bodies, as stimulating tourism through these initiatives is important. But we have to be careful not to lose the historic identity of these monuments," Tare said.
He said it would be better to hand some endangered or neglected monuments back to their original religious founders.
"Religious communities have a right to ask to administer them. I would prefer these objects to be given back to religious communities before passing them over to private management," he said.
Vasil Tole, head of the working group that prepared the law on Cultural Heritage in 2013, told BIRN that the priority was to preserve the monuments and not help private businesses.
He said a complete list of sites that need to be restored should be drawn up before any decision is made on leasing them.
"Besides a full list of monuments we need to clarify what types of business will be allowed to rent the monuments - and restrict others that should not do so," Tole said.
So far, the decision of the Ministry of Culture does not specify which monuments need restoration, or what categories of businesses will be allowed to rent them.
In 2014, the ministry led by Mirela Kumbaro repealed a decision made under the centre-right government of Sali Berisha to lease out Lezha castle, one of the most important monuments in the country. The decision to lease the castle was not based in law and contained procedural flaws, the ministry said.

The flag of Northern Epirus in the match Greece - Montenegro.


Its happened for the first time. After Albanians during the match Serbia Albania in October 2015, the flag of the Northern Epirus is claim publicly for the first time.

Members of the National Association "Northern Epirus 1914" attended the friendly match, the eve of the national holiday of March 25, giving a distinctive national color in the stadium of Karaiskaki, with the big flag of Northern Epirus unfurled during the recoil of the National hymns.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Albanian Territorial Reform Has Created Confusion, Report

European mission says reform of local government in Albania has proceeded unevenly amid confusion over competences and accusations of bias and favouritism.

Fatjona Mejdini

A child drawing the new border's units on Albania map | Photo: BIRN/Ivana Dervishi

Territorial and administrative reform in Albania, which has changed the map of the country, reducing 400 local units to 61, is proceeding slowly and has created confusion, a mission of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities that visited Albania in February says.
The mission - part of the Council of Europe - visited the country to observe the progress of the reform enacted in July 2014 and the situation after the July 2015 local elections when 61 mayors of the new units were elected.
The report of the mission led by Dutch rapporteur Jos Wienen, vice-president of the Congress' Monitoring Committee, which BIRN has seen, said: "Despite efforts to provide support to the newly elected representatives through the 'Territorial Reform Implementation Agency' the implementation process at local level seems to be slow and at times cumbersome.
"Confusion about competencies and financial resources still seem to be widespread among local elected officials, threatening the smooth and timely implementation of the reform," the report continued.
The report is also critical when it comes to the financial resources allocated to support the reform. Although the government has allocated 3.2 per cent of GDP in 2016 for local government, the highest level ever, it is is still considered insufficient.
"Due to the delegation of the new competencies and the new administrative-territorial structure, the 2016 budget does not correspond to a net increase in the local authorities' resources," the report reads.
The delegation also noted accusations of bias in the the way that grants to finance specific projects at local level are selected.
"The transparency of the grants-awarding process is a matter of concern because the 'Regional Development Fund' is essentially managed by the central government and thus suspected of political favouritism," the report said.
The report notes opposition concerns about the way the boundaries of the new territorial units were drawn and says accusations of gerrymandering have been rejected by the government.
"Still, certain electoral district boundaries seem somehow strangely distorted (notably in Tirana and Shkodra Municipalities) without apparent empirical reason," the report reads.
Overall, the report considers Albanian local government reform to be in a transitional and difficult phase.
"The delegation received reports on considerable transitional problems in the newly formed municipalities - mainly due to a lack of information about the new competencies, considerable workforce reduction, budgetary uncertainties and inherited financial burdens at the local level," it concluded.
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Karatzaferis rejects ‘far right’ label

Amid talks to form a new nationalist party, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader Giorgos Karatzaferis on Sunday fended off accusations of being a far-right politician.

“They used to call me a [right-wing] extremist because I had taken on [Makis] Voridis, [Adonis] Georgiadis and [Thanos] Plevris],” Karatzaferis told SKAI TV on Sunday.

“Now these have all moved to New Democracy,” he said.

Former ministers Voridis and Georgiadis were ousted from LAOS after voting in favor of the terms of Greece’s loan agreement in 2012, before joining ND.

“When I took on Voridis he was more right wing than [Nikos] Michaloliakos,” Karatzaferis said in reference to the leader of neofascist Golden Dawn.

Efforts to create a new party to the right of the conservatives on the political spectrum could affect New Democracy’s cohesion. The people behind the project – including  former cabinet secretary and close aide of ex-prime minister Antonis Samaras, Panayiotis Baltakos – say they have approached some of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s MPs.

“We have been in contact with former ministers from the Samaras government and with New Democracy MPs who are unhappy about the approach taken by Mitsotakis,” Karatzaferis said last week.

“As much distance separates me from neoliberalism as from communism,” added Karatzaferis in criticism of Mitsotakis’s pro-business values.

Hundreds of migrants protest at closed Greece-Macedonia border

Hundreds of stranded migrants and refugees protest against the closure of the Greece-Macedonian border, demanding to be let through

By Vin Shahrestani, and AP, video source  27 Mar 2016

Several hundred refugees, migrants and activists on Sunday protested against the closure of the Greece-Macedonian border.
The stranded migrants in Idomeni were falsely informed by some self-proclaimed activists that the borders would open on Sunday morning.

Volunteers from non-governmental organisations and individual activists then told the migrants that the border remained shut and urged them not to trust the rumours.
Greece's border with Macedonia has been shut to migrants and refugees since earlier this month after a string of countries shut down what has become known as the western Balkan route, used to travel from Greece to central and northern Europe.

European Council Reveals Gaps in EU Security Before Brussels Attacks

 The US and EU flags, top left and right, fly in separate directions at the European Council building in Brussels

© AP Photo/ Virginia Mayo
20:51 27.03.2016(updated 20:52 27.03.2016) Get short URL
Belgian and Turkish law enforcement authorities had been informed about the possibility of suicide bombings by third countries and could have prevented them, Greek newspaper Kathimerini wrote.

Brussels Police Conduct 13 Anti-Terrorist Raids, Arrest Four People
Analysts have revealed shortcomings in the European security system, the report of the European Council revealed.
First of all, it concerns serious gaps in the data management and the unwillingness of certain EU countries to cooperate with each other.

According to the newspaper, Belgian and Turkish authorities received information on terror threats from intelligence services of the "third" countries. Thus, they had been aware of the possibility of suicide bombings and could have prevented them, the article said.

The report also stressed that some countries, and Greece in particular, have problems with the border control and the process of fingerprinting.

"In some refugee reception centers such security controls have not been implemented," the report revealed.

Following the attacks, analysts called for establishing a connection between the databases of various intelligence agencies which contain information on suspected terrorists, including FRONTEX, Europol and Interpol. According to the report, over 5,000 Europeans were said to have joined Daesh in Syria and Iraq, but the Europol database, for instance, contains only 2,786 names.

Earlier this week explosions shook the Brussels Zaventem International airport and the Maelbeek metro station, killing at least 31 people and injuring over 300. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Kerry Says Cooperation With Russia Serves US Strategic Interests

 Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry shake hands

18:37 27.03.2016(updated 20:52 27.03.2016) Get short URL
The cooperation with Russia serves the strategic interests of the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.

Top-4 Questions Asked by Foreign Journalists About Putin-Kerry Meeting
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin.
The US top diplomat discussed the Syrian peace process, as well as the Ukrainian crisis with Russian authorities.

"If Russia can help us and it is right now. Russia has helped to bring about the Iran nuclear agreement, Russia helped to get the chemical weapons out of Syria. Russia is now helping with the cessation of hostilities [in Syria]. And if Russia can help us to actually affect this political transition — that is all to the strategic interests of the Unites States of America," Kerry said in an interview to CBS "Face to Nation" program.

According to Kerry, the United States does not see any threat for its security in Russia's military actions in Syria.

On Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted progress in relations between Russia and the United States. However, according to Peskov, there are "no illusions" that the US leadership could change its attitude toward Russia in a blink of an eye.