Saturday, April 23, 2016

Bulgaria: Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania to Cooperate in Tackling Migrant Crisis Photo: Bulgarian Interior Ministry

World » SOUTHEAST EUROPE | April 22, 2016

Bulgaria: Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania to Cooperate in Tackling Migrant Crisis

During their meeting held in Thessaloniki on Thursday and Friday, the interior and foreign ministers of Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and Albania agreed that the countries from southeastern Europe will seek common decisions for tackling the migrant crisis.

The ministers reached an agreement for this type of meetings to be held once every six months. In case it is necessary, the meetings might be held more often and their format might be extended.

The main aim of the meeting was to enhance dialogue and extend the perspectives for further cooperation and coordination in dealing with the common challenges arising from the refugee crisis.

The participants agreed that there is need to distinguish between economic immigrants and refugees. According to them, it is necessary to take swift actions for the return of illegal immigrants.

They also discussed possible ways for consolidating dialogue and improving border cooperation.

During the joint press conference, the ministers highlighted the need for united approach in tackling the refugee crisis both at regional and European level.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov said that the agreement between the EU and Turkey is an important first step for enhancing control and consolidating the external borders of the Union.

According to him, emphasis should also be put on fighting human trafficking and interrupting the illegal networks.

Among the main topics of discussion in the meeting of the interior ministers was the need to improve exchange of information and step up the fight against trafficking networks.

Greece is expecting the trilateral centre Bulgaria-Turkey-Greece to soon start functioning.

The interior ministers discussed opportunities for better use of the contact centre between Bulgaria and Greece at the Kulata-Promachonas border checkpoint.

Bulgarian Deputy Interior Minister Filip Gunev presented data according to which there were 10 000 attempts to cross the Bulgarian-Turkish border illegally in the first three months of this year.

In the past three months, around 170 people have been detained on Bulgaria's border with Greece.

Why Queen Elizabeth II Has Never Visited Greece

By Philip Chrysopoulos -
Apr 22, 2016

Greek Reporter
queen-elizabeth-ii-prince-philip-2011Queen Elizabeth II has made official visits to 120 countries but has never visited Greece, homeland of her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Upon Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, the Mirror has a report on the fact that the Queen of England has never visited Greece, birthplace of her husband. The writer of the report calls that a “glaring omission.”

Royal historian Hugo Vickers has his theories, believing it’s all down to the “fraught history” in the Greek monarchy, which affected the Duke of Edinburgh’s immediate family, says the Mirror report.

“Prince Philip doesn’t like Greece, because they put his father [Prince Andrew] on trial, and he might have been executed,” Vickers told BBC.

In 1922, when Prince Philip was a baby, his family had to flee Greece after his father Andrew, a major general in the Greek army, returned defeated from the Greco-Turkish war. The family was exiled and fled to France, where they changed their surname to Mountbatten.

The monarch did visit the country in 1950 at the invitation of King Paul — Prince Philip’s first cousin once removed — but this was before she became Queen. King Paul was soon after ousted and the monarchy abolished in 1974.

Vickers believes that the Queen may never have been invited for an official state visit by the Greek president.

Albanian Parliament Suspends Ex-Premier for His Call to Arms

TIRANA, Albania — The Albanian Parliament has suspended former prime minister Sali Berisha for 10 days after he urged citizens to arm themselves, accusing the government of being unable to protect them because of links to crime gangs.

Friday's decision followed Berisha's words a day earlier at a weekly parliamentary session during a discussion about a recent arrest of the leader of a criminal gang. Both of the country's main political parties accused the other of receiving assistance from criminals.

Berisha stepped down as prime minister and leader of the main opposition Democratic Party in 2013 after his center-right party was defeated in a parliamentary election.

Gun ownership is currently illegal in Albania and calls to break the law could result in up to a 10-year jail sentence.

NATO Secretary General commends Greece on its role in refugee and migrant crisis

  • 21 Apr. 2016 - 22 Apr. 2016
Visiting Athens on Friday (22 April), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos, Prime Minister Aleksis Tsipras and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos to discuss current security challenges and NATO’s response.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg meets with Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece
Mr. Stoltenberg thanked Greece for its commitment to the Alliance for many decades, its investment in collective defence, and its significant efforts to cope with the biggest migrant and refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.

The Secretary General recalled that "NATO is in the Aegean Sea because Greece, Germany and Turkey requested our assistance to help cut the lines of human trafficking," and stressed that, as part of international efforts, "NATO is helping counter criminal networks, secure our borders and save lives. NATO is also working with the EU closer than ever before." Mr. Stoltenberg thanked Greece for contributing three ships to NATO's deployment in the Aegean, and for the excellent cooperation with Turkey and the EU's border agency Frontex.

In preparation for the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July, the Secretary General also discussed with his Greek hosts NATO's efforts to address the root causes of the refugee and migrant crisis. “We are assisting partner countries in the Middle East and North Africa to strengthen their own defence and fight terrorism and instability”, he said. The Secretary General stressed that this month NATO started training Iraqi officers and stands ready to support Libya.

We also discussed the challenge of a more assertive Russia, responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine”, Mr. Stoltenberg said.  He stressed that in response to Russia’s actions the Alliance has increased collective defence and deterrence, "not to provoke a conflict, but to prevent a conflict, and to keep our citizens safe." At the same time, NATO is keeping lines of political dialogue open, as testified by the recent meeting of the NATO-Russia Council.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Berisha's strong statement in Parliament: Citizens, take up the arms! Protect your property

But the parliamentary group
of the Socialist Party, is gathered with urgency and decided to accused
arms against constitutional order, former Prime Minister Berisha ..

just Matteo Salvini in Italy, Le Pen in France and Golden Dawn in
Greece, which call for self-defense weapons, against robbers houses and
security of European citizens, but from Tirana, Sali Berisha, has made a
strong statement, in Parliament, he has urged citizens to take the
weapons to protect property and family from gangs and mafia.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha, speaking to a gang ties of the most
dangerous mafia in Albania, has discussed with the Minister of Interior,
Saimir Tahiri:

"I have a request for Albanians today! I
urge the Albanian citizens for their safety arms! To provide weapons to
defend ourselves, property, their assets because they have no

I urge the government! If you think like a
criminal organization to terrorize the opposition with your gangs, you
ensure that the opposition and citizens are willing to back.. Arm to
arms themselves as Americans. Bring justice! To give citizens the right
to bear arms! " said Berisha.

 Statement of Berisha comes at the same time when the Constitutional Court has rejected the Law of the properties, which is opposed by the President as well as the opposition parties ...

Albania to build a new 22,300-seat stadium

Read more here:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Underground Airbase Slatina You’ve Never Heard Off!


Yugoslavia had about forty objects of strategic importance, including several underground airports which were the largest military secret. Nearly $90 billion have been spent for the construction of these objects. Željava was the most expensive and the largest underground airport in the former Yugoslavia.
Around $4.5 billion were spent for the construction of this air base. According to experts, the only airbase that could rival Željava, although much smaller, was the air base Slatina near Pristina. These two air bases represented the first level of defense.
The second level of defense were also airports with underground galleries and the conditions for protection against a nuclear attack. Such were underground galleries in Podgorica, Mostar, and Split.The third level of defense was reinforced concrete shelters for aircraft and people. All airports had them. Each plane had its own reinforced concrete shelter.
The Yugoslav underground project represents the labyrinth of underground objects carved into the rocks of the island Vis, in the Adriatic sea, over 70 kilometers in length. It could accommodate over 5.000 soldiers who could spend around 45 days in total isolation. This facility is completely deserted today.

The Underground Airbase Slatina

Slatina airport is located near Pristina, Kosovo. The airport was completed in 1965. Together with the air base Željava, it represents the first level of defense. Two aircraft squadrons (24 planes) were situated in these airbases. These squadrons were equipped with MiG – 21 bis and MiG – 21 UM aircraft. The airbase has over 300 m long mountain hangar located at the foot of a hill and it is connected with the main runway of the Pristina Airport with two taxiways.
The airbase Slatina consists of:
  • Department for pilots
  • Department for weapons
  • Workshop
  • Air condition chamber
  • Storage tank
  • Dormitory
Observation center was located above the air base and it was reached by elevator.
The radar station was located on the Goles hill.
During the NATO operation against Yugoslavia, the 83rd fighter squadron of Yugoslav Air Force was based in Slatina. It did not perform any sorties and suffered no losses from NATO aircraft during the bombings in 1999. Every single aircraft was intact.
Upon completion of the Kosovo War, on 20 June 1999, the airport was transformed into an international airport. The airport was renovated and new equipment has enabled a higher quality of service for passengers and visitors.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Albania’s Gora Minority Takes Bulgarian Route to EU

Members of a small community of obscure origin in northern Albania are applying in droves for Bulgarian passports, seeking a new life in the European Union.

Bashkim Shala

Kukes and Shishtavec
Members of Albania's Gorani community stand in front of the Bulgarian Embassy in Tirana | Photo by : Bashkim Shala

Every week in the northern Albania town of Kukes, a group of passengers climbs aboard a minivan, travel documents in their hands, before departing for an eight-hour trip to Sofia.

The passengers, all from the Gora region on the border between Kosovo and Albania, belong to the Gorani minority and hope to secure Bulgarian passports in the Bulgarian capital, which they then hope will allow them to live in the EU.

The owner of the minivan, a member of the same minority from the village of Zapod, sniffed a business opportunity as Gorani interest in Bulgarian citizenship grew. He decided to establish a regular link between Kukes and Sofia, charging 60 euros a trip.

“I leave in the evening and reach Sofia early in the morning,” the driver, T Bajraktari, said.

“My passengers then register in one of the neighborhoods of Sofia, which is a condition for obtaining citizenship, or they follow up the existing paper trail,” he added.

Bulgaria may have the lowest standard of living in the EU but becoming a Bulgarian citizen has become the great goal for many members of Gorani community in northeastern Albania.

The Gora region in Albania is made of nine villages whose inhabitants speak a Slavic tongue, similar to Macedonian and Bulgarian.

The Gorani are believed to have moved to the area between the 11th and 13th century. It is thought they were Bogomils, a neo-Gnostic Christian sect that emerged in the First Bulgarian Empire. The word “Bogomil” translates as those “dear to God.” They later converted to Islam but retained their Slavic speech.

The bilingual community has called the Gora region home for centuries. However, in the last two decades the community has been tempted by offers of citizenships from neighboring states.

In the early Nineties, Serbia tried to claim the Gorani as a Serbian minority, partly because they also live in Kosovo, which Serbia was then fighting to retain.

 Macedonia also offered the Gorani citizenship. The Bulgarians were next. But their offer triggered a much bigger migration.

What is the Albania trade model?


A girl plays with pinwheels on April 16, 2016 in Tirana's central square park, during an event entitled "which way does the wind blow" organized by Tedx Tirana . / AFP / GENT SHKULLAKU (Photo credit should read GENT SHKULLAKU/AFP/Getty Images)©AFP
Model economy: Albanian flag flying above centre of capital Tirana
Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and Ukraine are economically weak, desperate to integrate with the EU, and still carrying deep scars from recent war and revolution. So what makes their EU trade model so attractive for Brexit campaigners?
The praise for the Albania-Ukraine option voiced by Michael Gove, justice secretary, echoes the work of pro-leave analysts who see the countries charting “a way forward” that combines free trade with tailored political co-operation.

The hitch is that Brussels sees the pacts — known as “stabilisation and association agreements” in the western Balkans — as special support at the start of a long journey towards EU membership for relatively small, troubled economies, rather than a divorce settlement for a big, successful one.  
Karel De Gucht, the EU’s former trade commissioner, said any Brexit comparison was “ridiculous nonsense”. “Albania is a poor country, a small economy, under-developed,” he said. “It is like comparing a little nut with a big watermelon.”
Olli Rehn, who negotiated such pacts as EU enlargement commissioner, said he was “surprised” the Leave side would want an agreement that would put the UK “permanently on the substitute bench”.
“Besides, I doubt the UK could get the same asymmetric preferential treatment that the western Balkan countries have, as this is intended to support their economic development and European integration path."
The main attractions for Leave supporters are outlined in Business for Britain’s 1,000-page research document called “Change or Go”. 
This looked at Ukraine’s “deep and comprehensive trade agreement” as an “alternative model” to joining the European Economic Area. It allows for a close economic relationship with the EU, without the political and financial obligations of an EEA country like Norway, which semi-automatically applies EU law, accepts free movement and pays into the EU budget.
The report argues the Ukraine trade deal — hatched under the shadow of the Russian annexation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine — was an “under-examined way forward” that covers “all the key aspects as well as lightening the obstacles to trade, but without uniformly applying red tape across the home economy”. 
It goes on to say the format has similarities with the EU’s approach to former communist countries in the western Balkans — first called the “Central European Free Trade Agreement”. These attempted to clear trade barriers without cumbersome requirements to pool sovereignty or accept rules wholesale.
For a country like Albania, this has morphed into an association agreement that sets a framework for it to move closer EU law and business standards, in part to give EU investors confidence to work in the country.

What Brexit means for the UK economy
Frequently asked questions about the economics of Britain’s EU referendum
In theory the pact is broad, covering trade in goods and — crucially for the UK — potentially financial services, but only amounts to full single-market access if Albania adapts to apply the existing and future EU rule book.
In financial services it also relates to a tiny Albanian cottage industry, with barely any integration with the European market, whereas the City of London is the continent’s biggest financial hub, handling 40 per cent of wholesale euro-denominated trade.
While Leave campaigners may see the appeal of such a loose association to anchor Britain’s post-Brexit relations, the deal will still need unanimous support from all EU member states. 
Even if EU states are willing to cut a favourable deal with Britain, the political difficulties of implementing it were demonstrated this month when the Netherlands rejected the planned trade pact with Ukraine in a referendum. 
The consultative vote, which could ultimately scupper part of the Ukraine deal, was hailed by Nigel Farage, the UK Independence party leader, as “a victory for democracy” and “new politics”.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Europe’s Newest Micronation Prepares for a Hostile Takeover

03:29 18.04.2016

Vit Jedlička, a self-proclaimed president of Liberland, is preparing to take over a no-man’s land between Serbia and Croatia.

The Free Republic of Liberland, a sovereign state created on no-man’s land between Croatia and Serbia, continues to grow with people from all over the world sending in their applications to become citizens, Vit Jedlicka, the president of Liberland, told Radio Sputnik.
If you thought South Sudan was the world's youngest country, you are behind the times. Because last week, a man walked out to an unclaimed little bit of land just seven kilometers square tucked along the Danube between Croatia and Serbia, ran up a flag, and made a country: Liberland.
The Free Republic of Liberland, a micronation proclaimed in 2015 by Czech politician and activist Vit Jedlička, is located on a 7 sq. km of no-man's land between Serbia and Croatia, one of territories disputed by both countries. However, Jedlička claims that neither side is willing to claim this territory.
As Croatian border police prevent people from coming to live at the territory, the micronation remains uninhabited, with only a sole hunting shack remaining its only building.

But in his interview for The Independent, "President" Jedlička revealed that plans are nearly in place for a group of Liberlanders to break through that police blockade in such numbers "there is nothing they can do to stop it".

This weekend Jedlička  and his three volunteer ministers held a conference to discuss Liberland's future at a Croatian hotel just 5 km from the border. During a conference, a plan was adopted to stage a "state celebration" in a field next to the disputed territory which, if all goes to plan, could snowball into a mass takeover action.

"It's going to be a big media event," Jedlička said. "We would like to invite 5,000 people, with the best artists who support Liberland [attending], and we already have two or three major festival organizers in the area helping us."

The self-proclaimed president revealed to The Guardian his plan to use the event for a spontaneous takeover of the land, going as far as threatening the Croatian government to "better give the festival-goers ‘a green light' for the move."

"There is no way you can stop 5,000 people taking over control of Liberland," he said.

Jedlička believes that Liberland will make a successful example of a tax haven — calling it a "tax heaven" — also naming Liberland's own sort of beer as the main source of export.

Having a legislation of only as much as five laws, Liberland is going to be a functioning anarchist state, with black color on its flag representing anarchy. The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that Liberland, while ‘frivolous', does not infringe upon the border of Serbia, without any other comments. Croatia, however, stated that while the territory's status remains undetermined, after international arbitration, it will be awarded to Croatia or Serbia, not a third party.

Albania Starts Preparing for Diaspora Summit

Ahead of a major summit gathering Albanians from 50 countries around the world, debate still continues on the best ways that Albania can draw on its emigrants' talents.

Fatjona Mejdini

An Albanian diaspora gathering in the US | Photo: Facebook

Ahead of a major summit of Albanian diaspora communities from around the world, Albania is mulling the best ways of utilizing its large diaspora.

On November 2016, for the first time, the government plans to hold the first-ever diaspora summit, also marking 25 years of post-communist migration.

The Prime Minister, Edi Rama, told a meeting of Albanians in New York on Monday that the summit would open a new chapter for the nation.

"The summit in November is going to be the moment when we show who we are, what we are able to do and that we are experienced enough to do even more," Rama said.

The summit will gather Albanians from around 50 countries around the world, including pre- and post-communist emigrants.

Organisations of Albanian living outside the country have long sought the creation of a special Ministry for the Diaspora and their request is backed by the Albanian President, Bujar Nishani.

The Party for Justice and Integration, PDIU, which represents the Cham community and is part of the ruling coalition led by Rama, also considers the creation of a ministry important.

The Chams are ethnic Albanians expelled from northern Greece at the end of World War II.

Marselino Troshani, president of the Albanian Forum of Associations in Emilia Romagna, Italy, FARE, told BIRN that Albanians in Italy have submitted a formal request to Albania's parliament for the creation of a ministry.

"This ministry would help allow emigrants to vote in Albanian elections and... help the promotion of the country outside its borders," he said, citing the Kosovo Ministry of the Diaspora as a model.

But not all representatives of the Albanian diaspora back the idea of a ministry. The former director of the National Albanian-American Council, Avni Mustafaj, told BIRN that empowering the country's embassies would be the best way of drawing on the diaspora's talents.

He agrees that bringing together members of the Albanian diaspora from around the world is a terrific idea, as many of them have the right education, skills and experience to help the home country.

"I don't agree with a Ministry of Diaspora - but with empowering the various embassies to be more active with Albanian communities in their countries," he said.

"Coordination of this should be done by the Foreign Ministry. I fear parallel structures between ministries," Mustafaj said.

Further reform efforts needed in Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina, say MEPs

  • Knut
  • Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
  • Vice-Chair
  • Germany Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands
Plenary Session Press release - Enlargement / External relations
Key political and administrative reforms needed in Albania are progressing, but have yet to reach a stage at which EU accession negotiations could start, say MEPs in Thursday's resolution. In a separate resolution, they welcomed Bosnia & Herzegovina’s EU membership application.


"Albania is on the right track towards EU membership. The country is currently preparing a very ambitious judiciary reform which will answer the most important concerns expressed by citizens and which will help to fight corruption in everyday life. Albania's citizens want to get ready for EU membership. Now, their political leaders must keep up the momentum and continue implementing the reforms", said rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein (S&D, DE).

The resolution on Albania  says that if it wants to start EU accession negotiations, it must intensify reforms in key priority areas, such as: rule of law, judicial reforms, the fight against corruption and organised crime, public administration reform and fundamental rights .

MEPs remain concerned about widespread corruption in education, healthcare, the judiciary and several other fields . "Widespread self-censorship among journalists, who are sometimes physically obstructed from covering specific events, assaulted, or threatened because of their work" is also a cause for concern, they add.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

"BiH submitted its application for EU membership on the same week where the European Council discussed the UK referendum issue. This proved that the EU model is still attractive", said rapporteur Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, RO). "The European Parliament is determined to support the country’s move closer to Europe, calling on the Council to examine its membership application at the earliest opportunity and encouraging it to stay on the reform path", he added.

MEPs reiterated their unequivocal commitment to Bosnia & Herzegovina's European perspective  and welcomed its application for EU membership, presented on 15 February 2016 . They call on authorities to continue constitutional, legal and political reforms and make steady progress towards EU integration.

The resolution condemns a proposed referendum in Republika Srpska on Bosnia & Herzegovina’s state-level judiciary, saying it challenges the country's cohesion, sovereignty and integrity . MEPs also deplored rampant corruption, and voiced concern about increased pressure on the judiciary by political players .

Both resolutions were passed by a show of hands.

Serbia: 49 arrested in anti-corruption operation

Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Friday that 49 persons had been arrested in raids carried out across Serbia.
Source: RTS, Tanjug
(Image made from MUP video)
(Image made from MUP video)
They are suspected of corruption and abuse of office, and detained as part of police operation Skener ("scanner") 2.
Stefanovic said that the police filed criminal complaints against 25 persons in regular procedure.

"All these persons have committed numerous criminal acts since 2007, damaging the budgets of Serbia and the autonomous province (of Vojvodina), and several business and private entities to the amount of EUR 7.6 million," he said.

Stefanovic added that officials employed by the Ministry of Finance, the Tax Administration, the former Ministry of Protection of the Environment and Spatial Planning are among the suspects, as well as local officials, those from public companies, including Roads of Serbia, the power company EPS, Elektrokosmet, Posta Srbije, and 12 traffic policemen.

"This is yet another indicator that the police will not stop doing this job, together with prosecutors' offices, and we will show that Serbia can be a completely serious, honest and just country," said Stefanovic.

Μετά τον αρνητικό ρόλο του αλβανικού κράτους, ολιγάρχες και μαφίας,,,, Βορείου Ηπείρου, και Χιμάρα,,, απειλούνται από τους τρομοκράτες της ISIS και ΜΕΚ.

Ποιος είναι ο ρόλος της Ελλάδα, ενώ στη βόρεια σύνορά της με την Αλβανία, η ελληνική κοινότητα, την περιουσία τους και τα εδάφη τους απειλούνται από τρομοκρατικές των ΜΕΚ, σε συνεργασία με τους Αλβανόυς τρομοκράτες της ISIS.....

Ποιος εγγυάται την ασφάλεια στην Αλβανία?

ανάλυση μεγαλύτερη αξία για την γεωπολιτική και την περιοχή.

Clinton-Albania deal ensures MEK (Rajavi cult) members stay as terrorists

Help Us we don't want to be terrorists
When is a terrorist, who is not a terrorist, still a terrorist?
The answer to this complicated riddle can be surprisingly simple: When they are forced to remain in a terrorist group because there is no safe way for them to escape.
There is an ongoing debate in Europe and North America about how defectors from terrorism should be treated as they try to return to their homes in the West. Some say that on security grounds they should be either banned from re-entry or prosecuted and where possible imprisoned as an example to others. Others, usually practitioners who understand that deceptive recruitment is a huge factor in people’s involvement in terrorism, advocate for a more humanitarian and redemptive approach: allow these people home, albeit with severe restrictions imposed on their lives and activities, and get them to undergo re-programming.
What this debate does not address, however, is just how possible it is to actually escape a terrorist group in the first place. If you are in Raqqa, how do you step outside the group and remain safe?
In this context the fate of a handful of Iranians, stranded in Albania without any financial support or accommodation and unable to access refugee services, shines a spotlight on this aspect of the West’s approach to terrorism.
It would be easy to dismiss former MEK members Ehsan Bidi and Siavosh Rastar’s case as a local, individual problem. But when we look in more detail, it has everything to do with whether America and the West are complicit in forcing people to remain in terrorist groups because we do not see the need to help them leave at all. Certainly this is not a solution to terrorism – Plan B: get them all to leave - but a more facilitating approach toward genuine defectors could be a major factor in undermining the hold such groups have on their members.
Three years ago, Ehsan Bidi was brought to Albania along with other members of the Mojahedin Khalq (MEK). But Bidi was already a separated member when he arrived; it had just not been possible for him to escape them while in Iraq. As soon as he arrived he left them. Since then, he had been living on a small financial contribution from the UNHCR along with basic accommodation which they had provided. Suddenly at the end of March this year all this support ended. He and others like him were left destitute.
What Bidi and another handful of defectors didn’t know was that under the 2013 deal struck between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the then Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, the MEK members transferred to Tirana from Camp Liberty in Iraq would not be given official UN refugee status and would be dependent on Maryam Rajavi’s MEK for all their accommodation and costs while in Albania. Amazingly, neither the government of Albania nor the UNHCR has any obligation to treat them as refugees. All of these people are being transferred not as refugees but as the active members of a terrorist entity. In fact, part of the deal struck by Clinton was that the MEK would be removed from the US terrorism list specifically to allow this deal even though every active member remains radicalised to the core and capable of committing acts of terrorism.
This means that when people like Bidi and Rastar choose to reject membership of this terrorist group, they not only face the wrath of the MEK – which has promised to kill Bidi in particular because he is so vocal about this predicament – but they are also left destitute because the state doesn’t recognise them except as members of that terrorist group. After the UNHCR pulled the plug on its support, Bidi and the others were told ‘you must ask Rajavi to allow you back in the MEK or ask the Iranian embassy to send you back to Iran’. Clearly an impossible choice. It is a conundrum which was created by America and must be resolved by America.
A similar situation arose in Iraq after 2003 when the MEK were captured, disarmed and kept in Camp Ashraf. Within weeks the American army was being approached by defectors begging them for help to escape the clutches of the cult. After trying to send them back or ignore them, the army was eventually obliged, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to establish a separate Temporary Internment and Protection Facility (TIPF) within their own compound to house the defectors. This allowed many others to escape and return to their families and to civilian life.
It is necessary now for the American administration to acknowledge that it has the same obligation toward the people it transferred to Albania under Clinton’s 2013 deal. It must give them the same opportunity to leave the MEK as was granted to people while in Iraq. Safe, alternative accommodation and social support must be given to those who, on principle, reject membership of a terrorist group. It’s almost unthinkable that this isn’t happening already.But while nobody imagines that in among the chaos of war in the Middle East and the massive refugee crisis that has engulfed Western countries, there can be a TIPF or something similar for ex-terrorists, we also know that Daesh kills defectors. They do this under the principle of ownership – we own our fighters and can dispose of them as we see fit.
In this case, if we stand by and allow Daesh, like the MEK, to dictate the conditions of how a defector is treated without making any effort to facilitate their safe exit, if we cannot offer a helping hand to those who wish to redeem themselves, then we are no better than the terrorists ourselves.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

George Friedman: NATO is an illusion

George Friedman, Mauldin Economics
Apr. 16, 2016,
NATOReuters/Francois Lenoir
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg chairs a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Donald Trump’s statements that Europe isn’t paying its “fair share” and that it would be fine if NATO broke up are regarded with increasing concern in Europe.

Russia and the Middle East both present national security issues for all of Europe. Europe, however, has no integrated military capability except for NATO, and NATO is now in shambles. It is a military alliance, but Europe has allowed its military capability to weaken dramatically.

Many Europeans see NATO as the foundation of their national security. In other words, they depend on the United States… the only NATO member with a global military capability.

Now the Europeans worry that the US has lost confidence in NATO and the alliance is no longer the safety guarantor it used to be. And I think they are right.

Here’s why…

Europe Is Nothing but NATO’s Soft Power
From the start, the Europeans wanted NATO to serve as the mechanism for approving and overseeing military operations. They wanted a decisive voice in how NATO members, including the United States, applied their military power.

However, their forces were so small that in most cases, their participation was little more than symbolic. NATO became less and less a factor in US decision making, and the Europeans compensated by congratulating themselves for their sophistication compared to the American “cowboys.”

The Europeans celebrated a concept called soft power, which involves sanctions, the mobilization of public opinion, and other strategies that avoid military action. They wanted an option that cost less than becoming a global power.

Soft power, however, was simply a way to evade reality. As the Russians loomed larger and the Middle East spilled over into Europe, the Europeans discovered that soft power was… soft. And that they needed hard power, which the United States had (and to a far lesser extent Britain and France), but no one else did.

Suddenly, the world seemed out of control to the Europeans since they lacked the hard power to shape events.

In terms of soft power, NATO began to take on a function it was never designed for. As communism fell, post-communist European states sought membership in NATO—not so much to be defended, but to become integrated and Europeanized.

Membership in the EU and NATO, it was believed, would turn these former Soviet satellites into Western countries. But NATO is a military alliance. It’s about tanks and planes and war plans.

Integrating new countries into Western Europe was not the alliance’s purpose. Defending these countries and the rest of Europe was NATO’s function, but that function atrophied as war seemed increasingly irrelevant.

NATO No Longer Serves the Purpose for the US
The Europeans felt that the United States’ power should be available to them through NATO. They now hear the message that the United States is not prepared to spend a vast amount of money on its military and then allow the Europeans a voice in its use.

The issue is not NATO itself, but the defense relationship between Europe and the United States. NATO is simply the old framework for that relationship, which was established after World War II.

At the time, the United States towered over Europe economically and militarily. Europe had little that it could contribute to defense, while the United States had an overriding interest in preventing the Soviets from seizing Western Europe.

Comfortable with the asymmetrical arrangement, the US contributed the bulk of the military power to potentially fight a war on European territory, while Europe took the primary risk.

That was the foundation of NATO. That foundation crumbled long ago, mostly with the fall of the Soviet Union and the signing of the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union.

nato trainingNATO
NATO military training at Ādaži Military Base.

Europe Is Too Complex to Defend Itself
The total population of the European Union is just over 508 million people. The population of the United States is about 320 million people. The GDP of the European Union is $18.45 trillion, while the GDP of the United States is about $18.3 trillion.

In other words, Europe and the United States are equal in wealth, while Europe has almost 200 million people more than the US does. There is, therefore, no reason why the Europeans should not have a military capability equal to or even greater than that of the US.

Though Europe was understandably the junior partner in the 1950s, neither demographics nor economics show the continent to be a junior partner now.
Today, policy decisions are what ensure the ongoing asymmetry between the United State’s commitment to NATO and Europe’s.

The structural problem is that the European Union lacks a defense dimension. European unification is a complex quilt of relationships, and defense rests in the hands of individual sovereign states.

The largest state, Germany, which should be devoting the most to a European defense force, devotes little even to its own force. Britain is cutting back its defense expenditures. And while France is raising the issue of increasing defense budgets, it still has a military force with limited capability.

There is an assumption in NATO that each country will devote 2% of its GDP to defense. A few do this, but most do not, and Europe as a whole does not come close. The American contribution to NATO is 2.7% of US GDP.

The extraordinary fact is not that Trump pointed out this disparity and made clear that it couldn’t continue, but that it took Trump to make this a major issue.
nato training
Nato military exerciseSgt. Sara Graham/USMC
Lance Cpl. Arturo Campos, assistant fire team leader for Delta Co., 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, run through dry fire drills during exercise Trident Juncture 2015 in Almeria, Spain, Oct. 27, 2015. These drills allow Reserve Marines to train in realistic environments and maintain a high state of readiness. More than 36,000 troops from more than 30 nations are participating in the exercise which is the largest NATO has conducted in the past 10 years.

Europe Must Take the Lead, but It Can’t
NATO’s mission was clear during the Cold War. It was to defend Western Europe from a Soviet attack. Military alliances function best with simple objectives. In this case, the military mission evaporated, but the alliance continued in place.

Lacking a clear and present military mission, Europeans became even more reluctant to invest in defense. The need for defense seemed distant from the reality Europe was living in.

Now, the Russians are reasserting their place in history, and the Islamic State is targeting European capitals. It is not clear how the threats they pose are to be countered, but the challenge will demand military force in some capacity.

The United States has been seen as vastly overreacting to 9/11 in Europe. A counterargument is that the Europeans simply didn’t believe they would become targets, but they have.

Today the fears fanned by terrorist acts in Europe have less to do with the number killed than with the disconcerting reality that a strike may come at any place and at any time. A state that does not act quickly and decisively to counter terrorism within its borders loses legitimacy and the trust of its public and its allies.

The Europeans must act, as the United States has determined that it will no longer act alone. In the case of Syria, the US is prepared to use air power but will not deploy the multidivisional force needed to bring peace to the country.

Instead, the US wants fellow NATO partners to shoulder a much larger part of the burden. And while the US is prepared to play a part, it does not intend to take the leading role.
Nato military exercise
Nato military exercise
Nato military exerciseTony Gentile/REUTERS
Military planes fly in formation during a NATO military exercise at the Birgi NATO Airbase in Trapani, Italy October 19, 2015. NATO and its allies opened their largest military exercise in more than a decade on Monday, choosing the central Mediterranean to showcase strengths that face threats from Russia's growing military presence from the Baltics to Syria.

Europe, however, is incapable of taking that role because it does not have the troops, hardware, or motivation to do so. Thus, the Europeans will continue to hope for soft power solutions so as to avoid the pain of hard power actions.

They will not be able to act decisively, even if they wish to do so, for many years. As for Russia and the situation in Ukraine, the US is taking steps in conjunction with Poland and Romania, but geography dictates that it cannot be the primary player there.

The foundations of NATO have dissolved. Europe’s financial commitment to NATO is not credible. The willingness of the US to operate within the constraints of NATO is long gone. A unified strategic outlook is missing.

NATO can be repaired, but it is hard to see that there is any unified vision or will to do so. Multinational institutions do not die. They continue to have annual meetings, such as NATO’s upcoming summit in Poland in July. But what is a military alliance without a military or a mission? It is just an anachronism.

The Europeans understand the problem, but want it to go away because dealing with it is much too hard. The problem will not go away, but the United States will as the partnership with Europe is largely an illusion.

The threats posed by Russian ambitions and terrorist plots will not go away, but will simply become increasingly difficult to manage. Good will and conferences cannot solve the problem. I think that the twentieth century exhausted Europe’s will to do difficult things, and for more than half a century, the things Europe had to do were relatively simple.

That is no longer the case. We will all agree that something needs to be done. We will also know that nothing will be.

Top Navy official: Russian sub activity expands to Cold War level


Russia is deploying its ballistic missiles and attack submarines in numbers, range and aggression not seen in two decades, according to a top U.S. Navy official.
In an exclusive interview, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Europe told CNN that the buildup reflects an alarming strategic world view.

“NATO is viewed as an existential threat to Russia, and in the post-Cold War period, the expansion of NATO eastward closer to Russia and our military capability they view as a very visceral threat to Russia,” Adm. Mark Ferguson said.

Ferguson spoke from his base in Naples, Italy, home to U.S. Naval forces in Europe and the Navy’s 6th Fleet.

Adding to U.S. apprehension, Russia is deploying new submarines that are harder for U.S. naval forces to track and detect following years and billions of dollars in investment.

They are quieter, better armed and have a greater range of operation.

“The submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy,” Ferguson said. “We’re seeing (the Russians) have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and we also see their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”

The U.S. currently has 53 submarines in its inventory, but because of decommissioning and budget decisions, Ferguson said that figure will drop to 41 by the late 2020s.

“We cannot maintain 100% awareness of Russian sub activity today,” retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, told CNN. “Our attack subs are better, but not by much. Russian subs pose an existential threat to U.S. carrier groups.”

The increased Russian sub activity is backed by a much broader military expansion.

Russia is adding or upgrading some 12 naval bases across the Arctic Circle — expanding its capability to send subs in numbers through the crucial Greenland-Iceland-U.K. gap into the Atlantic — and closer to U.S. and NATO territorial waters.

They country also stationed six submarines in the Black Sea recently, giving them greater reach in the Mediterranean.

More worrying to the U.S., Moscow is also adding entirely new categories of submarines with greater capabilities to its arsenal.

“They have increased the readiness levels of the force,” Ferguson said. “They are operating it with more … out-of-area deployments, and what we are seeing is an improvement in the readiness of that force as well.”

The U.S. believes the new activity is designed to achieve multiple objectives, including denying NATO and the U.S. the ability to operate within Russia’s so-called “near abroad.”

Ferguson said that one important goal for Russia “is to build their own naval capability in the undersea domain to begin to deny NATO and the United States the ability to maneuver on the maritime flanks of NATO.”

Increasingly alarmed by Russia’s new sub developments, the U.S. and its NATO allies are launching new training exercises in anti-submarine warfare and deploying new systems, including the P8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft.

Russia’s growing military activity extends above the surface as well.

A Russian fighter jet’s fly-by of the USS Donald Cook this week — coming within 30 feet laterally and 100 feet vertically — is behavior U.S. naval commanders have not witnessed since the Cold War.

“We had radio calls in both English and Russian and the aircraft didn’t respond and proceeded on a course directly at the ship,” Ferguson said. “While we had seen these interactions before, this one was different because of the proximity to the ship, and the altitude and the flight path that it took.”

Putin Right on Role of Clinton-Bush Dynasties Dominating US Politics © AP Photo/ Charles Dharapak POLITICS

President Barack Obama stands with former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter.
07:24 16.04.2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin was accurate in his assessment of the durability of the political establishment in the United States, but sometimes the advantages of wealth and dynasty can backfire, former European Union adviser Paolo von Schirach told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — In his annual nationally televised question and answer broadcast with the Russian people on Thursday, Putin expressed his doubts about the possibility of removing power from established circles in the United States, citing the Bush and Clinton political dynasties as examples.

Putin Identifies Continuing Grip of Neocon-Liberal Militarists Running US Policy
"Yes, it is true that in America politics has become a ‘family business’, in at least some instances. Of course the Bush and Clinton ‘dynasties’ seem to prove Putin’s point," Schirach, president of the Global Policy Institute and a professor of international relations at BAU University, said on Friday.

However, Schirach noted that the current US presidential election campaign had also exposed unanticipated limits to the effectiveness of financial and dynastic influence in retaining or renewing political power.

"Notwithstanding formidable financial backing coming from old friends of his family, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush failed miserably in his attempt to gain the Republican nomination, mostly because Republican voters did not want to have ‘another Bush’ leading their party."

Jeb Bush had anticipated a possible popular reaction against his family and had thought he could overcome it by repackaging himself as an independent figure, but his effort failed completely, Schirach noted.

"The former governor tried to deflect this objection by presenting himself to the voters as ‘Jeb,’ and not as another Bush. But, it did not work. The family legacy proved to be a huge obstacle."

However, Schirach acknowledged that Bush’s failure had not ended the dynastic influence in US national politics.

Hillary Clinton, former two-term first lady and secretary of state, "most likely will be the Democratic Party nominee, with very good chances to be elected President," he admitted.

But even Clinton, who had anticipated a smooth "coronation" to the Democratic presidential nomination, still faced two uphill battles, first for the nomination against Senator Bernie Sanders, and then to win the national election in November, Schirach predicted.

"As several opinion polls show, a majority of Americans do not like her, in large part because she is seen as the latest manifestation of the ‘Clinton Machine,’" he acknowledged, referring to the entrenched connections and loyalists in the US establishment.

Sanders has routinely criticized Clinton for her connections to the large financial institutions on Wall Street and hefty payments and donations she received from them.

President Putin was also accurate in his observation because the very structure of the US political system was strongly weighted against change, renewal and reform by electing new people with different ideas to the two chambers of Congress, Schirach maintained.

"The real problem in American politics is that the system at the congressional level — mostly in the House of Representatives, but also in Senate elections — strongly favors incumbents," he stated. "This prevents the renewal of the national leadership. And this is a real issue."

This electoral dynamic had created an almost unmovable political establishment composed of perennially re-elected House and some Senate members, Schirach concluded.

Saudi Arabia Threatens United States: Will Dump US Treasury Holdings, If Congress Passes 9-11 Bill

written by robert wenzel
saturday april 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, reports NYT.

According to NYT, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.

The administration, which argues that the legislation would put Americans at legal risk overseas, has been lobbying so intently against the bill that some lawmakers and families of Sept. 11 victims are infuriated. In their view, the Obama administration has consistently sided with the kingdom and has thwarted their efforts to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi officials played in the terrorist plot.

President Obama will arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials. It is unclear whether the dispute over the Sept. 11 legislation will be on the agenda for the talks.

Reprinted with permission from Economic Policy Journal.

US, EU Back Albania’s Regional Center to Fight Radicalism

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, April 14, 2016.
Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, April 14, 2016.
Ilir Ikonomi
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said Thursday that preparations were underway in his country to set up a regional center for the fight against radicalism.
In comments made immediately following a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, Rama said his government had the backing of the United States and the European Union in this undertaking.
He said Albania was also striving to promote religious coexistence among youth. Young people, he said, should not take religious coexistence for granted; they need to invest in it.
Rama said he was also meeting with FBI officials to ask for technical support in improving Albania’s justice system. The changes include the creation of an anti-corruption court and a prosecutor's office as well as a national investigative body similar to the FBI. The United States has provided $20 million in assistance to support the reforms, and $5 million more is budgeted this year.
During his visit, Rama praised the United States for its strong support of Albania since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s.
Albania, a NATO member since 2009, enjoys a strategic partnership with the United States.
The Balkan nation has been helping relocate thousands of members of the exiled Iranian Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. Over the past year and a half, Albania has taken in about 1,000 members of the group and has committed to taking 2,000 more.
During his weeklong visit, the Albanian prime minister has drawn attention with comments strongly critical of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying Americans should not vote for him.

Πρόκληση της Αλβανίας: Αφαιρούνται τίτλοι ιδιοκτησίας από 123 ελληνικές οικογένειες

Στην περιοχή της Χειμάρρας

Proto Thema

Πρόκληση της Αλβανίας: Αφαιρούνται τίτλοι ιδιοκτησίας από 123 ελληνικές οικογένειες


Πρόκειται για τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας που εκδόθηκαν 22 χρόνια πριν, το 1994, σε ελληνικές οικογένειες των Δρυμάδων

Με μία προκλητική απόφαση τα Τίρανα ακυρώνουν τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας για τη γη που κατέχουν 123 ελληνικές οικογένειες στο χωριό Δρυμάδες της Χειμάρρας. Όπως έφερε στο φως η ενημερωτική πύλη, μέσω γραπτής ανακοίνωσης που τοιχοκολλήθηκε σε καφενείο του χωριού, έγινε γνωστή η απόφαση της Επιτροπής Ελέγχου Τίτλων Ιδιοκτησίας που συστάθηκε από την Νομαρχία Αυλώνας με απόφαση του Αλβανού πρωθυπουργού Έντι Ράμα. Πρόκειται για τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας που εκδόθηκαν 22 χρόνια πριν, το 1994, σε ελληνικές οικογένειες των Δρυμάδων, με βάση το νόμο 7501. Η προκλητική απόφαση κάνει λόγο για «παρατυπίες» σε 123 τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας που εκδόθηκαν το 1994 και ζητείται από τον Δήμο Χειμάρρας να προχωρήσει στην ακύρωσή τους

Πρόσφατα , ο πρωθυπουργός Ράμα δήλωσε στο χωριό Βουνό της Χειμάρρας, πως έχουν εντοπιστεί 11.000 στρέμματα με «παράνομους» τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας. Ωστόσο η κίνηση αυτή εντάσσεται στις μεθοδεύσεις της αλβανικής κυβέρνησης να αφαιρέσει αυθαίρετα τίτλους ιδιοκτησίας από δεκάδες ομογενείς της περιοχής, Είναι χαρακτηριστικό, πως με την απόφαση αυτή αφαιρούνται ουσιαστικά η γη από τις μισές ελληνικές οικογένειες των Δρυμάδων.

Κάθε τίτλος ιδιοκτησίας συμπεριλαμβάνει όλα τα αγροτεμάχια που έχει στην κατοχή της μια οικογένεια, που κατά περίπτωση μπορεί να είναι από 1 έως 10 και περισσότερα με έκταση από 100 τ.μ. έως 10.000 τ.μ. το καθένα. Γίνεται λοιπόν αντιληπτό το τεράστιο μέγεθος της συνολικής ακίνητης περιουσίας που επιχειρείται να αφαιρεθεί από τις οικογένειες αυτές.

Όπως αναφέρει το, μετά την ακύρωση των τίτλων ιδιοκτησίας τα κτήματα αυτά επιστρέφουν στο αλβανικό κράτος το οποίο μπορεί:
1) Να τα παραχωρήσει στο ταμείο ελεύθερων κτημάτων, τα οποία θα δοθούν σε Αλβανούς υπηκόους των οποίων οι περιουσίες (στα Τίρανα ή αλλού) είχαν κατασχεθεί από το κομουνιστικό καθεστώς.
2) Να τα παραχωρήσει σε Αλβανούς επενδυτές έναντι 1 ευρώ με βάση το νόμο για την ανάπτυξη του τουρισμού.

Τα τελευταία χρόνια τα Τίρανα έχουν στοχοποιήσει ιδιοκτησίες που ανήκουν σε Έλληνες κατοίκους της παραθαλάσσιας περιοχής, η οποία θεωρείται «τουριστικό φιλέτο». Η πολιτική των Τιράνων εντάσσεται στην συνεχή προσπάθεια αφελληνισμού της Χειμάρρας, όπως συνέβη με τον Ελληνισμό των Αγίων Σαράντα και του Αργυροκάστρου. Έως το 1945 η Χειμάρρα ήταν επισήμως αναγνωρισμένη από την Αλβανία, ως ελληνική μειονοτική ζώνη.

Σήμερα η περιοχή δεν ανήκει στη μειονοτική ζώνη που αναγνωρίζει η Αλβανία και επίσημα καλύπτει μόλις 99 χωριά της επαρχίας Αργυροκάστρου. Για τα επίσημα Τίρανα, οι κάτοικοι της Χειμάρρας είναι «δίγλωσσοι» Αλβανοί.