Saturday, April 30, 2016

U.S. analysts: Serbians choose EU, reject Russia

The convincing victory of Aleksandar Vucic and his SNS party in the elections last Sunday was expected, American analysts believe.
Source: Tanjug
They estimate that the result "shows a clear commitment of citizens of Serbia to the pro-EU path."
"The most important conclusion after the victory of Prime Minister Vucic is that the Serbian people continued to show determination to go toward the European Union," said Edward Joseph, an analyst with the Institute of Current World Affairs.

He told Voice of America this is all the more important when the alternative is the leader of the SRS Vojislav Seselj, who was recently acquitted by the Hague Tribunal.

According to Joseph, it is important that citizens of Serbia "rejected the path to Russia and clearly supported the continuation of the path towards the EU."

Daniel Serwer from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said that he expected Vucic to win, and convincingly.

He, however, believes it is more important to pay attention to others who have received votes in the election, and taking this into account - "true democracy is not yet present in Serbia."

"I do not see a viable opposition that can be in power. For me, democracy is when you have a real possibility of change of government, and I do not see this possibility in Serbia today," Serwer said.

This analyst thinks that neither Seselj nor will the divided liberal democrats will come to power.

Serwer noted that this was "not Vucic's fault" but rather "a consequence of his success."

"I am not against Vucic, but that is how democracy functions," Tanjug reported him as telling Voice of America.

Serwer also believes that Vucic should now use the election victory to take concrete steps to demonstrate the commitment to the West. The first among them, he suggested, could Serbia "imposing sanctions against Russia" over Ukraine.

Reality Check: Will UK pay £1.8bn to Albania and Turkey?

BBCPresident of Albania Bujar Nishani (L) with European council President Donald Tusk next to a quote from Vote Leave: UK pays £1.8bn to help Albania and Turkey join the EU.”

The Claim: Vote Leave says the UK will be obliged to pay £1.8bn by 2020 to encourage Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey to join the EU.
Reality check verdict: Over a seven year period, £1.2bn of the UK's contributions to the EU Budget will go to seven candidate states. The UK committed another £250m towards helping Turkey support Syrian refugees for two years and might commit more in the future.
Vote Leave says the UK government will pay Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey a total of £1.2bn between 2014 and 2020 as part of the EU fund to help these countries to join the EU.
They say that the UK will pay Turkey a further £640m "as part of the recent EU-Turkey deal designed to facilitate Turkish accession to the EU", bringing the total to £1.84bn.
In 2014 the EU agreed to use a total of €11.7bn (£9.1bn) from its seven-year budget 2014-2020 to help seven EU candidate countries - Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo - make political and economic reforms.
Turkey, the largest of the seven countries, will receive a total of €4.5bn over the seven year period. Albania will receive €649m.
On the basis of the 2014-2020 EU fund, Vote Leave calculated the UK's share of the total the EU is spending on reforms in those seven countries.
The UK's contribution to the EU Budget varies from year to year. It has been around 12% to 13% of the total in recent years and the Treasury says it was 12.57% in 2015. Vote Leave used the UK's 2015 share of the total and 2014 exchange rates and arrived at the figure of £1.2bn as the UK contribution to the programme.
Of the seven countries helped by this EU fund, Turkey has progressed furthest in its pursuit of EU membership, but it is nevertheless unlikely to join in the next 10 years.

Deal on refugees

The second part of this claim, that the EU recently agreed a deal with Turkey "to facilitate Turkish accession to the EU" is incorrect.
The EU and Turkey signed a deal in November 2015 to support Syrian refugees in Turkey in an attempt to reduce the number of refugees crossing into Greece. The EU will provide €3bn over the next two years for this programme, €1bn of which will come from the EU budget and the rest from contributions from member states according to the size of their economies.
Germany, which has the biggest economy, will pay €428m, while the UK will pay €328m (£250m).
The UK's contribution will count towards the UK's aid target of 0.7% of national income.
In addition, the EU promised an extra €3bn for Turkey by 2018 if the first programme for supporting Syrian refugees is successfully completed. There is no detail on whether this would come out of the EU Budget or be met by bilateral contributions.

Read more: The facts behind claims in the EU debate

Friday, April 29, 2016

Albania Confirms Fugitive's Arrest in Netherlands

After nine months on the run from his life jail sentence, Albanian police have confirmed at Arben Frroku is under arrest in Holland.

Gjergj Erebara
  Arben Frroku behind bars | Photo by : LSA
Albanian police have confirmed that Arben Frroku - who has been on the run since June 2015 - is under arrest in Holland, having been identified by his fingerprints while living under false documents.
Confirmation came after former prime minister Sali Berisha claimed that the Albanian police were deliberately not collaborating with the Dutch authorities on the atter in order to avoid his extradition.
“Do you know that Arben Frroku has been arrested for two months now - but the Ministry of Interior is not sending any confirmation of this?” Berisha told an interview with News 24 television.
Albanian police on Thursday confirmed Frroku's arrest in Holland - but did not say when the arrest actually occurred.
“Interpol in The Hague announced today at 17:15 to Interpol Tirana that Arben Frroku, sentenced by Albanian Justice to life imprisonment, was identified and arrested,” the Albanian police press release noted.
“Interpol Tirana had been in contact during the last few days with... The Netherlands regarding this issue, but only this afternoon (28 April) came confirmation that the person arrested for using fake documents under the name 'Renato Tsepa', was in fact Arben Frroku,” the press release added.
Frroku was sentenced to life in prison last year for murdering Dritan Lamaj, a police officer, on the evening of 24 February 2013.
He was arrested the following day in Thessaloniki, Greece. The businessman and head of a political party that his brother, Mark Frroku, later headed, pleaded not guilty. His lawyer claimed he was far away from the murder scene at that time.
The Court of First Instance in Tirana found him not guilty on April 3, 2015. However the Court of Appeals of Serious Crimes overturned the verdict on 29 June, 2015, found him guilty and sentenced him to life in jail. In the meantime, he had left the country, however.
Frroku’s younger brother, Mark, who was an MP in parliament until he resigned last year, was arrested in April 2015 for perjury concerning allegations of a fake murder plot against two MPs, but also based on an arrest warrant from Belgium where the authorities seek him for a murder that took place in 1999.
A Brussels court has ruled that he was guilty of the premeditated murder of an Albanian citizen, Aleksander Kurti, in March 1999, in collaboration with three other men.

The Latest: Albania Stages Exercise to Prepare for Migrants

The Latest on Europe's response to migrants (all times local):

Albania's Defense Ministry says the navy and law enforcement authorities have held joint sea military exercises in preparation of a possible influx of refugees.

A statement Friday said some navy ships held the codenamed "Vlora Sarex 16" exercises at Vlora Bay, 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of the capital, Tirana, simulating "prevention of human trafficking and stopping traffickers ... and also a search-and-rescue operation."

Albania, a NATO member since 2009, borders Greece, where tens of thousands of migrants have been stranded after the closure of the Balkan corridor, and Macedonia.

Though it hasn't been a transit route so far, Albania is cooperating with the European agencies to prepare for a possible flow of migrants.

Serbian Defense Minister Reveals Four Pillars of Belgrade's Foreign Policy

 Soldiers of the Serbian Army© AFP 2016/ ANDREJ ISAKOVIC
11:47 29.04.2016
Serbia's foreign policy rests on four pillars, the country's defense minister told Sputnik.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Serbia is a neutral country that relies on the development of multidirectional foreign policy to maintain rapport with all global powers, Serbian Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic told Sputnik.

"Our foreign policy rests on four pillars — Moscow, Brussels, Washington and Beijing. Also, our military cooperation is built on a principal of neutrality. We try to maintain good relationships with all states."

Protesters holding a banner that reads: Serbia is not NATO during a protest against NATO in downtown Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016
Say No to NATO: Serbia Intends to Maintain Military Neutrality
Serbia's military neutrality is enshrined in a 2007 parliamentary resolution. However, in February, the country passed a law to cooperate with NATO through an Individual Partnership Action Plan.
Asked about Serbia’s possible plans to join the US-led bloc, Djordjevic pointed out that Serbia, a Balkan nation surrounded by NATO members, "wants to develop cooperation with all countries."

Since 2014, NATO has been building up its military presence in Europe, particularly in Eastern European countries bordering Russia, using Moscow's alleged interference in Ukraine as a pretext for the move.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trump Declines to Rule Out Nuclear Strike Against Daesh

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares You're fired! at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire
© REUTERS/ Dominick Reuter
16:47 28.04.2016(updated 22:28 28.04.2016) Get short URL
The Republican frontrunner has been both excoriated for knowing nothing about foreign policy, and celebrated for thinking outside the box. In reality, nobody seems to have a clue what he’ll do, and that arguably includes himself.

On Thursday, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump refused to rule out the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, but signaled that such a measure would be a last resort, referring to the carnage of atomic weaponry as "a horror."
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.
© AP Photo/ Susan Walsh
Kerry Calls on Russia to Influence Damascus to Abide by Truce After Alleged Aleppo Hospital Attack

"The power of weaponry today is the single greatest problem that our world has, and it’s not global warming like our president said, it’s the power of weapons – in particular nuclear weapons," said Trump.

Washington foreign policy establishment appointees have scorned the presidential nominee for being a foreign policy lightweight, after Trump called for a reworking of America’s commitment to NATO and the normalizing of relations with Russia.

The billionaire nominee received even more scorn from Beltway think tank "experts" following a keynote speech on foreign policy Wednesday before the National Press Club at Washington, DC’s Mayflower hotel.

The speech, in which the candidate rather innocently said that the primary focus of his foreign policy would be to put "America First," received instant and obtuse rebuke suggesting that the nominee was a covert Nazi-sympathizer. "America First" was the slogan of Charles Lindbergh in the late 1930s, calling for the United States to stay out of World War II, despite the spreading scourge of Nazism.
US Special Forces Group
© Flickr/ The U.S. Army
Carter: Ultimate Goal of Deploying US Troops to Syria is to Retake Raqqa From Daesh

The candidate’s speech called for a generally less interventionist use of the military, with a move away from influencing and policing world policy, providing security to European and Asian countries, and committing to regional conflicts with no endgame strategy.

Trump’s calls for non-intervention were at times at odds with his muscular foreign policy propositions, including the wiping out of Daesh "so fast that they won’t know what hit them," and plans to revamp the military, focusing on upgrading the US Navy and nuclear arsenal, in addition to addressing troop shortages.

The candidate’s foreign policy stance focused not only on military policy, but also on economic and trade policy. The candidate’s stated main objection to NATO is that the United States provides 78% of the funds and troops. Trump listed similar objections to the US military presence in Asia. He called for a renegotiation of trade deals, to bring an end to the $500 billion trade imbalance between the US and China.

In a stark departure from conventional foreign policy, Trump declared the benefits of "unpredictability," refusing to lay out the exact steps he would take to address the Daesh terror threat and other security challenges. The candidate blasted the Obama Administration for announcing troop deployments and strategy to America’s enemies, claiming that "we tell them what we’re going to do, it’s insane."
A man watches a TV news program showing a file footage of North Korea's rocket launch at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 28, 2016.
© AP Photo/ Ahn Young-joon
Second Missile Launch Carried Out by N Korea on Thursday Most Likely Failed

In response, mainstream analysts fired back at Trump, saying that he uses "unpredictability" to mask the fact that he doesn’t have a plan. Trump responded to these charges by saying, "I know foreign policy, I know foreign policy so well, believe me, I went to the best schools and I’m a very smart guy."

Responses to his statement were, for the most part, unprintable, as Trump has already announced that "I have the best words."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


“Tjetërsimi i pronave në Bregdet, në caqet e një “genocidi pronësor". Vëmendje ndërkombëtare për komunitetin historik të Himarës"

Postuar në 27 Prill, 2016 18:05
Partia Bashkimi për të Drejtat e Njeriut ka dalë sot me një deklaratë për shtyp përmes së cilës ka apeluar për vëmendje ndërkombëtare ndaj asaj që e quan “trajtim të komunitetit historik të Himarës”. Në deklaratë nënvizohet ndërhyrja që po ndodh në zonën e Bregdetit ndaj pronës, nën emrin e kthimit të saj dhe të kualifikimit si monument kulture, duke mos u ndalur as edhe para pronave të Kishës. “Këto ditë të javës së Madhe dhe të Shenjte të Pashkës Orthodhokse, por njëherësh edhe të pragçeljes së sezonit turistik, Dhermiu dhe Vunoi në veçanti dhe gjithë Bashkia e Himarës në përgjithësi janë venë "nën pushtimin" e buldozerëve, skrapeve dhe forcave të Inspektoratit Kombëtar të Mbrojtjes së Territorit.
Diku me evokim selektiv të ligjit dhe diku të "maliqit", vjelin haraçe, prishin objekte, tjetërsojnë prona. Kërcënojnë çdo familje individualisht dhe kultivojnë panik kolektiv.
Frymëzimet Kokedhima-Rama të mishëruara në "projekte zhvillimi" për bregun e Jonit synojnë tjetërsimin tërësor të statusit pronësor në dem të pronarëve të ligjshëm privatë, komunitarë dhe kishtarë. Thirrja jonë i drejtohet së pari zotit Rama që të ndërpresë menjëherë këtë ndërmarrje që prek caqet e një "genocidi pronësor" dhe së dyti komunitetit ndërkombëtar që të kthejë vështrimin dhe të shikojë se si trajtohet komuniteti historik i Himarës nga qeveria e një vendi kandidat të BE”, thuhet në deklaratë.

Image result for Himarrioton Society of America

Himarrioton Society of America

"We the HSA are calling for a stop to the illegal and inhumane acts of the Construction Inspectorate and the intimidation practices by State Police against the people of Dhrimadhes and Vuno. We ask the entire Himarrioton Community, wherever they presently reside to UNITE and STAND UP against the destruction of our patriots’ homes and properties. A fully corrupted state which is headed by a criminal minded government that does not recognize any of our legal and property rights and year after year and time after time violates our human rights at will, has no legal authority over freedom loving people of Himara.

We must put a stop to this government sponsored vandalism, NOW!!!"










Πριν από λίγες ημέρες κατεδαφίστηκε στο Πύλιουρι της Χιμάρας το κτήριο που φιλοξενούσε το παντοπωλείο του χωριού. Στον Τύπο είδαμε φωτογραφίες από τους ηλικιωμένους κατοίκους του χωριού, οι οποίοι παρακαλούσαν να μην τους χαλάσουν τη μοναδική πηγή ζωής, ενώ ο δυστυχής ιδιοκτήτης του κτηρίου, ο μόνος κάτω των 65 ετών και πατέρας των δύο μοναδικών ανήλικων παιδιών του χωριού, περιφερόταν τριγύρω αμήχανα. Οι ηλικιωμένοι του Πύλιουρι προσπάθησαν να εμποδίσουν την κατεδάφιση αλλά κανείς δεν μπορεί να τα βάλει με αυτό το θηρίο, το κράτος. Η εύκολη κίνηση είναι να κατέβουν στην πόλη της Χιμάρας, ενώ ο κατεστραμμένος οικονομικά ιδιοκτήτης του παντοπωλείου σίγουρα θα κόψει ένα εισιτήριο χωρίς επιστροφή για την Αθήνα γι' αυτόν και την οικογένειά του.
Το παντοπωλείο στο Πύλιουρι γκρεμίστηκε για να φτιαχτεί μια καινούργια πλατεία, αλλά για ποιόν;
Αντίστοιχο σκηνικό και στο χωριό Δρυμάδες όπου έφτασαν αστυνομικές δυνάμεις και συνεργεία με εκρηκτικά για να ανατινάξουν τα καινούργια σπίτια του χωριού καθώς δεν συνάδουν με τα νέα κριτήρια που επέβαλλε η αλβανική Κυβέρνηση ύστερα από την ανακήρυξη του χωριού ως Ιστορικό Κέντρο.
Επόμενα στη σειρά είναι το χωριό Βουνό και το παλιό χωριό της Χιμάρας, ενώ κανείς δεν ξέρει μπροστά σε ποιου την πόρτα θα σταματήσουν την επόμενη μέρα οι μπουλντόζες. Και δεν είναι μόνο οι μπουλντόζες της Αστυνομίας αλλά και ο στρατός ανατινάζει σπίτια κι επιχειρήσεις σαν αντίλαλο στις καθημερινές εκρήξεις δυναμίτη που τοποθετούν εγκληματικές οργανώσεις ανά την Αλβανία.
Συνέχεια ακούμε τις φράσεις: "θα τη φτιάξουμε τη Χιμάρα" και "θα επαναφέρουμε τη Χιμάρα στην αυθεντικότητα". Κανείς, όμως, δεν μας λέει αν μας θέλουν σε αυτή τη Χιμάρα...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trump Urges Bernie Sanders to Break With Dems for Independent Run

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
© AFP 2016/ Michael B. Thomas
22:00 26.04.2016
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he believes Senator Bernie Sanders should run as an Independent.

Trump has made it a point to compare himself, and his struggle with the  Republican Party establishment, to the challenges Senator Sanders faces within the Democratic Party, suggesting that they are both treated unfairly.
“Bernie Sanders has been treated terribly by the Democrats—both with delegates & otherwise,” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “He should show them, and run as an Independent!”

Following the tweet, Jane Sanders, the candidate’s wife, was interviewed on television, stating that her husband will not “play the role of spoiler,” running as an Independent.

Candidate Sanders, who was an Independent in the Senate, also asserted that he will continue to run as a Democrat.

On Sunday, he spoke out about his unfair treatment at the hands of  the Democratic Party establishment.

"So it sounds like the party, though, you feel like it's been fair to you?" the interviewer asked Sanders. The candidate greeted the slights with a shrug.

Neck and Neck: Clinton, Trump Take 50 Percent National Lead in Latest Poll
"No. I think we have — look, we're taking on the establishment. That's pretty clear," the Senator responded. "The fact that we had debates that were scheduled — pretty clearly, to my mind — at a time when there would be minimal viewing audience, et cetera, et cetera. But you know, that's the way it is. We knew we were taking on the establishment. And here we are. So not complaining."

Tuesday’s tweet is not the first time Trump has mentioned the unfair treatment of Sanders. Earlier this month he said, “week after week — he wins, he wins, he wins, he wins — then I watch you and I watch all of the pundits and they say ‘but he can’t win.’ You know why? It’s stacked against him. It really is. It’s stacked against him. In his case it’s super delegates, in my case it’s the obvious.”

Trump has also previously hinted at the possibility of his own Independent run, and, if Sanders did the same, the four-way race would be unprecedented in the history of American politics.

Το παρασκήνιο της σύλληψης του Νικολάκη Νεράντζη

Στις 23 Απριλίου, η Αλβανική αστυνομία προσπάθησε να συλλάβει τον πρώην βουλευτή της Χιμάρας με το LSI, Νικολάκη Νεράντζη στα κεντρικά γραφεία της επιχείρησης του στα Τίρανα ενώ οργάνωνε έκθεση τροφίμων, παρουσία των υπαλλήλων και καλεσμένων, ανάμεσα τους και διπλωματικοί αντιπρόσωποι στην Αλβανία.
Η προσπάθεια σύλληψης του απέτυχε λόγω της αντίστασης που προέβαλε και διότι η αστυνομία δεν είχε ένταλμα σύλληψης από εισαγγελέα ή δικαστή. Τελικά ο επιχειρηματίας από την Χιμάρα συμφώνησε να παρουσιαστεί οικειοθελώς στην αστυνομία όπου κρατήθηκε για έξι ώρες και αφέθηκε ελεύθερος αφού του ανακοινώθηκε ότι διώκεται ποινικά για αντίσταση κατά της αστυνομίας και για παρακώλυση κυκλοφορίας.
Η αλβανική αστυνομία ισχυρίζεται πως κατά την διάρκεια της έκθεσης που πραγματοποιούσε στην επιχείρησή του ο κ. Νεράντζης, τα αυτοκίνητα των καλεσμένων παρακώλυσαν την κυκλοφορία και του ζήτησαν να τα απομακρύνει από τον χώρο μπροστά από την επιχείρηση του.
Ο επιχειρηματίας αντέδρασε βίαια ζητώντας να επιτραπεί η στάθμευση των οχημάτων και να αποχωρήσει η τροχαία από το χώρο της επιχείρησής του.
Για το λόγο αυτό η αστυνομία ζήτησε την παρέμβαση των δυνάμεων της άμεσης δράσης για να συλλάβουν τον επιχειρηματία με την διαδικασία του αυτοφώρου για αντίσταση κατά της αστυνομία.
Ο ίδιος ισχυρίζεται πως τα οχήματα είχαν σταθμεύσει εντός του χώρου της επιχείρησης του και σε δημόσιο χώρο που επιτρέπετε η στάθμευση οχημάτων και πως τα αυτοκίνητα με διπλωματικές πινακίδες μπορούν να σταθμεύσουν όπου θέλουν.
Οι δεκάδες αστυνομικοί της άμεσης δράσης που όρμησαν στους χώρους της επιχείρησης του κ. Νεράντζη δεν κατάφεραν τελικά να τον συλλάβουν και απομακρύνθηκαν μετά την υπόσχεση πως θα παρουσιαστεί οικειοθελώς όπως και έκανε. Ο επιχειρηματίας αντέδρασε και ζήτησε από την ιδιωτική ασφάλεια της επιχείρησης να απομακρύνει τις αστυνομικές δυνάμεις που εισέβαλαν στην επιχείρησή χωρίς ένταλμα και χωρίς την άδεια του ιδιοκτήτη.
Ποιο είναι όμως το παρασκήνιο αυτής της σύλληψης; Ας θυμηθούμε κάποια γεγονότα που ίσως αιτιολογούν την στοχοποίηση του.
- Τον τελευταίο καιρό ο πρώην βουλευτής με το LSI κ. Νεράντζης, ηγείται μιας ομάδας επιχειρημάτιων που αντιστέκονται σθεναρά στις προσπάθειες της Αλβανικής κυβέρνησης να επιβάλει αυστηρό οικονομικό νομοθετικό πλαίσιο ελέγχου και τιμωρίας που φτάνουν μέχρι 5 χρόνια φυλάκισης για την μη έκδοση απόδειξης πωλήσεως από επιχειρήσεις. Αποτέλεσμα αυτής της προσπάθειας ήταν να ακυρωθεί o νομός αυτός στο συνταγματικό δικαστήριο μετά από προσφυγή της οργάνωσης που ο κ. Νεράντζης έχει δημιουργήσει και ηγείται.
- Πριν λίγες μέρες με αφορμή την σύλληψη ενός περιβόητου κακοποιού στην Αλβανία, ο ίδιος κατηγόρησε την αστυνομία για ανοχή στο έγκλημα αφήνοντας υπονοούμενα για την ένοπλη ληστεία που έγινε στην επιχείρησή του πριν από ένα χρόνο.
- Με βάση δημοσιεύματα ενημερωτικών ιστοσελίδων ο επιχειρηματίας έχει δεχτεί πιέσεις και έχει εκβιαστεί να "πουλήσει" την επιχείρησή του σε ανθρώπους του υποκόσμου με διασυνδέσεις με την Κυβέρνηση.
- Τους τελευταίους μήνες ο πρώην βουλευτής της Χιμάρας ήταν αρκετά ενεργός στα θέματα της Χιμάρας και συμμετείχε σε αρκετές συναντήσεις κυρίως για το περιουσιακό. Στις συναντήσεις αυτές ο κ. Νεράντζης κατηγόρησε ευθέως τις τοπικές αρχές και την κυβέρνηση Ράμα.
Ο πρόεδρος του ΚΕΑΔ κ. Ευάγγελος Ντούλες σχολιάζοντας το περιστατικό, δήλωσε πως «η πράξη αυτή δείχνει την αλλαζωνία του καθεστώς. Εύχομαι η σύλληψη αυτή να μην σχετίζεται με την καταγωγή του.»

Albania, the most dangerous place to live in Europe

Posted on 26 Apr 2016

 After ranking as the country with the highest level racist for 2013 in Europe (according to the Washington Post) Albania is ranked the first country in Europe for the vulnerability humane

Albania turns out to be one of the countries most exposed to natural disasters. According to the study World Risk Report, our country has the lowest security not only in the Balkans, but in all of Europe.

Organizations that cooperation with the United Nations University and the Institute for Environment and Security, in its latest report on security in the world, providing for by journalist Vincent Triest, ranked Albania 37th place.

In this way, Albania lost two places of safety index, 2011.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Serbia's New Reality: What Election Result Means for Serbs, and for Moscow

 EU© AP Photo/ Darko Vojinovic
19:01 25.04.2016
As expected, Sunday's snap parliamentary elections in Serbia saw victory for supporters of European integration. Russian political analyst Gevorg Mirzayan summarizes the elections' implications for Serbia, and for relations between Belgrade and Moscow.

According to preliminary estimates, the electoral coalition formed around Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic's Progressive Party won about 50% of the vote, with Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic's Socialist Party coming in second, with about 13%. The anti-EU Radical Party came in third, with 8%, clearing the 5% threshold for entry into parliament. The leaders of several parties that failed to reach the threshold have launched complaints about vote rigging.

A total of 3,270 candidates from 20 political parties and electoral coalitions participated in the contest for Serbia's 250-seat National Assembly. The final results will be announced in the next few days.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday,
Serbian PM: Progressive Party’s Victory to Fast-Track EU Integration
Commenting on the election results, Expert magazine contributor Gevorg Mirzayan explained there are signs that Serbia will attempt to continue its multi-vector foreign policy course. The main question, he suggests, is whether this will actually be possible.
"On the one hand, this course implies an unconditional line toward joining the European Union, with both Vucic and Dacic advocates of European integration. Another element will be [the continuation of] policy in favor of maximum association with NATO – that is, rejection of formal entry into the alliance, combined with the highest possible level of cooperation."

"It's true, some experts believe that joining NATO is a de facto prerequisite for accession into the EU, but Serbs, understandably, are not ready to join an organization which led several wars against it in the 90s, and provided direct assistance in the business of breaking up Yugoslavia. It's most likely that this convergence will take place gradually – the early elections themselves came about after Serbs took to the streets following the ratification of another agreement with the alliance."


Sooner or Later, Serbia Will Have to Make a Choice: NATO or Russia
"Undoubtedly," Mirzayan writes, "Vucic and Dacic should expect even more serious protests, and not only over the measures to reduce social spending that will be required under the agreement with the IMF. At some point, the Serbian government will have to decide what to do with Kosovo. Right now, the Euro-integrationists, giving up their president and their generals, continue to maintain that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. However, to enter the European Union, Belgrade will have to recognize the region's independence – 'special conditions' on the question of its sovereignty are out of the question."
"It's possible that the Euro-integrationists are hoping that in time – while negotiations continue, Serbs will come to terms with the idea that Kosovo has become an independent territory. For this reason, both Brussels and Belgrade will postpone, as much as possible, the Kosovo dilemma; it should be decided as the last or next-to-last step prior to the country's accession to the EU."

Ultimately, the analyst notes, "if the social mood changes, there will be a referendum. If not, there will be a decision at the executive level (along the lines of the Montenegro case, where the head of state recently decided to take his country into NATO, in spite of popular attitudes)."

Alleged Ex-Bandit Thaci Inaugurated as New President of Kosovo
"In this situation, Belgrade will have to dismiss its claims not only over Kosovo, but also over support for Serbs in the region around Kosovska Mitrovica," the ethnic Serb-populated municipality in northern Kosovo.
"Densely concentrated in the north, and having a common border with Serbia, these ethnic Serbs refuse to submit to Pristina, and today may be the most striking embodiment of the Serbian national spirit. However, if Belgrade establishes real border controls and stops supplying them with the necessities (from food to electricity) the inhabitants of this territory will have a very difficult time maintaining their independence."

Moscow's New Options

At the same time that it seeks to join the European Union and dialogue with NATO, Belgrade will also attempt to build relations with Moscow. "Today's Serbia needs Russia not only for economic reasons (Serbian companies are active in the Russian market, particularly in the export of food), but politically as well."

This, Mirzayan notes, stems from the fact that Serbia's leaders understand that the EU fears Russia using the country as a foothold in the region. The hope, he notes, is that "the EU will be wary of excessive convergence between Serbia and Russia, and will therefore become more tolerant and supportive of the Serbian leadership, perhaps providing some additional financial support, or accelerating Serbia's entry into the EU."

Serbia EU Entry Hinges on Compliance With Political Criteria
At the same time, "in negotiations with Russian authorities, Foreign Minister Dacic will recall the 'Russian-Serbian brotherhood', and will hint at a willingness to intensify political cooperation in exchange for investments."
"Meanwhile, Serbian Radical Party's Vojislav Seselj's election [as an MP] will somewhat complicate the prime minister's game. And it's not even about the fact that the opposition now has a brilliant orator in the assembly, or that Seselj enjoys significant support among the population…It's more to do with the fact that Russia traditionally does not like multi-vector policy."

"Until recently," Mirzayan recalled, "Moscow found itself in a desperate situation in the Serbian field; the country lacked a concrete anti-EU opposition, and President Tomislav Nikolic was only conditionally pro-Russian, and had little decision-making authority. Now, the unconditionally pro-Russian Vojislav Seselj has emerged. Yes, with only 8 percent of the vote, but he is an understandable and pleasant partner for Moscow. And it's possible that Aleksander Vucic will now have to compete for attention and support from Russia."

Dick Marty speaks after potential KLA crimes witness is shot

Dick Marty has warned that "some people" who were to testify before a new court for KLA crimes "have already been killed."

 Dick Marty (Tanjug, file)
Dick Marty (Tanjug, file)

The Swiss senator and former Council of Europe (CoE) Special Rapporteur, spoke a day after the killing of Bedri Curri, a former KLA member and potential witness for the court. Curri's body was found last week near Glogovac in Kosovo.

"Witness protection is the biggest problem. We have information that some have already been killed in order to cover up the traces of the crimes," said Marty, according to Radio Kontakt Plus, that was quoting Pristina-based daily Bota Sot.

Unnamed sources in Pristina said that Curri, a former member of the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) was a prosecution witness in trials to be conducted before the special war crimes court for KLA crimes, that will be located in The Hague.

During the Kosovo conflict, Curri was a member of the 114th Brigade of the KLA called "Fehmi Landrovci" where his direct superior was his Ajvaz Berisha, known also as "Commander Tiger."

After the war, Berisha was an advisor in the Ministry of Trade of Kosovo, a professor at the Faculty of Physical Education, and is now Kosovo's consul in Frankfurt, Germany, the paper said. Curri was killed with a shot to the head, not far from a school in the village of Gornja Korotica.

Dick Marty - who in 2010 investigated allegations of KLA's illicit trade in human organs harvested from kidnapped Serb and other civilians - now warned about the "incompetence" of EULEX and UNMIK - EU and UN missions in Kosovo - to protect witnesses there and prevent information leakage.

The problem of witness protection was present during the only two trials for KLA commanders before the Hague Tribunal. Ramush Haradinaj and Fatmir Limaj were both acquitted for lack of evidence.

At least five witnesses were allegedly killed when it comes to the Haradinaj case. Tribunal's chief prosecutors, Carla del Ponte and later Serge Brammertz, on several occasions complained to the UN Security Council about problems related to witness protection.

The special court for crimes of the KLA was formed on the basis of Marty's report on ties between key KLA commanders with crimes and organized crime. The first indictments are expected by the end of this year.

Albania Democrats boycott parliament to support ex-leader

Published April 25, 2016  Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania –  Albania's main opposition Democratic Party is boycotting parliament this week in response to the suspension from parliament of its former leader, Sali Berisha.

Lawmaker Berisha was suspended last week after he urged citizens to arm themselves, saying the government could not protect them.

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

Democrats' leader Lulzim Basha on Monday said they decided on "a full and overall boycott of parliamentary activity this week" accusing the government of crime links. The boycott will affect justice reforms that the European Union and the United States have been pressing Tirana for and which are needed before Albania can launch full membership negotiations with the EU.

Chrys Kefalas: The Greek American Hope for the US Senate

By Anastassios Adamopoulos -
Apr 22, 2016

Greek Reporter

It has been more than three years without a Greek-American in the senate, since Olympia Snowe’s term from Maine ended in January of 2013. That could change soon with Chrysovalantis Kefalas.

Kefalas, a 35-year old lawyer from Baltimore, hopes to run in the 2016 Senate race for the state of Maryland with the Republican party. The Greek-American had been the Deputy Speechwriter for the U.S. Attorney General between 2013 and 2014, after serving for almost six years as a Trial and Appellate attorney at the DOJ.

“I have the experience and the leadership necessary to renew the American Dream and to restore the middle class in Maryland and the US. I have served the people of Maryland my entire life and I am ready and able and have the right vision to do so again,” he said.

A senate race for a Republican in the state of Maryland is arguably a difficult task. In fact, the last time Maryland had a Republican Senator was 1987 with Charles Matthias. Kefalas however, believes that he is capable of working with people from both parties to advance Maryland and to restore what he sees as a weakened United States both internally and as a global power.

“I think that starts with restoring manufacturing in Maryland in the United States by addressing tax and regulatory policy that harms growth, that stifles investment and keeps America from leading the world in producing the next wave of innovations and opportunities for everyone in this country,” he said.

Manufacturing is a core part of Kefalas’s campaign. He has served as Vice-President of the National Association of Manufacturers since August 2014, something that he says allows him to work for an industry he calls the “foundation of the American economy” that touches everyone in Maryland and the U.S..

Manufacturers are not the only group of people he is interested in helping. Kefalas’ grandparents as well as his father are Greek and the Senate hopeful noted that with the exception of last year he has been visiting Greece for every year for the past 10 years to meet with his cousins on the islands of Rhodes and Karpathos. But ancestry is not only a matter of familiarity and pride for the candidate.

“We have 3 million people of Greek descent in the United States and not a single Greek-American U.S. senator. We are currently relying on others to represent our interest in the world’s greatest deliberative body and I think that is actually shameful. I think we as a community deserve and should have more say in our future. We should be able to have someone who is capable of fighting for our issues and our priorities,” he said.

A specific point Kefalas touched upon was Turkey and its record in human rights. He asserted that politicians talk about Cyprus and the problem of patriarchy. However he would work with people from both parties to create consensus to issues that our relevant not only for the Greel people, but people in a civilized world that seeks to advance human rights and religious liberty. As such, his presence in the Senate, woule be a “game-changer” in pressuring world leaders to move forward in these issues.

Kefalas is a Greek Orthodox Christian. He has also been openly gay, a choice the Greek Orthodox church considers a sin. While, he claimed that he has never been asked by a voter who he loves, he does believe that having fought for marriage equality as a Republican demonstrates he has the moral courage and the willingness to lead when difficult decisions need to be made.

While the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage across the country in June 2015, Greece recently legislated a same-sex cohabitation agreement which gives same-sex couples certain legal rights. Kefalas viewed the legislation as a positive step for strengthening civil liberties in Greece.

The Greek Orthodox Church condemned the legislation while some individual clerics publicly bashed homosexuals in anticipation of the vote in parliament. Kefalas who is a faithful Orthodox Christian clearly has a different stance on the matter. However, he seeks to remind people that marriage equality is an issue that cannot change as quickly.

“I don’t think we can expect an institution that has been around for thousands of years to change overnight. Families do not change overnight,” he said.

In his view, people who share his conviction should be understanding of principled disagreements and seek to change minds.

Aside from the present, Kefalas notes that he draws inspiration from his Greek ancestry to push forward his campaign team.

“I continuouslly tell my team ‘let’s look at the example of my ancestors to forge a path for us forward’. It’s not necessarily a visible part of the campaign people see, but my campaign team hears it all the time,” he said.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dear Mr Gove, If you want us to be like Albania, YOU'RE AN ASS: Still deciding on Brexit? Two brilliant voices give you the Ins and Outs

  • Michael Gove indicated Albania was an inspiration for post-Brexit Britain
  • The Balkan state was responsible for just 0.1 per cent of European trade
  • Almost half of Albania's population live below the global poverty line of $5 a day
Qemal was sitting in the shade of a peach tree in the village of Gërdec, trying to find a buyer for a dishevelled donkey munching on the kerbside grass nearby.
When I stopped to chat, the father of four explained he was having to sell his animal because he was broke. ‘There is no state help here,’ he said. ‘If you do not work you die.’
No wonder both owner and beast looked a bit disconsolate. Then I asked Qemal whether his nation might be a role model for Britain.
He looked at me as if I was mad, then gave a big gap-toothed grin. ‘That sounds very weird,’ he said. ‘This is a very poor place. The situation is very bad. Why would you want to follow us?’
A good question.
Qemal was sitting in the shade of a peach tree in the village of Gërdec, trying to find a buyer for a dishevelled donkey munching on the kerbside grass nearby
Qemal was sitting in the shade of a peach tree in the village of Gërdec, trying to find a buyer for a dishevelled donkey munching on the kerbside grass nearby
Albania is an impoverished Balkan state, still struggling to escape the legacy of cruel communism and infamous for crime and corruption. Britain, by contrast, is one of the world’s richest nations, the birthplace of the industrial revolution and mother of democracy.
Yet that is precisely the preposterous proposal put forward last week by Michael Gove, when the Justice Secretary indicated Albania was an unlikely inspiration for post-Brexit Britain.
Never mind that Britain has 20 times more people – and they are on average almost ten times richer; indeed, the Albanian economy is smaller than the size of Tesco. Nor that the Balkan state remains heavily reliant on small family farms while Britain is a leading global financial centre.
For when Mr Gove gazes across the Adriatic, he sees an alluring vision of Britain’s future if our nation opts to abandon Brussels in June. In a keynote Vote Leave speech, he highlighted Albania as part of a continent-wide free trade zone yet supposedly free from meddlesome interference.
That bemused donkey-vendor was far from the only local here to laugh at talk of Britain emulating their country. ‘This is just a joke, surely,’ said Donika Mici, the nation’s biggest shoe exporter with five factories and 1,000 workers. ‘You can’t want to be like Albania. We are a democracy in name only.
‘It would be crazy to follow us. You respect the law, you follow the rules, you start work in the morning instead of drinking coffee in cafes. We need to follow your country.’
There were similar sentiments from Zef Preci, former government minister and executive director of the Albanian Centre for Economic Research, who struggled to stop smirking at the idea anyone might want to mimic an ‘Albanian model’. ‘It’s a joke – we do not even have a model,’ he said, pointing out his nation was responsible for just 0.1 per cent of European trade. ‘We are like a colonial economy that relies on cheap labour and cannot exploit its own resources.’
This is not entirely true. Two years ago, hundreds of armed police backed by helicopter gunships stormed a mountain village employing 3,000 people to grow marijuana for the European market.
Almost half of Albania's population live below the global poverty line of $5 a day
Almost half of Albania's population live below the global poverty line of $5 a day
After a five-day advance against villagers armed with an anti-aircraft gun, grenades, mortars and machine guns, the police destroyed more than 80,000 marijuana plants and 23 tons of cannabis. An official report suggested the illicit enterprise was equivalent to about one third of Albania’s GDP.
But certainly Albania has struggled to escape the legacy of Europe’s most paranoid and suffocating Communist dictatorship, which cut off the country from outsiders before coming to an end 25 years ago.
There are few visible signs of those 45 years when private cars were banned and even the number of chickens a family could own was controlled by the state, beside thousands of concrete bunkers littering the landscape and a derelict rocket-shaped museum to former despot Enver Hoxha.
Yet several analysts told me that the old mindset remains strong despite the transition to democracy, with endemic corruption and politics used often for self-enrichment.
‘We are still ruled by the past,’ said Preci. ‘People taste freedom but we do not have the institutions yet to deliver it.’
The country frequently belies its bad reputation thanks to its friendly people, fine food and glorious scenery, encompassing rugged mountains and golden beaches. But these deep-rooted issues explain its struggle to develop.
Club Med, for instance, gave up on a £50 million resort plan after a five-year dispute over land ownership, while the cheap flight revolution that transformed travel failed to touch down in Albania.
And one American billionaire gave up on discussions to invest in the oil industry earlier this year, reportedly fuming it was ‘easier to do business in Iraq than Albania’.
I apprehended one of the most notorious political operators in a smart hotel, a wealthy man said by local journalists to be more powerful than any of the organised crime chiefs. He shook hands, but when I started asking questions he just stared at me then strode off with his burly minder.
So yes, it may have an enviable top rate of tax at 23 per cent (a recent rise from the previous ten per cent flat tax, a progressive measure I heard blamed on the prime minister’s pal Tony Blair). But for all its quirky charms, Albania seems a strange place to pick as anyone’s post-Brexit nirvana – especially when growth has slackened; a quarter of the population emigrated; and almost half those remaining live below the global poverty line of $5 a day.
Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, indicated last week that Albania was an unlikely inspiration for post-Brexit Britain
Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, indicated last week that Albania was an unlikely inspiration for post-Brexit Britain
In Ndroq, a short drive from the capital Tirana, I found 75-year-old Vushe sitting on the ground outside a whitewashed bungalow as she cradled a sick baby with sunken eyes. Nearby, an outside toilet stank of urine.
‘Look at us – this is no life,’ she said. ‘There are no jobs. We do not even have enough food to eat, so we go without bread.’
Over the road, her neighbour Serme, 64, was collecting firewood to cook dinner with her grandchildren. ‘We are poor people who would die to get to Western Europe,’ she said.
And there’s the rub. The Out crowd do not really seek to emulate this impoverished corner of our Continent. But they are struggling badly to define the shape of Britain if it quits the Brussels club, stumbling with each flawed example they pick from Canada to Norway.
Mr Gove highlighted Albania alongside other strange paragons of peace and prosperity – Serbia, Bosnia and Ukraine – because they have access to European markets without having to accept all those pesky rules from Brussels pen-pushers.
Yet Albania’s deal took six years to negotiate with the EU, which does not bode well for British stability. There is no free movement only because visa-free travel was rejected. And ironically, almost all Albanians see this as a stepping-stone to the full membership they crave so badly.
Ilir Zhilla, a businessman and former head of the Albanian Chamber of Commerce, told me they sought integration with the EU because they wanted the imposition of higher standards.
‘By joining we will get pressure put on us to drive reforms and do lots of good things for our country,’ he said.
This puts a different spin on that ‘Albanian model’. Yet for all the mirth this provoked from rural donkey-traders through to owners of the biggest businesses, the debate over Britain’s role in the world should not be a laughing matter.
Perhaps the Brexit campaigners should listen to Besart Kadia, British-educated director of the Foundation for Economic Freedom think-tank, which promotes free-market policies in Tirana.
‘You can’t compare the countries for many reasons,’ he said. ‘But we are acting out of a sense of inferiority to improve Albania – so they are not doing any favours for Britain with this absurd comparison.’
You would need the stubbornness of a mule to disagree.
Voting to stay? Then prepare to obey EU's every whim
By Kwasi Kwarteng
If the bookies are right, on Friday, June 24, the British people will wake up to find themselves committed to membership of the EU. This will be a momentous step, and there will be consequences.
The EU will rightly say to Britain: ‘You have had a long debate. You have voted with your eyes open and you have voted to stay with us, within the EU family.’
After three years of speculation, and a four-month campaign, those countries will have no interest in our ‘plans’ for substantial EU reform. Why should they?
Their attitude will simply be that of neurotic adults who have grown tired of having their time wasted by squabbling children. ‘You have had your argument, now please keep quiet,’ they could justifiably say.
Or, as the Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee once said to the Left-wing intellectual Harold Laski: ‘A period of silence from you would be welcome.’
If the bookies are right, on Friday, June 24, the British people will wake up to find themselves committed to membership of the EU. This will be a momentous step, and there will be consequences
If the bookies are right, on Friday, June 24, the British people will wake up to find themselves committed to membership of the EU. This will be a momentous step, and there will be consequences
The truth is, if we vote to stay, Britain will have no bargaining position whatsoever.
The EU will be able to push through any policy, safe in the knowledge that we will continue to be members under almost any circumstances. There will be no more negotiation, no debate, no treaty reforms, at least for a very long time.
Not known for its lack of confidence, the EU will take an ‘In’ vote as a ringing endorsement of the project.
ANY subsequent British complaints will be taken as seriously as the whining of a small child in the back of the family car, crying as daddy drives purposefully to the holiday resort.
Many people in my Spelthorne constituency and beyond say to me that they were only voting to stay within the EEC, the European Economic Community, in the referendum of 1975. They ‘just didn’t know’ it would turn into the European Union.
Of course, they are right. At a time when we commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, you don’t need his mastery of the English language to understand that the phrase ‘European Union’ has a very different meaning from ‘European Economic Community’.
The organisation we know as the EU changed beyond recognition between the British referendum of June 1975, and the launching of the European Union 17 years later in 1992. Who knows where we will be in another 17 years’ time, in 2033?
UK Work and pensions minister Priti Patel speaks at a 'Vote Leave' public meeting in Birmingham
UK Work and pensions minister Priti Patel speaks at a 'Vote Leave' public meeting in Birmingham
This is why, after much consideration, I have decided to vote to leave the EU.
Anyone who wants to reconsider the terms must surely vote ‘Out’. The idea that they will pull up a drawbridge, cast us out into the mid-Atlantic and never speak to us again is not credible.
These islands are not going anywhere. The EU isn’t going anywhere either. Whatever happens, we will have to have some kind of relationship with it.
Discussion, compromise, trade deals, arguments – all these things are part of an ongoing relationship. Signing up to the EU as it is, under the current terms, is simply a rubber stamp for the status quo.
Pretending that you can renegotiate terms, once you have signed up to the programme, is rather like trying to reopen discussion about your employment contract on your first day at work.
The time for negotiation is before you start work.
Once you sign up, you simply start your new job and try to make things work out.
If we do vote to remain, this is exactly the approach that I, as a Member of Parliament, will adopt. It’s no use crying after the event.
If we sign up, we have got to make the best of it.
We will do best simply by being reliable and obedient members of the club, on their terms which, of course, they can change at their own will.

Sooner or Later, Serbia Will Have to Make a Choice: NATO or Russia

Serb March in support of Serbia's territorial integrity
© Sputnik/ Ruslan Krivobok
19:14 24.04.2016
Sooner or later, Serbia will become the center of a geostrategic fault line between NATO and Russia, writes Expert Magazine contributor Sergei Belous. There will come a point, the journalist says, when Serbian leaders' game of 'geopolitical splits' becomes impossible to maintain, and they will have to make a choice between NATO and Russia.

Russia’s Election Commission Registers No Fraud During Serbian Elections
Serbia is holding snap parliamentary elections on Sunday, with pundits describing the poll as a litmus test of Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic's pro-Brussels course. Russian analysts joined their foreign colleagues in predicting a victory for the incumbent from the Serbian Progressive Party, who assumed office last April, and initiated the elections two years ahead of schedule.

Vucic's campaign has stressed that membership in the European Union is his party's key goal, but has also said that it wants to preserve good relations with Russia.

In his in-depth analysis for the Russian business magazine Expert, translated and adapted by Oriental Review, Belgrade-based contributor Sergei Belous argues that as the North Atlantic Alliance continues its expansion, while relations between Moscow and the military bloc deteriorate, Serbia will have to make a choice: to ally with NATO, which bombed the country less than two decades ago, or to return to its historical alliance with Russia.

"We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing and that's what they are going to get."

"This," the journalist writes, "was how then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described the draft peace agreement devoted to the resolution of the Kosovo crisis in Rambouillet in February 1999, speaking to journalists on the sidelines (off the record, of course)."

The Grim Anniversary of NATO's Bombing of Yugoslavia
The Grim Anniversary of NATO's Bombing of Yugoslavia
"At the time, the Yugoslav delegation stated its willingness to concede many points, with the exception of independence for Kosovo (which was nonnegotiable for the Albanians). But the Yugoslavs did not see the final draft of the accord until the last day of the talks, and as it turned out, two-thirds of that document was entirely new to them (and they were presented with it literally only a few hours before the signing deadline)."

The new draft, Belous recalled, included provisions to see the deployment of NATO troops not only in Kosovo, but throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to the agreement, the troops were to be given unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the country, and, moreover, would "be immune from the Parties' jurisdiction in respect of any civil, administrative, criminal or disciplinary offenses."

"Belgrade, feeling like they were being asked to accept terms of occupation and surrender, refused to sign the agreement…NATO then treated this rebuff as a casus belli: after the Serbian government definitively rejected the ultimatum thrust before them in the document, the alliance began missile and bomb strikes in Yugoslavia on March 24, 1999."

NATO's 78-day air war, the journalist recalled, killed almost 2,000 civilians, with another 10,000 seriously injured, and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damage, destroying dozens of factories, 48 hospitals, 70 schools, 18 kindergartens, 9 university buildings, 82 bridges, 35 churches, and 29 monasteries. The bombing, which wasn't approved by the UN Security Council, employed cluster bombs and shells plated with depleted uranium, causing a spike in cancer rates throughout the region.

"On February 12, 2016, the Serbian parliament ratified a new agreement with NATO that included terms very similar to those demanded in Rambouillet 17 years ago. In other words, the bar that Belgrade considered to be 'set to high' at the end of the 20th century, and which they could not accept even at the cost of war, has now been accepted –little by little, unobtrusively, and without complaint – over the past decade by Serbia's new leaders."

Over 10,000 Participate in Anti-NATO Rally in Serbia - Organizer (VIDEO)
This agreement, Belous writes, was signed in September 2015, and granted NATO logistical support staff the right to freely throughout Serbia, and to access public and private facilities. It also allowed for cargoes to be exempted from customs duties and taxes, and for personnel to be granted diplomatic immunity. Receiving almost no media coverage when it was signed, "alarm bells only went off for the public after it was ratified in February 2016."

"Responding to popular discontent and criticism from his opponents, Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic asked, 'if we're going to demand that NATO protect Serbs in northern Kosovo, how can we at the same time not allow it to enter northern Kosovo?' But in fact, this rhetorical question is nonsensical (and not just because NATO has its own airfields in Kosovo as well as Camp Bondsteel, the second-largest American base in Europe)."

NATO, Belous noted, has never played any role in protecting Serbian interests in Kosovo. In fact, he writes, "after NATO troops entered Kosovo, approximately 210,000 people were forced to leave (according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), and over 300 Serbs were killed and 455 went missing just during the five-month stay of the international peacekeeping force. Furthermore, during the infamous pogrom that took place March 17-19, 2004, NATO representatives passively allowed Albanian extremists to burn over 900 Serb homes and set fire to, severely damage and desecrate 35 Orthodox monasteries (many of which date back to the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries and some even under the protection of UNESCO), and to expel over 4,000 Serbs from the area."

Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's new president.
Alleged Ex-Bandit Thaci Inaugurated as New President of Kosovo
The journalist suggests that an air of despair has beset the country's leadership, with officials fearing that 'disobedience' to their Western partners could result in the repeat of such tragedies. "I have repeatedly heard from Serbian colleagues comments filled with hopelessness, with people asking 'what choice does Serbia have, when NATO troops have entered our house, and we are surrounded by the alliance?'"

"Serbian leaders never tire of assuring their citizens that they have no aspirations to join the NATO Alliance. 'Serbia has no plans to enter NATO, it wants to be militarily neutral', Prime Minister Vucic said March 2, 2016, commenting on opposition parties' demands that a referendum be held on the issue."

"The head of the government does not think there is any need for the public to vote on the matter. And it's true that the people's will would be easy to predict, because according to the latest public surveys, conducted in January and February, only 10.5% of Serbians support the idea of NATO membership, while 79.1% are opposed (10.4% declined to answer). A recent study by IPSOS revealed a similar pattern: only 7% hold a positive opinion of the alliance."

This, the journalist explains, is why President Tomislav Nikolic rushed to sign the NATO logistics agreement on February 19, "a day before a scheduled protest to demand its veto. After thousands of prosecutors flocked to an anti-NATO rally in Belgrade on February 20, President Nikolic published an article titled 'Why I Signed the NATO Law'…Overall the article resembles an attempt to shift the bulk of the responsibility for the rapprochement with the alliance onto the shoulders of previous administrations," including a discussion on the agreement to join the NATO Partnership for Peace program.

The roots of Serbia's pro-Western shift, Belous recalls, go back to the 'Bulldozer Revolution' of October 2000, when President Slobodan Milosevic, with Washington's support, was deposed. "The new government quickly redirected the country's foreign policy toward the ideal of European integration – which meant that Serbia was then predestined for assimilation into Europe's security architecture, which is tightly bound to NATO."

Serbia EU Entry Hinges on Compliance With Political Criteria
A string of defense-related agreements were signed, the first in July 2005, allowing NATO forces transit for its peacekeeping operations. In 2014, Serbia and NATO signed a Status of Forces Agreement, allowing NATO to use Serbian military infrastructure, "to bring the legal framework regulating defense into line with EU rules, and to introduce the standards of NATO and the Bologna Process into the military education system for Serbian officers."

"The next step was the operational document known as the Individual Partnership Action Plan, which lays out a broad spectrum of cooperation between Serbia and the NATO alliance – not only in regard to security and defense, but also pertaining to issues of human rights, and economic, domestic and foreign policy, including the prospect of European integration. Paradoxically, Serbia has even pledged to 'introduce a public information strategy on cooperation with Euro-Atlantic structures through the PfP with the aim of gaining public support', which means that Serbian taxpayers must shell out from their own pockets to pay for propaganda directed against them."

Ultimately, Belous notes, "the above documents, in addition to the recent Logistical Support Agreement, so firmly tie Belgrade to the alliance that no particular purpose would be served by officially joining it… As Dorde Vukadinovic, editor in chief of the magazine New Serbian Political Thought, aptly put it, 'although Serbia has not officially entered NATO, NATO has effectively entered Serbia.'"

Meanwhile, the journalist suggests, leaders' continued public opposition to the alliance has actually served to "lull Moscow's vigilance," and "allowed [them] to preserve their reputation and maintain the image of being 'Russophiles' in the eyes of voters."

"Yet at the same time, and despite the escalating Euro-Atlantic propaganda, Russia's popularity in Serbia is growing, and the idea of the 'European choice' is gradually losing its devotees. This was backed up by recent polling by IPSOS: in 2014, 54% of Serbs would have voted in favor of EU membership, but by early 2016, that number had dropped to 48%; and while 46% of respondents expressed a positive opinion of Russia in 2014, this year that number has risen to 72%."

US Army soldiers of the 4th Infantry Brigade, Combat team (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division, part of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo listen to jump master how to prepare their gear for a parachute training exercise in US military base Camp Bondsteel, near the village of Sojeve in Kosovo on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014

A survey conducted by the Vreme weekly news magazine showed similar results, with 50.9% in favor of European integration, and 67.2% in favor of 'an alliance with Russia'.

"Finally, according to the most recent study conducted by the Serbian Center for Free Elections and Democracy, an NGO funded by Western foundations and states, on the eve of [Sunday's] snap parliamentary elections, 71.6% of Serbs were against the idea of 'Serbian membership in the EU and NATO' (with 11.2% 'in favor' and 14% 'undecided'), and 55.2% indicating their preference for 'the traditional affiliation with Russia' (with 19.2% 'against' and 21.5% 'undecided')."

This trend, Belous suggests, "has caused panic in the ranks of Serbia's Euroatlanticists," who blame Russia for attempting to "stop Serbia in its process of democratization, stabilization, and move toward European integration." In fact, European countries, and particularly Germany, have done their best to keep out any form of Russian influence, including continued delays in granting the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Nis diplomatic status.

In the final analysis, the journalist notes, Serbian officials "continuing to chant the phrase 'military neutrality' at every opportunity, like a mantra," doesn't make this the reality that the country faces. Not only does the NATO Logistical Support Agreement stand to invalidate Serbia's neutral status in the event of war, but "the very idea of EU integration presumes a 'common policy toward security and defense' – which is somewhat inconsistent with euphemisms such as 'military neutrality'."

"The new government that will be formed after the April 24 elections won't have it easy: the rapidly growing estrangement between the Euro-Atlantic community and Russia means that Belgrade will eventually emerge as a geostrategic fault line. When, figuratively speaking, the earth begins to shift under the feet of the Serbian elite, no virtuoso 'geopolitical splits' will allow them to avoid answering the question – whose side are they on?", Belous concludes.