Friday, August 22, 2014

Defense Minister: Greece and US Have Strategic Defense Cooperation
Avramopoulos_HagelDefense cooperation between the United States and Greece has a strategic and essential character, Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said after a meeting with his American counterpart Chuck Hagel.

“We had the opportunity, along with my American counterpart, to confirm once again the really excellent level of the Greek-American defense cooperation. Today, we essentially proceeded to the finalization of critical issues referring to the road map of the American defense cooperation with our country and give solutions to outstanding issues,” Avramopoulos stressed after the meeting.

The Greek Defense Minister underlined that this was his third visit to the Pentagon and Washington during his two terms in the Ministry.

Avramopoulos said that they discussed “the burning geopolitical issues of our region, the geostrategic role of Greece as a country of stability and security in the wider region, as well as the role Greece can undertake in the name of international law.”

Both officials agreed that “today, more than ever, the defense cooperation between the United States and Greece has a strategic and substantial character. We will have the opportunity to discuss these issues again, on a multilateral level, within the framework of the NATO meeting in Wales, in early September.”

According to Avramopoulos, Greece is gradually exiting from the crisis and becomes, once again, a major pillar of stability in a region that has passed the threshold of the most crucial phase of its modern history. “The Greek government is giving a daily struggle to overcome the crisis so that a promising horizon will open for the Greek people and the country,” he concluded.

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Government suspends local government construction permits 

Government suspends local government construction permits
The government has suspended all construction permits until 2015, when the new territorial division enters in effect.

Prime Minister Edi Rama declared from the National Council of Territory that this decision aims to stop the destruction of the territory, as result of barbarian permits that are given by the local government.

“This brings the necessity to suspend all permits approved by the National Council of Territory, in order to protect the national and public interest bfore the private interests that have caused all kind of damages, without taking anything in consideration, for the darkest of reasons. We will suspend all new development permits from all local authorities until after the elections of 2015”, Rama declared.

Prime Minister Rama said that to not stop the country’s progress during this time, the local government may give permits only for constructions that increase tourism, agriculture and the production industry.

To stop any speculation, the approval will be made by the National Council of Territory. Every permit will be considered as invalid and will be prosecuted.

Rama said that the government is determined to end the environmental massacre by punishing any abuser.

“We will not have situations when the inspector comes, demolishes the illegal construction, and after he goes away the construction continues. For these cases, there is only one end: the prison cell”, Rama declared.
Magnitude 5.1 earthquake rocks holidaymakers in Halkidiki, Greece
Magnitude 5.1 earthquake rocks holidaymakers in Halkidiki, Greece
Magnitude 5.1 earthquake rocks holidaymakers in Halkidiki, Greece
A magnitude 5.1 earthquake rocked the area of Halkidiki, near Thessaloniki, Greece at 04:27:54.70 UTC and 7.27 a.m. local time on Friday. The epicenter was located in the undersea region west of the Athos peninsula, 110 km east-southeast of Thessaloniki.

Five minutes earlier, a magnitude 4.1 tremor was felt, whereas more post-seismic activity was felt at 7.33 a.m.

No damages or injuries have been reported with scientists stating that the quake was superficial with a focal depth of 24 km.

Nonetheless, seismologists warn the locals to expect aftershocks. These can be less violent but strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures in the first hours, days, weeks or even months after the quake. They warn people in the zone to look for and extinguish small fires that are a common hazard after an earthquake and warn of care when driving as well as to anticipate traffic light outages.
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President Nishani returns the territorial reform
Nishani returns the territorial reform As expected, the Albanian President, Bujar Nishani, did not approve the territorial reform. The President returned it for a review in Parliament and gave three arguments.

The first argument says that the Parliament did not consult the local unit leaders, saying that this has been verified by the letters received from them.

“I come to this conclusion after a widely discussed analyze with local government leaders, with whom we share the same opinion that this law was not transparent”, Nishani declared.

The second argument is decentralization. This was a condition set by the DP to become part of the reform, and the president mentions it in another way:

“The lower the number of local units, the bigger they become and the more are damaged the power decentralization principles, which are sanctioned by Article 13 fo the Albanian Constitution”, Nishani says.

In the third argument, the President says that the territorial reform was preceded by the amends of two other laws, such as the law for the organization and functionality of the local government. But the President sees as even more important reforming the electoral law, which has not been mentioned by the political factor.

The president says that the territorial reform should have been made together with the Electoral Code amends, which is is imperative, according to Nishani, before the local elections

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Presidents signals to not decree territorial reform
 Presidents signals to not decree territorial reform
Presidents signals to not decree territorial reform Same as many other important laws approved by the majority, the territorial reform has also been rejected by the President, or at least that is what has been signaled.

The President met with representatives of the Association of Communes, who opposed the new division.

The President’s announcement says that he supports the government’s initiative for the reform, but the chairman of the commission for this reform should respect the national interests, the interests of the Albanian people, and it should be based on the Constitution and laws of our country.

Saying that the reform charges with historic responsibility those who decided for it, the President declared that he has received dozens of letters and petitions from citizens who complain about the process.

The President guarantees all institutions he leads that he will serve as a powerful voice for transmitting what he called “public interests and problems of citizens”, adding that there is the need for creating a consolidated image of the Albanian state.

The announcement says that this guarantee of the President has been made clear to the representatives of the communes that are against this variant of the reform. They trust that the President will not be the only legal method to stop it, but they might even send it at the Constitutional Court.

“I hope for a just and righteous evaluation of this issue by the President, but I still think that the Parliament will take it seriously. If this will not happen, we will address the issue at the Association of Communes and other options. I believe that the Constitutional Court and the President’s decree are healthy for the construction process of a democratic state, and the intervention of the constitutional institutions for improving the situation is important and necessary”, says Agron Haxhimali, Director of the Association of Communes.

The consultative meeting with the President, according to the representative of the Commune Associations, has been summoned after a high number of complaints were sent by the Heads of Communes and Councils.
Rama: We will revote returned laws 
Rama: We will revote returned laws
Rama: We will revote returned laws For the first time, the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, spoke publicly in front of the media about the Bank of Albania scandal.

The Prime Minister explained his silence, saying that the Central Bank of Albania is an independent institution. He also answered why didn’t request the resignation of governor Adrian Fullani.

“As a Prime Minister, I cannot request the resignation of an independent institution, but this is a challenge for the Parliament and our government, which we will realize. We are following the developments daily, and on this case we can only hit the target fully by not entering a political war with the Bank. Similar experiences of other countries have shown that this is counterproductive for the society. Your concern and that of the civil society is right, created by a very serious event that needs maximal attention and determination”, Rama declared.

The Prime Minister has answered for more than two hours to the media and the public through the social network.

“It is wrong thinking that the government is the first one to talk. The government must be the last one to say something, because if we speak first we might cause even bigger troubles”, the Prime Minister declared.

When asked about the returned important laws by President Nishani, the PM said that his decision was a transmission of the stance held by the DP.

“The President has the right to return the laws, but it will be also returned, because Albania has no time to lose with the arguments of the DP that are said by the President”, Rama declared.

After the President want to return the Territorial Reform law, the Prime Minister declared that they will vote it again so that the local elections of the Spring 2015 have this new territorial division.

Pollo: Rama didn’t answer to the questions

The opposition reacted after this conference, saying that the Prime Minister didn’t answer to the real concerns raised by the opposition, from the inclusion of incriminated MPs in Parliament and to the request for inspecting the cell phones of the Albanian citizens.

“He didn’t explain why no legalizations were made for free, why medicine is even more expensive, and why the public order indicators have deteriorated. Thousands of jobs were lost due to the new taxes imposed by the government. He didn’t explain why he praises the employment offices when everyone gets employed through his own office. He didn’t answer why the public administration has people who have been involved in traffics and even in kidnapping children”, Pollo declared.
Berlin conference "meant to show Germany's dominance"
(Tanjug, file)

BANJA LUKA -- A conference dedicated to the Western Balkans, scheduled for August 28 in Berlin, is meant to show the dominance of Germany in this region, says Milorad Dodik.

"Those from Bosnia-Herzegovina who will go to the conference are not the people who make decisions, so any possible decisions and conclusions, whatever they agree on, will be short-lived," the president of Bosnia's Serb entity, the RS, told the public broadcaster RTRS.

Dodik added that the RS is ready to comply with European standards, but not to to sacrifice its own interests.

Cooperation with Germany is welcome, but, according to Dodik, "that does not mean we should be guinea pigs."

According to announcements, the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina will be the central theme of the conference.

Former High Representative in Bosnia Wolfgang Petritsch was recently quoted as saying that "German Chancellor Angela Merkel will send important messages during the gathering, that could be part of Berlin's new plan for stabilizing that part of the continent."

"I expect some very strong messages from Merkel, like those given to Croatia before it joined the European Union, when then Prime Minister (Ivo) Sanader had to go," Petritsch told the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz daily.

According to him, Bosnia had become "a ground through which Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to weaken the influence of the EU."

"Putin also acts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and via the Serb Republic (RS), using the simple logic that if he cannot influence the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina, then he will at least make life miserable for the EU by manipulating the RS, with the support of provincial leader Dodik," the Austrian diplomat was quoted as saying.
Albania to help arm Iraq against Islamic State

21 August 2014

Under a decision taken on the August 15 and published in the official gazette on Tuesday, Tirana will transfer 22 million rounds of AK-47 7.62 millimeter bullets, 15,000 hand grenades and 32,000 artillery shells of different calibers to Iraq.

Tirana also announced that it is donating 10,000 model-56 Kalashnikov automatic rifles to Afghanistan.

The donations are part of an international drive to help the embattled Iraq government curb the Sunni militants of Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, which has seized large parts of Iraq and Syria and committed numerous atrocities - the latest being the beheading of a captured US journalist, James Foley.

On Tuesday the militant organization published a video purportedly showing the beheading of Foley by a masked militant speaking with a British accent, sparking outrage across the world and a drive by US and UK inteligence to identify the killer.

In a statement, US President Barack Obama said the world was appalled by Foley’s brutal murder. Islamic State has “rampaged across cities and villages - killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence,” Obama said. “They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery,” he added.

Obama called on governments and peoples across the Middle East to "extract this cancer, so that it does not spread".

The involvement of a militant from Britain prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to terminate his summer holiday and return to London, partly to discuss the threat posed to Britain by jihadists returning to Europe from the war zone.

By Gjergj Erebara

21 August 2014

Balkan Insight

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pope: We’re in World War III
Pope: We’re in World War III
Pope: We’re in World War III Pope Francis condemned the wars that have included various countries of the world, which, according to him, have reached a frightening level of cruelty by not saving innocent civilians, women and children.

“Torture has turned into a common instrument. These are the fruits of war, because we are in war here. This is the World War III, just fragmentized”, the Pope declared.

When asked about the relations with Beijing in the moment when his airplane was going through China, the Pope declared: “If I want to go to China? Certainly. Even tomorrow”.

The Holy Father then focused on the situation in the Iranian Kurdistan, where he sent his delegate, Cardinal Filoni. “I am ready to go to Kurdistan. There is a chance for this”, the Pope declared.

On his last day of visit in South Korea, Pope Frances gave a message for peace in the Korean peninsula.

“People should reject the mentality of suspect and confrontation, and find new ways for restoring peace”. Today mass is a prayer for reconciliation in the big Korean family. Jesus tells us in the Gospel how our prayer becomes more powerful when more people join. How powerful can this prayer be when the entire people desires something strongly”, the Pope declared.
Kokedhima's representative arrested
Kokedhima's representative arrested
Kokedhima's representative arrested The Interior Ministry announced the arrest of Agron Cane in Saranda, after being accused of demanding sexual favors in exchange of a job.

“The Saranda Police has been notified by journalist Artur Cani about materials that show the involvement of Agron Cane in this activity. The Police structures have started moving right after taking the report from the citizen. The Interior Minister has spoken with journalist Artur Cani and asked the materials for documenting the act and bringing the author to justice”, declared Florion Serjani, Adviser at the Interior Ministry.

Serjani criticized the stances of the opposition: “Unfortunately, the opposition is once again abusing with the victim and tries to politicize through slander an event that has been presented by the Ministry of Interior through facts. To show the difference with them, we remind you that yesterday, a government official was caught with sexual abuses and was released by the court and even fined the TV station that made the report, and he returned as Director of another institution. Today it is different”, Seriani declared.

The materials have been published on the internet and shows the secretary of the Socialist MP speaking with a mother of four, and asking her sexual favors for her 14-year-old daughter.

The widowed mother had asked for a job and that’s when the secretary of the Socialist MP showed his sexual intentions about her daughter.

During the recording, the man also promises a long-term care for her daughter, saying that he may be elected Mayor of Saranda in the next elections.

Kokedhima’s office reacted by condemning the ugly action, and specified that Cane had never been a secretary for the employment office.

The Democratic Party commented this event through MP Arben Ristani:

“The entire government structure is trying to manipulate the circumstances of what happened. Kokedhima is involved himself in this story, because he has tried to personally meet the victim through his people. The woman and her daughter are constantly being threatened on the phone. We appeal the police to take the victims under protection”, Ristani declared.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cotric: Serbs in Albania face extinction 

Albania tourism destinations

BELGRADE – Serbs in Albania are one of Europe’s most endangered minority communities as they have no recognised status of a national minority or the right to receive institutional education and information in their native tongue, and face assimilation and complete extinction as a result, Serbian Renewal Movement MP Aleksandar Cotric warned on Sunday.

Cotric, who is also a member of the Serbian parliamentary committee on the diaspora and Serbs in the region, said that, despite being an autochthonous nation that has lived there for centuries, Albania’s 30,000 ethnic Serbs have no right to minority representation in parliament, or an educational institution or a media outlet in their native tongue. “Serbs, as well as other minorities (Greeks, Macedonians, Vlahs), cannot declare their ethnic and religious affiliation in censuses and, due to administrative complications and high costs of the procedure – which exceed EUR 1000 – they are practically unable to reclaim their original names, Albanised by force during Enver Hoxha’s rule,” Cotric noted.

In bilateral meetings with the Tirana authorities, as well as before international organisations – the United Nations, the OSCE and the European Union – the Serbian government must, as soon as possible, raise the issue of protecting the rights of Serbs in Albania, Cotric also said. Before international and European organisations, the government must point to a gross violation of the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, ratified by the Albanian parliament a decade ago, the press office of the Serbian Renewal Movement quoted Cotric as saying.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mujahideens, arrested the Imam of Gjilan
 Mujahideens, arrested the Imam of Gjilan
Mujahideens, arrested the Imam of Gjilan Kosovo police arrested the imam of the mosque "El-Kuddus" in Gjilan, which is allegedly one of the main inspirers of jihad in Kosovo.

They also arrested another suspect, L.K., from Polac village of Skenderaj municipality, under suspicion of committing offenses, from the chapter "Crimes against the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Kosovo", as follows:

- Recruitment for terrorism, under section 139 of the CCK,
- Organizing and participating in a terrorist group, under the Article 143 of the CCK,
- Inciting hatred, discord or national intolerance, racial, religious or ethnic, under Article 147 of the CCK.

Police reported that the Imam of the mosque with the initials Z.Q., born in 1980, during the search was not in his house, but was found by Kosovo police hiding in his car, in a mountainous terrain near his house.

Persons arrested by order of the prosecutor of the Special Prosecution, where in detention of 48 hours. Investigations in the case are ongoing.

Meanwhile, the Court has decided the mass detention for one month, to all those arrested two days ago on suspicion of terrorism. The news was confirmed by the lawyer himself Veton Rrecaj

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kosovo, ISIS supporters before the court
Kosovo, ISIS supporters before the court
Kosovo, ISIS supporters before the court 40 people arrested the previous day by the Kosovo Police on charges of terrorism and wars participation abroad among organizations declared terrorist as ISIS and Al-Nusra were accompanied Tuesday noon before the court.

Due to the large number of people it was necessary to relocate the court in one of the cinemas in Pristina.

The detainees were escorted under tight security from the Kosovo Police where Special Forces were also involved.

Due to the sensitivity of the case and the large number of defendants the decision by the judge is less likely to be taken soon. President of the Basic Court, Hamdi Ibrahimi said that this session can last until late at night.

"Nobody should wait the decision today because it is impossible due to the large number accused. The hearing Isi scheduled for today, but the court is not obliged to make decisions today. So do not expect a decision today," he said.

On the other hand, the defendants’ lawyers expressed optimism that their clients will be acquitted of prosecution because there is no proof of the charges.

But from what Top Channel has seen on the demand of special prosecutor Blerim Isufaj, almost all suspects are accused of similar offenses, such as organizing and participating in terrorist groups, inciting hatred, discord, recruitment for terrorism etc. On these doubts, Isufaj has asked pretrial detention for all detainees.

Top Channel has also learned from sources within the police that arrest of persons suspected of being infiltrated in terrorist organizations will continue in the coming days.

We’ve learned that the police is looking for over 150 people, among them women.

One of the arrested allegedly had plans to carry out an attack in Doku Fest, the largest cultural event in Kosovo, told an official source for Top Channel.

The same person, the source said, intended to send the message that Prizren is a Muslim city as a retaliate to American donations for the festival.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

IMF "warned" the Bank of Albania 
IMF "warned" the Bank of Albania
IMF "warned" the Bank of Albania
One day ago, after the special meeting for the theft of the Albanian Treasury, the Supervisory Council of the Bank of Albania declared that the procedures, instructions and internal rules of the Bank are according to the law and guarantee its security.

In the official declaration after the meeting, the Council declared that the theft has been caused by the failure of the employees to implement these rules.

But Top Channel brings in attention an official document of the International Monetary Fund, published one month ago, noting that the regulatory basis and the auditing procedures used by the Bank of Albania are not based on the best international standards.

In the first part of the report, the IMF recognizes the improvements, noting that the Bank of Albania has reinforced its guarantees for some sectors, such as the external and internal audit, and the financial reporting functionalities.

But the document notes that the Bank structure lacks of the effective supervision of the internal audit, the financial reporting and the inspection issues.

IMF says that the policies and the policies and procedures for selecting the external audit are unclear. Facing these problems, the IMF recommends the Bank of Albania to establish a special Council that should survey the internal audit and that should be composed of people outside the executive circle of the bank.

In other words, they should not depend from the Bank's leaders. This recommendation aimed to detach this process from the influence and control of the highest bank leaders.

Top Channel has learned that this decision has been taken from the Bank on July 29th, four days after the Bank theft was made public. In parallel, the IMF asked the Bank to approve a formal policy for the selection of the external audit with a rotation procedure.

This was a clear rule defining how the external audit was selected and how long could the maximal deadline be for a company to serve as external audit. The IMF recommends the Bank in this document to undertake a special evaluation on the quality of functionality for the internal audit, which has failed for four consequent years to prevent the theft.

The Bank of Albania has been aware that the audit, the internal financial inspections and other procedures were not according to the financial standards.

This is proved by the same document in which the Bank says that they will reinforce the audit and internal inspection, in full accordance with the recommendations of the last IMF mission, for the protective and preventive measures.

The Bank promises to undertake others steps for harmonizing the internal auditing procedures with the international standards.

The  internal and external audit were the key links that failed preventing the theft of 7.1 million USD for more than four consequent years. These links seem to have been problematic for years, since in another document of 2007, before leaving Albania, the IMF expresses almost identical concerns about the quality of the external and internal audit of Bank of Albania.
Ingram Pinn illustration

Saudis have lost the right to take Sunni leadership
David Gardner

The kingdom spews out the corrosive poison that helps fuel religion-based fanaticism

When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the jihadi leader whose blackshirts over-ran swaths of northern and central Iraq in June, gave his Ramadan rant last month after proclaiming himself caliph, he had it translated into English, French, German, Turkish, Russian – and Albanian. Why did his Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis), which now styles itself narcissistically as the Islamic State, take the trouble?
Since the end of the cold war and after the wars of the Yugoslav succession, the western Balkans – in particular Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia and even bits of Bulgaria – have been carpeted with Saudi-financed Wahhabi mosques and madrassas. This is moving local Muslim culture away from Turkic-oriented, Sufi Islam towards the radical bigotry of Wahhabi absolutism, which groups such as Isis have taken to its logical conclusion. This is fertilised ground for jihadi ambition.

Saudi Arabia not only exports oil, but tanker-loads of quasi-totalitarian religious dogma and pipelines of jihadi volunteers, even as it struggles to insulate itself from the blowback; and King Abdullah, in his end of Ramadan address, warns against the “devilish” extremism of “these deviant forces”. Jihadi extremism does present a threat to the kingdom. But in doctrinal terms it is hard to see in what way it “deviates” from Wahhabi orthodoxy, with its literalist and exclusivist rendering of Sunni Islam. Its extreme interpretation of monotheism anathematises other beliefs, in particular the “idolatrous” practices of Christians and Shia Muslims, as infidel or apostate. That can be read as limitless sanction for jihad. The modern jihadi is a Wahhabi on steroids. His main grievance with the House of Saud is that it deviates: its profligate deeds do not match its Wahhabi words.

The late King Fahd, Abdullah’s predecessor, for example, acquired a reputation as a playboy and gambler in his youth. Yet during his reign he built 1,359 mosques abroad, together with 202 colleges, 210 Islamic centres and more than 2,000 schools, according to official Saudi data. There seem to be no figures for Wahhabi “outreach” under Abdullah, a more austere and ecumenical figure. Anecdotal evidence says Saudi mosque-building is powering ahead wherever believers are found, especially in south, central and southeast Asia, home to about 1bn of the world’s 1.6bn Muslims.

The House of Saud, facing a potentially wrenching succession to the ailing Abdullah at a time of upheaval across the Arab world, is in a delicate position. As custodian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, it is the closest modern equivalent to the old Islamic caliphate. It thus abominates the violent presumption of Isis as much as it abhors the rival brand of pan-Islamic fundamentalism of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the kingdom still spews out the corrosive poison that helps fuel religion-based fanaticism. The Isis rampage of destruction of shrines and mosques, for instance, continues the two centuries-old record of Wahhabi iconoclasm. Nor should it be forgotten that the House of Saud used Wahhabi zealots as its shock troops in the last century to unite by force most of the religiously diverse Arabian peninsula – won by the sword in 52 battles over 30 years. There are no churches in Saudi Arabia, and permits to build Shia mosques are rarer than desert rain.

Saudi Arabia is not solely responsible for the result; resurgent jihadism amid the virulent battle within Islam between the majority Sunni and minority Shia is playing out across the Levant, down into the Gulf and across to the Indian subcontinent. But it is a primary source of doctrinal bigotry, as Saudi schoolbooks enjoining believers to shun all but their own well attest.
The modern jihadi is a Wahhabi on steroids. His main grievance with the House of Saud is that it deviates
The worldwide surge in Wahhabi mosques began in response to Iran’s attempts to export the Shia radicalism of its 1979 revolution. The Anglo-American overthrow of Iraq’s minority Sunni regime in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – which installed a Shia majority and ignited sectarian carnage – and the west’s failure to support the rebellion of the Sunni majority in Syria, have fed Sunni grievances, sharpened by the Iran-backed Shia axis across the region. It is uncertain whether the Saudi state and its Gulf allies finance groups such as Isis, but their citizens do, encouraged by the Sunni supremacist discourse and tactical promiscuity of their rulers, fearful of being outflanked from the religious right.

Saudi Arabia’s position as the world’s leading oil exporter, a leading purchaser of western arms and a counterweight to Iran in the Gulf has shielded it from criticism. In the current turmoil in the Middle East – characterised by an absence of state and institutions, a loss of shared national narrative in mosaic countries such as Syria and Iraq, and the feebleness of previously influential big powers – there is a lack of mainstream Sunni leadership.

The petrodollar theocracy of Saudi Arabia, in its contest with the petrodollar theocracy of Iran, has smothered Sunni space – except for the vacuum in which Isis is building its (also oil-rich) cross-border caliphate, now striking east into Kurdistan and west into Lebanon.
Previous generations of mainstream Sunni Arabs gave their allegiance to pan-Arab nationalists such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, tarnished paladins of a dead-end ideology. The potential disaster now facing the Arabs demands a new generation of Sunni leaders, able to defeat extremism within their own camp. That is something Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabi absolutism is part of the genetic code of groups such as Isis, cannot do.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Defence Minister Avramopoulos on board the “Salamis” frigate

Mr. Avramopoulos praised the professionalism and combat effectiveness of the Armed Forces staff who worked on the Libyan Mission
National Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos went aboard the Salamis frigate yesterday in order to thank and congratulate on behalf of the Greek state the crew for the successful evacuation of Greek and foreign nationals from Tripoli, Libya.
In his address, Mr. Avramopoulos praised the high professionalism and combat effectiveness of the staff of the Armed Forces and thanked the families of the frigate crew for “boosting the moral” of the men.
Mr. Avramopoulos underlined that the national defense system “is always ready to respond to anything that contributes to the stability, peace and security in this region during this period of instability and uncertainty.”
The Defence Minister was accompanied by the Chief of Defence, General Mikhail Kostarakos and Chief of Hellenic Navy Vice Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis.


The government reacts for Bank of Albania theft: A serious crime

The government reacts for Bank of Albania theft: A serious crime
Two weeks after the huge unprecedented theft at the Bank of Albania, the government reacted by calling it a serious crime and a big challenge for justice.

Through an announcement for the media, the Council of Ministers says that the Prosecution should make a quick and comprehensive investigation for punishing anyone involved in this shocking crime.

This act is also a huge challenge for the authority and safety of the Bank of Albania, the announcement says, which should review all rules and mechanisms so that these things will not happen again in the future.

The government’s declaration didn’t mention Governor Fullani, who has been in the center of the media attention for the past days, and not even the Supervisory Council. According to the government, this is a big challenge for other institutions, the Parliament and the Government, for analyzing and come up with constructive conclusions for their cooperation with international financial institution, for the legal measures that are needed for guaranteeing a solid and transparent inspection system for the activity of this key institution.

This paragraph leaves to be understood that the government is not happy with the transparency of the Bank of Albania, that’s why they ask the Parliament Speaker, Ilir Meta, for a legal intervention.

The government underlines that they are following the progress of the investigation very closely, and they are determined to play their role fully for any initiative that might be needed for a functional security system for the Bank of Albania.

“Banking activity is not damaged”
Banks Association guarantees: Our activity is not affected by the theft

The Albanian Banking Association declares that what happened at the Bank of Albania will not affect their activity.

Through an official press release, the association guarantees the public and bank clients that the activity continues normally.
Criminal Prosecution for the maritime border agreement
Top channel TV

Criminal Prosecution for the maritime border agreement
“The Prosecutor General has all the respective documentation and the Constitutional Court verdict on his hand, together with the international practice, which has been violated by the Court”, declared Ditmir Bushat one day ago.

“The Tirana Prosecution has strong suspicions that the interests of Albania have been violated through the maritime border agreement. For this reason, a criminal lawsuit has been filed, some days after the Prosecution filed a voluminous material for the most debated case of 2009. The Prosecutors verified this case for some time, until they were convinced that the material of the Foreign Ministry has enough data to make them suspect that the criminal code has been violated”.

11 experts involved in the maritime border agreement of 2009 are expected to testify at the Tirana Prosecution.

“We have verified the documentation, the most important of which is the verdict of the Constitutional Court, which cancelled in January 26th, 2010, the implementation of this agreement by considering it anti-constitutional and against the national interests”, the Prosecutors say.

Among the experts that will be called for questionings are specialists who served as negotiators. The main negotiator of the Albanian side, Ferit Hoxha; Rear Admiral, Kristaq Gerveni, then Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces; the former General Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, Gazmend Turdiu; Director of legal and international cases, Ilir Tepelena; the Director of Tractates, Ledia Hysi, and photogrametry specialists like Ferdinand Bebreri and Anduel Cauli, from the Digital Map Sector.

The Prosecutors have not confirmed if the former Foreign Minister, Lulzim Basha, will be called for testifying as the man who signed the agreement with the Greek counterpart, Dora Bakojanis. According to the sources, it is still early to confirm this without the interrogation of the 11 experts.

The consumption of the criminal act foresees that the agreements made with foreign countries to hand over the territory are punished with five to ten years in prison.
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson: My Big Fat Greek Vacation!

Tom Hanks_Rita Wilson1

by Nikoleta Kalmouki - Aug 5, 2014

Tom Hanks_Rita Wilson1

Rita Wilson, wife of famous Hollywood star Tom Hanks and an actress herself is proud of her Greek roots. So it was no surprise that Tom and Rita were seen enjoying the sun and the beautiful beaches during their vacation in Greece.

The couple, married for 26 years, was seen on Antiparos in the Cyclades, where they showed off their sporting skills with high-energy activities. Instead of letting the hours drift by sun bathing on the beach, the screen stars were seen enjoying some stand-up paddling.

Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for the 1994 film “Forrest Gump,” displayed his athletic body in a pair of black surfing shorts, while Rita Wilson wearing a striped form-fitting top and white shorts was accompanying her husband.

The couple’s visit to Greece comes after Tom’s July trip to Egypt to shoot a part of his upcoming movie “A Hologram For The King.”

Rita was born Margarita Ibrahimoff to a Greek mother and Bulgarian father in Los Angeles. She was raised Greek Orthodox. Rita Wilson was responsible for getting Nia Vardalos‘ “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” to the big screen.

“Tom and Rita insisted on it to being Greek all the way,” Nia told of their input.

Rita and Tom also served as executive producers on “Mamma Mia,” the ABBA-based musical starring Meryl Streep, which was shot on the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos in Greece.
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Over 400 Ukrainian troops cross into Russia for refuge

Published time: August 04, 2014 06:23
RIA Novosti/Yulia Nasulina
RIA Novosti/Yulia Nasulina

More than 400 Ukrainian troops have been allowed to cross into Russia after requesting sanctuary. It’s the largest, but not the first, case of desertion into Russia by Ukrainian soldiers involved in Kiev’s military crackdown in the east of the country.
According to the Rostov Region’s border guard spokesman Vasily Malaev, a total of 438 soldiers, including 164 Ukrainian border guards, have been allowed into Russia on Sunday night.
One of the Ukrainians was seriously injured on his arrival in Russia. He was taken to the hospital for surgery, the officials added.
The other Ukrainian soldiers have been housed in a tent camp deployed near the checkpoint via which they entered Russian territory. The Russian border guards are providing them with food and bedding.
Footage taken by the Russian media at the scene showed the Ukrainian soldiers being handed ration packs and resting in their temporary shelter. Those who agreed to speak on camera said they were relieved to be in safety for the first time in weeks.
“We were given an order to leave out positions and go to Russia trough a corridor. We were told it would be safe. Of course they, I would say, made us go fast from behind,” one of the soldiers, a BMP driver who would not reveal his name or even show his face on camera, said.
“It was so bad back there. Hot, and so many deaths and bad things,” another one, Dmitry, said. “Folks can rest here. They gave us a chance to wash, gave us new clothes. We are thankful.”
“We have been in those fields for more than six months and are very tired,” he added.
Another one, Yaroslav, said he wishes to go back to his family in Ukraine.
“I want to do something peaceful. My contract expired four months ago,” he explained.

RIA Novosti/Yulia Nasulina
RIA Novosti/Yulia Nasulina
The Ukrainian Security Council said it is keeping in touch with the soldiers “through diplomatic channels,” but it did not give an exact number of how many troops had crossed the border.
“A Foreign Ministry representative is working with them, and negotiations over their return are now ongoing,” Ukraine Security Council representative Andrey Lysenko said.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian anti-government militia reported that it was in negotiations with a large contingent of Ukrainian troops they encircled in Lugansk region on a possible surrender. The negotiations were being hampered by the troops’ intention to destroy some 70 armored vehicles in their possession before laying down arms, which the militia wanted to capture intact.
The Gukovo border checkpoint, through which the Ukrainian troops crossed into the Russian territory, is located on Russia’s border with the Lugansk Region of Ukraine, indicating that these are the same troops that were negotiating with the militia. If so, it was not immediately clear whether the vehicles they had were really destroyed.
OSCE monitors and journos come under shelling from Ukraine at Russian border
The flow of deserters from the ranks of Ukrainian Army and National Guard seems to be increasing amid the escalating violence in Donets and Lugansk Regions, where Kiev is fighting against armed anti-government militias.
In late July 41 Ukrainian troops fled to Russia to escape fighting in eastern Ukraine. They are now being prosecuted in Ukraine for deserting in the heat of battle.

RIA Novosti
RIA Novosti
Several Ukrainian units have been reported to recently to be cut off from supply lines after attempted offensive operations, which brought them behind the militia-controlled territories and close to the Russian border.
The Ukrainian troops, while far superior to the militia in terms of heavy weapons, suffer from poor logistics. Many soldiers complain about lacking even basic supplies like food and water on the frontline. The situation is aggravated by cases of apparent negligence from the command, with units being supplied with faulty equipment, coming under friendly fire and simply left behind while retreating from militia counter-attacks.

A YouTube video allegedly shows a Ukrainian soldier explaining how he has to catch and cook snakes because his unit receives no rations.
Kiev’s National Guard unit mutiny: ‘We’ve been discarded like trash’
This causes serious morale problems in the army, with more critical voices saying the Ukraine de facto has no infantry troops and has no other way to fight but by leveling militia-held cities to the ground with artillery and air strikes.
There is a growing resistance to the military campaign among Ukrainian population, with several cases of mass protests against the latest mobilization drive, as mothers and wives of conscripts took to the streets to demand that their loved once not be drafted into the army.
Protesters in Tirana Demand Dismissal of Bank of Albania Governor

Bulgaria: Protesters in Tirana Demand Dismissal of Bank of Albania Governor 
World | August 4, 2014

Bulgaria: Protesters in Tirana Demand Dismissal of Bank of Albania Governor Protesters show banners reading `Resignation` during a protest to ask for resignation of Ardian Fullani, Governor of Bank of Albania, in front of the national bank`s headquarters in Tirana, Albania, 04 August 2014. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Several hundred citizens, including journalists, organized a protest Monday in front of the headquarters of Albania's central bank in downtown Tirana.

Protesters demanded the instant dismissal of Ardian Fullani, governor of the bank, due to the theft of around EUR 5 M from a storage facility of the bank.

The participants in the protest called on the ruling coalition and the opposition to immediately remove Fullani, according to reports of the BGNES news agency.

They insisted that he should have resigned, while the prosecuting authority should have already pressed charges and convicted him, sending him in jail for playing games with the money of Albanians.

Several arrests have already been made in connection with the unprecedented theft.

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More than 400 Ukrainian soldiers "flee to to Russia"

MOSCOW -- Ukrainian authorities' orders to troops to fight their own people are "impossible," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told Itar-Tass on Monday.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
His comments came as 438 Ukrainian military personnel reportedly fled across the border into Russia overnight.
“We have repeatedly helped Ukrainian law enforcers asking for help, asking us to receive their wounded friends. We have helped, offering medical assistance and given the possibility of return to all those who wanted it without impeding them, without keeping anyone forcibly,” Lavrov said, and added:

“To tell the truth, those who had wished to return to Ukraine were then accused of deserting and were court-martialed."

The news agency also quoted Lavrov as saying that he "expected the Ukrainian authorities to show humanity in the long run and will realise the absolute inadmissibility of the situation when Ukrainians are waging war against each other, when they are made to fight against their own people while those who refuse are seen as traitors to their own country."

Previously, head of the Rostov region customs service Vasily Malayev told reporters that more than 400 Ukrainian military personnel had crossed the border and sought asylum in Russia.

The border service decided to open "a humanitarian corridor" for asylum seekers, Malayev explained.

The 1914 in the wars of 2014

100 years on, the jigsaw pieces of old empires are being reassembled in new puzzles.
Ukrainian government artillery guns in a field near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, on July 31 (Beta/AP)
Ukrainian government artillery guns in a field near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, on July 31 (Beta/AP)
There is war in Europe. No, I'm not using the historic present tense to evoke August 1914. I'm talking about August 2014. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is war – 'ambiguous war' as a British parliamentary committee calls it, rather than outright, declared war between two sovereign states, but still war. And war rages around the edges of Europe, in Syria, Iraq and Gaza.

I do not say 'Europe is at war'. I leave the hyperbole to Bernard Henri-Levy. Most European countries are not directly engaged in armed conflict. Still, we should be under no illusions. For decades, we have lived with the comforting notion that 'Europe has been at peace since 1945'. This was always an overstatement. In parts of eastern Europe, low-level armed conflict continued into the early 1950s, followed by the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 and of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In the 1990s, former Yugoslavia was torn apart in a series of wars - as a recent report by the EU's Special Investigative Task Force, credibly charging Kosovo Liberation Army leaders with 'war crimes', has just reminded us.

Kosovo was where I first saw the corpses sticking out of makeshift body bags and the blood in the snow. While that blood was still fresh, I talked to one KLA commander, Ramush Haradinaj, who memorably observed: 'me, I couldn't be no Mother Teresa'. (He subsequently became prime minister of Kosovo, resigned when indicted for war crimes in The Hague, but was twice acquitted.) Then I would fly back to Western Europe, to find people arguing over which acronym had 'kept the peace' in Europe. Was it the EU, NATO, or perhaps the OECD (i.e. economic interdependence), the OSCE (i.e. pan-European security structures), or even the UN? The premiss was false then, and is even more so now. There is war in Europe, and around its ragged edge.

For all the differences, the dirty little wars of 2014 have an important connection to the horrendous 'great' one that began in 1914. Many of them involve struggles of definition and control over patchwork territories left behind by the multi-ethnic empires that clashed 100 years ago, and their successor states. Thus, for example, the battle for eastern Ukraine is about the boundaries of the Russian empire. Some of the Russians, from Russia itself, who are now leading the armed pro-Russian movement in eastern Ukraine, have characterised themselves as 'imperial nationalists'. (From their point of view, they are not 'separatists' but unionists.) In a fine piece of satire in the New York Review of Books, Vladimir Sorokin describes Putin's Russia as being pregnant with Ukraine. 'The infant's name,' he writes, 'will be beautiful: Farewell to Empire'.

During the Balkan wars of the 1990s, jigsaw pieces from the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were fought over, and then reassembled into new, smaller puzzles, such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Many of the frontiers on today's map of the Middle East go back to the post-First World War settlement, when Western colonial powers spliced together disparate parts of the former Ottoman Empire into new protectorates – Iraq, Syria, Palestine. The big exception is of course the state of Israel; but that, too, can trace a lineage back to the deadly after-life of European empires. For Nazi Germany, which attempted to exterminate the Jews, was the last hideous fling of German racial and territorial imperialism.

So what is Europe going to do now about its own long-term consequences? The first thing we must do is simply to wake up to the fact that we live in a dangerous neighbourhood. Being Greater Switzerland is neither a moral nor a practical option: not moral, because Europeans, of all people, should never be silent while war crimes are being committed; not practical, because we cannot insulate ourselves from the effects. Today's fighters in Syria will be tomorrow's terrorists in Europe. Today's dispossessed are tomorrow's illegal immigrants. Let these little wars burn, and you will be shot down out of the sky on your way from the Netherlands to Malaysia on flight MH 17. No one is safe.

Whereas in the past the irresistible wake-up call was the annexation of a territory, most West Europeans slept through Putin's Anschluss of Crimea. As Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev point out in Foreign Affairs, the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner on July 17 was a turning point, not least because commercial air corridors are the place where businesspeople live. Without that transformative event, it is unlikely that chancellor Angela Merkel could have persuaded German public opinion, and German business, of the need for tougher sanctions on Putin's Russia.

But what use is the EU's slow, soft economic power against the Kremlin's rapid, hard power? Or, indeed, against all the rapid hard powers of the Middle East? What use is butter against guns? The answer is: more than you might think. Europe alone cannot stop war in the Middle East. Only working with the United States, and with some more cooperation from – of all places – Russia, can it bring peace to Syria or Gaza. It does, however, have the power to punish Russia for having its artillery shell the regular Ukrainian army, from Russian soil, while that army tries to reconquer its own territory - and to persuade and enable the legitimate Ukrainian authorities to make the most generous internal settlement possible, as soon as control over its sovereign territory has been restored.

Even the minor sanctions that Europe has thus far implemented have been gnawing away at the edges of the Putin regime. The larger sanctions Europe agreed this week will, with time, have a larger impact. Liberal democracies are usually more slow to act than dictatorships, and a voluntary community of 28 such democracies is bound to be slower still. Economic measures take more time to bite than military ones, but they can be more effective in the end.

100 years ago we had 'the guns of August', in Barbara Tuchman's resonant phrase. Now we have the butter of August. Note the different role played by Germany, then and now. Slowly, step-by-step, the Berlin government is doing the right thing. Germany is bringing the unique weight of its economic relationship with Russia to bear, while quite reasonably insisting that the pain is shared with France, Britain and Italy. Some things do change. Some even get better.

Timothy Garton Ash is Professor of European Studies at Oxford University, where he currently leads the project, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book is Facts are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Albanian escape from Libya from Greek special forces

 Greek Frigate Returns After Libya Evacuation

A Greek navy frigate carrying embassy staff and nearly 200 people from Greece, China and other countries evacuated from the conflict in Libya returned early Saturday to a port near Athens.
Passengers on the frigate Salamis described a deteriorating security situation in the Libyan capital Tripoli, with frequent power and water cuts.
The Greek Defense Ministry the ship transported 77 people from Greece, 78 from China, 10 from Britain, seven from Belgium, one each from Russia and Albania.
The Greek evacuation followed similar action by a number of European countries, as fighting between rival militias in recent weeks.
Poland's Foreign Ministry said Friday that it has evacuated two dozen Poles and citizens of two other countries. All of Poland's diplomats have now left the country. Britain says it will suspend work at its consulate in Tripoli once it has completed assisting the departure of British nationals.
"We were hearing explosions all the time, but the fighting was on the outskirts of Tripoli," said Mustafa Avocat, a Greek-Libyan accountant, who was holding his crying infant son, moments after stepping off the Greek frigate.
"Things are getting worse. The power is cut 5-7 hours every day. There are water cuts too ... and the shops are closed."
Constantine Koutras, a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry, said moving embassy staff to the port was the most difficult part of the operation.
"I was on the phone to our charge d'affaires at the embassy to get an update and I could hear the sound of gunfire in the background," he told state TV.
"So in places like this and in these kinds of situations there is a very small difference between things going well and going very, very badly," he added.
In Manila, about 20 Filipinos arrived Saturday after escaping from Libya through Tunisia.
"At the border in Tunisia, it was like we had one foot already in the grave," Abraham Brios, a cook for a Libyan family who returned with his wife, told reporters at the Manila international airport.
"There was shooting in front of us, so we just prayed. ... Now that we are here, we now feel reassured."
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said that more than 800 of about 13,000 Filipinos in Libya had returned to their homeland.