Sunday, November 23, 2014

GPolice on a hunt for an Albanian with a criminal record suspected for the night club assault

23 November 2014

Attica’s security services are on the trail of the perpetrator who fired his Kalashnikov early on Saturday in the Etsi Apla night club in Mikrolimano. According to the latest information, the shooting’s fallout is 15 injured, 3 of whom seriously. All are young people aged 20-39.

9 of the injured, whose lives are out of danger, are being treated in different hospitals. 4 were admitted to the Attikon hospital, among them a young woman with a head wound. 2 of the injured underwent chest surgery at the Erithros hospital. Another 2 were hospitalized at Evangelismos and Thriasio. A young woman was admitted to the KAT hospital. Six of the injured were released for home treatment after receiving first aid.

14 Kalashnikov shell casings were found at the scene of the shooting. The police have a video showing the perpetrator sitting in the nightclub; witnesses said he had been in the company of two other people.

Witnesses also reported that the shooter had made threats against club employees, saying, "Everyone here will die tonight." Then he began firing at random and the club crowd went into a frenzy. When he stopped shooting, the perpetrator got into a taxi and fled, witnesses say.

The shooter is an Albanian citizen, 35 years old, perpetrator of 3 more armed assaults: two on cafes in Agios Panteleimonas and one in Mihalopoulou Street. posted a mug shot of the suspect.

The first attack was carried out on 31 October 2014, at a coffee bar at the intersection of Chiou and Kritis streets. The perpetrators fired from a car at the bar with a Kalashnikov. A 44-year-old customer was fatally wounded, as well as a 21-year-old Albanian woman who served at the bar.

The second assault took place on the evening of 6 November at 106 Aristotle St., when two men fired 12 bullets into a café without hitting anyone. The perpetrators, who were riding in a car with stolen plates, stopped in front of the café, fired their Kalashnikov, and then fled.

There is information suggesting that the 35-year-old man was a member of an Albanian gang, involved in drug trafficking and pimping, but this is hitherto unconfirmed.

The motivation behind the assault is not yet clear. Law enforcers are investigating two versions: the shooter was a racketeer who wanted to force the club owners into paying for protection, or was under the influence of drugs.

Yannis Moralis: Events like this one shock and dispirit us

"Events like this one shock and dispirit us. I wish those injured a quick recuperation, and hope the police arrest the perpetrator ASAP so that justice is done," said Yiannis Moralis, the Mayor of Piraeus, after having spoken with the Ministry of Health Secretary Vassilis Kondozamanis as well as with the management of the Attikon and Evangelismos hospitals.

- See more at:

German foreign minister speaks out against Ukraine joining NATO

Published time: November 23, 2014 17:10
AFP Photo / Yurko Dyachyshyn
AFP Photo / Yurko Dyachyshyn
Germany's FM, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has said he is against Ukraine joining NATO. In an interview with Der Spiegel, he said he considers “that it is possible for NATO to have a partnership with Ukraine, but not membership.”
He also added that he does not believe it is realistic for Ukraine to join the European Union in the foreseeable future, as the economic and political modernization of Ukraine is a “project for a few generations.”
He also urged Kiev to introduce reforms to fight corruption and mismanagement of the economy, saying they had to start immediately and that there was no time to lose.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.(AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.(AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)
Meanwhile, Russia President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said one of the means of changing the balance of power in the world to eventually subdue Russia was NATO’s gradual approach toward its borders, which made Russia “nervous”, he said, speaking to the BBC.
Russia needs a “100 percent guarantee that no one would think about Ukraine joining NATO,” Peskov said.
On Friday, Jeff Rathke, a spokesman for the US State Department, said that Washington supported Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO, but the final decision should of course be made by Kiev.
Rathke also said that lethal assistance to Ukraine was not yet “off the table.”
“Our position on lethal aid hasn’t changed. Nothing is off the table, and we continue to believe there’s no military solution. But we, in light of Russia’s actions, as the nominee mentioned yesterday in his testimony, this is – as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at,” Rathke said.
Serbian media: Albanians used children for provocation ahead Greece-Serbia match


 BELGRADE – A series of Albanian provocations has continued ahead of the recent Greece vs. Serbia football friendly in Chania, when one of the boys who accompanied the players onto the pitch crossed his hands over his chest, in a gesture symbolizing the double-headed eagle depicted on the flag of Albania, during the sounding of the Serbian anthem.

The friendly match was played in Chania, on the island of Crete, on Tuesday. The photo posted on the web portal Mondo shows the boy standing in front of Serbia captain Branislav Ivanovic with hands crossed over his chest, a traditional Albanian salute which its footballers adopted as a goal celebration.

 The day before the match, the authorities said that maximum security measures will be in place considering that around 100,000 Albanians live on the island. On the same day in Genoa, pitch invasions by Albanian supporters caused three interruptions of the friendly match with Italy, and in the previous friendly with France in Rennes, the flag of the so-called greater Albania was displayed, the same one that caused the Serbia-Albania European qualifier in Belgrade on October 14 to be abandoned. 

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) registered the match as 3-0 in favor of the home team but deducted three points from Serbia due to the incidents that followed and fined both football associations EUR 100,000. Both the Serbian and the Albanian FAs appealed the ruling, and the final decision will be made by UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on December 2.

Read More at © InSerbia News
Rama warns the opening of communist secret files
Rama warns the opening of communist secret files
For the first time, 25 years after the fall of communism, the Albanian government opened the doors of the nuclear shelter that the former communist government had built in case of an attack.

Rama had invited many high-rank officials and international representatives in the inauguration ceremony of the museum that is called “Bunk Art”. Ion his speech, Rama noted the importance of the opening of this bunker:

“We are witnessing today the opening of a collective memory. We are here to open a new phase regarding the past, not to rewrite history, but to show the past in all methods that we have, as a chance to bring in front of the new generations all of its testimonies”, the Prime Minister declared.

“History should be left to historians. The efforts to write history through a strong political will has been tragic in the distant past and ridiculous in the closer one. The efforts to repaint oneself has resulted tragic in the distant past and ridiculous in the closer past”, Rama added.

The Prime Minister also mentioned the notorious “Files of Enver Hoxha’s regime”.

“We are the ones who closed any connection with Enver Hoxha in 1990, and we have no problem to watch their deeds from all viewing points. We will liberate this collective memory from these nightmares. The preservation of these mysteries, and the preservation of the Communist Secret Service files are the continuity of the old politics. Those files hide many bitter truths”, Rama declared.

Before the opposition mentioned it, Rama declared: “Someone might go on Facebook today and say that we hid here etcetera, but the truth is that a visit in this place would show the boys and girls of this country about the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and Mehmet Shehu and their anti-human and anti-religious actions”, Rama declared.

Rama called the “Bunk Art” just the beginning of this tourist itinerary. Later will also open the “House of Leaves”, which was used by the Secret Service for surveillance.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Albanian opposition rallies against tax, power burden

TIRANA Sat Nov 22, 2014 12:26pm EST
Albanians take part in a protest against the government in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office in Tirana November 22, 2014. REUTERS/Arben Celi
Albanians take part in a protest against the government in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office in Tirana November 22, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Arben Celi

Related Topics

(Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Albanians protested on Saturday against tax hikes in next year's budget, accusing the Socialist-led government of impoverishing Albanians and falling short on its promises.
Filling Tirana's main street, they carried banners protesting against lack of jobs, tax rises and what would amount to a rise of electricity prices next year.
Prime Minister Edi Rama's government has launched sweeping reforms since coming to power 14 months ago. The European Union granted Albania candidate status in June.
Facing a high public debt and budget deficit, the government signed a 330.9 million euro ($409.92 million) deal with the International Monetary Fund, passed tax hikes and started an anti-crime drive.
"I am here against unemployment, higher taxes and the rise of power prices. It's too much. All over the world, it took a long time to achieve the standards they want to secure in two years," Elton Lika, a young unemployed lawyer, told Reuters.
Lulzim Basha, head of the opposition Democratic Party, accused Rama of arrogance in a speech to the crowd from a rostrum outside the prime minister's office.
He joked that Rama, who was inaugurating a communist-era nuclear shelter turned into a museum as the protesters filed past his office, had gone to the bunker to avoid facing them.
"I ask you not to make the lives of Albanians harder," Basha urged Rama, his voice hoarse from speaking. "Why aren't Albanians living better when they pay more?"
Rama wrote on Facebook that Albanians should not think the country could develop without hard work. Electricity theft and illegal building should stop, he said.
The Democrats have boycotted parliament since June after one of their lawmakers was punched twice by a fellow Socialist lawmaker, adding to the polarization and lack of dialogue.
(Reporting By Benet Koleka; Editing by Tom Heneghan)



Friday, November 21, 2014

Rama greets coalition in Kosovo: “A difficult but necessary pact”
Rama greets coalition in Kosovo: “A difficult but necessary pact”
The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, greeted the political class in Kosovo for finding a solution to the prolonged political crisis.

“This was a solution that deserves full support and encouragement. Finally there was a light in the end of the tunnel”, Rama declared.

The Prime Minister declared that Kosovo more than ever needs a solid majority and a strong opposition.

“The challenges of the Kosovo institutions are difficult and strategic. Kosovo needs a new majority for facing the challenges, and an opposition that imposes itself with the force of arguments”, Rama declared.

United States "fully engaged" in Balkans

WASHINGTON -- U.S. State Department Office for South Central European Affairs Director Thomas Yazdgerdi says his country is "fully engaged in the Balkans."
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
This especially applies to "resolving the remaining key issues," he said.
Yazdgerdi, who was recently appointed to the job, told Voice of America that Washington supports the future of the entire region "in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic community."

The United States considers itself to be a partner, he said Yazdgerdi, in this respect, "for example, by helping to maintain the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, giving support to Montenegro do things that are needed in order to join NATO, encouraging Greece and Macedonia to resolve their name dispute, assisting Bosnia to become more functional in comparison to everything else that seems a little easier."

As for "the growing Russian influence in the region," and possible plans of Washington to oppose it, Yazdgerdi said it was "not a question of opposing Russia's influence, but supporting citizens of the region to achieve their aspirations in terms of integrations."

Yazdgerdi said his country was "not against" others maintaining relations with Russia, and added that "some, like Serbia, have historical and cultural ties with Russia."

"But - if you want to join the European club, which I think all countries in the region want, then you must make appropriate conclusions and align your foreign policy with that advocated by the European Union," concluded Yazdgerdi.

Russian media: EU delivered ultimatum to Belgrade

MOSCOW -- In the wake of EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn's visit here, the Russian media are reporting about EU's "ultimatum to Serbia to impose sanctions on Russia."
Moscow (Beta/AP, file)
Moscow (Beta/AP, file)
The Russian state-controlled newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes that the EU demand put before Serbia to join the sanctions was "unprecedented," and raises the question of whether the country can continue to oppose the increasing pressure from Brussels.
The newspaper quoted Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić who said that Serbia "does not ave two or three policies" and that his government implements the only one "in the interest of its citizens."

"The demand of European Commissioner Johannes Hahn is very strong and if the government in Belgrade walks down this path, it will open up the way for the disappearance of Serbia. The probability that this will happen exists," Ana Filimonova of the Center for Study of Contemporary Balkan Crises was quoted as saying.

According to her, this government has already "basically agreed to the independence of Kosovo," and so it should not be ruled out that in the future, it might opt to join the sanctions.

"The Serbian people want to stay with Russia, but they have no instruments to influence the government. The Serbian parliament has no any opposition party that is against moving closer to the EU," said this analyst.

According to her, there is advantage to cooperation with Russia, as Russian President Vladimir Putin promised USD 10 billion worth of investments in Serbia, which is also one of the South Stream countries - "while Serbs can expect nothing good from the EU."

The newspaper also quotes the opinion of Serbian analyst Đorđe Vukadinovć who said he "did not think there was any need for Serbia to take cardinal decisions in favor of the EU."

The daily then quoted another analyst, Dušan Janjić, who said that "it should not be expected that Serbia will now impose sanctions," as well as that the Serbian leadership "can withstand pressure until March next year."

"In the event that by that time Russia and the EU do not find a mutually acceptable solution to overcome the current situation, Belgrade will be forced to toughen its attitude towards Moscow in favor of Brussels," Janjić believes.

The daily Kommersant meanwhile writes that the European Commission presented Serbia with an ultimatum, and received promises in Belgrade on Thursday that coordination of its foreign policy with Brussels will unfold gradually.

The paper said "Serbian experts" predict that unless EU-Moscow relations improve by the spring, Belgrade will have to join the sanctions "in order to gain a Western financial aid package."

This daily also turned to Dušan Janjić, who said Belgrade "received the first yellow card from the EU", and that it was clearly said for the first time that two-thirds of Serbia's trade volume are associated with the EU, and that "these channels can be closed."

"The current situation in Serbia is similar to what it was in Ukraine. Hahn's statements are just part of the 'package'. The second part will follow from the International Monetary Fund, who will strengthen their demands towards Belgrade, thereby supporting the position of the EU," he said.

Janjić repeated that "if by March Moscow and Brussels do not improve relations, the Serbian leadership will unwillingly, under pressure, join the sanctions."

"Our main weakness is the unbalanced budget. By not supporting the position of the EU, Serbia will get not get western financial assistance," Janjić believes.

During his meeting with the EU official in Belgrade on Thursday, Prime Minister Aleksadar Vučić reiterated Serbia's position when it comes to the Ukrainian crisis and Russia, noting that Serbia will not join the sanctions.

President Tomislav Nikolić said that Serbia at this point and in the coming years would not do so, and that he heard from Hahn that EU membership implies a common foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić spoke for the Belgrade-based daily Danas confirming this position, and when asked, adding that Serbia would not consider introducing "even the mildest form of sanctions" against the Russian Federation.

Pasok leader Venizelos meets with former Greek PM Simitis

First entry: 21 November 2014 - 16:48 Athens, 14:48 GMT
Last update: 16:48 Athens, 14:48 GMTPolitics
Pasok leader Venizelos meets with former Greek PM Simitis
PASOK leader Venizelos meets with former Greek PM Simitis
Greek Government Vice-President, Foreign Minister and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos on Friday morning met with former party leader and prime minister Costas Simitis.
Emerging from Simitis’ office in the Parliament, where the meeting took place, Venizelos told reporters that they had a good and meaningful discussion on all issues, such as the negotiation with Greece's creditors, the economy and international matters.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ambassador to Albania: Who Is Donald Lu?

The next ambassador to the Balkan nation of Albania will be a career diplomat who has spent the balance of his career working with formerly communist nations. Donald Lu was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 25, and if confirmed by the Senate as expected, he would succeed Alexander A. Arvizu, who has served in Tirana since November 10, 2010.

Born circa 1966 in Huntington Beach, California, Donald Lu earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in International Relations at Princeton University in 1988 and 1991, respectively. Lu served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1988 to 1990, where he helped to restore hand-dug water wells and taught health education and latrine construction. 

Joining the Foreign Service in 1990, Lu served early career foreign postings as a political officer at the consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan; as a consular officer at the embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia; and as a special assistant to Ambassador Frank Wisner and then political officer at the embassy in New Delhi, India.

Lu served as special assistant to the ambassador for the Newly Independent States from 2000 to 2001, and then as deputy director for the Office of Central Asian and South Caucasus Affairs from 2001 to 2003.

From 2003 to 2006, Lu was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Lu then served as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, including a stint as the chargé d’affaires from July 2009 through July 2010, when the office of ambassador was vacant.

In September 2009, Lu dispatched a diplomatic cable to Washington in which, quoting a prominent local politician, he compared Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to the two young mafia dons of The Godfather films: the impulsive Sonny Corleone and his calculating younger brother Michael. Lu wrote that Aliyev’s foreign policy—which he characterized as based on “restraint and a helpful bias toward integration with the West” represented his inner Michael, while his “increasingly authoritarian” domestic policies channeled Sonny. He even called Aliyev’s father, Heydar, who was president for the decade prior to his son, “the ‘Vito Corleone’ of Azerbaijan.”

Lu returned to India in July 2010 to serve as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in New Delhi.
Lu is married to Dr. Ariel Ahart, a public health specialist. They have two children, Kipling and Aliya.  Lu speaks West African Krio, Urdu, Hindi, Russian, Georgian and Azerbaijani.
20 kg heroin seized in the bus with players, in Kapstitca, Greek Albanian Border

Greek Police arrested two Albanians, drivers

 Fully 20 kg 650 grams of heroin are blocked by Greek police in border point Kapshtice. According to Greek media content narcotic was hidden in the trunk of a bus that was coming from Istanbul towards the Albanian capital, where the players of the team were "Erzeni" of Shijaku.

The incident happened three days ago, while representatives of the Municipality of Shijaku and Sports Club "Erzeni" are distanced from the event, as was the occasional bus line.

By inspecting luggage to the bus, anti-drug effective narcotics found in a duffel bag and a suitcase.

Officers had information about the quantity, coming from Istanbul, and after the operation were arrested two persons, 43 and 41, both Albanian nationals, bus drivers.

Greece: Venizelos, meeting with Turks to focus on diplomacy


Instead Samaras prefers talks on diplomatic issues

20 November, 11:37(ANSAmed) - ATHENS, NOVEMBER 20 - Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos chaired a meeting of ministers Wednesday in preparation for the Greek-Turkish High-Level Cooperation Council, which is due to take place in Athens on December 5 and 6, and advised them that the upcoming talks would focus on high politics. 

As daily Kathimerini online reports, Venizelos asked the government officials, including those from the Development, Culture and Tourism ministries, to ensure that the Greek side has implemented all of the agreements from the previous council, which was held in Turkey. 

However, he said that no new low-politics deals would be signed at the upcoming meeting unless necessary. Instead, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras wants the talks to focus on diplomatic issues such as the demarcation of maritime zones, Turkey's efforts to join the European Union, the Cyprus issue and the Turkish presence in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone. (ANSAmed)

Kosovo set to get government, Thaci to be president in 2016

PRIŠTINA -- Six months after elections followed by a political deadlock "Kosovo will very soon get a new government," the local media in Priština are reporting on Thursday.
Priština (Tanjug, file)
Priština (Tanjug, file)
According to those, as part of a deal reached among political parties, outgoing president and leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo Hashim Thaci will take over as president "in 2016."
It was reported earlier that Thaci and leader of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo Isa Mustafa agreed to forge a coalition government that will be headed by Mustafa.

The assembly speaker and the sole deputy premier will come from the ranks of Thaci's party, while both parties will have an equal number of ministers.

This concerns 85 percent of all portfolios, as 15 percent are allocated to minority partners in the future coalition - the Serb (Srpska) List and other non-Albanian communities, the website said.

Thaci will take over as president in mid-2016 when Atifete Jahjaga's mandate expires. He will be elected by the assembly.

Leaders of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo and the Self-Determination Movement Ramush Haradinaj and Albin Kurti - who have been left out of the deal - said it amounted to "support to crime and corruption."

Kurti told a news conference that Mustafa's "collaborationism with Thaci" would strengthen the latter's "secret, illegal service, called the SIK."

Serbia won't join sanctions in coming "days, years"

BELGRADE -- President Tomislav Nikolić has said Serbia "will not impose sanctions on Russia at this moment," but that EU membership will mean "a common foreign policy."
He was addressing a joint news conference in Belgrade on Thursday with visiting EU Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
"I heard from Hahn the same you did - that Serbia is not an EU member, that it is independent in conducting its foreign policy, but that EU membership would mean an obligation to conduct a common foreign policy," Nikolić said.

As he stressed, Serbia "today, these hours, these years, will certainly not impose sanctions on Russia."

Hahn emphasized that Serbia was "free" and that "for now there is no pressure" to completely align its foreign policy with that of the EU.

"EU member-states are carefully monitoring the events, but like I said for now there is no pressure on the country to completely align itself with the European foreign policy," Hahn said, and added that "the European family expects Serbia to gradually align with its policy, including its foreign policy."

Asked to comment on media reports that Germany is the only EU country that is blocking the opening of the first chapter in Serbia's EU membership talks, and whether Germany "can be persuade to change its position," Hahn said:

"Best form of persuasion is to implement what has been agreed so we can open chapters."
Earlier today, Hahn met with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who said he insisted on discussing Russia, while the EU official "did not insist on that subject."


Speaking about Kosovo, Nikolić said that Serbia "won't be able to go much further" in negotiations with Priština if it continues to negotiate "as an independent state."

According to him, "Serbia would have to find itself a different president and a different prime minister who would be ready to talk to Priština as an independent state" and thus trample on the Constitution.

Everything is at the standstill in the talks, Nikolić said, "because it is unknown who will negotiate with Belgrade on behalf of the Kosovo authorities, and nothing is being done to form the Community of Serb Municipalities."

Negotiations would go easier "if the Kosovo authorities were more sincere," he remarked.

The president, however, added that when Priština is ready to talk, "Serbia will be at the agreed place and time."

‘’All for one, one for all’’ : NATO Secretary General stresses solidarity in Estonia

  • 20 Nov. 2014
  • |
  • Last updated: 20 Nov. 2014 10:41
The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg started a trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with a visit to Estonia’s Ämari Airbase on Thursday (20 November 2014), where he stressed Alliance solidarity. “NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our Allies. And NATO is here to protect and defend Estonia,” he said. On his way, Mr Stoltenberg's plane was escorted by two Dutch fighter jets based in Poland as part of NATO's air policing mission, while at Amari, he met with US, German and Estonian troops. He made clear the presence of jets and troops from many nations demonstrates “the resolve of all Allies to stand with the Baltic nations. All for one. One for all.”
During their meeting, the Secretary General and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas discussed security challenges to the East stemming from Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine.
Referring to increase Russian air activity, Mr Stoltenberg said: "our Baltic air police mission has conducted over 100 intercepts this year - three times more than last year. In fact, Russian air activity has increased all over Europe. As a result, NATO jets have been scrambled over 400 times close to NATO airspace - 50 percent more than last year. This pattern is risky and unjustified. So NATO remains vigilant. We are here. And we are ready to defend all Allies against any threat."
Mr Stoltenberg described the Readiness Action Plan agreed at the Wales Summit as “the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War” and stressed that the Alliance is working to implement it in full and on time.
Secretary General Stoltenberg also praised Estonia for spending 2% of its GDP on defence – a key NATO benchmark – despite tough economic circumstances. “Estonia is leading by example,” he said. Calling Estonia “a strong and committed Ally,” Mr Stoltenberg also thanked Estonia for its role in NATO operations, and praised the country’s “leading role in strengthening the Alliance’s cyber defences”.
The Secretary General's agenda also includes a visit to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, as Estonia holds this week Cyber Coalition 2014, NATO's biggest ever cyber exercise, as well as meetings with President Toomas Henrik Ilves, Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, and Defence Minister Sven Mikser.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NEW RISKS IN THE BALCANS Situation reports

The Russian Federation steps up efforts in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim is to intensify anti-Western sentiments, encourage civil disobedience acts and mass protests against rapprochement and integration into the EU.

Such efforts are made both for creating tension in the center of Europe and stalling the process of Serbia’s integration into the European Union, as well as for passing off the problem of Ukraine.

CESI’s analysts have previously mentioned the overactivity of Russian diplomats and suspects of ties with the Russian intelligence service in Croatia. In particular, we pointed out Moscow’s attempts to preserve and build up military and technical cooperation with Zagreb and prevent arms supplies from the U.S. High level of interest in acquiring a share in Croatian INA Oil and Gas Company was also noted.

In addition to that, the incoming intelligence suggests that Moscow’s Government is trying to establish closer ties with Serbia through military cooperation and gas supplies. According to our estimations, the overactivity of pro-Russian forces is expected within the territory of Serbia in the nearest future, putting pressure on Belgrade’s leadership in order to force them either to distance from the EU membership, or exert pro-Russian impact on the EU decisions as a member-country. Moscow is most likely to consider the scenario of making Serbia give up on the Eurointegration as a priority.

Moreover, analysis of diplomatic activity and contacts of Russian envoys in Bosnia and Herzegovina proves that the Russian Federation seeks to bolster influence on this country and replace some of its top officials. These processes will apparently be realized through Russian resources in Serbia.

Russia has refused to support the extension of the EU peacekeepers mandate in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time in 14 years – that is one of the indirect proofs of Russia’s planning actions within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The UN Security Council passed the resolution on extending the peacekeeping force term of reference in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a year. But Russia turned out to be the only country out of 15 SC member states that did not uphold this decision, abstaining from voting, though it had voted for extending the peacekeeping mission for the last 14 years. Permanent Russian mission to the UN is lobbying for speedy closing up of the UN High Representative’s executive office and abandonment of external interference in Bosnia’s affairs. Russian mission to the UN was instructed to focus on ensuring the process of forming the new authorities in the country without the external interference, first of all, on the part of the High Representative.

The results of our analysis suggest that nationalist parties’ candidates won the October elections to the governance bodies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus yet again sharpening the contrasts among the ethnic groups living in the country. Consequently, the developments are likely to prove that Kremlin is considering the scenario of radicalizing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and destabilizing the situation in the region. Electing not to support the peacekeeping mission’s mandate speaks for Moscow’s interest in such pace of developments. On one hand, that will suspend the EU integration of the countries in the region. On the other hand, that will aggravate military and political situation on the EU borders. Moreover, that will enable to divert the EU’s attention from Russia’s policy in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Mogherini, Dačić discuss Kosovo dialogue, Ukraine

BRUSSELS -- Federica Mogherini hopes the Kosovo dialogue would quickly resume, and that the EU expects both sides to continue work to implement the Brussels agreement.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
The EU foreign policy chief said in a statement after her meeting late on Tuesday in Brussels with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić that she hoped the dialogue on normalization of relations between Belgrade and Priština will continue as soon as possible.
Mogherini stated that during her meeting with Dačić they discussed Serbia's foreign policy, and underlined the need to "progressively harmonize it with EU foreign policy."

Another topic was the upcoming presidency of Serbia in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"We agreed that the crisis in Ukraine is the first priority and should be dealt with in accordance with the basic principles of the OSCE," said the statement, quoting the EU official.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia said that Mogherini stressed she supported the EU enlargement process and stated it will not be slowed down during her tenure - despite the fact that no country would join the EU as a member during that time.

Mogherini supported the resumption of the Kosovo dialogue on the political level as soon as possible, pointing out that she will participate in it personally, the Serbian ministry's statement said.

She stressed the importance of Serbia's chairmanship in the OSCE during 2015, particularly bearing in mind the role of this organization in the process of resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

Dačić said that Serbia during its presidency of the OSCE intends to seek "all possible ways to assist the Minsk peace process in order to find a peaceful solution."

When it comes to the harmonization of the Serbian foreign policy with that of the EU, Mogherini stated that the EU expects from Serbia to "gradually increase the percentage of alignment" - according to the Serbian MFA.

During the meeting, Mogherini and Dačić discussed also an initiative of the EU related to the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Dačić said that Serbia was "ready to assist in this process" and would support "any solution that contributes to the stability of Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Mogherini also said that she plans to visit Serbia early next year at the latest.

While in Brussels, Dačić aslo met with EU's enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Global terrorism on rise: Fivefold increase in terror-related deaths since 2000

Published time: November 18, 2014 11:36
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province.(Reuters / Stringer)
Militant Islamist fighters parade on military vehicles along the streets of northern Raqqa province.(Reuters / Stringer)
Almost 18,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2013, a 61 percent increase from the 2012. Four terrorist groups, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram were responsible for two thirds of all such deaths around the globe.
Almost 18,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2013, a 61 percent increase from the 2012. Four terrorist groups, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram were responsible for two thirds of all such deaths around the globe.
The Global Terrorism Index, produced by the London-based Institute for Economics and Peace, also found that 80 percent of terrorist attack fatalities occurred in only five countries; Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria.
Worryingly, the 63 percent increase from 11,133 terrorist deaths in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013 is the biggest year-on-year escalation since records began in 2000. Since the turn of the millennium, the number of deaths due to terrorist activates has increased fivefold, which also coincided with US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Source - Institute of Economics and Peace
Source - Institute of Economics and Peace
There has also been a sharp increase in the number of terrorist attacks, with almost 10,000 occurring in 2013. However, the report also showed that around 50 percent of terrorist attacks did not claim any lives.
Since 2000, the Taliban has been responsible for the most deaths, 8763, from terror attacks, closely followed by Al-Qaeda with 8585. The Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) and Boko Haram both became more active in 2009, which was the first year that either group killed over 300 people. Based on data up to the end of 2013, these two groups have killed in excess of 3,000 people in four years, half of which was in 2013 alone.

Source - Rand Corporation
Source - Rand Corporation
However, things could get even worse next year, as the publication does not include the mass killings carried out by the militant IS, which have been taking place in Iraq and Syria since the summer.
"There is no doubt it is a growing problem. The causes are complex but the four groups responsible for most of the deaths all have their roots in fundamentalist Islam," said the Institute for Economics and Peace founder Steve Killelea.
"They are particularly angry about the spread of Western education. That makes any attempt at the kind of social mobilizing you need to stop them particularly difficult - it can just antagonize them more," he said.
The report states that, “The rise in terrorist activity coincided with the US invasion of Iraq. This created large power vacuums in the country allowing different factions to surface and become violent.”
However, despite the US spending tens of billions of dollars on counterterrorism operations, figures produced by the Rand Corporation shows that only seven percent of terrorist groups have been quelled due to military action. The organization says that policing and negotiations are the most successful way of countering terrorist groups, with the two having a combined success rate of 83 percent.
“The majority of terrorist groups ended by joining the political process, or were destroyed by policing and intelligence agencies breaking up the group and either arresting or killing key members. Military force in of itself was rarely responsible for ending terrorist groups,” the report, published in the General Terrorism Index (GTI), stated.

Source - Institute for Economics and Peace
Source - Institute for Economics and Peace
However, terrorist groups are now targeting police and security forces with even greater frequency, thus making it much harder to try and manage the problem, according to Killelea. He added that this can lead to rights abuses against the civilian population, which can sometimes inflame an already-volatile situation even further.
Terrorist incidents have increased significantly in Iraq during 2013 with the number of deaths rising by 162 percent from 2012. Bombings are the tactics almost exclusively used by terrorist groups, with this method accounting for 87 percent of deaths and 97 percent of injuries. Suicide attacks also continue to be used, with a very high cost to human life - an average of over seven deaths per suicide attack.
Since the civil war in Syria started in 2011, there has been amassive increase in terror activity. From 1998 to 2010 there were a combined total of just 27 deaths. However, since the start of unrest to try and topple President Bashar Assad, that number has already jumped to well over a thousand by the end of 2013.
Since 2000, suicide attacks have accounted for 5 percent of deaths in terror activities, while the tactic is most favored by militant group Hamas. The Palestinian organization has carried out 195 attacks, 24 percent of which have been suicide missions. However, their last suicide attack was in 2008, according to data in the report, which also stated that 60 percent of attacks involved explosives, 20 percent firearms and 10 percent through other actions, such as arson or attacks with motor vehicles.
Both Syria and Iraq have witnessed religious struggles between Sunni and Shia Muslims, which has led to an increase in terrorist activity.
“Religion as a driving ideology for terrorism has dramatically increased since 2000. Prior to 2000 nationalist separatist agendas were the biggest drivers of terrorist organizations,” the report adds.
The report also showed that the number of countries which experienced deaths as a result of terrorist attacks had reached a new high of 24 in 2013, up from the previous record of 19 nations in 2008.
Over the past 14 years, five percent of all terrorist deaths have taken place in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The data excludes the September 11 terrorist attacks, but shows that Turkey and Israel have experienced the highest number of deaths.

Reuters / Stringer
Reuters / Stringer
Although not as frequent as in the Middle East and Africa, OECD countries have experienced some of the heaviest-casualty terrorist attacks, such as the London bombings in July 2005 and the Madrid train bombings in March 2004.
“Terrorism as a tactic of sustained mass destruction on a large scale is mostly ineffective. However, large scale explosions and mass deaths cause large, unpredictable and unintended consequences, whereas individual deaths have much smaller flow-on effects,” the report added.
Although terrorist attacks are constantly in the news, figures show that 40 times more people are murdered around the globe every year, in comparison to those losing their lives as a consequence of terrorist activities.
Deterring hybrid warfare: a chance for NATO and the EU to work together?

In response to the conflict in Ukraine, NATO has decided to take on an ambitious task: developing a set of tools to deter and defend against adversaries waging hybrid warfare.
As the conflict in Ukraine illustrates, hybrid conflicts involve multilayered efforts designed to destabilise a functioning state and polarize its society. Unlike conventional warfare, the “centre of gravity” in hybrid warfare is a target population. The adversary tries to influence influential policy-makers and key decision makers by combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts. The aggressor often resorts to clandestine actions, to avoid attribution or retribution. Without a credible smoking gun, NATO will find it difficult to agree on an intervention.
Undoubtedly, prevailing in hybrid warfare presents NATO with an institutional challenge. To effectively counter irregular threats, the Alliance will need to strengthen cooperation with international organisations, particularly with the EU.
NATO has a wide range of instruments at its disposal. The Alliance has expended a great deal of effort in recent years to stay abreast of new threats, especially in cyberspace. Nevertheless, NATO, as a military alliance, will never embrace the full spectrum of challenges embodied in hybrid warfare.
Why two is better than one
The current NATO deterrence policy for hybrid warfare is based on a rapid military response. This policy has three potential weaknesses. First, member states may find it difficult to agree on the source of a conflict, creating a significant barrier to prompt collective action. Second, to counter irregular threats, hard power alone is insufficient. Regardless of how rapid a response may be, deploying military force to an area swept by hybrid warfare will turn out as “too little too late”. Too often, the conflict evolves under the radar. Finally, a deterrent built upon military force alone will not be credible. To deal with irregular threats, NATO cannot simply revive the strategy of massive retaliation, or rely exclusively on one course of action.
NATO should consider a more flexible policy and strive to deter prospective adversaries with a wide range of instruments. By partnering with the EU and expanding its set of instruments, the Alliance will be able to tackle the threat from multiple angles. What is more, it may be even able to prevent it.
The EU seems the organisation best suited to complement NATO’s crisis management efforts, as it offers a diversity of instruments that can be employed in hybrid warfare. NATO and the EU could create an effective institutional tandem that has a wide range of both political and military instruments at its disposal. The NATO Summit in Wales acknowledged the EU as a strategic partner of the Alliance. And the common threat of hybrid warfare within the Euro-Atlantic area presents a solid opportunity to develop this partnership even further.
NATO and the EU should intensify consultations and engage in joint planning, especially in implementing the EU Council decisions on security in December 2013. The inter-institutional cooperation should become more systematic and pragmatic.
Events in Ukraine have changed the threat perception in Europe. Recent pledges to reverse declining defence budgets confirm this. NATO and the EU should take advantage of this momentum. Through close coordination in defence planning, both organisations can avoid duplication and achieve greater convergence. The European Council meeting in June 2015 will offer a good opportunity to review and possibly adjust the future course of cooperation. NATO’s Secretary General should not miss the opportunities this meeting will bring.
The importance of security sector reform
Prevention represents the best possible means of countering hybrid warfare. Irregular threats are far more difficult to manage once they become an overt attempt at destabilisation. Rolling armour columns and exchanges of open fire, as witnessed in Ukraine, signify that a hybrid conflict had entered its later stages. Skirmishes such as these may easily evolve into an insurgency with no foreseeable political or military solution. As appears likely in Ukraine, the result may be a “frozen conflict.”
States that appear vulnerable to destabilisation can adopt measures to increase the resilience of their security sectors in advance. The concept of Security Sector Reform (SSR), embedded in UNSC (United Nations Security Council) Resolution 2151 offers an indispensable tool to tackle the challenges of hybrid warfare. SSR aims to strengthen a state’s ability to provide public safety and secure the rule of law, while embracing transparency and accountability. The transatlantic community should call upon the countries prone to destabilisation to take on the SSR initiative. These measures will not only better prepare the country to counter external threats, but will also help pave its way to sustainable development and prosperity.
The EU has incorporated SSR into its Common Security and Defence Policy operations. It’s now concluding its first successful mission of this kind in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has recently launched an SSR mission in Ukraine. A strong security sector and well-developed soft power serves as the best measure to secure peace and stability in European neighborhood, particularly against the subversive threats witnessed in Ukraine.
An opportunity not to be missed
To effectively defend against hybrid warfare, I believe the Alliance will need to expand its capabilities and strengthen its cooperation with the EU. Through a comprehensive approach, NATO and the EU will be able to employ an entire palette of instruments to an emerging conflict. By embracing the concept of SSR, NATO and the EU can focus their efforts on the most vulnerable states and help them to become more resilient against destabilising threats. The two organisations should not miss out on this chance to advance their partnership to a new level. By more closely coordinating their efforts, NATO and the EU could not only avert irregular threats, but could help secure peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area for the foreseeable future.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Merkel warns about "Russia's influence" in Serbia

BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned, in the context of the situation in Ukraine, about the Russian influence in Moldova, Georgia, and the Balkans.
The German media quoted her as saying that "this is not just about Ukraine - this is about Moldova, this is about Georgia, and if this continues then one will have to ask about Serbia and one will have to ask about the countries of the Western Balkans.”
Merkel made the remarks in Australia, addressing the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

"The Ukrainian crisis is not just a regional problem. No, in this case, we see that it affects all of us," said the German chancellor.

She warned that Russia, "in the old style of thinking, sees Ukraine as its sphere of influence and tramples on international law."

"This, after the horrors of World War II and the Cold War brings into question the European peace order,'' Merkel said, pointing out that she does not want "a revival" of the times of the Democratic Republic of Germany, when no move was possible without Moscow's consent, adding that the EU is "not like the GDR."

"Otherwise, one would have to say - we are too weak, watch out people, we cannot accept anyone else, we must first go to Moscow to inquire whether it is possible. That was the case for 40 years and that is what I actually do not want again," Merkel was quoted as saying.

The German magazine Spiegel previously claimed in an article that "the Russian president's strategy" in the Balkans had alerted the German government, and that Berlin was concerned about Russia's "aggressive, anti-Western policy" in this region.

The government in Moscow is trying to "bind Serbia closer through military cooperation and gas deliveries," the magazine quoted "a confidential document of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who is on a two-day visit to Belgrade, said that the Serbian government is convinced that Serbia belongs in the EU and that the decision was not against any country, including Russia.
BBC: Albania in the grip of corruption and unemployment
Albania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. This is what is highlighted in the profile that the BBC has published for our country. What is worth saying is that the foreign investments are hampered as a result of a number of factors, which relate to corruption, unemployment, infrastructure etc.

"Unemployment remains very high and the infrastructure and corruption continue to hamper foreign investments." These are some of the main problems highlighted in the profile that BBC has recently changed.

"According to a report published by the supervisor of bribery, "Transparency International", 2012, Albania is currently the most corrupt country in Europe ", it says.

The analysis in question explains that although there are signs of economic progress, keeping inflation under strict control with little growth, the country remains one of the poorest in Europe, outside the former Soviet Union.

The monitoring noted that Albania applied for EU membership EU in 2009, under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement and the got the status in June 2014.

"The European Union encourages other reforms, particularly in the fight against organized crime and corruption, press freedom, property rights and the rights of minorities," says BBC.

Speaking on last year's elections, BBC reportedly says that Edi Rama took a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections of 2013, ending eight years of conservative government.

Rama is described by observers as a good speaker of English, French and Italian, as a doer, with a strong personality.

"Rama has promised that Albania will be a member of the EU within 10 years. His promise to improve living standards in a country where many people depend on the income of immigrants who live in the EU and the US, will be particularly difficult to achieve ", writes BBC.

BBC also comments Rama's meeting with Serbian counterpart Vucic. "In front of the Foreign Policy, one of the biggest challenges that he faces is the restoration of bridges of cooperation with Belgrade, which has been deeply suspicious of Tirana's objectives towards Kosovo."

Rama's visit to Belgrade, is seen as a historic opportunity to improve relations between the two countries and tensions rose when both Rama and Vucic attacked each other as they spoke on the status of Kosovo ", said BBC. /

Saturday, November 15, 2014

US Navy deploys laser weapon to Persian Gulf for first-ever combat mission

Published time: November 14, 2014 23:42
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (Reuters / U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman / Handout)
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (Reuters / U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman / Handout)
The US Navy has deployed its first ever combat laser. The futuristic weapon has boosted the arsenal of the Fifth Fleet’s command vessel in the Persian Gulf. The laser is said to be effective against numerous small targets, such as Iran’s gunboats.
A 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System has been equipped on the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship since late August, Navy officials told Bloomberg.
The device is capable of focusing beams from six solid-state commercial welding lasers into a single strong beam, which can be used both as a blinding warning shot and as a weapon capable of setting fire to a drone or small boat.
It took Naval Sea Systems Command technicians seven years and $40 million to develop the technology to the current stage. The tour in the Gulf is more of a trial continuation than regular duty, as the Navy wants to learn more about its new tool.
The technology’s big advantage is its operational efficiency, as firing one shot costs just around $1, the Navy stressed. But lasers have their own peculiarities, with their efficiency depending on weather conditions, the presence of dust and vapors in the air, and other factors. The range of the laser, which is limited by those factors, remains classified.
There is also the issue of power, which the laser weapon requires in abundance – hence its deployment by the Navy on a warship with powerful generators.
Back in April, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, called the deployment of the laser on the USS Ponce “a worthwhile experiment” because “it’ll help us feel out the operational limitations” such as power constraints.
It was crucial to learn how the system would operate in the environment and how much energy it would consume, Kendall added.

The fact that the USS Ponce is stationed in the Persian Gulf “provides a unique platform” to deploy the laser “in an operationally relevant region,” Fifth Fleet commander Vice Admiral John Miller told Bloomberg in an email.
The US Navy has been boosting its presence in the area since 2011. The US targeted Iran’s oil industry and financial sector with economic sanctions aimed to put leverage on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.
Amid the tensions, Iran threatened to close the Persian Gulf’s bottleneck, the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the global oil trade passes. Washington’s response was that it would use its Navy to prevent such a blockade.
Iran’s supposed plan to stifle the oil trade of its Gulf rival relied on large US warships with swarms of fast, small boats. Incidentally, the Pentagon’s new weapon is designed to destroy small, fast-moving targets.
However, in an interview earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert stressed that the laser does not specifically target Iran.
“I wouldn’t target a country for a weapon, nor would I preclude putting together a weapons system for a country by itself,” Greenert said.