Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vucic has telephone conversation with Kosovo PM

BELGRADE -- Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has had a phone conversation "with Prime Minister of the interim administration in Pristina Isa Mustafa," Tanjug said.
The news agency added it learned that Vucic and Mustafa spoke about "future cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina and the position of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija."
Vucic and Mustafa "agreed on Wednesday evening that all problems should be solved through dialogue and that after establishing direct contact, they will in the future directly communicate about all potential problems," Tanjug reported on Thursday.

Commenting in the conversation during a break in a conference in Belgrade's Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday, Vucic said Mustafa and he held "very different views of the world, the future, Kosovo - but it is normal that we talk."

"My job is to talk and I will always talk to him. Just as I am always pleased to talk with Angela Merkel, with (Vladimir) Putin, so it is normal for me to talk with someone who is not that popular. But, I cannot and do not wish to say a bad word about that, because it is my job and his to solve problems, " Vucic was quoted as saying.

He added that the conversation last night was "also about how to continue the (Kosovo) dialogue."

The EU-mediated dialogue has stalled as Pristina "wants all previously agreed on deals to be implemented before new topics are opened, while Belgrade wants to talk about forming a community of Serb municipalities," the Beta agency said in its report.

The last dialogue round was held in Brussels on February 9 and resulted in an agreement on the judiciary.

Albania: Immunity lifted for 2 MPs in murder plot claim

By LLAZAR SEMINI, Associated Press | March 26, 2015 | Updated: March 26, 2015 11:01am
  • Lawmaker Tom Doshi speaks to a Parliament’s commission discussing the prosecutors’ request to lift his immunity, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after his claims Speaker Ilir Meta had been behind an assassination plot. Parliament on Thursday, March 26, 2015 voted in favor of the prosecutors’ call to arrest Doshi, expelled from the governing Socialists three weeks ago after the claims, and also for Christian Democrat Mark Frroku for false testimony in the case. Photo: Hektor Pustina, AP / AP
    Photo By Hektor Pustina/AP 
    Lawmaker Tom Doshi speaks to a Parliament’s commission discussing the prosecutors’ request to lift his immunity, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, after his claims Speaker Ilir Meta had been behind an assassination plot. Parliament on Thursday, March 26, 2015 voted in favor of the prosecutors’ call to arrest Doshi, expelled from the governing Socialists three weeks ago after the claims, and also for Christian Democrat Mark Frroku for false testimony in the case.
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TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian lawmakers on Thursday voted to lift the immunity of two of their colleagues accused of false testimony claiming that the parliament speaker was behind an alleged assassination plot to kill two deputies.
Eighty of Parliament's 140 lawmakers voted to allow the prosecution of Socialist lawmaker Tom Doshi, while the vote for lifting the immunity of Christian Democrat Mark Frroku was 79 to one abstention.
Sixty lawmakers, all but four of them from opposition parties, were absent.
Doshi was expelled from the governing Socialists three weeks ago after claiming Parliament speaker Ilir Meta, a former prime minister, had paid 600,000 euros ($656,000) to have him and an opposition Democratic Party lawmaker killed. He has given no explanation for what Meta's motives might have been. Meta has strenuously denied the allegation.
Doshi had claimed that Frroku had first told him about the alleged plot. Frroku denies making any such claim.
The two lawmakers were formally accused of false testimony after a probe found no evidence of an assassination plot. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.
"We have seen no politician, lawmaker jailed for false testimony, which in fact did not occur at all in my case," Frroku said before the vote.
Prosecutors questioned Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama, his Democrat predecessor Sali Berisha and tens of others before deciding to ask for the lifting of the two's immunity.
Speaking at a Parliamentary commission meeting Wednesday night, Doshi described the prosecution request against him as politically motivated.
Prosecutors say that Durim Bami, who Doshi said was the assassin, has since claimed that Doshi and Frroku paid him and pressured him to make a false allegation about the assassination plot.
Forty of the main opposition Democratic Party's 41 lawmakers walked out of parliament before the vote, with the party saying it did not want "to be part of the farce," despite previously voicing support for the request to lift immunity for the two.
"The investigation cannot be trusted as long as the speaker maintains his post," said Democrat Eduard Halimi. The party has called for Meta to be removed from his post so he can be questioned again.
Italy and Albania arrest three ISIS recruiters

printable version

26 March 2015

Three suspects have been arrested in Italy and Albania, believed to be part of a terrorist cell that has recruited fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS.

Albanian police on Wednesday said they had arrested 38-year-old Alban Haki Elezi, from the village of Frakull, near the town of Kavaja in central Albania, acting on an Interpol warrant issued by the Italian authorities.

“His arrest was carried out based on a warrant issued by Interpol Rome and a ruling issued by a court in Brescia, on suspicion of terrorist acts,” the statement said.

Italian media reports said that apart from Alban Elezi, Italian authorities have also arrested his nephew, Elvis Elezi, in Turin and a 28-year-old Italian of Moroccan origin.

Italian authorities are increasingly concerned by the number of radicalized Muslims emigrants from the Balkans joining the ranks of the Islamist militants.

According to a document seen by BIRN, the Italian Interior Ministry has identified five radical cells from the Balkans operating in Italy and recruiting jihadist fighters for the Islamic State.

The cells located in Milan, Rome, Liguria, Lucca and Siena have allegedly infiltrated communities composed of Muslim emigrants from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia.

So far, eight of 59 people that Italian security agencies have identified as joining radical Islamic groups fighting in Syria and Iraq come from the Balkans. Four have already died in the Syrian war.

Because of its geographical proximity, Italian authorities are worried that ties between radical preachers coming from the Balkans and local Muslim communities could turn the country into a centre of radical Islamist activity.

By Besar Likmeta

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thousands turn out for Greek Independence Day parade

The Associated PressMarch 25, 2015 Updated 3 hours ago
The crowds at the parade, where tanks rolled down the street and fighter jets and military helicopters flew overhead, were in stark contrast to last year's event, which took place under heavy security. Spectators had only been allowed near the end of the route.
Authorities limited public access to national parades after protesters had heckled officials attending such events over the handling of Greece's financial crisis and austerity measures imposed in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans.
Parliamentary elections in January saw the radical left Syriza party form a coalition government with the nationalist right-wing Independent Greeks.
The two had been among the most vociferous critics of previous governments' handling of the financial crisis, and came to power on pledges of ripping up the bailout agreement which stipulated austerity measures in return for funds from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.
But the new government, faced with an increasingly severe credit crunch and strained relations with its European partners, has had to roll back on some of its pre-election promises.
March 25 marks the start of Greece's 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire. The end of Wednesday's parade was followed for the first time by traditional Greek folk dances in the street outside Parliament.

Read more here:

"Serbia won't sit quietly as Greater Albania is created"

BELGRADE -- Serbian Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic has said that the country "cannot and will not" react quietly to the creation of a Greater Albania.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
He remarked that "they need not hide it under any other guise, because (Greater Albania) is obviously what this is about," and "called on the EU to oppose it."
Selakovic spoke after Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Monday announced that several agreements signed between the governments of Kosovo and Albania represented "national unification" and that this had occurred "through the EU."

Kosovo is a Serbian province that unilaterally declared independence in 2008, an act Serbia considers a violation of its territorial integrity.

Selakovic said that while Serbia wishes to have the best possible relations with Albania, and for Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo to live in peace, "it will not react quietly to the forming of a Greater Albania."

"We are calling on the EU to oppose it, rather than keep quiet and look at it benevolently," the minister said late on Monday.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pristina "daydreams about Serbia's recognition"

BELGRADE -- Director of the Serbian Government Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric says that "people should not be fed the illusion about Serbia's recognition of Kosovo."
Marko Djuric in Kosovska Mitrovica (Beta, file)
Marko Djuric in Kosovska Mitrovica (Beta, file)
However, he added, that does not mean that residents in Kosovo and Metohija, both Serbs and Albanians, "should not live together, and live better."
Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 2008 unilaterally declared independence, which Serbia considers a violation of its Constitution and territorial integrity.

But Hashim Thaci, who serves as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the government in Pristina, told the Austrian APA agency he was "convinced that Serbia will in the near future" recognize its southern province as independent.

Reacting to this statement, Djuric said that "the road to normalization is irreversible, while the constant daydreaming about a Serb recognition of Kosovo's independence is a reflection of political immaturity."

"What is worrying is the lack of focus on the real problems of Kosovo and Metohija - unemployment, corruption, and bad inter-ethnic relations," this official observed.

Djuric also advised Thaci to "turn to the reality and take into account the fact that citizens suffer the most from any delays in normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, which at the same time represents a process to create the conditions for economic development of Kosovo and Metohija."

Thaci told APA on Monday that Serbia's recognition "will not happen tomorrow, but will come in the near future," and noted that Serbia's EU accession and recognition of Kosovo will be tied to one another.

During the same interview, Thaci mentioned "Islamic extremism and the rising influence of Russia" as the biggest threats faced by the Western Balkan region.

Keeping Greece in the euro: Mission impossible?

Grexit? Patience with Greece is running out

The make-or-break moment in the long running saga over Greece's debt is looming.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met German Chancellor Angela Merkel Monday in a bid to bridge a growing gulf between Athens and its European creditors.
Tsipras arrived in Germany -- the biggest single contributor to Greece's 240-billion euro ($262 billion) international bailout -- warning that Athens will find it "impossible" to avoid defaulting on its debt repayments without more cash from Europe.
"Servicing these repayments through internal resources alone would, indeed, lead to a sharp deterioration in the already depressed Greek social economy -- a prospect that I will not countenance," Tsipras wrote in a March 15 letter to Merkel first published by the Financial Times.
Greek government spokesman Gavriel Sakelarides confirmed the content of the letter. He said Tsipras was not threatening Germany but rather laying out the "reality" facing his country. "There is a liquidity problem and political initiatives must be undertaken," Sakelarides told Greek TV.
And here's the problem: Europe will only hand over more cash once it's satisfied that Greece is implementing reforms it promised in February to win an extension of its financial lifeline to the end of June.
Pressure on Merkel to hold a firm line with Greece is coming from two sources: German taxpayers who don't want to throw good money after bad, and European states who have stuck with painful austerity and believe they're beginning to see the benefits of those reforms.
Tsipras said he hadn't come to Berlin looking for money but rather to try to establish common ground and understand "what we agree on and what we disagree on," he told reporters.
Merkel said she wasn't in a position to promise any more help to Greece -- that would be a decision for eurozone finance ministers as a group. But she twice referred back to the February agreement, which Greece has so far failed to fulfill.
Related: Greece needs to behave like a startup
While the political wrangling continues, Greece's financial position went from bad to worse. Tax revenues fell short of forecasts by more than one billion euros in the first two months of the year, the economy is shrinking again and cash is leaving the country.
"Tonight, Prime Minister Tsipras has potentially his last chance to convince German Chancellor Merkel that he will ultimately do what it takes to keep Greece in the euro," noted Christian Schulz at Berenberg bank.
"If he fails to inspire any kind of trust in Berlin, securing the necessary funds to keep going, let alone the inevitable third bailout in July, will be a fantasy."
Greece repaid more than 900 million euros to the International Monetary Fund last week, but faces another repayment demand of about 470 million euros on April 9. Some analysts believe the cash crunch could come even sooner than that.
With its budget surplus fast evaporating, and unable to borrow from international markets, Greece's anti-austerity government would then face a stark choice: default or slash spending at home.
Some relief could come from the European Central Bank, if it agrees to relax the conditions attached to funding Greece's banks. ECB President Mario Draghi said Monday that he was prepared to do so, but Greece must first commit to honor its obligations to all creditors, and prove that it is meeting the conditions of its bailout program.
Would you be a tax spy for Greece?
-- CNN's Elinda Labropoulou in Athens contributed to this article.

Albania reaffirms commitment to NATO

Albania remains committed to the NATO Readiness Action Plan, which "ensures that the Alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges."
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 19/03/15
photoThe VJTF will be comprised of NATO Response Forces, and will consist primarily of a terrestrial component supplemented with air, sea and special forces. [AFP]
Albania's Ministry of Defence said the country continues to be engaged in the NATO Readiness Action Plan, and is focused on the two main pillars -- assurance and adoption measures -- which include "increased military presence and activity for assurance and deterrence" and "changes to the Alliance's long-term military posture and capabilities."
The Readiness Action Plan was approved at the NATO Wales Summit in September, "to ensure the Alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to new security challenges." The plan provides measures to respond to changes in the security environment in and near Europe, challenges posed by Russia and threats coming from the Middle East and North Africa.
Last month, NATO and Albanian officials discussed the efforts to adapt to emerging hybrid challenges from the east and south. NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Sir Adrian Bradshaw and senior Albanian political and military officials also discussed the Alliance's plans to enhance and restructure the NATO Response Force (NRF) "into a division-sized force that can move at short notice in response to hybrid threats."
"NATO nations are resolute in their determination to respond to emerging security challenges, as evidenced by our ongoing and robust assurance measures, and our rapid establishment of an interim Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) capability," Bradshaw said.
The VJTF is envisioned to be a multinational brigade with around 5,000 troops and up to five manoeuvre battalions, supported by air, maritime and special forces.
"The Readiness Action Plan is the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. And it is my top priority to implement this plan in full and on time," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in November 2014.
"This plan has been in the focus of the last Summit of the Alliance in Wales, where the heads of the member states agreed to create [the VJTF], which would be capable of being deployed within a few days in response to the challenges that arise, especially on the periphery of NATO territory," Edlira Prendi, spokesperson for the Albanian Ministry of Defence, told SETimes.
The VJTF will be comprised of the NATO Response Forces, which are high-readiness forces, and will consist primarily of a terrestrial component supplemented with air, sea and special forces, she added.
Prendi explained that Albania contributes to the NRF with elements, units and capacities that change every year.
"This year, capacities of the military police have been declared, while for next year it will be the capacities of the ground forces. The willingness of the declared capacities is tested through military exercises organised by NATO. The [upcoming] exercise Trident Juncture 15 aims to test the capacities declared by the NATO member states for 2016. The exercise will take place in Spain and Portugal and the capacities declared by Albania will also attend," Prendi told SETimes.
Edith Harxhi, former Albanian deputy foreign minister and current executive director of the Albanian Policy Centre, said the government should maintain more resources for assisting the Alliance.
"An increase in the defence budget of the country needs to be reconsidered by the current government. At the latest NATO summit in Wales, the Alliance called on member states for more commitment -- both financially and physically -- to fight world terrorism and defy the Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant] as a real threat that is trying to penetrate in Europe," Harxhi told SETimes.
General Sheme Kosova, former Chief of Staff of the Albanian Army, said the rapid changes in the global security environment present a need for NATO member countries, including Albania, to adapt.

"NATO and the Albanian Armed Forces should build policies and structures for the new war. The problems in Iraq, Syria, anywhere, need to be confronted because they are not simply war soldiers, but destructors of democracy," Kosova told SETimes.
Harxhi agreed, and said that Albania is united in its objectives to support the partners within NATO and prevent evil forces from killing innocent civilians in the name of religion.
"Albania, as a NATO member country with a Muslim majority population, has an extra duty not only to fight extremism in its cells but also to help and assist other countries in the Western Balkans to fight extremist groups that appeal to vulnerable people to join them in the name of God and wealth," Harxhi told SETimes.
What steps can Albania and the Western Balkan countries take to assist NATO with the Readiness Action Plan? Tell us your thoughts below.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Serbia gives access to military facilities, special status to NATO soldiers

BELGRADE – NATO soldiers should in future have free transit through Serbia, use its military infrastructure and be “protected” with a special status while staying in the country, writes “Vecernje Novosti”.
Image from:
Image from:
This is only one of the obligations Serbia committed to with individual action plan (IPAP), whose entry into force was officially marked by the Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic.
IPAP, among other things, involves signing of the so-called SOFA agreement (which Serbia already has with the US) with NATO member states, which regulates border crossing and immunity level for the members of Alliance while they are passing through Serbia or are residing in the country, as well as access to military facilities.
Serbia also committed to open the regional training center “Jug” near Bujanovac for all the members of the Partnership for Peace and NATO, to gradually harmonize its regulation in the field of defense with the EU and destroy surplus weapons.
Particularly intriguing is the mandatory sentence of cooperation with NATO in the field of public diplomacy, but, as sources who spoke with the daily claim, does not mean that Serbia should “blindly” follow NATO military doctrine, actions and foreign and security policy, but to cooperate in raising awareness of NATO standards, activities withing the Partnership for Peace and promotion of regional stability.
Photo: MOD
Photo: MOD
According to Minister Dacic, raising cooperation with NATO to the highest political level “does not in any way obligate Serbia to become a member”, nor calls into question its military neutrality:
“This is the furthest step Serbia will make towards NATO,” said Dacic.
“IPAP represents the highest level of cooperation with a partner state which is not willing to become a member of NATO. We are developing cooperation with the Alliance within the PfP and thereby contribute to the achievement of interoperability in the Army of Serbia, building military capacities to contribute to international peace and stability,” said Minister Gasic.
Military analyst Aleksandar Radic also does not see obligations under IPAP as contestable. He says that not even the commitment to secure free movement and special status for NATO soldiers is not contestable.
“There is no mystery in these agreements and they serve to simplify customs and border procedures, as well as the conditions of transit through Serbia, when, say, foreign soldiers come here for a joint military exercise or on some other occasion. When we sign such agreement with a country, then our soldiers have the same rights in that country,” said Radic.

Eurostat: Citizens of Serbia and Bulgaria most unhappy people in Europe

Published: People in Serbia, along with Bulgarians, are the least happy people in Europe, show results of the most recent research conducted by Eurostat, “Blic” writes.
Of the 32 countries of Europe where the research was conducted, Serbia is second from behind. Worse than Serbia is only Bulgaria, with Hungarians, Greeks and Croats being happier people. The most satisfied people live in Switzerland.
These results were obtained from the issues that had to do with socio-demographic factors as criteria of satisfaction. Respondents declared that the most important factors are health, financial situation, employment, social relations and climate.
The most dissatisfied were given rating from zero to two, and completely satisfied ten.
These results do not surprise psychiatrist Slobodan Jovicic, writes the daily.
“A young man in Serbia has no perspective. He is initially hampered because it is impossible to live in Serbia with a salary of 39,000 dinars (~ $350) and raise a family. Even if he earned 2,000 euros, the only thing he can do is buy ‘quality salami’,” dr. Jovicic told “Blic”.
Sociologist Ratko Bozovic reminds that happy people are those who are free.
“Happy people are those who have control over their lives, who are capable to achieve their wishes. In Serbia this is non-existant. Happiness and satisfaction are reflected in fulfillment, bliss, harmony. These do not exist in Serbia,” said Bozovic.

Thousands gather for anti-austerity rally in Spain - PHOTOS

First entry: 21 March 2015 - 22:07 Athens, 20:07 GMT
Last update: 08:41 Athens, 06:41 GMTWorld
Thousands gather for anti-austerity rally in Spain - PHOTOS
Thousands of demonstrators from across Spain have gathered at one of Madrid's main squares to protest against the way the government has tackled the financial crisis by implementing harsh austerity measures.
Organizers had hoped to attract 20,000 protesters to the event, labelled Marches for Dignity, and as the sun set on Saturday much of Colon Square and part of Paseo de Recoletos boulevard were packed with people carrying republican flags and banners calling for a general strike.
Associated Press

NATO Secretary General discusses relations with Russia at Brussels Forum 


  • 20 Mar. 2015
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  • Last updated: 20 Mar. 2015 18:00
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to stop destabilizing its neighbours and respect international rules at the tenth annual Brussels Forum conference on Friday (20 March 2015). In the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, Mr. Stoltenberg underlined that NATO is responding by strengthening its collective defence and supporting regional partners – including Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
The Secretary General participated in a panel entitled “Zero-Sum? Russia, Power Politics, and the post-Cold War Era”. His co-panellists were EU High Representative Federica Mogherini; US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland; and Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on International Affairs. The moderator was David Ignatius, associate editor of The Washington Post.
Organised by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Brussels Forum brings together political, economic and intellectual leaders from Europe and North America to discuss key challenges facing the Euro-Atlantic area

Saturday, March 21, 2015

US evacuates 100 special forces from Yemen airbase

US pulls out the last of its forces over security concerns as embattled president blames Iran for escalating crisis.

The United States is evacuating its remaining 100 special operations forces from Yemen amid the deteriorating security situation in the country, local sources have told Al Jazeera.
The troops, who conducted counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, were leaving the al-Anad airbase in Lahj province on Saturday citing security concerns.
The US military told Al Jazeera that it was in the process of pulling approximately 100 special operations out of Yemen, because of the political instability and continued fighting there.
The personnel, who worked in coordination with the Yemeni government in controlling drone operations, were the last US forces stationed in the country.
The evacuation comes a day after suicide bombers, reportedly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), killed at least 137 worshippers and wounded hundreds more at two mosques in the capital Sanaa.
Washington, which considers Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) one of the most dangerous wings of al-Qaeda, had lent financial and logistical support to Yemen's government in combatting the armed group.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has since fled the capital to the southern port city of Aden, has been a vocal supporter of the US war against al-Qaeda, at one point saying he approved each US drone strike.

RELATED: Yemen strife threatens neighbours too

Saturday's US withdrawal comes as Hadi made his first televised speech since escaping house arrest, pledging to fight what he called Iranian influence.
Accusing Tehran of backing the Houthis who drove him out of Sanaa, the embattled president vowed that "the Yemeni republic flag will fly on the Marran mountain in Saada [the Houthis northern stronghold] instead of the Iranian flag".
Iran has been repeatedly accused of backing the fighters who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam, but the Houthis insist that the Islamic Republic does not meddle in Yemeni affairs.
Hadi also called on the Houthis to leave the capital and for its allied militias to quit government ministries. He denounced the Houthis as "coup plotters" and said he wanted to confront sectarianism.
Meanwhile, the Houthis called for an offensive against security and military institutions controlled by Hadi describing it as a battle against extremists.

RELATED: The rise of the Houthis

Yemen has descended into chaos since the 2012 ousting of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh, with security having broken down since Houthis swept unopposed into the capital last year.
An ISIL affiliated group claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks on Twitter, threatening that the bombings were "only a part of the coming flood".
The Houthis, who are considered heretics by ISIL and al-Qaeda, descended from their heartland in Saada last year, fighting their way towards Sanaa and defeating tribal and military rivals along the way.
Earlier this year, they put Hadi, the elected president, under house arrest, disbanded parliament and appointed Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a cousin of the group's leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, as the new president.
Stability in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, is of international concern because it borders major international shipping lanes and lies next to Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

UK Kurds honor Greek-Briton who died fighting Islamists

First entry: 21 March 2015
UK Kurds honor Greek-Briton who died fighting Islamists
Hundreds of British Kurds were at Manchester Airport to honour the first Briton to die fighting Islamic State.
The body of Konstandinos Erik Scurfield arrived on a plane from Istanbul after being handed over to his father at a ceremony on the Syria-Iraq border last week.
The former Royal marine, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was shot dead earlier this month while fighting in Syria alongside Kurdish forces.
Although Britain has taken part in airstrikes against IS, Mr Scurfield was frustrated by what he saw as the country’s lack of action and support for the Kurds.
Supporters, some of them in tears, threw yellow roses onto a private ambulance carrying the 25-year-old’s body as the vehicle moved slowly along roads around the airport.
Pro-Kurdish rights supporter Mark Campbell described him as a "fallen hero" and a "martyr".
As fellow campaigners applauded, he read out a message from Mr Scurfield’s mother Vasliki saying: "He went out to oppose the so-called IS of course.
"But really he went out to support the rights of every human being to live in their own country with a government they have chosen rather than have one imposed on them by religious ideology."
Mr Campbell dismissed suggestions the former marine had been a mercenary saying he hadn't been paid for fighting with the Kurds.
Another campaigner Aysegul Erdogan said supporters had turned up from all over the UK.
She said: "People have been beheaded including humanitarian aid workers. Journalists were beheaded.
"This needs to stop and in order for this to stop, the international community needs to support the Kurdish people."
The Foreign Office has advised all Britons against travelling to Syria.
About 500 are believed to have gone to join IS but there is little information about the number of people travelling to fight with the Kurds. 
Sky News

Greek minister is accused of benefiting from reinstatement of public employees

First entry: 21 March 2015
Greek minister is accused of benefiting from reinstatement of public employees
The leftist government of Alexis Tsipras faced its first internal crisis as a media report revealed that the deputy minister of public administration was offering his services for a fee to sacked public –sector workers.
According to an exclusive report in To Vima due to be published on Sunday, George Katrougalos, a practicing lawyer before he assumed office in January, signed private contracts with laid-off workers that would have given him a fee for each reinstatement.
According to the report, the fee was 12% of the gross compensation for each worker and the minister continued to sign private contracts up until January 27, when he was sworn in.
Katrougalos is the minister responsible for implementing Syriza’s pledge to rehire thousands of public-sector workers sacked by the previous governments.
In a press conference late on Saturday, Katrougalos denied the report. He said that the documents presented were fake and accused To Vima newspaper of provocation.
Opposition parties are calling for his resignation. However,  according to reports, PM Tsipras is  providing full support to the embattled minister.


Albania for a secular Europe: interview with Klajda Gjosha, Albanian minister of European integration

21.03.2015 - 14:57
Turkey, FYROM, Serbia, Bosnia and Albania have begun or are currently lined up to begin negotiations to join the EU. The decision to allow Albania to start its accession negotiations followed progress by Edi Rama, the Albanian prime minister, who came to power in June 2013, in the battle against organised crime and corruption. 
The 28 EU member states granted Albania the status of official EU membership candidate on 24 June 2014. This is the next step in Albania's long road to becoming an EU member state, and is recognition of recent reforms in the country.
Albania is now the fifth accession candidate along with Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia, FYROM. Klajda Gjosha is Minister of European Integration of Republic of Albania from September 2013.
New Europe: You run one of the most important ministries in your country, more important, in the present circumstances, than, let’s say, the ministry of defence. You have to push your country into Europe. How far are you from the goal?
Klajda Gjosha: Mine is, indeed one of the most important ministries. European integration is our main priority. Last June, all member states voted for Albania. We are focusing now on the five main priorities that are already set. Judicial reform is the most important. Actually, the Commission likes to start the negotiations with the most difficult chapters, like everything that concerns the rule of law, human rights and so on… What happens is that a country’s legislation is slowly brought on the same level with EU legislation.
New Europe: Is there a term, a time limit, for a country to join the EU? Let’s take Croatia, for instance. Negotiations went on for something like six years, right? While Turkey has started negotiating ages ago, and it is still far from the goal. How do you feel when you are told that during this Commission term there will be no enlargement?  
Klajda Gjosha: You can’t compare the situation of Albania with that from other countries, like Turkey, for instance. Albania is part of Europe, not only geographically, but also in full spirit.
New Europe: Who are your allies? There must be some older member states, like Italy for instance, that you feel closer to. Croatia, maybe? There must be some countries that help you more than others. 
Klajda Gjosha: Albania has very good relations with all member states, even with more developed member states, like Germany or France. But, of course, Italy or Greece, countries closer to us are traditionally more friendly.
New Europe: In the Balkan context, do you feel that the situation of Kosovo is a burden for you? Aren’t you slowed down by what happens there?
Klajda Gjosha: Absolutely not. We don’t feel that Kosovo is a burden. We even cooperate with them, as we do with all countries that aspirate to become member states one day.
New Europe: How do you view the Albanians from Kosovo? How do Albanians from Albania proper view the Kosovar identity? 
Klajda Gjosha: We always communicated with them in order to be together a part of Europe. We, Albanians, project a very good image when it comes to religion and neighbourhood relations. This is the best message that we have always given to our neighbours.
New Europe: Right, Albania is more secularised than its neighbours. 
Klajda Gjosha: Yes. We are secularised, although there are many religious communities that live together in Albania in total understanding and peace.
New Europe: You even have a national religion: the Bektashis, that only exist in Albania.  
Klajda Gjosha: Yes. On the other hand, we would like Europe not to take this for granted and to understand that religion can always be exploited, dragged towards terrorism, as we see around these days. We want Europe to understand this in the case of Albania and to notice the importance of our efforts.

President responds to MEP: I did not ask for advice

BELGRADE -- Tomislav Nikolic on Friday reacted to a suggestion voiced by a European Parliament (EP) official that he should not attend the Victory Day parade in Moscow.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
Eduard Kukan said that Nikolic should travel to Moscow, but only to visit a monument for WW2 soldiers, and snub the parade.

In his reaction, the Serbian president said that the pressure exerted on him to make a decision that is not in the interest of the citizens of Serbia was "in vain."

Nikolic added that it was "rude to offer advice to somebody who did not ask for any."

A statement issued by the president's cabinet said that neither Nikolic nor any other Serbian politician ever offered advice to Slovakia's president concerning where they should go and what they should do.

Kukan is a Slovak MEP, and was this week visiting Serbia as head of an EP delegation, when he commented on Nikolic's announced trip to Russia in a statement to a Belgrade-based newspaper.

"The opinion of a large majority of citizens is that our country should foster best possible relations with everyone, including the Russian Federation. The president represents this opinion unequivocally and nobody will succeed in changing it, Mr. Kukan included," Nikolic's statement said.

French president sees Russia as "friendly country"

PARIS -- France sees Russia is a friendly country, French President Francois Hollande has told the magazine Society in an interview.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
"For me, Vladimir Putin is above all the president of Russia. When I talk to him, I talk to Russia, and it is a country I respect, a great country and a friendly country," said Hollande.
The French leader admitted that there were "some misunderstandings" between Moscow and Paris.

"President Putin has his own interests, his vision and methods, and the things he says are not always generally accepted," he added.

According to Hollande, he for this reason decided to "speak openly to a head of state who always speaks directly."

Commenting on the Ukrainian crisis, Hollande said that he sees the solution in the full implementation of the agreement from Minsk.

"It would not be in the interest of Russia for Ukraine to be swallowed by NATO, because then Russia would find itself in direct contact with those its considers a threat," the French president said, and added that such a turn of events would also not correspond with the French position.

"It is in the interest of Europe to conduct direct talks with Russia, because it is a great country, and it is in the interest of Ukraine to preserve its territorial integrity," he said, adding this was why "it is clear that the solution lies in the full implementation of the agreement from Minsk."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Berlin: No date named on which Greece must present new reform list

First entry: 20 March 2015
Berlin: No date named on which Greece must present new reform list
The German government does not expect Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to bring his new detailed economic reform plan with him when he visits German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, a spokeswoman said.
"There is no date, not even Monday, on which this concrete reform list has to be presented but these reform suggestions must of course be presented relatively soon," said Christiane Wirtz said at a government news conference on Friday.
She said the Eurogroup's agreement of Feb. 20 remained the basis for discussing any further steps for Greece.

Golden Dawn leader, lawmaker set free

First entry: 20 March 2015
Golden Dawn leader, lawmaker set free
Nikos Michaloliakos, leader and MP of extreme right Golden Dawn, and lawmaker Ioannis Lagos were released from jail Friday afternoon.
The two, who had been arrested in September 2013 on charges of belonging to a "criminal organization" as judges had described Golden Dawn, were released because the 18-month pre-trial detention limit has expired.
The two, along with other Golden Dawn officials and members, still face trial on a variety of charges, including murder.
"Mr. Michaloliakos has exited the place where some people placed him illegally convinced he would never come out. But he will be acquitted in the coming trial. He will stay under house arrest on the illegal charge of illegal possession of a weapon," said Michaloliakos' lawyer Nikos Antoniadis.
"Eveerything will be fine," Lagos said.

Two Albanian MPs face arrest over murder claims

Two Albanian MPs face arrest over murder claims

20 March 2015

Pas kërkesës së Prokurorisë, Doshi takohet me Priftin në “Sheraton” test

The Prosecution Office on Friday sought parliament's permission to arrest two MPs, Mark Frroku and Tom Doshi, who are suspected of giving false testimonies.

Albania's General Prosecutor's Office on Friday sought permission from parliament to arrest two MPs suspected of giving false testimonies.

The Prosecution Office said that Tom Doshi, who earlier this month claimed that the speaker of the parliament, Ilir Meta, had hired a hitman to kill him, invented the plot in collaboration with another MP, Mark Frroku.

The prosecution said it did not believe any such plot to assassinate Doshi ever existed.

According to the constitution, parliament must first lift the immunity of the MPs before they can be arrested on suspicion of a crime.

Tom Doshi
Former Socialist MP Doshi aired allegations about the attempted murder on 2 March, the day when Prime Minister and Socialist leader Edi Rama expelled him from the party.

Doshi claimed that Frroku had informed him about the murder plan and that the assassin had since confessed the plot to him, and been rewarded by him with an armoured car.

Frroku denied being the source of information about the murder plot.

However, the prosecution says it believes he lied to the prosecutors. Last week, leaked police documents showed that Frroku is suspected of having hidden a drug dealer from police in his car.
U.S. Embassy Statement

The U.S. Embassy welcomes the Prosecutor General’s action to seek Parliament’s approval to arrest two Parliamentarians. This is an important opportunity to show that no individual is above the law. We reiterate our call for the Prosecutor General, Parliament, and judicial institutions to fulfill their responsibilities to ensure due process in accordance with the law.

NATO Secretary General discusses relations with Russia at Brussels Forum

  • 20 Mar. 2015
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  • Last updated: 20 Mar. 2015 18:00
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to stop destabilizing its neighbours and respect international rules at the tenth annual Brussels Forum conference on Friday (20 March 2015). In the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, Mr. Stoltenberg underlined that NATO is responding by strengthening its collective defence and supporting regional partners – including Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
The Secretary General participated in a panel entitled “Zero-Sum? Russia, Power Politics, and the post-Cold War Era”. His co-panellists were EU High Representative Federica Mogherini; US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland; and Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on International Affairs. The moderator was David Ignatius, associate editor of The Washington Post.
Organised by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Brussels Forum brings together political, economic and intellectual leaders from Europe and North America to discuss key challenges facing the Euro-Atlantic area.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dnevnik, Macedonia: DUI, DPA don’t wish number of Albanians not living in Macedonia to be known

19 March 2015 | 09:17 | FOCUS News Agency
Dnevnik, Macedonia: DUI, DPA don’t wish number of Albanians not living in Macedonia to be knownPicture: Дневник, Македония
Skopje. Declining to back the amendments to identity cards legislation, the Albanian parties in Macedonia want to conceal the number of Albanians living abroad, Macedonian Dnevnik daily writes.
The news edition says countries in the region sanction differently not having an address registration on the part of citizens living abroad – from suspending the address registration to fines. But the authorities everywhere insist citizens provide accurate information about their place of living so that identity papers are issued on the basis of this. The problems arose after the ruling Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) said it would not back the amendments as they were anti-Albanian. For them the fact every citizen can have his or her address registration suspended after not registering as a person living abroad is controversial. Dnevnik also says the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) also finds the amendments unacceptable.

Serbs want "strong community of municipalities"

GRACANICA -- Councilors from ten Serb municipalities have adopted "a decision on united political action, protection of rights and realization of interests of Serbs."
This would happen "through the constitution of a strong community of Serb municipalities in Kosovo (ZSO)," Tanjug reported. The meeting on Wednesday also asked for a harmonized draft of the ZSO statute to be submitted to a joint meeting of municipal assemblies.
According to the Serbian Government's Office for Kosovo and Metohija, "councilors from municipalities with Serb majority requested constitutional and legal provisions concerning the number of Serbs in institutions and public enterprises on all levels to be respected, as well as adequate representation of Serbs in municipalities where Serbs do not constitute majority population."

In the conclusions, they "insist on the principle according to which their presence in institutions on all levels and selection of Serb staff is in exclusive jurisdiction of appointed Serb political representatives."

The councilors also called for protection of property and rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church and noted that new laws on issues of importance for the Serb community should be adopted only with the consent of appointed Serb representatives.

Serb List leader Aleksandar Jablanovic said on Wednesday that the Albanian side also had a share in the responsibility to set up a community of Serb municipalities (ZSO) in Kosovo.

Speaking at a meeting of representatives of Serb-majority municipalities in Gracanica, Jablanovic said that the Kosovo government should show a constructive approach and implement what it had signed in practice.

“We should not be looking at any new agreements before seeing that which has been signed implemented, and I hope that we will leave this meeting more united,” said Jablanovic, who was prime minister in the Kosovo government before Prime Minister Isa Mustafa dismissed him from his position as minister of returns in February.

Jablanovic was dismissed for branding a group of ethnic Albanians as “savages.” The group threw stones at and broke the windshield of a bus carrying displaced Serbs and prevented them from visiting the graves of their ancestors on the day before the Serbian Orthodox Christmas.

"We should all focus on one single goal and it should lead to not having any one city or town in KiM where Serbs cannot go to, to not having to observe Orthodox holidays under police escort, to letting people know where their ancestors’ graves are and to having the rights guaranteed to the Serbs on paper respected on the ground," said Jablanovic.

"Political conditions"

Director of the Office for Kosovo Marko Djuric said that members of the assemblies of the Serb-majority municipalities gathered in Gracanica on Wednesday to create the political conditions for setting up the community of Serb municipalities (ZSO).

The aim of the meeting is to see how the Serb communities in Kosovo will work together to resolve issues of importance to the local communities and how they will prepare development projects together, he said.

Djuric said that those goals were "reachable" and that they were not detrimental to Belgrade’s and Pristina’s efforts to find a formula for cooperation and a way to coexist.

“These goals and priorities concern the survival and future of our people in Kosovo and Metohija,” Djuric said, pointing out that the Serbs "wanted to elect their representatives in all Pristina’s institutions by themselves, rather than have them elected by somebody else."

Russia signs major alliance treaty with South Ossetia, pledges military protection

Published time: March 18, 2015 15:50
 Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and South Ossetian President Leonid Tibilov make a statement for the press March 18, 2015.
(RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and South Ossetian President Leonid Tibilov make a statement for the press March 18, 2015. (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskyi)
The presidents of Russia and South Ossetia have signed a key treaty according to which the two nations will partially join their military forces, and Russia will provide full military protection to its ally.
The treaty introducing the collective security principle was signed by Vladimir Putin and Leonid Tibilov on Wednesday, after the two presidents held talks in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin said the document was another step not only in improving mutual legal systems, but also in economic development between the two nations. Leonid Tibilov added the friendship between the two countries and the stepping up of integration processes, were an answer to threats and challenges existing in the modern world.
We know the Russian Federation is the only guarantor for our people and for our republic,” Tibilov said, adding that South Ossetia supported all Moscow’s political moves, such as the reunification with the republic of Crimea one year ago.
The document sets out that Russia would provide for the security and defense of South Ossetia, including constant protection of its state border. In return, South Ossetia would allow part of its military to join Russian military forces. The details of the process must be developed jointly by the two countries within six months of signing the treaty. The procedure will be financed by the Russians and 1 billion rubles (about $16 million) will be allocated from the Russian budget for this purpose.
READ MORE: Russia to continue helping South Ossetia, Abkhazia – Putin
The treaty with South Ossetia is very similar to the agreement with the Caucasus republic of Abkhazia signed in 2014 and ratified by the Russian parliament in January this year. Both republics were recognized by Russia after a brief war in 2008, which took place after Georgia tried to reclaim South Ossetia by military force, in violation of ceasefire agreements and despite Russian peacekeepers’ presence.
In December 2013, Russia introduced a free trade regime with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.