Friday, August 28, 2015


The Panepirotic Federation of America vehemently condemns the brutal destruction by Albanian authorities on August 26 of a Greek Orthodox Church in the Chimara region of the former Communist nation that once prohibited all forms of religious worship. The Church of St. Athanasius in the town of Drymades, known in Albanian as Dhermi, was completely destroyed by government agents acting on the authority of Albania’s Interior Ministry. 

The action has raised fears in Albania’s large community of ethnic Greeks of renewed persecution of the country’s Orthodox Christians, who constitute a third of the country’s 3.5 million people. “The razing of St. Athanasius Church echoes the brutal actions of the Stalinist regime that ruled Albania for half of the last century when government forces executed priests, turned churches into stables and imprisoned anyone wearing a cross or reading the Bible,” said Nicholas Gage, president of the Federation. 

“It is a shameful act for a country trying to shed its violent past and become a member of the European Union.” Mr. Gage said the only way Tirana can make amends for its brutal actions is to offer an alternative site for the construction of a new church and to provide the funds to build it. St. Athanasius was first destroyed in 1972 by agents of Stalinist dictator Enver Hohxa and its stones were used to build a water depot. When communism fell in the country in 1992, residents built a new church on the site of the old one. It served the Orthodox Christians in the town as a place of worship for 23 years. Last week as worshipers were observing religious services, local government agents acting on an order from the Interior Ministry removed icons and other religious objects and began to destroy parts of the building. 

The next day the agents returned in cars without license plates and continued the demolition despite the protests of the local priest who was almost crushed by falling debris. By August 26 the whole building was razed to the ground. The Orthodox Church of Albania, leaders of the ethnic Greek minority, human rights activists and foreign diplomats have all condemned the destruction of the church by Albanian authorities as arbitrary, brutal and in violation of the country’s own laws. A spokesman for the Orthodox Church of Albania noted that Law 10057 passed in 2009 that ratified a previous agreement between the Albanian nation and the Orthodox Church guarantees the inviolability of places of worship and their protection by the state. 

Reports from Tirana say that U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu met with Prime Minister Edi Rama to protest the destruction of the church as insensitive to the rights of the Orthodox faith in Albania and the ethnic Greek minority and to urge him to seek a solution to the problem acceptable to both. Omonia, the largest advocacy group representing the Greek minority, and the Human Rights Party of Albania, the minority’s political organization, both issued statements condemning the brutal destruction of the church and warning that it will seriously harm relations between the government of Prime Minister Rama and all minorities in the country. 

Those warnings were echoed by the leaders of the Panepirotic Federation of America both in the United States and in Albania, where the organization’s vice president, Menelaos Tzelios, is traveling to assess the treatment of minorities in the country. Mr Tzelios called on the Albanian government to move quickly and decisively to repair relations with its Orthodox Christians citizens if it wants to claim a rightful place in the community of civilized nations.

Albania Seizes 500,000 Cannabis Plants in Major Crackdown

Albanian authorities say they have confiscated about half a million cannabis plants this year, arresting 240 suspected growers and drug traffickers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ardi Bita said Friday that fighting drug production is a "top priority" for police.
Some 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) worth of marijuana has been seized and destroyed so far, Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said.
On Wednesday, 100 police destroyed some 16,000 plants in Kurvelesh, south of Tirana.
Albania was long a major marijuana producer in Europe. A crackdown started last year, when police stormed the southern Lazarat village with armored personnel carriers — despite coming under automatic weapon and rocket fire by drug growers.
Prime Minister Edi Rama has set the fight against drugs as a main priority for his government, elected in 2013.

Caretaker cabinet headed by woman judge is sworn in

First entry: 28 August 2015 - 14:07 Athens, 11:07 GMT
Last update: 14:07 Athens, 11:07 GMTPolitics
Caretaker cabinet headed by woman judge is sworn in
Greece's new prime minister, a top judge who is the country's first female premier, named the members of her caretaker government Friday as the country heads to early elections next month, the third time Greeks will go to the polls this year.
The appointments come a day after Supreme Court head Vassiliki Thanou was sworn into office. The 65-year-old was appointed after outgoing prime minister Alexis Tsipras resigned last week, barely seven months into his four-year mandate, following a rebellion by members of his radical-left Syriza party who objected to his agreement with the conditions of Greece's third international bailout.
The finance ministry post went to Giorgos Houliarakis, an academic who had been on Greece's negotiating team during talks with creditors. Popular Greek pop singer Alkistis Protopsalti was named tourism minister. The new cabinet was to be sworn in later Friday.
Elections are widely expected to be set for Sept. 20. Tsipras has said he needs a stronger mandate to implement the tough austerity measures accompanying the three-year, 86 billion euro bailout, but an opinion poll published in the left-leaning Efimerida ton Syntakton newspaper Friday found small support for his move.
Sixty-four percent said Tsipras' decision to call the snap poll was wrong, compared to 24 percent who considered it correct. The remainder took no position or did not reply.
Sixty-eight percent said they believe the country should remain within the euro even if it means further austerity measures and sacrifices. Asked whether the government got the best deal it could for the third bailout, 48 percent said yes and 45 percent disagreed.
The poll showed Syriza supported by 23 percent, compared to 26 percent in an early July survey by the same company. The conservative New Democracy party stood at about 20 percent compared to 15 percent in July.
The small nationalist Independent Greeks, Syriza's partner in the seven-month coalition government, were backed by 2 percent, below the 3 percent threshold for to enter Parliament.
Tsipras has ruled out forming a coalition with any of the center-right or center-left parties if he fails to win a majority to govern outright, meaning he would be unable to form a government unless a party that didn't make it into parliament last time manages to win above 3 percent.
The poll was conducted by the ProRata company on Aug. 25-26 with a sample of 1,000 people nationwide and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Associated Press

Tear gas used against Albanians protesting against Serb IDPs

A group of ethnic Albanians in the town of Djakovica on Friday broke through a police cordon set up to provide security for visiting Serb IDPs.
Source: B92, Beta, RTS, Tanjug
The Serbs in question, who had been driven out of their homes in Djakovica and elsewhere in Metohija, today visited the town to celebrate the Orthodox Christian holiday of the Dormition of the Mother of God at the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) monastery of Uspenje Presvete Bogorodice (Holy Mother Assumption).
The Albanians who gathered to protest threw firecrackers and red paint at the police, RTS is reporting.

While three buses carrying the Serbs were leaving the monastery's yard, a sizable group of people gathered at the end of the former Srpska Street, shouting slogans against Serbs and throwing firecrackers. The slogans included "Serbia cannot pass here," and, "No reconciliation without justice."

The police used tear gas and prevented them from approaching the IDPs as they were leaving the monastery. One person was detained during the breaking through the police cordon.

After a short while, the Albanians dispersed while the IDPs left the town safely with strong police escort, and headed toward the monastery of Visoki Decani.

Beside the numerous Kosovo police members who secured the monastery in Djakovica today, Italian soldiers from KFOR had also been deployed. The entrance to the street was closed to traffic.

Djakovica Mayor Mimoza Kusari Lila spoke with the police before the buses arrived "to make sure everything is ready for the visit."

"This municipality suffered a lot during the war and that must be respected - but we of course know that is according to the law, and we are ready for the believers to come in peace and we know they come because of religion, and not for other reasons. When we take into account there are many in our municipality still listed as missing and all the sufferings and the situation here, it is not easy," said she.

The liturgy held at the monastery today was also attended by Kosovo Minister for Communities and Return Dalibor Jevtic who stressed he "wished to send a message of peace and reconciliation from this place."

"A message that nobody should ever be an obstacle to anyone again, that life together is possible and that in line with that only a small amount of tolerance and understanding is needed," said he.

Female First as Greek Judge Guides Greece Into New Elections

Vassiliki Thanou, the 65-year-old head of the Supreme Court, and newly appointed Greek interim prime minister talks with outgoing Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (unseeen) in his office in Athens, on August 27, 2015


Vassiliki Thanou, head of the Supreme Court in Greece, has been officially sworn-in, as the first ever female prime minister to steer the Greek government towards a new election amid the bailout crisis.

A decree has been signed setting elections in Greece on September 20, with parliament due reconvene in October. It's the first time the country will be run by a female prime minister.
The country's economic future, in the short-term, relies on it meeting all the demands set by the Troika in return for US$97 billion dollars in a deal that left radical left wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras with no choice but to resign following a rebellion in his Syriza Party over his agreement with the Troika.
In January 2015, the Syriza party, with Alexis Tsipras at the helm, won the election based on pledging to resist further austerity demands from Brussels. Just seven months later and faced once again with economic collapse and an exit from the Eurozone, Tsipras reneged on his party promises and signed up to even stricter demands from the creditors in return for another bailout. The deal was only approved with the support of pro-European parties — and not his own.
Having been sworn-in to lead the interim government, Vassiliki Thanou's task is to steer the ship until the country goes to the polls during a time when Greece is facing an unprecedented immigration crisis, which Thanou pointed out in her first public comment in office.
"<…> Given the circumstances… I believe that this government will also have to handle crucial matters", Thanou said, suggesting that the numbers of refugees arriving on Greek shores is a situation as unstable and the country's economy. Greece has seen a 750 percent rise in the number of refugees and migrants arriving on its shores this year.
But the Syriza party is still topping election polls according to a survey carried out by ProRata for Efimerida Ton Syntakton newspaper. The same survey reveals that 68 percent of Greeks want to remain in the eurozone — despite the increased austerity measures.
The same survey also suggests that despite everything, Tsipras still remains in the wings as the most popular political leader with 41 percent of voters backing him — but his decision to call a snap poll to seek a fresh mandate might just cost him the next election on September 20.

Kosovo' Joining UNESCO Is Unacceptable - Serbian Ambassador

A general view shows the burned facade of the Serbian Orthodox monastery Sveti Arhandjeli in the southwestern Kosovar village of Prizren 23 March 2004

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Serbia's ambassador to UNESCO told Sputnik Serbia that the country would win the diplomatic battle against unrecognized Kosovo's membership in UNESCO, as the opposite would mean putting Serbian cultural heritage in the region in danger.

The unrecognized state of Kosovo's admission to UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural heritage body, is completely unacceptable, Serbia's ambassador to the organization, Darko Tanaskovic, told Sputnik Serbia.
"If Kosovo joins UNESCO, from the administrative point of view, Serbian heritage would belong to the territory of the 'state of Kosovo' and it cannot be excluded that there would be attempts to appropriate it," Tanaskovic told Sputnik Serbia.
According to Tanaskovic, the ideology of "Greater Albania" advocates the destruction of remnants of Serbian culture and attempts to create a Kosovo culture which would appropriate everything on its territory. Over 100 Serbian Orthodox churches were destroyed in Kosovo between 1999 and 2004, when the breakaway territory was administered by the United Nations. "The law of Kosovo's cultural heritage, which still has not been reviewed in the self-proclaimed republic's parliament, stipulated that all heritage would be considered property of the 'state of Kosovo,' which is absolutely unacceptable," Tanaskovic added.
Taskanovic also said that granting the unrecognized state of Kosovo membership in UNESCO cannot happen, even despite partial international recognition.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Albanian Church Demolition Angers Greece

Athens has compared the demolition of the contested church of St Athanas in a village in southern Albania to the actions of Islamist jihadists in the Middle East.
Gjergj Erebara
  Demolished church photographed on 26 August 2015. Photo: Facebook
Albanian police have demolished a contested church dedicated to St Athanas in the southern village of Dhermi, angering the Orthodox Church and neighbouring Greece, which supports the Church's mission.
The Orthodox Church called it a vandalistic act of desecration and a violation of church property. Greece said the Albanians were behaving like Islamist extremists.
Police used heavy machinery to reduce to rubble the roof built in 1994 to cover the foundations of a much older church destroyed during the communist era.
The renovated church was declared an “illegal construction” by the local authorities in Himara municipality two weeks ago, pitting Albanian nationalists against the Greek-supported Orthodox Church.
Since news about the demolition order broke out last Friday, government officials, including the Prime Minister Edi Rama, described the church as an important part of the national heritage of Albania and pledged to restore it properly.
Albanians believe that in the 17th century, a well-known Catholic cleric served there and opened Albanian-language schools.
Speaking about the church, Prime Minister Rama said on Monday that “the old church in Dhermi will be regenerated in the name of national heritage [over] the 'parking lot' that is illegal, which they call a church.”
Albanian nationalist historians and politicians have dismissed the Orthodox Church complaints as Greek nationalistic propaganda.
The southern Himara area has experienced several conflicts between Albanian and Greek nationalists during recent years. Home to a significant Greek minority, some Greek nationalists still dream of uniting the area to the Greek state.
The Greek government urged the Albanian authorities to stop the demolition and reacted angrily after the demolition went ahead, comparing it to the acts of Islamic extremists.
“The destruction of holy sites and objects of worship took place at least until recently in the wider region of the Middle East and North Africa at the hands of jihadists. Today we also saw such an act carried out in our neighbouring country, Albania,” a Greek Foreign Ministry spokesperson Konstantinos Koutras said on Wednesday.
“You will be informed directly of Greece’s moves in this instance towards Albania and the international community,” he added.

Athens condemns demolition of orthodox church in Albania

Greece has condemned the demolition on Wednesday of an orthodox church in the village of Dhermi, on the southwest coast of Albania.

“The destruction of holy sites and objects of worship took place, at least until recently, in the wider region of the Middle East and North Africa, at the hands of jihadists. Today we also saw such an act carried out in our neighboring country, Albania,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantinos Koutras told journalists in Athens Wednesday.

“No one is more ungrateful than a beneficiary,” he said.

Athens was expected to lodge an official complaint with Albanian authorities and the international community.

On Monday, Greece’s Foreign Ministry called on Tirana to respect religious freedoms after local authorities had partially destroyed the interior of the Holy Church of Aghios Athanasios.

Albanian officials have said they intend to carry out excavations at the site in an attempt to discover the grave of Nilo Catalano, a Catholic missionary from the 17th Century.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Panagiotis Chinofotis, the new proposed Defense Minister of Greece

Athens is very "closed" to elect new Defense Minister for Transitional Government until next election of September

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Panagiotis Chinofotis
Born August 12, 1949 (age 66)
Allegiance Greece Greece
Service/branch  Hellenic Navy
Rank GR-Navy-OF9-sleeve.svg Admiral
Commands held Commander-in-Chief, Hellenic Fleet; Chief of Staff of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff
Awards Knight's Gold Cross of the Order of Honour, Knight's Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix , Medal of Military Merit, Commendation Medal of Merit and Honour, Navy Force Formation Command Medal, Navy Force Meritorious Command Medal, Staff Officer Service Commendation Medal
Other work Vice-Minister of the Interior
Admiral Panagiotis Chinofotis (Greek: Παναγιώτης Χηνοφώτης, also transliterated Panayiotis Khinofotis, born 12 August 1949) is a Member of Parliament with the New Democracy party, a former Vice-Minister of the Interior and a former Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff.
Born in Athens, Chinofotis graduated from the Hellenic Naval Academy and was commissioned an Ensign in 1971. He served aboard several patrol boats, destroyers and frigates of the Hellenic Navy before being sent to the Hellenic Naval War College, from which he graduated in 1986. He was then sent to study at the United States Naval War College and Salve Regina University, from which he graduated with a master's degree in international relations.
After graduation, Chinofotis was promoted to Commander, and was made commandant of the Hellenic Naval War College. In 1991, he was made commander of the HS Lemnos, flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Hellenic Fleet.
In 1993, Chinofotis began a two-year assignment as Hellenic Military Representative to NATO in Brussels. He next spent a year as Commander of the Fleet Command, followed by a tour as Deputy Military Representative of Greece to the European Union, serving as chairman of the Military Working Group during Greece's EU Presidency.
Chinofotis next progressed through several staff assignments until, in 2004, by now a vice admiral, he became Chief of the Fleet Command. A year later, he was promoted to Admiral and became Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff.
On 21 August 2007, he resigned in order to participate in the September legislative elections, where he was elected MP on the statewide ticket for New Democracy. On 19 September he was sworn in the new cabinet as Vice-Minister of the Interior, a position he held until 2009.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Albania, Greece Row Over Village Church

Athens criticised Tirana after a police attempt to remove an alleged illegal construction at a village church rekindled rivalry between the Catholic and Greek-backed Orthodox churches in Albania.
Gjergj Erebara
Archbishop Janullatos of the Orthodox Church of Albania. Archive photo: LSA/Gent Shkullaku
The Greek Foreign Ministry on Sunday condemned what it called a “violent incident” at the church of Saint Athanas in the Albanian village of Dhermi, describing what happened as “unacceptable and contemptible”.
Construction police from the local Himara Municipality went to Dhermi on Friday to remove the concrete roof of the church, claiming it was an illegal build.
But the Orthodox Church of Albania, which has strong Greek support, called it an attempt to destroy the church and said that those involved “used violence against the priest and believers”.
It claimed that there had been officially-sanctioned attempts to carry out excavations at the church in a bid to find the grave of a Catholic missionary from the 17th Century.
The Albanian Foreign Ministry meanwhile described Greece’s statement as “interference in Albania’s internal affairs”.
Artan Shkreli, an advisor to Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, said that local police had simply intervened to stop illegal construction at the site, which he said had “deformed” the church.
Shkreli claimed that the Church of Saint Athanas is a cultural monument in Albania and that the reactions against the intervention by the police were organised by the Greek minority group Omonia, which is known for its nationalistic stance.
“The illegal and illogical reaction from Omonia against the intervention of the Construction Police is linked to the fact that they deny the history of this country,” Shkreli said.
“The [17th Century] Basilian missionary Nilo Catalano, who opened the earliest Albanian schools, was buried in this church, amongst others,” Shkreli told local TV station A1 Report.
Albanian Orthodox Church spokesperson Thoma Dhima responded by saying that the church in Dhermi does not have cultural monument status and that it was built by the villagers in 1992 on the foundation of the old church. He described the police intervention as unlawful and said that he had filed charges at the prosecutor’s office.
Responding to Shkreli’s claims about Catalano, Dhima said that the missionary attempted to convince people in the area to become loyal to the Pope, but was rejected.
He said that Catalano “poured in plenty of money to buy” the locals’ faith, but was driven out.
The rivalry between the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Albania is centuries old and is often mixed up with Albanian-Greek rivalry.
But as the dispute over the church illustrates, it still has the potential to cause serious disagreements between Albania and Greece.
In its statement on the row on Sunday, the Greek Foreign Ministry suggested that Albania’s EU integration process could suffer as a result.
“Greece will be at our neighbouring country’s side on its course towards Europe, on the condition, of course, that Albania fully meets all of its obligations provided for by international law and the European acquis [the body of law that needs to be met to secure EU accession],” the Greek Foreign Ministry statement said.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

FM at UN: "Abolish either UNSCR 1244, or double standards"

Serbian FM Ivica Dacic said in New York on Friday that his country finds Pristina's demands "to join the work of UNESCO and Interpol" unacceptable.
Source: Beta, Tanjug, Sputnik
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
"I was born in Kosovo and Metohija 49 years ago in a town called Prizren, which was in the 14th century the capital of Serbia, and today 21 or 22 Serbs live there," Dacic said, adding this was "a historical reality, the fact that today the majority in Kosovo are (ethnic) Albanians."
According to him, Kosovo Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci, while explaining Pristina's request to join UNESCO, "in effect acknowledged the ethnic cleansing" when said that the idea was not endorsed "only by the Orthodox (Christian Serb) community, which makes up four percent of the population in Kosovo."

"Serbia has extended a hand of reconciliation and that hand is hanging in the air - but we have not raised both our hands in surrender," Dacic told a UN Security Council session dedicated to Kosovo.

We will see how each country will vote in UNESCO, he said, adding that Serbia cannot allow Kosovo's membership in UN organizations through the back door.

"Either abolish resolution 1244 or don't apply double standards toward Serbia," was Dacic's message at the UN Security Council.

"It must be that this world is governed by principles. It cannot be that Serbia, as the OSCE chairman, is expected to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine - and not defend its own territorial integrity with the same force. Serbia is in favor of dialogue, but we believe our own eyes, not the claims that are often, in the case of Serbia, an example of double standards," he added.

Dacic said that "a territory administered by the United Nations under valid and mandatory Security Council resolution 1244, Kosovo is not and cannot be considered a state as a subject of international law and cannot, ipso facto, qualify for admission to organizations like the ones referred to."

"We will fight for our interests, politically and diplomatically. We'll see how each state will vote on Pristina's request for membership in UNESCO. We need to stop playing under the table and begin to play openly. Serbia will not participate in the attempts to allow Kosovo to enter specialized UN agencies through the back door," Dacic said.

According to him, "in that sense, each and every different attitude to the consideration of the question of Kosovo’s membership in these organizations would be tantamount to ignoring, i.e. violating, the legal rules created under the auspices of the United Nations for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security "If and when the time comes, questions of this kind should be the subject of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade."

Stressing that Serbia "condemns any desecration of religious sites of any religion," Dacic pointed out that the destruction of cultural and religious heritage in the Middle East by Islamic State (IS) is being met with strong condemnation across the world as an act of terrorism - and added, in reference to Kosovo's authorities, that "those who desecrate and destroy the Serbian cultural heritage in Kosovo demand membership in UNESCO, "and a pat on the shoulder as an act of reward."

Dacic also warned about "the drastic discrepancy between the declarative commitment and the actual conduct of Pristina" on the issue of the protection of the Serbian cultural heritage:

"You will agree that someone who aspires to membership in UNESCO must, not only with words but also with deeds, confirm their commitment to the objectives and principles of the Constitution of UNESCO - with which the deliberate, systematic, vandal destruction of cultural and historical monuments of their fellow citizens, in order to eliminate the traces of centuries of existence of a people in an area, as well as the impunity got perpetrators of such barbaric acts unworthy of the 21st century - are undoubtedly irreconcilable."

The Serbian minister then told the UN Security Council that "from June 1999 until today 236 churches, monasteries and other buildings owned by the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC, in Kosovo) as well as cultural and historical monuments, have been the target of attacks."

Of these, as many as 61 have the status of cultural monuments, "and 18 are of great importance for the state of Serbia."

"In the area of ​​Kosovo and Metohija 174 religious sites and 33 cultural and historical monuments have been destroyed, more than 10,000 icons, religious, liturgical, and artistic items stolen. 5,261 headstones have been either destroyed or damaged in 256 Serbian Orthodox cemeteries - and not a single whole tombstone stands on more than 50 of the graveyards," said Dacic.

He pointed out that the attacks on the Serb heritage in Kosovo in this regard represent attacks on the Serb identity, have a direct impact on their sense of acceptance in the local community and are a part of the process of "changing historical facts in order to marginalize and eliminate Serbs and Serbia from the history of Kosovo and Metohija."

During the UN Security Council session, Dacic presented images of the destroyed Serbian cultural heritage. Click here to download them - via the Serbian government website

The foreign minister went on to say that Belgrade "received information that EULEX (EU mission in Kosovo) is preparing to transfer the cases and the accompanying documentation processed by EULEX prosecutors and judges to the PISG, i.e. the local judiciary."

"About 500 cases are involved, about 300 of them related to war crimes, out of which 270 have been taken over from UNMIK (UN mission in Kosovo). The government of the Republic of Serbia expresses its concern at the intention to transfer the cases related to war crimes in the territory of Kosovo to the local judiciary since all of them belong to the exclusive competence of EULEX even after the amendment of the PISG regulations on the mandate of the EU Mission relating to the rule of law in the province. In point of fact, it is provided that EULEX prosecutors continue to process the cases in respect of which they decided to launch an investigation prior to April 15, 2014, as well as the cases allocated to EULEX prosecutors before this date which include the cases of war crimes that EULEX took over from the UNMIK judiciary," Dacic said, and added:

"If EULEX does proceed and transfer the cases to the institutions in Pristina, in particular the sensitive cases of the investigation of the war crimes committed in the territory of Kosovo, the consequences for processing the war crimes committed by the KLA against the Serbs, non-Albanians and Albanians, marked ‘Serbian collaborators’ during the armed conflicts of 1998 and 1999 would be unforeseeable."

"Since it is expected that a Specialist Court will be established soon to try the war crimes committed by the KLA in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, and it is being established precisely for the incapacity of the local Kosovo judiciary to investigate and try the perpetrators of war crimes from the ranks of the KLA, let me point out that the transfer of the war crimes cases to the local judiciary by EULEX runs counter to the activities of the international community aimed at establishing the Specialist Court," the foreign minister told the UN Security Council, and added:

"If the said cases were to be transferred to the local judiciary, there is reason to believe that much of material evidence and many witnesses would be removed or intimidated, which would make the work of the future Specialist Court for war crimes much more difficult. Politically motivated arrests and long trials, as well as the different yardsticks of the local judiciary should not be disregarded, either. One example of which I already spoke at the previous meetings of the Security Council is the case of Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Civil Initiative 'Serbia, Democracy, Justice', who was detained at the end of January 2014 and continues in detention regardless of the guarantees and calls of the Government of Serbia that he be granted bail. In an effort to win this right, Oliver Ivanovic has been on hunger strike for days now."

Dacic also told the UNSC that the Serbian government "attaches particular importance to finding solutions for internally displaced persons while the creation of conditions for their sustainable return is one of the key segments of the reconciliation process."

"Out of over 220,000 people who fled Kosovo since 1999, in the last 16 years sustainable return has been achieved only by 1.9 percent, while around 204,000 persons sill remain displaced in Serbia. Accordingly, the percentage of sustainable return in this case is below all international standards and averages," said the minister.

Dacic also pointed to the tendency of privatization of public companies in areas with a majority Serb population, "leading us to the conclusion that the basic motivation of these privatizations, the ethnic connotation of which is very transparent indeed, is the destruction of economic resources exactly in the Serbian communities which is incompatible with democratic achievements and European standards."

"We are deeply concerned over the Draft Law on the Kosovo Property Comparison and Verification Agency which is under consideration in the Parliament of Kosovo and is in outright contravention of the 2011 Technical Agreement on Cadastre. It creates conditions for the legalization of the property expropriated unlawfully from the Serbs, whereby enormous and irreparable damage would be created to the Serbian community in the Province. It is exactly with this in mind that we requested that the procedure of the adoption of the said Law be stopped and that the Technical Agreement on Cadastre, providing for the establishment of a body consisting of representatives of Belgrade, Pristina and the European Union to carry out the comparison of cadastral documentation, begin to be implemented," Dacic said.

The UN Security Council session was held on Friday in New York to consider the UN secretary-general's regular report on the work of the UN mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.
(Tanjug/Serbian MFA)
(Tanjug/Serbian MFA)
Addressing the session of the UNSC, Kosovo Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci said that "Serbia's attempt to block Kosovo's membership in UNESCO and Interpol" was "contrary to the Brussels agreement."

"I heard harsh words from Dacic. I understand that he is in an election campaign, but dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina continues. Next week we will meet in Brussels and I hope we can agree on important deals - on telecommunications, energy, the Community of Serb Municipalities (SZO)," said Thaci.

Commenting on Dacic's address to the Council, Thaci asserted that "Albanians have always been the majority in Kosovo" and that Dacic "must realize that the Serbian administration, the army and the police will never return."

"Your dream is over once and for all. If you start a war, you will lose," he said.

Greece menaces Albania`s EU, for the Human Rights of the Greg Community and the Orthodox Churche


After 20 years, times when Greece has put Veto for the aids from EU to Albania, this is the first time that happens seriously 

Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s response to yesterday’s announcement from the Albanian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson regarding the episodes that took place at the Holy Church of Saint Athanasios in Dhërmi, Himarë

Sunday, 23 August 2015
“Yesterday’s announcement from the Albanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson regarding Albania’s commitment to respect for and full protection of the individual, religious and property rights of the minorities in Albania was very encouraging.

As has been the case until now, Greece will be at our neighbouring country’s side on its course towards Europe, on the condition, of course, that Albania fully meets all of its obligations provided for by international law and the European acquis.

This, moreover, is why the Foreign Ministry is awaiting the response of and the taking of immediate measures by the Albanian government regarding what occurred at the Holy Church of Saint Athanasios in Dhërmi, Himarë.”

Saturday, August 22, 2015

NYT - What's happening in Greece: a guide

First entry: 21 August 2015 - 20:54 Athens, 17:54 GMT
Last update: 11:00 Athens, 08:00 GMTElections 2015
NYT - What's happening in Greece: a guide
The New York Times has published the following text explaining to its readers what Alexis Tsiapras' call for a new election means for Greece.
A tumultuous summer in Greece could lead to an uncertain autumn as voters may have to decide who would best navigate the next phase of the country’s financial struggle.
What Is Happening in Greece?
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for new elections. In a nationally televised address on Thursday, Mr. Tsipras said that he would submit his resignation to Greece’s president, a move he hoped would clear the way for his radical left Syriza party to win a new mandate.
Officials said he would seek to schedule the vote for Sept. 20, but it might be later as politicians from other parties jockey for influence. The country’s main conservative opposition said it would try to avert elections by forming a government, as is their right, under the Greek Constitution.
Why Did Tsipras Do This?
It is a bid to consolidate his power and press ahead with the bailout plan he agreed to this summer with European creditors.
Mr. Tsipras has been weighing new elections for weeks amid a deep split within his Syriza party over his embrace of the bailout plan that was approved just last week by the Greek Parliament.
The contentious vote on the bailout after an all-night parliamentary debate exposed a growing schism within Syriza, which splintered on Friday.
Twenty-five Syriza lawmakers announced the formation of a party, Popular Unity, declaring in a letter to Parliament that they intended to “remain true to our pre-election promises.” It was a reference to the anti-austerity movement that brought Mr. Tsipras and Syriza to power in January — a cause that his critics say he abandoned in negotiating the bailout.
That bailout package, worth 86 billion euros, or about $95 billion, puts in place strict spending limits, new tax increases and changes in the way Greece manages its economy in exchange for money to pay the country’s crippling debts.
What Does This Mean for the Bailout?
In calling for the vote after Greece received some €13 billion, or about $14 billion, of new funds from the bailout package, Mr. Tsipras is hoping that voters will endorse his approach — and effectively ratify the bailout.
The money arrived just in time to repay €3.2 billion owed on government bonds held by the European Central Bank. Much of the bailout money will go to repaying debts, not to rebuilding the country’s economy. However, avoiding default could help restore consumer and investor confidence, which could, eventually, improve the economy.
How Did Greece Get to This Point?
Mr. Tsipras was elected in January as an anti-austerity renegade, vowing to challenge Greece’s creditors and win a better deal to pay back and, perhaps, forgive some of the country’s crippling debt.
After several tumultuous months that included heated negotiations with the country’s creditors — the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the other members of the eurozone — the prime minister reversed course and agreed to the bailout plan.
The deal infuriated Syriza’s far-left factions and was approved by Parliament only with the help of opposition parties. Many of the breakaway Syriza lawmakers oppose the bailout plan because it proposes raising the retirement age and opening parts of the Greek economy to greater competition.
Will Tsipras Be Able to Stay in Power?
That is the gamble he is making. Despite his reversal on the bailout plan, Mr. Tsipras has remained popular, with the most recent opinion polls from late July showing no other leader in a strong position to challenge him.
Mr. Tsipras said Thursday that he would resign as prime minister — a constitutional requirement for new elections. But he will not resign as head of his party, now smaller without his former Syriza allies.
Syriza was left on Friday with 124 lawmakers in the 300-seat Parliament, but local news reports speculated that four more legislators were preparing to abandon the party.
Popular Unity will be led by a former energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the leader of Syriza’s radical Left Platform faction, with which about 40 of Syriza’s lawmakers were loosely aligned.
Mr. Tsipras is counting on his connection to ordinary Greeks, and hoping that his personal popularity can help his party win enough votes to maintain power without the support of the radical parties.
If he does not, he might have to form a new coalition with other centrist parties in Parliament, some of whom he has depicted as part of Greece’s corrupted establishment.

Greek-US officer among three to disarm gunman on train

TAGS: Crime, Terrorism
Greek-American Alek Skarlatos and another two US citizens who overpowered a gunman on a train between Amsterdam and Paris on Friday were invited to the Elysee Palace by French President Francois Hollande on Saturday and praised by President Barack Obama as heroes.
Skarlatos, a 22-year-old member of the Oregon National Guard who had recently returned from service in Afghanistan, said he and two friends, another army officer, Spencer Stone, and Anthony Sadler, a student, had been on the train when they saw a man enter holding a Kalashnikov.
Stone tackled the gunman but was cut with a knife.
The friends then disarmed the suspect, beat him until he was unconscious and bound him.

France train attack: Americans overpower gunman on Paris express

Police investigate incident near Arras, France, in which three US citizens – two of them soldiers – prevented attack by suspect reportedly armed with AK-47
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve praises the brave actions of two train passengers who reportedly helped overpower the gunman - link to video
A heavily armed gunman has opened fire on a high-speed train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris before being overpowered by three US citizens, two of whom were soldiers.
Two people were injured in the attack, including one of the Americans, who was admitted to hospital with serious injuries to his hand that needed surgery.
Barack Obama described the men as heroic following the attack on Friday.
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Briton Chris Norman after the attack on the train.
Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Briton Chris Norman after the attack on the train. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
A British passenger, Chris Norman, helped the Americans tie up the suspect, and French anti-terrorist police are now questioning him. He was arrested after the train made an emergency stop at Arras, near the French-Belgian border.
The suspect’s motive was not immediately known, but French prosecutors said counter-terrorism investigators were launching an inquiry. According to early briefings, the gunman, 26, was known to French intelligence services and was Moroccan or of Moroccan origin.
Belgian prosecutors said on Saturday they had formally opened an anti-terrorism investigation. “We have opened an inquiry as the suspect boarded the train in Brussels,” Eric van der Sypt, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said.
The shooting happened just before 6pm in the last carriage of the train, which was carrying 554 passengers. The man had several weapons in his luggage, including a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and razor blades.
Two of the Americans were in the military, their travelling companion and childhood friend Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, said.
The one injured was named as air force serviceman Spencer Stone from Sacramento, California. The other was Alek Skarlatos, of Roseburg, Oregon.
“We heard a gunshot and we heard glass breaking behind us and saw a train employee sprint past us down the aisle,” Sadler said. The trio then saw a gunman entering the carriage with an automatic rifle, he added.
“As he was cocking it to shoot it, Alek just yells: ‘Spencer, go!’ and Spencer runs down the aisle,” Sadler said. “Spencer makes first contact, he tackles the guy, Alek wrestles the gun away from him, and the gunman pulls out a box cutter and slices Spencer a few times. And the three of us beat him until he was unconscious.”
Sadler later told AFP the gunman had demanded his weapon back. He said: “He was just telling us to give back his gun. ‘Give me back my gun! Give me back my gun!’ But we just carried on beating him up and immobilised him and that was it.
“I’m just a college student. I came to see my friends for my first trip to Europe and we stop a terrorist. It’s kind of crazy.”
Skarlatos, who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the national guard, told Sky News the gunman’s AK-47 had jammed and that he had not known how to fix it.
“If that guy’s weapon had been functioning properly, I don’t even want to think about how it would have went,” he said. “We just did what we had to do. You either run away or fight. We chose to fight and got lucky and didn’t die.”
Norman helped tie the gunman up while Stone helped another passenger who had been wounded in the throat and was losing blood.
US soldiers restrain Paris train attacker
“I just applaud my friends for being on point,” Sadler told Sky News. “If Alek didn’t yell ‘Go!’ and Spencer didn’t get up straight away, who knows how many people he would have shot.”
Norman, a 62-year-old consultant who lives in France, sad he had initially ducked down in his seat when he saw the man enter the carriage carrying a gun.
“I came in at the end and I guess just helped get the guy under control at the end of it all,” he told French reporters. “We ended up by tying him up, then during the process the guy actually pulled out a cutter and starting cutting Spencer.
“He cut Spencer behind the neck, he nearly cut his thumb off too. Spencer held him and we eventually got him under control. He went unconscious, I think.”
The French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, who appeared in the 1986 cult film Betty Blue with Beatrice Dalle, was also lightly injured in the incident. He was reportedly hurt while breaking the glass to activate the train alarm.
The suspect is believed to have boarded the train in Belgium and the shooting took place as the train was travelling through Belgian territory. The Belgian prime minister, Charles Michel, tweeted his condemnation of what he called a “terrorist attack”.
France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, who rushed to Arras, said the US passengers “were particularly courageous and showed great bravery in very difficult circumstances”.
“Without their sangfroid, we could have been confronted with a terrible drama,” he said. He described the incident as an act of “barbaric violence”. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, also expressed his gratitude to the soldiers.
A White House official told reporters that Obama had been briefed on the shooting and said: “While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, it is clear that their heroic actions may have prevented a far worse tragedy.”
The French president, François Hollande, said: “All is being done to shed light on this drama.” He had spoken to the Belgian prime minister and the two countries were cooperating on the investigation, he added.
“The passengers are safe, the situation has been brought under control,” the train operator, Thalys, said. The company is jointly owned by the national rail companies of Belgium, France and Germany.
Passengers in other carriages described on French TV how the train braked several times before pulling into Arras. Train alarms had sounded on board and passengers in other carriages had heard staff communicating with each other by loudspeaker about an ongoing incident just before the train pulled in.
Passenger receives medical attention at Arras train station
A police officer stands by as a passenger receives medical attention at Arras train station. Photograph: Rafael Benamran/AFP/Getty Images
The passengers were taken to a gymnasium in Arras, where several were treated for shock, French media reported. One, Patrick Arres, 51, told AFP that when the train pulled into Arras station, he saw more than 30 armed police on the tracks. “They were looking for someone. People were scared.”
Passengers arrived early on Saturday at Paris’s Gare du Nord station, where they were greeted by a large group of staff from SNCF, the French national rail company, with water, meals and help finding hotels and taxis.
France remains on high alert after January’s terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, in which gunmen killed 17 people. In May last year, four people, including two Israeli tourists, were killed when a French gunman opened fire at the Jewish museum

Over 3,000 Migrants Gather at Greek-Macedonian Border

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According to the staff from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) aid organization, over 3,000 refugees are currently at the Greece-Macedonia border.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) Over 3,000 refugees are currently at the Greece-Macedonia border, with the staff from the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) aid organization treating some for shrapnel wounds, the organization said Friday. "More than 3000 refugees are gathered at the Greece/FYROM borders, tensions are high, #MSF teams treating injured people with shrapnel wounds," the organization said on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Greek media reported that Macedonian police had fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse the crowds that formed due to the border between the two countries being shut on Thursday.
The Macedonian government declared a state of emergency along the country's southern and northern borders on Thursday and said it would deploy the army to deal with the huge numbers of migrants on the border.
Europe is currently facing a major migrant crisis, as thousands of undocumented asylum seekers from conflict-torn countries in North Africa, the Middle East, Central and South Asia are arriving in Europe, hoping to escape poverty and violence in their home countries.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s response regarding the violent episodes that took place at the Holy Church of Saint Athanasios in Drymmades, Himarë

Friday, 21 August 2015
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Konstantinos Koutras stated the following in response to  journalists’ questions regarding violent episodes that took place at the Holy Church of Saint Athanasios in Drymmades, Himarë:

“The reports of violent episodes that took place at the Holy Church of Saint Athanasios in Drymmades, Himarë, give rise to deep concerns.

The violent removal of faithful from, and prevention of faithful from approaching, their place of religious worship, the removal of icons and sacred objects from the Church, as well as the extensive destruction carried out by employees of the Municipality of Himarë, are unacceptable and condemnable acts, regardless of any legal claim, and they are very clearly not components of a country that wants to become a member of the European family.

Respect for religious freedom, protection of places of worship, and the unimpeded performance of religious duties are a sine qua non of rule of law and fundamental elements of the Community acquis and European institutional culture.

We thus expect the Albanian government to provide explanations and take immediate measures on the issue.

The Greek Embassy in Tirana and our Consular Authorities in the area have been instructed to closely monitor and follow up on the issue.”

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Could Kosovo's Leaders Stand Trial for War Crimes?

A Yugoslav special forces policeman shoots his rifle at opposing Kosovo Liberation Army forces as a Yugoslav Army tank driver covers his ears after coming under fire Tuesday Feb. 23, 1999 in the village of Bukos

© AP Photo/ David Brauchli
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The creation of a special court on war crimes was only recently approved by the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic of Kosovo.

Pictures of former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members who might be accused of war crimes by a special court, including  Deputy Premier of Kosovo and Foreign Minister Hashim Thaci, Speaker of Parliament Kadri Veseli, Vice Speaker of the Parliament Dzavit Haliti, former Prime Minister Agim Ceku and others,  were published on by a Pristina daily called Bota Sot. The creation of a special court on war crimes was only recently approved by the authorities of the self-proclaimed republic after a year of intense international pressure.
According to the newspaper, investigators from Kosovo will be working with the court that will be based in The Hague, though they are concerned that Pristina establishment might target them for prosecuting their friends and former comrades-in-arms.
The first cases to be reviewed by the new court are linked to a report by Swiss politician Dick Marty regarding the alleged illicit organ trafficking in the 2000s involving high-ranking KLA officers.
One such case details the killing of 14 Serbian peasants on July 23, 1999 in which, according to an investigation by UNMIK, the subordinates of Hashim Thaci were involved. The new court should probably consider the bitter experience of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, when dozens of witnesses in cases involving KLA officers died in murky circumstances. Fadil Lepaja, a political scientist from Pristina, told Sputnik that today witnesses should feel themselves safer than before because Kosovo politicians and the public opinion have a much lesser influence on the new court. He pointed out that previously the crimes of former KLA members were investigated by courts set up by EULEX and UNMIK, which were subjected to constant pressure by the accused themselves and suffered from corruption.
Former Kosovo MP Rada Trajkovic also noted that virtually all of the KLA leadership was in bed with the Western intelligence services.
It remains unclear whether these agencies will attempt to protect their ‘assets.’ But if the international community intends to expose those who conducted systematic ethnic cleansing and targeted people based on their ethnicity to murder them and harvest their organs, the guilty must pay for their crimes.