Thursday, December 25, 2014

President reiterates Kosovo is "EU's condition"

BELGRADE -- Tomislav Nikolic says he does not support "quite every move made by the government," but claims they are "one team that will, if it so occurs, leave together."
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
"We are not in any kind of cohabitation," the president told the N1 television outlet in an interview broadcast late on Tuesday.
"That I support it publicly means that I stand behind it. If we go, we will all go," he said.

Nikolic noted that the measures taken by the government are risky for it, but that Prime Minister Vucic is "of an age when he can take risks and spend one mandate in opposition, and then be returned to power by the people," but added that he expects the government to "fully stabilize the situation in the country by the next election."

The president also said he thinks the government "has a chance of remaining in power despite the measures it is taking. "

Asked "who wants him to step down as president," Nikolic said those were "perhaps the ones who want and need a weaker Aleksandar Vucic," who, he pointed out, has his support despite the fact they have not held identical positions "on many issues in the past 20 years - but managed to solve all the problems."

Asked whether the Progressive Party (SNS) was "the last party in his career," he said the answer depends primarily on his health and what is ahead of him in life.

"It depends primarily on my health, I would not want to impose myself on anyone, and also to be competition to my own party, but I could again become a member of the SNS," Nikolic, who stepped down as party leader after he was elected as Serbia's president, said.

The fact that Serbia has not imposed sanctions on Russia is not the reason why the country failed to open the first chapter in EU membership negotiations this year, he said, and reiterated that Serbia "should become a member."

The president said that "it would not be good if there is no agreement with the government" when it comes to his announced plan for Kosovo, because, he said, the solution can be found easily.

While confirming he is working on the plan, Nikolic noted that "there is no need to hurry, because on the one hand, this question requires a serious approach, and then the resumption of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has been announced for early February."

"By then the situation will be much clearer because the Brussels administration will present the conditions for opening of (EU membership negotiating chapters) chapters and for Serbia joining the EU," Nikolic said.

He said he did not know what solutions his predecessor Boris Tadic and Vojislav Kostunica as prime minister offered in the past, but claims he is "the only president who dared to present a plan, from which originated the Brussels agreement, and present it to the public."

"The plan originated from me. I do not want to hide behind anyone," Nikolic said, adding that was the reason why "it would not be good" if he and the government failed to agree now - considering that they "managed to do that before."

Criticizing Hashim Thaci's statement that Serbia "already recognized Kosovo" Nikolic said that "the Kosovo minister knows that recognition of Kosovo was never put on the table," and added that this statement "only complicates the position of the interim institutions in Pristina ahead of the talks in Brussels - "because they will have trouble explaining why the agreement on the resolution of living conditions without prejudice to status is being interpreted as a de facto recognition of Kosovo."

Nikolic said that "a sensational recognition of Kosovo cannot and should not happen."

Nikolic also repeated his criticism of some diplomats posted in Belgrade, especially the German ambassador, referring to his public appearances as "meddling in our country's internal affairs."

This was "especially true" when it comes to "the talks with EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn, when, although he was present , the German ambassador had no objection to Hahn's statement that recognition of Kosovo was a condition for Serbia's EU membership."

Therefore, Nikolic believes, the diplomat "cannot say that Hahn did not say that" - adding that if he himself lied, "the recordings do not." The president also said this was "the first time in many years that he heard something of the kind during a formal conversation."

Such a statement should not be interpreted by anyone, he is convinced. Nikolic them added that "he interprets it in a simple way":

"The statement by European Commissioner Hahn was that Serbia will be faced with 'a complete agreement' with Kosovo and Metohija before entering the EU. And now I ask whether there is agreement with the Albanians and how Serbia can achieve it in order to become an EU member," he concluded Nikolić.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SManalysis wishes a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2015!

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Turkey-Macedonia economic ties should boost on heels of shared culture: Turkish PM
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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski attend a press conference in the Government building in Skopje on December 23, 2014. AA Photo

Close cultural ties between Turkey and Macedonia are valuable for business and the two countries should elevate their economic relations to the level their historic partnership deserves, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said while visiting Macedonia.

“These lands are no stranger to us. The culture and texture of these lands are part of our culture and texture. This cultural closeness is important for the business world,” Davutoğlu said during a working breakfast with the representatives of Turkey-Macedonia Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 23, the second day of his visit to the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

“Macedonia has an atmosphere where one can easily communicate with everybody like they are in Anatolia. This is significant in terms of economic relations,” he said.

However, Davutoğlu expressed reproach that the two countries’ trade and investment relations are not at the desired level.

“Turkey currently ranks 13th in Macedonia’s exports. On the other hand, our exports to Macedonia are at eighth place. I wouldn’t even accept second place in Macedonia-Turkey relations,” he stated.
Once again referring to the shared history and culture of Macedonians and Turks, as well as the warm political ties between the governments, Davutoğlu said “economic relations should be at the highest level, considering the intensity of cultural and political relations.”

“If you were to ask me whether the statistics show our relationship in other fields, it doesn’t,” he stressed, noting he thinks there are enough materials to upgrade Turkish-Macedonian trade volume to a record level.

He also vowed to do whatever necessary to realize the long-lasting trade volume target of $1 billion, recalling the countries’ trade volume was at around $375 million in the 10 months of this year.
Dubbing Macedonia as the “heart of the Balkans,” Davutoğlu also said Ankara should plan its economic relations with Skopje regarding the country as a natural extension of Turkey.

“When there is political stability – which we have always supported Macedonia for – when there is peace and stability in the Balkans, it [Macedonia] is one of the countries that have become most important as a future economic hub. Today, there might be some problems regarding the country’s economic balances, and issues with its relations with the European Union, being the name of the country on top. However, we see this country as a natural extension of Turkey, a country integrated with Turkey, and we need to plan our strategic investments according to this,” he said.

Prime ministers meet

[linked image]Later in the day, Davutoğlu held a bilateral meeting with his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Gruevski, which was followed by a meeting with their delegations.

Both meetings were closed to the press, but the leaders briefed reporters shortly ahead of their tête-à-tête meeting.

When Gruevski pointed at the intense press interest for the meeting, Davutoğlu said: “The attention rises when the issue is Turkey-Macedonia. Moreover, it is my first visit to the Balkans, the former Republic of Yugoslavia, after becoming the prime minister.”

When Gruevski reminded Davutoğlu he was the first prime minister to visit Davutoğlu after he assumed office in late August, Davutoğlu said the two countries’ relationship is marked by several firsts.

“Turkey appointed the first ambassador to Skopje. It was the first country that recognized Macedonia with its constitutional name. And you were the first prime minister who visited me. Now, I am responding to that gesture,” he said.

Albania's main opposition ends parliament boycott

TIRANA, Albania - (AP) -- Albania's main opposition Democrats have ended a four-month boycott of Parliament in a deal brokered by two European Parliament lawmakers.
The walkout by the center-right party, headed by Tirana Mayor Lulzim Basha, was triggered by a fistfight in Albania's Parliament in July when two governing Socialist lawmakers allegedly attacked a Democrat colleague.
The Democrats started their boycott on Sept. 1 to protest the incident and demand that all legislation of major significance require more than a simple majority of votes.
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The impasse was overcome this week by European legislators Eduard Kukan of Slovakia and Knut Fleckenstein of Germany. Senior Democrat lawmaker Edi Paloka said Wednesday the agreement was accepted, but he provided few details.
The government, elected in June 2013, controls 84 seats in the 140-seat house.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Citizens should decide on Montenegro's NATO membership"

PODGORICA -- Russia's ambassador to Montenegro says it would be democratic to include citizens in the decision making process on Montenegro's NATO membership.
Andrei Nesterenko also spoke against the argument that membership in the military alliance "means more democracy."
"Let's look at what kind of 'democracy' NATO has brought to Iraq, Libya, and Syria," he told the Podgorica daily Pobjeda.

Despite the fact Montenegro joined western sanctions against his country - a development he described as "disappointing" - Nesterenko said that the Montenegrin-Russian relations "have a positive dynamic after all."

According to the diplomat, western countries "tricked" former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev into agreeing to the unification of Germany, with the promise that NATO would not expand.

"Unfortunately he believed them and there was no agreement that would guarantee these promises," Nesterenko said, and added that the military alliance has since been constantly getting closer to Russia's borders.

Vecer, Macedonia: Opposition MPs discontent with boycott

23 December 2014 | 09:59 | FOCUS News Agency
Vecer, Macedonia: Opposition MPs discontent with boycottPicture: Focus Information Agency
Skopje. MPs with the opposition met with the leader of the oppositional Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) Zoran Zaev, writes Macedonian Vecer daily.
The meeting was initiated by the MPs over their discontent with the boycott of the parliament.
They asked Mr Zaev on what would happen, if they were lefts without mandates and the ruling refuses to form an interim expert’s government.
Some of the MPs are considering terminating the boycott, withdrawing their resignations and returning to parliament.
Greek F16s exercise with nuclear weapons
December 23 2014

In the planning of missions with nuclear weapons was trained in 2014 the Air Base Araxos with their super F-16s under NATO exercise. The NATO-led activity was held last March (11-13) and was called STEDFAST NERVE II with exact object "training in planning for nuclear missions".

The nuclear planning exercise of 116 Combat Wing was announced by the Defence Ministry together with the list of the main International Operations Activities attended by the Hellenic Armed Forces in 2014. It has the character of the annual report.
Bear in mind that always Araxos air base (116 CW) was incorporated in the plans for nuclear weapons of NATO, it hosted nuclear warheads (11 nuclear bombs) of the US type B61 until 2001. The bombs were removed by a secret US operation to Italy and then to an unknown location.

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For the first time were put into Araxos nuclear weapons in 1962. Greece substantially participated in nuclear NATO air force with aircraft type F-104, known as the "Strike" squadron until 1992, when these aircraft were withdrawn from the Greek arsenal. Since then it seems that it has not included combat aircraft of the nuclear power of the Alliance, although theoretically the Greek F-16 is multirole and based on its modeling can carry nuclear weapons from a technical-engineering side. However oldest reference relevant sources say that the Hellenic Air Force has not obtained the relevant necessary software from the US.

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Russia to probe media reports that Ukraine military shot down MH17

Published time: December 23, 2014 
Journalists look at parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Journalists look at parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Russia’s Investigative Committee is investigating a Russian newspaper report alleging that a Ukrainian military jet shot down Malaysian Airlines passenger plane MH17 over the rebel-held eastern part of the country last summer.
“Investigators have talked to the editor-in-chief and journalists of the ‘Komsomolskaya Pravda’ newspaper and have taken the contact details of the Ukrainian citizen [cited in the report],” spokesman for the committee Vladimir Markin said.

He added that the witness would be interviewed as part of the Russian investigation into the use of banned weapons and methods of warfare in Ukraine. The information he shares will be cross-checked, he added.
The witness, who chose to remain anonymous, told Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP) daily that a pilot of a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet was behind the MH17 flight downing on July 17. He claimed that the pilot used air-to-air missiles to shoot down the Malaysian Boeing, which he concludes was probably mistaken for a military plane.
“About an hour before the catastrophe, three fighter jets took off [from Dnepropetrovsk]. One of the planes was an Su-25, which was equipped with these kind of [air-to-air] missiles,” the witness told KP in an interview, adding that he was on the airport grounds at the time.

Once the surviving pilot got out of the plane, he looked “very frightened.”
The Ukrainian pilot’s first words as he got out of the jet were: “Wrong plane,” the alleged witness claimed. Later in the evening that same pilot also reportedly stated: “The plane happened to be in the wrong place at a wrong time.”
While the daily could not immediately verify the interviewee’s claims, its readers soon discovered the allegedly involved pilot – Vladislav Voloshin – is real, and has been awarded for his role in Kiev’s so-called “anti-terrorist operation” in eastern Ukraine.

Back in July, the Russian military said that it detected a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet gaining height towards the MH17 Boeing on the day of the catastrophe.
READ MORE: Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash - Moscow
“A Ukraine Air Force military jet was detected gaining height, its distance from the Malaysian Boeing was 3 to 5km,” said the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov.
Kartopolov added that the presence of the Ukrainian military jet could be confirmed by video shots made by the Rostov monitoring center.
MH17 flight crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17. All 298 passengers and crewmembers on board the Boeing 777 were killed. The victims were from 10 nations, while most of the passengers – 193 in total – were from the Netherlands. The second-largest number of casualties, 43, was from Malaysia.

Stakes rise for Greece as risky election looms

December 23, 2014
greece flag
Early elections in Greece could derail the nation's fragile recovery.

Greece is digging itself into a hole again.

The Greek parliament failed to elect a new president Tuesday, bringing closer the possibility of snap national elections that could hand power to a popular anti-austerity party.
The government has one last chance to get its candidate elected by parliament on December 29. If it fails again, it will be forced to hold elections in January.
Opinion polls give a clear lead to Syriza, a party that wants to renegotiate the terms of Greece's bailout package -- worth a whopping 240 billion euros ($293 billion) -- with the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank.
The party has also vowed to reverse many of the reforms that have helped Greece return to economic growth, and said it plans to introduce billions in spending programs that would hike wages and increase pensions.
While Syriza's plans are popular among Greeks who have been hurting from high unemployment and years of recession, experts say they are unrealistic and irresponsible and could trigger a crisis that would ultimately lead to Greece leaving the eurozone.
Berenberg economist Holger Schmieding estimates there's a 20% risk that it "all goes wrong," with Syriza rising to power and following through on its plans.
"Greece may descend into a new deep crisis with potential euro exit. That is a significant tail risk," he said.
The main index in Athens dropped by 2% in reaction to Tuesday's vote. The yield on Greek 10-year government bonds increased to 8.25%. That's up from 7.8% a month ago, reflecting growing concern that Greece may be heading for another debt crisis.
Greece's massive bailouts from 2010 and 2012 kept the country afloat and within the eurozone, but left it saddled with a mountain of debt worth about 170% of GDP.
Syriza has been softening its tone recently as the chances of an early election rise, saying that it wants to stay in the eurozone.
But even if all hell breaks loose, experts think the eurozone is now better placed to cope with another Greek crisis.
"The eurozone could probably handle an unlikely but not impossible Greek accident with no more than very limited and temporary damage," Schmieding noted.
-- CNN's Elinda Labropoulou in Athens contributed to this report.

‘Counterproductive’: Ukraine seeking NATO membership ‘a false solution’, says Russia

Published time: December 23, 2014 
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (L) gestures during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)
Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk (L) gestures during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg after a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (Reuters/Eric Vidal)

Kiev’s latest move to become a NATO ally is counterproductive and gives rise to false hope for resolving its political crisis, Moscow said. The Ukrainian parliament voted to repeal a law that upheld the country’s non-participation in military blocks.
The move on Tuesday is a step towards becoming a member of the North-Atlantic Treaty Organization, a goal the post-coup authorities in Kiev have made a key point of their foreign policies. Kiev says that Russia is the cause of the civil war that led to eastern parts of the country rebelling against the central government and hopes that NATO’s military might will help resolve the situation.

READ MORE: Ukraine wouldn’t have civil war if not for West - Putin
“This is counterproductive. It only escalates the confrontation and creates the illusion that the internal national crisis in Ukraine can be solved through adoption of laws like that,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the new legislation.

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov)
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Filippov)
“A much more productive and sensible way would be to finally start a dialogue with the part of the Ukrainian people that were ignored when the coup was staged,” he added. Lavrov called on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to initiate a constitutional reform, which Kiev had pledged to do in April.
READ MORE: Pentagon confirms military buildup along Russian borders for ‘peace and stability’
The law revoking Ukraine’s military non-alignment stance was adopted by 303 votes against nine, with 2 MPs abstaining and 56 not voting. Now the law states that establishing closer ties with NATO and eventual membership in the military bloc is a priority for the Ukrainian government.
The alliance noted Ukraine’s move and said it “respected” the parliament’s decision. Earlier some major members of NATO like Germany voiced doubt that Ukraine could join the organization anytime soon.

A U.S. serviceman (front), accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, takes part in military exercises outside the town of Yavoriv near Lviv, September 19, 2014. (Reuters/Roman Baluk)
A U.S. serviceman (front), accompanied by Ukrainian soldiers, takes part in military exercises outside the town of Yavoriv near Lviv, September 19, 2014. (Reuters/Roman Baluk)
There are numerous obstacles, including Ukraine’s political and economic problems, a territorial dispute with Russia, and Moscow’s critical attitude towards Ukraine becoming part of NATO. Arguably the most strongly-worded comment was voiced by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as the voting was about to start in Kiev.
With his move President Poroshenko “has made a de facto application to join NATO and turned Ukraine into a potential enemy of Russia,” Medvedev said.

Monday, December 22, 2014

China pledges to help Russia overcome economic hardships

Published time: December 22, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (AFP Photo/How Hwee Young)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. (AFP Photo/How Hwee Young)
China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.
Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation," Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists, China Daily reported Monday. “If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity."

The offer of help comes as Russians are still recovering from the shock of the ruble’s worst crash in years last Tuesday, when it lost over 20 percent against the US dollar and the euro. The Russian currency bounced back the next day, but it still has lost almost half of its value since March.

At his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the ruble has been tumbling along with the price of oil, and estimated that Western sanctions account for 25-30 percent of the Russian economic crisis. However, the president’s economic forecast is that the slump will not be a lasting one.
READ MORE: Putin: Russian economy will inevitably bounce back, 2 years in worst case scenario
Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng proposed on Saturday to expand the use of the yuan in trade with Russia.

Reuters/Carlos Barria
Reuters/Carlos Barria
He said the use of the Chinese currency has been increasing for several years but western sanctions on Russia had made the trend more prominent, Reuters cited Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV as saying.
Gao said this year’s trade between China and Russia could reach $100 billion, approximately 10 percent growth compared to last year.

READ MORE: Russia-China trading settlements in yuan increases 800%

The minister said he did not expect cooperation on energy and manufacturing projects with Russia to be greatly affected by the current crisis.
Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other,” Jin Canrong, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, told Bloomberg. “For the sake of national interests, China should deepen cooperation with Russia when such cooperation is in need.

Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)
Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014. (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)
China has been increasingly seeking deals in its own currency to challenge the US dollar’s dominance on the international market.

READ MORE: Argentina to get $1bn in currency swap with China before end of 2014

And Beijing is not alone in attempts to counter the influence of Western-based lending institutions and the US currency.
BRICS, the group of emerging economies that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, accounting for one-fifth of global economic output, has been pursuing the same goal. The five nations agreed in July to increase mutual trade in local currencies, and also to create a BRICS Development Bank with investment equivalent to $100 billion as an alternative to the Western-controlled World Bank.

First Greek Hydroplane Airport to Be Built in Corfu

News from Greece


by Ioanna Zikakou - Dec 22, 2014

hydroplaneThe decision for the establishment of Greece’s first hydroplane airport was signed on Monday, December 22, by the Minister of Mercantile Marine and Aegean, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, and the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Transportation and Networks, Michalis Papadopoulos.

The hydroplane airport will be built in the island of Corfu and will be operated by the local port authority. The decision was signed in the presence of Deputy Culture Minister Angela Gerekou, as well as Corfu Port Authority President Spiros Andriotis.

Varvitsiotis stated that this new form of transportation will contribute to Greece’s tourism and economic growth, while improving connections between the mainland and Corfu.

“Greece’s sea, lakes and landscape will facilitate the operation of hydroplanes. This was the first crucial step. We are planning on signing more hydroplane airport licenses across the country in order to establish more routes for this summer,” said Varvitsiotis.

On his part, Papadopoulos noted that “the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, in collaboration with the Ministry of Mercantile Marine and Aegean, paved the way for the establishment of the first hydroplane airport, which will be located at the port of Corfu. Today, we introduced a new means of transportation that will connect islands with the mainland, lakes and various destinations abroad.”
- See more at:

U.S. ambassador denies interfering in Kosovo politics

PRIŠTINA -- U.S. Ambassador in Pristina Tracey Ann Jacobson says she "she did not interfere in the coalition agreement reached between the DPK and DLK."
Jacobson told the Albanian language daily Zeri that she was "merely an observer" during the post election deadlock in Pristina, denying also that she was against the Self-Determination Movement joining the Kosovo government.
"I never said that Self-Determination should not be part of the government. People occasionally attribute such things to me, but this is absolutely not true," the U.S. diplomat said.

She urged the public sector, seen as "the most corrupt," to "delegate credible people," the newspaper quoted her as saying.

Jacobson noted that there are still the mayors "accused of corruption who are remain in office."

The article said that commenting "on those convicted by the Special Court," she said they should "pay according to justice, although they are part of the institutions."

Speaking about religious extremism in Kosovo, Jacobson was quoted as saying the issue was "at the center of their attention during 2014, and will have priority in the new year as well."

Serbian mission chairs informal NATO group

BELGRADE -- Serbia's mission at NATO took over the chairmanship of the SEEGROUP during a meeting held on the ambassadorial level on December 16 at NATO's headquarters.
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
The South East Europe Security Steering Group (SEEGROUP) is "an informal and flexible forum for security and political consultations on issues of importance to the region of Southeast Europe," according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia.
This forum "brings together partner countries of the Western Balkans, NATO and the Western European NATO partners," according to the same source.

The results of the chairmanship Macedonia's mission during 2014 were also presented during the meeting, the statement added.

Ambassador Miomir Udovicki who heads Serbia's mission presented the priorities of the Serbian presidency of the SEEGROUP and announced that its action plan will be presented in January.

Udovicki "particularly emphasized Serbia's commitment to further advance regional security cooperation and announced that one of the first topics on the agenda of the SEEGROUP in 2015 will be the priorities of Serbia's OSCE chairmanship," said the MFA.
High Commandant of Albanian special forces, removed from office for violating the military status 

Armed Forces has explained the reasons for dismissing Colonel Dritan Demiraj, adding that the decision was taken after finding out that Demiraj has repeatedly violated the law "for the military status", traveling abroad without permission.
In a statement distributed to the media, the Ministry of Defense informs the public opinion that they have classified information at their disposal that could affect national security.

"Armed Forces as any other institution in a democratic system fulfill their mission only based on the laws of the country. Everyone within AF must be punished when they violate the law and the military discipline. Everyone must respect the law, and unfortunately, this turns out not to be true for Colonel Dritan Demiraj, who repeatedly in more than one case violated law 'for military status', traveling abroad without permission.

These actions constitute serious violations of military discipline as long as these high rank officials dispose classified information that could affect national security This is not the first case we have acted in conditions of severe violation of discipline and the law. We acknowledge his contribution and wish him success in private activity, law enforcement and the future of AM always remain more important than one individual "reads the statement of the Ministry of Defence.

Germany's burgeoning anti-immigrant rallies

Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.

Last updated: 22 Dec 2014 

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A protester holds a sign striking out the words 'hatred', 'violence', and 'Quran' [Yermi Brenner/Al Jazeera]
Dresden, Germany - A movement called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) continues to grow in popularity, drawing thousands of people to a series of Monday evening marches in the city of Dresden.
On December 15, an estimated 15,000 people took part in PEGIDA's march, many came from all over Germany. One was Paul, a retired doctor from the capital Berlin, 200km away. He said it was important for him to march in order to show that PEGIDA is made up of ordinary people, not far-right ideologues. 
"I am not in principle against Muslims," Paul told Al Jazeera, asking to be identified only by his first name. "I say we don't want so many Muslims that our culture will be changed. We want to be Germans, we want to be Europeans, we don't want too many people to come here and try to get money from our social system."
Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the demonstrations, saying: "There is no place here for stirring up hatred and telling lies about people who have come to us from other countries." Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the demonstrations are "shameful for Germany", and several other politicians have referred to PEGIDA as "Nazis with pinstripes".
'Protecting West culture'
PEGIDA says it is against preachers of hate, no matter what religion they belong to, and against radicalism whether it is religious or politically motivated, according to its Facebook group, which has received more than 70,000 "likes".
The group is marching for "the right to preserve and protect our Christian-Jewish dominated West culture", and against parallelgesellschaft - a German term used to describe immigrant communities that maintain their cultural norms and don't integrate in local society.
The movement began two months ago with a small protest of 200 people in Dresden. Every Monday since, the number of demonstrators has increased; 7,500 on the first day of December, 10,000 a week later, and 15,000 a week after that.
Marching a few metres behind Paul was a protester who gave only one name Jorg, who is from Dresden. He held a sign that included three words - all crossed out with a red line: hate, violence, the Quran. He said Islam dictates hatred and violence, and endangers peace in German society.
Henrik, who came from Bremen, held a sign saying "No Sharia in Europe", because he said he does not want to see Christian traditions disappear. He said German politicians are wrong for suggesting that PEGIDA is an extreme right-wing movement. 
"I don't like these 'left' and 'right' titles," Henrik told Al Jazeera, also offering just one name. "I am a nationalist. My first interest is not the situation in Afghanistan or in Cuba. My main interest is the situation of the people in Germany... I am a patriot." 
Rise of the right
The public display of right-wing ideas at demonstrations has increased in the past few months, according to Gereon Flümann from the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. Flümann explained there are smaller but similar movements in other parts of Germany, such as the Hooligans Against Salafists in the city of Cologne.
"PEGIDA say they do not promote xenophobia," Flümann told Al Jazeera. "But if you look at the protests and how they make use of particular information, you see there might be xenophobia behind it."
The Dresden demonstrations have so far remained violence-free - unlike a Hooligans Against Salafists march in Cologne on October 26, which ended in a riot with police with protesters yelling "foreigners out".
PEGIDA marchers' main slogan is "We are the people!" - which was first used in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations against East Germany's government in the days leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
We all know from different surveys that the less diversity - less people with migration background - means more prejudices, more anti-attitudes towards migrants.
- Ralf Melzer, Friedrich Ebert Foundation
Several PEGIDA protesters in Dresden held up signs against Nazis, and one man marched with the rainbow-coloured flag of the lesbian-gay-bi-trans community that had the word PEGIDA written on it. He said he was warmly received by other protesters. In fact, PEGIDA's position paper clearly states they are for sexual self-determination.
Flümann said PEGIDA's popularity does not mean that right-wing radicalism in Germany is growing.
"The NPD has very low numbers of voters," he said, referring to the National Democratic Party of Germany, a far-right political party that is usually described as neo-Nazi. "So organised right-wing extremism is not on the rise. But I think some loose right-wing extremist attitudes have a very broad distribution in Germany, and that definitely is a problem that needs to be tackled." 
Increasing Muslim visibility
Muslims are the largest minority in Germany, making up about five percent of the country's 82 million population. Muslims have increased from less than 0.01 percent in 1920, to more the five percent in 2009, according to research paper by the International Journal of Environmental Science and Development.
Germany is facing a wave of incoming migrants. In the first six months of 2014, there were more asylum seekers in Germany - about 65,700 - than any other country worldwide. Many were from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
About one-third of Germans have an unfavourable view of the Muslims in their country, according to a Pew Research Centre survey, higher than in France and the United Kingdom. Twenty-nine percent of Germans said immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and social benefits.
One of the reasons for the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment is the growing visibility of Muslims - immigrants and German-born, according to Schirin Amir-Moazami, a professor at Berlin Free University's Institute of Islamic Studies.
"I think there is an awareness that Muslims have taken roots in German society and that they are not quiet actors any longer; that they are making claims in terms of political participation, public participation, public visibility," said Amir-Moazami.
"Muslims are becoming increasingly visible in many different ways, and people are disturbed by that. A lot of people have difficulty to accept pluralism in the broader sense."
PEGIDA activists are trying to benefit from attitudes, fears and prejudices towards Muslims and immigration and diversity in general, according to Ralf Melzer, who monitors extremism for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German non-profit. He said hostility towards immigrants exists throughout Germany, but it is more widespread in the eastern part of country.
Protesters hold a sign denouncing Islamic law in Dresden at last Monday's demonstration [Yermi Brenner/Al Jazeera]
"The number of people with migrant background in the east is much lower than in the west. There is much less diversity," Melzer said. "And we all know from different surveys that the less diversity - less people with migration background - means more prejudices, more anti-attitudes towards migrants."
Public debate needed
One of the participants in the latest Dresden demonstration was Leif Hansen, from the nearby town of Hertzberg. Hansen, 40, came to show his support for PEGIDA, even though he said the arrival of foreigners benefits German society both socially and economically.
Hansen said he felt constructive public discussion on migration and minority issues is missing from the public sphere. It is a suppressed topic because of the legacy of World War II, and there are many Germans who fear foreigners, he explained, so it is better to have an open discussion about it.
"That is their fear and that is their opinion, and I am really happy that they have the courage to voice it, and not hold it inside - the feeling of resentment," Hansen said.
"It is better to voice it out, to stand in public and say, 'This is my problem, now what do we do with it.' Then we can handle it all together. It shows the strength of our democracy I think to handle it without violence."
PEGIDA's next protest is planned for Monday evening. Germany is waiting to see if the number of participants will continue to grow. 
Follow Yermi Brenner on Twitter: @yermibrenner
22 December 1940, the Liberation of Himara by the Greek Army 

Facts: 71 years ago. Ten days and ten nights kept the battle of Himara

22/12/1940 The story of 10 Days Battles for Himara during Greek Italian War
The Greek Press in December 1940 for the Liberation of Himara

"With an unstoppable march of our army, the city of Chimaras released on December 22, 1940"

Paul Paleologos Himare sent by the newspaper "New Athenian '(24-12-1940) response to title:" Our army in Himare. The reception of moving people.

In the same tone announcing the happy event and other newspapers:

The "New Hellas" (24 December 1940): The Himare free! Was captured yesterday by our army. The Heimarriotes congratulation our soldiers.

The "Daily" (24 December 1940): "The Greek troops occupied yesterday Himare.

"Ten days and ten nights kept the battle of Himara. The Italians had fortified and used for protection of tanks, aviation, artillery and infantry. On the beach, the Italians had blocked the Strait of Papathias with successive lines of defense. The Greeks were repulsed on 15 months. They made three days and lost 370 men until you take a hill. When, on 19, was taken inside the saddle of Koutsi, the Italians of Papathias where circulated.

On 20 fell on the beach.
On 21 delivered. Kutsi and Papathia claimed 900 prisoners, 300 dead, artillery, mortars and large quantities of ammunition "armed him" the Greek army. On December 22tou, "on foot, ten hours, as indicated by the standard bearer of the Navy commander Mylos Spyromilios, the Greeks entered the city" and becoming accepted by residents furious with inspiration. "

The flagship hoisted the Greek flag and started.
new course to north. The heavy winter stopped the advance. The Italians barricaded themselves in Vlore".

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hellenic Navy develops new speedboat for Uncovencional Warfare

The Greek - Albanian Border under monitoring by the new speed boats of the Hellenic Coast Guard

[linked image]
[linked image]

Week full of optimistic news for the Navy, and after the highly successful dive to a maximum depth tests performed submarine PIPINOS and outstanding results so far in testing submersion performed by the submarine OKEANOS came even to add important news.

According to data released by the Navy and first published in Parapolitika, the last six months is developed more intensively tested the first Boat for Uncovenional Warfare (SSP) designed by the Navy for the needs of Underwater Demolition Command (OYK), within the program "OKYALOS". This program involves the construction of a prototype speedboat, the design and construction of which has been coordinated by the Navy, from Greek companies and materials manufactured in Greece. 

This original boat, consisting entirely of aluminum with a total length not exceeding 14 meters, is developing rapidly, has great autonomy and can be operated under adverse weather conditions. It has a four man crew, carries an element "frogman" and full combat equipment, while worthy of mention is the robotic mounting system, movement, direction, remote by a Greek company for firing machine gun 0.50 Browning type or grenade launcher of 40 mm.

The tests are being carried out successfully. After successful completion of the tests of "OKYALOS" in operational conditions (after the responsible decision makers engage in evaluation and possible corrective recommendations) will start the production process in order to gradually replace the existing, old SSP. Moreover, for reasons of facsimiles and economy instead of the usual practice of hitherto separate selection from each Branch, this vessel is expected to cover the needs of the Amphibious Commando Squads of the Army.


White House oversight of CIA program lacking

The Bush administration didn't press very hard for information, and the CIA withheld details.
WASHINGTON — In July 2004, despite growing internal concerns about the CIA’s brutal interrogation methods, senior members of George W. Bush’s national security team gave the agency permission to employ the harsh tactics against an al-Qaida facilitator whom the agency suspected was linked to a plot to disrupt the upcoming presidential election.
After weeks of torture that included being subjected to prolonged stress positions and sleep deprivation at a secret site in Romania, the prisoner, Janat Gul, begged to be killed. But he steadfastly denied knowledge of any plot, CIA records show – leading interrogators to conclude he was not the hardened terrorist they thought he was, and that the informant who fingered him was a liar.
Yet there is no evidence the CIA relayed that information to the White House and the Justice Department, which continued to cite the case in legal justifications for using the techniques.
In subsequent correspondence and testimony, the agency called the interrogation of Gul a success story on the grounds that it helped expose their original source as a fabricator.
The Gul case is an example of what a Senate investigation portrays as a dysfunctional relationship between the Bush White House and the CIA regarding the brutal interrogation program. The White House didn’t press very hard for information, and the agency withheld details about the brutality of the techniques while exaggerating their effectiveness, the report shows.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general who was White House counsel when harsh CIA interrogations were approved, said it was not the White House’s responsibility to manage the program. Gonzales was the only former senior Bush administration official who agreed to speak on the record about the matter.
Once executive branch lawyers declared it legal for the CIA to use harsh methods on al-Qaida prisoners in secret facilities, Gonzales said, it was up to the spy agency to oversee the mechanics, punish abuses, and keep policymakers informed. So Bush officials can’t be blamed if CIA officers did things that were not authorized, or misinformed White House officials, as the report alleges, he said.
“Whether or not they followed the guidance, quite frankly, the oversight responsibility fell to the inspector general and general counsel of the CIA,” said Gonzales, who is now a law professor at Belmont University in Tennessee. “We just wouldn’t know about it, because that was not our responsibility.”
Gonzales said he was present during conversations that made it clear Bush knew details of the program early on. But Bush was not formally briefed by the CIA until 2006, at which time he “expressed discomfort” with the “image of a detainee, chained to the ceiling, clothed in a diaper, and forced to go to the bathroom on himself,” the report says.
Bush declined an AP request for comment, as did former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage. Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser at the program’s inception, did not respond to interview requests. Nor did former Vice President Dick Cheney, former attorney general John Ashcroft, former White House counsel Harriet Myers, and former chief of staff Andrew Card.
Gonzales said he hasn’t read the Senate report and considers it a one-sided, partisan document because it was written by Democratic staffers – a view Cheney has also expressed publicly. Gonzales said he believes the coercive interrogations produced valuable intelligence and that the techniques should still be available to the CIA.
As for evidence of abuses, he said, “One of the lessons that one might get from all of this is the fact that war is a dirty business, and human beings sometimes they do things that they shouldn’t do.”
The torture of Janat Gul is a useful case study of how the CIA interrogations were overseen because it occurred two years into the program, after a report by the CIA inspector general had made clear that the harsh techniques were being employed far in excess of what had been envisioned in Justice Department memos.
When the program began in 2002, many senior officials, including Powell and Rumsfeld, were not told about it. But by 2004, they had been, and Senate investigators determined that nearly every major national security official in the Bush administration was present at the meeting in which the decision was made to resume harsh techniques on Gul, the 110th of 119 detainees held and questioned by the CIA.
In June, CIA director George Tenet suspended use of harsh interrogation techniques. But in July, believing that Gul knew about a plot against the U.S., he got the Bush administration to grant permission to resume them. James Comey, then a top Justice Department lawyer and now the FBI director, was involved in the approval, records show.
In April 2005, the CIA’s chief of base in Romania wrote that Gul “was never the person we thought he was.”

"Serbia should become Albania's ally"

BELGRADE -- Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama sayst Serbia "should become an ally of Albania, in order for the people in the Balkans to find peace."
"We have had a very difficult past, a years-long break in communication and a very dramatic period because of the regime in Belgrade and the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, but we are absolutely certain that a completely new period is in our hands and that an immense number of opportunities lie before our countries," Rama told the N1 television, Beta reported.
He reiterated his view that "the reality is that Kosovo is independent, because it has been recognized by more than half of the UN member countries," and that " it would be better for Serbia to accept this fact as soon as possible."

Rama was in Belgrade last month for an official visit fraught with tension, and again this week for the China-CEEC summit.
News from Greece
Greek Politics Wallowing in the Mire


by Philip Chrysopoulos - Dec 20, 2014

The latest chapter in the history of corruption in Greek politics could be called “A bribery attempt through the lens of a camera watch.” It could have been a funny chapter, because it features a famous comedian and actor who has played in comedies, but it is rather sad for the distorted way Greeks perceive politics; those in positions of political power and those who elect the ones in power.

Prone to conspiracy theories, in the last two days Greek people devour news stories about the case of Independent Greeks MP Pavlos Chaikalis who was allegedly offered a bribe in order to vote for Stavros Dimas in the presidential election. An election that will trigger snap general elections if the ballot fails to elect a new Greek President. Chaikalis produced to the prosecutor a DVD with the alleged incident and Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos accused Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for bribery attempt.

A domino of events followed that included Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pressing libel charges against Independent Greeks; leftist opposition SYRIZA accusing Samaras for bribery attempt and the justice system for turning a blind eye on the case; comedian Lakis Lazopoulos admitting that he edited the audiovisual material; alleged briber Giorgos Apostolopoulos refusing that he was involved; Chaikalis admitting that in the past had given Apostolopoulos money to invest; Kammenos admitting that Apostolopoulos has worked for him as a financial adviser; the Parliament Ethics Committee refusing to see the DVD doubting its legitimacy; lawmakers accusing each other of bribery; other MPs saying that whoever votes for president is guilty of having received a bribe or has been blackmailed.

The sad part in the particular chapter is that in the eyes of Greek people, everyone is guilty. The “verdict” is issued depending on each one’s political beliefs. Greeks are conditioned to convict their political enemies before they even take the defendant’s seat. No matter what actual evidence is produced, they will stick to their convictions; and no matter what the actual verdict is, they will not change their minds.

Therefore, for some, Samaras indeed sent Apostolopoulos to bribe Chaikalis. For others, Chaikalis orchestrated the whole thing because his value in the politics stock market has dropped. In the minds of some, Kammenos is responsible because he keeps losing MPs and sees his party losing points in the polls. Others will say that since Lazopoulos is a SYRIZA voter, the whole thing was a frame-up set up by SYRIZA.

Others have taken it farther and believe that it was a frame-up orchestrated by shrewd former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis who wants to topple Samaras in order to bring his daughter Dora Bakogianni or son Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the helm of New Democracy. Or because he simply wants to avenge Samaras for deserting him in 1993 and putting an end to his premiership. After all, why did Mitsotakis meet with Kammenos three days ago and one day before the Chaikalis accusations? What did the two men discuss? Ideas for Christmas holiday destinations? In the mind of the average Greek voter every scenario is possible, and it is always the most cunning one.

Unfortunately, none of the scenarios can be dismissed. Every single one of them can be true. No politician is above suspicion. Greek lawmakers have proved time and time again that all they care about is to gain and maintain power. By any means necessary. With the pretext of caring for the people or caring for the country, they will do and say anything to achieve it.

In the past, that didn’t matter much. The economy was in fine shape, there was enough money to go around, people were content. Today, though, when a consensus is needed to bring Greece out of the economic impasse, this lust for power has brought such polarization that it is impossible to even hope that politicians will agree on anything — like it happens in other countries, where people leave their political ideologies aside and they work together for the good of the country.

Unfortunately, many Greeks cannot live without political enemies. They’d rather die than cooperate with the “enemy.” Politicians capitalize on that and keep the animosity fires burning.

So it doesn’t really matter if the bribery attempt was real or if it was a frame-up. Voters have already decided and they will vote accordingly, while similar incidents will happen again, and again, and again.
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