Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Protest rally in Athens for the new administrative division in Northern Epirus, Southern Albania

The National Association of Northern Epirus 1914 calls Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 6:30 pm, all Greeks, the show organized protest outside the offices of the European Commission delegation in Athens, Vas Sofias 2 for the planned administrative division in Northern Epirus by the Albanian government, which seeks full ownership Ethnic and alteration of Northern Epirus Greeks.

The National Association of Northern Epirus in 1914, as it had known a week ago, tried and came into contact with various bodies associated with the Northern Epirus Greeks, but unfortunately did not find the response she expected and appropriate to a militant mobilization on such an important issue which will determine to a large extent and our future.

The Greeks of Epirus are not entitled to remain apathetic, nor maudlin. Since not say no presence in Athens, where he lives permanently largest
mass population of the Northern Epirus, and our absence to show the absence of we prefer to give this to this historic challenge even a few dozen, to unite our voice to those that are these days in their homeland and are planning similar protests the day before the crucial vote in the Albanian parliament.

So prefer this protest, in order to have greater value, so meaningful and symbolic, to express the European Commission, which will decide over time on whether to join Albania in the European Union.

Moreover, the administrative division as planned from Tirana, is a flagrant violation of human rights for national minorities adopted by international organizations. Will follow a path to the Foreign Ministry.

In this event no excess. We call those Greek national consciousness to give this concentration Wednesday, July 30, 2014. Everyone present in the offices of the European Commission delegation in Athens, Vas Sofias 2.

How Berisha’s Inner Circle Profited from Multi-Million Euro Land Deals

Former Albanian premier Sali Berisha’s decision to transform worthless marshland into prime real estate helped his family and controversial friend Damir Fazlic earn millions of euros, classified documents obtained by BIRN reveal.
Lindita Cela and Lawrence Marzouk
Tirana, London
Landscape of Porto Romano. | Photo by Dave Wyatt
Porto Romano, an impoverished hinterland of Albania’s second city, Durres, is home to the rusting hulk of a communist-era chemical factory, a sprawling rubbish dump and a smattering of industrial units.
Still recovering from decades of unfettered pollution, the marshland encircling the harbour is an unlikely setting for a real estate boom fuelled by the country’s political and business elite.
Yet back in November 2006, that’s exactly what happened when Berisha’s daughter, lawyer Argita Malltezi, and her colleague Flutura Kola, began to snap up land at 10 euro per square metre – more than double the market rate.
Some 14 hectares edging a small ‘energy park’ connected to the port were secured for their client, controversial  Bosnian businessman and Berisha election adviser Damir Fazlic, who paid his lawyers, directly or indirectly, more than four-times the market  price – 18 euro per square metre.
Soon after the transactions were completed, Berisha made a prime-ministerial decision to move the energy park boundary to include Fazlic’s new holdings, instantly transforming worthless marshland into prime real estate, and pushing up its value at least eight-fold.
Berisha’s daughter, her partner in the law firm and their hired middleman may have made almost 1.2m euro from selling land to Fazlic at four-times the market rate. Previously unpublished files obtained by BIRN document 430,000 euro of profit. A further 740,000 euro was earned in cash and, as such, cannot be traced.
Berisha's decision to extend energy park brought huge profit to his daughter, Argita Malltezi, and his friend, Damir Fazlic. | Photos by European People's Party and Club de Madrid
Bosnian businessman Fazlic saw the value of his land, held in two Albanian firms, soar by 1.7m euro to 4.2m euro after Berisha’s decision.  If his plans to develop the site into a 70m euro petrol terminal go ahead, he will earn tens of millions.
In 2008, the transactions attracted the attention of Albanian anti-money laundering investigators, alarmed at Fazlic’s use of “shell companies” in Albania, the number of cash-only sales at inflated prices and involvement of offshore firms based in Cypriot and Caribbean tax havens.
The case against Fazlic was dropped in 2009 after officials were unable to secure key documents from Bosnia and Cyprus or trace the origin of the funds. Fazlic was never formally charged with any offences and he strongly denied any wrongdoing.
But a cache of official documents obtained by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, now raises fresh questions about the central role Malltezi and her firm Malltezi & Kola played in buying and selling land, the value of which increased dramatically as a result of her father’s official decision to include it in the energy park.
And BIRN’s tracking of official company documents from St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean to Moscow, has also revealed that Serb energy mogul Vojin Lazarevic was at the heart of the deal, funnelling 2.5m euro into Fazlic’s private bank account in Albania via a network of offshore companies. The controversial businessmen hope to develop the site into major energy facilities.
Neither BIRN nor the prosecution uncovered any evidence to suggest Lazarevic funded Fazlic improperly, but the energy mogul has never spoken about his use of offshore havens or why the transactions took place largely outside the banking sector. He declined our request to be interviewed on the matter and did not respond to specific questions. 
Fazlic, a close friend and adviser to Sali Berisha with powerful friends in Washington, London and across the Balkans, has always denied any wrongdoing.
Sali Berisha, Argita and Jamarber Malltezi and Flutura and Florenc Kola refused to be interviewed by BIRN or respond to our detailed questions.

Real estate boom
Locals were eager to sell the land at the price of €9.8. | Photo by Dave Wyatt
From a quayside shack at Porto Romano, Abdyl Mukaj ekes out a living selling fresh fish to tourists in the summer months.
His has been a life on the breadline, so when a local man, Kujtim Shahini, asked him to sell a hectare of marshland in 2007 at double the market rate, he seized the chance.
The land had been given to Mukaj by the state when he, along with many of his neighbours, had received plots in Porto Romano as compensation after it  had forced them from their ancestral lands in northern Albania to make way for a new hydropower plant.
Offered large sums of cash for land with little financial or emotional value, the villagers didn’t ask who was buying or why.
Malltezi, her law firm partner Flutura Kola and their husbands – Jamarber Malltezi and Florenc Kola – sought land close to the existing energy park in Porto Romano for their client Fazlic and his firms, Crown Acquisitions and Alpha Shpk.
The husbands searched for suitable plots and employed a local middleman – Shahini - to conduct cash-only purchases in person from November 2006 through to September 2007.
Shahini and Florenc Kola first helped to secure nine hectares of land from villagers for Crown Acquisitions, almost all of which was bought, according to the contract, for 18 euro per square metre. The document is among more than a 1,000 pages of official material secured by BIRN.
Fazlic's properties in Porto Romano are marked in red.
But villagers have told BIRN that they were paid just 1,200 lek [9.8 euro]. It is not clear who benefited from the 700,000 euro difference between the contract and real price. Shahini has admitted to taking a cut while Fazlic, in an exclusive interview with BIRN, said his negotiators were entitled to their share.
Two out of the nine plots sold to Crown Acquisitions, had, in fact, already been purchased by Shahini and Kola to be sold to Fazlic at a profit.
“I received just 1200 lek per m2 – That was the deal,” villager Mukaj said. “Kujtim [Shahini] brought the money to my house in a black off-road car.
“1200 lek per square metre is the price that all the villagers sold the land for - you can ask all of them.”

Government Plan Huge Infrastructure Investment in Porto Romano

Click here for detailed information on the Porto Romano energy park.
In the second phase, the Malltezis and Kolas acquired five hectares of land from villagers at the same price – just under 10 euro per square metre –  which they immediately resold to Fazlic’s Alpha Shpk at 18 euro, netting profits of 430,000 euro. A further 150,000 euro was paid to Florenc Kola related to land purchases, although it is not clear from documents what deal this is connected to.
Bizarrely, during the transactions, Flutura Kola was sometimes simultaneously acting as the seller of the property, as she owned the land with her husband, and buyer, as Damir Fazlic’s legal representative. Having withdrawn funds from Fazlic’s personal account she was, in effect, paying herself and her business partner, Argita Malltezi, for the land.
Crown Acquisitions was eventually sold in June 2007 for 1.7m euro to Altaria Research Limited, a company registered in Cyprus and controlled by Lazarevic.
Alpha Shpk was sold to Cyprus-based Irongold Ltd, also controlled by Lazarevic, for 1.25m euro. Fazlic was left with a 300,000 euro profit.
Fazlic initially claimed Altaria Research Limited was his “holding company in Cyprus” in his only television interview since the affair erupted in October 2008. As a result, he said, he had made no profit as he was selling Crown Acquisitions – and its land holding – to himself. When questioned the following year by prosecutors, he refused to name the owner as, he said, it could harm his business.
But when pressed by BIRN in his first interview in seven years in June, he said he had a joint 50-50 stake in Crown Acquisitions and Alpha Shpk with Lazarevic via Altaria Research Limited.
This is not reflected in the official paperwork in Cyprus and Fazlic was unable to explain whether he had made any profit from selling part of his stake to Lazarevic.
Berisha shielded Fazlic
Berisha's daughter and son-in-law sell land to Damir Fazlic.
When the money laundering investigation was announced in October 2008, Berisha went to extraordinary lengths to shield Fazlic from possible prosecution, including spiriting him out of the country by private jet.
According to a leaked US Embassy memo, justice ministry inspectors were sent to seize case material for the prosecution, and prosecutors were subjected to public smear campaigns by Berisha and even threatened with legal action by the interior ministry.
In July 2009, just one month after Albanian prosecutors dropped the money laundering investigation, Berisha approved plans that incorporated Fazlic’s plots of land into the nearby energy park in Porto Romano.
While the land wasn’t particularly valuable when purchased back in 2007, Fazlic successfully applied to construct a huge petrol terminal, increasing its value eight-fold from the original market value.
Called to account for his role in the scandal, Berisha held a press conference in support of Fazlic, claiming the investigation was orchestrated by “the mafia”, and insisting neither Fazlic nor his family had benefited from his political office.
He argued, accurately, he had not declared Porto Romano an energy park, as a small zone had been designated as such in 2001. He failed, however, to add he had extended it to include his friend’s land.
Argita Malltezi was never interviewed and her role in the buying and selling land had remained secret until today. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to the prosecution team told BIRN they were simply too scared at the time to summon the premier’s daughter for questioning.
Argita Malltezi, Berisha's daughter. | Print screen TV Klan YouTube
Argita, her husband Jamarber and brother Shkelzen, were linked to a number of corruption scandals during Berisha’s tenure, but were never formally included in any probe.  They have always denied any wrongdoing.
In interviews with prosecutors seen by BIRN, lawyer Flutura Kola and Jamarber Malltezi reveal they were well aware of Porto Romano’s potential at the time they began buying up the land.
Jarmarber Malltezi said: “I had information regarding the development of that area so I thought it was a good business [opportunity].”
After berating the prosecutors for their “politically motivated investigation”, he explained Fazlic just happened to be the first person to offer to buy his land.
Kola, on the other hand, explained how she, her husband and the Malltezis had worked together to snap up land for Fazlic in order to make a profit. She admitted having “information that this area was approved…by the government as an area for building petrol deposits and hydrocarbons”.
Fazlic told BIRN he had no advance information from Berisha but was “100 per cent sure” the area would be included in the new energy park.
“Was I 100 per cent certain? Yes, because it was very, very logical,” he said. “But Sali Berisha calling me and saying; ‘oh, you should do this and that’ is just a movie scenario.”
He also admitted the land had increased in value as a result of the premier’s decision, but insists that the extension of the energy park was inevitable.
Villagers, on the other hand, told BIRN they “knew nothing of the plan”.
With a change of government in 2013, and the departure of Berisha, some believed Fazlic’s plan would be scuppered at the hands of his detractors in the now ruling Socialist Party.
But the Bosnian says its business as usual and has even met the new PM, Edi Rama, and some of his ministers.
“Berisha was my personal friend, still is my personal friend, but I never got anything from his government and I never made any deals, public or private, with his government.”

He told BIRN he “had no qualms cooperating with” Rama and his team, despite the barbs he has faced from them.

“I hope your article is not going to jog their memory,” he joked.

Will the ghost of Porto Romano come back to haunt him and the Berisha family? For the moment, neither the ruling party nor prosecutors appear interested in looking again at investigation into the deals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tom Hanks Swims from Paros to Antiparos
by Ioanna Zikakou

tom-hanks-paros-660Popular Hollywood actor and lover of Greece Tom Hanks stole the limelight and earned the applause of residents and tourists in Paros and Antiparos when he joined the swimmers who were going to cross the distance between the two islands on Sunday, July 27.

Tom Hanks’ love for Greece is well-known since the actor has been married to Greek-American actress Rita Wilson for 11 years and the couple owns a 450 square meters villa in Antiparos.

In fact, before investing in Greece, the couple visited the country several times. The stone villa of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson is located between Glypha and Chora in Antiparos. It is built on a 1.5 acre property they bought 14 years ago.
- See more at:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kosov army would be threat to Serbia and region

NOVI SAD - Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic stated that Serbia sees the creation of the future army of Kosovo as a threat to its stability and the stability in the region, and added that Kosovo-Metohija (KiM) remains the biggest security threat for the country.

This is why we maintain that international forces in KiM should guard peace in the province and protect security of the minority population in keeping with their mandate, Gasic said in an interview for the latest edition of the Novi Sad-based weekly Dnevnik.

KFOR has a special role and responsibilities concerning this security risk, Gasic said and underscored that the Defence Ministry maintains good cooperation with the international forces, all with a view to preserving stability and protecting the Serb community in the province.

We are actively working on the prevention of all potential dangers, we are cautious and always willing to respond in an adequate manner, Gasic said.

Asked about potential pressures on Serbia to additionally shift its focus to NATO, especially in the context of the crisis in Ukraine, the defence minister said that he does not see any reason for such pressures.

In keeping with the foreign policy goals defined by the government, the cooperation with NATO within the Partnership for Peace Programme provides ample room and Serbia is intensively utilising the opportunities with a view to strengthening its defence capacities and contributing to peace in the world, Gasic said.

He stated that the participation of Serbia's representatives in the competition of tank drivers at the Russian Tank Biathlon from August 4 to 7 and the potential modernisation of the army with the help of Russian equipment will not impact the country's relations with NATO.

Photo Tanjug, Z. Zestic (archiv photo)
New dialogue between Italy and Albania

New dialogue between Italy and Albania
Italy will serve as an intermediate for improving the relations between Albania and Serbia. This was declared by the Foreign Minister, Federika Mogherini, during her visit in Tirana. As for Minister Ditmir Bushati, the relations between Albania and Italy should be a role model even for the relations with Greece.

"I wanted to mention the key and decisive role of Albania, as regards the stability and safety in the region. I will have the opportunity to discuss this with the Serbian Foreign MInister this Monday, in Belgrade, and I hope we will be able to reach a meeting between Italy, Albania and Serbia, in order to give a bigger significance to the stability in the region", the Italian Foreign Minister declared.

When asked by Top Channel about the interventions of Athens in Albania's internal affairs, as regards the territorial reform, Bushati expressed the government's determination to pass the law.

He also expressed the will to address to all issues of the past with the spirit of good neighboring. "The relations between Albania and Italy could be a role model for the relations with Greece, despite the differences and historic aspects", the Minister declared.

The Italian Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, whose country holds the EU presidency, met with the Albanian President, Bujar Nishani.

"This decision is only the start of a path that will require deeper and more complete reforms, so that we can accelerate the accession", the President declared.

Minister Mogherini declared that Albania's and Western Balkan's integration in the EU is a priority of the Italian presidency, and it should be a priority for all presidencies of the EU that will follow.

Minister Mogherini also met with the Parliament Speaker, Ilir Meta, with whom she valued the strategic partnership between the two countries. Meta expressed his trust that during the six months of EU Presidency, Italy will give its best efforts to support a stronger connection of Albania with the region and the EU.

The Italian Foreign Minister also met with the Deputy MInister NIko Peleshi. Peleshi updated Minister Mogherini with the government's work in these 300 days for important reforms that have been undertaken especially in the rule of law and in improving the business climate for foreign investors.

"Nobody has right to lecture Serbia on Ukraine"

BELGRADE -- Nobody has the right lecture Serbia, especially not those who "brought our own territorial integrity into question," said Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić.
(Tanjug, file)
(Tanjug, file)
When it comes to the position of Serbia "between East and West" after the crash of a Malaysian aircraft in eastern Ukraine and the deepening of the crisis, "there have been no new request to impose sanctions against Russia and to harmonize the foreign policy of Serbia with the European Union," he told the RTS.
His comments came after some media reported earlier in the week that the country had been given "an ultimatum" to this effect.

"Serbia will direct its foreign policy towards reconciliation, taking into account its national and state interests, as do other countries, it's only that their positions are different compared to Serbia. They harmonize their differences in the decision-making process, and Serbia is not part of the decision making process and that's why there have recently been rumors about whether we have or do not have to - we do not have great disputes with the EU over that, because we are a sovereign country that looks after its national and state interests, and our position is quite clear," he was quoted as saying.

Dačić then added that Serbia joined EU's decisions "in ten cases," while when it comes to four decisions relating to Ukraine, namely sanctions against Russia, it did not.

The minister also noted that "Serbia defends the territorial integrity of Ukraine, but cannot defend it more than it defended its own territorial integrity," and that in that instance Western countries "did not come out gloriously."

Dačić further noted that those who violated Serbia's territorial integrity cannot now lecture the country on this subject, and that "we also expected that all UN member countries would react regarding our territorial integrity." His remarks concern the province of Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians in 2008 unilaterally declared independence which Serbia rejected, but many Western countries recognized.

Dačić then added that it was in the Serbia's national interest to develop good relations with Russia, China and other countries. He said that Serbia strongly condemns the shooting down of the passenger plane over Ukraine and advocates for an independent investigation that will find the culprits for the death of 298 people, but added:

"We on the other hand as a friend of Russia also cannot support any move that is reprehensible. Regardless of whether somebody now suspects Russia with evidence, or without it, since mostly pro-Russian forces are suspected, Serbia is requesting an independent investigation and must not be dragged into the conflict, but will be a factor in conflict resolution next year as the chair of the OSCE," Dačić concluded.

Friday, July 25, 2014

"Serbia is bridge between Russia and EU"

BELGRADE -- Special adviser to the Serbia government Franco Frattini considers Serbia's role as a bridge between the EU and Moscow to be "very important."
(Beta, file)
(Beta, file)
This former Italian foreign minister and former EU commissioner believes that such a role can help ease tensions related to the Ukrainian crisis.
"The fact that Serbia is a good partner of Moscow's and a candidate for membership of the EU at the same time is an opportunity for it to act as a bridge and try to explain to Moscow what more needs to be done to reduce tensions and restore relations with the EU," Frattini said in a telephone statement for Tanjug from Rome.

He recalled that Serbia's foreign policy aimed at joining the EU, but it did not mean ending good relations with Russia.

Commenting on media reports in Belgrade that when Italy's foreign minister visits here she would "demand from the Serbian authorities to align their foreign policy more with that of the EU, above all when it comes to Russia and Ukraine," Frattini said he did not know what the minister would say, but noted:

"Italy has always been very clear that there is no alternative to negotiating with Serbia and maintaining good relations with Russia. The Italian government is working to help deescalate the present complicated crisis between Russia and the EU."
Albanian nationalist historian: "Himara is not a Greek minority"
Top Channel TV

Himara is not a Greek minority
Historian Pellumb Xhufi says that the concerns of Greece about the new territorial reform are out of place.

“Venizellos intervenes as if this was about a Greek Minority. This is the real problem. Venizellos must know, because his grandfather was Prime Minister when the accession at the League of Nations was made, and the condition was to recognize the minorities, and the minorities have been recognized. Albania presented the map where the Greek and Montenegrin minorities have been recognized. A Commission of the League of Nations arrived to evaluate the situation in terrain and Himara was not part of the Greek minority in Albania. The nationality is another thing, and Himara is an Albanian community, according to the documents of the Himara citizens, and they are even noted citizens for the battles of the Albanian people for freedom”, Xhufi says.

The President of the Albanian Diplomatic Academy, Lisen Bashkurti, says that the diplomacy of every country has the duty to show interest on the minorities in order to guarantee their duties, but this is not the case.

“This is not about the treatment of rights and freedoms of minorities, which are consolidated by Constitution and law in Albania, and recognized by the international factor as such. The Greek diplomacy has almost turned into a precedent to confuse the limits and basic rights with the internal matters and reforms that will be taken frequently during our integration path. This is an intervention in the internal affairs of Albania. The government, the majority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have held a very rights stance regarding the constitutional rights. The government, the majority and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have kept a very right stance regarding the constitutional rights of the government for the reforms, which have been mandated by the Albanian citizens and which are in full respect of the European Card of human Rights and of the Convent of Human Rights of Minorities”, Bashkurti declared.
More money might have been stolen from Central Bank

More money might have been stolen from Central Bank
Although the Bank of Albania employee, Ardian Bitraj, declared that he had lost all the money in gambling shops, the Prosecution suspects that he has not been sincere and that there might be other collaborators in the biggest theft at the Bank of Albania, where the defendant declared to have taken 600 million ALL.

Since the investigation is considered a state secret now, there is no official version by the Prosecution for this process. A confidential source declared that the circle of suspects has been widened, and those are employees at the Bank of Albania in Linze, whose duty was to make the inventory.

The Prosecution has listed the names of the people who will be questioned, and there is an order for seizing the footage of the security cameras.

The Police will also seize the camera footage from surrounding businesses, and their owners will be questioned, since the 45-year-old said he had lost all the money in gambling shops close to his house.

Bitraj claims that he has withdrawn the 600 million ALL in the past four years, with the knowledge of his colleague, Bruzaj.

He said he replaced the money will books, to balance the weight, and left the building after hiding the money in his clothes. Some days, he said, he left the building with 10 million hidden in his clothes.
Pappas: "Destructive to the Greeks of Northern Epirus, the new administrative division promoted by the Albanian Government"

Christos Pappas Statement for the Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos, from the prison for Himara Issue.......

Once again the inertia (actually the lack of) of the Greek Government in the field of foreign policy, has devastating effects on Hellenism abroad.

Coalition government gave its approval in order for Albania to become a candidate for EU country without having first resolved the issues concerning the Greeks of Northern Epirus and without safeguarding their rights. In fact it was a gift to the Albanians, once approved unconditionally.
Now, Albania, "retaliates" with the familiar way of the generosity of the Greek Government and proceeds in a move that equals disaster for the Greek Community of Northern Epirus. Specifically, the Government of the neighboring country lodged in Albanian Parliament plan for the administrative division of the country under which the Voreioepirotiks Municipalities joined by Muslim areas and consequently altered the identity and population composition of Greek regions.

According to the unhistorical and vicious this project, which is going to come to a vote on 31 July, the unconquered in Himara will be united with purely Albanian municipality Vranisht, who also has no geographical proximity to the villages of Himara, as it is in other side of the mountains. Furthermore, we change the limits recognized minority provinces in the area of Saranda, so some villages included in other non-minority municipalities inhabited by fanatical Muslim Chams.

It is obvious that for Albania friendly relations with Greece crossing the de-Hellenization of Northern Epirus and the satisfaction of irredentist aspirations of Chams! Only sleeping and inactive state of the Memorandum pretends that he has not realized this!

Does the responsible Minister:

From the moment that proves that the "European perspective" Albania means the end of the Northern Epirus's Hellenism, will continue the same policy of "yes to all"? Why last June did not block the accession process of Albania from the moment he had resolved leading bilateral disputes as the EEZ and the rights of our brothers in the Northern?

What steps will international and bilateral level to prevent the adoption of the plan by the Albanian parliament?

We will take steps to accept the recommendations of the Northern Epirus pooling of existing Greek (not only those who recognize Tirana, but all) communities in the area of Saranda in a municipality and those of Dropolis and Pogoniou Gjirokastra in another municipality?

It will support the mobilization of the Northern Epirus to become known in the international community as a violation of their rights?

It will finally bring institutional and effective foreign policy and will be limited to phone calls to his Albanian counterpart ended with scolded by the latter (which misery!) And are purely for domestic consumption?

Will you finally put the issue of the application of force situated International Convention Protocol of Corfu for the autonomy of Northern Epirus or let Albanians to reach grabbomg the properties in hearth of Hellenism?

Do You finally put national interests above understandings and the subordination to foreign usurers? Or would you accept a complacency equivalent to treason?

Still you will continue the good cooperation with the Albanian government as that associated with the Chams?

Athens, 07/25/2014
The questioner MP
Christos Pappas
Member of Parliament

US pulling out its Cold War-era plans over Ukraine conflict, top commander admits

Published time: July 25, 2014 16:03
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / T.J. Kirkpatrick)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / T.J. Kirkpatrick)
The United States military’s top commander said during a security summit this week that the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine has prompted the Pentagon to revisit old contingency plans unused since the days of the Cold War.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum that the US Department of Defense has been “looking inside of our own readiness models to look at things we haven’t had to look at for 20 years.”
Commenting on the latest allegations against Russia to surface in the midst of the escalating situation in Ukraine, Gen. Dempsey said that the Kremlin “has made the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives.”
“They clearly are on a path to assert themselves differently not just in Eastern Europe, but Europe in the main, and towards the United States,” Dempsey said of Putin’s government.
Hours before Dempsey delivered his address at the Aspen Security Forum, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said during a scheduled press briefing that new intelligence has surfaced suggesting Russia has been firing artillery at Ukrainian military positions from within its own borders. As RT reported at the time, however, Harf’s remarks were quickly questioned by Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee, who in turn called upon the State Dept. to present any evidence beyond the spokesperson’s otherwise unsubstantiated allegations.

“I think that it would be best for all concerned here if when you make an allegation like that you’re able to make it up with something more than just ‘because I said so,’” Lee countered Harf’s claims.
Soon after, though, Dempsey said during his Aspen speech that reports of Russia firing into Ukraine, if correct, would constitute the “first time, I think, probably, since 1939 or so that that’s been the case.” That year, Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin led the Red Army into Poland unannounced and annexed that territory and its 13.5 million citizens on behalf of the USSR.
“I think this is very clearly Putin, the man himself, with a vision for Europe, as he sees it, to what he considers to be an effort to redress grievances that were burdened upon Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and also to appeal to ethnic Russian enclaves across Eastern Europe with … a foreign policy objective, but also a domestic policy objective,” Dempsey said. “And he’s very aggressive about it, and he’s got a playbook that has worked for him now two or three times. And he will continue to [use it].”
Regardless of what the Russian president’s intentions are, Dempsey said that Putin’s forces are in his opinion hesitant to engage in the Kremlin’s current campaign as interpreted by the US government.
“I think that the Russian military is probably reluctant -- -- you know, this is risky for me to say this, and 10 of them could end up in a gulag tomorrow -- but I think that the Russian military and its leaders that I know are probably somewhat reluctant participants in this form of warfare,” he said.
Even still, Dempsey added, the results could be catastrophic.
“At a time when some folks could convince themselves that Putin would be looking for a reason to de-escalate, he’s actually taken a decision to escalate,” Dempsey said. “Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control over,” he said. “There’s a rising tide of nationalism in Europe right now that has been created in many ways by these Russian activities.”
“And I think that’s a real risk,” Dempsey said. “So I am maintaining an open line of communication with my counterpart, and so far, he’s doing the same with me.”
Earlier this week, Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told reporters that the Defense Department was scheduled to send military advisers to Ukraine within weeks to “shape and establish an enduring program for future US efforts to support the Ukrainian military through subject-matter expert teams and long-term advisers.”

Himariot Lobby in USA: We are on the side of people of Himara to joint with Lukovo

The Government of Albania is planning to undertake a comprehensive administrative and territorial reform ahead of the 2015 local elections for the purpose of empowering local governments, creating new opportunities for economic development, and promoting local democracy. Currently proposed by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs is the administrative merger of the Himarra municipality with that of Lukovo to the south and Vranisht, which is located across the mountains to the east. The Himarrioton Society of America supports the union of Himarra and Lukovo, but rejects the proposed inclusion of Vranisht in such an administrative territorial alignment for a variety of self evident reasons.

Himarra and Lukovo have common interests related to geography (they are neighboring coastal areas) , tradition (they constitute the historic area of Himarra), economy (tourism oriented) and society. Vranisht on the other hand looks away from the coast, is agriculturally and pastorally oriented and has no shared traditions or historical societal ties with Himarra/Lukovo. In our opinion, the inclusion of Vranisht in this administrative unit would only create the potential for conflict and disenfranchisement for the people of both Himarra/Lukovo and Vranisht. The majority of the population of Himarra and Lukovo are united in the rejection of any proposed alignment that would include the area of Vranisht.

There has been a great deal of misinformation and mudslinging by some of the Albanian press and government officials, in attempts to dismiss the people of Himarra and Lukovo's objections. We wish to point out the Government's stated approach to this reform effort "through a participatory and transparent process building alliances consensus with the local community and all stakeholders. The process welcomes local solutions for voluntary mergers to ease decision making..and promote practical and realistic solutions." We hold the government to its word to seek realistic solutions, and urge it to consider the benefits it would reap in the economic sphere, goodwill and international public opinion that honoring the wishes of the people of Himarra/Lukovo would bring. We believe the supporters of the territorial reform effort: SIDA, USAID, Swiss Development Corporation, UNDP, OSCE, et al, would agree.

Father Kozma Karavella

President of Himariton Society

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Declaration of PASOK MP, Pyrros Dimas for the administrative division

Albanian politics must respect people verdict of Himara

"In the last three months, I watched with great interest the debate was conducted on the occasion of the new administrative division in Albania and especially in my hometown Himara.

The reason it has not placed on the matter is my belief that these issues should be resolved through dialogue and mutual understanding. Seeing the final draft that went to vote in the Albanian parliament, I realized that our attitude was not appreciated and our proposals were not taken into account. 

This proposal is unacceptable, contrary to the European acquis and every concept of international law. The only purpose it serves is the alteration of the demographic composition of the region.

All this time as an MP of PASOK had regular contact with the Foreign Minister and President of PASOK Mr. Venizelos in which he conveyed the concerns and demands of my countrymen.

Even the last time I hope that sense will prevail and we will find a solution that would satisfy both sides" noted the statement of PASOK MP Pyrros Dimas

Albanian Lion in 2014 - Joint exercise with British German troops 

Again in Himara Region the center of NATO training troops over 2000 personnel

Albanian Parliament, is to approve today the Law of "the Albanian Lion 2014"

Albanian Lion in 2014 is named joint naval exercise with British and German troops, which will run from 1 September to 31 October 2014, on several military bases Albania.

It is projected to be the largest exercise of the British Royal Navy in 2014, in which it will engage about 2000 troops of the Royal Armed Forces, a German naval units that will be part of the British forces, the fourth ship deployable military means to come to catch the boat, two military aircraft "Hawk Jet", four transport helicopters, etc., who will perform in the region defined movement exercise in question.

Since the drill will participate about 1500 - 2000 troops, is the competence of the Assembly the decision to develop training, details of which details are provided in a separate bill, recently introduced in parliament for review.

Law "On the method and procedure of placing and routing the foreign military forces on the territory of the Republic of Albania and the Albanian sending military forces abroad", establishes that the decision for the development and participation of foreign military forces in joint exercises or international events organized or led by NATO, the EU or other countries, in Albanian territory, the total number of participants over 1000 people, taken by Parliament.

Joint Training will take place in Pashaliman Naval Base, the base of Porto Palermo, Karaburun Peninsula,  Kucova Air Bases and Rinas, shooting training in areas Zall-Herr, Poshnje, Bize, as well as air passageways of the ground in these regions.

During the entry, movement and exit from the territory of the Republic of Albania, British troops and military vehicles and German will be accompanied by Albanian armed units.

Development of joint training at the specified time will be a success for Albanian least because it would demonstrate not only seriously with our partners, but also the ability and preparation of Albanians from the army in response to the challenges of the time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Russia’s accusations - setting the record straight (updated July 2014)

Fact sheet

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has led to Russia’s international isolation, including NATO’s suspension of all practical cooperation with Russia. To divert attention away from its actions, Russia has levelled a series of accusations against NATO which are based on misrepresentations of the facts and ignore the sustained effort that NATO has put into building a partnership with Russia. Russia has also made baseless attacks on the legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities and has used force to seize part of Ukraine’s territory. This document sets the record straight.

Russian claims that the Ukrainian authorities are illegitimate

Ukraine’s President Poroshenko was elected on 25 May with a clear majority in a vote which the OSCE characterized (report here) as showing the “clear resolve of the authorities to hold what was a genuine election largely in line with international commitments and with a respect for fundamental freedoms. ”The only areas where serious restrictions were reported were those controlled by separatists, who undertook “increasing attempts to derail the process.”
In other words, the President is legitimate, the actions of the separatists were not.
The current Ukrainian government was approved by an overwhelming majority in the Ukrainian parliament (371 votes out of 417 registered) on 27 February 2014, including members of the Party of Regions.
That parliament was elected on 28 October 2012. The Russian Foreign Ministry at the time declared that the elections were held “peacefully, without any excesses and in line with generally-accepted standards” and “confirmed Ukraine’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law.” The statement can be read in Russian here. The parliament which Russia called legitimate then can hardly be called illegitimate now.
Finally, Russian officials continue to allege that the Ukrainian parliament and government are dominated by “Nazis” and “fascists.” However, in the presidential elections on May 25, the candidates whom Russia labelled as “fascists” received barely 1% of the votes. Ukraine’s electorate clearly voted for unity and moderation, not separatism or extremism.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos holds telephone talks with Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati

Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos held telephone talks from Brussels today, Wednesday, 23 July, with Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati regarding the matter of the ongoing administrative restructuring of Albania, which changes the local administrative entities into regions of special importance for the Greek National Minority.

Today’s talks come as a follow-up to a letter given by Mr. Venizelos to Mr. Bushati on 10 June, as well as a number of diplomatic demarches on this issue. Mr. Venizelos stressed how critical and sensitive this issue is, and the need to move ahead to the resolution of the pending issues between the two countries, without adding new issues.

As Mr. Venizelos stressed, the guide on all issues must be European practice, particularly now that Albania, having gained the status of candidate country for accession to the EU, has additional obligations, given that the country is evaluated based on its compliance with the European acquis and the Copenhagen criteria.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos to meet with the Deputy Speaker of the Albanian Parliament and PBDNJ President Vangjel Dule (Athens, 24 July 2014)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet with the Deputy Speaker of the Albanian Parliament and President of the Union for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ), Vangjel Dule, at 12:15 on Thursday, 24 July 2014, at the Foreign Ministry.

Erdogan reveals he "no longer talks to Obama"

ANKARA -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he has stopped talking to U.S. President Barack Obama on the phone.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
This comes "amid growing strains between Ankara and Washington over Syria and the Gaza conflict," according to an AFP report.
Turkey is an open supporter of "armed rebel fighters in Syria" and "felt betrayed when the United States backed away from military action against Damascus in September," the agency said.

"In the past, I was calling him directly. Because I can't get the expected results on Syria, our foreign ministers are now talking to each other. And I have talked to Biden. He calls me and I call him," Erdogan told the pro-government ATV channel.

"I expect justice in this process. I couldn't imagine something like this from those who are championing justice," Erdogan "added without elaborating," AFP reported, noting the statement was "an apparent jibe at Washington."

The last phone conversation between the two leaders took place on February 20 after which the White House released a statement accusing Erdogan of misrepresenting the content of the conversation.

Erdogan has openly criticized Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip, referring to it as "state terrorism and genocide," and accusing the United States for defending Israel's "disproportionate measures."

More than 500,000 people flee fighting in Ukraine

MOSCOW -- Since April 1, more than 500,000 refugees from the war torn eastern part of Ukraine have arrived in the Russian Federation.
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Russian immigration services chief Konstantin Romodanovsky explained that 80 percent of them are in the border zone between the two countries, and that the wave has not subsided.
Russian authorities have opened 400 centers for reception for refugees, mostly in Rostov-on-Don.

"Many want to return home when the conflict is over, but an increasing number of families are coming to Russia in order to stay," said Ela Pamfilova, a representative of the Department of Human Rights.

Romodanovsky did not rule out the possibility that some refugees - mostly ethnic Russians - will seek citizenship, while authorities in Moscow are considering whether to allow them this under facilitated procedure.

"Russia lacks the population and labor force. And here we have several tens of thousands of people who are close to our mentality, language and culture," said one Russian analyst.

The cost for the reception of refugees has so far been paid by regional authorities, but the government now decided to set aside EUR 74 million for this purpose.

"The government has allocated a total of RUB 4.9 billion (EUR 105 million) to help the refugees. This is a significant amount," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev commented recently.

Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down as Kiev accuses Moscow of sending more arms to separatists

Two Ukrainian military fighter jets were reportedly shot down over the nation’s contested eastern region on Wednesday, even as U.S. and Ukrainian sources said Russian weaponry has been pouring in to separatists following the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane last week.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said two Sukhoi-25 fighters were shot down Wednesday afternoon over an area called Savur Mogila. The planes may have been carrying up to two crew members each, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksiy Dmitrashkovsky.
The pilots ejected from the planes but it is not known if they survived, Fox News confirms. A search party is out looking for them.
Reuters reported that Kiev blamed the latest incident on pro-Russian separatists, who are suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last Thursday, killing all 298 aboard. Although Russia has denied supplying the ethnic Russian separatists with sophisticated Buk surface-to-air missile batteries, the kind suspected of bringing down MH-17, Ukrainian defense officials say heavy weaponry is flowing into the Donetsk region that the separatists now control.
More than a dozen Russian-made multiple launch rocket systems crossed the Ukrainian-Russian border on Tuesday, according to Andriy Lysenko, the spokesman for the information center of the National Security and Defense Council. Those weapons are artillery, and built for shelling land-based targets.
The spokesman said that Russia in recent days had started supplying more sophisticated weapons to militants in eastern Ukraine, in particular, modified Grad systems.
The Grad is a mobile battery mounted on truck fitted with a bank of 40 launch tubes that can be turned away from the unprotected cab. The number of rockets that each vehicle is able to quickly bring to bear on an enemy target makes it effective, especially at shorter ranges. The system has lower precision than classical artillery and cannot be used in situations that call for pinpoint precision.
"Some 14 Grad systems today have crossed the state border. We have documented this and passed the information on to Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council,” Lysenko said.
A U.S. senior intelligence official confirmed that pro-Russian separatists are getting air defense training at a Russian training facility in Rostov, near the Ukraine border, though the official cautioned that it is still not clear who had their finger on the trigger when MH-17 was downed. Significantly, since the shoot down, the senior intelligence official said the Russians have continued to aid the pro-Russian rebels by sending tanks and rocket launchers. The official said the Russians have been deliberately providing equipment to the rebels which is also used by the Ukrainians for plausible deniability.
Lysenko added that Ukrainian servicemen had taken control of several cities occupied by separatists in eastern Ukraine and seized vehicles, ammunition and small weapons. Lysenko said the arsenal has not only Russian markings, but also the relevant documentation.
"You can see the Russian tank T-64 BV, which is not in the records of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Servicemen seized it during the terrorists' assault on a Ukrainian military unit in Artemivsk,” he said. “Now you see an APC-80, which is also a Russian-made vehicle. These are the accompanying operational documents. There is an official seal of the Russian Federation and a note explaining that this APC was put in commission and it that was received to be used in combat operations."
Moscow, meanwhile, denied supplying military equipment to Russian fighters, who have clashed with Kiev following the Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.
On Monday, Ukrainian officials charged Russian experts were present at the crash site of the Malaysian airliner. U.S. intelligence officials believe the Boeing 777 was likely shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile in the possession of Kremlin-backed fighters.
“We have confirmed there were Russian military experts disguised as civilians were at the crash site,” Ukrainian Presidential Administration deputy chief Hennadiy Zubko said on July 21 during an interview on Channel 5 TV.
Zubko said Ukrainian emergency workers were initially denied access to site, which is located in an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Kremlin-backed forces. Zubko said some 350 employees of Ukraine's Emergency Ministry eventually were allowed access to the area, where they recovered 282 bodies and 87 body parts. The remains arrived on July 22 in Kharkiv, from where they will be flown to Holland for identification.
Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, on July 22 said in Kiev that wreckage from the downed plane had been “significantly altered.” international monitors told ABC News today, as remains of the victims arrived in territory held by  Bociurkiw said pieces of the front of the plane's cockpit appeared to have been cut away by power tools.
Fox News Channel's Catherine Herridge and Steve Harrigan contributed to this report

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Photo of the Day

The Himara Union  in Greece, backs all people, NGO and represents of Himara Region for the new administrative division in Albania

"Himara United only with Lukovo"

New crash between Athens and Tirana

The case of Himara the new "thorns" of Greek-Albanian relations

The threat of deterioration of demographic and thus balance of power in the streams in the planned reform that promote self-governing of Tirana, has recently added another issue to the already overcrowded agenda of Greek-Albanian relations, Himara.

Reportedly, Athens has stepped to the Government of Edi Rama, asking him to respect the views of the Greek minority and the inhabitants of Himara. At present, however, there are clear indications that there will be understanding to those requests, and Wednesday, July 23 is expected to be finalized and introduced for debate in the Albanian parliament the proposal to change the administrative boundaries within the 'Albanian Muslyms". According to estimates, the purpose is related to decisions taken by the end of July.

The problem with Himara Issue, started at the initiative of Tirana restructuring of a self map of the country. With the new system there will now only municipalities, as the provinces were to be incorporated in them. Before about two months especially, the government of Rama presented five proposals for the new map includes 61 municipalities.

As pointed out in the "Step" sources familiar with the details of the matter, the phrase "number 5" was satisfied that the Greek minority and respecting the current status quo. Provided uniting five provinces in the Municipality of Saranda and three provinces in the municipality of Gjirokastra - both basic and recognized minority areas inhabited by Greek populations.

In what respect is in Himara, which noted, is not recognized as a minority area of the Albanian government (despite international decisions), provided the combination with the province of Loukovo. It was a historically and geographically common area that will not disturb the demographic balance.

However, the government seems to prefer Rama finally 'Proposal No. 4, "which has caused strong reactions. According to the details of the proposal along with Himara and Loukovo proposed to include the province Vranitsa (with approximately 3,500 registered residents). As highlighted, this area has no relation to Himara Region, located at a great distance from it (pp. essentially on the other side of the mountain) and thanks to the demographic composition will alter the current balance both ethnically and religiously.

All these suggest the shooting element of the functionality of this combination explain diplomatic circles. It is characteristic that organizations of Chameria Party arrived in point to request changes to government proposals even for regions of Saranda and Gjirokastra which, fortunately it seems, will not thrive.

As mentioned earlier, Athens intervened in Tirana. However, irrespective of the effectiveness of this intervention, it is clear that the thorns in bilateral relations remain. This is despite the clear support to Albania from Greece, during our country performed the first half of 2014 the Presidency of the EU Council, in order to elicit status of candidate country.

Diplomatic sources estimate that the movement of this Greek side will allow Athens to maintain a leverage on issues plaguing bilateral relations. However, it is clear that despite persistent (perhaps stoic) efforts of Foreign Minister Mr. Ev. Venizelos to find solutions that will enable and unblock the question of the compatibility of the maritime zones, the government does not appear ready Rama for reciprocal steps.

A positive development could be considered the agreement on the issue of place names. In all other respects, however (like military cemeteries or status of belligerents), Albanians stalling. If indeed true information that Tirana has connected the "unfreezing" of the Agreement on maritime zones with the issue of property sequestrated (pp. going to the fortunes of Albanian nationals designated "enemy" after the outbreak of the Greek-Italian war), then developments should not rather be expected immediately.

The government seems not to Rama supplies and climate nationalism in Albanian media. This was demonstrated by the recent press after the announcement of land for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons from Athens, to which reference was made in respect of the non-maritime boundaries Greece. This course does not apply and it is characteristic that caused discomfort and the Greek ambassador in Tirana, who allegedly had intense dialogue with the Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Busatti.

Angel Athanasopoulos  /

Monday, July 21, 2014

Greek American Lobby and Albania American League, united for Cyprus resolution

The Congressman Joseph DioGuard met with Kosmas Karavellas for Himara Issue

Washington. Greek American lobby, organized last week's annual convention for the Cypriot issue, where in addition to numerous guests, was also Senators and Congressmen including Vice / U.S. President Joe Biden.

In Cypriot convention, which was formulated the declaration, was invited Congressman Joe DioGuardi, known as the representative of the Albanian lobby in USA.

Representative of Himara Society, Kosmas Karavellas, had a friendly meeting with Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, in which they talked about territorial division and especially about the issue Himara.

For the first time since the Greek American lobby, finds support from the Albanian lobby in USA, on issues such as Cyprus, or Himara, which also testifies before the draw strong picture of the Capitol Hill, among which are seen the Congressman
Joseph DioGuardi and Lobby representatives of the Greek American Congressmen Bilirakis, Sarbanis, and Kosmas Karavellas.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dule pushes Himara against territorial reform
Top Channel TV 19/07/2014

Dule pushes Hiamra against reform
Vangjel Dule and Vasil Bollano visited Himara to oppose the variant for unifying the Himara Municipality with Vranisht and Lukova.

In the meetings with the interest groups, Dule and Bollano spoke in Greek. But more than imposing the variant proposed by Vangjel Dule, the leader of the United for Human Right Party, and Bollano, from the Omonia, who refused the unification of Vranisht with Himara and Lukova, the meeting also reflected other differences.

Some of the members have opposed the unification with Lukova, while others were in favor. They connected the unification with economic and religious elements, since both areas are Christian, while Vranisht is mostly Muslim.

The UHRP leader declared that Himara cannot unite with Vranisht. “Some in Himara say there is no Greek minority. For me and many others who respect the international conventions, where everyone is allowed to express his identity, Himara has a historic Greek minority”, Dule declared.

For Dule, the unification of Vranisht with Himara has only electoral purposes. “    The creation of the new administration has only one goal, and that is electoral. They believe that through this plan they will be able to keep hostage the local authority of Himara. This cannot happen”, Dule declared.

The Omonia leader warned an escalation of the stances.

“We will escalate our stances even in the parliamentary cooperation, even with measures that are not object of Dule or Bollano, but that are object of the political structures. We will take the right decisions in the right moments”, Bollano declared.

Different from Dule and Bollano, who claim the existence f a Greek minority in Himara, other Himara citizens declared that they have not become Greek just because they took a Greek passport, same as Greeks didn’t become Albanians when they went to Greece. They claimed that Himara has its own beautiful language which is not Greek.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

 Photo of the Day 

The president of Himariot Lobby of USA Father Kozmas Karavellas with the Vice President Joe Biden, and Archbishop Demetrius of USA in their meeting last week