Saturday, November 22, 2014

Albanian opposition rallies against tax, power burden

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

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

ΒΙΝΤΕΟ ΝΤΟΚΟΥΜΕΝΤΟ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΜΙΚΡΟΛΙΜΑΝΟ



smanalysis

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rama greets coalition in Kosovo: “A difficult but necessary pact”
21/11/2014
Rama greets coalition in Kosovo: “A difficult but necessary pact”
The Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, greeted the political class in Kosovo for finding a solution to the prolonged political crisis.

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

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

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

United States "fully engaged" in Balkans

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

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

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

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

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

Russian media: EU delivered ultimatum to Belgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pasok leader Venizelos meets with former Greek PM Simitis

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ambassador to Albania: Who Is Donald Lu?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greek Police arrested two Albanians, drivers


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

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

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

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

Greece: Venizelos, meeting with Turks to focus on diplomacy

 

Instead Samaras prefers talks on diplomatic issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kosovo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NEW RISKS IN THE BALCANS Situation reports
19.11.2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mogherini, Dačić discuss Kosovo dialogue, Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Merkel warns about "Russia's influence" in Serbia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

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

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

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

BELGRADE -- Russia and Serbia are connected by history and religion, Russian Patriarch Kirill has said during a meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.
(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)
Patriarch Kirill, who is on a three-day visit to Serbia, said that Russia has always been with the Serbian nation, in joy and in sadness.
"In the most recent times as well - when you were bombed - we were with the Serbian nation with our hearts, and we are now together going through what the Serb population in Kosovo and Metohija is experiencing - we are helping with what we can and however much we can, and we hope that justice and peace will ultimately arrive in Kosovo and Metohija," the patriarch said.

The Serbian president welcomed the guest, noting that the Serbian Orthodox Church has a pillar of support in the Russian Orthodox Church, as does Serbia in the Russian Federation.

Your decision to donate the work on a mosaic for the Church of Saint Sava indicates how connected we are, Nikolić said, and added:

“Serbia always lived as Russia did. When Russia was suffering, Serbia was also suffering. When Russia was progressing, Serbia was also making progress."

He noted that "the Serbian people should always remember what Russia did for them, including in the First World War."

The Russian news agency TASS reported that on Sunday, Patriarch Kirill will attend a ceremony of unveiling a monument to Russian Tsar Nicholas II in front the presidential palace in Belgrade. Under his rule, Russia joined WWI to defend Serbia, said the agency and quoted Nikolić as saying, "The Russian tsar risked the entire state and his people when he entered that war.

Earlier on Friday, the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University of Belgrade.

Patriarch Kirill also met with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, who thanked him and for the donation, "at the behest of President Vladimir Putin," consisting of the completion of interior decoration works in the Church of Saint Sava, the Serbian government's press office said in a statement.

Vučić received Patriarch Kirill and Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church late on Friday.

The prime minister's meeting with the two patriarchs was cordial and friendly, and they discussed ways of improving the cooperation between the two churches and strengthening the ties between the two countries, the statement said.

404 Russian and Serbian troops take part in exercise

NIKINCI -- More than 400 members of Serbian and Russian armed forces on Friday took part in a joint tactical exercise dubbed SREM-2014.
Serbian and Russian flags are carried by paratroopers (Tanjug)
Serbian and Russian flags are carried by paratroopers (Tanjug)
The exercise took place at the Nikinci ranges near the town of Šid, west of Belgrade, and lasted an hour and a half, during which time airborne troops demonstrated a hostage rescue operation and liquidation of a terrorist base, along with evacuation of the wounded.
207 members of the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) and 197 Serbian army soldiers from the Special Brigade of the Military Police and the Air Force took part.

They used transport aircraft Il-76s and An-26s, MiG-29 fighter jets, and Mi-8 and Gazela helicopters, along with armored combat vehicles BMD-2, BTR, BOV, and other weapons and equipment.

Serbian Defense Minister Bratislav Gašić said the drills were successful, with the Serbian soldiers showing "a high level of operative capabilities."
(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)
More photos

He reiterated that Serbia is a militarily neutral country that is determining its international relations in line with "the four strategic pillars - the EU, Russia, the U.S., and China."

He also noted that Serbia has agreements on military technical cooperation with more than 60 countries, at the same time rejecting the claims that there was "a veil of secrecy" attached to Friday's event.

"What secrecy, there's more than 20 cameras here today. You must get used to it that there is a day for the media and you must know that the presence of media crews during the preparations for the exercise would have meant a high degree of risk," he said, adding that "nobody in the world is posing the question of Serbia's neutrality, instead all countries are interested in cooperation with the Serbian military."

Serbian Army chief General Ljubiša Diković said that fighting terrorism "demands quick and energetic action both from the ground and from the air," and that this was the reason for the joint exercise with the Russians.
(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)
According to him, Serbia "supports the fight against global terrorism and has an obligation to train its army for these activities because no country can overcome that problem alone."

Commander of the Russian Airborne Troops General Vladimir Shamanov said that both Serbia and Russia faced the problem of terrorism in the previous period and that Russian soldiers came to Serbia to share their experiences in this regard.

The general gave high marks to the performance of the Serbian soldiers, and added that the cooperation will continue next year when a delegation of the Serbian Army will visit the 7th Division in Ryazan, RF.

Shamanov added that ten modern parachutes were presented to the Serbian Army on the orders of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

U.S. prosecutors sent to Balkans "to help fight terrorism"

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. is sending dozens of prosecutors to the Balkans, the Middle East, and northern Africa "to help track down jihadist fighters returning from Syria."
(Beta/AP, file)
(Beta/AP, file)
Prosecutors and senior law enforcement advisors were being dispatched to “key regions,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said after meeting with European officials in Washington, AFP reported.
“These personnel will provide critical assistance to our allies in order to help prosecute those who return from the Syrian region bent on committing acts of terrorism," he said, and added that "the cooperation includes information sharing, investigations and prosecutions, and countering violent extremism.”

The French agency quoted a senior U.S. Justice Department official as saying that about 70 prosecutors were working in several countries including "Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Serbia," as well as in North Africa and the Middle East.

“They’re not there to put a U.S. legal system in place. Their goal is to ensure that the country has in place statutes that are consistent with the UN counter-terrorism convention, with the global terrorism forum best practices," said the official.

A regional prosecutor specializing in anti-terrorism will be based in Albania to coordinate work in the Balkans and the director of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law has moved to Malta, AFP reported.