Police identifies Iranian terrorist cell members

Police identifies Iranian terrorist cell members

TIRANA, Oct. 23 – Albanian police announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the functioning scheme and identified members of an Iranian terrorist cell that was targeting attacks on the Iranian opposition movement Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), with over 2,000 members residing

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Opposition seeks PM’s resignation following EU rejection to opening negotiations

Opposition seeks PM’s resignation following EU rejection to opening negotiations

TIRANA, Oct. 21 – Opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha sought again Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama’s resignation on Monday, holding him responsible for failing the european integration process and the opening of accession talks with the bloc.  “One person

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North Macedonian PM to resign, leading country to snap elections after EU rejection

North Macedonian PM to resign, leading country to snap elections after EU rejection

TIRANA, Oct. 21 – North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said snap elections will take place after talking about failure to get a date for opening accession negotiations during the European Council meeting on Thursday in Brussels.  He did not

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Italy: “Solve the crisis together”

Italy: “Solve the crisis together”

TIRANA, Oct. 16 –  Visiting Tirana officially for the first time, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte promised that he would personally engage in supporting the opening of EU membership talks with Albania.  “Italy supports the opening of talks and personally,

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EU again postpones opening negotiations with Albania and N. Macedonia

EU again postpones opening negotiations with Albania and N. Macedonia

TIRANA, Oct. 17 – The foreign ministers of European Union member states meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday failed to reach a decision concerning the opening of membership talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia, delegating the matter to a European Council

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OSCE Ambassador issues apology for shameful public act

OSCE Ambassador issues apology for shameful public act

TIRANA, Oct. 15 – The head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borschardt, issued on Monday a public apology to citizens who he might have insulted on Sunday, when he responded by giving the middle finger to protesters’

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National Association of Judges says PM’s attacks undermine judiciary’s independence

National Association of Judges says PM’s attacks undermine judiciary’s independence

TIRANA, Oct. 13 – The National Association of Judges considered the attacks of Prime Minister Edi Rama and Deputy Prime Minister Erjon Brace as interfering with the judiciary and said through a statement on Thursday they overall undermine the independence

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Independent Qualification Commission dismisses SPAK candidate Ndini Tavani

Independent Qualification Commission dismisses SPAK candidate Ndini Tavani

TIRANA, Oct. 12 – The Independent Qualification Commission dismissed on Friday special prosecution candidate Ndini Tavani.  The decision was made by the judicial body composed of Alma Faskaj, Brunilda Bekteshi and Roland Ilia. Regarding the property criterion, the IQC found

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Final Venice Commission report says ‘no’ to President’s dismissal

Final Venice Commission report says ‘no’ to President’s dismissal

TIRANA, Oct. 12 – The Venice Commission approved on Friday a final opinion on President Ilir Meta’s decision to cancel June 30 as an election date.  In a statement, the VC notes that its experts are of the opinion that

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France to deny Albania, N. Macedonia opening of negotiations

France to deny Albania, N. Macedonia opening of negotiations

TIRANA, Oct. 10 – A week before the European Council meeting to decide the fate of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, France has announced it wants the opening of negotiations for both countries to be postponed by 2020. Further

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 23 - Albanian police announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the functioning scheme and identified members of an Iranian terrorist cell that was targeting attacks on the Iranian opposition movement Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), with over 2,000 members residing in Albania as refugees since 2013.

Albanian General Police Director Ardi Veliu said that "terrorist cells are also responsible, among other things, for the March 2018 plan to carry out a terrorist attack during the celebrations of the Nevruz Festival, attended by high-level members of the to the Iranian opposition organization Mujahedeen al Khalq (MEK), a plan that was prevented by increased State Police measures, thanks to accurate information.” 

According to Albanian police, "the terrorist cell is run by a QUDS Forces operative, known under the name Peynam, a permanent resident of Iran, who remotely manages a number of operations in Albania and elsewhere in Central and Western Europe." 

QUDS is the operational wing of IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), which operate beyond Iran's borders.

One of the cell members is Alireza Naghashzadeh, a former MEK member with an Austrian passport. "Naghashzadeh was sent by Peyman to gather information in Albania during several separate visits as part of plans for an attack that was eventually halted," Veliu explained.

Another operative is Abdolkhalegh Malek Zadeh, an Iranian living in Turkey. 

"Malek Zadeh, also known by criminal connections under the nickname Ferhat, has continued to work for the past two years with Abdulselam Turgut, a well-known Turkish organized crime figure, to plan terrorist attacks at Peyman and the QUDS Forces behalf”, said Veliu.

Abdulselam Turgut is known by the Albanian authorities. 

In 2011, Turgut was also jailed in Albania on charges related to the alleged trafficking of about 1 tonne of heroin, but fled the country using a false passport after the court changed the security measure from imprisonment to house arrest. 

Last December, Iran's ambassador to Albania and another embassy diplomat was expelled from Albania. The foreign ministry reported at the time that "the two Iranian diplomats were declared unwanted after allegedly being involved in activities that threaten security in the country.” 

The decision to declare Iranian diplomats undesirable - the Albanian Foreign Ministry further clarified - was taken in consultation with the Allied countries because of their activity in Albania in violation of their diplomatic status.




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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 21 - Opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha sought again Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama’s resignation on Monday, holding him responsible for failing the european integration process and the opening of accession talks with the bloc. 

“One person is keeping us all hostage. This has to stop,” Basha said.

The leader of the united opposition, which has long resigned from parliament and boycotted the last local elections in June, stressed that the difficult economic situation, the lack of opportunities, resulting from the capturing of institutions and inequality before the law, have forced Albanians to leave in record numbers.

“Europe rejected Edi Rama, not Albania. The failure is Edi Rama's, not Albania's. This message has been stronger than ever from Germany, which said yes to Albania and no to the government through nine conditions to be met. Without serious reforms, which he is unable and unwilling to do, Europe will continue to reject Edi Rama, while we, the Albanians, will continue to suffer the consequences,” said Basha. 

He stated that Rama should return the mandate to the Albanian people, because "most of the countries were of the same opinion that the government of Albania did not deserve the opening of negotiations and that placing conditions showed that the government has taken steps backwards.”

He said that crime, corruption, vote buying, malfunctioning of the courts are not internal problems of Europe, but of the Rama government.

"EU conditions are our guide to get out of the crisis, to build a democratic Albania, with the opportunity for all its citizens. Bringing the criminals to justice at high levels is the non-negotiable requirement for opening accession talks,” he said.

Basha said Tirana's government should follow the example of Northern Macedonia and give up the country’s leadership. 

"With a new, legitimate government emerging from free and fair elections leading the European negotiation process, prosperity and progress is possible," he said.

However, Rama rejected demands for resignation and accused the opposition of working too hard to thwart the process.

"They didn't leave one stone unturned, but they didn't succeed. Northern Macedonia and Albania did not receive what they deserve as a result of an internal clash at the European family table on the future of the European Union,” he said.

Rama said after a meeting of the SP on the same topic that the only thing Albania can do is do its homework, and that the latest EU response did not change anything in the country's strategic trajectory, the SP and government.

“Our homework is very clear. Our path continues without any wavering and with no equivocation. We want to make European Albania for Albanians and our children and we will do it daily, "he said.

France reminded Albania that it has a high number of asylum seekers and immigrants, which does not comply with its European integration requirements, while Germany urged it to reestablish the Constitutional Court and punish officials incriminated in judicial corruption and electoral crimes.

The opening of accession talks for both Albania and Macedonia got rejected by France primarily during the last European Council meeting last Thursday. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 21 - North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said snap elections will take place after talking about failure to get a date for opening accession negotiations during the European Council meeting on Thursday in Brussels. 

He did not hide his emotions as he said his country had suffered a great injustice. 

"We brought all our commitments to reality, but the European Union did not reflect on the promises made. We made reforms, we solved the problems with our neighbors while the EU did not comply with its word,” Zaev said.

“The European Union failing to decide to open talks with us is a historic mistake and this was confirmed by all European leaders,” Zaev said, highlighting the frustration and outrage.

He further said the EU decision was taken under unresolved internal problems, which Northern Macedonia cannot change.

He, however, came feeling responsible in front of citizens. 

"I stand in front of you and clearly urge you, the European dream for Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Vlachs, Turks, Roma, Bosniaks and others living in our country - it will not be ruined,” he said. 

"That's why I propose the quick holding of snap elections. Elections, as soon as possible,” said Zaev, who will also be resigning from his post as the country’s PM. 

Zaev said that it’s up to citizens “to take the right way towards democratic and European values, to development and prosperity, or to the dark path of isolation, nationalism, divisions and conflicts, which is the way backwards.”

The opposition, both Macedonian and Albanian, has been calling for early elections for months, as the Democratic Union for Integration has not backed the idea, due to the possibility of regression from reforms and integration processes, as its officials have often said.

A part of analysts have also said that early elections would halt the progress of reforms launched and take Northern Macedonia a precious time to achieve the required European standards. 

Following Zaev’s statement, the ruling and opposition parties in Northern Macedonia agreed on Sunday evening for early parliamentary elections to take place on April 12, 2020.

In the meeting convened by President Stevo Pendarovski, the issue of snap elections was the second topic after the failure to obtain a date for opening negotiations with the European Union.

The election date was accepted by consensus of all participants in the meeting: Zaev, who is both PM and chairman of the Social Democratic League, Hristijan Mickovski of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, Ali Ahmeti of the Democratic Union for Integration, Zijadin Sela chairman of the Alliance for Albanians , Afrim Gashi of Alternative, Bilal Kasami of the Besa Movement and Menduh Thaçi of the Albanian Democratic Party.

Under a deal made some years ago, three months before the election date, the PM must resign and form a caretaker government, which will include the opposition. 

Under this agreement, the technical government should be formed by January 3.

Zaev said at the meeting that his party was ready to accept a single constituency or open lists.

Northern Macedonia currently has six constituencies and each sends twenty deputies to the Republican Parliament.

Opposition leader Mickovski told reporters that it was important to set a date for early elections, as he dismissed allegations made by SDSM officials that he was glad the country did not get a date for EU negotiations. 

Opposition parties have been calling for early elections for months, criticizing Mr Zaev's government for corruption scandals, nepotism and inability to carry out reforms that would lead the country towards European integration.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-10-18 09:20:47
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 16 -  Visiting Tirana officially for the first time, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte promised that he would personally engage in supporting the opening of EU membership talks with Albania. 

"Italy supports the opening of talks and personally, on Thursday and Friday, I will support this position at the Council and will defend it with great conviction," he said during a joint news conference with Prime Minister Edi Rama. 

"I am convinced that the integration process and the opening of negotiations for Albania are the best instruments to guarantee the development of Albania in the interest of not only Italy and Albania, but also of all Europe in all aspects, both economically, politically and in terms of security. And this also applies to Northern Macedonia,” he said.

“Albania is at a crucial stage and needs costly reforms that require commitment and courage. The people have been in favor of joining the European Union, so the institutions must continue on the path taken to avoid disappointment in this aspiration. But it is understandable,” he added, “that in order not to be disappointment, there must be a clear path and a prospect that becomes concrete.” 

Conte  stated that "the priority remains the continuation of reforms, starting with the full implementation of the justice reform, which has marked significant steps, and continuing with the restoration of the courts, as well as giving life to new institutions to fight crime and corruption more effectively. 

Conte also spoke about the political crisis in Albania. 

"Our attention and Europe's focus is also on Albania's ability to resolve the crisis," which would be "a sign of political and institutional maturity." 

“I believe that the majority and the opposition have an interest in achieving this by their own means. I wish that the government will soon put forward a platform for the opposition to resume dialogue constructively and urge the opposition-selected line to evolve towards a constructive dialogue without preconditions,” Conte said. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 17 - The foreign ministers of European Union member states meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday failed to reach a decision concerning the opening of membership talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia, delegating the matter to a European Council meeting, attended by the heads of member states and governments.

At the end of the meeting, Finnish Foreign Minister Tytti Tuppurainen expressed frustration over the failure to reach a unanimous decision on two countries in a region she described as an "EU neighborhood.”

However, she was optimistic that an agreement will be reached at the European Council meeting later in the month. 

Outgoing Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn also spoke in frustrated tones. 

"This is not a moment of glory for Europe. I still hope there can be a positive decision this week and membership talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia can be opened,” Hahn said, as 25 out of 28 member states were in favor of opening accession negotiations. 

“The vast majority of member states backed our recommendation, and yet we are where we are. I do not want to blame anyone, but it is not a moment we can be proud of. A further postponement would damage the credibility of the EU in the region," he said, apologizing to the citizens of Albania and Northern Macedonia. 

“Tirana and Skopje did what they had to do. They undertook painful reforms that in most of our countries would not be possible,” Hahn stressed.

In fact, the lack of a decision among the foreign ministers seemed to be something the Albanian government was already expecting. 

In a video message distributed through his Facebook page, Prime Minister Edi Rama, analyzing opposing attitudes among member states, before the conclusion of foreign ministers’ meeting, said that "however, the last word has not yet been spoken and these days' intense efforts until the European Council meeting, where the decision is to be taken, aim to reconcile the positions of both sides in anticipation of a key outcome of the talks between Germany and France, which are key.”

Rama insisted that decision-making was not related to what Albania and Northern Macedonia have done in terms of reform progress. 

"Decision-making has a fundamental bearing on what the members of the union want, or do not want to do, with the EU reform and with the negotiation methodology with the candidate countries, and whatever EU reform they agree on should not prevent Albania, Northern Macedonia and the countries of the Western Balkans as a whole from continuing their reforms, thanks to the negotiation process,” Rama emphasized. 

Tuesday’s discussions at the Foreign Ministers meeting began with a clear division between member states. 

On the one hand, most of them, headed by Germany, were in support of opening accession talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia. 

As German Minister for Europe Michael Roth confirmed before the start of the meeting, "Germany's stance is crystal clear, as the Bundestag vote has determined."

The German Bundestag approved on late September the conditions placed by the centre-right Christian Democratic CDU/CSU, which agreed to vote in favor of a conditional opening of accession talks with Albania. 

Among the conditions placed for Abania, some include long-standing ones like the functionality of the Constitutional and High Courts and the drafting of an electoral reform, while two are completely new – the punishment of anyone who has participated in vote-rigging and a final decision on the legality of the June 30 local elections once the Constitutional Court starts working again. 

On the other hand, there is a small group of countries, led by France, which are not in favor of Albania opening accession negotiations. 

Ahead of the meeting, French Secretary of State for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin confirmed Paris' position that the whole enlargement process should be reviewed again. "Europe must first reform talks on enlargement. We are concerned about the process. Is it efficient? In our view, it is not. And we have many countries that support this idea of ​​revising talks through a reorganization. On the other hand,” she added, “we need to make sure the reforms required to open the talks are real. Not only that they have been voted, but also implemented.” 

Montchalin stressed that France does not oppose the European perspective of the Western Balkans. 

“But things have to be done in a credible way,” she said.

For its part, the Netherlands has also been particularly critical of Albania and this was reaffirmed today, ahead of the meeting, by Dutch Foreign Minister Steph Blok. 

“Our position is that every country should be valued on the basis of merit. Both countries have made a lot of efforts. Regarding Northern Macedonia, we consider that an important step should be taken, such as the law on the independence of the Special Prosecutor's Office, and if this condition is met then we think that accession negotiations can begin. Regarding Albania, we think that there is still work to be done and that the country is not ready for the opening of negotiations,” said Blok.

A day after the meeting failed to produce a definite decision regarding the two Western Balkans countries, Rama and his N. Macedonia counterpart Zoran Zaev flew to Brussels, where heads of member states will meet again to discuss, among others, the region’s European perspective. 

In a video message via Facebook, Rama explained that he and Zaev would meet with the "prime ministers of the socialist and progressive EU governments in a format specially created by the European Socialist Party in view of the need to have more allies at the table the next evening.” 

He said he was "neither optimistic or pessimistic about the outcome of this process", pointing out that “he is doing his best to get Albania the ‘YES’ it deserves.”

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 15 - The head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borschardt, issued on Monday a public apology to citizens who he might have insulted on Sunday, when he responded by giving the middle finger to protesters' calls to him.

Borchardt was strolling on a weekend evening when he was suddenly found amid calls of "Rama Go" and "Shame on you" on the street near the capital's police department, where relatives of some of the detainees were protesting the release of their relatives.

Borchardt lifted one finger without turning his head to see to whom his gesture was actually directed.

“I respect the right of Albanians to protest peacefully. I would like to sincerely apologize to those I may have offended yesterday,” said Borchardt.

He has been at the center of criticism by Albanian citizens and politicians for 24 hours for the unusual gesture of a career diplomat on both local media and social media.

After the gesture, the Council of Albanian Ambassadors issued a statement inter alia that all diplomats accredited in our country must respect the Albanian people.

“The Council of Albanian Ambassadors, while showing a special respect and esteem for all accredited diplomats in Albania, calls on each of them to respect the Albanian people, as well as the legitimate right of every Albanian to protest peacefully,” the statement said. 

It further emphasizes that "the lack of respect for such reactions can damage the reputation and credibility of the organization in Albania” and calls for an evaluation of the gesture by the highest organization ranks such as the secretariat, as well as the necessary disciplinary steps. 

This is not, however, the first time Borchardt has come under criticism from opposition supporters.

Young opposition activists wrote graffiti at the capital’s building entrance where he resides with the slogan "Shame on you" as they believed he was taking the government’s side during political crisis debates and election processes.

The opposition has repeatedly issued statements criticizing the role of the OSCE ambassador to Albania, whether directly or indirectly, in favor of the government and against the opposition.

The OSCE has rejected the allegations through statements in which it defends its ambassador to Tirana, saying that his stances and the assistance he gives to political processes in Albania are part of the organization's work program and commitments in support of democracy and strengthening Albanian institutions. 

 
                    [post_title] => OSCE Ambassador issues apology for shameful public act
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                    [post_date] => 2019-10-13 09:31:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-13 07:31:00
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 13 - The National Association of Judges considered the attacks of Prime Minister Edi Rama and Deputy Prime Minister Erjon Brace as interfering with the judiciary and said through a statement on Thursday they overall undermine the independence of the judiciary and public confidence in the justice system.

“The National Association of Judges of the Republic of Albania and the Union of Judges of Albania are anxiously following the attitudes of recent days by senior political representatives towards judges. Such repeated attitudes by executive officials not only do not serve inter-institutional relations but are a threat to the independence of the judiciary, while undermining citizens' confidence in the justice system,” their statement read.

The judges emphasized on Rama’s stand at the time when the judicial reform is being implemented has detrimental consequences.

"Meanwhile aggressive and incorrectly addressed attitudes, at the time of implementing such a profound reform of the system, have detrimental consequences for the reform.”

They also called on the Supreme Judicial Council and international institutions to respond to attacks on judges and prosecutors.

"Finally, the National Association and the Association of Judges would like to invite the High Judicial Council, as well as our friends and international partners, to maintain their position on the recently emerging behaviors."

In recent days, both Rama and Brace have stepped up attacks on the judiciary following a series of rulings that they considered "criminal". 

Last Wednesday, Rama said during a speech the ruling Socialist Party will make a new law for the judges and prosecutors who are still part of the justice system but, knowing the vetting process will dismiss them soon, are trying to benefit as much as they can through “absurd decisions dictated by crime and corruption.”

“I will soon make a law for this issue. I'm talking about a criminal organization with constitutional legal immunity, prosecutors and corrupt judges who know they won't pass the vetting,” Rama said.

 
                    [post_title] => National Association of Judges says PM’s attacks undermine judiciary’s independence   
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                    [post_date] => 2019-10-13 09:21:42
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 12 - The Independent Qualification Commission dismissed on Friday special prosecution candidate Ndini Tavani. 

The decision was made by the judicial body composed of Alma Faskaj, Brunilda Bekteshi and Roland Ilia.

Regarding the property criterion, the IQC found problems with the prosecutor's financial ability to buy an apartment in 2015. 

Tavani had declared an apartment purchased in 2015 worth 4.5 million ALL, of which he had paid three million ALL. 

He had declared as source for the three million lek his and his wife's salary as well as his income from working as a lawyer.

The commission, after investigation, found that Tavani was not able to generate the amount of 2.5 million ALL .

On the other hand, the commission found financial issues in 2009 related to the purchase of a car in the amount of 7,000 EUR and in 2016 for the purchase of a car in the amount of 900 thousand ALL and for holiday expenses.

In relation to the cleanliness of figure criterion, two reports were drafted in which the latter considered Tavani inappropriate to continue his work. 

According to the Directory of Securing Classified Information, Tavani was found to have abused his office in a case involving VAT fraud schemes. 

In the meantime, the commission also found that in 2015 there had been a criminal report against Tavani, but the case had been dismissed and no complaint had been filed against him.

Concerning the professionalism criterion, the commission found problems in two of the five files examined. The IQC found that Tavani  had terminated a case in 2015, only one day after the filing of criminal proceedings. 

Tavani also delayed the investigation into a case where two notaries were indicted. Investigations were delayed by three months to take into question the whistleblower and the notary but only the latter's statements were taken. 

The investigation was then postponed for another three months for the whistleblower's questioning, and then was ultimately dismissed.

The commission also found that Tavani had decided to dismiss a case made public by the Stop show, without conducting sufficient investigations.

 
                    [post_title] => Independent Qualification Commission dismisses SPAK candidate Ndini Tavani 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-10-12 09:08:27
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-12 07:08:27
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 12 - The Venice Commission approved on Friday a final opinion on President Ilir Meta's decision to cancel June 30 as an election date. 

In a statement, the VC notes that its experts are of the opinion that although the President may have acted beyond his constitutional powers, his actions do not justify his dismissal.

Following the plenary hearing of Albanian President Ilir Meta's case on cancelling the election date, the statement mainly focuses on whether or not to dismiss Meta, as the parliament has already set up a special investigative commission inquiry. 

“While the President may have acted beyond his constitutional powers, there are indications that his actions may not have been of such a nature as to justify his dismissal,” the statement said, referring to expert conclusions.

In fact, the draft opinion which surfaced one week ago stated that “the President has exceeded his constitutional powers by announcing and postponing local elections beyond the local authorities' electoral mandate without a specific legal basis. However, the elements set forth above could lead to the conclusion that these acts may not have been of a sufficiently serious nature to authorize the dismissal of the President.”

On Friday’s final report, it was stated that “even in the case of a state of emergency, such as war or natural disaster, the Assembly would have to adopt special legislation to delay elections.”

In the draft opinion, the VC experts, given the situation in Albania, point out that Meta may have had legitimate intentions, but that he had no legal basis for the decision. 

“Annulment of elections is possible only in situations that meet the requirement to declare a state of emergency. However, the applicable constitutional rules for emergency situations have not been followed in this case. There has not even been a political consensus that would have allowed the definition of an ad hoc legal basis.”

According to the statement, "in response to the political crisis in the country and an election boycott by some major political parties, the President initially canceled and then postponed the local elections.” 

The draft opinion gave a more detailed explanation of this, given that the opposition boycott was one of Meta's arguments to cancel June 30 as the main opposition forces did not participate in those elections. And according to experts, “the boycott of elections by political parties, even if they represent a significant part of the electorate, cannot hinder the conduct of regular elections. Otherwise, these parties would take the power to completely hinder any elections.”

Referring to Parliament's ruling on the case, the statement notes that “even if the Parliament was to find that the President exceeded his powers, the Venice Commission questions whether the action was of such a character as to prove a ‘serious violation,’” while further adding that “even if the Assembly were to determine the seriousness of the violations, this should not necessarily lead to dismissal, taking into account the power of the plenary session to consider other constitutional purposes, such as safeguarding of checks and balances and stability in the country.”

While noting that the president's decree was not challenged before a court, in Friday’s statement, it is underlined by the Venice Commission that "if parliament were to favor dismissal, it would ultimately be up to the Constitutional Court, which currently does not function, to confirm whether the President's decisions are "serious" violations that would justify his dismissal.”

The draft opinion of the Venice Commission was criticized by Meta last week. 

At the heart of the objection was the fact that, in his view, legal assessments "are insufficient unless they are decided in the light of the extreme circumstances in which they are applied.” According to Meta, "the draft opinion is often contradictory" and "one gets the impression that the experts of the Venice Commission are a priori guided by some fixed ideas, making the facts and analysis inconsistent with the conclusions of the draft opinion.”

On Friday, however, Meta’s Spokesperson Ted Blushi issued another statement, blaming the Socialist government of “misusing” the VC draft opinion in order to wrongly inform Albanians of the commission’s opinion of Meta’s legitimacy and breach of the constitution. 

“I will let you know and confirm with the utmost responsibility that the Venice Commission reiterated that the President of the Republic has not violated the Constitution of the Republic of Albania. The Venice Commission has also highly praised the President's calls for dialogue and his efforts to reach a compromise between the parties that were instrumental in resolving the crisis,” Blushi’s statement said. 

 
                    [post_title] => Final Venice Commission report says ‘no’ to President’s dismissal 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-10-10 19:56:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-10 17:56:00
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 10 - A week before the European Council meeting to decide the fate of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, France has announced it wants the opening of negotiations for both countries to be postponed by 2020.

Further on, the EU founding country presented its concrete proposal for opening accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.

This proposal is based on two axes. First, it relates to meeting key criteria related to respect for the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organized crime, and second, to reforming the European Union enlargement process.

France considers that before the accession negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia are opened, the relevant conditions must be met. 

Firstly, Albania must implement the justice reform and electoral reform, while Northern Macedonia must make progress on the special prosecution case, reports ABC news correspondent Erisa Zyka.

France thus supports Germany's stance on conditionality for Albania, but is more nuanced and critical about the problems of corruption and organized crime in Albania, the concrete progress made in reforms in Albania and northern Macedonia and considers that there is a point of view more realistic on the political situation in both countries.

For France, the opening of accession negotiations is postponed to 2020 for both countries once the above conditions are met.

“They are not there yet. We are asking them to make additional efforts,” a French official said. “Negotiation cannot be opened in October 2019, we will need to reassess the situation somewhere in 2020.”

In addition, France wants to reverse the enlargement process, which so far has not yielded the expected results.

The French government has a more nuanced and less optimistic assessment than the European Commission on enlargement. 

The French government's stance implies that the European Commission's assessment is too mechanical, technocratic, and dividing the negotiating framework into 35 chapters has not yielded the expected results.

According to France, the enlargement process for the new European Commission should be more gradual, more controlled and include the expertise of the member states, in order for the progress to be achieved.

In this context, ambassadors representing European Union governments failed Wednesday to agree on whether the bloc should open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, two people familiar with the meeting said.

The envoys will debate the matter again on Friday, before a ministerial meeting next week in Luxembourg, where a decision is due to be taken.

France went as far as questioning the entire “methodology” of the enlargement process, demanding a postponement of the decision until the bloc revises the process, the officials said.

 
                    [post_title] => France to deny Albania, N. Macedonia opening of negotiations
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            [post_date] => 2019-10-23 18:27:32
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-23 16:27:32
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 23 - Albanian police announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the functioning scheme and identified members of an Iranian terrorist cell that was targeting attacks on the Iranian opposition movement Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), with over 2,000 members residing in Albania as refugees since 2013.

Albanian General Police Director Ardi Veliu said that "terrorist cells are also responsible, among other things, for the March 2018 plan to carry out a terrorist attack during the celebrations of the Nevruz Festival, attended by high-level members of the to the Iranian opposition organization Mujahedeen al Khalq (MEK), a plan that was prevented by increased State Police measures, thanks to accurate information.” 

According to Albanian police, "the terrorist cell is run by a QUDS Forces operative, known under the name Peynam, a permanent resident of Iran, who remotely manages a number of operations in Albania and elsewhere in Central and Western Europe." 

QUDS is the operational wing of IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), which operate beyond Iran's borders.

One of the cell members is Alireza Naghashzadeh, a former MEK member with an Austrian passport. "Naghashzadeh was sent by Peyman to gather information in Albania during several separate visits as part of plans for an attack that was eventually halted," Veliu explained.

Another operative is Abdolkhalegh Malek Zadeh, an Iranian living in Turkey. 

"Malek Zadeh, also known by criminal connections under the nickname Ferhat, has continued to work for the past two years with Abdulselam Turgut, a well-known Turkish organized crime figure, to plan terrorist attacks at Peyman and the QUDS Forces behalf”, said Veliu.

Abdulselam Turgut is known by the Albanian authorities. 

In 2011, Turgut was also jailed in Albania on charges related to the alleged trafficking of about 1 tonne of heroin, but fled the country using a false passport after the court changed the security measure from imprisonment to house arrest. 

Last December, Iran's ambassador to Albania and another embassy diplomat was expelled from Albania. The foreign ministry reported at the time that "the two Iranian diplomats were declared unwanted after allegedly being involved in activities that threaten security in the country.” 

The decision to declare Iranian diplomats undesirable - the Albanian Foreign Ministry further clarified - was taken in consultation with the Allied countries because of their activity in Albania in violation of their diplomatic status.




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