“NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges”

“NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges”

By  Susanne Schütz On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed,

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“Our collective strength comes from our shared values”

“Our collective strength comes from our shared values”

Leyla Moses-Ones As I begin these remarks, I want to take you back to April 4, 1949, the day the United States formally tied its safety and security to that of Europe for the first time.  Before the signing ceremony,

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Editorial: 10 years of NATO: the membership that changed Albania’s path for the better course

Editorial: 10 years of NATO: the membership that changed Albania’s path for the better course

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL One could not overestimate and overvalue the importance, both symbolic and real, of Albania’s membership to NATO even if they tried. After five decades of the most aggressive and absurd isolationism practiced by the Stalinist regime of

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Editorial: “Russians at the gate”

Editorial: “Russians at the gate”

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL It was supposed to be a closed doors, confidential briefing of the National Security Commission of the Parliament by the Intelligence Services. Yet the report delivered by Director Bendo very conveniently was leaked whole to the government

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Editorial: Making Fools of Themselves: Experimenting in Fake Oppositions

Editorial: Making Fools of Themselves: Experimenting in Fake Oppositions

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL  In the beginning of the 90s, the crumbling communist regime foreseeing its fate made a last ridiculous attempt to salvage its wrecks by prompting the first fake opposition in Albania. They put the Women’s and Youth organizations

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Editorial: A sleep walking patient aiming for the abyss

Editorial: A sleep walking patient aiming for the abyss

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is only one thing worse than a full blown democratic crisis and that is ignoring it, normalizing the current state of affairs as just an administrative glitch with some teargas protest flare. Any doctor will tell

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Editorial: Negative stability is a step into the dark

Editorial: Negative stability is a step into the dark

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The latest political developments in Albania, including the decision of opposition parties MPs to give relinquish their mandates and therefore be no longer representatives in the Parliament as well as the ongoing protests, have started a new

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Editorial: The protest that determines the fate of the opposition

Editorial: The protest that determines the fate of the opposition

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The Albanian opposition led by the Democratic Party has announced a large national protest to be held this week on the 16th of February. In fact the opposition has more than enough material to use in legitimizing

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Editorial: A foreign policy all over the place

Editorial: A foreign policy all over the place

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is a big and important difference between a foreign policy of 360 degrees- a comprehensive, strategic point of view that seeks to have an open collaborative approach to all partners with the aim of increasing potential

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Editorial: Elections, the need for fighting impunity

Editorial: Elections, the need for fighting impunity

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL This week brought new revelations into the now exposed and painful topic of the connections between Albanian politicians and organized crime. The latter seems to be a fountain of resources, votes and local influence from which skilled

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By  Susanne Schütz

On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed, deserve to be commemorated.

Going back 70 years to 1949 Germany was a war torn country, situated exactly on the border between East and West. The iron curtain – up until 30 years ago – ran through the middle of my country. Germany became a member of the alliance in 1955, once the Bundeswehr had been founded. During the Cold War, the importance of the security shield which NATO provided to Germany and its Western European neighbors, cannot be overestimated. Germany was always able to rely on its partners, and first and foremost on the US, even when the Cold War was at its hottest.

When finally the Cold War came to an end, and in 1991 the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, some saw (or wished?) the same fate for NATO as well. But NATO adapted to new challenges and - moreover – became a reliable ally also to some of its former “enemies”.

Up to this date, the dispute over whether NATO promised to Russia not to expand towards former Warsaw Pact territory for some is still on the agenda. However, as a matter of fact, it was not NATO expanding towards Middle and Eastern Europe, but, on the contrary, these countries were asking to become members of NATO because they wanted to be part of NATO’s security shield, and, more than that, be part of the transatlantic alliance which – other than the Warsaw Pact – has always been more than a mere military or defensive alliance but rather a transatlantic community of values.

And it is precisely this feature which made NATO attractive also to Albania and to the countries in this region – although, of course, NATO’s role in the Balkans remains a controversial to some! Still, while NATO and European military deployment in Kosovo and Bosnia played a critical role in de-escalating these conflicts, it was ultimately the impact of NATO’s and the EU’s enlargement policy that helped build and maintain peace in this region.

As early as 1994 Albania became a member of the Partnership for Peace-programme through which it learned about the values and objectives of NATO, as well as the expectations placed on member states’ ability for cooperation. Leading up to its entrance into NATO in 2009, Albania also undertook significant domestic, political, and military reforms.

Albania has since significantly contributed to security and stability in this strategically important region in South Eastern Europe. In addition, Albania has also contributed to international NATO led missions, i.e. Albania deployed over 3.000 troops with ISAF. It has also been an active supporter of the campaign against terrorism since 2001, and continues its participation in the face of new and emerging threats such as the Islamic State.

We welcome very much that in 2017 Montenegro became NATO’S 29th member and Northern Macedonia will follow early next year. And it seems that even relations between NATO and Serbia – 20 years after the NATO bombardment during the Kosovo crisis – are slowly getting better.

Today, NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges to which NATO is formulating adequate and adapted answers: conflict in Eastern Ukraine/Crimea, the post-INF scenario, but also Cyber and Hybrid warfares. And it is precisely against the background of newly developing crises also in Europe that the EU is - in support of NATO - increasing its operability in crisis management and its defense capabilities through PESCO – the Permanent Structured Cooperation, which was created by 25 EU Member States in late 2017.

I am convinced, that today is far from being “outdated” as some have stated. We Germans know very well how important the transatlantic partnership remains for international cooperation and multilateral understanding, especially in a world of growing uncertainties.

[post_title] => "NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges" [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => nato-at-the-age-of-70-is-facing-many-new-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-22 11:32:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-22 10:32:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141000 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140997 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-21 21:35:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-21 20:35:35 [post_content] => Leyla Moses-Ones As I begin these remarks, I want to take you back to April 4, 1949, the day the United States formally tied its safety and security to that of Europe for the first time.  Before the signing ceremony, President Harry Truman stood beside Secretary of State Dean Acheson and outlined what the pact was about – “a shield against aggression that would enable governments to concentrate on achieving a fuller, happier existence for their citizens.” That remains the collective aspiration of the members of the NATO Alliance. For 70 years, NATO has helped to create the most secure, stable, and prosperous period in its members’ history.  From deterring the Soviet Union during the Cold War to countering the hybrid threats that confront us today, NATO Allies have stood together to protect our people and defend the values we believe in.  United as one, we have formed the most successful alliance in history. This is our legacy as NATO Allies. This is the legacy we must continue to build going forward. The U.S. commitment to NATO is absolute.  The members of NATO are our Allies of first resort.  We have stood together – and our soldiers have fought and died together – in operations as far from NATO’s borders as Afghanistan, where NATO has fought for more than a decade.  The United States is better able to address — politically and militarily — global threats to our shared values and interests because of the NATO alliance. During the last 70 years, NATO’s only Article 5 action has been in support of the United States following the 9/11 attacks. We have achieved great success over the past 70 years, but our work is not done.  Russia is determined to undermine our democratic institutions and sew divisions among us and within our nations.  Russian hybrid threats aimed at our democracies have included nerve agent attacks and malicious cyber activities. It has invaded and occupied parts of Ukraine and Georgia, violating those countries’ sovereignty.  Russia has also been in material breach of the INF treaty, which erodes the foundation of effective arms control and Euro-Atlantic security. Russia is one threat, but not the only threat.  North Korea and Iran, led by their rogue regimes, threaten to upset the world order through their dangerous tactics.  And terrorism remains a constant and pervasive threat to our alliance. NATO is as important to our security today as at any time in our 70-year history. In the face of these challenges, the United States remains committed to the principle that we, as NATO Allies, will always be stronger united as one.  NATO is a military alliance, but our collective strength comes from our shared values. It comes from our shared commitment to the rights and responsibilities inherent to our democracies, such as the personal freedoms we enjoy and the integrity and transparency of the governments that represent us.  These are our greatest strengths. These are the values and principles we stand for and defend. To build on that strength, the United States remains committed to expanding NATO membership.  We must keep NATO’s doors open for new members who share our values and our promise of collective defense.  Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has added 13 new members. The United States strongly supports NATO membership for North Macedonia as the 30th Ally.  Each new Ally has strengthened NATO’s collective defense and ability to safeguard our peace and prosperity. For ten years, Albania has made our Alliance stronger through its commitment of troops and resources to Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Iraq, among several other missions.  It commits 3.9 percent of its military forces to NATO activities, representing the second-largest per capita troop contribution in the alliance. And Albania will continue to make the alliance stronger through NATO’s $58 million investment to modernize the Kucova Air Base to boost air supply operations, logistics support, air policing, training, and exercises.  Albania’s outsized role in the alliance is an example for all Ally nations. As Albania’s role in NATO grows, so will its responsibility to make continued progress on democratic reforms.  These reforms are fundamental to the values our alliance defends, and are central to Albania’s bid to join the European Union.  Progress must continue to improve the rule of law, root out corruption and organized crime, and create a robust economy that is free and fair for everyone.  The good news is that Albania is headed in the right direction, even if there is still work to do. Justice reform, for example, is still on track and will soon bring Albanians the honest and transparent judicial system they deserve.  To anyone who says justice reform is compromised or failing, my message to you is this: You are wrong. The United States remains committed to the pledge all Allies made to share the financial burden of NATO membership.  In 2014, all NATO Allies agreed to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense and to invest at least 20 percent of that spending on major equipment by 2024.  Doing so keeps our military forces strong, our equipment modern, and our alliance agile as we counter threats together. The pledge we made is a pledge we must all keep. And Albania is working hard to keep this pledge despite many other priorities.  In 2017, it made its first significant increase in defense spending – a first since it joined the alliance in 2009.  Now, and in the coming years, Albania must meet its agreed upon annual defense spending targets to be on track to fulfill its 2024 commitment.  The United States applauds Albania for its commitment to NATO burden-sharing and supports its continued efforts through 2024. As NATO Allies, we must continue to invest in national defense, grow and modernize our military capabilities, and contribute to NATO’s efforts to promote the safety and security of our citizens.  We are in this together. Working together, we will be stronger and better equipped to protect our shared peace and prosperity long into the future.   [post_title] => “Our collective strength comes from our shared values” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => our-collective-strength-comes-from-our-shared-values [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-21 21:35:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-21 20:35:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140997 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140987 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-21 21:00:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-21 20:00:46 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL One could not overestimate and overvalue the importance, both symbolic and real, of Albania’s membership to NATO even if they tried. After five decades of the most aggressive and absurd isolationism practiced by the Stalinist regime of Hoxha, Albania needed desperately to reclaim its position among the members of the Western world, to be integrated in the Euro-Atlantic structures, to be anchored in the part of the world that aspires and works constantly at reaching the best standards of democracy, human rights and development. When Albania, a country so communist that it shunned the Warsaw pact for not being enough, officially was invited to become part of NATO, the country’s history took an entirely new direction. Another genuine perspective opened up for Albanian young generations who could now be born and grow up in liberty and safety due to the Alliance’s promise of peace and security. Becoming a NATO member state signaled the ultimate departure with the legacy of the communist regime, significantly improving the image of Albania, increasing its safety and openness to the world, consolidating its strategic profile as a security exporter in the entire region of the Balkans. Now a decade later, Albania has a track record of having participated in multiple joint peace missions and operations, of having performed well with its modest presence but meaningful symbolism. Sadly it has also paid a price that comes with the engagement to provide security for more than just its own: by losing the hero Feti Vogli in Afghanistan. His sacrifice and the sacrifice of all the Albanian soldiers, now working side by side with their colleagues for all over the world within the umbrella of NATO, is one that should be remembered and honored every day and more so in this special anniversary. However this is a dual moment of celebration and of reflection. Albania has a lot of work to do to comply with the general profile of a worthy member state. Whereas the standards in the army are being slowly but consistently improved with international assistance, the same cannot unfortunately be said about the democratic and governance standards. In this key 10th year anniversary, ironically Albania finds itself in one of the most critical junctures when it comes to the genuine quality of its democratic system and institutions. NATO membership is both a privilege and a responsibility to never let the guard down but work consistently into reaching the parameters of the democratic world.    In times when the transAtlantic relations are in a new challenging and controversial phase and when the role and future of NATO as a peace alliance is being debated it is worthy to remember the story of a small country like Albania and its path. This example will shed new light on the strategic role and NATO had and still has in bringing together a community of states that share values and the unique valuable commitment to guard each other’s backs.     *The picture depicts the elementary school named after Albanian hero Feti Vogli in his home village.   [post_title] => Editorial: 10 years of NATO: the membership that changed Albania’s path for the better course [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-10-years-of-nato-the-membership-that-changed-albanias-path-for-the-better-course [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-21 21:00:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-21 20:00:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140987 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140906 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-15 10:19:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:19:24 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL It was supposed to be a closed doors, confidential briefing of the National Security Commission of the Parliament by the Intelligence Services. Yet the report delivered by Director Bendo very conveniently was leaked whole to the government friendly media and showcased all over the online world. The Russians are coming! Reportedly the attempts of Russia to influence Albania at least in the political sphere have intensified and are now considered a real threat. This message is awkwardly timely and in line with the now clearly defined effort of the majority to paint an outside enemy- loathed by the public- and portray a conspiracy of collusion between this enemy of the European future of Albania and the current opposition. The current situation of the Albanian opposition which has been at loggerheads with the international community over the issue of renouncing the mandates has been helping this narrative take hold. However these attempts date earlier both to the Prime Minister’s persistence to use outside influences as bait for more attention from western powers as well as the majority’s key figure of accusing the leadership of the Democratic Party of being paid by the Russians and working with Russian lobbyists. More recently there have been also accusations that foreign bloggers working in Albania are working for Russian state-sponsored media to assist the cause of the opposition. First and foremost it is deeply concerning that an institution such as the Intelligence Services can play into the majority game. This institution which holds a very delicate responsibility and should display the outmost seriousness and professionalism, integrity and secrecy, risk its entire legitimacy and influence by being misused in such a way. The same is valid and even worse for the misuse of the Parliament to host such ridiculous shows. If it was the MPs who betrayed the confidentiality of the Intelligence services they should be held responsible over this transgression.  That the media is routinely used for such masquerades is sadly no news. It is very clear to all that the Democratic Party (DP) just as all other political parties have many sins to account for. However anti-Westerness is not one of them. This party has been primarily and consistently in favor of an open approach, seeking to further integration, achieving NATO membership and visa liberalization during its governance. If one is to look into the past, it is the Socialist Party which at least in its beginnings had many reservations, about NTAO and the EU. They have had to overcome that mentality. The DP had nothing to overcome in the first place. Inventing this enemy and naming it ‘Russia’ for Albania is an exercise in futile dark humor. Though access points of influence exist in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro they rely on genuine grassroots support linked to many factors including religious and ethnic fraternity. Albania is a unique case in which all the conditions are set for there to be no way of swaying popular and political support to Russia in the short and medium term. The only thing at the gates of Albania is the Russian model applied elsewhere as well, of an intertwining of authoritative power with a small group of corrupt oligarchs, virtually unchallenged by any media and strangely accommodated by others in the international arena in the name of stability.      [post_title] => Editorial: "Russians at the gate" [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-russians-at-the-gate [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-15 10:19:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:19:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140906 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140805 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-08 09:42:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-08 08:42:22 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL  In the beginning of the 90s, the crumbling communist regime foreseeing its fate made a last ridiculous attempt to salvage its wrecks by prompting the first fake opposition in Albania. They put the Women’s and Youth organizations together with the so called Professional Unions, all appendixes of the communist Labor Party, in the parliament and tried to charade them as pluralism. This had been so far a unique case of fake opposition experimenting in Albania, perhaps now forgotten and in retrospective painfully ridiculous but at the time aggravating and foretelling. The most current attempt is made now, more than 25 years after the fall of communism, in a NATO member state aspiring to join the EU. It is equally ridiculous, painful and infuriating. After the MPs of the opposition, both the Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration, “burned” their mandates by resigning, the electoral system allows the next candidates in the list presented during the elections to take up their space. This is a classic “entry from hell” edition since the political party leaders, being more or less aware of how many MPs they are going to get for each district, fill up the last places in the list with all sorts of characters. These include people with dubious backgrounds, questionable education levels and very often colorful personalities and not in the good sense. Indeed this last experiment in “mending the facade of democracy” is very telling about the deficiencies of the electoral system. The existing system with all its authoritativeness and arbitrary nature opens up loopholes and spaces for these kind of sad scenarios to materialize in all their repulsive nature. The political leaders that lament its outcomes should have drawn the lesson long ago and changed it. Out of the new generation of the Albanians opposition taking seat in the Parliament this week, it is enough to examine one character that illustrates perfectly the scandalous undesired outcome of this situation: a former turbo folk singer that will make journalists laugh in every outing given his “interesting” use of Albanian language. To be fair he does not fare worse than many existing or even staying colleagues, whose professional and articulation credentials are also appalling. The main problem is again the lack of representativeness than he and the others who join in an almost clandestine way, and who clearly do not represent the parties under which logos they were chosen and out of which they are thrown away for not complying with the boycott decision. That these new MPs, are loudly applauded by the majority during their procedure of swearing in, is another act of ridiculous arrogance and perfidious indifference to the crisis situation out of the Assembly walls. This meaningless applause is revealing not only of the harsh insensitivity of the majority towards the gravity of the situation but also of their own lack of character and their submission to the authoritative mentality. The staged appearance of a fake opposition did not solve anything in the 90s. If anything it exacerbated the revolt of the other side and it ultimately brought lots of shame on the ones who tried it. The fake opposition of the year 2019 has no better chance. [post_title] => Editorial: Making Fools of Themselves: Experimenting in Fake Oppositions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-making-fools-of-themselves-experimenting-in-fake-oppositions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-08 09:42:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-08 08:42:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140805 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140740 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-01 11:11:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-01 10:11:10 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is only one thing worse than a full blown democratic crisis and that is ignoring it, normalizing the current state of affairs as just an administrative glitch with some teargas protest flare. Any doctor will tell that a right diagnosis is the first step for treatment. They might rightly add that the diagnosis needs to be timely. If a patient loses time, pretends that symptoms are temporary and not serious he will inch towards the inevitable much sooner leaving the doctors helpless. What is happening now in Albania is the revelation of all the grave symptoms created by the failure of the governance model and the crumbling facade of the democracy. Yet many actors of the society go on acting as if things are completely normal, as if there are only some small surmountable obstacles to political life. The same is valid for most of the international community that seems to have directed its criticism only to one side. One can only shrug at the irony of these declarations claiming that the crisis is ruining Albania’s image and touristic potential when the house is indeed on fire. Albania is now in the midst of a double representation and institutional vacuum: it has no Constitutional Court and no formal opposition in the Parliament. Even the most basic checks and balances that guarantee the monitoring of executive power and keeping it within the limits of the democratic game are missing. The gap leaves the entire system in a frightening disarray. For as much as the majority and the Prime Minister continue the mantra of “keeping the contract with the electorate” and the international community plays at being a moderator for the sake of ‘negotiations’ or ‘image related issues’ or the simple preservation of stability,  then what we have is a normalization of a situation that is far from being acceptable. It seems like an effort to make a nightmare look tolerable. Albanian democracy needs a strategic rethinking and reestablishment of the most basic rules of the game starting with the process of elections which the genesis of all evil that follows. It further needs the safekeeping of institutional checks and balances and their protection from the aggressive and blind show of force of majorities. It needs a real chance of giving each indispensable actor in the system its role to play with responsibility and vision. Downplaying the seriousness and scope of the crisis, ignoring the powerful messages that come from the popular and political discontent might serve short term political goals and lengthen the shelf life of the already damaged facades. It can only go so far as to maintain a fragile negative stability. However borrowing the opening metaphor right now it seems as if a team of doctors were to rest in complete indifference while their patient sleep walks into an abyss. [post_title] => Editorial: A sleep walking patient aiming for the abyss [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-a-sleep-walking-patient-aiming-for-the-abyss [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-01 11:11:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-01 10:11:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140740 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140635 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-02-22 10:51:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-22 09:51:59 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The latest political developments in Albania, including the decision of opposition parties MPs to give relinquish their mandates and therefore be no longer representatives in the Parliament as well as the ongoing protests, have started a new phase for the country. Albanian society seems to be entering a slow but definite downwards spiral of regress, which puts at risk no only short term expectations, such as the decision about the EU accession negotiations in June, but also more importantly long term trends of democratic development. This decision of the Albanian opposition parties is indeed extreme and unparalleled. However to get a comprehensive and accurate understanding of it, one needs to keep in mind the context and the reasons which brought to this situation in the first place. The opposition was put in a corner and arm-wrestled into an obsolete position by the majority’s utter arrogance and disdain for the checks-and-balances system that makes democracies functional. This government has displayed some of the most extravagant cases of grand corruption and has got away with almost full impunity. They have disregarded several laws and decisions that were brought back for consideration by the Institution of the President for being unconstitutional. They have shown the force of their green pieces of cardboard in the Parliament with almost a ridiculous feeling of self- content. Now they are left to wave those cards in an empty hall in vain. This extreme situation calls for serious reflection and a different course of action. In this context, some words are necessary on the role of the international community in Albania which for all different kind of reasons continues to be very determinant. It has been the consistent position of this community to favor stability over democracy. This has been observed also in the entire region. This obsessive dedication to stability at all costs has generated negative outcomes elsewhere and in Albania in the past. Stability at the conditions of disrespect for democratic institutions is neither sustainable nor desirable. It is a step into the dark. The Albanian society for sure does not need violence. This is a call that all responsible actors should hear well and promote with all possible strength. However just the same, this country cannot any longer be trapped into a dysfunctional, authoritarian system put in place through elections manipulated with the help of organized crime and upheld by concessions given shamelessly to oligarchic interest.  It has been painfully evidenced by several serious media investigations that organized crime networks have been decisive in electoral outcomes in Albania both during general and local elections. The students’ protest brought down the façade of the governance to reveal the shattered scene behind it. The opposition’s decision to burn their mandates is the first step to tear the threadbare façade of the democracy. Before the country destabilizes entirely a new deal is necessary. The international community should seek ways into this and not lose time with obstructive copy paste declarations from the past. [post_title] => Editorial: Negative stability is a step into the dark [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-negative-stability-is-a-step-into-the-dark [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-02-22 10:51:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-22 09:51:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140635 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140550 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-02-15 12:05:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-15 11:05:53 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The Albanian opposition led by the Democratic Party has announced a large national protest to be held this week on the 16th of February. In fact the opposition has more than enough material to use in legitimizing and powering the protest. The popular discontent is palpable and high. There have been many unearthed corruption scandals with fictitious tenders, fraud documents as well as quit a few wrongfully calculated political and public moves. The Rilindje governance model has been destroyed and no effort of replacing the cabinet with anonymous servants or painting facades with glossy propaganda can any longer salvage its reputation. The discontent has spread from the supporters of the opposition into the larger public and even among the ranks of the Socialist Party especially those who don’t feel represented by the new guard of the loyalist to the chief of the cabinet. The protest’s declared objective is to make possible the change of government since the opposition does not trust that this one can even hold free and fair elections. This extremely ambitious objective has an embedded element of fallibility in it. Achieving it might require a level of aggressiveness and lawlessness which is all but certain to turn into a boomerang. Not achieving it will decrease the legitimacy and trust in the opposition to a degree that it renders it obsolete. Herein lies the biggest question of how the opposition believes and plans to materialize the objective. First, they can opt for a violent scenario, confronting with the police, charging at the state offices. That would destabilize the country at least in the short term and cause irreparable harm both domestically and in the international area. Moreover it has a strong potential not only to backfire by losing to a large degree the popular support. Indeed all sides, especially the state police, must show maturity and moderation and have the protest as a completely free and democratic practice of the citizens devoid of any dangerous exercise of violence. Alternatively the opposition can chose to re-establish their ‘tent’ camped in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, which secures a long term pressure. It is questionable though what exactly this might achieve given that the DP has declared it will not boycott the local elections in June. They can use it to exert some pressure on the international community on the eve of the decision about opening the negotiations. However it is now almost public knowledge that that specific outcome depends much more on the dynamics within the EU and especially on the relevant EU Parliament elections in May. Finally the protest might be a massive peaceful gathering that disperses at the end of the day.  It can succeed to convey the considerable scale of popular revolt but go no further. In this case the opposition would face the problem of media and the public questioning its long term strategy and legitimacy. It would deepen the already visible cracks within the opposition, between its two major parties and with other smaller allies. The decision taken for the conduct of this protest will determine the long term course of the Albanian opposition: whether it will steer slowly towards the next general elections or upset the status quo profoundly in order to seek new power arrangements. The protest will also be decisive for the position of the leader of the DP and his vision for the next 2-3 years. Saturday will be a day to watch very closely. [post_title] => Editorial: The protest that determines the fate of the opposition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-protest-that-determines-the-fate-of-the-opposition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-02-15 12:05:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-15 11:05:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140550 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140480 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-02-08 09:52:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-08 08:52:30 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There is a big and important difference between a foreign policy of 360 degrees- a comprehensive, strategic point of view that seeks to have an open collaborative approach to all partners with the aim of increasing potential benefits while respecting norms and a foreign policy that is all over the place- a scattered ad hoc array of hasty actions, improvisations and performances. The latter seems to be now the reigning approach for the Albanian executive who is currently everywhere, moving speedily and chaotically, with no clarity or mature objectivity in sight: one day it is trying constantly to borrow legitimacy and credit by hastily following and even taking to extremes policies and stances perceived as backed by the current administration in the United States, the other day its already on to a spectacularly curated visit to Saudi Arabia. The Prime Minister, haunted by his past life comments on then candidate Trump, rushes to recognize the new President of Venezuela even before major EU countries do so, as if the Albanian recognition would determine their fate, then it holds speeches in the Parliament presenting   himself as the mediator who picks the calls of advisor Bolton. This kind of foreign policy resembles a big circus tent where uncoordinated actors perform clumsily under the alleged management of the 28 year old Kosovo-born ‘brilliant book reader turned into minister’ Gent Cakaj when he takes a break from reshaping the Balkans’ history or finding fresh jokes of rebuttal to Ivica Dacic.  In fact it is under the de-jure and de-facto rule of the Chief of the Executive who is juggling many balls in the air and risks to drop them all. These are decisive times for the European future of the region. The Republic of North Macedonia just signed the accession protocol with NATO. In a couple of month the EU Council will decide upon the accession negotiations for both countries, Albania and Macedonia. It is the time for clarity and focus and not scattered attempts at buying diversions from domestic problems, winning special credit for being aggressive with policies that are in fact much debated in the EU itself such as hardline anti-Iran measures and most importantly toying with ill-timed nationalism. These unpredictable patterns and moves are unproductive and moreover even confusing to all the important allies and partners. This paper has argued before that Albania cannot realistically play the giant in international relations and in the global arena therefore it should not do so. By trying to do is just making itself look unreliable and even ridiculous at times.  In addition when talking on behalf of Kosovo, Albanian politicians are repeating mistakes that legitimize Serbian narrative against Kosovo’s distinct independent statehood and bother the Kosovo political class. Albania can and should benefit from keeping on its toes, scanning potential assistance and investments from trusted partners all over the globe, respecting commitments to alliances while being creative in it economic and cultural diplomacy. This is 360 degrees foreign policy. What we are witnessing with the conduct of the key foreign policy players today is not it. They just seem to be all over the place. [post_title] => Editorial: A foreign policy all over the place [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-a-foreign-policy-all-over-the-place [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-02-08 09:52:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-02-08 08:52:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140480 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140364 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-01-31 19:11:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-31 18:11:53 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL This week brought new revelations into the now exposed and painful topic of the connections between Albanian politicians and organized crime. The latter seems to be a fountain of resources, votes and local influence from which skilled politicians draw especially during local electoral campaigns and to which they have to give back in multiple forms of protections, favoritism and lucrative deals with public funds. During general elections when matters get bigger and more decisive politicians have to enlist in this crime coalition also the bigger serious guns, the monopolies, oligarchs and media (often merged into each other.) One important matter is the ongoing investigation on the alleged links between the Avdylaj crime syndicate and the current mayor of Durres, Vangjush Dako. The list of telephone intercepts that verifies his numerous conversations, dinners, lunches and exchanges with the two Avdylaj narco-brothers is damning at least and if the prosecution makes the case very gravely incriminating.  The narco-group seems to extend its tentacles all over various areas in Kavaja and Shijak in addition to Durres and count in their special friends’ list many directors of local government offices and national agencies. Of course the Durres mayor is not alone in this mega dark enterprise. Part of the same topic are also the facts discovered in the manipulations of local elections in Dibra where again strongmen and political parties join hands effectively in overturning historical trends of voters with the right kind of pressure. This list of now public interceptions is a clear and uncontested piece of evidence of electoral fraud at a large scale. From these facts the model is clear: Organized crime syndicates in many Albanian localities are fully in charge of managing the electoral process, controlling its stakeholders and eventually determining the winners. In this process they have in fact mined the entire premises of a modern democratic system which relies fully on free and fair elections. The facts brought forward by a domestic investigation have been republished by the Voice of America outlet, which have vested them even with more legitimacy. This case merits quick and effective justice and full punishment. This case is the perfect example that needs to show the most dire consequences and harsh verdicts in order to urge political parties to depart from this dark and destructive symbiosis that has captured the state and paralyzed any form of development both political and economic. Otherwise the perception of impunity will wash away all remaining hope and sense of civic responsibility among voters who will again fall prey to these tactics of vote buying, coercion and manipulation. Another process is approaching fast, the local elections at the end of June 2019. The polarization and lack of political dialogue between the two main parties so far has impeded the talks on electoral reform despite many urges form the international organizations. So far there are no additional rules in the process that would increase control and accountability. However the justice structures have enough clear and credible materials at hand to make a decisive step in steering this future electoral process and the other ones after it into the right direction. Finally the case needs to be made over and over again that citizens also should be empowered to refute this model, no matter their vulnerabilities against the system. Elections are the genesis point and is they are comprised all what follows cannot guarantee their security, wellbeing and development. On the contrary it will be the first obstacle. [post_title] => Editorial: Elections, the need for fighting impunity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-elections-the-need-for-fighting-impunity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-31 19:11:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-31 18:11:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140364 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141000 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-22 11:32:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-22 10:32:36 [post_content] =>

By  Susanne Schütz

On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed, deserve to be commemorated.

Going back 70 years to 1949 Germany was a war torn country, situated exactly on the border between East and West. The iron curtain – up until 30 years ago – ran through the middle of my country. Germany became a member of the alliance in 1955, once the Bundeswehr had been founded. During the Cold War, the importance of the security shield which NATO provided to Germany and its Western European neighbors, cannot be overestimated. Germany was always able to rely on its partners, and first and foremost on the US, even when the Cold War was at its hottest.

When finally the Cold War came to an end, and in 1991 the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, some saw (or wished?) the same fate for NATO as well. But NATO adapted to new challenges and - moreover – became a reliable ally also to some of its former “enemies”.

Up to this date, the dispute over whether NATO promised to Russia not to expand towards former Warsaw Pact territory for some is still on the agenda. However, as a matter of fact, it was not NATO expanding towards Middle and Eastern Europe, but, on the contrary, these countries were asking to become members of NATO because they wanted to be part of NATO’s security shield, and, more than that, be part of the transatlantic alliance which – other than the Warsaw Pact – has always been more than a mere military or defensive alliance but rather a transatlantic community of values.

And it is precisely this feature which made NATO attractive also to Albania and to the countries in this region – although, of course, NATO’s role in the Balkans remains a controversial to some! Still, while NATO and European military deployment in Kosovo and Bosnia played a critical role in de-escalating these conflicts, it was ultimately the impact of NATO’s and the EU’s enlargement policy that helped build and maintain peace in this region.

As early as 1994 Albania became a member of the Partnership for Peace-programme through which it learned about the values and objectives of NATO, as well as the expectations placed on member states’ ability for cooperation. Leading up to its entrance into NATO in 2009, Albania also undertook significant domestic, political, and military reforms.

Albania has since significantly contributed to security and stability in this strategically important region in South Eastern Europe. In addition, Albania has also contributed to international NATO led missions, i.e. Albania deployed over 3.000 troops with ISAF. It has also been an active supporter of the campaign against terrorism since 2001, and continues its participation in the face of new and emerging threats such as the Islamic State.

We welcome very much that in 2017 Montenegro became NATO’S 29th member and Northern Macedonia will follow early next year. And it seems that even relations between NATO and Serbia – 20 years after the NATO bombardment during the Kosovo crisis – are slowly getting better.

Today, NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges to which NATO is formulating adequate and adapted answers: conflict in Eastern Ukraine/Crimea, the post-INF scenario, but also Cyber and Hybrid warfares. And it is precisely against the background of newly developing crises also in Europe that the EU is - in support of NATO - increasing its operability in crisis management and its defense capabilities through PESCO – the Permanent Structured Cooperation, which was created by 25 EU Member States in late 2017.

I am convinced, that today is far from being “outdated” as some have stated. We Germans know very well how important the transatlantic partnership remains for international cooperation and multilateral understanding, especially in a world of growing uncertainties.

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