The power of the individual

By Alba Cela A few weeks ago, a member of the DP parliamentary group, Gilman Bakalli resigned from the group and became an independent MP. The media storm that followed has abated now. The sensational and unexpected declarations of Bakalli

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Games Serbia P[l]ays

By Ivan Delibasic “Sadly, Serbia is not a Russian province, but it surely will never be an EU colony.” These words, spoken out by newly elected Speaker of Serbian Parliament [and the Speaker himself] are the outcome of a constant

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The Terrors Of Justice In Montenegro: Free the Tuzi Fourteen

by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi It has been more than six months since fourteen Albanians, including three American citizens, were seized from their beds in Tuzi in the wee hours of the morning of September 9, 2006, by a masked and

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Albanians should all feel a sense of disgust about the Fort Dix plot

Albanians, and particularly those Kosovars who took refuge at Fort Dix in 1999, may want to express your gratitude to the soldiers at Fort Dix. If so, one way to communicate this message is via this address: Col. R. David

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The Presidential Puzzle

By Jerina Zaloshnja TIRANA, May 4 – Though there is less than a month till the election for the country’s new president, the ruling government coalition and the opposition are far from a consensus for a presidential candidate. Prime Minister

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From Kosovo crisis to Albanian hiking: the impressions of a Danish ambassador in Albania

By By Alba ȥla The appointment of HE Ambassador Niels Severin Munk coincided with that of he Albanian Ambassador in Denmark, Aferdita Dalla, a former advisor of former Foreign Minister Mustafaj. This higher step that follows previous lower diplomatic representation

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Russia Benefits From Kosova

By Janusz Bugajski Russia’s delaying tactics in United Nations Security Council decisions over Kosova are motivated by several strategic ambitions. The Putin regime is determined to raise Russia’s stature as a major international player in competition with the United States,

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Scaring away real money and the fines law

By Alba 覬a There is a huge debate being carried out in Albania about the fines law proposed and approved by the Economy Commission that obliges businesses to pay the full amount of fines given by tax authorities prior to

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Presenting the other Iran

By Alba ȥla The diplomatic relationships between Iran and Albania started off in 1992 and saw a steady development in all fields. The Iranian presence through investments, diplomatic presence and the cultural foundation Saadi Shirazi is noticeable even now. Albania

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Albanian Airlines: Towards both European destinations and standards

When Christian Heinzmann left his position at LuxAir, Belgian air company he knew he needed a change. Among the different job offers from worldwide companies he had to make a choice. Prior to accepting a leading position with Albanian Airlines,

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                    [post_content] => By Alba Cela
A few weeks ago, a member of the DP parliamentary group, Gilman Bakalli resigned from the group and became an independent MP. The media storm that followed has abated now. The sensational and unexpected declarations of Bakalli and his meaningful departure from the DP parliamentary group were a real shock to most Albanian commentators at the time who dashed to analyze them in the context of eroding governing coalition and internal party disputes. Few were the people who went one step further in probing the significance of this gesture, which -needs to be stressed- has been by no means easy on Bakalli himself. In a TV program experienced analyst Mentor Nazarko briefly mentioned it, but rushed to peruse other aspects of the event. What he said though, that "the gesture of Bakalli reminds us of the amazing power of the individual", deserves better scrutiny and more media exposure. 
The leader of the right wing governing coalition, the DP has traditionally shown signs of internal totalitarian mindset. Reading this gesture as a sign of diversification of the right, as Prec Zogaj in the same TV interview did, is clearly unjustified. Bakalli's tone and statement showed clearly that he abhored "the communist system" (in his own words) installed in the decision making process of his party. What has provoked his extreme gesture, which puts in serious jeopardy his function as a representative of his electoral zone, is not the sudden diversification of thought in the DP, but its complete lack. Bakalli's concerns were both of a local nature, the marginalization of Shkodra's economic and social problems in the government's agenda, and of a more general political one: the disfigurement of the DP's character through its conduct and policies while in power. 
Bakalli sought the only remaining channel out of the gloomy box he found himself in: a party that was not responding to its promises, not responding to its electorate and not responding to his personal political beliefs and views. Since the group was not hosting his political persona any further, he chose to become an individual seeking on his own the fulfillment of his goals and of his personal responsibility towards the electorate that made him a MP. This explains also his following refusal to join any other parliamentary group. Becoming an individual Bakalli rediscovered the strength to blame every single one of these concern on specific names and last names, a gesture that will definitely cost him politically but that is to him as an individual no longer a liability.
As part of a group that was no longer a framework of agreement and cooperation, a host to his ides and projects, Bakalli remained powerless. As an individual expressing his revolt he gained power from the very first move. He provoked a serious and engaging debate, he gathered the positive reaction of many member of his electorate and he was free to complete his term serving in an independent, though unfortunately by all odds not efficient, way.
Last week the same person hit the news again by climbing the hill in Shkodra where the Top-Channel antennas were located and reactivating the TV signal for the audience in a clear defiance of the administration's decision to deprive this part of the country from one f the most popular TV channels in the country. Hence there is an untold message that is left almost untouched by the crowd of media-s ad analysts, and that the Albanian public seems to be in danger of forgetting as well: the power of one individual to stand up to a system, to sacrifice some of career or his personal interest and disentangle himself by virtue of protecting some basic principles. We would need a few extra Bakalli-s in that case. 
                    [post_title] =>  The power of the individual  
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                    [post_content] => By Ivan Delibasic
"Sadly, Serbia is not a Russian province, but it surely will never be an EU colony." These words, spoken out by newly elected Speaker of Serbian Parliament [and the Speaker himself] are the outcome of a constant and consistent policy of certain politicians in Serbia throughout the last four years. The very policy ignored, neglected, even justified and thus legitimized by the international community, from the prosecutor of ICTY to EU Commissioners, a policy of permanent radicalization of Serbian political main-stream. 
The process that began defending the plotters to assassinate PM Zoran Djindjic, continued with the formation of Government with support of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia [SPS] and not supporting presidential candidate of Democrat Party [DS] against newly elected Speaker of Serbian Parliament, followed by the building coalition with Serbian Radical Party [SRS] in Novi Sad [capital of Vojvodina province] and bringing representatives of SRS into the Parliament of Montenegro, had its glorious finale in electing Tomislav Nikolic [SRS] for Speaker.
Tomislav Nikolic has been a deputy to Vojislav Seselj who is indicted in ICTY for crimes against humanity and violation of the laws and customs of war, deputy to Mirko Marjanovic in Serbian Government and 1999. deputy to Momir Bulatovic in Federal Government of FRY [during that period federal army and Serbian police forces committed major atrocities in Kosovo], representative of the most violent, chauvinistic, xenophobic political organization in Balkans. This is an impressive CV even by local standards.
That morning, in that Assembly, the political image of Serbia was clearer than ever - side by side, shoulder by shoulder in a half-empty chamber Kostunica's Democrat Party of Serbia [DSS], Seselj's SRS and Milosevic's SPS voted for Speaker, just like in "the good old days". Deputies of G17 PLUS, DS and Liberal Democrat Party [LDP] had left the building. 
This act by Kostunica's DSS finally exposed the illusion about them as a pro-European, honestly democratic political organization, a mirage that fooled so many politicians outside Serbia and, unfortunately, many citizens of Serbia. More than a year after the suspension of the SAA negotiations with the EU over the lack of cooperation with the ICTY, representatives of the very same government responsible for the SAA showed how insignificant Europe really is to them. 
On Thursday Serbia took over the presidency of the Council of Europe. Without raising a flagŠnot much of a statement from European human rights organization to a genocide-friendly country [extensive interpretation of the ruling of ICJ] with a genocidal Speaker. But if Russia can, so can a Russian province wannabe, right? If nothing else, the Speaker reminded us all that Serbia is still a part of alliance of Russia and Belarus and expressed hope and belief that Russia and China will form a counter-alliance to "imperialistic EU and America". 
Eventually, following the enormous pressures from abroad, a coalition government of democratic block [DS and G17 PLUS] and DSS [no one serious or sober can any longer consider them to be a democratic party] is about to be formed, but the bitter taste of the Radical Speaker cannot be washed off. If the past is any guidance, the coalition behavior of DSS will continue to hamper Serbia's attempts to break with the past. Paradoxically, its behavior gave a boost to EU integration efforts when the EU offered an immediate resumption of negotiation on SAA and visa liberalization reminding one of the old Serbian folk saying that a glass of gall necessitates a glass of honey. All this in spite of Serbia's absolute lack of cooperation with the ICTY and the fact that ministries in charge of capturing Ratko Mladic [or should I say protecting?] will remain in hands of DSS. The vicious circle of hypocrisy, in which a substantial role is played by officials of the international community and the master of two-facedness PM Kostunica, is currently revolving around the dismissal from his position a newly elected Speaker, since PM Kostunica and his DSS would hate to create a bad blood with the potential coalition partners after the next elections.
On Europe's day and day of defeat of fascism, "new Serbian majority", lead by acting PM Vojislav Kostunica and his DSS, defeated European Serbia and celebrated fascism, bringing Serbia back to the most horrifying part of its past, a past we all hoped was a part of history. Only a few days later, a "newer new majority" in Serbia is celebrated by the entire world, even though those two majorities have a common denominator.
                    [post_title] =>  Games Serbia P[l]ays 
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                    [post_content] => by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi
It has been more than six months since fourteen Albanians, including three American citizens, were seized from their beds in Tuzi in the wee hours of the morning of September 9, 2006, by a masked and fully armed SWAT team participating in an operation code-named "Eagles' Flight."  The next day, when parliamentary elections were held in Montenegro, the government released a statement to the press, stating that the men had been apprehended because they were a part of an organized, terrorist group bent on overthrowing the state.  No evidence was provided, but photographs of a cache of weapons uncovered by the governmentءll of which appeared to be of World War II vintageطere splashed across the front pages of the Montenegrin media.  At the time of their arrest, the three Americans (Kola Dedvukaj, Rrok Dedvukaj, and Sokol Ivanaj) were on vacation in Montenegro.  Kola and Rrok, the two detainees that I know personally, are both retired Chrysler assembly line workers from suburban Detroit.  Rrok retired because of spinal problems, and this was his first vacation to Montenegro in twenty-five years.  The night before their arrest, they, along with most of the other fourteen, had attended a peaceful political rally in Tuzi in support of the ethnic Albanian politician who was subsequently elected to the Montenegrin parliament. 
Until they appeared before the higher court in Podgorica, the fourteen did not know why they had been arrested and humiliated, beaten for hours at a time, forced to remain on their knees for prolonged periods, threatened with weapons and electricity, and starved for three days.  As of this writing, Kola Dedvukaj's health has deteriorated so badly that his life is at risk.
Amnesty International and Helsinki International intervened, challenging the Montenegrin authorities to investigate the torture of the fourteen men.  At the urging of the Albanian American Civic League, Members of the U.S. Congress, specifically, Congressman Tom Lantos, now Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Committee's Ranking Republican Member, senior Committee member Dana Rohrabacher, and Senator Joseph Biden, now Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appealed to the Montenegrin government to either produce proof of criminal activity and bring the fourteen Albanians to trial in timely fashion or release them immediately.  To date their letters have gone unanswered.

Victims of Torture and Illegally Obtained "Evidence"
As confirmed in Amnesty International's October 2006 report, entitled "Montenegro"  Newest UN State Must Stop Torture and Take Action to Bring Police to Justice," the torture of the fourteen Albaniansئrom the time that they were arrested on September 9 in Tuzi until they were transferred to the federal prison in Podgorica on September 12طas consistent with a pattern that had been documented in a May 2006 report on Serbia and Montenegro by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.  Sokol Ivanaj said that his torture was so severe that he was compelled to confess falsely.  On March 15, 2007, lawyers for the Albanian prisoners reported to Amnesty that an investigation into the torture of the fourteen men still had not been conductedسix months after criminal claims were filed on their behalf with the Higher Court in Podgorica.  Also, no disciplinary measures have been taken against the police officers involved.
Equally important, when the Montenegrin government finally filed formal charges three months later, on December 7, 2006, they did so against the entire group for "planning crimes of terrorism and insurrection" and based on illegally obtained evidence that did not support the charges anyway.  According to the lawyers for Kola and Rrok Dedvukaj, the thirty-page indictment contains, for example, only a few paragraphs mentioning their clients.  These paragraphs were based on one diary confiscated from another detainee during a search without a warrant or witnesses, a statement obtained under police torture from another prisoner, and two caf顣onversations overheard by informants in Shkodra and Tirana, Albania.  
In addition, Rrok Dedvukaj emerges in the indictment as a man dedicated to peace and opposing violence, and Kola Dedvukaj is cited only as being present in Shkodra without any personal involvement in a discussion of the potential need to resort to armed struggle to defend Albanian rights in Montenegro.  In short, these men are being treated as part of an organized group preparing terrorist attacks without a single description of their particular words or actions that would justify even suspicion against them.  And, as the nine lawyers representing the Tuzi Fourteen stated in a public document on October 12, 2006, "there is no evidence and not even any indication that the majority of the men performed criminal acts of the kind they are suspected of."  This raises serious questions about the reasons for their detention and the prolongation of their confinement.

Denied the Right to an Immediate and Fair Trial 
For three months, the fourteen remained in Spuz prison without being formally charged with a criminal offense. And yet they were routinely identified in the Montenegrin press as "terrorists," violating their presumption of innocence.  When the government finally indicted the men last December, they said that collectively they were "preparing to incite armed insurrection against the state" in order to "create a territorial region within Montenegro populated by Albanian people with a special status contrary to the constitutional order of Montenegro."  The Prelevic law firm, representing Kola and Rrok Dedvukaj, as well as some of the other prisoners, stated that, on the contrary, "There was no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the Americans, that the shocking torture and jailing of the fourteen was an act of ethnically motivated violence against Albanians, and that the mindset of the Montenegrin government needed to be changed."  Several ethnic Albanian political leaders told the press that the arrests amounted to a political provocation because most of the detained men supported Albanian politicians in Tuzi seeking the return of municipal status to Tuzi instead of the ruling party of then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
On April 9, 2007, the fourteen men will have languished in jail for seven months.  All appeals for their release on bail pending trial have been denied.  Incredibly, in the case of the Americans bail has been denied because they are believed to be at risk of flight as U.S. citizens, even though the authorities have their passports.  Still no trial date has been set.  The High Court in Podgorica not only failed to schedule a trial date within two months after the indictment was filed, in breach of domestic law, but it announced that it would not schedule the trial until Austria made a final decision about whether to extradite Doda Lucaj, another ethnic Albanian named in this case who is currently detained in Vienna.  If Austria follows its legal procedures, it should rule by the middle of April on Lucaj's appeal to block his extradition.  But even if it does not, the burden of proof rests on the Montenegrin government to justify continuing pre-trial detention of the Tuzi Fourteen.
Once the case goes to trial, the first step to ensuring that the proceedings are fair is to record them electronically and conduct them simultaneously in Albanian and Montenegrinء subject that the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica took up with the Montenegrin government in February.  Because the government thus far has failed so profoundly in its international obligations in this case, its capacity to conduct a fair trial remains increasingly in doubt.

The Politics Behind the Arrest and Prolonged Detention of the Tuzi Fourteen
In a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica on November 28, 2006, the Prelevic law firm stated that they are convinced that their defendants "are being deliberately abused by the Montenegrin authorities in order to 'prove' an international conspiracy and achieve political goals."  The conspiracy to which they are referring is a fiction manufactured by some forces within the Montenegrin government and the international community, which would have us believe that there is a militant group of Albanians extending from the United States to Kosova to Montenegro preparing to commit violent acts in Southeast Europe.  
In reality, as one senior Western diplomat said off the record, the jailing of the Tuzi Fourteen is an effort "to break the link between the Albanian American diaspora and the Albanian communities in Montenegro.  The growing strength of this link emerged in the effort of the residents of the Albanian-majority area of Malesia to reclaim municipal status for Tuzi, a status that was taken away by the Montenegrin government in 1957.  It is not clear which parts of the Montenegrin government may have been involved.  Some speculate that officials with strong links to Serbia are responsible, with the goal of undermining international support for the independence of Kosova by misrepresenting Albanians as a violent force in the heart of Europe.  (Meanwhile, the Albanian population has a history of nonviolence in Montenegro, in spite of Slavic repression and oppression, and the Albanian vote in the May 2006 referendum tipped the balance in favor of Montenegro's long sought after independence from Serbia.)
Others speculate that Albanian politicians linked to the ruling Montenegrin Slav party are involved in this case, hoping to diminish what they perceive to be as threats to their political power emanating from Tuzi.  The timing of the arrest of the Tuzi Fourteen, just hours before the elections that would bring a candidate into the parliament representing Tuzi's aspirations, has not gone unnoticed.  Still others believe that the Montenegrin government was drawn into an operation by the international law enforcement community in its "war on terror," an operation that went wrong because an Albanian still at large in the case is an informant who helped manufacture it.
The longer the Tuzi Fourteen remain in jail without a trial date, the more questions will be raised about the real reasons for their incarceration.  To bring the case of the Tuzi Fourteen into the light of international justice requires an investigation into and clarification of the politics behind their incarceration.  

The Implications for Montenegro and the West
The United States and the European Union should be concerned about the status of this caseخot just in relation to the prisoners who have been illegally arrested, tortured, and confined for months, but also in relation to what this case means for the future of a newly independent nation, which has been admitted to the United Nations and is seeking entrance into the European Union as a democratic, multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious state.  Bolstering the illusion, rather than the reality, of a democratic Montenegro will be a disservice to the country and the region, and in the long-run, it will undermine the goal of the European Union to integrate the Balkans.  As a democracy, Montenegro has the responsibility to adhere to the rule of law and to protect the freedom and human rights of all of its citizens, especially its large ethnic Albanian population and other minorities.  This includes treating prisoners humanely and as innocent until proven guilty, and either releasing them or conducting a fair trial in a timely fashion.  In the case of the Tuzi Fourteen, these basic protections have been egregiously denied.
------------------------------
Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi
Southeast Europe Affairs Adviser to the Albanian American Civic League
New York, USA

                    [post_title] =>  The Terrors Of Justice In Montenegro: Free the Tuzi Fourteen 
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                    [post_content] => Albanians, and particularly those Kosovars who took refuge at Fort Dix in 1999, may want to express your gratitude to the soldiers at Fort Dix. If so, one way to communicate this message is via this address: Col. R. David McNeil, Installation Commander, Fort Dix, USA, email: webmaster@dix.army.mil
Albanian Americans should all feel a sense of disgust about the alleged plot by three Albanian brothers to kill "as many American soldiers as possible" at Fort Dix.
I don't know what rock these creeps crawled out from under, but if this story is true, by their ignorant, evil intentions they have done reputational damage to all Albanians.
This attempt at a terrorist attack at Fort Dix is all the more reprehensible when one considers it was Fort Dix that hosted thousands of Kosovar refugees in 1999 when they were forced from their homeland by Milosevic. And if not for American military intervention, the Kosovars would still be living under repressive Serb domination.
The Serbs have been waging a fierce public relations war in an attempt to undermine Kosova's independence. At the heart of this campaign is a concerted effort to scare the West into thinking an independent Kosova will become a jihadist state. Up until now, most have rightfully ignored this argument. But given recent events, some will now pay attention. If the Duka brothers did act as reported, they have only succeeded in helping the Serbs and hurting Albanians.
I know that Albanians living in the U.S. who enjoy the advantages of our system recognize that, even with its flaws, this is a great country. As far as I'm concerned, those who are even the slightest bit ambivalent about this can either love it or leave it! And if there is a cancer in our community that is threatening our way of life as Americans and damaging our image as Albanians, it should be dealt with in a very prejudicial manner. If you see something, say something.
By: Gary Kokalari
Albanin American activist
                    [post_title] =>  Albanians should all feel a sense of disgust about the Fort Dix plot 
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            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 102021
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-05-10 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-05-10 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja
TIRANA, May 4 - Though there is less than a month till the election for the country's new president, the ruling government coalition and the opposition are far from a consensus for a presidential candidate.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha said Tuesday that he would be ready to begin negotiations with the opposition to find the best possible consensual candidate.
The ruling Democratic party has declared it is prepared to offer its parliamentary group head and deputy leader of the party, Bamir Topi, as the best candidate for the post. 
The opposition has declared Topi as unacceptable and has appealed for a consensus. Although there has been no formal candidate presented by the opposition, some of them support the reelection of the current president, Alfred Moisiu. A smaller group supports their former leader, Fatos Nano.
Berisha has said, however, that new elections were not rules out unless there was a compromise. According to the constitution, a new president, who is elected by the parliament, would need at least 84 votes out of 140 seats. If the parliament cannot elect the president in five rounds of voting, then the country goes to new general elections.
The opposition bases its request for a consensual president on the 2002 experience when Moisiu was elected with agreement from the two main political parties, then opposition Democrats and the Socialist party. 
The then-government, led by the Socialists and their allies, could secure the 84 votes. But the international community suggested the new president be a consensual one taking into consideration the results of the 2001 parliamentary elections. The world recognized the Socialists' victory, but still the electoral process was compromised because of the claims from the opposition.
Now the governing coalition has 80 votes in the parliament, something which obliges them to reach a consensus for the president.
The government says, however, it is entitled to a new president due to the results they have achieved thus far.
The opposition has declared no formal candidate but insists on an agreement for the new president.
A number of candidates have come to the front.
Former Socialist leader and Prime Minister Fatos Nano does not enjoy the full support of his opposition group. A local analyst said that if Nano became the next president, then all the powers in the country would be secured from the Siamese twin brothers. That's not the case of Poland, analysts say, where people are also not pleased with twins running the country.
Berisha and Nano have dominated post-communist Albanian politics, taking the country into a very contentious ongoing situation. Servet Pellumbi, former Socialist parliament speaker and a senior leader, considered as unacceptable would result in electing Nano to the post. Nano is not and cannot be the opposition's candidate, he said. Regarding himself as the next president, Pellumbi did not oppose the idea, but said the decision was up to the party's forums.
Socialist Movement for Integration head Ilir Meta also said that the next president should come out of the opposition, or the other solution would be new polls.
Another presidential candidate is Sabri Godo, president of the Republican Party, and part of the governing coalition. Godo seems to enjoy support in academic and intellectual circles. On Topi, Godo says he is one of the best alternatives though he does not hide his own ambition for the post. Godo excludes, however, Nano's candidacy, or his return to active politics in the country.
It is very likely that the opposition Socialists demand a second term for Moisiu, whom they strongly support due to his stands that often have supported them.
But for the government and its coalition members, Moisiu's second term is considered unimaginable. During the last two years, when the Democrats have been in power, ties between the government and the president, or better say, between Berisha and Moisiu have been frozen, at the very best. 
Moreover the government has often accused Moisiu on many issues.
Republicans, who have presented Godo as their candidate, have also asked for a roundtable of the governing coalition to decide on the best possible candidate they could introduce.
That idea was supported also by the Christian Democrats, also a government coalition member, who have declared they would support Moisiu for a second term.
Berisha also said he would not oppose neogitaitons with his opponent Rama on the issue. But words are far away from deeds. That has been often said before, but they have never met and do not intend to meet in the near future.
Albert Rakipi of the Albanian Institute of International Studies says the very grave allegations the government has made against Moisiu serve no one unless verified in a court of law. On the other side, says Rakipi, it is not a violation of the law if the governing coalition does not want to support Moisiu for a second term.
Head of the Delegation of the European Commission, Helmuth Lohan, said Wednesday that Brussels would like to see political stability in Albania and no new elections. He also said Brussels would not like to serve as a mediator in Albanian politics, meaning they should try to reach a consensus on the next president by themselves.
The failure of electing the new president in the next eight weeks could take the country to general elections and that is considered the worst alternative that could happen for the country, since there electoral reform remains uncompleted.
                    [post_title] =>  The Presidential Puzzle 
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            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 101964
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-04-30 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-04-30 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By By Alba ȥla

The appointment of HE Ambassador Niels Severin Munk coincided with that of he Albanian Ambassador in Denmark, Aferdita Dalla, a former advisor of former Foreign Minister Mustafaj. This higher step that follows previous lower diplomatic representation is though an exception in the general framework of the diminishing Danish aid presence in Albania, which according to Ambassador Munkshould also be seen as a good sign of progress in Albania. The ambassador spoke to Tirana Times about his first visit during the Kosovo crisis, the latest initiatives promoting economic regional cooperation and the pleasures of hiking in the Albanian mountains. 

Albania and Denmark
The first thing that we discuss with ambassador Munk and his consul, Christian Andrew Deloughery, is the similarities between Albania and Denmark. Both are relatively small and located in strategic geographic crossroads, which in a historic perspective are a blessing in terms of trade routes and a potential curse in terms of neighboring ambitions. Denmark has a traditional good experience in bridge and infrastructure engineering. In the contemporary world, architecture and furniture design are  fields where Danish people have excelled internationally. J
                    [post_title] =>  From Kosovo crisis to Albanian hiking: the impressions of a Danish ambassador in Albania 
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            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 101896
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-04-20 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-04-20 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
Russia's delaying tactics in United Nations Security Council decisions over Kosova are motivated by several strategic ambitions. The Putin regime is determined to raise Russia's stature as a major international player in competition with the United States, to divide the NATO Alliance, and to drive wedges between Europe and America.
The pending decision on Kosova is reminiscent of the Cold War when European security was ultimately determined by relations between Washington and Moscow. The major difference with the Cold War is that more opportunities are available to undermine the Western alliance because Russia poses as a benign global power and not an ideological and militaristic empire. 
Russia's proposal to send a UN Security Council mission to Kosova this month is part of its grand plan to discredit Martti Ahtisaari's plan for final status and to launch a new process of negotiations without time limits. The Kremlin calculates that this can split the EU and weaken the U.S. position. As a bonus, it may also provoke violence in Kosova that will reinforce Moscow's assertions that you cannot give independence to people incapable of governing themselves.
The Bush administration will face a stiff test to gain unanimous Security Council agreement on the Ahtisaari plan. It intends to uphold the original timetable by which a new UN resolution on Kosova is issued by the end of May. The Security Council can simply declare resolution 1244 invalid or fully accept the Ahtisaari package and pass a new resolution. Either scenario would be acceptable to Washington.
However, as Moscow applies other delaying ploys, Washington may become more desperate and offer Putin concessions and advantages in other arenas as the price for approval or abstention in a Security Council vote. There are several quid pro quo arrangements that Moscow may be calculating as the price for Kosova's status. They revolve around three issues: Russia's regional influence, strategic capability, and economic benefit.
Moscow is intent on restoring its regional dominance in the former USSR. The key battleground with Washington has been in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova. All three states are to be brought under firmer Russian control. To accomplish these objectives, Moscow will insist on a diminished American role among these states.
It may also demand a permanent postponement of NATO membership for all three republics, non-interference in the "frozen conflicts" inside Moldova and Georgia, no condemnations of Russian military incursions into Georgia, and the long-term prolongation of Russian military bases in Georgia and peace-keeping units in Moldova. Moscow may also require Washington not to support President Viktor Yushchenko in the escalating power struggle with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. 
Russia's regime operates according to zero sum calculations whatever pleasant sentiments are issued about international cooperation and strategic partnerships. In this vein, Kremlin propagandists have latched on to the planned U.S. missile defense system in Central Europe as an alleged threat to Russian national interests. To block development of the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia is provoking disputes within the EU and between America and Europe. In return for greater accommodation over Kosova, Russia may seek to benefit from America's anti-missile technology while modernizing its own nuclear arsenal.
Regarding economic benefits, Russia may demand a faster track to World Trade Organization (WTO) membership with full U.S. support. Moscow can also seek increasing access to Western markets, especially in key areas such as energy and telecommunications, without opening up strategic elements of its own economy.
Noone should be surprised by Moscow seeking advantages from Kosova. The major question is whether Washington is willing to make concessions elsewhere in order to gain Russia's support in the Security Council. Rather than surrendering to Russian political blackmail, Washington can simply bypass the UN process by supporting Kosova's declaration of independence, recognizing the new state, and encouraging its allies to follow suit. 
                    [post_title] =>  Russia Benefits From Kosova 
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            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 101828
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-04-13 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-04-13 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Alba 覬a
There is a huge debate being carried out in Albania about the fines law proposed and approved by the Economy Commission that obliges businesses to pay the full amount of fines given by tax authorities prior to any legal contestation. Businesses have raised a protest to demand their right to have a chance to claim that the fine is not regular.
Business Associations have gathered and signed protests. The media is portraying daily the desperate efforts of the representatives from the business community to make the government acknowledge the abuse potential this law gives birth to.
The government on the other side is justifiably concerned about the budget harm that unpaid debt causes, estimated by current Finance Minister Ridvan Bode to loom around 45 million euro.
The debate has been eventually politicized and charged with conspiracy theories. Folk theories abound around loud tragic calls: The government is trying to promote monopolies! It targets the demolition of specific businesses!
Beyond this debate one has to focus on a purely economic reasoning. What is the projected effect of this measure on a sector that practically feeds the Albanians: small and medium size businesses? 
The simple answer was given by former Finance Minister and currently opposition member, Arben Malaj in a TV interview: It scares away real money! 
Malaj argued that the informal money, and by that meaning the entire criminal world operating behind it, will definitely find ways to cope with the novelty and circumvent the penalties. These players will simply adjust their strategies as the rules of the game change. 
Real money on the other hand will be left bewildered and unprotected at the mercy of corrupted tax authorities and unfair competition pressure. Indeed many businesses fear complete cessation of their activity given the threat upon their liquidity. A fine to be paid immediately costs a business an entire cash flow reversal even if it is applied at the ameliorated level of 25 percent. Employees registered with the Shkodra Labor Union are even more farsighted. Anticipating the loss of their job in such a scenario they predict protests and strikes.
One is left to wonder then at the persistency of the government to approve such a law. 
First there is no coherent model that would fit the European standards in the future harmonization of the legal framework. The only model resembling this fine paying scheme is the Serbian one, a leftover of communism.   
This urgency is also unsupported by the government's previous rhetoric. An administration that has boasted a budget surplus to be dedicated to investments cannot claim that such a drastic measure is rightly timed. 
The administration has also been deaf at the proposals of its own moderate individuals that have suggested facilitated conditions for business. No consideration has been given to the establishment of a special court for businesses or even shorter legal procedural timeframes that would curtail the ways business can cheat upon the government.   
Finally the fight against corruption and fiscal evasion should start in the government own house: tax administration authorities, customs offices. The evidence supporting the fact that these sectors generate financial losses is definitely more substantial that the one blaming unpaid debt from business. It is definitely telling that the report "Corruption- Perceptions and experience" of the Institute for Development Research and Alternatives (IDRA) shows clearly that the public opinion holds customs officials to be the most corrupted social actors and tax authorities as second most corrupted category. 
Hence there is ample room for a reexamination of the law. Since it has been approved already in the parliament there are only a few alternatives left for those who don't want it to become a reality shaping their daily dynamics. The Constitutional Court will have to decide upon the law' legitimacy even before the public has finished questioning its rationality. But that will be no news in this country.
                    [post_title] =>  Scaring away real money and the fines law 
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            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 101869
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-04-13 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-04-13 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
The diplomatic relationships between Iran and Albania started off in 1992 and saw a steady development in all fields. The Iranian presence through investments, diplomatic presence and the cultural foundation Saadi Shirazi is noticeable even now. Albania on the other hand still does not have an embassy in Teheran. This has not impeded the two countries to develop a relationship of collaboration that cuts across many fields such as economy, culture etc. His Excellency, Alibeman Eghbali Zarch, the ambassador of Iran is definitely happy to be in a place where "weather, mentality and hospitality" make him feel at home. He talked to Tirana Times about pleasantries such as poetry ad the musical Persian languages and also "un-pleasantries" such as nuclear power and global disputes. 

On culture
The ambassador is proud to confirm that the Persian cultural influence goes a long way back in Albania. Some of the best writers like the Frasheri brothers, Vexhi Buharaja, Hafez Ali Korca used to compose poetry in the Persian language. In urban centers like Elbasan, Persian was a second language two centuries ago. Indeed the ancient civilization has had an important influence on the world literature and philosophy through its main figures like Hafez, Saadiu, Kajam, Ferdus, etc. Mr. Eghbali Zarch shares the opinion of many Albanian and Iranian personalities who consider culture to be the most important and reliable capital over which to develop the relationship between the two countries.
Iranian culture is present in Albania also through the publication of the Perla magazine, a publication of the foundation "Saadi Shirazi", which features parts of the works of the best writers form both the countries. "There has been a natural preservation of the cultural links between Albania and Iran and now you can see some translations in Persian of the most contemporary Albanian authors," the ambassador explains. 

Economic Investment
Iran is a fast growing economy with powerful energy, chemical industry, handcrafted products and hospitality sectors. The ambassador explains the recent economic progress of his native country with impressive attention to detail. Large exports and a significant construction nexus including ship building, road network construction etc are indicators of a booming economical situation with the potential to invest significantly abroad. 
It has also been experimenting successfully with new sectors in car industry, launching its own cars like "Samand", and projecting other ones like "Tondar" and "Sarir". Important novelties and technological progress have made this country be self-sufficient in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. Theoretically there is the potential to have an import-export relationship between Albanian and Iranian traders. Both can benefit form the unique products that might be not available domestically. Iran produces and exports some food products of high quality, but Albania can also take advantage of its geographical Mediterranean position.
Iran according to Mr. is one of the ten leading countries in the building of hydro power and thermo power plants and could use these capacities and expertise to help Albania which has faced several power crises due to very low domestic producing capability. 
 "I certainly hope that in the context of our increasing economic ties with Europe, our trade volume with Albania as well as bilateral investments will reflect this as well. This requires a better knowledge about the reciprocal capacities and stronger collaboration will," the ambassador adds. To him it would not be surprising that Albanians would want to invest in Iran since he has a vision of this economic relationship as reciprocal. His impressions on the regional context are generally positive. He sees the Balkans moving steadily toward progress and integration and wishes for sustainable stability.

The nuclear hot potato
We could not avoid the topic of nuclear power and the presence of Iran's government in the headlines of global press as well as the heated controversy over the purposes for which Iran can exploit the nuclear capacities it is developing. The ambassador explains that to him, the image of his country is victim of a "unilateral propaganda." The ambassador explains that in the past Iran has made several efforts to become a committed party of the anti proliferation treaties. Nevertheless, countries like USA, Germany, France and large multinational corporations invested heavily in Iran to build nuclear power facilities through contract with the previous regime. When the regime changed (when the Islamic Republic was proclaimed) they left their investment unrealized. Such is the example of the Bushheri power plant.  Hence Iran approached Russia to have this plant completed. Iran's aims the ambassador confirms are completely peaceful and the use of nuclear power has been targeted for domestic purposes to generate electricity, help agriculture and the oil refineries. "It was the Scientific Institute of Stanford which predicted first Iran's need for nuclear energy," the ambassador claims, "and recommended a plant of 200.000 megawatts to be done until 1994." Since then Iran's nuclear energy progress has been halted given the conflicts in the region. As a member of the NPT (nuclear proliferation treaty) Iran has never benefited form it's just right to get technological assistance in developing its capacities.
What to the ambassadors seems unjustified is the politicization of a technical issue.  

Middle East peace and Iran's role
The assertions that Iran and Saudi Arabia are at heads about Iran's regional impact is according to the ambassador the product of manipulative media. He stresses that Iran has a commitment to respecting and assisting Muslim countries. This has been proved through current high-level delegation visits and continuing cooperation efforts. 
The Gordian knot of the Middle East conflict can be approached through a sincere treatment of democratic values, the ambassador surprisingly explains. Part of the international community has not respected the Palestinians' electoral will that resulted in the election of Hamas. Iran believes that only cooperation at the largest scale can solve something like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has proposed in this regard a referendum. Safety and stability in the region can not be achieved if the people who live thera re not given a chance to be the decision makers of their own fate.
This is also valid for Iraq, which by virtue of being Iran's immediate and large neighbor makes the latter be interested in the Iraq's lasting stability.  The halt of civilians suffering and killing and the respect for the people' elected government are the two pillars of Iran's stance toward Iraq.
It causes him sadness that his country has been recently listed alongside Israel as two countries which are trying to bring havoc to the world (BBC poll). The ambassador explains that the best summary of the Iranian culture and civilization essence can be found right at the entrance of the UN where the famous lines of Saadi Shirazi are inscribed in the wall:

Of one Essence is the human race,
Thusly has Creation put the Base;
One Limb impacted is sufficient,
For all Others to feel the Mace. 

The verses tell the story of people that love peace and have a strong feeling of solidarity and humanity. As an example he brings the hospitality of Iran towards millions of Afghani and Iraqi refugees.

Gratitude to Albania
The ambassador is grateful to have found in Albania people whose values are so close to those back home: peace loving, hospitality, civilized behavior. He has only one desire: to add a successful chapter in the long book f the history of cooperation between two nations that are far away in geography but very close in values. 
                    [post_title] =>  Presenting the other Iran 
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            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 101801
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-04-06 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-04-06 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => When Christian Heinzmann left his position at LuxAir, Belgian air company he knew he needed a change. Among the different job offers from worldwide companies he had to make a choice. 
Prior to accepting a leading position with Albanian Airlines, he decided to come and see the situation in Albania. The only things he knew about the country were impressions from visitors that had either been here during communism or in the worst transition period and found it poor and dangerous. Before making a risky choice for him and his family he wanted to see with his own eyes the situation and then make a decision. What he found surprised him in the most positive sense. Motivated hard working loyal staff that was working for a company that had a future, despite the rough time it faces even now.
He took up the challenge to transform Albanian Airlines into a company that meets all European standards.  This week he spoke to Tirana Times about the impressions, difficulties and dynamic challenges of living as a foreign businessman in the country, the air market characteristics and his esteem for Albanian coworkers. 

TT- What was the situation you found Albanian Airlines when you first took up the manager position in November and what do you believe is your challenge with the company?
CH- The problem with Albanian Airlines is the direction it took for many previous years. We have to put the company back on track, and look at it with a European point of view. I would like to put Albanian Airlines in a European track, which means to make it a respectable, well-organized company that respects all European regulations. We can get there if you succeed with a lot of work that we have in front of us. My challenge is to make this company a high-level, recognizable European one. 

TT -Except the internal factors such a management, external factors such as the business climate affect a lot the performance of a company and its chances for success. How would you comment on the conditions that business have to face in Albania?
CH- Albania is a country that is emerging. It is a new world that is opening up. I see a tremendous future for this country. You have beautiful landscape, natural resources. I have been a bit around so I have seen it myself.  I think there is a good potential for tourism. The only thing that is really missing is infrastructure. I was very disappointed at first with the roads network. I have very good friends with businesses in Germany and I try to convince them to open up businesses here. What scares them is the lack of infrastructure. It is very difficult to travel around Albania, the roads are very bad and often dangerous. The country is beautiful and Albanian people are very accommodating and hospitable.  Traffic on the other side is scary. What I would like to see in five years, when this country will most probably be a massive tourist attraction site, is serious work on infrastructure.
Albanian airlines targets at linking Tirana to other important European business cities. Albania is planning to become an EU member and has an interest to be linked to cities like Brussels with which we are staring a new flight.

TT - What are the features of the air market in Albania. How have you found domestic competition in your industry?
CH- Well we have seen a few airlines disappearing like Albatross. I believe that this is a free market and everybody has the right to enter it. I would like Albania though to combine respect for free competition with consideration for market capacities. For example doubling capacities for a single destination makes all market actors lose. Its nice to be low-cost or having an extra opportunity. But when you create too much offer and still face too little demand problems are bound to happen. Limitations are imperative in order to avoid this disequilibrium while respecting free competition.
This is not unique to Albania. I have seen it throughout my experience in the field while in London, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, etc.  
The Kharafi group believes very strongly in the future of this country and is ready to invest more.  I have seen more positive changes in the infrastructure projects. I often think of Albania as a country of contrasts. There are very beautiful things and very ugly things. You have to try to introduce an average.

TT - There have been some changes related to the air industry such as the new terminal inaugurated some weeks ago. How do you see the recent developments?
CH - The airport is an example of new investments coming to Albania and of course I welcome that. I would like to criticize though the monopolistic situation created in the airport now. A nice airport is an attraction for the country because it acts like a showcase. Still it has to stay fair in its management. I think that whenever a monopoly situation is created there are a lot of abuse possibilities. Procedures and rule and regulations should monitor the new developments there because it might have the tendency to get out of price affordability.

TT - What are your relations to the Albanian authorities you work with?
CH- Through our company lawyer, Bujar Hazizi, I have been lucky to get in touch with the authorities that we need to coordinate our operations with. I was very happy to meet the Minister of Transportation Lulzim Basha. He is very devoted person I am grateful for his assistance. The great thing about our communication is that we speak the same language because he studied in Holland. He speaks Flemish quite fluently and it is very easy for me to communicate. I am also very happy with the civil aviation authorities who are our partners and friends and that have done a lot to help us. 

TT- Do you find Albanians to be good co-workers?
CH- I was very impressed with the staff's high motivation and qualifications. I think in the whole of Europe you hardly can find people like this. With the salaries they make they have a great surge. 

TT - Walking into these offices one can hear Greek, Italian, French, English being spoken besides Albanian? How international is Albanian Airlines?
CH - It is true that there are quite a few foreigners here but that is just because for some qualifications and experience requirements you have to look at foreigners. Nevertheless, my target is to employ more and more Albanians. We are guests in this country and it is normal to hire more Albanian people if they meet the requirements. If I can find a qualified candidate for ay job in this labor market I will get from this market.

TT- Taking this interview as an opportunity to announce anything to your customers, what is the news from Albanian Airlines?
CH- What we need to do is to compete with the tools we posses today. I would like to improve our standards, safety, image, quality, customer service. The next thing is to offer new destinations. We will start Brussels in May second because it's important to link Tirana to the capital of Europe. Next thing we are going to look at our pricing which at the present is not flexible enough.  Punctuality and flexibility together with reliability of operations are the fronts we are focusing at. We will invest in new equipment and in new aircraft. We would like to become a reputable company with a recognizable name brand.
                    [post_title] =>  Albanian Airlines: Towards both European destinations and standards 
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            [ID] => 102208
            [post_author] => 68
            [post_date] => 2007-05-25 02:00:00
            [post_date_gmt] => 2007-05-25 02:00:00
            [post_content] => By Alba Cela
A few weeks ago, a member of the DP parliamentary group, Gilman Bakalli resigned from the group and became an independent MP. The media storm that followed has abated now. The sensational and unexpected declarations of Bakalli and his meaningful departure from the DP parliamentary group were a real shock to most Albanian commentators at the time who dashed to analyze them in the context of eroding governing coalition and internal party disputes. Few were the people who went one step further in probing the significance of this gesture, which -needs to be stressed- has been by no means easy on Bakalli himself. In a TV program experienced analyst Mentor Nazarko briefly mentioned it, but rushed to peruse other aspects of the event. What he said though, that "the gesture of Bakalli reminds us of the amazing power of the individual", deserves better scrutiny and more media exposure. 
The leader of the right wing governing coalition, the DP has traditionally shown signs of internal totalitarian mindset. Reading this gesture as a sign of diversification of the right, as Prec Zogaj in the same TV interview did, is clearly unjustified. Bakalli's tone and statement showed clearly that he abhored "the communist system" (in his own words) installed in the decision making process of his party. What has provoked his extreme gesture, which puts in serious jeopardy his function as a representative of his electoral zone, is not the sudden diversification of thought in the DP, but its complete lack. Bakalli's concerns were both of a local nature, the marginalization of Shkodra's economic and social problems in the government's agenda, and of a more general political one: the disfigurement of the DP's character through its conduct and policies while in power. 
Bakalli sought the only remaining channel out of the gloomy box he found himself in: a party that was not responding to its promises, not responding to its electorate and not responding to his personal political beliefs and views. Since the group was not hosting his political persona any further, he chose to become an individual seeking on his own the fulfillment of his goals and of his personal responsibility towards the electorate that made him a MP. This explains also his following refusal to join any other parliamentary group. Becoming an individual Bakalli rediscovered the strength to blame every single one of these concern on specific names and last names, a gesture that will definitely cost him politically but that is to him as an individual no longer a liability.
As part of a group that was no longer a framework of agreement and cooperation, a host to his ides and projects, Bakalli remained powerless. As an individual expressing his revolt he gained power from the very first move. He provoked a serious and engaging debate, he gathered the positive reaction of many member of his electorate and he was free to complete his term serving in an independent, though unfortunately by all odds not efficient, way.
Last week the same person hit the news again by climbing the hill in Shkodra where the Top-Channel antennas were located and reactivating the TV signal for the audience in a clear defiance of the administration's decision to deprive this part of the country from one f the most popular TV channels in the country. Hence there is an untold message that is left almost untouched by the crowd of media-s ad analysts, and that the Albanian public seems to be in danger of forgetting as well: the power of one individual to stand up to a system, to sacrifice some of career or his personal interest and disentangle himself by virtue of protecting some basic principles. We would need a few extra Bakalli-s in that case. 
            [post_title] =>  The power of the individual  
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