Opposition asks for debate motion with PM Berisha

TIRANA, Nov. 21 – Opposition Socialist Party has made a request for a motion of Prime Minister Sali Berisha on the last progress report of the European Union. That report deserves a serious debate in the parliament to answer all

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A nuclear Albania: energy hub or security risk?

By Klodjan Seferaj Albania recently announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant, with the government approving a proposal by the US-based firm Westinghouse. The move has the potential to transform the country נplagued by chronic power shortages נinto

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Kosovo elections: the mixed record

By Alba ȥla Kosovo leaders must have forgone all the exhaustion produced by the electoral campaign and the close following of the election days and must have beamed with pleasure at the multiple praising received from the international community. Quiet

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The political vacuum: Kosova after the formal halt of Ahtisaari’s proposal

By Eda Derhemi During the recent months of negotiation between the Serbian government and the Kosovar Albanian representatives, the newspapers and TV news broadcast in Prishtina, Belgrade and Tirana have been filled with reports of hostile declarations from both Serbian

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19th Century Romantics and the Publication of the Volume, “Through Romantic Eyes” of the Benaki Museum in Athens

By AURON TARE Quite by accident I came across a luxurious volume, bound with so much care and published in the name of such a serious institution as is the Athen’s Benaki Museum. The volume is entitled, “Through Romantic Eyes.”

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A critical view on EU report on Albania

By Henri ȩli The impression the 2007 EU Report leaves in its wake, conjures up reminders of the times of Communist self-criticism. No parallel can be drawn between that and the rationale behind the drafting of the Report, but the

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Corporate Social Responsibility for Oil Distribution Companies

By Dr. Ibrahim Aktoz Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that organizations, especially (but not only) corporations, have an obligation to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. This

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Kosovo Serbs Put their Hopes in Russia – and Putin

Amidst signs of an emerging Putin personality cult among Kosovo Serbs, many locals doubt how far Russia would go to give them support By Igor Milic in Northern Mitrovica At first sight Sumadija Square in the heart of the northern,

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Eu Muddle Over Independence

By Janusz Bugajski Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU representative in current talks on final status, is in a muddle over Kosova. With increasing frustration visible over the absence of EU unity, some Union delegates may be seeing the mirage of a

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The Albanian health system, the impossible survival

By Professor MENTOR PETRELA Albania spends 70 Euro per capita on health With a mere 3 per cent of the GDP it is nigh on impossible for the health system to survive. In other words to enjoy sound health there

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 - Opposition Socialist Party has made a request for a motion of Prime Minister Sali Berisha on the last progress report of the European Union.

That report deserves a serious debate in the parliament to answer all the issues on the country's management, including justice, rule of law, corruption which exist here, said Socialist parliamentary group head Valentina Leskaj.

The EU made it clear to Albania that the country should fulfill all that is required in the Stabilization and Association Agreement it has signed a year ago, specifically mentioning the fight against organized crime and corruption, reform in the judiciary and the electoral system and improving the administration.
                    [post_title] =>  Opposition asks for debate motion with PM Berisha 
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                    [post_content] => By Klodjan Seferaj 

Albania recently announced plans to build its first nuclear power plant, with the government approving a proposal by the US-based firm Westinghouse. The move has the potential to transform the country נplagued by chronic power shortages נinto a regional energy hub. 
"We can't deny the country nuclear energy, which is the principal source of energy for France and most of the countries of the EU," Prime Minister Sali Berisha told parliament, responding to opponents of the plan. Environmentalists warn that radioactive waste would pose a danger to public health. 
Aleksander an albanian citizen notes that the idea has sparked concerns in neighbouring Greece. "The country is being surrounded נor at least this is expected to happen נby atomic power plants of neighbouring countries," he writes. According to media reports, Athens also stands to lose some of its revenue from electricity exports. 
By contrast, Italy has expressed interest in hooking up its electricity grid to the plant via underwater transmission lines. 
Fair is fair, comments Chenet. "Albania has always accepted nuclear residues from other European countries, becoming in this way the big atomic garbage field of the Balkans." 
Artan, however, worries that the plan poses risks. "Who can ensure the security in order to build such a power plant in Albania?" 
No reason to worry, replies Peshkaqeni. "We can understand that all the technical security measures are being respected." 
Taking issue with environmental groups, Xha Xhai believes they should pay more attention to the current problems, rather than focusing on the potential danger of going nuclear. "According to a report from the World Health Organisation, the impure air in Albania kills at least 200 persons a year, mainly in Tirana נthis without mentioning the large number of viral diseases, especially affecting children. The main cause of this pollution, again on the basis of this report, is vehicle emissions and the bad quality of the gas that is being used." 
"Strangely, the biggest fear of the environment defenders is not the today's situation but the future one נwhat could happen as a result of Prime Minister Berisha's plan to construct the atomic power plant." 
Edrus comments. "The ones who speak like this surely didn't realise that we are the fourth nuclear generation. The construction of an atomic power plant in Albania would be the biggest present that God could give to this country." (SET)
                    [post_title] =>  A nuclear Albania: energy hub or security risk? 
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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Kosovo leaders must have forgone all the exhaustion produced by the electoral campaign and the close following of the election days and must have beamed with pleasure at the multiple praising received from the international community. Quiet democratic elections, free of incidents, respectful process and peaceful rotation of power. If only we in Albania could succeed to do the same," said one of the well-know TV hostesses, reporting live form freezing snowy Prishtina. Indeed given the heightened concerns about security, the fragile situation that precedes the anxious date named December 10 and the announced troubles of die-hard Serbian groups with medieval names, one could only fear that an important involving political process like the three-fold elections had the serious potential to cause disruption. Yet it didn't happen. However, if one leaves apart the joyful realization that there was no catastrophe, which in itself cannot be a sustainable reason for pride and happiness, the picture seems not so rosy. 
First there is the issue of low voter turnout, around 10 percentage points lower than last year. Some mention half-heartedly that the freezing temperatures and the bad weather in general prohibited people to go vote. Not good enough, given that the stakes were too high for a little shiver to scare the voters off. Rather as a good friend from Kosovo explained, disenchantment with the political class is the real reason. Lack of concrete action towards status development, rampant unemployment and corruption, nepotism and inefficiency have disappointed a lot of people. "The 57 percent that dint go out to vote send an important message," my friend insists and that is "When it comes to choosing between a bad and a bad choice, it is not worth it!" and despite being an highly educated and politically conscious young person, he joined the non-voters club this time.
Second the Serb boycott. Now of course the reasons behind this are grave and mostly out of the influence that Albanian Kosovar leaders can exert. Addressing a forum in Tirana, ORA party leader Veton Surroi explained it loud and clear that the Serb population had been physically and psychologically threatened from Belgrade in order not to participate. Scores of others felt there was no real choice for them because they felt unrepresented despite repeated guarantees for a multiethnic minority-sensitive state by virtually all major competing subjects.  If nothing else, this boycott presents the future leadership of Kosovo with an important indicator and that is: the challenge of integration is harder than anyone thinks and offering guarantees will not suffice.
Finally the elections penalized the political party Ora which by all standards presented an interesting choice that combined elitist elements with grass roots initiatives. The reason given has been that the candidates should have been picked more carefully in order to appeal to larger masses and not only limited urban groups. Ironically Mr. Surroi himself had supported the threshold of 5 percent which is going to ban his subject form being part of the new parliament. Nevertheless, it is definitely not a good sign if the winning parties have to be necessarily populist.   
Whoever has won these elections, and in this case there is no need to contest Mr. Tha詧s Democratic Party of Kosovo, will be in power during one of the hardest times for the entire region. In the midst of the important events that lie ahead it is important not to lose track of this lessons taken out of the electoral process of November 17. 
                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo elections: the mixed record 
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                    [post_content] => By Eda Derhemi 
During the recent months of negotiation between the Serbian government and the Kosovar Albanian representatives, the newspapers and TV news broadcast in Prishtina, Belgrade and Tirana have been filled with reports of hostile declarations from both Serbian and Kosovar Albanian politicians, and constant attempts by European and American diplomats to calm things down and control them. But nobody is doing a thing to change almost a decade of political and economic stagnation in the status-less Kosovo. During the seven years after the NATO war and the withdrawal of the Serbian military and paramilitary groups from Kosovo, the Kosovar Albanians who constitute more than 90% of Kosovo, have lived without the traditional threats and maltreatment from Serbs. But since 1913, when the weak Turkish empire was losing one after another of the Balkan regions it had ruled for almost five centuries, Kosova officially remained part of the Serbian state and territory. The Albanians of Kosovo finally have a chance to reach their old dream, independence from Serbia, a dream that has survived several genocidal campaigns against them, wars, racist discrimination and population exodus. After the Serbian occupation of Kosovo in 1912, Kosovars fought to win their independence and have rebelled several times against Serbian rule. But in recent times they are known more for their strategic peaceful resistance to the Milosevic regime between 1989 and 1999, and the organization of parallel structures of government and administration, schools and hospitals during those years. 
Following Serbia's wars against the ex-Yugoslav republics that sought independence, and especially after the Serbian attempts at genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, the international mood for the first time has changed. In the last seven years Kosovar Albanians' drive for independence from Serbia has finally found support from the US and some of the main EU states, who claim to be ready to recognize a unilateral independence proclaimed by the Kosovar parliament, if the negotiating process fails. The Serbs make veiled threats to use force to protect their territorial integrity if Kosovo declares independence, and the Kosovars vow that they will be independent, with or without Serbian consent. Meanwhile, Kremlin, for reasons that have little to do with the romantic claims of protecting a 'weak Slavic brother' or the threatened integrity of another state, fans the flames. This is the only factor that gave the momentum to the Serbian side once again this Spring, making them believe in surprise that Kosovo is in fact not yet lost. The Albanian government poses as a serious fighter for the right of Kosovars for self-determination, but Albania has no real influence with the world powers that control the future of Kosovo. Still, it has raised the pro-Kosovar rhetoric in all its international activities and has made Kosovo status one core issue of its foreign policy. 
The Kosovo problem seemed to have a clear and logical solution in late spring 2007, when, after the failure of long talks between the Serbian and Kosovar Albanian representatives, Ahtisaari presented his complex proposal for a supervised independence for Kosovo with broad rights for its Serbian minority. Ahtisaari's proposal is still considered by the US and most EU leaders as the best possible solution. But enthusiasm for the Ahtisaari plan has waned after the failure of the UN Security Council to pass a draft resolution based on it, in the face of Russia's threatened veto. Another 120-day period was agreed on, for more talks between Kosovar Albanians and Serbian government to negotiate a solution for Kosovo's status. These talks are led by three representatives from the EU, the US and Russia, and end on December 10. During September and October, the rounds of talks in New York, London, Brussels and Vienna have brought nothing new in the position of the sides. In fact, neither of the two sides expect anything new or positive to come from these talks, and everybody in the international community knows this. These new talks are just another way to postpone dealing with the problem. Nothing during the recent months has provided anything to fill the vacuum created by the international hesitation after Ahtisaari's vision. This last one is in fact the only sensible novelty produced in the last 10 years to solve Kosovo's problem.
Recently it is very common to read that the Albanians of Kosovo are becoming impatient and won't wait for their independence much longer. Their frustration is understandable. Newspaper accounts of events in Kosovo in 1981, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, and 2004, all dates related to important political processes and ethnic confrontations, show an astonishing similarity to today's press reports. Not only is the political rhetoric the same, but there are times when a press conference or declaration of a Kosovar or Serbian politician from several years ago is repeated now, word for word, as a new statement. In the moderate Kosovar newspaper Koha Ditore of April 1997, one reads about the first international meeting between the Serbian and Albanian representatives in New York organized by Allen Kassof of PER, the Project for Ethnic Relation. The report says that the only place the Serbian and Albanian representatives ever were in a room together without third-party moderators was in a room set aside for smokers. Ten years ago that meeting concluded that Kosovo needed a solution quickly, based only on agreement and dialogue and on the reciprocal respect for human rights. Allen Kassof even underlined that the solution should come in the same yearױ997.  The Kosovar Albanians declared at that time that they could not accept anything but independence, representing the will of over 90% of the Albanians in the region of Kosovo, expressed in a popular referendum and in the free elections for a parallel government. The Serbian side on the other hand, declared that a solution for Kosovo could only be found within a democratic Serbia, and that there will never be an independent Kosovo. Ten years later, in November 2007, international politicians continue to repeat the same line: a solution should be found this year, and every delay might cause new instabilities in a region worn out by the prolongation of these talks. "The continuation of the current situation is impossible". But the years show that so far it has indeed been possible.
Inside Kosovo, which lives under the UN administration, tension grows as economic problems increase: without independence Kosovo cannot attract investors, provide jobs to the unemployed, negotiate with international financial organizations, become a member of international bodies like the UN, the EU, and so on. The political atmosphere becomes tenser as Kosovo prepares for its November general elections. Armed groups from both sides, like the Serbian Guard of Tsar Lazar and the Albanian National Army beat their chests and threaten to make war for their causes. Until now these groups have been well controlled by the political institutions in Serbia and in Kosovo, whose attention is concentrated on the negotiations in process. But eventually, they could be used by interested political forces to cause unrest and destabilization, or might even act independently as they threat to do. Other unsolved problems in the neighboring Macedonia, which is country to a large number of ethnic Albanians with close kinship ties with Kosovar Albanians, can also serve as a destabilizing factor if the status talks take forever.
December 10, the end of this new period of negotiations to solve the status of Kosovo, is not really that far off. What did both sides offer each other over one month ago in their first direct encounter with the presence of three international mediators? Practically nothing that can serve as a basis for negotiation: the Serbian side offered 95% autonomy to Kosovo, but not any sort of independence; the Kosovo Albanians offered good-neighbor relations and recognition of a long list of rights for the Serbian minority in Kosovo, but only after independence. The following meetings in Brussels and Vienna in October and early November have only raised the level of hostility. The last Serbian proposal for Hong Kong status for Kosovo is another maneuver of the Serbs to appear as the side that is moving towards a solution with new ideas and refreshed will, but the real proposal is essentially nothing more than the autonomy they offered before. In the recent talks, the Kosovar side is stuck to its "independence" claim without much creativity to serve it in attractive and changing dishes, certainly keeping the independence in the heart of their new proposals. Perhaps this time in Brussels they do bring something eye-catching and do not repeat themselves. 
However, not much new is expected. Each side is simply trying to convince the international community that it is not to be blamed for withdrawing from the political game of negotiations. Serbs do not want to repeat the mistake of Rambouillet that brought NATO to the stage. What Albanians and Serbians are really waiting for as they argue for their unchanged positions is to see which one of their respective protectors, the US-EU or Russia, will yield. 
But an agreement for an independent Kosovo does not seem to be possible this year with Russia standing against it, and a Kosovo under Serbia's thumb again, seems even more distant. Probably there will be a unilateral proclamation of independence from the Kosovar Albanians after December 10, if the US and important EU members will allow it. Is this the solution to the Kosovo problem? If a large number of states, including the major world powers, recognize Kosovo, it could be. If a unilateral independence without a UN Security Council blessing leaves Kosovo recognized as independent by only a few non-major political actors, it would be just another failure of international bodies to deal with the world's ethnic problems. It would also be a failure of the Kosovar Albanians to get rid of Serbian rule and repugnance once forever, hence their strong repeated promise to not act without the support of the US-EU factor. 
However, one thing is certain: "The continuation of the current situation is impossible".

Eda Derhemi (PhD) teaches communications and Italian at the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign, and is an IREX advanced research fellow (IARO) working for six months in Kosovo and Albania.
                    [post_title] =>  The political vacuum: Kosova after the formal halt of Ahtisaari's proposal 
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                    [post_content] => By AURON TARE
Quite by accident I came across a luxurious volume, bound with so much care and published in the name of such a serious institution as is the Athen's Benaki Museum. The volume is entitled, "Through Romantic Eyes." After a visit of several hours through the magnificent ruins of Butrint,  and after sitting down to drink something after such a long walk, friend of mine, a foreign diplomat, gave me this volume as a gift, as a reminder of a talk we once had about the travels of the Romantics of the 19th Century throughout Albania and Greece. The epoch of the travels by the Romantics of Europe to all corners of European Turkey, as the regions of Greece, Albania and Macedonia were known at that time, is a subject of substantial interest. Towards the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th Centuries, a number of European aristocrats, talented artists or adventure seekers searching for exotic background material to their deeds, traveled to hitherto unexplored regions of Greece and Albania. The diaries or publications of these travelers, their paintings and drawings or secret reports remain, today, the most authentic witness accounts informing us of life and the history of the regions they journeyed through. The drawings and paintings they did, that, later on earned them the sweeping term of "19th Century Romantics," are the only evidence we have on how the scenery used to be, now totally transformed by modern times; the only descriptions we have of the ancient cities, now in the stranglehold of steel and concrete or of the colorful folk costumes of the inhabitants of these places, gone for ever, victims of global expansion.
The European Romantics were a very interesting mixture of that universal race of human beings who thirst for travel, exploration and adventure. Writers and poets, archeologists or artists, with a thirst to discover ancient history, but also plunderers of art, very distinguished names in the halls of the aristocrats of Paris or London, but also highly intelligent observers working for the secret services of the respective countries- all of them together created an Epoch, which left indelible prints on the re-birth of Modern Greece or of the other regions of the Ottoman Empire.
Thanks to the diaries or publications of these travelers, their paintings, sketches or reports, we inherit a priceless treasure of information on Greek-Albanian-Turkish history of that period. All of this formed the subjects of the conversation with my diplomat friend and it is for this reason that I could hardly sit down, in quiet, and read this volume in peace.
So after leafing through a part of this Volume, for a few minutes I turned back to the beginning again and saw the foreword written by the Director of the Benaki Museum Dr.Angelos Delivorrias, as well as the text drafted by the authoress of the book Fani-Maria Tsigakou. If some foreign researcher, in this case the Greek scholar Tsigakou, had published a book with inaccuracies or the subtle manipulation of the content of tableaus drawn almost 200 years ago, I would have put this book away in a drawer, dismissing this merely as outright ill will or ignorance. But the name of such a serious institution as Benaki Museum and the support provided to the publication of this volume by official institutions, such as the Ministry of Culture or the Ministry of Tourism of Greece prompted me to write these lines. 
Apart from the magnificent scenery depicted in the tableaus by the masters of those times, there is also a series of portraits and scenes where individuals are depicted dressed in traditional folk costume. The normal reader of the history of that period is well aware of eh fact that the Romantic painters often focused their works around Albanians dressed in their very particular folk costumes. In the territories of European Turkey, the Albanian element was predominant for a series of factors linked with the fact that Albanians traditionally emigrated or worked as mercenaries in the armies of the Turkish Pashas or in the bands of the Klefts. This most picturesque element in the paintings of the highlands or islands of Greece is described hundreds of times in the travel notes of a number of artists or travelers of that time. The powerful personality of Ali Pasha Tepelena and his rule throughout the Greek territory had resulted in the Albanians spreading out far and wide and often, in the travels of these romantics of the time, the Albanians served as guides or armed guards for the adventurers.  The broad scale involvement of Christian Albanians in the Movement for Independence of Greece, made them an even more interesting subject for European painters, who positioned Albanians, as an important element in their compositions dedicated to the Greek Revolution. 
In the collection at the Benaki Museum, there are a series of tableaus, accumulated over the years, in which the Albanian element, dressed in their particular folk costumes, especially the traditional fustanella, are the centre of these works. However, strangely the researcher and Curator of this Museum Mrs. Tsigakou decided that in the volume she published, all the drawings and paintings containing an Albanian element were captioned "Greek Highlanders." It is astonishing how a researcher, who writes and publishes a Volume on the Tableaus of the 19th Century Romantics, can erase with one stroke of the pen, the entire Albanian element, which served as a source of bountiful inspiration to a series of artists of the period.
In particular, I would select the Tableau by Carl Hag, so well known and loved by both the Albanian and foreign public. Naturally, the experts in the field could have quite a lot to say about the painting, printed in hundreds of publications as the Tableau of a typical Albanian male, whereas in the Benaki publication it is entitled, "The Greek Highlander" by Carl Hag 1861.
There is absolutely no doubt that this tableau depicts a typical Albanian male, because not only is his costume typically Albanians, but if you look closely, you can also see that the hair cut is typically Albanian for the time, close cropped fringe and long shoulder length hair at the back. There is plenty of other evidence of the hair cuts of the Albanian males of the time, different from their Greek contemporaries in the works by Hobhouse, the traveling companion of Lord Byron or in the famous painting by Dupres, "Ali Pasha in Butrint." Here, you can clearly see the hair styles of the body guards of Ali Pasha, close cropped fringes and long hair at the back.
I don't think this is the place to dwell on whether or not the fustenella is a characteristic feature of Albanian or Greek folk costumes, because Faik Konica has covered this amply, however I would say that the author Tsigakou does try to very subtly manipulate the truth when she writes that the "long fustenella was used chiefly by the Greek Chieftains and was predominant throughout the Greek residential centers. In the middle of the 19th Century, King Oto decided that this would be the uniform to be used at Court." Mrs. Tsigakou lies deliberately about this issue, or otherwise she does not know that many of the authors of the period, or later on, have written about the fustenella, as one of the main and distinctive features of the Albanians, distinguishing them from the Greeks. The fact that the German King of Greece Otto introduced this attire into the Court indicates the veneration he had for this symbol of clothing of the Albanian fighters. To this day the Greeks still do not have their own word to describe the fustanella, but they call it a fustenella too, borrowed from the Albanian word "fustan" which means dress.
If the author of the volume has suspicions about the themes of the tableaus presented in this publication, it cannot be said that she nurtures similar suspicions on the authorship of these lines, quoted out of context and presented above. Whoever has read Lord Byron, knows only too well that these lines have been taken from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" Canto II, and more accurately from the famous song, "Tamburxh, Tamburxhi!!" Related to this song, this famous poet wrote about the moment when he heard it sung for the first time by a group of Albanians, who danced to this song. Byron rendered the bulk of these lines from these chants into the English version.  In other words, it is impossible that a researcher of Tsignakou's status must have read this famous verse of Lord Byron.
If Mrs. Tsignakou goes so far in this Volume as to manipulate the well known lines of Byron about the Albanians, then how valid are the opinions raised on the Tableaus of the Romantics containing Albanian figures? The reader can draw his own conclusions.
In 1984, the authoress of this book printed an early version of this publication in the French language, entitled, "La Grece Retrouvee," in Albanian, "Greece Re-found," with the foreword  by the well-known  professor of ancient French history Jacques Lacarriere. This French Professor writes that in many of the paintings of the 19th Century Romantics there are Albanians dressed in their national costumes. Mrs. Tsigakou failed to remove this passage from the foreword of the well-known Professor in the initial publication, however in the second publication it has been removed.
Although the book "Through Romantic Eyes" is devoted to the tableaus of the European artists and their art for Greece, there is no reason why the figures of the Albanians who were the source of their inspiration for their works should be manipulated by he researchers of today, even more so when they are backed by official Greek institutions. The tableaus of the Albanians in the context of Greek history should not be negated just as their outstanding contribution to the Greek revolution should not be negated. If Albanian or Greek scholars, private or state institutions are involved in the manipulation of historical truths, they will without doubt help the deepening of the abyss of bilateral misunderstanding and contempt.
                    [post_title] =>  19th Century Romantics and the Publication of the Volume, "Through Romantic Eyes" of the Benaki Museum in Athens 
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                    [post_content] => By Henri ȩli
The impression the 2007 EU Report leaves in its wake, conjures up reminders of the times of Communist self-criticism. No parallel can be drawn between that and the rationale behind the drafting of the Report, but the message one gets from reading it, is that the reforms must be deepened, that there must be a dialogue between the ruling majority and the opposition, the justice system must be reformed, there must be an electoral reform and so forth. There are at least three issues which are left wide open in the EU Report, which have not escaped the Rapporteurs of European bureaucracy, which for all its sluggishness, is one of the most professional bureaucracies of our time. 
First, the report takes note of the lack of progress in the reform in the justice system, which is key to the efforts aimed at improving the rule of law and making it more effective, a fundamental aspect of the proclaimed fight against corruption, and, in the final analysis, the main mechanism, through which a liberal democracy is guaranteed and perpetuated every day. During a period of 26 months, since the Democrats came to power, not even a single article of a single draft law has arrived at the Parliament or has been approved by it, for this simple reason: the consensus between the government and the opposition needed in order to amend the legislative framework of the reform in the justice system has failed. When one speaks of the consensus having failed, it must be said that it is the government that has failed, as the more powerful party, which is supposed to offer a structure to the dialogue and to find a compromise with the opposition. The government has failed to find ways of making specific concessions to the opposition in order to secure its votes for the reforms in the justice system. On the contrary, even those opportunities for restarting the reforms in the justice system that may have existed after the election of the new President of the Republic, Bamir Topi were shattered in Parliament on Monday following the dismissal of the Attorney General, Theodhori Sollaku.
Second, the electoral reform in all its elements is the other issue on which the EU is really insisting. The failure of this reform so far, the intentional protraction and delays of the reform - that it is clear no government of this country ever intends to complete - is one of the most profound responsibilities of the current Majority. This is a great disappointment indeed. Today's majority - yesterday's opposition - was one of the greatest victims of the violation of free elections. But until today, the majority has not scored even a single minimal improvement of the standard related to free and fair elections in this country. It has not done so even for those standards that do not require "the votes of the opposition," such as the national voters' register, the new ID cards, etc. A bogged down, stagnant electoral reform does not bode well for the 2009 elections. 
The third, and most delicate of the three issues, is the acknowledgment by the EU of the election of the new President of the Republic and the "reasonable" parliamentary consensus through which President Topi was elected. Here we have a typical example of the phraseology and catchwords of European bureaucracy, which are void of any meaning that would relate to the local context and developments; a context that, although miniscule in the strategic perspective of Brussels, does actually change the essence of developments and realities. As the initial tests relating to the "Sollaku" affair show, Bamir Topi's presidency is not only failing to solve the crisis stemming from the absence of a bipartisan consensus, but it is creating the grounds for the destruction of every opportunity to find this consensus.  By presenting the parliamentary majority with an opportunity to strengthen its power and take control of the remainder of the institutions, this "president elected by reasonable consensus", could once again upset the balance on the institutional scene, carrying us back to the perilous times of the so-called "Blue State," of the years 1992-1997, or of the "Rose State" of the years 1997-2002. Both of these experiences would be traumatic to the Albanian democracy.
Another year has almost passed faced with the same situation of shortcomings that appear to be endemic to Albanian democracy: an unjust justice system, elections that can be stolen, disequilibrium of powers. So the EU's message about getting down to it and deepening reforms sounds at the very least as a huge irony.  
                    [post_title] =>  A critical view on EU report on Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Dr. Ibrahim Aktoz
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that organizations, especially (but not only) corporations, have an obligation to consider the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. This obligation is seen to extend beyond their statutory obligation to comply with legislation.
CSR is closely linked with the principles of Sustainable Development, which argues that enterprises should make decisions based not only on financial factors such as profits or dividends, but also based on the immediate and long-term social and environmental consequences of their activities.
The issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) - broadly defined to include such concepts as sustainability, sustainable development, triple bottom line, corporate citizenship, and sustainable enterprise management (including environmental issues) - is now challenging the very foundations of the business strategies of the world's leading organizations. CSR is, however, one of the most complex challenges facing businesses today. To many, it is a guiding principle that underpins corporate vision, strategy and decision-making. To others, it represents a series of emerging issues that must be "managed" by the company in order to maintain its "license to operate". Either way, the responsible, sustainable company realizes short-term success and builds a stable platform for future growth and profitability, while at the same time, acknowledging its economic, social, and environmental responsibilities and the needs and concerns of a wide range of stakeholders. 
Corporate social responsibility is also a key issue for oil distribution sector to be addressed in  a proactive and systematic manner and requires well researched and long-term solutions.
There is a growing pressure on oil distribution companies in relation to their impacts on, and role within society and communities in the countries where they operate.
Oil distribution companies face complex issues as many countries are often economically disadvantaged and characterized by an absence of the right human resources, inadequate physical and social infrastructure. In addition, companies must adapt to a variety of local conditions, legal regulations and social-cultural differences. This reality mostly pushes oil distribution companies seek to address these issues through policies, governance structures, internal business practices and operations as well as codes of conduct and engagement programmes. They also use tools such as social impact assessments and train staff on key issues such as stakeholder engagement, health-safety and environmental concerns.
Corporate social responsibility needs to be an important part of corporate strategy of oil distribution companies where inconsistencies arise between corporate profits and social goals, or else discord can arise over issues of fairness. A corporate social responsibility program can make executives aware of these conflicts and commit them to taking social interest seriously. It can also be critical to maintaining or improving staff morale, to the stock market's assessment of a company's risk and to negotiations with regulators. 
Many companies are responding to the reporting pressures without first establishing how to entrench CSR in their operations and decision-making processes. Only when this is done will the true benefits be realised as the real risks can be managed and the opportunities realised on a sustainable basis. 
For many oil distribution companies, health, safety and environmental concerns have long been ingrained in the way they do business within their own sites and amongst their own personnel. But even here, the challenge is broadening with increasing emphasis on active engagement with dealers and suppliers. In other areas, such as diversity, many firms now have policies and procedures in place, but would admit that they have a long way to go before their goals are achieved. 
In Albanian oil distribution market, besides urgent need of a new energy law and many other regulations  in conformity with international rules concerning fuel business and its  players in oil distribution field, CSR concept still stands an unknown approach except for shareholder value and more profit expectation with an increasing market share. 
It is obvious that main competition amongst oil distribution companies is mostly focused on price reducing aiming the ascending market share and shareholder value and expanding the point of sales in an sophisticated way  instead of posing a stable pricing methodology complying with international oil prices, building their network through implementing internationally recognized health-safety environmental procedures and leading effective CSR policies for Albania and its valuable citizens.
Despite no regulatory body posing and inspecting CSR policies of those existing licensed players and strict regulations concerning the energy game applied, ALPET as first and sole ISO 9001-2000 certified oil distribution company in the market has already been the pioneer of CSR by health, safety and environmental regulations in accordance with international standarts built in its entire network before implementing the ALPET corporate identity, organizing plenty of training and seminars aimed at raising the awareness of all employees, dealers regarding safety standarts and increasing customer satisfaction through improving the quality of service and by importing of quite high quality oil products such as ultra light sulphur diesel 50 PPM(particule per million) meaning very low sulphur content and the lowest air and environmental pollution.
 Apart form that, ALPET also plays a key role in its domain arranging many social-cultural events as principal sponsor to contribute in posing  a better and adorable social life in Albania.
In today's oil distribution industry it is no longer possible for an oil distribution company to focus solely on deriving value only for its shareholders. Instead governments and society at large have begun a robust campaign to ensure that oil distribution companies are addressing long-term issues and have a clear and articulated strategy to both be profitable and responsible at the same time. The only way in which oil distribution companies can achieve this is to first gain the trust of their key stakeholders. Whether these be investors, regulators, employees, or others, it is fundamental that their operations are conducted in a responsible and sustainable way. Oil companies are increasingly facing broad requirements under which they are expected to identify and respond to stakeholder and societal needs.
The risks posed to the business and its reputation are correspondingly diverse. 
Reputation is an intangible asset, but you build it with material that is absolutely tangible. Acting with social and environmental responsibility is a key part of building an oil distribution company's reputation, which is proven by whether or not the company survives. It's intelligent policy to be committed on these issues. 
The key point of CSR for oil distribution sector is that debate about the social-environmental impacts mostly focusing on health-safety and environmental concerns of oil business in the countries where they operate. Every oil distribution company will ultimately need to understand and articulate its position on the thorny issues that lie at the heart of the discussions about CSR. This broad and complex agenda presents a tremendous challenge, but it also presents a tremendous opportunity for differentiation in an increasingly competitive local-global marketplace - and those companies that understand the importance of being good corporate citizens will be those that reap the earliest rewards.
Dr. Ibrahim Aktoz is General Manager of vil Oil & Alpet
                    [post_title] =>  Corporate Social Responsibility for Oil Distribution Companies 
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                    [post_content] => Amidst signs of an emerging Putin personality cult among Kosovo Serbs, many locals doubt how far Russia would go to give them support
By Igor Milic in Northern Mitrovica
At first sight Sumadija Square in the heart of the northern, Serb-controlled part of Mitrovica is nothing more than a large intersection which is usually packed with people, parked cars and street vendors.
But the square is also home to the town's stage with a speaker's platform.
This is the place where all political gatherings and protests in this divided city in the north of Kosovo take place.
The stage is decorated with an Serbian-language banner in big blue and red letters that reads "Russia, help!" and another two in English and Serbian respectively: "Do not make our holy land a present to Albanians" and "Long live Serbia."
It is not unusual to see slogans and posters like these in many other places in northern Mitrovica, the smaller, predominantly Serb-inhabited part of the divided city. Large stickers with pictures of Russian president Vladimir Putin are prominently displayed on many walls. 
Many from the northern part of the town - which in Serbian is called Kosovska Mitrovica - say it is just a normal expression of a common belief that Putin has played a pivotal role in determining Russia's policy on Kosovo.
"This is about expressing our hope and gratitude for his support," says Bojan Radenkovic, a young local man.
Putin's popularity has shot up in northern Mitrovica, after earlier this year Russia, Serbia's ally, torpedoed a UN resolution that envisaged internationally-monitored independence for Kosovo, Serbia's UN-administered province.
"I hope Putin and Russia will help us and won't leave us in the lurch," Radenkovic says, adding that the outcome of a new phase of talks on Kosovo's future, currently being held under the auspices of the EU, Russia and the US, now depends on the Kremlin.
The talks are focused on reaching a compromise over Kosovo's long-term status. Ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina want independence for the province while the Serbian government is offering them broad autonomy. The US and its allies are advocating Kosovo's independence. Russia however, wants a compromise that is acceptable to both Pristina and Belgrade. The Kremlin has also warned that any unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence could have an impact on breakaway regions in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
Many Kosovo Serbs believe Putin and Russia will protect them. However, they remain divided over Russia's readiness for military engagement in Kosovo, if the dispute turns violent. "If this were the case, a wider conflict and a new global division would ensue," Radenkovic says.
In 1999, after NATO bombing ousted Serbian troops from Kosovo, a Russian contingent was unexpectedly rushed to Kosovo from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina where it had been serving as part of the peacekeeping force.
It was deployed at Pristina airport, nearly entering a firefight with NATO troops that were advancing, on schedule, from neighbouring Macedonia.
Russian troops were subsequently included in the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping contingent but were withdrawn from the province in 2003, when Moscow pleaded that it could not afford the cost of their upkeep. Meanwhile Russia, boosted by massive oil and gas revenues, has been seeking to restore its position on the international stage as a great power. Its recently-adopted tougher position over Kosovo has convinced many Serbs in the province that the Kremlin will protect them.
More than 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled the province since 1999 in fear of reprisal attacks by ethnic Albanian extremists.
They have left behind a Serbian minority of about 100,000, half of them in Mitrovica and the areas to the north, bordering Serbia itself, and the other half dispersed in much smaller communities. Though concerned about their future, those in the north, are effectively in control of the areas they inhabit. Serbs living elsewhere - in small pockets among nearly 2 million ethnic Albanians - are much more fearful about their prospects.
"Russian support means the world to us," says Ivan Miletic, 25, a shopkeeper.
"Personally I wouldn't display his (Putin's) picture, but I understand the people doing it," he says.
Russia distanced itself from Serbia under the regime of the late President Slobodan Milosevic. But Miletic believes the situation "is totally different now. I'd say they would find a way to help us, even militarily," he says, and adds that the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence by its Albanian-dominated institutions would allow local Serbs to demand more protection.
Others in northern Mitrovica believe that Russia's military backing for Kosovo Serbs is a highly unlikely option.
"We have strong Russian backing at the moment, but we don't know how long it will last," says Dragan Stojkovic, 42.
Stojkovic argues that despite Russia's apparently firm position over the Kosovo issue, the Kremlin's previous involvements in the Balkans were "not always favourable for the Serbs. Russia is not now what it was like about ten years ago," he claims.
Relations between Belgrade and Moscow soured in 1991 following Milosevic's support for the botched coup staged by pro-communist generals against the then reformist President Mikhail Gorbachev.
In the 1990s Boris Yeltsin's administration that succeeded Gorbachev repeatedly made it clear the former Yugoslavia was not at the top of its agenda. Russia did participate in efforts aimed at ending the bloody conflicts in the old Yugoslavia of six republics, but it relegated the leading role to the US. Sasa Radenkovic, 33, remains sceptical about Russia's support. "I don't believe in it very much. Russia didn't back us all that much" during wars in former Yugoslavia, he says.
However, it appears that there is something of a Putin personality cult in the making among Kosovo Serbs. "Putin is a strong figure, and he boosted Russia's position in the world," Radenkovic says.
There is also the physical appearance of Russia's leader that makes him appealing to many Kosovo Serbs.
Unlike most of his septuagenarian predecessors plagued by disease and too much vodka, Putin's love of the outdoors, martial arts and his professional background as an intelligence officer "make him look like a real man of power, almost a movie star," said Nikola Markovic of the town of Leposavic.
"A man who likes a workout, flies fighter jets, wrestles with his best soldiers, who hunts and goes fishing is clearly someone capable of real action," Markovic said.
His fianc顚orica said that "Putin is cute." "He's a good looking guy in every respect. And I love his dog", she said referring to Putin's Labrador retriever Connie.
"A man who ran the KGB for so many years cannot be stupid. He knows what he's doing. He will outsmart them all", said Milan from the town of Zvecan, just outside northern Mitrovica.
There are differing views among Kosovo Serb political representatives on the extent of Russia's support for the Serbs, but everyone agrees that what Russia and Putin have to say, will certainly matter in the future.
For Petar Miletic of the moderate Independent Liberal Party, what matters is that Russia plays an important role in the process of seeking a solution for Kosovo. "Russia's consent is necessary, if any resolution of the Kosovo issue is to go through the Security Council," he said.
Miletic also says that Russia's future military presence in Kosovo would require an agreement with the EU, the US and NATO. As for the rise in the popularity of Russia and its outgoing president, that was something to be expected, Miletic believes. "People respond positively to the firm views expressed by Putin, as well as to his image of an uncompromising politician."
Nebojsa Jovic, the head of the nationalist Serb National Council for Mitrovica, says that the "position of Russia and its president on the issue [of Kosovo] is constructive and in keeping with international law, hence his popularity among Kosovo Serbs."
"There's a clear desire on his part to prevent the Kosovo problem from becoming a much bigger regional, even European, problem," Jovic concludes.
Given Putin's role, many Serbs in Mitrovica are hoping that the Russian leader will find a way to stay in power when he steps down from the presidency after his second and final term has come to an end in March next year. Putin has indicated that he may want to take the post of prime minister. If they could vote for him, many of his supporters in Kosovo's Serb community would do so wholeheartedly.
Igor Milic is a freelance reporter in Northern Mitrovica. Balkan Insight is BIRN's online publication. 
                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo Serbs Put their Hopes in Russia - and Putin 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-10-23 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU representative in current talks on final status, is in a muddle over Kosova. With increasing frustration visible over the absence of EU unity, some Union delegates may be seeing the mirage of a "third way" between statehood and non-statehood.  
The German diplomat indicated that talks on Kosova's status will not focus on "labels" such as independence, but on the type of "internationally supervised status." Ischinger evidently prefers "strong supervised status" which the majority of Kosovars are unlikely to object to if this means a strong NATO and U.S. presence.
Ischinger dismissed Kosova's insistence on independence, claiming, "the independence label is worth nothing" and asserting that Kosova will "continue to rely on foreign aid." Independence may mean little to somebody who takes his own country's independence for granted. But it is surely undignified to belittle the sacrifices of people who have struggled and died for independence for several generations.
EU representatives should remember the enduring importance of national identity and independence. For example, Ischinger needs to ask himself why German soccer fans do not cheer the Italian team if the latter are playing better football? Or why are the French so concerned about their loss of culture and cuisine in competition with American imports?
Independence is a vital component of national dignity and equal stature. Paradoxically, only countries that become independent acquire the confidence to surrender elements of their sovereignty to international institutions. And ultimately, neither the EU nor NATO accept dependencies or supervised entities into their midst. EU representatives should be aware of the principles on which their own Union is based.
A little humility from the German diplomat would also be welcome, with the reminder that after its own World War Two traumas Germany was highly dependent on foreign aid, especially through the U.S.-led Marshall Plan for reconstruction and development.
There are one of two logical explanations for Ischinger's statements. First, Ischinger may think he can fool the Serbs and the Russians by avoiding the word independence in any final settlement. However one calculates the collective intelligence of the current governments in Belgrade and Moscow, one should certainly not exaggerate their collective stupidity.
To his credit, Ischinger did underscore that Serbia's offer of autonomy for Kosova would also lead nowhere. But his statements beg the question: if he opposes both autonomy and independence, then what does he support? Is he pushing for Kosova's permanent dependence on international organizations? And is he suggesting that the EU should impose a quasi-colonial political solution on Kosova? It is difficult to imagine that such a prospect will be acceptable in London, Paris, or even Berlin.
The second explanation for Ischinger's avoidance of the "i" word is his growing frustration with the EU and its diverse foreign policies. He may believe that by shrouding the process in verbal mystery the Kosovars will accept something less than independence. While independence with supervision is acceptable to citizens until the new country can stand on its own feat, supervision without independence is a recipe for even greater instability.
Some reports also claim that Ischinger rejects the Ahtisaari proposal as the basis of discussions over Kosova's future. If true, such assertions by the EU delegate contradict the overall Union position and weaken the credibility of a plan that strikes the most effective balance between supervision and statehood.
The Europeans have a few short few weeks to decide what is right: whether to go back to the UN Security Council after the current talks fail or whether to recognize Kosova's independence shortly after it is declared. Dithering and linguistic manipulation will simply make the Union into a laughing stock.
Meanwhile, Russia's stance does not appear to be wavering and Moscow has evidently not struck any deals with Washington in return for its acquiescence on Kosova's status. Indeed, Moscow is strengthened by EU indecision and any trans-Atlantic divergences over the Balkans.
                    [post_title] =>  Eu Muddle Over Independence 
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                    [post_content] => By Professor MENTOR PETRELA

Albania spends 70 Euro per capita on health
With a mere 3 per cent of the GDP it is nigh on impossible for the health system to survive. In other words to enjoy sound health there is no price, but there is a cost. In the member countries of the OECD, the average cost of health is at 8.9 per cent, and differs in Germany, in France 11 per cent, in the UK and Spain 7.7 per cent. Albania spends 70 Euro per capita on health. The above countries spend more than 3,000 Euro  per capita on health, and they do permit themselves, occasionally, the luxury of appointing a Minister of Health who is not a Doctor, for the sake of a compromise, or when they don't have anyone who fits the bill with a political commitment.
This is the reason why, the parodies in the media based on this argument, to me have never seemed reasonable. Take the two neighbouring countries that I know well, Italy and France. In Italy, there is the experience with the Prodi Government, a Minister of Health, distinguished Professor of Oncology from Verona, who in the Prodi-2 Government prolonged the representation of his group in this post due to the fact that he had exceeded 10 years of age. In the Berlusconi Governments, 1 and 2, the health ministers were Doctors of repute, Professor Sirchia, hematologist. In France, in the Rafarin Government, the Minister of Health Professor Mattei, a leading expert in genetics, was replaced by Douste Blazy, a cardiologist, who in the Villepin Cabinet switched functions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Medicine need the transfer of technologies
The University hospitals, where top level technologies are used today, one fifth of the expenses of the Albanians today, a total of 570 million Euro (data of the Bank of Albania) go on medical treatment. Albanian medicine has always needed, what is known as, the transfer of technologies and competences. King Zog realized this historically by sending many persons abroad for long term specialization and by bringing Jewish Professors to Albania between1933-39; in a later period from 1965-1975, Soviet and Chinese assistance yielded its fruits. But then autarchy blacked out the country, with the consequences we are aware of. Here, politicians fail to grasp the fact that education is the essence of the principle of a society with a European and not communal orientation. Their contribution, in the opposite sense, is often witnessed, beginning with the monies they take from their compatriots as "a second hand people." In other words, they have distinguished themselves in the deepening of the exodus from the country. The heteroclite situation, which is illusive for the above mentioned reasons in terms of turning a politician, but which could be used with demagogy, for personal gain.

International assistance in a monitoring sense
The evolution of Albanian Medicine following the Nineties' has enjoyed international assistance, in a monitoring sense, which has brought in to the country prepared documents and strategies for reforms, which have progressed in fits and starts, because some Albanian partner would be picked up along the way who didn't know foreign languages adequately. This strikes the eye especially in the case of the politicians. Internationals, who have known their Leviticus predecessors in Health, are most sensitive, especially in direct contacts. To sum up, there will be fewer projects, less funds for health.

The kleptomaniac proselytism has not managed to entrench itself
Albania has a society which resembles the developments in the countries of the East, chiefly Russia, more than anything else. The frenzy to become rich, the absence of social cohesion, the conflict of interests, the lobbying, oligarchy, and plutocracy, all of the above erode democracy. The politicians are more likely to support or to become oligarchic Ayatollah, quenching their thirst for power with figures, and obviously receiving the Communion wafer as an Act in the Show. So far at least, this kind of oligarchy is not known amongst professional persons of Medicine and kleptomaniac proselytism has not managed to entrench itself.

The medical clasas has inspired the society
Fukuyama says that politicians will continue to be needed in advanced Western societies for as long as the professionals listen to them. Heidegger says the opposite, because he foresaw the collapse of totalitarianism, supported the development of society and the professionals. The medical class, with its roots sunk deep in humanism, has inspired society; it has the sense of rendering service; it is an eternal spring.

The author is Professor of the University and Hospitals Paris.
                    [post_title] =>  The Albanian health system, the impossible survival 
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            [post_date] => 2007-11-23 01:00:00
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 - Opposition Socialist Party has made a request for a motion of Prime Minister Sali Berisha on the last progress report of the European Union.

That report deserves a serious debate in the parliament to answer all the issues on the country's management, including justice, rule of law, corruption which exist here, said Socialist parliamentary group head Valentina Leskaj.

The EU made it clear to Albania that the country should fulfill all that is required in the Stabilization and Association Agreement it has signed a year ago, specifically mentioning the fight against organized crime and corruption, reform in the judiciary and the electoral system and improving the administration.
            [post_title] =>  Opposition asks for debate motion with PM Berisha 
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