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Belgrade Media Report 15 May

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LOCAL PRESS

• Vucic, Putin talk about threats coming from Albanians (Novosti)
• Nikolic: The mad dog must be punished (Novosti)
• Djuric: We are not afraid of terrorists dressed as politicians (TV Pink/Tanjug)
• Stefanovic: Albanians will take away one single millimeter of our territory (Blic)
• Ljajic: Haradinaj is the EU problem (Tanjug)
• New US troops to Kosovo (RTS/FoNet)

REGIONAL PRESS

Bosnia & Herzegovina
• Dodik: Referendum on secession of RS from B&H to be held as soon as conditions are secured (RTRS)
• Representatives of opposition in RS file a motion of no confidence in RS government (TV1)
• SDA, SDS, DF: Elections will be held under existing Election Law (TV1)
• “Ujedinjena Srpska” holds convention, adopts declaration on RS as unique and inviolable constitutional-legal entity (RTRS)
fYROM
• SDSM issues final warning to President Ivanov to award them the mandate (MIA)
• Political crisis deepens as mandates of municipal authorities expire (MIA)
• VMRO-DPMNE will not participate in the scheduled coordination meeting in parliament (Meta)
Albania
• U.S. State Department official to visit Tirana in attempt to help overcome political crisis (ATA)
• Rama: June 18 election to mark new era of country’s justice system (ATA)

INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES

• EU’s Post-Brexit Pivot to the Balkans Piles Pressure on Serbia to Give Up Kosovo (Sputnik)
• Albania opposition holds anti-government rally ahead of election (AP)
• Turkish ambassador points out FETO network in Albania (World Bulletin)

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LOCAL PRESS

 

Vucic, Putin talk about threats coming from Albanians (Novosti)

 

Attempts to create a Greater Albania have been a topic of conversation as Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reports Novosti, adding that they met in Beijing and spoke about the political situation in the region. The daily cites unnamed sources who said that Putin and Vucic, during a dinner organized by Chinese President Xi Jinping, considered the ever-increasing threatening statements coming from political representatives of Albanians in the Balkans, and expressed their concern, assessing that such rhetoric represents a potential for conflict. Vucic is leading a Serbian delegation taking part in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. The delegation signed several memorandums of cooperation with Chinese companies in the fields of infrastructure, industry and education, including a memorandum of understanding and cooperation on the Belgrade South Adriatic project, for sections from Preljina to Pozega and from Pozega to Boljare, and another on the Novi Sad Ruma expressway construction project. These memorandums were signed with representatives of the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and are worth a combined EUR 2.5 billion. Another agreement concerns a project to build a Chinese-Serbian industrial park in Belgrade. Vucic spoke with Chinese businesspeople about cooperation possibilities in the military, transportation and aviation industries, Beta reported. Beside Xi and Putin, Vucic also met with Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

 

Nikolic: The mad dog must be punished (Novosti)

 

Haradinaj is a dog who has tasted human flesh, and needs to be punished, so that the vehement foam would not be dropping from his mouth. We are prepared to defend everybody and everything that has been entrusted upon us with the Constitution,” Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told Novosti. “Everyone is free to want what they may. Haradinaj was freed in France and now he thinks that he will never be punished if he commits a crime against a Serb. As long as the EU states do not wash away the sin of recognizing so-called independence, he will continue to evade justice. Hatred towards Serbhood has been rekindled in some states with impunity. We will hear all kinds of things until elections for Pristina’s interim institutions are over.”

 

Djuric: We are not afraid of terrorists dressed as politicians (TV Pink/Tanjug)

 

Serbia is not afraid of people who have changed terrorist uniforms and are now acting as politicians, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said. “Such statements are given because of the early elections in Kosovo and Metohija on 11 June and the leaders of terrorists and separatists from 1999, who haven’t offered anything to their people over the past 16 or 17 years, now have to protect the wealth acquired with blood, by plundering Serbs and Albanians and all those living in Kosovo and Metohija,” Djuric told TV Pink. He says that Haradinaj’s statement – that if Serbia refused to erase from its constitution a preamble on Kosovo and Metohija, he would include one-third of Serbian territory in the Kosovo constitution as soon as he was elected prime minister, and that the starting point would be the Serbian city of Nis – is very difficult to comment in a politically serious way. “We condemn loudly when the international community is silent. There have been clear statements over the past days of officials from influential European states that any kind of change of borders in the Balkans cannot be even examined,” says Djuric, adding that part of the international community has at least declaratively distanced itself from something like that. According to him, it is now important for the international organizations in Kosovo and Metohija to give their contribution to the fact that the elections do not turn into a general political circus where the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija will be the main target of Albanian separatist leaders.

 

Stefanovic: Albanians will take away one single millimeter of our territory (Blic)

 

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told Blic that threats coming from Ramush Haradinaj about taking Serbian territory do not represent the position of an individual, but of all Albanians in Kosovo. For that reason, they should not be viewed as Haradinaj’s words, said Stefanovic. An additional concern is the absence of serious reactions from the international community, especially the EU, Stefanovic said, adding that we expect strong and clear reactions to the territorial claims and threats coming from Kosovo Albanians. He said that Serbia expect them to recognize the danger of destabilization of the entire region in these aspirations towards creating a Greater Albania. “It’s not enough to say that this is only because elections are coming, and that it serves as rhetoric to get votes – instead this should concern anyone who is well-intentioned and who wants stability in this region,” he said.  “Albanians know they will not be able to set foot on even a millimeter of the territory of central Serbia, but the constant threats to the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija are worrying. Our job is to protect our people and our national interests, as well as our people in Kosovo and Metohija,” he stressed. According to him, we must not allow these provocations to have any negative consequences on Serbia. “We are trying to strengthen our forces and our country, not only militarily, but also economically and politically. We want to have full stability, and the message of everything we do is that Serbia will not allow any new pogroms of the Serb population, wherever it lives,” said Stefanovic. When it comes to early elections in Kosovo, her said it was about buying time. “Whenever we get to a situation where the finally the Community of Serb Municipalities must be formed – which was clearly agreed in Brussels – immediately some buying of time begins in order to avoid that. Likewise when the topic is launched of the formation of a special court for those who have committed crimes against Serbs, immediately the government collapses, or there are other delays,” he said. In addition to witness intimidation and destruction of DNA evidence, they hope that the passage of time will prevent the special court from revealing anything, Stefanovic said, and concluded: “Unfortunately for them, there is evidence of crimes committed by Albanians against Serb civilians.”

 

Ljajic: Haradinaj is the EU problem (Tanjug)

 

Ramush Haradinaj is not Serbia’s problem, but that of the EU and the international community that needs to react to this kind of radicalism that has been appearing on a daily basis, Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic said. “I’m afraid that such statements will not stay only with him, I’m afraid that other political figures from Kosovo will use populism in the upcoming campaign,” said Ljajic. He says that the Serbian government has been reacting on a daily basis, and that the reactions are pragmatic and restrained. “The government is reacting permanently. We can’t even manage to react as much as Haradinaj can produce news. We are reacting coldly and in a balanced manner, we are demonstrating state pragmatism and we must not succumb to the atmosphere that is being created in Pristina,” said Ljajic. He said this is not only the campaign, but a reflection of the state-of-affairs that we have today in Kosovo.

 

New US troops to Kosovo (RTS/FoNet)

 

Some 130 US soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, will be deployed to Kosovo for 10 months, as part of KFOR, RTS reports.

The engagement of additional troops is part of support to the NATO operation of support to international efforts toward building peace and stability in the Balkans. The soldiers have left for the Fort Hood Army Base in Texas, where they will undergo preparations before being sent to Kosovo. Officials say the soldiers will be in the aviation unit that uses UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

 

REGIONAL PRESS

 

Dodik: Referendum on secession of RS from B&H to be held as soon as conditions are secured (RTRS)

 

Republika Srpska (RS) President Milorad Dodik stated in Banja Luka on Sunday that a referendum on secession of the RS from B&H will be organized as soon as the necessary conditions are secured. “As far as ethnic and national interests are concerned, it does not really matter if it will happen in 2018 or in 2028, for example”, Dodik was quoted as saying. He reiterated that B&H is a “hybrid that just does not work”. “If it weren’t for foreigners, if (US Ambassador to B&H Maureen) Cormack and a couple of other ambassadors – including the British one – left, B&H would not have existed at all. They keep it together every day, they do more for B&H than they do while representing their own countries. They are trying to preserve what they can over there,” Dodik argued.

 

Representatives of opposition in RS file a motion of no confidence in RS government (TV1)

 

Representatives of the opposition in Republika Srpska (RS) submitted to RS Assembly speaker Nedeljko Cubrilovic the initiative for the dismissal of the cabinet of RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic. The initiative was submitted by representatives of SDS, PDP and NDP. They expect from the RS government to announce its stance on the aforementioned initiative within seven-day deadline. Leader of SDS Vukota Govedarica underlined that work of the RS Government is based on corruptive affairs. Leader of PDP Branislav Borenovic and leader of NDP Dragan Cavic spoke about difficult economic situation in the RS, with special emphasis to debts of the entity.

Commenting the announcement of the opposition parties, concerning of the initiative for casting of no confidence vote and possible protests, RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic reminded of previous protests organized by the opposition parties, which already ended up unsuccessfully.

“We also witnessed that, aside from organizing protests, they were also trying to seek comfort at foreign embassies after their election defeat. They were also trying to make the judiciary work in favor of their political goals,” Cvijanovic argued. In her opinion, nobody takes the opposition seriously anymore, and it is clear to everyone that their work in the joint institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina has only served to prevent the RS from receiving the money it is entitled to. She also criticized the opposition parties for the fact that they used to abide by the orders of SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic, and now that he has even lost the authority in his own party, they are trying to cover up the defeat of their policy.

RS President Milorad Dodik stressed that the RS government is the one that has a majority in the RSNA, while the aforementioned initiative is yet another defeat of the opposition parties. “It is clear to everyone that they cannot collect enough votes of no confidence in the RS Government”, he argued and concluded that behavior of the opposition parties is therefore “childish and irresponsible”.

 

SDA, SDS, DF: Elections will be held under existing Election Law (TV1)

 

HDZ B&H recently warned that there will be no general elections without changes of B&H Election Law, while many members of B&H parliament said that the elections will be held under the existing Election Law. MPs from SDA, SDS and DF and the newly-formed ‘Independent Caucus’ stated that the elections will be held in B&H, while MPs from HDZ B&H and SNSD were skeptical. The Croat People’s Assembly (HNS) proposed amendments to B&H Election Law, Bosniaks invoked the Vital National Interest (VNI) in this case and thus, B&H Constitutional Court (CC) is expected to announce its stance on this issue. HNS argued that the elections may not be held in case of non-implementation of a decision of the CC, and if the CC decides to erase disputable provisions of B&H Election Law related to election of delegates in the Federation of B&H House of Peoples (HoP). Head of SDS Caucus in B&H parliament Aleksandra Pandurevic said a few days ago that the elections will be held under the existing Election Law and in her opinion, the amendments offered by HDZ B&H and HNS will not fix the problem. In her opinion, the amendments to B&H Election Law will only additionally complicate the situation. Pandurevic stressed: “These two issues are solved in the Federation of B&H Constitution and this Law (presented by HNS) proposes new models that are against the Federation of B&H Constitution. In order to get to these solutions, that even may be good, we need to change the Federation of B&H Constitution”.  According to Pandurevic, the only thing that they (HNS) can do is to boycott elections and added that in this case, only Croat people will lose. In her opinion, they (HNS) should not make this move.

Representatives of SDA rejected the possibility of not holding the elections saying that this is blackmail. According to SDA, the amendments to B&H Election Law proposed by HNS are discriminatory. Speaker of B&H House of Representatives Sefik Dzaferovic (SDA) emphasized in Sarajevo on Saturday that no one has the right to say that the elections will not be held, if the amendments to the Election Law are not adopted. Dzaferovic added: “The elections will be held, regardless of whether the Election Law is changed or not and all necessary conditions for the elections are mentioned in B&H Election Law”.

Member of the ‘Independent Caucus’ Sadik Ahmetovic stated last week that the elections must be held in B&H. SNSD MPs warned that the issue of election of Croat representatives must be solved and according to SNSD MPs, the option not to hold the elections is possible.

Head of SNSD Caucus in B&H parliament Stasa Kosarac said a couple of days ago that the Croat initiative is legitimate and that they should try to find an adequate solution for this problem. DF MP Zeljko Komsic recently assessed the aforementioned amendments to the Election Law as unacceptable and discriminatory, saying that this will discriminate him as a Croat who lives in the majority Bosniak area. According to Komsic, the final goal in this case is to pressure parties in Sarajevo and the international community and thus, to secure formation of a third entity.

 

“Ujedinjena Srpska” holds convention, adopts declaration on RS as unique and inviolable constitutional-legal entity (RTRS)

 

“Ujedinjena Srpska” (United RS) held a convention in Banja Luka on Sunday, at which the members of this political party adopted a declaration on Republika Srpska (RS) being a “unique and inviolable constitutional-legal entity”. The declaration reads that transfer of competences to the level of B&H is possible only if such measure is in the best interest of the RS and, in that case, the RS retains the right to take those competences back. Commenting on the fact that the party’s convention took place on the first anniversary of protests of the opposition parties and counter-protests of the ruling authority in Banja Luka, leader of “Ujedinjena Srpska” Nenad Stevandic argued that those protests were aimed at destabilizing and causing a state of emergency in the RS, just like a similar situation that happened in Macedonia. Speaking about the work of his party, Stevandic said that he is proud of the fact that they managed to pave the way to a more responsible ethnic policy. RS President Milorad Dodik expressed his support to the declaration and reminded that everyone advocates the principles referred to in this document, although the work of some parties suggests the opposite.

 

SDSM issues final warning to President Ivanov to award them the mandate (MIA)

 

SDSM again called on President Gjorge Ivanov to immediately give the mandate to form the next government to SDSM leader Zoran Zaev. SDSM blamed Ivanov for the expected problems with basic functioning of the state, if he continues to condition the awarding of the mandate. Ivanov asked Zaev to first reject the Tirana platform, signed by three of his would-be ethnic Albanian coalition partners, if he is to receive the mandate. “Ivanov is bound to follow the interests of the citizens and the state, and not the interest of Nikola Gruevski. This is our final warning to him that he needs to award the mandate for the creation of the next government. The speaker of the parliament was elected legitimately, in accordance with the rules of parliament, the Constitution and the laws, and the next, reform oriented government will also be elected in accordance with the law. In the same way there will be changes to the laws and a date for the municipal elections will be set,” SDSM said in a press release on Monday.

President Ivanov says that the Tirana platform, which would dramatically change the way inter-ethnic relations are regulated in Macedonia, is unconstitutional and would make Macedonia subservient to Albania, where it was drafted. This is the reason why he demands that Zaev commits to work in accordance with the Constitution and to reject potentially divisive demands from his would-be Albanian coalition partners. Due to the political crisis, the parties are also unable to agree on a date for holding the next municipal elections, as the four year mandate of the mayors and council members expires on Monday. VMRO-DPMNE said it wants elections to be held as soon as possible, and no later than mid-October, while SDSM has asked for more time.

 

Political crisis deepens as mandates of municipal authorities expire (MIA)

 

Macedonia is facing a new obstacle in its political crisis, as the mandates of all elected municipal officials expire on Monday. Due to delays in formation of parliament new municipal elections were not called on time, and as of today the Mayors and council members of the 80 municipal authorities are not allowed to conduct the day to day running of their institutions, which includes competencies in education, firefighting, waste collection… ZELS, the association of municipal authorities, called on the parliament to meet on Monday and that the parties reach an agreement on steps that would ensure the running of municipal institutions. Talat Xhaferi, the disputed parliament speaker, called representatives of the party groups in parliament to meet on Monday and discuss options to extend the mandate of municipal authorities and to call the next elections. VMRO-DPMNE called for urgent municipal elections, proposing 2 July as the first date when they can be held. The party said it remains open to having the elections held in September or October at the latest, and says that the municipal elections should be combined with early general elections. SDSM, on the other hand, wants to see the election in autumn at the earliest. The last municipal elections were held in the spring of 2013, and to ensure smooth transition, elections were supposed to happen in early May. But, due to the political crisis over the Tirana platform, the parliament was blocked at the time and could not decide on a speaker who needs to call the elections. An attempt to have the Constitutional Court extend the mandate of the current office holders failed as the court said that this decision belongs in the parliament.

 

VMRO-DPMNE will not participate in the scheduled coordination meeting in parliament (Meta)

 

Talat Xhaferi was not elected parliament speaker of the Republic of Macedonia in a legal process and the parliamentary group VMRO-DPMNE does not see why they would respond to an invitation from the MP Talat Xhaferi, which he sent in his capacity as parliament speaker, said the regular morning press release from VMRO-DPMNE. They went on to say that the party will not participate in the scheduled coordination meeting in parliament. “While they accepted a platform from a foreign country, and illegally attempted to elect a parliament speaker, now they are looking for excuses not to hold local elections, which are scheduled and are necessary at this point in time. The criminal, Zoran Zaev should know that holding local elections has nothing to do with the formation of the government”, added VMRO-DPMNE. The party says that SDSM are trying to postpone the local elections because party personnel “do not have the courage to face the Macedonian people, after everything they have done.”

Today, parliament speaker, Talat Xhaferi will be meeting with representatives from the political parties in parliament. At the coordination meeting, MPs should be deciding when to continue the constitutive session and how it should develop. At the coordination meeting, it is also expected that MPs will discuss possible solutions for after the expiration of the mandates for local authorities and to define the next steps for scheduling local elections.

 

U.S. State Department official to visit Tirana in attempt to help overcome political crisis (ATA)

 

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, Hoyt Brian Yee, will be visiting Tirana on Monday in a last ditch effort to overcome the political crisis in Albania fueled by the center-right opposition’s decision to boycott the June parliamentary elections. Yee’s visit is seen as the last chance for the opposition to become part of the electoral process, after last month’s negotiations mediated by the EU envoys failed to break political impasse in the country. The U.S. senior official is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Edi Rama, also leader of the ruling Socialist Party, speaker of the parliament and President-elect Ilir Meta, and the main opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha. In a statement ahead of his Tirana visit, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, Hoyt Brian Yee, on Sunday appealed against parliamentary boycott. “National parliaments should represent and defend the citizens’ interests and lawmakers cannot escape their responsibility by boycotting parliament,” he said in an addressed to a regional security forum in Budva, Montenegro, a day ago. Rama also received Head of OSCE presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt in the premises of SP’s headquarters today. The meeting focused on preparations to the forthcoming parliamentary elections which are boycotted by the opposition.

 

Rama: June 18 election to mark new era of country’s justice system (ATA)

 

Prime Minister Edi Rama told a weekly live stream communication on Sunday the June 18 general election will mark a new era of the country’s justice system as the next month’s ballot will produce a new parliament, without participation of the opposition democrats, that will advance implementation of the vetting law to cleanse the justice system of corruption and political influence. PM Rama said that leading international representatives, including the EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn have insisted that unblocking vetting law would determine Albania’s EU perspective. “This week was significant to Albania we want. Commissioner Hahn’s open letter to Albanian citizens represents a crucial moment in the EU’s relation with our country. Justice Reform will define Albania’s European future,” PM Rama said.

 

INTERNATIONAL PRESS

 

EU’s Post-Brexit Pivot to the Balkans Piles Pressure on Serbia to Give Up Kosovo (Sputnik, 13 May 2017)

 

Struggling against Euroscepticism in Western Europe, the EU is seeking to reinvent itself with expansion to the East that threatens the stability of the Balkans, analyst Igor Pshenichnikov warns. Amid rising Euroscepticism in Western Europe, the EU is focused on eastern enlargement, but its desire to “relaunch” the European project depends on pressuring eastern European countries into making painful concessions, such as the demand on Serbia to give up sovereignty over Kosovo. In an op-ed for RIA Novosti, analyst Igor Pshenichnikov of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies writes that the EU’s efforts to reassert its significance in the aftermath of the UK’s Brexit vote will result in renewed pressure for Serbia and other Balkan countries to fulfil the EU’s conditions for entry, in spite of the high social, economic and political costs. The issue of Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is one of the main stumbling blocks to Serbian accession. While Belgrade refuses to recognize the declaration and continues to consider Kosovo its territory, most EU member states, with the exception of Spain, have recognized Kosovan independence. “At the same time, Kosovo is the historical cradle of the Serbian people and recognition of the province’s independence for any Serbian politician means political annihilation. Recognition of Kosovan independence is a political taboo for the Serbs,” Pshenichnikov wrote. The EU’s backing for Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, who was elected President in April, should be seen in this light.

The Serbian newspaper Danas reports that despite concerns about the state of Serbian democracy aired by the Council of Europe and Western NGO’s such as Freedom House, the EU largely ignored protests that followed the election because it sees Vucic as the politician who will deliver Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo. Diplomatic sources told the newspaper that the EU wants Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia to be fast-tracked the bloc as soon as 2018, in the name of “regional stability.” “Clearly the EU is counting on Vucic to be the Serbian politician who will finally solve the ‘Kosovo question’ in the interests of the EU,” Pshenichnikov wrote. The analyst notes that last week’s election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France was a welcome reprieve for the EU, whose very existence was under threat from the potential victory of the Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen. “In Brussels itself, there is a feeling of crisis. Brexit in the UK, and in second place in elections in the Netherlands and France were politicians who question their countries’ EU membership and with it the very existence of the EU.” “That’s why the EU needs a ‘fresh wind of hope,’ which could be the massive appeal to the Balkan countries to join the EU. That’s why the rumors of diplomatic circles, referenced by the Serbian portal Danas, seem to be an accurate reflection of the plans of high-ranking EU officials.” However, EU pressure on Serbia to recognize Kosovan independence, in return for the enlargement that would give such a boost to Brussels, could cause a political crisis in Serbia, which remains split over the question of EU membership. “Then, something very serious could happen in Serbia – an internal political crisis, the essence of which will be the total rejection of the government by the people, to an even greater extent than now. We can only guess where that will lead,” Pshenichnikov wrote.

According to an opinion poll in March by the New Serbian Political Thought [NSPM] magazine, less than half of Serbs are in favor of joining the EU. When asked, “Do you support EU entry,” 47.7 percent answered yes, 39 percent said no and 13.3 percent of respondents said they weren’t sure. “As well as all this, there is also the desire of Republika Srpska to withdraw from Bosnia and Hercegovina and join the Serbian motherland. Serbs in Republika Srpska don’t want to recognize Kosovo either. It seems they won’t stay uninvolved if Belgrade starts sending official signals.” “The EU’s intention to expand into the Balkans – or simply put, to expand its influence in this region will not only fail to pacify it but may ignite a long-standing smoldering national-religious conflict into a full-scale fire. But the EU bureaucracy, judging by the statements of Mogherini, has firmly decided to orientate itself toward the Balkans, that is, Kosovo’s separation from Serbia,” Pshenichnikov concluded.

 

Albania opposition holds anti-government rally ahead of election (AP, 13 May 2017)

 

Albania’s opposition has mounted a national protest demanding a caretaker cabinet to guide the country to a free and fair parliamentary election next month. Several thousand supporters walked peacefully along the capital Tirana’s main Martyrs of the Nation boulevard on Saturday to Prime Minister Edi Rama’s office, guarded by hundreds of policemen. Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, was seen accompanied by his wife and two daughters. The opposition has boycotted parliament since February and pitched a tent in front of Mr Rama’s office. They claim Mr Rama’s cabinet will manipulate the vote. “There will be no elections without the opposition,” Mr Basha said. “There will be elections only with a technical (caretaker) government.” He also warned of another “final march”. Opposition political parties have not registered for the June 18 election but have said the vote will not be held without them. Albania expects to launch full membership negotiations with the European Union if the election is free and fair and if it launches a justice reform programme which so far has been blocked because of the opposition. At an electoral rally in south-western Albania, the prime minister mockingly called the opposition’s tent in front of his office a “plastic bunker of shame”. Mr Rama assured supporters that the new parliament will unblock the justice reform programme and that corrupt judges and prosecutors “will leave the Palace of Justice and be held accountable to the new judiciary”. Attempts by EU and US representatives to promote dialogue among political parties have failed. On Thursday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn warned that “the democratic process must continue, even if some decide to stay behind”. Before the opposition march, gay rights organisations in Albania held their annual pride event without disturbances. They urged the government to pass draft legislation on same-sex marriage and recognition of transgender people. Unlike the previous year, no Western diplomats were seen joining them.

 

Turkish ambassador points out FETO network in Albania (World Bulletin, 14 May 2017)

 

Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) has the strongest network in Albania among all Balkan countries, Turkey’s ambassador to Albania has said.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency on Saturday, Hidayet Bayraktar said schools form the backbone of FETO presence in Albania. He said FETO had benefited from the vacuum in education in the country following the collapse of communism in the region in 1992.

Bayraktar said FETO operates 12 schools in Albania. “Five of these are religious Imam-Hatip schools…two of them are universities and the rest are regular primary and secondary schools,” he said. He said FETO had made a lot of efforts in the Balkans and Albania. Bayraktar also said FETO has trade unions, nongovernmental organizations, hospitals and religious institutions in Albania. “This organization is expert in abusing the goodwill, conspiracy and fraud. They are showing their expertise in Albania,” he said. Bayraktar said FETO members try to have good relations with influential circles and hide their true face. He said FETO was doing clandestine work in Albania by hiding under the cover of education. He added FETO organizing conspiracies against those they do not like.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen are accused of orchestrating the defeated July 2016 coup in Turkey, which left 249 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured. Ankara has said FETO is also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary, and has also accused it of infiltrating other countries through educational institutions, among others.

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