Friday, May 30, 2008

Another Day in Paradise ...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

UN Report: Balkans safer than western Europe

BRUSSELS, May 29 (Reuters) - A decade after the wars that tore apart the former Yugoslavia, most of the Balkans is safer than western Europe, the United Nations said in a report on Thursday.

Levels of homicide, rape, assault, robbery and burglary were all lower in the region than elsewhere in Europe, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said, citing the benefits of the relative political and economic stability of recent years.

The one black spot remained organised crime and particularly the region's role in heroin trafficking, it said, calling for more cross-border cooperation between national police forces.

"At present, the levels of crime against people and property are lower than elsewhere in Europe, and the number of murders is falling in every Balkan country," UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said.

Costa said there was widespread collusion between business, politics and organised crime, but security sector reform and improved criminal justice made it riskier and less profitable.

"The stereotype of the Balkans as a gangsters' paradise no longer applies -- though serious problems remain," he said in the report, presented at a news conference in Brussels.

The report, based on U.N. and national police data, covered nine countries: Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and new EU members Romania and Bulgaria. The others are at varying stages of the lengthy EU accession process, with Bosnia due to start the first step next month.

The EU has made improving the rule of law, governance and other reforms conditions for EU accession.

Speaking with Costa at a later seminar, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said tackling organised crime and corruption remained "formidable challenges" in the Balkans.

"This needs to change if the region is to keep moving forward towards the European Union," he said, adding that those threats remained the greatest obstacles to visa-free travel to the EU for Balkan citizens.

"The fact is that EU states and public opinion are worried about organised crime in the Balkans," he said.

The number of reported murders in the region virtually halved from 2,185 in 1998 to 1,130 in 2006, the report found.

Costa said the lack of large-scale youth unemployment or steep income inequality and runaway urbanisation meant the basic conditions for high crime did not exist and the benign trend would continue as living standards increased.

Analysts point to continuing political instability as the major obstacle to foreign investment in the Balkans.

Serbia's government was initially set to launch a tender for local carmaker Zastava in April, but its plans changed when the government collapsed in March and an early election was called.

Officials said the deal then received a boost when Serbia signed a pre-accession pact with the European Union last month, which once implemented will lead to improved trade ties.

Shortly after this, Italy's Fiat announced plans to team up with the government to invest a combined 700 million euros ($1.09 billion) to produce two new car models at Zastava.

Risks to Western businesses though were underlined when Western stores and restaurants were vandalised in protests after the Western-backed secession of Kosovo from Serbia in February. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Mark John; editing by Andrew Roche)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

U.S. investors win control of Albania's only oil refiner

TIRANA (Thomson Financial) - A U.S. consortium has won control of Albania's only oil refinery with a bid of 125 million euros ($197 million), the government announced on Wednesday.

The Refinery Associates of Texas and Antika Enterprises Consortium USA and Switzerland will own 85 percent of the state-controlled ARMO company, the economy ministry said in a statement.

"The offer by the American company was considerably better than the three others selected to bid out of 25 who had expressed an interest in buying ARMO," the statement said.

"The price was the most important thing," said Deputy Economy Minister Neritan Alibali.

Sources had said the bids for ARMO were to be judged 75 percent on the price offered and 25 percent on the prospective buyer's business and development plan.

ARMO owns two refineries, a research center, 11 depots and a network of gas stations, with a total worth of 109 million euros (170 million U.S. dollars).

Albania's Minister of Economy Genz Ruli had earlier said that AMRO generated profit of 1.7 billion Albanian lek (13.6 million euros) in 2006, compared to 365 million lek in 2004.

The Albanian government plans a series of privatisations this year with the sale of the last remaining large companies still controlled by the state.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

ARRESTED: Police Officers accused of Beating Albanian Prisoners in Montenegro

PODGORICA, Montenegro, 20 May 2008 -- Five police officers were arrested today in connection with the beating and torture of Albanians arrested in September 2006 known as "Eagle's Flight." The officers are accused of using excessive force after breaking into the homes and arresting 18 Albanians from Malesia e Madhe on the eve of the parliamentary elections on 9 September 2006.

Source: Voice of America

Friday, May 16, 2008

Albania Rising ...

15 May 2008 | Albania’s rise as an up-and-coming real estate development destination was reconfirmed at the country’s first international conference on the issue, which took place recently.

“(We’re) at an early state of real estate development that will become an attractive market in three to five years,” Philip Bay of real estate consultants Colliers International was quoted as saying by media.

Low prices are already attracting some investors who plan on real estate developments in the country, such as the construction of shopping malls and other retail businesses.

According to publications, Tirana, Albania's capital, currently has just 28,000 square meters of office space, which it hopes to double in five years.

In addition, the government has marked land to build six business parks, one of them up to 850 hectares, all with good sea and airport access.

Another one of the country’s attractions is its many unspoiled areas, which experts advise the country to use in order to attract high-end tourism rather than completing with the low to mid-range offers by neighbouring Greece and Turkey.

These factors, combined with last month’s invitation to Albania to join NATO, pave the way fast-developing real estate sector. And although they are not exactly news, as reported on the country’s path to becoming the next big thing in real estate as far back as the beginning of February, the recent conference confirmed that this rise is continuing as expected.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Albanians Demand the TRUTH at Podgorica rally

PODGORICA, Montenegro, 12 May 2008 -- At today's protest before the court building in Podgorica where the Albanian prisoners are being tried, leaders of the three Albanian political parties, along with family members of the detainees promised to continue their show of support by peacefully assembling and declaring with one voice, "It's time our rights."

Member of Parliament, and leader of the Albanian Alternative Party, Vasel Sinishtaj stressed that the police forces responsible for the arrests and handling of the detainees over-stepped their duties by using excessive force. Moreover, he said that the judicial process has been unnecessarily delayed, where the very people (Albanians) that ushered in independence for Montenegro in 2006 have now been labeled as "terrorists" and as a result have been victims of ethnic profiling ever since.

This rally concluded what was a three-day international effort to bring attention to the prisoner's dilemma. On Friday, approximately 400 Albanian-Americans rallied in front of the United Nations in New York, followed by a protest in TUZ Saturday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Protest in TUZ demands the immediate release of Albanian Prisoners

TUZ, Malesia e Madhe, 11 May 2008 -- Approximately 150-200 Albanians from Malesia gathered today in front of the Malesia Cultural Center in TUZ to protest the illegal detention of 15 Albanians currently held in Spuz since September 2006. The demands coincided with those spelled out in New York the previous Friday.

The low turnout, however drew criticism from those in attendance, who partly blamed the political leaders from Malesia for not uniting well ahead of the announced demonstration. Moreover, the rally-goers became skeptical when long hold-out Ferhat Dinosha joined the rally sponsors, where he previously denounced any assembly by Albanians denouncing the judicial process of the detainees.

Another rally is scheduled tomorrow morning in front of the courthouse where the judicial proceedings are taking place. The demonstration begins at 8:30 a.m. local time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


A peaceful demonstration is scheduled to take place at two separate venues with efforts to underscore the continued abuses to human, constitutional and institutional laws, perpetrated by the Montenegrin apartheid in Podgorica. These demonstrations have been carefully coordinated with the Albanian Diaspora in the several united states to follow the rally that was carried out Friday May 9th. The message is simple: RELEASE THE INNOCENT, STOP YOUR ETHNIC PROFILING, PROTECT OUR INHERENT RIGHTS, AND PROSECUTE THE REAL TERRORISTS FROM PODGORICA!

The following information has been released:

VENUE #1 -- Demonstration in TUZ before the cultural center "Malesia"
WHEN -- Sunday May 10, 2008

TIME: 3:00 p.m. local time

VENUE #2 -- Demonstration in PODGORICA before the court building
WHEN -- Monday May 11, 2008

TIME -- 8:15 a.m. local time

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

PROTEST in New York this FRIDAY -- May 9

The Albanian American community representing numerous states will be staging a demonstration this Friday in New York. The following information has been released:

WHAT: Protest against the illegal detention, torture, and fractured judicial proceedings of Albanian Political Prisoners in Spuz, Montenegro, where the trial has intentionally violated all constitutional, regional, and international statutes protecting minority and human rights.

When: Friday MAY 9, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.

Where: New York -- Dag Hammarskjold Plaza; 47th St. and 1st Ave.

Travel: FROM DETROIT -- buses will leave St. Paul's Albanian Catholic Church at approximately 7:00 p.m.; reservations are desired with round trip ticket prices slated at $100/person.