Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gëzuar Vitin e Ri 2010

Ju urojm të gjithëve Gëzuar Vitin e Ri 2010!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Gezuar Krishtlindjet!

Urojm gjithe bashkeatdhetaret e besimit Kristjan kudo ku jane neper bote Gezuar e pershumevjet Krishtlindjet Miresi dhe lumturi ne familjet tuaja dhe ne te gjithe njerezit e botes

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Toxic real estate threatens banks in Montenegro

Adam Tanner

KOTOR, Montenegro (Reuters) - Slightly smaller than Connecticut, the Balkan state of Montenegro is a good place to view the clear waters of the Adriatic, charming medieval cities such as Kotor, and a financial crash in suspended animation.

Defaults and late bank payments are soaring, threatening the banking sector and overall economy of the European Union-applicant country. Formerly part of the Yugoslav Republic, Montenegro uses the euro currency from outside the eurozone.

Similar scenarios have played out in countries as varied as Ireland, Iceland and Latvia. And although tiny Montenegro is unlikely to rock the Western financial world, it could signal continued ructions in emerging Europe.

Gambling on a recovery in real estate prices, some Montenegrin banks are seeking to buy time with schemes including refinancing, opaque property funds and revolving credits.

"Banks are looking for a way to take out the toxic assets," said Dragan Prelevic, a leading real estate lawyer.

Global finance experts say some banks are also shuffling loans between themselves. One executive who spoke on condition of anonymity described banks borrowing from each other to finance loan repayments, a pattern of repeat borrowing that some clients also follow on a smaller scale.

"We do that every few months, that's how you survive," the executive said. "Unfortunately, it is legal."

Bankers across ex-Communist eastern Europe may have been too slow to recognise possible losses from bad debt in wake of the collapse of property markets, experts say.

Bank delay in declaring loans in default and disposing of the property used as collateral may not be a problem if real estate prices recover. If they don't, it could affect such parent banks as Hungary's OTP, Hypo Group Alpe Adria of Austria, Societe Generale and Slovenia's NLB.

Just on Monday Austria nationalised Hypo, which has a big presence in the Balkans including Montenegro, amid concerns it was on the brink of collapse. The bank's Montenegro spokeswoman declined comment for this article, citing its "very sensitive" current situation.

Central bank head Ljubisa Krgovic says a quarter of all credits in Montenegro are paid late, and 10 percent are non-performing and likely to be booked as losses.

By comparison in Ukraine -- where economic chaos prompted the International Monetary Fund recently to delay the release of a $3.8 billion (2.3 billion pounds) loan instalment -- about 30 percent of all loans were impaired at the end of the second quarter.

Montenegrin banks are required to keep just 10 percent of deposits on hand, so have had more leeway than in countries such as Serbia, which has a 40 percent reserve requirement.


Dave Perrault, an American former stock day-trader, has first-hand experience: he invested a million euros of his own money in real estate in the state of 650,000 in 2005.

Banks in Montenegro, which won independence from Serbia in 2006, "are at various stages of denial as to how badly they overvalued various properties in the boom," he said.

Some are extending grace periods or renegotiating terms, a move which keeps bad debt off their books.

Montenegro's largest bank, Crnogorska Komercijalna Banka (CKB), an OTP subsidiary, has restructured between a quarter and a third of its loans, said executive director Gyorgy Bobvos. International banks have tougher standards, he said.

Lawyer Prelevic said some banks in Montenegro are going further. "They are making parallel real estate funds that take it over. This is just buying time," he said.

In the past, some loans to real estate Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) could stay off bank balance sheets on the assumption they were safe investments. As falling real estate prices made the loans riskier, banks have been obliged to increase provisions for the loans that went bad.

Predrag Drecun, director of the largest domestically owned bank, Prva Banka, said the bank had wanted to create its own SPV to sell assets to a foreign investor, but it was barred by regulators following a government bailout last year.

Branka Pavlovic, chief executive officer of Societe Generale's Podgoricka Banka, said her bank had not used SPVs to keep assets off the books, but was considering creating one to fund a new headquarters office.

Crtomir Mesaric, chief executive officer of NLB Montenegrobanka, said its subsidiary had renegotiated less than 20 percent of retail loans.


Foreign banks have lent $3.6 billion to clients in Montenegro, according to Bank for International Settlements data for first-half 2009. Italian banks had the biggest exposure -- $2.23 billion, mainly through direct loans to Montenegrin banks and firms -- followed by German banks at $1.15 billion. This is tiny compared with the hundreds of billions European banks have lent to emerging Europe.

"If (Montenegrin) banks do not get rid of the toxic real estate they financed at huge prices, they will be faced with the need to tremendously capitalise the banks," the lawyer Prelevic said. "In that case I think some of them will be bankrupted."

The crisis has not diminished the charm of real estate in places such as Kotor, where medieval walls climb a steep mountain above the town and a placid bay.

In the mid-2000s Russians, lured by visa-free travel and the welcoming Montenegrins who share their Orthodox Christian faith, led a charge of foreign investors into the popular tourist country. Around Kotor, British and Irish were also big buyers.

Land and property sales in Kotor and its surrounding region tripled in euro terms from 2005 to 2006 and again the next year.

While foreigners financed abroad, domestic banks lent easily to locals, often using optimistic property valuations to back up loans. Some borrowers used the same property as collateral at different banks.


"The risks ... were compounded by the fact that one, the loans had largely been collateralised by real estate; and two, the widening credit/deposit gap was financed by the domestic banks borrowing from their foreign mothers," said Jan-Peter Olters, the World Bank representative in Montenegro.

In the walled city of Kotor, Mayor Marija Maja Catovic reflects on a situation often seen elsewhere: "It was euphoria and most people were thinking only about quick money, not the long term."

Now the real estate market has essentially frozen. Even a visit by Playboy model and actress Pamela Anderson to view property earlier this year was no help. She left without buying.

Some see parallels with eurozone member Ireland, flung into crisis after its booming property market slumped in 2007.

"The same as in Ireland, a lot of the developers will have to throw the keys back, as we say in Ireland, because they just can't service the debt," said Kieran Kelleher, managing director for real estate agency Savills in Montenegro and Croatia.

The real estate boom helped make Montenegro one of the big success stories in the Balkans in recent years, with GDP growth of 8.6, 10.7 and then 7.5 percent for the three years ending in 2008. This year it is likely to contract four or five percent.

Many expect Montenegro to turn to the IMF in 2010. The government estimates it will need 100-200 million euros in external financing, the central bank puts this at 300 million, and some bankers see the shortfall nearer 500 million euros.


As is common in the Balkans, politics complicates the picture. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's brother, Aco, is the largest shareholder of the biggest domestically owned bank, Prva Banka, which received a 2008 bailout loan of 44 million euros.

That loan has since been repaid, and the central bank banned the bank from making new loans. But central bank head Krgovic said regulating the bank was a challenging task. "You are under special pressure," he told Reuters.

The prime minister said he bows out of Prva Banka decisions: "We should extend a hand to any bank, no matter who the shareholders are," he told Reuters.

Drecun of Prva Banka said 10 percent of its loans are "problematic" but the bank still had greater liquidity than required by law.

He said his bank, anticipating a revival, was now moving more aggressively than its rivals to collect the real estate collateral for non-performing loans, and had gathered between 20-30 million euros worth in recent months.

"If you wait until the second half of next year, we are awaiting the recovery of the real estate market," he continued. "It is no problem for us to hold for two years. But we think that in six months to one year we will sell all assets."

(Additional reporting by Boris Groendahl in Vienna and Petar Komnenic in Podgorica; editing by Sara Ledwith)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Djukanovic Announces Withdrawal from Politics

Podgorica | 10 December 2009 | Bojana Barlovac

Montenegrin Prime Minister and President of Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) Milo Djukanovic is planning to step down from all state and party functions by the end of the year, Montenegrin media reports.

Djukanovic voiced his possible withdrawal from political and party life in an interview with Reuters.

The prime minister expressed his hope that the country will gain EU candidate status in 2010. Even if the country completes EU negotiations within three years, as the he hopes, he does not expect to stay in office that long.

"I don't think it is necessary to carry out my whole mandate as prime minister," Reuters quoted Djukanovic as saying. He went on to say that he had "given enough to politics, more than 20 years".

If this happens, it would be Djukanovic's second withdrawal since he stepped down as Prime Minister in 2006 and returned to the office in February 2008. Before that, Djukanovic served three consecutive terms as Prime Minister from 1991 to 1998 and was the country's President from 1998 to 2002.

Source: BIRN

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Confusing numbers, few surprises in Montenegrin poll

Montenegrins are more inclined to trust in members of the clergy than they are in politicians, according to the results of the latest survey conducted by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM).

Released this fall, the survey shows that the Serbian Orthodox Church enjoys the trust of 69% of Montenegrins, while only 45.9% trust their government. The Montenegrin Orthodox Church is trusted by 39.2% of the public, while police have the trust of 45.2% of Montenegrins, slightly higher than the 41.1% who trust the country's judiciary.

Despite the fact that 66.2% of Montenegrins chose to vote in the March 29th national election, and only 30.9% of those surveyed by CEDEM said they trust political parties, a full 95% of survey participants reported that they would vote for one of the 16 registered parties if an election were held now.

The survey suggests that Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) would receive 48.7% of the vote. Asked to explain why some would vote for the DPS when they do not trust the party, University of Montenegro political science Professor Milos Becic credited Djukanovic. "The people believe he is the chosen one."

Becic adds that the DPS is "probably the best organised political party in Europe", as fieldworkers are directly in contact with voters, not just during campaigns, but constantly. While many say they distrust the DPS, they will vote for it anyway because of the party's extensive groundwork.

Despite attempts to introduce the idea of individual responsibility, Montenegrins still cling to the notion that the state is, and should be, responsible for almost everything, Becic says."They believe the state should provide jobs for everyone, the state should provide pensions for everyone, etc." That was demonstrated in the CEDEM survey when 36.8% of respondents said the government should do everything in its power to keep the aluminum plant KAP afloat.

A further 22.3% of Montenegrins said the government should provide financial bailouts for the plant, while 9.2% said the government should not. Nearly 32% voiced no opinion. In 2005, the government privatised 65% of the plant before buying back 50% of those shares in June.

The survey showed a slight increase in support for Montenegro joining NATO. A February 2008 poll showed 29.5% of Montenegrins in favour of joining the Alliance, while the October 2009 survey showed 31.2% in favour.

Becic says the campaign to sell NATO to Montenegrins is "simply sad, totally uninteresting and counterproductive". The professor says the campaign will continue to spin its wheels until ethnic Serb political parties are brought onboard, or Djukanovic directs DPS fieldworkers to start singing the benefits of membership.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Montenegro, Kosova to Establish Diplomatic Links

Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Svetozar Marovic said that there are no obstacles for Montenegro to establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo.

In an interview with Beta news agency Marovic said that Serbia should not be angry to Montenegro due to Podgorica's decision and ongoing preparations for opening its consular department in Pristina.

When asked whether Montenegro would withdraw recognition of Kosovo's independence if the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legality on the issue, that is discussed in the Court from 1 to 11 December, proves to be in favour of Serbia, the minister didn't answer directly.

"I am not convinced that we can expect all the major countries that have recognised Kosovo's independence to bring their decision into question... If the Court decides recognition was illegal, then Montenegro will see what to do," the agency quoted Marovic as saying.

He added that Montenegro has about 10,000 displaced people from Kosovo, a thousand of whom would like to return to their hometowns and it is up to the governments of Kosovo and Montenegro to resolve it.

According to the agency, the deputy prime minister expressed his belief that Serbia and Montenegro should be 'the most friendly' countries in the region.

ICJ Hears Further Kosovo Arguments

Countries supporting and oppossing Kosovo's controversial decleration of independence presented their views to the International Court of Justice, ICJ, Wednesday.

The hearings, which began on Tuesday and will run until 11 December, are looking at whether the decision of Kosovo’s provisional institutions of self-government’s in February 2008 to unilaterally declare independence from Serbia is in accordance with international law.

Serbia and Kosovo on Tuesday had three hours each to present their case. A further 29 UN member states, including the US and Russia, are over the next days unveiling their arguments to the Court.

On Wednesday representatives from Albania, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Argentina put forward their views. The first three countries have recognised Kosovo's independence, but Argentina has not.

Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to the Netherlands, Abdullah A. Alshaghrood, stated clearly his country's support for Kosovo: ''We agree with the conclusions by Kosovo and others that the declaration of independence was not a violation of international law.

We are confident that the Court will take into consideration the substantial progress in Kosovo and in the region,'' he added.

Sussanne Wasum Rainer, a legal adviser to Germany's foreign office, agreed, and noted that Kosovo's existence cannot be ignored. ''There is now a state of Kosovo which cannot be ignored. The existence of this state is based on the exercise on the right of self-determination by the people of Kosovo,'' she said.

But Suzana Ruiz Cerutti, head legal adviser to Argentina's foreign ministry noted that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence ''breaches an obligation to respect the territorial integrity of Serbia, the obligation of peaceful settlement of disputes and principle of non-intervention. The resolution has no legal basis in the principle of self-determination,'' she said.

Professor Jochen Frowein from Albania's delegation argued that secession is not prohibited by international law. ''Secession is not regulated by international law. There is no rule of international law prohibiting secession.

''There are few cases when the secession is violating international law. When intervention by third states, be it by use of force or other means is decisive for the declaration of independence, this is a severe violation of international law,'' he said, but noted that in Kosovo's case this was not so.

Other countries will present their opinions in the coming days. Countries appear according to alphabetical order.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Few Albanians hanker for communism

By Sami Neza for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 30/11/09

When the Berlin Wall fell in Germany, Albania was still under dictatorship. Facing the pressure of events, the regime released its grip slowly, holding multiparty elections in 1991 and finally ceding power altogether the next year.

Student protests began in Tirana in December 1990, and quickly drew support from others in the Albanian capital. Communist leader Ramiz Alia, aware of the turning tide, hoped to keep the process under control.

In time, though, he and his cohorts were swept away as the country turned its back on the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the totalitarian ruler whose paranoia and uncompromising Stalinism had made Albania the most isolated nation in Europe.

"Albania has become another country since the fall of communism," says Remzi Lani, former editor of the newspaper Voice of Youth. "Nostalgia for communism in, say, Hungary is understandable. But Albania's regime was so brutal and extreme that our poverty has left no room for nostalgia."

Vladimir Karaj, a journalist at a daily newspaper in Tirana, was only six-years-old when change came to his country. He was born on April 11th, 1985 -- the day Hoxha died.

Out of fear, Karaj's parents' didn't celebrate their son's birthday for nearly six years, as it was taboo to express anything on that date except reverence for the late dictator. Such was the strength of his personality cult.

Today "people are quite richer economically, and quite richer in their personality," the journalist says.

The transition has not always been smooth. Corruption and fraud accompanied the switch to a liberalised economy. Get-rich-quick schemes, endorsed by government officials, turned sour and Albanians lost billions, triggering violent unrest.

Even today, institutional problems remain, and every year many "vote with their feet", emigrating to other countries.

Albanians "managed to demolish communism, but they are not used to the new system which they brought about themselves", says international relations student Ardit Bido.

Even with bumps in the road, however, Albanians remain bullish on democracy. "The famous phrase of [former US Secretary of State] James Baker, that 'freedom works', has proved true, Defence Minister Arben Imami told Southeast European Times. "We are a new democracy that is working; we are a member of NATO and a loyal ally of the United States."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gezuar 28 Nentorin gjithe shqiptareve kudo qe jane!


Njëzet e tetë Nëntor
irroftë gjerë në pakufi,
është Dita e Flamurit
shumë luftërave që u ka pri.

Krenari ndershekullore
e kishim e do ta kemi,
me te i tregojmë gjithë botës
kush, në të vërtetë na jemi.

Jem’ bijtë e asaj shqipeje
ndër shekuj me gjak të larë,
kurr nuk u gjinjëzuam
prore mbetem krenarë.

Sot flamuri jonë
tjetër mision ka,
të na prij në fitore
mbi projekte të mëdha.

Në çdo njëzet e tetë nëntor
JU këndoni e festoni,
shqipen dykrenare
sa më lartë ta qoni.

Le të valojë e bekuara
si në kohë të Skënderbeut,
forcë e krenarile
t’i sjellë Atdheut.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama: "Happy Independence Day, Albanians"

For Immediate Release

November 25, 2009

Statement by the President on the Albanian Independence Day

"I send my warmest wishes to all those who will celebrate Albanian Independence Day on Saturday. Here in America, those that can trace their roots to Albania are an important part of this Nation. Abroad, I hope for continued friendship and strengthened ties between our two countries."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ndihёma per Malёsi

Lajmrojme Komunitetin Shqiptar te Detroitit me rrethe se “Shoqata Atedhetare Malesia e Madhe” me daten 22 nentor dite e diel ne ora 6 te mbremjes ne Sallen “Gjergj Kastrioti” pran “Kishes se Shen Palit” ne qytetin Rochester Hills do te shtroj nje darke, tash tradicionale per te grumbullue mjete financiare per ndihme te Malesis tone, e cila ka nevoj per ne.

Darka do te shtrohet kryesishte me ushqime dhe pije tradicionale.

“Shoqata Malesia e Madhe” mision te vete ka te ndihemoj njerzit e Malesise ne nevoja te ndryshme si; skamnoret e saj, te semurit pa mundesi per sherim, studentet shembullor pa kushte per shkollim, si dhe raste tjera qe munde te paraqiten nderkohe..

Gjithashtu Shoqata jone nder prioritetet kryesore ka, avamcimin e statusit politik dhe ekonomik ne Malesi, realizimin e te drejtave tona, e ne kete raste Komunen e plote te saj.
Shoqata “Malesia e Madhe” eshte perpjeke dhe do te vazhdoj te kerkoje lirimin e te gjithe burgosurve tone politik qe gjinden ne burgjet Malazeze.

E gjitha kjo realizohet vetem me ndihmen tuaj, per c’gje ju falemenderojme ne emer te shoqates, ne emer te gjithe atyre qe u eshte ndihmuar deri tani dhe ne emer te Malesis mbar.

Me ndihmen tuaj gjeneroze per keto 9 vite te funksionimit te “Shoqate Malesia e Madhe”
$ 425,750.00 jan grumbullue dhe shpenzue per ndihma te njerzve ne varferi, per sherim te disa individeve me semundje te renda, si dhe per avancimin e statusit politik dhe ekonomik ne Malesi.

Ne u sigurojme se kontributi juaj shkon 100% per Malesi , dhe per kete arsye kerkojme ndihmen tuaj, prandaj dhe cdo kontribut eshte i mireseardhur.

“Shoqata Malesia e Madhe” eshte e regjistruar ne qeverin Amerikane si organizate jofitimpruse, dhe per kete, te gjithe ata qe ndihmojne mund t’i zbresin gjate rregullimit te taxave ne fund te vitit.

Pra apelojme te te gjithe ata qe ia duen te miren Malesis, qe se bashku ta ndihmojme ate,
ajo ka nevoje per ne, ne ja kemi borc, sepse, jemi bijte dhe bijat e saj.

Malesia dhe njerzit e saj ne nevoje, kerkojne ndihmen dhe perkrahjen tone.

Shoqata “Malesia e Madhe”

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kosova Parties Claim Victories in Key Seats

16 November 2009

Political parties are claiming victories in key municipalities across Kosova after the country went to polls on Sunday for the first time since declaring independence last February.
The turnout for the local elections has reached 45%, the Central Election Commission said as polls closed at 7pm.

The Democratic League of Kosova, LDK, is already celebrating in the streets of Pristina after announcing that its candidate, the standing mayor Isa Mustafa, had won 57 per cent of the vote, thus securing victory without the need for a second round.

Its government coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Kosova, PDK, has claimed wins in all but three municipalities, including Prizren and Gjilan.

Opposition party the Alliance for the Future of Kosova, AAK, claims to have secured victory in 16 out of the 36 municipalities.At just before midnight on Sunday, LDK confirmed it had lost Suhareka to AAK.

Second round elections for mayoralties will be held on December 13 when no candidate has secured more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Turnout among Serb municipalities was higher than many predicted with 24 per cent voting in Gracanica, 31 per cent in Strpce, 14 per cent in Ranilug and 25 per cent in Kllokot.

Kosova Serb Dusan, 21, who is studying to become a doctor in North Mitorvica, was voting for the first time in Kosova elections in his hometown Gracanica.

He told Balkan Insight that he realised that he lived in Kosova and had to vote if he wanted to see a better future.He said: “This is where I am from, this is where my family is from. I don’t have anywhere else to go.

“I am fighting for a better future.”The highest turnout was recorded in the new Turkish-majority municipality of Mamusha, where 66 per cent of eligible voters visited the ballot box.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Righteous

A Little-Known Secret was that Albanian Muslims Hid Jews from the Nazis; Now a Survivor Reunites With Her Savior

Johanna Neumann is on a journey more than 70 years in the making . . . a journey that started in Germany. She left Hamburg when she had just turned 8. She remembers it because, she says, "this was such a dramatic experience." Her life changed in the violent darkness of November 9, 1938, during Kristallnacht - the Night of Broken Glass.

It was when the Nazis launched a vicious assault on Jewish communities - looting homes, destroying businesses, burning synagogues. It was an ominous preview of the horrors to come.

Her father feared where his country was headed, so he began preparations to flee. Young Johanna tagged along with him on a devastating errand in the basement of their apartment building: "He had all of this correspondence and photography, photographs and so on of his youth, of his life," she said. "And he had made arrangements with the superintendent of the house that he could burn his things in the furnace.

And you know, like every piece that he burned was like a piece of his life being thrown away. It's a whole life that you're putting on fire."

A few months later, little Johanna and her parents were gone, leaving Germany for good. But on this day, Johanna's journey won't take her back to Germany. Instead, she's returning to an unlikely safe haven . . . and a reunion with her improbable family.

Edip Pilku is anxiously waiting to greet the woman he hasn't seen in about 62 years, but he clearly hasn’t forgotten her: "Memories are forever." "Will we cry or not? Will we kiss or not?" he pondered. You could say Edip is Johanna's brother . . . at least, that's what they told the Nazis.

"The families surrounding us didn't know that we were sheltering Jews," Pilku said. "My mother had spread the word that they were her relatives from Germany."

"That was the cover story?" Axelrod asked. "That was the cover story: We're Germans from Germany, and we were her family." (Left: Johanna Neumann is reunited with Edip Pilku, an Albanian Muslim whose parents protected Neumann's family from the Nazis during World War II.)

There are a number of extraordinary examples of people around the world who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives hiding Jewish families during the Nazi occupation. But the Pilkus were in Albania, a 70% Muslim country in southeastern Europe.

"The gem of this story is that Albania took in refugee Jews," said Deborah Dwork, who has written a book about Jewish refugees during World War II. "Europe 1938, '39, '40, even '41, we see it as a totally closed universe," she said. "and Jews in that closed universe, they were looking for holes, for openings.

People began to whisper: 'I hear if you get to Albania, you will be safe.'" Safe, because of a cornerstone of Albanian culture known as Besa - the promise to treat strangers as if they were family . . . and guard them with their lives.

"It has to do with a certain sense of honor, an honor code that they take very seriously," said Dwork. "It's not simply to give someone something -a bed for a night, a hot meal. It's really to offer protection, full protection.

They judged themselves by that code, and they also knew that their neighbors judged them by that code." Like their neighbors, the Pilkus adhered closely to Besa . . . and to their Muslim beliefs that also emphasize the protection of others.

"The role of Albanian culture and traditions and the religious influence of Islam came together," Dwork said. . Although Edip's mother was of German heritage, she embraced Besa and Islam, especially after the Nazis occupied Albania.

Edip proudly tells the story of his mother affecting a thick German accent to throw off the Nazis growing suspicious of Johanna and her family - not once, but twice: "My mother got mad that day, she became nervous and said, 'It is the second time. Are you suspicious to not believe a German woman that she hasn't shelter here? I don't know Jews. You're wasting your time here and if you come again, I'll complain. It's a shame for you to come here!' "They saluted her and left!"

Through all this, remember, Johanna and her parents were hiding in plain sight. "And here you are coming in contact with German soldiers. Were you scared? Was it hard for you to look them in the eyes to talk?" Axelrod asked. "You also had to make sure they didn't find out you were Jewish. "Right. Well, I think scared is probably the right word," Neumann said.

"I certainly was during the occupation very much afraid that I wouldn't live the next day." According to the International School for Holocaust Studies, Albania did not turn over a single Jew to the Nazis.

Instead, when the Germans demanded the Albanians provide lists identifying Jews in their country, the Albanian government not only didn't comply, it even warned Jews to hide and urged its citizens to help. In fact, after the war, there were more Jews living in Albania than there were before. It's an extraordinary record.

So how is it that so few people know about it? "Because of the shutters that went down on Albania so soon after 1945 and the draconian Communist regime," said Dwork. "For the next half century, Albania was completely cut off from everyone, even from other Communist countries.

And by the time the shutters lifted, what happened half a century ago was not so urgent as people's everyday needs right then and there." As seen in the upcoming documentary, "God's House," photographer Norman Gershman traveled to Albania to document surviving members of families that saved Jews during the Holocaust. Gershman said, "I had to find out what these people did."

Among them: Edip Pilku. He's pictured holding a plaque indicating his mother and father were honored as "righteous among nations."

"Johanna and her family gave testimony that 'Yes, this family saved our lives.'" And Johanna says her own parents, who both died in 1961, always wanted to make up for the way they parted with the Pilkus all those years ago. Edip said their parting was very hard for him, too: "I don't even know how they left. My mother pulled me to the other side as she didn't want me to get sad, I wouldn't know. They left … hastily."

The Allies whisked 14-year-old Johanna and her parents out of Albania in September of 1945. "We were told that we cannot even go and say goodbye," Johanna said, "because there was danger that we might get arrested. It was much to my parents real regret. Terrible regret . . .No chance to say 'thank you.'"

Finally, decades later, she had her chance. This was Johanna's journey. "When you saw him again, sixty two years later, can you describe that reunion?" Axelrod asked. "Well, in a way, it was a little bit strange," Johanna said, laughing, "because I left a little boy, and here was an old man! It was very emotional, there's no question about it." After the war, Johanna's family settled safely in the United States.

But in newly-Communist Albania, a very different fate awaited the Pilkus. They quickly went from being the protectors to the oppressed. And their life together as a family ended in tragedy when Edip Pilku's father was arrested and executed by the Communist regime.

"Here was such a good human being," Johanna said. "He was shot for what? I don't know for what." Johanna Neumann spent years trying to honor the family that saved hers. Her deepest satisfaction came only recently in a conversation with Edip Pilku's daughter.

"I got my reward," Neumann said. "She said, 'I am so proud to know what my grandparents did.' And that was really my main purpose, because he was executed by the Communists so, 'What do the grandchildren think?'"

One look at Edip Pilku's face tells the whole story: "I see a very modest son, very proud of his family and proud of what they did and seeking nothing, nothing other than saving people who were desperate," said Gershman. "These people were courageous," said Neumann.

"They were righteous. And they were just wonderful people."

S0urce: CBS

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Kosova-Montenegro Border Dispute Looming

BIRN, NOVEMBER 5, 2009 -- Amid squabbles over the issue, Montenegro and Kosovo are planning formal negotiations to establish a definitive, legally binding border. Officials have tried to stay positive, with Montenegrin Foreign Affairs Minister Milan Rocen insisting that his country "does not have any difficult issues which cannot be solved by talking to our neighbours".

On October 27th, he told parliament "There are no open issues with Kosovo and no issues concerning the border demarcation," he told parliament on October 27th.

However, Rocen acknowledged he had not yet been fully briefed on the matter. "I don't want to get into the context of it and I don't have enough relevant information to comment on it in public," he said.

At the same time, the Montenegrin interior ministry issued a toughly-worded statement, declaring that the country would not give up a single square metre of its territory.

Recent incidents have raised the level of concern. According to Kosovo media, signs reading "Welcome to Montenegro" were erected on the Kosovo side of the disputed Kulla/Kula border area, near Pec -- a territory that includes 21 villages.

In protest, over 200 Albanian villagers blocked the main highway leading to the border crossing. Their representative, Sadri Zeka, claimed that nearly 1,000 hectares have been appropriated by Montenegro.

According to Kosovo's Telegrafi news agency, the protest prompted a meeting between Kosovo's regional and border police, as well as the Peja/Pec mayor and the Montenegro border police chief inspector.

Nusret Kalac, the mayor of Rozaje, a small Montenegrin border town adjacent to the disputed area, told TV Vijesti that his municipality has and will continue to maintain roads and provide security in the area.

"We have done this and we shall do this, and if someone is bothered by the border or not, if someone has [territorial] appetites, that is their business," said Kalac.

Emilo Labudovic, an MP representing Montenegro's Serbs, disagrees. Belgrade's B92 quoted him as saying ethnic Albanians had crossed into his village, occupied pastures and cut down forests. "Montenegro's border police are not reacting," he claimed.

Kosovo officials seem to believe the border demarcation process will be relatively easy and will be shorter than the one recently concluded with Macedonia. Government spokesperson Memli Krasniqi was quoted in the daily Zeri on October 27th as saying that Kosovo and Montenegro do not have border disputes.

Interior Minister Zenun Pajaziti told the daily Bota Sot"it will be a process of joint management of this issue … and no concern is expected."

Pajaziti could not say when exactly the border demarcation -- and the initiation of formal diplomatic relations with Montenegro -- may take place, but expressed hope it will happen soon.

Last month, Montenegrin Minister of Human and Minority Rights Ferhat Dinosa told local media that he expects diplomatic relations to be established by the end of the year.

Not everyone in Kosovo agrees. The leader of the Vetevendosja (Self-Determination) movement, Albin Kurti, has long warned that the two countries would have trouble demarcating the border. He suggests the answer can be found in a 35-year-old document: Yugoslavia's 1974 constitution, in which Kosovo's borders are defined.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Author Kadare transcends borders

A major Spanish foundation awarded the country's equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Prince of Asturias Award Laureate for Letters, to Albanian literary icon Ismail Kadare.

In announcing this year's winner, the foundation called Kadare "the pinnacle of Albanian literature who, without forgetting his roots, crossed frontiers to rise up as a universal voice against totalitarianism".

Kadare, 73, considered his nation's leading essayist and poet, lived throughout the communist period in Albania fighting totalitarianism with his writings. Soon after the collapse of Enver Hoxha's regime in 1990, Kadare sought political asylum in France.

While his role in Albanian culture is undeniable, and most Albanians are proud of Kadare's literary achievements, some bloggers today reflect a larger philosophical disagreement as to what the latest prize signifies. They disagree on whether it recognises Albanian culture, promotes the country, or solely emphasises Kadare's literary skill.

Alidea captures the general mode by characterising Kadare as "the writer who made the Albanian language feel proud". La_rosee agrees and gives voice to the collective hope that Kadare will go on also to win the Nobel Prize soon.

Lulian Kodra is surprised that Kadare accepted the award, since Spain has not yet recognised Kosovo and remains a staunch opponent of its independence. By contrast, Monda sees no reason for Kadare to reject the prize.

According to rruga02, Kadare deserves the award because he has contributed mightily towards promoting Albanian culture. That view of literature is contested, however, by Arbri09. For this blogger, writing is art, not a form of public relations. Its purpose isn't to advance political positions or help advertise a country.

Kadare is unique, writes Onufri. "No other Albanian writer gets even close to his genius … despite those who think they do," he declares, adding that he has met the man in person.

The Asturias Award laureate, Onufri says, is a "frighteningly sharp thinker, and [at the same time] a very reserved person".

Alproud sums up a widely-held view. Kadare, he writes, is the most famous Albanian literary figure in the world, and as such, is a precious resource.

By Manjola Hala for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 30/10/09

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Du Bois Conference brings Diaspora together

24 October, 2009, Du Bois, Pennsylvania – The several Albanian-American NGOs converged today in Du Bois, Pennsylvania for a conference that is being heralded as historic. For the first time, the four most influential Albanian organizations (flying in from Detroit, New York and Malesia) united and discussed projects aimed at fully recognizing Malesia e Madhe as a distinct and fully functioning entity by way of full municipality status. Present were the leaders and members of (1) The Albanian-American Association, "Malesia e Madhe", (2) Homeland Unites Us, Inc., “Levizja Atdheu Na Bashkon”, (3) Humanitarian Fund Malesia, and (4) Ded Gjo' Luli Association.

The heads of these organizations were joined by policy experts, which consisted of a smaller "working group," who were unanimously approved to become the driving force behind the research, coordination, and execution of the full and autonomous municipality of Malesia. These experts represent the fields of political science, international law, economics, urban planning, and civic engineering, all areas crucial in the design and implementation of Malesia's internal infrastructure, sociopolitical and economic operations.

The working group presented an elaborate study that is being remitted for publishing where it clearly outlines that Malesia is a "fully functional region" that is "self-sufficient" and capable of supporting its politico-economic infrastructure "far greater" than at least seven of Montenegro's smaller and oftentimes insufficient municipalities, hence concluding that not granting Malesia a municipal status is purely a political motive pioneered by the central authorities in Podgorica.

While each leader and policy expert presented studies, analysis and projections related to achieving this single aforementioned goal, a unanimous agreement was reached by all 33 members in attendance on a Declaration outlining examples of discriminatory practices against Albanians in Montenegro, which include, in brief:

• political imprisonment followed by random acts of torture, hence failing to fully respect international norms where Montenegro is a signatory and party of;
• failure to recognize its sizeable Albanian minority population in all realms of decision-making structures and processes, thus excluding them from the political process and social fabric of mainstream society;
• failure to alleviate the academic disparities plaguing Albanians in scholastic institutions and course curriculum, where native language and learning tools are prohibited as means to sustain linguistic, historical, and cultural elements of the Albanian national heritage, thus accelerating the rate of assimilation and ethnic destruction;
• failure to provide financial support for the growing socio-economic backwardness in territories where Albanians live, where crumbling infrastructure, inadequate sanitation, unresponsive municipal services, and disproportional allocation of Capital City funding have led to a stagnant sociopolitical and fiscal climate; and
• Ignoring the legitimate demands of Albanians for the return of local self-government in the territory of Malёsia, where growth and progress in all the above-mentioned areas are blocked in the interests of Podgorica’s political elites, but at the expense of Malesia’s neglected minorities.

As a result of these inconsistencies, the working group conceived several demands that require immediate attention, stemming primarily from the illegal laws outlined in Montenegro's Bill for Territorial Division. These demands called for the Montenegrin government to approve and fund the status of the full Municipality of Malёsia, in whole, under the same laws afforded to her other territorial regions; that, in order to realize this objective, Albanian political parties in Montenegro set aside their differences and unite their efforts to immediately work towards the fulfillment of a full municipality in Malesia; that Albanian political parties, without delay, initiate a distinct strategy (with specific deadlines) to express control and leadership ability in managing a fully operational municipality.

This Declaration was unanimously approved and signed by the leaders of all four organizations, whereafter it was to be submitted to all affected parties, including those in the Montenegrin political apparatus and regional NGOs dealing exclusively with the issues discussed in Du Bois.

The Du Bois conference concluded on a high note, and each organization determined that all future conferences, projects, communications, and declarations will be handled by the experts in each field representing the working group. The members of each organization concluded that the Diaspora will once and for all speak with one voice, as the greater cause is much more salient than the constituent personal interests of a few. The aspiration now is that Albanians in Montenegrin work under the same rubric.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Establishing diplomatic relations with Kosova not priority for Montenegro

Podgorica, ME, 21 October 2009 -- Establishing diplomatic relations with Kosova has not been the priority of the Montenegrin government but the issue would be included in the agenda for the next period, the ruling Democratic Socialist Party, Serbian Politika newspaper online edition informed.

Speaker of the party Rajko Kovacevic said that “Montenegro co-ordinates its decisions with its European partners,” but refused to point when the country would establish diplomatic relations with Prishtina.

The issue on establishing diplomatic relations between Montenegro and Kosova has risen after Macedonia and Kosova signed an agreement several days ago on the demarcation of the Macedonian-Kosova border, the edition writes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kosova, Macedonia settle border dispute, Montenegro remains unresolved

Pristina/Skopje - The parliaments of Kosova and Macedonia have ratified a border agreement, ending a long dispute over the volatile region and established diplomatic ties, media reports said Sunday. Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and his Kosova counterpart Skender Hiseni signed Sunday afternoon in Skopje an agreement on establishing diplomatic ties, the Macedonian' ministry said in a statement.

Kosova ratified the agreement on Saturday with 81 out of 120 members of parliament backing the deal. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu welcomed the ratification saying "it creates stability, safety and opens the path for European integration for Kosova."

Macedonia ratified the agreement late Saturday after a long dispute, with the opposition threatening to take the deal to the Supreme Court. In the 120-member parliament, 72 were for and 11 against the motion.

Albanians make up a third of Macedonian population and have very close contacts with their compatriots in Kosova where they are in the majority.

The border between Kosova and Macedonia was agreed in 2001 when Kosova was still part of Serbia. The region was used by Albanian extremists during Macedonia's insurgency in 2001 and is now populated by Albanians.

In neighboring Montenegro, where Albanians make up approximately 7% of the population, the two countries have yet to conclude a similar border deal. According to one Albanian political representative in Tuzi, borders will have to consider the demarcation line along the region of Plavё and Gusine. Similar to Macedonia, Montenegrin Albanians have demanded that the territories of Ulqin, Malёsia e Madhe, and Plavё and Gusine be recognized as belonging to Kosova and Albania-proper, a demand that has drawn strong accusations of a Greater Albania. Regardless of the rhetoric, between the two sides, the south-east Montenegro-Kosova border will like draw a great deal of attention in the coming months.

Kosova declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, after years of international supervision. It is recognized as independent by more than 60 countries, including Macedonia, the majority of European Union members and the United States.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Michigan men held prison in Montenegro are honored for bravery

October 11. 2009, Rochester Hills, Michigan -- Approximately 550 Albanians jammed St. Paul's Albanian Catholic Church and Community Center Sunday afternoon to welcome home Kola and Rrok Dedvukaj who served three years behind bars in Montenegro for crimes unsubstantiated to this very day.
Gjergj Ivezaj, President of the Albanian-American Association "Malesia e Madhe," gave a brief synopsis of their plight and described the time-line of events that followed their arrests, including the tireless efforts from the Diaspora to petition U.S. government agencies, IGOs and NGOs in an attempt to underscore the abuses that were being perpetrated in Montenegro. Following Mr. Ivezaj a heart-felt greeting was delivered by the community and religious leader, Father Anton Kcira, who welcomed the men home and assured them that the community and parish was with them during their entire ordeal.
Kola touched those in attendance with his somber yet brave account of the events that led to their conviction, maintaining that the charges wee illegal and never proven. Stating that he and the other 15 prisoners stood in front of the judge on 65 separate occasions, there was no "crack" in the armor of the Albanian prisoners, and as much as the officers abused, beat, tormented, and threatened their lives, no Albanian prisoner turned on the other, but all maintained their innocence to this very day. Kola reminded everyone in attendance that no release will be celebrated until every prisoner is released and reunited with their families.
Rroku followed Kola and stressed that our struggle is not over, it only begins. HE was grateful in all the help the various Albanian organizations provided and reminded all in attendance that Montenegro's intent is to wipe all Albanians out, it has been for centuries before, and still continues to this day. "We must maintain our ground and and defend our rights that are guaranteed to us by international law", Rroku maintained. "These laws, in the minds of Montenegrins, are not equal for Albanians, as proven during the illegal torture they experiences."
The mood of the crowd was supportive and with every show of passion and energy to continue to fight for the rights of Albanians, joy and applaud echoed off the walls as the crowd roared in agreement. After the event, attendees mingled with one another and discussed various ways to assemble and continue to work with their brethren in Malesia to expose the criminal apparatus that is suffocating Albanians in Montenegro.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Kosova's Independence is paying off: Highest GDP in Balkans

BIRN -- Kosovo is the country with the highest GDP growth in the Balkans in 2009, while Romania will face the worst economic slump this year, the IMF predicts.

Kosovo's GDP will grow by 3.8 per cent this year and 4.3 per cent in 2010, the Fund believes. In contrast, the Romanian economy will nosedive by 8.5 per cent this year, experiencing only slight growth of 0.5 per cent next year.

Kosovo's GDP per capita is expected to reach 1731 euros by the end of the year.

The IMF has slightly revised its predictions for Albanian growth for 2009, expecting the country's GDP to improve by 0.7 per cent, from 0.4 per cent in the previous estimates.

According to the IMF statistical database, Albania's nominal GDP will increase by 2.2 per cent in 2010, returning to a more typical growth rate of 6 per cent in 2011. GDP per capita will increase a slight 0.2 per cent this year to 2598 euros.

IMF projections are published twice a year, in April and October.Bulgaria will experience a 6.5 per cent fall in GDP this year, and 2.5 per cent in 2010. GDP per capita in Bulgaria is currently 3439 euros.

Serbia's GDP will fall 4 per cent this year, before growing 1.5 per cent in 2010. GDP per capita in Serbia is 3949 euros.

Macedonia's GDP will fall 2.5 per cent this year, with 2 per cent growth in the next fiscal year. A strong growth rate of 5 per cent is expected for 2011. GDP per capita in Macedonia is 2944 euros.Croatia's GDP will fall by 5.2 per cent in 2009, and will grow by 0.5 per cent in 2010.

GDP per capita is currently 8941 euros, which makes Croatia the richest country in the region.Bosnia & Herzegovina, BiH, will suffer a 3 per cent GDP drop this year, ahead of an expected 0.5 per cent gain in 2010.

GDP per capita in BiH is 2751 euros.Currently, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania have the lowest prices in the region, while Croatia and Romania have the highest, according to the Purchasing Power Parity index.

According to IMF data, a single US dollar in Macedonia buys 2.1 times more goods than in western European countries, followed by Bulgaria, 1.98; Albania, 1.9; Serbia, 1.83; and Bosnia, 1.76. In Croatia, a US dollar is worth just 1.2 times more than in western Europe.

The so-called Big Mac Index was created in 1984 by British newspaper The Economist with the intention of providing a better understanding of the real value of a dollar in different countries. Since then, the IMF has developed a more complicated purchasing power methodology.

Based on these calculations, GDP per capita in Kosovo is just 40 per cent of the world average, followed by Albania at 67 per cent; Bosnia, 72 per cent; Macedonia, 87 per cent; Serbia, 101 per cent; and Romania at 113 per cent. Croatia is 171 per cent richer then the world average.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Albanians Held in Montenegrin Prison are Welcomed Home

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – The much anticipated arrival of Rrok and Kola Dedvukaj was celebrated last Saturday night by over 100 family members and friends who gathered at Detroit’s Metro Airport. After serving their three-year sentences in a tiny Montenegrin cell for accusations initially linked to “terrorism”, the Dedvukaj’s gingerly stepped off the plane and into the arms of sobbing family members , who, along with those present that night, breathed a sigh of relief to finally see the two men that have been victims of illicit charges, torture, and inhumane punishment, which not only victimized these two American citizens, but held all of Malёsia prisoner to what has turned out to be an apartheid state designed to suppress Albanians as they press for basic human rights.

Kola’s request to say a few words before the crowd underscored the theme of their sheltered nightmare. In his own soft words, Kola described the real issues confronting the prisoners and the entire nation. This entire ordeal wasn’t attributed to what Montenegro perceived to have happened, but instead it was a designed attempt to disenfranchise the entire Albanian community at the expense of a few. There were many times during their incarceration that the issue of ethnicity surfaced, especially while the two men were being physically and mentally tortured. Constant reminders that Montenegro is a state for Montenegrins only and that Albanians have no place and future there rang in their bloody heads as they were punished for not approving to the guard’s ethnic slurs.

It was the eve of national and local elections in Montenegro that opened the doors to mass arrests throughout the Malёsia region, and as Albanians were preparing to celebrate the victory of the ascent of an Albanian politician from that region, the day was overshadowed by fear, uncertainty, and disintegration. Nineteen men were immediately arrested for “acts of terrorism” (where many still remain behind bars today). What followed was a circus of illegitimate legal discourse that witnessed dozens of delayed hearings, unprofessional court proceedings, abrasive behavior by the judges, tainted evidence, and politically charges witnesses. This spectacle continued for two years and finally a guilty verdict followed; a verdict that found all Albanians in Montenegro guilty … guilty of being different … guilty of seeking liberty … guilty of demanding local representative government … guilty of wanting to protect their national homeland from confiscation, sale, and impregnation of other nationalities. Whatever the characteristics of the case, ALBANIANS WERE GUILTY!

As Rrok greeted his Detroit friends, and walked from hand-shake to hand-shake, he looked broken, he is not the man he used to be. The human toll suffered from repeated beatings, lack of medical attention, ghastly prison conditions, and the constant reminder that Albanians are not human reaffirmed his belief that suffering will continue for Albanians in Montenegro for a very long time. As Rrok quietly listened to their reassurances and well-wishes, he was reminded that Albanians are resilient by nature and undeterred by history, and their struggle will never end with a conviction, but instead continue on a path to full recognition of their national homeland with full status and sociopolitical rights that are guaranteed under God and all nations with collected minorities.

Welcome Home Men!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Albanian schoolchildren boycott classes in Veles High School

Veles, Macedonia -- Albanian schoolchildren boycotted classes at the "Koco Racin" High School in the town of Veles, Macedonian, A1 television reports.

Parents did not allow their kids to go to school because this year again there will be no school masters to teach in Albanian. The parents are dissatisfied and concerned that this year their kids will have to study their lessons in Macedonian again.

Last year there were only three free-lance teachers in Albanian. Albanian teachers hired in other schools, on the other hand, have not received their salaries and no longer wish to work in the Koco Racin School.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In case you forgot ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Germany warns Montenegro over media freedom shortcomings

August 20, 2009, Podgorica, Montenegro - Berlin criticized Montenegro over what it said were shortcomings in media freedom, the German embassy in Podgorica said Thursday.

The embassy warned that it had "increasing concern" about physical attacks on reporters critical of the authorities, echoing earlier objections by the United States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and international media organizations.
This follows a brutal attack on a reporter from Vijesti by Podgorica's mayor and his son, who were being investigated for their role in a corruption scheme that would have exposed officials in the highest rank of government.

Germany also urged Montenegro to clarify legal criteria for permits to broadcast and said it would "closely monitor" freedom of media, an "indicator of democratic maturity," in the context of Podgorica's bid to join the European Union.

One case that has raised concern among press freedom advocates is the government's refusal to grant a license to the private media house Vijesti, which is seeking to launch the first independent nationwide TV channel.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

U.S. citizens freed from Montenegrin Prison

August 17, 2009, TUZ, MONTENEGRO - After nearly three years behind bars, three Albanian men were released yesterday from a Montenegrin prison after serving their sentences for unwarranted accusations stemming from their involvement in a scheme to carry out acts of "terrorism" against Montenegro.

U.S. citizens Kol and Rrok Dedvukaj, along with Pjeter Devukaj were hauled off to prison on September 9, 2006, on the eve of parliamentary election in Montenegro. The charges stemmed from arms possession to plans to commit "terrorist" acts aimed at creating a separate Albanian region within Montenegro. But as the highly televised trial pressed on for nearly two years, the prosecution was never able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these men were in any way connected with the crimes they were being charged. In fact, all the evidence that was gathered during the trial was never tied with any one suspect. Nonetheless, as the proceedings went forward, unsubstantiated claims of "terrorist aggression against the state" was broadcast throughout this tiny country leading to a publicly televised verdict of "guilty."

Montenegro was immediately able to frame public opinion and consciousness that (1) Albanians in general were aggressively pursuing secession, (2) the Albanian Diaspora was behind this, (3) that Montenegro was an ally in the fight against global terrorism and these arrests were no different than others around the globe, (4) that Albanians were connected with Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East [although all the accused were Catholic], and (5) that the protections in the Montenegrin constitution did not apply to these people.


Family members of these gentlemen were elated after their release, but the celebration was clouded by several factors that will have a lasting effect on the lives of the Dedvukaj's and those that continue to serve sentences. The mental and physical pains will endure forever; Kol Dedvukaj was diagnosed with diabetes while in prison and suffered severe mental lapses attributed to daily beatings. With his sudden weight loss, Rrok has complained of enduring headaches and amnesia, also attributed to nearly three years of physical and mental anguish. What is just as disturbing was the mental torture that all the prisoners went through; constant harassment related to their ethnicity followed by tormenting that the United States did not care that their very own citizens were being held and tortured by a corrupt regime.

Although they have finally been released, and now united with their families, their road back to the United States will be coupled with an even longer road to mental recovery. Returning to a country they entrusted would come to their rescue, when in fact it did not, will be hard to swallow. But what is harder to comprehend is how three innocent men visiting relatives in their homeland could be illegally arrested, brutally beaten, ethnically discriminated, mentally tormented, and physically tortured by a country that continues to propagate that it is meeting all democratic principles en route to EU membership.

Whatever the case may be, "Eagle's Flight" will forever be a thorn in Montenegro's side until she decides to confess that this whole ordeal was strategically planned to quash the efforts that Albanians have for decades believed in -- the constitutional freedom to express themselves and participate without any obstructions by the majority and the state.

Detroit rally protests [Albanian] student’s deportation

AUGUST 17, 2009, DETROIT - More than 100 people rallied Monday night at Hope Community Church in Detroit in an effort to prevent a University of Detroit Mercy student from being deported to Albania.

Herta Llusho, 19, of Grosse Pointe Park, said she came to the United States in 2001 from Albania, along with her family, on a tourist visa. They were denied political asylum and, now, Llusho and her mother must leave on Wednesday.

Advocates say that college students like Llusho should be allowed to stay in the United States because of their potential. They’re asking the Department of Homeland Security to grant her a deferment.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin wrote a letter Friday to the department, asking that Llusho’s deportation be deferred.

A spokesman for the Detroit office of the Department of Homeland Security did not comment Monday.

Detroit Free Press

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Massive clashes between Macedonians and Albanians in Skopje

DPA News Category :

17 August 2009, Skopje - Several persons were injured Sunday in violent clashes in the center of the Macedonian capital of Skopje between Slavic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.

A number of vehicles and store windows were damaged by stones and metal pipes in the fray.
The clashes were triggered by more than 100 Macedonian fans of the local FC Vardar, broadcasters in the city reported.

The vandals fought with Albanian ethnics who quickly organized their own defence.

Focus of the violence was the bridge between the city center and an Albanian neighbourhood.
Only the vigorous intervention by units of the special riot police avoided further blood-letting, reports said.

Arrests were made, and order was restored by late in the evening.

Monday, August 10, 2009

HUU: Podgorica's Mayor must not go unpunished

HOMELAND UNITES US, INC. -- Commission for Human Rights and Protection of National Minorities

TUZ, MONTENEGRO, Monday, August 10, 2009 – The recent attacks by Podgorica’s mayor on two high profile investigative journalists from the daily Vijesti has sparked outrage among domestic and international media outlets, including institutions responsible for reviewing Montenegro’s petitions for European integration. What will happen to Miomir Mugosa and his son is anyone’s guess, but if history is a prelude to the outcome, they will walk as have many other politicians caught up in government abuses of power.

Last week’s events are nothing new in Montenegro’s enduring battle to quash “freedom of the press” in investigative journalism, where politicians usually find themselves at the center of attention. But as Montenegro lobbies to be an adopted child of the EU, decision-makers in Brussels should take note of this latest incident and ask whether this very important element of democracy can be protected. International monitoring agencies have expressed their concerns, and if their predictions hold true, media independence, and as a result, government accountability, are far from meeting any pre-requisites for joining institutions with the label “democracy” attached to it.

In 2008, the Global Integrity Report, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of national-level anti-corruption systems, gave Montenegro a rating of “Very Weak” on the question: “Are journalists safe when investigating corruption?” The Report goes on to outline the history of media/journalist abuses, where many are committed by government officials still in office today:
September 2007 — Journalist Zeljko Ivanovic is attacked by three men. He later suspects former Premier Djukanovic orchestrated the attack against him, given his publications outlining corruption. Djukanovic sues Ivanovic for damage to his dignity and for mental strife stemming from the allegations.

November 2007 — Editor-in-chief of Radio Berane, Tufik Softic, is assaulted by two unidentified men.

December 2005 — The editorial staff of public television network TVCG (TV Montenegro) quits in protest after the radio and television council fires the station's director.

May 2004 — Prominent newspaper publisher and editor Dusko Jovanovic is gunned down in the street. His newspaper, Dan, frequently publishes accusations of corruption in the highest levels of government, and his murder heightens tensions in the country.

Correspondingly, the U.S. State Department recently highlighted similar abuses in their Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report for Montenegro in May 2009. On human rights violations, numerous public officials have been accused of “harassment of journalists,” including “widespread corruption in law enforcement and judiciary”; the latter making it more difficult to prosecute the former. The Report goes on to mention that corruption is so widespread in Montenegro that the U.S. has initiated programs to award investigative journalists to press for more government accountability, in the same fashion that led to the attacks last week.

How the government handles this and other incidents involving crimes committed by elected officials will determine Montenegro’s readiness to be part of the growing family of democratic states, but if Podgorica continues to ignore these clear signs on internal corruptive behavior, then the international community must act and demand that the state plays a meaningful role in protecting the rights of the abused while at the same time prosecutes the crimes of the perpetrators.

Earlier this year, a report presented by The National Democratic Institute on Transparency and Accountability in the Montenegrin Governance System found that “many laws (in Montenegro), while reflecting democratic intent, have few enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance. In addition, parliament’s oversight of government is hindered by the legislature’s inability to obtain information about what the government is doing, despite legal provisions guaranteeing all citizens the right to information from the state administration.” NDI concludes in its Report that Podgorica take serious steps in making government officials more accountable for their actions.

In conjunction with other interested parties closely following these developments, HUU requests that Montenegro punish those involved with these illicit acts that are systematically designed to discourage the media from carrying out their constitutional rights of investigative journalism. HUU will continue to oversee these activities and report on any developments to international monitoring agencies for further review.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

U.S. Senator weighs in on human rights abuses in Montenegro

In response to a letter expressing concern on human rights abuses in Montenegro, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) responds to the Albanian-American Association's "Malesia e Madhe" concern on freedom of press issues after the Albanian newspaper Koha Javore was denied funding to continue its paper circulation. Koha Javore was the only Albanian language newspaper in Montenegro, and received funding from the Montenegrin state, but due to budget cuts a decision was made that Koha Javore was an "unnecessary expense" that was first on the cutting block.

July 8, 2009

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-2202

Carl Levin

Mr. Gjergj Ivezaj
Albanian-American Association “Malёsia e Madhe”
49920 Van Dyke
Shelby Township, MI 48317

Dear Mr. Ivezaj:

Thank you for contacting me regarding human rights abuses in Montenegro. My office receives a significant number of constituent updates on human rights abuses abroad. These are all very serious situations and I appreciate the diligence with which you monitor them.

Human rights violations not only harm the citizens they are perpetrated against, they also threaten the development of democratic societies. To prevent these types of abuses, we must encourage compliance with international standards on human rights and consider a country’s record on human rights in our diplomatic relations and in determining foreign and military aid issues.

Again, thank you for your update. I will continue to monitor this situation as it develops. Best wishes.


Carl Levin

Friday, August 07, 2009

Podgorica Mayor Assaults Reporter

Podgorica Mayor Miomir Mugosa assaulted a newspaper editor and his photographer while they were working on a story on Wednesday night, Beta news agency reports.

The incident occurred when Mugosa caught reporters from daily Vijesti taking pictures of his car,Tanjug reports.

Mihailo Jovovic, the deputy editor of the daily, and photographer Boris Pejovic allege that they were beaten by the mayor, his son and his driver while working on a story about the mayor's car being parked illegally in front of a cafe.

The Montenegrin State Prosecutor's Office has filed criminal charges against the mayor's son, Miljan Mugosa, and Jovovic.Vijesti announced on Friday that it would file criminal charges against both Mugosas and the driver. The reporters also claim that Mugosa's son drew a gun during the fight.

Website reports that the mayor denies the accusations, saying he was attacked by people who had been "following him for days and hiding in bushes and doorways".

Montenegrin Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic issued a statement on the incident that did not directly discuss the counter-claims, sufficing with: "everybody is equal before the law".

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Model for "Malesia Region": "Presevo Valley Region" Seeks Self-Determination

AUGUST 4, 2009 -- Opinions differ over whether the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia should gain the status of a region with its own institutions and organs.

While ethnic Albanians from the south consider this as the only solution to keep their national, cultural and religious identity, Serbian politicians refuse their demands and are pushing ahead with plans of their own for the south. The ethnic Albanian proposal was raised on Saturday in the assembly of the Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac municipalities and envisages the creation of an ethnic Albanian-led governance structure for the Presevo Valley area.

Riza Halimi, leader of the ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Action, told Balkan Insight that the proposal confirms a 2006 declaration, which envisaged giving ethnic Albanians in the region the right to self-determination.

G17 Plus party Whip Suzana Grubjesic told Tanjug news agency on Monday that the formation of ethnic regions would lead to the destabilisation and possible disintegration of Serbia.

“There are absolutely no conditions for any national minority in Serbia to form its own region. It would be opposed to the idea and main purpose of the regionalisation process, which is to defend [against] any kind of separatism,” the agency quoted Grubjesic as saying.

The head of the Presevo municipality, Ragmi Mustafa, told the Borba daily that the Serbian public is not well informed regarding Serbian government policy towards the south.
He said that reasons for creating the "Presevo Valley Region" are numerous and include political, economic and developmental imperatives.

“The political reason is the 1992 referendum, when a majority of local citizens voted for political, cultural and territorial autonomy along with closer relations with Kosovo,” the daily quoted Mustafa as saying.

Borba reports that Mustafa did not exclude the possiblity of a territorial exchange between Serbs and Albanians in which areas of northern Kosovo in which Serbs form a majority are swapped for areas of southern Serbia in which Albanians are the predominant ethnic group.

Serbia's state secretary for Kosovo and Metohija, Oliver Ivanovic, told Tanjug that the Serbian government will not consider dividing Kosovo, or a so-called exchange of northern Kosovo for south Serbia, since both "Kosovo and south Serbia are part of Serbia’s territory and no one in Belgrade can think of it in that direction".

State Administration and Local Self-Government Minister Milan Markovic thinks that Saturday’s proposal for the establishment of a separate region in the Presevo Valley area will not resolve problems ethnic Albanians are facing in the south. He underlined that the Serbian government will continue with its existing policies regarding the area, which is slated for incorporation in a new southern region.

The president of Bujanovac municipality, Saip Kamberi, believes ethnic Albanians demands are reasonable and marry with the EU integration process.

Coordination Body for Kosovo representative, Branko Delibasic, disagrees saying that the "Presevo Valley" is a newly created term, which does not exist in geography schoolbooks. The geographical term for the region is Vranje-Kumanovo basin, he claims.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Montenegro makes next step on European path: Commissioner

(PODGORICA) - Montenegro on Wednesday made another important step towards its membership in the European Union, the bloc's enlargement commissioner said after handing in a questionnaire to the Balkans country's officials.

"The questionnaire is an important part of becoming a member of the EU," Olli Rehn said at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and most top officials.

"It will aid the European Commission to prepare an objective and fair assessment of Montenegro's readiness to assume all the relevant obligations of EU membership," he said.

Montenegro in December submitted an official application for EU membership, hoping to obtain candidate status next year and open accession talks by 2011.

The tiny former Yugoslav republic with 650,000 inhabitants in 2007 signed a trade agreement with the EU, a first formal step on a long path towards full membership.

The Stabilisation and Association Agreement was signed only a year after Montenegro separated from Serbia and proclaimed independence.

"Today's handing over of the questionnaire is a yet another milestone on (Montenegro's) European path," Rehn said.

"I think that Montenegro is in fact a very good example of a small country succeeding in European integration," he added.

Djukanovic promised that Montenegro would prepare valid answers to more than 2,000 questions related to its readiness to reach European standards.

Rehn came to Podgorica from Belgrade where he reaffirmed Brussels' commitment to Serbia's eventual EU membership.

The EU enlargement chief was to continue his Western Balkans tour on Thursday by visiting Macedonia and Bosnia.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Albania’s ruling party poised for election win

Albania’s ruling Democrats look set for victory after a weekend parliamentary election. Exit polls give the party 69 seats; that is enough to win, but short of the 71 seats needed for a majority.

The opposition Socialists are said to have 55 seats, if the early results are confirmed. Definitive results are expected later today.

International observers and the opposition have deemed these elections to have been fair overall.

The ballot is seen as a test of Albania’s readiness to join the European Union. The country became a NATO member in April and has applied to join the EU.

Even though official results have not been announced, supporters of Democrat Prime Minister Sali Berisha took to the streets in celebration.

The Socialists are led by Edi Rama, mayor of the capital Tirana. He told supporters that despite what he called “a series of irregularities and unpleasing details” in various parts of the country, he said he was satisfied with the election overall.