Tag Archives: Albania

Albania endemic animal cruelty

Albania restaurants are offering diners meat from illegally hunted bears – part of an illicit trade in wildlife that is “out of control” in the country, investigators claim.

Researchers said it was the first time they had seen bear meat cooked in Europe, and experts warned that the crude butchering of animals may lead to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases such as coronavirus, and many others. The investigaion took place in one of such a restaurants.

Bears, monkeys and birds of prey are among live animals being sold on popular Albanian online marketplaces, the investigation found, raising fears for the survival of some species in the country.

Animal-protection charity Four Paws discovered that two of Albania’s leading online sites were carrying dozens of adverts selling brown bears and other species that are legally protected to be killed an consumed as food.

Many photographs of the animals – along with foxes, barn owls and wolves – showed them with their mouths taped up or their claws chained.

It’s a profitable business: a tiny capuchin monkey was offered for €750 (£675), and a barn owl, a bear cub and a wolf for €500 each.

The buyers are mostly restaurant and hotel owners who keep the animals to attract tourists, or individuals who want the animals as pets and status symbols, charity workers said. But also for consumption as exotic meals.

Eagles, the national symbol of Albania, are especially popular with buyers and are often found stuffed as trophies in public places. In spite of the law delcaring them protected species, prohibiting them to be caged or sold,following a huge decline of native wildlife in the country, the implementation of law has been poor.

Although the offenders may be jailed for abuse, the overwhelming majority of the them escape justice.

Four Paws said that after its team reported some of the illegal adverts, they were deleted but new ones reappeared.

“A large majority of the photographs displayed severe animal cruelty, such as foxes with sealed muzzles in plastic boxes, bear cubs in chains and birds with their feet tied,” said Barbara van Genne, of the charity.

Monkeys and birds of prey are often kept in bars and restaurants in Albania as a tourist attraction, while foxes are sold for their fur, according to the investigators.

Wolves are bought to be cross-bred with dogs for the puppies to be sold as guard dogs, commonly used in the mountains against wolves. But other animals are killed, stuffed and put on display.

Animals’ mouths are often taped to prevent them biting and their feet chained to stop them running away.

EU welcome to Albania & N.Macedonia

“Today’s political agreement to open accession negotiations with Albania and the Republic of Macedonia is a recognition of the significant reform efforts made by these two countries. Both have demonstrated clear political determination to move forward on their European path. The road to accession is long. But when real and sustained progress is made in fulfilling the accession criteria, this brings Western Balkan partners closer to the EU. I am truly satisfied that a new stage has opened in the process of the accession of Albania and North Macedonia to the EU during the Croatian presidency, which has the European perspective of the Western Balkans at heart” said Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, Croatian State Secretary for European Affairs.

Ministers exchanged views on enlargement and the stabilisation and association process, focusing on Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia.

They gave their political agreement to the opening of accession negotiations with both countries.

On this basis, a written procedure has been launched for the formal adoption of Council conclusions. It is expected to end on Wednesday 25 March in the morning.

COVID19: N.Macedonia activates EU mechanism

The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell welcomed the decision by the government of North Macedonia to activate the EU civil protection mechanism during telephone conversation with Nikola Dimitrov, Foreign Minister of North Macedonia. The diplomat have discussed the current intensive efforts to coordinate work and seek all ways to channel support to the Western Balkans in a focused and concrete manner.

The high diplomat concluded that the European Union stands by the Western Balkans and will continue to support the region in these challenging times.

They both expressed great satisfaction over the EU Ministers’ decision to open accession negotiations for both North Macedonia and Albania.

Image: illustration video conference Josep Borrell

Borrell on W.Balkans European perspective

At aprrival to the Euorpean Council for the EU-Western Balkans informal meeting the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said he hoped that some of Western Balkans countries could become members of the EU before the end of his mandate.

Today is another step on the European perspective for the Balkan countries. We are going to talk about it also tomorrow at the Foreign Affairs Council.

“I am coming from Munich where I had the opportunity of meeting all the Heads of State or Government of the Balkan countries. I have been flying in the plane with the Foreign Minister of North Macedonia and I learnt that they have [taken] a new important step on the reforms, about the law of the public prosecutor, which shows their will of doing anything they have to do in order to have a European perspective. So we are going to work today and tomorrow for the next European Council to open the door to the European perspective of the Balkan countries.”

Macron agrees to Albania and N.Macedonia accession talks

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would agree North Macedonia and Albania to begin talks on joining the European Union if the bloc’s executive gave them a positive review next month.

Macron’s comments at the Munich Security Conference ended his opposition to the two Balkan countries’ engagement into talks towards EU membership and reassure other European leaders that France still backs expanding the bloc to new members.

“We are waiting for the (European Commission) report in March … depending on that, if the results are positive and confidence is established, then we should be in a position to open the negotiations,” Macron announced the conference.

Macron had refused to approve the start of so-called accession negotiations at a summit in October, saying the process of admitting new members needed to change. One French minister called the accession process an “endless soap opera“.

Concerned by Chinese and Russian influence in the six states that aspire to join the bloc – Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and North Macedonia – Germany and the European Commission said Macron was shortsighted to block them.

The announcement of President Macron provocked a wave of vivid reactions from entire political specturm: from laudit of European Liberals as Guy Verhofstad to condemnation by French Conservatives as Nicolas Bay, who used social media to express his indignation: “NO to MAFIA STATE!”

While #Macron put aside all negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia two months ago, it turns around and is about to lift the opposition of France! NO TO MAFIA STATES and ISLAMISTS STRONGHOLD!” – Member of European Parliament Bay wrote on his Twitter microblog.

New EU enlargement “methodology”

On 5 February, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi has presented proposals for a revised enlargement “methodology” to the foreign affairs MEPs. The new “methodology” surfaced after the Council’s reluctance to agree on opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania and is expected to “enhance credibility” and give ‘”new impetus” to the enlargement process.

The European Commission put forward a proposal to drive forward the EU accession process, by making it more credible, with a stronger political steer, more dynamic and predictableVárhelyi announced.

The European Union enlargement to the Western Balkans is a top priority for the Commission“, – Olivér Várhelyi continued. “We are working on three tracks: Firstly, today we propose concrete steps on how to enhance the accession process. While we are strengthening and improving the process, the goal remains accession and full EU membership. Secondly, and in parallel, the Commission stands firmly by its recommendations to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and will soon provide an update on the progress made by these two countries. Thirdly, in preparation of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb in May, the Commission will come forward with an economic and investment development plan for the region.”

“A more credible process: The accession process needs to build on trust, mutual confidence and clear commitments by the European Union and the Western Balkans. Credibility should be reinforced through an even stronger focus on fundamental reforms, starting with the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration as well as the economy of the candidate countries. When partner countries meet the objective criteria, the Member States shall agree to move forward to the next stage of the process, respecting the merits-based approach.

“A stronger political steer: The political nature of the accession process requires a stronger political steer and engagement at the highest levels. The Commission proposes to increase the opportunities for high level political and policy dialogue, through regular EU-Western Balkans summits and intensified ministerial contacts. Moreover, Member States should be involved more systematically in monitoring and reviewing the process. All bodies under Stabilisation and Association Agreement will focus much more on the key political issues and reforms, while Inter-Governmental Conferences will provide stronger political steering for the negotiations.

“A more dynamic process: To inject further dynamism into the negotiating process, the Commission proposes to group the negotiating chapters in six thematic clusters: fundamentals; internal market; competitiveness and inclusive growth; green agenda and sustainable connectivity; resources, agriculture and cohesion; external relations. Negotiations on each cluster will be open as a whole – after fulfilling the opening benchmarks – rather than on an individual chapter basis. Negotiations on the fundamentals will be open first and closed last and the progress on these will determine the overall pace of negotiations. The timeframe between opening a cluster and closing the individual chapters should be limited, preferably within a year fully dependant on the progress of the reforms.

“A more predictable process: The Commission will provide greater clarity on what the EU expects of enlargement countries at the different stages of the process. It will make clearer what the positive consequences progress on reforms can bring, and what will the negative consequences will be when there is no progress.

“To encourage demanding reforms, the Commission will better define the conditions set for candidates to progress and will provide clear and tangible incentives of direct interest to citizens. Incentives could include accelerated integration and “phasing-in” to individual EU policies, the EU market and EU programmes – while ensuring a level playing field – as well as increased funding and investments. The more candidates advance in their reforms, the more they will advance in the process. Equally, the Commission proposes more decisive measures proportionally sanctioning any serious or prolonged stagnation or backsliding in reform implementation and meeting the requirements of accession process. Negotiations could be put on hold in certain areas, or in the most serious cases, suspended overall, and already closed chapters could be re-opened; benefits of closer integration, like access to EU programmes, could be paused or withdrawn, and the scope and intensity of EU funding could be adjusted downward.

https://twitter.com/vonderleyen/status/1225009804323819522?s=21

“The Commission hopes the Member States will endorse the proposal, in parallel with the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, ahead of the European Union-Western Balkans Summit in Zagreb on 6-7 May. For the summit the Commission will consider how to bring forward investment, socio- economic integration and the rule of law for the Western Balkans region.

https://twitter.com/reneweurope/status/1225059189187321863?s=21

Tusks regrets EU refusal of N.Macedonia and Albania accession talks

On October 17 the EU leaders discussed the enlargement. The overwhelming majority wanted to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. However, such a decision requires unanimity, and there was no unanimity yesterday. That is why the EU will revert to this issue before the Zagreb summit in May 2020.

‘Let me be very clear: North Macedonia and Albania are not to blame for this. And the Commission reports are also clear that both these countries did what they were asked to do. And the adoption of the Prespa Agreement was a truly extraordinary achievement. So both countries have the right to start EU negotiations as of today. They are ready. Unfortunately, a few member states are not ready yet. This is why we didn’t manage to reach a positive decision. Personally, I think it was a mistake, but I will not comment on it further” the President of the European Council Donald Tusk said.

‘Today I would like to send a message to our Macedonian and Albanian friends: please do not give up. I fully understand your frustration, because you did your share and we haven’t. The EU is a complex political entity, and it is true that sometimes it takes too long to decide. But I have absolutely no doubt that one day you will become full members of the European Union.”

‘Today leaders also discussed the priorities of the new Commission with President-elect von der Leyen, as well as the future EU budget. It was an important discussion that will continue in the following months. However, without Jean-Claude  (Juncker) and myself around the European Council table, as you know. On this note, I want to thank Jean-Claude, my colleague and friend, for our friendship, for your loyalty and solidarity and for our really great cooperation. And I also want to thank you, the media, for your tough but fair questions, for your patience, for staying up so late with us. And for laughing at some of our jokes. Never funny, frankly speaking…”

Greece faces migrant unrest at borders

Greece urged crowds of illegal migrants who have gathered in the fields along the country’s northern border to return to their initial settlements, otherwise they could face sanctions. (Photo above: illustration).

Migrants equipped with smartphones started to arrive at a field next to a camp of Diavata near the border with Northern Macedonia on April 4.

By April 5  morning there were more than 100 tents pitched in the field, presumably provoked by spread via social media information of plans for an organized movement to cross Greece’s northwest land border with Albania in early April. There were children seen among migrants, who showed up next to the border.

In Athens, a group of some dozens of migrants squatted on the tracks of the capital’s main railway station shouting “Germany!” and “Open the borders.” Several more were at the station under heavy police presence.

Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas appealed to the migrants at the border to return to the accommodation centers.

It’s a lie that the borders will open,” he told Greek state television ERT. “In international treaties, there are obligations but there are also sanctions”.

Mr.Vitsas expressed hope that those who came to the border upon their own initiative would leave by night, without any risking further escalation.

Social media has already reported clashes between marching migrants and Greece police.

Europe outlaws sharia

The resolution was passed at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which meets four times a year to set the agenda of the international assembly. The parliamentarians noted with ‘great concern‘ that three member states, Albania, Azerbaijan and Turkey, have endorsed explicitly or implicitly, the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.

Moreover the assembly is  ‘greatly concerned‘ about the fact that sharia, including provisions that contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, is applied either officially or unofficially in member states.

In the UK, ‘sharia councils attempt to provide a form of alternative dispute resolution, whereby members of the Muslim community, sometimes voluntarily, often under considerable social pressure, accept their religious jurisdiction mainly in marital and Islamic divorce issues, but also in matters relating to inheritance and Islamic commercial contracts,‘ the resolution states.

The body that oversees the European Convention on Human Rights has named the UK – along with Albania, Azerbaijan and Turkey – in a hard-hitting resolution highlighting conflicts between sharia law and universal human rights. A measure adopted last night by the 47-nation Council of Europe raises concerns about the role of sharia councils in family, inheritence and commercial law.

Rulings of sharia councils ‘clearly discriminate against women in divorce and inheritance cases’, the resolution states. It calls on the UK to make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to register their marriages civilly before or at the same time as their religious ceremony.

The Assembly welcomes recommendations put forward in last year’s independent report into the application of sharia in England and Wales and calls on the UK to ensure councils operate within the law ‘especially as it relates to the prohibition of discrimination against women, and respect all procedural rights‘.

It sets a deadline of June 2020 for the UK to report back on reviewing the Marriage Act to make it a legal requirement for Muslim couples to register their marriages civically, as is required for Christian and Jewish marriages.

Albania hell for animals ‘safari park’ closed

Four Paws reported they managed to  transfer the wild animals from “Europe’s worst zoo” in Fier, Albania, to a new shelter. “However, this is just a temporary situation, as we will look for species-appropriate accommodations for each one of them“, they added. The operation took place under supervision of Albanian police, entering the filthy prison for wild animals together with veterinarians from Four Paws, who initiated the rescue operation.

On October 23, the animal rights group said Albanian authorities had ordered the closure of the zoo which then followed the recent evacuation process.

Four Paws has been investigating Fier Safari Park Zoo since December 2015 but explained that because of legal regulations, it was not possible to intervene until now.

“Due to safety reasons, the owner of Safari Park Zoo was not informed in advance about the confiscation of the wild animals,” Four Paws statement read.

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