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Dutch MPs propose scrapping of visa-free travel for Albanians in Schengen zone

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Four Members of Dutch Parliament have tabled a motion to scrap temporarily visa-free travelling for Albanian nationals in the Schengen Zone, as part of fight against organized crime.

Dutch Parliament endorsed the motion last week, April 11, securing the support of the majority. Now the Parliament will ask the Government of the Netherlands to propose to the European Commission initiate the “emergency brake” procedure, which enables suspension of visa-free travel.

The motion was filed by MP Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democrats, Liberal-Conservative Jeroen van Wijngaarden, Jasper van Dijk from the Socialist Party a co-petitions and fellow Nico Drost from the Christian Union, as a move on fight against organized crime.

“The parliament, after hearing the deliberation, noting that there has been a substantial increase in criminal activities by the Albanian Mafia in the Netherlands and these criminal organizations are abusing the possibility of travelling through Europe visa-free and thus further expanding their smuggling network;

Noting that the suspension of the visa requirement for Albania was subject to various conditions, including the fight against cross-border crime, the parliament calls on the government to submit a request to the European Commission to initiate the emergency braking procedure to temporarily suspend Albania’s visa liberalization and to inform the House of progress,” the note on the decision of the Parliament reads.

Motion submitter, MP Van Toorenburg, said to the plenary that there are 6 times more Albanians in the Netherlands than officially registered.

The Emergency Break is a Schengen Visa suspension mechanism regulated through EC Regulation 1289/2013. It permits the suspension the visa exemption for third country nationals in specific occasions considered as “emergency situations”. The suspension can take place with a simple majority of votes by the European Commission.

In January 2018, France had also threatened to restore the Schengen visa regime for Albanians, after the country received 7,630 asylum applications from Albanians in 2017.

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Skiathos island authorities charging up to EUR1.000 fine for taking rare beach pebbles

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Tourists could be fined up to 1.000 euros for taking pebbles as souvenirs from a Greek beach.

Lalaria Beach on the island of Skiathos, accessible only by boat, is extremely popular with holidaymakers, who have been known to fill their pockets with unique pebbles as free souvenirs.

But officials on the Greek island are worried that too many of the stones have been taken leading to a dramatic change in the landscape of the shoreline in the past 10 years.

And now the port authorities have introduced fines of between EUR400 and EUR1.000 for people who take pebbles without permission.

Signs have been placed around the Lalaria beach telling tourists: ‘Take pictures, not pebbles.’ Posters have also been given to boat operators and fishermen in the area so the message can be spread across Greece.

In cooperation with the port authorities, the Cultural Association of Skiathos launched a campaign entitled:  “Take a Picture, not a Pebble – Save Lalaria Beach!”

“The alteration of the landscape has been noticeable in the last ten years and is up to a certain degree irreversible,” the cultural association says on its website. The protection of the beach is necessary to maintain at least the present condition without further deterioration, the association said.

The beach in the north-east of Skiathos is accessible only by boat.

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Panagiotopoulos: Honoring Prespa accord will bring better future

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Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said on Wednesday the mutual respect for the Prespa Agreement without concessions would yield positive result and contribute to a better future.

Earlier in the day, Panagiotopoulos told the Economist Conference in Athens that he does not challenge the intent of the agreement. We are all aware of the concept of good faith, the purpose of the agreement is to strengthen the stability in the region and geopolitical foundations.

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Greek Foreign Minister meets U.S. State Secretary

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Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington July 17. The two will discuss topics of bilateral, regional and international interest.

During his two-day stay in Washington, Dendias will meet with White House national security advisor John Bolton, Senator Bob Menendez, and will participate in ministerial meeting on religious freedom.

Secretary Pompeo will host the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, in Washington on July 16-18. The Ministerial will reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom for all and focus on concrete outcomes that produce durable, positive change. A broad range of stakeholders, including senior government representatives, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society activists will convene to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for freedom of religion or belief.

This year’s Ministerial seeks to further conversations from last year’s event and recent regional conferences. Representatives of up to 1000 civil society and religious community from every corner of the world are exected to participate.

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