Tahiri under fire over wiretaps of arrested trafficking suspects

Tahiri under fire over wiretaps of arrested trafficking suspects

TIRANA, Oct. 16 – Two days after the arrest of Moisi Habilaj among several other suspects by Italian authorities, former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri is facing calls for his arrest after his name came up in wiretaps published by

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Violence returns to Lushnja as two young men killed in shootout

Violence returns to Lushnja as two young men killed in shootout

TIRANA, Oct. 12 – Two men were killed and two were wounded in a Wednesday shootout in Lushnja, in what police believe was a possible quarrel between two criminal gangs. Police said both victims Zaimir Latifi and Jurgen Hoxha were

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Food safety agency to see major reform

Food safety agency to see major reform

TIRANA, Oct. 9 – Prime Minister Edi Rama has introduced the new head of the National Food Authority, Agim Ismaili, and told the public that corruptive practices within the institution that had threatened public health would end once and for

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Gentiloni promises support for opening of EU talks

Gentiloni promises support for opening of EU talks

ROME, Oct. 11 – Prime Minister Edi Rama has secured Italy’s support for Albania’s bid to open EU accession negotiations during an official visit to Italy on Wednesday. In a joint press conference, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the

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EU’s enlargement policies are ‘not fair’, Rama says

EU’s enlargement policies are ‘not fair’, Rama says

TIRANA, Oct. 7 – EU’s enlargement policies can be unfair and unpredictable to Albania and others in the region, Prime Minister Rama has said in a wide-ranging interview with Austria’s Der Standard. Rama said he did not know when Albania

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Parliament commemorates MPs executed in 1947

Parliament commemorates MPs executed in 1947

TIRANA, Oct. 10 – Albania’s parliament held Tuesday a memorial session in honor of the 70th anniversary of the execution of 14 opposition lawmakers by the country’s communist regime — a session that saw the descendants of the victims address

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Parliament to seek int’l assistance on electoral reform

Parliament to seek int’l assistance on electoral reform

TIRANA, Oct. 10 – The Albanian parliament, which has made the electoral reform a main priority at the start of this new legislation, will be calling on foreign representatives to closely monitor and assist the process in a similar way

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Pressuring EU on visas, Kosovo’s president asks Albania to offer dual citizenship

Pressuring EU on visas, Kosovo’s president asks Albania to offer dual citizenship

PRISHTINA, Oct. 11 – In the context of Kosovo’s stalled visa liberation process, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi brought up the possibility of granting Kosovo citizens Albanian citizenship in a meeting with his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Meta. The two leaders held

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Gov’t: Fighting corruption, police vetting set as priorities for first 100 days

Gov’t: Fighting corruption, police vetting set as priorities for first 100 days

TIRANA, Oct. 7 – The National Assembly of the Socialist Party gathered ministers, representatives of various public posts and Prime Minister Edu Rama to present the objectives of the government in its first 100 days of work. Minister of Interior,

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Japan supports northern Albania education

Japan supports northern Albania education

TIRANA, Oct. 11 – The Japanese government has financially supported the rehabilitation of three schools in the northern Albanian towns of Vau i Dejes and Fierza and pledged to further assist Albania in its quest to improve the quality of

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 16 – Two days after the arrest of Moisi Habilaj among several other suspects by Italian authorities, former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri is facing calls for his arrest after his name came up in wiretaps published by Italians police.

The tapes show Habilaj saying a big sum of money should be transferred to a politician, mentioning Tahiri and alleged corrupt police officers several times. Habinaj is Tahiri’s distant cousin.

Italian police said it had exposed a criminal, Italian-Albanian organization that trafficked guns and marijuana, arresting 11 of its members. According to data made available by the police, the organization has trafficked more than 3,500 kilos of marijuana to Italy during recent months, proffiting more than €20 million.

Tahiri was minister of interior until the beginning of 2017, despite repeated accusations by the main opposition Democratic Party of ties to the criminal underworld in general and his cousins from Vlora, whose illegal activities were long-suspected. 

Back in 2015, it was made public that Tahiri sold his car to his cousins without changing its ownership, thus being accused of helping their drug trafficking because the former minister’s car would get a pass from police. 

Now, the surveillance tapes expose Habilaj saying “€30,000 should be sent to Saimir.”

DP: Tahiri should be arrested

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said the evidence secured by international partners implicates Tahiri as one of the heads of drug-trafficking in Albania.

The Italian police arrested the head of a drug-trafficking organization from Albania today, Moisi Habilaj. The Democratic Party has denounced the relations of this clan with the government for four years, including ties of Tahiri with this gang,” Basha said. “The Minister’s famous Audi was used by the exact same individual that was arrested today.”

He added: “It is the time for big decisions. But today is the day Saimir Tahiri should be arrested and the legal process against him should take no longer. The facts have been made public, the proof lies on Edi Rama’s table and will surely made available in the hours or days to come.” 

Moreover, in a post made public through his social media, Basha also advised General Prosecutor, Adriatik Llalla, to not meet Tahiri.

I call on the General Prosecutor to not meet the accused Saimir Tahiri, but act urgently in order to put him in front of legal responsibility,” Basha noted.

Several media reported that Llalla had refused a request by Tahiri to meet, indicating he is a suspect. 

Rama: We want the truth

Prime Minister Edi Rama, was lukewarm on Tahiri, a departure from his usual defense of the former minister. 

We want to know the truth as soon as possible. The information leaked by the criminals’ conversation is revolting and shocking. I know Saimir Tahiri for years and I have only spoken words of support and encouragement of him, as a person with good intentions, capabilities and integrity. But Albania and Albanians want and deserve the truth today, only the truth and nothing but the truth,” Rama said in a statement. 

Accusations go back to 2015 

Back in 2015, when the Audi car scandal broke out, Tahiri was invited at a talk-show and was asked to speak out concerning the allegations against him. He then argued that the Habilajs do not have a penal precedent, and that he would make a public apology in case the opposite was to be confirmed by the police.

I would feel morally attacked if it results that the people in questions are traffickers, I would apologize to the public, and I have sold my car to some traffickers. I would tell the public I have made a mistake, selling my car to traffickers,” Tahiri told the media then.

At a press conference held on Tuesday, Tahiri apologized for selling his car without going through all necessary checks and legal procedures, but did not elaborate further on the allegations made against him. 

Even though verifications rarely happen in our country, I still hold full moral responsibility for my action. Other than that, I haven’t had and still don’t have any sort of relations, even less illegal relations. I don’t have any further responsibilities and I denounce any criminal activities, also of these people who are my distant cousins and who did not hesitate to use my name and that I hope justice investigates them until the end and punish them, and everyone else, like the law requires,” Tahiri said. 

Tahiri also added that it is not unusual for criminals to use politicians and ministers’ names with each other, and that he wasn’t the first one, and wouldn’t be the last, to be among the names mentioned. Nevertheless, he asked for the justice system to investigate both him and his family.

I will, personally and in full will, request that the Prosecution, without granting any parliamentary or political immunity, to investigate and verify everything related to me and not only,” Tahiri said, also addressing his fellow politicians and saying that he did not expect them to support or believe him, but that it would be left to the justice system to do its job and put the truth forward. 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 12 - Two men were killed and two were wounded in a Wednesday shootout in Lushnja, in what police believe was a possible quarrel between two criminal gangs.

Police said both victims Zaimir Latifi and Jurgen Hoxha were in their early 20s and were targeted in a bar, whose owner, Marius Xhepexhiu, 26, is in critical condition in hospital after being wounded in the shootout. 

Witnesses told police and media outlets a man wearing a mask and driving a vehicle targeted the victims using an AK-47 rifle.

Police arrived at the scene quickly but the shooter was able to escape.

The vehicle involved in shooting was found burned outside the city shortly thereafter, according local media reports.

State Police Chief Haki Cako went to Lushnja to hold an urgent meeting with law enforcement officials, pushing for work on identifying the authors. Special police units from the larger neighboring city of Fier were also rushed to assist Lushnja police.

Located in south-central Albania, the city of Lushnja, population about 30,000, has a history of notorious criminal gangs dating back the anarchy of 1997.

Several media outlets reported a nephew of Aldo Bare, the city’s most notorious gang leader currently in prison, was the target of the shooting but managed to escape.

His family members told local media there was no connection and that the young man was not involved.

Police said Thursday it had identified the suspected authors, issuing arrest warrants for Laert Haxhiu dhe Orgest Bilbili, two men known to local police as part of a gang that has a long hostility record with Bare’s gang.  

Bare, the leader of a large drug-smuggling ring active across Southeastern Europe, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Tirana district court in 2011.

He was found guilty of seven murders, creation of a criminal organization, illegal possession of weapons and property destruction. He has since unsuccessfully tried to overturn the convictions.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 9 – Prime Minister Edi Rama has introduced the new head of the National Food Authority, Agim Ismaili, and told the public that corruptive practices within the institution that had threatened public health would end once and for all.

The prime minister criticised the food safety watchdog, after a report from the state’s auditors showed the agency had been negligent its duties in the past five years investigated in the report.

The Supreme National Audit’s report found a number of legal discrepancies and irregularities which have threatened food safety and, in turn, compromised the economic and social stability of the country, by lowering consumers’ trust.

Problems relate to regulatory gaps that also make the work of the agency harder, according to experts. The auditors’ report shows the NFA had failed to perform proper risk analyses and of not having an official database of the companies that import food products. The auditors were also worried about the frequent change of NFA directors and political involvement of employees of the NFA, which has resulted in inexperienced food inspectors.

Local media have profiled a series of top officials over the years, showing unqualified people were placed in top positions at the NFA simply due to their political affiliation, first with the Democratic Party, then the Socialist Movement for Integration Party, later with Party for Justice Integration and Unity and most recently with the ruling Socialist Party.

It was a fact that did not escape the prime minister’s attention.

“This institution should not be neglected, as it is directly related to life safety and to the conditions Albania must fulfill to join the European family,” Rama said. “There is still laboratory equipment left in boxes because no one knows how to use it. And no one knows how to use it because people have been hired to the NFA to receive a wage, not work.”

Rama referred to the NFA’s inclination to give fines, complicate entrepreneurs life, terrorize shops and small-scale-businessmen and fail to live up to its standards.

According to Rama, this method of working is also applied by the NFA when it comes to border control and import of foods.

“People working in this institution must also understand they should walk away. The NFA is another centre infected by corruption, where it has become standard to fine for corruptive reasons,” Rama said.

The prime minister said there will be major reform at the agency, joining it with the Veterinary Service, and giving it local powers as part of the Administrational Reform.

The NFA was not initially established out of worry for the consumer’s safety, but as a requirement coming from Brussels before signing the stabilization and association agreement. The EU and Brussels further assisted the work of the NFA by cooperating in two projects and training specialists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The concluding remarks of the auditors’ report offered 22 recommendations for the NFA, starting from the completion of the legal gaps to the structural functioning of the agency, to help change the food safety situation in the country. Meanwhile, the NFA has been prohibited to fine individuals and business owners that trade without major infractions, especially the first 100 days of governing during which the NFA will be under a “scrutinizing” eye and the proper work and ethical standards will be enforced, Rama said.

 
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                    [post_content] => ROME, Oct. 11 - Prime Minister Edi Rama has secured Italy’s support for Albania’s bid to open EU accession negotiations during an official visit to Italy on Wednesday.

In a joint press conference, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said the European Union will soon review the issue of launching of accession negotiations with Albania, adding he was confident Italy and all EU members will support the launching of accession talks. “I think that the time is right to open accession negotiations with Albania,” Gentiloni said. “Albania has taken incredible steps even in other sectors, which the EU is watching closely.

Rama said he was thankful for Italy’ support and the strategic partnership between the two countries enjoyed.
Rama said there was no doubt Italy had been Albania’s chief advocate in Brussels.
Rama also thanked the Italian authorities for their assistance as Albania fights against cannabis cultivation and trafficking.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 7 – EU’s enlargement policies can be unfair and unpredictable to Albania and others in the region, Prime Minister Rama has said in a wide-ranging interview with Austria’s Der Standard.

Rama said he did not know when Albania would open accession talks with the EU.

“You never know that with the EU, because the positions and conditions constantly change. We were told negotiations would begin when the Constitutional Reform was applied to the justice sector. So, we changed the Constitution, but the accession talks have not begun,” Rama said. “Then we were told that the law was important to the review commissions. Then we were told that the elections were important for us to start. Now we’ve done everything, and we’ll see. It can happen next year if the European Council gives a positive opinion, but it might also not happen next year. The enlargement process has become increasingly unfair and less predictable for the states. This has nothing to do with Albania, it’s about Europe itself.”

Albania’s long-term aim to join the European Union is a priority for both for representatives of the majority and the opposition, and the perception that the bid has stalled is causing major concerns among relevant actors and the public at large.

As part of the reforms needed to join the EU, the country has gone through or initiated constitutional, judiciary, elective and police reforms, declared war on cannabis production and trafficking and fired officials who were believed to have abused their institutional posts.

However, Rama defended Jean-Claude Juncker not mentioning Albania along with Serbia and Montenegro in a letter directed to the President of the European Council concerning enlargement perspectives because the other two Balkan countries have already started negotiating, he made sure to convey he found the lack of negotiations unfair.

“The problem is not what Europe says, but what it does. In our case it is totally unfair, because we are a NATO state; Montenegro has joined NATO much later. Moreover, we are far ahead of Montenegro in the decisive judicial chapters. Serbia must also continue to make these reforms. We have already done this. It's fantastic that they negotiate. It's just unfair that we do not negotiate. I do not understand this incredible fear of European leaders when they continually link the beginning of accession negotiations with their own elections or the rebellion of public opinion,” Rama said.

Bringing folklore into the mix, Rama compared the lack of negotiations in the broader context of EU seeking enlargement with saying: “We want to get married, but we do not talk about the wedding.”

Another point of focus for Der Standard’s questions was Rama’s role in Albania’s foreign relations with its neighbouring countries, and particularly those with Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia.

Rama mentioned Kosovo’s visa regime as ‘non-sense’ because “the EU has said that you (Kosovo) must first establish a border agreement with Montenegro, but at the same time the EU is already negotiating with Serbia, a state that has not even recognized Kosovo, let alone the borders of Kosovo.”

When asked whether he saw himself as a protector of Albanians in the region and whether his interference could be deemed troublesome for the sovereignty of other states, Rama said that: “Our Constitution clearly states that the Albanian state is concerned about all Albanians abroad. I do not tell them what to do, and I have not intervened in the Macedonian election campaign. But if they ask for help, I will not say no. And I will always do it, whatever others say. This is natural and not interfering. For us Macedonia is central. Any threat to the integrity of Macedonia is dangerous to the entire region.”

Rama did not answer a question on Macedonia’s claims that his actions have created political instability, but rather talked of the importance of border management and the necessity for a lighter border management especially with Kosovo, but also with all other bordering countries. More than just light passenger traffic, Rama said that light border control is “about the trade in goods throughout the region, which is part of the action plan we have adopted with Commissioner Johannes Hahn.”

Lastly, Der Standard focused on the appointment of Gramoz Ruçi as head of Parliament, even though Ruçi was Minister of Interior in 1991, when four people were shot dead during demonstrations in the city of Shkodra at the very end of the communist regime.

Rama said Ruçi has already been released by those accusations – which made him not a symbol of that time, but rather “the goal of a barbaric kind of opposition” – as everything was investigated in a court case.

Rama said that Ruçi was Minister of Interior at a transitory time and “acted magnificently because he has organized the first free and fair elections as Minister of Interior. And during these elections the communist president has lost. The rest is just nonsense, and I do not understand how this can be discussed in 2017, when we have passed a law that allows all files from the communist era to be published.”

Rama used this question as a chance to express his belief the Parliament now functions properly, unlike in the past.

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134130" align="alignright" width="300"]Gentiana Sula, head of the Authority for Information on the Documents of Sigurimi, speaks in parliament. (@GentaSula/Twitter) Gentiana Sula, head of the Authority for Information on the Documents of Sigurimi, speaks in parliament. (@GentaSula/Twitter)[/caption]

TIRANA, Oct. 10 - Albania’s parliament held Tuesday a memorial session in honor of the 70th anniversary of the execution of 14 opposition lawmakers by the country’s communist regime — a session that saw the descendants of the victims address parliament together with current MPs and representatives of the international community.

The authority in charge of opening the files of the former communist secret police, Sigurimi, organised the event in cooperation with parliamentary officials, and its head, Gentiana Sula, said the forum offered an opportunity for family members and the public to get full knowledge on what happened to the MPs 70 years ago.

Family members read some of the files in parliament, providing chilling accounts of torture and violence that ultimately lead to the execution of many intellectuals for the sole reasons that they had attempted to create an organised opposition in parliament against the communist regime, which was then still entrenching itself in Albania.

The event was part of a larger trend of Albania attempting to address the crimes of the communist regime, 27 years after it fell.

Brian J. Williams, UN Resident Co-ordinator in Albania, told parliament the findings of a recent UN mission on enforced disappearances show Albania has still to come to terms with the gross and systematic violations of human rights committed by the country’s communist dictatorship.

“The past remains omnipresent and the wounds remain deep,” he said.

Current positive initiatives aimed at good governance, institution building, and the rule of law, cannot and will not reach their full potential if restrained by the bulk of the country’s painful past, Williams added.

The Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, told parliament he was proud to witness a historic moment in which todays lawmakers condemn the crimes of the previous regime.

“Knowledge and dialogue about the past play a crucial role in a liberating transition, they help re-establishing a country’s identity,” Borchardt said. “This parliament can discuss and decide whether Albania wants more of these transitional accounts which connect normatively the country’s past with its future. There are many more options to continue and to intensify this dialogue.”

Germany in particular, due to its past experiences with totalitarian regimes, has tried to lend a helping hand to Albania as it tries to shed light on the crimes of the communist regime.

The country’s ambassador, Susanne Schütz, told the special session of the parliament the Albania must deal with the past in a transparent way as this was needed to consolidate democracy.

As part of that process, she said, the law on the opening of the former Sigurimi files must be properly enforced.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said the session honoured the lives of the executed MPs, many whom held social-democratic views and simply wanted a democracy to take root in Albania, rather than a communist dictatorship.

Rama added that under his government, the law on opening the Sigurimi files was passed, a decisive move to detach from that past through daring to shed light on it.

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha told the special memorial session that more needs to be done to come to terms with Albania’s dark past.

“We must find and identify the remains of all victims of communism, honour martyrs of Albanian pluralism, expose communism crimes and the tragic story of how an entire nation fell under communism’s claws,” Basha said.

He added that some of the people that had trained and held positions during communists were still actively involved in the Albanian politics, parliament and government today, and this was something he saw as shameful.

He said his party would also introduce legislation to ban all communist symbols.

 
                    [post_title] => Parliament commemorates MPs executed in 1947
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                    [post_date] => 2017-10-13 07:00:21
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-13 05:00:21
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 10 – The Albanian parliament, which has made the electoral reform a main priority at the start of this new legislation, will be calling on foreign representatives to closely monitor and assist the process in a similar way it was done for the judicial reform in the previous legislature.

External overview from experts of the United States, OSCE/ODIHR, the European Council and its Venice Commission will be sought in assisting the ad hoc reform commission and helping the group of local experts to draft the amendments that will change elections legislation. It is hoped international assistance will help Albanian political parties find consensus.

A main issue that requires attention is the conflicting conditions and expectations of the ruling majority and the opposition parties in regard to the electoral reform.

The Socialist Party has placed importance in counting the votes of all Albanian citizens abroad, especially those of immigrants, whereas the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, had declared non-negotiable the condition to implement electronic voting and electronic vote-counting, as well as looking to change the electoral system to make lawmakers more directly accountable to voters. The latter suggestion has also been supported by the Socialist Movement for Integration Party.

“The Electoral Reform stays within the package we agreed on the May 18 and begins from the ability of Albanians abroad to cast a vote. Moreover: one party’s ideas are not another’s conditions,” said Socialist Prime Minister,

Lulzim Basha, who is the head of the DP and opposition leader, on the other hand, said the party had to follow its priorities.

“We are open about the model, but it should comply with conditions … to offer electronic voting and counting of votes … give more power to the citizens to decide on how they want to be represented in the Parliament and all other decision-making bodies,” Basha said.

He added to immigrants’ vote was an initial condition presented by the DP, he added.

“We will not allow it to turn into a façade, just like other causes were turned to façades by the government in order to cover the drama that this government did not enable Albanians to vote freely, be those living in Albania or abroad,” Bashs aid.

The draft proposing foreign assistance, which is expected to be approved in the following parliamentary session, makes a series of recommendations.

“The Commission establishes the Technical Experts Group (TEG). The Parliamentary Commission decides its membership and functions. The OSCE Presence in Albania, OSCE/ODIHR experts, the Council of Europe, Venice Commission experts, as well as EU and US experts and/or representatives are invited to monitor, assist and offer technical expertise to the Commission’s and TEG’s work,” the draft legislation notes.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-10-13 06:58:35
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                    [post_content] => PRISHTINA, Oct. 11 – In the context of Kosovo’s stalled visa liberation process, Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi brought up the possibility of granting Kosovo citizens Albanian citizenship in a meeting with his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Meta. 

The two leaders held a press conference during which Meta said that Kosovo’s road to visa liberalization should be separate from the demarcation agreement, while Thaçi said he’d discussed with Meta the possibility of granting many Kosovo citizens Albanian citizenship in order to travel more freely.  

Kosovo – whose citizens are only able to travel to five countries without a visa – is currently the most isolated country in the Western Balkans. 

“The European Union has brought Kosovo to a classic position of isolation, in particular with the issue of visa liberalization,” Thaçi said. 

His statement refers to the EU’s requirement of the ratification of the demarcation agreement between Kosovo and Montenegro for Kosovo to achieve visa liberalization.

 Moreover, Thaçi said he and Meta discussed the developments in the region, Albania’s support of Kosovo and the citizenship of Kosovo citizens. 

More specifically, Thaçi said: “I have asked President Meta that Kosovo’s citizens, especially students and businessmen, to be granted Albanian citizenship in order for them to travel freely. This is predicted both in the Kosovo Constitution, and the Albanian one.”

Replying both to Kosovo’s isolation and Thaçi’s request, Meta said that “concerning the visa liberation, this couldn’t be a more difficult moment for the Albanian President, as there are countless requests to grant various individuals citizenship, just so they can escape this isolation. I have had a meeting with the Director for Enlargement and other personalities, with whom we have noted the importance of ending this isolation and discrimination Kosovo citizens experience as the only people in the Western Balkans who cannot travel.”

The demarcation agreement between Kosovo and Montenegro aimed to recognize the borders between the countries. However, the issue of the ratification of the agreement has given rise to tension between the elite in Kosovo and opposition leaders, who claim this agreement will lead Kosovo to lose territory. 

De-alignment of the border hasn’t progressed in the past two years, thus considerably slowing down Kosovo’s road to full international recognition.  

Even though Meta stressed the “further commitment in strengthening Kosovo’s independence and realization of its European future aspirations”, he did not give a direct positive response to Thaçi’s request, rather stating that Kosovo’s isolation problem should be dealt with as a whole and that focus should be nevertheless given to the ratification of the demarcation agreement. 

He also added that “the solution is not for all citizens of Kosovo to be granted citizenship.” 

Indeed, it is unclear how much Albania, whose high number of political asylum seekers has already been raising eyebrows and whose visa policy has been brought into question by EU member states, can do to help Kosovo, without compromising its own EU accession conditionality.

An investigation made by BIRN showed that the number of foreigners (Kosovo citizens especially) who were granted Albanian citizenship through the ‘special interest’ criteria has risen since 2011, the year Albania obtained visa-free travel rights in the EU. A big reason Kosovo’s visa liberalization process is being stalled is its statehood status, at is still not recognized by 5 EU countries and contested by Serbia.

 
                    [post_title] => Pressuring EU on visas, Kosovo’s president asks Albania to offer dual citizenship 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134122" align="alignright" width="300"]Edi Rama’s second cabinet with President Ilir Meta. Edi Rama’s second cabinet with President Ilir Meta.[/caption]

TIRANA, Oct. 7 – The National Assembly of the Socialist Party gathered ministers, representatives of various public posts and Prime Minister Edu Rama to present the objectives of the government in its first 100 days of work. 

Minister of Interior, Fatmir Xhafaj, focused on the importance of implementing the State Police reform, while Rama summed up all the objectives and particularly highlighted the war on corruption and the need to clean, both literally and figuratively, the country.

“We will begin the vetting of the police within the first 100 days and prepare the legal framework for this vetting process, as well as strengthen community policing,” Xhafaj said. 

Xhafaj added that cooperative operation between the State Police and other law-enforcing institutions will take place. 

“The war against organized crime is the main challenge of the mandate as a whole, but during the first 100 days we will take some decisive steps forward. An official report of a national cannabis monitoring will be soon made available to the public. We will continue fighting the criminal groups that cultivate it,” Xhafaj said. “We will fully reorganize the investigative system of the police; establish inter-institutional structures that will target illegality and manage the borders.”

Xhafaj expressed his conviction that “in the months to come we will collectively speak more of justice in action, the real power of the law, the authority of the state, especially in regards to fighting organized crime and the criminal groups that nurture it.”

Rama’s speech summed up the objectives presented by each respective minister and gave an overview of what to look forward to politically from the government. 

“To sum up what will be of substance in the following 100 days, and will remain essential in the first 300 days, we need to clean up in all levels, physical cleaning of the streets, but also of institutions. Start a war against inherited corruption; structural cleaning of all the mechanisms of the executive power,” Rama said. “We need a service, and we must not neglect any detail, any relation with our country, and we need punishment on all levels related to exhibiting corruption, abuse and any sign of incompetence that affects the citizens.”

Rama said progress was seen in the context of what the country still needs to go through in the context of the EU enlargement.

“During the first 100 days, we also need to make definitions regarding the accession negotiations of the upcoming years,” Rama said. “We must clean the framework upon which the process of registering Albanians abroad will be established. We must continue trying to set citizens free of the burden of bureaucracy and procedural dragging. We must use economic diplomacy as a new tool in report to our economy and define the framework of the police vetting, in order to penetrate the cancerous units within the state police.” 

 
                    [post_title] => Gov't: Fighting corruption, police vetting set as priorities for first 100 days
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                    [post_date] => 2017-10-11 17:19:47
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-11 15:19:47
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 11 - The Japanese government has financially supported the rehabilitation of three schools in the northern Albanian towns of Vau i Dejes and Fierza and pledged to further assist Albania in its quest to improve the quality of education in remote areas.

The schools were reconstructed as part Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects, which supplied a total amount of about €138,000 for the refurbishment and reconstruction of public schools in remote northern Albania areas, the Japanese embassy in Tirana said in a statement.

Makoto Ito, Japan's first resident ambassador to Albania, expressed the Japanese government's commitment to provide further support to Albania, unveiling near future plans of another stage of the Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects which will provide even more opportunities for good education.

The Government of Japan has been assisting people in need in Albania since 1998, paying a particular attention to education and financing more than 16 projects, focused on the refurbishment, rehabilitation or reconstruction of public schools, mainly in remote areas.

Japan officially opened its embassy in Tirana last July with Makoto Ito as the first resident ambassador to Albania since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1981.

While Albania opened its diplomatic mission in Japan in 2004, the Japanese Embassy in Italy had handled matters related to Albania until recently.

Tirana has said it welcomes Japan’s decision to open an embassy in an effort to draw greater investment from the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan has been a major donor to Albania through its difficult transition from communism to a free-market economy. Tokyo has given millions, primarily in the rehabilitation of infrastructure and healthcare facilities. Projects have included a municipal waste-water treatment facility for Tirana and its surroundings.
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            [post_date] => 2017-10-18 10:56:25
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 16 – Two days after the arrest of Moisi Habilaj among several other suspects by Italian authorities, former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri is facing calls for his arrest after his name came up in wiretaps published by Italians police.

The tapes show Habilaj saying a big sum of money should be transferred to a politician, mentioning Tahiri and alleged corrupt police officers several times. Habinaj is Tahiri’s distant cousin.

Italian police said it had exposed a criminal, Italian-Albanian organization that trafficked guns and marijuana, arresting 11 of its members. According to data made available by the police, the organization has trafficked more than 3,500 kilos of marijuana to Italy during recent months, proffiting more than €20 million.

Tahiri was minister of interior until the beginning of 2017, despite repeated accusations by the main opposition Democratic Party of ties to the criminal underworld in general and his cousins from Vlora, whose illegal activities were long-suspected. 

Back in 2015, it was made public that Tahiri sold his car to his cousins without changing its ownership, thus being accused of helping their drug trafficking because the former minister’s car would get a pass from police. 

Now, the surveillance tapes expose Habilaj saying “€30,000 should be sent to Saimir.”

DP: Tahiri should be arrested

Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said the evidence secured by international partners implicates Tahiri as one of the heads of drug-trafficking in Albania.

The Italian police arrested the head of a drug-trafficking organization from Albania today, Moisi Habilaj. The Democratic Party has denounced the relations of this clan with the government for four years, including ties of Tahiri with this gang,” Basha said. “The Minister’s famous Audi was used by the exact same individual that was arrested today.”

He added: “It is the time for big decisions. But today is the day Saimir Tahiri should be arrested and the legal process against him should take no longer. The facts have been made public, the proof lies on Edi Rama’s table and will surely made available in the hours or days to come.” 

Moreover, in a post made public through his social media, Basha also advised General Prosecutor, Adriatik Llalla, to not meet Tahiri.

I call on the General Prosecutor to not meet the accused Saimir Tahiri, but act urgently in order to put him in front of legal responsibility,” Basha noted.

Several media reported that Llalla had refused a request by Tahiri to meet, indicating he is a suspect. 

Rama: We want the truth

Prime Minister Edi Rama, was lukewarm on Tahiri, a departure from his usual defense of the former minister. 

We want to know the truth as soon as possible. The information leaked by the criminals’ conversation is revolting and shocking. I know Saimir Tahiri for years and I have only spoken words of support and encouragement of him, as a person with good intentions, capabilities and integrity. But Albania and Albanians want and deserve the truth today, only the truth and nothing but the truth,” Rama said in a statement. 

Accusations go back to 2015 

Back in 2015, when the Audi car scandal broke out, Tahiri was invited at a talk-show and was asked to speak out concerning the allegations against him. He then argued that the Habilajs do not have a penal precedent, and that he would make a public apology in case the opposite was to be confirmed by the police.

I would feel morally attacked if it results that the people in questions are traffickers, I would apologize to the public, and I have sold my car to some traffickers. I would tell the public I have made a mistake, selling my car to traffickers,” Tahiri told the media then.

At a press conference held on Tuesday, Tahiri apologized for selling his car without going through all necessary checks and legal procedures, but did not elaborate further on the allegations made against him. 

Even though verifications rarely happen in our country, I still hold full moral responsibility for my action. Other than that, I haven’t had and still don’t have any sort of relations, even less illegal relations. I don’t have any further responsibilities and I denounce any criminal activities, also of these people who are my distant cousins and who did not hesitate to use my name and that I hope justice investigates them until the end and punish them, and everyone else, like the law requires,” Tahiri said. 

Tahiri also added that it is not unusual for criminals to use politicians and ministers’ names with each other, and that he wasn’t the first one, and wouldn’t be the last, to be among the names mentioned. Nevertheless, he asked for the justice system to investigate both him and his family.

I will, personally and in full will, request that the Prosecution, without granting any parliamentary or political immunity, to investigate and verify everything related to me and not only,” Tahiri said, also addressing his fellow politicians and saying that he did not expect them to support or believe him, but that it would be left to the justice system to do its job and put the truth forward. 
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