Albania increases security level after Barcelona terror attacks

Albania increases security level after Barcelona terror attacks

TIRANA, Aug. 19 – Albanian authorities have tightened security measures following this week’s deadly terrorist attacks in Spain. Local media report anti-terror forces have increased their level of security following the deadly attacks in Barcelona, where 13 people were killed

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Opposition caretaker ministers resign following report on alleged electoral fraud

Opposition caretaker ministers resign following report on alleged electoral fraud

TIRANA, Aug. 17 – All opposition Democratic Party-proposed caretaker ministers have submitted their resignation after three months in duty, paving the way for a new Socialist Party-led government next September. Deputy Prime Minister Ledina Mandija and six other ministers including

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Albania, China relations gain new momentum after key assets acquisition

Albania, China relations gain new momentum after key assets acquisition

TIRANA, Aug. 14 – Albania- China relations are gaining new momentum as the Asian superpower is increasing investment in Albania, its once tiny Balkan ally in the 1960s and 70s. Four decades on, the present context is quite different as

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Trial by fire for Albania as wildfires rage

Trial by fire for Albania as wildfires rage

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albania has been hit by one of the worst wildfire season in recent times, with fires raging across the country aided by a stifling heatwave that has filled emergency rooms at an unprecedented rate. Authorities said

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Italian mafia assignation tied to Albania drugs, prosecutor says

Italian mafia assignation tied to Albania drugs, prosecutor says

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – A shooting that left four people dead in southern Italy this week, including a mafia boss, his driver and two bystanders, has potential ties to the cannabis trade stemming in Albania, an Italian prosecutor told the

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Smaller gov’t planned as questions remain on ministers

Smaller gov’t planned as questions remain on ministers

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – As Prime Minister Edi Rama prepares to form a new cabinet at the end of August, there are indications his second mandate will have a leaner government with fewer ministries, but questions remain on who the

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Jobs, infrastructure, property rights top Albanians’ concerns, PM’s public hearing reports show

Jobs, infrastructure, property rights top Albanians’ concerns, PM’s public hearing reports show

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albanians are primarily concerned about unemployment, basic infrastructure – such as a reliable home water supply – and property rights, a series of reports published by Prime Minister Edi Rama this week show. Rama held a

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U.S. committed to help ally Albania, Tillerson tells Rama in phone conversation

U.S. committed to help ally Albania, Tillerson tells Rama in phone conversation

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama had Wednesday a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a conversation initiated by Tillerson that lasted more than 20 minutes, Rama’s press office said in a statement. According

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Junker foresees no speedy EU membership for Western Balkans

Junker foresees no speedy EU membership for Western Balkans

TIRANA, Aug. 5 – The Western Balkans will not gain any speed on their path to EU membership, based on comments the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made in an interview with the news website Politico.eu. “I’m not in favor

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U.S. green card lottery on chopping block, dashing hopes of Albanians

U.S. green card lottery on chopping block, dashing hopes of Albanians

TIRANA, Aug. 6 – An immigration reform by the Trump Administration could mean an end the green card lottery, as the U.S. Diversity Visa Program is widely known, no doubt dashing the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of Albanians

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 19 - Albanian authorities have tightened security measures following this week's deadly terrorist attacks in Spain.

Local media report anti-terror forces have increased their level of security following the deadly attacks in Barcelona, where 13 people were killed and dozens injured in a van attack at a tourist area.

The anti-terror forces have already been on alert in the past couple of months as the country is facing an influx of Albanian immigrants returning home for their summer vacations and dozens of thousands of tourists have picked Albania as their summer destination.

Police sources says measures have been tightened at the border crossing points with Kosovo and Macedonia, the two main hubs in Albania's 'patriotic' tourism,’ dominated by ethnic Albanians from neighboring countries.

The level of alertness has also been raised in tourist areas and other public spaces while intelligence services have increased exchanges of information with their partners.

A country with a majority Muslim population, but where religious co-existence is hailed as an example to be followed, Albania has not been affected by terrorism so far although the authorities say they foiled several attempts, including a planned attack on the November 2016 Albania-Israel World Cup qualifier.

About 100 Albanians joined ISIS by mid-2014, but there been no new reported cases of Albanians travelling to Syria or Iraq as of 2015.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133567" align="alignright" width="300"]Democratic Party proposed ministers swore in at the President's office on May 22 Democratic Party proposed ministers swore in at the President's office on May 22[/caption]

TIRANA, Aug. 17 - All opposition Democratic Party-proposed caretaker ministers have submitted their resignation after three months in duty, paving the way for a new Socialist Party-led government next September.

Deputy Prime Minister Ledina Mandija and six other ministers including the interior, finance, justice and health ministers have all resigned following the compilation of a report on alleged abuses in the June 25 elections which the Socialist Party won on its own.

The report was compiled by Democratic Party-led task force set up as part of the May 18 deal between Prime Minister Edi Rama and opposition leader Lulzim Basha to ban the use of the public administration and public resources in the electoral campaign.

The May 18 deal overcame a three-month political deadlock as the opposition was threatening to boycott elections on allegations of criminal gangs and cannabis money putting elections at risk unless a caretaker government was formed.

The report, parts of which have been unveiled by local media, makes serious allegations that criminal gangs were involved in several of the country's regions and that vote buying remained a widespread phenomenon.

It also alleges the state police failed to prevent electoral fraud and that public assets and public administration employees were massively used.

The opposition center-right Democratic Party won 43 MPs in the June 25 elections, less than 30 percent of the vote, the worst electoral performance in its 27-year history.

The task force headed by deputy Prime Minister Mandija has also made some recommendations regarding the holding of smooth general election including a caretaker government taking over three to six months ahead of the elections and legal changes banning changes in the public administration six months ahead of the elections.

The ruling Socialist Party which won a majority of 74 votes in the June 25 allowing it comfortably rule on its own in the next four years, has described the report compiled by only the Democratic Party-proposed caretaker ministers as illegal because of not having received the task force approval and not based on evidence.

Meanwhile, the four ministers of the Socialist Movement for Integration, the Socialists’ junior partner in the past four years, have not submitted their resignation, hinting they will continue to serve until a new government is formed next September.

The SMI, which lost its kingmaker position for the first time in the past eight years, will now be in opposition but will have 19 MPs, 3 more than in the 2013 elections.

Lulzim Basha, who was reconfirmed as Democratic Party leader last July following internal party elections told officials of the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission that the general elections of June 25 where marred by vote-buying and pressure on voters with state money and crime proceeds and thus were “a triumph of lawlessness.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, who won a second consecutive mandate, says the vote was a clear support to his Socialist Party to continue reforms strengthening rule of law.

However, the Socialist Party will still need to rely on the opposition to push reforms needing a qualified majority of 84 votes, three-fifths of the 140-seat Parliament.

Sources close to the prime minister have indicated that as few as ten ministries could be included in the new Socialist Party government, meaning that the number of ministries could be cut in half.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 14 – Albania- China relations are gaining new momentum as the Asian superpower is increasing investment in Albania, its once tiny Balkan ally in the 1960s and 70s.

Four decades on, the present context is quite different as China has turned into the world's second largest economy, and Albania is now a NATO country and an EU candidate country with its small economy being one of the Western Balkans' most vibrant and holding one of the greatest potential due to the geographical advantage and natural resources.

Last year, Chinese companies acquired two of Albania’s most important assets, the country’s sole international airport and the largest oil company, increasing Chinese investment to Albania 10-fold to about $760 million, and turning China into one of top investors in a single year.

The acquisition reconfirmed China's investment and trade interest in traditional ally Albania, and could herald other important investment as part of Beijing’s ambitious “One Belt One Road” initiative, a plan to wrap its own infrastructure and influence westward by land and sea and the “16+1″ framework expanding cooperation with 11 EU member states and five Balkan countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The investments also come at a time when China’s growth has slowed down to a so-called ‘new normal’ following decades of strong double digit growth rates and ample liquidity it is investing throughout Europe.

Lian Gang, the commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Tirana, tells China Radio International in the local Albanian service that despite the geographical distance and the huge difference in the two economies, "the China-Albania economic cooperation holds great potential as both countries are able to meet each other's demands with the advantages they hold in addition to deep traditional friendship and strong political confidence."

Albania has traditionally exported its chromium to China while imports from China are the country’s top three largest.

Chinese companies already operate in oil, mining, infrastructure, energy, telecommunication and services sectors in Albania, and are looking for new opportunities in the manufacturing and tourism sectors.

Albania's emerging tourism sector is seen as key potential to attract new Chinese investment considering the recent airport ownership which can turn into a hub for Chinese tourists to Albania and the Balkan region.

The natural and cultural resources Albania offers could become a magnet to attract Chinese investment and tourists, especially among the 1960-1970s nostalgics of Albanian movies screening in China when the two countries were close allies.

"Albanian movies have accompanied an entire generation of Chinese during their youth and now the majority of them have retired or about to retire. I believe, if they are given the opportunity, they would love to visit present-day Albania to get to know it closer first-hand," Gang has told CRI in the local Albanian service.

The Chinese diplomat says Chinese investments in Albania are important in four respects.

"Firstly, they show the confidence of Chinese companies in Albania's market and future development. Secondly, big projects such as the purchase of "Bankers" oil company and shares in the "Mother Teresa" airport could attract the attention of other companies, promoting the development of other sectors in the same industrial chain," the Chinese commercial diplomat has said.

Last year, a Chinese consortium led by China Everbright Limited acquired a 100 percent stake in Albania’s sole international airport for an undisclosed amount that is estimated at €82 million. Another Chinese company, Geo-Jade Petroleum Corporation, completed the acquisition of Canada-based Bankers Petroleum, the country’s biggest oil producer for C$575 million (€392 mln) earlier in 2016, increasing China’s presence as a foreign investor in Albania from $87 million to $760 million.

"Thirdly, the cooperation has maximized the use of multilateral resources. For example, the "Mother Teresa" airport project has mixed Chinese resources regarding capital, customers and business expansion, Albanian resources in services and German management resources. As a result the number of airport passengers in the first quarter of this year rose by 10 percent.

Fourthly, Chinese companies are also promoting social responsibility in addition to business, contributing to an increase in tax income, employment and vocational training education," CRI reports.

Bankers Petroleum, the country's largest oil company operating the Patos-Marnza, one of Europe's largest onshore heavy oilfields, employs about 2,000 people, with a huge impact on the Fier region, Albania’s second largest.

At the Huawei Albania subsidiary, most of staff are Albanians who have developed high ICT skills also thanks to exchanges with Chinese experts.

Earlier this year, China reconfirmed its plans to continue boosting trade and investment ties with its old ally Albania as the economic superpower is emerging as one of the country’s top investors and second largest trading partner. The confirmation came last April as China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli paid a two-day visit to Albania, leading the highest level Chinese government delegation to Albania in five decades.

The Albania Chinese relations date back to the late 1940s when Albania was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China and tiny Balkan country helped the Asian superpower regain its seat at the UN as the PRC in the early 1970s.

Chinese experts helped rebuild much of the country’s main industries in the 1960-70s, giving rise to an unequal alliance.

“Domination in the alliance by the Great Power reduces the Small Power to the status of a satellite, rather than an ally. The Small Power thereby suffers a loss of sovereignty. Such was not the case with the unequal alliance between the smallest and one of the largest communist states: Albania and China,” says U.S.-based journalist Elez Biberaj, one of the world’s leading political scientists on Albanian issues in his “Albania and China – An unequal alliance” book, a publication of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, one of the country’s top think tanks.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albania has been hit by one of the worst wildfire season in recent times, with fires raging across the country aided by a stifling heatwave that has filled emergency rooms at an unprecedented rate.

Authorities said wildfires burned throughout the week, some being put down and others popping up in new place. Overall up to 20 hot spots were seen this week.

Firefighters, the armed forces, local volunteers as well as domestic and international airplanes and helicopters are fighting the fires. Greece and Italy have sent help after a request by the Albanian government, which has publicly thanked the neighbors for their assistance.

In a statement issued Thursday, Prime Minister Edi Rama said all state structures were being used in the emergency, despite the need to have greater firefighting capacities in place.

“Of the 280 fire hot spots where an intervention of state structures was needed, today, only eight of them are active, and this number is expected to decrease in the following hours thanks to the maximum preparedness, full coordination and high cooperation between the local and central institutions," Rama said. “Undoubtedly, our capacities remain low in the face of such a serious threat and in the next four years we will seriously try to increase these capacities.”

The wildfire geography is as wide as the country with few religions left unaffected. The counties of Lezha, Tirana, Elbasan, Fier, Gjirokastra, Berat, Durrës and Korça all saw fires.

Some are accidental others, police suspect, are started on purpose.

Three people were arrested were arrested for allegedly having started a fire in the area near the Krraba tunnel linking Tirana with Elbasan. They had opened holes to dig up coal, leading to a fire starting. It continued to burn for three days, destroying more than 15 hectares of forest and bushes, authorities said.

Speaking about the dramatic situation faced, Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli said 40 percent of the country’s active duty personnel were involved in the firefighting operations. She urged people to come together to fight existing fires and prevent new ones from starting.

"The weather situation is out of the ordinary due to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall. And this has led the country to a very, very difficult situation," Kodheli said at a press conference.

Albania has moved troops and vehicles out of bases as part of the fire defence operations, and Minister Kodheli said that the armed forces have participated in 102 operations in nine out of 12 counties of the country.

Director of Civil Emergencies Shemsi Premci said 640 different incidents had been recorded this fire season, and in 125 of these cases, an intervention from the air took place.

With the massive wildfire near Llogara Pass under control, new -wildfires continued to rage across the country mid-week, with new emergencies in the Dropull area south of Gjirokastra, where Greek airplanes are helping to put out and the fire at the request of Albanian authorities. A fire also rose in the Elbasan highlands, where residents have refused leave and are clearing out trees and bushes surrounding their homes as the fire approaches a small village.

In addition the fire Albania has been hit by a stifling heatwave that has sent hundreds of people to emergency rooms and has made the wildfires situation around the country worse.

The heatwave is affecting the entire southern part of the continent with temperatures not seen in a decade.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside and hydrated whenever possible.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 - A shooting that left four people dead in southern Italy this week, including a mafia boss, his driver and two bystanders, has potential ties to the cannabis trade stemming in Albania, an Italian prosecutor told the media this week.

Italian Anti-Mafia Prosecutor Franco Roberti said the massive cannabis trade is being felt across the Adriatic.

“There is a hot conflict today relating to drug trafficking, especially light narcotics coming from Albania. This is a huge business feeding the hunger of organized crime clans in the entire Adriatic coast, from Foggia to all of Europe," Roberti said, quoted by Albanian online media.

Roberti said more needs to be done in international cooperation to stop the flow of light drugs at the source in Albania to prevent conflict down the line.

"We were in Albania last month to seek cooperation. We met the Albanian interior minister in Rome and he promised great cooperation," Roberti said.

The assassination s in broad daylight in Puglia has reopened old wounds in the region. Police are not excluding that the killings are linked to two murders in the nearby area of Apricena in June this year.

Il Fatto Quotidiano cited unnamed sources who say investigators believe the ambush could be revenge for an earlier killing this year, part of a mafia war between rival clans that has claimed 15 lives so far in 2017.

The victims were traveling in a Wolkswagen that was accosted by another car. Four or five gunmen opened fire on the Wolkswagen, according to Repubblica, Italy's largest daily.

Repubblica adds that the ambush took the life of clan leader Mario Luciano Romito, 50. Romito's driver and brother-in-law Matteo de Palma was also killed, as were two unfortunate innocent bystanders – brothers Luigi and Aurelio Luciani.

The mayor of San Marco in Lamis, Michele Merla, condemned the senseless violence.

"The community mourns two honest workers, innocent victims of an evil, outrageous war, that is not afraid of anything or anyone," said Merla, according to Foggia Today, a regional newspaper.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 – As Prime Minister Edi Rama prepares to form a new cabinet at the end of August, there are indications his second mandate will have a leaner government with fewer ministries, but questions remain on who the new ministers will be.

Sources close to the prime minister have indicated that as few as ten ministries could be included in the new Socialist Party government, meaning that the number of ministries could be cut in half. There would be merging and transfer of powers to the larger more powerful ministries to achieve such a cut, several sources told local media.

The core ministries of the interior, defense, healthcare and education will likely remain as they are but all others are candidates for merging or restructuring into new bodies. The ministries of economic development and finance, for example, could like merge into a single institution.

The restructuring could result in shifts in public administration jobs, which, together with a promised deep reform in the public administration, could mean thousands of civil servants would either lose their jobs or be transferred to new positions.

Rama has said the priorities of the new government would be set through analyzing public hearings with people across the country, and he has published reports on his findings from the entire region this week.

Unlike his first mandate, Rama’s Socialist Party can now rule alone as the prime minister has a comfortable majority for day-to-day governance in parliament. Rama is, as a result, free to act on his ideas without being burdened by other parties looking “to get a piece of the pie,” as Rama put it during the electoral campaign.

The names of the new ministers will become public in the second half of August, but there has already been some speculation on who is likely to keep their seats and who is likely to be replaced.

Nowhere has speculation been higher than when it comes to the powerful post of interior minister. Fatmir Xhafaj was the last Socialist minister to hold the post and Rama has praised his work in the fight against cannabis, indicating a potential return to the seat.

However, several key position ahead of the elections were given to opposition-nominated caretaker ministers to give more guarantees that state resources would not be used to help the ruling party. The move came after an agreement between Rama and Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha.

An opposition-nominated interior minister?

Quoting unnamed sources, several newspapers reported in mid-August that Prime Minister Edi Rama is under pressure from international partners, the United States in particular, to keep the opposition-nominated caretaker Interior Minister Dritan Demiraj as a member of the new Socialist Party government to take office in September.

The move would provide for a better fight against cannabis and criminality as well as give the government a wider appeal across party lines, proponents of the move told local media.

Demiraj, a decorated former army colonel who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was nominated as a caretaker minister by the Democratic Party ahead of the elections. Local media reported that large changes are pending to police structures around the country – with new people being brought it and others transferred -- and Demiraj could be implementing the reforms.

Demiraj has had the highest profile among the opposition-nominated caretaker ministers so far and there has been a trend by the opposition Democratic Party to tone down its attacks on the government on crime-related issues.

In fact, the media have speculated for weeks of a potential coalition of some sort between Albania’s two largest parties, SP and DP, even though with the election results, the SP does not need the help of any other party to form the government.

Opposition critics against any support for gov’t

However any potential alliance will likely face stiff resistance, in particular among opposition representatives.

DP MP Tritan Shehu issued a statement calling the reports of Demiraj potentially keeping the interior minister position “fake news” aiming to undermine the opposition work of DP Chairman Basha by making it seem like DP will have an alliance with SP.

Fatmir Mediu, an MP in the DP list who leads the Republican Party, called on Basha to withdraw the opposition-nominated ministers from the government immediately to “remove all ties with Rama” and his policies.

Chair of the Movement for National Development Dashamir Shehi, another ally of the DP, also called on Basha to recall all caretaker ministers from the Rama government as their presence, Shehi said, undermines the opposition’s credibility.

DP MP Edmond Spaho repeated the official stance Basha issued last month that DP-appointed caretaker ministers must stay in their posts until the completion of the election monitoring report.

 
                    [post_title] => Smaller gov’t planned as questions remain on ministers
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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-11 16:55:45
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albanians are primarily concerned about unemployment, basic infrastructure – such as a reliable home water supply – and property rights, a series of reports published by Prime Minister Edi Rama this week show.

Rama held a series of public hearings with Albanians across the country in recent weeks and came up with the reports based on complaints in each of the country’s 12 counties. The reports also included the election results, voter turnout and other data.

The last report to be published was for the Tirana region, the country’s most populous region. Unemployment was a top concern. Key concerns listed also included a lack of a sufficient infrastructure and the absence of a sufficient potable water supply. Irrigation systems, property legalization issues, problems with electricity, retirement funds and food safety concerns were also on the list.

In neighboring Durres, the issues that concern the residents of the region included: An inadequate potable water supply, bad drainage systems that lead to floods, issues with property rights and a general lack of public investments to address the first two issues.

Following the win of the general elections in June, Rama traveled around the country to hold a series of public hearings as part of what he has called “a platform of co-governance with the Albanian people.” All of Rama’s reports noted the meetings had been open to the public and announced ahead of time to encourage high participation and critical voices.

 
                    [post_title] => Jobs, infrastructure, property rights top Albanians’ concerns, PM’s public hearing reports show
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama had Wednesday a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a conversation initiated by Tillerson that lasted more than 20 minutes, Rama’s press office said in a statement.

According to the announcement, Secretary Tillerson congratulated Prime Minister Rama for the victory in the June 25 general elections.

The statement by the Albanian prime minister’s office added that Tillerson expressed "the conviction that the strong mandate he [Rama] has taken to govern alone obliges the Socialist Party to deepen the pace of reforms, to cleanse the administration from the corrupt and to score significant results in the fight against crime."

The statement added there was a promise of continued support by the U.S. government for the Albanian government.

Secretary Tillerson also conveyed to Rama, according to the press release, "the very positive impressions of Vice President Mike Pence from last week's meeting in Montenegro and reaffirmed the American will for a focused effort on developments in the region."

Regarding the region, Prime Minister Rama "focused mainly on Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and the need to unlock the stalemate over Macedonia's name.

The conversation between Prime Minister Rama and the U.S. Secretary of State has extended to the role of Albania in NATO and its contribution to the fight against violent extremism, for which Secretary Tillerson, according to the Albanian press release, "expressed the highest considerations."

Prime Minister Rama also called for "intensifying cooperation with the United States in the energy sector, and especially oil and gas".

 
                    [post_title] => U.S. committed to help ally Albania, Tillerson tells Rama in phone conversation
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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-11 16:43:25
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 5 – The Western Balkans will not gain any speed on their path to EU membership, based on comments the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made in an interview with the news website Politico.eu.

“I’m not in favor of the western Balkans joining the EU soon,” Juncker said. “But if you take away the European perspective, then we will again experience what we experienced in the 1990s. In this respect, the stability of the composition of the European Union is a prerequisite for the Balkans not being at war again.”

It is not the first time Junker has made such comments about the region, but his latest statement makes it clear there will be no fast forward for the region even as domestic and international tensions bubble to the surface.

Several regional leaders, including Prime Minister Edi Rama, have been vocal in their complaint that the European Union is so preoccupied with its internal crisis, even concrete progress in the region is not getting the recognition it once did in Brussels.

Albania hopes to open negotiations for membership in the bloc early next year, but the opening could be delayed again pending progress and the mood in the EU capital. Actual membership could take a decade or more, experts believe. The EU refuses to give a date.

Junker made the comments as part of a wide ranging interview for the online magazine, repeating his previous stance that there would be a lot of time required before the EU would engage in another enlargement round. He did not give a specific timeframe.

Junker added he hoped U.S. President Donald Trump understood the issue as he goes on with comments against the EU in light of Brexit.

Junker also made as series of other comments, including on Greece, claiming he had helped to save the Eurozone.

“If the Commission had not ensured that Greece was not expelled from the eurozone in 2015, the balance would be less good,” Juncker said. “At the time, I fought hard for the stability of the Eurogroup, in particular for Greece [against the wishes of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble]. If I hadn’t done that, the eurozone would have decayed.”

 
                    [post_title] => Junker foresees no speedy EU membership for Western Balkans
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                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2017-08-11 16:41:31
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-11 14:41:31
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 6 - An immigration reform by the Trump Administration could mean an end the green card lottery, as the U.S. Diversity Visa Program is widely known, no doubt dashing the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of Albanians who apply every year in hope of reaching the promised land beyond the Atlantic.

Thousands of Albanians and their families have already benefited from the program in the past couple of decades, moving to the United States for a better life.

Official data show Albanians are among the most avid applicants per capita to the program, which aims to give a chance to immigrate to people in countries that are underrepresented among immigrants the United States.

Two Republican senators are working with the White House on a comprehensive immigration bill that reports say will cut legal immigration in half. The bill aims to cut legal immigration from 1 million to 500,000 each year, calling for limiting admission for migrants' family members, ending the diversity visa lottery program and making the process of obtaining “green card” work permits much more difficult.

The immigration reforms aims to lower the number of unskilled immigrants and attract more skilled migrants who speak English through a point system, similar to programs Canada and Australia have had in place for year.

“We support the bill one hundred percent," said Joe Guzzardi, national media director at the Californians for Population Stabilization. It “achieves many of the objectives: low levels of legal immigration, eliminating the diversity visa — which it's hard to defend the need for diversity visa — and also lower numbers for refugee resettlement.

Guzzardi hopes the legislation will stimulate an "intelligent conversation" in the U.S. Congress about the consequences of what he said is "continuing on autopilot with the same immigration policies that have been in effect for decades... regardless of recession or regardless of a mortgage meltdown, regardless of a job market."

 
                    [post_title] => U.S. green card lottery on chopping block, dashing hopes of Albanians
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            [post_date] => 2017-08-19 13:03:26
            [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-19 11:03:26
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 19 - Albanian authorities have tightened security measures following this week's deadly terrorist attacks in Spain.

Local media report anti-terror forces have increased their level of security following the deadly attacks in Barcelona, where 13 people were killed and dozens injured in a van attack at a tourist area.

The anti-terror forces have already been on alert in the past couple of months as the country is facing an influx of Albanian immigrants returning home for their summer vacations and dozens of thousands of tourists have picked Albania as their summer destination.

Police sources says measures have been tightened at the border crossing points with Kosovo and Macedonia, the two main hubs in Albania's 'patriotic' tourism,’ dominated by ethnic Albanians from neighboring countries.

The level of alertness has also been raised in tourist areas and other public spaces while intelligence services have increased exchanges of information with their partners.

A country with a majority Muslim population, but where religious co-existence is hailed as an example to be followed, Albania has not been affected by terrorism so far although the authorities say they foiled several attempts, including a planned attack on the November 2016 Albania-Israel World Cup qualifier.

About 100 Albanians joined ISIS by mid-2014, but there been no new reported cases of Albanians travelling to Syria or Iraq as of 2015.
            [post_title] => Albania increases security level after Barcelona terror attacks
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