Waste burning, an environmental time bomb for Durres

Waste burning, an environmental time bomb for Durres

TIRANA, Feb. 19 – Waste burning in the open air just outside Durres, Albania’s second largest city, and next to a public university, has sparked serious health and environmental concerns for local residents and students. Hundreds of metric tons of

Read Full Article
Gjirokaster mudslide affected protest lack of timely response to damages

Gjirokaster mudslide affected protest lack of timely response to damages

TIRANA, Feb. 18 – The Gjirokaster citizens that were affected by last week’s severe mudslide, which risked the total collapse of a building and damaged several houses and a road segment, protested this weekend at the national highway across Gjirokaster

Read Full Article
Fier villagers protest construction of incinerator in their backyards

Fier villagers protest construction of incinerator in their backyards

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – The citizens of Verri village, in the Fier district, protested in front of the parliament on Thursday against the construction of an incinerator only 700m away from their houses – a total of 300, with about

Read Full Article
Russia seeks pragmatic approach in deadlock with Albania relations, ambassador tells AIIS forum

Russia seeks pragmatic approach in deadlock with Albania relations, ambassador tells AIIS forum

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – Russia is willing to boost its political and economic ties with Albania if the Balkan country adopts a more pragmatic approach like some of Europe’s leading economies and EU aspirant regional countries do despite EU sanctions

Read Full Article
Albania’s air quality data unreliable, state auditors say

Albania’s air quality data unreliable, state auditors say

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – Albania’s few operational air quality monitoring stations lack accreditation and the data they produce are unreliable, an audit carried out by the country’s Supreme State Audit has found. “Currently, the air quality results in Albania are

Read Full Article
Washington publicly bans Llalla from entering U.S.

Washington publicly bans Llalla from entering U.S.

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a public statement Thursday, designating former Albanian General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla as a person who cannot enter the United States “due to his involvement in significant corruption.” U.S. law

Read Full Article
EU takes control of Albania’s borders under new agreement

EU takes control of Albania’s borders under new agreement

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – In a visit to Tirana on Tuesday, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos signed a major agreement with Albanian authorities effectively handing over much of the control of Albania’s border management to

Read Full Article
Albania civil society activists unhappy with court decision over controversial ‘Veliera’ project

Albania civil society activists unhappy with court decision over controversial ‘Veliera’ project

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – A court decision to allow the resumption of works at a controversial project in Durres, Albania’s second largest city, has left unhappy civil society activists lobbying for its cancellation due to important archeological finds. The reaction

Read Full Article
Gov’t, opposition jointly urge EU to open membership talks

Gov’t, opposition jointly urge EU to open membership talks

TIRANA, Feb. 14 – This week, the EU’s Stabilization and Association Committee meeting resulted in the signing of a joint declaration by the government and opposition, asking for EU membership negotiations to open by setting an official date, despite the

Read Full Article
New INSTAT data: Albania’s birth rate hit record low in 2017

New INSTAT data: Albania’s birth rate hit record low in 2017

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – Trends of mass migration and low birth rates were brought to attention once again this week with the publication of an INSTAT graph showing that during 2017, Albania’s population continued to shrink, but not as fast

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 28
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => news
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [paged] => 0
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 28
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 9645
    [max_num_pages] => 965
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => d4a0f75dce64a67d56d3bafd0a2061b6
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 28
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (28) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135871
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-19 13:13:37
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-19 12:13:37
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 19 – Waste burning in the open air just outside Durres, Albania’s second largest city, and next to a public university, has sparked serious health and environmental concerns for local residents and students.

Hundreds of metric tons of waste is disposed of each day at an improvised landfill just few kilometers out of the city of Durres and only hundreds of meters away from the local “Aleksander Moisiu” public university, with constant waste burning being an imminent threat to the health of some 175,000 residents of the Durres municipality and some 18,000 university students. The unstoppable fumes emitted from waste burning are also a constant threat to local flora and fauna in a nearby wetland, not to mention tourism, the key driver of the economy in the country’s largest coastal city boasting more than two thousand years of civilization.

"One of the biggest problems we encounter here at the "Aleksander Moisiu" university is pollution which is a result of waste burning in the open air. The whole smoke and its poisonous emissions end up at the university's indoor facilities, causing massive pollution," two university students are quoted as saying by local media.

“The waste disposal site is only 200 to 250 meters away and smoke is ever-present here at the university building. If we open the windows, we can't even spot each other as a result of the high level of smoke density," they tell daily Panorama newspaper.

Durres residents, especially those living in Porto Romano and ish-Keneta (former swamp area) describe the situation as alarming.

"One can easily spot how smoke spreads into the whole city. Such a situation is really critical and is silently killing all Durres residents, but especially those living in the Spitalle and ish-Keneta (suburban areas) which are very close to the waste disposal site," says Nikolle Prenga, a representative of the local community.

"We have raised this concern dozens of times with different institutions, but we have received no answer about this problem that is destroying the health of all Durres citizens, including local government officials who don't worry at all about this alarming situation related to the population's health. That is an unprecedented scandal," he adds.

Damage to the tourism industry in Durres, featuring the country’s largest port, a coastline of 62 km of sandy beaches along the Adriatic and ancient sites and monuments dating back to ancient Roman times is even bigger unless immediate action is undertaken.

Environmentalists are also worried over the negative impacts of what is known as a time bomb spanning over an 80,000 m2 area, just 3 km outside Durres and close to a wetland and beach area.

"Waste dumped here is not separated at all. Plastic under the sun effect degrades and spreads through the air and water to end up in the sea. Waste burning emits carcinogenic substance and that's why waste must be separated. We cannot be a tourist destination if we don't separate and treat waste," Magdalena Cara, a local environmentalist has told reporters.

Despite its dangerousness and ever-present burning, the waste disposal site also serves as an employment opportunity for dozens of scrap and plastic collectors including children, who can earn up to €8 a day. Street animals and pigs and sheep often feed their too.

Two years ago, the Albanian government failed to conclude contract negotiations over the construction of a new landfill that would have solved the waste issue for the next three decades.

A 30-year concession awarded to an Albanian-Italian joint venture to build and operate a landfill in Manez, some 20 km outside Durres, failed to materialize into a contract in 2015 after the concessionaire was seeking what were described as unaffordable waste disposal fees of about €25 per metric ton.

The local municipality says it has no money to fund a new landfill, whose cost is estimated at about €20 million, and cannot even financially afford to intervene to rehabilitate the Porto Romano waste disposal site where about €3 million is needed.

Ironically, the central government has recently funded a luxury €6 million veil-like promenade in downtown Durres, which heritage experts say risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower.

Albania has already built its first waste-to-energy plant in Elbasan, central Albania and has signed concession contracts backed by the central government to build two new such plants in Fier and Tirana, despite environmental concerns by local residents and environmentalists worried over the new plants and their incinerators increasing dangerous pollution in the country.

Only about two-thirds of the country’s 2.9 million resident population has access to public waste treatment and disposal services, making waste management one of the key issues of concern for local communities and hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting Albania.

Three quarters of Albania’s municipal waste is landfilled, about 17 percent is recycled, 3 percent is incinerated and 1.2 percent is still dumped, according to 2016 data by state statistical institute, INSTAT.

 
                    [post_title] => Waste burning, an environmental time bomb for Durres 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => waste-burning-an-environmental-time-bomb-for-durres
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-19 13:13:37
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-19 12:13:37
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135871
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135892
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-18 10:00:30
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-18 09:00:30
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 18 - The Gjirokaster citizens that were affected by last week’s severe mudslide, which risked the total collapse of a building and damaged several houses and a road segment, protested this weekend at the national highway across Gjirokaster for the lack of measures against mudslide damages.

Protesters said promises to remove the amounts of mud and ground from their homes and the humidity were not delivered, in addition to a lack of life safety guarantee.

As reported by local media, the Gjirokaster municipality reimbursed the citizens who experienced big economic damages using its emergency fund, but the amount was still minimal to cover expenses so the municipality asked the government to announce an emergency situation for the entire city due to its inability to cover reimbursement costs.

The workers sent to remove the dirt massive that overtook the eight-floored building home to 21 families reportedly interrupted its removal, waiting for another group of experts to re-evaluate the situation. 

Severe weather conditions throughout February caused a number of damages in UNESCO protected Gjirokaster, a number of whose villages were recently selected to be infrastructurally upgraded under the 100 Villages cultural program.

The downpours caused the complete isolation of the Zhularat village and its population, potential distraction of an additional 40 houses and an archeological site due to the overflowing of rivers, as well as damages on roads linked with the country’s main highway. 

 
                    [post_title] => Gjirokaster mudslide affected protest lack of timely response to damages 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => gjirokaster-mudslide-affected-protest-lack-of-timely-response-to-damages
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-19 21:52:42
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-19 20:52:42
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135892
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135895
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-16 21:53:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-16 20:53:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - The citizens of Verri village, in the Fier district, protested in front of the parliament on Thursday against the construction of an incinerator only 700m away from their houses - a total of 300, with about 1,000 habitants.

The incinerator will also be located in the middle of a wide farming surface.

They asked for the repeal of the decision from the government, which they accuse of not taking their say into consideration, leading to the building of a damaging industry in a prosperous area, and right at their backyards. 

Local media reported the plant will be built 9 km away from the city of Fier, and only 700 m away from Verri village, bringing its habitants in Tirana to seek help from Fier’s MPs.

The Alliance against the Import of Waste joined the villagers’ protest, as it has been objecting several local and import waste processing governmental industrial projects for some years now. 

Environmental activist Lavdosh Ferruni told local media the Fier incinerator is a contract that only serves the government, and that it needs to be repealed to avoid environmental pollution that will affect the water reserve of the Myzeqe area used for watering and the livestock producing milk and dairy products.

While the protest was taking place, Ministry of Energy Damian Gjiknuri was called in an interpelance on the issue inside the parliament. 

Gjiknuri said the investment in this plant is in line with all legal requirements and that he’d accept investigation from any parliamentary group or science experts of the field. 

Opposition representatives, however, alleged the construction is a corrupt and dangerous affair that will, according to them, harm the villagers’ health and damage their economic income, which is closely related to agriculture.

They added the economic benefit of this industry is considerably smaller than the harm it will do to people’s health and the pollution of the country’s natural resources. 

In turn, during Thursday’s parliamentary session, all MPs agreed on the construction of the incinerators and were only divided on the procedure that should be followed, with Socialists arguing the current project is best, comparing it with the Elbasan plant, which according to Minister of Economy Arben Ahmetaj was a “blessing” for Elbasan’s citizens. 

Sensitivity and protests concerning environmental issues have in the last years increased in Albania. 

Recent reasons for environmentalists’ protests have been the government’s permission to build two hydro energy centrals (HEC) on the Osum canions - one of the country’s natural monuments - under a project supposedly repealed with the change of government  in 2013.

In a similar context, last year activists had to protest the resurfacing of the integrated waste processing law which Prime Minister Edi Rama had himself objected when in opposition.

Activists raised doubts whether Albania would really process waste according to the way the law is written or presented in parliament, fearing the import would turn the country into a landfill. 

Rama said on a Facebook post that in addition to being unaware of the legal irregularities in the Osum HEC-s’ construction contracts, he would not damage the country’s natural monuments, thus saying no HEC will be built. 

However, despite Rama’s statements, the Albanian government only recently approved fast track negotiation procedures with a Turkish consortium that has offered to build a new Vlora airport, despite a Germany-based foundation slamming their project for being incompatible with the area’s ecosystem - another natural monument that should be protected.

Though the country is experiencing industrial growth, with cities growing in capacity and the need for energy and incineration plants following suit, independent experts say governmental officials are often swift in allowing construction of environmentally unfriendly industries that are not well studied, or are too close to protected or inhibited areas, putting citizens and nature at risk.

In addition to these controversies centering on the scientific, health-related and environmental fronts of the issue, they often also raise doubts on alleged corrupt affairs of waste management from neighboring countries. 

 
                    [post_title] => Fier villagers protest construction of incinerator in their backyards 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => fier-villagers-protest-construction-of-incinerator-in-their-backyards
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-19 21:59:21
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-19 20:59:21
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135895
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135813
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-15 16:55:53
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-15 15:55:53
                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_135815" align="alignright" width="300"]Photos: AIIS Russian ambassador to Tirana speaks at a foreign policy forum. Photos: AIIS[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 15 - Russia is willing to boost its political and economic ties with Albania if the Balkan country adopts a more pragmatic approach like some of Europe’s leading economies and EU aspirant regional countries do despite EU sanctions in place, says Russia’s Ambassador to Albania Alexander Karpushin.

The comments came this week at a foreign policy forum organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), one of the country’s leading think tanks, as part of its series with diplomats and other distinguished speakers to alert the public, political elites and the business community to contemporary security and foreign policy challenges.

"For me as Russia's ambassador to Albania, my prime objective and the embassy's main task is re-establishing cooperation and mutual trust between the two countries and people to the high level it used to exist. I am sure we have everything to achieve this,” said ambassador Karpushin, a career diplomat who has been serving as Russia’s ambassador to Albania for the past three years.

Tiny Albania and the former Soviet Union were asymmetric allies for more than a decade under communism before they split in 1961 over ideological grounds and had no diplomatic ties for about three decades until the early 1990s when communism in Albania collapsed and the Soviet Union dissolved.

The 30-year break in diplomatic ties, an Albanian-Russian intergovernmental committee on trade and economic cooperation that has not convened over the past eight years, failure to sign a friendship and cooperation treaty, Albania’s 2015 joining Western sanctions against Russia over its Crimea annexation are some of the main barriers that hold back Russian-Albanian political and economic cooperation.

“We are trying to find common ground to overcome this deadlock. Our dialogue in the past 28 years has been characterized by the excess politicization of bilateral ties and disregard for our common potential" Karpushin said, noting Albania has the Western Balkan’s lowest trade exchanges with Russia.

“I am convinced that establishing direct links between the business communities would be a crucial step toward pragmatic and depoliticized cooperation,” he added, hopeful that the intergovernmental committee will be finally held this year with a joint business forum.

NATO members Albania and Montenegro are the only Western Balkans countries to have joined Western sanctions against Russia. However, Montenegro remains one of the top destinations for Russian tourists and investment while EU aspirant Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have not joined sanctions against Russia for its Crimea annexation.

Responding to Albania’s move to join Western sanctions in 2015, Russia imposed counter-sanctions on Albania which almost paralyzed Albania’s low but rapidly growing fruit and vegetable-dominated exports to Russia.

Trade exchanges between the two countries slightly dropped to about €80 million in 2016, dominated by Albanian wheat and liquid gas imports. The exchanges have stagnated at this modest level for at least a decade, accounting for about 2 percent of Albania’s volume of trade, according to Albania’s state statistical institute, INSTAT.

Meanwhile, Albania’s exports to Russia during the past three years have almost been non-existent after Russia imposed counter-sanctions on Albanian meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.

The ambassador says the elderly generation, some of whom graduated in Russia until the early 1960s are still nostalgic about Russia and there is interest to learn Russian among the younger generation who are provided free classes and awarded about 40 scholarships a year to study in Russian universities.

"Albanians love our culture, literature, music, paintings and not only. They have not forgotten that in the post-war period, almost all of the Albanian government elite were trained in Russia," said the ambassador.

Commenting on Russia’s alleged interest and rising role in the Balkans, the Russian ambassador said every effort by Russia to establish normal relations with Balkan countries immediately becomes a topic of concern for Western politicians.

"We are aware of a special geo-political importance of both Albania and the whole Western Balkans and of course we target strengthening our influence in this part of Europe. I don't know why our Western partners see negative connotation in this and make themselves afraid with Russia's ‘aggressive plans' in the Balkans,” said the ambassador.

“Russia has never been against the European perspective of Albania and that of other countries. The sole interest Russia has in the Western Balkans is overcoming all internal controversy that still exists in the region,” he added.

Asked by journalists over Russia’s alleged violation of human rights at home, the ambassador described it as fake news, the same as Russia’s alleged interference in the latest U.S. presidential election.

Energy, transport, agriculture and particularly tourism are some of the sectors where the two countries can cooperate.

“Tourism can provide a strong impetus to bilateral relations,” the ambassador said, noting that neighboring Montenegro, where Russian language is popular is visited by 250,000 Russian tourists a year compared to only about 15,000 in Albania.

Albania regularly lifts visas for Russian during summer in a bid to stimulate its rapidly growing tourism sector and the two countries are working on establishing direct Russia-Albania flights.

Albert Rakipi, the AIIS head, said that despite the ‘agree to disagree’ approach the think tank follows, there is space to reflect on Albania’s relations with Russia on mutual interests in a new context outside the asymmetric relations and ideological ground that existed under communism.

Albania-Russia relations date back to the late 1940s when the two then communist countries developed close ties until 1961 when they broke over ideological grounds.

More than two decades after the collapse of its communist regime in the early 1990s, Albania is a NATO country and an EU candidate hoping to launch accession talks.

Russia also remains one of the key global players, being the world’s biggest energy exporter.

The Russian economy has been slowly recovering following recession triggered by tumbling oil prices and Western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea.

Bernd Fischer, a U.S. historian will several publications on Albania, will be the keynote speaker in next week's AIIS foreign policy forum, discussing American foreign policy under President Donald Trump.

 
                    [post_title] => Russia seeks pragmatic approach in deadlock with Albania relations, ambassador tells AIIS forum 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => russia-seeks-pragmatic-approach-in-deadlock-with-albania-relations-ambassador-tells-aiis-forum
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-15 17:07:46
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-15 16:07:46
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135813
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135804
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-15 09:38:39
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-15 08:38:39
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 15 – Albania’s few operational air quality monitoring stations lack accreditation and the data they produce are unreliable, an audit carried out by the country’s Supreme State Audit has found.

“Currently, the air quality results in Albania are not real as they are not all-inclusive. There are only seven air quality monitoring stations in the whole of Albania which monitor uninterruptedly, but two of them have been out of work for a two-year period. All these stations have not been accredited, some of them are uncalibrated, something which is a clear indicator of the low level of reliability the data represents,” says the Supreme State Audit.

“The values published on Tirana as well as other Albanian cities by the National Environment Agency's mobile monitoring station are not representative as average values. The number of fixed air quality monitoring stations is also not sufficient to produce representative and reliable data on the respective cities,” adds the report.

Air pollution figures in Albania remain among the highest in Europe.

Tirana tops Albania’s air pollution city list, exceeding EU limits by up to two times, but the surprise second most polluted city is Korça, the biggest city in southeast Albania whose pollution is mainly seasonal due to massive burning of firewood for home heating during winter, according to the latest 2016 report by Albania's National Environment Agency.

State auditors say the Albanian government has no concrete data on the consequences that air pollution has on human health and the environment. “No analysis has been carried out on the expectations of the air quality policies regarding the economic, social and environmental benefits,” says the report.

Pollution is punishable by fines and imprisonment of up to two and ten years in cases of severe consequences on human health, but only about a dozen people are investigated into and sentenced each year despite the widespread phenomenon ranging from plants operating without pollution filters to outdated lime kilns burning old tires.

The Supreme State Audit urges the government to approve a new national action plan on air quality within 2018 following the failure to take any action on a previous 2014 strategy and carry out the immediate accreditation of its air quality stations abroad considering that there are no licensed operators to conduct this process in Albania.

Monitoring has revealed PM10 particulates exceed the daily limit value of 50 micrograms/cubic meter (50 µg/m3) by 73 days in Tirana and by 65 days in Korça at a time when under EU standards the daily limit should not be exceeded on more than 35 days in a calendar year.

The situation is also problematic in Elbasan, central Albania, where the country’s largest steel plant operates.

About 2,120 people died in 2016 in Albania due to air pollution, of whom 2,010 were victims of high concentrations of fine particles in the air, 100 of the ozone concentration and 10 of nitrogen dioxide concentration, says a report by Denmark-based European Environment Agency, an EU watchdog.
                    [post_title] => Albania’s air quality data unreliable, state auditors say
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albanias-air-quality-data-unreliable-state-auditors-say
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-15 09:38:39
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-15 08:38:39
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135804
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135827
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-15 08:01:43
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-15 07:01:43
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 15 - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a public statement Thursday, designating former Albanian General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla as a person who cannot enter the United States “due to his involvement in significant corruption.”

U.S. law provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State “has credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.”

The law also requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their family members. Tillerson has chosen to make a public statement.

The move could make Llalla subject to vetting and investigation from new justice reform bodies even though he has resigned from the system.

In addition to the designation of Llalla, the secretary is also publicly designating Llalla’s spouse, daughter, and a minor child were also banned.

Llalla and his wife had earlier been stripped of U.S. visas after his wife gave birth in the United States. That child is a U.S. citizen and thus cannot be banned from returning.

The former GP publicly clashed with the U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu. After Llalla was accused of not doing his job to fight corruption and being against justice reform, Llalla said the U.S. diplomat was exerting undue pressure on Albanian authorities, indicating he was asked to close a case against an international oil company and to arrest politicians without proper proof.

 
                    [post_title] => Washington publicly bans Llalla from entering U.S.
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => washington-publicly-bans-llalla-from-entering-u-s
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:10:32
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-16 07:10:32
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135827
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135819
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-15 07:39:52
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-15 06:39:52
                    [post_content] => 

TIRANA, Feb. 15 – In a visit to Tirana on Tuesday, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos signed a major agreement with Albanian authorities effectively handing over much of the control of Albania’s border management to the EU border agency, Frontex, in cases defined in the memorandum of understanding.

“This agreement will allow for the future deployment in Albania of EU border and coast guard teams," Avramopoulos said after the signing.

In 2011, the European Union opened the door for Albanian travelers, removing the visa wall with Albania. The move happened after a number of successful reforms through which Albania implemented secure documents and created a program for secure borders and territory.

As such, this week’s development of Frontex taking control of the maritime and land borders of Albania could be seen as a major step backward, highlighting lack of confidence in Albania’s abilities to secure its territory and borders.

The EU’s hurry in signing the agreement to allow the establishment of land and sea border controls through its own border agency is a sign of EU fears that Albanian borders are not secure to the wave of migration, but also to drug trafficking or weapons.

The move also comes as a daily trickle of migrants from third countries is starting to turn into a stream in a new Balkan route from Greece to Slovenia that goes through Albania. And, of course, there is an ongoing wave of Albanian citizens trying to migrate to the EU either through seeking asylum or through a stealthy overstay of their travel periods.

Commissioner Avramopoulos himself said he was happy with the speed with which the negotiations took place -- talks he hoped will take place with other countries in the region as well.

"I thank the Albanian authorities for the fruitful negotiations and their commitment to reach an agreement so soon. Albania is a precursor to the region and the agreement will serve as a model for similar agreements that we are negotiating with other partners in the Western Balkans. The closer cooperation between Albania and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will allow us to be faster and more flexible in responding to any potential migratory challenges. This is an important step forward and is in the best interests of both Albania and the European Union," Commissioner Avramopoulos said.

While other countries are also a target, Albania appears to have been singled out as the first country that needed such an agreement.

It’s also important to note the context in which the agreement was signed, as Albania desperately tries to open accession talks with the European Union. Meanwhile, the only agreements the EU seems to be readily signing are security-related ones.

Avramopoulos said in addition to similar historic and geographic values, Albania’s future is linked with the EU mainly due to the region’s geopolitical instability, which both Albania and the EU have to counter.

“We share the same challenges as Albania, in particular in the fight against illegal migration, border management and a more efficient fight against organized crime and terrorism,” he said in a press conference.

According to Avramopoulos, the new EU strategy for the Western Balkans published last week poses an ambitious agenda for Albania, but also offers a window of opportunity for the country.

[post_title] => EU takes control of Albania’s borders under new agreement [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => eu-takes-control-of-albanias-borders-under-new-agreement [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:02:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-16 07:02:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135819 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 135789 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-02-14 09:15:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-14 08:15:46 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 13 - A court decision to allow the resumption of works at a controversial project in Durres, Albania's second largest city, has left unhappy civil society activists lobbying for its cancellation due to important archeological finds. The reaction came on Tuesday following a decision by the Durres administrative court to allow after a one-year halt the resumption of works at the controversial Veliera project except for the area where some important Roman and Ottoman era discoveries were made during diggings. The controversial "Veliera” project is a €6 million government-funded project luxury veil-like square in front of the country’s biggest port of Durres that opponents say risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower. Activists say they will challenge the first-instance decision to the administrative appeals court and even address Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights to cancel the project. "We don't agree with the court decision at all. We will appeal the decision and take the case to Strasbourg," said Mirela Jorgo, a lawyer representing civil society activists in the legal battle with Durres municipality. Civil society activists had accused Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako of abuse of power and demanded legal action for the people involved in the damage of archeological finds during the diggings. "It was a decision which saw judges locked inside for three hours. Under strong political pressure, it was decided that works in the "A" archeological zone have to be halted. We had demanded that Veliera is declared an illegal construction as long it has affected the "A" zone. And the court was evasive about that which means neither fish nor fowl," lawyer Mirela Jorgo wrote on social media. “The abuse of power and destruction of public good aspects were handed to the prosecutor's office. For us, this remains a victory as it showed that the court's strength toward political pressure can also shake. In the meantime, it is clearly evident that Veliera remains an illegal project," she added. The court decision also comes after the local municipality had agreed to change its initial project and preserve the finds in the 300 m2 area after a mid-2017 decision by the country's National Archaeology Council to integrate them into a revised project. “The revised project is the same to the initial one, but includes the archeological finds, putting them on display and making them accessible,” Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako said last January as the one-year legal battle continued. Works in the Veliera square are almost finished with an underpass having already been completed, but part of the site has been in ruins, causing traffic in the past year. Some ancient Roman ruins, an Ottoman era building, a cannon and some catapult stones were discovered during the ‘Veliera’ construction works in early 2017. The €6 million ‘Veliera’ project will be a 12,000 m2 square with a giant 2,000 m2 veil on it. The project has been criticized for its high cost at a time when Durres suffers prolonged tap water cuts, lacks a waste treatment plant with waste being burned in the open air just outside the city and faces frequent flash flooding due to lack of proper sewer systems, hampering its key tourism industry. Socialist Party Mayor Vangjush Dako, now in his third consecutive term as Durres Mayor, has often been publicly accused by political opponents of increasing concrete areas in Durres due to alleged interests in a concrete company where he was a shareholder before taking office as Durres Mayor in 2007. The Veliera project comes after Durres reconstructed its central square and archaeology museum in the past few years, making it more attractive to tourists. The new bigger municipality of Durres following the 2015 administrative reform has a resident population of 175,000 people and includes five former coastal municipalities and communes. The city’s population more than doubles in summer with dozens of thousands of local and foreign holidaymakers. Founded in the 7th century BC under the name Epidamnos, Durres has been continuously inhabited for 27 centuries and is one of the oldest cities in Albania. The city boasts a Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century A.D, one of the largest in the Balkan. [post_title] => Albania civil society activists unhappy with court decision over controversial ‘Veliera’ project [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => civil-society-activists-unhappy-with-court-decision-over-controversial-veliera-project [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-14 09:16:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-14 08:16:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135789 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 135840 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-02-14 08:27:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-14 07:27:52 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 14 - This week, the EU’s Stabilization and Association Committee meeting resulted in the signing of a joint declaration by the government and opposition, asking for EU membership negotiations to open by setting an official date, despite the opposition’s remarks about a corrupt election process and lack of investigation of high officials. This meeting comes at a time the new EU strategy paper for the Western Balkans was published, EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos highlighted the country’s security issues in a visit to Tirana and a FRONTEX agreement was signed to help the country for better border control management. EP representative Monica Macovei said the national interest of integration stands higher than parties’ personal interests. “Parties can argue another time, but not when it comes to EU integration or other important aspects of national interest. I strongly believe the European Commission will give its recommendation for negotiations to begin, and then we will lobby for members states to give their support,” Macovei said during the committee’s 12th meeting, which took place in the Albanian parliament. Macovei added that opening negotiations will mark a new beginning both for the lives of Albanians and for the legal system, as accession chapters on trade, law, justice, competition but also human rights will be made available. In turn, Macovei linked this with a raise in foreign investments and an improvement of the country’s economic conditions, saying it could also help decrease the country’s emigration flows -- for which Albania is one of the region’s leaders. Despite the joint declaration, the long-standing polemics between the government and opposition were discussed in length during the meeting. The opposition’s main objections were the alleged corrupted election process, resulting from the buying of votes through drug money and governmental corruption, and lack of investigation of high officials. “Reports from OSBE and ODIHR have often mentioned the phenomenon of vote selling, while avoiding this phenomenon was their main recommendation,” Oerd Bylykbashi, co-chair of the election reform committee, said during the meeting. Nonetheless, he stressed that cooperation concerning the election reform is vital. Macovei agreed changes are necessary to the Electoral Code, and that they should be made before the following elections. “Despite who is in government or opposition, everyone should serve the country and realize that corruption leads to poverty,” she said. Socialist representatives said all possibilities to improve the electoral process are present according to ODIHR recommendations and that, despite minor problems, they believed the last elections were the best the country has seen in the last 25 years.   [post_title] => Gov't, opposition jointly urge EU to open membership talks [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => govt-opposition-jointly-urge-eu-to-open-membership-talks [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:30:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-16 07:30:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135840 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 135837 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-02-14 08:19:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-14 07:19:20 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - Trends of mass migration and low birth rates were brought to attention once again this week with the publication of an INSTAT graph showing that during 2017, Albania’s population continued to shrink, but not as fast as some other sources have shown, staying at 2.8 million. The number of births during 2017 reached 30,869 -- the lowest number registered since 1930, when the country did its first census. The number of births has been gradually decreasing in the last years. In 2015, the number of births was 33,221 as opposed to the natural incline of the 80s, when annual birth count reached 70,000-80,000 people. Local media report these are the lowest birth rate numbers the country has seen since before WWII, when Albania’s population was a mere 1 million. Low birth rates are an indicator of future demographic issues, as Albanians born between 2010-2020 will have to provide for pensioners, who number will be much higher than the working population. However, the biggest blow to the population decline comes from the high migration rates. According to the INSTAT study, 40,000 Albanian left the country during 2017, while only 25,000 returned -- a population movement that mounts to a negative difference of 15,000 people. Some experts see INSTAT’s data as conservative, and believe that the population shrank faster in 2017, based on other public data. Nine out of 12 districts experienced a decline in population, with Dibra, Gjirokastër and Berat leading the dropping numbers. Tirana’s population, on the other hand, went up with about 25.1 per thousand people, followed by Durrës and Vlora. INSTAT fairly warns these numbers are to be read as approximations, considering the population was counted based on the last 2011 census and taking into consideration births, deaths and estimated migration flows based on the registered citizens leaving and entering. In this context, especially migration flows might in reality be lower or higher than projected in recent studies. Even with these reservations in mind, Albania still makes top three asylum-seeking countries of safe origin in Europe. In addition, a local media report published this week showed the country is also first in the number of minors seeking asylum in Europe, with thousands of children aged between seven and 17 leaving Albanian unaccompanied with the hope of a better future. The phenomenon mostly touches rural areas in North and Northeast Albania, but also the suburbs of bigger districts such as Fier, Elbasan or Korça. According to the reports, under-aged asylum seekers’ main destinations are Italy, France and the UK -- EUROSTAT data estimates these three countries have hosted around 3,000 minors from Albania together. Albanian authorities and experts say the rationale behind this trend is to be found in the minors’ parents, and not in extreme poverty, as only few of the families seeking social care were deemed extremely poor. “It results that families were living in normal homes, with normal living conditions, and when we ask them why they send their children abroad, at first they just shrug and then say they want something better for the kids, to get them papers. It sounds bad, but this was the families’ idea,” Valbona Tula, head of the National Social Service in Shkodra district told local media. Deputy Minister of Interior Rovena Voda also said that for 70 percent of minors interviewed, the prospect of a better education is the main reason given. As a result of the ministry’s efforts to decrease the number of minors leaving the country, 871 minors were sent back through tighter border checks. And despite these secondary migration causes for minors, experts and officials alike agree on the main migration causes - economic stagnation, chronic unemployment, lack of educational perspective and a low trust towards the government. Voda thus concluded that migration doesn’t constitute just a security issue, but also a social, economic and civic one. She said that in order to handle migration numbers, social institutions should be as responsible and responsive as law-abiding authorities. [post_title] => New INSTAT data: Albania’s birth rate hit record low in 2017 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => new-instat-data-albanias-birth-rate-hit-record-low-in-2017 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-16 08:25:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-16 07:25:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135837 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 135871 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-02-19 13:13:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-19 12:13:37 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 19 – Waste burning in the open air just outside Durres, Albania’s second largest city, and next to a public university, has sparked serious health and environmental concerns for local residents and students. Hundreds of metric tons of waste is disposed of each day at an improvised landfill just few kilometers out of the city of Durres and only hundreds of meters away from the local “Aleksander Moisiu” public university, with constant waste burning being an imminent threat to the health of some 175,000 residents of the Durres municipality and some 18,000 university students. The unstoppable fumes emitted from waste burning are also a constant threat to local flora and fauna in a nearby wetland, not to mention tourism, the key driver of the economy in the country’s largest coastal city boasting more than two thousand years of civilization. "One of the biggest problems we encounter here at the "Aleksander Moisiu" university is pollution which is a result of waste burning in the open air. The whole smoke and its poisonous emissions end up at the university's indoor facilities, causing massive pollution," two university students are quoted as saying by local media. “The waste disposal site is only 200 to 250 meters away and smoke is ever-present here at the university building. If we open the windows, we can't even spot each other as a result of the high level of smoke density," they tell daily Panorama newspaper. Durres residents, especially those living in Porto Romano and ish-Keneta (former swamp area) describe the situation as alarming. "One can easily spot how smoke spreads into the whole city. Such a situation is really critical and is silently killing all Durres residents, but especially those living in the Spitalle and ish-Keneta (suburban areas) which are very close to the waste disposal site," says Nikolle Prenga, a representative of the local community. "We have raised this concern dozens of times with different institutions, but we have received no answer about this problem that is destroying the health of all Durres citizens, including local government officials who don't worry at all about this alarming situation related to the population's health. That is an unprecedented scandal," he adds. Damage to the tourism industry in Durres, featuring the country’s largest port, a coastline of 62 km of sandy beaches along the Adriatic and ancient sites and monuments dating back to ancient Roman times is even bigger unless immediate action is undertaken. Environmentalists are also worried over the negative impacts of what is known as a time bomb spanning over an 80,000 m2 area, just 3 km outside Durres and close to a wetland and beach area. "Waste dumped here is not separated at all. Plastic under the sun effect degrades and spreads through the air and water to end up in the sea. Waste burning emits carcinogenic substance and that's why waste must be separated. We cannot be a tourist destination if we don't separate and treat waste," Magdalena Cara, a local environmentalist has told reporters. Despite its dangerousness and ever-present burning, the waste disposal site also serves as an employment opportunity for dozens of scrap and plastic collectors including children, who can earn up to €8 a day. Street animals and pigs and sheep often feed their too. Two years ago, the Albanian government failed to conclude contract negotiations over the construction of a new landfill that would have solved the waste issue for the next three decades. A 30-year concession awarded to an Albanian-Italian joint venture to build and operate a landfill in Manez, some 20 km outside Durres, failed to materialize into a contract in 2015 after the concessionaire was seeking what were described as unaffordable waste disposal fees of about €25 per metric ton. The local municipality says it has no money to fund a new landfill, whose cost is estimated at about €20 million, and cannot even financially afford to intervene to rehabilitate the Porto Romano waste disposal site where about €3 million is needed. Ironically, the central government has recently funded a luxury €6 million veil-like promenade in downtown Durres, which heritage experts say risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower. Albania has already built its first waste-to-energy plant in Elbasan, central Albania and has signed concession contracts backed by the central government to build two new such plants in Fier and Tirana, despite environmental concerns by local residents and environmentalists worried over the new plants and their incinerators increasing dangerous pollution in the country. Only about two-thirds of the country’s 2.9 million resident population has access to public waste treatment and disposal services, making waste management one of the key issues of concern for local communities and hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting Albania. Three quarters of Albania’s municipal waste is landfilled, about 17 percent is recycled, 3 percent is incinerated and 1.2 percent is still dumped, according to 2016 data by state statistical institute, INSTAT.   [post_title] => Waste burning, an environmental time bomb for Durres [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => waste-burning-an-environmental-time-bomb-for-durres [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-19 13:13:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-19 12:13:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135871 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 28 [name] => News [slug] => news [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 28 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 9645 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 28 [category_count] => 9645 [category_description] => [cat_name] => News [category_nicename] => news [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 28 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

Latest News

Read More