Lawmakers approve resolution against domestic violence

Lawmakers approve resolution against domestic violence

TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Albania’s parliament has approved a resolution to address domestic violence, highlighting measures that will lead to violence prevention. The resolution was one of the rare pieces of legislation that has received no votes against in parliament

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Honoris Causa granted in Tirana to Turkey’s foreign minister

Honoris Causa granted in Tirana to Turkey’s foreign minister

TIRANA, Dec. 6 – Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, was awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa on Monday in Tirana. The ceremony, organized by the Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, in cooperation with the University of Tirana, was attended

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Brussels’ rosy picture of gov’t performance questioned

Brussels’ rosy picture of gov’t performance questioned

TIRANA, Dec. 6 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the country’s opposition leader, Lulzim Basha, visited Brussels at the same time this week, a time of year when EU leaders increase their focus on the Western Balkans and EU

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DP’s U.S. lobbying contract under investigation

DP’s U.S. lobbying contract under investigation

TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Albanian prosecutors are looking into the main opposition Democratic Party’s lobbying efforts in the United States, with prosecutors requesting that the party and the Central Elections Commission provide them with documentation and financial reports on the

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Emergency room doctors issue ultimatum over working conditions

Emergency room doctors issue ultimatum over working conditions

TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Eight physicians serving at Tirana’s main hospital emergency room signed a letter Tuesday addressed to the hospital administration and the state’s highest officials in which they threaten to quit unless conditions are improved for them and

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Prosecutors launch investigations into man-made causes of flooding

Prosecutors launch investigations into man-made causes of flooding

TIRANA, Dec. 4 – With the waters retreating in much of the country, prosecutors have started investigations in several regions of Albania to see whether, beyond the natural calamity of torrential rains, man-made errors and inactions led to the the

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Longtime MP proposes electoral system change

Longtime MP proposes electoral system change

TIRANA, Dec. 4 – Dashamir Shehi, a longtime member of Albania’s parliament and a member of the ad hoc electoral reform committee, says all parties in Albania agree the current electoral system has done more harm than good and should

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Italian man detained at customs for not declaring €50,000 in cash

Italian man detained at customs for not declaring €50,000 in cash

DURRES, Dec. 4 – An Italian man is under investigation for trying to leave Albania with 50,000 euros in cash without properly declaring it to customs officials. Police said the 61-year-old, whose name as not been made public, was detained

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Floods hit Albania, damage hundreds of homes and businesses

Floods hit Albania, damage hundreds of homes and businesses

TIRANA, Dec. 2 – Torrential rains and the resulting floods have wreaked havoc across Albania, causing the evacuation of hundreds of people and damage to infrastructure, homes and businesses. At least one person has died. Heavy rains that started Thursday

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Torrential rains bring floods across Albania

Torrential rains bring floods across Albania

TIRANA, Nov. 30 – Albanians are preparing for the worst as non-stop torrential rains have started and are predicted to continue for several days – with major flooding predicted across the country. Several parts of the country were already seeing

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Albania's parliament has approved a resolution to address domestic violence, highlighting measures that will lead to violence prevention.

The resolution was one of the rare pieces of legislation that has received no votes against in parliament and was approved with full consensus. 

It was spearheaded by three women MPs -- Albana Vokshi (DP), Vasilika Hysi (SP) and Kajda Gjosha (SMI).

“We are convinced that much more can be done in this area,” Hysi said.

Lawmakers expressed great concern about the increase of violent incidents and the inability of the state protect the victims of such acts.

The parliament denounced violence within the family and evaluated it as criminal and threatening toward the very foundation of Albanian society.

The legislative body has approved the creation of a special sub-committee that will deal with preventing and reducing violence within the family using new legal tools. The sub-committee is to be established within 15 days.

The decision of the parliament aims to support the victims of domestic violence that have the courage to step up and report it, as well as cooperate with the relevant legal bodies, in order to ensure strong parliamentary supervision and a careful examination of all domestic violence reports.

The permanent sub-committee that will deal with prevention and protection from domestic violence will operate under the parliamentary committee for social issues.

The special sub-committee is expected to inform the plenary sessions of parliament every six months on the work and additional preventive measures of state institutions, as well as on the reduction and protection against domestic violence.

Within two months, the government must give the parliament a full analysis and a national register for domestic violence.

The parliament believes that a single structure should coordinate all institutional activities that aim to prevent and reduce domestic violence, as well as protect victims, especially children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The resolution also requested the abolition of the possibility for a domestic violator to benefit from amnesties or different conveniences after being convicted by a court of law.

MPs requested the review of protective measures against domestic violence, as they are still so minimal it is often still possible for the perpetrator and the victim to live under the same roof even after the court’s restraining order.

Other measures proposed by the parliament were financial help, increased employment opportunities, accommodation and medical and social services for the victims.

The resolution also mandates that the police should survey violators through electronic means when they are a threat to others.

Lastly, the court, according to them, should make issuing restraining orders easier and not prolong the finalization of the legal process, despite the victims’ withdrawal of charges in many cases.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134908" align="alignright" width="300"]hon Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu with Albanian President Ilir Meta during the awards ceremony. (Photo: President.al)[/caption]

TIRANA, Dec. 6 – Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, was awarded the title Doctor Honoris Causa on Monday in Tirana. The ceremony, organized by the Mehmet Akif Ersoy University, in cooperation with the University of Tirana, was attended by Albanian President Ilir Meta, who said the award was another indicator of the two countries’ excellent relations.

Çavuşoğlu visited Albania in the context of the Mehmet Ersoy University’s award distribution ceremony in the fields of Science and Art. After receiving his award, Çavuşoğlu held a speech in during which he restated Turkey’s support of Albania and highlighted Turkey’s desire for Albania’s support in the fight against the FETO organization, which Turkish authorities say organized last year’s military coup in Turkey. 

“I am transmitting President’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan message. A stable Albania means a strong Turkey. We support Albania and offer our support for our friend, which is part of NATO. We feel at home in Albania,” Çavuşoğlu said. 

Meta also spoke of the excellent strategic relations between Albania and Turkey, relations that extend in all fields, starting from economic and trading relations to the relations in some of the most delicate subjects, such as that of state security. 

“Not only are both countries NATO members, but they have also contributed to the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, which is a serious threat to the stability and peace of our countries and the prosperity of our citizens,” Meta said.

The ceremony distributed awards in the fields of education, culture and science, in cooperation with Maarif Foundation. Rectors from the University of Tirana and Mehmet Akif Ersoy also held speeches honoring the awarded. 
                    [post_title] => Honoris Causa granted in Tirana to Turkey’s foreign minister
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 6 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama and the country’s opposition leader, Lulzim Basha, visited Brussels at the same time this week, a time of year when EU leaders increase their focus on the Western Balkans and EU enlargement in the region. 

Rama met various EU officials, including the head of EU’s executive branch, Donald Tusk, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. Rama also gave interviews and participated at a think-tank event to discuss Albania’s progress towards the opening of accession negotiations. 

"The six months ahead will be very important to have the opportunity to enter a new phase, which will be difficult but absolutely necessary -- of that membership negotiations,” Rama said in a joint press conference with Junker. “I am very proud to come to Brussels today with real tangible results, and … I am certain there will be more in the future.”


Juncker said he considered Rama “a friend” and that he knew since first meeting the then Mayor of Tirana that Rama was headed “for great things.”
"We are, as far as the commission is concerned, impressed by the progress of Albania is making in different fields, in different domains -- reform of the judiciary system being one of them,” Juncker said at the press conference on Wednesday.


Rama said on Tuesday that there had been positive feedback from the meeting with Tusk and other officials. According to the Albanian premier, the EU appreciates the country’s progress in reforming existing legal and state structures and that Albania’s reforms have become an example for the whole region. 

Tusk said on Twitter that he had had a good meeting with Rama, but indicated that the country needs to do more in terms of fighting crime. 

“The same rhythm should be maintained in reforming the rule of the law in order to advance in the road towards the EU,” Tusk’s statement noted.

The rosy picture and repeated praise for Albania’s government at a time when it is mired in several scandals, including alleged ties between former government officials and organized crime and continued problems with cannabis cultivation and trafficking, has raised questions in Tirana over whether EU representatives are out of touch with Albanian realities. 

Experts with the Albanian Institute for International Studies said there is a risk that such disconnect risks to cause of loss of trust in international institutions like the European Union among common Albanians, many of whom are increasingly angry with the government. Recent opinion polls show Albania’s government has lost at least 10 percent of its support following several scandals.

However, the vast majority of Albanian continue to support EU integration, and every Albanian political force supports EU integration. 

Several Albanian officials and political actors have paid visits to Brussels in recent weeks, as Albania expects to open negotiations by May 2018, when a major Western Balkans summit is to take place in the Bulgarian capital as part of that country’s EU presidency. The summit will set the region’s tone for years to come, several commentators said this week.

However, Rama and Basha have set contrasting tones as to the mood they saw in Brussels when discussing Albania’s chances of opening EU talks next year, with Rama seeing it as positive, while Basha as negative.

In Brussels to meet with representatives of the European People’s Party and other partner center-right parties, Basha released a statement that contradicts that of Rama in terms of the public opinion of EU officials concerning the country’s fight against organized crime and corruption. 

“Unfortunately, a big retreat of European leaders when it comes to Albania’s accession was very noticeable. In particular, they were greatly concerned about the legal state, the fight against crime and corruption,” Basha’s statement said. “The disadvantage is that the largest part of member states has become acutely aware of these problems. This may damage Albania’s European pathway by punishing its citizens.” 

Basha said the criminal ties allegations against former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri and what Basha said was the political protection afforded to him by the prime minister have been ill-received in Brussels.

According to the opposition leader, the Democratic Party’s policies and proposals are the right way to guide Albania to the EU, which is the top interest of both the government and the opposition. 

In previous years, there has been a debate in Albania as to who is to blame for what is seen by many as Albania’s stalled bid to join the European Union, with the opposition pointing to the government’s failures and the prime minister saying membership negotiations should have already opened, and that the delay is due to internal politics in the EU and its member states.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-12-07 10:47:41
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Albanian prosecutors are looking into the main opposition Democratic Party’s lobbying efforts in the United States, with prosecutors requesting that the party and the Central Elections Commission provide them with documentation and financial reports on the electoral campaign, local media reported. 

Prosecutors say no penal process is underway, and that no action or individual is being criminally investigated yet.

The case involves a lobbying contract by the opposition party with a U.S. lobbying firm, with a value that different sources report differently, ranging from half to one million dollars. 

However, the ruling Socialist Party said that it will officially ask prosecutors to file criminal charges against Lulzim Basha, the opposition leader.

“It’s time for you to come out and explain where you found $1 million to pay for articles that badmouth Albania? Sources inform that this is money administered by a person close to Basha. The fund was created on an offshore island to hide the tracks that lead to Basha. This is the most obvious scheme of money laundering. On Monday we will issue a penal report of Lulzim Basha concerning this fraud scene,” said Taulant Balla, head of the SP’s parliament group.

Basha personally replied to the SP’s accusations by saying they are nothing but an attempt to mask the real scandal where former minister, Saimir Tahiri, is allegedly involved, and Basha invited the SP to not waste time and send the report to the prosecution as soon as possible. 

“Accusations for money laundering from the DP are only a distraction to escape other truths concerning you, Saimir Tahiri, the brother of Fatmir Xhafa. The DP has declared every income to the Central Election Committee. The Democratic Party has nothing to hide. The only person who hides money is you, Edi Rama. You are the one who should be under money laundering accusations. Don’t wait for Sunday. Deliver the documents to the prosecution today,” Basha said. 

For more than a week now, the SP has been accusing the opposition of using shady funds to lobby internationally. 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Eight physicians serving at Tirana’s main hospital emergency room signed a letter Tuesday addressed to the hospital administration and the state's highest officials in which they threaten to quit unless conditions are improved for them and their patients.

The memo was addressed to Minister of Healthcare and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu and to the country’s Prime Minister and President. It expressed the medical professionals’ dissatisfaction with the hospital’s working conditions, including a reduced medical staff to deal with increasing patient numbers while resources and space has also dwindled.

The doctors also complained about the inability of other state services to do their job properly, thus, bringing overcrowding to a part of the hospital that should be the last line of defense.

“There are no proper working conditions for the medical staff and there is an overflow patients being treated. Other wards lack capacity and other services don’t comply with the rules,” the memo said, among other complaints, which included lack of medication and no beds or space left in the emergency room.

The government was quick to issue a statement saying the doctors had not resigned as implied in the letter and that it would address the issue.

This is not the first time the issue of resigning doctors comes up. With many complaints concerning the malfunctioning of a series of hospital service chains and the health system itself, many public medical doctors have chosen to resign for a better jobs in the private sector, or for careers abroad in countries like Germany.

Albania already has the lowest per capita number of medical doctors in the region, and with an aging population boom coming up, the country is heading for a major healthcare crisis, experts warn.

Lack of proper healthcare, together with the low quality of the education system, is the primary reason why Albanians migrate away from their native land, surveys show.

As recently as August, more than half of the country’s hospital directors resigned following a request by Prime Minister Edi Rama over alleged mismanagement in the country’s public health system.

Saying that the hospitals’ mismanagement adds to the people’s negative perception of doctors and medical personnel, Rama also warned that doctors themselves shared part of the guilt for this unfavorable perception.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-12-04 17:06:35
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 4 - With the waters retreating in much of the country, prosecutors have started investigations in several regions of Albania to see whether, beyond the natural calamity of torrential rains, man-made errors and inactions led to the the flooding of hundreds of homes and businesses.

Prosecutors in Tirana, Kruja, Fier and Vlora have launched investigations after complaints from tens of businesses and residents who suffered major financial damages due to the floods. 
The complaints have to do with companies or municipal departments not doing their jobs in keeping waterways and drainage channels clean as per contracts they have signed or duties undertaken. 
Prosecutors said they will look at how private firms won municipal and national tenders to maintain the infrastructure and whether they had the right tools and personnel to do so. 
Tens of residents and business owners have gone on the record blaming the actions or inactions of private and state parties that led to flooding.

The issue has become political with the opposition Democratic Party mayors in Vora and Kamza accusing the central government of blocking drainage channels on the main Tirana-Durres highway during a beautification project that saw palm trees planted in their jurisdiction.

In turn, the central government has accused to the two small municipalities of incompetence in helping their residents, pointing to the better management of the larger neighboring Socialist-run Municipality of Tirana. 

There have also been calls for a draft law to make flood and property insurance mandatory all over Albania as the state does not have the capacity to compensate businesses and residents for their losses. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 4 – Dashamir Shehi, a longtime member of Albania's parliament and a member of the ad hoc electoral reform committee, says all parties in Albania agree the current electoral system has done more harm than good and should change.


Shehi's proposal as a compromise between the opposition and the ruling majority is to have two thirds of lawmakers being elected through direct races in electoral zones and the other one third through a national proportional system.

“The current system is inappropriate, and we all agree on this,” Shehi told the Panorama newspaper in an interview. “Through the system I propose, it will give the public a chance to directly pick their representative while also allowing parties to keep their top performers in office.”

He also says the number of lawmakers should be lowered to 110, down from the current 140.

“This country is too small to have so many MPs,” Shehi said.

Shehi is the leader of the National Movement for Development, but was elected through being in the lists of the main opposition Democratic Party.

He says the two large parties have historically tried to have a system that makes it very hard for small parties to make it to parliament.

Shehi's stance is similar to some proposals out of the Democratic Party, whose leader, Lulzim Basha, had said he would be open to a 100-member parliament elected through a pure majoritarian system.

Albania currently as a regional proportional system that has come under criticism for giving voters very little choice in electing their direct representatives to parliament.

 
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                    [post_content] => DURRES, Dec. 4 – An Italian man is under investigation for trying to leave Albania with 50,000 euros in cash without properly declaring it to customs officials.

Police said the 61-year-old, whose name as not been made public, was detained for several hours by Durres police after he tried to board a ferry to Italy with the large amount of cash in his bag.

The Italian man told police it was clean money brought to Albania as part of an investment opportunity that had not worked out, and he was taking it back to the country of origin, according to a police statement.

The man has been freed but according to Albanian law unless one has proof as to the origin of the cash, it can seized by authorities, who typically are worried the cash comes from illegal activities such as drugs trafficking.

Travelers with large amounts of cash have face renewed scrutiny in Albania as the country tries to fight organized crime and illicit activities which usually rely on cash to conduct business.

This is the second case of this type that has made it to the local media's attention.

In September, an Albanian family on vacation at the Llogara National Park found a bag with 115,000 euros in cash and turned it to police.

Police was able to connect the cash to two Ukrainian visitors who were charged with failing to declare the massive amount of cash to the customs when they came into the country.

The Ukrainian couple were able to explain that the money was there because they were buying an apartment in Saranda, and a local real estate agency verified their dealings.

However, authorities urge both foreign and local people to do business involving large amounts of money only through the banking system.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-12-02 14:01:05
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 2 – Torrential rains and the resulting floods have wreaked havoc across Albania, causing the evacuation of hundreds of people and damage to infrastructure, homes and businesses. At least one person has died.

Heavy rains that started Thursday evening are expected to end on Monday, but with waterways and land at saturation point, there could be more flooding before things get better, meteorologists said.

Albania’s armed forces have joined civil emergency and police forces in evacuating and housing nearly 200 families.

Officials said about 3,300 homes and families were affected by the floods.

About 6,000 people have joined the rescue efforts, with army helicopters and vehicles being deployed to assist.

The state’s special commission for civil emergencies said the floods had been widespread across the country, but the most problematic areas were in the southern regions of Gjirokastra, Korca, Vlora, Fier and Berat.

Several rivers – Vjosa, Osum, Seman and Shkumbin – are overflowing their banks, flooding nearby buildings and destroying or damaging bridges.

Road maintenance officials said most of the national highways had been reopened after the worst floods on Friday, but warned drivers not to take trips that were not absolutely necessary. Much of the intercity bus system had been affected as the roads were made difficult to navigate due to high water and landslides caused by torrential rains that brought more water in three days than those areas get in a typical month.

The main highway linking Tirana to Durres was opened after a 20-hour blockage due to mud and debris blocking the road near the City Park Mall, which was also entirely flooded, stranding tens of people in the second flood until rescuers were able to reach them.

At least 250 people remained stranded overnight with their vehicles in the Tirana-Durres highway, the country’s busiest road. The road reopened after authorities were able to get all the vehicles stuck on the highway removed.

Downtown Tirana did not see any flooding but municipal authorities have warned residents to conserve potable water as the main reservoir that supplies water to the city, Bovilla, has been polluted by mud due to the rain and it had to be taken offline until the waters clear and water processing unit can be brought back online.

Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said he believes the worst is over for Tirana and that investments in improving infrastructure had paid off in several places, including the Tirana River, where the municipal authorities had invested in improving the riverbed and in moving residents away from flood prone areas.

Floods are a common occurrence in Albania, and there is an ongoing debate on what can be done infrastructure wise to make sure they don’t cause a lot of damage. However, this year’s floods are as bad as the worst years in recent history, 2015 and 2010, experts said.

 

­
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                    [post_date] => 2017-12-01 20:52:14
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-01 19:52:14
                    [post_content] =>  TIRANA, Nov. 30 – Albanians are preparing for the worst as non-stop torrential rains have started and are predicted to continue for several days – with major flooding predicted across the country.

Several parts of the country were already seeing floods by Thursday night, with the main highway linking Tirana to Durres closed to trafficking due to high water.

Authorities said flooding had also damaged agricultural land and roads. In some places there were blackouts as the electricity network struggled to cope with the bad weather. A 50-year-old electrician died Thursday in southern Albania trying to fix a power outage, local media reported.  

The country’s civil emergency authorities had started preparing earlier in the week as meteorologists had already predicted the country would get the amount of rain it gets in a month in just two days.

The Ministry of Education said it was closing all schools on Friday to protect the lives and health of pre-university students.

The Interior Ministry said northwestern Shkodra region was seeing the most floods, while mudslides temporarily blocked traffic in the southern Albania.

Tens of families in central and southern Albania could also need to be evacuated, according the authorities. At least ten families had to be evacuated in the Selenica and Tirana regions by press time.

Critical infrastructure such as a hospital and a police station were already affected by flooding Thursday night. Several accidents related to the weather were reported.

Rough seas mean that all ferry services to neighboring Italy and Greece have been suspended.

The Minister of Defense said the armed forces had been put on alert to help civil emergency officials.

Albania regularly sees flooding during the rainy season, typically starting in November, despite authorities’ efforts over the years to improve infrastructure.

 
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            [post_date] => 2017-12-08 10:36:39
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 5 – Albania's parliament has approved a resolution to address domestic violence, highlighting measures that will lead to violence prevention.

The resolution was one of the rare pieces of legislation that has received no votes against in parliament and was approved with full consensus. 

It was spearheaded by three women MPs -- Albana Vokshi (DP), Vasilika Hysi (SP) and Kajda Gjosha (SMI).

“We are convinced that much more can be done in this area,” Hysi said.

Lawmakers expressed great concern about the increase of violent incidents and the inability of the state protect the victims of such acts.

The parliament denounced violence within the family and evaluated it as criminal and threatening toward the very foundation of Albanian society.

The legislative body has approved the creation of a special sub-committee that will deal with preventing and reducing violence within the family using new legal tools. The sub-committee is to be established within 15 days.

The decision of the parliament aims to support the victims of domestic violence that have the courage to step up and report it, as well as cooperate with the relevant legal bodies, in order to ensure strong parliamentary supervision and a careful examination of all domestic violence reports.

The permanent sub-committee that will deal with prevention and protection from domestic violence will operate under the parliamentary committee for social issues.

The special sub-committee is expected to inform the plenary sessions of parliament every six months on the work and additional preventive measures of state institutions, as well as on the reduction and protection against domestic violence.

Within two months, the government must give the parliament a full analysis and a national register for domestic violence.

The parliament believes that a single structure should coordinate all institutional activities that aim to prevent and reduce domestic violence, as well as protect victims, especially children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The resolution also requested the abolition of the possibility for a domestic violator to benefit from amnesties or different conveniences after being convicted by a court of law.

MPs requested the review of protective measures against domestic violence, as they are still so minimal it is often still possible for the perpetrator and the victim to live under the same roof even after the court’s restraining order.

Other measures proposed by the parliament were financial help, increased employment opportunities, accommodation and medical and social services for the victims.

The resolution also mandates that the police should survey violators through electronic means when they are a threat to others.

Lastly, the court, according to them, should make issuing restraining orders easier and not prolong the finalization of the legal process, despite the victims’ withdrawal of charges in many cases.

 
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