Croatian president holds official two-day visit to Albania

Croatian president holds official two-day visit to Albania

TIRANA, July 19 – Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic came to Tirana on Wednesday for a two-day visit hosted by Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta, to discuss a possible future strategic cooperation between the countries. On Wednesday, Meta welcomed Kitarovic with a

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National Theatre bill faces prolonged battle if president vetoes

National Theatre bill faces prolonged battle if president vetoes

TIRANA, July 19 – Albania’s opposition Democratic Party requested during Thursday’s parliamentary session for the National Theatre law to go back to vote, and left the parliament when its request was denied. The DP made the request through MP Edmond

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More time needed for new maritime border deal, Foreign Minister Bushati says

More time needed for new maritime border deal, Foreign Minister Bushati says

TIRANA, July 19 – Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati said on Thursday that negotiations over a new maritime border deal with Greece are still underway and in no way finalized, ignoring media concerns over lack of transparency

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EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn visits Tirana

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn visits Tirana

TIRANA, July 17 – The European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn’s visit to Tirana on Tuesday marked the beginning of the analytical assessment process, which will precede EU accession negotiations, scheduled to potentially begin next June. The official start of

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Two more High Court members ousted under re-evaluation

Two more High Court members ousted under re-evaluation

TIRANA, July 18 – On Wednesday, High Court members Tom Ndreca and Admir Thanza were also ousted by the Independent Qualification Committee, unable to justify their wealth and shady connections under the re-evaluation law. This decision officially places the High

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Italian police confiscate €3 million worth of alleged Albanian cannabis

Italian police confiscate €3 million worth of alleged Albanian cannabis

TIRANA, July 17 –  A speedboat filled with 262 kg of cannabis, which Italian media said was coming from Albania, was caught in Italy’s Bari port on Monday. A 26-year-old Italian citizen has been arrested, while the cannabis amount is

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Italian Embassy announces Albanian-Italian police patrols in coastal cities

Italian Embassy announces Albanian-Italian police patrols in coastal cities

TIRANA, July 17 – The Italian Embassy in Tirana notified on Monday the interior ministries of both countries will be engaging joint patrols in Albania’s main coastal cities to assist Italian tourists vacating in Albania during the summer. The patrols

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Fifteen migrants stopped in Shkodra trying to reach EU

Fifteen migrants stopped in Shkodra trying to reach EU

TIRANA, July 16 – Albanian police continues to stop third-country refugees who, supported by local traffickers, try to use Albania as a transition country that will lead them to EU member states. On Saturday morning, Shkodra police stopped 15 refugees, mainly

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Biberaj Foundation co-sponsors $2,5 million to support Albanian professionals in US

Biberaj Foundation co-sponsors $2,5 million to support Albanian professionals in US

TIRANA, July 16 –  The Biberaj Foundation announced on Saturday its first project – the co-funding of the Albanian-American Development Foundation Master’s Degree Fellowship program. The Master’s and Internship Program (MIP) was launched in 2016 by the Albanian-American Development Foundation

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Former Kavaja mayor convicted to community service under decriminalization law

Former Kavaja mayor convicted to community service under decriminalization law

TIRANA, July 14 – In Albania, former Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Rroshi will have to do 60 days of community service to pay off a sentence given on Friday by the Tirana Court for falsifying official forms. The court initially

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 19 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic came to Tirana on Wednesday for a two-day visit hosted by Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta, to discuss a possible future strategic cooperation between the countries. 

On Wednesday, Meta welcomed Kitarovic with a state ceremony that was followed by a joint press conference. 

“We have excellent, centuries-long relations with Croatia, share historic ties. Croatia continues to be a strong supporter of the start of Albania’s EU accession talks. Croatia’s EU example and experience is precious to us Albanians.”

Meta also said they’d work on raising the cooperation between them to a strategic level, as there is great opportunities for the entire region to cooperate in the fields of tourism, energy and infrastructure. 

On her side, Kitarovic reconfirmed Croatia’s support towards Albania’s EU membership road, but also raised concerns for the quality of the countries’ shared Adriatic Sea, and the disadvantages it would bring to both if it kept being polluted. 

Kitarovic also met with Prime Minister Edi Rama, Head of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, head of opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj.

On Thursday, Kitarovic spoke at the Albanian parliament, where she said that Albania was Croatia’s friend, when its friends were few.

“A lot of Albanians sacrificed themselves for Croatia, and we don’t forget that,” Kitarovic said.

“The opening of the Croatian Embassy to Tirana in 1994 was an important event for the countries’ relations. Now, Croatia and Albania engage in joint Afghanistan operations. Croatia strongly supports Albania’s European perspective, its path towards EU integration and welcomes the progress achieved so far.” 

Last but not least, Kitarovic is to visit Durres, as the city where the croatian environmental protection project for the cities of Berat and Kruja will be launched. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 19 - Albania’s opposition Democratic Party requested during Thursday’s parliamentary session for the National Theatre law to go back to vote, and left the parliament when its request was denied. 

The DP made the request through MP Edmond Spaho, and was denied by Vasilika Hysi.

“There was violations during the last voting session, one MP voted two times. Why steal votes when there is absolutely no need. If the law doesn’t go back to the vote, we will leave the hall,” Spaho said. 

The opposition left the parliament after Hysi wished them a nice day.

Over the last week, the DP and a number of protesting actors have been calling on President Ilir Meta to veto the National Theatre draft-law, which was approved by the Socialist-led parliament last week after a number of accelerated procedures. 

According to the opposition, the bill that foresees the construction of a new National Theatre as part of a high-rise commercial complex is not only unconstitutional, but also a way for the government to launder money coming from crime and corruption.

Asked about his decision by local media, Meta said that he is going over the draft-law and that he will be affected by no external factors, other than those allowed by the law and the constitution.

“I want to ensure you that in every decision I will not be affected by any external factors other than the President’s responsibilities in doing his duty,” Meta said.

Tirana’s Mayor Erion Veliaj, on the other hand, told media that he believes the good will to build a new, better National Theatre will be found and that Meta will decree the draft-law.

“I believe in the President as a person and as an institution. Ilir Meta is a very constructive person, who has always aimed for social peace, instead of fighting and chaos. 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 19 - Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati said on Thursday that negotiations over a new maritime border deal with Greece are still underway and in no way finalized, ignoring media concerns over lack of transparency during the process.

After a Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Commission hearing on the country’s EU integration, Bushati told local media the new deal doesn’t foresee a relocation of borders either.  

“Everything is based on international mandatory acts for both Albania and Greece when it comes to this issue. We have similar maritime deals with other countries, and we want to achieve the same process with Greece,” Bushati said. 

The government has been criticized not just for lack of transparency during the negotiation process, but also for lack of consultation with the opposition and a much more favorable position than its predecessor, the Democratic Party, due to a currently frozen Constitutional Court that will be unable to decide whether the new deal is anti-constitutional.

Bushati said he doesn’t expect the country’s President Ilir Meta to veto the deal, as there is no need for “protagonism or blocking when it comes to this process.” 

He also answered to questions concerning disagreements within the negotiating group, a part of which is alleged to have spoken against the ways the negotiations are taking place in Albania’s disfavor.

“It’s entirely normal that in a big group, like that of Albanian experts, there are arguments; there a voluminous dossier in the MEFA, over 1000 pages, that is the product of experts’ work. Different issues have always had various solutions,” Bushati said.

He again denied media and opposition claims that negotiations have ended a long time ago, saying that negotiating a new sea deal is a process that will take its time. 

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Sali Berisha has said several times the agreement was imposed to the Albanian team without proper negotiations and that it has the power to ignite old flames between the two Balkan countries.

Bushati said there are attempts to keep this deal under pressure and not release positive energy, but that the government is set to take it forward and address all open-ended issues with Greece. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 17 - The European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn’s visit to Tirana on Tuesday marked the beginning of the analytical assessment process, which will precede EU accession negotiations, scheduled to potentially begin next June.

The official start of this process, which aims to compare Albanian legislation with the European one through the 35 negotiating chapters, took place at a joint cabinet meeting with Hahn and other Commission representatives accompanying him. 

Hahn stressed the analytical assessment is a process which other Western Balkan countries have already gone through and which the remainder of candidate states will also be subjected to.

He also pointed out that “the better the quality of this analytical process from all institutions involved, the more proactive and engaged we are during this phase, the better it will be for the opening of accession negotiations.”

On his part, Prime Minister Edi Rama said the government has already decided on the structures and institutions that will be involved in the process, which will be led by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati, while also giving each ministry its own say in negotiations. 

He added the government is ready to further assist the project financially, by adding funds and increasing human resources. 

The decision on whether to open accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia was postponed by the EU Council last month, due to internal EU problems and doubts on the stability of reforms undertaken so far by both candidate status countries.

Although representatives have said a final decision - and date - will be reached by next June, a number of additional conditions were placed for Albania, a big part of which requiring government-opposition cooperation, while upcoming European Parliament elections also make it unclear what the future holds for Albania’s and Macedonia’s EU future. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-07-18 00:24:32
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-17 22:24:32
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 18 - On Wednesday, High Court members Tom Ndreca and Admir Thanza were also ousted by the Independent Qualification Committee, unable to justify their wealth and shady connections under the re-evaluation law. 

This decision officially places the High Court’s functionality at risk, as it remains with seven judges out of 19. 

Both judges were already being investigated for issues related to their declaration of wealth, the cleanliness of their figure and their alleged inappropriate ties with the criminal world.

Thanza was accused of hiding a 1999 conviction for theft in Italy, which he said he’d taken upon himself covering for his sister in law. 

Wednesday’s decision complicates even further the functionality of a High Court which, since 2013, has been functioning with a limited number of judges. From 2016, clashes between the socialist majority and then-President Bujar Nishani blocked procedures to name judgies for vacancies. 

As the implementation of the Justice Reform began, appointments became impossible due to the lack of new institutions predicted under the new legislation. This has left the court with nine out of nineteen members. 

With the ousting of Ndreca and Thanza, the High Court is left functioning with seven members, while another member - Artan Zeneli - is also under investigation. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-07-17 12:10:04
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-17 10:10:04
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 17 -  A speedboat filled with 262 kg of cannabis, which Italian media said was coming from Albania, was caught in Italy’s Bari port on Monday.

A 26-year-old Italian citizen has been arrested, while the cannabis amount is estimated at a market value of around €3 million. 

The cannabis was hidden inside the double floor of the speedboat and was found by Bari Guardia di Finanza naval operators. 

The speedboat was allegedly arriving from international waters, most probably Albania, Italian media wrote, and was heading towards the Brindisi coast.

According to preliminary investigations, the speedboat driver was trying to transport the cannabis to Puglia, as during the summer cannabis trading opportunities grow bigger as the number of vacationers increases in both countries. 

Meanwhile, Greek police also announced the arrest of a 36-year-old Albanian in Northern Greece, close to the border with Albania, as he was trying to transport 112 kg of cannabis inside his car towards Ioannina. 

Greek police also said the Albanian, whose name has not been made public, was already wanted by police in the country for a drug-related crime.

It added that, in June only, in the Epirus area - neighboring Albania - 237 kg of cannabis have been stopped and 39 people have been arrested. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-07-17 12:00:23
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-17 10:00:23
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 17 - The Italian Embassy in Tirana notified on Monday the interior ministries of both countries will be engaging joint patrols in Albania’s main coastal cities to assist Italian tourists vacating in Albania during the summer. 

The patrols will take place in Durres, Vlore and Sarande from July 16 until August 30. 

The Embassy’s announcement said the reason behind this decision is the ever-growing number of Italian tourists visiting the country during the summer months, although independent experts have also pointed out to the increasing drugs trafficking going on between the countries as a possible rationale behind the interior ministries’ decision.

“Italian police forces will do walking patrols, wearing uniforms and helping Albanian officers in order to ease the contact between Italian tourists and Albanian authorities and diplomatic and council representations in the country,” the announcement reads.

The embassy’s announcement then proceeds to say that although it welcomes this form of joint cooperation in the field of security, the council network in Tirana and Vlora “is always available for all Italian visiting the country and invites them to consult the necessary information for travel and signal their presence and personal data in the Dove Siamo nel Mondo port.”

Only last week, the Italian government published its annual anti-drug report, in which it was highlighted that Albania was Italy’s main cannabis supplier during 2017, “with a seizure record of over 90 tons, in comparison to the 41 tons in 2016.”

The report also estimates that “drug trafficking routes leading to Italian state borders remained unchanged. Most confiscated drugs, approximately 95%, were seized off the coastline, territorial waters, and across sea borders.”

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-07-16 14:34:15
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 16 - Albanian police continues to stop third-country refugees who, supported by local traffickers, try to use Albania as a transition country that will lead them to EU member states.

On Saturday morning, Shkodra police stopped 15 refugees, mainly from Syria, who were trying to illegally cross the border with Montenegro to reach Croatia, and other EU countries.

Refugees had illegally entered Albania’s territory through its shared border with Greece, and were being transported toward Montenegro in the cars of local traffickers residing in Tirana’s Shkozet and Bathore neighborhoods.

Police said it arrested the traffickers and seized the transportation vehicles.

This year has marked an increase in the cases of banned refugees, who enter Albania with the aim to move to European countries, although both Albanian and Montenegrin police have said the situation is under control.

Earlier this month, during a joint press conference for the media, the prime ministers of both countries admitted the existence of sporadic illegal border crossings, but denied the possibility of building border fences, like it was earlier suggested by Montenegro state representatives. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-07-16 12:13:08
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-16 10:13:08
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 16 -  The Biberaj Foundation announced on Saturday its first project - the co-funding of the Albanian-American Development Foundation Master’s Degree Fellowship program. 

The Master’s and Internship Program (MIP) was launched in 2016 by the Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF) to give young professionals the opportunity to acquire a degree or experience in the fields of Business Administration and Management, Cultural Heritage, Eco-Tourism and Hospitality, Education, Public Policy, etc.

“The Biberaj family is honored to co-sponsor, with a $2,5 million, the AADF’s Master’s Degree Fellowship Program, intended for Albanian young professionals seeking to advance themselves through studies in the United States,” foundation spokesman Ken Biberaj said.

The Biberaj Foundation was established on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Biberaj family’s arrival in the United States in 1968. 

After fleeing repression in communist Albania, and arriving in the U.S., their story is a testament to the American Dream. Through their individual and collective hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, the Biberaj family established their own businesses and pursued careers ranging from education, technology, law, public service, finance, retail, real estate, philanthropy, and the arts.

As such, they know have a strong belief in supporting their communities and making sure the opportunities that higher education has afforded them continue to help others.

“We have deep gratitude to the United States for the success we have achieved, and great pride in our Albanian heritage. It is our hope that this Fellowship will empower a new generation of Albanian students to strive for excellence in academia, while fulfilling a commitment to giving back to their Albanian community,” Biberaj concluded.

Elez Biberaj, one of the initiators of the current co-sponsoring program and founders of the Biberaj Foundation,  is a prominent Albanian-American political scholar and thinker, who has also been essential in explaining post-communist Albania and has authored three very important books on the topic.

Biberaj’s book, ‘Albania in Transition: the Rocky Road to Democracy’, first published in 1998, to be republished by the Albanian Institute for International Studies in 2010, is an all-inclusive political account of post-communist transition. 

The book has served not only to clarify the Albanian transition, but also to foster international awareness of a small place like Albania, as well as the entire regionנcontributing to a sparking of Western interest for peace and stability in the Balkans.

His other works, also published by AIIS, include ‘Albania and China: a Study of An Unequal Alliance’ and ‘Albania: a Socialist Maverick.’ 

Elez has been Director of Voice of America’s Eurasia Division since 2005. He is responsible for planning, directing, and developing VOA’s radio, television, and Internet programming in Russian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, and Serbian, while holding a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.

He has also published articles in Encyclopedia Britannica, Conflict Studies, Problems of Communism, Survey, The World Today, East European Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal/Europe, etc.

The mission of the Biberaj Foundation is to support the pursuit of educational opportunities by Albanian students from the Balkans through study at American institutions.

After any course work, the Fellowship requires recipients to return to their country of origin and work there to strengthen the foundation of democratic societies. 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 14 - In Albania, former Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Rroshi will have to do 60 days of community service to pay off a sentence given on Friday by the Tirana Court for falsifying official forms.

The court initially upheld the Prosecution's request for a seven month and 15 day imprisonment sentence, but due to a shortened trial after Rroshi pleaded guilty, the sentence was reduced to five months and was finally converted to community service, as Rroshi had been under house arrest for four months.

The former mayor, elected on behalf of the Socialist Party, is the first official to be convicted under the country’s decriminalization law.

He was charged for keeping information related to his past hidden, such as a conviction for group rape in Italy in 1992, or the fact he was expelled by several European states and had used different names to cover his identity.

Rroshi’s mandate was removed in 2016, and he was then fired to be later arrested by the prosecution.

He initially tried to argue against the measures taken against him by addressing all courts in the country, including the constitutional one, but was forced to accept the prosecution’s findings, justifying himself by saying he was negligent while filling the decriminalization form.

 
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, July 19 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic came to Tirana on Wednesday for a two-day visit hosted by Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta, to discuss a possible future strategic cooperation between the countries. 

On Wednesday, Meta welcomed Kitarovic with a state ceremony that was followed by a joint press conference. 

“We have excellent, centuries-long relations with Croatia, share historic ties. Croatia continues to be a strong supporter of the start of Albania’s EU accession talks. Croatia’s EU example and experience is precious to us Albanians.”

Meta also said they’d work on raising the cooperation between them to a strategic level, as there is great opportunities for the entire region to cooperate in the fields of tourism, energy and infrastructure. 

On her side, Kitarovic reconfirmed Croatia’s support towards Albania’s EU membership road, but also raised concerns for the quality of the countries’ shared Adriatic Sea, and the disadvantages it would bring to both if it kept being polluted. 

Kitarovic also met with Prime Minister Edi Rama, Head of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, head of opposition Democratic Party Lulzim Basha and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj.

On Thursday, Kitarovic spoke at the Albanian parliament, where she said that Albania was Croatia’s friend, when its friends were few.

“A lot of Albanians sacrificed themselves for Croatia, and we don’t forget that,” Kitarovic said.

“The opening of the Croatian Embassy to Tirana in 1994 was an important event for the countries’ relations. Now, Croatia and Albania engage in joint Afghanistan operations. Croatia strongly supports Albania’s European perspective, its path towards EU integration and welcomes the progress achieved so far.” 

Last but not least, Kitarovic is to visit Durres, as the city where the croatian environmental protection project for the cities of Berat and Kruja will be launched. 

 
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