New German Ambassador takes office

New German Ambassador takes office

TIRANA, Aug. 20 – Albanian President Ilir Meta received the Letters of Accreditation from the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Albania Peter Zingraf. Meta praised the excellent relations between the two countries and expressed deep appreciation

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President: “Gov’t uses parliament to hide its illegal acts”

President: “Gov’t uses parliament to hide its illegal acts”

TIRANA, Aug. 19 – Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week during an interview for RTV21 the parliament is used to hide the government’s illegal acts.  According to Meta, the “parliament is merely used to cover the illegality of government

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Albania, the controversial media law

Albania, the controversial media law

By Matteo Trevisan  According to the main advocacy organisations, the reform – promoted by Prime Minister Edi Rama since October 2018 to counter the spread of fake news – would include a series of alarming provisions that could jeopardise not

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Albanian crisis affects Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, president says

Albanian crisis affects Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, president says

TIRANA, Aug. 19 – In an interview for RTV21 on Sunday, Albanian President Ilir Meta said the political crisis the country is facing contributes to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, although, in his opinion, the country should not be part of that dialogue

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New Shkodra mayor resigns as prosecution launches investigation in criminal past

New Shkodra mayor resigns as prosecution launches investigation in criminal past

TIRANA, Aug. 16 – Valdrin Pjetri, who won the mayor of Shkodra mandate in the June 30 local elections, announced on Thursday evening his resignation through a status on his Facebook page.  Pjetri was accused three days earlier by the

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WHO says outdated medical equipment hampers country’s medical development

WHO says outdated medical equipment hampers country’s medical development

TIRANA, Aug. 14 – A report describing the main findings and recommendations of a rapid assessment of the current conditions of primary health care in Albania from the World Health Organization found out the PHC (Primary Health Care) centres have

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Illegal migration to Italy increased during 2018

Illegal migration to Italy increased during 2018

TIRANA, Aug. 13 – The number of illegal Albanian immigrants increased during 2018 in the neighboring country, coming second in terms of migration numbers after Morocco.  Compared to a year ago, the number of illegal immigrants increased by almost 30

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Albanian gov’t erects memorial for Turkey’s 2015 coup victims

Albanian gov’t erects memorial for Turkey’s 2015 coup victims

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – A memorial erected in the city centre on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016 to honor the victims of the event raised questions about the role

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Two new SP mayors accused of ties with criminal past

Two new SP mayors accused of ties with criminal past

TIRANA, Aug. 9 – After the prosecution launched on Tuesday an investigation into the past of Shkodra’s newly-elected Socialist Party Mayor Valdrin Pjetri, more individuals with dubious criminal past were reported to be among the SP’s appointed candidates. Due to

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President returns debated Milot-Balldren road concession contract

President returns debated Milot-Balldren road concession contract

TIRANA, Aug. 8 – Albanian President Ilir Meta returned to parliament on Thursday a  concession contract for the construction of the 17.2-kilometer-long Milot-Balldren road, worth 256m euros, whose approval was preceded by heated debate for the high costs and doubts

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 20 – Albanian President Ilir Meta received the Letters of Accreditation from the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Albania Peter Zingraf.

Meta praised the excellent relations between the two countries and expressed deep appreciation for Germany's 30-year support for Albania's development and its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

"Albania will continue to rely on the increasingly close trust and cooperation with our friendly and strategic partner Germany. We welcome the sincere and decisive commitment of the Bundestag to assist Albania on the path towards opening accession negotiations with the European Union and on our country's progress towards European democratic standards, "Meta said.

Meta also expressed gratitude for the great attention Germany attaches to relations with Albania, as well as developments in the region, praising Chancellor Angela Merkel's steadfast vision of integrating the country and the Western Balkans into the EU.

Addressing to Meta the greetings of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Zingraf said that he felt very happy to begin his duties as German Ambassador to Albania.

Having studied French and Italian literature in Aachen, France’s Poitiers and Italy’s Florence, he worked as a research associate at the universities of Aachen and Freiburg im Breisgau.

He is married, with two daughters.

In 1993 he became part of Bonn’s Foreign Service, while in 1994 an official delegate to the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome. In the years to come his career developed in Bonn, Poland’s Warsaw, Berlin, Tanzania, Ireland, Germany again and, now, Albania.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 19 - Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week during an interview for RTV21 the parliament is used to hide the government’s illegal acts. 

According to Meta, the "parliament is merely used to cover the illegality of government acts. So special law for individuals are passed contrary to the Constitution, contrary to Albania’s obligation to the Stabilization Association Process, contrary to the principles of non-discrimination, which are constitutional principles, and so on.”

He primarily accused the government and Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of wanting to eliminate democracy in the country, as well as minority and opposition rights, political dialogue, media freedom and the new justice system.

“At the same time, the opposition, which in my estimation has followed a wrong strategy, that of burning the mandates, not participating in the local elections, ie not registering on time, but also delegitimizing every institution, should also be held accountable, as it could have followed a different policy,” Meta said.

He added the country is going through a political chaos.

“Practically during these 11 years democracy in Albania has been degrading and this has been noticeable in parliament, in all other institutions and above all in the way government decision-making is realized and finally how parliament is used merely to cover up the illegality of government acts,” Meta concluded. 

 
                    [post_title] => President: “Gov’t uses parliament to hide its illegal acts”  
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                    [post_content] => By Matteo Trevisan 

According to the main advocacy organisations, the reform – promoted by Prime Minister Edi Rama since October 2018 to counter the spread of fake news – would include a series of alarming provisions that could jeopardise not only the independence, but survival itself of many Albanian media.

The green light on July 3rd from the Council of Ministers – which furthermore came following the "most serious political and institutional crisis of the last 29 years of democracy" – has stirred, as expected, firm condemnation by Albanian civil society associations  , that regard the amendments presented as "against international best practices that aim the self-regulation of online media and not its regulation by the state, through administrative censorship bodies".

Concerns have also been expressed at the international level, on the occasion of a mission last June  , during which Article 19, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists – CPJ, and the Federation of European Journalists – EFJ met to verify the compliance of the previous draft of the package with the standards defined by the Albanian law and by instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights.

More recent is the declaration of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom – ECPMF, which joined Reporters without Borders – RSF, the International Press Institute – IPI, Article 19, and the Media Organization of South-Eastern Europe – SEEMO in "calling the Albanian government to withdraw the two bills". As we read in the joint statement, "instead of seeking further administrative regulations on defamation, the government should seek its complete decriminalization, as suggested by international best practices".

A "cosmetic" operation

The bills were presented in several versions, making it difficult to identify improvements or issues. If the main concerns over the first version involved the "controversial provisions regarding domain name registration and blocking", in the last draft  – according to experts – this draconian mechanism was eliminated, making seemingly less coercive the nature of amendments that would otherwise have allowed real "state control over the content of online media". Seemingly because, although these changes have been welcomed by the legal review by OSCE Representative  on media freedom Harlem Désir, many provisions remain that seem to herald a true censorship plan disguised as a reform. Specifically, the amendments target the law No. 97/2013 on Audiovisual Media and the Law No. 9918 on Electronic Communications in the Republic of Albania, raising strong concerns about the independence of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and the possibility of excessive penalties that would compromise the survival of many portals. Moreover, too many provisions remain vague and subject to interpretation, which would enable the government to abuse the law extensively. For example, paragraph 3 of article 132 of the Audiovisual Media Act would refer to the possibility of blocking Internet access "in cases when electronic media services 'may abet' criminal offenses of child pornography, encouragement of terrorist acts or national security breach". At this juncture, in addition to the obvious terminological approximation, the problem would derive from the fact that the reference to the "temporary" nature of the block would have been eliminated, paving the way for the interdiction "during an unlimited or not pre-determined period of time". And this would be dangerously linked to the subordination of the Audiovisual Media Authority to the will of the parties. Indeed, according to the legal review by the OSCE Representative, the new provisions proposed for the articles 132/1, 33/1, 55/1, and 53/1 of Law No. 97/2013 would grant the AMA the power to adopt particularly restrictive measures, including the forced removal of contents. A serious problem, since, as highlighted by Besar Likmeta, journalist of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, the AMA would not be "an independent institution, but rather a state body where the chairman and majority of the board are elected by the ruling majority in parliament. The board changes every time the government changes and the same can be said for its rulings and bias to power". Likmeta's opinion finds confirmation in the statement recently published by  ten Albanian human rights organisations, accusing the reform of empowering “a state administrative body to regulate the content of online media outlets, while at the same time [it does] not address the widespread problem of hidden propaganda and disinformation, sponsored by the government, local government units, and political parties", thereby effectively contravening international standards and the principles enshrined in the Constitution. As for the sanctions, Likmeta says, these can range between € 820 and € 8,200 "for the poorly worded and vague infraction of breaching the 'dignity and privacy' of citizens", up to € 820,000 in the event that a person refuses to "abide by AKEP rulings/orders that relate to the acts and decisions of the Complaints Council of AMA, or any other body with legal competences in this field", as stated in the associations' declaration. In practice, as denounced by various stakeholders, the excessive amount of these sanctions may be interpreted as an indirect attempt to threaten the survival of many electronic communications providers, as most of them could not bear the burden of such fines.

Between oligopolies and intimidation

The concerning provisions contained in the anti-defamation package would therefore further complicate the already disastrous situation faced by the Albanian media. Not only because the country's media market is highly concentrated in the hands of potentates with strong political ties – which, according to the Media Ownership Monitor, would control much of the audience and market share – but above all due to the tendency of politicians to attack, verbally and legally, independent media and journalists. Among these is Prime Minister Edi Rama, who recently promised  to sue German investigative journalist Peter Tiede following the disclosure of some wiretaps, which would show several cases of abuse of office by some Socialist Party officials during the 2016 local elections in the municipality of Dibra. Another case  brought to public attention by journalist Artur Cani, concerns Ylli Rakipi and Blendi Fezviu, whose dismissal was allegedly requested directly by the Prime Minister in a meeting with the owners of two television stations. Rakipi, an investigative journalist known for his critical positions towards the government (and subject, among other things, to death threats after the exposure of a corruption case related to the tender of the Outer Ring Road in Tirana), had already been sued for defamation by Rama in January for calling the prime minister "a clown", a "madman", and a man with "below average intelligence".

An ending already written?

Given the solid majority that the Prime Minister has in Parliament, it is not difficult to imagine that the package of amendments will be approved without too many complications. As if that were not enough, someone has raised the danger of a backlash by the government, which would see the introduction of new restrictive clauses linked to the registration of online media before the passage in Parliament scheduled for September. For their part, the associations committed to the defense of freedom of expression have already tuned in to oppose a reform that would not only aggravate the critical situation of the Albanian media, but that would hinder the country's process of integration into the European Union. Significant, therefore, the words that had been addressed by them to Rama last January to request the withdrawal of the bills: "In democratic countries, the aim of the law is to protect citizens from the government and not to protect the government from the citizens". *This publication has been produced within the project European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, co-funded by the European Commission. [post_title] => Albania, the controversial media law [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-the-controversial-media-law [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 22:39:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 20:39:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142916 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142906 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-19 08:39:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-19 06:39:51 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 19 - In an interview for RTV21 on Sunday, Albanian President Ilir Meta said the political crisis the country is facing contributes to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, although, in his opinion, the country should not be part of that dialogue at all.  “This artificial crisis in which Albania finds itself and which the Albanian people don’t deserve, without a doubt is in my opinion related to developments in Kosovo, with the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue,” Meta said.  Meta said the deadlock in Albania is in fact the result of certain individuals’ games who create scenarios that do not serve Albania’s stability and European path, but seek violent conflict.  According to Meta, his motivation to cancel June 30 as the local elections date came from the big tension between the government and the opposition, and both sides’ lack of intent to engage in dialogue.  “This crisis is so artificial in my opinion and it is obvious there is interest for Albania to look bad. When Albania looks bad, this doesn’t help Kosovo, or Albanians in general as a factor that can rightfully impose its rights and legitimate requests. Because they seek to show that we Albanians have a very hard time to create a state,” Meta said. He further spoke about the justice reform and its difference with what he calls the “Ramaform,” as per Prime Minister Edi Rama’s name. According to Meta, the justice reform was supposed to be a necessary reform that would serve the Albanian constitution, but which in its application has blocked the entire justice system. “The truth is that the Council for Justice Appointments (KED) was arbitrarily blocked for more than two years, both in 2017 and in 2018, because our prime minister did not like the very transparent lot, drawn in accordance with the KED law, which selects candidates for the Constitutional Court vacancies and for the High Justice Inspector,” Meta said. Meta said that if deadlines had been respected, Albania would now have a functioning Constitutional Court. “Not to mention then all the developments you know, with the election of the temporary Prosecutor General, who was elected with 69 votes out of the 84 votes needed, which was the way the Albanian Constitution has very clearly selected. So a law was passed to stand over the Constitution. Whoever follows developments knows that first comes the Constitution and then come the laws,” Meta concluded.    [post_title] => Albanian crisis affects Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, president says [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanian-crisis-affects-kosovo-serbia-dialogue-president-says [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 22:33:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 20:33:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142906 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142902 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-16 10:13:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-16 08:13:22 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 16 - Valdrin Pjetri, who won the mayor of Shkodra mandate in the June 30 local elections, announced on Thursday evening his resignation through a status on his Facebook page.  Pjetri was accused three days earlier by the Democratic Party of being convicted in Italian court for narcotics trafficking in 2003 and of extradition from the neighboring country.  The DP presented the original documents proving Peter's conviction by the Italian court. In his Facebook announcement, Pjetri stated that “under these conditions, his attention and energies will now be fully focused on resolving and legally clarifying this event of 17 years ago, the legal responsibilities of which he claimed he was not aware of.  “Aware of the importance of the political image and determined to undertake this legal clarification in the position of an ordinary citizen, without burdening anyone, I decide to resign from the post of Mayor of Shkodra,” Pjetri wrote.  Also on Thursday, the Democratic Party, presenting to the media a luxury hotel in Tirana, which Pjetri co-owns, demanded the confiscation of his property, suspected of stemming from his drug trafficking activity. A day after Pjetri announced his resignation, the General Prosecutor's Office announced that verifications begun on the cleanliness of his figure.  Responding to the DP request dated August 13, 2019, the Prosecutor General's Office announced that “on 05.08.2019, it has registered the request for detailed verification of the subject Valdrin Pjetri, and that the process of full and comprehensive verification has begun, inside and outside the territory of Albania” and that it asked the citizen Valdrin Pjetri “to deposit his typographic traces at the Institute of Scientific Police.” Also today, Rama, via a Twitter status, reacted to Pjetrir's decision to resign as mayor following the allegations by the DP.  “Hiding the event is intolerable and the consequences for Shkodra unjustified!,” Rama wrote. Prime Minister Rama, who has been repeatedly accused of promoting crime-related figures in recent years, said today it’s “time to introduce state-wide deadlines for state verification of candidacies before their registration.” For Rama, the Pjetri case demonstrates the need to launch “state verification of all the self-declarations of politicians and state employees who have signed up. Any false self-declaration should result in criminal exemption and punishment. Individual liability can no longer have a collective cost strand.” In the decriminalization form presented to the Central Election Commission Pjetri noted that he had never been convicted, neither inside nor outside the country. The decriminalization law prohibits Pjetri from exercising a public office.  In the meantime, he runs the risk of being charged with "Forgery of Official Documents" and "False Disclosure". Pjetri has a long career in the Albanian state offices. He has worked in important positions, first in the government of the Democrats and then in the Socialists. Therefore, it is not clear how he managed to survive this long, having been convicted by an Italian court for drug trafficking.      [post_title] => New Shkodra mayor resigns as prosecution launches investigation in criminal past [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => new-shkodra-mayor-resigns-in-light-of-drug-trafficking-accusations-in-italy [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-17 09:08:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-17 07:08:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142902 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142899 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-14 08:11:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-14 06:11:21 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 14 - A report describing the main findings and recommendations of a rapid assessment of the current conditions of primary health care in Albania from the World Health Organization found out the PHC (Primary Health Care) centres have a considerable shortage of diagnostic and treatment equipment and no standard list of equipment.  According to the report, during the mission’s visit, no PHC centres had electrocardiographs, otoscopes or ophthalmoscopes.  “One centre had a functioning X-ray machine from 1918 that deserves a place in a museum. The interviews confirmed patients’ poor access to laboratory services, especially in rural areas. Even for simple blood and urine analysis, patients have to go to polyclinics,” the report said. Further on, the report said the outdated equipment, the lack of qualified specialists, especially at the local level, and the limited budget, puts strains on ensuring equitable access in PHC. Earlier local health experts claimed that the government had mismanaged the health system with PPP concessions, which absorbed millions of euros for secondary services such as sterilization. Experts claim that the best investment in health, especially in the prevention field, is medical equipment. Some time ago a complete refurbishment of the building was carried out at the specialized polyclinic in Tirana on walls and furnishings, but left unchanged the old and high-radiation diagnostic equipment. WHO inspectors also noted that the buildings are massively old. Some facilities have recently been refurbished, but still retain a molded ceiling, no heating and ventilation. Meanwhile, the offices are small and uncomfortable, the report says. Some offices accommodate three to five people, including a patient, a doctor and one or two nurses. [post_title] => WHO says outdated medical equipment hampers country’s medical development [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => who-says-outdated-medical-equipment-hampers-countrys-medical-development [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-15 08:13:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-15 06:13:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142899 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142895 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-13 15:00:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-13 13:00:23 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 13 - The number of illegal Albanian immigrants increased during 2018 in the neighboring country, coming second in terms of migration numbers after Morocco.  Compared to a year ago, the number of illegal immigrants increased by almost 30 percent, (from 2330 in 2017 to 3025 in 2018), Italian media Il Sole 24 reported.  Most of them, according to the published analysis, belong to the group age 17-34 years, with about 1920 individuals identified according to published data. For the age group over 35 years old, there are 1100 Albanian migrants staying in Italy illegally. According to the European Statistics Agency (Eurostat), 27,000 illegal immigrants found themselves in Italy in 2018, about 10,000 less than in 2017. The majority of them were males, young people between 18 and 34 years of age, originating in Morocco, Albania and Tunisia. According to estimates, Italy does not have a higher number of illegal migrants compared to other countries. In recent years, authorities have identified from four to six illegal immigrants per 10,000 inhabitants, far less than those identified in other countries such as Austria or Germany, or even France, the United Kingdom and Spain, not to mention Greece, which has had the highest values ​​for some time. Illegal Albanians in the EU  The number of Albanians who have been unable to obtain the necessary documentation and permits have been forced to live illegally in one of the European Union countries. According to Eurostat alone in 2018, 34,810 illegal Albanians have been identified across the European Union. However, compared to a year ago, their numbers have been declining by 13 percent, from over 40,000 in 2017. Data from the last decade show that the number of Albanians living illegally in the EU has had its ups and downs.  Ten years ago, 2009 marked the record of this decade, with 69,000 Albanians going in Europe. Their numbers then declined, especially after the abolition of visas for Albanians in the Schengen area in 2011, where the number of illegal Albanians was 17,245. Over the years, Greece has reported the highest number of Albanian immigrants living and working without papers. In 2018, the number of Albanians illegally staying in Greece was 11,190, or 32 percent of the total illegal Albanians across the EU. In second place is Germany, where according to Eurostat, 2018 marked 6570 Albanians living there illegally, about 38 percent less than a year ago, followed by France with 4355 and United Kingdom with 3580.  In Italy, during 2018, approximately 3025 Albanians were identified without relevant residence documents, about 8 percent of the total EU illegal migration. Their number in Italy increased by nearly 600 more immigrants compared to a year ago.  2018 saw an increase in the number of illegal Albanian immigrants in the Netherlands as well, leading to the Netherlands seeking to reestablish the visa regime with Albania. In 2018, about 1,000 illegal immigrants were identified in the Netherlands, about 2.3 times more than a year earlier. The number of illegal Albanian immigrants in the Netherlands has increased especially in the last three years. The figures have also been rising in Spain, where in the last year alone 1035 illegal immigrants have been identified, nearly 30 percent more than a year earlier. Since 2014 even migrants identified as illegal in the country of the Iberian Peninsula have been on the rise.   [post_title] => Illegal migration to Italy increased during 2018 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => illegal-migration-to-italy-increased-during-2018 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-14 15:01:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-14 13:01:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142895 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142882 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-12 14:45:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-12 12:45:39 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 - A memorial erected in the city centre on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016 to honor the victims of the event raised questions about the role of Tirana’s municipality and government, both of which avoided giving explanations on the unprecedented event. The decision to erect this memorial was unexpected and came without any notice from the government, while it still unclear who's the decision to do so truly was.  The lack of transparency and seeming intent to keep this act in the secret was further strengthened by Mayor Erion Veliaj, whose answer to journalists’ questions was unclear. Veliaj did not explain whose decision it was to erect the Memorial and what the motives for such a decision were.  Veliaj on Sunday avoided giving direct explanations for the placement of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, in Tirana’s Lake Park.  Veliaj told reporters that "there are over 50 points in the territory where different cases are remembered, and each one is likely to be respected,” but without indicating whether a parallel could be drawn between the other points he referred to and an event closely related to a foreign country and moreover with the internal political developments there. Veliaj limited his reaction to the criticism of such an event, to the respect that must be shown for the dead, avoiding the substance of the debate.  "I would say leave the dead alone, and whoever wants to observe them with a candle, a flower or a prayer, leave them also quiet. Gracious Tirana has room for everyone,” Veliaj said. According to the mayor, the fact that those who raised their voices on the issue of the memorial did not, according to him, express previous concern that the area was previously covered by bushes does not entitle them to express their opinion.  “It doesn't ruin anyone's job. They tell me it's on the corner of the Lake, where most of the complainants don't even remember how it was covered in thorns and how plastic burned there and how it was occupied as a territory,” Veliaj told reporters. The event was attended by the Deputy Mayor of Tirana, Arbjan Mazniku, although there was no announcement on the municipality’s official website about his participation.  On the other hand, naming a street or a park is the responsibility of the municipality and it is the city council that ultimately makes the decision. A look at the decisions published on the City Council website shows no sign of approval of the “July 15th Martyrs Road” and the “July 15th Democracy Park.” In a Facebook post, the Turkish Embassy to Tirana announced that "with the participation of our Albanian brothers and sisters, we successfully and proudly inaugurated the ‘15th of July Street of Martyrs’ and ‘15th of July Democracy Park.’ It seems to be an unusual event, as in Albania there are no monuments dedicated to events in a foreign country, such as the failed coup, which Turkish authorities blamed on cleric Fetullah Gülen and the organization designated terrorist FETO. Actually, Albania is the only country which has erected a memorial about another country’s internal political issues and victims - an act which also brought about unprecedented popular distress, with Albanians claiming it should not be something for Albania to interfere.  Three days after this development in Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced in a photo that he was in Turkey "in the hospitality of President Erdogan at his summer residence in Marmaris", as explained by Rama himself  who has not infrequently been targeted for close relations with the Turkish head of state, Recep Tayipp Erdoğan.  A few days later, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu arrived in Tirana for a visit, who stated in an interview with Turkish media that he had discussed with his Albanian counterpart Sandar Lleshaj and Rama "on the fight against all terrorist organizations, including FETO. They have expressed their commitment in this regard,” the Turkish minister said, adding that he was satisfied with “the prime minister and interior minister's approach to FETO.” The commemoration ceremony of the names of 251 people who died three years ago in Turkey took place on July 15, organized by the Turkish Embassy to Tirana. [post_title] => Albanian gov’t erects memorial for Turkey’s 2015 coup victims [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanian-govt-erects-memorial-for-turkeys-2015-coup-victims [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 08:39:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 06:39:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142882 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142892 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-10 16:37:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-10 14:37:17 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 9 - After the prosecution launched on Tuesday an investigation into the past of Shkodra’s newly-elected Socialist Party Mayor Valdrin Pjetri, more individuals with dubious criminal past were reported to be among the SP’s appointed candidates. Due to the Decriminalization Law (enacted in 2016 after a long parliamentary fight of the opposition aided by European Parliament mediation, providing for officials with previous criminal convictions to be removed from office), it appears that at least two of the newly voted Mayors may lose their local 'mandate'. Similar allegations as towards Pjetri have been raised on the new Mayor of the city of Vora, who has used two different identities, respectively the names of Agim Kajmaku and Jorgo Toto. There are accusations that he has used the false Toto identity during his stay in Greece where he has faced justice for his criminal activities.  The new accusations come a few days after the US State Department banned the entry into the US of the former SP Mayor of Durres, Vangjush Dako, upon accusations of corruption and links with criminal structures as proved by the VoA, BIRN and  Bildzeitung revelations on vote buying. After the June 30 local elections, which saw the complete boycott by the country’s opposition parties, 60 out of 61 new mayors were appointed by the ruling SP party. The Decriminalization law has affected numerous Mayors with heavy criminal records backed by Rama’s SP. The most notorious case being the one of Kavaja where the than Mayor Roshi, had used up to five identities while being sentenced in the past for gang rape and drug trafficking. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has refused to assess the request of three opposition parties to register for the upcoming local elections October 13, as stated by the Presidential Decree of 27 June, 2019. The official deadline to register for the elections of October 13 was 4th of August.  The CEC refusal was due to the "summer leave" of four out of five active members of the CEC, making therefore impossible the necessary quorum for any decision-making. The four members on leave, are all representatives of the Socialist Party. Over the last few weeks, the Italian Rai 3 TV channel aired a five series investigative report on the activities of international organised crime in Italy. During the 2nd report aired on Wednesday, 7th of August, the Italian anti-mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri declared that organized crime in Albania is untouchable.   “They become rich, and they commit crimes. The mafia in Albania is supported and protected by all the levels of the government, from those below up to the highest levels. [...] [In Italy], we can't focus only on our mafia, but we have to worry even more for the Albanian one. They are worrisome. [...]. They transport to Italy alongside with cannabis, also cocaine, which they go and bring in themselves from Latin America,” he said.    [post_title] => Two new SP mayors accused of ties with criminal past [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => two-new-sp-mayors-accused-of-ties-with-criminal-past [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-13 16:57:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:57:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142892 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142871 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-08 23:26:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-08 21:26:57 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 8 - Albanian President Ilir Meta returned to parliament on Thursday a  concession contract for the construction of the 17.2-kilometer-long Milot-Balldren road, worth 256m euros, whose approval was preceded by heated debate for the high costs and doubts on the possibility of the private company ANK Ltd for its realization. According to Meta “the Law and the Concession Contract attached are proposed, drafted, signed and adopted contrary to the principle of the rule of law. This law approves a Concession Agreement where the will of the Albanian Government in this process is formed in open opposition to the public interest and in violation of the principle of free competition and equality before the law.” In his argument, he further states that "the contract concluded between the contracting authority and the economic operator is formalized through a process not at all transparent to the public and without a legal basis for negotiating its price", and that "the lack of a clear economic evaluation creates a risk of threat to the state's finances. The President notes that "there does not appear to be a full and objective feasibility study designed and approved by the responsible state institutions charged with the law with this task", and "no approval has been given to this project by the Ministry of Finance and Economy, requirements of the act regulating this process.”  According to him, this project "seriously endangers the state budget, as it does not have a precise calculation of its effects on the country's economy".  For Meta "the purpose of the law approval of this contract is only to cover the unlawfulness committed by the contracting authority and the Albanian government, in order to avoid liability in this process and to cover any unlawfulness through the law.”  The Public Private Partnership formula stipulates that the works will be financed by the company itself, with the state then repaying it over a 13 year period by paying in installments. In the case of the Milot-Balldren Road, company A.K.N. shpk has stated that it will borrow 70m euros, invest 52m euros of its capital, and take 19.5m euros from suppliers.  However, officially the company turns out to have, according to its 2018 balance sheet, a capital of just 3.4 million euros The road includes in addition to the main axis and the construction of secondary roads, two bridges and two 850 meters long tunnels. Initially, the company had foreseen the construction of only one tunnel in its bid, while in the second phase it had undertaken the construction of another tunnel, but without claiming any additional value. In 2017, the company estimated a construction cost of € 63 million and a maintenance cost of € 3.5 million, while the following year the cost increased by more than twice, while maintenance increased by more than 5 times. The authorities have not given any public explanation for these allegations, which have been raised more than once by the opposition, but have merely stated that the road will be of European standards, that its costs increase due to the construction of secondary roads and joint connectors, from the construction of two additional bridges and tunnels and that the cost of maintenance is calculated in the final cost. Prior to its adoption in parliament, the Democratic Party reiterated its allegations that “with the Milot-Balldre concession, Edi Rama broke every record of corruption and clientelism. Within a year, Edi Rama has given the family of his personal friend, Ndue Kola, 526m euros or nearly 5 percent of National Production through today's concession and the Arbri Road concession, which is being built by the same family.” The implementation of PPP projects by the Albanian government has been viewed with concern by international institutions. On July 11, in its Business Climate Report in Albania, the US State Department stated that “the increasing use of Private Public Partnership contracts has narrowed opportunities for competition, including for foreign investors, in infrastructure and other sectors.  Poor cost-benefit analysis and lack of technical expertise in the design and monitoring of PPP contracts are ongoing concerns. By the end of 2018, the government had signed more than 200 PPP contracts.” Concerns have also been voiced by the International Monetary Fund. In an interview with Voice of America, a few weeks ago, IMF Chief of Mission for Albania Jan Kees Martijn said that “we have emphasized that PPPs bring risks to the budget. So it is very important to make sure that when considering these projects there is a careful analysis of the value of the investment, the risk that is being undertaken and a close monitoring of the situation if these risks materialize. We have noticed that these measures have not always been implemented. We have also emphasized the need to stay away from unsolicited proposals, ie PPPs that are not proposed by the government itself but when the proposal comes from an investor.” The Albanian parliament approved during its last session amendments to the law on concessions by banning unsolicited bids in the case of road axes construction. The draft law, which was written last year, initially provided for the measure to take effect on July 1. But a proposal shortly before the parliamentary session by former Economy and Finance Minister Arben Ahmetaj postponed the deadline to 1 October.  It was precisely this change that prompted President Meta to return this law on Wednesday.    [post_title] => President returns debated Milot-Balldren road concession contract [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => president-returns-debated-milot-balldren-road-concession-contract [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-12 14:45:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-12 12:45:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142871 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142920 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-20 12:40:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-20 10:40:05 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 20 – Albanian President Ilir Meta received the Letters of Accreditation from the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Albania Peter Zingraf. Meta praised the excellent relations between the two countries and expressed deep appreciation for Germany's 30-year support for Albania's development and its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. "Albania will continue to rely on the increasingly close trust and cooperation with our friendly and strategic partner Germany. We welcome the sincere and decisive commitment of the Bundestag to assist Albania on the path towards opening accession negotiations with the European Union and on our country's progress towards European democratic standards, "Meta said. Meta also expressed gratitude for the great attention Germany attaches to relations with Albania, as well as developments in the region, praising Chancellor Angela Merkel's steadfast vision of integrating the country and the Western Balkans into the EU. Addressing to Meta the greetings of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Zingraf said that he felt very happy to begin his duties as German Ambassador to Albania. Having studied French and Italian literature in Aachen, France’s Poitiers and Italy’s Florence, he worked as a research associate at the universities of Aachen and Freiburg im Breisgau. He is married, with two daughters. In 1993 he became part of Bonn’s Foreign Service, while in 1994 an official delegate to the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome. In the years to come his career developed in Bonn, Poland’s Warsaw, Berlin, Tanzania, Ireland, Germany again and, now, Albania. 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