Thousands protest against Socialist gov’t in Albania

Thousands protest against Socialist gov’t in Albania

TIRANA, April 14 – The opposition protest that took place on Saturday evening ended after four hours of tension between protesters and the police, with local media reporting the police used tear-gas against civilians once more. Addressing the supporters at

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President condemns police violence against residents seeking fair compensation

President condemns police violence against residents seeking fair compensation

TIRANA, April 9 – Albanian President Ilir Meta expressed on Tuesday concern over the demolition of several houses in the capital’s Bregu i Lumit (River Bank) area and over the physical rows between protesting residents and police forces since the

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Over 60 percent of Albanians distrust ongoing justice reform

Over 60 percent of Albanians distrust ongoing justice reform

TIRANA, April 10 – A recent survey conducted by the Albanian Helsinki Committee and the Open Society Foundation, where 416 citizens from the entire country were interviewed, found that 63 percent of Albanians do not believe in the ongoing justice

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Albanian journalist responds to PM Rama with countersuit over media freedom

Albanian journalist responds to PM Rama with countersuit over media freedom

TIRANA, April 10 – After Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama demanded 8,000 euros as compensation for alleged defamation against Albanian journalist Ylli Rakipi, the latter initiated a counter-suit on Tuesday, saying Rama should pay him double the amount. Rama’s suit

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Three heads of prosecutions dismissed under vetting process

Three heads of prosecutions dismissed under vetting process

TIRANA, April 10 – The head of the Serious Crimes Appeal Fehmi Petku, head of the Durres Serious Crimes Appeals Ferdinand Elezi and Head of Saranda’s Prosecution Office Edison Ademi were dismissed from duty by the Independent Qualification Commission under

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Palmer urges opposition to join upcoming local elections during Tirana visit

Palmer urges opposition to join upcoming local elections during Tirana visit

TIRANA, April 9 – Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Matthew Palmer kicked off his visit to Tirana on Monday with a long meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama, during a time of unprecedented political crisis, when the opposition

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Int’l airport under attack, national security questioned

Int’l airport under attack, national security questioned

TIRANA, April 10 – Close to €10 million were allegedly stolen during an armed robbery on Tuesday at the National “Mother Teresa” Airport (Rinas), in the outskirts of Tirana. According to media reports, everything happened very fast, as three people

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MoI says FRONTEX is vital in controlling refugee flow at Albanian-Greek border

MoI says FRONTEX is vital in controlling refugee flow at Albanian-Greek border

TIRANA, April 9 – Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said on Monday Albania cannot manage the potential refugee flux making its way through the country on its own. Lleshaj said during a conference with Czech counterpart Jan Hamáček that there

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Italian Ambassador: “Majority should take a step back, crisis could affect EU future”

Italian Ambassador: “Majority should take a step back, crisis could affect EU future”

TIRANA, April 9 – Italian Ambassador to Tirana Alberto Cuttillo said on Monday concerning the country’s deadlock that the governing Socialist majority should take a step backwards, as the crisis could potentially affect Brussels’ decision to open accession negotiations with

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EC to assess public procurement of Albanian gov’t under possible SAA violations

EC to assess public procurement of Albanian gov’t under possible SAA violations

TIRANA, April 8 – The European Commission announced in a letter-response to the MEP Paul Rübig of the European People’s Party that it will conduct a general evaluation of publicly-debated, Rama government procurements and those with respect to the construction

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 14 - The opposition protest that took place on Saturday evening ended after four hours of tension between protesters and the police, with local media reporting the police used tear-gas against civilians once more.

Addressing the supporters at the headquarters of the Democratic Party, head of DP Lulzim Basha said that “you have ultimately sealed, for the opposition and for all honest Albanians, Edi Rama’s resignation as a non-negotiable condition for a transitional government that will prepare free and fair elections.”

According to Basha, the government “once again invaded the mothers and sisters, the children and the youth, and the protesting citizens. Well, let them know that no illegal action, teargas, arrests or attempts to intimidate and scare people will succeed. The end of Edi Rama has been signed and stamped by the sovereign people,” said Basha.

In a Twitter post that shortly followed Basha’s speech, Prime Minister Edi Rama said “the protest was not worthy, but a shame for the DP and Socialist Movement for Integration. These incurable losers are simply daily raising the bill that the sovereign will give them on June 30.”

The tense atmosphere that began in front of the government building was repeated in front of the parliament's headquarters, where protesters gathered in response to the call of opposition leaders. The police intervened with tear gas to disperse groups of protesters who tried to push the police line, while protesters responded with smoke grenades and firecrackers.

The teargas only restrained protesters for moments before they returned in front of the parliament’s entrance; this situation was repeated several times. Protesters stood persistently in front of the parliament's headquarters, as did opposition leaders, while smoke grenades, firecrackers and the occasional Molotov bombs were constantly thrown at the parliament. 

According to the police, at least five of its employees were injured and hospitalized. On its part, the opposition has said 15 protesters, among them also journalists, have been injured or have been experiencing breathing problems due to the use of tear gas.

Earlier, in front of the government headquarters, where opposition supporters initially gathered in the evening, protesters managed to break the police line in front of the central entrance of the building shortly after the end of Basha’s speech. 

They stayed for a few minutes on the stairs of the Prime Minister’s Office, while the police forces did not intervene to repel them. Meanwhile, President Ilir Meta called for a peaceful protest and to avoid confrontations.

Through a Twitter post, Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj condemned the opposition’s action.

“Even today, blind violence is affecting constitutional institutions and the Albanian State Police. Injuring police forces is a shame and gross violation of the law and the perpetrators will be held accountable,” wrote Lleshaj.

On his part, Rama expressed solidarity towards the police forces.

“Remorse for the police wounded by the blows of the two blind parties marching into the road of self-destruction,” Rama wrote.

This was the 9th opposition protest since February, and the third in front of the government headquarters. The opposition was withdrawn by the parliament and its deputies handed the mandates to the block. An extreme decision openly criticized by the international community. Earlier this week during his visit to Tirana, Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State Matthew Palmer called on opposition parties to re-engage in the political process, stressing that local elections in June are the best opportunity to do so first.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 9 - Albanian President Ilir Meta expressed on Tuesday concern over the demolition of several houses in the capital’s Bregu i Lumit (River Bank) area and over the physical rows between protesting residents and police forces since the beginning of the week.

Meta said through an official statement that the intervention of public authorities was beyond any kind of logic, while police forces’ intrusion inside residents’ houses brutal and completely non-professional.

“The time of intervention to get citizens out of their houses and the way of action seem not like a state logic, but like a sneaky method that does not reflect any legitimate support,” Meta wrote.

According to him, the use of tear gas to force residents outside their homes is unacceptable.

Further on, Meta urged the the prosecution and the People's Advocate to urgently investigate all actions of the State Police and put the perpetrators before justice.

He also urged the government, the municipality and the police to respect human rights and freedoms, and to enforce legal proceedings on expropriations.

Dozens of police forces have been going at the Bregu i Lumit area on Monday and Tuesday in support of Territorial Inspectors to demolish some houses which stand on the way of a new boulevard being built in the capital, mainly built on the side of the river.

Police forces joined the demolition process because residents have protested the municipality’s decision, claiming they have not been given fair compensation.

“They initially evaluated our houses, but then the legalization process was cancelled. My house was initially evaluated at 3.9 million Albanian lek,” one resident told local media.

Some of the protesting residents demanding fair compensation were taken to the police department, while a total of 38 houses are to be demolished. 

According to local media, the legalization process was terminated because residents had built their houses on state-owned ground.

Tirana’s Mayor Erion Veliaj has offered protesting residents social housings, in addition to monthly rent bonuses. 

In a TV-interview on Tuesday, Veliaj said that his conscience is clear.

“My conscience is clear, because the new boulevard will be construct and although these citizens have stolen the land there, we are not kicking them out on the street, but offering them shelter in social housings. Tax payers have already paid for social housing, so they cannot pay a second time so they can receive compensation in cash,” Veliaj said. 

Meanwhile, the country’s opposition Democratic Party, in support of the protests, condemned the use of teargas on the residents, in like with Meta.

So far, at least three residents have received medical help, 76-year-old Uzur Mandri, who was operated following head injuries, as well as Flora Mandri and Xhabir Boleci. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 10 - A recent survey conducted by the Albanian Helsinki Committee and the Open Society Foundation, where 416 citizens from the entire country were interviewed, found that 63 percent of Albanians do not believe in the ongoing justice reform.

The survey was centered on the following four questions: “do you believe you are sufficiently informed on the vetting process?” “Do you sufficiently understand this process, in case you have followed it?” “if you have followed the process, do you believe it is righteous based on the results so far?” and “do you believe the vetting will really clean the justice system and make it better and more trustworthy for citizens?” 

For the first two questions, the answers were mainly positive, where 67 percent of the surveyed said they are informed on the vetting process and 85 percent of those who have followed it said they understand it.

However, when it comes to believing the vetting process will be a just and impartial process which will improve the justice system, the majority of those surveyed - 63 percent - answered negatively.

According to these results, one of the vetting process’ main goals - to increase trust towards an independent justice system - has failed, because most of Albanians, despite their support towards the country’s eventual EU integration, don’t believe that the justice reform will bring an improvement to the country’s state of law.

These results match several surveys conducted lately showing that more than half of Albanians - around 60 percent - want to leave the country, looking for a better future and standard of living.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 10 - After Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama demanded 8,000 euros as compensation for alleged defamation against Albanian journalist Ylli Rakipi, the latter initiated a counter-suit on Tuesday, saying Rama should pay him double the amount.

Rama’s suit against Rakipi, journalist and former media owner currently running the TV show ‘The Unexposed,’ was filed in January of this year over an opinion piece that aired last October, where Rakipi called Rama a “clown,” “madman” and an individual “with below average intelligence.” 

According to Rama’s lawsuit, the opinion piece not only is inaccurate, but also caused offence as it “attacked the plaintiff using offensive and derogatory language.”

Further on, Rakipi’s opinion piece criticized Rama’s painting, a hobby remaining from his past as a painter, describing it as a “doodling.”

Rama said the opinion piece is an “attack on his personality and dignity” which “damages the public’s perception in an irreversible way,” as per the lawsuit.

Rakipi’s counter-lawsuit demands Rama pay him 16,000 euros.

“The aim of his attacks against me is not just to damage my reputation but to close down my show,” Rakipi told journalists outside court on Tuesday.

“This is a political trial against a TV show that has exposed government dealings,” he added.

Last year, Rakipi, through his TV show, reported on how a US-based ghost company managed to win two contracts mounting to almost 30 million euros from the Albanian Road Authority using false documents and the government’s practice of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), in addition to reporting a number of corruption cases linked to the Socialist government.

As a result of his work, Rakipi also reported by the end of December that he received a number of threats for his life, right after exposing the Great Ring scandal, which saw the publication of forged documents that DH Albania - branch of US Dunwell Habermann - had used to win the government tender for the reconstruction of parts of the road.

The area’s inhabitants have been protesting against the Great Ring project for months now, as its completion foresees the illegal forced eviction lacking proper compensation - another violation of international human rights laws. 

Meanwhile, Rakipi’s comments concerning Rama’s attacks on media freedom in the country have been also mirrored by a number of international organizations, such as Reporters Without Borders. 

The RWB has conducted studies that show 90 percent of Albania’s media market is owned by a handful of owners, the majority of whom politically-affiliated, while Rama himself has time and time again publicly attacked journalists, calling them “ignorant,” “garbage bins,” “charlatans” and “public enemies.” 

The latest in Rama’s series of media attacks was his intention to introduce a law that will force all media portals to register with a government department which will be granted the right to shut down or block the websites it wants based on “fake news” or “defamation” allegations. 

This draft law has been currently paused after receiving condemnation by local and international media freedom and human rights organizations. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-10 10:01:22
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 10 - The head of the Serious Crimes Appeal Fehmi Petku, head of the Durres Serious Crimes Appeals Ferdinand Elezi and Head of Saranda’s Prosecution Office Edison Ademi were dismissed from duty by the Independent Qualification Commission under the vetting process on Wednesday.

The IQC found issues with all three judges’ wealth justification, in addition to other violations.

In Petku’s case, information received by the Directorate of Securing Classified Information also raised doubts on Petku maintaining contact with people belonging to organized crime networks, as well as involvement with passive corruption. 

Concerns were also raised for the prosecution’s professional performance.

While Elezi was dismissed over issues with justifying two owned apartments, Ademi’s dismissal came over troubles with his professionalism.

The trial panel mentioned at least two cases of ethical violations - the first related to his phone communication with a person whom he had investigated for illegal possession of weapons, and the second for allowing a person with criminal precedent pass through the Morina Customs.
                    [post_title] => Three heads of prosecutions dismissed under vetting process 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-10 07:30:54
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-10 05:30:54
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 9 - Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Matthew Palmer kicked off his visit to Tirana on Monday with a long meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama, during a time of unprecedented political crisis, when the opposition has withdrawn from parliament by resigning its mandates and chosen to protest to demand the departure of Rama and the establishment of a caretaker government to prepare the country for early elections. 

It is for this reason that Palmer's visit was anticipated with a special interest in Tirana, although according to diplomatic sources, it was previously scheduled and part of a series of diplomatic visits in several countries in the region.

In February, after the opposition’s violent protest in front of the government headquarters and the announcement of its decision to “burn mandates”, the US official was reported to have called the two main opposition leaders, head of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha and head of the Socialist Movement for Integration Monika Kryemadhi.

A State Department spokesman told VOA at that time that Palmer "advised" the two party leaders “against the coordinated and massive resignations of lawmakers from parliament, as this would undermine reform efforts and would hurt an important institution of democracy” as well as reject and publicly condemn all violence.

Mr. Palmer's meeting with Prime Minister Rama lasted about 90 minutes and it was Rama who later briefed on the topics of conversation through a Twitter post. 

“Excellent bilateral relations, Albania's European integration, Kosovo-Serbia dialogue and political situation in the country, in a fruitful conversation that found us in full agreement with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Palmer,” wrote Rama listing the issue of domestic political developments at the end of the list of topics discussed with the US official, thus rejecting rumors that the purpose of the visit was an attempt to resolve the political crisis.

During an interview for the media on Tuesday, however, Palmer spoke about the deadlock, saying it encourages the opposition to seek ways to re-engage in the political process and participate in the upcoming local elections as the only solution to the deadlock.

“Albania has a government elected according to the rules, is a US partner with whom we work well and closely. Government institutions are functional, legitimate, Albania has no problem in making decisions, approving laws, and I trust that this government will lead the country towards a European future, will be able to continue to act in the fight against organized crime and corruption, the implementation of the judicial reform, the completion of the vetting that is important to give Albanians trust in the administration of justice,” Palmer said.

Basha, on his side, described his meeting with Palmer on Twitter as an open and constructive conversation on the situation: the lack of the constitutional and high courts, impunity, crime, corruption and the political crisis.

“Joint commitment to democracy, the rule of law and good governance as the only path to stability and Albania in the EU,” Basha wrote.

Meanwhile, Kryemadhi briefly said that she is not authorized to speak on the conversation they had with Palmer.

“Palmer expressed his own options from his point of view. We expressed our options from our point of view. Of course, they are in agreement with the US State Department's report on combating corruption, seizing the state, all other problems, but it is very important to continue with the final settlement and end the Albanian transition. Albania belongs to the EU,” said Kryemadhi. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-09 18:22:29
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 10 - Close to €10 million were allegedly stolen during an armed robbery on Tuesday at the National “Mother Teresa” Airport (Rinas), in the outskirts of Tirana.

According to media reports, everything happened very fast, as three people inside a van from the Tax Agency Inspectorate managed to enter Rinas Airport around 3 p.m., pretending to be tax agents. 

They were further reported to have demolished the guarding entrances by breaking through the fire emergency door and driving to the Austrian Airlines plane, which was loading up cash from different banks through an armored private security agency car.

They then managed to get inside the plane, at the luggage area, from where they stole cash reported to amount to 10 million euros. 

It was reported the robbers had silicon masks on that made made their face identification impossible and wore military uniforms, while bearing Kalashnikovs, guns and hand grenades.

On their way out of the airport, after the robbery alarm had been rung, the robbers also encountered a Rapid Intervention Force patrol car, engaging in a shootout that left one of the robbers dead, while the others managed to escape. 

The police found two vehicles in its chase after the robbers, one of which was set on fire.

While multiple units have been put in pursuit of the robbers, it is reported four banning orders have so far been issued, while at least forty people have been accompanied for interrogation.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the robbery, the issue of airport security has come under fire by all political actors in the country, while the government blamed the Chinese company running the airport for the robbery.

This is the third robbery taking place at Rinas or in its proximity. 

 

Media reveals dead robber was sought by Greek justice after escaping Trikalla prison 

On Wednesday, the identity of the robber who ended up dead after the shootout was revealed as being Admir Murataj, a high-risk individual who is also believed to have been the brain behind the most recent Rinas robbery.

Murataj has used several fake identities and was also allegedly being sought by the Greek justice for escaping the Greek Trikalla prison six years ago (2013), where he was sentenced for carrying another armed robbery.

After escaping, he had returned to Albania, where he began a series of heists whose main objective were robbing banks during their cash transportation. 

The first heist happened in December 2015, close to villages Berxulle and Domje, where cash from a second-level bank was stolen. 

The second heist happened on February 2017, when robbers ambushed a blinded car transporting money to Rinas. 

Grenades and guns were found in Murataj’s body on Tuesday, while some media have reported he might have been shot dead by the other robbers on the way out of the airport.

Murataj’s brother spoke for the media on Wednesday, saying Admir was only a tool in the hands of the heist’s real organizers, who he said are still to be uncovered. 

Murataj’s partners managed to escape the police by using a third car, which police forces found on Wednesday inside a tunnel. 

An operation has been ongoing since the day of the heist, while police has reported the robbers have been identified. 

 

Gov’t blames Chinese concessionaire for security breach

Tuesday’s robbery raised major security concerns over Albania’s sole international airport, especially since this is the third robbery taking place there or in its proximity. 

Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said in a press conference that took place 24 hours after the robbery that the Chinese company in charge of Rinas security neglected its contract and failed to ensure a proper security system. 

“The concessionaire has not only refused to comply with the numerous State Police requests to take measures in terms of physical security, but in many cases has not even cared to at least formally reply to official correspondence,” Lleshaj said.

Further on, Lleshaj said that all measures to be taken by the State Police following this event will make sure to guarantee national security, as well as the safety of life and property.

“Regarding the dynamics of this event, I have to say that the rapid, professional and determined State Police reaction resulted in the perpetrators of the attack leaving behind numerous material evidence which are now subject to the relevant procedures,” Lleshaj said.

According to Lleshaj, the troubled relationship with the Chinese company running Rinas began after the 2016 robbery.

Through a twitter post, Prime Minister Edi Rama said “the Chinese company which bought the airport from the previous one failed to guarantee security. The Albanian state will accept no justification from the company and will take control of the external perimeter and internal security.”

However, the Chinese company also reacted to the accusations, calling them “inaccurate” and a “misinformation of the public and blame, as a recurring scenario, for a heavy accusation that does cannot stand on the shoulders of a foreign concessionaire without sidelining Concession Contract requirements that Tirana International Airport needs meet daily with regard to airport security.”

Regarding statements that the company failed to notify the robbery in time or reply to official correspondence, the company states that it was “correct in fulfilling its duties in relation to the event according to all the rules and procedures. The investigative authorities have been handed over all the documents proving that this notification was made in time towards the operational police station in Rinas.”

Following the polemics, it was reported on Wednesday that army forces will be engaged from now on to ensure the airport is secure, while the police role and responsibilities will increase. 

 

President: “Recurring robberies indicate severe lack of security institutions” 

In an official statement released by the presidency, President Ilir Meta said Rinas security was also the subject of conversation of the National Security Council one year ago.

“Based on the preliminary reports followed by the responsible institutions, I have raised in particular the concern about the lack of clear responsibilities on security at Mother Teresa Airport and the lack of access and coordination for the proper intervention of the State Police in case of,” stressed Meta.

According to Meta, everything that was decided during that NSC meeting was officially delegated to all responsible institutions and all NSC members according to the respective responsibilities, on June 8, 2018.

“Among these tasks, an urgent establishment of a joint working group under the direction of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy has been requested for the treatment and final solution of all security issues at the Mother Teresa Airport, as evidenced also during the robbery which took place within the airport.” 

 

Opposition: “The state has fallen” 

For the Albanian opposition, the airport robbery is a clear indicator that “the state has fallen.”

“When in Rinas, which is supposed to be the area with the highest security in the country, an armed robbery is carried out on an international line plane in the middle of the day, everyone understands at what level is the police and at what level is the order and public security” said Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha, who in the evening called the deployment of military armed forces in the airport’s vicinity “unconstitutional and illegal.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Socialist Movement for Integration parliamentary group Petrit Vasili, said earlier in the day that “Albania's image has suffered an irreparable shock yesterday. Order is going from bad to worse. And instead of reflecting, the state is looking to remove the guarantees and responsibilities, clearly indicating that the security of the country is in the hands of the Lord, or rather in the hands of the criminals, but not in the hands of the state, whose sole duty is to make their lives easier, instead of harder.”

 
                    [post_title] => Int’l airport under attack, national security questioned
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                (
                    [ID] => 141301
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-04-09 15:44:50
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-09 13:44:50
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 9 - Albanian Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj said on Monday Albania cannot manage the potential refugee flux making its way through the country on its own. 

Lleshaj said during a conference with Czech counterpart Jan Hamáček that there is information “about the circulation through social media of the efforts of organizing a refugee caravan from Greece to Europe.”

He further implied that Albania has limited capacity to expect a potential influx of refugees who could move to Albania through its border with Greece when he noted that “Albania has the capacities it has and can not expand them every time a refugee wave is activated.”

Lleshaj called the management of refugee inflows “a  difficult and multi-dimensional challenge to manage and a situation that is hard to deal with from only one country.”

“The situation is being kept in constant control, Albania has the capacity to partially keep the situation under check, but certainly our part only is not enough, this is a big issue that goes beyond the size of Albania and the region,” Lleshaj said.

He recalled the difficult 2015 refugee situation, termed the year of the crisis in Europe because hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq flooded Europe  through the Mediterranean Sea to escape war and persecution.

In November 2015, about 160,000 refugees settled in the reception centers of Greece.

However, recent events at the Greek-Albanian border show refugees’ goal is to flee to North Europe, through Albania or Macedonia. According to Lleshaj, the situation can only be managed with the help of European partners.

“Albania will be able to manage the situation and keep it under control as it is much better coordinated with its European and FRONTEX partners currently located on the common border of Albania with Greece,” Lleshaj said.

Albania is the first non-EU member that signed last year's EU border management agreement, known as the FRONTEX (European Border and Coast Guard Agency) agreement. This agreement allows the EU to coordinate the operational cooperation with Albania on the management of the EU's external borders.

The focus of the cooperation is illegal migration, migration flows and cross-border crime. Since the deal with FRONTEX, last year, the technical and operational assistance of the EU has increased in Albania's borders. Effective EU external borders management, controlling potential migratory flows, the fight against smuggling of immigrants continue to be important challenges for Albania, the region and the EU.

 
                    [post_title] => MoI says FRONTEX is vital in controlling refugee flow at Albanian-Greek border
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            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 141305
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-04-09 15:00:47
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-09 13:00:47
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 9 - Italian Ambassador to Tirana Alberto Cuttillo said on Monday concerning the country’s deadlock that the governing Socialist majority should take a step backwards, as the crisis could potentially affect Brussels’ decision to open accession negotiations with Albania.

He also answered questions about the opposition’s decision to resign its parliamentary mandates collectively and continue organizing anti-government rallies that aim the withdrawal of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the establishment of a caretaker government which can foster early elections.

“The resignation of mandates has surprised us. The majority should take a step backwards. The political crisis could affect Brussels’ decision to open negotiations,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the international community in Albania has only spoken against the opposition’s protests and mandates’ resignation, while not addressing the mounting allegations against Rama’s government.

First, news that the biggest part of the government tender to build part of the Great Ring road – a project already contradicted by the area’s citizens for violating their property rights – was awarded to a US offshore and its Albanian branch that had no legal or valid basis and was possibly supported by the Albanian government broke out.

Secondly, a VOA and BIRN piece revealed that important SP lawmakers and other officials are being currently under prosecutorial investigation for possibly participating in ballot buying with the help of the heads of criminal organizations in the country.

In addition to these scandals, during December, the Socialist government faced massive university student protests demanding an improved education system in the country by abolishing the SP’s educational reform, which they deemed unconstitutional.

The protests led Rama to completely reshuffle his government cabinet and replace his main ministers with fresh names – a choice widely criticized by independent experts, particularly as a number of Rama’s appointments either didn’t belong in the political sphere, or consisted of inexperienced, Kosovo nationals.

 
                    [post_title] => Italian Ambassador: “Majority should take a step back, crisis could affect EU future” 
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            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 141289
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-04-08 20:11:52
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-08 18:11:52
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 8 - The European Commission announced in a letter-response to the MEP Paul Rübig of the European People's Party that it will conduct a general evaluation of publicly-debated, Rama government procurements and those with respect to the construction of the Vlora airport and the establishment of the Air Albania airline in particular.

The answer was given by the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn on behalf of the European Commission, when Rübig raised the question as to what the EC thinks about the concerns raised by the media that Air Albania was created as a public-private partnership outside of the procurement rules and the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), which obliges Albania to open public procurements and establish equal terms for European companies and non-European or Albanian companies. 

“The Commission is aware of complaints concerning the possible violation of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with respect to the construction of the airport in Vlora and establishing Air Albania airline. According to the SAA, the award of public contracts on the basis of non-discrimination and reciprocity, in particular in the World Trade Organisation context, is a key objective. The services of the Commission regularly underline this in their discussions with the Albanian authorities,” the EC answer read.

“In general,” it follows, “the role of the Commission services is to monitor the development of the legal framework in Albania, assessing its compliance with the EU acquis and the commitments undertaken by Albania towards the EU, supporting the Albanian authorities in this process. While no outright breach of the SAA between the EU and Albania could be established in these checks so far, these cases will of course be considered in the overall assessment of Albania's approximation to the EU acquis. A broader and deeper assessment of the public procurement and competition/State aid framework in Albania is already planned through various technical engagements in the upcoming months.”

The same question was raised about the Vlora Airport, for which the Albanian Parliament, upon the request of Prime Minister Edi Rama, approved an extraordinary law for direct negotiations with several Turkish companies. The deadline set by law for negotiation has expired a long time ago, while the government has not yet disclosed what outcome the negotiations had.

However, the approach followed for reaching this agreement known as the "Special Negotiation Procedure" has raised concerns about direct and unrestricted procurement, bypassing current public procurement laws and public-private partnership, as well as potential violations of the rules of the SAA and World Trade Organization rules.

The Albanian government has so far adopted five special laws that essentially skip the competition and appear to establish direct procurement in violation of the EU Stabilization and Association Agreement and the WTO membership rules. The laws have not brought any consequences so far, but the EU is involved in the debate on two of these four laws - that for the National Theater and the Vlora Airport.

 

Full question to the EC for written answer by Paul Rübig:

According to several media reports, there have been a number of violations of public procurement and competition law in Albania in connection with the creation of the new airline ‘Air Albania’ and the construction of an airport in Vlora. They point out that provisions of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement have been violated and that WTO rules have also been broken. According to these media reports, the relevant Albanian control authorities have subsequently failed to play their supervisory role properly.
  1. Does the Commission agree with the assessment of these media reports that public procurement and competition law have been violated in this instance?
  2. If so, what practical measures will the Commission take to ensure that Albania complies with and implements all the public procurement and competition rules in the above-mentioned cases and more generally in the future and thus meets all its obligations under the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement and WTO rules?
    Answer given by Mr Hahn on behalf of the European Commission The Commission is aware of complaints concerning the possible violation of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with respect to the construction of the airport in Vlora and establishing Air Albania airline. According to the SAA, the award of public contracts on the basis of non-discrimination and reciprocity, in particular in the World Trade Organisation context, is a key objective. The services of the Commission regularly underline this in their discussions with the Albanian authorities. In general, the role of the Commission services is to monitor the development of the legal framework in Albania, assessing its compliance with the EU acquis and the commitments undertaken by Albania towards the EU, supporting the Albanian authorities in this process. While no outright breach of the SAA between the EU and Albania could be established in these checks so far, these cases will of course be considered in the overall assessment of Albania's approximation to the EU acquis. A broader and deeper assessment of the public procurement and competition/State aid framework in Albania is already planned through various technical engagements in the upcoming months.   [post_title] => EC to assess public procurement of Albanian gov’t under possible SAA violations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ec-to-assess-public-procurement-of-albanian-govt-under-possible-saa-violations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-09 18:22:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-09 16:22:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141289 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141361 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-04-14 22:42:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-14 20:42:09 [post_content] => TIRANA, April 14 - The opposition protest that took place on Saturday evening ended after four hours of tension between protesters and the police, with local media reporting the police used tear-gas against civilians once more. Addressing the supporters at the headquarters of the Democratic Party, head of DP Lulzim Basha said that “you have ultimately sealed, for the opposition and for all honest Albanians, Edi Rama’s resignation as a non-negotiable condition for a transitional government that will prepare free and fair elections.” According to Basha, the government “once again invaded the mothers and sisters, the children and the youth, and the protesting citizens. Well, let them know that no illegal action, teargas, arrests or attempts to intimidate and scare people will succeed. The end of Edi Rama has been signed and stamped by the sovereign people,” said Basha. In a Twitter post that shortly followed Basha’s speech, Prime Minister Edi Rama said “the protest was not worthy, but a shame for the DP and Socialist Movement for Integration. These incurable losers are simply daily raising the bill that the sovereign will give them on June 30.” The tense atmosphere that began in front of the government building was repeated in front of the parliament's headquarters, where protesters gathered in response to the call of opposition leaders. The police intervened with tear gas to disperse groups of protesters who tried to push the police line, while protesters responded with smoke grenades and firecrackers. The teargas only restrained protesters for moments before they returned in front of the parliament’s entrance; this situation was repeated several times. Protesters stood persistently in front of the parliament's headquarters, as did opposition leaders, while smoke grenades, firecrackers and the occasional Molotov bombs were constantly thrown at the parliament. According to the police, at least five of its employees were injured and hospitalized. On its part, the opposition has said 15 protesters, among them also journalists, have been injured or have been experiencing breathing problems due to the use of tear gas. Earlier, in front of the government headquarters, where opposition supporters initially gathered in the evening, protesters managed to break the police line in front of the central entrance of the building shortly after the end of Basha’s speech. They stayed for a few minutes on the stairs of the Prime Minister’s Office, while the police forces did not intervene to repel them. Meanwhile, President Ilir Meta called for a peaceful protest and to avoid confrontations. Through a Twitter post, Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj condemned the opposition’s action. “Even today, blind violence is affecting constitutional institutions and the Albanian State Police. Injuring police forces is a shame and gross violation of the law and the perpetrators will be held accountable,” wrote Lleshaj. On his part, Rama expressed solidarity towards the police forces. “Remorse for the police wounded by the blows of the two blind parties marching into the road of self-destruction,” Rama wrote. This was the 9th opposition protest since February, and the third in front of the government headquarters. The opposition was withdrawn by the parliament and its deputies handed the mandates to the block. An extreme decision openly criticized by the international community. Earlier this week during his visit to Tirana, Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State Matthew Palmer called on opposition parties to re-engage in the political process, stressing that local elections in June are the best opportunity to do so first.   [post_title] => Thousands protest against Socialist gov't in Albania [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => police-use-tear-gas-against-protesters-during-ninth-opposition-protest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-17 11:05:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-17 09:05:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141361 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 28 [name] => News [slug] => news [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 28 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 10216 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 28 [category_count] => 10216 [category_description] => [cat_name] => News [category_nicename] => news [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 28 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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