“Albania’s PM should run his own country,” Kosovo PM says

“Albania’s PM should run his own country,” Kosovo PM says

TIRANA, Feb. 8 – Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said on Friday Kosovo’s 100 percent tax on Serbian and Bosnian imported goods will remain unchanged, despite Albanian Prime Minister’s Edi Rama’s request for the opposite. “Prime Minister Rama can’t have

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US Embassy rejects entry visas to 170 Albanian officials

US Embassy rejects entry visas to 170 Albanian officials

TIRANA, Feb. 8 – Over 170 officials and former Albanian officials, along with their families, have been denied or revoked visas for travel to the United States since 2017. “The US Embassy continues to exercise its broad authority to deny

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Irish Minister of State supports Albania’s EU road, in two-day visit

Irish Minister of State supports Albania’s EU road, in two-day visit

TIRANA, Feb. 7 – The Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee and the Finnish State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Samuli Virtanen came for a two-day official visit to Albania this week, conducting meetings with a number of

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Four justice ministry officials arrested under public tenders’ violations charges

Four justice ministry officials arrested under public tenders’ violations charges

TIRANA, Feb. 6 – Albania’s former ministry of justice Secretary General J. Hoxha, the Head of the Support Services A. Lamce and two IT specialists – Ali and Alikaj – were put in jail for being implicated in  violations and

Read Full Article
Freedom House: Albania stuck at being “partly free”

Freedom House: Albania stuck at being “partly free”

TIRANA, Feb. 6 – Democracy watchdog Freedom House published on Monday its annual report, where it was declared that global democracy is declining, while Albania is considered, this year too, as only partly free. Albania’s results were in line with

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Minor’s rape sparks public anger

Minor’s rape sparks public anger

TIRANA, Feb. 6 – The group rape of an underage girl in the city of Kavaja caused public upheaval, particularly in the capital, this week. The Durres Court issued an arrest warrant for eight teenagers on Sunday, but only managed

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Police crackdown on human traffic network, arrest 32 people

Police crackdown on human traffic network, arrest 32 people

TIRANA, Feb. 5 – An extensive Serious Crimes Prosecution and State Police operation led to the crackdown of a dubious criminal group that dealt with clandestine trafficking, enabling different people willing to pay to move to European Union states, as

Read Full Article
15 navy officers dismissed after failing to guard military base

15 navy officers dismissed after failing to guard military base

TIRANA, Feb. 4 – The entire chain of command at the Pashaliman naval base has been discharged following a theft which occured due to administrative irresponsibility. Authorities discharged 15 officers, starting from the base commander and his deputy, punishing them

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President calls for brand new Great Ring project due to corruption and lack of transparency

President calls for brand new Great Ring project due to corruption and lack of transparency

TIRANA, Feb. 4 – Albanian President Ilir Meta asked the government to launch a new project for the construction of the Great Ring road, done in full transparency and in consultation with the affected citizens, who have been protesting against

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Albanian prosecution begins investigations against Voice of America

Albanian prosecution begins investigations against Voice of America

TIRANA, Jan. 2 – In Albania, the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced today that it has began investigations into the publication of some of the interceptions of a criminal case that it is still under investigation. The Prosecution’s reaction came after

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 8 - Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said on Friday Kosovo’s 100 percent tax on Serbian and Bosnian imported goods will remain unchanged, despite Albanian Prime Minister’s Edi Rama’s request for the opposite.

“Prime Minister Rama can’t have requests, as he is governing Albania, but he can have his own stand, which is respectable. No one can have requests. He had his own opinion that the tax is better avoided,” Haradinaj said at Kosovo’s “Pressing” TV show.

According to Haradinaj, this and other topics, including the idea of border correction between Serbia and Kosovo, were discussed during a dinner among Albanian and Kosovo leaders, at Hashim Thaci’s new residence.

Haradinaj revealed that it was Edi Rama who initiated this dinner, initially foreseen to be held in Tirana and then held in Pristina.

“The meeting was Rama’s initiative. It was a careful conversation. The same topics: the tax, dialogue [between Kosovo and Serbia under EU mediation], final settlement options. These were the topics, but there was no change of attitude. It was a dignified conversation,” Haradinaj said. 

Haradinaj highlighted that despite Rama’s good intentions, he should step down his efforts to take decisions for Kosovo.

“I respect everyone’s opinion. Rama can say what he wants. His responsibility is Albania. I see him being alright so far, but he doesn’t have to assign himself more weight than he can carry. We are our own decision-makers,” Haradinaj said. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 8 - Over 170 officials and former Albanian officials, along with their families, have been denied or revoked visas for travel to the United States since 2017.

“The US Embassy continues to exercise its broad authority to deny and revoke visas based on information indicating that an individual may be unacceptable in the United States and will continue to use this authority to advance anti-corruption efforts in Albania,” a US Embassy statement told Panorama newspaper on Thursday.

The statement further added it is taking corruption charges and allegations towards public officials very seriously, and that it will continue to go through visa applications from them with extensive controls. 

“The US Embassy's anti-corruption position and its intention to deny US entry to corrupt officials and former officials remains unchanged,” concludes the US statement. 

Albania’s level of corruption is estimated to be widespread and worrisome.

Only last week, Albania led Balkan countries in Transparency International’s latest report on perceived levels of public-sector corruption, which described the perception for the region as “highly corrupt” with below-average scores.

This score now makes Albania the 99th most corrupt country in the world.

According to Transparency International "as a country which is candidate for EU membership, Albania has improved over the past five years with five points. But compared to a year ago it has dropped by two points, from 38 to 36th. This may be due to a political stalemate that blocked some anti-corruption reforms to move forward. With a new vetting process and almost complete anti-corruption institutional framework, it remains to be seen whether Albania will improve its future performance,” the TI statement read. 

 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-07 09:41:51
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 7 - The Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee and the Finnish State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Samuli Virtanen came for a two-day official visit to Albania this week, conducting meetings with a number of high state representatives.

Among them was Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj, Albanian Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Sokol Dedja and the Head of the Foreign Affairs Commission Mimi Kodheli.

“Day two in the Western Balkans continues with positive meeting on EU enlargement and the need to develop stronger bilateral relations,” McEntee wrote regarding in her personal Twitter account regarding the meeting at the ministry for Europe and foreign affairs. 

Kodheli, on her side, spoke about the situation in the region and Albania’s contribution in maintaining balance and regional safety and said that cooperation between the two countries should improve in many fields.

McEntee confirmed that Ireland supports the opening of accession negotiations with the EU for Albania and offered help in directing Albania in reachings its European goals. 

As for Veliaj, he announced that his meeting with McEntee will be followed by a calendar of detailed activities and cooperation between Tirana and other Irish cities.

“We have a partnership with the Dublin City Hall and we want a lot to learn from Ireland, a country that a few years ago was in a modest economy and today has become a gateway to investment in Europe,” Veliaj said.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 6 - Albania’s former ministry of justice Secretary General J. Hoxha, the Head of the Support Services A. Lamce and two IT specialists - Ali and Alikaj - were put in jail for being implicated in  violations and abuses of public tenders launched by the ministry itself from 2016-2017.

Eight other ministry officials were also placed under investigation, while the actions and accountability of two former ministers Ylli Manjani and Petrit Vasili are also being investigated.

The investigations were extended to at least 5 tenders: Maintenance and Supervision of the ICMIS system, at seven administrative courts; Improve the electronic surveillance system in the criminal field; Improving, Developing and Maintaining the Albanian Notarial Registry; establishment of a surveillance system for the Lezha and Fushë Kruja prisons and maintenance of the electronic system of enforcement issues. 

The offenses appear to have been initiated by the justice ministry’s inspection team and then by the ministry of finances.

According to the prosecution, "the investigations have highlighted the violations identified associated with major consequences for the state budget". Some of the systems that are purchased under these tenders, to a large extent, according to the prosecution, are not functional.

 
                    [post_title] => Four justice ministry officials arrested under public tenders’ violations charges 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-06 11:56:49
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 6 - Democracy watchdog Freedom House published on Monday its annual report, where it was declared that global democracy is declining, while Albania is considered, this year too, as only partly free.

Albania’s results were in line with Transparency International’s results on the perceived corruption in each country, published last week, where Albania had dropped eight places. 

The government, now tied with more than one cases of alleged corruption and ties to organized crime, has increasingly failed to protect freedom of expression by attacking independent media organizations, placing Albania’s “partly free” below countries which have lately been heavily criticized for their own democratic downfalls such as Hungary, Romania and Tunisia.

In the “Freedom in the World” 2018 report, it was also noted that only 44 percent of the world’s countries can be considered real democracies.

In its annual reports, Freedom House lists among the problems that prevent Albania from being classified as a completely free country political polarization, crime and corruption, and business ties between politics and the media.

In Europe, countries such as Serbia and Hungary saw a reclassification from Free to Partly Free due to deterioration in the conduction of elections, decreased freedom of the press, the harassment of journalists, and the consolidation of power by Prime Ministers and Presidents.

In this context, the entire Balkan region was criticized for its anti democratic leaders and their consolidation of power beyond what the law allows, as well as the undermining of institutions which protect the freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression is one particular pillar of democracy that has come under sustained attack across free, partly free, and not free countries. 

Globally, freedom of expression has decreased over the last 13 years with sharper drops registered since 2012.  A number of countries have been observed to be stepping up online censorship either through monitoring citizens or imposing harsh laws on media portals and independent news sources.

Edi Rama’s Socialist government has been criticized over online media censorship repeatedly over the last months by a number of international watchdog organizations, for trying to pass a bill that will restrict and censor online media in what has been called “autocratic.”

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-06 09:30:05
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 6 - The group rape of an underage girl in the city of Kavaja caused public upheaval, particularly in the capital, this week.

The Durres Court issued an arrest warrant for eight teenagers on Sunday, but only managed to arrest seven of them, and has declared one wanted. 

The court session, which took place behind closed doors, resulted with the prosecution sentencing the teenagers for life but keeping their identities secret due to their young age. 

According to the girl’s father, who spoke to the media also anonymously due to Kavaja’s small size and mentality, the boys, students at one of Kavaja’s compulsory 9-year elementary schools, were blackmailing the girl with a video she had made with her boyfriend by threatening to make it public unless she had sexual intercourse with all of them.

The court statement also stated the girl has previously attempted suicide due to the boys’ threats, which extended to the point of threatening her mother and sister. 

Government and opposition representatives also commented on the crime, not failing to turn it political. 

The country’s opposition, but also a big part of the civil society and independent experts raised concerns about the fact the boys were allowed to act for so long, alleging the police knew about the crime but decided to not act on it.

“The ugly crime that took place in the city of Kavaja, a collective rape, was hidden by the police which was placed on the side of rapists. The Prime Minister was on their side and his followers stood silent. They repeated the same scenario as 3 months ago, with the son of their deputy,” Albanian former Prime Minister Sali Berisha said in parliament on Thursday, referring to the son of the Socialist MP Rrahman Rraja, who was imprisoned last year for physically violating his girlfriend and getting away with it due to political protection.

However, immediate was also the response of Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj, who said that this case was dealt with by the Kavaja Police since the incident was reported to the authorities. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-05 14:37:17
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 5 - An extensive Serious Crimes Prosecution and State Police operation led to the crackdown of a dubious criminal group that dealt with clandestine trafficking, enabling different people willing to pay to move to European Union states, as well as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The operation, which was assisted by agents of the Diplomatic Security Service attached to the US Embassy, ​​led to the arrest of 32 members of the group, while four others have been declared wanted.

The operation extended to at least 13 cities in the country, and it involved more than 250 police forces. According to a joint announcement of the authorities involved, the case involved the continuation of investigations which last year led to the partial crackdown of the same group.

“From the investigative actions carried out in function of this criminal proceeding, it resulted that members of the structured criminal group ensured persons who were interested in traveling to EU countries, as well as those who were banned from entering one of the countries of the SCHENGEN area,” the announcement read.

It further explained that the group, which provided citizens with counterfeit identification documents in turn of monetary gain, created the conditions to illegally travel to EU countries, by air or land, and then towards the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom by paying considerable sums of 10,000 pounds to the United Kingdom and up to 20,000 euros for the US and Canada. 

Departure of persons with counterfeit documents was made through Albania, Montenegro, Italy, Greece, France and Norway, while investigations have shown the group has provided counterfeit documents also to people who have displayed high social risk.

Also implicated is a police officer who, "abusing his duty, has committed corrupt actions against monetary amounts, and has helped the members of this criminal group by using the data available due to their work at a border checkpoint.”

During the operation, four labs being used to forge documents were sequestered, including scanners, copy machines, a big sum of cash, certificates, identity cards, a considerable number of forged documents and an automatic firearm.

The authorities also notified an investigation on all the arrested peoples’ accumulated wealth has also been initiated.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-05 11:08:42
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 4 - The entire chain of command at the Pashaliman naval base has been discharged following a theft which occured due to administrative irresponsibility.

Authorities discharged 15 officers, starting from the base commander and his deputy, punishing them for the theft that took place between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 within the base grounds, where several weapons and different quantities of cartridges and grenades were stolen.

The decision was made after the completion of an administrative investigation conducted by the General Army Staff, which then proposed Minister of Defense Olta Xhacka the measures.

Xhacka also signed the request to dismiss head of Navy Force, Major General Ylber Dogjani. 

All of them are accused of shortcomings in basic security measures.

Two officers and guards responsible for the theft were arrested right after the incident under the charges of “violating watchdog rules in important facilities resulting in armed robbery.”

Official data suggests that on January 9, at midnight, two automatic weapons, a carbine, 40 grenades and about 5500 different types of cartridges, including high power rifle bullets, were stolen.

The investigation revealed the theft was carried out when the guard responsible had abandoned the post and was located in another environment while the practices of service control and guard shifts were also not respected.

The Pashaliman base is one of the most important military facilities that serves the coastal fleet, carrying out controls of the Albanian maritime border regime and operations in the framework of NATO forces in Albania.

 
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                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-02-04 15:09:11
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-04 14:09:11
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 4 - Albanian President Ilir Meta asked the government to launch a new project for the construction of the Great Ring road, done in full transparency and in consultation with the affected citizens, who have been protesting against it since last October.

He suggested that the existing project be canceled due to being investigated for a series of violations. 

Meta issued on Sunday a detailed statement on the issue, the protests against which have been taking place in front of the parliament and the Tirana Municipality, as well as in front of the affected residents’ homes day and night. 

Meta requested that during the drafting phase of the project, public consultation is opened with the area’s inhabitants and independent experts for this public work.

Meta said extreme illegitimacy and malfunctioning of state institutions have been found concerning this matter - enough ground to abolish the ongoing procedures on the exclusion of objects from the legalization process, the demolition of existing constructions or the fines against residents.

“It was publicly proven that the competition in all three parts of the road was fake; two companies compared for each lot, where the same company gave a zero-value economic offer for all three lots! This proves clearly the realization of a manipulated bidding process. One of the winning tender companies (DH Albania) came up with a fictitious company and forged documents, after public confirmation of forged facts by American authorities. The government's decision to reopen the tender of this work after public denunciations is considered as a hasty and not the least objective task, because the Prosecution is conducting investigations on this matter,” Meta said.

He demanded that any expropriation procedure be suspended and this process be carried out carefully after the adoption of a new and reliable project.
He also called for a fair and equal treatment of citizens’ properties and housing, which may be affected by the new project.

For all these steps, which he called urgent, Meta said the government should first demonstrate political will and further act by opening procurement procedures for this public work in accordance with international law once a stable project has been formalized, stimulating the free competition of domestic and international operators.

Meta said that public construction work of the likes of the Great Ring should be realized respecting the fundamental rights of citizens, in accordance with the legislation in force and with full transparency.

He also invited all international and local organizations engaged in the fight against corruption to investigate the violations and abuses of this project.

However, the government is seeming determined to continue on its path, with the only measure taken against all the corruption surrounding the project being the disqualification of DH Albania and the opening of a new public tender.
The government, in a rapid social media response, praised this comment as an attack on the president's side, similar to that of the opposition.
Shortly before, the government decided to provide residence free of rent to other flats of all the families that release the apartments that hinder the Great Ring project. 

 
                    [post_title] => President calls for brand new Great Ring project due to corruption and lack of transparency 
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                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-02-02 13:37:03
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-02 12:37:03
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 2 - In Albania, the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced today that it has began investigations into the publication of some of the interceptions of a criminal case that it is still under investigation.

The Prosecution's reaction came after the publication by Voice of America of a material prepared by journalist Klodiana Lala and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN. Dozens of wiretaps and documents provided through two investigations at the Serious Crimes Prosecution cast light on the involvement of organized crime in ballot buying episodes in several cities in the country.

The prosecution announced that it is investigating the criminal offense "Disclosure of Secret Acts or Data,” pointing out that the publication of acts of interception of a criminal case is being made in violation of the law. 

According to the Prosecutor's Office, all persons who have had access and knowledge of the public acts under investigation and trial are being verified.

The intercepted transcripts indicated the involvement of the Avdyli brothers in the election, the leaders of a group suspected of criminal activity, as well as their connections mainly with Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako, who also led the Socialist Party’s electoral campaign for the Durrës district in the 2017 elections.  

The content of the published material has become a cause for strong debate in the parliament between the opposition and the government. 

 
                    [post_title] => Albanian prosecution begins investigations against Voice of America 
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            [post_date] => 2019-02-08 15:50:29
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-08 14:50:29
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 8 - Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj said on Friday Kosovo’s 100 percent tax on Serbian and Bosnian imported goods will remain unchanged, despite Albanian Prime Minister’s Edi Rama’s request for the opposite.

“Prime Minister Rama can’t have requests, as he is governing Albania, but he can have his own stand, which is respectable. No one can have requests. He had his own opinion that the tax is better avoided,” Haradinaj said at Kosovo’s “Pressing” TV show.

According to Haradinaj, this and other topics, including the idea of border correction between Serbia and Kosovo, were discussed during a dinner among Albanian and Kosovo leaders, at Hashim Thaci’s new residence.

Haradinaj revealed that it was Edi Rama who initiated this dinner, initially foreseen to be held in Tirana and then held in Pristina.

“The meeting was Rama’s initiative. It was a careful conversation. The same topics: the tax, dialogue [between Kosovo and Serbia under EU mediation], final settlement options. These were the topics, but there was no change of attitude. It was a dignified conversation,” Haradinaj said. 

Haradinaj highlighted that despite Rama’s good intentions, he should step down his efforts to take decisions for Kosovo.

“I respect everyone’s opinion. Rama can say what he wants. His responsibility is Albania. I see him being alright so far, but he doesn’t have to assign himself more weight than he can carry. We are our own decision-makers,” Haradinaj said. 

 
            [post_title] => “Albania’s PM should run his own country,” Kosovo PM says 
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