Opposition leader warns banking sector of being most exposed to corrupt PPPs

Opposition leader warns banking sector of being most exposed to corrupt PPPs

TIRANA, Oct. 1 – Opposition leader Lulzim Basha addressed a letter to all banks operating in the country and the governor of the Bank of Albania expressing concern about the efforts of many stakeholders to launder large sums of money

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Italian ambassador: “Political stability, majority’s responsibility”

Italian ambassador: “Political stability, majority’s responsibility”

TIRANA, Sept. 25 – In an interview for Albanian media Panorama last week Italian Ambassador to Tirana Alberto Cutilio spoke about the June 30 local elections, as well as the political developments in the country, including the punishment given to

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Opposition seeks early parliamentary elections

Opposition seeks early parliamentary elections

TIRANA, Oct. 1 – The opposition’s Democratic Party is preparing its branches for early parliamentary elections, according to data from a meeting on Sunday. The opposition has estimated that the political crisis can be overcome by early parliamentary and local

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Greece police crackdown on wide Albania-Turkey drug trafficking network

Greece police crackdown on wide Albania-Turkey drug trafficking network

TIRANA, Oct. 1 – Greek police provided on Tuesday official data on operations against an international drug trafficking network whose members were involved in transporting large quantities of marijuana from Albania through Greece to Turkey in exchange for a quantity

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Albanian police sequester 137 kg of cocaine headed to Athens

Albanian police sequester 137 kg of cocaine headed to Athens

TIRANA, Sept. 28 – The Albanian Police and the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced on Friday an operation conducted in cooperation with Greek authorities and in coordination with the US Drug Enforcement Administration Office in Athens, which seized 137 kilograms of

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Bundestag approves, solution of political crisis key to opening accession negotiations

Bundestag approves, solution of political crisis key to opening accession negotiations

TIRANA, Sept. 25 – The German Bundestag approved on Thursday night the conditions placed by the centre-right Christian Democratic CDU/CSU, which agreed on Tuesday to vote in favor of a conditional opening of accession talks with Albania.  Among the conditions

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Rama, Mitsotakis meeting reconfirms change in Greek stand regarding EU accession

Rama, Mitsotakis meeting reconfirms change in Greek stand regarding EU accession

TIRANA, Sept. 24 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama met with Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday where they briefly discussed Albania’s accession to the European Union, ahead of the European Council’s meeting in October, which is to decide whether

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OSCE meeting fails to initiate electoral reform dialogue among political sides

OSCE meeting fails to initiate electoral reform dialogue among political sides

TIRANA, Sept. 25 – The OSCE and the Parliamentary Special Commission for Electoral Reform organized on Wednesday in Tirana a conference with representatives of political parties in the country on a comprehensive electoral reform, but opposition parties only stayed briefly

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Police escort journalists over fake earthquake news

Police escort journalists over fake earthquake news

TIRANA, Sept. 23 – Albanian police escorted on Monday journalists Aurel Rakipllari of SYRI.net and Daniela Grica of “Shekulli” for questioning, after the latter published stories warning a powerful earthquake at 11:30pm on Sunday. The stories that broke out on

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AIIS presents publication on NATO-Poland relations in the 70 years of Alliance

AIIS presents publication on NATO-Poland relations in the 70 years of Alliance

TIRANA, Sept. 24 – The Institute for Eastern Studies and the Albanian Institute for International Studies organized the presentation of the publication ‘NATO: 1949 – 1999 – 2019 The 20 Years of Poland in the 70 Years of the Alliance,’

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 1 - Opposition leader Lulzim Basha addressed a letter to all banks operating in the country and the governor of the Bank of Albania expressing concern about the efforts of many stakeholders to launder large sums of money through licensed or public sector-controlled activities.

Basha wrote in his letter that the illicit activity of drug production and trafficking in Albania in recent years has generated billions of euros, some of which have been “used to corrupt government officials and public employees in order to launder money profited from the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics and/or corruption.”

In his letter, Basha also noted the opposition's repeated warnings that “the banking sector is most exposed to cooperation between corrupt governments with some companies using the construction sector to launder money from illegal activities.”

Although noting that not every business engaged in the construction sector carries out illegal activity, Basha said some companies have received construction permits and public contracts at levels that are not justified either by their experience or by the financial opportunities they have. Basha cited as such the last two Private Public Partnership contracts for the Milot-Balldren and Orikum-Dukat road projects.

“Both public contracts openly infringe on the public interest and severely damage the financial interests of the Albanian state by providing unfair benefits to corrupt officials and private companies,” reads Basha’s letter on commercial banks.

“From the assessment of the financial and technical capacities of the private companies involved in these two projects, it turns out that they are not able to complete the projects on their own and consequently bank loans are foreseen. However, these companies will not have the real opportunity to repay the loan they will ask of you after the cancellation of unlawful state funding received as a result of corrupt practices,” he further adds. 

Noting the importance of the stability of the banking system for the united opposition, the opposition leader says he considers it reasonable to inform every bank about the fate of these two corrupt projects.

Basha says financing such projects, aimed at laundering money for trafficking and corruption, should not only be allowed, but also consider criminal the person or institution that has cooperated in this regard.

“We expect your bank to apply the ‘enhanced vigilance’ process to any transaction involving entities that are engaged in the above activities, particularly, given the indications that are public not only from the DP, but also from the international institutions' specialized reports,” the letter concludes. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 25 - In an interview for Albanian media Panorama last week Italian Ambassador to Tirana Alberto Cutilio spoke about the June 30 local elections, as well as the political developments in the country, including the punishment given to former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, convicted of abuse of power. 

“The decision recently announced against former Minister Tahiri, which I certainly will not comment, could be a step forward in affirming a justice that does not stop in the face of the ‘untouchables’. This situation, which harms even the unjustly accused persons who fail to obtain recognition of their innocence, confirms the need to move forward swiftly with the profound justice reform launched three years ago and this will only happen if it is supported by all political parties and civil society,” Cutilio said. 

With regard to the June 30 elections, Cutilio said they "disregarded the interests of citizens, as the final report of the OSCE/ODHIR underlined, and the political clash led to a climate of legal instability that has not yet been clarified.” 

“The June 30 elections did not take citizens' interests into account, as the final OSCE/ODHIR report noted, the political clash led to a climate of legal uncertainty that has not yet been clarified. A positive European Council decision in October on the opening of negotiations with the EU, which Italy has backed for years, could help turn the page and favor political dialogue, but I hope this opening can happen even before October 18,” he said. 

Although he described the opposition’s actions as “radical,” Cutilio also said that it’s the majority’s responsibility to preserve stability in the country. 

“I believe that this phase of mutual delegitimization has been going on for a very long time. The opposition’s radical choices are of no use to the stability of the country, which is above all the majority’s responsibility,” Cutilio said.

In the same interview, Cutillo said that he wishes the historical buildings in central Tirana, some of which were designed by Italian architects in the 30s, will be preserved. Under current government plans, they face demolition and replacement with high rises. 

Asked specifically about the National Theater, whose architect, Italian Giulio Berté, was commissioned by the Albanian government in 1938, Cutillo answered: “In a democracy, such decisions should be based on a broad consensus; (if demolished) there is no return and the common memory that lives in historical buildings risks being lost”. 

“It is not up to me to say which buildings need to be restored and which ones need to be torn down to make way for new buildings. I think that in a democratic country, these decisions need to get as much support as possible, because there is no more going back and the shared memory of living in historic buildings risks disappearing,” he said. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 1 - The opposition’s Democratic Party is preparing its branches for early parliamentary elections, according to data from a meeting on Sunday.

The opposition has estimated that the political crisis can be overcome by early parliamentary and local elections on the same day.

The Socialists, meanwhile, have called on the opposition for dialogue in the institutions, stressing that the next elections will be held by the end of their second term.

The leadership of the opposition DP and members of its former parliamentary group held a meeting to discuss the greater commitment of local party structures.

The leader of DP Lulzim Basha, according to data from the meeting, has urged all those present to disperse as soon as possible in circles and to increase and revitalize party membership.

Basha has said, according to reliable sources, that the DP should prepare for early parliamentary and local elections on the same day, so the entire party should meet citizens on the ground.

He said that Albania's deep political crisis can only be resolved by early elections.

According to him, the OSCE/ODIHR report on local elections and the Bundestag resolution have offered the real evaluation of the situation, so resolving the crisis remains the main goal of the opposition, and that this only comes from addressing the sovereign with free and fair elections.

Basha expressed hope that by mid-October there would be no negative interference with EU decisions on the fate of negotiations with Albania.

However, he also stressed that no one should be under the illusion that opposition action will be stopped or that the opposition will back down, but alongside the opposition movement the Democratic Party's program and ruling alternative will continue.

Thus the participants of the meeting have made it clear that there will be no protests until October 18, though the demand and readiness of the citizens is high, that there will soon be early elections with a transitional government and that party branches need to be prepared.

Alongside EU expectations for integration, another reason the DP is maintaining patience in this period is the fragile climate of dialogue that has just initiated at the OSCE-organized roundtable on electoral reform.  

Participants in the PD meeting claimed that the opposition sees electoral reform as the first step in resolving the political crisis and early elections, and therefore does not want to be blamed for damaging this dialogue process.

The DP said that the parliamentary commission on electoral reform is illegitimate, and it is proposing a commission with representatives of the main parties and the participation of international representatives.

In addition, the DP is working on an anti-crisis package, which aims to assist the fight against crime and the growth of the economy.

The opposition has estimated that the political crisis is multifaceted and that no time is wasted with pre-election preparations, so it is setting up an election headquarters in the center, which will spread throughout the country.

The Socialist majority has rejected opposition demands for an international electoral reform commission, and has called on oppositionists to dialogue in institutions, denying even the presence of a political crisis in the country. 

The Socialists are continuing their governing at the central and local levels, dismissing the possibility of early elections.

They did not seem concerned, but enthusiastic about the German parliament's demands for judicial reform and prosecution of corrupt officials and judges.

The DP’s five-point electoral reform plan 

Meanwhile, Basha presented on Wednesday the opposition’s own electoral reform plan, which is one of the main conditions for Albania’s opening of EU negotiations, and also sent the document to Rama.

The document was also handed in to the OSCE/ODIHR presences in Albania during last week’s roundtable organized to initiate dialogue among all electoral sides on the electoral reform. 

Among the oppositions conditions, which included transparent, all-inclusive and public discussions attended by civil society and public interest groups representatives, stood out the requirement that no person or institution that should be convicted of electoral crimes should have legitimacy over drafting new electoral reform plan. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 1 - Greek police provided on Tuesday official data on operations against an international drug trafficking network whose members were involved in transporting large quantities of marijuana from Albania through Greece to Turkey in exchange for a quantity of heroin passing through Greece again to Albania.

Attiki Security Director Petros Xheferi told reporters that four members of the network were arrested during the operations and seized 1,172 kg of raw marijuana. 

Whereas the Head Prosecutor against Narcotics and Drug Trafficking Spyridhon Evangelidhis said operations on land, at sea and by air were carried out in cooperation with the Greek Coast Guard, Greek Police and Frontex for hitting high speed boats who trafficked drugs.

Operations according to the prosecutor began on September 25 after the identification of two speedboats trying to transport drugs off the Turkish coast in the Northeast Aegean. 

The first effect was to block one high-speed boat and arrest three Albanian sailors on board. Four days later, according to the prosecutor, the second boat with a person on board was also found.

On September 30, the Greek Coast Guard discovered in a cave on the uninhabited "Piper" island, in the marine area of ​​Sporades, large marijuana quantities, exceeding a ton. 

Greek Police spokesman Theodoros Kronopoulos said the operation was a case of a network hit involving drug trafficking and particularly the transportation of crude marijuana from Albania through Greece to Turkey and the transfer of heroin from Turkey to Albania again through Greece using speedboats.

Investigative data shows a spokesman for the Greek police said that the selection of high speed boats was done to enable the transportation of large quantities of raw marijuana. The boats also had very powerful engines installed to develop very high speeds while also providing fuel tanks so that they could travel long distances and the law enforcement authorities could not stop them.

The network, according to the Greek police spokesman, selected experienced and capable people at sea who navigate very bad weather, possibly with thunderstorms and strong winds over 5-6 feet, to carry the quantities of narcotics. According to a spokesman for the Greek traffickers, most of the raw marijuana is transferred to the Turkish coast and then exchanged with heroin. Greek police said they have discovered communications through the network's online applications and seized other evidence. Three of those arrested will stand trial in Mitilini, while one of those arrested in Volos. 

Albania-Italy mafia ties pass through Greece 

Similarly, the Italian authorities point out in their reports that the Adriatic is constantly the battle of the Albanian mafia seeking to become the fourth most powerful organization in the neighboring country.

Last week, an Italian prosecutor in a local media interview spoke of a new drug trafficking line, Albania - Puglia - Greece. 

As is often said, "Sacra Corona Unita" increasingly uses this line for drug trafficking.

It is learned that in the center of recent traffic related to Ecuador lies a Greek citizen who until recently was unknown to law enforcement authorities. 

According to the same sources, he is a major importer of exotic fruits and holds large quantities of bananas in Malta brought from Ecuador.

Although Greece is a transit country for international drug cartels, its geographical location is increasingly making it important for drug trafficking elsewhere.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 28 - The Albanian Police and the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced on Friday an operation conducted in cooperation with Greek authorities and in coordination with the US Drug Enforcement Administration Office in Athens, which seized 137 kilograms of cocaine. Two people ended up in shackles, while a third is under search.

Investigation into this case has been underway since August and as explained by the General Director of the Albanian Police Ardi Veliu, “during this period, several operational meetings were held by the State Police with the Greek Police Authorities and the DEA Office. These meetings were held in Tirana and Athens for information exchange and to ensure the effectivity of the operation,” named KUITO, under the capital of Ecuador, the place from which the cocaine hidden in banana containers was launched on a ship before arriving at the Port of Durres, a transit for the Greek Port of Piraeus.

Albanian authorities organized a "controlled surrender", an investigation technique aimed at detecting drug dealers. Thanks to this procedure, one of the security officers at the Port of Durres Ardian Bega and another person, Altin Mislihaka, were discovered opening one of the containers stored in Durres, withdrawing a load of drugs from there. 

"These citizens, in cooperation with each other and other persons in the Port of Durres, using the fact that they had access coming in and out of the port made it possible to extract a quantity of narcotics from the container where it was located and send it in an area they thought was safe, but which was raided by the police during the operation.”

The search also revealed a third person, Gentian Malindi, owner of a fish shop and with previous criminal precedents, who managed to escape after finding the trap set up by police. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 25 - The German Bundestag approved on Thursday night the conditions placed by the centre-right Christian Democratic CDU/CSU, which agreed on Tuesday to vote in favor of a conditional opening of accession talks with Albania. 

Among the conditions placed for Abania, some include long-standing ones like the functionality of the Constitutional and High Courts and the drafting of an electoral reform, while two are completely new - the punishment of anyone who has participated in vote-rigging and a final decision on the legality of the June 30 local elections once the Constitutional Court starts working again. 

The parliament's final decision on Germany’s definite position in the European Council is expected to be adopted without any big changes, within two days. 

 

Justice and electoral reform, at the heart of change

 

The conditions for Albania have been categorized in two groups, those that need to be met before the Intergovernmental Conference, which formally marks the opening of the process for states, and other conditions that must be met before concrete chapters can be opened. 

In Albania’s case, these chapters are expected to be Chapters 23 and 24, related to the Rule of Law (the justice reform and fundamental rights), and basic rights and freedoms, such as security and justice.

Under the terms of the CDU / CSU, the first accession conference should take place only after the Federal Government agrees that Albania fulfilled both of these conditions: “ensuring the Constitutional and High Courts work and function by employing a reasonable number of verified judges and prosecutors and deciding on the electoral reform.” 

Concerning this reform, German MPs specified that it should be "fully in line with the OSCE / ODIHR recommendations and ensure transparent funding of parties and election campaigns and be based on the results of the ad hoc Electoral Reform Commission. The revision of the draft prepared there should be in an open and inclusive dialogue among all political forces, as recommended in the ODIHR report of September 5, 2019.”

 

Seven conditions to open separate accession chapters 

 

The launch of talks on concrete chapters is conditioned by a greater number of issues.

First is the implementation of the law on the initiated electoral reform, then comes the initiation of criminal proceedings against judges and prosecutors who did not qualify in the vetting process due to the punishable conduct and the initiation of criminal prosecution and eventually of lawsuits against those involved in vote-rigging during elections, and serious and speedy prosecution of proceedings.

Fourth comes the commitment of the special structure to fight corruption and organized crime (SPAK) and its ability to work and the solid progress in creating a steady success in the fight against corruption and organized crime at all levels, including initiating and completing proceedings against civil servants and high-level politicians. These include proactive investigations, eventually prosecutions and convictions related to corruption and organized crime.

Sixth comes a tangible progress in administrative reform, including the review of the positions of senior officials and directors, also in the light of constant irregularities and a final ruling on the legality of the June 30, 2019 local elections by the Constitutional Court, once it becomes functional again. 

“If a repetition of the process is decided, it must be conducted in accordance with the new electoral law,” the document approved by the CDU/CSU group states.

If the German Bundestag approves said document without major changes, as predicted so far, then this will represent the German government’s platform in the upcoming European Council meeting in mid-October. 

 

Reactions at home 

 

Following the publication of this decision, Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama thanked in a Twitter post “all the CDU/CSU deputies who finally voted in favor of opening the talks. Those who voted against it will be convinced at every step by the fact that Albania deserves the opening of talks. Thank you Angela for the unwavering support for Albania.”

Head of the resigned opposition Lulzim Basha also acknowledged that "increased conditions and demand for resolving the political crisis express sincere concern about the steps Albania has taken since June 2018. These conditions and demands reflect the failures of the Albanian government, not the people. In particular, the new requirements for the arrest and criminal prosecution of persons involved in vote rigging and the requirement to rule on the legitimacy of the June 30 farce process clearly reflect that Edi Rama's failure and responsibility to open the negotiations lies with nobody else.” 

He added that "the CDU/CSU and SPD's decision to open negotiating terms helps Albania overcome the severe political crisis, conduct free and fair elections and establish an independent justice system that punishes corrupt and criminal politicians.” 

He finally underlined and guaranteed to all Albanians and partners that we will do everything for our country to open negotiations as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, despite the government’s interpretations, political experts have said that for the first time, the German parliament recognized through the most important document that it has produced for Albania that there is a serious political crisis in our country and that it must be resolved immediately so as not to damage the negotiations.

 

Albania and N. Macedonia, separated in their road to the EU

 

Meanwhile, when it comes to North Macedonia, which has so far walked hand in hand with Albania in their road to the EU, will most likely receive an unconditional opening of accession negotiations.

Christian Democratic Union MP Gunther Krichbaum told Deutsche Welle that the efforts of Northern Macedonia are being viewed favorably by the Bundestag, which will formally decide whether or not to support the opening of negotiations with the country at the end of September.

“I am convinced, though I can only speak for the Bundestag, not for the parliaments of Europe, that there will be a positive solution for Northern Macedonia,” Krichbaum said.

“There is also the possibility that the process of opening the accession negotiations for Albania and Macedonia will be separate, rather than in a group. It is important to respect the EU principle that every country will be valued on the basis of merit,” he added.

 
                    [post_title] => Bundestag approves, solution of political crisis key to opening accession negotiations 
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            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 143140
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-09-24 10:36:12
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-24 08:36:12
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 24 - Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama met with Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday where they briefly discussed Albania’s accession to the European Union, ahead of the European Council’s meeting in October, which is to decide whether Albania will open accession negotiations with the EU. 

The meeting took place at the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly, in New York.

Rama said little concerning the talks with the newly-elected counterpart, writing on Facebook that they had a “friendly introduction and an open discussion.”

Meanwhile, Mitsotakis underlined Albania’s steps towards the EU in relation to the country’s bilateral relations with Greece and its stand on Greek minority issues, which has become a turning point in the Greek foreign policy since Mitsotakis came to office. 

“We discussed Albania’s accession path and steps towards meeting the conditions set by the EU, focusing on the issues of the Greek ethnic minority,” he wrote.

In particular, Mitsotakis has spoken about the issue of self-determination and the property rights of the Greek ethnic minority in Albania.

In this context, according to Greek sources, Rama expressed his readiness to cooperate with Greece on issues of particular interest to the country.

The Greek Prime Minister stressed that he was in favor of the Western Balkans’ accession prospects, provided all the conditions set by the European Union were met.

Albania is looking forward to a positive vote on opening accession talks with the EU by all countries at the October meeting of the European Council, although Germany has already announced it will agree to opening negotiations under some pre-conditions. 

Like every other EU member state, Greece has a veto power in the Council. 

Three weeks ahead of the decision, it seems that the Greek government has at this point no clear position regarding Albania next step in the EU integration process. 

Although chances for a Greek veto are very low, public statements by the new Mitsotakis government are worrisome for Albania’s EU integration, as Greece has previously unconditionally supported Albania’s EU accession.

Mitsotakis has also kept a similar approach before when he was in opposition and as prime minister.

Two weeks ago, he reportedly stated that Greece will not support EU accession talks with Albania until it shows “tangible” results in its treatment of the Greek ethnic minority.

The statement marked a change in the Greek foreign policy toward Albania, after the center-right government of Mitsotakis replaced the socialist government of Alexis Tsipras in July.

When he was in opposition, back in March, Mitsotakis reportedly said he wanted to send a “clear message to the Albanian government, […] that it is not possible to start the process of Albania’s EU accession when there is absolutely no respect for the rights of the Greek ethnic minority.”

His comments came following reports that the Albanian government had prepared a draft-law that would allow for the expropriation of land to be used for strategic investments. The initiative would have also affected the Greek minority, which comprises about 2% of the Albanian population. The Albanian government later withdrew from the initiative.

 
                    [post_title] => Rama, Mitsotakis meeting reconfirms change in Greek stand regarding EU accession 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-24 10:13:55
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-24 08:13:55
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 25 - The OSCE and the Parliamentary Special Commission for Electoral Reform organized on Wednesday in Tirana a conference with representatives of political parties in the country on a comprehensive electoral reform, but opposition parties only stayed briefly at the meeting, claiming their interests are not properly represented. 

Head of the OSCE Office in Albania Ambassador Bernd Borcshardt said at the opening of the meeting that electoral reform should continue and that the OSCE Presence offers a chance for dialogue, where all political forces are included and conclude this key process.

"I am pleased to see that part of the opposition that resigned from parliament today is part of this important dialogue, here on the panel, and I hope this is a promise that it will become part of a constructive process. The country needs dialogue and unity, on the eve of taking over the OSCE Presidency next year,” Borchardt said.

The US Embassy in Albania also welcomed the opposition’s participation in the roundtable.

“Basha's efforts demonstrate genuine leadership on a key issue for the further strengthening of Albania's democratic institutions. The United States supports the adoption of reforms pushed by OSCE / ODIHR election experts so that Albania can conduct elections that are free from coercion, political pressure, and vote rigging. The Albanian people deserve nothing less than this,” the US embassy statement said.

The roundtable continued with a word from the organizers and a Democratic Party technical representative. 

Lawyer Ivi Kaso said that electoral processes in Albania have problems many times greater than the mere model of the electoral system, from threatening voters to selling votes and stealing them. 

The Democratic Party's technical representative left the conference after its start. 

Shortly thereafter, representatives of other smaller parties also left, claiming equal treatment in the face of electoral laws, where, according to them, often the two largest parties receive the largest share of funds and commissions.

Although the theme of the conference was inclusive, namely, "Denied by the system: the establishment of a comprehensive system for the protection of democracy", political forces expressed one-sided interests and the debate did not go on long enough to reach a clear conclusion.

Further on, local political experts who attended the meeting said it was largely attended by representatives of “ghost parties” which receive close to no votes during elections and barely represent a part of the population, thus doubting the effectivity of the OSCE meeting in genuinely inciting constructive debate regarding the drafting of the electoral reform. 
                    [post_title] => OSCE meeting fails to initiate electoral reform dialogue among political sides 
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                    [ID] => 143117
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-09-23 15:25:34
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-23 13:25:34
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 23 - Albanian police escorted on Monday journalists Aurel Rakipllari of SYRI.net and Daniela Grica of “Shekulli” for questioning, after the latter published stories warning a powerful earthquake at 11:30pm on Sunday.

The stories that broke out on Sunday on the SYRI.net portal and then on some other portals, saying that “according to forecasts by a Greek seismologist, there will be a powerful earthquake at 11.30 pm,” caused great panic among citizens who abandoned their homes and took to the streets, causing traffic and overall chaos. 

Police said they are setting up "a special investigative team to fully unravel the authorship of this malicious news that created fear and panic among citizens."

The news of a powerful earthquake spread rapidly after 10pm, while another 4.4 magnitude Richetr with epicenter near Durres, 20 kilometers northwest of Tirana, had just been recorded.  

The original story published on SYRI.net had a headline calling for people to leave their homes as soon as possible. 

Some of Tirana's main squares became overly crowded, while many left the apartments, staying in the streets. 

Within minutes the traffic was blocked, as a large part of the citizens chose to leave the capital by car.

The Ministry of Defense responded talking about fake news.  

“We urge all citizens not to fall prey to such malicious and widespread panic announcements as there is no such scientific prediction by any scientific institution.  Everything that is being attempted to spread panic among the citizens is criminal. All those who spread this news will be held criminally responsible, ”the Ministry of Defense said in a response.

Later, shortly after 11:30 pm, Defense Minister Olta Xhacka came out to a press conference with a local seismology expert, who strongly emphasizing the fact that those were fake news "to create panic and insecurity". 

She further warned that "anyone who has spread this false news has committed a serious criminal offense which is punishable by the Criminal Code.  We will not leave a stone unturned until we find the author of this news, who will do jail time.” 

Meanwhile, on Facebook, Prime Minister Edi Rama said that "any news or word spread to sow panic about the happening of the earthquake is part of an unprecedented human wickedness that must be despised by the law and condemned by the law."

Since the powerful Saturday afternoon earthquake, more than 350 other aftershocks have been recorded, including two more severe shocks, the first shortly after midnight on Saturday and the second last night.  According to the latest balance sheet released by the authorities, in total there are more than 900 houses and buildings that have suffered damage.  

“The vast majority of these cases are minor damages, mainly cracking of plaster or walls.  However, those buildings that are already identified with more serious damages will be prioritized by experts, who will also give a technical verification act that determines whether they are habitable or not, ”said Xhacka.

The panic and fears caused by the earthquake on Saturday forced the Ministry of Education to announce Monday as a day-off for elementary and high schools in the districts of Tirana, Durres and Elbasan,” while the same decision was taken for kindergartens. 

Xhacka announced that parents who work in public administration can also stay close to their children. 

 
                    [post_title] => Police escort journalists over fake earthquake news
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                    [ID] => 143143
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-23 10:00:30
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-23 08:00:30
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 24 - The Institute for Eastern Studies and the Albanian Institute for International Studies organized the presentation of the publication ‘NATO: 1949 – 1999 – 2019 The 20 Years of Poland in the 70 Years of the Alliance,’ on Wednesday. 

The 70th anniversary of NATO establishment, which happened alongside the 20th anniversary of Polish membership in the Alliance, was a perfect occasion to talk about the great changes both the Polish Army and NATO itself have undergone, especially considering how much its mission changed following the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

The role played by NATO in providing security in Europe is unquestionable, therefore a part of this event was dedicated to a debate, focusing on the changes in structure and goals that the Alliance will have to go through in the foreseeable future. 

The publication, edited by Anna Kurowska and compiled by researchers Alba Cela, Ledion Krisafi of AIIS and counterparts, was co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland in the framework of the “Cooperation in the field of public diplomacy” programme.

“2019 is an anniversary year both for Poland and NATO as it marks 20 years of Poland’s membership in NATO and the 70th birthday of the Alliance itself. This double anniversary provides an opportunity to take a closer look at NATO’s past and future and at Poland’s role in the Atlantic Alliance’s collective defence system,” Kurowska writes at the publication’s preface.

Speakers at the event’s pannel included Russian Ambassador to Tirana Karol Bachura, Kurowska, the Executive Director of the Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security Tim Stuchtey, AIIS researcher Ledion Krisafi and NATO directorate representative from the Albanian MFA Plator Kalakula. 

 
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    [post] => WP_Post Object
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            [ID] => 143182
            [post_author] => 281
            [post_date] => 2019-10-02 09:50:10
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-02 07:50:10
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 1 - Opposition leader Lulzim Basha addressed a letter to all banks operating in the country and the governor of the Bank of Albania expressing concern about the efforts of many stakeholders to launder large sums of money through licensed or public sector-controlled activities.

Basha wrote in his letter that the illicit activity of drug production and trafficking in Albania in recent years has generated billions of euros, some of which have been “used to corrupt government officials and public employees in order to launder money profited from the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics and/or corruption.”

In his letter, Basha also noted the opposition's repeated warnings that “the banking sector is most exposed to cooperation between corrupt governments with some companies using the construction sector to launder money from illegal activities.”

Although noting that not every business engaged in the construction sector carries out illegal activity, Basha said some companies have received construction permits and public contracts at levels that are not justified either by their experience or by the financial opportunities they have. Basha cited as such the last two Private Public Partnership contracts for the Milot-Balldren and Orikum-Dukat road projects.

“Both public contracts openly infringe on the public interest and severely damage the financial interests of the Albanian state by providing unfair benefits to corrupt officials and private companies,” reads Basha’s letter on commercial banks.

“From the assessment of the financial and technical capacities of the private companies involved in these two projects, it turns out that they are not able to complete the projects on their own and consequently bank loans are foreseen. However, these companies will not have the real opportunity to repay the loan they will ask of you after the cancellation of unlawful state funding received as a result of corrupt practices,” he further adds. 

Noting the importance of the stability of the banking system for the united opposition, the opposition leader says he considers it reasonable to inform every bank about the fate of these two corrupt projects.

Basha says financing such projects, aimed at laundering money for trafficking and corruption, should not only be allowed, but also consider criminal the person or institution that has cooperated in this regard.

“We expect your bank to apply the ‘enhanced vigilance’ process to any transaction involving entities that are engaged in the above activities, particularly, given the indications that are public not only from the DP, but also from the international institutions' specialized reports,” the letter concludes. 

 
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