Strong earthquake rocks Albania, damaging over 500 homes and injuring 105 people

Strong earthquake rocks Albania, damaging over 500 homes and injuring 105 people

TIRANA, Sept. 22 – A strong 5,6 Richter magnitude earthquake hit Albania on Saturday evening, with a smaller 5,4 Richter earthquake following and numerous aftershocks throughout the night, damaging over 500 homes and 30 buildings and hurting around 105 people

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Former Interior Minister found guilty of office abuse, cleared of organized crime charges

Former Interior Minister found guilty of office abuse, cleared of organized crime charges

TIRANA, Sept. 20 – The Serious Crimes Court decided to sentence on Thursday evening  former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri to five years in prison.  Since he had previously agreed on a shortened judgment, the sentence was then converted to three

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President shows documents proving arson against parliament

President shows documents proving arson against parliament

TIRANA, Sept. 19 – Albanian President Ilir Meta told the Special Investigative Commission established by the parliament to evaluate his dismissal legally that some individuals from Kosovo would try to set the parliament on fire after a protest called by

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Albania, N. Macedonia head for separation regarding opening of EU negotiations

Albania, N. Macedonia head for separation regarding opening of EU negotiations

TIRANA, Sept. 19 – Germany will likely decide to support the unconditional opening of talks with Northern Macedonia and the opening of talks with Albania after the latter fulfills a set of ten conditions, sources from Germany have claimed. For

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Opposition publishes documents allegedly proving Vau i Dejes Mayor’s criminal past

Opposition publishes documents allegedly proving Vau i Dejes Mayor’s criminal past

TIRANA, Sept. 18 – The opposition’s Democratic Party today released documents which, according to it, prove the new Socialist Party Vau i Dejes Mayor Mark Babani has been arrested and convicted in Sicily of car theft. During a news conference,

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PM invites opposition to dialogue on electoral reform

PM invites opposition to dialogue on electoral reform

TIRANA, Sept. 18 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Wednesday invited opposition parties that have resigned the parliament to sit down together to discuss  the electoral reform.  In an open letter, he wrote that he is ready for unconditional

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200 thousand students less enrolled in school for 2019, study finds

200 thousand students less enrolled in school for 2019, study finds

TIRANA, Sept. 17 – The Albanian population’s mass migration is directly affecting the education sector in the country, as every passing year schools are facing the challenge of reduced number of pupils and, consequently,the closing of many classes.  According to

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Albanians, among the most expelled from Germany

Albanians, among the most expelled from Germany

TIRANA, Sept. 12 – Albania is on the list of countries with the highest number of asylum seekers expelled from Germany, writes Deutsche Welle in the article ‘Albania among the first countries for expulsion from Germany.’ The article explains that

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Opposition requests verification for third Socialist mayor coming from June 30 elections

Opposition requests verification for third Socialist mayor coming from June 30 elections

TIRANA, Sept. 11 – The opposition’s Democratic Party asked the prosecution on Tuesday to verify the new Mayor of Vau Dejes Mark Babani, whom it suspects of hiding his criminal past.  According to the opposition, he has been detained, sentenced

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Prosecution demands 12 years of prison for former Interior Minister

Prosecution demands 12 years of prison for former Interior Minister

TIRANA, Sept. 10 – The Serious Crimes Prosecution demanded on Tuesday 12 years in prison for former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri for collaborating with a criminal group trafficking narcotics to Italy in at least four cases during 2013 and 2015.

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 22 - A strong 5,6 Richter magnitude earthquake hit Albania on Saturday evening, with a smaller 5,4 Richter earthquake following and numerous aftershocks throughout the night, damaging over 500 homes and 30 buildings and hurting around 105 people in Tirana and Durres, which were the most affected cities. 

According to the first preliminary official data, announced by Defense Minister Olta Xhaçka at around 8 pm, there were initially 68 reports of injured persons, but in all cases they were minor and mainly caused due to fear and panic experienced by citizens at the time of the earthquake.

According to Xhacka, damage of homes and flats “was mainly a matter of cracked walls or other damage of this kind, although in the coming days the seriousness of these damage will be verified by expert field teams.” 

There were, however, cases like the one at the Faculty of Geology in Tirana, where stones and facade bricks fell apart, completely destroying two cars that were parked near the building.

The first earthquake marked “the largest recorded in the last 30 years", according to seismologists, and was followed by dozens more at a lower intensity. 

Mostly in Tirana and Durres, citizens experienced fear and panic for hours, leaving their houses to stay in the streets and squares. 

In fact, a large portion of citizens were wounded while hurriedly fleeing to get out of their homes. In one case, one person suffered a leg fracture after throwing himself from the second floor of the apartment, while another was hit by a car while attempting to cross the road at speed.

Albania was hit at midnight by another strong earthquake, though at slightly lower intensity than Saturday afternoon. According to the data, the epicenter was 2 kilometers southeast of Durres, with a magnitude of 4.9 on the Richter scale, and the tremors were strongly felt in Tirana again, at the time the extraordinary government meeting concerning the earthquake was taking place.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said during the meeting that government structures reacted swiftly to the emergency situation and that he is willing to use the necessary available funds to meet the costs caused by the natural disaster.

However, historical records show that earthquakes have completely devastated Durres several times, with seismic aftershocks ranking first for catastrophes that natural disasters could cause the country. 

Albania ranks 43rd in the world for earthquake risk, with devastating earthquakes occurring every century, while experts point out that the country has neither the funds nor the infrastructure to handle such phenomena. 

 

Objects risking destruction 

Damages caused on physical objects include those buildings that are constructed of materials that do not withstand earthquakes above 6 Richter scale and older buildings, mainly those built prior to the 1960s.

According to the study, buildings built with adobe, brick, stone and concrete and structural systems whose walls are made of prefabricated materials are most vulnerable.

Buildings constructed before 1960 have no earthquake resistance, those built between 1960-1990 have low seismic protection, while buildings after 1990 have insufficient protection, as many of them have abused the number of floors in relation to the foundations’ durability. 

The study shows that the highest demands for the national civil emergency system would come from earthquakes that occur in Durres, Elbasan, Berat or Vlora, as low-impact seismic sources are capable of causing structural damage and collapses ranging from 1,9 to 5.2 percent of the national housing fund.

In the event of high impact earthquakes, which can occur once every 500 years, the liberated energy potential is capable of causing a nationwide construction disaster.

And although the displacement process has reduced the impact of strong earthquakes in the north and south of the country, it has significantly increased exposure in Tirana, Durres and other cities affected by the earthquake source areas in the coastal area.

 

Albania ranks 43rd globally on earthquake risk 

Worldwide, Albania ranks 43rd in earthquake risk.

On the global map of the risk of this natural occurrence, Albania is located in the red zone.

From the evidence available to date, it follows that from the second century BC to the present day, Albania has been hit by 55 strong earthquakes of up to 8 Richter magnitude. 

European seismology stations have recorded accurate earthquakes measuring 6 magnitude in Albania since the beginning of the 20th century, while the lower magnitudes up to 2 Richter began to be measured in the late 1960s.

Albania is among a wide area of ​​contact between the African tectonic plates, with the regions surrounding it including a fairly extensive tectonic zone - Greece, Montenegro, Macedonia, Southern Bulgaria and Western Turkey. Every year, at least one earthquake less than 6.5 magnitude Richter occurs in this region.

 

Earthquakes in Albania 

Seismic hazard estimates show that magnitude 5.0 earthquakes have a repetition period of 3.6 years, while earthquakes 5.5, 6, 6.5 and 7 have a repetition period of 10, 29, 94 and 505 years. According to estimates, with a 75 percent probability, Albania is affected every year by an earthquake of no greater than 4.7 magnitude and once every 50 years by an earthquake of no greater than 6.1 magnitude and once every 100 years by one earthquake not exceeding 6.4 magnitude.

Among the areas most affected by earthquakes is the Lezha-Ulcinj coastline, where the Albanian towns of Shkodra and Lezha are endangered and the town of Petrovac, Montenegro. 

The second seismic zone is that of the Adriatic lowlands, including the cities of Tirana, Durres and Berat. Near Tirana, in 1988, a 6-magnitude earthquake was recorded, in Durres in 1926 a 6.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded and in Berat in 1959 a 6.6-magnitude earthquake.

The third seismic zone is that of the Ionian coast, including the cities of Vlora, Himara, Tepelena and Saranda. The latter two were hit in 1920 by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake, Himara was hit by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake in 1930 and Vlora in 1962 by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake.

 

Reaction capacities 

The seismological network currently consists of 13 stations plus 34 other "large oscillation" stations. This network is already operating as a fully integrated digital system through the use of satellite communication.

These monitoring networks are the only seismological infrastructure in the country that addresses the monitoring and study of seismic activity in Albania. Seismic service personnel have been recently trained by NATO, although requiring further training because existing seismologists (six) participate in search, rescue, evacuation, treatment and transportation of injured persons.

In a study Colonel Foto Duro has done for the Center for European and Security Affairs, he says emergency response capabilities are provided by various institutions, including the military's main contribution. 

Currently, there are 16 trucks, 17 helicopters and about 65 small motor boats available for evacuation. Tents for 17,000 people are only available from the military, plus tents provided by other institutions.

Food is available at two units of bread production for 2400 kg of bread per day and 12 kitchens for up to 3000 servings per day. There are 7 buses available for drinkable water, providing a total of 67 tons of 11 pumps. Two units are for water purification and two shower units that can handle 200 people daily, which can be raised outside the affected area 72 hours after the emergency is declared. 

Albania’s emergency means need to cover a greater number of people compared to the region states’ capacities; Another problem related to these capacities is the relatively low level of technical readiness of vehicles, aggregates and equipment, which in general assessment does not exceed 60-70%.

 

Limited financial sources 

The current Albanian legislation has no clear definition of the percentage of funds provided for natural disaster management.

However, it has recently been stipulated that line ministries and other central institutions should have a separate Civil Protection budget of 0.3 to 1 percent of their budget. The law also stipulates not only the need for local government to rely on central government funds in the case of a disaster, but also the obligation of the local government to use its own revenues for this purpose. At the municipality level, 3 percent of its budget is planned to compensate citizens for damages from natural disasters, an amount well below the statutory requirement that compensation to the population affected by natural disasters should go up to 40 percent. 

Although the intensity of natural disasters has increased tremendously in recent years, especially after floods, there is still no national insurance scheme to mitigate the consequences of disasters. 

The World Bank has consistently assisted the Financial Supervisory Authority, but has yet to deliver a solution.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 20 - The Serious Crimes Court decided to sentence on Thursday evening  former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri to five years in prison. 

Since he had previously agreed on a shortened judgment, the sentence was then converted to three years and four months of probation period. 

Tahiri is also prohibited from exercising public office for the same period.

Last week, the prosecution  sought a 12-year prison sentence, charging the former minister with at least three serious offenses: “narcotics trafficking committed in co-operation in the form of a structured criminal group”; “participation in a structured criminal group” and “committing the offense in a structured criminal group.” 

However, the court overturned these charges, finding that there was no evidence to support the allegations, but that they were, according to the judges, sufficient to convict Tahiri of abuse of power.

The former MoI was investigated in November 2017 on suspicions of being linked to the Habilaj brothers, his cousins, who were part of an Italian-Albanian organization that trafficked marijuana from Albania to Italy. 

Investigations began after Italian authorities struck the organization in Catania, and in the wiretaps Tahiri's name was mentioned several times in conversations between traffickers.

The prosecution urged Tahiri's arrest, but most Left Party lawmakers rejected the claim, claiming it had not presented any evidence. 

Last year’s May, Tahiri resigned his  lawmaker’s mandate and soon after the prosecution again demanded his arrest. 

Tahiri spent a brief period under house arrest, until the Court of Appeals allowed his free trial, which was closed last February.

BothTahiri and his lawyer have insisted on his innocence, saying the prosecution failed to provide concrete evidence in support of the charges. 

Meanwhile, after the court decision Tahiri appeared surprised. 

“For two years I was investigated as part of a criminal group that dealt with drug trafficking, today the court says that since my cousins ​​used my name, I was abusing my office. I am astonished that the Court is holding me accountable because some of my cousins ​​used my name,” said Tahiri, announcing that he would appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals. 

Shortly after the court ruled for the former interior minister, the opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha also reacted, saying the decision was shameful. 

“The shameful decision not to do justice to Edi Rama's right hand, who filled Albania with drugs and turned it into a stain of black crime in Europe, proves that justice in Albania is Edi Rama's hostage, and Edi Rama is hostage to crime,” wrote Basha in a Facebook post, tweeting that   
“today's ruling confirms that Edi Rama did everything in his power to protect Saimir Tahiri because Saimir Tahiri holds Rama hostage with his corruption and crime files.”

While the former MoI was unhappy with the final court ruling, the decision was a slap for the Serious Crimes Prosecution, which after nearly a year and a half of investigations, could not, according to the court's own assessment, support in evidence, the serious accusations she made against Tahiri.

US Embassy: “Tahiri’s conviction is discouraging” 

Although the US Embassy to Tirana said the verdict against Tahiri demonstrates a growing independence of the judiciary, the conviction itself is ultimately discouraging.

“Yesterday’s verdict against former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri demonstrates the growing independence of the judiciary and the beginning of the end of impunity for the well-connected.  While Mr. Tahiri’s conviction on abuse of office charges signals an important step forward, the sentencing is discouraging given the seriousness of the charges. Those who abuse the public trust and violate the law should face meaningful consequences.  The United States will continue to partner with Albania in support of further progress on justice reform, transparency, and good governance,” said a press release.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 19 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told the Special Investigative Commission established by the parliament to evaluate his dismissal legally that some individuals from Kosovo would try to set the parliament on fire after a protest called by the opposition on June 8. 

“The information made it clear that particular individuals would try to use the meeting called by the opposition on June 8 for different acts, including setting the parliament on fire,” Meta said. 

This secret information was in the centre of Meta’s defense testimony in front of the commission, which was established to undergo his dismissal after he cancelled the June 30 local elections through a second presidential decree.

Following the mandatory procedures, the Secret Informative Service (SHISH) document became part of the folder the commission is investigating, as declared by the head of this commission, SP lawmaker Ulsi Manja.

This information, never heard of before Meta appeared in front of the commission, raised a lot of questions regarding who would act violently and lawlessly and in what way.

According to the information provided by SHISH and its secret agents who were able to infiltrate the opposition’s protesting crowd, a paramilitary group with military background coming from Kosovo and other ethnically Albanian lands would take part in a number of actions whose ultimate goal was to burn the Albanian parliament.

The secret document doesn’t provide information on who these people are, who paid or financed their actions and, lastly, whether they were armed and through which ways they were able to burn down the parliament, which is always secure and guarded.

A similar scenario surfaced approximately 21 years ago, on September 14, 1988, when it was said that armed individuals took part in violently attacking the institutions and hijacking the parliament.

According to Meta, SHISH also shared this secret information with the respective foreign US and European agencies, making former US deputy director Mathew Palmer to declare in an interview that violence during the opposition’s protest would directly be blamed on the opposition’s leaders Lulzim Basha and Monika Kryemadhi.

The investigative commission is supposed to go through the information provided by Meta and the SHISH and then decide whether this information was enough for the president to cancel June 30 as the official election date and replace it with a new decree, that of October 30.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 19 - Germany will likely decide to support the unconditional opening of talks with Northern Macedonia and the opening of talks with Albania after the latter fulfills a set of ten conditions, sources from Germany have claimed.

For Albania, said conditions are mainly related to the rule of law and to the institutions that will fight corruption and organized crime. 

Among them are the establishment and beginning of work of the special anti-corruption unit, the establishment and functionality of the Constitutional Court, filling up the High Court with members, beginning penal proceedings against judges and prosecutors who were dismissed after the vetting, the electoral reform and its application, punishing people who were part of vote rigging, successful fight against organized crime and corruption, administrative reform and an agreement on the legitimacy of the last local elections. 

This seems to be the Bundestag's decision if judged by the public statements of a number of German politicians and foreign relations experts.

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.

Bodo Weber, a member of the Democratization Policy Council in Berlin, the first organization to announce that the German parliament would postpone the decision on Northern Macedonia and Albania in June, also told the European Western Balkans portal the decision would be seperated. 

 
                    [post_title] => Albania, N. Macedonia head for separation regarding opening of EU negotiations  
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 18 - The opposition’s Democratic Party today released documents which, according to it, prove the new Socialist Party Vau i Dejes Mayor Mark Babani has been arrested and convicted in Sicily of car theft.

During a news conference, Gazment Bardhi, DP Secretary General, released data allegedly from Italy's prison register.

“Mark Babani, under the pseudonym Marq Babaj, was arrested on April 4, 1994, in Sicily, Italy, for committing the crime of 'aggravated robbery, committed in cooperation'. He has been arrested by Italian police for stealing cars. Mark Babani alias Marq Babaj remained in prison until May 6, 1994 and was subsequently convicted and deported from the Italian state. This is only part of the criminal record of Edi Rama's candidate for Vau i Dejes,” Bardhi said.

Earlier, the Democratic Party asked the prosecution to verify Mark Babani's past, as his self-declaration form Babani stated that he had never been arrested or convicted in the past.

If the DP allegations turn out to be true under the decriminalization law, Babani cannot hold the post of Vau i Dejes mayor and must be prosecuted for false declaration and falsification of the self-decriminalization form.

Babani himself has denied having been arrested or convicted in the past, but he is the third mayor of the opposition condemned by the opposition for his hidden criminal past, after Valdrin Pjetri of Shkodra and Agim Kajmak of Vora.

Last Tuesday, Babani told the Voice Of America that the allegations or, as the DP calls them, suspicions do not refer to him and are unrelated to his name and his life. They, he added, relate to the Democratic Party’s own need to retain its electorate. 

Babani said there is no compromising document that could come up as everything is registered in Europe and there is no possibility of abuse. 

“Never in my life have I, my father, my grandfather, spent 24 hours in prison in any absolute way. I have never been called by the police ever, nor have I ever received a 100 euro fine all my life, all over Europe where I have moved,” Babani said. 

Mark Babani, an immigrant to Italy and later a well-known businessman in the field of fish processing, denounced the Democratic Party’s statement that he has used three different identities and added that he would cooperate with the prosecution. 

 
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                (
                    [ID] => 143091
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-09-19 09:42:11
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-19 07:42:11
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 18 - Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Wednesday invited opposition parties that have resigned the parliament to sit down together to discuss  the electoral reform. 

In an open letter, he wrote that he is ready for unconditional talks at any time and place the opposition would choose, while the opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha's response was that resolving the political crisis is a bigger priority for Albania. 

After repeatedly publicly reiterating his commitment to discuss with the opposition on electoral reform, Rama addressed the latter with an open letter inviting them to begin a discussion process on what he describes as "a common national challenge.”

Rama points out that “the process has already begun in parliament and will end there” but, according to him, "the absence of the main opposition forces in the highest decision-making institution of the Republic does not in itself exclude it from the scope of discussing the reform debate.” 

For this reason he invited the main opposition leaders, who resigned the parliament last February, to meet and discuss this common challenge, at any time and place that would suit the opposition, and only if it is “interested in getting involved in the process, unconditionally,” concluded Rama’s letter.

Basha's response came immediately after Rama’s letter.

“Electoral reform is important, but resolving the political crisis requires political will. Open letters, provocations such as the involvement of 184 file suspects in processes like the electoral reform, show a lack of political will. Therefore, the first step in resolving the crisis should be to acknowledge the grave situation in the country, the lawlessness, where the cooperation of this government and this Prime Minister with organized crime has taken place,” Basha wrote. 

Basha's statement was at the same time a response to the planned meeting, but also to the electoral reform, by the co-chairmanship of the special reform committee and the OSCE in Tirana, regarding which the DP leader did not hide his critical position.

“I still wait for the OSCE in Tirana to comment on the OSCE/ODIHR report, I still wait for its opinion regarding the three mayors with past criminal records, I still wait for its opinion on the grave violations of the Constitution and the law. I think these are important things for Albanians to hear. We have not heard the OSCE speak about either of these or other things directly related to the OSCE mandate,” Basha said. 

Later in the evening, Basha called his allies in a meeting, confirming the same attitude towards Rama’s invitation.

 
                    [post_title] => PM invites opposition to dialogue on electoral reform 
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                    [ID] => 143075
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-09-17 11:55:34
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-17 09:55:34
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 17 - The Albanian population’s mass migration is directly affecting the education sector in the country, as every passing year schools are facing the challenge of reduced number of pupils and, consequently,the closing of many classes. 

According to data from the Ministry of Education, 306,000 students are expected to attend elementary school this new school year. 

The number of children in 2019 is 13,000 less than the year before, whereas compared to the beginning of transition (year 1992) there are about 200 thousand students less.

Compared to 2011, when the last counting was implemented, 114,000 fewer students now sit in school benches. Over the course of eight years, the number of students in the 9-year cycle has been reduced by 27 percent. 

Falling rates are expected to remain high in the period ahead. The Ministry of Education expects that by 2022, the number of students in 9-year education will reach 273 thousand, or 9.7 percent less than in 2019.

In addition to the natural decline of the population, Albanian education is suffering from dropouts due to emigration. Thousands of young people under the age of 18, a contingent on secondary and primary education, choose to emigrate, mostly with their families.

Since 2010, an average of 15,000 juveniles have left for the European Union each year, according to Eurostat data on first-time residence permits issued by EU countries, broken down by age group, processed by local media. 

The year 2018 again marked an increase in the number of juveniles who were granted residence permits in one of the EU countries. During the year that followed, Albanians were granted residence permits for the first time, about 17,279 minors under 19, an increase of 6 percent over the previous year. 

The figures are higher than that, given that Eurostat has no published data on first residence permits issued by Germany

Immigration is seen as one of the main causes of the drop in the number of students in schools. Education policy expert, Ndricim Mehmeti, says that from 2014 onwards there has been a drastic reduction in the number of students due to emigration and internal migration. 

According to him, MASR and the government have not analyzed this situation and as a result, they are not ready to provide solutions.

Abandoning compulsory education mostly happens for economic and social reasons, as well as for lack of hope that this country can change, he added.
                    [post_title] => 200 thousand students less enrolled in school for 2019, study finds 
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                    [ID] => 143066
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-13 09:38:38
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-13 07:38:38
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 12 - Albania is on the list of countries with the highest number of asylum seekers expelled from Germany, writes Deutsche Welle in the article 'Albania among the first countries for expulsion from Germany.’

The article explains that the German government has responded to the Left party by saying that "nearly 11,500 people were deported from Germany in the first half of 2019. A slight increase from a year earlier."

Albania is considered by the European Union as a safe country of origin and asylum applications from Albanians are not usually accepted.

In August 2019, according to data released by the German Interior Ministry, 758 Albanians were expelled from Germany in 2018, ranking the Albanian nationality among the first for the highest number of expelled citizens. 

The main reasons for deportations were the refusal of asylum applications, the expiry of a residence permit, or even undocumented residence. 

After the Albanians, the two nationalities with the highest number of deportations were the Ukrainians, with 755 cases, and the Serbs, with 509 cases.

Germany has for years stressed that Albania is a safe country of origin, so it will not accept any asylum application from Albanians. However, this has not stopped Albanians from seeking asylum in Germany, or other EU countries.

According to data from the European Asylum Support Office, EASO, 10,439 Albanians first applied for asylum from January to June this year. Compared to 2018 there was an increase of over 20 percent.

Since 2013 the number of asylum seekers from Albania has been over 11,000 per year. 

2015 had the highest number, with 68,945 applications.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-11 11:14:28
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 11 - The opposition’s Democratic Party asked the prosecution on Tuesday to verify the new Mayor of Vau Dejes Mark Babani, whom it suspects of hiding his criminal past. 

According to the opposition, he has been detained, sentenced and deported both in Italy and Northern Macedonia. The DP also said it accompanied the verification request to the prosecution by the signature of 500 citizens. 

Meanwhile, Democratic Party Secretary General Gazment Bardhi said he has given the prosecution the information available to the Democratic Party for Babani. 

In its request to the prosecution, the DP states that the mayor of Vau Dejes "was allegedly arrested / detained in Italy during 1994-1999 and subsequently sentenced and deported by the responsible Italian authorities.” 

Also, according to the DP, Babani “has been arrested/detained and subsequently convicted in the Republic of Northern Macedonia during the period 2002-2003.”

The DP also wants the prosecution to investigate the data presented by Babani in the self-declaration form when he ran for mayor of Vau Dejes, as “verification of TIMS data shows that citizen Mark Babani from 1994 - 2005 has not traveled in any single case to Italy using his real identity, which is an indication of the accuracy of the data made public earlier and there are suspicions that this citizen used three different identities, not stated in the Decriminalization Form.” 

On Tuesday, Babani told the Voice Of America that the allegations or, as the DP calls them, suspicions do not refer to him and are unrelated to his name and his life. They, he added, relate to the Democratic Party's own need to retain its electorate. 

Babani said there is no compromising document that could come up as everything is registered in Europe and there is no possibility of abuse. 

“Never in my life have I, my father, my grandfather, spent 24 hours in prison in any absolute way. I have never been called by the police ever, nor have I ever received a 100 euro fine all my life, all over Europe where I have moved,” Babani said. 

Mark Babani, an immigrant to Italy and later a well-known businessman in the field of fish processing, denounced the Democratic Party's statement that he has used three different identities and added that he would cooperate with the prosecution. 

“In 1991 I left and worked until 1995 in two different jobs: at a fish factory, where I am a partner and continue this activity to this day, and at a hotel, where I worked in ‘94 and ‘95. In 1995 I obtained my license in Albania for the first time, in ‘96 I made the investment and in ‘97 I left because such was the period. And I have renewed my residence permit once in a year or two, according to the existing regulation, and when I needed to renew my residence permit I was forced to go to Italy,” Babani said. 

Mark Babani is the third socialist mayor, after those of Shkodra and Vora, to emerge from the June 30 elections without the opposition's participation, suspected by the DP of hiding criminal records of his life. 

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition requests verification for third Socialist mayor coming from June 30 elections
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-10 14:59:29
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-10 12:59:29
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 10 - The Serious Crimes Prosecution demanded on Tuesday 12 years in prison for former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri for collaborating with a criminal group trafficking narcotics to Italy in at least four cases during 2013 and 2015.

Former Minister Tahiri and former Vlora police director Jaeld Cela are charged with trafficking narcotics as a structured criminal group and committing offenses as a structured group.

The prosecution presented the findings of the investigation, according to which Tahiri is charged with four cases of narcotics trafficking to Italy on October 25, 2013, February 27, 2014, July 29, 2014 and May 8, 2015.

According to investigators, Tahiri and Cela, who have been under charges for more than a year, have created protection for traffickers.

At today's hearing, the telephone wiretaps were read in favor of the charges.

Tahiri dismissed the allegations as unfounded in evidence, saying the Habilaj was group was prosecuted several times during his tenure as minister. He added that for the first he had just been appointed minister, while in the second he was only minister for two months, and could have no connection.

Tahiri said he has never helped his cousins ​​already arrested in Italy. 

He said they were prosecuted in October 2013, and later he personally denounced and prosecuted the Habilaj brothers, Artan, Florian and Moisi Habilaj, for kidnapping.

The Serious Crimes Court has accepted the request for a summary trial, a ruling that automatically reduces his sentence to one third.  If the court imposes 12 years in prison, as the prosecution demanded, Tahiri could be sentenced to eight years in prison.

Tahiri was elected as an MP through the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama and expelled from the group after the allegation surfaced. Using immunity rules, his fellow Socialist MPs did not allow prosecutors to arrest Tahiri, however, and he had become a large target for the opposition and international representatives.

Moisi Habilaj, a distant cousin of former minister Tahiri, was arrested among several other suspects, by Italian authorities. Tahiri, one of the longest serving interior ministers who was in office from September 2013 to March 2017, faced calls for his arrest after his name came up in wiretaps in the case, published by Italians police.

He has denied any wrongdoing, saying the request for his arrest is politically motivated.

The 37-year-old MP, one of the key figures of the Socialist Party in its previous four-year-term, became one of the most controversial topics regarding Rama’s governance and the allegations against him of closely cooperating with criminal circles during both his terms. 

 
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            [post_date] => 2019-09-22 16:09:08
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-22 14:09:08
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 22 - A strong 5,6 Richter magnitude earthquake hit Albania on Saturday evening, with a smaller 5,4 Richter earthquake following and numerous aftershocks throughout the night, damaging over 500 homes and 30 buildings and hurting around 105 people in Tirana and Durres, which were the most affected cities. 

According to the first preliminary official data, announced by Defense Minister Olta Xhaçka at around 8 pm, there were initially 68 reports of injured persons, but in all cases they were minor and mainly caused due to fear and panic experienced by citizens at the time of the earthquake.

According to Xhacka, damage of homes and flats “was mainly a matter of cracked walls or other damage of this kind, although in the coming days the seriousness of these damage will be verified by expert field teams.” 

There were, however, cases like the one at the Faculty of Geology in Tirana, where stones and facade bricks fell apart, completely destroying two cars that were parked near the building.

The first earthquake marked “the largest recorded in the last 30 years", according to seismologists, and was followed by dozens more at a lower intensity. 

Mostly in Tirana and Durres, citizens experienced fear and panic for hours, leaving their houses to stay in the streets and squares. 

In fact, a large portion of citizens were wounded while hurriedly fleeing to get out of their homes. In one case, one person suffered a leg fracture after throwing himself from the second floor of the apartment, while another was hit by a car while attempting to cross the road at speed.

Albania was hit at midnight by another strong earthquake, though at slightly lower intensity than Saturday afternoon. According to the data, the epicenter was 2 kilometers southeast of Durres, with a magnitude of 4.9 on the Richter scale, and the tremors were strongly felt in Tirana again, at the time the extraordinary government meeting concerning the earthquake was taking place.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said during the meeting that government structures reacted swiftly to the emergency situation and that he is willing to use the necessary available funds to meet the costs caused by the natural disaster.

However, historical records show that earthquakes have completely devastated Durres several times, with seismic aftershocks ranking first for catastrophes that natural disasters could cause the country. 

Albania ranks 43rd in the world for earthquake risk, with devastating earthquakes occurring every century, while experts point out that the country has neither the funds nor the infrastructure to handle such phenomena. 

 

Objects risking destruction 

Damages caused on physical objects include those buildings that are constructed of materials that do not withstand earthquakes above 6 Richter scale and older buildings, mainly those built prior to the 1960s.

According to the study, buildings built with adobe, brick, stone and concrete and structural systems whose walls are made of prefabricated materials are most vulnerable.

Buildings constructed before 1960 have no earthquake resistance, those built between 1960-1990 have low seismic protection, while buildings after 1990 have insufficient protection, as many of them have abused the number of floors in relation to the foundations’ durability. 

The study shows that the highest demands for the national civil emergency system would come from earthquakes that occur in Durres, Elbasan, Berat or Vlora, as low-impact seismic sources are capable of causing structural damage and collapses ranging from 1,9 to 5.2 percent of the national housing fund.

In the event of high impact earthquakes, which can occur once every 500 years, the liberated energy potential is capable of causing a nationwide construction disaster.

And although the displacement process has reduced the impact of strong earthquakes in the north and south of the country, it has significantly increased exposure in Tirana, Durres and other cities affected by the earthquake source areas in the coastal area.

 

Albania ranks 43rd globally on earthquake risk 

Worldwide, Albania ranks 43rd in earthquake risk.

On the global map of the risk of this natural occurrence, Albania is located in the red zone.

From the evidence available to date, it follows that from the second century BC to the present day, Albania has been hit by 55 strong earthquakes of up to 8 Richter magnitude. 

European seismology stations have recorded accurate earthquakes measuring 6 magnitude in Albania since the beginning of the 20th century, while the lower magnitudes up to 2 Richter began to be measured in the late 1960s.

Albania is among a wide area of ​​contact between the African tectonic plates, with the regions surrounding it including a fairly extensive tectonic zone - Greece, Montenegro, Macedonia, Southern Bulgaria and Western Turkey. Every year, at least one earthquake less than 6.5 magnitude Richter occurs in this region.

 

Earthquakes in Albania 

Seismic hazard estimates show that magnitude 5.0 earthquakes have a repetition period of 3.6 years, while earthquakes 5.5, 6, 6.5 and 7 have a repetition period of 10, 29, 94 and 505 years. According to estimates, with a 75 percent probability, Albania is affected every year by an earthquake of no greater than 4.7 magnitude and once every 50 years by an earthquake of no greater than 6.1 magnitude and once every 100 years by one earthquake not exceeding 6.4 magnitude.

Among the areas most affected by earthquakes is the Lezha-Ulcinj coastline, where the Albanian towns of Shkodra and Lezha are endangered and the town of Petrovac, Montenegro. 

The second seismic zone is that of the Adriatic lowlands, including the cities of Tirana, Durres and Berat. Near Tirana, in 1988, a 6-magnitude earthquake was recorded, in Durres in 1926 a 6.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded and in Berat in 1959 a 6.6-magnitude earthquake.

The third seismic zone is that of the Ionian coast, including the cities of Vlora, Himara, Tepelena and Saranda. The latter two were hit in 1920 by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake, Himara was hit by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake in 1930 and Vlora in 1962 by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake.

 

Reaction capacities 

The seismological network currently consists of 13 stations plus 34 other "large oscillation" stations. This network is already operating as a fully integrated digital system through the use of satellite communication.

These monitoring networks are the only seismological infrastructure in the country that addresses the monitoring and study of seismic activity in Albania. Seismic service personnel have been recently trained by NATO, although requiring further training because existing seismologists (six) participate in search, rescue, evacuation, treatment and transportation of injured persons.

In a study Colonel Foto Duro has done for the Center for European and Security Affairs, he says emergency response capabilities are provided by various institutions, including the military's main contribution. 

Currently, there are 16 trucks, 17 helicopters and about 65 small motor boats available for evacuation. Tents for 17,000 people are only available from the military, plus tents provided by other institutions.

Food is available at two units of bread production for 2400 kg of bread per day and 12 kitchens for up to 3000 servings per day. There are 7 buses available for drinkable water, providing a total of 67 tons of 11 pumps. Two units are for water purification and two shower units that can handle 200 people daily, which can be raised outside the affected area 72 hours after the emergency is declared. 

Albania’s emergency means need to cover a greater number of people compared to the region states’ capacities; Another problem related to these capacities is the relatively low level of technical readiness of vehicles, aggregates and equipment, which in general assessment does not exceed 60-70%.

 

Limited financial sources 

The current Albanian legislation has no clear definition of the percentage of funds provided for natural disaster management.

However, it has recently been stipulated that line ministries and other central institutions should have a separate Civil Protection budget of 0.3 to 1 percent of their budget. The law also stipulates not only the need for local government to rely on central government funds in the case of a disaster, but also the obligation of the local government to use its own revenues for this purpose. At the municipality level, 3 percent of its budget is planned to compensate citizens for damages from natural disasters, an amount well below the statutory requirement that compensation to the population affected by natural disasters should go up to 40 percent. 

Although the intensity of natural disasters has increased tremendously in recent years, especially after floods, there is still no national insurance scheme to mitigate the consequences of disasters. 

The World Bank has consistently assisted the Financial Supervisory Authority, but has yet to deliver a solution.

 
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