Chief prosecutor’s future uncertain with mandate end in constitutionally grey area

Chief prosecutor’s future uncertain with mandate end in constitutionally grey area

TIRANA, Nov. 21 – International representatives serving in an advisory role to justice reform bodies have recommended that a short-term General Prosecutor be chosen by parliament through a simple majority vote once the mandate of current General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla

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No passports for Kosovo citizens, Meta says

No passports for Kosovo citizens, Meta says

TIRANA, Nov. 21 – Giving Albanian passports to Kosovo citizens is not a solution to Kosovo’s visa issues and would risk Albania’s own visa-free deal, Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week during a visit to Macedonia. Meta made the

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Western Balkan countries reaffirms region’s commitment to cooperation in addressing climate issues

Western Balkan countries reaffirms region’s commitment to cooperation in addressing climate issues

BONN, Nov. 17 – Environmental and climate change authorities from the Western Balkans met at a high-level panel in Bonn, in order to express the consistent commitment to united regional action that will address environmental and climate challenges. Goran Svilanovic,

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Albania and Montenegro reconfirm further cooperation

Albania and Montenegro reconfirm further cooperation

PODGORICA, Nov. 21 – Neighboring Albania and Montenegro are expanding their cooperation in the field of improving and developing the infrastructure of connectivity. It was in this context that the Albanian Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Damian Gjiknuri, was welcomed

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Prosecutors suspect money found in Sota’s car belongs to Tahiri

Prosecutors suspect money found in Sota’s car belongs to Tahiri

TIRANA, Nov. 20 – Prosecutors said this week they suspect the large amount of cash found in Orest Sota’s car about three weeks ago – 860,000 euros – could belong to former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri. Prosecutors made the

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Albanian military to increase presence in Afghanistan

Albanian military to increase presence in Afghanistan

TIRANA, Nov. 22 – Albania’s military will increase its presence in NATO’s mission to Afghanistan by 60 percent next year, Defense Minister Olta Xhaçka said during a visit with the troops already serving in that country. Prime Minister Edi Rama

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Czech Republic reconfirms support to Albania’s EU integration

Czech Republic reconfirms support to Albania’s EU integration

TIRANA, Nov. 23-  Ambassadors of the Czech Republic in the Western Balkans region, plus Slovenia and Croatia, are holding the first Regional Conference in Tirana during 22 – 24 November 2017.  Tirana was chosen as the conference venue due to

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Rama writes to EU PMs seeking supporters for EU bid

Rama writes to EU PMs seeking supporters for EU bid

TIRANA, Nov. 20 – Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has sent a letter to all government leaders of EU member states asking support for Albania to open accession negotiations with the bloc. Rama’s letter was sent as the bloc and

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Government tied to crime and drugs, DP says

Government tied to crime and drugs, DP says

TIRANA, Nov. 21 – Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party continues to denouce the government’s alleged ties to crime and drugs. DP leader Lulzim Basha said after meetings with international representatives this week that Albania was going from cannabis cultivation to

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Kavaja officials arrested for altering ownership of coastal property

Kavaja officials arrested for altering ownership of coastal property

TIRANA, Nov. 16 – Eleven Kavaja former and current property registration and local government officials are facing criminal charges for allegedly altering ownership of coastal public property, in the Spille Beach area, by falsifying the ownership documents that made the

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 – International representatives serving in an advisory role to justice reform bodies have recommended that a short-term General Prosecutor be chosen by parliament through a simple majority vote once the mandate of current General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla officially ends in early December 2017.

The proposal was sent to the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee by the EURALIUS and OPDAT missions, and the temporary chief prosecutor would serve until the establishment of the High Prosecutorial Council, a justice reform-related body.

The two advisory missions argued that the chief prosecutor’s term cannot be prolonged and that a temporary prosecutor should be selected through a simple parliamentary majority.

However, the recommendation has been met with political opposition.

The head of the main opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, has said that solution would mean the Prime Minister Edi Rama could choose the next Prosecutor General and take control of the vital independent institution.

Adriatik Llalla – whose current mandate as General Prosecutor ends soon – could have had his term extended to fill the void created by the changes in the context of the judiciary reform, which has not been yet fully implemented.

According to these changes, the Prosecutor General should be proposed by the High Prosecutorial Council – an additional institution which for the moment is subject to the vetting process of judges and prosecutors.

The high political tension and open investigation toward the former minister of interior, Saimir Tahiri, have added a new dimension to this debate and the question of extending Llalla’s office mandate.

“Edi Rama cannot name the next Prosecutor General. He was the one to undertake this attack towards prosecutors simply because they requested the investigation and arrest of Saimir Tahiri and he cannot name the Prosecutor General, and neither can the Socialist Party’s deputies who protected him by allowing immunity – they cannot name the Prosecutor General,” Basha said, adding the opposition will use every method to prevent the majority from naming the temporary replacement for Llalla.

The Parliamentary Law Commission addressed a letter to the American and European advisory missions for an opinion on what to do in the case. These experts had formerly assisted with the judiciary reform process.

According to their advice, the Parliament has no constitutional and legal authority to extend Llalla’s mandate; on the contrary, there exists a clear directive that requires the placement of a temporary Prosecutor in Llalla’s place.

“Secondly, this provision makes clear that in the transitory period there shall not be a Prosecutor General, but only a transitory candidate who is assigned the functions of a Prosecutor General,” the experts’ official recommendation read.

Lastly, the experts added that their legal framework does not mean to create a quorum, only to provide a temporary solution, through decision of the Assembly.  

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 – Giving Albanian passports to Kosovo citizens is not a solution to Kosovo’s visa issues and would risk Albania’s own visa-free deal, Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week during a visit to Macedonia.

Meta made the comments in an interview for Radio Free Europe, where he spoke of Albania’s position and role in relation with its neighbours, the issuing of Albanian passports to Kosovo citizens as mentioned by President Thaçi a few weeks ago and the use of the Albanian language in Macedonia, among other things.

In terms of Albania’s role in the region, Meta said he sees the country playing a positive role in the region by being committed in reinforcing neighbouring relations and standing strong by its European philosophy and preoccupation.

Asked about Thaçi’s comment during their meeting a couple of weeks back, concerning the possibility to issue Albanian passports to Kosovo citizens, who still need a visa to travel to Europe, Meta said he considered Thaçi’s comment more like a public appeal for a fast solution to this problem, rather than a real alternative that could help improve Kosovo’s situation.

“It not right for Kosovo's citizens to continue to face an obstacle, but at the same time I believe that taking Albanian citizenship would not be a solution to facilitate their movement towards Schengen countries, because Albania itself is obliged to show constant care in respect of all the obligations stemming from the implementation of visa liberalization. So it would be a non-productive, non-rational move; not only it wouldn’t benefit the citizens of Kosovo, but could also harm those in Albania,” Meta said.

Meta was also asked about the incidents that took place in Kumanovë and his declaration encouraging Macedonia to investigate and facilitate a transparent judicial process. He reaffirmed his stand, saying that he also appreciates the involvement of international actors in this judicial process as a factor that will guarantee heightened transparency and justice of European standards.

His visit, which happened to overlap with the Albanian Alphabet Day, brought the question of the Albanian language in Macedonian institutions into focus, now that Albanian is officially represented at the government.

“Representatives of the Albanian political force – not just those who are in government, but also the opposition – have guaranteed they will do their best to reach a maximum in this direction and I hope that it concludes with a legislation, which will bring a positive approach and a long-awaited result for the Albanians of Macedonia,” Meta said.

In this context, Meta concluded by expressing his assurance the Albanian political force will do its part to strengthen Macedonia’s European and NATO perspective, something to which all the country’s officials are committed.

 
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                    [post_content] => BONN, Nov. 17 – Environmental and climate change authorities from the Western Balkans met at a high-level panel in Bonn, in order to express the consistent commitment to united regional action that will address environmental and climate challenges.

Goran Svilanovic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), told participants that environment and climate change adaption emphasizes the efforts for the region’s socio-economic strengthening, and that simultaneous action by all actors is the only method that could bring about tangible results.

“RCC’s annual public and business opinion survey Balkan Barometer 2017 (BB) shows that 73% of citizens of the region perceive climate change as a problem, continuing upward trend registered in 2015. 77% of businesses in South East Europe say they have already undertook some measures to reduce harmful impact on their environment. Therefore, this is an opportune moment, which should be used to identify and implement joint activities that would follow up the implementation of ambitious regional Multi-Annual Action for Regional Economic Area (MAP REA) in the Western Balkans economies in areas of trade, investment, mobility and digital integration, each one involving environmental dimension,” Svilanovic was quoted in a RCC news post.

The participants approved the ‘Declaration on Environment and Climate Action in the Western Balkans’, agreeing that Western Balkans need to improve the synchronization of existing regional initiatives and projects, as well as those that would further serve the SEE 2020 Strategy goals. They also acknowledged the strong ties between energy, and environment and climate change policies, and explored ways to strengthen inter-section cooperation at the highest political levels.

Regional efforts for environmental and climate change adaption have already been made, through the Regional Working Group on Environment, directed by the RCC and rotating co-direction by Western Balkan economies. The main task of the Working Group is the implementation of the Environment Dimension of the RCC’s SEE 2020 Strategy.

Goran Trival, the Serbian Minister for Environmental Protection, stressed that establishing an environment-related ministry, the Serbian Government proved its commitment to tackling the changes.

“Acting only on national levels without proper regional coordination would not suffice and therefore Serbia is to initiate series of regional initiatives to deal with environmental and climate change issues on a wider scale. Importance of cooperation in this field is confirmed by the fact that 2016 was the warmest year on record and on the global level 1.1 °C above the preindustrial period, while it is expected that 2017 will showed to be one of the three warmest years on record. Moreover, we could expect to see the negative trends with growing amount of disasters to continue until the 2060’s,” said Trival in the RCC news post.

The meeting also addressed the execution of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and ways the region can adapt to unavoidable climate changes. According to the preliminary findings of the Study on Climate Change in the Western Balkans Region, Western Balkan is much more susceptible to climate change than the rest of Europe in many sectors, a fact that requires attention and preventive action from the region’s economies.   

The future co-chairmanship of the Regional Working Group on Environment was handed to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at the end of this meeting.

 
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                    [post_content] => PODGORICA, Nov. 21 – Neighboring Albania and Montenegro are expanding their cooperation in the field of improving and developing the infrastructure of connectivity. It was in this context that the Albanian Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Damian Gjiknuri, was welcomed on Tuesday in Podgorica by the Montenegrin Minister of Transport, Osman Nurkoviç and the Minister of Economy, Dragana Sekuliç.

During their press conferences, the Ministers stressed that a feasibility study concerning an Adriatic-Ionian highway has already begun.

“We discussed concerning road infrastructure projects where both countries have as priority project the Adriatic-Ionian highway. We have received funding to make the final feasibility study. I also got acquainted with infrastructure projects in Montenegro that directly affect the connectivity with Albania,” Gjiknuri highlighted.

In addition, the Ministers discussed the joint efforts to create a common border crossing point at Hani i Hotit. The present border at Bozhaj-Han i Hotit, between Albania and Montenegro, will be reconstructed and made modern within the end of 2017, as was stated by the Montenegrin Minister. €1million has been ensured by the EU for the reconstruction of this border crossing point.

“Building a common border crossing point is of great importance for the further strengthening of the relations with Albania, but it is also a contribution to the rapprochement with the EU,” said Nurkoviç.

Lastly, the Ministers used the meeting to agree on the commitment to the Ionian Pipeline (IAP) joint project. They decided to go from the phase of establishing a common unit to the phase of establishing a joint venture company for the IAP project. In this context, the ministers of the two countries also participated in the inauguration ceremony of the joint railway station between Montenegro and Albania. The station's opening is considered a common success and as the only model in the region, the example of which should be followed by all Western Balkan countries.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 20 – Prosecutors said this week they suspect the large amount of cash found in Orest Sota’s car about three weeks ago – 860,000 euros – could belong to former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri.

Prosecutors made the comments during a hearing for the reevaluation of the security measure toward Sota, adding that based on their investigation the origin of the money is probably from criminal activities.

Prosecutors are already investigating Tahiri, who is suspected of having ties with the Habilaj criminal group, which is engaged in cannabis trafficing to Italy.
The doubts concerning the sum of money found in Sota’s car grew when authorities also found two sailing licenses that belong to Tahiri in the same car. 
Sota’s attorney, however, said that it has been proven that the licenses were forgotten in the car more than a month ago by Tahiri’s driver, who happens to be a friend of Sota.

Concerning the big sum of money in cash, the attorney said evidence testifying the source of the money is legal and that they were to be used to buy a big amount of construction iron at the Kurum steelmaker by Sota’s father, a well-known construction businessman.
The defense attorney also rejected the prosecutor’s accusation that Kurum knew nothing of this transaction, saying the prosecutors only asked one company financial expert, while the communication between Sota’s father and higher ranking officials of Kurum with whom he made business deals had not been taken into consideration even-though they still exist. 

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 22 – Albania's military will increase its presence in NATO's mission to Afghanistan by 60 percent next year, Defense Minister Olta Xhaçka said during a visit with the troops already serving in that country. 

Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke to the servicemen via video link during the minister's visit, telling the country takes pride in their contribution. The link was broadcast live by Rama on his social media pages. 

During her stay in Kabul, Xhaçka met with the head of the NATO Mission, Gen. John Nicholson, who praised the Albanian military's continued contribution in the NATO operation. 

Xhaçka's visit and Rama's live broadcast of his conversation with the troops came at the heels of an embarrassing episode of four Albanian soldiers leaving a training in the United Kingdom last week and disappearing, likely to become illegal migrants.
They face charges for desertion, but their actions have raised a major debate in Albania about how little professional soldiers and officers are paid in the country. 


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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 23-  Ambassadors of the Czech Republic in the Western Balkans region, plus Slovenia and Croatia, are holding the first Regional Conference in Tirana during 22 – 24 November 2017.  Tirana was chosen as the conference venue due to its growing importance in the region, the Czech embassy in Tirana said in a statement.

In the framework of the conference, the Ambassadors were received by the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania, Ditmir Bushati, with whom they discussed the importance of regional cooperation and the European perspective of the Western Balkans. The Ambassadors also visited the premises of the Western Balkans Fund and talked about the perspective of the WBF with Gjergj Murra, Director of the Fund.

The Czech Republic is one of the keenest supporters of the EU enlargement, but says criteria and requirements will have to be met by aspirant countries.

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 20 – Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama has sent a letter to all government leaders of EU member states asking support for Albania to open accession negotiations with the bloc. 
Rama’s letter was sent as the bloc and its member states are scheduled to set a timetable for negotiations with Albania's government in its bid to join the European Union.  

He added the government is making efforts to combat organized crime and drugs. 
“My Government has approved ambitious plans to combat organized crime. We have placed gang leaders on notice: Wherever they may be hiding, we will find and arrest them, and we will charge them, trusting our newly reformed justice system to send those convicted to prison. And we will confiscate their illicit assets. The criminal sub-culture Albanians have endured for years is coming to an end,” Rama wrote. 

He added: “The cannabis industry is dying. We are aiming at bringing it to a full stop, once and for all, by the end of this year. There is much left to do. Cannabis production gave rise to the development of trade routes, and investments in transport equipment and personnel which have been re-purposed for smuggling and trans-shipment from international sources. We are committed to working with all our international partners to eliminate this too.”

                    [post_title] => Rama writes to EU PMs seeking supporters for EU bid 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-24 09:42:30
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 – Albania's main opposition Democratic Party continues to denouce the government's alleged ties to crime and drugs. 
DP leader Lulzim Basha said after meetings with international representatives this week that Albania was going from cannabis cultivation to the trafficking of heroin and cocaine and money-laundering through construction projects and public-private-partnerships.

Basha said the fact that thousands of Albanians are leaving the country showed the people’s loss of hope with the criminal and corrupt officials at every level. 
Basha added that the merging of crime with politics risks undoing all the country’s achievements so far. He has repeatedly called for an anti-mafia government.

                    [post_title] => Government tied to crime and drugs, DP says 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-17 10:11:23
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 16 – Eleven Kavaja former and current property registration and local government officials are facing criminal charges for allegedly altering ownership of coastal public property, in the Spille Beach area, by falsifying the ownership documents that made the property appear as if it belonged to people tied to the officials aiming to benefit.

The Persecutor’s Office list of names concerning this investigation includes Seid Cikalleshi, the former Deputy Director of Kavaja’s Real Estate Registration Office and Altin Çoba, Kavaja’s Director of Legalization and Urbanization. 

Also wanted is the city’s former Director of Land Administration and Protection, Enver Duqi, among other names which formerly served and still serve Kavaja’s municipal property and real estate registration offices.

According to the Persecutor’s Office, Cikalleshi, cooperating with some of his institution’s officials, and having the support of some of the former officials of Kryevidh commune, falsified documents and changed the cadastral register of the coastal area from a ‘sandpit’ to ‘agriculture land’, in order to justify the land’s separation among some persons, who would then have to immediately sell the land.

Local media reported the investigation shows that the beneficiaries are relatives of the former Socialist Mayor of Kavaja Elvis Roshi and the head of the Socialist Party’s Kavaja Branch, Gentian Daja. One of the suspects is Daja’s father-in-law, according to media reports.

In an official statement issued by the Persecutor’s Office, it is explained that “notified of the quick alteration process, Kavaja’s Persecution Office intervened in July 2017, by sequestering the sandpit’s surface to prevent the terrain situation from worsening.”

In addition, Kavaja’s Persecution Office stated that it broadly investigated the matter, by looking into Kavaja’s relevant institutional documents, as well as Kryevidh’s commune which was in charge of the Spille Beach at the time. It has since merged with Kavaja as part of the administrative reform. 

 
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            [post_date] => 2017-11-24 10:12:09
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 21 – International representatives serving in an advisory role to justice reform bodies have recommended that a short-term General Prosecutor be chosen by parliament through a simple majority vote once the mandate of current General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla officially ends in early December 2017.

The proposal was sent to the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee by the EURALIUS and OPDAT missions, and the temporary chief prosecutor would serve until the establishment of the High Prosecutorial Council, a justice reform-related body.

The two advisory missions argued that the chief prosecutor’s term cannot be prolonged and that a temporary prosecutor should be selected through a simple parliamentary majority.

However, the recommendation has been met with political opposition.

The head of the main opposition Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, has said that solution would mean the Prime Minister Edi Rama could choose the next Prosecutor General and take control of the vital independent institution.

Adriatik Llalla – whose current mandate as General Prosecutor ends soon – could have had his term extended to fill the void created by the changes in the context of the judiciary reform, which has not been yet fully implemented.

According to these changes, the Prosecutor General should be proposed by the High Prosecutorial Council – an additional institution which for the moment is subject to the vetting process of judges and prosecutors.

The high political tension and open investigation toward the former minister of interior, Saimir Tahiri, have added a new dimension to this debate and the question of extending Llalla’s office mandate.

“Edi Rama cannot name the next Prosecutor General. He was the one to undertake this attack towards prosecutors simply because they requested the investigation and arrest of Saimir Tahiri and he cannot name the Prosecutor General, and neither can the Socialist Party’s deputies who protected him by allowing immunity – they cannot name the Prosecutor General,” Basha said, adding the opposition will use every method to prevent the majority from naming the temporary replacement for Llalla.

The Parliamentary Law Commission addressed a letter to the American and European advisory missions for an opinion on what to do in the case. These experts had formerly assisted with the judiciary reform process.

According to their advice, the Parliament has no constitutional and legal authority to extend Llalla’s mandate; on the contrary, there exists a clear directive that requires the placement of a temporary Prosecutor in Llalla’s place.

“Secondly, this provision makes clear that in the transitory period there shall not be a Prosecutor General, but only a transitory candidate who is assigned the functions of a Prosecutor General,” the experts’ official recommendation read.

Lastly, the experts added that their legal framework does not mean to create a quorum, only to provide a temporary solution, through decision of the Assembly.  

 
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