EU police arrests more than 60 in series of operations against Albanian mafia

EU police arrests more than 60 in series of operations against Albanian mafia

TIRANA, April 7 –  A simultaneous operation between April 3-5, carried out in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Italy and which saw the involvement of some 600 law enforcement officers, led to the arrest of 64 members of an Albanian-speaking

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Head of opposition: “Political crisis is real, opposition won’t return to parliament”

Head of opposition: “Political crisis is real, opposition won’t return to parliament”

TIRANA, April 5 – In an interview for German media Deutsche Welle on Thursday, head of the opposition’s Democratic Party Lulzim Basha said the united opposition will not be returning back to the parliament and that the political crisis is

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Gov’t suspends seizure of South’s coastline properties under Greek pressure

Gov’t suspends seizure of South’s coastline properties under Greek pressure

TIRANA, April 5 – The Albanian government approved on Thursday an amendment in a previous Council of Ministers ruling that foresaw the state-ownership of the country’s southern coastline so that private investors can eventually build resorts along it. The ruling,

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Italian IPR survey favors opposition in popular support, economy expert says

Italian IPR survey favors opposition in popular support, economy expert says

TIRANA, April 5 – Economy expert and analyst Artan Hoxha said on Thursday the solution to the deadlock are early elections that will allow both government and the opposition to compete on an equal ground and that, according to the

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Majority of Albanians wants to leave thinking country is heading the wrong direction

Majority of Albanians wants to leave thinking country is heading the wrong direction

TIRANA, April 4 – Italy’s IPR Marketing published its first national survey on Wednesday, where among 2000 voters – only 31.3 percent of whom come from Tirana – 62 percent wish to leave the country. Asked whether they’d leave Albania

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Albania is at crossroads

Albania is at crossroads

In a speech delivered during the last parliament session, and conveniently   ignored by main TV news channels, the former minister of foreign affairs, Ditmir Bushati openly positioned himself against the approach, which his own majority and the Prime Minister Rama

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Opposition protests in front of parliament

Opposition protests in front of parliament

TIRANA, April 4 – Albania’s opposition held on Wednesday its eighth protest, which kicked off in front of the parliament and ended close to the government building. Meanwhile, inside the parliament, most people were involved in debates with opposition representatives

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Head of Serious Crimes Appeal risks dismissal under vetting process

Head of Serious Crimes Appeal risks dismissal under vetting process

TIRANA, April 3 – The Independent Qualification Committee said on Tuesday it is investigating the head of the Serious Crimes Appeals Court Fehmi Petku, after noticing discrepancies on all three re-evaluation fields. On his side, Petku objected the IQC’s claims,

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US Chargé d’Affaires: “Justice Reform will not fall behind, US State Department officials expect more from penal cases”

US Chargé d’Affaires: “Justice Reform will not fall behind, US State Department officials expect more from penal cases”

TIRANA, April 3 – Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy to Tirana Leyla Moses-Ones announced on Tuesday that help towards the High Judicial Council will soon lead to the creation of the Court against Corruption and Organized Crime. She said

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“Albania should speed up reforms and EU integration in face of possible economic decline,” WB says

“Albania should speed up reforms and EU integration in face of possible economic decline,” WB says

TIRANA, April 3 – The World Bank said on Tuesday Albania’s economic growth could stagnate this year due to the drought, as last year’s production and export of electricity took the lead in economic growth. Experts also claimed that structural

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 7 -  A simultaneous operation between April 3-5, carried out in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Italy and which saw the involvement of some 600 law enforcement officers, led to the arrest of 64 members of an Albanian-speaking organized crime network. 

The operation was supported by Europol, while the suspects are believed to have been illegally producing and trafficking drugs, with links to trafficking in human beings, prostitution and money laundering.

This sting follows a complex investigation looking into the activities of this organised crime group operating in all above-mentioned countries simultaneously and some of the suspects are believed to have been managing at least a dozen cannabis plantations distributed across Belgium and in the north of France.

Some of the same suspects were also involved in a case of trafficking of human beings in France.

55 individuals were arrested in Belgium, including the leaders of the OGG, seven in the Netherlands and an additional two in France in this investigation led by the Belgian Federal Police, in cooperation with the French National Gendarmerie, the Dutch National Police, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate and the British Metropolitan Police.

Europol reported that it supported the operation from the outset by facilitating the exchange of information.

On the action day, six Europol experts were deployed on-the-spot in Belgium, France and the Netherlands to allow for the real-time exchange of information, as well as providing technical support when dismantling the drugs production sites as well as forensic support, extracting 14 mobile devices seized.

To this day, this operation has resulted in 39 premises searches, the dismantlement of 15 indoor cannabis plantations and seizure of 8255 cannabis plants, around 100.000 euros in cash and gold, four luxury vehicles, 63 electronic devises. 

Albanian organised crime continues to remain a concern for countries across Europe, a threat which Europol reports it takes very seriously. 

Back in March, experts on Albanian speaking organised crime convened at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague to discuss ways to better tackle these poly-criminal violent mafia-type clans. Further operations of this type are expected to take place in the near future as law enforcement ramps its response to this criminality.

 
                    [post_title] => EU police arrests more than 60 in series of operations against Albanian mafia 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 5 - In an interview for German media Deutsche Welle on Thursday, head of the opposition’s Democratic Party Lulzim Basha said the united opposition will not be returning back to the parliament and that the political crisis is real, but also an opportunity to finally give Albanians a democratic system if the Socialist government resigns.

“The first instrument is to have a political process free from the influence of crime. This can only happen through a free and fair transition and new elections that will guarantee Albania and Albanians a parliament coming from their vote, and not, as the official prosecution evidence shows, out of the narcotics networks, which international media has also widely reported,” Basha said.

During his official Berlin visit, Basha conducted meetings in Bundestag with the German federal government, where he said the country can’t head to Europe by lying and having ties with organized crime networks. 

“Overcoming this crisis is very important not only for Albania’s stability and democracy, but also for its European future. You cannot go to Europe by lying, by cheating, with a state captured by crime. You go there with values, with the truth, with a state liberated from mal governance in cooperation with crime and with a parliament elected by the vote of the Albanian citizens,” Basha said.

According to Basha, the time has passed to solve the issue of ballot buying, for which it accuses the Socialist government and Prime Minister Edi Rama, inside the parliament, as according to the opposition the parliament is invalid and powered by drug money.

“Democracy’s foundation is its vote, when the vote falls, democracy has fallen as well. What File 339 shows, small parts of which have also been published by international media, is that in the 2017 elections organized crime in cooperation with the Socialist umbrella have destroyed Albanians’ will. The fact this parliament is not a product of the Albanian vote but the product of co-operation with crime that has brought about a total abandonment, a betrayal of the public interest by a government that has tied itself not to Albanian citizens, but to organized crime,” Basha said.

Further on, he said the opposition’s decision to resign its parliamentary mandates came after the opposition had exhausted any possibilities for an institutional solution to the problem. 

I remind you that German partners in the German Bundestag recognize these problems, we have raised these concerns a long time ago, since almost a year. Unfortunately, things this year did not improve, but have deteriorated. Not only that, but now we have official evidence of government cooperation with organized crime. The opposition's abandonment of parliament is without a return, the political crisis is real, but this is an opportunity, a great opportunity, not just to remove a crime-related government, but to give Albanians a democratic, functional system that serves them and not just the political parties or simply the political class,” Basha said.

DW also asked Basha concerning the electoral reform, which has been stalled due to the deadlock the country is facing with the opposition’s protests and parliament resignation, as well as the blocked courts, under the ongoing vetting process which has disqualified a big part of Albanian judges and prosecutors.

“These are symptoms of state seizure by organized crime. This is what the US State Department reports, these are the concerns that our German partners have raised even a year ago. And today they are even worse than a year ago. Therefore, it is a national emergency, not to simply remove a government caught stealing elections, and then stealing Albanians, but to build a transformation process together, a big change, where obviously everyone should play a part, even honest socialists, the opposition which is naturally at the forefront of this endeavor, as well as civil society, intellectuals and free media,” Basha concluded. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 5 - The Albanian government approved on Thursday an amendment in a previous Council of Ministers ruling that foresaw the state-ownership of the country’s southern coastline so that private investors can eventually build resorts along it.

The ruling, dating February 27, was published in the government’s Official Book and was later deleted, also due to pressure from neighboring Greece, as there is Greek minority living in Himara whose properties would be affected under the law.

On Thursday, the government approved the law’s suspension only for the part of the coastline starting from Vlora and ending in Saranda - which includes all the locations inhibited by Greek minority landowners.

Moreover, the amendment still foresees the land’s registration under the Ministry of Tourism, but only after the mortgaging process for the area’s private properties has concluded.

“Real estate properties according to Point 1, located in the areas where the initial registration hasn’t concluded, will register under the administrative responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism, after the initial registration process of the private properties located at the cadastral areas included in this ruling has been finalized,” said the ruling approved on Thursday by the Council of Ministers. 

On Monday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the media he’d been informed of “negative developments” concerning the Greek minority living in Albania, and that, given it was true, it could affect Albania’s EU path, which is also determined by Greece’s support as a EU member state.

A day later, the CM ruling was deleted from the government’s Official Book, while on Thursday Greek national TV ERT reported Tsipras and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama even had a phone call regarding this particular issue.

According to ERT, Tsipras and Rama spoke about the necessary reforms for Albania’s opening of EU accession talks, however it was also reported the core of the conversation was the draft law which affects the Greek minority’s properties and Tsipras’ ultimatum for it to be amended.  

However, the amendment that will allow private property owners to finalize mortgaging processes will not be applied to the other parts of the coastline - a fact which, just as the February 27 ruling itself, has drawn criticism from political experts and international representatives in Albania alike.

For over a year, the government has scanned the most profitable areas and on Friday published in its Official Book at least 67 maps with all areas that will guide local units to suspend passing agricultural land ownership to ex-agricultural enterprise benefitors, for those areas prioritized for tourism development. 

This “state ownership”of property by law has been criticized from political experts as anti-democratic and worrying, while anonymous sources told Tirana Times the law - and its amendment - did not go unnoticed by a number of ambassadors to Tirana. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-05 12:15:12
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 5 - Economy expert and analyst Artan Hoxha said on Thursday the solution to the deadlock are early elections that will allow both government and the opposition to compete on an equal ground and that, according to the IPR Marketing survey results published on Wednesday, opposition parties would receive 80 mandates in the present political situation.

“They are two eggs which are bumping and one will soon break. As Dr. Noto said, the opposition’s egg is getting stronger,” Hoxha said, referring to Italy’s IPR Marketing Director Antonio Noto, who faced criticism following the publication of the survey.

“We have a government intertwined with crime, a judicial power visibly under the government’s rule. Institutionally, it seems like a problem without solution. Just like the vicious circle that comes round and round and cannot stio. There is only one break of this vicious circle and that would be a new electoral process that places the parties under equal conditions of competition, which can come through a transitory government that will do nothing but give a message to criminal gangs, that this model has no future,” Hoxha said during an interview for Ora News.

Concerning the IPR survey, which interviewed 2000 voters on a national scale, Hoxha made a calculated estimation of how many seats would each party win if the elections were to take place on April 3 - saying the opposition would win more mandates. 

“The question would be this: if the political elections were to take place on April 3, who would you vote for? Opposition parties were at 53 percent, the Socialist Party at 44 percent, while other parties stood at 3 percent, where parties such as the PBDNJ, PDIU are also opposition. So the ratio is at 55-45. If these were translated into parliamentary mandates, the opposition would take 80 mandates and the government 60. So we have a public reversal of the voting inclination inherited from the 2017 elections. The majority in the nation today is a minority and the political minority of 2017 today is the majority in popular support,” Hoxha said. 

 
                    [post_title] => Italian IPR survey favors opposition in popular support, economy expert says 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-05 11:20:46
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 4 - Italy’s IPR Marketing published its first national survey on Wednesday, where among 2000 voters - only 31.3 percent of whom come from Tirana - 62 percent wish to leave the country.

Asked whether they’d leave Albania if given the chance, IPR concluded that 62.2 percent of Albanians would leave given the chance, 35.1 percent would stay, and 2.8 percent said they don’t know what they’d do.

Concerning Prime Minister Edi Rama’s governance, 29.5 percent said they believe the PM is positive, while 34.7 percent gave negative answers. A total of 7.2 percent said they are not able to judge the government’s work.

Further on, concerning the criminality in the country - which is a main topic of political discourse and one of the main reasons Albania has still to open accession negotiations with the EU - compared to the last three years, 53.4 percent ​​of Albanians think that crime in the country has increased. Few are those who think the opposite, where 17.0 percent think this phenomenon has declined. There are 23.6 percent of Albanians who think the crime is on the same level as three years ago. 

The survey also touched on the perceptions voters have on the economic progress over the last three years, where 20.9 percent of Albanians think that the economy has improved, while 43.3 percent think that the Albanian economy has deteriorated. Meanwhile, 34.7 percent of citizens think that the economy hasn’t moved in three years.

In addition, 60.1 percent of the population listed unemployment as the most pressing problem seeking solution, whereas 53.2 percent believe corruption is most pressing and 45.4 percent regard poverty as Albania’s biggest problem.

Interestingly, 49 percent of those surveyed said they believe Albania is not heading in the right direction, 40.8 percent expressed an opposing view and only 10.2 percent they don’t have an answer to this question.

Compared to three years ago, 18.5 percent of the surveyed said Albania’s living standard has risen, while 39.7 percent believe its living standards have deteriorated. Meanwhile, 40.5 percent said the living standard has remained the same.

IPR Marketing, one of the leading companies in Italy, specializes in research, studies and analysis of public opinion and market for more than 26 years, with successful international experience.

“We are used to attacks from all over the world. Because they see us as wizards, but we are not, we do a scientific job, not magic. Surveys are attacked by the loser and this is not only in Albania but everywhere. But over the years, confidence in surveys has grown,” head of the IPR Antonio Noto said. 

 
                    [post_title] => Majority of Albanians wants to leave thinking country is heading the wrong direction 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-05 08:59:56
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                    [post_content] => In a speech delivered during the last parliament session, and conveniently   ignored by main TV news channels, the former minister of foreign affairs, Ditmir Bushati openly positioned himself against the approach, which his own majority and the Prime Minister Rama has adopted towards the political crisis that engulfed the country since the opposition MPs took the drastic decision to collectively give up their mandates.

Despite this aggressive act on behalf of the opposition, which he also condemned, Bushati called upon the majority and the PM Rama to renounce the arrogance and contempt that they are treating the situation with.

Bushati, which was removed from his ministerial post last December, in a move that raised many eyebrows, reminded the government and its head, but also the international community representatives, that democracy is not about procedures but about essential content. Bushati made an appeal for a political agreement that according to him should be made with the real opposition, the political opposition that is not the result of mere application of substitution procedures. “Democracy as a procedure is the formal substitution of the lists of the Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration. But democracy is also essence and in that regard gives us the opportunity for a future agreement for the Electoral Code and the rules of the game be that with the parliamentary opposition but most importantly with the political opposition. That I believe is the higher expression of awareness that the Socialist Party and the progressive Albanian socialists can have for the fate of democracy and for the fate of Albania,” Bushati said.

After the collective ‘burning’ of the opposition mandates, the Central Electoral Commission proceeded with the substitution of the MPs with those next in line according to the lists drafted by the DP and the SMI. The Prime Minister rushed to consider them as the ‘new opposition’, a move that went in line also with the stance of key high level representatives of the OSCE, which also considered it a legal and proper procedure.

In general, the international community that has a significant clout over the political developments in Albania was silent or dismissive to this situation, signaling in a certain sense the acceptance of, what is in fact, a fake opposition. Bushati called for a deal with the real political opposition which stands outside the Parliament doors. 

Former Minister Bushati, who seems to be sketching an independent profile within the Socialist Party, called yesterday for a grand deal that would end the political conflict in Albania between the government and the opposition. Such a conflict has been a predominant and overwhelming characteristics in post-communist Albania.

Bushati brought to this speech the example of Greece and the Republic of North Macedonia that reached a peaceful agreement after several decades of being at odds with each other. Albania is now at a big and important crossroads- the former minister added. “Why it is that Greeks and Macedonians can find the way to look forward and we within ourselves cannot find a common language”- Bushati rhetorically asked in a parliament audience that kept eerily silent for most of the time.

The former high ranking member of the Rama cabinet bypassed the Prime Minister during his parliament speech by calling upon old school brand names of the Socialist Party such as Speaker Gramoz Ruci, former Prime Minister Pandeli Majko and Musa Ulqini, another senior figure of the SP, to step in and contribute to a solution. These three names are among the very few left from the Socialist Party that don’t come from the close loyal entourage of the Prime Minister himself that have followed him from the municipality and that are only loosely and recently related to the SP.  

“I am asking you today, how can it be possible Mr. Ruci that after three decades as a politician of experience, how is it possible Mr. Ulqini, how is it possible Mr. Majko?  Aren’t we all Albanians, part of the same nation? Why is it so hard for us to find a common language and move forward?” were Bushati’s strong words of appeal to his senior party colleagues.

The former minister used his speech in the parliament to send a clear message also to the international community and especially to the OSCE, whose independent credibility is at an all-time low in the country, to stop downplaying and ignoring the political crisis that Albania is currently facing.

Additionally Bushati was clear in implying during his speech that the government should give up its practices of “the state from point zero” or history starting whenever one side comes to power. He recalled to the attention of the majority in the parliament that the NATO membership was the final achievement of the contribution of all the political forces and governments. During the official ceremonies that marked the tenth anniversary of NATO membership for Albania the government did not send out invitations to the opposition or to former government leaders from the Democratic Party. In a ten minute spot broadcast in TVs, including the personal online channel of the Prime Minister –ERTV, the only featured portraits were that of Rama himself and of his current ministers.

 Indeed Albania got the official membership invitation during the 2008 NATO Summit of Bucharest where the official participants were Prime Minister of the time Sali Berisha and Minister of FA, Lulzim Basha. In the Summit there were also present key high level figures of the Socialist opposition of that time.

Last but not least, in a very interesting move, Bushati also attacked the model of governance that has brought about the extreme economic polarization of the country and the accumulation of control over public wealth in the hands of a few oligarchs. This accusation is one of the strongest used by the opposition and one of the most resonant in the public opinion therefore the mentioning of it by a former minister of the Rama cabinet is set to make waves for a long time.

Bushati is for the moment the first public voice against the approach of Prime Minister Rama, to ignore and ridicule the political crisis, against the arrogance and the spirit of excluding the opposition to the point of treating it like the enemy front towards integration. The reaction of PM Rama, not visible during the session, will be of high interest in this regard.

It is still early to conclude whether the thesis presented by former minister Bushati to revise key tenants of the governance and narrative approach of PM Rama, to reconsider the governance model and especially to prioritize reaching a deal with the actual opposition have the potential to encourage and internal reflection process within the Socialist Party. What is clear at this point is the formation of a group inside the SP that opposes the policies of PM Rama. It seems like the former Minister of FA is at the top of this group or at least their sole public voice.

Moreover it is important to mention in this context that the rift between PM Rama and former minister Bushati stems not only from the different political principles that they seem to harbor but also because of the unsaid dynamics related to the removal of Bushati as minister at the end of last year. During this last month it has become clear that they have taken opposing sides in the internal fight for power within the Socialist Party, quite relevant to its very future. The Prime Minister Rama has in fact used against the former minister, the young deputy minister Cakaj who substituted him. In the last two public conferences, Cakaj has made unprecedented, indirect yet obvious accusations towards the former minister of presiding over a ministry entrenched in nepotism and illegality and has announced the undertaking of a deep reform in this institution.

Pm Rama might decide to easily crush this internal challenge by deploying his usual tactics of political gas-lighting or his media attack squad. In the meantime the public revolt of the former Minister Bushati remains one of the most robust and revealing discontent voices so far.  

 
                    [post_title] => Albania is at crossroads 
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                    [ID] => 141211
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-04-05 08:50:48
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-05 06:50:48
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 4 - Albania’s opposition held on Wednesday its eighth protest, which kicked off in front of the parliament and ended close to the government building. 

Meanwhile, inside the parliament, most people were involved in debates with opposition representatives on the electoral reform, following the decision to postpone the Reform Committee for one more month waiting for the Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration to accept the invitation to conclude this process, which is also one of the recommendations of the European Council to open accession talks with Albania.

This time around, the majority of protesters came from DP and SMI youth forums, while there were many who held slogans reading the word “GO,” addressed to Prime Minister Edi Rama. Even among youth, moments of tension were present when a group of protesters tried several times to break the police line at the parliament’s entrance.

Protesters then moved to the boulevard while holding a paper pyramid, at the top of which was Rama’s name, symbolizing the pyramid of crime and corruption which, according to the opposition, is headed by the Socialist government.

Close to the government building, the pyramid was set in flames while the protest concluded with the return of the opposition leaders to the DP headquarters’ yard.

Members of parliament who refused to resign their parliamentary mandates and others who have replaced their opposition MP colleagues ever since they decided to boycott the parliament, debated the majority over the electoral reform.

The debates were prompted by yesterday's Socialist Democrat Damian Gjiknuri's proposal to postpone the Reform Commission for a month, in order to allow the opposition parties to join this process.

According to MP Rudina Hajdari, who is one of the few DP MPs who refused to resign their parliamentary mandates, said the majority should establish a dialogue with the opposition MPs now present in the parliamentary hall.

“This commission was established with the previous MPs. We don’t know what you discussed with them, what their proposals were and what they want to achieve with this electoral reform. This is a new parliament and you have to accept this reality. You have to accept new proposals. You have to accept the mandates of that commission expired on February 21, 2019,” Hajdari said, referring to the date the opposition decided to resign its parliamentary mandates and continue protesting to demand Rama’s resignation and the establishment of a caretaker government that can bring about early elections. 

Rama, on his part, explained the majority’s proposal to postpone the reform commission is merely a sign of a good will to conclude the only process which remains open with the opposition, pointing out however they will not wait indefinitely, while reminding it was the DP that insisted to Include the Electoral Reform on the European Council’s recommendations for opening accession talks with Albania in June.

“We will wait as long as it is permissible. If, on the part of the European Union and the European Commission it is made known the electoral law can stop here, before a decision to open the negotiations is reached, because it is written in the text, we will stop here and refer only to OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, excluding other elements,” Rama said in parliament.

One day ago, on Tuesday, Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn speaking in the European Parliament, said that “we will make a recommendation for North Macedonia, as well as Albania, that these countries should start the preparatory phase for opening accession negotiations and this will be done officially.”

Despite the recommendation from the EP, the decision on whether aspirant countries will open accession negotiations remains to the member states. 

In this context, Albania’s political situation does not help the country receive a positive decision, while the results of the European elections will also be decisive in the position that the member states will take.

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition protests in front of parliament 
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                    [ID] => 141203
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-04-03 23:46:54
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-03 21:46:54
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 3 - The Independent Qualification Committee said on Tuesday it is investigating the head of the Serious Crimes Appeals Court Fehmi Petku, after noticing discrepancies on all three re-evaluation fields. 

On his side, Petku objected the IQC’s claims, saying they are mistaken concerning his wealth declaration, his questionable ties with crime elements and his professional integrity.

Meanwhile, it was a report provided by the Directorate of Securing Classified Information that raised doubts on Petku maintaining contact with people belonging to organized crime networks.

“Information has also been ensured concerning inclusion with passive corruption in evaluating judicial cases,” the spokeswoman said, adding there has been information concerning Petku’s son which alleged he might be pressured by organized crime networks.

Petku objected to these allegations and raised concerns over the directorate’s professionalism, saying that the compilation of two reports with different results goes against the rules and that one of the two reports is invalid.

“Either the first report or the second are illegal,” Petku said, adding that the evaluation of the integrity of his professional figure was conducted beyond the legal deadline.

Meanwhile, the investigation also found issues with the judge’s wealth declaration, whereas the IQC raised doubts for concealment, false declaration and inability to legally cover his wealth based on his wage. 

In addition to the dictatorate’s report, the IQC spokeswoman Xhensila Pine said the commission had undertaken a more thorough investigation of Petku’s properties. 

According to these investigations, Petku owns a piece of land approximately 270 square meters and a three-store building in Tirana’s “Ali Dem” neighborhood. He also owns a 4000 square meters piece of land which he bought in August 1996 for six million Albanian Lek anda 2000 square meter land which he bought for three million. 

Petku also co-owns 1600 square meter land with other individuals and an agricultural land of 100 thousand square meters surface. In addition to possible conflict of interest, Pine said Petku has no sources that justify all this accumulated wealth.

On his side, Petku said that in addition to having declared all the properties mentioned by the report in advance, he had also clarified that the majority of those properties were inherited. He further said his family belonged to those who had been persecuted during communism and that he’d been deported after his uncle’s escape in 1967.

Petku added his family had worked difficult jobs during communism that would be paid more than usual, from 35 to 40 thousand Albanian Lek at the time, and that is how it managed to buy properties. 

 
                    [post_title] => Head of Serious Crimes Appeal risks dismissal under vetting process  
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                (
                    [ID] => 141199
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                    [post_date] => 2019-04-03 23:43:14
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-03 21:43:14
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 3 - Chargé d'Affaires of the US Embassy to Tirana Leyla Moses-Ones announced on Tuesday that help towards the High Judicial Council will soon lead to the creation of the Court against Corruption and Organized Crime.

She said that whoever thinks the ongoing justice reform will fall behind is mistaken, echoing her own words during the AIIS conference “70 years of NATO, 10 years of Albanian membership” which took place on March 21.

“This is but one example of how the United States continues to work hand-in-hand with Albanian and European partners to help Albania with Euro-Atlantic integration and rule-of-law.  We are seeing this in justice reform efforts. The High Prosecutorial Council will soon bring about the prosecutors of the SPAK, and then the National Bureau of Investigation,” Moses-Ones said. 

Further on, she added that it’ll be US assistance towards the HJC which will finally lead to the creation of the Court against Corruption and Organized Crime.

“Our assistance to the High Judicial Council will soon lead to the Anti-corruption and organized crime court.  U.S. Department of Justice officials are mentoring Albanian prosecutors, who are already bringing about notable prosecutions — and we expect more.  The United States supports all of Albania’s new institutions, such as the Councils and the SPAK, as well as existing institutions that are willing to fight against corruption or organized crime. Justice reform is moving forward, and it won’t be stopped,” Moses-Ones concluded. 

The US Embassy’s Chargé d'Affaires made these remarks during the ASP Case Management System Upgrade Inauguration organized by the Ministry of Interior. 

Valuing the opportunity to mark an important milestone in the modernization of the State Police, Moses-Ones said she is proud to celebrate the continuous close partnership between the state police and the US government. 

Moses-Ones’ words were echoed by the German Ambassador to Tirana Susanne Schütz in an interview for the local media Monitor a few days back.

Schütz said the country’s ongoing justice reform and its vetting process are successful and have contributed positively in improving Albania’s image in the eyes of foreign investors.

“The justice reform is a success story for which Albania can take pride. Especially the vetting process, which apparently is unique all over the world, strengthens trust in the rule of law and can substantially contribute to Albania’s attractiveness as an investment destination. It has also been praised by German entrepreneurs. From the German economy’s point of view, these reforms must necessarily continue,” Schütz said.
                    [post_title] => US Chargé d'Affaires: “Justice Reform will not fall behind, US State Department officials expect more from penal cases” 
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                    [ID] => 141192
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-04-03 12:20:01
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-03 10:20:01
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, April 3 - The World Bank said on Tuesday Albania's economic growth could stagnate this year due to the drought, as last year’s production and export of electricity took the lead in economic growth. 

Experts also claimed that structural reforms and efforts to integrate within the EU should continue both in Albania and in the region.

The World Bank made these comments during the publication of its Regional Economic Report.

According to the report, Albania's economic growth this year may resume a downward trend due to several deterrent factors, among which are the climatic conditions and the country’s political situation.

“Political uncertainty and delays in implementing structural reforms can undermine both the business climate and the progress of EU membership, which should continue to be one of the country's main goals,” said Ilda Shijaku, World Bank expert.

According to the WB report, it is vital to move reforms forwards in order to mitigate risks and increasing public discontent.

Further on, the World Bank says the protests that have involved not just Albania, but some countries in the region are a sign of insecurity.

"The protests that are noticed in many Balkan countries are also related to delays in implementing structural reforms. For those cases they relate to economic uncertainty or difficult economic conditions and uncertainty about the future, the authorities of those countries should take measures to accelerate structural reforms by facilitating labor market integration through investment in human capital, improving the business climate and creating equal development conditions for all,” Shijaku said.

According to the World Bank, the main task remains the improvement of the business climate and law enforcement, because this year the economy will grow less than last year.

"Fiscal risks are present and relate mainly to off-balance sheet activities, including Public Private Partnerships, as well as liabilities accumulated by public utilities,” said Shijaku.

The growth in electricity production and export helped the economy increase by 1.5 percent to a total of four per cent, but foreign direct investments are now taking place at a slow pace. 

Among the external risks are the trade wars taking place between other states and the economic difficulties neighboring countries are going through.

“Another external risk factor is a slower pace in the economic growth of EU countries, especially Italy, which recorded recession recently. Also, the conditions for borrowing are also less favorable, thus increasing Albania’s costs, already significantly exposed to foreign lending of money,” Shijaku said.

Economic growth, according to experts, came mainly from the increase in domestic demand and a largest trade consumption.

Albania, the World Bank reported, experienced an economic growth of over 4 percent last year, public debt declined and jobs increased, but structural reforms and the path towards the EU need to be sped up. 

 
                    [post_title] => “Albania should speed up reforms and EU integration in face of possible economic decline,” WB says 
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            [post_date] => 2019-04-07 11:25:11
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-04-07 09:25:11
            [post_content] => TIRANA, April 7 -  A simultaneous operation between April 3-5, carried out in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Italy and which saw the involvement of some 600 law enforcement officers, led to the arrest of 64 members of an Albanian-speaking organized crime network. 

The operation was supported by Europol, while the suspects are believed to have been illegally producing and trafficking drugs, with links to trafficking in human beings, prostitution and money laundering.

This sting follows a complex investigation looking into the activities of this organised crime group operating in all above-mentioned countries simultaneously and some of the suspects are believed to have been managing at least a dozen cannabis plantations distributed across Belgium and in the north of France.

Some of the same suspects were also involved in a case of trafficking of human beings in France.

55 individuals were arrested in Belgium, including the leaders of the OGG, seven in the Netherlands and an additional two in France in this investigation led by the Belgian Federal Police, in cooperation with the French National Gendarmerie, the Dutch National Police, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate and the British Metropolitan Police.

Europol reported that it supported the operation from the outset by facilitating the exchange of information.

On the action day, six Europol experts were deployed on-the-spot in Belgium, France and the Netherlands to allow for the real-time exchange of information, as well as providing technical support when dismantling the drugs production sites as well as forensic support, extracting 14 mobile devices seized.

To this day, this operation has resulted in 39 premises searches, the dismantlement of 15 indoor cannabis plantations and seizure of 8255 cannabis plants, around 100.000 euros in cash and gold, four luxury vehicles, 63 electronic devises. 

Albanian organised crime continues to remain a concern for countries across Europe, a threat which Europol reports it takes very seriously. 

Back in March, experts on Albanian speaking organised crime convened at Europol’s headquarters in The Hague to discuss ways to better tackle these poly-criminal violent mafia-type clans. Further operations of this type are expected to take place in the near future as law enforcement ramps its response to this criminality.

 
            [post_title] => EU police arrests more than 60 in series of operations against Albanian mafia 
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