Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done

Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There have been consecutive releases of wire tappings in batches from the German media Bild, demonstrating again and again that starting from the Prime Minister himself Edi Rama and down to former ministers, Damian Gjiknuri and Sajmir

Read Full Article
Editorial: Albania’s crisis: End this battle now to win all future ones

Editorial: Albania’s crisis: End this battle now to win all future ones

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The wise and often misunderstood Albanian diplomat and politician, Mit’hat Frasheri, wrote confidently almost a hundred years ago that “Albanians will win all the battles that the future holds for them once they are done fighting the

Read Full Article
Albania’s crisis – the way out

Albania’s crisis – the way out

By David L. Phillips   Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened to fire President Ilir Meta for postponing local elections. Meta is justifiably concerned that a ballot in today’s volatile climate could cause violence and further undermine Albania’s EU candidacy.

Read Full Article
Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi

Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The communications interceptions published by the German media Bild shed light over an intricate network of links between organized crime and politics that function with clockwork precision. The flow of the decision making goes back and forth

Read Full Article
Editorial: Twice recommended, destination and travel speed still unclear

Editorial: Twice recommended, destination and travel speed still unclear

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The European Commission as expected recommended unconditionally the opening of accession negotiations with both the Republic of Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia. It has been the consistent position of this paper to support the opening

Read Full Article
Polish FM: “One third of world’s population suffers some form of religious persecution”

Polish FM: “One third of world’s population suffers some form of religious persecution”

By Jacek Czaputowicz   Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman, It is my great honor to address the General Assembly under agenda item 74 to introduce the draft resolution on the establishment of the International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts

Read Full Article
Justice reform and vetting: for the citizens, with the citizens

Justice reform and vetting: for the citizens, with the citizens

By Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans at the European Commission and Chair of the International Monitoring Operation (IMO).   The EU and the US are fully committed to continue supporting the reform of the judiciary in Albania,

Read Full Article
Head of Council of Albanian Ambassadors: “Both sides should think of country’s best interests”

Head of Council of Albanian Ambassadors: “Both sides should think of country’s best interests”

By Besnik Mustafaj In fact, one year is a very little time for the life of an organization. It is also very little for the professional life for each one in our Council. Nonetheless, this first year has been quite

Read Full Article
Head of Albanian Trade Protection: “Business is stronger than a corrupt state”

Head of Albanian Trade Protection: “Business is stronger than a corrupt state”

TIRANA, May 27 – The Head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Albanian Trade Nikollaq Neranxi called on all Albanian entrepreneurs and business owners alike to meet in the face of the economic decline threatening the country.

Read Full Article

Editorial: Dialogue and the resetting solution- escaping “too little too late”

The last hours in the Albanian political scene have witnessed a flurry of communications, of a more personal nature, in the forms of exchanged letters and social media postings between the Albanian Prime Minister Rama and the leader of the

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 3
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => op-ed
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 30
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 875
    [max_num_pages] => 88
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 97d98126e8959e94467ba2da60698e70
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 30
            [paged] => 3
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (30) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 20, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142276
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-21 09:05:28
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-21 07:05:28
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

There have been consecutive releases of wire tappings in batches from the German media Bild, demonstrating again and again that starting from the Prime Minister himself Edi Rama and down to former ministers, Damian Gjiknuri and Sajmir Tahiri, followed by respective area MPs such as Xhemal Qefalija and Pjerin Ndreu just to mention a few, everyone that matters in the Rilindje version of the Socialist Party was involved in communication with people who manipulated elections. The recently released intercepts reveal that in particular that the heads of police stations and officials from the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the regional Department of Education have been systematically instructed to exert pressure, use threats about employment and offer money in exchange for votes. The case in question is that of the Dibra local elections, which in the past had been a bastion of the DP and last time were curiously won by the SP with an incredible margin. It is exactly this margin and the methods used to acquire it that the criminals and the politicians are celebrating with boastfulness and crudity in these phone calls.

First of all it is now clear that this government is not legitimate anymore and has lost all credibility and morality. It should not stand. The Prime Minister should resign. The publication of these intercepts in any other normal democratic and responsible country would have brought the government down more than once. It has been showed with clarity that the electoral process has been deformed beyond any recognition.

Second, the stealth alliance between politics and organized crime need to be dismantled once and for all in order to avoid the cyclical crisis pattern that is not allowing Albania to take even the smallest step forward as a democracy, as a country that wants to join the EU and as a normal place where citizens can build functional lives.

A particularly sad thing to notice also in these communication is the banal language filled with obscenities that all these high ranking figures use in their phone calls. This kind of crude language has become a particular and revealing trademark of the alliance between the “Rilindje organization” (that has devoured the Socialist Party) and the organized crime syndicates. It is revelatory of the scary abyss where the values and role models have fallen.

The lack of legitimacy and the degree of crime that this intercepts have highlighted are not the only reason why this government should go. The last week has shown an alarming increase in the level of violence in almost all the municipalities of the country. The local institutions run by the opposition have acknowledged the presidential decree of annulling the elections and are taking steps to dismantle the electoral infrastructure. This has put them on a collision course with the state police. Confrontations have escalated into arson and beatings. Many arrests have been made. The situation is tense and ripe for more concerning clashes. There are no guarantees in place for the safety and security of citizens, businesses and institutions. Albanians are pitted against Albanians in yet another absurd politician run drama.

All stakeholders need to step back and reflect on the need to avoid violence including the international ones. The President of the Republic has taken a step to officially communicate with the OSCE-ODHIR mission in Albania about his decision to annul the elections exactly for the reason of avoiding confrontation and instability.  The OSCE presence in Albania is increasingly being evaluated as a partial and biased actor and that is irreparably damaging its credibility as a necessary referee of elections. They, alongside other international actors who seem oblivious to the coming deluge, should adjust their course as soon as possible.

A few days are left to take the right decision that would dissipate the tension and open the path to a necessary dialogue and solution. It can and it should start with a simple step. This government should take the responsibility to account for its wrongful and illegal actions. 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-crime-punishment-and-violence-this-governments-days-are-done
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-06-23 09:24:22
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-23 07:24:22
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142276
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142148
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-14 09:40:20
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-14 07:40:20
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The wise and often misunderstood Albanian diplomat and politician, Mit’hat Frasheri, wrote confidently almost a hundred years ago that “Albanians will win all the battles that the future holds for them once they are done fighting the battle within themselves.”’ This rings painfully true a century later, as the fragile and toddler-like Albanian democracy is still miserably faltering in its steps.

In the last week, the political crisis that has engulfed the country has escalated furiously and the lookout for it seems bleak. The President of the Republic, Ilir Meta, in a self-declared attempt to diffuse the growing tension annulled his decree for the elections date of June 30. The majority cried constitutional foul and vowed to bring the president down but since there is no Constitutional Court to evaluate the validity of this decision, the matter was brought to the Central Election Committee (CEC) which voted to go on with the prior set date. That the CEC can validate the presidential decrees is just another proof that the situation has gone way beyond the checks and balances dysfunction into a complete obliteration of the constitutional system. The CEC is made up at present only of four members, all from the majority side therefore it’s just another fully controlled institution by one side. Vesting them with extraordinary powers that would belong only to a Constitutional Court is a serious breach of democracy.

Meanwhile, the political sides have entrenched even further in their positions and have made their steps even more aggressive. The opposition has declared the formation of an Alliance for the Protection of Democracy active in all the 61 voting districts, something reminiscent of the year 1997. The majority in its absurd “sleepwalking to disaster” mode is set to initiate the procedures for the removal of the president and to go on with printing the ballot papers.

Some form of civil clash seems imminent. No matter its scale, even if it is confined to some episodes, the consequences for Albania will be very dire. As it’s common in these cases, Albanian leaders look out to the international community for some solution. Like a toddler that seeks the hand to lean on in order to walk. However Albanian democracy is not a toddler but the destiny of all Albanian citizens.

The action line of the majority and the Prime Minister who after Meta’s decision convened the ambassadors in Albania and then departed to Brussels to gather support for his actions, is clearly not the right strategy.  The golden lapsus of outgoing EU Commissioner Juncker who mistakenly thought elections were set for April (not clear even if he meant the next one!) is a clear and loud indication that Albania matters so very little on the community’s agenda. It is up to the domestic political class to find a solution to this crisis, to dare to take its steps confidently and alone.

It is only the domestic actors who are fully aware and knowledgeable about the inside out details of the context in Albania, about the enormous risks that instability due to lack of real elections with real alternatives can bring. International institutions and actors, used to their different context, may rightfully in their mindset insist on following the procedures of democracy. However Albanians know they should seek a solution that is in line with the essence of democracy.

It is clear by now that the European perspective of Albania alongside every perspective of stability, prosperity and progress is very much at stake. As the old wise Frasheri said, we should end this battle to win the future ones.   

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Albania’s crisis: End this battle now to win all future ones
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albanias-crisis-end-this-battle-now-to-win-all-future-ones
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-06-14 09:45:27
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-14 07:45:27
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142148
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142163
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-13 10:30:48
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-13 08:30:48
                    [post_content] => By David L. Phillips 

 

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama threatened to fire President Ilir Meta for postponing local elections. Meta is justifiably concerned that a ballot in today’s volatile climate could cause violence and further undermine Albania’s EU candidacy. Moreover, Meta was exercising his legal authority pursuant to article 92 of the constitution, which empowers the President with the authority to determine the date of elections for parliament and local government. Rather than brinkmanship, Albania needs dialogue and a transition plan to strengthen democracy.

What motivates Edi Rama? Rama’s attack on Meta has little to do with the electoral process. His confrontational approach is a blatant bid to consolidate power by marginalizing opponents who demand good government and accountability for corruption.

Hundreds of thousands of Albanians protested over the weekend. They believe Rama stole national elections in June 2017, and demanded his resignation.

Protesters also demand accountability for corruption. The Voice of America recently published an expose of Rama’s efforts to manipulate hiring in the prison system. A leaked transcript revealed collusion between the former director of Albania’s penitentiary system and parliamentarians in Rama’s Socialist Party (SP).

If Washington supports justice reform, it should distance itself from Albanian politicians like Rama who act more like gangsters than statesmen. Rama has become a national embarrassment. It is time for him to go.

Rama’s departure from politics should be part of the following plan to stabilize Albania:
  1.      Rama would immediately resign as prime minister. He would receive immunity from criminal prosecution in exchange for a pledge to disassociate from politics now and in the future.
  2.      An interim multi-party technocratic government would be established to manage. Albania’s political and economic affairs. Individuals with integrity would be tasked with ensuring accountability and guiding the country.
  3.      Albania’s Central Election Commission (CEC) would be reconstituted with participation by experts from the UN Office of Electoral Assistance and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
  4.      The revamped CEC would hold concurrent local and national elections on June 30, 2020. Domestic and international election monitors would work to ensure that the ballot is free and fair.
This plan can only work with support from the United States. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Matthew A. Palmer maintains that the U.S. is committed to using all the tools that we have to support the fight against organized [crime], to support the fight against corruption, to support accountability, transparency and good governance.”Sounds good, but talk is cheap. The United States, which has always supported democracy and the rule of law in Albania, is on the wrong side of Albania’s domestic debate. The State Department blames the opposition for exercising its freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Instead, US officials should hold Rama accountable for ordering the security services to use tear gas and truncheons on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Skanderbeg Square over the weekend. Why does the US stand by Rama when he is so clearly a part of the problem?Rama’s demeanor brings shame to honorable Albanians. His trash-talking uses language unbecoming a gentleman, no less a head of government. Rama recklessly denigrated Voice of America, saying its reporting comes from the “trash bin.” Rama endorsed legislation restricting media freedoms, which was condemned by the European Federation of Journalists, European Centre for Press & Media Freedom, PEN International and Reporters Without Borders. SPmedia legislation is a Trojan Horse for censorship, which violates the constitution and threatens freedom of expression. Albania’s institutions are in disarray. It has not had a functional Constitutional Court for more than a year. Problems with the rule of law are aggravated by non-functionality of the High Court. Bild, the reputable German publication, recently published an investigative piece documenting how the mafia manipulates elections in Albania. Narcotics revenue is widely rumored to support the SP. Rama’s departure would enhance democracy, creating space for young leadership in the SP and other parties to more fully emerge. I have nothing against Edi Rama personally. Simply put, I have worked on Albanian issues for 30 years and love Albania. Rama is a dinosaur who has outlived his usefulness. Rama should go into exile. After leaving Albania, Rama can go to Antalya and grow old with his friend and autocratic ally, Tayyip Erdogan.   *The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Tirana Times and its editorial staff.   *Mr. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a Senior Adviser and Foreign Affairs Expert at the US Department of State during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. He is the author of Liberating Kosovo: Coercive Diplomacy and US Intervention (Harvard’s Kennedy School).   [post_title] => Albania’s crisis - the way out [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanias-crisis-the-way-out [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-14 10:32:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-14 08:32:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142163 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142052 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-06-07 07:43:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-07 05:43:30 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The communications interceptions published by the German media Bild shed light over an intricate network of links between organized crime and politics that function with clockwork precision. The flow of the decision making goes back and forth between the gang masters who point out who should hold office, work to make it happen via all the illicit ways and then reap the rewards. The local politicians under the supervision and guidance and approval of their masters keep an ongoing communication intertwined with ghastly pet name calling and affection displays. The intercepts are very clear: the Avdylaj mafia clan active in the entire Durres region have chosen their man, Ilir Ndraxhi, to be a member of parliament under the SP logo and have used intimidation methods and illicit money to make him win. The fact is that Ndraxhi is in the parliament to the present day and nothing has ever been heard from him until these articles were made public. The list of MPs of the Rilindje group coming directly from organized crime syndicates and representing their interests therefore increases by at least one verified name.   In the Albanian electoral system the responsibility for choosing the candidates and their places in the running lists rests with one person only: the head of the party currently the Prime Minister. These intercepts deliver a hard blow on the legitimacy of the government itself. Durres, a highly prized constituency for its national port, a documented hub of narco-trafficking, is certainly not the only place where this kind of mafia dynamics is in place. After the first mandate Rilindje under the guise of the Socialist Party won 74 mandates. It is clear now that their decisive difference which gave them the mandate was made up with the names chosen by organized crime. Some of them, directly implicated in crimes, have been forced to resign with the decriminalization law. Some like Ndraxhi still stand. In subsequent calls we understand how hardcore criminals, sentenced for the harshest crimes wield decisive influence on the drafting and ranks of the electoral lists, threaten and manipulate voters in order to generate specific outcomes, boast about it to party heads, have full information on the agenda of local and national politicians and finally have at their disposal all the public institutions to deal with them at their hearts’ content. The entire array of institutions and their heads: property registration offices, aqueduct management companies, municipalities mentioned in these communications are the fabric of whole communities. The calls indicate the pressure on the lower employees to vote in exchange for keeping their jobs, the pressure on mayors and property offices to deliver for the gangsters, to change their agendas, to walk the line. And then Election Day is just Show Time. This is not the first time this scheme is put under the limelight. Not the first time its actors shrug off these allegations as being routine conversations with their constituents.   However this does seem like the straw that breaks the camel back. In the midst of this political crisis whose core nexus is about the freedom and legitimacy of elections, in the midst of the indifference and inertia that the international community present in Albania is showing, in expectance of a major decision about the EU integration path of the country, this publication is the last chance to serve as a wakeup call. However the standing majority is more concerned about the leaks as a break in the procedure of conserving the investigation privacy than about the evidencing of the crime itself. The leak that identifies and sheds lights over these links between crime and politics is in the interest of the public and therefore cannot be intimidated with the rhetoric of punishing those who made it happen. The intricate and almost organic links that have grown between crime and politics and that stem from the nefarious pact between the two around Election Day should be severed. This linkage is the original sin and the genesis of evil and renouncing it will be difficult and painful. However as long as it stands put there is no chance that the pattern of political conflict, large scale corruption and democratic degradation can ever be reversed.   [post_title] => Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-organized-crime-at-the-heart-of-the-political-modus-operandi [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-10 11:08:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-10 09:08:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142052 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142002 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-05-30 18:53:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-30 16:53:17 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The European Commission as expected recommended unconditionally the opening of accession negotiations with both the Republic of Albania and the Republic of North Macedonia. It has been the consistent position of this paper to support the opening of accession negotiations as a way to increase systematic control over the reforms while at the same time maintaining a positive momentum about the process therefore the recommendation is welcomed. However by now it is clear even to the general public that the real final decision is up to the EU Council. A strong and clear signal has been sent a month ago, in the Berlin Summit, that even June will not bring any definite decision. It is much more likely that the Council will express its final position in September with some voices even delaying this development up until the end of the year. The lack of enthusiasm therefore for this decision is warranted. The combination of the conditions inside the EU after the elections for the Parliament with those in the domestic field is far from reassuring. Even though the steep rise in the populist, far right, anti EU forces did not materialize in the elections, still enlargement remains an undesired topic from which political actors, especially in France and the Netherlands, want to steer clear. On the other side the situation in Albania compared to last year has deteriorated. The political crisis is in full force, with the opposition outside of the Parliament and protesting in the streets and the majority set to go on with local elections in the end of June. These extreme positions have the potential to upset the stability and have already done much damage to the democratic development of the country. The position of the international community inside Albania is aligned in such a way that it has little maneuvering space to act as an intermediary this time. There is also a storing dichotomy in the considerations about the justice reform. Whereas the Commission Report goes along with the mainstream rhetoric of considering the reform an undoubted success, important stakeholders in Albania including the President of the Republic as well as a core of legal experts and analysts consider its delays very detrimental. Albania finds itself still without the two key pillars of the checks and balance system: a Constitutional Court and a High Court. Indeed this dichotomy can be expanded to understand the growing discrepancy of the report with reality. The report relies heavy on a very technical methodology, ticking endless lists and color coding reforms split in endless action plans. Therefore the end result often stands in contrast with the observable issues on the ground. Reform of the public administration is an easy illustration. The report might indicate modest or even considerable progress however the state budget is heavy burdened with millions of euros to be paid as compensation to people who have unlawfully been removed from their job positions in the public sector. The report can and rightfully should reach the conclusion that accession negotiations need to be opened while being at the same time analytical and outspoken about the serious deficiencies in each sector. The incoming new Commission should reconsider the legitimacy, authority and relevance of these reports by introducing the need to be more critical and more realistic and to be more vocal about pending issues when it comes to the basic of state functionality. It remains an overall good news for Albania that the EU Commission believes the technical conditions have been fulfilled. However in the end the decision is political and takes into account much more. Those noting the lack of “fireworks” yesterday should not confuse it for a lack of enthusiasm for the path of integration but as a somber realization that, taking into full account the situation it is going to take that much more to move an inch forward. [post_title] => Editorial: Twice recommended, destination and travel speed still unclear [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-twice-recommended-destination-and-travel-speed-still-unclear [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-30 18:53:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-30 16:53:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142002 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141996 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-05-30 18:27:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-30 16:27:54 [post_content] => By Jacek Czaputowicz   Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman, It is my great honor to address the General Assembly under agenda item 74 to introduce the draft resolution on the establishment of the International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief. The draft resolution was tabled on behalf of nine countries: Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, United States and my own country: Poland. I would like to warmly thank the core-group countries, as well as all other delegations, for their engagement throughout the process of negotiations of this draft resolution. The positive spirit of cooperation during the negotiations was vital for the successful outcome. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman, The world has been experiencing an unprecedented raise of violence against religious communities and people belonging to religious minorities. Over the recent months, we have been witnessing appalling acts of violence related to religion or belief. The recent attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and then targeting Christian communities in Sri Lanka during the Easter Sunday have reminded us in a tragic way that the freedom of religion is a fundamental human right and that hatred towards religion groups may lead to mass killing of innocent people. As reports of civil society organizations estimate, one third of the world’s population suffers from some form of religious persecution. Religious persecutions exist in many forms. Acts of terror are intended to intimidate members of religious communities and, as a result, to hold them back from practicing their faith in the place of worship. In some countries, religious practice is forbidden even at home, in others, the representatives of religious minorities are refused religious funeral. In some other states, organized groups target minority communities. The cases of abduction and murder of religious leaders, their disappearance and resettlement, torture and beating based on religion or belief by the police are only some examples of the persecution and discriminatory behaviours towards religious minorities. Poland has a centuries-long tradition of peaceful coexistence of various religious groups, therefore we are particularly sensitive to protection of religious freedom. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, commonly referred to as the right to freedom of religion or belief is a universal right of every human being. This right is a cornerstone of many other rights. Any acts of violence against people belonging to religious minorities cannot be accepted. The resolution before us designates August 22nd as the International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief. The establishment of the International Day is being put forward to honor the victims and survivors who often – too often – remain forgotten. The resolution does not relate to any specific religion or belief, but to all religions, whose members are victims of violence. The resolution seeks to raise awareness of the importance of respect for religious diversity and inclusion. We strongly believe that this new International Day will help to create an inclusive platform for Member States, international organizations and civil society to engage in activities to commemorate victims and assist survivors. We hope that it will help to combat hate crimes and acts of violence related to religion or belief and will further strengthen interreligious dialogue. The resolution may play an educational role as well through promoting the respect for religious diversity, inclusion and mutual understanding between different religious and belief communities. The establishment of the International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief will complement other important international instruments such as the UN Alliance of Civilization or the UN Declaration on Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman, Poland will work closely with the international community in safeguarding religious freedoms and protecting those who are intimidated or persecuted because of their religion or belief, including by various meetings dedicated to the protection of religious minorities in armed conflict. Let us demonstrate together our commitment to ensuring freedom religion and belief. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman, I would also like to thank the Member States co-sponsoring this resolution of great importance to the international community, and I look forward to its adoption by consensus.   *Remarks made by the Polish Foreign Minister in New York on the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief   [post_title] => Polish FM: “One third of world’s population suffers some form of religious persecution” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => polish-fm-one-third-of-worlds-population-suffers-some-form-of-religious-persecution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-30 18:27:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-30 16:27:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141996 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141990 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-05-30 17:47:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-30 15:47:52 [post_content] => By Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans at the European Commission and Chair of the International Monitoring Operation (IMO).   The EU and the US are fully committed to continue supporting the reform of the judiciary in Albania, to guarantee the right of the citizens to a democratic society where nobody is above the law. The vetting of the judiciary is an essential step in this direction. A little over one year has passed since the Independent Qualification Commission held the first hearing in the framework of the vetting process. Since then, the first instance vetting institution has adopted more than 140decisions. These were followed by around 20 final decisions at the Appeal Chamber level. The very tangible results achieved to date have allowed us to take stock of this first year of intense work and to address the challenges that lie ahead, considering that vetting is going to continue for some years to complete the evaluation of over 800 judges and prosecutors. First, the people of Albania deserve special praise. It is thanks to their strong determination that the judiciary across the country is being cleared of corruption, for once and for all. Their desire for a truly impartial and professional judiciary meant that the reforms could be started. Citizens must be praised as well for their continuous interest, throughout the process. Since the vetting institutions started to deliver the first results, the public has closely watched every single step, outcome, and decision. This public interest has also generated a large number of denunciations of corruption and mismanagement of justice from citizens directly to the observers deployed at the International Monitoring Operation (IMO). In the past six months, the IMO received close to 250 denunciations from individual citizens, private enterprises, NGOs and public institutions.This readiness to contribute demonstrates that citizens trust that vetting is going in the right direction to respond to the legitimate public aspirations. Second, the newly created structures of the judiciary deserve special encouragement. We should not forget that the justice reform involved a root and branch overhaul of the whole governance of the judiciary. It focused on creating an independent and self-governed system that ensures integrity and sustainable accountability, as well as independence from political influence. The EU fully supports the new separate judicial and prosecutorial councils that have been established, as well as the new Justice Appointment Council, while acknowledging that it takes time to build a solid new system. Third, now that a year has passed, it is possible to make a first analysis of the vetting cases and results. The vetting is a complex process and every single dossier, comprising thousands of pages, is different from the other. There are nuances and aspects across the three pillars of the assessment that might lead to different conclusions on grounds that appear to be similar. The IMO International Observers have monitored the decisions of  the vetting institutions at all levels, as well as followed closely the outcome of investigations conducted by auxiliary bodies. A rigorous work by the Appellate Chamber is now very important to dispel any concerns about the unbiased administration of justice. It is also important to note that if an assessee thinks that his/her individual rights were damaged in the process, the Constitution of Albania guarantees that he/she has the right to address the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg.  A number of assessees have already referred their case to the Court, and the future rulings will also contribute to the jurisprudence of the vetting institutions. Fourth, when reviewing the vetting results of the first year of operations, it is clear that the process has had a strong impact on existing institutions. It is very positive that the new bodies within the judiciary have now been formed to undertake the responsibilities with the utmost commitment and professionalism. The lack of a quorum at the Constitutional Court has of course been a very high price to pay for the transition. One should not be surprised that the re-evaluation process has had implications and consequences in the judiciary at all levels. Nevertheless, the process of replacing the judges is ongoing and this transition will end soon. We trust that the new Justice Appointment Council that conducts the ongoing evaluation and ranking of the candidates, and that all the other institutions that are responsible to make the final appointments, will seek candidates with the highest integrity from among those who have applied. Their work needs to be carried out quickly, howeverwithout sacrificing quality.   Considering the high public interest, it is important to ensure close monitoring of the process and to contribute constructively to its progress. This does however not excuse attacking the process in unfair and unacceptable terms, including when personally targeting individual members of the vetting institutions. Some people may fear judicial reform and be willing to derail it, but this cannot be allowed. It is the responsibility of all Albanian institutions, political parties, as well as civil society, to ensure that the strengthening of the independence, impartiality and accountability of the judiciary through this process is guaranteed. The months ahead will be crucial as Albania moves from the transition phase of judicial reform to its full implementation. The vetting bodies will ensure the continuous handling of priority cases so that the new institutions can be fully established. The EU, together with the US in the IMO, will continue supporting this process so that the people of Albania can benefit from the reform and take pride in the change that they demanded and have craved for so long.   [post_title] => Justice reform and vetting: for the citizens, with the citizens [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => justice-reform-and-vetting-for-the-citizens-with-the-citizens [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-30 17:47:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-30 15:47:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141990 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141984 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-05-30 17:38:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-30 15:38:49 [post_content] => By Besnik Mustafaj In fact, one year is a very little time for the life of an organization. It is also very little for the professional life for each one in our Council. Nonetheless, this first year has been quite sufficient to affirm the goal of our joining together. Each of us has a long and unique experience behind at the service of the foreign policy of the Republic of Albania. True, we are not part of our Diplomatic Corps; yet, our solid confidence has been and remains that this experience is useful for our national foreign policy interests. We do also believe that speeding up Albania’s EU integration is the major interest for all Albanians. Accordingly, we have provided and will continue to do so and, on voluntary basis, with our expertise, in support of this process. For well-known historic reasons, a part of Albanian ambassadors during the last 30 years have not come only from the career diplomatic service. Therefore, in the course of preparations for founding our Council, we had two choices: either to go beyond this reality and join one another for a single goal over the party beliefs or set up two separate organizations, thus extending the political debates among parties to our Council. We made the first choice, also the most difficult one; we wanted to set out an example how even those who think differently may come together. Thus, we had the liberty to enlarge our Council, including former ministers foreign affairs as well. It should be admitted that this year was not the most appropriate to start up the life of an organization like ours; in the landscape of the Albanian civil society, the Council of Albanian Ambassadors is a very specific and atypical example; and, it is its members that have made it so. Many from us entered the foreign service after a notable career and a long route within one of the largest political formations. As we all know, this year has marked an escalating tension in the political life to reach up the point of extreme polarization today. An indication of this polarization is also the different way how one or the other political camp “ read” the messages from our international European and US partners. In such conditions, the challenge for our Council has been and remains to preserve its coherence to the benefit of national interest, avoiding both the euphoria of a party and the nihilism of the other. Thanks to their unity, our Council Members have succeeded to rise over individual political preferences. Certainly, we shall keep on this track, believing that despite our modest capabilities, we shall be useful in supporting Albania’s Euro – Atlantic aspirations. We have only advice and suggestions; besides, we speak in public or in confidential encounters for all those who want to listen to us. The Council of Albanian Ambassadors has been cautious in averting internal party debates, by largely focusing on the foreign policy developments of our state. However, taking advantage from the presence of some of our major political leaders here today, we use this opportunity to voice our great concern on the grave situation that has swept over the country. In our judgment, this unusual situation impairs the confidence of our strategic European and American partners on Albania and its political establishment; It does also put to direct difficulties the EU integration process. Moreover, it is not only the reasons lying at its origin but also the mode of the management of this crisis which do not correspond to the values of European democracy. The CAA cannot reconcile with this reality. We think that the only healthy solution to this crisis is a compromise that should be necessarily reached through an open and fair dialogue. Therefore, we expect from both sides to pull out from the party trenches and without losing any more time to come closer to the common point – the major country’s interests. This would be a compromise with painful concessions by both sides and from those in power, in particular; it would be one of those compromises reached only by a political leadership with deeply rooted convictions to serve democracy. This compromise could be an opportunity for those leaders who dream to have an esteemed place in our political and national history. We still hope that they would not miss this chance. And now, permit me to extend our deepest gratitude to the Council of American Ambassadors. Our friends from Washington have accompanied and encouraged us from the very first moment when the idea for this Council was born. Our cooperation with the Council of American Ambassadors and the US Diplomatic Academy is very precious for us. Likewise, special thanks go to the ambassadors of our friendly countries accredited in Tirana. They have realized from the very outset our goal, establishing an open and friendly communication with us as among colleagues. We also thank the media for their echoe to our statements. Finally, let me assure you that we shall continue to perform our duty, hoping we would be useful for the public opinion, for the Diplomatic Corps of the Republic of Albania and for all state institutions, that in one way or another, are involved with Albania’s international relations and our partners.   [post_title] => Head of Council of Albanian Ambassadors: “Both sides should think of country’s best interests” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => head-of-council-of-albanian-ambassadors-both-sides-should-think-of-countrys-best-interests [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-30 17:38:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-30 15:38:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141984 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141907 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-05-30 16:03:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-30 14:03:28 [post_content] => TIRANA, May 27 - The Head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Albanian Trade Nikollaq Neranxi called on all Albanian entrepreneurs and business owners alike to meet in the face of the economic decline threatening the country. “The situation we are going through is critical. The decline in consumption as a result of the increasing poverty is getting worse by the day, as well as the massive departure of Albanians, has brought the honest, formal business that is not a customer of power to fight for survival,” Neranxi wrote in his article. What further deepens the problem, Neranxi says, is the state’s inclination to act as a fine-giver, while business owners have nowhere to complain regarding these inconsistencies because there is no court to complain to. “The Constitutional Court and the High Court do not work! In these extreme conditions, we as entrepreneurs need to unite and make decisions, even extreme, to save our work that we created with sweat and which is seeking to destroy us deliberately! Our strength is greater than the intrigues of power over us,” Neranxi concluded.   [post_title] => Head of Albanian Trade Protection: “Business is stronger than a corrupt state” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => head-of-albanian-trade-protection-business-is-stronger-than-a-corrupt-state [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-30 16:11:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-30 14:11:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141907 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141877 [post_author] => 338 [post_date] => 2019-05-24 14:44:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-24 12:44:13 [post_content] => The last hours in the Albanian political scene have witnessed a flurry of communications, of a more personal nature, in the forms of exchanged letters and social media postings between the Albanian Prime Minister Rama and the leader of the Democratic Party Basha. In his first letter Rama opened an access point to sitting down and discussing the solution to the crisis appealing to Basha for an end of the protest violence as well as safeguarding the European perspective of the country. Basha’s response, though not written, was a rebuke of the format used last time, of last hour bilateral agreement, favoring major changes and not moving from the penultimate request of unseating the Prime Minister. Rama has followed with a second letter, more cynical this time where he does not shy away from expressing some sort of contentment with his perceived gradual death of the political support for Basha. However, according to Rama it is his responsibility to insist on dialogue. It is easy to categorize this kind of communication as “too little too late.” After all the insults, low blows, flame bottles and rocks, tear gas, death cries and the rest of the rhetorical and physical arsenal exchanged on both sides, this trial of dialogue seems futile. However it is never too late in politics. It is never too late particularly when we are talking about the future of a country, its safety and stability, its integration and democracy. In order to start and sustain a real, honest and constructive dialogue the timing is less important than the agenda. In this regard, the primary item on this dialogue should be the strategic and systematic resetting of the rules of the game starting from the democratic development essentials to the preservation of the checks and balances and reaching up to the guarantees for national consensus when it comes to EU integration. At present all these irreplaceable components of a functional modern state are either ailing or missing. Elections which stand at the foundations of the system are contested, the separation of powers is in deep disarray due to the justice reform delays and inconsistencies, and the European future of the country is less secure then ever due to both internal and external factors. An extended hand for dialogue is welcome. So far the approach of all the third actors has been reluctant or confused in relation to the potential dialogue, very likely due to the extreme positions of the two sides. The president says he cannot make it happen, the internationals have failed repeatedly or have feigned indifference and inertia. The real losers in this situation are the citizens who lack the power and the voice to change the situation or the resources to have alternative plans. The responsibility of dialogue now stands firmly on the domestic politicians. Being clear and ambitious on the agenda is the right first step. [post_title] => Editorial: Dialogue and the resetting solution- escaping “too little too late” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-dialogue-and-the-resetting-solution-escaping-too-little-too-late [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-05-24 15:03:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-05-24 13:03:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141877 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142276 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-06-21 09:05:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-21 07:05:28 [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL There have been consecutive releases of wire tappings in batches from the German media Bild, demonstrating again and again that starting from the Prime Minister himself Edi Rama and down to former ministers, Damian Gjiknuri and Sajmir Tahiri, followed by respective area MPs such as Xhemal Qefalija and Pjerin Ndreu just to mention a few, everyone that matters in the Rilindje version of the Socialist Party was involved in communication with people who manipulated elections. The recently released intercepts reveal that in particular that the heads of police stations and officials from the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the regional Department of Education have been systematically instructed to exert pressure, use threats about employment and offer money in exchange for votes. The case in question is that of the Dibra local elections, which in the past had been a bastion of the DP and last time were curiously won by the SP with an incredible margin. It is exactly this margin and the methods used to acquire it that the criminals and the politicians are celebrating with boastfulness and crudity in these phone calls. First of all it is now clear that this government is not legitimate anymore and has lost all credibility and morality. It should not stand. The Prime Minister should resign. The publication of these intercepts in any other normal democratic and responsible country would have brought the government down more than once. It has been showed with clarity that the electoral process has been deformed beyond any recognition. Second, the stealth alliance between politics and organized crime need to be dismantled once and for all in order to avoid the cyclical crisis pattern that is not allowing Albania to take even the smallest step forward as a democracy, as a country that wants to join the EU and as a normal place where citizens can build functional lives. A particularly sad thing to notice also in these communication is the banal language filled with obscenities that all these high ranking figures use in their phone calls. This kind of crude language has become a particular and revealing trademark of the alliance between the “Rilindje organization” (that has devoured the Socialist Party) and the organized crime syndicates. It is revelatory of the scary abyss where the values and role models have fallen. The lack of legitimacy and the degree of crime that this intercepts have highlighted are not the only reason why this government should go. The last week has shown an alarming increase in the level of violence in almost all the municipalities of the country. The local institutions run by the opposition have acknowledged the presidential decree of annulling the elections and are taking steps to dismantle the electoral infrastructure. This has put them on a collision course with the state police. Confrontations have escalated into arson and beatings. Many arrests have been made. The situation is tense and ripe for more concerning clashes. There are no guarantees in place for the safety and security of citizens, businesses and institutions. Albanians are pitted against Albanians in yet another absurd politician run drama. All stakeholders need to step back and reflect on the need to avoid violence including the international ones. The President of the Republic has taken a step to officially communicate with the OSCE-ODHIR mission in Albania about his decision to annul the elections exactly for the reason of avoiding confrontation and instability.  The OSCE presence in Albania is increasingly being evaluated as a partial and biased actor and that is irreparably damaging its credibility as a necessary referee of elections. They, alongside other international actors who seem oblivious to the coming deluge, should adjust their course as soon as possible. A few days are left to take the right decision that would dissipate the tension and open the path to a necessary dialogue and solution. It can and it should start with a simple step. This government should take the responsibility to account for its wrongful and illegal actions. [post_title] => Editorial: Crime, punishment and violence- this government’s days are done [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-crime-punishment-and-violence-this-governments-days-are-done [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-23 09:24:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-23 07:24:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142276 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 30 [name] => Op-Ed [slug] => op-ed [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 30 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 875 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 30 [category_count] => 875 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Op-Ed [category_nicename] => op-ed [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 30 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

Latest News

Read More