Albania: Committed to the reform

Albania: Committed to the reform

By Federica Mogherini* Not only the integration process of Albania into the European Union, but the integration process of the entire Western Balkans into the European Union is not a favour we make, it is a matter of self-interest for

Read Full Article
Water: The right of each of us, the challenge of all

Water: The right of each of us, the challenge of all

By Michel Temer* Access to drinking water and basic sanitation is a right and one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. It is a condition for human life. However, up to two billion people on the planet

Read Full Article
Editorial: Why are Albanians feeling so miserable?

Editorial: Why are Albanians feeling so miserable?

Albanians are apparently feeling miserable. They are the most unhappy people in Europe, according to an annual UN happiness report. And things are getting, worse not better, with the country falling 22 places in the index in the past three

Read Full Article
Editorial: Albanian parties should stop int’l lobbying

Editorial: Albanian parties should stop int’l lobbying

Efforts by Albanian political parties to lobby in the United States and elsewhere in the world have again made international and local headlines this week — for all the wrong reasons. Funds used by Albania’s Democratic Party to lobby for

Read Full Article
Tourism strategies that need a ‘strategy’

Tourism strategies that need a ‘strategy’

By Kliton Gerxhani* The tourism ministry has been promoting the 2018-2022 draft strategy on tourism. That is the fourth strategy so far after the 1993-2010, the 2002-2012 and the 2007-2013 tourism strategies. Even if you know nothing about tourism development,

Read Full Article
Energy can be an important engine in Albania’s economy as it has been in Norway for more than a century

Energy can be an important engine in Albania’s economy as it has been in Norway for more than a century

By Per Strand Sjaastad* Good energy policy is, basically, about ensuring sufficient and stable supply, at affordable prices in an efficient and competitive market, and – at the same time – without destroying the environment or the climate. The energy

Read Full Article
The EU and Western Balkans: From parasitism, to symbiosis

The EU and Western Balkans: From parasitism, to symbiosis

By Sidonja Manushi During a recent top-notch, EU-related conference in Brussels, I was once again positively struck by the idealism with which EU officials in particular speak concerning the union: Its future, its values, its enlargement, its survival, its ability

Read Full Article
Editorial: Fighting organized crime: Follow the money

Editorial: Fighting organized crime: Follow the money

This week more than 600 kilos of cocaine were seized in Durres, the largest load ever of its kind to be seized by Albanian law enforcement authorities. This massive seizure leaves little doubt that Albania is a transit hub for

Read Full Article
Editorial: A united front serving national interests needed in talks with Greece

Editorial: A united front serving national interests needed in talks with Greece

The transparency worries related to Albania’s negotiations with Greece over the maritime border and a series of other issues of concern appear to have reached as high as Albania’s head of state, who appears uneasy to hand over full control

Read Full Article
Kosovo 10: Marking a decade of independence

Kosovo 10: Marking a decade of independence

By Syle Ukshini* I am particularly pleased to greet the President of the Republic, his Excellency, Mr. Ilir Meta, and the Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Gramoz Ruci. I also warmly welcome the members of the Government Cabinet, leaders of

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] => 752
    [max_num_pages] => 76
    [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] => 136323
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-23 09:20:40
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-23 08:20:40
                    [post_content] => By Federica Mogherini*

Not only the integration process of Albania into the European Union, but the integration process of the entire Western Balkans into the European Union is not a favour we make, it is a matter of self-interest for the European Union itself. I know that in these times we talk a lot about geo-strategic, geo-political competition in the Western Balkans. I think I spend most of my time with the friends in the Western Balkans and visiting the region. There is not one single week without a meeting dedicated to one of the six partners we have in the Western Balkans.  It is also the only place in the world where only the European Union can make the real difference.

Do we want to exercise this power or not? That is the question that is on my desk every single day. And I think this is the question that will come on the desk of the Parliament, of the Council, of the Commission in the months to come.

And it is also the first chance we have, as a generation, to have an integration process after the many different waves of what we usually call "enlargement". I do not like the word enlargement because it assumes that there is a centre that gets bigger - I think it is a matter of re-uniting our continent. But it is the first wave of integration in the European Union that goes back to the DNA of the history of the Union - peace and reconciliation. It is not just about economy, it is not just about security, it is not about spheres of influence, it is about bringing and consolidating peace and reconciliation in a region that a few decades ago - my generation remembers it well, previous ones even better - were at war or were isolated from the world. So is it the European Union's DNA in question here? Are we able to consolidate not only security, not only economic development, but also peace and reconciliation in our continent? And I think not only we can, but we have to and it is in the self-interest for the European Union and the European Union citizens to do it. Are we going to do it tomorrow? It is going to be quite a long process. Edi said it very well: "Not ready yet".

But let me say very clearly: I see in the Western Balkans, I see in Albania - because now we are talking about that - in these years a determination, a dedication, a feeling of being European that goes beyond the Eurovision Song Contest. And that is a desire, an aspiration, an identity as Europeans and as being part or aspiring to be part of the European Union. We in the Union need this energy. We need people, citizens, institutions, politicians, political parties that say in huge numbers: "We want to be in. We need to be in". We need it exactly because of the current political trends in Europe. I believe we need that kind of energy, this pro-European energy inside the Union exactly to remind ourselves what it is about, because you realise what is there from the outside sometimes better than from the inside. We need it.

And I have seen Albania in these years doing incredible things. Edi was talking about the Justice Reform. Well, we have accompanied it locally, here in Brussels, I would say, day by day - not us alone, but mainly us. And it is true: we have worked on this together and we have achieved the results, you have achieved results, I believe, because we have been working on this together, as well as on other things. It is not because Ditmir is here, but Albania is not only a NATO ally, but it is also the country, together with Montenegro, in the region that is one hundred per cent aligned to our Foreign and Security Policy, which is not irrelevant. It means that, from the Middle East, to Africa, to Korea, to Russia, we are one hundred per cent on the same side, when it comes to votes in the international organisations, when it comes to, for instance, the fact that Albania is contributing to two of our European Union military missions, in Mali and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We are already doing things together as if; not exactly as if, but on Foreign and Security Policy, I can tell you, it is really an example. And we are about to finalise an agreement between Albania and Frontex, I believe the first one of this kind in the region. They are all good examples of things that have moved in the right direction. And I could continue, because the fields where reforms were done are huge and many, but I stick to these two elements: the Foreign and Security Policy and the work you have done on the Justice Reform.

I believe it is quite clear, as Edi said, you see the problems that are still there and you know and we know it is a process. It is not that you are ticking the boxes and once you have ticked the boxes it is done and you forget about it. It is a process. The vetting system: you are entering a phase that is already producing results. The war against organised crime - that by the way is a war that many other countries, including some Member States, are doing at different stages - you know it is a process.

What is the right approach towards the problems? First, to recognise that there are problems. Second, to work together to solve them and to get the results and to keep and to consolidate the results. So the problem that I think we have on the EU institutions' side now is this. It is like riding a bike. You do not stand still. Either you more forward or you fall. Do we want to move forward? Are we ready to move forward? Because I believe it is correct to say that the risk of not moving forward could be falling. And Albania falling, or the Western Balkans falling, is definitely not in the interest of the region. It is definitely not in the interest of the European Union.

This is very clear for me. In the Western Balkans I have learned things can go very well very quickly, or very bad very quickly. Things just happen like this and then it is very difficult to rebuild. I think the choice we have in front of us now, as institutions, is clear: that of not losing the result of years of common work, that of making progress consolidated and irreversible, not losing, not wasting the opportunity we have. And I think the moment is now.

So I conclude by saying that I believe – in any case this is my political objective in these three, four months to come, to be very concrete – first, to have an unconditional positive recommendation by the European Commission on Albania - not only on Albania but here we talk about that - and, second, to have the Council deciding in June to open the negotiation talks. And then we start.

Speech by the EU High Representative/Vice – President Federica Mogherini at the event "Albania: Committed to the Reform" at the European Parliament
                    [post_title] => Albania: Committed to the reform
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-committed-to-the-reform
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-23 10:22:28
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-23 09:22:28
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136323
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136320
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-23 09:07:33
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-23 08:07:33
                    [post_content] => By Michel Temer*

Access to drinking water and basic sanitation is a right and one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. It is a condition for human life.

However, up to two billion people on the planet do not have access to a safe source of water at home, and up to 2.3 billion people suffer from lack of sanitation.

Approximately 260 million people—more than the entire population of Brazil—must walk more than thirty minutes to gather water. Guaranteeing access to water is one of the main challenges of our time.

Brazil has 12 per cent of the planet’s fresh water—but, despite this fact, we are not immune to water-related problems. Major cities in Brazil have been enduring water shortages.

An unacceptable sanitation deficit persists, and the suffering caused by drought to the people of Brazil’s northeast region is a well-known fact.

The search for answers to such urgent issues has led us to host the 8th World Water Forum in Brasília this week. The forum is expected to gather more than 40,000 participants from over 160 countries.

We will welcome heads of state and government, state governors, mayors, members of congress, judges, representatives of international organizations and academia, the private sector, and civil society. This diversity of participants will enrich the forum.

The choice of Brazil to host one of the most important global events on water resources is no surprise. We have long been committed to this matter on the international stage.

We hosted the Rio 92 and the Rio+20 conferences, in which the close link between water sustainability and development were recognized.

More recently, we were among the first countries to ratify the Paris Agreement, which deals with one of the main threats to the right of access to water: climate change.

This traditional protagonist on the world stage is anchored in solid measures on the domestic side. Brazil knows that water and sanitation are synonymous with environmental preservation, and we made water security a pillar of our environmental policies.

To preserve our waterways, we implemented the River Planting program, which uses digital tools to protect our springs and permanent preservation areas.

We have also made significant progress towards protecting our forests. We have increased our forest conservation areas.

We reversed the deforestation curve in the Amazon that we found to be on the rise, and we are about to create two vast marine biodiversity conservation areas.

By protecting our ecosystems we protect our water sources. Having water is essential, but it is not enough. The water must get to those who need it.

Getting water to those who need it is what the transposition of the São Francisco River is all about. The long-awaited project, now in its final stages, will benefit a population 12 million in Brazil’s northeast.

With the portion that supplies water to the states of Pernambuco and Paraiba completed, the final phase involves enabling water to reach the state of Ceará.

By completing this enormous public works project, we did not neglect our sustainability goals. We have launched a new project (Novo Chico), aimed at revitalizing the São Francisco River.

Our attention, once again, is focused on sanitation and the great deal that must still be done. We are putting the final touches on a bill of law aimed at modernizing our regulatory framework in sanitation and encouraging new investment in the area.

What inspires us is the need to make this basic service universal.

This is the Brazil that is hosting the World Water Forum: a country in search common solutions to global problems; a country that will continue to do its part in preserving our most precious resource.

 

*Michel Temer is the President of Brazil
                    [post_title] => Water: The right of each of us, the challenge of all
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => water-the-right-of-each-of-us-the-challenge-of-all
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-23 10:07:49
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-23 09:07:49
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136320
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136236
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-16 09:34:41
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-16 08:34:41
                    [post_content] => Albanians are apparently feeling miserable. They are the most unhappy people in Europe, according to an annual UN happiness report. 

And things are getting, worse not better, with the country falling 22 places in the index in the past three years alone.

Albania’s neighbors in the index are not Montenegro or Greece -- they are exotic and formerly war-torn countries like Sierra Leone and Iraq and the most crowded country on earth, Bangladesh.

If you are picking this newspaper up at the airport or if you are sitting in a posh office at an international organization, big company or at a embassy you might have a hard time explaining why in the world Albanians would be feeling this unhappy. After all, the climate is decent and the country is politically stable. There are no signs of the extreme poverty you see in the above mentioned countries either. 

The index assesses variables such as GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, support by friends and family, charity data, freedom of choice in life and corruption perceptions -- and perceived happiness. 

The data, which is averaged by economists over three-year periods, also ranked Albania as one of the nine countries that have had the most worsened situation, along countries like Madagascar, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Yemen, Syria and Venezuela. 

What can explain these results? There are some hypotheses we can put forward. 

First, Albanians have realised that there are no easy and quick fixes. After a lot of hope of the economy getting better faster and the country joining the EU soon, there is a clear understanding now that the country is in stagnation -- or decline -- and that things will not necessarily get better any time soon. It turns out consistent hard work and good governance are needed over many, many years to catch up with Europe. So all that optimism of the 2000s has turned into depression and lack of hope for the immediate future. 

Second, Albanians have seen the feeling of real democracy crumble before their eyes in the past few years. The ruling political class might win elections one way or another, but it does not mean that the majority of the people of Albania trust or like their leaders or that they see them as a capable of working for the public good. Albanian voters feel that their votes often make no difference as lack of democracy within parties and an unrepresentative electoral system produces parliaments that many Albanians perceive to be made up of yes-men, criminals and representatives of oligarchs instead of intellectuals and patriots. As a result, Albanians are making the only vote that counts, with their feet, abandoning the country. Bad governance is simply not held accountable, thus made even more arrogant in its actions. 

Third, there are no good jobs and no economic stability. Albania’s real wages and employment opportunities have not increased in years and lack of international and domestic investments combined with punitive government actions on small businesses have created a dark well of despair in the Albanian economy, made only worse by the capture of sectors of the economy by organized crime with alleged political ties. 

Fourth, the government rule-of-law actions have taken away many freedoms that Albanians enjoyed after the fall of communism, bringing back a sense of government opressionsion that many Albanians had forgotten about under democracy. To be clear, the rule-of-law campaigns are good in the long term, but the way they were implemented often created problems that led to many social and economic problems in the last few years. In turn, Albanians are not seeing any of the benefits. Higher taxes and punitive collection of delayed power bills are not resulting in better education and healthcare systems. In facts, Albania is losing healthcare workers to other countries at alarming rates.

Fifth, it’s cultural. The people of this part of Europe are not known to be a happy lot. Albanians are no different. The four factors mentioned above, are just a lot worse here than elsewhere. 

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Why are Albanians feeling so miserable? 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-why-are-albanians-feeling-so-miserable
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-16 09:34:41
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-16 08:34:41
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136236
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136130
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-09 09:19:57
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-09 08:19:57
                    [post_content] => Efforts by Albanian political parties to lobby in the United States and elsewhere in the world have again made international and local headlines this week -- for all the wrong reasons.

Funds used by Albania’s Democratic Party to lobby for support in the United States ahead of the general elections in Albania last year have become a source of debate after an American magazine’s investigative article noted that it appears there are links to Russia. Albania’s main opposition party says the article is part of a smear campaign backed by supporters of Albania’s ruling Socialist Party. 

In fact, the magazine article is part of an ongoing trend in U.S. media investigating possible covert Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics. Albania’s involvement in this case is as proxy in that conflict.

While the article in the left-leaning American magazine, Mother Jones, does not prove anything conclusive, it raises enough questions to once again cause major headaches in Albania over transparency in the funding of political parties, and especially funds they use for lobbying internationally.

This is money used to promote the leaders and the parties themselves, not Albania as a whole, and as such, by its very nature is not the best way to spend money by those looking to represent the Albanian people.

This is by no means the first time that this happens, nor is the center-right opposition the only one doing it.

All major political parties in Albania have spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars over the past two decade trying to appear America’s or Europe’s favorite.

People tied to the ruling Socialist Party once came under criminal investigation in the United States over money spent for then opposition leader Edi Rama to appear in a photo with former President Obama in at campaign event. Ironically, current opposition leader Lulzim Basha might now be in hot water over money spent trying to secure a photo with President Trump. 

Both photos – as most U.S. lobbying efforts -- were aimed for the domestic Albanian audience with the simple and fake message: ‘America supports me and my party.’ Anyone with any real understanding of how things work in international politics would know that Washington and Brussels support Albania -- they do not support any party or leader in particular.

Trying to make it appear otherwise is not only unethical, but it turns out it might also be illegal when murky money is used.

It is a good time for political parties in Albania to think about stopping the practice altogether and for lawmakers to set harder campaign financing regulations in Albania to shed more light into where the money is coming from and where it is going. This would not only benefit the parties themselves but democracy in Albania. 

This is the second editorial in less than a year in which this newspaper advocates for ending the practice. The U.S. lobbying makes headlines because by law all information must be public. One can only imagine what happens in places where information like this is private.  

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Albanian parties should stop int’l lobbying
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-albanian-parties-should-stop-intl-lobbying
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-09 09:19:57
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-09 08:19:57
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136130
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136082
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-06 13:05:42
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-06 12:05:42
                    [post_content] => By Kliton Gerxhani*

The tourism ministry has been promoting the 2018-2022 draft strategy on tourism. That is the fourth strategy so far after the 1993-2010, the 2002-2012 and the 2007-2013 tourism strategies.

Even if you know nothing about tourism development, but are good only at maths (and know something on chaos), considering the time frames of those strategies, one can understand that such papers are unfortunately produced not for the purpose they have, i.e. to determine the vision in the tourism sector, but to imply that “we also have a strategy.”

The first strategy pretended to lay the foundations for 17 years until 2010. But eight years before that strategy expired, Albania drafted a new strategy in 2002 for another ten years until 2012. Yet, five years before its expiry, in 2007 Albania drafted a shorter-term strategy, valid for only five years until 2013.

And running counter to the “tradition of destroying strategies,” Albania did the opposite thing about the fourth strategy, it let tourism develop without a strategy (of course on paper) for five consecutive years from 2013 to 2018! And since we waited for so long without a strategy, Albania decided to draft its last strategy for a shorter time, for only four years until 2022.

All that “timeline” reading of our tourism strategies would be enough to understand that drafting those strategies needs a real “strategy.” Because the strategies are drafted without a long-term vision and continuity, thinking that they will nevertheless never be implemented, without asking the main stakeholders in the tourism industry and often badly amending each other and by “learning on the job” and leaving this responsibility to whoever undertakes it.

At the end of the day, the sector has been in chaos for 25 years, with no standards, hotels with no star classification, unlicensed travel agencies and tour operators, tour guides with no certified curricula which they can qualify on and get tested periodically, tourist transportation which is even worse because nobody has dealt with it even though it is the riskiest part in the package holiday, without mentioning uninspected and uncategorized restaurants, cultural attractions that apply last-minute price hikes even though the package holidays have been booked months earlier, etc.

That is all a result because we haven’t started from scratch yet so that we could all sit down and decide about the vision of our tourism industry in the next 5 to 10 years so that we don’t escape Albania in July and August because there is not enough room even for us in our small country (which pretends to host 5 million tourists) and when we come back “find a void” this time because no foreigner visits us for 3 to four consecutive months during wintertime.

But that can be done when it is first determined about who will implement the strategy, what will the timelines on its implementation be, the penalties on failure to apply them as well as deciding on a budget for this strategy. Then, the main stakeholders are contacted to determine the vision.

If that is not done this way, at least save us the printing paper so that we don’t cause pollution to the environment.

*Kliton Gerxhani is the head of the Albanian Tour Operators Association
                    [post_title] => Tourism strategies that need a ‘strategy’
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => tourism-strategies-that-need-a-strategy
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-06 13:05:42
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-06 12:05:42
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136082
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136079
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-05 17:16:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-05 16:16:51
                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136142" align="alignright" width="300"]per Per Strand Sjaastad[/caption]

By Per Strand Sjaastad*

Good energy policy is, basically, about ensuring sufficient and stable supply, at affordable prices in an efficient and competitive market, and – at the same time - without destroying the environment or the climate.

The energy sector generates huge values in society. It also forms the basis for value creation in other industries. The value of energy production is dependent upon innovation, development, knowledge and a well-organized market.

First a few words about my home country, Norway: Norway is one of the world´s largest energy producers. The development of Norway as an energy nation started more than hundred years ago. Today, more than 20 000 people work in the renewable industry.

In addition, Norway is one of the largest petroleum producers in the world. Around 185 000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the petroleum sector in Norway, which is around 7 percent of the total work force. Oil and natural gas will remain an important part of the world energy mix for many years to come, but is expected to be gradually substituted by greener sources of energy in the long term.

As a large energy producer, we also have large commercial interests internationally, and possess insight and competence that we believe makes us a relevant partner for other countries, including Albania. It is about developing an energy cluster and sharing experience with other countries.

Norway has huge renewable resources. Incentives to develop and apply new technologies to make use of these resources will continue. In Norway, around 70 percent of the energy consumption and close to 100 percent of the electricity consumption, is renewable. Norway has the biggest hydropower potential in Europe, whereas Albania has the second biggest.

It is important to strengthen Norway´s network connections to European energy markets to boost the value of renewable resources. Strong transmission networks is essential in a growing market, proving opportunities for trade in energy. We are planning large expansion of transmission lines from Norway to Germany and the United Kingdom.

The establishment of the Nordic Energy Exchange in 1996 was not the end station, only a step on the way. The latest strategy launched in Norway is called ENERGY 21. The aim is to facilitate strong networks between producers, market operators and research institutions. The focus is on sun energy, offshore wind energy, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage. The market is very dynamic, and there is a need of continuous change and reform. The world will increasingly demand clean and green energy.

There is a bold, joint Nordic vision for the energy sector of the future, of a Nordic energy system based on close, trusting and flexible co-operation, which will lay the foundation for the world’s most integrated, intelligent and green low-emission economy. Further, the Nordic system must be closely connected to the broader European market.

The need for a dynamic and efficient energy market is also the case for the Western Balkans and Albania. There is a significant deficit in the overall energy balance in the Western Balkans. The connectivity in the region should get better, also in line with core objectives in the Berlin process. The energy markets do not function as well as they should. Transmission capacity should be more transparent and efficient, making it easier for suppliers and buyer to connect. One must avoid a system with monopolistic features, both in Albania and elsewhere.

As we all know, Albania will most likely open membership negotiations with the EU this year. Reform of the energy sector will bring Albania closer to EU legislation, and facilitate the negotiation process. It will also bring Albania in line with obligations under the South-East Europe Energy Community. Norway has been a key partner in the process towards the establishing of the Albanian Energy Exchange.

The Albanian economy is growing, at around 4 percent every year. A growing economy needs more energy – otherwise further growth will suffer. There is a need for investment in the Albanian energy sector, especially in the construction of new generation sources and transmission lines, improvements in the distribution grid, or energy efficiency. There is also a need for stronger integration in the regional market.

I am pleased that the Norwegian energy company Statkraft has made use of investment opportunities in Albania, by building large-scale hydro-power plants in the Devolli Valley. I hope that further Norwegian investments will take place in the years to come.

The Albanian energy sector reform is promising, focusing on the modernization of distribution, transmission and generation, as well as security of supply. The new transmission lines with Montenegro and Kosovo, a planned line to Macedonia, possible ring lines within Albania, and perhaps a subsea transmission line to Italy, are all steps that must be welcomed. There should also be a potential for wind, solar and biomass, as well as significant petroleum production. Further, the hydro-power potential is far from fully utilized. Investments in the energy sector are, like in most other sectors, also dependent on a healthy business climate, based on rule of law.

I do believe that the energy sector can be an important engine behind growth and development in the Albanian economy, as it has been in Norway for more than a century. The potential is substantial. I believe that Albania already has reached quite far in view of the relatively short period of time since the transition started, and that the Albanian Government has made important decisions in the right direction. Norway has had many decades to gradually transform its energy sector and adapting to new market conditions, whereas Albania is quickly learning the craft.

Finally, let me underline the importance of thinking long-term. When reforming, there may be some bumps in road at the beginning, some people may be unhappy and focus on short-term problems - but in the long run there is no alternative; reforms will give a more efficient market, it will increase accessibility, and it will give incentives for further investments. I can assure you that Norway is ready to remain a constructive partner in this process.

*Per Strand Sjaastad is the ambassador of Norway to Albania, resident in Kosovo. The speech was delivered at a conference on “Energy and Sustainable Economic Development - The Role of Economic Diplomacy” held in Tirana in late February.
                    [post_title] => Energy can be an important engine in Albania's economy as it has been in Norway for more than a century
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => energy-can-be-an-important-engine-in-albanias-economy-as-it-has-been-in-norway-for-more-than-a-century
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-09 20:07:03
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-09 19:07:03
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136079
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136058
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-02 14:28:07
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-02 13:28:07
                    [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi 

During a recent top-notch, EU-related conference in Brussels, I was once again positively struck by the idealism with which EU officials in particular speak concerning the union: Its future, its values, its enlargement, its survival, its ability to self-reflect and do better, and so on and so forth.

I need go no further than Jean-Claude Juncker’s -- president of the European Commission since 2014 -- opening speech at the conference. 

Juncker dedicated much of his stage time to talk about Europe’s response to the refugee crisis, its ability to pick itself up after facing populist/nationalist challenges, its decision to define goals before talking financial numbers and -- to many of the Brits’ in the room disappointment -- minimally of the Brexit and considerably of the Western Balkans (WB) accession aspirations.

There is no doubt, based on the narrative one hears in such events, the EU is truly set to take the Western Balkans in. It might take a longer time than we, the people, would like, and more reforms than the politicians have imagined, but we are ultimately heading towards Brussels.

So, for someone who has far too much time in their hands while sitting through these conferences, the concern naturally arises: who is thinking of the bigger picture? Is anyone thinking of the bigger picture? 

A growing suspicion in Albania is that the EU is tied to the Western Balkans only by security concerns and geopolitical reasons. 

According to this rhetoric, the EU is interested in WB countries because it needs to preserve stability in a historically war-stricken peninsula so a second Srebrenica never happens, and to deflect Russian-Turkish-Chinese influences in a geopolitically coveted region.

If this is really the case, the stability achieved to allow membership will be superficial, and in turn, short-lived. One would argue, the EU should know better.

If this is really the case, WB countries and Europe should jointly start working on making the WB as beneficial to the EU, as the EU will be to the WB.

One of the panels attended after Juncker’s inspirational speech was titled Western Balkans: the Black Hole of Europe. 

The definition of a black hole is “a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape.” 

The perception in the auditorium was negative. Is the WB going to suck the life out of the EU? Definitely, many believe so. And since no one wants a Greece or Italy financial crisis scenario to happen again with the weak WB states, there is no doubt WB integration is viewed skeptically, and dealt with hastily - as something that has been imposed by external union interests that have nothing to do with the development of WB states themselves and that won’t have any long-term benefits for the EU.

Objectively acknowledging this means the narrative can be changed. But what can be done to change this, and is the EU working on the long-term vision of making the WB beneficial to the EU?

For those hoping the long and winding road to EU membership itself will be the road to value and rule of law, chances are they’re in for disappointment. The road to EU membership consists of plentiful homework and extracurricular assignments, but don’t students usually forget everything they’ve learned once the exam is over?

Then there’s the obvious no-brainer suggested by economists and financial experts alike -- to avoid a financial crisis, Albania should find its own pace once a EU member and refrain from chasing the speed of other, more powerful and financially secure WB states. 

This consists of staying out of the Eurozone, as adapting the Euro could find Albania’s economy unprepared. It would also be out of the Schengen area for a while as it strengthens its abilities to fully protect its borders. In addition, the country would have to create enough of a good employment climate to avoid going through a brain-drain from the country’s youth leaving for better future opportunities in the EU once it becomes a member.

But the lasting, the really lasting policies, are yet to be found -- and funded.

For Albania to be beneficial to the EU, the free-flow of human capital should be able to contribute to the European market with professionals, experts, and educated people who could represented the country not only in the workforce, but also in intellectual and high-profile jobs. 

This can only be achieved through deep educational reforms that teach human rights, rule of law, ethical and moral business running from the start - reforms which can be achieved with the help of international partners who have been enacting such policies in their countries for a long time, and have yielded desired results.

Educational reforms should in turn empower universities in Albania, value professors and generate content that teaches students on the long-term and thus, gives them priority over students graduating abroad. 

Albania’s youth population should come out of the educational sector as prepared as their European counterpart and, so far, it is far behind.

On the other hand, Europeans will be drawn to Albania only when the business climate is clear, transparent and free of corruption and bribery. Though it is unrealistic to claim such aspects will ever fully disappear, it would be beneficial for the country to have a strong, independent media that could report on violations and factfully inform those interested of the strong and weak developments in the country.

So far, the media in the country is also far behind compared to its European counterparts.

And so, instead of thinking of WB as a black hole from which the EU cannot, and maybe does not want to, escape, but still sees with fear and scepticism, the EU and WB countries alike should work to reform areas that take more time and effort to give results, but which, ultimately, help all actors involved to better themselves, and Europe. 

 
                    [post_title] => The EU and Western Balkans: From parasitism, to symbiosis 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => the-eu-and-western-balkans-from-parasitism-to-symbiosis
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-02 14:28:07
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-02 13:28:07
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136058
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 136031
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-02 09:48:46
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-02 08:48:46
                    [post_content] => This week more than 600 kilos of cocaine were seized in Durres, the largest load ever of its kind to be seized by Albanian law enforcement authorities. This massive seizure leaves little doubt that Albania is a transit hub for narcotics beyond marijuana.

At a time when all the attention was focused on cannabis cultivation, and marijuana became a foundation of the national economy through its industrial scale cultivation and transportation with all the available tools, from animals to airplanes, it appears that Albania has a new and bigger problem – organized crime turning to the trafficking of hard drugs, a much more lucrative business.

In the case of cannabis, there is clear evidence that there was involvement from state structures and state officials that did in fact support such criminal activity. In addition to the former minister of interior, who is now under investigation for charges related to drug trafficking, a number of former police officials are wanted in related cases and hundreds are suspected to have helped or been directly involved in organized crime structures.

However, the cultivation and trafficking of marijuana appears to now be only part of the problem and a smaller part of organized crime activities in Albania – and perhaps not the only part that has the right political connections.

A far more lucrative business appears to be related to hard drugs trafficking – things like cocaine, heroin and other related narcotics.

The load seized this week alone would have meant that organized crime groups would have received at least 200 million euros if it had reached the European market. However, based on international statistics, only 10 percent of drug trafficking loads are intercepted and seized by law enforcement authorities – a global statistic.

One can only imagine how much is getting through and what kind of profits it is bringing. One way or another, hundreds of millions are being made by organized crime groups and anyone involved with or helping them in Albania.

The basic questions that come up are: Where is the dirty money from these illegal organized crime activities going? Where is it being invested? Is it being invested in political support, to stay in power or in other words to purchase power? Is the organized money being laundered in Albania and how is it done?

There many theories and many trends in currently in Albania that can give answers to those questions, and many of those explanations do not bode well for anything from the economy to security. But they are also a terrible blow to Albanian democracy and the country’s ambitions to join the European family as an EU member.

EU’s executive branch head, Jean-Claude Juncker, was in Albania this week, and he spoke about some of these very issues. He said the rule of law, freedom of the press, justice reform and the fight against money laundering and organized crime are all areas in which Albania must show substantial efforts.

Juncker admitted that there is “intense resistance from organized crime” both inside Albania and the part its has exported outside the country.

Ultimately, a society knows the ills that come from an entrenched organized crime presence, and Albania is showing the classical signs of such entrenchment. Beyond murders in the streets and elements of state capture, organized crime is now doing a fine job of placing the European dream just out of reach for another generation of Albanians.

EU’s Juncker knows he was not popular in Albania because he wasn’t making any promises on accession dates.

The question for the Albanian public to ask itself now is: Are its values European enough to do something about elected politicians who have allowed organized crime to entrench itself in Albania?

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Fighting organized crime: Follow the money
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-fighting-organized-crime-follow-the-money
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-03-02 09:48:46
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-02 08:48:46
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136031
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135932
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-23 10:01:50
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-23 09:01:50
                    [post_content] => The transparency worries related to Albania’s negotiations with Greece over the maritime border and a series of other issues of concern appear to have reached as high as Albania’s head of state, who appears uneasy to hand over full control over the negotiations to the government.

First, at this point it is not yet clear whether Albania and Greece are still negotiating or whether they have reached an agreement in several meetings held between the two foreign ministers and various experts.

If the statement made by the Greek side are to be believed, it seems that an agreement has been negotiated but the terms have not only not been made available to the Albanian public, they have also been kept hidden to high Albanian officials, including the president and opposition parliamentary leaders.

Second, the Albanian public saw this week a public clash between the government and the head of state on a very important issue such as defining the maritime border. The president came to the press conference publicly explaining why he could not authorize the government to negotiate. It sounds totally absurd and paradoxical to think that, for example, the country’s leaders can go into these negotiations divided.

On the other hand, the government reacted to the president with a technical response through a delegation of the foreign affairs ministry.

Without entering into partisan arguments, it is evident there has been a total lack of transparency over the talks in Albania. For example, neither the president nor the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs or security have been consulted. The situation is not the same on the Greek side.

So without going into these arguments, the fact that the government and the head of state publicly clash over important issues proves that the political elite continues to prefer political conflicts instead of working toward the interests of the state. This clash indicates a weak state in which short-term political interests trump state and national interest. This is a serious concern.

Third, apart from the public clash and the necessity to respect the constitution and the role and responsibilities of the President, the latter's demands for technical details, talk about who will negotiate, and other experts, lead to the question of who is ultimately responsible to negotiate and reach a deal. Albania is a parliamentary republic, and the government is ultimately responsible for international relations. However, checks and balances are important too.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: A united front serving national interests needed in talks with Greece 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-a-united-front-serving-national-interests-needed-in-talks-with-greece
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-23 10:01:50
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-23 09:01:50
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135932
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 135981
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-02-23 10:00:21
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-23 09:00:21
                    [post_content] => By Syle Ukshini*

I am particularly pleased to greet the President of the Republic, his Excellency, Mr. Ilir Meta, and the Speaker of the Parliament, Mr. Gramoz Ruci. I also warmly welcome the members of the Government Cabinet, leaders of all political parties, parliament members, former presidents and former prime-ministers of Albania.

10 years ago, on February 17, 2008, the Republic of Kosovo signed its future, its long and winding road to freedom and independence coming to an end.

Kosovo’s independence came only nine years after the military intervention of democratic NATO countries. It was the most major battle for the protection of human rights in the new conditions the end of the Cold War had created. Western intervention prevented genocide and made the idea of Kosovo’s ethnic cleansing impossible.

This was the moment a new country was added to Europe’s map. It was clear to the majority Kosovo’s independence could not be avoided any longer; it was the last and only chance.

It is important to remember, during this jubilee, but also thank for the immense support, our strategic partners - Albania, the US and EU member states, as well as countries from all around the world.

This jubilee is special to Kosovo because it coincides with the nationwide year of Gjergj Kastriot Skenderbeu, who continues to be a symbol of inspiration to the whole nation.

 

Kosovo and Albania

Kosovo and Albania have a unique relation, because our history, culture and language are common, but not only, as our two countries have a common goal, euro-atlantic integration.

As our natural and strategic partner, Albania has been a constant and decades-old supporter in our state formation process.

We value the engagement of Albanian diplomacy in Kosovo’s full integration in the international system.

Prizren, city that for us symbolizes the meeting point of our long historic and state forming efforts and the city of ethnic and religious harmony, was the place that the Albanian and Kosovo governments, in January of 2014, signed the Common Declaration for Cooperation and Strategic Partnership. This document materialized the mutual and long-term engagement in transforming our bilateral relations into a new regional model.

Regional Integration

Kosovo and Albania are in addition two important and constructive regional actors. Our two countries, along with other Western Balkan countries, continue to impulse regional cooperation and all Berlin Process projects, launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Kosovo’s government has welcomed the recent Western Balkans strategy paper by the European Commission, as well as the possible EU membership deadlines for these countries. However, Kosovo would like more clarity and similar integration deadlines, because only a europeanized Balkan region is successful to the EU.

For as long as this doesn’t happen, the EU cannot play an essential part in other parts of the world. Former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, in March 10, 2010, in a speech before the European Parliament, declared: “In a way, the Balkans is the place EU foreign policy was born. Especially here we don’t dare allow failure.”

Before giving the floor to the President of the Republic, Mr. Ilir Meta, allow me to raise my glass with all of you for the 10th anniversary of the Republic of Kosovo, for our brotherly and strategic relations, as well as for our common European future.

*********

On Feb. 17 of 2008 Kosovo’s big day arrived, its independence, which concluded the re-composition of Europe’s map after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, as well as created new interstate Kosovo-Albania cooperation opportunities. The relations between Kosovo and Albania, beyond their interstate dimensions, are relations of brotherhood that greatly serve all-inclusive and strategic cooperation, but also regional and European level cooperation. In this context, Kosovo is grateful to Albania for the big support it has provided during these years, its recognition, the strengthening of its international position, Kosovo’s membership in different regional, European and global organizations, as well as for the cooperation we’ve had as two sovereign and independent states. The Kosovo-Albania model of cooperation deserves to serve as a model for cooperation with other states in the region. Our governments’ meeting in January 2014 was a novelty for Albania and Kosovo history, as both governments met to build a common cooperation strategy on many fields; in the field of foreign policy and security cooperation, in the field of justice, freedom and safety, and in the fields of economy, energy, tourism, transport, in the field of culture, education and means of information. What has followed the common Prizren meeting to the most recent Korca one presents a good and hopeful basis for offering this partnership a long-term content that will shape the future Kosovo-Albania relations.

The week of activities Kosovo’s embassy in Albania is organizing for the first time, in cooperation with Albanian institutions, aims to reflect the dynamic of the countries’ bilateral relations. The program includes classical cultural activities from the field of music, photography, film and culture. These projects focus on introducing Kosovo’s culture and new history, related to Kosovo’s state formation process.

Also thanking all Albanian sponsors and partners from Kosovo and Albania who offered their help and eased the organization of this ambitious project for Kosovo’s 10th anniversary. We aim to offer the Albanian public and international representatives in Albania part of Kosovo’s emerging artists’ work that have also attracted international attention through this program. We hope that you will join us in attending our activities taking place during the second half of February in Tirana.

 *Speech by Syle Ukshini, the head of mission at the Kosovo embassy in Tirana
                    [post_title] => Kosovo 10: Marking a decade of independence
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => kosovo-10-marking-a-decade-of-independence
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-02-23 11:18:02
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-23 10:18:02
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=135981
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

        )

    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 136323
            [post_author] => 29
            [post_date] => 2018-03-23 09:20:40
            [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-23 08:20:40
            [post_content] => By Federica Mogherini*

Not only the integration process of Albania into the European Union, but the integration process of the entire Western Balkans into the European Union is not a favour we make, it is a matter of self-interest for the European Union itself. I know that in these times we talk a lot about geo-strategic, geo-political competition in the Western Balkans. I think I spend most of my time with the friends in the Western Balkans and visiting the region. There is not one single week without a meeting dedicated to one of the six partners we have in the Western Balkans.  It is also the only place in the world where only the European Union can make the real difference.

Do we want to exercise this power or not? That is the question that is on my desk every single day. And I think this is the question that will come on the desk of the Parliament, of the Council, of the Commission in the months to come.

And it is also the first chance we have, as a generation, to have an integration process after the many different waves of what we usually call "enlargement". I do not like the word enlargement because it assumes that there is a centre that gets bigger - I think it is a matter of re-uniting our continent. But it is the first wave of integration in the European Union that goes back to the DNA of the history of the Union - peace and reconciliation. It is not just about economy, it is not just about security, it is not about spheres of influence, it is about bringing and consolidating peace and reconciliation in a region that a few decades ago - my generation remembers it well, previous ones even better - were at war or were isolated from the world. So is it the European Union's DNA in question here? Are we able to consolidate not only security, not only economic development, but also peace and reconciliation in our continent? And I think not only we can, but we have to and it is in the self-interest for the European Union and the European Union citizens to do it. Are we going to do it tomorrow? It is going to be quite a long process. Edi said it very well: "Not ready yet".

But let me say very clearly: I see in the Western Balkans, I see in Albania - because now we are talking about that - in these years a determination, a dedication, a feeling of being European that goes beyond the Eurovision Song Contest. And that is a desire, an aspiration, an identity as Europeans and as being part or aspiring to be part of the European Union. We in the Union need this energy. We need people, citizens, institutions, politicians, political parties that say in huge numbers: "We want to be in. We need to be in". We need it exactly because of the current political trends in Europe. I believe we need that kind of energy, this pro-European energy inside the Union exactly to remind ourselves what it is about, because you realise what is there from the outside sometimes better than from the inside. We need it.

And I have seen Albania in these years doing incredible things. Edi was talking about the Justice Reform. Well, we have accompanied it locally, here in Brussels, I would say, day by day - not us alone, but mainly us. And it is true: we have worked on this together and we have achieved the results, you have achieved results, I believe, because we have been working on this together, as well as on other things. It is not because Ditmir is here, but Albania is not only a NATO ally, but it is also the country, together with Montenegro, in the region that is one hundred per cent aligned to our Foreign and Security Policy, which is not irrelevant. It means that, from the Middle East, to Africa, to Korea, to Russia, we are one hundred per cent on the same side, when it comes to votes in the international organisations, when it comes to, for instance, the fact that Albania is contributing to two of our European Union military missions, in Mali and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We are already doing things together as if; not exactly as if, but on Foreign and Security Policy, I can tell you, it is really an example. And we are about to finalise an agreement between Albania and Frontex, I believe the first one of this kind in the region. They are all good examples of things that have moved in the right direction. And I could continue, because the fields where reforms were done are huge and many, but I stick to these two elements: the Foreign and Security Policy and the work you have done on the Justice Reform.

I believe it is quite clear, as Edi said, you see the problems that are still there and you know and we know it is a process. It is not that you are ticking the boxes and once you have ticked the boxes it is done and you forget about it. It is a process. The vetting system: you are entering a phase that is already producing results. The war against organised crime - that by the way is a war that many other countries, including some Member States, are doing at different stages - you know it is a process.

What is the right approach towards the problems? First, to recognise that there are problems. Second, to work together to solve them and to get the results and to keep and to consolidate the results. So the problem that I think we have on the EU institutions' side now is this. It is like riding a bike. You do not stand still. Either you more forward or you fall. Do we want to move forward? Are we ready to move forward? Because I believe it is correct to say that the risk of not moving forward could be falling. And Albania falling, or the Western Balkans falling, is definitely not in the interest of the region. It is definitely not in the interest of the European Union.

This is very clear for me. In the Western Balkans I have learned things can go very well very quickly, or very bad very quickly. Things just happen like this and then it is very difficult to rebuild. I think the choice we have in front of us now, as institutions, is clear: that of not losing the result of years of common work, that of making progress consolidated and irreversible, not losing, not wasting the opportunity we have. And I think the moment is now.

So I conclude by saying that I believe – in any case this is my political objective in these three, four months to come, to be very concrete – first, to have an unconditional positive recommendation by the European Commission on Albania - not only on Albania but here we talk about that - and, second, to have the Council deciding in June to open the negotiation talks. And then we start.

Speech by the EU High Representative/Vice – President Federica Mogherini at the event "Albania: Committed to the Reform" at the European Parliament
            [post_title] => Albania: Committed to the reform
            [post_excerpt] => 
            [post_status] => publish
            [comment_status] => closed
            [ping_status] => closed
            [post_password] => 
            [post_name] => albania-committed-to-the-reform
            [to_ping] => 
            [pinged] => 
            [post_modified] => 2018-03-23 10:22:28
            [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-23 09:22:28
            [post_content_filtered] => 
            [post_parent] => 0
            [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136323
            [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] => 752
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 30
            [category_count] => 752
            [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