We cannot expect from Catania evidence and harm caused by Tahiri!

We cannot expect from Catania evidence and harm caused by Tahiri!

By Nikollaq Neranxi A few days ago, I was watching Premier Rama on a TV broadcast and I really felt very disappointed and disgusted by the fact that how he tries to protect Tahiri as often as he is provided

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Polish FM: No obstacles for Albania to catch up with EU bid frontrunners

Polish FM: No obstacles for Albania to catch up with EU bid frontrunners

Interview by Ben Andoni   Your Excellency, Welcome to Albania! How do you see relations between the two countries so far? After the collapse of communism in Europe, we gained the freedom to develop our bilateral relations. I can say

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Albania, a model of interfaith harmony in Europe

Albania, a model of interfaith harmony in Europe

By Johann Sattler On May 3, the Austrian Embassy organized an International Conference on Interfaith Dialogue with the signature of a joint statement about “Interreligious Dialogue.” Below are some of the remarks at the conference by Johann Sattler, Ambassador of

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Editorial: The Gulf Oil affair: When ties between business and politics go wrong

Editorial: The Gulf Oil affair: When ties between business and politics go wrong

Hundreds of Albanian consumers were left holding worthless paid-for coupons this week as a major gasoline and a diesel retailer shut down its distribution centers around the country unexpectedly. Albania’s Gulf Oil Company is now under investigation for fraud in

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Reaffirming the European perspective of the Western Balkans

Reaffirming the European perspective of the Western Balkans

By Donald Tusk* Let me start by congratulating the people of Albania. The recent recommendation of the European Commission to open accession talks, shows that you have made great efforts and are getting ready to start one of the most

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Editorial: Albania and the EU: After positive recommendation, challenges remain

Editorial: Albania and the EU: After positive recommendation, challenges remain

There was good news for Albania this week as the European Commission published its progress report, recommending that member states approve opening accession negotiations. The recommendation now goes to the European Council for approval at its meeting in June. The

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Editorial: Albania’s broken democracy needs constructive and inclusive action

Editorial: Albania’s broken democracy needs constructive and inclusive action

Albania’s democracy is broken, an annual report by Freedom House tells us this week. But those who closely follow Albanian affairs are not surprised. Negative trends have been taking root for a long time and politics as usual will clearly

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Building strong bridges in Albania-Greece relations

Building strong bridges in Albania-Greece relations

By Mimi Kodheli* First of all I would like to congratulate the organizers for this very interesting forum – interesting because I think it will contribute to a better understanding of the multiple reasons and relations connecting Albania and Greece

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Editorial: High tax policies, failure to produce economic growth behind Albania’s social unrest

Editorial: High tax policies, failure to produce economic growth behind Albania’s social unrest

Much of the news this week has focused on the Kukes-Durres highway toll clashes, the ensuing arrests and related protests. While these events are important, they are a symptom of a larger problem: A series of government policies that are

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Albania and its issue with homosexuality

Albania and its issue with homosexuality

By Alice Elizabeth Taylor As you read this news story, a little bit of civil history is taking place. At the Palace of Congress in Tirana, a forum is being held that brings together leading voices in the LGBTI community,

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_137070" align="alignright" width="300"]Nikollaq Neranxi, the head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania  Nikollaq Neranxi, the head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania[/caption]

By Nikollaq Neranxi

A few days ago, I was watching Premier Rama on a TV broadcast and I really felt very disappointed and disgusted by the fact that how he tries to protect Tahiri as often as he is provided with the possibility to do so.

"The Prosecution of Severe Crimes of Albania does not have any single evidence to prove the implication of Saimir Tahiri in the cannabis trafficking," Rama said adding: "Tahiri has done good deeds during his 4-year work as Interior Minister." The great attempt of the Premier to convince the public opinion that Tahiri is clean adds more to the suspicions that Saimir's  sins are not only of his.

When I listened to Rama as he labored hard to convince us, I recalled a survey made some years ago in Germany where there were still people thinking that Hitler had been a criminal with regard to the Jews but sometimes good for the Germans! So, he had also done some good jobs!!!

As a matter of fact, which is the measuring meter of the work of a minister according to Rama's confirmation? How come that a Prime Minister can use the logic of the 'half empty or half full glass' according to which someone sees the empty half and another one sees the full half?  How can subjective assessments be interpreted on the work of a person having such very high responsibilities in a country's governance? For how many wrong home works can one be punished?

If it is required today the thought and the perception of many citizens, mainly of those who are intellectuals, who follow the course of the events and make analysis, the majority think that Tahiri will not be sentenced.

Today there is only an ongoing process against the former interior minister. His name is mentioned in the eavesdroppings of the Catania Prosecution which were carried out for the Habilaj groups (Tahiri's cousins), who moved by his car. Albanian justice expects from the Italian one if it has testimonies that Tahiri was implicated in this traffic or not. And if Italy does not bring any testimony Tahiri will come out clean and will be the person being blamed in vain without having any fault in the eyes of the public opinion!

As a matter of fact, does the former interior minister have any guilt because the entire Albania was planted with cannabis? Does the former interior minister have any responsibility for the chiefs of the commissariats involved in the traffic, who left the country a few hours after arrest warrants against them were issued? So, when an institution degrades to such a level the question rises if the head does not have any mistake? But the friend of Tahiri, Rama says that the minister has done a good job and as a matter of fact we all understand that how much is being invested so that both of them support each other.

Personally, I have been faced some times with Tahiri's police during the time that he felt himself strong and unconquered as minister. The chief of the Kucova Commissariat, Vojo Peci,  along with some other people, offended and threatened me close to my house in Porto Palermo about four years ago, and I will take the opportunity to reveal more details at another time. They fought hard to make me leave that place. Later, as all know, it was learned that Porto Palermo was one of the places where drug substances were transported and as evidence has shown even police were used to transport the stuff. And moreover it was the place where the radars were put off.

Later I was attacked and looted by masked people at the Company and the police, who were informed, came 35 minutes later. The car by which the looting of my company was made was seen before the Police Department a few minutes later. When I denounced publicly this event I was arrested amidst an event in the company because, according to them, some clients had wrongly parked their vehicles!!! All of these were pressures of an incriminated police that was stimulated by its leaders.

Then why should I expect that any evidence can come from Catania on Saimir when I have experienced myself how he incriminated the institution he led? Which is the need to expect evidence from Catania when we have most stubborn testimony of the cultivation of the entire Albania with cannabis? Is there any stronger evidence how the money profited from this traffic was put in the Albanian economy harming our businesses and spoiling the rules of competition?

So, under these circumstances, when we see many attempts to close this story, the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania headed by Nikollaq Neranxin has decided to sue the former minister Tahiri as the guilty person for this great economic, social and psychological damage because of the great economic harm caused on the business due to the drugs cultivation, the trafficking and injecting of the dirty money as well as the creation of an insecure climate because of the growth of the criminality. Only in this way the expectations can be brought back  to us that this country can be 'done' and who wrongs should be faced with the responsibilities.

 
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Interview by Ben Andoni

 

Your Excellency, Welcome to Albania! How do you see relations between the two countries so far?

After the collapse of communism in Europe, we gained the freedom to develop our bilateral relations. I can say with all certainty that today our relations are very good. Since 2009, we have been NATO allies. Poland appreciates Albania’s engagement in strengthening the Eastern flank and fight against terrorism. We are a steady supporter of Albania’s European aspirations. Therefore, we are very glad that last month the European Commission in its progress report recommended opening accession negotiations with Albania. Our bilateral economic cooperation is also developing well. Later this month the third Polish-Albanian Business Forum will be held in Tirana.

 

Poland is very connected with the Balkans. The proof of this are your Embassies in every single capital in the Balkans. How you see specifically the role of Albania in the Balkans?

Poland appreciates the role of Albania as a country which – thanks to good relations with all countries in the region – contributes significantly to stability and security in the Western Balkans. I would also like to underscore that we are both NATO allies which implies closer military cooperation. I had an opportunity to speak to FM Ditmir Bushati at the recent NATO meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held on April 27 in Brussels. At the meeting we decided on maintaining NATO’s defence and deterrence capabilities, which are important for both: Central and Eastern, as well as Southern Europe.

 

Brussels has forecast that the earliest the Western Balkans can join the European Union is 2025. Does this harm the hope of people who see their common future in Europe?

The year 2025 is indeed presented in the European Commission’s Strategy for the Western Balkans published in February as an indicative date of EU accession for the frontrunners (now Montenegro and Serbia) and potentially other candidate countries. Indicating a specific date is a positive sign because it makes the European perspective tangible and realistic for the public opinion. The strategy provides as well for beginning negotiations with Albania and Macedonia, which should happen this year. All Western Balkan countries have a lot of reforms ahead of them. Our experience tells us that in such a case time runs fast. Much depends on determination, however there are no obstacles for Albania to catch up with today’s frontrunners or even overtake them. Of course we are ready to share our experience in introducing necessary reforms of public administration required by the Commission.

 

What are Poland’s views regarding the EU’s Balkan enlargement?

Poland strongly supports the open door policy of the EU. Enlargement is one of the most powerful and successful EU policies. It contributes to the security and prosperity of the whole continent. It encourages long-term political stability, economic development, security and good neighbourly relations in countries aspiring to join the EU. Most importantly, in our opinion Albanians and the citizens of other Western Balkan countries are fully entitled to choose their own development path. They are Europeans and the EU has got an obligation to accept them, of course if they meet the obligatory criteria. Enlargement is about high-level political meetings, setting benchmarks and opening chapters. But first and foremost, it is about changing people’s lives for the better thanks to reforms, modernisation, good governance, bringing economies and people together.

 

You’ve said: “We have to find the criteria how to elect the body that’s going to rule a federal Europe,” adding EU needs reforms. Does this mean that nowadays the European Union does not function properly?

Indeed, the EU requires reforms. The European Union suffers from a democratic deficit. We advocate enhancing the role of national parliaments. Further deepening of European integration is possible insofar as it is accepted by the states and peoples that participate in the process. The European Union can be strong only thanks to the real support of its citizens, who are able to confer a democratic mandate on their elected governments. In our opinion the European Commission should return to its technocratic role instead of making attempts towards a more political one. The role of the European Council, which is composed of state leaders chosen in democratic elections, should be decisive.

The issue of EU reform is being discussed among its members nowadays. We actively participate in this debate and present our position. However, we are open to the arguments put forward by other countries. Together we can reform the EU so that it best suits its citizens.

 

The Albanian public is very curious about your tensions with European Union. Could you explain them to us more clearly, please?

First of all let me stress that the European Union should be founded on universal rules that are equally applied to all. We are concerned that unclear criteria could lead to the arbitrary limitation of Member States’ rights. Due to the European Commission’s concerns about the independence of Poland’s judiciary system, it decided to launch the procedure set forth in Art. 7 of the Treaty on the European Union. In the framework of Poland’s dialogue with the Commission in this respect, we outlined our position in a White Paper, in which we present our arguments explaining the necessity of having launched the reform of the judiciary.

We defend our right to carry out reforms, as they respond to the expectations of Poles voiced in the latest elections. In our opinion they do not violate the principles of a democratic rule of law. On the contrary, they strengthen them. However, Poland remains open to a dialogue based on the merits with the European Commission and other EU Member States. We exchange opinions hoping that we will find a compromise.

 

Why does Poland not want to take in refugees?

Anybody who appears at the Polish border has a right – in accordance with international law – ­to apply for refugee status. However we oppose to a mandatory refugee relocation to countries they do not want to go. The problem is that for most refugees Poland is solely a transitory country: they prefer to go further to Western European countries, those with higher living standards.

In our opinion we should focus first on the root causes of migration. We are engaged in border protection efforts and participate in initiatives such as the European Union’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean. Mandatory redistribution of migrants can be considered as a pull factor to deepen the crisis.

We have to remember as well that there are over one million Ukrainians in Poland and some of them come from regions touched by war.

 

Despite your good efforts, collaboration between our two countries is not high. Where you see real interest of Poland in Albania with respect to the economy and tourism?

With regard to the economy, I agree that the trade turnover between Poland and Albania, although on the increase, does not yet match the potential of our countries. In order to boost economic cooperation a Polish – Albanian Business Forum was established. Over 130 Polish and Albanian companies participated in the first two meetings, accompanying the Polish Prime Minister’s visit to Tirana in 2016 and the Albanian Prime Minister’s visit to Warsaw in 2017. The next Forum will take place in Tirana later this month. I hope that such frequent meetings of Polish and Albanian entrepreneurs will contribute to the increase of economic cooperation between our countries.

I am aware that tourism is an important sector of the economy. Albania is a beautiful country and Poles appreciate it, which is confirmed by an increasing number of my compatriots among tourists visiting your country.

 

You are one of the very active and respected ministers of the current Poland government. You are very connected with art too. You often speak very clearly and hard. Should you explain more about your point of view for the future of the European Union after Brexit? What doesn’t work in the Balkans?

Western Balkan countries are confronted with a number of challenges in different areas which have to be tackled through reforms. From our perspective, it is equally important that the EU maintains its political will to continue the enlargement process. We cannot miss this perfect moment. Poland has also experienced a challenging process of economic and political transformation - from communism to democracy, and from a controlled economy to a free market economy. I am very glad about Albania’s steady progress in the implementation of key reforms. We need Albania in the EU, as it certainly would enrich our community. And of course we will continue our close cooperation with the UK after Brexit, although in a different form.

 

Your Embassy is working hard to promote Poland in Albania. Your huge culture is very common in Albania, translated from the original but also from second languages? Will you continue to support your culture in Albania?

Cultural ties between our countries are just as important as cooperation in the political and economic sphere. I am very glad that Polish literature is so well-known in Albania, thanks to brilliant translators. I would like to single out Mr. Astrit Beqiraj who has established himself as a translator of contemporary Polish literature. I was really happy to learn that on the Albanian book market in the last 15 years Polish literature has gained first place among literature from Central and Eastern Europe. And now, with the Polish Language Studies recently re-established at the University of Tirana we may soon expect more readers reaching for Polish authors in the original version. I would also like to remind you here that Poles have also got an opportunity to learn the Albanian language in our country as two renowned Polish universities: in Toruń and in Poznań offer Albanian in their curricula.

 

What can the Albanian public expect from your visit?

It will confirm that Poland supports Albanians’ European aspirations and is ready to share its experience as regards the preparation process on the way to the EU. We cannot miss this opportunity for the EU’s enlargement.

[post_title] => Polish FM: No obstacles for Albania to catch up with EU bid frontrunners [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => polish-fm-no-obstacles-for-albania-to-catch-up-with-eu-bid-frontrunners [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-14 16:36:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-14 14:36:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136941 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136937 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-05-04 09:58:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-04 07:58:20 [post_content] => By Johann Sattler On May 3, the Austrian Embassy organized an International Conference on Interfaith Dialogue with the signature of a joint statement about “Interreligious Dialogue.” Below are some of the remarks at the conference by Johann Sattler, Ambassador of Austria to Tirana.   I wanted to start my speech, with a quote by the Albanian cleric and patriot, Father Gjergj Fishta, who said about 100 years ago: "It’s true we have Eid and Easter, but we all have Albanianess too!" That statement is still expressed today in the mosaic of religious beliefs in Albania. Religious coexistence, harmony and peace in Albania are tremendous values and an excellent example to be followed by both the Eastern and Western countries. In achieving this standard of coexistence and harmony an extraordinary role was played by simple Albanians, by ordinary members of the various religious communities in the country through their actions and their example. But a very important role was also played by the clergy, by the hierarchy of the communities. So let me express my deep respect and acknowledgement to you and your brethren, to the representatives of the religious communities for your extraordinary contribution to the preservation of this climate of harmony, which – by the way - should not be taken for granted. This exemplary state of good relations needs – like any good human partnership – a steady investment and refining. I am very grateful to the religious communities represented here who have agreed to our proposal for a joint statement on coexistence, harmony and interreligious dialogue, which gives to this conference an added value and promotes future co-operation and dialogue. Because, if there is one thing which can be improved in the multi-confessional Albania of today, it is more of a regular dialogue. This conference offers a platform for doing so, for speaking your mind, but also for listening to the suggestions of the other and for exchanging best practice. We as Western and Central Europeans can learn a lot from the experience here in Albania. Let me give you a few examples in the field of religion, which I personally came across over the last two years and which left a deep impression on me:
  • First is the way you celebrate your religious feasts (inviting each other on Christmas, Easter, Kurban Bajram, Sulltan Newroz, and exchanging visits from other communities on these occasions).
  • Second example: I was impressed when father Mirazh from the Franciscans order showed me around the most important pilgrimage site in Albania: Shnan Ndou (Saint Antony) in Laç – run by the Franciscans, visited by 2 ml. visitors (with a majority of Muslims/Bektashi visitors).
The pilgrimage mountain of Tomorri is also another example, which is massively visited in August by 300.000+ visitors, not only Bektashi, but also from other religious groups (Thanks for hospitality Baba Mondi).
  • Third: language is a good indicator of societal conditions. So representatives of different religioius communities not only celebrate together, they even combine their religious beliefs through language, adding to the most important Christian feast (Easter) a Muslim wish (inshallah) – Gezuar Pashket inshallah.
Let me give a final beautiful example of religious harmony and diversity – from my own biotope so to say, my own team at the Austrian Embassy: apart from the Austrian employees I have 10 Albanian employees – and within these 10 people you have the whole mosaic of diversity of religions in Albania. I have devoted Muslims, active Orthodox, faithful Catholics, traditional Bektashis, and a also a theologian Protestant. This mosaic of faith can be found in the society as a whole, in small communities and sometimes even in families. Albania on the other hand can also learn from our experience. Let me give you a few examples:
  • First – from our long Austrian tradition of dialogue (the first tolerance decree called “patents of tolerance” came out in the early year 1781/82 from the emperor Joseph II, which was the first step in constitutionalizing the platform of religious communication and coexistence. The real interreligious dialogue started from the time when Islam was recognized officially in 1912.
  • Second example: the Austrian religious education – the religious communities receive religions education for their pupils in their own confession and the teachers are paid by the State – expenditures of approximately 100 mln € per year by the Austrian state.
Our joint conference is organized in the framework of the Austrian-Albanian Cultural Year 2018. Our slogan for this year is - te rizbulojme te perbashketat -  ‘Lets rediscover what unites us’, and religious co-existence and harmony is definitely a topic which unites us. But 2018 is also important in other ways: Albanians throughout the world celebrate their national hero Skanderbeg, a larger than life figure, whose contributions to creating an Albanian spirit cannot be overestimated. And lastly, 2018, will be important also on Albania’s European path with a hopefully positive decision about opening accession negotiations with the European Union. Not only do I believe that this step is deserved, I am also convinced that Albania will contribute positively to the European family, not least through the example of interreligious harmony, especially between Muslims and Christians. We are happy to have here among us some of the best theologians and experts in their fields, from Albania, Austria, Italy, Greece and Turkey. I would like to thank my Ministry in Vienna for supporting this conference. A big thanks goes to the Albanian Minister of Culture. Thanks Mirela for being here: your presence gives this conference another dimension and shows that for a well-functioning society, it is very important to have a certain separation of state and religion [post_title] => Albania, a model of interfaith harmony in Europe [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-a-model-of-interfaith-harmony-in-europe [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-04 09:58:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-04 07:58:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136937 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136833 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-27 10:05:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:05:36 [post_content] => Hundreds of Albanian consumers were left holding worthless paid-for coupons this week as a major gasoline and a diesel retailer shut down its distribution centers around the country unexpectedly. Albania’s Gulf Oil Company is now under investigation for fraud in the €1.5 million worth coupon scheme that were sold below market price in the past few months when managers likely knew bankruptcy was near. That’s on top of employees not having received any wages in recent months, according to local media reports. The prosecution is currently investigating the company’s manager Albano Aliko as the main suspect who allegedly committed the fraud scheme. He is part of a larger group of suspects both locally and internationally, as the company is owned by a shell company which media reports link to shady business owners and politicians from Georgia, the former Soviet republic. Albania is no stranger the shady ties of politics and business, so it is no wonder that beyond the obvious fraud of a failing business, there are allegations of money laundering and political ties. In fact, the fraud likely perpetrated by Albania’s Gulf Oil is not simply a business letting down consumers, it is a failure of the government and its regulators and prosecutors need to look in depth at those ties. An Albanian online outlet critical of the government published a video this week showing the opening ceremony for Gulf in Albania three years ago. A high-production piece of marketing, it showed speeches from company representatives endorsing Gulf as a strategic foreign investor. The audience (and some of the speakers) included Albanian politicians ranging from Socialist ministers and mayors to the then the speaker of parliament representing the ruling coalition. Gulf tried to sell itself as a large international company, when in reality a simple online search reveals that it is a simple brand with a loose affiliation of businesses operating under the brand of what used to be a major American global company that no longer exists. This week, the Socialist minister in charge of oil concerns simply replied to media questions saying the businesses do fail and that an investigation needs to take place, a standard reply from a member of government facing allegations and charges that go far beyond the type of fraud investigation of an oil company that steals money from consumers. The eppitemy of the dark comedy being played on Albanian consumers and voters came as Bes Kallaku, one of Albania’s top comedians and the advertising face of Gulf Oil, told fans on social media that he was suing the company for money owed to him. There were reports that instead of money for his services, he had been paid in coupons. The sad fact is that this is not the first time that this happens. Gulf allegedly sold fuel from a local ARMO refinery, another blackhole for Albanian taxpayers as state regulators failed to collect taxes that resulted in the loss of millions of euros. Instead of focusing on places like ARMO or Gulf, which cause the state budget and consumers millions of euros in damages, Albania’s tax authorities are preoccupied with auditing small businesses with no political ties over and over, setting the wrong priorities for the country’s economy and state coffers. It is no wonder then that a recent report by the EBRD showed that more than half of Albanian businesses believe that political connections are key to success. But in the case of Gulf and ARMO success for the businesses and their political backers means a failure for Albanian consumers. [post_title] => Editorial: The Gulf Oil affair: When ties between business and politics go wrong [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-gulf-oil-affair-when-ties-between-business-and-politics-go-wrong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-27 10:05:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:05:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136833 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136836 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-27 09:11:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-27 07:11:53 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136837" align="alignright" width="300"]tusk (Photo: europa.eu/Handout)[/caption] By Donald Tusk* Let me start by congratulating the people of Albania. The recent recommendation of the European Commission to open accession talks, shows that you have made great efforts and are getting ready to start one of the most positive political projects in the history of your country. Accession negotiations with the European Union are not easy but I can tell you from my political and personal experience, that they are worth the effort. When my home country started similar talks some 20 years ago we knew that much needed to change in Poland. Yet the full determination of the political class and the support of ordinary people made our dream come true. And it is my personal dream that Albania follows the same path to the EU as my homeland. With your proud history, with Skenderberg who protected Europe from the Ottoman empire, I have no doubt that you will. And it is also in the very best European interest that Albania and the whole Balkan region is fully integrated into the European Union. It will not happen overnight. There will be many challenges and hard work on the way, starting with ensuring the rule of law, fight against organised crime and ambitious justice system reform. What you have made is enough - and I want to be very clear - to open accession talks. No doubt. It is not only the substance of the European Commission recommendation. This is also my opinion, I am not alone here, this is what I deeply believe. Another challenge will be to convince all EU Member States in June to agree to start negotiations. I am aware that this process will resemble more a hurdle race than a motorway. But I have no doubt that full integration remains our common destiny. The EU and the Western Balkans belong together. You can count on me also in this very complicated and challenging process. I am traditionally very cautious, but today I can say that I am an optimist when it comes to this long-term perspective, and a cautious optimist when it comes to short-term perspective, but still an optimist. Already now, the EU is by far the biggest investor, the biggest donor and the biggest trading partner for the whole region. This is also true for Albania. As an example: 78% of Albania's exports go to the European Union. 78%! To compare: only 3% of Albania’s exports go to China. With your Western Balkan neighbours, on a clear 2nd place, with 14% of your exports. But compare again 78%of the EU, China 3%. Turkey 1%. And Russia 0%. My visit here today in Tirana is the first stop on a weeklong Balkan tour to prepare for the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Sofia on 17 May. The summit will gather the leaders from the EU and the region. In Sofia we should reaffirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans. But what is equally important, the summit should define ways and means to improve connections with and within the region. It is about human, digital and infrastructure connections. Albania and other countries of the Western Balkans should be fully integrated into Pan-European transport corridors. Traveling between capitals of the Western Balkans should not take longer than flights to Beijing as is still sometimes the case. To avoid power cuts we should invest more together in upgrading our energy grids and interconnections. Young people from the region should get more opportunities to study in the EU. A doubling of Erasmus+ funding will make sure that this objective is within reach. And finally, we should increase our common efforts on cultural exchanges and promotion of national identities. To boost our cooperation in these concrete areas we do not need to wait until the EU enlargement. And improving our connectivity would be beneficial both for citizens and businesses from Albania and other Western Balkan partners as well as from the European Union. I want to be very clear here, this connectivity programme is not an alternative to enlargement or a substitute for enlargement, it is a way to use the time between today and tomorrow more effectively than before. Finally, the summit will also be an occasion for the leaders to discuss common security challenges, such as migrant smuggling, terrorism and organised crime. Here we have to continue our fight as brothers in arms. Let me thank you, Prime Minister, for Albanian solidarity with the EU and its member states in our geopolitical challenges, such as the one we have witnessed with the Skripal attack in Salisbury. It is well noted and appreciated. As you know you have this unique reputation as the most loyal and reliable partner of the whole European community in this context. Let me conclude by paying respect to Albania's unique trademark of religious tolerance and coexistence. These qualities continue to be extremely important in today's world. These are the foundations on which we can continue to build our common future. Sometimes I feel that you are more European here than some EU Europeans.   *Donald Tusk is the President of the European Council   [post_title] => Reaffirming the European perspective of the Western Balkans [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => reaffirming-the-european-perspective-of-the-western-balkans [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-27 10:16:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:16:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136836 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136689 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-04-19 23:23:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-19 21:23:57 [post_content] => There was good news for Albania this week as the European Commission published its progress report, recommending that member states approve opening accession negotiations. The recommendation now goes to the European Council for approval at its meeting in June. The Council, which is made up of member state top representatives and which needs a unanimous decision on the matter, makes the final decision to approve it then and there or to delay it until the next meeting in December, pending and additional conditions. Albania is at this point accustomed to snail-paced progress in its bid for EU membership, and expectations of any speedy progress have long disappeared, but the good news this week is that -- at least on the geopolitical plain with Russia and other alt-EU influencers looming ever larger -- EU’s executive branch in Brussels seems really interested in giving Albania and the rest of the region assurances by moving them to the next train station toward membership. There has been a lot of debate in Albania whether the report was accurate in documenting Albania’s true progress and setbacks since 2016, when it last recommended talks be open, with conditions, only to see the recommendation be turned down by member states through the EU Council. As the report notes, the political situation in the country is deeply polarized, with the Socialist government of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the main opposition Democratic Party of Lulzim Basha budding heads even on the report, even though both sides fundamentally agree on the paramount importance of Albania’s eventual membership in the European Union. In fact, playing domestic political games with the matter, as both the government and opposition have done at times might not be in the best interest of Albanians. The government, for example, has tried to unjustly paint the opposition as ‘anti-European’ and ‘anti-West’ at a time when the main opposition party was in power when Albania become a NATO member and pushed its EU bid to candidate status. On the other hand, the opposition has said the government with corruption and organized crime ties has failed in every aspect delaying an opening of negotiations process that should have taken two years into one that is going into its sixth year. Any success or failure in the EU bid is ultimately an Albanian one, not a Socialist or Democratic one, and the parties should act accordingly. But that is the least of Albania’s worries at this point. The worst scenario involves further delays with individual EU member states putting up barriers based on their needs and concerns rather than Albania’s actual progress in meeting the criteria. France’s president this week said, for example, the EU needs to grow in depth within first -- before it looks to expand. Then, even more worrying for Albania, Greece could put up barriers over the pending maritime border agreement to delay any opening of talks as a way to pressure Albania to speed up or become more flexible on the border issues. Greece has played a constructive role in Albania’s EU bid, largely playing the ‘nice guy’ for years because it knew that the ‘tough guys’ of northwestern Europe would hold the line on the standards. But perhaps the time has come for Greece to play its EU cards to pressure Albania on its EU aspirations in order to get a better and more flexible maritime border deal. That is also a negative scenario for Albania. Ultimately, while the recommendation is good news, the EU Council’s decision in June (perhaps as late as December) will be the determining factor. The popping of the Champagne will have to wait until then.   [post_title] => Editorial: Albania and the EU: After positive recommendation, challenges remain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-albania-and-the-eu-after-positive-recommendation-challenges-remain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-20 12:51:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-20 10:51:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136689 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136599 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-13 10:28:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-13 08:28:51 [post_content] => Albania's democracy is broken, an annual report by Freedom House tells us this week. But those who closely follow Albanian affairs are not surprised. Negative trends have been taking root for a long time and politics as usual will clearly not fix the problem. Albania's democracy has never been really strong, but one would expect that with the passage of time things would get better. They haven't. The Socialist government led by Edi Rama asked the Albanian people to give it a full majority in return for better governance, prosperity for all and lower taxes for the majority of the population. It has delivered none, and its actions indicate it does not intend to so for the rest of its mandate. It appears the government, drunk with power from its win in the latest elections, has decided it can rule with little to no public input and with impunity. The government decided to place a surprisingly high toll on the Nation's Highway, threatening the very livelihood of Albania's poorest region and acting surprised when it faced a riot. In addition, it has created a costly paperwork nightmare by including small businesses in the VAT system, threatening the very livelihood of people who are both poor and self-employed -- a recipe for a social time bomb. Who wins out of this? In both cases it is large companies, led by the wealthiest people in the country, that benefit. First, through the toll road concession; second, through the bankruptcy of small businesses that will force Albanians to turn to large businesses for their basic needs.   In a nutshell, the government has turned against the society's most vulnerable section to the benefit of those who are most powerful. This is certainly no “Socialist” government. In turn, Albania’s central-right opposition Democratic Party finds itself in the position of trying to become an advocate of people angry with the government. But the DP and its ally, the Socialist Movement for Integration, also face an uphill battle. As certain episodes show this week, Albanians are angry with the political elite in general and not just the government. Increasingly as we report this week, experts are worried the population do not trust any political actor or institution, which a recipe for disaster and social unrest of the type Albania last saw in the bloody riots of 1997. To fix Albania's broken democracy, and needs constructive action by a multitude of actors, including civil society and newcomers to politics. To allow for democratic means to overcome obstacles, a major electoral reform allowing voters to have direct control over their representatives is needed. The current electoral system in Albania might have produced stable governments, but it has failed to produce a strong democracy.   [post_title] => Editorial: Albania's broken democracy needs constructive and inclusive action [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-albanias-broken-democracy-needs-constructive-and-inclusive-action [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-13 10:28:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-13 08:28:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136599 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136596 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-13 10:26:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-13 08:26:01 [post_content] => By Mimi Kodheli* First of all I would like to congratulate the organizers for this very interesting forum - interesting because I think it will contribute to a better understanding of the multiple reasons and relations connecting Albania and Greece as well as of the reasons, prejudices, stereotypes, ignorance and distorted minds that attempt to divide and oppose them to each other. It would be too pretentious to assume the task of drawing in few pages and such a short time an exhaustive full overview of the Albania-Greece relations: from the historical point of view it is as vast as the history of the European civilization, from the human point of view it is as deep as the human heart, from the social point of view as complicated as our people’s minds, from the political one … ephemeral. So I will stick to (and elaborate later on) something more tangible and transcendental element: the neighborship, giving that we are two of the most ancient neighboring nations of the continent, living on the same territories from the beginning of what is today called Europe. What is the actual situation of the Albania – Greece relations? From the political point of view they can be considered very good and in a process of further improvement. They are of a strategic importance for us. Greece is part of Albania’s strategic quadrangular, together with Italy, Austria and Turkey. It is a NATO good and effectively cooperating partner. It has been and still is a supporting country to Albania in its integrating process to the EU. From the economic and trade point of view, Greece is Albania's main foreign investor and second largest trading partner. In terms of amount and variety the potentials are still bigger. From the legal point of view, we have a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in place since the 90’s, however we should say that our bilateral legal framework has not yet fully produced the expected positive results. Meanwhile, the relations between the two countries are now progressing positively due to what has been qualified as the "policy of small steps”. Negotiations are ongoing between the two governments to resolve pending issues, divided in three different baskets, some inherited from the past but all affecting the present and with a projection to the future of our nations. Are we reviewing our relations? Maybe yes. Maybe we need to… in order to correct some mistakes and failures in our relations and improve them. And I mean here the official relations between our states because the relations between our nations are not of our discretion. They are established and consolidated from hundreds of centuries. They evolve following some internal organic rules belonging to our people. Moreover our countries are bound by the presence of the large Albanian community in Greece and the Greek minority in Albania. In this context, everyone could ask a rhetorical question: Strategically and logically speaking, how could Greece be interested on a poor and unstable Albania and, the other way around, how could Albania be willing a troubled and in crisis Greece?!   The history (especially the one of Europe) is a proof of the fact that the old geopolitical theory, according to which the neighbor should be down and broken, has been invalidated by the modern times – it brings no good at all but harm. What we should and are called to do? Traveling by car from Germany to France or the other way around, some of you have maybe crossed the so-called Europe’s Bridge. This bridge, build in Alsace, connecting Strasbourg to Kehl, constitutes a symbol of the triumph of peace, confidence and cooperation over war, conflict and confrontation that, for more than one century made hundreds of thousands of victims both sides of Rihn river. Various famous writers have left on the Europe’s Bridge some notes, among which I would like to quote the one from our great writer Ismail Kadare: “Traveler, all the bridges in the world from the oldest to the latest, like the one you are crossing, have something in common: they vibrate. Stop your car, get out and press your cheek to the parapet; you will distinctly feel the tremor. It seems that in the infinite variety of structural types, bridges alone have something of man’s confusion, anxieties, hopes, fears and dreams built into them. The first man whose path was blocked by a sudden freak of the terrain and who resolved not to turn back but to brave the abyss and cross it was probably elated by the exiting venture, but no doubts alarmed too, as if at committing a sin. The man of old were convinced that in building a bridge they defied destiny and, to appease the anger of gods, were wont to make a sacrifice at the foot of every bridge. You, traveler, are on the Bridge of Europe. At its very foundations, our continent has made a sacrifice by renouncing its old prejudices, divisions, hatreds, intolerance and other errors. The bridge trembles, thrills with human torments, proving that you are at the heart of Europe.” Differently from France and Germany as well as from many neighboring countries of Europe, Albania and Greece, have never been in a real and proper classical war. And, according to the dictionaries, an absence of war is usually called "peace". So (except from some sporadic conflicts) actually our people have lived in peace throughout history. However as we all know, a Royal Decree of 10 November 1940 has established “the state of war” with Albania and the so called “War Law” versus Albania is still existing in Greece. I will not go into the technicalities of this issue but I would like to refer to and point out this fact to emphasize how destructively absurd can be politics and politicians… how damaging can they be to their own countries and people. This “War Law” has negatively contributed not only in creating prejudices and bad feelings but also economic and property issues. Therefore, to open a new page in our relations, the Royal Decree of 1940, needs to be abrogated, along with its effects. We are all happy today to know that this stupid “War Law” is being part of the above-mentioned negotiations that are ongoing between our governments in order to be abrogated.   Obviously, before we can build anything more substantial enhancing our relations, we must finish first with the Second World War, the same way the new Europe of after WWII and the one of after the Cold War was created: Cooperating with trust! Union of forces, efforts, resources and collaboration have created that synergy no individual could generate on its own, but for this it has always been needed initially trust (or mutual good faith) and confidence: trust in the partner chosen to cooperate with, confidence and belief that the way to be taken is the right one. Unfortunately, we are witnessing that the crisis Europe is facing today is first and foremost caused exactly by the lack of confidence and trust. Lack of trust on the EU institutions, partners and others too, lack of confidence on the way of further unification and enlargement. Although today, more than ever has become quite clear that the challenges we are facing and the various consequences of the crises affecting of our common security, stability and peace are absolutely interconnected, therefore they cannot be tackled by an isolated approach. Building trust, creating synergies and strengthening cooperation is of a paramount, especially among neighbors. The contrary has always been proven to be of disastrous consequences. Breaking connecting bridges, building dividing walls, excluding and botching each-other brings good to no one. All in the contrary, it harms everyone and seriously damage our peoples’ aspirations for peace and prosperity, our common future. The relations between Albania and Greece are part of the European politics and future but mostly of our own one, the one of our children. Everybody who can give a contribution to promote and boost them is called too: politician and individual, state institution and civil society.   From the position of a parliamentarian and the Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I would say that due to their particular and honored status, as representatives of the people, the parliamentarians are in a privileged position to convey, in a capillary way, to the people they are representing as well as to the policy makers, feelings of positive inspiration and proofs of good faith in order to promote cooperation, confidence and trust, bringing all of them closer and together by “renouncing prejudices, divisions, hatreds, intolerance and other errors” – as Kadare says. *Mimi Kodheli is the chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Albania. The article above is an extract of her remarks at the day-long conference on “Re-examining Albania-Greece relations; challenges of the present, prospects for the future” organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS)  in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Tirana, bringing together experts, diplomats, politicians and students.   [post_title] => Building strong bridges in Albania-Greece relations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => building-strong-bridges-in-albania-greece-relations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-13 10:26:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-13 08:26:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136596 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136527 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-06 10:11:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-06 08:11:31 [post_content] => Much of the news this week has focused on the Kukes-Durres highway toll clashes, the ensuing arrests and related protests. While these events are important, they are a symptom of a larger problem: A series of government policies that are tearing the social fabric of Albania by failing to produce economic growth while squeezing Albanian citizens and small businesses hard through taxes and then channelling the funds to unproductive and shady ventures fraught with questions over cronyism and ethics. Albania’s Socialist government led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, in power nationally since 2013 and locally in Tirana 2000-2011, has implemented an aggressive campaign of tax hikes on businesses and individuals that has failed to translate into better state services. In addition, Albanians now face ever higher electricity, fuel and water bills, which too are also loaded with taxes. All this means less money in the hands of the common Albanians and small businesses, translated into economic decline. In addition, hundreds of thousands have left the country in recent years, citing lack of hope for jobs and quality of life at home. Moreover, the government is increasingly relying on private-public-partnerships, long-term concessions which in theory are supposed to be more efficient and cheaper, but in practice have become a major way to channel money out of taxpayers’ pockets and into large companies that keep the government in power -- the owners of which are referred to as “the oligarchs” in Albanian media.   This comes as there is an increasing gap between those who govern and those who are governed in Albania. With real democracy in decline for years, the government is often finding itself in a bubble, taking decisions, particularly on things that affect citizens’ finances, with little public consultation. Relying on opinion polls showing that it still has majority support among voters and the fact that the political opposition is weaker than it has been decades, Prime Minister Rama has continued to be arrogant against critics and the people themselves, hoping that apathy and an opposition in tatters means he can take measures that benefit a few on the back of many without any consequences. But that free ride has ended. The Kukes protest shows the poorest Albanians will no longer put up with the state’s ever-heavier hand. And they are not alone, as more and more Albanians refuse to participate in the rigged political and economic system taking roots in Albania today. In previous editorials, this newspaper has warned of the ill effects on the fabric of Albanian society that come from the decline of democracy and the increasing income inequality. This a good time to ponder where governance in Albania took a wrong term and reconsider tax hikes and other policies that lowered economic freedom and produced no economic growth and well-paid jobs. It’s time for Albania’s government to return to lower taxes and regulations and freeing the market to allow wide and fair participation.   [post_title] => Editorial: High tax policies, failure to produce economic growth behind Albania’s social unrest [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-high-tax-policies-failure-to-produce-economic-growth-behind-albanias-social-unrest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-10 09:16:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-10 07:16:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136527 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136539 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-04-06 10:00:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-06 08:00:28 [post_content] => By Alice Elizabeth Taylor As you read this news story, a little bit of civil history is taking place. At the Palace of Congress in Tirana, a forum is being held that brings together leading voices in the LGBTI community, as well as the US ambassador, EU representatives, and politicians from leading Albanian political parties. Entitled “LGBTI in the Political Agenda in Albania”, the event will provide attendees with a brief description of the situation regarding status and rights of LGBTI individuals within the country and the daily struggles that they face when it comes to discrimination. The aim of the game is to start a richer discussion on how everyone involved can work together towards the shared goal of greater diversity, tolerance, and respect. On paper, members of the LGBTI community have almost the same level of rights and social freedoms as heterosexual individuals, but unfortunately, the reality tells a different story. Whilst legal frameworks such as LGBTI People in the Republic of Albania, The Resolution on the Rights of the LGBTI People, and the Anti- Discrimination Law have been adopted by the Albanian Parliament, little is being done when it comes to enforcement. Whilst homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1995, it has become clear that if Albania wishes to pursue its dream of EU Membership, a lot more work needs to be done. In 2018, same sex individuals are unable to get married or enter into a civil union, forced or coerced surgeries for intersex individuals are still carried out, and there are no legal provisions for those that want to change their name or gender. This is in addition to the social stigma that is palpable in almost every aspect of society -- homosexual individuals are openly vilified, shunned, and even physically and verbally abused, purely because of who they choose to engage in a relationship with. One young Albanian man, Arber Kodra, decided that the current state of affairs was not conducive to an open and tolerant society and he set about trying to make change. Having already organised several successful forums and workshops through his NGO, “Open Mind Spectrum Albania” (OMSA), he decided to grab the proverbial bull by the horns and go for the jugular. He set about contacting politicians from all parties, as well as local activists, the US Ambassador and delegates from the EU. Whilst the support from non-Albanian organisations was forthcoming, his calls, emails and text to local politicians went largely unanswered. Not taking no for an answer, he persisted and his hard work, dedication, and perseverance has resulted in the confirmation of participation from Vasilika Hysi (Vice Head of Parliament), Ogerta Manastirliu (Minister of Health and Social Defense), Nora Malaj (MP), Bruna Laboviti(Republican Party), Grida Duma (Democratic Party), Irma Baraku (Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination), and Erinda Ballanca (Ombudsman)in todays event. Whilst this is a great success for Arber and the cause, I cannot help but notice the lack of male politicians that are willing to put their name to the campaign. Perhaps they feel that their masculinity is threatened by putting their name to such a cause, or maybe they are more concerned about the risk of losing male votes than they are for standing up for what is right. Either way, these individuals need to realize that as a politician, their duty is to serve the people and their constituents- not their own personal agenda. As such, they should be fighting for the rights and equality of the gay community who, shock horror, make up a significant portion of the electorate. Ignoring this issue is not going to make it go away, while there is a desperate need for more acceptance and more diversity within the institutions and social structures of Albania. Extremism and discrimination should be vilified by the state and individuals should not have to hide their sexuality for fear of losing their jobs, being shunned, or having abuse shouted at them in the street. I truly hope that the event is a success and pray that everyone who said they would attend, keeps to their word. The reality is that if Albania wants to become a member of the EU, it needs to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with societies that offer LGBTI, intersex, gender fluid, and other minorities’ equal rights and treatments. They need to be able to say hand on heart that they are all against discrimination in all of its forms and that the laws put in place to protect equality are enforced to the final letter of the law. And as for the greater society? We need to understand that love is love and that who someone chooses to share a bed, or their life, with has no bearing on who they are as a person or the content of their character.   [post_title] => Albania and its issue with homosexuality [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-and-its-issue-with-homosexuality [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-06 11:23:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-06 09:23:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136539 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137067 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-05-10 08:48:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-10 06:48:10 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_137070" align="alignright" width="300"]Nikollaq Neranxi, the head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania Nikollaq Neranxi, the head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania[/caption] By Nikollaq Neranxi A few days ago, I was watching Premier Rama on a TV broadcast and I really felt very disappointed and disgusted by the fact that how he tries to protect Tahiri as often as he is provided with the possibility to do so. "The Prosecution of Severe Crimes of Albania does not have any single evidence to prove the implication of Saimir Tahiri in the cannabis trafficking," Rama said adding: "Tahiri has done good deeds during his 4-year work as Interior Minister." The great attempt of the Premier to convince the public opinion that Tahiri is clean adds more to the suspicions that Saimir's  sins are not only of his. When I listened to Rama as he labored hard to convince us, I recalled a survey made some years ago in Germany where there were still people thinking that Hitler had been a criminal with regard to the Jews but sometimes good for the Germans! So, he had also done some good jobs!!! As a matter of fact, which is the measuring meter of the work of a minister according to Rama's confirmation? How come that a Prime Minister can use the logic of the 'half empty or half full glass' according to which someone sees the empty half and another one sees the full half?  How can subjective assessments be interpreted on the work of a person having such very high responsibilities in a country's governance? For how many wrong home works can one be punished? If it is required today the thought and the perception of many citizens, mainly of those who are intellectuals, who follow the course of the events and make analysis, the majority think that Tahiri will not be sentenced. Today there is only an ongoing process against the former interior minister. His name is mentioned in the eavesdroppings of the Catania Prosecution which were carried out for the Habilaj groups (Tahiri's cousins), who moved by his car. Albanian justice expects from the Italian one if it has testimonies that Tahiri was implicated in this traffic or not. And if Italy does not bring any testimony Tahiri will come out clean and will be the person being blamed in vain without having any fault in the eyes of the public opinion! As a matter of fact, does the former interior minister have any guilt because the entire Albania was planted with cannabis? Does the former interior minister have any responsibility for the chiefs of the commissariats involved in the traffic, who left the country a few hours after arrest warrants against them were issued? So, when an institution degrades to such a level the question rises if the head does not have any mistake? But the friend of Tahiri, Rama says that the minister has done a good job and as a matter of fact we all understand that how much is being invested so that both of them support each other. Personally, I have been faced some times with Tahiri's police during the time that he felt himself strong and unconquered as minister. The chief of the Kucova Commissariat, Vojo Peci,  along with some other people, offended and threatened me close to my house in Porto Palermo about four years ago, and I will take the opportunity to reveal more details at another time. They fought hard to make me leave that place. Later, as all know, it was learned that Porto Palermo was one of the places where drug substances were transported and as evidence has shown even police were used to transport the stuff. And moreover it was the place where the radars were put off. Later I was attacked and looted by masked people at the Company and the police, who were informed, came 35 minutes later. The car by which the looting of my company was made was seen before the Police Department a few minutes later. When I denounced publicly this event I was arrested amidst an event in the company because, according to them, some clients had wrongly parked their vehicles!!! All of these were pressures of an incriminated police that was stimulated by its leaders. Then why should I expect that any evidence can come from Catania on Saimir when I have experienced myself how he incriminated the institution he led? Which is the need to expect evidence from Catania when we have most stubborn testimony of the cultivation of the entire Albania with cannabis? Is there any stronger evidence how the money profited from this traffic was put in the Albanian economy harming our businesses and spoiling the rules of competition? So, under these circumstances, when we see many attempts to close this story, the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania headed by Nikollaq Neranxin has decided to sue the former minister Tahiri as the guilty person for this great economic, social and psychological damage because of the great economic harm caused on the business due to the drugs cultivation, the trafficking and injecting of the dirty money as well as the creation of an insecure climate because of the growth of the criminality. Only in this way the expectations can be brought back  to us that this country can be 'done' and who wrongs should be faced with the responsibilities.   [post_title] => We cannot expect from Catania evidence and harm caused by Tahiri! 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