Court orders suspension of works at controversial ‘Veliera’ Durres project

Court orders suspension of works at controversial ‘Veliera’ Durres project

TIRANA, Feb. 17 – A court has ordered the suspension of construction works at a controversial project to build a luxury veil-like square in front of the country’s biggest port of Durres that risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next

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Protection sought for emerging underwater heritage

Protection sought for emerging underwater heritage

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – Rare ancient items discovered in Albania’s waters by a U.S.-Albanian expedition were put on display this week in Tirana’s sole pedestrian neighborhood in the capital’s city center in a bid to raise awareness about their preservation

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Ermal Meta becomes first Albania-born artist to grab three Sanremo awards

Ermal Meta becomes first Albania-born artist to grab three Sanremo awards

TIRANA, Feb. 14 – Ermal Meta finished third in Italy’s prestigious Sanremo music festival and also grabbed the Critics and Best Cover awards, making history as the first Albania-born artist to achieve this. The Italy-based 35-year singer-songwriter came third in

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Hundreds of artefacts looted from Apollonia park seized

Hundreds of artefacts looted from Apollonia park seized

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – Hundreds of artifacts illegally excavated and looted from the Apollonia archaeological park, southwestern Albania, apparently intended to be trafficked abroad, have been seized. Police say three people have been arrested over the looting and several park

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Discovery of ancient ruins raises question marks over Durres square project

Discovery of ancient ruins raises question marks over Durres square project

TIRANA, Feb. 9 – Works to build a luxury veil-like square in front of the country’s biggest port of Durres next to the ancient walls of the Durres castle have brought to light a medieval Ottoman era building and a

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Havel’s ‘Beggar’s Opera’ makes comeback

Havel’s ‘Beggar’s Opera’ makes comeback

TIRANA, Feb. 2 – Vaclav Havel’s The Beggar’s Opera satirical comedy is making its comeback at the National Theatre this weekend after its last December premiere. Directed by Albania’s Mehmet Xhelili, the play written by the late Czech Republic president

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AIIS promotes Schuman’s sole book in Albanian

AIIS promotes Schuman’s sole book in Albanian

TIRANA, Feb. 1 – Robert Schuman’s sole book, Pour L’Europe (For Europe) is now available in Albanian in a new publication by the Library of International Relations and History of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, one of the country’s

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Kadare’s museum house turns popular tourist attraction

Kadare’s museum house turns popular tourist attraction

TIRANA, Jan. 30 – One year after the reopening of Ismail Kadare’s house as a museum, the home of Albania’s internationally renowned writer and perennial Nobel candidate has turned into one of the most visited heritage sites in the stone

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Albanian-Serb musical duo breaks Balkan stereotypes in Italy

Albanian-Serb musical duo breaks Balkan stereotypes in Italy

TIRANA, Jan. 26 – At a time when tensions between ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Serbia are escalating, an Italy-based Albanian-Serb female musical duo is breaking stereotypes by playing with historical and cultural ambiguities and misunderstandings, but also pointing out

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Albanian singers to give Kuwait Lyrical Gala performance

Albanian singers to give Kuwait Lyrical Gala performance

TIRANA, Jan. 26 – Tirana-based opera singers have travelled to Kuwait to perform some of the best Albanian pieces at the Kuwait multicultural festival. Sopranos Eva Golemi, Vikena Kamenica and baritone Armando Likaj as well as flutist Enalda Gjoni will

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                    [post_content] => velieraTIRANA, Feb. 17 - A court has ordered the suspension of construction works at a controversial project to build a luxury veil-like square in front of the country's biggest port of Durres that risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower. The decision by the Durres Administrative Court came following protests by civil society activists and a lawsuit against Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako over the continuation of works after an Ottoman era building, a cannon and some catapult stones were discovered during digging works.

The court decision halts construction works on the much rumored "Veliera" project in the area where the finds have been discovered until a final say by the National Archaeology Council which is already conducting site research.

The Forum for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, an organization bringing together public figures, described the court decision as only half-victory, warning that protests will not stop.

Mirela Jorgo, a lawyer who represented civil society activists at the Durres Court, says the Durres municipality led by mayor Vangjush Dako “has committed a criminal offence by building concrete structures in ancient ruins and falsified a 2011 map by narrowing the "Zone A" area where every kind of construction work is banned.”

Ruling Socialist Party Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako has insisted digging works have only been made in the allowed Zone B and that the project will serve Durres and further promote tourism in the country's second largest city only 30 km from Tirana.

[caption id="attachment_131065" align="alignright" width="300"]The Veliera design project The Veliera design project[/caption]

A BIRN news agency report earlier unveiled the municipality of Durres signed a contract with the Archaeology Institute and the Archaeological Rescue Agency only two months after digging works kicked off at a time when the majority of underground works had already been completed.

The 6-million euro government-funded “Veliera” project will be a 12,000 m2 square with a giant 2,000 m2 veil on it.

The project which is being implemented ahead of next June’s general elections has been criticized for its high cost at a time when Durres suffers prolonged tap water cuts, lacks a waste treatment plant and faces frequent flash flooding due to lack of proper sewer systems, hampering its key tourism industry.

Socialist Party Mayor Vangjush Dako, now in his third consecutive term as Durres Mayor, has often been publicly accused of increasing concrete areas in Durres due to alleged interests in a concrete company where he was a shareholder before taking office as Durres Mayor in 2007.

The project comes after Durres reconstructed its central square and archaeology museum in the past few years, making it more attractive to tourists.

Founded in the 7th century BC under the name Epidamnos, Durres has been continuously inhabited for 27 centuries and is one of the oldest cities in Albania. The city boasts a Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century A.D, one of the largest in the Balkan.
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                    [post_content] => water 2TIRANA, Feb. 16 - Rare ancient items discovered in Albania's waters by a U.S.-Albanian expedition were put on display this week in Tirana's sole pedestrian neighborhood in the capital's city center in a bid to raise awareness about their preservation and make them a new tourist attraction in the country's developing tourism industry.

Auron Tare, a cultural heritage expert who heads the state-run National Coastal Agency, says the findings which also include sunken ships date back from the 4th century B.C. to until World War II and desperately need to be protected under special legislation.

"I thought it would be an interesting way to attract attention toward the preservation of Albania's underwater cultural heritage, setting up legislation, but the development of underwater cultural tourism would be the biggest tourist attraction," says Tare, adding that Albania would benefit a lot financially from such as industry just like developed countries do.

The archeological finds are also helping reconnect current historical facts regarding Illyria, the territory and origin of much of modern day Albania.

“The finds show ancient sources are in contradiction to what we are finding underwater. The coastline of ancient Illyria was not only populated by pirate population, but the fact that many commercial ships loaded with wine, cooking oil and other products were discovered near our coast shows of a trade exchange between Illyria and other Mediterranean regions," added Tare, who was part of the U.S.-Albanian expedition conducted with the assistance of US-based RPM Nautical Foundation for about a decade.

Pending legislation to regulate underwater heritage, a map has been submitted to police to prevent diving and possible looting and trafficking of artefacts in the areas where discoveries have been made.

Scanning the southern Albanian waters along the Riviera coastline, the U.S.-Albanian expedition has discovered numerous amphoras and artefacts including ancient Greek, Roman, medial and modern finds. Dozens of wreck sites including warships and armoured vehicles have also been discovered.

Back in 2007, the mission discovered an ancient shipwreck near the waters of Butrint archeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania, before tracing a giant cargo ship believed to have sunk during World War II in the waters of Karaburun peninsula, Vlora, four years later.
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                    [post_content] => meta 2

TIRANA, Feb. 14 - Ermal Meta finished third in Italy's prestigious Sanremo music festival and also grabbed the Critics and Best Cover awards, making history as the first Albania-born artist to achieve this.

The Italy-based 35-year singer-songwriter came third in the 67th Sanremo edition with his “Vietato morire” (Forbidden to die) ballad pop song as an appeal to say no to domestic violence. "I dedicate this song to my mother who taught me to disobey to every kind of violence. The song is a hymn to life. One should confront life face-to-face. We are the result of proven experience, but we also possess the strength to become what we want to. It is important to speak out and share to get out of loneliness," Meta has told Italy's Ansa news agency.

In a message to the Albanian singer, Albania's ambassador to Italy Anila Bitri said Ermal Meta's personal success was a message for every Albanian.

"Your Sanremo awards are a deserved professional personal success, but are undoubtedly also important and priceless for Albania and Albanians. Your success is a fine expression of culture and arts that Albanians who live, study and work in Italy create, especially the new Albanian-Italians," said the Albanian ambassador.

Albania's famous Italy-based ballet dancer Kledi Kadiu said Ermal Meta's winning cover performance of Domenico Mudugno's "Amara Terra Mia" was a victory for all migrants.

"I find myself in this song. I am also happy for him because he is an Albanian just like me. He showed great maturity. The song is about people forced to leave their country and his experience really made his performance natural," said Kadiu, a famous ballet dancer in Italy who left Albania in the early 1990s during the mass exodus just as the communist regime was collapsing.

Meta, who left Albania and his hometown of Fier at the age of 13, performed with several bands in Italy and wrote songs for several famed Italian artists before embarking on a solo career in 2013. Back in 2016, he also came third in Sanremo's Newcomers' section.

"I feel like a tree with its roots in Albania, but its leaves getting Italian sunshine," Meta has earlier said.

The Italy-based singer says there's still a tendency of prejudice among Italians over the Albanian community which is represented by some 500,000 migrants who went to Italy starting in the early 1990s after the collapse of Albania's hardline communist regime and an earlier Arberesh community of some 90,000 speakers who settled in southern Italy in the 15tth century after Skanderbeg's death.

"There is still a tendency here to talk about Albania only in case of crimes committed by Albanians. And this is wrong. Huge damage is incurred as an entire people is offended. There are rotten apples everywhere, even in the best grove. Albania is a beautiful country with much art and culture. It reminds me of Skanderbeg, our national hero who fought the Ottomans to defend Christianity," he has said.

Albania-born Italy based singer Elsa Lila also performed in the 2007 Sanremo. Ana Oxa, an Italian-born singer of Albanian origin has won the Sanremo twice, most recently in 1999.

 

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_131125" align="alignright" width="300"]Seized items Seized items[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – Hundreds of artifacts illegally excavated and looted from the Apollonia archaeological park, southwestern Albania, apparently intended to be trafficked abroad, have been seized.

Police say three people have been arrested over the looting and several park officials, including its director, are under investigation for failing to prevent the robbery of 230 items in one of the country’s biggest archaeological sites aspiring to gain UNESCO World Heritage inscription. The illegal excavations are believed to have taken place for several months.

The seized bronze, iron and ceramic artifacts had been illegally obtained for trafficking purposes, an offence that is punished by up to 15 years in prison under Albania’s Criminal Code.

The looting of archaeological artifacts has haunted Albania since World War II. In 1967, when the country’s Stalinist communist regime outlawed religion, making Albania the world’s first official atheist country, thousands of churches and mosques were demolished or used for other purposes with much of the content either destroyed or sent to museums.

Albania also suffered massive looting of archaeological artifacts in the early 1990s as the communist regime was collapsing and during the 1997 turmoil triggered by some pyramid investment schemes.

Back in 2013, police recovered more than 1,00 religious and secular paintings dating back from the 15th to the mid-20th centuries, alleged to have been stolen from churches and cultural centers in Albania and neighboring Macedonia.

Earlier in 2009, the head of the Asclepius, the God of healing and medicine in Greek mythology, was brought back to the Butrint archaeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southernmost Albania, from where it had been stolen in 1991 before ending up under the possession of an Italian collector who had bought it at a London auction.

The Apollonia medieval monastery and its landscaping were recently rehabilitated under an EU-funded €700,000 project to boost tourism in the country’s second largest cultural heritage destination.

Established in the 7th century B.C., by Greek settlers, the ancient city of Apollonia is located 11 km to the west of the modern city of Fier.

Among the most interesting monuments worth visiting are the Bouleterion (city council), the library, the triumphal arch, the temple of Artemis, the Odeon built in the 2nd century B.C., the two-storey 77 m long Stoa, a theater with a capacity 10,000 spectators, and the Nymphaeum, a monumental water fountain covering an area of 2000 m2.

The Apollonia park also features a museum with some of the most important artifacts discovered in the park.

Closed down on safety grounds in the early 1990s, the archaeological museum of Apollonia, reopened its doors in December 2011 after 20 years. The reopened museum in the south-western district of Fier, restored under UN assistance, features 750 archaeological items and ancient coin treasuries, previously stored at the Archaeology Institute of Tirana.

With a capacity of 10,000 to 12,000 seats, the Apollonia Theatre was one of the biggest of its kind in the Mediterranean and is the biggest ancient construction in Albania along with the Durres amphitheater.

Established as a local assembly and theatrical site, the theater turned into an arena for gladiator and animal fights. The theater’s activity stopped in the 4th century AD after its collapse.

A German-Albanian archaeological mission has been conducting excavations in Apollonia for more than a decade.

Excavations in the Apollonia park began during World War I by Austrian archaeologists. The process continues as it is believed that most of the city is still deep below Apollonia’s hills.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_131065" align="alignright" width="300"]The Veliera design project The Veliera design project[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 9 - Works to build a luxury veil-like square in front of the country's biggest port of Durres next to the ancient walls of the Durres castle have brought to light a medieval Ottoman era building and a 19th century cannon, temporary halting construction works pending a decision by the National Archaeology Council.

The suspension of works in the 6-million euro government-funded "Veliera" project came after activists protested the concreting of an ancient wall next to the landmark Venetian tower, also suing Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako over the destruction of archeological values in the country's biggest tourist destination.

The Forum for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, an organization bringing together a group of intellectuals, has described the Veliera project a destruction of cultural heritage values while the Union of Albanian journalists has called on Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako and Culture Minister Mirela to stop "a barbarian crime with severe archeological consequences" until it is not too late.

Archeologist Moikom Zeqo says covering the ancient walls and cannon with concrete would be irreparable crime.

"This is a crime, a state crime committed to the archeology and Durres whose underground has been declared by law as national and international archaeological heritage,” Zeqo has said.

A BIRN news agency report has unveiled the municipality of Durres signed a contract with the Archeology Institute and the Archeological Rescue Agency only two months after digging works kicked off at a time when the majority of underground works had already been completed.

The Veliera project will be a 12,000 m2 square with a giant 2,000 m2 veil on it.

The project which is being implemented ahead of next June's general elections has been criticized for its high cost at a time when Durres suffers prolonged tap water cuts, lacks a waste treatment plant and suffers frequent flash flooding due to lack of proper sewer systems, hampering its key tourism industry.

Socialist Party Mayor Vangjush Dako, now in his third consecutive term as Durres Mayor, has often been publicly accused of increasing concrete areas in Durres due to alleged interests in a concrete company where he was a shareholder before taking office as Durres Mayor in 2007.

The project comes after Durres reconstructed its central square and archeology museum in the past few years, making it more attractive to tourists.

The new bigger municipality of Durres following the 2015 administrative reform has a resident population of 175,000 people and includes five former coastal municipalities and communes.

The city’s population more than doubles in summer with dozens of thousands of local and foreign holidaymakers.

Founded in the 7th century BC under the name Epidamnos, Durres has been continuously inhabited for 27 centuries and is one of the oldest cities in Albania. The city boasts a Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century A.D, one of the largest in the Balkan.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 2 - Vaclav Havel's The Beggar’s Opera satirical comedy is making its comeback at the National Theatre this weekend after its last December premiere.

Directed by Albania's Mehmet Xhelili, the play written by the late Czech Republic president in the early 1970s also has parallels with Albania which experienced Europe's harshest communist regimes until the early 1990s.

“This is a work that draws parallels to both the system we went through and the system we face today. It tackles topics related to the criminalization of state, extreme compromises that are made only for money, power and glory, topics which have gone too far in the Albanian society nowadays," director Xhelili has said.

"This is what I appreciate most from this author and this work which I love so much and above all I want it to speak to the Albanian public. We live in another society. In one way or another, art must provoke and soften the tone. This work is a challenge for artists," the director adds.

Starring Arben Derhemi, Alfred Trebicka, Olta Gixhari and Niada Saliasi, the play will stage this weekend at the National Theatre on February 3, 4 and 5.

"Creative scenography by Genc Shkodrani, timeless costumes by Anila Zajmi as well as original music by Endri Sina enhanced the up-to-date effect of satirical content. Great artistic performance of prominent Albanian actors, highlighted by presentations of Arben Derhemi and Alfred Trebicka together with witty dialogues in fast moving tempo delighted the present audience," the Czech embassy in Tirana wrote about last December's premiere of the satirical play.

The Beggar's Opera is a free-wheeling, highly politicized adaptation of John Gay's well-known eighteenth-century work of the same name. The play, reminiscent of Havel's earlier Garden Party and The Memorandum, is up to his best satirical standard. Like the Brecht/Weill Threepenny Opera, Havel's play uses an underworld milieu to explore the intermingled themes of love, loyalty, and treachery.

The play comes after Albania commemorated Vaclav Havel, through a series of events, including exhibitions, film screenings, lectures and discussions last January.

One of the most influential political figures of the late 20th century, Vaclav Havel is first and foremost a playwright, poet and philosopher who started his political career as an opposition leader to later become the last president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic’s first.
                    [post_title] => Havel’s ‘Beggar’s Opera’ makes comeback
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_130939" align="alignright" width="300"]Besnik Mustafaj signs books for readers Besnik Mustafaj signs books for readers[/caption]

TIRANA, Feb. 1 - Robert Schuman's sole book, Pour L'Europe (For Europe) is now available in Albanian in a new publication by the Library of International Relations and History of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, one of the country's top think tanks.

Translated by Besnik Mustafaj, an Albanian writer, diplomat, politician and member of the scientific council of the Paris-based Robert Schuman foundation, "Pour l'Europe" (Në emër të Europës)  is a book written more than 50 years by one of the founding fathers of the European Union project, yet more current than ever.

Speaking at a book promotion ceremony, Besnik Mustafaj said he translated the book 15 years ago because he thought Albanians should understand what the European Union was at a time when the country was making its first steps toward EU integration.

Mustafaj, a former Albanian foreign minister and ambassador to France, said there were few people who believed in the Schuman project in 1950 and he had enemies even inside the French cabinet at that time.

The writer recalled how Schuman's concept of discipline can help Albania in its road to further EU integration, now that the country, already an EU candidate is hopeful of opening accession negotiations.

"The European integration process is a question of the whole society, not only politicians, there is need for commitment and awareness," said Mustafaj.

europaGjergj Sinani, a philosophy professor who heads the House of Europe organisation, described the book's launch as a great cultural event to establish what he called a vision on Europe among Albanians.

"The Schuman book stresses that Europe should be seen as a spiritual unit and not as a political or financial unit as it is seen in most cases in Albania," Sinani said.

Albert Rakipi, the executive director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, said the book comes at a time when EU is facing a number of question marks over its existence and in this context Schuman's ideas can serve to 'reestablish the EU.'

"Schuman was one of the EU's founding fathers who gave Europe and the world the longest period of peace and greatest development through his project," said Rakipi.

The Robert Schuman Foundation suggests “one must read the sole work that the 'Father of Europe' devoted to this venture, an unreachable dream that became a tangible reality, in order to understand his approach and the political stakes of this peaceful and determined construction of continental unity, heretofore unprecedented in history.”

“In the very particular context of the era, to which he alludes, Robert Schuman evades none of the questions that one can legitimately pose regarding the European project: the nation, federalism, culture, and the roots of Europe. And under his quill, rather than confronting themselves, the states and the people of Europe combined themselves; a political and determined Europe, rich in its diversity but strong in its unity. This vision remains a necessity for the Europe of today, and a requirement in order to imagine its future.”

A French foreign minister between 1948 and 1952, Schuman is regarded as one of the architects of the European integration project together with Jean Monnet.

The republication of Robert Schuman's book by the AIIS was made possible through the support of the Paris-based Robert Schuman Foundation.
                    [post_title] => AIIS promotes Schuman’s sole book in Albanian 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-01-30 17:21:26
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                    [post_content] => kadare 2

TIRANA, Jan. 30 – One year after the reopening of Ismail Kadare’s house as a museum, the home of Albania’s internationally renowned writer and perennial Nobel candidate has turned into one of the most visited heritage sites in the stone city of Gjirokasra, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania.

Bruno Pjetri, a tourist guide at Kadare’s museum house, says there’s huge interest by Kadare readers including foreigners who have learned about Kadare from the translation of his works into 45 languages.

“The majority of visitors are tourists who visit Gjirokastra and cannot leave without seeing the Kadare house because he is well-known among almost all of them, but there are also local fans who have not missed a single Kadare work,” Pjetri tells VoA in the local Albanian service.

The Kadare house has also turned into a host of Albanian culture and literature events, bringing together scholars and journalists.

Aleksander Çipa, the head of the Union of Albanian Journalists, said the Kadare house, where an event on his contribution as a publicist and journalist was held, should also serve as an inspiration for journalists to focus more on national culture values.

“The birthday of Albania’s greatest writer should also serve as an inspiration to turn attention to national culture and literature in general and values we aspire to such as the society’s moral integration,” said Çipa at an event organized at the Kadare museum house on the writer’s 81st birthday last weekend.

“The Kadare house was chosen to bring to the attention of Albanian journalists the idea that museum assets featuring Albania’s cultural heritage are a necessity to provide both the Albanian and foreign public opinion with an approach for this wonderful heritage and cultural reference Albania offers,” he added.

The 17th century house of Albania’s internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare in his hometown of Gjirokastra reopened as a museum following reconstruction in January 2016, when the perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature marked his 80th birthday and 2016 was celebrated as the Kadare Year with a series of events.

An internationally renowned poet, novelist and essayist, Ismail Kadare has been perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. His international acclaim for his works peaked in 2005 when he won the Man Booker International Prize.

Kadare, known for writing about Albania’s totalitarian government, has had his works translated into more than 40 languages, the most famous of which is “The General of the Dead Army.”

Back in 2015, Kadare, was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for his works expressing and promoting the idea of the “freedom of the individual in society.” He was also honored with a flag ceremony at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Last year, Albania’s internationally renowned writer was promoted to the rank of Commander in the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration, as a reward for outstanding merit in a civilian capacity in the country where he has been spending most of his time since 1990 when he left Albania just as the communist regime was collapsing.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-01-27 09:57:12
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                    [post_content] => music duoTIRANA, Jan. 26 - At a time when tensions between ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Serbia are escalating, an Italy-based Albanian-Serb female musical duo is breaking stereotypes by playing with historical and cultural ambiguities and misunderstandings, but also pointing out similarities in art, customs and traditions.

Opa Opa, a duo composed of Albanian poet and performer Jonida Prifti and Serbian musician and producer Iva Stanisic, both based in Italy, have been working together since 2011 when the project was launched with a selection of traditional and modern tunes from both Albania and Serbia.

Dancing to electronic and turbofolk music, drinking traditional Albanian raki and carrying Kalashnikov rifles, the two singers have released their latest sixth "Buongiorno Italia" hit.

Jonida Prifti, a native of Berat who left Albania in 2001 to study modern Italian literature in Rome, said the duo was launched quite spontaneously after meeting her Serbian colleague at a Rome music venue.

“From the very beginning we thought about the impact it would trigger among Albanian or Serbian nationalists and it was exactly for this reason that we thought of overcoming prejudices to unveil the spiritual, cultural and arts terrain in the two countries. Through music we noticed both countries have many things in common such as the musical sounds and other aspects such as food, common words etc." Prifti has told Mapo magazine.

Her Serbian colleague, Iva had already started her musical career in Italy where she arrived in 1993 from her war torn split former Yugoslavia.

“We think of living the present day because historically the two countries' past is troubled and much complicated. We are interested in linking the two different worlds of two women aspiring to freely express themselves through art despite their origin,” says the Albanian singer.

“Many Italians don't know where we are geographically located at a time when only a sea separates us. This way we thought of capturing the ‘the wild eastern barbarian' image and we played with this image and absurd labels of prejudices. On the other hand, Turkish coffee, music and raki are common things in our cultures," she adds.

The duo’s song lyrics are mainly in English but also include phonetically similar words in Albanian and Serbs such as raki, balkania.

Based in Italy, the duo does not attract much interest among Italians who are not aware of the historical past of Albanians and Serbs.

"It is true that Italians are not much impressed of our origin because they are not aware of the historical events, but in the meantime our origin kind of annoys them. This feeling is historically related to the influxes of Albanian and Serb migrants who found their homes in Italy," adds the Albanian poet.

Two years after Prime Minister Edi Rama’s historic visit to Belgrade and one year after the establishment of a joint Albania-Serbia center, the former tense and Cold War-like relations between Albania and Serbia have taken a U-turn and 2016 was considered the best year in cooperation between the two countries in the past seven decades, experts said at Tirana round table organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), one of the country’s top think tanks.
                    [post_title] => Albanian-Serb musical duo breaks Balkan stereotypes in Italy
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                    [post_content] => kuwaitTIRANA, Jan. 26 - Tirana-based opera singers have travelled to Kuwait to perform some of the best Albanian pieces at the Kuwait multicultural festival. Sopranos Eva Golemi, Vikena Kamenica and baritone Armando Likaj as well as flutist Enalda Gjoni will be accompanied by the symphonic orchestra of the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet in their January 28 "Kuwait Lyrical Gala" performance.

Zana Çela, the Opera House director, says Albania will close Kuwait's most important festival with a one and half-hour performance of Albanian and foreign pieces.

The performance also marks the first the Albanian singers are giving for this year as the National Theater of Opera and Ballet in Tirana is undergoing reconstruction.

Fifty years after its construction under Albania’s communist regime, the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Albania’s solo performing arts institution of its kind, is set to be renovated under a €8.6 million government funded project.

The 30-month reconstruction is scheduled to start in January 2017 and finish by June 2019 in a project that will make a thorough renovation that involves architecture, stage design, acoustic and air-conditioning systems.

While the National Theater will be under reconstruction, its artists will be performing in other stages in Tirana and outside the capital.
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            [post_content] => velieraTIRANA, Feb. 17 - A court has ordered the suspension of construction works at a controversial project to build a luxury veil-like square in front of the country's biggest port of Durres that risks burying ancient ruins in concrete next to the landmark Durres castle and Venetian tower. The decision by the Durres Administrative Court came following protests by civil society activists and a lawsuit against Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako over the continuation of works after an Ottoman era building, a cannon and some catapult stones were discovered during digging works.

The court decision halts construction works on the much rumored "Veliera" project in the area where the finds have been discovered until a final say by the National Archaeology Council which is already conducting site research.

The Forum for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, an organization bringing together public figures, described the court decision as only half-victory, warning that protests will not stop.

Mirela Jorgo, a lawyer who represented civil society activists at the Durres Court, says the Durres municipality led by mayor Vangjush Dako “has committed a criminal offence by building concrete structures in ancient ruins and falsified a 2011 map by narrowing the "Zone A" area where every kind of construction work is banned.”

Ruling Socialist Party Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako has insisted digging works have only been made in the allowed Zone B and that the project will serve Durres and further promote tourism in the country's second largest city only 30 km from Tirana.

[caption id="attachment_131065" align="alignright" width="300"]The Veliera design project The Veliera design project[/caption]

A BIRN news agency report earlier unveiled the municipality of Durres signed a contract with the Archaeology Institute and the Archaeological Rescue Agency only two months after digging works kicked off at a time when the majority of underground works had already been completed.

The 6-million euro government-funded “Veliera” project will be a 12,000 m2 square with a giant 2,000 m2 veil on it.

The project which is being implemented ahead of next June’s general elections has been criticized for its high cost at a time when Durres suffers prolonged tap water cuts, lacks a waste treatment plant and faces frequent flash flooding due to lack of proper sewer systems, hampering its key tourism industry.

Socialist Party Mayor Vangjush Dako, now in his third consecutive term as Durres Mayor, has often been publicly accused of increasing concrete areas in Durres due to alleged interests in a concrete company where he was a shareholder before taking office as Durres Mayor in 2007.

The project comes after Durres reconstructed its central square and archaeology museum in the past few years, making it more attractive to tourists.

Founded in the 7th century BC under the name Epidamnos, Durres has been continuously inhabited for 27 centuries and is one of the oldest cities in Albania. The city boasts a Roman amphitheater of the 2nd century A.D, one of the largest in the Balkan.
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