Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI

Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI

by Bujar Leskaj The Young ALSAI Scientific Conference has reached its second edition and aims to become a tradition for the institution, as well as a benchmark, forum and experience exchange platform, to encourage the generation of young auditors to

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Valbona, the river between tourism and hydropower plants

Valbona, the river between tourism and hydropower plants

By Blerina Hoxha   Adinah and Benyamin, an Israeli couple, chose to visit the Albanian alps against the advice of their friends. “Our friends asked if we were insane for choosing to visit Albania,” Adinah said, whom we met on

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Agro & Social Fund launches the BORROW WISELY! Campaign

Agro & Social Fund launches the BORROW WISELY! Campaign

On October 1st,  Agro & Social Fund announced the official launch of the BORROW WISELY! campaign – a one month educational campaign aimed mainly at current and potential clients.  The campaign is organised under the auspices of the Microfinance Centre,

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China celebrates 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China

China celebrates 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China

TIRANA, Sept. 24 – The Chinese Embassy to Tirana celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Tuesday evening at the premises of the National History Museum in Tirana with an official reception. The

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National Historic Museum hosts “The Belt and Road” Chinese traditional art exhibition

National Historic Museum hosts “The Belt and Road” Chinese traditional art exhibition

TIRANA, Sept. 23 – The National HIstoric Museum inaugurated on Monday, Sept. 23, the “Belt and Road” Chinese traditional art exhibition, brought for the public by the Chines Embassy to Tirana.  The exhibition, which stayed open for two days only,

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Spanish artist Luz Casal to give concert in Tirana

Spanish artist Luz Casal to give concert in Tirana

TIRANA, Sept. 11 – The Spanish Embassy in Albania shared on Tuesday the news of Luz Casal’s concert on Saturday, September 14, in Tirana’s amphitheatre by the artificial lake.  It’s Casal’s first time in Albania throughout her artistic career, a

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Chronicles and Fragments

Chronicles and Fragments

The novels of Ismail Kadare. By James Wood  Like Trieste or Lvov, the medieval city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has passed its history beneath a sign perpetually rewritten, in different hands, but always with the same words: “Under New Management.”

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Japan State Minister for Environment visits Divjake National Park

Japan State Minister for Environment visits Divjake National Park

TIRANA, July 28 – On July 25 the State Minister for the Environment of Japan, as well as Secretary General of Japan-Albania Parliamentary Friendship Association, H.E. Mr. Minoru Kiuchi, visited the National Park of Divjake Karavasta. The purpose of this

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Folk Ensemble receives international assessments

Folk Ensemble receives international assessments

TIRANA, July 11- The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet (TOB) Archive and the National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble archive is rich in various material activities that have been developed over the years. Decades ago Albanian artists have received

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Ballerina Adela Mucollari performs in Rome competition

Ballerina Adela Mucollari performs in Rome competition

TIRANA, July 11- Adela Muçollari who is the first ballerina of the Opera and Ballet Theater, will represent Albania in the prestigious jury of “Premio Danza 2019” in Rome in its 17th edition this year. One of the most important

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                    [post_content] => by Bujar Leskaj

The Young ALSAI Scientific Conference has reached its second edition and aims to become a tradition for the institution, as well as a benchmark, forum and experience exchange platform, to encourage the generation of young auditors to continue their professional careers at the SAI, deepening audit knowledge and enhancing cooperation with more experienced auditors and with their peers at partner SAIs in Europe and beyond.

The conference is the first activity of ALSAI’s Open Month for Citizens 2019, which has reached its third edition and has become a tradition of transparency and communication for the institution. Through the Open Month, we aim at a comprehensive and continuous communication with the citizens.

The theme of the Conference is to address key public audit issues in the context of changes towards Albania's European integration. The themes and sub-themes, as well as prepared and spontaneous presentations and discussions have outlined the key challenges of the Albanian supreme public audit today. The discussions are in line with the orientations and topics dwelt at the INTOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow. The two central themes of Congress were:

a- Information technology to develop public administration

b- The role of SAIs in achieving national priorities and goals.

Using information technology in public administration has evolved from digitalization to the current era of Big Data, which has led to the proliferation and variety of substantial data. Focusing on data as a tool to innovate and optimize the work of public administration has a positive impact on decision-making, increases coordination and enhances accuracy and transparency of public services. The information technology enriches the potential to perceive, predict and manage risk factors, accelerate economic development, improve methodologies and enhance the quality of public service. "The IT well-functioning systems can also improve the delivery of services and programs that are essential to the health, safety and well-being of citizens", emphasized in the Congress Mr. Gene Dodaro, United States Comptroller General.

In these years, we set up the Performance Audit Department in October 2012, four years later the Information Technology Audit Department and now we have made the decision and are setting up the Innovation and Systems Audit Department, in full reflection of INTOSAI XXIII-rd Congress orientations.

In addressing the second theme, Congress emphasized that as governments are being transformed and adapted to more effectively meet national and global goals, SAIs should be developed similarly, in line with the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 8 "Promoting sustainable and inclusive economic development and full and decent employment" and Goal 12 "Ensuring a sustainable pattern of consumption and production".

The XXIII-rd Congress directed SAIs to audit the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals according to national priorities and goals, shifting audit activities from "process responsibility" to "performance accountability" as a fundamental approach to improving accountability and efficiency in public governance.

The approach of Young ALSAI conferences is inspired by the experience of a small group of young auditors from different European countries attending the VII-th EUROSAI Congress in Krakow, Poland in 2008. Their work got crowned in 2013, with the organization of the first Young EUROSAI Conference (the YES Conference) on 21-22 November 2013 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Two more YES conferences followed in November 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel and in September 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Immediate and visible product is the network established in Europe among young auditors. Many YES participants are in constant touch with each other, both professionally and personally. The network that they have started building through meetings at YES conferences provides them with easier access to the audit experiences of their peers in other European SAI-s. It gives them the opportunity to compare their approaches in audit and ask questions, which enhances the quality of their daily work. It also assists them and subsequently their SAIs by identifying issues that arise both in the audit topics and in the processes of governing respective SAIs.

The Fourth Young EUROSAI Conference is being held at the same time (November 5-7) in London on "Relevance: Ensuring supreme audit institutions remain relevant in rapidly changing landscapes". This topic has many similarities to the topic selected by the Second Young ALSAI Conference.

The question arises: How do we integrate ourselves as SAIs, with the help and contribution of young auditors? As a member of INTOSAI and EUROSAI and a partner of EU-developed SAIs, the ALSAI considers audit capacity building as an ongoing, result-oriented and objective process. Since the beginning of my mandate as ALSAI Chairman, in the strategic platform presented before the Parliamentary Committee on Economy and Finance in December 2011, among the main objectives of the institution, I emphasized “the Development of SAI human resources at the level of INTOSAI standards and in line with country's integration requirements”.

During 2012–2019, we worked to enhance SAI auditors’ capacities, by creating a high professional profile of experienced auditors and young auditors, able to withhold knowledge, skills and integrity at the level of European developed SAIs’ auditors.

We have tried to recruit as many young auditors we could, convinced of the added value that they bring, thanks to their modern mindset and inclination versus innovative approaches to audit, or to their willingness to promote such approaches at the institution.

During 2012-2019, the ALSAI has increased and diversified the professional composition of staff and at the same time, has sensibly reduced staff average age from 50 zears old  in 2011 to 40.8 zears old at the end of 2018. In order to improve their audit performance, acquire new knowledge and techniques, some of the new employees have completed their second bachelor studies or possess professional certificates recognized nationally and internationally. 9 auditors, of whom seven are young auditors, have on-line training certificates developed by IDI, the INTOSAI Development Initiative. Other young auditors have participated in ECA’s international internship and in US GAO’s fellowship programs.

In ALSAI, the lifelong and ongoing training process has been operating effectively since 2012. It has been continuously improved and has become a consolidated system, reflecting the central message of the XXII-th INTOSAI Congress “To define professionalism as a an ongoing process by which auditors and their organizations provide SAIs with high levels of expertise, competence, ethical and quality behavior based on professional standards, the ISSAIs”.

In the professional development of the auditor, and in particular of the young auditor, we have taken advantage of the innovative approaches of more developed European SAI-s, in particular the European Court of Auditors (ECA). We have considered young auditors’ professional development as a function of complex training through the transformation of experiences from vision to reality, as well as assimilating new knowledge into flexible formats, according to staff positions, as auditors, assistants, experts, audit team leaders or senior management, in the form of alternative learning, or as a mixed approach to maximize results.

We have tried to promote alternative and integrated learning - as tools for the success of young auditors. The culture of lifelong learning and ongoing training has coincided with the SAI’s professional development policies, maximizing the need to create sustainable values ​​by applying a systematic professional and ethical learning process, an encouraging and flexible one, capable of dealing with complex situations of present challenges and risks. The SAI has developed innovative training formats for both junior and senior auditors, but especially focused on new recruits, which have led to acquisition of practical skills in auditing. This has been accomplished through leadership training, joint workshops and collaboration with academic staff, as well as overseas training with expert colleagues from European developed SAIs. Such approaches have been the driving and at the same time the inspiring force for managing institutional change in ALSAI, through increased contribution from young auditors.

As SAI, we have consolidated the reforms undertaken since 2012 in the management of human resources, focusing on the realization of three key objectives:
  1. Implementing the civil service legislative framework, the INTOSA International Standards on Auditing covering human resources management and the best practices and approaches identified by most developed SAIs such as the ECA, the US GAO, etc.
  2. Developing and installing ethical and integrity values ​​in every new SAI staff member, which is a prerequisite for institutional credibility and the foundation of citizens' trust in the SAI.
  3. Capacity building with a focus on enhancing professionalism and maximizing the productivity of young auditors and support staff.
This human resource management philosophy attempts to fulfill the priority objectives set out in the ISSAI 12 "Values ​​and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions - Making a Difference in Citizens' Life",by providing enhanced professional skills and knowledge of international standards in the field. During the period 2012-2019, ALSAI enabled the transformation from traditional human resource management to more proactive and innovative management, learning from SIGMA training experiences and from experts of advanced partner SAIs, such as the National Audit Office of Poland (NIK), the SAI of Croatia, the Austrian Court of Audit, the Czech SAI, etc., based on the INTOSAI motto “Experentia mutua Omnibus prodest”. The SAI's policy on audit capacity development, supported by its 2013–2017 Development Strategy, revised later and by its  2018-2022 Development Strategy, has aimed at recruiting and promoting capable and dedicated young auditors, hyghly motivated to contribute to individual development and to SAI development. I thank Mr. Joop Vrojlik, Former Senior Adviser to SIGMA, Mr. Robert Gielisse, former Senior Adviser to the European Commission's Directorate General for Budget (DG-Budget) and Mr. Raymond Hill, Team Leader and Senior Advisor to DG-Budget, for their permanent, significant and sometimes decisive contribution to ALSAI's institutional developments.In the context of meeting the objective of a modern human resources management, the ALSAI has taken concrete steps and a number of initiatives for the establishment of an effective human capital management infrastructure and system and the creation of a credible and professional institutional profile versus its main stakeholders – the auditees, the parliament, the media and the public. The effectiveness of HR policies in terms of enhancing professional capacity is evidenced by the indicator about 14 times higher of the average days of training per year per each auditor. So, from 2.1 average days of training in 2011 to an average of 25 days of training for the period 2012-2019, thus reaching the highest level throughout 94 years of existence of this institution. The average days per year for new auditors is 29 days. The ALSAI has orinted its auditors, especially the young ones to the use of digital audit process management information and support system, called RevZone, as an absolute novelty for the institution. RevZone facilitates and completes with the required information the digital guidance in audit. The institution has created a database of IT audit entities (ICTS Database) and developed the Active Information Technology Audit Manual. This electronic manual, with unquestionable value in risk analysis, audit planning and the use of previous audit experience, is a novelty not only for ALSAI but also for the global audit community as a product that was born, tested in a pilot audit and improved with the modest contribution of the ALSAI Information Technology auditors (largely composed of young auditors). It has been presented at several INTOSAI and EUROSAI IT working groups’ events, has been accepted and is being implemented as an innovation in the field of public supreme audit.   The ALSAI has translated INTOSAI's agenda for professionalism, presented at the INCOSAI XXII-nd Congress in December 2016 in Abu d'Habi and reconfirmed and consolidated at the INCOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow into assignments requiring more engagement from public auditors, especiallz from the young ones, to act as professionals, performing the audit work in the right quality and timely, as effectively and efficiently as possible.   The ALSAI, based on the enthusiasm and innovative strength of its young auditors, aspires to be fully capable to make a difference in the lives of Albanian citizens, as defined in the ISSAI 12. This is how our SAI has conceived growth and empowerment of institutional and organizational capacity, becoming the focus of the professional development for its young auditors and not only them, to enable them to deliver value and benefits to the citizen, in the uncompromising fight against corruption and in the work for real improvement of public governance, through auditing with efficiency, effectiveness and economz the use of Albanian taxpayer’s money.   [post_title] => Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => young-auditors-innovation-ambassadors-at-alsai [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-06 20:21:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-06 19:21:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143439 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143417 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-11-01 13:16:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-01 12:16:12 [post_content] => By Blerina Hoxha   Adinah and Benyamin, an Israeli couple, chose to visit the Albanian alps against the advice of their friends. “Our friends asked if we were insane for choosing to visit Albania,” Adinah said, whom we met on the way to see the waterfall of Valbonë. “But we had read a lot about the country, so we decided to see it for ourselves,” she adds, convinced that they made the right choice, as the late autumn makes the Alps look even more fascinating than usual. To get to Valbonë, they rented a car following the long path from Shkodra, a choice they made themselves. “It was the most beautiful path I had ever seen and, believe me, I have seen the whole world,” Adinah says. What impressed her the most, however, was the clear color of the Valbonë river. “How is it possible that none of the tourism books on Albania have mentioned the clear color of the river?” she ass. “Your country is a tourist destination and you need to promote your natural resources as mu1ch as you can, especially the river and its color,” the Israeli couple recommends. When we tell this story to Katherine, the American who has now become one with the Albanian culture and is in love with Valbonë, she explains that the river is so unique and has such a clear color due to the high levels of calcium in its rocks underneath. Yet, the clearness has begun to falter. In the middle of the Valbonë river, a dam built near the windmills in Quku of Valbonë, cuts the river in half. On the side, there is now a puddle which has taken a rusty shade. Some of the river will become part of a canal, the construction of which has already finished, and will flow in the turbines of the hydropower plant built a little below the area. The canal made out of concrete, some meters high, extends just a few kilometres along the river course till it is adjoined with the dam of the second hydropower plant, which is located in the middle of a big construction site in the area. The current condition of the Valbonë river is reflective of the general ‘hydropower plant culture’ that has taken over Albania and the Western Balkans. The accurate number of concessionary contracts and hydropower plants is unclear; Government data reveals a number of contracts involving from 440 up to 540 hydropower plants, out of which, between 96- 176 are currently fully functional. The accurate number of hydropower plants in the river of Valbonë is also not fully disclosed. ‘TOKA’ company recently discovered existing contracts for 14 hydro plants in the Valley of Valbonë, eight of which are located in the protected areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the National Valley Park of Valbonë as a Level II protected area since 1996, in addition to being part of the Emerald Network according to the Berne Convention. Three companies were granted concessions to build the said 14 hydro plants in Valbonë. Official sources from Dragobia Energy Sh.p.k., now in full ownership of Gener 2, revealed that the project consists of four hydro power plants, but the company is working on only two of them. Tplani Sh.p.k. is responsible for the construction of the smallest hydro plant which began in 2013. The Valbona Project Company was given concessions for nine hydro power plants, three of which are located in the National Park area. Concessionary agreements which were signed with the Valbona Project company were criticized after it was revealed that they were signed at the end of Berisha’s administration, a time when the Democratic Party had just lost the nation election but the Socialist Party had not yet taken its oath. The Gener 2 company confirmed that the project will produce a capacity of 22MW and that investments  have reached an amount of 28 million euros. Over 22 thousand families will benefit directly from the production of electricity through the two operating hydro power plants. The Dragobi and Cerem hydropower plants will be functional only during periods  of rainfall and the rate of electricity production will depend on the seasonal water excesses.   Less tourists in Valbonë During the last few years, the number of tourists who visited the country increased rapidly.  The number of foreign tourists increased by 10 percent during the January-August period in 2019, compared to the previous year. However, the outcome was different for Valbonë. Despite being one of the top tourist attractions in Albania, along with Theth, unlike the past year, this time valleys were not filled with an abundance of tourist tents. As a regular visitor of Valbonë, this past decade I was taken aback by the unusual calmness along the alpine trails. However, the locals have a few explanations about it. Astrit, the manager of one of the main hostels in Valbonë says that, constructions in hydro power plants that extend through the whole valley, not only damaged the beautiful panorama, but also caused acoustic and visual pollution. These constructions caused some Czech and Polish travel agencies to stop bringing in tourists, in addition to a few German and Isralei tourists no longer visiting the area. Moreover, elections and the political crisis seem to have driven many tourists away from Valbonë as well. Local residents, despite advocating against the construction of the hydropower plants, have been under the pressure of interest groups.  Considering these imminent issues, earlier this year the American Advocate Society Center for the Human Rights investigated the reports that activists and community members, who rejected the spreading of hydro power plants in Valbonë, were facing continuous pressure by the state and the companies. Half of the interviewed citizens expressed that the number of hydro power plants and the construction process has had a negative impact on tourism, as the number of visitors has been in constant decline. Nearly 60 percent of them reported that the slow rate of tourism has directly impacted their family income as a result of lower business activity by restaurants and travel guides during the summers, decrease in demand for accommodation at the National Park as well as the demand for agricultural products such as milk, meat, fish and blueberries which are foraged and sold in restaurants. A common thought between the majority of the interviewed locals was that this general negative impact on tourism and the local economy will keep getting worse in the future if the planned hydropower plants will actually be built in the area. An independent environmental study which was signed by ten environmental experts, most of them biologists and natural sciences professor, discovered a myriad of harmful consequences that will fall upon the flora and fauna in the area due to the constructions. The study also found grave errors in the official environmental study of 2013 which made way for the construction of the hydro power plants. In their research study, independent experts claimed that “the official environmental impact assessment report does not consider the direct/indirect implications that these investments will have on the development of tourism in the area, considering that a major part part of the services are sustained by ecotourism. The report simultaneously vaguely mentions the actual benefits that this investment will provide to the community. The experts also proved that the water flow deviations through the tunnels and the reduction of the water amount in the riverbed will cause irreparable damage to the environment. Water flow is the main indicator of the nature of the physical environment in rivers and streams which in itself is an indicator of the biotic composition. In the Valley of Valbonë, some endemic plant and animal species were found in addition to a few important habitats protected by international conventions (Berne Convention, Habitat Directive) and species endangered on a global scale. However, the Gerner 2 company, which is currently in the works of building the biggest hydro power plant claims that it has drafted and is in the process of implementing an all-inclusive plan for the environmental management and rehabilitation. This plan considers the implementation of a series of measures which will optimize the project in favor of the community as well as follow a hierarchy of facilitating actions to avoid and reduce any impact on the environment:, such as controlling and protection from erosion, preventing pollution, waste management, rehabilitation of areas impacted by the project, management of natural resources as well as the management of the area’s cultural heritage.   [post_title] => Valbona, the river between tourism and hydropower plants [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => valbona-the-river-between-tourism-and-hydropower-plants [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-01 13:16:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-01 12:16:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143417 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143252 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-10 11:19:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-10 09:19:14 [post_content] => On October 1st,  Agro & Social Fund announced the official launch of the BORROW WISELY! campaign – a one month educational campaign aimed mainly at current and potential clients.  The campaign is organised under the auspices of the Microfinance Centre, an international organisation which promotes international customer protection standards and financial education. It will run in fourteen countries, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Moldova, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Greece & Tajikistan. The BORROW WISELY! campaign draws together a simple checklist of questions for customers to ask themselves before taking a loan, in order to ensure they take on safe and responsible levels of debt.  Throughout the campaign, which runs all October, Agro & Social Fund’s staff will actively approach existing and potential customers with a wide-ranging information campaign, including posters, leaflets and brochures. Licensed by the Bank of Albania, Agro & Social Fund is a microcredit financial institution, which started operating in the Albanian market in 2001 under the name Building Future, a microfinance program of World Vision Albania. The institution is focused on micro, small and medium-sized businesses, agribusinesses, in rural and urban areas, to promote entrepreneurship and business development, sustainable development of local communities, support for marginalized groups, in order to fight poverty, contribute to the creation of new jobs, push for the economic growth of the country and social cohesion. Agro & Social Fund’s activity is based on principles such as respect of clients, transparency in communication, confidentiality, non-discrimination, and avoidance of overindebtedness. As a member of Microfinance Centre, it promotes international standards of customer protection and financial education.  Given Agro & Social Fund's daily activity on financial education and customer awareness toward over indebtedness; as part of their mission they have joined the campaign Borrow Wisely. #2019BWC. The BORROW WISELY! campaign draws together a simple checklist of questions for customers to ask themselves before taking a loan, in order to ensure they take on safe and responsible levels of debt.  Throughout the campaign, which runs all October, Agro & Social Fund’s staff will actively approach existing and potential customers with a wide-ranging information campaign, including posters, leaflets and brochures. The institution will partake in organizing campaign presentations at university auditors, as well as joining regional and local activities throughout October 2019.   [post_title] => Agro & Social Fund launches the BORROW WISELY! Campaign [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => agro-social-fund-launches-the-borrow-wisely-campaign [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-11 11:25:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-11 09:25:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143252 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143146 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-09-25 10:55:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-25 08:55:19 [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 24 - The Chinese Embassy to Tirana celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Tuesday evening at the premises of the National History Museum in Tirana with an official reception. The reception was attended by the highest leaders of the Albanian state, President Ilir Meta, Speaker of Parliament Gramoz Ruci, Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the Albania-China Friendship Bashkim Fino and other senior personalities of Albanian political, economic and cultural life, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps in Tirana. After welcoming guests, Ambassador Zhou Ding expressed solidarity with the Albanians who were affected by the strong earthquake during the weekend.  "The Chinese people and the Chinese Embassy will always stand by you and we are ready to help," said Ambassador Zhou Ding.  He pointed out that seven decades after its creation, the People's Republic of China has contributed to more than 30 percent of global growth. The ambassador underlined that China has built the world's largest social security network, reducing the impoverished population from 770 million to less than 20 million.  “China has built the world's largest mobile communications network as well as the largest high-speed rail system,” Mr. Zhou Ding said The Chinese ambassador further added that in the next 15 years China's import of goods and services is expected to exceed $ 30 trillion and $ 10 trillion respectively, which represent huge opportunities for Albania, Europe and the world. Referring to the current developments, Ambassador Zhou Ding guaranteed China's support for Albania's EU membership and assessed that in the framework of the "One Belt One Road" initiative and the "17 + 1" Cooperation Mechanism the two countries have deepened mutual political trust, exchanges and two-way cooperation in trade, education, tourism and human resources. Responding to the interest of the Albanian and Chinese media at the ceremony, President Meta praised the Albanian-Chinese exchanges during the 70 years of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations.   "We are very pleased with the level of current relations between our two countries, as I can underline that for at least two decades relations between the two countries and the two peoples have been excellent and China has made a tremendous contribution to development, modernization, industrialization of Albania in that period ” "We are happy that after a period of stagnation, not due to China's fault, our relations have again returned to this very positive tradition of friendly relations and quite open and beneficial to both our countries and peoples. I am convinced that the prospect of relationships is in all fields and not just in the field of trade, but also in investment in different sectors,” Meta added. The ceremony was accompanied by music, conversation and warm red colors to celebrate Chinese history and culture.    [post_title] => China celebrates 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => china-celebrates-70th-anniversary-of-the-founding-of-the-peoples-republic-of-china [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-30 10:57:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-30 08:57:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143146 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143149 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-09-23 10:58:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-23 08:58:06 [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 23 - The National HIstoric Museum inaugurated on Monday, Sept. 23, the “Belt and Road” Chinese traditional art exhibition, brought for the public by the Chines Embassy to Tirana.  The exhibition, which stayed open for two days only, was followed by the “Musical Encounters Between two Words” concert, which took place in the UNESCO Hall of the museum. Attended by art enthusiasts, friends of the Chinese Embassy to Tirana and artists alike, the exhibition displayed a number of intricate Chinese art forms, starting from Chinese calligraphy, to beautiful paper cutting. Ambassador Zhou Ding expressed gratitude to hold the opening remarks of the exhibition one day before China celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, saying the artwork brought to Albania are some of the most delicate representatives of traditional chinese art. “As you can see, many of these artworks show the friendship between Albania and China. During these 70 years, with all the changes through time and the systemic and cultural differences, this friendship has been planted in the hearts of our people. Among the authors of these artworks are older and middle generation artists, but also young highschool students, which is a happy and encouraging fact, as it means this friendship is being passed to the next generation,” Ambassador Ding said. Adding that Albanian and Chinese art share the same features of openness and inclusiveness which brings them close to each other naturally, the ambassador said the exhibition serves to connect the hearts of both people and invited all guests to enjoy.   [post_title] => National Historic Museum hosts “The Belt and Road” Chinese traditional art exhibition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => national-historic-museum-hosts-the-belt-and-road-chinese-traditional-art-exhibition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-30 11:05:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-30 09:05:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143149 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143051 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-09-11 09:25:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-11 07:25:57 [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 11 - The Spanish Embassy in Albania shared on Tuesday the news of Luz Casal's concert on Saturday, September 14, in Tirana’s amphitheatre by the artificial lake.  It’s Casal’s first time in Albania throughout her artistic career, a concert which will be accompanied by Albanian singer Ardian Trebicka and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Tirana. Casal began her career in Spain in the 1980s with an international presentation, thanks to her collaboration with Pedro Almodovar in the film "Tacones Lejanos".  She has sold over 5 million CDs and has a number of international concerts and is known as one of the most popular solo singers in Spain.  The concert, which will also feature surprises, with the presence of Ardian Trebicka, will be held at the newly-built amphitheater on Saturday, September 14, at 8:00 pm and tickets are on sale at the myticket.al portal. The Spanish Embassy in Albania supports the institutional and logistical activities of the event.    [post_title] => Spanish artist Luz Casal to give concert in Tirana [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => spanish-artist-luz-casal-to-give-concert-in-tirana [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-11 09:25:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-11 07:25:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143051 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142889 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-13 16:33:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:33:18 [post_content] => The novels of Ismail Kadare. By James Wood  Like Trieste or Lvov, the medieval city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has passed its history beneath a sign perpetually rewritten, in different hands, but always with the same words: “Under New Management.” It enters the historical record in 1336, as a Byzantine possession, but in 1418 was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks occupied it in 1912, yet a year later it became part of the newly independent Albania. During the Second World War, it was taken by the Italians, taken back by the Greeks, and, finally, seized by the Germans: “At dusk the city, which through the centuries had appeared on maps as a possession of the Romans, the Normans, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Greeks and the Italians, now watched darkness fall as a part of the German empire. Utterly exhausted, dazed by the battle, it showed no sign of life.” The novelist Ismail Kadare was born in Gjirokastër in 1936, and those words are from the great novel that he drew out of his boyhood experiences of the war, “Chronicle in Stone,” which was published in Albanian in 1971 and in English in 1987. (This kind of lag between Kadare’s Albanian and English-language publications is not uncommon, partly because most of his work has been translated first into French and then turned into English, often by the distinguished scholar David Bellos, who is well known as a translator of Georges Perec.)  Despite the many horrors it describes, “Chronicle in Stone” is a joyful, often comic piece of work, in which the concentrated irony for which Kadare became famous—most notably in his later political parables and allegories of Communism, like “The Concert” and “The Successor”—is already visible. In this early novel, the irony has a more generous warmth. A young boy narrates the events, at once wide-eyed and sophisticated. War arrives, in the form of Italian bombing, British bombing, and, finally, the dark rondo whereby Greek and Italian occupiers arrive and depart from the stage like vicars in an English farce: “At ten in the morning on Thursday the Italians came back, marching in under freezing rain. They stayed only thirty hours. Six hours later the Greeks were back. The same thing happened all over again in the second week of November.” But Kadare is more interested in the kinds of stories that the town might have thrown up at any time in the past thousand years. Townspeople talk of spells, witches, ghosts, and legends. The young narrator discovers “Macbeth,” and reads it obsessively, seeing parallels between medieval Scotland and modern Gjirokastër. A group of old women discuss a neighbor’s son, who has started wearing spectacles, an occurrence that is treated superstitiously, as an omen of disaster. One of the women, Xhexho, says, “How I kept from bursting into tears, I’m sure I don’t know. He walked over to the cabinet, flipped through a few books, then went over to the window, stopped, and took off his glasses. . . . I reached out, picked up the glasses, and put them on. What can I tell you, my friends? My head was spinning. These glasses must be cursed. The world whirled like the circles of hell. Everything shook, rolled, and swayed as if possessed by the devil.” Her interlocutors all agree that a terrible fate has befallen the family of the bespectacled boy. Throughout the novel, these and other neighbors and relatives comment on ordinary events, and this forms a stubborn resistance to the novelty of the occupation. As a mark of how beautifully Kadare blends this atmosphere of the city’s traditional antiquity with the rapidity of wartime development, consider something this same woman, Xhexho, says, when she hears an air-raid siren for the first time: “Now we have a mourner who will wail for us all.” And yet, in an emphasis characteristic of Kadare’s wit, the memory of the past is regularly burlesqued, too:
I had heard that the First Crusade had passed this way a thousand years before. Old Xixo Gavo, they said, had related this in his chronicle. The crusaders had marched down the road in an endless stream, brandishing their arms and crosses and ceaselessly asking, “Where is the Holy Sepulchre?” They had pressed on south in search of that tomb without stopping in the city, fading away in the same direction the military convoys were now taking.
  There is something Monty Python-ish about the Crusaders, miles off course, demanding to see the Holy Sepulchre; and the link to the hopelessness of the modern soldiers is deftly made. The city stands stonily against the new invaders, as it always has: that is Kadare’s own “chronicle in stone.”   As the novel’s co-translator, David Bellos, points out in his introduction, this early book contains many of the elements and motifs that Kadare would work and rework in later fiction. Kadare uses the conventions of realistic storytelling, while feeling free to depart from conventionality whenever necessary; he likes to make use of the premodern liberties of Balkan legend, and deals straightforwardly and practically with such incursions into the texts as ghosts, fables, the living presence of the dead, magical occurrences, and the like. (In this, he sometimes resembles the late José Saramago, another postmodern traditionalist.) The books are formally playful, and often try out different styles of narration so as to find multiple paths to the same material. For instance, “Chronicle in Stone” is frequently interrupted by brief, abbreviated sections, entitled “Fragment of a Chronicle,” which read like newspaper reports, or diaries. In one of these, the author’s family name is fleetingly encountered: “Those killed in the latest bombing include: L.Tashi, L. Kadare. . . .”   Another name found in the novel has even greater resonance than Kadare’s. One day, a notice is posted on a ruined house: “Wanted: the dangerous Communist Enver Hoxha. Aged about 30.” Enver Hoxha, the Communist leader who kept a ruthless and paranoid grip on Albania for forty years, until his death, in 1985, was also born in Gjirokastër, in 1908. The novel does not mention Hoxha again, but his shadow, and the shadow of the regime that he built after the war, darkens the last eighty pages of the book. In one scene, some of the townspeople are deported by the Italians. As a crowd watches, a passerby asks what they have done. Someone else replies, “They spoke against.” “What does that mean? Against what?” the passerby asks. “I’m telling you, they spoke against.” The suppressed referent—“Against what?”—is garish in its silence, and Kadare became a master analyst of this sinister logic of lunacy, in its Communist totalitarian form. Later, Communist partisans start rounding people up. One of them shoots a girl by mistake, and is sentenced to death by fellow-partisans for “the misuse of revolutionary violence.” Just before he is executed, he raises his arm and cries, “Long live Communism!” Though “Chronicle in Stone” ends with the German occupation of the city, it gapes, forebodingly, at the postwar Albanian world.   At the end of the war, though, the nine-year-old Ismail Kadare and the thirty-six-year-old Hoxha were approaching each other like two dark dots on a snowy landscape, still miles apart but steadily converging on the same frozen lake. “Chronicle in Stone” represents an act of political resistance, of the cunning, subtle kind that allowed Kadare to survive Hoxha’s regime, even as some of his books were banned. “The Palace of Dreams,” published in 1981, and more obviously antagonistic, is one of those censored novels. (Although, in an absurdist twist, the book was banned two weeks after its publication, by which time it had sold out.) Like many of Kadare’s books, it is set in an imprecise past shaded by myth, but lit by the glare of totalitarian thought control. The Palace of Dreams is the most important government ministry in the Ottoman Empire, where bureaucrats sift and decode the dreams of the empire’s citizens, all of them working to find the Master Dreams that will help the Sultan in his rule. The novel’s hero, who comes from a prominent political family, rises through the ranks of the ministry; yet he cannot save his own family from political persecution—indeed, he unwittingly precipitates it. Enver Hoxha’s censors must have known at once that this surreal dystopia vividly conjured up, in carefully deflected form, the secret-police apparatus of modern Albania.   The suppression of “The Palace of Dreams” seems to have pushed Kadare beyond the boundaries of suggestion, allegory, implication, and indirection. Certainly, the novella “Agamemnon’s Daughter,” which Kadare wrote in the mid-nineteen-eighties, around the time of Hoxha’s death, is laceratingly direct. It is perhaps his greatest book, and, along with its sequel, “The Successor” (2003), surely one of the most devastating accounts ever written of the mental and spiritual contamination wreaked on the individual by the totalitarian state. Kadare’s French publisher, Claude Durand, has told of how Kadare smuggled some of his writings out of Albania, in 1986, and handed them to Durand, camouflaging them by changing Albanian names and places to German and Austrian ones, and attributing the writing to the West German novelist Siegfried Lenz. Durand collected the rest of this work, on two trips to Tirana, and the manuscripts were deposited in a safe at a Paris bank. As unaware as anyone else that Albanian Communism had only five years left to run, Kadare envisaged this deposit as a sort of insurance policy. In the event of his death, by natural or unnatural causes, the publication of these works would make it “harder,” in Durand’s words, “for the Communist propaganda machine to bend Kadare’s work and posthumous image to its own ends.”
That is a considerable understatement. I’m not sure that any regime could bend “Agamemnon’s Daughter” to its own ends. This is a terrifying work, relentless in its critique. It is set in Tirana in the early nineteen-eighties, during the May Day Parade. The narrator is a young man who works in television, and has unexpectedly been invited to attend the festivities from inside the Party grandstand. The formal invitation is unexpected because the narrator is a passionate liberal, strongly (though privately) opposed to the regime, and because he has recently survived a purge at his television station, resulting in the relegation of two colleagues. On the day of the parade, he cannot stop thinking about his lover, Suzana, who has broken off their relationship because her father is about to be chosen as the supreme leader’s designated successor and has asked his daughter not to jeopardize his career by consorting with an unsuitable man. Chillingly, she tells her lover that when her father explained the situation to her she “saw his point of view.” The novella confines itself to the day of the parade, and is essentially a portfolio of sketches of human ruination—a brief Inferno, in which victims of the regime are serially encountered by our narrator as he walks to the stands and takes his seat. There is the neighbor who watches him from his balcony, “looking as sickly as ever. . . . He was reputed to have laughed out loud on the day Stalin died, which brought his career as a brilliant young scientist to a shuddering halt.” There is Leka B., a theatre director who displeased the authorities and was transferred to the provinces, to run amateur productions. He tells the narrator that he had put on a play that turned out to have “no less than thirty-two ideological errors!” The narrator’s comment is withering: “It was as if he were delighted with the whole business and held it in secret admiration.” There is G.Z., a former colleague, who has survived a purge, though no one knows quite how: “His whole personality and history corresponded in sum to what in relatively polite language is called a pile of shit.” He is likened to the Bald Man in an Albanian folktale, who is rescued from Hell by an eagle—“but on one condition. Throughout the flight, the raptor would need to consume raw meat.” Eventually, since the journey takes several days, the Bald Man has to offer his own flesh to feed the bird, and by the time he makes it to the upper world he is little more than a bag of bones. At the center of “Agamemnon’s Daughter” is an icy reinterpretation of the Iphigenia story. The narrator reflects on Euripides’ play, and on Iphigenia’s apparently willing self-sacrifice, in order to help her father’s military ambitions. He turns the Greek tale around in his mind, and blends it with the remembered pain of Suzana’s departure. Hadn’t Stalin, he thinks, sacrificed his son Yakov, so that he could claim that he was sharing in the common lot of the Russian soldier? But what if the story of Agamemnon is really the story of Comrade Agamemnon—the first great account of absolute political tyranny? What if Agamemnon, in “a tyrant’s cynical ploy,” had merely used his daughter to legitimate warfare? Surely Yakov, “may he rest in peace, had not been sacrificed so as to suffer the same fate as any other Russian soldier, as the dictator had claimed, but to give Stalin the right to demand the life of anyone else.” The narrator realizes, as he watches Suzana’s father standing next to the Supreme Guide on the grandstand, that the Supreme Guide must have asked his deputy to initiate his daughter’s sacrifice. “Agamemnon’s Daughter” ends with this dark, spare, aphoristically alert declamation: “Nothing now stands in the way of the final shrivelling of our lives.” Kadare is inevitably likened to Orwell and Kundera, but he is a far deeper ironist than the first, and a better storyteller than the second. He is a compellingly ironic storyteller because he so brilliantly summons details that explode with symbolic reality. No one who has read “The Successor” (2003) can forget the moment when the Hoxha figure, called simply the Guide, visits the newly renovated home of his designated successor. The Successor’s wife offers to show the Guide around, despite the anxiety felt by others that the lavishness of the renovation may have been a huge political blunder. The Guide stops to examine a new living-room light switch, a dimmer that is the first of its kind in the country:
Silence had fallen all around, but when he managed to turn on the light and make it brighter, he laughed out loud. He turned the switch further, until the light was at maximum strength, then laughed again, ha-ha-ha, as if he’d just found a toy that pleased him. Everyone laughed with him, and the game went on until he began to turn the dimmer down. As the brightness dwindled, little by little everything began to freeze, to go lifeless, until all the many lamps in the room went dark.
In its concentrated ferocity, this has the feel of something very ancient: we might be reading Tacitus on Tiberius.
Alas, there is nothing of quite that high order in Kadare’s most recent novel, “The Accident,” translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Grove; $24). The new book is spare and often powerful, but it is a bit too spare, so that the ribs of allegory show through, in painful obviousness. Many of Kadare’s familiar procedures and themes are in evidence, beginning with the positing of an enigma that needs decoding. One morning in Vienna, sometime not long after the end of the war in Kosovo, a young Albanian couple are killed in a car accident. The taxi that had been taking them from their hotel to the airport suddenly veers off the Autobahn and crashes. The taxi-driver survives, but he can give no reasonable account of why he left the road, except to say that he had been looking in his rearview mirror at the couple, who had been “trying to kiss,” when a bright light distracted him. The accident is suspicious enough to attract various investigators, not least the intelligence services of Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. The dead man, known as Besfort Y., appears to have been an Albanian diplomat, working at the Council of Europe, and may have been involved in nato’s decision to bomb Serbia. Perhaps the woman who died in the car, who was Besfort’s girlfriend, and is known in the reports as Rovena St., knew too much, and Besfort tried to kill her, in a botched plan. But why did Besfort refer to Rovena as “a call girl”? A few months before the accident, he had taken her to an Albanian motel and she had been “frightened for her life.” So a friend of hers tells investigators. Rovena, says the friend, “knew the most appalling things. . . . She knew the precise hour when Yugoslavia would be bombed, days in advance.” The security services give up, in the face of the usual Balkan incomprehensibility, and a mysterious, nameless “researcher” takes over. This authorial stand-in, who works “without funds or resources or powers of constraint,” decides to reconstruct the last forty weeks of the couple’s lives, using diaries, letters, phone calls, and the testimonies of friends:
Everywhere in the world events flow noisily on the surface, while their deep currents pull silently, but nowhere is this contrast so striking as in the Balkans. Gales sweep the mountains, lashing the tall firs and mighty oaks, and the whole peninsula appears demented.
Kadare feeds off this Balkan incomprehensibility: he likes to tease it and tease at it, while simultaneously making fun of people who talk about “Balkan incomprehensibility.” He is deeply interested in misreading, yet his prose has a classical clarity, so that much of his power as a storyteller has to do with his ability to provide an extraordinarily lucid analysis of incomprehensibility. This analysis moves between the comic and the tragic, and never finally settles in one mode. (His amiable and funny novel “The File on H.” reads like an Albanian Evelyn Waugh.) In both the new novel and “The Successor,” we begin with an apparent accident—in the earlier novel, the country’s designated successor has been found in his bedroom, shot dead—that allows Kadare to work through rival explanations. (“The Successor” is based on the “mysterious” death, reported as suicide, of the Albanian Prime Minister, Mehmet Shehu, in 1981. He had been Hoxha’s closest political ally for decades, but after his death he was denounced as a traitor and an enemy of the people, and his family arrested and imprisoned.) The question that haunts both novels is: When did it begin? When, in other words, did “the accident” become inevitable? When did the tide first turn against the Successor? Was it when the Guide failed to come to the Successor’s birthday party, for instance? The blackly surreal answer is, of course, that it has always begun; the tide was turning against the Successor even as he rose through the Party ranks. Likewise, in “The Accident,” one can see that Besfort and Rovena were always doomed, and that the reason, as in “The Successor,” is murkily ideological. The nameless “researcher” discovers that Besfort and Rovena have been together for twelve years. Rovena was a student when she met Besfort, who was older than she, and had come to the university at Tirana to teach international law. From the start, the relationship appears to have been electrically erotic, with Besfort as the seducer and the dominant partner. The novel hints at very rough sex. They agree to part, but soon reunite. The couple meet in various European cities and expensive hotels, exercising a freedom that was unthinkable before the collapse of Communism, their itinerary largely determined by Besfort’s diplomatic travel (where “diplomat” probably also means “spy”). But in Graz, for the first time, Rovena feels that Besfort is suffocating her, a feeling that will mount as the relationship progresses. “You’re preventing me from living,” she tells him, and elsewhere she complains that “he has me in chains . . . he is the prince and I am only a slave,” that “he wanted her entirely for himself, like every tyrant.” To these charges, he replies, “You took this yoke up yourself, and now you blame me?” He had been her liberator, Kadare writes, “but this is not the first time in history that a liberator had been taken for a tyrant, just as many a tyrant had been taken for a liberator.” Partly as a game, and partly as an admission of the terminality of their relationship, the couple begin speaking of themselves as client and call girl. Besfort considers killing her. “The Accident” is a difficult novel. It has a very interrupted form, continually looping back on itself, so that dates and place names seem almost scrambled and the reader must work a kind of hermeneutic espionage on the text. Unlike “Agamemnon’s Daughter” and “The Successor,” the analysis of incomprehensibility here seems quite opaque. Yet, at the same time, the symbolic pressure is a little too transparent. One gathers that Kadare is presenting a kind of allegory about the lures and imprisonments of the new post-Communist tyranny, liberty, and he has Besfort bang home this decoding: “Until yesterday,” he tells Rovena, “you were complaining that it was my fault that you aren’t free. And now you say you have too much freedom. But somehow it’s always my fault.” Besfort is the new liberty that Rovena cannot do without, and to which she is willing to be enslaved, and this freedom is dangerous and frequently squalid. “The Accident” thus offers an interesting reply to the question with which Kadare closes “Agamemnon’s Daughter.” At the end of that novella, the young narrator thinks of the Communist slogan “Let us revolutionize everything,” and asks, rhetorically, “How the hell can you revolutionize a woman’s sex? That’s where you’d have to start if you were going to tackle the basics—you had to start with the source of life. You would have to correct its appearance, the black triangle above it, and the glistening line of the labia.” He means that totalitarianism will always be thwarted by some non-ideological privacy, or surplus, beyond its reach. Kundera has repeatedly explored the same question, with regard to a libidinous erotics of resistance. Yet “The Accident” grimly suggests that it is indeed possible to “revolutionize” a woman’s sex, and that capitalism may be able to do this more easily than Communism. After all, the point about Besfort and Rovena is that their relationship is thoroughly contaminated by ideology and politics; their very postures of submission and domination are overdetermined. In a long speech that is surely at the emotional and ideological heart of the book, Besfort tells Rovena, who was only thirteen at the end of the dictatorship, about the kind of madness that prevailed under Hoxha. He describes a world of crazy inversion, reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s universe, in which citizens willingly pretended to be conspirators, in order to confess their love for the leader while being simultaneously punished for crimes they had not committed. Each plotter, says Besfort, turned out to be more abject than the last:
The conspirators’ letters from prison became more and more ingratiating. Some requested Albanian dictionaries, because they were stuck for words to express their adoration of the leader. Others complained of not being tortured properly. The protocols sent back from firing squads on the barren sandbank by the river told the same story: their victims shouted, “Long live our leader!,” and as they conveyed their last wishes some felt such a burden of guilt that they asked to be killed not by the usual weapons but by anti-tank guns or flamethrowers. Others asked to be bombarded from the air, so that no trace of them would remain. . . . Nobody could distinguish truth from fiction in these reports, just as it was impossible to discern what the purpose of the conspirators, or even the leader himself, might be. Sometimes the leader’s mind was easier to read. He had enslaved the entire nation, and now the adoration of the conspirators would crown his triumph. Some people guessed that he was sated with the love of his loyal followers, and that he now wanted something new and apparently impossible—the love of traitors.
We are back in the world of Leka B., who was oddly proud of his thirty-two ideological errors, and of the partisan in “A Chronicle of Stone” who dies shouting, “Long live Communism!” Kadare also subtly suggests that this dense, overwrought speech might itself be evidence that Besfort is a victim of the totalitarianism that he so despises—that he cannot escape its deformations, its legacies, the memory of its hysteria. But a melancholy thought also casts its shadow. Might this be true of Kadare, too? It is poignant that the most powerful section in the novel returns to old ground and old obsessions, and it is poignant, too, that this allegory of the tyranny of liberty is less effective, as a novel, than Kadare’s earlier allegories of the tyranny of tyranny. Back when he worked within and against totalitarianism, he had the advantage of being sustained by the great subject of the Hoxha regime, like a man sitting on a huge statue. Perhaps it is in the nature of freedom—still, after all, a transitional event in the history of postwar Albania—that a novelist even of Kadare’s great powers will seem, when trying to allegorize it, to stab at clouds. Kadare would not be the only novelist who has found, with the collapse of Communism, that his world has disappeared, however much he longed for the destruction of that world. These are early days yet. ♦ This article appeared on the print edition of the New Yorker. 
[post_title] => Chronicles and Fragments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => chronicles-and-fragments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-13 16:33:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:33:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142889 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142830 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-01 17:26:27 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-01 15:26:27 [post_content] => TIRANA, July 28 - On July 25 the State Minister for the Environment of Japan, as well as Secretary General of Japan-Albania Parliamentary Friendship Association, H.E. Mr. Minoru Kiuchi, visited the National Park of Divjake Karavasta. The purpose of this visit was meeting with the officials of Albanian Government and sharing views on the development agenda in Albania, as well as visiting the project site of DKNP, where Japan has provided technical assistance for development. On this visit, Minister Kiuchi met with the Minister of Tourism and Environment Blendi Klosi as well as high officials of the administration of Protected Areas in Albania, with whom he discussed about the current situation of environment in the country and potential future projects of Japan in Albania.  During this visit, the delegation headed by Minister Kiuchi visited the  Office of Regional Administration of Protected Areas, as well as Observation Tower of Divjaka Karavasta National Park. From April 2012 to September 2014,  the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) implemented in Divjake Karavasta National Park, the “Project for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Divjake Karavasta National Park with Participation of Local Governments and Stakeholders”. The project has established a system for conservation and sustainable use of the Divjake Karavasta National Park based on the management plan, together with the active participation of local governments and stakeholders. As a part of project activities, Japanese side has dispatched experts, provided machinery, equipment and other materials necessary for the implementation of the project, and organized technical training in Japan for enhancing the capacities of the Albanian personnel related to it.   [post_title] => Japan State Minister for Environment visits Divjake National Park [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => japan-state-minister-for-environment-visits-divjake-national-park [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-01 17:26:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-01 15:26:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142830 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142661 [post_author] => 338 [post_date] => 2019-07-12 13:25:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-12 11:25:04 [post_content] => TIRANA, July 11- The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet (TOB) Archive and the National Folk Song and Dance Ensemble archive is rich in various material activities that have been developed over the years. Decades ago Albanian artists have received many appraisals in foreign stages as well. From the archives the institution brings this time attention to the work that has been done in the years before the Ensemble Folk Songs and Dance. The TOB has published photos from the tournament held in China and Korea in 1974. The theatre writes among other things that the great variety of our folklore as well as folk costumes continue to attract the foreign spectators also today. “We extracted from the history of the activities of the Ensemble of Folk Songs and Dances these photos from the tournament developed in China and Korea in the summer of 1974. The songs and dances interpreted by our artists were rated as a fresh and colorful flower bouquet. The great diversity of songs, dances, costumes and rich ensemble repertoire continues to attract the foreign spectators continuously,” the Theatre of Opera and Ballet wrote. The Ensemble of Folk Songs and Dance or the State Ensemble was created in 1957 as a professional ensemble. It consists of singers, orchestras, the dance crew, and choirs. Its purpose is to elaborate, develop and disseminate Albania's folkloric treasury. This includes great folk vocal, instrumental, choreographic and costumography riches ranging from area to area, creating a colorful motif. Albanian folklore is famous for its originality, antiquity and variety of artistic genres. Many ethnographic areas have their differences in songs, dances, costumes, rites and customs. The ensemble’s support to this resource and the various expeditions developed in all areas have made it not only the pride of Albanian traditional culture but also to impress its research and folklore values ​​from around the world. For decades, the ensemble has become a laboratory for processing and interpreting high artistic demands of the great folkloric resource treasury, enabling its transmission through generations.   [post_title] => Folk Ensemble receives international assessments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => folk-ensemble-receives-international-assessments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-12 13:25:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-12 11:25:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142661 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142658 [post_author] => 338 [post_date] => 2019-07-12 13:23:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-07-12 11:23:35 [post_content] => TIRANA, July 11- Adela Muçollari who is the first ballerina of the Opera and Ballet Theater, will represent Albania in the prestigious jury of “Premio Danza 2019” in Rome in its 17th edition this year. One of the most important Italian Academies, the National Academy of Dance, is conducting an annual event where ballet dancers from all over the world can unfold their talents by being assessed by a highly skilled and professional jury. Thus, Tirana's first ballerina is next to maestros from the most prestigious Academies in Seoul, South Korea, Beijing in China, as well as the prestigious Pina Bausch Theater from Germany, to choose the young talents to be the next names of classic and contemporary ballet. Albanian artists of our ballet and opera have created a dignified place in the world art scene, highly appraising the Albanian opera and ballet school. Our singers such as Ermonela Jaho, Saimir Pirgu, Kastriot Tusha, dancers Eno Peci, Anbeta Toromani, Klaidi Kadiu, Eris Nezha, and others, are extolling the name of Albanian artists around the world. The selection of our ballerina Mucollari in this prestigious jury and her participation in Rome these days puts our small country's art on the pedestal it deserves.   [post_title] => Ballerina Adela Mucollari performs in Rome competition [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => ballerina-adela-mucollari-performs-in-rome-competition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-07-12 13:23:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-07-12 11:23:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142658 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143439 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-11-06 20:11:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-06 19:11:42 [post_content] => by Bujar Leskaj The Young ALSAI Scientific Conference has reached its second edition and aims to become a tradition for the institution, as well as a benchmark, forum and experience exchange platform, to encourage the generation of young auditors to continue their professional careers at the SAI, deepening audit knowledge and enhancing cooperation with more experienced auditors and with their peers at partner SAIs in Europe and beyond. The conference is the first activity of ALSAI’s Open Month for Citizens 2019, which has reached its third edition and has become a tradition of transparency and communication for the institution. Through the Open Month, we aim at a comprehensive and continuous communication with the citizens. The theme of the Conference is to address key public audit issues in the context of changes towards Albania's European integration. The themes and sub-themes, as well as prepared and spontaneous presentations and discussions have outlined the key challenges of the Albanian supreme public audit today. The discussions are in line with the orientations and topics dwelt at the INTOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow. The two central themes of Congress were: a- Information technology to develop public administration b- The role of SAIs in achieving national priorities and goals. Using information technology in public administration has evolved from digitalization to the current era of Big Data, which has led to the proliferation and variety of substantial data. Focusing on data as a tool to innovate and optimize the work of public administration has a positive impact on decision-making, increases coordination and enhances accuracy and transparency of public services. The information technology enriches the potential to perceive, predict and manage risk factors, accelerate economic development, improve methodologies and enhance the quality of public service. "The IT well-functioning systems can also improve the delivery of services and programs that are essential to the health, safety and well-being of citizens", emphasized in the Congress Mr. Gene Dodaro, United States Comptroller General. In these years, we set up the Performance Audit Department in October 2012, four years later the Information Technology Audit Department and now we have made the decision and are setting up the Innovation and Systems Audit Department, in full reflection of INTOSAI XXIII-rd Congress orientations. In addressing the second theme, Congress emphasized that as governments are being transformed and adapted to more effectively meet national and global goals, SAIs should be developed similarly, in line with the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 8 "Promoting sustainable and inclusive economic development and full and decent employment" and Goal 12 "Ensuring a sustainable pattern of consumption and production". The XXIII-rd Congress directed SAIs to audit the fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals according to national priorities and goals, shifting audit activities from "process responsibility" to "performance accountability" as a fundamental approach to improving accountability and efficiency in public governance. The approach of Young ALSAI conferences is inspired by the experience of a small group of young auditors from different European countries attending the VII-th EUROSAI Congress in Krakow, Poland in 2008. Their work got crowned in 2013, with the organization of the first Young EUROSAI Conference (the YES Conference) on 21-22 November 2013 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Two more YES conferences followed in November 2015 in Tel Aviv, Israel and in September 2017 in Tallinn, Estonia. Immediate and visible product is the network established in Europe among young auditors. Many YES participants are in constant touch with each other, both professionally and personally. The network that they have started building through meetings at YES conferences provides them with easier access to the audit experiences of their peers in other European SAI-s. It gives them the opportunity to compare their approaches in audit and ask questions, which enhances the quality of their daily work. It also assists them and subsequently their SAIs by identifying issues that arise both in the audit topics and in the processes of governing respective SAIs. The Fourth Young EUROSAI Conference is being held at the same time (November 5-7) in London on "Relevance: Ensuring supreme audit institutions remain relevant in rapidly changing landscapes". This topic has many similarities to the topic selected by the Second Young ALSAI Conference. The question arises: How do we integrate ourselves as SAIs, with the help and contribution of young auditors? As a member of INTOSAI and EUROSAI and a partner of EU-developed SAIs, the ALSAI considers audit capacity building as an ongoing, result-oriented and objective process. Since the beginning of my mandate as ALSAI Chairman, in the strategic platform presented before the Parliamentary Committee on Economy and Finance in December 2011, among the main objectives of the institution, I emphasized “the Development of SAI human resources at the level of INTOSAI standards and in line with country's integration requirements”. During 2012–2019, we worked to enhance SAI auditors’ capacities, by creating a high professional profile of experienced auditors and young auditors, able to withhold knowledge, skills and integrity at the level of European developed SAIs’ auditors. We have tried to recruit as many young auditors we could, convinced of the added value that they bring, thanks to their modern mindset and inclination versus innovative approaches to audit, or to their willingness to promote such approaches at the institution. During 2012-2019, the ALSAI has increased and diversified the professional composition of staff and at the same time, has sensibly reduced staff average age from 50 zears old  in 2011 to 40.8 zears old at the end of 2018. In order to improve their audit performance, acquire new knowledge and techniques, some of the new employees have completed their second bachelor studies or possess professional certificates recognized nationally and internationally. 9 auditors, of whom seven are young auditors, have on-line training certificates developed by IDI, the INTOSAI Development Initiative. Other young auditors have participated in ECA’s international internship and in US GAO’s fellowship programs. In ALSAI, the lifelong and ongoing training process has been operating effectively since 2012. It has been continuously improved and has become a consolidated system, reflecting the central message of the XXII-th INTOSAI Congress “To define professionalism as a an ongoing process by which auditors and their organizations provide SAIs with high levels of expertise, competence, ethical and quality behavior based on professional standards, the ISSAIs”. In the professional development of the auditor, and in particular of the young auditor, we have taken advantage of the innovative approaches of more developed European SAI-s, in particular the European Court of Auditors (ECA). We have considered young auditors’ professional development as a function of complex training through the transformation of experiences from vision to reality, as well as assimilating new knowledge into flexible formats, according to staff positions, as auditors, assistants, experts, audit team leaders or senior management, in the form of alternative learning, or as a mixed approach to maximize results. We have tried to promote alternative and integrated learning - as tools for the success of young auditors. The culture of lifelong learning and ongoing training has coincided with the SAI’s professional development policies, maximizing the need to create sustainable values ​​by applying a systematic professional and ethical learning process, an encouraging and flexible one, capable of dealing with complex situations of present challenges and risks. The SAI has developed innovative training formats for both junior and senior auditors, but especially focused on new recruits, which have led to acquisition of practical skills in auditing. This has been accomplished through leadership training, joint workshops and collaboration with academic staff, as well as overseas training with expert colleagues from European developed SAIs. Such approaches have been the driving and at the same time the inspiring force for managing institutional change in ALSAI, through increased contribution from young auditors. As SAI, we have consolidated the reforms undertaken since 2012 in the management of human resources, focusing on the realization of three key objectives:
  1. Implementing the civil service legislative framework, the INTOSA International Standards on Auditing covering human resources management and the best practices and approaches identified by most developed SAIs such as the ECA, the US GAO, etc.
  2. Developing and installing ethical and integrity values ​​in every new SAI staff member, which is a prerequisite for institutional credibility and the foundation of citizens' trust in the SAI.
  3. Capacity building with a focus on enhancing professionalism and maximizing the productivity of young auditors and support staff.
This human resource management philosophy attempts to fulfill the priority objectives set out in the ISSAI 12 "Values ​​and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions - Making a Difference in Citizens' Life",by providing enhanced professional skills and knowledge of international standards in the field. During the period 2012-2019, ALSAI enabled the transformation from traditional human resource management to more proactive and innovative management, learning from SIGMA training experiences and from experts of advanced partner SAIs, such as the National Audit Office of Poland (NIK), the SAI of Croatia, the Austrian Court of Audit, the Czech SAI, etc., based on the INTOSAI motto “Experentia mutua Omnibus prodest”. The SAI's policy on audit capacity development, supported by its 2013–2017 Development Strategy, revised later and by its  2018-2022 Development Strategy, has aimed at recruiting and promoting capable and dedicated young auditors, hyghly motivated to contribute to individual development and to SAI development. I thank Mr. Joop Vrojlik, Former Senior Adviser to SIGMA, Mr. Robert Gielisse, former Senior Adviser to the European Commission's Directorate General for Budget (DG-Budget) and Mr. Raymond Hill, Team Leader and Senior Advisor to DG-Budget, for their permanent, significant and sometimes decisive contribution to ALSAI's institutional developments.In the context of meeting the objective of a modern human resources management, the ALSAI has taken concrete steps and a number of initiatives for the establishment of an effective human capital management infrastructure and system and the creation of a credible and professional institutional profile versus its main stakeholders – the auditees, the parliament, the media and the public. The effectiveness of HR policies in terms of enhancing professional capacity is evidenced by the indicator about 14 times higher of the average days of training per year per each auditor. So, from 2.1 average days of training in 2011 to an average of 25 days of training for the period 2012-2019, thus reaching the highest level throughout 94 years of existence of this institution. The average days per year for new auditors is 29 days. The ALSAI has orinted its auditors, especially the young ones to the use of digital audit process management information and support system, called RevZone, as an absolute novelty for the institution. RevZone facilitates and completes with the required information the digital guidance in audit. The institution has created a database of IT audit entities (ICTS Database) and developed the Active Information Technology Audit Manual. This electronic manual, with unquestionable value in risk analysis, audit planning and the use of previous audit experience, is a novelty not only for ALSAI but also for the global audit community as a product that was born, tested in a pilot audit and improved with the modest contribution of the ALSAI Information Technology auditors (largely composed of young auditors). It has been presented at several INTOSAI and EUROSAI IT working groups’ events, has been accepted and is being implemented as an innovation in the field of public supreme audit.   The ALSAI has translated INTOSAI's agenda for professionalism, presented at the INCOSAI XXII-nd Congress in December 2016 in Abu d'Habi and reconfirmed and consolidated at the INCOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow into assignments requiring more engagement from public auditors, especiallz from the young ones, to act as professionals, performing the audit work in the right quality and timely, as effectively and efficiently as possible.   The ALSAI, based on the enthusiasm and innovative strength of its young auditors, aspires to be fully capable to make a difference in the lives of Albanian citizens, as defined in the ISSAI 12. This is how our SAI has conceived growth and empowerment of institutional and organizational capacity, becoming the focus of the professional development for its young auditors and not only them, to enable them to deliver value and benefits to the citizen, in the uncompromising fight against corruption and in the work for real improvement of public governance, through auditing with efficiency, effectiveness and economz the use of Albanian taxpayer’s money.   [post_title] => Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => young-auditors-innovation-ambassadors-at-alsai [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-06 20:21:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-06 19:21:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143439 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 31 [name] => Culture [slug] => culture [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 31 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 0 [count] => 3131 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 31 [category_count] => 3131 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Culture [category_nicename] => culture [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 31 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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