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European scientists work to defend the Vjosa River from dam constructions

European scientists work to defend the Vjosa River from dam constructions

A group of 30 scientists from four countries conducted studies in April this year over the Vjosa River in the Poçemi hydropower area. They discovered 300 species living in the area, including two previously unknown species of wildlife, a new

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International Film Festival brings human rights in focus

International Film Festival brings human rights in focus

The International Human Rights Film Festival in Albania (IHRFFA) opened the doors of its 12th edition this Monday in Tirana, for a week of movies and documentaries’ screenings aimed at raising awareness among Albanians concerning human rights issues. The festival,

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No EU enlargement for many years, Juncker says

No EU enlargement for many years, Juncker says

TIRANA, Sept. 13 – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has repeated his views that Western Balkan states will take a long time to join the bloc, but that eventual membership is needed to prevent conflict in the region. Speaking in

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Regional reconciliation needs investment in youth, says OSCE’s Borchardt

Regional reconciliation needs investment in youth, says OSCE’s Borchardt

TIRANA, Sept. 14 – To make sure reconciliation and cooperation in the region endure, there must be investment in the right values among the region’s young people, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, the head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, said Wednesday

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Albanian soprano Inva Mula makes comeback as director, lead performer in ‘Pearl Fishers’

Albanian soprano Inva Mula makes comeback as director, lead performer in ‘Pearl Fishers’

TIRANA, Sept. 14 – Internationally renowned Albanian soprano Inva Mula is making a comeback as a director and lead performer in ‘The Pearl Fishers,’ an opera in three acts by Georges Bizet, a French 19th century composer of the Romantic

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Switzerland marks 25th birthday of Albania embassy opening

Switzerland marks 25th birthday of Albania embassy opening

TIRANA, Sept. 14 – Musical performances, a photo exhibition and a documentary film were some of the events marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Swiss Embassy in Tirana this week. Swiss music duo Timorosso played the Alphorn,

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Italian Moggi-Iuliano duo disappoint in Partizani debut as new Albanian Superliga season kicks off

Italian Moggi-Iuliano duo disappoint in Partizani debut as new Albanian Superliga season kicks off

TIRANA, Sept. 13 – Albania’s Partizani and their new managing Italian duo, former Juventus managing director Lucciano Moggi and ex-defender turned coach Mark Iuliano disappointed in their Superliga debut as title-contenders Partizani conceded a 2-0 home defeat against Laçi who

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Mal Berisha to publish book on Herman Bernstein: Meeting Boaz Nash, a rare gift

Mal Berisha to publish book on Herman Bernstein: Meeting Boaz Nash, a rare gift

A special person was the guest of the U.S. Embassy this week. It was the U.S. Ambassador, Donald Lu who welcomed Boaz Nash to the U.S. Embassy. Mr. Nash is the great-grandson of Herman Bernstein who served as U.S. Ambassador

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Editorial: Albanian society has given up on itself

Editorial: Albanian society has given up on itself

By Jerina Zaloshnja Fildes Hafizi, a mother of two, was killed last week in Tirana by her ex-husband, a crime that exposed the frightening level of violence against women in Albanian society — a society still involved in a transition

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Newly relegated Tirana beat Superliga champions to win 11th Albania Super Cup

Newly relegated Tirana beat Superliga champions to win 11th Albania Super Cup

TIRANA, Sept. 7 – Newly relegated Tirana claimed a surprise victory against Superliga champions Kukes to win their 11th Albania Super Cup, setting a new record in the almost 30-year history of the pre-season fixture between the Albanian Cup and top

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                    [post_content] => A group of 30 scientists from four countries conducted studies in April this year over the Vjosa River in the Poçemi hydropower area.

They discovered 300 species living in the area, including two previously unknown species of wildlife, a new species of fish and a special insect named the Isoperla vjosae.

The international scientists found 40 species that were previously unknown in Albania.

"We wrote a memorandum and asked for a moratorium to stop plans for dam construction over the Vjosa River for at least 3 years, until a detailed geological study of the bedding and flow of this river and its biodiversity is done. This memorandum was signed by several hundred international experts, the most important and most well-known researchers of ecology and rivers all over the world. Environmental assessment has been done in a very wrong way, because it does not show the true damages that will be caused by the construction of these dams in Pocem and Kalivac,” says Prof. Fritz Shiemer from the University of Vienna and coordinator of studies in Vjosa.

The international team of scientists stressed that Vjosa is a river of European importance in terms of biodiversity.

It is the habitat for many species of animals and plants, which are very rare or have completely disappeared in other rivers of Europe.

"If you erect dams in this river with large amounts of sediments, they will be filled with grit within a short time. These dams should be stopped until a thorough study is carried out because we have discovered that the inert of the river can fill the Poçemi dam within 20-30 years," said Dr. Christoph Hauer from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.

He added that in a short time all will be lost from the construction of the Poçemi hydropower plant: the species will disappear, energy production will decrease, because within two decades the reservoir will be filled with sand.

If the hydropower plants on Vjosa, Poçemi and Kalivaç, will be built as planned, many of these living things will disappear as a result of radical change in biological conditions.

Currently, Poçemi is blocked by the court after the residents' complaint and Kalivac is in limbo as an investor pulled out.

However, the risk of Vjosa continues to remain high due to a dozen construction permits that have been issued.

Researchers believe that a comprehensive scientific research program is needed before deciding to issue permits for the construction of hydropower plants in Vjosa.

According to them, a national park would be much more valuable than a hydro power plant that could destroy everything.

The Administrative Court imposed a ban on the works for the Poçemi power plant at the request of a community of residents of the Mallkastra area in southern Albania and the activation of several domestic and foreign environmental organizations.

According to the court, the construction of the Poçemi Hydro Power Plant negatively affects the environment and life of the inhabitants of the village of Kut and the surrounding area and implementation of the project should not be done.

During the judicial investigation it was noted that the legal practice on the Environmental Impact Assessment of the project was not respected and the public exclusion from the mandatory legal processes of project counseling and discussion.

The government on July 2015 adopted a decision on the Poçemi Hydroelectric Power Plant to accept a 35-year unconstrained concession from a Turkish company, awarding it 8-point bonus in the tender that was later developed.

Poçemi Hydropower Plant is part of a technical program aimed at utilizing the Vjosa river cascade for electricity generation in Albania.

The Vjosa Cascade, according to the project prepared before 1990, allowed the construction of nine hydroelectric plants from the 350 meters above sea level where Vjosa enters the territory of Albania up to the 9 meters above sea level near Selenica in the Vlora region.

Another Hydropower Plant construction site on the River Vjosa, that of Kalivac in the district of Tepelena, has been abandoned by after problems faced by the company that had won the concession.

The non-governmental grouping of several environmental organizations in Albania, River Protectors, has demanded the adoption of a three-year moratorium on the development and implementation of hydropower projects across the country.

The group notes that in the 2002-2016 period, 183 concession agreements signed by Albanian governments have been identified for the construction of 524 hydropower plants.

According to the group, about 117 hydro plants are in the works -- 43 are under construction and 364 hydropower plants are planned by the Ministry of Energy but have not yet begun to be built.



Alongside the risk of harming the environment in the way irreversible causing landslide, habitat and biodiversity erosion, changing the water flow regime and flooding, most of the hydropower plants are located in areas of high environmental and social sensitivity, in protected natural areas and in inhabited lands.

The construction of Hydro Power Plants have caused debate, controversy, conflict, protest, and indictment of damages. There were strong feedback from the residents on the construction of the Poçemi Hydro Power Plant in the Vjosa River. Some HPPs in the National Park of Valbona River and the Shebenik National Park -- Jablanica have also been strongly opposed by the communities of residents.

In a study on "Cases of water conflicts related to hydropower development in Albania" carried out by several active environmental organizations, there have been identified at least 18 cases of conflicts related to hydropower during for the period 2012-2016.

In the 18 identified cases are reported six victims closely linked to hydroelectric projects (three victims of work-related accidents, a victim of a HEC-built conflict, one wounded and one attempted murder).

The River Defenders climate study notes than "in none of the conflicting cases identified, the parties have failed to reach official cooperation agreements due to protests or controversies from local residents.

The transformation or acquisition of territory and ecosystems by new users (energy concession companies) have been displaced and removed the traditional right to use water and threatened different layers of society, says the study, adding that about 52% of respondents state that local communities / farmers and peasants are the most affected group.

“In 67% of cases, the reaction started after the machines had started digging in the countryside," the study notes.

(This report was originally published by the Albanian Service of the Voice of America - VoA)

 
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                    [post_content] => The International Human Rights Film Festival in Albania (IHRFFA) opened the doors of its 12th edition this Monday in Tirana, for a week of movies and documentaries’ screenings aimed at raising awareness among Albanians concerning human rights issues. The festival, taking place at the Marubi Film and Multimedia Academy, features thirty-nine movies of various topics, such as radicalism and populism, domestic violence, urban planning and social media communication, and it is open to the public. 

Since its debut in 2006, the festival has attracted an international crowd as much as a domestic one, with human rights organizations operating in Albania (such as OSCE Presence, UNICEF, etc) and a number of Embassies joining the cause of educating people with human rights concepts and worldwide issues.

Theodore S. Orlin, Honorary President of the IHRFFA and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Human Rights Advocacy, stated the following concerning the cultural activity: “Let us consider the human rights issues that impact the lives of people. As we watch these films les us consider the actions we need to advocate to insure that future generations can enjoy life with the ultimate realization that the universal respect of human rights includes the protection of our children, spouses, the elderly, significant others and ourselves. Let us be mindful that there are forces that appeal to popular support that are destructive to human rights.”

A perfect blend between culture and politics, domestic political and legal figures could not be absent from supporting the cause and using the festival as a chance to promote awareness and a deeper understanding of human rights. Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, communicated this aim by saying that “nothing is of more value at these times we are living than an opportunity for dialogue, for it is the very best antidote against the venom of radicalization and populism, these sides of the same coin, which are undoubtedly the greatest challenges of our time.”

Indeed, a great opportunity for dialog was created the third day of the festival, on Wednesday, when the screening of the 2016 Kosovo short movie, titled ‘Home’, was done in the presence of a group of imprisoned Albanian women, brought to the Academy by the authorities as a rehabilitation activity and a way to converse with the outside world.

Written and directed by Kosovo artist More Raça, ‘Home’ is a drama centered on Hava, a woman in her 30-s who, after the death of her parents, lives with her brother and works a poorly paid job. According to traditional Kosovo custom, the inheritance left by her parents belongs to Hava’s brothers, who exclude her from family property and decide to marry her off – not an optimal solution for Hava’s expectations of her future and her sexual preferences.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion among personalities in the field of culture, politics and law. Among them was Arben Çuko, the General Director of prisons in Albania, Xhoi Jakaj, the Director of the Women’s prison ‘Ali Demi’, in Tirana, Bernd Borchardt, Ambassador and Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania and Kujtim Çashku, Albanian director and screenwriter.

Çashku, opening the dialog between the women and the representatives of the political and legal world, said: “We have been trying to expand the communication space for twelve years. I am pleasured to welcome the Director of prisons among us and hope we can foster further activities in the future.” 

The movie touched the imprisoned women, who already seemed grateful to be outside of the institution, and opened an hour long conversation during which they voiced their worries concerning their families and children, while also asking Çuko to be treated more like mothers, sisters, daughters, and less like prisoners, whenever such thing is possible.

To this, Çuko replied that the institution’s methodology is to always separate the individual from the crime, and respect the human rights of the imprisoned individual, by providing activities, rehabilitation and training to further raise their future chances for employment. However, he stated there are certain legal limitations in the ways he could treat the women and the freedoms he could provide them.

Borchardt, on the other hand, spoke in more general terms concerning human rights awareness in Albanian society, and especially those of women.

“Reaching progress in this field,” he said, “and improving the conditions of women in society, is something that societies have to work in themselves. It is also something to ask of courageous women, to work on this direction. The Western European societies have been going through these battles over the last fifty years; to speak about my own country, until 1969 you ended up in prison for same-sexual contacts, and it was only this year that same-sex marriage was introduced.

What the international community can do to support and encourage these processes? First of all, informing about the model of other societies and raise awareness that there are other ways of living together. The second aspect is to provide training for the executive institutions. What the international community can do is provide the training for police to react correctly on such occasions.” 

The screening of Home concluded with Orlin asking the imprisoned women whether they see improvement of their conditions, and whether they see their families and children enough. Orlin stressed that children should never suffer the faults of their parents, thus it is vital that they see their mothers and spend time with them as much as possible. The women admitted to being able to see their families as many times as they asked, and particularly praised the work of Xhoi Jakaj, the Director of the Ali Demi Prison and advocate of women’s rights, as a woman who can be tough but also understanding and empathetic towards their needs and hardships. In response, Jakaj promised she would further advocate for the rights of the women inside and outside Albanian prisons and also expand these activities to further integrate the stigmatized women in our society.

The International Human Rights Film Festival will end on Saturday, the 23rd of September, with a cocktail and closing ceremony which will be attended by directors, writers and all contributing members of the event.

 

SIDONJA MANUSHI
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 13 – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has repeated his views that Western Balkan states will take a long time to join the bloc, but that eventual membership is needed to prevent conflict in the region.

Speaking in his annual the State of the European Union speech, Juncker said a credible enlargement perspective must stay in place for the Western Balkans

“If we want more stability in our neighborhood, then we must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans,” Juncker said, adding “it is clear that there will be no further enlargement during the mandate of this Commission and this Parliament.” The mandates end in 2019.

He added: “No candidate is ready yet. But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number. Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority.”

Albania, through Prime Minister Edi Rama, and other Western Balkan states have expressed repeated frustration that their application to join the European Union is being dragged in time on purpose as the bloc deals with its internal problems relating to Brexit and the economic crisis.

“The opening of negotiations next year is well-deserved by Albania, and it is unjust that this issue continues to be dragged for reasons that are not really related to Albania, by giving new excuses at the every step,” Rama told parliament in a speech this week.

Albania recently downgraded its EU Integration Ministry by turning into a department dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Earlier in the week EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said most Albanians still support EU integration but they must take action to convince Brussels.

“It comes through tireless hard work, continuous reforms, as well as broad and intensive dialogue between all parts of society. This is largely the task of people like you, preparing to play an important role in the accession process,” Hahn said in a speech. “You will need to come up with solutions; you will need to ensure accountability of governance, not only to bring Albanian closer to the European standards but to make the EU a reality for every citizen of your country.”

Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week while in a visit to Italy that the Western Balkans’ EU membership is still the only possible option for the region not to slide back into the ethnic conflicts of the past.

He said that Albania hopes in a Brussels decision to launch the accession negotiations as soon as possible in view of the implementation of the justice system reform and the holding of problem-free parliamentary elections.

Meta added that an EU perspective guarantees peace and prosperity for Albania and the entire region, and if the EU integration process was to fail the Western Balkans countries would go back to the ways of the past, marked by nationalism and bilateral conflicts.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133768" align="alignright" width="300"](Photo credit: OSCE Presence in Albania/Facebook) (Photo credit: OSCE Presence in Albania/Facebook)[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 14 - To make sure reconciliation and cooperation in the region endure, there must be investment in the right values among the region’s young people, Ambassador Bernd Borchardt, the head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, said Wednesday at the opening event for Youth Trail, an initiative aiming to promote the OSCE values among young people in the Western Balkans.

The initiative involves 40 young people from Western Balkan countries engaged in a program of training and discussion sessions, as well as social and outdoor activities that are being held in and around the Albanian capital from 13 to 17 September 2017.

“We invited you here to meet other young people from the region, to become friends and to discuss best practices in areas of OSCE engagement. And also to have some fun,” Ambassador Borchardt told the young people from across the region attending the event. “But we also expect views, results, input from you – for our work.”

The event was held conjunction with the Tirana Municipality and the Regional Youth Cooperation Office and is financially supported by the Austrian Development Agency.

Youth Trail also highlights 2017 as the 20th anniversary of OSCE Presence in Albania, in the spirit of the OSCE Presence work on democracy, co-operation, peace and security as core OSCE values.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 14 - Internationally renowned Albanian soprano Inva Mula is making a comeback as a director and lead performer in ‘The Pearl Fishers,’ an opera in three acts by Georges Bizet, a French 19th century composer of the Romantic era.

The 54-year-old soprano who has performed in some of the world's best Opera Houses, including Paris, Milan and provided the voice of the 'Diva' alien in “The Fifth Element” Hollywood movie, will be the opera director and perform the lead role of Leila in the piece opening the new Opera House season following the summer break.

The opera scheduled to make its premiere on Friday, Sept. 22 is making its third comeback 27 years after it was last staged in 1990, just before the collapse of the country's communist regime, with Inva Mula as a lead performer.

In 1964, when the opera made its Albania premiere, it was Nina Mula, Inva Mula’s mother, a late Russian-Albanian soprano who moved to Albania in the late 1950s after marrying Albanian composer Avni Mula, who performed the role of Leila.

Opera House director Zana Çela described the opera stage as a big event opening the September-December opera season.

Albanian and international singers will be performing for three nights at the Palace of Congresses on Sept. 22, 24 and 25 in the opera set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon and describing a moving tale of friendship tested by love.

The famous friendship duet (‘Au fond du temple saint’), performed by two of the central characters Zurga and Nadir, is considered one of opera’s most famous and instantly recognizable arias.

The last time Inva Mula staged an opera as a director and lead performer was in mid-2015 with Pagliacci, an opera in two acts by Italy’s Ruggero Leoncavallo, with a message to stop violence against women in Albania.

Soprano Ermonela Jaho, tenors Saimir Pirgu and Josif Gjipali, baritone Gezim Myshketa are some of Albania's most sought-after stars performing on internationally renowned stages.

With the landmark Opera House building in Tirana’s central square under reconstruction, the opera will be performed at the Palace of Congresses.

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 undergoing renovation under a €8.6 million government funded project.

The 30-month reconstruction launched in January 2017 is scheduled to 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.
                    [post_title] => Albanian soprano Inva Mula makes comeback as director, lead performer in ‘Pearl Fishers’
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133759" align="alignright" width="300"]Alphorn players opening the 25th anniversary of the Swiss representation in Albania. © FDFA Alphorn players opening the 25th anniversary of the Swiss representation in Albania. © FDFA[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 14 - Musical performances, a photo exhibition and a documentary film were some of the events marking the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Swiss Embassy in Tirana this week.

Swiss music duo Timorosso played the Alphorn, a traditional Swiss music instrument, at an anniversary event held at the Center for Openness and Dialogue at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tirana, bringing together diplomats and government representatives from both countries.

In a photo exhibition, Albanian photographer Roland Tasho who has traced Albanian migrant communities around the world, showcased successful examples of Swiss people living in Albania as well as Albanians living in Switzerland.

‘Dealing with the Past,’ the latest Swiss-Albanian production that tells seven short stories of communist times from the perspective of seven different protagonists also made its premiere.

Film directors Switzerland’s Eric Bergkraut and Albania’s Kujtim Çashku worked with Marubi film school students to create this new mosaic of life stories and shed new light on the touchy subject of Albania’s totalitarian past.

Some 250,000 Albanians, originally from Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia, live in Switzerland, making it one of the largest migrant communities.

“Today, around 250,000 people living in Switzerland have ties to the Albanian language area. These human ties have paved the way for our bilateral relations to develop,” said Nicolas Brühl, the Assistant State Secretary of the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs.

Switzerland is the third biggest bilateral donor in Albania. The Swiss government started to support Albania in the early 1990s by providing humanitarian aid. Since the opening of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) in Tirana in 1997 Switzerland is supporting Albania’s transition with a steadily growing, full-fledged programme in four different domains through with more than 20 Million CHF (€17.4 mln) per year.

In his speech, Swiss Ambassador Christoph Graf emphasized the strong ties between Switzerland and Albania and Albania’s progress during the past quarter of a century following the collapse of the communist regime.

“Albania is engaged in a dynamic reform agenda and committed to move forward. That is one reason and a good reason that Switzerland continues to support Albania on its path towards European integration,” Swiss Ambassador Graf was quoted as saying in a statement by the embassy.

Two former Swiss diplomats in Albania, Christian Schmed, Deputy Head of Mission from 1992 to 1997 and Francis Cousin, Swiss Ambassador from 2000-2002, shared their memories and experiences confirming Albania’s fast progress.

The opening group stage match at the Euro 2016 in France was special for both Albania and Switzerland with Albania's Basel midfielder Taulant Xhaka and current Arsenal playmaker and Swiss international Granit Xhaka, becoming the first two brothers to face each other for different national sides in a European competition. The Xhaka brothers were born in Switzerland to Kosovo-Albanian parents.

In an interview for Tirana Times ahead of the June 11, 2016 match, Swiss Ambassador Graf described the encounter, Albania's first at a European championship, as "a unique opportunity to celebrate the close relations and the friendship between Albania and Switzerland.”

 
                    [post_title] => Switzerland marks 25th birthday of Albania embassy opening
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133743" align="alignright" width="300"]Partizani President (C) Gazmend Demi shakes hands with Mark Iuliano, Lucciano Moggi (R) Partizani President Gazmend Demi (C) shakes hands with Mark Iuliano, Lucciano Moggi (R)[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 13 - Albania's Partizani and their new managing Italian duo, former Juventus managing director Lucciano Moggi and ex-defender turned coach Mark Iuliano disappointed in their Superliga debut as title-contenders Partizani conceded a 2-0 home defeat against Laçi who hardly managed to escape relegation last season.

Partizani, who are hoping to make a decades-long comeback as Superliga champions after finishing second in the past two seasons, hired former Juventus managing director Lucciano Moggi as adviser to president Gazmend Demi, former Juventus defender Mark Iuliano as the club’s new coach and transferred striker Edgar Çani from Pisa who were relegated from Serie B in the past season.

The opening Superliga campaign last weekend was a complete failure for the Reds who despite creating a lot of scoring opportunities failed to convert and conceded two second half goals, one of which following a blunder by substitute goalkeeper Xhika who replaced captain Alban Hoxha, punished on the bench for breach of club discipline.

Partizani now face an even tougher encounter with reigning champions Kukes in the second Superliga week in another home fixture that will be played in Tirana's 'Selman Stermasi' stadium on Sept. 18.

The encounter will be the best test for Partizani to show their strength against one of the direct title rivals along with Skenderbeu.

Speaking to reporters after Partizani debut defeat, Lucciano Moggi defended the club's decision to punish Albanian international Alban Hoxha, the long-serving Partizani captain for breach of rules after he was called up for Albania's two qualifiers with Liechtenstein and Macedonia in early September.

"We preferred undertaking the risk because it's better losing one game and adhering to the rules," Moggi told daily Panorama Sport in an interview.

"The team dominated the game and we conceded the goals because of our own mistakes in two counterattacks. There is nothing to worry about the opening game. It's better that it happened now as we have time to learn lessons and understand what we have to do," he added.

The 80-year-old Italian transfer guru, who is suffering a lifetime ban from Italian football for his role in the 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal, was hired as Partizani adviser in late April 2017.

Moggi has earlier announced he targets turning Partizani into “a little Juventus.”

“I am not an official with a say in Partizani’s decision-making, but an adviser to President Demi. As such, I have advised the president to create a ‘little Juventus’ which means doing what I achieved with that club, with Torino or Napoli, the establishment of a youth basis because a team cannot only rely on purchases, but also sales,” the 80-year-old has said in a TV interview.

Once the most successful Albanian club under communism, Partizani have won the national league 15 times, but have been trophyless since 1993.

In the other Superliga opening games, reigning champions Kukes narrowly beat newly promoted Kamza 1-0 while Skenderbeu claimed a 2-0 home win with Flamurtari.

South-east Albania-based Skenderbeu, the most successful Albanian club of the past decade, were the only Albanian team to shine on international stage this summer, claiming a second Europa League group stage qualification. They are also this year’s favourites to win the Albanian Superliga.

Skenderbeu will play their opening Europa League group stage match on Sept. 14 away to Ukraine's Dynamo Kyiv, considered a favorite to make it to the knockout stage. Serbia's FK Partizan and Switzerland's Young Boys are the two other opponents Skenderbeu will play in the group stage fixtures scheduled from September to December.

Albania's most successful top flight club Tirana is missing in this season's Superliga following its surprise first-ever relegation last season after about a century in the top Albanian league. The record 24-times Superliga champions recently beat Superliga champions Kukes to win their 11th Albania Super Cup.

Tirana have been drawn in Group B of the First Division with Apollonia, Bylis and Shkumbini as the toughest among the 10 clubs fighting for promotion to the Albanian Superliga.

Tirana, who have hired Brazilian coach De Maria, now face the tough task of making it to the Albanian Superliga and bringing back irritated fans to the stadium.

The capital city team will play their opening First Division match at home to modest Fushe-Kruja-based Iliria on Sept. 16.
                    [post_title] => Italian Moggi-Iuliano duo disappoint in Partizani debut as new Albanian Superliga season kicks off
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_133713" align="alignright" width="300"]Ambassador Lu welcomes Boaz Nash, the great-grandson of Herman Bernstein who served as U.S. Ambassador to Albania from 1930 to 1933. Photo: U.S. embassy Tirana  Ambassador Lu welcomes Boaz Nash, the great-grandson of Herman Bernstein who served as U.S. Ambassador to Albania from 1930 to 1933. Photo: U.S. embassy Tirana[/caption]

A special person was the guest of the U.S. Embassy this week. It was the U.S. Ambassador, Donald Lu who welcomed Boaz Nash to the U.S. Embassy. Mr. Nash is the great-grandson of Herman Bernstein who served as U.S. Ambassador to Albania from 1930 to 1933. According to the Embassy, Ambassador Lu gave Boaz a tour of his great-grandfather’s former residence and workplace.

Exactly the important mark that Herman Bernstein left on the development of U.S.-Albania relations has since long aroused the interest of the distinguished Albanian diplomat, Mr. Mal Berisha who has written a book about it.

The book, titled "The American in the Royal Court of King Zog" is an outcome of a long, systematic and dedicated work by Mr. Berisha. It will cast light on the connections of the remarkable U.S.-Jewish personality, Herman Bernstein with Albania.

The book, which will include Mr. Bernstein's most selected works and his activity as a diplomat in Albania, is about to see the light soon.  This was confirmed by the author on his official Facebook account.

“A few weeks have been left from the moment that my book on the life of U.S. Ambassador, Herman Bernstein (1930-1933), under the care of Prof. Dr. Bardhyl Musaj, will see the light,” says Mr. Berisha.

But that is not all. He had the unique opportunity to meet with Mr. Boaz Nash on the eve of the book publication.

“As a rare gift, exactly on the eve of the book publication, came the meeting with Bernstein’s great-grandson, the scientist Boaz Nash, who was referred by YIVO Institute of Jewish Research in New York. The meeting was made under the care of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana,” the well-known diplomat said in his Facebook posting.

[caption id="attachment_133716" align="alignright" width="300"] Mal Berisha (R) and Boaz Nash[/caption]

According to the Ambassador, “this was an ideal chance to learn about Boaz but even to tell him many things which he wanted to know about his ancestors.”

“The grandmother of Boaz, the daughter of Herman Bernstein, called Dorothy, was married with his grandfather, Actius Nash, a student from France on October 17, 1930. The wedding ceremony was conducted at the Tirana Municipality with the blessing of the then mayor, Rexhep Jella. Dorothy was also a co-author in the translation into English of Aleksander Moisiu’s drama - “I BURGOSURI” (The Prisoner), written in German and dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte. More about Herman Bernstein and his great- grandson, Boaz Nash to come in the book that will see the light very soon.
Proud to be Albanian,” concludes the diplomat.

Soon after the meeting with the Albanian diplomat, Nash has reacted by appreciating the efforts of Mr. Berisha in writing about his great-grandfather and his relations with Albania and the Jewish people.

"It was an honor and a pleasure to meet Mr. Berisha in Tirana. This was my first trip to Albania, and I hope to have another opportunity to return. I'm appreciative of Mr. Berisha's efforts to bring out the history of my great-grandfather with regard to Albania and its relation with the Jewish people. I am looking forward to the book he is publishing! I hope to be able to read an English translation some day!,” he said.

In one of his previous posting on this book, Mr. Mal Berisha clarifies that "To give an idea on Mr. Bernstein, I must say that he was a friend of three U.S. Presidents, namely Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) and Herbert Hoover (1929-1933). He interviewed some of the most famous people in the world such as Leo Tolstoy, Leon Trotsky, Auguste Rodin, George Bernard Shaw, Sigmund Freud, Aleksander Moisiu and above all, he had a personal friendship with Albert Einstein,"

Mr. Berisha is distinguished for the particular topics he chooses to treat in his books. He has captured the attention of the public with his soft-spoken articulation of the issues and expert-based approach to diplomatic relations of Albania, appearing in the majority of the national news outlets of the country and abroad.
                    [post_title] => Mal Berisha to publish book on Herman Bernstein: Meeting Boaz Nash, a rare gift
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                    [post_date] => 2017-09-08 10:45:34
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                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja

[caption id="attachment_133704" align="alignright" width="300"]Fildes-Hafizi-1 Late judge Fildes Hafizi[/caption]

Fildes Hafizi, a mother of two, was killed last week in Tirana by her ex-husband, a crime that exposed the frightening level of violence against women in Albanian society -- a society still involved in a transition that has been taxing, chaotic and violent -- and which is unable to protect women, mothers and girls from violence. The failure is not the society’s alone. All state institutions failed in their duties to protect her too.

The case of Fildes Hafizi, just like dozens of other cases of violence against women that often ends up in murder, has conclusively demolished Albania’s facade of a modern and advanced society resembling other European societies. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of the state facade of a gender-balanced government and the increased number of women in governance.

But there is more.

Fildes Hafizi was a judge, and that takes this case to an entire different level. Courts, prosecutors, police, the High Council of Justice, and all other relevant bodies failed not just to protect the life of a woman and mother -- but a judge too. To make things worse for authorities, this judge had asked for help from all the relevant state institutions.  She was failed by them all.

The sort of extreme violence she suffered goes against the very foundations of a democratic society and her murder is proof the Albanian state cannot provide security and fundamental freedoms to mothers and victims of domestic violence -- a fact that has been a public secret for years.

But it gets worse.

In addition to asking for help officially from prosecutors, judges, police chiefs -- even the High Council of Justice -- Fildes Hafizi also wrote a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Tirana, asking him to help protect her life. This is not an uninformed citizen we are talking about. It’s about a judge that knows the system well and believes that seeking help from a foreign diplomat is the safest bet to protect her life from threats. It's a deserved slap in the face of Albanian institutions that routinely fail to protect victims. Fildes Hafizi is proof of the failure of the state, the justice system and law enforcement -- it’s proof this society is morally bankrupt. When there was nothing else she could do, the last appeal was to the U.S. ambassador.

Her appeal was not unique. In a territory that has nominally a state and a government, the U.S. ambassador is seen as the last appeal for all sort of issues. At times, EU and other international representatives are also thrown in the mix. Victims of the communist regime looking for compensation from the state write to the ambassadors, media have routinely reported in the past. People stripped of their properties during communism also write as they receive no solutions from the Albanian state. Relatives of the victims of the January 21 demonstration also write. The list goes on.

When President George W. Bush visited Albania, soon after he received a letter from an Albanian retirees organization protesting the Albanian government’s failure to increase their pensions. This is a true story, and not meant as a joke. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

And then there are political representatives, the elected officials, the highest state representatives too -- always complaining to ambassadors when the government or the opposition does something they don’t like -- seeking international mediation for mundane and perpetual crisis.

The writing is on the wall: Albanian society has given up on itself.

Why else would there be a pervasive culture of humiliating dependence in place? Where is this unconditional surrender coming from, this total and fatal dependence on foreigners, even if they are representatives of great countries that want to see Albania do well?

Montenegro is a tiny country of 600,000, but neither judges nor politicians make it a trend of writing letters to U.S. and EU ambassadors. Croatia is about the size of Albania, and we don’t dare to think about a Croatian judge having to ask for help to save her life from an American, French or German ambassador, or even the head of the EU delegation.

There is not country on earth where salvation, a great life and prosperity have been gifted from outside. It has not happened, and it will not happen, and as long as Albanians believe that is the case, the situation will continue to be helpless.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Albanian society has given up on itself 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 7 – Newly relegated Tirana claimed a surprise victory against Superliga champions Kukes to win their 11th Albania Super Cup, setting a new record in the almost 30-year history of the pre-season fixture between the Albanian Cup and top league winners.

A long-range left-footed shot by defender Erion Hoxhallari just before injury time gave Tirana a deserved victory over Kukes who played in 10 men for 60 minutes. The winner also avoided extra time and possible penalty shootout as north-east Albania-based Kukes with not much history in Albania’s top flight were seeking a second consecutive Super Cup victory.

The Super Cup victory is a morale booster for Tirana, the country’s most successful club who will be playing in the First Division this season following their humiliating relegation from the Albanian Superliga after about a century in the top flight of Albanian football.

Having played in the top Albanian league for only the past five years, but finishing second three times, north-east Albania-based Kukes made history in the Albanian Superliga last season as they claimed their first title.

Both Kukes and Tirana were eliminated in the first rounds of their Champions League and Europa League qualifying campaigns. South-east Albania-based Skenderbeu, the most successful Albanian club of the past decade, were the only Albanian team to shine on international stage this summer, claiming a second Europa League group stage qualification.

Tirana, who have hired Brazilian coach De Maria, face the tough task of making it to the Albanian Superliga and bringing back irritated fans to the stadium.

"It was a good season start, the team beat the champions playing beautiful football. We are sorry to have been demoted but this is an incentive to make it to the top flight again," said Ze Maria, a former Brazilian international who spent most of his career as a right back with Italian clubs until the mid-2000s.

Tirana have been drawn in Group B of the First Division with Apollonia, Bylis and Shkumbini as the toughest among the 10 clubs fighting for promotion to the Albanian Superliga.

The capital city team will play their opening First Division match at home to modest Fushe-Kruja-based Iliria on Sept. 16.
                    [post_title] => Newly relegated Tirana beat Superliga champions to win 11th Albania Super Cup
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            [post_date] => 2017-09-20 13:17:06
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            [post_content] => A group of 30 scientists from four countries conducted studies in April this year over the Vjosa River in the Poçemi hydropower area.

They discovered 300 species living in the area, including two previously unknown species of wildlife, a new species of fish and a special insect named the Isoperla vjosae.

The international scientists found 40 species that were previously unknown in Albania.

"We wrote a memorandum and asked for a moratorium to stop plans for dam construction over the Vjosa River for at least 3 years, until a detailed geological study of the bedding and flow of this river and its biodiversity is done. This memorandum was signed by several hundred international experts, the most important and most well-known researchers of ecology and rivers all over the world. Environmental assessment has been done in a very wrong way, because it does not show the true damages that will be caused by the construction of these dams in Pocem and Kalivac,” says Prof. Fritz Shiemer from the University of Vienna and coordinator of studies in Vjosa.

The international team of scientists stressed that Vjosa is a river of European importance in terms of biodiversity.

It is the habitat for many species of animals and plants, which are very rare or have completely disappeared in other rivers of Europe.

"If you erect dams in this river with large amounts of sediments, they will be filled with grit within a short time. These dams should be stopped until a thorough study is carried out because we have discovered that the inert of the river can fill the Poçemi dam within 20-30 years," said Dr. Christoph Hauer from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.

He added that in a short time all will be lost from the construction of the Poçemi hydropower plant: the species will disappear, energy production will decrease, because within two decades the reservoir will be filled with sand.

If the hydropower plants on Vjosa, Poçemi and Kalivaç, will be built as planned, many of these living things will disappear as a result of radical change in biological conditions.

Currently, Poçemi is blocked by the court after the residents' complaint and Kalivac is in limbo as an investor pulled out.

However, the risk of Vjosa continues to remain high due to a dozen construction permits that have been issued.

Researchers believe that a comprehensive scientific research program is needed before deciding to issue permits for the construction of hydropower plants in Vjosa.

According to them, a national park would be much more valuable than a hydro power plant that could destroy everything.

The Administrative Court imposed a ban on the works for the Poçemi power plant at the request of a community of residents of the Mallkastra area in southern Albania and the activation of several domestic and foreign environmental organizations.

According to the court, the construction of the Poçemi Hydro Power Plant negatively affects the environment and life of the inhabitants of the village of Kut and the surrounding area and implementation of the project should not be done.

During the judicial investigation it was noted that the legal practice on the Environmental Impact Assessment of the project was not respected and the public exclusion from the mandatory legal processes of project counseling and discussion.

The government on July 2015 adopted a decision on the Poçemi Hydroelectric Power Plant to accept a 35-year unconstrained concession from a Turkish company, awarding it 8-point bonus in the tender that was later developed.

Poçemi Hydropower Plant is part of a technical program aimed at utilizing the Vjosa river cascade for electricity generation in Albania.

The Vjosa Cascade, according to the project prepared before 1990, allowed the construction of nine hydroelectric plants from the 350 meters above sea level where Vjosa enters the territory of Albania up to the 9 meters above sea level near Selenica in the Vlora region.

Another Hydropower Plant construction site on the River Vjosa, that of Kalivac in the district of Tepelena, has been abandoned by after problems faced by the company that had won the concession.

The non-governmental grouping of several environmental organizations in Albania, River Protectors, has demanded the adoption of a three-year moratorium on the development and implementation of hydropower projects across the country.

The group notes that in the 2002-2016 period, 183 concession agreements signed by Albanian governments have been identified for the construction of 524 hydropower plants.

According to the group, about 117 hydro plants are in the works -- 43 are under construction and 364 hydropower plants are planned by the Ministry of Energy but have not yet begun to be built.



Alongside the risk of harming the environment in the way irreversible causing landslide, habitat and biodiversity erosion, changing the water flow regime and flooding, most of the hydropower plants are located in areas of high environmental and social sensitivity, in protected natural areas and in inhabited lands.

The construction of Hydro Power Plants have caused debate, controversy, conflict, protest, and indictment of damages. There were strong feedback from the residents on the construction of the Poçemi Hydro Power Plant in the Vjosa River. Some HPPs in the National Park of Valbona River and the Shebenik National Park -- Jablanica have also been strongly opposed by the communities of residents.

In a study on "Cases of water conflicts related to hydropower development in Albania" carried out by several active environmental organizations, there have been identified at least 18 cases of conflicts related to hydropower during for the period 2012-2016.

In the 18 identified cases are reported six victims closely linked to hydroelectric projects (three victims of work-related accidents, a victim of a HEC-built conflict, one wounded and one attempted murder).

The River Defenders climate study notes than "in none of the conflicting cases identified, the parties have failed to reach official cooperation agreements due to protests or controversies from local residents.

The transformation or acquisition of territory and ecosystems by new users (energy concession companies) have been displaced and removed the traditional right to use water and threatened different layers of society, says the study, adding that about 52% of respondents state that local communities / farmers and peasants are the most affected group.

“In 67% of cases, the reaction started after the machines had started digging in the countryside," the study notes.

(This report was originally published by the Albanian Service of the Voice of America - VoA)

 
            [post_title] => European scientists work to defend the Vjosa River from dam constructions
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