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Astir residents protest Great Ring project, as opposition warns of corrupt affair

Astir residents protest Great Ring project, as opposition warns of corrupt affair

TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Over the last two weeks, residents living in the Astir area – soon to be part of a construction project that foresees demolishing a number of houses and buildings – have been protesting and calling on

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President Meta attends hundredth anniversary of WWI armistice in Paris

President Meta attends hundredth anniversary of WWI armistice in Paris

TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Albanian President Ilir Meta was invited by French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to attend the commemoration ceremony of the hundredth anniversary of the World War I armistice, which took place at the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris.

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Albania makes Greek-Cypriot politician and 52 Greek citizens ‘personae non-gratae’

Albania makes Greek-Cypriot politician and 52 Greek citizens ‘personae non-gratae’

TIRANA, Nov. 11 – The Albanian foreign ministry announced on Friday the Cypriot, Euro Parliamentarian Eleni Theocharous is now a ‘persona non-grata,’ after the latter attended on Thursday the Greek minority member’s Kostantinos Katsifas funeral service in Bularat, Gjirokaster, where

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President-PM debate on Albania’s new MoI persists, as Meta inquires answers

President-PM debate on Albania’s new MoI persists, as Meta inquires answers

TIRANA, Nov. 11 – Albanian President Ilir Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama publicly exchanged commentary again on Saturday, when Rama re-sent his proposal to make General Sander Lleshi the country’s new interior minister to Meta to decree, although Meta

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Albanians still lead region’s youth migration, with 79 percent looking to leave

Albanians still lead region’s youth migration, with 79 percent looking to leave

TIRANA, Nov. 8 – The ever-increasing trend of Albanian youth to leave the country as soon as possible has lowered chances for the country’s economy to improve, as experts have claimed for years it’s particularly this part of the society

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Nationalistic sentiments take over Katsifas’ funeral service

Nationalistic sentiments take over Katsifas’ funeral service

TIRANA, Nov. 8 – Albanian police took drastic measures on Thursday at the Kakavije border point between Greece and Albania, as thousands of Greeks were expected to cross in order to attend the funeral of Konstantinos Katsifas, who died on

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Appointment of Albania’s new chief spy decreed by president after one year hanging

Appointment of Albania’s new chief spy decreed by president after one year hanging

TIRANA, Nov. 6 – Albanian President Ilir Meta announced on Tuesday he signed the decree appointing Helidon Bendo as the new Director of the State Intelligence Service (SHISH). Bendo, who has so far served as deputy director of SHISH, was

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Albania sets local elections date, as lack of electoral reform remains major issue

Albania sets local elections date, as lack of electoral reform remains major issue

TIRANA, Nov. 6 – On Monday, it was announced the upcoming local elections will be held on June 30, 2019, as per President Ilir Meta’s decision, although the countries government and opposition still haven’t agreed on the electoral reform. Last

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Rama-Meta clash turns into show of political strength

Rama-Meta clash turns into show of political strength

TIRANA, Nov. 6 – The clash between Albania’s President Ilir Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama to appoint General Sander Lleshi as the new interior minister, after Fatmir Xhafaj resigned last weekend, seem to have turned into a show of

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PM Rama makes Lleshi deputy MoI following president’s rejection

PM Rama makes Lleshi deputy MoI following president’s rejection

TIRANA, Nov. 5 – After Albania’s President Ilir Meta rejected Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to make Sander Lleshi the country’s new interior minister, Rama appointed Lleshi as deputy minister of interior on Monday morning. After a meeting with the

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 12 - Over the last two weeks, residents living in the Astir area - soon to be part of a construction project that foresees demolishing a number of houses and buildings - have been protesting and calling on the government to guarantee them compensation for their properties.

On Monday, after protesting for about two hours in front of Tirana’s Municipality building and asking for a meeting with Mayor Erion Veliaj or any municipality representative authorized to give information, the protesters said Tuesday, Nov. 13, is the deadline to have a meeting or else they warned to block Unaza e Madhe (Great Ring road) for good. 

“We will not free the road until we are given a solution to our problem,” protesters said, as they blocked one of the main roads in Tirana’s centre, creating heavy traffic.

One of the protesters who gave a declaration for local media during the protest, said his son’s wife had ended up in prison for protesting the road expansion project foreseeing the demolition of their houses.

“They took my son’s wife to give birth in prison. There are men in that house, not just women. They cannot step over all these people,” the Astir resident told local media.

In front of the municipality, protesters also started chanting anti-government statements, such as warnings that their houses will be demolished over their dead bodies. 

The protests, which began right after the Head of Road Authority Afrim Qendro and other officials announced on Nov. 5 that “317 objects will be touched by the Great Ring road expansion project,” have been ongoing over the last two weeks at the Astir area and have even turned violent at times.

Residents have time and time again blocked the traffic in both axes at the Astir road, continuously calling for a complete compensation of all the people living in the buildings to be demolished, as opposed to those who already have property ownership titles, as the government plans on doing.

Another reason behind the aggravated protests is the residents’ claims the government did not warn them enough time in advance of the plan to demolish the houses and only give compensation to those who have already received their property ownership titles.

The protests have turned violent as drivers passing at Astir have physically confronted and tried to remove residents, while on Saturday the cameraman of a private media who was doing field reporting was punched by an angry driver.

 

The government’s plan

Last Monday, Nov. 5, Head of Road Authority Afrim Qendro, Head Inspector of the National Inspectorate of Territory Defense Dallendyshe Bici and Tirana Deputy Mayor Arbri Mazniku, among others, gave a press conference regarding the Great Ring road project.

Qendro said that during the project’s tracking phase around 317 projects will be demolished, 163 out of which are under legalization and will be disqualified and 123 hold property ownership titles and will receive compensation.

He added there is no other kind of information for the remaining objects in the area.

“We are in the first phase of object tracking. As soon as we have the approving status from the Real Estate Registration Office, we will begin demolishing the objects. But we will wait for the institutions. The project has a 100-year-old importance and will be accompanied by all urban elements. We conducted our field work and made all preliminary assessments,” Qendro said.

Further on, Qendro clarified the owners of the objects to be disqualified will be included in the homeless people’s list and be given a lease bonus.

“All households that are under legalization will need to be disqualified. The Tirana Municipality will arrange them available housing support programs. They will be treated with a special lease payment procedure in order to move to a quick procedure and be approved as soon as possible at the municipal council and have the opportunity to benefit the lease bonus for a period of at least one year, but which is also renewable until they have the opportunity to be restructured and managed in the new houses,” Qendro said.

The Big Tirana project, from the capital’s Maternity Hospital to the roundabout known as ‘the Eagle’ - due to the double-headed eagle statue at its middle - at the Tirana-Durres highway entrance, has cost 26.5 billion ALL for a length of 27 km. 

Soon, the segment from the Eagle to Shkoza is also expected to be launched. 

 

The political dimension 

On Monday, the opposition’s Democratic Party made public, through its spokeswoman Ina Zhupa, documents allegedly proving the benefactors of the Great Ring project were predetermined.

“The corrupt scheme is clear. The winners have been predetermined because in three different tender procedures, there was only one valid offer, while the second participator was been included to legitimize the tender but has not actually made any offers,” Zhupa said. 

Only a day earlier, DP leader Lulzim Basha spoke of an “offshore company” related to the Great Ring project and promised to reveal the “government’s corrupt affairs” the rest of the week,

On Monday, Zhupa made the names of alleged offshore companies clear.

“DH Albania was established this year’s July, one month and a half before the tender opening, under the name of the parent company Dunvel Haberman ltd. Its parent company is an offshore company, with unknown owners, registered in the United States of America, which is known as a fiscal paradise. The other company, Biba X, has no road construction experience and only added this activity shortly before the winner of the 18 million euro tender was announced. The company Biba X  was seized even during the period when it participated in the project’s tender,” Zhupa said. 

DP  representatives and lawmakers have attended the protest on different days throughout the week, expressing solidarity with the protesters’ cause.

DP lawmaker Flamur Noka, in a media statement, denounced the municipality’s silence on the Greater Ring road residents’ “legitimate protest.”

“On this seventh day of protest, everything has gone to dead ears. The government and the municipality act as if these residents don’t exist, only because they notified they will demolish all their houses. No one has come to talk to them,” Noka said. 

He added the municipality’s behavior with over 2,000 residents is “barbarous” and “non-humane,” as it has taken their money and votes to legalize their houses, which has now decided to demolish without granting compensation.

He promised the residents’ the DP’s support in their legitimate right to be compensated. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 12 - Albanian President Ilir Meta was invited by French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to attend the commemoration ceremony of the hundredth anniversary of the World War I armistice, which took place at the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris. 

At the start of the officially activity, which was also attended by US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other world leaders, Meta was welcomed in a state ceremony at the Élysée Palace by Macron and his wife,.

During his meeting with Macron, Meta expressed the high estimates for the traditional and excellent relations between the two countries and stressed the importance of their dynamic. 

Meta also praised Macron’s role in building a stronger and much more united Europe.

During his stay in Paris, Meta also met Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with whom, according to the president’s office announcement, he praised the unique relations between our people in respect and gratitude toward Israel's history and expressed his will to build an even closer relationship in the future between the countries.

Despite the excellent relations between France and Albania mentioned by Meta, France’s Macron was one of the key players, along with Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Stef Blok, who blocked Albania’s chances to open accession negotiations in order to eventually become EU member back in July.

According to Macron, the EU should not expand before fixing its own internal policies and making sure all its member states are aligned with the same democratic core values and perspectives, also signaling distrust towards Albania’s so-far-achieved EU-based reforms.

France is one of Albanian asylum-seekers’ favorite destinations, while French authorities have warned, time and time again, the country must do something to curb its migration waves, especially since it’s considered a ‘country of safe origin,’ meaning Albanian citizens are, most of the time, not applicable to receive asylum by EU states.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 11 - The Albanian foreign ministry announced on Friday the Cypriot, Euro Parliamentarian Eleni Theocharous is now a ‘persona non-grata,’ after the latter attended on Thursday the Greek minority member’s Kostantinos Katsifas funeral service in Bularat, Gjirokaster, where she issued extremist, anti-Albanian calls, according to Albanian authorities.

On Thursday, the defense ministry also announced 52 out of the many Greek citizens who attended the funeral service are also ‘personae non-gratae,’ for the same reason.

“This decision comes as a necessary constitutional and legal reaction of the institutions of the Republic of Albania towards the repeated extremist behavior of Euro Parliamentarian Eleni Theocharous. Her statements which incite hatred, violation of the country’s constitutional order and encouragement of territorial claims towards the Republic of Albania cannot and will not be again called on Albanian soil,” said Glen Dervishi, Regional Adviser to the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati.

Further on, Dervishi called Theocharous’ calls and statements an organized show that was made to look like an aggressive provocation, which turned a funeral service into a challenge of the constitutional order and Albania’s safety and security - all things unacceptable for the Albanian state and society. 

The Greek foreign ministry quickly reacted to the announcement, asking for sound explanations.

“At this delicate moment, we expect Albania to stay away from acts which further burden the atmosphere of our bilateral relations,” the Greek ministry announcement read.

On Friday, the Albanian foreign ministry was quick to issue a reply to official Athens, where, through Dervishi, said neighboring Greece and its people are a valuable asset to Albania’s capital of traditional ties and friendship.

Extremist elements or groups which, in Greek, or even in Albanian, speak a common language of hatred and division not related to the European language that unites our peoples and states, will have no chance to undermine our common path of peace and strategic cooperation in function of the future today's children in Albania and Greece deserve,” Dervishi said. 

On the other hand, the defense ministry’s statement which announced 52 Greek citizens are now also “personae non-gratae” explained it was a reaction to the organized activity aiming to harm Albania’s sovereignty and challenge the constitutional order and the country’s security.

In the European Parliament, Theocharous is part of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. On Thursday, she joined several hundreds of Greek citizens to attend the funeral service of Kostandino Katsifas, who was killed during a shootout with special Albanian police forces who were gathered in Bularat to maintain order during the festivities honoring the fallen Greek soldiers during the Albanian-Italian war.

Strong nationalist tones and anti-Albanian calls prevailed during the burial ceremony on Thursday, while a group of Greek citizens temporarily also blocked the highway caring an unfolded Greek flag. 

The tensions that followed Katsifas’ death in Albania came at a time the countries seemed to have decided to leave their tensioned-at-timed relationship and begin a process of political dialogue to solve all pending issues between them.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 11 - Albanian President Ilir Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama publicly exchanged commentary again on Saturday, when Rama re-sent his proposal to make General Sander Lleshi the country’s new interior minister to Meta to decree, although Meta rejected it last week.

Meta’s spokesperson Ted Blushi said Meta has begun the process of cooperating with all the relevant institutions to become clear on all the questions he had since the start but which he did not manage to, despite all the efforts.

“Concerning the new process, he has decided to also inform the head of parliament on all his questions, as the procedure of naming a new minister is a mandatory cooperative process between three institutions - prime minister, president, parliament,” Blushi said.

Rama responded to Meta’s statement through his Head of Communication Endri Fuga.

Fuga said Rama appreciates Meta efforts to receive clear and full answers, but added Meta had not asked any clarifications from Rama after sending him a letter where he, without offering any reason or justification, rejected Lleshi and asked to meet Rama.

Further on, Fuga stated Meta will receive the answers to all the questions he had sent in the form of a written letter on Monday morning.

“Also in function of exhaustively addressing the issue, which President Met has not raised as an issue during his meeting with the prime minister, but only express it in written form, as a questionnaire to the minister of defense, only yesterday, the President will receive along with his answers an exhaustive solution, which doesn’t leave place for any interpretations. From any side,” Rama’s statement highlighted.

Last week, after former Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj unexpectedly resigned his post, Meta refused to sign the decree on Lleshi's appointment.

The official motives of this decision have not yet become official and there is not even an official act coming from the president for his decision, apart from the letter sent to Rama saying that "he was not able to create full conviction to trust Lleshi.”

Meta’s stand on the issue has been accompanied with public debate.

During his parliamentary speech last Monday, Rama insisted the president cannot reject the appointment of a government member and went on to make Lleshi deputy minister of interior, but will all competences of a minister himself.

Asked again on Friday, Meta stood by his decision to reject Lleshi, while also speaking of the legal motivations behind his rejection. 

“For what it concerns the legal part, without wanting to give lectures on the Constitution to amateurs, dilettants or those who are biased, I would invite them to read the Constitution and the president’s competences again and see only his oath is formal or ceremonial,” Meta said.

Meanwhile, both the US Embassy to Tirana and the EU delegation have reacted to the news of Lleshi’s appointment as deputy MoI by stressing it is vital the interior ministry if fully functional.

Analysts and independent political observers also claimed Albania has fallen into a sudden constitutional crisis throughout last week, while also raising concerns about Lleshi’s appointment as deputy minister as unprofessional.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 8 - The ever-increasing trend of Albanian youth to leave the country as soon as possible has lowered chances for the country’s economy to improve, as experts have claimed for years it’s particularly this part of the society that can help speed up development. 

According to a Gallup study, 79 percent of Albanians between 15 and 29 years old want to leave Albania once and for all.

“I wanna leave as soon as possible. I have thought of going to Germany,” an Albanian youth told local media.

Among the region’s countries, the second largest figure of people who seek to leave their home countries is observed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 62 percent, while the third largest figure is observed in Macedonia, with 51 percent, while for Serbia and Montenegro, the part of youth that wants to leave is smaller than 50 percent.

The main reasons Albanian youth wants to leave Albania is the perceived unemployment.

“There is no work and making a life is very difficult,” another youngster told local media. 

According to the official Albanian statistic institute (INSTAT), during the second trimester of 2018 unemployment for ages 15-29 years old reached 22.6 percent, almost two times more than the average unemployment rate. 

More than the lack of work, it is the lack of hope for a better future most youths quote as their main reason for leaving the country.

“There is no future here,” another Albanian youth has told media.

These figures are not the result of only one study.

Back in August, the National Youth Network and the CRCA Centre completed another survey as part of the National Youth Index, where it was resulted that the youth, which accounts for 35 percent of the population, claims it is not a priority for any public institution.

“The first problem raised in all consultations conducted with young people from all 12 regions of Albania is the lack of studying opportunities. They complete their study cycle and feel this difficulty since their student years. Then, when they finish their studies, they have no employment opportunities due to the lack of incentive policies for youth employment by the government,” head of the NYN and study’s author Ervjola Osmanaj said.

Youth participation in decision-making processes is also very low. The report found that over 70 percent of young people do not have government support to be represented in decision-making processes or local government branches.

Polls show that young people are being used only as a political background, but do not have any effective participation in policy-making or political decision-making and do not find support from it.

In addition, one of the main challenges for youth remains employment, while about 80 percent of youth organizations say they do not have government support for promoting youth employment.

The report also cites data from the International Labor Organization (ILO), which show Albania occupies one of the first places in Europe for youth unemployment.

All these circumstances, taken together, are main drivers behind Albanian youth’s apathy and inclination to leave the country and never look back. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-09 10:25:26
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-09 09:25:26
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 8 - Albanian police took drastic measures on Thursday at the Kakavije border point between Greece and Albania, as thousands of Greeks were expected to cross in order to attend the funeral of Konstantinos Katsifas, who died on Oct. 28, during a shootout with Albanian police. 

Local media reported throughout Thursday morning that 670 foreign citizens had entered the Kakavije border point, all of whom were thoroughly checked by the police.

Additional sources reported at least ten people were kept from entering Albania, although it is highly probable a much bigger number was detained, as at least one right-wing Golden Dawn Party van filled with supporters was warned by the Greek side to be arriving.

Among the Greeks prohibited from entering were also those allegedly wearing shirts bearing nationalistic signs and anti-Albanian quotes mentioning Northern Epirus.

On the Albanian side, police forces from Tirana even arrived to Bularat, where Kotsifas was killed and buried, while the Gjirokastra police was placed in the periphery of Bularat, to make sure no incidents occur during the funeral, which took place at around 1pm. 

On its side, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on all Greek citizens who decided to attend Katsifas’ funeral to demonstrate self-control and respect over Katsifas’ family and the funeral service , according to Greek media. 

Katsifas was dressed in military uniform and close to 2000 people attended it. 

No matter the draconian measures to maintain a civil and calm funeral, nationalistic sentiments and tones did take over the service, as reported by local media. 

According to local broadcaster Top-Channel, the service  was accompanied by numerous Greek flags as well as nationalistic symbols which not only went against Albania, but also Macedonia. 

After the religious service , the crowd allegedly accompanied Katsifas’ coffin by singing nationalistic chants and unfolding a flag where “Northern-Epirus” was written, as “Albanians leave, this is Greece” was heard being sang in the background.

After the entire funeral ended, the crowd of Greek citizens was reported by Top-Channel correspondent to have also gone to the Gjirokaster-Kakavije main road holding the unfolded Greek flag, creating traffic and blocking the way of vehicles passing there. 

Konstantinos Katsifas, who was killed during a shootout with officers of the Renea Special Force on Sunday, as Bularat was commemorating the fallen Greek soldiers during the Greek-Italian war, caused a storm of nationalistic and radical statements that overtook the public discussion.

Katsifas was reported by Albanian media and police forces to have shot on the RENEA effectives who were gathered in Bularat to make sure nothing happened during the commemoration service, while the Albanian police said normal procedure was followed during the entire event.

Greek media, however, reported RENEA effectives lowered a Greek flag the minority member has placed to commemorate the fallen from the war and that caused him to shot at them and, in turn, be killed.

Throughout the week, protests overtook major Greek cities Athens and Thessaloniki, as many Greeks saw a hero in the face of Katsifas and called for investigations to go to the end of what happened. 

 
                    [post_title] => Nationalistic sentiments take over Katsifas’ funeral service 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-06 16:00:27
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-06 15:00:27
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 6 - Albanian President Ilir Meta announced on Tuesday he signed the decree appointing Helidon Bendo as the new Director of the State Intelligence Service (SHISH).

Bendo, who has so far served as deputy director of SHISH, was proposed about a year ago to take over leading this institution right after his predecessor Visho Ajazi resigned.

Meta kept the decree of his appointment hanging during this entire time, although Bendo actually led the institution with all the competencies the director would have.

Asked last December on this issue, Meta said that "such a decision is important and the President of the Republic must be convinced that a final decision strengthens the independence and efficiency of such an important national security institution.”

A career intelligence officer and a mathematician by training, Bendo had been at the service since the tumultuous 1990s, at the same time that Ajazi also signed up.

However, Ajazi left to live in Canada for many years working in IT, where his primary training is based, until returning as head of the intelligence service.

Albanian media reported this week Ajazi had competed several months ago to get a job as a security advisor at NATO headquarters, indicating he was planning to leave the service.

SHISH is Albania’s primary intelligence service. Its responsibilities include acquiring intelligence and counterintelligence on issues relevant to national security. Its responsibilities also extend to issues related to constitutional order and specifically encompass a role in fighting organized crime, illegal trafficking and terrorism.

Meanwhile, Ajazi’s resignation last year, after serving as the head of SHISH for five years, sparked questions whether the decision was personal or had come under pressure from the government. 

 
                    [post_title] => Appointment of Albania’s new chief spy decreed by president after one year hanging 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-06 15:00:10
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 6 - On Monday, it was announced the upcoming local elections will be held on June 30, 2019, as per President Ilir Meta’s decision, although the countries government and opposition still haven’t agreed on the electoral reform. 

Last week, Meta also consulted the heads of the parliamentary groups on the issue, while on Monday he conducted a meeting with Chairman of Parliament Gramoz Ruci.

During the last local elections, the left-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Edi Rama's Socialist Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) won the overwhelming majority of 61 municipalities in the country.

The SP managed to get a total of 45 municipalities, with almost all the country’s major cities passing under its control with the exception of Shkodra, which maintained its traditionally right-wing political affiliation. 

The right-wing coalition only managed to win 15 municipalities, while the Finiq municipality in the country’s south was won by the Greek Ethnic Minority for the Future (MEGA) Party.

The lack of an electoral reform remains a persisting issue when it comes to elections, particularly because it is one of the most important conditions for Albania to open accession negotiations with the EU.

Although a special parliamentary commission for the electoral reform has been established for two years now, there is still no agreement between the parties regarding its functionality and the way to achieve an electoral reform.

Meanwhile, EU representatives have said numerous times after Albania failed to open accession negotiations back in June, that without achieving the electoral reform before the 2019 local elections, Albania has no chance to open negotiations in the near future. 

The last to speak about it in the media was Gunther Krichbaum, chair of the Commission on EU Affairs in the German Bundestag.

Back in September, Krichbaum, at an interview for local Panorama newspaper, expressed disappointment over the weak progress the Albanian government has made to meet the conditions set by the EU and the German Bundestag.

“Negotiations can only begin after Albania has carried out the necessary reforms. In addition to the complete verification of judges and prosecutors, the electoral reform should also be mentioned here. If the 2019 local elections take place under the old electoral law, I see no real chance of opening accession negotiations in 2019,” Krichbaum said on Sept. 4. 

Although the Albanian majority has made the electoral reform one of its main priorities, last October it called on foreign representatives to closely monitor and assist the process in a similar way they did the judicial reform ,but so far there have been no results.

A main issue that requires attention is the conflicting conditions and expectations of the ruling majority and the opposition parties in regard to the electoral reform.

The Socialist Party has placed importance in counting the votes of all Albanian citizens abroad, especially those of immigrants, whereas the main opposition party, the Democratic Party, had declared non-negotiable the condition to implement electronic voting and electronic vote-counting, as well as looking to change the electoral system to make lawmakers more directly accountable to voters. The latter suggestion has also been supported by the Socialist Movement for Integration Party.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-06 11:33:48
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 6 - The clash between Albania’s President Ilir Meta and Prime Minister Edi Rama to appoint General Sander Lleshi as the new interior minister, after Fatmir Xhafaj resigned last weekend, seem to have turned into a show of strength between the institutions Rama and Meta represent. 

As Meta notified through a short announcement on Saturday he had not created the right conviction to trust Lleshi as a candidate for interior minister, Rama said on Monday morning, after the Socialist Party’s parliamentary group meeting, the parliament will approve Meta’s decree to dismiss Xhafaj while making Lleshi deputy minister of interior with all the competencies of the minister himself. 

On Sunday morning, Meta and Rama had a 90-minute long private meeting, after which the PM’s office announced the two had discussed concerning Lleshi in a constructive manner and had decided to keep the dialogue between them open. 

“The conversation was open and constructive and the prime minister will continue communicating with the President of the Republic,” explained the announcement the PM's office.

However, political science experts and analysts pointed out Rama’s decision to appoint Lleshi deputy minister of interior is a clear sign the communication between Rama and Meta has been interrupted. 

On his side, Meta also reacted in harsh tones through a spokesperson from the president’s office.

“The Head of State confirms his maximum commitment in respect to the Constitution, to cooperate with all state institutions, in the interest of stability, institutional empowerment and growth of institutional cooperation with transparency and constructiveness, but will not allow any challenging attempt against the authority of the institution he represents as Head of State, General Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the National Security Council,” Meta’s spokesperson announced.

The spokesperson also underlined that Meta has always been available to provide transparent and responsible explanations for whatever issue the parliament is concerned and added the president is convinced the days Albania was led by a “First Secretary” are over. 

Meta’s position for the appointment of a new minister has opened up a constitutional conflict and a previously unregistered precedent.

According to the Albanian Constitution, a minister is appointed and dismissed by the president upon the PM’s proposal within seven days, leaving no room for intervention by the president himself. The constitution further stipulates the president, in exercising his powers, issues decrees.

In the current situation, Meta decreed the dismissal of Xhafaj as minister of interior also referring to the legal framework, while the announcement for rejecting Lleshi as the new MoI has not been officially motivated by any legal decree and an official announcement in the official website of the president is missing. 

In this context, Meta’s reasons behind Lleshi’s rejection are still unclear. 

During an interview on Friday night, Meta said the president is obliged to practice all his constitutional duties in order to be fully convinced for any kind of proposal brought to him to decree and added this case is particularly delicate and requires the uttermost attention.

However, local media has reported this stand does not have a previous precedent. 

Last year, former President Bujar Nishani who publicly spoke against appointing current Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj, nonetheless accepted he did not have the competence to reject the proposal.

Meanwhile, analyst Lutfi Dervishi said the constitutional article that foresees appointing and dismissing ministers seems like way to impose to the president the automatic decree of every ministerial proposal coming from the prime minister.

Despite differing opinions, analysts claim Meta is trying to maintain his influence on new appointments in all institutions; in the justice system, intelligence services, government etc, and provide the role of a guarantor and constructive officer, for as long as the new names are approved by him. 

 
                    [post_title] => Rama-Meta clash turns into show of political strength 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-05 13:01:41
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 5 - After Albania’s President Ilir Meta rejected Prime Minister Edi Rama’s proposal to make Sander Lleshi the country’s new interior minister, Rama appointed Lleshi as deputy minister of interior on Monday morning. 

After a meeting with the Socialist parliamentary group, Rama announced the decision through an official tweet.

“Complete agreement among the parliamentary group. The parliament will approve tomorrow the president’s decree to dismiss the former minister of interior. Sander Lleshi will head the ministry of interior as deputy minister,” Rama said.

He added there was more news to the story which he will communicate in front of the parliament on Tuesday morning.

Appointing Lleshi as deputy minister came with assigning him all ministerial rights and competences, thus giving him the leading role in the ministry of interior despite Meta’s public rejection of Rama’s proposal. 

Rama’s decision came after a 90-minute meeting between him and Meta, regarding the latter’s decision to unconstitutionally reject Rama’s proposal to appoint Lleshi after Fatmir Xhafaj’s resignation last week.

Meta, after almost missing the deadline to decree Lleshi as the new MoI and hinting at a possible rejection of his appointment, announced on Sunday via a Whatsapp message for the media he rejects Rama’s proposal of Lleshi, without making his justification public.

Following this development, Meta and Rama met in private, while the Prime Minister’s office only stated the following concerning their meeting.

“Upon his request, the Prime Minister met the President of the Republic, to discuss the content of the latter’s letter regarding the proposal to decree General Sander Lleshi as the new Minister of Interior. The conversation was open and constructive and the prime minister will continue communicating with the President of the Republic,” the statement announced.

During an interview on Friday, Meta said the president is obliged to practice all his constitutional duties in order to be fully convinced for any kind of proposal brought to him to decree and added this case is particularly delicate and requires the uttermost attention.

However, local media has also reported the president’s position risks opening a constitutional conflict, and a strong clash with the government, in the current conditions when the Constitutional Court is out of order. Last year, former President Bujar Nishani who publicly spoke against appointing current Minister of Interior Fatmir Xhafaj, nonetheless accepted he did not have the competence to reject the proposal.

Meta also met with the Socialist head of parliament Gramoz Ruci following the majority’s decision to appoint Lleshi deputy minister with all the competences of the minister, but what went on during the meeting between Meta and Ruci is still unknown. 

Meanwhile, analysts and independent political observers claim Albania has fallen into a sudden constitutional crisis, while also raising concerns about Lleshi’s appointment as deputy minister as unprofessional.

The hasty political developments over the last two weekends, from Xhafaj’s resignation to Meta rejecting Lleshi as the new MoI, prompted critical comments.

Political analyst Aleksander Cipa said it might open a new chapter in the conflictual relations between the president and the socialist majority and an institutional clash between PM and president.

Analyst Afrim Krasniqi said Meta’s behavior is more political than presidential and that non-decreeing a new minister puts the country in a new political crisis.

Meanwhile, analyst Lutfi Dervishi said the constitutional article that foresees appointing and dismissing ministers seems like way to impose to the president the automatic decree of every ministerial proposal coming from the prime minister.

Despite differing opinions, analysts claim Meta is trying to maintain his influence on new appointments in all institutions; in the justice system, intelligence services, government etc, and provide the role of a guarantor and constructive officer, for as long as the new names are approved by him. 

 
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            [post_date] => 2018-11-12 15:46:39
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 12 - Over the last two weeks, residents living in the Astir area - soon to be part of a construction project that foresees demolishing a number of houses and buildings - have been protesting and calling on the government to guarantee them compensation for their properties.

On Monday, after protesting for about two hours in front of Tirana’s Municipality building and asking for a meeting with Mayor Erion Veliaj or any municipality representative authorized to give information, the protesters said Tuesday, Nov. 13, is the deadline to have a meeting or else they warned to block Unaza e Madhe (Great Ring road) for good. 

“We will not free the road until we are given a solution to our problem,” protesters said, as they blocked one of the main roads in Tirana’s centre, creating heavy traffic.

One of the protesters who gave a declaration for local media during the protest, said his son’s wife had ended up in prison for protesting the road expansion project foreseeing the demolition of their houses.

“They took my son’s wife to give birth in prison. There are men in that house, not just women. They cannot step over all these people,” the Astir resident told local media.

In front of the municipality, protesters also started chanting anti-government statements, such as warnings that their houses will be demolished over their dead bodies. 

The protests, which began right after the Head of Road Authority Afrim Qendro and other officials announced on Nov. 5 that “317 objects will be touched by the Great Ring road expansion project,” have been ongoing over the last two weeks at the Astir area and have even turned violent at times.

Residents have time and time again blocked the traffic in both axes at the Astir road, continuously calling for a complete compensation of all the people living in the buildings to be demolished, as opposed to those who already have property ownership titles, as the government plans on doing.

Another reason behind the aggravated protests is the residents’ claims the government did not warn them enough time in advance of the plan to demolish the houses and only give compensation to those who have already received their property ownership titles.

The protests have turned violent as drivers passing at Astir have physically confronted and tried to remove residents, while on Saturday the cameraman of a private media who was doing field reporting was punched by an angry driver.

 

The government’s plan

Last Monday, Nov. 5, Head of Road Authority Afrim Qendro, Head Inspector of the National Inspectorate of Territory Defense Dallendyshe Bici and Tirana Deputy Mayor Arbri Mazniku, among others, gave a press conference regarding the Great Ring road project.

Qendro said that during the project’s tracking phase around 317 projects will be demolished, 163 out of which are under legalization and will be disqualified and 123 hold property ownership titles and will receive compensation.

He added there is no other kind of information for the remaining objects in the area.

“We are in the first phase of object tracking. As soon as we have the approving status from the Real Estate Registration Office, we will begin demolishing the objects. But we will wait for the institutions. The project has a 100-year-old importance and will be accompanied by all urban elements. We conducted our field work and made all preliminary assessments,” Qendro said.

Further on, Qendro clarified the owners of the objects to be disqualified will be included in the homeless people’s list and be given a lease bonus.

“All households that are under legalization will need to be disqualified. The Tirana Municipality will arrange them available housing support programs. They will be treated with a special lease payment procedure in order to move to a quick procedure and be approved as soon as possible at the municipal council and have the opportunity to benefit the lease bonus for a period of at least one year, but which is also renewable until they have the opportunity to be restructured and managed in the new houses,” Qendro said.

The Big Tirana project, from the capital’s Maternity Hospital to the roundabout known as ‘the Eagle’ - due to the double-headed eagle statue at its middle - at the Tirana-Durres highway entrance, has cost 26.5 billion ALL for a length of 27 km. 

Soon, the segment from the Eagle to Shkoza is also expected to be launched. 

 

The political dimension 

On Monday, the opposition’s Democratic Party made public, through its spokeswoman Ina Zhupa, documents allegedly proving the benefactors of the Great Ring project were predetermined.

“The corrupt scheme is clear. The winners have been predetermined because in three different tender procedures, there was only one valid offer, while the second participator was been included to legitimize the tender but has not actually made any offers,” Zhupa said. 

Only a day earlier, DP leader Lulzim Basha spoke of an “offshore company” related to the Great Ring project and promised to reveal the “government’s corrupt affairs” the rest of the week,

On Monday, Zhupa made the names of alleged offshore companies clear.

“DH Albania was established this year’s July, one month and a half before the tender opening, under the name of the parent company Dunvel Haberman ltd. Its parent company is an offshore company, with unknown owners, registered in the United States of America, which is known as a fiscal paradise. The other company, Biba X, has no road construction experience and only added this activity shortly before the winner of the 18 million euro tender was announced. The company Biba X  was seized even during the period when it participated in the project’s tender,” Zhupa said. 

DP  representatives and lawmakers have attended the protest on different days throughout the week, expressing solidarity with the protesters’ cause.

DP lawmaker Flamur Noka, in a media statement, denounced the municipality’s silence on the Greater Ring road residents’ “legitimate protest.”

“On this seventh day of protest, everything has gone to dead ears. The government and the municipality act as if these residents don’t exist, only because they notified they will demolish all their houses. No one has come to talk to them,” Noka said. 

He added the municipality’s behavior with over 2,000 residents is “barbarous” and “non-humane,” as it has taken their money and votes to legalize their houses, which has now decided to demolish without granting compensation.

He promised the residents’ the DP’s support in their legitimate right to be compensated. 

 
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