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President Meta: “Replacement of resigned opposition MPs is illegal”

President Meta: “Replacement of resigned opposition MPs is illegal”

TIRANA, Mar. 22 – Albanian President Ilir Meta told journalists on Wednesday he does not consider the replacement of the opposition MPs who resigned their parliamentary mandates with new MPs from the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration Party’

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“NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges”

“NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges”

By  Susanne Schütz On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed,

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Department of State: Albania lags behind in corruption, fighting impunity

Department of State: Albania lags behind in corruption, fighting impunity

TIRANA, Feb. 18 – The US Department of State published on Friday its annual report on the implementation of human rights in Albania where, once again during 2018, problems such as corruption, ballot-buying, the deadlock the judicial system is facing

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People march against gov’t seeking new elections

People march against gov’t seeking new elections

TIRANA, March 16 – The united opposition protested on Saturday again against the Rama’s government, which it accuses of winning the last elections through illegal ballot buying. The protest’s main demand is a caretaker government which can facilitate early elections.

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Football fans risk imprisonment and life stadium bans under new gov’t law

Football fans risk imprisonment and life stadium bans under new gov’t law

TIRANA, Mar. 11 – The Albanian government proposed severe punishments, including imprisonment, to avoid violent episodes in football stadiums, such as the March 3 attack on the referee of the Superliga Kamza-Laci, who was violated not only by fans who

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Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock

Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock

TIRANA, Mar. 14 – The Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said in a radio interview on Thursday that negotiations between Greece and Albania on a number of important issues have slowed down also due to Albania’s deadlock – something official

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Albania-North Macedonia vow to increase economic cooperation

Albania-North Macedonia vow to increase economic cooperation

March 13 – North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev visited Albania and his counterpart Edi Rama on Wednesday, with whom he discussed the possibilities of a closer economic cooperation between the two countries. Rama said that “relations between the two

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CoE reports smear campaign against British journalist

CoE reports smear campaign against British journalist

TIRANA, March 10 – The Council of Europe also reported on Friday in its media freedom platform claims that a “British journalist working in Albania for the web portal exit.al has been the target of a smear campaign following a

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Replacing ‘me-time’ with ‘we-time’ at Tirona vs Partizani

Replacing ‘me-time’ with ‘we-time’ at Tirona vs Partizani

By Sidonja Manushi  Willingly – and excitedly even – going to a football match in Albania as a woman is worth it even just for the looks on people’s faces when you tell them you’ll be spending your Friday evening

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Head of EU Enlargement urges Albania to continues reforming and fighting corruption

Head of EU Enlargement urges Albania to continues reforming and fighting corruption

TIRANA, Mar. 7 – Although the next decision on whether the EU will open negotiations with Albania will be taken in June, EU officials are not yet convinced of the government’s progress regarding the country’s fight against crime and corruption,

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 22 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told journalists on Wednesday he does not consider the replacement of the opposition MPs who resigned their parliamentary mandates with new MPs from the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration Party’ candidates list acceptable, or legal.

“In my institutional assessment and conviction, the Parliament of Albania has 82 lawful MPs, including 3 opposition MPs who refused to resign their mandates according to the political decision of the respective parties. Any other number beyond this not only deepens this crisis, but certainly does not help in overcoming this situation, as any other number is disputable on all aspects. In the constitutional aspect, the legal, the procedural and political aspect and on a moral aspect,” Meta said.

He added that such an act on the government’s side does not “hide this deep crisis of representation and at the same time does not guarantee, rather it undermines, the opening of negotiations between Albania and the European Union.”

According to Meta, there can be no solution to this crisis, neither through ultimatums or through rhetoric that incites violent actions, neither by police methods or by financial means, but only through a rapid, serious and responsible political dialogue which guarantees the restoration of political life in normality, respecting the Constitution and respecting the separation of powers.

At the same time, Meta blamed the opposition and its “unprecedented” decision to hold weekly anti-government rallies and resign its parliamentary mandates for “deepening the representational crisis that the Albanian parliament is now facing.”

It was in this context Meta also said on Wednesday he would be ready to resign from his post if it would help resolve the deadlock the country is facing, be it from the non-functioning Constitutional Court to the opposition’s parliamentary mandates resignation and the risk of a junte installment.

Meta said that after failing to mediate a solution he was ready to resign if he were “assured the country has a political, constitutional and solid solution.” 

 
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By  Susanne Schütz

On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed, deserve to be commemorated.

Going back 70 years to 1949 Germany was a war torn country, situated exactly on the border between East and West. The iron curtain – up until 30 years ago – ran through the middle of my country. Germany became a member of the alliance in 1955, once the Bundeswehr had been founded. During the Cold War, the importance of the security shield which NATO provided to Germany and its Western European neighbors, cannot be overestimated. Germany was always able to rely on its partners, and first and foremost on the US, even when the Cold War was at its hottest.

When finally the Cold War came to an end, and in 1991 the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, some saw (or wished?) the same fate for NATO as well. But NATO adapted to new challenges and - moreover – became a reliable ally also to some of its former “enemies”.

Up to this date, the dispute over whether NATO promised to Russia not to expand towards former Warsaw Pact territory for some is still on the agenda. However, as a matter of fact, it was not NATO expanding towards Middle and Eastern Europe, but, on the contrary, these countries were asking to become members of NATO because they wanted to be part of NATO’s security shield, and, more than that, be part of the transatlantic alliance which – other than the Warsaw Pact – has always been more than a mere military or defensive alliance but rather a transatlantic community of values.

And it is precisely this feature which made NATO attractive also to Albania and to the countries in this region – although, of course, NATO’s role in the Balkans remains a controversial to some! Still, while NATO and European military deployment in Kosovo and Bosnia played a critical role in de-escalating these conflicts, it was ultimately the impact of NATO’s and the EU’s enlargement policy that helped build and maintain peace in this region.

As early as 1994 Albania became a member of the Partnership for Peace-programme through which it learned about the values and objectives of NATO, as well as the expectations placed on member states’ ability for cooperation. Leading up to its entrance into NATO in 2009, Albania also undertook significant domestic, political, and military reforms.

Albania has since significantly contributed to security and stability in this strategically important region in South Eastern Europe. In addition, Albania has also contributed to international NATO led missions, i.e. Albania deployed over 3.000 troops with ISAF. It has also been an active supporter of the campaign against terrorism since 2001, and continues its participation in the face of new and emerging threats such as the Islamic State.

We welcome very much that in 2017 Montenegro became NATO’S 29th member and Northern Macedonia will follow early next year. And it seems that even relations between NATO and Serbia – 20 years after the NATO bombardment during the Kosovo crisis – are slowly getting better.

Today, NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges to which NATO is formulating adequate and adapted answers: conflict in Eastern Ukraine/Crimea, the post-INF scenario, but also Cyber and Hybrid warfares. And it is precisely against the background of newly developing crises also in Europe that the EU is - in support of NATO - increasing its operability in crisis management and its defense capabilities through PESCO – the Permanent Structured Cooperation, which was created by 25 EU Member States in late 2017.

I am convinced, that today is far from being “outdated” as some have stated. We Germans know very well how important the transatlantic partnership remains for international cooperation and multilateral understanding, especially in a world of growing uncertainties.

[post_title] => "NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges" [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => nato-at-the-age-of-70-is-facing-many-new-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-22 11:32:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-22 10:32:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141000 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140961 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-18 14:53:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-18 13:53:18 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 18 - The US Department of State published on Friday its annual report on the implementation of human rights in Albania where, once again during 2018, problems such as corruption, ballot-buying, the deadlock the judicial system is facing due to the justice reform, the impunity of senior officials and the threats to media freedom were reported. Corruption and impunity According to the State Department, impunity remains a problem in Albania. The criminal prosecution and especially the punishment of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent. Officials, politicians, judges, and people with strong business interests were often able to avoid prosecution. Although the government coined mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, the number of police corruption reports was 3,832 denunciations by phone calls on the green anticorruption line until August 2018 and 6,439 complaints in 2017. There were also 1,217 written complaints until August 2018 and 1,048 written complaints for 2017. The fact that former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri remains under investigation - now is officially charged - for strong links to organized crime and abuse of office was also mentioned, with the report stating “a former interior minister remained under investigation for ties to organized crime and abuse of office.” Meanwhile, the police continues to not always apply the law evenly. The report states that political, criminal and personal ties, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment and inadequate monitoring have often impacted law enforcement. However, the report says, the government’s efforts to fight corruption and its police vetting were hindered due to lack of funds. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The report adds that although prosecutors have succeeded in condemning corruption cases at low levels, punishability on high levels of government remains rare as a result of fear of punishment, a general lack of human resources, and corruption in the judiciary itself.   Elections The report’s executive summary states “the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported the elections respected fundamental freedoms but were marred by allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters.” The OSCE further noted, “Continued politicization of election-related bodies and institutions as well as widespread allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters detracted from public trust in the electoral process.” The report also quotes the OSCE mission in noting “an overall orderly election day” but found that “important procedures were not fully respected in a considerable number of voting centers observed.”   Justice reform and vetting The State Department says that as of August, 44 percent of judges and prosecutors who had undergone vetting had failed and been dismissed. As a result, only two of nine judges remained on the Constitutional Court; the others had been dismissed during the vetting process or resigned before undergoing vetting, which deprived the court of a quorum. Further on, as of August, 15 of the 19 seats on the Supreme Court were also vacant, and the court faced a considerable case backlog. The politicization of appointments to the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of these institutions. As of October 24, the commission had dismissed 25 judges and prosecutors and confirmed 28, while 16 others had resigned from duty rather than undergo vetting.   Freedom of expression and the press According to the report, “independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of viewpoints, although there were efforts to exert direct and indirect political and economic pressure on the media, including by threats and violence against journalists who tried to investigate crime and corruption.” Meanwhile, business owners freely used media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with political parties. Most owners of private television stations used the content of their broadcasts to influence government action toward their other businesses. Further on, the report notes that political pressure, corruption, and lack of funding constrained independent print media, and journalists reportedly practiced self-censorship. Moreover, economic insecurity due to a lack of enforceable labor contracts reduced reporters’ independence and contributed to bias in reporting. The report also mentions that there were multiple reports of violence and intimidation against members of the media, and political and business interests subjected journalists to pressure. “On August 30, an unknown assailant shot 10 times at the home of crime reporter Klodiana Lala’s parents. No injuries were reported, but Lala’s two daughters were in the home at the time of the attack. Lala often reported on organized crime and law enforcement matters, including judicial reform,” the report states. In September the chair of the Union of Albanian Journalists stated that 12 journalists had filed asylum requests in EU member states, citing threats due to their jobs, while in April the Union of Albanian Journalists expressed concern that during the first four months of the year, judges and politicians had initiated 14 lawsuits against journalists.   Domestic violence The report says the government did not enforce the law on domestic violence effectively, and officials did not prosecute spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well understood, and authorities often did not consider it a crime. The report also mentions the case of Xhisiela Maloku, who “alleged that Rexhep Rraja, her boyfriend and son of Socialist Party Assembly member Rrahman Rraja, had burned and kicked her in a hotel on July 19. Forensic experts verified the nature of the wounds. Maloku later claimed she fabricated the allegations because she was jealous, but members of the opposition Democratic Party asserted Rrahman Rraja had pressured police to force Maloku to recant, citing claims by former police officer Emiliano Nuhu.” Meanwhile, the report says, a 2017 UN Development Program (UNDP) and state statistical agency (INSTAT) report estimated that more than 53 percent of women and girls in the country had been victims of domestic violence during the previous year.   Education The report states that parents must purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and other minorities, while many families also cited these costs as a reason for not sending girls to school. Observers believed that child abuse was increasing, especially in schools. According to a 2017 report by World Vision, 70 percent of children in the country reported experiencing some type of violence. The definition of violence in both these surveys included psychological violence, and was not limited to physical abuse. Services for abuse victims were not readily available. The country also lack adequate facilities for pretrial detention of children. According to the NGO Terre des Hommes, as of July, 17 children were in pretrial detention and nine were incarcerated. Since the law prohibits the prosecution of children younger than 14 for burglary, criminal gangs at times used displaced children to burglarize homes, while the number of children engaged in street-related activities (such as begging or selling items) increased during the summer, particular around the tourist areas.   Work conditions Despite the government establishing a 40-hour workweek, the report says “the government has no standards for a minimum number of rest periods per week and rarely enforces laws related to maximum work hours, limits on overtime, or premium pay for overtime, especially in the private sector.” “Working conditions in the manufacturing, construction, and mining sectors frequently were poor and, in some cases, dangerous. Violations of wage and occupational-safety standards occurred most frequently in the textile, footwear, construction, and mining industries.” Lastly, workers often could not remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Employers did not effectively protect employees in this situation.   [post_title] => Department of State: Albania lags behind in corruption, fighting impunity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => department-of-state-albanian-lags-behind-in-corruption-fighting-impunity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-18 14:54:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-18 13:54:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140961 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140955 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-16 20:05:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-16 19:05:55 [post_content] => TIRANA, March 16 - The united opposition protested on Saturday again against the Rama's government, which it accuses of winning the last elections through illegal ballot buying. The protest’s main demand is a caretaker government which can facilitate early elections. The joint opposition protest in Tirana was accompanied by tensions in front of the parliament, when protesters tried to break the protective police line. Police used tear gas, while protesters were reported to throw strong items to law enforcement officials. Later, in front of the parliament, police also used water to disperse protesters. Some protesters were injured, falling on the ground, along with police officers. A day after the protest, police notified it arrested 14 people and is searching for seven others, all to be punished for the acts of violence during the rally. For 11 other protesters, criminal proceeding has began in a free state. The same decision was reached for the Secretary General of Democratic Party Gazmend Bardhi, as he was the person who requested permission to protest. The detainees are charged with the criminal offenses "Organization and participation in illegal gatherings and manifestations", "Violence due to duty", "Violent opposition to a police officer", "Disruption of public order and peace" and "Keeping and using explosive materials.” Police explained that "procedural actions were conducted on the basis of an analysis of film footage, service reports, and other evidence collected by the investigative group. At the scene police have collected as material evidence about 130 capsules banned as life-threatening.” For its part, the DP accused the police on Sunday of escalating unprovoked violence towards the protesters with the sole purpose of scattering them, scaring them and keeping them away from the protest, but that it got its answer from the people. Basha: We are not a destabilizing factor Opposition leader Lulzim Basha denied criticism that the opposition’s decision to resign its parliamentary mandates is destabilizing the country. "Albania is destabilized by crime, we will put an end to this destabilization, Edi Rama should leave an hour early," said Basha. The president of Albania, Ilir Meta, who cut his visit to Azerbaijan short, reacted on Saturday. He said that he is following the developments with concern, and has called for the avoidance of confrontation and violence. In a later interview, Meta added that all political parties involved in the serious deadlock that’s been created should take responsibility and not hide behind international representations in the country. “I think that the political class should assume its responsibility and not hide behind any international as it has been so far and issues should be resolved in a transparent, principled manner, away from the bargains and misuses even of any internationals,” Meta said. Meanwhile, both the US Embassy to Albania and the EU Delegation warned ahead of the protest that violence during rallies is “illegal” and “intolerable,” through two different statements. The international community has openly criticized the opposition's decision to abandon  parliament by resigning their lawmakers’ mandates collectively. The opposition, however, has clearly announced that there will be no stepping back until the government's departure. Democratic leader Lulzim Basha said yesterday “the protest will be another chance for Albanians to unite and raise their voice.” Protesters symbolically surround institutions  The protest was organized in the form of a march, where protesters "symbolically" surrounded the Prime Minister’s Office, and then proceeded to parliament. The citizens’ march and symbolic siege continued under the sound of a song "My country" and was headed by two opposition leaders, Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha and Socialist Movement for Integration leader Monika Kryemadhi. The opposition has demanded early elections, and a caretaker government that will remove Edi Rama from office as prime minister. The protest takes place in absence of political parties’ symbols. Meanwhile, Rama has stated that the government can not be touched, as it is a mandate given by the people. Protesters have repeatedly called "government of crime", "Rama go", and "we want Albania like the rest of Europe.” About 1800 police officers were committed to ensure the protest would run smoothly, staying around the perimeter of the Prime Minister's Office. This is the opposition’s fifth protest, which kicked off on February 16 in front of the Prime Minister’s Office and continued with several protests in front of the parliament. The united opposition accuses the governing Socialist majority of winning the elections through ballot buying. In protest, the opposition resigned its parliamentary mandates. Reactions from Germany On Thursday, German Minister of State Michael Roth told Deutsche Welle that they consider the opposition’s parliament boycott is irresponsible. "Because it's not just parliament or government boycotting, but also democracy. The parliament is the place to debate. We asked for intervention seeking moderation. But I'm afraid the situation is already very poisoned.” Meanwhile, rapporteur for Albania in the Foreign Commission Christian Schmidt thinks the government is also responsible for the crisis. "This is not normal. The parliament lives by debate. It is up to the government to guarantee parliamentary cooperation,” said the former German minister for DW. Schmidt has been Albania’s rapporteur at the Bundestag’s Foreign Commission for a year - one of the commissions that decide to open EU negotiations for the country. Schmidt told DW that he plans to travel to Albania soon to be informed about the situation. "I particularly want to see how much the opposition is involved in parliamentary procedures," he stressed. Germany's decision to open negotiations will depend on the progress report of the European Union Commission that will be published on May 29th. But to give final approval to the EU Council on 19 June, Germany will have to get the Bundestag's approval.   [post_title] => People march against gov’t seeking new elections [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => fifth-national-anti-govt-rally-takes-place-in-albania [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-21 21:12:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-21 20:12:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140955 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140913 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-15 10:29:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:29:23 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 11 - The Albanian government proposed severe punishments, including imprisonment, to avoid violent episodes in football stadiums, such as the March 3 attack on the referee of the Superliga Kamza-Laci, who was violated not only by fans who entered the pitch, but also from Kamza Club heads. At a meeting with the Football Federation, where he went accompanied by some government cabinet members and heads of parliamentary committees, Prime Minister Edi Rama stated that the government would intervene in the Criminal Code and make crossing the field’s white lines and entering into the pitch punished with three years of prison. “Whoever crosses the white lines and enters the green carpet is a physical threat to those who are there doing their job, be it footballers, or referees. So it is necessary to urgently discuss it and apply this penalty immediately, at least three years, Rama added. In addition to imprisonment, the government is also considering also overviewing stadium expulsion for life for perpetrators. The episodes of violence have long caused controversy between State Police and the Football Federation, as the law does not foresee that security at the stadium be entrusted to the police. To overcome this situation, Rama proposed implementing a formula already tested as he said in Germany or Spain "where the interior ministries, in cooperation with the Federation and the Professional League, agreed and signed the so-called Security Regulation for stadiums.” According to Rama there is a need for an agreement and in this agreement the police should be directly involved in the security of the match, even within the field according to the defined needs and under the terms of the agreement in cooperation with the Federation. Rama also stated that "the problem of violence and the interventions in the Criminal Code must be done quickly and give a clear message that nobody will be tolerated at this point.”   [post_title] => Football fans risk imprisonment and life stadium bans under new gov’t law [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => football-fans-risk-imprisonment-and-life-stadium-bans-under-new-govt-law [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-15 10:29:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:29:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140913 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140909 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-15 10:24:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:24:05 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 14 - The Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said in a radio interview on Thursday that negotiations between Greece and Albania on a number of important issues have slowed down also due to Albania’s deadlock - something official Athens takes in consideration. Another reason Katrougalos mentioned when asked on the progress of Albania-Greece negotiations and the interrupted dialogue, which had taken off when former Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias were in office, was that the Greek government was expecting a clearer answer on greek minority issues. He mainly referred to two laws related to the minorities’ property protection at the front of the Himara coast and the right for self-declaration that they are part of the Greek minority. “For the moment, we’ve received some answers from the Albanian side, there is a “fusion” of negotiations, but it is premature to say there will be a positive or negative result,” he said. Katrougalos added the Greek side wants to see an improvement of bilateral issues between the countries and for Albania’s EU path to open. Up until last July, Athens and Tirana were conducting a number of head-to-head meetings through Kotzias and Bushati, in order to reach agreements on a number of open-ended issues between them, accumulated through the years. Agreements were actually reached on building cemeteries for the Greek soldiers who died in Albania during WWII, the apostille stamps, while the abrogation of the War Law with Albania is still expected by Athens. Meanwhile, the Greek side removed any possibility that the Cham issue would be on the table for discussion, while retaining rights to negotiate greek minority issues. Nonetheless, the issue that was most debated by political actors from all sides of the spectrums, experts and the public opinion alike was a new maritime border deal between the countries and the lack of transparency that accompanied the negotiations between Bushati and Kotzias. The negotiations to reach a new maritime border agreement that would finally divide the naval space shared by the countries were promoted publicly by both Greek and Albanian Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Edi Rama, despite the lack of information on the negotiators and the non-functionality of Albania’s Constitutional Court under the ongoing justice reform process. The functionality of a Constitutional Court is particularly important concerning the maritime border deal, since the previous one - negotiated by then ruling Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Sali Berisha - was rendered useless by Albania’s Constitutional Court for violating the country’s interests and the constitution. In context of Albania’s frozen Constitutional Court under the lack of judges and prosecutors, President Ilir Meta had stated that no agreement would be decreed on his side without a court, only to have Rama disagree about its necessity in ratifying the deal. However, Rama and the Socialist government have had to face many challenges in addition to the Constitutional Court freeze, including the massive university student protests last December which forced him to reshuffle a big part of his government cabinet, among whom Bushati, and the opposition protests which have, as of late, left the parliament without a functioning opposition. However, asked concerning the division of territorial waters between the countries, Katrougalos said this is the one issue that will be finalized despite the progress of negotiations, as confirmed by Tsipras himself, part of a similar negotiation that will take place with Italy and Egypt as well.   [post_title] => Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-greece-negotiations-on-pause-due-to-deadlock [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-15 10:24:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:24:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140909 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140894 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-13 09:34:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-13 08:34:47 [post_content] => March 13 - North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev visited Albania and his counterpart Edi Rama on Wednesday, with whom he discussed the possibilities of a closer economic cooperation between the two countries. Rama said that "relations between the two countries have never been better than today, and that countries share an understanding of a common economic zone with maximum border facilities, similar to Kosovo and Montenegro." Zaev said “there is room to deepen cooperation between the two countries, while citizens expect to advance their economy and have a better standard of living.” According to him, the economy of Northern Macedonia grew last year, thanks to foreign investments and regional cooperation, bilateral trade exchanges with Albania - also signaling the EU that Skopje and Tirana are getting ready for membership. Bilateral trade exchanges have been on the rise. Meanwhile, some infrastructure investments on both sides of the border will help to improve circulation and cooperation between the countries. Albania and North Macedonia also agreed to facilitate the transit of people and goods on both sides of the border. Fifteen months ago, a joint meeting of the two governments was organized, and by the middle of this year a second meeting is being prepared between them. Albania was among the first to ratify North Macedonia’s NATO membership, a process expected to be completed by the end of the year. The two countries are also on a common path towards the EU, and both leaders believe the EU will open accession negotiations in June, with Zaev saying he believed the union would be positive in its answer.   [post_title] => Albania-North Macedonia vow to increase economic cooperation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-north-macedonia-vow-to-increase-economic-cooperation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-14 09:37:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-14 08:37:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140894 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140871 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-10 16:59:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-10 15:59:22 [post_content] => TIRANA, March 10 - The Council of Europe also reported on Friday in its media freedom platform claims that a “British journalist working in Albania for the web portal exit.al has been the target of a smear campaign following a statement given to Russia Today on 23 February 2019 related to the protests hitting the country.” Last week, Tirana Times and a number of other media reported how British journalist Alice Elizabeth Taylor was denied her residence permit renewal under allegations of ties with Russia and her writings, which were often critical of the government. According to the COE, Taylor wrote about vote rigging in the country, violent protests, the government’s links to organized crime and money laundering. “Asked to comment about the state of corruption in Albania and the current developments in the country, Alice Taylor said to Russia Today that allegations of corruption can easily be documented with evidence showing links between the current government, organised crime, money laundering and drug trafficking. In her statement, she also questioned the fairness of the 2017 elections which confirmed Edi Rama as Prime Minister for a second term,” wrote the COE. It was for this reason that a dozen of government-affiliated portals started publishing photos and articles accusing Taylor of being sponsored by Russia, while her partner, with whom Taylor is expecting a child, was also targeted on social media. Following these developments, Taylor herself later reported in social media her residence permit renewal was rejected “with orders from above”, after first having been approved by the Migration Office. Albanian authorities rejected Taylor's claims that Albanian officials refused to renew her residency permit due to her profession and her criticism towards the government, however Taylor has said all her statements so far are well documented and dated. An official source told the Voice of America that delays in the decision to renew the permit are only related to the procedures and that in this case there have been several violations. According to the law, the source clarified, the application must be made 60 days before the the existing residence permit expires, which was dated 27 January 2019. Meanwhile, the "application file for the residence permit renewal was submitted on February 1, in violation of the deadline but also beyond the expiration of the existing permit. In this situation, the miss was obliged to pay a fine of 20,000 ALL,” explained the official source, adding that “failure to pay the fine hinders the fire to be uploaded on the residence permit portal in order for the file review to begin. According to the procedures, after being cast on the portal, the file is also reviewed by security authorities.” Meanwhile, Taylor herself has not only refuted the authorities’ claims, saying she has a long list of documentation proving the dates she submitted the documents were well-within the legal limit and that, what’s more important, the migration office approved her permit renewal once only to withdraw it again with “orders from above,” as her partner was told when he went to pick it up. “I filed all the documents under the lawful procedure. They told me they were OK, they had everything they needed and that everything was fine. I also made the payment, which was the last step of the process,” Taylor said. Nonetheless, Taylor’s articles accusing the Rama government of corruption did not come of nowhere, but were actually mainly based on investigations conducted by a number of trustworthy media such as the Voice of America. “I wrote about the corrupt connections that surfaced in the Voice of America, phone call interceptions during the past elections. I wrote for the opposition protests and for suspicious tenders, I wrote about environmental damage,” Taylor said. Taylor is residing in Albania and has been instructed to leave in order to start all the applications from the beginning to the immigration office, although her medical report says she can not travel because of pregnancy complications. In addition to the issues Taylor has reported, media freedom has also been receiving many blows from the Socialist government. This led to four international organizations dealing with freedom of speech calling on Rama to drop amendment of two draft laws that foresee registration, surveillance, fining and banning internet media portals, introduced by Rama under his “anti-slander” package, back in December.   [post_title] => CoE reports smear campaign against British journalist [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanian-authorities-deny-rejecting-journalists-residency-permit-over-attack-on-media-freedom [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-14 09:45:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-14 08:45:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140871 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140835 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-08 10:17:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-08 09:17:28 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi  Willingly - and excitedly even - going to a football match in Albania as a woman is worth it even just for the looks on people’s faces when you tell them you’ll be spending your Friday evening watching legendary Tirona vs Partizani. But it’s definitely not the only reason. A football match is very much like a ritual. Actually, considering how F.K.Tirana fans call their team God, calling it a ritual is probably the most fitting word. Tirona fanatics come at a derby such as the one against Partizani (which remains undefeated by FK Tirana over the last five years) about six to five hours ahead of the game. They sit in small, not very fancy, but shady under trees coffee shops, wearing blue and white hats, shirts, scarves, and think ahead of the moment they won’t be able to drink inside the football stadium by downing as many beers as possible. Of course, part of the gathering process is dividing the hiding spots for all those firecrackers and pyro that we see explode inside important derbys like this although we know it’s illegal. Here too, girls are invaluable, hiding most of the equipment in places no one dares search them and sneaking in bottles of rakia as if it’s water much more efficiently than their fellow male trouble-makers. Too bad only a handful of girls attend matches, let alone be club fans who enjoy to harmlessly break the law. By the time police start arriving around the Selman Stërmasi stadium (home ground of the club named after eminent KF Tirana player, coach and president, Selman Stërmasi), chants dipped in excitement and cursing can already be heard, just like the occasional tipsy fan cracking a joke and then smiling devilishly at the young boys still leaving an elementary school close-by. At this point, beers are being passed around from one person to the other, and I’m guessing it’s not because the store is too far away, but because these fans communicate as if they’re part of a family and, in a family, sharing is caring. Another reason is that when you’re drinking time flies and, before anyone knows it it’s already one hour and a half to the game; a clear sign that entering any minute later will mean too much traffic at the entrances. Seeing even tourists - sun-kissed Germans and Dutch youths with a passion for football probably having found out about the game - sitting around the stadium’s edges, makes entering the stadium at 4:30 pm actually make sense. Passing through those gates marks the moment things stop making sense - or even need to. Gate D slowly starts filling up with blue and white, with men, boys and children (and the occasional girl) banging their feet on the old plastic chairs that haven’t had someone actually sit in them in ages. They chant old and new songs and shout at the opposing side of the field, where a considerably smaller group of red-dressed fanatic fans is supporting FK Partizani. “I know half of the guys there. We don’t really hate each other. But in this stadium we do. And in this stadium, we need to crash them,” a man noticing me take pictures of the ‘reds’ tells me confidently, and then turns in their direction holding his middle fingers up. Not being allowed to bring many supporters at a Tirana home game, Partizani has gone all out and hired a Partizani-clad paraglider roam around the stadium about an hour before the match starts, forcing you to turn your eyes on the sky. Tirona fanatics do not spare their curses at him too. As expected, the match itself doesn’t hold much of a significance. Not because it is dull, although none of the teams ended up scoring a goal, but because the feast and atmosphere that surrounds it is much more remarkable. A football stadium - maybe more so than stadiums of any other sport - is a place where you can feel truly alive for 90 minutes. It is the kind of playground that makes you forget your routine, stress of daily life, that annoying co-worker or the insecurity of the future. Those moments of cheering over a ball and a football jersey are priceless and can be felt just as passionately in a pitch somewhere in a village as they do in the most crowded of stadiums. Sometimes, during wine conversations with male and female friends who consider themselves too intellectual to watch football - and especially an Albanian match attended by “hood guys” - I have heard that football is particularly likable for apathetic boys who need to belong in a group, often lacking individuality. But the need to belong to a group, be part of something bigger than ourselves, is part of being human, that which Aristotle called being a “social animal.” And, in a world constantly asking you to prove, offer or possess something to feel as if you belong, rare are the places that remain without judgment and criteria, but rather welcoming of whoever is willing and capable to cheer and let go of societal norms for almost two hours. Consider it as your get-out-of-the-comfort-zone activity for the next time you get a chance to watch a live football match. [post_title] => Replacing ‘me-time’ with ‘we-time’ at Tirona vs Partizani [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => replacing-me-time-with-we-time-at-tirona-vs-partizani [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-08 10:17:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-08 09:17:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140835 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140832 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-08 10:13:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-08 09:13:12 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 7 - Although the next decision on whether the EU will open negotiations with Albania will be taken in June, EU officials are not yet convinced of the government’s progress regarding the country’s fight against crime and corruption, demanding that the process in these areas continues. EU Enlargement Director General Christian Danielsson urged Prime Minister Edi Rama on Thursday to pursue reforms in all areas, and in particular in the fight against crime and corruption, for Albania’s bid to be convincing in June. “Very opening conversation with Prime Minister Edi Rama on the current political situation and reforms. Albania has to continue to deliver in all reform areas, and in particular on fighting crime and corruption, to make a convincing case in June, when EU member states will review the process,” Danielsson wrote on his Twitter account. Under Rama’s governance, Albania has been denied the opening of accession negotiations three times so far. During his visit to Albania, Danielsson met with a number of political actors from different sides of the political spectrum, as well as members of the Justice Appointment Council, where full EU support for their independent and impartial work was reiterated. During his meeting with opposition representatives who have resigned their parliamentary mandates and are holding national anti-government protests for almost three weeks now, Danielsson was in line with previous EU representatives’ statements condemning the oppositions resignation from parliament. “Constructive meeting with representatives from opposition parties on the current political situation. Albania faces challenges but the only democratic way to solve issues remains to engage in Parliament. Incitement to violent actions in protests is absolutely unacceptable,” he wrote, referring to the last protest the opposition called when the government held an out-of-order parliamentary session. During that protest, some protesters threw rocks at the parliament’s hall and attempted to physically stop two Socialist MPs who were late for the session enter the building, however police also used tear gas against the crowd that was gathered there. At a press conference for the media, Danielsson highlighted that constructive dialogue among all sides is necessary. “It is a misfortune that Albania is in the trap, let's say due to its lack of stability. Political forces must fight for common reforms. Responsible leadership is necessary to bring the country closer to the EU. As far as the opposition is concerned, I have emphasized that the decision of the members to collectively burn their mandates undermines Albania's EU path. Uncertainty must be overcome urgently. The parliament is the pillar of the state, the engine of every mature democracy.” For this reason, Danielsson emphasized the need for cooperation.   “I think it should be emphasized what Mogherini and Hahn said, that this boycott is counter productive and undermines the integration processes. It is important for these protests to be peaceful and those who organize them to be restrained and not to incite violence,” Danielsson said. [post_title] => Head of EU Enlargement urges Albania to continues reforming and fighting corruption [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => head-of-eu-enlargement-urges-albania-to-continues-reforming-and-fighting-corruption [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-08 10:13:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-08 09:13:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140832 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141023 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-23 15:26:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-23 14:26:17 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 22 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told journalists on Wednesday he does not consider the replacement of the opposition MPs who resigned their parliamentary mandates with new MPs from the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration Party’ candidates list acceptable, or legal. “In my institutional assessment and conviction, the Parliament of Albania has 82 lawful MPs, including 3 opposition MPs who refused to resign their mandates according to the political decision of the respective parties. Any other number beyond this not only deepens this crisis, but certainly does not help in overcoming this situation, as any other number is disputable on all aspects. In the constitutional aspect, the legal, the procedural and political aspect and on a moral aspect,” Meta said. He added that such an act on the government’s side does not “hide this deep crisis of representation and at the same time does not guarantee, rather it undermines, the opening of negotiations between Albania and the European Union.” According to Meta, there can be no solution to this crisis, neither through ultimatums or through rhetoric that incites violent actions, neither by police methods or by financial means, but only through a rapid, serious and responsible political dialogue which guarantees the restoration of political life in normality, respecting the Constitution and respecting the separation of powers. At the same time, Meta blamed the opposition and its “unprecedented” decision to hold weekly anti-government rallies and resign its parliamentary mandates for “deepening the representational crisis that the Albanian parliament is now facing.” It was in this context Meta also said on Wednesday he would be ready to resign from his post if it would help resolve the deadlock the country is facing, be it from the non-functioning Constitutional Court to the opposition’s parliamentary mandates resignation and the risk of a junte installment. Meta said that after failing to mediate a solution he was ready to resign if he were “assured the country has a political, constitutional and solid solution.”   [post_title] => President Meta: “Replacement of resigned opposition MPs is illegal” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => president-meta-replacement-of-resigned-opposition-mps-is-illegal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-23 15:26:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-23 14:26:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141023 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 37 [name] => Free to Read [slug] => free [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 37 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. [parent] => 0 [count] => 900 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 37 [category_count] => 900 [category_description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. [cat_name] => Free to Read [category_nicename] => free [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 37 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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