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Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare

Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare

TIRANA, Nov. 6 – Alvin Berisha, the 11-year-old Albanian boy, has left the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria and is now free in Damascus. His father, Afrim Berisha, confirmed that Alvin had left the Al Hol camp, where he was

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Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI

Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI

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

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Police sequester $14mln worth of assets related to criminal activity

Police sequester $14mln worth of assets related to criminal activity

TIRANA, Nov. 5 – Albanian police said on Monday that it seized assets worth about $14 million, allegedly obtained in criminal ways and linked to Albanian citizen Arian Shanaj, a Fier resident. The police operation came after a Fier court

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Tirana-Rome-Athens, the new diplomatic axis?

Tirana-Rome-Athens, the new diplomatic axis?

TIRANA, Oct. 30 – Prime Minister Edi Rama met with Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis under the 4th EU-Arab World Summit held in Athens, where they agreed to discuss a number of open-ended topics between the two countries, such as the

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Police seize assets of Shkodra criminal group arrested in Denmark

Police seize assets of Shkodra criminal group arrested in Denmark

TIRANA, Oct. 30 – Police announced on Tuesday the seizure of three million euros worth of wealth from an Albanian-origin criminal group arrested in Denmark in June during a joint operation extending to Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia

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Woulda, coulda, shoulda*

By Sidonja Manushi   Last week, France and its President Emmanuel Macron vetoed against Albania and Northern Macedonia – two of the Western Balkan candidate countries still to open accession negotiations – receiving a green light to their European path. 

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Police identifies Iranian terrorists operating inside Albania

Police identifies Iranian terrorists operating inside Albania

TIRANA, Oct. 23 – Albanian police announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the functioning scheme and identified members of an Iranian terrorist cell that was targeting attacks on the Iranian opposition movement Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK),

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Opposition begins independent electoral reform

Opposition begins independent electoral reform

TIRANA, Oct. 24 – Albania’s opposition Democratic Party prepared on Thursday proposals on two of the main themes of electoral reform related to campaigning and the financing of political parties, as well as the administration of the electoral process.  A

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Opposition seeks PM’s resignation following EU rejection

Opposition seeks PM’s resignation following EU rejection

TIRANA, Oct. 21 – Opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha sought again Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama’s resignation on Monday, holding him responsible for failing the european integration process and the opening of accession talks with the bloc.  “One person

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North Macedonian PM to resign, leading country to snap elections after EU rejection

North Macedonian PM to resign, leading country to snap elections after EU rejection

TIRANA, Oct. 21 – North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said snap elections will take place after talking about failure to get a date for opening accession negotiations during the European Council meeting on Thursday in Brussels.  He did not

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 6 - Alvin Berisha, the 11-year-old Albanian boy, has left the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria and is now free in Damascus.

His father, Afrim Berisha, confirmed that Alvin had left the Al Hol camp, where he was alone.

"The boy is currently in Damascus, I am waiting for him to leave for Rome," he said.

On an operational level, Alvin's rescuing mission was carried out over four days by the organization ‘Syrian Half Moon,’ in cooperation with the International Red Cross but under the communication of Italian and Albanian police forces. 

The Italian media reported that both the Albanian and Italian governments were aware about the situation and operation, while on a diplomatic level the Albanian Embassy to Italy was also notified in advance.

Alvin's father had been looking for him since 2014, when his Albanian mother abandoned his family in Italy where they had lived for years and took Alvin, then six years old, to the Al Haul camp in Syria in the border with Turkey.

His Albanian mother, who started wearing a hijab, began to pray and displayed radical behavior before abducting him by his father, had died in the camp along with a foreign man whom she had married. 

Alvin remained alone, and after many attempts by his father, the investigative show "Le Iene" managed to find Alvin and meet his father after five years.

Meanwhile, Italian authorities called Alvin’s rescue mission an unprecedented one. 

 

Gov’t: “28 Albanian children currently in Kurdish camps”

The Albanian government is now making efforts to return to Albania all women and children in the  camp, already under the process of identification. This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children.

“Albania has established contacts during June and July. A potential repatriation operation was discussed at the end of August. But the situation on the ground changed. The operation froze. The US has withdrawn and there is a new geopolitical situation on the ground,” said Spiropali.

According to her, about 500 people from the Balkans are still there, 150 are Albanians, 72 are from Albania, 11-13 men classified as terrorists in prisons controlled by Kurdish forces.

“Of the 1,000 individuals from the Western Balkans in that area, about 400 have returned to their home countries, making this region the largest concentration of foreign fighters in Europe," Spiropali said.

Spiropali's interpellation was requested by a group of lawmakers seeking information on the rescue operations of Alvin, who attracted the attention of Italian journalists because his father lives in Italy. 

"Alvin's father received a letter from him in June. His presence at the camp was announced by the International Red Cross near the Albanian embassy in Cairo in early September. We have tried to help the Berisha family. Our embassy was informed on September 22 that a group of Italian journalists would travel to the camp, which was carried out on September 28. Officially, this is a difficult job,” said Spiropali.

She added that the situation in Syria continues to be complicated as a conflict zone with limited information.

Many Albanians traveled undocumented and crossed the border illegally, so complete identification and complition of the operation is a difficult task due to the lack of counterpart institutions, as their Albanian documents have disappeared and they have been generally equipped with Caliphate documents, which too have been torn down to prevent ISIS from being identified.

“The Albanian state is doing everything possible to return women and children from those camps. These territories are controlled by paramilitary structures and do not comply with international rules on the release of persons or the exchange of captives. In the re-ignited situation, operational steps cannot be made public at all, because those persons' lives would be endangered by revealing their identities,” said Spiropali.

It has been reported that among them there are also Albanian children born in the conflict area, but their number cannot be confirmed.

 

Albania included in US State Department’s terrorism report 

The US State Department released its annual Terrorism Report, which summarizes the achievements and challenges of the United States and its allies in combating and defeating terrorist organizations during 2018.

Despite achievements against the Islamic State’s terrorist organization, the report says Europe continues to face a number of threats from foreign terrorist organizations, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, internally cultivated terrorism, and Iranian-backed terrorists.

Albania is also mentioned among the European countries that took concrete steps against the terrorism backed by the Iranian regime. 

The section on Albania states that the country continued to strongly support anti-terror efforts and continued to participate in the Global Coalition for the Elimination of ISIS. 

Meanwhile, terrorist threats in Albania come from foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, as well as efforts to radicalize the Albanian youth towards violence. 

In December 2018, Albania expelled two Iranian officials, including the Iranian Ambassador, in response to an Iranian-sponsored plan to carry out a terrorist attack in Albania. 

Albania continues to benefit from US government-funded assistance programs for the training of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts and judges. Despite efforts to prevent the financing of terrorism, the conclusion of MONEYVAL, a Council of Europe body, cites Albania's "low effectiveness" in the three main directions of terrorist financing: confiscation, investigation and extension of financial sanctions.

 
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                    [post_content] => by Bujar Leskaj

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

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

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

a- Information technology to develop public administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As SAI, we have consolidated the reforms undertaken since 2012 in the management of human resources, focusing on the realization of three key objectives:
  1. Implementing the civil service legislative framework, the INTOSA International Standards on Auditing covering human resources management and the best practices and approaches identified by most developed SAIs such as the ECA, the US GAO, etc.
  2. Developing and installing ethical and integrity values ​​in every new SAI staff member, which is a prerequisite for institutional credibility and the foundation of citizens' trust in the SAI.
  3. Capacity building with a focus on enhancing professionalism and maximizing the productivity of young auditors and support staff.
This human resource management philosophy attempts to fulfill the priority objectives set out in the ISSAI 12 "Values ​​and Benefits of Supreme Audit Institutions - Making a Difference in Citizens' Life",by providing enhanced professional skills and knowledge of international standards in the field. During the period 2012-2019, ALSAI enabled the transformation from traditional human resource management to more proactive and innovative management, learning from SIGMA training experiences and from experts of advanced partner SAIs, such as the National Audit Office of Poland (NIK), the SAI of Croatia, the Austrian Court of Audit, the Czech SAI, etc., based on the INTOSAI motto “Experentia mutua Omnibus prodest”. The SAI's policy on audit capacity development, supported by its 2013–2017 Development Strategy, revised later and by its  2018-2022 Development Strategy, has aimed at recruiting and promoting capable and dedicated young auditors, hyghly motivated to contribute to individual development and to SAI development. I thank Mr. Joop Vrojlik, Former Senior Adviser to SIGMA, Mr. Robert Gielisse, former Senior Adviser to the European Commission's Directorate General for Budget (DG-Budget) and Mr. Raymond Hill, Team Leader and Senior Advisor to DG-Budget, for their permanent, significant and sometimes decisive contribution to ALSAI's institutional developments.In the context of meeting the objective of a modern human resources management, the ALSAI has taken concrete steps and a number of initiatives for the establishment of an effective human capital management infrastructure and system and the creation of a credible and professional institutional profile versus its main stakeholders – the auditees, the parliament, the media and the public. The effectiveness of HR policies in terms of enhancing professional capacity is evidenced by the indicator about 14 times higher of the average days of training per year per each auditor. So, from 2.1 average days of training in 2011 to an average of 25 days of training for the period 2012-2019, thus reaching the highest level throughout 94 years of existence of this institution. The average days per year for new auditors is 29 days. The ALSAI has orinted its auditors, especially the young ones to the use of digital audit process management information and support system, called RevZone, as an absolute novelty for the institution. RevZone facilitates and completes with the required information the digital guidance in audit. The institution has created a database of IT audit entities (ICTS Database) and developed the Active Information Technology Audit Manual. This electronic manual, with unquestionable value in risk analysis, audit planning and the use of previous audit experience, is a novelty not only for ALSAI but also for the global audit community as a product that was born, tested in a pilot audit and improved with the modest contribution of the ALSAI Information Technology auditors (largely composed of young auditors). It has been presented at several INTOSAI and EUROSAI IT working groups’ events, has been accepted and is being implemented as an innovation in the field of public supreme audit.   The ALSAI has translated INTOSAI's agenda for professionalism, presented at the INCOSAI XXII-nd Congress in December 2016 in Abu d'Habi and reconfirmed and consolidated at the INCOSAI XXIII-rd Congress in September 2019 in Moscow into assignments requiring more engagement from public auditors, especiallz from the young ones, to act as professionals, performing the audit work in the right quality and timely, as effectively and efficiently as possible.   The ALSAI, based on the enthusiasm and innovative strength of its young auditors, aspires to be fully capable to make a difference in the lives of Albanian citizens, as defined in the ISSAI 12. This is how our SAI has conceived growth and empowerment of institutional and organizational capacity, becoming the focus of the professional development for its young auditors and not only them, to enable them to deliver value and benefits to the citizen, in the uncompromising fight against corruption and in the work for real improvement of public governance, through auditing with efficiency, effectiveness and economz the use of Albanian taxpayer’s money.   [post_title] => Young auditors: innovation ambassadors at ALSAI [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => young-auditors-innovation-ambassadors-at-alsai [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-06 20:21:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-06 19:21:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143439 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143450 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-11-05 09:34:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-05 08:34:47 [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 5 - Albanian police said on Monday that it seized assets worth about $14 million, allegedly obtained in criminal ways and linked to Albanian citizen Arian Shanaj, a Fier resident. The police operation came after a Fier court decision, which a few days ago imposed a preventive order sequestering the Shanaj family’s real estate assets.  According to the Albanian police, the seized assets related to Arian Shanaj include three gas construction and trading companies operating in Fier, Durres, Tirana, Korça, etc. The police also seized one three-store hotel in Fier and an attached service unit, two three-storey villas, five service units with a total area of ​​7,982 square meters, three apartments, four garages with an area of ​​1,092 square meters in Fier, Tirana, Durres, 8,793 square meters of land, in Tirana, Durres, Fier, a vehicle worth $ 50,000 and about $ 25,000 in bank accounts. According to police, Shanaj was arrested in June 2017 by Greek police along with a Greek national after being cought with 20kg of cocaine, with an estimated market value of about $ 1m. Albanian police said that "the Albanian citizen and the Greek citizen were involved in the “import, storage, mixing, counterfeiting, recertification, trafficking, transportation and distribution of cocaine from Latin American countries.” State Police said that immediately after the arrest in Greece and the exchange of information with the Greek side, investigations were launched against the Albanian citizen for the criminal offense of "cleaning the products of a penal act.” Data published by the Greek press at that time referring to the Greek police authorities indicated that the organization's leaders had direct communication with a drug cartel in Colombia dealing with cocaine trafficking. The drugs, according to Greek police, coming from Latin America to the Balkans, were processed in Kosovo and Albania and stored in the area of ​​Trikala in Greece for distribution to some of the Greek tourist islands.   [post_title] => Police sequester $14mln worth of assets related to criminal activity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => police-sequester-14mln-worth-of-assets-related-to-criminal-activity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:36:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:36:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143450 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143389 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-31 19:25:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-31 18:25:47 [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 30 - Prime Minister Edi Rama met with Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis under the 4th EU-Arab World Summit held in Athens, where they agreed to discuss a number of open-ended topics between the two countries, such as the Greek minority’s rights and the Maritime Border Agreement.  Rama’s press office announced concerning the meeting that it took place under a positive spirit, with Rama saying that despite the European Council’s decision to deny Albania the opening of accession negotiations, Albania will continue to implement its reforms with the same decidability.  He added that it is important for both countries to discuss open-ended matters and to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. Mitsotakis was reported saying Greece supports the European perspective of all Western Balkan countries as long as they fulfill their EU obligations and do their homework, and said he appreciates the Albanian side’s commitment to work on property self-declaration, which is one of the Greek minority’s issues in Albania.  The meeting between the two took place in Mitsotakis’ headquarters in Athens, while Rama himself shared with his followers on Facebook a video from the meeting between the two.  In the video, Rama is seen being welcomed by his counterpart in front of his office, while being accompanied by Minister for Energy and Infrastructure Belinda Balluku.  Greek minority issues  Recognizing the Greek minority’s rights, especially concerning property issues, is one of the defining aspects of the Greek vote regarding Albania’s opening of EU accession negotiations. According to Greek and Albanian news sources, this was also the main topic of discussion between Rama and Mitsotakis.  During an official visit in Thessaloniki a few days prior to their meetings, Mitsotakis said that both Albania and North Macedonia will be under observation regarding the fulfillment of the conditions the EU has placed.  “By not wanting to risk even the slightest destabilization in the region, we will attentively observe how our neighbors respond to their obligations,” Mitsotakis said, adding that Athens remains in favor of granting both states the green light to continue their European path. “Just like with everyone else, we seek good neighborly relations with Albania as well. We should not forget that Greece has hosted many economic migrants from Albania, providing in this way a helping hand to reviving its economy. The context of our cooperation is very wide. But a condition for the common progress, condition for the eventual opening of Albania’s EU path, is respect towards the Greek minority and its rights,” Mitsotakis said. The head of the Greek government, for the first time since coming to power, also called to find a common language to define the exclusive economic zones in the Ionian Sea.  “It is a condition not to have calls from people who are not familiar with history, as well as a sincere approach towards defining the exclusive economic zones for both states in the Ioanian sea, a process I would like to remind you has ended since 2009, when Tirana backed down,” Mitsotakis said. Rama: “We will work with the new Greek gov’t for a Maritime Border Agreement” Meanwhile, Rama said that talk claiming Greek minority rights’ are not respected in Albania is irrational. In an interview with the Greek Euronews, Rama said that the Greek minority enjoys the same rights as Albanian citizens. “These are senseless accusations. Albania makes up for a shining example of respect towards minorities and the greek one, which has been living for a long time in the same conditions as Albanians and faces the same problems as them when it comes down to that,” Rama said, implying the property issues undergone by the Greek minority are similar to those for the Albanians. In this context, Rama said that Albanian-Greek minority relations, going back in history, are actually excellent example how politics should manage the way neighbors co-exist.  Mitsotakis, however, more concretely refers  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. Up until last July, Athens and Tirana were conducting a number of head-to-head meetings through then-foreign-ministers Nikos Kotzias and Ditmir 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 the rights to negotiate greek minority issues. Nonetheless, the issue that was most debated by political actors from all sides of the spectrums, experts and 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 then-Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Rama, despite the lack of information on the negotiators and the non-functionality of Albania’s Constitutional Court under the ongoing justice reform process. During this meeting, Rama expressed willingness to resume talks to reach a Maritime Border Agreement with Greece. Rama and Italian counterpart meet in Tirana and Rome within two weeks On Thursday, after meeting Mitsotakis, Rama travelled to Rome to meet Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who only recently was in Tirana and spoke positively about the country’s EU integration. Under focus of this meeting was the strengthening of relations between the two countries, and the possibility to raise investments in particular.  Conte said after their meeting during a press conference with Rama that Italy will suggest during the European Council’s next meeting to reassess its decision to deny Albania’s opening of accession negotiations.  Further on, he said that they will work on initiatives in various businesses. He made an appeal to the Albanian opposition to engage in dialogue with the government to resolve the crisis. “The opposition and the government should sit together and resolve the crisis. Both states, Albania and Italy, will work on business initiatives,” Conte was reported saying.  For his part, Rama reiterated that Albania has no other way but to integrate fully into the European Union.  “I would like to welcome Italy's stance on the negotiations. Unfortunately, the European Council failed to make the right decision for Albania, delivering a message of weakness. We will continue the same path, we will continue with the people. We believe we have many strong partners. There are many Albanians who contribute and pay Italian taxes. 115 thousand Albanians study in Italian schools and 10 thousand students attend studies with very good results. As a university professor, the Italian prime minister has recognized the merits of Albanians here. This is a kind of appreciation for the integration that Albanians have been able to achieve in Italy,” Rama said.  Rama thanked Italy for the valuable assistance provided to the Albanian people. He stated that he has received support to fight not only organized crime but also to develop business relationships.  “We have managed to converse and give priority to Italian firms operating in our country. We discussed the Arberesh living in Italy. It is an added cultural value of the Italian state for the variety of cultural values ​​that Italy presents, in terms of the voice of Italy, which has an indisputable value even in the international arena regarding its support to Albania,” Rama declared.   [post_title] => Tirana-Rome-Athens, the new diplomatic axis? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tirana-rome-athens-the-new-diplomatic-axis [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:25:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:25:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143389 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143398 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-30 19:31:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-30 18:31:57 [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 30 - Police announced on Tuesday the seizure of three million euros worth of wealth from an Albanian-origin criminal group arrested in Denmark in June during a joint operation extending to Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and Albania.  The sequestered assets are located in Shkodra and include a private poultry company worth over 1.5 million euros, ten residential apartments on the beach of Velipoja, one residential apartment in Shkodra and 14 vehicles of various brands, products of recent years. According to police, the assets were allegedly derived from the criminal activities of citizens Jetmir Kastrati, Eri Pelinku, Defrim Eçi and Armando Duçaj, arrested in Denmark for the offenses “structured criminal group", "international drug trafficking" and "laundering of the byproducts of crime or criminal activity ”. Tuesday's police operation, codenamed "GOLDFINGER", is a follow-up to the operation dated June 26, when, after the arrest in Denmark of four group members, 200,000 euros, ten million lek, seven vehicles, seven apartments and one business was seized. The seized properties, according to police, were registered on behalf of the family members of the members of this criminal group, aiming to hide traces of drug money laundering. Following the seizure, the properties were handed over to the Agency for the Administration of Sequestrated and Confiscated Assets at the Ministry of Finance. Meanwhile, there are suspicions that members of this criminal group have other assets hidden within Albania’s territory.    [post_title] => Police seize assets of Shkodra criminal group arrested in Denmark [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => police-seize-assets-of-shkodra-criminal-group-arrested-in-denmark [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-31 19:33:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-31 18:33:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143398 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143348 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-24 23:06:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-24 21:06:34 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi   Last week, France and its President Emmanuel Macron vetoed against Albania and Northern Macedonia - two of the Western Balkan candidate countries still to open accession negotiations - receiving a green light to their European path.  Following this decision, which many analysts and experts ‘blamed’ on France alone, Macron gave a statement saying the majority of EU member states favored the opening of talks with Northern Macedonia, believing in the credibility of its reforms much more than Albania’s. According to Reuters, Macron said that “opening negotiations with Northern Macedonia, while having to leave Albania outside, would be a fatal mistake for the region.”  Contrarily to what one might have expected to happen following Macron’s words, it was Northern Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who proposed his own resignation under snap elections and the establishment of a caretaker government on Friday after Brussels decision, while Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama did the exact opposite, blaming the rejection on internal EU issues alone and categorically refusing any resignation talk.  “We have not firmly promised that negotiations will open. This is the first factor. The responsibility levels facing internal opinion are completely different. The second factor is structural, as in Albania there is no place for resignation. In Bundestag’s stand, Albania is obliged to address ODIHR recommendations for electoral reform, which is ongoing. Albania cannot hold electoral elections while the reform is still under process. We are at a situation where we don’t have a functional Constitutional Court,” said Gent Cakaj, the acting Albanian foreign minister, a day after the country failed to open negotiations yet again. The underlying paradox in this situation is blatant, to say the least.  Although EU member states have continued being critical towards N. Macedonia’s reforms, which also still have a long way to go, none has argued against the weight of the reforms undertaken, or the leadership of Zaev, who was reportedly even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras for ratifying the Prespa agreement and reaching a consensus on the name change.  For Albania, in addition to France, other EU member states have constantly urged further progress in ongoing reforms, while, recently, the German Bundestag agreed on conditionally granting Albania the green light - adding solving the political crisis and punishing high-ranking corruption and vote rigging in the long list of things to be figured out by the government and the opposition.  In this context, saying Albania’s fate was sealed by internal EU issues alone is looking at the world through pink colored glasses. But assuming that N. Macedonia got the short end of the stick in this entire situation is good intuition and the political reactions in each respective country only testify to this fact.  However, what might be the worst in this situation, is Cakaj’s statement that the Socialist Party did not make any specific promises to open negotiations (although the government’s foreign policy mantra has been EU membership since the start), followed by arguing it can nevertheless not resign, because then reforms would halt.  Although sidetracking is possible, Cakaj’s words bear a bigger danger - that of tying up the European perspective with one party.  The European perspective does not belong to political sides, but to the Albanian people - treating it as such only deepens the already-rooted tendency to think in two-party terms here and in lack of an alternative, which could be a caretaker government, a government of experts, political scientists, activists, civil society members, etc. In reality, reforms are not tied to any political side, but are only a logical outcome of Albania’s long transition into a functioning democracy, as is its European path. Preferring to go down this path by turning a blind eye to issues is harmful, just as much as being happy with receiving a ‘yes’ even if we all know Albania will still need years to actually become an EU member state after opening negotiations.  In doing so, the morale is fed with lies, issues are not truly resolved and the opportunity for choosing an alternative on how to reach the citizen’s European future will get buried under the stash of increasing homework for Albania, which will probably continue to accumulate through the years.  *An expression of dismissiveness or disappointment concerning a statement, question, explanation, course of action, or occurrence involving hypothetical possibilities, uncertain facts, or missed opportunities.   [post_title] => Woulda, coulda, shoulda* [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => woulda-coulda-shoulda [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-25 10:20:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-25 08:20:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143348 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143334 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-24 23:00:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-24 21:00:32 [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 23 - Albanian police announced on Wednesday that they have uncovered the functioning scheme and identified members of an Iranian terrorist cell that was targeting attacks on the Iranian opposition movement Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), with over 2,000 members residing in Albania as refugees since 2014. Albanian General Police Director Ardi Veliu and Head of Anti-terror Gledis Nano said the Iranian-government led terrorist cell is operating within Albanian borders. During a press conference, Veliu said the "terrorist cell is also responsible, among other things, for the March 2018 plan to carry out a terrorist attack during the celebrations of the Nevruz Festival, attended by high-level members of the to the Iranian opposition organization Mujahideen al Khalq (MEK), a plan that was prevented by increased State Police measures, thanks to accurate information.”  According to Albanian police, "the terrorist cell is run by a QUDS Forces operative, known under the name Peyman, a permanent resident of Iran, who remotely manages a number of operations in Albania and elsewhere in Central and Western Europe."  One of the cell members is Alireza Naghashzadeh, a former MEK member with an Austrian passport. "Naghashzadeh was sent by Peyman to gather information in Albania during several separate visits as part of plans for an attack that was eventually halted," Veliu explained. Another operative is Abdolkhalegh Malek Zadeh, an Iranian living in Turkey leading the cell’s operational work.  "Malek Zadeh, also known by criminal connections under the nickname Ferhat, has worked over the past two years with Abdulselam Turgut, a well-known Turkish organized crime figure, to plan terrorist attacks at Peyman and the QUDS Forces behalf”, said Veliu. Turgut is an infamous Turkish mafia boss and the head of an international drug trafficking, imprisoned recently in Turkey and Azerbaijan for drug trafficking accusations. He is also known by the Albanian authorities.  In 2011, Turgut was also jailed in Albania on charges related to the alleged trafficking of about 1 tonne of heroin, but fled the country using a false passport after the court changed the security measure from imprisonment to house arrest.  QUDS is the operational wing of IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), which operate beyond Iran's borders. QUDS Forces are led by Qassem Soleimani, who is responsible, among others, for Iran’s activity in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.  Within the QUDS unit there is a sub-unit exclusively dealing with all opposition organizations. The unit’s Modus Operandi includes long-distance management of proxy forces, usually criminals and mafia members with various pasts who cover Iran’s terrorist activities.  The criminal operatives based in the Balkans, responding to Turgut or a drug-dealer closely connected to him, have been sent to Albania since 2018 to advance the planned attacks against MEK, as ordered by Malek Zadeh.  “We bring into attention that since 2014, in coordination with the US and EU, Albania has hosted a large number of MEK members, an organization which views itself as a long-distance opposition and as a practical alternative to the Iranian regime, and which in turn is considered a serious threat to the regime’s survival. MEK is a key target for the Iranian security forces, which aim to attach organization members wherever they live and operate outside of Iran,” Veliu said during the press conference.    The March 2018 attack that was prevented Under the excuse they were two journalists invited to participate in the Nowruz celebrations organized by the Bektashi Order Headquarters in Albania, two Iranian citizens entered the country in March 22, 2018. It was later revealed the two were members of a terrorist organization planning attacks in Tirana, who were arrested by anti-terror agents as they were trying to enter the headquarters. It was these two citizens’ entry into the country which raised doubts on the Iranian diplomatic service, which potentially helped the two citizens enter by providing them with diplomatic passports. The State Information Service (SHISH) had allegedly received information since the start of 2018 that terrorist attacks could take place in Albania against the MEK community.  SHISH, state police and the Serious Crimes Prosecution had been informed in detail about the arrival of the two citizens, who had managed to pass all checks until they were arrested, also due to their diplomatic passports.  Upon interrogation, the two suspects told police they were journalists who visited Albania upon invitation, while sources claim that at the time police forces were also informed about a possible attack at the camp where the MEK community is residing, nearby Durres.  Concerning the relations between MEK members and the Bektashi Order, World Leader of the Order Edmond Brahimaj told ‘News 24’ concerning the attacks that were prevented under celebrations that he was informed after everything had taken place and that although the order does not foster significant relations with MEK, the order’s religious activities are open to everyone. Diplomatic expulsions  Last December, Iran's ambassador to Albania and another embassy diplomat was expelled from Albania. The foreign ministry reported at the time that "the two Iranian diplomats were declared unwanted after allegedly being involved in activities that threaten security in the country.” The decision to declare Iranian diplomats undesirable - the Albanian Foreign Ministry further clarified - was taken in consultation with the Allied countries because of their activity in Albania in violation of their diplomatic status. They were declared ‘non-grata,’ while the decision was congratulated by US President Donald Trump through a letter addressed to Prime Minister Edi Rama.  “Thank you for your uninterrupted efforts by going against Iras and its destabilizing efforts in order to shut the mouths of all dissidents around the world,” Trump said, among other things, in his letter.      [post_title] => Police identifies Iranian terrorists operating inside Albania [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => police-identifies-iranian-terrorist-cell-members [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-24 23:01:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-24 21:01:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143334 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143343 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-24 22:49:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-24 20:49:11 [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 24 - Albania’s opposition Democratic Party prepared on Thursday proposals on two of the main themes of electoral reform related to campaigning and the financing of political parties, as well as the administration of the electoral process.  A working group of opposition experts is meeting regularly to address electoral reform recommendations. “This is a clear indication of the united opposition's commitment to electoral reform. From the very first moment that the comprehensive electoral reform with the contribution of all political parties was put forward as a request of the German Bundestag for the opening of negotiations with Albania, the opposition took steps to make its sincere contribution to this reform. We have proposed a mechanism to have a joint product with the other side,” said DP Secretary-General Gazmend Bardhi. He stressed that genuine electoral reform is a condition for opening negotiations with the EU, and that the German Bundestag has made it a condition of carrying out a reform with the participation of all political parties. “Electoral reform has not been and will not be a matter of the monist parliament. It lays down the rules of the game for political parties to compete in elections, so those rules must be established in good faith. The opposition made a concrete and sincere proposal for a mechanism of cooperation with the other party, when in fact it should be the government that should reach out and seek the cooperation of the opposition for the realization of this condition by the Bundestag,” said Bardhi. He said that the opposition is waiting for a response from the other side to meet its obligations, aware that it faces an irresponsible government and majority. "As long as there is no justified refusal from the other side to our proposal, this indicates the other side is unwilling to cooperate with the opposition in carrying out electoral reform. The opposition is ready to engage in this reform. The other party should think about opening negotiations with the EU, show accountability in the face of the conditions and criteria set by international partners, and accept the cooperation initiative we have proposed to have a common product of electoral reform,” said Bardhi. He added that Albanian citizens demand that electoral reform guarantees free and fair elections and that its their vote that determines the government, and not dirty money, cooperation with organized crime and their inclusion in the electoral process. On the other hand, the Socialist majority has rejected opposition demands for an international electoral reform commission, and has called on oppositionists to dialogue in institutions, denying the presence of a political crisis in the capital. Socialist leaders reminded the opposition that there is a vacancy for it in the electoral reform commission. The SP has often expressed its willingness to dialogue with the opposition, even after it resigned from parliament in February. “The best example of our readiness for dialogue with the opposition is the fact that the Reform Commission is also left with a vacant chair for the Democratic Party to exercise its right to make proposals. Next year Albania will take over the presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, so electoral and judicial reforms are obligations,” said Balla. He stressed that "without depoliticizing the election commissions, we have not made electoral reform in Albania.  Despite repeated invitations and statements, signs of dialogue between Albanian political forces are still not to be seen.  [post_title] => Opposition begins independent electoral reform [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => opposition-begins-independent-electoral-reform [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-24 22:49:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-24 20:49:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143343 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143329 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-21 16:59:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-21 14:59:10 [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 21 - Opposition’s Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha sought again Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama’s resignation on Monday, holding him responsible for failing the european integration process and the opening of accession talks with the bloc.  “One person is keeping us all hostage. This has to stop,” Basha said. The leader of the united opposition, which has long resigned from parliament and boycotted the last local elections in June, stressed that the difficult economic situation, the lack of opportunities, resulting from the capturing of institutions and inequality before the law, have forced Albanians to leave in record numbers. “Europe rejected Edi Rama, not Albania. The failure is Edi Rama's, not Albania's. This message has been stronger than ever from Germany, which said yes to Albania and no to the government through nine conditions to be met. Without serious reforms, which he is unable and unwilling to do, Europe will continue to reject Edi Rama, while we, the Albanians, will continue to suffer the consequences,” said Basha.  He stated that Rama should return the mandate to the Albanian people, because "most of the countries were of the same opinion that the government of Albania did not deserve the opening of negotiations and that placing conditions showed that the government has taken steps backwards.” He said that crime, corruption, vote buying, malfunctioning of the courts are not internal problems of Europe, but of the Rama government. "EU conditions are our guide to get out of the crisis, to build a democratic Albania, with the opportunity for all its citizens. Bringing the criminals to justice at high levels is the non-negotiable requirement for opening accession talks,” he said. Basha said Tirana's government should follow the example of Northern Macedonia and give up the country’s leadership.  "With a new, legitimate government emerging from free and fair elections leading the European negotiation process, prosperity and progress is possible," he said. However, Rama rejected demands for resignation and accused the opposition of working too hard to thwart the process. "They didn't leave one stone unturned, but they didn't succeed. Northern Macedonia and Albania did not receive what they deserve as a result of an internal clash at the European family table on the future of the European Union,” he said. Rama said after a meeting of the SP on the same topic that the only thing Albania can do is do its homework, and that the latest EU response did not change anything in the country's strategic trajectory, the SP and government. “Our homework is very clear. Our path continues without any wavering and with no equivocation. We want to make European Albania for Albanians and our children and we will do it daily, "he said. France reminded Albania that it has a high number of asylum seekers and immigrants, which does not comply with its European integration requirements, while Germany urged it to reestablish the Constitutional Court and punish officials incriminated in judicial corruption and electoral crimes. The opening of accession talks for both Albania and Macedonia got rejected by France primarily during the last European Council meeting last Thursday.    [post_title] => Opposition seeks PM’s resignation following EU rejection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => opposition-seeks-pms-resignation-following-eu-rejection-to-opening-negotiations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-31 19:25:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-31 18:25:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143329 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143326 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-10-21 14:39:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-21 12:39:21 [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 21 - North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said snap elections will take place after talking about failure to get a date for opening accession negotiations during the European Council meeting on Thursday in Brussels.  He did not hide his emotions as he said his country had suffered a great injustice.  "We brought all our commitments to reality, but the European Union did not reflect on the promises made. We made reforms, we solved the problems with our neighbors while the EU did not comply with its word,” Zaev said. “The European Union failing to decide to open talks with us is a historic mistake and this was confirmed by all European leaders,” Zaev said, highlighting the frustration and outrage. He further said the EU decision was taken under unresolved internal problems, which Northern Macedonia cannot change. He, however, came feeling responsible in front of citizens.  "I stand in front of you and clearly urge you, the European dream for Macedonians, Albanians, Serbs, Vlachs, Turks, Roma, Bosniaks and others living in our country - it will not be ruined,” he said.  "That's why I propose the quick holding of snap elections. Elections, as soon as possible,” said Zaev, who will also be resigning from his post as the country’s PM.  Zaev said that it’s up to citizens “to take the right way towards democratic and European values, to development and prosperity, or to the dark path of isolation, nationalism, divisions and conflicts, which is the way backwards.” The opposition, both Macedonian and Albanian, has been calling for early elections for months, as the Democratic Union for Integration has not backed the idea, due to the possibility of regression from reforms and integration processes, as its officials have often said. A part of analysts have also said that early elections would halt the progress of reforms launched and take Northern Macedonia a precious time to achieve the required European standards.  Following Zaev’s statement, the ruling and opposition parties in Northern Macedonia agreed on Sunday evening for early parliamentary elections to take place on April 12, 2020. In the meeting convened by President Stevo Pendarovski, the issue of snap elections was the second topic after the failure to obtain a date for opening negotiations with the European Union. The election date was accepted by consensus of all participants in the meeting: Zaev, who is both PM and chairman of the Social Democratic League, Hristijan Mickovski of the opposition VMRO-DPMNE, Ali Ahmeti of the Democratic Union for Integration, Zijadin Sela chairman of the Alliance for Albanians , Afrim Gashi of Alternative, Bilal Kasami of the Besa Movement and Menduh Thaçi of the Albanian Democratic Party. Under a deal made some years ago, three months before the election date, the PM must resign and form a caretaker government, which will include the opposition.  Under this agreement, the technical government should be formed by January 3. Zaev said at the meeting that his party was ready to accept a single constituency or open lists. Northern Macedonia currently has six constituencies and each sends twenty deputies to the Republican Parliament. Opposition leader Mickovski told reporters that it was important to set a date for early elections, as he dismissed allegations made by SDSM officials that he was glad the country did not get a date for EU negotiations.  Opposition parties have been calling for early elections for months, criticizing Mr Zaev's government for corruption scandals, nepotism and inability to carry out reforms that would lead the country towards European integration.   [post_title] => North Macedonian PM to resign, leading country to snap elections after EU rejection [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => north-macedonian-pm-to-resign-leading-country-to-snap-elections-after-eu-rejection [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-21 14:39:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-21 12:39:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143326 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143444 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2019-11-08 09:25:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-11-08 08:25:30 [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 6 - Alvin Berisha, the 11-year-old Albanian boy, has left the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria and is now free in Damascus. His father, Afrim Berisha, confirmed that Alvin had left the Al Hol camp, where he was alone. "The boy is currently in Damascus, I am waiting for him to leave for Rome," he said. On an operational level, Alvin's rescuing mission was carried out over four days by the organization ‘Syrian Half Moon,’ in cooperation with the International Red Cross but under the communication of Italian and Albanian police forces.  The Italian media reported that both the Albanian and Italian governments were aware about the situation and operation, while on a diplomatic level the Albanian Embassy to Italy was also notified in advance. Alvin's father had been looking for him since 2014, when his Albanian mother abandoned his family in Italy where they had lived for years and took Alvin, then six years old, to the Al Haul camp in Syria in the border with Turkey. His Albanian mother, who started wearing a hijab, began to pray and displayed radical behavior before abducting him by his father, had died in the camp along with a foreign man whom she had married.  Alvin remained alone, and after many attempts by his father, the investigative show "Le Iene" managed to find Alvin and meet his father after five years. Meanwhile, Italian authorities called Alvin’s rescue mission an unprecedented one.    Gov’t: “28 Albanian children currently in Kurdish camps” The Albanian government is now making efforts to return to Albania all women and children in the  camp, already under the process of identification. This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children. This was stated by State Minister Elisa Spiropali during an interpellation in parliament on the subject, which announced full identification so far of at least 28 Albanian children. “Albania has established contacts during June and July. A potential repatriation operation was discussed at the end of August. But the situation on the ground changed. The operation froze. The US has withdrawn and there is a new geopolitical situation on the ground,” said Spiropali. According to her, about 500 people from the Balkans are still there, 150 are Albanians, 72 are from Albania, 11-13 men classified as terrorists in prisons controlled by Kurdish forces. “Of the 1,000 individuals from the Western Balkans in that area, about 400 have returned to their home countries, making this region the largest concentration of foreign fighters in Europe," Spiropali said. Spiropali's interpellation was requested by a group of lawmakers seeking information on the rescue operations of Alvin, who attracted the attention of Italian journalists because his father lives in Italy.  "Alvin's father received a letter from him in June. His presence at the camp was announced by the International Red Cross near the Albanian embassy in Cairo in early September. We have tried to help the Berisha family. Our embassy was informed on September 22 that a group of Italian journalists would travel to the camp, which was carried out on September 28. Officially, this is a difficult job,” said Spiropali. She added that the situation in Syria continues to be complicated as a conflict zone with limited information. Many Albanians traveled undocumented and crossed the border illegally, so complete identification and complition of the operation is a difficult task due to the lack of counterpart institutions, as their Albanian documents have disappeared and they have been generally equipped with Caliphate documents, which too have been torn down to prevent ISIS from being identified. “The Albanian state is doing everything possible to return women and children from those camps. These territories are controlled by paramilitary structures and do not comply with international rules on the release of persons or the exchange of captives. In the re-ignited situation, operational steps cannot be made public at all, because those persons' lives would be endangered by revealing their identities,” said Spiropali. It has been reported that among them there are also Albanian children born in the conflict area, but their number cannot be confirmed.   Albania included in US State Department’s terrorism report  The US State Department released its annual Terrorism Report, which summarizes the achievements and challenges of the United States and its allies in combating and defeating terrorist organizations during 2018. Despite achievements against the Islamic State’s terrorist organization, the report says Europe continues to face a number of threats from foreign terrorist organizations, foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, internally cultivated terrorism, and Iranian-backed terrorists. Albania is also mentioned among the European countries that took concrete steps against the terrorism backed by the Iranian regime.  The section on Albania states that the country continued to strongly support anti-terror efforts and continued to participate in the Global Coalition for the Elimination of ISIS.  Meanwhile, terrorist threats in Albania come from foreign fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, as well as efforts to radicalize the Albanian youth towards violence.  In December 2018, Albania expelled two Iranian officials, including the Iranian Ambassador, in response to an Iranian-sponsored plan to carry out a terrorist attack in Albania.  Albania continues to benefit from US government-funded assistance programs for the training of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, financial investigators, intelligence analysts and judges. Despite efforts to prevent the financing of terrorism, the conclusion of MONEYVAL, a Council of Europe body, cites Albania's "low effectiveness" in the three main directions of terrorist financing: confiscation, investigation and extension of financial sanctions.   [post_title] => Albanian child rescued from Syrian refugee camp nightmare [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanian-child-rescued-from-syrian-refugee-camp-nightmare [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-11 14:38:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-11 13:38:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143444 [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] => 1044 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 37 [category_count] => 1044 [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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