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Opposition’s national anti-gov’t rally concludes

Opposition’s national anti-gov’t rally concludes

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – After four hours of clashes and tensions in Tirana’s center, right in front of the prime minister’s office, the opposition rally called to remove Edi Rama’s Socialist government came to an end. The head of the

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Gov’t officials condemn 25-year-sentence for man who shot 4 policemen

Gov’t officials condemn 25-year-sentence for man who shot 4 policemen

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – Two Albanian government ministers reacted strongly against a  of Serious Crimes Court of Appeals verdict concerning the 25-year jail sentence against Dritan Dajti, after the latter killed four policemen. Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj said in a

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Sole Albanian-owned carrier gains market share as TIA handles record passengers

Sole Albanian-owned carrier gains market share as TIA handles record passengers

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Feb. 13 – The sole Albanian-owned carrier has gained considerable share in Albania’s air transport market, in only slightly more than a couple of years after launching its operations as a Tirana-based company owned by two

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Police officer arrested over sexually harassing a minor in Shkodra

Police officer arrested over sexually harassing a minor in Shkodra

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – The Shkodra Police arrested on Monday evening a Malesia e Madhe police officer over suspicions of sexual harassment of a minor. Through a brief statement, the police announced that Berhan Bajrakurti, a specialist in the Gruemire

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Catholic priest calls on Albania doctors and med students to stop collective exodus

Catholic priest calls on Albania doctors and med students to stop collective exodus

TIRANA, Feb. 12 – Catholic Priest Angelo Massafra called on Albanian doctors and medical students not to leave the country in hoards looking for a better future for themselves during February 11 – the World Day of the Sick. “Doctors

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Albanian Embassy to Belgrade website hacked due to violation of national symbols

Albanian Embassy to Belgrade website hacked due to violation of national symbols

TIRANA, Feb. 11 – The website of the Albanian Embassy to Serbia was hacked by Anonymous Albania on Monday because the website was displaying a white two-headed eagle on a red background instead of the constitutional black one. The Albanian

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Tirana citizens protest against female violence in silent rally

Tirana citizens protest against female violence in silent rally

TIRANA, Feb. 11 – A silent rally in support of Albania’s physically and emotionally violated girls and women took place in Tirana on Sunday. The protest was fueled by the case of the group rape against one underage girl in

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Irish Minister of State supports Albania’s EU road, in two-day visit

Irish Minister of State supports Albania’s EU road, in two-day visit

TIRANA, Feb. 7 – The Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee and the Finnish State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Samuli Virtanen came for a two-day official visit to Albania this week, conducting meetings with a number of

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15 navy officers dismissed after failing to guard military base

15 navy officers dismissed after failing to guard military base

TIRANA, Feb. 4 – The entire chain of command at the Pashaliman naval base has been discharged following a theft which occured due to administrative irresponsibility. Authorities discharged 15 officers, starting from the base commander and his deputy, punishing them

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President calls for brand new Great Ring project due to corruption and lack of transparency

President calls for brand new Great Ring project due to corruption and lack of transparency

TIRANA, Feb. 4 – Albanian President Ilir Meta asked the government to launch a new project for the construction of the Great Ring road, done in full transparency and in consultation with the affected citizens, who have been protesting against

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - After four hours of clashes and tensions in Tirana's center, right in front of the prime minister's office, the opposition rally called to remove Edi Rama's Socialist government came to an end.

The head of the opposition's Democratic Party Lulzim Basha announced its end, while warning "the revolution will continue until this rotten system comes to an end."

Opposition supporters have been called for a second protest next Thursday, Feb. 21.

The protest began and carried on with physical clashes between protesters and the countless police forces gathered to maintain order, as protesters sought to enter the prime minister's office, while police kept them away combining the use of water and tear gas.

Some protesters were taken by ambulances due to bad reactions to the tear gas used.

Basha blamed the police employed to protect the prime minister's office of intentionally allowing protesters to pass through to ignite violence and physical clashes.

"It began four days ago with the police's irresponsible claims, it carried on last night, today, as protesters were arriving. Even now when the protest started completely peacefully and nobody was against the officers, who were even given flowers. Meanwhile, with the crowd's smallest pressure, which is of course angry as Great Ring citizens who have had their homes taken away from them and stolen 18 million euros, we witness the police cord breaking. This means there is a plan to ignite violence," Basha said.

The country's President Ilir Meta reacted by calling on all sides to show self-restraint in order to avoid any conflict or violence.

"Citizens should freely protests and institutions should be respected," Meta said.

In a public announcement, the US Embassy strongly condemned the violence that took place today during the protest - namely, the destruction of the prime minister's office.

"We uphold the citizens' right to peaceful protest, but damage of public property and violence are not acceptable. We encourage all parties to show better restraint and restore tranquility," the statement read.

In the same line, the EU Delegation to Tirana and embassies of other EU member states called on all parties to show immediate constraint.

Meanwhile, some of the protesters have remained in front of the prime minister's office, while Basha declared it will be the citizens themselves who will decide how the protest will carry on.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 13 - Two Albanian government ministers reacted strongly against a  of Serious Crimes Court of Appeals verdict concerning the 25-year jail sentence against Dritan Dajti, after the latter killed four policemen.

Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj said in a public statement that the decision to condemn Dajti to 25 years of imprisonment is an assassination of justice and that the police will have no peace until that decision is revoked.

“The last 48 hours have been emotionally heavy for family members of the officers who fell on duty on August 7, 2009, for the State Police and all Albanian citizens, as a result of a criminal decision of some judges who fully deserve to join their customers behind bars,” Lleshaj said.

According to Lleshaj, the decision comes as a crime from people with legal and constitutional immunity. 

“The ‘Force of Law’ operation has been put into action to address with all the force of law the clear, brutal and scandalous assassination toward our country’s  justice, towards the countless sacrifices and spilled blood of hundreds State Police officers over the last three decades,” Lleshaj said.

The justice ministry also called the court decision "an unacceptable scandal of intolerable proportions,” while Minister Etilda Gjonaj said the government will respond to this by addressing the High Judicial Council.

The justice minister will request the HJC to take disciplinary measures against the judges for this unprecedented case of violations in opposition to any standard of shortened sentences and criminal processes.

The Serious Crimes Appeals Court annulled the decision to sentence Dajti with life imprisonment two days earlier and accepted the appeal for a shortened trial, setting the sentence to 25 years of prison.

Dajti is accused of killing four policemen in 2009, Fatos Xhani, Sajmir Duckollari, Altin Dizdari and Kastriot Feskaj, but said he shot the gun to defend himself without knowing they were policemen.

The Supreme Court returned the file for retrial to the Appellate for a procedural violation after Dajti was sentenced to life imprisonment, but the shortened sentence was accepted and out of the 25 years of imprisonment he is estimated to have paid off nearly 15 years of the measure after 10 years of judicial investigations on the case.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-13 11:43:46
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, Feb. 13 - The sole Albanian-owned carrier has gained considerable share in Albania’s air transport market, in only slightly more than a couple of years after launching its operations as a Tirana-based company owned by two Albanian businessmen.

Albawings, which links Tirana to more than a dozen Italian destinations, increased its market share to 11 percent in 2018 when it handled more than 300,000 passengers, a 50 percent hike compared to 2017, according to the Albanian Civil Aviation Authority.

Founded by two Albanian entrepreneurs with a background in the travel industry, Albawings has been linking Tirana to Italy, the host of some 500,000 Albanian migrants, since August 2016.

It is currently the sole Albanian-owned carrier in a market that is dominated by Italian carriers, handling 40 percent of passengers to and from Tirana International Airport, Albania’s sole international airport.

The sole Albanian-owned carrier serving Italian destinations, increased its market share to 8 percent in 2017, up from a mere 2 percent in 2016 when it launched its operations.

Former Albanian-owned Belle Air carrier had a market share of more than 50 percent in 2013 before it surprisingly went bankrupt after eight years of operations.

Last year, Albania unveiled ambitious plans to build a new airport south of the country and launch a flag carrier in cooperation with Turkish investors and the Turkish government, but the projects are currently stuck in limbo.

A 49 percent stake in Air Albania is held by Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s flag carrier and one of the world’s leading carriers where the Turkish government controls almost half of its shares.

 

Italian companies dominate

Italian-owned carriers handled more than 40 percent of passengers flying to and from Tirana, mainly linking Albania to Italy, a top travel destination for Albanians regularly travelling to meet friends and relatives, doing business or on holiday.

Facing tougher competition by Albanian-owned Albawings, and Ernest Airlines, another Italian low-cost carrier that launched operations in 2016, Italian-owned Blue Panorama saw its market share drop to 21 percent in 2018, when it handled more than 600,000 passengers.

Italian-owned Ernest Airlines almost doubled its market share to 12 percent in 2018 when it handled around 400,000 passengers.

Meanwhile, Alitalia, Italy's embattled flag carrier, saw the number of its passengers to and from Tirana decline for a third year in a row and its market share drop to 9 percent.

Among other companies, Turkish Airlines, mainly offering flights to Turkey, an emerging travel destination for Albanians, had a 6 percent market share, handling around 200,000 passengers. Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish low-cost carrier mainly serving Turkish destinations also increased its market share to 4 percent, handling around 100,000 passengers.

Austrian Airlines, also maintained its market share of 6 percent, offering flights to Vienna, a key hub for destinations not directly linked to Tirana.

Greece's flag carrier Aegean Airlines maintained its 3 percent market share, linking Albania to neighboring Greece, the destination of some 500,000 Albanian migrants, but who mostly travel by car to and from Albania.

British Airways also handled around 100,000 passengers from Tirana to London, with a 3 percent market share.

Meanwhile, Hungarian low cost carrier linking Tirana to Budapest and London increased its market share to around 3 percent in 2018 in only one and a half years after launching its Albania operations.

Charter flights linking Poland, Ukraine and Scandinavian destinations to Tirana also handled around 267,000 passengers in 2018, a 55 percent increase compared to 2017 as more tourists visited the country during the summer holidays, says the civil aviation watchdog.

Charter flights increased their market share by 2 percent to 9 percent in Albania's air transport market in 2018.

 

Record passengers

The Tirana International Airport handled a record of around 3 million passengers in 2018 when the number of passengers rose by 12 percent, in a constant hike since 2005 when the airport has been under private management through a build-own-operate-transfer concession contract.

“In 2018, Tirana International Airport (TIA) served 2,947,172 passengers. Last year, the airlines carrying most passengers to and from Tirana were Blue Panorama (21%), Ernest Airline (12%), Albawings (11%), Alitalia (9%) and Turkish Airlines (6%),” TIA said in a statement.

Currently, 15 airlines fly in to and out of TIA, connecting directly the Albanian capital city with 50 destinations, including more than a dozen Italian airports.

"TIA’s shares have been German, Canadian, and, now, Chinese. But the spirit of the Airport is Albanian, and, in the end, what pulses here every day, in thought and in action, is human values and the willingness to help one another on our journey; and we believe that Albania needs this more than ever," says a spokesperson for the airport.

 

TIA probe 

Few months ago, the Albanian government selected an audit firm to conduct what it calls an ‘independent economic review’ of the concession contract it has with the Tirana International Airport, the country’s sole airport with a de facto monopoly on international flights and whose high charges on carriers are often blamed for Albania having one of the region’s highest ticket prices.

The economic review, the first of its kind since 2005 when the 20-year concession kicked off, comes following frequent concerns that the country’s competition watchdog has expressed in the past four years over the concessionaire’s alleged abuse of its monopoly position in charging high fees that make the operation of low-cost carriers difficult and lead to high costs for Albanian passengers who often choose to fly from neighboring countries offering cheaper flights.

The government’s target is too reduce aircraft handling fees at the airport so that more low-cost flights can enter Albania, an emerging destination where more than 5 million tourists spending around €1.5 billion, have been visiting the country in the past couple of years.

TIA had its exclusive international flight rights lifted in mid-2016 in return for extending its concession term for 2 years until 2027.

Operated by a German-led concessionaire for 13 years until mid-2016 when it was taken over by a Chinese consortium, the Tirana International Airports is one of the most profitable companies in Albania with profit rates of up to 38 percent.

The Albanian government plans to reactivate a north-east Albania airport in Kukes town built a decade ago, and build two new airports south of the country to ease tourist access and reduce ticket prices.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - The Shkodra Police arrested on Monday evening a Malesia e Madhe police officer over suspicions of sexual harassment of a minor. 

Through a brief statement, the police announced that Berhan Bajrakurti, a specialist in the Gruemire area, was arrested following the social media publication of a video in which he appears naked, while virtually communicating with the minor. 

Although the police has not given any further details on the case, the online media portal which made it public in the first place has allegated the video was sent to a 15-year-old girl from Gruemire whom Bajrakurti aimed to abuse.

The same online media portal wrote that the girl’s mother, after finding out about the abuse, tried unsuccessfully to report the incident both at the Malesia e Madhe and at the Shkodra police departments. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the police department said there has been no denunciation for the case, asked by the Voice of America.

Responding to the event, the opposition Democratic Party brought to attention on Monday that "Policeman Bajrakurti was removed from the ranks of the police by the law on decriminalization, but he was returned to duty by the most important political officials of the Socialist Party in Malesia e Madhe.” 

Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj described the arrested policeman as a “pervert” and added that "a pervert can serve as a flag for perverted politicians, but can not stain anybody except himself and those who rejoice in his existence. Support for the Albanian State Police” in a twitter statement.

The case reported on Monday in Malesi e Madhe for persecution and sexual harassment against a 15-year-old minor comes only a few days after the denunciation of sexual violence against a 13-year-old girl in Kavaja by eight of her fellow pupils - an event that shook the public opinion and prompted protests both in Tirana and Shkodra. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 12 - Catholic Priest Angelo Massafra called on Albanian doctors and medical students not to leave the country in hoards looking for a better future for themselves during February 11 - the World Day of the Sick. 

“Doctors to stay in Albania, not just think about money. If the best doctors leave Albania, who will be left to cure us, to cure you. It is not right,” Massafra said during Holy Mass, in Shkodra’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral. 

Albania has been facing an exodus of doctors in the past few years, making the country’s healthcare system, already facing one of world’s lowest number of doctors, even more vulnerable.

More than 500 doctors are reported to have left the country in the past few years, mainly heading for Germany, Europe’s largest economy, which has eased work procedures for medical staff coming from the Western Balkans as it tries to fill the huge gaps in its healthcare system.

The current numbers represent about a tenth of total number of doctors in Albania, but what’s worse is that an overwhelming majority of medical staff working at the country’s public and private hospitals would be willing to leave the country if they were offered an opportunity.

Monthly bonuses of up to €2,000 a month for working outside Tirana and in remote areas suffering shortages of specialty doctors since early 2018 have not been much appealing and facilities like the Dibra regional hospital, north of the country, continue redirecting their patients to Tirana - a difficult feat, especially during the snow-ridden winter. 

Albania currently has only 1.2 doctors per thousand residents, in one of the lowest coverage rates comparable only to war-torn countries.

The Balkan country has regularly lost medical staff since the early 1990s following the country’s transition to democracy and a market economy following decades of a hardline communist regime and a planned economy.

However, the brain drain has sharply picked up in the past five years following a relaxation in procedures by Germany due to its huge needs for medical staff, mainly nurses in homes for the elderly. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-11 19:06:34
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 11 - The website of the Albanian Embassy to Serbia was hacked by Anonymous Albania on Monday because the website was displaying a white two-headed eagle on a red background instead of the constitutional black one.

The Albanian foreign ministry’s decision to change the black two-headed eagle - also on display at the websites of the Albanian embassies to Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom - was reported as “unconstitutional” by opposition MPs during parliament on Thursday.

“The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania uses a white eagle on the national flag! Scandalous and shameful act and a grave insult to national symbols, as well as a flagrant violation of the Constitution and the law,” opposition MP Luan Rama wrote on Facebook, referring to Article 14, Act 2 and 3 of the constitution.

It is there said that "the national flag is red with a black two-headed eagle in its middle."

 

It is unclear what the purpose of the change is at a time when the foreign ministry is at a transitional phase where the foreign minister decreed by President Ilir Meta is Prime Minister Edi Rama, who delegated his competencies to deputy minister Gent Cakaj. 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-11 09:22:05
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-11 08:22:05
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 11 - A silent rally in support of Albania’s physically and emotionally violated girls and women took place in Tirana on Sunday. 

The protest was fueled by the case of the group rape against one underage girl in Kavaja which shook public opinion last week, although protesters said this was just one of many cases. 

"Such acts of violence reveal the lack of preparation of state and social structures to protect victims of violence and to shed light on criminal events in time,” Altin Hazizaj claimed from the Center for the Protection of Children Rights.

The protests gathered hundreds of citizens - parents, university and high school students in particular. 

Protest participants claimed that hundreds other girls are endangered by physical and psychological violence in their homes and cities, but many hide the violence in fear of public ill-treatment and shaming.

Parents took their sons with them in the protest in sign of solidarity to girls and women.

Protesters gathered in front of the education ministry, displaying countless slogans and placards and then, carrying those slogans, marched through the main streets of Tirana to the police directorate. 

Independent observers and experts of the Albanian society claimed that what happened in Kavaja is a grave event in many respects. 

A 13-year-old girl was raped by some fellow students and minors in a Kavaja elementary school, but the event was kept a secret for two months by the perpetrators, who blackmailed the girl into using her for sex.

The story was eventually kept a secret for another week by the girl’s family and her school, until police intervened and arrested all the minors who got involved.

Hazizaj added that all parties involved do not possess the proper expertise or standard actions to uncover such serious criminal events without harming the victim.

According to him, all sides involved either politicize, produce inaccurate news or place the responsibility on third parties, underestimating the standard procedures for such events, starting from the gathering of evidence to protection and special attention to victims of violence.

The Kavaja incident was even debated in parliament last Thursday, when Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj and opposition MPs exchanged accusations - the opposition blamed the government of hiding this incident, while the government blamed the other side of improperly exposing it to the public and harming the victim. 

 
                    [post_title] => Tirana citizens protest against female violence in silent rally 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-07 09:41:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-07 08:41:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 7 - The Irish Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee and the Finnish State Secretary of Foreign Affairs Samuli Virtanen came for a two-day official visit to Albania this week, conducting meetings with a number of high state representatives.

Among them was Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj, Albanian Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Sokol Dedja and the Head of the Foreign Affairs Commission Mimi Kodheli.

“Day two in the Western Balkans continues with positive meeting on EU enlargement and the need to develop stronger bilateral relations,” McEntee wrote regarding in her personal Twitter account regarding the meeting at the ministry for Europe and foreign affairs. 

Kodheli, on her side, spoke about the situation in the region and Albania’s contribution in maintaining balance and regional safety and said that cooperation between the two countries should improve in many fields.

McEntee confirmed that Ireland supports the opening of accession negotiations with the EU for Albania and offered help in directing Albania in reachings its European goals. 

As for Veliaj, he announced that his meeting with McEntee will be followed by a calendar of detailed activities and cooperation between Tirana and other Irish cities.

“We have a partnership with the Dublin City Hall and we want a lot to learn from Ireland, a country that a few years ago was in a modest economy and today has become a gateway to investment in Europe,” Veliaj said.

 
                    [post_title] => Irish Minister of State supports Albania’s EU road, in two-day visit 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-05 11:08:42
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 4 - The entire chain of command at the Pashaliman naval base has been discharged following a theft which occured due to administrative irresponsibility.

Authorities discharged 15 officers, starting from the base commander and his deputy, punishing them for the theft that took place between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 within the base grounds, where several weapons and different quantities of cartridges and grenades were stolen.

The decision was made after the completion of an administrative investigation conducted by the General Army Staff, which then proposed Minister of Defense Olta Xhacka the measures.

Xhacka also signed the request to dismiss head of Navy Force, Major General Ylber Dogjani. 

All of them are accused of shortcomings in basic security measures.

Two officers and guards responsible for the theft were arrested right after the incident under the charges of “violating watchdog rules in important facilities resulting in armed robbery.”

Official data suggests that on January 9, at midnight, two automatic weapons, a carbine, 40 grenades and about 5500 different types of cartridges, including high power rifle bullets, were stolen.

The investigation revealed the theft was carried out when the guard responsible had abandoned the post and was located in another environment while the practices of service control and guard shifts were also not respected.

The Pashaliman base is one of the most important military facilities that serves the coastal fleet, carrying out controls of the Albanian maritime border regime and operations in the framework of NATO forces in Albania.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-02-04 15:09:11
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-04 14:09:11
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 4 - Albanian President Ilir Meta asked the government to launch a new project for the construction of the Great Ring road, done in full transparency and in consultation with the affected citizens, who have been protesting against it since last October.

He suggested that the existing project be canceled due to being investigated for a series of violations. 

Meta issued on Sunday a detailed statement on the issue, the protests against which have been taking place in front of the parliament and the Tirana Municipality, as well as in front of the affected residents’ homes day and night. 

Meta requested that during the drafting phase of the project, public consultation is opened with the area’s inhabitants and independent experts for this public work.

Meta said extreme illegitimacy and malfunctioning of state institutions have been found concerning this matter - enough ground to abolish the ongoing procedures on the exclusion of objects from the legalization process, the demolition of existing constructions or the fines against residents.

“It was publicly proven that the competition in all three parts of the road was fake; two companies compared for each lot, where the same company gave a zero-value economic offer for all three lots! This proves clearly the realization of a manipulated bidding process. One of the winning tender companies (DH Albania) came up with a fictitious company and forged documents, after public confirmation of forged facts by American authorities. The government's decision to reopen the tender of this work after public denunciations is considered as a hasty and not the least objective task, because the Prosecution is conducting investigations on this matter,” Meta said.

He demanded that any expropriation procedure be suspended and this process be carried out carefully after the adoption of a new and reliable project.
He also called for a fair and equal treatment of citizens’ properties and housing, which may be affected by the new project.

For all these steps, which he called urgent, Meta said the government should first demonstrate political will and further act by opening procurement procedures for this public work in accordance with international law once a stable project has been formalized, stimulating the free competition of domestic and international operators.

Meta said that public construction work of the likes of the Great Ring should be realized respecting the fundamental rights of citizens, in accordance with the legislation in force and with full transparency.

He also invited all international and local organizations engaged in the fight against corruption to investigate the violations and abuses of this project.

However, the government is seeming determined to continue on its path, with the only measure taken against all the corruption surrounding the project being the disqualification of DH Albania and the opening of a new public tender.
The government, in a rapid social media response, praised this comment as an attack on the president's side, similar to that of the opposition.
Shortly before, the government decided to provide residence free of rent to other flats of all the families that release the apartments that hinder the Great Ring project. 

 
                    [post_title] => President calls for brand new Great Ring project due to corruption and lack of transparency 
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            [post_date] => 2019-02-16 17:41:16
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-16 16:41:16
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - After four hours of clashes and tensions in Tirana's center, right in front of the prime minister's office, the opposition rally called to remove Edi Rama's Socialist government came to an end.

The head of the opposition's Democratic Party Lulzim Basha announced its end, while warning "the revolution will continue until this rotten system comes to an end."

Opposition supporters have been called for a second protest next Thursday, Feb. 21.

The protest began and carried on with physical clashes between protesters and the countless police forces gathered to maintain order, as protesters sought to enter the prime minister's office, while police kept them away combining the use of water and tear gas.

Some protesters were taken by ambulances due to bad reactions to the tear gas used.

Basha blamed the police employed to protect the prime minister's office of intentionally allowing protesters to pass through to ignite violence and physical clashes.

"It began four days ago with the police's irresponsible claims, it carried on last night, today, as protesters were arriving. Even now when the protest started completely peacefully and nobody was against the officers, who were even given flowers. Meanwhile, with the crowd's smallest pressure, which is of course angry as Great Ring citizens who have had their homes taken away from them and stolen 18 million euros, we witness the police cord breaking. This means there is a plan to ignite violence," Basha said.

The country's President Ilir Meta reacted by calling on all sides to show self-restraint in order to avoid any conflict or violence.

"Citizens should freely protests and institutions should be respected," Meta said.

In a public announcement, the US Embassy strongly condemned the violence that took place today during the protest - namely, the destruction of the prime minister's office.

"We uphold the citizens' right to peaceful protest, but damage of public property and violence are not acceptable. We encourage all parties to show better restraint and restore tranquility," the statement read.

In the same line, the EU Delegation to Tirana and embassies of other EU member states called on all parties to show immediate constraint.

Meanwhile, some of the protesters have remained in front of the prime minister's office, while Basha declared it will be the citizens themselves who will decide how the protest will carry on.
            [post_title] => Opposition's national anti-gov't rally concludes
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