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Albania, Kosovo and N. Macedonia seek permanent removal of barriers

Albania, Kosovo and N. Macedonia seek permanent removal of barriers

TIRANA, Sept. 21 – Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are seeking the permanent removal of the barriers between them said the representatives of the states’ Chambers, who met in Skopje under a regional initiative whose main goal is the increase

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President shows documents proving arson against parliament

President shows documents proving arson against parliament

TIRANA, Sept. 19 – Albanian President Ilir Meta told the Special Investigative Commission established by the parliament to evaluate his dismissal legally that some individuals from Kosovo would try to set the parliament on fire after a protest called by

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Opposition publishes documents allegedly proving Vau i Dejes Mayor’s criminal past

Opposition publishes documents allegedly proving Vau i Dejes Mayor’s criminal past

TIRANA, Sept. 18 – The opposition’s Democratic Party today released documents which, according to it, prove the new Socialist Party Vau i Dejes Mayor Mark Babani has been arrested and convicted in Sicily of car theft. During a news conference,

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Editorial: A solution rooted in legitimacy

Editorial: A solution rooted in legitimacy

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL Democratic systems do not rule out crises. They have mechanisms to solve them. Every solution is based first and foremost in legitimacy since fair representation is at the core of the functionality of democracy. The situation in

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200 thousand students less enrolled in school for 2019, study finds

200 thousand students less enrolled in school for 2019, study finds

TIRANA, Sept. 17 – The Albanian population’s mass migration is directly affecting the education sector in the country, as every passing year schools are facing the challenge of reduced number of pupils and, consequently,the closing of many classes.  According to

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Opposition requests verification for third Socialist mayor coming from June 30 elections

Opposition requests verification for third Socialist mayor coming from June 30 elections

TIRANA, Sept. 11 – The opposition’s Democratic Party asked the prosecution on Tuesday to verify the new Mayor of Vau Dejes Mark Babani, whom it suspects of hiding his criminal past.  According to the opposition, he has been detained, sentenced

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Spanish artist Luz Casal to give concert in Tirana

Spanish artist Luz Casal to give concert in Tirana

TIRANA, Sept. 11 – The Spanish Embassy in Albania shared on Tuesday the news of Luz Casal’s concert on Saturday, September 14, in Tirana’s amphitheatre by the artificial lake.  It’s Casal’s first time in Albania throughout her artistic career, a

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President says he canceled June 30 elections due to parties’ “conflict agreement”

President says he canceled June 30 elections due to parties’ “conflict agreement”

TIRANA, Sept. 9 – Albanian President Ilir Meta told the parliamentary investigative commission on Monday that he canceled the June 30 local elections because the opposition was not participating and needed to protect the right of citizens to vote. Meta

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Arrest of firm owners due to workers’ deaths highlights unimproved working conditions

Arrest of firm owners due to workers’ deaths highlights unimproved working conditions

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – In Tirana, police detained the owner of a firm responsible for the deaths of two workers in mid-August on Sunday.  The number of workers who lost their lives while working in construction sites and manufacturing firms

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ODIHR, the state of politics in Albania

ODIHR, the state of politics in Albania

TIRANA, Sept. 5 – The OSCE/ODIHR stated in its final report that the June 30 local elections in Albania were held without much regard for the electorate’s interest.  The opposition decided not to participate, and the government appeared determined to

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 21 – Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are seeking the permanent removal of the barriers between them said the representatives of the states’ Chambers, who met in Skopje under a regional initiative whose main goal is the increase of regional cooperation among the three state’s businesses.

The goal of this first-time ‘Regional B2B Event,’ which took place in North Macedonia’s Skopje, was to enable the direct meeting between the regional businesses of Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo in order to expand the markets in the regional level and beyond.

The networking event was hosted by the Economic Chamber of North-West Macedonia (ECNWM), Chamber of Doing Business in Kosovo and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tirana, while its participants constituted the North Macedonia’s highest representatives, such as Head of Parliament Talat Xhaferi, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Minister of Economy Kreshnik Bekteshi as well as representative of the office of USAID in North Macedonia Eric Janoesky.

The Chairman of ECNWM Nebi Hoxha said the increase of competitiveness and longevity of a company mainly depends on the networking the company has created and that through its established network the ECNWM has the perfect preconditions to lead the regionalization of North Macedonia’s enterprises.

“In this line, the focus must be to create the possibilities for the broadening of companies’ markets in the regional level.” Hoxha emphasized.

Meanwhile Nikolin Jaka, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tirana, said that despite the increase of commercial exchange between Albania and Kosovo, the optimal level has not been reached yet and many bureaucratic barriers still exist.

He added it is necessary “for all sides of the triangle to work” and that this specific case gravely lacks both road and railway infrastructure from N. Macedonia to Albania and Kosovo alike, around which revolves the problem of the movement of goods and people.

In addition to the B2B meetings between the businesses, the event was also characterized by the Economic Forum, which held the ‘Facilitation of commerce through the institutional cooperation between North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania’ forum and ‘Opportunities of cooperation, investments and common access to regional markets and beyond’ forum, part of which were also the three states’ heads of customs.

Further on, the aims of this project are to improve the services offered by ECNWM towards businesses, access of companies to financial resources and increase of investments from leading companies to enhance the supply chain and development of labor.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 19 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told the Special Investigative Commission established by the parliament to evaluate his dismissal legally that some individuals from Kosovo would try to set the parliament on fire after a protest called by the opposition on June 8. 

“The information made it clear that particular individuals would try to use the meeting called by the opposition on June 8 for different acts, including setting the parliament on fire,” Meta said. 

This secret information was in the centre of Meta’s defense testimony in front of the commission, which was established to undergo his dismissal after he cancelled the June 30 local elections through a second presidential decree.

Following the mandatory procedures, the Secret Informative Service (SHISH) document became part of the folder the commission is investigating, as declared by the head of this commission, SP lawmaker Ulsi Manja.

This information, never heard of before Meta appeared in front of the commission, raised a lot of questions regarding who would act violently and lawlessly and in what way.

According to the information provided by SHISH and its secret agents who were able to infiltrate the opposition’s protesting crowd, a paramilitary group with military background coming from Kosovo and other ethnically Albanian lands would take part in a number of actions whose ultimate goal was to burn the Albanian parliament.

The secret document doesn’t provide information on who these people are, who paid or financed their actions and, lastly, whether they were armed and through which ways they were able to burn down the parliament, which is always secure and guarded.

A similar scenario surfaced approximately 21 years ago, on September 14, 1988, when it was said that armed individuals took part in violently attacking the institutions and hijacking the parliament.

According to Meta, SHISH also shared this secret information with the respective foreign US and European agencies, making former US deputy director Mathew Palmer to declare in an interview that violence during the opposition’s protest would directly be blamed on the opposition’s leaders Lulzim Basha and Monika Kryemadhi.

The investigative commission is supposed to go through the information provided by Meta and the SHISH and then decide whether this information was enough for the president to cancel June 30 as the official election date and replace it with a new decree, that of October 30.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 18 - The opposition’s Democratic Party today released documents which, according to it, prove the new Socialist Party Vau i Dejes Mayor Mark Babani has been arrested and convicted in Sicily of car theft.

During a news conference, Gazment Bardhi, DP Secretary General, released data allegedly from Italy's prison register.

“Mark Babani, under the pseudonym Marq Babaj, was arrested on April 4, 1994, in Sicily, Italy, for committing the crime of 'aggravated robbery, committed in cooperation'. He has been arrested by Italian police for stealing cars. Mark Babani alias Marq Babaj remained in prison until May 6, 1994 and was subsequently convicted and deported from the Italian state. This is only part of the criminal record of Edi Rama's candidate for Vau i Dejes,” Bardhi said.

Earlier, the Democratic Party asked the prosecution to verify Mark Babani's past, as his self-declaration form Babani stated that he had never been arrested or convicted in the past.

If the DP allegations turn out to be true under the decriminalization law, Babani cannot hold the post of Vau i Dejes mayor and must be prosecuted for false declaration and falsification of the self-decriminalization form.

Babani himself has denied having been arrested or convicted in the past, but he is the third mayor of the opposition condemned by the opposition for his hidden criminal past, after Valdrin Pjetri of Shkodra and Agim Kajmak of Vora.

Last Tuesday, Babani told the Voice Of America that the allegations or, as the DP calls them, suspicions do not refer to him and are unrelated to his name and his life. They, he added, relate to the Democratic Party’s own need to retain its electorate. 

Babani said there is no compromising document that could come up as everything is registered in Europe and there is no possibility of abuse. 

“Never in my life have I, my father, my grandfather, spent 24 hours in prison in any absolute way. I have never been called by the police ever, nor have I ever received a 100 euro fine all my life, all over Europe where I have moved,” Babani said. 

Mark Babani, an immigrant to Italy and later a well-known businessman in the field of fish processing, denounced the Democratic Party’s statement that he has used three different identities and added that he would cooperate with the prosecution. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

Democratic systems do not rule out crises. They have mechanisms to solve them. Every solution is based first and foremost in legitimacy since fair representation is at the core of the functionality of democracy.

The situation in Albania is overdue for a solution now that all the sides have laid down their ‘revolutionary’ claims and there seems to be a temporary lull with a potential to seek an agreement. In full tranquility and normalcy they can and they should move towards a new seeking of legitimacy. The existing parliament of Albania is not legitimate. It has neither the quantity nor the quality of a normal assembly. The so called opposition taking the seats there is neither complete nor voted in. They do not have any mandate to go forward approving strategic reforms or even basic laws for the future of the country.

The way out of this is a round of general elections to reestablish the stakeholders’ standpoints, reinvigorate the institutions with new democratic mandates and reposition the political forces in a course that is more in line with the priority of European integration. General elections should no longer be feared as a major disruption. They happen routinely in all functioning democracies whenever a prolonged crisis fails to resolve by other means. The majority does not have anything to lose or to fear. It should welcome the chance to understand whether the voters still stands for them. It has a lot to gain showing a spirit of compromise and vision for the whole country.

The majority can seek the help of the institution of the President in this enterprise instead of fighting him in an absurd battle that undermines even further the already distraught system of checks and balances.

There is only one condition for this mechanism to work. Elections should be preceded by the Electoral Reform whose first and most important priority should be the decoupling of politics from organized crime. The Electoral Reform sought after with much dedication nowadays even by the international community should be have the full engagement and agreement of the real stakeholders.

The opposition should reconsider its refusal to sit at the table of the electoral reform especially if the signals of compromise materialize even further. One of them is the potential replacement of the current SP Commission Chair who offered to resign in order to aid the dialogue. The Electoral Reform should be used creatively to put in place a number of safeguards that would shield the electoral process in its wholesomeness from criminal and political interference.

Make no mistake about the apparent temporary calm: the crisis is continuing to rage silently and erode the democracy, economy and hope of Albanian young people. The need for a turning point is as immediate as in the days of violent protests if not even more so.

General elections have the potential to open up new dialogue and cooperation paths also for changes in the local government which is now deprived of any control with the lack of opposition mayors or even council members.  As the well-known religious figure, father Gjergj Meta, simultaneously a social issues promoter, encapsulates in his excellent quote: “During all these years municipalities and municipal councils in Albania despite being governed autocratically were at least pluralistic in composition. From now on they are not, not even formally. Within themselves and throughout the Albanian territory they are run by a monist system. This cannot be called a democracy not even formally.”

A solution rooted in legitimacy is what the crisis needs. Most importantly it can signal that Albania, now so close to the milestone of opening accession negotiations to the European Union, has the capacity to uphold the European standards of democracy.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 17 - The Albanian population’s mass migration is directly affecting the education sector in the country, as every passing year schools are facing the challenge of reduced number of pupils and, consequently,the closing of many classes. 

According to data from the Ministry of Education, 306,000 students are expected to attend elementary school this new school year. 

The number of children in 2019 is 13,000 less than the year before, whereas compared to the beginning of transition (year 1992) there are about 200 thousand students less.

Compared to 2011, when the last counting was implemented, 114,000 fewer students now sit in school benches. Over the course of eight years, the number of students in the 9-year cycle has been reduced by 27 percent. 

Falling rates are expected to remain high in the period ahead. The Ministry of Education expects that by 2022, the number of students in 9-year education will reach 273 thousand, or 9.7 percent less than in 2019.

In addition to the natural decline of the population, Albanian education is suffering from dropouts due to emigration. Thousands of young people under the age of 18, a contingent on secondary and primary education, choose to emigrate, mostly with their families.

Since 2010, an average of 15,000 juveniles have left for the European Union each year, according to Eurostat data on first-time residence permits issued by EU countries, broken down by age group, processed by local media. 

The year 2018 again marked an increase in the number of juveniles who were granted residence permits in one of the EU countries. During the year that followed, Albanians were granted residence permits for the first time, about 17,279 minors under 19, an increase of 6 percent over the previous year. 

The figures are higher than that, given that Eurostat has no published data on first residence permits issued by Germany

Immigration is seen as one of the main causes of the drop in the number of students in schools. Education policy expert, Ndricim Mehmeti, says that from 2014 onwards there has been a drastic reduction in the number of students due to emigration and internal migration. 

According to him, MASR and the government have not analyzed this situation and as a result, they are not ready to provide solutions.

Abandoning compulsory education mostly happens for economic and social reasons, as well as for lack of hope that this country can change, he added.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 11 - The opposition’s Democratic Party asked the prosecution on Tuesday to verify the new Mayor of Vau Dejes Mark Babani, whom it suspects of hiding his criminal past. 

According to the opposition, he has been detained, sentenced and deported both in Italy and Northern Macedonia. The DP also said it accompanied the verification request to the prosecution by the signature of 500 citizens. 

Meanwhile, Democratic Party Secretary General Gazment Bardhi said he has given the prosecution the information available to the Democratic Party for Babani. 

In its request to the prosecution, the DP states that the mayor of Vau Dejes "was allegedly arrested / detained in Italy during 1994-1999 and subsequently sentenced and deported by the responsible Italian authorities.” 

Also, according to the DP, Babani “has been arrested/detained and subsequently convicted in the Republic of Northern Macedonia during the period 2002-2003.”

The DP also wants the prosecution to investigate the data presented by Babani in the self-declaration form when he ran for mayor of Vau Dejes, as “verification of TIMS data shows that citizen Mark Babani from 1994 - 2005 has not traveled in any single case to Italy using his real identity, which is an indication of the accuracy of the data made public earlier and there are suspicions that this citizen used three different identities, not stated in the Decriminalization Form.” 

On Tuesday, Babani told the Voice Of America that the allegations or, as the DP calls them, suspicions do not refer to him and are unrelated to his name and his life. They, he added, relate to the Democratic Party's own need to retain its electorate. 

Babani said there is no compromising document that could come up as everything is registered in Europe and there is no possibility of abuse. 

“Never in my life have I, my father, my grandfather, spent 24 hours in prison in any absolute way. I have never been called by the police ever, nor have I ever received a 100 euro fine all my life, all over Europe where I have moved,” Babani said. 

Mark Babani, an immigrant to Italy and later a well-known businessman in the field of fish processing, denounced the Democratic Party's statement that he has used three different identities and added that he would cooperate with the prosecution. 

“In 1991 I left and worked until 1995 in two different jobs: at a fish factory, where I am a partner and continue this activity to this day, and at a hotel, where I worked in ‘94 and ‘95. In 1995 I obtained my license in Albania for the first time, in ‘96 I made the investment and in ‘97 I left because such was the period. And I have renewed my residence permit once in a year or two, according to the existing regulation, and when I needed to renew my residence permit I was forced to go to Italy,” Babani said. 

Mark Babani is the third socialist mayor, after those of Shkodra and Vora, to emerge from the June 30 elections without the opposition's participation, suspected by the DP of hiding criminal records of his life. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 11 - The Spanish Embassy in Albania shared on Tuesday the news of Luz Casal's concert on Saturday, September 14, in Tirana’s amphitheatre by the artificial lake. 

It’s Casal’s first time in Albania throughout her artistic career, a concert which will be accompanied by Albanian singer Ardian Trebicka and with the support of the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Tirana.

Casal began her career in Spain in the 1980s with an international presentation, thanks to her collaboration with Pedro Almodovar in the film "Tacones Lejanos". 

She has sold over 5 million CDs and has a number of international concerts and is known as one of the most popular solo singers in Spain. 

The concert, which will also feature surprises, with the presence of Ardian Trebicka, will be held at the newly-built amphitheater on Saturday, September 14, at 8:00 pm and tickets are on sale at the myticket.al portal.

The Spanish Embassy in Albania supports the institutional and logistical activities of the event. 

 
                    [post_title] => Spanish artist Luz Casal to give concert in Tirana 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-09 13:55:08
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-09 11:55:08
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 9 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told the parliamentary investigative commission on Monday that he canceled the June 30 local elections because the opposition was not participating and needed to protect the right of citizens to vote.

Meta cited Bulgaria's precedent in the Strasbourg Court in front of the parliamentary commission investigating his act regarding the local elections. 

"Our constitution is clear, and the Convention on Human Rights clearly explains the difference between voting and elections," Meta said.

He presented the Strasbourg Court's ruling in 2015, where single-candidate elections were considered fictitious, denying citizens the right to vote.

“In 2015 the Strasbourg court ruled in a similar case against Bulgaria, where some Bulgarian nationals of Turkish descent claimed a violation of their right to vote. The Court has reasoned that: ‘the right to vote guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 is not limited to the action of electing a candidate and casting his ballot in the ballot box. The vote of every voter should create the opportunity for the latter to influence the formation of legislative bodies, otherwise the right to vote, the election process and, consequently, democratic order in general, would lack the right to the substance of the law. Calling elections with one candidate means creating a fictitious process, thus denying citizens the right to vote. For this matter, Bulgaria was sentenced to a fine,” said Meta. 

The Albanian parliament, at the request of 55 deputies, launched a dismissal procedure against Meta for heavy violations of the Constitution. 

Responding to questions from the parliamentary inquiry commission, Meta stressed that his decision to postpone the election was the only solution under conditions when both political parties, he said, "had a conflict agreement.” 

He said that the conditions set by the leader of the Democratic Party, Lulzim Basha, not to sit in dialogue with Prime Minister Edi Rama, and the condition of the head of government not to negotiate a new election date were unacceptable.

Meta said he could not allow any policeman to be killed by both furious demonstrators and "the PM’s often poisonous language.”

“The OSCE also mentioned in its report that the president made repeated calls for dialogue. I made an effort, but there were two obstacles, first the stubbornness of the Prime Minister not to discuss the possibility of postponing June 30 and the second stubbornness of the DP Chairman not to sit at a table with Rama as Prime Minister,” said Meta

He added that he disagreed with the opposition when it said it did not hold the people accountable for the demonstrations, but never agreed with the government's rallies, which were essentially anti-rallies. 

"Every time the opposition came to protest on the boulevard, Rama also organized rallies against the opposition regardless of the fact there was a more important task at hand and regardless of the fact that his often poisonous language aggravated the protesters," Meta said.

The president emphasized that by issuing that decree he defended the right of Albanian citizens to vote and avoided an undemocratic process of voting with one candidate.

“On Saturday before I decided on such an act, after I was introduced to the secret state documents that the Albanian Parliament could burn, I momentarily acted the best I could It was impossible for me to call a table, when the two sides had an agreement on confrontation, it was my duty to avoid consequences that would hurt Albanian citizens,” said President Meta.

He added that the president could do nothing but postpone the election when both sides wanted a confrontation, that he could not wait for a policeman to lose his life because it would be a huge bill for the stability and credibility of the country. 

Asked by the commission’s leader Ulsi Manja, Meta also said he had warned opposition leader Lulzim Basha that if something like this happened, the consequences would be entirely the opposition’s fault.

“This has also been my warning to Basha when I got on the phone as the protests started and when protesters left for the parliament, and I made a public call for the protesters to be dispersed, the message was clear to Basha and others that if they were there, it would be their sole responsibility as they had been warned in advance,” Meta said. 

Meanwhile, analyst Afrim Krasniqi said today's session will go down in history as the first time an initiative has been taken to oust the republic's president, despite the initiative being destined to fail.

"Today's act of the parliamentary commission to question the head of state and the decision of the President of the Republic to go there is more of an attempt by both parties to follow the procedures provided by the Constitution. Both parties are aware that today's hearing was more a part of public relations, than a solution to the crisis,” Krasniqi said. 

"Special today were the low tones and the courtesy displayed, so much that it seemed the meeting was not seeking the dismissal of the head of state, but clarifying a misunderstanding of statements. The de facto dismissal of the President is difficult, not to say impossible. From a legal point of view, the majority needs to collect two thirds of votes with the new opposition in Parliament, to hope that the Venice Commission will not speak out and that the Constitutional Court will function and confirm the dismissal,” said political analyst Lutfi Dervishi.

This is the first time in the history of Albanian pluralism that a president faces an investigative commission to be questioned on suspicion of violating the Constitution, risking his dismissal.

This process can only be concluded with an interpretation and decision by the Constitutional Court, which is still not functional.

 

 
                    [post_title] => President says he canceled June 30 elections due to parties’ “conflict agreement” 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-08 09:21:04
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 8 - In Tirana, police detained the owner of a firm responsible for the deaths of two workers in mid-August on Sunday. 

The number of workers who lost their lives while working in construction sites and manufacturing firms has gone up to 25 this year.

Unions complain about the low level of job safety, but they say high unemployment is the main reason that workers agree to work under these conditions and at low wages.

Tirana police announced today that they have arrested the owner of the firm "Skela Syla", three weeks after the tragic incident on the outskirts of Tirana, where two construction workers lost their lives during work.

46-year-old Petrit Syla is the second person to be held responsible by the prosecution for the deaths of two workers, as iron bars were broke away from a building during reconstruction.

The prosecution sought his and another person's detention after the deaths of two 31 and 36-year-old workers.

Jimmy Company with three years of experience, and Skela Syla with 11 years of experience are under investigation for the incident.

The former was never inspected by the authorities, while the second was thoroughly inspected 16 times in a decade.

Accidents of workers in construction sites and manufacturing firms are frequent in Albania.

From January to today, 99 incidents have been registered in 9 months, of which 25 workers lost their lives and almost all (21 cases) belong to the construction sector.

The State Labor Inspectorate has investigated 114 private entities on how they treat workers, and has imposed 34 penalties and 29 administrative penalties to affect worker safety and maintain their occupational health.

The weak and powerless unions often complain in Albania of low safeguards across labor and production sites.

The vast majority of accidents at work are in the construction, mining, energy, water and public utilities sectors, while Albania remains among the countries with a high rate of accidents at work.

The EU average is 1.8 deaths per 100,000 workers, while Albania has so far this year averaged at least 4 times higher deaths than the European Union.

Albania is generally in dire straits in terms of poor working conditions and low wages for some, and high unemployment for the rest of the population.

Mining is the most dangerous sector, with minimal working conditions and where miners continue to lose their lives.

In the last 5 years, 42 miners have lost their lives at the workplace.

The towns near the Albanian mines are extremely poor and many minors are used for various jobs.

Economics scholars claim that the government's efforts to open new jobs are insufficient., as according to them real unemployment is at least 2 to 3 times higher than government statistics.

High unemployment is the main reason why workers agree to work in difficult and low-wage conditions for fear of immediate replacement.

The vast majority of the unemployed are migrating to other countries to survive, instead of chasing after a better life, leaving deep poverty behind.

Workers in Albania are not treated with dignity, say economic observers, but rather with low wages and insurances, poor health care and no technical conditions, while also working on weekends and having other rights as workers and citizens violated.

 
                    [post_title] => Arrest of firm owners due to workers’ deaths highlights unimproved working conditions 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-06 14:08:12
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 5 - The OSCE/ODIHR stated in its final report that the June 30 local elections in Albania were held without much regard for the electorate’s interest. 

The opposition decided not to participate, and the government appeared determined to hold the elections without the opposition, the report notes.

“In a climate of stalemate and political polarization, voters were unable to choose between several political options," the report said.

The ODIHR Election Observation Mission assessed with this final report the compliance of the Albanian elections with OSCE commitments, obligations and other international standards for democratic elections and national legislation.

In half of the municipalities, the candidates ran without opponents, while observers received credible claims from citizens for pressure from both political sides.

"Political clashes led to legal uncertainty and many election administration decisions were taken with the objective of holding elections," the ODIHR report said.

Observers said many previous ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed, including the depoliticization of election commissions, the transparency of campaign financing and the efficiency of resolving electoral disputes.

"The political equilibrium provided by law within the election administration was not achieved due to the refusal of the main opposition parties to nominate their commissioners and the subsequent interpretation of the CEC that only those parties participating in the elections could be represented in the election administration. The politically unbalanced composition of the election administration, calls by opposition parties to boycott the election and conflicting interpretations of the validity of the President's decrees annulling the June 30 elections undermined public confidence in the process,” the ODIHR report said.

Observers claimed that the language used by political opponents in rallies and in the media was often raging and full of accusations and counterclaims.

“Citizens, especially those working for public administration, faced direct and indirect pressure to express their political preferences," the report said.

Observers claimed the election campaigning was nonexistent; other than posters on voter education, the ODIHR only noticed a small number of posters and other signs pointing to elections coming close.

“Many candidates expressed to the ODIHR Election Observation Mission the difficulty of motivating voters to vote. Limited campaign activities remained overshadowed by country-wide developments that further deepened early political divisions. Debates on a wide range of political topics were dominated by the issue of non-participation in the elections of the main opposition parties and discussions over the election date,” the ODIHR reports.

The report says the vote on June 30 came after a series of announcements by most opposition-led municipalities that elections would not take place.

“Some mayors have tried to use their powers to prevent the use of public buildings as polling stations. In a small number of polling stations there were arson damage before Election Day,” the ODIHR said.

According to international observers, election day was generally peaceful, despite isolated cases of tensions and clashes in a small number of communities.

"Voter turnout varied from one municipality to another, while nationwide, the CEC stated it reached 21.6 percent," the report said.

The OSCE / ODIHR had about 250 observers in the June 30 local elections in Albania, and the report was widely expected by the public and political parties, which are still debating their validity. 

 
                    [post_title] => ODIHR, the state of politics in Albania 
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            [post_date] => 2019-09-22 11:49:42
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-22 09:49:42
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 21 – Albania, Kosovo and North Macedonia are seeking the permanent removal of the barriers between them said the representatives of the states’ Chambers, who met in Skopje under a regional initiative whose main goal is the increase of regional cooperation among the three state’s businesses.

The goal of this first-time ‘Regional B2B Event,’ which took place in North Macedonia’s Skopje, was to enable the direct meeting between the regional businesses of Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo in order to expand the markets in the regional level and beyond.

The networking event was hosted by the Economic Chamber of North-West Macedonia (ECNWM), Chamber of Doing Business in Kosovo and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tirana, while its participants constituted the North Macedonia’s highest representatives, such as Head of Parliament Talat Xhaferi, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, Minister of Economy Kreshnik Bekteshi as well as representative of the office of USAID in North Macedonia Eric Janoesky.

The Chairman of ECNWM Nebi Hoxha said the increase of competitiveness and longevity of a company mainly depends on the networking the company has created and that through its established network the ECNWM has the perfect preconditions to lead the regionalization of North Macedonia’s enterprises.

“In this line, the focus must be to create the possibilities for the broadening of companies’ markets in the regional level.” Hoxha emphasized.

Meanwhile Nikolin Jaka, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tirana, said that despite the increase of commercial exchange between Albania and Kosovo, the optimal level has not been reached yet and many bureaucratic barriers still exist.

He added it is necessary “for all sides of the triangle to work” and that this specific case gravely lacks both road and railway infrastructure from N. Macedonia to Albania and Kosovo alike, around which revolves the problem of the movement of goods and people.

In addition to the B2B meetings between the businesses, the event was also characterized by the Economic Forum, which held the ‘Facilitation of commerce through the institutional cooperation between North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania’ forum and ‘Opportunities of cooperation, investments and common access to regional markets and beyond’ forum, part of which were also the three states’ heads of customs.

Further on, the aims of this project are to improve the services offered by ECNWM towards businesses, access of companies to financial resources and increase of investments from leading companies to enhance the supply chain and development of labor.

 
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