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Sharp cut in oil prices forces Bankers Petroleum to reduce investments, production

Sharp cut in oil prices forces Bankers Petroleum to reduce investments, production

TIRANA – Citing a sharp drop in international oil prices, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania, has revised downward its 2015 program of investments and production. Bankers Petroleum, which is the country’s largest foreign investor

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Albania under water, as floods continue

Albania under water, as floods continue

FIER – Unrelenting rain and flooding continue in southern Albania, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people and massive damage to homes and businesses. There have been no victims, officials said, but several people had to be evacuated by army

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Albanian Institute for International Studies ranked again among world’s best think   tanks

Albanian Institute for International Studies ranked again among world’s best think tanks

TIRANA, Jan. 29 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies has been ranked among the world’s best think tanks by the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report authored by James G. McGann, director of the Think Tanks and

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Vibrant photo exhibitions for art followers in Tirana

Vibrant photo exhibitions for art followers in Tirana

Two new exhibitions in Tirana deserve your attention, By ALBA ÇELA In memoriam 23 January 2005-2015:   Team Albania Tsunami Assistance in Banda Aceh “After dinner we went to see the places most hit by the tsunami. A real horror. Houses, hotels,

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Commemorating 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation

Commemorating 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation

Set up by the Germans in mid-1940 at the town of Oswiecim, in the lands which had been incorporated into the German Reich, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp has become a global symbol of genocide. Commemorations of its liberation will bring together

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France, Germany and the strength of European values

France, Germany and the strength of European values

Freedom, democracy and a cosmopolitan, tolerant society are stronger than terror and senseless violence, the French and German ambassadors to Tirana write in a joint op-ed article. By BERNARD FITOUSSI and HELLMUT HOFFMANN* Today, 22 January, German and French people

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Albania condemns attack on French magazine

Albania condemns attack on French magazine

TIRANA, Jan. 8 – Albanian political, civic and religious leaders have condemned the attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. President Bujar Nishani expressed his condolences to French President Francois Hollande, pointing out that the Albanian people near the

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Year in Review: Economy in 2014

Year in Review: Economy in 2014

January  Tax burden increases The shift to progressive taxation on corporate and personal income starting January 2014 made Albania less competitive to other regional countries as far as the tax burden is concerned. Data show the increase of the corporate

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EU offers €40 million in budget assistance

TIRANA, Dec. 19 – Albania’s government has complied with requirements set by the European Union to gain 40 million euro assistance for the 2014-2020 period, officials said. Albania has met final pre-conditions for EU budget support, as it will provide

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Minorities need better attention, says OSCE

TIRANA, Dec. 20 – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on Albania to have a better focus on its minority populations, an important element of efforts to join the European Union. Experts discussed how local authorities

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA - Citing a sharp drop in international oil prices, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania, has revised downward its 2015 program of investments and production.

Bankers Petroleum, which is the country's largest foreign investor and exporter, said it had reduced its 2015 capital program to US$ 153 million, down from a  previously announced 2015 capital program of $218 million in early December 2014.

"These adjustments have been made to ensure 2015 spending fits within funds generated from operations and cash resources in the latest oil price environment," said the company in a statement.

The revised 2015 capital program utilizes a $50 per barrel average annual Brent oil price forecast in comparison to the budget announced on December 12, 2014, which was predicated on an annual Brent oil price forecast of $70 per barrel.

"We believe it is prudent with today's commodity outlook to show capital discipline and preserve our strong balance sheet.   This revised budget reflects our rigorous focus on capital and operating cost efficiency with a balance of both short term drilling execution and long term flood expansion of the field," said David French, Bankers president and CEO.

Bankers anticipates its 2015 average production levels will decrease from its average 2014 production levels by approximately 5 percent on account of reduced drilling activity and shut-in volumes due to marginal economics.

Bankers Petroleum, which has recently made it to the top 100 SEE biggest companies reported net income of $77.8 million in the first three quarters of 2014, up 67 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

The price of Brent crude oil fell slightly recovered to $53.5 a barrel this week, having dropped by more than 40 percent since its peak in mid-June.

Bankers posted record profits of around 62 million dollars in 2013, almost double compared to the previous two years on higher production and oil prices, the company said in its 2013 financial results.

Since 2004, Bankers operates and has the full rights to develop the Patos-Marinza and Kuçova heavy oilfields under a 25-year concession contract with the Albanian government. The Patos-Marinza oilfield is the largest onshore oilfield in continental Europe, holding approximately 5.4 billion barrels of original oil in place. The Kuçova field has 297 million barrels of original-oil-in-place. /el/Feb. 2, 2015/

This is a web update.  Read more on this and other topics in our upcoming Friday print edition.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => FIER - Unrelenting rain and flooding continue in southern Albania, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people and massive damage to homes and businesses.

There have been no victims, officials said, but several people had to be evacuated by army helicopters and rescue boats after they got stuck surrounded by rising water.

Television footage from the affected areas showed massive lakes had formed where cultivated fields had once been. The economic damage to the region’s agricultural sector is enormous, local officials said.

"Thouands of hectares are under water and hundreds o family homes have been flooded," Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said. "More than 300 families have been evacuated. The situation is critical."

The government says it has launched civil emergency operation to deal with the floods, with army troops deployed to aid civilian officials in the evacuation of stranded people.

Many parts of southern Albania are also in black out conditions, as power transformers have been flooded.

The counties of Gjirokaster, Fier and Vlora were worst affected, as Vjosa and Drino rivers swelled to their highest levels in recorded history, causing damages cities and towns on their shores, including Përmet, Memaliaj, Fier and the Dropull region.

Police have advised against all travel to the southern parts of the country, as the roads are either flooded on danger of being so. In areas of higher elevation, such as Korça County, a snow storm has left many roads in bad conditions, and by Tuesday, the Korça area had also flooded.

Weather forecasts show the situation could further deteriorate as rain is expected to continue all week.

This is a developing story, last update: Feb. 5, 2015

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 29 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies has been ranked among the world's best think tanks by the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report authored by James G. McGann, director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.

In the list of Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe, AIIS ranked 22nd in the annual index, gaining two places up the list from the previous year. In terms of sector focus, AIIS ranks 85th in the global ranking for defense and security research area and 64th in the global ranking for foreign policy and international relations.

The ranking is organized on an annual basis by the Think Tanks and Civil Society Program at the University of Pennsylvania, which conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world.

This year's report was published on January 22, 2015. AIIS is the only Albanian think tank to make the cut of the prestigious international ranking index.

“Recognizing the quality of research and advocacy of the AIIS and collecting the positive feedback from peers, the index acknowledges for the fourth year in a row the professionalism and impact of AIIS work,” AIIS said in a statement.

More than 3,500 experts from academia, civil society and decision making institutions participated in the process of nominating and then ranking institutions worldwide in this one of a kind exercise that has become a reference point for those who seek to understand the standing of think tanks whether by geographical or thematic classification.

Some of the key programs at AIIS include the International Relations and History Library, which is home to Albania's largest number of publications on these topics; as well as the AIIS European Program, which is currently the institute's core program in terms of number of components, research, publications and trainings. Its primary focus is to help Albania become a member of the European Union.

The European Academy is another important component of the project. Founded five years ago, it organizes advanced seminars on issues of European integration for members of the central and local public administrations as well as young researchers and members of the civil society.

The institute also organizes two international conferences per year in strong cooperation with its counterparts in Europe and the United States.

The Europa magazine, the latest AIIS periodical, offers a critical approach to key issues relating to Albania's EU integration process and society modernization.

In addition to its current program and staff, AIIS has attracted over the years some of the most talented Albanian researchers to date, who after their experience at AIIS have moved to successful careers in the public administration and at international academic institutions.

Albania's international relations are at the heart of AIIS research, publications and public events. In addition, current security issues at the regional and European levels are a key aspect of the work AIIS does.

The institute has also seen increasing cooperation with other think tanks in the Balkans, EU and U.S. For example, a key research project on international relations and security issues is currently focused on relations with neighboring countries – as well the U.S., Italy, Germany, China, Russia and other major countries.

The work of AIIS has won the praise of key people over the years.

“Albania has made tremendous progress in the last twenty years and is moving smartly towards its European home. AIIS is both a cause and a consequence. Its sharp analytical focus on the world beyond Tirana has helped what was once one of the most isolated countries on earth, become an active contributor to the international order. These have been marvelously productive years for both Albania and its leading international institute,” said Daniel Serwer of the U.S. Peace Institute.

Janusz Bugajski, a  Research Fellow Center for European Policy Analysis added that "since its inception, the Albanian Institute of International Studies has played an important role in Albanian society. As the leading Albanian policy-focused institute, it has promoted debate on critical foreign policy and security issues, it has had an impact in policy making by bringing together decision makers and policy analysts in Albania with their foreign counterparts, and it has promoted a regional network of analysts to enhance regional cooperation and regional security."

Lulzim Basha, Mayor of Tirana and former Minister of Foreign Affairs agrees.

"AIIS has managed to become a reference point, an inevitable forum of debate and analysis, a window of professional and unbiased thought on geopolitical developments in and around Albania, the Albanian world, regional development and beyond," Mr. Basha said.

Historian Bernd Fischer echoes that sentiment.

"The Albanian Institute for International Studies has become the leading organization of its kind in Albania and an important contributor to the discussion of a broad range of issues in the Balkans in general. It has provided a forum for in-country specialists and established important contacts with analysts and policymakers throughout the Balkans and the Western world. With its objective analysis and multitude of voices, it has made, and will continue to make, an important contribution to regional and general understanding of the critical issues facing the Balkans. This understanding is an important step on the road to long-term regional stability. The institute’s efforts are to be encouraged and applauded," Dr. Fischer said.

AIIS was established in 1998 by a group of academics and analysts with extensive experience in foreign policy and policymaking issues. Since then, it has made significant contributions via its analysis, projects, and publications in the fields of Euro-Atlantic integration; democracy, security, and transition; as well as regional security and cooperation. AIIS has also served as a consultative body, with policymakers seeking its advice on the challenges Albania faces on the road to democratization.

One of the AIIS founders and current executive director, Albert Rakipi, said that after many years of contributions to Albanian society and decision-makers, AIIS has now brought Albania into the think-tank spotlight by becoming the only Albanian institution to earn a spot in the Global Go To Think Tank Index.

“The ranking of the Albanian Institute for International Studies as one of the best think tanks in Central and Eastern Europe is great news for us,” said Dr. Rakipi. “It acknowledges the tradition of excellence that we have worked so hard to establish through our hundreds of collaborations within and outside of Albania and the activities that our specialized staff have tirelessly developed and implemented. I am confident that by maintaining our high standard of work and progress, AIIS will continue to deserve its spot in the ranking for years to come.”

 

 
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                    [post_content] => Two new exhibitions in Tirana deserve your attention,

By ALBA ÇELA

In memoriam 23 January 2005-2015:   Team Albania Tsunami Assistance in Banda AcehAfter dinner we went to see the places most hit by the tsunami. A real horror. Houses, hotels, parking buildings, cars everything destroyed and rendered into worthless things. An entire life gone, extinguished lives and people who would stills smile and greet you with their head nods. Nothing had remained where once the coast was thriving. In the places where previously you could find even a beer, entertaining places, where you could swim in the wonderful sea now there were only ruins over other ruins and the smell of cadavers which were still rotting underneath the ruins that were left behind the rage of the sea. A bad feeling, a bad feeling that stayed with me the entire afternoon...

“Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind” was the only song that played in my mind in this Indonesian summer night…” Besian Pesha, Team Albania member 

ekspzita2

The memories written above from one of the Albanian members of the team that went to Banda Aceh after the infamous tsunami that hit the area and recorded his impressions in a blog. To commemorate this event, another participant in that trip, photographer and artist Gentian Ballta has put together one of the most original and thought-provoking exhibitions at the yard of the National Art Gallery in Tirana. A military dark green tent beckons visitors inside where among heaps of concrete ruins and a strong cold light that makes them uncomfortable they can see photographs from Aceh taken in 2005. Ten years after the horrendous natural catastrophe hit Indonesia, Ballta has chosen this way to commemorate the experience of Team Albania group of doctors and activists who went to contribute with the rescue and assistance missions.

The horror, the pain and the re-emergence of life, the persistence of beauty in nature and of hope in humans come across with ease and spontaneity from Ballta’s photos. They are also present in the documentary being screened inside the exhibition, poignantly entitled ‘Allah dos not love tears’, a production of the Top Channel crew where Ballta himself has been on the camera lens. The originality of the setting of this event creates the perfect embedding for the photos themselves. Ballta who dabbles in many forms of art including music is definitely a photographer to have on the radar.

From Constantiniyee to Istanbul and I have a story- complementary joint exhibitions on the glories of past and present Turkey

The Yunus Emre Institute of Turkish Culture in Tirana has put together two simultaneous exhibitions with thrilling photos and artistic installations that is very much worth visiting until February 3rd at the FAB Art Gallery on the backside of the University of Arts.

On the right side, sprawling on two floors one finds sepia coloured shots of the Bosphorus and the neighbourhoods of the most beautiful city on Earth. They smoothly kidnap the audience into the past. Memories and ghosts of era long gone and views that now have been ultimately altered due to modernization and commercialization of even the most historical site and neighbourhoods. Mosques, small harbours, Ottoman palaces and villas and people with nineteen century faces create the feeling of having stepped by chance into an old movie. One can almost hear the seagulls shriek together with the fishermen casting their nets from the villages on the shores of the Bosphorus.

Curated by Dr.M Sinan Gerim the exhibition is a testament of the immortality of an ever changing yet always magical place.

On the right side, one steps out of the past and into the present day impressions, feelings and artistic reflections of young Turkish artists that bring innovative artistic installations, various works with combined different techniques as well as two videos. Modernity and the diversity of cultures stand at the centre of this exhibition which tries to pierce through the metropolis. One cannot miss the installation inspired by the most successful Turkish export in the field of television: the sitcom Magnificient Century.  Curator Beste Gursu has succeeded to give a true and resounding voice to the youth art in Turkey and bring it to Albania through a display that leaves visitors perplexed yet smiling on their way to the doorstep.

 
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                    [post_content] => Set up by the Germans in mid-1940 at the town of Oswiecim, in the lands which had been incorporated into the German Reich, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp has become a global symbol of genocide. Commemorations of its liberation will bring together three hundred former Auschwitz inmates, the last Holocaust survivors, as well as government officials from around the world. For 10 years now, the camp’s liberation day has been marked across the globe as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Over 1.5 million people visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in 2014, the most frequented memory site in Europe. 27 January marks the 70th liberation anniversary of this Nazi German concentration and extermination camp.

“There is no way to understand postwar Europe and the world without an in-depth confrontation between our idea of mankind and the remains of Auschwitz. Here is the only one of the large extermination sites preserved in its authenticity to this day,” Piotr A.M. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, wrote in a recent report titled Revision of the way we see the world and ourselves. Auschwitz Memorial Report 2014.

Today, it is this museum, 70 kilometres west of Krakow, that protects the remains of the most tragic Holocaust site, where the German regime murdered over a million people during World War Two.

Even though a visit to the former Nazi German concentration camp comes as a shock to many and becomes etched in their memories forever, the number of those who want to see this place is on the rise.

In 2004, 492,500 people passed through the famous gate with the inscription “Arbeit macht frei”; ten years later, this number stood at 1,534m. Ever more visitors choose the company of a guide-educator, who tells the horrific story of the place while leading you past the barracks and cremation ovens.

“Out of 270 guides at Auschwitz-Birkenau, over a hundred speak English, several dozen German, and a dozen or so Italian, French and Hebrew each. We also have a Japanese who has been guiding tours for many years now, and a few people who speak Scandinavian languages,” says Andrzej Kacorzyk, deputy museum director and head of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

Besides Israeli high school students and soldiers, most visitors come from the UK, Scandinavia and Italy. For a number of years now, Italians have been coming on special “memory trains.” Germans and the French also form large groups of visitors.

“This is a consequence of Holocaust education across Europe, as well as national and local programmes that allow young people from European countries to visit memory sites,” explains director Kacorzyk.

The number of individual visitors has also been on the rise. “More and more people come from countries that were not directly involved in WWII, and from outside Europe. I should point here in particular to guests from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, South Korea and Japan. We’ve been also seeing an increasing number of Chinese,” adds Andrzej Kacorzyk.

Each group is offered a tailor-made tour that focuses on the history of prisoners from their country. Educators address visitors in their native languages, “the languages of heart,” which places an added emphasis on the tragic story.

The growing interest in the history of Auschwitz and the 70th liberation anniversary of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp have helped attract global attention to the problems of a memory site that has so far been mainly maintained by the Polish government. Foreign contributions cover around five percent of total costs, while PLN 5m was spent on conservation work last year alone, which is PLN 1.5m more than the year before. In 2015, this could be close to PLN 7m.

Six years ago, concerned about the camp site’s condition, Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, a legendary member of Żegota (a Polish organisation which aided Jews in and outside ghettos during World War II), a former Auschwitz prisoner and Poland’s former foreign minister, called for finding a regular source of financing to maintain Auschwitz as a memory site.

That was the idea behind raising the Perpetual Capital of EUR 120m for conservation work. So far, the governments of 35 countries have pledged a total of EUR 102m for this purpose. Another EUR 1m comes from donors, who have supported the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation under the “18 Pillars of Remembrance” campaign.

According to the Museum staff, the results of the renovation will be visible in a few years’ time. In October 2014, the four-year renovation of warehouses and blocks 2 and 3, which had undergone major changes after World War II, was completed. The work covered all original construction elements and pieces of equipment. The blocks were furnished with authentic camp furniture, cabinets, plank beds and tables.

By KAROLINA KOWALSKA - www.polska.pl -  Photo: Mariusz Ciszewski

 
                    [post_title] => Commemorating 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation
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Freedom, democracy and a cosmopolitan, tolerant society are stronger than terror and senseless violence, the French and German ambassadors to Tirana write in a joint op-ed article.

By BERNARD FITOUSSI and HELLMUT HOFFMANN* Today, 22 January, German and French people are marking the conclusion of the Élysée Treaty in 1963. This Franco-German Friendship Treaty is the cornerstone of the close relationship between our two countries and the symbol of how a courageous and far-sighted policy, after a long history of hatred and armed conflicts, can pave the way for cooperation and friendship. In the face of the terrorist attacks in Paris, which shocked and appalled us, we would like to use this anniversary to stand up for the common values that make our societies strong and that are the basis of our friendship. People in France and Germany, people around the world, are shocked by the deaths of innocent people who fell victim to the pure hatred of terrorism during the terrible attacks in Paris. Our sympathy goes out to the families of the victims and the injured. Germany and France are connected by a special friendship. Germany and France stand together in these difficult days in the awareness that there is no security in Germany if there is no security in France and vice versa. In our globalized world, the fates of our two nations are inseparably linked. These bloody attacks were not only directed against France. They were directed against all of us. They were directed against our democracies, our values and our open societies. Therefore, in today’s Europe, France’s grief is also the Germany’s grief. France's determination to stand up for freedom and democracy, and not to be intimidated by terrorism and terrorists, is also our determination. "Je suis Charlie" - this phrase has become a worldwide symbol, a symbol of our resolve not to look away, not to be silent - but to openly champion the values we defend. Millions of people have taken to the streets to demonstrate their grief and solidarity, not only in Paris but in many other European cities, including German cities, to declare their commitment to democracy and freedom of expression. All those who have taken to the streets have thus shown that they will not be intimidated by terror and that they are willing to stand up for freedom, democracy and a cosmopolitan, tolerant society. These values are stronger than terror and senseless violence. However, terrorism is and remains a real threat which causes great harm worldwide, and we can scarcely imagine its dimensions. Particularly in view of this painful and very current reality that has been brought so close to us by the attacks in Paris, we should consider how we can strengthen our common values of democracy, freedom and solidarity and be aware of our obligation to do so. For it goes without saying that none of us are free of prejudices. We all -- in France, Germany and Albania - have certain preconceptions of others in our head. They are formed by experiences, things we have heard, our own unexamined ideas, but also fears. They are partly right and partly wrong. For some people, these preconceptions turn into hostility. This can be countered by providing information and encouraging mutual understanding. In the long term, only democracy as a principle of life will help us. Religion and personal beliefs are part of the reality of life in a secular state. The peaceful coexistence of individuals, peoples, nations and cultures is only possible on the basis of mutual appreciation, understanding and tolerance. A dialogue between people of different religious beliefs and different cultural backgrounds can only be successful if they are willing to listen, learn and respect different views. Especially in liberal societies, mutual respect facilitates coexistence. We can all reasonably be expected to deal with civil rights and liberties with responsibility and respect for the others. For everyone, freedom always brings responsibility. This applies to our personal lives as well as to the world of politics and the media. It applies to everyone. We should live together in accordance with the basic principles of democracy: joining in discussions, contributing to decisions, providing help, taking responsibility. Few things are more important to us than the experience of being appreciated, respected and needed in this great community of freedom and responsibility. This is our alternative model to the world of terrorism, and it is stronger than terrorism. *This is a joint article by the ambassadors of France and Germany in Tirana. ** The headline and subtitle have been chosen by Tirana Times. [post_title] => France, Germany and the strength of European values [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => france-germany-and-the-strength-of-european-values [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-30 13:07:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-30 13:07:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=811 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 586 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-01-09 10:59:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-09 10:59:30 [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 8 - Albanian political, civic and religious leaders have condemned the attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. President Bujar Nishani expressed his condolences to French President Francois Hollande, pointing out that the Albanian people near the French people in these difficult moments. "This barbaric act of terrorism against the press and free speech makes us even more aware of the needed solidarity to intensify our common fight against terrorism," Nishani's message said. The Albanian Muslim Community, the country's official religious governing body for Muslims, also strongly condemned the terrorist attack in a statement, expressing condolences to the victims and wishes of quick recovery for the injured. "We condemn with the greatest severity this barbaric act against journalists, police officers and others hurt in it this incident. This massacre causes outrage in every human being, and is condemnable by moral, religious and universal human values." Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed his solidarity with the French people in a message to his French counterpart and on his social media channels. Messages of condemnation for the terrorist attack and solidarity with the French people also came from the Albanian parliament, the main opposition Democratic Party and a series of other civic leaders and state officials. Albanian journalists held a vigil to honor their French colleagues in downtown Tirana Wednesday night. On Jan. 7, two masked gunmen armed stormed the headquarters of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 people, including eight Charlie Hebdo employees and two National Police officers, and wounded 11 others. The gunmen have been identified by French police as two French nationals of Algerian descent, who are believed to Jihadists. Those killed included some of France's best known cartoonists, and the victims drew solidarity from people across the world.   [post_title] => Albania condemns attack on French magazine [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-condemns-attack-on-french-magazine [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-09 12:29:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-09 12:29:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=586 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 445 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2014-12-30 13:11:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-30 13:11:01 [post_content] => January  Tax burden increases The shift to progressive taxation on corporate and personal income starting January 2014 made Albania less competitive to other regional countries as far as the tax burden is concerned. Data show the increase of the corporate income tax to 15 percent for mid-sized and big enterprises ranks Albania now ranks Albania on par to Serbia which increased corporate income tax to 15 percent in 2013.  Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo continue applying a 10 percent tax rate while Montenegro implements a 9 percent tax. EU member Croatia and EU aspirant Turkey apply the highest rate in the region at 20 percent. The shift to progressive personal income tax has also increased Albania's tax rate for people earning more than 130,000 lek/month (Euro 912). The 2014 World Bank Paying Taxes report estimates the total tax rate in Albania at 31,7 percent of profit, considerably higher than in Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, but lower than Serbia.   February “Albania 1 Euro” initiative back  The Socialist Party-led government reintroduced the Albania 1 Euro initiative, offering state-owned assets for a symbolic price of 1 Euro in return for investments and job creation. The “Albania 1 Euro” initiative had also been launched by former Prime Minister Sali Berisha back in 2006 but proved unsuccessful in attracting foreign investors in these kinds of investments. The decision foresees that state run assets with an area of 500 m2 and more can be given for 1 Euro under tender procedures for investments of Euro 10 million in manufacturing industry and in the garment and footwear industry locally known as "façon" for which government has not set any investment threshold. The government initiative is an effort to make Albania more attractive to foreign investors after the corporate income tax was raised to 15 percent this year, angering the business community which opposed the initiative as making Albania less competitive compared to other regional countries applying 10 percent flat tax regimes.   Oil discovery to increase exports Oil production in the newly discovered Shpirag 2 well in the district of Berat could increase Albania's oil exports by 50 percent and also be used for domestic consumption due to its good quality, government officials say. The Royal Dutch Shell and Canadian-based Petromanas have already completed the drilling of Shpirag 2 and are currently conducting drilling at Molisht 1, with total investments of around USD 200 million. Petromanas has a 25 percent working interest in Block 2-3 and is the operator while Shell holds the remaining 75 percent working interest. Albania's oil exports in the past eight years have increased by more than 30 times, emerging as one of the key exports, mainly due to huge investments by Canadian-based Bankers Petroleum which since 2004 operates and has full rights to develop the Patos-Marinza and Kuçova heavy oilfields under a 25-year concession contract with the Albanian government.   March Less dependent on imports While the Albanian economy has considerably slowed down since the outbreak of the global economic crisis in late 2008, the good news is that exports have more than doubled in the past five years and the country has become less dependent on imports. The situation has considerably improved Albania's trade gap although the slowdown in imports in 2012 and 2013 has been linked to shrink in consumption and investments. Data published by the country's state Institute of Statistics shows the export/import coverage ratio rose to 48.1 percent in 2013 up from a mere 24.4 percent in 2009 and an average of 24 percent from 2000 to 2008. INSTAT data shows Albania's exports grew by 15.6 percent in 2013, registering growth rates for the fourth consecutive year after the shrink in the onset of the global crisis in 2009. In 2013, imports dropped by 3 percent to 512 billion (Euro 3.58 billion) on lower imports of “minerals fuels and electricity.” April  FDI registers historic high  Double digit growth rates in foreign direct investment and exports were Albania's key drivers of growth in 2013 when the economy registered its poorest growth rate in more than a decade. Boosted by investments in hydropower plants and privatization revenue, foreign direct investment registered a record high for the past decade in 2013. Central bank data show FDI in Albania rose to a historic high of 923 million euros in 2013, up from 666 million euros in 2012 and a previous record of 793 million euros in 2010. Since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, FDI has been constantly growing from Euro 665 million in 2008 to Euro 923 million 2013. The growth rate in times of crisis is related to several privatizations and concessions especially in the energy sector. The application of a 10 percent flat tax regime in force from 2008 to 2013 has also helped attract foreign direct investment. New package on garment and footwear industry Government finalized a package of facilitating measures on garment and footwear producers in an effort to give a boost to this sector which has been the traditional top Albanian exporter and one of the key employers in the past two decades despite negative impacts from the Eurozone crisis in the past few years. The move came after the corporate income tax was raised to 15 percent starting January 2014, sparking strong opposition by this business community, worried over losing competitiveness to regional peers applying 10 percent flat tax regimes. The new package includes a series of measures which offer garment and footwear producers, locally known as façon, state facilities for a symbolic rent of only one Euro, accelerate VAT refunds to 30 days, and lift of a series of customs barriers. Government says the extra 5 percent from corporate income tax will go back to garment and footwear producers in support policies to promoting employment in these enterprises by paying social security and health insurance contributions for new employees for a certain period. Reform to increase retirement age Government finalized the much roumoured pension reform in a bid to reduce the huge gap in the system which secures 45 percent of funding from other government revenue, proposing an increase in the retirement age for women and the introduction of social pensions for people aged 70 and over who have not contributed to the system. The new system envisages that starting January 2015, the retirement age for women, currently at 60, will gradually increase by two months per year to reach 63 years old by 2032. The increase in retirement age for men, currently at 65, will continue only after 2032, to reach 67. The retirement age for both men and women is expected to increase to 67 years old by 2056. Albania has 570,000 pensioners and some 700,000 contributors to the scheme with the gap in the pension system increasing to $430 million in 2013.  May Italy strengthens top trade partner position  Six years after the onset of the global financial crisis, exchanges with top trade partner Italy have remained unaffected but suffered a sharp shrink with neighbouring Greece which  overcame its six-year recession only in 2014. Bank of Albania and INSTAT data show trade exchanges with Italy were affected only in 2009 when both exports and imports suffered a shrink. Meanwhile, trade exchanges with Greece have been on a constant decline since 2009 with the neighbouring country hardly managing to preserve its second top trade partner position in 2013 with only a slight advantage over China. Greece, which last year suffered its sixth consecutive year of recession, ranked the sixth most important destination of Albanian exports in 2013 after Spain, Kosovo, China and Germany and Turkey with only 3 percent of the total and the second most important destination only for imports with around 10 percent, according to INSTAT. June Albania-CEZ dispute finally over Eighteen months after having its licence revoked and just before an expected EU decision on Albania's candidate status that could be endangered by a Czech Republic veto, the Albanian government and Czech giant CEZ reached an amicable out-of-court solution to the Albanian electricity distribution operator whose majority stake was sold to CEZ in 2009 for Euro 102 million and managed for three and a half years by the Czech company until it had its Albania licence revoked in January 2013. Under the deal signed by the Albanian government and CEZ, whose 70 percent stake is owned by the Czech government, Prague-based CEZ will get in annual installments in the next four years a total of Euro 95 million, an amount slightly lower to its initial investment in the Albanian distribution system, but half of the Euro 200 million CEZ had warned it would claim in international arbitration proceedings.  August  GDP per capita from 67% to 141%  GDP per capita in Albania's 12 regions varies from 67 percent of the country's average in the northeastern Dibra region to 141 percent in the central Tirana region, according to a regional GDP report for 2012 published by the country's state statistical Institute, INSTAT. This means the gap between the country's poorest and richest region is twofold with the GDP per capita at around 310,000 lek (Euro 2,182) and 650,000 lek (Euro 4,578) respectively, considerably narrowing compared to 2011, when the GDP per capita in the region of Dibra, which mainly relies on mining and agriculture, was at 59.8 percent of the country's average. The INSTAT report which has divided the country into three statistical units shows the central region which includes only Tirana and Elbasan has a GDP per capita at 23 percent above the country's average but at only 36 percent of the EU 28 average. The region of Tirana, where a quarter of the country's 2.8 million resident population lives, accounts for more than one-third (38 percent) of the country's GDP with the services sector dominating with 67 percent.  September  Lending back to positive growth  Lending to the economy registered a turning point in July 2014 when it overcame a 12-month moderate decline of around 2 percent as the economy struggled with its poorest growth rate in more than a decade and bad loans stood at around a quarter. Bank of Albania data shows lending grew by 0.5 percent year-on-year in July 2014, positively reflecting the easier lending standards banks are applying and a recovery in demand by both households and businesses as average interest rates on loans denominated in the national currency have dropped by around 2 percent. After growing by 30 to 50 percent annually in the pre-crisis years, lending grew by an average of 10 percent from 2009 to 2011 but sharply decelerated to 2.36 percent in 2012 and shrank by 1.25 percent in 2013 as bad loans hit a record of 24 percent.  Greece regains top foreign investor position After six-years of recession expected to come to an end only in 2014, neighbouring Greece  regained its top foreign investor position in Albania, overtaking Canada which emerged as a top foreign investor in the past couple of years due to huge investments in oil and mining. Neighbouring Greece, whose position as Albania's second top trade partner sharply weakened during the past six years, registered a surprise increase in foreign direct investment in 2013 with its FDI stock exceeding 1 billion euros, according to annual Bank of Albania. Data shows Greece increased its FDI stock to 1.088 billion Euros in 2013, up from 782 million euros in 2012, according to revised BoA data. Greek businesses are present in almost every sector of the Albanian economy, including strategic ones such as telecommunications, the banking system, energy, industry, construction, trade and tourism, significantly contributing to the country's economic growth.   October  2% growth target at risk  At a time when the Albanian economy seemed to have overcome its sluggish growth in the past two years, it suffered a major unexpected setback in the second quarter of 2014 when it registered negative growth rate, putting into doubt the 2 percent growth target both the government and the IMF have set for 2014. INSTAT data shows the Albanian economy registered negative a growth rate of 0.61 in the second quarter of this year affected by poor performance in the long-ailing construction sector, transport and industry. The quarterly shrink which was the fifth since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2009, signals the road to recovery for the Albanian economy will be long and require key reforms. The shrink in the second quarter of the year means the Albanian economy grew by only 0.56 percent in the first half of 2014, which is the worst performance in the past six crisis years. Crisis forces 133,000 migrants home The Eurozone crisis in the past five years, especially in top trade partners Italy and Greece where more than one million Albanian migrants live and work, has brought back to Albania around 10 percent of migrants there, a study carried by Albania's state statistical institute, INSTAT, and the International Organization for Migration has found. The survey shows some 133,544 adult Albanian migrants returned home in the 2009-2013 period, 71 percent of whom from neighbouring Greece and 24 percent from Italy due to the crisis in these two host countries. The number of returnees is almost the same to the 2001-2011 period when 139.827 Albanians returned home, says INSTAT. "The main reasons for the return of immigrants included loss of job in the country of immigration, melancholy and longing for the family and the country, as well as problems faced by the family left behind in Albania. Other reasons for return included better job opportunities in Albania, investment plans and health-related issues," said the survey. Immigration was one of the major reasons for the decline in Albania’s population between 2001 and 2011 when 481,000 Albanians left the country. Best ever ranking in Doing Business Albania achieved its best ever result in the Doing Business report, ranking 68th among 189 global economies, considerably improving its image among foreign investors who consider the flagship report as a reference point before deciding to invest. The 2015 Doing Business report released by the World Bank ranked Albania 68th, up from 108th a year ago on business regulatory reforms and a change in methodology which saw Albania's ranking in 2014 deteriorate from 90th to 108th. However, Albania still has to improve its competitiveness in the Balkan region as it currently ranks better only compared to Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the 2015 Doing Business, Albania improved in three areas of business regulatory reform including starting a business, dealing with construction permits, and registering property.  November Albanians to pay an extra €112 million Albanians will pay an extra 16 billion lek (around 112 million Euros) in higher taxes on non-wage income, fuel and tobacco in 2015, according to the 2015 fiscal package government approved. While key taxes such as the personal and corporate income taxes will remain unchanged, defying businesses calls for a return to the flat tax regime after the corporate income tax was raised by 5 percent to 15 percent in 2014, the fiscal burden will further increase by raising the withholding tax on dividends and rents, increasing the circulation tax on fuel and imposing higher excise rates on tobacco.  Optimistic budget scenario okayed In a bid to bring the economy back to sustainable growth, the Socialist Party-led left wing majority approved a rather overoptimistic budget for 2015 expecting a 3 percent growth and a slight reduction of public debt already hovering at 70 percent of the GDP at a time when the country's economy continues suffering crisis impacts with the GDP having grown by only 0.56 percent in the first half of this year. Government's optimistic scenario is based on the increase of two key taxes and reforms in the energy and pension systems whose huge deficits take hundreds of millions of euros from the state budget. The heavy fiscal burden with the corporate income tax which will continue remaining at 15 percent, the rise in the withholding tax on non-wage income and the increase in the circulation tax on fuel further angered the business community which claims such measures will have a negative impact on the country's economy and its attractiveness of foreign direct investment. Key rate cut to new historic low In a bid to give a new stimulus to consumption and private investments by promoting lending through lower interest rates, the country's central bank made a new cut to the key interest rate, taking it to a historic low of 2.25 percent. The new cut is also expected to have a positive impact on private investments by further discouraging investments in deposits whose interest rates have already dropped below the average inflation rate. The central bank’s supervisory council estimates that the cut of the key interest rate will create conditions for better financing of the economic activity, bring the economy back to its potential and inflation rate into target in the mid-term. The cut which is the third for this year comes as inflation rate hit a ten-month record low of 1.4 percent in October 2014 and after the European Central Bank cut its key rate to a record low of 0.05 percent last September.     [post_title] => Year in Review: Economy in 2014 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => year-in-review-economy-in-2014 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-09 12:25:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-09 12:25:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://46.183.120.20/tiranatimes/?p=445 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 500 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2014-12-29 13:53:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-29 13:53:28 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 19 – Albania’s government has complied with requirements set by the European Union to gain 40 million euro assistance for the 2014-2020 period, officials said. Albania has met final pre-conditions for EU budget support, as it will provide funds to the national budget on the basis of reforms achieved. It will also be coupled with increased transparency towards the public, support to the parliament in its oversight role and in empowering of the civil society organizations, officials said in a statement. The Council of Ministers adopted a new Strategy to reform Albania's Public Financial Management system for the period 2014-2020. The PFM strategy, developed by the Ministry of Finance, with input from the High State Control and advice from the EU, SIGMA, IMF and the World Bank, aims at intensifying the on-going efforts to tackle the shortcomings of the entire public financial management system. "Much has been done in this past year to establish and clear the stock of arrears. Now the focus has turned to the strengthening of the Public Finance Management through the design of a reform strategy to cover the period to 2020," said Finance Minister Shkëlqim Cani. "The PFM strategy is an important tool to guide reforms and monitor progress. This is a joint effort of the government in close cooperation with our international partners." EU head in Tirana, Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, welcomed the adoption of the strategy. "The Albanian government should be given full credit for its strong commitment to set out this comprehensive reform program on addressing the wide range of deficiencies of the public financial management system. Solid implementation of the Strategy will now be key," she said. "The EU for its part will be supporting Albania's efforts to address this very difficult structural reform." Tirana’s strategy will put in place a prudent macro fiscal framework, improved macroeconomic forecasting, controls on multi-year commitments, improved collection of revenues and transparent financial reporting mechanisms. The strategy aims to establish better internal control and financial management practices, prevention and fight against fraud and corruption in the management of public funds as well as enhanced external audit and oversight of the budget. The implementation of the PFM strategy will lead to a more efficient administration delivering better services to the public, the EU office said.   [post_title] => EU offers €40 million in budget assistance [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => eu-offers-e40-million-in-budget-assistance [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-07 13:41:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-07 13:41:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://46.183.120.20/tiranatimes/?p=500 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 499 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2014-12-29 13:52:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-29 13:52:50 [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 20 – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on Albania to have a better focus on its minority populations, an important element of efforts to join the European Union. Experts discussed how local authorities should coordinate further steps to include all minorities in daily life and decision making. Such calls were made at the annual conference organized by the Albanian Ombudsman Office, where OSCE Deputy Head in Albania Robert Wilton called for coordinated efforts to improve the protection and promotion of the rights of minorities in Albania. "We all have seen what can happen when the identity of minorities is used for disruption and discrimination. The protection of human rights and meaningful integration of minorities are factors that help building democratic societies, stable and full of life," he said. At the same time Albania's steps towards the consolidation of stability in the region and cohesion in the country were hailed and it was urged to establish an inter-institutional working group to assess the legal framework and policies for minorities. Albania was granted the EU candidate status in June and it has now started work to fulfill the requirements for the launch of the negotiations with the bloc. Albania has one of Europe's most homogenous populations, but the country does have small officially-recognized Greek and Slavic ethnic minorities as well as as larger cultural minorities of Roma and Balkan Egyptians. [post_title] => Minorities need better attention, says OSCE [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => minorities-need-better-attention-says-osce [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-07 13:41:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-07 13:41:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://46.183.120.20/tiranatimes/?p=499 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1068 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 09:20:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-03 09:20:11 [post_content] => TIRANA - Citing a sharp drop in international oil prices, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania, has revised downward its 2015 program of investments and production. Bankers Petroleum, which is the country's largest foreign investor and exporter, said it had reduced its 2015 capital program to US$ 153 million, down from a  previously announced 2015 capital program of $218 million in early December 2014. "These adjustments have been made to ensure 2015 spending fits within funds generated from operations and cash resources in the latest oil price environment," said the company in a statement. The revised 2015 capital program utilizes a $50 per barrel average annual Brent oil price forecast in comparison to the budget announced on December 12, 2014, which was predicated on an annual Brent oil price forecast of $70 per barrel. "We believe it is prudent with today's commodity outlook to show capital discipline and preserve our strong balance sheet.   This revised budget reflects our rigorous focus on capital and operating cost efficiency with a balance of both short term drilling execution and long term flood expansion of the field," said David French, Bankers president and CEO. Bankers anticipates its 2015 average production levels will decrease from its average 2014 production levels by approximately 5 percent on account of reduced drilling activity and shut-in volumes due to marginal economics. Bankers Petroleum, which has recently made it to the top 100 SEE biggest companies reported net income of $77.8 million in the first three quarters of 2014, up 67 percent compared to the same period the previous year. The price of Brent crude oil fell slightly recovered to $53.5 a barrel this week, having dropped by more than 40 percent since its peak in mid-June. Bankers posted record profits of around 62 million dollars in 2013, almost double compared to the previous two years on higher production and oil prices, the company said in its 2013 financial results. Since 2004, Bankers operates and has the full rights to develop the Patos-Marinza and Kuçova heavy oilfields under a 25-year concession contract with the Albanian government. The Patos-Marinza oilfield is the largest onshore oilfield in continental Europe, holding approximately 5.4 billion barrels of original oil in place. The Kuçova field has 297 million barrels of original-oil-in-place. /el/Feb. 2, 2015/ This is a web update.  Read more on this and other topics in our upcoming Friday print edition.     [post_title] => Sharp cut in oil prices forces Bankers Petroleum to reduce investments, production [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sharp-cut-in-oil-prices-forces-bankers-petroleum-to-reduce-investments-production [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-04 12:56:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-04 12:56:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1068 [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] => 1057 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 37 [category_count] => 1057 [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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