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PM warns removing President from office after latter cancels local elections date

PM warns removing President from office after latter cancels local elections date

TIRANA, June 9 – Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama reiterated on Sunday that the local elections will be held on June 30, despite the decision of President Ilir Meta to abolish the previously issued decree regarding the date of these elections.

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Political circles in Albania react to German-published wiretaps alleging govt-mafia ties

Political circles in Albania react to German-published wiretaps alleging govt-mafia ties

TIRANA, June 7 – Albanian President Ilir Meta said on Thursday evening that he is paying close attention to the publications of the German newspaper “Bild” containing telephone conversations during the 2017 parliamentary election campaign between several public officials in

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Opposition protests again seeking PM’s resignation

Opposition protests again seeking PM’s resignation

TIRANA, June 8 – Saturday’s opposition protest saw again clashes and moments of tension in front of the Albanian parliament. After the eighth national anti-government rally kicked off in front of the government’s headquarters, the protesters carried on in front

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Montenegrin police arrests three for trafficking Albanian-origin cannabis

Montenegrin police arrests three for trafficking Albanian-origin cannabis

TIRANA, June 7 – Three people from Podgorica were arrested on Thursday, charged with trafficking 285 kg of marijuana suspected of coming from Albania, the Montenegrin Police Directorate announced. Police said that “in the territory of the Tuz Municipality there

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German media publish wiretaps alleging ties between Socialist officials and criminals

German media publish wiretaps alleging ties between Socialist officials and criminals

TIRANA, June 5 – German newspaper Bild has published interceptions between the Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and the leaders of the criminal gang Astrit Avdylaj, arrested for cocaine trafficking in October 2018. The leaked wiretaps are part of a

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Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi

Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The communications interceptions published by the German media Bild shed light over an intricate network of links between organized crime and politics that function with clockwork precision. The flow of the decision making goes back and forth

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Austrian media says there will be no opening of negotiations for Albania in June

Austrian media says there will be no opening of negotiations for Albania in June

TIRANA, June 4 – Austrian newspaper Die Presse in a recent article announced that some of the EU member states will formally refuse to open negotiations with Albania and northern Macedonia. According to the newspaper, ambassadors of accredited member countries

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NATO Secretary General: “Political violence opposes democratic values”

NATO Secretary General: “Political violence opposes democratic values”

TIRANA, June 2 – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday in Tirana that political violence is in conflict with democratic values ​​and is absolutely unacceptable. Stoltenberg commenting in relation to the political developments in the country after concluding

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Socialist govt begins local elections campaign, as opposition demands PM’s resignation

Socialist govt begins local elections campaign, as opposition demands PM’s resignation

TIRANA, June 1 – Saturday in Albania officially marked the first day of electoral campaigning for local government leadership. The ruling Socialist Party was the only major party to start campaigning through a festive gathering, as the opposition’s Democratic Party

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Dutch gov’t officially asks EC to remove visa-free regime with Albania

Dutch gov’t officially asks EC to remove visa-free regime with Albania

TIRANA, May 30 – The Netherlands’ parliament officially presented to the European Commission on Friday a request to return the visa regime for Albanians. 105 Dutch MPs from the five main political parties – VVD, CDA, PVV, SP and CU

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 9 - Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama reiterated on Sunday that the local elections will be held on June 30, despite the decision of President Ilir Meta to abolish the previously issued decree regarding the date of these elections. 

The Socialists went on campaigning on Sunday, while, according to Rama, Meta’s decision to cancel the decree deciding on the elections’ date lost him his right to stay in office. 

Meta’s unexpected decision to cancel June 30 as the date of the elections did not lead to any new space for the parties to review their positions; instead, the situation now seems even more complicated.

On its part, the opposition spoke yesterday about the first victory in a battle that will continue. 

“It was this union that dictated the cancellation of June 30, the criminal process of criminal junta,” Basha said.

He stated more than once that “the departure of Prime Minister Edi Rama is a non-negotiable condition.”

On the other hand, for the majority, apart from the fact that Meta has violated the constitution and should leave the office, nothing changes about the election. 

As he continued on Sunday with his electoral tour, from Burrel, Rama spoke of “an act that is politically suicidal, legally null, does not exist and morally is a shame.”

Rama went even further, stating that “yesterday Ilir Meta wrote his fate as a president who has lost the right to stay in this office.” 

It remains to be seen whether this is simply a political assessment, or a warning towards actual steps that will lead to the president's dismissal. 

The move, however, would remain unfulfilled in the absence of the Constitutional Court.

The president's decision has also opened a constitutional and legal debate, although he has so far only given the political reasons that prompted him to take the decision to cancel the previously signed decree. A full judicial explanation as to what grounds Meta plans to cancel the local elections date is expected on Monday morning. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 7 - Albanian President Ilir Meta said on Thursday evening that he is paying close attention to the publications of the German newspaper “Bild” containing telephone conversations during the 2017 parliamentary election campaign between several public officials in Durres and persons with criminal precedents, as well as to the prosecution order which seeks the prohibition of their publication in the media.

“Issuing such an order indirectly intimidates the free media, which is unacceptable for a democratic society,” Meta noted in his response. 

He stressed that the Constitution protects the citizens' fundamental right to information, that freedom of expression, press, radio and television is guaranteed and that it bans premeditated censorship of the media. 

“No warrant can have authority over this fundamental constitutional right of free and independent media,” Meta said. 

He urged the prosecution to investigate with priority and professionalism the public file, as well as any other file related to manipulation of elections or intimidation of citizens in order to deform their free will and distort the election result.

“Any delay in investigating and clarifying the truth by the prosecution does not serve the general public interest,” Meta added. 

He also urged all journalists to denounce any criminal offense they might be aware of.

Political circles in Tirana addressed again on Friday with concern telephone conversations between the main leaders of the Socialist Party and the municipalities of Durrës and Shijak with members of criminal groups during the election campaign two years ago.

One of the most prominent persons of the crime scene in the Durres region was revealed having six conversations with the mayor, the most important Socialist Party representative in the second largest city of Albania, Vangjush Dako, as well as with leaders of other administrative bodies to influence the last elections through pressures, violence, threats, and vote buying.

For the Democratic Party, which has since February resigned its parliamentary mandates, Rama must leave office because the published materials constitute a scandal revealing the voting mechanism through international drug trafficking groups protected by the Socialist Party.

“An illegal Prime Minister, who came to power with the votes of crime, as confirmed by the recent wiretapping of Bild, not only does not consider his resignation, but is in defense of Vangjush Dako, going as far as to publicly threaten whoever publishes the secret of his cooperation with crime to buy votes. With or without his resignation, Edi Rama is no longer credible. Even those who believed in the mafia Prime Minister,  today are certain that everything happened with his blessing,” said Enkelejd Alibeaj of the Democratic Party.

The Socialist Movement for Integration also expressed concern about the wiretaps published by Bild. Its vice-president, Luan Rama, called them evidence of a crime state, just the peak of the iceberg of this criminal phenomenon spread all over Albania. 

On the other hand, Socialist Party representatives are paying more attention to how these interviews were released to the media, calling it a legal violation related to secret state investigations. 

Rama, during a visit to a quake-stricken area between Korcs and Erseka, ignored and left unanswered questions about these wiretaps published by Bild, while coming to the protection of Dako himself, saying that these wiretaps do not provide sufficient evidence to make assumptions that SP officials have been involved in vote-buying. 

Meanwhile, on Friday, the prosecution at the Serious Crimes Court in Tirana announced that File 339, initiated in December 2016, contains accusations for 74 people in collaboration from production, sale and trafficking of narcotics to unlawful influence in the elections.

According to the head of this prosecution, Donika Prela, the first year the file was investigated only for "Narcotics Trafficking" in cooperation, as well as "Cleaning of Criminal Activity", while the second year a second prosecutor added the accusations “structured crime,” “Conducting Criminal Offenses by Criminal Organization,” “Active and Passive Corruption of High State Officials or Local Elections.”

Subsequently, two other prosecutors added to the file another 40 names as well as additional charges such as “Exercise of illegal influence on persons exercising public functions," “Falsifying documents,” “Falsifying stamps, signatures or stamps forms,” “Abuse of land,” etc, carried out in cooperation as a structured criminal group.

Parallel to investigations into criminal offenses in the electoral field, where the speed of CD discoloration has increased, another prosecutor has been added and investigations are also underway for the publication of secret investigative acts that are punishable by prosecution and undermine the continuation of investigations. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 8 - Saturday’s opposition protest saw again clashes and moments of tension in front of the Albanian parliament. 

After the eighth national anti-government rally kicked off in front of the government’s headquarters, the protesters carried on in front of the parliament in response to the calls of the head of the opposition’s Democratic Party Lulzim Basha. 

Within a short period of time, groups apparently began to throw firecrackers, smoke bombs and fireworks towards the police lined up at the building’s entrance. 

Police quickly responded by throwing tear gas and water to disperse the crowd.

President Ilir Meta called on opposition leaders to stop the protest and on demonstrators to disperse peacefully. 

Basha and the opposition leaders withdrew a few minutes later to the Democratic Party's headquarters, from where Basha once again said that the “battle continues” and that “the only solution is the departure of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the establishment of a transitional government to prepare early elections.” 

President Ilir Meta's decision to cancel the local elections date, announced on Saturday, is seen as the opposition’s “first victory.” 

While Basha spoke from the DP headquarters, a group of protesters stood in front of the parliament's headquarters. It took the return of DP Secretary General Gazmend Bardhi and SMI exponent Petrit Vasili for them to later leave, as the police guard had advanced towards the demonstrators.

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition protests again seeking PM’s resignation 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 7 - Three people from Podgorica were arrested on Thursday, charged with trafficking 285 kg of marijuana suspected of coming from Albania, the Montenegrin Police Directorate announced. 

Police said that “in the territory of the Tuz Municipality there were seized four bags mounting to 258 kg of narcotics suspected as cannabis, which were found inside a van after having passed by means of sailing through the Shkodra Lake, from Albania to Montenegro, for the purpose of distributing it to the territory of the country.”

Montenegrin citizens Srgjan Singjelić, 37 years old, Savo Vukcevic 24 and Ratko Shushkavcevic 26, were all born and residing in Podgorica.

Investigations so far point to the narcotics having been trafficked from Albania to Montenegro through the Shkodra lake, a common route for drug traffickers in the country’s north. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 5 - German newspaper Bild has published interceptions between the Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and the leaders of the criminal gang Astrit Avdylaj, arrested for cocaine trafficking in October 2018.

The leaked wiretaps are part of a prosecution investigation on the Avdylaj criminal group based in Shijak, close to Durrës, the second biggest city in Albania and they take place in the months before the general 2017 elections in Albania.

The prosecution had initiated an investigation into the criminal group suspected of international drug trafficking and other charges, while several members of the group were arrested in 2018 and are now facing charges in an ongoing case.

However, interceptions have revealed that the group was in close connection and collaboration with the governing Socialist Party officials, in particular with Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako on several criminal activities unrelated to the initial investigation.

In one of the conversations, criminal group leader Astrit Avdylaj appears to decide on who will be the Socialist Party candidates for MPs. 

He talks with the Mayor of Shijak, Ardian Kokomani, telling him that he has set a meeting with Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako and others the next day. Avdylaj demands the Mayor to be present at the meeting, as they will finalize the appointment of Ilir Ndraxhi as Socialist Party candidate to Member of Parliament. Ndraxhi is supposed to represent the interests of the Avdylajs, and in exchange they will give full support to the PS campaign in Durrës.

Several days after the phone call, Ilir Ndraxhi is confirmed as SP candidate for MP in Durrës. Before that, Astrit Avdylaj talks with Ndraxhi’s brother and asks him whether they called Ilir Ndraxhi to confirm his candidacy. The brother says that they are waiting to get that confirmation from him (Astrit Avdylaj), to which Avdylaj replies that Mayor Dako has told him that it will be confirmed the next day.

“Astrit Avdylaj: Ok, ok, I’m still waiting. To put it in one word: tomorrow he [Mayor of Durrës Vangjush Dako] told me it will be done. […] We have it in our pocket [It’s a settled affair].”

Ilir Ndraxhi has been a member of Parliament since 2017.

Astrit Avdylaj further explains that they pushed with Mayor Dako for Elton Arbana, then PS Chair for the Shijak Municipality, to be included in the PS candidates list for PM, but that his ranking in the list won’t be very favorable.

“Astrit Avdylaj: [Mayor Dako] told me [it will be decided] on the 25th [of that month]. Elton [Arbana] was there too. He told Elton that he had put him 10th or 11th.”

Later the deal was changed, and Elton Arbana was not included in the list but was promised “something better.” He is now the PS Candidate for Mayor in Shijak in the 30 June 2019 elections.

Avdylaj further says he has worked very hard to secure votes for the PS, and that they will be very proud in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama when he sees the results. Avdylaj promises that the PS will get the parliamentary seats for all 10 PMs from their region.

“Astrit Avdylaj: We have to be very proud even to the one high up [PM Edi Rama], who should see what we are up to, you know.

We will deliver him [Edi Rama] a 10 to 0 victory, and he himself will be surprised.”

In another wiretap, ringleader Astrit Avdylaj is talking with the Head of the Water Management Agency in Durrës. Avdylaj tells the official that he met with Mayor Dako and the local Head of the Socialist Party last night, and orders him to prepare a list of employees suspected to vote for the opposition Democratic Party. Avdylaj orders the Director to have them all summoned the next day at their workplace, as Avdylaj would go there to threaten them to vote for the Socialist Party. The Director says that he has already prepared the list of those employees, and that he will do as asked. He also thanks Avdylaj for the great work, telling him “you are great!”

“Astrit Avdylaj: You need to summon them and I will give them a good shake.

Director: I see. There is no question about it.

Astrit Avdylaj: Either they keep working and vote for us, or they go home.

Director: You got all [names] ready, separated. I have prepared everything.”

In another call, Astrit Avdylaj talks with a voter, making sure that he and his family will vote for the PS MP candidate Ilir Ndraxhi, while also promising him money in exchange for the votes. The voter agrees.

“Astrit Avdylaj: I called you for the vote, as you know. So, in one word, you shouldn’t tell to no one, including Gon Duka (opposition candidate in Durrës). […] We are for the SP, for Ilir Ndranxhi.

[…] You know what I mean, right, you will get a coffee [slang for payment for votes].”

In another conversation, gang leader Avdylaj appears to decide on changing Mayor Dako’s agenda in order for the later to meet Avdylaj and “finish a job” for a friend (a murder convict) at the Property Register Office. Mayor Dako asks whether Avdylaj is together with the murder convict at the time of the conversation and accepts to cancel his agenda and meet them, according to Avdylaj’s demand.

“Mayor Dako: I’m leaving now to [see] those guys in Ishëm [a city in Durrës county].

Astrit Avylaj: No, you listen now. We’ll postpone that for a little later as I am here now with the guys [with a murder convict and the Director of Property Register Office].”

Criminal group leader Avdylaj seems to be aware of Mayor Dako’s agenda. He asks Mayor Dako about his meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama the night before. In their conversations, Avdylaj and Dako call each other “bro.”

“Astrit Avdylaj: Did you get any sleep last night bro, as you have met Rama yesterday, you spent quite some time, and you had a ball.

Mayor Dako: Hehehe, what’s up?”

In another wiretapped conversation an angry Astrit Avdylaj talks with the Head of the PS in Shijak, Elton Arbana, demanding him to make the necessary calls to cancel a high fine given to a farm by a Durrës Municipality director. Avdylaj says that he can’t contact Vangjush Dako now, as the Mayor is in Switzerland with Prime Minister Edi Rama. He demands Arbana to do what as he was told, otherwise Avdylaj will make the call. Arbana agrees.

“Astit Avdylaj: Tell him: “You son of a bitch, you went there and put fines in the farm today,” like 5 million lek [4 thousand euro] bro.

Gjushi [Mayor Dako] is not there, as he is with Edi in Switzerland, you see what I mean?

You tell him he made a mistake. [Tell him] to retrieve the fines, tell him not to put fines.

Tell him you’re doing wrong, you filthy man! Because I don’t want to call him personally.”

In the article published after the release of the wiretaps, the investigation’s journalist Tiede explains that "the tapping published today is only a small part of the file called 339. The interceptions were made by the prosecution during the 2017 elections but they have not yet been fully investigated.” 

Also, the German journalist criticizes the prosecutors of the case who have remained silent about the investigation of this file.

Bild writes that Albania is being governed by drug money and that the mafia has entered politics by appointing MPs on the list and buying votes.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Laws Commission Ulsi Manja defended on Wednesday Mayor Vangjush Dako for the wiretaps

In a statement to the media, MP Manja said that in the wiretaps made public today are not explicitly mentioning vote buying. He said the content of telephone conversations is getting bigger and worse to destabilize the country.  

"In all the tapping materials I have not heard of either votes or money, for permission or for tenders. We are on the ground of rumors and gossip. A political environment with untruths or half-truths that lead to destabilization of the country will not be endured.”

Manja sought identification and punishment of prosecutors or prosecution employees who gave the German newspaper BILD intercepts between Dako and the Avdylajs gang.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-06-07 07:43:30
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-07 05:43:30
                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL 

The communications interceptions published by the German media Bild shed light over an intricate network of links between organized crime and politics that function with clockwork precision. The flow of the decision making goes back and forth between the gang masters who point out who should hold office, work to make it happen via all the illicit ways and then reap the rewards. The local politicians under the supervision and guidance and approval of their masters keep an ongoing communication intertwined with ghastly pet name calling and affection displays.

The intercepts are very clear: the Avdylaj mafia clan active in the entire Durres region have chosen their man, Ilir Ndraxhi, to be a member of parliament under the SP logo and have used intimidation methods and illicit money to make him win. The fact is that Ndraxhi is in the parliament to the present day and nothing has ever been heard from him until these articles were made public. The list of MPs of the Rilindje group coming directly from organized crime syndicates and representing their interests therefore increases by at least one verified name.   In the Albanian electoral system the responsibility for choosing the candidates and their places in the running lists rests with one person only: the head of the party currently the Prime Minister.

These intercepts deliver a hard blow on the legitimacy of the government itself. Durres, a highly prized constituency for its national port, a documented hub of narco-trafficking, is certainly not the only place where this kind of mafia dynamics is in place. After the first mandate Rilindje under the guise of the Socialist Party won 74 mandates. It is clear now that their decisive difference which gave them the mandate was made up with the names chosen by organized crime. Some of them, directly implicated in crimes, have been forced to resign with the decriminalization law. Some like Ndraxhi still stand.

In subsequent calls we understand how hardcore criminals, sentenced for the harshest crimes wield decisive influence on the drafting and ranks of the electoral lists, threaten and manipulate voters in order to generate specific outcomes, boast about it to party heads, have full information on the agenda of local and national politicians and finally have at their disposal all the public institutions to deal with them at their hearts’ content.

The entire array of institutions and their heads: property registration offices, aqueduct management companies, municipalities mentioned in these communications are the fabric of whole communities. The calls indicate the pressure on the lower employees to vote in exchange for keeping their jobs, the pressure on mayors and property offices to deliver for the gangsters, to change their agendas, to walk the line. And then Election Day is just Show Time.

This is not the first time this scheme is put under the limelight. Not the first time its actors shrug off these allegations as being routine conversations with their constituents.   However this does seem like the straw that breaks the camel back. In the midst of this political crisis whose core nexus is about the freedom and legitimacy of elections, in the midst of the indifference and inertia that the international community present in Albania is showing, in expectance of a major decision about the EU integration path of the country, this publication is the last chance to serve as a wakeup call.

However the standing majority is more concerned about the leaks as a break in the procedure of conserving the investigation privacy than about the evidencing of the crime itself. The leak that identifies and sheds lights over these links between crime and politics is in the interest of the public and therefore cannot be intimidated with the rhetoric of punishing those who made it happen.

The intricate and almost organic links that have grown between crime and politics and that stem from the nefarious pact between the two around Election Day should be severed. This linkage is the original sin and the genesis of evil and renouncing it will be difficult and painful. However as long as it stands put there is no chance that the pattern of political conflict, large scale corruption and democratic degradation can ever be reversed. 

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Organized crime at the heart of the political modus operandi
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                (
                    [ID] => 142065
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-04 07:53:06
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-04 05:53:06
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 4 - Austrian newspaper Die Presse in a recent article announced that some of the EU member states will formally refuse to open negotiations with Albania and northern Macedonia.

According to the newspaper, ambassadors of accredited member countries to the European Union, will meet tomorrow in Brussels with Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn to make the decision known.

This means that the EU will formally refuse to open negotiations, as unanimous decision by all member states will have to be approved for the opening.

The main countries opposing the opening of accession negotiations for Albania are France and the Netherlands. While France's decision reflects its position in principle against further EU enlargement until the EU has reformed itself, the Netherlands' refusal concerns the failure to meet the conditions from Albania and North Macedonia.

De Presse also reaffirms the strong attitude of the Netherlands to ban visa-free travel for Albania, because visa-free travel has provided freedom of organized crime by Albanian citizens in the Netherlands, where Albanians are among the main groups trafficking drugs. 

Denmark and Germany are also against the opening of negotiations. 

Denmark is mainly opposed to the EU principle of enlargement, while the Danish political stance on immigration has become more and more constrained.

The German government has its hands tied to vote for the opening of negotiations due to the Bundestag's refusal to review the European Commission's progress reports before September, along with the EC's recommendation to open negotiations with the two countries made public last week of May.

The newspaper notes that in Brussels there exists a general suspicion regarding the commitment and determination of Albania and North Macedonia towards democracy and the rule of law.

Member States' stance seems to be tougher to Albania because of the state of crime in the country and the government’s failure to combat it. 

Der Press quotes a European diplomat commenting:

“Look at the protests in Albania and how the government reacts: did it make any effort at all? Let's not forget that the Commission has warned two or three years ago about organized crime and its state seizure.”

 
                    [post_title] => Austrian media says there will be no opening of negotiations for Albania in June  
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            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142068
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-02 07:56:45
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-02 05:56:45
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 2 - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday in Tirana that political violence is in conflict with democratic values ​​and is absolutely unacceptable. 

Stoltenberg commenting in relation to the political developments in the country after concluding a meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama. 

He addressed all the country’s political forces to behave responsibly and with self-restraint and resolve each issue through dialogue and political processes.

Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, the opposition called its next protest in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, where Stoltenberg that same afternoon called for dialogue among political actors pointing out that political violence is unacceptable. 

His visit to Tirana was announced only a few days ago and preceded that in Skopje, North Macedonia, which had long been planned.

At a press conference with Rama, following the meeting he had with him, Stoltenberg took a break from commenting on the recent political developments in Albania, first praising the country's contribution to NATO and the example as expressed by Albania for peace and stability in the Western Balkans.

“Democracy will always have different debates and opinions. This is not a weakness, it is the foundation of what makes a strong democracy. But political violence is contradictory to our democratic values, it is absolutely unacceptable as every effort to undermine democratic institutions,” said NATO Secretary General, calling on “all political actors to behave responsibly and with self-restraint, and show the necessary political consensus to continue on the path of integration and resolve any differences through dialogue and political processes. This contributes to a better future of Albania and the region.” 

On his part, Rama said that, according to him, the opposition protest “is not a show of great popular concern. It is a political show and there is no chance to stretch beyond the boundaries of the political scene. We will go through with the elections as an undeniable democratic process. If someone does not prefer and decides not to enter the elections, this does not make them undemocratic elections.”

Rama further said that “any form of destabilization that would affect the image of the country beyond the one that brings the organization of violent manifestations into a narrow and unsupported perimeter will not be allowed.”

For more than three months, the opposition has chosen to protest in order to demand the resignation of the PM and the creation of a transitional government that would guarantee its early elections and a free and fair election process. 

The opposition insists on a political solution which, according to it, has the negotiable condition of Rama’s resignation.

Shortly after comments by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg on political developments in Albania, Democratic leader Lulzim Basha, inviting citizens to join the protest, said through a Facebook post that there will be no “step forward for the liberation of country from evil. The power of crime has fallen! Parliament is illegal! Children of Albanians are without bread! Houses are being ruined due to corruption! Justice is captured! Business is going down! Violence strikes everywhere! Power knives have touched the marrow! It will no longer be endured,” emphasized Mr. Basha adding that “only the free vote will bring a government that works for people! For wellbeing! For employment! For development! Standards and democracy alone will open our way to Europe!”

 
                    [post_title] => NATO Secretary General: “Political violence opposes democratic values” 
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                (
                    [ID] => 142062
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-06-01 06:51:20
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-01 04:51:20
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 1 - Saturday in Albania officially marked the first day of electoral campaigning for local government leadership.

The ruling Socialist Party was the only major party to start campaigning through a festive gathering, as the opposition’s Democratic Party prepared for another protest on Sunday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Rama and the establishment of a caretaker government that can provide early elections.

The Socialist Party is steadfastly moving towards the June 30 local elections, while the Democratic Party has resigned from parliament and has announced it will not only be participating in these elections with municipal candidates, but will also try to boycott them.

Both sides are holding extreme positions, with the SP saying the elections will definitely be held, and the opposition saying it will boycott them. 

The Central Election Commission even decided not to accept opposition commissioners in the management of the electoral process, a decision that the opposition has appealed.

Since February, when the opposition resigned its parliamentary mandates, it has organized several protests which have seen, among others, clashes with the police. 

The DP’s protesters have also thrown smoke bombs, while police have dispersed protesters using tear gas during some of these protests. 

High Albanian and international authorities have called on political parties to maintain their calm and start talking about key issues in the country.

However, both major leaders of the parties - namely, Rama and Basha - are holding opposing attitudes to each other's demands.

Political life monitors estimate that the big party leaders are also leading their supporters to take extreme positions.

They express concern about the tensions created and the risk of physical collisions at the end of the month, as the date for the local elections approaches.

 
                    [post_title] => Socialist govt begins local elections campaign, as opposition demands PM’s resignation 
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                    [ID] => 142018
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-05-31 14:33:13
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-31 12:33:13
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 30 - The Netherlands’ parliament officially presented to the European Commission on Friday a request to return the visa regime for Albanians. 

105 Dutch MPs from the five main political parties - VVD, CDA, PVV, SP and CU - out of 150 in total made the majority that voted the visas’ reintroduction proposal. 

“After many discussions, pointing out that: there has been a considerable criminality rise from the Albanian mafia, whose organizations use the visa-free regime to move freely across Europe and expand their contraband, we ask the government to present to the European Commission a request to urgently begin the process of stopping visa free travel with Albania,” the Dutch parliament’s April 16 decision read. 

On Friday, the Dutch government officially submitted the request to ban Albanians from moving without visas to the Netherlands to the European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos. 

Immediate was the reaction of the Dutch Embassy to Tirana, which clarified to Albanians the existing visa-free regime will stay in place until the European Commission decides whether the Dutch request should be approved. 

On May 29, the EC recommended to the European Parliament the unconditional opening of accession talks with Albania, assessing the country has fulfilled the criteria placed by the EU to open the negotiation process for membership. 

However, this was the third time the EC made the recommendation - last year, member states such as the Netherlands rejected the EC’s proposal, arguing the country has not taken concrete steps and yielded results in the fight against organized crime and corruption. 

This week as well, a group of Dutch MPs visited the country and, in a public assessment, said Albania does not punish its corrupt officials and needs to further step up its fight against corruption.
                    [post_title] => Dutch gov’t officially asks EC to remove visa-free regime with Albania 
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    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 142098
            [post_author] => 281
            [post_date] => 2019-06-09 12:09:49
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-06-09 10:09:49
            [post_content] => TIRANA, June 9 - Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama reiterated on Sunday that the local elections will be held on June 30, despite the decision of President Ilir Meta to abolish the previously issued decree regarding the date of these elections. 

The Socialists went on campaigning on Sunday, while, according to Rama, Meta’s decision to cancel the decree deciding on the elections’ date lost him his right to stay in office. 

Meta’s unexpected decision to cancel June 30 as the date of the elections did not lead to any new space for the parties to review their positions; instead, the situation now seems even more complicated.

On its part, the opposition spoke yesterday about the first victory in a battle that will continue. 

“It was this union that dictated the cancellation of June 30, the criminal process of criminal junta,” Basha said.

He stated more than once that “the departure of Prime Minister Edi Rama is a non-negotiable condition.”

On the other hand, for the majority, apart from the fact that Meta has violated the constitution and should leave the office, nothing changes about the election. 

As he continued on Sunday with his electoral tour, from Burrel, Rama spoke of “an act that is politically suicidal, legally null, does not exist and morally is a shame.”

Rama went even further, stating that “yesterday Ilir Meta wrote his fate as a president who has lost the right to stay in this office.” 

It remains to be seen whether this is simply a political assessment, or a warning towards actual steps that will lead to the president's dismissal. 

The move, however, would remain unfulfilled in the absence of the Constitutional Court.

The president's decision has also opened a constitutional and legal debate, although he has so far only given the political reasons that prompted him to take the decision to cancel the previously signed decree. A full judicial explanation as to what grounds Meta plans to cancel the local elections date is expected on Monday morning. 

 
            [post_title] => PM warns removing President from office after latter cancels local elections date 
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