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President denies request to declassify cannabis meeting documents

President denies request to declassify cannabis meeting documents

TIRANA, Nov. 10 – Two days after a request put forward by lawmakers of the Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration to publish classified documents from a National Security Council meeting tied to the war on cannabis and

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Mogherini sees momentous 2018 for Albania’s EU bid

Mogherini sees momentous 2018 for Albania’s EU bid

TIRANA, Nov. 16 – EU’s top foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini, said this week 2018 will be a unique chance for Albania and the Western Balkans as a whole to make headway in the process of European integration. Mogherini made

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PM nominates former SHISH head as new ambassador to NATO

PM nominates former SHISH head as new ambassador to NATO

TIRANA, Nov. 13 – Following the resignation of Albania’s intelligence chief, Visho Ajazi, earlier this month, the government has officially proposed him to be the next ambassador of Albania in NATO. Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a television interview

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Famous Albanians – From Skanderbeg to Mother Teresa

Famous Albanians – From Skanderbeg to Mother Teresa

Most importantly, these sons and daughters of a small country like Albania confirm the vitality and the verve these people hold, by proudly listing Albanians on the big human terrestrial family. The humanity, the geniality, the verve and the vitality

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AIIS, FES conference examines West-East geopolitical influences in Albania and region

AIIS, FES conference examines West-East geopolitical influences in Albania and region

TIRANA, Nov. 16 – A Western Balkan country with a key geographical position, Albania is a geopolitical terrain that could be under various West or East influences, but the EU-aspirant NATO member country has already made clear its future path

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Camera traps reveal presence of rare Balkan Lynx in Albanian Alps

Camera traps reveal presence of rare Balkan Lynx in Albanian Alps

TIRANA, Nov. 15 – Camera traps have revealed the presence of the Balkan Lynx which experts have dubbed the ‘jewel of Albanian forests’ in the northern Albanian Alps and several other endangered species, a watchdog says. Monitoring through camera traps

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Ten-man Albania surprise Turkey with 3-2 away victory

Ten-man Albania surprise Turkey with 3-2 away victory

TIRANA, Nov. 14 – Albania beat Turkey 3-2 in a surprise away victory as the Red & Blacks played in 10 men for most of the time after playmaker Ledian Memushaj was sent off with a second yellow card just

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Albania play Turkey in friendly test ahead of Nations League, Euro 2020 qualifiers

Albania play Turkey in friendly test ahead of Nations League, Euro 2020 qualifiers

Tirana, Nov. 13 – Albania will play away to Turkey tonight in a friendly that is seen as a test for the national side and coach Christian Pannuci as the Red & Blacks prepare for their Euro 2020 bid. The

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Tirana’s much awaited book fair to mark 20th edition

Tirana’s much awaited book fair to mark 20th edition

TIRANA, Nov. 15 – Bookworms from all over Albania can come and feast on old and new, domestic and international publications of literary works during the 3 days of the annual Book Fair. Starting on the 15th of November, on Wednesday, the Book Fair

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Ambassador Ito talks ‘Contemporary Japan’ at AIIS forum

Ambassador Ito talks ‘Contemporary Japan’ at AIIS forum

TIRANA, Nov. 9 – Albania’s importance in the Western Balkans region and the strategic goal to boost development cooperation and current modest trade and investment ties is what pushed the Japanese government to open an embassy in Tirana, Makoto Ito,

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134598" align="alignright" width="300"]President Ilir Meta President Ilir Meta[/caption]

TIRANA, Nov. 10 – Two days after a request put forward by lawmakers of the Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration to publish classified documents from a National Security Council meeting tied to the war on cannabis and organized crime, President Ilir Meta has declined to act, saying it would cause long-term damage to the country's security institutions. 

The request, coming mainly from opposition representatives, was based on the tense political climate the country is facing, especially after strong allegations towards the government on its alleged ties with narcotics’ trafficking in the Tahiri-Habilaj case.

The DP and SMI specifically requested the publication of information exchanged during a meeting held on Nov. 11, 2016, which reportedly focused on the cannabis situation in the country. 

The meeting was led by former President Bujar Nishani, while former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri was also present. DP and SMI deputies claim that information concerning the implication of high-rank police officials with organized crime groups was discussed during that meeting.  

In denying the request, Meta argued that the request was not in line with the legal package, which deems the data published by various state institutions as classified information that could potentially harm the long-term functionality of the National Security Council, despite the positive intentions of particular social or political groups.

“I deem that the declassification and publication of the content of the National Security Council’s meetings (which has never happened) would constitute a precedent with long-term consequences for the functionality of the National Security Council (NSC),” Meta said in his explanation.

Another argument put forward was that the data discussed during NSC meetings included information concerning the cooperation between Albania and international partnering countries and institutions, to which the standard of protecting classified material should be provided.  

However, Meta also added that the lawmakers had a right to attain information, according to the law, and use it for investigation purposes, without making it public.

“The Institution of the General Prosecutor can request and use for investigation purposes the information from the NSC’s meetings in a way defined by the law,” Meta said.  

Until there is enough evidence suggesting that the data and information discussed during the meeting can help the investigation process, Meta said that the main aim of the institution he runs is to create an environment of trust among the participants of NSC meetings.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 16 - EU’s top foreign affairs representative, Federica Mogherini, said this week 2018 will be a unique chance for Albania and the Western Balkans as a whole to make headway in the process of European integration.

Mogherini made the comments at a joint press conference with Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati following the Ninth Meeting of the Albania-EU Stabilization and Association Council held in Brussels Wednesday.

“We have confirmed our clear and strong commitment to Albania's EU integration process and agreed on the importance of the reform agenda that Albania is with determination putting in place,” EU High Representative Mogherini said.

Mogherini assessed judicial reform as one of the most important reforms ongoing in any of the enlargement countries.

“We believe this would contribute to positive aspects in other fields, in particular in creating a more predictable and transparent environment for business and investors,” she noted, recognizing that there was room for bringing the economic relations between the EU and Albania to their full potential.

The council also acknowledged Albania's role in the region as a pro-active and constructive partner.

“It is something we appreciate and value enormously, as well as we value the full convergence of foreign and security policy between Albania and the EU. This is 100 percent alignment and quite unique, and it reflects our common vision of the world and our region, and our common determination to work together,” Mogherini said.

Last fall, the European Commission member states recommended the opening of accession talks with Albania, conditional on implementation of the Justice Reform specifically the process of re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors.

Albanian authorities expect that by next spring, when the Commission will present a new Strategy Paper for Enlargement and reports for each country, Albania will be given the green light for launching talks.

"We believe that the opening of negotiations would provide a sense of orientation in the transformation we have undertaken," Bushati said at the joint press conference. "Our achievements have set a good solid base for further advancement because they lay the foundation and framework of negotiations on chapters 23-24."

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 13 – Following the resignation of Albania’s intelligence chief, Visho Ajazi, earlier this month, the government has officially proposed him to be the next ambassador of Albania in NATO.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a television interview the country should make full use of its experienced officials and that Ajazi had competed for another position at NATO but had not gotten it, so the nomination was normal, not part of any deal between the two.

Ajazi’s proposal as the new NATO ambassador must be now approved by President Ilir Meta, who had also approved his resignation earlier.

Ajazi’s resignation happened at a time when the relations between yesterday’s allies, Rama’s SP and Meta’ SMI, have changed in a negative way, while Rama and Meta themselves are not in good terms.

The reason the abrupt resignation of the head of State Intelligence Service, the SHISH, raised so many questions to begin with, because it happened in the context of new, heavy, political developments in the country – those of the Tahiri-Habilaj case.

SHISH has been intensively involved in preventive and discovery efforts in the war against cannabis in Albania.

The opposition’s claims that Ajazi’s resignation came as a result of government pressure – because of the involvement of SHISH in the war against drug trafficking and the investigation involving Tahiri.

Ajazi had stayed silent concerning his decision.

Both the head of opposition, Lulzim Basha, and President Ilir Meta, who had only recently supported Ajazi’s continuing service, were not aware of his decision.

“I do not have official information, but a head of SHISH that reports on the ties between the government and the gangs surely cannot be seen positively by Rama,” Basha said on a press conference a couple of weeks back. “I have been made aware of the same thing, the possibility to put pressure on the resigned head of SHISH. I do not have concrete evidence but one thing is certain, an informative service that drafts reports on the involvement of the police and its directors in narcotics cultivation and trafficking like SHISH did for two years, is a thorn on the side of Edi Rama and his narco-state, so the only conclusion is political pressure.”

The new chief of intelligence proposed by Rama to Meta is Helidon Bendo, deputy director of SHISH, but his appointment as head spy has not yet been decreed by Meta.

Ajazi served as head of SHISH for five years, after a decree by then newly appointed President, Bujar Nishani, removed Bahri Shaqiri from his post.

Rama’s Socialist Party, which was then the opposition, criticized Ajazi’s appointment as head of SHISH because of his alleged ties with the DP’s government, which was in power in 2012.

However, during a recent press conference, Rama said that Ajazi’s resignation wasn’t a trade, but rather his own initiative, which he had expressed to Rama in a resignation letter which has been kept private, a long time ago.

Rama added that he does not divide state officials politically, but, as a PM, he primarily thinks of the dignity of the state.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134570" align="alignright" width="300"]Mother Teresa Mother Teresa[/caption]

Most importantly, these sons and daughters of a small country like Albania confirm the vitality and the verve these people hold, by proudly listing Albanians on the big human terrestrial family.

The humanity, the geniality, the verve and the vitality of this small nation is revealed and signified in many outstanding figures, each of whom has proudly brought their extraordinary work to the international arena in helping the development of global prosperity, peace, art and culture as well as science worldwide.

On top of the list is undoubtedly the national hero and ruler of Medieval Albania Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, who led the small Albanian nation and united the people under a 25-year resistance against the Ottoman Empire that was the strongest army of that era. That is the reason he deserves a golden place in Albania’s history and about 150 books, operas, paintings etc. have been dedicated to him from Renaissance to present day. Skanderbeg was one of the greatest generals and strategist of the medieval era.

Albania is also home to the great figure of humanity, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose maiden name is Gonxhe Bojaxhi and whose parents were both Albanians. Her activities in humanitarian assistance to people in need, the poor and the victimized by wars are unprecedented, transforming her into the image of a saint for the entire world.

[caption id="attachment_134571" align="alignright" width="300"]kadare Ismail Kadare[/caption]

Ismail Kadare has been published in almost every country in the world and has won many prestigious international awards for literature, including the inaugural “Man Booker International Prize” in 2005. He has also been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Achieving a position in the history of contemporary visual arts is an indisputable merit which Ibrahim Kodra, born in Durrës but educated and shaped as an artist in Italy, managed to. His masterpieces stand alongside other famous painters such as Modigliani and are on display in some of the most renowned galleries around the world.

One of the most sought-after photographers of former U.S.-based Life magazine, Gjon Mili was a pioneer in the use of stroboscopic instruments to capture a sequence of actions in one photograph. Trained as an engineer and self-taught in photography, Gjon Mili was one of the first to use electronic flash and stroboscopic light to create photographs that had more than scientific interest.

Opera singer Inva Mula ranks among the ten best sopranos of the world, with a collection of extraordinary arias from nearly all the best opera composers of all time. The soprano has performed in the most prestigious opera houses around the world and is particularly appreciated at La Scala in Milan and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. But she is not alone, Ermonela Jaho, another great soprano and Saimir Pirgu, a well-known tenor are also shining on international stage.

[caption id="attachment_134572" align="alignright" width="300"]Ibrahim Kodra Ibrahim Kodra[/caption]

Violinist Tedi Papavrami has been described by the media as the “little Albanian virtuoso” because of his skillful violin performances on international stage ever since he was a child.

Another major talent, named in the French media as a genius of contemporary choreography, is the Paris Opera House ballet maestro, Angelin Preljocaj, whose works stand alongside the works of the great Nureyev. Born in 1957 to Albanian parents who migrated to Paris, Preljocaj began his career by studying classical dance before turning to contemporary dance. He has received many prestigious awards, among which the “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters."

In the contemporary art stage, Anri Sala, Adrian Paci and Sisley Xhafa are doing very well and their exhibitions have been showcased from the New Museum in New York to the Venice Biennale and other important venues.

Pop stars Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha and Era Istrefi also have Albanian roots originally from Kosovo and Macedonia.

Football stars include newly retired Albania legendary captain Lorik Cana, Shkodran Mustafi who plays for Germany and Xherdan Shaqiri who plays for Switzerland. The Xhaka brothers are unique in Europe with the younger Arsenal playmaker and Swiss international Granit Xhaka and his elder Basel and Albanian international player becoming Europe’s first two brothers to face each other in the Euro 2016 group stage fixture when debutant Albania played Switzerland.

[caption id="attachment_134573" align="alignright" width="300"]Rita Ora Rita Ora[/caption]

On the other side of the Atlantic, many other famous Albanians are contributing to their respective areas. Ferid Murad is the 1998 Nobel Prize winning inventor of the Viagra pill.

Laura Mersini is an Albanian-American cosmologist and theoretical physicist, and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a proponent of the multiverse hypothesis, which holds that our universe is one of the many.

Famous Hollywood actors of Albanian origin include Jim Belushi, his late brother John Belushi, and Eliza Dushku.

Stan Dragoti is famous not only as a film director but also as the man who led the “I Love New York” promotion campaign.

Many art critics consider Fadil Berisha, the New York-based photographer, to be a genius in his field.

(Courtesy of the Albanian Tourism Agency, Edited by Tirana Times)
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 16 - A Western Balkan country with a key geographical position, Albania is a geopolitical terrain that could be under various West or East influences, but the EU-aspirant NATO member country has already made clear its future path and has no Plan B to shift to the East, experts said on Thursday at a conference discussing geopolitics in Albania and the wider region.

“Albania is the only country in the region that doesn’t have a plan B,” said Remzi Lani, the head of the Albanian Media Institute at the conference organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) in Tirana.

“We don’t have our eyes set on Turkey, Russia or China. For us, it’s Europe only, which makes us a difficult point of influence for Russia,” added Lani.

Exploring the possibility of a new Cold War due to Russia’s perceived influence significantly rising lately following its Crimea annexation, Lani acknowledged that relations between the West and East have reached one of their most critical points, but said it was too early to speak of a Cold War, and “that we now live in a world where it is much more relevant to speak of climate change, human rights, capitalism, etc.”

The media expert warned the Russian influence in the region also makes Albania vulnerable.

Already having a strong hold of influence on Serbia, Montenegro, and partly Macedonia, Russia is now looking to intervene in Albania and Kosovo particularly through soft power by buying off the newspapers and media outlets and affecting the public’s perception through propaganda, Lani said.

Moderated by Albert Rakipi, the head of the AIIS, and the FES director in Albania Wulf Lapins, the conference hosted several local and international scholars and experts, who gave presentations on topics such as “Turkey’s interests and influence in the Western Balkans,” “the return of geopolitics in the Balkans”, “energy is a geopolitical tool in Albanian and the Balkans” and “non-Western influences in Albania (China, Russia, Turkey and the Gulf countries).”

Mainly attended by young geopolitics students and experts, the conference offered both European and local points of view on the importance geopolitics take up in the bigger political arena, the influence of the ‘big powers’ in the region now and in the future, as well as the way the public perceives this influence with the help of the media.

AIIS researcher Ledion Krisafi shed light on geopolitics from a different point of view, focusing on energy as the geopolitical tool of Albania and the region.

“Before talking about energy as a geopolitical tool in Albania, we must first look upon Albania’s energy security,” said Krisafi, pointing out that Albania’s hydro-dependent electricity system does not make the country safe.

“Despite the licenses that allow the construction of hydro-power plants, Albania’s energy security is not guaranteed on the long run. Seeing how energy dependency can very well mean political dependency such as the case of Ukraine with Russia, the EU needs to make sure that there is diversity in the resources from which the Balkan region receives its energy,” said Krisafi noting the importance of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, already in its peak construction stage and scheduled to bring first Caspian gas to Albania and Europe by 2020.

Security studies scholar Enri Hide said that China does not see the Balkans in the geopolitical context, but mostly as a geo-economic context, focusing on investments, transportation, science and culture and targeting a rise in economic cooperation by leaving an ‘open back-door’ that will enable China’s inclusion in the Western markets.

According to Hide, Turkey tends to strengthen pre-existing, historic ties in the region.

“Turkey, on the other hand, follows the doctrine of the ‘strategic depth’, in which the importance of each state is related to its geo-strategic position and historic relevance,” said Hide.

The researcher also highlighted the rise in violent extremism and religious radicalism and the strong geopolitical effects they have produced in the Balkans, especially since 2012.

Currently, only Serbia and Montenegro are in the negotiation stage with the European Commission among six Western Balkans countries, most of which have been striving for membership since more than a decade.

The outlook for quick accession is pessimistic considering internal developments in the block with the Brexit, the migrant and financial crises as well as rising populism.

An official EU candidate since mid-2014, Albania has expressed frustration over delays in the launch of accession talks as the European Commission has set the implementation of a justice reform and strengthening rule of law as key criteria.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-15 11:58:24
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134542" align="alignright" width="300"]Brown bear in northeastern Albania. Picture: PPNEA Brown bear in northeastern Albania. Picture: PPNEA[/caption]

TIRANA, Nov. 15 - Camera traps have revealed the presence of the Balkan Lynx which experts have dubbed the ‘jewel of Albanian forests’ in the northern Albanian Alps and several other endangered species, a watchdog says.

Monitoring through camera traps at the Nikaj-Merturi regional nature park in northeastern Albania bordering Kosovo has captured pictures of the Balkan Lynx, a critically endangered species which has also been previously traced in the Munella Mountain in the district of Puka and Mirdita, northern Albania.

The Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania, PPNEA, has earlier warned illegal logging in the Munella Mountain, northeastern Albania, the country’s sole sanctuary of the Balkan lynx, is further putting at risk one of the most threatened wildlife species in serious danger of extinction.

The Balkan lynx is a critically endangered species, with only about 40 or 50 individuals reported to exist in total. About 5 or 6 of these have been reported to live in the Munella Mountain in the district of Puka and Mirdita.

Back in 2015, the Balkan lynx was listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.

"This is the second evidence that we have for this species in Albanian Alps, after the photography received three years ago by a local guide in Thethi. In addition, the cameras also photographed other important species for the area, such as, chamois, wolf, wild cat, badger, and fox," the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania watchdog said in a statement.

The brown bear, the wild boar, the roe deer and the red fox are some of the other endangered species pictured through camera taps at the Nikaj-Mertur valley in the Albanian Alps.

Proclaimed a regional nature park in 2014, Nikaj-Mertur is becoming a rapidly growing mountain tourism destination along the Valbona River Valley in Tropoja, attracting thousands of tourists in its spectacular landscapes and characteristic guesthouses.

Back in 2013, camera traps at Albania's Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park, eastern Albania close to the border with Macedonia, spotted the presence of a brown bear, a wolf, a red fox, badgers, a wild cat, a European hare and a wild boar, revealing the park’s spectacular wildlife.

Camera trapping is a technique that has been used worldwide in recent years for research and recording of wildlife presence. Its main advantages are minimal disturbance of wildlife and the possibility to confirm and prove the presence of particular species in the area, says Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature which conducted the monitoring at the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park four years ago.

At the same time, camera trapping makes it possible to determine behaviour and activity patterns of animals. In some cases this technique can also provide quantitative information on the population of various species.

Animal rights activists have recently submitted more than 37,000 signatures in a petition addressed to MPs seeking to make animal cruelty punishable by fines and even imprisonment by amending the country’s Criminal Code.

Watchdogs say wild animal cruelty continues despite a hunting moratorium in place to protect Albania’s declining endangered fauna species.

Brown hares and bears being killed and advertised as trophies on social networks or endangered species such as the Balkan Lynx kept embalmed at restaurant bars in addition to caged bear cubs held in captivity are some of the cases the PPNEA watchdog has identified on its dedicated portal serving as a hotline to report cases of abuse.

Albania has banned hunting for the past couple of years and imposed a new five-year moratorium to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s.
                    [post_title] => Camera traps reveal presence of rare Balkan Lynx in Albanian Alps
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-14 10:09:41
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 14 - Albania beat Turkey 3-2 in a surprise away victory as the Red & Blacks played in 10 men for most of the time after playmaker Ledian Memushaj was sent off with a second yellow card just before the first half.

A double by Legia Warsaw striker Armando Sadiku gave Albania a comfortable first half lead, but down to 10 men from the 41st minute Albania suffered in the second half and had to defend almost all the time to curb Turkey’s numerical superiority.

Winger Eros Grezda was the national side's hero as he claimed his first national side goal to give 10-men Albania a temporary 3-1 lead before Turkey scored another goal to make it 3-2.

Right winger Odise Roshi was also decisive in the first half as he served striker Sadiku twice to increase his goal tally to 11.

The friendly was a test for the national side as it prepares for the Euro 2020 qualifiers having failed to make it to the World Cup finishing third in a tough group stage that also featured former world champions Spain and Italy.

Coach Christian Pannuci fielded five players in the 25 minutes with AEK Athens attacking midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic and defensive midfielder Kamar Qaka who plays in the Romanian top league, both of whom Kosovo-born players, making their Albania debut.

Speaking after the match, coach Pannuci who claimed his first victory against a tough opponent since take over Albania last July, said the team played a great match, especially in the second half when they were down to ten men.

"The way how we achieved the victory is more important than the victory itself. I am very happy for the way the guys are perceiving what I want," said Pannuci, a former AC Milan, Real Madrid defender whose Albania job is his first experience as a national side manager after serving as assistant to Fabio Capello, one of the greatest Italian coaches, when he led the Russian national side from 2012 to 2014.

Turkey, who also failed to make it to the World Cup, have been facing tough times under Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, having won only one out of last six games since last August.
                    [post_title] => Ten-man Albania surprise Turkey with 3-2 away victory
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                    [post_content] => Tirana, Nov. 13 - Albania will play away to Turkey tonight in a friendly that is seen as a test for the national side and coach Christian Pannuci as the Red & Blacks prepare for their Euro 2020 bid.

The Turkey friendly is the first the national side is playing after concluding their World Cup qualifying campaign last October when the national side finished third in a tough group stage that also featured former world champions Spain and Italy.

Coach Pannuci has called up two new players for the friendly, bringing the number of new players joining the national side to six since he took over as Albania’s coach in mid-2017 and heralding a new era after the departure of his compatriot Gianni De Biasi who led Albania to a first ever major competition debut such as Euro 2016 during his five-year spell.

The 44-year-old former AC Milan, Real Madrid and Roma defender with not much coaching experience has called up two Kosovo born-players for the Turkey friendly, 27-year-old AEK Athens attacking midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic and 21-year-old defensive midfielder Ylber Ramadani who plays Vejle Boldklub in the Danish First Division.

Pannuci had earlier called up Emanuele Ndoj, a much promising Italy-born and raised 20-year-old central midfielder playing Brescia in Italy’s Serie B and Macedonia-born Valon Ahmedi, an attacking midfielder for Maribor, Slovenia’s most successful club, who are yet to make their Albania debut.

Spain-born defender of Albanian origin Ivan Balliu and Albania-born Italy-raised left back Hysen Memolla who plays for Croatia’s Hajduk Split made their unsuccessful national side debut last October against Spain when they were replaced from the beginning of the second half as Albania was thrashed 3-0 in 27 minutes.

"We will continue to look for new players to strengthen our team. We are working to have a solid group for the next European qualifiers," Pannuci has said.

Coach Christian Pannuci was set a Euro 2020 qualification task as he succeeded Italian compatriot Gianni De Biasi in mid-2017 and led the national side in their last four World Cup qualifiers.

Under his lead, Albania easily beat modest Liechtenstein, got a hard-earned draw against Macedonia, but was thrashed 3-0 by group leaders Spain and narrowly lost 1-0 in the final home qualifier with Italy to finish third in the Group G of the qualifiers.

Two of Albania's best players, Napoli fullback Elseid Hysaj and Legia Warsaw striker Armando Sadiku have described the friendly with Turkey as a fixture that helps the team to get consolidated and the newcomers to familiarize.

Turkey, who also failed to make it to the World Cup, have been facing tough times under Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, having won only one out of last five games since last August.

Albania and Turkey have played each other three times before with Albania winning one friendly away to Turkey in 2001 and Turkey claiming two World Cup qualifier victories in 2005.

The Turkey friendly is one of the few Albania can play ahead of the late 2018 maiden UEFA Nations League and the European qualifiers.

Albania has been lined up in League C of the maiden UEFA Nations League, a tournament that largely replaces friendlies but which will also play a major part in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by deciding the final four places via play-offs.

In a four-league competition based on coefficient rankings after the group stages of the European qualifiers for the Russia 2018 World Cup, the European football’s governing body has placed Albania in League C mostly featuring South-East Europe national sides with Serbia and Greece as the toughest sides.

 
                    [post_title] => Albania play Turkey in friendly test ahead of Nations League, Euro 2020 qualifiers 
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-10 10:34:32
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 15 – Bookworms from all over Albania can come and feast on old and new, domestic and international publications of literary works during the 3 days of the annual Book Fair. Starting on the 15th of November, on Wednesday, the Book Fair will take place at the Palace of Congresses, the only big enough building to host the event’s wide participation.

The Book Fair is one of the most important cultural events in Albania, aiming at presenting the public with the best publications made available from the timeframe November 2016-November 2017 and bring together authors, publishers, readers, translators, and media and press representatives, in order for them to establish and extend the traditional ties among them. In addition, the Book Fair aims to promote and encourage the wide audience, especially youth, to read, in response to the limited book distribution system in the country.

While the most prominent publishing houses could not be missing from this event, the Book Fair actually covers a much wider range of literature, including books by Albanian institutes and smaller publishing houses.

The Albanian Institute for International Studies comes to the fair with three important publications, which have a special interest for diplomats, politicians, international relations scholars and students of this field. Sir Harold Nicolson's work Diplomacy is a classic art work of diplomacy, which will interest students, scholars and diplomacy enthusiasts alike. Consular and diplomatic right, is another book precious to the researchers of this sphere.

An important work for the history of Albania is Professor Robert Larry Woodall's The Albanian Problem during the Peacemaking 1919-1920, a very interesting, very complete and important work for Albania's History. He addresses in detail the Albanian problem during the Peace Conference in Paris and the attitude of other powers towards Albania, including Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy, France, Great Britain and the United States, the activity of the Greek and Albanian affairs committee, the United States-Britain Great Schemes of May 1919, as well as all the diplomatic maneuvers and plans for the decommissioning of Albania. This is a work that relies heavily on diplomatic archives from the United States, Great Britain, France and Italy and has a wide and unknown wealth of first-hand documents.
                    [post_title] => Tirana’s much awaited book fair to mark 20th edition
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                    [post_date] => 2017-11-09 16:23:04
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134473" align="alignright" width="300"]AIIS 2 Japan's Ambassador to Albania Makoto Ito talks "Contemporary Japan in the international arena” at an AIIS foreign policy forum. Photo: AIIS[/caption]

TIRANA, Nov. 9 - Albania's importance in the Western Balkans region and the strategic goal to boost development cooperation and current modest trade and investment ties is what pushed the Japanese government to open an embassy in Tirana, Makoto Ito, Japan's first resident ambassador to Albania has said.

The comments came at a round table with diplomats, civil society representatives and students organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), one of the country’s top think tanks as part of its foreign policy forum series with diplomats and other distinguished speakers to alert the public, political elites and the business community to contemporary security and foreign policy challenges.

The forum focused on “Contemporary Japan in the international arena” with Ambassador Ito as keynote speaker unveiling Japan’s transformation from WWII devastation to economic miracle by interacting with the global economy and close ties with the U.S. and present-day threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear tests.

“I arrived here almost half a year ago and during this time I have come to appreciate the wonderful people of Albania and the spirit of this nation. My mission here is to work on stronger friendship ties between Japan and Albania in the fields of diplomacy, economy, trade and culture,” said Ambassador Ito, a career diplomat already familiar with the region having previously served as Japan’s deputy chief of mission in Greece and Romania as well as in the U.S..

Noting the current modest trade exchanges between the two countries and non-existent Japanese foreign direct investment in Albania, the ambassador said Japanese companies currently lack information on Albania and its business climate but there is growing interest as shown by a recent Japan business delegation visiting the country. “I am promoting Albania to Japanese companies,” said the Ambassador.

Japan’s foreign policy agenda is based on further boosting its alliance with top partner U.S., strengthening its economic diplomacy and improving relations with neighbors, the latter being undermined by North Korea’s hardline communist regime’s repeated nuclear tests posing a threat to the Northeast Asia region.

“The nuclear tests and repeated ballistic missile launches by North Korea pose a new level of threat and are totally unacceptable. Japan will continue to closely work with the United States and the Republic of Korea to urge North Korea to refrain from further provocations and comply with the Joint Statement of the 6-party Talks and the relevant UN Security resolutions,” said the ambassador.

Commenting on domestic issues facing Japan, the ambassador said the rapidly ageing society and low birth rates were some of the top concerns which the world’s third largest economy was trying to settle through the ‘Abenomics’ and ‘Womenomics’ reforms under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is set to become Japan’s longest serving postwar leader.

Japan will be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, where weightlifting and running are Albania’s toughest disciplines to claim a first-ever medal.

Addressing the Japan forum, Albert Rakipi, the head of the AIIS, described Japan’s opening of an embassy in Tirana as very important from a strategic point of view and the attention Japan pays to the region and Albania.

Japan officially opened its embassy in Tirana last July with Makoto Ito as the first resident ambassador to Albania since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1981.

While Albania opened its diplomatic mission in Japan in 2004, the Japanese embassy in Italy had handled matters related to Albania until recently.

Tirana has said it welcomes Japan’s decision to open an embassy in an effort to draw greater investment from the world’s third-largest economy.

The world’s third-largest economy has been a major donor to Albania through its difficult transition from communism to a free-market economy. Tokyo has given millions, primarily in the rehabilitation of infrastructure and healthcare facilities.

Projects have included a municipal waste-water treatment facility for Tirana and its surroundings, the donation of more than 130 Japanese-made hybrid and eco cars to the Albanian government, support to education in remote areas and sustainable land development in the key Tirana-Durres regions through digital mapping most recently.
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            [post_date] => 2017-11-17 09:50:27
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            [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_134598" align="alignright" width="300"]President Ilir Meta President Ilir Meta[/caption]

TIRANA, Nov. 10 – Two days after a request put forward by lawmakers of the Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration to publish classified documents from a National Security Council meeting tied to the war on cannabis and organized crime, President Ilir Meta has declined to act, saying it would cause long-term damage to the country's security institutions. 

The request, coming mainly from opposition representatives, was based on the tense political climate the country is facing, especially after strong allegations towards the government on its alleged ties with narcotics’ trafficking in the Tahiri-Habilaj case.

The DP and SMI specifically requested the publication of information exchanged during a meeting held on Nov. 11, 2016, which reportedly focused on the cannabis situation in the country. 

The meeting was led by former President Bujar Nishani, while former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri was also present. DP and SMI deputies claim that information concerning the implication of high-rank police officials with organized crime groups was discussed during that meeting.  

In denying the request, Meta argued that the request was not in line with the legal package, which deems the data published by various state institutions as classified information that could potentially harm the long-term functionality of the National Security Council, despite the positive intentions of particular social or political groups.

“I deem that the declassification and publication of the content of the National Security Council’s meetings (which has never happened) would constitute a precedent with long-term consequences for the functionality of the National Security Council (NSC),” Meta said in his explanation.

Another argument put forward was that the data discussed during NSC meetings included information concerning the cooperation between Albania and international partnering countries and institutions, to which the standard of protecting classified material should be provided.  

However, Meta also added that the lawmakers had a right to attain information, according to the law, and use it for investigation purposes, without making it public.

“The Institution of the General Prosecutor can request and use for investigation purposes the information from the NSC’s meetings in a way defined by the law,” Meta said.  

Until there is enough evidence suggesting that the data and information discussed during the meeting can help the investigation process, Meta said that the main aim of the institution he runs is to create an environment of trust among the participants of NSC meetings.

 
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