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Albanian prosecution begins investigations against Voice of America

Albanian prosecution begins investigations against Voice of America

TIRANA, Jan. 2 – In Albania, the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced today that it has began investigations into the publication of some of the interceptions of a criminal case that it is still under investigation. The Prosecution’s reaction came after

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AIIS, EMinS and HCSS discuss Albania Serbia relations at the Hague

AIIS, EMinS and HCSS discuss Albania Serbia relations at the Hague

An experts forum “Albania-Serbia relations: the way forward for regional stability and integration” was held on Tuesday at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the context of the project Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations 2019 Activities, funded by the Kingdom

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Kadare’s communist-era Tirana apartment to turn into house museum

Kadare’s communist-era Tirana apartment to turn into house museum

TIRANA, Jan. 31 – The downtown Tirana apartment where Albania’s internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare spent two of his most creative decades under communist oppression is set to become a house museum and a new tourist attraction in Albania’s capital

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Albanian football association in legal battle with gov’t over ‘denied’ UEFA tax refunds

Albanian football association in legal battle with gov’t over ‘denied’ UEFA tax refunds

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 30 – Failure to settle amicably a tax dispute on the under-construction National Arena stadium, the new home of Albania’s national side in the Albanian capital city Tirana, has taken Albania’s football association and the

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HPC prosecutor denies proof of ties with former communist State Security bodies

HPC prosecutor denies proof of ties with former communist State Security bodies

TIRANA, Jan. 29 – Albanian prosecutor Bujar Sheshi, also member of the newly established High Prosecutorial Council, denied on Monday that he was a recruit of communist former State Security structures before the 90s. “I declare with full responsibility before

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Drug trafficking to regional neighbors persists

Drug trafficking to regional neighbors persists

TIRANA, Jan. 29 – Gjirokastra Border Police arrested seven people at Drite village, next to the Albanian-Greek border, when it found and sequestered around 700 kilos of marijuana inside a building on Tuesday. Details on the operation have still not

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Albania remains ‘moderately free’ as it climbs 13 steps in economic freedom

Albania remains ‘moderately free’ as it climbs 13 steps in economic freedom

TIRANA, Jan. 28 – Albania climbed 13 steps to rank one of the Western Balkans’ best performing countries in economic freedom, but remained ‘moderately free,’ according to the 2019 index of economic freedom published by the Heritage Foundation, one of

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New Chinese ambassador takes office

New Chinese ambassador takes office

TIRANA, Jan. 26 – The new Chinese Ambassador to Albania Zhou Ding presented his credentials to President Ilir Meta on Thursday, Jan. 24. Ambassador Zhou will be replacing former Ambassador Yiang Yu, who took over the embassy in 2015. Meta

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RCC Secretary General Majlinda Bregu holds first round of visits under new post

RCC Secretary General Majlinda Bregu holds first round of visits under new post

Majlinda Bregu, the new Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, held her first three official visits under her new post in January. On Jan. 9, Bregu met with Sefik Dzaferovic, one of the three members of Presidency of Bosnia

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Gjirokastra prosecutor suspended under corruption charges

Gjirokastra prosecutor suspended under corruption charges

TIRANA, Jan. 26 – The Serious Crimes Prosecution announced the measure “obligation to appear at the judicial police” and “suspension from duty” for Gjirokastra prosecutor Spartak Cocoli. The prosecution said Cocoli is suspected of “passive corruption of judges, prosecutors and

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 2 - In Albania, the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced today that it has began investigations into the publication of some of the interceptions of a criminal case that it is still under investigation.

The Prosecution's reaction came after the publication by Voice of America of a material prepared by journalist Klodiana Lala and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN. Dozens of wiretaps and documents provided through two investigations at the Serious Crimes Prosecution cast light on the involvement of organized crime in ballot buying episodes in several cities in the country.

The prosecution announced that it is investigating the criminal offense "Disclosure of Secret Acts or Data,” pointing out that the publication of acts of interception of a criminal case is being made in violation of the law. 

According to the Prosecutor's Office, all persons who have had access and knowledge of the public acts under investigation and trial are being verified.

The intercepted transcripts indicated the involvement of the Avdyli brothers in the election, the leaders of a group suspected of criminal activity, as well as their connections mainly with Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako, who also led the Socialist Party’s electoral campaign for the Durrës district in the 2017 elections.  

The content of the published material has become a cause for strong debate in the parliament between the opposition and the government. 

 
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                    [post_content] => An experts forum “Albania-Serbia relations: the way forward for regional stability and integration” was held on Tuesday at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the context of the project Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations 2019 Activities, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The event was opened by the HCSS Founder Rob De Wijk, who focused on geopolitical developments and the future of the region. 

He mentioned that enlargement had been a success story of the past and to revive the positive discussion nowadays we need to go back to the fundamentals of the peace project.  

Alba Cela and Jelica Minic from the project-implementing organizations mentioned the achievements of the Center in bringing together young people, economy experts and media and therefore changing long-held misconceptions and prejudices.

Cela emphasized that bringing the positive message of the bilateral cooperation to EU member state audiences, an initiative integrated in the project by the Dutch Embassy in Tirana, was a positive step forward for the project.

Participating experts from Albania included Ilda Zhulali, advisor to the President, who urged both countries to go forward with simple concrete agreements that benefit citizens such as those in the field of education.

Igor Novakovic from civil society in Serbia also talked about the history of the relations at the official level and also the issues regarding minorities and their rights.

European integration was the keyword of the discussion as the main drive behind  both domestic reforms and the improvement of bilateral relations. 

All discussants agreed that the EU should have  a clearer perspective for the region. Also the influence of other actors in the region was mentioned such as that of Russia and China as a further argument not to leave geopolitical vacuums.

Dutch discussants argued that the Netherlands' perspective as strict but fair would help the countries in the long run despite being challenging in the short term.

Experts from Albania and Serbia but also dicussants from Macedonia advocated together for positive developments related to the EU future such as visa liberalisation for Kosovo and the opening of negotiations from Albania and Macedonia , a decision expected in June of 2019.

The event was moderated by Michel Roelen, Strategic Analyst, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

It was attended by experts, active diplomats ( Ambassador of Albania to the Netherlands and Deputy Ambassador of Serbia) , officials and students with an interest in the region and in EU integration as well.

the Joint Centre for Albania-Serbia Relations was launched in 2016 by the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement in Serbia (EMinS) and the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) with support of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The activities of the Centre in 2016 and 2017 were supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Tirana, and the activities of the Centre in 2018, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tirana.

The cooperation between Serbia and Albania has a strategic importance for the European integration of the Western Balkans.

The bilateral initiatives, which are of great importance for regional cooperation, have so far been in the shadow. Main obstacles to the establishment of normal and fruitful relations between Albania and Serbia include the lack of knowledge about each other and the lack of opportunity for contact and mutual cooperation.

Bearing all this in mind, the Albanian Institute for International Studies initiated the establishment of a joint centre that would encourage interaction between experts, journalists, researchers, artists and decision-makers of the two countries.

This project has offered a new approach for the improvement of Serbian-Albanian relations inspired by the civil society, and has provided new opportunities for mutual contact and cooperation, as well as for the improvement of the knowledge of citizens from these two countries about each other.

It has further helped young people to fight against mutual prejudice, open the space for cooperation between the media and engage decision makers at different levels to contribute to better cooperation between Serbia and Albania through active policies.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_140350" align="alignright" width="300"]Kadare's communist era Tirana apartment. Photos: Municipality of Tirana Kadare's communist era Tirana apartment. Photos: Municipality of Tirana[/caption]

TIRANA, Jan. 31 – The downtown Tirana apartment where Albania’s internationally renowned writer Ismail Kadare spent two of his most creative decades under communist oppression is set to become a house museum and a new tourist attraction in Albania’s capital city, featuring Kadare’s life under communism until 1990 when he escaped Albania to seek political asylum in France, a country that later became his second home.

Kadare’s communist era apartment is situated close to the Tirana city center in an apartment block designed in 1972 by Maks Velo, an Albanian architect and artist who was sentenced to 10 years in a notorious forced labour prison camp for his modernist cubist design project with a chimney that run against Socialist realism principles and propaganda. Late Albanian writer Dritero Agolli lived in the same apartment block until he passed away in February 2017. His widow still lives there and his apartment is also set to turn into a house museum.

Works on the reconstruction of Kadare’s apartment kicked off this week on the writer’s 83rd birthday as a project by the municipality of Tirana and an Italian architect in a bid to add new tourist attractions in the Albanian capital city with a focus on life under communism.

The house museum will be the second featuring Kadare’s life. His 17th century house in his hometown of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania, opened as a museum in January 2016, when the perennial Albanian candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature marked his 80th birthday which Albania celebrated as the Kadare Year with a series of events.

Kadare’s Tirana house museum adds to the “House of Leaves” museum of the notorious “Sigurimi” police surveillance in downtown Tirana and two Cold War bunkers outside the capital city and in the city center that the former communist elite had built underground decades ago to survive a possible nuclear attack.  Both the Bunk’Art and the “House of Leaves” museums have opened up as new tourist attractions in the past five years.

The communist past is what fascinates most tourists about Albania which was cut off from the rest of the world under a Stalinist dictatorship for about five decades until the early 1990s.

"Kadare is probably the most internationally renowned Albanian and I believe that a lot of tourists who come to Tirana and visit the ‘Bunker’ and the ‘House of Leaves’ will also find another wonderful stop here at Ismail Kadare's house," Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj said this week launching the restoration works at the upcoming Kadare house museum.

Italian architect Elisabetta Terragni, who also led works to restore the notorious communist surveillance “House of Leaves” into a museum few years ago, says the new Kadare house museum will provide a picture of the writer’s life for about two decades under communism but also life in general under communism.

"I think it will be important for the younger generation, for children, but also Albania and foreigners visiting Albania. People can come here and learn more on Kadare and his life and conduct thorough research on life in Tirana at that time," says Terragni.

An internationally renowned poet, novelist and essayist, Ismail Kadare has been a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature. His international acclaim for his works peaked in 2005 when he won the Man Booker International Prize. His works have been translated into 45 languages.

A decade ago, Kadare was honored with Spain's Prince of Asturia Award for representing “the pinnacle of Albanian literature and crossing frontiers to rise up as a universal voice against totalitarianism.” In 2015, he was named Jerusalem Prize winner for his works expressing and promoting the idea of the “freedom of the individual in society.”

 

‘Normal literature in an abnormal country’

In an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper in 2017, Kadare said he repented of no book he wrote under the socialist realism period and continues upholding the formula that “I wrote normal literature in an abnormal country.”

“I didn’t become popular after the collapse of communism when you could describe its gloom without risking anything. I would like to add that I didn’t write my works in any Switzerland lake area, i.e. outside tyrannical Albania, but inside the country,” Kadare has said.

“In 1960 I was a very popular writer in Stalinist Albania. Meanwhile, in 1970 something uncommon happened. After the translation of a book in Paris, in a short time I gained global popularity, which at that time meant Western recognition. The shock was quite evident for such a case. For the writer himself, his readers, the communist country where he lives. The paranoid Albanian government found themselves unprepared. There was silence and secret files against me… but nothing was said in public,” he added.

Kadare left Albania in 1990 just before the almost five-decade long communist regime was collapsing to seek political asylum in France, a country that became his second home in the post-1990s period.

In 2016, he was promoted to the rank of Commander in the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration, as a reward for outstanding merit in a civilian capacity in France where he has been spending most of his time during the past three decades.
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, Jan. 30 – Failure to settle amicably a tax dispute on the under-construction National Arena stadium, the new home of Albania’s national side in the Albanian capital city Tirana, has taken Albania’s football association and the government to court where football officials are seeking back €2 million in value added tax refunds.

Albania’s football association says failure to get back €2 million in VAT refunds from UEFA funding of €10 million risks the completion of the National Arena stadium. The so called ‘tower stadium’ was initially scheduled to become operational in early 2019 ahead of Albania’s first Euro 2020 qualifiers in March, but delays in construction works and a tax dispute have now postponed plans for initial tests to mid-2019 and the stadium is likely to be ready for next September or November when Albania play their closing home Euro qualifiers against Iceland, Andorra and France.

The legal battle at the first instance Tirana Administrative Court comes after a tax appeals body of the finance ministry turned down a complaint over VAT refunds due to delays in applying with tax authorities to get back the 20 percent amount.

Both the Albanian football association and the government are joint venture partners in the enterprise set up in 2014 to oversee the construction of the new stadium in the country.

The majority 75 percent stake at the “Qendra Sportive Kuq e Zi’ company [The Red and Black sports center named after Albania’s national side jersey] is held by the football association with the remaining 25 percent minority stake held by the Albanian government.

"We were told by tax authorities that our [VAT refund] application was delayed for several days, but I don't think this is the case to cancel it. We appealed it with the finance ministry and it was again refused,” Football Association President Armand Duka said in a TV interview in late December 2018.

“I have talked to the Prime Minister and from the conversation I had with him, he is between two fires. The football association has obtained 100 percent of the stadium funds from UEFA and there can be no such financing where state authorities seek to take advantage of UEFA donations," he added.

According to Duka, last December’s visit to Albania by UEFA’s Secretary General Theodore Theodoridis, who also reportedly met Prime Minister Edi Rama, was also related to the tax dispute over funds donated by the European football’s governing body.

In an announcement on its website, the Tirana Administrative Court says the football association is seeking the cancellation of decisions by the Tirana Regional Directorate and the tax appeals body at the finance ministry and the initial trial was planned for Jan. 22, 2019.

However, unless settled amicably, the legal battle in Albania's three-tier administrative court system could take years due to a huge backlog of cases at the Administrative Appeals Court and the Administrative College of the Supreme Court, currently both functioning with limited staff due to a judiciary reform having ousted several judges for failing to justify their assets and delays in the establishment of the new justice bodies leading to key vacancies.

With construction works already in their final stage following the mid-2016 demolition of the old “Qemal Stafa” stadium, the football association has earlier warned failure to get back the €2 million tax refund would call the stadium completion into question.

The football association has hinted of politically motivated reasons behind the blockage, apparently related to incumbent football association head Armand Duka claiming a fifth consecutive term of office in early 2018 in a contested race by main rival Bashkim Fino, a former Prime Minister and current ruling Socialist Party MP.

 

New ‘tower’ stadium

The new ‘National Arena’ stadium is a €50 million public private partnership deal with a capacity of 22,000 seats that will also feature commercial, entertainment and accommodation facilities in a high-rise tower next to it. The Albanian football association has invested €10 million through UEFA funding.

An Albanian-owned company has invested €40 million to build the stadium in return for being offered public land and a permit to build a 24-storey tower next to it that will host commercial facilities, including a hotel that will be managed by US-based hotel giant Marriott International through a franchise deal with the developers, benefiting tax cuts as a high-end tourism investment in a popular downtown Tirana area.

The new National Arena stadium is being built on the site of former ‘Qemal Stafa’ stadium in Tirana, which ceased being used for international matches in 2013 after failing to meet international standards. Unlike the old stadium, the new facility has no athletics track, a key barrier for some of Albania’s athletes like Luiza Gega, a medal-winning middle-distance runner.

Former ‘Qemal Stafa’ stadium served as Albania’s national stadium for over 70 years since 1946 when it was inaugurated for the Balkan Cup as an Italian-designed facility.

Lacking a permanent home, the Albanian national football team has in the past five years played their home matches at the newly reconstructed Elbasan Arena and Shkodra stadiums, both reconstructed through government funding of around €14 million.

The Albanian football association which has invested around €10 million in the stadium project through UEFA funds will also get considerable facilities, but not have its headquarters there. The new football association headquarters that will also serve as an accommodation center for the national side are already being built elsewhere in Tirana at a former sports complex.

Albania will start their Euro 2020 qualifiers on March 22, 2019 with a home encounter against Turkey, a much more experienced national side, but who have been struggling to qualify for major tournaments during the past decade following a golden period in the 2000s.

Having missed a chance to keep qualifying hopes alive through the inaugural UEFA Nations League by finishing bottom in their League C, Group 1, and having also lost much of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign shine during the past couple of years, Albania will be trying for another miracle qualification in a tough group stage where France are undisputed favorites for a top finish and Iceland, Turkey and Albania will rival for a second spot that also earns direct qualification for the Euro 2020 finals.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 29 - Albanian prosecutor Bujar Sheshi, also member of the newly established High Prosecutorial Council, denied on Monday that he was a recruit of communist former State Security structures before the 90s. 

“I declare with full responsibility before you and before the law that I’ve never been a secret collaborator of the former Albanian State Security,” said Shehini at the HPC meeting.

With this complete denial he has today filed a lawsuit against the Authority for Information on Former State Security Documents (AIFSSD) on the Prosecution.

According to a decision by the the AIFSSD, it appears that a information was uncovered on a person named Bujar Rasim Shesha, who was a former State Security collaborator under the pseudonym Venus.

Although Sheshi’s generalities show his father name is Ramiz instead of Rasim, authorities seem convinced that despite the change, the file belongs to prosecutor Sheshi.

“The aim is not to simply target who I am as retaliation for the issues I have investigated or represented as a prosecutor, or for the thoughts I have shown as a HPC member on the criteria that candidates must meet for the Prosecutor General, but to hit and pressure the entire HPC as a body now that we have arrived at the decisive moment of fully establishing SPAK and appointing a Prosecutor General,” Sheshi said during the meeting.

Verification of HPC members’ past is part of the criteria they must meet.

On Sunday, the country’s opposition Democratic Party denounced nine additional names under allegations of ties with the country’s former communist regime, saying they are now appointed to work at the country’s State Information Service.

As for Sheshi, DP lawmakers said he should be ousted, and temporary General Prosecutor Arta Marku should go with him over accusations the vetting bodies are just part of a mafia scheme to blackmail the new justice bodies being created under the country’s justice reform. 

The DP accused the the truth on Sheshi only came out after he voted against Marku to return two ousted prosecutors back to duty.

“Bujar Sheshi should be ousted! He does not meet the criteria to be a HPC member. Arta Marku should also be immediately dismissed because she has violated the law and, knowingly, has manipulated the process of setting up the HPC,” DP lawmaker Gent Strazimiri told local media. 

Explaining its position, the General Prosecutor's Office, which is tasked with examining the fulfillment of candidates’ criteria, explained that Sheshi under his legal responsibility had completed a form denying he had been a former Security associate, and that the referral to the Authority on former State Security Documents was made immediately after he passed the justice reform’s vetting process back in October, while the authority’s response only arrived a few days earlier.

The General Prosecutor's Office explained that waiting for a response by the authority was not a deterrent to summoning the prosecutors’ assembly which elected the HPC members. 

 

AIFSSD: Sheshi’s communist past has been proven

Head of the AIFSSD Genta Mara Sula told the Voice of America on Tuesday that Sheshi’s ties with the former State Security services has been proven beyond any doubt and that the legal acts taken against him were based on documented evidence, rather than politically motivated reasons.

“This concerns a person who can not be part of democratic justice institutions because of his cooperation with State Security during dictatorship, but is his right to file a complaint to the prosecutor,” said Sula. 

She dismissed his allegations of political backlog in the institution's activity, which has so far verified over 1,500 people - only five of them have complained and only one decision has been withdrawn. 

The law prevents those persons who before July 2, 1991 were members of the State Security, associates or favored the State Security from becoming members of the High Prosecutorial Council today. 

 
                    [post_title] => HPC prosecutor denies proof of ties with former communist State Security bodies
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            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 140324
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-29 10:15:45
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-29 09:15:45
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 29 - Gjirokastra Border Police arrested seven people at Drite village, next to the Albanian-Greek border, when it found and sequestered around 700 kilos of marijuana inside a building on Tuesday. 

Details on the operation have still not been made public, but it was reported those arrested are linked to narcotics’ transportation networks next to the border, which later distribute them to the rest of Greece. 

Greek police has reported several cases of narcotic drugs originating from Albania this month, mainly in areas close to the border between the two countries. 

Greece is the second country after Italy where the narcotic drugs being cultivated in Albania are transported. During the summer of 2018, Albanian police said they had significantly curbed the cultivation of marijuana, but the trafficking activity remained high, also due to previous years’ leftover quantities.

According to law enforcement officials, criminal drug networks mostly exploit the transport of narcotic drugs to couriers in border areas. 

Then, from the collection bases, criminal groups displace narcotics using a similar scheme on the Greek side. Other networks operate to transport drugs to Greek cities, especially to tourist areas, where the use of marijuana is bigger. 

Only two days ago, Greek police in the city of Kavala cracked down on an Albanian-Greek criminal network, arresting six – three Greek and three Albanian citizens – and sequestering an amount of marijuana.

Police crackdown on Greek-Albanian criminal network 

Greek police in the city of Kavala cracked down on an Albanian-Greek criminal network, arresting six - three Greek and three Albanian citizens - and sequestering an amount of marijuana. 

According to Greek authorities, two of the arrested were responsible of illegally passing the cannabis through the border, while four others were handling its distribution to other parts of Greece.

Greek police was able to find out the location of where the narcotics were stored, in a building in Thessaloniki, seizing about 100 kilos of marijuana and arresting a person. 

Greek police said concerning the criminal network that it also suspended during the crackdown materials used for drug packaging, an amount of cash and a car used for distribution.

Large quantities of marijuana continue to be transported from Albania to Greece through drug trafficking networks operating on both sides of the border. Only during the month of January, Greek police discovered six cases in the Epirus area, neighboring with Albania, arresting several people and blocking several hundred kilograms of marijuana.

 
                    [post_title] => Drug trafficking to regional neighbors persists 
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                    [ID] => 140294
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-28 15:29:28
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-28 14:29:28
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 28 – Albania climbed 13 steps to rank one of the Western Balkans’ best performing countries in economic freedom, but remained ‘moderately free,’ according to the 2019 index of economic freedom published by the Heritage Foundation, one of the top US-based think tanks.

This year’s report ranked Albania 52nd out of 180 global economies, a sharp improvement compared to last year’s 65th, in progress which the Heritage Foundation attributes to "dramatic improvement for the second consecutive year in fiscal health and higher scores for judicial effectiveness, labor freedom, and government spending.”

The report ranks Albania only one step below neighboring Kosovo, Europe’s youngest country that will be celebrating its 11th independence anniversary next February, and much better compared to Serbia, the region’s largest economy that ranked 69th this year. Ethnically-divided Bosnia and Herzegovina and tiny Montenegro ranked 83rd and 92nd respectively.

Macedonia, which recently overcame its decades-long name dispute with Greece, by being renamed the Republic of North Macedonia, was the region’s best performer ranking 33rd as the sole Western Balkan economy that is rated 'mostly free.'

Despite progress during the past quarter of a century of transition to democracy and a market economy, the report describes Albania as one of Europe’s poorest countries, “with sluggish economic growth hindered by a large informal economy and weak energy and transportation infrastructure and where high unemployment and a lack of opportunity spur substantial emigration.”

The long-standing issue of property rights, a weak judiciary that is undergoing reform, one of the region's weakest tax collection rates at only around 25 percent of the GDP despite having the highest tax burden among Western Balkan countries are some of Albania’s drawbacks identified by the Heritage Foundation report. In addition, a number of non-tariff barriers and bureaucracy is estimated to hamper both trade and investment opportunities.

Due to poor connectivity and the small size of regional economies as well as tariff and non-tariff barriers in place defying a regional free trade agreement, Albania conducts only a tenth of its trade with regional CEFTA countries. Similarly, Albania also manages to attract only a tenth of the FDI flowing into Western Balkans. FDI in Albania, which during the past decade has been at an average of €1 billion annually, mainly focuses on low value-added energy-related projects such as hydropower, oil and mining and most recently natural gas through the major Trans Adriatic Pipeline set to bring Caspian gas to Europe by 2020.

The state-run sector produces only a fifth of the GDP and employs one out of five in Albania, but experts say a weak rule of law has led to unfair competition and operations under monopoly position including the state-run electricity distribution and services operated by private sector operators under monopoly concessions or public private partnerships.

The latest World Bank Doing Business report showed Albania climbed only two steps to rank 63rd out of 190 global economies for the ease of doing business, continuing to lag behind most of its regional competitors ranking in the top 50.

Paying taxes ranks Albania the world's 122nd worst performer with medium-sized companies spending an average of 252 hours a year and having to pay about 37.3 percent of their profit in taxes and contributions, in the region's worst rating.
                    [post_title] => Albania remains ‘moderately free’ as it climbs 13 steps in economic freedom 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-26 15:39:02
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-26 14:39:02
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 26 - The new Chinese Ambassador to Albania Zhou Ding presented his credentials to President Ilir Meta on Thursday, Jan. 24.

Ambassador Zhou will be replacing former Ambassador Yiang Yu, who took over the embassy in 2015. 

Meta praised the very good relations between the two countries and underlined the need for their intensification in areas of mutual interest

He also praised the importance of the future cooperation and alignment of economic, trade and cultural relations between the two countries. 

Ambassador Zhou conveyed to President Meta the sincere greetings and best wishes from China's President Xi Jinping. He said the friendship between China and Albania has a long history and has been revived, overcoming the differences in the concrete situation and the socio-political system of the two countries. 

“The Chinese side considers Albania as friendly and reliable partner in Central and Eastern Europe. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, China is ready to strive together with the Albanian side from a new starting point and to expand cooperation and exchanges in various fields, utilizing the historical cases brought about by the initiative 'One Belt, One Road” and the '16 + 1 Initiative”, to further consolidate the traditional Chinese-Albanian friendship,” said the Chinese ambassador.

 
                    [post_title] => New Chinese ambassador takes office 
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                    [ID] => 140270
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-25 10:23:06
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-25 09:23:06
                    [post_content] => Majlinda Bregu, the new Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, held her first three official visits under her new post in January. 

On Jan. 9, Bregu met with Sefik Dzaferovic, one of the three members of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sarajevo. 

This was the first meeting organised of envisaged tour of visits that Bregu will have with leadership of the South East Europe participants.

Bregu thanked Dzaferovic for the hospitality of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the RCC Secretariat and expressed the wish for continued good cooperation, stressing importance of the role of Bosnia and Herzegovina that has been chairing the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) as of last year.

On Jan. 18, Bregu visited Pristina and met with Speaker of the Parliament Kadri Veseli, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, Minister of Foreign Affairs Behgjet Pacolli, and Minister of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Besim Beqaj. 

Regional cooperation and the end-goal of all of RCC’s multifaceted work, which spans to include trade, investment, mobility and digital agenda, as well as security and rule of law were the focus of the discussions.

“Only in this way can we expect to narrow the convergence gap between the EU and the region, and thus to anchor the region firmly on the path of European integration. It is clear that there is no alternative to this path,” said Bregu. 

On Jan. 22, Bregu, was in an official visit to Skopje in the past two days where she met with the President of the Assembly, Talat Dzaferi; Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs, Bujar Osmani, etc. 

RCC Secretary General congratulated Skopje officials on adoption of Constitutional amendments in the Assembly of the Law ratifying the Prespa Agreement, which is not only paving the way for joining the NATO Alliance and opening of the accession negotiations with the EU, but also a great news and tailwind for the entire region as well.

She complimented on the entering into force of Law on the use of languages, promoting the Albanian language as the second official language.

 
                    [post_title] => RCC Secretary General Majlinda Bregu holds first round of visits under new post 
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                    [ID] => 140285
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-01-24 12:10:35
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-24 11:10:35
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 26 - The Serious Crimes Prosecution announced the measure “obligation to appear at the judicial police" and “suspension from duty” for Gjirokastra prosecutor Spartak Cocoli.

The prosecution said Cocoli is suspected of "passive corruption of judges, prosecutors and other justice officials".

In context of this investigation authorities have arrested, following a court decision, citizens Ervin Hysaj and Ernest Duro, suspected of "active corruption of judges and prosecutors, committed in cooperation with each other.”

The Serious Crimes Prosecution said it is conducting investigations into a case registered in January this year when Cocoli was escorted to the police but no coercive measures were taken against him.

Investigations a week ago against him had failed to prove doubts about corruption while serious crime officers had searched the Prosecutor's Office and had escorted people to the police for interrogation for several hours. 

 
                    [post_title] => Gjirokastra prosecutor suspended under corruption charges 
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            [ID] => 140399
            [post_author] => 281
            [post_date] => 2019-02-02 13:37:03
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-02-02 12:37:03
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 2 - In Albania, the Serious Crimes Prosecution announced today that it has began investigations into the publication of some of the interceptions of a criminal case that it is still under investigation.

The Prosecution's reaction came after the publication by Voice of America of a material prepared by journalist Klodiana Lala and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN. Dozens of wiretaps and documents provided through two investigations at the Serious Crimes Prosecution cast light on the involvement of organized crime in ballot buying episodes in several cities in the country.

The prosecution announced that it is investigating the criminal offense "Disclosure of Secret Acts or Data,” pointing out that the publication of acts of interception of a criminal case is being made in violation of the law. 

According to the Prosecutor's Office, all persons who have had access and knowledge of the public acts under investigation and trial are being verified.

The intercepted transcripts indicated the involvement of the Avdyli brothers in the election, the leaders of a group suspected of criminal activity, as well as their connections mainly with Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako, who also led the Socialist Party’s electoral campaign for the Durrës district in the 2017 elections.  

The content of the published material has become a cause for strong debate in the parliament between the opposition and the government. 

 
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