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ODIHR, the state of politics in Albania

ODIHR, the state of politics in Albania

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

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Albania, poor investment promotions

Albania, poor investment promotions

TIRANA, Sept. 5- Albania performed weaker in promoting the country to foreign investors compared to the rest of the regional countries and also has the most vague strategies in this regard. The ratings were given during a World Bank survey

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Vehicle inspection concession contract extended

Vehicle inspection concession contract extended

TIRANA, Sept. 4- After months of silence, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy (MIE) acknowledged on Wednesday that it has decided to extend the term of the controversial concessionary compulsory vehicle control concession contract, a concession that costs Albanians millions

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EC claims Albania’s taxation as “gray”

EC claims Albania’s taxation as “gray”

TIRANA, Sept. 2- Albania and some Western Balkan countries were included in the gray list along with 36 other countries for the risk of tax fraud and evasion.  The European Commission is working to improve good tax governance globally in

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INSTAT says debt per capita has increased

INSTAT says debt per capita has increased

TIRANA, Sept. 3- Albanian debt per capita reached about 3150 euros in the middle of this year. According to data from the Ministry of Finance and the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the debt per capita calculated in European currency

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The Fondi Besa scandal

The Fondi Besa scandal

TIRANA, Sept. 4- The investigation code-named “Credit” led to the arrest end of seven employees of the non-banking monetary foundation, Fondi Besa (Besa Fund) by the end of August, who had come up with a tearing fraud scheme, earning an

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WB: Albania needs more commitment towards lowering public debt

WB: Albania needs more commitment towards lowering public debt

TIRANA, Sept. 2- Albania and Montenegro need more commitment to enforce the fiscal rules they set, which aim at reducing debt or keeping the deficit under control. In many cases the rules that countries impose are deviated while a lack

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Debated memorial dedicated to Turkey’s failed coup damaged in Tirana

Debated memorial dedicated to Turkey’s failed coup damaged in Tirana

TIRANA, Aug. 30 – A memorial dedicated to the victims of the failed coup d’etat in Turkey on July 15, 2016, located in the area of ​​the Great Lake Park in Tirana, was damaged on Friday in the early hours “by unidentified persons”,

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“September 1939 – Poland caught in War with the svastika and the hammer and sickle”

“September 1939 – Poland caught in War with the svastika and the hammer and sickle”

By Karol Bachura* World War II, the bloodiest world war, which the humanity has ever known, started in September 1939 with the German (Sept. 1) and Soviet (Sept. 17) invasion of Poland. The Poles were not assisted and were therefore

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Former EP member says N. Macedonia will receive accession date before Albania

Former EP member says N. Macedonia will receive accession date before Albania

TIRANA, Aug. 28 – Former member of the European Parliament Eduard Kukan said on Wednesday North Macedonia could receive a date for the start of negotiations in the fall, while this scenario is less realistic for Albania. When it comes

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 5 - The OSCE/ODIHR stated in its final report that the June 30 local elections in Albania were held without much regard for the electorate’s interest. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 5- Albania performed weaker in promoting the country to foreign investors compared to the rest of the regional countries and also has the most vague strategies in this regard. The ratings were given during a World Bank survey last year across all countries in the region to assess the investment climate and opportunities for future improvements.

Companies operating in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo provided poor ratings of government performance in terms of attracting and promoting investments. Unclear national investment strategies and in some cases unpredictability in tax and incentive policies were some key problems found in Albania but also in the region.

53 percent of investors in Albania think that corporate tax incentives are very poor. In other countries of the Region (Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro) this percentage was much lower. Foreign companies also had the highest negative rating for Albania regarding public services to investors, etc. Montenegro on the other hand, was the best ranked country.

Foreign companies in the region identified three important factors in investment decision making, the National Foreign Investment Strategy; the predictability of tax policies; and the availability of incentives for customs duties or import VAT. About 60 percent of companies in Albania and Montenegro have expressed high concern about the lack of predictability of fiscal policies relative to other countries.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 4- After months of silence, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy (MIE) acknowledged on Wednesday that it has decided to extend the term of the controversial concessionary compulsory vehicle control concession contract, a concession that costs Albanians millions euros per year.

Extending the contract is expected to cost Albanian taxpayers several million euros of missing profits for the period from September 2019 to December 2020, profits that would have gone to the state budget if the government received concession assets after, such as is foreseen in the initial contract.

“Based on the legislation in force, the provisions of the Basic Concession Contract and the requirement of the SGS Automotive Albania company, MIE representatives have held several negotiation meetings with the concession company representatives regarding the extension of the contract,” said a press release published in some media (but not published on the official website of the ministry).

According to the report, the contract has been postponed until 2020 and the ministry does not provide an explanation as to why the contract was postponed and not the return of the concession under public ownership. The announcement comes a day after the initial ten-year contract signed by the previous center-right government expired. The extension of this contract highlights the willingness of the government to negotiate concessionary contracts privately and without any public transparency, which burden the citizens' pockets.

The concession of vehicle technical control was granted in 2009 for a ten-year term. The concession agreement provides for the company's obligation to invest 561 million lek (approximately 4.3 million euros). In exchange for this investment, the Albanian government had the right to collect the annual vehicle technical inspection fee, which until then was part of the state budget revenue.

Company balance sheet data from BIRN show that the company generated total revenue of 6.3 billion lek over the nine-year period from 2009 to 2018, operating profit of 1.3 billion lek and net after-tax profits of 842 million lek.

The parent company's total benefits from the concession may be higher than that. For example, the company appears to have opted to invest 561 million lek which had a contractual obligation in part by borrowing from the parent company and in part through a capital injection of 190 million lek (approximately 1.3 million euros) in 2011 with financing from the parent company. Over the years, SGS Automotive Albania paid interest on the loan it received from its parent company.

During 2018, the concession company SGS Albania had a net profit of 192 million lek and a 100 percent return on the company's share capital, which was 190 million lek. The SGS is one of many controversial concessions signed by the former government of the Democratic Party and that of the current government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, concessions that have created most monopolies costing hundreds of millions of euros a year in one of the poorest countries in Europe. 

 
                    [post_title] => Vehicle inspection concession contract extended
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-04 08:44:41
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 2- Albania and some Western Balkan countries were included in the gray list along with 36 other countries for the risk of tax fraud and evasion. 

The European Commission is working to improve good tax governance globally in order to maximize fair taxation efforts. To this aim, the Council decided to publish  in December 2017 a list of states that were not cooperative in this initiative. The list updates from time to time and according to the latest data in June this year, 36 countries including Albania are on the gray list. 

The blacklist which consists of 11 countries, contains countries that are not cooperative and do not apply fair taxation rules, while the gray list includes countries that have problems with fair taxation, have agreed to cooperate but have failed. If Albania fails to consider the recommendations, it risks being blacklisted in the following year.

The EC announced that Member States have agreed to a number of measures against listed countries, which include in-depth monitoring and controls. The Commission will also continue to support the work of Member States to develop a more coordinated approach to sanctions for the 2019 list, which includes Albania. One of the measures is to ban funding from EU agencies in these countries.

The commission says it will continue to monitor Albania closely, as well as other countries on the gray list. Fair Tax Competition means that countries should not have harmful tax regimes, which go against the principles of the EU Code of Conduct or the OECD Forum on Bad Tax Practices.

 
                    [post_title] => EC claims Albania’s taxation as “gray”
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-04 08:38:36
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 3- Albanian debt per capita reached about 3150 euros in the middle of this year. According to data from the Ministry of Finance and the Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), the debt per capita calculated in European currency increased by 6 percent within a year.

In lek, the growth is significantly lower, by about 3 percent, due to the appreciation of the lek in the exchange rate with the euro. Although in real terms the public debt is on a downward trajectory, nominal per capita debt has continued to rise. This has happened in parallel with the increase in debt stock, but also with the decline in population.

According to INSTAT, during 2018 the population of Albania decreased by about 8 thousand inhabitants. The population contraction has been due to the expansion of net migration, but also due to the reduction of natural surplus. On June 30, Albania's public debt was about 1.1 trillion lek or about 9 billion euros. In real terms, the Ministry of Finance estimates Albania's public debt as 63 percent of GDP, down nearly two percentage points from a year earlier.

However, this is a figure destined to grow further during the year, with the expected expansion of the debt stock. Usually, most of the deficit is spent in the second half of the year and especially in the last quarter. This is further reflected in the performance of debt indicators. Based on the 2019 budget projections, public debt is expected to be around 64.9 percent at year-end.

 
                    [post_title] => INSTAT says debt per capita has increased 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-04 08:29:52
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 4- The investigation code-named “Credit” led to the arrest end of seven employees of the non-banking monetary foundation, Fondi Besa (Besa Fund) by the end of August, who had come up with a tearing fraud scheme, earning an amount of 3.7 million euros.

The report in Procurement was made by the foundation's directors to the employees. After the investigation of the Tirana police it was discovered that the whole scheme was favored and organized by the director of one of the affiliates of the Fondi Besa, Albana Imami. She was arrested along with four other employees with whom she cooperated in providing fictitious loans.

The scheme developed within the Fondi Besa concerned fictitious loan applications, with applicants being persons unaware of the application being made. Taking advantage of the applicants' low level of financial literacy and illiteracy, under the pretext of “awarding,” these applicants have filed with commercial banks to sign up for the loan funds required by the Besa Fund, application made in fact by Imami and her associates. After the disbursement of the loan fund, which was typically in line with the branch's approval limits amounting to 700 thousand lek, with an 84-month maturity. The applicants received a certain amount of credit (about 25 percent according to Imami's testimony in the Prosecutor's Office), while the rest of the money benefited the Imami.

The Bank of Albania reacted to the fraud committed by the Besa Fund by explaining that it is “closely following the whole process and, depending on the conclusions of the inspection, as well as investigations by law enforcement agencies, will take all measures necessary in accordance with the laws and regulations in force.”

As a supervisory authority that tracks all entities licensed by it, in accordance with their risk profile and impact on the country's financial stability, even with regard to the Fondi Besa, the Bank of Albania says that it has carried out continuous supervision, in accordance with and within the legal framework available to the Bank of Albania and has made concrete recommendations regarding the exercise of lending activity and in order to prevent operational risks.

But the Bank of Albania does not clarify whether any problems related to Fondi Besa have emerged during the supervision. However, the Bank of Albania considers that this act of fraud does not affect the stability of the banking system in Albania. The Bank of Albania draws attention to the response that non-bank financial entities are financial institutions that exercise financial activities as defined by the legal and regulatory framework, such as lending, microcredit, factoring, financial leasing, monetary payment and transfer services, electronic money issuance, foreign exchange, etc.

Unlike commercial banks, BoA says, non-bank financial institutions do not accept deposits from individuals and provide funding from shareholders' own resources. Under these conditions, these entities are many times smaller in size than commercial banks and as such, are considered relatively low risk.

Fondi Besa is a non-bank financial entity licensed by the Bank of Albania under license no.10 dated on Dec. 26, 2008. The total assets of the Fund as of March 2019 are about 14.7 billion lek, or 1 percent of banking system assets. The number of active borrowers of the subject is about 33 thousand people.

 
                    [post_title] => The Fondi Besa scandal
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                    [post_date] => 2019-09-03 08:35:00
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 2- Albania and Montenegro need more commitment to enforce the fiscal rules they set, which aim at reducing debt or keeping the deficit under control.

In many cases the rules that countries impose are deviated while a lack of general public information reduces the political pressure to implement them.  A document by the World Bank's Macroeconomic and Global Investment and Trade Practices Department addresses in particular the fiscal rules in the Western Balkan countries.

Thus, this document states that the countries of the Western Balkans are different in many respects, so each one according to the report must apply different rules to achieve the same goal.  Albania and Serbia have the highest public debt. Albania has as objective to reduce public debt to 45 percent of GDP. This objective is complemented by other rules such as the deficit level that in the event of a 5 percent economic growth, it should not exceed 2 percent of GDP, as well as another rule on current expenditure or the 0.7 percent funded by contingencies. Another spending rule states that the deficit for the first quarter of the year cannot exceed 30 percent of the deficit planned for the whole year.

“Albania's debt target is prudent but the debt rule does not provide any particular pace to reach this target.  Making good progress will need to be more than just implementing the rule over the years. On the other hand, the rule can be very demanding during recessions that are not severe enough to circumvent the clauses,” the document wrote.

The report also stated that analyses show that in some countries minimum compliance with the deficit rule will not reduce debt to levels that are considered prudent. Albania will need to have a surplus of 0.8 percent of GDP each year to reach its 45 percent debt target by 2025 which is much more than required by the deficit rule.

The same underlines in the main summary that policies towards fiscal rules are an important issue in the Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Serbia). According to a rough estimate countries with rules (all except northern Macedonia) have met the part about the public debt rule and generally about the deficit in just over half the time. The report stated that an online survey conducted as part of this study suggests that public understanding of these rules is limited which may reduce political pressure for compliance. “To reduce debt to a prudent level, Albania and Montenegro will need strong commitment to meet their fiscal rules and will often need to do more than require their deficit rules, perhaps more commitment than has been demonstrated in recent years,” the report said.

 
                    [post_title] => WB: Albania needs more commitment towards lowering public debt
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                    [post_date] => 2019-08-30 15:40:33
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-30 13:40:33
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 30 - A memorial dedicated to the victims of the failed coup d'etat in Turkey on July 15, 2016, located in the area of ​​the Great Lake Park in Tirana, was damaged on Friday in the early hours "by unidentified persons", announced Albanian police through a press release about the event.

According to police, the memorial's marble "has been hit with solid items", and was broken in one corner.

The commemoration ceremony of the names of 251 people who died three years ago in Turkey took place on July 15, organized by the Turkish Embassy in Tirana, which announced that we "successfully and proudly inaugurated the ‘July 15 Martyrs' Road’ and ‘July 15 Democracy Park.’ 

It stayed out of the focus of the media, but later became an issue of public debate. 

The reaction was widespread because the monument was dedicated to an event related to another country and, moreover, to domestic political developments there. The mayor of the Albanian capital, Erion Veliaj, later declined to give clarifications on the municipality’s decision to do so, stating only that "there are over 50 memorials in the territory, where different cases are commemorated, and everyone can be respected,” but without offering a proper comparison among the cases he referred to.

Veliaj reduced his reaction in responding to the critics, to the respect that should be shown for the dead, avoiding the substance of the debate. "I would say leave the dead be, and whoever wants to observe them with a candle, a flower or a prayer, also leave them be. Gracious Tirana has room for everyone.”

To this day, the City Hall has not clarified whose decision to erect the Memorial was, and what were the motives for such a decision. From a look at the City Council's decisions published on its website, there does not appear to have been one regarding the 'July 15th Martyrs Road' and the 'July 15th Democracy Park'.

Initially the Municipality of Tirana seemed to want to stay away from this event. Voice of America's interest in contacting and interviewing one of the municipality leaders regarding the Memorial issue, a municipality spokesman, said the Foreign Ministry should be contacted. 

The latter officially explained to VOA that it was not involved in any form or manner at the July 15 ceremony, and that not even a single representative attended. 

Meanwhile, the municipality was represented at a high level, by Veliaj's deputy, Arbjon Mazniku, the deputy mayor.

Three days after the ceremony in Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced in a photo that he was in Turkey "at the hospitality of President Erdogan at his summer residence in Marmaris.” Rama himself has frequently been targeted for his close reports with the head of the Turkish State, who has blamed the cleric Fetullah Gülen and the terrorist organization FETO, for the failed coup d’etat in Turkey. 

A few days later, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu arrived in Tirana for a visit, stating in an interview for Turkish media that he had discussed with his Albanian counterpart Sandar Llesaj but also with Prime Minister Edi Rama about the fight against all terrorist organizations, including FETO.

 

 

 
                    [post_title] => Debated memorial dedicated to Turkey's failed coup damaged in Tirana
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                    [post_date] => 2019-08-29 13:40:46
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                    [post_content] => By Karol Bachura*

World War II, the bloodiest world war, which the humanity has ever known, started in September 1939 with the German (Sept. 1) and Soviet (Sept. 17) invasion of Poland. The Poles were not assisted and were therefore defetated but not conquered. The countrie’s authorities and the army were re-constructed in exile. On the Polish territories the underground state and the Home Army operated throughout the war. In the final years of the war Poland fell victim of yet more aggression depicted in the Wasaw Uprising of 1944. Despite enormous war-time efforts and massive material and human losses (over 6 million Poles dead), Poland could not fully enjoy victory although it suffered the greatest human and material losses. Half of the pre-war territories were annexed to the USSR, while after the war the rest was totally controlled by the Soviet communist divctatorship for the next 45 years.

Mapa_2

 

Roots/allied enemies/consequences

It is said that history is yesterday's politics while politics is today's history. To be able to understand  the pre-war surrounding more clearly one should dig deeper into historical facts. After World War I, Poland took its legal place on the map of Europe following 123 years of political absence. The country was rewon after more than 100 years of war, not only in two national uprisings, but also with the participation of the Poles in other peoples' struggle for self-determination in line with the slogan: "Your freedom is also our freedom", helped also by the weakening of the power of the then conquerors – the empires of Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungary. The fight for freedom constitues one of Polish national prides whether we talk about 1919-1920, 1939-1945 or 1989. After World War I, in 1918, Poland regained independence, and in the following year, 1919, the Polish-Bolshevik war began.

On August 15, we commemorated the anniversary of the so-called "Miracle of the Vistula", a battle that stopped the Bolshevik army from marching westward and is considered by some as one of the most important battles in the world history. If in 1920 the Bolshevik soldats, "through the corpse of Poland” (as stated by Soviet army commander, Tukhachevsky), would lead to global revolution in Western Europe, the history of the continent and the world would have been much different.

After the Treaty of Versailles (1919) due to its western territorial benefits Poland was considered by Germany as a "parasite state", and with the passing of time Third Reich saw it as a space for "planned occupation". After the defeat of the Bolshevik army in 1920 for Soviet Russia Poland had been a first-rate enemy, a barrier to exporting Boshevik revolution to the West. Until 1939, both of the aggressive totalitarian states surrounded Poland with an almost closed cordon, but yet Poland did not give in. In summer 1939, Hitler and Stalin decided on a military alliance whose main target would be Poland. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, signed on August 23, 1939, in its secret annex decided on the full partition of the Polish territory between the two totalitarian allies. The united forces of those totalitarian powers were to make Poland powerless. Although preparations for war had been underway, Poland's potential in face of its ideologically and militarily strong neighbors could give it no chance in direct confrontation. On September 1, the  Nazi Germany army attacked Poland, and on September 17, the Polish Eastern border was invaded by the Soviet army.

Poland fought alone against the two totalitarian powers and was the first country to openly resist Hitler's destructive intentions. Great Britain and France, led by obligations towards Poland, declared war on the Third Reich already on September 3, but in the early weeks there were just empty statements. Having no military support, the Polish units could not stop the invaders' attacks though they showed unprecedented bravery. For 35 days Poland was fighting on its  own and with sheer determination facing simultaneously two totalitarian neighbors – the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. It was defeated and occupied, but never capitulated. The Poles have never agreed to the occupation. They created a unique “Underground State”, which operated secretly  against the Geman Nazis. For the Poles the fight for freedom has always been above personal life and material goods. Two and a half weeks after Hitler’s aggression, on September 17, contrary to the agreements signed, Poland was attacked by the Soviet army. Despite the supremacy of Nazi and Soviet forces combined, the resistance of the Poles lasted until October 6, while the general resistance to the enemies continued until the end of the war.

Bringing back to mind the time of 80 years ago, we are all  fully aware that World War II has brought countless victims and suffering to the peoples of Europe and the world. By various accounts, around 6 million Poles died during the war and in percentage this has been the largest loss among  the war participating states. Of those 6 million Poles, 3 million were Polish Jewish. Given the highest number of citizens of Jewish descent living in pre-war Poland  since many centuries, Hitler  decided to build camps and ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland, such as the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Therefore it is shocking for Poles to listen to claims that Poland is  the one who started World War II, as well as it outrageous to hear about Holocaust denial. Mistakenly some circles try to put an equation mark between the executioner and the victim. Facts speak on their own - the number of Polish victims was 6 million. It might be interesting to known the fact that there were 35 million inhabitants in Poland before the outbreak of the Second World War, while after its end only 23 million people were living in the country boundries (6 million perished and the other 6 million Poles were dispersed around the globe).

Mapa_1

Uncompensated losses 

The World War II, which raged through Poland from September 1939 to 1945, constitutes catastrophy in every aspect because it destroyed the country, its people and elites,  shifted borders, partly into a new region which was also a dilapidated area, brought death and pain to almost every Polish family and brought about the extermination of Polish Jews. It destroyed relationship between the Poles and neighboring peoples, turned coexistence into hostility, and then imposed communism for 45 years. In the aftermath of war Poland suffered inappropriate loss: over 30% of population - only by 1978 the Poles managed to reach the level of pre-war 35 million inhabitants, furthermore over 60 % of lawyers, 40 % of doctors, 30 % of scientists and 30% of priests lost ther lives during the war. More than 40 % of the countries national property was destroyed, cities demolished – some like Warsaw alost in full, 20 % of pre-war territory lost.

As the consequences of the Potsdam Conference today's territory of Poland has shrunk by about 80 thousand km2 in comparison with the pre-war area (that is almost 3 times the territory of todays Albania). It is hard to say exactly how many Polish citizens remained in the East. It is known, however, that a massacre of Polish intelligentsia and officers took place in the Katyn forest in 1940. Over 20 thousand officers and Prisoners of War were annihilated by Soviet NKVD on direct order of Stalin. Tens of thousands of the Poles were shifted by the Soviet regime from pre-war Polish territories to Kazakhstan, Siberia and other parts of USSR. Some became part of the first Polish armed forces in the territory of the Soviet Union  created in 1941 (the year the German-Soviet war began), which left USSR via Middle East to fight in the Western front. The number of Poles in the USSR was so massive that it allowed the formation of a second Polish Army – this time communist based, which accompanied the Soviets on their road to Berlin in 1944 and served as the base for formation of the Polish Peoples Army after Poland was placed in the Soviet sphere of influence.

One cannot forget to mention the Warsaw Uprising - the biggest armed resistance in German occupied Europe and the last struggle for Poland’s full independence. Under the command of the underground  Home Army  the uprising began on August 1, 1944 and lasted 63 days. The insurgents testified during those days that their freedom was priceless. Third Reich's interior minister, Heinrich Himmler, reported on September 21 that "this was the fiercest battle we have waged since the beginning of the war. It was comparable only to the house-to-house fighting in Stalingrad”. The Warsaw Uprising was militarily against the Germans who held the city under occupation, while politically it was against the USSR and Polish Communist puppets. The aim of the uprising was to liberate the capital before the Red Army entered,  show nationalist empowerment of the Government of the Republic of Poland in exile (based in London), and the restraint of the vassalization and sovietization project of Poland. The plan and goals did not succeed. The uprising units, which were left at the mercy of fate, waged a lonely and unequal war for more than two months.

Losses among insurgents - often juveniles and young - accounted for more than 16,000 killed. Human casualties in geeneral of the uprising along with the majority of civilian population of Warsaw are estimated at nearly 200,000. After the fall of the uprising some 550,000 people were expelled from the capital, of whom about 150,000 were sent to forced labor or concentration camps. Due to war and insurgent fighting as well as the systematic destruction of the city by the German army more than 85 % of Warsaw was left in ruins. Poland irreversibly lost a great part of its national heritage. The Warsaw Uprising was an echo of a fight for  human dignity, the symbol of revolt against humiliation and abasement. Warsaw became the city that actually saw war and managed to survive its own death.

Poles started the process of caluculating the material damage caused by the war and the agression and occupation. The damage was huge and it will be difficult to put in numbers. Hoiwever one must focus only on  material damage, as one cannot put a price tag on human life, be it one life or six million lives.

tirana times

“Your freedom is also our freedom”

 During the war years, Poles scattered throughout Europe constituted the fifth largest army in World War II. The Polish Army played an essential role in the liberation of Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands in 1944-1945 period. Among the famous battles that were won is that of Monte Cassino, which paved the way for the Allies to Rome. The Polish Army had taken part in the liberation of a dozens of Italian cities, including Ancona and Bologna. In the North of France it contributed significantly to the battle of Falaise Gap opening the way to Paris. It later liberated Ypres and Ghent in Belgium as well as Breda in the Netherlands. The Polish air fleet had extraordinary merits in the Battle of London. The Polish navy, on the other hand, fought at Narvik, on the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas. The soldiers who fought on the western fronts remained there, as did the government in exile in London up until 1990 when Lech Walesa – the former “Soldarity” trade unions and communist opposition leader was voted president following free presidential elections. Official state insignia were then handed over to him by the last president of Poland in exile thus ending the history of the Polish Government in  Exile which started in 1939.

 

Reconcilliation – forgive but not forget

According to the Christian spirit one should forgive. In 1965, twenty years after the end of WW II, the Polish Catholic bishops wrote a pastoral letter of reconcilliation to their German brothers, in which they declared: "We forgive and ask for forgiveness". Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but without pardoning it is difficult to build a common future.

When it comes to our Eastern partner, the situation is more complicated and sensitive. The Russian side's views on the common historical issues do not coincide with those of the Polish side as for example, among other things, the case of admitting that the Katyn massacre was genocide or the Soviet aggression against Poland on September 17, 1939 plus many more  open issues. We hope that the Russian side will eventually choose the path of merit based discussions on historical issues for the benefit of good bilateral relations. From our side, we adhere firmly to the attitude of building good relationship based on truth and facts.

 

Today’s Poland – a strong NATO ally

 When we speak about 80 years since World War II, we are actually talking about some dates and anniversaries that are inseparably linked to the history of Poland in the last centennial. This year, Poland commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, the 30th anniversary of the first free elections, the 20th anniversary in NATO membership and the 15th anniversary of joining the EU. The Euro-Atlantic anchors make Poland a strong nad realiable ally in Europe and globally.

 

Albanian accents to commemoration 

Just recently published book in Albanian language - “Poland-Victim of World War II”, written by  prof. S.V. Mehilli gives a lot more insight on the above subject. On 17 September the National Museum in Tirana, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland will open an exhibition devoted to the 80 Anniversary of the outbreak of WWII as well as the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

 

*Karol Bachura is the Ambassador of Poland to Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-08-28 15:59:48
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                    [post_content] => 

TIRANA, Aug. 28 - Former member of the European Parliament Eduard Kukan said on Wednesday North Macedonia could receive a date for the start of negotiations in the fall, while this scenario is less realistic for Albania.

When it comes to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Federica Mogherini has not shown enough leadership, but it is doubtful Josep Borrell will do better.

In an interview with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA), Kukan, who chaired the Western Balkans Working Group during his time in EP, explains that North Macedonia has been meeting the criteria for years, but the Union has been postponing the opening of accession negotiations, which, he believes, is absolutely embarrassing and demotivating.

“North Macedonia could be given a specific date at the European summit in the fall, which I consider realistic,” says former MEP,  adding that, while Emmanuel Macron had very categorical statements on the issue, it seems that he is already easing them.

On the other hand, while he is aware that Tirana is also waiting for a similar step, Kukan believes that the situation Albania is completely different.

“They have to implement a huge judicial reform, the opposition boycotts the parliament and, above all, the Albanians cannot find compromises”, he pointed out, adding that it would be unrealistic for Albania to receive the date at the moment.

When it comes to Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Kukan once again expressed criticism towards the High Representative Federica Mogherini, who, according to him, did not show enough leadership skills.

“At the moment when Kosovo was imposing tariffs on Serbia, it was necessary to travel there and slam the table”, Kukan was unambiguous.

He does not think that Mogherini’s successor Josep Borrell would do a much better job.

“I remember him as President of the European Parliament. His nomination surprised me because the Spaniards have more dynamic and younger politicians”, said Kukan, proposing a special envoy as a solution to the dialogue.

[post_title] => Former EP member says N. Macedonia will receive accession date before Albania [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => former-ep-member-says-n-macedonia-will-receive-accession-date-before-albania [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-30 16:28:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-30 14:28:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142944 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 143006 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-09-06 14:08:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-09-06 12:08:12 [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 5 - The OSCE/ODIHR stated in its final report that the June 30 local elections in Albania were held without much regard for the electorate’s interest.  The opposition decided not to participate, and the government appeared determined to hold the elections without the opposition, the report notes. “In a climate of stalemate and political polarization, voters were unable to choose between several political options," the report said. The ODIHR Election Observation Mission assessed with this final report the compliance of the Albanian elections with OSCE commitments, obligations and other international standards for democratic elections and national legislation. In half of the municipalities, the candidates ran without opponents, while observers received credible claims from citizens for pressure from both political sides. "Political clashes led to legal uncertainty and many election administration decisions were taken with the objective of holding elections," the ODIHR report said. Observers said many previous ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed, including the depoliticization of election commissions, the transparency of campaign financing and the efficiency of resolving electoral disputes. "The political equilibrium provided by law within the election administration was not achieved due to the refusal of the main opposition parties to nominate their commissioners and the subsequent interpretation of the CEC that only those parties participating in the elections could be represented in the election administration. The politically unbalanced composition of the election administration, calls by opposition parties to boycott the election and conflicting interpretations of the validity of the President's decrees annulling the June 30 elections undermined public confidence in the process,” the ODIHR report said. Observers claimed that the language used by political opponents in rallies and in the media was often raging and full of accusations and counterclaims. “Citizens, especially those working for public administration, faced direct and indirect pressure to express their political preferences," the report said. Observers claimed the election campaigning was nonexistent; other than posters on voter education, the ODIHR only noticed a small number of posters and other signs pointing to elections coming close. “Many candidates expressed to the ODIHR Election Observation Mission the difficulty of motivating voters to vote. Limited campaign activities remained overshadowed by country-wide developments that further deepened early political divisions. Debates on a wide range of political topics were dominated by the issue of non-participation in the elections of the main opposition parties and discussions over the election date,” the ODIHR reports. The report says the vote on June 30 came after a series of announcements by most opposition-led municipalities that elections would not take place. “Some mayors have tried to use their powers to prevent the use of public buildings as polling stations. In a small number of polling stations there were arson damage before Election Day,” the ODIHR said. According to international observers, election day was generally peaceful, despite isolated cases of tensions and clashes in a small number of communities. "Voter turnout varied from one municipality to another, while nationwide, the CEC stated it reached 21.6 percent," the report said. The OSCE / ODIHR had about 250 observers in the June 30 local elections in Albania, and the report was widely expected by the public and political parties, which are still debating their validity.    [post_title] => ODIHR, the state of politics in Albania [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => odihr-the-state-of-politics-in-albania [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-09-09 14:09:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-09-09 12:09:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=143006 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 37 [name] => Free to Read [slug] => free [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 37 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. [parent] => 0 [count] => 1019 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 37 [category_count] => 1019 [category_description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. [cat_name] => Free to Read [category_nicename] => free [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 37 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

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