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Albanian lifter becomes European champion, overshadowing country’s doping scandal

Albanian lifter becomes European champion, overshadowing country’s doping scandal

TIRANA, March 29 – Briken Calja claimed three gold medals at the European Senior Weightlifting Championships in Romania this week, bringing back glory to Albanian weightlifting following a doping scandal earlier this year. The 28-year-old Albanian lifted 146 kg in

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Stereotypes, paradoxes and myths hold back Albania-Greece relations, AIIS conference shows

Stereotypes, paradoxes and myths hold back Albania-Greece relations, AIIS conference shows

TIRANA, March 27 – Century-old stereotypes, paradoxes and myths dating back to Albania’s independence and World War II continue to hold back relations between Albania and its southern neighbor Greece even after a quarter of century from the collapse of

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Albania coach worried over key players’ condition ahead of Norway friendly

Albania coach worried over key players’ condition ahead of Norway friendly

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, March 19 – Albania’s Italian coach Christian Panucci has expressed concern over the condition of some key players due to few playing opportunities with their clubs as the national side takes on Norway in a friendly

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Albania’s Voskopoja churches make it to Europe’s 7 most endangered heritage sites

Albania’s Voskopoja churches make it to Europe’s 7 most endangered heritage sites

TIRANA, March 15 – The post-Byzantine churches in Voskopoja and Vithkuq, southeastern Albania, have made it to Europe’s seven most endangered heritage sites for 2018, in a ranking that helps mobilize support for one of Albania’s landmark heritage sites. The

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‘Italians and Albanians are cousins divided by the Adriatic’

‘Italians and Albanians are cousins divided by the Adriatic’

Meet Elena Pagani, an Italian journalist and writer who has dedicated two books to Albania. “We are really very similar and everything one has to do to realize that is just go to Albania immediately,” Pagani, who is married to

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Robert D. Kaplan: Europe, the US and early-stage globalization

Robert D. Kaplan: Europe, the US and early-stage globalization

By Sidonja Manushi The first time Robert D. Kaplan was in Albania, the country was still isolated, deprived and unknown. Although communism was in its final throes, it had not officially fallen, and so nobody from the West had been

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Energy can be an important engine in Albania’s economy as it has been in Norway for more than a century

Energy can be an important engine in Albania’s economy as it has been in Norway for more than a century

By Per Strand Sjaastad* Good energy policy is, basically, about ensuring sufficient and stable supply, at affordable prices in an efficient and competitive market, and – at the same time – without destroying the environment or the climate. The energy

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Lazio sporting director says he could leave only if he becomes Albania’s coach

Lazio sporting director says he could leave only if he becomes Albania’s coach

TIRANA, March 5 – Former Albania international Igli Tare says he is happy with Lazio in Italy’s Serie A where he ended his career as a professional striker in 2008 and has been serving as the club’s sporting director for

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Stefano Boeri Architetti’s new public schools will be open every day of the year in Tirana

Stefano Boeri Architetti’s new public schools will be open every day of the year in Tirana

Italian architect Stefano Boeri’s firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled plans for new three public schools which aim to increase a social value and every-day use in educational institutions in Tirana, Albania – it will possibly be a new educational

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UN to support Albanian project on communist past

UN to support Albanian project on communist past

TIRANA, Feb. 27 – The United Nations organization is supporting an Albanian project aiming to gather the testimonies of hundreds people who suffered under the oppressive communist system in prisons and internment camps. Though survivors and the victims’ families gather

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, March 29 - Briken Calja claimed three gold medals at the European Senior Weightlifting Championships in Romania this week, bringing back glory to Albanian weightlifting following a doping scandal earlier this year.

The 28-year-old Albanian lifted 146 kg in snatch and 175 kg in clean and jerk claiming gold in each discipline and finishing first with a total of 321 kg.

"I am so happy. I dedicate my success to my family, friends and all Albanians," said Calja.

The 28 year-old lifter represented Albania twice in the Olympics Games, finishing fifth at the 2012 Rio Olympics. In 2013, he tested positive for doping and was handed a two-year suspension.

Albania's Weightlifting Federation is confident Calja is clean and faces no threat of having his medals revoked and bringing back shame to the country’s traditionally best performing sport.

The doping scandal this year led to the resignation of the president of Albania’s Weightlifting Federation and Albania losing its right to host the March 2018 Senior European Weightlifting Championships.

The European Senior Weightlifting Championships was initially scheduled to be held in Albania but the European Weightlifting Federation stripped Albania of hosting the championships after Albanian weightlifter Romela Begaj failed a doping test and was stripped of the medals she claimed at the late 2017 IWF World championships in the U.S.

The 31-year-old athlete who competed in the women's 69 kg was confirmed positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, even in her second test and now risks being handed an 8-year suspension, putting an end to her career with two doping suspensions.

Meanwhile, Erkand Qerimaj, who made a last-minute withdrawal from the Romania Championships this week because of health problems, earned a bronze snatch medal at the men's 77 kg at the IWF World championships in the U.S. after a Romanian bronze medalist tested positive for a banned substance.

Albanian weightlifters have tested positive for doping ten times since 2011, marring the reputation of Albania’s traditionally best performing Olympic discipline at international competitions.

In 1972, late Ymer Pampuri set a world record at the Munich Olympic Games for the press at featherweight lifting 127.5 kg, finishing ninth overall following an injury. Pampuri, who died in early 2017 at 73, has since been a world record holder in the clean and press, which later in 1972 was removed from competition due to difficulties in judging proper technique and health concerns.

Ilirjan Suli finished fifth in the men’s middleweight category at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Romela Begaj was sixth in the women’s lightweight at 2008 Beijing Olympics.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136361" align="alignright" width="300"]AIIS 2 AIIS conference on "Re-examining Albania-Greece relations: challenges of the present, prospects for the future" Photos: AIIS[/caption]

TIRANA, March 27 – Century-old stereotypes, paradoxes and myths dating back to Albania’s independence and World War II continue to hold back relations between Albania and its southern neighbor Greece even after a quarter of century from the collapse of communism in Albania when about half a million of Albanians moved to live and work in Greece, and the larger and more prosperous neighboring country is NATO ally and supporter of Albania’s EU integration and top investor and trading partner in Albania.

The comments came at a day-long conference on “Re-examining Albania-Greece relations; challenges of the present, prospects for the future" organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS), one of the country’s top think tanks, in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Tirana, bringing together experts, diplomats, politicians and students.

The two countries have been intensively negotiating in the past few months to overcome barriers such as a maritime border dispute, a 1940 war law still in force in Greece, and property and travel rights related to the Cham community who were expelled and stripped of their citizenship and property in northern Greece at the end of World War II under accusations that they cooperated with invading Italian and German forces. Greece also wants its Greek minority rights in Albania respected and that new cemeteries are built in Albanian territory for the Greek soldiers that died on Albanian soil during WWII.

Addressing the conference, Greece’s Ambassador to Tirana Eleni Sourani, said that false perceptions as identified by a 2013 AIIS survey on Albania-Greek relations from the eyes of the Albanian public is a challenge that has to be overcome.

“When one listens to various political commentators or reads articles in the media, they have the impression that there is enmity and insurmountable problems between Greece and Albania. That is not true. It is just a false perception which in my view is the most important challenge of the present,” said Ambassador Sourani.

“It is high time we changed the page. False perceptions, obsolete stereotypes and unfounded prejudices should be buried once and forever. We are two sovereign countries, two neighboring nations with distinct historic and cultural identities, each proud of its own, allies in NATO, with a perspective of becoming partners in the EU, with full respect of each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” the Ambassador added.

The 2013 AIIS survey in Albania showed about a fifth of Albanians perceived Greece as a major threat and the border, Cham and Albanian migrants issues as the most pressing.

Meanwhile, another survey conducted by AIIS's Greek partner, the Hellenic Foundation for Foreign and European Policy, ELIAMEP, found almost half of Greek citizens perceive relations with Albania as neither good nor bad with the Albanian migration and expansionism and the Greek minority in Albania as the hottest issues.

“The two countries are in the process, in full speed I could say, in a spirit of openness and mutual respect, to address all issues, some of which based on stereotypes and prejudice still prevailing in our relations. Both sides have demonstrated so far commitment and strong political will so as to make this process which started upon Greek initiative, a true turning point in our relations. Therefore let’s move ahead,” said Ambassador Sourani.

“We need to bring our relations in the real world of 2018, i.e. in an era when the borders of Europe are fully recognized and secured, where there are no territorial claims, the protection of human rights including minority rights is an international norm and obligation of states and relations among countries are based on the principle of sovereign equality,” she added.

 

‘State of war law’

Greece’s 1940 war law, in force even after almost eight decades from its decree under World War II when Italy invaded Greece from Albania, contributes to prejudice on the Albanian side and should be abolished as soon as possible, said Mimi Kodheli, the head of Albania’s parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.

“Differently from France and Germany and other European neighbors, Albania and Greece have never fought a real and classical war. However, as we all know, Greece under a royal decree of November 10, 1940 declared the 'state of war' with Albania and the so-called war law against Albania is still in force. This war law has negatively contributed not only to prejudice and bad feelings, but also in economic and property issues. The issue of the Cham population and their successors' human rights is also related to that,” Kodheli told the AIIS conference.

“That's why in order to turn a new page in our relations, the 1940 Royal Decree should be abrogated together with its effects. We are today all happy that this stupid 'war law' is part of negotiations between the two governments in order to repeal it,” she added.

Greece repealed the war law with Italy in 1949 but left it in force for Albania which Italian fascist troops used as a transit country to invade Greece.

The two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1971 following a 30-year halt but relations remained minimal until the early 1990s when the communist regime in Albania collapsed and hundreds of thousands of Albanians left the impoverished country to live and work in neighboring Greece, as one of main two destinations along with Italy.

The head of Albania’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee described political and economic relations between the two countries as very good.

Politically, relations can be considered as very good and in constant improvement. They have strategic importance to us. Greece is part of the strategic quadrilateral along with Italy, Austria and Turkey. Greece is a good partner and cooperative in NATO. It has been and continues to be a supporter of Albania in its EU integration process,” said Kodheli.

“From the economic and commercial point of view, Greece is the main foreign investor in Albania and the second largest trading partner. From the legal point of view, we have a Friendship Treaty since the 1990s, but the bilateral legal framework has not yet yielded the expected positive results. In addition, our countries are interconnected by the big presence of the Albanian community in Greece and the Greek minority in Albania,” she added.

According to Kodheli, the settlement of the border issue between Albania and Greece in the European spirit of good neighborliness will be an important signal to the European Commission in its upcoming decision on whether to launch accession talks with Albania, an EU candidate since mid-2014.

 

Paradoxes and myths

Albert Rakipi, the head of the Albanian Institute for International Studies, says paradoxes and myths related to the past hold back relations between the two countries.

“Understanding Albanian-Greek relations in the post-Cold War environment is not possible without understanding and explaining the paradoxes and myths created by history. And undoubtedly, the future of those relations is not possible without overcoming myths and paradoxes,” says Rakipi.

“Most paradoxically, the Albanian-Greek relations after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism and Albania's opening to the West developed in two different spheres: One of them is the peace sphere, within which there are real relations in economy, trade, investment in parallel to social exchanges, communication between the two societies in the field of arts and culture and there is also the other ‘sphere of war’ which in fact is virtual and involves political discourse, political elites, the media and various groups, especially peripheral, populist and nationalistic groups,” he adds.

“Within this noisy sphere, the discourse is almost totalitarian, populist and mainly involves contested issues stemming from history, the Cham question, the so-called Northern Epirus question and the Greek minority,” says Rakipi.

According to him, the first sphere is the real one and the second one is the virtual one.

“Although both those spheres seem to be developing and operating in parallel, there is a level of interdependence and influence. The almost cyclical crises in Albanian-Greek relations after the end of the Cold War were determined by the interdependency of those spheres,” says Rakipi.

“The first one is a real world dealing with relations between the two peoples, economic and cultural cooperation and communication and cooperation between the two societies, and the second one has been built and functions based on paradoxes and myths which in the best case preserve the status quo in these relations without allowing their development and strengthening and in the worst case produces cyclical crises which have damaged and could damage relations in the future,” he adds.

Besnik Mustafaj, a writer and former foreign minister of Albania, says ‘inat’ a common word for resentment inherited from Turkish and used by all Albanians, Greeks and Serbians in the same form is a common thing which both Albanians and Greeks should archive and leave it to the past while looking forward to build a common future.

“Problems stem from distant history and not from the political class in the past 25 years which is something that facilitates overcoming them,” he said

Bashkim Zeneli, a veteran diplomat who served as Albania’s Ambassador to Greece from 2002 to 2006 when ties between the two countries received a boost, says relations between the two countries have been and continue to remain strategic.

“Greece has continuously supported Albania following the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit. There are some 800,000 Albanians migrants in Greece who have integrated into the Greek society. We should look forward to overcome problems,” says Zeneli.

According to him, relations between Albania and Greece have been rather frozen after Albania’s Constitutional Court turned down a 2009 deal between the two countries on the maritime border, but are now moving back to a spirit of confidence.

“Political and diplomatic language between the two countries should be more careful,” said Zeneli.

Selami Xhepa, an Albanian economic expert, said the two countries have not fully made use of economic opportunities despite Greece being the top foreign investor and traditional second largest trading partner.

According to him, there has sometimes been rivalry instead of cooperation between the two countries such as in regional road infrastructure projects.

Andrew Liaropoulos, a European studies professor at Greece's Piraeus University, says Greece and Albania are now interdependent also by the major Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe through Greece, Albania, already in its final construction stage and set to bring first gas flows by 2020.

Referring to a 2013 study that the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) conducted, Alba Çela, the deputy director of the AIIS unveiled how Greece was mistakenly perceived as a threat to Albania’s national security and a barrier to Albania’s EU integration by a considerable part of Albanians at a time when it has been one of the major supporters of Albania’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

Andi Balla, a media expert, said discrimination and hardships faced by Albanian migrants in Greece have contributed to misperceptions, but remittances from Greece, the main source country for money sent home by migrants, have played a key role for Albania’s development.

"In many ways, Greece has left more of a mark on post-communist Albania than any other country. The two countries’ peoples have for centuries been similar in culture, temperament and outlook for the world, but the past three decades have increased contacts and led to increased similarities and synergies between the Albanian and Greek people," said Balla.

"As the two governments look at bilateral relations, these people-to-people ties should be seen as a priority. Migrants are and should be viewed as a bridge between the two countries, not as a pitfall," he added.

Some 500,000 Albanian officially live and work in Greece, the country’s second largest trading partner. Greece is the top foreign investor in Albania where its companies are present in almost every sector of the Albanian economy, including banking, telecommunication, construction, energy and health with total investment of more than €1 billion.

However, the Albanian migrant numbers and trade links between the two countries have sharply dropped in the past decade as the neighboring country faced its worst ever recession in the aftermath of the 2008 global crises that saw its economy contract by a quarter.

Prospects for Albanian migrants in Greece have become more optimistic in the past three years as the neighboring country gradually escaped recession and is set to register positive growth rates of 2.1 to 2.5 percent in 2017 and 2018 on improving consumer and investor sentiment and a boost in its key tourism industry.

 

Kosovo in-between?

 The fact that Greece hasn’t still recognized Kosovo, a majority ethnic Albanian Balkan country that declared independence from Serbia a decade ago, also contributes to misperceptions about Greece in Albania, said Ledion Krisafi, a senior AIIS researcher.

“The Greek position towards Kosovo is two-fold: on the one hand, it has recognized Kosovo’s passports, it has a diplomatic representation office in Pristina, there have been meetings between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries; but on the other hand it doesn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence,” said Krisafi.

“Of the 5 EU member states that haven’t recognized Kosovo, Spain has problems with Catalonia and the Basque county, Slovakia has a large Hungarian minority in the south, Romania also has a large Hungarian minority, Cyprus has been divided for a half century; only Greece doesn’t have a large minority concentrated in a part of the country that may seek autonomy or independence. In this view, the justification of the other 4 countries for not knowing Kosovo isn’t valid for Greece,” he said.

According to him, Greece’s non-recognition of Kosovo is the result of geopolitical calculations and historical-religious ties with Serbia.

“On the geopolitical side, Kosovo’s independence has weakened a close ally of Greece and has strengthen the Turkish influence in the Balkans, because since 2003, based on the ideas of the Turkish former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s influence has been concentrated on the Muslim-majority areas in the Balkans. I think that there is a Greek-Turkish rivalry for economic and political influence in the Balkans, and Kosovo’s issue in relation to Serbia is part of this rivalry.

“The geopolitical considerations go even further than this rivalry. They involve the respective allies. To the Greek public, Kosovo is an American project and in 1999 the bombing of Serbia was interpreted as a sign of U.S. imperialism in the Balkans, while on the other hand, the Russian sympathies of the Greek public and the current SYRIZA government are well-known,” he adds.

The AIIS researcher believes Greece will recognize Kosovo only when there is a final agreement between Kosovo and Serbia, “an agreement under which the Serbs will also be satisfied, if such an agreement could be reached.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, March 19 - Albania's Italian coach Christian Panucci has expressed concern over the condition of some key players due to few playing opportunities with their clubs as the national side takes on Norway in a friendly in few days.

Albania will play home to Norway on March 26, in the first 2018 test ahead of next September’s inaugural 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.

The Italian coach, who in mid-2017 replaced compatriot Gianni De Biasi, has called up four new players for the Norway friendly and left out veteran players such as Ansi Agolli, the 35-year-old Albania captain in several matches over the past couple of years and who made it to the Champions League group stage with Azerbaijan's Qarabag this season.

Two of the new entries come from the Albanian Superliga and two others from the Swiss and Croatian top leagues. Kristal Abazaj, the 21-year-old Luftetari striker who has scored eight goals in the Albanian Superliga this season, is the surprise name on Panucci's 24-man list, receiving his first call.

"I am a little concerned over the fact that the players are not playing much with their clubs. That was the reason I decided to play a single friendly and work for one week with the players who have been called up," Panucci told a news conference on Monday.

Panucci said he had decided to leave out Ansi Agolli because of his age and was considering a replacement for him given the fact that he turns 38 during the 2020 qualifying campaign.

Thirteen other players have also been left out of the squad because of injuries or technical choices, including playmaker Ledian Memushaj who is suffering a red card suspension following last November's friendly with Turkey whom 10-man Albania surprised with an away victory.

Currently, four of Albania’s top players are not in their best shape due to few playing opportunities with their own clubs.

Albania's key striker of the past few years, Armando Sadiku, has been having a tough time during the past year after leaving Switzerland and playing for half a season with Poland's Legia Warsaw before moving to Spain's Levante where he has not been a first attacking choice since joining in late January 2018.

Forward Sokol Cikalleshi has also been struggling to make the starting lineup with Turkey’s Osmanlispor, currently in the relegation zone of the Turkish top league.

Defender Mergim Mavraj, who has also served as Albania’s captain in few occasions, has also lost his place with Hamburger who this year face a real relegation threat ranking bottom in the German Bundesliga.

Ledian Memushaj is also no longer a first choice for relegation-bound Benevento in Italy’s Serie A. However, several other Albania national side players in the Italian top league, including Napoli fullback Elseid Hysaj and Lazio and Atalanta goalkeepers, have been shining this year.

"I can say that we have established the core of the team with 20 players. The team is getting shaped and until next June, I will test players aged between 26 to 28 who will be the core," Panucci said.

 

Norway test 

 Albania will play Norway at the Elbasan Arena stadium on Monday, March 26 at 19:00 local time.

Norway are a team that Albania have played four times in the past two decades in the Euro and World Cup qualification campaigns, having won one game and drawn twice.

In the March FIFA ranking, Norway lost one place to rank 57th while Albania climbed one step to 58th out of 206 national sides globally.

Norway take on Albania following a 1-0 away injury time loss to Slovakia while Albania stunned Turkey with 3-2 away victory in last November’s friendlies.

Both Albania and Norway failed to make it the 2020 Russia World Cup.

 

Nations League opportunity

Albania have been drawn against Scotland and Israel in the maiden UEFA Nations League, in the sole League C group that features three teams.

Albania will start the campaign on Sept. 7, 2018 when they host Israel, a team Albania first faced in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with both sides managing to get 3-0 away victories in their two-legged encounters, but Albania finishing third in a tough group campaign dominated by Spain and Italy.

Scotland, a team which Albania has never faced before is the toughest team in the group, with a lot of experience in World Cup and European tournaments, but having failed to reach a major finals since the 1998 World Cup.

Albania travel to Scotland on Sept. 10, three days after playing Israel, to conclude their first-leg Nations League fixtures. The second leg-games will be away to Israel on Oct. 14 and at home to Scotland on Nov. 17.

Coach Christian Panucci has earlier described the Nations League group as balanced, but said he would have preferred a four-team group.

“That is a very balanced group with three tough teams. It’s a group with three teams that allows you to make fewer mistakes. We will rival for the first place,” said Panucci.

The UEFA Nations League will provide teams with another chance to qualify for the UEFA Euro final tournament, with four sides from each league qualifying through play-off matches which take place in March 2020.

Chances for Albania and other contenders to make it to the Euro 2020 in case of failing to qualify directly as the top two group stage teams in the qualification campaign, are only through the National League tournament as the third-placed team is no longer provided a play-off opportunity.

Chances increase as if a UEFA Nations League group winner has already qualified via the European Qualifiers, then their spot will go to the next best-ranked team in their league.

The Euro 2020 qualifying campaign is scheduled to begin in March 2019 after ten groups are drawn in December 2018.

 

Panucci’s lead

A former AC Milan, Real Madrid defender whose Albania job is his first experience as a national side manager, Panucci has been in charge since mid-2017, succeeding compatriot Gianni De Biasi who led Albania to a first ever appearance at a major tournament such as the Euro 2016.

Panucci has led Albania in five games since taking over in mid-2017, winning a World Cup qualifier against modest Liechtenstein and a friendly against Turkey, but losing to European superpowers Spain and Italy and drawing against neighboring Macedonia.

His lineup has been more offensive compared to the De Biasi era.

Panucci’s managerial experience started in 2012 when he served as assistant to Fabio Capello, one of the greatest Italian coaches, when he was leading the Russian national side. Panucci also managed Serie B sides Livorno, Ternana before taking over as Albania’s coach.

 

 
                    [post_title] => Albania coach worried over key players’ condition ahead of Norway friendly
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136194" align="alignright" width="300"]voskopoja 2 Voskopoja church. Photos: Europa Nostra[/caption]

TIRANA, March 15 - The post-Byzantine churches in Voskopoja and Vithkuq, southeastern Albania, have made it to Europe's seven most endangered heritage sites for 2018, in a ranking that helps mobilize support for one of Albania's landmark heritage sites.

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Gjirokastra, southern Albania, was also shortlisted among the 12 most endangered sites but did not make it to the top seven.

Albania's 17th and 18th century post-Byzantine churches made the list because of “war, plundering and natural disasters having seriously damaged this group of 12 churches,” says Netherlands-based Europa Nostra, a leading European heritage organization.

“The listed Church of Saint George in Voskopoja, which won a Europa Nostra Award in 2011 for its outstanding conservation, now faces the threat of theft and highlights the urgency with which these remarkable churches need to be protected," the watchdog says.

The historic centre of Vienna, the Constanta Casino in Romania, the Prinkipo Greek orphanage on Princes’ Islands in Turkey, and the Grimsby ice factory in the United Kingdom were among the other sites to make it to the seven most endangered list.

The multidisciplinary Europa Nostra-led teams visiting the endangered sites are expected to provide technical advice, identify possible sources of funding and mobilise wide support to save these heritage landmarks as well as formulate feasible action plans for the listed sites by the end of the year.

“This newest list of 7 Most Endangered comprises rare treasures of Europe’s cultural heritage that are in danger of being lost. The local communities are deeply committed to preserving these important examples of our shared heritage but need broader European support. I therefore call on local, regional, national and European stakeholders, both public and private, to join forces to secure a viable future for these sites,” said Plácido Domingo, the President of Europa Nostra.

Architect Kliti Kallamata, the managing director of the Korça-based “Past for the Future” foundation that submitted the nomination for the Voskopoja and Vithkuq post-Byzantine churches, southeastern Albania, has blamed decades-long neglect that the public administration has shown toward the monuments by carrying out only emergency interventions with no strategic multidisciplinary restoration project.

“These monuments face a lot of problems starting with moisture, the degradation of mural paintings, the static stabilization of complicated structures, the approach toward degraded and ruined architectural elements, lack of lighting and protection against theft and lots of other stuff,” Kallamata has earlier said, adding that the last interventions date back to the mid-1960s under communist just before Albania banned religion.

“If the post-Byzantine Voskopoja and Vithkuq churches are included in Europe’s 2018 seven most endangered programme, we will have the right assistance to conserve and restore them under contemporary professionalism and later introduce them to the public,” he said as the Voskopoja churches made it to the 12 most endangered sites last Janaury.

Back in 2013, the landmark ancient Roman amphitheater of Durres also made it to the Europa Nosta Seven Most Endangered List, mobilizing a rehabilitation project that involved the demolition of several residential structures and the complete uncovering of its arena.

 

Post-Byzantine churches in Voskopoja and Vithkuq

voskopoja 3A number of Post-Byzantine churches in Voskopoja and Vithkuq, situated in southeastern Albania, are the most representative monuments of 17th-18th century ecclesiastical art in the Balkans and are masterpieces of the post-Byzantine style. War, plundering and natural disasters have seriously damaged this group of 12 churches. The surrounding Christian population has greatly declined and a subsequent lack of clergy has resulted in the majority of the churches remaining unused for most of the year. The main threat now is the total negligence by those administratively responsible for the churches at the national level, namely the Institute of Cultural Monuments. The listed Church of Saint George in Voskopoja, which won a Europa Nostra Award in 2011 for its outstanding conservation, faces the threat of theft and highlights the urgency with which these remarkable churches need to be protected. The nomination for the 7 Most Endangered programme 2018 was submitted by “The Past for the Future” Foundation. (Description made on Europa Nostra list).
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                    [post_content] => pagani booksMeet Elena Pagani, an Italian journalist and writer who has dedicated two books to Albania. “We are really very similar and everything one has to do to realize that is just go to Albania immediately,” Pagani, who is married to an Albanian, tells Tirana Times in an interview.

Elena, you are an Italian journalist with a special affection for Albania just like about half a million of Albanians based in Italy, among whom professionals and renowned artists, and about 3 million residents in Albania, have for Italy. How did this special link with Albania start for you?

-It all started thanks to my husband. I met this Albanian guy in my town. He was the owner of the restaurant I usually went to with my family and friends. Then, we started dating. He told me he was planning to return to his home country to start a new business. He left for Albania and two weeks later, he invited me to join him. I remember my first trip to Albania, it was on 30 September, 2008. It has almost been 10 years since then: we got married and we have a one-year-old child. I have written two books about Albania and I have been on a lot of trips, in some cases for more than a month.

 

You have published two books on Albania: the first one “Dove i bunker diventano coccinelle“ (Where bunkers turn into ladybirds) and the newly launched “InfoAlbania. I media albanesi dal XX secolo ad oggi” "InfoAlbania - Albania media from the 20th century to the present day). What can you tell us about them? 

-The books are a consequence of my degree theses. While I was dating my husband and started travelling to Albania, I graduated in languages, specializing in journalism, and two years later in Human Rights and Ethics of International Cooperation. I wanted Albania to be part of my studies and for this reason, in both cases, I chose it as my thesis argument. The first thesis was based on the Albanian television journalism, while the second one on the history of Albania and its people, from the Ottoman invasion to the present day.

 

Albania’s communist era and the country’s transition to democracy and a market economy is a central topic in both your books with the bunker as a symbol of Albania’s hardline communist regime and its phobia as well the evolution of Albania’s media as an indicator of Albania’s freedom of expression and democracy. I guess Italians are not that familiar with those topics. What were the reactions to the books?

 -Unfortunately, I must admit it, Italians know very little about Albania. For example, at school, we don’t study anything about it and that is absurd: first of all, if we consider the geographical proximity between our countries, but above all because of the ancient bond that unites them. I discovered and learned many things while writing the theses. However, in the past two or three years, I have noticed that interest in Albania has been growing exponentially. Newspapers, magazines, but also television broadcasts have started featuring that. I was interviewed by a Rai program for the first book that I wrote and also by a local television (the BergamoTv) twice. That means this is considered an interesting topic. I recently attended the National Book Fair in Milan where I was invited to present infoAlbania, my second book. I can see that people are surprised and curious about Albanian history. There are so many links between Albanians and Italians that I think that part of history should be studied at school. That is a rich, troubled story that deserves to be known.

  

Since you are a journalist yourself and work in Italy but also studied Albania’s media landscape evolution, strongly influenced by Italian media during the past quarter of century, what are some of the common challenges facing Albanian media nowadays and are there any similarities with the situation in Italy, which is a much larger and developed EU market?

-The Albanian media, as we consider it, does not have an early tradition. The same word, “media” in the plural form, were established with the democratic transition of the 1990s. During the communist regime, information was totally subordinated. There was no freedom of expression at all. Journalism is based on freedom of expression which is its fundamental pillar, recognized by international documents such as the Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention of Human Rights and the International Pact of New York. In the 1990s, many TV stations and newspapers were born in Albania. Media pluralism has exploded. The problem, according to my studies, is that journalism is still subordinated to political and economic powers. This makes it not very free and independent. In the last chapter of my book, infoAlbania, I wrote about this particular issue, also considering the position attributed to Albania in the ranking of Reporters Without Borders who rate Albania in the 86th place. There are still strong ties with Italy, because often the Albanian media mechanically imitate the Italian formats, unfortunately without reworking them and adapting them to Albanian reality. Professionals should pretend more: higher protection and much more respect for their services. Even in Italy we have our problems from this point of view, in fact the Carta di Firenze (Florence Charter) was signed to protect journalistic work and fair compensation, preventing the exploitation of the profession, as editorial mobbing.

 

How do you find Albania, frankly speaking since it’s the home country of your husband and you could be more positive about it. Do you often visit Albania and how much do you think it has changed during the past quarter of a century, since you’ve studied Albania’s communist era?

-Albania has absolutely changed a lot. It has changed since 2008, exactly when I started visiting it. I realized it by myself and so did the people who came on holiday with me, friends and relatives. Albania is experiencing a profound, almost daily transition. There is huge ferment, especially in the capital city. Italians fall in love with Albania easily. I'm serious! The first impact is perhaps a bit difficult and strong, but then it is impossible not to fall in love with it. The scenery is enchanting, people are hospitable and welcoming, the food is excellent and that is very important for us. I think that Albania is a unique country that can compete with Italy in terms of food. In a small area you can find everything: lakes, mountains, sea and the countryside. Prices are still low, but infrastructure and tourist mentality are still lacking, although they are progressing. I am linked to Albania and its landscape, food, spirit and atmosphere. I consider Tirana my second home. And I advise everyone to visit it even just for a weekend.

 

Do you think Italians’ perceptions on Albania and Albanians are changing since more and more are visiting the country to work and study and the Albanian community there is getting well-integrated?

-Definitely. Visiting a country, knowing its reality, the people who live there, getting in close contact with them, helps open the mind and allows you to get a real idea of things. I would say that learning about history would not be bad, because it is only through it that we can understand aspects like the Albanian exodus on the Italian coast or the construction boom, but also the behavior of many Albanians living abroad. Italians and Albanians are cousins divided by the Adriatic. We are really very similar and everything one has to do to realize that is just go to Albania immediately.

 

Are you considering writing any other book on Albania and have you and your family ever thought of moving to Albania permanently?

-I thought about it these days! I would like to write a different book compared to the previous ones: this time I would like to write a book on curiosities about Albania, but above all on Albanians. For example, on the concept of hospitality, so different from ours in Bergamo, or on some customs such as that of making a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law live together. I would like to write about the divided life that people who I met lead: migrants who made it abroad.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

-Yes, I would like to add something. The books I wrote certainly are due to my relationship with my husband, through whom I discovered a country that was unknown to me. But, there’s more. There are many Albanians I have met in the past ten years, in Italy and in Albania and it is to them that I would like to dedicate my books.
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                    [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi

The first time Robert D. Kaplan was in Albania, the country was still isolated, deprived and unknown. Although communism was in its final throes, it had not officially fallen, and so nobody from the West had been in the capital, let alone rural areas, for decades.

Passing through the now modern Skanderbeg Square with a tour group from Greece, Kaplan, who was no stranger to the Balkans, then saw a very different image from what one sees strolling down Tirana’s center today: a number of gangs, made up of ten-year-old boys, harassing and pickpocketing around old stores, most of which poor, empty and surprisingly standing despite the cheap quality everything was made of.

“It was like going backwards in time,” says Kaplan now, 28 years later, “and I hadn’t been back since. It is different, like coming to a new country, but having the advantage of having known how far it’s come.”

For Kaplan, renowned American author whose books on foreign affairs and traveling are read from university students to former US President Bill Clinton, distinguishing the sometimes subtle causes and effects of the Hoxha regime in Albanian society makes up part of his life’s work.

“I can see the incredible change and although I have read about it, what strikes me, with people asking my impression of Albania now, etc., is that the worst, the more oppressive the communist system, the harder it is to recover from,” he says, drawing parallels with Romania, from where he was reporting until the 1980s.

Romania, Kaplan notes, was by far the worst communist system in Eastern Europe - apart from Albania. Throughout the 90s, the country was far behind Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic and, although you could still enter Romania and leave its borders, it took 20 years for it to reach normality.

“There are different degrees of hell, and if Romania was in the 8th and a half circle, Albania was in the 9th. So, I’m really sympathetic to the problems, because there was nothing to build on.”

Kaplan’s work over the course of three decades has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc., as well as has accredited him as one of the world’s “top 100 global thinkers” by the Foreign Policy magazine in 2011 and 2012. His areas of interest took him from the US to Israel and then a multitude of hot-spots for reporters, including Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Balkans. His firsthand experience as a reporter coupled with his research and publications portfolio make his positive outlook on the current situation in the country a trustworthy, and welcomed, point of view.

“I know there are still problems with the rule of law, crime, smuggling, but to me, it all comes from the regime,” he says, sipping his lemon tea at the Rogner Hotel main lobby. “First, the extreme underdevelopment of the Ottoman world in this region, then the 30s and 40s were really bad, because of foreign geopolitical factors, and then the Hoxha regime. It will take a generation or two more, for this to be a normal country.”

Now well in his 60s, Kaplan is once again traveling the Balkans to gather material for his new book - The Adriatic - which he says won’t be out for another two years, but will focus on the last 25 years while aiming to be of relevance even in ten years. His way to achieve that? Ignore the news; see where the region has gone in a quarter of a century.

His last book on the region, Balkan Ghosts, was published in 1993. Reporting what people on the ground told him in the late 80s as a young journalist, the book’s narrative that the historic, ethnic and cultural conflicts in the Balkans could not be solved by outside intervention were perceived as fatalistic by many at the time.

Kaplan, however, says it was misinterpreted.

“The book wasn’t published until 1993, but it was serialized in The Atlantic in the end of the 1980s…and what was going on at the time? The media was obsessed with El Salvador, Lebanon, Nicaragua, war in all those places...it was just beginning to get interested in Poland, the Baltic states. The wall didn’t fall until the end of ‘89, Yugoslavia didn’t start to collapse till the beginning of ‘91, and the first shot was not fired until June 1991. By that time I had posted excerpts of Ghosts at the Atlantic, so I was doing my job, I was saying this is a region where there are serious, unresolved, ethnic national disputes, and therefore pay attention to it, it has a great future in the news. And in fact what happened, more or less, was an ethnic war, a large number of people were killed and made refugees, and I did my job as a young reporter, so I think Balkan Ghosts was a perfectly valid book for the time when I wrote it.”

And looking back, no one can say it wasn’t. The reason it was perceived as fatalistic, according to Kaplan, is because, after the Cold War, the intellectual community believed liberal democracy was the solution to all problems, and that making any reference to national and ethnic issues was to be fatalistic.

In an article titled The Necessary Empire published in the New York Times last May however, Kaplan said that “only if Serbia, Albania and Kosovo all become members of the union can the ethnic dispute between Serbs and Albanians truly be solved.” In this respect, his view on the Balkans hasn’t changed.

“These states are weak states - some may be stronger than others, but they are not strong like Germany or France, and so their future has to be in what I call a post imperial order, which is the EU.”

As for the backward Balkan mentality, which seems to remain unchanged after years of conflict, lack of proper education and isolation respectively, Kaplan believes the process of EU membership itself “will help Balkan countries along the path of virtue”. Though Albania, Montenegro, Serbia may never reach the level Spain or Italy, the situation will be better than it is now.

In addition, Kaplan, as a geopolitical expert, could list a number of other reasons defending the region’s almost certain future in the EU.

“I think American influence is declining, Russian influence is growing - with little effort from Russia, because it doesn’t need to recreate the Warsaw pact, all it needs is a soft, traditional zone of imperial light influence in Central - Eastern Europe. And the weaker the rule of law, the weaker the institutions, the better it is for Russia. Now the EU has had a difficult ten years – it’s kind of lost its confidence, wrapped up in its own problems, which makes it harder to project power to the next geographical level of states whether it’s Serbia, Albania... Though the US has little direct influence on the daily actions of the EU, American power and values were always like a foundation for both NATO and the EU, it was all part of a system.”

In this context, Kaplan sees the EU in a position of difficulty it hasn’t been in a long time. Lacking visionary leaders, crowded with technocrats and failing to project power, he says even the developments in the other side of the ocean are influencing the course of events in the continent.

“People will disagree, will say oh no, Trump has been good for Europe, he’s letting EU do things on its own; I say this is nonsense. The sense of mission, of American liberal mission, which existed under the most different kind of presidents, whether it was George W. Bush, or his father, or Barack Obama, it was all different levels but it existed. For the first time now, I feel it does not exist.”

And for him, isolation is not where we should be heading, but globalization is yet to be achieved. Kaplan describes the present world order as early-stage globalization, as opposed to the cosmopolitanism most people believe we have achieved.

“We think of globalization as an end-state. The world is globalized, we’re all cosmopolitan people, I’m Singaporean, I’m married to a German, my children speak 3 languages, we travel around the world by plane, we go to fancy conferences, but this is a very early, superficial stage, because it only affects the highly educated and people who are successful at the top end of academia, of business, of politics…”

The rest – the majority – still has to grapple with cultural, national barriers and these things shape the way people perceive reality. Kaplan believes a later stage of globalization will wear these perceptions away and, consequently, shape and change the identities that might now hinder interstate relations. What speeds things up is the great technological developments which, as Kaplan describes, enable people to see what is happening in the rest of the world.

“The first stage of change is to know what the outside world is doing. Throughout the Cold War nobody knew what the outside world was doing; now everybody knows. And then comes the hard part, to make it more like the outside world, and that takes a generation or two, or more.”

But the final lesson from Kaplan is that while we are heading towards real globalization, every country should find – and keep – its own speed. 

For Albania, this could mean maintaining a certain pace in joining the EU – not flying too close to the sun.

“The best example I can give you is Greece. In the 1830s, after Greece got its independence from the Ottomans, there was this Greek leader, Kapodistrias, whom Albert Rakipi mentioned over dinner a couple of days ago; he said ‘Greece will be like France, we have to make Greece like France’. 200 years later, Greece is not like France. Don’t move too fast.  Forget for the moment about Schengen, forget about the euro, the economy has to develop much more, the rule of law institutions must develop much more before you can get to that stage…not everyone has to be on the same lane, in terms of speed.”

Quality, according to him, is more important than speed and although Albania will not be like Italy in ten years, it will still go a long way – because it has already come a long way. Europe will have its stronger states and its weaker states, its better governed states, and its worse governed states and, while the world is heading towards elimination of cultural and national barriers, chances are next time Kaplan visits Albania, the country will present itself even more altered to him.

 
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136142" align="alignright" width="300"]per Per Strand Sjaastad[/caption]

By Per Strand Sjaastad*

Good energy policy is, basically, about ensuring sufficient and stable supply, at affordable prices in an efficient and competitive market, and – at the same time - without destroying the environment or the climate.

The energy sector generates huge values in society. It also forms the basis for value creation in other industries. The value of energy production is dependent upon innovation, development, knowledge and a well-organized market.

First a few words about my home country, Norway: Norway is one of the world´s largest energy producers. The development of Norway as an energy nation started more than hundred years ago. Today, more than 20 000 people work in the renewable industry.

In addition, Norway is one of the largest petroleum producers in the world. Around 185 000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the petroleum sector in Norway, which is around 7 percent of the total work force. Oil and natural gas will remain an important part of the world energy mix for many years to come, but is expected to be gradually substituted by greener sources of energy in the long term.

As a large energy producer, we also have large commercial interests internationally, and possess insight and competence that we believe makes us a relevant partner for other countries, including Albania. It is about developing an energy cluster and sharing experience with other countries.

Norway has huge renewable resources. Incentives to develop and apply new technologies to make use of these resources will continue. In Norway, around 70 percent of the energy consumption and close to 100 percent of the electricity consumption, is renewable. Norway has the biggest hydropower potential in Europe, whereas Albania has the second biggest.

It is important to strengthen Norway´s network connections to European energy markets to boost the value of renewable resources. Strong transmission networks is essential in a growing market, proving opportunities for trade in energy. We are planning large expansion of transmission lines from Norway to Germany and the United Kingdom.

The establishment of the Nordic Energy Exchange in 1996 was not the end station, only a step on the way. The latest strategy launched in Norway is called ENERGY 21. The aim is to facilitate strong networks between producers, market operators and research institutions. The focus is on sun energy, offshore wind energy, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage. The market is very dynamic, and there is a need of continuous change and reform. The world will increasingly demand clean and green energy.

There is a bold, joint Nordic vision for the energy sector of the future, of a Nordic energy system based on close, trusting and flexible co-operation, which will lay the foundation for the world’s most integrated, intelligent and green low-emission economy. Further, the Nordic system must be closely connected to the broader European market.

The need for a dynamic and efficient energy market is also the case for the Western Balkans and Albania. There is a significant deficit in the overall energy balance in the Western Balkans. The connectivity in the region should get better, also in line with core objectives in the Berlin process. The energy markets do not function as well as they should. Transmission capacity should be more transparent and efficient, making it easier for suppliers and buyer to connect. One must avoid a system with monopolistic features, both in Albania and elsewhere.

As we all know, Albania will most likely open membership negotiations with the EU this year. Reform of the energy sector will bring Albania closer to EU legislation, and facilitate the negotiation process. It will also bring Albania in line with obligations under the South-East Europe Energy Community. Norway has been a key partner in the process towards the establishing of the Albanian Energy Exchange.

The Albanian economy is growing, at around 4 percent every year. A growing economy needs more energy – otherwise further growth will suffer. There is a need for investment in the Albanian energy sector, especially in the construction of new generation sources and transmission lines, improvements in the distribution grid, or energy efficiency. There is also a need for stronger integration in the regional market.

I am pleased that the Norwegian energy company Statkraft has made use of investment opportunities in Albania, by building large-scale hydro-power plants in the Devolli Valley. I hope that further Norwegian investments will take place in the years to come.

The Albanian energy sector reform is promising, focusing on the modernization of distribution, transmission and generation, as well as security of supply. The new transmission lines with Montenegro and Kosovo, a planned line to Macedonia, possible ring lines within Albania, and perhaps a subsea transmission line to Italy, are all steps that must be welcomed. There should also be a potential for wind, solar and biomass, as well as significant petroleum production. Further, the hydro-power potential is far from fully utilized. Investments in the energy sector are, like in most other sectors, also dependent on a healthy business climate, based on rule of law.

I do believe that the energy sector can be an important engine behind growth and development in the Albanian economy, as it has been in Norway for more than a century. The potential is substantial. I believe that Albania already has reached quite far in view of the relatively short period of time since the transition started, and that the Albanian Government has made important decisions in the right direction. Norway has had many decades to gradually transform its energy sector and adapting to new market conditions, whereas Albania is quickly learning the craft.

Finally, let me underline the importance of thinking long-term. When reforming, there may be some bumps in road at the beginning, some people may be unhappy and focus on short-term problems - but in the long run there is no alternative; reforms will give a more efficient market, it will increase accessibility, and it will give incentives for further investments. I can assure you that Norway is ready to remain a constructive partner in this process.

*Per Strand Sjaastad is the ambassador of Norway to Albania, resident in Kosovo. The speech was delivered at a conference on “Energy and Sustainable Economic Development - The Role of Economic Diplomacy” held in Tirana in late February.
                    [post_title] => Energy can be an important engine in Albania's economy as it has been in Norway for more than a century
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, March 5 – Former Albania international Igli Tare says he is happy with Lazio in Italy’s Serie A where he ended his career as a professional striker in 2008 and has been serving as the club’s sporting director for about a decade now.

Speaking in an interview with Italy’s Corriere Dello Sport, Tare, who in early 2018 was voted Italy’s best sporting director, said he would quit his current job only if he is offered to become the Albanian national side’s coach.

"If one day I become a coach, I will coach Albania and not a club. I have received offers from different clubs, but I can't think of myself away from Lazio which is a creature I have been growing with for 13 years and remains in my heart," says the 44-year-old Albanian who played in Germany and Italy top leagues from the early 1990s after growing up as a player with Tirana-based Partizani.

Currently, Christian Panucci, a former AC Milan and Real Madrid defender, is Albania’s coach, having succeeding Gianni De Biasi who resigned in mid-2017 following a historic five-year spell with the national side who in 2016 claimed their first ever major appearance at an international competition such as the Euro 2016.

The former Albanian international has received acclaim for his ability to scout talent with Lazio's Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic currently sought after by some top clubs in Spain and England willing to spend €100 million on the playmaker. The 22-year-old Serbian joined Lazio in mid-2015 for a bargain of about €9 million after Tare managed to convince the player to leave Belgium’s Genk and sign a new contract with Lazio.

"What makes a sporting director skilled is first of all how to turn an unknown player into famous. Observing players is not enough for that, you need to talk to them," says Tare, who was capped for Albania 68 times for a decade until 2008 and managed to score ten goals.

"I was in Vojvodina and observed Savic thanks to a friend of mine. He was as tall as me, technically good and a talent, but I couldn't guarantee he would play as much as he deserved. I monitored him at Genk for several months and then went to pick him," Tare said about contacts with Milinkovic-Savic, on whom Lazio say they have already rejected offers of about €70 million.

Thomas Strakosha is now the only Albanian player with Lazio after the departure of national side’s goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and former Albanian captain Lorik Cana in the past few years.

The 22-year-old who was also brought to Lazio by Igli Tare is now a regular starter and one of the club's strengths.

Lazio are currently fourth in the Serie A, trailing arch rivals Roma by one point but 17 points behind leaders Napoli.

 
                    [post_title] => Lazio sporting director says he could leave only if he becomes Albania’s coach
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_136068" align="alignright" width="300"]boeri 2 All images © Stefano Boeri Architetti[/caption]

Italian architect Stefano Boeri's firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled plans for new three public schools which aim to increase a social value and every-day use in educational institutions in Tirana, Albania - it will possibly be a new educational model that can be applied in other educational designs in other countries.

The firm has recently won a competition for the creation of three new public schools in Tirana. The new school complex, true epicenters of the life of the neighborhood, will be open every day of the year, 24 hours per day and for every age.

Developed within the scope of the Tirana Master Plan, in the north-west quarter of the Albanian capital, in the areas of Don Bosco, Kodër-Kamëz and Shqiponja Square, three innovative architecture dedicated to pre-university education, that conceive the cultural path as an open social venture.

“The school must be open to a new rhythm of life. It must be an active place in all the hours of the day, every day of the year, for everyone, at all ages: grandparents, young people, local associations, creative enterprises, institutions. The open school is the heart of our society, that beats together with the life, that flows in and around it," said Stefano Boeri.

"The new school hosts meetings, discussions, dialogs for associations without head offices. It opens the doors to those seeking a space to start a social and cultural venture. It welcomes book clubs and organizes courses to explore the most intriguing, bizarre and extreme depths of knowledge," he added.

boeri 3Inspired by an innovative vision of the social and cultural function of the education system, the architectural language of the complex takes cues from the tradition of Italian architecture in Tirana. The new schools' facades will be clad with red brick and made of white bases in cement - which is a combination of materials commonly seen in the tradition of Italian architecture in Tirana.

"The three new schools of Tirana will have façades in red brick and white bases in cement (a combination of materials that harkens back to the tradition of Italian architecture in Tirana) and will function as a local epicenter, as a new reference point of the public life of the area. Our schools will be the true urban squares of the neighborhoods, used by students during school hours, and by the community on weekends and holidays," said Francesca Cesa Bianchi, the Project Manager of Stefano Boeri Architetti.

The project of the Schools for Tirana extends over a total surface of 29,609 square meters. It is composed of the Don Bosco School Complex, with nursery, pre-school education, middle school and high school (9,812 square metes), the Kodër-Kamëz School Complex, with nursery, pre-school education, middle school and high school (11,898  square metes), and the Shqiponja School Complex, with nursery, pre-school education and middle school (7,898  square metes). (Courtesy of worldarchitecture.org)

 

boeri 4Project facts

Architect: Stefano Boeri Architetti

Partner: Stefano Boeri

Location: Tirana, Albania

Project Director: Francesca Cesa Bianchi

Project Leader: Carlotta Capobianco, Jacopo Colatarci, Julia Gocalek

Team: Jona Arkaxhiu, Orjana Balla, Daniele Barillari, Moataz Faisal Farid, Yulia Filatova, Paolo Russo,  Mario Shilong Tan, Elisa Versari

Client: PPP Agikons Construction Company – Municipality of Tirana

All images © Stefano Boeri Architetti
                    [post_title] => Stefano Boeri Architetti's new public schools will be open every day of the year in Tirana
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 27 - The United Nations organization is supporting an Albanian project aiming to gather the testimonies of hundreds people who suffered under the oppressive communist system in prisons and internment camps. 

Though survivors and the victims’ families gather to commemorate communism’s hardships in the few memorials found in the country, most stories, events, as well as some of the victims’ remains, are still enveloped in mystery. 

Remembering to Heal and Prevent is a UN project that has already began adaptation in Albania. 

Gjon Radovani, the project’s expert in the country, told local media the project aims at facilitating a wide dialogue concerning Albania’s communist past.

“The program aims to foster a social conversation on Albania’s communist and dictatorial past on many levels, beginning with historians and university level meetings, which will try to shed light and offer new facts on our communist history, continuing with the judicial level, where the law university will offer the legal framework, as well as the artistic and cultural aspects, which will include de-archiving facts and making them public through museum exhibitions, etc,” Radovani said. 

Further on, Radovani stressed how important this project is for Albanian society.

“As Cicero said, ‘to be ignorant of what occured before you were born is to remain always a child’. It is important for both the present and future, because the new generation should know what happens when logic ends and violence occupies its place,” he said. 

In this context, the authority dealing with the files of the former notorious Sigurimi Intelligence Service is cooperating with the project. 

Selami Zalli, informative director of the communist files’ authority, told local media the project heavily relies on past testimonies. 

“It’s most build on declarations, testimonies, and so the authority’s role is to verify these testimonies, and the events they claim happened. The authority as an institution doesn’t just aim to inform on past communist files, but also educate civil society on the past. It also aims to registered and officialize all the stories that circulate from mouth to mouth, but which were never documented,” Zalli said. 

He added the internment camp in the Tepelena district makes up a main focus of the project, as that is where hundreds of interned families died and were buried, while in the Gjirokastra district experts aim to gather recollections and memories of the hundreds of communist survivors living there.

Artists have also joined the project, creating cultural platforms which will generate awareness and a deeper understanding of the country’s past.

“I perceive art has a very important role in all social issues. I think that is art’s mission and the artist’s duty and responsibility,” Ema Andrea, renowned Albanian actress told local media.

It has been 27 years from the fall of communism in Albania, yet experts think the country’s society has only minimally reflected on its consequences, which kept it isolated for 45 years. 

While those nostalgic of the past are allowed to make and attend events related to communism, the government still hasn’t properly examined the files of the Sigurimi Intelligence Service or punished regime crimes.

 
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, March 29 - Briken Calja claimed three gold medals at the European Senior Weightlifting Championships in Romania this week, bringing back glory to Albanian weightlifting following a doping scandal earlier this year.

The 28-year-old Albanian lifted 146 kg in snatch and 175 kg in clean and jerk claiming gold in each discipline and finishing first with a total of 321 kg.

"I am so happy. I dedicate my success to my family, friends and all Albanians," said Calja.

The 28 year-old lifter represented Albania twice in the Olympics Games, finishing fifth at the 2012 Rio Olympics. In 2013, he tested positive for doping and was handed a two-year suspension.

Albania's Weightlifting Federation is confident Calja is clean and faces no threat of having his medals revoked and bringing back shame to the country’s traditionally best performing sport.

The doping scandal this year led to the resignation of the president of Albania’s Weightlifting Federation and Albania losing its right to host the March 2018 Senior European Weightlifting Championships.

The European Senior Weightlifting Championships was initially scheduled to be held in Albania but the European Weightlifting Federation stripped Albania of hosting the championships after Albanian weightlifter Romela Begaj failed a doping test and was stripped of the medals she claimed at the late 2017 IWF World championships in the U.S.

The 31-year-old athlete who competed in the women's 69 kg was confirmed positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance, even in her second test and now risks being handed an 8-year suspension, putting an end to her career with two doping suspensions.

Meanwhile, Erkand Qerimaj, who made a last-minute withdrawal from the Romania Championships this week because of health problems, earned a bronze snatch medal at the men's 77 kg at the IWF World championships in the U.S. after a Romanian bronze medalist tested positive for a banned substance.

Albanian weightlifters have tested positive for doping ten times since 2011, marring the reputation of Albania’s traditionally best performing Olympic discipline at international competitions.

In 1972, late Ymer Pampuri set a world record at the Munich Olympic Games for the press at featherweight lifting 127.5 kg, finishing ninth overall following an injury. Pampuri, who died in early 2017 at 73, has since been a world record holder in the clean and press, which later in 1972 was removed from competition due to difficulties in judging proper technique and health concerns.

Ilirjan Suli finished fifth in the men’s middleweight category at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Romela Begaj was sixth in the women’s lightweight at 2008 Beijing Olympics.

 
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