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Facebook shuts down Kosovo, North Macedonia accounts for “harmful activity”

Facebook shuts down Kosovo, North Macedonia accounts for “harmful activity”

TIRANA, Mar. 26 – On Tuesday Facebook announced it has shut down several accounts from Iran, Russia, North Macedonia and Kosovo, citing “coordinated harmful actions” as a reason. 2,632 pages, groups, and total accounts were removed from Facebook and Instagram

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President Meta: “Replacement of resigned opposition MPs is illegal”

President Meta: “Replacement of resigned opposition MPs is illegal”

TIRANA, Mar. 22 – Albanian President Ilir Meta told journalists on Wednesday he does not consider the replacement of the opposition MPs who resigned their parliamentary mandates with new MPs from the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration Party’

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AIIS conference: “70 years of NATO, 10 years of Albania membership”

AIIS conference: “70 years of NATO, 10 years of Albania membership”

TIRANA, Mar. 21 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies, in partnership with Hanns Seidel Stiftung, held on Thursday the conference “70 Years of NATO, 10 years of NATO membership for Albania,” In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the

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Albanians are the region’s unhappiest, according to World Happiness Report

Albanians are the region’s unhappiest, according to World Happiness Report

TIRANA, Mar. 23 – Albania ranked last among Balkan countries on the 2018 World Happiness Report, written by a group of independent experts and produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The annual survey of 156 countries found

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“NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges”

“NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges”

By  Susanne Schütz On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed,

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Department of State: Albania lags behind in corruption, fighting impunity

Department of State: Albania lags behind in corruption, fighting impunity

TIRANA, Feb. 18 – The US Department of State published on Friday its annual report on the implementation of human rights in Albania where, once again during 2018, problems such as corruption, ballot-buying, the deadlock the judicial system is facing

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People march against gov’t seeking new elections

People march against gov’t seeking new elections

TIRANA, March 16 – The united opposition protested on Saturday again against the Rama’s government, which it accuses of winning the last elections through illegal ballot buying. The protest’s main demand is a caretaker government which can facilitate early elections.

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FORUM: Is Russian influence real?

FORUM: Is Russian influence real?

FORUM   Tirana Times approached a number of prominent Albanian scholars and international relations and foreign affairs experts with the following question: “Recently here has been talk of growing Russian influence in Albania. What are your thoughts concerning this and

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Football fans risk imprisonment and life stadium bans under new gov’t law

Football fans risk imprisonment and life stadium bans under new gov’t law

TIRANA, Mar. 11 – The Albanian government proposed severe punishments, including imprisonment, to avoid violent episodes in football stadiums, such as the March 3 attack on the referee of the Superliga Kamza-Laci, who was violated not only by fans who

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Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock

Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock

TIRANA, Mar. 14 – The Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said in a radio interview on Thursday that negotiations between Greece and Albania on a number of important issues have slowed down also due to Albania’s deadlock – something official

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 26 - On Tuesday Facebook announced it has shut down several accounts from Iran, Russia, North Macedonia and Kosovo, citing “coordinated harmful actions” as a reason.

2,632 pages, groups, and total accounts were removed from Facebook and Instagram for activities related to the mentioned countries, the social media platform said.

513 accounts were related to Iran, while 1,907 were linked to Russia, said Facebook.

Russia-related accounts were largely removed because of spamming and only a few of them had engaged in coordinated harmful actions, according to the statement.

Facebook also said the accounts were blocked based on the way they functioned rather than for their content. 

The social media platform has recently taken action against such accounts in many countries since it has been heavily criticized over the last two years of delays - accepted by the company itself - in developing instruments to combat extremism and propaganda operations. The company also closed several accounts related to Iran in early January.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 22 - Albanian President Ilir Meta told journalists on Wednesday he does not consider the replacement of the opposition MPs who resigned their parliamentary mandates with new MPs from the Democratic Party and Socialist Movement for Integration Party’ candidates list acceptable, or legal.

“In my institutional assessment and conviction, the Parliament of Albania has 82 lawful MPs, including 3 opposition MPs who refused to resign their mandates according to the political decision of the respective parties. Any other number beyond this not only deepens this crisis, but certainly does not help in overcoming this situation, as any other number is disputable on all aspects. In the constitutional aspect, the legal, the procedural and political aspect and on a moral aspect,” Meta said.

He added that such an act on the government’s side does not “hide this deep crisis of representation and at the same time does not guarantee, rather it undermines, the opening of negotiations between Albania and the European Union.”

According to Meta, there can be no solution to this crisis, neither through ultimatums or through rhetoric that incites violent actions, neither by police methods or by financial means, but only through a rapid, serious and responsible political dialogue which guarantees the restoration of political life in normality, respecting the Constitution and respecting the separation of powers.

At the same time, Meta blamed the opposition and its “unprecedented” decision to hold weekly anti-government rallies and resign its parliamentary mandates for “deepening the representational crisis that the Albanian parliament is now facing.”

It was in this context Meta also said on Wednesday he would be ready to resign from his post if it would help resolve the deadlock the country is facing, be it from the non-functioning Constitutional Court to the opposition’s parliamentary mandates resignation and the risk of a junte installment.

Meta said that after failing to mediate a solution he was ready to resign if he were “assured the country has a political, constitutional and solid solution.” 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 21 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies, in partnership with Hanns Seidel Stiftung, held on Thursday the conference “70 Years of NATO, 10 years of NATO membership for Albania,” In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Alliance, which coincided with Albania’s 10 year anniversary of joining the Alliance.

Supported by the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, US Embassy in Tirana and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland to Albania, the conference, which consisted of three experts’ panels, addressed the achievements and challenges of Albania’s first decade in NATO, and in the Western Balkans, in context of the new global security environment. 

Invited to hold the opening remarks were AIIS Executive Director Albert Rakipi, HSS Regional-Director for South-Eastern Europe Klaus Fiesinger, US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Leyla Moses-Ones, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Albania Susanne Schütz and Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Albania Karol Bachura.

In his opening remarks, Rakipi recollected the unfolding of the Bucharest Summit in 2008 when Albania and Croatia received the formal invitation for joining the alliance. He reiterated the importance of the membership for Albania, emphasizing its subsequent contributions. Namely, membership has helped the country reconnect with the West and rebuild its institutions. 

“Albania’s NATO membership 10 years ago has been one of Albania’s most notable events and achievements since the fall of communism, if not the most notable one. Over the last ten years, NATO membership has helped the process of state-building and the build-up of a democratic society and its further democratization.”

In his closing remarks, Rakipi underpinned that NATO is above all else an alliance of democracies and values, and as such Albania and other member states must continue to adhere to them. 

“Above all else, NATO is a community of democratic states, not of autocratic regimes or fake democracies,” Rakipi concluded. 

Fiesinger, on his side, emphasized the importance of democratic democratic values in domestic politics. 

Following, Moses-Ones recollected the statement of President Truman at the signing ceremony in April 4, 1949, where he noted that the pact was "a shield against aggression that would enable governments to concentrate on achieving a fuller, happier existence for their citizens."

That aspiration remains unchanged, according to her. 

She added that the "U.S. commitment to NATO is absolute" adding that each new member has strengthened the alliance's collective capabilities in protecting our common peace and prosperity. 

However, Moses-Ones also reminded the audience that despite the achievements of the alliance in its 70 years of existence, it is not done. 

“Russia is determined to undermine our democratic institutions and sew divisions among us and within our nations.  Russian hybrid threats aimed at our democracies have included nerve agent attacks and malicious cyber activities. Russia is one threat, but not the only threat.  North Korea and Iran, led by their rogue regimes, threaten to upset the world order through their dangerous tactics. And terrorism remains a constant and pervasive threat to our alliance.  NATO is as important to our security today as at any time in our 70-year history,” she said.

In reference to Albania's membership, she emphasized that the country has made the Alliance "stronger," pointing to its contribution with forces in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia or Iraq. As such, Albania plays an out-sized role in the alliance, that should serve as an example to other member states. 

However, as its role and contribution grow, so do its responsibilities. In this regard, she reiterated the need for Albania to root out corruption, improve rule of law and fight organized crime. She mentioned the Justice Reform as an indicator that the country is headed in the right direction, despite the hard work that remains to be done. To those that claim the reform is either compromised or has failed, she added, "my message to you is this: You are wrong." 

In her remarks, Schütz reiterated the important role of NATO for Germany. 

Regarding the region, she emphasized the EU and NATO’s enlargement policy impact, particularly in helping build and maintain peace in the Balkans. 

Since 1994, when Albania became a member of the Partnership-for-Peace program, through its full membership, the country has undertaken significant domestic, political, and military reforms.

“Albania has since significantly contributed to security and stability in this strategically important region in South Eastern Europe. In addition, Albania has also contributed to international NATO led missions, i.e. Albania deployed over 3.000 troops with ISAF. It has also been an active supporter of the campaign against terrorism since 2001, and continues its participation in the face of new and emerging threats such as the Islamic State,” Schutz said.

She emphasized Germany's support for enlargement with Montenegro and North Macedonia and noted that NATO relations with Serbia have also improved.

Bachura, who kept closing remarks in the first panel, drew back on the history of NATO and its importance to Poland. He noted that Poland has adapted on open door policy on enlargement. Today NATO's mission is to "keep third parties out, American's in and threats down" according to him. To underline the importance of the alliance, he noted that regions such as the Balkans or the Baltics can "sleep at night" due to security provided by NATO. 

However, despite its importance, for him NATO does not stand alone as a guarantor of security in Europe. Organizations such as the OSCE also play an important role in this regard. Reminding the audience of the Russian threat, he noted that it is easy to be considered as a Russophobe, but one only needs to consider what happened in Georgia, Ukraine and particularly Crimea to understand the magnitude of the threat Russia presents. In his closing remarks, he emphasized that "our alliance endures because its principles are timeless." 

Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs Mimi Kodheli and Former Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Albania Valentina Leskaj spoke on the first panel, moderated by AIIS Deputy Director Alba Cela.

Kodheli reiterated the strong support for NATO among Albanians, and the firm belief on its unique function. As an alliance, member states need to focus on commonalities. 

In respect to the Summit of Wales, she noted that the Government of Albania has ever since changed its downward spending trend on defense and continues to work toward fulfilling its obligations. 

However, she noted that security starts at home, and Albania must do more to ensure democratic principles are upheld at home.

In her speech, Leskaj noted the importance of the alliance for Albania. In regards to the latter’s contribution, she noted that despite being a small country and possessing modest capabilities, Albania has demonstrated serious commitment to contribute to the alliance.

The second panel of the conference, moderated by Toni Gjuraj, took a wider approach in examining and interpreting the regional dynamics. 

Sanja Bujas-Juraga, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia who shares the same anniversary of NATO membership as Albania, opened her speech by mentioning the asymmetric threats that can be faced only due to the existence of the NATO umbrella that shields all member countries. Going back to NATO’s birth, she highlighted that the Alliance’s relevance is as strong as ever and that its enlargement has been one significant component of its success. 

The Croatian Ambassador expressed her content at seeing the NATO flag being raised almost in all the countries of region and said that it was a testament to the success of NATO’s ‘open doors policy’.

“Albania and Croatia’s accession was important for all the region, it was the reward for their hard work and the fulfilment of the vision that both countries had,” the Ambassador said. 

Bujas- Juraga also expressed positive evaluation for Bosnia’s membership Action Plan. Declaring the Adriatic Charter as a key instrument for enlargement the Croatian Ambassador urged for Kosovo to be included in this Charter and said she was hopeful a concrete invitation would be made soon to Kosovo.  

The Ambassador of the Republic of North Macedonia, Dancho Markovski reminisced at the beginning of his speech about May 2003 when in Tirana, the states of Albania, Croatia, Macedonia (at that time) and the US signed the US-Adriatic Charter which was later joined by others. Expressing his positive feeling about the perspective of the Republic of North Macedonia joining NATO as the 30th member state, the Ambassador said that it was not easy for his country to return to the path of Euro-Atlantic progress but that the government has achieved this. 

It was done according to him especially by opening the strategic dialogue and trust building with its neighbor Greece, finalized in the historic Prespa Agreement.  

Charge d’affaires of Kosovo to Albania, Syle Ukshini in his speech focused on the intensive relation between Kosovo and NATO given the 20th anniversary of the NATO intervention in Serbia and Kosovo.

“Without NATO we would not have a homeland,” was his emotional opening continued by his description of NATO as an instrument of global security which cannot be substituted. Ukshini said that Kosovo’s approach was very clear and its western orientation very resolute. He said that Kosovo sees its own membership in NATO as the finalization of the security architecture in the region. He thanked all the men and women in uniform who served and are serving in Kosovo for their contribution. 

Former deputy minister of foreign affairs and current adviser to the Prime Minister office, Odeta Barbullushi in her presentation focused on the multiple anniversaries that this year marks, describing NATO’s enlargement to the Central and Eastern European countries as the natural fulfillment of its profile. Barbullushi brought up again the vulnerability of the Western Balkans region which is exposed to threats and security issues coming from both the East and the South and in this context the guarantee of NATO for regional security.

Barbullushi focused on NATO as a “community of security” where the word ‘community’ was as important as the other one, since what unites the member states, their commitments and their values are as crucial to the Alliance as the interest to safeguard their countries. 

Gjuraj, who is also a Rector of the European University of Tirana also mentioned some of the current challenges and parallel dynamics such as the state of regional cooperation, democratic development and good governance for both NATO members and aspiring countries as well as external issues such as perceived Russian impact and other external actors efforts to exert influence in the region. 

The third panel, chaired by journalist Lutfi Dervishi, sought to explore the new security environment and the NATO future.

Marko Bello spoke about the dangers NATO is facing from doubts cast from within, and especially from US President Donald Trump. 

According to Bello, Trump’s ideology of putting ‘America First’ has definitely worried many Europeans, but other American officials do not share the same doubts and NATO’s last actions in the region prove that. 

On his side Plator Kalakula, from the foreign ministry’s NATO Directorate, said that since 2014, the international security situation has been unprecedented since the Cold War. 

“NATO is misunderstood in many countries. Member States do not lose their sovereignty by joining NATO. Even a small country like Albania can block a NATO decision if it does not coincide with its interests. The approach towards the south, because the threat came from a non-state actor, such as ISIS. The budget issue is key, especially with the current US administration,” Kalakula said.

Meanwhile, AIIS researcher Alfonc Rakaj concluded by saying that Albania’s initiative in participating in far away missions fails at home, where we don’t take care of our democratic values.

The conference took place at the Tirana International Hotel, on March 21, 2018. 
                    [post_title] => AIIS conference: “70 years of NATO, 10 years of Albania membership” 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 23 - Albania ranked last among Balkan countries on the 2018 World Happiness Report, written by a group of independent experts and produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The annual survey of 156 countries found again this year that Scandinavian countries - already known for their high standard of living and rewarding work-life balance - rank first when it comes to happiness, the first four spots going to Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

The Netherlands overcame Switzerland from last year, coming in fifth.

Last in the report came impoverished and war-stricken Afghanistan, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Out of the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia ranked the happiest - an indicator of its relatively wealthy and peaceful context, while Kosovo surprised in the report by reaching 46th place - over passing even economically progressing Romania - reflecting that when it comes to happiness, perceptions of contentment count far more than money and standard of living alone.

Most Balkan countries came in the 70s band. 

Serbia ranks first among the region’s countries, in 70th place, followed by Montenegro in 73rd place and Croatia in 75th. Bosnia and Herzegovina came 78th and North Macedonia 84th.

Surprisingly, Bulgaria - which is a part of the European Union since 2007, ranked lower than most Balkan countries at 97th place, only surpassed by Albania, which ranks as low as 107th place. 

Albania ranks only above economically destroyed Venezuela and Palestine - a reflection of the grim political and socio-economic situation the country has been facing over the last years.

Of other countries in the world, the UK comes in at 15th place, the US in 19th and Russia at 68th place.

The survey reaches a score for countries by drawing on a wide range of factors – not just wealth – from interest in elections to pro-social behavior, such as generosity and treatment of migrants, media freedom and even rates of digital technology use. 

 

*The full report for 2018 can be found here: http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2019/

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-03-22 11:32:36
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By  Susanne Schütz

On 4th April 2019, NATO will mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty. At the same time, Albania will celebrate 10 year of its membership in NATO – two important anniversaries which, indeed, deserve to be commemorated.

Going back 70 years to 1949 Germany was a war torn country, situated exactly on the border between East and West. The iron curtain – up until 30 years ago – ran through the middle of my country. Germany became a member of the alliance in 1955, once the Bundeswehr had been founded. During the Cold War, the importance of the security shield which NATO provided to Germany and its Western European neighbors, cannot be overestimated. Germany was always able to rely on its partners, and first and foremost on the US, even when the Cold War was at its hottest.

When finally the Cold War came to an end, and in 1991 the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, some saw (or wished?) the same fate for NATO as well. But NATO adapted to new challenges and - moreover – became a reliable ally also to some of its former “enemies”.

Up to this date, the dispute over whether NATO promised to Russia not to expand towards former Warsaw Pact territory for some is still on the agenda. However, as a matter of fact, it was not NATO expanding towards Middle and Eastern Europe, but, on the contrary, these countries were asking to become members of NATO because they wanted to be part of NATO’s security shield, and, more than that, be part of the transatlantic alliance which – other than the Warsaw Pact – has always been more than a mere military or defensive alliance but rather a transatlantic community of values.

And it is precisely this feature which made NATO attractive also to Albania and to the countries in this region – although, of course, NATO’s role in the Balkans remains a controversial to some! Still, while NATO and European military deployment in Kosovo and Bosnia played a critical role in de-escalating these conflicts, it was ultimately the impact of NATO’s and the EU’s enlargement policy that helped build and maintain peace in this region.

As early as 1994 Albania became a member of the Partnership for Peace-programme through which it learned about the values and objectives of NATO, as well as the expectations placed on member states’ ability for cooperation. Leading up to its entrance into NATO in 2009, Albania also undertook significant domestic, political, and military reforms.

Albania has since significantly contributed to security and stability in this strategically important region in South Eastern Europe. In addition, Albania has also contributed to international NATO led missions, i.e. Albania deployed over 3.000 troops with ISAF. It has also been an active supporter of the campaign against terrorism since 2001, and continues its participation in the face of new and emerging threats such as the Islamic State.

We welcome very much that in 2017 Montenegro became NATO’S 29th member and Northern Macedonia will follow early next year. And it seems that even relations between NATO and Serbia – 20 years after the NATO bombardment during the Kosovo crisis – are slowly getting better.

Today, NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges to which NATO is formulating adequate and adapted answers: conflict in Eastern Ukraine/Crimea, the post-INF scenario, but also Cyber and Hybrid warfares. And it is precisely against the background of newly developing crises also in Europe that the EU is - in support of NATO - increasing its operability in crisis management and its defense capabilities through PESCO – the Permanent Structured Cooperation, which was created by 25 EU Member States in late 2017.

I am convinced, that today is far from being “outdated” as some have stated. We Germans know very well how important the transatlantic partnership remains for international cooperation and multilateral understanding, especially in a world of growing uncertainties.

[post_title] => "NATO at the age of 70, is facing many new challenges" [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => nato-at-the-age-of-70-is-facing-many-new-challenges [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-22 11:32:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-22 10:32:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141000 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140961 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-18 14:53:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-18 13:53:18 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 18 - The US Department of State published on Friday its annual report on the implementation of human rights in Albania where, once again during 2018, problems such as corruption, ballot-buying, the deadlock the judicial system is facing due to the justice reform, the impunity of senior officials and the threats to media freedom were reported. Corruption and impunity According to the State Department, impunity remains a problem in Albania. The criminal prosecution and especially the punishment of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent. Officials, politicians, judges, and people with strong business interests were often able to avoid prosecution. Although the government coined mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption, the number of police corruption reports was 3,832 denunciations by phone calls on the green anticorruption line until August 2018 and 6,439 complaints in 2017. There were also 1,217 written complaints until August 2018 and 1,048 written complaints for 2017. The fact that former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri remains under investigation - now is officially charged - for strong links to organized crime and abuse of office was also mentioned, with the report stating “a former interior minister remained under investigation for ties to organized crime and abuse of office.” Meanwhile, the police continues to not always apply the law evenly. The report states that political, criminal and personal ties, poor infrastructure, lack of equipment and inadequate monitoring have often impacted law enforcement. However, the report says, the government’s efforts to fight corruption and its police vetting were hindered due to lack of funds. The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by public officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The report adds that although prosecutors have succeeded in condemning corruption cases at low levels, punishability on high levels of government remains rare as a result of fear of punishment, a general lack of human resources, and corruption in the judiciary itself.   Elections The report’s executive summary states “the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported the elections respected fundamental freedoms but were marred by allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters.” The OSCE further noted, “Continued politicization of election-related bodies and institutions as well as widespread allegations of vote buying and pressure on voters detracted from public trust in the electoral process.” The report also quotes the OSCE mission in noting “an overall orderly election day” but found that “important procedures were not fully respected in a considerable number of voting centers observed.”   Justice reform and vetting The State Department says that as of August, 44 percent of judges and prosecutors who had undergone vetting had failed and been dismissed. As a result, only two of nine judges remained on the Constitutional Court; the others had been dismissed during the vetting process or resigned before undergoing vetting, which deprived the court of a quorum. Further on, as of August, 15 of the 19 seats on the Supreme Court were also vacant, and the court faced a considerable case backlog. The politicization of appointments to the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court threatened to undermine the independence and integrity of these institutions. As of October 24, the commission had dismissed 25 judges and prosecutors and confirmed 28, while 16 others had resigned from duty rather than undergo vetting.   Freedom of expression and the press According to the report, “independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of viewpoints, although there were efforts to exert direct and indirect political and economic pressure on the media, including by threats and violence against journalists who tried to investigate crime and corruption.” Meanwhile, business owners freely used media outlets to gain favor and promote their interests with political parties. Most owners of private television stations used the content of their broadcasts to influence government action toward their other businesses. Further on, the report notes that political pressure, corruption, and lack of funding constrained independent print media, and journalists reportedly practiced self-censorship. Moreover, economic insecurity due to a lack of enforceable labor contracts reduced reporters’ independence and contributed to bias in reporting. The report also mentions that there were multiple reports of violence and intimidation against members of the media, and political and business interests subjected journalists to pressure. “On August 30, an unknown assailant shot 10 times at the home of crime reporter Klodiana Lala’s parents. No injuries were reported, but Lala’s two daughters were in the home at the time of the attack. Lala often reported on organized crime and law enforcement matters, including judicial reform,” the report states. In September the chair of the Union of Albanian Journalists stated that 12 journalists had filed asylum requests in EU member states, citing threats due to their jobs, while in April the Union of Albanian Journalists expressed concern that during the first four months of the year, judges and politicians had initiated 14 lawsuits against journalists.   Domestic violence The report says the government did not enforce the law on domestic violence effectively, and officials did not prosecute spousal rape. The concept of spousal rape was not well understood, and authorities often did not consider it a crime. The report also mentions the case of Xhisiela Maloku, who “alleged that Rexhep Rraja, her boyfriend and son of Socialist Party Assembly member Rrahman Rraja, had burned and kicked her in a hotel on July 19. Forensic experts verified the nature of the wounds. Maloku later claimed she fabricated the allegations because she was jealous, but members of the opposition Democratic Party asserted Rrahman Rraja had pressured police to force Maloku to recant, citing claims by former police officer Emiliano Nuhu.” Meanwhile, the report says, a 2017 UN Development Program (UNDP) and state statistical agency (INSTAT) report estimated that more than 53 percent of women and girls in the country had been victims of domestic violence during the previous year.   Education The report states that parents must purchase supplies, books, uniforms, and space heaters for some classrooms; these were prohibitively expensive for many families, particularly Roma and other minorities, while many families also cited these costs as a reason for not sending girls to school. Observers believed that child abuse was increasing, especially in schools. According to a 2017 report by World Vision, 70 percent of children in the country reported experiencing some type of violence. The definition of violence in both these surveys included psychological violence, and was not limited to physical abuse. Services for abuse victims were not readily available. The country also lack adequate facilities for pretrial detention of children. According to the NGO Terre des Hommes, as of July, 17 children were in pretrial detention and nine were incarcerated. Since the law prohibits the prosecution of children younger than 14 for burglary, criminal gangs at times used displaced children to burglarize homes, while the number of children engaged in street-related activities (such as begging or selling items) increased during the summer, particular around the tourist areas.   Work conditions Despite the government establishing a 40-hour workweek, the report says “the government has no standards for a minimum number of rest periods per week and rarely enforces laws related to maximum work hours, limits on overtime, or premium pay for overtime, especially in the private sector.” “Working conditions in the manufacturing, construction, and mining sectors frequently were poor and, in some cases, dangerous. Violations of wage and occupational-safety standards occurred most frequently in the textile, footwear, construction, and mining industries.” Lastly, workers often could not remove themselves from situations that endangered their health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Employers did not effectively protect employees in this situation.   [post_title] => Department of State: Albania lags behind in corruption, fighting impunity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => department-of-state-albanian-lags-behind-in-corruption-fighting-impunity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-18 14:54:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-18 13:54:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140961 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140955 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-16 20:05:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-16 19:05:55 [post_content] => TIRANA, March 16 - The united opposition protested on Saturday again against the Rama's government, which it accuses of winning the last elections through illegal ballot buying. The protest’s main demand is a caretaker government which can facilitate early elections. The joint opposition protest in Tirana was accompanied by tensions in front of the parliament, when protesters tried to break the protective police line. Police used tear gas, while protesters were reported to throw strong items to law enforcement officials. Later, in front of the parliament, police also used water to disperse protesters. Some protesters were injured, falling on the ground, along with police officers. A day after the protest, police notified it arrested 14 people and is searching for seven others, all to be punished for the acts of violence during the rally. For 11 other protesters, criminal proceeding has began in a free state. The same decision was reached for the Secretary General of Democratic Party Gazmend Bardhi, as he was the person who requested permission to protest. The detainees are charged with the criminal offenses "Organization and participation in illegal gatherings and manifestations", "Violence due to duty", "Violent opposition to a police officer", "Disruption of public order and peace" and "Keeping and using explosive materials.” Police explained that "procedural actions were conducted on the basis of an analysis of film footage, service reports, and other evidence collected by the investigative group. At the scene police have collected as material evidence about 130 capsules banned as life-threatening.” For its part, the DP accused the police on Sunday of escalating unprovoked violence towards the protesters with the sole purpose of scattering them, scaring them and keeping them away from the protest, but that it got its answer from the people. Basha: We are not a destabilizing factor Opposition leader Lulzim Basha denied criticism that the opposition’s decision to resign its parliamentary mandates is destabilizing the country. "Albania is destabilized by crime, we will put an end to this destabilization, Edi Rama should leave an hour early," said Basha. The president of Albania, Ilir Meta, who cut his visit to Azerbaijan short, reacted on Saturday. He said that he is following the developments with concern, and has called for the avoidance of confrontation and violence. In a later interview, Meta added that all political parties involved in the serious deadlock that’s been created should take responsibility and not hide behind international representations in the country. “I think that the political class should assume its responsibility and not hide behind any international as it has been so far and issues should be resolved in a transparent, principled manner, away from the bargains and misuses even of any internationals,” Meta said. Meanwhile, both the US Embassy to Albania and the EU Delegation warned ahead of the protest that violence during rallies is “illegal” and “intolerable,” through two different statements. The international community has openly criticized the opposition's decision to abandon  parliament by resigning their lawmakers’ mandates collectively. The opposition, however, has clearly announced that there will be no stepping back until the government's departure. Democratic leader Lulzim Basha said yesterday “the protest will be another chance for Albanians to unite and raise their voice.” Protesters symbolically surround institutions  The protest was organized in the form of a march, where protesters "symbolically" surrounded the Prime Minister’s Office, and then proceeded to parliament. The citizens’ march and symbolic siege continued under the sound of a song "My country" and was headed by two opposition leaders, Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha and Socialist Movement for Integration leader Monika Kryemadhi. The opposition has demanded early elections, and a caretaker government that will remove Edi Rama from office as prime minister. The protest takes place in absence of political parties’ symbols. Meanwhile, Rama has stated that the government can not be touched, as it is a mandate given by the people. Protesters have repeatedly called "government of crime", "Rama go", and "we want Albania like the rest of Europe.” About 1800 police officers were committed to ensure the protest would run smoothly, staying around the perimeter of the Prime Minister's Office. This is the opposition’s fifth protest, which kicked off on February 16 in front of the Prime Minister’s Office and continued with several protests in front of the parliament. The united opposition accuses the governing Socialist majority of winning the elections through ballot buying. In protest, the opposition resigned its parliamentary mandates. Reactions from Germany On Thursday, German Minister of State Michael Roth told Deutsche Welle that they consider the opposition’s parliament boycott is irresponsible. "Because it's not just parliament or government boycotting, but also democracy. The parliament is the place to debate. We asked for intervention seeking moderation. But I'm afraid the situation is already very poisoned.” Meanwhile, rapporteur for Albania in the Foreign Commission Christian Schmidt thinks the government is also responsible for the crisis. "This is not normal. The parliament lives by debate. It is up to the government to guarantee parliamentary cooperation,” said the former German minister for DW. Schmidt has been Albania’s rapporteur at the Bundestag’s Foreign Commission for a year - one of the commissions that decide to open EU negotiations for the country. Schmidt told DW that he plans to travel to Albania soon to be informed about the situation. "I particularly want to see how much the opposition is involved in parliamentary procedures," he stressed. Germany's decision to open negotiations will depend on the progress report of the European Union Commission that will be published on May 29th. But to give final approval to the EU Council on 19 June, Germany will have to get the Bundestag's approval.   [post_title] => People march against gov’t seeking new elections [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => fifth-national-anti-govt-rally-takes-place-in-albania [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-21 21:12:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-21 20:12:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140955 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140952 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-16 07:37:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-16 06:37:03 [post_content] => FORUM   Tirana Times approached a number of prominent Albanian scholars and international relations and foreign affairs experts with the following question: "Recently here has been talk of growing Russian influence in Albania. What are your thoughts concerning this and in what areas or fields may this influence more easily manifest?" Ilir Kalemaj  Professor at University of New York  Russian influence in Albania has been the most limited among the Southeastern countries and it has been so continuously since the rupturing of relations between Soviet Union and Albania in 1961. Traditionally there has been meagre political relations, little economic exchange, as well as little geopolitical interest from Russia vis-a-vis Albania, while Albania, especially in post-communist period has continuously kept a staunch Euro-Atlantic orientation. Most of the relations between the two countries have been in developing social and cultural networks and in recent years some interest in tourism. Albania was also among the first W. Balkan countries to join NATO in 2009, which Russia accepted without much fuss, given the natural pro-Western inclination of Albanian political elites and widespread popular support for American and European allies. Whereas, in the case of Montenegro and North Macedonia joining NATO, the reaction of Moscow has been quite acrimonious.   Lately, Moscow has been quite active in organizing cyberwarfare, which consists in chiefly distributing disinformation and propaganda via Sputnik, Russia Today or other state-supported agencies, directed chiefly at populations of Western European countries and USA. Also it has effectively used internet trolls to spread certain messages and fake news as a means of information warfare. Albania is not particularly the focus of FSB, GRU and other Russian intelligence services that have supported in other countries such cyberwarfare mechanisms but it cannot be taken for granted that such risks are totally negligible in the future.   Albert Rakipi  AIIS Chairman/ Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs  There is indeed a return of the geopolitical rivalry between the Great Powers both at the global scale as well as in specific regions such as the Balkans. What can be claimed with certainty now is the fact that international relations are in a transitory phase when it comes to relations between Great Powers. At the geopolitical level there seems to be a retreat of the United States from the omnipresent position at the global arena and an increase of the efforts of China to assume a greater role in the international level at least with initiatives such as the One Belt one Road project, as well as the 16+1 initiative, in which Albania is part of. Russia is without doubt one of the global great powers that has been trying to reclaim and restore its privileged and ambitious status with a number of concrete initiatives pertinent to its relations to the US, EU, the West in general and the critical region of the Balkans in particular. In addition to the concrete interest that Russia, just as other powers, might have in the region, the Balkans and their issues are used as a proxy for the ambitions of Russia of obtaining a new status in the international relations sphere. This is not a secret. For some countries in the Balkans, there exist numerous historical, geopolitical, cultural and religious reasons which favor a special relation with Russia. This is definitely not the case of Albania which does not have any dilemma about its own pro-western orientation. However both the pro-Western approach and the real integration of the country in the democratic world are not matters of foreign policy. First and foremost they concern the building of a functional democratic society and the overall development of the country according to the democratic model. The latter is very different from the autocratic and populist regimes or even sultanates to which the one in Albania is starting to resemble increasingly over time. This is the real danger in Albania and in some other countries too. I have followed closely and with disappointment the efforts of the government and of the media close to it to invent ‘an enemy’ of Albania’s path towards integration in the European Union. This alleged enemy that is an obstacle for Albania to be integrated with the EU is Russia and her influence over the Albanian opposition. This is an amateur effort and a ridiculous one.  Albania’s membership in NATO, the departure of Albania for the absurd isolationist regime, the abolition of the visa regime with the EU countries are all outstanding achievements of today’s opposition. The Democratic Party has been the only one that has had no dilemmas about the pro-western approach in foreign policy. I think that suing the important institutions of national security, such as the Intelligence Service, for purposes of the internal political fight is very clearly wrong and has a very damaging impact.   Edith Harxhi  Director of Albanian Policy Center/ Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs  There is a serious concern on the russian influence in our region during the last ten years, however the threats have increased specifically during the last couple of years. The fragile and hybrid  democracies in the region mixed with an increased violation of liberties and freedom in many countries in the Balkans due to increased authoritarian and oligarchic regimes, have made possible for Russia to penetrate easier in a region where EU could not do enough and was slow and late in assisting its full integration.   The current Russian influence in the region has also directed towards illiberal economies in the Balkans and has taken a new economic and financial dimension apart of the military and cultural one. Albania is not only not immune but there is an increased offshore russian venture in the country and higher cultural and media investment.   Besnik Mustafaj  President of Council of Ambassadors/ Former Minister of Foreign Affairs  It is a fact that in recent years there has been a noticeable increase of Russia's attention to the Balkans with the aim of preventing or minimizing the Euro-Atlantic progress of the countries in this region. For many geopolitical reasons, Tirana has a specific importance regarding developments in the Balkans. This importance has increased significantly after Kosovo’s independence and the Ohrid Agreement in North Macedonia. Consequently, Albania can not be out of Russia's attention. On the contrary.   But Albania shares the most pro-European and pro-US public opinion in the region. This public opinion rejects any political approaches to Russia. Moscow has adapted to this reality. I believe that the information provided by the Albanian intelligence chief in the Parliamentary Security Commission has been credited with the fact that Russia is financing ovulatory media and portals in our country. A fresh example: in the five-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia, many media aiming at national diffusion and many portals, published a long written statement by the Russian ambassador in Tirana regarding this event. And there was no publications to express the West's point of view, which is officially the point of view of the Albanian government. Impossible to directly influence political decision-making, Russia aims to shed confusion on the Albanian public opinion. If this continues, in the long run, the damage will be significant.   There came a point where I noticed signs of Russian influence in the behavior of Prime Minister Rama. Supported by Serbia, Russia is seeking to play an equal role with the EU in the Pristina-Belgrade negotiation process. In Kosovo, this seems to have only taken the approval of President Thaci. Supporting President Thaci against Prime Minister Haradinaj and Parliament, the Albanian Prime Minister in fact helps the Russian efforts to take on a qualitatively new role in the future architecture of the Balkans.   Aldo Bumci  Former Minister of Foreign Affairs  Albanians are by far the most pro-Western, pro-American and pro-European people in the region. So Russian influence cannot be traced in the classical forms it manifests itself in other neighboring countries. Yet there are two instances, Russian model of government and policy, that have surfaced in Albania. First, the model of government; what has been called Putinism. Albania has more resemblance with Putinism, a modern authoritarian system than the democratic system stipulated in the constitution. There are no independent institutions, no checks and balances in place, captured national economy through oligarchs, captured judiciary, strong media control and censorship,  rigged elections with massive vote-buying through criminal money, all flagrant elements of state capture. Basic rights have been jeopardized and poverty has reached alarming levels, 47 % of the population live up to 4 euros a day. Instead of rule of law, Rule of Rama is the only standard set in the country. Albania has entered its second year without a Constitutional Court, and no one knows when it will be set up. This is an unprecedented and extremely dangerous development that has threatened basic rights. The General Prosecutor has been appointed by the government with less than simple majority, while the Constitution requires Qualified majority voting. According to the State Department report, Interpol and other reports, Albania is the main supplier of cannabis to Europe; a main gate for supply of cocaine and heroin to Europe, and a base for the operations of the regional organized crime.     The second dimension of Russian influence is manifested in the proposal for land exchange, or border corrections, between Kosovo and Serbia. This proposal runs against the very foundations on which is build  Western Europe after the Second WW, and Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This proposal will open the Pandora's box and threatens what has been achieved in the Balkans in the late 20 years. Inevitably this will set in  motion the process that will result in the destruction of Bosnia and Macedonia, with far reaching consequences for the security of the Balkans and Europe. Border corrections, land exchanges and ethnically clean states, are not Western ideas, but Russian ones. Russia needs a precedent that it can apply to its neighboring countries and ongoing crises in its neighborhood. The Albanian Prime Minister is one of the main sponsors of this idea.   Arta Dade  Former Minister of Foreign Affairs  Russia presence in the region in order to create destabilization and obstruction to the advancement of the Western Balkan countries towards NATO and EU has been one of the objectives of Putin’s foreign policy .The last visit to Belgrade was an attempt to give messages not only to Serbia but to the region. The failed efforts in Montenegro ,in  Northern Macedonia and recently even with Greek  authorities in the case of implementation of Prespa  Agreement is indicative of the fact that even in the countries where Russia is certain to have support in pro -Russian  population or political segments or religion affiliation proves that the euro- Atlantic agenda is far stronger. Voices to start changing borders   in the region might create grounds for favoring Russia influence in this part of Europe and give Russia a strong card to use it as an excuse for its interference   in violation of territorial integrity of certain countries around Russia. In Albania, the most pro NATO and pro EU country in the region, there is no grounds  for increase of Russian influence with all attempts for that by diplomatic presence which is in the normality of the work and mission of diplomats of all countries. There are failed attempts in some segments in media to portray Putin’s Russia as democratic or pro western as well as playing important   global role in resolving crises like that in Syria or to imply that the protests of the opposition against the government might be incited by Russia. With that interpretation what about anti- government protests in Belgrade which in no way can be linked with Putin? With all that Albania needs to  accelerate efforts to advance in EU agenda and EU on its side should  be on the alert to keep up with the EU project in the WB and leave no room for other regressive projects and actors. I hope in the months to come this will not remain a wishful aspiration. Piro Misha  Director of Institute for Dialogue and Communication  In addition to recent talks, this is actually a much-debated topic, not just for Albania, but for the entire region. The Western Balkans is a region where interests collide - Russian and Turkish influences alike. This part of the Balkans, which atteins some strategic objectives, seeks to become part of the Euro-Atlantic block - and without a doubt, this fact is against the interests of other big powers, regional or global. First and foremost is Russia, but also Turkey, both of which try to hinder this by creating alternative scenarios, so I think it is natural. It is difficult to speak of concrete actors, though; it is precisely SHISH that should determine those. It may manifest in many different areas, considering how Russia is also against the further expansion of the Euro-Atlantic blog. The most prominent is the media, and different kinds of blogs, that very often publish reports or materials which are clearly unnatural for an Albanian media. These articles contain information that clearly depict Russian influence and with the aim of changing the public opinion in Albania. It is just as difficult to determine whether political actors fall under certain categories as well, but essential to know that our Euro-Atlantic project undoubtedly goes against the objectives and interests of other sides, such as Russia. [post_title] => FORUM: Is Russian influence real? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => forum-is-russian-influence-real [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-27 06:46:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-27 05:46:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140952 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140913 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-15 10:29:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:29:23 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 11 - The Albanian government proposed severe punishments, including imprisonment, to avoid violent episodes in football stadiums, such as the March 3 attack on the referee of the Superliga Kamza-Laci, who was violated not only by fans who entered the pitch, but also from Kamza Club heads. At a meeting with the Football Federation, where he went accompanied by some government cabinet members and heads of parliamentary committees, Prime Minister Edi Rama stated that the government would intervene in the Criminal Code and make crossing the field’s white lines and entering into the pitch punished with three years of prison. “Whoever crosses the white lines and enters the green carpet is a physical threat to those who are there doing their job, be it footballers, or referees. So it is necessary to urgently discuss it and apply this penalty immediately, at least three years, Rama added. In addition to imprisonment, the government is also considering also overviewing stadium expulsion for life for perpetrators. The episodes of violence have long caused controversy between State Police and the Football Federation, as the law does not foresee that security at the stadium be entrusted to the police. To overcome this situation, Rama proposed implementing a formula already tested as he said in Germany or Spain "where the interior ministries, in cooperation with the Federation and the Professional League, agreed and signed the so-called Security Regulation for stadiums.” According to Rama there is a need for an agreement and in this agreement the police should be directly involved in the security of the match, even within the field according to the defined needs and under the terms of the agreement in cooperation with the Federation. Rama also stated that "the problem of violence and the interventions in the Criminal Code must be done quickly and give a clear message that nobody will be tolerated at this point.”   [post_title] => Football fans risk imprisonment and life stadium bans under new gov’t law [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => football-fans-risk-imprisonment-and-life-stadium-bans-under-new-govt-law [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-15 10:29:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:29:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140913 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 140909 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-15 10:24:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:24:05 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 14 - The Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said in a radio interview on Thursday that negotiations between Greece and Albania on a number of important issues have slowed down also due to Albania’s deadlock - something official Athens takes in consideration. Another reason Katrougalos mentioned when asked on the progress of Albania-Greece negotiations and the interrupted dialogue, which had taken off when former Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias were in office, was that the Greek government was expecting a clearer answer on greek minority issues. He mainly referred to two laws related to the minorities’ property protection at the front of the Himara coast and the right for self-declaration that they are part of the Greek minority. “For the moment, we’ve received some answers from the Albanian side, there is a “fusion” of negotiations, but it is premature to say there will be a positive or negative result,” he said. Katrougalos added the Greek side wants to see an improvement of bilateral issues between the countries and for Albania’s EU path to open. Up until last July, Athens and Tirana were conducting a number of head-to-head meetings through Kotzias and Bushati, in order to reach agreements on a number of open-ended issues between them, accumulated through the years. Agreements were actually reached on building cemeteries for the Greek soldiers who died in Albania during WWII, the apostille stamps, while the abrogation of the War Law with Albania is still expected by Athens. Meanwhile, the Greek side removed any possibility that the Cham issue would be on the table for discussion, while retaining rights to negotiate greek minority issues. Nonetheless, the issue that was most debated by political actors from all sides of the spectrums, experts and the public opinion alike was a new maritime border deal between the countries and the lack of transparency that accompanied the negotiations between Bushati and Kotzias. The negotiations to reach a new maritime border agreement that would finally divide the naval space shared by the countries were promoted publicly by both Greek and Albanian Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Edi Rama, despite the lack of information on the negotiators and the non-functionality of Albania’s Constitutional Court under the ongoing justice reform process. The functionality of a Constitutional Court is particularly important concerning the maritime border deal, since the previous one - negotiated by then ruling Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Sali Berisha - was rendered useless by Albania’s Constitutional Court for violating the country’s interests and the constitution. In context of Albania’s frozen Constitutional Court under the lack of judges and prosecutors, President Ilir Meta had stated that no agreement would be decreed on his side without a court, only to have Rama disagree about its necessity in ratifying the deal. However, Rama and the Socialist government have had to face many challenges in addition to the Constitutional Court freeze, including the massive university student protests last December which forced him to reshuffle a big part of his government cabinet, among whom Bushati, and the opposition protests which have, as of late, left the parliament without a functioning opposition. However, asked concerning the division of territorial waters between the countries, Katrougalos said this is the one issue that will be finalized despite the progress of negotiations, as confirmed by Tsipras himself, part of a similar negotiation that will take place with Italy and Egypt as well.   [post_title] => Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-greece-negotiations-on-pause-due-to-deadlock [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-15 10:24:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-15 09:24:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=140909 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 141060 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-03-26 06:35:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-03-26 05:35:18 [post_content] => TIRANA, Mar. 26 - On Tuesday Facebook announced it has shut down several accounts from Iran, Russia, North Macedonia and Kosovo, citing “coordinated harmful actions” as a reason. 2,632 pages, groups, and total accounts were removed from Facebook and Instagram for activities related to the mentioned countries, the social media platform said. 513 accounts were related to Iran, while 1,907 were linked to Russia, said Facebook. Russia-related accounts were largely removed because of spamming and only a few of them had engaged in coordinated harmful actions, according to the statement. Facebook also said the accounts were blocked based on the way they functioned rather than for their content. The social media platform has recently taken action against such accounts in many countries since it has been heavily criticized over the last two years of delays - accepted by the company itself - in developing instruments to combat extremism and propaganda operations. The company also closed several accounts related to Iran in early January. [post_title] => Facebook shuts down Kosovo, North Macedonia accounts for “harmful activity” [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => facebook-shuts-down-kosovo-north-macedonia-accounts-for-harmful-activity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-03-27 06:37:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-03-27 05:37:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=141060 [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. 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