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Socialist gov’t prohibited from using trademark PPPs over mounting scandals

Socialist gov’t prohibited from using trademark PPPs over mounting scandals

TIRANA, Jan. 23 – A bill sent to the parliament on Tuesday signals the end of legally being able to approve “unsought concessions” starting July 2019, thus cancelling the most controversial mechanism the government has been using over the last

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Albanian President Ilir Meta on official visit to Montenegro

Albanian President Ilir Meta on official visit to Montenegro

TIRANA, Jan. 22 – Albanian President Ilir Meta was invited from his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic for a two-day official visit that started on Monday Jan. 21. In the press conference that followed the meeting, Meta said both counties have

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PM Rama hands over foreign ministry to deputy minister

PM Rama hands over foreign ministry to deputy minister

TIRANA, Jan. 23 – On Rama’s first day also as the country foreign minister on Wednesday, he handed over the institution’s leadership to the current deputy minister Gent Cakaj. “This is the shortest speech in my life. In my function

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Professors join protesting students for one-day strike

Professors join protesting students for one-day strike

TIRANA, Jan. 21 – Professors from the history-philology faculty at the University of Tirana held today a one-day strike in support of student protests and in opposition to some government decisions that violate, according to them, university autonomy. The strike

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EU Commissioner Hahn and Dutch FM stress need for further, more stable reforms

EU Commissioner Hahn and Dutch FM stress need for further, more stable reforms

TIRANA, Jan. 18 – European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn visited Tirana on Thursday evening, meeting Prime Minister Edi Rama to discuss progress in reforms related to EU integration and recent political developments in the region. “The Commissioner underlined that

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Albania’s top striker back to Switzerland after disappointing spells in Spain, Poland

Albania’s top striker back to Switzerland after disappointing spells in Spain, Poland

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 16 – Albanian international Armando Sadiku is back to Switzerland following a disappointing one-and-a-half year spell at Poland and Spain top leagues marred by few playing opportunities and injuries that kept him off the pitch

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‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities

‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities

TIRANA, Jan. 15 – Klement Balili, one of Albania’s most notorious crime scene protagonists, handed himself in to the authorities on Tuesday, after almost two years of playing hide and seek with justice. Balili has been listed along some of

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Four under charges for failing to guard military base

Four under charges for failing to guard military base

TIRANA, Jan. 14 – The Vlora court remanded in custody four people after the weapons’ warehouse of  the Pashaliman military base was raided last week. Two base guards Lesko Ramosaco and Edlir Nelaj, student Ardit Ramaj and nurse Ervist Memsulaj

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“Albanians are the UK’s kings of cocaine,” the Guardian says

“Albanians are the UK’s kings of cocaine,” the Guardian says

TIRANA, Jan. 15 – A recent Guardian article has dubbed Albanians in the UK as the “kings of cocaine,” saying in particular that “the Albanian organized criminal syndicates are consolidating power within the EU criminal underworld and are on their

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Albania orders ban on more than 340 online betting sites

Albania orders ban on more than 340 online betting sites

TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albania’s electronic communications watchdog has ordered the country’s internet service providers to ban access to hundreds of local and international online sports betting and casino portals following a nationwide ban on online gambling, effective since Jan.

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 23 - A bill sent to the parliament on Tuesday signals the end of legally being able to approve “unsought concessions” starting July 2019, thus cancelling the most controversial mechanism the government has been using over the last years particularly in the sector of infrastructure.

The bill, coming from the ministry of finance, says it will no longer be a right to accept “unsought proposals” for concessions of the kind that have currently allowed the Socialist-led government to sign contracts worth over one billion euros.

An accompanying report to the bill explains the change is coming as a result of “recommendations” made by international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The bill was drafted at the time former Minister of Finance Arben Ahmetaj was still leading the institutions, only to be replaced a few days later by Anila Denaj, in a government reshuffle decided by Prime Minister Edi Rama. It was handed over to the parliament by the Council of Ministers on January 9.

“This bill verbally stipulates that after July 1, 2019, the private sector will no longer have the right to propose concession projects/PPP, in the form of an unsought proposal, for the construction, operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of national roads of special importance,” is written in the report published on the website of the Albanian Parliament.

“This bill proposes, starting from July 1, 2019, for unsought proposals to be allowed only for the construction of projects and/or services in ports, airports, production and distribution of electricity, heating energy and natural gas distribution,” the ministry further argues.

Albania’s current Socialist government has been heavily criticized at home and abroad for a big number of concession contracts of considerable value which have been enabled either by special laws that avoid competition and determine the winner in advance, or through “unsought proposals,” which, in practice, completely cancel out any competition and give the proposing entity an invincible advantage by government decision, thus making the race a simple formality.

Various institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the US State Department, or the European Commission have raised major concerns about the special laws passed by the current government to negotiate concessionary contracts at the expense of taxpayers.

According to the IMF, "the framework of the government's work for the selection and prioritization of investment projects, as well as for the assessment of fiscal costs and risks, remains insufficient,” while the IMF itself had requested in early 2018 the prohibition of granting new, unsought concessions.

According to the US State Department, “the growing use of public and private partnership contracts has narrowed competition opportunities, including from foreign investors, in infrastructure and other sectors.”

Meanwhile, the EC forced the government last September to renounce the initial bill that provided private negotiation with ‘Fusha Sh.p.k’ for the construction of a national theater in exchange for the development of a part of public land occupied by the existing theater building, because the law brought about a competition restriction and was followed by great public unrest and doubts over its legality.

In the context of continuous scandals’ debunking in the past months, the government announced on Monday it will be withdrawing from negotiations on its most expensive concession contract - the Thumane-Kashar highway, valued at 435 million euros - to channel the funds in the public education sector. 

Following up the government’s claims, opposition Democratic Party MPs rushed to point out the 2019 State Budget does not foresee the government beginning to pay back its Thumane-Kashar highway PPP monetary obligations until 2020, thus raising eligible doubts on the true reasons behind the government’s withdrawal from its favorite tactic. 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 22 - Albanian President Ilir Meta was invited from his Montenegrin counterpart Milo Djukanovic for a two-day official visit that started on Monday Jan. 21. 

In the press conference that followed the meeting, Meta said both counties have many reasons to start founding a mutual path.

“Our relations are a regional example and I am proud of the Albanians' contribution in Montenegro, as they were a decisive element of the support towards Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic integration,” Meta said.

Meta also pointed out the contribution of the Albanians in strengthening the peace, security and stability of Montenegro. 

He added the rights of Albanians living there should improve and that the leadership should see they are more involved in local and governmental levels. On the other hand, the Albanian president ensured that the Albanian government will continue its engagement to the affirmation of the Montenegrin citizens’ rights. 

A special appraisal from President Meta was the progress Montenegro is making towards in European Union integration. He mentioned his consideration in support to Montenegro for recognizing Kosovo as an independent country, which has allowed a significant contribution to the development of the Balkan region. 

A stressing point was the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, as its significance is crucial for the entire region and the integration processes of the Western Balkan countries, as it points out that through dialogue peace can be achieved.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic also emphasized the good relations the two neighboring countries share, and the economic collaboration which is beneficial to the citizens of both Albania and Montenegro. 

President Meta was awaited by President Djukanovic with very high honors, and during his visit in Podgorica, Albanian flags were placed around the capital’s streets in Meta’s honor.

On Tuesday Meta was awaited by Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. 

The desire to deepen the collaboration among the two countries in various fields was also expressed to PM Markovic, encouraging clear priorities and attending concrete projects concerning infrastructure, environment, waters, tourism, etc.

Markovic mentioned a few of these projects undertaken by the government which will benefit areas inhabited by Albanians of Montenegro - the building of the Tuzi-Gradon road, the reconstruction of a school in the village Dacaj in Rozaje, the rehabilitation of road infrastructure in Plav and Gusinje, and the opening of new border checkpoints in this area and Ulcinj, the hiring of Albanians in local and state institutions, etc. 

Following his visit, President Meta met with Albanian political representatives in Tuz, who are preparing for the local elections in the district that will take place in March 3, 2019. The President urged them to maximize the voting so the district will gain a majority in the local governing. This will show not only the abilities of the Albanians in governing and the cohabitation of the ethnicities in this country, but that the Albanians in Montenegro are a key factor to the Euro-Atlantic and European future of Montenegro.

 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 23 - On Rama’s first day also as the country foreign minister on Wednesday, he handed over the institution’s leadership to the current deputy minister Gent Cakaj.

“This is the shortest speech in my life. In my function as the country’s foreign minister I delegate to Mr. Gent Cakaj the leadership of this institution and its representation to international organizations,” Rama said in front of the foreign ministry staff and while being broadcasted at his own public news station, ERTV. 

Cakaj, who has indirectly faced criticism over January after Rama announced he’d be proposing  him as the country’s new foreign minister, addressed experts’ comments after Rama’s speech.

“The delegation of competences to a young deputy minister like me has seemed a mistake instead of an energy and creativity source to some people,” Cakaj said. 

“After the first wave of fire passed, I feel somewhat more relieved, above all else because being a leader with delegated powers under his close observation is a guaranteed start in the light of a fire made of unfounded allegations and prejudices,” he added.

Rama also officially assumed the role of Albania’s foreign minister on Friday, Jan. 18. 

Announced by President Ilir Meta, it was highlighted this was not an easy decision to decree on his side, although there has been precedent cases of a PM holding both posts. 

“The appointment of the prime minister also as the country’s minister is a special case which is neither foreseen nor forbidden by the Constitution,” said spokesperson Ted Blushi.

“The President of the Republic evaluated this proposal in accordance with the constitution’s spirit and the Constitutional Court’s jurisprudence, making an extended and initial interpretation of constitutional provisions, and taking into consideration the fact that the exercise of the Minister's duty by the Prime Minister is a state activity that lies within the executive sphere of the government cabinet, whose structure the Prime Minister has a right to propose,” the explanation followed. 

Rama’s decision to assume the role of foreign minister came as a result of Meta’s refusal to appoint 26-year-old, Kosovo national Gent Cakaj as the new foreign minister after Rama dismissed current foreign minister Ditmir Bushati.

By not decreeing Bushati’s dismissal, Meta took away Rama’s option to give Cakaj ministerial competences without receiving Meta’s decree.

In explaining Meta’s decision, Blushi also stated Meta had also taken into consideration the importance of avoiding any constitutional crisis which could place Albania in harmful position in regards to the international arena. 

Over the last two weeks, a number of local political experts have backed Meta’s decision not to decree Cakaj as the country's chief of diplomacy for a number of reasons.  

Mainly, it is Cakaj’s inexperience, young age and Kosovo nationality that had political experts second-guessing the wisdom of Rama’s choice, in addition to 2019 being a very important year for Albania’s foreign agenda, particularly in regards to the challenges that opening accession negotiations with the EU present.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-21 11:23:58
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 21 - Professors from the history-philology faculty at the University of Tirana held today a one-day strike in support of student protests and in opposition to some government decisions that violate, according to them, university autonomy.

The strike was held after a decision by the professors’ assembly, as it was concluded that the government decisions taken at the end of December are in contradiction with the European spirit of university rights.

In late December, the government took a series of decisions in response to the eight student demands the university protests are based on.

But instead of satisfying students, the government’s decisions caused it to also lock horns with professors, violating university autonomy under the initiative to draft statutes for universities and determine books and scientific titles.

Head of the Department of Journalism at the Faculty of History-Philology  Dr. Mark Marku said university autonomy is based on the freedom of scientific research, scientific work with students and on the content of teaching. 

According to him, the government’s latest laws violate all three of these basic elements.

Assemblies of professors from all faculties are expected to gather in order to take an unanimous decision on the steps to follow.

Meanwhile, the public universities’ students protest has entered its sixth week since it started at the beginning of December.

Massive street rallies have been replaced by boycotts and isolation in the faculty's interior environments, while authorities are trying to persuade students to return to auditions but without touching the controversial law on higher education.
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-17 13:56:06
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 18 - European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn visited Tirana on Thursday evening, meeting Prime Minister Edi Rama to discuss progress in reforms related to EU integration and recent political developments in the region.

“The Commissioner underlined that it is important to keep up with last year's good impetus to deliver tangible results in the process of reforms, which is crucial given the future decision of the EU Council regarding the opening of accession negotiations with Albania in June 2019,” a press release distributed by the Delegation of the European Union to Tirana said after the meeting.

The rule of law and the fight against organized crime and corruption are considered key issues for the country’s future EU integration.

“The justice reform continues to yield results and institutional reform of the judiciary needs to be completed within the next few weeks. Commissioner Hahn noted the recent actions against organized crime as a positive sign in this regard, which however should be part of a continuation of solid achievements and followed by penal action and punishment,” the press release said.

However, Albania is going through a tough moment of political tension, with the opposition having announced it will soon launch protests to bring about the government’s downfall.

In this context, Hahn said the engagement of the Rama government in bringing the reforms forward is essential for the country’s EU integration, part of which is establishing a functional dialogue with the country’s opposition.

Still problematic is also the high number of Albanian asylum-seekers in EU member states, an issue Hahn did not fail to mention.

“The Commissioner voiced concern over the still high number of unfounded asylum applications by Albanian citizens in several EU member states,” the press release read.

Similar concerns were raised by the Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Stefan Blok on Thursday, upon his official visit to Tirana with counterpart Ditmir Bushati. 

“It is important to keep focus on the consolidation of the judicial reforms and make further progress in the establishment of a solid track record of investigations, prosecutions and convictions in combating organized crime and corruption,” Blok said, highlighting the still-necessary progress on the side of the Albanian government.

Blok, too, particularly stressed the issue of asylum-seekers, which has been one of the main reasons the Netherlands belonged in one of the three countries that rejected Albania’s opening of accession negotiations.

“Another topic included migration and Albania's continued efforts to discourage people to travel to EU countries to apply for asylum. Let me repeat here, that such attempts will be fruitless in almost all cases. We work together closely with the Albanian authorities to combat this issue,” the Dutch Embassy statement read regarding Blok’s visit to Tirana. 

Blok highlighted that although the Netherlands’ does, in principle, support Albania’s EU path, its decision to give the country a green light in moving forwards will only depend on the EC’s scheduled progress report. 

 

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-16 11:57:09
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, Jan. 16 – Albanian international Armando Sadiku is back to Switzerland following a disappointing one-and-a-half year spell at Poland and Spain top leagues marred by few playing opportunities and injuries that kept him off the pitch for a long time.

The 27-year-old striker has joined Switzerland’s Lugano, a team he played for about two years during 2012-2014 and half a season in 2017 before moving to Poland’s Legia Warsaw.

The transfer to Lugano, a team Sadiku considers his home is good news for the player himself who has been recovering from knee surgery following an injury in August 2018 and the Albanian national side that will have back its best striker of the past decade as it prepares for the major Euro 2020 qualifiers following a disappointing Nations League campaign.

No financial details have been disclosed from the transfer deal, but Spain’s Levante says they have let the player join on a buyback clause.

Sadiku played only six games with Levante since joining in January 2018 from Poland’s Legia Warsaw in one of his worst seasons also marred by a knee injury that ultimately put him out of the Levante’s plans.

His experience at Spain’s La Liga was more disappointing compared to Legia Warsaw where he spent half a season until January 2018, but scored seven goals in a performance that led to a €1 million transfer deal to Levante.

"I am happy to be back with Lugano. I have been receiving knee treatment for five months and I have been back training with Levante for one month and am ready to play now. I have been through some difficult months but now I am psychologically fit and want to give my best,” Sadiku has told Swiss media.

"The unfavorable experiences in Poland and Spain gave me more strength and made me get back to the highest levels,” he adds.

Sadiku joins Levante at a difficult moment at a time when the Swiss side are struggling just above the relegation zone with 19 points from 18 matches, ranking 8th in the ten-team Swiss Super League.

He joins Lugano in a bid to repeat his 2017 success when he helped them finish third and earn Europa League appearance on a half-a season loan from Zurich, scoring nine goals to help the Swiss side climb from relegation zone to a surprise top three.

Sadiku has been a key player for the national side since joining in 2012 and his absence during the second half of last year was blamed by Italian coach Chritian Panucci as one of the key reasons for the national side’s lukewarm performance at the Nations League.

The 27-year-old striker has scored 11 goals in 33 appearances with the national side helping Albania achieve a first-ever qualification at a major tournament such as Euro 2016. He also scored Albania’s sole goal at the Euro 2016 group stage games as Albania beat Romania 1-0 but failed to make it the knockout stage.

Having started his career in his hometown of Elbasan, central Albania, Sadiku played in Switzerland for six years with clubs such as Zurich and Lugano before joining Legia Warsaw in July 2017 and Levante in January 2018.

His comeback at a team such as Lugano where he is guaranteed as a starter will also help him get back to shape and earn a place at the national side ahead of the Euro 2020 kickoff.

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

Albania have been drawn in a tough Euro 2020 qualifying campaign group stage with reigning world champions France and will apparently be fighting for a second spot with Iceland and Turkey in a bid to repeat their 2016 success when they earned a first ever qualification to the finals of a major tournament.
                    [post_title] => Albania’s top striker back to Switzerland after disappointing spells in Spain, Poland 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-15 16:40:28
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-15 15:40:28
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 15 - Klement Balili, one of Albania’s most notorious crime scene protagonists, handed himself in to the authorities on Tuesday, after almost two years of playing hide and seek with justice. 

Balili has been listed along some of the Balkans’ most sought-after criminals, leading an illegal network also operating in some EU countries, mainly Greece.

The Voice of America reported that albanian police has been under negotiation over the last year with Balili’s family members to have him surrender, in addition to operational actions.

These negotiations were reportedly led by the head of the Albanian State Police Ardi Veliu. It was to Veliu that Balili handed himself in on Tuesday, at 9.45 am, in an area between Saranda and Finiqi.

The exchange was witnessed by two of Balili’s family members and he was later driven off by Veliu to Tirana.

“Albanian police finalized today a long, complicated and very important operation for the surrender of Klement Balili, after an operational tracking process, in cooperation with the secrete state service and our international partners,” Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj said.

His surrender comes at a time when the serious crimes prosecution has just completed the investigations and has sent Balili’s file to trial.

Balili is accused of "narcotics trafficking" committed in collaboration, in the form of a structured criminal group, "participation in the structured criminal group", "refusal to declare, non-declaration, concealment or false declaration of assets", and for "money laundering.”

Balil's name emerged during an investigation finalized in early May 2016 as part of an operation undertaken by Greek authorities in cooperation with the US DEA, where over 670 kilograms of marijuana were seized on the island of Zakynthos in eastern Greece .
Implicated in this operation was the Albanian police, as well as the authorities of several European Union countries where the network operated were allegedly, one of whose heads was Balili, dubbed by Greek media as the “Balkans’ Escobar.”

As a big number of the criminal organization’s members and leaders were caught in Greece, Balili managed to escape.

He initially appeared publicly in Saranda denying the charges, and then disappeared without a trace. This kick-started a long-standing ping-pong game among the Albanian institutions, with the police claiming to have demanded a warrant from the prosecution, while the latter had explained that it could not act for as long as the investigation did not provide evidence for the illegal activity in Albania,which is why it had requested evidence from Greece.

Balili’s file arrived from Greece late last year, and a couple of police operations to capture him at the end of December proved unsuccessful.

From the very beginning, strong doubts accompanied the Balili case. 

Greek media such as Greek CNN at the time clashed with the Albanian Embassy to Athens after publishing a paper which, referring to the sources of Greek authorities, stresed that Albanian police officers had declared to Greek partners during a secret meeting in Albania that they could not arrest the “Albanian baron” because he enjoyed political protection.

Balili was appointed director of the Saranda Regional Transport Directorate in Saranda in 2014. One of Balili's nephews was then elected mayor of Delvina Municipality, south of the country, under the Socialist Movement for Integration leadership, while his brother was also SMI coordinator in the country’s south.

The Balili brothers have had numerous commercial activities, ranging from transport services to those of object security, or fishing.

In 2015, they inaugurated a very expensive investment which turned the former Saranda Labor Camp into a luxury hotel. High state officials also attended the inauguration ceremony, while last year, quite ironically, most of Balili’s assets were sequestered. 
Klement Balili’s arrest was considered an important test for Albanian authorities by former US Ambassador Donald Lu, who in several public speeches mentioned his name as a sign of Albania's challenges in the area of ​​public order and security.

 
                    [post_title] => ‘Balkan’s Escobar’ Klement Balili surrenders to Albanian authorities 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-14 16:39:25
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 14 - The Vlora court remanded in custody four people after the weapons’ warehouse of  the Pashaliman military base was raided last week.

Two base guards Lesko Ramosaco and Edlir Nelaj, student Ardit Ramaj and nurse Ervist Memsulaj are accused of “violating guarding rules on important facilities, resulting in armed robbery.”

Official data suggests that on January 9, at midnight, two automatic weapons, a carbine, 40 grenades and about 5500 different types of cartridges, including high power rifle bullets, were stolen. 

The investigation revealed the theft was carried out when the guard responsible had abandoned the post and was located in another environment while the practices of service control and guard shifts were also not respected.

Through their defense attorneys and self-declarations, the military officers claimed in court that the naval base had no security measures because there were no lighting and cameras, and that they were forced to perform long service hours in difficult weather conditions due to lack of effectives. 

Immediately after the incident was recorded the General Staff of the Armed Forces condemned the act and assured that the security, readiness and operationality of the Naval Force had not been compromised.

The Pashaliman base is one of the most important military facilities that serves the coastal fleet, carrying out controls of the Albanian maritime border regime and operations in the framework of NATO forces in Albania.

 
                    [post_title] => Four under charges for failing to guard military base 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-14 15:33:31
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-14 14:33:31
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 15 - A recent Guardian article has dubbed Albanians in the UK as the “kings of cocaine,” saying in particular that “the Albanian organized criminal syndicates are consolidating power within the EU criminal underworld and are on their way to a near total takeover of the UK’s five billion pound cocaine market.”

The British newspaper described Albanian drug dealers as “sophisticated” and “professional,” while going in length to describe Albanians’ complicated take-over of the country’s entire illegal drug market. 

“They are quite charismatic and known to prioritize relationship-building rather than competitive feuds. Also, when you come from a country where there’s been conflict and you have a reputation for ruthlessness the charisma is underlined with an element of ‘actually, we do need to get on with these people,” Anna Sergi, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Essex who specializes in mafia relationships told the Guardian regarding Albanians. 

According to data collected by police and UK intelligencia, the Guardian reported Albanians turned the existing cocaine business model in the UK upside down by buying cocaine straight from South America’s cartels for about £4,000 to £5,500 a kilo as opposed to the usual £22,500 a kilo their rivals would get. 

“The Albanians lowered the price of cocaine – and increased its purity. The Albanian effect has profoundly shaped the use, production and economy of cocaine. The drug is at its cheapest in the UK since 1990 and purer than it has been for a decade, which has caused record fatalities,” the Guardian writes. 

Its sources include specialists and academics studying criminal networks, who reportedly say that another key element of the “Albanian mafia” success is collaborating with the powerful Italian ‘Ndrangheta’ to control the main European cocaine ports such as the Netherlands’ Rotterdam and Belgium’s Antwerp. 

Further studies conducted by the UK scholars and experts have shown the Albanians are not only collaborating with the Italian mafia, but are actually creating tight alliances. 

“Sources say the Italian mafia consider the Albanians as equals,” the Guardian writes.

The article doesn't fail to add that a determining factor in Albanians’ efficiency is “the Albanian code of besa - to keep the promise” and the “ancestral code of kanun, the right to take revenge.”

Meanwhile, the article concludes, the Albanian model has, according to some, even fueled knife crimes and drug disputes by making cocaine affordable to smaller gangs, while recruiting teenagers to the Hellbanianz way of life has never been easier.

 
                    [post_title] => “Albanians are the UK’s kings of cocaine,” the Guardian says 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-01-09 15:09:21
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-09 14:09:21
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 9 – Albania’s electronic communications watchdog has ordered the country’s internet service providers to ban access to hundreds of local and international online sports betting and casino portals following a nationwide ban on online gambling, effective since Jan. 1, 2019.

The electronic communications authority, AKEP, has identified 343 local and international sports betting and online casino portals, including global giants such as williamhill and bwin.

“Every [ISP] entrepreneur is obliged to act immediately on the ban of access to illegal content and immediately notify AKEP on blocking their access,” the electronic communications authority says in a statement.

While many of the red-flagged websites are still accessible, including some key Albanian ones, experts say imposing a complete ban will be an almost mission impossible due to a variety of technological options.

In addition, the Albanian government has hinted the ban will be temporary and could also consider new legal changes to turn sports betting into a state monopoly.

Albania has more than 25 internet service providers with the four largest having a market share of 85 percent.

Internet is accessed in the majority of the country either through ISPs or mobile phone operators.

Dritan Shakohoxha, a renowned sports commentator in Albania, says gambling continues secretly in the country despite the ban, alleging that powerful Russian companies have entered the country.

"The betting shops that used to accept bets [until Dec. 31, 2018], have only removed signs and continue operating the same to before. Powerful Russian companies have entered the Albanian market. They run their own portals in Albanian," Shakohoxha has told a local TV talk show.

Albanian police have identified more than a dozen cases of illegal gambling activities in Tirana and outside the Albanian capital city in the past few days and initiated legal action against ten people, including three gamblers, for organizing and participating in illegal gambling activities, in legal sanctions that could see them fined or face a prison sentence of up to six months.

 

Read more: Albania launches crackdown on illegal gambling following nationwide ban
                    [post_title] =>  Albania orders ban on more than 340 online betting sites 
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            [post_date] => 2019-01-23 11:15:22
            [post_date_gmt] => 2019-01-23 10:15:22
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 23 - A bill sent to the parliament on Tuesday signals the end of legally being able to approve “unsought concessions” starting July 2019, thus cancelling the most controversial mechanism the government has been using over the last years particularly in the sector of infrastructure.

The bill, coming from the ministry of finance, says it will no longer be a right to accept “unsought proposals” for concessions of the kind that have currently allowed the Socialist-led government to sign contracts worth over one billion euros.

An accompanying report to the bill explains the change is coming as a result of “recommendations” made by international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The bill was drafted at the time former Minister of Finance Arben Ahmetaj was still leading the institutions, only to be replaced a few days later by Anila Denaj, in a government reshuffle decided by Prime Minister Edi Rama. It was handed over to the parliament by the Council of Ministers on January 9.

“This bill verbally stipulates that after July 1, 2019, the private sector will no longer have the right to propose concession projects/PPP, in the form of an unsought proposal, for the construction, operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of national roads of special importance,” is written in the report published on the website of the Albanian Parliament.

“This bill proposes, starting from July 1, 2019, for unsought proposals to be allowed only for the construction of projects and/or services in ports, airports, production and distribution of electricity, heating energy and natural gas distribution,” the ministry further argues.

Albania’s current Socialist government has been heavily criticized at home and abroad for a big number of concession contracts of considerable value which have been enabled either by special laws that avoid competition and determine the winner in advance, or through “unsought proposals,” which, in practice, completely cancel out any competition and give the proposing entity an invincible advantage by government decision, thus making the race a simple formality.

Various institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the US State Department, or the European Commission have raised major concerns about the special laws passed by the current government to negotiate concessionary contracts at the expense of taxpayers.

According to the IMF, "the framework of the government's work for the selection and prioritization of investment projects, as well as for the assessment of fiscal costs and risks, remains insufficient,” while the IMF itself had requested in early 2018 the prohibition of granting new, unsought concessions.

According to the US State Department, “the growing use of public and private partnership contracts has narrowed competition opportunities, including from foreign investors, in infrastructure and other sectors.”

Meanwhile, the EC forced the government last September to renounce the initial bill that provided private negotiation with ‘Fusha Sh.p.k’ for the construction of a national theater in exchange for the development of a part of public land occupied by the existing theater building, because the law brought about a competition restriction and was followed by great public unrest and doubts over its legality.

In the context of continuous scandals’ debunking in the past months, the government announced on Monday it will be withdrawing from negotiations on its most expensive concession contract - the Thumane-Kashar highway, valued at 435 million euros - to channel the funds in the public education sector. 

Following up the government’s claims, opposition Democratic Party MPs rushed to point out the 2019 State Budget does not foresee the government beginning to pay back its Thumane-Kashar highway PPP monetary obligations until 2020, thus raising eligible doubts on the true reasons behind the government’s withdrawal from its favorite tactic. 

 
            [post_title] => Socialist gov’t prohibited from using trademark PPPs over mounting scandals 
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