Back to homepage

Free to Read

Opposition publishes documents alleging Socialist Vora mayor’s criminal past

Opposition publishes documents alleging Socialist Vora mayor’s criminal past

TIRANA, Aug. 27 – Albania’s opposition Democratic Party released on Monday several documents by Greek authorities, according to which the new Vora Mayor Agim Kajmaku was arrested in Greece under the name of Jorgo Toto for counterfeiting coins and after

Read Full Article
New German Ambassador takes office

New German Ambassador takes office

TIRANA, Aug. 20 – Albanian President Ilir Meta received the Letters of Accreditation from the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Albania Peter Zingraf. Meta praised the excellent relations between the two countries and expressed deep appreciation

Read Full Article
President: “Gov’t uses parliament to hide its illegal acts”

President: “Gov’t uses parliament to hide its illegal acts”

TIRANA, Aug. 19 – Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week during an interview for RTV21 the parliament is used to hide the government’s illegal acts.  According to Meta, the “parliament is merely used to cover the illegality of government

Read Full Article
Albanian crisis affects Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, president says

Albanian crisis affects Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, president says

TIRANA, Aug. 19 – In an interview for RTV21 on Sunday, Albanian President Ilir Meta said the political crisis the country is facing contributes to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, although, in his opinion, the country should not be part of that dialogue

Read Full Article
New Shkodra mayor resigns as prosecution launches investigation in criminal past

New Shkodra mayor resigns as prosecution launches investigation in criminal past

TIRANA, Aug. 16 – Valdrin Pjetri, who won the mayor of Shkodra mandate in the June 30 local elections, announced on Thursday evening his resignation through a status on his Facebook page.  Pjetri was accused three days earlier by the

Read Full Article
WHO says outdated medical equipment hampers country’s medical development

WHO says outdated medical equipment hampers country’s medical development

TIRANA, Aug. 14 – A report describing the main findings and recommendations of a rapid assessment of the current conditions of primary health care in Albania from the World Health Organization found out the PHC (Primary Health Care) centres have

Read Full Article
Chronicles and Fragments

Chronicles and Fragments

The novels of Ismail Kadare. By James Wood  Like Trieste or Lvov, the medieval city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has passed its history beneath a sign perpetually rewritten, in different hands, but always with the same words: “Under New Management.”

Read Full Article
Albanian gov’t erects memorial for Turkey’s 2015 coup victims

Albanian gov’t erects memorial for Turkey’s 2015 coup victims

TIRANA, Aug. 10 – A memorial erected in the city centre on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016 to honor the victims of the event raised questions about the role

Read Full Article
Hungary or Slovenia – Who will give the next enlargement Commissioner?

Hungary or Slovenia – Who will give the next enlargement Commissioner?

By Emina Muminović With only a month left for the nomination of candidates for the next European Commission, two countries have expressed their interest for their candidate to be in charge of the enlargement portfolio. While both are strong supporters of

Read Full Article
Because of all the trees, I couldn’t see the forest

Because of all the trees, I couldn’t see the forest

By Sidonja Manushi It is a well known fact that war tactics perfectly work in politics too, and the good old “divide and conquer” must be a favorite of Albanian politicians. As actions to demolish the capital’s National Theatre are

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 37
            [paged] => 3
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => free
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 37
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 1019
    [max_num_pages] => 102
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 890c5676405e224ed9fc4883867b10fe
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 37
            [paged] => 3
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (37) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 20, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142936
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-27 11:10:13
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-27 09:10:13
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 27 - Albania’s opposition Democratic Party released on Monday several documents by Greek authorities, according to which the new Vora Mayor Agim Kajmaku was arrested in Greece under the name of Jorgo Toto for counterfeiting coins and after being released he escaped trial by returning home.

Kajmaku, for his part, immediately denied the allegations, saying he was consistent with previous statements that he had never been convicted or expelled from Greece or any other European Union state.

After days of publicly pressing charges against Kajmaku and requesting the Prosecutor's Office to launch verifications, the DP today released documents that allegedly confirm Kajmaku's involvement in a crime he did not declare in his decriminalization forms.

“Agim Kajmaku, alias Jorgo Toto, born in 1971, resident in Tirana, Albania, was arrested in fragrance in the Greek state, in the area of ​​Ioannina, on 14.01.2003 for the offense of ‘use and distribution of counterfeit banknotes’ He was arrested in fragrance, escaping from the territory of the Greek state. The crime was committed during a transaction to purchase seeds and other plants, and Agim Kajmaku used the false identity of Jorgo Toto, with father’s name Thanas and mother’s name Parashivi,” DP member Gazmend Bardhi said, pointing to a June 2003  Ioannina Prosecution and Court decision.

According to the DP, Kajmaku, who used a different identity at that time, that of Jorgo Toto, was obliged to appear to court and only months later the Greek authorities ordered his imprisonment, but in the meantime Kajmaku had returned to Albania.

"According to Greek criminal law, the court has suspended the trial until this citizen is arrested or has an accurate address to communicate the charge. According to the Greek law in this type of trial, the citizen must be present at the trial, because it is a serious crime. I must emphasize once again that the arrest warrant of the Greek court has not been executed, since citizen Jorgo Toto was not found in Greece. According to the official documentation of Greek authorities, it turns out that Agim Kajmaku alias Jorgo Toto evaded Greek justice to face a charge that foresees at least ten years in prison,” Bardhi said.

Earlier, Kajmaku stated that he had never been convicted or expelled from any EU country, not even Greece. He admitted that he changed his name to Jorgo Toto, but maintained the same paternity and motherhood, while in documents released by the DP, the person Jorgo Toto, who accordingly corresponds with the mayor of Vora, has another fatherhood and motherhood.

Kajmaku has also published a document issued by the Greek authorities, which, according to him, proves that he has no convictions or criminal proceedings.

On Monday he denied the allegations, saying he stands by statements made earlier and blaming the accusations against him as part of a political attack. 

"I assure you, first and foremost, the citizens of Vora that I stand by what I have stated earlier about this attack. I have never been involved in trafficking and crime,” Kajmaku wrote in a Facebook post, while the Socialist Party officially remained silent in the debate over its representative's past.

Following Kajmaku’s reaction, Head of DP Lulzim Basha returned to the case. 

“Agim Kajmaku can't play the victim! He must confront Albanian and Greek justice for concrete facts made public by the Democratic Party and for which he has not spoken a word. Before he leaves the Vora City Hall in handcuffs, Agim Kajmaku has to answer a very simple question: Is he the person arrested in flagrance in January 2003 by the name of Jorgo Toto?” Basha wrote. 

It now seems that everything remains to be clarified by the fingerprint collision. The prosecution has summoned Kajmaku to make their deposition, in order to send him to the Greek authorities to compare them with the person arrested in 2003. If this is proved, Kajmaku would become the second Socialist mayor with past precedents, after Shkodra SP mayor Valdrin Pjetri, elected in the debated June 30 elections, resigned due to allegations of a criminal past in Italy which the prosecution is investigating. 

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition publishes documents alleging Socialist Vora mayor’s criminal past 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => opposition-published-documents-alleging-socialist-vora-mayors-criminal-past
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-08-28 16:02:37
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-28 14:02:37
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142936
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142920
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-20 12:40:05
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-20 10:40:05
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 20 – Albanian President Ilir Meta received the Letters of Accreditation from the new Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Albania Peter Zingraf.

Meta praised the excellent relations between the two countries and expressed deep appreciation for Germany's 30-year support for Albania's development and its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

"Albania will continue to rely on the increasingly close trust and cooperation with our friendly and strategic partner Germany. We welcome the sincere and decisive commitment of the Bundestag to assist Albania on the path towards opening accession negotiations with the European Union and on our country's progress towards European democratic standards, "Meta said.

Meta also expressed gratitude for the great attention Germany attaches to relations with Albania, as well as developments in the region, praising Chancellor Angela Merkel's steadfast vision of integrating the country and the Western Balkans into the EU.

Addressing to Meta the greetings of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Zingraf said that he felt very happy to begin his duties as German Ambassador to Albania.

Having studied French and Italian literature in Aachen, France’s Poitiers and Italy’s Florence, he worked as a research associate at the universities of Aachen and Freiburg im Breisgau.

He is married, with two daughters.

In 1993 he became part of Bonn’s Foreign Service, while in 1994 an official delegate to the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome. In the years to come his career developed in Bonn, Poland’s Warsaw, Berlin, Tanzania, Ireland, Germany again and, now, Albania.
                    [post_title] => New German Ambassador takes office 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => new-german-ambassador-takes-office
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-08-21 12:43:26
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-21 10:43:26
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142920
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142911
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-19 17:33:18
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-19 15:33:18
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 19 - Albanian President Ilir Meta said this week during an interview for RTV21 the parliament is used to hide the government’s illegal acts. 

According to Meta, the "parliament is merely used to cover the illegality of government acts. So special law for individuals are passed contrary to the Constitution, contrary to Albania’s obligation to the Stabilization Association Process, contrary to the principles of non-discrimination, which are constitutional principles, and so on.”

He primarily accused the government and Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama of wanting to eliminate democracy in the country, as well as minority and opposition rights, political dialogue, media freedom and the new justice system.

“At the same time, the opposition, which in my estimation has followed a wrong strategy, that of burning the mandates, not participating in the local elections, ie not registering on time, but also delegitimizing every institution, should also be held accountable, as it could have followed a different policy,” Meta said.

He added the country is going through a political chaos.

“Practically during these 11 years democracy in Albania has been degrading and this has been noticeable in parliament, in all other institutions and above all in the way government decision-making is realized and finally how parliament is used merely to cover up the illegality of government acts,” Meta concluded. 

 
                    [post_title] => President: “Gov’t uses parliament to hide its illegal acts”  
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => president-govt-uses-parliament-to-hide-its-illegal-acts
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 17:35:03
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 15:35:03
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142911
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142906
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-19 08:39:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-19 06:39:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 19 - In an interview for RTV21 on Sunday, Albanian President Ilir Meta said the political crisis the country is facing contributes to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, although, in his opinion, the country should not be part of that dialogue at all. 

“This artificial crisis in which Albania finds itself and which the Albanian people don’t deserve, without a doubt is in my opinion related to developments in Kosovo, with the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue,” Meta said. 

Meta said the deadlock in Albania is in fact the result of certain individuals’ games who create scenarios that do not serve Albania’s stability and European path, but seek violent conflict. 

According to Meta, his motivation to cancel June 30 as the local elections date came from the big tension between the government and the opposition, and both sides’ lack of intent to engage in dialogue. 

“This crisis is so artificial in my opinion and it is obvious there is interest for Albania to look bad. When Albania looks bad, this doesn’t help Kosovo, or Albanians in general as a factor that can rightfully impose its rights and legitimate requests. Because they seek to show that we Albanians have a very hard time to create a state,” Meta said.

He further spoke about the justice reform and its difference with what he calls the “Ramaform,” as per Prime Minister Edi Rama’s name. According to Meta, the justice reform was supposed to be a necessary reform that would serve the Albanian constitution, but which in its application has blocked the entire justice system.

“The truth is that the Council for Justice Appointments (KED) was arbitrarily blocked for more than two years, both in 2017 and in 2018, because our prime minister did not like the very transparent lot, drawn in accordance with the KED law, which selects candidates for the Constitutional Court vacancies and for the High Justice Inspector,” Meta said.

Meta said that if deadlines had been respected, Albania would now have a functioning Constitutional Court.

“Not to mention then all the developments you know, with the election of the temporary Prosecutor General, who was elected with 69 votes out of the 84 votes needed, which was the way the Albanian Constitution has very clearly selected. So a law was passed to stand over the Constitution. Whoever follows developments knows that first comes the Constitution and then come the laws,” Meta concluded. 

 
                    [post_title] => Albanian crisis affects Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, president says 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albanian-crisis-affects-kosovo-serbia-dialogue-president-says
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 22:33:19
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 20:33:19
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142906
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142902
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-16 10:13:22
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-16 08:13:22
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 16 - Valdrin Pjetri, who won the mayor of Shkodra mandate in the June 30 local elections, announced on Thursday evening his resignation through a status on his Facebook page. 

Pjetri was accused three days earlier by the Democratic Party of being convicted in Italian court for narcotics trafficking in 2003 and of extradition from the neighboring country. 

The DP presented the original documents proving Peter's conviction by the Italian court.

In his Facebook announcement, Pjetri stated that “under these conditions, his attention and energies will now be fully focused on resolving and legally clarifying this event of 17 years ago, the legal responsibilities of which he claimed he was not aware of. 

“Aware of the importance of the political image and determined to undertake this legal clarification in the position of an ordinary citizen, without burdening anyone, I decide to resign from the post of Mayor of Shkodra,” Pjetri wrote. 

Also on Thursday, the Democratic Party, presenting to the media a luxury hotel in Tirana, which Pjetri co-owns, demanded the confiscation of his property, suspected of stemming from his drug trafficking activity.

A day after Pjetri announced his resignation, the General Prosecutor's Office announced that verifications begun on the cleanliness of his figure. 

Responding to the DP request dated August 13, 2019, the Prosecutor General's Office announced that “on 05.08.2019, it has registered the request for detailed verification of the subject Valdrin Pjetri, and that the process of full and comprehensive verification has begun, inside and outside the territory of Albania” and that it asked the citizen Valdrin Pjetri “to deposit his typographic traces at the Institute of Scientific Police.”

Also today, Rama, via a Twitter status, reacted to Pjetrir's decision to resign as mayor following the allegations by the DP. 

“Hiding the event is intolerable and the consequences for Shkodra unjustified!,” Rama wrote.

Prime Minister Rama, who has been repeatedly accused of promoting crime-related figures in recent years, said today it’s “time to introduce state-wide deadlines for state verification of candidacies before their registration.”

For Rama, the Pjetri case demonstrates the need to launch “state verification of all the self-declarations of politicians and state employees who have signed up. Any false self-declaration should result in criminal exemption and punishment. Individual liability can no longer have a collective cost strand.”

In the decriminalization form presented to the Central Election Commission Pjetri noted that he had never been convicted, neither inside nor outside the country.

The decriminalization law prohibits Pjetri from exercising a public office. 

In the meantime, he runs the risk of being charged with "Forgery of Official Documents" and "False Disclosure".

Pjetri has a long career in the Albanian state offices. He has worked in important positions, first in the government of the Democrats and then in the Socialists. Therefore, it is not clear how he managed to survive this long, having been convicted by an Italian court for drug trafficking. 

 

 
                    [post_title] => New Shkodra mayor resigns as prosecution launches investigation in criminal past 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => new-shkodra-mayor-resigns-in-light-of-drug-trafficking-accusations-in-italy
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-08-17 09:08:26
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-17 07:08:26
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142902
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142899
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-14 08:11:21
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-14 06:11:21
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 14 - A report describing the main findings and recommendations of a rapid assessment of the current conditions of primary health care in Albania from the World Health Organization found out the PHC (Primary Health Care) centres have a considerable shortage of diagnostic and treatment equipment and no standard list of equipment. 

According to the report, during the mission’s visit, no PHC centres had electrocardiographs, otoscopes or ophthalmoscopes. 

“One centre had a functioning X-ray machine from 1918 that deserves a place in a museum. The interviews confirmed patients’ poor access to laboratory services, especially in rural areas. Even for simple blood and urine analysis, patients have to go to polyclinics,” the report said.

Further on, the report said the outdated equipment, the lack of qualified specialists, especially at the local level, and the limited budget, puts strains on ensuring equitable access in PHC.

Earlier local health experts claimed that the government had mismanaged the health system with PPP concessions, which absorbed millions of euros for secondary services such as sterilization. Experts claim that the best investment in health, especially in the prevention field, is medical equipment.

Some time ago a complete refurbishment of the building was carried out at the specialized polyclinic in Tirana on walls and furnishings, but left unchanged the old and high-radiation diagnostic equipment.

WHO inspectors also noted that the buildings are massively old. Some facilities have recently been refurbished, but still retain a molded ceiling, no heating and ventilation. Meanwhile, the offices are small and uncomfortable, the report says. Some offices accommodate three to five people, including a patient, a doctor and one or two nurses.
                    [post_title] => WHO says outdated medical equipment hampers country’s medical development 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => who-says-outdated-medical-equipment-hampers-countrys-medical-development
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2019-08-15 08:13:01
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-15 06:13:01
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142899
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 142889
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2019-08-13 16:33:18
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:33:18
                    [post_content] => The novels of Ismail Kadare.

By James Wood 

Like Trieste or Lvov, the medieval city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has passed its history beneath a sign perpetually rewritten, in different hands, but always with the same words: “Under New Management.” It enters the historical record in 1336, as a Byzantine possession, but in 1418 was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The Greeks occupied it in 1912, yet a year later it became part of the newly independent Albania. During the Second World War, it was taken by the Italians, taken back by the Greeks, and, finally, seized by the Germans: “At dusk the city, which through the centuries had appeared on maps as a possession of the Romans, the Normans, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Greeks and the Italians, now watched darkness fall as a part of the German empire. Utterly exhausted, dazed by the battle, it showed no sign of life.”

The novelist Ismail Kadare was born in Gjirokastër in 1936, and those words are from the great novel that he drew out of his boyhood experiences of the war, “Chronicle in Stone,” which was published in Albanian in 1971 and in English in 1987. (This kind of lag between Kadare’s Albanian and English-language publications is not uncommon, partly because most of his work has been translated first into French and then turned into English, often by the distinguished scholar David Bellos, who is well known as a translator of Georges Perec.)  Despite the many horrors it describes, “Chronicle in Stone” is a joyful, often comic piece of work, in which the concentrated irony for which Kadare became famous—most notably in his later political parables and allegories of Communism, like “The Concert” and “The Successor”—is already visible. In this early novel, the irony has a more generous warmth. A young boy narrates the events, at once wide-eyed and sophisticated. War arrives, in the form of Italian bombing, British bombing, and, finally, the dark rondo whereby Greek and Italian occupiers arrive and depart from the stage like vicars in an English farce: “At ten in the morning on Thursday the Italians came back, marching in under freezing rain. They stayed only thirty hours. Six hours later the Greeks were back. The same thing happened all over again in the second week of November.” But Kadare is more interested in the kinds of stories that the town might have thrown up at any time in the past thousand years. Townspeople talk of spells, witches, ghosts, and legends. The young narrator discovers “Macbeth,” and reads it obsessively, seeing parallels between medieval Scotland and modern Gjirokastër. A group of old women discuss a neighbor’s son, who has started wearing spectacles, an occurrence that is treated superstitiously, as an omen of disaster. One of the women, Xhexho, says, “How I kept from bursting into tears, I’m sure I don’t know. He walked over to the cabinet, flipped through a few books, then went over to the window, stopped, and took off his glasses. . . . I reached out, picked up the glasses, and put them on. What can I tell you, my friends? My head was spinning. These glasses must be cursed. The world whirled like the circles of hell. Everything shook, rolled, and swayed as if possessed by the devil.” Her interlocutors all agree that a terrible fate has befallen the family of the bespectacled boy.

Throughout the novel, these and other neighbors and relatives comment on ordinary events, and this forms a stubborn resistance to the novelty of the occupation. As a mark of how beautifully Kadare blends this atmosphere of the city’s traditional antiquity with the rapidity of wartime development, consider something this same woman, Xhexho, says, when she hears an air-raid siren for the first time: “Now we have a mourner who will wail for us all.” And yet, in an emphasis characteristic of Kadare’s wit, the memory of the past is regularly burlesqued, too:
I had heard that the First Crusade had passed this way a thousand years before. Old Xixo Gavo, they said, had related this in his chronicle. The crusaders had marched down the road in an endless stream, brandishing their arms and crosses and ceaselessly asking, “Where is the Holy Sepulchre?” They had pressed on south in search of that tomb without stopping in the city, fading away in the same direction the military convoys were now taking.
  There is something Monty Python-ish about the Crusaders, miles off course, demanding to see the Holy Sepulchre; and the link to the hopelessness of the modern soldiers is deftly made. The city stands stonily against the new invaders, as it always has: that is Kadare’s own “chronicle in stone.”   As the novel’s co-translator, David Bellos, points out in his introduction, this early book contains many of the elements and motifs that Kadare would work and rework in later fiction. Kadare uses the conventions of realistic storytelling, while feeling free to depart from conventionality whenever necessary; he likes to make use of the premodern liberties of Balkan legend, and deals straightforwardly and practically with such incursions into the texts as ghosts, fables, the living presence of the dead, magical occurrences, and the like. (In this, he sometimes resembles the late José Saramago, another postmodern traditionalist.) The books are formally playful, and often try out different styles of narration so as to find multiple paths to the same material. For instance, “Chronicle in Stone” is frequently interrupted by brief, abbreviated sections, entitled “Fragment of a Chronicle,” which read like newspaper reports, or diaries. In one of these, the author’s family name is fleetingly encountered: “Those killed in the latest bombing include: L.Tashi, L. Kadare. . . .”   Another name found in the novel has even greater resonance than Kadare’s. One day, a notice is posted on a ruined house: “Wanted: the dangerous Communist Enver Hoxha. Aged about 30.” Enver Hoxha, the Communist leader who kept a ruthless and paranoid grip on Albania for forty years, until his death, in 1985, was also born in Gjirokastër, in 1908. The novel does not mention Hoxha again, but his shadow, and the shadow of the regime that he built after the war, darkens the last eighty pages of the book. In one scene, some of the townspeople are deported by the Italians. As a crowd watches, a passerby asks what they have done. Someone else replies, “They spoke against.” “What does that mean? Against what?” the passerby asks. “I’m telling you, they spoke against.” The suppressed referent—“Against what?”—is garish in its silence, and Kadare became a master analyst of this sinister logic of lunacy, in its Communist totalitarian form. Later, Communist partisans start rounding people up. One of them shoots a girl by mistake, and is sentenced to death by fellow-partisans for “the misuse of revolutionary violence.” Just before he is executed, he raises his arm and cries, “Long live Communism!” Though “Chronicle in Stone” ends with the German occupation of the city, it gapes, forebodingly, at the postwar Albanian world.   At the end of the war, though, the nine-year-old Ismail Kadare and the thirty-six-year-old Hoxha were approaching each other like two dark dots on a snowy landscape, still miles apart but steadily converging on the same frozen lake. “Chronicle in Stone” represents an act of political resistance, of the cunning, subtle kind that allowed Kadare to survive Hoxha’s regime, even as some of his books were banned. “The Palace of Dreams,” published in 1981, and more obviously antagonistic, is one of those censored novels. (Although, in an absurdist twist, the book was banned two weeks after its publication, by which time it had sold out.) Like many of Kadare’s books, it is set in an imprecise past shaded by myth, but lit by the glare of totalitarian thought control. The Palace of Dreams is the most important government ministry in the Ottoman Empire, where bureaucrats sift and decode the dreams of the empire’s citizens, all of them working to find the Master Dreams that will help the Sultan in his rule. The novel’s hero, who comes from a prominent political family, rises through the ranks of the ministry; yet he cannot save his own family from political persecution—indeed, he unwittingly precipitates it. Enver Hoxha’s censors must have known at once that this surreal dystopia vividly conjured up, in carefully deflected form, the secret-police apparatus of modern Albania.   The suppression of “The Palace of Dreams” seems to have pushed Kadare beyond the boundaries of suggestion, allegory, implication, and indirection. Certainly, the novella “Agamemnon’s Daughter,” which Kadare wrote in the mid-nineteen-eighties, around the time of Hoxha’s death, is laceratingly direct. It is perhaps his greatest book, and, along with its sequel, “The Successor” (2003), surely one of the most devastating accounts ever written of the mental and spiritual contamination wreaked on the individual by the totalitarian state. Kadare’s French publisher, Claude Durand, has told of how Kadare smuggled some of his writings out of Albania, in 1986, and handed them to Durand, camouflaging them by changing Albanian names and places to German and Austrian ones, and attributing the writing to the West German novelist Siegfried Lenz. Durand collected the rest of this work, on two trips to Tirana, and the manuscripts were deposited in a safe at a Paris bank. As unaware as anyone else that Albanian Communism had only five years left to run, Kadare envisaged this deposit as a sort of insurance policy. In the event of his death, by natural or unnatural causes, the publication of these works would make it “harder,” in Durand’s words, “for the Communist propaganda machine to bend Kadare’s work and posthumous image to its own ends.”
That is a considerable understatement. I’m not sure that any regime could bend “Agamemnon’s Daughter” to its own ends. This is a terrifying work, relentless in its critique. It is set in Tirana in the early nineteen-eighties, during the May Day Parade. The narrator is a young man who works in television, and has unexpectedly been invited to attend the festivities from inside the Party grandstand. The formal invitation is unexpected because the narrator is a passionate liberal, strongly (though privately) opposed to the regime, and because he has recently survived a purge at his television station, resulting in the relegation of two colleagues. On the day of the parade, he cannot stop thinking about his lover, Suzana, who has broken off their relationship because her father is about to be chosen as the supreme leader’s designated successor and has asked his daughter not to jeopardize his career by consorting with an unsuitable man. Chillingly, she tells her lover that when her father explained the situation to her she “saw his point of view.” The novella confines itself to the day of the parade, and is essentially a portfolio of sketches of human ruination—a brief Inferno, in which victims of the regime are serially encountered by our narrator as he walks to the stands and takes his seat. There is the neighbor who watches him from his balcony, “looking as sickly as ever. . . . He was reputed to have laughed out loud on the day Stalin died, which brought his career as a brilliant young scientist to a shuddering halt.” There is Leka B., a theatre director who displeased the authorities and was transferred to the provinces, to run amateur productions. He tells the narrator that he had put on a play that turned out to have “no less than thirty-two ideological errors!” The narrator’s comment is withering: “It was as if he were delighted with the whole business and held it in secret admiration.” There is G.Z., a former colleague, who has survived a purge, though no one knows quite how: “His whole personality and history corresponded in sum to what in relatively polite language is called a pile of shit.” He is likened to the Bald Man in an Albanian folktale, who is rescued from Hell by an eagle—“but on one condition. Throughout the flight, the raptor would need to consume raw meat.” Eventually, since the journey takes several days, the Bald Man has to offer his own flesh to feed the bird, and by the time he makes it to the upper world he is little more than a bag of bones. At the center of “Agamemnon’s Daughter” is an icy reinterpretation of the Iphigenia story. The narrator reflects on Euripides’ play, and on Iphigenia’s apparently willing self-sacrifice, in order to help her father’s military ambitions. He turns the Greek tale around in his mind, and blends it with the remembered pain of Suzana’s departure. Hadn’t Stalin, he thinks, sacrificed his son Yakov, so that he could claim that he was sharing in the common lot of the Russian soldier? But what if the story of Agamemnon is really the story of Comrade Agamemnon—the first great account of absolute political tyranny? What if Agamemnon, in “a tyrant’s cynical ploy,” had merely used his daughter to legitimate warfare? Surely Yakov, “may he rest in peace, had not been sacrificed so as to suffer the same fate as any other Russian soldier, as the dictator had claimed, but to give Stalin the right to demand the life of anyone else.” The narrator realizes, as he watches Suzana’s father standing next to the Supreme Guide on the grandstand, that the Supreme Guide must have asked his deputy to initiate his daughter’s sacrifice. “Agamemnon’s Daughter” ends with this dark, spare, aphoristically alert declamation: “Nothing now stands in the way of the final shrivelling of our lives.” Kadare is inevitably likened to Orwell and Kundera, but he is a far deeper ironist than the first, and a better storyteller than the second. He is a compellingly ironic storyteller because he so brilliantly summons details that explode with symbolic reality. No one who has read “The Successor” (2003) can forget the moment when the Hoxha figure, called simply the Guide, visits the newly renovated home of his designated successor. The Successor’s wife offers to show the Guide around, despite the anxiety felt by others that the lavishness of the renovation may have been a huge political blunder. The Guide stops to examine a new living-room light switch, a dimmer that is the first of its kind in the country:
Silence had fallen all around, but when he managed to turn on the light and make it brighter, he laughed out loud. He turned the switch further, until the light was at maximum strength, then laughed again, ha-ha-ha, as if he’d just found a toy that pleased him. Everyone laughed with him, and the game went on until he began to turn the dimmer down. As the brightness dwindled, little by little everything began to freeze, to go lifeless, until all the many lamps in the room went dark.
In its concentrated ferocity, this has the feel of something very ancient: we might be reading Tacitus on Tiberius.
Alas, there is nothing of quite that high order in Kadare’s most recent novel, “The Accident,” translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Grove; $24). The new book is spare and often powerful, but it is a bit too spare, so that the ribs of allegory show through, in painful obviousness. Many of Kadare’s familiar procedures and themes are in evidence, beginning with the positing of an enigma that needs decoding. One morning in Vienna, sometime not long after the end of the war in Kosovo, a young Albanian couple are killed in a car accident. The taxi that had been taking them from their hotel to the airport suddenly veers off the Autobahn and crashes. The taxi-driver survives, but he can give no reasonable account of why he left the road, except to say that he had been looking in his rearview mirror at the couple, who had been “trying to kiss,” when a bright light distracted him. The accident is suspicious enough to attract various investigators, not least the intelligence services of Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. The dead man, known as Besfort Y., appears to have been an Albanian diplomat, working at the Council of Europe, and may have been involved in nato’s decision to bomb Serbia. Perhaps the woman who died in the car, who was Besfort’s girlfriend, and is known in the reports as Rovena St., knew too much, and Besfort tried to kill her, in a botched plan. But why did Besfort refer to Rovena as “a call girl”? A few months before the accident, he had taken her to an Albanian motel and she had been “frightened for her life.” So a friend of hers tells investigators. Rovena, says the friend, “knew the most appalling things. . . . She knew the precise hour when Yugoslavia would be bombed, days in advance.” The security services give up, in the face of the usual Balkan incomprehensibility, and a mysterious, nameless “researcher” takes over. This authorial stand-in, who works “without funds or resources or powers of constraint,” decides to reconstruct the last forty weeks of the couple’s lives, using diaries, letters, phone calls, and the testimonies of friends:
Everywhere in the world events flow noisily on the surface, while their deep currents pull silently, but nowhere is this contrast so striking as in the Balkans. Gales sweep the mountains, lashing the tall firs and mighty oaks, and the whole peninsula appears demented.
Kadare feeds off this Balkan incomprehensibility: he likes to tease it and tease at it, while simultaneously making fun of people who talk about “Balkan incomprehensibility.” He is deeply interested in misreading, yet his prose has a classical clarity, so that much of his power as a storyteller has to do with his ability to provide an extraordinarily lucid analysis of incomprehensibility. This analysis moves between the comic and the tragic, and never finally settles in one mode. (His amiable and funny novel “The File on H.” reads like an Albanian Evelyn Waugh.) In both the new novel and “The Successor,” we begin with an apparent accident—in the earlier novel, the country’s designated successor has been found in his bedroom, shot dead—that allows Kadare to work through rival explanations. (“The Successor” is based on the “mysterious” death, reported as suicide, of the Albanian Prime Minister, Mehmet Shehu, in 1981. He had been Hoxha’s closest political ally for decades, but after his death he was denounced as a traitor and an enemy of the people, and his family arrested and imprisoned.) The question that haunts both novels is: When did it begin? When, in other words, did “the accident” become inevitable? When did the tide first turn against the Successor? Was it when the Guide failed to come to the Successor’s birthday party, for instance? The blackly surreal answer is, of course, that it has always begun; the tide was turning against the Successor even as he rose through the Party ranks. Likewise, in “The Accident,” one can see that Besfort and Rovena were always doomed, and that the reason, as in “The Successor,” is murkily ideological. The nameless “researcher” discovers that Besfort and Rovena have been together for twelve years. Rovena was a student when she met Besfort, who was older than she, and had come to the university at Tirana to teach international law. From the start, the relationship appears to have been electrically erotic, with Besfort as the seducer and the dominant partner. The novel hints at very rough sex. They agree to part, but soon reunite. The couple meet in various European cities and expensive hotels, exercising a freedom that was unthinkable before the collapse of Communism, their itinerary largely determined by Besfort’s diplomatic travel (where “diplomat” probably also means “spy”). But in Graz, for the first time, Rovena feels that Besfort is suffocating her, a feeling that will mount as the relationship progresses. “You’re preventing me from living,” she tells him, and elsewhere she complains that “he has me in chains . . . he is the prince and I am only a slave,” that “he wanted her entirely for himself, like every tyrant.” To these charges, he replies, “You took this yoke up yourself, and now you blame me?” He had been her liberator, Kadare writes, “but this is not the first time in history that a liberator had been taken for a tyrant, just as many a tyrant had been taken for a liberator.” Partly as a game, and partly as an admission of the terminality of their relationship, the couple begin speaking of themselves as client and call girl. Besfort considers killing her. “The Accident” is a difficult novel. It has a very interrupted form, continually looping back on itself, so that dates and place names seem almost scrambled and the reader must work a kind of hermeneutic espionage on the text. Unlike “Agamemnon’s Daughter” and “The Successor,” the analysis of incomprehensibility here seems quite opaque. Yet, at the same time, the symbolic pressure is a little too transparent. One gathers that Kadare is presenting a kind of allegory about the lures and imprisonments of the new post-Communist tyranny, liberty, and he has Besfort bang home this decoding: “Until yesterday,” he tells Rovena, “you were complaining that it was my fault that you aren’t free. And now you say you have too much freedom. But somehow it’s always my fault.” Besfort is the new liberty that Rovena cannot do without, and to which she is willing to be enslaved, and this freedom is dangerous and frequently squalid. “The Accident” thus offers an interesting reply to the question with which Kadare closes “Agamemnon’s Daughter.” At the end of that novella, the young narrator thinks of the Communist slogan “Let us revolutionize everything,” and asks, rhetorically, “How the hell can you revolutionize a woman’s sex? That’s where you’d have to start if you were going to tackle the basics—you had to start with the source of life. You would have to correct its appearance, the black triangle above it, and the glistening line of the labia.” He means that totalitarianism will always be thwarted by some non-ideological privacy, or surplus, beyond its reach. Kundera has repeatedly explored the same question, with regard to a libidinous erotics of resistance. Yet “The Accident” grimly suggests that it is indeed possible to “revolutionize” a woman’s sex, and that capitalism may be able to do this more easily than Communism. After all, the point about Besfort and Rovena is that their relationship is thoroughly contaminated by ideology and politics; their very postures of submission and domination are overdetermined. In a long speech that is surely at the emotional and ideological heart of the book, Besfort tells Rovena, who was only thirteen at the end of the dictatorship, about the kind of madness that prevailed under Hoxha. He describes a world of crazy inversion, reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s universe, in which citizens willingly pretended to be conspirators, in order to confess their love for the leader while being simultaneously punished for crimes they had not committed. Each plotter, says Besfort, turned out to be more abject than the last:
The conspirators’ letters from prison became more and more ingratiating. Some requested Albanian dictionaries, because they were stuck for words to express their adoration of the leader. Others complained of not being tortured properly. The protocols sent back from firing squads on the barren sandbank by the river told the same story: their victims shouted, “Long live our leader!,” and as they conveyed their last wishes some felt such a burden of guilt that they asked to be killed not by the usual weapons but by anti-tank guns or flamethrowers. Others asked to be bombarded from the air, so that no trace of them would remain. . . . Nobody could distinguish truth from fiction in these reports, just as it was impossible to discern what the purpose of the conspirators, or even the leader himself, might be. Sometimes the leader’s mind was easier to read. He had enslaved the entire nation, and now the adoration of the conspirators would crown his triumph. Some people guessed that he was sated with the love of his loyal followers, and that he now wanted something new and apparently impossible—the love of traitors.
We are back in the world of Leka B., who was oddly proud of his thirty-two ideological errors, and of the partisan in “A Chronicle of Stone” who dies shouting, “Long live Communism!” Kadare also subtly suggests that this dense, overwrought speech might itself be evidence that Besfort is a victim of the totalitarianism that he so despises—that he cannot escape its deformations, its legacies, the memory of its hysteria. But a melancholy thought also casts its shadow. Might this be true of Kadare, too? It is poignant that the most powerful section in the novel returns to old ground and old obsessions, and it is poignant, too, that this allegory of the tyranny of liberty is less effective, as a novel, than Kadare’s earlier allegories of the tyranny of tyranny. Back when he worked within and against totalitarianism, he had the advantage of being sustained by the great subject of the Hoxha regime, like a man sitting on a huge statue. Perhaps it is in the nature of freedom—still, after all, a transitional event in the history of postwar Albania—that a novelist even of Kadare’s great powers will seem, when trying to allegorize it, to stab at clouds. Kadare would not be the only novelist who has found, with the collapse of Communism, that his world has disappeared, however much he longed for the destruction of that world. These are early days yet. ♦ This article appeared on the print edition of the New Yorker. 
[post_title] => Chronicles and Fragments [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => chronicles-and-fragments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-13 16:33:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-13 14:33:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142889 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142882 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-12 14:45:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-12 12:45:39 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 10 - A memorial erected in the city centre on the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016 to honor the victims of the event raised questions about the role of Tirana’s municipality and government, both of which avoided giving explanations on the unprecedented event. The decision to erect this memorial was unexpected and came without any notice from the government, while it still unclear who's the decision to do so truly was.  The lack of transparency and seeming intent to keep this act in the secret was further strengthened by Mayor Erion Veliaj, whose answer to journalists’ questions was unclear. Veliaj did not explain whose decision it was to erect the Memorial and what the motives for such a decision were.  Veliaj on Sunday avoided giving direct explanations for the placement of a memorial dedicated to the victims of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, in Tirana’s Lake Park.  Veliaj told reporters that "there are over 50 points in the territory where different cases are remembered, and each one is likely to be respected,” but without indicating whether a parallel could be drawn between the other points he referred to and an event closely related to a foreign country and moreover with the internal political developments there. Veliaj limited his reaction to the criticism of such an event, to the respect that must be shown for the dead, avoiding the substance of the debate.  "I would say leave the dead alone, and whoever wants to observe them with a candle, a flower or a prayer, leave them also quiet. Gracious Tirana has room for everyone,” Veliaj said. According to the mayor, the fact that those who raised their voices on the issue of the memorial did not, according to him, express previous concern that the area was previously covered by bushes does not entitle them to express their opinion.  “It doesn't ruin anyone's job. They tell me it's on the corner of the Lake, where most of the complainants don't even remember how it was covered in thorns and how plastic burned there and how it was occupied as a territory,” Veliaj told reporters. The event was attended by the Deputy Mayor of Tirana, Arbjan Mazniku, although there was no announcement on the municipality’s official website about his participation.  On the other hand, naming a street or a park is the responsibility of the municipality and it is the city council that ultimately makes the decision. A look at the decisions published on the City Council website shows no sign of approval of the “July 15th Martyrs Road” and the “July 15th Democracy Park.” In a Facebook post, the Turkish Embassy to Tirana announced that "with the participation of our Albanian brothers and sisters, we successfully and proudly inaugurated the ‘15th of July Street of Martyrs’ and ‘15th of July Democracy Park.’ It seems to be an unusual event, as in Albania there are no monuments dedicated to events in a foreign country, such as the failed coup, which Turkish authorities blamed on cleric Fetullah Gülen and the organization designated terrorist FETO. Actually, Albania is the only country which has erected a memorial about another country’s internal political issues and victims - an act which also brought about unprecedented popular distress, with Albanians claiming it should not be something for Albania to interfere.  Three days after this development in Tirana, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced in a photo that he was in Turkey "in the hospitality of President Erdogan at his summer residence in Marmaris", as explained by Rama himself  who has not infrequently been targeted for close relations with the Turkish head of state, Recep Tayipp Erdoğan.  A few days later, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu arrived in Tirana for a visit, who stated in an interview with Turkish media that he had discussed with his Albanian counterpart Sandar Lleshaj and Rama "on the fight against all terrorist organizations, including FETO. They have expressed their commitment in this regard,” the Turkish minister said, adding that he was satisfied with “the prime minister and interior minister's approach to FETO.” The commemoration ceremony of the names of 251 people who died three years ago in Turkey took place on July 15, organized by the Turkish Embassy to Tirana. [post_title] => Albanian gov’t erects memorial for Turkey’s 2015 coup victims [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanian-govt-erects-memorial-for-turkeys-2015-coup-victims [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-20 08:39:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-20 06:39:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142882 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142839 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-05 11:05:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-05 09:05:42 [post_content] =>
By Emina Muminović
With only a month left for the nomination of candidates for the next European Commission, two countries have expressed their interest for their candidate to be in charge of the enlargement portfolio. While both are strong supporters of enlargement, the real concern is whether both of them will support not only economic and political integration but also the ideological one. Liberal versus illiberal government, good integration student or the problematic one often criticised for violation of the EU’s core values. Who will give the next enlargement Commissioner – Hungary or Slovenia?
Prime Minister of Slovenia Marjan Šarec nominated Janez Lenarčič, Head of the Mission of Slovenia to European Union, as the new Commissioner. Member of the European Parliament from Slovenia Tanja Fajon believes he would maintain strong support for the Western Balkans’ accession to the EU. “Slovenia has the experience, it is close to the region, it would definitively be a positive thing for the Western Balkans because our country will be presiding over the European Union in 2021 and it will put the enlargement high on its agenda,” Fajon said for Avaz. On the other hand, Hungary nominated László Trócsányi, former Minister of Justice and current member of the European Parliament. He also expressed his interest in becoming the next European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. Why Enlargement Commissioner from Hungary would be a bad idea?  However, as each country that wants to join the EU should respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights as the core values on which the EU is built, it is difficult to see that a candidate from Hungary, the country that is strongly criticised by Brussels for violation of these principles, could become in charge of this portfolio. Professor of Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz and coordinator of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), Florian Bieber, believes that, although there are certainly professional candidates from Hungary who could handle the portfolio of enlargement, the signal of a commissioner for enlargement from Hungary would be fatal for the Western Balkans. “It would be a constant reminder to the countries most sceptical towards enlargement, like France and the Netherlands of the erosion of rule of law and democracy. In addition, the saying with friends like these…  enlargement is in bad hands,” says Bieber. He explains that while Hungary might support enlargement, its main goal is to weaken the EU with other illiberal governments. Professor Bieber points out that it will not succeed in bringing them in, but rather strengthen opposition among sceptics, and on top of that, it will strength authoritarian governments and contribute to undermining the reform logic of EU accession. “A country that is hosting and giving asylum to the former PM of Macedonia accused of serious abuse of office is not well placed to promote rule of law,” says Bieber. Commissioners - Independent or not really?  Member states have until August 26 to name candidates for Commissioners. Having been appointed as a Member of the European Commission by the European Council, following the vote of consent by the European Parliament in October, each member of the Commission has to take an oath. They will have to declare that they are going to be completely independent in carrying out their responsibilities, to work in the general interest of the Union and to neither seek nor to take instructions from any Government or any other institution, body, office or entity. But are they truly independent? Srđan Cvijić, a senior policy analyst at the Open Society European Policy Institute and member of BiEPAG, believes that concerns that Commissioners are not be independent may not be founded. “If you look at the previous experience of Commissioners coming from countries with the problematic rule of law record, they had the tendency to be more loyal to the President and the Commission that they represent than the member state government that proposed them. In other words, I would not underestimate the power of socialisation in Brussels,” says Cvijić. Although a Hungarian Commissioner might seek to rise above the national position, it will be difficult, thinks Bieber. “There is on one side the perception which will make him or her viewed as a representative of Orbán and yet the Hungarian Commissioner. This is understandable due to the radical position of Orbán, both in the EU and regarding democracy at home,” says Bieber. Besides, he believes that the Commissioner will be tainted by his or her association with the regime as “we could not expect an independent candidate to be named.” “A Commissioner who enjoyed the support of a government that closes independent universities, controls academia and media and established an illiberal, nepotistic system of rule that has continuously moved away from being a democracy cannot be a credible Commissioner. It thus would be desirable that Hungary’s EU Commissioner administers an uncontroversial aspect of EU policy and not enlargement,” emphasises Bieber. On the other hand, analyst of the European Stability Initiative Adnan Ćerimagić recalls the recent political moves made by Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó, who against Commission’s own assessment, said in Belgrade that Serbia deserves to become member of the EU as soon as possible, while adding that if it was up to Hungary Serbia would already be a member of the EU. “Szijjártó also said that some in the EU were artificially slowing down Serbia’s membership path and he warned against attempts to “lecture Serbia.” Such positions are the path towards loss of EU impact in the region and they work against the best interests of the EU and the Western Balkans. Turning them into the European Commission’s policy would be a huge mistake“, points out Ćerimagić. What should be the priorities of the new Commission?  However, Cvijić believes that the nationality of the future European Commissioner in charge of enlargement is of secondary importance, explaining that it is much more significant is that the new Commission has more efficient tools to make enlargement possible – namely, creating a new Directorate General Europe to deal only with the six Western Balkan countries and the three countries of the Eastern Partnership – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Cvijić also believes that it is important that the Commission and the Council follow up on two resolutions of the European Parliament (in 2017 and 2019) and suspend the accession negotiations with Erdogan’s Turkey and that the Council introduces qualified majority voting in all intermediary stages of the accession negotiations. “If all this happens it would matter little from which country is the new Commissioner,” Cvijić says. Ćerimagić also thinks that there is an important task at hands of the new Commission when it comes to enlargement, explaining that if in five years the EU wants to have meaningful and positive impact on the Western Balkans those in charge for the policy towards the region will have to be successful in addressing the erosion of trust that exists in the EU relations with the Western Balkans. To do that, he believes that the Commission’s main priority should be to succeed in fighting all those that have been working very hard to break the international consensus on the Western Balkans. “Foremost by closing all debates on changing borders along ethnic lines in the region, but also by strongly supporting multi-ethnic states, promoting minority rights, strong democratic institutions and turning Western Balkan borders into European borders,” says Ćerimagić. He also thinks that the Commission will have to convince sceptical EU member states that the Western Balkan states are capable to develop and implement sustainable and positive reforms. To do that, Ćerimagić notes that the Commission has to start by recognising different stages of the accession process, such that candidate status, accession talks and the number of chapters opened, do not reflect the level of preparedness for EU membership. “As only two Western Balkan countries engaged in accession talks, Montenegro since 2012 and Serbia since 2014, they should be best prepared for membership, but the Commission’s assessments from May 2019 showed a different picture, one where North Macedonia was ahead of Serbia, in particular in terms of the rule of law, public administration and the economic criteria,“ Ćerimagić points out. In addition to this, he emphasises that the Commission will have to become better in discovering, measuring and communicating, credibly and clearly, the gap that exists between Western Balkans and the EU, as well as in supporting those willing to work on designing proposals on how to decrease this gap. Who else is in the picture?  Aside from Hungary and Slovenia, other countries, although they have not yet publicly expressed their interest in enlargement, might become in charge of this policy. “If we follow the established practice since the “big bang” enlargement (Finland, Czech Republic, Austria) it is now the turn for the “new” EU member states to take the job,” notes Cvijić, adding that the unwritten rule after the 2004-2007 enlargement was that the enlargement portfolio is not given to an EU member state that neighbours candidate and potential candidate countries." He explains that the logic behind this is to avoid the possible conflict of interests that would come from potential bilateral disputes between these countries, which would give Slovenia some advantage over Hungary. “I would not exclude some other countries from Central and Eastern Europe (Slovakia or one of the Baltic countries) taking interest in the job. Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania would not stand a big chance from the above-mentioned reason of geographical proximity and I would assume that Poland would be interested in a more significant portfolio,” says Cvijić. Having all this in mind, the Western Balkans will certainly need a Commissioner that is willing to work hard to promote the enlargement in the EU that is preoccupied with reforming itself rather than enlarging, while at the same time insisting on the respect of core values and principles in the region. This time, the Western Balkans will not need a friend as much as they will need a strong hand and motivation to guide them towards the membership. *This article first appeared at the European Western Balkans 
[post_title] => Hungary or Slovenia – Who will give the next enlargement Commissioner? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => hungary-or-slovenia-who-will-give-the-next-enlargement-commissioner [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-05 11:05:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-05 09:05:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142839 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142833 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-03 09:18:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-03 07:18:25 [post_content] => By Sidonja Manushi It is a well known fact that war tactics perfectly work in politics too, and the good old “divide and conquer” must be a favorite of Albanian politicians. As actions to demolish the capital’s National Theatre are well underway by now, one might be surprised to see the public debate does not revolve around the lack of transparency and democratic process, nor the corrupt affairs that are driving the entire project, but rather on whether the capital needs a new and restored NT, or not.  This is a perfect representation of the German idiom: “because of all the trees, I couldn’t see the forest,” meaning that sometimes, paying attention to the unimportant details makes us lose sight of the bigger picture.  By successfully concentrating the attention on whether the existing NT is falling apart and thus not providing a proper cultural space at this time and age, it seems the majority of Albanians has forgotten what the real problem with the new National Theatre is.  To begin with, there is only a minority of citizens and artists alike who would confidently argue the existing NT is perfect as it is, or that there is no place for restoration. Others would even support construction of a new building altogether, without blinking an eye.  However, the end result doesn’t always justify the means. There has been no transparency, no public consultation, no real race amid construction companies and no democracy at any of the steps the government has undertaken regarding this project. The only time it held mock meetings with artists was when it saw they would not give up their protests, or their fight.  There are countless EU reports to testify to the government's undemocratic process, from criticism towards the fake race among the companies bidding to construct it (Fusha sh.p.k. won, surprise, surprise!), to advises that no further steps should be taken until a Constitutional Court is back in order.  This leads to the second point the public debate seems to be missing out - it is not only a new NT being built. Amind the shiny cloud of propaganda claiming a modern building will vitalize the city centre, people have hurried to forget the new NT will be, in fact, part of a high-rise complex noone wants, or needs. So, the new NT is actually being used as a facade to justify even more concrete buildings, which have lately bloomed like mushrooms after the rain in already crowded and chaotic Tirana.  Surely, this is not a matter of a one-man’s-opinion, but it is not a matter of one government either. The Socialist government wants to make it seem as if the means justify the end - “some more buildings for a new and shiny NT.” In reality, the Socialist government wants the end to justify the means - “a new NT completely after its own vision, to justify ongoing corruption, lack of transparency and the overall death of democracy.”  As I can confidently say that the good intention of building a new NT could have been done by making all parties involved happy, by keeping old and making new or by restoring what is already there, I can also confidently say creating an even wider gap between where Albania is and where it should be should not be done in the name of art, or at the expense of Albanians.    [post_title] => Because of all the trees, I couldn’t see the forest [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => because-of-all-the-trees-i-couldnt-see-the-forest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-03 09:18:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-03 07:18:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142833 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 142936 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2019-08-27 11:10:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-27 09:10:13 [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 27 - Albania’s opposition Democratic Party released on Monday several documents by Greek authorities, according to which the new Vora Mayor Agim Kajmaku was arrested in Greece under the name of Jorgo Toto for counterfeiting coins and after being released he escaped trial by returning home. Kajmaku, for his part, immediately denied the allegations, saying he was consistent with previous statements that he had never been convicted or expelled from Greece or any other European Union state. After days of publicly pressing charges against Kajmaku and requesting the Prosecutor's Office to launch verifications, the DP today released documents that allegedly confirm Kajmaku's involvement in a crime he did not declare in his decriminalization forms. “Agim Kajmaku, alias Jorgo Toto, born in 1971, resident in Tirana, Albania, was arrested in fragrance in the Greek state, in the area of ​​Ioannina, on 14.01.2003 for the offense of ‘use and distribution of counterfeit banknotes’ He was arrested in fragrance, escaping from the territory of the Greek state. The crime was committed during a transaction to purchase seeds and other plants, and Agim Kajmaku used the false identity of Jorgo Toto, with father’s name Thanas and mother’s name Parashivi,” DP member Gazmend Bardhi said, pointing to a June 2003  Ioannina Prosecution and Court decision. According to the DP, Kajmaku, who used a different identity at that time, that of Jorgo Toto, was obliged to appear to court and only months later the Greek authorities ordered his imprisonment, but in the meantime Kajmaku had returned to Albania. "According to Greek criminal law, the court has suspended the trial until this citizen is arrested or has an accurate address to communicate the charge. According to the Greek law in this type of trial, the citizen must be present at the trial, because it is a serious crime. I must emphasize once again that the arrest warrant of the Greek court has not been executed, since citizen Jorgo Toto was not found in Greece. According to the official documentation of Greek authorities, it turns out that Agim Kajmaku alias Jorgo Toto evaded Greek justice to face a charge that foresees at least ten years in prison,” Bardhi said. Earlier, Kajmaku stated that he had never been convicted or expelled from any EU country, not even Greece. He admitted that he changed his name to Jorgo Toto, but maintained the same paternity and motherhood, while in documents released by the DP, the person Jorgo Toto, who accordingly corresponds with the mayor of Vora, has another fatherhood and motherhood. Kajmaku has also published a document issued by the Greek authorities, which, according to him, proves that he has no convictions or criminal proceedings. On Monday he denied the allegations, saying he stands by statements made earlier and blaming the accusations against him as part of a political attack.  "I assure you, first and foremost, the citizens of Vora that I stand by what I have stated earlier about this attack. I have never been involved in trafficking and crime,” Kajmaku wrote in a Facebook post, while the Socialist Party officially remained silent in the debate over its representative's past. Following Kajmaku’s reaction, Head of DP Lulzim Basha returned to the case.  “Agim Kajmaku can't play the victim! He must confront Albanian and Greek justice for concrete facts made public by the Democratic Party and for which he has not spoken a word. Before he leaves the Vora City Hall in handcuffs, Agim Kajmaku has to answer a very simple question: Is he the person arrested in flagrance in January 2003 by the name of Jorgo Toto?” Basha wrote.  It now seems that everything remains to be clarified by the fingerprint collision. The prosecution has summoned Kajmaku to make their deposition, in order to send him to the Greek authorities to compare them with the person arrested in 2003. If this is proved, Kajmaku would become the second Socialist mayor with past precedents, after Shkodra SP mayor Valdrin Pjetri, elected in the debated June 30 elections, resigned due to allegations of a criminal past in Italy which the prosecution is investigating.    [post_title] => Opposition publishes documents alleging Socialist Vora mayor’s criminal past [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => opposition-published-documents-alleging-socialist-vora-mayors-criminal-past [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-08-28 16:02:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-08-28 14:02:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=142936 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 37 [name] => Free to Read [slug] => free [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 37 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. [parent] => 0 [count] => 1019 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 37 [category_count] => 1019 [category_description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. [cat_name] => Free to Read [category_nicename] => free [category_parent] => 0 ) [queried_object_id] => 37 [post__not_in] => Array ( ) )

Latest News

Read More