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European Court fines Albania €110 mln for PM’s comments

European Court fines Albania €110 mln for PM’s comments

TIRANA, May 16 – The European Court of Human Rights fined Albania € 110 millions for the public statements of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama against Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti back in 2015. A number of local media sources reported

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Albanian opposition marches in protest of “crime government”

Albanian opposition marches in protest of “crime government”

TIRANA, May 14 – Monday’s national anti-government protest took place as a march in front of “some of the institutions that Rama has stolen from Albanians,” opposition leader Lulzim Basha said before the protesters, who initially gathered in front of

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President congratulates new North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski

President congratulates new North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski

TIRANA, May 13 – On Sunday, Albanian President Ilir Meta participated in the official swearing-in ceremony of the new President of the Republic of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski. After the oath ceremony, Meta was received in a special meeting by

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Opposition announces new anti-govt rally after Saturday’s protest ends in tension

Opposition announces new anti-govt rally after Saturday’s protest ends in tension

TIRANA, May 12 – Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha called shortly after midnight on Saturday an urgent meeting between his party’s governing structures and other allied parties, after nearly five lengthy hours of national protest, accompanied by tensions, acts of

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CDU/CSU Vice-President: “Albania finds itself in dangerous political crisis”

CDU/CSU Vice-President: “Albania finds itself in dangerous political crisis”

TIRANA, May 9 – In an interview with Shekulli newspaper, Deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag responsible for foreign, defense and security policy and the Council of Europe Dr. Johann David Wadephul said on Thursday

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Balkan leaders gather in Tirana under Brdo-Brijuni summit

Balkan leaders gather in Tirana under Brdo-Brijuni summit

TIRANA, May 9 – The Heads of states of the Balkan countries me in Tirana on Wednesday and Thursday, in the framework of the Brdo-Brijuni process, an initiative undertaken since 2013 by Croatia and Slovenia to promote the rapprochement of

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Albanians awaiting American green card lottery results crash servers

Albanians awaiting American green card lottery results crash servers

TIRANA, May 8 – This year again thousands Albanians waiting to see if their American green card Lottery application was randomly selected crashed the US Embassy’s to Tirana servers. The results, which came out at 6pm on Tuesday, were being

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Civil disobedience extends to 12 districts throughout the country

Civil disobedience extends to 12 districts throughout the country

TIRANA, May 2 – Upon announcing it will be escalating its action against the Socialist government, the resigned opposition said on Wednesday it will expand the map of the roads it will block for Thursday’s protest, going from five national

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Iran as a Litmus Test

Iran as a Litmus Test

By Akri Çipa  As we approach the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, the debate about that decision is still ongoing. This

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Miners demand higher wages and lower retirement age on Workers Day

Miners demand higher wages and lower retirement age on Workers Day

TIRANA, May 1 – Tens of miners protested on May 1st, during Workers Day, in front of the Prime Minister’s Office demanding the approval of the miners’ status, which has been promised to them for years, but still hasn’t been

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 16 - The European Court of Human Rights fined Albania € 110 millions for the public statements of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama against Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti back in 2015.

A number of local media sources reported the decision was taken a few days ago, while Syri.net has confirmed it from two independent sources, including the State Advocacy Office.

The bill, which constitutes a fatal blow to state finances, is the largest fine that Albania has ever received from an international court. This bill will be paid by Albanian citizens due to Prime Minister Edi Rama's statements in the media and social networks back in June 2015.

During that time, a few days after the Albanian prosecution seized the properties of the Italian businessman, namely Agon Channel, the prime minister publicly accused Beçhet of money laundering.

In his Twitter statement, Rama, responding to the opposition’s allegations, linked the seizure of the assets of Agon Channel TV with politics’ decriminalization from criminal elements.  'Decriminalization, the fig leaf that drops and exposes the Democratic Party when crime is targeted. Blocking the source of dirty money that fed Agon Channel, a success,” Rama wrote in his personal twitter in 2015. 

Following these statements, Francesco Becchetti sued Albania at the Arbitration Tribunal in Strasbourg, claiming that Rama's public statements violated his presumption of innocence.

The suit claimed by Becchetti was filed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on October 21, 2015 and communicated to the Albanian government on January 12. At the same time, the Italian businessman also filed another lawsuit against Albania for unjust seizure, according to him, of Agon Channel television.

After a lengthy session, the court granted Becchetti the right, finding Rama and the Albanian government guilty, and condemning Albania with the bill of 110 million euros.

The bill equals the economic aid of three years that the government provides for all the poor in Albania. or as much as 1 percent of Albania's national production.

The well-known economist Pano Soko reacted on facebook concerning the news about the fine.

“If the Arbitration Court actually penalized Albania on the issue of shutting down the Agon Channel, as various sources of newspapers claim, then this is a legal condition that the Prime Minister should not only resign, not only a criminal proceeding should be opened for abuse of office at cost of the state budget, but his entire property should be sequestrated until the sum’s full liquidation.” 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 14 - Monday’s national anti-government protest took place as a march in front of “some of the institutions that Rama has stolen from Albanians,” opposition leader Lulzim Basha said before the protesters, who initially gathered in front of the government building.

Protesters first stopped in front of the General Police Directorate “towards the institution that only suppresses. We do not want a crime police,” said Basha.

The second stop was in front of the Parliament, “the place that should be the temple of democracy, with the message that we do not recognize an illegal parliament.” 

Then the demonstrators stood in front of the interior ministry “where rules a man not tied with the constitution and the law, but only the blind servilism and the service towards his boss.” 

The last stop was made in front of the Tirana Police Directorate “where our brothers and sisters are unjustly being held.”

Before beginning the march, Basha delivered a speech in the square in front of the government building, which two nights ago, on Saturday, turned into a scene of violent acts against state buildings, in the direction of which a big number of Molotov bombs was thrown. 

Monday's protest was preceded by a large number of statements by the US Embassy, ​​the diplomatic headquarters of the main European Union countries, the MEPs and the leaders of the main OSCE institutions, who asked Basha and  leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration Monika Kryemadhi to condemn the violence exercised during the Saturday protest.

In his speech, Basha highlighted the word “violence,” saying it is “Edi Rama's only response to free and fair votes.”

“Every Albanian knows we have come here as a result of state violence and that state violence is a result of electoral violence. Because that is the only way Rama knows to take and to keep power,” Basha said in front of his supporters, who did not even attempt to approach the police officers' fence in front of the Government building on Monday, only throwing firecrackers and smoke bombs at the direction of all the institutions where they stopped.

The situation became tense in front of the parliament, where a group of opposition supporters removed the metal fence position in front of the building, while the policemen there withdrew. 

For a few minutes, a large number of firecrackers and explosive substances were thrown toward them, but the police seemed instructed not to respond. 

The situation became more acute before the Tirana Police Directorate, where protesters also threw stones that broke some of the windows, and a single Molotov bomb. 

According to a police announcement, only one employee was injured by the explosives.

“Today we showed that there is no force on earth to stop us in our cause for free and fair elections. That there is no force to force us to sit and bargain and compromise with evil. Evil must go and open way for Albania to be like all Europe,” said Basha from the headquarters of the DP at the end of the protest march that lasted over two hours, despite the uninterrupted rain.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 13 - On Sunday, Albanian President Ilir Meta participated in the official swearing-in ceremony of the new President of the Republic of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski.

After the oath ceremony, Meta was received in a special meeting by Pendarovski, whom he congratulated once again for the onset of duty.

During the meeting, Meta praised the successful completion of the presidential elections in North Macedonia, in a peaceful and democratic spirit in both rounds, as well as the messages and the attitude of Pendarovski during the campaign, even after the electoral process ended.

"I appreciate the position of the elected President for building a multiethnic society in northern Macedonia and where no population or community will feel discriminated against. In particular, I value the key role of Albanian political parties in the integration processes of North Macedonia, which was proved in these elections as well.”

Presidents Meta and Pendarovski stressed the importance of opening accession negotiations with the European Union of both countries as a powerful message for the European perspective of the entire region.

At the end of the meeting, the Head of State invited the new President of the Republic of North Macedonia for an official visit to Albania, at a convenient time.

 
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TIRANA, May 12 - Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha called shortly after midnight on Saturday an urgent meeting between his party's governing structures and other allied parties, after nearly five lengthy hours of national protest, accompanied by tensions, acts of violence and clashes with the police, initially before the government building, then in front of the parliament and finally in front of the Tirana Police Directorate. 

At the end of the meeting, he announced the decision to hold another protest on Monday afternoon, “in decided response to the violence of Edi Rama's criminal regime and unwavering in our stance to remove the criminal government.” 

It was reported on Saturday that dozens of protest participants were escorted by the police for acts of violence, which also affected some operatives and journalists. 

Meanwhile, according to the interior ministry at least 13 police officers were injured.

On Sunday evening, hundreds of opposition supporters gathered again in front of the police directorate to demand the release of those detained after Saturday’s protest. 

Nearly 50 people were arrested and 40 others were detained, local media unofficially reported, alleging acts of violence towards institutions and law enforcement operatives during Saturday’s protest. However, police has not yet given an official figure for arrests and bans.

Opposition party leaders participated in the rally in front of the police directorate, demanding the release of the arrested.

 

Clashes in front of the Tirana Police Directorate

The tension between protesters and police forces escalated for the third time before the Police Directorate, in the direction of which opposition leaders departed around 22.20 pm.

A few hours before, the DP’s organization secretary Sait Dollapi was taken there, after being detained by police in front of the parliament building. 

Dollapi was recorded standing there with a gas-protection mask and making a verbal exchange with a police worker who seemed to order him to leave, and then asked his colleagues to stop him. Dollapi was then recorded running from the police, falling down as he was leaving and being surrounded by Rapid Intervention agents, who bit him with rubber sticks before detaining him. He was down as he was leaving. 

From the DP headquarters, Basha said that Dollapi was “barbarously violated” and sought his immediate release. 

The arrival of the opposition supporters in front of the Police Directorate was again accompanied by tensions. Demonstrators throwing smoke bombs and stones brought about the police responding with teargas, while several trash bins were set on fire until the Rapid Intervention Unit intervened with water pumps, keeping the demonstrators away. 

President Ilir Meta reacted to the situation, according to whom it is absurd.

“Sahit Dollapi should be escorted to the hospital to receive first aid for his injuries and not be held in the police,” Meta said. 

Earlier, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed on Twitter “respect for State Police troops who with their professionalism honored the state uniform in the face of a crowd led by the desperate politics of the blind. Quick recovery for injured police officers and punishment for their violators and for arsonists of institutions, "concludes Mr. Rama's post.

The presence of the OSCE in Tirana, which previously condemned acts of violence, came up with a second reaction after the developments at the Police Directorate, where Mr Dollapi was being held. 

“We repeat our unwavering stance that violence is not the answer. Also, the severe reaction to violence does not help,” the announcement read. 

Near midnight Dollapi was taken to receive medical help at the hospital, accompanied by police officers. 

 

Clashes in front of the parliament

Tension only came growing during the opposition protest, which started at the boulevard in front of the government building and got transferred in front of the parliament at around nine pm.

As soon as they arrived there, opposition supporters threw a big number of Molotov bombs towards the main entrance, which was covered in the flames. Police intervened with water pumps to extinguish the fire, and then tear gas to disperse the protesters.

For about 45 minutes, protesters approached by throwing Molotov bombs, while police responded by throwing water and tear gas. 

The Rapid Intervention Units then advanced escorted by the water vehicles, clearing the area.

The US Embassy reacted to the state of affairs by condemning “the violence present during today's protest. The declared objective of the opposition to make Albania's democracy stronger goes against the violence that is being exerted by protesters. Violence is fundamentally undemocratic and should stop. Protesters have the responsibility to promote calm. We call upon all sides to show restraint.”

 

Clashes in front of the Prime Minister’s Office

In fact Saturday's protest, the 12th in a row since February 16, when the DP, the Socialist Movement for Integration and right-wing allies walked out of parliament abandoning their MP mandates, started off with tension.

Smoke bombs and ink bags were thrown toward the Prime Minister’s Office from the very first moments. They were followed by many Molotov bombs, which were not just thrown towards the central entrance of the Prime Minister's Office, but also towards the building opposite it.

The entire area around the Prime Minister's building was surrounded by a metal fence, as well as the side streets leading to it.

A group of demonstrators managed to pull the police fence in front of the main entrance, while continuing to throw Molotov bombs. 

The police addressed them with successive calls to leave and then used tear gas. Basha, who was at that time holding a speech, stopped for a few minutes until the situation calmed down temporarily.

Meanwhile, through a video projector, the opposition covered the facade of the Prime Minister’s Office with the protest’s main slogans, “Rama go,” “the Government of Crime” and other slogans against the Socialist government.

Interior Minister Sandër Lleshaj reacted through a status on Twitter shortly after the tension came increasing.

“Molotov does not build democracy, but aims to destroy Albania. But that is impossible! I urge the responsible citizens to distance themselves from the attack on the institutions. Nobody can burn Albania again!” Lleshaj wrote.

The opposition calls for Rama’s resignation and the establishment of a transitional government to guarantee the organization of free and fair elections. 

It has also decided to boycott the local elections of June 30, threatening not to allow them to be held. Even during his speech on Saturday, Basha stressed that “there will be no election with the crime, and with Edi Rama. There will be no elections on June 30,” said Basha, adding that it is “a battle for life and death.”

For its part, the majority has repeated that “local elections will take place on the appointed date and on June 30, citizens will elect their mayors.”

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 9 - In an interview with Shekulli newspaper, Deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag responsible for foreign, defense and security policy and the Council of Europe Dr. Johann David Wadephul said on Thursday that Albania finds itself in a dangerous political crisis. 

“Albania finds himself in a dangerous political crisis. This is bad for the EU perspective of the country. It is therefore the duty of all pro-European parties in government and opposition to approach each other and be prepared to make real compromises. If both sides are not prepared to do so, they question their country's EU perspective,” Wadephul said. 

Further on, Wadephul said if the government and opposition continue like this, they will strengthen those forces that want to promote nationalism and pursue the path of a grander Albania, as well as encourage third powers to intervene in Albania’s affairs.

“To say it bluntly: Grand Albanian plans will be the end of Albania’s EU perspective! That is why the government and the opposition have a responsibility to overcome the crisis immediately. Even if the Rama government has a majority in parliament, it must be prepared to make real compromises. We are prepared to help overcome the crisis if both sides have the will to do so,” he said. 

Among the obstacles, he mentioned the ever-present need to advance the fight against corruption and organized crime, in order for the country to meet the conditions to open accession negotiations. In this regard, he said the implementation of laws is particularly important. 

“Albanian laws, for example, prohibit vote buying. Nevertheless, there is no prosecution by the public prosecutor's office and no arrests against those persons who have been proven to have bought votes by means of interception records. If there is not real progress here very soon, my group will not be able to agree to the opening of accession negotiations,” he said. 

Asked whether the Berlin summit held last week, initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel achieved something, he said there was a valuable and critical exchange of views regarding the issue of border change and landswap between Kosovo and Serbia. According to him, the meeting’s decisive result was the upcoming Paris meeting on July 1. 

“There, concrete questions on the continuation of the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia will be discussed. The continuation of this process is urgently needed, we finally need progress in the relations between the two countries, otherwise there is a danger of new conflicts,” he added. 

Concerning the idea of territorial exchange, or ‘border correction’ as it was labelled by Kosovo and Serbian leaders upon first mentioning it as a solution to the then-ongoing EU-mediated negotiations between the two countries, Wadephul said he believes it to be the worst option for Western Balkans’ stability. 

“In the concluding statement on the Berlin meeting, all Heads of State and Government stressed that the agreements between Serbia and Kosovo must serve regional stability. This is a rejection of all considerations for a landswap or for the drawing of ethnic borders. Trust between Serbs and Kosovars and stability in the region can only be achieved through legally binding agreements to normalize relations, not through talk of territorial exchanges,”Wadephul concluded.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 9 - The Heads of states of the Balkan countries me in Tirana on Wednesday and Thursday, in the framework of the Brdo-Brijuni process, an initiative undertaken since 2013 by Croatia and Slovenia to promote the rapprochement of the region with the European Union.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and President Borut Pahor, along with Albanian President Ilir Meta were the meeting’s hosts. 

In addition to the leaders of the Balkan countries, the European Union's High Representative Federica Mogherini and Polish President Andrzej Duda also attended the summit.

The Western Balkan leaders approved a joint statement addressed to the European Commission, demanding that the region's membership remain on the EU agenda, as its European perspective is considered important not only for the stability of the region but also the European Union itself.

Meanwhile, after Thursday’s meeting, Meta said they discussed the creation of an attractive investment space in the region. 

The participants praised the Prespa agreement and stressed the implementation of all the agreements reached by the parties, while engaged in peace and stability in the region.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said the discussions focused on sustainability in this part of Europe, which is trying to join the EU. According to him, stability will bring about the disappearance of the problems. 

“All these issues need to be resolved on the road to the EU here in the Western Balkans. It is an important task of the EU to support the dialogue here,” Duda said.

Croatian President Kitarovic said this part of Europe should draw the EU's attention. 

“When I talk to colleagues in Europe, there is a lack of interest in this region, apart from the lack of understanding. This part of Europe should become part of European interest. The EU is incomplete, and these countries must be involved in it,” she said.

Mogherini: “Albania on track, Kosovo should remove tariffs on Serbian goods”

On Wednesday afternoon, Mogherini said during her statement for the media that Albania deserves the opening of membership talks. 

Mogherini had a meeting with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and was also expected to talk to Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, who also attended the summit. 

She said, however, she did not see room for resuming dialogue due to the decision of the Kosovo government to impose tariffs on imported goods from Serbia and Bosnia, pointing out that “no one benefits from this cramp.”

During a press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, Mogherini praised the steps made by Albania over a year, since the European Commission recommended in 2018 the opening of accession talks with Albania and although member states postponed their decision for this year’s June. 

At the end of this month, the European Commission will publish the progress report. 

"We expect only one reply from the European Commission, the answer is that we have completely done our homework and deserve the opening of the accession negotiations," said Prime Minister Edi Rama, adding that "we are aware that in the end of the day the judgment and the final decision on the Commission's recommendation will depend on the specific circumstances in the member countries themselves.”

According to last year's decision, member states should take a decision next month, but the issue will likely  be postponed due to the short time between the Commission's report publication and the European Council’s meeting.

Concerning the opposition’s decision to give up its mandates and resign from parliament, Mogherini said that it should not turn its back to democratic processes and responsibilities. 

On his part, Rama stressed that “the elections will be held on June 30.”

Responding to the question of journalists, Mogherini once again said regarding the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue that “the Kosovo government's decision on tariffs for goods from Serbia and Bosnia has created an environment that is not fruitful for dialogue.”

Before meeting with Mogherini, Thaçi met with Rama.

In a Facebook post, Thaçi wrota that “among other things, we talked about the necessity of the opening of the Kosovo-Albania border and the creation of an Albanian land without borders, under the Euro-Atlantic umbrella.” 

Serbian President’s visit causes protests in Tirana

Upon reports surfacing that Vucic will be visiting Tirana under the Brdo-Brijuni summit, the Kosovo political party Vetevendosje, mainly supporting an Albanian nationalist agenda and which was registered in Tirana also in the beginning of May, gave its first public statement on Sunday, regarding Vucic visit and its opposal to it.

In its statement, Vetevendosje said that the Serbian and Republic of Srpska presidents have held anti-Albanian stands as regional leaders and even warned of protests.

“If Vucic was invited and will be visiting Albania, with or without the brother of his extremist policies, Dodic, then civil reaction will be inevitable,” Vetevendosje wrote.

On a similar note spoke former Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, who said that Albania should keep its ground regarding the border exchange issue between Albania and Serbia. 

However, after the Berlin summit which took place last week and was headed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, it was highlighted that the idea of territorial exchange between Serbia and Kosovo will no longer be part of the EU-mediated talks between the two countries.

Vucic first visited Tirana in May 2015, making him the first Serbian president to ever visit the country, under the leadership of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, where he conducted meetings with all Albanian political representatives and took part in the Tirana Talks 2015 forum.

The Brdo-Brijuni summit, on the other hand, has aimed to serve as a high-level political forum to incite dialogue, cooperation, strengthening of safety and stability and support the euro-atlantic aspirations of the region’s countries. 

Few hundreds gathered to support Vetevendosje call for peaceful protest as the summit was taking place, while the political subject declared the police had reacted violently towards the protesters with orders from above, most probably.

 
                    [post_title] => Balkan leaders gather in Tirana under Brdo-Brijuni summit
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                    [post_date] => 2019-05-08 17:32:54
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 8 - This year again thousands Albanians waiting to see if their American green card Lottery application was randomly selected crashed the US Embassy’s to Tirana servers. 

The results, which came out at 6pm on Tuesday, were being greatly anticipated, making the link inaccessible for two days so far.

hundreds of thousands of Albanians who apply every year in hope of reaching the promised land beyond the Atlantic.

Thousands of Albanians and their families have already benefited from the program in the past couple of decades, moving to the United States for a better life.

Official data show Albanians are among the most avid applicants per capita to the program, which aims to give a chance to immigrate to people in countries that are underrepresented among immigrants the United States.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2019-05-03 08:14:36
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 2 - Upon announcing it will be escalating its action against the Socialist government, the resigned opposition said on Wednesday it will expand the map of the roads it will block for Thursday’s protest, going from five national axes last week to 12 and from an one hour block, to blocking the traffic for two hours.  

Head of Democratic Party Lulzim Basha shared the details with his smaller political allies on Wednesday afternoon at the DP headquarters, while earlier on in the day he visited the office of Monika Kryemadhi, head of the Socialist Movement for Integration and Basha’s most powerful opposition ally. 

“At 18:00 hours, action will begin at the 12 districts of the country to block key axes as an intensification, as an escalation of civil disobedience. At 11:00 pm, we will unfold with our opposition coalition the tasks of the transitional government in order to guarantee free and fair elections. Edi Rama's resignation is a non-negotiable condition to pave the way for political dialogue that will lead to a transitional government,” Basha said. 

Although supporting the escalation of their stand, Basha's allies have also sought solutions through dialogue, something which Basha has categorically rejected. 

Five of Basha’s allies have asked the President to call the parties’ roundtable, but such desire for dialogue cannot be found in neither side of the political spectrum, especially from heads Basha and Rama. 

Recently, Rama said that it is not the majority’s duty to convince the opposition to enter the elections, while Basha has said time and time again he will not be negotiating with Rama, whom the opposition accuses of capturing the state through ballot buying and ties with organized crime. 

 
                    [post_title] => Civil disobedience extends to 12 districts throughout the country  
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                    [post_date] => 2019-05-02 21:09:02
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2019-05-02 19:09:02
                    [post_content] => By Akri Çipa

 As we approach the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, the debate about that decision is still ongoing. This debate has been fueled by the U.S. Administration that has continued its confrontational approach towards Iran, but without offering, so far, a real alternative to the previously stipulated deal. At the same time the debate has been regenerated also by the chorus of Democratic presidential hopefuls that have started to agree on the idea that the U.S. could and should rejoin the agreement. Although it is not being acknowledged though, this debate goes beyond the mere nuclear agreement with Iran. As it stands, U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran is greatly indicative about the envisioned future role of the United States in the world and in the evolving international system. It is thus worth analyzing the two visions that are being juxtaposed in this debate and that have the potential to be quite consequential.

The first one is the one fueling the actions of the current U.S. Administration and its “maximum pressure” strategy towards Iran. The U.S. Administration declared the past week that it would cancel the sanction waivers granted to a select group of countries to continue importing Iranian oil when the sanctions on Iran’s banking, energy, and shipping industries were reimposed. The waivers were per se issued to permit eight countries - that include China, India, Egypt, and Turkey - the possibility to curtail Iranian oil imports gradually.

The so-called “maximum pressure” strategy started in itself with the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, on the premises that it was a bad agreement – with sunset provisions that gave expiration dates for the restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program and that did not address at all Iran’s destabilizing activities in the wider Middle East region. Part of this strategy was also Trump’s designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization – the first time that a foreign government’s military is designated as such in the international stage.

The problem with the current strategy is that it does not offer a cohesive roadmap to a desired outcome – it is a strategy, but not a policy. Sometimes it has been suggested that a new deal, revised and perfected, from the U.S. perspective, with Iran would be welcome, while other times it is has been implied that the ultimate solution and end goal is regime change. Nevertheless, it is important to see that this is fundamentally an assertive positioning of the United States. Though not quite enriched in details and elevated with a roadmap to a well-designed policy, the “maximum pressure” strategy can be translated into a still dominant role in world affairs for the United States. On this premise, though it challenges and moves away from the norms of the international liberal system of post-1990s, with its unilateral decisions and freeriding, the United States is still able to influence developments all over the globe.

The other vision very much considers this ability already lost. A competing vision has started to be floated around, especially by some of the presidential hopefuls that are running to challenge President Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Almost all of them criticized the decision to abandon the Iran deal and now many of them have expressed readiness to reenter the deal if they win the presidency and if Iran continues abiding by the agreement. The premise behind this idea underlines a fundamentally different future role for the United States in the international system. Those that support reentering the JCPOA under the current circumstances, seem to believe that U.S. role in the world needs and will be recalibrated and its ability to influence world affairs and control adversaries scaled down in the near future.

If a Democrat wins the presidential election in 2020, he or she would face the inevitable reality of being only a few years away from the sunset provisions. And they would have to think about what happens after that. Secondly, but equally important, the rationale behind Obama’s administration for the Iran deal will not be applicable any more. The rationale was that by prohibiting Iran to continue its nuclear program and reintegrating it in the international system, one of two possible outcomes would occur. Either Iran’s regime would be lured to a cooperative stance due to not being considered an outcast and not being threatened anymore with regime change. Or regime change would happen organically when the highly educated Iranians, seeing the economic benefits and innumerable possibilities for prosperity and freedom, would consider the current regime outdated and inhibitory to realizing their potential. Through this scenario planning, the Obama administration played a bet based on what they considered to be a system ripe for intervention.

The situation that a U.S. President would face in 2021 is totally different and there is no indicator that those assumptions still hold. The current regime in Iran proved to be resilient. Despite the early 2018 protests in Iran, the government showed no cracks or signs of weakness. Despite the difficult economic conditions from the current sanctions, and the resulting high inflation and unemployment, and, of course, the decrease in oil exports, the regime has shown it still has its hold on power and internal regime change, despite all expectations, seems more like wishful thinking than a concrete possibility. Reentering the Iran deal now would mean accepting the realities in the ground as given, and not believing in the ability of the U.S. to reshape the playing field. This is the second vision that seems to be getting quite traction and that it outlines a pessimistic view of the limited capabilities and role of the U.S. in the international system.

The Democratic primary is still in its early stages and many of the candidates, including the presumed front-runner, former Vice-President Joe Biden, have yet to offer their policies and perspectives as concern Iran and other international challenges. There is still possibility for other visions and foreign policy doctrines to be elevated. But, as it stands, currently there are these two fundamentally different visions that have hijacked the discourse and that will potentially define not only the strategic stance towards Iran’s nuclear ambitions and activities in the Middle East, but, most importantly, the fundamental conceptualization of America’s future in world affairs.  
                    [post_title] => Iran as a Litmus Test
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                    [post_date] => 2019-05-01 08:16:16
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 1 - Tens of miners protested on May 1st, during Workers Day, in front of the Prime Minister's Office demanding the approval of the miners' status, which has been promised to them for years, but still hasn’t been voted in parliament.

Miners called on the government to grant them a status that has been missing to their dangerous occupation for 15 years and raise their pensions, which they consider ridiculous.

“All governments have lied to us regarding the miners’ status. We are in economic difficulty, the pensions we receive cannot even afford us medicines. We have been working under the ground for thirty years. The government should consider our demands,” they said.

Miners’s protests also took in place in Pogradec. 

The Ministry of Energy has announced that it is working on drafting a special status for miners, based on the latter's requirements since March 2017.

Some of the miners’ main requirements are a minimum wage of at least 70,000 ALL per month, the benefit of pensions for miners and their families in case of accidents in the workplace, the increase of the retirement wage and reduction of retirement age.

Also, miners are demanding the right to receive free medical examinations, and in the case of occupational diseases, for the state to provide free medical treatment.

Currently there are about 8,000 miners and former mining workers. They are one of the shortest life expectancy groups compared to other citizens, as a result of working under difficult conditions in the underground.

Due to these dangerous working conditions, only in the recent months, at least eight miners have died and dozens have been injured.

The last case occurred one week ago, when a miner died and another was injured at the chrome mines in the village of Ternove, in Bulqiza. 

The cause was the spread of poisonous substances in the gallery after a dynamite explosion. 

 
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            [post_date] => 2019-05-17 10:36:47
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, May 16 - The European Court of Human Rights fined Albania € 110 millions for the public statements of Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama against Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti back in 2015.

A number of local media sources reported the decision was taken a few days ago, while Syri.net has confirmed it from two independent sources, including the State Advocacy Office.

The bill, which constitutes a fatal blow to state finances, is the largest fine that Albania has ever received from an international court. This bill will be paid by Albanian citizens due to Prime Minister Edi Rama's statements in the media and social networks back in June 2015.

During that time, a few days after the Albanian prosecution seized the properties of the Italian businessman, namely Agon Channel, the prime minister publicly accused Beçhet of money laundering.

In his Twitter statement, Rama, responding to the opposition’s allegations, linked the seizure of the assets of Agon Channel TV with politics’ decriminalization from criminal elements.  'Decriminalization, the fig leaf that drops and exposes the Democratic Party when crime is targeted. Blocking the source of dirty money that fed Agon Channel, a success,” Rama wrote in his personal twitter in 2015. 

Following these statements, Francesco Becchetti sued Albania at the Arbitration Tribunal in Strasbourg, claiming that Rama's public statements violated his presumption of innocence.

The suit claimed by Becchetti was filed at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on October 21, 2015 and communicated to the Albanian government on January 12. At the same time, the Italian businessman also filed another lawsuit against Albania for unjust seizure, according to him, of Agon Channel television.

After a lengthy session, the court granted Becchetti the right, finding Rama and the Albanian government guilty, and condemning Albania with the bill of 110 million euros.

The bill equals the economic aid of three years that the government provides for all the poor in Albania. or as much as 1 percent of Albania's national production.

The well-known economist Pano Soko reacted on facebook concerning the news about the fine.

“If the Arbitration Court actually penalized Albania on the issue of shutting down the Agon Channel, as various sources of newspapers claim, then this is a legal condition that the Prime Minister should not only resign, not only a criminal proceeding should be opened for abuse of office at cost of the state budget, but his entire property should be sequestrated until the sum’s full liquidation.” 

 
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