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Tirana Times celebrates 10-year anniversary

Tirana Times celebrates 10-year anniversary

Tirana Times has marked a decade since its founding in February 2005 with a reception at its headquarters, bringing together the newspaper’s founders, staff, readers and friends on Feb. 25, including many representatives of the diplomatic community, civil society and

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Major oil, gas and energy summit to take place in Tirana

TIRANA, March 2 – A major energy summit is scheduled to take place on March 17-18 in Tirana. The Albania Oil, Gas & Energy 2015 Summit will have the participation of major global operators and key Albanian leaders and experts,

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Albania to compete with new song at Eurovision song contest

Albania to compete with new song at Eurovision song contest

TIRANA, Feb. 25 – Albania will create a last-minute new song to compete in the Eurovision song contest in Austria after a dispute with the composer of the initial winning song selected in the year-end national competition which serves as

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Bankers Petroleum agrees to pay $16.5 mln to BP in out-of-court settlement

Bankers Petroleum agrees to pay $16.5 mln to BP in out-of-court settlement

TIRANA, Feb. 23 – Canada-based Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania and is the country’s largest foreign investor, has agreed to pay US$ 16.5 million to U.K giant BP over the unilateral cancellation of a

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Competition authority says no evidence of improper conduct in oil market

Competition authority says no evidence of improper conduct in oil market

TIRANA, Feb. 16 – Albania’s competition watchdog says it has failed to find evidence of an alleged oligopoly in the country’s fuel market, the overwhelming majority of which relies on imports and is carried out by only three to four

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Integration and compromise

Integration and compromise

By FLORIAN RAUNIG* Talking about “integration” in the Balkans nowadays apparently has one single connotation: “integration into the European Union”. Whereas there are many aspects under which this integration process can be seen, one aspect – which is still the

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Overnight explosions aimed to intimidate interior minister, police, cause panic, investigators believe

Overnight explosions aimed to intimidate interior minister, police, cause panic, investigators believe

[UPDATED] No one hurt as two overnight explosions target property of interior minister’s family and home of senior police official. Police perform controlled explosion on a third device left at a Tirana bus shelter. TIRANA – Three expositions rocked Tirana

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Floods wreak havoc

Floods wreak havoc

Much of southern Albania has been under water for a week, as heavy rains bring rivers to historic levels. FIER, Feb. 5, 2015 Flash floods caused by heavy rains hit southern Albania hard this week, forcing the evacuation of hundreds

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Albanians asked not to misuse visa-free regime

A day after 50 Albanians were deported from France and Germany, embassies of the two countries issued a joint statement calling on Albanian to cease bogus asylum claims TIRANA, March 30 – Last week France and Germany issued a joint

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Luli-Faber appointed new ambassador to Washington

President approves long-time AmCham manager as Albania’s new ambassador to the United States TIRANA, Feb. 2 – President Bujar Nishani has approved the appointment of Floreta Luli-Faber as the new Albanian ambassador to the United States. The new ambassador, one

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                    [post_content] => Tirana Times has marked a decade since its founding in February 2005 with a reception at its headquarters, bringing together the newspaper’s founders, staff, readers and friends on Feb. 25, including many representatives of the diplomatic community, civil society and political life in Albania.

Tirana Times was established as Albania's first English-language weekly newspaper a decade ago when the country lacked a professional in-depth news and analysis source for international audiences that had an interest in the country.

With its coverage of Albania's transition to full democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration as well as all aspects of Albanian life, Tirana Times has become the go-to source for original news and views devoted to serving the English-speaking audience in Albania and abroad.

Jerina Zaloshnja, the Tirana Times publisher, thanked all the staff who had worked for the newspaper through the years. A veteran Albanian journalist, she and her husband, Albert Rakipi, came up with the idea of creating Tirana Times, more than a decade ago.

She said one of the newspaper's success stories had been standards of uncompromising fairness and lack of political bias, based on the best international standards and the hard work of Albanian and international staff.

"There was a lot of skepticism in the beginning," Zaloshnja said. "Everyone wanted to know who was backing the newspaper and for what reason. Overtime, all realized the newspaper had no leanings and no agenda other than covering Albanian life in a way that international audiences could understand."

The newspaper's executive editor, Andi Balla, said the news business is changing, but Tirana Times has stayed true to its journalistic mission.

"We also realize that the newspaper business has evolved and is moving quickly online, but we believe that the foundation of quality journalism remains the same, as we present our stories to our audience around the world in print, online and through social media channels," Balla said.

He recently led a team that overhauled the newspaper's online presence, allowing for a better reading experience and leaving a larger number of stories accessible to all readers, while also enhancing the experience of subscribers.

In addition to current events and politics, Tirana Times also has a very strong focus on business news, as the international business community makes up a large portion of its audience and plays a growing role in Albania.

In addition, the newspaper tries to promote the best Albania has to offer in terms of culture and travel through frequent features aimed at an international audience.

"We have a sole agenda: providing the best, impartial and independent coverage to our audience," Balla said.

He added that "in this digital age in which we live ... 10 years is a long time, so the fact that Tirana Times has been published every Friday for 10 years is a success in itself."

Regular readers such as diplomats, business and NGO representatives as well as local politicians appreciated Tirana Times progress in ten years in an exhibition featuring front-page posters, cover stories and features which have left a mark on the paper's journey

The newspaper’s revamped website was also introduced to the audience as a more interactive and user-friendly guide to the Tirana Times content and regular updates on breaking news.

Wine and snacks served at the Tirana Times bookshop offered a great opportunity to share views with readers and get feedback.

Readers and friend of Tirana Times also commented on its anniversary.

Wishing the newspaper a happy birthday, German Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann thanked all who contributed to the weekly over its first ten years and continue to do so.

"As a foreigner living in Albania who unfortunately does not understand, let alone speak, Albanian I am most grateful for the provision of information on political, economic, social or cultural issues in a language I can work with and in a manner which is most useful for me as a diplomat," Ambassador Hoffman said. "The Albanian media landscape has seen an enormous development over the last 25 years and I am very pleased that the Tirana Times, which can proudly claim to have made a significant contribution to a culture of respect, dialogue and objectivity in Albanian journalism, is part of it."

He added that "we are all aware that the existence of free, independent and unbiased media is a cornerstone for any democracy and we all know as well that to attain and preserve this requires a constant effort."

Remzi Lani, the director of the Albanian Media Institute, said Tirana Times has an irreplaceable place in the ensemble of the Albanian press.

"It is unique not just because it is published in English, but because it is an objective window into Albanian life -- politics, diplomacy, business and art," Lani said. "It stays away from the conflictual nature and the extreme politicization of the Albanian press. I would have liked to have seen a newspaper like it in Albanian as well."

 

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, March 2 - A major energy summit is scheduled to take place on March 17-18 in Tirana.

The Albania Oil, Gas & Energy 2015 Summit will have the participation of major global operators and key Albanian leaders and experts, according to International Research Networks, the event organizer.

Prime Minister Edi Rama will welcome investors as the keynote speaker as Albania is ready to open its doors for international oil companies to invest in the country’s prolific hydrocarbon sector.

The summit counts the industry minister, that of economic development, trade and entrepreneurship and other senior local officials among the speakers.

The summit will provide a unique opportunity to discuss the new key role of Albania within the oil, gas and renewables sectors, and for Europe’s energy security, the organizers said. The country’s future energy potential will also be evaluated with the national and international players of the industry.

Albania has been in the limelight as part of the TAP gas pipeline. That was noted recently when Albania’s energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri met with Azerbaijan's national oil company to discuss the development of the Southern Gas Corridor and the implementation of the master plan for the gasification of Albania.

Azerbaijan and Albania are now working closely on projects providing alternative gas sources and transport routes from Azerbaijan to south-eastern Europe, which will contribute to the development of Albania. This issue will be extensively assessed at the summit.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 25 - Albania will create a last-minute new song to compete in the Eurovision song contest in Austria after a dispute with the composer of the initial winning song selected in the year-end national competition which serves as a platform to select the country's Eurovision representative.

Elhaida Dani, who was announced Albania's Eurovision representative in late December 2014 with her "Diell" (Sun) ballad has recently unveiled she is working on a brand new song to represent the country in the 60th edition of the annual Eurovision song contest scheduled to take place in Vienna next May.

“The author of the song ‘Diell‘, for personal and irrevocable reasons, has decided to withdraw the song and unfortunately it will be impossible for me to perform it in the Eurovision song contest 2015. Accordingly to his decision and in agreement with the Albanian broadcaster RTSH, I will represent my country in Vienna with a new song,” wrote in social networks Dani, who in 2013 made every Albanian proud by winning the Voice of Italy song contest.

“I will work hard to ensure the presentation of a song appropriate to the prestige of the event and to make Albania achieve a respectable result in the competition," she added.

Martin Leka, the director of the public broadcaster, RTSH, has also confirmed Dani's participation with a new song after the withdrawal of the winning song's composer Aldo Shllaku.

Dani will participate in the Eurosong competition with the "I'm Alive," song written by Kosovo Albanian song writers Zzap & Chris.

Anjeza Shahini, who made Albania's Eurovision debut in 2004 and came sixth, has described Dani's victory as undeserved and the change of rules allowing her to sing a new song as unfair.

Born in the northern town of Shkodra, Dani, 21, started her singing career 2008 when she participated in the Kënga Magjike festival. One year later she won the Star Akademi talent show, followed by her victory in Top Fest in 2012. She rose to fame in 2013 when she won the Voice of Italy song contest.

"This means a lot to me. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to represent Albania in an important festival such as Eurovision and making my dream come true," Dani told the audience in late 2014 after she was announced the festival's winner and asked to sing the winning song again.

Back in 2012, Rona Nishliu became the most successful Albanian Eurovision representative after ranking fifth among 26 finalists in the 2012 song contest held in Azerbaijan. Nishliu collected 146 points to see herself rank 5th, the best result since 2004 when Albania made its Eurovision debut with Anjeza Shahini who came sixth.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 23 - Canada-based Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania and is the country's largest foreign investor, has agreed to pay US$ 16.5 million to U.K giant BP over the unilateral cancellation of a long-term oil supply contract.

In a statement issued on Monday, Bankers Petroleum said it has reached an out-of-court deal with BP Oil International Limited, the BP's financial services subsidiary, over a September 2012 lawsuit initiated at the high Court of Justice in London.

"The settlement is for a payment of US$16.5 million inclusive of all costs and interest," said Bankers.

BP had filed a lawsuit against Bankers Petroleum in November 2012 and initially sought damages of up to US$54.2 million for, among other things, the alleged wrongful termination of such agreement. The claim had recently been revalued at US$37.4 million to reflect movements in oil price since September 2013.

“As part of the settlement, neither party admitted to wrongful or illegal conduct, and both parties' claims and counterclaims will be dismissed,” said Bankers Petroleum.

Citing a sharp drop in international oil prices, Bankers Petroleum, which is the country's biggest foreign investor and exporter, said it had reduced its 2015 capital program to US$ 153 million, down from a previously announced capital program of $218 million in early December 2014.

“These adjustments have been made to ensure 2015 spending fits within funds generated from operations and cash resources in the latest oil price environment,” said the company in a statement.

The revised 2015 capital program utilizes a $50 per barrel average annual Brent oil price forecast in comparison to the budget announced on December 12, 2014, which was predicated on an annual Brent oil price forecast of $70 per barrel.

Bankers Petroleum, which has recently made it to the top 100 SEE biggest companies, reported net income of $77.8 million in the first three quarters of 2014, up 67 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

Canadian-based Bankers Petroleum posted record profits of around 62 million dollars in 2013, almost double compared to the previous two years on higher production and oil prices, the company said in its 2013 financial results.

Since 2004, Bankers operates and has the full rights to develop the Patos-Marinza and Kuçova heavy oilfields under a 25-year concession contract with the Albanian government. The Patos-Marinza oilfield is the largest onshore oilfield in continental Europe, holding approximately 5.4 billion barrels of original oil in place. The Kuçova field has 297 million barrels of original-oil-in-place.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 16 - Albania's competition watchdog says it has failed to find evidence of an alleged oligopoly in the country's fuel market, the overwhelming majority of which relies on imports and is carried out by only three to four companies.

“No evidence was found to prove banned deals or abuse of collective dominance among the probed companies," said the Competition Authority after a thorough investigation into the fuel market for the January 2010 - April 2014 period which ended up with only several recommendations but no fines to the market operators.

"Competition in the import market and the wholesale trade of fuel is not efficient enough because of the market structures and the legal and by-law regulation of this market," the authority said in a statement.

The probe into the domestic production, import and wholesale trade of fuel unveiled the fact that there exist excess stages in the market structure which don't justify the added value in the chain starting with imports, special customs zones, wholesale and retail trade to reach the end consumer, causing an artificial increase in costs and a relatively low price elasticity.

“The high level of market concentration and the tendency for an increase in concentration in the import market, require structural market improvements and the interweaving of instruments beyond those by the Competition Authority, to prevent abuse and stop companies with a considerable market power to apply abusive practices which damage consumers.”

The Competition Authority has recommended the Albanian government to make legal changes allowing wholesale companies to also carry out retail sales directly in order to eliminate the extra stages in the trade chain and reduce unnecessary costs.

“Wholesale companies should also preserve the identity of the product and compete through their respective logos in retail sale points, to further promote competition.”

Another recommendation by the Competition Authority involves the establishment of a transparency unit on fuel prices which would require a legal basis and the necessary administrative infrastructure. The new changes would force companies operating in the production, import and wholesale trade of fuel to notify the transparency unit and the Competition Authority in real time for every change in the wholesale price.

Although a huge oil producer, Albania exports the majority of its domestic crude oil production due to poor quality.

With global fuel prices having more than halved since their peak level June 2014, but only slightly falling in Albania, a fierce debate has broke out in Albania where the situation is blamed on lack of competition and the rising tax burden on fuel.

The high fuel prices in Albania are not only a result of taxation, but also lack of competition and abuses in a market controlled by three operators, Erjon Braçe, the head of the parliamentary economy committee has warned.

"The market control by only three operators and an ordinance turning retail companies into agents of wholesale companies which determine prices and the poor quality of fuel has seriously endangered market competition," said Braçe.

However, the Association of Hydrocarbons, representing Albania's fuel importers, argues the situation is not a result of lack of competition by the increased tax burden.

This is a web news update; please look for an in-depth view on this topic in our upcoming Friday print edition. 
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                    [post_content] => By FLORIAN RAUNIG*

Talking about "integration" in the Balkans nowadays apparently has one single connotation: "integration into the European Union”. Whereas there are many aspects under which this integration process can be seen, one aspect – which is still the fundamental idea of European Union – might not always get in the daily debate the attention that it deserves: peace! We should not forget that the European project started as a peace project on the ruins of World War II.

[caption id="attachment_1328" align="alignright" width="300"]Ambassador Florian Raunig, Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, speaking at the Permanent Council meeting, Vienna, Sept. 18, 2014. Ambassador Florian Raunig, Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, speaking at the Permanent Council meeting, Vienna, Sept. 18, 2014.[/caption]

Therefore, integrating the Balkans into this European project also means completing the plan of a wider more prosperous and peaceful Europe. This has to be seen particularly in the light of the traumatic disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the nineteen nineties and the turbulences Albania had to go through in the aftermath of the breakdown of the totalitarian regime.

However, being the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, it might be not so appropriate to focus my intervention on European Union integration, but rather on another European framework that was born out of the need and desire for peace in Europe. The Helsinki Final Act, signed in summer 1975 by 35 States, including the United States, the Soviet Union and Canada, is the result of a common, strong belief that another war must be avoided. Ideologically divided countries and leaders were able to make the leap and to approach each other over the deep trenches that divided the world at that time. There was just one country isolating itself until 1991: Albania.

The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe that was created in Helsinki has evolved into the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an organization that covers the whole northern hemisphere, from Vladivostok to Vancouver, comprising 57 countries. The tasks, mission and obligations of this organisation are still the same: stability and co-operation in order to strengthen peace, democracy and prosperity. The on-going violent crisis in Ukraine drastically shows the relevance this organization still bears.

The OSCE plays an important role in the stabilisation and further development not only in Eastern Europe, but also in the Western Balkans. The OSCE’s measures to empower and stabilise the countries of South Eastern Europe go hand in hand with the European Union integration process. While distinct in scope and mandate from the EU integration process, the OSCE’s programmes and projects are nevertheless complementary to this process. Both bring benefits to the countries concerned and strengthen wider European security. Hence, I would like to call it a fruitful symbiosis.

Besides its European dimension, integration in the Balkans still represents a challenge, mainly in two other directions: the regional dimension and the internal dimension.

Looking at the region today, it leaves the impression of a rather geographic notion, which is former Yugoslavia plus – respectively minus – Albania, depending on the angle of observation. Although there are reportedly more than 40 political fora, movements, initiatives and organisations, including the South-East European Cooperation Process, presided over this year by Albania, where politicians of the region frequently meet and talk, economic and cultural co-operation still remains at a relatively low level. Intraregional connection is also often rather limited, due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure. Even the media still report very little about developments in the neighbouring countries, continuing to concentrate overwhelmingly on domestic issues. This leads to a situation where the political leaders of the region are almost the only ones who interact quite regularly. I would like to emphasize that this interaction is extremely important for co-operation and further integration of the region, but is still not enough.

Only once people of the region work together on concrete projects – so-called people to people contacts – will they be able to overcome often still deeply rooted prejudices. At that point they will realise their compatibility in areas such as life attitudes, taste, humour and cultural patterns. In this regard political leaders, international partners of the region and the people themselves have to undertake even stronger efforts to overcome remaining barriers in South Eastern Europe. The fact that a country of the region – Serbia – holds this year OSCE’s chairmanship represents a unique opportunity in this direction.

In this regard, the OSCE’s broad integration framework provides a distinct potential to be used in a comprehensive manner. It brings us also back to the initial topic of European Union integration, where a fundamental concern still seems to be: Can the Balkans integrate into the European Union without having finished its own integration?

Regarding internal integration, substantive challenges still lie ahead: Quite a few South Eastern European countries still have an internal political and social setup that is dominated by endless conflicts. Hence, the same question as for regional integration seems to be valid also in this regard: Can a country successfully proceed on the integration path, be it regional or European Union integration, without having healed its own deep internal ruptures? How can a smaller entity integrate into a bigger one when it still is disintegrated itself? Seen from the perspective of the bigger entity, there might be a strong reluctance to import potential problems.

What might be the reasons for the barriers of internal integration? First of all, a high level of political conflicts impedes sound development and progress of a society by absorbing limited human energy for mostly non-constructive issues. Secondly, not only limited human resources and time is thereby wasted for non-creative work, but an atmosphere of continuous conflict also holds hostage the whole society by attracting most of the attention and fascination, especially when supported by sensation-seeking media.

What might be the remedy? What might break the vicious circle of one conflict creating another? First, if societies and states that are affected by this phenomenon wish to cut sustainably the endless chain of conflicts, they have to do it out of their own conviction and will. Outsiders can assist, but never take over the responsibility of such an exercise. If such a process is driven by external institutions and persons, it might function for a while, but it risks being unsustainable.

What could deescalate the internal political situation? I am convinced, it is compromise. Whereas compromise in the Balkans is still often seen as a weakness, the entity the Balkan countries would like to integrate to – the European Union–, is based on compromise. And, I would note, also the OSCE as the biggest regional security organization in the world is founded on the concept of negotiation and compromise. Hence, the challenge not only for South Eastern European politicians, but for entire societies, of accepting compromise as a strength, a virtue, lies still ahead.

Compromise should not be confused with consensus. Compromise allows the involved parties to keep their distinct opinion or position, but it leaves space to the opinions and positions of the other side. Compromise is the golden middle where everybody wins a little and everybody loses a little. It might be the best remedy against the still widespread culture of "the winner takes it all” and the misperception of consensus as the power of veto.

Albania’s transformation, the way out of transition, is a national project that will only succeed by closing the ranks and putting the good of the country ahead of narrow personal, economic or party interests. This is why Albania’s friends and the international community put so much emphasis on the requirement of sincere and sound co-operation based on compromise. The constructive way religious and ethnic communities deal with each other in Albania might serve as a very appropriate example for the further way of internal and external integration.

* Ambassador Florian Raunig is Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania. He held this speech at the Conference "Integration is Necessary to Foster Regional Stability and Economic Prosperity" on Feb. 13, 2015 at at Luarasi University in Tirana.

 
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                    [post_content] => [UPDATED] No one hurt as two overnight explosions target property of interior minister's family and home of senior police official. Police perform controlled explosion on a third device left at a Tirana bus shelter.

TIRANA - Three expositions rocked Tirana overnight, causing property damage but no injuries.

The blasts targeted a pharmacy owned by the interior minister's father and the home of a police official. Police performed a controlled explosion on a third device found at a Tirana bus shelter in the early hours of Tuesday.

The explosions aimed to intimidate law enforcement authorities and cause panic, investigators told the local media. No one has claimed responsibility publicly for the attacks.

Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri held a meeting with prosecutor general and the country's intelligence chief this morning. Prosecutors from the Serious Crimes Unit have taken over the investigations and are treating all three incidents as related, local media reported.

Tahiri said later in the day that that it is not easy to see his family threatened but added he won't be intimidated from doing his job as part of the government's anti-crime drive.

Prime Minister Edi Rama called the explosions "an act of terror" in a statement. He tied the explosions to the government's recent rule of law operations across the country.

"There will be no tolerance in the war on crime," Rama said. "Saimir Tahiri is at the helm of such war and those who have ordered and executed this act of terror on his family will learn that today they have given the minister and all of us more motivation to ... do this high duty in the service of the country and its people."

The use of small explosive devices in acts of targeted violence is not rare in Albania, but this is the first time the family of a cabinet minister has been targeted and the first time such explosive devices have been left in a public place like a bus shelter.

The bus station in question is in the vicinity of the homes of the interior minister's parents and the mother of the prime minister, but officials have not made a direct connection.

European Union and U.S. diplomats in Tirana issued statements that strongly condemned the attacks and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

"The use of violence as a means of intimidation and coercion is a cowardly act that undermines democracy and has no place in today’s Albania," the U.S. Embassy in Tirana said in statement, adding it "is proud to continue its longstanding support for Albania’s Ministry of Interior, Police, and other security services in the fight against organized crime, narcotics trafficking, and corruption."

This is a developing story last updated Feb. 10, 2015 at 4:45 p.m. Read more about this and other top stories of the week in our upcoming Friday print edition.
                    [post_title] => Overnight explosions aimed to intimidate interior minister, police, cause panic, investigators believe
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_1104" align="alignright" width="300"]The economic damage to the region’s agricultural sector is enormous, local officials said. The economic damage to the region’s agricultural sector is enormous, local officials said.[/caption]

Much of southern Albania has been under water for a week, as heavy rains bring rivers to historic levels.
FIER, Feb. 5, 2015
Flash floods caused by heavy rains hit southern Albania hard this week, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and causing massive damage to homes, livestock and businesses. There have been no victims, officials said, but more than 500 people have been evacuated. Rescue boats and army helicopters were used to get to many people stuck surrounded by rising water. Television footage from the affected areas showed massive lakes had formed where cultivated fields had once been. Hundreds of sheep have drowned too. The economic damage to the region’s agricultural sector is enormous, local officials said. “Thousands of hectares are under water and hundreds o family homes have been flooded,” Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said. “The situation is critical.” The government says it launched civil emergency operation to deal with the floods, with army troops deployed to aid civilian officials in the evacuation of stranded people. Many parts of southern Albania are also in black out conditions, as power transformers have been flooded. The counties of Gjirokaster, Fier and Vlora were worst affected, as Vjosa and Drino rivers swelled to their highest levels in recorded history, causing damages cities and towns on their shores, including Përmet, Memaliaj, Fier and the Dropull region. Police advised against all travel to the southern parts of the country, as the roads are either flooded on danger of being so. In areas of higher elevation, such as Korça County, a snow storm has left many roads in bad conditions, and by Tuesday, the Korça area had also flooded. Heavy rains began Jan. 30 and have now gone on for more than a week, prompting authorities to evacuate people in Vlore and Berat districts. By Feb. 1, all rivers in the south had overflowed their banks covering with water not only 5,000 hectares but also hundreds of homes in Vlore, Fier, Berat and Gjirokastra districts. Heavy rain and snow caused rivers to flood thousands of hectares, hundreds of homes and many roads. Police and army troops evacuated 420 of flooded families and their livestock in the districts of Vlore, Fier, Gjirokaster and Berat, some 100-180 kilometers south of capital of Tirana, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Many areas in southern Albania had no power or potable water. Police urged residents to cancel travel plans and more intense rain was forecast to hit over the next few days. Authorities called on the endangered people to respond to the request for their evacuation. Many families declined to leave their homes, fearing for their property and livestock. Prime Minister Edi Rama and other ministers pledged that after getting over with the imminent emergency threat, they would make the calculation and compensate people. Rama also pledged investment in the flooded areas that would assist in preventing them in other cases. But the worst comes for the farmers who have lost not only their annual products but also will suffer damage in their agriculture land and livestock. These are people like Arben Krasniqi, 46, in Darzeze village, Fier district, 115 kilometers south of Tirana, who as concerned about his sheep as himself Monday, transporting with a small boat what had remained of his once flock of 400. He had yet to count all the dead sheep. His village, one of the worst affected, is home to some 3,000 inhabitants. Farmers there also complained of the delayed assistance coming from the authorities. Other areas in the south still suffered from power or water supply. Police urged residents to cancel travel plans and more intense rain was forecast to hit over the next few days. Rama also said the government had asked for assistance from the European Union, however member states like Greece and Bulgaria have also seen similar flooding this week. Neighboring Macedonia also saw major damage from floods. People said that the government should do more to stop forest cutting, use of river beds for construction and rubbish thrown on the rivers -- all things that lead to more flooding. Health Ministry says there have been no health problems in the flooded areas so far. Authorities have started to distribute food and other stuff to the affected people. Meanwhile non-governmental organizations or the civic ones have started to make calls to collect food assistance, other house items and also money for the families still under water. This story appeared in the Feb. 6, 2015 print edition.  [post_title] => Floods wreak havoc [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => floods-wreak-havoc [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 13:19:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 12:19:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1148 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1146 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:20:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-06 09:20:13 [post_content] => A day after 50 Albanians were deported from France and Germany, embassies of the two countries issued a joint statement calling on Albanian to cease bogus asylum claims TIRANA, March 30 – Last week France and Germany issued a joint statement through their embassies in Tirana, telling Albanians that the refugee status will not be granted to Albanian asylum seekers whose true reasons for leaving Albanian are economic. There have been calls in Germany that Albania should be listed as a safe country, which means that Albanians cannot earn asylum even if they ask for it. France has already made that move. "The asylum application procedure should not be misused, since it is strictly reserved only to true political refugees. The current liberalization allows visits to our countries or requests for visa to carry out studies or to work on a regular basis. We cannot accept any bypass of these procedures, because it is at the expense of the vast majority of Albanian citizens who respect these rules," the statement said. This would damage the interests of Albania in its significant efforts to be integrated in the European Union. "In addition, the repatriation of Albanian citizens could lead to them being prohibited entry and stay in the Schengen area for several years," said the joint statement. A day earlier, 50 Albanian citizens were deported from France and Germany for not respecting the Schengen visa regime terms, which lets them stay 90 out of 180 days in one of their countries. Albania earned the visa free regime in 2010. Countries in northern Europe have complained that many Albanians go there and ask for asylum only presenting economic issues. But very often they secure false documents to show as if they are in a blood feud or persecuted by the government. The EU member countries have passed a law last year which lets them decide individually to reinstate the visa regime for separate countries if they fear threatened from their asylum seekers. Albania ranks below Serbia and Macedonia in the number of asylum seekers. [post_title] => Albanians asked not to misuse visa-free regime [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanians-asked-not-to-misuse-visa-free-regime [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-10 12:08:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-10 11:08:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1146 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1105 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:01:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-06 09:01:47 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_1102" align="alignright" width="199"]Floreta Luli-Faber had previously served for 14 years as executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania Floreta Luli-Faber had previously served for 14 years as executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania[/caption] President approves long-time AmCham manager as Albania's new ambassador to the United States TIRANA, Feb. 2 - President Bujar Nishani has approved the appointment of Floreta Luli-Faber as the new Albanian ambassador to the United States. The new ambassador, one of Albania's best known business community representatives, replaces Gilbert Galanxhi, whose mandate has ended. Based in Washington, Luli-Faber will also cover Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Panama as a non-resident ambassador, the presidential decision noted. Luli-Faber is best known for her deep knowledge of economic and trade ties between Albania and the United States, after serving for 14 years as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania. The Shkodër native comes from a lengthy career as a manager. She was educated in Norway and Albania. The presidential approval comes after a lengthy delay since Luli-Faber was first nominated by the government last year. Due to disagreements between the president and the government, there had been a delay in approval for several ambassador nominations, including the key Washington posting. The delays are not unique to this administration. Albanian legislation gives final approval on ambassadorial appointments to the president, which has led to friction over the years between the heads of state and the government over appointments. Albania also recently received a new U.S. ambassador, with Donald Lu taking the helm at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. After resuming diplomatic relations in 1991 at the end of the communist regime in Albania, Washington and Tirana have had a very close relationship. Albania joined NATO in 2009, and has been a strong U.S. supporter internationally. Albanians are Europe’s most pro-American people, public opinion polls show. [post_title] => Luli-Faber appointed new ambassador to Washington [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => luli-faber-appointed-new-ambassador-to-washington [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 12:07:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 11:07:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1105 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1664 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-03-06 11:28:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-03-06 10:28:15 [post_content] => Tirana Times has marked a decade since its founding in February 2005 with a reception at its headquarters, bringing together the newspaper’s founders, staff, readers and friends on Feb. 25, including many representatives of the diplomatic community, civil society and political life in Albania. Tirana Times was established as Albania's first English-language weekly newspaper a decade ago when the country lacked a professional in-depth news and analysis source for international audiences that had an interest in the country. With its coverage of Albania's transition to full democracy and Euro-Atlantic integration as well as all aspects of Albanian life, Tirana Times has become the go-to source for original news and views devoted to serving the English-speaking audience in Albania and abroad. Jerina Zaloshnja, the Tirana Times publisher, thanked all the staff who had worked for the newspaper through the years. A veteran Albanian journalist, she and her husband, Albert Rakipi, came up with the idea of creating Tirana Times, more than a decade ago. She said one of the newspaper's success stories had been standards of uncompromising fairness and lack of political bias, based on the best international standards and the hard work of Albanian and international staff. "There was a lot of skepticism in the beginning," Zaloshnja said. "Everyone wanted to know who was backing the newspaper and for what reason. Overtime, all realized the newspaper had no leanings and no agenda other than covering Albanian life in a way that international audiences could understand." The newspaper's executive editor, Andi Balla, said the news business is changing, but Tirana Times has stayed true to its journalistic mission. "We also realize that the newspaper business has evolved and is moving quickly online, but we believe that the foundation of quality journalism remains the same, as we present our stories to our audience around the world in print, online and through social media channels," Balla said. He recently led a team that overhauled the newspaper's online presence, allowing for a better reading experience and leaving a larger number of stories accessible to all readers, while also enhancing the experience of subscribers. In addition to current events and politics, Tirana Times also has a very strong focus on business news, as the international business community makes up a large portion of its audience and plays a growing role in Albania. In addition, the newspaper tries to promote the best Albania has to offer in terms of culture and travel through frequent features aimed at an international audience. "We have a sole agenda: providing the best, impartial and independent coverage to our audience," Balla said. He added that "in this digital age in which we live ... 10 years is a long time, so the fact that Tirana Times has been published every Friday for 10 years is a success in itself." Regular readers such as diplomats, business and NGO representatives as well as local politicians appreciated Tirana Times progress in ten years in an exhibition featuring front-page posters, cover stories and features which have left a mark on the paper's journey The newspaper’s revamped website was also introduced to the audience as a more interactive and user-friendly guide to the Tirana Times content and regular updates on breaking news. Wine and snacks served at the Tirana Times bookshop offered a great opportunity to share views with readers and get feedback. Readers and friend of Tirana Times also commented on its anniversary. Wishing the newspaper a happy birthday, German Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann thanked all who contributed to the weekly over its first ten years and continue to do so. "As a foreigner living in Albania who unfortunately does not understand, let alone speak, Albanian I am most grateful for the provision of information on political, economic, social or cultural issues in a language I can work with and in a manner which is most useful for me as a diplomat," Ambassador Hoffman said. "The Albanian media landscape has seen an enormous development over the last 25 years and I am very pleased that the Tirana Times, which can proudly claim to have made a significant contribution to a culture of respect, dialogue and objectivity in Albanian journalism, is part of it." He added that "we are all aware that the existence of free, independent and unbiased media is a cornerstone for any democracy and we all know as well that to attain and preserve this requires a constant effort." Remzi Lani, the director of the Albanian Media Institute, said Tirana Times has an irreplaceable place in the ensemble of the Albanian press. "It is unique not just because it is published in English, but because it is an objective window into Albanian life -- politics, diplomacy, business and art," Lani said. "It stays away from the conflictual nature and the extreme politicization of the Albanian press. I would have liked to have seen a newspaper like it in Albanian as well."     [post_title] => Tirana Times celebrates 10-year anniversary [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tirana-times-celebrates-10-year-anniversary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-03-10 16:55:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-03-10 15:55:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1664 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 37 [name] => Free to Read [slug] => free [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 37 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. 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