Back to homepage

Free to Read

Albania condemns Brussels terrorist attacks, tightens security

Albania condemns Brussels terrorist attacks, tightens security

TIRANA, March 23 – Albania’s highest authorities have condemned the Brussels terrorist attacks and stepped up security at the country’s sole international airport and ports following Tuesday’s deadly attacks which killed at least 30 and injured dozens at the heart

Read Full Article
A trip to the throne of a national hero

A trip to the throne of a national hero

By Maire Rowland Nestled in the mountains an hour drive from Tirana, Kruja city is a magical destination rich in history, tradition and culture. The spell begins when you spot the distant city of Kruja in the mountains on the

Read Full Article
Albania to play Austria, Luxembourg in Euro 2016 warm-up games

Albania to play Austria, Luxembourg in Euro 2016 warm-up games

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, March 23 – Albania will play friendlies with Austria and modest Luxembourg in the next few days in two warm-up games ahead of its historic Euro 2016 participation. The national team has been training at a

Read Full Article
Orthodox Church demands property restitution, stop to wedding photography sacrilege

Orthodox Church demands property restitution, stop to wedding photography sacrilege

TIRANA, March 17 – Albania’s Orthodox Church has called on the Albanian government to return the property it was deprived of under the communist regime in the 1960s and put an end to acts of sacrilege in religious sites and

Read Full Article
Thousands flock Tirana, Elbasan to mark Summer Day

Thousands flock Tirana, Elbasan to mark Summer Day

TIRANA, March 14 – Tirana and Elbasan are once again the key hosts of Summer Day celebrations, Albania’s sole official holiday with pagan roots marking the end of winter, celebrated nationwide every March 14 since a decade now. Dozens of thousands

Read Full Article
Book Review: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance

Book Review: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance

By MAIRE ROWLAND As the world watches superpowers like USA and Russia squabble over the Middle East in the pursuit of greater influence, it is easy to forget the role that smaller nations play in the battlefield of global politics.

Read Full Article
Partizani held to 1-1 draw in key fixture for title race

Partizani held to 1-1 draw in key fixture for title race

TIRANA, March 15 – A late header by Kristi Vangjeli dashed Partizani’s hopes of a comeback in the title race as it was held in a 1-1 draw by Superliga leaders Skenderbeu on Monday night. It all started well for

Read Full Article
De Biasi wins Italian Special Golden Bench award

De Biasi wins Italian Special Golden Bench award

TIRANA, March 10 – Albania’s Italian-born coach Gianni De Biasi has been given the Special Golden Bench award by the Italian Football Association for his historic achievement of taking Albania to the Euro 2016. De Biasi, who has been in

Read Full Article
Impressions of Tirana

Impressions of Tirana

By MAIRE ROWLAND According to Mercer’s poll on the world’s most liveable cities, Tirana is one of the least attractive metropolises on the continent. My experience of moving here from Ireland has given me a very different perspective. Whatever the

Read Full Article
Albania to launch online platform for construction permits

Albania to launch online platform for construction permits

TIRANA, Feb. 29 – Albania will launch an electronic platform on construction permits next April, enabling both businesses and households to apply online by reducing bureaucracy and paperwork in state offices, the government has confirmed. The initiative comes at a

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 37
            [paged] => 75
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => free
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

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

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

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

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

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

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 974
    [max_num_pages] => 98
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 98860b077bc6e9c14b4f6c1c1b5fac27
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 37
            [paged] => 75
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (37) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 740, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126764
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-25 11:00:49
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-25 10:00:49
                    [post_content] => brusse.jpg-large

TIRANA, March 23 – Albania’s highest authorities have condemned the Brussels terrorist attacks and stepped up security at the country’s sole international airport and ports following Tuesday’s deadly attacks which killed at least 30 and injured dozens at the heart of Europe.

Speaking during an official visit to France, President Bujar Nishani expressed solidarity with the Belgian people and authorities, condemning the barbaric acts. “We will stand united and tough to handle this threat and barbaric acts which do not represent values such as religious coexistence, harmony and respect,” the President said in a meeting with the Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said Europe will stand up to win this new battle with terrorism. “The bombs breeding death for the innocent at the heart of Europe will make Europe stand up to win this new battle on behalf of freedom,” Rama wrote on social networks.

Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta described the terrorist attacks as an attack against the whole Europe and humanity. “Albania stands by its Euro-Atlantic partners to uproot the terrorist cells,” said Meta in his message.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha who is on an official visit to the United States also expressed solidarity. “The attacks are testimony to the blind and irreligious inhuman hatred bred and motivated by terrorism,” wrote Basha.

The Albanian Muslim Community also condemned the terrorist attacks, saying that terror has no religion.

“Terror has no relationship to religion, especially Islam,” said Skender Bruçaj, the head of the Albanian Muslim Community.

Immediately after the Tuesday morning attacks, local police in Albania reacted by tightening security measures at the Tirana international airport and several key ports.

Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said the police had stepped up its security level following the Brussels attacks.

“Security measures have strengthened. Albania cannot be immune or neglect any signal despite its distance to the country. The State Police has stepped up the security level and we are exchanging information with partners, law-enforcing agencies and the intelligence service to handle every potential situation. This is a war which continues and which no country can handle on its own,” said Tahiri.

Some 100 Albanian fighters have joined ISIS in the past few years, posing a threat to the country’s national security by threatening to revenge against Albania which is part of the anti-Islamic State coalition.

The Albanian embassy in Brussels said there had been no Albanian casualties as of Tuesday noon.

At least 30 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in terrorist attacks at the Brussels International airport and a metro station in Belgian capital.

The attacks come four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive in the Paris attacks, was arrested in Brussels. Abdeslam, who had turned into Europe’s most wanted man, is believed to have been directly involved in the attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris last November.
                    [post_title] => Albania condemns Brussels terrorist attacks, tightens security
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-condemns-brussels-terrorist-attacks-tightens-security
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-25 11:01:00
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-25 10:01:00
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126764
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126796
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-25 10:40:19
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-25 09:40:19
                    [post_content] => By Maire Rowland

Nestled in the mountains an hour drive from Tirana, Kruja city is a magical destination rich in history, tradition and culture.

The spell begins when you spot the distant city of Kruja in the mountains on the road out of Tirana, from that moment on you are captivated. It seems surreal that this ancient place exists up this windy mountain road. Although it is located only 20 kilometers from Albania's capital, visiting Kruja feels like you have been transported into an entirely different world. The home to the castle of Albania's national hero Gjergj Kastrioti aka Skanderbeg, Kruja signifies an important historical place for Albanians and tourists alike.

In March the city of Kruja is a sleepy place. Quiet and peaceful with the sunshine occasionally peeking out from the clouds, you can wander the cobblestone path up to the castle without meeting another tourist.

The bazaar en route to the castle offers a fascinating collection of souvenirs, handmade jewellery, porcelain plates and collection of Albanian antiques. I wandered, curious, into a barely lit shop close to the castle and discovered an assortment of old typewriters, radios, gramophones and jewellery boxes, a collectors dream. Shopkeepers are eager to grab your attention and enthusiastically regal you with tales about their wares, if you are in search of some genuine Albanian souvenirs this market has everything you need.

The most important site to visit in Kruja is the refurbished castle containing the museum to Skanderbeg. It is difficult not to revere the fierce and courageous Skanderbeg with his stern expression, his pointy beard and his helmet adorn with a goats head. Everything about Skanderbeg's presentation in the museum is grand, once you enter the door and pay your 200lek you have access to this marbled and magnificent establishment. With the large selection of statues on display there are moments when you feel tiny, like a little child gazing at a mythical hero.

The museum includes many ancient and impressive items alongside murals depicting the life of Skanderbeg and his eventual defeat. As if to assure those tourists wandering through the museum that Gjergj Kastrioti is not merely an exaggerated tale of Albanian might, there is a room devoted to paintings, literature and statues of Skanderbeg from all over the world. Perhaps the most impressive ode to Skanderbeg has the least dramatic presentation, a small glass box containing the opera script composed by Antonio Vivaldi entitled “Skanderbeg”. The Italian composer was clearly enamored with the Albanian hero way back in 1718 when he first performed the opera in Florence. Why Hollywood hasn't come knocking and proposed a lavishly over-the-top screenplay of this 15th century legend remains a mystery to me.

The most wonderful part of the tour is the access visitors are given to the castle's turret. Mid-way through the tour of the museum you can wander out into the open air and breathe in the magnificent surroundings. From this vantage point you can view sprawling Tirana, Durres, Lezhe castle and the Adriatic Sea. Even on a dull March day when the clouds are interrupting my view of the horizon the panoramic view from the turret is a wonder to behold. Witnessing it in person helps you to better understand how Skanderbeg protected the castle from three Ottoman sieges. There are few places to hide from the Kruja lookout point.

When you are finished looking at all things Skanderbeg you can take the time to explore the castle grounds which contain a number of hidden gems that require a little adventurous wandering through the steep and twisting paths.

The quiet simplicity of the old Bektashi temple (tekke) inside the castle grounds instills an inescapable calm on those who venture through its open door. Take a moment to look up at the mountains behind the castle and you will see a lonely but striking building upon its top, this is a site for a Bektashi pilgrims, to come together to celebrate their faith. The Bektashi Sufi order is a part of the Islamic mystic tradition that was founded in the 13th century.

With a unique bazaar, a wealth of history, a touch of mysticism and an extraordinary view Kruja is an unmissable treasure for any visitor.
                    [post_title] => A trip to the throne of a national hero
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => a-trip-to-the-throne-of-a-national-hero
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-25 10:41:14
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-25 09:41:14
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126796
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126771
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-23 16:04:30
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-23 15:04:30
                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

kombetarjaTIRANA, March 23 - Albania will play friendlies with Austria and modest Luxembourg in the next few days in two warm-up games ahead of its historic Euro 2016 participation.

The national team has been training at a seaside resort in Durres ahead of their away friendlies in Austria on March 26 and Luxembourg three days later.

Albania's Italian-born coach Gianni De Biasi describes the friendlies as key tests for the tough Euro 2016 campaign.

“We have to work hard to show the team spirit which is our best part. We are regarded as the least favourite group team. That's what they thought even in the qualifiers but we made it. It's not because we have the best players but because we have a team who fights and sacrifices. If we do our best, it will be tough for our opponents," said De Biasi.

Earlier this month, De Biasi was given the Special Golden Bench award by the Italian Football Association for his historic achievement of taking Albania to the Euro 2016.

“We will play Austria which is tough team, ranks well in the FIFA World Ranking and has players who are part of important European championships,” De Biasi has earlier said.

“We have to prepare well for this match if we want to get positive feedback from the players that are called up,” he added.

Striker Sokol Cikalleshi, who has scored some decisive goals with Istanbul Buyuksehir in Turkish top league, is hopeful for a positive result against Austria.

"Both the performance and the result are important. We are in a historic moment and will do our best. The games at the Euro 2016 group are tough, but we'll have surprises," said Cikalleshi.

The 25-year-old striker has been rather unlucky with the national side hitting the woodwork several times. Last November, he scored a long-range injury-time equalizer in the home friendly with Georgia in his first goal with the national side.

The Austria friendly scheduled for March 26 is seen as key test for the national side in a comeback encounter 28 years after the two teams, both qualified for Euro 2016, last faced each other.

Albania has yet to beat Austria who they played six times in the 1980s both in the World Cup and Euro qualifiers, losing all fixtures.

Austria who led Group G in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign ranked 10th in the latest March FIFA World Ranking compared to Albania’s 35th out of 204 nations.

Three days later, on March 29 Albania will play modest Luxembourg, having conceded only one defeat in four matches.

Kosovo-born attacking midfielder Milot Rashica is the only surprise of the call-ups after his great recent performances with the Dutch side Vitesse. The 19-year old who has been called up from the Albania U-21 only for the Luxembourg friendly could join Albania in the Euro 2016 campaign.

The football association says it also negotiating for another friendly ahead of the Euro 2016 kick-off after the Qatar fixture on May 29.

Albania will face hosts France, Switzerland and Romania in Group A of the Euro 2016 in a bid to make another surprise campaign after a historic qualification as an outsider.

Last October, Albania beat Armenia 3-0 to claim direct qualification in the 2016 UEFA European Championship in a decisive last qualifier for the second place in Group I of the Euro qualifiers to avoid play-offs in case of a possible third place.

Group I also featured leaders Portugal, third-placed Denmark and Serbia and Armenia.

Albania will make its first-ever appearance in a major football competition on June 11, 2016 against Switzerland in what is considered a derby as the Albanian side features as many as seven Swiss-born players while five of the Swiss internationals have Albanian roots.
                    [post_title] => Albania to play Austria, Luxembourg in Euro 2016 warm-up games
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-to-play-austria-luxembourg-in-euro-2016-warm-up-games
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-24 18:01:25
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-24 17:01:25
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126771
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126743
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-18 10:48:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-18 09:48:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, March 17 - Albania's Orthodox Church has called on the Albanian government to return the property it was deprived of under the communist regime in the 1960s and put an end to acts of sacrilege in religious sites and sacred objects still held by state institutions. The appeal is accompanied by pictures of some brides posing in front churches and monasteries which the Orthodox Church describes as a grave offence and sacrilege to Orthodox believers.

“We protest because the state institutions which still hold possession of sacred places and objects even after 25 years of democracy in the country, give permission to desecrate the sacred and holy items of the Orthodox Church," said the Church.

Citing a 2009 deal with the Albanian government, the Church demands “the immediate return and with no excuses of all property, including churches, monasteries, places of worship and sacred objects which are respected, honored as sacred by all Orthodox believers around the world, including Albanians."

Commenting on the pictures taken in the historic Orthodox churches of Berat and Elbasan, the Church describes the pictures as acts of sacrilege which have not happened in places of worship belonging to other religious communities. “We recall that these repeated insulting actions do not 'promote’ cultural heritage in our country,” the Church said in a statement.

“They have stepped into the Holy Throne and posed in front of the iconostasis," says Thoma Dhima, a spokesperson for the Orthodox Church, referring to brides posing at the Onufri iconographic museum in the south-western UNESCO town of Berat,  located in the inner part of “Saint Mary Church” in Berat Castle.

"This is desecration. These places were built for prayer and dedication to God. Although some of these objects have not been returned to the community since they were seized under communism, this does not mean they can be used for other purposes," said Dhima.

There has been no immediate reaction to the Church’s requests by the government or state institutions.

In its latest 2014 religious freedom report on Albania, the United States Department of State says Albania made little progress in addressing claims from religious groups for the return or restitution of property seized during the former communist era, and many of the property claims remained unresolved.

Albania is a secular country that has a long tradition of religious tolerance and coexistence. According to the 2011 census, 58.79 percent of Albanians said they are Muslims, followed by Christians (Orthodox and Catholics) with 17 percent. The rest are irreligious or belong to smaller religious group, according the census.

In 1967, religious practices were officially banned in Albania, making the country the first and only constitutionally atheist state to ever exist. Just before the fall of state communism, in 1990 religious activities resumed.
                    [post_title] => Orthodox Church demands property restitution, stop to wedding photography sacrilege
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => orthodox-church-demands-property-restitution-stop-to-wedding-photography-sacrilege
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-18 10:53:03
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-18 09:53:03
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126743
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126642
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-18 10:27:01
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-18 09:27:01
                    [post_content] => tiranaTIRANA, March 14 - Tirana and Elbasan are once again the key hosts of Summer Day celebrations, Albania's sole official holiday with pagan roots marking the end of winter, celebrated nationwide every March 14 since a decade now.

Dozens of thousands of people have flocked the main streets of Elbasan, the central Albanian city where the Summer Day tradition originates and thousands more in Tirana which in recent years has joined celebrations with a tight calendar of events.

The traditional Summer Day cookie called ballokume, trade fairs, concerts and arts and sports events will accompany visitors to these cities on Monday, where the central streets and squares are free of cars, despite lack of almost ever present sunshine.  The Tirana Municipality is also organizing an Eco fair with flower and recycling companies displaying flowers and works created with urban waste.

“The decorations, the handicraft trade fair, the organic food market and children's games are ready. Don't lose Summer Day in Tirana," writes Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj in social networks.

Elbasan Mayor Qazim Sejdini, now in his third consecutive term as mayor, says celebrations in Elbasan which started a few days with a folk song festival and the traditional trade fair, are already at their peak.

"Elbasan is celebrating today. This is a day which requires more respect for each other, more work and healthier people," said Sejdini.

Summer’s Day was mostly celebrated in Elbasan, until a decade ago.

Approved by the Albanian Parliament in 2004 as an official and national holiday, this day of pagan celebration symbolizes the rebirth of nature, the awakening from a long dark winter and a general rejuvenation of one’s spirit.

The celebration of Summer’s Day dates back to ancient times in the city of Elbasan, which due in part to its location in the geographic center of the country, was considered the umbilical city for all of Albania.

According to an Albanian legend, the Mountain Muse, who was the goddess of hunting, forests, and all things related to nature, would usher in summer by coming out of her temple on the 14th of March.

While thousands of people still rush to Elbasan, where the holiday originates, celebrations in Tirana are becoming even bigger ever since Summer’s Day was announced a national holiday.
                    [post_title] => Thousands flock Tirana, Elbasan to mark Summer Day
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => thousands-flock-tirana-elbasan-to-mark-sumer-day
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-18 10:27:34
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-18 09:27:34
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126642
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126659
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-18 09:49:32
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-18 08:49:32
                    [post_content] => albania-and-china-a-study-of-an-unequal-alliance-elez-biberajBy MAIRE ROWLAND

As the world watches superpowers like USA and Russia squabble over the Middle East in the pursuit of greater influence, it is easy to forget the role that smaller nations play in the battlefield of global politics. Why do small nations ally with certain great powers over others? And how do they benefit from these allegiances? An Unequal Alliance by Elez Biberaj gives us an insight into such a partnership through its examination of the Chinese and Albanian alliance (1964-1978) from the perspective of the underdog, Albania. From common ideology to common enemies, Biberaj provides an important account of the similarities that brought these very different nations together as well as delving into the weaknesses in their relationship that eventually drove them apart. Both the Albanian and Chinese governments cemented their friendship in the eyes of the world with carefully produced propaganda.

The two communist states were keen to emphasize their dedication to M a r x i s t - L e n i n i s m and denounced their enemies, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, for betraying communism by introducing free market policies and entertaining negotiations with the West. Common ideology was lauded as the cornerstone of their mutual alliance, but as Biberaj explains, this was merely secondary to Albania’s economic needs and China’s strategic interests. The first chapter of the book provides a brief but essential overview of Albania’s dealings with its powerful allies prior to China. This helps to understand why Albania’s communist leader Enver Hoxha reached out to Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China in order to form an unlikely alliance that few political analysts believed could last. Albania foreign policy has always favored a strong relationship with a great power.

Before its dalliance with the Chinese, after gaining independence after World War II, Albania had already partnered up and fallen out with Tito’s Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. The country’s geographical position and turbulent history of invasions, its territorial disputes with its neighboring nations, along with its dependence on foreign aid made friendship with a powerful nation a necessity. In the 1960s Albania was in desperate need of economic aid after its alliance with the Soviet Union collapsed. According to Biberaj, fifty percent of the country’s trade was with the Soviet Union and with the break-up of the relationship Albania had lost a huge market. It also lost substantial aid money and military assistance.

The country needed a new, powerful ally to fill the shoes of the USSR. Conveniently for Hoxha, China was experiencing conflict with the Soviet Union at its borders and was also rejecting the seemingly cozy new relationship that Nikita Khrushchev was developing with the United States. The introduction of free market policies by the Russians was seen as a rejection of communism and therefore a threat to the a u t h o r i t a r i a n styles of government of both Zedong in China and Hoxha in Albania. For China, the strategic position of Albania in the Balkans and their falling out with the Soviets made them a country worth befriending. Once the alliance began, China immediately started to pour generous amounts of aid into Albania, filling the gaping hole in the economy that the break with the Soviets had created. Biberaj points out that one of the most unusual features of the alliance to the outside spectator was in fact one of the most important for Albania – the huge distance between the countries.

Albania needed an ally that would protect them from its hostile neighbors but not threaten its independence. Hoxha hoped that aligning Albania with China publicly would be enough to deter an invasion from other countries and their distance would ensure that the Chinese would not encroach upon Albania’s sovereignty. Maintaining Albania’s independence and his communist party’s rule was one of Hoxha’s main reasons for partnering with distant China. However, in the end, the lack of interference led to weak political ties between the nations and teamed with limited communication over foreign policy changes, the disintegration of the alliance was inevitable. Detailed and dotted with extracts of Hoxha’s diaries and editorials, Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance provides an interesting analysis into the political maneuverings that led to the formation and demise of an alliance between two distant and very different countries.

Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance by Elez Biberaj is available to purchase at Tirana Times Book House
                    [post_title] => Book Review: Albania and China – An Unequal Alliance 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => book-review-albania-and-china-an-unequal-alliance
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-18 09:51:48
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-18 08:51:48
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126659
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126652
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-15 10:10:13
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-15 09:10:13
                    [post_content] => partizanTIRANA, March 15 - A late header by Kristi Vangjeli dashed Partizani's hopes of a comeback in the title race as it was held in a 1-1 draw by Superliga leaders Skenderbeu on Monday night.

It all started well for second-placed hosts Partizani with Serbian forward Racic scoring the opener but later squandering a golden opportunity in the 77th minute when he missed a penalty kick, perfectly saved by Skenderbeu goalkeeper Shehi who compensated for the mistake in the first-half conceded goal .

With ten games to go, five-time consecutive Superliga winners Skenderbeu hold a comfortable four-point lead over sole rivals Partizani and are on track for their sixth straight title.

Second-placed Partizani, whose title hopes are not over yet, have been playing one of their best seasons since the early 1990s when they last won the championship.

Once the most successful side under communism, Partizani has been trophyless since 1993.

Partizani's Italian coach Andrea Agostinelli said his team played well but was unlucky.

"We were protagonists, we lost the chance for a 2-0 lead and then conceded a goal. Football is made up of episodes and you also have to be lucky. The championship continues and we have another direct match with Skenderbeu in Korça," said Agostineli.

Skenderbeu coach Mirel Josa described the draw as crucial for the reigning champions' title hopes.

“We drew with a direct rival which in case of win could have narrowed our advantage to 1 point. The fight continues," said Josa.

Last year, Skenderbeu made history with their debut Europa League campaign as the first Albanian club to reach the group stage of a major European competition.

 
                    [post_title] => Partizani held to 1-1 draw in key fixture for title race
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => partizani-held-to-1-1-draw-in-key-fixture-for-title-race
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-15 10:10:13
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-15 09:10:13
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126652
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126570
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-10 09:07:22
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-10 08:07:22
                    [post_content] => de biasi logTIRANA, March 10 - Albania's Italian-born coach Gianni De Biasi has been given the Special Golden Bench award by the Italian Football Association for his historic achievement of taking Albania to the Euro 2016. De Biasi, who has been in charge of the Albanian national team since 2011, had also been awarded a Silver Bench award back in 2002 for promoting Modena to top Italian Serie A league. The Italian coach has turned into a national hero in Albania following the national side’s first ever qualification to a major football competition in late 2015.

De Biasi, who turns 60 this year, was given the award for his international achievement and promoting the Italian football school.

"I dedicate this recognition to the players thanks to whom I can participate at the European Championship and to my family. I think it is an important achievement for us coaches," said De Biasi, who since 2015 has also obtained Albanian citizenship.

Speaking to Italian media after the award, De Biazi said the low pressure on Albania to qualify from the group stage will be positive for the team as happened in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign when Denmark and Serbia were favorites over Albania.

“We will play the same as we have done until now although we lag behind in ranking. Playing the group matches will be something amazing for us," he says.

Albania will play friendlies against Austria, Luxembourg and Qatar in the Euro 2016 warm-up campaign.

The Austria friendly scheduled for March 26 is seen as key test for the national side in a comeback encounter 28 years after the two teams, both qualified for Euro 2016, last faced each other. Three days later, on March 29 Albania will play modest Luxembourg. The football association says it also negotiating for another friendly ahead of the Euro 2016 kick-off after the Qatar fixture on May 29.

Albania will face hosts France, Switzerland and Romania in Group A of the Euro 2016 in a bid to make another surprise campaign after a historic qualification as an outsider.

Last October, Albania beat Armenia 3-0 to claim direct qualification in the 2016 UEFA European Championship in a decisive last qualifier for the second place in Group I of the Euro qualifiers to avoid play-offs in case of a possible third place.

Group I also featured leaders Portugal, third-placed Denmark and Serbia and Armenia.

Albania will make its first-ever appearance in a major football competition on June 11, 2016 against Switzerland in what is considered a derby as the Albanian side features as many as seven Swiss-born players while five of the Swiss internationals have Albanian roots.
                    [post_title] => De Biasi wins Italian Special Golden Bench award
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => de-biasi-wins-italian-special-golden-bench-award
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-10 09:07:22
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-10 08:07:22
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126570
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126488
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-04 09:51:48
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-04 08:51:48
                    [post_content] => By MAIRE ROWLAND 

According to Mercer’s poll on the world’s most liveable cities, Tirana is one of the least attractive metropolises on the continent. My experience of moving here from Ireland has given me a very different perspective. Whatever the poll may reveal about the standard of living in Tirana it doesn’t offer a glimpse into what makes this place special.

Tirana assaults your senses at every turn. Frequent car beeps, random crashes, occassional yelps and pumping Latino beats from shiny Mercedes create a cacophony of noise, chaos and life, a unique Tirana symphony. When it comes to architecture, this place is a marvellous mess. A combination of Enver Hoxha-era communist buildings, modern apartment blocks with colourful motifs, topsy-turvy, uneven and charming houses with rusted red slates and stripey blinds to shade from the nearly ever-present sun.

On my daily commute across the city I get the opportunity to experience the delights and pitfalls of Tirana’s hustle, bustle and fractious infrastructure. Pavements can erupt as if an earthquake has whispered by, creating a myriad of obstacles that require full attention and quick reactions.

I am in awe at the way the stylish and perfectly presented ladies of the capital navigate the uneven pavements in their stilettoes with the grace of gazelles and the elegant athleticism of trained ballerinas. I have yet to master this talent and prefer to sit and observe their bravery rather than attempting to follow in their carefully measured footsteps. I have already lost a battle with an uncovered manhole in Tirana, until I manage flat footed walking in this concrete jungle I will reluctantly opt for practicality over fashion.

But Tirana, for all its obstacles and absurdities is a comfortable, sociable and lively place to call home. The city center’s streets are littered with bars of every shape, size and decor imaginable. From the flashy style and trendiness of the Blloku to the more down to earth and authentic establishments on Rruga Kavajes, Tirana is a city that caters for a population of differing ages, tastes, needs and desires.

The curious sight of The Pyramid along the Boulevard has earned a special place in my heart during my time here. The clashing blue and red monstrosity, slanting towards the Tirana skyline holds a peculiar attraction. Maybe it is the suppressed daredevil within me that this city tempts to reveal, but I adore climbing its slippery sides and breathing in the view of the city from the platform at its peak.

The Pyramid may have been built as a museum in homage of Enver Hoxha, but it now feels like it belongs to the city’s youth. Scrawled with graffiti and delightfully unkempt, to me, The Pyramid is a perfect symbolic representation of Tirana, it isn’t very pretty but it offers an intriguing challenge while bursting with attitude.

Unruly, excitable and never boring, Tirana presents many obstacles and numerous adventures.
                    [post_title] => Impressions of Tirana
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => impressions-of-tirana
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-04 09:51:48
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-04 08:51:48
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126488
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 126447
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-03-04 09:49:33
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-04 08:49:33
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 29 – Albania will launch an electronic platform on construction permits next April, enabling both businesses and households to apply online by reducing bureaucracy and paperwork in state offices, the government has confirmed.

The initiative comes at a time when the number of new permits has dropped to a record low following an almost 2-year suspension to curb illegal constructions, which ranked Albania the world’s worst country in dealing with construction permits in the latest Doing Business report.

The new e-platform scheduled to be made operational starting April 1 on the e-Albania government services portal comes almost one year after a new territorial reform cut local government units to 61 municipalities from a previous 373 communes and municipalities.

“The e-permit system will be an extra instrument available to citizens, investors and construction companies not only to accelerate procedures and increase transparency in examining and approving construction permits, but also to guarantee controlled and well-administered territorial development,” Urban Development Minister Eglantina Gjermeni has said.

“The electronic system will also have a positive effect on improving the business climate in Albania because of easing procedures, reducing bureaucracy and eliminating corruption,” she says.

The number of construction permits has seen a sharp decline in the past few years dropping to a few hundred down from more than 1,000 annually before 2011.

Local government units approved only 125 construction permits during the first three quarters of 2015, down from 219 during the same period in 2014.

INSTAT data shows the number of construction permits dropped to 270 in 2014, down from 360 in 2013, 1,604 in 2011 and 1,492 in 2008 just before the onset of the global financial crisis when construction industry was at its peak level.

Poor demand for new permits has also affected the situation as the long-ailing construction sector continues suffering with a large stock of unsold apartments. Household demand for new apartments has also significantly dropped following a sharp cut in remittances and tight lending standards as non-performing loans climbed up to 25 percent in 2014.

Dealing with construction permits was Albania’s worst indicator in the latest Doing Business report when the country’s business climate suffered a major setback, losing 35 places.

“Albania made dealing with construction permits more difficult by suspending the issuance of building permits,” said the flagship 2016 World Bank report which ranked Albania the bottom 189th country for dealing with construction permits.

As elsewhere in the region, construction has been the most affected sector in Albania’s economy during the past six crisis years, losing its position as one of the key drivers in the pre-crisis years and cutting thousands of jobs.

Developers have recently warned the quadruple of the tax of impact on infrastructure for new constructions in Tirana will increase apartment prices by Euro 150-250/m2. The Association of Developers says the municipal tax which has increased from 2 percent to 8 percent of sale prices for new apartments will negatively affect the construction industry at this time of crisis.
                    [post_title] => Albania to launch online platform for construction permits
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-to-launch-online-platform-for-construction-permits
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-04 10:56:35
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-04 09:56:35
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126447
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

        )

    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 126764
            [post_author] => 29
            [post_date] => 2016-03-25 11:00:49
            [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-25 10:00:49
            [post_content] => brusse.jpg-large

TIRANA, March 23 – Albania’s highest authorities have condemned the Brussels terrorist attacks and stepped up security at the country’s sole international airport and ports following Tuesday’s deadly attacks which killed at least 30 and injured dozens at the heart of Europe.

Speaking during an official visit to France, President Bujar Nishani expressed solidarity with the Belgian people and authorities, condemning the barbaric acts. “We will stand united and tough to handle this threat and barbaric acts which do not represent values such as religious coexistence, harmony and respect,” the President said in a meeting with the Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said Europe will stand up to win this new battle with terrorism. “The bombs breeding death for the innocent at the heart of Europe will make Europe stand up to win this new battle on behalf of freedom,” Rama wrote on social networks.

Parliament Speaker Ilir Meta described the terrorist attacks as an attack against the whole Europe and humanity. “Albania stands by its Euro-Atlantic partners to uproot the terrorist cells,” said Meta in his message.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha who is on an official visit to the United States also expressed solidarity. “The attacks are testimony to the blind and irreligious inhuman hatred bred and motivated by terrorism,” wrote Basha.

The Albanian Muslim Community also condemned the terrorist attacks, saying that terror has no religion.

“Terror has no relationship to religion, especially Islam,” said Skender Bruçaj, the head of the Albanian Muslim Community.

Immediately after the Tuesday morning attacks, local police in Albania reacted by tightening security measures at the Tirana international airport and several key ports.

Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said the police had stepped up its security level following the Brussels attacks.

“Security measures have strengthened. Albania cannot be immune or neglect any signal despite its distance to the country. The State Police has stepped up the security level and we are exchanging information with partners, law-enforcing agencies and the intelligence service to handle every potential situation. This is a war which continues and which no country can handle on its own,” said Tahiri.

Some 100 Albanian fighters have joined ISIS in the past few years, posing a threat to the country’s national security by threatening to revenge against Albania which is part of the anti-Islamic State coalition.

The Albanian embassy in Brussels said there had been no Albanian casualties as of Tuesday noon.

At least 30 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in terrorist attacks at the Brussels International airport and a metro station in Belgian capital.

The attacks come four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive in the Paris attacks, was arrested in Brussels. Abdeslam, who had turned into Europe’s most wanted man, is believed to have been directly involved in the attacks that killed 130 people in and around Paris last November.
            [post_title] => Albania condemns Brussels terrorist attacks, tightens security
            [post_excerpt] => 
            [post_status] => publish
            [comment_status] => closed
            [ping_status] => closed
            [post_password] => 
            [post_name] => albania-condemns-brussels-terrorist-attacks-tightens-security
            [to_ping] => 
            [pinged] => 
            [post_modified] => 2016-03-25 11:01:00
            [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-25 10:01:00
            [post_content_filtered] => 
            [post_parent] => 0
            [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126764
            [menu_order] => 0
            [post_type] => post
            [post_mime_type] => 
            [comment_count] => 0
            [filter] => raw
        )

    [queried_object] => stdClass Object
        (
            [term_id] => 37
            [name] => Free to Read
            [slug] => free
            [term_group] => 0
            [term_taxonomy_id] => 37
            [taxonomy] => category
            [description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free.
            [parent] => 0
            [count] => 974
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 37
            [category_count] => 974
            [category_description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free.
            [cat_name] => Free to Read
            [category_nicename] => free
            [category_parent] => 0
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 37
    [post__not_in] => Array
        (
        )

)

Latest News

Read More