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Bankers Petroleum, gov’t to hire int’l audit firm over $57 million tax dispute

Bankers Petroleum, gov’t to hire int’l audit firm over $57 million tax dispute

TIRANA, Sept. 14 – Canada-based Bankers Petroleum and the Albanian government have reached a deal to hire an international audit firm to settle a dispute over $57 million in claimed taxes by the country’s National Agency for Natural Resources. In

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Editorial: Dealing with the complexity of why 85% of youths want to leave this country

Editorial: Dealing with the complexity of why 85% of youths want to leave this country

Under the radar of most Albanian media, a report was recently released, containing a wealth of data about the beliefs of Albanian youths. Among the findings, there was an astounding figure: 85 percent of Albanian youths are interested in emigrating.

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Germany, the migration crisis, and Albania’s resurgent image problems

Germany, the migration crisis, and Albania’s resurgent image problems

Applying for asylum is the wrong way to seek employment in Germany, Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann says in an exclusive interview with Tirana Times. To make it easier for people to apply legally, Berlin is working on a plan to partially

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Skenderbeu to make Europa League debut against Turkey’s Besiktas

Skenderbeu to make Europa League debut against Turkey’s Besiktas

TIRANA, Sept. 15 – Albania’s Skenderbeu will make its UEFA Europa League debut against Turkey’s Besiktas on Thursday as the first Albanian team to have qualified in a major European football competition for clubs. Skenderbeu, who failed to qualify in

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Lezha MP gives up seat over criminal record

Lezha MP gives up seat over criminal record

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – Arben Ndoka, a Socialist lawmaker, has given up his seat in parliament following weeks of pressure over his criminal conviction in Italy for facilitating prostitution. In a letter to the Socialist parliamentary group, Ndoka said he

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Portugal’s stoppage-time winner stuns Albania

Portugal’s stoppage-time winner stuns Albania

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – A stoppage-time winner stunned Albania on Monday night as Portugal’s Miguel Veloso scored a header to avenge their shock defeat in the opening Euro 2016 qualifiers last year. Portugal beat Albania 1-0 extending their lead in

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Socialist lawmaker faces charges following shootout

Socialist lawmaker faces charges following shootout

TIRANA, Sept. 7 – An Albanian lawmaker has been arrested and is facing charges for his alleged involvement in a shootout that left seven people wounded early Sunday. Parliament has given prosecutors the green light to charge Armando Prenga, a

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Albania play Portugal in key qualifier for group lead

Albania play Portugal in key qualifier for group lead

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Sept. 7 – Albania will play at home to Portugal this evening in a key Euro 2016 qualifier after getting a priceless point from a goalless draw away to rivals Denmark last weekend in their bid

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Italian, British artists open memorandum exhibition in Shkodra

Italian, British artists open memorandum exhibition in Shkodra

TIRANA, Sept. 1 – Three Italian and British artists will be showcased in the northern Albanian city of Shkoder in a collective contemporary art exhibition. Italy’s Pierpaolo Campanini and Giovanni De Lazzari and Northern Ireland artist Willie Doherty will be

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Stay out of internal affairs, PM tells Athens in chapel demolition row

TIRANA, Sept. 1 – Albania’s prime minister, Edi Rama, has told Athens to stay out of the country’s internal affairs, following a row over the demolition of an illegally-built Orthodox Christian shrine in the southern Albanian coast village of Dhermi.

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 14 - Canada-based Bankers Petroleum and the Albanian government have reached a deal to hire an international audit firm to settle a dispute over $57 million in claimed taxes by the country's National Agency for Natural Resources.

In a statement issued this week, Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in southwestern Albania, said an international audit firm will be contracted as a third party, to audit the company's operating and capital expenditure to settle the dispute over the company's potential taxable position.

“This represents a significant step towards enhancing transparency in the administration and regulation of oil and gas activities in Albania. Bankers views this commitment by the authorities as an important milestone in the ongoing improvement of our operations," said David French, President and CEO at Bankers Petroleum.

In its 2014 financial report, Bankers Petroleum said it had received an audit report from Albania's National Agency for Natural Resources with findings that could result in a $303 million reduction to the cost recovery pool and a potential taxable position.

Eleven years after launching its operations in the Patos-Marinze heavy oilfield under a 25-year concession deal with the Albanian government, Bankers Petroleum has not paid profit tax yet, which under Albanian law companies operating in the oil industry pay at a 50 percent rate only after meeting their investment costs.

The audit carried out by the National Agency for Natural Resources found that Bankers has already recovered its investments costs and should have started paying profit tax since 2011.

However, the company claims in its 2014 financial report that it has to recover another $175 million before starting paying the 50 percent profit tax.

In an unusual situation since a decade of operations in Albania, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield, reported losses of about $9.6 million in the first half of this year on a sharp cut in oil prices, compared to record profits of $52 million during the same period last year when international oil prices were at a historic high.

Earlier this year, Bankers Petroleum came under fire after an incident involving the explosion of two oil wells forcing the evacuation of some sixty local households. The authorities also questioned if the country's largest foreign investor and exporter has paid all its taxes.

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] => Under the radar of most Albanian media, a report was recently released, containing a wealth of data about the beliefs of Albanian youths. Among the findings, there was an astounding figure: 85 percent of Albanian youths are interested in emigrating.

The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Albania report (pdf) is based on a 2014 survey of 1,200 youths, aged 16 to 27, from across the country. It shows 60 percent, are interested 'a lot' in emigrating, 17 percent are 'somewhat' interested and 9 percent are 'a little' interested. Only 15 percent are not interested 'at all' in leaving the country. The same survey conducted in 2011 showed that the numbers of those who are very interested in leaving the country have jumped from 43 to 60 percent, showing a deterioration of hope in the past three years.

There are no easy answers for this negative trend and for the urge Albanians – and young ones in particular – feel to leave the country for greener pastures. It is a complex matter and an issue that will haunt Albanian governments and this country's society for decades to come.

As German Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann put it this week in an exclusive interview with Tirana Times, “I think it's a question for the entire society, the entire Albanian political class, to ask themselves the fundamental question: What is going on in this country that so many people are actually ready to leave?”

One simple answer is that Albania is small and poor by European standards, and the young, like their counterparts everywhere, are restless and looking for opportunities. In a country that has a track record of massive emigration – more than one in three Albanian citizens now lives outside the country – the trend goes on a momentum of its own as people want to join family members abroad or hear stories about opportunities from friends and relatives who have taken the journey. And the good life of the wealthier countries of Western Europe and North America are ever present through television and movies, even if the reality of life there for a migrant worker might be entirely different.

These are clear pull factors, but it is also important to talk about the push factors. Have the leaders of the this country been able to inspire hope and provide good opportunities for young people? The high number of those who want to leave suggests the answer is clearly a negative one.

Albania's prime minister said this week said he knows there are unhappy people, but he does not have a magic wand to make the country a better place to live in overnight. No magical wands are needed, just inspiring hope and improvements to create a momentum people can believe in.

As the current government, like others before it, gets bogged down in scandal after scandal, and fails to meet its promises for the majority of Albanians who are poor and lack any direct connections to power, many Albanians are now or could in the future simply vote with their feet.

We cannot know if Albanian leaders do care about their legacy, beyond the next election cycle. But if they leave behind a country where more than half the population has left to seek a better life elsewhere, history will judge them harshly.

- Written by Andi Balla, aballa@tiranatimes.com

 
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                    [post_content] => 

Applying for asylum is the wrong way to seek employment in Germany, Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann says in an exclusive interview with Tirana Times. To make it easier for people to apply legally, Berlin is working on a plan to partially open its labor market to the Western Balkans. Ambassador Hoffman spoke in length about migration issues as well as about other hot topics this week such as the government's reforms, where he called for a “common sense approach” to enforcement and the decriminalization of politics, on which he said: “attack this cancer as efficiently and as soon as possible.”

Q: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being on Q&A with Tirana Times. Germany has been a lot in the news lately, much of it relating to the migration and refugee crisis. As this subject also relates to Albania, I would like to start with it. German authorities have made it clear that virtually all asylum seekers from Albania will be processed quickly and returned to their country of origin. What are the immediate plans on the return of the about 30,000 Albanians who have applied for asylum in Germany so far this year?

A: Well, I am very pleased to have an opportunity speak about this, because it is really a very important matter right now. I guess you follow the news about what is happening in Germany, in Austria, in Hungary, in Serbia, Macedonia over the last couple of weeks. Particularly in Germany, now, where we have had tens of thousands of arrivals – refugees from Syria and other countries. We have done a lot now in terms of humanitarian assistance, but it is perfectly clear that we can only continue to do that if we manage to get economic migrants back to their home countries, and this is what we are trying to do now with Albania. We are flying back people, practically on a daily basis now with airplanes. There is no master plan. I cannot tell you when all these 30,000 will return, but we are flying them in on a very regular basis now – just to show to everybody we really mean it when we say that there is no economic asylum, and I can really really plead with people that they should give up this idea – to seek economic asylum – it does not really work that way.

Q: The Albanian opposition has accused the government here of driving people to migrate through tough reforms that have hit the poorest Albanians hard. The push factor is poverty and hopelessness at home, the opposition says, blaming the government of mismanagement here. Is the Albanian government partly to blame for the wave of Albanian migrants who seeking a new life in Germany this year?

A: Look, I will not go into this kind of domestic infighting at all. This is not my business. And also, one has to say that this whole this migration wave is a very complicated matter. There are the so called pull factors, there are the push factors and so on. What I will say as to the situation here in Albania is the following: I think it's a question for the entire society, the entire Albanian political class to ask themselves the fundamental question: What is going on in this country that so many people are actually ready to leave? And one has to say, because I really do not want to contribute into turning this into a party political football, it think finger-pointing is not good at all in this connection. This has has been a phenomenon that has been going on a long time – migration – and its not only an issue which affects Albania – it affects the whole region, the Western Balkans, we have had many people who ask for asylum.

And, lastly, about these reforms you referred to: Of course, I am perfectly clear that there may be a certain connection. People that have to pay their electricity bill may have come to the conclusion that maybe going to Germany is an option. But I have to say that I have been in favor of such reforms, and I continue to be in favor, because I think it is high time that, in a sense, Albania gets its house in order, and that people pay up. I still find it difficult to understand that the situation was tolerated for so many years, where even people who were not poor at all, who ran businesses, got away with not paying their electricity bill, and you can imagine all kinds of suspicions are attached to that too. So yes, I think one needs to pursue such policies, but I think I would hope -- watching the scenery here – that people would do it with a good sense of judgment.

Like in the present case of the fight against informality, I think that is also a good idea as such, but I do hope that not the elderly farmer woman around the corner who sells a couple of kilos of tomatoes will be checked whether she has a cash machine printing out a ticket tickets.

Q: But the anecdotal evidence we are getting so far is that some of these very small survival businesses are being checked, and there is fear unemployment will rise as a result. Aren't there any concerns about that?

A: Well, I have no detailed knowledge about that. My only advice is to do that with a good degree of common sense. But I think, and maybe we want to speak about about Europe too in this conversation, Albania wants to join the European Union, and at some point you cannot have a member of the Union which is a bit like a third world country with a huge informal sector, so at some point you have to address this issue, and I think the sooner the better, but my modest advice would be to do it with a good degree of common sense.

Q: We will get to EU integration questions later in the interview, but I do have another question on the migration issue. Albanians are only part of this large wave of migrants Germany and the EU are facing. These are both asylum seekers from war-torn countries and others looking for better economic opportunities. This week border controls were reestablished. Is this crisis hurting free movement in Europe, and as Albania entangled into this, is Albania at risk of new travel restrictions?

A: To start with, to restate the obvious, when you reintroduce border controls, this has in a way a negative impact in the free movement in the Schengen Area, which we are talking here, and this of course a matter of regret, but under the circumstances I think it was absolutely necessary to do that. But I have to say, because I read an article today which said: “Germany leaves the Schengen Agreement” – that's absolutely untrue. There is a clear provision in the Schengen Agreement that under certain circumstances you can reintroduce border controls and this is what we are doing.

And by the way, we are not doing it on an across-the-board basis, it is more random checks in order to bring order back into entry movements. Because as a result of these rather chaotic developments, this kind of order had been pretty much lost. So, it is a temporary measure which is necessary under the circumstances, and as far Albanians are concerned they are nor more affected by that than anybody else.

And, just to add this, we ask for understanding that people might have to wait longer at border crossing points, but that's unfortunately unavoidable.

Q: There have been reports that a plan is in the works to make it easier for qualified people from the Western Balkans to work in Germany legally. So these would people who apply for work permits at the embassy. Is this a new program that makes it easier to work or simply more education on existing work opportunities?

A: Well, indeed, the leading figures of the governing coalition under the leadership of the Chancellor herself, they met a couple of days ago, and they decided a few basic points of our policy with respect of this whole asylum and migration crisis, and one of them is indeed to open up the German labor market -- in a measured way – for the Western Balkans states – I underline – for the Western Balkan states alone – as candidate countries for the European Union.

The details still remain to be worked out, but basically it is true that we want to do that in order to alleviate this asylum situation, because there is fundamental misunderstanding here in Albania and also other Western Balkans states that people who actually want to work in Germany think that the way to do that is to ask for asylum and that is absolutely wrong. I can only say: If you want to work – do not ask for asylum.

What you can do already today, and what has been possible for quite some time, is for people with special skills and recognized qualifications – they can travel to Germany, using the visa liberalization regime, and if they find a German employer who offers them a work contract, and if they get their qualifications recognized by German authorities – and they should ask their potential employer for help on how to do that -- then they can come back to Tirana to the German embassy and apply for a long-term visa to work in Germany. That's the way they should do it. And the debate now will be over whether we will reduce, let's say, the qualification requirements, so that people with less qualifications can also basically go down that route.

Q: I want to bring it back to the issue of EU integration. Albanian media outlets have reported that Prime Minister Rama told a German press conference, he was visiting Germany this week, that journalists should ask Chancellor Merkel as to when Albania would join the EU -- not him, not the Prime Minister. It's the latest in a series of remarks that shifts blame on Germany and the EU for Albania's slow progress toward EU integration. Is Mr. Rama right?

A: Let me say yes and no. Yes in the sense that it is actually the member states that decide who becomes a member. It is in a sense like a tennis club. It is the members of the tennis club and not the applicant who decide who can join the tennis club. What is not right, of course, is that Albania shouldn't have to ask only the Chancellor, they should ask the other 27 heads of government. And I really mean that. It is a decision take collectively by all EU member states and their governments.

And I have to say, tied to this, I have often detected a fundamental misunderstanding also in Albania about the role of the Commission on this, because the Commission makes recommendations. They recommended, for instance, to give candidate status to Albania, and then there was no positive decision from the governments. The Commission only recommends – the governments decide.

In general, I would say it is not a matter of the whim of governments whether a country is admitted or not. There are clear benchmarks which are defined, and countries have to make sure that they the progress required to be able to join, and of course I know that sometimes there are different interpretations as to whether the benchmarks have already been fulfilled or not. People may have different views on that, but I would say one should not approach this with a 'we ticked the boxes' approach, because people, lets say in Germany, have a clear idea of what is means in terms of substance that certain benchmarks have actually been achieved. And this is the real debate – to what extent Albania has done its homework, and I am sure that Germany, like the other EU member governments, will take a look at that when the time is right.

Q: On another hot topic, there has been a series of news items related to people with murky pasts holding elected office in Albania. Does the fact that Albania has people with alleged and/or proven criminal ties serving in public office hurt the country's relations with Germany and the EU?

A: Look, it's a bit like when you have 27 tenants living in a house, and someone applies to join and become the 28th tenant. And of course these 27 tenants look at this application, and say, how does it look, and whenever such a potential tenant brings with him or with her a bag of problems, that certainly does not help – to start with.

On the substance itself, everybody knows that Albania has a reputation problem for many reasons and this has been going on for many years, and I am very pleased to see that perceptions are changing for the better know. But this issue of a rather sort of unsavory connection between what you call “murky” characters in politics is certainly doing no good for the reputation of Albania. And I would indeed say if you want to become the twenty-so-and-so tenant as soon as possible it is certainly not a bad idea – I would use a rather strong term now – to attack this cancer as efficiently and as soon as possible.

 - Interviewed by Andi Balla

 

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => shkembiTIRANA, Sept. 15 - Albania's Skenderbeu will make its UEFA Europa League debut against Turkey's Besiktas on Thursday as the first Albanian team to have qualified in a major European football competition for clubs.

Skenderbeu, who failed to qualify in the more prestigious UEFA Champions League after losing to Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb in the play-off stage, will be playing Besiktas for the first time and could become the first Albanian team to avoid defeat against Turkish opponents.

The five-time Albanian consecutive champions will be playing Besiktas in the opening game of Europa League's Group H which also features Portugal's Sporting and Russia's Lokomotiv Moscow.

Skenderbeu striker Hamdi Salihi who scored five goals in the club's Champions league qualifying stage has recovered for an injury in record time and will be ready for the home match in the Elbasan Arena stadium on Sept. 17 night.

Skenderbeu coach Mirel Josa has described the fixture with Besiktash as very difficult but said his team will do its best to get a positive result.

Skenderbeu became the first Albanian club to qualify for the Champions League play-offs after beating Moldova’s Milsami 4-0 on aggregate in the competition’s third qualifying round, automatically securing a place in the less prestigious Europa League group stage.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_123409" align="alignright" width="300"]Arben Ndoka (Photo: TV grab) Arben Ndoka (Photo: TV grab)[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 8 – Arben Ndoka, a Socialist lawmaker, has given up his seat in parliament following weeks of pressure over his criminal conviction in Italy for facilitating prostitution.

In a letter to the Socialist parliamentary group, Ndoka said he was giving up his seat in Lezha County so he can work to clear his name.

He said he had been convicted by an Italian court for a crime he did not commit, and he would try to reopen the case and get an official pardon in Italy. Ndoka had served time in prison before being released in 2005.

The resignation comes more than a month after the U.S. Embassy in Tirana had called the presence in parliament of an MP convicted of human trafficking “disgraceful.”

Albania's ruling Socialist-led coalition has faced pressure over having several elected representatives with criminal ties in its ranks.

Four MPs from the ruling coalition have had to give up their seats or have been expelled from the Socialist Party so far over criminal offenses or records.

Earlier this week, another Socialist MP from Lezha County was arrested for his involvement in a shootout and brawl that left seven people wounded.

The opposition Democratic Party had previously published a conviction sheet for Ndoka, showing he had been convicted for facilitation of prostitution in Italy.

Ndoka reacted by punching the opposition MP who made the conviction public. Ndoka faced criminal charges for the assault in a parliament hallway in full view of the CCTV cameras, the footage of which is now available on YouTube. A Tirana court dropped the charges, saying it was out of its jurisdiction to deal with violence inside parliament.

Prime Minister Edi Rama has responded to criticism over selecting Ndoka and the other problematic MPs to run by saying all candidates had produced a clean penal history when he had allowed them to join the list.

Under Albanian legislation, the party leader has final say on MP lists. Ndoka's vacant seat goes to the next name in the list the Socialist Party ran in the June 21, 2013 elections.

 

 
                    [post_title] => Lezha MP gives up seat over criminal record
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                    [post_date] => 2015-09-08 09:30:24
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                    [post_content] => Albania's Lenjani jumps for the ball with Portugal's Silva during their Euro 2016 qualifying soccer match at Elbasan arena stadium in ElbasanTIRANA, Sept. 8 - A stoppage-time winner stunned Albania on Monday night as Portugal's Miguel Veloso scored a header to avenge their shock defeat in the opening Euro 2016 qualifiers last year.

Portugal beat Albania 1-0 extending their lead in Group I to 15 points, three points ahead of Denmark and four against third-placed Albania.

With two games to go, Albania can still hope to qualify directly after Denmark's goalless draw away to Armenia.

Denmark have only one game left next October when they play away to leaders Portugal while Albania has two qualifiers left against Serbia and Armenia.

After a difficult first half, Albania considerably improved their performance in the second half when striker Cikalleshi hit the post after deflection to a long-range strike.

The Albanian defence also covered Real Madrid star and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo pretty well, leaving him few opportunities to strike.

"We must draw lessons from this loss. We must give our best for the point we lost. Portugal will do us a favour if it wins against Denmark," said De Biasi.

"Our bid is a bit complicated now that Portugal has mathematically secured its qualification," he added.

Having already mathematically secured a place in the play-offs, Albania’s qualifying campaign will close with a delicate home match against bottom Serbia on October 8 before travelling to Armenia three days later.

The top two group teams and the best third-placed side in the nine groups qualify directly for the final tournament of the Euro 2016. The eight remaining third-placed teams will contest play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers.
                    [post_title] => Portugal’s stoppage-time winner stuns Albania
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_123390" align="alignright" width="300"]prenga Socialist lawmaker Armando Prenga. (Photo: VoA TV grab)[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 7 – An Albanian lawmaker has been arrested and is facing charges for his alleged involvement in a shootout that left seven people wounded early Sunday.

Parliament has given prosecutors the green light to charge Armando Prenga, a Socialist member of parliament from Lezha County, who was arrested immediately after he and members of his family clashed with another group in the vicinity of the Laç police station.

Prenga faces charges of intentionally causing serious injury, illegal possession of weapons and uttering threats, said a statement by Nik Nikollaj, the police chief of Kurbin Municipality, where Laç is located. Several other people involved in the fight have also been arrested, police said.

The conflict related to fishing rights in the Patok Lagune, according to lawyers for both sides.

Prime Minister Edi Rama said there would be zero tolerance for MPs breaking the law and urged prosecutors to do their job.

"No one is above the law, lawmakers included," Rama said on Twitter.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, Prenga said he had acted in self defense and expressed anger over the treatment he had received from his party and for the way the opposition was using the situation for political gain.

Opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha said the events were the latest example of Prime Minister Rama's affair with people with criminal ties.

“Above the law, and against the law, crime and criminals have become one with power,” Basha said in a statement.

Prenga is the third member of parliament from the ruling Socialist-led coalition to be arrested since Rama's government came to power in 2013.

The prime minister has increasingly come under fire from critics and the opposition for allowing people with dubious pasts and reputations to become members of parliament and take other public offices.

Under controversial constitutional and legislative changes done in 2008, the party leaders have final say on all candidates for parliament. Several analysts have said the composition of parliament has suffered as a result.
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                    [post_date] => 2015-09-07 09:59:04
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

[caption id="attachment_123385" align="alignright" width="300"]FBL-EURO-2016-POR-ALB Albanian striker Bekim Balaj celebrates after scoring a winning volley in the September 2014 opening qualifier away to Portugal[/caption]

TIRANA, Sept. 7 - Albania will play at home to Portugal this evening in a key Euro 2016 qualifier after getting a priceless point from a goalless draw away to rivals Denmark last weekend in their bid for a first-ever qualification in a major football competition.

Albania play Group I leaders Portugal at Elbasan Arena in an effort to repeat the historic 1-0 away victory last year in the opening qualifier which is the only 'shock' defeat the Portuguese have suffered in their first five qualifiers.

With three matches to go, Albania currently rank third in Group I with 11 points, level with Denmark which hold an advantage only thanks to an away goal to Albania in last October's qualifier despite Albania having one game at hand.

See Group I Standings

Having already mathematically secured a place in the play-offs, a home victory against group leaders Portugal will be decisive for Albania's dream to achieve a direct qualification.

However, Monday evening's match will be more difficult for the national side as Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo will be starting for Portugal after missing in the home match.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the match, Albania's coach Italian Gianni De Biasi jokingly threatened to vote for Ronaldo's rival, Argentinean Lionel Messi, in the next FIFA Golden Ball if the Portuguese scores in Albania.

“I hope he has a change of heart because I voted him for the Ballon D'or. Otherwise... I will vote for Messi," said De Biasi.

Portugal play Albania after losing 1-0 in a friendly against Euro 2016 hosts France and four consecutive victories in the qualifiers.

"This match is important to us for three reasons. Firstly, because we confirm our shape and results we have achieved, secondly because we are in a decisive stage of the qualifiers and thirdly because we play against a big opponent which leads our qualifying group," said De Biasi.

Portugal's coach Fernando Santos described the qualifier with Albania as tough, but not decisive for a mathematical qualification.

"Albania is an equal opponent. They have a motivated team and are very close to a historic achievement of qualifying for the European championship. They are an aggressive team but we will try playing our game," Santos said in a press conference in Tirana.

Albania suffered a lot in the qualifier against Denmark, but defended well until the end of the match and could have even won the game at stoppage time when substitute winger Roshi squandered a good scoring opportunity.

Albania has only one victory and a draw from six international meetings with Portugal.

Remaining unbeaten in five qualifiers, including two friendlies with France, Albania will look to prove that their shock victory to Portugal in their opening qualifiers was no coincidence.

Second-placed Denmark will play away to Armenia who were beaten 2-0 by Serbia last weekend in a match behind closed doors.

Albania’s qualifying campaign will close with a delicate home match against bottom Serbia on October 8 before travelling to Armenia three days later.

For the very first time, Albania’s national football team has made it to the world’s top 30 following a surprise positive performance in its Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Albania climbed 14 places to a historic high of 22nd in the August FIFA Men’s ranking after Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport gave Albania a 3-0 victory in last October’s abandoned match away to Serbia in a final decision ending a legal battle which reversed a previous ruling by Europe’s football governing body. Albania had previously beaten Euro 2016 hosts France 1-0 in a home friendly. In the September ranking Albania, lost three places ranking 25th.

Meanwhile, Albania will face a tough race in the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers after being drawn against four-time World Cup winners Italy and 2010 winners Spain in Group G.

 
                    [post_title] => Albania play Portugal in key qualifier for group lead
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                    [post_date] => 2015-09-04 10:43:28
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 1 - Three Italian and British artists will be showcased in the northern Albanian city of Shkoder in a collective contemporary art exhibition.

Italy's Pierpaolo Campanini and Giovanni De Lazzari and Northern Ireland artist Willie Doherty will be featuring video, painting and etchings.

“What all of them have in common is an attentive and sensitive view in exploring the every-day and the natural in the search for secret areas, unclear spaces and hidden memories," says the Italian Institute of Culture which is organizing the event.

The exhibition called Memorandum is a project by Adrian Paci, an internationally renowned contemporary artist who represented Albania in the 2014 Venice Biennale. It will also inaugurate the Art House gallery in Shkodra, where Paci grew up as an artist, remaining open to the public from September 13 to 19.

“Viewing the works of these three artists, it seems like nature is permeated by a story which has left its marks and we do not assist in it, but later when everything seems quiet and full of memories. Sometimes the marks seem like wounds, sometimes like strange constructions,” organizers say.

Northern Ireland’s Willie Doherty, 56, has been a pioneering figure in contemporary art film and photography since the 1980s.

Giovanni De Lazzari, 38, and Pierpaolo Campanini, 51, both live and work in Italy and have participated in dozens of international exhibitions.
                    [post_title] => Italian, British artists open memorandum exhibition in Shkodra
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                    [post_date] => 2015-09-04 10:24:49
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2015-09-04 08:24:49
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 1 – Albania's prime minister, Edi Rama, has told Athens to stay out of the country's internal affairs, following a row over the demolition of an illegally-built Orthodox Christian shrine in the southern Albanian coast village of Dhermi.

Rama said Albania's Orthodox Christians had their own state to protect them and Greece's interference would not be accepted.

"Orthodox Albanians are not Greeks,” Rama said, adding everyone in Albania has equal religious rights.

Rama, a Catholic who has Orthodox family roots in the area of the shrine, said a proper church would be built on the spot of the shrine's demolition.

He said there had been “a misunderstanding” on the role the government played in the action and it was “misused by others."

The Greek Foreign Ministry demanded explanation from Albania, comparing the actions of the local Himara Municipality in demolishing the small chapel, built without a permit in the early 1990s, to the actions of jihadis in Syria.

Greek nationalists have for more than a century wanted to annex parts of southern Albania, identifying all Orthodox Albanians as Greeks, a view that deeply angers Albanians.

Only a small fraction of the country's Orthodox population is ethnically Greek, census figures and independent studies show.

The area in where the chapel was located is seen by the Albanian government as ethically Albanian. However, many of its residents speak Greek at home, which makes them ethnically Greek as far as the Greek government is concerned.

The chapel's demolition became even more complicated, because a Catholic missionary is buried on the sight, marking accusations that the Catholic Church was also involved.

More than half of Albania's population is made up of secular Muslims. Christians, mostly Orthodox and Catholic, are a sizable minority.

Following the end of the atheist communist regime, Albania has had an excellent track record of religious tolerance and freedoms.  
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            [post_date] => 2015-09-18 10:16:06
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Sept. 14 - Canada-based Bankers Petroleum and the Albanian government have reached a deal to hire an international audit firm to settle a dispute over $57 million in claimed taxes by the country's National Agency for Natural Resources.

In a statement issued this week, Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in southwestern Albania, said an international audit firm will be contracted as a third party, to audit the company's operating and capital expenditure to settle the dispute over the company's potential taxable position.

“This represents a significant step towards enhancing transparency in the administration and regulation of oil and gas activities in Albania. Bankers views this commitment by the authorities as an important milestone in the ongoing improvement of our operations," said David French, President and CEO at Bankers Petroleum.

In its 2014 financial report, Bankers Petroleum said it had received an audit report from Albania's National Agency for Natural Resources with findings that could result in a $303 million reduction to the cost recovery pool and a potential taxable position.

Eleven years after launching its operations in the Patos-Marinze heavy oilfield under a 25-year concession deal with the Albanian government, Bankers Petroleum has not paid profit tax yet, which under Albanian law companies operating in the oil industry pay at a 50 percent rate only after meeting their investment costs.

The audit carried out by the National Agency for Natural Resources found that Bankers has already recovered its investments costs and should have started paying profit tax since 2011.

However, the company claims in its 2014 financial report that it has to recover another $175 million before starting paying the 50 percent profit tax.

In an unusual situation since a decade of operations in Albania, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum, which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield, reported losses of about $9.6 million in the first half of this year on a sharp cut in oil prices, compared to record profits of $52 million during the same period last year when international oil prices were at a historic high.

Earlier this year, Bankers Petroleum came under fire after an incident involving the explosion of two oil wells forcing the evacuation of some sixty local households. The authorities also questioned if the country's largest foreign investor and exporter has paid all its taxes.

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.
            [post_title] => Bankers Petroleum, gov’t to hire int’l audit firm over $57 million tax dispute
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