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Leftist coalition sweeps to victory in Albania’s municipal elections

TIRANA, June 23 – Albania’s ruling leftist coalition has won the majority of the municipal races across the country, including all major cities except one, official results showed Tuesday with nearly all votes counted. The Socialist-led coalition has won mayoral

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The Honored Guest

The Honored Guest

Twenty four years ago, on June 22, 1991, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker visited Tirana, becoming the first American high official to visit the country, as Albania opened up after decades of communist isolation. Fred C. Abrahams, the author

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Mayor tells journalists they will get fired for asking the wrong questions

Mayor tells journalists they will get fired for asking the wrong questions

TIRANA, June 17 – An incumbent Albanian mayor who is seeking reelection has told reporters they risk getting fired for asking hard questions, which he said are not in the interest of media owners and their ties to those in

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Judiciary reform must end impunity, int’l representatives say

Judiciary reform must end impunity, int’l representatives say

TIRANA, June 11 – Proposed reforms in the justice system must offer systemic change to restore public trust in the justice system and end impunity for all those involved in corruption, including high state officials, the top representatives in Tirana

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Youth unemployment hits record high, some 103,000 reported jobless

Youth unemployment hits record high, some 103,000 reported jobless

TIRANA, June 10 – Youth unemployment hit a historic high of 34 percent in the first quarter of 2015 when state statistical institute, INSTAT, reported more than 103,000 jobless people aged between 15 to 29, according to a labor force

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The Month of Cherries

The Month of Cherries

Why the delicious red fruit is the symbol of June in Albania Did you know we are currently month of cherries? Well, in Albania at least. The Albanian language has a very old core vocabulary, but many other words have

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Albania play France in friendly as CAS postpones Serbia decision for July

Albania play France in friendly as CAS postpones Serbia decision for July

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, June 11 – Albania will play Euro 2016 hosts France in a friendly this weekend which is seen as a test before next September’s key qualifier away to Denmark as the country is closer than ever

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Economy remains voters’ top concern ahead of local polls

Economy remains voters’ top concern ahead of local polls

Results of annual report also show pervasive mistrust among voters over candidates’ promises and the political class in general TIRANA, June 4 – The poor state of the economy and high levels of unemployment are the top concerns for the

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Ballet’s glamour couple celebrates 20 years on stage with latest performance

Ballet’s glamour couple celebrates 20 years on stage with latest performance

TIRANA, June 1 – Two of Albania’s best ballet dancers, husband and wife Gerd and Enada Vaso, are celebrating marking two decades of performances at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet with the premiere of Fedra, a ballet performance

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Student entrepreneurs invent ‘smart charging’

Student entrepreneurs invent ‘smart charging’

TIRANA, June 4 – Two Albanian university students are drawing international attention with their smart charging innovation introduced in the GIST Tech-I Competition supported by the U.S. State Department. Grigor Basha and Mikel Çuni, two students from Durres studying business

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_122186" align="alignright" width="300"]Erion Veliaj will take over as the new mayor of the capital Tirana. Shkodra's Voltana Ademi is will become the first female mayor of a large city Vangjush Dako appears to have won reelection in Durres. (Photo: Handout) Erion Veliaj (SP) will take over as the new mayor of the capital Tirana. Shkodra's Voltana Ademi (DP) will become the first female mayor of a large city. Vangjush Dako (SP) appears to have won reelection in Durres. (Photo: Handout)[/caption]

TIRANA, June 23 – Albania's ruling leftist coalition has won the majority of the municipal races across the country, including all major cities except one, official results showed Tuesday with nearly all votes counted.

The Socialist-led coalition has won mayoral races in eight of the country’s ten largest municipalities by population, including the large cities of Tirana, Durres, Vlora, Elbasan and Korça. Their rivals, the Democratic Party-led are heading to victory in Shkodra, according the Central Elections Commission data with about 90 percent of the vote counted.

Erion Veliaj will take over as the new mayor of the capital Tirana after winning with a comfortable margin of about 53 percent of the vote. Vangjush Dako appears to have won reelection in Durres in a race that turned out to be less tight than expected. Shkodra's Voltana Ademi will become the first female mayor of a large city in post-communist Albania. Several more female candidates have won in smaller municipalities.

The elections were marked by a turnout of about 48 percent, which is low by Albanian standards over the past 25 years. The percentage of resident voters is likely higher, however, as a third of the Albania's population lives and works abroad, and the vast majority did not vote, unless they traveled to their hometowns to do so.

The voting process was calm, and despite some noted incidents and problems it did not rise to the tensions that often accompany Albanian elections, observers said, adding they would investigate several allegations of vote-buying.

The U.S. and EU ambassadors in the country had called on the voters to reject candidates they suspected of having a criminal past. In two medium-sized municipalities in particular focus, both Socialist candidates in question won the elections.

These local administrative elections were more important than in the past because they are the first to be conducted after the administrative reform that drastically cut the number of municipalities in Albania from 384 to 61 by merging smaller rural municipalities with nearby larger urban ones.

This story has been updated to bring the latest information about the voter turnout rate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
                    [post_title] => Leftist coalition sweeps to victory in Albania's municipal elections
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_122180" align="alignright" width="300"]U.S. secretary of state James Baker addresses a massive crowd in Skanderbeg Square on June 22, 1991. © ATA  U.S. secretary of state James Baker addresses a massive crowd in Skanderbeg Square on June 22, 1991. Photo: ATA (c)[/caption]

Twenty four years ago, on June 22, 1991, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker visited Tirana, becoming the first American high official to visit the country, as Albania opened up after decades of communist isolation. Fred C. Abrahams, the author of a recently published book, “Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy,” describes the historic visit.

By FRED C. ABRAHAMS*

By Spring 1991 the United States government was watching Albania from the ground. The Italians still occupied the embassy, so the Americans worked from the Dajti Hotel. They quickly grasped the massive pro-Americanism among Albanians and proposed that Washington send a senior official. Washington agreed and on June 22, 1991, Secretary of State James Baker’s plane touched down in Tirana as part of a Balkan tour. His few hours in town set the stage for U.S.-Albanian relations over the next twenty years.

[caption id="attachment_122179" align="alignright" width="300"]A massive crowd welcomed Secretary of State James Baker in Skanderbeg Square on June 22, 1991. (c) Gani Xhengo A massive crowd welcomed Secretary of State James Baker in Skanderbeg Square on June 22, 1991. Photo: Gani Xhengo (c)[/caption]

Baker’s convoy drove in from the airport around 9:00 a.m. through empty streets. “I assumed it was going to be a disaster,” said the American diplomat Chris Hill, who already was in Tirana. Then, on the outskirts of Tirana, an ecstatic mob engulfed the cars, hoping to glimpse the guest from the West. Men threw flowers, kissed the windshields, and tried to carry Baker’s limousine into town.

“People were literally jumping on the hood of our car,” Hill said. American security agents jogged along the vehicle, sweating in their suits. “In fifteen years I had spent in national politics I had never seen anything like this,” Baker later wrote about the trip. (1)

The delegation drove to Skanderbeg Square, where more than three hundred thousand people had crammed every corner and nook despite oppressive heat, waving small American and Democratic Party flags. A large banner with the Statue of Liberty holding an American flag hung from the Palace of Culture. Spectators clung to lampposts and tree branches. They dangled off rooftops and balconies to get a better view. Someone raised a sign that read, in English: “Welcome Mr. Baker, Albania Has Been Waiting for You for 50 Years.” The famously unflappable Baker was overwhelmed. “I have never felt more privileged to represent my country,” he wrote. (2)

Baker and his entourage dipped into the Et’hem Bey Mosque on the southeast corner of the square to regroup. Someone needed to calm the crowd. A U.S. official turned around, saw Sali Berisha, and pulled him into the mosque.

“What should I say?” Berisha asked, according to a U.S. official who was present.

“Just calm them down,” the Americans implored.

Berisha climbed the rostrum that had been constructed in front of Skanderbeg’s statue, stepped to the microphone, and addressed the sea of faces.

“The American way of greeting friends is quieter than ours,” he said in his booming voice. “So please, let him speak.” (3)

Berisha then declared Baker to be an honorary citizen of Tirana. The crowd went wild.

American security cleared a path from the mosque and Baker made his way to the microphone, kissing a baby along the way. Berisha slipped to the back of the stage as Baker raised his hands in the two-fingered victory salute—the symbol of the Democratic Party.

“On behalf of President Bush and the American people, I come here today to say to you: freedom works!” Baker said through his interpreter, the VOA Albanian service chief Elez Biberaj. “At last, you are free to think your own thoughts.” (4)

From the awestruck and hopeful faces—those of true believers—Washington understood it was dealing with a small and desperate country full of fans. The U.S. had a chance to win the last battle of the Cold War and to establish a trusted ally in a volatile region. Baker announced $6 million in aid and left for meetings with the prime minister and President Alia.

Excerpted by the author for Tirana Times reader from the book Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy (New York University Press, 2015). See www.modern-albania.com more more information.
1 - Baker, James A., with DeFrank, Thomas M., The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992 
(New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), p. 485.
2 - Ibid., p. 486.
3 - “Albanians Mob Baker, Cheer U.S., Europe,” by Norman Kempster, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1991.
4 - “300,000 Albanians Pour into Streets to Welcome Baker,” New York Times, June 22, 1991.

 

 
                    [post_title] => The Honored Guest
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_122042" align="alignright" width="300"]Elbasan Mayor Qazim Sejdini is seeking his third term in office.  Elbasan Mayor Qazim Sejdini is seeking his third term in office. (Photo: Elbasan Municipality/Handout)[/caption]

TIRANA, June 17 – An incumbent Albanian mayor who is seeking reelection has told reporters they risk getting fired for asking hard questions, which he said are not in the interest of media owners and their ties to those in power.

Qazim Sejdini, the Socialist mayor of Elbasan, Albania’s fourth largest city, was caught on camera explaining to journalists how he and many others believe the media system works in Albania.

“You forget that you are employed, and you with your words and camera hurt your [media] owner's interest. The owner is tied irrevocably to those in power and has nowhere else to go,” Sejdini said at a time he believed the cameras were off.

He then told journalists if the owners' interests were touched, the first to pay would be the journalists themselves.

“Whether you like or not the person you have in front of you, you are forced to follow the interests of the owner,” Sejdini said, adding otherwise those in power can “close the television station. Not me, but whoever is here as mayor.”

He then said one journalist had already been fired for the same reasons.

“The other lady who was here before, I had warned her, don't do it like this, don't, don't, don't, and she is gone, and she is unemployed."

The video was made public by Albania's ABC News television, a station that strongly supports the opposition Democratic Party, but it is the first time that a public official articulates what many independent observers believe to be a major obstacle to free media in Albania – the marriage of business and political interests.

Following the release of the video, Sejdini issued a statement saying he was taken out of context and that the video had been taken a year ago, before the electoral campaign had started, and it is being used now as a political attack against him

"I am sorry that the media are taking this sound byte and using it for political purposes in the last days of the campaign," Sejdini said, adding his administration had a record of positive relations with the media.

Albanians vote to select their 61 mayors and local councils on Sunday.

The U.S. Embassy also commented on the matter and media freedoms in general.

"When the press is free, democracy is stronger. Free society has no place for threats or intimidation of any sort against journalists," the embassy said on its Twitter account on Wednesday.

[post_title] => Mayor tells journalists they will get fired for asking the wrong questions [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => mayor-tells-journalists-they-will-get-fired-for-asking-the-wrong-questions [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-18 13:16:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-18 11:16:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=122041 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121912 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-06-12 19:13:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-12 17:13:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_121909" align="alignright" width="300"]EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin said the reform should be about offering a better system, not just changing existing laws. (Photo: EU Delegation in Tirana/Handout) EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin said the reform should be about offering a better system, not just changing existing laws. (Photo: EU Delegation in Tirana/Handout)[/caption] TIRANA, June 11 – Proposed reforms in the justice system must offer systemic change to restore public trust in the justice system and end impunity for all those involved in corruption, including high state officials, the top representatives in Tirana of the European Union, the United States and the OSCE said this week. They spoke at a conference analyzing Albania's justice system, where a 300-page document compiled by experts was presented. The Albanian parliament had commissioned the study, as it is hoping to pass a comprehensive justice reform bills to address persistent corruption claims. EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin said the reform should be about offering a better system, not just changing existing laws. “There is no such thing as a perfect democracy, but in a truly functioning one no telephone calls, visits in expensive big cars, fat envelopes, or promises or threats of any kind, should have an ambition to be above the state or to believe that they are the state,” Vlahutin said. She added, “This is why the upcoming reform must cut deep, and must do it with surgical precision. It has to ensure clear separation of powers, and should bring an end to any control of executive over judiciary.” Vlahutin said the reform must also ensure full independence of the prosecution from any political or other undue influence, especially prosecution of high level corruption and organized crime cases. She added that the reform must ensure no one can be exempt from prosecution and that all are equal before the law. “But first and foremost it must ensure accountability of those in the system, prosecutors and judges alike,” Vlahutin said. U.S. Ambassador Donald Lu said the justice system in Albania has great problems, and corruption in its ranks should be punished. He added judges and prosecutors should make decisions based on law and evidence, and not under the influence of political or personal interests. In a survey of judges financed by USAID, 25 percent of judges said the system was corrupt and another 58 percent said that the system had a public perception of corruption. “In a system where even judges agree that there is corruption, this necessarily means that judges, prosecutors and lawyers must all share responsibility for giving and receiving bribes,” Lu said. “But, I also believe there are some experienced, qualified and honest professionals who should be allowed to work in a judicial system free of corruption.” He added the justice system should be pursuing more serious crimes, adding that many members of organized crime groups and corrupt high officials of all colors walk in the streets of Tirana without fear that they will face prosecution for their wrongdoings. “In a NATO country with aspirations of EU membership, political and criminal elites cannot operate with impunity,” Lu said. The top international representatives in Tirana saw positive trends in the reform process so far. “We believe in the value of this reform. We pledge our support for this process. And corrupt judges and prosecutors should know that change is coming,” Lu said. Judicial reform is a multidimensional process and there is hope it will lead toward a renewed and fundamentally reliable justice system, where all citizens – from the most vulnerable to the most powerful can be held accountable for their actions, said OSCE Ambassador Florian Raunig. The international representative also expressed regret for the opposition's lack of participation in the reform process, calling on the Democratic Party to join the charting of the reform. “There can be judicial reform that upholds international standards without the opposition, but it will be better and more sustainable in Albania with its active participation,” Rauning said. He added, “They should not exclude themselves from shaping the future of Albania” EU's Vlahutin echoed that sentiment. “This should be not a reform for one of two elections cycles. Albania cannot afford short term or any group of interest-driven solutions. Albania needs an all-inclusive, thorough, constructive dialogue on major changes like this one,” she said. “Everybody in this country who has been elected to represent the people, be it in the government or in the opposition, is equally responsible for the results of the reform.” [post_title] => Judiciary reform must end impunity, int'l representatives say [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => judiciary-reform-must-end-impunity-intl-reps-say [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-15 14:42:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-15 12:42:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121912 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121981 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-06-12 10:01:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-12 08:01:11 [post_content] => TIRANA, June 10 - Youth unemployment hit a historic high of 34 percent in the first quarter of 2015 when state statistical institute, INSTAT, reported more than 103,000 jobless people aged between 15 to 29, according to a labor force survey published by INSTAT. Compared to the final quarter of 2014, youth unemployment has climbed by 0.2 percent and is 3.9 percent higher compared to the first quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, in terms of concrete figures, an additional 22,200 people aged between 15 to 29 find themselves jobless compared to the first quarter of 2014 when only around 81,000 youngsters were reported jobless. Some 10 percent of the economically inactive youth, around 39,000, are classified as discouraged workers, meaning they have given up searching for a job, says INSTAT. With youth unemployment at around 33 percent, the booming call center business and the traditional garment and footwear manufacturing are emerging as two of the key employers for Albanian young men and women aged from 15 to 29. While the call center business dominated by Italian companies mainly attracts university students and newly graduates who are unable to find a job in the occupation they have graduated in, the façon industry, a traditional employer producing garment and footwear mainly for export, is attracting a considerable number of youngsters who have finished only the compulsory education or secondary education but failed to attend university. With Albania's average population age at 31, one of the youngest in Europe along with Kosovo, youth unemployment has become a top concern although most young men and women nowadays manage to get a university degree, unveiling the inefficiency of the education system but also crisis impacts as the private sector has almost frozen new hirings. “Young people face a number of challenges when it comes to seeking gainful employment, such as a lack of skills and education to respond to the market needs. These challenges are compounded for youth with disabilities, who have even more limited access to higher education,” says the UNDP which is assisting the Albanian government improve youth employment opportunities in the northern Lezha, Kukes, and Shkodra regions, where the rates are currently highest. With university degrees not matching market needs, the Albanian government is promoting vocational education training whose students stand better chances to find a job. Albania's unemployment rate slightly dropped to 17.3 percent in the first quarter of 2015, after hitting a record high of 18 percent at the end of 2014. Unemployment rate for people who have completed only secondary education was at 23 percent, compared to 18.6 percent for those holding a university degree, 13.3 percent for those who have completed secondary vocational education training and 14.5 percent for those who have only finished compulsory education. INSTAT data show some 140,000 Albanians had registered themselves as jobless with regional employment offices at the end of the final quarter of 2014, accounting for a registered jobless rate of 13 percent, down from 13.4 percent at the end of 2013. INSTAT says 41.1 percent of employees at the end of the first quarter of 2015 were employed in the agriculture sector, compared to 22.6 percent in market services, 18 percent in public services, 9.3 percent in the processing industry and 9 percent in the long-ailing construction sector. The minimum wage in the final quarter of 2014 remained unchanged at 22,000 (Euro 154). Some 70,857 households benefited modest social assistance of around 4,000 lek (€28) a month at the end of 2014, compared to 82,554 at the end of 2013. [post_title] => Youth unemployment hits record high, some 103,000 reported jobless [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => youth-unemployment-hits-record-high-some-103000-reported-jobless [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-12 10:49:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-12 08:49:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121981 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121973 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-06-12 09:54:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-12 07:54:06 [post_content] => Why the delicious red fruit is the symbol of June in Albania [caption id="attachment_121976" align="alignright" width="300"]The month of June is named after cherries in the Albanian language. (Photo: Tirana Times) The month of June is named after cherries in the Albanian language.
(Photo: Tirana Times)[/caption] Did you know we are currently month of cherries? Well, in Albania at least. The Albanian language has a very old core vocabulary, but many other words have been borrowed by neighboring languages. Most of the months’ names are based on Latin, which is why most international readers can guess that Janar is January, Maj is May and so on. However, there are three months in the Albanian calendar with names that are uniquely Albanian and directly associated with particular features or regular occurrences that happen during that time of year. These months are February, “shkurt” in Albanian, literally meaning “the short month”; July, “korrik” – “the harvest month”; and this month, June, or “qershor” — “the cherries month.” Judging by the abundance of the delicious cherries in the market and in trees across Albania this month, the name appears very apt. Under the Ottoman rule, Albania used what old people refer to in the country as “the Turkish calendar” – which in fact is the lunar calendar used by many countries in Asia and the Middle East. Some usage of the Western calendar must have been present, however. It is also interesting to note that Albania’s declaration of independence, for example, refers to November by as “the third autumn” not by its modern Albanian name, “nëntor.”     [post_title] => The Month of Cherries [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-month-of-cherries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-12 10:09:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-12 08:09:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121973 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121939 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-06-12 09:44:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-12 07:44:58 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_121941" align="alignright" width="300"]Albanian players celebrate after scoring the opening goal in last November 1-1 friendly away to France Albanian players celebrate after scoring the opening goal in last November's 1-1 friendly away to France[/caption] By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, June 11 - Albania will play Euro 2016 hosts France in a friendly this weekend which is seen as a test before next September’s key qualifier away to Denmark as the country is closer than ever to make its first qualification in a major football tournament. All attention this week had focused on the Court of Arbitration for Sport which was scheduled to make its final decision on the abandoned Serbia-Albania qualifier on June 12, just one day ahead of the friendly. However, in a surprise announcement published on Thursday, Albania's Football Association said Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport had officially informed it has postponed its decision on the Serbia-Albania abandoned match for July 10. Albania's coach, Italian Gianni De Biasi, has described the CAS decision as key to securing a spot in the top two in Group I which means a direct qualification and no need for a play-off in case of a third place. [caption id="attachment_121962" align="alignright" width="300"]Albanian players run to the dressing rooms after being hit with objects in last October's suspended qualifier away to Serbia Albanian players run to the dressing rooms after being hit with objects in last October's suspended qualifier away to Serbia[/caption] “We are very dependent on the CAS decision on the match against Serbia. A decision in favour of Albania will increase Albania's chances of a direct qualification," De Biasi has said ahead of the friendly with France. Albania has appealed UEFA decision which handed the national team a 3-0 loss and a €100,000 fine over the abandonment of the match last October after a fight in the match’s first half when a drone with Albanian nationalist symbols was flown into the pitch, sparking a violent brawl which saw Albanian players running for the dressing room and hit with objects thrown from the stadium where Albanian fans had been banned to attend. UEFA punished Albania for refusing to play on and Serbia for their part in the incident fuelled by the “Greater Albania” map which also featured Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian country which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after an armed conflict in the late 1990s. Some of Albania’s best players are of Kosovo origin and play top clubs in Europe. Serbia also oppose the UEFA decision which despite handing them 3-0 victory, deducted them three points, were ordered to play the next two matches behind closed doors and fined €100,000.  A test for next key qualifier against Denmark “The match with France is very important to see the condition of the players at the end of this season,” said coach De Biasi. Some key Albanian players such as Basel forward Shkelzen Gashi, Switzerland’s best player of 2014, and his teammate Taulant Xhaka, have not been called up for this match scheduled for Saturday, June 13 at the newly reconstructed Elbasan Arena stadium at 18:00. Elseid Hysaj, who plays Empoli in Italy's Serie A says the match with France is more than a friendly. "We will consider it not as a friendly but a qualifier. There is no problem with the absences. Whoever plays will give his maximum and try to convince the coach of their values," said Hysaj. Ermir Lenjani, who has joined France's Rennes and scored an amazing goal in the 1-1 qualifier with Denmark, said this match is key to further motivate the national side in its bid to qualify for France 2016. France coach Didier Deschamps said "We will prepare as well as possible for Saturday's game against Albania." His comments came after France lost 4-3 in a friendly at home to Belgium last weekend. Albania managed a historic 1-1 draw away to France in a friendly last November, the first positive result in five matches the two national sides have played. Last March, Albania kept alive their Euro 2016 qualifying hopes after a spectacular win home to Armenia as they came from behind an early goal to claim a 2-1 victory. The victory strengthened Albania’s position in Group I with the Red and Blacks now ranking third with seven points in four matches level on points with second-placed Denmark which holds an advantage on goal difference. Portugal lead the group with nine points, having lost only home to Albania in their first four qualifying matches. Serbia and Armenia rank bottom in the five-team Group I having collected only one point each in their first round of matches. Albania’s next qualifier will be away to Denmark in September 4 before hosting Portugal three days later. Meanwhile, group leaders Portugal travel to bottom Armenia this weekend while second-placed Denmark host Serbia. Football experts say Albania, whose players play in prestigious leagues including Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, stands a real chance to qualify for the France Euro 2016 after historically finishing bottom and second from bottom in previous Euro and World Cup qualifying stages. The top two group teams and the best third-placed side 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] => Albania play France in friendly as CAS postpones Serbia decision for July [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-play-france-in-friendly-as-cas-postpones-serbia-decision-for-july [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-12 12:09:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-12 10:09:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121939 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121744 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-06-05 11:00:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-05 09:00:35 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_121759" align="alignright" width="300"]Job seekers look at a new jobs board in Durrës. Unemployment and the economy remain top concerns for voters, a recent survey has found.  (Photo: Archives) Job seekers look at a new jobs board in Durrës. Unemployment and the economy remain top concerns for voters, a recent survey has found. (Photo: Archives)[/caption] Results of annual report also show pervasive mistrust among voters over candidates’ promises and the political class in general TIRANA, June 4 - The poor state of the economy and high levels of unemployment are the top concerns for the majority of Albanians ahead of the local administrative elections on June 21, according to a recent report, which also showed grave concerns about corruption and lack of meritocracy in the public administration and pervasive mistrust among voters over candidate’s promises and the political class in general. The annual survey conducted by the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute was not directly related to the upcoming elections but helps measure the public’s mood and provides a better picture of Albanians’ needs. The survey’s findings indicate Albanians are disappointed with “the overall negative political climate.” And “distrust of parties is pervasive” among voters. This is part of a trend for the past three years, the authors noted. The findings also show most Albanians see politics through negative lenses. “The perception of politics as a ‘dirty business’ makes them reluctant to consider joining a political party," the report adds. As candidates and party leaders field tens of expensive promises to voters during the current campaign for the local elects, they are likely going to find a skeptical public, according to the survey. “Keeping promises is, by far, one of the biggest expectations of political parties,” the report notes, adding Albanians “also express disappointment that parties often fail to do so.” The general mood of mistrust was captured by one Shkodra resident who told NDI survey takers: “I can’t commit myself to any party. When you enter politics the most successful person is the one who is a better liar.” NDI’s director for Central and Eastern Europe, Robert Benjamin, urged Albanian politicians this week to respond to citizens' needs instead of focusing on attacking their opponents in the upcoming polls. Benjamin said there was some optimism and support for the government’s recent efforts in the survey’s finding, but people were clearly unhappy about the public administration’s performance a year and a half after the Socialist-led government came to power. “Generally people make a connection between corruption and economic development because they see that corruption hinders economic development, in the sense that the bribes that go into one's pockets are money that could be used for other things that could help to build the economy,” Benjamin said in an interview with U.S.-based broadcaster VoA. “A person who does not get a job even though he or she would be eligible under a merit system, means that that company, or public administration office will not work so well.” Unemployment and the poor economy, topped by price increases in energy and food, as well as higher education fees and taxes, lead a considerable number of participants to believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction, the survey showed. Lack of jobs, especially among youth, increases in electricity and consumption prices, and insufficient personal and family income to cover basic necessities are specified problems. Many businesses, especially small or medium-sized, claim their profit margins have decreased considerably due to recent tax increases. The report provided many direct comments under anonymous conditions from those surveyed illustrating the key trends it found. “Taxes have increased, especially for the small businesses. We are hardly making it. Taxes are higher than they used to be,” a female respondent from Elbasan, central Albania, was quoted as saying. Another respondent in Shkodra suggested “there should be development in agriculture and tourism and new jobs should be created.” Corruption was not cited as a top priority in contrast to previous research findings. But participants persistently alluded to corrupt practice in comments about economic and social affairs, notably in health care, education and the judiciary. They desired meritocratic hiring in public administration, which is seen as nepotistic and based on political connections. Some perceived selective enforcement of laws favoring the wealthy and the politically connected. “Participants in the discussions were mostly pleased by new government initiatives to curb losses in the energy sector, demolish illegal construction and close private universities seen to offer degrees for purchase,” NDI Albania Director Ana Kadovic said. “At the same time, and overriding these positive views, are deep concerns about the economy, social cohesion and people’s own prospects for their and their family’s future.” The survey was conducted last December with respondents in some of the country's largest cities, including Tirana, Shkodra, Fier, Elbasan and Korça. [post_title] => Economy remains voters’ top concern ahead of local polls [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => economy-remains-voters-top-concern-ahead-of-local-polls [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-05 11:42:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-05 09:42:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121744 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121849 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-06-05 10:37:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-05 08:37:01 [post_content] => fedraTIRANA, June 1 - Two of Albania's best ballet dancers, husband and wife Gerd and Enada Vaso, are celebrating marking two decades of performances at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet with the premiere of Fedra, a ballet performance based on a play by ancient Rome philosopher and dramatist Seneca. The most famous couple on the Albanian ballet stage is coming on this 20th anniversary as producers and lead performers in cooperation with Italy's "Balletto del Sud" dance company. “This is a powerful piece re-brought in the early 20th century with stage and costume design which preserves from the mythology the drama, the character, the concept of behaviour in a couple, the passion, the transgression and the madness resulting from the predetermined fate of which characters have no escape," the couple says. “This work contains a very powerful drama and requires great stage experience as a dancer. The great wish by Italian choreographer Fredy Franzuti pushed us to be protagonists by becoming the show's producers," says Enada. The prima ballerina was only 18 when she performed her first role in the Giselle ballet. The ballet is scheduled to premiere this weekend on June 5 and 6 at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Tirana. [post_title] => Ballet's glamour couple celebrates 20 years on stage with latest performance [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => famous-couple-celebrates-20-years-on-stage-with-fedra-ballet [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-05 11:32:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-05 09:32:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121849 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 121834 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-06-05 10:30:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-05 08:30:52 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_121835" align="alignright" width="300"]One of the entrepreneurs shows off his invention. (Photo: Archives). One of the entrepreneurs shows off his invention. (Photo: Archives).[/caption] TIRANA, June 4 - Two Albanian university students are drawing international attention with their smart charging innovation introduced in the GIST Tech-I Competition supported by the U.S. State Department. Grigor Basha and Mikel Çuni, two students from Durres studying business and finance at the University of Tirana, have made it to the top 15 and are hoping to go through the final. “Smart Charging” is a project which aims on transforming the old non-functional payphones into modern and multifunctional charging mobile phone stations. It is the unique opportunity to charge your mobile phones on public places using alternative energy from renewable resources. “The fact that the old payphones on Albanian streets are not functional and smart phone batteries don’t last long, inspired us to come up with a new idea. Smart Charging is an innovation, which consist on transforming the old non-functional payphones into modern and multifunctional charging mobile phone stations. It is the unique opportunity to charge your mobile phones on public places using alternative energy,” says Grigor Basha. He explains that  we live in a modern world where technology is being developed a lot. Part of this development are smart phones. They are multifunctional, very popular and good value for money. But with all these benefits there is a big problem, compared to earlier non-smartphones. Smartphone battery life has generally been poor and a significant drain on customer satisfaction. “Once upon a time payphones in Albania were very useful. Nowadays there is a different reality, they are being used for antisocial behaviors. Everyone has a mobile phone and nobody considers using public phones to get in touch with others. As a result we decided to give this old payphones some value,” adds the young inventor. [post_title] => Student entrepreneurs invent ‘smart charging’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => two-albanian-students-invent-smart-charging [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-05 11:40:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-05 09:40:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=121834 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 122185 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-06-23 10:56:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-06-23 08:56:45 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_122186" align="alignright" width="300"]Erion Veliaj will take over as the new mayor of the capital Tirana. Shkodra's Voltana Ademi is will become the first female mayor of a large city Vangjush Dako appears to have won reelection in Durres. (Photo: Handout) Erion Veliaj (SP) will take over as the new mayor of the capital Tirana. Shkodra's Voltana Ademi (DP) will become the first female mayor of a large city. Vangjush Dako (SP) appears to have won reelection in Durres. (Photo: Handout)[/caption] TIRANA, June 23 – Albania's ruling leftist coalition has won the majority of the municipal races across the country, including all major cities except one, official results showed Tuesday with nearly all votes counted. The Socialist-led coalition has won mayoral races in eight of the country’s ten largest municipalities by population, including the large cities of Tirana, Durres, Vlora, Elbasan and Korça. Their rivals, the Democratic Party-led are heading to victory in Shkodra, according the Central Elections Commission data with about 90 percent of the vote counted. Erion Veliaj will take over as the new mayor of the capital Tirana after winning with a comfortable margin of about 53 percent of the vote. Vangjush Dako appears to have won reelection in Durres in a race that turned out to be less tight than expected. Shkodra's Voltana Ademi will become the first female mayor of a large city in post-communist Albania. Several more female candidates have won in smaller municipalities. The elections were marked by a turnout of about 48 percent, which is low by Albanian standards over the past 25 years. The percentage of resident voters is likely higher, however, as a third of the Albania's population lives and works abroad, and the vast majority did not vote, unless they traveled to their hometowns to do so. The voting process was calm, and despite some noted incidents and problems it did not rise to the tensions that often accompany Albanian elections, observers said, adding they would investigate several allegations of vote-buying. The U.S. and EU ambassadors in the country had called on the voters to reject candidates they suspected of having a criminal past. In two medium-sized municipalities in particular focus, both Socialist candidates in question won the elections. These local administrative elections were more important than in the past because they are the first to be conducted after the administrative reform that drastically cut the number of municipalities in Albania from 384 to 61 by merging smaller rural municipalities with nearby larger urban ones. This story has been updated to bring the latest information about the voter turnout rate.               [post_title] => Leftist coalition sweeps to victory in Albania's municipal elections [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => leftist-coalition-sweeps-to-victory-in-albanias-municipal-elections [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-06-24 13:08:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-06-24 11:08:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=122185 [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] => 826 [filter] => raw [cat_ID] => 37 [category_count] => 826 [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 ( ) )

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