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Integration and compromise

Integration and compromise

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

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

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

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

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Floods wreak havoc

Floods wreak havoc

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

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Albanians asked not to misuse visa-free regime

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

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Luli-Faber appointed new ambassador to Washington

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

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TIA suggests presence of home-based low-cost airline

TIA suggests presence of home-based low-cost airline

TIRANA, Feb. 4 – One year after the bankruptcy of Belle Air company which controlled more than half of the Albanian market, the Tirana International Airport, Albania’s only international airport which since 2005 has been managed by a private consortium

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Record number hit by seasonal flu, doctors urge caution

TIRANA – Seasonal flu has reached a record number of Albanian residents this year, doctors say. With more than 16,000 being reported so far, family physicians in Tirana are urging caution against neglecting influenza symptoms because they can lead to

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Gent Sejko expected to get consensual vote as new central bank governor

Gent Sejko expected to get consensual vote as new central bank governor

TIRANA, Feb. 3 – Gent Sejko is expected to be voted as the new governor of the country’s central bank, replacing Ardian Fullani who was sacked last September after a Euro 5 million theft scandal. Sejko, 45, is an experienced

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Sharp cut in oil prices forces Bankers Petroleum to reduce investments, production

Sharp cut in oil prices forces Bankers Petroleum to reduce investments, production

TIRANA – Citing a sharp drop in international oil prices, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania, has revised downward its 2015 program of investments and production. Bankers Petroleum, which is the country’s largest foreign investor

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Albania under water, as floods continue

Albania under water, as floods continue

FIER – Unrelenting rain and flooding continue in southern Albania, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people and massive damage to homes and businesses. There have been no victims, officials said, but several people had to be evacuated by army

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                    [post_content] => By FLORIAN RAUNIG*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much of southern Albania has been under water for a week, as heavy rains bring rivers to historic levels.
FIER, Feb. 5, 2015
Flash floods caused by heavy rains hit southern Albania hard this week, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and causing massive damage to homes, livestock and businesses. There have been no victims, officials said, but more than 500 people have been evacuated. Rescue boats and army helicopters were used to get to many people stuck surrounded by rising water. Television footage from the affected areas showed massive lakes had formed where cultivated fields had once been. Hundreds of sheep have drowned too. The economic damage to the region’s agricultural sector is enormous, local officials said. “Thousands of hectares are under water and hundreds o family homes have been flooded,” Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said. “The situation is critical.” The government says it launched civil emergency operation to deal with the floods, with army troops deployed to aid civilian officials in the evacuation of stranded people. Many parts of southern Albania are also in black out conditions, as power transformers have been flooded. The counties of Gjirokaster, Fier and Vlora were worst affected, as Vjosa and Drino rivers swelled to their highest levels in recorded history, causing damages cities and towns on their shores, including Përmet, Memaliaj, Fier and the Dropull region. Police advised against all travel to the southern parts of the country, as the roads are either flooded on danger of being so. In areas of higher elevation, such as Korça County, a snow storm has left many roads in bad conditions, and by Tuesday, the Korça area had also flooded. Heavy rains began Jan. 30 and have now gone on for more than a week, prompting authorities to evacuate people in Vlore and Berat districts. By Feb. 1, all rivers in the south had overflowed their banks covering with water not only 5,000 hectares but also hundreds of homes in Vlore, Fier, Berat and Gjirokastra districts. Heavy rain and snow caused rivers to flood thousands of hectares, hundreds of homes and many roads. Police and army troops evacuated 420 of flooded families and their livestock in the districts of Vlore, Fier, Gjirokaster and Berat, some 100-180 kilometers south of capital of Tirana, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Many areas in southern Albania had no power or potable water. Police urged residents to cancel travel plans and more intense rain was forecast to hit over the next few days. Authorities called on the endangered people to respond to the request for their evacuation. Many families declined to leave their homes, fearing for their property and livestock. Prime Minister Edi Rama and other ministers pledged that after getting over with the imminent emergency threat, they would make the calculation and compensate people. Rama also pledged investment in the flooded areas that would assist in preventing them in other cases. But the worst comes for the farmers who have lost not only their annual products but also will suffer damage in their agriculture land and livestock. These are people like Arben Krasniqi, 46, in Darzeze village, Fier district, 115 kilometers south of Tirana, who as concerned about his sheep as himself Monday, transporting with a small boat what had remained of his once flock of 400. He had yet to count all the dead sheep. His village, one of the worst affected, is home to some 3,000 inhabitants. Farmers there also complained of the delayed assistance coming from the authorities. Other areas in the south still suffered from power or water supply. Police urged residents to cancel travel plans and more intense rain was forecast to hit over the next few days. Rama also said the government had asked for assistance from the European Union, however member states like Greece and Bulgaria have also seen similar flooding this week. Neighboring Macedonia also saw major damage from floods. People said that the government should do more to stop forest cutting, use of river beds for construction and rubbish thrown on the rivers -- all things that lead to more flooding. Health Ministry says there have been no health problems in the flooded areas so far. Authorities have started to distribute food and other stuff to the affected people. Meanwhile non-governmental organizations or the civic ones have started to make calls to collect food assistance, other house items and also money for the families still under water. This story appeared in the Feb. 6, 2015 print edition.  [post_title] => Floods wreak havoc [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => floods-wreak-havoc [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 13:19:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 12:19:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1148 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1146 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:20:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-06 09:20:13 [post_content] => A day after 50 Albanians were deported from France and Germany, embassies of the two countries issued a joint statement calling on Albanian to cease bogus asylum claims TIRANA, March 30 – Last week France and Germany issued a joint statement through their embassies in Tirana, telling Albanians that the refugee status will not be granted to Albanian asylum seekers whose true reasons for leaving Albanian are economic. There have been calls in Germany that Albania should be listed as a safe country, which means that Albanians cannot earn asylum even if they ask for it. France has already made that move. "The asylum application procedure should not be misused, since it is strictly reserved only to true political refugees. The current liberalization allows visits to our countries or requests for visa to carry out studies or to work on a regular basis. We cannot accept any bypass of these procedures, because it is at the expense of the vast majority of Albanian citizens who respect these rules," the statement said. This would damage the interests of Albania in its significant efforts to be integrated in the European Union. "In addition, the repatriation of Albanian citizens could lead to them being prohibited entry and stay in the Schengen area for several years," said the joint statement. A day earlier, 50 Albanian citizens were deported from France and Germany for not respecting the Schengen visa regime terms, which lets them stay 90 out of 180 days in one of their countries. Albania earned the visa free regime in 2010. Countries in northern Europe have complained that many Albanians go there and ask for asylum only presenting economic issues. But very often they secure false documents to show as if they are in a blood feud or persecuted by the government. The EU member countries have passed a law last year which lets them decide individually to reinstate the visa regime for separate countries if they fear threatened from their asylum seekers. Albania ranks below Serbia and Macedonia in the number of asylum seekers. [post_title] => Albanians asked not to misuse visa-free regime [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanians-asked-not-to-misuse-visa-free-regime [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-10 12:08:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-10 11:08:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1146 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1105 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 10:01:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-06 09:01:47 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_1102" align="alignright" width="199"]Floreta Luli-Faber had previously served for 14 years as executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania Floreta Luli-Faber had previously served for 14 years as executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania[/caption] President approves long-time AmCham manager as Albania's new ambassador to the United States TIRANA, Feb. 2 - President Bujar Nishani has approved the appointment of Floreta Luli-Faber as the new Albanian ambassador to the United States. The new ambassador, one of Albania's best known business community representatives, replaces Gilbert Galanxhi, whose mandate has ended. Based in Washington, Luli-Faber will also cover Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Panama as a non-resident ambassador, the presidential decision noted. Luli-Faber is best known for her deep knowledge of economic and trade ties between Albania and the United States, after serving for 14 years as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania. The Shkodër native comes from a lengthy career as a manager. She was educated in Norway and Albania. The presidential approval comes after a lengthy delay since Luli-Faber was first nominated by the government last year. Due to disagreements between the president and the government, there had been a delay in approval for several ambassador nominations, including the key Washington posting. The delays are not unique to this administration. Albanian legislation gives final approval on ambassadorial appointments to the president, which has led to friction over the years between the heads of state and the government over appointments. Albania also recently received a new U.S. ambassador, with Donald Lu taking the helm at the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. After resuming diplomatic relations in 1991 at the end of the communist regime in Albania, Washington and Tirana have had a very close relationship. Albania joined NATO in 2009, and has been a strong U.S. supporter internationally. Albanians are Europe’s most pro-American people, public opinion polls show. [post_title] => Luli-Faber appointed new ambassador to Washington [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => luli-faber-appointed-new-ambassador-to-washington [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 12:07:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 11:07:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1105 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1140 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-06 09:50:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-06 08:50:02 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 4 - One year after the bankruptcy of Belle Air company which controlled more than half of the Albanian market, the Tirana International Airport, Albania's only international airport which since 2005 has been managed by a private consortium under a 20-year concession contract, has recommended the presence of a home-based low-cost airline. Rolf Castro-Vasquez, the Chief Executive Officer of TIA, says such an airline would facilitate flights and give extra services to Albanian passengers, especially to non-niche destinations. "It is easier to carry passengers from home rather than have a slot in different and busy airports across Europe. Usually low-cost airlines have a clear view of their schedule for at least the following two years. Albania needs a home-based carrier to balance the requests with the needs of the small market," he says in an interview published on TIA's website. Asked about TIA's reportedly high charges, the airport executive said "Tirana International Airport applies moderate charges for ground handling for airline companies, but I would not consider these charges as high as often claimed." "The charges applied to an airline company by TIA constitute a maximum of 15 percent of the total cost that the airline has to spend for a route and destination. It is obvious and must be stressed that this percentage cannot determine or influence the air ticket price offered by an airline company; there are other determining factors that define directly and indirectly the total ticket price, such as the internal airfare policy of the airline company, and includes destination airport charges, fuelling, aircraft maintenance charges, crew and staff, marketing and other related costs," he says. TIA is also concerned over what it calls the discriminatory the 10 Euro border tariff that is still applied on the air ticket as this affects the total ticket price. “This is a discriminatory tariff as it is levied on air passengers only, whereas passengers crossing blue and green [sea and land, respectively] borders are excluded from such a tariff. The 10 Euro border tariff is collected by the Airport on behalf of and for the benefit of the Albanian government. This tariff, we suggest, should be removed,” says Castro-Vasquez. By contrast, in neighbouring Macedonia the government pays a subvention for each incoming tourist at the airport in order to promote tourism which TIA officials say explains the low air ticked prices offered to passengers there. Almost one year after the bankruptcy of Albania's Belle Air which controlled more than half of the Albanian market, Italy's Alitalia and its Air One subsidiary have gained control in the Albanian air transport market. From a market share of only 9 percent at the end of 2013, Alitalia, which has now phased out its Air One brand, has increased its market share to around 40 percent, reports Italy's ANSAMed agency. While several new airlines have entered Albania after the bankruptcy of Belle Air in late 2013, ticket prices to European destinations remain high for a country such as Albania where GDP per capita is among the lowest in the region. The bankruptcy of Belle Air, which had a market share of around 50 percent and was considered a monopoly, temporarily lowered ticket prices especially because of the entrance of new carriers targeting to gain market shares. However, tickets to European destinations, mainly Italy, where most Albanians travel, are back to their previous levels ranging from 100 to 150 Euros for a single ticket. Experts and airline carriers blame the situation on the high tariffs charged by the Tirana International Airport (TIA) concessionaire, which has been in charge of the airport since April 2005 under a 20-year concession contract. The tariffs are considerably higher compared to regional countries and even some EU countries. With ten years having already operated TIA, the concessionaire retains the exclusiveness of international flights in Albania which is barrier for the opening of new airports in Albania. Since April 2005, the airport has been managed by TIA, a consortium led by Germany’s Hochtief AirPort GmbH (HTA), one of the leading private airport investors in the world, which has won a 20-year concession to be in charge of the airport's activities. However, in May 2013, Germany's Hochtief, which has majority stakes in leading airports in five countries, including Albania's Tirana International Airport (TIA) sold its shares to Canada's Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) for Euro 1.5 billion. [post_title] => TIA suggests presence of home-based low-cost airline [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tia-suggests-presence-of-home-based-low-cost-airline [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 13:11:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 12:11:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1140 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1077 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 13:38:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-03 13:38:54 [post_content] => tiranaviewTIRANA - Seasonal flu has reached a record number of Albanian residents this year, doctors say. With more than 16,000 being reported so far, family physicians in Tirana are urging caution against neglecting influenza symptoms because they can lead to dangerous complications, particularly for children and the elderly. The flu viruses going around Albania are AH1N1 and AH3N2. There is a vaccine available to counter them, but it can only protect if one has not yet had the flu. These are not the more deadly bird or swine flu variants, but doctors urge caution nonetheless. Flu symptoms include high and sudden fever, muscle aches and cough. Web update - Feb. 3, 2015 [post_title] => Record number hit by seasonal flu, doctors urge caution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => record-number-hit-by-by-seasonal-flu-doctors-urge-caution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-03 13:39:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-03 13:39:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1077 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1064 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 09:38:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-03 09:38:42 [post_content] => TIRANA, Feb. 3 - Gent Sejko is expected to be voted as the new governor of the country's central bank, replacing Ardian Fullani who was sacked last September after a Euro 5 million theft scandal. Sejko, 45, is an experienced banker nominated by President Bujar Nishani and will head the country's central bank for the next seven years with an option to be re-elected for a second term. Speaking this week in a hearing with the Parliamentary economy committee before an expected consensual vote in Parliament on Thursday, Sejko pledged to continue the Bank of Albania easier monetary policy in consultation with partner international financial institutions. "I think that even though the key interest rate has been cut to a historic low, there is still space and it should be assessed in cooperation with the IMF whether other means could be employed such as the quantitative easing or the injection of liquidity into the market which would be a new element on the Albanian market," said Sejko. The new governor hopes the European Central Bank's massive quantitative easing boost for the eurozone will also have an impact on Albania’s commercial banks, the overwhelming majority of which are EU subsidiaries. "We hope mother-banks will increase interest on lending in Albania," said Sejko. In an earlier hearing, Sejko stressed the need to focus on management to prevent incidents like the recent theft which led to the dismissal of the former governor Ardian Fullani. "The biggest attention goes to the monetary policy and supervision but management is very important to prevent incidents in the treasury," said Sejko. Late last December, Sejko was unanimously approved as a member of the bank’s supervisory council, paving the way to his voting by Parliament as the new governor. His candidacy by President Bujar Nishani was initially not enthusiastically received by the ruling majority who was seeking to nominate a high-profile international figure, including a foreign banker. Sejko, 45, a banker with 20 years of experience in the country's banking system, previously served as a deputy director of the Albanian subsidiary of France’s Societe Generale. This is a web update.  Read more on this and other topics in our upcoming Friday print edition. [post_title] => Gent Sejko expected to get consensual vote as new central bank governor [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => gent-sejko-expected-to-get-consensual-vote-as-new-central-bank-governor [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-03 11:32:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-03 11:32:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1064 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1068 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-03 09:20:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-03 09:20:11 [post_content] => TIRANA - Citing a sharp drop in international oil prices, Canada-based Bankers Petroleum which operates the Patos-Marinza heavy oilfield in south-western Albania, has revised downward its 2015 program of investments and production. Bankers Petroleum, which is the country's largest foreign investor and exporter, said it had reduced its 2015 capital program to US$ 153 million, down from a  previously announced 2015 capital program of $218 million in early December 2014. "These adjustments have been made to ensure 2015 spending fits within funds generated from operations and cash resources in the latest oil price environment," said the company in a statement. The revised 2015 capital program utilizes a $50 per barrel average annual Brent oil price forecast in comparison to the budget announced on December 12, 2014, which was predicated on an annual Brent oil price forecast of $70 per barrel. "We believe it is prudent with today's commodity outlook to show capital discipline and preserve our strong balance sheet.   This revised budget reflects our rigorous focus on capital and operating cost efficiency with a balance of both short term drilling execution and long term flood expansion of the field," said David French, Bankers president and CEO. Bankers anticipates its 2015 average production levels will decrease from its average 2014 production levels by approximately 5 percent on account of reduced drilling activity and shut-in volumes due to marginal economics. Bankers Petroleum, which has recently made it to the top 100 SEE biggest companies reported net income of $77.8 million in the first three quarters of 2014, up 67 percent compared to the same period the previous year. The price of Brent crude oil fell slightly recovered to $53.5 a barrel this week, having dropped by more than 40 percent since its peak in mid-June. Bankers posted record profits of around 62 million dollars in 2013, almost double compared to the previous two years on higher production and oil prices, the company said in its 2013 financial results. Since 2004, Bankers operates and has the full rights to develop the Patos-Marinza and Kuçova heavy oilfields under a 25-year concession contract with the Albanian government. The Patos-Marinza oilfield is the largest onshore oilfield in continental Europe, holding approximately 5.4 billion barrels of original oil in place. The Kuçova field has 297 million barrels of original-oil-in-place. /el/Feb. 2, 2015/ This is a web update.  Read more on this and other topics in our upcoming Friday print edition.     [post_title] => Sharp cut in oil prices forces Bankers Petroleum to reduce investments, production [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sharp-cut-in-oil-prices-forces-bankers-petroleum-to-reduce-investments-production [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-04 12:56:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-04 12:56:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1068 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1048 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-02 12:41:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-02 12:41:03 [post_content] => FIER - Unrelenting rain and flooding continue in southern Albania, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people and massive damage to homes and businesses. There have been no victims, officials said, but several people had to be evacuated by army helicopters and rescue boats after they got stuck surrounded by rising water. Television footage from the affected areas showed massive lakes had formed where cultivated fields had once been. The economic damage to the region’s agricultural sector is enormous, local officials said. "Thouands of hectares are under water and hundreds o family homes have been flooded," Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri said. "More than 300 families have been evacuated. The situation is critical." The government says it has launched civil emergency operation to deal with the floods, with army troops deployed to aid civilian officials in the evacuation of stranded people. Many parts of southern Albania are also in black out conditions, as power transformers have been flooded. The counties of Gjirokaster, Fier and Vlora were worst affected, as Vjosa and Drino rivers swelled to their highest levels in recorded history, causing damages cities and towns on their shores, including Përmet, Memaliaj, Fier and the Dropull region. Police have advised against all travel to the southern parts of the country, as the roads are either flooded on danger of being so. In areas of higher elevation, such as Korça County, a snow storm has left many roads in bad conditions, and by Tuesday, the Korça area had also flooded. Weather forecasts show the situation could further deteriorate as rain is expected to continue all week. This is a developing story, last update: Feb. 5, 2015   [post_title] => Albania under water, as floods continue [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => massive-floods-hit-southern-albania-developing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-06 13:19:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-06 12:19:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1048 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1327 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-02-16 11:00:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-16 10:00:14 [post_content] => By FLORIAN RAUNIG* Talking about "integration" in the Balkans nowadays apparently has one single connotation: "integration into the European Union”. Whereas there are many aspects under which this integration process can be seen, one aspect – which is still the fundamental idea of European Union – might not always get in the daily debate the attention that it deserves: peace! We should not forget that the European project started as a peace project on the ruins of World War II. [caption id="attachment_1328" align="alignright" width="300"]Ambassador Florian Raunig, Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, speaking at the Permanent Council meeting, Vienna, Sept. 18, 2014. Ambassador Florian Raunig, Head of OSCE Presence in Albania, speaking at the Permanent Council meeting, Vienna, Sept. 18, 2014.[/caption] Therefore, integrating the Balkans into this European project also means completing the plan of a wider more prosperous and peaceful Europe. This has to be seen particularly in the light of the traumatic disintegration of the former Yugoslavia in the nineteen nineties and the turbulences Albania had to go through in the aftermath of the breakdown of the totalitarian regime. However, being the Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, it might be not so appropriate to focus my intervention on European Union integration, but rather on another European framework that was born out of the need and desire for peace in Europe. The Helsinki Final Act, signed in summer 1975 by 35 States, including the United States, the Soviet Union and Canada, is the result of a common, strong belief that another war must be avoided. Ideologically divided countries and leaders were able to make the leap and to approach each other over the deep trenches that divided the world at that time. There was just one country isolating itself until 1991: Albania. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe that was created in Helsinki has evolved into the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an organization that covers the whole northern hemisphere, from Vladivostok to Vancouver, comprising 57 countries. The tasks, mission and obligations of this organisation are still the same: stability and co-operation in order to strengthen peace, democracy and prosperity. The on-going violent crisis in Ukraine drastically shows the relevance this organization still bears. The OSCE plays an important role in the stabilisation and further development not only in Eastern Europe, but also in the Western Balkans. The OSCE’s measures to empower and stabilise the countries of South Eastern Europe go hand in hand with the European Union integration process. While distinct in scope and mandate from the EU integration process, the OSCE’s programmes and projects are nevertheless complementary to this process. Both bring benefits to the countries concerned and strengthen wider European security. Hence, I would like to call it a fruitful symbiosis. Besides its European dimension, integration in the Balkans still represents a challenge, mainly in two other directions: the regional dimension and the internal dimension. Looking at the region today, it leaves the impression of a rather geographic notion, which is former Yugoslavia plus – respectively minus – Albania, depending on the angle of observation. Although there are reportedly more than 40 political fora, movements, initiatives and organisations, including the South-East European Cooperation Process, presided over this year by Albania, where politicians of the region frequently meet and talk, economic and cultural co-operation still remains at a relatively low level. Intraregional connection is also often rather limited, due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure. Even the media still report very little about developments in the neighbouring countries, continuing to concentrate overwhelmingly on domestic issues. This leads to a situation where the political leaders of the region are almost the only ones who interact quite regularly. I would like to emphasize that this interaction is extremely important for co-operation and further integration of the region, but is still not enough. Only once people of the region work together on concrete projects – so-called people to people contacts – will they be able to overcome often still deeply rooted prejudices. At that point they will realise their compatibility in areas such as life attitudes, taste, humour and cultural patterns. In this regard political leaders, international partners of the region and the people themselves have to undertake even stronger efforts to overcome remaining barriers in South Eastern Europe. The fact that a country of the region – Serbia – holds this year OSCE’s chairmanship represents a unique opportunity in this direction. In this regard, the OSCE’s broad integration framework provides a distinct potential to be used in a comprehensive manner. It brings us also back to the initial topic of European Union integration, where a fundamental concern still seems to be: Can the Balkans integrate into the European Union without having finished its own integration? Regarding internal integration, substantive challenges still lie ahead: Quite a few South Eastern European countries still have an internal political and social setup that is dominated by endless conflicts. Hence, the same question as for regional integration seems to be valid also in this regard: Can a country successfully proceed on the integration path, be it regional or European Union integration, without having healed its own deep internal ruptures? How can a smaller entity integrate into a bigger one when it still is disintegrated itself? Seen from the perspective of the bigger entity, there might be a strong reluctance to import potential problems. What might be the reasons for the barriers of internal integration? First of all, a high level of political conflicts impedes sound development and progress of a society by absorbing limited human energy for mostly non-constructive issues. Secondly, not only limited human resources and time is thereby wasted for non-creative work, but an atmosphere of continuous conflict also holds hostage the whole society by attracting most of the attention and fascination, especially when supported by sensation-seeking media. What might be the remedy? What might break the vicious circle of one conflict creating another? First, if societies and states that are affected by this phenomenon wish to cut sustainably the endless chain of conflicts, they have to do it out of their own conviction and will. Outsiders can assist, but never take over the responsibility of such an exercise. If such a process is driven by external institutions and persons, it might function for a while, but it risks being unsustainable. What could deescalate the internal political situation? I am convinced, it is compromise. Whereas compromise in the Balkans is still often seen as a weakness, the entity the Balkan countries would like to integrate to – the European Union–, is based on compromise. And, I would note, also the OSCE as the biggest regional security organization in the world is founded on the concept of negotiation and compromise. Hence, the challenge not only for South Eastern European politicians, but for entire societies, of accepting compromise as a strength, a virtue, lies still ahead. Compromise should not be confused with consensus. Compromise allows the involved parties to keep their distinct opinion or position, but it leaves space to the opinions and positions of the other side. Compromise is the golden middle where everybody wins a little and everybody loses a little. It might be the best remedy against the still widespread culture of "the winner takes it all” and the misperception of consensus as the power of veto. Albania’s transformation, the way out of transition, is a national project that will only succeed by closing the ranks and putting the good of the country ahead of narrow personal, economic or party interests. This is why Albania’s friends and the international community put so much emphasis on the requirement of sincere and sound co-operation based on compromise. The constructive way religious and ethnic communities deal with each other in Albania might serve as a very appropriate example for the further way of internal and external integration. * Ambassador Florian Raunig is Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania. He held this speech at the Conference "Integration is Necessary to Foster Regional Stability and Economic Prosperity" on Feb. 13, 2015 at at Luarasi University in Tirana.   [post_title] => Integration and compromise [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => integration-and-compromise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-02-16 16:54:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-02-16 15:54:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=1327 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object] => stdClass Object ( [term_id] => 37 [name] => Free to Read [slug] => free [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 37 [taxonomy] => category [description] => Want to read some of our articles, but are not ready to become a full paid subscriber? Register for free, and read all articles in this section — for free. 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