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Albania to sell 40 Soviet-era fighter aircraft for up to €13,500 each

Albania to sell 40 Soviet-era fighter aircraft for up to €13,500 each

TIRANA, Feb. 2 – The Albanian government has announced a tender to sell its stock of Soviet-era MiG fighter aircraft inherited from the Cold War under communism. The decision comes more than a decade after retiring them and seven years

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Football association unveils Albania’s official Euro 2016 kits

Football association unveils Albania’s official Euro 2016 kits

By Ledion Veshi TIRANA, Feb. 1 – The Albanian Football Association has revealed the new jerseys which will be worn by the national football side in the UEFA EURO 2016 tournament. The new kit dubbed ‘Triumph’ is a product of Macron,

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Albania retains partly free status as corruption perception slightly improves

Albania retains partly free status as corruption perception slightly improves

TIRANA, Jan.27- Freedom House, the watchdog that monitors the extent of freedom in the world, listed Albania as a partly free country in its latest report released this week. Albania received a freedom rating of 3 on a scale from

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Germany supports the foundation of a joint center that will improve relations between Albania and Serbia

Germany supports the foundation of a joint center that will improve relations between Albania and Serbia

Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) Albert Rakipi and the German Ambasador to Tirana Hellmut Hoffmann signed an agreement to fund a joint centre that will improve relations between Albania and Serbia on Thursday, Jan. 28.

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Macedonia urges Albania to return  stolen icons

Macedonia urges Albania to return stolen icons

The request by the Prosecution of Skopje, through the Ministry of Justice which was sent to the Court of Tirana, urges Albania to return the 20 icons taken illegally by Gjergji Thimio from the churches and monasteries in the western

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Albanian Lazio goalkeeper makes it to Serie A team of the week

Albanian Lazio goalkeeper makes it to Serie A team of the week

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Jan. 28 – Albanian international Etrit Berisha has been voted the best goalkeeper of the week and included in the Top 11 of Italy’s Serie A team of the week formation after he helped Lazio secure

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Fictitious articles in Western media raise eyebrows in Albania

Fictitious articles in Western media raise eyebrows in Albania

By LEDION VESHI TIRANA, Jan.20 – Pandering to rising public fears of Islamic extremism, recent articles in Western media are unfairly portraying Albania as a hub of Islamic State activities, at a time when the country is trying to attract

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Albania through a lens

Albania through a lens

By JUXHINA MALAJ TIRANA, Jan. 20 – A photo exhibition by Adam Lazowski, Professor of EU Law at the University of Westminster, London, opened on January 19, 2016 at the Kalo Gallery in Tirana. Sponsored by the Union Bank and

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Two Albanian internationals leave Zurich for Atalanta, Vaduz

Two Albanian internationals leave Zurich for Atalanta, Vaduz

TIRANA, Jan. 18 – Two Albanian internationals have left Switzerland’s FC Zurich in the January transfer window following few playing opportunities in the club which is struggling in the relegation zone of the Swiss Super League. Italian club Atalanta announced

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Judicial reform: It’s the consensus, stupid!*

Judicial reform: It’s the consensus, stupid!*

  By ALBERT RAKIPI The government’s initiative to reform the judicial system has finally materialized into a draft proposal that calls for constitutional amendments, affecting the entire structure of the judicial system. The need for reform has won the widespread

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                    [post_content] => MigTIRANA, Feb. 2 - The Albanian government has announced a tender to sell its stock of Soviet-era MiG fighter aircraft inherited from the Cold War under communism. The decision comes more than a decade after retiring them and seven years after the country's NATO membership.

In an announcement on the Public Procurement Agency, the defense ministry invites bids for 40 Soviet era planes and helicopters at a price tag of 1.1 million lek to 1.9 million lek (€7,840 to €13,542) each, specifying that the sale is made for non-military use.

The list of aircraft includes MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG 21 as well as Jak-18 planes and four Mi-4 helicopters.

The forty military aircraft currently preserved in the military bases of Kuçova, Rinas, Gjader and Farke are also offered altogether at a starting price of 61.4 million lek (€438,000) in the tender scheduled for February 22, 2016.

The Soviet-era fighters which took the lives of 35 Albanian pilots but were not used in any attack against potential ‘revisionist’ invaders of isolated communist Albania will be offered to museum collectors and for scrap, the defence ministry has earlier said.

The last MiG fighter took off from the Kuçova military air base in November 2004 just before Albania declared their retirement and its shift to pure helicopter force.

Under the 45-year communist regime Albania had a considerable air fleet of Soviet Union and Chinese MiG 15, 17, 19 and 21. A number of them are displayed in the country’s state museums, including the new museum of armed forces in Tirana.

“In the 1970s, Albania’s Military Aviation was fully efficient with over 70 MIG-19 and 12 MIG-21 aircraft, a combat squadron of MIG-17 fighter jets and many combat-training MIG-15 aircraft,” say the Albanian Armed Forces.

The first installation of Jet Aviation was established in the Kuçova air base, southern Albania, in 1955, comprising MIG-15 aircraft. The Aviation Regiment in Rinas, outside Tirana, composed of a squadron of MIG-19 aircraft and a squadron of MIG-17 aircraft, was created in 1962 when Albania established the Aviation School.
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                    [post_content] => By Ledion Veshi

ALBANIA-SHIRT-2016-NewsTIRANA, Feb. 1 – The Albanian Football Association has revealed the new jerseys which will be worn by the national football side in the UEFA EURO 2016 tournament.

The new kit dubbed ‘Triumph’ is a product of Macron, and is part of a lucrative sponsorship deal which links the Italian sportswear label with the Albanian national team for the period 2016-2021.

Macron replaces German sportswear giant Adidas as Albania’s technical sponsor, with the new contract netting the Albanian Football Association  a record figure of Euro 6 million.

The main feature of the uniforms will be the double-headed eagle realized in sublimated print on the front side of the jerseys. The symbol will also feature on the national team logo embroidered on the chest close to the heart.

Meanwhile, the shirt’s collar bears the inscription “Ti Shqiperi me jep nder”, which roughly translates in English as “You Albania give me honor” a motto during Albania’s national awakening period and thought to serve as an inspirational phrase for the players wearing it.

The home jersey will be in red like the Albanian flag, the away jersey in white and the third jersey in black.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan.27- Freedom House, the watchdog that monitors the extent of freedom in the world, listed Albania as a partly free country in its latest report released this week. Albania received a freedom rating of 3 on a scale from 1 to 7 where 1 represents the most free and 7 the least free. Consequently, its status as a partly free country remained unchanged compared to the previous year.

Other Western Balkans countries fell under the same category including Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina, whereas Serbia was listed as a free country. The report which assessed 195 countries shows that 89 (46 percent) were free, 55 (28 percent) partly free, and 51 (26 percent) not free, with global freedom registering an overall drop for the tenth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Albania achieved some progress last year in terms of corruption perception levels according to Transparency International.

The Berlin-based organization also released on Wednesday its Corruption Perceptions Index 2015, which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide. Albania jumped 22 spots to 88th in the world with a score of 36 out of a possible 100. The previous year Albania had scored 33 and was ranked 110th out of 175 countries. Despite a better ranking in the corruption index, Albania was still lagging behind other countries in the region. Compared to other EU aspirants in the region, only Kosovo fared worse being ranked 103rd out of 168 countries.

In the Balkans, Montenegro was the country with the highest ranking 61st, followed by Macedonia 66th, Serbia 71st and Bosnia Herzegovina 76th. The report states that corruption remains a huge challenge across the region, while it also mentions that although there is plenty of anti-corruption legislation failure to implement and enforce is allowing the corrupt to operate with impunity. Denmark topped the list with a score of 91 for a second consecutive year as the country perceived as the least corrupt, while North Korea and Somalia were the most corrupted countries with a low score of 8.
                    [post_title] => Albania retains partly free status as corruption perception slightly improves
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                    [post_content] => IMG_7109Executive Director of the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) Albert Rakipi and the German Ambasador to Tirana Hellmut Hoffmann signed an agreement to fund a joint centre that will improve relations between Albania and Serbia on Thursday, Jan. 28.

According to a press release by the German Embassy in Tirana, the project of two non-governmental organizations in Albania and in Serbia,was granted 40 000 euro and aims to  support dialogue and exchange between the two countries.

“We strongly support this initiative!  The approach (towards the EU integration) needs exchange! It is a good thing that in the context of this project are engaged not only political representatives of Albania and Serbia, but also more and more representatives from the civil society, media, and cultural and educational institutions are joining in,” said Hoffmann during the signing ceremony at the German Embassy.

The joint center aims to organize various activities and projects. AIIS and the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement Serbia (EMinS) will also contribute in improving the relations between the two EU-candidate countries, Albania and Serbia.

According to the press release, among the activities included in the project are:
  • Holding discussions with Youth groups as well as business, culture, and science representatives
  • Creating an exchange forum on controversial topics in the bilateral relations sector
  • Founding of the European Academy of Youth with the participation of young Albanians and Serbians.
  • Creating a several month-long bilateral internship program
  • Exchange programs for journalists from both countries
The total amount of 40 000 Euro granted by the German party was sponsored by the Federal Government allocated for the Stability Pact for South East Europe aiming to guarantee peace in the region. “This is a strategic and long-term project that serves to the normalization process of Albania-Serbia relations, and the European future of the whole region,” Rakipi said. The collaboration of Albanian and Serbian non-governmental organizations aims to support the reconciliation process between Albania and Serbia, while youth exchange programs will aid in eliminating prejudices. According to the German Embassy, the media reporting improvement could generate various opportunities for further collaboration which could not only benefit to Albania and Serbia, but to the Western Balkans as well. [post_title] => Germany supports the foundation of a joint center that will improve relations between Albania and Serbia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => germany-supports-the-foundation-of-a-joint-center-that-will-improve-relations-between-albania-and-serbia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-29 13:03:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-29 12:03:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125977 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125962 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-01-29 10:19:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-29 09:19:29 [post_content] => The request by the Prosecution of Skopje, through the Ministry of Justice which was sent to the Court of Tirana, urges Albania to return the 20 icons taken illegally by Gjergji Thimio from the churches and monasteries in the western part of Macedonia. Out of the 1147 sequestrated objects that include frescoes, church murals and bronze paintings, 20 objects belong to neighboring Macedonia. Expert say that only 22 objects found in the home of Gjergji Thimo and his friend Spaho were not part of the cultural heritage sites, while the majority of them, up to 100 year old, resulted to be certified by the National Inventory of Cultural Property. A report by the Albanian experts confirms that most of the objects ​​are robbed from the church of Shen Thanas in Voskopoja, Church of Shen Thanas in Karavasta, Lushnja, the Church of St. Mary in Lushnja, and the Spile monastery.  Meanwhile, 454 objects are part of the cultural heritage, owned by the Albanian state. The report also revealed that some of the 16th and 17th century objects have been sawn and damaged. The sequestrated artwork, which mainly  belongs to the medieval period, is currently placed at the National Gallery of Art (NGA). Even though their placement at the NGA was first called temporary, the Ministry of Culture still does not have an idea where the cultural set will be finally placed. NGA's specialists have expressed a few weeks ago that the collection, besides taking a lot of space, increased the risk to the Gallery facilities, due to the many insects they carried. It is expected that the collection will finally find a ‘home’ after the National Gallery finishes the disinfection process. Earlier, the prosecution decided that 477 works of art to be preserved by the gallery and about 600 others to be left at the Tirana Police storage. In 2014 Gjergji Thimio was sentenced to seven years in prison after being arrested in October 2013 together with Arben Spaho and Artan Koçiu. [post_title] => Macedonia urges Albania to return stolen icons [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => macedonia-urges-albania-to-return-stolen-icons [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-29 11:35:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-29 10:35:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125962 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125918 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-01-29 08:02:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-29 07:02:04 [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku BerishaTIRANA, Jan. 28 - Albanian international Etrit Berisha has been voted the best goalkeeper of the week and included in the Top 11 of Italy's Serie A team of the week formation after he helped Lazio secure a 4-1 victory against ChievoVerona by saving a penalty kick. The 26-year Kosovo-born Albanian international was decisive in Lazio's success after saving a penalty kick that would narrow his team advantage when Lazio was leading 3-1. In a poll held this week on the Italian championship's official Facebook page, the Serie A Tim, fans voted him as the best goalkeeper of the 21st week in the top Italian league. Berisha, who is Lazio's reserve goalkeeper, was in the starting lineup on Sunday's fixture against direct rivals ChievoVerona, keeping alive Lazio's hopes for qualification in European competitions. Lazio currently rank 9th with 31 points, four points behind their archrivals, fifth-placed Roma. Etrit Berisha joined Lazio in 2013 after playing for three years with Sweden's Kalmar where he grew up as professional goalkeeper. Although being the second choice as a goalkeeper, he has proved almost unbeaten in penalty kicks, saving four out of seven since he joined Lazio and has been nicknamed “the hypnotist.” Berisha, who received his first international call up by Albania's coach Gianni De Biasi, also had a key contribution in Albania's historic qualification for Euro 2016 in France in a tough qualifying group stage which also featured Portugal, Denmark and Serbia. Etrit Berisha is the only Albanian player with Lazio this season after the departure of Albanian captain Lorik Cana to France's Nantes and goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha’s transfer on loan to newly promoted Italian Serie B side Salernitana. Lazio's sporting director Igli Tare is a former Albanian international striker who also played for the Italian club in 2006-2008. Elseid Hysaj has been the Albanian international with the best performance this season. The 21-year-old-defender has been a regular starter for Napoli which lead Italy’s Serie A. [post_title] => Albanian Lazio goalkeeper makes it to Serie A team of the week [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanian-lazio-goalkeeper-makes-it-to-serie-a-team-of-the-week [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-01 09:17:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-01 08:17:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125918 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125873 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-01-22 12:16:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-22 11:16:16 [post_content] => By LEDION VESHI TIRANA, Jan.20 – Pandering to rising public fears of Islamic extremism, recent articles in Western media are unfairly portraying Albania as a hub of Islamic State activities, at a time when the country is trying to attract much-needed foreign investments. Such a distorted depiction of reality in Albania is not only damaging from an economic perspective, but it also threatens to undermine Albania’s political efforts for becoming a full-fledged member of the European Union. Meanwhile, following the outbreak of such reports, the Albanian Interior Minister and other high state officials have dismissed allegations made as fabricated and completely unfounded. UK’s Daily Mirror under the sensational title “ISIS seizes £4bn drug ring from the Mafia to fund its brutal terror campaign” made strong claims on Sunday that the Islamic State is running cannabis farms in Albania and then shipping the drugs to Britain with the proceeds being used to fund the network’s terror campaign. The article alleges that the Islamic State took over the lucrative narcotics trade from the Mafia after security forces intervened in the hilly southern village of Lazarat, giving it a foothold in Europe. The article itself did not provide any hard facts; instead it simply relied on the opinion of two security experts from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Even when trying to provide some ‘facts’ the information provided was false, for example when it mentions that 50 people were killed in the village during 2014. The report did not cite any Albanian authoritative source or any credible Western intelligence sources, which not only raises serious question marks over the article’s credibility, but also about the potential motives behind such a speculative article. While Albania might not be without sin when it comes to cannabis cultivation and trafficking, the article shamelessly exploits it to wrongly accuse Albania for a crime it did not commit: the involvement of Islamic State terrorists in the cultivation of cannabis in its territory. It also failed to bring the other side of the story, that cannabis production in the country has decreased eight-fold ever since. The Daily Mirror has not been the only Western news outlet to describe Albania as a terrorist hotspot; Italian media have also joined in this malicious campaign, which seriously risks tarnishing Albania’s image in the eyes of the average Western reader. The media across the Adriatic are increasingly portraying Albania as being not just a threat to their national security, but also Europe as a whole. Italy’s Corriere TV added more fuel to the flames with a six-minute footage titled “The terror threat coming from Albania”, which describes Albania as the jihadists’ local hiring office. The report mentions that ISIS is recruiting Albanian youngsters capable of speaking Italian by offering them a monthly pay of 2,000 Euros. The author, Antonio Ferrari claims that 1,000 people have already been recruited in Albania and are ready to join the global terror network. According to the same material, “the clandestine market of weapons has also flourished in particular areas of the country and weapons are widely available for as little as 600 Euros. NATO, the United States and Russia are alarmed for what is happening here.” Such ‘facts’ would have indeed alarmed all of the countries mentioned above in case they were true, but in reality they aren’t. Besides trying to sell fiction for fact, the article again fails to portray the other side of the story- that Albania has destroyed its stockpiles of excess ammunition with help from its international partners, and that Albania has been participating for more than a decade in international coalitions against terrorism. In addition to being a signatory of conventions, treaties, or anti-terror initiatives in the framework of international organizations, Albania has also made the necessary amendments to its legal framework to address the phenomenon of radical extremism, including making it a criminal offence for Albanian citizens fighting in foreign wars. The national security strategy approved in Parliament in 2014 contextualized terrorism as an internal threat, not just an international one. The strategic framework is completed by an additional two documents: a National Strategy on Terrorism and its related action plan, as well as the Fight against Organized Crime, Trafficking and Terrorism Intersectoral Strategy (2013-2020) and its related action plan. All these measures indicate that Albania has taken the terrorism threat seriously and terrorists are certainly not having free reign in the country like the recent string of articles in Western media suggest. Albania might not be immune from the threat of Islamic radicalism, but the same could actually be said about any other country in Europe. The authors of such biased reports seem to forget the fact that the base of the perpetrators of the heinous Paris shootings last November was Molenbeek, a borough of the European capital, Brussels. Just like almost from every other European country, a small number of radicalized elements from Albania have joined the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The number of Albanian citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq is 114 with about a third returning to Albania. The peak of Albanian jihadists joining the conflict was registered in the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2104 with numbers dwindling ever since to reach almost zero in the first half of 2015, according to a thorough study on radicalism and religious extremism in Albania carried out last year by the Albanian Institute for International Studies. “The involvement of a group of Albanians or ethnic Albanians in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, regardless of size, projects Albanians as extremists, undermining their position in the Balkans or in the world,” the study concludes. The projection risks blemishing the country’s image and creating a wrong perception about Albania, which has direct negative consequences, not only for foreign investors, but also for tourism in Albania. AIIS was pretty accurate in its conclusions saying that there exists the risk of instrumentalization and amplification of the phenomenon in the local and international media through hyperbolization and the creation of an imaginary situation, which creates fertile ground for the creation of a real problem in the future. Such a situation threatens to damage one of Albania’s strategic objectives- its European integration process. And for the time being, it looks like that is exactly what’s happening. Authorities’ reaction As news of the defamatory articles broke out, several top Albanian officials have dismissed the articles as biased and completely unfounded. The press office of the Ministry of Interior informed on Tuesday that minister Saimir Tahiri had sent a letter to the editorial offices of the Daily Mirror and Corriere TV, in which he completely rebuffed the articles as untrue and hampering joint efforts in the war on terror by creating ‘clouds of mistrust’. “I am convinced that I am not the only Albanian to feel sad about the untruths on Albania, just like anyone else who has had the possibility to get to know Albania even for a little bit is feeling sad as a result of a completely distorted depiction of the Albanian reality in your report,” the letter of the Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri read. In his letter, Tahiri added that while it is true that Albania is a country with a predominantly Muslim population, it is pure blindness to rely just on the fact alone to perceive a terrorist threat in Albania. Albanian General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla also dismissed connections of the southern village of Lazarat with the Islamic State, declaring that persons from the village have only been convicted for cannabis cultivation, and under no circumstance investigations led by prosecutors have found evidence of persons engaging in terror activities. “News that try to establish a connection between cannabis produced in Lazarat or any other area of the country and terrorists of the so-called Islamic State, are pure fiction without any real foundation,” Llalla declared during a meeting with the local prosecutors in Gjirokastra, Southern Albania. The State Police chief Haki Cako also dismissed another similar portrayal of Albania by Italian channel Rai Uno as “fiction which does not correspond to the Albanian reality”. Locals also deny claims Residents of Lazarat also vehemently rejected claims regarding the existence of cannabis plantations run by the terrorist group in the area. The imam of the local mosque in Lazarat told reporters that the imam himself and residents alike considered the Islamic State a terrorist organization and that the articles which connect the village to the terror network were nothing but ill-willed commissioned articles. [post_title] => Fictitious articles in Western media raise eyebrows in Albania [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => fictitious-articles-in-western-media-raise-eyebrows-in-albania [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-22 12:16:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-22 11:16:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125873 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125723 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-01-22 10:00:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-22 09:00:46 [post_content] => By JUXHINA MALAJ TIRANA, Jan. 20 – A photo exhibition by Adam Lazowski, Professor of EU Law at the University of Westminster, London, opened on January 19, 2016 at the Kalo Gallery in Tirana. Sponsored by the Union Bank and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the photo exhibition will stay open until the end of February, while all pictures will go for sale once the exhibition is over. Attended by several public figures as well as by the Ambassador of Poland in Tirana, Marek Jeziorski, the exhibition coincides with a publication of a book by Dudaj Publishing. Lazowski explained during his opening speech that both the exhibition and the book are titled ‘Albania through a lens’, instead of ‘Albania through the lens’ because he wants the viewer to create their own version of the story behind each photo, and that is why all photos exhibited had only the title on the walls, not the whole story behind them. [caption id="attachment_125801" align="alignright" width="365"]Book cover Book cover[/caption] Besides inviting everyone to see Albania through a lens, Lazowski asked everyone attending the opening to slow their lives down a little in order to see the beauty that surrounds them. He continued saying that some ten years ago, he had noticed that whenever he held a camera on his hand, he was able to see more. “It can be an old person waiting for a bus, an animal relaxing in the sun or hiding from rain, a powerful cloud over my head or even a reflection in window,” Lazowski said, continuing by saying that photos show way more when they are deprived of their colours. “They leave much more to the imagination and, quite metaphorically, allow us to see more. They are not like the flashy technicolor pictures we would otherwise merely flick through. To appreciate them we have to linger- and even then, they leave stories untold,” he explained. Among the story examples he gave were the pictures titled Freedom, Ave Maria, Gate, When we’re gone, and It’s gonna be alright which shows two little children looking at the sea. Lazowski said that as he was listening to a song by Phil Collings called Come with me, he immediately thought about the two kids looking at the sea. [caption id="attachment_125800" align="alignleft" width="391"]Photo 18 It’s gonna be alright[/caption]  

Come with me, close your eyes

Hold my hand, it will be alright

Don't be scared, don't be shy

Lift your head, it's gonna be alright

                                             Phil Collins

        In his photo collection, which was taken over the last six years in Albania, Lazowski has tried to capture the Albanian nature, and the ordinary people. “You will come across all generations in the midst of their everyday struggle or, on better days, enjoying simple pleasures of life. I am also fascinated by how countries deal with their past (proud or less so) and this, too, is reflected in this exhibition and the book,” Lazowski said while concluding that he hopes his photos will make people realize how beautiful we all are. Author of several books, papers, and articles, Adam Lazowski obtained a Master’s Degree in 1999 and a PhD in 2001 from the Faculty of Law at the University of Warsaw. Between 1999 and 2003, he lectured at the University of Warsaw, and worked as a senior researcher in European law at the T.M.C between 2003 and 2005. Since 2006 Lazowski works at the University of Westminster in London, where he is a professor of EU law. [post_title] => Albania through a lens [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-through-a-lens [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-22 10:00:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-22 09:00:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125723 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125779 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-01-18 20:51:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-18 19:51:11 [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 18 - Two Albanian internationals have left Switzerland's FC Zurich in the January transfer window following few playing opportunities in the club which is struggling in the relegation zone of the Swiss Super League. Italian club Atalanta announced on Monday it has signed Swiss-born Albanian defender Berat Djimsiti from Zurich in an undisclosed deal. Italian sports portals said the 22-year Albanian defender has been signed under a three-and-half-year contract and will be paid €250,000 per season. Born in Zurich, Djimsiti whose origin is from the ethnic Albanian-inhabited Presevo Valley in Serbia, has played 110 games in the Swiss Super League, scoring five goals. Djimsiti joined Albania in Sept. 2015 when he made his debut against Denmark in a key qualifier after having previously represented Switzerland in the Under-21. He also scored a decisive goal in Albania's last Euro qualifier against Armenia which gave the national side a historic first-ever direct qualification in a major football tournament. Albanian international forward Armando Sadiku also left Zurich last week when he joined FC Vaduz, another Swiss club ranking bottom in the Super League, on loan from Zurich. The 25-year forward will spend the next six months with Vaduz before playing in the Euro 2016 when new opportunities could come up. Midfielder Blerim Kukeli remains the only Albanian international with FC Zurich after the departure of Djimsiti and Sadiku. Elseid Hysaj has been the Albanian international with the best performance this season. The 21-year-old-defender has been a regular starter for Napoli which lead Italy’s Serie A. Albania will face France, Switzerland and Romania in Group A of the Euro 2016 in a bid to make another surprise campaign after a historic qualification as an outsider. Albania will make its first-ever appearance in a major football competition on June 11, 2016 against Switzerland in what is considered a derby as the Albanian side features as many as seven Swiss-born players while five of the Swiss internationals have Albanian roots. [post_title] => Two Albanian internationals leave Zurich for Atalanta, Vaduz [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => two-albanian-internationals-leave-zurich-for-atalanta-vaduz [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-18 20:51:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-18 19:51:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125779 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 125700 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-01-15 11:53:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-01-15 10:53:57 [post_content] =>   By ALBERT RAKIPI The government’s initiative to reform the judicial system has finally materialized into a draft proposal that calls for constitutional amendments, affecting the entire structure of the judicial system. The need for reform has won the widespread support of the EU and US representatives in Tirana. Unfortunately, the final draft is controversial—to say the least. Drafted by a group of experts appointed by the ruling coalition, the current proposal does not enjoy the support of the main opposition Democratic Party. It also does not have the support of the Socialist Movement for Integration, the Socialist Party’s main ruling coalition partner. This is important because SMI, through its role as Kingmaker, in effect keeps the SP-led coalition in power. Political parties have shown an inability to co-operate, even when faced with a matter of national interest such as the reform of the judicial system. This is not a rare occurrence in Albanian politics. Regrettably, for the past 25 years political discussions have been marked by a failure to cooperate across party lines. In addition, the reform process thus far is reflective of a political culture dependent on international actors. A final matter that merits discussion is the fact that political divisions not only endanger the successful implementation of the reform but to a certain extent serve as a harbinger of what the future holds for political scene dominated by conflict and disagreement. Who are the ‘enemies’? Surely, maintaining the status quo in the judicial system is in the interests of corrupt politicians and officials as well as criminal organizations. A judicial system controlled by politicians does not serve justice; it only serves the political and financial interests of corrupt politicians. A judicial system that operates based on the rule of corruption as opposed to the rule of law is certainly not reconcilable with public interest. In an effort to push the reform process forward, US Ambassador Donald Lu explicitly mentioned, more or less, who the ‘enemies’ of the reform were, referring to the categories of people mentioned above. Now that the reform process has reached a critical point, the idea that there are ‘enemies’ or opponents to the reform has made a comeback. It would not be untrue to say that this idea has been instrumentalised in order to serve short-term interests that seek to turn the judiciary into a subject of political control, and perhaps use the reform as a weapon against political opponents. Recently, the public is rather intensively feeding on the idea that the main opposition party, namely the DP, is an opponent, if not an enemy to the reform. Ironically, the head of state has been presented as another enemy of the reform process. The president himself is of the opinion that political propaganda is being put forward, seeking to present the president as an opponent of the reform in the eyes of the public. Last, but certainly not least, Ilir Meta, the current speaker of parliament, seems to be portrayed as a ‘hidden’ enemy of the reform process. It seems that the only party promoting the current draft is the SP, although the DP clearly believes such efforts are ultimately designed to enable SP to control the judicial system. But if all these portrayals are the result of political warfare between the government and opposition, or internal warfare between coalition partners, SP’s Rama and SMI’s Meta, or even part of conspiracy theories that often permeate the minds of undeveloped societies in the Balkans, two essential and interconnected questions need to be answered: Is it plausible to expect such a fundamental reform to be passed in parliament, in an instance when political parties are so far from achieving consensus? And perhaps more importantly, can the proposal in its current form -- as vigorously as it is defended by the SP -- be considered ‘fit for purpose’, when SP’s main coalition partner, the Head of State and main opposition party seem to think otherwise? It is the consensus, stupid! Disagreements as to the content of the draft proposal have been present from the start. As one would expect, differences in opinion have been consistent in the debate between SP and DP on this issue. However, the fact that SP’s main coalition partner has shown reluctance and expressed different opinions at key stages of the negotiation process is most striking. In response, the ad hoc commission presented the drafts to the Venice Commission for review. Both the DP and SMI sent their respective comments and proposals, which to a certain extent diverged from -- and sometimes were contrary to -- the proposals set out by the experts’ commission. According to the opposition and other independent experts, the resulting opinion of the Venice Commission has in fact invalidated the current draft, which as per DP was essentially drafted by the government through its appointed ‘independent’ experts. Despite differences in interpretation as to the opinions of the Venice Commission, through a joint effort coordinated by the US ambassador and the EU, parties agreed to work on a common draft. This rather short-lived attempt at cooperation broke down as opposition experts walked out of the negotiation process. Accusations were put forward by DP, as it claimed the government was not upholding its promise to act as per the Venice Commission’s recommendations. In essence, the disagreements revolved around the process through which parliament would appoint high officials of the judicial system. The parties were now engaged in a ‘game of numbers’, the importance of which the general uninformed public does not fully comprehend and thus disregards. The current draft introduced by government experts proposes that officials be elected by 3/5’s of parliamentary vote, currently controlled by the government. Opposition experts vigorously reject this proposal and -- in line with the Venice Commission’s recommendations -- demand that the 2/3’s formula must be applied in order to enable the opposition to have a say. These numbers mean nothing to the public. In fact, they may only serve to cause confusion. Why, they might ask, should we elect judges applying the 2/3’s formula when even the president is elected by 3/5’s of the vote? In essence, the Venice Commission is pushing for consensus with regards to the election of officials -- it is not just recommending numbers. Their point is simple, and would ultimately lead to an impartial judiciary, thus preventing the accumulation of legislative and judicial powers in the same hands -- what was regarded by James Madison as the very definition of tyranny. Suppose for example, a theoretical scenario where the government controlled 75 seats of parliament out of 140 seats. The Venice Commission and the opposition would welcome the application of the 3/5’s formula, for opposition votes would be necessary in order to achieve the 84 votes needed for the reform to pass. Discussions as to structural changes in the judicial system must not revolve around questions as to whether the Attorney General’s mandate should be interrupted, and where should he thereafter be appointed to work. A structural reform must be guided by the principle of impartiality and disregard the interests of people who -- popular opinion would say unfairly -- find themselves in positions of power. A stable and successful reform requires consensus between government and opposition. On the other hand, consensus between coalition members themselves is equally important. As we saw, the Justice Minister made some radical, last minute proposals that clearly reflect the need for consensus, whilst Ilir Meta has officially stated that reform proposals must be all-inclusive. The judicial reform will bring ... prosperity Once, there was a popular socialist realism film depicting a wrecked post- WWII Albania, led by an enthusiastic communist regime, which believed the country, would flourish under its rule. In one of the scenes, the ‘hero’ of the film -- namely the party secretary -- turns his attention to a giant slogan that read: ‘The two-year plan will bring prosperity’. What’s this slogan going on about? - He said to his comrades. This is nonsense, that’s what it is! The analogy might not be adequate, and it certainly is politically incorrect, but the fact remains that great expectations have been formed around the results that the reform will bring. There is no doubt that the status-quo of the judicial system is eroding whatever little trust people have in justice, the rule of law, politics, politicians and Democracy. On the other hand, it is clear that this reform will not bring about ‘prosperity’ under rule of law, it will not put an end to a culture of untouchability, and will not bring about the separation of politics from corruption or crime. Experience has shown that Albania does not lack legislation necessary to advance rule of law and state building. Rather, what is lacking is the will to implement laws. One needs only to recall the great expectations formed around the abolition of laws granting immunity to members of parliament. However ironic it may sound, it was only after immunity was stripped away that Parliament was filled with strong-men and people who had trouble with the law, including murderers.   *With apologies to Bill Clinton and his advisor, James Carville, who coined the term “It’s the economy, stupid” as Clinton’s successful 1992 U.S. presidential campaign motto. [post_title] => Judicial reform: It’s the consensus, stupid!* [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => judicial-reform-its-the-consensus-stupid [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-01-22 13:37:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-01-22 12:37:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=125700 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 126039 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2016-02-04 12:24:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-04 11:24:24 [post_content] => MigTIRANA, Feb. 2 - The Albanian government has announced a tender to sell its stock of Soviet-era MiG fighter aircraft inherited from the Cold War under communism. The decision comes more than a decade after retiring them and seven years after the country's NATO membership. In an announcement on the Public Procurement Agency, the defense ministry invites bids for 40 Soviet era planes and helicopters at a price tag of 1.1 million lek to 1.9 million lek (€7,840 to €13,542) each, specifying that the sale is made for non-military use. The list of aircraft includes MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG 21 as well as Jak-18 planes and four Mi-4 helicopters. The forty military aircraft currently preserved in the military bases of Kuçova, Rinas, Gjader and Farke are also offered altogether at a starting price of 61.4 million lek (€438,000) in the tender scheduled for February 22, 2016. The Soviet-era fighters which took the lives of 35 Albanian pilots but were not used in any attack against potential ‘revisionist’ invaders of isolated communist Albania will be offered to museum collectors and for scrap, the defence ministry has earlier said. The last MiG fighter took off from the Kuçova military air base in November 2004 just before Albania declared their retirement and its shift to pure helicopter force. Under the 45-year communist regime Albania had a considerable air fleet of Soviet Union and Chinese MiG 15, 17, 19 and 21. A number of them are displayed in the country’s state museums, including the new museum of armed forces in Tirana. “In the 1970s, Albania’s Military Aviation was fully efficient with over 70 MIG-19 and 12 MIG-21 aircraft, a combat squadron of MIG-17 fighter jets and many combat-training MIG-15 aircraft,” say the Albanian Armed Forces. The first installation of Jet Aviation was established in the Kuçova air base, southern Albania, in 1955, comprising MIG-15 aircraft. The Aviation Regiment in Rinas, outside Tirana, composed of a squadron of MIG-19 aircraft and a squadron of MIG-17 aircraft, was created in 1962 when Albania established the Aviation School. [post_title] => Albania to sell 40 Soviet-era fighter aircraft for up to €13,500 each [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-to-sell-40-soviet-era-fighter-aircraft-for-up-to-e13542-each [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-04 12:26:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-04 11:26:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=126039 [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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