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Albania gets lackluster 83rd spot in global prosperity index

Albania gets lackluster 83rd spot in global prosperity index

TIRANA, Nov. 3 – Albania improved its position in the 2015 Prosperity Index published by London-based Legatum Institute think tank by one place ranking 83rd globally, but yet leaving behind only Bosnia and Herzegovina among its regional competitors. The Index,

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Students protesters throw eggs at Albanian prime minister

Students protesters throw eggs at Albanian prime minister

TIRANA, Nov. 2 – University of Tirana student protesters threw eggs and chanted angry slogans at Prime Minister Edi Rama as he left a meeting on campus Monday. The eggs did not touch the prime minister, landing on his vehicle instead.

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Tirana Book Fair to hold 18th edition amid concern over drastic decline in sales

Tirana Book Fair to hold 18th edition amid concern over drastic decline in sales

TIRANA, Oct. 28 – A hundred publishers will participate in the 18th edition of the Tirana Book Fair, the largest event bringing together Albanian publishers who have expressed rising concern over a sharp drop in sales this year. Albania’s Association

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Central bank survey shows businesses, households face tough times

Central bank survey shows businesses, households face tough times

TIRANA, Oct. 26 – While the Albanian economy recovered to moderate growth rate of 2.65 percent in the first half of this year, the business community continues facing tough times with lower sales affecting their profits, the country’s central bank

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Albanians want better relations with Serbia, survey finds

Albanians want better relations with Serbia, survey finds

Two leading think tanks in Tirana and Belgrade have joined forces to create the Center on Albania-Serbia Relations TIRANA, Oct. 27 – A plurality of residents of Albania believe relations between this country and Serbia are normal and likely to

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Spaç Prison, ‘A sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom and against tyranny’

Spaç Prison, ‘A sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom and against tyranny’

By Donald Lu* My colleagues and I visited Spaç today and were struck by the irony of the story of human brutality at this prison juxtaposed against the beauty of the rugged mountain landscape of this area. A visit to

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Tirana municipality to use concrete manhole covers to address metal theft

Tirana municipality to use concrete manhole covers to address metal theft

TIRANA, Oct. 22 – Tirana’s local government will switch to using concrete-composite manhole covers starting next year to address rampant theft of metal covers which are then sold for scrap metal, Mayor Erion Veliaj said this week. The new covers

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Dealing with domestic violence: The culture of silence must end

By Robert Wilton* Domestic violence is not just physical abuse – hitting or kicking – but also includes insults, threats of physical harm, rape and a range of controlling behaviours. Women are the primary – but not the only –

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Put on a plis, we’re going to Paris

Put on a plis, we’re going to Paris

An underdog national team achieving its first-ever major tournament qualifications shows how a united people can be successful in Europe TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL If you live in Albania or anywhere where there are a lot of Albanians you have probably

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Albania claim historic qualification for Euro 2016

Albania claim historic qualification for Euro 2016

TIRANA, Oct. 11 – Albania’s dream of a first ever qualification in a major football competition has finally come true after more than eight decades of attempts. Albania beat Armenia 3-0 on Sunday night to claim direct qualification in the

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 3 – Albania improved its position in the 2015 Prosperity Index published by London-based Legatum Institute think tank by one place ranking 83rd globally, but yet leaving behind only Bosnia and Herzegovina among its regional competitors.

The Index, distinctive because of being the only global measurement of prosperity based on both income and well-being, shows Albania’s best performance is in the Safety & Security sub-index ranking 47th among 142 economies globally. Health ranks Albania 65th on a low level of health expenditure per person, but a life expectancy of 77.5 years compared to a global average of 71.

Albania ranked 71st on education with about 56 percent of the surveyed people saying they are satisfied with the quality of education in the area they live compared to a global average of 65 percent.

The report ranks Albania 73rd on ‘entrepreneurship & opportunity’ with 54 percent of people describing the country as a good place for entrepreneurs to start a business.

Personal freedom ranks Albania 82nd with 73.5 percent of people saying they are satisfied with their freedom of choice.

Albania ranks 91st in governance with poor public confidence in the judicial system and a perception of highly corrupt business community and government. The report ranks Albania’s economy 109th on a small market size, high level of non-performing loans and high unemployment.

Only about half of surveyed people, some 48 percent, said they were satisfied with their living standards compared to a global average of 60 percent.

Albania’s lowest rank is in the ‘social capital' sub-index, where it ranks 138th. Only two-thirds of the people say they can rely on friends and family for help compared to a global average of 80.4 percent. Only 9 percent of the people said they had volunteered in the past month compared to an average of 20 percent globally.

This year’s prosperity index was led by Norway, Switzerland and Denmark.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_124334" align="alignright" width="300"]Security officials tackle one of the protesters to the ground. (Photo: YouTube video grab). Security officials tackle one of the protesters to the ground. (Photo: YouTube video grab).[/caption]

TIRANA, Nov. 2 – University of Tirana student protesters threw eggs and chanted angry slogans at Prime Minister Edi Rama as he left a meeting on campus Monday.

The eggs did not touch the prime minister, landing on his vehicle instead.

The public university students are part of a movement advocating against a new higher education law that makes it more expensive for them to attend school.

The mostly female group of students could be heard yelling “thief, thief,” “charlatan,” and “shame on you,” as they hurled the eggs.

Eight protesters were detained, including three activists from Kosovo.

Police said in an official statement the students had not been mistreated, despite claims on social media by the student group that their members had been forcefully detained.

In one video posted online, a police officer in civilian clothes is seen slapping one of the protesters. Another protester is seen to be forcefully thrown to the ground by security officials.

This sort of protest against high officials is unusual in Albania.

 
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                    [post_content] => panairTIRANA, Oct. 28 - A hundred publishers will participate in the 18th edition of the Tirana Book Fair, the largest event bringing together Albanian publishers who have expressed rising concern over a sharp drop in sales this year.

Albania's Association of Publishers, which is the organizer of the event, says publishers from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and the Diaspora will participate in this major event which brings together writers, readers, translators and the media to further promote traditional reading in the digital era.

This year's fair scheduled to be held at the Palace of Congresses from November 11 to 15 will focus on the future of digital books in Albania.

Organizers are planning to award a special translation prize in honor of the 50th death anniversary of Fan Noli, an outstanding leader of the Albanian-American community, but also a pre-eminent and multi-talented figure of Albanian literature, culture, religious life and politics.

Petrit Ymeri, the head of the Albanian Association of Publishers, says the economic crisis Albania has been facing in the past years has also affected book sales and led to the closure of dozens of bookshops and fewer new publications.

“Book sales during this year have dropped by 40 percent. Last year, the decrease in book sales was between 20 to 25 percent, according to contacts with different bookshops and publishing houses," Ymeri has told local media.

“Last summer was very embarrassing for books. We raised the alarm over this expected situation three to four years ago. The situation has aggravated because of economic difficulties. In the past couple of years, beyond the increase of theatrical and image activities, there have been no major changes regarding the support, structure or book infrastructure," he says.

The Tirana Times publishing house and the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) will also be participating in the book fair with a joint stand in the first floor of the exhibition area with dozens of book titles featuring Albanian authors such as Sabri Godo, Prec Zogaj and winners of Nobel Prize for Literature such as Samuel Beckett and Herta Muller. Several publications by the AIIS Library of International Relations & History from Bernd Fischer, Francis Fukuyama, Dominique Moisi etc will be featured in the stand.

In last year's edition, internationally renowned Albanian author Ismail Kadare was handed the special Jeronim De Rada award. The perennial Albanian nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded the special prize on the 200th birth anniversary of De Rada, who is not only the best known writer of Italian- Albanian literature but also the foremost figure of the Albanian nationalist movement in nineteenth-century Italy.

Some 80,000 people visited last year's edition buying books at a discount of 10 to 30 percent.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Oct. 26 - While the Albanian economy recovered to moderate growth rate of 2.65 percent in the first half of this year, the business community continues facing tough times with lower sales affecting their profits, the country's central bank says in a report.

“The enterprises' general sales and financial result deteriorated in the first half of 2015 compared to the end of 2014. Even the expansion of the economic activity displayed signals of a slowdown," says the central bank in its latest financial stability report.

A survey with more than 700 enterprises nationwide shows almost half of them (48 percent) do not plan to take out new loans for the second half of the year. Only 3 percent of the surveyed enterprises said they had made a final decision about borrowing from banks while the remaining part was still mulling it over.

Half of the enterprises (some 51 percent) said they had a loan to pay off in the first half of 2015, down 4 percent compared to the second half of the year.

Differently from households where informal borrowing accounts for the majority of total credit, the situation among businesses is quite different with 92 percent of enterprises borrowing from banks.

The survey shows demand for new loans has dropped among businesses especially in the construction and services sectors. Loans in the foreign currency, especially in Euro, dominates more than half of credit in Albania, unveiling the country's high euroization rate, which inhibits the effectiveness of the central bank's monetary policy to give a boost to lending, struggling to recover in the past couple of years after the boom in the pre-crisis years.

 Households

The situation among households continues remaining critical with almost a third (29 percent) declaring a deterioration in their ability to repay loans, an indicator improving by 2.1 percentage points compared to the end of 2014, but deteriorating by 16.5 percent compared to the first half of 2014.

Lower income and an increase in the cost of living are the main causes for the deterioration in the households’ ability to repay, says the central bank’s survey.

The nationwide survey with 1,200 households shows the majority 60 percent of Albanian households continue to rely on informal borrowing from relatives and friends as well as local stores unveiling the tight lending standards and high costs of borrowing from banks. However, informal borrowing is estimated to account for only 17 percent of total lending to households which is dominated by needs to finance consumption and purchase and repair of property.

Some 27 percent of the surveyed households said they had at least one debt to pay off, compared to 30 percent at the end of 2014. More than 80 percent of the respondents said they expect no improvement in their ability to repay in the second half of this year.

 Consumption concerns

The central bank has earlier noted the launch of a nationwide campaign to curb electricity theft and collect accumulated unpaid bills has had a negative impact on household consumption. The Albanian government says it collected an extra $150 million in electricity bills in the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period last year and $200 million compared to 2013.

Household final consumption expenditure measuring consumer spending was down by 3.16 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2014, declining for the second quarter in a row, according to state statistical institute, INSTAT.

The latest business and household survey reflects official data showing that lending to the economy suffered a blow in August 2015 when it returned to negative growth rates after registering sluggish growth rates of 1 to 3 percent in the past year.

Bank of Albania data shows lending slightly contracted by 1.2 percent year-on-year in August 2015 hinting sluggish demand for new loans by both businesses and households as standards remain tight due to non-performing loans at around 20 percent.

The launch of a nationwide campaign against informality last September accompanied by legal changes increasing fines on tax evasion by several times and pending amendment to the Criminal Code making evasion punishable by prison has sparked mixed reactions by the business community which has hailed the campaign but criticized its aggressiveness and tough penalties as not helping improve the business climate.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_124225" align="alignright" width="300"]The survey was made public at the first event organized by the Center on Albania-Serbia Relations, a joint project of two leading think tanks in Tirana and Belgrade, AIIS and the Forum for International Relations of European Movement Serbia. (Photo: AIIS) The survey was made public at the first event organized by the Center on Albania-Serbia Relations, a joint project of two leading think tanks in Tirana and Belgrade, AIIS and the Forum for International Relations of European Movement Serbia. (Photo: Tirana Times)[/caption]

Two leading think tanks in Tirana and Belgrade have joined forces to create the Center on Albania-Serbia Relations

TIRANA, Oct. 27 - A plurality of residents of Albania believe relations between this country and Serbia are normal and likely to improve in the future and such improvements are in the best interest of both countries, according to a national survey released by the Albanian Institute for International Studies.

The survey was made public at the first event organized by the Center on Albania-Serbia Relations, a joint project of two leading think tanks in Tirana and Belgrade, AIIS and the Forum for International Relations of European Movement Serbia. 

“The findings of our first survey are encouraging, because they show Albanians want better relations with Serbs, because they believe it is in the best interest of both nations, not just due to factors such as European integration,” said Alba Cela, AIIS deputy director and the study’s author. 

For example, 49 percent of Albanians believe relations with Serbia are important and 18.2 percent believe they are very important. 

Albania and Serbia should deepen their relations because it’s in the interest of both countries, 90.7 percent of the respondents said. 

About 43 percent of people surveyed in Albania see the relations between the two countries as normal, and 13.8 percent see them as good. In addition, 54.4 percent believe relations between Albania and Serbia will likely improve in the future.

The survey, which interviewed 1,200 people in all 12 counties of Albania through a statistically relevant selection, also revealed that of the 19.4 percent of Albanians that see their country as threatened by another country, ranked Serbia second at 27.8 percent, with Greece ranked at 31.6 as the number one perceived threat.   

The survey’s findings are available in full through AIIS. 

A similar survey will be carried out in Serbia to see perceptions of residents there about Albania, according to Jelica Minic, who heads the Forum for International Relations of the European Movement Serbia, the AIIS Belgrade-based partner for the Center on Albania-Serbia Relations. 

Milic, who was in Tirana for the opening event this week, said the Serbian civil society organization was happy to work together with AIIS on an initiative that was timely and needed. She added relations between Albanians and Serbs are multi-layered and a lot of positive interaction is already happening with people-to-people contacts.

- New center to provide boost for relations

Albert Rakipi, the AIIS executive director, said this initiative’s primary goal is to improve relations between Albania and Serbia.

“This will be a joint research center to encourage political cooperation and dialogue between Tirana and Belgrade as well as economic and cultural cooperation,” Rakipi said. “There will be a number a projects in all those areas, and there will also be particular focus on the younger generation and the media.” 

Rakipi added the events surrounding the soccer match in Belgrade between the two countries last year highlighted that Albania-Serbia relations still face many challenges and deep-rooted misconceptions. 

“Albania-Serbia relations have seen ups and downs -- a year ago they hit a crisis,” he said. “The governments of the two countries for some time applied instruments of communication typical of the times of the Cold War.”

He added the idea to establish a joint center on Albania-Serbia relations was reinforced by that period’s developments.

- International support

The center is supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, and its head in the Tirana office, Frank Hantke, said the German foundation saw the reconciliation and improved relations between Albania and Serbia as vital for future progress in the region.

Hantke highlighted the importance of the normalization of the relations of the two countries following the good example of the Franco-German reconciliation process. He brought an example of his upbringing as beneficiary of a generation that enjoyed peace in Western Europe and stressed the need to have a positive, “even naïve” outlook for the future.

The initiative on stronger relations between Albania and Serbia and the new center also have the expressed support of the two countries’ international partners, including Germany and France, which had their ambassadors at the event. 

The Balkans is the only region in Europe where conflicts still play a role today, said German Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann. 

“Many human tragedies have occurred in the past, and any initiative that will try to improve relations in the region is more than welcome,” Hoffmann said. 

His counterpart from France, Bernard Fitoussi, agreed. 

"EU needs Albania Serbia reconciliation more than Albania and Serbia need the EU,” he said. "So this region will not become the playground of outside players." 

Fitoussi also mentioned that the post-WW II Franco-German model of reconciliation is a good example on how Albanian-Serbian relations can improve.

The French ambassador brought up the example of the generation of his parents, who grew up with the idea that the Germans were the enemy. However, he said his generation was the first to benefit by the collaboration and exchanges by gradually eliminating stereotypes about each other.

A leading member of the foreign relations commission in the Albanian parliament, Aldo Bumçi, said this is a good time to further develop relations with Serbia. 

“We live in normal times -- the best time to push for better relations,” Bumçi said.

- Kosovo and Albania-Serbia relations -

But Bumçi also said relations between Albania and Serbia should also take into account the interests of Kosovo.

“Kosovo is an independent and sovereign country, and Albania should not undertake a paternalist position, when it comes to the relations between Kosovo and Serbia,” the lawmaker and former foreign minister said. “On the other hand, the normalization of the relations between Albania and Serbia should take into consideration the best interests of Prishtina.”

Rakipi said that despite the Kosovo issue standing in between the two countries, the new center would try to focus solely on Albania-Serbia relations.

German Ambassador Hoffmann agreed that the major problem in the relations between the two countries is the issue of Kosovo, which is now a sovereign state that can act independently. 

“Both countries [Albania and Serbia] should keep their eyes on EU accession,” Hoffmann said. 

Despite clear difference of opinion over Kosovo, the two countries need to cooperate, said Serbian Ambassador Miroljub Zarić.

"Serbia is committed to the development of positive relations with Albania," he added. 

Zarić said cooperation between Albania and Serbia is currently mostly focused on trade, agriculture and joint implementation of infrastructure and energy projects. He added that both countries should resolve some issues inherited from the past, such as the protection of minorities, trade issues related to the import of medicines from Serbia and the return of confiscated properties to Serbian citizens. 

A discussion followed the two panels of the event with the wider group of civil society representatives attending the forum. Relations between the two countries face major challenges in terms of perceptions of youths and media coverage, according to civil society representatives. 
Event photos
[post_title] => Albanians want better relations with Serbia, survey finds [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanians-want-better-relations-with-serbia-survey-finds [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-30 01:09:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-29 23:09:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=124216 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 124217 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-10-23 22:02:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-23 20:02:33 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_124220" align="alignright" width="235" class=" "]Lu * Ambassador Donald Lu heads the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. He shared the text and photos of his visit on the embassy’s Facebook page.[/caption] By Donald Lu* My colleagues and I visited Spaç today and were struck by the irony of the story of human brutality at this prison juxtaposed against the beauty of the rugged mountain landscape of this area. A visit to the prison at Spaç is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom and against tyranny, and all too often died in that pursuit. We were fortunate to have three experts tell us the stories of those who lived and died here — Gjet Gjoni, our local guide, and Nedi Petri and Jonathan Eaton of the NGO Cultural Heritage without Borders. Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting Fabian Kati, who was a political prisoner at Spaç in the mid-1980's . Mr. Kati has devoted his life to making sure we do not forget the tragedy at Spaç. He, together with other former prisoners at Spaç, is working to establish a museum in the former communist prison so that these important stories will be shared with future generations. He has also produced documentary films and written books about those who perished and survived this brutal ordeal. My own great-grandmother died in a communist prison in China. She was arrested while helping other families escape from China during the Maoist Revolution in 1947. Today, I remember my great-grandmother ,thousands of Albanians, and countless others from around the world who fought for the freedoms that today we all enjoy. On our Embassy grounds there is a magnolia tree, planted by our community. Beneath this tree, there’s a plaque, engraved with a quote by Maya Angelou that reads, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” I encourage young Albanians to visit Spaç and to hear the stories of those brave Albanians who survived and perished in this place. Soon it will be your responsibility to retell these stories to your children. * Ambassador Donald Lu heads the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. He shared the text and photos of his visit on the embassy’s Facebook page.     [post_title] => Spaç Prison, ‘A sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom and against tyranny’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => spac-prison-a-sobering-reminder-of-the-sacrifices-made-by-those-who-fought-for-freedom-and-against-tyranny [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-30 00:19:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-29 22:19:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=124217 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 124186 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-10-23 11:18:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-23 09:18:31 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_124191" align="alignright" width="300"]Municipal authorities are working to replace 4,000 missing manhole covers across Tirana. (Photo: MoT) Municipal authorities are working to replace 4,000 missing manhole covers across Tirana. (Photo: MoT)[/caption] TIRANA, Oct. 22 – Tirana's local government will switch to using concrete-composite manhole covers starting next year to address rampant theft of metal covers which are then sold for scrap metal, Mayor Erion Veliaj said this week. The new covers will “have no scrap value,” the mayor wrote on Twitter. “The battle on vandalism requires punishment, but also creativity.” The mayor said municipal workers are currently replacing 4,000 missing manhole covers across the municipality, starting with sidewalks and streets close to schools. Missing manhole covers have become a major concern in Tirana and across the country over the years as thieves steal them and sell them for scrap to smelting shops. The open holes then lead to accidents for both pedestrians and vehicles. Authorities have vowed to increase the penalties not only for the thieves, but also for any smelting business who accepts the stolen property. The theft of public property to be sold for scrap has been a major concern in Albania, leaving a bad taste with the city's residents as a symbol of lack of rule of law. One of the most visible problems was a monument in downtown Tirana that commemorates 100 years of independence, which Albania marked in 2012. The monument had been repeatedly vandalized, its bronze plating stolen in places to be sold for scrap. It has now been under reconstruction by the municipality for more than a month. Veliaj said on his first day in office he would start work on an emergency list of the city’s needs, which include missing manhole covers and ruined sidewalks and roads. [post_title] => Tirana municipality to use concrete manhole covers to address metal theft [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => tirana-municipality-to-use-concrete-manhole-covers-to-address-metal-theft [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-23 13:38:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-23 11:38:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=124186 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 124199 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-10-23 09:05:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-23 07:05:19 [post_content] => By Robert Wilton* Domestic violence is not just physical abuse – hitting or kicking – but also includes insults, threats of physical harm, rape and a range of controlling behaviours. Women are the primary – but not the only – victims. Children and men can also be the targets of domestic violence. Police statistics tell us that in the first nine months of 2015, 2,606 cases of domestic violence were reported. 1,910 of the victims were women and 108 were children. In these nine months, 14 victims died as a result of the abuse. But these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Statistics show that less than one in ten victims seeks help. According to an INSTAT survey in 2013, nearly 60% of Albanian women had been the victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives; 53% were “currently” in an abusive relationship. We cannot remain silent when faced with these figures. Domestic violence may happen mainly behind closed doors, but it is not a private, family matter. It is immoral and illegal. Each and every one of us has an obligation to do whatever we can to prevent this type of violence, to enable victims to get the help and protection they need, and to ensure these crimes are prosecuted. These crimes must not be tolerated. I am delighted to launch today in Gjirokastra an important initiative of the OSCE Presence and the Albanian State Police - a campaign to counter domestic violence. I would like to express our appreciation to the Mayor of Gjirokastra and the Gjirokastra Police Directorate for hosting this event. This campaign is the continuation of very successful campaigns held in Korça and Elbasan in 2014. It involves students and police officers, as well as parliamentarians, NGOs, social workers and health professionals, in a series of activities that seek to raise citizens’ awareness about domestic violence – what it is, who can assist, and what to do if they or someone they know is a victim. Albania has a legal framework in place to assist victims, to protect them while helping them rebuild their lives. There are a number of structures and authorities who can aid those affected by domestic violence. Some of them, such as the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, Ministry of Interior and the State Police, are here with us today. Like the OSCE Presence, they are all committed to preventing and ending violence in the family. As an expression of that commitment, the Presence has offered training to Police on how to properly respond to domestic violence. We also want to sensitize as many citizens as possible through our campaigns. Furthermore, the Presence developed more than six years ago a practical handbook for victims of domestic violence, to help those who work with victims, and to assist victims in getting help, protection and justice. However, it is important to underline the fact that domestic violence cannot be addressed through legal means alone. This is not the job solely of the police and the courts. The very diverse group of stakeholders we have brought together for this vital work shows that real progress in Albania is only possible if we all accept our responsibility. We must change the mentality that accepts violence against women and children. We must reject utterly the idea that tradition, or culture, makes certain unacceptable behaviours somehow more natural. The culture of silence must end, now. *  These were the remarks the deputy head of the OSCE Presence, Robert Wilton, made last week at an event in Gjirokastra to increase awareness on issues related to domestic violence. [post_title] => Dealing with domestic violence: The culture of silence must end [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => dealing-with-domestic-violence-the-culture-of-silence-must-end [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-23 14:01:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-23 12:01:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=124199 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 123999 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2015-10-16 09:34:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-16 07:34:16 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_124004" align="alignright" width="300"]The national team today has as many players ethnic Albanian players born in Kosovo, Switzerland or Germany as it does players born in Albania itself. (Photo: Archives) The national team today has as many ethnic Albanian players born in Kosovo, Switzerland or Germany as it does players born in Albania itself. (Photo: Archives)[/caption] An underdog national team achieving its first-ever major tournament qualifications shows how a united people can be successful in Europe TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL If you live in Albania or anywhere where there are a lot of Albanians you have probably noticed the celebrations this week as the Albanian national football team achieved its highest result in its 80+ years of existence – qualifying for a major tournament – the UEFA European Football Championship, to be held in France in June-July 2016. The hashtag #MePlisNeParis has taken over social media. We are headed to Paris, it says, wearing our “plis,” an Albanian word describing the traditional white hat that has now become a symbol of the Albanian fans. “Plis” is an old Albanian word used mainly in Kosovo, and almost unheard of in many parts of Albania until recently, where the more common “qeleshe” is used to describe the traditional hat. The national team has had a tendency to do that to Albanians as a single people. Bring them closer – merging the strength of players born in Albania with those who are ethnic Albanians in the surrounding countries, Kosovo in particular, and beyond in the ethnic Albanian diaspora. The national team today has as many ethnic Albanian players born in Kosovo, Switzerland or Germany as it does players born in Albania itself. This is only one of the many stories weaved into the fabric of this latest success of the Albanian team, and they tell of the lives of Albanians in recent memory – a tough recent past, but hopeful of a brighter future based on the best European values. This is also a story of underdogs. The team itself was never expected to make it so far. The Italian-born naturalized Albanian coach was not a superstar before coming to Albania, despite leading Serie A teams in his native Italy. Yet, he has now become a legend in Albania, and is likely to head to greater fortunes once the tournament is over. Many, but not all players, had the advantage of being born or grown up in wealthier European countries, but they all came mostly from poor immigrant families, and must have struggled as children. Among the homegrown players there are people like Armando Sadiku, who scored the third goal in Yerevan, Armenia, securing a sure victory for Albania on Sunday. The Elbasan-born Sadiku serves as a striker in the Swiss Super League’s Zurich today, but has had an upbringing that is very different from the Swiss-born Albanians with Kosovo roots. (Sadiku too has Kosovo roots, with his ancestors moving to Elbasan from Kosovo in the 1920s.) Sadiku started his career in the Albanian lowers leagues, playing for Turbina Cërrik, which even by Albanian standards is a tiny town. He worked hard, moving up in the football world from one small town to a bigger one, from Albania to Switzerland. It's a story that can inspire young Albanian and the country itself – hard work and talent can lead to success, they just have to continue to on the right journey. And what a journey it has been in the past two decades years to get to this point for the national team. Few people will remember that in 1997, a dark year of riots and lawlessness in this country, the national team did not even have proper shirts to go on the pitch for a game against Denmark. In one of the darker moments of professional Albanian football, the players had to wear blue shirts, hand-me downs from Denmark's own closets, so they could play. Fifteen years later, the irony of it all is is that in 2015, Albania has managed to send Denmark to the uncertainty of play-off, itself securing a spot directly to the finals. The team has come far, and it can now go further. A nation that has never managed to get its national team to a major tournament, Albanians have often had to root for other countries in the past. No more. Next year, “plison, Albania heads to France. And an entire people will finally be able to root for their own team.   [post_title] => Put on a plis, we're going to Paris [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => put-on-a-plis-were-going-to-paris [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-16 10:57:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-16 08:57:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=123999 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 123982 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-10-11 20:09:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-10-11 18:09:02 [post_content] => alb 2TIRANA, Oct. 11 - Albania's dream of a first ever qualification in a major football competition has finally come true after more than eight decades of attempts. Albania beat Armenia 3-0 on Sunday night to claim direct qualification in the 2016 UEFA European Championship in a decisive last qualifier for the second place in Group I of the Euro qualifiers to avoid play-offs in case of a possible third place. Albania's coach Italian Gianni De Biasi praised the team's performance and he dedicated the success to all Albanian fans who have supported the team in every step. It all started well for Albania who desperately needed a victory after the disastrous stoppage time defeat at home to Serbia few days ago, with an early own-goal by the Armenians. Berat Djimisti scored the second goal to give Albania a comfortable 2-0 lead in the first half before striker Armando Sadiku sealed the historic victory which for the first time takes Albania to a major football competition. Albania climbed to second with 14 points in Group I of the qualifiers, leaving behind Denmark with 12 points who were hoping for a draw in the Armenia-Albania fixture. Portugal extended their group lead to 21 points after beating Serbia 2-1 in the last qualifier. Denmark will have another chance in the play-offs while Serbia and Armenia ranked fourth and fifth with 4 and 2 points respectively. Celebrations kicked off immediately after the final whistle all over Albania, Kosovo and the Albanian Diaspora. [post_title] => Albania claim historic qualification for Euro 2016 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-achieve-historic-qualification-for-euro-2016 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-10-12 12:16:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-10-12 10:16:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=123982 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 124351 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2015-11-03 15:02:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-11-03 13:02:49 [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 3 – Albania improved its position in the 2015 Prosperity Index published by London-based Legatum Institute think tank by one place ranking 83rd globally, but yet leaving behind only Bosnia and Herzegovina among its regional competitors. The Index, distinctive because of being the only global measurement of prosperity based on both income and well-being, shows Albania’s best performance is in the Safety & Security sub-index ranking 47th among 142 economies globally. Health ranks Albania 65th on a low level of health expenditure per person, but a life expectancy of 77.5 years compared to a global average of 71. Albania ranked 71st on education with about 56 percent of the surveyed people saying they are satisfied with the quality of education in the area they live compared to a global average of 65 percent. The report ranks Albania 73rd on ‘entrepreneurship & opportunity’ with 54 percent of people describing the country as a good place for entrepreneurs to start a business. Personal freedom ranks Albania 82nd with 73.5 percent of people saying they are satisfied with their freedom of choice. Albania ranks 91st in governance with poor public confidence in the judicial system and a perception of highly corrupt business community and government. The report ranks Albania’s economy 109th on a small market size, high level of non-performing loans and high unemployment. Only about half of surveyed people, some 48 percent, said they were satisfied with their living standards compared to a global average of 60 percent. Albania’s lowest rank is in the ‘social capital' sub-index, where it ranks 138th. Only two-thirds of the people say they can rely on friends and family for help compared to a global average of 80.4 percent. Only 9 percent of the people said they had volunteered in the past month compared to an average of 20 percent globally. This year’s prosperity index was led by Norway, Switzerland and Denmark. 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