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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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Albanian Institute for International Studies ranked again among world’s best think   tanks

Albanian Institute for International Studies ranked again among world’s best think tanks

TIRANA, Jan. 29 – The Albanian Institute for International Studies has been ranked among the world’s best think tanks by the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report authored by James G. McGann, director of the Think Tanks and

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Vibrant photo exhibitions for art followers in Tirana

Vibrant photo exhibitions for art followers in Tirana

Two new exhibitions in Tirana deserve your attention, By ALBA ÇELA In memoriam 23 January 2005-2015:   Team Albania Tsunami Assistance in Banda Aceh “After dinner we went to see the places most hit by the tsunami. A real horror. Houses, hotels,

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Commemorating 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation

Commemorating 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation

Set up by the Germans in mid-1940 at the town of Oswiecim, in the lands which had been incorporated into the German Reich, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp has become a global symbol of genocide. Commemorations of its liberation will bring together

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France, Germany and the strength of European values

France, Germany and the strength of European values

Freedom, democracy and a cosmopolitan, tolerant society are stronger than terror and senseless violence, the French and German ambassadors to Tirana write in a joint op-ed article. By BERNARD FITOUSSI and HELLMUT HOFFMANN* Today, 22 January, German and French people

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Albania condemns attack on French magazine

Albania condemns attack on French magazine

TIRANA, Jan. 8 – Albanian political, civic and religious leaders have condemned the attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. President Bujar Nishani expressed his condolences to French President Francois Hollande, pointing out that the Albanian people near the

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                    [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.
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                    [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
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                    [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.
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                    [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.

 

 
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                    [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

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 29 - The Albanian Institute for International Studies has been ranked among the world's best think tanks by the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report authored by James G. McGann, director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.

In the list of Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe, AIIS ranked 22nd in the annual index, gaining two places up the list from the previous year. In terms of sector focus, AIIS ranks 85th in the global ranking for defense and security research area and 64th in the global ranking for foreign policy and international relations.

The ranking is organized on an annual basis by the Think Tanks and Civil Society Program at the University of Pennsylvania, which conducts research on the role policy institutes play in governments and civil societies around the world.

This year's report was published on January 22, 2015. AIIS is the only Albanian think tank to make the cut of the prestigious international ranking index.

“Recognizing the quality of research and advocacy of the AIIS and collecting the positive feedback from peers, the index acknowledges for the fourth year in a row the professionalism and impact of AIIS work,” AIIS said in a statement.

More than 3,500 experts from academia, civil society and decision making institutions participated in the process of nominating and then ranking institutions worldwide in this one of a kind exercise that has become a reference point for those who seek to understand the standing of think tanks whether by geographical or thematic classification.

Some of the key programs at AIIS include the International Relations and History Library, which is home to Albania's largest number of publications on these topics; as well as the AIIS European Program, which is currently the institute's core program in terms of number of components, research, publications and trainings. Its primary focus is to help Albania become a member of the European Union.

The European Academy is another important component of the project. Founded five years ago, it organizes advanced seminars on issues of European integration for members of the central and local public administrations as well as young researchers and members of the civil society.

The institute also organizes two international conferences per year in strong cooperation with its counterparts in Europe and the United States.

The Europa magazine, the latest AIIS periodical, offers a critical approach to key issues relating to Albania's EU integration process and society modernization.

In addition to its current program and staff, AIIS has attracted over the years some of the most talented Albanian researchers to date, who after their experience at AIIS have moved to successful careers in the public administration and at international academic institutions.

Albania's international relations are at the heart of AIIS research, publications and public events. In addition, current security issues at the regional and European levels are a key aspect of the work AIIS does.

The institute has also seen increasing cooperation with other think tanks in the Balkans, EU and U.S. For example, a key research project on international relations and security issues is currently focused on relations with neighboring countries – as well the U.S., Italy, Germany, China, Russia and other major countries.

The work of AIIS has won the praise of key people over the years.

“Albania has made tremendous progress in the last twenty years and is moving smartly towards its European home. AIIS is both a cause and a consequence. Its sharp analytical focus on the world beyond Tirana has helped what was once one of the most isolated countries on earth, become an active contributor to the international order. These have been marvelously productive years for both Albania and its leading international institute,” said Daniel Serwer of the U.S. Peace Institute.

Janusz Bugajski, a  Research Fellow Center for European Policy Analysis added that "since its inception, the Albanian Institute of International Studies has played an important role in Albanian society. As the leading Albanian policy-focused institute, it has promoted debate on critical foreign policy and security issues, it has had an impact in policy making by bringing together decision makers and policy analysts in Albania with their foreign counterparts, and it has promoted a regional network of analysts to enhance regional cooperation and regional security."

Lulzim Basha, Mayor of Tirana and former Minister of Foreign Affairs agrees.

"AIIS has managed to become a reference point, an inevitable forum of debate and analysis, a window of professional and unbiased thought on geopolitical developments in and around Albania, the Albanian world, regional development and beyond," Mr. Basha said.

Historian Bernd Fischer echoes that sentiment.

"The Albanian Institute for International Studies has become the leading organization of its kind in Albania and an important contributor to the discussion of a broad range of issues in the Balkans in general. It has provided a forum for in-country specialists and established important contacts with analysts and policymakers throughout the Balkans and the Western world. With its objective analysis and multitude of voices, it has made, and will continue to make, an important contribution to regional and general understanding of the critical issues facing the Balkans. This understanding is an important step on the road to long-term regional stability. The institute’s efforts are to be encouraged and applauded," Dr. Fischer said.

AIIS was established in 1998 by a group of academics and analysts with extensive experience in foreign policy and policymaking issues. Since then, it has made significant contributions via its analysis, projects, and publications in the fields of Euro-Atlantic integration; democracy, security, and transition; as well as regional security and cooperation. AIIS has also served as a consultative body, with policymakers seeking its advice on the challenges Albania faces on the road to democratization.

One of the AIIS founders and current executive director, Albert Rakipi, said that after many years of contributions to Albanian society and decision-makers, AIIS has now brought Albania into the think-tank spotlight by becoming the only Albanian institution to earn a spot in the Global Go To Think Tank Index.

“The ranking of the Albanian Institute for International Studies as one of the best think tanks in Central and Eastern Europe is great news for us,” said Dr. Rakipi. “It acknowledges the tradition of excellence that we have worked so hard to establish through our hundreds of collaborations within and outside of Albania and the activities that our specialized staff have tirelessly developed and implemented. I am confident that by maintaining our high standard of work and progress, AIIS will continue to deserve its spot in the ranking for years to come.”

 

 
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                    [post_content] => Two new exhibitions in Tirana deserve your attention,

By ALBA ÇELA

In memoriam 23 January 2005-2015:   Team Albania Tsunami Assistance in Banda AcehAfter dinner we went to see the places most hit by the tsunami. A real horror. Houses, hotels, parking buildings, cars everything destroyed and rendered into worthless things. An entire life gone, extinguished lives and people who would stills smile and greet you with their head nods. Nothing had remained where once the coast was thriving. In the places where previously you could find even a beer, entertaining places, where you could swim in the wonderful sea now there were only ruins over other ruins and the smell of cadavers which were still rotting underneath the ruins that were left behind the rage of the sea. A bad feeling, a bad feeling that stayed with me the entire afternoon...

“Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind” was the only song that played in my mind in this Indonesian summer night…” Besian Pesha, Team Albania member 

ekspzita2

The memories written above from one of the Albanian members of the team that went to Banda Aceh after the infamous tsunami that hit the area and recorded his impressions in a blog. To commemorate this event, another participant in that trip, photographer and artist Gentian Ballta has put together one of the most original and thought-provoking exhibitions at the yard of the National Art Gallery in Tirana. A military dark green tent beckons visitors inside where among heaps of concrete ruins and a strong cold light that makes them uncomfortable they can see photographs from Aceh taken in 2005. Ten years after the horrendous natural catastrophe hit Indonesia, Ballta has chosen this way to commemorate the experience of Team Albania group of doctors and activists who went to contribute with the rescue and assistance missions.

The horror, the pain and the re-emergence of life, the persistence of beauty in nature and of hope in humans come across with ease and spontaneity from Ballta’s photos. They are also present in the documentary being screened inside the exhibition, poignantly entitled ‘Allah dos not love tears’, a production of the Top Channel crew where Ballta himself has been on the camera lens. The originality of the setting of this event creates the perfect embedding for the photos themselves. Ballta who dabbles in many forms of art including music is definitely a photographer to have on the radar.

From Constantiniyee to Istanbul and I have a story- complementary joint exhibitions on the glories of past and present Turkey

The Yunus Emre Institute of Turkish Culture in Tirana has put together two simultaneous exhibitions with thrilling photos and artistic installations that is very much worth visiting until February 3rd at the FAB Art Gallery on the backside of the University of Arts.

On the right side, sprawling on two floors one finds sepia coloured shots of the Bosphorus and the neighbourhoods of the most beautiful city on Earth. They smoothly kidnap the audience into the past. Memories and ghosts of era long gone and views that now have been ultimately altered due to modernization and commercialization of even the most historical site and neighbourhoods. Mosques, small harbours, Ottoman palaces and villas and people with nineteen century faces create the feeling of having stepped by chance into an old movie. One can almost hear the seagulls shriek together with the fishermen casting their nets from the villages on the shores of the Bosphorus.

Curated by Dr.M Sinan Gerim the exhibition is a testament of the immortality of an ever changing yet always magical place.

On the right side, one steps out of the past and into the present day impressions, feelings and artistic reflections of young Turkish artists that bring innovative artistic installations, various works with combined different techniques as well as two videos. Modernity and the diversity of cultures stand at the centre of this exhibition which tries to pierce through the metropolis. One cannot miss the installation inspired by the most successful Turkish export in the field of television: the sitcom Magnificient Century.  Curator Beste Gursu has succeeded to give a true and resounding voice to the youth art in Turkey and bring it to Albania through a display that leaves visitors perplexed yet smiling on their way to the doorstep.

 
                    [post_title] => Vibrant photo exhibitions for art followers in Tirana
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                    [post_content] => Set up by the Germans in mid-1940 at the town of Oswiecim, in the lands which had been incorporated into the German Reich, the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp has become a global symbol of genocide. Commemorations of its liberation will bring together three hundred former Auschwitz inmates, the last Holocaust survivors, as well as government officials from around the world. For 10 years now, the camp’s liberation day has been marked across the globe as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Over 1.5 million people visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in 2014, the most frequented memory site in Europe. 27 January marks the 70th liberation anniversary of this Nazi German concentration and extermination camp.

“There is no way to understand postwar Europe and the world without an in-depth confrontation between our idea of mankind and the remains of Auschwitz. Here is the only one of the large extermination sites preserved in its authenticity to this day,” Piotr A.M. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, wrote in a recent report titled Revision of the way we see the world and ourselves. Auschwitz Memorial Report 2014.

Today, it is this museum, 70 kilometres west of Krakow, that protects the remains of the most tragic Holocaust site, where the German regime murdered over a million people during World War Two.

Even though a visit to the former Nazi German concentration camp comes as a shock to many and becomes etched in their memories forever, the number of those who want to see this place is on the rise.

In 2004, 492,500 people passed through the famous gate with the inscription “Arbeit macht frei”; ten years later, this number stood at 1,534m. Ever more visitors choose the company of a guide-educator, who tells the horrific story of the place while leading you past the barracks and cremation ovens.

“Out of 270 guides at Auschwitz-Birkenau, over a hundred speak English, several dozen German, and a dozen or so Italian, French and Hebrew each. We also have a Japanese who has been guiding tours for many years now, and a few people who speak Scandinavian languages,” says Andrzej Kacorzyk, deputy museum director and head of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

Besides Israeli high school students and soldiers, most visitors come from the UK, Scandinavia and Italy. For a number of years now, Italians have been coming on special “memory trains.” Germans and the French also form large groups of visitors.

“This is a consequence of Holocaust education across Europe, as well as national and local programmes that allow young people from European countries to visit memory sites,” explains director Kacorzyk.

The number of individual visitors has also been on the rise. “More and more people come from countries that were not directly involved in WWII, and from outside Europe. I should point here in particular to guests from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, South Korea and Japan. We’ve been also seeing an increasing number of Chinese,” adds Andrzej Kacorzyk.

Each group is offered a tailor-made tour that focuses on the history of prisoners from their country. Educators address visitors in their native languages, “the languages of heart,” which places an added emphasis on the tragic story.

The growing interest in the history of Auschwitz and the 70th liberation anniversary of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp have helped attract global attention to the problems of a memory site that has so far been mainly maintained by the Polish government. Foreign contributions cover around five percent of total costs, while PLN 5m was spent on conservation work last year alone, which is PLN 1.5m more than the year before. In 2015, this could be close to PLN 7m.

Six years ago, concerned about the camp site’s condition, Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, a legendary member of Żegota (a Polish organisation which aided Jews in and outside ghettos during World War II), a former Auschwitz prisoner and Poland’s former foreign minister, called for finding a regular source of financing to maintain Auschwitz as a memory site.

That was the idea behind raising the Perpetual Capital of EUR 120m for conservation work. So far, the governments of 35 countries have pledged a total of EUR 102m for this purpose. Another EUR 1m comes from donors, who have supported the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation under the “18 Pillars of Remembrance” campaign.

According to the Museum staff, the results of the renovation will be visible in a few years’ time. In October 2014, the four-year renovation of warehouses and blocks 2 and 3, which had undergone major changes after World War II, was completed. The work covered all original construction elements and pieces of equipment. The blocks were furnished with authentic camp furniture, cabinets, plank beds and tables.

By KAROLINA KOWALSKA - www.polska.pl -  Photo: Mariusz Ciszewski

 
                    [post_title] => Commemorating 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation
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Freedom, democracy and a cosmopolitan, tolerant society are stronger than terror and senseless violence, the French and German ambassadors to Tirana write in a joint op-ed article.

By BERNARD FITOUSSI and HELLMUT HOFFMANN* Today, 22 January, German and French people are marking the conclusion of the Élysée Treaty in 1963. This Franco-German Friendship Treaty is the cornerstone of the close relationship between our two countries and the symbol of how a courageous and far-sighted policy, after a long history of hatred and armed conflicts, can pave the way for cooperation and friendship. In the face of the terrorist attacks in Paris, which shocked and appalled us, we would like to use this anniversary to stand up for the common values that make our societies strong and that are the basis of our friendship. People in France and Germany, people around the world, are shocked by the deaths of innocent people who fell victim to the pure hatred of terrorism during the terrible attacks in Paris. Our sympathy goes out to the families of the victims and the injured. Germany and France are connected by a special friendship. Germany and France stand together in these difficult days in the awareness that there is no security in Germany if there is no security in France and vice versa. In our globalized world, the fates of our two nations are inseparably linked. These bloody attacks were not only directed against France. They were directed against all of us. They were directed against our democracies, our values and our open societies. Therefore, in today’s Europe, France’s grief is also the Germany’s grief. France's determination to stand up for freedom and democracy, and not to be intimidated by terrorism and terrorists, is also our determination. "Je suis Charlie" - this phrase has become a worldwide symbol, a symbol of our resolve not to look away, not to be silent - but to openly champion the values we defend. Millions of people have taken to the streets to demonstrate their grief and solidarity, not only in Paris but in many other European cities, including German cities, to declare their commitment to democracy and freedom of expression. All those who have taken to the streets have thus shown that they will not be intimidated by terror and that they are willing to stand up for freedom, democracy and a cosmopolitan, tolerant society. These values are stronger than terror and senseless violence. However, terrorism is and remains a real threat which causes great harm worldwide, and we can scarcely imagine its dimensions. Particularly in view of this painful and very current reality that has been brought so close to us by the attacks in Paris, we should consider how we can strengthen our common values of democracy, freedom and solidarity and be aware of our obligation to do so. For it goes without saying that none of us are free of prejudices. We all -- in France, Germany and Albania - have certain preconceptions of others in our head. They are formed by experiences, things we have heard, our own unexamined ideas, but also fears. They are partly right and partly wrong. For some people, these preconceptions turn into hostility. This can be countered by providing information and encouraging mutual understanding. In the long term, only democracy as a principle of life will help us. Religion and personal beliefs are part of the reality of life in a secular state. The peaceful coexistence of individuals, peoples, nations and cultures is only possible on the basis of mutual appreciation, understanding and tolerance. A dialogue between people of different religious beliefs and different cultural backgrounds can only be successful if they are willing to listen, learn and respect different views. Especially in liberal societies, mutual respect facilitates coexistence. We can all reasonably be expected to deal with civil rights and liberties with responsibility and respect for the others. For everyone, freedom always brings responsibility. This applies to our personal lives as well as to the world of politics and the media. It applies to everyone. We should live together in accordance with the basic principles of democracy: joining in discussions, contributing to decisions, providing help, taking responsibility. Few things are more important to us than the experience of being appreciated, respected and needed in this great community of freedom and responsibility. This is our alternative model to the world of terrorism, and it is stronger than terrorism. *This is a joint article by the ambassadors of France and Germany in Tirana. ** The headline and subtitle have been chosen by Tirana Times. [post_title] => France, Germany and the strength of European values [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => france-germany-and-the-strength-of-european-values [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-30 13:07:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-30 13:07:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=811 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 586 [post_author] => 68 [post_date] => 2015-01-09 10:59:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-01-09 10:59:30 [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 8 - Albanian political, civic and religious leaders have condemned the attack on a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. President Bujar Nishani expressed his condolences to French President Francois Hollande, pointing out that the Albanian people near the French people in these difficult moments. "This barbaric act of terrorism against the press and free speech makes us even more aware of the needed solidarity to intensify our common fight against terrorism," Nishani's message said. The Albanian Muslim Community, the country's official religious governing body for Muslims, also strongly condemned the terrorist attack in a statement, expressing condolences to the victims and wishes of quick recovery for the injured. "We condemn with the greatest severity this barbaric act against journalists, police officers and others hurt in it this incident. This massacre causes outrage in every human being, and is condemnable by moral, religious and universal human values." Prime Minister Edi Rama expressed his solidarity with the French people in a message to his French counterpart and on his social media channels. Messages of condemnation for the terrorist attack and solidarity with the French people also came from the Albanian parliament, the main opposition Democratic Party and a series of other civic leaders and state officials. Albanian journalists held a vigil to honor their French colleagues in downtown Tirana Wednesday night. On Jan. 7, two masked gunmen armed stormed the headquarters of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 people, including eight Charlie Hebdo employees and two National Police officers, and wounded 11 others. The gunmen have been identified by French police as two French nationals of Algerian descent, who are believed to Jihadists. Those killed included some of France's best known cartoonists, and the victims drew solidarity from people across the world.   [post_title] => Albania condemns attack on French magazine [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-condemns-attack-on-french-magazine [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-01-09 12:29:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-01-09 12:29:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://tiranatimes.com/?p=586 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => 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. 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