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Women in business face hardships

Women in business face hardships

Even though women in Albania makeup half of the entire population, their path to entrepreneurship and business faces hardships. An investigative piece by Mimoza in the Voice of America Balkans inspects some of the issues businesswomen in Albania face. Women

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Inappropriate hospital waste treatment is a threat to Albania, inspectors say

Inappropriate hospital waste treatment is a threat to Albania, inspectors say

TIRANA, Dec. 20 – Treatment and disposal of hospital waste is a problem in most Albanian hospitals with dangerous medical waste often posing a threat to medical staff and patients themselves but also households and the environment in cases of

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Editorial: The last chance to depart with evil: dismantling the State Thieves Enterprise ultd.

Editorial: The last chance to depart with evil: dismantling the State Thieves Enterprise ultd.

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The student protests that have been going on mainly in the capital of Tirana but also in some key university towns have provided an opportunity of reflection and reaction for a much wider issue than just education.

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Albanian-Chinese relations come with a new vitality

Albanian-Chinese relations come with a new vitality

Her Excellency Jiang Yu, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Albania is ending her mission soon, leaving behind a progressive work in our country and developing the relations between Albania and China since she took office in

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Albania:  a nation of poets

Albania: a nation of poets

At the European Capital Strasbourg, was held from Nov. 19-24 the annual World Meeting of Poetry organised by the Mots-Arts Association in collaboration with the European Council. The event held at the Municipality of the city and hosted by Strasbourg

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‘From Austria with love’’ – a postcard literature

‘From Austria with love’’ – a postcard literature

One of the most notable and successful activities during the Austrian cultural year in Albania, resulted to be the one of literary postcards undertitled ‘’From Austria with love.’’ This activity brought to the Albanian readers some of the most renowned

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A friend to Albania sends greetings

A friend to Albania sends greetings

A professor of German to Elmira College in New York, Carrie Hooper, sends her greetings to Albania through the Voice of America for Balkans by singing the Albanian national anthem. Hooper is a connoisseur of six foreign languages, among which

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Sex-selective abortions claim 1,000 lives a year, study shows

Sex-selective abortions claim 1,000 lives a year, study shows

TIRANA, Dec. 13 – Illegal sex-selective abortions performed in the second trimester of pregnancy claim the lives of around 1,000 baby girls a year in Albania and the patriarchal mentality favoring boys over girls is blamed for that, a study

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Protests as a Response to the Gap Between the Government and the People

Protests as a Response to the Gap Between the Government and the People

BY Alfoc Rakaj Albania’s sluggish transition to a fully functioning market economy and a consolidated democracy has progress in parallel with the concentration of power and wealth into few urban areas. As a result, politics is increasingly big-city focused while

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Austria to conduct three archeological projects

As the Austro-Hungarian contribute to Albanian archeology has met its first century old anniversary, Austrian and Albanian archeologists gathered in a round table to commemorate the contribution and discuss three new projects that will be conducted by the Austrian archeologists.

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                    [post_content] =>  Even though women in Albania makeup half of the entire population, their path to entrepreneurship and business faces hardships. An investigative piece by Mimoza in the Voice of America Balkans inspects some of the issues businesswomen in Albania face.

Women are the half of the coin of a normal functioning of society, holding a crucial contribution in the welfare of both the economy and the social spectrum. However, in terms of establishing and carrying out private businesses they have faced various hardships towards survival and success. Only 35 percent of Albanian existing businesses as in the service, production or other sectors are owned by women.

Experts believe that women face more difficulties and discrimination than men in the business fields, even though issues faced might be the same, from corruption in customs and the tax agency, unfair competition and informality. A thrifting entrepreneurship from women positively affects the state’s economy and welfare, thus it is important to offer a kind of security. 

The Association for Entrepreneur Women have laid claims that post-90s policies and governances have undertaken limited works towards this interest group. However, since 2017 we have a state’s minister for entrepreneurial protection, who offers a few reliefs for businesswomen, considering their complaints. 

‘’After the 90s the first to overpower the great problems of poverty were women. Think of an unemployed person. Think of a person who has children to raise. And yet, women did it,’’ said Flutura Xhabija from the Professional, Business and Crafts Women Association. 

Even though we live in a patriarchal society with multiple hurdles where economical problems remain in abeyance unsolved, experts have noticed a positive trend in the progress of women owned businesses these past 28 years. 

Xhabija said that the number of female businesswomen has increased over the years. From previously 21 percent, the number has now grown into 33 percent without including the three percent of female farmers. As things are going more in balance, the crafts women are also receiving more weight. 

State economy observers claim that the investments of women is focused on the small business, or the family one. Female owned business in the country have usually started as small and medium individual businesses.

‘’A few are in judicial forms as limited liability company. These include from beauty salons, up to activities with consumer service nature, and fewer in production,’’ said Dr. Aelita Mani, director of the Business Administration Dept. at the Luarasi University. 

Out of 200 large business in Albania, only 37 are owned or led by women. Yet, the state’s minister for entrepreneurial protection is a female. The minister, Sonila Qato, seeks to help and safeguard the Albanian business.

Through various programs Qato aims to support women in Albania, also by enabling them qualifications and traineeship programs. From the two last fiscal packages approved by the parliament, one was especially for self-employment. 

However, as mentioned, women face more hardships in business success than men. Dr. Mani says that these issues come from the corruption in the customs, corruption in the tax service, and pressure. 

‘’We function in a different way and the tax agency cannot classify us. They give us solutions which hangs us around and confuse us, and then what happens is that two tax agents hide behind a tree across your store and wait until they catch you doing something wrong. If the government can’t help us, then it shouldn’t frustrate us,’’ said Manjola Lloja, director of craftsmanship store ‘’Nje mar nje mrapsh’’, with works of 250 women and girls from all over Albania.

The discrimination of businesswomen is a visible trait and it can be found in fiscal policies, quick information, and tenders for entrepreneurships. Other discriminations arise from the business model, employees, and annual profit. This discrimination also leads to less benefits, support, and more prejudice and vulnerability to blackmail. 

The minister for entrepreneurial protection Sonila Qato said that all businesswomen in Albania have an ally, since she herself is a woman. Qato said that she will try to understand their activities and offer solutions to issues with the administration. Some experts though, offer more concrete solutions as to how the government could help.

Dr. Mani said that help can come from easier fiscal policies on taxes which would incite more businesses to open, and fiscal policies to support loans or grants, even in cases where no ownership title exists. Xhabija said that the government should offer more funds and grants to women, and instead of putting percentages, to ask questions on how they make it.

Qato said that a concrete focus are women living in rural areas, first to enable them wages and secondly to give them a fair opportunity to compete for funds or state subsidies for agriculture.

Another field which remains to be notices is tourism. Women see themselves far from the resort investments, but prefer more authentic artisan works and traditional cuisine. Lloja said that there are more than enough resorts for tourism, but more should be on the little things. For instance, at the Kruja bazaar tourists can see how fezes are made. Another authentic Albanian touristic activity is offered in Shkodra in a small loom atelier, where women work the fabric by banging the batten with their feet.

The Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA) is one of the agencies which has financially supported hundreds of women to start their businesses. UN Women has also dedicated grants to entrepreneur women, and UNDP is focusing in women’s work qualifications. So, in a sense, progress is being done to support businesswomen, and that has left them a bit more optimistic.

‘’Hardships are forgotten when success is achieved,’’ said Xhabija optimistically.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 20 – Treatment and disposal of hospital waste is a problem in most Albanian hospitals with dangerous medical waste often posing a threat to medical staff and patients themselves but also households and the environment in cases of ending up in dumpsites or even rivers as shocking evidence has shown.

An inspection carried out by Albania’s Supreme State Audit Institution into three of the country’s regional hospitals, including the Tirana University Hospital Center, the country’s largest and sole tertiary care center, has shown that hospital waste treatment and disposal lacks both a clear legal framework and efficient treatment by both authorities and private companies contracted to handle waste through incineration.

"Sorting, storage and treatment of hospital waste is not carried out in compliance with legal criteria and best practices," says the report analyzing the 2015-17 performance in three hospitals.

The inspection also included the Fier regional hospital, the country's second largest, and the Kukes hospital, northeast Albania, with a series of recommendations issued to authorities to improve the emergency situation.

The audit showed provisional storage of hospital waste is carried out in inappropriate facilities that could pose a threat to both medical staff and patients coming into contact with it.

"The provisional storage of hospital waste at Tirana's QSUT hospital and the Fier and Kukes regional hospitals is often handled at toilets, laundries, doctors' rooms or other inappropriate facilities where medical staff and patients could come into direct contact with it," says the Supreme State Audit.

Experts say that around a fifth of hospital waste is dangerous and other waste can become as dangerous in case of being mixed.

The audit also showed authorities at the three inspected hospitals have no information about the dangerous cytotoxic waste containing chemicals that are toxic to the cells and that the hazardous waste is not separated and packed in red plastic bags under the country's guide on the safe administration of hospital waste.

The situation with pharmaceutical waste management is no better with more than half of pharmacies in Tirana admitting to not having contracts with treatment companies over handling their expired medicines, according to a study conducted by Tirana-based Eden environmental center.

“While there is legislation in place that should ensure that Albania meets the global standard of pharmaceutical waste disposal, there is very little evidence that it is being carried out effectively," says the late 2016 report.

Back in mid-2017, a medical waste treatment company was caught on camera dumping untreated dangerous hospital waste on a river bank in the Tirana outskirts, shocking public opinion about the way a private company contracted to treat medical waste handled the process.

The publication of the scandal at an investigative TV show led to the company having its licence revoked and criminal charges being filed against a female manager for hitting a journalist confronting her about the waste being dumped into Erzen River.

Albania’s riverbeds are some of Europe’s most polluted as they are routinely used as dumping grounds, causing environmental concern among people living along the banks and the shoreline where the rivers deposit plastic waste. Waste pollution and soil erosion due to illegal cutting of trees often leads to flooding because of rivers overtopping their banks.

Waste management is one of the most pressing issues facing Albania and its emerging tourism industry, with waste often dumped in inappropriate sites and burned, triggering environmental and health concerns.

Three quarters of Albania’s municipal waste is landfilled, about 17 percent is recycled, about 2 percent is incinerated to produce electricity, and 3 percent is burned or dumped outside landfills, according to 2017 data by state statistical institute, INSTAT.

Albania has already built its first waste-to-energy plant in Elbasan, central Albania and has signed concession contracts backed by the central government to build two new such plants in Fier and Tirana, despite environmental concerns by local residents and environmentalists worried over the new plants and their incinerators increasing dangerous pollution in the country.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The student protests that have been going on mainly in the capital of Tirana but also in some key university towns have provided an opportunity of reflection and reaction for a much wider issue than just education. Not that education in itself is not big enough. It is the most important investment in a country’s future. However whether the students know it or not, and most likely they do, the protests are about much more than just university tariffs. They are about the complete failure of the education system. They are about more than that. They are a genuine reaction to the painful collapse of the governance model of these last few years.

Most of the students understand by now that solving these 8 points that they require, which would slash costs of education and increase this participation in university decision making, will make little difference in their life and in their future. This future, which so many of them are now seeking outside of the Albanian borders, is fully kidnapped by the radical degree of theft and fraud orchestrated by the ‘State thieves’ enterprise’. This is a collection of official decision makers at the highest level and a few oligarchs which are bleeding the state finances dry and engaging beyond that in dubious corruptive affairs. This is the model that leaves ordinary citizens out in the cold to fend for themselves while in the background, the propaganda machine is everyday one inch closer to making them deaf.

In the chaos if quick developments is easy to lose the full picture. Students are seeking better conditions in their dorms, lower tuition fees, professors with integrity, proper textbooks. These era all dignified requests. They should have been fulfilled a long time ago. The same is valid for many necessities that another failed system has: the healthcare sector. However things keep deteriorating because the money goes either to the PPP maestros or to the propaganda machine, which mean theft and fraud.

The most extreme example of such theft is playing out parallel to the protests. After a a series of scams, forged documents and state of the art con-schemes behind the last tenders for the construction of the Outer Ring Road of Tirana was exposed the whole thing was called off. The names behind the scheme are well known sadly to most Albanians. Ultra wealthy individuals with ties to both political sides. The responsible minister for the project shrugged. The same fake company that had gone so far as to forge documents from the United States and even form the Delaware Secretary of State showed up again in another tender, this time awarded by the Electricity Transmission company, a state owned entity. It seems that the octopus legs are innumerable.

The cases are getting more and more excessive by the day: inflated costs, shell companies, inexistent services and unnecessary financial burdens. The State Thieves Enterprise ultd. (unlimited) goes on relentless, unforgiving.

How to depart with such elemental, capillary malevolence, this wicked turning wheel? How to resist this cruel system that is being perfected everyday by the creativity and dedication and endless resources of powerful crooks? Maybe the students’ revolt is the last chance to try and take back some control, to try and instill some fear into the heart of arrogance.  This is a revolt against all political sides which more than ever resemble the bricks in the same wall: corrupted and ridiculous, fake plagiarized PhD holders waiting for their turn to steal more.

Whether this protest will turn into a political movement is difficult to say. Students are so revolted that the word ‘politics’ scares them. It shouldn’t. All efforts to escape the miserable destiny of a captured state, a captured future need to be strong, need to be political. This might be our last chance to steer the difficult transition of Albania into the right direction, our last chance to send a message to the politicians rotating for 30 years that they are the problem.  The students might be the last chance to depart with evil.
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                    [post_content] => Her Excellency Jiang Yu, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Albania is ending her mission soon, leaving behind a progressive work in our country and developing the relations between Albania and China since she took office in 2015. 

Three main points highlight the progress of the relations; first regards the political leadership which has given a positive impulse to the bilateral relations by strengthening the reciprocal political faith through various high level meetings. This has led to exchanges between the legislative institutions and political parties, which on their hand have allowed communications and learning platforms and mutual collaboration interest on the heritage of the traditional friendship shared.

The second point was that of the pragmatic collaboration. Her Excellency said that in the last three years 28 collaboration documents in 17 different fields have been signed between the two countries. The first meeting of the eco-trade Mutual Commission between the two countries has been held, which has turned to the highest platform on the communication of policies and cooperation expansion. 

In 2017 the overall direct foreign investment from China amounted to $800 million, which makes the partner country the main foreign investment source for Albania. China is still the number one trade partner to Albania, the trade volume having increased by 18 percent.

智库负责人5(ambasadore me perfaqesuesit e Think-tankeve Shqiptare)

 

Previous cooperation in the fields of energy, transport and minerals have brought more positive outcomes, and the new points of cooperation are focusing on tourism, human resources and agriculture. 

Regarding tourism, her Excellency mentioned how Albania removed the visas for Chinese citizens for the summer of 2018 and this led to an increase of incoming tourists by 64 percent.

The third point Miss Jiang Yu wanted to stress was the friendship between the two nations which lead to further, stronger cooperation between the countries. Human and cultural exchange is increasing, and an agreement for the establishment of the Chinese Cultural Center in Albania is signed to strengthen this cultural exchange among the people. The language lessons on both countries is on the rise and universities have signed agreements for student exchanges and collaboration. 

Exchanges and collaborations are increasing among local power too, with various cities and provinces having reached a sort of twining. More exchange is also on the level of think-tanks, media, radio, television and youth giving the relations a new positive shift and impact. 

This increased cooperation comes from the wide consensus of friendship through the centuries between the two nations, which is based in the deep foundations of the public volition of the two countries. Also by holding solid the overall course, the Albanian-Chinese relations are treated in the framework of the Chinese-European relations. 

This cooperation follows the general trend allowed by the 16+1 Initiative and the ‘’One  Belt, One Road’’ Initiative, and moreover it becomes concrete and deepened by the various agreements of collaboration, which seek to bring fruitful volatilities in the bilateral relations. 

As her Excellency leaves office, she seems positive of the future cooperation between Albania and China, as it is a mutual interests benefit for both countries that this friendship is maintained. She said that China is ready to work with Albania in establishing a new consensus, collect new stimulating energies, to strengthen the political faith and communication, to deepen and expand the pragmatic collaboration, to consolidate the friendship basis, and inspire a full potential of cooperation which would bring the Albania-China relations to higher levels. 

‘’I want to express my warmest gratitude to the media and friends from various Albanian districts for their support and help in fulfilling my duty. Wherever I am, as always, I will take care and support the course of Albania-China friendship, and give it my potential contribute,’’ concluded her Excellency, Ambassador Jiang Yu.  

4 阿中友好协会文化协会成员(ambasadore me perfaqesuesit e Shoqates se Kultures Shqiperi-Kine, dhe Shoqates se Miqesise Shqiperi-Kine

 

 

Note: The article was updated due to wrongfully assumed ''One Belt, One Road'' as ''One Generation, One Path''. Thank you Embassy of People's Republic of China for pointing out the mistake.
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                    [post_content] => At the European Capital Strasbourg, was held from Nov. 19-24 the annual World Meeting of Poetry organised by the Mots-Arts Association in collaboration with the European Council. The event held at the Municipality of the city and hosted by Strasbourg University professor Enrique Uribe, gathered poets, writers, scholars and researchers, professors and publishers from five continents in a conference titled ‘’Poetry, what do you have to tell us?’’.

MEP_02_Mail

The forum was organized in various panels with its speakers. Along with poets, publishers, professors, etc., were also librarians, students and pupils who wanted to discuss the period named ‘’Crisis of society, crisis of poetry’’. This comes in the face of the human apathy for safeguarding the world democracy and peace, for their cultivation and preservation through democratic institutions, and people’s unification and collaboration, by declining any sort of fatalizm, and loss of faith in the European democracy and integration.

In the concluding manifesto titled ‘’Beware Europe, Europe for Europeans,’’ it was pointed out that poets and poetry have a power to revive the faith in democratic values. The poetic passion doesn’t contain itself only in a verse, but we experience it everyday as citizens of this world, and poetry remains essentially inseparable from the notion of freedom and faith in the human society.

Among the many poets and scholars from the various participating countries, a special panel was reserved for Albania. The panel held by translator and Francophone Fotaq Andrea, who on Nov. 23 held the lecture ‘’Albanians: a poet nation’’ at Villa Schutzenberger, and then on Nov. 24 at Cinema Odysee introduced two Albanian poets, democracy martyr Havzi Nela, and Moikom Zeqo, with translated poetry specially for this event. 

In the lecture held by Andrea, he made a short introduction and recap of the Albanian poetry through centuries focused on three stages, Renaissance, post-Renaissance, and contemporary poetry, with an output to the similarities between the Albanian poetry and European one, and especially with French poetry. Andrea pointed out an instance when French writer Lamartin wrote to Arberesh writer Jeronim De Rada that ‘’poetry came from your shores, and thus shall return there.’’ 

Another instance when Albanians were held as a poet nation, was in an Italian article from 1940s which was titled ‘’Albanians, a people of poets and soldiers.’’ Later in 1989, Xavier Deniau, former secretary of state and general secretary of the Francophone parliamentary ensemble, wrote a dedicated piece for Albania, in which he pointed out that the ‘’Albanian homeland [...] is created by poets.’’ Another contribution came by Alain Bosquet and Michel Metais who introduced Ismail Kadare to the French public in 1970s and thus the Albanian poetic spirit through centuries and for that period (communist regime), leading to two translated poems of Kadare to be published in high-school book anthologies for years to come. 

A list of twelve Albanian poets were chosen for this event, with French-translated selected poetry. The poets were both classic and contemporary, such as N. Frasheri, Migjeni, Çajupi, L. Poradeci, D. Agolli, I. Kadare, F. Arapi, Xh. Spahiu, M. Ahmeti, M. Velo, P. Shllaku, D. Çomo. A special commemoration was made for democracy martyr Nela, for whom was spoken as mentioned on Nov. 24, and a poem titled ‘’When I die’’ was published online in the event’s website. 

A special notice on the first event was made to the oral poetry as an important part of the tradition preserved and conveyed through centuries, in comparison to the more savant and cultivated written poetry. A volume of the ‘’Epos of the Brave (Kreshnike)’’ was also published in French in 1968. The ‘’Epos of the Brave’’ is a cultural heritage for Albania as it holds old songs originating since 11-12th century, the songs passed orally through generations and to be sang with the traditional instrument lahuta (lute). These songs have a historical connotation which talk about the coming of the Slavs in the Albanian territories during centuries 6-8th, and Andrea drew a similarity with the French epos. 

Andrea also mentioned that an important historical attribute are the oral songs of the Albanians of Greece, Italy (Arbereshet) and of Kosovo. He said that these songs aren’t written down because during the Ottoman Empire the written local language was forbidden. However, they are precious to our history and culture as they tell of our long history and literary heritage with myths and legends preserved through centuries, which express all the suffrage endured and are an encouraging reminder to our strength. These songs are also a proof of Albania’s antiquity, being as old as our unique language.

The characteristics and stages

The first characteristic is that of patriotism. The oral poetry has accompanied the Albanian renaissance and served the shaping of the national identity which with the help of poetry brought the independence in November 1912. Analogue to that, the second characteristic of oral poetry it served was that of emancipation and bringing closer the European thought, progressing to the establishment of various poetic schools and introducing modernity. 

The fourth characteristic arising was that of the enriching of the language and literary, artistic expression. And the last but not least, was the turning of the cultivated poetry as a populist poetry, keeping alive the poetic spirit of the nation.

The first stage of the development of the Albanian poetry starts with the Albanian renaissance, star1544341016_2afisheAndreaFotaqting with poet Jeronim De Rada in 1840s until 1920s, with characterising themes of heroes and nationalistic sentiments. The second stage starts during the progressive wind in 1920-30s with the realistic and critical poetry which culminates with Migjeni. Migjeni, except being of the first modern poets of Albania, he also introduced the free verse in poetry and the poetic prose. 

The third stage lasted for about 50 years and corresponds to the closing and hermetization of our country to the communist regime. The poetry in this era was clothed by the official rules, and freedom of expression was forbidden. About 200 intellectuals were persecuted or killed for their free verses which diverged from the political requirements and propaganda. 

The fourth stage corresponds to contemporary times with modern poetry, characterized by free verse, freedom of expression, trying to reach a poetical autonomy and creative abstraction. Such poets are Kadare, F. Arapi, Agolli, Petro Marko, A. Shkreli, M. Camaj, E. Hatibi, M. Ahmeti, Ali Podrimja, Zeqo etc.. 

Andrea said that the participants showed an immense interest in his presentation. During the recital of the poem ‘’When I die’’ from Havzi Nela, some people cried. Andrea said that those tears ‘’were like roses, with a global symbolism, in the grave of Nela.’’ In that sense the people were deeply impressed by the tragedy suffered from the communist era, and how poetry kept rising afterwards and keeping the nation’s spirit alive, poetry never ceasing to inspire.
                    [post_title] => Albania:  a nation of poets
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                    [post_content] => One of the most notable and successful activities during the Austrian cultural year in Albania, resulted to be the one of literary postcards undertitled ‘’From Austria with love.’’ This activity brought to the Albanian readers some of the most renowned authors of modern and classical Austrian literature. 

At the framework of the 2018 Austrian cultural year in Albania, the Austrian Embassy in collaboration with Poeteka, ADD and Rauch opened in March the program ‘’Poetry Card- From Austria to Albania with Love.’’ The postcard format was chosen as Austria is known as a country which used postcards as a communications means among cultures quite early. This intercultural communications of image and text comprises a 115-years broad and rich tradition.

Poeteka restored this tradition before the Albanian public in a new format, dedicated to the promotion of cultures through literary texts, translation and reading of Austrian and Albanian authors. A special attribute was paid to the translators as communication bridge, as the readers were able to learn about authors’ portraits and biographies, and read their work in Albanian. 

Altogether with authors and readers an elaborative communication and exchange was achieved through the postcards. Works were brought in the original language too, for the connoisseurs of German. 

The first postcard to be introduced was that of a document from 1944, which celebrates the collaboration between the two countries. Among other interesting pieces were stamp portraits of authors, but especially an early 1944 publication of Rainer Maria Rilke in Albanian, translated by writer Arshi Pipa and published from ‘’Fryma’’ (Breath) literary magazine. The postcard was symbolically inaugurated on March 21, the World Poetry Day.

Besides those were also other publications such as poetry dedicated to Albania by albanologue Franc Nopsca. 

Nopsca was born at an aristocratic Austro-Hungarian family and is regarded as the one of the founders of paleobiology and Albanian studies, as well as completing the first geological map of Northern Albania. 

He studied at the Vienna university for fossilized bones and acquired a PhD in geology. He moved to the mountainous areas of Albania as having an interest in Albanian nationhood, and soon became associated with the Albanian resistance groups against the Ottomans and even smuggled weapons. After the Ottoman Empire left the Balkans, the countries separated and suffered internal conflicts, for which Albanian arose to its independence. Nopsca happen to be in the middle of it, and during the first world war he served as a spy for Austro-Hungary and at an international conference for the clarification on the status of Albania, he was a contender of the throne.

He published more than fifty scientific researches about Albania, covering linguistics, history, folklore, ethnology, the kanun (Albanian customary law), etc.. A number of his unpublished works, texts and drawings were acquired by scholar and nationalist Mid’hat Frasheri, but after Frasheri left in exile, the full Nopsca library were confiscated by the communist regime and now lays at the National Library. 

Other portraits of the postcards are those of Joseph Roth and Nopsca with Albanian traditional costumes. The literary postcards collection consists of ten authors which is precious for both cultures, unites literature, journalism, travel diaries, short prose, translator and graphic artists, the biggest part of whom have visited Albania through the literary residency program ‘’POETEKA-Tirana in Between.’’

‘’I recall my childhood and I notice how my curiosity for the foreign was awakened and how my path from north Austria to Albania was sketched. A sunny May day in the 70s I was on a cruise between Patra and Brintisi, in the naval strait between Corfu and Butrint, when I saw Albania for the first time. The shore left me an enchanting impression. Then the country for us was unobtainable, but I knew that I would later tread in that place,’’ wrote in his specially written essay artist Christian Thanhauser.

Other authors have also grasped the attention of Albanian public during this cultural exchange year between Albania and Austria. One of them is Austrian nobelist Elfriede Jelinek, whose short creative story was published in a postcard on April 23, the World Book Day. The collection was then complemented with a postcard of Austrian journalist Joseph Roth, known for his texts dedicated to Albania of the both world war periods, and who appears dressed in traditional Albanian costumes. Then, the collection was forwarded by writer and translator Ilir Ferra, born in Albania but who has established his career in Vienna and writes in German. 

Other writer and poets published as part of the project were renowned poet Georg Trakl, children’s writer Christine Nostlinger, author Andrea Grill and contemporary writers like Erwin Einzinger. 

The project ‘’From Austria with love’’ became attractive to the reader who bought the postcards from libraries, but the this activity was also extended as souvenir gifting in the art of writing. The initiative encouraged both the recognition of Austrian writer in Albania, but also the recognition of Albanian writer working in Austria, who write both in Albanian and German. 

Moreover the program ‘’From Austria to Albania with Love’’ made known the work of Albanian writers and translators who brought to the Albanian public the aforementioned Austrian writers, such as Arshi Pipa, Lindita Arapi, Admira Poci, Oriona Kraja Zylja, Majlinda Cullhaj, Lindita Komani. The successful projects of the Austrian Embassy and Poeteka will be celebrated on Dec. 14 near the youth center ‘’Arka’’ in Shkodra.
                    [post_title] => ‘From Austria with love’’ - a postcard literature 
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                    [post_content] => A professor of German to Elmira College in New York, Carrie Hooper, sends her greetings to Albania through the Voice of America for Balkans by singing the Albanian national anthem. Hooper is a connoisseur of six foreign languages, among which Albanian. And the entire interview is also conducted in Albanian. 

She came in touch with Albanian language after an Albanian student signed into her Italian class. She ordered a Braille book to learn the language with the help of her student. She later on transcribed an Albanian-English dictionary into Braille for easier learning, then moved on to audio cassettes with Albanian folk tales. Afterwards Hooper took two Albanian courses at the Arizona State University, started reading articles in Albanian from her Braille computer, has a friend Tim Hendel, who records Albanian radio programs for her, and also practices her speech by talking to Albanian people on the phone.

Hooper came in touch with the Albanian community through Father Arthur Liolin, Chancellor of the Boston-based Albanian archdiocese. Hooper also sings, as she studied for music, and can also play the traditional Albanian instrument cifteli, gifted to her by Gjergj Dedvukaj, director of the ‘’Bashkimi Kombetar’’ (National Unity) Ensemble, a Cultural Arts Association, to which she is also a member. 

Hooper also has written and published a poetry book in the Albanian language, called ‘’Paintings in words.’’ The book has been promoted in New York by the Society of Albanian-American Writers, and has been published in Kosovo under the care of writer Adnan Ahmeti. 

‘’O language of Albania, the music of your words fills my spirit with joy! Your expressive words fill my heart with joy! When I hear your words, my whole being is filled with joy! Through you I have come to know a strong, brave, and courageous people, who have survived the oppression of foreign rulers and an evil dictatorship. Resound, O beloved language, no matter where your people live! May you live forever, O beautiful Albanian language!’’ has written Hooper in an article about Illyria, an Albanian-American newspaper based in New York.

Her learning of Albanian and five other foreign languages, as well as being able to teach is an inspiring story as Hooper was prematurely born by two and half months. She was held in an incubator for two months, but was left blind after she received a higher dosage of oxygen. She also teaches musical lessons and plays the piano. She expresses gratitude and a sense of luck that her district in Elmira had funds to make her schooling easier and everyone was rather helpful in her further successes. 

Hooper admires Albania and its people. She admires the love the Albanian nation feels for its country regardless of all what it has gone through, and it is precisely this sort of strength to survive for the betterment of the country that impresses her. 

‘’I am impressed by the fact that such a small country has such a long tradition, and has survived many horrible moments, experiences, has survived communist dictatorship; has always survived,’’ said Hooper. 

But adding more to it, she is impressed by the Albanian hospitality and generosity. She takes for example her experiences with the Albanian-American community at the USA. She said that whenever she has visited Albanian communions, she would always feel their love. 

‘’It is very important that for emigrating Albanians to preserve their language, teach your children your language, because without a language you don’t have an identity and without identity you don’t have a nation,’’ said Hooper in expressing a simple message to all Albanians living in immigration.

Hooper has participated in countless events organized by the community of the Albanians at the USA, in which she has hosted the events, or spoken to them in the Albanian language. She has sang and composed songs in Albanian, and has held speeches at various schools about learning the language. She has conducted interviews, and has also held presentations about Albania at the college where she teaches.
                    [post_title] => A friend to Albania sends greetings
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 13 – Illegal sex-selective abortions performed in the second trimester of pregnancy claim the lives of around 1,000 baby girls a year in Albania and the patriarchal mentality favoring boys over girls is blamed for that, a study conducted by a local association has found.

The “Together for Life” association estimates some 33,000 sex-selective abortions have been carried out in the country since the early 1990s when abortion was still banned, at an average of more than 1,000 annually.

Albania has around 110 boys for each 100 girls, at a rate that experts say makes it the top European country for sex-selective abortions.

"These kind of abortions are mainly carried out in the second trimester of pregnancy when the child's sex is better noticed. The decision is of course family-made," says doctor Rubena Moisiu of the "Koço Gliozheni" maternity hospital in Tirana as quoted by local media.

Sex selective abortions in the country are mainly carried out in private medical clinics, often illegally, but also in state-run maternity hospitals through fake medical reports with abortions allegedly performed to save mothers' health.

Doctors say that therapeutic abortions induced following diagnosis of medical necessity to avoid the risk of substantial harm to the mother are often abusively carried out through fake medical reports masking what are in fact sex-selective abortions.

"We went for a medical check-up and were told that it was a girl and my husband and I decided to abort her because it would be our fourth daughter. I regret the decision, because I am so proud of my daughters,” a mother is quoted as saying by local Top Channel TV on condition of anonymity.

Abortion in Albania was legalized in 1995 after the fall of the communist government. It is now available on demand up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and can be carried out later only in case a mother’s health is seriously endangered.

Global gender gap reports show Albania’s sex ratio at birth is at a female to male ratio of 0.93, indicating the presence of sex-selective abortions, a phenomenon that is still present in the rather patriarchal Albanian society.

Traditionally Albanian families have favored boys over girls for two main reasons, the inheritance of the family name and the prospect of boys growing up to become breadwinners.

The study carried out by the “Together for Life” association shows almost half of the surveyed women admit to knowing somebody who has carried out a sex-selective abortion.

"Sex selective abortions are a widespread practice in Albania, but there is no accurate data. According to the Council of Europe, there are 100 girls for every 112 boys, a figure that is quite disproportionate compared to the ratio of natural demographic growth. According to the US Census Bureau, there were 15,621 sex-selective abortions in Albania from 2000 to 2014, at an annual average of 1,041 abortions a year and a daily average of 2.9 abortions at a ratio of 112 boys per 100 girls," says doctor Griselda Toci as quoted by local "Shendet Plus" newspaper focused on health issues.

“In the Albanian society, especially in areas where traditional patriarchal mentality dominates, girls are considered to be born to marry and become housewives and regarded as an external part of the household that do not guarantee continuity. The greater tendency for sex-selective is with northern Albanian women, but there are also women from all over Albania who for different reasons perform sex-selective abortions," she adds.

Civil society activists have appealed for legal changes tightening penalties against illegal abortions and say the sex of the fetus has to be officially reported for every abortion carried out in the country in order to have a clearer picture of selective abortions.
                    [post_title] => Sex-selective abortions claim 1,000 lives a year, study shows 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-12-07 20:23:02
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                    [post_content] => BY Alfoc Rakaj

Albania's sluggish transition to a fully functioning market economy and a consolidated democracy has progress in parallel with the concentration of power and wealth into few urban areas. As a result, politics is increasingly big-city focused while local media, blinded by its full attention to daily political quarrels, has failed to sufficiently cover the rising tensions emerging away from the power center. 

Citizens outside of the ruling circle have become disillusioned with party affiliation, as they increasingly perceive politicians as self-serving, and the institutions they represent as incapable of delivering.

Most of them remain voiceless and their issues unheard. Some find solace in taking their cases to the media, especially investigative channels who exert pressure on authorities. Others exhausted by the governments blinding arrogance toward their concerns have embraced protests as a last resort. 

Demographically Unrepresentative

Albania underwent deep demographic changes following the political changes of the 1990s. Most notably, a significant number of people from rural areas move to urban areas in pursuit of a better life. This shift led to economic and political power concentration in urban areas, most notably Tirana, which is now home to 30 percent of the country’s population. 

Tirana is a power-player in Albania politics, not least because it is the largest voting district in the country with 34 MPs. In addition, 70 percent of the Members of the Parliament resident in the capital, further fostering its disproportionate political and economic weight. Meanwhile, in the national spectrum, the country’s 140 parliamentarians live in only 17 municipalities. This physical detachment from the electorate hampers institutional trust and democracy consolidation. 

It’s worth noting that the distance created is not merely physical. The gap is not filled by regular visits to constituencies, reflective journalism or by effective constituency offices. As a result, constituents, bar those that have personal connections with their local MP, are denied the opportunity to voice their concerns. Ultimately, this undermines the effectiveness of the parliament.  

Politically Unrepresented

Discussions in the parliament have increasingly mirrored this narrowing gap in representativeness In a study published by ISP, a local NGO. In line with the popular perception, the parliament produced great theatrics, but little of substance related to major socio-economic issues. 

Consequently, in the given period, 399 of the speeches held in the parliament focused narrowly on daily or weekly news items, whereas 391 of the speeches were mere accusations aimed at rival political factions. In contrast, key issues such as education, infrastructure, corruption and poverty were only discussed in 74, 103, 123 and 164 speeches respectively. In the same vein, media produces great spectacles, and noisy talks shows where daily political developments are discussed, but little space is dedicated to public concerns such as employment, poverty and corruption. 

When asked, the public does not hesitate to point out the diagnosis. Annual surveys such as “Trust in Governance,” a UNDP sponsored project, illustrate the increasing distrust in institutions, political parties and the media. Feeling without representation, people's choices are exponentially diminished. This is the reason why locally organized protests have increasingly become a platform through which they express their grievances. 

Protests as a Response 

Protests are growingly gaining ground as a tangible platform to exercise public pressure on institutions. The public has reason to believe in their effectiveness when they are non-political, cause-specific and persistent. This year’s examples are a testament to this claim. 

The much-politicized protests in Kukes, after the introduction of a road toll on the highway connecting Albania with Kosovo is a case in point. 

Following the introduction of a hefty fee for residents, protests ensued. The government seemed determined on its objective to implement the toll, even though the municipality council itself had objected the fee. As the institutional response remained unchanged, protests violently broke the installed toll facilities, leading to the arrest and the controversial trial of several protesters. It took half a year for the government retracted its position and considerably reduced the fee for local-residents. 

In similar vein, the protest organized by the Ballsh oil refinery workers’ falls in a similar pattern. Subsequent to a lengthy institutional approach seeking compensation, protesters concerns went into deaf ears. Left without options, they travelled to Tirana on foot to take their protest closer to the power circle. Unable to ignore their demands, the government budged, offering them not only space to express their concerns with central government representatives, but also to meet some of their demands. 

Other promising attempts include the Alliance for Theatre protests against the demolition of the national theatre, and the protests of activists against environmental degradation through unsolicited government projects that threaten Albania’s natural treasures such as Valbona and Vjosa rivers. 

The way forward

The current government is no stranger to protests. Months after returning to power in 2013, the socialist led government, unexpectedly faced a massive popular protest resisting the plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons in the country. Confronted with the challenge, the government gave in, leaving analysts and democracy hopefuls awestruck. Succeeding protests have not matched it in size and approach. Yet, they provide a ray of hope at a time when the political fragmentation is reaching a dangerous level. 

The current student protest is especially promising if it manages to avoid being hijacked by political parties. Otherwise, it risks fueling the government propaganda to dismiss the movement and its demands as politically orchestrated by the opposition, as it is the case of the ring road protest. Instead, it is up to the young people to continue pressuring beyond current grievances. 

The government would do well to notice that it takes more than pleasing allies demands to successfully govern. Similarly, the opposition could benefit from a platform that fosters sustainable solutions rather than resolving to short-sighted approaches. 

Combined, they must realize that the Albanian people living outside their power circle need tangible results. The next election provides a unique opportunity for them to demonstrate that credible candidates who offer viable solutions. Anything less than that, and we are likely to see more protests against the government outside of the institutional spectrum. 

 
                    [post_title] => Protests as a Response to the Gap Between the Government and the People
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                    [post_content] => As the Austro-Hungarian contribute to Albanian archeology has met its first century old anniversary, Austrian and Albanian archeologists gathered in a round table to commemorate the contribution and discuss three new projects that will be conducted by the Austrian archeologists. 

The first project will focus on the restoration, maintenance and archeological excavations at the castle of Kanina. The second project will be conducted at an ancient archeological site near Apollonia. The third project is the largest one and the most time-consuming, with an estimated lasting from 5-10 years, and which will take place along the river Vjosa. 

The main purpose of these projects is the promotion of Albania and its archeological treasures. 

‘’I think that Albanian will be worthily presented to Europe in this way,’’ said Sabine Ladstatter, director of Austrian Institute of Archeology. 

The excavations projects at the castle of Kanina had faced a stopping of 50 years, and now will begin again after half a century. The director of the Albanian Institute of Archeology, Luan Perzhita, said that the Albanian government will be financially contributing to these projects undertaken by the Austrian Institute. The monuments near these sites where the projects will be conducted are already known by our government, however, the partners will give us a hand with more contemporary scientific tools for diggings and safeguarding.

Perzhita said that the projects will take place at different periods of time. In the Vjosa valley a special focus will be given in conducting concise documentation regarding the studies that will take place there. The areas it will cover will be in Apollonia, Tepelena, Shushica, etc..

‘’We will examine a territory, which will give us data about what has happened between the shore and the inner areas, the passing trails, starting since the prehistoric period, 7000 years before our era, coming to the principality of Arbanon,’’ said Perzhita. 

A photo exhibition of the three areas was an additional part of this discussion. The history of Albanian archeology includes three developmental phases, the first taking place in the beginning of 19th century until 1939, a period which was dominated by foreign travelers and archeologists. The second period corresponds to the communist era  of archeology, from 1945-1990, and the third starts from 1991 until today, which takes a new phase of national archeology intertwined with foreign projects. 

The Austro-Hungarian presence in Albanian archeology, cultural and historical heritage is evident at writings from Theodor Ippen from 1900 until 1908. In the writings we find the interest shown by the monarchy at the Northern Albania, with a description of monuments, churches and residences. Ippen was also appointed consulate general for the monarchy in Albania, and was a connoisseur of our country, its areas, language and traditions. 

The second instance of Austro-Hungarian impact was from Paul Traeger Karl Patsch, who helped in raising the first National Museum in Albania in 1922. He also published in 1904 ‘’The Sandzak of Berat’’. His vast documentation of antic monuments from Berat, Myzeqe, Vlora, etc., with photographs, detailed layout and descriptions, is said to have incited the attention paid to our country from Austro-Hungary. 

A photo and documents exhibition is taking place at the National History Museum, to commemorate the ‘’100 years of archeological excavations in Albania.’’ In this exhibition, the Ambassador of Austria to Albania, Johann Sattler, returned a copy of a funerary stele found in Apollonia in the 1920s. The original piece was taken in a period of riots during the first world war, then the object was bought and exposed at the Vienna Archeology Museum, and now a copy of the piece is given back to the Museum of Apollonia, open for exhibition.
                    [post_title] => Austria to conduct three archeological projects 
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            [post_date] => 2018-12-29 15:16:13
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            [post_content] =>  Even though women in Albania makeup half of the entire population, their path to entrepreneurship and business faces hardships. An investigative piece by Mimoza in the Voice of America Balkans inspects some of the issues businesswomen in Albania face.

Women are the half of the coin of a normal functioning of society, holding a crucial contribution in the welfare of both the economy and the social spectrum. However, in terms of establishing and carrying out private businesses they have faced various hardships towards survival and success. Only 35 percent of Albanian existing businesses as in the service, production or other sectors are owned by women.

Experts believe that women face more difficulties and discrimination than men in the business fields, even though issues faced might be the same, from corruption in customs and the tax agency, unfair competition and informality. A thrifting entrepreneurship from women positively affects the state’s economy and welfare, thus it is important to offer a kind of security. 

The Association for Entrepreneur Women have laid claims that post-90s policies and governances have undertaken limited works towards this interest group. However, since 2017 we have a state’s minister for entrepreneurial protection, who offers a few reliefs for businesswomen, considering their complaints. 

‘’After the 90s the first to overpower the great problems of poverty were women. Think of an unemployed person. Think of a person who has children to raise. And yet, women did it,’’ said Flutura Xhabija from the Professional, Business and Crafts Women Association. 

Even though we live in a patriarchal society with multiple hurdles where economical problems remain in abeyance unsolved, experts have noticed a positive trend in the progress of women owned businesses these past 28 years. 

Xhabija said that the number of female businesswomen has increased over the years. From previously 21 percent, the number has now grown into 33 percent without including the three percent of female farmers. As things are going more in balance, the crafts women are also receiving more weight. 

State economy observers claim that the investments of women is focused on the small business, or the family one. Female owned business in the country have usually started as small and medium individual businesses.

‘’A few are in judicial forms as limited liability company. These include from beauty salons, up to activities with consumer service nature, and fewer in production,’’ said Dr. Aelita Mani, director of the Business Administration Dept. at the Luarasi University. 

Out of 200 large business in Albania, only 37 are owned or led by women. Yet, the state’s minister for entrepreneurial protection is a female. The minister, Sonila Qato, seeks to help and safeguard the Albanian business.

Through various programs Qato aims to support women in Albania, also by enabling them qualifications and traineeship programs. From the two last fiscal packages approved by the parliament, one was especially for self-employment. 

However, as mentioned, women face more hardships in business success than men. Dr. Mani says that these issues come from the corruption in the customs, corruption in the tax service, and pressure. 

‘’We function in a different way and the tax agency cannot classify us. They give us solutions which hangs us around and confuse us, and then what happens is that two tax agents hide behind a tree across your store and wait until they catch you doing something wrong. If the government can’t help us, then it shouldn’t frustrate us,’’ said Manjola Lloja, director of craftsmanship store ‘’Nje mar nje mrapsh’’, with works of 250 women and girls from all over Albania.

The discrimination of businesswomen is a visible trait and it can be found in fiscal policies, quick information, and tenders for entrepreneurships. Other discriminations arise from the business model, employees, and annual profit. This discrimination also leads to less benefits, support, and more prejudice and vulnerability to blackmail. 

The minister for entrepreneurial protection Sonila Qato said that all businesswomen in Albania have an ally, since she herself is a woman. Qato said that she will try to understand their activities and offer solutions to issues with the administration. Some experts though, offer more concrete solutions as to how the government could help.

Dr. Mani said that help can come from easier fiscal policies on taxes which would incite more businesses to open, and fiscal policies to support loans or grants, even in cases where no ownership title exists. Xhabija said that the government should offer more funds and grants to women, and instead of putting percentages, to ask questions on how they make it.

Qato said that a concrete focus are women living in rural areas, first to enable them wages and secondly to give them a fair opportunity to compete for funds or state subsidies for agriculture.

Another field which remains to be notices is tourism. Women see themselves far from the resort investments, but prefer more authentic artisan works and traditional cuisine. Lloja said that there are more than enough resorts for tourism, but more should be on the little things. For instance, at the Kruja bazaar tourists can see how fezes are made. Another authentic Albanian touristic activity is offered in Shkodra in a small loom atelier, where women work the fabric by banging the batten with their feet.

The Albanian Investment Development Agency (AIDA) is one of the agencies which has financially supported hundreds of women to start their businesses. UN Women has also dedicated grants to entrepreneur women, and UNDP is focusing in women’s work qualifications. So, in a sense, progress is being done to support businesswomen, and that has left them a bit more optimistic.

‘’Hardships are forgotten when success is achieved,’’ said Xhabija optimistically.

 
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