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Shishtavec of the immigrants

SHISHTAVEC, Sept. 7 – Shishtavec is a village near Kukes town, some 1,100 meters above the sea level, somewhere in the border between Albania and Kosova, just behind the Gjalica mountain. It is a great surprise and almost fantasy when

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Psotscript

JTK Taylor Off the north coast of Croatia is Oto Krk (Island of Krk), the biggest island in the Adriatic Sea, 30 kilometres from Rijeka and 120 kilometres from Trieste in Italy. The island is linked to the mainland by

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Lalzi Bay, still virgin and full of tourist resources

DURRES, AUG. 30 – The 35-kilometer long Lalzi Bay in Durres district may be considered one of the best beaches along the Adriatic Sea, or the whole country. It is just above Durres after Bishti i Palles. It is probably

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Interview: Urban conflict of mentality in transition

By Jerina Zaloshnja On the beautiful veranda of the well known “Freskia” Bar, one of the many bars in Gjirokastra, almost every evening you can come across a group of foreign visitors there talking over drinks. This has now become

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Tirana, 1942. World War has engulfed the entire continent, from La Manche to the steppes of The Ukraine. The Germans have reached a climax in their combat, in the battle for Russia, while in September they were

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Interview: Dritero Agolli, Rethinking the past

Dritero Agolli was born in 1931. By 1950 he had become an established writer in Albania. Of working class background, he completed studies at the University of Leningrad and embarked on his career in journalism and writing when he returned

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The Telephone Invasion of Albania

By Faik Konitza A week or so ago there was an Associated Press dispatch carried by ‘The Times’, to the effect that the telephone was being introduced in Albania and that up to now people have been shouting from hill

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Interview: The Regional Environment Centre: Greening Albania

By Nicola Nixon The Regional Environment Centre (REC) Albania is one of an 18-member regional environmental network in central and eastern Europe that was first established in 1990. The organization, the largest of its kind in the country, provides training

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Reporting live from Martha’s Vineyard

By Alba Cela Every morning, Eni and Jona take the 8.45 am bus from their house outside of town, in a wooded area, to the nearest town on Martha’s Vineyard where they both work in a clothing store. It’s a

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Tirana, 1932, 1937. Seventy years ago, the steps that sweep up to the main entrance of the Presidency today, served as the grand staircase of the Royal Palace and it is the backdrop of many official photographs

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                    [post_content] => SHISHTAVEC, Sept. 7 - Shishtavec is a village near Kukes town, some 1,100 meters above the sea level, somewhere in the border between Albania and Kosova, just behind the Gjalica mountain. It is a great surprise and almost fantasy when going there you find yourself between Gjalica and Koretnik mountains, two of the highest in the country, also good targets or objects to promote mountainous tourism. Shishtavec is there and you may call it poor from the financial point of view, but rich from the natural point of view.
Shishtavec is in the middle of Gore area, the biggest there with 1,100 residents. It had 2,000 in 1991. Now only elders have remained. It is different in summer when all their children come back home for vacations. People there may feel isolated, not only for the long six-month winter, and they have found a way out with immigration. 
The elementary school lacks the staff or has unqualified ones. The middle school has closed. A few students go every year to graduate teaching but they do not come back. Once known for its potato now they plant only 400 hectares from 1,200 hectares before. They still find a way to survive and that seems immigration.
One may call Shishtavec the village of immigration. Only during the communist regime they were not allowed to move around. Some 150 families left the place in 1945 going to other areas in the south. More than 600 persons have left the place after 1991 going to England, Belgium, Italy and Canada and the United States. Some of them have married women from those countries and when back home in summer they cannot communicate in Albania with their other family members.
Besides that summer is full of weddings as many boys come, get married and make proper documentation to take their spouse and start a new life abroad. It is estimated that some 126 new families from Shishtavec have gone on immigration. Like Mersat Grisha, 24, immigrant in England. He comes back to get married to Malvina Murati in a wedding with DJ and not the usual way. Then he leaves and takes Malvina with him.
Every family in Shishtavec has normally a boy in immigration. They all come back home and bring some money for their families but also for the village. An eight-member committee takes care of some funding collected from immigrants for the village needs. The committee decides where to invest them.
They have built a mosque, surrounded the cemetery with a wall, or build a small soccer pitch which is used freely by all youngsters. It belongs to the whole village.
Shishtavec has 180 two-store houses that are either totally new, built after 1991, or totally reconstructed.
One day they may turn and sty there, when Albania will likely be a European country with all the necessary infrastructure and services.
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                    [post_content] => JTK Taylor
Off the north coast of Croatia is Oto Krk (Island of Krk), the biggest island in the Adriatic Sea, 30 kilometres from Rijeka and 120 kilometres from Trieste in Italy. The island is linked to the mainland by the two arches of the 1,309 meter Krk Bridge, and, to the world at large, by a small airstrip that also handles the Easy Jet economy flights out of Bristol in the UK.  
We had rented apartments at Numbers 17 and 19  Megla Frankopana, located on the second row of villas, about 20 meters up the little slope from the beach and nestled snugly into the green shrubbery, trees and tall, fragrant bay-leaf hedges.
The "troops" (two daughters, one grand-daughter, a friend and her son), arrived ahead of us, having landed at the Airport on Krk, from the UK early in the morning. Besnik and I had driven up from Tirana, slept overnight in Split and then climbed the steep ascent inland, above Split, to join the excellent motorway North towards Zagreb. We arrived on the Island at about midday and found our way to the village of Njivice and the offices of the Agency that had booked our accommodation for a very welcomed holiday on Krk. Marijana, the wife of a family team that owned and ran the agency, turned out to be just as pleasant, helpful and friendly as I had grown to realize in the course of the endless exchange of e-mails culminating in the right flats being booked. 
Our family had already settled in and unpacked and there was a great deal of tired but excited first-impressions banter going on when we arrived on the back door-step. After endless hugs and kisses we all headed down, two houses further up the street to where our little flat was. Happy to see we were satisfied with our accommodation, Marijana departed amidst a flurry of thank-yous and promises to have a coffee at a later date.
The day we arrived the weather was perfect, warm and balmy without being hot, and a hint of a sea breeze wafted through the trees and down the bush-lined lane. Up above the hedges and shrubs, from the terrace of the girls' apartment, the sparkling green-blueness of the sea filled the nothingness in between the tree trunks and leaves. There was so much greenery between the villas and the sea that, although it was so close at hand, you only got inviting glimpses through the thick foliage. Idyllic and so peaceful. Spirits soared, the family immediately reflected the conviction that this had been the right choice, that for the first time in seventeen years, our first holiday altogether, in the one location, for 12 days in a row, was going to be very comfortable and relaxing. 
Minutes later we were all traipsing downhill towards the beach under a canopy of branches and leaves. Although most likely accustomed to the banter of foreign tourists and lodgers along their leafy lanes, the heady laughter and loud voices of our group drew some looks from the otherwise friendly old people lounging quietly on the front porches of their lovely villas. 
The beach was a dream and I watched happily as my daughters and their friends from England, together with my husband clambered up and down from the tiny pebbled coves and inlets to the wonderful beach-side footpath under the overhanging trees that stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions along the beach front. We walked the short distance along the beach front to the centre of the village of Njivice and sat down under reed thatched sunshades that formed the cubicles of a coffee bar on a flat rock that protruded out into the sea. The gentle and warm breeze off the sea caressed the nape of my neck and made the myriads of sparkles on the surface of the lucid green-blue almost sanitarily clean waters of the sea, quiver. 
This was the setting of the next pleasant surprise of Njivice-first class espresso coffee, perhaps the influence of neighbouring Italy. We sat there for some time chatting about the girl's flight out and our trip up the long stretch of coastline from Albania, and I gazed inland towards the shore, over the bobbing heads of bathers and around the colourful plastic peddle boats, and it dawned on me that although the stretch of beach in the centre was "heavily populated," it was tranquil, there was a quietness and calm about the scene. There was respect for one another's desire to relax in peace and quiet and savour the rays of the afternoon sun, the warmth of the sea water and pleasant company of friend or family. The effect was so soothing. In Albania so many bodies in the one place would have been generating dozens more decibels of sound, it would have been far more rowdy and disorderly and soiled with rubbish. Lulled into "peace mode" we strolled back along the beach walk, past the bustling stores, ice cream stands (we were told were owned mostly by Albanians), the picturesque little marine, crammed full of pleasure craft of all sizes, and up the little alleyways to the main supermarket of the village and fruit stalls for supplies of food for a now hungry family.
The ensuing days, although four or five were rainy or overcast, proved to be exactly what I had hoped to achieve by organizing a family vacation. After so many years of living apart as a family unit, with one daughter going through school at the other end of the world, in New Zealand, growing and learning about life on her own; with another daughter in England waging her own traumatizing battles and getting herself through University, also on her own; and parents working hard in the conditions of a country that is light years away from becoming a country like NZ or England - the gaps punched into the once shared family file seem non-negotiable. However, the "shared family file" does prevail, the basic values of a sound childhood upbringing, inherited from parents and grand-parents alike, based more on personal example of a family that works hard, rather than constant childhood lecturing, had proven to be the mainstay in the years our children "made it" out their on their own, naturally with our ongoing financial support and love, conveyed via phone, fax, SMS, e-mail as Albania's communication means modernized over the years. 
Although as parents we feel sad that the years have slipped by without our children witnessing and helping us to become, and win, what we are, and posses today, and so that we better understand the reasons for things occurring over the years, it is however, a great experience to see and taste their cooking, be pampered and massaged, listen to their ideas and views on everything imaginable and probe the depth of the culture they have assimilated. As a family we are the richer for all this diversity. 
Njivice lent a sense of togetherness and yet ample privacy, also created by the broken coastline, the minute coves with their tiny pebble-covered beaches and flat slabs of rock where there is room for six or seven persons, forming a community of beach-goers split into groups basking in the sun in the semi-seclusion of their "personal" coves, like a line of theatre boxes facing the water, and all linked by the beach front promenade four or five steps above the coves. The separate little "family" enclosures softened the noise and as you strolled along the footpath looking down on the sun-bathers, it was so quiet and peaceful that the only sounds were rustles, as the ripples broke and the sea water tripped over the tiny banks of pebbles and lapped against the rocks. This is where we came together again in a very fulfilling and relaxing holiday and this is why, whether we return or not, it will always mark a special place in a re-opened family "shared file." 
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                    [post_content] => DURRES, AUG. 30 - The 35-kilometer long Lalzi Bay in Durres district may be considered one of the best beaches along the Adriatic Sea, or the whole country. It is just above Durres after Bishti i Palles. It is probably one of the biggest bays in the country where the human hand has not been put at work yet. It has been planned for the elite tourism.
It is normally starting with the village of Shen Pjeter, some 36 kilometers north of Durres city. One should leave the highway at Maminas to go there, or if going from Durres you may start in Sukth toward the west. Driving is almost normal, according to Albanian standards, up to Manza. But the last 12 kilometers to reach the beach and Shen Pjeter village are difficult.
There are some 15 villages of the Katund i Ri commune in Lalez. They have some 23,000 inhabitants who may profit a lot from the start of the real tourism in the area.
Still you find there a complete calm place, beach, full of pines planted in the 1960s for kilometers long. Then you have small hills with different yards. These are all almost untouched from the human hand, though the number of people going there for vacation has increased in the last years. You may still not find hotels in Lalez, though the family tourism, or the infrastructure with coffee bars and restaurants has started to splash around.
A cooperation of a local Albanian tourist agency, Tauleda, and the Italian province of Markes started to promote the area with 30 families offering their hospitality to tourists who are supplied with the best nature and sand to be accompanied by fishing and walkouts in the hills around.
Durres district has got a long beach, some 62 kilometers but only the old beach and the new one along the Golem (Kavaja) are intensively exploited these years. Government authorities have made plans to turn it, or 35 kilometers with a different view in some years, where the tourists will be able to exploit hundreds of hectares all around.
What the government should first do is very clear to everyone: find the money and the good will to supply good roads, water and power supply to the tourist areas.
                    [post_title] =>  Lalzi Bay, still virgin and full of tourist resources 
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                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja
On the beautiful veranda of the well known "Freskia" Bar, one of the many bars in Gjirokastra, almost every evening you can come across a group of foreign visitors there talking over drinks. This has now become a ritual as there is not much else to occupy yourself with out of working hours in Gjirokastra. Contrary to the situation years ago, the presence of these foreigners does not disturb anyone now. On the contrary, the locals often exchange scraps of conversation with the foreigners from the other tables, openly welcoming and friendly. Everyone has exchanged phone numbers and they are busy learning about one another's customs. Both sides have understood the lecture that the more open a city is to new ideas and new people, the more rapid its development. However, there exists a conflict which even the foreigners working in Gjirokastra have grasped. This is an unspoken conflict, an internal conflict of society itself. What does this mean? Anthropologist Gen Fu Jii explains. Gen is a researcher from Japan. He is doing his postgraduate studies in England, at the University Collage London. 
In an interview for "Tirana Times" he talks about conclusions he has reached in his study on transition in peoples' lives.

Q: Why have you come to Abania. What are you working on in Gjirokastra?
I have been in Gjirokastra for a year and two months, living and working. I am doing my postgraduate studies in anthropology. I am looking into the transition of peoples' life in Gjirokastra, especially in the old part of the town, when they have undergone serious changes in their life, because of the introduction of the new materials and the introduction of a new sort of information in a way. I am looking at that kind of change in their life, in the material form. Especially I am looking at the houses; how the people do the renovation work and make life adapt to modern times.

Q: What have you discovered about this transition of peoples' life?
Initially my hypothesis was there was a huge influence from the migrations and also to the neighboring countries, especially Greece and Italy, where people have actually been. Also people get information from the media in a way, in order to adapt to a sort of new way of life. What I actually found for the moment is that internal influence is not actually that much, it is almost indirect. But, what is going on inside the city has more impact. To me there is a distinct division between the old town and the new town in Gjirokastra. There are a lot of people who came to Gjirokastra from surrounding villages. What they have achieved in terms of businesses and everything else created a huge kind of antagonism with the people who live in the old part of the city. As you may know, until 1990 the city's center was in the upper part of the town, but, suddenly things began to change. To me, the people who lived in the old town, tried to adopt a new way of life, throw out the new people- new comers basically. So there was a kind of jealousy of the old citizens, they try to keep alive the sense of "We are the real Gjirokastrit". So there is a  kind of huge contestation going on inside society. To me it is inevitable how society will develop: the new town will take over the social, commercial and political mainstream. We can not really resist this, it is impossible. What you have to do, is basically, adapt and go with the flow.
In the upper part of the town, almost everything is dying, but things are improving a bit because of the tourism, because of Gjirokastra's admittance into UNESCO, last year. But actually I have pessimistic feelings about that. Some local businesses like restaurants etc, actually do quite well. But there is no a sort of a policy for the guide books. I actually met two travel writers who came here to write their editions, to write the new kind of guide books. They actually did a sort of survey on it and they got quite good things like several local restaurants that attract tourists. Those thinks might be successful, but overall there are still many changes to be made. I believe that the Municipality is thinking about this. Some things have changed, but on the broad scale, it is very difficult. There is only one way; the old town must become a museum town.

Q: I recently visited the old house of Kadare, the well known Albanian writer. It is has already been burnt down. The question is: how can we speak about positive changes in tourism if several historical and tourist values are still in ruins?
Yes, but there is a plan to have Kadares' house re-constructed. Besides, what really needs a complete overhaul is the old Bazaar area, and the "Partizani" and "Palorto" districts close by, in particular. And the Municipality should have two or three sorts of tourist features. One of the well known houses in Gjirokastra is the Zekate House. But it is invisible. Nobody knows it. Another point is the Ethnographic museum, but the opening time is so inappropriate that so many tourists miss seeing it. The same problem exists with the Museum of the Castle. There must be maps and clear signage on how to reach these locations. But it is impossible. Only a month ago the Office for the Preservation of  Monuments in Gjirokastra put up a big map there, but there is no signage indicating those places. Actually I met an Italian tourist, asking me how to get to a museum in the new town. Obviously he was completely lost.. This is the problem. There are many characteristic houses near the Bazaar where people stop for lunch. It is a pleasure to visit such places. But, as far as I know, there is no reconstruction project. The Babaramos house is wonderful, but almost invisible. There are many houses around which can be made visible and accessible to tourists.
   
Q: How long do you plan staying in Gjirokastra?
I have a few months to go yet. So, I can say I have been living and working here for a year or so nowō

Q: Doesn't it seem too long to you?
It depends how you conduct your field work. One of my criteria's is that I don't want to be involved. I don't want to disturb people's lives. I need to learn things naturally. I had enough time to become familiar with the writers, the artists, of Gjirokastra. I had read Kadare's book "Chronicle in Stome", a few other books he has written too. Finally I can say I have my own ideas on what this place is.

Q: So, what do you think this town is? .. Besides may I ask you what your departing thoughts about this city will be?
 This will not be my last visit. However I believe that things are changing everyday. This town gives you the impression that it is sleepy that not much is going on , but peoples feeling are always changing and a bad day can be turned into a good day.
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Tirana, 1942. World War has engulfed the entire continent, from La Manche to the steppes of The Ukraine. The Germans have reached a climax in their combat, in the battle for Russia, while in September they were to be halted in their tracks in front of the gates of Stalingrad, without neglecting here, the air offensive against London in the other extremity of Europe. The Italian allies, striving to imitate the Grand Master, have deployed 100.000 forces on the Russian Front; hold Albania, the greater part of Greece and parts of former Yugoslavia under occupation. Moreover, the Italians are fully committed to an extremely expensive war against the English in North Africa, in the deserts of Lybia and Tunisia. To top all this off, Viktor Emanuel the Third, was also the Emporor of Ethiopia, which translated into reality meant about a quarter of a million forces deployed there whom he had to feed as well as the local population. 
Mussolini's imperial dreams were turning out to be excessively expensive, with very little benefit, because the Italians were incapable of wresting revenue from the countries they had occupied, something that only their more sombre German allies were capable of doing with their Teutonic harshness. To cover up the draining cost of the war, the Italians with their talent to satisfy with operettas, invented something new every month, such as the incentive to plant all free areas of farmland in the country with breadgrain. This incentive was a product of Mussolini's fantasy, but in a drive to show who was the more faithful to him, this initiative degenerated into even public gardens being planted with breadgrain, until, one day all public parks and historical gardens in Rome, with the exception of the Vatican, were planted in wheat crops. This incentive was then carbon-copied to the provinces of Italy, but also to the "provinces" of the Empire, until it reached Tirana. In the capital of the tiny Empire, the newly created gardens were planted with wheat, in the newly implemented town planning scheme of the city, chiefly areas of land in the zoen of Tirana e Re (New Tirana), that were still free. 
The photo shows wheat harvesting and threshing in process of the crops tucked away around the corners of Tirana vilas, in June 1942.  The tractor seen in the photograph, via a long transmission belt, sets the combine in motion. Behind the bundles of wheat rise the villas of the new Albanian merchants, who viewed the war exclusively as a one way ticket to riches; and away in the background rises the eternal peak of Mt. Dajti, the only thing that has not changed since then. However, the sacks of grain from Tirana could never save Italy from the catastrophe of one year later, September 1943. One year later, in November of 1944, the merchants tumbled into a ravine together with their businesses and villas.

                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => Dritero Agolli was born in 1931. By 1950 he had become an established writer in Albania. Of working class background, he completed studies at the University of Leningrad and embarked on his career in journalism and writing when he returned to Albania. He began by writing poetry and in 1970 began writing prose too. Although he had feelings of hostility toward the then Soviet Union in the sixties, Agolli was Chairman of the Writers and Artists League from 1972 until 1992.  Both as a member of the communist nomenclatura, and as a public figure, Agolli retained respect even after the collapse of the communist regime. Still a prolific and popular writer, in the 1990's he took a seat in the Albanian Assembly at the outset of the transition of the Socialist Party.

Mr. Agolli, as a writer you are a long standing favourite of the Albanian public and your books have also been published abroad. Your life time has spanned a good part of the socialist phase of the country and these years of radical change. First of all we would be interested to know what values have been important to you in your life? 
It's quite difficult to talk about oneself. For this description to be a little more objective, it should be done by others. Usually when you speak about yourself you are embarrassed to reveal everything, so you leave things unmentioned, or perhaps you are even prone to boasting. 
As a writer and like the rest of my generation, I was formed in a period that is now past history, the period of socialism. All of us have acquired positive and negative features pertaining to that system. You could perhaps say that we are like row boats encrusted with shell fish and seaweed, dragged up onto the sands to be scraped clean. That was a difficult period.  Everything was heavily censured. Of course literature and the institutions and instances of culture and politics were no exception. It goes without saying that this period, the system, and the society left indelible marks behind. 
These things are reflected in my works, particularly from a critical angle. My works are not mere volumes of praise for the system, but more like a critique of it. This is the reason why several volumes I wrote were prohibited or even reduced to pulp. In 1964 my first book of short stories was printed. It was entitled, "The Rustle of Winds of the Past," and was immediately banned from circulation because it allegedly diluted the heroism of the characters. This was the terminology used at that time. The play, "The White Age" and the book, "The Splendour and Downfall of Comrade Zylo" also disappeared from circulation following their first publication. This last book was published again in 1973. It was regarded as being critical of society and it focused on power and the individual and how power transforms the individual. This novel received acclaim in other European countries. 

You mentioned that censorship made things difficult for literature and politics in socialist Albania. What sort of a relationship did you have with politics at that time?
I am not a professional politician. I am a writer who dabbles in politics - inasmuch as any other citizen does when he goes to the polls to vote. When a citizen casts his vote he also dabbles in politics; when he doesn't vote, he doesn't dabble in politics, that's the extent of it. Aristotle was right when he said that, "man is a political animal".  
I am a kind of political animal, seeing I am also a writer, I have worked this ability to perfection, because every writer is the mirror of the society he lives in. Therefore I was a member of the Party of Labour, I was a communist, and even a member of the Central Committee of the Party. But I was also Chairman of the Writers' and Artists' League for a long time. Subsequently I could do far more, as I did, like Ismail Kadare and others.1 Irrespective of the conditions of the time, we did reflect that reality. When the time came and the regimes changed I joined the Socialist Party, which emerged from the Party of Labour, changing in name only. In the first years it carried over many dyed-in-the-wool communists, but slowly these elements dropped out of its ranks. I also changed and shed a lot of useless deadweight, although some things still remain.  

You speak about a kind of purging, which the country, your party, and also you yourself have undergone. Did this occur without problems? Was this cleansing process obstructed by certain issues?  
I remember a verse by the Greek poet Seferis2, about an island where there was a Church and a Saint. One day many serpents appeared on the island. The Saint called the cats on the island and the cats devoured the serpents.  The island was purged of all the serpents, but at the same time all the cats died too. Why? Well, because they had consumed so much venom. In our society today too, people have consumed a great deal of venom. With this venom you could eliminate an opponent, occasionally even an old friend who has become your opponent. But this venom has also done its work on you, I mean one's self as well. 
This is precisely the kind of society I come from too. I was admitted into the Socialist Party, I was elected to its forums, first to the Executive and then to its Steering Committee. Then I wanted to leave the Party. This Party now is more modern, which means it has offloaded a lot of the past dogmas of the period of socialism. It has drawn closer to other European parties in kind. There have been a great deal of polemics and debates, and in the time when I was involved fully in politics, I was always ready to talk about the flaws of the Socialist Party. Over the last eight years I have frequently raised my voice in criticism, writing articles and in interviews, perhaps even more than its own political opponents. Anyway, I did not drop out of the SP and no one made the slightest effort to have me expelled. I have always been a writer and their firm supporter.

This means that you joined them, and you have sought confrontation in a party sensitive towards changes-which in the meantime you even thought of leaving, as you just mentioned. Does this differ from the stand you had towards the communist Party of Labour?
What I would like to explain is the fact that one should always speak up about the good and bad even when referring to a political party you are a member of. A contemporary French philosopher Bachelard3 once said, "Before you get to know a person you must first quarrel; you must oppose the person so the truth emerges; without quarrelling or without debate you can never get to know anyone, because the truth is not the daughter of sympathy, it is the daughter of discourse." I always bear this in mind. 
When the Chairman of the Socialist Party stated, "The Party resembles a marshland," I opposed that and said he himself was bloated like a swamp toad. I was never shy to speak out when it came to the truth and within my limitations I have done a great deal of criticising. However, I have always been in support of the party. Like everyone else, I too have my pet foibles, I have my good sides but also my weaknesses. Perhaps I should have criticised somewhat more in the past system, but the conditions were suchơnd not only that, but you create a family and you certainly don't want anything bad to befall them. One piece of verse says that in the time of Galilee, there were also other Galileans who could have come out and said the truth, but they had families. They also knew that the Earth was round, but if they had said this in public they would have been burnt alive at the stake. This is also the case with writers who lived during that system, they knew so much, they also knew the Earth was round, but they also had families. I am one of those individuals.  

What ideals do you regard as being fundamental in the field of politics and society? Although you do not consider yourself a politician, are there any foreign or local politicians who have had such a special impact as you have?
I grew up and was moulded in a socialist society, and at that time we had communist ideals. We were sincere in these ideals and like many other intellectuals in the world, talented writers such as Aragon4, Paul ʬuard5 or even Picasso and Majakowskij6, embraced this idea of communism. We also believed that the world could be changed. We believed that there could be more equality between people; that poverty could be eliminated; that there could be greater solidarity, and a more complete freedom. These were the ideals we had and which influenced our formation. Philosophical figures like Marx, as well as political figures like Enver Hoxha did have an influence on me. This was our ideal, and our generation cannot deny this. For some time it was the same ideal, but as the years went by the enthusiasm began to wane, because we could see  there were so many flaws in our society.
As a writer I idealised Naim Frasheri,7 because he was a poet inspired by the West and in particular by the French Revolution. He was very humane, he loved freedom, he worked for equality between people but also fraternity. His work helped me a great deal to create my own opinion on the development of society. From this angle, Frasheri became my idol in my creativity and other political issues. He was my idol, not only as a writer because he was also a distinguished politician, but especially regarding his approaches to issues of the country and how he fought the evils perpetrated against our country. He also wrote in Greek and one of his most famous poems is entitled, "The Albanians and the Greeks." So there is also an international side to his spirit. Another idol I had was Fan Noli8, one of the finest socialists. I believe so because he headed the June Revolution. Although he only governed for six months, he jump started development in Albania, bringing it closer to Europe. That is what the people wanted and what I wanted for my country. From outside of my country, Marx and Lenin and later on Willy Brandt were figures I respected. I thought highly of Brandt as a socialist and as a person with his own views. By this time I was an adult so I was not greatly influenced by Brandt, but I thought he had charisma at the time. The same went for other socialists of the epoch such as Mitterand.  Naim Frasheri, Fan Noli and Enver Hoxha were the individuals whose work influenced me the most.

It is obvious that drawing closer to Europe has always had significance for you. Today, Europe is no longer merely a geographic and cultural notion; on the contrary, this now means social-economic and political structures. Do you believe that Albania has the maturity needed to become part of these structures? 
No, I don't believe it has. First of all, to be able to approach the more developed countries, we must have a developed economy. That goes for the social side of the coin, including cultural and educational levels. 
People must show greater tolerance with one another, and also towards politics. A political debate should not automatically lead to a fight and to hostility, as if every change of government resembles the installation of a new invader. What I mean by this is that we lack a developed democratic and political culture. If, hand in hand with economic development, democratic culture also increases, and if tolerance is predominant in the debates on issues, then dogmatism and intolerance are avoided. If there is no longer any revenge in society, then yes we will be mature enough to enter Europe. This hideous ulcer of our society, revenge, must be eradicated.

How can the International Community assist Albania? What do the Albanians themselves have to do to be included in the process of becoming part of the EU?
Representatives of the EU who come to Albania should carefully study the conditions of this country. They should not all come and go with the same approach they have had towards other countries. On the contrary, they should have studied and know the nature of Albanian society. They should know what customs and traditions there are, and what the positive sides of the Albanians are. They should know the country's spiritual constitution. It is worthless if intelligent people come and go who do their work well in Bulgaria or Rumania, because even though we have many things in common with other Balkan countries, we are also different in many ways.

Where do the differences lie? From a socio-psychological angle, is there any such thing as an individual type of Albanian?
Albanians are very intelligent and they are people with a great deal of imagination. But they are also very impatient and lose interest in their work very quickly. If a job takes ten years to do, they want to do it in one year; they want to complete in one hour something that takes five months to do. If someone who would know the psychology of Albanian society well came to work in Albania, this person would do a great service to the country.
However, first of all the Albanians must build their own country themselves. Unfortunately, we are used to others doing our work for us - but this is a very bad lesson. It depends on our psychology: when others direct us, we appear to be very clever. For example, in Turkey there were thirty Prime Ministers and who knows how many commanders, soldiers and statesmen who were remarkable individuals of Albanian origin. Or Take Greece as another example - how many heroes of the Greek Revolution were Albanian? 
The Albanians are exceptionally resourceful if they are led by others, but if they are the ones at the helm they are forever at loggerheads. Only the Albanians themselves can change this psyche. First of all they must fight to do their own chores themselves and not perpetually depend on others on the journey to Europe.

So, the Albanians must work themselves to reach Europe. At the same time they are resourceful, but impatient and badly coordinated. Is this the gist of what you said?
Within a very short period of time, the Albanians have made major changes, particularly in the cities. They have the energy and limitless imagination in all fields. But they are also very masterly at being the Mafia - on this point they have even surpassed the Russians and the Italians. In the case of the Mafia, they make their way to the top very quickly. So they are not only very capable in just the one direction, but on many planes. This is why they need skilful leaders. A leader should never shirk work. Here people develop rapidly and well and they pick up things better and quicker than the leader, who understands very little or pretends he does. This means that the people are more advanced and skilful than the leaders.
The political future hinges a great deal on the future politicians. How do you conceive the young people of today? It seems that during these last few years, the youth are being left out of politics and its commitment is decreasing.
Previously, young people were active in politics. Young men and women  wanted to make change and progress. But it is as if the youth of the country has shifted to slow motion mode because the party leaders have failed to encourage younger people to join; only the senior membership remained, who never really understood the youth properly. This very weak policy became obvious when the Socialist Party split and all the young people went with the Socialist Movement for Integration. Only if party leaders offer qualified young men and women leading posts in society, in the economy, in the party and in culture and education, will they get the chance to come in and make their contribution. And in the final account, these are the young people who have studied and know how to operate so they should be activated and not left idle.

Do you consider the epoch of communism in Albania as time wasted?
No, I don't. Irrespective of the enormous flaws of the socialist camp and in that system, there were very positive sides too. I would mention here, in the moral-political field, the solidarity, which was extensive, because people lived in collectives. The emancipation of women also proved a huge help. Women were isolated in the Balkans and their emancipation helped in developing schooling, culture and similar fields. In the time of Ahmed Zogu9 and up until 1944, there were only seven secondary schools in Albania. During the years of socialism 370 secondary schools were opened and 12 Universities. There were no universities at all previously. We even had a Ballet and Opera Theatre, a People's Theatre, and Film Studios that produced 14 features films per year and many other institutions. 
To this day, Albania is fed by electric power generated by the same hydropower stations of that period. Music and literature benefited the most in cultural development. Prior to the socialist period, not a single one of the works by our authors was ever translated into any foreign language, so the world could come into contact with them. But in this time, our translations and literature became known in countries like Germany. This reveals a high level. Books from the beginnings of literature in the Middle Ages or of the time of Ahmed Zog up until the epoch of socialism were translated. This played a very important role.

According to what you have said above, the socialist period was therefore a phase of development of the country in the direction of modernization. But at the same time it was also a time of isolation, to a far greater degree in comparison with the other countries of East Europe. Could Albanians communicate with the rest of the world seeing that this was so restricted and irrespective of the fact that this could only be realized through the works by Albanian authors?
You are quite right regarding Albania after 1960. Isolation was exceptionally stringent. However, there was trade with other countries in the West as well as the Eastern Bloc. Although through mediation of a third party, there was communication with the world. Our artistic ensembles, such as the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble all performed overseas. Archaeological exhibitions were opened in Paris and Rome. In other words, there was a level of communication. 
Unfortunately we are used to thinking only in back and white and the rest we discard. Some even ask whether people fell in love in the years of socialism. If people had not loved, there would not have been children. We were so sick of such questions about those times. The only question that was not asked was whether or not there were children in socialism?

In other words, you keep on differentiating about the period of socialism. Does that mean that this period produced values that are of importance to you?
Yes, socialism also had its good aspects. The backward customs of the Middle Ages were eliminated and there was no longer any fratricidal killing. People were not confined behind the four walls of their homes for fear of being tracked down and killed; these things do not exist in a dictatorship. 
Families were more consolidated than today. There was greater equality between people and the huge ratios of differences between incomes did not exist. Without doubt this led to a level of backwardness when you look at the levels the rest of the world enjoys today, because the ratios are hugely different in pay scales in capitalism. 
At that time the solidarity between people was something positive and led to a situation where everyone worked together. In the time of socialism, the communists tried to play on the positive sides of our people, like solidarity, which was demonstrated in certain moments of our history. Today, we harshly criticise that system because of the existence of a dictatorship and Enver Hoxha. 
At the founding congress of the Socialist Party, where the name changed from the PLA, I was the first to stand up and attack the system, Enver Hoxha and the dictatorship. All the delegates turned on me. Naturally, this was painful for me to do. Why did it have to happen this way, why were so many things so futile?  But not the entire period of socialism was futile. The Middle Ages were not a waste either. In every system you can find positive elements. In the Middle Ages, there would not have been a Cervantes, but he emerged with Don Quixote. There were the Niebelungen of the Germans; artists of genius emerged from that time and not from today's modern times.  Socialism was a system that was established over half of Europe. Similar things occurred in the time of Charles the Great. Did Charles the Great bring Europe together through war?

1  Ismail Kadare (*1936), writer of renown in and outside of Albania. 1990-1999 Kadare lived in Paris seeing that whilst in Albania he had written about the collapse of the communist regime and because, in general, he was a person who could not abide by the rules of the regime; he returned to live in Tirana in 1999.
2 Giorgios Seferis (1900-1971), Greek Poet who won Nobel Award for Literature in 1963.
3 Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962), French philosopher and critic, professor in Dijon and at the Sorbonne(Paris). 
4 Louis Aragon (1897-1982), French writer, co-founder of the Surrealist Movement and later on a member of the French Communist Party.
5 Paul ʬuard (1895-1952), French poet, active during the Resistance and a member of the French Communist Party  
6 Wladimir Majakowskij (1893-1930), Russian writer, co-founder and chiefly the representative of Russian Futurism; Bolshevist since 1908.
7 Naim Frasheri (1846-1900),, Albanian writer, first and foremost, a poet, wrote in Albanian for early on, fighter for the liberation of the country.
8 Theophan (Fan) Stylian Noli (1882-1965) Albanian orthodox priest and politician, committed to the independence of Albania and its recognition whilst being a resident in the USA. In 1924, after the downfall of Ahmed Zog, Noli became Prime Minister, but he was brought down during the same year and he fought the self proclaimed King Zog from abroad. During WWII Noli was in contact with the Albanian communists of Enver Hoxha.
9 Ahmed Zogu(1895-1961), known as Zog, the Sovereign of the Albanians, as he was from 1928-1939 up until the invasion of Albania by the Italians. He officially abdicated in 1946; he was PM 1923-24 and President of Albania 1925-1928, before proclaiming himself King. 

                    [post_title] =>  Interview: Dritero Agolli, Rethinking the past 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Faik Konitza
A week or so ago there was an Associated Press dispatch carried by 'The Times', to the effect that the telephone was being introduced in Albania and that up to now people have been shouting from hill to hill to spread news or carryon a conversation. There is a good deal of truth in this piece of news. The telephone has been in use in Albania for very many years, but only for military and police purposes. As a favor, and free of charge, people would be allowed now and then to send a supervised message, but that was all.
Albanians have relied for their communications on the telegraph, and sometimes two persons in different towns would sit by the side of the telegraph operators and conduct a conversation. The famous English correspondent Bourchier, known as 'the Ambassador of the Times in the Balkans', used to say that in Albania the one efficient service, and amazingly so, was the telegraph. He was delighted to find again and again that his long dispatches in 1913 and 1914 from Albania reached always promptly and faultlessly the London office of his paper.
***
It is possible that the telephone may also become popular in Albania, though perhaps at the expense of public security. Seventeen months ago, an insurrection burst out in Albania and was crushed in less than twentyΦour hours, mainly because the police and armed forces had telephones at their disposal, while the would-be insurgents had no such means of communication. I imagine the police will have to perfect a wire-tapping technique in order not to be caught napping.
I, for one, though from a selfish point of view, regret the telephone invasion of Albania. The telephone is a useful but irritatingly intrusive instrument. To have a telephone in your room is equivalent to giving freedom to anybody to jump up loudly in front of you and box your ears at any time of day or night. And you do not have the possibility of escape by switching off, as you do with the radio and the electric light.
A few weeks ago, one evening I was busy working on a book on Albania, when a telephone call persistently interrupted me. I unhooked it at last and a tiny voice, with a babbling of similar voices around, asked me a question. Obviously it was a party of children. The little voice said: "Please will you tell us just where is Bilbao." The children doubtless had looked up the embassies and legations in the telephone book and innocently had picked out the first name in the alphabetical list.
* * *
Concerning the "shouting" from hill to hill, as the A.P. dispatch puts it, it is true that even now it is practiced in some out-of-the-way mountains of Albania. This curious habit is of great antiquity. The English scholar, William Martin Leake, who traveled extensively in Albania and Greece at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries and published the results of his studies in several volumes, mostly in diary form, writes under the date of August 4, 1804:
"On the southern side, by which we approached the town, the position terminates in a tremendous precipice, the summit of which is so near to the church of St. George, on the opposite ridge, that words may be heard fi'om one place to the other; and the first intelligence is constantly communicated in this manner, on the arrival of passengers or caravans, which in winter are sometimes arrested there by a sudden fall of snow for several days. It is curious to remark with how much ease this telolalia or distant conversation is carried on. It is an art, which, as well as that of teloscopia, or of distinguishing distant objects, is possessed by the Albanians and mountaineers of Greece in a degree which seems wonderful to those who have never been required to exercise their ears, eyes, and voices to the same extent. The same qualities were among the accomplishments of the heroic ages of Greece, the manners and peculiarities of which have never been extinct in the mountainous and more independent districts of this country. "
This antique means of communication has been perfected enough for travellers to order their dinner two or three hours in advance and to find on their arrival at the inn chickens or a baby lamb on the spit, or whatever else they had commanded.
(New York Times, 1938 / reprinted by permission)
                    [post_title] =>  The Telephone Invasion of Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Nicola Nixon
The  Regional Environment Centre (REC) Albania is one of an 18-member regional environmental network in central and eastern Europe that was first established in 1990. The organization, the largest of its kind in the country, provides training and education, carries out research, and implements projects aimed at improving the environmental conditions in Albania.  
REC was originally initiated by the U.S. government with the aim of providing the post-communist region with a politically neutral body for regional cooperation. Albania's REC office was opened in 1993 at which time it began by providing grants to NGOs in the environmental field and training in environmental issues. The first activities of the organization, according to its country director Mihallaq Qirjo, were aimed at assisting the development of civil society networks that had not previously existed in the country. As this sector developed, REC was able to extend its services to numerous other stakeholders. Since 2000, REC is also the secretariat for regional environmental cooperation in the Balkan region, a political initiative undertaken at the conclusion of the Balkan crises. REC therefore works closely with various ministries of the environment in the region, including in Albania, and supports those ministries in terms of institution building and the implementation of international conventions and other mechanisms.
One only has to look out one's window - through the dust and past the rubbish - to appreciate the scale of the task ahead of REC as it attempts to change the beliefs and practices that have contributed to the overwhelming degradation of Albania's natural environment. Indeed, it is one of the most striking contradictions of this country to an outsider: the combination of awesome natural beauty accompanied by the sludge and filth of everyday refuse. Yet while the urban waste is the most obvious form of the environmental problems that face Albania, Mihallaq explains that it is by no means the most significant and that there are more troubling and potentially more permanent problems that need urgent attention. 
Mihallaq spoke this week with The Tirana Times about the major environmental issues Albania is currently facing and the ways in which REC is working to try and rectify them.

TT: Firstly, could you tell us about your own background and how you became involved in environmental issues?
I am trained as a biologist. I finished university in Tirana in the 1990s received a PhD in ecology in 1996. My specialization was on the impact of pollution on soil fauna. Since that time I've also taught ecology at the university. So after I finished university studies I specialized in applied ecology. I became involved in REC in 1994. I still teach at the university in ecology and also work at REC. The university brings to REC a link with methodology and students while REC brings to the university more the practical and implementation side of policies. That's why I still keep up with both of them. 

TT: So REC works in a number of different areas of Albanian society. Can you tell us a bit about the areas you work in?
REC is not simply an NGO but is a semi-international organization and doesn't have to compete in the same way for funding that NGOs do. From 2002 REC much more involved in the implementation of projects on concrete improvement the environmental conditions around the country. At the moment, 60% of REC projects are country based, focusing on Albania and around 40% are in cooperation with other countries in the region. REC is involved in supporting small local NGOs on projects such as greening a particular area. In the last few years, REC has increasingly focused on working with local authorities because it is at that level that environmental management seems to be the biggest problem. Local authorities are more willing to take more initiative, but they do not have the capacities to implement and effectively run environmental management. So this is one of our main target areas. The organization is currently supporting some 55 local NGOs around the country to work directly with local authorities. The biggest of these projects is in Korce where there are six municipalities working together on local strategies to increase their abilities to manage environmental policies and implement local environmental action plans. 
We also work a lot with schools. We consider education, especially in Albania, as a tool to improve the environment, particularly with children and young people. Of course environmental education does not solve the problem, but it helps, particularly for the future. Enforcement of the law will enable change to happen and then environmental education will support this movement of the society. Schools are now more and more eager to acquire knowledge of the environmental situation and we consider it our contribution to the development of a citizenship culture. Another major initiative that we have almost completed is the publication of the "Green Pack"; a cross-curricula environmental educational resource for teachers that will be launched in Tirana in September. 
We also work with the media by providing up to date information on environmental issues in the country and in the region. The least developed of our targets is business because at the stage Albania is at now, business is not considered to be that sensitive to environmental issues. Yet we do hope to have some future projects with business.
Lastly, we have several cross-border projects with neighbouring countries like Macedonia and Montenegro. The unique position of REC being present in all of the countries of the region allows us to collaborate and offer the same standards on projects etc. As the countries in our region enter the European processes there will be a clear need for transferring know-how from the new member states such as Romania and Bulgaria to the other countries in terms of legislation and environmental standards.

TT: That suggests that the environment will be a significant issue in Albania's process of European integration? 
Yes, the environmental situation in the country is one of the key points for action and improvement especially the 'hotspots' around the country and environmental monitoring capacities. Environment is the second priority in the volume of acquis communitaire for the whole of the European Union, after agriculture. So definitely it will be one of the biggest challenges for the country. At the moment, the country is getting some support from Brussels in terms of the creation of a National Environmental Strategy.

TT: Can you explain these environmental 'hotspots'? 
Hotspots are areas that are identified as having a very high level of pollution, much higher than the standard. They present a risk for host populations, biodiversity and other potential environmental damage. They have either been inherited from the past, such as old industrial sites which are shut down now, or they are generated by the development of the country. Among them you can see Porto Romano, where the government is also taking some action by isolating the site from polluting nearby areas, or packing chemicals and removing them out of the country. The second major one is the metallurgical factory in Vlora. Then there is the landfill in Tirana and the metallurgical complex in Elbasan where the air quality is bad. So there is a list of identifiable spots. Most of them are inherited but the country is also facing new hotspots. The air quality in Tirana is making it one of the new, recently developed hotspots. 
The question of the hotspots is a complex one. With the ones that are inherited there is an obvious cost, which the government should take care of, in particular the socio-economic costs those sites are having. For example, there are families who have moved from northern or southern parts of the country and are building their homes on those spots. The government should organize their relocation out of the polluted area.  Hotspots are areas which need big investments and they present an enormous challenge to the country. 

TT: In addition to the 'hotspots', what do you see as the biggest environmental issues facing Albania at the moment?
I would divide the major environmental problems into two main groups: the first are the inherited problems and the second are the ones that have developed during the transition period. The ones that are inherited are very problematic as no-one takes ownership of them and sites are left abandoned or with people left living on them. They are considered too costly for the country to deal with. 
The newer problems are developing on an increasing basis because of the uncontrolled development of the urban areas, transport, traffic etc. There are new industrial sites; not just big ones but even the small ones can cause big problems of pollution, such as fish factories and leather factories that discharge without much control. So this is the part of the dynamic, active movement of the country which is not being controlled.
Another series of problems are those regarding the exploitation of natural resources and the pollution. In terms of the exploitation of natural resources people tend to speak about forests and deforestation. For a long time now, especially since the democratic changes in the country, there is some control in places where forests are part of the natural living settlements. Indeed, some of the forests have been cut down to the point that they simply can't be exploited anymore. But there is some revitalization in the forest coverage. 
The most problematic thing we see is the land use, especially the arable land use, where arable land is being used for settlement and the building of houses. People tend to think of ownership in a fairly narrow point of view. They think it is their own land so they can build wherever they want to. So, for example, they go into the middle of a field and build their houses there, especially the newcomers, where previously people would have built their houses on the hillsides. Arable land destruction combined with erosion is one of the biggest problems in the country because such a large amount of the land is hilly and mountainous. The arable land that sustains the agricultural production and standards of living of many families in the rural areas - which is half of the population - if this land goes or deteriorates in quality, then we destroy the ground for the development of that strata of the population, which is also the less developed part of the country. 
So I do see this as one of the biggest problems. The policies related to land use are still immature and not enforced at the right level. It has a lot to do with unsolved land property rights which leaves many areas abandoned as legal issues are sorted out. At the same time, there is still little control of fauna-use, like fishing in the lakes. Although there are some cooperatives that have been established to control some of the fishing or the hunting, they are still not efficient enough to develop sustainable practices regarding the fish stock or the game stock. 
Then there are problems of water-use. Albania is rich with water but the quantity that reaches people is still scarce because of problems of transmission and also because people tend to misuse it because they think of it as a gift from god; an unlimited resource, like so many other things. They consider what they consume but not what they throw away. Water is not yet considered as a resource. Therefore you might see people who are watering or irrigating fields with drinking water, or exploiting the ground water in one area where it is extracted to the degree that it changes the water table and leaves another community without drinking water. This is a problem where there is not effective regulation of a natural resource. Water-use associations or forest-use associations are new phenomena in the Albanian community and they are not yet powerful enough to control the local community in terms of the management of those resources.
Another area is of course the pollution and in this group are those problems that people face and observe on a daily basis from the urban waste to the air quality, drinking water quality, even swimming water quality, and noise pollution in the big city. There were problems with the air quality before, during the communist regime, but they were mainly due to burning bad quality coal. So the air had a percentage of dust in it. But now the bad air quality is coming mainly from construction in process in the cities which makes the dust levels very high. 
People tend to observe the dust - and say that it is very polluted because of the dust - but not the non-visible pollution that comes out of the car engines etc. The dust will go when they finish the construction but by then we will have more transport so the quality of the air isn't going to be much better, particularly where the urban infrastructure doesn't allow a normal flow of transport. In fact, it will even decrease. But the types of pollutants will change their frequency in the pollution source. In some areas there is also industrial pollution; mainly cement factories and metallurgical factories still causing pollution, as well as stone production activities.
Urban waste seems to be a major problem in the country but it's actually not as drastic as it seems, certainly not in comparison to loss of habitat or loss of biodiversity. It is more easily solvable if you have a system in place. Yet there is not yet a scheme in the country to segregate waste at the collection point. While the cities do have waste collection, rural areas mostly do not, so they just dump it outside the houses. Even in the cities, transport of waste is organized by private companies with money that does not really cover the costs of cleaning the city and the services needed. So people tend to have to pay an additional small tariff for cleaning and therefore it is a chicken and egg situation so the service is also poor.
And finally we have to deal with the disposal of the waste and the landfill issue. Again, we don't have a formal standardized land fill in the country, so we cannot really say the small landfills that people have created themselves are illegal since there is no formal one. Most of those are along the rivers so they cause not only ground water pollution but also river pollution that you can see also at the sea coast. Due to this really poor scheme of collection, transport and no proper land fill the whole country suffers. You have to have a scheme in place, without which there is a lack of initiative such as in recycling. 
We did actually have one before. During the communist regime there was a scheme for collecting paper, whilst everything that was recyclable was recycled. Of course there were economic incentives, which were significant for people with such a poor standard of living. And people kept and used everything they could so the volume of waste was mainly made up of organic things. Now the composition of waste is much different. It has the same typology as the big consuming societies; where packaging is more important than the product itself. So although this is another environmental problem in the country, as I said, it is not that big a problem as at least the city may be cleaned with some more money and with good environmental management. We can have a landfill somewhere and some money for transporting the rubbish properly. And there are some initiatives in the country where recycling of aluminum cans and paper has started, although not yet with glass. 

TT: So there is some improvement?
Yes, there is now some sensitivity that recycling should start. But that is the last stage. I mean, it is better to reduce it and then what cannot be reduced can be reused and what cannot be reused can be recycled. Recycling is sometimes promoted as the thing that solves all the problems but it is has a high energy cost. It is better to reduce the waste than recycle it. 
                    [post_title] =>  Interview: The Regional Environment Centre: Greening Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Alba Cela
Every morning, Eni and Jona take the 8.45 am bus from their house outside of town, in a wooded area, to the nearest town on Martha's Vineyard where they both work in a clothing store. It's a sunny day and they already know their shop will be full of tourists and potential buyers. They will be ringing up sales, restacking the shelves and making sure the shop looks great all day. "It is just another long working week in Martha's Vineyard"- they both laugh while the bus stops and an international crowd of student workers get off the bus and go down the street all going off to work. Both Eni and Jona are Albanian young women and students at the American University in Bulgaria, majoring in Business Administration. They are in the United States just for the summer season, to work at summer jobs on Martha's Vineyard.
Mention Martha's Vineyard and many Americans will sigh in awe recollecting this summer resort and celebrity hangout located east of Boston, just a 45 minute ferry ride from Cape Cod. But to many Eastern Europeans this does not say anything.  Who are the exception? The hundreds of college students who fly in here every year to help fill the many seasonal job positions, with the hope of earning their tuition money. The island itself is not very representative of the States. It is home to the summer houses of some of the richest people in the country, the nature is beautiful and well preserved, the landscape features big ponds, woods and spectacular cliffs that drop down to the ocean. It has five towns, some of which were established as early as the 17th century. Each town has its own characteristic nature and offers diverse activities and sightseeing delights to its visitors. Martha's Vineyard population increases tenfold during the summer with thousands of tourists pouring into the hotels, shops and restaurants located in the island's five small towns. That gives rise to a huge demand for labor in food industry, retail sales positions and transportation industry.
Polish, Bulgarian, Romanian, Moldovan and Albanian young students join the thousands of Brazilian, Jamaican and Mexican workers every summer that satisfy the labor demand created by the resort's main industry: tourism. For many years now Bulgarian boys and girls have worked as bus drivers for the Vineyard Transit Authority that operates buses all over the island year round.  Albanian guys tend to prefer construction as it pays slightly better. Girls usually seek positions in retail, coffee shops and hotels. 
For the Albanians, it began in 2004 when one college student at the American University in Bulgaria found a job through the internet for her and her friends on this island that nobody had been to before. Apparently charmed by the island, they shared their first experience and the next summer more students came - then it took off. 
Albanian students at the American University in Bulgaria had used the Work and Travel agencies in their host country to participate in exchange programs for years. These agencies sponsor J1 visas, necessary to work in the USA for a limited time. Every year students from all over the world apply and most of them are allowed to work throughout the United States. Albanian students recount experiences from exotic sites as far away as California and Alaska. Nevertheless, Cape Cod (Massachusetts), a peninsula near Boston that thrives on tourism as well, is as near as they had ever gotten to the island called Martha's Vineyard. 
This year there are approximately 40 Albanian students working on the island. Some of them are returning to their old jobs and for some others it is their first time. The latter are eager to get the advice of the returning students and envious of their previous connections but in general students help each other out with getting housing and finding jobs. Most people work two jobs and their days are exhaustive. Sometimes American students are paid more, sometimes they get better positions within certain companies or shops, but generally the businesses in the island have fair and non-discriminative methods of payment. "It is not uncommon for the owners of a business to trust a foreign student with the entire management of a store" says Katia, a Bulgarian girl who technically supervises her Albanian and Bulgarian friends in the shop.
The islanders are by now well accustomed to the foreign students that work here in the summer. Richard, a manager who regularly depends on foreign young women students to operate his store, says that he considers "international students indispensable for the smooth operation of all the industries that depend on tourism." Many students go back each year to the same job and have established a regular relationship with their employers. 
As far as their social life goes, the students have one of their own but frequently socialize with the locals as well. They organize parties in the houses they rent for the summer which are often located near the towns. Birthdays and good-bye gatherings are times when the students meet their friends whom they frequently don't see for weeks. Unusual as it seems for a small island, this is not surprising given their packed schedules. The parties take place always late at night when everyone is finished with work.
 This year, on July 9th, the Albanian community in the island gathered to see the World Cup final, and drank Birra Tirana. "This exported beer is probably one of the few items you can find in the States from home", says Baggy, a boy from Shkodra, for whom this is the second time working on the island for a liquor store. His friends ordered the beer in advance to have it ready for the event. The expats cheered on Italy in a free break between jobs, something they had scheduled long before so as not to miss the major soccer event of the year. "The European love of soccer will never fade away wherever we are." said Andi, an ardent fan wearing a Italy T-shirt. "As far as American sports go I really don't understand what is so exciting about baseball." Cultural differences are many but the students slowly but easily adapt to every unknown thing that surrounds them. A good command of English and an open attitude are all that it takes. They feel very comfortable having both these assets under their belt.
Martha's Vineyard has been a different learning experience for everyone. Whether it has been an improvement in their English language skills, an introduction to the world of business, the discovery of a certain talent or even the occasion to make friends and acquaintances or a combination of all the above, the summer on the island has offered everyone something valuable to take home. Most importantly it has helped to pay for their education, which hopefully will elevate them to better and different jobs in their future.
                    [post_title] =>  Reporting live from Martha's Vineyard 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Tirana, 1932, 1937. Seventy years ago, the steps that sweep up to the main entrance of the Presidency today, served as the grand staircase of the Royal Palace and it is the backdrop of many official photographs featuring the Head of State, whether a Monarch or President. 
The first snapshot is of Zog I, King of the Albanians taken after close on five years of his reign and surrounded by some of his closest associates. The first in the row is Colonel Zef Seregji, Adjutant to the King, who remained by his side for fiteen years. Pinned to his chest is the decoration of the Order of The Pledge, which the King had just awarded to him. Let it be known that the King never awarded this decoration lightly. Standing haughtily beside him with the beginings of a pot belly showing, is Xhemal Aranitasi, the Commander of National Defence, on whose shoulder straps General's stars have just been placed, while slung over his shoulder he wears the Ribbon of the Order of Skenderbeg. Then comes General Gjilardi (Leon De Gilardy), who was killed three years later during the Fieri Uprising. The young man on the other side of the King is his nephew Esat Kryeziu, rendered fatherless after the murder of Hysen Bey Kryeziu (Ceno Beg). The last officer in the row must be one of the Court Officers, whom I don't know, but judging by how crooked and intimidated he looks, I don't even think it is worthwhile digging to find out. All of them are wearing the gray 1931 parade uniforms, Italian style of that period.
Second photograph. Five years later. On the same spot, on the same staircase. The King again surrounded by the closest associates of his Court. Behind him, again, stands Zef Seregji, now sporting Generals' Stars, now of the same rank as Araniti. Beside him, in a diplomatic uniform, complete with the feathered hat, stands Sotir Martini, who was t6o later follow the King into the long years of exile, until the end of his life. The last in the row is Major Allaman ȵpi, from the Cupi-s in Burrel, whose main merit was that he was from Mati, the same as his Monarch. In this photograph, they are all dressed in teh new, 1936 model uniforms, once again modelled on Italian styles. This style had been adopted for a typical military uniform in Italy in 1934.
The steps and balcony behind them are in the same place to this day, but it is highly unlikely that a Monarch, Princes or Generals will ever ascend them again, but perhaps the aged Academicians, whose sole concern should be to avoid shuffling their feet too much over the steps, until the day that this building, with all its history, is transformed into a Museum.
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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            [post_content] => SHISHTAVEC, Sept. 7 - Shishtavec is a village near Kukes town, some 1,100 meters above the sea level, somewhere in the border between Albania and Kosova, just behind the Gjalica mountain. It is a great surprise and almost fantasy when going there you find yourself between Gjalica and Koretnik mountains, two of the highest in the country, also good targets or objects to promote mountainous tourism. Shishtavec is there and you may call it poor from the financial point of view, but rich from the natural point of view.
Shishtavec is in the middle of Gore area, the biggest there with 1,100 residents. It had 2,000 in 1991. Now only elders have remained. It is different in summer when all their children come back home for vacations. People there may feel isolated, not only for the long six-month winter, and they have found a way out with immigration. 
The elementary school lacks the staff or has unqualified ones. The middle school has closed. A few students go every year to graduate teaching but they do not come back. Once known for its potato now they plant only 400 hectares from 1,200 hectares before. They still find a way to survive and that seems immigration.
One may call Shishtavec the village of immigration. Only during the communist regime they were not allowed to move around. Some 150 families left the place in 1945 going to other areas in the south. More than 600 persons have left the place after 1991 going to England, Belgium, Italy and Canada and the United States. Some of them have married women from those countries and when back home in summer they cannot communicate in Albania with their other family members.
Besides that summer is full of weddings as many boys come, get married and make proper documentation to take their spouse and start a new life abroad. It is estimated that some 126 new families from Shishtavec have gone on immigration. Like Mersat Grisha, 24, immigrant in England. He comes back to get married to Malvina Murati in a wedding with DJ and not the usual way. Then he leaves and takes Malvina with him.
Every family in Shishtavec has normally a boy in immigration. They all come back home and bring some money for their families but also for the village. An eight-member committee takes care of some funding collected from immigrants for the village needs. The committee decides where to invest them.
They have built a mosque, surrounded the cemetery with a wall, or build a small soccer pitch which is used freely by all youngsters. It belongs to the whole village.
Shishtavec has 180 two-store houses that are either totally new, built after 1991, or totally reconstructed.
One day they may turn and sty there, when Albania will likely be a European country with all the necessary infrastructure and services.
            [post_title] =>  Shishtavec of the immigrants 
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