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Orhan Pamuk receives the Nobel Prize for Literature: the joys of an addicted reader

Last Christmas my Greek friend, Apostolis brought me a special gift from his vacation trip to the Berlin bookstalls, a book written from one of the best known contemporary Turkish novelists, Orhan Pamuk. At that time this name was barely

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Shkodra, Autumn 1913. In April 1913, after some 450 years and a six-month siege the Turkish flag was put down from the Shkodra castle and Montenegrins achieved their dream of conquering Shkodra to make it their capital.

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New Albanian mode: drink beer in the cathedral

By Jerina Zaloshnja “No, no, don’t tell me this is a beer factory. This is a real beer cathedral!” That is how an Italian businessman G.V. has written in the guestbook after visiting Birra Korca factory located somewhere in the

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Albania’s Euro Atlantic agenda

By Alfred Moisiu During this year, Albania based on the Summit 2005 document, undertook concrete actions to encourage the important objectives of the three main pillars of development, security and human rights and to implement the United Nations ambitious agenda

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A Breath of Optimism through Fresh, Foreign Eyes

By Alba ȥla As if the return to my own country had not been challenging enough, Jake, my American friend from graduate school, announced that his visit would be on the same day that my plane was landing in Tirana.

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Fatmir Velaj takes part at Vienna Biennial

VIENNA, Oct. 8 – The Vienna biennial stands open from Sept. 21 to )ct. 10 organized by a group of experts of the “Schillerplatz” arts academy and also a team of correspondents from Berlin, London, Zagreb, etc. some 60 artists

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Scanderbeg in Scandinavia

by Bjoern Andersen The stamp of Scanderbeg A few years ago a Danish archaeologist, Dr Peter Pentz from The Danish National Museum, published an article about the seal-stamp of Scanderbeg, a brass-stamp to seal documents. The stamp had been bought

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Excuse me, will you open that window, please?

Travel notes from a trip to Gjirokastra By Jerina Zaloshnja It was pure coincidence that I took a photograph of that tiny little window, while we were walking down “Fools Walkway,” and I felt my throat tighten with emotion. It

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Forsaken Albania

By Artan Lame Tirana, in the twenties’ The Clock Tower, or as it is known in the old language “the mound of the Clock”, together with the Mosque of Ethem Bey, constitutes the most valuable object of this city called

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Cross Border Cooperation Prospective Euro-Region or a Pending Effort?

Traditionally, national borders have placed adjacent regions of different countries in a rather peripheral position thus resulting in a particular kind of economic development challenges for these borderlands. The emergence of the cross border cooperation phenomenon in post World War

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                    [post_content] => Last Christmas my Greek friend, Apostolis brought me a special gift from his vacation trip to the Berlin bookstalls, a book written from one of the best known contemporary Turkish novelists, Orhan Pamuk. At that time this name was barely known to me. The book was Snow. Curious about the debate surrounding the figure of Pamuk even before his notorious judicial process, I quickly scanned Snow, only to be obliged later to read it once again more carefully. That was my first encounter with the work of the literary genius. Later on I followed closely as he sailed clear of the charges brought to him of offending Turkishness, through denouncing the Armenian genocide and the harsh treatment of the Kurdish minority. This is considered a crime according to Article 301 of the Turkish penal code and it is punishable up to three years in jail. The European Community intervened in time using its influential leverage on a country still committed to the process of integration despite several challenges of a multiple nature.
Indeed the writer seems to have experienced a strenuous time. Interviewed by immediately after receiving the news about his Nobel, this is how he replies to adelicate question:
 "You're the first ever Turkish writer to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. Does that give the award a special significance for you?
[OP] - Well, unfortunately, that makes the thing very precious in Turkey, which is good for Turkey of course, getting this prize, but makes it more extra sensitive and political and it somehow tends to make it as a sort of a burden."
What I have to add about Pamuk, without wanting to be repetitive of the many literary analysis that have accompanied his work and recently his Nobel Prize, regards his other less known book: Istanbul: a memoir and the city. This hidden treasure is perhaps the key to understanding where this author's miraculous muse comes from. His unique and breathtaking love about the city where he was born, and where he has spent his entire life, comes up in the very reason why was awarded the Nobel Prize. Leafing through the book, which I found by pure chance (just like one finds the best things in life), you can not miss the magic created by the biographical account of Pamuk set in the magical, transcendent city that holds the gates of East and West, past and future. This is what he has to say about it: "There were times when every strange memento seemed saturated with the poetic melancholy of lost imperial greatness and its historical residue that I imagined myself to be the only one to have unlocked the secret of the city." (Istanbul: a Memoir and the City, 2003, p.353)
Istanbul is for him the absolute and essential metaphor for the coming together of a curious mix of cultural elements, the very essence of a beautiful and socially charged duality. In a sincere plea to soften the conceited dichotomies labeled as clash of civilizations, he says: "Istanbul, in fact, and my work, is a testimony to the fact that East and West combine cultural gracefully, or sometimes in an anarchic way, came together, and that is what we should search for."
It is in this atmosphere of recurrent inspiration that Pamuk composes his works where history, reality and a magic collective melancholy that he calls "huzun" (in Turkish) are the threads that come together in forming the literary fabric of his books. 
A sharp social commentator, he has found new ways in portraying the harsh dichotomies that condition the political and intellectual life of his country. He has explored with maturity and sensitivity the complex configuration of the ideological prisms in turkey, splitting his attention between secularism, religious extremism, military influence, leftist utopias, collective spirits and individual quests. Hence the fiber of his work wraps around many layers of the human consciousness: "Although the opportunities for happiness were limitless and hardly a day passed without my discovering a new pleasure, life was also full of sudden, unexpected fast-flaming disasters of every size and shade of importance. The randomness of these disasters reminded me of the radio maritime announcement, warning all shipping (and the rest of us too) about "free-floating mines" at the mouth of the Bosphorus and giving their precise location." (p.199) Borrowing his own words I would say that Pamuk through his work is "savoring the ordinary but still honoring the ideal."
Pamuk usually shrouds his impressive works under simple titles like The white castle, The black book, My name is Red, The new life. 
When the Swedish Academy declared that "The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2006 is awarded to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures",I jumped form joy. I could not wait to share my limited knowledge about the author ad his work with everyone around. I called this the typical joy of an addicted reader when she sees the books that influenced her mindset and opened her cultural and spiritual horizon to new, recognized at the universal level. It is with the same joy that I expect the Albanian translation of My name is Red, the book that first launched his name in the international arena, that will be realized soon by the Scanderbeg Books publishing house.
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Shkodra, Autumn 1913. In April 1913, after some 450 years and a six-month siege the Turkish flag was put down from the Shkodra castle and Montenegrins achieved their dream of conquering Shkodra to make it their capital. The dream continued only for a month because in May that year, under the pressure of the Great Powers (nowadays we would say NATO) they were obliged to withdraw and turn back Shkodra to newly created Albania. After Montenegrins' withdrawal and while waiting for the creation of a legal Albanian government, the city passed under the administration of an international force known as the International Commission of Control. During those days at the head of the international forces made up of units from six powers (Austro-Hungarian, German, English, Italian and monitoring French and Russian officers) there disembarked at the Buna port English Admiral Sir Cecil Bourney, who was replaced some months later from Colonel Philips (later a general). Philips, a real British of the Victorian epoch, an old career military man, committed successfully and with devotion his duty laying, among others, the foundations of the Albanian gendarmerie in Shkodra, a unit that had such a strong identity that it managed to survive during the years of the World War (1914-1918) and during the years of transition (1918-1920) until the final joining of the city with the Government of Tirana in 1920. Philips left Shkodra with the start of the World War in September 1914.
The picture shows General Philips between two English officers at his office. At his feet there have sat two English soldier, their lieutenants. Behind the general there stands ready a unit of his Albanian gendarmes. Albanians raise their nose in front of the photographer, wearing all different clothes from each other and the only emblem uniting them is the emblem at the collar. The irregularity of their uniforms: jackets with different colors, some with pockets some without, fez on their heads remained from the Turkish army, some with Turkish some with English rifles and so on, testify the financial strain of the city's administration. The commander of the gendarmes, the mustache lieutenant with a pistol at his belly, wears the Turkish uniform not having a better one (!). 
The contrast between our Albanians and the cute Englishmen with ironed uniforms and nice shoes is evident in each picture, but nevertheless it pays honor and respect to these men who served with devotion their newly founded nation. 
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => By Jerina Zaloshnja
"No, no, don't tell me this is a beer factory. This is a real beer cathedral!" That is how an Italian businessman G.V. has written in the guestbook after visiting Birra Korca factory located somewhere in the suburbs of Korca city, 180 kilometers southeast of Tirana. Of the same opinion, according to myself, would be all who would visit that new factory. That is how happened with me.
At the entrance of the factory, the same place as the former well-known factory of Korca beer (which culminated its success in the 1980s) you are surrounded by a somewhat mystic spirit. This is not a newly built modern factory but a construction with mixed ancient and modern elements, the work of great masters of stone, ceramic and carving productions. Yes, yes, it is precisely a little cathedral, designed with small ceramic and carvings, red ones, hung along the walls which are also carved with reliefs and include some lines on drinking pleasures by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. 
The factory ceilings are all carved stones, as are the walls and floor. The small carved stones replacing the tiles make you happy and it seems as if you have put your feet in a little small town painted in red where everything goes okay! The pavilions of the just-rehabilitated factory resemble small rooms where nothing makes a sound but the computers monitoring the production and a few employees. Some two or three architects and an interior designer are giving the last touches to the factory's museum, which, in fact, will be a museum for the city of Korca itself, its citizens and the famous history of the beer brought for the first time to the country by an Italian in the 1920s. A restaurant for friends and VIPs on top of the terrace of the Birra Korca will soon be completed. Those who know about the extraordinary nature before your eyes can relax and observe nature while you have dinner with the local characteristic dishes. You will not have left Tirana only to have a look at the beer factory.
Factory... That is not solely an investment by the Albania businessman Irfan Hysenbelliu. That is the first example of Albania's economic tourism.

Italian Umberto who showed Beer to the Albanians

There is a history associated with the beer factory in Korca. That is the FIRST BEER factory in Albania. Construction began in 1928 by an Italian investor known to by the name of Umberto Umberti. He chose Korca simply because it completed the parameters some other cities in Albania did not. He started to build the factory in Shkodra, he took the raw material there, but there were two different reasons which made him turn to Korca. The first reason was that the water had better elements than that in Shkodra and, the second, in the Korca-Pogradec region there was planted and grew a very aromatic plant known as lupolo, which is a very important element for the beer yeast. Construction was completed in 1932 and that was the first beer sold in Korca. The Italian owner distributed it in barrels to every bar and restaurant and also gave it for free to the citizens so that they got used to that. After liberation at the end of World War II the factory became a public property until 1990. From 1994 to 2004 it was owned by some former Korca shareholders that sold it that year to businessman Irfan Hysenbelliu.
During 2004 -2006 the factory was totally transformed. Some 80 years of work had to be totally revamped.  Nothing but the great name of the factory had remained, a name that had also faded with the passing of years. During the first stage of investment the old technology was removed and all the old buildings surrounding the old main building were pulled down. Now the technology is contemporary, installed in 2005 and totally automatic. "It was thought the technology should be Czech because they are a strong name in beer production," Birra Korca manager Besnik Duda told the Tirana Times.
The company businessman Irfan Hysenbelliu is linked with has a 135-year old history of experience. That company has been installing technology for beer factories for that many years. Experts of the Czech company have been working in Korca's new beer factory for a year and a half. Some 28 experts of the Czech company have installed the new line of production and now there are some 34 technology experts taking care of the production. "The new line bought from the Czech company has quadrupled the capacity compared to the best year of production of Birra Korca in the 1980s. The investment of the first stage to put in the factory in operation has reached 14 million euro," said Duka. In two or three years the owner has plans to build a second factory with a 500-,000 to one million hectoliters annual capacity. Now the capacity is 100-120,000 hectoliters per year. The investment of businessman Hysenbelliu will employee around 200 people.

"Our beer is original"

"Birra Korca factory produces market beer, real and original. The beer market has two kinds of beers commercial and original, we have tried to preserve the old taste of beer and very soon we'll produce black beer, which was exclusive for Birra Korca in past years," says the manager. The installation stage has been completed and the first stage of beer production has already started. The raw material for beer production will be imported from Austria from the Pilsen company. Birra Korca entered the market in the first days of August.
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                    [post_content] => By Alfred Moisiu 
During this year, Albania based on the Summit 2005 document, undertook concrete actions to encourage the important objectives of the three main pillars of development, security and human rights and to implement the United Nations ambitious agenda of reforms. The positive results achieved by the foundation of the Peacebuilding Commission and Human Rights Council, Resolution on Development, the foundation of the Emergency Response Central Fund and also the reforms of the Secretariat and Management fill us with optimism and make us believe that United Nations must continue its reforms in order to respond as best as possible to new realities and challenges.By re-iterating our willingness and intention to work closely with all the delegations and to reach as consensual as possible agreements in all the significant aspects of the reforms, we think that a solid and inclusive reform of Management is necessary for the strengthening of the United Nations in order to consolidate the transparency and responsibility and to enjoy a more effective and efficient administration of the resources. We support the efforts to reform ECOSOC while believing also that the reform in the Security Council will produce progress and results thanks to the efforts and commitment of all the member countries. We hail the High Level Meeting on Migration because we believe that international migration that is supported by the right policies can bring major advantages to the development of the countries of origin and the receiving ones on the condition to respect and guarantee the basic rights of migrants by avoiding any discrimination and double standard.
The UN role continues to remain very important also in the war against terrorism, especially by securing an effective, global and intensive response to this threat. We praise the recent consensual adoption of the global strategy against terrorism as we also assess that the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism will mark a precious achievement made possible by the UN efforts against terrorism. Albania is collaborating very closely with all the UN bodies in the war against terrorism and the visits of the Monitoring Team founded in compliance to the Resolution 1267 of the Security Council and the visit of the Security Council Committee Against Terrorism founded in compliance to the resolution 1540 of the Security Council demonstrated that Albanian is fulfilling its obligations to prevent the activity and financing of terrorist groups also on the national level.We have supported the resolution of the Security Council on the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, which consists in the peaceful solution of the issue and sending the peacekeeping forces in that area. Albania is part of the countries that have given financial support to rebuild Lebanon.

Fulfilling the European Union and NATO standards
The main orientation of Albania's foreign policy remains the European and Euro-Atlantic integration and that is why the efforts of Albanian state and society are directed towards fulfilling the European Union and NATO standards. A few days ago the European Parliament ratified the Association-Stabilization Agreement of Albania with the European Union which places our country at the most important stage; that of fulfilling the obligations that stem from the Agreement and the entire Albanian political class and society are conscious about this. We all believe that the actual membership in the European Council and OSCE and also the perspective accession in EU and NATO are a natural part of the move for development rather than an objective for objective sake.We have established relations of active cooperation and dialogue on the regional level with all the countries by remarkably influencing the strengthening of regional security and stability. Together with the countries of the region we have made an agenda of joint actions against terrorism, organized crime, distribution of arms and border managing which has an inter-border feature and we have also undertaken concrete initiatives to encourage the economic development of the region.

Kosova,  a sovereign, independent, democratic and multi-ethnic state
Albania assesses that the main issue put forth to be resolved in our region continues to remain that of Kosova. Kosova has marked a great progress in the internal stability, in advancing the fulfillment of the required international standards, in improving the inter-ethnic relations, in founding and efficient functioning of Kosovar central and local institutions, in the serious and professional commitment in the process of negotiations with Belgrade through the intermediation of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General, President Ahtisaari and also in its gradual integration in regional activities, initiatives and structures as part of Kosova's integrating process in the European Union and NATO. The leadership of Kosova, the representing Kosovar institutions, opposition, civil society, media and the entire civil factor are demonstrating social and political cohesion and also increasing unity and open and full cooperation with the international factor to build a Kosova which would be sovereign and independent, democratic and multi-ethnic state, integrated in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. The UN Mission and the commitments of the General Secretary there have played a significant part of the success also.The progress of talks between Prishtina and Belgrade in Vienna is positive. We encourage the continuation of constructive dialogue and wish for the Serbian side to do the same by demonstrating realism, solidarity with the attention of international community and respect for the aspirations of the people of Kosova. Albania is against any possible scenario for the partition or disintegration of Kosova, which according to the tradition of the past can bring conflicts and instability in the future.
We support a full and quick solution of the issue of the status of unique Kosova: a solution that takes in consideration the will of its inhabitants themselves, guarantees functionality within the Kosovar state and society and freedoms of the minority communities. A Kosova, being a sovereign, independent, democratic and multi-ethnic state, with a clear Euro-Atlantic perspective serves to peace and stability in the region and wider.
The view expressed occasionally that the independence of Kosova would leave the door open to implement in an analog way the same solutions for problems which exist at the present in different countries and regions does not seem accurate to us. The solution of any problem must take into consideration the historical and geographical context and other dimensions that exclude the search and mechanic application of unjustifiable analogies. By taking into consideration the historical, juridical and moral aspects of the issue of Kosova and also the fact that it reaches the present times with convulsions and wars that accompanied the disintegration of former-Yugoslavia, I think that solving it according to the will of the very citizens of Kosova is completely legitimate. Seen under this light, this solution marks also the end of the chapter of this disintegration and turning of a new page as part of the democratic developments that have taken place in the Balkans in the last decade. 

Meeting the Millennium Goals
Albania stands at an important stage of the progress of all sided institutional, legal and economic reforms, with its aim oriented towards the European models and standards. Our commitment is to improve the governance on all the levels in order for the governance to be as close as possible to the interests of the citizens and country. The actual government has undertaken various economic initiatives that aim to liberalize the procedures and enhance our capability to attract foreign investments. We are conscious that this objective can be achieved only by carrying out the reforms that realistically enable a competing and open market for the free initiative that offers opportunities to as many people as possible to conduct business or to be employed and coordinated with the reforms in the priority public sectors: increasing the investments in infrastructure and power sector, education and health sectors and also completing it with effective social policies in favor of social groups and individuals in need. Our objective is for the economic growth to directly serve meeting the Millennium Goals by being transformed into the main factor for the reduction of poverty, lowering of unemployment rate to the average level of the developed European countries and also to secure a stable and long-term economic growth, which does not compromise the chances of future generations.
The all sided engagement against corruption is part of the efforts to strengthen the Rule of Law and develop the country. In this framework there are being undertaken concrete actions for reforms in legislation and institutions in order to take preventive measures, to narrow the room for corruptive abuses, to enhance public transparency, to eliminate the conflict of interests, to enhance the access in decision taking and strengthen the monitoring role of civil society, local communities and media.We have paid a special attention also to the fight against organized crime, drug and human being trafficking and money laundering. Today we can state with full conviction that these phenomena is being faced with the strong power of the law and with the structures built in the country in cooperation also with the international factor and that is why the results are tangible.

A strong and effective United Nations
Albania supports and contributes for a strong and effective United Nations Organization, capable to successfully overcome new challenges because we consider it an Organization based on the values and principals of multilateralism, global partnership for development, joint action to strengthen collective peace and security to the benefit of promoting human rights, Rule of Law and commitments against terrorism.
In conclusion, please allow me, Madam President, to assure you that my country will be active in fulfilling the commitments and obligations that stem from the responsibilities within the Organization and also from those decisions that the Sixty-first Session of the UN General Assembly will adopt.
This speech was delivered at UN General Assembly


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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
As if the return to my own country had not been challenging enough, Jake, my American friend from graduate school, announced that his visit would be on the same day that my plane was landing in Tirana. I had been in and out of the country for the last 5 years pursuing different schools in different countries and had finally decided to try settling down in the homeland, my homeland, Albania. There are many of us, coming back, out of preference for the lifestyle back home, strong family ties, or sheer lack of alternatives. We are all confused and scared and not brave or as ready to face all the difficulties as someone would like to think. But we are willing to tryō
For me coming back means living close to family and trying to build up a career. I am dimly aware of the many obstacles that I will encounter and quite certain that there will be times that I will regret taking the plane back here. But for the moment all I can feel is the excitement of a new life among new people although this time speaking my native language.
My friend Jake had planned his Balkan trip long before, when we were studying in Budapest. I imagined he would want to sample as many of the local flavors as he could; that is why I suggested he visit my hometown, Berat, instead of limiting his time to Tirana. With 2500 years of history behind it, beautiful nature and an inspiring collection of timeless religious art I believe it has something simply unique to offer the passing tourist and traveler. I made a wise guess that by the time I arrived, Jake would have already savored that curios mix of chaos and novelty that makes our capital Tirana special. Thus, I set out to plan a short but comprehensive plunge into other local Albanian pleasures. 
 First of all, once approaching Berat, Jake would enjoy the sight of Tomorri Mountain, that appears suddenly, surrounded by flat low plains as a king mountain, mystical and powerful in the sunbathed distance.  No wonder it is called the Mountain of Gods. Had he had more time we could have gone for an excursion through the canyons of Bogova to enjoy that unspoiled nature that we are blessed with and that we will hopefully have the sense to preserve. For now we would be limited to the town itself.
 I could predict the excitement in my friend's face when we would reach the castle. The thousand years of history and the different invasions that are now imprinted in the different stone layers would find their way roughly summarized in a short historical account that I would provide. The churches with their beautiful unique religious art displays, the characteristic whitewashed houses with wooden window cases, and the Ottoman style bridge that crosses the town would resemble to my friend a fantastic showcase straight out of a history textbook. He would peek into the warmth of the daily interactions and be fascinated by the spirit of the little town and he would comment on everything. He would not want to know about the power shortages and the bureaucratic scandals that plague the country and I would not blame him. This would be a day of discovery and enjoyment. I wish we could all have a chance to    experience it.
We would top our day with a delicious sampling of local cuisine, abundant in spices and flavors and good old Turkish coffee. In the late afternoon I would definitely make him experience the local evening walk, that typical stroll that fills the locals' life with that necessary spice of gossip without which life would be wellƣomfortable but tasteless. That stroll, that daily annoyance to those of us tightly obsessed by our privacy, is simultaneously an interesting feature that testifies to the presence of a community, not an aimless gathering of people that happened to be born here. 
Jake and I never took this delightful, granted semi-utopian, trip due to our different uncoordinated travel plans. But the important thing is that going through this imaginative journey I was shown once again what I am coming back for. Those familiar yet somehow unappreciated tastes and flavors, that warmth, that pride in antiquity and the joy that stems from being part of that beauty. And above all that sense of roots and of belonging to that annoying community, but a Community neverthelessō
Now I recollect all this, and attribute it to my imagining his transfigured tourist gaze and reconcile it within my inner self. I know daily life is full of problems and it is very easy to forget those few pleasures that we can afford by living here. But that is precisely what I want to remember: to be able to see through fresh eyes and appreciate. And if you out there are just like me, a confused returning student that feels like a foreigner in his own country, take my word for it:  There is plenty out there for us to enjoy! Don't give up.
                    [post_title] =>  A Breath of Optimism through Fresh, Foreign Eyes 
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                    [post_content] => VIENNA, Oct. 8 - The Vienna biennial stands open from Sept. 21 to )ct. 10 organized by a group of experts of the "Schillerplatz" arts academy and also a team of correspondents from Berlin, London, Zagreb, etc. some 60 artists from all over the world took part in the biennial and among them Albanian painter Fatmir Velaj.He has sent there "country house", "the house in the forest" and also the "the red feeling rhapsody". They are worked in acrylic 100x120cm,130x180cm and 140x210cm.
                    [post_title] =>  Fatmir Velaj takes part at Vienna Biennial 
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                    [post_content] => by Bjoern Andersen 

The stamp of Scanderbeg 
A few years ago a Danish archaeologist, Dr Peter Pentz from The Danish National Museum, published an article about the seal-stamp of Scanderbeg, a brass-stamp to seal documents. The stamp had been bought in Italy in the middle of the 17th century to the Danish king of a commission agent. For many years the stamp was looked upon as an artefact from the Byzantine Empire in Constantinople. Now, Dr Pentz made a thorough study and discovered that the seal-stamp had something to do with Scanderbeg. According to the inscription, which is in Greek, the stamp belongs to Alexander (= Skender) who is described as an Emperor of the Romans and a King of the Turk, the Albanians, the Serbs and the Bulgars. Since Scanderbeg never was in a position in which he could describe himself as an emperor or a king - or would be accepted as such of the other nobles in Albania - it is most likely that the stamp has been manufactured in Italy some years after his death of political or economic reasons, either in the 16th or in the first part of the 17th century. Furthermore, we do not know of any documents with this seal. Dr Pentz adds that another stamp is known with a simple and modest text: Georgius Castriotus Scendarbigo. 

Ludvig Holberg 
When discussing the stamp Dr Pentz and I recalled a text about Skanderbeg by Ludvig Holberg. Holberg was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1684 and moved to Copenhagen to study theology; at that time Norway, Iceland and Denmark were united with the Danish king as the sovereign. Later on, Holberg became a professor of the university which he was till he passed away in 1754. Today he is widely acknowledged as one of the main characters in the Danish-Norwegian Enlightenment. Holberg was a great scholar and a highly productive and versatile writer. His writings were on natural law and natural rights, history and philosophy, but he also made up scathing satires and vivid comedies that are performed even today. Some of the comedies are The Political Tinker, Erasmus Montanus and Jeppe of the Hill. Holberg wrote against haughtiness and false wisdom - in the comedies and in his essays as well. In his late essays - the Epistles - he discussed many problems of contemporary importance; like other European writers of that time he - for instance grappled with the insoluble theodicy-problem, the discrepancy between the good and almighty God and the overwhelming evil. 

Holberg on Scanderbeg 
In 1739 Holberg published The Achievements of Great Heroes. He had taken inspiration from the ancient Greek writer Plutarch, who once compared outstanding Greek and Roman characters. Holberg wrote about 12 pairs: Zoroaster and Mohammed, Sulla and Caesar, Socrates and Epaminondas - and Zizka and Scanderbeg. The characters were as it appears - highly important persons from different times and different places. One of the favourites of Holberg was Socrates, whom he highly appreciated because of his approach to knowledge and his moderation. Scanderbeg was appreciated as one of the greatest generals ever lived -and for his modesty. According to Holberg Scanderbeg never overrated his position, but stood up as an humble Christian Soldier since he left the Ottoman army and abandoned Islam. Writing about Scanderbeg Holberg took the work of Marinus Barletius (or Barleti) as a starting point, but he formed his own judgement. Possibly, he had an aim of his own to pursue - to promote certain virtues and to discredit other ones. Holberg realized that Scanderbeg -with limited support - was capable of holding his ground against the Ottoman forces. Even more, he fought the enemy vigorously, defeated him and often put him to flight. Holberg took an interest in Scanderbeg because of his great military achievements against the Muslims. Here we have to bear in mind the Ottoman attack on Vienna in 1683 (led by one of the Albanian-Turk K
                    [post_title] =>  Scanderbeg in Scandinavia  
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                    [post_content] => Travel notes from a trip to Gjirokastra

By Jerina Zaloshnja
It was pure coincidence that I took a photograph of that tiny little window, while we were walking down "Fools Walkway," and I felt my throat tighten with emotion. It resembled a black cavity in that wall built out of huge and smooth white stone; or like a human mouth with a bundle of black rags jammed down its throat. Spine-chilling! Instead of glass window panes, somebody, probably the owners of this abandoned domicile, had nailed boards onto the frame, so you couldn't see anything inside, if there were anything left to see inside. As the occasional passer-by informed me, the house with the boarded up window had been abandoned for at least ten years now, and there was absolutely nothing inside. As if the boards were not enough, wires had been run underneath and over the iron bars covering the window on the outside, all very complicated. Who could ever attempt to have a look inside?
"This city is suffocating," I said to myself and quickened my step. Gjirokastra, (300 kilometers south of Tirana), gave me the exact same first impression as when I had visited it fifteen years ago. From the balcony of my room at "Hotel Turizmi," the only five star hotel in those years in Gjirokastra, the view of the city was so silent and void of movement; the streets were almost lifeless in this city of white stone. You could almost feel the pulse of the people as they went through the ritual of their evening stroll in the city's only square. It resembled the seclusion of a bunker, a small, stifling bunker within the confines of Albania-a bigger bunker. I distinctly recall that for the whole month that I was there on a business trip back then I never saw a single woman sit down in a coffee shop for a coffee or stroll down the street in the evening. Men were proprietors of this city. It was also dominated by many houses that were monuments of culture, and who knows why, but at night time a strange type of bird warbled from rooftops, a bird I had never seen in other cities before. I remember one funny episode from those previous times. Sitting on the hotel's veranda overlooking the city one evening, a couple from France who were having dinner suddenly started laughing whilst looking in the direction of the main square. "May I ask what you are laughing at," I found the courage to ask as there were only the three of us sitting on the veranda. "Well," replied the lady in broken English, "for a whole hour, only one vehicle has driven by, another car just went past, but, it was the same oneŢ It was probably one of the few vehicles in the city. It was the luxury vehicle of the First Secretary of the District, the most important person in the city, a gray "Fiat" of the seventies'.
The walkways between the houses still preserve that strange silence to this day, although the voices of the locals rebound like the sharp rapping of the wooden clogs over the cobblestone paths. The residents of the old city quarters still have the habit of squatting down against the outside walls of their houses and drinking coffee they pour out of coffee pots handed down over generations.
Locations have strange, mysterious names such as "Fools Walkway." This is a narrow alleyway, down which the inebriated would lurch at night, dislodging stones as they stumbled, making a terrible din. There are other strange names in the other city quarters too. Manalat, Varosh, Dunavat. The oldest houses are between two to three centuries old, but still await reconstruction work due to the insufficient funds allocated in the state budget for this work and flaws in Albanian legislation on monuments of culture. Up above the city, the Castle walls house the most interesting museum containing all the kinds of weaponry that have ever existed in Albania, since the Stone Age. There are still levels far below the castle that have not yet been penetrated. This city has always been distinguished as the city of the affluent, of memoirs, of personal libraries, of individuals who bequeathed property to relatives in wills - a unique case in Albania. This city has given birth to individuals, who, in a manner of speaking, have shaped the history of Albania. This is the birthplace of a linguist of European caliber, Eqerem ȡbej, the writer Ismail Kadare, Dino Cici, a self taught inventor who in 1930 built an airplane without water and without gasoline, with wooden gears, as well as the individual who stifled this country for forty five years on end, dictator Enver Hoxha,

The movement of the "Stone City"
At one of the eateries at Viroi (one of Gjirokastra's tourist attractions), at ten at night, the voices of women carry across the water. This is a major change; women appear to be enjoying themselves a lot more now. You can see them climbing into latest models of Mercedes Benz, going out for a drink. The traffic is endless; the luxury vehicles with their Greek number plates come and go, bringing back emigrants for holidays with their families. In the "New Town," as the locals call the lower part of the city, built during these past fifteen years and which has no connection with the old, museum and traditional part of Gjirokastra- the eateries and coffee shops are packed. There is a businesslike air about people, they seem to have a goal and are certain they will get to where they are going. As regards what I said earlier, and due to the fact that there are dozens of  money dealers on the streets, swamped with customers, very busy changing currencies, obviously there have been major changes in Gjirokastra. The air is far cleaner than in Tirana, the city is relatively litter free, you don't see beggars digging into rubbish cans. People laugh. Apart from the money in their savings accounts, they also preserve a kind of identity. Yes, it is obvious that things have begun to move in Gjirokastra. It's as if this younger part of the city is fighting to escape from the emptiness and the abandonment from which the castle and the entire surrounding museum zone suffer.

Stories of financing, foreign donors and hashish
"The City Hall belongs to everyone. It's like a donation box where everyone should drop something," says Mayor of Gjirokastra, Flamur Bime, for the Tirana Times. According to him, the good management of public finances and funding of projects by foreign donors have restored trust amongst the citizens. Bime is not a local, at least he is not one hundred percent from Gjirokastra, however he is wealthy. Before running for Mayor, he was the owner of a powerful construction company. This is one of the rare cases. In Albania, individuals who become Mayors or top officials in the State or in politics usually come from modest backgrounds. It appears that the fact that he has a considerable personal wealth already leaves no room for any incentive to misuse public funds. He certainly is very good at getting finances right. During the two and a half years of his mandate, Bime seems to have conducted a veritable fiscal revolution related to public funds. All indices that showed loss have been continually positive. All financial hemorrhage has stopped due to daily checks. 25 young men and women, all with foreign degrees, have been employed in the Municipality. Every evening financial accounts showing all activities of the Municipality are placed on his desk, so that financially everything is watertight. With the profits from these savings he has tar sealed 36 kilometers of new roads for the city and the locals call him the only Mayor who urbanized Gjirokastra. From 94 million new lek which was the revenue of the Municipality when Bime came into office in 2003, today, the Municipality realizes 150 million new lek. Foreign donors have been the second targets of the Mayor. Three years ago, "Pakart" was the only foundation operating in Gjirokastra, funding a few modest projects. Bime came up with the idea for the Foundation to join staffs with that of the Municipality to realize joint projects to restore the ancient city. The foundation realized 80 per cent of the projects, the Municipality 20 per cent. Following this incentive, the UNDP approached the Mayor with proposals for several other community projects. With fifty-fifty percent funding, the Municipality and the UNDP completed 6 projects, another four were conducted with the funding of the Austrian Government. A project with the Italian Government paid for the creation of the passport of Gjirokastra, the photographing and digitalization of the entire museum zone of the city. The tight control over finances and the work with the donors are, at the end of the day, fifty percent of the reason why things have begun to change for the better in this city of stone. "Hashish and the Kakavija Border Customs Point are the other half of the reason," says Odisea, a reporter who works for Deutsche Welle told the Tirana Times, and a young police officer of the city's Force who expects to be moved to a new post any day now. The police officer will be shifted to another district, to the Border Customs Point known as "Tri Ura," (Three Bridges), on the south eastern border with Greece. The young man does not appear to be happy with this. From what he was saying, this border post is located at a spot that is quite open and divest of trees and foliage. So it is easier to detect illegal border crossings by smugglers with their trucks. So financially the policeman thinks he would be better off where he is. Unfortunately others have their eye on his job in Gjirokastra, individuals who have their connections with the current government and do not want to waste time in becoming wealthy. The leading businesses of the city keep business thriving through trade with Kakavija. This is obvious when you look at the people in the streets, the bulk of whom unfortunately speak Greek. Linda, a reporter for one of the Albanian daily newspapers insists on visiting Lazarat, a village where instead of wheat crops the locals grow hashish, so that she too could take a photograph of these crops. It is now the peak of the harvesting and the processing of these crops. Linda seeks the assistance of the Police to get her scoop of the day. However, none of the police officers are game enough to drive a police van up into the area on such a perilous trip. "One of the local Police Chiefs even offered me a handful of money not to publish anything on the farmers who grow these crops. A few days after the publication of her photos of the fields of hashish crops, the local police force launched a major action, slashing and destroying entire crops, but they failed to capture a single crop grower, they had all disappeared without trace. "This is one of those strange stories that repeats itself at about this time every year, and everyone knows what's going on," said Linda. The crops that produce drugs, the Border Customs Point of Kakavija have become secure sources of livelihood in Gjirokastra.
* * *
"My family settled in this area about three hundred years ago. My grandfather sold limestone and building materials. My family laid the cobblestone roads of the Big Bazaar. We used to have a three storied house, with two wells and subterranean storage rooms. But still I am not originally from Gjirokastra," says Odise regretfully. Many people from other regions settled here. People like Odise believe that this is not good for Gjirokastra. They seem to be waiting patiently for some sort of "ending" to this episode, something like a duel to see which part transforms the other; the locals absorb the outside settlers or the other way round. Perhaps they hope that the words of the local folk song will come true, which says that this city will even transform the outside settlers into original Gjirokastri-ts. There are also others who believe strongly that the outsiders will change something in the rigidity of this stone city. They will be the motor that will make it move. They will revive life in the old, museum section of the city and will develop cultural tourism. The 200-300 year old museum houses will be transformed into museums, always attractive to tourists. Perhaps the outsiders and the new times will even manage to prise open that tiny window, all boarded up and closed on "Fool's Walkway." It is beyond doubt that in the state it is in, no-one would be interested.

The Castle of Gjirokastra
It is 800 meters long and 200 meters wide. It was first mentioned as an inhabited location in the fourth Century BC. The encompassing wall inside the castle dates back to the 6th Century, the year 568. The initial inhabitants of the Castle were the members of the Tribe called the Argjirins.  (In the 12th Century Gjirokastra is mentioned as a township too, with about 200 families).  With the Turkish occupation, offices were built within the castle walls, water reservoirs, and prison cells. To this day, there are levels beneath the castle that have never been explored. It is thought that they were used as prison cells because it is pitch black and the cobbling on the stone floors is pointed, possibly a means of torture. In 1812, Ali Pasha of Tepelena, the new conqueror of the castle, constructed the Great Porte and the south western section of the castle. (The inhabitants left when the Pasha of Janina arrived). On the same spot where today the stage for the national folklore festivals stands, the Pasha built a viaduct raised on stone arches. It was 12 kilometres long and it brought supplies of fresh drinking water into the castle from Mt. Sopoti. The last arches of the viaduct were destroyed by King Zog the First in 1929, who also possessed the Castle for a few years. With the stones of the arches of the viaduct, the King built a prison which was used as such up until 1968.
                    [post_title] =>  Excuse me, will you open that window, please? 
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                    [post_content] => By Artan Lame
Tirana, in the twenties' The Clock Tower, or as it is known in the old language "the mound of the Clock", together with the Mosque of Ethem Bey, constitutes the most valuable object of this city called Tirana. With foundations laid in the first years of the XIX Century, it took about 20 years to complete, not so much for the degree of difficulty in constructing it, but mostly because of a lack of finances. Begun with the money of Haxhi Ethem Bey, it was later financed by the traders of the local Bazzar, when the Bey ran out of money. Today, this would be called, "additional tender funds for unexpected construction work." This is anoriental type tower and the works of the clock have been installed above the clock's dial, where the two stone arches can be seen in the photograph. The clock originally did not have a dial or hands to tell the time, as western type clocks do, but the time was conveyed by the bell chimes. The bells were at the top of the tower beneath the small roof, visible above teh two arches we mention earlier. Urban legend has it that the original clocks made out of beaten iron and bronx sheeting, were plundered by the Austrian Army during WWI, in 1917, however, I don't believe these legends all that much. The upper part of the tower was destroyed in 1928  adn it was re-constructed in the shape it has today with state expenditure. I mentioned this just in case the owner of the land on which the tower stands comes forward.
The photo shows the entire complex-tower-mosque-minaret, taken from "28 November Street," the entire area of which has been dug out, it appears to be the moment when the tower was being fitted out in 1924. The building to the left of the photo was the State Hospital at the time and had been a hospital since the time of the Turks. It had originally been a school and was built in the thirties of the XIX Century.
At first glance, you can see a telephone pole, which Albtelecom of that time must have purchased by tender, because you could hardly find a more crooked pole. One thing I have always noticed in today's photographs of Albania, is the presence of  mazes of telephone wiring and power cables hanging everywhere and criss crossing the skyline inall directions. This photo above makes you understand that this is not a defect of modern times, but a ailment that has accompanied development in this country ever since the arrival of the telephone or electric power.
                    [post_title] =>  Forsaken Albania 
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                    [post_content] => Traditionally, national borders have placed adjacent regions of different countries in a rather peripheral position thus resulting in a particular kind of economic development challenges for these borderlands. The emergence of the cross border cooperation phenomenon in post World War II Europe was a direct reaction to these regional challenges, aiming to better address the mutual concerns of border communities. Accordingly, cross / trans border cooperation is often considered by experts and policy analysts as an effective tool to reduce regional disparities, to boost social and economic development in remote areas and to move on with further integration of national economies in a given geographic area. In the context of Albania, border communities were afflicted the most by nearly half a century of communist rule in the country, as they directly witnessed the consequences of isolation from important cultural and economic centers. This is particularly true of Northern border communities which were deprived of their historical markets across the border without any corresponding efforts to integrate them in the national economy. Due to the economic features of Albanian communist regime, border areas are now facing two primary challenges: (1) within national borders - marginalization of their development prospects due to the "monopoly" of the country's center over the socio-economic development; and (2) compared to the communities across the border - sharp disparities and inequality of economic development. The Shkodra district constitutes an "excellent" example of this. Unfortunately, the Northern border regions continue to be an illustrative case of challenged communities in this sense. Although quite rich in natural resources, socio-economic development opportunities for this important cultural and historic center, Shkodra has remained marginalized from the general economic development of Albania in the post communist era.
The very recent publication of Albanian Institute for International Studies  presents a theoretical and practical  observation  of Cross Border Cooperation taking as  case study  Shkodra region in the context of Albanian Montenegrin relations.
                    [post_title] =>  Cross Border Cooperation Prospective Euro-Region or a Pending Effort? 
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            [post_date] => 2006-10-20 02:00:00
            [post_date_gmt] => 2006-10-20 02:00:00
            [post_content] => Last Christmas my Greek friend, Apostolis brought me a special gift from his vacation trip to the Berlin bookstalls, a book written from one of the best known contemporary Turkish novelists, Orhan Pamuk. At that time this name was barely known to me. The book was Snow. Curious about the debate surrounding the figure of Pamuk even before his notorious judicial process, I quickly scanned Snow, only to be obliged later to read it once again more carefully. That was my first encounter with the work of the literary genius. Later on I followed closely as he sailed clear of the charges brought to him of offending Turkishness, through denouncing the Armenian genocide and the harsh treatment of the Kurdish minority. This is considered a crime according to Article 301 of the Turkish penal code and it is punishable up to three years in jail. The European Community intervened in time using its influential leverage on a country still committed to the process of integration despite several challenges of a multiple nature.
Indeed the writer seems to have experienced a strenuous time. Interviewed by immediately after receiving the news about his Nobel, this is how he replies to adelicate question:
 "You're the first ever Turkish writer to be awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. Does that give the award a special significance for you?
[OP] - Well, unfortunately, that makes the thing very precious in Turkey, which is good for Turkey of course, getting this prize, but makes it more extra sensitive and political and it somehow tends to make it as a sort of a burden."
What I have to add about Pamuk, without wanting to be repetitive of the many literary analysis that have accompanied his work and recently his Nobel Prize, regards his other less known book: Istanbul: a memoir and the city. This hidden treasure is perhaps the key to understanding where this author's miraculous muse comes from. His unique and breathtaking love about the city where he was born, and where he has spent his entire life, comes up in the very reason why was awarded the Nobel Prize. Leafing through the book, which I found by pure chance (just like one finds the best things in life), you can not miss the magic created by the biographical account of Pamuk set in the magical, transcendent city that holds the gates of East and West, past and future. This is what he has to say about it: "There were times when every strange memento seemed saturated with the poetic melancholy of lost imperial greatness and its historical residue that I imagined myself to be the only one to have unlocked the secret of the city." (Istanbul: a Memoir and the City, 2003, p.353)
Istanbul is for him the absolute and essential metaphor for the coming together of a curious mix of cultural elements, the very essence of a beautiful and socially charged duality. In a sincere plea to soften the conceited dichotomies labeled as clash of civilizations, he says: "Istanbul, in fact, and my work, is a testimony to the fact that East and West combine cultural gracefully, or sometimes in an anarchic way, came together, and that is what we should search for."
It is in this atmosphere of recurrent inspiration that Pamuk composes his works where history, reality and a magic collective melancholy that he calls "huzun" (in Turkish) are the threads that come together in forming the literary fabric of his books. 
A sharp social commentator, he has found new ways in portraying the harsh dichotomies that condition the political and intellectual life of his country. He has explored with maturity and sensitivity the complex configuration of the ideological prisms in turkey, splitting his attention between secularism, religious extremism, military influence, leftist utopias, collective spirits and individual quests. Hence the fiber of his work wraps around many layers of the human consciousness: "Although the opportunities for happiness were limitless and hardly a day passed without my discovering a new pleasure, life was also full of sudden, unexpected fast-flaming disasters of every size and shade of importance. The randomness of these disasters reminded me of the radio maritime announcement, warning all shipping (and the rest of us too) about "free-floating mines" at the mouth of the Bosphorus and giving their precise location." (p.199) Borrowing his own words I would say that Pamuk through his work is "savoring the ordinary but still honoring the ideal."
Pamuk usually shrouds his impressive works under simple titles like The white castle, The black book, My name is Red, The new life. 
When the Swedish Academy declared that "The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2006 is awarded to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures",I jumped form joy. I could not wait to share my limited knowledge about the author ad his work with everyone around. I called this the typical joy of an addicted reader when she sees the books that influenced her mindset and opened her cultural and spiritual horizon to new, recognized at the universal level. It is with the same joy that I expect the Albanian translation of My name is Red, the book that first launched his name in the international arena, that will be realized soon by the Scanderbeg Books publishing house.
            [post_title] =>  Orhan Pamuk receives the Nobel Prize for Literature: the joys of an addicted reader 
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