MONEYVAL gives positive evaluation for Albania, but places it in “enhanced follow-up”

MONEYVAL gives positive evaluation for Albania, but places it in “enhanced follow-up”

TIRANA, Jan. 22 – MONEYVAL, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, published its follow-up report on Albania, stating that the country has made progress towards strengthening its framework to tackle

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New draft law proposed by gov’t stipulates abolition of pension tax for foreigners in Albania

New draft law proposed by gov’t stipulates abolition of pension tax for foreigners in Albania

TIRANA, Jan. 22 – The Ministry of Diaspora in Albania recently proposed a draft law on the abolition of pension income tax for different categories of foreign citizens living in Albania. The draft law suggests the abolition of the pension

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Number of Albanian asylum seekers in Greece remains high

Number of Albanian asylum seekers in Greece remains high

TIRANA, Jan. 22 – According to the Greek Asylum Service, 3053 Albanian nationals lodged asylum applications in 2019. Based on data provided by these authorities, Albanian citizens rank fifth in regard to the number of lodged applications in Greece after

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Officials clash over delay of Ionian highway project

Officials clash over delay of Ionian highway project

TIRANA, Jan. 21 – The Greek Ministry of Infrastructure’s revision of the Ionian highway project which extends to the Kakavia border checkpoint, has sparked heated debate in the northern Greek region of Ioannina, bordered by Albania. Municipalities in the northern

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MIE announces international auction for construction of photovoltaic power park

MIE announces international auction for construction of photovoltaic power park

TIRANA, Jan. 21 – On Monday, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy announced the opening of the international auction for the construction of a photovoltaic power park with a capacity of 140 megawatts in Albania. The park will be built

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Spanish-Albanian joint venture wins Gjirokastra Castle tender

Spanish-Albanian joint venture wins Gjirokastra Castle tender

TIRANA, Jan. 20 – The Albanian Development Fund recently announced the Spanish-Albanian joint venture “Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage” & “Cultural Heritage without Borders”  as the winner of the tender on the reconstruction of the Gjirokastra Castle, with a contract

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N. Macedonia received more IPA funds than Albania from 2014-2019, according to report

N. Macedonia received more IPA funds than Albania from 2014-2019, according to report

TIRANA, Jan. 20 – A recent Supreme State Audit (KLSH) audit report revealed that North Macedonia has received about 20 times the amount of indirect funds from the European Union’s Instrument for Proliferation (IPA) II program that Albania has. Most

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Croatia Airlines to begin flight operations between Zagreb and Tirana

Croatia Airlines to begin flight operations between Zagreb and Tirana

TIRANA, Jan. 18 – ‘Croatia Airlines’ aims to begin operating flights between Zagreb and Tirana in summer 2020, in line with its plans to start operations in Podgorica and Sofia. A few days ago, the Minister of Finance and Economy,

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TAP to begin offshore constructions in Southern Italy

TAP to begin offshore constructions in Southern Italy

TIRANA, Jan. 17 – The offshore construction of the submarine section of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Italy is set to begin soon, as the Castoro Sei, the Saipem ship that will lay the section, is on its way

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Albania lagging behind in implementation of legislation for renewable energy production

Albania lagging behind in implementation of legislation for renewable energy production

TIRANA, Jan. 17 – According to the Western Balkan Investment Fund’s recent ‘Investing in Clean Energy in the Western Balkans’ report, Albania lags behind in energy production and implementation of legislation on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 22 - MONEYVAL, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, published its follow-up report on Albania, stating that the country has made progress towards strengthening its framework to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing since its last report in July of 2018. The report re-rated the country from the previous “partially compliant” to “largely compliant”. 

Nonetheless, Albania was placed in an enhanced follow-up process and as such, the country will continue to report back to MONEYVAL on further progress to strengthen its implementation of the measures.

After the country reported back to MONEYVAL in 2019, the Committee re-rated Albania on Recommendations 6 (targeted financial sanctions related to terrorism and terrorist financing) and 19 (higher risk countries) as “compliant” and Recommendations 8 (non-profit organisations) and 35 (sanctions) as “largely compliant”. Moreover, the implementation of the new Financial Action Task Force requirements was also observed and the report found that some improvements were made on the part of the Albanian authorities.

“Recommendation 18 (internal controls and foreign branches and subsidiaries) was re-rated as “largely compliant” and Recommendation 21 (tipping-off and confidentiality) was re-rated as ''compliant”. Recommendation 2 (national cooperation and coordination, rated as “largely compliant”) remains unchanged,” MONEYVAL stated. 

In 2019 measures were taken to improve the legal framework by aligning it with the above-mentioned directives as well as by anticipating the risk of money laundering at all levels. In this context, changes were made in the Bank of Albania's regulatory framework, the Financial Supervisory Authority, the Money Laundering Prevention Directorate, specifically related to shareholders of companies in tax havens, non-profit organizations activities and reporting methodologies.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 22 - The Ministry of Diaspora in Albania recently proposed a draft law on the abolition of pension income tax for different categories of foreign citizens living in Albania. The draft law suggests the abolition of the pension income tax for pensioners of EU countries who are currently living in Albania, by obtaining a residence permit. On the other hand, retirees from other countries outside the EU benefit from the tax abolition only by obtaining Albanian citizenship.

Moreover, according to the draft law, Albanian nationals who receive a pension from a foreign country but currently reside in Albania, including immigrants, also benefit from the income tax exemption. 

The government’s initiative comes at a time when Albania is facing massive population immigration towards EU countries. Nevertheless, lately Albania has become an attractive place for retirees from several EU countries, especially Italy. Many Italian seniors who receive pensions from their home country come to live in Albania because of the low cost of living in the country.

In addition to the increasing number of Italian citizens, the Ministry of Finance reported that there has also been a lot of interest from the Nordic countries lately. Many seniors from these countries have started to buy properties on the Albanian coast due to the favorable climate and low living costs.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 22 - According to the Greek Asylum Service, 3053 Albanian nationals lodged asylum applications in 2019. Based on data provided by these authorities, Albanian citizens rank fifth in regard to the number of lodged applications in Greece after Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The number of Albanian asylum seekers in Greece remained high during 2019, but applications during this year will be rejected after Albania was included in the list of safe countries of origin by the Greek authorities. 

However, Albanians rank 12th in terms of asylum recognition rate, as only 0.2 percent of the total number of applications are accepted. Further data shows that Albanian citizens filed 2135 complaints in 2019 over rejections of their applications by Greek authorities, with some of the cases still pending.

Data published by the Greek Center for Asylum indicate that year after year the number of Albanian asylum seekers has increased in Greece. In 2013 there were only 419 asylum applications, while in 2018 that number increased significantly to 3319. Earlier this year, the Greek government included Albania on the list of 12 Safe Countries of Origin, on the basis of European Commission guidelines, along with countries such as Georgia, Ukraine, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and more.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-21 20:25:52
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 21 - The Greek Ministry of Infrastructure's revision of the Ionian highway project which extends to the Kakavia border checkpoint, has sparked heated debate in the northern Greek region of Ioannina, bordered by Albania. Municipalities in the northern Greek region, as well as business groups and tourist associations, are strongly opposed to plans by Prime Minister Mitsotakis' new government, which envisions changes in the project and budget cutoffs. 

The debate began after a session in the Greek Parliament where one of the Ioannina MPs demanded that the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure authorities explain the delay in launching the highway project which was announced in 2013. The ministry claimed that it was in the process of reviewing the project and cutting the budget, due to new plans to build a national road rather than a highway towards Kakavija. However, the mayor of Ioannina and the four municipalities bordering Albania, the Prefect of the region and several regional associations linked to tourism and business activities, urged the Greek government to begin the implementation of the highway project. “Changing the project which will connect the Ionian Road to Kakavija would affect the development of the region,” they said during an announcement.

The Ionian highway was cut off at the outskirts of Ioannina and the 90 kilometer section that should connect it with Kakavija on the Albanian border, makes it a part of the axis of the Western Balkans’ Ionian road. This road axis starts in Trieste, Italy, crosses through Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania and reaches the Kakavija bordering point with Greece.

Local leaders and business organizations in Gjirokastra joined the debate as well. Gjirokastra District Mayor, Lindita Rova, told the Voice of America during an interview that "they would share the  same volition with the Ioannina County to encourage the initiation of the highway project." Moreover, the Chairman of the Gjirokastra Chamber of Commerce, Maksi Hoxha, said that "road infrastructure is very important for the commerce between the two regions. We just signed an agreement with the Ioannina Chamber of Commerce on joint tourist packages and broad regional cooperation.”

 
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-21 19:29:27
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 21 - On Monday, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy announced the opening of the international auction for the construction of a photovoltaic power park with a capacity of 140 megawatts in Albania. The park will be built on a surface area of ​​198 hectares located on the border between Divjaka and Fier. Minister Belinda Balluku stated that it is expected tol be the largest park in the country which will generate solar energy. 

Out of the total produced energy, the winning company will be able to sell 70 megawatts on the market, while another 70 megawatts, which will be purchased by the Energy Distribution Operator during a 15- year period, will be valued at a fixed price.

The amount of foreseen investments is around 100 million euros. According to Balluku, "the procedure and the selected area enable an inflow of investments that are quickly returned to the investors, simultaneously guaranteeing the Albanian state a domestic product at a very low price for 70 megawatts." As regards to the area on which the park be built, the minister explained that it is a flat surface in addition to being one of the three areas with the highest sunlight intensity. 

The procedures on the other hand, will provide for the preliminary resolution of some issues. Part of the auction documentation is also the Environmental Permit, the Project Development Permit as well as the contract that will be signed with the OSSHE on the fixed price.

The auction will remain open for 54 days and will close on March 16th. The submitted documents by the bidding parties will then be evaluated during a 21-day period and the winner will be announced on April 6. 

In 2018, a similar auction was also initiated by the Albanian authorities for the construction of a photovoltaic park in Akroni, Vlora, with an installed generation capacity of 50 MW and an additional 50 MW (100 MW in total) to be traded in the energy market. On November 11, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy officially announced "the successful completion of the open bidding selection procedure. " 

Of the 6 companies that submitted their bids, only three were qualified. Based on the evaluation procedure, the bid with the highest value, due to “a combination of technical, financial, similar experience, price and additional installed capacity”, was that submitted by the joint venture between ‘India Power Corporation Ltd’ registered in India, ‘Mining Resources FZE’ registered in the United Arab Emirates and ‘Midami Limited’ registered in Hong Kong.

The winning joint venture surpassed international and renowned companies in the global energy market. The ministry explained at the time that “the leading company of the joint venture, India Power Corporation Ltd, is one of India's largest power companies, with 100 years of experience, with an installed capacity of 1500 MW, including thermal power generation capacity, wind and solar power and owned by the Kanoria Foundation Group, an Indian economic conglomerate with an asset portfolio worth 15 billion dollars, ensuring the credibility needed to fulfill this project. " 

However, from the moment the winner was announced, no further information has been disclosed on the process. While the ministry did sign a contract with the joint venture, more than a year later, the implementation of the project has yet to begin.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-20 19:23:08
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 20 - The Albanian Development Fund recently announced the Spanish-Albanian joint venture "Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage" & "Cultural Heritage without Borders"  as the winner of the tender on the reconstruction of the Gjirokastra Castle, with a contract value of around 257 thousand euros. The work of the joint venture will consist in the identification and development of primary measures to address urgent security concerns and prevention of the loss of heritage structures in the Gjirokastra Castle. However, the full duration of the development process has not been disclosed yet.

According to the ADF announcement, nine companies participated in the competition, of which three fulfilled the conditions of the bid; the Spanish- Albanian joint venture was able to win over the Italian-Albanian joint venture, ‘Mediterranea Engineering’ s.r.l. & ‘SAB’ s.r.l. & ‘Illyrian Consulting Engineers’ sh.p.k.  and the Italian-Bulgarian joint venture ‘Planarch’ & ‘Project Planning & Management’.

During the past few years, ‘CHwB Albania’ has expanded its work outside of Gjirokastra, with an emergency conservation intervention at the Church of St. Nicholas in Voskopoja in 2013 and the full restoration of the hamam in Kruja, finalized in 2015, and ongoing work with the former political prison and forced labor camp at Spaç. In June 2015, CHwB Albania was officially registered as an independent local NGO. On the other hand, ‘Proskene Conservation & Cultural Heritage’ has managed heritage conservation projects mainly in Spain so far, including monuments such as the  ‘Lope de Vega Theatre’, ‘San Andrés Church’, ‘Toledo Wall and many more.

Investment plans in the reconstruction of the Gjirokastra Castle are part of the ‘Integrated Urban and Tourism Development in Albania’ project funded by the World Bank Group. The project aims to play a key role in demonstrating the positive impact that the integrated approach has on regional development and the opportunities it creates for addressing a range of objectives that are part of the National Territorial Development Strategy. 

At a cost of 63.8 million euros, the project’s objectives include the increase in the value of tourist assets and the strengthening of institutional capacity to support the development of socio-economic aspects related to tourism which will be put into practice mainly for the cities of Berat, Gjirokastra, Përmet and Saranda, but will also include other distinguished tourist destinations in South Albania.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-20 18:00:07
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 20 - A recent Supreme State Audit (KLSH) audit report revealed that North Macedonia has received about 20 times the amount of indirect funds from the European Union's Instrument for Proliferation (IPA) II program that Albania has. Most of the IPA II assistance funds during the 2014-2018 period continued to be managed directly by the European Commission, despite plans to shift to a decentralized system after IPA I. On the other hand, although both countries are under similar conditions in efforts to become members of the European Union, the structures set up in North Macedonia managed the incoming funds in a decentralized manner during the period. 

In 2018 alone, North Macedonia received a total of 53.7 million euros in indirect IPA funds while Albania received only 3 million euros. The KLSH audit team conducted a similar report on Serbia, which showed that the country received 65.4 million euros which were managed by the relevant state structures instead of the European Commission.

Moreover, KLSH also identified issues of fund mismanagement as well as clashes between the Project Management Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the European Commission delegation in Albania which have led to the scrapping of several projects.This can be linked to the evident decline of entrusted indirect funds to the Albanian government during the 2016-2018 period; in 2014 the amount of indirect funds totaled 17.3 million euros but two years later the numbers fell to 1 million euros.

Indirect management of EU funds is essential for the candidate countries, as it encourages and accelerates the EU accession process. Successful decentralized management of funds makes way for the European Commission to believe that the relevant government institutions are capable of self-managing EU funds once Albania becomes a Member State. However, considering the government’s issues with centralized management from 2014 to 2019, there has been a lack of trust, reflected in the significant decline of  EU funds. Nevertheless, IPA II is yet to be finalized in 2020.

 
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-18 19:21:33
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 18 - ‘Croatia Airlines’ aims to begin operating flights between Zagreb and Tirana in summer 2020, in line with its plans to start operations in Podgorica and Sofia. A few days ago, the Minister of Finance and Economy, Anila Denaj, paid an official visit to Croatia, where she met the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Zdravko Marić, Minister of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts, Darko Horvat, and by the Minister of Tourism, Gari Cappelli, during which Horvat pledged the Croatian government's support for Albania's EU integration, the launch of procedures for a Zagreb-Tirana direct flight route, and actual cooperation in areas such as tourism, maritime trade and craftsmanship. This was followed by another meeting between the airline company’s General Manager, Jasmin Bajić, Director of its Commercial Division, Slaven Žabo and Albania's Ambassador to Croatia, Riza Poda, to discuss on the future of the airline services. "Both sides agreed that talks between Croatia Airlines and the relevant authorities in Albania should begin immediately so that this important project can be implemented as soon as possible," the Albanian Embassy in Zagreb said in an official statement. 

In 2016, ‘Croatia Airlines’ announced plans to establish a base in Tirana, along with several other cities in the region, but the strategy was never implemented. Additionally, in 2017, Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, announced that the country's newly established national airline, Air Albania, would begin operating flights to Croatia. However, three years later operating flights have not begun yet.

‘Croatia Airlines’ is seeking to establish a larger presence in the region following the bankruptcy of Adria Airways, which had a well-developed regional network, including direct flights from Tirana to Germany. Its bankruptcy has opened up opportunities in some of the markets where the Slovenian carrier previously conducted its activities. 

In May 2016, ‘Croatia Airlines’ introduced direct flights from Zagreb to Lisbon, Milan, Prague and St. Petersburg, with which it expanded its network of European destinations by four new destinations. While in September last year, Croatian Airlines said it would be "good to expand" after the Adria bankruptcy, but claimed that it was too early to take action at the time. 

 
                    [post_title] => Croatia Airlines to begin flight operations between Zagreb and Tirana
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-17 19:18:57
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 17 - The offshore construction of the submarine section of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Italy is set to begin soon, as the Castoro Sei, the Saipem ship that will lay the section, is on its way to the port of Brindisi. The procedure will begin within 10 days after completing the loading process of the sections of the pipeline on the Castoro Sei and once the work at the exit point of the microtunnel leading to the sea is completed. Before laying the pipeline, the safety measures for bio-constructions in the gas corridor will also be completed in accordance with the plan approved by the competent authorities.

The ship will carry out the construction of the pipeline, from the reception on board of the individual pipes and their automated welding, to its installation on the seabed. The Castoro Sei will continue the installation of the segment extending 105 kilometers towards Albania, where it is expected to arrive after about two months, reaching a maximum depth of 820 meters.

The first offshore section of the pipeline in Albania was successfully connected to the land segment in March 2019. According to statements previously given by the TAP Manager for Albania, Malfor Nuri, during the summer of 2019, works on the offshore section were discontinued to avoid disturbance of tourists during the peak season, but it was resumed in the fall.

TAP will cross northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in southern Italy to be connected to the Italian natural gas network. The project is currently in its construction phase, which began in 2016. As of November 2019, TAP reports that 90. 7 percent of the project has been completed. 

The road that passes through TAP could facilitate the gas supply of some Southeast European countries. TAP’s establishment in Italy offers numerous opportunities for further shipment of Caspian natural gas to some of the largest European markets.

 
                    [post_title] => TAP to begin offshore constructions in Southern Italy
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                    [post_date] => 2020-01-17 15:16:06
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 17 - According to the Western Balkan Investment Fund’s recent ‘Investing in Clean Energy in the Western Balkans’ report, Albania lags behind in energy production and implementation of legislation on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.  The report points out that Albania, a country dependant on hydroproduction, needs further progress in energy production compared to a majority of its neighbouring countries. Moreover, this dependency has led to serious consequences for the economy, as the country has been obliged to import energy due to the droughts of 2019.

“Albania has legislated the introduction of auctions for feed-in premiums for wind and solar but implementation is lagging behind,” the report states. The lack of implementation can also be observed in self-consumption energy legislation; Albania is the only country which has adopted rules on electricity self consumption but they have not been put into practice. 

As regards to energy production the WBIF stated that “similar to other transition economies, the Western Balkans emerged from the socialist era with low energy productivity. Significant but uneven progress was made over the past 10 years and the gap with transition economies among EU Member States is moderate. Albania has somewhat lagged behind.” Bosnia and Herzegovina did not show any improvements, unlike Montenegro and North Macedonia which showed the most improvement in the region, at twice the average EU speed.

Additionally, the report noted that the majority of student dormitories in Albania are in poor conditions, “due to lack of resources for maintenance”  and “provide substandard living conditions to students, which are not supporting academic excellence.” Moreover, there is a general lack of funds to improve heating systems due to their cost. As such, the German Government is in the process of providing energy efficient rehabilitation in the sector. 

The December 2018 student protests urged the government to improve the conditions of these dormitories, but as of today issues persist.

 
                    [post_title] =>  Albania lagging behind in implementation of legislation for renewable energy production
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            [post_date] => 2020-01-22 20:34:34
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Jan. 22 - MONEYVAL, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism, published its follow-up report on Albania, stating that the country has made progress towards strengthening its framework to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing since its last report in July of 2018. The report re-rated the country from the previous “partially compliant” to “largely compliant”. 

Nonetheless, Albania was placed in an enhanced follow-up process and as such, the country will continue to report back to MONEYVAL on further progress to strengthen its implementation of the measures.

After the country reported back to MONEYVAL in 2019, the Committee re-rated Albania on Recommendations 6 (targeted financial sanctions related to terrorism and terrorist financing) and 19 (higher risk countries) as “compliant” and Recommendations 8 (non-profit organisations) and 35 (sanctions) as “largely compliant”. Moreover, the implementation of the new Financial Action Task Force requirements was also observed and the report found that some improvements were made on the part of the Albanian authorities.

“Recommendation 18 (internal controls and foreign branches and subsidiaries) was re-rated as “largely compliant” and Recommendation 21 (tipping-off and confidentiality) was re-rated as ''compliant”. Recommendation 2 (national cooperation and coordination, rated as “largely compliant”) remains unchanged,” MONEYVAL stated. 

In 2019 measures were taken to improve the legal framework by aligning it with the above-mentioned directives as well as by anticipating the risk of money laundering at all levels. In this context, changes were made in the Bank of Albania's regulatory framework, the Financial Supervisory Authority, the Money Laundering Prevention Directorate, specifically related to shareholders of companies in tax havens, non-profit organizations activities and reporting methodologies.

 
            [post_title] => MONEYVAL gives positive evaluation for Albania, but places it in “enhanced follow-up”
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