Durres Port German concessionaire warned over ousting rival stevedoring companies

Durres Port German concessionaire warned over ousting rival stevedoring companies

TIRANA, Nov. 14 – Albania’s competition authority has warned it could fine a German concessionaire at Durres Port over ousting rival stevedoring companies since late 2015 when it became the sole provider of stevedoring services for out-of-gauge cargo at the

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Albania’s 2019 fiscal package only partly meets expectations for better business climate

Albania’s 2019 fiscal package only partly meets expectations for better business climate

TIRANA, Nov. 14 – Tax incentives offered by the government in the 2019 fiscal package only partly meet expectations by foreign and Albanian business representatives to improve the country’s business climate and make the Albanian economy more competitive compared to

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Swiss concessionaire fined €400,000 for abusing Albania monopoly position

Swiss concessionaire fined €400,000 for abusing Albania monopoly position

TIRANA, Nov. 13 – Albania’s competition watchdog has fined the country’s vehicle technical control concessionaire around €400,000 for abusing its monopoly position by causing delays and placing car owners at unfavorable position when undergoing compulsory annual and semi-annual inspections. The

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Local company gets ‘lucrative’ €50 mln PPP for Albanian Riviera access road

Local company gets ‘lucrative’ €50 mln PPP for Albanian Riviera access road

TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Another local Albanian company has been awarded what looks like a lucrative public private partnership project to upgrade and maintain road infrastructure following an unsolicited proposal claiming it a bonus and facing no competition at a

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Albania desperately need Scotland win to keep Nations League hopes alive

Albania desperately need Scotland win to keep Nations League hopes alive

TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Albania desperately need to win their final Nations League qualifier against Scotland in order to calm down the situation at the national side following a series of embarrassing losses that have placed Italian coach Christian Panucci

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Indian-led consortium to build first major solar plant in Albania

Indian-led consortium to build first major solar plant in Albania

By Ervin Lisaku TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Albania has selected an Asian consortium led by India Power Corporation Ltd to build the country’s first major solar power plant in a bid to diversify current wholly hydro-dependent domestic electricity generation that

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Poland 1918: Regaining lost statehood

Poland 1918: Regaining lost statehood

By Andrzej Chwalba Many states were born or reborn that created a new political architecture between the years 1918 and 1921 in Europe. Most of them defended and preserved in the following years the autonomy gained in the aforementioned period.

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Editorial: Zero sum games and a country left with no guardian of the Constitution

Editorial: Zero sum games and a country left with no guardian of the Constitution

TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL The saga of the appointment of a new Minister of Interior Affairs expanded in the last days and evolved into a showdown between the executive majority and the President who refused to issue a confirmation decree citing

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Only one out of five Albanian PhD holders willing to return home, study shows

Only one out of five Albanian PhD holders willing to return home, study shows

TIRANA, Nov. 8 – Only one out of five Albanian PhDs holders living and working abroad say they would be willing to return and contribute to the country’s development through know-how gained in top North American and European universities, according

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Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths

Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths

By Albert  Rakipi, PhD For more than a century – a period coinciding with the history of the modern Albanian state – Albanian-Greek relations have been dominated by two fundamental issues: the issue of territorial or border disagreements and the

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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 14 – Albania’s competition authority has warned it could fine a German concessionaire at Durres Port over ousting rival stevedoring companies since late 2015 when it became the sole provider of stevedoring services for out-of-gauge cargo at the port’s eastern terminal which it has been operating since July 2013 under a 35-year concession contract with the Albanian government.

The competition watchdog says EMS APO, a wholly owned subsidiary of Germany's EMS Shipping and Trader GmbH, could be abusing its dominant position by refusing access to the infrastructure it possesses at the port’s eastern terminal to three local Albanian companies that already had contracts with the state-run Durres Port Authority before the terminal switched to private management in mid-2013.

Two of the companies, including Albanian Stevedoring Company, where the German concessionaire was the owner of 49 percent stake for about six years until mid-2015, signed cooperation deals with the new concessionaire in late 2013 and early 2014. However, cooperation was suspended in November 2015 after EMS APO was licensed by Albanian authorities to also offer stevedoring services for out-of-gauge cargo such as scrap, coal, clinker, chrome and iron nickel.

The competition watchdog says the German concessionaire risks facing a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover, equal to about €460,000 considering the company's 2017 revenue, for what could be a severe violation of competition rules over discriminatory criteria placed on the companies it signed contracts with and not handling ships under the 'first come, first served principle.’

The competition watchdog also recommends that the infrastructure ministry should in the next three months consider measures that could make the eastern terminal available also for other licensed stevedoring operators.

Back in 2015, the German concessionaire warned of legal action following disputes with port authorities and rival companies over stevedoring services at the port’s eastern terminal, leading to the suspension of work over what it called “illegal occupation of the terminal and an orchestrated attempt to squeeze EMS APO out of business.”

Reacting to their claims, Durres port authorities said in 2015 that “EMS representatives should be aware that even in case they are licensed, they cannot create a monopoly in the stevedoring services because Durres Port is an open port and every customer can choose the stevedoring company on their own which is essential to keep this service competitive and avoid monopoly prices.”

The port’s eastern terminal is mainly used for import and export of bulk cargo such as chrome, clinker and coal, but also for any other kind of cargo like break bulk, general cargo and project cargo. It also handled steel pipes for the construction of the Albania section of the major Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe.

EMS APO had an annual turnover of around 580 million lek (€4.6 mln) and net profits of 55.5 million lek (€440,000) in 2017, according to financial reports submitted with Albania's National Business Center.

The container and ferry terminals at Durres Port are also handled by foreign companies under concession contracts while general cargo at the western terminal is handled by the Durres Port Authority , the state-run company that manages and supervises the country's largest port, also a hub to landlocked regional countries, mostly Kosovo and Macedonia.

The Durres Port handles about three quarters of maritime passengers and the overwhelming majority of about 90 percent of maritime transport in Albania. Offering regular ferry trips to the Italian ports of Bari, Ancona and Trieste, the Durres port is also the main handler of the country’s trade exchanges, about half of which are carried out with Italy, Albania’s main trading partner.

Albania has three other ports in Vlora, Saranda and Shengjin with the latter only involved in maritime transport.

The Durres Port has also become an attractive cruise ship tourism destination with thousands of tourists visiting the ancient city of Durres as part of their Mediterranean tours.

 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 14 - Tax incentives offered by the government in the 2019 fiscal package only partly meet expectations by foreign and Albanian business representatives to improve the country’s business climate and make the Albanian economy more competitive compared to regional competitors performing better on doing business.

While a perennial business community request to reduce the dividend tax in order to give a boost to diversification of investment has been taken into account, reducing the tax burden on high income earners has only been partly reflected on the 2019 fiscal package.

In its proposals for the 2019 fiscal package, the American Chamber of Commerce in Albania representing some of the key foreign and local investors in the country, says the government has to settle the issue of timely VAT refunds, offer a broader inclusion in the deductible expenses, extend the loss carryforward period, recognize non-collectable bad debt in financial reports even without a final court decision, lift the obligation to place a bank guarantee before initiating a customs appeal and establish an independent appeals unit for the customs sector.

The chamber also suggests that delays in VAT refunds can be settled by allowing the payment of other tax obligations such as tariffs, VAT or other national taxes paid at customs offices through tax credits.

While legal changes have made VAT refunds automatic within 30 days for businesses exporting more than 70 percent of their total sales value as of mid-2016 and within 60 days for all other taxpayers, timely VAT refunds remain a problem for the majority of businesses operating in the country, surveys have shown.

The AmCham says that it is necessary to re-categorize progressive taxation rates on salary income and raise the monthly income threshold on which high-rate personal income tax is applied “in order to establish a fair, non-discriminatory tax system that is based on contractual freedom and is easy to apply in practice.”

Albania currently applies progressive taxation of up to 23 percent on personal income for monthly wages of more than 130,000 lek (€1,017) under a system that excludes the first 30,000 lek (€225) from taxation and applies a 13 percent rate on income from 30,000 to 130,000 lek. Authorities say the current progressive taxation system has led to some high income earning professionals such as private hospital doctors and lawyers fictitiously switch to small businesses in order to avoid paying the 23 percent rate, but pledge to settle the phenomenon under new tougher legal changes fighting tax evasion.

Legal changes increasing the 13 percent taxation threshold to 150,000 lek (€1,188) starting next year are expected to ease the tax burden for some 15,400 employees in the country, but calculations show what high income earners benefit from the hike in the personal income threshold taxed by 13 percent is a mere 2,000 lek (€16) a month.

The AmCham also wants the loss carryforward period to be extended to five years, up from a current three years in order to make Albania more attractive to greenfield investment which in general takes investors three to five years of operations before starting to generate a profit.

"Albania’s loss carryforward provision does not serve the establishment of an attractive environment for greenfield investment. Regional countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey offer companies a minimum period of five years to make use of their tax losses,” says the AmCham in its latest magazine.

 

Tirana Chamber of Commerce proposals

In their proposals for the 2019 fiscal package, the Tirana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the largest Albanian-run business association, has also requested automatic VAT refunds after the expiry of the 30-day and 60-day deadlines, applying VAT for every businesses, but reclassifying small businesses to increase their annual turnover threshold to an annual 10 million lek (€80,000) and stripping them of VAT obligations.

The annual turnover threshold for a business to be included in the 20 percent VAT system was more than halved to 2 million lek (about €15,700) last April, triggering protests by some 10,000 business owners who warned of bankruptcy over a hike in tax burden and tougher competition from shopping chains and supermarkets already in the VAT chain as well as a decline in the purchasing power.

The Tirana Chamber of Commerce also proposed a three-tier progressive corporate income tax of 15 and 20 percent for corporates with annual profits $2 million to $4 million and a 30 percent rate for companies generating profits of more than $4 million which in Albania's economy are mainly the case of concessionaires holding exclusive rights and operating under monopoly conditions.

Albania currently applies a 15 percent corporate income tax, which business representatives describe as too high compared to regional countries applying flat tax regimes of around 10 percent on both personal and corporate income.

The Tirana Chamber of Commerce also proposed lower taxation for the construction industry where costs have significantly increased following an 8 percent infrastructure tax levied on the sale price and the developers’ obligation to donate 3 percent of their construction area to local government social housing units for apartment blocks with a total area of more than 2,000 m2.

The higher construction costs in the past couple of years have been reflected on a hike in prices, with apartment prices in Tirana ranging from €600/m2 in suburban areas to more than €1,000 in downtown areas, in prices considered too high for one of Europe’s lowest-income countries.

The Tirana Chamber also proposes levying a luxury tax on coastal homes worth more than €300,000, compared to the lower value-based property tax that Albania will apply starting next year at a fixed 0.05 percent rate on all homes and at 0.2 percent on business facilities.

 

2019 fiscal package 

The major change in the upcoming fiscal package includes a reduction in the dividend tax to 8 percent, down from a current 15 percent, a slight reduction in the tax burden for high income earners, some VAT reductions and exemptions as well as cuts in the plastic and glass packaging to reduce local production costs.

The year-end fiscal package follows a mid-2018 package when the ruling Socialist Party majority approved lower corporate income tax for mid-sized businesses and incentives on agribusinesses.

In addition to tax incentives, the ruling Socialists have unveiled a series of legal changes aimed at fighting tax evasion among high income earners, local businesses and transactions involving foreign-owned assets starting next January in a carrot and stick approach ahead of next year’s June 30 local elections.

Albania climbed only two steps to rank 63rd out of 190 global economies for the ease of doing business in the latest World Bank report, continuing to lag behind most of its regional competitors ranking in the top 50.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 13 – Albania’s competition watchdog has fined the country’s vehicle technical control concessionaire around €400,000 for abusing its monopoly position by causing delays and placing car owners at unfavorable position when undergoing compulsory annual and semi-annual inspections.

The Competition Authority says it has fined SGS Automotive Albania, a subsidiary of Switzerland-based multinational SGS, at 5.69 percent of its 2017 turnover, which according to financial reports submitted by the company with the National Business Center is equal to 51 billion lek (€408,000).

The fine comes only one year before the expiry of the concessionaire’s 10-year concession contract with the Albanian government as the sole provider of compulsory technical control services in the country.

Most vehicles in Albania have to pass compulsory technical control once a year but the service is compulsory every six months for special vehicles such as taxis and buses.

The competition authority, which monitored the concessionaire’s operations for one and a half years until December 31, 2017, says the Swiss unit has abused its monopoly position in Albania by failing to provide quality services that would avoid long lines of vehicles waiting to undergo inspection.

Inspectors say the concessionaire has not made use of its mobile technical control centers to ease the inspection process which in Albania peaks in December when some 60,000 vehicles, about 15 percent of the country’s total are tested.

"Although aware of the influx of vehicles that have to undergo compulsory technical control at certain periods of the year, SGG has never made available the mobile control centers to avoid long lines and offer satisfactory conditions for its customers," says the competition watchdog.

The Competition Authority says the concessionaire also places vehicle owners at unfavorable position by requiring them to sign a form under which the concessionaire claims no responsibility for any damage that the vehicle can incur during the inspection process, in behavior which state inspectors say constitutes abuse of the company’s dominant position.

With less than one year to go before the concessionaire's Albania's contract expires in September 2019, the competition watchdog recommends liberalizing the technical control service by also offering customers the car repair service as most EU countries do.

There has been no reaction by the Swiss concessionaire which has also recently extended online booking to avoid wait times for car owners. The watchdog’s decision can however be appealed with administrative courts, as most companies facing competition penalties do.

The Competition Authority has earlier noted court appeals against its decisions and their prolonged examination are considerably curbing its efforts and interventions to reestablish free and efficient market competition.

SGS which charges between 2,000 lek (€16) to 3,000 lek (€24) for initial tests and applies penalties for retesting, reported annual turnover of 898.5 million lek (€7.2 million) and net profits of around 161 million lek (€1.28 million) for 2017, in its best ever performance since launching operations in late 2009, according to Albania’s National Business Center.

Albania had some 535,570 vehicles in 2017, but only 421,570 underwent the compulsory technical control, according to the country’s Institute of Transportation.

The Balkan country has one of Europe’s highest death tolls from road accidents with an estimated 15 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants. About 2,000 road accidents took place last year, with a death toll of 222, the lowest level for the past six years when data is available.

Experts blame the high number of accidents on reckless driving, poor road infrastructure and lack of road signs.

 

Old vehicle import ban

The Albanian government has recently adopted a ban on imports of all vehicles older than 10 years and not meeting the Euro 5 emission standards that have been implemented in the EU since late 2009.

The decision set to become effective starting January 2019 is aimed at reducing pollution from car emissions, one of the main contributors to high levels of air pollution in the country with negative effects on both humans and the environment. The initiative also targets gradually making the country’s vehicle fleet younger, currently at 20 years old, twice higher compared to EU’s average car age.

Albania has been gradually applying EU norms on car emissions since late 2016 in a decision that has seen a high number of car owners install new catalytic converters to meet emission standards in order to pass their annual compulsory technical control tests.

Only 3.3 percent of vehicles circulating in the country, some 14,000, are estimated to meet Euro 5 and 6 emission standards applied in the EU since late 2009 and 2014 respectively, in a situation that significantly contributes to air pollution in the country.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Another local Albanian company has been awarded what looks like a lucrative public private partnership project to upgrade and maintain road infrastructure following an unsolicited proposal claiming it a bonus and facing no competition at a tender held last September.

Albanian-owned Gjikuria has been announced the winner of upgrading a 15-km road project linking the southern Albania town of Orikum and its yachts port to the Dukat village and the Llogara Pass along the Albanian Riviera in a project that authorities say increases road safety and serves tourism development in the southern Albanian region of Vlora, one of the country’s top destinations

The announcement is made by the transport ministry on this week’s bulleting of the public procurement agency.

The Gjikuria company, which had earlier been awarded a six percentage point bonus for its unsolicited proposal, bid to complete the project for €50.5 million, almost the same to authorities’ estimated value in the tender. Once contract negotiations conclude, the project is expected to be carried out under a 13-year PPP with the Albanian government in return for initial investment and maintenance at the company’s own funds. The company will start getting taxpayer support in annual instalments once it has carried out a quarter of construction works.

The winning company faced competition by a single operator which bid €63 million but which a public procurement transparency portal said was disqualified for also failing to submit a bid guarantee of about 2 percent of the project's value.

The Albanian government said it is undertaking the reconstruction due to the current 16 km road segment being in a degraded condition and causing traffic chaos in summer, the peak of Albania's tourist season.

Authorities say the new 14.7 km extended road will make access to the Ionian Riviera easier through a wider road allowing drivers to travel twice faster at an average of 60 to 100 km/h and give a boost to future development in the area.

The new wider road will yet be a two-lane road that leaves open a future solution of crossing the Llogara Pass either through a costly tunnel or through the existing winding and panoramic but narrow road.

A local business portal described the project's cost at €3.4 million per km, in costs that also include maintenance for 13 years, as too high for a two-lane road considering the country’s previous experience with similar roads and even highways at construction costs of about €1 million/km.

Last month, the government also selected Albanian-owned “A.N.K.” company to build an 18-km highway that improves access to the northern region of Lezha and neighboring Montenegro through a similar PPP. The Milot-Balldren project will be a €161.5 million investment on a 6-lane highway on a completely new track that also includes 9.5 km of secondary roads, new bridges on the Drin and Mat rivers and an 850 meter long tunnel. The winning concessionaire will get taxpayer support for construction and maintenance costs for the next 13 years.

The new road is part of several key road segments, including a highway linking Albania to Macedonia that are being built as part of a €1 billion PPP program under which concessionaires complete the projects using their own funds and financing and the government pays them back in annual instalments for investment and maintenance costs for up to 13 years.

Taxpayer support to some controversial public private partnerships is expected to increase by around 50 percent to €100 million for 2019 as the government starts paying on three news public private partnerships, taking PPP spending to 3 percent of the previous year’s fiscal revenue, compared to 5 percent threshold that the government has set.

International financial institutions have already warned that local PPPs, most of which given the okay following controversial unsolicited proposals and without thorough cost-benefit analysis, could pose a threat to the public debt reduction agenda because of the risk of creating new arrears which if included in the public debt stock could increase it by 7 percent of the GDP considering an ambitious €1 billion PPP program.

Interest by foreign companies to participate in the €1 billion PPP projects has been vague amid allegations of pre-determined winners in tenders where Albanian companies submitting unsolicited proposals have been advantaged through pre-tender bonuses.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have asked the Albanian government to give up the unsolicited proposal as a procedure that places bidders at unequal position and leads to controversial PPPs with no thorough cost-benefit analysis that could create new arrears undermining the public debt reduction agenda.

Albania’s public debt is already at around 70 percent of the GDP, a high level for the country’s stage of development that places at risk macro-economic stability and much-needed public investment due to high debt servicing costs. The authorities target is to bring public debt down to a more affordable 60 percent of the GDP by 2021.

 
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                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-12 14:50:45
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 12 – Albania desperately need to win their final Nations League qualifier against Scotland in order to calm down the situation at the national side following a series of embarrassing losses that have placed Italian coach Christian Panucci under fire ahead of the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.

The national side host Scotland on Saturday Nov. 17 in their final League C Group 1 qualifier for the inaugural Nations League, a UEFA tournament that largely replaces friendlies, but also plays a major part for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign by deciding the final four places via play-offs.

The final qualifier finds Albania rank bottom in their group with only three points from their first three games, level on points with Scotland who rank second on better goal difference but have a game in hand and will be heading for a double-header against Albania and Israel in the next few days.

Israel, who comfortably lead Group 1 with six points following two resurgent home victories against Scotland and Albania last October after losing their opening qualifier away to Albania earlier in September, travel to Scotland on Nov. 20 in a qualifier that will decide the winner of what could end up as a complicated group.

Albania need to win by at least three goals in their final home qualifier against Scotland on Nov. 17 and hope Scotland beat Israel in their final group encounter on Nov. 20 to possibly qualify through superior goal difference in case all three teams finish on six points in what is a little likely scenario.

However, coach Panucci says the national side will fight for victory against Scotland and hope Albania finish second and eventual group leaders Israel or Scotland directly qualify through the Euro 2020 group stage qualification campaign so that even if Albania fail to directly qualify for the upcoming European championship they could still stand a chance to continue fighting for a spot in their League C Nations League in 2020.

New rules by European football's governing body, UEFA, allow the top four-ranked League C teams that do not qualify for the Euro 2020 to enter play-offs in March 2020, with one finals place on offer.

Finland, Norway and Serbia currently lead the three remaining four-team groups in League C, one of the four leagues where European teams were drawn based on coefficient rankings after the group stages of the European qualifiers for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

In case of a miracle top group finish Albania would also have to beat the three other League C group leaders to secure a spot for Euro 2020 championship that will be held in 12 various venues across Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the tournament.

In case of finishing second and League C Group 1 leaders directly securing their European qualification from the group qualifiers, Albania will be given another chance to continue their qualification for a second ever appearance following their 2016 debut in France.

The Euro 2020 qualifying campaign is scheduled to begin in March 2019 after ten groups are drawn in December 2018.

Chances for Albania and other contenders to make it Euro 2020 in case of failing to qualify directly as the top two group stage teams in the qualification campaign, are only through the Nations League tournament as the third-placed team is no longer provided a play-off opportunity.

Chances increase as if a UEFA Nations League group winner has already qualified via the European Qualifiers, then their spot will go to the next best-ranked team in their league.

 

Scotland qualifier

Albania and Scotland will both be heading to the Nov. 17 qualifier at the northern Albanian “Loro Boriçi” stadium in the city of Shkodra with some key absences, but Albania desperately looking to avenge their 2-0 away defeat last September in a bid to keep alive their Euro 2020 qualification hopes through an extra option in case of failing to qualify directly.

While some key Albania players will be missing either due to injury or booking, several others have been shining with European clubs in the past month, including Rangers midfielder Eros Grezda who scored a double at the Scottish Premiership this week and last-minute called up playmaker Ergys Kaçe who scored from a spectacular long-range shot that earned his Panathinaikos a precious point at the Greek top league earlier this week.

"We need to win and score as many goals, something which we have been failing. We need to climb to six points and then watch the qualifiers' draw as a second spot could be much worthy if the teams ranking above us qualify through their groups," says Panucci.

The Italian coach blames the poor performance on the Nations League campaign on what he calls childish blunders by a 'deaf' team he says is not responding to his appeals and having to deal with key injuries such as striker Armando Sadiku and winger Odise Roshi, two key players in the national side’s Euro 2016 qualification campaign success.

"When we don't score everything gets more complicated for me, the football association and fans," says Panucci.

Napolli fullback Elseid Hysaj will also be missing for the Scotland qualifier due to yellow card suspension.

A former Italian international with not much coaching experience, Panucci has lost seven out of 12 games since taking over in mid-2017 with the humiliating losses even against opponents of a similar level and his comments about justifying the defeats as “Albania is neither Brazil nor France,” irritating fans. Some former Albanian internationals and coaches have also questioned his tactics and frequent experiments with new players. However, the 45-year-old Italian has the apparent support of the football association president Armand Duka who says the coach should be given more time to make the required changes and the Italian is likely to continue leading Albania in the Euro 2020 qualifiers despite the Nations League results.

Albania will also play a home friendly against Wales on Nov. 20 ahead of the next December’s group stage draw for the Euro 2020 qualifiers with hopes of repeating their the historic first ever European Championship qualification claimed in 2016 under former Italian coach Gianni De Biasi.

 

Group 1, League C                           Played                  Goal Difference               Points 

 

Israel                                                          3                                              2                                6

Scotland                                                   2                                              1                                 3

Albania                                                     3                                             -3                                3

 

 

Final Group 1 qualifiers

Albania - Scotland

Nov. 17; 20:45 at Loro Boriçi stadium, Shkoder

 

Scotland - Israel 

Nov. 20; 20:45 at Hampden Park, Glasgow

 
                    [post_title] => Albania desperately need Scotland win to keep Nations League hopes alive
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-12 11:37:03
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                    [post_content] => By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, Nov. 12 - Albania has selected an Asian consortium led by India Power Corporation Ltd to build the country's first major solar power plant in a bid to diversify current wholly hydro-dependent domestic electricity generation that often puts the country’s public finances in trouble in cases of prolonged droughts.

The country’s energy ministry says the 100 MW solar plant will be a private investment of €70 million in return for government commitment to buy electricity at a fixed price for a capacity of 50 MW for 15 years and allow investors to freely trade the remaining electricity in what would apparently pave the way for the Albanian energy market and the establishment of a long-awaited power exchange.

The winning consortium is led by India Power Corporation Ltd, one of the leading power generation and utility companies in India, which the Albanian government describes as guarantee for the project’s success. The project would also mark the first investment by India, Asia’s third largest economy at a time when Asian investment in the country has received a significant boost with China’s 2016 acquisition of two major assets such as Albania’s sole international airport and the country’s largest oil producer.

UAE-based Mining Resources FZE and Hong-Kong-based Midami Limited are also part of the winning consortium out of a mid-September tender when six bids were submitted, says the energy ministry.

Albanian authorities say the state-run distribution operator OSHEE will buy electricity at €59.9/MWh for 15 years for a capacity of 50MW and allow investors to freely trade production from the remaining 50MW capacity.

The energy ministry says the agreed €59.9/MWh fee for the next 15 years is one of the region's lowest for solar energy, “lower compared to Greece's €63/MWh and Turkey's €62/MWh and much lower compared to average fees for electricity imports,” in what authorities say “confirms confidence in the development of the Albanian electricity market.”

Once contract negotiations successfully conclude, the plant is expected to be built in 18 months at the Akerni salty lands of Vlora, some 130 km south of Tirana, where the Albanian government is also planning to build a new airport.

"The €70 million project will also create a lot of employment opportunities. This project will be an important step for the diversification of the electricity resources in Albania and pave the way for Albania turning into a solar energy hub in the region," says Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri in a statement.

The Albanian energy regulator, ERE, has set a €100/MWh price on the electricity produced by small solar energy plants of up to 2 MW and €76/MWh tariff on wind energy plants with a capacity of up to 3 MW for projects initiated in 2017 as part of efforts to diversify domestic electricity generation, currently wholly hydro-dependent, with two-thirds generated by state-run hydropower plants in the northern Albanian Drin Cascade, built under communism in the 1970s and 80s.

The solar power project comes as hydropower continues to dominate electricity investment in Albania with the Devoll Hydropower project, a €535 million investment with a capacity of 256MW by Norway's Statkraft as the most important electricity generation investment in the past three decades. The project is already in its final construction stage with a new larger power plant under way after having already made operational its first plant.

The Albanian government already offers support to more than a 100 small and medium-sized hydropower plants built under concession contracts, purchasing electricity at regulated prices based on the Hungarian Power Exchange average prices.

State-run power utility KESH says it is also planning to build the country’s first floating solar power plant on the northern Drin River cascade where it generates about two-thirds of the country’s domestic electricity from three hydropower plants built in the 1970s and 80s under communism.

KESH says the more efficient plant will be an 118,000m2 floating system with a capacity of 12.9 MWp that will be built on the Vau i Dejes reservoir where the country’s third largest hydropower plant is situated.

Because of the country’s favorable geographical position and Mediterranean climate with plenty of sunshine, Albania’s is advantaged in solar energy production, but has no major such plant yet. However, solar panels are being increasingly used by households and businesses to meet part of their own needs and cut huge electricity costs.

“Due to the very good solar resource and relatively satisfactory wind speeds (3.3-9.6 m/s), there is high, untapped potential for the deployment of solar PV (up to 1.9 GW) and wind (987-2 153 MW),” says UAE-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in a South East Europe report.

Much cheaper Caspian natural gas expected to flow by 2020 from the under construction Trans Adriatic Pipeline is another opportunity to diversify Albania’s domestic electricity generation and reactivate the Vlora thermal power plant, a costly World Bank-funded 2011 investment of $112 million that has been unavailable for use due to high costs of operating on fuel, problems in its cooling system and a legal dispute with an Italian company that built it.

A prolonged drought cost the Albanian government about €200 million in costly electricity imports in 2017 when Albania faced one of the worst droughts in decades, putting public finances at risk.

Access to electricity in the country has considerably improved in the past few years following nationwide campaigns to collect huge accumulated unpaid debts and cut off illegal connections, but losses in the distribution grid still remain high at about a quarter of electricity fed into grid and huge investment is needed to upgrade infrastructure often dating back to the 1960s and 1970s when the country was fully electrified.

Albania ranked 140th out of 190th countries in the latest World Bank Doing Business, worse than regional competitors, with poor reliability of supply and transparency of tariff index.

 
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                    [post_content] => By Andrzej Chwalba

Many states were born or reborn that created a new political architecture between the years 1918 and 1921 in Europe. Most of them defended and preserved in the following years the autonomy gained in the aforementioned period. Among them, some, as was Poland, returned to the state-building history interrupted in the late eighteenth century. While others, like Latvia or Estonia, Slovakia in the context Czechoslovakia or Slovenia within the Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian Federation appeared on the map for the first time. None of the new states was able to regain all the land it owned before the fall.

The re-born Republic of Poland at the end of October 1918 was aware of the inheritance and traditions of its predecessor: the Polish-Lithuanian Republic. It concerned a country that, among other things, had elaborated the idea of ​​the unions of sovereign states. Today's European Union refers to the Polish-Lithuanian union. Despite the differences in the interests of the political classes of both countries, the primary interest was always triumphant and the conviction that the union remained a beneficial bond for both sides. At the same time, civil liberties and joint parliamentary elections (Sejmi) were considered. The Polish parliament of the 21st century is aware of the inheritance of the period called Sejm. This tradition is also followed by the Lithuanians who call their parliament Sejmas, but also the Latvians – Saeima. Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, but also Ukrainians and Belarusians proudly proclaim the first constitution in Europe and the second in the world, adopted on May 3, 1791. The Polish political thinker, Hugo Kołłątaj, introduced in the constitution a provision on political responsibility of the executive power (government) and the the legislative power (parliament), whose members were elected by the people and made the parliament a representative of the people’s sovereignty. In the XIX-XX centuries, many countries of the world embraced Kołłątaj's principle. Nations and states that are inheritors of the Republic respect the beautiful tradition of political and religious tolerance. In 1573, the Polish political class adopted the provision on religious tolerance through the Confederation's act in the lands of the Republic, as this act became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its authors referred to Polish openness and tolerance. The community of Jewish faith, persecuted in Western Europe and driven from there, found its safe haven in the Republic. Thanks to the care of kings and Sejm, Jews gained rights and freedom comparable to those of the locals. They even had their own legislative body. The opening of the political class of the Republic to vulnerable groups led to the appearance of the expelled Mennonites from the Netherlands in the 16th century as well as the Scotsmen who were fleeing religious persecution. Among the refugees there were also Greeks, Italians, Armenians, Karen, Russians and German Protestants. These communities enriched the common culture of the Republic and conveyed their values ​​to the common treasury.

Despite the reform efforts undertaken at the end of the XVIII century, the Republic fell. In dealing with three powerful imperial states: Russia, Austria and Prussia, it had no great prospects for survival. Yet for the Poles, freedom and independence remained inseparable. This was evidenced by the national uprisings organized after the fall of the state by the freedom-loving illegal movements of the nineteenth century: the Carthaginian uprising of 1794, the November uprising of 1830-1831, the January uprising of 1863-1864. The Polish people have witnessed active participation in the European wars for the freedom of peoples and states and in the People’s Spring of Austria, Prussia, Hungary, France, West Germany, Italy, based on the Polish currency which was then embraced by others as well – "for our freedom and yours". During the November uprising of the Romantic Period, the Polish insurgent Sejmi recognized the song "Poland is not dead yet" as the national anthem and the white colors on red as national colors and symbols, still in effect today. The Poles were convinced that only their state guaranteed their spiritual and material development according to their expectations and traditions and progress in the field of education, science, technology and a dignified representation in European politics and culture. That is why even in the national pantheon there are those who, with their rifles and with their pens, have fought for the return of Poland to its former place in Europe, among the free peoples and as equal among the equal. The greatest of them, the Kościuszko and Poniatowski fighters, as well as the poets Mickievic and Sllovacki, deserved their resting place in Wawel, Krakow, in the royal necropolis. As equals to kings. Upon death, in 1935, the remains of Marshal of the Republic and the person who resurrected Poland in 1918 Józef Piłsudski, were brought to Wawel by Juzef Pillsudski.
Throughout the 19th century, with varying intensity, the Polish question remained vital, meaning the question of the Republic's return in any kind of territorial configuration. Thanks to the Napoleonic era within the French Europe, the Principality of Warsaw was created and after its collapse, until 1832, there was a liberal Polish Principality in the union embodied with the Romanov dynasty, and until 1846 the free independent city of Krakow was functioning. Though the national uprisings did not succeed, they still animated European history and gave weight to the Polish question. As long as the alliance of the three partiers – Prussia, Austria and Russia – existed, regaining independence was virtually impossible. At the end of the 19th century, however, two military blocks were formed: the central states and Ententa states. The first block involved Prussia and Austria-Hungary, and the second Russia. For the first time since more than 100 years, the ways of Poland's separators finally parted. This brought about the revival of Polish hopes. However, at the time of the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, none of the captive states wanted to address the Polish issue as an international matter. Also, France and Great Britain, in coalition with Russia, despite sympathy for Polish efforts, formally remained in agreement with Russia. In 1916, the political situation in Europe and the world was beginning to change in favor of Polish interests. First, Prussia and its ally widely occupied lands in the East at the expense of defeated Russia, which was populated by different nations. Berlin had decided to create a system of states formally independent and actually dependent on each other politically and economically, but also led by German monarchs. These states had to form the German Union in Europe. Berlin wanted at the same time to weaken Austria-Hungary, subdue war-occupied Romania, and create the Flemish country as western borders of the German Europe. In the idea of ​​creating the Polish state, the Germans were even more convinced by the Polish Legions, meaning the volunteering formations that fought alongside central states since the beginning of the war. The informal leader of these formations was Pillsudski. In 1916, the Germans and Austrians recognized the Polish Legions as the best military formations on the front of the east. The first document for the international rank marking the start of Poland's revival was the act of November 5, 1916, signed by two emperors: Vilhelmi II and Franc Juzefi I. The Act envisioned the creation of the Polish Kingdom with the capital Warsaw. In the coming months, besides the invasion, the Polish authorities, the government, the triad regimes were created. Immediately after the November 5th Act, the German general governor in the Polish kingdom called Polish volunteers under the flag of the Polish army under German command. The answer was too tepid.

The year 1917 brought excellent news that was in line with Polish hopes. Initially in Russia, the new government born after the Russian revolution predicted that Poland could be recreated, but that they would long to have this happening in a free alliance with new Russia, while in April, the United States entered the war on the allies' side. In a famous message addressed to the US Congress in January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson at point 13 warned the establishment of free access to sea (the Baltic Sea) as one of the goals of the war. The decisive influence on the content of point 13 was the Polish renown artist, pianist and composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who had friendship with the American president. In line with the Americans, European allies were also starting to come to terms with the Poles' right to create their own state. In France, an allied Polish army was created under the command of former Polish Legion General Józef Haller. This army was politically subordinated to the Polish National Committee (KNP), headquartered in Paris and headed by Roman Dmowski. The committee in question was accepted as Poland's official representative. It had the right to issue Polish passports and to take loans on behalf of Poland in its future account.

In 1918 the future of Poland was secured. The Renaissance was safe, as well as the defeat of the central states. The question of which Polish political camp would take over in reborn Poland remained, as well who of the leading politicians Pillsudski or Dmowski. The fall of Austro-Hungary and the defeat of Germany in the fall of 1918 allowed Polish conspirators to disarm the armies of both states. The disarmed forces were quietly returning to their homes. The rivalry of two leading politicians for power was won by Pillsudski, formerly known as the ally of the Austrians, and from July 1917 imprisoned by the Germans and held in the fortress of Magdeburg. He returned in Warsaw on November 10, 1918. They welcomed him as savior, as a god. He became the Provisional Head of State. Together with the government and the Poles, he founded the Republic of Poland - in the republic system, open, tolerant and democratic. Citizens were guaranteed a broad framework of civic freedoms, while women had equal political rights with men.

Meanwhile the problem of border determination remained open and at the same time difficult to solve, because the heirs of the Republic were Polish, Latvian, Belarusians, Ukrainians and all of them were creating their own national states, often in controversial territories. It happened that two or even three states claimed the possession of the same land. In diverse ethnic and religious lands, it was difficult to determine the right frontiers. In such circumstances the conflicts and wars among the heirs of the Republic for the biggest territories were inevitable. There was tension in the relations between the Christian population, among other things the Polish and Jewish population which were big in number, who hoped that the new state would guarantee them national-cultural autonomy. Post-war poverty, famine, devastation, epidemics-had their impact on inter-human and inter-ethnic relations.

The Polish frontiers were defined in 1918-1923, among others also thanks to the victorious war with the Bolshevik Russia in 1920. Reborn Poland could not be monolithic from the national point of view, just as its neighboring states, because the inhabitants who had populated for centuries the lands of the Republic near each other and who had used different languages belonged to different ethnic cultures. All the New European states consisted of different nationalities and beliefs. In Poland there was a big number of minorities, among them the largest Ukrainian and Jewish, at a time when more than 2 million Poles lived in neighboring countries.

The legacy of the Great War and the wars of 1918-1921 would influence the difficult relations of Poland with its neighbors as well as the mutual relations between the Poles and the national minorities. The difficult material conditions of millions of Polish people, as a result of previous wars and encroachments, certainly would not make coexistence easier for understanding.More than 100 years of Poles' attempts to restore the independent state ended in the tradition of American Hollywood films - with a happy ending. But the movie about Polish efforts was filmed in Central Europe. Among the directors and at the same time the midwives of the Polish independent statehood, we have so many popular and respected personalities in Poland and abroad: Tadeusz Kościuszko, cleric Józef Poniatowski, cleric Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, General Józef Bem, Romuald Traugutt, Józef Piłsudski, composers Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Without their wisdom and courage, without their vision, the dreams of the Poles to unite their country made up of lands of three partitions - would never have become a reality.
                    [post_title] => Poland 1918: Regaining lost statehood 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-09 10:46:17
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA TIMES EDITORIAL

The saga of the appointment of a new Minister of Interior Affairs expanded in the last days and evolved into a showdown between the executive majority and the President who refused to issue a confirmation decree citing reasons that could not be made fully public. The majority of the experts and commentators on Tirana cried constitutional foul. After all the mandate to compose the cabinet is in the hands of the Prime Minister and the role of the President is supposed to be ceremonial. However if the President of the Republic is not convinced by a proposal, there are serious motives to require transparency over these kind of political reasoning.

After meeting the President, PM Rama stood his ground and appointed former General Lleshi as deputy Minister of Interior Affairs with powers to actually run the Ministry. He gave President Meta some time to change his mind and confirm the appointment before he chooses to become, according to Rama ‘a self-made problem’ for the majority. Continuing the time honored tradition to never miss a chance to take a hit at the president, Rama went as far as to say that the reasons given were not sound and would make the president look ‘ridiculous’. Apparently to protect the public from this ridicule the lack of transparency goes on.

This latest development, which is likely to be just the most recent episode of personal and political infighting, reveals once again the open wound that is the lack of the Constitutional court in Albania. Cases are piling up. The deal with Greece will go nowhere without it. The case of the demolition the National Theater could not be examined by it. Now there is this instance of institutional clash over an appointment at Ministry level. The lack of an independent, juridical body that acts as the guardian of the elementary document of this state is a glaring deficiency that beckons swift action.

On the other side experts believe that the Court has a long way to go until functionality. The most optimistic estimates point at spring of 2019.  It is worth debating whether political action needs to be taken soon over this issue. After all the justifications that the justice reform has set up an intricate design of entities and checking mechanisms that would need to be complete before the new appointment of Constitutional Judges is just that, a justification. It is a surmountable obstacle.

However both political sides seem to be strangely comfortable with this situation. For one side it’s a permanent standing excuse and for the other one major hurdle out of their way to act as they wish. Publicly they lament the fact that the Constitutional Court is not there to expose how constitutionally wrong the other side is. However their behavior speaks in a different vernacular.

This lack of will to address the crisis at the heart of the institutional setup of the Albanian state is the best testimony of the sad cost of zero sum games, the favorite sport of Albanian politics. They always loved a game with no referee.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Zero sum games and a country left with no guardian of the Constitution 
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 8 - Only one out of five Albanian PhDs holders living and working abroad say they would be willing to return and contribute to the country's development through know-how gained in top North American and European universities, according to survey.

A recent UNDP-commissioned research study examining the brain drain situation in Albania, ranked among top countries for tertiary-educated emigrants globally, shows a grim situation about the prospects of the Albanian scientific diaspora returning home at a time when Albania continues losing qualified workers in an ongoing upward trend during the past quarter of a century of the country’s transition to democracy and a market economy.

“Our survey data show that 17.1 percent of Albanian PhDs ‘would like to return’ to Albania, 49.7 percent say they ‘have not decided yet,’ and 33.2 percent say they ‘will not return.’ A breakdown of answers from the group that would like to return shows that this desire is higher among PhD candidates (20%) than it is among those already with a PhD (15%),” says the UNDP study.

Yet, more than half of those who wished to return pushed back the return for at least five years, long enough to assess the development of the social and economic conditions at home and progress made in the research system.

Asked about the conditions that should be in place in order for them to return, the majority of PhD respondents looked for greater economic and political stability, reduced levels of corruption at home, higher job security and social security, better public order and infrastructure, a clean environment and a rich social and cultural life.

The study says that due to lack of socio-economic conditions and proper research infrastructure at home, for many of the Albanian PhDs living abroad the option of a sustainable return of representatives of the Albanian scientific diaspora would not be a realistic, durable and long-term policy but, rather, would lead to disappointment and their eventual re-emigration.

“I have returned twice to Albania, after completing my Master’s and my PhD, and on both occasions I was badly disappointed and felt impelled to return to the West,” a Luxembourg-based Albanian PhD is quoted as saying in the study.

Some 62 PhDs returned to Albania from 2006 to 2011 under a brain gain programme, but some of them have emigrated again.

Back in late 2016, a major summit on Albania’s large diaspora was held with much fanfare in Tirana, discussing a series of issues on the topic, including how to engage Albanian intellectuals abroad in the country’s economic development.

However, two years on, there have been sporadic cases of successful Albanians abroad returning home and what’s worse a rising number of Albanians, including professionals like doctors and nurses have been leaving the country in search of better alternatives such as Europe's leading economy, Germany, the destination of dozens of thousands of Albanians seeking ungrounded asylum in the past few years.

 

New brain drain wave

The UN study shows brain emigration in Albania has now picked up again, with certain groups of mostly younger-age professionals such as engineers, IT specialists, doctors and nurses, leaving the country and heading mainly to Germany.

The situation is especially concerning among Albania's poorly paid medical professionals, more than three quarters of whom said they were willing to leave the country if given the opportunity, according to a recent survey by a local Albanian NGO.

“Germany has relaxed the doctor-recognition procedures. They accept them from all Balkan countries, though they first have to work in a rural area and undergo training,” says Dorina, an Albanian PhD holder as quoted in the UNDP study.

“Almost 30 percent of students that completed studies in the same year as me have gone to Germany. Each year, around 180 doctors graduate [in Albania], and in the last 3–4 years around 30 percent have emigrated to Germany. This is, regrettably, a very high percentage, because there has been a six-year investment for these doctors,” she adds.

Albania has around 1.2 million migrants abroad, almost 40 percent of its 2.8 million resident population, making it one of the countries with the highest per capita migration around the world, with a series of social and economic consequences for the country's future prospects.

Experts says Albanians are mostly leaving the country because of economic reasons, looking to escape poverty in their homes, but also to integrate into leading European economies and take advantage of better education, health and social protection infrastructure for their families.

 

Way out

The UNDP study suggests the Albanian government needs to identify and locate Albanian academics and researchers in OECD countries and create a database that should contain the social and demographic data of the person, their degree, field of study, university of graduation and current job position.

“The return of part of the academic and research elite to Albania will be determined to a considerable extent by the economic and social development of the country and the sustainable progress of an efficacious national research system, so that the gap with industrialized countries in which this elite works grows smaller. Furthermore, the process of brain gain or competence gain is closely linked with the frequency and quality of exchanges taking place between the country of origin and the scientific diaspora,” says the study.

Experts say the Albanian government needs to offer incentives to attract highly qualified people to return to or visit the country by establishing quotas in the local public administration and universities through legal provisions and well-defined criteria.

“I could contribute to writing project proposals for EU funds. I am willing to sit together with Albanian colleagues and write project proposals, exchange experiences and discuss how to assist in obtaining funds from the EU for conducting research,” says Anila, an Albanian who earned her PhD in England and now lives and works in another EU country.

 

 

 
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                    [post_content] => rakipiBy Albert  Rakipi, PhD

For more than a century - a period coinciding with the history of the modern Albanian state - Albanian-Greek relations have been dominated by two fundamental issues: the issue of territorial or border disagreements and the issue of minorities; typical phenomena for two neighbouring nation-states.

Disagreements over territory, the border and minorities have been historically and remain the principal sources of tension in bilateral relations. They have fed a cyclical relationship of crises with frequent ebbs and flows, interspersed with periods of co-operation, which always revert to a state of tension without ever reaching all-out conflict in the classic meaning of the word.

At first glance, disagreements over territory and borders and minorities seem like a mundane history for two neighbours, states founded in the vacuum left by the contraction or collapse of an empire, as was the case with the shrinking of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.

This essay will analyse how and why historical disagreements over territory, borders and minority issues, which date back to the beginning of the twentieth century and about which – especially the border question – neither Albania nor Greece substantially disputes the status quo, have continued over the last twenty-five years to be the main sources of tension and cyclical crisis.

 

A brief excursion into history

Three historical periods have defined the nature and the problem of Albanian-Greek relations over the last hundred years.

Firstly, the period of national movements in the Balkans and the withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the nineteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth. These movements brought the founding of new states in the Balkans, whose territories and borders did not necessarily conform to ethnic boundaries. In a special way, the case of Albania was more significant, more critical. The creation of an Albanian state and her recognition by the European Powers saw the division of Albanian lands among her neighbours, including Greece. The Balkan political map was thereby completed, but the territories that according to this map would be recognized as states, and the borders between them, would be the principal sources of future conflicts and tensions. The two Balkan Wars and the First World War brought into dispute lands in the north of Albania and, thanks to Greek claims, the south; at their most extreme they called into question the very existence of the Albanian state.

Secondly, the Second World War, at the outbreak of which Greece and Albania in fact accidentally found themselves on different sides, because of the actions of third parties. Italy attacked Greece in October 1940, using Albanian territory which she had occupied since April 1939. At this time two of the most important elements of Albanian-Greek relations became linked, elements which are still on the table seventy years later and still linked to each other: the War Law, which paradoxically remains in force, and the issue of the Chams. By a royal decree of 10th November 1940, Albania was declared an enemy together with Italy. As strange as it may seem, this act remains in force even today. Likewise, although the trajectory of the Cham issue was initiated in 1913[2], with the end of the Balkan Wars and the placing of the Chams under the jurisdiction of the Greek state, it was the dramatic developments of the Second World War that made the Cham issue relevant even today, and one of the historical problems on the negotiating table. In this way, Albania’s involvement in the Greek Civil War, during and immediately after the Second World War, not only created a tension in bilateral relations but also jeopardized Albania’s territorial integrity and affected her relations for a prolonged period.

Third, the Cold War and the East-West division left these two ancient Balkan neighbours in opposing camps. Albanian-Greek relations in this extended phase were deeply affected by the Cold War climate and, at least until 1970, the unchanging reality between the two was a state of perpetual hostility.

Although Greece was one of the few western countries with which Albania’s communist regime managed to establish at least diplomatic relations, and to a very modest extent economic co-operation, the two would remain generally isolated from one another for decades more. Communication between the peoples, the oldest neighbours in the region, was interrupted immediately after the Second World War. Inter-state relations were particularly tense until the beginning of the seventies. Besides the ideological division affiliating the two with rival blocs, the enduring political tensions between the two countries were fuelled chiefly by a historical legacy of conflict and fundamental historical disagreements, which had bloomed during the founding and the independence of the two, and more especially with the creation of an independent Albanian state at the beginning of the twentieth century.

With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regime in Albania, another factor began and would continue to affect the nature of Albanian-Greek relations - Albanian emigrants, and the continued emigration of Albanians, to Greece.[3] The wholesale emigration of Albanians to Greece has served as a kind of living, intensive engagement between the two societies. This massive Albanian presence in Greece has revolutionized political, economic and social relations between the populations, previously long separated because of the Cold War and Albania’s extreme self-isolation under communism.

The emigration of more than a sixth of the Albanian population into Greece at once created other problems, related to the integration of these new arrivals, their economic and social status, and human rights.

The nature of the international system, and the nature of the regimes governing the two states throughout this hundred-year period, were both important factors which influenced the particular dynamics of Albanian-Greek relations, but in any case it was at no point possible for the two states to move decisively towards a final resolution of the points of dispute.

Lastly, but not the least important, the populist approaches adopted by the two administrations diminished the possibility of resolving the disagreements created principally during the first half of the twentieth century.

 

The grand paradox: two NATO members in a state of war

The paradoxes and myths of Albanian-Greek relations, as in the histories of other peoples, are bound up with war and more generally with the past; but in the case of Albania and Greece, the scale of the influence of the past is extraordinary. In 1996 Albania and Greece signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation, the fullest diplomatic instrument possible, the formalization of an atmosphere of peace and collaboration between the two. But in the most surprising way, there remains in force between them a ‘War Law’, approved in 1940 by the Greek parliament.

Since 2009 both Albania and Greece have belonged to NATO. But despite their common membership of an alliance whose member states have agreed to engage in joint defence in the case of attack by a third party,[4] Greece maintains the royal decree of 1940 by which Albania is an enemy for her.

Beyond this is the paradox of paradoxes: in 1949 Greece abrogated the equivalent law by which Italy was declared an enemy, but left in place that referring to Albania, thereby declaring Albania her enemy despite the fact that it was Italy who had attacked her, from Albanian territory itself occupied by the Italians.

After almost two centuries the narrative of Northern Epirus – which in geographic terms refers to fully half of modern Albania, has become a myth - like the Megali Idea itself. Meanwhile the Cham question, which 70 percent of Albanians perceive as the principal problem in relations between Albania and Greece[5], continues to nourish the narratives of parties, media, and certain other elements in Albania - without daring to unpack the myth itself and ‘look within’.

The paradoxes and myths are more than historical: Greece is Albania’s leading economic partner and, continuously ever since the collapse of communism more than 25 years ago, at least 700,000 Albanians have emigrated and now live and work in Greece. Meanwhile, the majority of those Albanians who believe that their country is endangered and that national security is at risk believe that the threat comes from Greece.[6]

Albania and Greece, though NATO members, also differ when it comes to certain foreign policy orientations and activities in the Balkans. Greece’s traditional alliances in the region have historically been regarded with suspicion by Albania. This was particularly so after the redrawing of the Balkan political map by the creation and recognition of a new state: Kosovo. Greece remains one of two Balkan states, and one of five EU members, that have not recognized Kosovo as an independent state. The question of how much Greece’s non-recognition of Kosovo has affected Albanian-Greek bilateral relations is arguable; but in the end it is a factor that, if it does not influence the practical sphere of relations, does undoubtedly influence the virtual sphere - which remains hostage to those paradoxes and myths.

 

Disagreements over territory and borders

When the student Eleftherios Venizelos gathered his friends around a large map and defined the borders of Greece, he aspired to half of present-day Albania and almost all of modern Turkey.[7] Albania at that time did not exist as an independent state. But only a few decades later, in 1919, the one-time brilliant law student Venizelos had been named Prime Minister of Greece, and in the name of the Greek delegation to the Peace Conference he set out the arguments as to why she should be given half of Albania - or ‘Northern Epirus’, as it pleased him to call it.[8]

Although the Paris Peace Conference had not accepted Greece’s pretensions to the so-called Northern Epirus, in 1946 the Foreign Ministers of four remaining great powers - the USA, the USSR, Great Britain and France recognized the Greek arguments and claims to southern Albania.

Throughout the Cold War these territorial claims were a factor of tension between the two countries, and an unspoken obstacle to the establishment of diplomatic relations for at least a few decades after the end of the Second World War. The reasons why the two states did not actually come to blows should be sought in the Cold War, in the rivalry of the great powers, as well as in Balkan rivalries of long historical standing as far as the recognition of an independent Albanian state and her territories was concerned.

The establishment of diplomatic relations, in 1971, marked a positive step towards the elimination of one of the sources of tension between the two countries - Greece’s territorial claims according to the Northern Epirus manifesto. From that time a gradual stepping back by Greece was perceptible, as well as an official effort in Tirana not to identify Greek national policy with the Northern Epirus thesis, still supported in reactionary circles in Greece, including also the Orthodox Church, which sought in chauvinist fashion to obstruct the rapprochement of Greece with Albania.[9]

It can with confidence be asserted that, with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist regime, the territorial claims of the Northern Epirus manifesto and ideology were finally consigned to the past. Further progress - the signing of the treaty of friendship between the two countries and Albania’s accession to NATO[10] - definitively terminated any territorial pretension created and sustained by history.

Despite this new reality, marginal elements within Greece and particularly in the Greek diaspora continue to nurture the still-born doctrine of  Northern Epirus, and to sustain a virtual arena of discourse fed by populists.

In parallel with territorial disagreements, questions of the definition of borders between the two states - international borders originally recognized by the Great Powers - have been a source of tension between the two.

In 2010 Albania’s Constitutional Court rejected an agreement on the continental shelf. After several years of negotiations and the acceptance of a deal on the maritime border - the only undefined boundary - by 2009 it had seemed that Albania and Greece were at last closing the chapter of disagreements over their borders. However, the Constitutional Court’s decision annulled the agreement, because it found ‘an abuse of constitutional principles and a lack of respect for the principles of international law on the definition of maritime borders’.[11]

The failure to approve an accord on the sea boundary, negotiations for which had begun immediately after the end of the Second World War, demonstrated another persistent characteristic of Albanian-Greek relations: border issues and disagreements remain a source of political tension, regardless of democratic change, membership of the Atlantic Alliance, and the support which Greece has given and continues to give for Albania’s accession to the EU. The question of delineating the border between Albania and Greece arose the moment that the European powers began to move towards recognition of the Albanian state. The disagreements pre-dated the birth and recognition of Albania. From the outset more than a matter of border definition between two states, the issue was bound up with territorial claims on southern Albania – termed Northern Epirus .

Although the conference of European Ambassadors in 1913 did not acknowledge Greek aspirations for the territory which would be included within the Albanian state, these aspirations were sustained into the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.[12] In 1921, the Conference of Ambassadors which had followed immediately on the Peace Conference recognized the borders of 1913. For several decades during the Cold War, the question of border definition was one of the obstacles to the establishment of diplomatic relations.[13] Even after the establishment of diplomatic ties, intermittent tensions arose in connection with the undefined borders and with Greek hesitancy to delineate the land boundary.

Similarly, issues related to the Greek minority in Albania have historically also been a source of tension. It is however important to stress that, more than the minority itself, the way that the two countries’ governments have adopted and behaved towards the Greek minority has been an aspect of tension. From the start, the presence of this community and disputes over its numbers served to feed territorial and subsequently border claims; but over time the policies pursued by Tirana and Athens towards the minority became almost independently a factor for tension. Throughout the Cold War, including the period when diplomatic relations had been established between the two states, questions about the Greek community in Albania were a persistent source of strain, even after the fall of the communist regime.

 

The Cham Question: a populist approach – “don’t open the box”

One of the most controversial elements of relations between Albania and Greece, bound up in fact with other historical disputes, is the Cham question. After the Balkan wars, the Cham population was placed under Greek jurisdiction; and by the Florence Protocol of 1913, lands to the north-west of Greece occupied by the Chams remained outside the borders of Albania. However, the issue became more significant in early 1923, when Greece and Turkey began negotiations for a population exchange. Greece declared that there was no intention to include the Cham population within the convention for a people swap with Turkey. However, although the exchange programme would incorporate the Muslim population of the region with the Chams as the only exception, at least 500,000 of them were included.[14] The Albanian did not perceive the non-inclusion of the Chams in the programme as a privilege.

In any case, the larger part of the Cham population remained outside the 1923 Greek-Turkish convention of Lausanne on population exchange, and were thus supposed to enjoy the same status as Greeks.

But regardless of official policy as declared by the Greek government, the Cham population between the wars did not enjoy equal rights as Greek citizens. The economic and social status that they had inherited from the Ottoman period began to be undermined by means of central and local policies pursued by the government, and in an ever more hostile political and social environment clashes broke out between the Cham and Greek communities. Conditions for the Cham population started to worsen with the installation of the Metaxas dictatorship in 1936. As well as extreme policies and the arbitrary use of force, the Metaxas government stopped the use of Albanian in the public and private spheres, and the publication of Albanian books and newspapers.

But developments during the Second World War would be decisive for the future of the Cham population. Italy, and after her capitulation Germany, declared the national union of Albanians, incorporating among others the Chams of Greece. The Chams seemed to be regaining their social and economic status, and indeed their future, through co-operation firstly with the Italians and subsequently with the Germans. During the fascist occupation the communities were caught up in a cycle of violence, which assumed greater proportions after Germany’s withdrawal from Greece in 1944. In particular, Greek resistance forces under General Zervas undertook bloody operations against the Cham population, killing many.[15]

Communal violence and massacres continued, with the mass deportation of the Cham population into Albania.[16] In 1940, some 25,000 Chams were concentrated in the Cham region and more particularly south of the Greek-Albanian border.[17] A decade later, in the Greek population registration of 1951, only 127 Albanian-speaking muslims were recorded in the whole country.[18]

The Cham question, about which the two states have differing interpretations, was their first clash and their first disagreement.

The most crucial question is how the historical trajectory of the Chams - which, in the words of Stathis N. Kalyvas ‘couldn’t be more emblematic of the dark continent - the European 20th century’ - has influenced and continues to influence relations between Albania and Greece.

The Cham issue was a source of tension between the two countries from immediately after the conclusion of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1926.

As well as in its direct official demarches to Athens, the Albanian government set out its disquiet concerning the community’s situation in the League of Nations. At the same time, Athens was observing the establishment of relations between Italy and Albania, among other things in the context of the Cham minority within its territory, worried that the Albanians might secure the support of a power such as Italy for their demands and potential actions on behalf of their brothers in Greece.[19]

In one way or another, Albania was engaged in the matter of the Cham population until the beginning of the Second World War. Developments during the war were dramatic for the Chams in Greece. First Italy and then Germany declared the establishment of a Greater Albania, incorporating as well as Albania with her 1913 borders other territories to the north, in Kosova, and in the south, including the Chameria region.

After the liberation of Albania and the establishment of the communist regime, Hoxha’s government initially proved attentive to the Cham problem. Hoxha raised the issue in the Conference of Peace in Paris in 1946. The communist government sought the repatriation of the Chams deported from Greece to Albania and the return of their assets.[20] It was another occasion when relations between the two states worsened because of official Greek demands for a territorial reconsideration of so-called Northern Epirus.[21] The atmosphere of the relationship between the two, meanwhile, was greatly influenced by their ideological alignment and the split between the great powers, the Soviet Union on one side and the USA and her allies, such as Great Britain, on the other. To a considerable degree, the clashes between the two superpowers at the global level had their impact on the contests within inter-state relations in the Balkans.

Thus the communist regime, though not in a direct and open fashion, supported the struggles of the Cham population settled in Albania to internationalize their issue. In 1945 and 1947 two Cham congresses were organized in Albania, and a series of attempts and interventions were made with the European powers and the United Nations. Sporadically, and more as a reaction against the territorial pretensions of Greece, the Cham question was raised in the UN General Assembly.

It arose again during the Greek Civil War: the Greek communists saw the Chams settled in Albania as a good means of reinforcing the Democratic Army. The communist leadership requested the help of Tirana - the Communist leadership of Albania - in recruiting Chams into their ranks.[22]

This was the last time that the Albanian government got involved in the Cham issue, and it was in a wholly ideological context: assisting the Greek communists in the civil war that had broken out.

It appears that the communist regime intended to close the Cham question at last in 1953, when in a special decree it accorded the Cham population Albanian citizenship. Throughout the Cold War, until the fall of the communist regime, the issue featured in not one single episode of the generally troubled and tense relationship. The argument that the Chams did not come to the government’s attention because of the Cold War and the division into two blocs is not sufficient. Irrespective of Albania’s isolation, the closure of the border with Greece, the absence of diplomatic relations for three decades and the two countries’ memberships of ideologically- and militarily-opposed camps, there was a tense relationship between Albania and Greece but in no case was the Cham question the source of tension. The Hoxha government abandoned the request laid out in the Peace Conference of 1946, and remained wholly silent on the issue until the end of the Cold War and the fall of the regime. Even when negotiations for the restoration of diplomatic relations began early in the nineteen-seventies, the Cham issue was not part of them.[23] This total silence about the Chams on the part of the communist regime for almost 50 years becomes even more incomprehensible if we compare its attitude towards the Greek minority in Albania. Significantly, the government worked to give the impression that this community, a people ‘wise, hard-working and patriotic’[24] ‘enjoy all the rights of any citizen of the republic’. The government ensured and made propaganda of the fact that the Greek minority had their own newspaper, an energetic combative platform for the working members of the community. The Constitution of the People’s Republic secured for them all the rights enjoyed by its other citizens.[25]

The only comparison drawn between the Cham question and the Greek minority in Albania was that of 1945, when Enver Hoxha himself tried to emphasize the great difference between the reactionary, chauvinist Greeks and his own regime: ‘We do not treat minorities’, he wrote, ‘as do the bands of Zervas and Plastiras with the Cham population, whom they have massacred and slaughtered in the most brutal manner. Our attitude towards minorities is the attitude of a more advanced people. The Greek minority enjoys full rights, it has its schools, its teachers, its press, its people in power and in the army.’[26]

The end of the Cold War and the fall of communism in Albania marked the re-emergence of the Cham question. As early as 1991, the Cham community created its own political organization and subsequently a political party, which managed to secure representation in parliament. Initially the organization made public its objectives, which in fact were not so different from those directed to the UN, foreign missions in Albania and the Greek government half a century earlier. Much the same as the memorandum from after the Second World War, the organization sought the return of lands and assets, compensation of income and respect for basic human rights. The Chameria organization - the second political group founded in 1991, after Albania’s first opposition party - likewise expressed the hope that they would have the support of the post-communist government for the resolution of their issues, and declared that the Cham issue should be put on the agenda of Albanian-Greek relations. The Cham population in Albania and their political organization invested a great deal of hope in the Democratic Party and the first non-communist government in Albania. Under the communist regime, the Cham population were regarded with mistrust, and were not permitted any form of organization, and there was a widespread idea that the communists had betrayed the Cham issue. This explains not only the great hopes of the Chams after the fall of communism, but also a kind of mistrust of the Socialist Party (and of its allied parties), which for at least the first decade was seen as the inheritor of the Party of Labour, responsible for the prolonged silence regarding the Cham question. From 1991 and continuously the question would be a persistent element of Albanian-Greek relations. From 1992 the demands from the Albanian side had to do with financial compensation for confiscated property and the return of the scattered Chams to their lands. It seems that the Greek government accepted the return of the issue to the agenda of bilateral relations between the two states.[27] Despite this, the subsequent attitude of Greek governments varied from total refusal to acknowledge the existence of the Cham problem to refusal to discuss even the request for compensation for confiscated property - with the justification of collaboration with the occupier or being declared a war criminal by judicial verdict[28] - a request they had accepted in principle in 1992. At the same time, the attitude of Albanian governments following the revival of the Cham question in 1991 was marked by ebbs and flows. The 1994-4 crisis in Albanian-Greek relations radicalized the position of the Albanian government towards the issue. But during the crisis of 1997, when the country fell into anarchy, the issue was left more or less unmentioned in bilateral exchanges. The explanation for this dramatic change has to do with the weak condition and near collapse of the state because of the crisis, but also with the fact that the Socialists came to power, and there remained a perception that they ‘supported the Albanian national question little or not at all’, and especially in their relations with Greece reflected a weak policy and demonstrated a kind of dependence on Athens.[29] Meanwhile, within Albania the ‘Cham issue’ started to become more and more part of the domestic political battle between the parties.[30] The slide towards a totalitarian narrative became apparent at the end of the nineties, and a kind of myth about the Cham issue started to emerge. There was no more talk of concrete demands, including the Cham issue, of the kind that had been clearly articulated after the end of the Second World War and after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism. The Cham question was discussed more and more, but not its constituent elements and how they might be resolved; instead, in the narrative of the parties and other political and non-political groups, it was spoken of general terms, as if it were a myth. The narrative of the ‘Cham issue’, at least from the 1997 crisis onwards, resembles the narratives of myths. No small part in the narrative of the issue and the development of its myth was played by the initial establishment of the Party for Justice and Unity (PDU) and, after its dissolution, the establishment of the Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU) - which marked, in fact, another kind of privatization, not only of the Cham issue but of its myth.

The PDIU declares itself ‘The Party of national causes, of the Cham question, of the inclusion of patriotism in the direction of the country’[31] claiming exclusivity in the national issue. The Cham issue ‘is simply one part of the unresolved national issue’.[32]

 

Liberating oneself from paradoxes and myths

Albanian-Greek relations after the end of the Cold War, the fall of communism and the opening of Albania to the West developed in two different spheres: one is the sphere of peace, within which practical relations have been established in the sectors of economy, trade and investment, together with exchanges at the societal level, communication between the two societies in the fields of culture and art; the other is the sphere of conflict, which is in fact virtual, involving political discourse, the elites of politics and the media and other groupings. Within this turbulent sphere, the narrative is almost totalitarian and it chiefly exploits issues of dispute springing from history, such as the Chams, and the so-called Northern Epirus  and alike.

While these two spheres appear to evolve and function in parallel at the same time, they have a measure of inter-dependence and mutual influence. The more or less cyclical crises in Albanian-Greek relations following the end of the Cold War have been marked by the inter-relationship of the spheres. The first is a real world, which has to do with economic interests, communication, and the collaboration of the societies; the second is built and thrives on paradoxes and myths, establishing indeed its own paradox, a great one, which in the best case maintains the status quo in relations, without allowing their development or reinforcement, and in the worst case produces cyclical crises which damage, or have the potential to damage, the future of the relationship.

The understanding, the explanation, of Albanian-Greek relations in the post-Cold War environment is not possible without an understanding and an explanation of the paradoxes and myths created by history. Undoubtedly, the future of these relations is not possible without escaping the paradoxes and myths.

[1] This paper is part of the study “Understanding Albanian Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths”

[2] For a detailed understanding of the Cham issue, see Eleftheria K.Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[3] Only since 1991, several hundred thousand Albanians have emigrated to and settled in Greece. The great wave of emigration immediately following the opening of borders was to Greece. Though exact data are wanting, comparable to the case of Italy were 540,000 Albanian emigrants were registered, it is reckoned that at least 700,000 Albanias have settled in Greece in the last 25 years.

[4] Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

[5] See Albania and Greece, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana, 2013.

[6] See European perspective for Albania, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana, 2016. See also Twenty Years After: People on State and Democracy, Albanian Institute for International Studies, Tirana 2014.

[7] Margaret Macmillan, Paris 1919 - six months that changed the world, Random House, p 348.

[8] Ibid. p. 351.

[9] Enver Hoxha, Dy Popuj Miq, 8 Nёntori, Publishing House ,Tirana 1985, p. 415.

[10] Albania secured her invitation to join NATO at the Bucharest Summit in 2008, and became a member of the Alliance with full rights in 2009.

[11] See the decision of the Constitutional Court of 15th April 2010.

[12] See The Albanian Problem in the Paris Peace Conference, AIIS Tirana 2018.

[13] See Enver Hoxha, Dy popuj miq.

[14] The League of Nations Committee, struggling to define the origins of the Muslims of Chameria, decided to apply a compromise and take into account the wishes of Cham Muslims about whether or not to go to Turkey. According to the Greek government, of 10,000 who expressed the desire to emigrate only 5,000 were accepted by Turkey. See Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, the Chams of Epirus (1923-2000), Institute of Balkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[15] The most brutal massacre of Albanian muslims was carried out by Greek soldiers no longer part of military formations, on June 27th 1944 in Paramithi, when troops of the Greek Republican League (EDES) of General Zerva entered the town and killed some 600 men, women and children - many of them raped and tortured before death. According to eye-witnesses, the next day another EDES battalion entered Parga and killed 52 more Albanians. On September 23rd 1944 the town of Spatar was pillaged and 157 people killed. Young women and girls were raped, and those men who survived were rounded up and deported to the Aegean Islands.

[16] For a balanced description of the Cham question, see Miranda Vickers & James Pettifer, The Cham issue - the next stage, Naimi publishing house, 2014.

[17] Within the Cham issue, which is always controversial for the two countries, the question of numbers is likewise debatable.

[18] Stathis N.Kalyvas and Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Ballkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008.

[19] Miranda Vickers.

[20] See Beqir Meta, Greek Albanian Tension, 1939-1949, The Cham Tragedy, Academy of Science of Albania, Tirana 2006, pp 111-167. See also Miranda Vickers.

[21] Ibid. Meta.

[22] Of 2,000 communist Chams settled in Greece whom the Greek leadership expected recruit, only 150 were won over.

[23] One more plausible explanation is the fact that the Cold War and East-West ideological rivalry served among things as a kind of cage keeping national issues and nationalist ideals around the world locked up and frozen, including in the Balkans.

[24] See Enver Hoxha, Dy popuj miq.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] During a visit to Albania in 1991, Foreign Minister Karolos Papulias said that requests for the return of Cham property and financial compensation ‘should be resolved by means of a bilateral commission’. See Miranda Vickers. Likewise, in the first meeting of the two Prime Ministers, Simitis and Berisha, in 1992, of the two requests presented by the Albanian side regarding the Cham issue - financial compensation for confiscated property and the return of the Chams to their lands - the Greeks expressed themselves inclined towards a kind of willingness regarding financial compensation ‘for property confiscated in cases of those Chams who in the end were not convicted as collaborators of the Axis occupation forces but who had out of fear moved away from their property at that time’. See Eleftheria K. Manta, Muslim Albanians in Greece, The Cham Epirus (1923- 2000), Institute for Ballkan Studies, Thessaloniki 2008; Toena (Tirana) 2015, p. 236.

[28] Ibid. p. 232.

[29] In October 1997 Prime Minister Fatos Nano met Milošević in Crete, offering to play the role of intermediary with Prishtina in the resolution of the Kosova problem, whereas the Cham issue had vanished, no longer part of the bilateral agenda under Socialist administration.

[30] The usual exchanges when an Albanian minister visits Greece or a Greek Minister visits Albania conclude with the question ‘Was the Cham issue mentioned in the discussions?’ And, by extension, ‘Why was Cham issue left out of the discussions? Who is betraying the Chams and why?’

[31] See: PDIU, ‘Misioni Yne’, at PDIU.al.

[32] See the speech by Idrizi on the 27th anniversary of the founding of the Chameria society, in January 2018.
                    [post_title] => Understanding Albanian-Greek relations: Deconstructing paradoxes and myths
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            [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 14 – Albania’s competition authority has warned it could fine a German concessionaire at Durres Port over ousting rival stevedoring companies since late 2015 when it became the sole provider of stevedoring services for out-of-gauge cargo at the port’s eastern terminal which it has been operating since July 2013 under a 35-year concession contract with the Albanian government.

The competition watchdog says EMS APO, a wholly owned subsidiary of Germany's EMS Shipping and Trader GmbH, could be abusing its dominant position by refusing access to the infrastructure it possesses at the port’s eastern terminal to three local Albanian companies that already had contracts with the state-run Durres Port Authority before the terminal switched to private management in mid-2013.

Two of the companies, including Albanian Stevedoring Company, where the German concessionaire was the owner of 49 percent stake for about six years until mid-2015, signed cooperation deals with the new concessionaire in late 2013 and early 2014. However, cooperation was suspended in November 2015 after EMS APO was licensed by Albanian authorities to also offer stevedoring services for out-of-gauge cargo such as scrap, coal, clinker, chrome and iron nickel.

The competition watchdog says the German concessionaire risks facing a fine of up to 10 percent of its annual turnover, equal to about €460,000 considering the company's 2017 revenue, for what could be a severe violation of competition rules over discriminatory criteria placed on the companies it signed contracts with and not handling ships under the 'first come, first served principle.’

The competition watchdog also recommends that the infrastructure ministry should in the next three months consider measures that could make the eastern terminal available also for other licensed stevedoring operators.

Back in 2015, the German concessionaire warned of legal action following disputes with port authorities and rival companies over stevedoring services at the port’s eastern terminal, leading to the suspension of work over what it called “illegal occupation of the terminal and an orchestrated attempt to squeeze EMS APO out of business.”

Reacting to their claims, Durres port authorities said in 2015 that “EMS representatives should be aware that even in case they are licensed, they cannot create a monopoly in the stevedoring services because Durres Port is an open port and every customer can choose the stevedoring company on their own which is essential to keep this service competitive and avoid monopoly prices.”

The port’s eastern terminal is mainly used for import and export of bulk cargo such as chrome, clinker and coal, but also for any other kind of cargo like break bulk, general cargo and project cargo. It also handled steel pipes for the construction of the Albania section of the major Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe.

EMS APO had an annual turnover of around 580 million lek (€4.6 mln) and net profits of 55.5 million lek (€440,000) in 2017, according to financial reports submitted with Albania's National Business Center.

The container and ferry terminals at Durres Port are also handled by foreign companies under concession contracts while general cargo at the western terminal is handled by the Durres Port Authority , the state-run company that manages and supervises the country's largest port, also a hub to landlocked regional countries, mostly Kosovo and Macedonia.

The Durres Port handles about three quarters of maritime passengers and the overwhelming majority of about 90 percent of maritime transport in Albania. Offering regular ferry trips to the Italian ports of Bari, Ancona and Trieste, the Durres port is also the main handler of the country’s trade exchanges, about half of which are carried out with Italy, Albania’s main trading partner.

Albania has three other ports in Vlora, Saranda and Shengjin with the latter only involved in maritime transport.

The Durres Port has also become an attractive cruise ship tourism destination with thousands of tourists visiting the ancient city of Durres as part of their Mediterranean tours.

 
            [post_title] => Durres Port German concessionaire warned over ousting rival stevedoring companies 
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