Albania events to follow

Albania events to follow

Tirana Liberation Day is on Nov. 17. In this day the Tirana Municipality organizes some festive activities, but the most traditional one, is that moment when veterans gathers at ‘Unknown Soldier’ monument, putting there flowers and remembering this historical day.

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Drowning the future in PPPs and swift-walking into the crisis of tomorrow

Drowning the future in PPPs and swift-walking into the crisis of tomorrow

By Alba Çela From the pulpit of the Assembly this week, Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj called the public private partnership contracts, the infamous PPPs, the ultimate good option for the citizens: a way to deliver swiftly public services that cannot

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Editorial: Albania and Greece:  where do we go from here

Editorial: Albania and Greece: where do we go from here

It is almost a modern cliché nowadays that one should never waste a crisis or that a crisis is in fact an opportunity in disguise. There is some truth to these sayings because grave situations can bring out important truths

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Court verdict on notorious gang hailed as victory for Albania’s rule of law

Court verdict on notorious gang hailed as victory for Albania’s rule of law

TIRANA, Nov. 13- The sentencing of a notorious gang for extortion and running an organized crime ring in Albania has been hailed as success for Albania’s justice system, whose reformation and solid track record is one of the key requirement

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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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                    [post_content] => Tirana Liberation Day is on Nov. 17. In this day the Tirana Municipality organizes some festive activities, but the most traditional one, is that moment when veterans gathers at 'Unknown Soldier' monument, putting there flowers and remembering this historical day. 

A talk with artist Hiwa K- Harabel Contemporary Art Platform has the pleasure to invite the public in an open Talk with Iraqi artist Hiwa K which will take place in hall Black Box (University of Arts.) on 16th of November 2018. Hiwa K will bring in Tirana pieces of his successful screenings that permeate through a connective inception; the experience of obligated escape from homeland. Included in his life experience are causes of migration, difficulties of endurance at every turn, by any means, and above all, prevails the longing for living and survival, regardless of obstacles.

Travel to Discover Tirana will be organizing a day tour to Pellumbas cave and Erzen river canions for the hiking lovers on Nov. 18. The traveling starts at 9 a.m. from the Palace of Congresses to a destination not far from Tirana, for a picnic, nature hiking and music. 

International Tirana Trade Fair launched its 25th edition at the Palace of Congresses from Nov. 21-24. This is the largest fair in Albania, taking place since 1994 and organized by Klik- Expo Group Albania. The most notable companies in Albania and from the world in various sectors, such as heavy industry, textile, garment and footwear, communication services, will have a chance to promote their brands and products at this fair in a national and international audience. 

The fair will also be organizing a talk by Paul Hodgkins on the theme of ‘’The power of project leadership.’’ He will talk on how to go beyond the barrier of just project manager and become a leader. The objective is to demonstrate that it is vital, if project managers are to ensure sustainable and positive project outcomes for their team, their sponsors, their stakeholders, their customers, for society and their country; that they must adapt from being a ‘project manager’ to be able to become a ‘project leader’.

 

Cinema

Bohemian Rhapsody- Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.

Operation: Overlord- On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines to penetrate the walls of a fortified church and destroy a radio transmitter. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realize that there's more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web- Fired from the National Security Agency, Frans Balder recruits hacker Lisbeth Salander to steal FireWall, a computer program that can access codes for nuclear weapons worldwide. The download soon draws attention from an NSA agent who traces the activity to Stockholm. Further problems arise when Russian thugs take Lisbeth's laptop and kidnap a math whiz who can make FireWall work. Now, Lisbeth and an unlikely ally must race against time to save the boy and recover the codes to avert disaster. A film based on the fourth novel of Millenium Series started by Stieg Larsson. 

First Man- Director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost—on Armstrong and on the nation—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Burn the Stage- The first film by BTS showing their BTS Wings Tour behind the scenes. The full history of the K-Pop band will unfold, along with their rise to fame. This film brings a more intimate look at how this band broke barriers and conquered the music scene.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald- J.K. Rawling brings the sequel of beloved Fantastic Beasts. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald's plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms- In an effort to thwart Grindelwald's plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.

Cold November- In the beginning of the '90s, Yugoslavian Government cancelled the autonomy of Kosovo, dissolved its Parliament and closed down the National Television. Whole institutional life was reorganized by new authorities, while the majority of citizens responded with peaceful demonstrations. During this evil time, Fadili who is working as an archivist has to choose between two options, being aware that both of them are wrong. In this way, he involuntarily and unwillingly, 'swallows' the shame, endures the pressure coming from all sides and deals with the bad reputation for just one reason: to provide welfare for his family.

Night School- Teddy Walker is a successful salesman whose life takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally blows up his place of employment. Forced to attend night school to get his GED, Teddy soon finds himself dealing with a group of misfit students, his former high school nemesis and a feisty teacher who doesn't think he's too bright.

Cats and Peachtopia- A cat named Blanket has long been living in a high-rise apartment in the city with his son, Cloak. One day, curious about the outside world, Cloak decides to leave home and embarks on an adventure to find the legendary cat's paradise. To find his son, Blanket must overcome his fear and reconcile with his past, with the help of a female Macaw.

 

Theatre

trav 2La Traviata- Giuseppe Verdi’s renowned opera in three acts returns at the Albanian stage in a selected cast for bringing viewers the thrills of this masterpiece. The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet will stage this beloved piece, the most well-played operistic work internationally, at the Palace of Congresses. 

The Diary of Anne Frank- Metropol Theatre will be staging The Diary of Anne Frank until Dec. 2018. The theatre has chosen the adapted part from Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, directed by Amela Demaj with a selected cast from the open auditions the theatre policies. Known for its smaller stage, this theatre focuses on integrated scenery and viewer-actor engagement.

Just Like You- Professor Lee Shackleford’s puppet-play for young children Just Like You, is still being staged at the Metropol Theatre. This puppet show seeks to teach kids about children with special abilities and disabilities, how their lives are, and context and information regarding these abilities they hold. Prior to the show, the actors underwent a five-month course to learn sign language, so they can relate more with the public. 

Father Sergius- The National Theatre will be introducing to the public Leo Tolstoy’s Father Sergius directed by Fatos Berisha, staged at ArTurbina from Nov. 15-18. The play follows the story of military man Stefan Kazatski, who retreats to the life of a monk after he faces the betrayal of his wife and best friend. The tormenting fight of a man against the freedom of life with its beauties, temptations and lusts, and the seclusion due to a promise made to God. 

Hypocrites or the English Patient- A play by Jeton Neziraj with a direction by Agon Myftari and Blerta Neziraj, a courtesy of the National Theatre brought at the stage of ArTurbina. This comedy follows six characters who tell of the ‘’happy end’’ in message centers, the illegal kidney transplants and heart stents operations that happen meanwhile the Balkan Highway of Peace is being built. A comic, pornographic portrayal of a healthcare trapped in the greedy mouth of capitalism. 

Masked- The University of Arts will stage a play from Israeli writer Ilan Hatsor, directed by Milto Kutali, and with a cast of renowned actors Alfred Trebicka, Arben Derhemi, Ismail Shtino. The play seeks to show that when violence asks, loss responds. The play will come at the scene of the National Experimental Theatre from Nov. 15-18.

The Man Outside- A dramatic play by Wolfgang Borchert brought by the National Experimental Theatre, which follows the story of post-war soldier Beckmann, who returns home from Russia and finds his wife with another man, and therefore losing him home, his beliefs, illusions. An exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered from most veterans who return home, to an alienated man who seeks suicide. Due to its sensitive topic, Borchert himself put an undertitle to this play, calling it ‘’A play that no theatre wants to perform and no audience wants to see.’’

The Enchanted Library- A children’s theatre play adapted by Marsel Greva and Kleard Germenji, directed by Greva, and brought to the audience at the stage of the National Experimental Theatre. It follows the story of 10-year-old Daisy who assumes the clerk position at her grandfather’s bookstore, after he falls ill in his bed. Daisy loves books, and she is astonished to find that the fantasy worlds of the books at the store come to life. Soon, she finds herself obtained in adventure with her favorite characters to find a priceless necklace.

Brother and Sister- The children’s play adapted and directed by Xhuliano Brisku si still being staged at the National Experimental Theatre. Witch Morgana abducts two little kids, John and Joanna who are brother and sister, so she can become queen of Nolan. When the two kids manage to escape the evil witch, she poisons the water and fruits of the woods, so the kids can turn to animal and be killed by the hunters. John turns to a roe, and prince Noah captures Morgana. But how will John return to a kid again?

 

 

Exhibitions

flakaHere- or Rather There, is Over There- The ongoing art installation by Kosovo artist Flaka Haliti will be exhibited at the National Arts Gallery until early 2019. The installation suggests a general skepticism toward unambiguous definitions of space. The destabilization of territorial ascriptions, especially dichotomies between East and West, is characteristic of the artist's work. 

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt: Collages and Editions- An ongoing exhibition at the National Arts Gallery of the German artist Wolf-Rehfeldt until early 2019. The artist is associated with visual poetry and mail art. A collection of her typewritten arts is currently being exhibited, along with a recent short mediated interview with the artist who tells of her life, fascinated to find that there is still interest in her work. Working primarily for a post world war 2 Germany, she stopped when the Berlin wall was torn down.

Marc Chagall: Magical Gravity- An ongoing exhibition of renowned French-Russian artist Marc Chagall at the Center for Openness and Dialogue inside the Prime Ministry building. The exhibition consists of 180 engravings made by the artist where he let his imagination run wild in depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Gogol’s Dead Souls, and La Fontaine’s Fables. 

Manastir Congress: The Path to a National Union- The National History Museum in Tirana will be hosting an exhibition about the Manastir Congress from Nov. 14-22 in the framework of its 110th anniversary. The exhibition will present the path to the composition of the Albanian alphabet during the 19th century. Pictures of the members of the congress accompanied with their biographies will be displayed, as well as books written by them. 

Flowers to Alysse- Kalo Gallery will be displaying a personal exhibition by Leon Cika, a contemporary artist who works with painting and photography. This personal exhibition is a set of paintings dedicated to his granddaughter Alysse, by whom he was inspired to produce the work. The main theme of the work is centered around flowers, their depiction in various, strong colors, and love.

Appearances- Zeta Gallery introduces a solo show by Idlir Koka. The paintings brushed in an expressionist style filled with art history references, deal with aspects of entertainment and show consumption while putting in the spotlight the spectator who fills the auditorium. Koka aims to decipher the nature of the spectacle and its hegemony over the culture of our day, through images. All his works of the latest series describe the details of human activities within the theatrical scenery and stalls.

Tirana- Venice- New York- The National History Museum is exhibiting a set of 50 paintings by artist Gjergj Meta. The paintings in a contemporary expressionist style focus on scenery and depict the reflections of the artist from the three respective cities that he has visited, worked and exhibited on.

Moti i Madh- A collaborative exhibition from the Museum of Kosovo and the National History Museum in Tirana. This exhibition contains statues, replicas, engravings of various authors and portraits, through which visitors are acquainted with moments of life and battles of the Albanian National Hero, Gjergj Kastrioti-Skënderbeu, who was the most consistent and most prominent representative of the leading Albanian elite, who steadily led the front of the Albanian war against the Ottoman Empire.

Taso- A personal exhibition by renowned artist Gazmend Leka at the FAB gallery, which opens on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., until Nov. 29. 

 

Music, Dance and Nightlife

 

Teelco- Progressive techno musician Teelco, will be organizing a couple of music events in Tirana for two consecutive events, on Nov. 16 at the Piu 39 Food & Club Tirana, and then on Nov. 17 at Pepper Pizza Tirana. On Nov. 16, Pepper Pizza Tirana will also be hosting a music night from Antoin.

Dabo- Destil Hostel in Tirana will be hosting a music night on Nov. 16 by Dabo starting at 9 p.m.. The musical alter-ego of artist Donald Braho, Dabo is known for his hypnotic sounds mainly within the genre of electronic music, -techno, electro, breaks,- mixed with beats of funk, pop, and jazz. Adding vocals, his sets are discerned among the audience, in an appraisal to his added scenic performance along with the musical combinations. 

Ledri Vula- Nightclub Folie Terrace will host a party on Nov. 16 starting at 11 p.m., under the music of Kosovo rapper Ledri Vula, a favorite among the Albanian audience.

Tiri & Band- Garage Tirana is hosting a live music event Friday, Nov. 16 starting at 10 p.m., where musicians Tiri Gjoci followed by Sokol Turdiu will be playing live for the audiences. 

Butrint Imeri- Nightclub Cinco Cavalli in Tirana will be hosting a party on Nov. 16 starting at 11:30 p.m., under the music of artis Butrint Imeri. Imeri is an R&B and soul singer, newly emerging at the Albanian scene.

Sabri Fejzullahu- Night club Magic 4 at Italia boulevard will be hosting a musical event on Nov. 16, with musician Sabri Fejzullahu, starting at 11 p.m..

Lollipop- Nightclub Lollipop will be hosting a party on Nov. 16 starting at 11:30 p.m., on the theme of Unizkm’s Selfie Party. The music is brought by celebrated Albanian musician, Dj Sardi. 

Irkenc Hyka- Nightclub Folie Terrace will be hosting another party on Nov. 17 starting at 11 p.m., under the music of renowned musician Irkenc Hyka, an Albanian R&B soul singer, favorite among youth.

West Side Family & Buta- Nightclub L’arena Premium Club on Elbasan St. will be hosting a party on Nov. 17, starting at 11 p.m.. Invited will be beloved hip-hop and rap music group West Side Family, in a collaboration with rapper Buta.

Gerta Mahmutaj & Band- Bla Bla Public Bar in Tirana hosts a musical night with R&B soul singer Gerta Mahmutaj on Nov. 22, starting at 9 p.m.. Gerta is a newly emerging musician in the Albanian music scene.
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                    [post_content] => By Alba Çela

From the pulpit of the Assembly this week, Economy Minister Arben Ahmetaj called the public private partnership contracts, the infamous PPPs, the ultimate good option for the citizens: a way to deliver swiftly public services that cannot be covered by the budget alone. Indeed this government has already acquired the dangerous PPP addiction and spends a lot of time and effort dressing the PR around it. In the next 10-15 years the state budget will have to deal with a cost of around 2 billion euros due to its engagement with PPP contracts about classic public services such as infrastructure, education and healthcare.

This figure alone is an indicator of swift walking into a next financial rut rather than swift deliverance of public goods. There is no good way that the Albanian government can afford this price: it will either cut substantially from its public investment planned for the next years which hurt the citizens or tax them directly. The Albanian economy experts predict that it is more likely it will chose the second way, by increasing taxes to Albanian households by no less than 200 euro per year. It might not look much, however this is a medium size pension for an Albanian elderly and it is half of the average wage for a lower middle class household member.

This heavy reliance on the future, robbing the citizens in advance, has proven to be very deficient in other countries and very problematic in the existing contracts in Albania such as dialysis and checkup services. Therefore it is not clear why the government keeps defending it other than for dark corruption related reasons. The average cost of securing a service through PPP rather than usual other procedures (tenders, state owned companies, etc.), is about double. This is due to several factors related to capital costs (companies get loans by banks at commercial rates rather than favorable rates which are offered to governments), construction fees and the ultimate profit motive. There are additional hidden costs related to the lack of competition involved in this process.

Another aspect is related to the supposed government principles of a left majority in power. Indeed with such a rightist approach to governing most Albanian voters have forgotten that this is the Socialist Party who is in charge. All these concessions are burdening simple consumers with fees and tolls that weigh heavily on their modest pockets. Let’s take the example of the newly proposed fee for the Durres-Tirana highway. This is the heart of the country’s infrastructure. The secondary roads connecting the two largest cities of the country are not fully accessible. Once again just like in the example of the Nation’s highway, citizens are presented with no choice.

The PPPs are working only for the few people benefiting from them. They are enriching the already rich and large business entities that are doing minimum investment and are not really accountable to anyone.  Companies face no costs or any other type of negative consequences when the promised services don’t happen in a timely or effective manner. It is again the state who takes this burden if at all.

Ultimately these contracts have high risks for the public finances once the state budget starts to hand out the payments foreseen in the agreements. For a government that takes pride in lowering the public debt and in fiscal discipline this is at least ironic. These contracts are a pure form of increasing public debt in a masked way just to avoid incorporating it in the calculation of the debt to GDP ratio. However just because they are good at hiding it, the debt won’t go away. This is tomorrow’s crisis in the making.

 
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                    [post_content] => It is almost a modern cliché nowadays that one should never waste a crisis or that a crisis is in fact an opportunity in disguise. There is some truth to these sayings because grave situations can bring out important truths and reveal a lot about decision makers by analyzing their reactions. Starting from this background, the official reactions of the Albanian and Greek governments to the follow up of the Bularat incident, when an armed man lost his life after attacking the state police and the Special Forces, can be seen as institutional and well-constrained. The Albanian government did not lose its temper to the many extremists who joined the funeral of the troubled young man. It arrested only those who took specific criminal action such as blocking the streets and calling for occupation. It did weather a lot of reactions from citizens who were rightfully offended by people chanting against Albanian identity, territory and people. The tolerance with which Albanian authorities met the funeral dynamics and the cool headed approach following them is in fact the best testimony of the lengths that this state goes to avoid any form of social conflict based on ethnicity.

After the tensions of the day dissipated, the government took the necessary reaction measures, declaring 53 foreign citizens non grata including the Cypriot Member of the European Parliament, Eleni Theocharous, who had issued some aggressive declarations against Albania.

The Greek government urged its citizen to show maturity. Greek politicians went on public media to denounce the actions of the victim. Of course there were exceptions. Most notably the Greek Parliament kept a minute of silence for a man who attacked the police. A few Albanian politicians boasted and gloated online that Greeks will think twice before stepping into Albania again.  However the restraint prevailed and that is a positive sign.

It is also laudable that the European Parliament did not accept the request of some Greek MPs to make this an issue and by dedicating a hearing. In fact the Parliament has been often forced by similar request to discuss Greek minority issues for Albania when in fact all international reports have testified over and over again that Albania goes beyond the necessary to guarantee implementation of rights and protection from discrimination. Time has come for minorities not to be instrumentalized in hampering the European integration process when there are indeed no substantial issues.

It is important that both sides don’t lose the opportunity element in these unfortunate events and think hard on the questions where do the relations go from here. The formal negotiations might have stopped due to Albania’s justice reform complexities that have rendered the Constitutional Court dysfunctional. However the process of dialogue needs to continue now more than ever.

The moderate voices that protect the relation between our two countries need to be empowered and multiplied beyond the political realm. Collaboration between social segments such as youth, civil society and media is crucial. We know that the relation suffers from pending bilateral issues that are often skilfully and quickly manipulated by nationalist platforms and actors. It is time to invest strongly in the counter platforms that highlight our common future.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Albania and Greece:  where do we go from here
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-15 14:33:11
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-15 13:33:11
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Nov. 13- The sentencing of a notorious gang for extortion and running an organized crime ring in Albania has been hailed as success for Albania’s justice system, whose reformation and solid track record is one of the key requirement to strengthen rule at home and pave the way for next year’s decision on the opening of EU accession negotiations. 

International representatives in Brussels and Tirana welcomed this week’s sentencing of a criminal gang led by high-profile Albanian gangster Emilijano Shullazi who was sentenced to 14 years in prison after being found guilty for leading a criminal organisation and appropriating the properties of two citizens through threats. His four co-defendants received jail sentences ranging from 9-12 years.

Shullazi was acquitted on numerous other charges, including arson attacks and the bombing of the premises of those who refused to pay. 

The case had become politically sensitive in Albania due to the the opposition repeatedly accusing the ruling Socialists of collaborating with criminals such as Shullazi in alleged drug trafficking and vote buying, in claims that the ruling majority has dismissed. 

The main opposition Democratic Party said the Shullazi gang, alleged to have been involved in more serious crimes including killings and drug trafficking, should have received a harsher sentence. The main opposition Democrats say Shullazi was brought to justice only after repeated warnings by its MPs and the US embassy in Tirana.

One of the most notorious criminals in Albania, Shullazi’s case stirred the Serious Crimes Prosecutors Office last September after Ened Nakuci, the prosecutor in charge of the Shullazi case, resigned due to health reasons. Ten other prosecutors refused to participate in the draw that would decide on Nakuci’s replacement, leading to the initiation of a disciplinary proceedings against them, and three prosecutors being transferred outside Tirana.

International representatives in Albania described the gang’s sentencing as victory for the Albanian justice, perceived as highly corrupt but which is undergoing long-awaited reform that is vetting judges and prosecutors over their wealth and professionalism. 

Eight judges and prosecutors out of the first sixteen to undergo vetting through a final say have so far failed to pass the vetting process over failing to justify their wealth in a process that began in early 2018 but is slowly progressing and could take years considering more than 750 judges and prosecutors in the country.

The US embassy in Tirana, whose former Ambassador Donald Lu had publicly called for Shullazi’s arrest and described him as a big fish, hailed the sentence as a “significant step forward for the Albanian people, who demand and deserve true justice from their judicial system.”

"We were encouraged by the work of Albanian prosecutors, who, based on evidence, convinced the Serious Crime judges that a crime boss and other criminals belong in jail. We applaud the careful review of this case. The ruling is a victory for the rule of law in Albania. The Albanian people are now asking, 'Who’s next?'" the US embassy said in a statement.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also hailed the sentence as a vital sign of determination to ensure a solid track record on organised crime

"We have also seen some good and very concrete results. For instance, the substantial prison sentences for the members of an important criminal organisation by the Serious Crimes Court are a vital sign of determination to ensure a solid track record on organised crime," Mogherini said this week at an EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Council meeting in Brussels. 

The OSCE Presence in Albania also welcomed Albania’s court verdict on the Shullazi case. 

"We are also encouraged by the operations against organized crime carried out over the last months, and together with the law-abiding citizens of Albania, we are looking to more arrests and convictions of dangerous criminals. We support Albania’s government determination to escalate the fight against organized crime and corruption. Criminals belong in jail!," the OSCE said. 
                    [post_title] => Court verdict on notorious gang hailed as victory for Albania’s rule of law 
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                    [post_date] => 2018-11-14 16:49:52
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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_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_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] => Tirana Liberation Day is on Nov. 17. In this day the Tirana Municipality organizes some festive activities, but the most traditional one, is that moment when veterans gathers at 'Unknown Soldier' monument, putting there flowers and remembering this historical day. 

A talk with artist Hiwa K- Harabel Contemporary Art Platform has the pleasure to invite the public in an open Talk with Iraqi artist Hiwa K which will take place in hall Black Box (University of Arts.) on 16th of November 2018. Hiwa K will bring in Tirana pieces of his successful screenings that permeate through a connective inception; the experience of obligated escape from homeland. Included in his life experience are causes of migration, difficulties of endurance at every turn, by any means, and above all, prevails the longing for living and survival, regardless of obstacles.

Travel to Discover Tirana will be organizing a day tour to Pellumbas cave and Erzen river canions for the hiking lovers on Nov. 18. The traveling starts at 9 a.m. from the Palace of Congresses to a destination not far from Tirana, for a picnic, nature hiking and music. 

International Tirana Trade Fair launched its 25th edition at the Palace of Congresses from Nov. 21-24. This is the largest fair in Albania, taking place since 1994 and organized by Klik- Expo Group Albania. The most notable companies in Albania and from the world in various sectors, such as heavy industry, textile, garment and footwear, communication services, will have a chance to promote their brands and products at this fair in a national and international audience. 

The fair will also be organizing a talk by Paul Hodgkins on the theme of ‘’The power of project leadership.’’ He will talk on how to go beyond the barrier of just project manager and become a leader. The objective is to demonstrate that it is vital, if project managers are to ensure sustainable and positive project outcomes for their team, their sponsors, their stakeholders, their customers, for society and their country; that they must adapt from being a ‘project manager’ to be able to become a ‘project leader’.

 

Cinema

Bohemian Rhapsody- Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.

Operation: Overlord- On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers drop behind enemy lines to penetrate the walls of a fortified church and destroy a radio transmitter. As the soldiers approach their target, they soon begin to realize that there's more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Making their way to an underground lab, the outnumbered men stumble upon a sinister experiment that forces them into a vicious battle against an army of the undead.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web- Fired from the National Security Agency, Frans Balder recruits hacker Lisbeth Salander to steal FireWall, a computer program that can access codes for nuclear weapons worldwide. The download soon draws attention from an NSA agent who traces the activity to Stockholm. Further problems arise when Russian thugs take Lisbeth's laptop and kidnap a math whiz who can make FireWall work. Now, Lisbeth and an unlikely ally must race against time to save the boy and recover the codes to avert disaster. A film based on the fourth novel of Millenium Series started by Stieg Larsson. 

First Man- Director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost—on Armstrong and on the nation—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.

Burn the Stage- The first film by BTS showing their BTS Wings Tour behind the scenes. The full history of the K-Pop band will unfold, along with their rise to fame. This film brings a more intimate look at how this band broke barriers and conquered the music scene.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald- J.K. Rawling brings the sequel of beloved Fantastic Beasts. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald's plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms- In an effort to thwart Grindelwald's plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.

Cold November- In the beginning of the '90s, Yugoslavian Government cancelled the autonomy of Kosovo, dissolved its Parliament and closed down the National Television. Whole institutional life was reorganized by new authorities, while the majority of citizens responded with peaceful demonstrations. During this evil time, Fadili who is working as an archivist has to choose between two options, being aware that both of them are wrong. In this way, he involuntarily and unwillingly, 'swallows' the shame, endures the pressure coming from all sides and deals with the bad reputation for just one reason: to provide welfare for his family.

Night School- Teddy Walker is a successful salesman whose life takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally blows up his place of employment. Forced to attend night school to get his GED, Teddy soon finds himself dealing with a group of misfit students, his former high school nemesis and a feisty teacher who doesn't think he's too bright.

Cats and Peachtopia- A cat named Blanket has long been living in a high-rise apartment in the city with his son, Cloak. One day, curious about the outside world, Cloak decides to leave home and embarks on an adventure to find the legendary cat's paradise. To find his son, Blanket must overcome his fear and reconcile with his past, with the help of a female Macaw.

 

Theatre

trav 2La Traviata- Giuseppe Verdi’s renowned opera in three acts returns at the Albanian stage in a selected cast for bringing viewers the thrills of this masterpiece. The National Theatre of Opera and Ballet will stage this beloved piece, the most well-played operistic work internationally, at the Palace of Congresses. 

The Diary of Anne Frank- Metropol Theatre will be staging The Diary of Anne Frank until Dec. 2018. The theatre has chosen the adapted part from Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, directed by Amela Demaj with a selected cast from the open auditions the theatre policies. Known for its smaller stage, this theatre focuses on integrated scenery and viewer-actor engagement.

Just Like You- Professor Lee Shackleford’s puppet-play for young children Just Like You, is still being staged at the Metropol Theatre. This puppet show seeks to teach kids about children with special abilities and disabilities, how their lives are, and context and information regarding these abilities they hold. Prior to the show, the actors underwent a five-month course to learn sign language, so they can relate more with the public. 

Father Sergius- The National Theatre will be introducing to the public Leo Tolstoy’s Father Sergius directed by Fatos Berisha, staged at ArTurbina from Nov. 15-18. The play follows the story of military man Stefan Kazatski, who retreats to the life of a monk after he faces the betrayal of his wife and best friend. The tormenting fight of a man against the freedom of life with its beauties, temptations and lusts, and the seclusion due to a promise made to God. 

Hypocrites or the English Patient- A play by Jeton Neziraj with a direction by Agon Myftari and Blerta Neziraj, a courtesy of the National Theatre brought at the stage of ArTurbina. This comedy follows six characters who tell of the ‘’happy end’’ in message centers, the illegal kidney transplants and heart stents operations that happen meanwhile the Balkan Highway of Peace is being built. A comic, pornographic portrayal of a healthcare trapped in the greedy mouth of capitalism. 

Masked- The University of Arts will stage a play from Israeli writer Ilan Hatsor, directed by Milto Kutali, and with a cast of renowned actors Alfred Trebicka, Arben Derhemi, Ismail Shtino. The play seeks to show that when violence asks, loss responds. The play will come at the scene of the National Experimental Theatre from Nov. 15-18.

The Man Outside- A dramatic play by Wolfgang Borchert brought by the National Experimental Theatre, which follows the story of post-war soldier Beckmann, who returns home from Russia and finds his wife with another man, and therefore losing him home, his beliefs, illusions. An exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered from most veterans who return home, to an alienated man who seeks suicide. Due to its sensitive topic, Borchert himself put an undertitle to this play, calling it ‘’A play that no theatre wants to perform and no audience wants to see.’’

The Enchanted Library- A children’s theatre play adapted by Marsel Greva and Kleard Germenji, directed by Greva, and brought to the audience at the stage of the National Experimental Theatre. It follows the story of 10-year-old Daisy who assumes the clerk position at her grandfather’s bookstore, after he falls ill in his bed. Daisy loves books, and she is astonished to find that the fantasy worlds of the books at the store come to life. Soon, she finds herself obtained in adventure with her favorite characters to find a priceless necklace.

Brother and Sister- The children’s play adapted and directed by Xhuliano Brisku si still being staged at the National Experimental Theatre. Witch Morgana abducts two little kids, John and Joanna who are brother and sister, so she can become queen of Nolan. When the two kids manage to escape the evil witch, she poisons the water and fruits of the woods, so the kids can turn to animal and be killed by the hunters. John turns to a roe, and prince Noah captures Morgana. But how will John return to a kid again?

 

 

Exhibitions

flakaHere- or Rather There, is Over There- The ongoing art installation by Kosovo artist Flaka Haliti will be exhibited at the National Arts Gallery until early 2019. The installation suggests a general skepticism toward unambiguous definitions of space. The destabilization of territorial ascriptions, especially dichotomies between East and West, is characteristic of the artist's work. 

Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt: Collages and Editions- An ongoing exhibition at the National Arts Gallery of the German artist Wolf-Rehfeldt until early 2019. The artist is associated with visual poetry and mail art. A collection of her typewritten arts is currently being exhibited, along with a recent short mediated interview with the artist who tells of her life, fascinated to find that there is still interest in her work. Working primarily for a post world war 2 Germany, she stopped when the Berlin wall was torn down.

Marc Chagall: Magical Gravity- An ongoing exhibition of renowned French-Russian artist Marc Chagall at the Center for Openness and Dialogue inside the Prime Ministry building. The exhibition consists of 180 engravings made by the artist where he let his imagination run wild in depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Gogol’s Dead Souls, and La Fontaine’s Fables. 

Manastir Congress: The Path to a National Union- The National History Museum in Tirana will be hosting an exhibition about the Manastir Congress from Nov. 14-22 in the framework of its 110th anniversary. The exhibition will present the path to the composition of the Albanian alphabet during the 19th century. Pictures of the members of the congress accompanied with their biographies will be displayed, as well as books written by them. 

Flowers to Alysse- Kalo Gallery will be displaying a personal exhibition by Leon Cika, a contemporary artist who works with painting and photography. This personal exhibition is a set of paintings dedicated to his granddaughter Alysse, by whom he was inspired to produce the work. The main theme of the work is centered around flowers, their depiction in various, strong colors, and love.

Appearances- Zeta Gallery introduces a solo show by Idlir Koka. The paintings brushed in an expressionist style filled with art history references, deal with aspects of entertainment and show consumption while putting in the spotlight the spectator who fills the auditorium. Koka aims to decipher the nature of the spectacle and its hegemony over the culture of our day, through images. All his works of the latest series describe the details of human activities within the theatrical scenery and stalls.

Tirana- Venice- New York- The National History Museum is exhibiting a set of 50 paintings by artist Gjergj Meta. The paintings in a contemporary expressionist style focus on scenery and depict the reflections of the artist from the three respective cities that he has visited, worked and exhibited on.

Moti i Madh- A collaborative exhibition from the Museum of Kosovo and the National History Museum in Tirana. This exhibition contains statues, replicas, engravings of various authors and portraits, through which visitors are acquainted with moments of life and battles of the Albanian National Hero, Gjergj Kastrioti-Skënderbeu, who was the most consistent and most prominent representative of the leading Albanian elite, who steadily led the front of the Albanian war against the Ottoman Empire.

Taso- A personal exhibition by renowned artist Gazmend Leka at the FAB gallery, which opens on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., until Nov. 29. 

 

Music, Dance and Nightlife

 

Teelco- Progressive techno musician Teelco, will be organizing a couple of music events in Tirana for two consecutive events, on Nov. 16 at the Piu 39 Food & Club Tirana, and then on Nov. 17 at Pepper Pizza Tirana. On Nov. 16, Pepper Pizza Tirana will also be hosting a music night from Antoin.

Dabo- Destil Hostel in Tirana will be hosting a music night on Nov. 16 by Dabo starting at 9 p.m.. The musical alter-ego of artist Donald Braho, Dabo is known for his hypnotic sounds mainly within the genre of electronic music, -techno, electro, breaks,- mixed with beats of funk, pop, and jazz. Adding vocals, his sets are discerned among the audience, in an appraisal to his added scenic performance along with the musical combinations. 

Ledri Vula- Nightclub Folie Terrace will host a party on Nov. 16 starting at 11 p.m., under the music of Kosovo rapper Ledri Vula, a favorite among the Albanian audience.

Tiri & Band- Garage Tirana is hosting a live music event Friday, Nov. 16 starting at 10 p.m., where musicians Tiri Gjoci followed by Sokol Turdiu will be playing live for the audiences. 

Butrint Imeri- Nightclub Cinco Cavalli in Tirana will be hosting a party on Nov. 16 starting at 11:30 p.m., under the music of artis Butrint Imeri. Imeri is an R&B and soul singer, newly emerging at the Albanian scene.

Sabri Fejzullahu- Night club Magic 4 at Italia boulevard will be hosting a musical event on Nov. 16, with musician Sabri Fejzullahu, starting at 11 p.m..

Lollipop- Nightclub Lollipop will be hosting a party on Nov. 16 starting at 11:30 p.m., on the theme of Unizkm’s Selfie Party. The music is brought by celebrated Albanian musician, Dj Sardi. 

Irkenc Hyka- Nightclub Folie Terrace will be hosting another party on Nov. 17 starting at 11 p.m., under the music of renowned musician Irkenc Hyka, an Albanian R&B soul singer, favorite among youth.

West Side Family & Buta- Nightclub L’arena Premium Club on Elbasan St. will be hosting a party on Nov. 17, starting at 11 p.m.. Invited will be beloved hip-hop and rap music group West Side Family, in a collaboration with rapper Buta.

Gerta Mahmutaj & Band- Bla Bla Public Bar in Tirana hosts a musical night with R&B soul singer Gerta Mahmutaj on Nov. 22, starting at 9 p.m.. Gerta is a newly emerging musician in the Albanian music scene.
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