Editorial: Tahiri as the Socialists’ ‘sacrificial lamb’ – and what’s next?

Editorial: Tahiri as the Socialists’ ‘sacrificial lamb’ – and what’s next?

Saimir Tahiri, who a mere five years ago was seen as a rising star in the Socialist Party, resigned from parliament this week with a ruined political career after a long fight with allegations he helped an international drug-trafficking gang

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First Nordic tourist arrivals, a test for Albania’s emerging tourism industry

First Nordic tourist arrivals, a test for Albania’s emerging tourism industry

TIRANA, May 1 – Albania’s tourism industry is set to host the first sizeable number of Nordic tourists in the upcoming tourist season in what will be a test that could prove decisive for the future of one of Albania’s

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Editorial: The Gulf Oil affair: When ties between business and politics go wrong

Editorial: The Gulf Oil affair: When ties between business and politics go wrong

Hundreds of Albanian consumers were left holding worthless paid-for coupons this week as a major gasoline and a diesel retailer shut down its distribution centers around the country unexpectedly. Albania’s Gulf Oil Company is now under investigation for fraud in

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Albania’s two leading mobile operators ordered to switch back to 30-day pre-paid bundles

Albania’s two leading mobile operators ordered to switch back to 30-day pre-paid bundles

TIRANA, April 25 – Albania’s electronic communications watchdog has ordered the country’s mobile operators to switch back to 30-day pre-paid standard bundles after cutting the packages to 28 days for the past couple of years, increasing consumer costs in practices

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Albania-EU talks: Hesitation remains among some European lawmakers

Albania-EU talks: Hesitation remains among some European lawmakers

TIRANA, April 25 – German lawmaker Gunther Krichbaum illustrated on Monday some EU member states’ hesitation to open accession negotiations with Albania in July by posting an article featuring a picture from the Albanian parliament, in which opposition MPs threw

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Albania can diversify exports into plastics, agriculture, Harvard University study shows

Albania can diversify exports into plastics, agriculture, Harvard University study shows

TIRANA, April 23 – A Harvard University study has unveiled Albania needs to consider the plastics and agriculture sectors to diversify the country’s exports in order to make the country’s economy more competitive and reduce exposure to international headwinds such

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Editorial: Albania and the EU: After positive recommendation, challenges remain

Editorial: Albania and the EU: After positive recommendation, challenges remain

There was good news for Albania this week as the European Commission published its progress report, recommending that member states approve opening accession negotiations. The recommendation now goes to the European Council for approval at its meeting in June. The

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One out of two Albanians believe political connections are key to success, EBRD survey shows

One out of two Albanians believe political connections are key to success, EBRD survey shows

TIRANA, April 17 – Albanian businesses and households are one of the region’s strongest believers of political connections as a factor behind success, according to a survey by London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Almost one out of two

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Half of investors rate Albania’s business climate unfavorable, AmCham survey shows

Half of investors rate Albania’s business climate unfavorable, AmCham survey shows

TIRANA, April 16 – Albanian and foreign companies operating in the country expect the country’s business climate to continue remaining unfavorable in 2018 as the high tax burden, government bureaucracy and monopoly and unfair competition have emerged as the main

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Editorial: Albania’s broken democracy needs constructive and inclusive action

Editorial: Albania’s broken democracy needs constructive and inclusive action

Albania’s democracy is broken, an annual report by Freedom House tells us this week. But those who closely follow Albanian affairs are not surprised. Negative trends have been taking root for a long time and politics as usual will clearly

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                    [post_content] => Saimir Tahiri, who a mere five years ago was seen as a rising star in the Socialist Party, resigned from parliament this week with a ruined political career after a long fight with allegations he helped an international drug-trafficking gang during his time as minister of interior. If prosecutors persist in an earlier request, he will soon be behind bars awaiting trial. 

Tahiri was elected as an MP through the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama and expelled from the group after the allegations surfaced, backed with wiretap recordings of traffickers mentioning him by name. There is also other evidence, such as Tahiri allowing a vehicle he once owned to be used by traffickers.

But using the parliament’s immunity rules, his fellow Socialist MPs did not allow prosecutors to arrest Tahiri six months ago, in effect shielding him from prosecutors and a full investigation. 

In the process, he became the poster child for impunity for both the opposition and international representatives.

His resignation opens the way for prosecutors to arrest Tahiri, and the next steps remain to be seen as to where his case will go and whether he will make any revelations linking other public officials to the massive increase in cannabis cultivation and trafficking prior to Albania’s 2017 elections, which the Socialists won in a landslide.

But questions remain as to why Tahiri chose this moment to give up immunity. A mere week ago he showed up in parliament on the last day he could without losing the mandate automatically, indicating he did not want to give it up and thus immunity with it. 

One explanation is that there has been a strong international pressure on Prime Minister Rama to show real results in the fight against organized crime and trafficking and end impunity for public officials with ties to the underworld. Several commentators told local media that it had been made clear to Rama that Albania’s aim to open negotiations with the EU would not be met until direct action was seen in this area.

A an important diplomatic source told Tirana Times that the Socialists had chosen Tahiri as a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ 

The statement implies that the Socialist Party would withdraw the immunity it had afforded him should prosecutors have asked to arrest him again, meaning Tahiri’s resignation was part of either a preemptive strike or part of some sort of political machination and deal with Prime Minister Rama, as the opposition believes. 

As of press time, Tahiri is expected to hold several interviews with the media to try to shed some light on what will happen next. But questions are likely to remain. 

Has Tahiri been given a guarantee from Rama, for example, that he will not end up serving time in jail? Will Tahiri feel sold out and implicate others or place the government's dirty laundry under the public light? All of this remain to be seen.

But his anger at everyone -- his own party included -- was very visible at the press conference he gave Thursday to resign from parliament.  

“For 25 years, thieves who have robbed [the Albanian] people of their children’s future on top of their money, and I am the one hampering integration?” he asked.

 
                    [post_title] => Editorial: Tahiri as the Socialists’ ‘sacrificial lamb’ - and what’s next?
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, May 1 - Albania's tourism industry is set to host the first sizeable number of Nordic tourists in the upcoming tourist season in what will be a test that could prove decisive for the future of one of Albania’s key emerging sectors.

As the 2018 tourist season is already underway, Albania's air transport authorities have already approved new charter flights linking Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki to Tirana from May to early October 2018.

In addition, direct charter flights from Poland, Hungary and Russia as well as new regular flights with Israel and a new low-cost carrier linking Tirana to London are much promising for this season.

One of the leading tour operators in the Nordic region and serving about 1 million travelers each year, Apollo will be the first Swedish tour operator to offer direct flights and package holidays to Albania in the summer 2018.

"We see great opportunities with Albania in the future. After the success in Saranda in southern Albania, we have increased our business this summer at the new destination of Durrës. We will offer direct flights from Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, and Copenhagen, to the colorful capital of Albania, Tirana. This is, without a doubt, a holiday destination to count on," Leif Vase Larsen, the CEO at Apollo, is quoted as saying by Swedish media.

The Nordic tour operator has selected hotels in Saranda, southernmost Albania along the Albanian Riviera and Durres, the ancient Albanian city with long stretches of sandy beaches along the Adriatic coast of central Albania.

"Much suggests that Albania will be the big travel news of this summer. We have noticed a great deal of interest and curiosity from our Swedish travelers, which also reflects in the number of bookings for this summer. Many want to take the opportunity to explore Albania, and the Durrës area is an exciting complement to Saranda in the south part of the country, says Peter Browall, General Manager at Apollo Sweden.

The arrival of Nordic tourists from May 11 is seen as great news to curb the seasonality of Albania’s tourism industry relying on sun and sea, although the country’s three UNESCO world heritage sites and a number of mountain tourism destinations are promising for a year-round travel and tourism industry.

Albania boasts cultural heritage sites ranging from ancient Illyria, the predecessor of Albania, and a mix of Roman, Greek, Ottoman civilizations.

The local tourism industry currently mostly relies on what is known as patriotic tourism from ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia as well as migrants returning home to spend their summer vacations, a segment that mostly contributes during the peak July-August season.

However, more and more central European tourists such as Germans, Poles and Czechs have been discovering Albania in the past few years.

The Poles made it to the top ten of foreign tourists visiting Albania last year, with a record 74 percent hike to about 115,000 tourists.

Tourism experts say Albania’s challenge now is be to keep the tourists coming and improve the quality of infrastructure and service so that the country that was once long isolated under communism and still remains largely unknown to Europeans turns into a real Mediterranean destination.

Handling the waste disposal issue and improving road infrastructure as well as having more accommodations that can offer all-inclusive packages, still in their initial stage, are considered key to success.

Albania has also lifted visas for Chinese tourists in addition to regular visa-free travel offered to Russians, some former Soviet Union countries as well as Persian Gulf tourists from April to October.

The Albanian government says it is receiving assistance by Turkish Airlines, one of the world’s leading airlines, to set up its own national flag carrier and build a new airport in Vlora, southern Albania that would considerably improve service and reduce ticket prices, currently among the region’s highest.

 

An emerging destination

Still undiscovered and little known by most European tourists, Albania has been placed as a 2018 under-the-radar destination by prestigious travel media and tour operators.

The National Geographic has rated Albania among the 2018 places one needs to visit, especially for adventurer and divers.

UK-based Wild Frontiers tour operator has also named Albania among the world’s top three adventure travel destinations for 2018 as part of an off-the-beaten path Western Balkans tour.

The Irish Times has also rated Albania as the top two budget destination for 2018, sandwiched between the Spanish Costas and Turkey.

Closed to tourists for about five decades until the early 1990s, Albania offers a miscellaneous picture of coastal and mountain tourism and has been attracting more and more foreign tourists in the past decade being nicknamed “A new Mediterranean love” and “Europe’s last secret.”

The travel and tourism industry was one of the key drivers of the Albanian economy in 2017 when it generated a record high of €1.7 billion in income, up about 12 percent compared to a year ago as the country was visited by more than 5 million foreign tourists, according to central bank and INSTAT data.

With tourism on top of the agenda as one of the emerging key drivers of Albania’s growth, the Albanian government is offering a series incentives for current and new investments in a bid to also promote luxury travel in the country in addition to the rapidly growing mass tourism.

New luxury accommodation units built by internationally renowned chained-brand hotels or under management or franchise contracts with them, will benefit tax incentives for a ten-year period for building and operating four-star hotels and resorts with an investment value of at least €8 million or five-star units worth at least €15 million, according to a package of tax incentives Albania approved in late 2017.

Some 17 airlines regularly connect Tirana to European destinations, mostly Italy where most passengers fly considering an estimated community of some 500,000 Albanian migrants in the neighbouring country across the Adriatic.

 

New charter destinations

 
  1. Helsinki-Tirana; Flights from May 11 to September 28
 
  1. Copenhagen - Tirana; Flights from June 2 to august 18
 
  1. Budapest - Tirana (unspecified)
 
  1. Moscow - Tirana: Flights from June 19 to September 11
 
  1. Stockholm-Oslo- Gothenburg; Flights from May 12 to October 2
 
  1. Gothenburg-Tirana. Flights from June 6 to October 3
 
  1. Gdansk/Poznan/Warsaw/Prague/Katowice/London Gatwick - June to September
  New scheduled destinations 1. Tel Aviv - Tirana: Late June to October 26 2- Luton –Tirana:               April 19 to October 27 [post_title] => First Nordic tourist arrivals, a test for Albania’s emerging tourism industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => first-nordic-tourist-arrivals-a-test-for-albanias-emerging-tourism-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-01 17:17:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-01 15:17:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136879 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136833 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-27 10:05:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:05:36 [post_content] => Hundreds of Albanian consumers were left holding worthless paid-for coupons this week as a major gasoline and a diesel retailer shut down its distribution centers around the country unexpectedly. Albania’s Gulf Oil Company is now under investigation for fraud in the €1.5 million worth coupon scheme that were sold below market price in the past few months when managers likely knew bankruptcy was near. That’s on top of employees not having received any wages in recent months, according to local media reports. The prosecution is currently investigating the company’s manager Albano Aliko as the main suspect who allegedly committed the fraud scheme. He is part of a larger group of suspects both locally and internationally, as the company is owned by a shell company which media reports link to shady business owners and politicians from Georgia, the former Soviet republic. Albania is no stranger the shady ties of politics and business, so it is no wonder that beyond the obvious fraud of a failing business, there are allegations of money laundering and political ties. In fact, the fraud likely perpetrated by Albania’s Gulf Oil is not simply a business letting down consumers, it is a failure of the government and its regulators and prosecutors need to look in depth at those ties. An Albanian online outlet critical of the government published a video this week showing the opening ceremony for Gulf in Albania three years ago. A high-production piece of marketing, it showed speeches from company representatives endorsing Gulf as a strategic foreign investor. The audience (and some of the speakers) included Albanian politicians ranging from Socialist ministers and mayors to the then the speaker of parliament representing the ruling coalition. Gulf tried to sell itself as a large international company, when in reality a simple online search reveals that it is a simple brand with a loose affiliation of businesses operating under the brand of what used to be a major American global company that no longer exists. This week, the Socialist minister in charge of oil concerns simply replied to media questions saying the businesses do fail and that an investigation needs to take place, a standard reply from a member of government facing allegations and charges that go far beyond the type of fraud investigation of an oil company that steals money from consumers. The eppitemy of the dark comedy being played on Albanian consumers and voters came as Bes Kallaku, one of Albania’s top comedians and the advertising face of Gulf Oil, told fans on social media that he was suing the company for money owed to him. There were reports that instead of money for his services, he had been paid in coupons. The sad fact is that this is not the first time that this happens. Gulf allegedly sold fuel from a local ARMO refinery, another blackhole for Albanian taxpayers as state regulators failed to collect taxes that resulted in the loss of millions of euros. Instead of focusing on places like ARMO or Gulf, which cause the state budget and consumers millions of euros in damages, Albania’s tax authorities are preoccupied with auditing small businesses with no political ties over and over, setting the wrong priorities for the country’s economy and state coffers. It is no wonder then that a recent report by the EBRD showed that more than half of Albanian businesses believe that political connections are key to success. But in the case of Gulf and ARMO success for the businesses and their political backers means a failure for Albanian consumers. [post_title] => Editorial: The Gulf Oil affair: When ties between business and politics go wrong [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-the-gulf-oil-affair-when-ties-between-business-and-politics-go-wrong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-27 10:05:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:05:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136833 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136770 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-25 11:25:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-25 09:25:07 [post_content] => TIRANA, April 25 – Albania’s electronic communications watchdog has ordered the country’s mobile operators to switch back to 30-day pre-paid standard bundles after cutting the packages to 28 days for the past couple of years, increasing consumer costs in practices not applied in regional countries. Under a decision made this week, the country's electronic communications authority, AKEP, orders the two leading mobile operators, UK-based Vodafone Albania and German-Greek Telekom Albania, to offer 30-day monthly bundles starting June 2018 after identifying increased costs through the use of 'abusive and anti-competitive tariffs." The decision has an impact on about 3.2 million pre-paid mobile phone subscribers who account for the overwhelming majority of customers. Turkish-owned Albtelecom, which also applied 28-day bundles starting March 2016, has already been offering 30-day monthly bundles since April 10 this year, as it tries to gain market shares from the two largest operators which in late 2017 each acquired 50 percent stakes in Albanian-owned Plus Communication. The smallest and sole Albanian-owned operator, Plus ceased operations in January 2018, reducing the mobile phone market to three operators and leaving some 206,000 active subscriber with no choice but to switch to either Vodafone, Tekekom Albania or Albtelecom in order to continue having access to mobile phone services. Plus’s market exit came seven years after launching its operations as the fourth and sole Albanian-owned mobile operator. In its pre-paid packages analysis, the electronic watchdog says consumer costs by being charged for four weeks instead of 30 days increased by 7.14 or about 869 lek (€6.7) a year considering a standard pre-paid bundle of 1,000 lek (€7.7) offering a mix of airtime, text messages and internet access. The electronic communication authority says regional countries such as Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and EU members Greece and Slovenia apply no 28-day pre-paid bundles while the Italian Parliament decided in November 2017 mobile operators will have to offer 30-day monthly bundles starting March and April 2018 after offering 28-day bundles for 2016 and 2017. In their explanations to AKEP, Albania’s mobile operators argued the 28-days were applied in Germany, Spain, Romania and they were suffering increased international interconnection costs as non-EU service providers. Back in September 2017, Albania's Competition Authority failed to find evidence of an alleged price-fixing deal in the country’s mobile communications market following a probe into the main three operators as they almost simultaneously increased subscriber costs through pre-paid packages. In March 2016, the country’s main three mobile operators Vodafone, Telekom Albania and Albtelecom cut their monthly pre-paid packages to 28 days, down from a previous 30 days, indirectly increasing costs for prepaid users who account for the overwhelming majority of 92 percent of active mobile subscribers. The Competition Authority says the reduction in the validity of standard packages by all three operators in the course of eight days led to consumers being charged for 13 months a years instead of 12 months, triggering a 6.5 percent annual increase in costs incurred by consumers for this service. The watchdog also noted the 28-day bundle practice could also affect other telecommunication markets such as internet, fixed line telephones and paid-TV bundles which would trigger problems regarding the transparency of information and increased consumer costs. In March 2017, the three main mobile operators changed the key standard packages in the course of 2 weeks in common changes that lifted unlimited internet at reduced speed and cut international airtime. Pre-paid 28-day standard bundles offering a mix of national minutes, text messages and internet access, increased by 100 lek to 1,110 lek (€8) in all three main operators, but no evidence was found proving the change was a result of a banned deal or coordinated behavior. The competition watchdog had earlier warned the mobile phone market has the structure of an “oligopoly market with an operator having a dominant position in the respective retail mobile services and two other operators having stable market shares.” Mobile operators' income in the past decade has struggled to increase amid tougher competition leading to lower rates and increasing use of smartphone apps replacing traditional call and text message services. Albania’s mobile operators struggled to significantly increase their income for the fourth year in a row amid tougher competition leading to lower rates and increasing use of smartphone apps replacing traditional call and text message services. Mobile operators’ revenue slightly rose by 2.4 percent to 33.9 billion lek (€250 million) in 2016 after hitting a decade-low in 2014, according to a report by the electronic communications regulator, AKEP. Latest 2016 data shows leading Vodafone Albania operator, part of UK-based giant Vodafone Group, continues dominating the mobile market with 48.6 percent market share in terms of revenue, followed by Telekom Albania (former AMC), part of German Deutsche Telekom with 30.7 percent, Turkish-owned Albtelecom with about 12 percent, and the no longer operational Albanian-owned Plus Communication with 5 percent share. The number of active mobile phone users, defined as those that have made or received at least a call or SMS in the last three months, slightly rose to 3.5 million in 2017. More than half of the active users, some 2 million subscribers had access to 3G and 4G services. In its annual 2016 report, AKEP said pre-paid subscribers not using promotional offers face tariffs up to 14 times higher than the average rates of 2.83 lek (€0.02) /minute VAT included for 2016. [post_title] => Albania’s two leading mobile operators ordered to switch back to 30-day pre-paid bundles [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albanias-two-leading-mobile-operators-ordered-to-switch-back-to-30-day-pre-paid-bundles [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-25 11:27:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-25 09:27:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136770 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136767 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-04-25 10:49:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-25 08:49:06 [post_content] => TIRANA, April 25 - German lawmaker Gunther Krichbaum illustrated on Monday some EU member states’ hesitation to open accession negotiations with Albania in July by posting an article featuring a picture from the Albanian parliament, in which opposition MPs threw flour on Prime Minister Edi Rama. The article, titled Final Exam for the Balkans, was featured in the online version of the Der Tagesspiegel newspaper and, while it discussed both Albania and Macedonia in the context of EU enlargement, focused on Albania’s widespread corruption. In particular, the picture accompanying the article was taken from the April 12 parliamentary session, during which the country’s opposition blocked the pulpit and threw flour on Rama amid tension and protests. In his Facebook post, Krichbaum wrote that “at this stage, I believe that accession negotiations with Albania are premature”. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Edi Rama visited Berlin this week to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the context of Albania’s opening of negotiations. Rama said that meeting Merkel is a bit like asking to meet the Pope, considering the Chancellor’s image as a “European champion.” “The entire Balkan region has its hopes on her,” German media reported Rama saying. Rama visited Merkel insisting on fast EU accession talks for Albania, saying the country wants to become an EU member as fast as possible. “For us Europe is what is was for its founding fathers: a peace project,” Rama said. The PM also met with President of the European Council Donald Tusk on Tuesday, who expressed his confidence towards a “common destiny of full integration,” despite the difficulty the country will face convincing all EU member states of its progress. In addition, EU Ambassador to Albania Romana Vlahutin attended this week a hearing of the European Integration Commission of the Albanian Parliament where when asked she said that member states were consulted in advance before giving the unconditional recommendation. However, she added, the final decision is always made by the member states. Earlier this month, Krichbaum became a debate point between Rama and head of the country’s oppositional Democratic Party Lulzim Basha, who alleged the PM has undertaken a campaign against Krichbaum due to his lack of support towards Albania. “By attacking Krichbaum, Rama is only adding to the lines of lawmakers in the Bundestag who are pessimistic for Albania’s opening of accession negotiations and whose vote is required before the German government gives its verdict,” Basha wrote on social media. Rama retorted Basha’s comments, saying that although they are not friends and Krichbaum is not a sympathizer of the Socialist Party  and government, Rama has not launched a campaign against him. “I don’t agree with his opinion concerning my government’s work and he knows that well, because he heard it from me, straight to his face and not behind his back. But, the gentleman in question has my respect for his help when you were trying to block the Justice Reform and never can he, or any foreigner who is interested in Albania, be the target of an attack orchestrated by me or the Socialist Party,” Rama wrote in his official Facebook page, referring to Basha’s comment. However, Krichbaum’s stand on Albania’s accession progress was also mentioned in the Der Tagesspiegel article as having placed him under the attention of certain Albanian media. “Krichbaum’s critical stand on Albania has made him the target of a few media close to Prime Minister Edi Rama which, among others, accuse him of acting for Russian interests,” the article states. The EU Commission unconditionally recommended that the EU Council opens accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia earlier this month, however this decision has already been viewed skeptically by a number of member states, such as France, the Netherlands and Greece. While some countries may use blocking accession negotiations to push forward their own open ended issues with Albania, such as the case of Greece and the pending Maritime Border Agreement, others, like France and the Netherlands, have stated their concerns on the persistently high levels of corruption and organized crime in the country. [post_title] => Albania-EU talks: Hesitation remains among some European lawmakers [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => scenes-in-albanian-parliament-reinforce-accession-hesitation-among-european-lawmakers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-27 10:01:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-27 08:01:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136767 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136730 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-23 13:20:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-23 11:20:39 [post_content] => TIRANA, April 23 – A Harvard University study has unveiled Albania needs to consider the plastics and agriculture sectors to diversify the country’s exports in order to make the country’s economy more competitive and reduce exposure to international headwinds such as sharp swings in energy prices. In a study examining the strategic diversification in Albania’s industrial sector, the Center for International Development at Harvard University says the two proposed plastics/rubbers and agriculture/foodstuffs sectors contain products that are technologically feasible while having relatively high complexity, making them strategic for Albania. Albania’s exports are currently poorly diversified with three-quarters of them relying on ‘garment and footwear,’ 'minerals, fuels and electricity’ and ‘construction materials and metals,’ exposing the country's economy to industry-specific shocks such as the mid-2014 slump in commodity prices significantly reducing the country’s key oil and mineral exports. The textile and shoe industry produces low value-added exports due to Albania importing raw material to produce garment and footwear products, the overwhelming majority of which are destined for Italy. The sector is mainly involved in the cut-trim-make process and employs more than 100,000 workers, relying on cheap labor costs. Due to lack of adequate domestic processing, the oil and mining industry also mostly export their products as crude oil and raw minerals. The Harvard University study says diversification into plastics/rubbers and agriculture/foodstuffs is relatively complex yet also technologically close to those products Albania already exports. “In order for Albania to grow faster and catch up to its European Union and Western Balkans neighbors, it needs to expand into new areas of production and increase the variety of products it is able to export. However, any attempt to simply produce the most complex products is bound to fail, since all the right capacities need to be present in the country before it can successfully make a product,” says the study. As Albania already exports some plastics and rubbers, its current know-how could allow it to transition to producing more complex products, such as vulcanized rubber parts, builders’ ware, baths and sinks, lids, tubes, and various plastic plates and sheets, among others, experts say. Albania already has 24 agriculture and foodstuff exports on its top 150 exports, but continues to suffer a huge trade gap in the key agriculture sector accounting for about a fifth of the country's GDP. The sector employs about half of the country's population, making it one of the least efficient sectors in terms of employment and contribution to GDP due to high farm land fragmentation, poor financing and investment and lack of subsidies. “Given Albania’s strong presence in this sector already, it could use its know-how to produce higher valued products for export. The most promising types of products include milk, ice cream, chocolates, jams and jellies, frozen nuts, sausages, pickled vegetables and fruits, and others,” says the Harvard University report. Being the top two sectors that satisfy the criteria of being in close proximity to the existing technological capabilities and also having relatively highly complex products, plastics/rubbers and agriculture/foodstuffs products may have higher chances of succeeding in Albania because of its existing technological capabilities, while also bringing about diversification towards more complex, higher value-added production. The study shows that while the value of Albania's exports grew by 8 times to about US$2.11 billion over two decades of Albania's transition to a market economy from 1996 to 2016, there was little expansion in the variety of goods that Albania exports. Albania's current exports relying on textiles, foodstuffs and metals are not very complex, meaning producing them is rather easy and not very valuable for the exporting country. Albania ranks the world's 78th in the Economic Complexity Index measuring how complex a country's exports are overall, lagging behind its key regional competitors. The country significantly exports 162 products out of 1,240 possible products but about 70 percent of them belong to only three sectors, the 'textiles, hides and clothing' with 54 products, 'agriculture and foodstuffs' with 36 exports and 'metals' with 21 products. Albania’s exports grew by 12 percent in 2017 following modest growth of 0.1 percent in 2016 and a 5 percent decline in 2015 triggered by a sharp cut in international oil and mineral prices. Trade exchanges with the EU accounted for more than two-thirds of the total in 2017 with Italy, Greece, Germany and China as the country’s main trading partner. Italy is the destination of more than half of Albania's exports and 30 percent of imports, making Albania heavily reliant on developments in Italy, the Eurozone's third largest economy and the host of half a million Albanian migrants. Albania is a net importer with exports covering only about half of what the country imports.   Productive knowhow barrier An earlier Harvard University study identified lack of productive knowhow as the key constraint holding back economic growth in Albania over the past quarter century during the country’s transition to democracy and market economy after the collapse of the 45-year communist regime and its planned economy. Lack of adequate knowledge and skills needed to produce complex goods and services is also identified by low levels of exports of goods and services as a percent of the GDP and poor diversification compared to regional competitors. “Albania faces a unique knowhow constraint that is deeply rooted in its closed-off past, and the limited diversification that has taken place in the private sector, can in nearly all cases, be linked to distinct inflows of knowhow,” says a 2017 report by the Center for International Development at Harvard University (CID) – Harvard’s primary center for research on sustainable international development. The report attributed the strongest sources of knowhow inflow to foreign direct investment and immigrants, especially returning members of the diaspora who start new businesses or upgrade the productivity of existing businesses. Likewise other Western Balkan regional countries, Albania’s exports of goods and services account for about 30 percent of the GDP, a small level which the World Bank estimates would have to double in order to match those of other small transition economies that are now in the EU. Albania has been one of the region’s largest FDI recipients in the past few years, with investment peaking at about €1 billion annually in the past few years, but that was mainly thanks to some major energy-related projects, mainly focused on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe and a large hydropower plant. As the two major investments complete by the end of this year, the Albanian economy faces the risk of a huge gap in FDI unless tax incentives in the tourism sector compensate for them as long as no major project appears to replace them except for a controversial €1 billion PPP project which the IMF has warned could undermine efforts to reduce public debt, already at 70 percent of GDP, a high level for Albania’s stage of development. The Harvard University report also identified failings in rule of law as a major barrier to more foreign investment and related knowhow. “Weaknesses in Albania’s rule of law institutions, including frequent policy reversals and corruption in the bureaucracy and judiciary, increase the risk of investments and transaction costs of business. There is a pattern in the data where existing firms in Albania tend not to dwell on rule of law issues but where potential new investors are very sensitive to rule of law problems,” the authors say. Albania is currently implementing a long-awaited judiciary reform that is expected to accelerate its road to EU integration and improve the business climate. Access to land, taxation, finance, electricity and transportation infrastructure are also considered barriers but not binding constraints for investment and growth in the country. The Albanian economy has been growing by an average of 1 to 4 percent annually since 2009 following a pre-crisis decade of 6 percent annually, the growth rate estimated to bring welfare to the EU aspirant Balkan economy.   Regional/EU Competitiveness As Albania hopes to launch accession talks next June pending European Council approval of the positive recommendation issued by the Commission this month, the EU says Albania continues to remain moderately prepared in developing a functioning market economy and coping with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU. Albanian producers have earlier complained that the EU-backed Regional Economic Area initiative that the six Western Balkan leaders agreed to in mid-2017 at the Trieste Summit will put ‘Made in Albania’ products at a disadvantage unless the Albanian government provides tax and subsidy incentives to make them more competitive regionally. The Union of Albanian Producers has identified the garment manufacturing sector, olive oil, water, fish and minerals as Albania’s competitive products which the Albanian government can support to boost their regional competitiveness. Producers complain the high tax burden and lack of subsidies already make some products such as flour and beer less competitive compared to imports from Serbia and Kosovo.                     [post_title] => Albania can diversify exports into plastics, agriculture, Harvard University study shows [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-can-diversify-exports-into-plastics-agriculture-harvard-university-study-shows [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-23 13:20:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-23 11:20:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136730 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136689 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-04-19 23:23:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-19 21:23:57 [post_content] => There was good news for Albania this week as the European Commission published its progress report, recommending that member states approve opening accession negotiations. The recommendation now goes to the European Council for approval at its meeting in June. The Council, which is made up of member state top representatives and which needs a unanimous decision on the matter, makes the final decision to approve it then and there or to delay it until the next meeting in December, pending and additional conditions. Albania is at this point accustomed to snail-paced progress in its bid for EU membership, and expectations of any speedy progress have long disappeared, but the good news this week is that -- at least on the geopolitical plain with Russia and other alt-EU influencers looming ever larger -- EU’s executive branch in Brussels seems really interested in giving Albania and the rest of the region assurances by moving them to the next train station toward membership. There has been a lot of debate in Albania whether the report was accurate in documenting Albania’s true progress and setbacks since 2016, when it last recommended talks be open, with conditions, only to see the recommendation be turned down by member states through the EU Council. As the report notes, the political situation in the country is deeply polarized, with the Socialist government of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the main opposition Democratic Party of Lulzim Basha budding heads even on the report, even though both sides fundamentally agree on the paramount importance of Albania’s eventual membership in the European Union. In fact, playing domestic political games with the matter, as both the government and opposition have done at times might not be in the best interest of Albanians. The government, for example, has tried to unjustly paint the opposition as ‘anti-European’ and ‘anti-West’ at a time when the main opposition party was in power when Albania become a NATO member and pushed its EU bid to candidate status. On the other hand, the opposition has said the government with corruption and organized crime ties has failed in every aspect delaying an opening of negotiations process that should have taken two years into one that is going into its sixth year. Any success or failure in the EU bid is ultimately an Albanian one, not a Socialist or Democratic one, and the parties should act accordingly. But that is the least of Albania’s worries at this point. The worst scenario involves further delays with individual EU member states putting up barriers based on their needs and concerns rather than Albania’s actual progress in meeting the criteria. France’s president this week said, for example, the EU needs to grow in depth within first -- before it looks to expand. Then, even more worrying for Albania, Greece could put up barriers over the pending maritime border agreement to delay any opening of talks as a way to pressure Albania to speed up or become more flexible on the border issues. Greece has played a constructive role in Albania’s EU bid, largely playing the ‘nice guy’ for years because it knew that the ‘tough guys’ of northwestern Europe would hold the line on the standards. But perhaps the time has come for Greece to play its EU cards to pressure Albania on its EU aspirations in order to get a better and more flexible maritime border deal. That is also a negative scenario for Albania. Ultimately, while the recommendation is good news, the EU Council’s decision in June (perhaps as late as December) will be the determining factor. The popping of the Champagne will have to wait until then.   [post_title] => Editorial: Albania and the EU: After positive recommendation, challenges remain [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-albania-and-the-eu-after-positive-recommendation-challenges-remain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-20 12:51:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-20 10:51:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136689 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136647 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-17 10:43:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-17 08:43:14 [post_content] => ebrd chartTIRANA, April 17 - Albanian businesses and households are one of the region's strongest believers of political connections as a factor behind success, according to a survey by London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Almost one out of two Albanians think political connections are more important than hard work or intelligence and skills, slightly higher than the average trend among EU aspirant Western Balkan countries. When respondents were asked from a list of options what they thought were the most important factors for success in life in their country, 43 per cent of Albanians chose “political connections”, the third highest percentage for this response in the whole transition region after ethnically divided Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. By contrast, 34 per cent opted for “effort and hard work” while about 18 per cent answered “intelligence and skills”. The latter percentage is substantially lower than the averages for the transition region (31 per cent), Germany (36 per cent) and Italy (27 per cent), according to the EBRD 2016 Life in Transition survey. Public administration jobs in Albania are perceived to be highly linked to political connections, which is identified by illegal hirings and the high annual bill that Albanian taxpayers foot for politically motivated dismissals following legal battles by fired employees getting compensation. According to the third round of the EBRD/World Bank Life in Transition Survey (LiTS III), an average of more than one-third of people in the Western Balkans rate political connections as more important than either effort and hard work, or intelligence and skills, as the key to success in life. In this regard, the Western Balkans countries stand out among all EBRD sub-regions, highlighting the absence of meritocratic job selection and prevalence of clientelism and vested interests. When it comes to business, the ‘bribe’ tax is estimated to cost businesses in the region a considerable amount of their annual income. The EBRD estimates that the combined losses from four obstacles such as crime, informal payments to get things, power outages and transport breakages and spillages in the Western Balkan region are estimated at more than 13 percent of total annual sales revenues, something which explains the poor level of foreign direct investment in the region. Competition from the informal sector, getting electricity, corruption and relations with the tax administration were rated as the biggest obstacles to doing business in Albania by almost half of the surveyed companies. A recent EBRD report has shown Albania and other Western Balkans EU aspirant countries could need up to two centuries to catch up with EU living standards. The 200-year gap is the pessimistic convergence scenario that the EBRD predicts for the region to fully converge with average EU living standards compared with a baseline scenario of 60 years and an optimistic scenario of 40 years. “The speed of catch up would depend on the pace of addressing the challenges that hamper the region from developing its full potential. Full EU convergence will require states to implement a determined and comprehensive reform agenda towards boosting productivity and investment,” says an EBRD diagnostic report.   [post_title] => One out of two Albanians believe political connections are key to success, EBRD survey shows [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => one-out-of-two-albanians-believe-political-connections-are-key-to-success-ebrd-survey-shows [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-17 10:43:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-17 08:43:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136647 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136639 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-16 15:54:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-16 13:54:15 [post_content] => AmCham 2017TIRANA, April 16 - Albanian and foreign companies operating in the country expect the country's business climate to continue remaining unfavorable in 2018 as the high tax burden, government bureaucracy and monopoly and unfair competition have emerged as the main barriers for several years in a row now, according to an annual survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce representing some of the key foreign and local investors in the country. On a 0 to 100 scale, Albania’s 2017 business climate measured by the AmCham dropped by an annual 1.33 percentage points to 42.45 after hitting a five-year high in 2016. The 2018 expectations are that the index measuring the perceptions of some 150 Albanian and foreign-owned companies operating in the country's key sectors will increase to about 45 percentage points, the same to the 2017 expectations in last year’s survey. Business expectations in the survey’s previous six editions have in general been in line with year-end results or slightly higher except for 2016 when year-end results were higher than expectations at the beginning of the year. In a survey conducted in early 2018, about half of respondents, some 49 percent, perceived the 2017 business as very unfavorable or unfavorable. A third of senior executive described the business climate as neutral and it was only about one out of six companies saying the business environment is favorable (17 percent) or very favorable (0.7 percent). In addition to the top three concerns related to taxes, red tape and limited competition, business representatives rate finding local qualified staff as a challenge that is growing bigger each year, affecting about two-thirds of the surveyed companies. Finding local qualified staff in 2017 was reported difficult or very difficult for most of the responding companies (65 percent), with the indicator on a downward trend for the fourth year in a row. The indicator is apparently linked to high levels of brain drain fuelled by ongoing migration and lack of vocational education training schools preparing students for required market skills. Perceptions on domestic political climate and security in the country also suffered a decline in 2017 apparently fuelled by prolonged political deadlock in the run-up to the June 2017 general elections and incidents involving businesses. Relations with tax and customs authorities were among Albania's best indicators for the second year in a row but slightly deteriorated in 2017. AmCham members expect the positive trend on demand for "goods and services" to continue even in 2018 as exports and tourism grow. Only about a third of companies increased investment and employment. Some 30 percent of respondents describing banking sector policy and services as very unfavorable. "The slight deterioration in this year's ABI confirms that much remains to be done to improve Albania's investment climate. Legislation, taxation and regulation must promote economic development evenly and fairly. The government must demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and the sanctity of contracts," says U.S. ambassador to Albania Donald Lu, expressing his disappointment over this year's slight decline in the business index   Tax concern The high levels of taxes has emerged as the top doing business barrier for Albania in the past three AmCham business climate surveys, with investors worried that Albania is losing its competitiveness compared to regional countries applying flat tax regimes of about 10 percent. Since 2014, when Albania abandoned its 10 percent flat tax regime, the corporate income tax and the withholding tax on dividends, rents and capital gains have increased by 5 percent to 15 percent, making the tax burden in the country one of the region’s highest and a top concerns for businesses operating in the country. Albania applies a 15 percent corporate rate, but AmCham president Mark Crawford says the real tax burden is up to 40 percent of profit if some 30 other taxes and tariffs are taken into account. In comments on the business climate, AmCham members suggest reducing taxes, settling the long-standing property title issue, increasing transparency in public procurement, lifting reference prices in customs offices and the implementation of a judiciary reform as the top issues facing businesses in Albania. “We feel a decrease of tax rates is fundamental in combination with the increase of transparency and consultation during the drafting of legal and sublegal acts, as well as the simplification of procedures,” a business representative is quoted as saying on condition of anonymity. “Businesses should be supported to increase investments in innovation and employee education. Controls should be enhanced and copyright and intellectual property rights should be strictly respected. The level of state of the art technology solutions (artificial intelligence, predictive analytics) should be enhanced to enable a more in-depth study of market parameters, which are used to develop fiscal practices that enhance revenue without directly impacting business activities,” says another investor. The long-awaited judiciary reform is also perceived as key to improving the business climate. “The judicial reform should go forward with no further delays. This is the most important challenge for the country and Albanian society. The biggest problem is corruption. Inefficient or bad management at various executive positions need to be addressed. Concentration of power at top executive levels generates negative results,” another business representative is quoted as saying. Albania is currently implementing a long-awaited justice reform, which has just started with the vetting of judges and prosecutors, in a bid to overhaul the highly perceived corrupt judiciary, a key barrier for Albania’s opening of accession negotiations with the European Union and current and potential new investors. The Albanian government expects the economy to grow by 4.2 percent this year, up from 3.84 percent in 2017 but the World Bank and the IMF predict the economy will slow down to 3.5 to 3.7 percent as major energy related complete their investment, curbing the FDI contribution. [post_title] => Half of investors rate Albania’s business climate unfavorable, AmCham survey shows [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => half-of-investors-rate-albanias-business-climate-unfavorable-amcham-survey-shows [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-16 15:54:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-16 13:54:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136639 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136599 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-04-13 10:28:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-13 08:28:51 [post_content] => Albania's democracy is broken, an annual report by Freedom House tells us this week. But those who closely follow Albanian affairs are not surprised. Negative trends have been taking root for a long time and politics as usual will clearly not fix the problem. Albania's democracy has never been really strong, but one would expect that with the passage of time things would get better. They haven't. The Socialist government led by Edi Rama asked the Albanian people to give it a full majority in return for better governance, prosperity for all and lower taxes for the majority of the population. It has delivered none, and its actions indicate it does not intend to so for the rest of its mandate. It appears the government, drunk with power from its win in the latest elections, has decided it can rule with little to no public input and with impunity. The government decided to place a surprisingly high toll on the Nation's Highway, threatening the very livelihood of Albania's poorest region and acting surprised when it faced a riot. In addition, it has created a costly paperwork nightmare by including small businesses in the VAT system, threatening the very livelihood of people who are both poor and self-employed -- a recipe for a social time bomb. Who wins out of this? In both cases it is large companies, led by the wealthiest people in the country, that benefit. First, through the toll road concession; second, through the bankruptcy of small businesses that will force Albanians to turn to large businesses for their basic needs.   In a nutshell, the government has turned against the society's most vulnerable section to the benefit of those who are most powerful. This is certainly no “Socialist” government. In turn, Albania’s central-right opposition Democratic Party finds itself in the position of trying to become an advocate of people angry with the government. But the DP and its ally, the Socialist Movement for Integration, also face an uphill battle. As certain episodes show this week, Albanians are angry with the political elite in general and not just the government. Increasingly as we report this week, experts are worried the population do not trust any political actor or institution, which a recipe for disaster and social unrest of the type Albania last saw in the bloody riots of 1997. To fix Albania's broken democracy, and needs constructive action by a multitude of actors, including civil society and newcomers to politics. To allow for democratic means to overcome obstacles, a major electoral reform allowing voters to have direct control over their representatives is needed. The current electoral system in Albania might have produced stable governments, but it has failed to produce a strong democracy.   [post_title] => Editorial: Albania's broken democracy needs constructive and inclusive action [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-albanias-broken-democracy-needs-constructive-and-inclusive-action [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-13 10:28:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-13 08:28:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=136599 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 136907 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-05-03 22:51:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-03 20:51:17 [post_content] => Saimir Tahiri, who a mere five years ago was seen as a rising star in the Socialist Party, resigned from parliament this week with a ruined political career after a long fight with allegations he helped an international drug-trafficking gang during his time as minister of interior. If prosecutors persist in an earlier request, he will soon be behind bars awaiting trial. Tahiri was elected as an MP through the ruling Socialist Party of Prime Minister Edi Rama and expelled from the group after the allegations surfaced, backed with wiretap recordings of traffickers mentioning him by name. There is also other evidence, such as Tahiri allowing a vehicle he once owned to be used by traffickers. But using the parliament’s immunity rules, his fellow Socialist MPs did not allow prosecutors to arrest Tahiri six months ago, in effect shielding him from prosecutors and a full investigation. In the process, he became the poster child for impunity for both the opposition and international representatives. His resignation opens the way for prosecutors to arrest Tahiri, and the next steps remain to be seen as to where his case will go and whether he will make any revelations linking other public officials to the massive increase in cannabis cultivation and trafficking prior to Albania’s 2017 elections, which the Socialists won in a landslide. But questions remain as to why Tahiri chose this moment to give up immunity. A mere week ago he showed up in parliament on the last day he could without losing the mandate automatically, indicating he did not want to give it up and thus immunity with it. One explanation is that there has been a strong international pressure on Prime Minister Rama to show real results in the fight against organized crime and trafficking and end impunity for public officials with ties to the underworld. Several commentators told local media that it had been made clear to Rama that Albania’s aim to open negotiations with the EU would not be met until direct action was seen in this area. A an important diplomatic source told Tirana Times that the Socialists had chosen Tahiri as a ‘sacrificial lamb.’ The statement implies that the Socialist Party would withdraw the immunity it had afforded him should prosecutors have asked to arrest him again, meaning Tahiri’s resignation was part of either a preemptive strike or part of some sort of political machination and deal with Prime Minister Rama, as the opposition believes. As of press time, Tahiri is expected to hold several interviews with the media to try to shed some light on what will happen next. But questions are likely to remain. Has Tahiri been given a guarantee from Rama, for example, that he will not end up serving time in jail? Will Tahiri feel sold out and implicate others or place the government's dirty laundry under the public light? All of this remain to be seen. But his anger at everyone -- his own party included -- was very visible at the press conference he gave Thursday to resign from parliament.   “For 25 years, thieves who have robbed [the Albanian] people of their children’s future on top of their money, and I am the one hampering integration?” he asked.   [post_title] => Editorial: Tahiri as the Socialists’ ‘sacrificial lamb’ - and what’s next? 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