Welcome to the beach of Himara mayor!

Welcome to the beach of Himara mayor!

By Nikollaq Neranxi As we were on vacations in Himara three years ago, we woke up by midnight because my little granddaughter was very sick. She was running a high fever and could hardly breath. We rushed to Tirana  at night thinking that

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Swiss company with alleged ties to Russia’s Gazprom gets major Albania oil fields

Swiss company with alleged ties to Russia’s Gazprom gets major Albania oil fields

TIRANA, June 13 – A Switzerland-based company with business ties to Russian oil giant Gazprom has acquired three oil fields in southern Albania amid allegations that the Albanian government favored it in an international tender a couple of months ago,

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Albania pays €2.2 mln to law firms for key arbitration disputes

Albania pays €2.2 mln to law firms for key arbitration disputes

TIRANA, June 13 – Arbitration disputes dating back to investment contracts signed two decades ago soon after the collapse of the country’s communist regime could pose a severe threat to Albania’s struggling public finances. The Albanian government approved this week

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Only half of annual FDI flows remain in Albania, UN report shows

Only half of annual FDI flows remain in Albania, UN report shows

TIRANA, June 11 – Albania has been the second largest foreign direct investment recipient among regional EU aspirant Western Balkan countries for the past eight years, but the stock of FDI has not followed the same upward trend, hinting of

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Editorial: I am a Muslim, but Albania is not a Muslim country

Editorial: I am a Muslim, but Albania is not a Muslim country

BY JERINA ZALOSHNJA The Albanian ambassador to Washington notified through a long and exalting social media post that President Trump invited her in a special Iftar dinner – the Ramadan evening meal. “I had the honor and big privilege to

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INSTAT: More Albania businesses are closing than opening

INSTAT: More Albania businesses are closing than opening

TIRANA, June 1 – More businesses have been closing down than starting in the past couple of years in Albania and it’s the formalization of dozens of thousands of farmers obtaining tax IDs that has kept the total number of

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Editorial: Worries over super-lek should be taken seriously

Editorial: Worries over super-lek should be taken seriously

There are two sides of the story on why the euro has hit a new 10-year low this week against Albania’s national currency, and one of them is worth ringing some alarm bells. As of Thursday, Europe’s single currency trades

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Albania-Kosovo joint gov’t meetings: ‘Too much media show, little substance’

Albania-Kosovo joint gov’t meetings: ‘Too much media show, little substance’

TIRANA, May 30 – As trade exchanges between neighboring Albania and Kosovo slowly progress and a new highway toll Albania has introduced is perceived as an extra barrier, Kosovo business representatives say the four joint government meetings that the two

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Construction booming amid credit decline

Construction booming amid credit decline

TIRANA, May 29 – Albania’s construction sector seems to have overcome its crisis-triggered impasse and is now back in almost full gear, although credit to the sector has been at almost the same levels for the past couple of years,

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Albania play Kosovo in derby amid growing rivalry over new talents

Albania play Kosovo in derby amid growing rivalry over new talents

TIRANA, May 29 – Albania will take on Kosovo on Tuesday night in a friendly which is an all-Albanian derby but amid growing rivalry over which national side players of Kosovo roots should pick. Half of Albania’s national side’s 24-man

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_137070" align="alignright" width="300"]Nikollaq Neranxi, the head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania  Nikollaq Neranxi is a former MP who heads of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market in Albania[/caption]

By Nikollaq Neranxi

As we were on vacations in Himara three years ago, we woke up by midnight because my little granddaughter was very sick. She was running a high fever and could hardly breath. We rushed to Tirana  at night thinking that more medical care would be offered in the Capital. During our trip, the situation of the granddaughter got worse and we stopped in Vlora to get emergency medical aid. After making all the tests in Tirana the doctor told us that the girl had been infected by dangerous bacteria for the health, Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Her body was covered with bacteria and the question he asked was: At what beach has the girl been? As a matter of fact, she had gone sunbathing on the beach in the area of Spile in Himara, where we also have our house, and as the children do she stayed almost all the day in the water.

I knew that sometimes ago sewage was discharged into the sea but could not imagine that the question had not been resolved yet. At that time, I made a great noise over the fact of the disposal of sewage into the sea. Even TVs came and broadcasted chronicles but as it always happens in this country the noise of a news, despite how much alarming it is, lasts until a new story comes up and afterwards everything is forgotten and nothing is solved.

What makes me turn back to this issue is the fact that even now when I am writing these lines this problem remains unsolved. The tourist season has started and sewage is discharged into the crystal waters of the Ionian in Himara. When I asked the doctor, who treated my granddaughter when she was gravely ill running a fever as high as 42 degrees C that what threatens someone who bathes in a place where sewage is discharged he offered me this medical explanation: "The discharged sewage into the sea along with the very dangerous chemical composition has much aerobic and anaerobic bacterial strains, which become virulent when they penetrate into organism through different ways like skin, its fissures, through mouth into stomach because of involuntary swallows, through secondary genital organs, through the conjunctivitis of eyes and ears etc. Bacteria like Salmonella, Escherichia coli of different strains cause severe infections in the stomach. Staphylococci and streptococci cause severe skin infections which can lead to severe situations of septicemia etc.

As soon as these bacteria enter the organism they cause grave damages to the eyes up to the harming of cornea, ears' infections which can create complication like meningites and meningoencefalite in cases of children. Diarrhea can also lead to situations that the patient should be urgently hospitalized and sometimes chronic forms of colitis remain. They can cause  vulvite uretrite etc. in the secondary genital organs," said the doctor.

I considered it reasonable to publish this detailed medial explanation to understand the effect caused by the irresponsibility of people for whom we vote and pay taxes so that they serve us. But by not carrying out their duty for which they are elected, they become murders of citizens' health and life.

As inhabitants we have not remained indifferent during these years. The public is aware of the meetings that the Himara inhabitants have held at the City Hall and with Mayor Jorgo Goro. They called us to present us the plan of the Urban Requalification of the zone and because of the many debates taking place those meetings became a media spot at that time. This is the case to recall once more what was the matter in discussion. They wanted to show what investments they wanted to make in our zone while we as inhabitants opposed that for two reasons: first, because the inhabitants had not taken the inherited properties and no work can be done if any inhabitant does not the property title in his hand, and secondly, the investments there were not being made according to the needs and priorities of the zone.

Whoever goes today to Himara will see how the sand has been replaced with concrete, the buildings have been painted with some nasty red colors that only someone who hates that zone can humiliate that so, and hundreds of century old olive trees have been uprooted planting pine trees afterwards. Nothing more disgusting than that could be done! As inhabitants we demanded that as soon as the property problems were resolved investments could be made according to priorities and one of them was the biological cleansing of the sewage which is putting at risk seriously people's life. You, who are reading this article now, could have been faced for sure with diarrhea in beaches, vomits, fever and probably you have thought that it was a seasonal virus.

As a matter of fact 'No', you were wrong; apparently that has been caused as the Mayor, Jorgo Goro has 'treated' you with the zones' fecal discharged into the sea as a welcoming gesture. Because Goro has another program; today he is working for power's oligarchs how to plunder our lands and properties and invest there. He does not have time to care for the zone and carry out his duty. So you will get sick as long as Goro & Co will be very busy filling their pockets insatiably and shamelessly by going back on his promises to the community which cast the vote for him, and putting a very bad stain on a zone as ours which has always known to maintain and care for that natural wealth given by God to us but which is being destroyed by the barbarians in power.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 13 – A Switzerland-based company with business ties to Russian oil giant Gazprom has acquired three oil fields in southern Albania amid allegations that the Albanian government favored it in an international tender a couple of months ago, an investigation has shown.

Transoil Group AG, which has been engaged in minor crude oil production in Albania since 2012, acquired the Gorisht-Kocul, the Cakran-Mollaj and the Amonica oilfields, all located in the region of Vlora, southern Albania in an international tender held on March 31.

The Reporter news agency, BIRN Albania’s online Albanian language publication, says the Switzerland-based company was announced a winner despite its controversial links to Gazprom, unknown shareholders and accumulated debts it owes to the Albanian government for its local oil operations.

In addition, the investigative article cites a conflict of interest as the brother of state-run Albpetrol oil company supervising concession contracts in the Albanian oil sector works as a technical director for Transoil Group's Albania operations at the Visoka oil field, in southern Albanian region of Mallakastra and that the company had not submitted yet its $6,500 fee with Albpetrol’s bank account for each of the data package when bids were opened.

Last year, the Albanian government withdrew from awarding two of the current three oil fields to Austria-based Jurimex Kommerz Tranzit Ges following media allegations it was linked to Russia's Gazprom.

The representatives of Gazprom Neft in Serbia and an Austria businessman were reportedly behind the deal whose contract negotiations failed.

Russia’s Gazprom Neft, holds a 56 percent stake in Serbia's Nafta Industrija Srbje, NIS, the largest energy company whose initial 51 percent stake was acquired in 2009 for $400 million.

In a letter of complaint to Russia's Gazprom Neft, a subsidiary of Gazprom whose majority 50.2 percent stake is held by the Russian government, Shefqet Dizdari, the Albanian administrator of the Switzerland-based Transoil Group, complains that Serbia representatives of Gazprom were trying to covertly enter Albania “in a dirty scenario which aims the entrance of Gazprom Neft in Albania in a hidden and masked way camouflaged as an Austrian company.”

The Albanian representative of Transoil Group says Gazprom's Serbia subsidiary “has greatly violated the code of ethics and honesty, aiming to involve Gazprom Neft in a masked way in oil and gas agreements in Albania while entering into a non-disclosure agreement with Transoil Group," and that he has also complained to the Russian embassy in Tirana about this, according to a letter leaked to Albanian media.

BIRN says the Albanian energy ministry did not unveil the shareholders of Transoil Group but said they were neither Gazprom Neft, nor Serbia's NIS.

The energy ministry says it has set up a working group to conclude contract negotiations while the final say is expected by the Albanian government.

Earlier this year, the United States imposed new sanctions at allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 US election and other 'malign activity'.

The CEO of Russia’s gas exporter Gazprom Alexei Miller was placed on the US sanctions blacklist while Gazprom itself was not affected by sanctions.

Nine companies participated on the March 31 tender, among which Bankers Petroleum, the country's largest oil producer, which since mid-2016 has been run by a Chinese company.

The Gorisht-Kocul and the Cakran-Mollaj were taken back under state control in early 2017 from U.S.-based TransAtlantic Petroleum, with the Albanian government claiming the concessionaire owed $20 million in debts.

Meanwhile, the Amonica oilfield was taken back into state administration in April 2017 from Albanian-owned Phoenix Petroleum for failing to meet contractual obligations.

The auctions for the three oil fields come at a time when state-run Albpetrol is undergoing restructuring to gradually reduce its excess staff and sell the majority of its remaining assets.

Albpetrol, currently employs about 1,200 workers, and is mainly involved in the supervision of concession deals with companies engaged in oil production and exploration.

The state-run company currently runs only 5 percent of the oil wells, some 1,200, while the remaining overwhelming majority is managed by foreign companies on concession contracts. The company’s assets are estimated at €95 million.

Albania is a major oil producer, with the Chinese-owned Bankers Petroleum as the country’s largest producer and oil giant Shell involved in key exploration projects.

Albania currently has 13 free onshore and offshore oil and gas blocks which are scheduled for concession deals but slowly recovering oil prices following the mid-2017 slump has curbed investor interest.

 

Albania-Russia relations 

Trade and investment ties between Albania and Russia are currently hurt by Albania’s 2015 joining of Western sanctions against Russia over its Crimea annexation and counter-sanctions imposed by Russia.

The 30-year break in diplomatic ties, an Albanian-Russian intergovernmental committee on trade and economic cooperation that has not convened over the past eight years, failure to sign a friendship and cooperation treaty, Albania’s 2015 joining Western sanctions against Russia are some of the main barriers that hold back Russian-Albanian political and economic cooperation, Russian authorities say.

Russia is willing to boost its political and economic ties with Albania if the Balkan country adopts a more pragmatic approach like some of Europe’s leading economies and EU aspirant regional countries do despite EU sanctions in place, Russia’s Ambassador to Albania Alexander Karpushin said earlier this year.

NATO members Albania and Montenegro are the only Western Balkans countries to have joined Western sanctions against Russia.

Albania’s trade exchanges with Russia are estimated at an annual €80 million and are dominated by Albanian wheat and liquid gas imports. Albanian exports to Russia have almost been non-existing following Russian counter-sanctions hitting Albania’s fruit and vegetable exports.

Russian investment to Albania is almost non-existent with sporadic real estate purchases on the southern coastline.

Albania regularly lifts visas for Russian tourist from April to October along with nationals from several other former Soviet Union republics in a bid to increase the number of foreign tourists to the country.

Tiny Albania and the former Soviet Union were asymmetric allies for more than a decade under communism before they split in 1961 over ideological grounds and had no diplomatic ties for about three decades until the early 1990s when communism in Albania collapsed and the Soviet Union dissolved.
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                    [post_content] => TIRANA, June 13 – Arbitration disputes dating back to investment contracts signed two decades ago soon after the collapse of the country’s communist regime could pose a severe threat to Albania’s struggling public finances.

The Albanian government approved this week a total of €2.2 million in payments to foreign law firms hired to defend Albania at U.S. and France arbitration courts in separate trials against Italian and Irish businessmen.

The most pressing arbitration trial that the Albanian government faces is that against Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti over cancelled waste management and renewable energy projects in Albania whose construction dates back two decades ago.

Last January, the Albanian government won its first legal battle against the Italian businessman whose Albania assets, including a local TV station, were seized in mid-2015 on suspicion of money laundering and fraud-related offences.

The conflict with Becchetti dates back to 1997 when the Albania government awarded him a concession contract to build the country's first private run HPP. The contract was signed only five years after the collapse of the communist regime and its planned economy when Albania was facing turmoil triggered by the collapse of some pyramid investment schemes.

The Becchetti contract was cancelled in 2017 after two decades of almost no work at all and the Albanian government called a new tender, announcing an Albanian-Turkish consortium as the winner of the Kalivac HPP, a €120 million with a capacity of 120 MW along the Vjosa River, southern Albania, that Becchetti was supposed to build.

Becchetti is also seeking compensation for a cancelled 2004 contract to build a waste incinerator in Tirana, that also allowing him to import waste apparently from neighboring Italy.

In late 2015, Albania issued an international arrest warrant against Becchetti over alleged fraud in Albania but a UK court ruled against the extradition in July 2016. Bechetti owned the Leyton Orient football club at that time before selling it in mid-2017.

The 52-year-old Italian businessman is estimated to have obtained about $213 million in an arbitration dispute with Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, for the delayed financing in the failed Albania hydropower plant where the German giant was a partner and 45 shareholder from 2008 to 2010, according to a media investigation.

The Italian businessman is seeking hundreds of millions of euros in compensation over unfinished waste management and renewable energy production projects in Albania in an arbitration trial at the

Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce and the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), part of the World Bank.

The Albanian government has hired Canada and UK-based Gowling WLG to defend the country in the case.

The government had earlier paid about €4 million to international law firms for the Bechetti arbitration dispute.

 

Privatization voucher dispute

The latest arbitration threat that the Albanian government is facing is that against Anglo-Adriatic Group Limited, an investment fund that launched its operations in 1996 to collect privatization vouchers issued by the Albanian government allowing citizens to obtain stakes in the privatization of the then-overwhelmingly state-run enterprises.

Vienna-based Kerres Partners defending the Anglo-Adriatic Investment Fund run by Irish investor Declan Ganle, says Albania failed to honor its promise that these privatization vouchers can be used in the Albanian privatization process.

Local Albania media report the investment fund collected about 12 percent of the privatization vouchers worth about $120 million but left the country in 1999 following the 1997 turmoil triggered by the collapse of some pyramid investment schemes and privatization vouchers losing much of their face value not allowed in the privatization process later.

Last May, the Albanian postponed the validity of privatization vouchers until the end of 2020, in the seventh postponement since 2006, allowing holders to use them for the legalization of informal buildings and participating in the privatization of the few remaining state-run enterprise. The decision was apparently also influenced by the arbitration dispute with the Anglo-Adriatic Investment Fund which is claiming losses from the expiry of the privatization vouchers.

The face value of privatization bonds is estimated to have dropped to a mere 7 percent from about 18 percent in 1998 when the investment fund operated.

 

Arbitration threat

In early 2018, the Albanian government lost €80 million in arbitration disputes against Bankers Petroleum, the country's largest oil producer and the illegal demolition and unfair compensation of owners of a seaside apartment block.

Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce ruled last February the Albanian government will have to pay back Bankers Petroleum $57 million (€46.5 mln) over a tax dispute dating back to 2011.

Earlier in January, Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights decided the Albanian government will have to compensate owners of a seaside apartment block in southern Albania a total of about €17 million ($21 mln) for illegally demolishing it in late 2013 to pave the way for a coastal promenade.

The rulings also unveil the Albanian government’s arbitrariness when enforcing contracts and respecting property rights, two of the main concerns facing foreign investors in the country in addition to highly perceived corruption and an inefficient judiciary that Albania is trying to reform.

A late 2017 leaked confidential document by the country’s justice ministry showed that Albania faces the threat of being punished with a staggering €2 billion from a handful of arbitration cases with foreign companies, raising concern over the devastating effects it would have on the country’s public finances and one of Europe’s poorest economies.

In case such a scenario is materialized, Albania risks losing almost a fifth of its GDP and half of the annual budget, not to mention public debt costs and economic and social effects from sharp cuts in government spending. Even losing a portion of that amount could cost Albania dearly as the country is trying to bring down public debt, currently at 70 percent of the GDP, a high level for Albania's stage of development and holding back much-needed investment in road, health and education sectors due to its high servicing costs.

Albania is estimated to have lost about 8.5 billion lek (€63 million) in arbitration cases until the end of 2016, the majority of which in one case dating back to 2010 in the so-called electric train project with U.S. giant General Electric over the unilateral cancellation of a 2005 contract.
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TIRANA, June 11 – Albania has been the second largest foreign direct investment recipient among regional EU aspirant Western Balkan countries for the past eight years, but the stock of FDI has not followed the same upward trend, hinting of huge and suspicious withdrawal of FDI.

A report by UNCTAD, the United Nations body responsible for international trade, shows that only about half of the annual FDI inflow in Albania stays in the country and is reflected on the country’s final FDI stock.

Albania has attracted an average of about $1 million of FDI annually since 2010 when it emerged as the second largest FDI recipient among five transition Western Balkan economies, a position it has maintained for eight years in a row, trailing only Serbia, the region’s largest economy.

However, only about half of the energy-dominated FDI is estimated to have remained in the country.

Albania's inward FDI stock, representing the value of investors' equity and net loans to enterprises resident in the reporting economy, grew to $6.8 billion at the end of 2017, more than double compared to $3.2 billion at the end of 2010 and a mere $247 million in 2000 less than a decade after the collapse of the communist regime and the country's transition to democracy and a market economy when key enterprises were still under state control.

At $6.8 billion, Albania’s FDI stock has climbed to the Western Balkans third largest after Serbia's $37.6 billion and Bosnia and Herzegovina's $8.3 billion in considerable progress compared to the early 2000s when Albania was the region’s least attractive economy to foreign investors.

Meanwhile, Albania’s outward FDI stock, measuring the value of investment by Albanian companies abroad, climbed to $471 million in 2017, up from $154 million in 2010, representing only 7 percent of the total FDI stock. Albanian companies overwhelmingly invest in neighboring Kosovo and Macedonia, where ethnic Albanians dominate or account for more than a quarter of local populations.

The UN 2018 World Investment Report shows FDI flows to Albania increased by only 2 per cent to $1.1 billion in 2017, registering the country’s second highest level ever, with energy and mining attracting the lion’s share.

Bank of Albania data published in Europe’s single currency shows FDI dropped by 3.7 percent in 2017.

“As two major energy projects (the Trans-Atlantic Pipeline and the Devolli hydropower plant) neared completion, established foreign investors began expanding their presence in renewable energy projects (including Austrian Verbund Company’s participation in the Ashta hydropower plant and Turkish Ayen Enerji’s investment in the Pocem hydropower project),” says the UNCTAD report.

The UN agency says Albania could see increased Chinese investment in road infrastructure as part of China’s ambitious ‘Belt and Road’ and ‘16+1’ initiatives.

“Although the bulk of the 2017 inflows came from developed countries in Europe, Chinese firms also began to invest, in banking, aviation and tourism. The amount of Chinese investment may grow further once Pacific Construction of China starts work on the “Blue Corridor” (the Adriatic–Ionian Motorway),” says the report.

Chinese companies have acquired two of Albania’s key assets in the past couple of years and now run the country’s sole international airport and Albania’s largest oil producer, both of which under concession contracts signed with the Albanian government by previous investors.

FDI to the five transition economies of South-East Europe covered in the report recovered by 20 per cent, to $5.5 billion, after a decline in 2016.

All Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro registered FDI growth except for Macedonia where annual FDI contracted by about a quarter following a prolonged political crisis that slowed down its GDP growth to zero last year.

 

FDI challenge

Foreign direct investment slightly fell in 2017 when TAP and the Devoll hydropower project were at their peak level, signaling tough times ahead as the two major energy-related projects that led FDI in the past four years complete their investment stage by the end of this year and no major project in sight replaces them.

Bank of Albania data shows FDI dropped to €908 million in 2017, down from €943 million in 2016 and a historic high of €945 million in 2013, hinting of headwinds ahead at a time when oil and mineral prices slowly recover from the mid-2014 slump in commodity prices and an ambitious but rather controversial €1 billion PPP program and tax incentives for investment in the tourism sector are the only opportunities to fill an annual gap of more than €200 million left by TAP and the Devoll HPP.

FDI involving the construction of two hydropower plants by Norway’s Statkraft, one of which has already been made operational, and the Albanian section of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe is estimated at a total of 14 percent of the GDP, about €1.5 billion for the 2014-2019 period.

Albania’s oil and mining investment has sharply slowed down since the mid-2014 slump in commodity prices but is gradually recovering as international oil and mineral prices pick up and could enter a key stage if oil giant Shell, currently engaged in exploration operation, decides to engage in production.

Greece, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands and Italy were the main sources of FDI in Albania at the end of 2017.

[post_title] => Only half of annual FDI flows remain in Albania, UN report shows [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => only-half-of-annual-fdi-flows-remains-in-albania-un-report-shows [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-11 12:32:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-11 10:32:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137457 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137431 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-06-08 08:05:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-08 06:05:14 [post_content] => BY JERINA ZALOSHNJA The Albanian ambassador to Washington notified through a long and exalting social media post that President Trump invited her in a special Iftar dinner - the Ramadan evening meal. “I had the honor and big privilege to be part of his (President Trump’s) table, inside the White House State Dining Room,” the ambassador wrote. The rest of the ambassador’s diplomatic telegraph for the Albanian audience then continued with the old cliche those of us who were born and raised under communism recognize so well: “I told the President the Albanian people are very grateful to him…” and the sort. Without a doubt, the fact our ambassador had the chance to meet the US President is extraordinary, but let’s keep in mind we are a small country; so small, it is highly possible the US President is not completely clear on Albania’s geographic location, especially President Trump. And every chance our diplomats get to meet the White House Chief is valuable, and should be used. Our ambassador should simply be congratulated for the smart, wise and appropriate things I believe she told President Trump and the Vice President. However, there is another fact I’d like to focus on. The President invited the Albanian ambassador in the official iftar dinner hosted by him for Ramadan as the ambassador of a Muslim country. “I had the honor and big privilege, -- our ambassador to the US writes in her public telegraph -- to be part of President Trump’s table, together with colleagues from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Bangladesh.” This is one of the arguments that lead to the conclusion that in the White Houses’ protocol, Albania belongs to the Muslim countries category; there’s also the President’s own tweet for the dinner, the Iftar with the ambassador of ally Muslim states, which shows that for the United States, Albania is a Muslim country. On the other hand, this perception or reality is not solely related with the Trump administration. Former President George W. Bush, who strongly supported the country’s NATO membership, also saw Albania as a Muslim state, the US ally. We should say it loud and clear: There is nothing wrong with being a Muslim country. But Albania is not a Muslim country. Islam, the religious doctrine, has no part in the organization of Albanian society, and even less in the organization of the state, unlike many countries in the Muslim world. I am a Muslim, but my country is not. In Albania’s case, this is not an equal equation. There is a perception in the political and even intellectual elites of EU member states that Albania is a Muslim state -- some go as far as to think and declare that Albania is ruled by Sharia Law. This country is still unable to be ruled by the rule of law, but every European lawmaker, every journalist, must know a simple truth: Albania neither has been ruled, nor will ever be ruled by the Sharia -- but by the Constitution, by laws. And this is the case not only in relation to European countries. Albania’s relations with Turkey, very important relations, are increasingly being viewed as strategic relations also due to the common religion. This is untrue, and I believe wrong and harmful. The perception of Albania as a muslim state is historic and inherited, and it might also stem from the figures among the three main religions, where Muslims make up the majority. This is also a mechanical interpretation of post-communist Albania. But it seems that we too feed the perception of a Muslim country. For example, although mosques have been built in all Tirana neighborhoods to serve Muslim adherents for their religious rites, they prefer to organize their prayer publicly at the Skanderbeg Square. But the square is a public space destined for all citizens, while practicing any kind of religious rite is an activity meant to happen inside religious institutions, in mosques or churches, but not in squares. Two days ago, the Mother Teresa Square transformed into an open-air restaurant to serve Iftar. Some Austrian journalists that happened to be there focused on the public event, which, truth be told, looked similar to events in the Middle East. I was told that Johann Sattler, the Austrian Ambassador to Tirana, was explaining to these journalists that Albania “is a magical place, and incredible when it comes to religious faith. Orthodox, Muslims and Catholics coexist peacefully. He was even reciting Gjergj Fishta, the great Albanian patriot poet (and Catholic priest), to them: “Kemi Bajram dhe Pashke, por Shqiperine e kemi bashke” (“We celebrate Eid and Easter, but we share Albania.”) Actually, this is the Albania we should be promoting, like the Austrian Ambassador to Tirana does.      [post_title] => Editorial: I am a Muslim, but Albania is not a Muslim country [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-i-am-a-muslim-but-albania-is-not-a-muslim-country [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-08 10:53:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-08 08:53:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137431 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137370 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-06-01 13:36:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-01 11:36:16 [post_content] => TIRANA, June 1 - More businesses have been closing down than starting in the past couple of years in Albania and it's the formalization of dozens of thousands of farmers obtaining tax IDs that has kept the total number of active enterprises up, according to a report by state-run INSTAT statistical office. Data shows there were about 25,000 new businesses registered in 2017, but the total number of active enterprises rose by only 1,773 to 162,452 and that was mainly thanks to another 5,143 farmers obtaining tax IDs to sell their products and benefit VAT refunds. Albania had some 36,520 farmers paying social security contributions and counted as active enterprises at the end of 2017, up from fewer than a thousand in 2004 and it’s the number of previously informal farmers that has mostly contributed to the hike in the total active businesses. The number of legal farmers paying social security contributions is however less than a tenth of total number of more than 450,000 farmers Albania has, hinting widespread informality in the sector and a social wound farmers could face when they reach retirement age. A key sector of the Albanian economy, the agriculture sector employs about half of the country’s population but provides only a fifth of the GDP hinting its poor productivity. The closures of non-agricultural businesses and their difficulty in surviving is also related to a tough late 2015 nationwide campaign against widespread tax evasion and harder times small businesses have been facing amid an increase in the tax burden, sluggish consumption and fiercer competition by supermarket chains and shopping centers. Last year, some 14,400 businesses switched to passive status, at an average rate of 35 businesses a day, but tax officials say there were also fictitious closures to escape tax penalties. As a rule, businesses switch to passive register in case of not operating or not submitting tax statements for 12 months or declaring the suspension of commercial operation with the National Business Center for a period of more than 1 year or indefinitely. The key services sector has been the hardest hit with the number of businesses dropping to 109,200 at the end of 2017, down by more than 5,000 compared to 2015. Dominated by trade, accommodation and food as well as transportation businesses, the service sector accounts for two-thirds of total active enterprises in the country and produces more than half of the country's GDP. Meanwhile, the number of industry and construction businesses has slightly dropped in the past couple of years in a situation which for the industry sector reflects the slump in commodity prices negatively affecting Albania’s oil and mining industry, but not the recovery of the construction sector which in the past few years has emerged as the key driver of the Albanian economy. The good news for 2017 is that the number of foreign companies and joint ventures with Albanian partners rose to by 658 to 6,295 at the end of 2017 following a decline in 2016. Operating in the key sectors of the Albanian economy and dominated by Italian and Greek companies, foreign owned companies account for 16 percent of total employment. Business associations have warned thousands of small businesses could face bankruptcy this year as the government lowered the VAT turnover threshold, increasing the tax burden for about 10,000 businesses. The overwhelming majority 90 percent of active enterprises in Albania are small family-run ones employing up to four people. [post_title] => INSTAT: More Albania businesses are closing than opening [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => instat-more-albania-businesses-are-closing-than-opening [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-01 13:36:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-01 11:36:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137370 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137359 [post_author] => 281 [post_date] => 2018-06-01 08:29:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-01 06:29:12 [post_content] => There are two sides of the story on why the euro has hit a new 10-year low this week against Albania’s national currency, and one of them is worth ringing some alarm bells. As of Thursday, Europe’s single currency trades at 126.28 lek, having depreciated by about five percent compared to the mid-January peak level of 134 lek for this year. Compared to mid-2015, when the euro’s five year reign of about 140 lek came to an end, the euro is about nine percent lower. The short and mid-term negative impacts of this development on Albania’s economy are already undeniably visible, first and foremost having touched the country’s poorly diversified and Eurozone-oriented exports and the local producers who now have to face tougher competition from cheaper imports. With Albania’s total euro-denominated deposits estimated at about 2 billion euros at the end of 2016 according to the Central Bank, the population’s massive savings in euros have also been hit from the devaluation. Put in an even wider context, independent experts have warned that if the situation persists, in autumn we will have the first crisis effects and in spring next year nobody will deny the crisis, if damage to the state budget and tourism-related industries are taken into account. The government, so far sided by the country’s central bank, argues that the strengthening of the Albanian national currency is the result of the Albanian economy recovering to a nine-year high of 3.8 percent in 2017 and higher euro inflows from FDI-related projects, the tourism industry, exports and remittances. In this context, they have claimed it impossible to intervene in the country’s free-floating exchange rate determined by natural demand and supply. However, independent economy experts have argued that the high availability of euro supply in the market ultimately causing the record-low drop of the euro, cannot be fully justified with remittances and FDIs which, according to public data, have actually stagnated in the last year. This brings us to the other side of the story -- one that points to an increasingly criminalized economy moving from the free market to the business underworld without making a fuss. With the main local and international concern being the country’s frail and shaky relations with the rule of law as opposed to those with organized crime and drug-trafficking networks, the country’s main opposition Democratic Party has linked the phenomenon with illegal euro inflows resulting from the peak 2016 cannabis cultivation and the ongoing drug trafficking in and through the country. Economic experts have supported the idea, taking into consideration the ongoing seizures of Albanian cannabis in neighboring countries, or the record 613 kg of Colombia cocaine with an estimated market value of 180 euros that was caught in the Durres port in late April. Others have pointed at the increase of allegedly illegal constructions noticeable in Tirana, along the seaside and everywhere in the country, although they are beyond the capacities of the real Albanian economy, and spoken of money laundering through the construction sector. All these allegations, half of which need be true to have official state institutions and organizations taking proactive measures, leave us with a number of questions. First is the question of who runs the state. In the present context, the answer is: a few people who sway between lawfulness and lawlessness, bending the rules of the game to increase their personal profits. Second is the question of what will happen to foreign investments in an economic climate that kills all competitiveness and disqualifies every fair-game player due to the domination of criminal, informal and grey area economic activities. Most probably they will stagnate even further. Lastly, but most importantly, is the big question of how ready is Albania to knock on the EU door when mounting developments suggest that illegal criminal activities are a driving force in the country’s political and economic areas. With these pressing questions playing the elephant in the room, it is high time for those responsible in the government and financial institutions alike to give more explanations that back the good side of the story -- the one that paints a peachy picture of a growing economy, instead of that of a failing state.   [post_title] => Editorial: Worries over super-lek should be taken seriously [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => editorial-worries-over-super-lek-should-be-taken-seriously [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-01 08:29:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-01 06:29:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137359 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137321 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-05-30 13:34:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-30 11:34:49 [post_content] => TIRANA, May 30 – As trade exchanges between neighboring Albania and Kosovo slowly progress and a new highway toll Albania has introduced is perceived as an extra barrier, Kosovo business representatives say the four joint government meetings that the two governments have held in the past four years have produced more media show than real substance. Safet Gerxhaliu, the head of Kosovo’s Chamber of Commerce, says that behind political rhetoric of excellent cooperation, the latest November 2017 joint meeting of the two governments in Korça, southeastern Albania, produced tension and led to some Kosovo members abandoning the meeting because of what he calls “unofficial contempt.” “The joint Albania-Kosovo government meetings have been media shows. I have been informed that in the closing moments of the latest meeting, there was an escalation in relations between the Kosovo and Albanian delegations and that was because unofficial contempt and some [Kosovo] members abandoned the meeting,” Gerxhaliu has told Kosovo’s RTV 21 in an interview. “There is no economic cooperation in this form. When two fight, there is a third one who wins. It's Greece, Serbia, Italy, Macedonia who win and we remain the ones who export cash," he added. In last April's Prishtina 2018 international trade fair, 70 of the 174 participant companies were from Serbia, something which according to Gerzhaliu, is testimony to a confidence loss between Kosovo and Albania. "The biggest problem in the past few years is that it is impossible to motivate Albanian companies to participate in Kosovo fairs. It seems that they are willing to cooperate with everybody else but not with Kosovo and all that should be a message to the political elites so that the joint government meetings have more substance,” says Gerxhaliu. "And the main substance should be the advancement of economic cooperation. We are so close and so far with Albania and it seems the biggest race is in putting barriers and not lifting those barriers. The result is that there are economic consequences and there is no reliability and willingness to be present on the Kosovo market,” he adds. According to him, the two ethnic Albanian countries need to adopt a pragmatic approach on economic cooperation and leave behind what he calls ‘folkloric patriotism.’   Highway impact Almost a decade after the construction of costly “Highway of Nation” linking the two countries, trade exchanges between Albania and Kosovo have considerably increased, but remain quite modest given their huge untapped potential. The highway’s key impact has been on tourism, with Kosovo tourists dominating what is known as ‘patriotic tourism’ of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and the Diaspora. Recent highway tolls that Albania has introduced on its part of the highway, temporarily suspended following violent protest burning down newly installed booths, has been described by Kosovo and Albanian businesses as too costly and a new barrier that will further hamper trade exchanges between the two countries. Tolls on the Albanian part of the highway, expected to be reintroduced by next autumn, range from €2.5 for motorcycles, to €5 for passenger cars, €11.2 for buses, and €16.2 and €22.5 for mid and high-tonnage trucks. Albania-Kosovo trade exchanges dominated by Albanian exports rose by 31 percent to hit a historic high of 29.4 billion lek (€220 million) in 2017 after fluctuating at about the same level of about €160 million in the past five years, but more than double compared to 2009 when Albania opened its part of the highway, according to Albania’s INSTAT statistical institute. At about €200 million, trade exchanges between the two countries are almost the same compared to Albania’s trade volume with Serbia and only half of what Kosovo imports from Serbia, which a decade on still does not yet recognize the independence of its former breakaway province.   Trade, investment barriers Both Kosovo and Albanian businesses complain of trade barriers hampering cooperation and there have often been small ‘trade wars’ on specific products such as potato, flour, beer, medicines, meat and vegetables. Reference prices, certificates of origin and phitotosanitary documents are some of the issues facing Kosovo businesses in Albania. The recognition of mutual phytosanitary certificates on plant products has emerged as a key barrier for businesses in both countries as the two countries seek to diversify trade exchanges mainly relying on fuel, electricity, construction material and metals. Albanian companies have also complained high customs duties and non-tariff barriers that only favor big companies, mainly construction and steel companies in exports with Kosovo. A late 2017 audit by Albania's Supreme State Audit showed that the consecutive deals the two governments signed during the joint government meetings in the past four years were characterized by the expression of goodwill, but did not translate into real government policies that would responsibly and successfully conclude the customs union project with Kosovo. Behind political rhetoric of the Albanian government stepping up its customs union project with neighboring Kosovo, the reality on the ground is quite different with a series of barriers preventing economic cooperation and a common market of about 5 million consumers, state auditors say. When it comes to mutual investment, the level of investment is largely dominated by Albanian companies, according to the Albanian and Kosovo central banks. Albanian investors have been among the top five foreign investors in Kosovo in the past few years with the Albanian FDI stock in Kosovo, mainly concentrated in the real estate, financial and trade sector, estimated at €193 million and represented by some 900 Albanian companies. Kosovo companies in Albania have also been more active in the past few years with their stock of FDI trebling to a total €42 million in late 2017, up from only €14 million in early 2014. Some 600 Kosovo companies operate in Albania, mainly in the construction and trade sectors.   [post_title] => Albania-Kosovo joint gov’t meetings: ‘Too much media show, little substance’ [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-kosovo-joint-govt-meetings-too-much-media-show-little-substance [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-30 13:34:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-30 11:34:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137321 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137316 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-05-29 18:07:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-29 16:07:16 [post_content] => TIRANA, May 29 – Albania’s construction sector seems to have overcome its crisis-triggered impasse and is now back in almost full gear, although credit to the sector has been at almost the same levels for the past couple of years, giving rise to opposition allegations that drug proceeds are being laundered into the sector and that the national currency’s recent strengthening is mainly a result of high illegal euro inflows. Albania’s local government units issued 221 construction permits in the first quarter of this year, more than double compared to the same period last year, with an investment value worth 10.2 billion lek (€80 million), but credit to the construction sector contracted by an annual 1.1 billion lek (€9 mln) at the end of March 2018, according to INSTAT and Bank of Albania data. The early 2018 trend follows the strong recovery in the construction sector in 2017, which thanks to some major energy-related projects has in the past couple of years emerged as the key driver of Albania’s economy growth. The number of construction permits issued by local government units hit a six-year high of 819 in 2017, almost double compared to 2016, hinting a recovery in the long-ailing sector following a standstill from 2012 to 2015 when a combined total of only about 950 permits were issued following a construction boom ending in 2011 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. However, total credit to the construction sector was down by 1.2 percent to a total of 46.37 billion lek (€ 363 million) to account for 14 percent of total business loans in 2017, considerably below the 20 percent share in its peak 2007-2011 period, according to Albania’s central bank. The value of construction permits issued in 2017, most of which destined for residential buildings, is estimated at about 49 billion lek (€385 million), according to state statistical institute, INSTAT. Among the permits, there were also 53 hotels with an investment value of about 2.9 billion lek (€22 million). Twenty-five hotels worth a total of about €5.3 million also had their construction permits approved in the first quarter of this year. Tourist accommodation units are expected to register strong investment as the government’s tax incentives enter into force this year.  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. The increase in construction permits also comes amid tighter measures against illegal constructions and at a time when Albania has made available an e-permit system, making dealing with construction permits a much easier process, although it still remains one of Albania's worst doing business indicators. The construction sector accounts for about 11 percent of Albania's GDP and employs about 6.5 percent of the population, down from a record high of 18 percent of the GDP and 10 percent of private sector workers just before the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008. The main opposition Democratic Party claims the construction boom is a result of drug proceeds being laundered into high-rises and apartments blocks from the peak 2016 cannabis cultivation and ongoing heroin and cocaine trafficking. “The economy is being captured with drug proceeds. There is no sector where that is more evident than the construction industry in Albania and especially in Tirana,” opposition Democratic Party leader Lulzim Basha has earlier said. The opposition leader claims drug proceeds are also being laundered in the Euro 1 billion PPP especially in the waste-to-energy plants funded by taxpayer money through contracts with private concessionaires. The ruling Socialists have denied allegations, saying that economic growth hitting a 9-year high of 3.8 percent in 2017 and euro inflows from FDI and tourism also explain the strengthening of Albania’s national currency against Europe’s single currency. The euro currently trades at a 10-year low of 126.5 lek, down 5 percent compared to the mid-January peak level of about 134 lek for this year and about 9 percent lower compared to mid-2015 when the euro’s five-year reign of about 140 lek came to an end. The considerable appreciation is negatively affecting Albania’s exporters and also hitting domestic producers due to favouring imports whose cost significantly lowers. [post_title] => Construction booming amid credit decline [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => construction-booming-amid-credit-decline [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-29 18:07:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-29 16:07:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137316 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137301 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-05-29 11:19:37 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-29 09:19:37 [post_content] => TIRANA, May 29 - Albania will take on Kosovo on Tuesday night in a friendly which is an all-Albanian derby but amid growing rivalry over which national side players of Kosovo roots should pick. Half of Albania’s national side’s 24-man are of Kosovo-Albanian roots, and there are also players who were born in Switzerland, making them eligible to play for three national sides with Switzerland often coming as the first choice, followed by Albania and Kosovo. Rivalry between Albania and Kosovo has been tough after Kosovo’s 2016 admission as full UEFA and FIFA member and some players leaving Albania to play for the Kosovo national side which played their debut World Cup qualifying campaign. Rivalry continues in bringing new talents, with players of Kosovo origin often in dilemma whether to join Albania or Kosovo although best players often end up with Albania. In August 2016, soon after Kosovo was admitted as a FIFA member, three players of Kosovo roots, among whom Milot Rashica, a current Werder Bremen attacking midfielder, left Albania for Kosovo, marking the first talent row between the two neighboring countries. Kosovo’s new coach, Bernard Challandes says rivalry with Albania over convincing players of Kosovo roots to play for Kosovo is a big problem for him and faces fierce competition with Albania and their Italian coach Christian Panucci. “Competition with Albania is not a small problem for me. Both Panucci and I are aware about this and try hard about good players,” Challandes, an experienced Swiss coach, has told a portal focused on Albanians in Switzerland. “For me as Kosovo's coach, it is important to do anything to convince players to play for Kosovo and not Albania, especially for players in Switzerland and Panucci does the same thing,” he adds. Switzerland’s national side features several key players of Kosovo-Albanian roots and those who are not called up by the Switzerland usually face a dilemma whether to join the new Kosovo national side or more experienced Albania who in 2016 made their debut appearance at a major international competition such as Euro 2016. The Xhaka brothers are unique in Europe with the younger Arsenal playmaker and Swiss international Granit Xhaka and his elder Basel and Albanian international player becoming Europe’s first two brothers to face each other in the Euro 2016 group stage fixture when debutant Albania played Switzerland. “However, what's for sure is that in the end it is the player who decides. My fight is not between Switzerland and Kosovo, the war is maybe between Albania and Kosovo,” says Challandes, a former Armenia coach. Last March Kosovo beat modest Madagascar and Burkina Faso in two friendlies following their debut World Cup qualifiers where they only managed to get an away draw to Finland. Speaking about the friendly with Albania, the Kosovo coach says the atmosphere is very positive and brotherly. “Of course this is a brothers' fight. I was a bit surprised as a Swiss at the beginning, and I thought it's a bit different, but I have seen that Kosovo lives with Albania and I can't tell whether I am in Kosovo or Albania. Kosovo played their qualifiers in Albania and that shows that Kosovo and Albania co-exist perfectly.  It's a preparatory game and we will play against a better and more experienced team that also made it to the European Championship,” says the Kosovo coach. Lacking a stadium that meets standards, Kosovo have been playing their home qualifiers in Shkodra’s Loro Borici stadium, northern Albania. The last time Albania and Kosovo played each other was in November 2015 after Albania secured a historic first-ever Euro 2016 appearance. Played in Prishtina, Kosovo’s capital, the game ended in a 2-2 draw, in celebration of the historic achievement for Albanian football.   A friendly test Albania’s Italian coach Christian Panucci says rivalry is not only with Kosovo but also with Switzerland. “As far as talents are concerned, Albanians are divided into three countries and I have my scouts with whom I try to follow everybody. Then, if I see good elements, I introduce them with the call to join Albania, but the choice is in their hand,” says Panucci. “It's a friendly and both the Kosovo coach and I target experimenting and get as good signals as possible ahead of the Nations League campaign,” adds Panucci. Speaking about the players who have not been called up, Panucci says it's up to them to send signals of improvement and a better shape in order to call them up. Albania is heading to the Kosovo and Ukraine friendlies with several key changes in their 24-man squad, heralding a new era following the national side historic 2016 appearance under former Albania coach Gianni De Biasi. Having been sidelined by their clubs for most of the season, striker Armando Sadiku and midfielder Ledian Memushaj are two of the key players who have been left out for the two upcoming friendlies against Kosovo and Ukraine. Coach Panucci has opted to test new Albanian Superliga talents for the offensive line and called up 21-year-old striker Kristal Abazaj and 24-year-old forward Sindrit Guri, both of whom will be playing for Belgian top league clubs Anderlecht and Oostende next season. Egzon Binaku, a Sweden-born player of Kosovo-Albanian origin, is the surprise name on Panucci’s list. Albania’s second friendly will be on June 3 against Ukraine, a much tougher national side whom Albania have only managed to get a draw and lost four times in World Cup qualifiers and friendlies in the past two decades. The two friendlies are considered key ahead of next September’s start of the Nations League campaign against Israel and Scotland and the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers. “I think we have done a good job but still have a lot to do to be ready for the Nations League. I want to finish first in that competition and we have all the strength to achieve that,” says Panucci. The former Italian Real Madrid and AC Milan defender with not much coaching experience has been in charge of Albania since mid-2017. The 44-year-old Italian has led Albania in six games, winning a World Cup qualifier against modest Liechtenstein and a friendly against Turkey, but losing to European superpowers Spain and Italy and drawing against neighboring Macedonia in World Cup qualifiers and most recently against Norway in a friendly.   Albania - Kosovo Tuesday 29 May 2018 Stadion Letzigrund - Zurich; 20:00   Albania - Ukraine Sunday, June 3 Evian, France; 20:00   [post_title] => Albania play Kosovo in derby amid growing rivalry over new talents [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => albania-play-kosovo-in-derby-amid-growing-rivalry-over-new-talents [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-29 11:19:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-29 09:19:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=137301 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 137544 [post_author] => 29 [post_date] => 2018-06-15 13:00:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-15 11:00:14 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_137070" align="alignright" width="300"]Nikollaq Neranxi, the head of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market of Albania Nikollaq Neranxi is a former MP who heads of the Association for the Protection of Traders and Market in Albania[/caption] By Nikollaq Neranxi As we were on vacations in Himara three years ago, we woke up by midnight because my little granddaughter was very sick. She was running a high fever and could hardly breath. We rushed to Tirana  at night thinking that more medical care would be offered in the Capital. During our trip, the situation of the granddaughter got worse and we stopped in Vlora to get emergency medical aid. After making all the tests in Tirana the doctor told us that the girl had been infected by dangerous bacteria for the health, Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Her body was covered with bacteria and the question he asked was: At what beach has the girl been? As a matter of fact, she had gone sunbathing on the beach in the area of Spile in Himara, where we also have our house, and as the children do she stayed almost all the day in the water. I knew that sometimes ago sewage was discharged into the sea but could not imagine that the question had not been resolved yet. At that time, I made a great noise over the fact of the disposal of sewage into the sea. Even TVs came and broadcasted chronicles but as it always happens in this country the noise of a news, despite how much alarming it is, lasts until a new story comes up and afterwards everything is forgotten and nothing is solved. What makes me turn back to this issue is the fact that even now when I am writing these lines this problem remains unsolved. The tourist season has started and sewage is discharged into the crystal waters of the Ionian in Himara. When I asked the doctor, who treated my granddaughter when she was gravely ill running a fever as high as 42 degrees C that what threatens someone who bathes in a place where sewage is discharged he offered me this medical explanation: "The discharged sewage into the sea along with the very dangerous chemical composition has much aerobic and anaerobic bacterial strains, which become virulent when they penetrate into organism through different ways like skin, its fissures, through mouth into stomach because of involuntary swallows, through secondary genital organs, through the conjunctivitis of eyes and ears etc. Bacteria like Salmonella, Escherichia coli of different strains cause severe infections in the stomach. Staphylococci and streptococci cause severe skin infections which can lead to severe situations of septicemia etc. As soon as these bacteria enter the organism they cause grave damages to the eyes up to the harming of cornea, ears' infections which can create complication like meningites and meningoencefalite in cases of children. Diarrhea can also lead to situations that the patient should be urgently hospitalized and sometimes chronic forms of colitis remain. They can cause  vulvite uretrite etc. in the secondary genital organs," said the doctor. I considered it reasonable to publish this detailed medial explanation to understand the effect caused by the irresponsibility of people for whom we vote and pay taxes so that they serve us. But by not carrying out their duty for which they are elected, they become murders of citizens' health and life. As inhabitants we have not remained indifferent during these years. The public is aware of the meetings that the Himara inhabitants have held at the City Hall and with Mayor Jorgo Goro. They called us to present us the plan of the Urban Requalification of the zone and because of the many debates taking place those meetings became a media spot at that time. This is the case to recall once more what was the matter in discussion. They wanted to show what investments they wanted to make in our zone while we as inhabitants opposed that for two reasons: first, because the inhabitants had not taken the inherited properties and no work can be done if any inhabitant does not the property title in his hand, and secondly, the investments there were not being made according to the needs and priorities of the zone. Whoever goes today to Himara will see how the sand has been replaced with concrete, the buildings have been painted with some nasty red colors that only someone who hates that zone can humiliate that so, and hundreds of century old olive trees have been uprooted planting pine trees afterwards. Nothing more disgusting than that could be done! As inhabitants we demanded that as soon as the property problems were resolved investments could be made according to priorities and one of them was the biological cleansing of the sewage which is putting at risk seriously people's life. You, who are reading this article now, could have been faced for sure with diarrhea in beaches, vomits, fever and probably you have thought that it was a seasonal virus. As a matter of fact 'No', you were wrong; apparently that has been caused as the Mayor, Jorgo Goro has 'treated' you with the zones' fecal discharged into the sea as a welcoming gesture. Because Goro has another program; today he is working for power's oligarchs how to plunder our lands and properties and invest there. He does not have time to care for the zone and carry out his duty. So you will get sick as long as Goro & Co will be very busy filling their pockets insatiably and shamelessly by going back on his promises to the community which cast the vote for him, and putting a very bad stain on a zone as ours which has always known to maintain and care for that natural wealth given by God to us but which is being destroyed by the barbarians in power. [post_title] => Welcome to the beach of Himara mayor! 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