Albania 2017: Elections, selections and reflections

Albania 2017: Elections, selections and reflections

The future isn’t what it used to be. Conflicts, terrorism, seismic political events and grave incidents stamped the year and are marking even these last festive days. Amidst the tumult, Albania’s small size and relative importance seems, in these dark

Read Full Article
Albania to benefit extra €80 mln from revised deal with TAP

Albania to benefit extra €80 mln from revised deal with TAP

TIRANA, Dec. 21 – Albania has finalized contract renegotiations with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline consortium with a new deal that will increase the country’s financial benefits by another €80 million, energy minister Damian Gjjiknuri said. The renegotiation of the contract

Read Full Article
Albania, Macedonia engage in new trade war over fresh vegetables’ blockade

Albania, Macedonia engage in new trade war over fresh vegetables’ blockade

TIRANA, Dec. 19 – Albania has warned of reciprocity measures against neighboring Macedonia after a new blockade on Albanian fresh vegetables over what local authorities call unfounded allegations of chemical contamination. The blockade, a repeated measure imposed by Macedonian authorities

Read Full Article
Lawmaker falls victim to scam

Lawmaker falls victim to scam

TIRANA, Dec. 15 – Socialist Party MP Vladimir Kosta was one of the many victims of property scam. The MP paid millions of leks to a 30-year-old man identified as Armand Gjuzi in exchange for an apartment. After taking the

Read Full Article
Venice Commission has no objections to Vetting Law

Venice Commission has no objections to Vetting Law

TIRANA, Dec. 12 – The Venice Commission has issued no objections to the constitutionality of the Vetting Law as well as to its accordance with international conventions, according to an  amicus curiae brief published by a panel of law experts

Read Full Article
Democrats seek sacking of Durres mayor over gang leader’s release

Democrats seek sacking of Durres mayor over gang leader’s release

TIRANA, Dec. 15 – Albania’s main opposition Democratic Party has urged the government to sack Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako, a Socialist, after investigative journalists showed he had sent a letter to the court in support of the early release of

Read Full Article
EU foreign ministers: No set date for opening EU negotiations

EU foreign ministers: No set date for opening EU negotiations

TIRANA, Dec. 14 – Albania has received no date for opening membership talks with the European Union at the year’s most important meeting to discuss the country’s EU accession prospects. Foreign ministers of the EU member countries have agreed with

Read Full Article
Junior coalition ally holding up waste import bill

Junior coalition ally holding up waste import bill

TIRANA, Dec.13 – Albania’s Socialist Movement for Integration party is still refusing to back the waste import bill. President Bujar Nishani vetoed the bill and sent it back to parliament, but the Assembly violated its internal regulation by not reviewing

Read Full Article
Editorial: European integration where do we go from here on?

Editorial: European integration where do we go from here on?

The meeting of the Foreign Minister of the EU member states did not produce any news about the European integration perspective of Albania other than endorsing and reiterating the recommendation of the Commission to wait for tangible progress in implementing

Read Full Article
VAT refunds, reference prices remain top barriers for businesses, survey shows

VAT refunds, reference prices remain top barriers for businesses, survey shows

TIRANA, Dec. 13 – VAT refunds, ongoing reference prices at customs points and relations with the tax administration are some of the key concerns businesses face in Albania, according to a recent survey conducted by Albania Investment Council, an advisory

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 52
            [paged] => 34
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => premium
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 52
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 389
    [max_num_pages] => 39
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 5d7277665541f8fd622f9f0f4bdcc861
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 52
            [paged] => 34
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (52) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 330, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130508
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-23 10:48:16
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-23 09:48:16
                    [post_content] => The future isn’t what it used to be. Conflicts, terrorism, seismic political events and grave incidents stamped the year and are marking even these last festive days. Amidst the tumult, Albania’s small size and relative importance seems, in these dark times, almost a blessing. However the upheaval in the world order is posed to be a formidable obstacle to the country’s future path: European integration. We take a look at what is expected to happen in this corner of the Balkans in 2017, a year that is going to be first and foremost an electoral year, with all the complimentary drama and excessive media frenzy.

General elections, June 18, 2017

Elections in Albania are riddled with negative side effects: Too long of a campaign, nail-biting days of counting votes, extremely polarizing climate, exhausting media coverage. One can say that is true for many other states, even in the West. Unlike in other states though, where institutions hold to the tradition of rule of law, in Albania the electoral context threatens to consume everything that stands in its path like a hurricane. All the months leading to June shall be consumed by the ghost of the electoral reform (that is unlikely to occur), the all-directions speculation about coalitions (who is the kingmaker going to choose this time?) and the new players’ relative strengths.

The ruling majority coalition, despite shakes and stirs seems poised to face the electoral challenge together, however, with intense internal fighting over importance and key positions. The governance record of the majority is mixed. Some progress in areas like rule of law and enforcement of regulations negatively balances out with the explosion in cannabis cultivation and increase in criminality. Major electoral promises remain unfulfilled, especially in healthcare quality and employment numbers. The opposition is divided whether they should tempt the junior coalition partner once again and upset the results, however that seem less likely to happen.

Keep an eye on the implementation of the decriminalization law as scrutiny shall be exerted on the candidate lists to spot the culprits. The participation of people with criminal records and shady pasts has been a major theme throughout the year, while elections are the first real test for the effectiveness of the law or better said the will of key players to go through with it.

As for any developments in internal party democracy, the nature of the electoral candidate selection, with closed lists, shall keep the power that stands with the party leaders unchallenged, a negative mark for Albania's democracy.

The elections shall see also shifting dynamics with the southern neighbor, Greece, as the ruling coalition has recently incorporated a political party running on rhetoric that puts it at loggerhead with official Greek foreign policy.

Elections shall be observed and evaluated according also to the political criteria necessary to be fulfilled for the integration of the country. A smooth and proper elections process would mean a lot for the country going forward to the negotiations process.

Selection of a the President of the Republic

There are several scenarios on how, and, especially, when this shall happen since it is combined with the elections themselves. However, most likely the President shall be chosen from the current MPs in the incumbent Parliament. After the constitutional changes of 2008, the position of the President has suffered decline in public trust since he can be chosen at the last round by a political majority as it happened. Time will show whether this can be escaped and it will depend also on the selection of the personality. Speculations so far are feeble, some include Speaker of the Assembly Ilir Meta and some venture to say that time has come for a woman president. The process has the potential to be the reason for a full-fledged political gridlock if political forces decide to test their strength and alliances and not find common ground.

Reflection on European Integration - ‘eppur si muove’

The inner context of the European Union is at the most unfavorable point regarding enlargement with the impact of external crisis as well as the rising tide of populism crouching upon the Union at frightening speed. Realistically, Albania cannot hope for any substantial decision before spring of 2018. However, in the last days of December, Albania has gotten some positive news, acclaimed for the approval of the justice reform and encouraged to follow up on it. Despite the fact that 2017 shall see no country reports to assess progress, in the words of the Slovak presidency of the EU ‘calendar is not an obstacle” as the Council shall welcome signs of considerable progress being made, in order to then proceed with more substantial steps related to negotiations.

As the Constitutional Court approved the vetting law the day this newspaper went to print, a key component of the justice reform is now ready for implementation, and Albanians shall be holding their breath to see whether the reform shall start to be implemented or will be lost in another vortex of legal, political and even linguistic challenges.

Quo vadis economy?

The pessimistic among us say that Albanian economy is being oriented alas to the cannabis production, transportation and trafficking with a few call centers that employ the rest of the youth peppered around in big cities. The optimists shall point at international reports from the World Bank indicating better conditions of doing business and sounder fiscal profile. The realists shall conclude that no matter the situation now time has come for the country to face a crucible: define the economic priorities and the areas of competitive advantage for the country and take action accordingly. Few large investments, such as the TAP pipeline, which is expected to finish groundwork in 2017 offer a glimmer of hope, which is not enough.

Nation on the move

According to the world economic forum, Albania is among the countries with the highest percentage of its population living abroad, around 28 percent. According to a trusted civil society organization report, only in Germany, asylum seekers in the first ten months of 2016 were above 30.000! If these tendencies continue at this rate the country shall be soon hollowed out of its core: human assets, young labor force, drive for progress. Frequently mentioned the economic status does not suffice to stay, one needs hope that things shall improve, that life standards shall catch up to other European countries.

Neighbors: Gossip and breakups in the digital time

Sometimes the drama that goes on in the Balkans seems like a soap opera: quibbles, little fights, bullying, grandiose daydreaming and surprising flirts. Albania is posed to increase its positive collaboration with Serbia as two offices start their operations based in Tirana: RYCO, the Regional Youth Cooperation office as well as the Joint Chamber of Commerce between Albania and Serbia. Dubbed as the best year among the two countries so far, 2016 laid a lot of foundation work for more progress to be made in 2017. The reactions from Kosovo so far have ranged all over the love-hate spectrum, when one can expect as much also for next year.

Albania is posed for a difficult year with Greece as the emerging alliance of the ruling majority with a political force popularly referred to as the ‘Cham party' is posing a lot of dilemmas in the public rhetoric. The prime minister himself is walking a fine line between being a voice for the whole region and a champion of Albanian dignity, recently even holding post elections talks with Albanian parties in Macedonia. Much of the regional cooperation next year shall be determined also by the future development of the Berlin process, whose next in line event is the Rome Summit.

The magic of music

To end on a good note, no matter what days lie ahead, and several grey ones are foreseen, the year shall be waltzed in by a wonderful concert of classic music of the Vienna Philharmonic Ensemble, set for Jan. 2, thanks also to the engagement of the talented abroad such as violin virtuoso Shkelzen Doli. This is not, of course, “the famous Vienna Concert coming to Tirana” as marketing tricksters and politicians using culture for their own selfish narratives attempted to sell it to Albanians this month -- but it is the next best thing. According to Doli himself, more than 30 artists are traveling from Austria to wish Albanians a prosperous new year with their music. All we can hope for is that this event brings good luck to Albania because it is much needed.
                    [post_title] => Albania 2017: Elections, selections and reflections
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-2017-elections-selections-and-reflections
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-23 13:25:27
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-23 12:25:27
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130508
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130464
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-21 15:15:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-21 14:15:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 21 - Albania has finalized contract renegotiations with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline consortium with a new deal that will increase the country's financial benefits by another €80 million, energy minister Damian Gjjiknuri said.

The renegotiation of the contract came after Albania had complained of smaller financial benefits compared to other countries where TAP crosses through, especially neighboring Greece.

“This amended deal gives Albania the opportunity to be now duly treated and rebalance its contractual commitments as one of the pipeline's host countries by maximizing its benefits to the benefit of local communities in the energy and transport infrastructure," said minister Gjiknuri.

In case another country has extra benefits, Albania will also have, Gjiknuri said.

Under the new amendments, Albania will benefit €60 million in extra corporate income tax, an increase in community investment by €7 million to €14 million and double funds on natural gas training from €350,000 to €700,000. The deal also involves a memorandum pledging support to the newly established Albagaz gas transmission operator in Albania so that it can be part of TAP's maintenance services in the operational stage.

Ian Bradshaw, TAP's managing director pledged the consortium will continue to be a good neighbor and a corporation with high social and citizen responsibility that will support social and environmental projects bringing sustainable development in the quality of life for communities living along the pipeline track.

Philipp Keller, the deputy Swiss ambassador to Albania, whose government supported Albania through expertise to increase benefits from TAP, said Albania is now part of the international gas and energy  network.

"Today's agreement between the public authorities and TAP investors implies progress for the energy and gas sector in Albania. Albania is now linked to the international gas and energy network. The same to neighboring EU member countries such as Greece and Italy, it can enjoy the same rights and benefits from this strategic investment. We can finally say Albania is part of the TAP network," said Keller.

Back in 2013, Albania was the first country to sign a deal with the TAP consortium that was competing to bring Caspian gas to Europe.

Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri had earlier assured the new deal would bring Albania’s benefits on par with neighboring Greece.

Albania was seeking more benefits regarding employment, investments, community projects and the participation of Albanian companies in the pipeline construction.

Albanian experts have described TAP as an opportunity that would benefit Albania both economically and politically, making the country an important hub of the international gas pipeline for the Western Balkans. TAP would be another opportunity to diversify generation especially in the newly-built Vlora thermal power plant, help the country’s gasification by offering gas, already massively used as a cheaper alternative to electricity for cooking and heating, although the country’s buildings lack gas infrastructure.

One year after its launch of construction with the access roads and bridges, more than 1,700 people have been directly employed in the project which has rehabilitated 100 km of roads in southern areas of Korça, Çorovoda and Fier.

However, low compensation rates for land owners have sparked concern among local residents and NGOs.

A report by Counter Balance, a Brussels-based European coalition of development and environmental NGOs, claims TAP is on course to benefit only a few while placing the burden of potential risks on the shoulders of the disadvantaged Albanian population.

Several of the residents are unhappy with the offers made for the rent or purchase of their land, notes the report.

London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says the Trans Adriatic Pipeline bringing Caspian gas to Europe will be Albania’s key driver of growth for the next couple of years.

The EBRD says Albania’s growth will be investment-driven as TAP has already entered its pipeline construction stage in its Albania section after the completion of access roads and bridges and expects the gas pipeline to trigger investment equal to 3 percent of the GDP, some Euro 300 million, in the next couple of years.

“We expect growth to remain mainly investment-driven as TAP construction enters its full extent in 2016-2017 with a total investment of about 1.5 per cent of GDP per year in each of these two years,” said the EBRD in its latest November Regional Economic Prospects report.

The pipeline in Albania will be approximately 211 km long, starting at Bilisht Qendër in the Korça region, southeastern Albania on the border with Greece. TAP’s landfall in Albania will be located 17 km north-west of Fier, up to 400 metres inland from the shoreline. The offshore section in Albanian territorial waters will be about 37 km.

TAP’s route across the Adriatic Sea will take the pipeline approximately 105 km along the seabed from the Albanian to the Italian coast.

With first gas sales to Georgia and Turkey targeted for late 2018, first deliveries to Europe will follow approximately in early 2020.

After the withdrawal of Norway’s Statoil, TAP’s shareholding is now comprised of UK’s BP (20 percent), Azerbaijan’s SOCAR (20 percent), Italy’s Snam (20 percent), Belgium’s Fluxys (19 percent), Spain’s Enagás (16 percent) and Switzerland’s Axpo (5 percent).
                    [post_title] => Albania to benefit extra €80 mln from revised deal with TAP
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-to-benefit-extra-e80-mln-from-revised-deal-with-tap
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-21 15:15:51
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-21 14:15:51
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130464
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130453
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-19 15:20:04
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-19 14:20:04
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 19 – Albania has warned of reciprocity measures against neighboring Macedonia after a new blockade on Albanian fresh vegetables over what local authorities call unfounded allegations of chemical contamination.

The blockade, a repeated measure imposed by Macedonian authorities in the past few years, is considered a protectionist measure intended to favor Macedonian producers over competition from Albania even though both countries are part of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).

“What Macedonia is doing is something irresponsible. Masked under the phytosanitary standards, this is an open protectionist measure," Albania's Agriculture Minister Edmond Panariti has said.

Two lorries carrying Albanian fresh vegetables have been blocked in southeastern Albania at the border crossing point with Macedonia as authorities there have taken samples to conduct tests over contamination allegations.

Hundreds of metric tons of Albanian fresh vegetables destined for exports to Macedonia have also been blocked, pending tests by Macedonian authorities. Previous lengthy tests conducted by Macedonian authorities have proven contamination-free.

Experts describe the situation as absurd considering that Albania exports vegetables even to EU markets such as Germany, Bulgaria and Romania where they have encountered no problems.

"This is not normal. We can impose reciprocal measures and also ban their transit of goods through Albania, but this is neither the European way, nor the way of reasoning and standards," Panariti has said.

There has been no reaction by Macedonian officials where the focus is on the tense political situation following the early general elections and the creation of the new government following a tight vote.

Lack of dialogue and trade barriers are even more absurd considering the fact that the Macedonian economy ministry is led by Driton Kuçi, an ethnic Albanian representing more than a quarter of Macedonia’s Albanian population.

Albania's trade exchanges with neighbouring Macedonia, representing only 1.9 percent of the total, slightly dropped in the first ten months of this year after a record high of about 15 billion lek (€110 million) in 2015 fuelled by an increase in Albanian exports led by minerals, metals and fresh vegetables.

Albania’s exports to Macedonia rose by 21 percent to 6.4 billion lek (€46 mln) in 2015 while imports slightly increased to 8.6 billion lek (€61 mln), according to state statistical institute, INSTAT.

The stock of Macedonian foreign investment to Albania slightly rose to €22 million in 2014, up from €17 million in 2012, according to central bank data.

More and more Macedonian businesses have also been using Durres Port as an alternative to Greece’s Thessaloniki Port because of barriers by Greek authorities and the ongoing name dispute with Greece.

Ethnic Albanians officially account for around 25 percent of Macedonia’s 2 million population, but the figure is estimated to be higher.
                    [post_title] => Albania, Macedonia engage in new trade war over fresh vegetables' blockade
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-macedonia-engage-in-new-trade-war-over-fresh-vegetables-blockade
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-19 15:20:58
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-19 14:20:58
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130453
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130441
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 13:47:46
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:47:46
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 15 – Socialist Party MP Vladimir Kosta was one of the many victims of property scam. The MP paid millions of leks to a 30-year-old man identified as Armand Gjuzi in exchange for an apartment. After taking the money from the lawmaker, Gjuzi sold the apartment to another person and according to Kosta refused to pay the funds back. The MP filed criminal charges against Gjuzi who is being investigated by prosecutors.

Buying an apartment in Albania has proven to be a challenge for many ordinary citizens, but it is also one of the most fraudulent experiences. The lack of mortgage certificates has forced many people to lose all their money after falling victims to such scams as alleged property owners sell an apartment couple of times and then flee the country.

The Socialist led government has pledged to solve the issue of mortgage certificates as a new mortgage bill aims to provide more protection to citizens who invest all their savings in buying an apartment.

Albania has been granted conditional EU candidate status, but for years, the European Union has urged the small Balkan country to solve the property issues.

 
                    [post_title] => Lawmaker falls victim to scam
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => lawmaker-falls-victim-to-scam
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:47:46
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:47:46
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130441
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130437
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 13:41:01
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:41:01
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 12 – The Venice Commission has issued no objections to the constitutionality of the Vetting Law as well as to its accordance with international conventions, according to an  amicus curiae brief published by a panel of law experts at the Council of Europe.

The brief states that provisions in the vetting law do not infringe on the limitations provided by the European Convention on Human Rights or issues raised by Constitutional Court of Albania.

Earlier in October, the Constitutional Court put four questions to the Venice Commission, related to the compatibility of certain aspects of the Vetting Law  with the Albanian Constitution and Articles 6 and 8 of the of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as on whether the participation of the judges of the Constitutional Court, who are themselves subject of the vetting procedure, in the examination of the constitutionality of the Vetting Law may be considered as a conflict of interest which requires their disqualification.

The Venice Commission underlined that all the constitutional judges will be the subject of the Vetting Law, therefore, the possible conflict of interest may affect the position, not only of one or some constitutional judges, but of all the constitutional judges sitting at the Constitutional Court.

However, according to the commission, “the disqualification of the constitutional judges because of the existence of a conflict of interest would result in the total exclusion of the possibility of judicial review of the Vetting Law in view of its conformity to the constitution.”

The Constitutional Court asked the Venice Commission whether the involvement of organs allegedly under the control of executive power endanger the independence of the judiciary.

The panel of law experts noted that despite the involvement of bodies, such as High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest (HIDAACI) or Classified Information Security Directory (CISD) in the investigation process, the gathered evidence rests with the Independent Commission and the Appeal Chamber, which have the power to verify for themselves the evidence gathered by the executive bodies.

“On this basis, it may be concluded that the system put in place by the Vetting Law does not as such seem to amount to an interference with the judicial powers,” the opinion brief notes. 

“While the constitution does not regulate the circumstances in which these powers are to be exercised, Article 49 of the Vetting Law provides a mechanism for the re-evaluation institutions in order to establish facts and circumstances in each case,” the Venice Commission added.

The panel of experts also provided an opinion on whether the provisions of the law concerning the background assessment are contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which deals with interests of national security, public safety, the prevention of disorder or crime, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others) and underlined the background assessment has the purpose to verify the declarations of the judges and prosecutors being assessed with a view to determining whether they had inappropriate contacts with persons involved in organized crime.

“The Venice Commission is of the opinion that while the background assessment is undoubtedly obtrusive, it may not necessarily be seen as an unjustifiable interference with the private or family life of judges and prosecutors contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights,” the brief noted. 

The Constitutional Court of Albania decided to suspend the implementation of the Vetting Bill while waiting for a response by the Venice Commission, before reaching a final decision on the legitimacy of the bill, which has been opposed by the Democratic Party and Union of Judges.

 
                    [post_title] => Venice Commission has no objections to Vetting Law
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => venice-commission-has-no-objections-to-vetting-law
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:41:01
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:41:01
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130437
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130425
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 13:32:23
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:32:23
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 15 - Albania's main opposition Democratic Party has urged the government to sack Durres Mayor Vangjush Dako, a Socialist, after investigative journalists showed he had sent a letter to the court in support of the early release of a notorious gang leader and convicted murderer.

The Municipality of Durres offered a guarantee that it would give a job to Lulzim Berisha if he was released on bail and if he couldn't find a job in the private sector. The letter was published by BIRN and Voice of America. 

In the Court of Appeal decision to free Berisha early, the letter is cited as a supportive factor.

Democratic Party Chairman Lulzim Basha said Dako had helped in the release of “a criminal who has killed and terrorized citizens of Durres," adding the local branch of the Democratic Party has “decided to ask Prime Minister Edi Rama to immediately discharge of Dako office, based on the Constitution and laws of the country.”

Basha said he had also met with the attorney general to seek a criminal investigation against Dako.

Durres Mayor Dako responded that the letter had been part of a routine procedure issued to all who apply for it, saying it was volunteer work as alternative punishment the municipality was offering, not paid work. 

In addition to Dako, several judges have come under fire for several decisions that led to early release for Lulzim Berisha, who legal experts say should have received life in prison for his crimes but got 25 years in prison instead, benefiting from a series of reductions and amnesties that allowed him to leave prison earlier this month.
                    [post_title] => Democrats seek sacking of Durres mayor over gang leader's release 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => democrats-seek-sacking-of-durres-mayor-over-gang-leaders-release
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:32:23
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:32:23
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130425
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130418
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 13:25:17
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:25:17
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 14 – Albania has received no date for opening membership talks with the European Union at the year’s most important meeting to discuss the country’s EU accession prospects.

Foreign ministers of the EU member countries have agreed with the recommendation made by the European Commission that the opening of accession talks with Albania be made depending on the implementation of the justice reform and particularly the vetting law for judges and prosecutors. 

The European Commission is also required to submit a report on Albania as it has made sufficient progress in this regard.

"The council notes positively the commission's recommendation to open accession talks with Albania, according to a credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the judicial reform, in particular the evaluation of judges and prosecutors," noted the text on Albania discussed by the EU foreign ministers.

It is important to note that the meeting left no date for the next progress report discussions.

"The Council invites the Commission to report on Albania, in addition to the enlargement package ... when the review is complete enough that progress is made," says the text released at a press conference by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, whose country has the rotating presidency of the EU.

“There is a clear agreement. We will not need to wait for the next report to the Commission in the spring of 2018, but there is a commitment of the Commission to inform or to review the progress of Albania, as soon as possible or when there is tangible progress. So I think this is a clear and positive result and that Albania should be pleased," he said.

However, Albanian politicians are not pleased at all by the outcome, seen as another delay and lack of progress. The opposition and ruling parties have accused each other of playing politics with integration and hampering the country’s prospects.

Meanwhile the council has asked Albania to continue implementing the five key priorities identified in 2014. 

The report also noted that the "stable and constructive dialogue between the government and opposition to reforms that correlate with European integration remains key to advancing the reform agenda and brings the country closer to the EU. This will be of particular importance also for the finalization of the electoral reform, in addressing the recommendations of the OSCE in sufficient time before the elections to ensure that they are maintained in line with international standards."

 
                    [post_title] => EU foreign ministers: No set date for opening EU negotiations
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => eu-foreign-ministers-no-set-date-for-opening-eu-negotiations
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:25:17
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:25:17
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130418
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130416
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 13:21:34
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:21:34
                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_123766" align="alignright" width="300"]Ilir Meta, the leader of Albania's Socialist Movement for Integration Party. (Photo: Archives). Ilir Meta, the leader of Albania's Socialist Movement for Integration Party. (Photo: Archives).[/caption]

TIRANA, Dec.13 – Albania’s Socialist Movement for Integration party is still refusing to back the waste import bill.

President Bujar Nishani vetoed the bill and sent it back to parliament, but the Assembly violated its internal regulation by not reviewing the president’s decree within the next eight weeks.

Speaker of the parliament and chairman of the junior coalition party, Ilir Meta said Tuesday that the waste bill must be subject to additional consultations.

Meta admitted that voting in favor of the bill was a rushed move due to an “irresponsible political will and lack of know-how.”

“Often, decision making processes have been rushed, sometimes due to a political will that has not been responsible and lacked temperance, but also as a result of a proper knowledge for certain issues,” Meta said.

“We have noted that in terms of environmental issues and the waste imports, it is necessary to carry out studies, debates and research because this is a new field, and lawmakers must be updated on the new developments. We are fully aware that our parliament has a lot of progress to make in terms of direct representation,” Meta added.

The Socialist Movement for Integration voted in favor of the waste import bill. The document was approved with merely 64 votes in favor, revealing cracks in the ruling coalition.

The waste import bill sparked protests from the civil society which fears Albania will turn into Europe’s next dust bin.

The president also overturned the bill saying it was unconstitutional and infringed the rights of citizens to a cleaner environment.

In the light of these developments, the Socialist Movement for Integration launched meetings with members of the civil society and said that it would not vote in favor of the bill the second time around.

As it seems the SMI vote is holding hostage the review of the President decree on the bill.

 
                    [post_title] => Junior coalition ally holding up waste import bill
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => junior-coalition-ally-holding-up-waste-import-bill
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:21:34
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:21:34
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130416
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130401
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 13:00:49
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:00:49
                    [post_content] => The meeting of the Foreign Minister of the EU member states did not produce any news about the European integration perspective of Albania other than endorsing and reiterating the recommendation of the Commission to wait for tangible progress in implementing the justice reform before proceeding with more concrete steps about negotiations.

The meeting was interesting for other reasons though, with the disunity that led to no formal adoption of a resolution, it really showcased the frozen spirit of the Union. Upon the insisting Austrian demand to freeze all further steps with Turkey, contradicted by the majority of the others, the meeting ended on a jumbled note.

Where does Albania go from here?

A few words on the context of all future efforts: the EU will experience a tense year with elections in several key member states.   Populism, anti-enlargement feeling and a general skepticism over the existence of the Union itself are on the march in many places at once.  Current liberal elite shall have to exert caution and restraint not to alienate already confused voters.  There shall be no country reports evaluating annual progress and readiness, despite the fact that the Commission says that they are not bound by calendar obstacles. For all practical means and purposes meaningful developments in the enlargement agenda are left for the first part of 2018 the earliest.

This brings us to the domestic situation and what should be done not to make things more difficult than they are at present. Our overall progress in fulfilling the criteria for integration, in creating the suitable political and economic climate that favors integration is not satisfactory and we have managed quite a few times to miss the train of opportunity. Our absurd political conflict has produced the almost same negative effects for our country, and the eventual delays, that the legacy of war has done for the former Yugoslav countries.

First and foremost the justice reform is on the table, not because it is a magic wand that will suddenly solve corruption but because it is the necessary step to start doing it. The opposition should stop trying to sideline it by attempt to put elections in the limelight. The same applies to the majority which tries to sideline elections. Both are important and both shall be judged and either is or can be allowed to be an obstacle to the other.

The electoral campaign should not hold hostage the progress in the justice reform finalization and implementation. Here there is a role for other state and social actors such as the constitutional court, the Union of Judges and other representative institutions and organizations of the justice system not to fight the reform for short term personal gains or protection.  Their reactionary approach cannot and should not be allowed to freeze Albania’s European future.

Elections shall be an outright test to the usability of the de-criminalization law. Both shall be closely observed and evaluated in terms of standards, practices and trends. It is imperative that political forces show maturity and responsibility, try to improve representativeness of MPs and organize and overall peaceful and democratic electoral process.

Overall, Albania shall have experience a charged political year with dual presidential selection and general elections coming up, each testing important indicators of preparedness to move forward towards integration. The Presidential selection is an opportunity, though many shall say a long shot, to try once again inclusiveness and dialogue.

Last but not least Albanian foreign policy but also overall general political rhetoric has to recalibrate to veer off unnecessary friction and collisions with neighboring countries, especially EU member states.  The electoral gains are not worth the potential risk that comes from perceived provocations. Albania is a small and dignified country also because it has behaved with serious reasonability and pro-western stance in all forums. This is not the time to play nationalists since we have seen that nothing valuable has come out of it in our neighbors’ cases.

European Union is still the dreamed destination of the overwhelming majority of Albanian citizens. This is remarkable. For the umpteenth time, politicians at home and in the EU as well as other influential stakeholders should try more honestly to fulfill that dream.
                    [post_title] => Editorial: European integration where do we go from here on?
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => editorial-european-integration-where-do-we-go-from-here-on
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 13:00:49
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 12:00:49
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130401
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 130391
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2016-12-16 12:38:48
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-16 11:38:48
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Dec. 13 - VAT refunds, ongoing reference prices at customs points and relations with the tax administration are some of the key concerns businesses face in Albania, according to a recent survey conducted by Albania Investment Council, an advisory body serving as a linking bridge between the business community and the government set up in 2015 with support by London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

While legal changes have made VAT refunds automatic within 30 days for businesses exporting more than 70 percent of their total sale value as of mid-2016, only 11 percent of businesses said the refund was completed within a month.

Exporters in Albania are entitled to request reimbursement when the recoverable VAT amount is over 400,000 lek (€2,900).

The survey conducted in Sep.-Oct. 2016 with key businesses from the manufacturing, trade and services sectors, showed that in 54 percent of the cases the VAT refund was executed after the lapse of 60 days.

However, more than half of respondents consider the VAT refund procedures easier compared to 2015 when only to wholly exporting companies were entitled to automatic refunds.

"Deadlines are not respected in most of the cases for the VAT refund requests by exporters. The majority of the taxpayers requesting a VAT refund, including exporters with more than 70 percent of sales abroad have gone through a tax audit," the survey showed.

A considerable 20 percent of the surveyed businesses still consider the performance of the tax administration weak and another 37 percent as somehow good.

"Timely VAT refund has a direct impact on business activities, because it leads further to liquidity for daily operations and reduced investment cost. This is important not only for exporters, but also for enterprises that execute large capital purchases (investments) in relation to sales, which can be limited, especially at the first steps of the business, or extended in time," says the Albanian Investment Council.

The advisory body suggests automatic VAT refund should continue to be executed within 30 days for taxable persons that export more than 70 percent and between 50-70 percent of their total sales value, based on the risk analysis, and within 60 days for all other taxpayers, again in accordance with the risk analysis although conclusion of procedures within the ambitious deadlines set forth in the legal framework remains a challenge for the administration. The Investment Council also recommends further simplification of VAT refund procedures and stronger transparency and capacities by the tax administration.

Reference prices at customs offices on goods imported both from EU and non-EU countries continues remaining an issue. Businesses claim customs officers apply higher reference prices even when they had all the documentation justifying the transaction, including original invoices which can be easily verified by Albanian customs authorities through information exchange with their counterparts in exporting countries, resulting in higher VAT payments.

However, the General Customs Directorate says reference prices continue to be applied in only 12 percent of the cases, mostly for goods originating outside the EU.

The survey also shows informality remains an issue even after the late 2015 nationwide campaign that formalized thousands of businesses previously operating informally. The situation is more problematic for small businesses who refuse taking invoiced goods in order not to exceed the threshold of 5 million lek (€36,750) of annual turnover that make them VAT businesses.

“This situation has brought about serious difficulties for honest businesses, distortion of the market and fair competition and, as a result, fewer revenues for the state budget from VAT or profit tax," it adds.

In its 2017 budget, the Albanian government has proposed some easier procedures but left unchanged the country's high tax burden, the business community's key concern over the past few years.

Albania climbed 32 steps to rank 58th among 190 global economies in the latest Doing Business report to score its best ever ranking, but yet lagged behind some of its key regional competitors offering lower taxes and easier procedures.

Since 2014, 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 Albania one of the region’s highest and the key concern for the business community in the country.
                    [post_title] => VAT refunds, reference prices remain top barriers for businesses, survey shows 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => vat-refunds-reference-prices-remain-top-barriers-for-businesses-survey-shows
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2016-12-16 12:38:48
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-16 11:38:48
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130391
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

        )

    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 130508
            [post_author] => 29
            [post_date] => 2016-12-23 10:48:16
            [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-23 09:48:16
            [post_content] => The future isn’t what it used to be. Conflicts, terrorism, seismic political events and grave incidents stamped the year and are marking even these last festive days. Amidst the tumult, Albania’s small size and relative importance seems, in these dark times, almost a blessing. However the upheaval in the world order is posed to be a formidable obstacle to the country’s future path: European integration. We take a look at what is expected to happen in this corner of the Balkans in 2017, a year that is going to be first and foremost an electoral year, with all the complimentary drama and excessive media frenzy.

General elections, June 18, 2017

Elections in Albania are riddled with negative side effects: Too long of a campaign, nail-biting days of counting votes, extremely polarizing climate, exhausting media coverage. One can say that is true for many other states, even in the West. Unlike in other states though, where institutions hold to the tradition of rule of law, in Albania the electoral context threatens to consume everything that stands in its path like a hurricane. All the months leading to June shall be consumed by the ghost of the electoral reform (that is unlikely to occur), the all-directions speculation about coalitions (who is the kingmaker going to choose this time?) and the new players’ relative strengths.

The ruling majority coalition, despite shakes and stirs seems poised to face the electoral challenge together, however, with intense internal fighting over importance and key positions. The governance record of the majority is mixed. Some progress in areas like rule of law and enforcement of regulations negatively balances out with the explosion in cannabis cultivation and increase in criminality. Major electoral promises remain unfulfilled, especially in healthcare quality and employment numbers. The opposition is divided whether they should tempt the junior coalition partner once again and upset the results, however that seem less likely to happen.

Keep an eye on the implementation of the decriminalization law as scrutiny shall be exerted on the candidate lists to spot the culprits. The participation of people with criminal records and shady pasts has been a major theme throughout the year, while elections are the first real test for the effectiveness of the law or better said the will of key players to go through with it.

As for any developments in internal party democracy, the nature of the electoral candidate selection, with closed lists, shall keep the power that stands with the party leaders unchallenged, a negative mark for Albania's democracy.

The elections shall see also shifting dynamics with the southern neighbor, Greece, as the ruling coalition has recently incorporated a political party running on rhetoric that puts it at loggerhead with official Greek foreign policy.

Elections shall be observed and evaluated according also to the political criteria necessary to be fulfilled for the integration of the country. A smooth and proper elections process would mean a lot for the country going forward to the negotiations process.

Selection of a the President of the Republic

There are several scenarios on how, and, especially, when this shall happen since it is combined with the elections themselves. However, most likely the President shall be chosen from the current MPs in the incumbent Parliament. After the constitutional changes of 2008, the position of the President has suffered decline in public trust since he can be chosen at the last round by a political majority as it happened. Time will show whether this can be escaped and it will depend also on the selection of the personality. Speculations so far are feeble, some include Speaker of the Assembly Ilir Meta and some venture to say that time has come for a woman president. The process has the potential to be the reason for a full-fledged political gridlock if political forces decide to test their strength and alliances and not find common ground.

Reflection on European Integration - ‘eppur si muove’

The inner context of the European Union is at the most unfavorable point regarding enlargement with the impact of external crisis as well as the rising tide of populism crouching upon the Union at frightening speed. Realistically, Albania cannot hope for any substantial decision before spring of 2018. However, in the last days of December, Albania has gotten some positive news, acclaimed for the approval of the justice reform and encouraged to follow up on it. Despite the fact that 2017 shall see no country reports to assess progress, in the words of the Slovak presidency of the EU ‘calendar is not an obstacle” as the Council shall welcome signs of considerable progress being made, in order to then proceed with more substantial steps related to negotiations.

As the Constitutional Court approved the vetting law the day this newspaper went to print, a key component of the justice reform is now ready for implementation, and Albanians shall be holding their breath to see whether the reform shall start to be implemented or will be lost in another vortex of legal, political and even linguistic challenges.

Quo vadis economy?

The pessimistic among us say that Albanian economy is being oriented alas to the cannabis production, transportation and trafficking with a few call centers that employ the rest of the youth peppered around in big cities. The optimists shall point at international reports from the World Bank indicating better conditions of doing business and sounder fiscal profile. The realists shall conclude that no matter the situation now time has come for the country to face a crucible: define the economic priorities and the areas of competitive advantage for the country and take action accordingly. Few large investments, such as the TAP pipeline, which is expected to finish groundwork in 2017 offer a glimmer of hope, which is not enough.

Nation on the move

According to the world economic forum, Albania is among the countries with the highest percentage of its population living abroad, around 28 percent. According to a trusted civil society organization report, only in Germany, asylum seekers in the first ten months of 2016 were above 30.000! If these tendencies continue at this rate the country shall be soon hollowed out of its core: human assets, young labor force, drive for progress. Frequently mentioned the economic status does not suffice to stay, one needs hope that things shall improve, that life standards shall catch up to other European countries.

Neighbors: Gossip and breakups in the digital time

Sometimes the drama that goes on in the Balkans seems like a soap opera: quibbles, little fights, bullying, grandiose daydreaming and surprising flirts. Albania is posed to increase its positive collaboration with Serbia as two offices start their operations based in Tirana: RYCO, the Regional Youth Cooperation office as well as the Joint Chamber of Commerce between Albania and Serbia. Dubbed as the best year among the two countries so far, 2016 laid a lot of foundation work for more progress to be made in 2017. The reactions from Kosovo so far have ranged all over the love-hate spectrum, when one can expect as much also for next year.

Albania is posed for a difficult year with Greece as the emerging alliance of the ruling majority with a political force popularly referred to as the ‘Cham party' is posing a lot of dilemmas in the public rhetoric. The prime minister himself is walking a fine line between being a voice for the whole region and a champion of Albanian dignity, recently even holding post elections talks with Albanian parties in Macedonia. Much of the regional cooperation next year shall be determined also by the future development of the Berlin process, whose next in line event is the Rome Summit.

The magic of music

To end on a good note, no matter what days lie ahead, and several grey ones are foreseen, the year shall be waltzed in by a wonderful concert of classic music of the Vienna Philharmonic Ensemble, set for Jan. 2, thanks also to the engagement of the talented abroad such as violin virtuoso Shkelzen Doli. This is not, of course, “the famous Vienna Concert coming to Tirana” as marketing tricksters and politicians using culture for their own selfish narratives attempted to sell it to Albanians this month -- but it is the next best thing. According to Doli himself, more than 30 artists are traveling from Austria to wish Albanians a prosperous new year with their music. All we can hope for is that this event brings good luck to Albania because it is much needed.
            [post_title] => Albania 2017: Elections, selections and reflections
            [post_excerpt] => 
            [post_status] => publish
            [comment_status] => closed
            [ping_status] => closed
            [post_password] => 
            [post_name] => albania-2017-elections-selections-and-reflections
            [to_ping] => 
            [pinged] => 
            [post_modified] => 2016-12-23 13:25:27
            [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-23 12:25:27
            [post_content_filtered] => 
            [post_parent] => 0
            [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=130508
            [menu_order] => 0
            [post_type] => post
            [post_mime_type] => 
            [comment_count] => 0
            [filter] => raw
        )

    [queried_object] => stdClass Object
        (
            [term_id] => 52
            [name] => Premium
            [slug] => premium
            [term_group] => 0
            [term_taxonomy_id] => 52
            [taxonomy] => category
            [description] => Please subscribe to have access to articles in our premium section.
            [parent] => 0
            [count] => 389
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 52
            [category_count] => 389
            [category_description] => Please subscribe to have access to articles in our premium section.
            [cat_name] => Premium
            [category_nicename] => premium
            [category_parent] => 0
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 52
    [post__not_in] => Array
        (
        )

)