Turkey gov’t-owned foundation makes first Albania acquisition to rival Gulen-linked schools

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 20, 2018 11:52

Turkey gov’t-owned foundation makes first Albania acquisition to rival Gulen-linked schools

Story Highlights

  • The Maarif Foundation has fully acquired the University of New York Tirana, Albania’s first private run higher education institution set up in 2002, becoming the sole owner of a higher education institution that also runs a compulsory education unit as well as a high school

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TIRANA, Aug. 20 – Turkey’s government-owned Maarif Foundation is now officially present in Albania after taking over one of the largest private-run universities in the country, rivalling a bigger network of schools and universities linked to what the Turkish government calls the Fethullah Terrorist Organization, FETO, allegedly run by U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen whom it accuses of masterminding a failed July 2016 coup to topple Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Maarif Foundation has fully acquired the University of New York Tirana, Albania’s first private run higher education institution set up in 2002, becoming the sole owner of a higher education institution that also runs a compulsory education unit as well as a high school, according to Albania’s National Business Center.

The Turkish government-owned foundation operating as a state agency for Turkish schools abroad has acquired a 65 percent stake owned by Greek citizen Ilias Foutsis, 25 percent of shares owned by Albanian Mimoza Pashko, the widow of renowned late Albanian economist Gramoz Pashko, and a 10 percent stake that was owned by the University of New York in Prague for an undisclosed amount which local media put at 1.2 billion lek (€9.5 million).

While the University of New York Tirana is not part of what Turkey considers FETO-linked education institutions in Albania and the region, it will provide an education alternative in Albania while eyeing to take over Gulen-linked schools as it has done with more than a hundred Turkish overseas schools.

The Tirana-based university serves some 1,000 students, with a considerable number being Albanian migrants in Greece.

The state-run Maarif foundation was set up in 2016 to take over the administration of overseas schools which Turkey considers linked to what it calls ‘FETO.’ Turkey says there are 12 FETO-linked education institutions operating in Albania including five religious institutions known as medreses, two universities and a network of compulsory education and high schools. Turkish government officials including President Erdogan have repeatedly called on the Albanian government to shut down the Gulen-linked schools and replace them with Maarif Foundation schools.

Albania has some 16 public higher education institutions and another 25 private-run ones.

Several private universities were closed down in 2014 after they were found to not meet even minimal quality standards and dubbed Ponzi schemes similar to those that robbed Albanians of life savings in 1997.

Albania had gone from having no private universities in the early 2000s to more than 40 private universities and professional colleges by 2015.

Turkey is a major player in Albania, a NATO ally, a strategic partner and one of the top trading partners and foreign investors.

However, the escalation of a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and the US and reciprocal sanctions that has seen the Turkish lira lose nearly 40 percent against the US dollar this year, has raised question marks over the future of one of the fastest growing global economies in the past few years.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 20, 2018 11:52