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    Archive for the ‘albania news’ Category

    Albania hunger strikers

    Posted by franksupa on November 19, 2008

    More than 3,000 people protested in front of Albania’s parliament Monday, in support of 10 lawmakers on hunger strike in opposition to a draft election law.

    The deputies have been on a weeklong hunger strike since last Monday to protest the election law changes which they say will keep small parties out of parliament.

    Protesters at the rally chanted “This won’t pass” as they waved Albanian flags and held up protest banners.

    The rally ended peacefully. Protest organizers called on the crowd to repeat the rallies in front of parliament every day.

    “No one will force them stop their hunger strike and their defense of our right of the vote,” said Ilir Meta of the opposition party, Socialist Movement for Integration.

    The hunger strikers remain in parliament. Supporters said they are becoming frail and expressed concern for one elderly lawmaker who suffers from diabetes.

    Albania was invited to join NATO earlier this year and is keen to press ahead with voting reforms that are seen as necessary to further integration with the European Union.

    But Albanians are also highly sensitive to changes in voting rules after enduring decades of oppressive Communist rule.

    Small parties argue the proposed changes would exclude them from parliament by introducing a region-based voting system.

    Several of the hunger strikers are members of a small Christian Democrat party that is in Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s governing conservative coalition.

    Albania elects its deputies to the 140-seat parliament using a partial majority system. General elections are due next year.

    Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors democratic reforms in many former Communist countries, expressed mixed views over the proposed voting changes.

    The OSCE in the past has criticized Albania for failing to hold elections that meet international standards. It said the new law requires “fine tuning.


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    Albania passes the new election law

    Posted by franksupa on November 19, 2008

    Albania’s two main parties passed an election code that they said would ensure the holding of free and fair elections next year, but minor parties complained it would work against them.

    Deputies of the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition Socialists cast 112 votes for the measure in the 140-seat parliament where 10 opposition politicians had staged an eight-day hunger strike to prevent its passage.

    The European Union has made it clear to ex-communist Albania, which has yet to hold elections that meet international standards, that next year’s vote must be above criticism if it wants to join the 27-member bloc.

    “This code will be remembered not only because it will ensure free and fair elections, but as a great example of political cooperation,” said Ilir Rusmali, a Democrat who was co-chairman of the commission that drafted the code.

    The Democrats and Socialists said they had written a code based on the best European models without foreign tutorship well ahead of the election, a milestone for Albania’s 17-year-old democracy.

    But minor parties believe the new regional system of proportional representation will greatly reduce their number of seats at next year’s general election.

    After the law passed, Ilir Meta, one of the hunger strikers, warned of escalating the protest to restore the “sanctity of the vote”.

    “This is a crime against the constitution and democracy,” Meta, unshaven and looking tired, told a crowd of protesters who chanted “Shame” outside the parliament building.

    “You are approving the code of theft and are undermining the 2009 elections,” Nard Ndoka, a former ally of Prime Minister Sali Berisha, told parliament before ending his hunger strike.

    In a rare show of consensus in April, the two main parties agreed to change an electoral system tainted by allegations of fraud.

    Democrats and Socialists alike had been accused of fraud and exaggerated use of tactical voting under the previous system, usually aimed at boosting the seats of their small-party allies so they ended up with more powerful coalitions.

    But the practice often backfired and led to instability, as small parties bargained for favours and slowed the pace of reforms, or switched allegiances in return for official posts.

    “This code … can erase from memory the dark stories of vote trafficking that produced weak governments, which could be easily blackmailed,” Socialist deputy Fatmir Xhafaj said.

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    Albanian building collapse

    Posted by franksupa on November 11, 2008

    The first victim, a 65-year-old woman was pulled out on Monday morning.

    According to the Ministry of Interior, a woman and her 12-year-old daughter are still believed to be under the debris.

    Emergency crews, firefighters and police launched a rescue mission after an apartment building where 30 families lived collapsed on Sunday.
    So far four people have been taken to the local hospital.

    “There is still hope that someone will be found alive,” said Alfred Olli, Albania’s head of Civil Emergencies Agency.

    According to the Ministry of Interior, construction work on a new building at the base of the hill – where the apartment block is located – may have caused the collapse. The owners of the construction firm have been placed under arrest.

    Speaking at the scene after arriving from Tirana, Prime Minister Sali Berisha asked for a thorough investigation.

    “Those responsible should be brought to justice,” said Berisha, adding that for now the authorities were concentrating on the rescue operation.

    Real estate has been booming in Albania for a decade. Price increases were fuelled by strong domestic demand, availability of mortgage loans, fast-flowing remittances from family members working abroad and a strong migratory trend from rural to urban areas.

    Nowhere domestically has the economic buoyancy yielded greater change than in the property market, with the construction industry accounting for 47 per cent of overall economic activity in 2006.

    However, the fast pace of growth, coupled with weak state institutions and corruption, has reduced oversight on constriction sites.

    The local office of the watchdog group Transparency International stated on Sunday that the incident was the result of lack of regulations and weak enforcement of existing rules in the construction industry because of corruption.

    The local media reported that the inhabitants of the collapsed building had continually complained about the construction and had even had filed a suit against the developers of the new building.

    Morning shows in TV stations were filled with calls from people reporting similar situations.

    Original article on Read more:

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    Three killed in Albania’s apartment building collapse

    Posted by franksupa on November 11, 2008

    TIRANA, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Three people were killed in Sunday’s apartment building collapse in a southern Albanian city, local media reported on Monday.

    Rescue workers on Monday dug out three bodies from the rubble of the collapsed building in Gjirokastra, 225 kilometers south of the capital city of Tirana.

    The victims are a 65-year-old woman, a little girl aged 13 and her 38-year-old mother, Albania’s TV network News 24 said.

    The five-story building partially collapsed on Sunday morning. More than 20 people have also been injured in the collapse.

    It was believed that the collapse have been caused by construction work on an adjacent apartment building. The chief of Gjirokastra’s city planning office and four people from the construction company have been detained in the case, police said.

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    Albania pyramid schemes in 1997 scenario

    Posted by franksupa on October 22, 2008

    States throughout the Balkans are taking measures to reassure citizens that their bank deposits are safe amid fearful memories of the 1990s collapse of banking systems or failure of so-called pyramid schemes.

    In response to growing tensions following the world financial crisis, the Serbian government announced on Monday it would guarantee deposits up to 50,000 euros (40,250 dollars), comparing to 3,000 euros until now.

    Belgrade officials argue that Serbia has been largely preserved from any devastating effects of the world crisis.

    Analyst Nebojsa Savic said it was good that the Serbian authorities reacted quickly and urged them to do their utmost to ‘calm down instability and prevent panic.’

    ‘Even the best financial systems would suffer serious problems if all clients withdrew their deposits at the same time,’ Savic said.

    The Serbian government also decided to abolish tax on interest rate income until the end of 2009, as well as gains on shares and bonds until 2012. Croatia has taken similar measures last week, increasing banking deposit guarantee from 19,000 to 56,000 euros.

    In Bosnia, the Central bank demanded the authorities to double a limit for the guarantee to 7,700 euros in a bid to win again the savers’ confidence in the local banking system.

    In most of the countries emerging after the break up of former Yugoslavia, citizens were deprived from their deposits in early 1990s following the collapse of banking system.

    Ever since the removal of the autocratic regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Serbia has been repaying the debt to its citizens in annual instalments.

    Acknowledging that people are worried, Serbian Central bank governor Radovan Jelasic described as ‘irresponsible’ those who tried ‘to compare the banking system in Serbia nowadays with the one in 1990s that took away savings from citizens.’

    He said: ‘At the time, those were state-owned banks in which the government appointed its own people, decided on investments and has played with somebody else’s money, while today the banks in Serbia are owned by first-class investors who can not be ordered by the state where to invest the money.’

    The governor insisted that the banks in Serbia ‘stand’ behind citizens’ savings, insisting that they were ‘liquid and solvent.’

    He said: ‘Second in line is the central bank, which keeps 40 percent of all deposits, more than in any other state in Europe, and finally the state, which pays back old deposits and (gives) guarantee for new ones up to 50,000 euros.’

    The governor urged the citizens ‘not to trust those who are playing with their emotions and memories of the past.’

    In Montenegro, Serbia’s former federation partner which had seceded in 2006, the local press has given widespread coverage to people’s concerns about the latest financial crisis, remembering the collapse in the 1990s.

    The authorities want urgently to pass a law that would guarantee both individual and enterprises’ banking deposits. The state will also guarantee inter-banking loans, Financial Minister Igor Luksic said.

    In Albania, where collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997 led to an armed rebellion, Prime Minister Sali Berisha told AFP that the ‘deposits of the Albanians in banks working in Albania are safe.’

    Pyramid schemes are investment or saving plans which offer high returns. But the returns are largely funded by newly deposited money. The schemes therefore depend on attracting ever more depositors and are unsustainable.

    The International Monetary Fund’s office in Tirana said ‘there is not a single worrying sign at this stage’ in the banking sector.

    The country was less integrated to the world’s economy and therefore ‘somehow a bit protected’ from the ongoing financial crisis, it said.

    In Macedonia, Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Stavrevski urged citizens ‘not to be afraid’ as banks based in Skopje were ‘only a little’ affected by the world crisis.

    source:thanks to

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    Albania looks to institutionalize key reforms

    Posted by franksupa on October 22, 2008

    At a ceremony today in Tirana, Albanian Minister of Finance Ridvan Bode and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Deputy Vice President for Policy and International Relations Sherri Kraham officiated at a ceremony celebrating the signing of Albania’s second MCC threshold program worth over $15.7 million. This second, or Stage II, program builds upon the significant successes of MCC’s first threshold program with Albania and looks to institutionalize key reforms in public administration and judicial capacity building and to support anticorruption activities. Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha, United States Ambassador to Albania John Withers and United States Agency for International Development Mission Director Roberta Mahoney also participated in the ceremony.

    “It is a great pleasure to celebrate progress underway here in Albania, as we mark the successes of Albania’s first threshold program and the start of its second,” stated Ms. Kraham. “MCC is proud to sign its first Stage II program with the government of Albania and looks forward to creating a strong foundation for fighting poverty and stimulating economic growth,” Ms. Kraham added.

    MCC’s threshold programs are designed to assist countries that are on the “threshold” of eligibility for the larger, longer-term Millennium Challenge Account grants, or compacts. Threshold program assistance is used to help countries address the specific policy areas for improvement indicated by their scores on 17 independent policy indicators in three categories — Ruling Justly, Investing in People, and Encouraging Economic Freedom. These policy indicators are central to the criteria and methodology for compact eligibility and are based upon reports by a wide range of respected international institutions and national data. Each indicator was selected based on its relationship to growth and poverty reduction, the number of countries it covers, its transparency and availability, its analytical rigor, and its objectivity.

    MCC’s threshold program assistance signed to date totals $440 million in 19 countries: Albania, Burkina Faso, Guyana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi, Moldova, Niger, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine and Zambia.

    source : thanks to

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    Kosovo nobel

    Posted by franksupa on October 18, 2008

    Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president awarded the Nobel peace prize for his mediation in Kosovo and a string of other conflicts around the world, said yesterday that Serbia would have no option but to accept the new Balkan state.

    In his first interview with a British newspaper since being named Nobel laureate last week, Ahtisaari shrugged off the apparent setback to his work in Kosovo inflicted when Serbia succeeded in having its declaration of independence referred to the international court of justice.

    The 71-year old also argued that it did not matter that the former Serbian province had been recognised so far by only 51 of the world’s 192 countries. That was less important than the economic clout of the nations that did recognize Kosovo, including the US and most of western Europe.

    “It really doesn’t matter if Paraguay hasn’t recognised,” Ahtisaari said. “Well over 65% of the wealth of the world has recognized. That matters.”

    Ahtisaari was commissioned by the UN in 2005 to find a compromise solution for Kosovo’s status as a way of ending the deadlock that followed the 1999 war and Nato intervention. His plan for supervised independence coupled with extensive minority rights for Kosovo’s Serb minority was rejected by Serbia and Russia last year. However, Kosovo – with western backing – declared independence in February.

    Belgrade has vowed never to accept Kosovo’s sovereignty, but Ahtisaari said Serbia would have to relent if it wanted eventual European membership. “You can’t be poking the EU in the eye [while] saying you want to join EU,” he said.

    He sent private messages to all parties soon after taking his role as mediator, that Kosovo’s secession was inevitable. “[I said] in light of what had happened in Kosovo, the return of Kosovo to Serbia is not a viable option,” Ahtisaari said. “So since March 2006 no one should have had any illusion what my plan was going to be.”

    Russia furiously opposed Kosovo’s independence, and pointed to it as justification of its own recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, pro-Russian enclaves in Georgia. Ahtisaari rejected the parallel.

    “We did Kosovo within the UN framework. In Georgia there was not even an attempt,” he argued. “You cannot go into an independent country and do whatever you like. Even if you are Russia.”

    Ahtisaari was also involved in mediating Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1989, and brokering peace in 2005 between the Indonesian government and separatists in Aceh. He said the secrets to successful peacemaking were research, having a clear strategy, and hiring staff who offer independent thinking. “You don’t need a single yes man,” he said. “You have to have colleagues who can challenge your own thinking.”

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    Montenegro Demonstrators Arested

    Posted by franksupa on October 16, 2008

    15 October 2008 Podgorica_Montenegrin police say they will charge 34 people in relation to rioting that broke out after an opposition rally against the government’s decision to recognize Kosovo.

    The 34 men will be charged with “violent behavior”. The clashes left 37 people injured, including 26 policemen, police spokeswoman Tamara Popovic said. She accused opposition leaders of pouring oil on troubled waters by going ahead and organizing the rally.

    About 10,000 people joined the protest in the capital, Podgorica, denouncing the decision of Milo Djukanovic’s government as a “stab in the back” to Serbia.

    Protesters chanted “Treason! Treason!” and “Kosovo is Serbia!”, as opposition speakers gave Prime Minister Djukanovic a 48-hour deadline to annul the move, call a referendum on the issue, or call early elections.

    That deadline expired at noon Wednesday. Nothing unusual took place in the Montenegrin capital after the deadline passed, though a parliamentary session and a special meeting between deputies and the Prime Minister was delayed for unspecified reasons.

    Kosovo remains a sensitive issue in Montenegro, where about one-third of the population declare themselves as Serbs. Ethnic Albanians make up around 7 per cent of the population. Montenegro was also in a loose federation with Serbia until a referendum on independence in 2006.

    Podgorica recognized Kosovo’s independence on October 9, leading Serbia to expel the Montenegrin ambassador.

    Montenegro’s decision came just a day after the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a Serbian request for the International Court of Justice to render an opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence.

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    Albania to leave prosecutors

    Posted by franksupa on October 15, 2008

    EU, US urge Albania to leave prosecutors to do job
    The prosecutor’s office said it wanted Damir Fazlic, a Bosnian-British businessman, for questioning in connection with allegations first made in a newspaper of money laundering related to real estate deals.
    Wednesday, 15 October 2008 10:08
    The European Union joined the United States on Tuesday in calling on Albania’s government to stop interfering with independent prosecutors looking into possible government corruption.

    The prosecutor’s office said it wanted Damir Fazlic, a Bosnian-British businessman, for questioning in connection with allegations first made in a newspaper of money laundering related to real estate deals. The paper is run by an ally-turned-foe of Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

    Fazlic has denied the allegations.

    The EU envoys said: “This may lead to undue interference and possible institutional conflict in the country.”

    “We strongly call upon all, in particular the government, to respect the constitutional provisions and principles of good governance, including accountability to the law,” they added in a statement issued by the French embassy, the current EU chair.

    EU ambassadors said they were troubled by “recent developments concerning the judicial system” after the General Prosecutor’s office said police refused its request to invite a man for questioning before he left Albania.

    The European Union has told Albania it needs to do more to fight organised crime and corruption as well as foster democracy and respect the independence of institutions if it wants to advance its bid to join the bloc.

    On Monday, the U.S. embassy voiced similar worries.

    “All cases should be fully, completely and independently investigated without any outside interference or threats to prosecutors. Respect of all independent institutions is essential for a healthy democracy,” the U.S. spokesman said.

    Fazlic flew to Tirana on a private jet last Wednesday and left one hour before his scheduled flight, and before prosecutors could catch up with him at the airport.

    Berisha has defended the police action, saying prosecutors could not order officers to hold someone for questioning.

    “Even if the worst enemy of the prime minister would have been stopped in this way, it would have been a big shame for the country,” Berisha told a news conference on Monday.

    “I cannot have another opinion … when this gentleman happens tobe a friend of the prime minister, a man who has contributed to my election campaign. I also said he would be investigated to see if he has taken any money from public funds.”

    Berisha came to power in 2005 promising to govern with “clean hands”, but his government has also been accused of corruption and two of his ministers have had their immunities stripped to be investigated for abuse of office.

    After Prosecutor General Ina Rama asked her staff not to cave in to pressure after the row over Fazlic, Berisha said he would call in foreign experts to look into government corruption cases. His party said Rama could be investigated.

    source: Reuters

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    Albanian president visiting Boston

    Posted by franksupa on September 25, 2008

    albanian president boston,Alfred MOISIU usa visit

    QUINCY — September 25 2008

    Although Quincy is the City of Presidents, it’s not every day that it hosts a head of state.

    On Saturday, Albanian President Bamir Topi will be at the Alba Restaurant on Hancock Street to have lunch and meet about 200 guests.

    Restaurant owner Leo Keka, who emigrated from Albania in 1990, said when he heard the president wanted to visit his restaurant, he started researching the president’s political viewpoints and background.

    “This guy is a very interesting president. I don’t think I’d host any other (Albanian) president here,” Keka said.

    “Most of them are very bad, but (Topi)’s actually a good guy. …He’s really Westernized, which means a lot to us, because we grew up in a dictatorship.”

    President Topi is in Massachusetts for the 100th anniversary of the Albanian Orthodox Church in South Boston. While he is in the area, he is visiting several local Albanian-owned businesses, including Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston.

    Keka said he has invited about 200 guests Saturday, both Albanians and non-Albanians, who have supported his efforts to raise money for Albanian causes.

    In May, Keka held an event in his restaurant to raise $25,000 for five children from Kosovo who were badly burned in a propane tank explosion.

    He said he is most excited to have President Topi recognize the hard work several of his friends have done to help Albanians.

    “I try not to forget where my roots are. We never forget where we come from. I love to say, ‘Hey, I’m Albanian.’”

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