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Showing posts from July, 2006

Not Welcome

The EUobserver carried a report today on the latest Eurobarometer survey which looks at attitudes towards EU expansion in the current member states. Interviewees were asked whether they favoured or opposed membership for Turkey and Balkan states if those states met the membership criteria.

The survey found that only Croatia would gain the support of a majority of EU citizens. Turkey was the least popular with 48% opposing membership. Albania also did poorly; 44% opposed membership for the country, 41% supported it.

Overall, the report found only a slim majority in favour of continued expansion: 45% to 42%.

While these statistics sound disappointing for those of us who favour expansion - conditional on potential members meeting the criteria - the fact that more that there is still a small majority in favour of expansion overall and sizeable minorities in favour in the specific cases of Albania and Turkey is a positive outcome.

Given the lack of knowledge of many people about this region, a…

Happy Talk

Adrian White, an Analytic Social Psychologist at the University of Leicester in England, has produced The World Map of Happiness


White argues that the three key factors in producing happiness are health, wealth and education: "When people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy."

Given that Albania scores poorly in all three areas it is not surprising that the country only manages 157th place (out of 178) on the 'World Happiness League Table'.

Ireland is in a very impressive 11th place, while the UK comes a less than inspiring 41st. But we are still ahead of the French (62nd) which is the important thing. The happiest people in the world are the Danes.

Mr White obviously put a lot of time and effort into analysing data sources, but I can't help thinking that he knows that this is really just a bit of fun. So enjoy the intera…

The Further Adventures of Dougal

Dougal - or Death Wish Dog - as I have now come to think of him, came bounding up to greet us last Sunday. He looked a little scruffy, but it was only when he got up close and shook himself that I discovered he was covered in blood. We dragged him into the yard for a quick clean up and inspection. Our best guess was that he was being chased or was giving chase and tried to get through a gap in a fence that was somewhat smaller than him.

He didn't seem to be in any pain so we left him to go about his business until we noticed that some of his nastier injuries were not healing up properly. So we took him to the vet. After an examination Dr Allmuça sprayed him liberally with something to help his wounds heal up and gave him a few injections.

Since the spray was purple, and since Dougal does not take to having things sprayed on him, and since I was restraining him so that Dr Allmuça could do the needful, both of us ended up with numerous purple patches.

So, if you are in Tirana and you s…

Bringing the Beach to Tirana

All this weekend Sheshi Nënë Tereza is the venue for a beach volleyball tournament. It's not an obvious location since spectators and competitors have to brave the traffic round the square to reach the court - or pitch - or beach - or whatever it's called. It also lacks a sea breeze to mitigate the stifling heat. But it's a nice idea. There were only a few spectators when I passed by today, but perhaps it will pick up over the next two days.

Nordic Nudes

Panorama carries a story in today's issue (28 July) about a group of 30 Nordic tourists who turned up on the public beach at Saranda, having travelled from Corfu, and indulged in some topless sunbathing.

The police were called out to move them on in case they had a bad influence on children and adolescents who were also using the beach.

The adolescents would probably have been happy enough to let them stay.


The Worst Performer

Yesterday, the World Bank issued the latest in their series of studies of corruption in transition countries, covering the period from 2002-2005. It's mostly bad news for Albania. "Albania...has instituted many cross-cutting anti-corruption reforms," but "Albania remains the worst performer among all transition countries."

The problem is not so much the weakness of institutions or the absence of a legislative framework but the absence of strong political leadership. The report, which is based on data gathered before the change of government last year, notes the significance of tackling corruption as a campaign theme:

The new Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha, who took office in September 2005...campaigned on a strong anticorruption platform and pledged that “uprooting corruption will be the first challenge for our new government. In Albania corruption has developed into a sophisticated system, with state capture, fiscal evasion and bribing at dramatic level…

Guide Turistike

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the future is bright for Albania. The Council ranks Albania ninth out of 174 countries for tourism growth over the next ten years. A summary of the Council's report is available, as is the full report complete with many pages of graphs, charts and spreadsheets.

This summer I have seen a number of tourists on the streets of Tirana. Some of them may well be Albanian expats, or people of Albanian descent returning home to visit family, but others are genuine 'foreigners'.

Judging from their appearance, they are probably best described as 'independent travellers' - the kind of people who are not interested in luxury hotels or crowded beaches. This is a good start, but independent travellers are not the kind of big spenders that the tourist industry likes.

In the longer term, if Albania wants to bring in the kind of free-spending tourists who currently holiday in Croatia or Slovenia, there will have to be a huge investment…

Starving in Tirana

Residents of Tirana and those who know the city might enjoy this travel piece by Neil Woodburn. Apparently, poor Neil came to Tirana and could only find half-a-dozen restaurants, even with the help of guidebooks. On the basis of this experience he kindly shares his expert opinion with us:
The reality is that Albanians don't go out to eat very often and the city doesn't have enough tourists to maintain the few restaurants that try to survive in this climate.Evidently, all those places I've been going out to eat at don't exist, or are so well hidden that they are beyond the investigative capacities of Neil.

Shkodra - Making Masks

Gjirokaster - Castle

Gjirokaster - Old Town

More pictures of Gjirokaster on Flickr.











Men in Trunks

The funniest story of last week appeared in Korrieri.

Three shady types from Kosova were holidaying in Albania. While relaxing on their sun-loungers on a private beach in Durres, they suddenly discovered that twelve of their swimsuit clad fellow sun worshippers were in fact police officers, there to arrest them.

Korrieri fails to answer the key question though: where did they keep their handcuffs?

Zogu i Zi - The End

Balkan Beauty, Balkan Blood

Ismail Kadare apart, few Albanian authors have been published in English. This month, however, Northwestern University Press will be publishing a new anthology of Albanian short stories entitled Balkan Beauty, Balkan Blood: Modern Albanian Short Stories. The book is edited by Dr Robert Elsie, a Canadian with an interest in Albania, whose Albanian literature website has been, until now, the only place to find a range of Albanian authors in translation.

Images of Albania

Gëzim Alpion, Albanian born and currently a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Birmingham, has a fascinating essay in the Albanian Journal of Politics entitled 'Western Media and the European “Other”: Images of Albania in the British Press in the New Millennium'. Here is the abstract for the essay:
Edward W. Said’s Orientalism invigorated as never before the debate on the biased representation of the Orient in the West. In the first part of the article, after highlighting the significance of Said’s work, the author then identifies some weaknesses and limitations of the Saidian approach arguing that, like the Near and the Middle East, other countries and regions around the world have an unsavoury image in the West as a result of an ongoing academic and media demonology. Concentrating on the coverage that the Balkans, especially Albania, have received in the West as from the start of the nineteenth century onwards, in the second part of the essay the author argues that t…

Protest Rally

Skenderbeg Square was filled, but not packed, for last night's protest by the opposition parties. The crowd was mixed - old and young, mostly men but with a substantial minority of women. Some people also brought along their children.

After some bad music, the rally proper commenced with the national anthem, followed by an awful lot of speeches. The main political speakers are picutred at the bottom of this post. I could make out a few words and phrases and they certainly were far from complimentary, something confirmed in the - slightly garbled - report in Gazeta Sot.

The early evening thunderstorms had cleared up by the time the rally started, but the rain began to fall again just as Edi Rama began to speak. At that point some in the crowd - including your fearless correspondent - decided it was time to go, but the majority of people seemed determined to stay to the end.

Whatever the points in dispute between government and opposition, however well -or badly - both are handling tho…