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Showing posts from July, 2007

Arms Sales

One of the more unusual stories that has cropped up in the last few days concerns the sale of armaments by Albania to Armenia. It appears that a shipment of weapons was on its way to Armenia, but was prevented from reaching its destination by the Turkish authorities. The Azerbaijanis are complaining to the Albanians; the Armenians are denying that they ever bought weapons from Albania; the Albanians are searching for another delivery route that avoids Turkey. The issue is a sensitive one because of the unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh .

Poverty and Tourism

Thanks to ITS for drawing my attention to a disturbing article in the Christian Science Monitor on child poverty in Albania . Despite recent economic growth, a third of Albania's children live on less than $2 a day. And according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), a staggering 35 percent of children in rural areas are malnourished; in urban areas, 17 percent are. In terms of child malnutrition – measured by the percentage of children under age 5 who are underweight – the World Bank puts Albania just above Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. On a different note, the latest report from IPS discusses the new legal framework for the development of the tourist industry.

President Topi

Game, set and match to Berisha then. In the fourth round of voting the Democratic Party candidate - and vice-chairman of the party - was elected to the post of President with 85 votes. Neritan Ceka, the only other candidate received only 5. The key difference this time was the presence of 7 opposition MP's who took part in the voting and backed Topi. Ben Blushi, chairman of the Socialist Party in parliament, subsequently resigned from his post and Edi Rama denounced the 7 as 'treacherous.' Some commentators suggested that this was Nano's revenge. Unable to take the post of President himself, he undermined Rama's leadership in the most effective way he could, by getting his remaining supporters to back Topi. Was there a deal? In time it may become clearer. Certainly, Berisha was very confident after the third vote that there would be a result in this round and that Topi would win. Of course, that might have been no more than political bluff. Topi himself is working h

This Week's Articles

IPS has another couple of articles on Albania. One looks at attempts to manage biodiversity , the other at efforts to manage waste disposal . A list of all the recent IPS articles on Albania with links is also available . BIRN has a summary of the state of play in the Presidential election as the next vote approaches, and a report on criticism from PAMECA , the EU police mission in Albania, of the recent sackings of large numbers of police officers - many of them trained by PAMECA. The South East Europe Media Organisation has added its voice to criticism of the fine slapped on Top Media. Finally the Times has the articles on the death of Prel Marku , an Albanian living in London, who was the innocent victim of a conflict between Albanian criminal gangs in the city .

Eating Out

I've been trying to come up with a list of restaurants I've eaten at here in Tirana. I know I've missed some, and I'm sure I've got some of the spellings wrong, and there are others I've been to but I've no idea what they were called, but here they are in no particular order. If anyone has any suggestions of other places to try send them in. Carlsberg, Metropolitan, Green House, Piazza, Chocolat, Eastana, Efendi, Royal, Juvenilja, Lion Park, Sofre e Ariut, Serendipity, Amsterdam,Berlin, Lulishte 1 Maji, Casa di Pasta, La Tavernetta, Rozafa, Ujvara, Divjaka, Gloria, Shvjek, Vila 31, Floga, Pusi, Noel, Vinum, Emblema, Ashiana, Amor, King House, Alcora, La Cantinella, Vila Logoreci, Xhokonda, Bacchus, La Mediteraneo

Dy Kitarrat

Thanks to Albanian friends we found yet another superb restaurant. This one, Dy Kitarrat , is in Durres. We skipped the pizza and had plate after plate of superb fresh seafood washed down with good Sicilian wine. We also had live music from the two brothers who own the place and some of their friends. Highly recommended.

Parliament 2

I've been trying to find out more about the competition for the new Albanian Parliamentary comlex. The website at Europaconcorsi provides links to the websites of the competitors. Not all of these provide information on their entries for this competition, but it's possible to get an idea of their approach and to see some other projects they have been involved in. I have found photographs from three of the other entrants and reproduced one from each below. You can find more at the following links: Ishimoto and Francesco Scardaccione von Gerkan, Marg und Partner, RA Consulting srl and Vladimir Bregu Samyn and Partners . This is one of those annoying flash based websites. To find the relevant photographs go to Studies and Competitions then Public Services and select the photograph on the right. Samyn and Partners Ishimoto and Francesco Scardaccione von Gerkan, Marg und Partner and Vladimir Begu

More Articles

Following on from an earlier story concerning Albanian immigrants in Greece, the Financial Times has the story of one of those immigrants, Gazmend Kapllani, a journalist and writer. BIRN reports on the 13 million EUR fine imposed on the Top Media group by the tax authorities who claim that the group has been under-reporting its income for the last 5 years. Others, noting that Top Media has been highly critical of the current government, claim that the authorities are trying to silence any opposition. China, seeking to extend its influence through the judicious application of soft power , has been giving gifts to Albania. A couple of weeks ago it was 1,400 computers for use in schools; this week it was a load of balls . Good news for the aspiring middle classes and frustrated handymen out there: German DIY/home improvement chain Praktiker plans to open a store in Tirana in the summer of 2008. Finally, the funniest story of recent days concerns an offer by the Iranians to help Alba

Round 3

New developments! On Saturday Parliament held a third ballot for the post of President and we had a new candidate. Neritan Ceka is leader of the Democratic Alliance, a small party which is part of the opposition coalition. A good portion of Topi's support switched to Ceka: Topi had 50 votes, Ceka 32. Nano, having peaked at 5 votes, dropped back to 3 and has now been eliminated since only the two top candidates go forward to the final two rounds. While the SP boycotted the ballot once more, for the first time the total number of votes cast passed the crucial figure of 84 - the number of votes required to elect a President. Clearly Berisha is struggling to hold his coalition together. His Democratic Party, which has 56 seats, obviously backed Topi, but his coalition partners backed Ceka. I watched Nard Ndoka, leader of the Christian Democrats and Minister for Health, publicly endorse Ceka. Newspapers have reported that Fatmir Mediu, leader of the Republican Party and Minister for De

An Albanian in Lebanon

From the BBC. Lt Ertgren Shehu, who is in the second month of his four-month tour of duty in south Lebanon. He is a veteran of several peacekeeping operations, most recently in Chad. He was born in Albania and his family moved to France when he was a young boy.

No Change

On Tuesday, Parliament tried again to elect a President and, again, failed . The same two candidates were standing - Topi and Nano - and the result was broadly similar: Topi 74, Nano 5. There seems to be some confusion over how many of the five rounds of voting have now been completed. If the two postponed rounds are counted then there is only one vote left. If only actual votes are counted then there are three more opportunities to find a President. If anyone knows which is correct please enlighten me. Either way, though, it seems immaterial. Clearly there was no progress on finding a consensus candidate between the first and second votes, and there seems to be no great urgency to produce one. It seems instead that both parties are now resigned to - or perhaps enthusiastically looking forward to - a general election. How a general election will help, I don't know. There are no new people, no new parties and no new ideas out there. A general election will merely reshuffle the exist

DIY Traffic Calming

We had yet another accident on our wide straight road in bright daylight a couple of days ago. I heard the crunch but I'm not sure how they managed a head on collision in these circumstances. Obviously someone in the neighbourhood has had enough and has put in place a creative traffic calming system. It consists of two thick lengths of rope spread across the road. Surprisingly, traffic approaching these almost always slow to a crawl while crossing them. I'm not sure who is responsible for this very welcome development but there is a newly opened cafe at the bottom of the street with open air seating beside the road. I suspect they are responsible since having cars tearing past at high speed is not only unpleasant for their customers but also dangerous. It's too much to hope that the the responsible authorities will get the message and construct some speed bumps. Perhaps we need to find a lot more rope.

Apple Goes Albanian

Presidential Election

Parliament finally held a first ballot for a new President , though since earlier votes had been postponed this was actually the third round of voting. Unfortunately, in the absence of an agreed candidate the choice was between the DP nomination Bamir Topi and Fatos Nano. Topi got 75 votes, Nano got 3. The opposition refused to take part in the vote. There are two more rounds of voting possible between now and 24 July when the term of office of the current President Alfred Moisiu ends. After that, there will have to be a general election - a pointless distraction, bound to be bitter and divisive, and a nail in the coffin of Albania's EU and NATO aspirations. Yet it seems that the opposition can't wait. "The Socialist Party has switched on the engines for early elections," said Rama, according to the IHT.

More Articles

Here are a few more articles I have come across in the last few days. The IHT is one of the few English language papers reporting on the Presidential election. The most recent report identifies a potential consensus candidate, Brigadier General Arjan Zaimi, but suggests that no consensus was forthcoming. With no candidates to vote for and no sign of agreement the country drifts closer to pointless elections. Elsewhere Christianity Today had a piece on trafficking , the International Water Power and Dam Construction magazine reports a proposal by an Austrian company to build new hydro plants on the Devol river, and the BBC has a story about Butrint .

Weekend Reading

The IPS news agency have published more articles on Albania. A couple of articles look at the relationship between tourism and the environment . Another looks at the similarities between Albania and other countries in the region. Then there is an interview with Jozefina Topalli , Speaker of the Parliament and lastly a piece on Tirana . Elsewhere, the IHT reports that attempts to elect a President are still going nowhere. Also going nowhere is the power supply situation with long blackouts anticipated in September . In the Southeast European Times Robert Austin suggests that the longer term outlook may be brighter following the appointment of a new director of KESH, Xherxh Bojaxhi. I can confirm Austin's claim that Bojaxhi takes to the field with his staff since he turned up to read my electricity meter last week. (It's not that I'm special. It's just that the day before I had refused to allow his staff to do so on the perfectly reasonable grounds that none of them h


If Live Earth's line-up of ageing rockers isn't your thing you could always try the opera. Tomorrow and Saturday Verdi's famous opera Aida will be performed at the Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Skenderbeg Square. Here's an extract from an earlier performance. Thanks to Adrian for sending this.

Only Way is Up

Chatting with a taxi driver while back in Belfast a few months ago, he was intrigued when I told him that I was living in Albania. Did I think it was worth investing in property there, he enquired. Not unless you're prepared to risk losing your money, I replied. By the end of the journey he was considering Bulgaria instead. Despite the risks, some people are starting to invest in Albanian property. The Daily Telegraph reports on Ian Warburton who recently spent 29,000 GBP (around 40,000 EUR) on a one-bedroom apartment in a new development in Tirana. "Given its location, I don't see how it can fail to work," he said. The development is called Terra Nova and the apartments are being actively marketed as an investment opportunity by Barrasford and Bird , a UK property company. Here is their sales pitch for Albania: Albania shares the same stunning coastline as Croatia and Montenegro. However, Albania has better weather and prices are about a quarter of those compa


In October 2006 the Albanian parliament announced an international competition to come up with a design for a new parliamentary complex. In January this year ten of the competitors were shortlisted for the second phase. On 28 June the jury made its final decision (only available in Albanian on the Parliament's website for the moment). The winning submission was made jointly by two Swiss architects, Mario Campi and Fabio Reinhart , and an Albanian architect, Agron Jano. Even though the photographs seem to have disappeared from the webpage containing the official announcement, they are available elsewhere, so here is the winning entry: This structure is built onto the Parliamentary complex on Blvd. Dëshmorët e Kombit, one of the two main buildings currently used by the Parliament. The aim of the competition, as stated in the original announcement is select architectural, urban planning, and spatial ideas and solutions for the New Parliamentary Complex. The competition aims


The new cinema complex in the Sheraton is up and running. From their very basic website it looks like they have also taken over the small cinema in the Academy of Arts.