The earthquake, the Balkan Schengen project, Albania chairs the OSCE, The new Albanian Untouchables, foreign investment in Albania, women in Business, unemployment drops – and SHAJ.

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Dear reader,

With a picture of the beautiful Christmas three on Skanderbeg Square in Tirana we wish our faithful readers a merry Christmas and a happy 2020.

When summing up major events in Albania in 2019 the devastating earthquake in November has no match. But the decision by the EU Consilium not to open the by EU commission and the EU member states – except 3 – recommended membership negotiations also must be mentioned. No doubt the best support the EU can offer to Albania to overcome the consequences of the natural disaster will be to unanimously in spring 2020 to decide to open the promised negotiations for membership. Albania needs private investment and the EU OK simply is what is needed.

The November 26, 2019 earthquake:

51 persons died, more than thousand were injured, more than 4000 people homeless, several persons arrested for construction fraud. Expected time needed for the reconstruction at least 2 years.

The Balkan Schengen project

The third meeting of the “Balkan Schengen” Summit was held in Tirana on December 2019 , with Montenegro joining the ranks with Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia. Thus, only Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina are left out of this summit, declining the invitation to join an unconditional table. The next meetings will be held in Belgrade, possibly in late January, with the Montenegrin President proposing that the second meeting in 2020 be held in Podgorica.  Prime Minister Edi Rama expects that the project will strengthen the economies of the participating countries emphasizing that the project is an important step on the road towards EU member-ship. The summit was attended by representatives of the EU Commission, the US State Department, the World Bank, the European Bank for Development and Reconstruction, the European Investment Bank that are supporting the initiative.

During meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on December 19, the Slovakian Ambassador to the OSCE, Radomír Boháč, passed the baton of Chairmanship in Office to his Albanian colleague Igli Hasani.
Commenting on this development, Acting Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Gent Cakaj said that this moment marked the greatest achievement of the Albanian foreign policy in terms of multilateral diplomacy after Albania’s accession into NATO. “For an entire year Albania will lead the largest regional security organization in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space, covering an area from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Albania has full capacities to address the priorities of its Chairmanship effectively and to fulfill its obligations towards the participating states in a responsible way,” Cakaj said.

21. 11. 2019 The city of Tirana, Albania has been announced as the next winner of the European Youth Capital (EYC) title for 2022.
The Award Ceremony in Amiens was attended by French President, Emmanuel Macron, who encouraged all young people in Europe to take action to shape the future and protect the values of freedom and democracy. He also expressed pride at his hometown, the city of Amiens, that will take the title of European Youth Capital next year in 2020. Read on..

The untouchables: Special Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SPAK) ready!
The eight prosecutors of the Special Anti-corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SPAK) – Elida Kaçkini, Enkeleda Millonaj, Edvin Kondili, Behar Dibra, Arben Kraja, Klodian Braho, Ened Nakuçi, and Altin Dumani – took on December 19. the oath of office in a ceremony held at the President’s Office.

Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Albania, Ambassador Luigi Soreca, also welcomed this step: “We welcome the swearing in today of eight SPAK prosecutors in front of the President. They are now ready to start working. Another important milestone for implementing justice reform. Fight against corruption and organized crime is top priority for Albania on EU accession path,” Ambassador Soreca said.

“Starting today, Albania has a body of prosecutors committed to identifying, investigating, and bringing to justice corrupt current and former officials and crime bosses – individuals who in the old days had been deemed untouchable”. the U.S. Embassy said in a reaction to this development.

The SPAK’s establishment was also welcomed by German Ambassador to Albania Peter Zingraf, who said that the steady fight against corruption and organized crime was key to paving the path to Albania’s further progress on its EU accession process. He said that Germany would continue being on Albania’s side as its close partner on the path to EU accession.

The Democratic Party (DP) and Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) hailed the SPAK’s establishment in comments issued in the wake of the above-mentioned ceremony. The DP called for SPAK’s professional, impartial, and resolved prosecution of organized crime and corruption, saying they had confidence in all eight prosecutors.

Foreign Businesses in Albania 2016-2018
The Albanian Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) in cooperation with Bank of Albania is compiling for the first time a separate publication for the flow of foreign direct investment and the impact of the enterprises whose ownership is foreign or joint in the Albanian economy. Read on….

Over 25 percent of active enterprises in Albania in 2018 were owned or managed by women, the Institute of Statistics (INSTAT) confirmed on the Statistical Yearbook 2019.
Women entrepreneurs run 40,953 out of a total of 162,853 companies of all sizes across Albania.
The data confirm that 24.5 percent of all active enterprises began their activity before 2011.
In terms of region, Tirana has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs at 41.4 percent. Most companies run by women are small-medium sized enterprises. However, 19.6 percent of big enterprises, with 50 and more employees were managed or owned by women. More…

Good news !
Albania’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.4 percent during the third quarter of 2019 compared to 12.2 percent in the same period of 2018. In 2015 it was about 17,5%. Youth unemployment is the biggest problem. Read more here….

Arilena Ara: SHAJ (Scream)

We close the Newsletter 2019 season with the Albanian participant Arilena Ara to the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2020. Good luck Arilena!.

That´s all for now,
sincerely,

Hans-Georg Nielsen
Albanian Honorary Consul

Comments and suggestions are welcome on hgn(at)albanskkonsulat.dk
PS. This newsletter is mainly sent to relevant Danish and Albanian authorities, to Danes who have shown interest in Albania, to Albanians living in Denmark and to the friends and contacts of the consulate.

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