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The challenge of tourism in Albania

The main challenge of Albania in the sector of tourism is to respond to the growing demand.

This was declared on Friday by the Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, at the opening of the 2nd Edition of Tirana 2018 Mediterranean Fair with tour operators from the entire Mediterranean region ahead of the tourist season.

Rama said that there’s an increase in the revenues in the country thanks to the growth of the number of foreign tourists, while last year, this growth was 10%.

But, according to the PM, this growth is conditioned by restrictions in meeting demands, as demand is higher than what can be offered by accommodation outlets in the country.

“This is the main challenge for us: we should offer more in order to be able to cope with a growing demand”, Rama said.

The PM said that Albania is located in a region which is one of the main tourist destinations in the world, the Mediterranean, which receives 25% of revenues from global tourism and 80% of tourists coming from Europe. /ibna/

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Kosovo rules out the option of the “status quo” and exchange of territories

Three are the scenarios of the “Grand Finale” between Kosovo and Serbia, according to a study published by the Research Institute for Development and European Affairs (RIDEA) and the Balkan Policy Research Group (BPRG).

This study is based on interviews with policymakers, experts, activist of civic society and diplomats.

The first scenario which has been suggested is the continuation of the “status quo”, which is not seen as a viable solution by the majority of respondents.

The second scenario includes the signing of an agreement which aims at fully normalizing the relations between the two countries, leading to a mutual recognition.

The majority of respondents opted for the scenario, however, a more realistic version of this scenario is the one where countries sign a legally binding agreement, in which Serbia accepts the state of Kosovo, including its right to join international organizations, but without formally recognizing its independence.

The third scenario includes full normalization of relations, including mutual recognition through border adjustments.

Given that this alternative is supported by Belgrade and not by Pristina, it contains several dangers, including the possibility for the destabilization of the region.

Such agreement for border adjustment (exchange of territories) is only possible once the two states recognize each other.

However, this option has been rejected by the majority of respondents. /balkaneu.com/

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Over 1 million counterfeit goods enter FYROM every year

Around 1 million counterfeit goods enter FYROM each year. These data have been provided by the country’s Customs Directorate.

“Each year, customs seize around 1 million forged goods. China and Turkey are on the list of the states where these goods come from”, says Semir Musa, official at the Customs Directorate.

The most encountered types of counterfeit goods are textile products, shoes, cosmetics, car parts, mobile phones and different electronic parts.

Authorities in the country have taken measures to prevent the entry of counterfeit goods in the country, as a part of them also harm consumers’ health. /ibna/

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FYROM fears the Balkan route is still active

Refugee camps in FYROM’s southern border with Greece are almost empty now, say activists of the Red Cross, but they still fear a possible new wave of refugees.

FYROM is on the so called Balkan route, which two years ago was used by many illegal refugees from Syria, Iraq and countries of Middle East.

FYROM’s Interior minister, Oliver Spasovski says that although the intensity of refugees on this rout has fallen, it is still active.

According to him, although this route has been officially closed, there are many smugglers who exploit victims of trafficking.

Tamara Pogusev, regional head of the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI), sdays that measures will be taken for a possible new wave of refugees.

“I truly believe that the EU has long term objectives to stop a possible new wave of refugees, like the one we saw in 2015, because this is not a problem for Europe, but for the entire world”, Pogusev said.

During 2015 and first half of 2016, the number of refugees who went through FYROM was between 800 thousand to 1 million and according to the ministry of Interior, only 200 of them have applied for asylum in the country. /balkaneu.com/

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11 million euros in the national agricultural scheme for agritourism

Albania has all the potential to benefit a significant amount of EU funds which need to be used for the development of agritourism, because although it is a small country, it has a rich culinary and many myths and legends, which could be attractive for many foreign tourists

The Albanian minister of Agriculture, Niko Peleshi declared today that Europe has 88 thousand agritourism outlets, 5 million beds, while employing 500 thousand people.

Stressing that the government is working to develop this new sector of the Albanian tourism, Peleshi said that the national scheme for the support of agriculture has 11 million euros which will be spent for the development of agritourism.

According to Peleshi, the aim of the Albanian government is to attract tourists 365 days a year, as this would increase the contribution to GDP by several times. /ibna/

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Protests and integration

This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.albanianfreepress.al

By Plator Nesturi

This week’s parliamentary session was divided into different parts. There was no single tribune where the sides could debate with each other as they usually do. As it was expected, the protest about the highway toll charge and the arrest of several citizens from Kukes for burning the toll payment wickets in the highway, was the focus of the political discourse. But not in Parliament. While PM Rama was holding a long speech in Parliament concerning the issue of the toll charge, where he admitted that there hadn’t been adequate transparency while communicating with the citizens of Kukes, the opposition’s replies came from somewhere else. Basha and Kryemadhi were leading the protests organized with the aim of blocking roads in Vora and Elbasan.

But these were not the only protests. While public opinion was focused on the toll charge of the Nation’s Road highway, which the opposition made it its motive to launch an action of civil disobedience, other protests were organized in several cities of the country. The decision of the Association of Small Businesses led to many shops in Fier, Tirana and Korca to close for several hours to express their discontent about the VAT tax which affects them.

So, there were several protests. In some of them, the main protagonist was the political class, while in others, it was the citizens who were protesting against tax increases. In his speech in parliament, PM Rama said that the government has reflected on the charge that citizens of Kukes should pay in this highway. More than a comeback to the previous state, this looks like a tactical withdrawal while protests were being held on the road. Even inside parliament, that the opposition had abandoned, there were socialist MPs such as Mimi Kodheli who criticized the government for the lack of transparency for the tariff that was imposed and supported the right of the people to protest when the poverty that exists in the area makes this charge unaffordable. Did Edi Rama withdraw from the declarations that he made in the recent days? It seems not and he showed this in the video conference with councilors and citizens of Kukes. The Prime Minister admitted that the charge was going to be reviewed following a study on the frequency of the movements that the residents of the area make and this could lead to a lower charge about them. But, others who will use the Nation’s Road will still have to pay the same charge. In the midst of all this, Rama accused the opposition of causing this miserable financial situation for the country through its policies when it was in power. Instead of focusing the debate on the topic that caused the protest of the resident of Kukes, the majority decided to once again confront the opposition. Nevertheless, attacking political opponents and the several millions that the government says that it needs to maintain the road, do not provide transparency for the public. Common people do not receive answers through the attack being made to Basha. They will only receive answers once the government will address to different categories of society about specific problems that they have.

In this climate of antagonism, where the political temperature has risen, the Rapporteur for Albania in the European Parliament, Fleckenstein, has arrived in Tirana. After meeting political leaders and the Interior minister, Xhafa, the EU’s rapporteur said that he was against violent protests and his criticism was addressed toward the opposition, which had blocked the roads. Then, Fleckenstein also talked about the process of integration, saying that Albania should not be imposed extra conditions for the launch of EU accession talks. While the country is expecting the progress report, the Rapporteur expresses his optimism that Albania may receive good news in September.

Although these declarations may suit to some politicians and not suit to others, besides the daily problems such as poverty, asylum seekers, taxes and civil disobedience, there is also another issue which I think interests us all and this is the issue concerning the integration of the country in the EU. Despite the numerous flaws that governments have had, integration in the European Union naturally imposes several obligations on the political class. The added attention that the EU will show toward a country that wants to join the European family, will bring a more favorable climate in reducing government arrogance, it will bring more European laws and reforms and stronger, more independent and more credible institutions. So, we’re at a special moment when we should assess every political move which may contain confrontation. Civil disobedience that the opposition has recently launched, does contain confrontation, because it is a sort of rebellion against the laws and the decisions of the government. But this type of rebellion comes at a special moment, when the country is waiting to see if the talks for the process of integration will open or if we fail the class once again. Civil disobedience becomes a hurdle despite the opposition’s declarations that it favors the launch of negotiations with Brussels. But nobody wants a country where there is no political stability.

Thus, this is a key moment where the sides should either decide to continue their confrontation, or enter a new political pact. A pact which is not similar to those agreements made before elections, which are mere bargaining agreements, but pacts for the future of the country in Europe. But this does not only require the opposition to withdraw from its incentives for civil disobedience, but it also requires the majority to launch concrete steps to calm the situation down and behave in a less arrogant way. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s Rama or Basha who win out of these clashes, because the rest only lose. This way, we will once again miss the train bound for Europe.

Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy

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