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Posts tagged ‘Rumelia Land of Albania’

Police take lions, others away from private zoo in Albania

October 28, 2018

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian authorities have forced their way into a private zoo and removed 12 animals due to fears they were malnourished. Police and conservation officials on Sunday forced their way past a locked main gate into the Safari Zoo Park in Mbrostar, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital, Tirana. The zoo had been closed by owners after criticism emerged about the treatment of its animals.

Veterinarians from Four Paws, an international animal welfare charity, sedated 12 animals there — three lions, a bear, a waterbuck, four deer, a fox, a zebra and a turtle — to transport them to Tirana’s public zoo.

Albania’s environment and tourism ministry said it took the animals because their living quarters were too cramped and some were sick. Zoo owners have denied that the animals were sick or malnourished.

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Germany, EU call on Albania to continue reform progress

September 19, 2018

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister has called on Albania to work hard on its reforms so as to convince all European Union members to launch membership negotiations next year. Heiko Maas, visiting Albania’s capital on Wednesday, said that the EU members “have made it clear that June 2019 does not mean the talks will start automatically.”

In June this year the bloc’s member states agreed to open membership talks with Albania and Macedonia next year if the two nations continue with reform progress. Maas said that the bloc should see concrete results in the consolidation of the rule of law and independence of the justice system.

His Albanian counterpart, Ditmir Bushati, said the country already has started the screening process with Brussels and added that he considers Germany’s assistance as “precious, irreplaceable.”

Italy: Catholic church, Albania, Ireland to take migrants

August 25, 2018

ROME (AP) — Catholic bishops, tiny Albania and Ireland agreed to take the 140 migrants blocked aboard an Italian coast guard vessel, Premier Giuseppe Conte said Saturday, announcing the end of 10-day standoff over the asylum-seekers but making clear an angry Italy could avenge a perceived lack of overall European Union solidarity by refusing to approve the bloc’s next multi-year budget.

“Italy must take note that the ‘spirit of solidarity is struggling to translate into concrete acts,” Conte said in a statement. Conte referred to declarations made at an EU summit in late June promising to help Italy and other Mediterranean countries deal with the burden of migrants rescued from human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats.

In his role as head of a nearly three-month-old populist coalition government, Conte said Italy under current conditions “doesn’t consider it possible to express adhesion to a proposed budget that underpins a policy so incoherent on the social level.”

Earlier in the week, some in the government threatened to withhold nearly 20 billion euros ($23 billion) in contributions to the EU if member nations didn’t volunteer to take the last group of rescued migrants reaching Italy. Brussels sharply reminded Italy it was legally obliged to pay.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the anti-migrant League party, refused to let the migrants off the coast guard vessel Diciotti until other EU nations pledged to take the asylum-seekers, most of them young men from Eritrea.

Just before Conte announced the drama’s resolution, Salvini told party supporters at a rally in northern Italy that a Sicily-based prosecutor, Luigi Patronaggio, had put him under investigation for suspected abduction for refusing to let the migrants disembark.

If the prosecutor “wants to interrogate me or even arrest me because I defend the borders and security of my country, I’m proud of it,” Salvini tweeted. Many of his supporters blame migrants for crime.

Earlier in the week, the government’s rights office for detained persons concluded this week that the migrants were being unjustly held by the government. Salvini took credit for convincing bishops to take many of the migrants. The bishops agreed to “open up their doors, heart and wallet,” he told the rally.

Fifty others of the 190 people rescued at sea on Aug. 16 by the Italian coast guard were previously allowed off the ship, including all the minors and ailing adults. A few hours before Conte’s announcement, Italian Red Cross ambulances waiting at dockside took away six ill men, suspected of having tuberculosis, pneumonia or other infections, and seven of the 11 women who were still aboard.

Authorities had said the women recounted how they had been raped while in Libya for months, awaiting the opportunity to leave in migrant smugglers’ boats. Four other women chose not to leave the ship because their husbands were blocked aboard.

The standoff had prompted an impassioned appeal at the height of the standoff Saturday by the U.N. refugee agency’s chief, who asked Italy to let the migrants disembark and urged EU countries to take responsibility for the asylum-seekers.

In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said it’s time to end a “race to the bottom on who can take the least responsibility for people rescued at sea.” He urged European countries “to do the right thing and offer places of asylum for people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in their time of need.”

Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi expressed appreciation for Albania’s “sign of great solidarity and friendship,” his ministry said. Albania, which isn’t in the European Union, saw thousands of its citizens flee to Italy across the Adriatic Sea aboard dramatically overcrowded rickety ferries and fishing boats in hopes of a better life in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Sicily-based prosecutors took their investigation of the migrant standoff to Rome. Prosecutor Patronaggio left without speaking to reporters after questioning two Interior Ministry officials at the Italian capital’s prosecutors’ office, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

Prosecutors would have to seek permission from a special panel to question Salvini. As a lawmaker, Salvini also holds immunity from prosecution that could only be lifted by fellow lawmakers. Italian Red Cross official Stefano Principato in Catania told reporters that Italy’s health minister had ordered an inspection of sanitary conditions for the migrants, who have been sleeping on the ship’s deck and coping with a baking sun and limited toilet facilities.

Doctors have said many of the migrants on the ship have scabies but “more than a health emergency, it would be better to speak of a psychological emergency,” Principato said.

Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

Rain slows in Albania but agricultural land still underwater

December 03, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian authorities say that despite less rainfall and lower river levels, thousands of homes and scores of schools have been damaged, and agricultural land is still submerged.

The government said Sunday that 600 families were evacuated Saturday in two southwestern districts. More than 3,000 homes, 56 schools and 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of agricultural land have been flooded. Many roads and 28 bridges have been damaged.

Authorities have started calculating the damage to consider financial compensation. At least one person has died in the last several days of heavy rainfall that has flooded many parts of Albania. Ports and the only international airport were temporarily closed for part of the weekend.

Schools were closed Friday and the Education Ministry will make a decision soon about Monday’s classes.

Albania president rejects Kosovo passport request

October 11, 2017

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Albania’s president has turned down a request from his Kosovo counterpart Hashim Thaci to issue Albanian passports for citizens in neighboring Kosovo, the only nation in Europe excluded from a visa-free European travel zone.

Ilir Meta, who is visiting Kosovo Wednesday, said the solution was “through dialogue.” The European Union insists Kosovo must approve a border demarcation deal with Montenegro before its citizens can enjoy visa-free travel within the so-called Schengen zone.

Opposition lawmakers in Kosovo have refused to ratify that deal, saying it meant Kosovo would lose land. Albania has enjoyed access to the visa-free regime since 2010. Kosovo’s 1.9 million population is mainly ethnic Albanian.

Wrecks, sunken treasures lie under Albania’s coastal waters

August 02, 2017

SARANDA, Albania (AP) — Descending beneath the waves, the cloudy first few meters quickly give way to clear waters and an astonishing sight — dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tightly packed ancient vases lie on the seabed, testament to some long-forgotten trader’s unfortunate voyage more than 1,600 years ago.

A short boat ride away, the hulking frame of an Italian World War II ship appears through the gloom, soldiers’ personal items still scattered in the interior, its encrusted railings and propeller now home to growing colonies of fish and sponges.

Off the rugged shores of Albania, one of the world’s least explored underwater coastlines, lies a wealth of treasures: ancient amphorae — long, narrow terracotta vessels — that carried olive oil and wine along trade routes between north Africa and the Roman Empire, wrecks with hidden tales of heroism and treachery from two world wars, and spectacular rock formations and marine life.

“From what I’ve seen so far, you can’t swim more than a few meters without finding something that’s amazing, whether it’s on the cultural history side or the natural history side, here in Albania,” said Derek Smith, a coastal and maritime ecologist and research associate who has been working with the non-profit RPM Nautical Foundation to explore the Albanian coastline for the past decade.

Now Albania’s National Coastline Agency is examining how best to study and protect its sunken attractions while opening them up to visitors in a nation that is virgin territory for the lucrative scuba diving industry.

“The idea of presenting the Albanian underwater heritage is a new idea for the country, because so far there is very little known about the rich history of the Albanian coastline, and in particular the shipwrecks,” said agency head Auron Tare, who has been involved for the past 12 years with RPM Nautical Foundation’s underwater research. “I believe the time has come now that we should present to the world the wealth of this heritage that we have in our waters.”

Once more isolated than even North Korea, Albania has gradually opened up to international tourism and shrugged off its former image as a hermit state that briefly turned into lawless bandit territory in the late 1990s. But coastal land development has been burgeoning in an often anarchic fashion, and there are fears the more accessible wrecks could be plundered unless adequate protections are put into place.

Legislation is expected to be passed soon to protect the country’s underwater heritage while also granting some access to visitors. Neighboring Greece, to Albania’s south, has struggled with balancing tourism with protecting its ancient artefacts. Greece was so fearful of losing its underwater antiquities it banned diving outright in all but a handful of places. Even today, diving is forbidden on any wreck — ship or plane — built more than 50 years ago, regardless of when it sank.

Albania is going for a more balanced approach. “I’d say that in the near future the ancient wrecks should be open to scholars and research,” said Tare, who noted the country has also lost some of its underwater heritage to plundering in the last 20 years. “Where(as) some of the modern wrecks which do not have much to lose in the sense of looting might be opened up to the dive industry.”

He estimated that with access to the more modern wrecks from WWI or WWII, diving could pick up in Albania in the next five years. The RPM Nautical Foundation, in cooperation with the coastal agency, has mapped out the seabed along about a third of the Albanian coastline, from Saranda near the Greek border to Vlora. Using a combination of divers and high-tech equipment including sonar and a remotely operated underwater vehicle, or ROV, its research vessel has discovered nearly 40 shipwrecks.

“So far RPM has documented from about 3rd and 4th century BC through to World War I and World War II contemporary shipwrecks,” said Smith. “So we’ve got quite a big range of maybe 2,500 years, 2,300 years’ worth of cultural resources here on the Albanian coastline that have really largely been unexplored.”

One of them is the tightly-packed amphora pile near the shore. Known as the Joni wreck, it was a merchant vessel estimated to have had about four crew members and a cargo of mainly of north African amphorae.

The fact that the pottery was north African “is really important because it shows the trade connections between the Adriatic and the north African coast,” said underwater archaeologist Mateusz Polakowski, who has been working with RPM.

Small fish peer out from the necks of the jugs, which the passage of time has concreted into the seabed. The site hasn’t been excavated and archaeologists believe several more layers of amphorae, as well as the wooden hull of the ship, might still lie intact beneath the seabed.

“A lot of these wrecks are very important as national heritage treasures,” said Polakowski. “Just as much as the biology of it is, just as important as the reefs and the fish populations are, I think these shipwrecks not only become artificial reefs, but they also instill a sense of cultural identity, cultural heritage.”

Albania sits at a strategic point at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea and along ancient trade routes from Italy to the Balkan peninsula, Polakowski said. Much more remains to be explored. “They have about 200 miles of coastline here,” said Smith, the maritime ecologist. “Even though we feel like we’ve covered a tremendous amount of it … there’s always more to be discovered.”

Albania Socialists win polls, can govern without partner

June 27, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s left-wing Socialist Party has secured a second mandate in a general election, winning a majority of seats in parliament, nearly complete results showed Tuesday. The election is seen as a key benchmark to the country’s bid to launch membership negotiations with the European Union.

The Central Election Commission said that with more than 95 percent of the ballots counted, the governing Socialists of Prime Minister Edi Rama had won about 48 percent of the votes, or 74 places in the 140-seat parliament.

The previous government was a coalition of the Socialists and the Socialist Movement for Integration, or LSI, often creating problems for Rama. The opposition Democratic party of Lulzim Basha won 29 percent, or 43 seats. The LSI is third with 19 seats.

Turnout in Sunday’s election fell to 46.6 percent, 7 points lower than in 2013. International observers who monitored the polling hailed the generally calm campaign and voting, but also noted the continued political fight that has negative impacts on the country’s democracy.

The U.S. embassy in Tirana said that the incidents “were not so widespread as to change the overall outcome of the elections.” Federica Mogherini, EU’s foreign policy chief, and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn urged the new Cabinet to continue the reform process.

“The continuation of the justice reform and the fight against drug trafficking and cultivation will be of particular importance in this respect,” their statement said. The governing Socialists had agreed in May to give the opposition Democrats a greater role in oversight on election transparency.

The two parties also pledged to work together toward eventually joining the European Union. Rama had pledged that his new cabinet would work hard on a reform agenda to root out corruption and fight drug trafficking, achieve faster economic growth, improve pay and lower unemployment.

The nation of 2.9 million, a NATO member since 2009, received EU candidate status in 2014.

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