This is a tongue-in-cheek take on the main news in Albania over the last week.
- Minister of Drug Trafficking Gets Off with a Suspended Sentence
The former Minister of Drug Trafficking Saimir Tahiri managed to get away with charges that he was complicit in an international drug trafficking ring involving tonnes of cannabis being cultivated and moved out of Albania. After “deliberating” (read: drinking coffee) for hours, the verdict came back as not guilty.
Of course it did. Did we really expect anything else from a judiciary whose sole purpose is to do the bidding of Edi Rama and his Socialist Party?
Instead, he was charged with “abuse of office”. Let that sink in for a moment. How can someone be found not guilty of being involved with drug trafficking, let be found guilty of abuse of office? Surely being guilty of abuse of office suggests that he was also guilty of something that would justify the abuse of office verdict? How can you be found guilty of abusing your office, but not guilty of the thing that you did to abuse your office? Does your head hurt yet? Because mine does.
To add insult to injury, the Vlora Police Chief Jaeld Cela who was also charged with international drug trafficking, participation in a structured criminal organisation, and criminal activity in a structured criminal organisation was also found, yes you guessed it, not guilty. Instead, he was also found guilty of abuse of office (!) and will serve three years and four months in prison, whereas Tahiri had his sentence suspended.
- Fatmir Xhafaj ‘Likes’ That His Predecessor Got Away With It
Former Minister of Drug Trafficking and lovable little rogue Fatmir Xhafaj has been caught flirting with Saimir Tahiri on a recent Twitter post. The British Ambassador to Albania, Mr Duncan Norman criticised the outcome of Tahiri’s trial by saying that “failure to convict against the more serious charge raises questions and shows the importance of seeing through the judicial reform to the end.”
Quick off the mark with the “like” button was Xhafaj who took over Tahiri’s position after he was arrested for drug trafficking. Of course, I mean that he took over his position as Minister of Drug Trafficking, not his position as a government facilitator of drug cultivation and trafficking with organised criminals throughout the country.
Two things surprise me about his social media activity- firstly that someone of Xhafaj’s age uses Twitter, and secondly that he “liked” a comment condemning his predecessor getting away with exactly the same crime that he is suspected of committing himself.
For those that don’t know, Xhafaj’s brother was convicted by the Italian courts for drug trafficking which apparently still continued between Albania and Italy. Naturally, Xhafaj, a government minister charged with ensuring that things like trafficking don’t happen in Albania, knew absolutely nothing about his brother’s activities, most definitely wasn’t involved, and absolutely did not fill Tahiri’s spot once he got locked up. No way, not a chance.
Xhafaj later resigned from his post without an explanation and apparently spends his days trawling social media to troll his ex-colleagues.
- Mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj Told another Lie
It may surprise you to know that this week Mayor of Tirana and Serial Truth Manipulator Erion Veliaj, told another lie. I know, I know, I am as shocked as you are.
This week’s fantastic fabrication relates to the inauguration of the Servete Maci school in Tirana. Managing to stop touching and photographing other people’s children for just one second to address the gathered audience, Veliaj stated that the project had been designed by new architecture graduates.
How wonderful is that? Giving a great opportunity to fresh-out-of-school graduates, giving them that important leg up in life, providing them with a great first project for their portfolio…what a guy, what a really great guy.
Of course, this was all utter nonsense. Not only was the project awarded to a company owned by former Municipality of Tirana employees, but they made almost EUR 45,000 from it. The shareholders of StudioArch4 include the former head of Architecture and Urban Projects and another guy who worked in the same department. This results in a huge conflict of interest and is a gross display of nepotism that is just typical of the nonsense we see every time there is a government tender up for grabs.
- Air Albania Is About as Albanian as Turkish Coffee
With just nine days to go until the launch of Air Albania, they still don’t have a license from the European Aviation Safety Agency.
Whilst the government have denied it and pressured those who have written about it to take down their articles, the fact remains that at the time of writing, Air Albania does not have a license to operate within the EU. Furthermore, I contacted the EASA to ask if they have applied, if it’s been granted, if it will be granted, or if it’s been refused, and they said they don’t comment on “possible or ongoing” applications. I take this as confirmation that no license has been approved or is forthcoming, otherwise, there would be nothing to hide.
To get around this impending PR disaster, Air Albania will rent aircraft off Turkish Airlines, therefore, enjoying their EASA license. This makes Air Albania basically a subsidiary of Turkish Airlines, pretty much ceasing to exist as an Albanian entity. With Turkish owners, Turkish aircraft, and a Turkish license, it is about as Albanian as Turkish coffee.
What a mess. Perhaps they should put up a memorial in the Lake Park to the memory of what was supposed to be Albania’s first state airline.
- Remember, remember…the 8 of June
“Remember, remember! The fifth of November, The Gunpowder treason and plot.”
On the 5 November 1606, a man called Guy Fawkes and a merry band of Catholic co-conspirators attempted to assassinate the King of England by blowing up the House of Parliament. The plot was foiled, Fawkes and his crew were arrested, and every 5 November, British people light bonfires with effigies of Fawkes on it, whilst setting off fireworks to celebrate.
Fast forward 400-and-something years and President Ilir Meta submitted classified information to his impeachment committee regarding a plot to set fire to the Albanian parliament on 8 June 2019. This day is important as it was the day of another large scale Opposition protest and also the day that the President announced that he was cancelling the 30 June elections on the grounds of concerns over civil unrest.
In light of this latest development, whilst acknowledging the fact that he had a constitutional right to cancel and reschedule the 30 June vote, it should take the wind out of the Socialist Party’s sails. Supreme Leader Edi Rama has been gunning for Meta’s impeachment since he had the audacity to put the country first, meaning that if he succeeds, Albania will be under municipal, federal, and constitutional Socialist Party rule, and let’s be honest, no one in their right mind wants that.
- Albania Is Not Prepared For a Major Earthquake
Yesterday, four moderate earthquakes hit Albania injuring around 100 people and causing damage to hundreds of homes and buildings. The quakes range between 5.8 and 4.4 on the richter scale and were accompanied by hundreds of smaller aftershocks.
Several months ago, the President asked the government what contingency plans they had in place if a large earthquake was to strike the country, the answer of course, was “very little”. Rama visited a few injured people and promised assistance to those that needed it but whether that actually happens and whether they will cough up for repairs to private property, remains to be seen.
Rama had previous said that the National Theatre (the one he is desperate to bulldoze so he and his cronies can sell off public land to private companies to line their own pockets) was likely to be razed to the ground in the event of a big earthquake, yet surprise surprise, it still stands with not so much as a crack in sight. Personally, I think the Theatre has the strength to still be standing, long after Rama’s political career is in pieces.
- “Inhuman and Degrading” Conditions In Albanian Institutions
After reading the Council of Europe report on the situation in Albania’s police stations, prisons, detention centres, and psychiatric hospitals, I can clearly see why Albanian politicians are so keen on avoiding ending up there.
Whilst some minor progress had been noted in prisons, on the whole the report painted a very bleak picture of the situation, particularly in police stations in Tirana, psychiatric hospitals and detention centres for foreign nationals.
Instances of people being cuffed in the stress position to beds, not being allowed to go outside for years, and beatings to get “confessions” were reported, as were the poor structural conditions of many of the buildings. In one psychiatric hospital, it was found that those who had voluntarily entered the facility, were stopped from leaving, and across the board, people were not made aware of their rights.
In the foreign national detention centre, the lack of basic rights and proper treatment were absolutely shocking and resulted in “inhuman and degrading treatment”. As someone who had their residence permit revoked, I must say that this makes me a little nervous!
- Soreca Disappoints Again
EU Ambassador and Rama’s best friend Luigi Soreca has once again failed to grow a pair and say what he really thinks.
When questioned on the outcome of the Tahiri case, he bumbled through a non-committal response, basically saying “um, well, I need to read the court decision and then I will let you know”.
With a history of downplaying scandals, siding with the wrongs of the Socialist Party, and basically pretending that a number of things haven’t happened, it comes as no surprise that he chickened out of siding with other diplomats. Both the American Embassy and the British Ambassador condemned the ruling, calling it “discouraging” and the US Embassy referred to it as “a failure”.
I understand that diplomats have to be diplomatic but his consistent failure to acknowledge serious matters, whilst triumphing trivial aspects of the Regime, is a harmful disservice to Albanian people.