Tirana, December 29, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
In 2014, Albania marked several important achievements and among them were also some events that were expected by Albanian people for years.
In June, the European Union granted Albania the candidate status.
This month also saw the start of an operation for the liberation of Lazarat, a commune where narcotics had turned into an international business activity, circulating several billions of USD a year.
September saw the start of a big operation in the country for the identification of debtors and other abusers of electricity. This month also saw the intensification of the operation against illegal constructions throughout Albania.
The year coming to an end also saw other events, which along with the abovementioned developments, you will find in a chronological and analytical way below:
February 6-Death of Vaçe Zela
On February 6, 2014, the greatest Albanian singer of all times, Vaçe Zela passed away in Switzerland.
The great name of Albanian art passed away at the age of 74 after a serious illness from which she suffered for years. Upon her request, she was brought to Albania to be buried, following a massive official ceremony.
June 1-Operation starts in Lazarat
What was considered to be impossible for around 24 years, happened at the start of June 2014. Numerous police forces surrounded Lazarat and then entered the commune bordering Greece, which was considered as the cradle of drugs in Albania.
In fact, the drug traffic ring didn’t only involve the majority of the residents of the area, but also, many people who came from other parts of the country in order to cultivate marijuana and then process it into different drugs.
According to international reports, this traffic amounted to 6-7 billion USD or twice as much as Albania’s budget. This operation that lasted around a month saw the discovery of several tons of drugs and cash, but also, weapons of different calibers. There were also several arrested people, but the majority of them were released.
June 25-The candidate status
After delaying it for a long time, the European Union decided to finally grant Albania the EU candidate status for the accession in this organization also aspired by several other Balkan countries.
Brussels’ decision came after repeated requests made by Albania.
MEPs had given their ok a year ago, but the Council of Ministers had rejected it.
For five years, Brussels had imposed several criteria, but the fulfillment of these criteria had been prevented by the left winged opposition which governs the country today, and which refused to join the right winged majority in order to pass several reforms demanded by the EU.
Albania received the candidate status, but many people are skeptic as to whether the accession will happen soon. They mention Turkey’s case which was granted the status in the ‘80s, but which could not move on any further.
Brussels has not given any signals as to when Albania can launch accession talks.
June 26-Killing of Artan Santo
One of the most notorious murders not only of this year, was the public execution of Artan Santo, a prominent businessman and banker in Albania. The victim was followed hundreds of meters to the head office of Credins Bank in the former Bllok, Tirana, a residential and a business area well guarded by police. Police never discovered the authors or the motives for this serious crime.
Two decades ago, Artan Santo was the official of a state owned bank in Tirana. Later, he founded his own bank, Credins Bank and expanded his businesses in the domain of media too. He was joint owner of two TV channels, a radio station and a daily newspaper.
July 10-DP’s boycott
What the Socialist Party did on a regular basis when it was in opposition, continued with the right wing. A punch in the Parliament’s corridors was enough for the opposition to boycott the legislative institution.
The Democratic Party led by the mayor of Tirana, Lulzim Basha, launched an indefinite boycott.
The main demand related to the decriminalization of parliament. DP accused the majority of having within its ranks, people who were convicted of crimes and even murder, inside and outside of Albania. The opposition never published any concrete names. Nevertheless, the media came out with names of MPs convicted of murder abroad and who were wanted internationally.
July 23-The BoA scandal
Bank of Albania is known as the most hermetic institution as far as exchange of information is concerned. Media seldom had access in it and as it happens even today, publication of the Bank’s reports must be waited in order to be informed about Albania’s monetary domain.
In the Kerraba tunnel, along the national road segment linking Tirana to Elbasan, a significant amount of gold which belonged to the treasury of Albania and overseen by the Bank of Albania was stolen. At that time, the prime minister of the country was the current speaker of parliament, Ilir Meta and the Governor of the Bank of Albania was Shkelqim Cani, current minister of Finance. The right wing opposition launched accusations at that time for incrimination of the state and demanded explanations about the disappearance of the treasury. The gold was never found.
This year, the Bank of Albania was once again on the spotlight concerning another scandal. An employee of the bank was accused of stealing 713 million ALL or around 7 million USD, by taking the money out of the bank on a daily basis. The suspect was arrested and along with him, several other employees too. But, the stolen money was never found.
Many people started to ask how was it possible for a theft to be committed so easily at the Bank of Albania, thus leading to the disappearance of billions of Lek of Albanian taxpayers’ money.
September 5-Fullani’s arrest
Several weeks after the scandal, the public opinion was angry about the massive theft. They were surprised about the fact that the money was never discovered and how was it possible that a theft was committed so easily at the Bank of Albania, at a time when heads of the Bank declared that the security level in this institution was very high. Meanwhile, a debate was sparked in social networks, after the 25 year old son of the governor posted on a regular basis, photos of activities and luxury objects.
It seems that being under a great media and social pressure, the Prosecution was motivated even more and launched an inquest leading to the arrest of the Governor of the Bank of Albania, Ardian Fullani.
September 21-The Pope arrives in Tirana
An important event for Albania was the visit of Pope Francis I in Tirana. The Vatican’s Pope started his European tour with Albania, as, like he said, Albania is a country that has suffered a great deal by the communist regime.
The Pope was received with great honors and love by Albanians and the visit was accompanied by strong security measures. No incidents were marked.
October 14-The drone in Belgrade
It had been many years that there were no high level meetings between Serbia and Albania, but the football match between the two countries had been determined and its developments were known.
Thus, the Albanian national side arrived in Belgrade on October 14. Fans from Albania were not allowed, as Serb authorities refused to sell tickets for them, but the Albanian side didn’t protest.
So, Belgrade’s stadium had very few Albanians present in it and those who were present, came from other countries by showing IDs of the countries where they lived.
Since the very beginning, the match was suspended. The crowd chanted anti-Albanian slogans and the main one was “Kill Albanians”. Later, the situation aggravated when a flag with Albanian national symbols which included what’s known to be as “Greater Albania” flew over the stadium. This sparked a clash that led to the suspension of the match. Several weeks ago, FIFA decided to punish the sides. Meanwhile, PM Edi Rama didn’t visit Belgrade according to his schedule, as the visit was postponed.
November 4-MP Xhuvani’s son commits five murders
Three years ago, when Konstandin Xhuvani killed a young man, his mother, Luiza Xhuvani, a known actress and socialist MP stayed far from the media.
Konstandin disappeared for several weeks after the murder and then, gave himself in to police in the company of his lawyer.
In police records, the young man had emerged problematic several times, mainly on cases of drugs.
His mother challenged the media and the police declaration by saying that her son was not hiding. She even brought him with her near the parliament building. Police was criticized about the fact that it didn’t arrest this person who had been declared wanted, when he appeared on public.
On November 4, a massacre happened in Tirana. Three young Albanian men and an Italian man remained killed after they were gunned down by Konstandin Xhuvani.
During the operation to arrest him, Xhuvani attempted to bribe police officers, but he was handcuffed.
This event brought reactions on social media as people recalled the first murder which was followed by his immediate release from prison. Being under this pressure, MP Luiza Xhuvani handed her resignation.
November 10-Rama in Belgrade
At last, an Albanian prime minister returned after 69 years for a visit to Belgrade. Edi Rama went there with a clear plan in his head. To talk about Kosovo. In the press conference that he delivered with his Serb counterpart, Vucic, Rama demanded from Belgrade for the five countries that haven’t yet recognized Kosovo as a state to do this as soon as possible.
The Serb PM protested and said that the sides had agreed not to talk about Kosovo in the press conference, but about the relations between Serbia and Albania.
Visit to Serbia met its scope, says Albanian PM
November 22-DP protest
The opposition, which still remained outside of parliament, called a national protest in Tirana. On November 22, a significant number of Albanians gathered on the square. They demanded from the government not to increase the price of electricity and fight poverty.
The opposition said that it would continue with the protests. So far, no other protest has taken place and no fresh date was scheduled.
December 5-Doping deflates the “river” of praises
In the recent years, Albanians were proud about the successes marked by Albanian weightlifters. Therefore the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of liberation and 102 anniversary of independence were celebrated by state authorities by having on their side, the elite of Albanian weight lifting.
But, at the peak of these successes, sportsmen known for breaking world records, were accused of doping. Initially, it was Romela Begaj and then Daniel Godelli and Hysen Paluku to come out positive in both tests carried out for the use of prohibited substances.
December 24-DP-SP resolution
A few hours before the last deadline for the expiry of the mandates of democrat MPs, intense talks were held between the Democratic Party and the majority to put an end to parliamentary boycott.
These talks also saw the involvement of two MEPs from the European left and right wing. The main demand of DP was the decriminalization of parliament through a special law.
At the end of the talks, the opposition withdraw from this demand, as the majority didn’t accept it.
At the end, sides voted in parliament a resolution which also stated that efforts should be made on the issue of individuals with criminal convictions who hold public posts or seek to be elected or appointed in such posts, based on European standards and with the assistance of the Venice Commission.