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  • Youth from Kosovo First to Participate in New U.S. Study Program

    IREX is pleased to welcome the first-ever cohort of students participating in the newKosovo Undergraduate Exchange Program(Kosovo UGRAD) for the 2012 academic year.

    The Kosovo UGRAD program, one of the first initiatives funded by the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo established in 2008, brings students from Kosovo to the United States to study for an academic year at a university or community college. This year three Kosovo UGRAD students will be studying in Ohio, New Mexico, and Kansas.

    Based on the Global UGRAD model that emphasizes leadership development, community service, and cultural ambassadorship, the Kosovo UGRAD program seeks to equip youth with the skills to develop their country. During their program students attend classes as a full-time student, engage in community service in the host community, share their culture, gain professional experience through an internship in their field of study, and learn about American culture.

    Kosovo UGRAD students are excited not only about their studies, but about the experience of living in another country. One Kosovo UGRAD student, Rexhep, will be studying at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. “I hope to know other cultures and other lifestyles and to meet new friends,” he said. “My long term goals for Kosovo are to improve Kosovo, with the studies and experience that I learned in the U.S.”

    Kosovo UGRAD is a program of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy to Kosovo, U.S. Department of State, and is implemented by IREX.(

  • Judicial system of Albania

    The Judicial system of Albania is composed of:

    • District courts
    • Courts of appeal
    • Supreme Court of Albania 
    • Constitutional Court of Albania

    The district courts are trial level courts from which appeal can be taken to the court of appeals and then to the Court of Cassation. At each of the three levels, the courts are divided into civil, criminal and military chambers. Justices of the Supreme Court serve for 7 years.

    There is also a Constitutional Court (also known as the High Court) with jurisdiction to resolve questions of constitutional interpretation that arise during the course of any case on appeal. In a 1993 decision, the Constitutional Court invalidated a law that would have disbarred lawyers who were active during the communist era, and ordered the lawyers reinstated. Justices of the Constitutional Court serve a maximum of 9 years.

    Parliament appoints the seven members of the Court of Cassation and five of the nine judges on the Constitutional Court, with the rest appointed by the president. A Supreme Judicial Council appoints all other judges. In 1992, the Supreme Judicial Council began to remove judges who had served under the former Communist regime.

  • Albanian protester turns himself into human torch in row with government over compensation for ex political prisoners

    • Lirak Bejko and his fellow protesters are demanding compensation over time in prison during the communist regime
    • Another protester, Gjergj Ndreca set himself on fire on Monday


    An Albanian man became the second human torch this week in the escalating row over compensation between the government and victims of the Communist regime.

    Lirak Bejko, 47, was taken to hospital with severe burns after he set himself on fire in a bid to get the government to speed up payouts to ex-political prisoners.

    Television footage broadcast across Albania show Mr Bejko pouring petrol over his body and setting himself on fire before policemen intervene.

    The men have been on hunger strike for 19 days, but had vowed to burn each other in sacrifice for their cause if the government ignored them

    Not until the dramatic images of men engulfed in flames were broadcast across the country did Prime Minister Sali Berisha respond to their cause.

    Vazhdo leximin

  • Facebook recognized Kosovo as a country !

    Facebook ambassadors: Countries should send diplomats to the social- media giant. By Cyrus Farivar
    On Sunday, Facebook announced that it would be putting together a global team of quasi- diplomats, called "policy directors," to represent the company in various countries around the globe. The job descriptions for these positions are more or less the same. The envoy to India should "actively promote of the uses of Facebook with policymakers and influencers in both electoral and governing bodies," while the emissary to Italy will "monitor legislation and regulatory matters affecting Facebook and advise company with respect to policy challenges." (A job listing for the digital elephant in the room—China—is conspicuously absent.) "It's important that we have a presence, so people can have a direct line into Facebook," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News. "You limit the scope for misunderstandings." That article also pointed out that Google did the same thing back in 2006: "Was it useful? Totally," said Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of global public policy from 2004 to 2009. "You literally build a foreign service for the company, people whose mission it is to represent the company outwardly, but also to translate the policy environment back into the company."

    Vazhdo leximin

  • CNN: World's top destinations for 2011

    December 28, 2010 | By A. Pawlowski,
    CNN Where on Earth will you find yourself in 2011?
    Here's wishing it's somewhere unforgettable -- and the time to plan your journey is now, as the New Year brings the customary yearning for a fresh start and the promise of new people and places. To set your itinerary in motion, we sought out recommendations from three travel experts: Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet; Pauline Frommer, creator of Pauline Frommer's guidebooks; and Martin Rapp, senior vice president of leisure sales at Altour.
    Here are nine of their top destinations for 2011:

    1. New York

    2. New Zealand

    3. Peruvian Amazon

    4. Barcelona, Spain

    5. Norway
    6. Albania
    The top pick on Lonely Planet's list of top 10 countries for 2011 may be a surprise for many people, but Albania gives travelers a taste of the Mediterranean without the crowds and the prices, Reid said. The real rising destination is Gjirokastra, a city whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site, he added. "It's this cobbled town with Ottoman-era mansions," Reid said. "It's a very atmospheric place that has a lot of history." With picturesque beaches, good food and a number of heritage sites, Albania won't be off the beaten track for much longer, Lonely Planet says in its review.
    7. Japan

    8. Guatemala
    9. Bulgaria

  • Highway opens up Albania for Kosovars

    Highway opens up Albania for Kosovars

    By Kerin Hope in Tirana and Neil MacDonald in Belgrade

    Published: June 25 2009 01:46 | Last updated: June 25 2009 01:46

    A spectacular 61km section of highway through mountainous northern Albania opens on Thursday, creating a strategic link with fellow ethnic Albanians in landlocked Kosovo. For Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia last year, the modern four-lane route is a vital commercial link through a friendly country.

    At more than €600m (£510m, $840m) the new stretch of road will cut the eight-hour journey between Tirana and Pristina by at least two hours, according to Ernest Noka, Albania’s deputy transport minister.


    Vazhdo leximin

  • Hero's welcome for Biden in Kosovo

    Hero's welcome for Biden in Kosovo

    Agence France-Presse

    May 21, 2009 10:27pm

    US Vice President Joe Biden received a hero's welcome today as one of the highest-level officials yet to visit Kosovo since its disputed declaration of independence from Serbia last year.
    "Kosovo's independence was the only viable option for stability in the region," Mr Biden told a special sitting of the Kosovo parliament in Pristina.

    "Your independence is irreversible," he said in a speech that received several standing ovations from the ethnic Albanian-dominated assembly.

    "The success of an independent Kosovo is a priority for our administration and our country."

    Cheered on by a huge crowd, Mr Biden's motorcade had made its way towards the parliament along streets lined by billboards declaring: "Welcome and thank you."

    The US vice president is considered one of Washington's strongest advocates of the independence of ethnic Albanian-majority Kosovo, which declared its secession from Serbia in February last year.

    Coming after trips to Bosnia and Serbia, Mr Biden's visit to Kosovo is his final stop on a tour to demonstrate fresh US engagement in Europe and the volatile Balkan region
    Earlier, after meeting with President Fatmir Sejdui, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other leaders, Biden said Kosovo awarded him with "The Golden Medal of Freedom," the highest decoration in the Balkan territory.
    "Thank you... for honouring me with this medal... I don't deserve it, but I received it on behalf of the United States," Mr Biden said.
    Local media hailed the visit of Biden, one of the strongest supporters of Kosovo's independence when he served as a senator in the late 1990s.

    "Mr Biden is one of the few politicians in the world that has long believed in the independence of Kosovo. For his contribution to changing our destiny, Biden is our man," the Express daily said in a commentary.
    Kosovo's decision to split from Serbia on February 17, 2008 is strongly opposed by Belgrade and Serbs, who number little more than 100,000 in the disputed territory of two million inhabitants.
    Following his speech, Mr Biden was flown by helicopter to the Serbian Orthodox Church's Decani monastery, a 14th-century UNESCO-listed heritage site located in an enclave of southwestern Kosovo.
    The Serb minority, who consider Kosovo the medieval heartland of Serbia, plan to stage an anti-US protest in their northern stronghold of the tense, ethnically divided town of Kosovska Mitrovica.
    In Belgrade, Biden offered Serbia's pro-Western government a clean slate in relations tarnished by the Kosovo dispute, saying Washington does not expect Serbia to recognise its breakaway southern province.
    "The United States does not, I emphasise, does not expect Serbia to recognise the independence of Kosovo," Mr Biden told a joint media conference with Serbian President Boris Tadic.
    In Bosnia a day earlier, however, he stressed Washington's decision to recognise Kosovo would not be reviewed by the four-month-old administration of US President Barack Obama.
    "This independence, while young, is irreversible, and critically important to this region's stability and progress," he said in a speech to Bosnian lawmakers.
    US warplanes took part in NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia to end a violent crackdown on separatist Kosovo Albanian rebels by forces loyal to late president Slobodan Milosevic.
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  • Positive growth forecast for Albania

    Positive growth forecast for Albania

    By Kerin Hope in Athens

    Published: May 14 2009

    Albania appears an unlikely bright spot on Europe's gloomy economic map, with international institutions still forecasting positive growth of about 1.2 per cent this year, writes Kerin Hope in Athens.

    While its cash-strapped Balkan neighbours seek emergency finance from the International Monetary Fund, Europe's secondpoorest country, after Moldova, secured a €250m ($340m, £224m) medium-term commercial loan last month, arranged by Deutsche Bank and Alpha Bank of Greece.

    The funding allows the right-of-centre government of Sali Berisha, prime minister, to complete an upgrade of the main highway to Kosovo - a key infrastructure project.

    Ardian Fullani, the central bank governor, told the Financial Times yesterday that the international loan had given a boost to Albania's credibility with investors abroad and helped sustain liquidity in the domestic bond market. "We are weathering the crisis with less pain than others. Demand is still there and the budget [deficit] is under control," he said.

    Credit expansion is set to slow this year from 36 per cent to about 15 per cent, "which is healthy in these times", Mr Fullani said. Austrian, Italian and Greek bank subsidiaries that control more than 70 per cent of assets "are well-capitalised, profitable and have performed strongly in a series of stress tests that we started last year," he said.

    While Albania may benefit from being overlooked - it lacks a sovereign credit rating - it has not escaped the impact of the downturn.

    "It's faring better than others, but this year's projection still marks a dramatic decline after years of growth at 6 to 7 per cent," said Jens Bastian, an economist at Eliamep, an Athens-based think-tank.

    Exports of chrome and copper ore are slowing, along with remittances from migrant workers, which were flat last year at about €1bn. Yet investors are still showing interest. Tirana recently signed energy projects worth more than €3bn with Italian, Austrian and Norwegian companies to end a chronic electricity shortage and make Albania a regional exporter.

    "We think Albania can become an important regional trade hub," said Philip George of Zumax, a Swiss-based company bidding for a €400m concession to modernise the port of Vlora.

    Mr Fullani said the government that emerged from June's parliamentary election would seek a new arrangement with the IMF in order to maintain foreign investor confidence - "not funding but technical assistance for more structural reform".

    Copyright - The Financial Times Limited 2009

  • Welcome Albania

    Welcome Albania

    April 28 2009

    With the European Union buffeted by economic crisis, constitutional arguments and worries about relations with Russia, it would be easy for its leaders to overlook the formal EU membership bid from little Albania. Easy but wrong. The Union’s eastward enlargement is among its greatest successes; it must be enhanced by embracing the fragile states of the western Balkans, including Albania.

    Tirana’s move comes just days after EU states accepted an entry application from neighbouring Monte­negro. Albania may have to wait a few months for a go-ahead as Brussels will quite rightly wish to see that the June parliamentary election takes place in line with EU standards. But barring mishaps both countries should soon begin the arduous business of multi-year entry negotiations.

    All this is welcome: Brussels must keep enlargement moving at a time when it faces serious obstacles.

    Turkey and Croatia, the two countries now in membership talks, have run into difficulties. With Turkey, there is a fundamental lack of EU political will that has generated disenchantment in Ankara. With Croatia, the main problem is a petty border dispute with Slovenia, over which Ljubljana is needlessly blocking Zagreb’s progress.

    The four remaining western Balkans territories – Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo – all face challenges before they can even start entry talks. Serbia must capture Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb wartime general wanted for genocide; Bosnia must show greater cohesion among its divided ethnic communities; Macedonia must settle a name dispute with Greece; and Kosovo must win greater recognition of its independence.

    All the would-be members, not least Albania, must also do more to fight crime and corruption. It will not be easy – but it would be even harder without EU membership prospects.

    Meanwhile, the EU must put its house in order. The Lisbon treaty must win approval in the repeat Irish referendum this year. Otherwise, there will be no legal room for new entrants, except Croatia. The EU should also generate more public backing for the Balkan enlargement. It must be sold as a modest rounding-out of the 2004-07 enlargement, as it brings in states already surrounded by EU members.

    It is a hard sell in an economic crisis. But it should not be impossible. The western Balkans have since the Yugoslav wars been largely the EU’s responsibility. Preparing the region for accession is the only rational way of finishing the job of securing its peace and prosperity.

    ©Financial Times JournalFinancial Times Editorial

  • USAID, 4th Judicial Reform Index for Albania Released

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    USAID, 4th Judicial Reform Index for Albania Released

    Tirana, April 10, 2009    The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), with support from the U.S. Mission through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), released today the 4TH Judicial Reform Index for Albania, at an event at the Magistrates School in Tirana.

    “A strong judiciary is the key to Albania’s long-term success,” said USAID’s Mission Director to Albania, Roberta Mahoney in remarks at the ceremony. “The United States Government is firmly committed to the development of an effective, impartial and democratic judicial system in Albania.” 
    Mahoney urged legal professionals to use this assessment to build a transparent and fair judicial system comprised of professionals guided by principles of integrity and independence. She also underscored the importance of justice sector reforms to foreign direct investments and reforms in Albania’s public administration.

    The Judicial Reform Index (JRI) is an assessment tool implemented by ABA ROLI in order to assess a cross-section of factors important to judicial reform in emerging democracies. The JRI is designed to help international organizations, donors, and local partners to better target judicial reform programs by creating a quantifiable measure of their impact. It also functions as a tool to refine program implementation and monitor progress towards establishing an accountable, effective, and independent judiciary in the country.

    The JRI for Albania examines Albania’s judiciary through a prism of thirty factors reflecting the most fundamental characteristics of successful judicial systems.  The JRI explores such issues as judicial education, and qualifications and appointment procedures of judges; independence and transparency of judicial decisions and judicial powers; budgetary considerations and issues of compensation; maintenance of trial records; adequacy of court staff and facilities; access to laws and other legal information; and ethics; discipline; and self-government.  ABA ROLI previously implemented JRIs for Albania in 2001, 2004, and 2006.