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Energy: Multiple Challenges for the Balkans – Risk of Delays

The need to strengthen the energy sector in the Balkans must now be an immediate priority as demand for gas continues to increase, at a time when supply is still problematic. The aim is for progress to be made in major projects of key importance that will facilitate the promotion of diversified sources of gas supply and alternative strategic international routes:

The construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline – TAP pipeline is almost complete. The pipes for its construction have now been bonded at 90% of its length and upon its completion the TAP will supply the European market with gas from Azerbaijan. But will Italy’s objections – with the country opposing its construction – be overcome so that the project is delivered on time?

The design of Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria – IGB pipeline, which is expected to channel gas from the TAP pipeline to Bulgaria's network and is the first step to expand further into the Balkans, has been completed and construction will soon begin. The pipeline should have been operational by 2012!

The construction of Bulgaria's gas interconnector with Serbia will be launched, which will strengthen the Greek-Bulgarian interconnection and will significantly contribute to the implementation of the "Vertical Corridor" system, which includes Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Greece.

A new gas pipeline that will connect Thessaloniki with Skopje, boosting the energy supply of FYROM and the wider region is also being planned.

The construction of the EastMed pipeline is being promoted, with contacts between Greece, Cyprus and Israel advancing. The signing, by the end of the year, of the relevant intergovernmental agreement is pending.

The Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market is developing. At the same time, the construction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis is underway. However, it is necessary to create multiple entrances for the further expansion of the Balkan market. Croatia is moving in this direction, however, the reactions of the local community to the creation of an LNG processing and storage unit on the island of Krk must be taken into consideration.

As noted in an EU document, “although none of the Western Balkan countries have suffered severe disturbances in their energy supply, there are significant risks associated with the ability of their respective governments to face up to the challenges in the energy sector. The lack of fully transparent and open energy markets makes it difficult to adapt to changing market dynamics in the short term, while significant barriers to long-term investment in future energy infrastructure persist. Moreover, the Western Balkans are unable to meet EU standards and develop their national energy portfolios in line with the existing commitments of European energy legislation."/IBNA

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UN: Albanian population is aging fast

The Albanian population is aging fast. This is confirmed by a latest report issued by the United Nations Organization. The findings of this report show that until 2060, the median age of the population in the country will be 48.

This year will also mark the point when the median age in Albania is higher than other countries of the region such as FYROM, Montenegro and Serbia.

According to experts, one of the main reasons for the aging of the Albanian population at this pace relates to the drop in the birth rates, migration and increase in life expectancy. /ibna/

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World Economic Forum reveals the threats that the Albanian economy faces

The latest report on global threats published by the World Economic Forum “Regional threats of doing business”, says that the fiscal crises are the biggest threat that the Albanian economy faces, followed by illegal trade and failure of financial mechanisms or financial institutions.

The report, which analyzes 140 world economies, has pointed out another threat that the Albanian economy may face and this is inter-state conflict. Natural catastrophes and cyber attacks rank fifth.

Meanwhile, these conclusions were drawn based on the concerns that Albanian entrepreneurs have on their day to day business activity. /ibna/

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Foreign minister Bushati comments the technical details of the agreement with Greece for the first time ever

Albanian Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati has spoken for the first time on Monday evening about the technical details of the maritime agreement reached with neighbouring Greece.

Mr. Bushati published the maps that show the division of the sea border.

Nevertheless, Bushati said that there’s still no official agreement, but that there aren’t any obstacles either for the agreement to be signed by the two governments.

“The maritime agreement is an issue under discussion”, adding: “We are negotiating the full package which would solve this issue once and for all”.

Bushati denied any involvement by Turkey in this issue.

He said that there have never been any talks with Turkey regarding this agreement, while adding that the clash between Greece and Turkey concerns the islands on the Aegean Sea.

The minister added that to reach such agreement, “consultations will certainly take place with countries which have an experience in this field”.

“Greece has realized that time has come for such agreement”, he added.

Bushati has also stopped on the accusations launched by the Albanian opposition for the sale of sea waters or the allegations that Greece has been allowed to extend its waters an extra 12 miles.

In a televised interview for Vizion+, minister Bushati compared the maritime maps which belong to the agreement reached with Greece in 2009 and the one being discussed today.

“In the 2009 agreement, no straight line has been used, but only a middle line. Given Greece’s and Albania’s geographical position, this is impossible. Section 139 of the agreement shows the possibility of the internal sea in line with the principle of equidistance. According to this principle, the line that limits the sides is equidistant. Technically, we’re referring to the same principles that guide the 2009 agreement. If 2400 square meters are taken either from us, or from Greece, then we may end up on the back of each other”.

Meanwhile, the Albanian president has announced that he will not decree the agreement reached between the Albanian and Greek governments without the creation of the Constitutional Court first.

Foreign Minister Bushati says that there’s no such obstacle. “According to all legal norms that govern international agreements, the agreement goes to Parliament for approval once the Constitutional Court has had its say”, Bushati said, implying that the president is only entitled to decree the agreement once these steps are taken.

Under these circumstances, Bushati said, there’s no obstacle for us to sign the agreement.

Constitutional Court in Albania is not functional, because the majority of its members were impeached by the vetting process that is taking place in the justice system.

Authorities are hoping that this court will be up and running again next spring and in summer, it may deliberate the cases it has received. /ibna/

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Adoption of positive measures continues

Avoidance of pension cuts “secured”

The second measure in a set of policies that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had pledged to implement in the post-bailout era was tabled in parliament. The measure is a reduction in social security contributions for freelancers and farmers that will reach up to 35%. It is estimated that approximately 250,000 self-employed workers stand to benefit.

The draft bill introducing the measure also includes a series of provisions that safeguard labor, such as the institutional and organizational strengthening of the labor inspectorate and the staffing of welfare centers.

Avoidance of pension cuts “secured” on Thursday; pack of positive measures boosted

However, Athens has its eyes turned to Brussels and the final decision to abolish the measure to cut pensions as of 1.1.2019. Government sources expressed certainty today that the cuts will not apply and that the final set of positive measures to be adopted will be worth more than the 756 million euros listed in the draft budget. Moreover, they indicated that set of measures was finalized last week, thus rejecting a series of media reports that claimed some of the measures announced by the Tsipras administration will not be adopted.

According to information, every indication points to Thursday’s Euro Working Group meeting granting the requests of the Greek side. In any case, the 21 NovemberEurogroup meeting will sign off on the final decision.

A statement by the German Finance Minister a few days after his meeting the Greek PM strengthens Athens’ position. Olaf Scholz said yesterday that Greece is handling the issue “very reasonably, very reliably”. He also firmly refuted a front-page report in a Greek daily newspaper which claimed it was “Berlin’s decision” only to avoid cutting the lower pensions./IBNA

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FYROM: Former PM Gruevski has escaped to Hungary

FYROM’s former PM, Nikola Gruevski has announced that he’s in Brussels. Gruevski has done this through a posting on Facebook, where he has written: “In the recent days, I have received lots of life threats. Now I’m in Budapest where I’ve requested political asylum from Hungarian authorities. I shall always remain faithful to the Macedonian cause”, Gruevski wrote on his profile.

Meanwhile, the former PM is known for his ties with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, who several months ago had invited him for a visit to Budapest, but this was not made possible due to the seizure of his passport by the authorities. Police in FYROM have issued an arrest warrant for Gruevski, as he is supposed to suffer a two year prison sentence concerning a corruption case. /ibna/

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