Norwegian launches a new route from Helsinki to Tirana in June 2020

Norwegian starts operating direct flights from Helsinki airport to Tirana, Albania. During the summer season 2020, the route will be operated once a week, on Wednesdays, from 3rd of June till early August.  We are glad to be able to offer yet another tempting destination to Finnish travellers and we are eager to welcome passengers to our modern and efficient planes, says the Senior Vice President Commercial Short Haul Magnus Maursund from Norwegian. – Norwegian's direct route between Helsinki and Tirana is a great addition to our global network of capitals which enhances travelling and expands the amount of destionations, says Vice President, Sales and Route Development Petri Vuori from Finavia. By adding Tirana on the list, Norwegian will offer close to 40 direct flights from Helsinki airport. Earlier this year Finnair also shared the news that a connection to Tirana will commence in summer season 2020. Source:
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World Bank Overview - Albanian Economy 2019

RECENT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS After expanding by 4.1 percent in 2018, annual growth for 2019 is projected to slow to 2.9 percent, as a drastic decline in rainfall cut hydroelectric power production. An expansion in domestic demand led growth in 2019. Net exports reduced growth, as stagnant growth among trade partners limited traditional exports, while energy exports declined. Employment continued to grow. Unemployment reached a record low of 11.5 percent in the second quarter of 2019. Poverty remains high, however; it is estimated that roughly 34.6 percent of Albanians are living on less than US$5.5 dollars per day per capita (in 2011 purchasing power parity) in 2019. Inflation declined compared to end-2018, reversing the trend of the recent past. The Bank of Albania has maintained its policy rate at a record-low 1 percent since June 2018. The monetary easing and improvements in the loan portfolio has facilitated private sector credit growth.  Although Albania’s fiscal position improved in 2019, risks from contingent liabilities and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain high. In 2019, fiscal revenue growth was limited by lower GDP growth and especially by the increased repayment of value added tax refund arrears. The budget deficit is projected to widen to 2.2 percent of GDP in 2019, while the public debt, including guarantees and arrears, is expected to decline to 68.4 percent of GDP.  ECONOMIC OUTLOOK Growth is projected to accelerate slightly to 3.4–3.6 percent by 2020–21, as labor income gains fuel private consumption. The slowdown in global growth will contain net exports. Investment will also contribute to growth, fueled by public projects and—assuming continued progress on structural reforms in the judicial and financial sectors—private investment.  Over the medium term, fiscal consolidation will continue, as the Government further reduces expenditures on the wage bill, goods and services, and transfers to social insurance beneficiaries and local governments. A gradual fiscal consolidation, combined with continued economic growth, should eventually lower the debt-to-GDP ratio to 60 percent of GDP beyond 2022. The country’s economic prospects are vulnerable to significant downside risks. Lower demand from foreign trade partners may constrain growth, worsen labor market conditions, and increase poverty. Preserving macro-fiscal stability is crucial to supporting sustainable growth, which includes continuing to streamline expenditures, increasing tax revenues, and managing fiscal risks from public-private partnerships and SOEs. Further, fostering inclusive growth requires the creation of better conditions for private sector development, including improving the business environment and increasing financial access, energy security, and human capital. Source:
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'A grave historic error': Juncker hits out as North Macedonia and Albania have EU bids blocked

Albania is the collateral damage of an intra-EU power struggle, its prime minister told Euronews, after the country's bid to open accession talks was blocked France, Denmark and the Netherlands opposed beginning EU membership discussions with Albania and North Macedonia, according to an EU diplomat. The blocking of accession talks was made during the two-day European Council summit, which ends today. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said there had been after "a lot of intensity in the debates" but no unanimity on the issue. France rejects talks with Balkan hopefuls on EU membership Latest updates from day two of EU summit EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker called it a "grave, historic error" as Donald Tusk urged both countries not to give up. Albania and North Macedonia submitted their application to join the bloc in 2009 and 2004 respectively and have since taken steps to align themselves more closely with European standards. North Macedonia also resolved a long-standing name dispute last year with neighbour Greece, which had until then, vetoed any talk of the country joining the bloc. 'We are ready' Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told Euronews on Friday that his country is "collateral damage" in an intra-EU power struggle. "It is clear there is a large majority that understands it all and there is a smaller (group of) countries that has a different understanding, so it is a fight within different approaches of the EU," he said. He also stressed that reforms undertaken by the country were not done solely for the purpose of becoming an EU member. "We don't do it for Europe, we don't do it because someone likes it in Paris or Berlin, or someone wants more somewhere else. We do it for ourselves and our children," he added. In an exclusive interview with Euronews Albania's @bunguri, Prime Minister @EdiRama says that in regards to EU accession negotiations, Albania is a potential collateral damage in the fight between the Union’s member states.     Meanwhile, his North Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, urged EU leaders on Thursday to "not put out the bright star we are striving for." "We have worked hard and we are ready to work even harder and to face all the challenges that come with the process," he wrote on Twitter.   'Endless soap opera' But EU membership negotiations can only be launched following a unanimous decision from the bloc's leaders. France has been the most vocal opponent with European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin telling reporters on Monday following a meeting in Brussels that the bloc should not enter "the endless soap opera" of accession talks until it has reformed its vetting procedure. An EU diplomat confirmed to Euronews that Denmark and Netherlands were both in favour of opening talks with North Macedonia only. As such, they are in opposition to the majority of EU countries. "There are many countries that want to join the EU, and this is great, but we need to have strong rules for this process," said Denmark's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen. "I also think there is a difference in the preparedness of North Macedonia and Albania to join the EU. Our discussion last night suggested that they should move forward together in the accession talks." Chancellor Angela Merkel told her parliamentarians on Thursday that the bloc should "keep its promises" and open talks. "A European prospect is the best way to ensure rule-of-law developments in the two Western Balkan states and thus the best way to ensure prosperity and security within Europe," she said. Poland's representation in the EU stated on Friday that it "would be a mistake" to not launch membership talks as "North Macedonia and Albania have done what was expected of them at this stage". "Much is said about the European values and thus it is important for the EU to keep its credibility here," it added. EU Council President Donald Tusk, Parliament chief David Sassoli, current and incoming Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Ursula von der Leyen, also all came out in favour. In a joint letter released earlier this month, they wrote that "if the EU is to uphold its international role and protect its interests, taking a step towards integrating those European countries that have expressed an interest and have fulfilled the requirements for starting the accession process will help achieve this". They also highlighted that "North Macedonia and Albania did what we asked them to do. Achieving that required a significant effort from their citizens, for whom the European perspective has been a great source of motivation and determination." Source:  
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