Sat, 18 May 2024

AEJ holds first annual conference in Balkans

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AEJ General Assembly, Vlorë, Albania October 26 – 29, 2023

from Edward Steen, Sec-Gen, Vienna 29/09/23

The fires did not hold us back last October in Greece, nor will the even crazier weather of 2023. Nor geography, nor geo-politics, even if that too is becoming ever-wilder and more unpredictable, not just in Ukraine or north Africa, but with the latest human sufferings and wave of refugees in the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerjaijan.

All the more reason for us to defend our values, especially those of a free, democratic press wherever it is in danger, which is just about everywhere.

So welcome to our first-ever Congress in Albania. Soon, we hope, this will be more than a candidate in the EU waiting room. The country already hosts a large and growing AEJ Section, which will also be our hosts this autumn. 

Many thanks to Albanian AEJ President Arbër Hitaj, TV star and talk-show host, tasked with organisation, including buses to pick you up at the airport (and take you back). But make sure to let Pat Humphreys know – aej.treasurer@gmail – of your arrival and departure dates. He is coordinating this as well as finances.

This interactive map is useful too

The Congress itself will be held around 1.5 hours from Tirana (see map), in the scenic city of Vlorë, founded as an Ancient Greek colony on the Illyrian coast. It should still be warm enough to swim in late October. Vlorë was first mentioned in the 2nd century AD, but was founded several centuries earlier. 

The detailed final agenda and lists of speakers are still in preparation, but suitable hotels and a large meeting room in  Vlorë have been reserved. Please meanwhile send your Section reports asp to me at [email protected] and I will distribute these electronically as far ahead of the Congress as I can. (Problems with translation? Try, which gets better and better.)  

The key topics under discussion will be:

  • EU enlargement, especially in the Balkans. Role of media, including negative actions, eg by Russia and China. State of play in Albania.
  • Independent, liberal journalism in a time of war and political extremism. What is to be done?
  • The meaning for journalism of Artificial Intelligence. A threat? Or can the genie, now out of the bottle, be tamed?
  • State corruption/ media ownership and widespread use of fake information to thwart free debate.
  • Draft agenda, including for GA, to be refined once speakers are confirmed.


Wed/ Thurs, 25/ 26/10/23 Delegates and guests arrive in Tirana 

Pick up at airport, bus, and check in at one of two Vlorë hotels

19.30 Dinner offered by Municipality of Vlorë, where Albanian independence declared in November 1912 

Thursday, 26/10/23

10.00 Tour of Vlorë city centre

11.00 Visit to 4th century Kanina Castle and village (6 km from Vlorë)

12.30 Visit to Orikum area and beaches (4 km from Vlorë)

13.30 – 15.00 Lunch, Orikum

19.00-21.00 Dinner, Vlorë or Narta

Friday, 27 October 2023 

Early departure to Fier (27 km from Vlorë) 

08.30 Visit to Apollonia, ancient UNESCO-protected city built c 600 BC

12.00 Meeting with mayor of Fier.

Lunch, Fier

Departure for Berat (35 km), elegant 3,000-year-old stone-and-alabaster city, tour of town and castle. 

Berat 1851 – by artist and humourist Edward Lear, 19C fan of Albania

17.00 Departure from Berat for Vlorë

Saturday, October 28

09.30 AEJ Congress, Vlorë (venue tbc),


Welcoming remarks by President of AEJ Albanian section, Address by International President of AEJ, Prime Minister Edi Rama (tbc), Speeches by Ermal Dredha, mayor of Vlorë, ambassador EU Delegation and UK, Swedish, and Italian ambassadors (tbc).

10.15 Coffee break

10.30 Session I: Albanian media landscape and its biggest challenges here and in Balkans. EU enlargement: what can journalists do to ensure the Balkans have a real chance of joining the EU any time soon? Implications of the Ukraine war. 

Session II:  Independent, liberal journalism in a time of war, political extremism, AI and its implications.

12.30 Lunch

14.00 – 15.00 Session II contd. Growing state corruption/ media ownership and widespread use of fake information. What can be done? 

15.00 Coffee break

15.15 – 19.30: AEJ General Assembly. Agenda tbc. Discussion, votes on proposals

20.00 Dinner

Sunday, 29 October 2023 

Departure in groups from Vlorë to Tirana Airport (TIR), where all visitors travelling by plane and leave from. Buses on hand, but ensure you have notified the Treasurer asp of flights and dates

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