US, EU Warn Albania Against Judicial Reform Delay

In strongly-worded remarks, the US and EU ambassadors to Tirana said constitutional changes to reform Albania’s flawed justice system must be adopted quickly and a failure to act would have consequences.

Gjergj Erebara
BIRN

Tirana

EU ambassador Romana Vlahutin and US ambassador Donald Lu in Tirana. Photo: Malton Dibra/LSA

The US and EU ambassadors to Tirana delivered an ultimatum to the leaders of Albania’s political parties on Wednesday, demanding quick approval of the constitutional changes needed to enable an overhaul of the country’s corruption-riddled justice system.

Speaking to the parliamentary committee for justice reform, US ambassador Donald Lu said that Albania risked losing support from its Western allies if politicians did not act quickly.

“If this reform fails, you, the members of this committee, will dishonour the people who elected you. And you will dishonor your relationship with the United States and the European Union,” Lu said.

– See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/us-and-eu-ambassadors-warn-albania-leaders-about-much-delayed-justice-reform-05-05-2016-6#sthash.6DkGOrXx.dpuf

Seeds of Street Art Sprout in Banjaluka

Banjaluka’s street art scene is small and under pressure, but local artists are trying to make graffiti and murals more acceptable both to the authorities and the community.

Sonja Terzic

Stefan Mihajlovic from Banjaluka next to his grafiti presenting Bruce Lee | Photo courtesy of the author

The artistic works of 24-year-old Stefan Mihajlovic in Banjaluka are a rare symbol of the city’s far from developed urban culture.

In Haniste, a safe distance from the city centre, with the permission of his neighbours, he has been decorating walls for years with large-scale portraits of international and local stars.

However, murals of the famous Yugoslav actor Bata Stojkovic, the reggae icon Bob Marley or the cartoon character Goofy are more the exception than the rule in the capital of Republika Srpska, the mainly Serbian entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The regulations against illegal graffiti are harsh. But Stefan doesn’t mind, saying he feels the need to express himself.

Mihajlovic says the police came several times while he was working, and sometimes he had to pay fines, but things changed after he won over his neighbours.

“Once, when the police came as I was working, a grandmother in the building shouted from the window: ‘Leave that child alone, don’t touch him!’” he recalled.

“I don’t have any problems now,” he added.

Things do not run so smoothly for street artists who lack Mihaljovic’s powers of persuasion.

It is difficult to persuade the city authorities of the merits of murals being daubed on walls in the centre of town.

Participants in the regional street art festival, Graffiti Jam, which has taken place in Banjaluka since 2011, worked on canvases for years before getting a green light last year to paint one wall in the city centre.

As a result, the centre of Banjaluka got its first legal mural – and most locals have come to appreciate their new ornament, the creation of Artez from Belgrade and Lonac from Zagreb.

The mural, called “Find Your Way to Fly Away,” was declared the best of its kind last November in the international selection on the website Streetartnews.

This breakthrough suggests that urban culture is slowly but steadily infiltrating the Banjaluka mainstream.

The beginnings of murals, graffiti and other types of street art in Banjaluka date back to the unfinished building of the Palace Hotel in the city centre.

This is where Mihajlovic years ago learned his first moves with spray paint along with other youngsters, when he was a teen with dreadlocks.

Although the hotel is unfinished to this day, its walls are now covered with graffiti invisible to passers-by.

While many of the street artists since went on to explore new hobbies, Mihajlovic has remained true to his vocation.

“It happened overnight that I started painting murals in Haniste. The walls were already covered with graffiti, so I thought – ‘Why not redecorate them?’” he recalled.

“It is better to see some nice, concrete work with a particular topic than some nonsensical scribbles,” he explained.

At first he had to deal with the animosity of his neighbours but they warmed to his choice of motifs in the end.

“I paint international music stars but also local ones. I won the support of the older generation with the graffiti of Bata Stojkovic because while old women have not heard about Bob Marley, they certainly know who Bata Stojkovic is,” he explained.

Today, Mihaljovic is more serious looking and a shaved head has replaced the old dreadlocks.

But he still has the same urge to create. Apart from some minor fines that he had to pay when some neighbours reported him, problems with police disappeared long ago.

“I work in a discreet way; I do not stand out compared to other people that deal with graffiti art in Banjaluka,” he said.

“Even police officers compliment me on my work,” he added.

Members of the art group called Flaster also say that they have never had problems over the messages their works expressed.

Their art project has exerted enormous influence on public perceptions of street art.

Their mural, “Find Your Way to Fly Away,” shows a surreal-looing balloon surrounded by motifs from nature – fish and a rooster on top. Two hands stretch out from the balloon and cross fingers in front, symbolizing a person thinking about something.

The mural “Find your way to fly” in Banjaluka | Courtesy of Flaster
The mural “Find your way to fly” in Banjaluka | Courtesy of Flaster

The mural is what the artists from Flaster had hoped to create for a long time.

The group, formed in 2010 by art graduates, decided to establish a street art festival.

As they never got permission from the city to paint on the walls, the artists decorated canvases as well as the inner courtyard of the student campus.

Graffiti Jam in Banjaluka
Flaster Graffiti Jam was founded as a memorial event for the late Tamara Cvetkovic, pioneer of the street art in Banjaluka who tragically lost her life in an avalanche on Mt Jahorina in 2010.In her honour, the organizers gathered some of the best artists from the region to work together and have a good time at concerts within the festival.

Visitors decided themselves how much they wanted to pay for the entrance fee and from that income the artists obtained materials for work.That was their only source of financing then and today it is not so different: the entire festival spends around 3,000 marks (1,500 euro). It is not nearly enough, but organizers do not let this stop them.

In the meantime, with the support of the Museum of Contemporary Arts of Banjaluka, the authorities accepted the idea of a couple of artists painting a mural in the city centre which, besides the approval of citizens, would also get international recognition.

“This cooperation opened up a new dimension for what we had fought for, to change the whole conception of ‘street art’ and give graffiti the etiquette of art work, which it already is,” Monika Ponjavic, a member of Flaster, said, explaining that this was how Banjaluka got its first legal public mural.

Grafiti Jam, which was first organized in 2011, meanwhile became a platform for exchange between street artists, and joint work on various materials – from walls to canvases or boards.

Change in the cultural climate:

Members of Flaster founded the festival to popularize this art genre among the general audience, not only because of its importance to Banjaluka but also to introduce artists from the city and the region to a more international audience.

“Proportionally, the city has too few artists compared to its size and the number of artists is falling,” Ponjavic said.

She feels Banjaluka has fallen into a mood of lethargy and melancholy and that artists are not trying to create, or have simply disappeared.

However, Ponjavic says the climate is changing for better with recent developments.

“Street art in Banjaluka does not exist, or if it exists, it is art reduced to a level of an individual that can be found in traces in the city,” she explained.

“Regrettably, Flaster is currently the only visible manifestation of this, while all the others shut down, if they ever existed.

“Here we are talking exclusively about graffiti art. We cannot even talk about other kinds of street art,” she stressed.

The sites of the grafitti created on the student campus by participants in the Graffiti Jam have became places where young couples, dancers, artists and photographers spend their time, members of Flaster say.

Mirko Komljenović Mirkan, member of the “Anti–cultural Theatre Alija Sirotanovic”, says the city needs more graffiti like those in Borik and Haniste because they make the town look more beautiful and complete. But not every doodle on a wall can be considered art, he said.

“I would like to see more graffiti with strong messages in Banjaluka but the city authorities have no understanding for this kind of art,” he complained.

“I know that a discussion exists whether Banjaluka should finally get a wall for graffiti – but no such wall is even in sight,” he added.

“I recently participated in drawing a provocative graffiti on the building of the ruling party. The police did not take that as art and reacted in record time and the façade was repainted,” Komljenovic recalled.

Davorin Tomic, a journalist of the daily newspaper Press RS, agrees that Banjaluka should have more graffiti in the busy parts of town, noting the examples of other cities.

“The mural in Borik is great and I think we should have more of that in the city,” he said.

“I don’t know if the problem is that we don’t have enough activists who wish to express themselves in this way but what I know is that it is hard get a permit to paint legally on a public surface,” he added.

“This attitude of the local authorities towards street art persuades young artists to give up, or work illegally, which is then more of vandalism than art,” Tomic continued.

Following video presents excerpts from the third Grafiti Jam:

Mihajlovic, from Haniste, says that by drawing graffiti he satisfies his own need to express himself and be recognized in his community.

“People have started to know me for my work and this is satisfying. I have had offers to do political graffiti, and wartime generals, but I wasn’t interested in this,” he added.

“That’s not art, and that kind of work also usually gets repainted. Not a single one of my of my works was ever painted over.”

Mihaljovic spent time living in Greece, Spain and Canada, where he got an impression that street art is much more present and supported.

“My wish is that a some kind of a community could be formed here in Banjaluka that draws and lives this kind of life, and I hope that the time will come when this art genre finally gets the place it deserves in our society,” Mihajlovic concluded.

High art or vandalism?:

Lana Pavlovic, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Republika Srpska, sees graffiti as form of true artistic expression and as a part of the urban culture of a city.

Its effect on an audience can be equal to that of any other visual artwork because people reflect on its messages, she says.

However, she says negative approaches towards this art has always existed among the authorities, “From Belgrade to New York, as well as in Banjaluka”.

The reason for this, she says, is that graffiti are often connected to worthless doodles that are either offensive or personal, which she sees as vandalism.

“The positive side of graffiti is that they can give new life to certain things, or a new perspective to the public surfaces.

“In relation to that, graffiti and murals should be created as a means of decorating facades…of creativity, and of raising awareness among people about modern currents,” Pavlovic added.

I the struggle over murals, which has existed since the Eighties, the real breakthrough was made by the Flaster group with their festival, she noted.

“Local street artists are mostly painters and designers who really love their job, and whose art sends messages… That is why the Museum decided to support them in 2013,” she said.

The exhibition of canvases painted by street artists, according to Pavlovic, made the public realize that these artists are not delinquents but skilled painters and designers.

“In Banjaluka, just like in any city, good places can be found for quality graffiti. It can look very interesting in the sense that it decorates space and facades. Now we have several quality examples,” she concluded.

This article is funded under the Invisible Art project, supported by the Prince Claus Fund.

Continue reading Seeds of Street Art Sprout in Banjaluka

BANKERS PETROLEUM ANNOUNCES 2014 FINANCIAL RESULTS

March 12th, 2015

Cash Position of $73 Million and 14% Increase in Oil Sales

CALGARY, March 12, 2015 /CNW/ – Bankers Petroleum Ltd. (“Bankers” or the “Company”) (TSX: BNK, AIM: BNK) is pleased to provide its 2014 financial results.  All amounts set out in this press release and listed in the tables below are in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

In 2014, Bankers made several key accomplishments including record levels of revenue of $583 million, adjusted funds generated from operations of $304 million, oil production of 20,690 barrels of oil per day (bopd) and capital investment of $291 million.

Results at a Glance

($000s, except as noted)

Year ended December 31

Results at a Glance

2014

2013

2012

Financial

Oil revenue

583,120

566,386

432,138

Net operating income

342,375

316,558

218,246

Net income

128,833

61,743

34,413

Basic (US$/share)

0.50

0.24

0.14

Diluted (US$/share)

0.49

0.24

0.14

Funds generated from operations

284,293

279,601

192,589

Adjusted funds generated from operations(1)

304,130

279,752

192,589

Basic (US$/share)

1.17

1.10

0.76

Capital expenditures

291,325

234,243

222,663

Operating

Average production (bopd)

20,690

18,169

15,020

Average sales (bopd)

20,679

18,173

14,808

Average Brent oil price (US$/barrel)

98.95

108.66

111.67

Average realized price (US$/barrel)

77.26

85.39

79.73

Netback (US$/barrel)

45.36

47.73

40.27

December 31

2014

2013

2012

Cash and restricted cash

73,036

31,706

38,740

Working capital

201,325

134,094

88,799

Total assets

1,284,846

1,007,148

825,816

Long-term debt

98,276

98,150

97,158

Shareholders’ equity

716,536

564,675

483,032

1. Represents funds generated from operations before non-recurring contract settlement expenses.

 

Highlights

Bankers reached several key financial and operational achievements during 2014 as described below:

Operational Highlights:

  • Average oil production was 20,690 barrels of oil per day (bopd) in 2014, 14% higher than the 2013 average production of 18,169 bopd.  Average oil production for the 2015 year-to-date is approximately 19,500 bopd.
  • Oil sales averaged 20,679 bopd in 2014, a 14% increase compared to 18,173 bopd in 2013.  Crude oil inventory at December 31, 2014 increased to 315,500 barrels from 311,000 barrels atDecember 31, 2013.
  • Capital expenditures in 2014 were $291 million, 24% higher compared to $234 million in 2013.  A total of 160 wells were drilled including 149 horizontal production wells, seven lateral re-drills, two water disposal wells and the Company’s first multi-lateral well in the Patos-Marinza field and its first horizontal well drilled in the Kuçova oilfield.  A total of 146 wells were drilled in 2013.
  • The Company continued the Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) program in 2014 with monitoring and expansion of flood patterns.  At the end of the year, 19 polymer flood and 4 water flood patterns were in place in the Patos-Marinza oilfield and continue to perform to model expectations. Reservoir pressure and production response are positive with good reservoir flood conformance.  The Company continues to be strongly encouraged by the results to date and plans to move forward with 20 to 30 additional conversions in 2015.
  • Bankers commenced Kuçova oilfield development in the Arreza pool with the takeover of 59 wells from Albpetrol in August 2014, reactivation of three wells and drilling of the first horizontal well in 2014.

Product Margin Highlights:

  • Operating and Sales and Transportation (S&T) costs, primarily originating from Albanian-based companies and their employees, were $155 million ($20.51/bbl) for 2014 compared to $156 millionfor 2013 ($23.44/bbl), an improvement of 13% on a per barrel basis.  Overall, operating and S&T costs improved by 21%, on a per barrel basis, from 2013 to 2014, taking into account the $1.91/bbl impact of excise tax for 2014.
  • Net operating income (netback) in 2014 was $342 million ($45.36/bbl) compared to $317 million($47.73/bbl) in 2013.
  • The Company focused on key infrastructure projects aimed at reducing costs and optimizing operations in the Patos-Marinza oilfield.  The field electrification project continued in the northern and central areas of the Patos-Marinza oilfield with realized energy cost savings.  Construction of the west water disposal line and northern flow line system started in 2014.  These projects target reductions in trucked volumes within the field.  Other infrastructure activities in 2014 include the commissioning of the Satellite 3 treating facility, installation of several Gas Oil Ratio (GOR) skids for gas capturing and measurement, as well as completed maintenance turnarounds of the main treating facilities.

Financial Highlights:

  • Revenue in 2014 was $583 million ($77.26/bbl) compared to $566 million ($85.39/bbl) in 2013.  Field price realization represented 78% of the Brent oil benchmark price ($98.95/bbl) as compared to 79% of the Brent price ($108.66/bbl) in 2013.   The reduction as a percentage of Brent compared to the previous year was mainly due to the commencement of domestic sales during 2014.
  • Royalties to the Albanian Government and related entities were $86 million (15% of revenue) during 2014 compared to $94 million (17% of revenue) for 2013.
  • During 2014, adjusted funds generated from operations were $304 million ($1.17 per share), a 9% increase compared to $280 million ($1.10 per share) for 2013.
  • The Company continues to maintain a strong financial position at December 31, 2014 with cash and restricted cash of $73 million and working capital of $201 million.  At December 31, 2014, the Company had drawn $104 million of its $224 million approved credit facilities.  At December 31, 2013, cash and restricted cash was $32 million and working capital was $134 million.
  • In August 2014, Bankers commenced delivery of crude oil to the domestic refinery, which is now under new ownership and management.  Bankers agreed to sell oil to an affiliate of this domestic refinery on a monthly basis until December 31, 2014 at 73% of Dated Brent (FOB Vlore equivalent) plus $40/tonne or approximately $6/bbl recovery against an outstanding accounts receivable balance.
  • In April 2014, the Company paid a $3 million premium to enter into financial commodity contracts representing 6,000 bopd at a floor price of $80/bbl of Dated Brent for 2015.  At December 31, 2014, the fair value of these contracts was $44 million.

Other Highlights in 2014:

  • The Oil Initially in Place (OIIP) resource assessment in Albania at year-end was 5.4 billion barrels, consistent with the OIIP resource assessment at the end of 2013.  Reserves on a proved basis were 125 million barrels compared to 147 million barrels at year-end 2013.  On a proved plus probable basis, reserves were 203 million barrels compared to 232 million barrels at year-end 2013.  The corresponding net present value (NPV) after tax (discounted at 10%) of the proved plus probable reserves was $1.8 billion at year-end compared to $2.2 billion in 2013, representingCAD$8.57/share and CAD$9.72/share, respectively.

Fiscal Terms Mitigation:

  • Bankers and the Government of Albania worked together to reach an agreement on mitigation of the 2014 fiscal changes.  The terms of the agreement were approved by Albpetrol and AKBN, and were ratified by the Council of Ministers on November 2, 2014.  The agreement is structured to allow excise and any applicable carbon and circulation taxes to be deducted from revenue and eligible for inclusion in the cost recovery pool for the Patos-Marinza concession to determine the Company’s taxable position.  This mechanism enables the near term impact on cash flow to be fully offset through a deferred and reduced profit tax burden which keeps the net asset value of the project whole and the economics of future investment consistent with the pre-2013 fiscal regime.

OUTLOOK

The Company’s reduced capital program in 2015 will be $153 million, funded from projected cash flow (based on an average $50/bbl Brent oil price) and existing cash resources.  Additionally, the Company’s 2015 hedge program, representing 6,000 bopd at $80/bbl Brent, will ensure sufficient funding to maintain a balanced program. The work program and budget include the following items:

  • Drilling of 60 horizontal wells focused on continuing development in the core area of the Patos-Marinza oilfield;
  • Continuation of the EOR program with the addition of 20 to 30 polymer and water injector conversions. The focus of the conversions planned is expansion of existing patterns, with several conversions testing new areas of the oilfield including higher viscosity fluids and thicker reservoir sands;
  • Continued focus on operational efficiencies in the field to expand product margins including the construction of emulsion flow-lines to reduce trucking costs, electrification and expansion of the gas gathering system to reduce energy costs and emissions, and a review of well construction and artificial lift design to improve well performance;
  • Expansion of the water disposal system to accommodate increased fluid handling requirements for the primary and EOR programs;
  • Drilling of one well in Kuçova and implementation of a flood pattern to commence EOR techniques in the oilfield;
  • Continued investment on environmental remediation and social initiatives as part of a sustained long-term effort to improve the physical environment, and to provide training programs and other community initiatives for the residents near the Company’s operations.

First Quarter Operational Update

Bankers intends to announce its first quarter 2015 Operational update on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

Supporting Documents

The full Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A), Financial Statements and updated March corporate presentation are available on www.bankerspetroleum.com. The MD&A and Financial Statements will also be available on www.sedar.com.

Continue reading BANKERS PETROLEUM ANNOUNCES 2014 FINANCIAL RESULTS

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