Different Lives of Honorary Consul Bardhyl Minxhozhi
Mr. Bardhyl Minxhozhi, who is widely known as “Luli” has served as the Honorary Consul of Finland in Tirana, Albania since 2008. As the title says, Honorary Consul is an honorary position and he is representing Finland beside his own business activities. Finland does not have an Embassy in Tirana, but the Embassy of Finland in Athens is in charge of Albania.
Honorary Consul needs to be well connected to the local society. I meet Luli in a cozy garden restaurant just out of Tirana’s busy center. When entering the restaurant, he warmly greets an elderly gentleman. “Ismail Kadare, a world-famous Albanian writer, whose name has come up in Nobel Literature Prize speculations”, Luli explains casually.
From Communism to Democracy
Luli was born in times, when the Treaty of Rome was signed. Before our meeting, I heard from an outsider, that Minxhozhi is a well-known, prominent family in Albania.
Luli tells he feels like having lived several lives. Firstly, he lived through communism. His first time abroad was a health care trip to Greece, when he was 33. By the age of 35, he could not study any English, but he started learning independently.
With his simple English, he managed to import the insurance business from United States to Albania. The industry did not exist in Albania before at all.
In 1999, he was in a very serious traffic accident and was taken by an ambulance flight to Switzerland, where he was operated and he spent several months there. “That was a life-changing experience and modified my thinking of work and activity”, Luli says.
It is obvious that his professionally successful beautiful wife and his smart son whom he wanted to give the opportunity of studying abroad that he did not have himself, are the joy of his life.
He has always been well and widely connected in the Albanian society, but personally stayed outside of politics, even though he has close friends as well in the Government as in the opposition.
How did you end up being the Honorary Consul of Finland?
“The Finnish student Tanja Tamminen needed some information on Albania and I helped her to get it”, Luli tells. Now a person by the same name seems to be an Adjunct Professor at the University of Turku.
“Then I sponsored an exhibition of a Finnish female sculptor, where I met Ambassador Erkki Huittinen”, he continues. Huittinen had asked, if Luli would like to serve as the Honorary Consul of Finland in Albania, since there wasn’t any. He was willing and his accreditation was accepted in record time by Finland and Albania. Luli still remembers Ambassador Huittinen warmly.
So, Luli became Finland’s Honorary Consul on 16 September 2008.
What are your main tasks as Honorary Consul?
Luli tells that he receives around 100 phone calls a year concerning Finland or by Finnish citizens.
Albanians mainly make enquiries about working or studying in Finland and Finns about emergency passports.
Honorary Consul cannot accept passport applications. Ordinary passports should be applied at Finnish embassies, the nearest ones being in Athens and Pristina. In emergency cases, when it’s not possible to travel out of Albania, one should turn to the Swedish or another EU embassy in Tirana and apply for an Emergency Travel Document.
There are also enquiries concerning marriage between Albanian and Finnish citizens.
Honorary Consul is not supposed to have answers to all the questions, but he can forward the enquiries to the Embassy of Finland in Athens, who can help the customers directly.
He remembers one strange case, where a Finnish person was hospitalized in Albania, and informed the Honorary Consul that there was not any toilet paper in the hospital.
Luli used his good contacts to the city administration and managed to solve this simple, but hygienically crucial issue.
Honorary Consul’s Conclusions
Without asking, Luli tells his conclusions about the years as Honorary Consul of Finland:
- Finnish citizens trust that their Government takes care of its citizens.
- In Albania, Finland is a super power of education.
- There are more marriages between these two nations than before.
- It is a known fact that it is not easy to get asylum in Finland.
- More investments from Finland to Albania are expected, even though Finland is located far – compared to neighboring Italy, which is very active in Albania. “Chromium, oil, nickel, IT, energy field…”, he lists branches where Finland could have potential in Albania.
- Finland has Embassies in Pristina and Athens, but there could be at least an information office for culture and business in Tirana, too.
It remains to be seen how the Finnish presence in Albania will change in the years to come. However, it is sure that the Embassy of Finland in Athens, which is in charge of Albania, will monitor closely the business and general environment in the country. Tourist figures from Finland to Albania are growing steadily and rapidly year after year, and the Embassy will support the Honorary Consul and tour operators in their work especially in crisis situations.
Writer: Eili Andersson, Consul at the Embassy of Finland in Athens