Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 12
27 March 2000

Albanian news C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Albania
All the important news from Albania
since 20 March 2000

Artur Nura

Whilst on a two-day visit to Brussels, the Prime Minister, Ilir Meta, met the General Coordinator of the Stability Pact, Bodo Hombah, and the European Commission President, Romano Prodi. The Prime Minister's official visit was to introduce the Albanian status report for the Agreement of Association with European Union and to stir up support for the South East Europe Stability Pact's projects for Albania. In Monday's meeting with Hombah, the Albanian Premier demanded support from the Brussels Stability Pact donor conference on 29 and 30 March. On Tuesday, in the meeting with Prodi, Meta underlined the necessity of speeding-up the proceedings in relation to the EU's projects for Albania. According to a press release from the Prime Minister's office, Prodi has dedicated great attention to the need for the development of Albania's physical infrastructure and mentioned especially the inclusion of the port of Durrës into the proposed new transport project Corridor 8 on behalf of principal programs of Stability Pact.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has officially dropped Thessaloníki's port from Corridor 8, at the same time giving priority to the port of Durrës. This fact was made public after a meeting between Prime Minister Meta with the Vice Director of BEI, Mr Kenimatas in Brussels. According to the daily Shekulli (Century), Kenimatas (who is of Greek origin) has declared, "I, personally, will support the project for the port of Durrës, as the most important sea entrance to the region, to the Brussels donor conference."

On 22 March, the opposition parties met in the main square of Tirana to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the first electoral victory of the political opposition in Albania. The Democratic Party, which was one of the most important winners of that election and maintained the political power until the tragic collapse of the financial pyramid schemes in 1997, was the organiser of this festive meeting. Sali Berisha, the former Albanian President and the present leader of the Democratic Party, accused the present Centre Left Coalition Government of corruption and incapacity in his speech. The Coalition Left Parties have accused Berisha of being an authoritarian leader in opposition as well as in power.

The Albanian Parliament held a special session, on the Stability Pact's Brussels conference to be held on 29 and 30 March. In a fierce debate, the parliamentary Centre Left Coalition Majority called the Stability Pact a marathon in which there are no loser and winners, but only stability and development, while the opposition parties called it a political competition lost by the incapacity of the government. The Prime Minister declared that the Stability Pact is not a competition and mentioned with regret speculation on this issue by opposition parties. The Vice President of Parliament, Jozefina Topalli of the Democratic Party, whose members left the session in protest, described the parliamentary session as a monologue.

The OSCE Ambassador to Albania, Gert Aherns, was expected to ask the Albanian President to revoke the decree by which members of the Central Election Commission (CEC), currently designated by the Presidency and the High Council of Justice (both headed by President Rexhep Mejdani), have been nominated. The opposition parties had objected to the designated members and demanded that the constitutional clause that allows for the nominations be changed. In a meeting between international mediators organized by the OSCE Office in Tirana, Mejdani and Aherns decided that a compromise could be enacted without changing the constitution, but rather by changing its interpretation. The Albanian President's Spokesman told the media that "it was a routine meeting," while the OSCE spokesman declined to comment.

Robert Frouik, the former American Ambassador to Albania, arrived again in Tirana for a political visit. . Frouik is a well-known figure in Albania because he was Ambassador during the Kosova crisis and also positively influenced the Albanian political climate during his tenure. The former Ambassador met Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani, Prime Minister Ilir Meta and other leading political figures. The main issues raised during Frouik's visit were the Stability Pact for Southern Eastern Europe proceedings and Kosovo. The main issues raised during Frouik's visit were the Stability Pact for Southern Eastern Europe proceedings and Kosovo.

Another item on Frouik's agenda was a meeting with the representatives of the opposition parties and the Central Election Commission. Sali Berisha and Maksim Begeja, Vice President of the Republican Party, used the meeting to oppose the nominations of the President of the CEC. They demanded that the opposition parties form half of the CEC's members and also that the post of Vice President go to the opposition.

The World Bank's Board of Directors has approved a credit of USD 9 million for legislative reform and reform of Albania's judicial system. The project will concentrate on the most important elements for establishing an effective and transparently functioning of Albanian State on the basis of sound law. The total cost of the project is USD 9.5 million, of which USD 500,000 will be financed by the Albanian Government.

All Albanian political parties have been celebrating the first anniversary of NATO's bombardment of Kosovo. Prime Minister Meta, participating at a meeting organised by the Defence Ministry, declared that without NATO intervention in Kosovo the South Eastern Stability Pact could not have been established, while Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani hailed the air campaign a historic event and thanked all those member states of NATO that participated in military actions. The leader of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha, called the NATO victory a real opportunity for democracy in the region.

Also this week, the Foreign Ministers of Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia, respectively Paskal Milo, Nadejda Mihajllova and Aleksander Dimitrov, met in Tirana to exchange ideas on the Stability Pact and it's implementation.

The Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Romanian and Croatian finance ministers are to meet in Tirana on 25 March as a follow-up to previous gatherings in Sophia, Ohrid and Washington. These Balkan states will present a joint platform from which to participate in the reconstruction process for the region and reaching other Stability Pact objectives. Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia are particularly interested in developing projects to aid regional infrastructure that may well have a wider pan-European influence. These include transport corridors, modernisation of energy networks and collaboration with the European energy network.

The Albanian Constitutional Court ruled that Article 10 of the Property Law, which allowed the state to confiscate private property, is invalid. It is expected that an amendment will help resolve disagreements between current owners and rightful owners. Under the Communist system, all private property was nationalised by the state. Since the change of economic system in 1990, Albania has been privatising all state enterprises and returning properties to their rightful owners or the rightful owners' heirs. The repeal of Article 10 of Law 7698 is part of this long and difficult process.

Artur Nura, 24 March 2000



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