The Albanian Institute of International Political Studies recently hosted a symposium on Kosovo issues in Tirana. Balkans analyst Janusz Bugajski declared in his presentation that "the best solution to the Kosovo crisis would be independence, an option to which some radical lobbies, especially Serbian ones, strongly object." Bugajski also predicted the departure of Slobodan Milošević from politics but said that Serbia would not be easily democratised. He warned the symposium - which was attended by the American ambassador in Tirana, Joseph Limpreht, various foreign analysts of Balkan affairs and Albanian politicians from all the Balkan countries - that Milošević would capitalise on any indecision by the international community on the issue of Kosovo.
According to an interview with Socialist Party Public Relations Secretary Arta Dade, published in the newspaper Koha Jone (Our Time), the Albanian Social Democrats of Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro plan to hold a roundtable in Tirana during the last week of June. Dade said they also plan to invite some representatives from the conservative political spectrum such as Ibraim Rugova of the Democratic League of Kosovo and Arber Xhaferi of Macedonia's Albanian Democratic Party.
Between 2000 and 3000 Albanians from Kosovo's cities of Mitrovica, Vushtria and Drenica marched last Sunday from Mitrovica to the city of Kukes, Albania, to commemorate last year's tragic exodus. March organisers told reporters that they wanted to show that the Albanians of Kosovo cannot simply forget the war. They also wanted to demonstrate the need for solidarity and express gratitude to their brothers and sisters in Albania. The city of Kukes, one of the first in Albania to take in the Kosovo refugees during the war, was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has sent a letter to Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta expressing his conviction that Albania will continue to play a key role in the stabilisation process of the region. Blair also reaffimed his support of NATO's decision to intervene in Kosovo. Blair appealed to Meta to use his influence among Kosovo's Albanians to work toward peace and more useful co-operation with the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Piter Janueri, the British ambassador in Tirana, delivered the letter.
Russia has objected in the UN Security Council to the opening of an Albanian information office in Kosovo. The Albanian proposal was awaiting approval of a new statute that could have given the green light to Albanian representation in Kosovo. Government sources told reporters that the new statute had been discussed in the last few days by the Security Council and was vetoed by Russia, which has blocked approval of such a government-run office. A source at the Foreign Ministry says that Russia has opposed all requests to open such representative offices in Priština.
During a recent visit to Washington, Minister of Finance Anastas Angjeli met with Alan P Larson, US Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs. At the meeting, Angjeli presented Albania's latest macroeconomic results. Other issues discussed were the fight against corruption and the Albanian government's commitment to structural reform in the privatisation and judicial sectors. "The eight per cent growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) and our determination to continue on this path are in part the result of joint projects between Albanian and international institutions," declared Angjeli. Larson congratulated the finance minister on the results and has promised that US support to Albania will continue for the present. Angjeli and Albanian Bank governor Shkelqim Cani also met with World Bank vice president Johannes Linn to discuss joint projects between Albania, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Sources at the Ministry of Finance have told reporters that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have approved the Government's strategy for privatising the Savings Bank of Albania. The Savings Bank is the largest Albanian bank supported totally by state capital. Seventy per cent of Albanians' savings are deposited with the Savings Bank, which has 36 branches across the country. After the privatisation of the National Trade Bank, the latest step of these proceedings the Savings Bank will undergo the privatisation process. A fiscal expert from the US Department of State has been attached to the Finance Ministry to advise on the privatisation process.
Albania will soon be included in projects of the United Nations' Centre for International Crime Prevention and its Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, it was decided at the 10th Congress of the two organisations in Vienna. Representatives to the Congress included heads of state of numerous countries. Justice Minister Ilir Panda represented Albania at the meetings and introduced the Albanian situation in regard to crime prevention and drug control to a session of the Congress. Panda gave his full support to the concluding resolution approved by the Congress. The justice minister also met with the executive director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, Italian lawyer Pino Arlaci.
Albania recently participated in the 50th Annual Book Exposition in Skopje, Macedonia, 11 to 16 April 2000. Ninety-five publishing houses from Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania and Romania took part in this important cultural event. Exhibits of the Albanian publishers Toena, Onufri, Buzuku, Dija Pogradeci and Aferdita were visited by high-ranking members of the Macedonian state. It was announced that Albanian publishers will also be represented in upcoming expositions in Priština, Kosovo; Tetovo, Macedonia; and Geneva
Miss Europe 1999, Romanian Ana Maria Tudorache, has confirmed her participation at the Miss Albania 2000 pageant, which will be held in the ancient city of Butrinti. The association Deliart, organiser of the pageant, announced that the 19-year-old Romanian will travel to Albania to crown the Albanian beauty who wins the competition. The Miss Albania competition, already a national tradition, will take place in May in Butrinti, which traces its origins to about 3400 BC. Miss Albania of 1999 is Venera Mustafa, former Miss Priština, who fled to Tirana to escape last year's Serbian genocide in Kosovo.
Artur Nura, 21 April 2000