In a speech to the Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Council of Euro-Atlantic Partners in Florence, Italy, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo demanded that donors who made pledges of aid in Brussels make good on them as soon as possible. If they do not, he warned, the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe would suffer. The optimism expressed in various conferences is not enough on which to build confidence in a secure future for Southeast Europe, Milo declared, adding that the Stability Pact needs concrete action by all of its partners, especially those who promised aid totalling EUR 2.4 billion.
On May 23 in the city of Shkodra, Prime Minister Ilir Meta welcomed his Montenegrin counterpart, Filip Vujanovic, at the Albanian-Montenegrin border to celebrate the opening of new communications lines between the two countries. Direct fibre-optic telephone lines between Albania and Montenegro were inaugurated with a call placed by Vujanovic to his secretary in Podgorica. Economy and Privatisation Minister Mustafa Muci and Transport Minister Sokol Nako also attended, participating in talks economic cooperation and possible joint infrastructure projects.
On May 24, Rexhep Mejdani, President of the Republic of Albania, became the first Albanian president to visit Kosovo. Mejdani, who was accompanied by a group of Albanian journalists, had been invited by the University of Pristina, where he taught until 1981. Bernard Kuchner, UN representative in Kosovo, welcomed Mejdani at the Pristina airport. The president met with most of the Albanian political leaders of Kosovo and participated in the opening of the Albanian Book Exposition, where the new book President Mejdani and Kosova was launched.
Dr Sali Berisha, president of the Democratic Party, is planning a visit to Kosovo. The date of the visit has not been announced, but a busy agenda is planned for the former Albanian president. Recently, Berisha proposed the organization of an Albanian Confederation in the Balkans, a declaration that has met a great deal of opposition in Europe, especially in Orthodox countries. The Albanian Government has stated that the proposal represents Berisha's personal views only.
The Governing Committee of the European Democrats Union (EDU) has recently published a report criticising the internal democracy of Albania's Democratic Party, as well as the former President of the Republic and current Democratic Party president Dr Sali Berisha. An EDU delegation visited Albania last February. A Democratic Party spokesperson acknowledged the report and said there has been criticism by the Governing Committee itself. The source told the media that although the EDU is important for the Democratic Party, bilateral relations are more important. In addition, the DP has given precedence to relations with Berlusconi's Forza Italia, French President Jacques Chirac's RFP ((Rassemblement pour la République) and the Popular Party of Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar.
Socialist Party president Fatos Nano is currently paying an official visit to Macedonia. Nano stopped first in Tetovo, where he met with Arber Xheferri, president of the Albanian Democratic Party of Macedonia. The Socialist leader will also participate in festivities celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Prosperity Party. In Shkup (Skopje), Nano will meet with President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubcho Gjeorgjeski, Leader of the Opposition Branko Crvenkovski, as well as the president of the Democratic Alliance. The visit is considered an important step towards bilateral cooperation between the two neighbouring countries.
On its fourth anniversary, Albanian Mobile Communications (AMC) has the announced finalisation of privatisation proceedings for this strategic enterprise. Top bidders were the Norwegian company Telenor International and the Greek company Cosmote, which offered USD 85.6 million. AMC's services cover only 25 per cent of Albania's territory, but AMC cooperates with 60 foreign telecommunications companies and its clients can use their mobile phones in 39 countries.
The Albanian government has approved privatisation of the Trade Albanian Bank (TAB), which will soon be administered by the Turkish "Kent Bank," the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Financial Corporation (IFC). On 26 May, official sources in the Finance Ministry told reporters that TAB privatisation proceedings, which have taken a year, would be concluded within the next four days. Under the signed agreement, Kent Bank is the most powerful shareholder, with 60 per cent of TAB's capital, while EBRD and IFC each hold 20 per cent. The successful privatisation bodes well for the upcoming privatisation of the Saving Bank of Albania, another strategic sector of the Albanian economy.
A group of industrialists has founded the Union of Albanian Industrialists (UAI) in Tirana. Frederik Brace, one of UAI's founders, told reporters that the new forum is necessary for reconstructing Albanian investments in accordance with new conditions in Albania. "Albanian businesses are now partners with international business, and that's why foreign investors are investing throughout the private sector in Albania," Brace told reporters. With new opportunities opening up in Albania, analysts consider UAI a sign that the local business community is taking a positive role in the country's economic reconstruction.
Renowned Albanian translator Robert Shvarc has been honoured with the Pazini 2000 award, the first Albanian to be so honoured. The five-year-old literature competition is organised by Culture Contact, a Zagreb-based Austrian institute. The competition gives two awards, one for best writer, won this year by Slovenian author Juri Virk, and the second for best translations from the German language, won by Shvarc. Shvarc competed with 40 other translators from Hungary, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Ex-Yugoslavia and other countries.
Artur Nura, 29 May 2000