Local elections: national case
The intense Albanian electoral campaign has recently concentrated on national issues. Sali Berisha, leader of the centre-right Democratic Party (DP), has declared in public rallies around the country that if the DP wins the elections, resolving the land claims of Albania's Çam population would be a condition of ongoing Albanian-Greek relations. Socialist Prime Minister Ilir Meta, in rallies in the northern cities of Shkodra and Tropoja, referred to these cities as "bridges" between Albania and Montenegro and Kosovo, respectively. Meta accused his opponent Berisha of trying to divide Albania into north and south instead of unifying the two regions.
Members of the Democratic and Socialist Parties have traditionally accused each other of leaving aside the issue of national unity, but this has changed with the adoption of the new Albanian Constitution, recently approved by referendum, which in its preamble sanctions the support of the national case for Albanian governments throughout the region. This has now become a leading issue in Albanian politics, and the interests of Albanian sovereignty movements in the region (in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Greece) will be best served by an Albanian democratic state that supports their national rights.
These political positions are no doubt disturbing to Albania's neighbours. During this last week, prior to the 1 October elections, Spartak Poci, the interior minister, declared during a press conference that his agency has information indicating that foreign secret service organisations are interested in causing unrest in Albania. "The Albanian police are on high alert for possible disturbances," stated Poci.
US Ambassador a dynamic presence in Albanian politics
Joseph Limprecht, the American ambassador in Tirana, seems omnipresent in Albanian media and politics, inaugurating new initiatives hosted or sponsored by various US institutions on a daily basis. The ambassador recently oversaw the founding of the American-Albanian Business Association in Tirana and the American Trade Room in Albania. Other US organisations have also provided considerable funds to Albanian institutions.
On Friday 29 September, Limprecht met with Fatos Nano and Sali Berisha, leaders of the Socialist Party and the Democratic Party, respectively, to deliver a personal letter from Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state. Albright's letter appealed for greater tolerance and understanding between parties in the 1 October local elections.
Limprecht recently undertook a diplomatic tour of various Albanian cities, particularly in the north. In Kukes, nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize, the ambassador thanked the city's heroic citizens for welcoming some one million Kosovar refugees during last year's Kosovo crisis. Limprecht also stated that the US administration has done its best to support, on behalf of the Stability Pact, the construction of the Durrës-Kukes road that links Kosovo with the Adriatic Sea.
IMF and WB support reforms in Albania
According to Finance Ministry sources, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Horst Köhler has promised further IMF support to Albania. During a meeting with Albanian Finance Minister Anastas Angjeli and Shkelqim Cani, governor of the Albanian Bank, Köhler expressed appreciation for the Albanian government's recent economic progress. "We will continue to support the advancement of economic reforms and the country's development," declared Köhler.
According to the same source, Angjeli and Cani also met with Johannes Linn, World Bank (WB) Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, who also promised assistance to the Albanian government. "The World Bank, as one of the most important donors [to the Albanian government], not only assures support but will co-operate with other donors to give more support for further development," stated Linn.
Rights of NGOs at risk in the UN?
According to the offices of the Transnational Radical Party (TRP) in Tirana, the Russian Federation has proposed suspending the TRP's consultative status at the United Nations Organization (UN), making unfounded and defamatory allegations that the TRP supports Chechen terrorists, receives proceeds from international drug mafias and promotes paedophilia.
According to the same source, on 11 April 2000, the Hon Akhiad Idigov, a Chechen parliamentarian and special envoy of the President of Chechnya, made a speech under the aegis of the TRP to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, sparking recent Russian actions against the party.
On Wednesday 27 September, at the UN's New York headquarters, after a debate on the TRP case involving 19 members of the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the French delegation contended that there was not enough evidence to proceed against the TRP, asking instead for a roll-call vote to reconsider a three-year suspension adopted by the Committee in June 2000.
Germany, Romania, Chile and the United States lwere on side with France, asking that all accusations be withdrawn and the case closed for lack of evidence. Pakistan and Senegal abstained, while Algeria, Bolivia, Colombia, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Russia, Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey voted against the proposal. As a result, the earlier decision to recommend suspension still stands.
Olivier Dupuis, general secretary of the Transnational Radical Party and member of the European Parliament, told reporters that what happened in the Committee on NGOs, on the one hand, confirms the UN's commitment to freedom of speech (in the votes of the Europeans, the US and Chile), and on the other, represents the approach of Putin's post-Soviet Russia to the principles of fair trial and the right of self-defence. "The decision, which recommends a three-year suspension of the TRP's status, if ratified on 18 October, would create a dangerous precedent by which any regime can, with no evidence, request the withdrawal or suspension of the consultative status of NGOs, which, like the TRP, fight for the international rule of law and respect of fundamental human rights," concludes Dupuis's statement.
Artur Nura, 2 October 2000
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