Keep watchful eye on Belgrade
President Rexhep Mejdani, during a visit to a Tirana photography exhibition that featured stills of Serbian war crimes in Kosovo, appealed to the international community to take into consideration Belgrade's new policy toward the Albanian peoples as moves to normalize its relations with Yugoslavia.
According to a press release issued by the president's office, Mejdani has declared that, "I hail this exhibition for documenting the tragedies perpetrated against the Kosovar Albanians by the fascist Milošević regime. Milošević should now face the Hague Tribunal."
"The criminals are in Belgrade," he said, continuing to note that some may now be trying to pass themselves off as democrats.
According to Mejdani, all democratic Serbian leaders should be evaluated by the approach they take to Kosovo in consideration of the "monstrous crimes" committed there.
Meanwhile, many Albanian viewers tuned in to Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica's appearance in an interview with well-known Italian broadcaster Enzo Biagi. The interview was carried by RAIUNO television, which many Albanians receive via satellite.
A good number were left wondering at an unusual declaration Koštunica made when asked whether the Balkans will finally find peace now that Slobodan Milošević appears to have left the political scene.
"Yes," he said, "but conflict will be transferred to Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia. There exists a division between north and south!"
Finally, Sokol Gjoka, Director of the Foreign Ministry's Information Department, made public that Foreign Minister Paskal Milo has recalled all of Albania's ambassadors to Southeast European nations for a discussion of the latest political developments in Yugoslavia.
Albania and Yugoslavia partially severed diplomatic relations in 1999 and made the break complete during the war in Kosovo. Milo said Yugoslavia bears a large degree of responsibility for the break, but said the ambassadors' meeting would be a positive step toward normalizing bilateral ties.
Alleged Greek plot causes furore
Also raising eyebrows this week: an alleged Greek plot to take over the southern Albanian town of Himara in the recent municipal elections. The allegations were made public by the daily Shekulli in a 13 October article that added that the town is likely to be hotly contested in the upcoming runoff elections.
According to the paper, Greek provinces on the border with Albania and factions within the Greek government have been quietly backing a plan to bring secessionist candidates to office in Himara, one of the oldest Albanian towns. Omonia, the Greek minority organization, and the Party of Union for Human Rights (UHRP—which has been recognized by the Ministry of Justice) have allegedly extended their support to the plan.
40 busses of Albanians who had emigrated to Greece but were not legalized immigrants were said to have been sent to Himara to cast their ballots in support of the Greek minority candidate for the municipality. His electoral campaign openly promised investment in tourism and infrastructure—and, tacitly, a return to Greek rule.
After the trial run in Himara, the plan is alleged to call for similar campaigns in other southern towns before expanding to northern municipalities. Once local rule has been established, Shekulli claimed, massive Greek investment in the towns would be used as a tool to convince local residents (Greeks and Albanians alike) to cast their lots with Greece in a referendum on independence.
Himara Socialist Party candidate Viktor Mato is to face Vasil Bollobano, the Omonia- and UHRP-backed challenger, in the 15 October runoff elections. All other Albanian political parties have thrown their backing behind Mato—including the Democratic Party, the Socialists' archrival.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Right Union Group held a press conference in Tirana on Friday, demanding that the Parliament and government prohibit Omonia and UHRP's "anti-Albanian activities." The group seeks to halt any further attempts to make southern Albania part of Greece and is demanding that organisations pushing for this kind of movement to be declared illegal.
DP threatens boycott
Senior Democratic Party officials are warning of a possible boycott of the second round of municipal elections. According to DP sources, they are looking seriously into the pros and cons of further electoral activity.
Democrats contend that the government and the ruling Socialist Party manipulated the first round of voting. Last week, the DP General Council decided to boycott the 15 October runoff elections but, according to media reports, some DP candidates refused to heed the party line and will actively contest the second round.
International monitoring organisations have declared the first round of voting to have been democratic and have not found any cases of police intimidation, although the police maintained a presence in the streets and around polling stations.
Mejdani: no forgetting Kosovo promises
On an official visit to Vale d'Aosta, Italy, President Mejdani criticized the international community for failing to make good on its wartime promises to Kosovar Albanians.
"The upcoming municipal elections, and subsequent general elections, would be ideal opportunities for Kosovar Albanians to chart their path toward democracy, self-government, and self-determination," Mejdani said.
Austria on EU negotiations
At a two-day conference in Alp Bach, Austria, Austrian Special Representative for EU Expansion Erhard Busek said the EU should refine its conditions its ongoing stabilization and association negotiations with Albania. Busek noted that Albania would need special assistance in meeting some conditions.
The conference was organised by the European Forum of Alp Bach in cooperation with the Federal Chamber of Economy and the Austrian Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe.
Artur Nura, 13 October 2000
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