No changes expected in US foreign policy
The Albanian press has followed the recent US presidential elections closely, and a statement made by George W Bush in favour of a new US policy in the Balkans has provoked heated debate in political and media circles. Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said in an interview in Tirana that no changes are expected in US foreign policy despite the possible change in leadership.
Referring to America's influence in the region and in Albania in particular, Milo added that if Bush is elected, he is expected to maintain existing US policy towards Albania and Kosovo. The foreign minister also recalled the support that American presidents have historically shown for Albania in its critical moments.
Albanian opposition parties, however, fear that if George W Bush and his Republican Party come to power they will usher in new policies and priorities relating to Albania, along with increased support for the Albanian right-wing.
Mejdani in Rome
According to the Office of the President in Tirana, Italy has taken on the role of Albania's advocate within the European Union. The primary goal, as confirmed by Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amata, will be to begin negotiations for an Association Agreement for Albania with the EU.
Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani met with Amato during a recent visit to Rome, where the two leaders reaffirmed the ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. Mejdani also met with Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sudano, with whom he discussed the possible establishment of a Catholic University in Albania.
Albania and the World Bank
On Friday 10 November, Rexhep Mejdani met with Franco Passacantando, executive director of the Albanian World Bank (WB) board. The Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA) reported that the Albanian president hailed the WB anti-poverty program's pledge of more support for Albania. On behalf of the World Bank, Passacantando guaranteed such support for Albanian projects.
Some independent experts, however, criticize the WB anti-poverty project in Albania, arguing that Albania does not suffer from poverty and instead needs substantial investment in other important areas of the economy.
According to Finance Ministry sources, Albania will receive the second part of a WB credit of USD 45 million for infrastructure improvements before the end of 2000. The first 20 million of the credit was granted in 1999, under an agreement between the Albanian government and the World Bank signed on 24 June and effective on 9 August 1999.
During a meeting with Passacantando, Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the Albanian parliament, said that "Albania is in a development phase that solicits and favours large investments in the economy." Passacantando agreed that Albania's current stability contributes to increased cooperation in long-term projects.
Solana meets Milo in Albania
"Albania will be an important participant in the historic Zagreb Summit," declared Javier Solana, General Secretary of the European Union (EU) and High Representative for EU foreign policy, after a meeting with Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo.The 24 November summit will bring together the EU and Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Yugoslavia.
Milo told reporters that "Albanians expect a lot from the Zagreb Summit, and we are convinced that the EU membership will give Albania what it really deserves."
Mejdani honours Solana
Rexhep Mejdani decorated Javier Solana with Albania's Golden Order, Gjergj Kastriot Skenderbeu, during a special ceremony organised by the President's Office.
The award was given "For distinguished contributions to the solution of the recent Kosovo crisis, for deep engagement and personal involvement in averting human catastrophe in Kosovo and for [Solana's] important role on behalf of the Secretary General of NATO in defending the values of democracy, humanism and human rights."
Opposition parties attempt joint declaration
Opposition political parties, headed by the Democratic Party, last week organised a roundtable discussion in an attempt to forge a joint declaration on the recent local elections in Albania. The parties agreed to set up a working team that would estimate the totals from the October elections and issue a joint report intended to contest the legality of the electoral process.
According to press sources, however, a significant number of the small opposition parties failed to agree on the report. Ballists (the National Front Party), Christian-Democrats, and certain others did not sign the report, which was endorsed by representatives of the Democratic Party, Republican and Royalist Parties.
US investors visit Albania
A delegation of investors from the United States last week held a press conference in Tirana, in which they stated that the establishment of democratic institutions in Albania is the fundamental condition for US investment.
The delegation indicated that US investment will increase if Albania provides an appropriate legal framework, resolves property issues and improves the country's infrastructure and energy grid. US Ambassador Joseph Limprecht also participated in the press conference.
Artur Nura, 10 November 2000
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