On 28 November, Albania celebrated the 88th anniversary of its independence. European countries, the US and others hailed this important day. US President Bill Clinton sent his congratulations on 24 November, while French President Jacques Chirac, Italian Premier Giuliano Amata and others called on 28 November.
Sali Berisha and his Democratic Party (DP), along with other small parties allied with the DP, who claim that the elections on 1 October were fraudulent, decided to celebrate with demonstrations throughout Albania.
Elsewhere, different ceremonies and concerts were organised on behalf of this historic day, especially in Tirana. President Rexhep Mejdani, Premier Ilir Meta, Tirana's mayor, Edi Rama, and other officials ceremonially hoisted the Albanian national flag in the centre of Tirana. Authorities also visited the national martyrs cemetery. A concert in the centre of Tirana boasted famous Albanian singers and dancers.
Democratic Party rallies in Tirana, Durrës and other cities developed peacefully; expect one in the northern city of Tropoja, where it was reported that one person was killed and others wounded by police. The demonstrators had marched in front of the city's courthouse and the police commissariat, protesting against electoral fraud.
According to the government, armed demonstrators marched in Tropoja, but the DP claims they were not armed. DP Leader Sali Berisha accused Premier Meta of allowing things to get out of control in Tropoja, while the Premier replied immediately, saying that there will be "no tolerance for brigands and criminals." On the same day, police forces detained Berisha for several hours at the main police station in Tirana.
Sabri Godo, the parliamentary Foreign Commission Leader, advised senior political leaders to use their heads rather than their hands. Godo pointed out that responsibility lies with those in positions of leadership, and he called on leaders to take a short breath and consider what is going on. According to Godo, it is important to have an open dialogue with all the political parties involved.
Former Premier Pandeli Majko stated in an interview with the newspaper Shekulli that the tense political situation in Albania is due to the lack of communication between the two main political parties, the ruling Socialist Party and Democratic Party. "A lack of communication with the opposition has been one of the main concerns in Albanian politics since 1990," stated Majko, who is the first socialist prime minister to sit at the negotiation table with Berisha, the opposition leader.
"The Albanian government is following with great attention the latest armed conflicts in Preševa, Bujanovci and Medveđa (Kosovo-Serbian borders)," read an Albanian government press release this week. Furthermore, the report states that the government agrees with the international disquietude at the risk of new zones of war and conflict appearing, "at the same time Albanian political parties in Kosovo are working for a democratic Kosovo."
The government believes that violent episodes compromise the positions and interests of Kosovo and the Albanian population there, thus it appealed to all sides to find a democratic solution.
Hailing the achievement of the armistice over the last days and expressing its opinion that this is the only way to find a solution, the government is troubled by Serbia's reactions, which are reflected by the presence of the Yugoslav Army in the region.
Talking with Frenchmen
President Rexhep Mejdani received two French Senators from the Albanian-French Friendship Group, Serge Mathieu and Jean Bessan for a special meeting. "We do appreciate the positive will and determination of Albania in moving ahead with European integration," declared Mathieu and Bessan to Mejdani. While the Albanian President replied that, in spite of difficulties, the popular will is clearly for this political aim.
On Saturday 2 December 2000, Princeton University will host a conference in Athens on the situation of minorities in the Balkans. Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Yugoslav Republic authorities will participate in this conference. Greek government spokesman Panos Beglitis reported to the media that Albanian Premier Ilir Meta, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, Ibrahim Rugova and other Macedonian and Yugoslav leaders have confirmed their participation.
Artur Nura, 1 December 2000
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