Albania celebrates the New Year
Albanians celebrated three important holidays at the end of the year 2000: Christians observed Christmas Day on 25 December, Muslims celebrated Bajram Day, the end of the month of Ramadan, on 27 December, and all Albania greeted the New Year on 31 December.
In accordance with the country's respect for the traditions of various religions, the city of Tirana, led by Mayor Edvin Rama, organized activities on each of these festive days. Two important concerts were held in Tirana's main square, "Sheshi Skenderbeu," which throughout much of the long 2000 political year was the scene of large protests and electoral campaign rallies.
Until the early morning hours of 1 January 2001, however, the square was given over to festive concerts featuring the best singers and dancers of the Albanian capital. With no sign of separation by religion or political party, a record number of Tirana's citizens came out to celebrate the New Year.
Socialists call for CEC resignations
The Socialist Party (SP) is insisting that current members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) resign in order to resolve the electoral impasse before the June 2001 general elections. Although the SP Steering Committee has taken no formal decision, SP secretaries maintain personal views that certain CEC members should resign.
At a recent press conference, Luan Rama, SP Secretary for Public Relations, declared that certain CEC members were wrong to argue that they should not be removed because they had been assigned or elected by the ruling majority or the opposition. Because the Commission is constitutional, Rama stated, in cases where international institutions involved in the election process have contested the process and even the operations of the CEC, CEC members should respond by resigning.
Meta congratulates Bush
Prime Minister Ilir Meta sent a congratulatory telegram to US President-Elect George W Bush, according to the Albania's Information Department.
The Prime Minister's telegram stated, "I have the pleasure, on behalf of the Albanian Government and personally, to congratulate you on your election as President of the United States. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere conviction that the friendship between our countries will be stronger in the future. The Albanian Government and people have always considered the US their primary and strategic ally in defending democratic and human values."
In emphasizing the close relations between Albania and the US, and the latter's support of Albania as a government priority, Meta demonstrated his personal gratitude and the gratitude of the Albanian people for America's great contribution towards ending the genocide and violence against Albanians in Kosovo. Meta expressed his conviction that the new Bush administration will improve relations between the two countries and support the interests of regional stability and a strong democracy in Albania.
Milo rejects Serbia's Kosovo proposal
At Brussels' NATO Headquarters, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo has rejected the proposal of Goran Svilanovic, Yugoslav Foreign Minister, on Kosovo's status. Svilanovic had proposed that Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia act as guarantors on the final status of Kosovo, but the Albanian Foreign Minister immediately objected to this idea.
"This case is not in the order of day, and it is not only a regional case but an international issue," declared Milo. "Countries in the region cannot be the guarantors for such a delicate and important case, so critical to regional stability, peace and security. The regional countries can and must contribute, but we cannot exempt the international community and its institutions that are present in Kosovo."
Albania supported the democratic and peaceful process leading to the October 2000 elections for local government in Kosovo. The Foreign Minister emphasized that the success of these elections should assure the international community that Kosovo's Albanians have the maturity to work for democracy within an international context.
Albanian students to study in US
Opportunities for post-graduate studies in the United States have been announced for students at Gjirokastra University. American Embassy representative Agim Tola told reporters that the programs offered to Albanians are among those designated for Central and East Europe students in education, administration, environmental management, journalism, law and other fields. Meanwhile, there is intense competition among students hoping for the chance to study in the US, and rigorous qualifications for applicants will be required.
Albanian professors abandon universities
According to the Albanian Education Ministry, university professors are leaving in record numbers, either emigrating or abandoning education for better-paying jobs. The Ministry expert says this phenomenon is a direct result of the poor economy but is also related to a lower standard of education at these institutions. At least 1027 professors have left Albanian universities during the last five years.
Rumelotis give assurances to Albanian NGOs
According to Albanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sokol Gjoka, Panajotis Rumelotis, one of the presidents of the Stability Pact, has made assurances to representatives of Albanian NGOs that the first scheduled projects of the Stability Pact will proceed with greater speed. "Preparations have already begun in Brussels for a second meeting of donors in order to solicit other projects in the region," said Rumelotis to representatives of various Albanian NGOs.
Brussels to review Albania's energy strategy
According to sources at the state-controlled Albanian energy enterprise, Albania's creditor countries organized a special conference on the electrical energy situation in Albania. The conference, held in Brussels, focused on Albania's energy problems and stabilization measures to be taken jointly by Albania, the European Union and other donors.
Meta meets Italian Industry Minister
Ilir Meta welcomed an Italian delegation visiting Albania for the inauguration of "Fiera del Levante." Enrico Letta, Italian Industry Minister and head of the Italian delegation, expressed his enthusiasm for holding Fiera del Levante in Albania again in the future. According Letta, Fiera del Levante is an important activity that promotes business opportunities and demonstrates the need to strengthen Albanian-Italian business cooperation. The Albanian Telegraph Agency reports that Letta informed Meta that the attitude of Italian businesspeople towards Albanian is very different from what is generally expressed in the Italian media.
Albanian police apprehend illegal immigrants
Albanian police have arrested 11 persons in an operation organized to crack down on refugee smuggling in Vlora's coastal villages. According to the Albanian Telegraphic Agency, the Albanian police, in cooperation with the Guardia di Finanza, apprehended four motorboats and an unspecified quantity of fuel in nighttime operations on 15 December 2000. Meanwhile, another motorboat with 45 illegal Albanian immigrants was seized on the Italian coast.
Kurds stopped at Albanian border
Albanian police have prevented 92 Kurds from crossing illegally into Albania from Greece. The group of Kurds was stopped while attempting to pass the 31,250 pyramid point—a miniature stone formation at the border crossing— at Kakavija. According to the Information Department of the Kakavija border police, unlike earlier cases, the organizers of this illegal trafficking are Kurds familiar with the Albanian-Greek border territory. The Kurds were handed over to Greek border authorities.
Artur Nura, 5 January 2001
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