Mejdani consults on the elections date
Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani last week invited representatives of the various political parties to discuss a date for the 2001 general parliamentary elections. The president remarked that after discussion with international organizations he had decided to submit for consideration the dates of 17 June and 24 June.
Mejdani observed that setting the date would facilitate the political dialogue on issues related to, among others, the electoral code and the electoral map, which still need to be passed and completed with necessary amendments. As soon as the president decrees the election date, the electoral map law will take full effect.
Mejdani argued that the 17th of June appears to be more favorable, as the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly convenes on the 24th of June, which makes it rather inconvenient for this organization to monitor the Albanian elections.
The opposition Democratic Party refused the president's invitation to the meeting, and the only opposition party representative present was Reformist group leader Nard Ndoka. Ndoka maintained that both dates were unfavorable and did not provide sufficient time to settle the many outstanding problems, including checking voter lists and making amendments to the Electoral Code.
Meta receives letter from George W Bush
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta received a letter from US President George W Bush last week. According to the prime minister's office, the American president expressed how greatly he values the close relationship between the United States and Albania.
In his letter, President Bush says that he is looking forward to continued work with the Albanian government on issues of mutual concern and that he welcomes Albania's partnership in promoting economic, political and military reforms.
"Working together both bilaterally and through the Stability Pact, I hope our governments will continue to strengthen cooperation and build peace and prosperity in the Balkans, of which we can both be proud," says the American president's letter to the Albanian prime minister.
Meta attends the Economic Roundtable
Speaking at the meeting of the Economic Roundtable of the Stability Pact, Ilir Meta said last week, "the Stability Pact is top priority for the Albanian Government." The prime minister went on to say that now that Albania shares the co-presidency of the Second Table of the Pact, "our country's responsibility is not simply that of a participating, contributing or benefiting country from this initiative but is much greater."
"Additionally," said Meta, "Albania has the rotating presidency of the Southeast Europe Initiative, and this is another opportunity to show our commitment that the processes of cooperation in our region will go forward, that institutional coordination will take new steps and that, despite recent developments in the Preševo valley or even in Macedonia, the process of cooperation in Southeast Europe will take serious steps towards the consolidation of peace and stability."
Macedonian refugees arrive in Albania
According to Albanian border authorities, thousands of refugees from Macedonia are entering Albania daily. On 18 March alone, 493 refugees crossed at the Qafë-Thanë checkpoint, according to the newspaper Shekulli.
Refugees say that the lines of Macedonian Albanian refugees stretch from the city of Struga to the Albanian border. The refugees are mainly from Tetovo, Gostivar and Kërçovë, but in the long lines even cars from Ohri are seen. The fear of war has spread to southern Macedonia close to the Albanian-Macedonian border.
Pablo Zapata, spokesperson of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Tirana, told reporters that his organization has taken all necessary measures to confront a possible crisis of refugees from Macedonia and has been offering assistance since the arrival of the first refugees.
According to press sources, most of the Macedonian refugees are being accommodated in the homes of relatives or friends in Albania. This was also the case during the 1999 Kosovo crisis, when about one million refugees from Kosovo arrived in Albania, which contributed to the Albanian government's success in facing that terrible crisis.
European Parliament debates Macedonia crisis
"A decision for dismantling the Macedonian-Slav nation in order to create a federal state must now be pursued with greater urgency," said Olivier Dupuis, Secretary of the Transnational Radical Party (TRP) and European Parliament member, during a session parliamentary debate on the current Macedonian crisis. The debate also dealt with the issue of EU funding for the private Albanian University in Tetovo.
"I think what is happening now in Macedonia is proof that we have seen nothing, heard nothing and learned nothing, or rather that you have seen nothing, heard nothing and learned nothing," said Dupuis.
According to the TRP Euro-deputy, "what is happening in Macedonia is happening in Macedonia, and there is no point in inventing excuses and saying that the crisis stems from Kosovo, from the movement of people—of former members of the UÇK—towards Macedonia. The crisis in Macedonia is a crisis that has come about and that has been cultivated by the lack of a serious EU policy on Macedonia over the last ten years."
Dupuis called on his Socialist colleagues to remember the way in which he and Doris Pack have continually insisted on the importance of a project that seemed to them to be marginal, and which their Socialist and Communist colleagues have viewed with condescension: "I am referring," Dupuis said, "to the project for the University of Tetovo, whose importance was fundamental as a response to one of the reasons for the frustration of Albanians in Macedonia. We were regarded as people regard 15-year-olds—with condescension—when we proposed in this Parliament that the former Yugoslavia should join the European Community as the only way to avoid the explosion that did in fact take place a few years later."
Artur Nura, 23 March 2001
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