OSCE's Severin in Tirana
Parliamentary Assembly Chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Adrian Severin was in Tirana last week for a series of official meetings with Albania's highest government officials. In separate meetings with President Rexhep Mejdani, Parliamentary Speaker Skender Gjinushi, Prime Minister Ilir Meta and Socialist Party President Fatos Nano, Severin was told that preparations for the upcoming elections are proceeding very well and that the dialogue with the Opposition is also on track.
In his meeting with Democratic Party (DP) General Secretary Ridvan Bode, however, Severin was confronted with the serious differences between the political factions and the Opposition's objections to the way electoral plans are developing. Severin observed that with such polarization in Albanian politics, the elections would be a real test of this new democracy.
Severin also met with the Central Election Commission (CEC), where he was briefed on the Commission's efforts to develop an electoral infrastructure and made a plea for complete transparency in CEC activities.
Agreement on dialogue with Opposition
Representatives of the ruling center-leftist "Alliance for the State" have signed an agreement on proposals made by the Opposition in regards to the electoral code.
"We will give a positive answer to the Opposition parties, reconfirming our position in favor of continuing the dialogue between Government and Opposition," said Luan Rama, Public Relations Secretary of the Socialist Party (SP). "Most of the Opposition parties' proposals have been accepted, except for those that require either violating or changing the Constitution."
Pjeter Arbnori, Public Relations Secretary of the Democratic Party (DP), responded that "Leftists will persist in their efforts to maintain codes and definitions that will prevent attempts to manipulate the process." Arbnori said the DP and other Opposition parties would fight for these changes in order to guarantee fair elections.
Mejdani visits Zagreb
Croatian President Stipe Mesić hosted Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani last week in Zagreb. The presidents held a joint press conference in which they expressed a common desire for better cooperation between their two countries and for playing a greater role in promoting regional stability.
During their meeting, Mejdani asked Mesić to mediate in the Macedonia crisis. While welcoming the proposal, Mesić told reporters that Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski has said he would appreciate a visit by the Croatian president, but not in the role of a formal mediator.
When asked about the possibility that Mesić might show partiality towards Macedonia's Albanian population, Mejdani told reporters that "Boris Trajkovski is Macedonia's President—which means he is the president of his country's Albanians, too. Many Macedonian Albanians voted for Trajkovski, and he himself has promised more rights to Albanians."
Meta's letter from Powell
According to the Office of the Prime Minister, Ilir Meta received a letter from United States Secretary of State Colin Powell last week, in which was expressed the US's concerns about the current situation in Macedonia and its possible regional effect.
Powell's letter promised NATO and US engagement in controlling escalation of the situation, saying that escalating violence "could pose a great threat to regional stability." Confirming US support for those "who oppose the violence and demand a democratic process in dealing with their problems," Powell wrote that, "I welcome the statements you have released condemning the violence. It is important that you continue to proceed in this manner."
The letter ends with Powell's praise for Meta's support of the democratic leaders of the Macedonian people and for "all those who oppose the use of violence as a means to achieve political objectives."
Russian Foreign Minister in Tirana
As part of his diplomatic tour of the Balkans, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov arrived last week in Tirana. President Rexhep Mejdani, Prime Minister Ilir Meta and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo each met separately with Ivanov last Wednesday. Bilateral relations between Albania and Russia and the current regional situation were discussed.
During his meeting with Meta, the Russian Foreign Minister emphasized that "Russia does not want developments that would be contrary to Albanian interests. Russia wants the countries of the Balkans to live in peace and to have good relations." In his reply, Meta stressed that Albania has very good relations with all the countries of the region. Referring to recent events in Macedonia, Meta reiterated the Government's position on solving problems though institutional channels and through dialogue, and its opposition to violence.
Ivanov and the Albanian officials agreed that now is the time for integration, for easing of barriers and borders, for pragmatism in international relations, and for national prosperity and development.
Vranicki back in Tirana
Franz Vranicki, former Austrian Chancellor and OSCE envoy in Albania during the 1997 unrest, returned last week to the Land of the Eagles. President Mejdani, Prime Minister Meta and other high officials met with Vranicki, who came here three years ago as a special OSCE envoy during the chaos that followed the crisis of the pyramid schemes. Vranicki was here now to promote Austrian business interests in a stabilized Albania.
Human Rights Court official visits
Chairman of the European Court of Human Rights Luzius Wildhaber paid an official visit to Tirana last week. The Chairman and his delegation met with President Mejdani, Prime Minister Meta and Justice Minister Arben Imami.
In addition to presenting the steps being undertaken to draft new legislation and reform the judicial system, Imami confirmed that the new Albanian constitution sanctions direct implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Wildhaber considered Albania's implementation of decisions taken by the Strasbourg Tribunal to be very significant, and expressed readiness for bilateral cooperation.
Ilir Gjoni, Albanian minister of Public Order, and Sándor Pintér, Hungarian interior minister, last week signed a Readmission Agreement between their two countries. During an official meeting of the two delegations in Tirana, the ministers described the agreement as a sign of their countries' desire to prevent illegal immigration through directly contributing to EU stability.
Gjoni pointed out that bilateral relations between the two countries and their counterpart institutions are very good, making reference to the Cooperation Agreement on the Fight against Organized Crime and the new Readmission Agreement.
Artur Nura, 30 March 2001
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