Mejdani sets election dates
On 18 April, President Rexhep Mejdani officially decreed the date for the next general elections, which will be held on 24 June. According to the president's Press Information Office, Mejdani set the first round of elections for 24 June, and the second round for Sunday, 8 July.
Sources in the president's office say Mejdani's decree is based on Article 92 of the Constitution and Article 4 of the Election Code of the Republic. Some of the Opposition parties have objected to the dates because not all their demands for electoral changes have been met. Last week, a proposal to change the electoral code itself was rejected by the Socialist majority in the Parliament's Law Commission.
CE President Johnson in Tirana
Lord Russell Johnson, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CE), made a two-day visit to Tirana last week. Lord Johnson, who was met by leading Albanian officials, was here to evaluate the role of the CE in building the Albanian democracy.
During a meeting with Johnson, Premier Ilir Meta stated that the Government's aim is to reach a new level in the development of democracy in Albania in the next elections. According to Meta's office, Johnson noted a great deal of improvement in the performance of the Central Elections Commission (CEC). According to Johnson, "there is enough time before the elections for the Opposition to perform the corrections it requires."
Johnson also met with Democratic Party (DP) leader Sali Berisha, the DP political secretary, Genc Pollo, and the leader of the Human Rights Union Party, Vasil Melo and others.
Duquesne in Albania
Antonie Duquesne, Belgium's Interior Minister, arrived for a one-day visit in Albania last week. Interior Minister Ilir Gjoni and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo welcomed their Belgian counterpart.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Milo and Duquesne discussed the intensification of bilateral relations between Albania and Belgium, the fight against organized crime and the overall situation in the Balkan region.
"The Albanian government is working to start discussions for signing the Stabilization-Association Agreement," Milo told the Belgian minister. Duquesne assured Belgium's support for this endeavor.
Milo further stated, "The Albanian government has declared itself to be against extremism. It is time for peaceful solutions." Duquesne termed official Albanian positions regarding recent developments in the region as "stances that contribute to stabilization and the consolidation of security."
The Belgian minister and his Albanian counterpart, Ilir Gjoni, signed an agreement that would allow Albanian refugees, who had earlier fled to Belgium, re-admission to Albania.
DAP hopes to unify Albania and Kosovo
Last week Albanian Justice Minister Arben Imami, the executive president of the Democratic Alliance Party (DAP), unexpectedly announced at a press conference in Tirana that his party will work in the next legislature to bring about a peaceful unification of Albania and Kosovo. The announcement was denounced by some other DAP executive members. Imami, who headed the first visit of Albanian politicians to Belgrade in 1994, is considered to be a politician of surprises.
The Albanian government has also dissociated itself from Imami's position. The Prime Minister's office quickly issued a counter-declaration, stating that "The Government of Albania respects Resolution 1244 of the [UN] Security Council. It does not agree to the changing of borders, and it supports the construction of a free, democratic and European Kosovo."
Kosovar businessmen in Albania
A group of Kosovar businessmen came for an official visit to Albania last week, where they met with various Albanian business groups to discuss the possibilities of expanding economic cooperation between Albania and Kosovo. Some analysts say the main purpose of the visit was to consider ways of investing in the road that connects Albania with Kosova, known as the Durrës - Kukës - Prishtinë corridor.
The Kosovar group met with most of the senior officials of the Albanian government. Premier Ilir Meta declared that he was very pleased to meet with so many representatives of Kosovar businesses, adding, "we should strengthen our historic spiritual ties and our brotherly solidarity."
Meta meets Greek minority representatives
According to a press release from the Prime Minister's office, Ilir Meta recently met with representatives of "Omonia," the Greek minority organization in Albania. The Prime Minister reviewed the role of the Greek minority in the democratic development of the country, stressing the Government's commitment to ensuring a high standard of living for the community and making it feel like an active force in the political, economic and social life of the country.
"The Greek minority in Albania is an important factor, not only in the good relations between Albania and Greece, but also as an indicator of the level of emancipation and democratization in Albanian society," stated Meta.
Omonia has recently objected to a population census organized by the government, demanding that the census include information of the religion and nationality of Albanian residents.
Artur Nura, 20 April 2001
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