Tirana to start negotiations with Brussels
In a 7 June 2001 news conference in Tirana, Michele Perreti, the European Commission's ambassador to Albania, said that the European Commission has decided to recommend that the Council of Europe start negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement with Albania.
According to Perreti, the European Commission in Brussels has concluded that Albania has made important efforts since 1997 in restoring law and order and bringing about significant social and economic reforms, making the country more open to the region and to the European Union. Perreti said that in terms of foreign relations, Albania has had a moderating influence on the latest crises affecting the region.
The European Commission has carried out a preliminary study in which it examined the Albanian legislative apparatus and ongoing adoption of legislation that meet European standards. The report also comments on the economy, stating that progress has been made in the reform of customs and taxation, and that the privatization of small and medium-sized enterprises can be considered completed, while that of large enterprises is well underway.
Ambassador Perreti cited the report's assessment that good progress has been made in reforming the electoral system in conformity with OSCE standards, but emphasized that the successful organization of free and transparent elections on 24 June is one of the basic conditions for promoting ties between Albania and the EU. Accordingly, the EU will be paying close attention the elections, said Perreti.
Romano Prodi, the head of the European Commission, will ask the EU to at the Göteborg summit at the end of June set a date to begin the dialogue with Albania about the Association and Stabilization Agreement.
Government speaks out on Manastiri violence
A government spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office has strongly condemned the recent acts of vandalism committed by Macedonian extremist groups in the town of Manastiri. At least 110 homes and shops owned by ethnic Albanians were set on fire and destroyed, as were two mosques.
The statement said that among the destroyed property was the home of Muharrem Nexhipi, Macedonia's deputy minister of Health. This is the fifth time in five weeks that the lives and property of the Albanian citizens of Manastiri have been the target of such attacks. The latest vandalism on Wednesday 6 June occurred while the town was under a strict curfew.
The statement from the PM's Office said that the "Albanian Government, which has condemned these extremists acts from the very beginning, no matter what direction they come from, believes there is no possible justification for uncontrolled ethnic violence and hate. The crisis [in Macedonia] can be solved only through dialogue and democratic reforms, which will lead to the setting of European standards for all Albanians in Macedonia."
Sources in the PM's Office said the Albanian government shares the position of the European Union and the USA, which have declared that any step taken toward a state of war in Macedonia at the present time would not only be inappropriate, but may have seriously harmful results.
Commandos are pride of the armed forces
Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta paid a visit last week to the "commando" brigade, Zall-Herr Brigade. Praising the special military troop for their work and calling them "the pride of the armed forces," Meta said they represent an important example of Albania's transformation and integration in Euro-Atlantic structures. According to Meta, the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces are following the proper path toward integration, and they will continue to be supported by the Albanian government.
Albania is now listed among the nine countries that aspire to NATO membership. A few months ago, the government created a Special Committee for Integration into NATO to address the issues of development and reform necessary to meet NATO standards.
The Scorpions play Tirana
On 4 to 5 June, Albanians were treated to a live concert in Tirana's Selman Stermazi stadium by the German rock band the Scorpions. The Scorpions have a huge following among Albanian fans for their hits "Holiday," "Still Loving You," "Wind of Change," and other favorites. The crowd sang along with "Wind of Change," as did internationally known Albanian soprano Inva Mula, who was invited onstage by the group.
The Albanian rock group Elita 5, from Macedonia, also featured at the live concert. Following the concerts, the Scorpions held a press conference in Tirana, at which they especially thanked soprano Mula for her participation. This was the Scorpions first appearance in the Balkans.
Albania's "new voices"
Last week a three-day marathon of song by new singers, the "new voices" of Albania, was held in Tirana's Congressional Palace. The event, a showcase of the artistic talents of new and young singers, was introduced by two singers and a comedian.
Artur Nura, 8 June 2001
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