Stabilization and association
At their recent Gothenburg Summit, EU ministers confirmed that negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement between Albania and the EU will begin soon. The Albanian media have reported the news with enthusiasm.
Prime Minister Ilir Meta released an open letter to the Albanian people, in which he called the association between Albania and the EU a new page in the history of the country, and a great step in making the dream of closer relations a reality. Meta said that for half a century the former totalitarian regime had done its best to separate Albania's destiny from that of the European family.
First phase of park restoration completed
Accompanied by Tirana Mayor Edi Rama, Prime Minister Meta paid a visit to Rinia (Youth) Park, which was re-opened to the community last week after two months of construction. The Municipality of Tirana, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Works were involved in the joint effort to restore the park, which involved re-landscaping, restoring the fountain and updating the area's infrastructure.
A second phase of this project aims to restore the park to its 1950 condition. The Municipality of Tirana and the Institute of Cultural Monuments will design the project, which will require a considerable amount of funding.
Meta inaugurates highway construction
Meta also launched construction activities on the road that will connect the towns of Lezhë and Shkodër, being part of the North - South Corridor that will connect with Montenegro at the Hani i Hotit border point. The Prime Minister's Office says the roadwork is financed by a state budget fund of ALL (Albanian lek) 2.7 billion (USD 18.3 million). "I want to assure you all that this work that started today will not continue indefinitely, but will be completed within the year 2003," Meta said.
Opposition leaders have challenged such government "inaugurations," saying they are essentially campaign opportunities organized by the Prime Minister's Office to promote Socialist Party parliamentary candidates running in the 24 June general elections.
Eagle Gold Medal to US officer
Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani awarded Albania's Eagle Gold Medal to Lieutenant Colonel Sean Callahan, chief of US military cooperation in Albania. Callahan received the medal at the end of his two-year mission to Albania, for his major contribution to promoting military ties between Albanian armed forces and the US military. Brigadier General Pellumb Qazimi, chief of the Army General Staff, US Ambassador Joseph Limprecht and other senior officials attended the awards ceremony.
June elections news
In a campaign stop in Vlorë on 22 June, Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano promised 150,000 new jobs and a ten-times-higher credit level for Albanian banks. He also said that monthly wages and pensions would be increased, on average, to USD 200 and USD 70, respectively. Nano also promised that, during the four years of a new Socialist Party mandate, some USD 600 million of foreign capital would be invested in the country.
Nano stated that Albania has emerged from the emergency aid situation, has integrated its economy into global markets and has turned into a market in which local and foreign entrepreneurs invest with success. Among the future Socialist objectives he mentioned-one approved by Western partners in Brussels and Washington-was building a "European Albania," fair, modern and exercising European democratic standards.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha, during an electoral rally for the Union for Victory in the town of Elbasan, declared that once in office the center-right alliance would turn the city into the epicenter of the East - West Corridor 8 project. Berisha said the city will be a "bridge between the East and the West" and added that Elbasan would be a "free zone," where small, mid-size and big business could flourish.
Albania and Kosovo tourism
According to press sources, Mustaf Gjana, director of Kosovo's Dardania Tourist Agency, has said that citizens of Kosovo will "occupy" Albania's Adriatic and Jon seacoasts during the summer season. Gjana said contracts have already been signed with state and private hotels and villas on Albania's coasts. This is reported to be the first time that Albania and Kosovo have signed such tourism agreements, but analysts predict it will become much more common in the future.
New Albanian film on Italian archaeologist
A new Albanian film, Ugolini, about renowned Italian archaeologist Luigi Maria Ugolini has begun shooting in the ancient Illyrian city of Butrinti, Ugolini's research site. The screenplay by Teodor Laco starts with a visit of two foreign tourists to the site, and then flashes back to 1926 - 1928, the time when Ugolini discovered Butrinti, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Albanian actors Ndriçim Xhepa, Rajmonda Bulku, Artur Gorishti and others portray the main characters in the film.
Artur Nura, 22 June 2001
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