Solana in Tirana
Following a visit to Belgrade, European Union's High Representative for Foreign Policy and Common Security Javier Solana visited Tirana last week accompanied by an expert delegation. Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani, Prime Minister Ilir Meta, and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo each held separate meetings with Solana.
"Serbia will soon approve an amnesty law by means of which the Kosovo Albanian political prisoners will be released," declared Solana during his meeting with President Mejdani. Referring to current tensions in Mitrovica and Presheve, Bujanovce and Medvegje, Solana appealed for Albanian help in calming the situation.
Mejdani told Solana that the situation in Mitrovica appears to be more complicated than the others. "The situation in Mitrovica threatens to impede the process of the upcoming general parliamentary elections and thwart the exercise of local control. It is creating artificial tensions to interfere with popular multiethnic movements and everyday life in Kosovo," Mejdani declared.
On another subject, Solana expressed optimism about steps already taken in the process of European integration for Albania. The expert delegation headed by Catherine Day, vice director for foreign relations of the European Commission, remained in Tirana after Solana's departure. Several meetings of the delegation with Albania's government representatives in Tirana are anticipated.
Meta attends conference in Italy
Prime Minister Ilir Meta and a ministerial delegation visited Italy last week to attend the conference Country Presentation Albania, organized by the Italian Institute for Foreign Commerce. "Italy remains Albania's primary trade partner," declared Meta at the conference. "This is based not only on the good relations between the two governments, but also on the generous aid granted by Italy during the first years of Albania's transition period, the close proximity of our countries, and the affection between our two peoples."
According to data presented at the conference, there are about 630 Italian enterprises operating in Albania, floating over USD 300 million. In fact, Italian business makes up more than 50 percent of foreign investment in the country, and the Italian market receives about 70 percent of Albania's total export value. Trade with Italy accounts for about 52 percent of the total Albanian exchange.
Meta pointed out in his speech to the conference that Italian businesses have contributed to Albania's financial flow, introduced new technologies, and contributed to the export market, employment statistics, and new work standards in the country, making a significant contribution to domestic revenues.
Saying that by strengthening the state, the rule of law, and market principles Albania has embarked on an irreversible process, Meta declared that "World Trade Organization membership, the association process with the European Union and the Stability Pact, and other regional initiatives guarantee the success of this process."
World Bank supports removal of Santo
Finance and Economy Minister Anastas Angjeli has ordered the removal of Artan Santo as Director General of the Albanian Savings Bank. World Bank mission officials in Tirana have hailed the action as a positive sign of the Ministry's commitment to meeting deadlines set for the bank's restructuring.
In a press conference last week, World Bank (WB) officials said that the mission regards the progress being made in reforming the financial sector to be positive in all areas. The WB officials confirmed that financial reform is complex, as has been seen in other countries, and that it is therefore important to have all sides committed to the process.
Majko says dialogue with Opposition a necessity
Pandeli Majko, former prime minister of Albania, has said that an extra-parliamentary meeting would constitute an institutional crisis and that the majority and the Opposition should meet and establish a dialogue within the institution.
Majko, recently returned from a visit to the United States, is the only prime minister to have established dialogue with Opposition parties during his term in office. Concerning such political dialogue, Majko said that the first step is for the parties to accept the necessity of dialogue in principle, no matter where the talks might take place. Expressing optimism about recent moves, Majko said that the conditions for the dialogue inside Parliament would be considered by the political parties separately.
According to the former prime minister, although the elections might be at risk, Albanian politicians have proven in the past their ability to reach compromise in the final moments. On Friday 9 February, after a lengthy meeting and protracted debate, the Socialist Party Steering Committee-of which Majko is a member-accepted the offer of the Democratic Party and its political allies to organize a roundtable of all political parties represented in Parliament.
New pre-electoral alliance
The Republican Party (RP) has recently forged a new alliance with the Democratic Party (DP), which last week became formalized. Meanwhile, DP Secretary General Ridvan Bode commented that the alliance was made not only in response to the last local elections, but that the Democrats hoped it will lead to pre- and post-election cooperation.
RP leader Fatmir Mediu, expressing his appreciation of recent cooperation between the two parties, particularly around their common demands concerning fraud in last year's local elections, also confirmed the RP's readiness for pre- and post-election alliance with the Democrats. Mediu stressed that it was necessary to cooperate in order to remove the left wing from power.
Open letter to the European Union troika
On 5 February, Olivier Dupuis, Secretary General of the Transnational Radical Party (TRP) and Member of the European Parliament, sent an open letter regarding Kosovo Albanian hostages in Serbia to Foreign Minister Anna Lindh of Sweden, acting president of the Council of the European Union, Chris Patten, commissioner for External Relations, and Javier Solana, high representative for Foreign Policy and Common Security.
According to the Tirana office of the TRP, in his letter Dupuis strongly criticized Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica for ignoring the fate of about 700 Kosovo Albanians held in Serbia's prisons and for ignoring the terrible war waged by the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milošević over the last ten years. He also demanded the attention of European institutions to the situation.
"President Koštunica has no memory of the death of my friend Izet Muhamedagic, the vice minister of Justice in the Sarajevo government, a Transnational Radical Party member and supporter of the campaign for the International Court. Rescued from certain death in a field or a police station somewhere in the Republic of Sprska, thanks to the efforts of several Radical activists in the summer of 1994, he died a few weeks later in the helicopter that was trying to get him and his colleagues in the Sarajevo government out of Bihac," writes the TRP secretary general in his open letter.
Calling for action to force the Serbian government to take due responsibility, Dupuis adds that "President Koštunica, it seems, has only one memory: the one Milošević left to him. It is the memory of authoritarian regimes, the memory of the leader's speeches, and the memory of the 'resistance' against the international conspiracy."
Artur Nura, 9 February 2001
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