Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 11
20 March 2000

Albanian news C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
News Review for Albania
All the important news from Albania
since 13 March 2000

Artur Nura

The Albanian, Greek and Macedonian foreign affairs ministers - Paskal Milo, Jorgos Papandreu and Aleksander Dimitrov respectively - met in the Albanian town of Korça to exchange opinions on the implementation of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. The meeting also allowed the ministers to discuss several projects of common interest, particularly those concerning co-operation for integration of the region in the near future. The ministers considered this meeting as a new step towards better collaboration between the three states.

Recent visits by high-ranking international politicians have given Albanian political parties an opportunity to reflect on the country's economic prospects. On 9 March, EU External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten, visited Albania and all the political parties hailed this visit a success. Patten clearly stated that the aim of the European community is to help Albania. There were discussions about the multi-billion dollar project "Corridor 8," which is intended to build up a transportation infrastructure that links Eastern and Western Europe. The visit has been seen as a follow-up visit to that of American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and to the last meeting of "Albania's Friends" - the group of international organisations aiming to assist the country - which reiterated the interest of the international community in the democratisation and economic development of Albania.

The Prime Minister's economic adviser, Selim Belortaja, reacted to the statement made by Greek Foreign Minister, Jorgos Papandreu that "Corridor 8 starts in Thessaloniki." Belortaja said that Albania would be better not to become preoccupied by the claims of its southern neighbours, since those developing the project "have decided that there is no corridor which passes through Thessaloniki or Igoumenitsa." Belortaja declared that the negotiations with Italy over the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe have guaranteed the Corridor 8 project. The Albanian Government has recently studied an Italian request, and, after some hesitation, found it reasonable to sign a memorandum of good understanding on Corridor 8 that recognises the axes Durrës-Bari and Vlorë-Brindizi as entrance points to the proposed transport network, with Durrës as a hub centre.

The US Ambassador in Tirana, Joseph Limprecht, told reporters at a news conference that the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe is a project for obtaining the political and economical evolution not only of Albania, but also of the entire region. The challenge for Albania, he said, is finding funds for the projects and demonstrating that the country can be a trustworthy partner. If the projects included in the Stability Pact are seen to be well managed and completed in compliance with the agreed standards, on time and within the budget, then that would demonstrate Albania's ability to assume its regional responsibilities with seriousness. Limprecht also added that the US partners of the international community must be prepared to transform their pledges into reality to help the evident and real improvement in people's lives. He went on to say that this was why the Brussels Donors Conference to be held on 29 and 30 March, would deal with a number of specific aims. "Firstly, the conference will announce a 'quick start' package for primary projects that encourages the development of economic infrastructures and domestic and foreign security," said the US Ambassador. In terms of more ambitious medium-term projects, such as the European Corridors of transport, Limprecht said that the conference must design a more transparent process for further preparatory works.

The Italian Secretary of State, Umberto Ranieri, told the representatives of the Albanian Parliamentary Commission during their visit to Rome that the blocking of economic aid by the Italian Parliament was a provisional decision and very soon the aid will be unblocked. "There was no vote for blocking the aid, but only a request to reformulate the draft law for the 'Angioni' aid package", Sabri Godo, Head of Albania Parliamentary Commission, declared after the official meeting in Rome. Godo also added that the Italian opposition has demanded short- and long-term strategies for economic co-operation with Albania.

The number of people out of work increased in Albania in 1999. The districts with the highest rate of unemployment are Tirana, Shkodra and Elbasan. A report by the Albanian Statistical Institute gives the figure of 237,945 unemployed people in the country. This represents an increase of 1945 compared to the figures for the same period the previous year. The number of unemployed people who can claim unemployment benefit in Albania stands at 23,800.

The Albanian Parliamentary Foreign Commission proposed the creation of a Joint Albanian-Macedonian Commission to investigate the murder of several Albanian citizens on the border between Albania and Macedonia. This proposal was made public following a meeting of the Parliamentary Commission with the Albanian Foreign Minister, Paskal Milo. The head of the Albanian diplomatic service was called on to introduce the proposal with Macedonia. The vice-chairwomen of the Commission, Arta Dade, said that the Foreign Minister was asked to give an explanation of and information on how the Government is working to boost relations with neighbouring countries. "Today, we started this Reunion [meeting of the parliamentary commission] on relations with Macedonia, we will hold further reunions on relations with Greece and Italy," Dade said.

A district court in southern Serbia sentenced a Kosovo Albanian student leader, Albin Kurti, to 15 years in prison for terrorist offences. The 25-year-old Albanian student leader was charged with "jeopardising Yugoslavia's territorial integrity and conspiring to commit an enemy activity linked to terrorism," a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment. The court-assigned defence lawyer, Branislav Ciric, said he would appeal. The trial opened in Niš with Kurti declaring: "I don't recognise the Court, Serbia or Yugoslavia. This court is in service of the fascist regime of Slobodan Milošević." Kurit was arrested in Kosovo in April during the NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. He is one of 1500 Kosovo Albanians who, according to human-rights lawyers in Belgrade, are in Serbia's jails.

Artur Nura, 17 March 2000



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