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In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2000 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but serious deficiencies remain to be corrected before the 2001 parliamentary elections

Update No: 069 - (28/01/03)

Welcoming the West 
Albania is doing well, consolidating the big difference that came in 1999, when to put its cynically, it had a very good war. From being a parish state in all but name, known as the poorest and most gangster-infested state in Europe, the last place for a foreign businessman to visit, it is now becoming a close partner for the West, an ally in the struggle against terrorism and a key guarantor of Balkan stability. Meanwhile its economy has been booming so that it is no longer the poor man of Europe.
Premier Fatos Mano is keen to lock Albania into the Western scheme of things as soon as possible. It is already a de facto member of NATO and one more valuable than many an existing member. As the one country in Europe with a predominantly Moslem population (70% of the total), it is a natural place for Islamic terrorists to congregate. But they are doing so at their own peril, as Tirana cooperates whole-heartedly with Washington in apprehending and extraditing terrorists. The Albanians have had enough of unruly elements in their midst of a home-grown variety to tolerate imported alternatives. 

The IMF confers its blessing
Albanian Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, has signed the memorandum on economic-financial policies with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 2003. He commented that the memorandum "consolidates the politics of stable development and economic social stability of the country," adding that it is "an important commitment for 2003 that reconfirms the successful and serious cooperation of Albania with the IMF."
"The memorandum consolidates the policies of stable development and social and economic development of the country for the current year. The prepared document is also part of the political and executive commitments of the Albanian state for the national economy and public finances of 2003," ATA News Agency quoted Nano as saying. Cooperation with the IMF aims at a stable economic growth at levels of six percent in real terms in front of an inflation rate that in 2002 stood at 2.1 percent.

Rapprochement in Kosovo
The Albanians are not forgetting their ultimate saviour, Kosovo. Without that terrible conflict, Albania would still be an outcast.
The foreign minister and deputy premier (a former premier, as it so happens), Ilir Meta, has signed a free trade agreement with Kosovo for 2003; his co-signatory was Michael Steiner, the UN administrator for Kosovo. The deal is symbolic as much as anything else. There will be a new 400-kilowatt energy line for transporting electricity between Kosovo and Albania. But the real purpose of the accord is to indicate total support by Albania for the Kosovo provisional institutions. For these are the bedrock of stability for the whole region and for Albania itself.

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Albanian premier signs memorandum with IMF, highlights economic goals

A memorandum covering economic and financial policies was signed on 7th January in Tirana. It will consolidate the programmes of sustainable policies and guarantee economic and social stability in the country, Albanian TV has reported. 
Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Minister of Finance, Kastriot Islami, and Bank of Albania Governor, Shkelqim Cani, signed the memorandum on economic and financial policies with the International Monetary Fund on behalf of the Albanian government. For the IMF, resident representative Olters signed the memorandum. The memorandum comprises political and executive commitments for the national economy and public finance for 2003, based on the government's medium-term programme, Prime Minister Nano pointed out. 
Prime Minister Nano said: "Our development policies and cooperation with the IMF for 2003 aim at ensuring sustainable economic growth of 6 per cent in real terms. Inflation in 2002 was approximately 2.1 per cent, but in 2003 will be kept at a level of 2 to 4 per cent, and the budgetary deficit will be lower than the 7.5 per cent it was in 2002. Actually, it is going to be kept at a level equal to 6.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product." 
The beginning of the reform and the improvement of the fiscal administration, by fighting evasion and corruption in given circles of public administration, particularly in the customs and revenue offices, will be at the hub of the government's attention and one of the priorities of its work, Prime Minister Nano said. "We will devote special attention during 2003 to consolidating the progress made in the improved administration of tax revenues, which in 2002 reached a record figure for the last 12 years, amounting to over 100bn leks, with the view to 15 percent more revenue and more consolidated fiscal structures in 2003. 
"The government will remain equally committed to building a functional and integrated market economy and closing the reform cycle. This implies the continuation of our aggressive, reform, and executive actions in the field of structural transformation of the economy and, in particular, the financial market, and also with the preparation and actual privatisation of the Savings Bank and the Insurance Institute and other major public enterprises like the Alb Telecom or others." 

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Italy's EU minister in Albania: sides agree bilateral ties "brilliant"

Bilateral ties between Albania and Italy were described as brilliant during a visit to Albania by the Italian Minister for EU Policies, Rocco Buttiglione. He said that Italy was convinced that Albania belongs to Europe and Europe to Albania; therefore it is committed to ensuring that Albania becomes part of it within the shortest possible time, Albanian TV has reported. 
Buttiglione appreciated the role played by Albania to ensure peace and stability in the region. A wise Albanian government, with authority and a foreign policy aiming at peace and cooperation, is a major precondition for peace and stability in the country and the region, he declared. 
For Buttiglione, developing infrastructure is also important, and he mentioned the construction of Corridor No 8. 
Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and Buttiglione shared the view that relations in the political and business fields are at an elevated level. They appreciated the total blocking of clandestine trafficking, the fight against other forms of trafficking that threaten both countries, the activation of the financial communities of both countries, the joint actions for public administration and economic systems in order to reach EU standards for rapid integration, the interest expressed by large Italian firms like Enel and Telecom Italia in participating in the privatisation of Alb telecom and KESh [Albanian Energy Corporation], which are the short-term agenda items for cooperation that they agreed on at this meeting. 
Buttiglione assured Minister of Defence Majko of his government's total commitment to helping Albania in its EU integration efforts. 

Albanian officials, Macedonian minister discuss cooperation

Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva held her first meeting with Ilir Meta, deputy prime minister and foreign minister, in Tirana on 9th January.
Then she was received by President Alfred Moisiu, Assembly Chairman Servet Pellumbi, and Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Bilateral cooperation in all fields was at the hub of all meetings, Albanian TV has reported. 
The further cooperation between the two countries for their rapid integration into the EU and the Euro-Atlantic structures was the topic of the meeting between Mitreva and Meta. The two governments are committed to giving a new dimension to the cooperation between the two countries and to speeding up the realization of common goals and the process of Albania's integration into the EU and NATO, Meta said at the joint news conference he held with Macedonian Foreign Minister Mitreva. Immediately after the bilateral meeting, Meta stated that the underlying threads for this commitment are peace and stability in the region and projects for membership of the Euro-Atlantic structures. The signing of the agreement on free trade was commended by Meta and Mitreva as a positive step, but they also confirmed the signing of further agreements in other fields, like tourism, energy, and the implementation of infrastructure projects that are part of the Stability Pact. They also pointed out the vital importance, as Meta characterized it, of the building of Corridor No 8.  

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