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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: 070 - (21/02/03)
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 sole 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 Kosovo's provisional institutions for these are the bedrock of stability for the whole region and for Albania itself.
US company Lockheed Martin begins implementation of air service project
The renowned U.S. company, Lockheed Martin, has started the implementation of the project for the modernisation of air traffic service in Albania, with a total investment of over US$23m. According to the Director General of the Albanian Civil Aviation, Merita Xhafaj, the project is divided into two stages. The first will include rehabilitation of the existing building and communication systems. In total the entire project costs US$32,977m. The first stage will cost US$3.299m, to be covered by funds from the National Agency of Air Traffic, to continue with the second stage of this project that begins by next July, after securing the financing sources. The cost of the second stage amounts to around US$29m.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Albanian foreign minister holds talks on cooperation with Montenegrin leaders
On the second day of his official visit to Montenegro, Ilir Meta, deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister, had meetings with top Montenegrin personalities, including his counterpart, Dragisa Burzan, and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Albanian Radio has reported. After the meeting between Meta and Djukanovic, the latter told journalists that they had identified many fields for further cooperation. Our cooperation is on a good course and will become an example for other countries, he said.
Meta had also meetings with Montenegrin Assembly Chairman, Filip Vujanovic, the deputy prime minister, who is in charge of economic policy and the economic system, Mehmed Bardhi and Ferhat Dinosha, the Albanian deputies in the Montenegrin parliament, and a group of representatives of the Albanian political parties.
The participants in all these meetings agreed on the importance of bilateral cooperation. The Montenegrin side pledged to bring the Shkoder-Podgorica railway line into operation. Regarding the tourism sector, the two sides discussed a project on the construction of a bridge linking Velipoje with Ulqinj and the establishment of a park extending over Albania, Montenegro and Kosova [Kosovo], which is expected to give a boost to the development of mountain tourism. They also discussed a project on navigation on the River Bune and a project on an interconnecting line between Elbasan and Podgorica.
On the first day of its visit to Montenegro, the Albanian delegation led by Meta had a meeting with the local authorities and inhabitants in Plave [Plav] and Gucia. It also paid a visit to the border crossing point in Vermoshe. The work on the construction of the necessary infrastructure will be stepped up so that this point is opened by the end of summer 2003, Meta said. He described this as an important link of cooperation between Kosova, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. It will also give a new dimension to the development of the trade, human and cultural relations on both sides of the border, he said.
Meta's first visit to this area was intended to send the message that good cooperation between the governments of the two countries would have positive effects for the inhabitants of Plave and Gucia, too. "We should not remain hostage to the past, Meta stressed. We have to learn from the EU countries about the way they achieved what we are seeking to achieve now. In this integration process citizens are more important than borders and nations," Meta said.
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