Books on Albania
% of GDP
Update No: 088 - (27/08/04)
Albania seeks to compensate political prisoners
The Albanian government has passed a law which it hopes will settle once and for
all the vexed issue of compensation for former political prisoners. Thousands of
Albanians were jailed, tortured and executed under the communist government of
Enver Hoxha, which ruled the country for more than 40 years.
Hoxha, the most unrepentant Stalinist dictator, passed away to join Uncle Joe in
the sky in March 1985, the very month Mikhail Gorbachev became first secretary
of the Soviet Communist Party and, as it so happens, the last one too, which
would have made Hoxha see red.
The political prisoners were released and pardoned more than a decade ago; but
many have yet to receive anything at all.
Burrel prison is a small ramshackle building on a hilltop some two hours drive
from the Albanian capital Tirana. Its very name fills former political prisoners
with dread. For many years this is the kind of place where those deemed a threat
to the communist state were sent to serve their sentences.
Just how many is a matter of dispute, but at least 6,000 and possibly as many as
25,000. Among them are two men, Adem Allci and Agron Kalaja. Between them they
spent 48 years of their lives in prison. Their crimes: spreading propaganda and
opposing the collectivisation of Albania's farms.
That may sound harsh, but another man spent several years inside for simply
owning a cassette by the British singer Joe Cocker.
Adem says: "This is nothing but a graveyard and it took the best years of
my life. I was here for 28 years, my family as a whole spent a total of 100
years here. Can you imagine how many families were affected? Some of them don't
even know where the bodies of their loved ones are.''
Under the Communists, political prisoners were a source of free labour, often
worked to death. They worked in the factories, in the fields, in the mines. They
even built Tirana's sports stadium. Many died from hunger and exhaustion. But
those that survived are not broken. They are angry.
They have staged several protests in the capital Tirana. Many are still waiting
for compensation promised them 10 years ago, when a law was passed which
entitled them to $30 (£16) for every day in prison.
The problem, says the country's Finance Minister Arben Malaj, is that Albania is
too poor to pay them. "The compensation they're asking for amounts to
$1.2bn (£658m)," he said. "That's an impossible amount for the
Albanian budget.'' Under a new law, the government is instead offering them a
pension worth a maximum of $50 (£27) a month.
Nano the lucky?
What makes the former prisoners even more angry is that Prime Minister Fatos
Nano and other senior figures have received compensation.
Mr Nano spent a spell in prison in the 1990s when he was convicted for
corruption. That conviction was later overturned, Mr Nano took his case for
compensation to court, and won.
More than a decade after communism, Albania is one of the poorest countries in
And those who were released from jail at the start of the 1990s are some of the
worst off. They walked out of the prison gates penniless, often traumatised by
the experience. The lucky had extended family to help them out.
Back at Burell Prison one cell has been turned into a museum. Filthy mattresses
line the floor, the names of the dead are listed on the walls.
Albanian Prime Minister Invites Austria To Take Part in Major Sell-Offs
Albania's Prime Minister Fatos Nano has invited Austrian companies to take
part in the ongoing privatisation of the country's strategic sector, Nano's
press office said in a statement. Nano, who went on a two-day visit to Austria
in early August, met Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.
The Albanian government's sell-off programme for the country's strategic sector
includes the privatisation of the power utility KESH, fixed-line monopoly
Albtelecom, insurer INSIG, oil refiner and oil products distributor ARMO, oil
extraction company Albpetrol, and oil fields services company Servcom.
The two officials discussed also the bilateral economic relations, as well as
co-operation in tourism, healthcare, defence, and education.
"Raiffeisen Zentralbank [which bought Albania's largest commercial bank
Savings Bank in December last year] is a proof of this new reality," Nano
said, adding that the bank's presence in the local market will have a further
positive impact on the local economy.
Austria backs also energy and water projects in Albania. Schuessel reconfirmed
Vienna's commitment to back Albania's EU integration.
"I guarantee that Austria will be among Albania's main supporters in its EU
integration," he said in a statement after the meeting. "Soon we will
meet with EU authorities to present our support," he added.
Nano took part in a forum on stability in Southeastern Europe in 21st century,
to be held in Salzburg.
EBRD helping generate electricity for Albania
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is lending Korporata
Elektroenergjetike Shqiptare (KESH), Albania's state-owned power utility, 40m
Euro (US$49.5m) to help improve power supply for residents and businesses across
The 15-year loan will enable KESH to finance the construction of a new
oil-fuelled thermal power plant in Vlore, just off the Adriatic coast in
south-west Albania. With an expected production capacity of up to 135MW, the
plant will help diversify electricity supply in a country which is currently 95
per cent dependent on hydro-power, which has lead to erratic supply patterns.
The loan builds on the success of 54m Euro in loans by the Bank to KESH in 1999
and 2002 to help it restore some existing generation and reduce losses by
improving transmission and distribution networks, but also to improve management
of the sector.
Under the co-management contract introduced and administered by the bank as part
of the 1999 loan, the Italian utility Enel has been assisting KESH to overcome
various sector problems.
As a result, Albania has been making progress to end an electricity crisis
partly created by excessive demand resulting from the illegal use of
electricity, non-payment of bills, and tariffs below full cost recovery.
The timing is now right to address the supply imbalance. Anthony Marsh, director
of Power and Energy at the EBRD, said the project will help reduce Albania's
reliance on hydro power while making it more efficient, ensure a reliable and
continuous supply of electricity for the country, and reduce Albania's
dependence on electricity imports to manageable levels.
It will also help Albania meet a requirement for joining the Union for the
Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE), an association of west and
east European transmission-system operators promoting the reliable operation of
electricity networks, of which it must be a member if it is to be a real player
in the southeast Europe regional integration process.
The total project cost is estimated to be up to 110m Euro, which will be
financed in cooperation with other institutions including the World Bank,
European Investment Bank and KESH, New Europe reported.
FOOD & DRINK
Albanian starts olive oil exports
Albanian olive oil will be exported for the first time to Switzerland, ATA News
Agency reported recently.
Sources from the Agricultural Business Council said that the first supply of 2.5
tonnes of oil will be exported to Switzerland by Shkalla company. Foreign
experts of the agricultural industry at various international fairs, hold the
oil produced by the company in high esteem for its original flavour and quality.
The olive oil industry in Albania meets currently only 8% of the market demand,
with the remainder being imported, a main cause of high prices in the niche
Third mobile telephony operator to enter Albania
A third mobile telephony company in Albania, Eagle Mobil, will enter the market
by the beginning of 2005, sources within the Ministry of Transport and
Telecommunications announced. Lack of capital for the purchase of technology
seems to have thwarted plans for the presence of a competitor that would trigger
a decrease in the tariffs of the other two companies currently operating on the
Albanian specific market, Vodafone and AMC, New Europe reported recently.
The Telecommunications Adjustment Enterprise had approved the third mobile
communication permit for "Eagle Mobil" company by mid-March, paving
the way for the implementation of GSM mobile telecommunications network by
Albtelecom on the basis of the business plan drafted by this company.
During the first stage, some €20m will be invested in extending the mobile
network to western Albanian lowlands as well as several important cities where
the subscriber numbers are put at 100,000. This new operator aims to enter the
market as soon as possible, seeing this as an advantage in the competition with
the other two mobile telephony operators. Eagle Mobile, is expected to operate
at lower tariffs than the other two companies.
According to sources with the Ministry of Transports cited by ATA, the
telecommunications market has seen solid development over the past years. Among
85 operators acting in the communication services, two of them, AMC and Vodafone
total over 1.200.000 subscribers. The digitalisation rate has surged to the
extent of 99% and by year-end, it is expected to reach hundred per cent numbers.
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