Books on Albania
Update No: 099 - (26/07/05)
Electorate spurns the saviours
In an upset the Albanians have voted out the ruling Socialist Party, in power
Things were rotten for most of the Albanian population in the 1990s. The switch
to capitalism turned out to be to rampant corruption and crime, pyramid
financial scams and destitution for the majority.
But then came the Kosovo War in 1999; and Albania has not looked back since.
International aid and credits poured in; so did expert advisers and the like.
NATO troops established a modicum of order. GDP has risen by 7-8% per annum in
the sequel. The incumbent party in government benefited in 2001, the Socialists,
as it so happened.
They were also perceived as being not so corrupt as all that. Times have
changed; and Albania is no longer the poorest country in Europe. It is already
de facto in NATO. Its inclusion in the EU is just a matter of time, perhaps a
What a transformation for a country that had the direst dictatorship in Europe
two decades ago? Comrade Enver Hoxha, who died in March 1985, just before
arch-reformer Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow, must be turning over in
his grave. But then he felt the whiff of revisionism in the air even when he
visited Mao's China in 1952. Alas for the wickedness of the world, and above all
of the capitalist-roaders, now ensconced in Beijing too!
Berisha is back
A former president of Albania who resigned as his country descended into anarchy
in the late 1990s gained the seats necessary to form a new government, according
to parliamentary election results released on July 9th.
Sali Berisha served as president from 1993 until 1997, when central government
in this Balkan nation broke down. The collapse of pyramid investment schemes
caused thousands of ordinary Albanians to lose their life savings, touching off
the chaos. Angry crowds looted army depots for weapons and went on shooting
rampages. Thousands were killed, and a NATO-led force was deployed to help
restore order. Berisha's government was replaced by a temporary administration
backed by foreign powers.
Albania held the most recent parliamentary elections on July 3rd. So far,
results have been announced for 93 of the 100 single-seat constituencies, with
the Democratic Party winning 55 and Prime Minister Fatos Nano's Socialists
taking 37. An independent candidate took one seat.
Berisha's lead appeared insurmountable. However, the Central Election Commission
was examining about 230 protests from candidates and political parties that
could reduce the seats Berisha has won and dilute his strength in the 140-member
The remaining 40 seats are allocated based on a proportional representation
system that will also benefit Berisha. According to Saturday's results, his
party and allies will take a majority of 71 seats.
It remained unclear when all the results were expected, but sorting out the many
protests could drag into next week. Counting the 1.6 million or so ballots that
were cast began immediately after Sunday's polls. Since then, officials have
said, many politicians responsible for endorsing the results have refused to do
so for partisan reasons.
Berisha, a 60-year-old cardiologist, has pledged to promote Albania's efforts to
join NATO and the European Union, fight corruption and poverty, and slash taxes
by 50 percent to promote investment.
Albanian Election Commission criticises main opposition party
The head of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Ilirjan Celibashi,
criticised the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) on 7th July. Celibashi told
a news conference that the DP has been pressuring the CEC amid the continued
failure to complete the ballot counting and present final results from Sunday's
parliamentary vote. Celibashi also denied DP accusations that he has held long
closed-door meetings with a top official of the ruling Socialist Party, Foreign
Minister Kastriot Islami.
Vote counting was further delayed fter three small parties -- the Socialist
Movement for Integration, the Democratic Alliance and Social Democracy, and the
Movement for National Development coalition -- requested a recount of some of
the ballots, citing irregularities.
World Bank, IMF tell Albania to forgo extensive credit
The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requested that
Albania cancel the procedures to collect financing on full commercial terms of a
key project, AENews reported recently, citing the WB in a statement. According
to the two global financial institutions, the loan is too costly and restricts
Albania's ability to carry out future projects.
The Albanian government green-lighted a deal with ABN Amro, a leading Dutch
bank, for an extensive loan of 54.09m Euro and US$11.52m that would be earmarked
for the reconstruction of the Tirana-Durres railway. According to the Fund, the
project would also help create the country's first railway link with its main
airport, Tirana international Airport.
"Irrespective of the project's inherent value as a vehicle to crowd in
private investments alongside the Tirana-Durres corridor, the IMF staff has
stressed in its bilateral dialogue with the Albanian authorities, including
during the last mission in early May, that- in order to safeguard macroeconomic
stability and the current growth momentum deriving from the gradually declining
interest rates and associated private sector investments - the associated
budgetary and financial impacts would need to be accommodated within the
medium-term expenditure framework and without undermining the declining path of
public debt," said Jan-Peter Olters IMF's representative resident in
For its part, the World Bank said: "It has interest rates higher than the
concessional project loans currently contracted, limiting the government's
ability to implement other projects currently projected within the context of
Albania's National Strategy for Socio-Economic Development (NSSED). This project
is too large and too expensive for it to be realised on top of current budget
Tirana inked an agreement with General Electric Transportation Systems SpA, the
Italian arm of the US industrial giant in 2003. Under the pact, GE would provide
aid to the government in receiving a commercial term debt provided by ABN Amro.
The government said the project has a return on the WB, such terms are deemed
very high for a railway project and too expensive, AENews reported.
"The bank is concerned by the lack of analysis of the economic and social
benefits that might stem from the project, and which would be essential to
justify the significant costs involved (equivalent to over 1% of Albania's
GDP)," the WB statement read. "Studies to date suggest that the
project would also generate a very large negative financial return. The bank is
also concerned about the technical suitability of some of the proposed
World Bank lends US$17.5m to Albania
The World Bank announced recently that it was giving Albania a US$17.5m (14.45m
Euro) loan to clean up its coastal area. The loan, to be used over seven years,
is "to protect Albania's coastal natural resources and cultural assets and
promote sustainable development of the Albanian coast," the World Bank's
office in Tirana said. The organisation's board approved the loan on June 21,
New Europe reported.
The total cost of the project is estimated at US$38.6m (31.87m Euro) and it will
also be financed with grants from the Dutch, Austrian and Japanese governments,
the European Commission and the Albanian government itself.
The bank is helping implement several programmes in the coastal zone like
irrigation, drainage, water resources management, wastewater management, port
development, urban planning and community works.
The project is aimed at helping Albania promote tourism. The government is
promoting tourism as part of a 10-year plan to turn the sector into a major
source of income, and hopes to draw an annual 1.25m foreigners to its 450km (270
miles) coastline by 2012. The bulk of tourists now visiting Albania are ethnic
Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia as well as expatriate Albanians returning
home from other parts of Europe.
The World Bank has been one of the key funders of post-communist Albania, with
loans and grants totalling US$792m (654m Euro) for energy, infrastructure,
agriculture, education and health projects since 1991.
US Ex-Im Bank lends US$47.6m to Albania
The Export-Import Bank of the United States approved a loan of US$47.6m to help
Albania modernise its Air Traffic Agency and upgrade its navigation system, the
bank's director said recently, The Washington Post reported.
Linda Conlin said the loan would help buy an air traffic control navigation
system from Lockheed Martin Corp, and toward purchasing other equipment and
services needed for the upgrade.
"It will support skilled US jobs at Lockheed Martin, help modernise
Albania's transportation infrastructure at Mother Teresa Airport in Tirana, and
serve as a model for future US participation in modernising Albania's
infrastructure," Conlin said.
Albania hired the US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin two years ago to modernise
its air control system over four years. Last year it installed a new air control
system to cope with increased traffic during the Olympic Games in neighbouring
The Lockheed system would triple the capacity for air flight times and fuel cost
for airlines flying between north-western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.
Albania will pay off the loan mainly with revenues from flights over its
airspace, and thus not burden the government budget, she said.
A feasibility study was provided by the US Trade and Development Agency, Conlin
said. The loan guarantor is BNP-Paribas, based in New York city.
Ex-Im Bank is also interested in supporting the electrical plant in Vlora, 90
miles southwest of Tirana; a trans-Balkan oil pipeline; and the reconstruction
of a rail by General Electric Co, with a link between Tirana and its
international airport, Conlin said.
EIB credits Albania road projects
European Investment Bank (EIB) will allocate a 35m Euro loan to Albania for the
modernisation of a road section that is 70km long which connects the cities of
Fier and Tepelene, in the northern-southern area of the country, New Europe
The loan aims at improving the internal connections in the country and with
Greece and Montenegro. According to EIB analysts, the investment will have a
positive impact on the country's economy, especially in the south, by creating
3,400 part-time jobs up to 2009 when works should be completed. The loan adds to
the 35m Euro offered by the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and
Albright visits Kosovo
Former United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, arrived in Pristina
on July 4 for a three-day visit to determine Kosovo's success in accomplishing
democratic standards six years after NATO air strikes ended the Serbian
crackdown on Albanian separatists. "I have from the very beginning
understood the dream of the people of Kosovo and I have myself worked to try to
make this dream come true," said Albright, now the head of Washington-based
National Democratic Institute (NDI). Albright is considered a national hero
amongst local Albanians for her role in the series of acts that resulted in the
withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and the deployment of the United
Nations administration and NATO-led peacekeepers in 1999, New Europe reported.