Books on Albania
Update No: 105 - (30/01/06)
A tough year ahead
After the political turbulence and drift associated with an election year,
Albania should enjoy a much greater sense of purpose in 2006. However, Prime
Minister Sali Berisha has strong ambitions for the local elections, and with a
highly effective new opponent in Socialist leader Edi Rama, the electoral
campaign could turn into a tough fight. That, in turn, may strain the otherwise
increasing sense of political stability.
Berisha, no doubt to his great delight, has seen off his long-time opponent,
Fatos Nano, who resigned the leadership of the Socialist Party of Albania after
eight years in power (1997-2005) on defeat last summer in July. But Rama, the
mayor of Tirana, is a tough replacement to face. He is riding high in the polls,
especially in the capital.
For those old enough to remember the days of Enver Hoxha, for decades dictator
of the small, obscure republic, it is still a miracle that the Albanians are
having a say in who rules over them. Long may it last.
But the form democracy should take is still in dispute.
Ruling party against presidential elections by popular vote
The presidency counts as well as the premiership in Albania's fledgling
democracy. The ruling Democratic Party of Albania rejected the motion tabled by
the opposition, proposing presidential election by popular vote, instead of vote
in the parliament, Makfax reports from Tirana.
The President of the Albanian Assembly Jozefina Topali said the Socialists'
proposal is unacceptable, because no international organization has put forward
such a request thus far. The ruling party reckons that the ambitions of the
Socialists' leadership stand behind the proposal.
Albania is due to elect a new president in 2007. The incumbent president Alfred
Mojsiu hopes for another term, reported Tirana's media.
Albanian analysts pointed out that the Socialists' proposal is related to the
mildly improved approval ratings of the opposition, and particularly of their
new leader Edi Rama. The latest opinion polls indicated that the new leader of
the Socialists and incumbent Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, was the most popular
person in Albania in 2006.
Nevertheless, newly elected Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has committed
his government and the Democratic Party to completing electoral reform as soon
as possible. "The government is committed to undertaking every action, in
cooperation with the local government, for an open and transparent process of
preparing lists," said Berisha, speaking on January 9th.
The EU is still far off
In its latest Progress Report, the European Commission assessed Albania,
especially in terms of the legislative and institutional progress and the
country's administrative capacity. The conclusion was that Albania has made
sufficient headway in order to implement a Stabilization and Association
Agreement, the stepping-stone to EU candidacy status.
Still, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, speaking to the Albanian
Parliament after issuing the report, warned of the need to fight against
corruption. "Albania must show results in fighting corruption," Rehn
warned Albanian deputies.
"Cases must be dealt with firmly, but strictly according to the rules, and
independently of party affiliation. This is important because Albania needs to
improve its administrative capacity in order to implement the Stabilization and
Association Agreement properly," said Rehn.
Albania remains low on the list of potential EU candidates. International
perceptions of Albania, especially with respect to corruption, organized crime
and political culture are far from good.
One of the first tasks of Berisha's administration will be to improve the
electoral system. All free elections held since the regime change have been
contested. The outgoing Socialist party also contested last July's elections.
Berisha believes there is now a consensus. "Proposals made by OSCE and
ODIHR create the basis. We started a parliamentary commission for the electoral
reform," he said.
World Bank to loan Albania US$196M over next 4 years
The World Bank said on January 11th that it would loan Albania US$196 million
over the next three years to help fight poverty, high unemployment and wide
regional economic disparities.
The bank's board of directors discussed assistance for the tiny Balkan country
until 2009, the World Bank said in a statement.
The new aid for Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries, will include loans
of US$86 million from the International Development Association and US$110
million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The funding will aim to help stimulate economic growth by supporting private
sector development and improving social services.
The plan is the bank's fourth aid program for Albania, whose gross domestic
product grew an estimated 5.5% in 2005 and is projected to grow 5% this year.
"However, maintaining this performance will be difficult, and Albania will
need to attract more foreign direct investment, increase public and private
savings, accelerate accumulation of physical and human capital, and improve
governance structures to maintain its impressive progress to date," the
Since 1991, the World Bank Group has been one of the main financiers for
post-communist Albania with up to US$953.6 million of aid.
Recently, Albania also signed a draft agreement with the International Monetary
Fund, which was expected to be approved later in January by the agency's
"Performance in improving the fiscal administration and the revenue
collection are the foundation of our promises (for this deal)," Prime
Minister Sali Berisha said.
An IMF mission visited Tirana last year to reach understanding on key reforms to
Albania's management of taxes, customs, market development, public debt and
The IMF praised Albania's efforts in keeping inflation down and maintaining
growth, but encouraged the country to do more to fight corruption and improve
The previous three-year, US$42.7 million Poverty-Reduction and Growth Facility
program began in June 2002 and expired in November 2005.
Albania to subsidise diesel fuel cost for farmers
According to Albania's agriculture ministry US$3 million will be earmarked to
subsidise purchases of excise duty-free diesel fuel for domestic farmers. The
subsidies will cover the difference between the price of 40 leks (US$0.3913) per
litre, at which the diesel fuel will be supplied to farmers, and the 65 leks per
litre, at which state-owned oil refinery ARMO sells the fuel, Agriculture
Ministry spokesman, Rexhep Shahu, said, New Europe reported.
Beneficiaries of the subsidies are farmers using agricultural machines, running
greenhouses and dairy processing lines. The centre-right coalition government,
led by Sali Berisha, has alleged that some 11 million litres of excise-free
diesel fuel had been distributed outside target groups prior to the elections.
Since then, the government has introduced a new distribution scheme aimed at
avoiding abuses. Agriculture contributes around 25 per cent to Albania's gross
domestic product. The government has allocated 4.7 billion leks in spending to
the sector in the 2006 draft budget.
Central bank of Albania issues license
The Central Bank of Albania issued its final banking license to Union Bank on
December 30th 2005, which becomes the country's third private bank, New Europe
Union Bank received a preliminary license in February 2005 and since then it has
completed its infrastructure and legal procedures of registration, nominated
administrators and deposited the initial capital, according to a statement of
the central bank. All commercial banks are required to have a basic capital of 1
billion leks (US$10.1 million). Sixteen other commercial banks, two Albanian and
14 foreign are operating in the country.
Albania holds tender for electricity in 2006
Albania held an international tender on December 19th to buy electricity for
this year to solve the power crisis that has caused power cuts across the
country, the power corporation said, New Europe reported.
Seven companies from Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Britain
and Albania presented their bids to supply the electricity requested by the
state-owned KESH power company for 2006.
Since November KESH has scheduled daily power cuts to all Albania's consumers,
except for hospitals, water supply stations, police and emergency services and
foreign embassies, after its production dropped drastically when main hydropower
stations, built along the Drini river, failed as drought earlier last year led
to a lack of water.
The KESK officials said they ended some time to announce the winning bid.
Albania signs new agreements with IMF, WB
As a previous World Bank loan of US$130m did not produce the expected results,
particularly in improving governance now the World Bank announced a loan of
US$196m until 2009, New Europe reported.
The Albanian government signed a draft three-year agreement with the IMF on
January 11th. The deal sets out a number of guidelines for Albanian
institutions, including setting a realistic budget and threshold for tax
collections, as well as improving control over expenditures. The IMF Board if
expected to approve it on January 27th. Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, said at
the signing ceremony, "I am pleased to notice that during these months,
developments are on the right track to guarantee macroeconomic stability and
stable development. It is also important to implement, in the second half of the
year, a fiscal package which will encourage the economic growth and employment
Mobile Communications installs BSCS 8 from LHS
A subsidiary of the leading Greek mobile operator COSMOTE, Albania Mobile
Communications (AMC) has installed its BSCS 8 billing and customer care solution
from LHS. The promotional offers and special tariffs can now be rolled out
across both pre- and post-paid customers with this installation. The newly
installed billing system will allow AMC to effectively support recently launched
GPRS services such as wireless Internet and MMS. SCS 8 delivers end-to-end
content charging from the network and application interaction through to the
billing and partner settlement across all mobile, fixed and IP networks, New
AMC will now be offering its customers continuous connection to the Internet
without subscription to an Internet service provider. "BSCS 8 has proven to
be a real-time, very flexible and open system at COSMOTE Greece, thus fulfilling
important requirements for AMC, the leading operator in Albania, while at the
same time reducing total operational expenses of billing for the whole COSMOTE
Group," commented Christos Christopoulos, COSMOTE IT director. "We are
the first operator in Albania to offer internet services via mobile phone and it
is very important to us and our customers that the billing system allows for the
quick launch of new services in order to keep our strong competitive advantage.
BSCS will support us with the bundling of voice, data and content services and
help us to further differentiate from competition with complex and integrated
marketing campaigns," Detlef Purschke, Division Officer Europe, LHS added:
"We specifically designed BSCS 8 to allow flexible billing for