Books on Albania
Update No: 108 - (30/05/06)
The turn-around of a poor country
If there is one country that has been doing well in the new millennium it is
Albania. In the twentieth century it had the misfortune to fall into the hands
of a particularly brutal and dire communist regime, run by a megalomaniac
dictator, Enver Hohxa, who was for all that a cultured man, a schoolmaster,
speaking several languages fluently and with a wide knowledge of world
The one and only boon he bequeathed his people was a sound educational system;
he made his backward nation literate and numerate. In the new world of computers
and the internet this is a big advantage.
He departed the scene in March 1985 just as Gorbachev came to power in Moscow,
an event that was to sweep away communism throughout Europe, including in
Albania, in the next few years.
Albania had an unfortunate first decade of freedom in the 1990s, remaining a
very poor country, the poorest in Europe indeed. The economy contracted
disastrously under misguided Western tutelage of 'shock therapy' and
privatisation that handed over much of the country's assets to crooks and
bandits who came out of the woodwork, where communism had banished them, with
remarkable rapidity. They had allies among the corrupt members of the previous
A disastrous financial crisis broke in 1997 due to madcap pyramid banking
schemes, that the Albanians with savings, quite untutored in the ways of
capitalism, fell for, hook, line and sinker. The Socialist Party, heir to the
Communist Party, made a comeback in that very year and ruled until 2005. They
were lucky in their timing. The Kosovo War broke out in 1999 and proved a
godsend for Albania, putting it definitively on the map.
Foreign aid and credits, plus expert help from Western institutions, came to the
rescue of the benighted land, this time with more caution and wisdom, having
learnt something from previous mistakes. Albania has not looked back since, its
GDP growing by 7% or more per annum in the 2000s.
The conservatives under Sali Berisha, premier in the mid-1990s, made a comeback
of their own in elections last year. He is pursuing the same policies as the
socialists before him - full integration with the West. Recent events have
furthered this ambition mightily.
US backs Albania, Macedonia, Croatia for Western alliances
The major development is that Vice President Dick Cheney lent US support on
May 7th to three Balkan nations, including Albania, seeking to join NATO and the
European Union as he wrapped up a tour of ex-communist states dominated by his
criticism of Russia and Belarus.
Speaking at a summit of the Adriatic Charter group made up of Albania, Croatia
and Macedonia, Cheney told leaders their countries' entry would help revitalise
the democratic values of the two Western clubs. He praised them for reforms to
meet NATO and EU eligibility and said their involvement in US-led military
operations in Iraq or Afghanistan was also "a very important step."
"You who aspire to those organisations help rejuvenate it and help us
re-dedicate ourselves to the basic and fundamental values of freedom and
democracy," he said at the opening of the meeting in the picturesque
Croatian port of Dubrovnik.
Cheney's praise for the Adriatic leaders' efforts stood in marked contrast to
the stinging rebuke of Russia and Belarus that he delivered to Baltic and Black
Sea heads of state in Vilnius on the first stop of his five-day trip.
Cheney made diplomatic waves at a time of increasingly chilly US-Russian
relations when he accused President Vladimir Putin of backsliding on democracy
and using Moscow's vast energy resources to "blackmail" its neighbours.
Russia brushed off Cheney's remarks as "incomprehensible," but
lingering tensions between the two former Cold War rivals could bode ill for a
G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July.
Further integration of Moscow's neighbours into Western alliances could
compound its anger. Many Russians worry the US push for global democracy is
really aimed at achieving dominance in what they considered their sphere of
influence before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a sphere that
included Albania. Hohxa regarded Tito as a vile revisionist and always cleaved
Reflecting post-communist Eastern Europe's embrace of the West and persistent
concerns about Russia, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha told the conference
his government would "pay any price" to implement NATO's membership
requirements. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said the group hoped to
receive a "strong signal" on membership prospects at the military
alliance's summit in Riga in November.
Croatia opened EU accession talks in October and hopes to join around 2009. It
is also further along than its Adriatic Charter partners in its NATO drive. The
three signed the US-backed Adriatic Charter two years ago after missing out on
NATO's two eastward expansion waves.
The US is giving help in another vital quarter, as the following article
US helps Albania tackle corruption
A US$13.8m agreement signed by Albania and the US Millennium Challenge
Corporation is expected to help the country tackle corruption and improve the
By Erlis Selimaj for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 08/05/06
Under a two-year agreement signed in April, the US Millennium Challenge
Corporation (MCC) will provide US$13.8m in assistance to help Albania implement
a "Threshold programme" aimed at tackling corruption and improving the
The funding is expected to start this summer, after USAID declares the winners
of a tender for monitoring the project's implementation. The Albanian government
has requested MCC assistance with fighting corruption in three areas: tax
administration, public procurement and the business registration process.
Corruption has threatened Albania's democracy and stifled its growth, said MCC's
chief executive officer, Ambassador John Danilovich, at the signing ceremony.
"Corruption also weakens foreign and private investment and undercuts the
efforts of those laboring to promote a transparent, level playing field for
their own development," Danilovich said. The government's plan is "a
manifestation of Albania's dedication to moving forward and embracing genuine
development, growth, and poverty reduction," he added.
Prime Minister Sali Berisha describes corruption as "a cancer, a national
emergency to be tackled."
"The Albanians have been suffering from this phenomenon in the last years,
while corruption has been causing a lot of damage to the country. The Albanian
government is working seriously to make the fastest and the right
response," he said. In fact, Albania has been about as lawless a country as
Europe has ever known and a cheerful disregard for laws of any kind seems almost
to have been bred in the bone. One wishes them well, but it will be interesting
to see how the US$13.8m aimed at tacking corruption, is itself in due course
actually accounted for.
Albania slipped 18 places in October 2005 to 126th of the 159 nations in
Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perception Index -- an annual
ranking that is closely watched in Eastern Europe. The international community
has said that Albania must fight corruption, curb human trafficking and improve
the judiciary in order to achieve its goals of joining the EU and NATO.
The Threshold programme in Albania is expected to produce a number of results.
Tax collection should increase from 30.4 per cent to 50 per cent; the cost of
government procurements is to be trimmed by 20 per cent; and the number of new
businesses registered monthly is to increase from 625 to 1,000. It currently
takes 47 days to register a new business; under the programme, this should be
cut to one day.
The programme also seeks to meet benchmarks in reducing bribery in tax
collection, business registration and procurement of government contracts.
The MCC was established by the US Congress in 2004 to administer the Millennium
Challenge Account (MCA), set up to provide development assistance to countries
that "rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic
freedom." If it successfully completes the Threshold project, Albania could
qualify for further assistance under the MCA, which has given aid of up to
US$1.6 billion to a dozen countries.
Albania-Italy sign 15.3m Euro deal for Vlore port works
The Albanian and Italian governments signed a 15.3 million Euro deal recently to
reconstruct the port of Vlore, the second most important in Albania, ANSAmed
The project funding agreement was signed by Albanian Transport Minister, Lulezim
Basha, and Italy's Ambassador to Tirana, Attilio Massimo Iannucci. Some 300,000
Euro of the Italian funding will be granted for preliminary engineering and
monitoring activities both during the launch of the tenders and during the
works, while the balance will be allocated in the form of credit. The loan will
be destined for engineering services for the executive planning and supervision
of the works and for the main interventions of rehabilitation and
reconstruction. The Vlore port project envisages the construction of a pier for
commercial ships and for passenger ships, as well as improvement of the
operations of loading, unloading, storage and customs clearance of goods.
Italy loans 51m Euro for energy system
The Albanian government has approved a credit agreement with Italy for the
realisation of the three-year "Programme for Restructuring and Improvement
of Albania's Energy System" at a total cost of 51.5 million Euro, ANSAmed
The programme's objective is to integrate Albania's energy system into the
Balkan regional market. The funding will be used for the construction of new
headquarters for the Transmission System's Operator, monitoring equipment,
construction of a new power station in Tirana, enlargement of the existing power
plant in Elbasan and a new 400kW power line connecting them.
Balkan presidents meet in Durres
The presidents of eight Balkan countries met at an informal conference
recently in the Albanian coastal city of Durres to discuss economic and tourism
cooperation, New Europe reported.
Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov, Croatia's Stjepan Mesic, Suleman Tihic of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro's Filip Vujanovic, Serbian President Boris
Tadic, Macedonian leader Branko Crvenkovski, Albania's Alfred Moisiu and Traian
Basescu of Romania also discussed activities the region could undertake to speed
up its inclusion in Euro-Atlantic structures, it was reported. The
"informal meeting ... serves in the best way to bring us closer together
and to integrate our countries in NATO and the EU," the Albanian ATA news
agency quoted conference host Moisiu as saying in his opening address. Before
the start of the conference, the participants also held separate meetings to
consider bilateral cooperation.