Books on Albania
Update No: 117 - (22/02/07)
Local elections help the Socialists
Albania finally held long-delayed local elections on Sunday, February 18th with
the poll itself seen as yet another test of the political maturity of the former
Communist bastion. The election date was delayed from January 20th owing to
political strife that threatened to end with an opposition boycott.
After inflammatory campaigns, with allegations of corruption dominating the
agenda, a compromise on election rules was reached by the main blocs only after
international mediation and pressure. European Union, NATO and United States
officials had warned the country's leaders that the elections were a gauge of
Albania's readiness to progress along the path of integration. Foreign and local
observers monitored the entire election process. Past elections in Albania were
often marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging
The 2.9 million registered voters were able to choose local authorities, with
Prime Minister Sali Berisha's ruling conservative bloc pitted against the
Socialist-led opposition as the main blocs.
Pollsters predicted a close race and so it turned out. The favourable result,
55-45, for the Socialists, which it will consequently take weeks to confirm,
could help them turn up the pressure for early parliamentary elections.
Energy crisis in Albania deepens
While the politicians squabble, the people are more pre-occupied with practical
matters. The economy is booming by GDP growth rates of around 7% per annum in
the 200s. But this has generated an endemic power crisis.
Albanian citizens are facing interruptions in power supply lasting from four to
14 hours a day, although the Albanian Electric Power Corporation has not
officially announced imposing restrictions yet.
The residents of the capital Tirana are faced with four- to six-hour
restrictions in electricity supply, Makfax's correspondent reported. Elsewhere
across the country, power cuts last for eight hours, and even 14 hours a day in
the villages. The biggest hydro-electric plant in the country, "Fierza,"
is operating with minimum water supplies.
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha himself admitted that the country faces an
energy crisis, while the Government and the National Electric Power Company
expects to overcome the crisis by imports.
AMBO pipeline deal clears another hurdle
The plan to transport Caspian oil across Bulgaria and Macedonia to the
Albanian port of Vlora is closer to becoming reality.
The AMBO pipeline deal cleared another obstacle late last month, as economy
ministers from Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia signed an agreement in Skopje
providing for construction to begin next year. The first oil is expected to be
pumped through the pipeline in 2011.
"There is a lot of work ahead," said AMBO President Ted Ferguson.
"Environmental studies should be conducted and construction licenses should
be obtained so that the construction starts in late 2008."
Conceived in 1994, the AMBO project has been held up for years, as regional
instability and conflicts kept investors at bay. Meanwhile, the
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline has stolen the spotlight.
Momentum finally picked up in July 2003, with the signing of an agreement by the
presidents of Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. On December 27th, 2004, the three
countries' prime ministers signed a political declaration, followed by a
Memorandum of Understanding between country representatives and Ferguson.
On October 30th 2006, Albania and Macedonia signed a protocol on the entrance
points of the pipeline -- the Albanian village of Stebleve and Macedonian
village of Lakaica. A similar protocol between Bulgaria and Macedonia was signed
later in 2006.
The pipeline will pump Caspian oil from the Bulgarian port of Burgas via
Macedonia to Vlora, for transport to European countries and the United States.
Four pump stations -- two in Bulgaria and one each in Macedonia and Albania --
will be constructed along the route.
The pipeline will be 894km long, with 273km passing through Macedonia. It is
expected to have a capacity of 750,000 barrels of oil per day. The annual
transit of crude oil will be 30m-40m tonnes and the whole investment will amount
to US$1.2 billion. About 80% of the funds have been provided so far. Ferguson
said no difficulties are expected in ensuring the rest of the financing.
"The countries directly involved in realisation of the pipeline will
benefit from oil transport transit fees, which are estimated at US$30m on an
annual basis for Macedonia," Macedonian Minister of Economy Vera
Rafajlovska said. "The pipeline will also create new jobs and foster the
economic development of the countries."
For Albanian Minister Genc Ruli, the project has a broader impact. "The
pipeline will contribute to integration development and stability in the region
not only in terms of energy, but in wider terms," he said.
Czech utility company CEZ to supply electricity
Czech utility company, CEZ, has announced plans to supply electricity to
Albanian power company KESH, AENews reported.
"This first trial supply might be followed by larger supplies in the next
months," CEZ spokeswoman, Eva Novakova, was quoted as saying. CEZ currently
trades electricity in nine Central and Southeastern European markets, and
increasing this could help alleviate its slowly dwindling domestic market share,
it was reported. "As its share of the electricity market in the Czech
Republic drops, CEZ is aiming its sales activities at other countries,"
said Jakub Zidon, an analyst with bank Ceska sporitelna.
CEZ now plans to expand its trading into the Balkans, it was reported. CEZ was
cited as saying its overall share of the Czech end-customer electricity market
is expected to drop this year to 53 per cent from 56 in 2005. In Albania, yearly
electricity consumption only reaches 7.5 terawatt hours, while in comparison,
demand in the Czech Republic reached 57.6 terawatt hours in 2005, it was
reported. Albania, like other countries in the region, has been forced to import
more electricity, presenting energy groups like CEZ with opportunities. CEZ is
already one of four short-listed bidders for building a 2.5 billion Euro power
plant in Kosovo. "The main focus of CEZ will still be to produce
energy," said Jan Prochazka, an analyst with brokerage Cyrrus.
Cooperation to be strengthened with Albania
Macedonia Foreign Minister, Antonio Miloshoski, recently visited the Albanian
capital, Tirana, where he met with top Albanian officials and discussed stepping
up cooperation between the two countries in the areas of mutual interest -
particularly the countries' bids for membership in EU and NATO and the current
situation in the region, MRTOnline reported.
In the course of his visit to Tirana, Miloshoski met with Albanian President,
Alfred Mojsiu, Parliament Speaker, Xhozefina Topali, and Prime Minister, Sali
Berisha. The Miloshoski agenda also included meetings with his Albanian
counterpart, Besnik Mustafaj, and with representatives of Macedonia's minority
in Albania. Macedonia and Albania will step up cooperation in the areas of
economy, tourism and energy. "Macedonia vowed to build a 400kW power line
that will be of great importance to Albania in terms of electricity
imports," Mustafaj was quoted as saying. Miloshoski on his part said that
Macedonia will help Albania overcome the energy crisis, and noted, however, that
it will not include increasing the allowed quantity of water released on the
Albanian side of the Ohrid Lake. Moreover, during the meeting with Berisha,
Miloshoski discussed details relating to the forthcoming visit of the Macedonia
Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, to Tirana. Miloshoski's agenda also included
talks with the Albanian President, Alfred Mojsiu, at which they expressed the
state of the current bilateral relations between the two countries. The
Macedonia minister held meeting with the representatives of Macedonia's parties
and associations in Albania, where they reiterated the call for the Albanian
authorities to respect their rights guaranteed by the international conventions.