Books on Albania
Update No: 123 - (31/08/07)
President elected in July
In July the Albanian parliament elected a new president. It took four rounds of
voting for Bamir Topi to scrape together the three-fifths majority he needed to
win. The final vote came after days of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring between
Premier Sali Berisha and Fatos Nano, his Socialist predecessor. Mr Nano's own
hopes of becoming president were dashed when he failed to win the backing of his
successor as party leader, Edi Rama.
The feud between Mr Berisha and Mr Nano, both prominent under Enver Hoxha, is
one reason why Albania still suffers from high unemployment and low investment.
Albanian migrants working in western Europe and America send home almost $1
billion a year in remittances. Most goes towards building homes and looking
after jobless family members. Many Albanians are wary of setting up businesses
at home, where licences are given out to political cronies, existing firms use
blackmail and intimidation to discourage rivals and the judiciary is corrupt.
A hard task for the new president
Mr Topi may find himself doing rather more than his job description would
suggest. A 50-year-old biologist, he is the first head of the republican state
never to have been a member of the Communist Party. He is also one of the
country's few senior politicians not to have been seriously tainted by scandal.
That he is a scientist is doubtless, why he was chosen.
The president does not have executive powers, but he has a say in appointing
senior members of the judiciary and is also head of the armed forces. Mr Topi,
deputy leader of the ruling Democratic Party under Sali Berisha, the present
prime minister, has a reputation as a moderate. Could he give Albania's image
abroad qa boolst and to help calm its chronic internecine political warfare,
that marred July's presidential election and nearly brought about a general
Mr Topi's first big task will be to name a new chief prosecutor to replace
Theodhori Sollaku, who has been accused of having links with organised crime. Mr
Sollaku, who was appointed by the Socialists in 2002, denies this, and his
mandate has no expiry date. But Mr Topi is expected to push for a constitutional
amendment to set a time limit. He will present this as one of the reforms that
are needed for entry into NATO, a goal Albania hopes to achieve at next year's
NATO summit in Romania. Without even a remote chance of early European Union
membership, Albania is eager to join the other principal Western club soon.
Berisha beckons to forein investment
Berisha hopes to attract more foreign investment with his "Albania
one-euro" policy of offering sites to foreign companies at minimal rents.
But there are likely to be few takers so long as electricity shortages persist.
In Tirana this summer, power has been switched off for at least six hours a day;
in the countryside, power cuts can last as long as 20 hours. Plans for private
investors to build new power plants are way behind schedule. Continuing power
cuts are a big reason for a recent dip in the government's popularity and a
revival in the Socialists' fortunes.
On the other hand, the economy is growing by about 6% a year. Land prices are
rising, especially along the Adriatic coast, as foreigners buy up plots for
future development. If the future of Kosovo is settled satisfactorily later this
year, the prospects for Albania should brighten.