Books on Albania
Update No: 093 - (28/01/05)
PM visits France
Premier Nano is concerned to raise Albania's profile on the world stage. A
Francohile, on January 18th Nano travelled to Paris for a visit aimed at
discussing with the French leadership bilateral relations and Albania's role in
the stability of the Balkans region. During the two-day visit Nano met French
President Jacques Chirac, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and Senate president
"Albania is playing a role of moderator in the region and it has decided to
follow that path and become a factor of peace and stability in the
Balkans," Nano said. The Prime Minister also met French Industry Minister
Patrick Devedjian to discuss French investments in Albania.
Nano's long-term plans include Albania joining the EU. But that will have to
wait until Croatia has joined first, if not a few others too. For Albania was
until recently the poorest country in Europe. Now after several years of its GDP
growing by 7-8% per year, it is no longer that.
The turning point came with the Kosovo War in 1999, when it gave invaluable
assistance to NATO forces, becoming an ex officio member. International aid
flowed freely to deal with the more than 240,000 refugees from the conflict,
nearly all of whom have since returned home. But relations with neighbouring
Serbia and Macedonia, both with large ethnic Albanian minorities, remain hugely
Albanian and Macedonian leaders in key meetings
Hence the importance of another set of meetings. Macedonia is a vital partner
for Albania, having an even large Albanian minority in its population than does
Serbia in percentage terms. Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski's two-day
visit to neighbouring Albania was appropriately his first official trip abroad
since taking office late last year. Arriving in Tirana on 12th January, he met
with President Alfred Moisiu, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and Assembly Speaker
Regional issues and ways of boosting co-operation between Skopje and Tirana were
the focus of the talks. Buckovski and Nano both agreed that economic
co-operation should be the main priority for bilateral relations this year. They
expressed satisfaction with the level of co-operation between their interior
ministries in preventing transborder crime. They also agreed to work together to
resolve pending border issues, such as borderlines that split villages or
individual family properties.
"We requested Albania's assistance in the definition of the border between
Macedonia and Kosovo. For this we would need also the support of UNMIK and the
government in Belgrade," Buckovski told reporters during a joint news
conference with Nano, adding that the issue should be resolved before any
decision is reached on Kosovo's final status.
Welcoming Buckovski's initiative, Nano said UN resolutions for Kosovo should
serve as the basis for resolving any border problems. He also emphasised the
importance of US and EU participation in the process.
The dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter's constitutional name
was also discussed, with Buckovski receiving assurances from Nano that Albania
is ready to assist with efforts to reach a solution. Moving beyond such issues
would "contribute to the stability and the Euro-Atlantic integration"
of countries in Southeast Europe, Nano said.
Albanian-Macedonian relations are "excellent" and an "example for
the whole region," the prime ministers said.
During his meeting with Buckovski, Moisiu praised Macedonia's democratisation
process and its accomplishments in building a multiethnic society. He emphasised
the importance of bilateral agreements on economic issues, free trade, and
energy, as well as the two countries' joint efforts towards completion of
Transport Corridor 8 and the AMBO oil pipeline.
Missiles seized in Albania
In a disturbing development which shows how indispensable is close
cooperation between the Albanian and Macedonian authorities, Albanian police
have arrested four people smuggling in surface-to-air missiles allegedly
destined for Albanian separatists in Macedonia. The seizure in Albania of three
shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles allegedly destined for Albanian
separatists in Macedonia has sparked fears of a brewing security threat in the
The SA-7B Strela missiles were intercepted on 13 December. They are believed to
have originated in Bosnia or Serbia and may have been destined for Macedonia,
where ethnic-Albanian insurgents fought a brief war against the authorities in
2001. Albanian police arrested four people - Sokol Mujaj, Ilim Isufi, Armir
Troshani, and Mentor Cani - in possession of the missiles shortly after they
entered the country from Montenegro. Bajram Ibraj, director-general of the
Albanian police, said, "Four men were caught travelling with the missiles
on the Rinas-Vlora road, in a van belonging to a company dealing in sausages.
This was a police operation prepared in advance. We are still investigating the
origin and destination of the missiles, and our counterparts in Montenegro are
Security sources said that an Albanian separatist group operating in Kosovo and
Macedonia is believed to have ordered the missiles. The deal was allegedly
brokered by a Bosnian national, who sourced the weapons from a group with links
to Islamist and criminal networks. The Russian-made Strela and other
surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) pose a significant threat to both civilian and
military aircraft. Similar shoulder-launched missiles were launched -
unsuccessfully - against an Israeli airliner in Mombasa in 2002 and a more
advanced version, Strela 3, hit a DHL cargo plane on approach to Baghdad airport
in 2003. According to IWPR's security source, ethnic Albanian extremists in
Macedonia have dramatically stepped up military activities in the last three
months. They have attempted to obtain SAMs from several sources, possibly for
use against surveillance drones and Macedonian attack helicopters. There has
also been an upsurge in recruitment, local and international funding and the
purchase of medical supplies. The source also claims that insurgent radio
communication networks silent since 2001 have recently been heard making test
Unfinished political business
Tension has been rising in Macedonia since mid-November, when up to
300-armed ethnic Albanians appeared in the village of Kondovo near Skopje. The
men have since taken control of the village, digging trenches apparently
unhindered by security forces. Their intentions are unclear, as are their
loyalties. The Interior Ministry has dismissed the men as a group of criminals,
while speculation in the local press says they are Islamists linked to a
foreign-funded madrassah or religious school in the village. Some local sources
claim they are simply unemployed men airing their frustration with the leader of
the Albanian party now in the country's governing coalition, Ali Ahmeti, over
the poor state of the economy.
Whatever the explanation behind the Kondovo incident and the arms intercept,
analysts warn that the combination of unfinished political business, porous
borders, weak law enforcement and a plentiful supply of weapons continues to
pose a threat to the stability of the Balkans. However, international attempts
to step up efforts against organized crime in the region, including arms
trafficking, are bearing some fruit. The announcement of the missile seizure
came during a regional conference in Tirana, hosted by Albania's ministry of
public order, on tackling small arms and light weapons trafficking in south-east
Europe. The conference was organized by the Southeast European Co-operation
Initiative (SECI), a Bucharest-based centre for regional co-operation on
organized crime, and was attended by law enforcement officers from around the
As well as SECI, there are numerous police training, liaison and assistance
schemes in the region run by Interpol, the UN, the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the EU. It is clear, however, that the task of
combating arms trafficking is huge. One conference delegate, who did not want to
be named, pointed out that as no Balkan country grades its criminal intelligence
according to the reliability of its sources, it is hard for SECI to assess it.
"The idea of doing serious analysis of criminal organizations - the kind
that would allow one to take down a whole network rather than just individuals -
is also new," he added. Not only is there considerable mistrust between
different national police forces, there is also limited co-operation between the
various law-enforcement agencies within the same country.
Yet many southeastern European countries are working to limit the trafficking of
weapons through their territory, partly to meet strict membership criteria laid
down by the EU, and also to show the West that they are serious about tackling
organized crime gangs. There is no doubt that Albania and others in the region
are making progress, but the improvements sometimes run in parallel to criminal
activity that allegedly reaches the highest levels of government. Erion Veliaj,
leader of the Albanian civic protest movement Mjaft! (Enough!), told IWPR,
"Everything the government doesn't traffic itself, it intercepts to impress
the international community."
Earlier in 2004, Premier Nano was accused of facilitating the trafficking of
arms to the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, on the strength of
allegedly incriminating conversations he had in 1997. He subsequently said that
assisting the KLA was morally justifiable. "[Nano's] Kosovo trafficking
admission proves people at the top of government know how to traffic arms, and
so it may have happened in other incidents. I've seen Albanian-made Kalashnikovs
in Rwanda with my own eyes," said Veliaj. Moving weapons, drugs, human
beings or contraband across Balkan borders is slowly becoming a riskier
business, but it will be many years before trans-national criminals decide that
the likelihood of being captured and successfully prosecuted outweighs the
attractiveness of illicit profits.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Macedonian, Albanian premiers agree to step up economic ties, discuss Kosovo
Macedonian and Albanian Prime Ministers, Vlado Buckovski and Fatos Nano,
stressed, following their meeting in Tirana recently, that 2005 would definitely
be a year of intensified economic cooperation between Macedonia and Albania.
Buckovski opted for Albania as his first destination following the start of his
term in office as prime minister, paying a visit to Tirana at the invitation of
Fatos Nano, Macedonian Radio reported.
Their meeting focused on the joint efforts for NATO accession and Macedonia's
support for Albania in its bid for a Stabilization and Association Agreement [SAA]
with the European Union and in the subsequent phase of preparing for
Kosovo was also an inevitable topic. The two interlocutors agreed that a
mutually acceptable solution must be found with the help of Brussels and
Washington. The solution must comply with Belgrade's position and the aim must
be stability in the region.
Democratic authorities with whom we can have dialogue have now been elected in
Kosovo, Prime Minister Nano said.
The two prime ministers have voiced satisfaction with the good cooperation
between the two countries' Interior and Defence Ministries in curbing border
crime and securing the border.
It has been acknowledged that 2005 will definitely be a year of economic
cooperation. To this end, organizing economic forums and meetings of the
relevant ministries, chambers of commerce and businessmen have been planned.
Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, who had a private dinner with Defence Minister,
Pandeli Majko, after his arrival, was welcomed the following morning with full
The Macedonian delegation, which also included Deputy Foreign Minister, Fuad
Hasanovic, met Albanian Assembly Speaker, Servet Pellumbi, and President Alfred
Albania receives World Bank loan
Albania received a loan worth US$10m (€7.5m) from the World Bank to help
improve the country's education, health and social services, the finance
ministry said recently, cited by New Europe.
The loan was the last in a series of three since Albania launched in 2001 its
three-year National Strategy for Social and Economic Development, focused on
much-needed structural reforms. The third loan "will continue to support
the NSSED by building on the progress made thus far and by further consolidating
and strengthening the reform programme," the World Bank said. Albania must
pay back the loan in 20 years, with a 10-year grace period. Albania's 3.1m
people are among Europe's poorest, with an estimated 25% living below the
poverty line, according to the US's Food and Agriculture Organisation.