Books on Albania
Update No: 098 - (01/07/05)
Parliamentary elections ahead
Albania is coming up to a climacteric, July elections to parliament. The ruling
Socialist Party is favoured to win. Things were rotten for most of the
population in the 1990s. The switch to capitalism turned out to be to rampant
corruption and crime, pyramid financial scams and destitution for the majority.
But then came the Kosovo War in 1999; and Albania has not looked back since.
International aid and credits poured in; so did expert advisers and the like.
NATO troops established a modicum of order. GDP has risen by 7-8% per annum in
the sequel. The incumbent party in government was bound to benefit, the
Socialists, as it so happened.
They are also perceived as being not so corrupt as all that. Times have changed;
and Albania is no longer the poorest country in Europe. It is already de facto
in NATO. Its inclusion in the EU is just a matter of time, perhaps a decade
What a transformation for a country that had the direst dictatorship in Europe
two decades ago? Comrade Enver Hoxha, who died in March 1985, just before
arch-reformer Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow, must be turning over in
his grave. But then he felt a whiff of revisionism in the air even when he
visited Mao's China in 1952. Alas for the wickedness of the world, and above all
of the capitalist-roadsters, now ensconced in Beijing too!
OSCE mission to monitor elections
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is sending
a 400-strong team to Albania to monitor the July 3rd parliamentary elections.
The mission will go following an invitation from the Albanian government. In a
statement released in late May, the OSCE said a team of 37 experts would be in
Albania until mid-July to assess the entire election process.
Led by Danish Jorgen Grunnet, the mission will include a core team of 12
experts, based in Tirana, plus 25 long-term observers who will be deployed
throughout the country. The monitors represent 15 of the participating states in
the 55-nation OSCE. "The holding of democratic elections in which the
voters can have confidence is the joint responsibility of the Albanian
authorities, the political parties, the media and civil society," Grunnet
said. "Our role here remains the same as in previous elections: to observe
this process and report on our findings."
Unfortunately, it looks as if the Socialists are unable to resist the temptation
to skew the media and the whole electoral process their way. TV is giving them
extensive coverage at the expense of the opposition. According to the State
Electoral Commission (SEC), as many as 10 parties and two coalitions have been
banned due to the faking of 6,000 signatures.
But at least this indicates that the SEC is an independent body. It needs to
cooperate fully with the OSCE team in the course of the whole business.
World Bank, IMF tell Albania to forgo extensive credit
The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requested that
Albania cancel the procedures to collect financing on full commercial terms of a
key project, AENews reported recently, citing the WB in a statement. According
to the two global financial institutions, the loan is too costly and restricts
Albania's ability to carry out future projects.
The Albanian government green-lighted a deal with ABN Amro, a leading Dutch
bank, for an extensive loan of 54.09m Euro and US$11.52m that would be earmarked
for the reconstruction of the Tirana-Durres railway. According to the Fund, the
project would also help create the country's first railway link with its main
airport, Tirana international Airport.
"Irrespective of the project's inherent value as a vehicle to crowd in
private investments alongside the Tirana-Durres corridor, the IMF staff has
stressed in its bilateral dialogue with the Albanian authorities, including
during the last mission in early May, that- in order to safeguard macroeconomic
stability and the current growth momentum deriving from the gradually declining
interest rates and associated private sector investments - the associated
budgetary and financial impacts would need to be accommodated within the
medium-term expenditure framework and without undermining the declining path of
public debt," said Jan-Peter Olters IMF's representative resident in
For its part, the World Bank said: "It has interest rates higher than the
concessional project loans currently contracted, limiting the government's
ability to implement other projects currently projected within the context of
Albania's National Strategy for Socio-Economic Development (NSSED). This project
is too large and too expensive for it to be realised on top of current budget
Tirana inked an agreement with General Electric Transportation Systems SpA, the
Italian arm of the US industrial giant in 2003. Under the pact, GE would provide
aid to the government in receiving a commercial term debt provided by ABN Amro.
The government said the project has a return on the WB, such terms are deemed
very high for a railway project and too expensive, AENews reported.
"The bank is concerned by the lack of analysis of the economic and social
benefits that might stem from the project, and which would be essential to
justify the significant costs involved (equivalent to over 1% of Albania's
GDP)," the WB statement read. "Studies to date suggest that the
project would also generate a very large negative financial return. The bank is
also concerned about the technical suitability of some of the proposed
Albania airport revamping begins
Renovation of Albania's Mother Teresa International Airport is underway, New
Europe reported recently.
The German-led Airport Partners Consortium recently started building new
passenger and cargo terminals, a new bridge in the existing road and a new
access road with an 83m Euro (US$107.5m) investment over 3 years. The airport is
used by 10 airlines with flights departing for 15 destinations. A new air
traffic control system at the airport has already been installed. The aim is to
triple the number of travellers passing through the airport each year to 1.5m by
the end of 2006 and up to 3.0m by 2010. Security at the airport will also come
up to international standards. Prime Minister Fatos Nano said at the launching
ceremony that Albania would profit by about 600m Euro (US$777m) over 20 years.
FOOD & DRINK
Birra Tirana deals with Greece
Albanian brewer, Birra Tirana announced recently that it entered into an
agreement with Greek firm OK Athens for the export and distribution of its
products in Greece, AENews quoted Birra Tirana Marketing Director as telling the
Albania-based Biznesi daily.
"Our intention is to exports our products in all the countries where ethnic
as well as Albanian emigrants live," Jace told the newspaper. What Tirana
aims to do is export 7,000 hectolitres of beer to Greece, which would account
for more than 33% of its production capacity.
Turkish consortium purchases Albtelecom
Albania will sell 76% of the Albanian company Albtelecom Sh.A to a Turkish
consortium in a deal worth US$151m, the government announced recently,
The consortium, comprised of Turk telecom and Calik Enerji Telekomunikasyon AS,
was the only international group offering to buy the Albanian telecom. Ten other
companies from Slovenia, South Korea, the United States, Kuwait and Ireland, had
expressed interest earlier but did not submit bids.
Albtelecom, which the government valued about US$183m last January, is the only
fixed line telephone company in the country that also owns a mobile phone
The deal "is one of the most successful in the history of privatisation,"
Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, said. "It is an invaluable contribution in the
sustainable growth of the Albanian economy, an incontestable success of the
reform of privatisation and restructuring of the market and economy toward
standards of the global economy."
But the opposition Democratic party of former President, Sali Berisha, said they
would review the Albtelecom privatisation process, claiming it was sold beneath
its value and that the procedure was irregular.
Nano said the Turkish consortium represented two very powerful financial and
economic groupings "that serve as a guarantee to bring to Albania
contemporary models and standards of telecommunication."
Nano said Turk Telekom had 25 million subscribers for its fixed line telephone
service and 5 million for its mobile phone service, while Calik Enerji
Telekomunikacion was one of the three most powerful financial groupings in
Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries is in the process of privatising
state owned companies.