Books on Albania
Update No: 096 - (26/04/05)
A bright future beckons?
Can Albania shake off its reputation for gangsterdom and lawlessness and secure
a place in the queue for membership of the EU? It is a country with a bleak past
until very recently. But does it now have a bright future?
The answer will become clearer after a general election to be held in July. But
it will be the conduct of the poll as much as its outcome that will decide
whether Albania becomes a candidate for EU accession.
Who will win the July elections?
Fatos Nano, the Socialist prime minister, is seeking a third straight election
win over Sali Berisha, the former president and leader of the right of centre
Democratic Party. In 2001 the Socialists benefited from a boom from the impact
of the Kosovo War of 1999, which brought massive international aid and credits,
while foreigners came to town in droves. GDP growth has been in the 7-8% range
subsequently and Albania is no longer the poorest country in Europe.
Both Nano and Berisha support Albania's full integration with Western Europe at
the earliest possible date through membership of Nato and the EU. And both
stress that political stability is no longer in doubt in spite of problems with
organised crime, trafficking and corruption.
But their fierce personal rivalry, the fact that their respective power bases in
the north and south of the country reflect a traditionally violent fault line in
Albanian politics, and the widespread availability, of automatic weapons all
give cause for concern.
There is little popular enthusiasm for another round in the grudge match between
the socialist and democrat leaders.
After 8 years in power, Mr Nano's Socialists face a mounting "fed-up"
factor. At the same time memories are still fresh of the anarchy that followed
the collapse in 1997 of the fraudulent pyramid savings schemes tolerated by Mr
Berisha and the democrats.
Ilir Meta, the reform minded former prime minister who battled unsuccessfully to
unseat Mr Nano as the socialist party leader, hopes his left of centre splinter
group will attract enough votes from young Albanians to hold the balance of
The European Commission has warned that if elections fail to meet international
standards, stalled negotiations with Albania on a stabilisation and association
agreement - for the first step to candidacy for EU membership - would be frozen.
Albania is the only Balkan country that has failed over the past decade to hold
an election accepted by the international community. Elections in 2001 won by
the Socialists were flawed by ballot box stuffing, intimidation of voters by
police and forged voter registrations, according to international observers.
OSCE to monitor the elections
This time the political parties have agreed to work closely with the
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Tirana to
revise the electoral law, re-draw constituency boundaries and update the
register of voters.
But foot dragging by political leaders and internal party bickering over details
has undermined the role of the OSCE. Only a handful of municipalities met the
most recent deadline for presenting updated voter lists.
Mass migration from desperately poor rural areas has shifted an estimated
200,000 voters to constituencies in towns. But homes in the sprawling squatter
suburbs around Tirana and other cities lack street addresses and fixed-wire
Given that the votes of internal migrants are likely to decide the election
result, revising the electoral register has assumed a huge significance.
Information is so hard to come by that US officials have come up with
high-resolution satellite photographs of Tirana to match residential properties
in the illegal settlements with voters' names.
Whoever wins will be hoping for OSCE acknowledgement of a fair result and a
renewal of talks with Brussels. Things certainly hang in the balance for the
Albania and Occidental forge JV
Albania recently signed a US$15m (11.6m Euro) deal with the US company
Occidental Petroleum Corp for the drilling of oil and natural gas, the Albanian
Ministry for Industry and Energy said, Business Week reported.
Albania produces about 350,000 tonnes of oil each year. Occidental will pay the
money in three stages, over the next 2.5 years, to drill a well in Shpiragu
Mountain. This region is 120km from the capital, Tirana, a group statement said.
Drilling processes have already started and the well has reached a depth level
of 5,333 metres. Actual work of exploration and testing was due to start on
April 20th, according to Occidental spokesman, Larry Meriage. "This
appraisal will allow us to determine if there is anything there," he told
Business Week. Occidental spent US$56m on oil exploration together with other
partners between 1991 and 1997. Since then, it has spent US$45m on drilling in
Shpiragu and on drafting a seismic report on the area.
Albania and Greece talk ties
Albania and Greece held the 9th Greek-Albanian inter-ministerial committee
meeting at Ioannina, Greece recently. Greece is the top foreign investor in
Albania, with US$400m in invested capital, and it is also Albania's second
largest trade partner. The main items on the agenda of the meeting were the
promotion of bilateral relations between the two countries in sectors like
exchange of electricity and natural gas, telecoms and road network links. The
discussions also covered protection of the Greek minority in Albania. Albanian
Economics Minister, Anastas Angjeli, and Greek Deputy Foreign Minister,
Evripidis Stylianidis headed the meeting, New Europe reported.
EBRD credit for Tirana Airport
To modernise the Albanian capital's airport and upgrade related road
infrastructure the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said
it would give a 21m Euro loan to Tirana Airport Partners, a consortium led by
the German Hochtief Airport GmbH, Balkan Times reported recently.
An additional 12.9m Euro credit would be provided jointly by DEG-Deutsche
Investitions and Entwicklungsgesellschaft, Alpha Bank Tirana and the American
bank of Albania. This amount should be good enough for the modernisation of
Tirana Airport and the nearby road infrastructure.
VoEx and Arcade bid for Kosovo telecom project
VoEx International LLC, a leading provider and innovative designer of global
telecommunications and wireless solutions and Arcade Solutions AG jointly
submitted their bid to PTK for Kosovo's wireless local loop (WLL) project
consultancy services for technical, commercial, legal and financial support on
March 28th, 2005, New Europe reported.
Kosovo's telecom PTK fixed network has ambitious plans to develop their local
loop infrastructure to ensure that it can achieve its strategic business
objectives and also fulfill its licence obligations with regard to tele-density.
PTK believes that the deployment of Wireless Local Loop technology that supports
both narrowband and broadband is a cost efficient and timely method of extending
the local loop and is also a key enabler to achieve these strategic aims, the
VoEx chief strategy officer Asaad Y Alnajjar said: "Over the past two
years, VoEx International has been very active in the design and implementation
of GSM, CDMA and iDen mobile networks and products, 3G & UMTS upgrades,
WCDMA/WLL design and installations, satellite voice and data communications,
WiMax and last mile effective WiFi solutions. In addition, VoEx executives have
been extremely involved in the development and growth of wireless products,
solutions, connectivity and applications to expedite the deployment of these
networks. Our team has presented in many global settings white papers and
solutions that helped to achieve our advancements today."
PTK requires resource support from an external consultancy company to produce a
business case and justify the required investment for the deployment of wireless
local loop. The selected company will work closely with the technical,
commercial, legal and finance departments of PTK to undertake business analysis
and in the production of this business plan. VoEx so far has been leading
efforts in many third world countries in engineering support to design, build,
operate and then transfer wireless communications centres and wireless networks.
For the past two years, VoEx has been very active in the design-build of several
telecom projects in Iraq and had provided extended services to many companies
working in Iraq.
Alnajjar said, "the overall Kosovo telecom story is close to that of Iraq
and both provide virgin grounds to deploy state of the art technology and become
among the leaders in their prospective regions. VoEx experience will seem
beneficial for PTK to create a profitable solid business case and design
recommendations for the best wireless network to be deployed."