Books on Albania
Update No: 105 - (30/01/06)
A tough year ahead
After the political turbulence and drift associated with an election year,
Albania should enjoy a much greater sense of purpose in 2006. However, Prime
Minister Sali Berisha has strong ambitions for the local elections, and with a
highly effective new opponent in Socialist leader Edi Rama, the electoral
campaign could turn into a tough fight. That, in turn, may strain the otherwise
increasing sense of political stability.
Berisha, no doubt to his great delight, has seen off his long-time opponent,
Fatos Nano, who resigned the leadership of the Socialist Party of Albania after
eight years in power (1997-2005) on defeat last summer in July. But Rama, the
mayor of Tirana, is a tough replacement to face. He is riding high in the polls,
especially in the capital.
For those old enough to remember the days of Enver Hoxha, for decades dictator
of the small, obscure republic, it is still a miracle that the Albanians are
having a say in who rules over them. Long may it last.
But the form democracy should take is still in dispute.
Ruling party against presidential elections by popular vote
The presidency counts as well as the premiership in Albania's fledgling
democracy. The ruling Democratic Party of Albania rejected the motion tabled by
the opposition, proposing presidential election by popular vote, instead of vote
in the parliament, Makfax reports from Tirana.
The President of the Albanian Assembly Jozefina Topali said the Socialists'
proposal is unacceptable, because no international organization has put forward
such a request thus far. The ruling party reckons that the ambitions of the
Socialists' leadership stand behind the proposal.
Albania is due to elect a new president in 2007. The incumbent president Alfred
Mojsiu hopes for another term, reported Tirana's media.
Albanian analysts pointed out that the Socialists' proposal is related to the
mildly improved approval ratings of the opposition, and particularly of their
new leader Edi Rama. The latest opinion polls indicated that the new leader of
the Socialists and incumbent Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, was the most popular
person in Albania in 2006.
Nevertheless, newly elected Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has committed
his government and the Democratic Party to completing electoral reform as soon
as possible. "The government is committed to undertaking every action, in
cooperation with the local government, for an open and transparent process of
preparing lists," said Berisha, speaking on January 9th.
The EU is still far off
In its latest Progress Report, the European Commission assessed Albania,
especially in terms of the legislative and institutional progress and the
country's administrative capacity. The conclusion was that Albania has made
sufficient headway in order to implement a Stabilization and Association
Agreement, the stepping-stone to EU candidacy status.
Still, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, speaking to the Albanian
Parliament after issuing the report, warned of the need to fight against
corruption. "Albania must show results in fighting corruption," Rehn
warned Albanian deputies.
"Cases must be dealt with firmly, but strictly according to the rules, and
independently of party affiliation. This is important because Albania needs to
improve its administrative capacity in order to implement the Stabilization and
Association Agreement properly," said Rehn.
Albania remains low on the list of potential EU candidates. International
perceptions of Albania, especially with respect to corruption, organized crime
and political culture are far from good.
One of the first tasks of Berisha's administration will be to improve the
electoral system. All free elections held since the regime change have been
contested. The outgoing Socialist party also contested last July's elections.
Berisha believes there is now a consensus. "Proposals made by OSCE and
ODIHR create the basis. We started a parliamentary commission for the electoral
reform," he said.
World Bank to loan Albania US$196M over next 4 years
The World Bank said on January 11th that it would loan Albania US$196
million over the next three years to help fight poverty, high unemployment and
wide regional economic disparities.
The bank's board of directors discussed assistance for the tiny Balkan country
until 2009, the World Bank said in a statement.
The new aid for Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries, will include loans
of US$86 million from the International Development Association and US$110
million from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The funding will aim to help stimulate economic growth by supporting private
sector development and improving social services.
The plan is the bank's fourth aid program for Albania, whose gross domestic
product grew an estimated 5.5% in 2005 and is projected to grow 5% this year.
"However, maintaining this performance will be difficult, and Albania will
need to attract more foreign direct investment, increase public and private
savings, accelerate accumulation of physical and human capital, and improve
governance structures to maintain its impressive progress to date," the
Since 1991, the World Bank Group has been one of the main financiers for
post-communist Albania with up to US$953.6 million of aid.
Recently, Albania also signed a draft agreement with the International Monetary
Fund, which was expected to be approved later in January by the agency's
"Performance in improving the fiscal administration and the revenue
collection are the foundation of our promises (for this deal)," Prime
Minister Sali Berisha said.
An IMF mission visited Tirana last year to reach understanding on key reforms to
Albania's management of taxes, customs, market development, public debt and
The IMF praised Albania's efforts in keeping inflation down and maintaining
growth, but encouraged the country to do more to fight corruption and improve
The previous three-year, US$42.7 million Poverty-Reduction and Growth Facility
program began in June 2002 and expired in November 2005.
Development of air traffic under way in Albania
With the number of travellers to Albania on the rise, the government is working
with a German consortium to transform Tirana's Mother Teresa International
Airport into an important regional connection point. The consortium pays an
annual concession fee and, in return, is entitled to the airport's income, New
It has pledged to upgrade and modernise the facility. The Albanian government
plans to "increase the co-operation with TAP, profiting from the experience
of this strategic partner. We will guarantee our full support. Their success
would be considered a success for Albanian authorities too," says Transport
and Telecommunications Minister, Lulezim Basha. Albania has seen a rise in the
number of travellers, and TAP is negotiating to bring other airlines into the
country, according to the consortium's Executive Director, Reinhard Kalenda.
Meanwhile, the government is also considering developing domestic air traffic in
the southern cities of Saranda and Vlora.
Banking system gets vital aggradations
The banking market in Albania has developed over the past two years, with more
and more services being offered including debit and credit cards as well as
Internet banking. ATM machines have been installed across the country, while
banks have sought to expand their business into areas beyond the capital. Money
transfer agency Western Union will run Union Bank. It is expected to open a
network of branches across Albania, using the infrastructure established through
Western Union's money transfer activities. There are only commercial banks, and
no investment or import-export banks. The mortgage market suffers from high
interest rates and a lack of transparency. Last year, an IMF mission issued a
report recommending that banks do more to inform their clients about conditions
and risks associated with taking out a loan, including the effects of
fluctuating interest rates. The emergence of commercial banks brings obvious
benefits to consumers. Authorities are also counting on the trend to help
efforts to counter the large informal economy - seen as a major barrier to
Albania's economic growth. According to the IMF, the grey market accounts for up
to 50 per cent of economic activity in the country, New Europe reported.
Albania - Kosovo road work starts soon
For the prompt construction of the highway connection between the main Albanian
port Durres and Kosovo, (Morina), the World Bank and the Albanian government
have started the groundwork, New Europe reported.
This planned highway is part of the 10 corridors with a length of 175 kilometres
and its construction will cost approximately US$250 million. The World Bank
plans for the first part of this year a meeting with possible international
financiers and donors for the part Rreshen - Milot. According to some reports
Italy is also interested in co-financing this project. Some media reports say
that the World Bank is expected to open a tender in the first six months of 2006
for the construction of the highway.