Global Crisis & Pre-electoral Reflections

By Artan P쳮aska apernaska@tiranatimes.com It suffices to put on the radio, view a TV program or collect a newspaper and find oneself in the middle of floods of talks or information speaking about the global economic crisis and its effects

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An insight into Albanian governance history

By FRANK LEDWIDGE As all sensible Albanians know, their country is hardly a byword for good governance. Politicians there (as indeed in Britain where I live) are reviled for inefficiency, dishonesty and corruption. But when it comes to ruling other

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Rethinking Albania’s NATO Membership

Following Albania’s full NATO Membership and an apparent need for further and deeper analysis in this regard, “Tirana Times” has launched a forum that seeks to discuss the significance and implications of this membership for Albania and the region. The

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The Three Options and the Roadmap

By Veton Surroi In 1999, while the Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs of the time, Paskal Milo, was noting the various speculations in Western European circles on the options for the status of Kosovo, three would emerge: an international protectorate,

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Politicians are the same everywhere.

It does not matter what country you are in, politics is pretty much the same. Here in England our press has been exercised by two things. First the rather tedious and pointless, if rather expensive meeting of the so-called G20

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Opposition Sounds The Alarm On The Elections

By HENRI CILI The process of the issuing of ID Cards has become the Number One potential risk to the 28 June elections. In this sense we should be “affirming” the alarm raised by the Opposition regarding the issue of

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Why Albania cannot escape the global crisis

By Arben MALAJ The Albanian economy cannot be considered immune to the global crisis. First, the crisis in other affected countries is directly transmitted to us through effects on trade, on remittances and on foreign direct investment. Second, effects on

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Inter-State Relations and the Domestic Account of (In)Security

Talking about the Balkans, Chris Patten, the former Commissioner for EU External Relations, provided probably the most philosophical description of the Balkans’ technology of change when he said, almost a decade ago that “In the Balkans, like the old English

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The Others

By Jose Ignacio Torreblanca I have just come back from Albania where I found the people wonderful, but also rather unfortunate. If you ever want to check this for yourself, all you have to do is stand in the centre

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Climate Change – a terrifying Prospect for this Country

By Frank Ledwidge There are some very disturbing developments in science these days.. Theories and ideas that, just a few years ago would have been dismissed as belonging in the world of science fiction, are now commonplace. The driver for

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                    [post_content] => By Artan P쳮aska
apernaska@tiranatimes.com

It suffices to put on the radio, view a TV program or collect a newspaper and find oneself in the middle of floods of talks or information speaking about the global economic crisis and its effects or its venue in Albania. While everybody else speaks of the crisis, the governmental teams in Albania seem to avoid employing the negatively connoted term and even make a full show of optimism concerning the economic growth of the country for the current year.

The Debate

The debate on the global crisis and its effects or its possible venue in Albania is an on-going debate for a number of months. Some analysts consider that Albania has been in a sort of permanent crisis over the whole transition period and perhaps with the effects of the global crisis there is only a further degree to the everlasting Albanian crisis. They point essentially to the fact that Albania has been over the past years a sales-oriented economy with little or no local production and with deep ratios of unemployment. Other analyses state that the crisis began in 2005 (that is after the former legislative elections), thus connecting  the crisis with the economic policies and attitudes of the running government. Other analyses claim the economic progress of Albania over the past years and see little space for a real crisis in Albania. The political factors engage the debate in governance as well as in economic considerations. The government claims, for its credit, governance benefits and governance achievements and as a result a better economic stand for Albania. It is not inclined to see or to match any economic reality that is not compliant to what the government projects its governance should bring about. On the other side of the debate, the opposition parties that have always made criticism of the running governance, this time speak in terms of an "economic reality" that the government not only seems to ignore but also wants to deny.

Economic premises and political stands

With the effects of the global crisis being the object of media attention over the whole world, as well as with some of these effects now enacting growing difficulties to the Albanian economy, the discourse of the opposition parties has begun to employ the word "crisis" in intensive use. Sometimes the government is made rhetorically responsible for an upcoming crisis giving the opposition parties an argument over an electoral party that they will soon have to compete against in the legislative elections. But in the longer run, the discourse over the crisis seems to be impregnated with concern over the economical, social and political developments in Albania in the coming months. The major opposition parties might be in a position to think that they will take over the governance of the country. Economic experts and analysts as well as local business groups or economic actors have all contributed their concerns about a possible crisis in Albania over the past few months. They have asked the running government to come up with a financial and legislative packet against the crisis and seem to limit their discourse on the immediate facilitation of the business and economic climate, expecting an urgent and pre-electoral solution.
Since the debate over the economic situation, be it a crisis or not, is involved both in economic performance and in governance, the running government finds itself in an awkward position. With the elections of 28 June 2009 approaching, the government is trying to extend a positive view over its past and current performance to the electors and induce them to vote over whatever achievements the government thinks itself responsible for.

Economic crisis and economic behavior

The right-wing government has over the long debate on a possible crisis rectified its stand and finally accepted that some effects of the global crisis might be felt in Albania in the coming months. In exchanges with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in the press last Friday (Shqip), the Prime Minister has agreed that Albania may be touched by the global crisis and has asked for increased financial aid. But to the growing demands that the government come up with a financial and legislative packet against the crisis, the government had answered that Albania has already done a long time ago what other countries are doing against the crisis, that is tax reductions. No governmental initiative has yet come out concerning an anti-crisis "packet" or reflecting an economic downturn sensibility. The Minister of Finance, Ridvan Bode, declared that "Crisis is produced by panic" and asked the economic and political factors to refrain from fearing an economic collapse. While left-wing opposition declares that denying economic downturn is a risky and costly policy.

A crisis hides another - Competition
enforcement policies

When discussing the global crisis and its effects in Albania, no difference is made between the financial crisis that touched the banking sector at worldwide level and the purely economic crisis that is following everywhere in the world. While the financial crisis is being overcome and while it did not have the same exposition in Albania, the economic crisis is pendant to developed as well as developing economies. If panic is especially unwanted and is a producer of a crisis even in normal situations, an economic response to deteriorating situations in the economy makes sense and might be crucial in overcoming difficulties as well as maintaining or stimulating competition. Ilir Ciko, an economic analyst from the G99 party, sees the crisis inevitable. He points out that the majority of Albanian exports and imports are carried out with European Union countries, especially Italy and Greece, and that the EU is actually facing a recession. He stresses that other Balkan states that trade among them to extensive degrees are less exposed than Albania. The majority of the neighboring countries have adopted anti-crisis measures and their reactivity over a possibly coming crisis is expected not only to help overcome difficulties but also to enhance their existing competition in the regional as well as in the global market. "Albania is like a grass leaf in the world economy. When the storm comes the grass leaf might bend and not be touched, but if the storm lasts, the grass leaf will ply and break" - says Omer Stringa, Dean of the Economic Faculty of the University of Tirana. "Albania has seen many crises in the last two decades. In all the cases the reality has been accepted and measures have been taken" - says Ilir Ciko, stating that at a crossroads, Albania must take decisions. Over its last addresses, the Bank of Albania has pointed to risks for the durability of financial stability in 2009. While, the last previsions from the IMF, aired on the media this week, foresee an economic growth from 0 to 1 % for the current year. Few voices among the right-wing, if any audible, consider risks of an upcoming crisis and claim for anti-crisis measures. The major opposition parties' programs have not yet been disclosed and it is untimely to guess if they have included urgency and short-term measures against a possible crisis in their electoral programs. Be there a crisis coming or not, there is a need in Albania for an update of economic policies and a need to make these policies preventive and competitive.

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                    [post_content] => By FRANK LEDWIDGE

As all sensible Albanians know, their country is hardly a byword for good governance.  Politicians there (as indeed in Britain where I live) are reviled for inefficiency, dishonesty and corruption.  But when it comes to ruling other countries, the legacy of Albanians is little short of glorious.  
In the early 17th cenury, things were going seriously downhill in Istanbul.  the constant shifts of power, crippling inefficiency and a serious failure of leadership had left the Empire on its knees, facing rebellion and a regaining of hard-won lands by the Habsburg Empire. It had lost its way. Most damagingly the Venetians were blockading the Dardanelles and challenging for dominance of the Aegean. And then came the Koprulu family, Albanian by origin from near Berat, this dynasty of Ottoman viziers (essentially Prime Ministers) began with Mehmet Pasha Koprulu. He was born in 1575 near Berat and had a distinguished career as an administrator until, thoroughly fed up with the corruption of the Ottoman court of the time, he resigned and fully intended to retire. In 1656, however, the Sultans mother recommended him as Vizier and this was an offer he literally could not refuse.
One of his first acts on taking power was to take the rather simple step of advising the somewhat useless Sultan Mehmet IV to take longer holidays, do a bit of hunting -anything he liked.  But whatever his Majesty did, he was to stay out of Istanbul and leave the governing to Koprulu.  
He then acted quickly to remove the Venetian blockade of the Dardanelles, and recover the military situation in the Aegean and what is now Romania.  By the end of his five years as Vizier, ended by his death in 1661, the Ottoman Empire had been re-established on the world scene, and its armies were probing at the borders of Austria. 
This pattern continued with his four Koprulu successors, one of whom pushed the Ottoman borders all the way up to the walls of Vienna in 1685.  They were stopped there of course with the intervention of the Polish King Jan Sobieski. No doubt very many of that formidable army standing at the gates of Vienna were from Albanian lands.  (incidentally its artillery was Serbian-so much for their anti-Ottoman credentials).   It was, arguably the high water of the Empire.  Once they were driven back from Vienna, they would never recover that fearsome reputation built up over the previous centuries.
Like all Abanians (and indeed non-Turks) in Ottoman military or civil service, Mehmet Pasha Koprulu had been recruited through the 'devshirme' system as a youth.  Whilst this was basically a system of conscription, many parents were happy to see their children taken.  It was a sure way to advancement in a poor society, being largely meritocratic   This was an innovation which essentially helped to produce what amounted to the worlds first, and arguably only truly multi-ethnically ruled Empire.  
By the way, supposedly the most famous Albanian Dervishme graduate -one Gjerg Kastriot - never left Albania; there is no evidence at all that the young noblemand was ever in Turkish service.  
There is a book waiting to be written about the Albanian contribution to Ottoman success.  
At a time when Albania itself is notably badly governed, there is something to be said for the notion that once its sons were a byword not only for military prowess but efficient and effective governance.

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                    [post_content] => Following Albania's full NATO Membership and an apparent need for further and deeper analysis in this regard, "Tirana Times" has launched a forum that seeks to discuss the significance and implications of this membership for Albania and the region.

The forum presents the opinions of the following well-known experts:
Besnik Mustafaj -MP, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of Board of Directors
Remzi Lani - Director, Albanian Media Institute
Petraq Pojani - Ambassador, Director of Albanian Council on Foreign Policy
Piro Misha - Director, Institute for Dialogue and Communication
Lutfi Dervishi - Editor in Chief, Tirana Times

On the following themes/questions:
1.	Significance of NATO membership for Albania
2.	Short, medium and long-term benefits of Albania 's NATO membership
3.	Obligations springing off NATO Membership
4.	Effect of Albania 's and Croatia 's NATO membership on Balkan politics and security

1. Significance of NATO
    membership for Albania

Besnik Mustafaj
NATO Membership has multiple benefits for Albania. It naturally has a significant strategic importance for the security of the country, a concept highly elaborated during the years as Albania worked to meet required standards. However, I would take the opportunity to also highlight the psychological importance that such integration has for the Albanian society, which with this integration gets concrete proof of a final breaking with the past. This psychological impact will help our society feel more self-confident in the process of still-painful reforms that are required for the modernization of the country. On the other hand, the accession is also important for Albania's image, which will not only no longer be a consumer of security, but will be one of the countries contributing to global security, peace and stability.

Remzi Lani
Undoubtedly, this is the most important step Albania makes in its return path to the West. On one hand, it is an acknowledgement of the country's democratic progress and reforms conducted during the two decades of post-communist transition. On the other hand, it is an acknowledgement of the geo-strategic importance of our country in a still problematic region and a in a world headed towards uncertainty.
Petraq Pojani
Albania's membership in the biggest military and political alliance of the time, enriched by other dimensions, is undoubtedly one of the most important moments in our history.
Albania in NATO is an institutional reaffirmation of Albanians' European civilisation and identity, of the western socio-political model of the Albanian state based on the division of powers, protection of human rights and the secular character of the state.
Albania in NATO, alongside Croatia and other Balkan countries, not only guarantees its sovereignty in the Balkans, but it also simultaneously breaks that paradigm that has always conceived of Albania as an Eastern, Muslim, Balkan state; it breaks those divisive but traversable lines historically based on Hellenic, Slavic-orthodox and Slavic-catholic civilisations, etc.
Albania in NATO signifies the country's active participation in the establishment of a new world order based on peace, democracy and the free movement of ideas, people, values and capital.
Lastly, Albania in NATO signifies the fulfilment of the free will of the Albanian people that toppled the totalitarian regime, that encouraged massive emigration, significantly, to the West, that has unanimously inspired its NATO and soon EU accession and that with its strength and determination has made the political class act.

Lutfi Dervishi
NATO membership comprises an important step in the fulfillment of the objectives of the political class for integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. NATO is a political alliance and the affirmation of the common values of freedom, democracy, market economy, rule of law, judiciary independence and media independence is a solid guarantee that Albania unequivocally shares these values.

2.	Short, medium and long-term benefits of Albania 's NATO membership

Besnik Mustafaj
It seems difficult to clearly classify the short, medium and long-term benefits. I consider it of even higher importance to look at the areas where these benefits will be visible. I believe that the Albanian political class has rightly understood NATO integration as a responsibility that should be reflected firstly and most immediately in the strengthening of democracy and rule of law. At the same time, no one in Albania should think that the transformation of the army and its preparation for new challenges is a process that concluded with accession to NATO. Now, the Albanian army, via cooperation with the armies of the most developed democratic countries, will have great opportunities to conduct deep and fast modernizing internal reforms. We can also not underestimate the effects on the economy, despite the fact that these will be indirect. A NATO member, which Albania now is, a priori offers to foreign investors a stronger guarantee of security and stability.

Remzi Lani
In the short term, Albania consolidates its own security, improves its image and draws attention towards itself. In the medium term, the fact that we are members of a western club of security like NATO will impact the attraction of foreign investments, as shown by  Bulgaria's and Romania's experiences. In the long term, NATO membership will serve our integration into the European Union. Being a member of a club of western democracies will assist our faster procession to the EU. So far, no former communist country has been accepted to the EU before previously passing the NATO door. To clarify further, as NATO member we will be treated more seriously for EU membership, although the two are of course not the same thing.

Petraq Pojani
The main and immediate benefit of Albania's NATO accession is undoubtedly the indisputable reaffirmation of its sovereignty, now under the protection of a great alliance.
This is already a positive factor for Albania's integration in the EU at the smallest delay.
On a larger scale, this event will directly contribute to the economic, cultural and social development of the country by creating a climate of trust and safety for foreign investments and international cooperation, as well as to the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law.

Lutfi Dervishi
For the other countries of the former Eastern block, NATO membership has also been considered a transition to the European Union. With the entrance into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, it is difficult to ask a NATO member country to wait a bit longer and not seek the status of a candidate state. Unfortunately, we are living through a severe global economic crisis where no one can guarantee that they have seen the bottom and where there are no chances for scenarios where a country witnesses a quadrupling of foreign investments in a year (as was the case of Bulgaria). However, the country's placement in the security area has many medium and long term benefits. If we can divulge, it is as if the car that you drive on minimal insurance, you ensure for full coverage with the strongest insurance company the world has ever known. NATO membership also in a way limits external leverage towards the government and the political class in general and that further boosts the responsibility of the political class in Tirane.

3.	Obligations springing off
	NATO Membership

Besnik Mustafaj
There are many obligations. I consider it very positive that the senior leaders of the state, whether the President of the Republic or the Head of the Government, in their inaugural speeches on the day of accession to NATO committed the country to meeting all obligations. These obligations are principle-based, and here I am talking about the continuation of reforms that seek the fine-tuning of democratic standards in all aspects of life in the country, just as they are also field contributions in large operations in service of global peace and stability, in which NATO is involved. These obligations, without going on to details, are also organically linked to the benefits derived from accession in the Alliance.

Remzi Lani
NATO membership first of all means that democratic processes in Albania will be irreversible. I would not like to dwell on the military or financial obligations that come from this process, as they are well-known, but rather focus on the tests we need to pass, now not as a candidate but as a member of the Alliance. The June elections comprise the fundamental one.

Petraq Pojani
Membership in an alliance requires that member states share not only benefits but also responsibilities. Albania has already given proof of its willingness to fulfil all obligations by taking part in peace-keeping missions of the alliance, in the war against terrorism and threats to world peace and democratic development.
Though of a different nature, approximation of the necessary legal provisions, including constitutional ones, is another, immediate obligation of membership in this Alliance. Lastly, just like EU integration, NATO membership requires undertaking continuous reforms towards the consolidation of the rule of law and democracy through the wide participation of all political and societal actors.

Lutfi Dervishi
Each member country has its own obligations. De facto, Albania has tried to behave as a member country for a number of years. The official record of relationships with NATO starts in 1992, with the request for membership in the Council of the Northern Atlantic and continued with the offering of the country's land, air and sea bases for the Alliance in 1995, during the war in former Yugoslavia and in 1999, during the war in Kosovo, as well as with the deployment of troops in Bosnia (1996) and Afghanistan (2003). The concept of security and the mission of NATO are not what they were upon the creation of the Alliance in 1949. In 2004, we saw the case of Estonia, which was threatened by Russia in cyberspace!...With the dislocation of troops in Afghanistan, outside the traditional area of Alliance's operations, NATO is increasingly taking upon the role of the "global police" and as a member, Albania should be prepared to play its role according to its means. The tendency to offer more than we can afford should be replaced by realism.

4.	Effect of Albania 's and 			Croatia 's NATO membership 		on Balkan politics and
	security

Besnik Mustafaj
In a summarized form, I would say that the accession of Albania and Croatia to NATO means a visibly greater presence of NATO in the Balkans, which comprises a strong thrust forward for the attempts of the region to once and for all part from its bad legacy of dramatic conflicts among neighbors. The political leadership of the countries of the region will thus more than ever be encouraged to enhance close regional cooperation on security, based on the concept that our security is shared. As a basic concept of NATO, shared security comprises the only way in which the Balkan countries can foster among themselves the lacked space of trust.
Remzi Lani
The accession of Albania and Croatia constitutes an expansion of the security umbrella in the Balkans and the consolidation of the NATO security cordon in the Mediterranean. Now, almost the entire Adriatic shore, on both sides, belongs to NATO.
I believe the Balkan has reason to feel more secure after the accession of Albania and Croatia. I believe that even those surrounded by NATO or concerned that Tirana and Zagreb are now members of the Alliance, should become realistic. They should at the least not live with the paranoia of the Greater Albania and the Greater Croatia, as the two countries' membership in the Alliance renders these agendas impossible.

Petraq Pojani
The negative factors that have caused century long wars in the region are now weakened. The negative legacy of the region can now be overcome. The dedicated commitment of the Balkans' countries to resolve the problems and difficulties of the past will justify the optimism that is spurred by their NATO integration.

Lutfi Dervishi
As the debate on Georgia's and Ukraine's NATO accession has shown, the case of Albania and Croatia is an entirely different thing. Accession in this case seems natural due to geography and is expected to be followed by others to come. With their accession, Albania and Croatia open the way for other countries. Macedonia is ready when it solves the name issue with Greece and Monte Negro and Bosnia seem closer. Serbia remains the last in the region. Kosova is on its way to consolidation as a country and Serbia's "siege" by member countries only exerts positive pressure to join the rest. The region has been the starting point of World War I and has witnessed monstrous crimes in the middle of the nineties, unthinkable of happening in the European continent. With Albania's and Croatia's accession, the region gains more security, peace and why not, even prosperity.

Piro Misha: NATO membership a credible
guarantee of democratization

There has been a lot of retorics regarding the importance of Albania's NATO membership these last days, so I do not want to repeat any of it. Understandably, there have been also a lot of speculations regarding the reasons why Albanians in their overwhelming majority support the idea of Albania being part of NATO or for that, even EU. They easily pass from arguments related to history (or pseudohistory) to pragmatic considerations, like those having to do with the visa issue and free circulation of people. Strangely, I haven't heard one argument mentioned though, at least in my opinion, it constitutes quite an important part (at least at elite level) of  the reason why many Albanians were (and are) so eager to join NATO (or EU).
Democracy is still fragile and trust in democratic institutions remains still low in Albania. There are many those who are afraid of setbacks. Consequently, for many intellectuals who estimate that Albania's NATO membership (and later on EU membership) remains the only real and credible guarantee of the ongoing process of democratization and Westernatization of Albania. It is perceived as a guarantee against Albania' slipping back to the past. 
                    [post_title] =>  Rethinking Albania's NATO Membership 
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                    [post_content] => By Veton Surroi

In 1999, while the Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs of the time, Paskal Milo, was noting the various speculations in Western European circles on the options for the status of Kosovo, three would emerge: an international protectorate, independence, and division.
Ten years later, as we sit down to analyse the situation in Kosovo, we find these three alternatives merged in the status Kosovo declared on 17th February 2008. Kosovo is simultaneously an independent state, an international protectorate and a de facto divided state. This is a cohabitation of three states that should be exclusive of each other. As such though, in their mutually exclusive natures, they still cohabitated for a year. And as soon as a basic one-year evaluation of the existence of the Republic of Kosovo is conducted, the conclusion will be that this is an interim state of affairs that cannot continue for long and that requires a solution of its own.
The essential conclusion should, in fact, be that the crucial challenge for Kosovo is to overcome this state of three mutually exclusive options. And when, one by one, they transform into challenges, the questions for Kosovo are: how can the country become more independent, leave the protectorate and unite territorially?
The question is in fact that of one year ago: How can Kosovo become an independent state? The conditions are now different.

2
The challenge of independence as addressed in the question how the country can become more independent sounds like a play on words, as states either are or are not independent. However, seen in its conditioned form (an independence equal to that of Kosovo's neighbours for instance), there are two issues for which the present formula for Kosovo's independence requires more work and attention. 
First, there is the issue of the international legitimacy of the country. The international arena was divided over the status of Kosovo at the moment of the declaration and this was reflected in the quality of the international legitimacy of Kosovo. In this respect, the country is almost in the same situation (barring recognition during the fall by the two neighbours, Montenegro and Macedonia) that it was in the 100 days after the declaration. Furthermore, just like in the first 100 days, the efforts for recognition and membership in international organisations are led by the countries that sponsored the independence of Kosovo, in the absence of an authentic Kosovo identity to do this. In the context of international relations and not only, Kosovo's ruling elite still does not behave as an independent state.
Second, there is the issue of state functionality. The institutional deficit, a problem identified since the liberation of Kosovo, became even more obvious in the independent state. One year after independence, the country is filling vacancies with names that are mostly attached to a party. The institutional deficit, the absence of a state that functions through civil servants, clearly produces the visible rise in corruption.
The functionality of the state is being clearly damaged in the regress the country is experiencing in terms of democratic rule and consensus building. 
Room for free media is being tightened by governmental interventions, be it through blackmail or rewards for loyalty. It is still not clear whether the Democratic Party of Kosovo's secret service is transitioning to the state, and if yes, how so. The Assembly of Kosovo, with its structural weaknesses and through the corruption of parts of the opposition, has become an archiving body for governmental decisions. Internal party debate is prohibited within one of the coalition partners, The Democratic League of Kosovo, by the power monopoly, including the international one.
This regression in democracy is being accompanied by a loss of sense for consensus, necessary for major issues. During this one year of independence, instead of preserving the consensus achieved during the final status talks, or of building on it while maintaining the balance between the ruling parties and those in opposition, a form of imposition of the will of the majority has been enacted. In a consolidated democracy and a functional state, such a form might very well be legitimate, but in a state that is still to learn its first steps the lack of consensus clearly weakens the state.

3
The challenge of the protectorate, as presented in the question "how to leave the protectorate?" has a simple and a complicated answer. The simple one is that Kosovo will no longer be a protectorate when it becomes able to defend and rule itself without the physical assistance of the United States and Europe.
The complicated one is that the protectorate has found gaps where its intervention is needed in the three basic pillars of state functionality. So, NATO's military defence is needed against potential military aggression from Serbia. The protectorate is necessary to at least maintain the current status quo in terms of the perception that we are dealing with a unified territory. And the protectorate is necessary to fill the huge gaps in the rule of law.
Complicatedness does not rest only on the description of these tasks, but on the overall definition of the mission. A year ago, the Protectorate was to be transformed into an authority that supervises the implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan. During a year of independence, however, the Protectorate has become entangled in an internal debate to define its own new role. This debate will continue. The result so far defines the protectorate as a transition from the Ahtisaari Plan to a new status.
This new status has two components. The first one is Serbia. The new status aimed at by the Protectorate must be a product of a "technical agreement" between Kosovo and Serbia.
The second component is the European Union. Even though it has the biggest share in the Protectorate, the EU does not have a unified stand towards Kosovo's independence as 5 out of 27 members have not recognised the independent state. Finding itself between this position and the almost unified approach with respect to the need to accelerate Serbia's EU integration, the EU itself wishes to postpone the "technical agreement" between Belgrade and Prishtina so that a new definition of the Protectorate that is not entirely reliant on the Ahtisaari Plan can be reached.
It is in this meeting point between the EU and Serbia that one finds, to a great degree, the answer to the question "how can Kosovo be territorially unified?"
It is true, if there had been effective governance in Prishtina during these years much could have been improved in relations with the Serbs in Kosovo, in particular those in the North. Nevertheless, any leadership in Kosovo, even a much better one than this, would have a difficult time to eliminate the essential element of today's division, and that is the instrumentalisation of Kosovo Serbs by Belgrade. Today, this form of instrumentalisation has to do with a strong blackmailing card of Belgarde vis-ஶis the European Union, in particular towards the Union's most ambitious mission to date, that in Kosovo. With little investment, and the preservation of the current situation in the North, Belgrade can devaluate EU's foreign policy, in particular in proving the incapability of the EU to formulate an effective policy approach for Kosovo.
From this perspective, this year, a state of territorial unity of Kosovo can be formed to a great degree by tying it to the acceleration of Serbia's accession in the EU.

4.
The challenges of the cohabitation of the three options may well remain in the game for some time, together with their paralysing effects. Even though a preliminary institutional analysis is missing in this area, Kosovo will face this summer yet another challenge, a more positive one compared to the mess created these past twelve months. Once the Durr쳭Kuk쳠road becomes operational, the current economic and political balance will change to historical dimensions. Through quick access to Durr쳬 Kosovo may find itself part of a much larger market than so far, of an initially Albanian one but not limited to it. With a proximity to Italy similar to that of Albania, Kosovo creates neighbourly relations with Italy and "EU neighbourhood" is no longer exclusively attributed to Greece. Breaking out of the current geographical position means breaking out of the current situation of economic restraints from any of the neighbours from which goods have come in so far. And in less than five years, the question of the territorial unity of Kosovo may adopt another dimension - the creation of good neighbourly relations between Kosovo and Serbia making Nish a Balkans' junction point where the Kuk쳠road joins the Bulgarian one to the Black Sea.
But it remains to be seen whether the road will do one more thing: whether by opening up the country it will also open up the minds to face all the challenges that await this poor country.

Speech held Feb.21 at the 4th Albanian Institute for International Studies Security Conference titled "Desecuritization and Resecuritization of Western Balkan Inter/Intrastate relations."
                    [post_title] =>  The Three Options and the Roadmap 
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                    [post_content] => It does not matter what country you are in, politics is pretty much the same.  Here in England our press has been exercised by two things.  First the rather tedious and pointless, if rather expensive meeting of the so-called G20 - the leaders of the top 20 economies.  This will of course produce nothing useful.  Much more entertaining is the continuing saga of the copious expenses that our MPs claim.  One of them, who is the equivalent of the Minister of the Interior, the Home Secretary Jackie Smith has got herself into particularly hilarious trouble.  She has been claiming that her sisters spare room inn London is her main home, thereby allowing her to claim many tens of thousands of pounds in expenses for her family home. As a marvelous bonus, her husband was caught claiming the cost of two porn films he had watched as a legitimate expense which should be funded by the taxpayer.  We can be sure that there is much more of the same to come.  These two
clowns are not of course alone.  Whilst politicians are not 'all at it' a very great majority certainly are.

Nothing new for the Albanian reader of course. It is the same everywhere.  Albanians have known for many years that their politicians are essentially a corrupt and useless group of people, who would have serious difficulties in acquiring honest or productive work outside politics. In Britain we have always had a healthy contempt for our politicians, but not until recently has it become so intense. People are asking 'what exactly do we pay these people for and why do we pay them so much?'  One answer comes from someone called Chris Mullen, who until he got elected to parliament was a well-regarded journalist.  Eventually he became a junior minister in Blair's government.  His 600 page book 'A View from the Foothills' is a very funny account of the desperate tedium and incompetence at the heart of government.   It is surely the same in Albania. When I lived in Tirana I was always impressed by the fact that every time I entered an expensive hotel, the
Rogner for example, it would be infested with MPs and ministers, smoking and drinking coffee.  They would spend, sometimes , all day there.  No doubt they were discussing the welfare of their constituents and the way forward for the country.  

Do you know a single person who believes that?  

My point is that politicians are pretty much the same everywhere.  They have essentially the same qualities or lack of them.  They talk a great deal, they are greedy, few of them are realistically honestly employable outside politics and finally they have a very highly developed sense of their own importance.  In one sense therefore, you have to ask yourself whether there is any point in having them at all.  But consider this; where would they be without a parliament to infect.  The answer, dear readers is of course they would be on the street.  They would be bothering you even more.  Best thing is to keep them penned up where they are.  Yes, they are expensive.  But they do provide occasional comedy and more importantly, they provide someone to blame.  After all, it is all their fault.

                    [post_title] =>  Politicians are the same everywhere.  
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                    [post_content] => By HENRI CILI 

The process of the issuing of ID Cards has become the Number One potential risk to the 28 June elections. In this sense we should be "affirming" the alarm raised by the Opposition regarding the issue of electoral standards and ID Cards. Three months prior to Eday, there is clear evidence of the fact that a substantial number of citizens will not be able to acquire the basic document needed to vote on Eday. Today, it is sufficient to list several facts to comprehend why the problem of ID Cards bears the potential danger of devaluation of the process of free and fair elections of 28 June.
First, the fact that this process was left for the last six months of this term of the government, even less than six months before Eday, when it could have been done at the beginning or in the middle of the term of the Democrats in office, is now broadly accepted as suspicious. A government with the best of good will had more than sufficient time to complete this process on time.
Second, when it became obvious that three million Albanians could not be issued with ID cards within six months, targets began to diminish: new instructions were issued that only those citizens who did not have passports should apply for ID cards, meaning 730 thousand people.
Third, it appears that now it is not even technically possible to issue citizens without passports with ID cards on time.   
Four, it appears that a series of government proposals to reduce the price of the ID card for given catagories of society who do not have any other valid document with which to vote, is not helping either. 
Five, the Government has every obligation and possibility to do its utmost to encourage the process of issuing ID cards to all citizens without passports, and not just by making it free of charge for those who apply up until the elections. The other parallel penalizing or encouraging measures are by no means superfluous either. For example, within a deadline of say, the first to the fifteenth of May, severe penalities could be imposed for all those who do not apply for and acquire cards: wages or pensions are not paid out, power or phone bills cannot be paid, bank processes cannot be conducted, or other such methods,wherever the citizen must use ID. Only in this way, using means of instigation and penalities can, at least the essential bulk of this 739 thousand citizens without passports be issued ID cards. 
The public and international pressure on the government as regards these problems, constitutes the only solution to this crisis, which could endanger the success of these elections this time round because of the ID cards. The way this issue has been treated so lightly resembles those moments of a society, when a major hazard is surpassed without attracting any great attention, when everyone looks after his own backyard and nothing further. 
The failure of this year's electoral process, irrespective of the reasons, the culprits etc., is an enormous minus for the future of this country. Perhaps this is a "penalty" the socialists deserve because of the fact that for eight years on end they failed to do the ID cards, for eight years on end, they once stole the results of the elections through lists, another time through the CEC and yet another time via the Constitutional Court, and in all this mess many Demcrats think that "it deserves them right", but, in the final account Albania does not deserve a failed electoral process.
Together with all the enthusiasm of Albania's membership to NATO, it is better that we say "YES" to the alarm sounded by the Opposition over the danger we face. At the end of the day, it is better we have a premature false alarm rather than an alrm when it is too late to act. Prophylactic measures instead of a remedy.
                    [post_title] =>  Opposition Sounds The Alarm On The Elections 
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                    [post_date] => 2009-04-03 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Arben MALAJ
The Albanian economy cannot be considered immune to the global crisis. First, the crisis in other affected countries is directly transmitted to us through effects on trade, on remittances and on foreign direct investment. Second, effects on the banking system resonate in the entire economy. 
Our main trading partners have been affected by the crisis to no negligible extent, be it in their banking sectors or overall economy. According to IMF data so far on 2009, Italy will experience economic growth of 2.1% and Greece of 1.7%. As our main economic partners turn out to be considerably affected by this crisis, our economy will be negatively affected in at least three ways, a shrinking of exports, remittances and foreign direct investment.
The decline in exports, as testified by the tendency of these last months, has a considerable social impact. Some sectors that were revitalised during the period of high prices, such as mining and agriculture, are now hard-hit by the global crisis. Traditional sectors also, such as manufactured exports, seem to be affected to no negligible degree.
Naturally, by hitting hard some of the countries with the highest concentration of Albanian emigrants, this global recession will considerably reduce the cash inflow from emigrants and, thus, its contribution to the Albanian economy.
Another indicator of a negative impact is the halting and hindrance of some foreign direct investment projects. According to the latest IMF survey on the effects of the global crisis on low income countries, the share of foreign direct investment in the GDP is expected to go down to 3.5% this year, assuming the country receives loans from the IMF or other sources, from 4.9% in 2008. Overall, the decline in exports, remittances and foreign investment has tremendous impact on economic growth as well as on the balance of payments deficit.
The second source and indicator of crisis is our banking sector. Even though diversified, due to the global crisis, our banking system has been obliged to reduce the loan issuance rates, thus reducing the financial resources for economic activity. Furthermore, the credit structure, dominated by foreign currency for consumers and credit borrower with incomes in domestic currency, also risks enhancing the negative psychological effect if the devaluation of the lek continues.
If the banking crisis managed to bring an economic and social one in countries with modern and innovative banking systems, the financial sectors of countries with low living standards like Albania, affected by declines in growth rates, and increases in unemployment and poverty, are definitely, inevitably threatened.
The crisis is not the isolated event of a particular day. It started as a slowdown in growth rates, it continued as a recession and it comes now as a grave economic and social crisis. If we are to analyse the assertions of double-digit growth and the negative review that the IMF has made to the growth of the Albanian economy, from 6% to 3.7%, and then to the latest declining review of 2%, we will see that even though the figure is still positive, we are following the same tendency as that of the concrete phases of the global crisis. 
The current evaluations of the country's state of affairs conclude that due to the very low level of taxes, budgetary income and due to the rising level of budget deficit, Albania has very little room for fiscal manoeuvring.
Apart from the real economic effects, blocking local government budgets, as in the cases of Tirana and Durres, has a considerable psychological effect which is one of the most difficult factors to manage in crisis situations.
The lack of cooperation between political and economic factors in the country, and the rising political temperature due to the upcoming elections risk creating additional and harder to manage costs in this difficult economic situation.
No budgetary intervention can withstand the domino effect of psychological crises. Delays in accepting the hard economic reality, delays in determining cautious interventions as well as a disarray of fiscal policies under electoral fever influence considerably and negatively the management of this situation.

_______________________

The author is Member of Albanian Parliament , Former Minister of Finance.












Economic Crisis Starts to Hit World's Poorest Countries
IMF Survey online,   March 3, 2009
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2009/NEW030309A.htm


IMF Report

Effects of the crisis by sectors:
Trade			Low
Investments		Low
Assistance		Low
Remittances		Average

Trade
Balance of Payments (as % of GDP)
2008            -10 %
2009            -7.5 %
2009 (in case of assistance)            -8.5%

Remittances
Cash inflows from emigrants (as % of GDP)
2008            11.5 %
2009             9.1 %
2009 (in case of assistance)            9%

Investments
Foreign Direct Investments (as % of GDP)
2008            4.9 %
2009             4.6 %
2009 (in case of assistance)		3.5 %
Foreign Assistance
Assistance from abroad (as % of GDP)
2008            2.7 %
2009             2.2 %
2009 (in case of assistance)            1.9 %

* "in case of assistance" means in case countries increase their foreign debt, receive assistance from the IMF or other loans. 

                    [post_title] =>  Why Albania cannot escape the global crisis  
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                    [post_content] => Talking about the Balkans, Chris Patten, the former Commissioner for EU External Relations, provided probably the most philosophical description of the Balkans' technology of change when he said, almost a decade ago that "In the Balkans, like the old English floral dance, it is often a case of two steps forward, one step back".
While this logic of the technology of change almost prevailed in the region for more than a decade, the year we have just left behind may be a turning point whereby the steps towards the creation and well-functioning of a Balkan order were not necessarily accompanied by steps backwards. 
2008 was an important year for security and stability. First of all, the countries of the Balkans, and consequently the Balkan order, confronted the critical test of accomodating the changes of the political map of the region after the declaration of independence of Kosova.
Second, Albania and Croatia were invited by NATO to join the Alliance, a process that is now in its final steps, expected to be wrapped up in the next NATO summit.
Last but not least, all countries in the region have made progress, however modest, in their efforts towards EU integration.
Albania's and Croatia's future membership in the Alliance, as well as the steps made towards the preparation of Balkan countries for EU membership, represent fundamental investments for the creation of a functional, liberal democratic order that would make conflict within or between Balkan states impossible and unimaginable.
Though true, such a reading of developments in the Balkans is optimistic, or at least it presents us with only one side of the medal. A simple effort to open up today's (in)security account shows that the agenda of political, economic developments, the modernisation of Balkan societies, and consequently integration at a regional and European level, are still threatened by security issues.

The Security Agenda at the Inter-State Level 

The main schools of thought in International Relations, and some of the contemporary approaches in Security Studies suggest that inter-state relations must be observed in order to understand and explain the process of desecuritisation, which unfortunately at times is accompanied by resecuritisation also.
A careful study of the present relations between states in the Balkans uncovers a series of issues for which one cannot safely exclude the possibility of transformation into security issues.
Alongside a status quo spirit in relations between Balkan states, several issues have emerged, the resolution of which is a prerequisite for further progress. Thus, Croatia, a country very close to EU membership, and Slovenia, one of the newest and most successful members of the EU, are involved in a very controversial border dispute. 
(Continued from page 7)
Despite its highly politicised nature, it nevertheless remains unimaginable that the recent dispute will become a security issue.
The failure to reach an agreement over the name issue between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia hindered the latter to join NATO during this current wave of the Alliance's enlargement, together with Croatia and Albania. Even though the disagreements between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia seem entirely politicised, to the extent that they incite nationalistic sentiments, it can be safely asserted that these disagreements are unlikely to become a security issue.
Although there are no security issues between Albania and Serbia, the relations between the two states after the declaration of independence of Kosova are poor. Political and economic exchanges continue to preserve the status quo of the last three-four years.
Albania's relations with Montenegro and fYROM seem to be on the right track, but the mal-functioning economies of each country limit further progress. In the meantime, there are no security issues between the three countries, but rather, an enhancement of political will to strengthen economic and political cooperation.
Albania is one of the countries that recognised Kosova immediately after the declaration of independence. At present, Albania and Kosova seem to be going through a phase of accomodation of the new state of affairs visible in their political and economic communications but also at a societal level. Albania has offered a supportive political stance towards Kosova and the political elite of Tirana sees future relations with Kosova as those between two future members of the European Union, as opposed to the mistaken theories that see Kosova's independence as a stepping stone towards Greater Albania.
Last but by no means least, Serbia-Kosova relations stand closer to a resecuritisation process that retains implications for the security and stability of the entire region. Relations between Serbia and the new state of Kosova are utterly and completely politicised. Despite the self-restraint that the governments of the two states have demonstarted since the declaration of independence of Kosova, their entirely politicised relations have very often been on the brink of a dangerous resecuritisation process. Serbia refuses to recognise the new state of Kosova and it has fully invested its diplomatic means in de-legitimising Kosova's independence and hampering the process of international recognition. By continuing to claim sovereignty over the new state of Kosova, Serbia has encouraged parallel institutions and structures, especially in the north of Kosova where in several occassions the situation has been very close to the eruption of a new conflict.
On the other hand, Kosova's government and authorities have refrained themselves from the idea of establishing control and authority over the entire territory of the country, especially over the northern part. Furthermore, the international presence, the EULEX mission, has also not been able to establish its full control there. 
This is the state of affairs with respect to security issues from an inter-state perspective in the Balkans.

The Security Agenda at the Intrastate Level
 
However, the other perspective that I would like to discuss here is that, currently, the security agenda of the Balkans depends more on relations within rather than between states. In fact, the domestic (in)security account has been and continues to be decisive for a functional and sustainable order in the Balkans.
This globally dominating trend in the post-Cold War environment applies to the Balkans also, indeed a special case if we keep in mind the political map of the region, which in the words of Pedrag Simic, resembles the leopards' skin due to the incredibly rich ethnic mix of the various ethnic groups that inhabit the peninsula.
It is precisely due to this reality that more often than not the domestic security issues in each country of the region have the potential to incite a resecuritisation process in inter-state relations.
If we try to open up the state to domestic (in)security accounts, almost in every country in the Balkans we will be able to easily discern that the main security threat is the weak state, lacking the domestic capacity to guarantee its citizens basic political goods, starting with law and order.
The sources of weakness of Balkan states nowadays are varied. They have historical roots and are related to the relatively poor state tradition in the Balkans, to the structure of the economies, the level of industrialisation, the level of modernisation of society, the armed conflicts that accompanied the dissolution of Yugoslavia and last but not least, to the stage of economic development and the nature of the regimes.
Out of all the above-mentioned factors that continue to keep Balkan states weak and mal-functioning, only the nature of the regimes and economic development are relevant to the idea of strengthening the states, making them functional and similar to the state model of the European Union members.
With respect to the nature of the regimes, in the case of the current Balkan states I believe that we can all agree that we mostly find hybrid regimes, or formal, unsubstantial democracies. Please allow me to bring some examples in order to support the argument of a correlation between weak democracies and security issues.
The main reason the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina is relatively weak and mal-functioning is the simple fact that it is not yet a unitary state. However, one of the non-negligible causes that keep Bosnia and Herzegovina a weak state I believe must be sought in the nature of the regime and the level of functioning of democracy.
Conflict and the zero-sum logic that has dominated Albania's transition, having established by now a legacy the political elite of the country has not entirely given up, has seriously threatened security and stability issues of the country.
The establishment of parallel institutions and structures in Albania, FYROM and Kosova is, amongst other things, a result of the nature of the regimes, not quite democratic and functional yet.
Seeking an enemy by all means and preserving  the status quo regarding the conflict has served and will continue to serve, not only in the case of the Balkans, the short-term interests of the political establishment in countries where democracy is still feeble and merely formal.
Serbia is opposing the independence of Kosova through diplomatic means but continues in the meantime to encourage and finance parallel institutions and structures within the state of Kosova. While the option of Kosova's reinstatement under Serbia is not even theoretically possible, the encouragement and funding of Serbian parallel structures in Kosova, including the diplomatic offensive meant to hamper the process of international recognition of the new state, can serve domestic, short-term, political interests in Serbia. Also, it is perhaps the time to address pointed questions:
If military conflicts are almost an impossibility in today's Balkans, are we heading towards a sustainable peace or towards the creation of a frozen conflict between Albanians and Serbs?

The Economy-Security Nexus 

The other impeding factor for strong and functional states in the Balkans - the poor state of the economy and infrastructure, the low level of foreign direct investments, the relatively high levels of unemployment - have the potential to incite a process of resecuritisation.
In the context of a global crisis, the effects of which the economies of the region cannot escape, economic matters ought to be prioritised from a security standpoint.
The discussion of economic issues in light of the need to strengthen the generally weak states of the Balkans can easily fall into a vicious circle. From a theoretical and practical perspective, the question that requires an answer is this:
Does a strong state bring economic development or does the state get stronger as a result of economic development?
The prevailing force for change (and desecuritisation) in the region, the European Union seems to see the strong state as effecting economic development. This is clearly visible in the Union's assistance priorities for more than a decade now. More concretely, the EU has dedicated much of its funding to capacity/institution-building in the countries of the region. In fact, the rule of law is an essential feature of the EU state model, and needless to say a fundamental pre-requisite for accession. In the Balkans much was needed in this respect and owing to EU assistance there has been good progress in Albanian institutional capacities.
However, the time may have come for a reconsideration of the question in hand, and thus of this strategy. In one way or another, investing in institution-building is a top-down approach. The suggestion here is not to entirely give up this approach, but rather to adopt a combined one: alongside investment in institutional capacity, the weak state in this region can be strengthened through strategic economic investment.
Allow me be more clear by referring here to what a great thinker like Karl Poper reminds  us of. In one of his latest interviews, he tells us that Gorbachev did something grotesque, ridiculous: he established a stock exchange in Moscow. We have seen pictures of its formal opening with great celebration. However, the reason the stock exchange was so ridiculous is that there was simply no stock and no money to buy stock at that time in Soviet Union.
Albania did something similar and certainly more ridiculous. It was 1992 when the government decided and established the Bursa in Tirana which is practically still not working, although they have offices and a code of procedures, so basically institutional capacity, just like in other western countries.
What I am trying to say is not that the top-down approach is not any more relevant in the state-building process. Rather, the argument is that, as the Balkan experience shows, a combined perspective of investment in institutional capacities and the economy would   really help in strengthening the state in the Balkans.

                    [post_title] =>  Inter-State Relations and the  Domestic Account of (In)Security 
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                    [post_content] => By Jose Ignacio Torreblanca 

I have just come back from Albania where I found the people wonderful, but also rather unfortunate. If you ever want to check this for yourself, all you have to do is stand in the centre of Tirana. Looking to one side, the massive North Korean styled congress centre dominated by an enormous mural depicting the people in arms looms into view; looking to the other, typical Italian fascist neo-classical design meets the eye, legacy of the occupation by Mussolini's troops. Turning round, you can see a small mosque, one of the few which survived the crazed regime of Enver Hoxha, who declared atheism the State religion, imposed a reign of terror on the country and destroyed a large part of its cultural heritage. This all makes for interesting pastiche, certainly, but it is problematic too from a historical perspective. 
Despite five centuries of occupation, the Ottoman Empire failed to leave so much as a single University behind, and Hoxha's dictatorship bequeathed the people half a million bunkers and a shattered civil society. The country's international image is still weighed down by the film "Lamerica", which portrayed the devastation brought about by the collapse of the banking system in 1997. At the time, people thought a Ponzi scheme of such proportions could only take place in a closed and backward society, but thanks to Bernard Madoff, the Albanians can rest easy, and even allow themselves a smile. 
And one thing Albanians certainly do is smile. Mediterranean as they are, Albanians look back on the past with a sense of humour; the bunkers have given rise to a buoyant souvenir industry with a popular line in ashtrays, and in the pyramid shaped mausoleum which Hoxha built, a restaurant called "The Mummy" has been opened. The Mayor of Tirana, weary of the dilapidated state of the city's buildings, encouraged people to paint their homes in eye catching colours, something which has become a tradition. Tirana has spruced itself up, and it is now a big, bustling city set against the backdrop of stunning, snow capped mountains. 
During my trip I had the chance to talk to members of the government and opposition, exchange impressions with leading staff from research centres, and chat with journalists from the local media. All of them impressed me with their intelligence and the clarity of their vision of the future, especially Rexhep Meidani, President of the country from 1997 to 2002. The message I received from the people I spoke to was unanimous; it's time to leave the past behind, to break with the image of the Balkans as a place of hatred, war, destruction, crime and corruption, and to turns our minds to the Balkans of the future. 
And there precisely lies the key - in a European future. Albania will become a full member of NATO this April and the Stabilisation and Association agreement which governs relations with the EU is about to come into force, which will immediately allow the government to request official recognition as an accession candidate. Albania is afraid it might be left straggling by the pack in the race to join the EU; Macedonia already has official candidate status and it appears that Montenegro and Serbia will present their candidacies as well before too long (possibly during the Spanish presidency). There is a lot still to be done before accession is secured, but Albania is on the right road. The forthcoming parliamentary elections to be held in May will be a test of its maturity, though work is still to be done on some things as obvious as the electoral roll, and the political class remains too caught up in the fight for power, diverting energy from some highly important reforms which are still outstanding. 
Naturally, Spain's success arouses a good deal of admiration in Albania. Our country has an especially strong presence in Albanian cultural and political life thanks to a very active Embassy and a technical cooperation office with numerous projects underway, including the training of Albanian civil servants and the modernization of the civil service. This makes up for some of the misgivings felt in Tirana by the Spanish government's decision to align itself with Serbia, something Albania has never quite managed to comprehend; at the end of the day, they argue, Albania has contributed a great deal more to regional stability. The tragedy of Kosovo, when Milosevic's regime drove more than seven hundred thousand Kosovars to the Albanian border after years of torture and killings, is still very much fresh in the memory. At the time, it became fashionable to accuse Tirana of promoting a "Greater Albania" - to include the Albanians of Macedonia and Kosovo - but the allegation has proved to be a complete myth. 
Back home, a strange feeling overcomes me that there are two kinds of European in the continent today; those who have Europe (and don't want it), and those who want it (and don't have it). 
jitorreblanca@ecfr.eu 

Jos顉gnacio Torreblanca joined the European Council on Foreign Relations as a Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Madrid Office in September 2007. Previously he spent three years at the Madrid's based Elcano Royal Institute for International Affairs as Senior Analyst for EU affairs. He has a doctorate in Political Science and Sociology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and teaches political science and EU affairs at the distance learning University in Madrid (UNED). He is also Fellow at the Juan March Institute of Studies in Madrid. He has been Fulbright scholar in the European Union-US Program, Lecturer at the George Washington University in Washington DC and a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence. He is also a member of the editorial board of the journal Foreign Policy en espa
                    [post_title] =>  The Others 
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                    [post_content] => By Frank Ledwidge

There are some very disturbing developments in science these days..  Theories and ideas that, just a few years ago would have been dismissed as belonging in the world of science fiction, are now commonplace. The driver for these ideas is of course climate change.  There is a growing acceptance that the consequences for the world of climate change could be far more serious than previously thought.  For Albania in particular, as for all Mediterranean countries could be virtually terminal.
The idea is that climate change will result in an increase in mean temperature of about 5 degrees.  This does not simply mean hotter summers.  This will mean the melting of the icecaps, flooding of lowland areas by a sea level increased by up to 80 metres (yes, 80 metres), and the dessication, acute drying of latitudes South of the Baltic. The consequences for humanity will be utterly radical.  Population will, or could be entirely relocated, with the vast social consequences that will .  Siberia will no longer be a barren freezing wasteland.  It may be the bread basket of what remains of the human world.  Countries like Britain will be crowded with high rise cities, which will also throng in Canada and once again, Siberia.  Because there will be too little land for the cultivation of animals, humanity will become an essentially vegetarian species.  The wholesale death of the Ocean Algae, at the bottom of the maritime food chain, will mean that the seas will be essentially dead. There will be little or no fish. 
These ideas, as I have hinted, are not confined now to Kooks and eccentrics.  This is the vision of James Lovelock. the originator of the now largely accepted idea that the Earth is what amounts to a self-regulating organism.  This is the so-called Gaia theory. It posits that humanity has proved itself unhealthy for this organism, the life-system  and the Earth is doing something about it. It is making itself no longer welcoming for us.   Lovelock believes that in as little as a hundred years, there could be as few as ten thousand people.  Yes, a few thousand people.  More optimistic scientists take the view that there may be a billion.  An article in the leading British magazine New Scientist stated however, that some scientists refused to comment on the consequences of climate change on the scale now envisaged, as it might make them seem scaremongers.
Jmkes Locelock is not afraid to comment. In his most recent book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia (2009), he  says that "There is only a small chance that... we could reverse climate change." The consequences of this are that now we should be thinking not about planning to reduce carbon emissions, any reduction would not be effective. They would be irrelevant, like shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic. Its too late for that.  We need rather to be thinking of how to cope with the consequences.  Those consequences are terrifying. 
Lets hope that these are indeed distopian visions and only that.  The trouble is that many serious scientists now believe that these predictions may be accurate.   If they are, the only people alive in Albania in 100 years time, will be living, if at all, in the highest mountain valleys.  There will be no water anywhere else.

                    [post_title] =>  Climate Change - a terrifying Prospect for this Country 
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            [post_date] => 2009-05-01 02:00:00
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            [post_content] => By Artan P쳮aska
apernaska@tiranatimes.com

It suffices to put on the radio, view a TV program or collect a newspaper and find oneself in the middle of floods of talks or information speaking about the global economic crisis and its effects or its venue in Albania. While everybody else speaks of the crisis, the governmental teams in Albania seem to avoid employing the negatively connoted term and even make a full show of optimism concerning the economic growth of the country for the current year.

The Debate

The debate on the global crisis and its effects or its possible venue in Albania is an on-going debate for a number of months. Some analysts consider that Albania has been in a sort of permanent crisis over the whole transition period and perhaps with the effects of the global crisis there is only a further degree to the everlasting Albanian crisis. They point essentially to the fact that Albania has been over the past years a sales-oriented economy with little or no local production and with deep ratios of unemployment. Other analyses state that the crisis began in 2005 (that is after the former legislative elections), thus connecting  the crisis with the economic policies and attitudes of the running government. Other analyses claim the economic progress of Albania over the past years and see little space for a real crisis in Albania. The political factors engage the debate in governance as well as in economic considerations. The government claims, for its credit, governance benefits and governance achievements and as a result a better economic stand for Albania. It is not inclined to see or to match any economic reality that is not compliant to what the government projects its governance should bring about. On the other side of the debate, the opposition parties that have always made criticism of the running governance, this time speak in terms of an "economic reality" that the government not only seems to ignore but also wants to deny.

Economic premises and political stands

With the effects of the global crisis being the object of media attention over the whole world, as well as with some of these effects now enacting growing difficulties to the Albanian economy, the discourse of the opposition parties has begun to employ the word "crisis" in intensive use. Sometimes the government is made rhetorically responsible for an upcoming crisis giving the opposition parties an argument over an electoral party that they will soon have to compete against in the legislative elections. But in the longer run, the discourse over the crisis seems to be impregnated with concern over the economical, social and political developments in Albania in the coming months. The major opposition parties might be in a position to think that they will take over the governance of the country. Economic experts and analysts as well as local business groups or economic actors have all contributed their concerns about a possible crisis in Albania over the past few months. They have asked the running government to come up with a financial and legislative packet against the crisis and seem to limit their discourse on the immediate facilitation of the business and economic climate, expecting an urgent and pre-electoral solution.
Since the debate over the economic situation, be it a crisis or not, is involved both in economic performance and in governance, the running government finds itself in an awkward position. With the elections of 28 June 2009 approaching, the government is trying to extend a positive view over its past and current performance to the electors and induce them to vote over whatever achievements the government thinks itself responsible for.

Economic crisis and economic behavior

The right-wing government has over the long debate on a possible crisis rectified its stand and finally accepted that some effects of the global crisis might be felt in Albania in the coming months. In exchanges with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported in the press last Friday (Shqip), the Prime Minister has agreed that Albania may be touched by the global crisis and has asked for increased financial aid. But to the growing demands that the government come up with a financial and legislative packet against the crisis, the government had answered that Albania has already done a long time ago what other countries are doing against the crisis, that is tax reductions. No governmental initiative has yet come out concerning an anti-crisis "packet" or reflecting an economic downturn sensibility. The Minister of Finance, Ridvan Bode, declared that "Crisis is produced by panic" and asked the economic and political factors to refrain from fearing an economic collapse. While left-wing opposition declares that denying economic downturn is a risky and costly policy.

A crisis hides another - Competition
enforcement policies

When discussing the global crisis and its effects in Albania, no difference is made between the financial crisis that touched the banking sector at worldwide level and the purely economic crisis that is following everywhere in the world. While the financial crisis is being overcome and while it did not have the same exposition in Albania, the economic crisis is pendant to developed as well as developing economies. If panic is especially unwanted and is a producer of a crisis even in normal situations, an economic response to deteriorating situations in the economy makes sense and might be crucial in overcoming difficulties as well as maintaining or stimulating competition. Ilir Ciko, an economic analyst from the G99 party, sees the crisis inevitable. He points out that the majority of Albanian exports and imports are carried out with European Union countries, especially Italy and Greece, and that the EU is actually facing a recession. He stresses that other Balkan states that trade among them to extensive degrees are less exposed than Albania. The majority of the neighboring countries have adopted anti-crisis measures and their reactivity over a possibly coming crisis is expected not only to help overcome difficulties but also to enhance their existing competition in the regional as well as in the global market. "Albania is like a grass leaf in the world economy. When the storm comes the grass leaf might bend and not be touched, but if the storm lasts, the grass leaf will ply and break" - says Omer Stringa, Dean of the Economic Faculty of the University of Tirana. "Albania has seen many crises in the last two decades. In all the cases the reality has been accepted and measures have been taken" - says Ilir Ciko, stating that at a crossroads, Albania must take decisions. Over its last addresses, the Bank of Albania has pointed to risks for the durability of financial stability in 2009. While, the last previsions from the IMF, aired on the media this week, foresee an economic growth from 0 to 1 % for the current year. Few voices among the right-wing, if any audible, consider risks of an upcoming crisis and claim for anti-crisis measures. The major opposition parties' programs have not yet been disclosed and it is untimely to guess if they have included urgency and short-term measures against a possible crisis in their electoral programs. Be there a crisis coming or not, there is a need in Albania for an update of economic policies and a need to make these policies preventive and competitive.

            [post_title] =>  Global Crisis  & Pre-electoral Reflections 
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