Exclusive/ Head of WB in Albania Camille Nuamah

Exclusive/ Head of WB in Albania Camille Nuamah The report, an effective tool of motivating reforms Says World Bank official Why is the report titled “Doing Business 2009″ and not “…..2008″? It has been a longstanding practice at the World

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We lost one of those individuals who make history

By Edi Rama Today, one of those men who are makers of history, passed away. Within a mere seven years Top Channel’s Tani managed to accomplish on his own what takes countries like Albania seventy years to achieve. He lived

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Conflict and Security in the Wider Europe

By Janusz Bugajski The next few years will present important challenges for trans-Atlantic cohesion, European Union unity, and the determination of the West to stand up to an increasingly assertive and expansive Russia that is seeking a dominant role in

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Secrets And Lies: The roots of the ‘organs’ controversy

By Frank Ledwidge I know many of their families. Some of them, against all reason, believe that some day their son, husband or brother will return. They have heard the stories. There is a special camp, they were taken to

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‘Corruption Is Not A Game; It Is A War’

U.S. Ambassador says corruption needs total fight TIRANA, May 7 – U.S. Ambassador John L. Withers II took part Wednesday at the launch of the 2008 Corruption Perception and Experience Survey conducted by IDRA and funded by USAID. Withers considered

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The Return to the Folds of the Natural Family

By EDI RAMA We have turned a leaf on a new chapter in our history. We are invited to return to our natural family. The Albanian people were extended historical support of the United States and its Euro-Atlantic allies, while

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NATO invitation – a momentous event for Albania, says minister

Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha stated at the 12 Annual Economist Government Roundtable “Driving the Global Agenda Through 2020″ that the NATO invitation to Albania and the Kosovar indepepedence were the main events in this part of Europe that were increasing

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Albania’s NATO membership invitation – a miracle

By Sali Berisha Allow me to express my deepest gratitude, to you, the leaders of NATO member countries, for the historic decision you made today, to invite Albania to become a member of the most successful political-military Alliance that time

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Albania’s most important act in recent history – NATO membership invitation

By Bamir Topi Today my country is signing the most important act in its history; today the Albanian people is finally departing from the past of Yalta and Potsdam; Albania in a very dignifying way is successfully demonstrating that freedom

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Interview: Albania – extraordinary willing to show its loyalty to NATO

Michael Haltzel, Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, gives an exclusive interview to the Tirana Times. Haltzel also delivered one of the key speeches at the International Conference “The

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                    [post_content] => Exclusive/ Head of WB in Albania Camille Nuamah

The report, an effective tool of motivating reforms  

Says World Bank official 

Why is the report titled "Doing Business 2009" and not ".....2008"?   
It has been a longstanding practice at the World Bank Group to date reports forward to the time when they are in circulation rather than when the data is collected and the reports are written. For example, the forthcoming World Development Report usually launched around the time of our Annual Meetings in the autumn, will be entitled World Development Report 2009.
Compared to last year, Albania has experienced a huge improvement in promoting business environment in the country. What is Albania doing right, and where does it need further improvement?
Albania has made significant reforms in the area of starting a business, getting credit, protecting investors and paying taxes. Additional ongoing reforms in starting a business, transferring property, paying taxes and closing a business should see further improvement in the indices in these areas in next year's assessment as well.  The areas that are in need of greatest improvement are in dealing with construction permits where the time, costs and procedures remain very high, and in employing workers where there is the need for more flexibility in the labor code to encourage formal job creation.
What do you think is the impact of the WB report on future Government policy-making?   
The Doing Business report has proved a very effective motivator of reforms across a number of countries, and as well in Albania.  The international recognition as well as demonstrated medium term impact on business registration and foreign investment provides a good rationale for governments to continue reforms in these areas.  In Albania, it is expected that the government will follow-through on reform in the area of taxes, property registration, closing a business, among other areas. A complementary impact of the report can be to raise public awareness about the key steps in various business processes so that both businesses and citizens can advocate for further reform.
What would you say is the impact of the report on foreign investment in Albania?  Do you think the report will improve Albania's credibility on foreign investor's eyes?   
It's too early to say what will be the impact of the report on foreign investment in Albania.  However, for other countries both in Eastern Europe and around the world, foreign direct investments (FDI) has increased more rapidly following significant reforms in the areas of the Doing Business indicators.  In Albania, the introduction of new rules on protecting investors will provide some comfort to foreign investors who invest here as minority shareholders with domestic firms. Of course, application of the law will also depend on the effectiveness of the court system, which remains a key challenge in Albania as can be seen from the index on enforcing contracts.  However, it should also be remembered that laws in and of themselves can provide a benchmark for healthy businesses and a deterrent for unfair practices among private parties.
How would you answer to criticism that the indicators used in "Doing Business
2009" do not reflect the whole reality of the business environment? 
No single report or set of indicators can reflect the whole reality of the business environment in any country, much less as provide a robust comparison across 181 countries.  Doing Business focuses on 10 key areas that are important for the formation and growth of small-to-medium sized businesses in any market economy, and have been demonstrated by a host of academic research to have an impact on FDI as well.  Clearly there are other aspects of the business environment, such as quality of infrastructure, strategic location, availability of skilled labor, or extent of corruption, that are not measured by these indicators, but which are also more difficult to compare across countries.  The World Bank uses other tools, such as the upcoming Albania Investment Climate Assessment, which can explore in more detail the specific issues facing a particular economy.
Albania has improved 49 positions from last year, which makes it nothing short of a miracle. But what does this improvement really tell us?
Albania improved 49 positions in the ranking from last year, on account of two very bold reforms which put the country among the top 20 countries in the world in their treatment of these issues -- the establishment and operations of the state-of-the-art credit registry by the Bank of Albania, and the amendment of the companies law to include modern, up-to-date investor protection rules -- as well as other reforms including the establishment of the National Registration Center and the lowering of corporate tax rates.  The country's new ranking of 86, which puts it on par with other countries in the sub-region, tell us that Albania has achieved and can continue to achieve a rapid pace of convergence with, first and foremost, the countries of the former republic of Yugoslavia, and then with other countries in greater Europe.

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                    [post_content] => By Edi Rama
Today, one of those men who are makers of history, passed away. Within a mere seven years Top Channel's Tani managed to accomplish on his own what takes countries like Albania seventy years to achieve. He lived his life at 300 kilometers per hour seizing his dream and setting ablaze the screen of the new Century in an Albania which still stands in the side wings of the old century. The magnificent work which Top Channel's Tani built with the intuition of a genius and the passion of a child is a success model equal to a frenetic pace of life, always at the helm. No slackening of the speed even for a split second. 
Behind the talented professionals who in the microphones of Top Albania Radio and on the screens of Top Channel found an oasis of their growth in optimal conditions, was the life of a man in an unremitting search for perfection. Behind the perpetual introductions of latest discoveries in communications, modern news room formats, the scathing laughter of Fiks Fare and the hilarity of Portokalli, the music of Top Fest and the roar of the crowds in the world's Super Sports stadiums live, behind all of this was the life of a man competing with time.
His exist forever from this world which was never big enough to confine him, leaves in its wake feelings of deep sorrow for what Albania lost today, together with an aching grief within myself for the loss of an extraordinary man whom I had the fortune to know closely from the days when he began breathing life into a dream which he had been born to build and to which he dedicated his life. 
                    [post_title] =>  We lost one of those individuals who make history 
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
The next few years will present important challenges for trans-Atlantic cohesion, European Union unity, and the determination of the West to stand up to an increasingly assertive and expansive Russia that is seeking a dominant role in the wider Europe. I will focus therefore on the current threats to the trans-Atlantic agenda and the escalating confrontation with Russia, as exemplified by Allied decisions over Kosova.

Threats to the Trans-Atlantic Agenda
Each of the CEE countries, much like the rest of Europe, faces novel security threats and intricate foreign policy challenges especially given the difficulties experienced in maintaining the cohesion of both European and trans-Atlantic institutions. These threats range from unresolved status issues, lingering ethnic tensions, and mass migration to energy security, organized crime, international terrorist networks, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Some states also view the lack of political stability and international integration among their neighbors as a latent security threat whether to their own national independence, territorial integrity, diaspora rights, social stability, economic development, or investment opportunities.
In many respects, the most important security challenge for the Atlantic Alliance is the ongoing gap between the U.S. and the EU, even though the second George W. Bush administration has endeavored to heal some of the rifts and the new leadership in Germany and France is more amenable to a stronger American connection. The gap that emerged between the U.S. and the EU during the past decade has been a consequence of numerous factors, and not only because of divergent opinions on how to deal with Iraq and international terrorists. With the disappearance of a tangible common threat such as the Soviet Union, almost inevitably the glue of the Alliance weakened, while no single overarching security threat has had the same adhesive power. The divisions that emerged are also a manifestation of asymmetrical military capabilities, differing national interests and regional priorities within the EU evident in divergent threat perceptions and security strategies. 
While in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the U.S. has focused intensively on overcoming global threats and grappling with regional insecurities stemming largely from the Middle East, the EU has been preoccupied with its own institutional enlargement and integration. While Washington has viewed international Islamicist terrorism as the most critical national security challenge, many European states consider a spillover of Middle Eastern instability to be potentially more threatening. While the US has been focused on pre-emptive and even preventive military action against real and potential threats, the EU has been more concerned about state sovereignty, "soft security" strategies, and preserving the legitimacy of multinational institutions.
In addition to their policy differences, both the EU and the U.S. are suffering from persistent and diverging weaknesses. The EU has a capability gap with regard to its potential military dispositions and its willingness and ability to deploy combat troops. The projected European army remains in its infancy. Meanwhile, the U.S. is experiencing a credibility gap in terms of its political influence in the face of growing skepticism about Washington's policy and global manifestations of anti-Americanism manipulated by extremist groupings and by some governments.
However, the differences that emerged between the U.S. and the EU do not signal that the Alliance should be discarded because the most basic American and European interests are reconcilable. In many cases, the U.S. will require EU political support, military assistance, and complementarity in some combat zones and in a host of "softer" security components such as law enforcement, intelligence sharing, peace-keeping, and reconstruction. The EU itself is eager to better coordinate foreign policy with Washington on questions that the Europeans consider central to their interests or in which they have made military and economic investments.
Beyond the tangible threats themselves, one of the major trans-Atlantic security challenges will be to maintain sufficient Alliance as well as European cohesion in tackling emerging threats. Although Americans and Europeans generally have similar perceptions about the most vital security challenges, they differ markedly on how best to deal with them. For example, EU citizens are less willing to support military force without the seal of multilateral institutional approval. The EU countries also tend to be ambivalent concerning what global role they should play and at what cost, while at the same time support for strong American leadership in world affairs has significantly declined during the last decade.
It is in America's national interest to promote a European Union that is committed to the trans-Atlantic relationship. The most beneficial result for the U.S. of EU enlargement and integration through the Reform Treaty for the U.S. would be the emergence of a revived EU that also rejuvenates the Atlantic connection with a more coherent foreign and security policy. Simultaneously, the new members can become good Europeans by helping to transform the EU into a politically cohesive, economically competitive, and strategically vital region that can complement and work together with Washington to resolve a host of common challenges.
While the U.S. must work hard to restore its international legitimacy in the wake of the Iraqi war, the EU must find its identity, scope, and solidarity. At the same time, NATO is also experiencing a prolonged period of evolution, seeking to find its own identity and mission in a post-Cold War world. NATO's security agenda, and that of its individual members, has become more diffuse and complex as threats and challenges to alliance security have become more ambiguous and diffuse. Clearly, the anti-terrorist campaign or any other contemporary international crisis does not have the same trans-Atlantic adhesive force as the struggle against communism and Soviet expansion once did. Different NATO members exhibit contrasting national priorities and a variable willingness to contribute to NATO missions. 
It is in U.S. national interests to have a united European ally that can cooperate and complement the projection of America's political authority, economic strength, and military power. And it is the national interest of all EU states to have a strategic alliance with the U.S. and benefit from Washington's commitment to European security and from a partnership that aims to build a wider Europe. A more Atlanticist EU will encourage a more multilateralist U.S. policy at least on issues of primary concern to both sides of the Atlantic. 
The U.S. administration, both outgoing and incoming, needs to reinforce ties with its new allies in Central-Eastern Europe, as well as with more traditional partners. Political support for CEE priority issues, whether towards Russia, the Black Sea region, or the Western Balkans, together with appropriate economic and business benefits may help guarantee more durable commitments to the transatlantic relationship. Simultaneously, the challenge for the new allies is not a question of simply balancing U.S. and EU interests, but of making these interests compatible, complementary, implementable, effective, and durable. And the challenge for Washington is to transform the EU into a partner that complements America's strategic goals and does not obstruct or divert them. 

Russia's Challenge
In the post-post Cold War world, Russia presents an increase challenge to Allied interests. Although Russia is not as strong as it acts, it is also not as weak as many in the West believe. It can and does act as a spoiler, a conflict provoker, and a direct threat to the national interests of its neighbors. 
The list of conflict points between Russia and the West expands almost every week. The Putin leadership has deliberately created a sense of danger through its anti-Western rhetoric. It claims that the U.S. and its closest NATO allies, such as Britain and Poland, are seeking to encircle Russia and prevent the country from regaining its rightful position as a major global player. The expansion of Western alliances and the promotion of liberal democracies are depicted as direct threats to Russia's interests. 
Russia's presidential elections in March will not change policy. President Putin's selected successor, Dmitry Medvedev, is not an independent actor with his own power base but will remain beholden to the "cekistocracy" that controls the Kremlin. Moscow's policy will remain assertive and at times openly confrontational toward the West.
In this strategic context, Kosova has evolved into more than a wedge issue for Moscow vis-a-vis the U.S. The wedge has widened into a valuable strategic weapon. The Kremlin views the issue as a boost for its regional and global ambitions. Although Kosova is not intrinsically vital for Russia's expansionist interests, by vetoing Kosova's independence and maintaining an indefinite status quo, Russia aims to raise its international stature in several ways.
First, the Kremlin can claim that Russia is a major defender of international legality by its insistence on working through the UN Security Council. Of course, Russia would not allow the UNSC to interfere in its own neighborhood; for example, by approving a long-term UN mission in territories that it covets in Moldova and Georgia. Moreover, Russia itself regularly violates the UN Charter (in Chechnya) or stations troops in neutral states without government approval (as in Moldova).
Second, Russia is posing as a promoter of multilateralism, where the UN process can serve its interests and undercut those of the U.S. Multilateral institutions such as the UN are not only slow and cumbersome in making decisions but they operate according to the lowest common denominator whereby the resistance of one capital can deny the interests of the majority.
Third, Moscow is posturing as a staunch protector of state sovereignty and national integrity by opposing the imposed breakup of a UN member state, Serbia, irrespective of the genocidal policies pursued by Belgrade, which led to Kosova's de facto separation in 1999. Russia thereby appeals to several UN members who fear separatism. At the same time, the U.S. is depicted by Moscow as a maverick interfering in the internal affairs and state structures of allegedly vulnerable states.
Fourth, Kosova forms part of a wider strategic agenda that enables Russia to elevate its international position, to interpose in Balkan and European affairs, to divide the Atlantic Alliance, to promote splits within the EU, to aggravate weaknesses in Western decision-making, to gain veto powers over Europe's enlargement, and to construct a Eurasian pole of power as a counterbalance to the United States.
Although Kosova's statehood will generate tensions in the region, the stabilization of the western Balkans is manageable if NATO, the EU, and the U.S. work in tandem to prevent Belgrade and Moscow from exploiting divisions in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Belgrade no longer possesses the capabilities to export war to neighboring states, but a display of diplomatic and military force may be necessary by NATO and the EU to convince local actors that the West is serious.
Containing Russian reactions outside of the Balkans may prove more problematic. In the wake of Kosova's independence, Russia may pursue its imperial interests more vigorously in several neighboring regions and intensify its anti-American alliances. Moscow has already signaled that it will fortify its economic and political ties with Iran; it will seek a closer relationship with China to counter "American expansionism;" it will develop the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) into a competitor with NATO in Central Asia and the Caucasus; and it will increase pressure on all former Soviet colonies who seek inclusion in Western institutions.
NATO enlargement throughout the Balkans and toward the Black Sea region, with invitations for Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April, would help undercut Russia's aspirations in the region and provide a greater sense of security to the new Atlanticist states. The Balkans have once again become useful for Moscow in disrupting democratic expansion in the wider European theater. In this strategic context, Serbia is manipulated by Russia as a valuable bridgehead within South East Europe to further Moscow's economic and political designs, especially through the expansion of its energy interests. 
The Kremlin does not seek a permanent solution for Kosova but prefers a "frozen conflict" in the Balkans that it can exploit to its advantage. For Moscow, the emergence of Euro-Atlantic democracies in former communist territories undermines its strategic designs. Democratic governments invariably seek membership in NATO and the EU in order to consolidate the reform process and provide permanent security and the assurance of state independence. Such developments undercut Russia's regressive influences in neighboring countries and retard its ambitions as a revived superpower. Russia feels more assured in realizing its aspirations where neighbors are either predictable authoritarian states, isolated and marginalized countries with populist governments, weak and internally divided states that cannot qualify for NATO or EU membership, or countries ruled by anti-American governments. 
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                    [post_content] => By Frank Ledwidge
I know many of their families. Some of them, against all reason, believe that some day their son, husband or brother will return. They have heard the stories. There is a special camp, they were taken to work in mines. Friends had seen them alive long after the kidnapping. Anything. But most mothers, fathers, sisters and wives know in their hearts that for the Serbian civilians kidnapped by the Kosovo Liberation Army there will be no return. They understand now that they are dead. But now there are new stories. Stories of butchery and organ sales. 
I know the families because for two years I was the Missing Persons Officer for the OSCE in Southern Kosovo. The majority of the missing were Kosovar Albanians murdered by Serbian security forces. We made no distinction in how cases were treated, Albanian, Serb or Roma. I am proud that I was threatened by both KLA and by Serb paramilitaries claiming that I was working 'too much with the other side'. We were proudly non-partisan.
Now though we can make a small but significant distinction. For many of the dead Kosovar Albanians there is some kind of Justice. Some Serb killers are serving long prison sentences in the Hague. Milosevic himself is dead. Others are on the run. Many bodies of missing Albanians have been recovered. Not enough justice, true, and not all the dead have been given decent burial and lie still to be discovered. At least for some there is a grave to visit and a place where families may remember.
But for the Serb missing there is no kind of justice. Very few bodies have been recovered. No graves for them. And to add to the injustice, not a single KLA leader has been convicted of their killing. The agony of their families goes on and on.
Not only have they been denied justice, but there is a new horror for their families. Allegations have now arisen that these missing men, or some of them, have been murdered for their organs. Carla del Ponte seems to have abandoned her critical faculties in believing this nonsense, let alone writing about it. In the two years I was involved in these cases, speaking to witnesses, investigators and prosecutors both in Kosovo and the Hague I heard no word of this or anything like it. This is because it never happened. 
Even to discuss this is to dignify the story with plausibility, but I will say two things. First the KLA were insufficiently well organised to operate such a complex system, with its requirement for medical precision and speed of transport. Second, this kind of allegation is what is called an 'urban myth'. Similar stories are to be found concerning traffickers of human beings, and the same considerations apply. Fiction.
Of course in Serbia, extreme nationalists love this story. They are keen at any cost to apply mud to the new Kosovo state. The same applies in Russia where the story of the KLA and the Organ transplants' is playing well.
My question to them is 'Isn't what really happened to the missing Serbs, Roma and Albanians bad enough without prolonging the agony of their families?' But they care nothing about that.
And what did really happen to these men, almost all civilians? You have seen what happened on television. Scared, terrified men many of them severely beaten and tortured led out of a bus into a forest. Screams, gunfire and then silence. You have seen it in the recently released film of the 'Skorpion' killers at Srebrenica. The only substantial difference is that the murderers I am talking about speak Albanian. If you have access to the internet you can read about it in the evidence given at the Hague in the case of the ICTY Prosecutor against Fatmir Limaj and Others (Case IT-03 -66). 
Let me be quite clear. The KLA had some fine men. The zone commander for the area I worked Ekrem Rexha, also known as Commander Drini was a brave soldier respected by his own men and his enemies alike. Very many other KLA fighters were decent men, fighting for what they believed in and defending their homes. I knew some of them. Most are now dead, killed fighting the Serbian forces or murdered like Drini by other KLA factions. 
Other 'officers' in the KLA are nothing less than a disgrace to the Albanian nation. Some of them avoided arrest altogether. Others have been to the Hague and though 'lack of evidence' have been released and have returned to political careers. Believe me there was evidence. Plenty of it.  The problem was that few people were willing to risk death to give that evidence in court. Ultimately the KLA killers have made this horrible story happen. If they had not viciously murdered so many civilians, what story would there be?  
So what should Albanians do when confronted by this kind of story? Albania is not Kosovo. It has a very long and unbroken tradition of tolerance and fair play. There are no mass graves in Albania. Real Albanians should not cry 'injustice' or 'anti-Albanian prejudice', however true this may be. Bringing actions of criminal libel against Del Ponte will serve no purpose except to attract derision. What Albanians should say, and what I say is 'lets identify the killers of these innocent men and bring them to some kind of justice, even if it is only the justice of public shame.' Whatever is done, for the sake of honour and honesty it is about time that all Albanians acknowledged that Serbs do not have the monopoly on massacre. 
                    [post_title] =>  Secrets And Lies: The roots of the 'organs' controversy 
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                    [post_date] => 2008-05-17 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => U.S. Ambassador says corruption needs total fight
TIRANA, May 7 - U.S. Ambassador John L. Withers II took part Wednesday at
the launch of the 2008 Corruption Perception and Experience Survey conducted by
IDRA and funded by USAID.
Withers considered Albania's NATO invitation, the independence of Kosovo, even
a little bit on Albanian culture and history as some happy topics he has dealt with
recently, adding that corruption was "unfortunately Šnot one of those happy subjects."
The news from the survey on corruption unfortunately was not good, he said.
Corruption has been a main topic in the country and the one that likely gave the
power back to governing Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha in 2005
that set the fight against that as the main target.
According to the survey, 92 percent of Albanians says corruption is widespread
among public officials and that is a decline of 8 points form a year ago.
The report shows no progress in bribery indicators. Nearly 70 percent of people
surveyed report paying a bribe for medical treatment. Nearly 60 percent have little or
no trust in the judicial system. By a 3 to 1 margin, Albanians

Today we are releasing the findings of a
USAID-funded survey, conducted by Director
Pasha's institution, on corruption in Albania.
The survey tracks both the perception
and experience of corruption by ordinary
citizens. The news unfortunately is not
good. According to the survey, 92% of Albanians
says corruption is widespread
among public officials and that is a decline
of 8 points form a year ago. The report shows
no progress in bribery indicators. Nearly
70% of people surveyed report paying a
bribe for medical treatment. Nearly 60%
have little or no trust in the judicial system.
By a 3 to 1 margin, Albanians do not think
the judges are impartial when conducting
trials.
The figures show that Albania has a serious
corruption problem. Corruption affects
all parts of Albanian society נthe economy,
the potential for investment, Albania's image
abroad.
But I do not want to continue reciting
numbers; I want to speak a little bit about
how corruption affects ordinary people. In
my many many conversations with Albanians,
not only here in Tirana but throughout
the country, I have discovered that almost
everyone has corruption stories to tell me.
Let me give you just a few examples.
One told me of little children who were
just learning their ABCs, their alphabet, being
told the day before the Teachers Day,
and I quote, "Tell your parents I do not want
flowers tomorrow!" What kind of lesson is
that for a seven year old child? What does
that teach to a seven year old? What mindset
is given to that seven year old for the future?
Several people told me about doctors who
do not look at the patient's medical record
or even record the visit in the official register.
Instead, the doctor asks the patient detailed
questions about the income and their
financial status. If the answer showed that
the patient is poor, that patient gets no medical
treatment. If the patient is well-to-do, the
doctor starts calculating how high a fee he
can get away with.
Many people have told me about their
difficulties about getting basic documents
like a driver's license or birth certificates or
property registration. They tell me how they
'Corruption Is Not A Game; It Is A War'
have to wait hours or sometimes days or even
weeks to get these basic documents for themselves
unless they are willing to hand over
200, 500, 1000 leks or more in which case
they go to the front of the line.
People expressed great frustration over
the fact that the police will announce with
great fanfare a serious corruption case
against senior officials but then weeks pass,
months pass, the charges are reduced, somehow
the case goes away, somehow none is
punished. Now let me be very very clear:
corruption is not only an Albanian problem;
corruption exists everywhere. There is a
great deal of corruption in my own country,
in the United States, and you can pick up
any paper in the country and you can see
reports of that corruption. But the critical
ingredient is not that corruption exists, it is
how we respond to corruption.
One of the things that I find troubling is
that many times when I am speaking to my
Albanian friends and I ask, "You told me all
these stories about corruption. What should
be done about it" and they reply by shrugging
their shoulders and reply, "Mister Ambassador,
this is not the U.S.; this is Albania."
I do not accept that answer.
Albanians value honesty as much as any
people in the world and as much as any people
that I know. Albanians hate corruption.
They hate the fact that the few who are corrupt
spoil it for the many who are not.
And I particularly do not like the implication
in that answer which implies that corruption
is a symptom of Albanian culture; it
is not. Anyone who knows the Albanian people
knows that it is a violation of the ethical
and moral code that Albanians have.
Albanian culture places honesty and integrity
above all else. For Albanians, a promise
given is a promise kept. And the principle
of Besa, the quintessential Albanian virtue,
is a bond that cannot be broken. So, I
repeat, anyone who implies that corruption
is natural to Albania is wrong; corruption is
a violation of what it means to be Albanian.
So, what is to be done?
Let me talk about two particular topics.
The first, addressing corruption is a high
level responsibility. The political elite of this
country must take charge in fighting corruption
in a meaningful way not just through
speeches and words. And when I say the
political elite, let me be clear: I am not pointing
at the government, or the opposition or
any particular political party or individual;
all of the political elite must take responsibility.
And that means that political leaders
must expose acts of corruption even by their
colleagues.
They must not use influence to protect
friends or relatives and they must not use
political power to change the course of justice.
The political elite of Albania should lead
by example. One important straightforward
step that can be done is to change the immunity
law, which protects senior officials in
courts, in Parliament and in other offices
from prosecution. They should be as liable
to prosecution as any Albanian citizen. Put
another way, none should be immune from
prosecution or illegal acts.
And the political leadership of Albania
should empower the institutions that seek
justice; empower the prosecutors who go
after the criminals; and, should make clear
that whoever the suspect is, regardless of
wealth, regardless of family ties, regardless
of political connections, is subject to prosecution.
Let me cite one case as an example of
what I mean: I was very pleased that in the
most recent the Human Rights report, the
HRR for 2007, there were no reports of violence
against journalists. However, the day
before the report was released, a member of
parliament Tom Doshi, beat a journalist for
asking tough questions. Next year's human
rights report will not give Albania a passing
mark in that category. An investigation into
the case has been promised but no further
word has been forthcoming.
I cannot judge whether Mr. Doshi was
guilty or innocent in what he did but my
question is will there be a fair hearing? And
I also ask the question: What is the media
doing? The media has an important role,
particularly in protecting one of its own. As
far as I am aware no newspaper reported this
incident until days after it occurred; my question
is: are they following it now? And is it
not their duty to be following up?
The second theme that I would like to
discuss is public responsibility. And by that
I mean citizens who see corruption or victims
of corruption, protesting it, criticizing
it, exposing the incidents of corruption, demanding
more of the leadership to do something
about corruption. The professions can
police their own; the professions can assist
in eliminating corruption from within the
profession.
For example, if nothing happens to the
doctor who takes bribes, the names of hundreds
of doctors who save lives is smeared.
If nothing happens to the judge who
drives a 30,000 Euro Touareg, the names of
judges who issue fair and just decision every
day, is smeared.
If nothing happens to the police officers
who tip criminals of upcoming police raids,
the whole 15,000 police officers force is
smeared and weakened.
If nothing happens to the official who one
day wakes up rich, the entire public administration
is smeared and weakened.
I do not accept the answer that there is
nothing that can be done about corruption.
None can convince me that what are
called "t롦ort뢠in this country are more
powerful than the thousands of parents who
want decent education for their children or
for young people like yourselves who want
to live here in a free, open, and honest society.
If people take charge, good things happen.
I heard the story of a hospital administrator
in a northern city who learned that
the nurses were demanding bribes to tell
patients where the doctors' offices were
located. She simply put up signs showing
the way to the Doctors' office and that reduced
the bribes.
I heard of one agency that issues a certain
documents that ended the problem of
people jumping the queue through payment
of a bribe by setting up an appointment system:
a person arrived at a certain time, met a
relevant officer, and paid no bribes.
What is the importance of a citizen taking
responsibility - let me read a quote by a
very respected Albanian Anton Harapi who
said this before he was executed in 1947 -
"Do you know that the foundations of a
building are laid in the ground? Even though
buried we have to be the foundation of the
building we call Albania."
Corruption is not a game; it is a war.
There is one and only one reason for the
words I told you today: and that is because I
know you can win that war, because my government
wants you to win that war and because
every Albanian wants to win.
                    [post_title] =>  'Corruption Is Not A Game; It Is A War' 
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                    [post_date] => 2008-04-18 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By EDI RAMA
We have turned a leaf on a new chapter in our history. We are invited to return to our natural family. The Albanian people were extended historical support of the United States and its Euro-Atlantic allies, while Albanian politics was charged with a new duty, which for us socialists and progressive forces, is a brand new challenge; Joining NATO in 2009!
The road traversed to reach the current point is evidence in itself of the cost the Albanian people have paid for the obsolete politics of the divide and rule of the Albanians, simply for the sake of the interests of the politicians and to the detriment of the interests of the country and people. Way back in 1992 Albania was summoned to the Council of Cooperation of the North Atlantic Treaty, but it took no less than another sixteen years for the much-desired invitation to be extended, although the Albanian citizens, socialist and democrat alike, have never lost sight of their aspirations for Albania to join NATO.
Therefore, at the moment of the crowning of an important component of the mission of our generation, it is a day on which we can be proud of the contribution of the Socialist Party, which, via an entirely new policy for an Albania torn asunder by the old politics, initiated, led and enabled a political process where the strategic and fundamental interests of the country can not be interfered with or threatened by the interests of the partisan estimates of a given moment. 
This is the day when socialist and democrat citizens alike, all over Albania, but also throughout the world, felt the hand that defends the Free World on their shoulder; the hand that is raised to halt evil in its tracks whenever the values of democracy of the countries of NATO come under threat, or peace and security of our planet; the hand that the old politics prevented us from shaking many years ago.
It is in the interests of Albania and of the Albanian citizens to radically reform the system of representation and the entire electoral infrastructure. We will represent this interest with devotion and resolve and we will request that the other side meets all its obligations as well, because we are convinced that the more free and fair elections are, the more spectacular our victory will be; and the more guaranteed the will of the sovereign people is against the ugly tradition of vote distortion; the more stable and qualitative our government will be and the better defended our citizens will be from the perils of today.
Without doubt this is a Fine Hour in our history, which in the past brutally divided us from our natural family of the people alongside whom we fought, shoulder to shoulder in World War Two. That war remains our brilliant page of the XX Century, which always makes us feel such great pride for our veterans, before whom we bow our heads in profound respect in this our Fine Hour. Other pages leading up to the Hour of Liberty of December 1990 are dark and painful, saturated in blood and tears, martyrs, innocent victims who have such dramatic histories, the unpaid sweat and toil of an entire people, who for forty five years achieved an enormous volume of slave labour throughout the whole of Albania. Seventeen years after the collapse of the communist regime, today our people have the legitimate right to savour this Fine Hour, which back in that distant December we all expected would come much earlier.
Yes, we can enjoy this Fine Hour together and hope for a future where the life of every Albanian woman and man will be a good life, protected against the dangers that threaten us all today due to the absence of a functioning State; a life replete with opportunities and possibilities to fulfill dreams and desires, natural ambitions which today, for the majority of us, remain mere attempts, because of an old and obsolete kind of politics, that for seventeen consecutive years became an impediment to the development of democracy, individual freedoms and equality before the Law.
In this Fine Hour we cannot close the eyes of our hearts of Albania today without remembering all the lives lost on the job, on the streets, at family celebrations; because only by looking towards the future through the eyes of our minds and at the present through the eyes of our hearts, will we be able to clearly discern that between us and the future we want for our children, stand the obsolete politics of the past and a Prime Minister, who would have lent dignity to the Government of the Albanians in this historical moment for all of them, if he had stepped down following the explosive collapse of his government, precisely in the name of those new political and moral standards that Albania and her people today deserve.
Today, the problem we face is putting justice in place and for every damaged family and/or individual to restart life as usual; our job is to carry to every village and township, to every city quarter and to every door, the message of a new unification to close the chapter of old politics of the past and to pave the new road of the future by means of a policy which has eyes for looking, ears for listening and a heart for feeling the pain, the problems and the desires of people, the means to make European Albania a reality, constructing Europe in our villages and towns, in our kindergartens, schools, hospitals, in our homes where no parent should feel reluctant to spend the money on a birthday gift for his/her child, this is our victory!
We will win for those who did not manage it through to this Fine Hour. We are going to win for all the children of Albania, so that the future can be their lives. We will win for all the young men and women of Albania, in town and countryside, so that they don't have to flee their country of birth and abandon the property of their parents, but receive sound schooling here and build a worthy life, making an outstanding contribution and taking produce from the soil of Albania, which today is all purchased many miles away. We will win for all the parents of Albania who, in this Fine Hour on which the sun is now setting, frown with concern on the routine of the new day that dawns with its high prices, the power bills, medicine prescriptions they can't afford, the long queues of unemployed, all the land now barren or with no access to irrigation, they frown because of the lack of hope that weighs so heavily on their mornings.
The invitation to join NATO, is not the end, but the beginning of a new chapter of relations and obligations that must be fulfilled before Albania is accepted, as an equal amongst equals, at the tables of the NATO member countries. And Albania, all of us, will be assessed not on what we say and will say in the future, but on what we do and will do in the future. Precisely because, whether in Opposition or in Government we will do everything we say and because we are ready to uphold this historical responsibility, next year Albania will be admitted into NATO, we will be governing it and it will feel sound and safe on the job, in the street and in celebration.
                    [post_title] =>  The Return to the Folds of the Natural Family 
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            [6] => WP_Post Object
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                    [post_date] => 2008-04-18 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha stated at the 12 Annual Economist Government Roundtable "Driving the Global Agenda Through 2020" that the NATO invitation to Albania and the Kosovar indepepedence were the main events in this part of Europe that were increasing its peace and stability in the former war-torn region.
Following is his speech at the event.

Let me first say that only a few days ago, the Bucharest Summit extended to Albania and Croatia the official invitation to join NATO;this is momentous event for my country and its history. 
Meanwhile, the Declaration of 17 February 2008 proclaimed Kosovo an independent and sovereign state. It goes beyond doubt that these two events are the most significant developments in Southeast Europe, whose impact exceeds the regional borders. 
Albania strongly believes that, in essence, NATO enlargement toward the Balkans represents the enhancement of the space of freedom, stability and security; accordingly, it signifies the shrinkage and the diminishment of the space of instability and insecurity in this region. In this sense, we fully support the Declaration of Bucharest Summit and in view of the EU and NATO political strategies, we are ready to render our own modest contribution for the integration of our neighbours in these structures. Only a clear and all-inclusive perspective for the membership to NATO and the EU could finally pacify the Balkans, safeguard its stability and, in the long run, even the European stability.
The invitation for membership to Albania and Croatia proves that the warnings on " the enlargement fatigue" were unfounded. The NATO "open door policy" is the only correct and realistic policy of mutual geo-strategic and geo-political benefits, both for NATO and its new Member States, or even those aspiring for their integration to the Organization. The message is important and evident: the path to NATO is open for each country, once they comply with the membership criteria and standards; the latter are met not only through military, but also through political and economic reforms, painstaking, as they often are. Nevertheless, these reforms are worth the costs, since ultimately, the countries performing them would line up with the forces of peace, liberty and progress.
We think that our togetherness at this missionary process is the most correct and the fastest track in ensuring stability and development for our countries and the region as a whole. True, this is not a single track process; what counts most, however, is that we have all agreed to encounter these challenges together, to share the experiences and the obtained experience, welcoming and commending the assistance of our Euro - Atlantic partners. 
Albania has made notable progress vis - a - vis its integration reforms. The relevant legal frame is already laid down fitted to the integration needs. Structural reforms have been unveiled, focusing particularly on the fair and transparent privatization of the major national assets and on setting up efficient mechanisms of order and law enforcement.
The Stabilization and Association Process, whereby other countries of the region take part, has defined a frame of concrete commitments and a clear perspective, not only in economic, but also in security terms.
Albania's economy is developing with a steady annual rate of 6 per cent, keeping inflation under control, at 2.9%. Compared to 2006, exports went up by 28%, whereas foreign investments grew by 87%; The administrative costs declined from 3 to 2.1 % of the GDP. The Government policies, intertwined with the uncompromising fight against corruption, smuggling and fiscal evasion have led to the growth of budget revenues with nearly one billion US Dollars as against the year 2006, at a time when Albania is the country with the lowest fiscal burden in Europe.
Nearly 205 criminal groups were cracked down and 850 persons were brought to justice in 2007. 
These achievements of my country's democratic progress and development are also a contribution to the region as a whole.
The implementation of common projects and strategies is assuming an increasing significance in terms of regional cooperation. In this way, our economies become ever more competitive, but also more complementary to each other; hence, we could make our energy and telecommunciation systems better inter-connected and our transport roads more modern and integrated. 
We believe in a world which is becoming increasingly global; therefore, through our policies we try to follow up the global trends. Our countries are small and incapable of competing alone. Individually, the markets of our countries are small-sized and not competitive. Nonetheless, together - with integrated transport, energy, telecommunication and markets, we may be more capable, more serious to ourselves, to each other, to our regional and extra-regional partners.
Our regional cooperation is dictated not only by the immediate interests or the economic benefits, but also by the long-term necessity to face the common challenges - combating terrorism, organized crime, illicit traffics and others. In this regard, as a serious and loyal partner, Albania is ready to offer its own contribution to meet all these challenges. 
I believe I share the same view with most of You that it would be pretty hard to imagine the currect stage of development in our region without NATO's presence. Here, I have in mind, first and foremost, the developments in Kosovo.
We consider the founding of the independent and sovereign state of Kosovo as an historic event; it provides more freedom, security and stability to the Balkans. The Republic of Kosovo becomes a worthy actor in the international arena, with a clear European and Atlantic orientation, an important factor of peace, stability, security, harmonious development and integration in Southeast Europe.
Kosovo is an independent country now and this is a fact that nobody can prevent it. Countries that represent 70 per cent of the GDP of the globe have recognized it.
Last year I have seen our colleague and friend, Vuk Jeremic wake up every morning trying to prevent it. He has employed the best of his efforts and elloquence in any form to stop the independence of Kosovo, he has spared no effort but he has failed and nothing could be done about it. It was not You or President Tadic who lost Kosovo; it was the radical nationalists with their 19th century nationalism that lost Kosovo and their impact upon the whole Balkan countries. In this view and for the sake of freedom and stability, we have made all efforts so that Kosovo be a safe place.
We are convinced that Kosovo's case is unique and the applied solution is also unique - (a) Kosovo is an outcome of the dismemberment of a state that has ceased to exist; (b) Kosovo used to be a constituent part of a state that broke up through violence ( c)Kosovo's population was subject to a systematic cruel discrimination; the latter is a typical feature of colonial countries, which frequently assumed the proportion of a state genocide; it reached its peak during the tragic events in 1999, when over a million of Albanian Kosovars were forced to leave their own lands; nearly 10.000 were murdered and over 3.000 other persons are considered as disappeared even to date; (d) as of the year 1999, pursuant to the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo is under the administration of the UN International Mission; in practical terms, it implies that Serbia has been "de facto" stripped away of its sovereignty over Kosovo; (dh) The Ahtisaari Plan, which stands on the foundations of the post-status Kosovo was developed while taking into account the local circumstances and the sensibilities there. 
All these specifics have made the UN secretary general, the NATO secretary general, the High representative and Secretary general of the Council of European Union and other authorities to state that Kosovo a unique or " sui generis" case, which does not and cannot serve as a pattern for other conflicts, neither in the Balkans nor in other regions of the world; henceforth, it is far from being a destabilizing element.
We have applauded and at the same time encouraged the Kosovo political factor to retain the calmness, maturity and self-restraint, so as to avoid any provocation and to carry on its cooperation with the international factor, the representatives and citizens of entire Kosovo and the minorities, in particular. Simultaneously, we have called on the Belgrade authorities to adhere to their own commitments to avoid violence and we demand the same from Serbs in Kosovo.
Unfortunately, the developments on the ground show that certain segments of politics in Belgrade and a part of Serbs in Kosovo are not holding on to these commitments. The repeated violent actions, the presentation of partition plans on ethnic grounds and even the calls to infringe the territorial integrity of independent Kosovo state pose a serious threat to peace, security and stability, not only in Kosovo, but throughout the region.
Viewed from this perspective, the Declaration of Bucharest Summit on developments in Kosovo assumes a special significance. NATO's engagement in support of a democratic, multi-ethnic, stable and peaceful Kosovo, as well as its appeal to all regional actors to avert actions and rhetoric that undermine security in Kosovo or other parts of the region, make us firmly believe on a soft and peaceful transition process in Kosovo; certainly, the outcome would be the consolidation of its vision of stability and the stability of the region as a whole.
Finally, a few words about our Euro - Atlantic perspective. True, it was a dream for us all, it was a dream for Albania to be part of NATO. But it is not a dream any more, it is a reality. A reality that we chose and worked hard for. The results of our coutries are the results of painstakling reforms. Reforms that requre political courage and sacrifices. Therefore, I would compare the European and Euro - Atlantic perspective of the region with a faith. It is a politial faith that strengthens the believers and their self - confidence. That is why I take this opportunity from this stage to once again call on all of us, countries of Western Balkans to place our faith in European integration, as the only alternative for the region.
Address of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lulzim Basha, at the 12 Annual Economist Government Roundtable "Driving the Global Agenda Through 2020" 
                    [post_title] =>  NATO invitation - a momentous event for Albania, says minister 
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                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2008-04-04 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2008-04-04 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Sali Berisha

Allow me to express my deepest gratitude, to you, the leaders of NATO member countries, for the historic decision you made today, to invite Albania to become a member of the most successful political-military Alliance that time has known. For Albanians, that so much have suffered and sacrificed for their freedom and dignity, and today support membership of their country into NATO by more than 95%, your decision here in Bucharest opened an era of secured freedom and the secure future they deserve.
The history of my country is the one of survival. The freedom and the future are one and indivisible. But, with your decision to invite Albania, you decided the return of the Albanians, one of the most ancient inhabitants of the continent, to the family of the Euro-Atlantic nations, with whom we share the century old values of our civilization.
The decision of the Heads of State and Governments of the NATO member states to invite Albania today, is the appreciation and affirmation of the efforts and achievements of the Albanians to transform Albania from a country of totalitarian dictatorship, deep isolation, complete hypercollectivization, forbidden rights and freedoms, to a country of political pluralism and functional democracy, rule of law, free market economy, a country, which during the last 15 years has established a loyal and comprehensive cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance.
Our servicemen are stationed together with your troops in Kabul and Herat and will be wherever NATO needs them.
With your decision you commended these achievements, and I want to express my deepest gratitude towards your nations and countries, for the solidarity and overall assistance they have given us in our path to build freedom and its values in our country. My deepest gratitude goes to NATO, its Secretary General and his team, for the very valuable assistance they have given us to make this possible
With your decision you have placed great confidence on us. But I would like to take a solemn oath before you today that we value this trust, above all, as a great responsibility of my nation towards your nations to carry out every reform, adopt and implement any decision and law to reach and consolidate the political, social, economic and military standards of NATO member states.
One of the greatest truths we have learned is that the reforms are the real "perpetuum mobile" of the free society. They will be such for our society as well.
By expressing once again my appreciation to all of you and your countries for the historic decision you made today, I avail of the opportunity to close with a personal feeling:
In this Palace, the story of which is very well known, a country that was ruled by the most ruthless dictator of post-war Europe, who, for more than four decades, put up so many bunkers in the cities, villages, valleys, mountains and hills of the country that, were they assembled in one place, it would suffice to build the pyramids of Egypt, twice, is invited today to become member of NATO!
For me this is a miracle, the miracle of freedom!
Prime Minister Sali Berisha's speech at the NATO Bucharest Summit
                    [post_title] =>  Albania's NATO membership invitation - a miracle 
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                    [post_content] => By Bamir Topi
Today my country is signing the most important act in its history; today the Albanian people is finally departing from the past of Yalta and Potsdam; Albania in a very dignifying way is successfully demonstrating that freedom and democracy can be transformed into virtues also in the country where not even two decades ago, the harshest dictatorship of the post Second World War history had transformed the violation of freedom and right into an institution.
As the President of Albania, I would like to thank all those friendly countries that believed on the sincere Euro-Atlantic request and wish of the Albanian people and supported it. This dream which was naturally born in the very first days of the liberation of the Albanian society from Communism came true today in Bucharest.
The whole Albanian society, Albanian politics, media and representatives of civil society in Albania are determined and responsible to support the accession of their country to NATO.
Albania is already on its irreversible way towards building a democratic state and Rule of Law. We are determined not to stop in front of this challenge, in the name of a better, safer and prosperous future for our children, where any sacrifice is justified.
The important political and economical reforms undertaken by Albania in the judicial system, in the electoral system, in the security system, the reforms in the Armed Forces, in modernizing the institutions, the reforms to eradicate corruption and the fight against organized crime which are the contribution of all the political forces: of the ruling majority and opposition as well, of all the governments since 1992, but especially of the very Albanian people are irreversible, fundamental and indispensable processes also for an Alliance member country.
I consider the decision taken by the Alliance today as an appreciation and trust upon the entire up to the present, all sided, serious and multilevel engagement of my country, and as a major obligation that we have in front of both the friendly Alliance member countries and the Albanian people as well.
Albania is ready to become an important part of security and democracy policies of the Alliance, not only on regional level, but also on the global one as well.
The extension of NATO on the Balkans space remarkably thaws the insecurity space within the European continent. It offers the assurance of long-term security and of development and prosperity and helps to democratize the Balkans countries by showing them the sole right path to depart from their past of inter-ethnic animosity.
Albania, through its regional Euro-Atlantic policy will support the integration of the Republic of Kosova in the security and development spaces and will be ready to offer its individual contributions within the NATO and European Union policies for the integration of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.
The regional crisis, political or economical, the violation of human rights by dictatorial regimes, underdevelopment, poverty and hunger, which threaten millions of people, the inter-ethnic and inter-cultural conflicts and the international terrorism and global warming threaten the future of humankind and try to ruin the tendency and balance of the sustainable development and security of international relations. All these major challenges demand immediate and determined answers - answers that must be constructed and articulated based on the contributions and participation of interests which are not only individual, but global as well. Internal or external insecurity is a virus from which no one enjoys a long-term immunity. Albania is ready not only to become part but also to offer its values in enriching and preserving the global values of civilizations.
The Albanian people today is alongside those countries and peoples who use as compass of their national development the values of democracy and freedom to build a brighter future not only for their respective societies, but for all world societies and nations. We are proud and at the same time, aware and responsible of this act.

President  Bamir Topi's speech held at the Bucharest summit
                    [post_title] =>  Albania's most important act in recent history - NATO membership invitation 
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                    [post_date] => 2008-03-29 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => Michael Haltzel, Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, gives an exclusive interview to the Tirana Times. Haltzel also delivered one of the key speeches at the International Conference "The Security and Development Agenda of the Western Balkans", organised by Albanian Institute for International Studies on 15 March 2008. Tirana Times interviewed Dr. Haltzel on that occasion.

- What are the chances  of Albania to join NATO?
- The chances for Albania getting an invitation are better than fifty-fifty. I think Albania has made big strides in the last decade. This is the first time I have been back since 1998 and  I can see huge progress. It has a long way to go obviously. I think the biggest challenge is fighting corruption. Everyone knows that. You're not ranking in the Transparency International so good. But 2007 Freedom House report gave to Albania a positive overall which is a trend because of Albania's efforts to fight corruption. So, that's positive. 
Albania's strongest asset in the campaign to get a NATO membership invitation is that this country has been extraordinary willing to show its loyalty to the Alliance  even before being a member by sending troops to Afghanistan and now even to  Iraq.
I get the sense that democracy is taking root, that's good. Albania has made a  peaceful transference of power. There is a very active political landscape. It is not only about Albania but I think politics still seems to revolve under personalities to  a huge amount. In every country, personalities matter. Even in my own country, everybody is looking for presidential race largely in terms of personalities. That I  would think is a negative side. But in general, the political climate in Albania is calmer than before. 
Back to your question, no one knows what are Albania's chances but my guesses are than they will be better than fifty-fity but no means that is not a sue thing.
	
- In your view, what do Albania, Croatia and Macedonia benefit from joining NATO and vice-versa?
- They share values. NATO is a political military Alliance. The common values are important to NATO. The biggest argument for NATO enlargement, starting in 1999 with Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to continue in 2004 with seven other countries, has been the extending of grey zones which are a recipe for disaster. I wish our Russian friends could have understood that better. So, weak unstable governments, weak unstable countries breed problems whether it is smuggling or trafficking and a series of other things. Obviously getting in the NATO is a powerful signal to the rest of the world that these countries are joining the club. It is a seal of the approval. It is not that this means you are perfect. No country is perfect. But it shows you've reached a certain level of achievement, maturity, democracy and social stability and that the army is ready to contribute to the security of Northern Atlantic area.
If Albania gets in the NATO, I suspect that it will have a great psychological effect. It will attract foreign investments. In fact, you are already contributing to NATO as Albania is striking to show that it wants to defend the security of the Northern Atlantic area.

- Kosovo is an independent country now. What do you think about the situation there?
- I am not so happy about the situation there. The international community did the right thing as well as the countries which recognized Kosovo. I understand Serbian feeling of anguish and bitterness but you know they misruled and thye prsecuted the people for years. So, I don't like their behavior. They seem to overrule the territory but they do not want to give people, 90 percent of people there the rights of citizens. Why  did not allow the Kosovar Albanians to vote in the referendum on new serving Constitution in December 2006? 
I would hope that eventually Serbia and Kosovo will join the EU in the same way I wish Albania joins the EU or Montenegro joins the EU. When this happens, the border between Kosovoand Serbia will become pretty much irrelevant. That's hard to explain that to people because they do not think in long term. But that's the reality. 

- Do you think the parallel institutions will continue to function in the North of Kosovo ?
- I think that the game plan for the Serbs. Partition has always been the goal. When I was in the US government in 2002, Prime Minister ZHivkov came to the town and he openly said that partition was the goal. Realistically the Serbs' plan was partition. 

- What are the challenges of EU and USA in Kosovo?
- I think the challenges are two-folded. We have to help the Kosovo government implement the Ahtisaari plan. It is a good plan. We have to help the government in every way to educate the judiciary and make them able to get off on their feet to have a smoothly functioning democracy. 
Secondly, I would hope to bring the North under the control of the whole country.

How do you predict Serbia's future?
- I think in long term, Serbia will become a EU member country and will turn away from the absolutely self-defeating policies of the radicals, Nikolic and Kostunica. How long is that going to take? That depends on the Serbian people. The idea of turning it to Russia brings no future. If Serbia wants to be like Belarus, fine but I don't think this is gone happen. The Serb people are too intelligent for that choice

- What will happe if Tadic win in the next general parliamentary elections? If Nikolic?
- Serbia has elections in May 2008. I really hope that Tadic wins these elections. If he forms a government, then this will be important that the EU makes clear that he wants to bring Serbia back on the track to get into the EU. But Serbia must stop meddling in Kosovo. If Nikolic wins, then Serbia can kiss its EU ambition goodbye. They have to make the choice. 
Still one should not deem Serbia for the Serbian people. There are thousands of Serbian people who are not violent, who are democratic, want to have peaceful solution, want to join the EU. Such people are even in the highest state levels, I am talking about Tadic, Serb Foreign Minister, high ranking military people at the defense department who absolutely are western-supportive. In democracy, the majority wins. I hope these people get the majority. 
                    [post_title] =>  Interview: Albania - extraordinary willing to show its loyalty to NATO 
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            [post_date] => 2008-09-12 02:00:00
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            [post_content] => Exclusive/ Head of WB in Albania Camille Nuamah

The report, an effective tool of motivating reforms  

Says World Bank official 

Why is the report titled "Doing Business 2009" and not ".....2008"?   
It has been a longstanding practice at the World Bank Group to date reports forward to the time when they are in circulation rather than when the data is collected and the reports are written. For example, the forthcoming World Development Report usually launched around the time of our Annual Meetings in the autumn, will be entitled World Development Report 2009.
Compared to last year, Albania has experienced a huge improvement in promoting business environment in the country. What is Albania doing right, and where does it need further improvement?
Albania has made significant reforms in the area of starting a business, getting credit, protecting investors and paying taxes. Additional ongoing reforms in starting a business, transferring property, paying taxes and closing a business should see further improvement in the indices in these areas in next year's assessment as well.  The areas that are in need of greatest improvement are in dealing with construction permits where the time, costs and procedures remain very high, and in employing workers where there is the need for more flexibility in the labor code to encourage formal job creation.
What do you think is the impact of the WB report on future Government policy-making?   
The Doing Business report has proved a very effective motivator of reforms across a number of countries, and as well in Albania.  The international recognition as well as demonstrated medium term impact on business registration and foreign investment provides a good rationale for governments to continue reforms in these areas.  In Albania, it is expected that the government will follow-through on reform in the area of taxes, property registration, closing a business, among other areas. A complementary impact of the report can be to raise public awareness about the key steps in various business processes so that both businesses and citizens can advocate for further reform.
What would you say is the impact of the report on foreign investment in Albania?  Do you think the report will improve Albania's credibility on foreign investor's eyes?   
It's too early to say what will be the impact of the report on foreign investment in Albania.  However, for other countries both in Eastern Europe and around the world, foreign direct investments (FDI) has increased more rapidly following significant reforms in the areas of the Doing Business indicators.  In Albania, the introduction of new rules on protecting investors will provide some comfort to foreign investors who invest here as minority shareholders with domestic firms. Of course, application of the law will also depend on the effectiveness of the court system, which remains a key challenge in Albania as can be seen from the index on enforcing contracts.  However, it should also be remembered that laws in and of themselves can provide a benchmark for healthy businesses and a deterrent for unfair practices among private parties.
How would you answer to criticism that the indicators used in "Doing Business
2009" do not reflect the whole reality of the business environment? 
No single report or set of indicators can reflect the whole reality of the business environment in any country, much less as provide a robust comparison across 181 countries.  Doing Business focuses on 10 key areas that are important for the formation and growth of small-to-medium sized businesses in any market economy, and have been demonstrated by a host of academic research to have an impact on FDI as well.  Clearly there are other aspects of the business environment, such as quality of infrastructure, strategic location, availability of skilled labor, or extent of corruption, that are not measured by these indicators, but which are also more difficult to compare across countries.  The World Bank uses other tools, such as the upcoming Albania Investment Climate Assessment, which can explore in more detail the specific issues facing a particular economy.
Albania has improved 49 positions from last year, which makes it nothing short of a miracle. But what does this improvement really tell us?
Albania improved 49 positions in the ranking from last year, on account of two very bold reforms which put the country among the top 20 countries in the world in their treatment of these issues -- the establishment and operations of the state-of-the-art credit registry by the Bank of Albania, and the amendment of the companies law to include modern, up-to-date investor protection rules -- as well as other reforms including the establishment of the National Registration Center and the lowering of corporate tax rates.  The country's new ranking of 86, which puts it on par with other countries in the sub-region, tell us that Albania has achieved and can continue to achieve a rapid pace of convergence with, first and foremost, the countries of the former republic of Yugoslavia, and then with other countries in greater Europe.

            [post_title] =>  Exclusive/ Head of WB in Albania Camille Nuamah 
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