Local government elections: Make way for decency

By Alba ȥla Out of all political science quotes worth to remember, a particular one from Hobbes stands out: “Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Hobbes was referring to the jungle of personal

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Kosovo, struggle for democracy

Timothy Kenny writes for Tirana Times PRISTINA, Kosovo – What to do about this dusty Balkan backwater is a problem that’s nearing the end of its diplomatic rope in European talks. Kosovo remains a difficult, ungainly issue for the West.

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Special Comment: Ahtisaari, No Serbian Sovereignty No Independence

By Albert Rakipi, Ph.D The Ahtisaari plan that will be unveiled today in Belgrade and Prishtina has been a public secret for a few days now. In its substance, the plan aims to invalidate the 1244 UN resolution which has

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Bringing Albania to the age of technology

By Sali Berisha As some of you may know, Albania is a very young nation, the youngest in Europe, with almost half of its population under the age of 25. This represents one of my country’s greatest assets and unique

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Kosova After Final Status

By Janusz Bugajski As the moment of truth approaches for Kosova, it is time to look at the impact that international decisions will have for the future of the Balkans. In sum, the U.S. and the EU will need to

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The importance of family reputation in Albanian political life

By Nicola Nixon During the 1990s, all the European post-communist countries made a great display of rejecting ‘communism’. This took different forms in different countries but there are certain similarities across the board. For example, in most former communist countries,

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A clear EU perspective for the Balkans

By Olli Rehn I am glad to discuss the Western Balkans in this highly qualified company and here in Rome. Italy is a strong supporter of the EU’s enlargement policy and a great advocate of the European perspective for the

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Keeping alive the EU perspective

By Albert Rakipi There are at least two reasons which require a serious reassessment of the EU perspective as it is understood from the Western Balkans and from Brussels. First, with the final status of Kosova process coming to an

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Do things have to get worse for them to get any better ?

By Fatos Lubonja The most disgusting thing, but at the same time absurd, unacceptable, repulsive and intolerable, which has characterised politics and the politicians in our country (traditionally), is the exercising of that irresponsible and arrogant “pragmatism,” according to which

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2007: A Year of Promise and Peril

By Janusz Bugajski A year of major international decisions is fast approaching. U.S. policies during 2007 will determine the long-term security of several crisis regions. The status of Kosova is the most important unresolved item on the Balkan agenda. Most

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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Out of all political science quotes worth to remember, a particular one from Hobbes stands out: "Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Hobbes was referring to the jungle of personal interest in which man would live had he not agreed to consent on a common regulatory body, the Leviathan. The state in other terms, would not change the nature of the human being but simply subordinate it to rules for the protection of life and property. The pursuit of happiness, this idyllic clause and the last island populated by idealists, was added later. Little did Hobbes know that people later would return to his state of nature, which he inevitably loathed, and look at it as a rather interesting alternative. The last exercise in pre-Hobbesian thinking can be seen in last weeks' Tirana Times. The editorial, which I would humbly nominate for the first prize in radical realistic thinking, was spectacularly named after a Nietzsche-an parabola. "Make way for the beasts with red cheeks." The article analyzed the noise surrounding the current Albanian electoral battle and judged all concerns about the negative aspects of the as na෥ and hypocritical.  The author is relieved that the society once identified the offenders of the code of conduct "does not wield a sword to execute its will" and thus punish the culprits. For a society which long ago lost its sword to apathy and political extremism, I don't see how that would be possible. The consequences of such a loss are not something to be grateful for but to correct as soon as possible. In a normal state the vote would correct everything but throwing out the wastrel. It is precisely the abnormal context in which our voters are forced to choose between evil and evil that makes this analysis obsolete (besides alarmingly poshy and arrogant for daily consumption!) It is all very fine and brilliant to make such a trendy styled plea for realism, quite a refreshing note to all the "liberal dogma" breadwinners. However, the normality of accepting the ridiculous state of Albanian politics and shrouding it in the comfortable cloak of "that's the way things are!" is still to be argued by the author. In my opinion, what the editors of the Albanian dailies, or at least the articulate and intelligent ones, are trying to expose is not so much the evil but the absurd, the ridicule.  The absurd is far more harmful than the petty evil of personal interest. The absurd is a concept that can be applied only in the aggregate level to our political and social system. A system that brings nausea rather than the emblazoned "pre-Magna Carta excitement mixed with shame".
Lest take a final look at the very core of this editorial's thesis: "Politics should resemble the state of nature!" Well it often does, worldwide. But should it? Once we step in the realm of normative thinking we should at least acknowledge that we cannot denominate all the die-hard idealists who argue for a better conduct as na෥ or hypocritical. After all I think personally think it is very na෥ to see the common declaration of our politicians as counterevidence of their madness. It is also na෥ to say that the politicians of today are men who understand freedom and lead a society of free men. Our politicians lead a society of blind men. Yet, I wouldn't be at pains to describe this editorial as na෥. Because, I may as well have misunderstood everything. The last sentence finishes off this display of brave yet scary anarchic thoughts with a smooth lacquer of cynicism directed at the figure of the General Prosecutor. With a surprisingly childish irony (untypical of the rest of the article at least) the author drives home the point he has been trying to make all the way through, an unquestionable legacy of the one-man solution syndrome shaping his beliefs. Otherwise he would have said: we have a justice department to take care of justice. Hence, the personal attack on Sollaku (one-man-blame; one-man-retribution). What he unfortunately achieves though is the demise of the trendy edifice of his argument which is shattered under the hidden agenda of the article. A pity for such a hard-boiled sincere attempt!
                    [post_title] =>  Local government elections: Make way for decency 
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                    [post_content] => Timothy Kenny writes for Tirana Times
PRISTINA, Kosovo - What to do about this dusty Balkan backwater is a problem that's nearing the end of its diplomatic rope in European talks.
Kosovo remains a difficult, ungainly issue for the West. I lived there from May 2002 to March 2003, training journalists. I have returned to Pristina since then and kept up with friends and developments.
UN diplomat Martii Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who has arrived at an impasse in talks between Serbs and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, is expected to begin shuttle diplomacy between Belgrade and Pristina, Kosovo's capital, in February 2007. He'd like to kickstart into action 10 months of talks about Kosovo independence.
 But Ahrisaari's diplomatic woes - which may eventually force him to drop the problem of Kosovo independence into the lap of the UN Security Council - is not the real worry that lies ahead for the province. Clearly, some form of independence for Kosovo will come eventually. 
What's more troubling is whether Kosovo's cultural mindset, weighed down by tradition and family alliances, will allow democracy to take root in the near term or decades from now. Kosovo is a secular Muslim society where few but the elderly regularly visit the mosque. Religion or government are not the glue that binds this place together; extended family does. 
What does democracy and self-rule mean for a society in which the clan holds more importance than city government, where room for compromise is constrained by social order and an unforgiving past?
Consider the following:
* Seven years after NATO bombing put an end to Serbian rule in Kosovo, cuts in electricity and water remain common. In Pristina, a city of some 300,000, people continue to put up with the inconvenience of intermittent electrical power as if it were no more important than a missed newspaper delivery. In Western Europe or the United States - even in Romania where I lived as a Fulbright scholar in 1991 - the public outcry over such bureaucratic incompetence would force a resolution of the problem. Kosovars grouse but take no action.
* During my first winter in Pristina, with snow falling and the temperature hovering around 20 degrees one January day, I asked the office maintenance man at if he was going to sprinkle salt on our icy steps and sidewalk. I had managed to safely get inside without falling, but barely.
 "Salt?" he said. "Is that what you do in America? Put salt outside on the steps?"
 "Yes," I said, "so people don't fall down and hurt themselves."
 "I see," the maintenance man said. "But why?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders. It made no sense to him to salt a community walkway. It was outside the bounds of his property and sense of responsibility.
*In Taslixhe, the upper-middle class section of Pristina where I lived, mothers scolded their children to stay away from an open sewer pipe that spewed foul-smelling waste onto cobblestone streets. The pipe remained broken for several months before a road crew patched it; the fix lasted five weeks before the problem returned.
The health hazard was still in evidence two years later when I returned to my former neighborhood of late model cars, well dressed residents and elaborate brick houses overlooking distant mountains.
Citizens of successfully emerging democracies in Eastern Europe - and I know scores of them - have bought into the notion that civil society is crucial to nationhood. Kosovo has not yet done so. 
Kosovars are certainly capable of eventually fashioning an independent future free from oversight by the European Union or the UN. But Kosovo can expect tough going in its transition to democracy. Until it establishes a broader sense of itself, an identity that can overcome the population's inherent suspicion of outsiders and its staunch reluctance to abandon traditional thinking mired in retaliation, Kosovo will struggle with the demands of democracy.
What it means to be a Kosovar today does not hold out the best hope for democratic success. Kosovars are capable, intelligent and hard working. Their commitment and generosity to family is widely known. Their way forward to true independence is not yet clear, however. 
The province's successful future will emerge when ordinary Kosovars begin to live as if their country shares common goals, a place where being responsible for constructing the greater good starts by demanding the repair of a broken sewer line or salting an icy winter sidewalk.

[Timothy Kenny, a former newsman, non-profit foundation executive and Fulbright scholar, is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut.]
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                    [post_content] => By  Albert Rakipi, Ph.D

The Ahtisaari plan that will be unveiled today in Belgrade and Prishtina has been a public secret for a few days now. In its substance, the plan aims to invalidate the 1244 UN resolution which has provided the framework for state building in Kosova since the end of the 1999 intervention. Although the plan was motivated by the need to find a final solution to the Kosova issue, it seems quite possible that it creates a transitory phase to an eventual final solution or an independent and sovereign Kosova. According to the plan, Kosova will be able to enter into bilateral relations with other countries and to apply for membership in international organizations eventually including the United Nations. It precludes Serbian sovereignty over Kosova without explicitly mentioning the term "independence". Nevertheless, the prerogatives of the young entity from international relations to state symbols and the creation of a protection force that will lead to an eventual NATO-trained army predict the creation of an independent state. The plan will allow Kosova to declare independence and seek international recognition through a bilateral process.
On the difficult issue of Serbian minority, the plan allows a large autonomy for the Serb enclaves, dual citizenship for its people, extraterritoriality for Serb cultural and religious monuments and the possibility of financial aid from Serbia through Prishtina to the enclaves.
Finally, the third actor or the international community will retain strong oversight capacities through the creation of a EU office that will be able to veto legislation, remove elected politicians that are deemed an obstacle to the "peace process", and supervise the judiciary and the police.
These three dimensions of the plan (road to independence, role of internationals and minority rights) show that the plan does not contain a clear design for the final status of Kosova. Instead, it represents a major but transitory effort. The issue is: How long is transitory? The answer to that question will say a great deal about the future of Kosova and the region.
Although Ahtisaari is scheduled to listen to the remarks of Prishtina and Belgrade, it is quite possible that the plan will be non-negotiable. It is also unlikely that its substance will change much prior to the vote in the UN Security Council. Kosova's legal framework will be based on the plan's three dimensions while the workings of the future state machine will exhibit the positive and negative characteristics that the dynamics between these three dimensions create. Here we propose several considerations from a security and development perspective on the likely effects of the plan. 
To what extent the design of new Kosova presented today will allow for further progress in the state building process? Despite some progress under resolution 1244, the resolution and its legal and political arrangements have turned into an obstacle for further progress on this regard. However, the new resolution that may be passed by the UNSC based on the Ahtisaari package is unlikely to create the necessary space for tangible progress. The coming resolution creates the premises of independence without securing the thing in itself. But only international recognition of Kosova's independence will open the way to further progress by solving a festering political problem, assigning responsibilities, and invigorating the nascent institutions of the fledgling entity. In its potential impotence, the new resolution may risk to resemble 1244 with some cosmetic changes such as dropping the elephant UNMIK for the more agile EU Office. 
Secondly, a particularly large devil seems to hide in the details of how the mission/office of EU with its wide mandate will accommodate Kosova's institutions in order to secure the inner workings of the state machinery and strengthen Kosova's institutions. It is here that the springs of the machine may crack or break under the cumbersome deadweight. To what extent can regime legitimacy be strengthened under the conditions of unclear lines of responsibility or governance vs. diffidence? Will Kosova's elected leaders mind their constituencies or respond to the judgment of the internationals? The mandate of the EU in Kosova seems to replicate the Bosnian case. That is troubling for two reasons. First, it did not work in Bosnia. Second, in Bosnia at least it responded to a multiethnic reality which demanded some kind of arbitrage. That is not the case in Kosova. Kosova may be a weak state but it is a unitary one as well according to the reality on the ground. Imposing failed multiethnic solutions on a unitary entity risks importing all of Bosnia's post-Dayton troubles with none of the gains.
The second point regarding the role of the international community in post Ahtisaari Kosova is linked to the legitimacy of the democratic system there. A large or powerful mandate for the next "governor" of Kosova leaves little space for local actors to struggle for legitimacy, share responsibility and wield power in the way their electorates mandate them to. In such a cumbersome power arrangement, it will be all too easy for local elites to shift responsibility or blame or both on the outsiders. In such a situation, it will be difficult for Kosova's people to judge who is right and the blame may be laid on the wrong doorstep.
The third dimension of the Ahtisaari plan or, to state it differently, the West's Balkan project, is linked to the support given to multiethnic states in the region. Although the details will likely be made clear today, it seems certain the Serb minority will be offered a great deal of autonomy, institutional and financial links to Serbia and extraterritoriality for its cultural and religious monuments. While the intentions of Mr. Ahtisaari are noble enough, such an approach may actually undermine the very multiethnicity it wants to uphold. 
The wide autonomy offered to the Serb minority has little to do with the decentralization and devolution of power from central to local government a successful process in neighboring Macedonia among others. Instead, the Serbs are being given their own kind of autonomy different from other areas in Kosovo which may discourage their participation in Kosovar institutions and encourage them to look for their future in Serbia as opposed to Kosova.
Despite claims to the contrary, in today's Balkans minorities are proving an advantage for new democracies in the region. This is so in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia. It may prove to be so in Serbia as well. The way in which the ethnic majority behaves towards minorities is a litmus test for its democratic credentials. It is obvious that the international community is fearful of how Albanians will behave towards Serbs in the future. That is why it is taking double measures to avoid any unpleasant surprises on this regard.
Until now, with a few notable exceptions the representatives of the Serb minority in Kosova have boycotted Kosova's democratic institutions under the benevolent guidance of Belgrade. Despite efforts by the Government of Kosova to channel aid to the Serbs through its own institutions and control Belgrade's financial life support to the Serb minority, the aid has continued to flow unregulated and undisturbed. This has inched Kosova closer to a territorial division especially in the northernmost Serb municipalities.
Moreover, despite prompt action on providing reconstruction aid for damaged Serb monasteries which should serve as a source of viability for the new state, the extraterritoriality element contained in the plan puts state and religious institutions in a competitive plane rather than a harmonious one.
The minority deal envisaged in the plan may harm future peace and multiethnic co-existence in Kosova. It may make the process of reconciliation more difficult than it ought to be thus endangering rather than promoting peace and stability. While we have to acknowledge that we are speculating for as long as the plan is not yet public, the elements that have already been linked are not encouraging. 
Last but not least, it is important to enquire about the effect of the Ahtisaari plan on the Balkan Order. It seems likely that all countries in the region minus Serbia will support the plan which is very encouraging. The region is starting to speak the common language of Euro-Atlantic integration. But, for as long as the plan and the new UNSC resolution will remain within the formula "no Serbian sovereignty over Kosova bout no sovereign Kosova", Kosova's relations with its neighbors may remain at the state that they are now. This means that the region will have to postpone its sigh of relief over a stable Balkans for some time to come. Of course, this will have an impact on the efforts to create a new image for the region, its market and development potentials. 
If the Ahtisaari plan will create a new transitory phase on the way to Kosova's final status, this phase has to be as short as possible. Secondly, any uncertainties in the plan that subvert clear lines of responsibility and harm Kosova's state building process need to be cleared up. There is little doubt that the new Kosova state will be weak for some time no matter how perfect the Ahtisaari deal may be. A flag and a seat at the UN General Assembly are not enough to build a proper European state. But the issue is to avoid creating a failed state "with our own hands" before it has even a fair chance to show what it can become.
                    [post_title] =>  Special Comment: Ahtisaari, No Serbian Sovereignty No Independence 
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                    [post_content] => By Sali Berisha
As some of you may know, Albania is a very young nation, the youngest in Europe, with almost half of its population under the age of 25. This represents one of my country's greatest assets and unique advantages. Indeed, the young generation is Albania's greatest hope for the future. 
Each time I address a young audience, I ask my self the same questions: How to bring Albania to their age? How to make the country as energetic, vibrant and full of hope as they are? The same answer comes always to my mind: Invest in their education, bring Albania to the age of technology, promote a digital life, create a strong information society. 
It is for this reason that my Government has launched the initiative Albania in the Age of Technology as a top priority of its agenda. 
This initiative, along with the rule of law and liberalization of economy, is a fundamental condition for the success of other economic and social reforms. It is also the only way to gain the time our nation lost during the communist regime.
As part of this initiative, my government intends to achieve:
 Expansion of Internet penetration and broadband connection to every household in the country. In this regard, we are closely collaborating with large technological companies to increase the number of PC penetration in Albania, granting over 250,000 ADSL ports free of charge, launching WiMax services, while also seeking to overcome technological challenges such as the last mile for broadband penetration. In addition, we will provide every Albanian child and young with a computer. 
 Heavy investment in eGovernment services from eProcurement to eTaxes. We are increasing the adoption of collaboration tools, digitalization of the system of archives and utilization of advanced database systems.
 Establishing a favorable legal and taxation environment for foreign direct investments with a particular focus on attracting major technological corporations. The government is prepared to grant concessions and physical assets such as real estate to corporations willing to participate in the development of the local technology sector. 

Bringing Albania to the age of technology is a crucial condition for achieving transparency on all governance processes, increasing accountability and enabling citizen participation in policymaking. It is also an effective mechanism to boost our efforts in fighting corruption, modernizing education and improving tax and custom administration. Fulfilling these objectives will not only strengthen our democracy, but it is a sure path to shorten our process of European integration.
The evolution of the Albanian society into the digital age represents the standing ground for the advancement of all social, political and economic reforms. The potential impact of a digital life, in many ways, reminds me of the transformational role that the Reformation had on the European society which made the Bible accessible to everyone. Similarly, technology will make information and knowledge accessible to all in Albania.
Allow me to conclude my remarks with a personal experience. 28 years ago, as a young medical doctor who had just completed his residency in France, I came back to Albania with a lot of ideas for research in my field. As I began my research work in a modest laboratory, I met a British gentlemen - not sure if he was a Scot - who had brought with him an Apple II computer. (My apologies to Microsoft, but as you know the computer was not running on the DOS system.) With my small team of researchers, we managed to program the computer in Fortran. The presence of this small computer enabled us to complete an original research study in hermodynamics, which was first published in London and later in many scientific journals of the world. So, this computer fundamentally changed my life.
As such, this experience shaped my belief that technology is the best way to change my nation and advance my country, to make up for lost time and to reach new horizons.
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            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 101269
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
As the moment of truth approaches for Kosova, it is time to look at the impact that international decisions will have for the future of the Balkans. In sum, the U.S. and the EU will need to balance the potential instabilities arising from Kosova's final status.
UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is presenting his report on Kosova to the Contact Group. His likely solution will be "supervised independence," whereby NATO and the EU will control Kosova's security and international relations while Prishtina will assume most other governmental functions.
Ahtisaari's proposal is likely to separate independence from sovereignty, in that Kosova may not be afforded full statehood and will not automatically gain a UN seat. The calculation is that Russia will approve if sovereignty is not made explicit. The UN Security Council will not pass a resolution to recognize Kosova as a sovereign state but will leave such decisions to individual countries.
Supervised independence with precise roles for NATO and the EU, will be acceptable to most Kosovars. However, international recognition as a sovereign state remains the key variable. Without the prospect of statehood, the possibility of instability in Kosova may escalate.
The U.S. will probably act with like-minded allies to formally recognize Kosova as a sovereign state. Other powers would then follow suit, including most EU members and the Muslim world. Russia would be unable to extract significant advantages by further postponing Kosova's statehood.
The biggest question for the Balkans is which scenario will prove more destabilizing: Kosova's independence and sovereignty or its maintenance as a non-sovereign entity. In sum, which is the more dangerous prospect: a Greater Serbia or a pan-Albania?
Following international acceptance of Kosova's statehood, Belgrade will vehemently complain but its case will be weakened by several factors. Serbia lost Kosova seven years ago when NATO intervened to prevent the genocide of the Albanian majority by the Milosevic regime. A state that planned to murder and expel its own citizens and lost a war in the process is not entitled to keep former victims and their territory within its borders. 
The international recognition of Kosova will simply ensure de jure what has existed de facto since 1999 under a UN and NATO umbrella. Moreover, the Kosovar population is entitled to have their status defined and secured so democratic construction and economic development can proceed with the prospect of eventual EU and NATO entry.
Serbia can no longer launch military attacks or use nationalist militias against its neighbors. Cutting off relations with major European states will be counter-productive for Belgrade. It would further retard Serbia's EU and NATO prospects, undermine relations with immediate neighbors, and create a rift with Washington, which has been highly supportive of Serbia's international integration.
A second scenario, in which Kosova's statehood is denied, will prove more threatening to regional security. The credibility of political institutions in Prishtina that the U.S. and the EU have spent years constructing would evaporate as public frustration and political radicalism would delegitimize the government and provide new opportunities for irredentist militants.
Extremism in Kosova could destabilize several neighboring states. Continuing ambiguity over statehood would discredit democrats and encourage radicals to undermine Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia by launching new guerrilla movements, challenging the integrity of state borders, and provoking inter-ethnic conflicts.
The credibility of international institutions would be sorely tested by a new Balkan insurgency. NATO's military presence, which has been steadily scaled down, would need to be reinforced and the U.S. and its allies could be faced with a major foreign policy failure if any Balkan state begins to unravel. Years of political and economic investment would be wasted and anti-Western groups could exploit the crisis to undermine trans-Atlantic unity and European stability.
Given a choice between statehood with institutional supervision on the one hand, and state failure with regional conflict on the other, there is only one realistic option for Kosova's final status.
                    [post_title] =>  Kosova After Final Status 
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            [5] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 101289
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Nicola Nixon
During the 1990s, all the European post-communist countries made a great display of rejecting 'communism'. This took different forms in different countries but there are certain similarities across the board. For example, in most former communist countries, notions of women's equality were rejected in favour of a return to 'traditional' family values; the upshot of which has been a massive reduction of women's involvement in the public sphere, particularly in politics, and Albania is no exception. Gender equality was therefore dumped. Notions of collectivity such as cooperative organisations or even sometimes simply 'cooperation', were similarly jettisoned, as tarnished with the brush of Marxist-Leninism. 
Yet in all cases, this was largely window-dressing. Many of the underlying social habits that had been formed during and due to communist authoritarianism, in particular countries, slipped through the net and are still making their presence felt in contemporary societies. In Albania, one of these is the significance of family background as the basis for reputation in public life. Rather than notions of individual merit, family reputation can clearly be seen as a dominant force in public political life, all the way to the top. And it is this which provides the context in which to understand Sali Berisha's rather shocking attack on Edi Rama at last week's opening of the DP local election campaign.
During the communist period in Albania, 'biografi' - one's family's reputation - was everything. The Party, through the secret services, maintained a grip on people's actions and words through collective punishment of one's family. And this didn't have to mean one's immediate family. The actions of one member could resonate out to one's cousins, aunts, uncles and other distant relatives. It was one of the more sinister ways in which totalitarian power was maintained. For example, if someone escaped Albania or committed a 'crime against the state' such as criticising the state openly, their entire family would be punished through numerous means. Among these, beyond imprisonment, were forced relocation of whole families to isolated regions, the reduction in employment or study prospects, and the reduction and careful monitoring of family movements. I have heard numerous stories that start with such statements as; "I couldn't go to university because my cousin was imprisoned", "My movements were monitored by the sigurimi because my uncle got out to Greece" etc. In other words, individual worth was judged on the basis of one's family background. While those at the bottom end of the rung were therefore constantly concerned with what their family members were doing, those at the top were constantly monitoring and judging their actions on that basis. 
This concept is ever-present in Albania today and constitutes, to my mind, one of the most dramatic ways in which Albanian society is still living, in a sense, in the communist period. Family reputation remains one of the strongest points of judgement of a person rather than an assessment on the basis of his/her actions. It is very common to hear the pronouncement of one person in the public eye on another, starting with, "Well, his father wasŢ, "Her family has an excellent reputation etc." This deeply ingrained societal tendency accounts in part, of course, for the high degree of nepotism in such things as employment in Albania.
If family reputation - as a collective entity - is everything, then of course scandal within any family taints all members of the family in the public eye. Given that the denigration of one's family background is likely therefore to have an effect on public opinion in Albania, it is not so surprising to read that the brunt of Berisha's attack on Rama had little to do with Rama's performance in public life, but more to do with scandalising his familial reputation. "When Edvin was young," stated Berisha to a packed audience of DP supporters and the media, "he ruined the wedding of his brother. Broke everything and destroy the ceremony. He was telling him why did you take my wife." Relevance? An internal family scandal that denigrates Rama's reputation more effectively than anything he could say about his political actions. Berisha went on to mention Rama's divorces and insinuate that Rama carries on 'orgies' with public money. One can hardly be the member of a 'normal' family if, as Berisha proposed, "he is neither a man nor a woman". But the key statement, that evidences this ongoing obsession with family reputation was when the Prime Minister suggested that Rama "doesn't have a family because he doesn't believe in it."
To the outside observer, the first impression of these and the numerous other strange things that emanated from Berisha that night is that they simply represent a lack of political maturity. But what I am suggesting is that these comments represent something considerably more sinister: the ongoing use of authoritarian forms of political power, that have their roots in the communist system, in contemporary Albanian political life. And until such time as there is a serious assessment of the forms of social and political power that operated during that system, and a rejection of those rather than the superficial rejection of 'Communism', they are likely to continue to dominate Albanian political life and hinder its development.
                    [post_title] =>  The importance of family reputation in Albanian political life 
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            [6] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 101194
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-01-19 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-19 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Olli Rehn
I am glad to discuss the Western Balkans in this highly qualified company and here in Rome. Italy is a strong supporter of the EU's enlargement policy and a great advocate of the European perspective for the Western Balkans. I thank you for your support and commitment. 
Let me begin by referring to the results of the December European Council. After the Summit we had headlines indicating that "EU leaders are closing doors to the East". This was misleading spinning. 
The correct headlines should have read "the EU keeps its doors open for South Eastern Europe". This door is kept open for Turkey, Croatia and the other countries of the Western Balkans. Once any of these countries meets the EU's accession criteria, she can, on her own merits, walk through that door.
The first countries that walked through the EU door were Bulgaria and Romania. It is worth celebrating, even if the rest of Europe would not necessarily feel like it. This is a major step for the 30 million new EU citizens in these countries. The fifth enlargement round was completed. 
In other words, the EU Summit was not about closing doors, but building a renewed consensus on enlargement. It will enable to maintain the EU's soft power to encourage democratic and economic transformation. Moreover, the December European Council reconfirmed the European perspective for the Western Balkans. This is an important commitment. 
For Serbia the forthcoming elections will be a crucial opportunity to take a step forward towards the European future that its citizens deserve. 
I expect that a new reform-oriented and pro-European government in Belgrade will make rapid progress towards the EU. Thanks to its institutional capacity, Serbia should be able to implement the Stabilisation and Association Agreement quickly once the negotiations will be concluded, and thus open the door to applying for membership.
I look to the new government to demonstrate its clear commitment to achieving full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal without delay. As the EU Member States have many times reaffirmed, full cooperation with the ICTY is an essential condition for the pace and conclusion of the SAA negotiations.
After the SAA, the next logical step for Serbia would be to achieve candidate status for EU membership. As soon as Serbia has achieved a solid track-record in implementing the SAA, the EU would be able to consider an application for membership. This is the clear policy of the EU, as reiterated in the conclusions of the European Council last December. The SAA is thus the gateway to applying for membership.
Kosovo is also moving towards critical times. The EU wants to ensure that the status process succeeds and leads to a sustainable settlement. 
The status settlement needs to be politically and legally clear and set out a vision for Kosovo's future development. Kosovo's status question is sui generis, and sets no precedent. 
This will give a further impetus for the Kosovo authorities to progress on reforms in the key areas of the rule of law, economy and public administration. We need to guarantee a successful transfer of the responsibility from the UN to an International Civilian Office which will be a guarantor of the status settlement. As final status moves closer, preparations for the EU role in the future international presence are intensifying. The EU's engagement in Kosovo is likely to include our contribution to the International Civilian Office, including an ESDP operation in the rule of law and an EU presence to implement the Community financial assistance.
In Kosovo, working groups are currently preparing for transition in the specific areas of constitution, civil administration, economy and the rule of law. 
In the Commission's view, the status should be clearly defined, respect the Contact Group guiding principles and lead to a sustainable, multiethnic and democratic Kosovo. Kosovo should be able to engage in international contractual relations with the International Financial Institutions and to negotiate an SAA with the EU. 
That's why the EU will welcome the submission of the UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari's proposal after the Serbian elections, and support his efforts. Italy will have an important role to play as a member of the UN Security Council.
For the countries of the Western Balkans, another door was opened in December, when these countries established a free trade area (CEFTA). They replaced a patchwork of 32 bilateral trade agreements with one regional trade agreement. This is a strong signal to potential investors that the region is building an attractive, stable and predictable environment for foreign investments.
For ordinary people, the doors will open when the EU finalises the visa facilitation negotiations. The high cost of visas, long queues and rigid bureaucracy have created obstacles to the free movement of people. This is a first step towards visa free travel.
Last July I attended the EXIT rock festival in Novi Sad in Serbia. I talked to young Serbs and other young people from the region. The possibility to travel freely in Europe was at the top of their wish list. They do not see the EU as a bureaucratic monster, but as a ticket to peace, liberty and better economic opportunities.
Let me recall the mood in summer 2005: Do you know who cheered most in our neighborhood after the French and the Dutch referenda? The Turkish nationalists, the Serbian radicals, and the Russian panslavists. 
Why? Because they thought that the EU would now turn into itself, withdraw its commitments, and become too weak to project its soft power of peace, stability and European values in its neighborhood. 
It is our joint mission to prove those radical nationalists wrong by restoring a renewed consensus on EU enlargement. 
After the Dutch and French no-votes, many politicians were ready to relegate enlargement straight to Serie B - or even out of the league. But instead of an almost sure relegation we are still firmly in Serie A, or the Premier League. We will for sure make it to the Champions' League again. I am glad Italy is playing on our side and in our team.

This speech was delivered at  the International Conference  The European perspective for the Western Balkans  organized by the  Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in   Rome, 16 January 2007.
                    [post_title] =>  A clear EU perspective for the Balkans 
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            [7] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 101195
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-01-19 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-19 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Albert Rakipi
There are at least two reasons which require a serious reassessment of the EU perspective as it is understood from the Western Balkans and from Brussels. First, with the final status of Kosova process coming to an end, it is the time to move from a security agenda to a development one. In this context  only a  clear   status  of Kosova from  a legal and practical perspective  will   help  create the environment  where potential security problems  will derive  not from ethnic issues but from the region's economic problematique. 
The second reason is related to the need for a strategic role of EU in the region. From this perspective as the Amato Commission warned almost one year ago, the real referendum on the EU's future will take place in the Balkans. Practically in the Western Balkans or "little Balkans" since after Bulgaria's and Romania's EU membership it looks like a small island surrounded by EU countries which, in foreign policy, may well make or break the Union's outward ambitions.
My second consideration is about the Italian initiative and Italy's role to reopen the debate on EU perspective in the Balkans in a time when the Union itself is involved in a process of deep reflection on constitutional and other derivatives of the deepening process of integration. In this context, Italy's role is crucially important not simply because Italy is the EU front line state with our region. This is just one part of the story. As one of the key players of EU, Italy has strategic capacities to play an important role in the Balkans.
Another new element in Italy's and EU rethinking and commitments in the Balkans is the real fact that the motives need no longer be the spillover effects of Balkans instability. For a relatively long time, the European Union and especially the EU front line states like Italy have been motivated to intervene to a certain extent for security reasons that have been related to organized crime, forced migration and alike.
I don't   mean that  the Balkans is free of  such threats  but parallel with  the negative reasons  that have   motivated  the outside   assistance and intervention, now there are positive    reasons  for  outside commitment  to  the region. Opportunities for Italy and the EU itself are slowly materializing in the Balkans.
Now let me to come to my contribution to the issue of European perspective as seen from the Balkans through three dimensions 
First: What is European Union in terms of perceptions and expectations?
Second: How is the issue of local ownership understood both by the elites and societies in our region? 
Third: How is the EU membership perspective serving as a driving force behind the state building process in the Balkans? Actually I will bring  evidence mostly  from Albania  but nevertheless  I think that  a number of  issues  to a certain point  might be relevant  for  other countries  too. 

EU Strategically the most 
important actor
The European Union is considered to be the most important strategic actor  in Albania.  According to   the latest study of Albanian Institute for International Studies the EU occupies the first place  among  ten  countries or international institutions. 
Albania signed the SAA on June last year making a new qualitative step in its relations with the European Union. The road to signing this agreement was relatively  long - it took  almost three years and half- compared to other countries in the region. And the reason has little to do with the technical conduct of negotiations. Instead, Albania needed to demonstrate that the political process and institutions were functioning more or less properly or at least differently from the previous years. Nevertheless this agreement remains the most important one the post communist country has signed so far.
Actually the  European Union  is much more present and more  visible  for the hole society. The level of support for EU membership  is also exceptional in Albania. According to the same study more than 92 percent of Albanians would support  EU membership in the case  of  potential referendum. And this level of support  has been consistent  during the last six years. 
There is no doubt  that  this level of  support  is a good thing  and should be exploited by  the political elite and other  relevant institutions in the country in order to undertake the necessary reforms in the political and economic realms. A more careful analysis of such popular support for EU membership in a poor country like Albania  shows   exactly   the  integration  stage and the structure of  Albanian economy. The real test will be  the  SAA which will affect - at least initially- negatively  the Albanian national economy. Given Albania's experience  with bilateral Free Trade agreements with other Balkan countries, the capacity of Albanian economy  to operate and survive in a larger and more  competitive market  is low. Nevertheless, it is  clear that there is no other development alternative for South East European countries.

The issue of local ownership 
Considering the European Union as strategically the most important actor and having popular support  for EU membership  is just the nice part of the story.
Another perspective that needs to be analyzed is the issue of local ownership of EU Integration process. The real question is  the  commitment and  the capacity  of local elites to reclaim ownership of the process.  This in fact represents   the proper  approach and at the same time the essential  challenge. I will bring few details   in order to illustrate that the EU agenda  is simply considered as  a Brussels agenda and not as a national program  to develop  the economy and to strengthen  state capacities.
In Albania  there are  grave misperceptions regarding the European Integration process. Many perceive it  as a miracle that will come  from Brussels  and not as something that can be achieved through internal reforms  that will resulted in a consolidated democracy with a functioning market economy. For example the majority  of Albanians  that would vote for EU membership believe  that  the EU membership will improve their living standards.  
Despite a higher level of knowledge and understanding of the European integration process further misperceptions  continue to prevail. So a substantial part of  Albanian society - about 40 percent think that Brussels should accept Albania before  it is ready for EU membership. The third misperception is related to the expectations that Albanians have from a potential EU membership.  According to surveys carried out during the last six years, free movement is  perceived as  the most important benefit  of EU membership

EU Membership - A driving force to state - building 
process

If we look at today's Balkans from  the state capacity perspective it is not  difficult to realize that  the state is weak  in terms of its ability to provide  for its citizens  public goods like, security, a  functioning legal system, a certain standards of educations, health care, infrastructure, roads, communications or other  basic services that a state is supposed to provide.
The state  in   the Balkans is weak for  complex reasons: the state tradition  which does not go very far,  the  very low level  of industrialization and  economic development, the agrarian structures  of national economies., the  nature of the previous regime  and economy  including the conflicts and wars  of the last decade just to mention a few of them.   With such a  historical background  it is no wonder that the state building  process is still under  way  in our region.
The state building process is one of the most important issues facing the world community because it presents the modern threat to national, regional and international security.  The state building process actually is the core of the International Institutions / Organizations including EU.
During the last decade and especially after the end of the Kosovo war, the prospect of EU membership for the weak Balkan countries has been e real driving force of state building process. Compared to other major hotspots in the world map, the Balkans is one of the regions where state building has a realistic chance to succeed in the short-term through a unique combination of internal and external factors. Primary among these is the presence of the European Union offering perspectives, guarantees and aid that virtuously feeds into the state-building cycle.
Analyzing the dynamic of EU intervention in the Balkans after the first crisis of 1991 it is notable that the increasing role of EU actually concentrated on the core of the  security problem in today's Balkans: the  weak state.  In order to overcome state weakness the European Union - and other players too - are involved in day to day state-building process in countries like Albania Macedonia and other Balkan countries by promising them EU membership. The local elites are under the pressures to undertake the required reforms in order to meet EU criteria.  Further the EU conditionality serves as a basis for domestic legitimacy of the government in Balkan states. Failing to meet EU conditions means otherwise losing government legitimacy which is an essential feature of weak states.  
In Albania  the scale of foreign  and especially  EU intervention in internal politics  has been relatively higher  than in other countries but that is because  local elites see politics as a zero sum game which sometimes undermines  the minimal consensus necessary for democracy .
Another crucial aspect of  EU state building dimension in the Balkans  is  related  to state capacities . In Albania for example the EU is building or   reorganizing state institutions such as police force,  custom services ,  infrastructure like roads communication   etc.  
For the arguments mentioned above   keeping alive the EU perspective is  crucially important   for the  future of the region.
The latest stage of affairs  in the region suggests the need for a change in  EU approach   towards the region.  A   change in a positive direction   would be to see the region not only as a threat but  as an opportunity as well.
Further in the last four or five years  the EU or some  of its member states including Italy have identified  organized crime  as  a main security  threat emanating from the Balkans. This is only partly true. The fact is that organized crime is not  a security threat per se.  The organized crime and other  similar phenomena are  simply  the symptoms   of state weakness in  the Balkans including Albania. Consequently  the proper   way to address  issue like organized  and crime corruption   is to invest  and strengthen state capacities in the Balkans.
Another observation for the  idea how  and why  to make changes  in EU approach toward the Balkans. Rule of Law is an essential features of  EU model of state functioning.  For  more  than one decade the EU  have  been investing in institutional  building   in Albania and other Balkan countries.  Much was needed  and thanks to EU assistance  there is good progress  in  Albanian  institutional capacities. However   investing in Institution-building  is in one way or another  a top down approach. Probably time has come if not to give up the top down approach at least for a combined perspective: Parallel with investment in institutional capacity the weak state in this region can be strengthened  with  strategic economic  investment 
 Let me be more clear   by bringing  here what  a Great Thinker like Karl Poper  reminds  us.
 In one of his latest interview  he  tell us that  Gorbachev   did something  grotesque, ridiculous. Gorbachev   established a stock exchange in Moscow . We have seen pictures  of its  formal  opening with great celebration.. But the Stock exchange  was  really ridiculous simply because  there was no  stock and no money to buy stock at that time in Soviet Union. Albania did something similar and certainly  more ridiculous . It was  the year 1992 when the government decided and established the Bursa in Tirana which practically still is not working although they have office , code of procedures  like in other western countries.
 What I am trying to say  is not  that  the top  down approach  is not any more  relevant  in state building process. Rather the Balkan experience shows  that  a combined perspective of investment on institutional capacities and strategic economic investment would   really help strengthening the state's capacity in the Balkans.   
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This speech was delivered by Dr. Albert Rakipi in the Conference European Perspective for the Balkans , Italy's role" organized by the Ministry  of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Rome  January 16, 2007
                    [post_title] =>  Keeping alive the EU perspective 
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            [8] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 101183
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-01-12 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-12 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Fatos Lubonja
The most disgusting thing, but at the same time absurd, unacceptable, repulsive and intolerable, which has characterised politics and the politicians in our country (traditionally), is the exercising of that irresponsible and arrogant "pragmatism,"  according to which "all means may be used in political battles, ignoring the fact that these "means" could be totally against the interests of societyŢ
I believe we all know that our politics have been and still are permeated by this spirit. This is not news. It is no rocket science to understand that our Opposition hopes and prays, day and night for snow to fall, for power cuts, all the set backs possible, so that the Government will fall as soon as possible; because the last thing the Opposition wants is for the Government to create election standards, let alone score a success. In the final account, has not Edi Rama called this Majority an "invading" force? On the other hand, no great intelligence is called for to grasp the fact that the Majority hopes and prays that the Opposition will make as many 'faux pas' as possible, hopefully even refuse to participate in the elections, for the sole reason of allowing the Majority to rule without any trouble. Suffice it to mention that all the Majority requires is the support of the Internationals.
What could be said when you find yourself up against a situation like the situation of this Winter, which has jeopardised having elections in the country and which brings back to centre-stage the image of a primitive Albania, a pre-democratic country, is that this kind of pragmatism has its own periods when it is implemented in a peaceful manner and periods when it is exercised with virulence. This Winter we are experiencing one of its explosive phases which makes us focus even more profoundly on this pragmatism. This virulent period could, in other words, be summed up with the well known expression, "our side must make things as bad as possible for the other side so our side reaps the rewards."
If we go back into the history of these two parties, we would soon draw the conclusion that things could not have been otherwise, because this political class has this kind of pragmatism rooted deep in its genes, inherited from the Mother that spawned it. (Enver Hoxha managed to isolate Albania for his own power, with spine-chilling, destructive consequences.) Let us not forget that, in the period of '91, after losing the first elections of 31 March, the DP commenced a destabilization action that resulted in mass scale looting and shocking destruction. The philosophy was that the worst possible situation had to be created for the government, so that it could be declared powerless and then early elections announced. And in fact the action was a success, although it must be admitted that at the time there were many factors, also psychological, which justified it. '97 was also characterised by this philosophy practiced by both parties, I would say. 
The Opposition could hardly wait for the situation created by the collapse of the pyramid schemes, because when their votes were stolen in 1996 it was incapable of creating any truly civil, political movement. Even when the crisis reached its climax it thought exclusively of its own power. However, on the other hand, Berisha preferred to create a situation of North-South chaos and civil unrest, which brought the Internationals to Albania, prior to his departure from the scene.
From those years to date many things have changed. And here, it is well worth while reflecting on how far we have advanced in reducing this kind of irresponsible pragmatism of our politicians-in terms of this being an indication of the slightest progress made of democracy as the power of the people. Today, no one can undertake destabilising acts like those of a decade ago, with the hope that such a thing would bring them to office. But to what degree can this be attributed as a merit to our politicians or as a merit to our public? I believe that chiefly this should be dedicated to the citizens of the country who have gained greater political maturity and no longer follow our politicians blindly into destructive adventures, but also because today they know their political class, they know who they are dealing with and for whom they nurture no illusions whatsoever, but also because the process of privatization has left far less space for destruction. In other words, in this aspect, we have also taken a few steps forward as against the nineties'. However, on the other hand, in comparison with the minimal demands to be called a democracy, we are still miles behind, and this is because, as I stressed earlier on, the essence of pragmatism developed on the basis of the poor work by your opponent and not on the basis of your own good work, remains exactly the same in our politics. Was it not like this even in the relatively peaceful times of Nano, when he used to say to Sali Berisha, "you are my best card to guarantee I remain in office," bearing in mind that the latter had less credibility due to 1997.
The crisis of this winter has enhanced the opinion that the time has come to find ways of putting an end to this kind of warped pragmatism, because people are truly exhausted and "scarred" by it. In other words, if we were to use positively the expression, "things must get worse before they get any better,"- accepting that the worst has reached a climax, - this situation should raise our awareness towards the fact that the time is now here to see the birth of a civil spirit or movement against this political culture of irresponsible pragmatism and arrogance. In my opinion, in its cultural essence, it must seek the growth of the capacity to be rational, look beyond the present and beyond oneself; it must have two key principles at its centre such as opposition to this evil; the principle of placing respect for the law above respect for the party that uses any and every means and the principle of placing the interests of the represented above the interests of the politicians.
                    [post_title] =>  Do things have to get worse for them to get any better ? 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-01-05 01:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
A year of major international decisions is fast approaching. U.S. policies during 2007 will determine the long-term security of several crisis regions. The status of Kosova is the most important unresolved item on the Balkan agenda. Most capitals seek a prompt decision over Kosova's statehood to remove ambiguities that undermine security, prevent cross-border cooperation, and discourage foreign investors.
The Kosova decision presents an opportunity and a risk for the wider region. An internationally mandated solution limiting Kosova's independence will be more destabilizing than full statehood. It would unsettle existing political institutions and spur radicalism among a growing army of frustrated youths. In the event of a decision for Kosova's full independence, there is little the Serbian government can do except exclude itself from the EU and isolate itself from neighbors.
Washington seeks to secure the remaining piece in the Balkan puzzle in order to turn responsibility for the entire region over to the EU. The White House wants to focus attention on the Middle Eastern crisis where there are no easy solutions.
The war in Iraq has seriously eroded the credibility of the Bush presidency and the effectiveness of American leadership. In order to restore its global stature, the U.S. will need to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan and not become embroiled in civil wars that provoke anti-American terrorism. 
If Iraq descends into complete ungovernability, political chaos, ethno-religious cleansing, and sectarian civil war, public pressure for a full U.S. military withdrawal could become irresistible. If the Iraqi operation is judged to be a foreign policy failure then the implications for U.S. policy will be profound.
Damaged American prestige and an unwillingness to engage abroad for fear of repeating its Middle Eastern errors, will encourage further instabilities. Iran and North Korea will challenge the security of their neighbors by pursuing nuclear weapons programs. A U.S. evacuation from Iraq and a growing Iranian threat would endanger Israeli security, undermine the unity of Lebanon, and increase threats against U.S. forces throughout the Persian Gulf region.
Perceived U.S. weakness in the Middle East would embolden the regime in North Korea to escalate its threats against South Korea and Japan. Pyongyang would calculate that in the middle of an election campaign with a much weakened presidency Washington will lack the determination to thwart North Korea's regional ambitions. 
A depleted American military capability could revive a number of disputes, including the Taiwanese-Chinese conflict over sovereignty and the Pakistani-Indian dispute over territory. A weakened and internally preoccupied America will certainly unnerve close U.S. allies around the world, making them more vulnerable in dealing with regional challenges. 
An Iraqi fiasco and a further deterioration in Afghanistan would damage NATO's status as the most effective international alliance. And the EU would increasingly find its "soft security" diplomacy an inadequate tool without an effective military component.
Russia will also seek to exploit America's hesitation as a global leader. In addition to increasing pressures on its near neighbors in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova to rejoin the Russian orbit, Moscow will use all available policy tools to regain control over former East European satellites, create splits within the EU, and drive wedges between Europe and America.
In his last year in office, President Putin will be intent on displaying Russian power on the global stage. One cannot discount that Putin will run again for office if there is mass demand for the present Constitution to be changed to enable a third presidential term.
With all the uncertainties and instabilities looming and the U.S. preoccupied with elections and a need to redefine its international role, there will be new opportunities for "rogue states" and terrorist networks to assert themselves. Unless the U.S. together with its allies can implement an effective international agenda, 2007 will demonstrate that the world is heading toward greater insecurity without a confident and protective America.
                    [post_title] =>  2007: A Year of Promise and Peril 
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            [post_date] => 2007-02-09 01:00:00
            [post_date_gmt] => 2007-02-09 01:00:00
            [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Out of all political science quotes worth to remember, a particular one from Hobbes stands out: "Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Hobbes was referring to the jungle of personal interest in which man would live had he not agreed to consent on a common regulatory body, the Leviathan. The state in other terms, would not change the nature of the human being but simply subordinate it to rules for the protection of life and property. The pursuit of happiness, this idyllic clause and the last island populated by idealists, was added later. Little did Hobbes know that people later would return to his state of nature, which he inevitably loathed, and look at it as a rather interesting alternative. The last exercise in pre-Hobbesian thinking can be seen in last weeks' Tirana Times. The editorial, which I would humbly nominate for the first prize in radical realistic thinking, was spectacularly named after a Nietzsche-an parabola. "Make way for the beasts with red cheeks." The article analyzed the noise surrounding the current Albanian electoral battle and judged all concerns about the negative aspects of the as na෥ and hypocritical.  The author is relieved that the society once identified the offenders of the code of conduct "does not wield a sword to execute its will" and thus punish the culprits. For a society which long ago lost its sword to apathy and political extremism, I don't see how that would be possible. The consequences of such a loss are not something to be grateful for but to correct as soon as possible. In a normal state the vote would correct everything but throwing out the wastrel. It is precisely the abnormal context in which our voters are forced to choose between evil and evil that makes this analysis obsolete (besides alarmingly poshy and arrogant for daily consumption!) It is all very fine and brilliant to make such a trendy styled plea for realism, quite a refreshing note to all the "liberal dogma" breadwinners. However, the normality of accepting the ridiculous state of Albanian politics and shrouding it in the comfortable cloak of "that's the way things are!" is still to be argued by the author. In my opinion, what the editors of the Albanian dailies, or at least the articulate and intelligent ones, are trying to expose is not so much the evil but the absurd, the ridicule.  The absurd is far more harmful than the petty evil of personal interest. The absurd is a concept that can be applied only in the aggregate level to our political and social system. A system that brings nausea rather than the emblazoned "pre-Magna Carta excitement mixed with shame".
Lest take a final look at the very core of this editorial's thesis: "Politics should resemble the state of nature!" Well it often does, worldwide. But should it? Once we step in the realm of normative thinking we should at least acknowledge that we cannot denominate all the die-hard idealists who argue for a better conduct as na෥ or hypocritical. After all I think personally think it is very na෥ to see the common declaration of our politicians as counterevidence of their madness. It is also na෥ to say that the politicians of today are men who understand freedom and lead a society of free men. Our politicians lead a society of blind men. Yet, I wouldn't be at pains to describe this editorial as na෥. Because, I may as well have misunderstood everything. The last sentence finishes off this display of brave yet scary anarchic thoughts with a smooth lacquer of cynicism directed at the figure of the General Prosecutor. With a surprisingly childish irony (untypical of the rest of the article at least) the author drives home the point he has been trying to make all the way through, an unquestionable legacy of the one-man solution syndrome shaping his beliefs. Otherwise he would have said: we have a justice department to take care of justice. Hence, the personal attack on Sollaku (one-man-blame; one-man-retribution). What he unfortunately achieves though is the demise of the trendy edifice of his argument which is shattered under the hidden agenda of the article. A pity for such a hard-boiled sincere attempt!
            [post_title] =>  Local government elections: Make way for decency 
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