Russian demands over Kosova

By Janusz Bugajski Western officials have assumed that Russia will accept the majority decision by the Contact Group and the UN Security Council in support of Kosova’s de jure independence. However, concern is now growing in Washington that the Russian

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Talking Today’s Serbia

Jelica Minic came to Albania this October for the conference “The final status of Kosova and Security in the Balkans”, an event organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies. An economist by education, Minic’s experience varies from being active

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Importance Of Black Sea For Allied Security

By Janusz Bugajski There are four reasons why the Black Sea region is important for the security of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance: state integrity, military security, economic cohesion, and international cooperation. First, with regard to state integrity, weak states,

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The 41 Golgotha-s of one massacred girl

By Alba Cela After the news of the girl that was brutally massacred and found in pieces at the lake of Zall Herr, 41 pair of parents went to the National Morgue in Tirana to check whether this poor creature

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Monetary and Financial Stability: Challenges in South-Eastern Europe

by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank Keynote Speech at the Bank of Albania 6th International Conference “Regional Financial Market and Financial Stability. A Concept between National Sovereignty and Globalisation”. Tirana, Albania 30

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Kosovo towards normal statehood within the EU

TT-Could you please introduce yourself and the organization that you work for? AA-my name is Alex Anderson, director of the Kosovo project of the ICC. The ICC is an international non-profit organization composed mainly of former statesmen and state women.

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Albanian Euroscepticism? – The wrong debate in the wrong place at the wrong time

By Albert Rakipi Attempts to think critically and debate publicly the nature of the relationship between Albania and the European Union are most necessary at this juncture of Albania’s efforts to integrate. In the last fifteen years and especially in

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West Balkans in the Spotlight

By Janusz Bugajski A landmark conference organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Balkan economic development, regional cooperation, and international integration was held in Washington on 5-6 October. The event generated substantial interest among the policy and

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Changing Albania

By Sali Berisha I feel immensely indebted to the Council of Europe for the continuous support to Albania. Council of Europe was the first international institution I visited in 1992, only a few weeks after I was elected President of

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EU single seat in the Security Council: too Kantian to be loved

By Albert Rakipi In March 1997 Dutch ambassador Jan de Marchant et d’ Ansembourg assured Albanian authorities on behalf of the European Union that “Albania is part of the great European family”. Situated in Europe’s backyard, the small Balkan country

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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
Western officials have assumed that Russia will accept the majority decision by the Contact Group and the UN Security Council in support of Kosova's de jure independence. However, concern is now growing in Washington that the Russian regime may veto the entire process.
Moscow is not only pushing for an indefinite delay of decisions on Kosova's status, but publicly opposes any solution that is imposed on Belgrade. Moreover, it is claiming "inalienable rights of state sovereignty" for Serbia and opposes Kosova's membership in any international organizations, including the UN.
Moscow is seeking several Western concessions in return for its neutrality over Kosova. First, it wants Western acquiescence that it will be the primary security provider in the post-Soviet region. Second, it is pushing for a halt to further NATO expansion eastward. And third, it seeks to minimize U.S. military involvement among Russia's neighbors. 
Moscow will also use Kosova as a precedent along Russia's borders. In recent months, the Kremlin has become more aggressive toward its most vulnerable neighbors, especially Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The Kosova solution may embolden Russia to conclude that it has greater international legitimacy in supporting territorial separatism elsewhere.
In Ukraine, Putin is heating up the issue of the Crimean peninsula and encouraging the Russian majority to ignore the authority of the central government. With deep divisions in Kyiv, the Russian administration aims to extend its influence by playing the separatist card. Such a policy will also gain Moscow bargaining chips with the U.S. in future regional disputes, generate anxiety among other neighbors, and keep Ukraine tethered to Russia.
In Moldova, Russia has increased its pressures to steer the pro-Western government away from its aspirations for NATO accession. During the past year, Moscow has cutoff energy supplies and imposed embargos on Moldovan exports to Russia. It also backs the Transnistrian authorities and their pursuit of a separate state that could one day merge with Russia. 
However, Moscow has not openly recognized Transnistrian independence as it seeks to manipulate the issue to keep the Moldovan government off balance. Its priority is to keep Moldova out of NATO by maintaining the threat of separatism rather than fully realizing it.
In Georgia, the Kremlin has also imposed trade sanctions and energy embargos and supported referenda on independence for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As with Moldova, Moscow will not support Georgia's division outright, as it prefers to maintain pressure on the current government until it falls into the Russian orbit and surrenders its Western aspirations.
While the U.S. and most of EU states seem committed to Kosova's independence, they will need to bargain with Russia over its stance on final status. The fundamental error was made a decade ago when Russia was included in the Contact Group at a time when its power was in serious decline. And the West will now have to pay the consequences of raising Russia's international stature.
Although Washington is unlikely to yield to all of Moscow's demands in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, it may decide to acquiesce to some of Russia's regional policies by muting its criticism of the Kremlin and tempering its support for further NATO enlargement.  
Of course, any perceived U.S. appeasement of Russia's neo-imperialism will send negative reverberations throughout Eastern Europe. In the long-term, the most effective way to stifle Russia's ambitions is to partially step back when necessary, for example when negotiating over Kosova, and then take the offensive for further NATO enlargement when Kosova is resolved.
Kosova leaders must also remember their strategic allies long after independence is achieved. When the Russian authorities seek lucrative business deals in a sovereign Kosova, officials should understand the Kremlin's political calculations and remember its objectives. Russia cannot be a genuine ally of any European state as its goals primarily serve Moscow's expansionist interests and counter those of an expanding Europe and an enlarging NATO.
                    [post_title] =>  Russian demands over Kosova 
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                    [post_content] => Jelica Minic came to Albania this October for the conference "The final status of Kosova and Security in the Balkans", an event organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies. An economist by education, Minic's experience varies from being active in governmental levels to the NGO high ranks. In 2000 she was assistant Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia. Currently she works for the Institute of Economic Sciences in Belgrade and is one of the founders of the European Movement in Serbia, one of the most influential non-governmental organizations in the country, established 1992. The main aims of the organization are to promote European integration of Serbia, regional cooperation, decentralization and strengthening of the local communities, entrepreneurship, as well as to support young people to travel and communicate with neighbouring and other European countries. One of their latest programs was gender oriented. Together with the daily news Blitz in Belgrade they elected a virtual Women Government. This Women Government is supposed to comment on everything that is going on in our society from a different angle, from the perspective of active, publicly known and very distinguished ladies, according to Minic. It was a specific breakthrough because from a list of 161 candidates, the readers of the newspaper had the possibility to elect the Women Government of 21 from an excellent pool of women experts. It was also the way to show to the politicians in Serbia, as well as to the wider public that these ladies could become very representative candidates at different parties' lists at the forthcoming parliamentarian elections in Serbia.
Tirana Times approached her in order to learn more about the diverse and interesting experience and points of view that she brings to Tirana. 

TT- There have been intensive recent developments in Serbia, even after the complete closing of the Milosevic chapter. Montenegro is now independent and the negotiations with the EU are frozen due to the international arrest mandate about Ratko Mladic. Where does Serbia stand now? What are the main challenges that the European Movement faces in this context?
Serbian political scene has been very turbulent for almost two decades. The most recent events like assassination of the Prime Minister Djindjic three years ago, fulfillment of the commitments towards the Hague Tribunal, independence of Montenegro, Kosovo status talks, the referenda for the new Constitution, Parliamentary elections to be held in December etc. are making citizens in Serbia to feel very frustrated and insecure. The European Movement in Serbia is very much focused on promoting the European perspective of Serbia and regional cooperation in order to counterbalance all internal difficulties and possible tendency of self-isolation.

TT- What is the level of domestic support for the integration process inside Serbia?
There is a paradox in that respect. The political consensus is not matching properly the social consensus which is very high - over 70% of population supporting European integration of Serbia since the year 2000.

TT- This conference is the first occasion in which Serbian scholars from Belgrade come to Tirana and discuss the future status of Kosovo. What does this tell us about the level of academic cooperation between Belgrade and Tirana? Should it change?
The level of academic cooperation between Belgrade and Tirana is unfortunately very low. The cooperation between our business people, NGOs, media, parliamentarians is slightly better. But we need also a strong political support for further cooperation and it will come. Those who are able to anticipate the future will be the winners.

TT- You launched forward some very interesting thesis about economic possibilities of cooperation. What are the main areas where you think cooperation is mostly necessary between Serbia and Kosovo but also in the general regional context?
JM- Kosovo and Serbia were integral parts of the same country, of the same state, of the same economy so the economic roots are the same and also knowledge about each other is high. Unfortunately we had the dissolution of Yugoslavia and conflict in Kosovo as well. Now we are in front of the solution of the situation after the conflict, by the international governance in Kosovo practically.  Hopefully, we are going to reestablish normal links between Kosovo and Serbia again. We recently made some analysis of trade flows and movement of people between Kosovo and Serbia and we learned a lot. This was the first time that serious analysis was done by the European Movement in Serbia and the Kosovo Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED) and we identified plenty of common problems: lack of regulated flows but also a lack of liberal trade, lots of illegal flows, gray and black economy. Unfortunately, we are also on the line of illegal transport of people, of arms and drugs. That is something that we have to fight against together. We have to legalize our trade flows, to improve the knowledge of our offer and demand but we should also start to think about future investments in the region. We should, in a way, anticipate the future free trade area in Southeastern Europe, and Kosovo and Serbia are going to be part of that area. We should think about the common energy market because we are part of that. We are also part of the master plan for the development of the transport infrastructure in the Western Balkans and some of the important main roads are going through Serbia and Kosovo. It is crucial for our development to modernize the railways, build new highways, and repair existing roads then to work together in building new water supply systems. Kosovo had problems with water and Serbia has water resources that can be used to support Kosovo. There is a lot of interdependence between the two which should be strengthened. All prejudices should be demystified, the agenda of the status talks should be put on the discussion table and analyzed, and if necessary some mutual compensation provided. But, we should start with open minds to help each other, not to confront each other any more.

TT-Your views and your voice seem unrepresentative to us. Are they really so? Is there a group of people in Belgrade that shares your opinions or do you feel out of place and unsupported? 
JM-I am definitely not alone. There are many people who see the future in that way. Our citizens in a way are more open minded than our politicians. It's not only in the case of Kosovo's future. They are simply more realistic and more pragmatic. When we organized public polls in Serbia we noticed that politicians sometimes do not take care of what their electorate will say. Citizens are speaking openly for themselves. There are people who have already tried to reestablish or preserve contacts that they had with Kosovo, people that would be ready to become engaged in Kosovo, experts form different fields. One day and it is not such a distant future, perhaps 10 years or even in 5 years, new generations will establish new contacts. We are going to live in the common space trying hardly to become integral part of the European Union. This is one of the common aims of everybody in the region and it is very important to start to lobby together, to start together to change the image of the region and to improve it. In this way it will be much easier to attract foreign investors. It will facilitate the circulation of everyone in the region including experts that can share the rare resources that we have in the field of human capital. 

TT- This question is in regard to a comment or a plea that you made in the conference when you asked Albanians to help Serbia. It is quite refreshing to hear such an interesting request. Could you please elaborate a little bit on what exactly do you mean by Albanians helping Serbia?
JM- Serbia is in a difficult situation having in mind all that happened in the nineties. We have now a democratic government in Serbia, which in fact needs support from everybody to stay democratic. We are now going to have new elections, hopefully we are going to elect again a new democratic government which will again need help from the European Union, from the international community, from the region and specifically from Albania and other former Yugoslav republics with whom we had or had not conflicts. As it is our duty to support all democratic governments in the region, it is also the duty of the government in Serbia to welcome all efforts of democratic oriented forces in Kosovo, Albania and the region. We should start to think about each other and our mutual interdependence and we should start to send positive signals to each-other, to announce publicly some good messages. Otherwise we are going to keep ourselves in a ghetto of negative energy and bad will.  

TT- Finally, how do you see the future of Kosovo? What, according to you, will be the outcome of the Serbian elections and constitutional referendum? How will that affect Kosovo?
I see Kosovo as an independent entity, but not immediately. As it was told at the conference, the problem is more how and when. And a very crucial question is: could we expect the international community and EU first of all, to help properly consolidation, further democratization and economic development in Kosovo. This is a long term interest of Serbia and the whole region. Hopefully, Serbian elections will bring a democratic government which will be able to give solutions for a long list of problems Serbia is faced with. After the elections and referendum on the new Constitution, Serbia is probably entering a new period. Positive economic performances could help political stabilization, and defining a new Kosovo status will become inevitable precondition for the European future of both Serbia and Kosovo. The status and treatment of Serbian and other minorities in Kosovo will become a test for Kosovo's democratic capacity and sustainability of the regional peace and stability.
                    [post_title] =>  Talking Today's Serbia 
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
There are four reasons why the Black Sea region is important for the security of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance: state integrity, military security, economic cohesion, and international cooperation.
First, with regard to state integrity, weak states, divided states, and authoritarian states along the Black Sea rim are a threat to their own security and that of their neighbors. Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and potentially Ukraine are divided states where the absence of state integrity and elite consensus corrupts state institutions, fosters organized crime, undermines economic development, discourages foreign investment, and prevents regional cooperation. 
These states are also susceptible to Russian political manipulation and economic blackmail precisely because they remain weak and divided. Russia and Belarus are authoritarian states seeking to limit Euro-Atlantic expansion. Belarus may prove a danger to its neighbors if it becomes fully dominated by Moscow and serves as an outpost of anti-Westernism in Central Europe. Russia itself is intent on constructing a sphere of control in the Black Sea region and a separate "Eurasian pole" to split America from Europe.
Second, regarding military security, a variety of violent threats challenge the Black Sea region, including a spillover of armed conflict from the separatist entities in Moldova and Georgia; Russian incursions among neighbors, and Russia's military build-up. A potential escalation of armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan or between Georgia and the two Russian proxy regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia may also precipitate a wider conflict by drawing in neighboring powers into the conflict.
Third, in terms of economic cohesion, major energy supplies to Europe from the Caspian Basin will increasingly traverse the Black Sea region. Their transit needs to be secured from potential disruption, whether political blockages by suppliers or transit countries or deliberate sabotage by sub-state actors. Supply transit needs to be assured to all consumers and such guarantees are best served by diversifying suppliers and routes in case of blackmail or sabotage.
And fourth, regarding international cooperation, the Black Sea region connects the EU with the Middle East, the Caspian zone, and Central Asia - three areas that will be critical for U.S. and EU security interests over the coming decade. The region will remain a battleground between Atlanticism and Eurasianism, between the West and Russia as both will seek to expand and project their influences. 
A multitude of other security threats challenge the region, including international jihadist terrorism, weapons proliferation, international organized crime, and potential natural disasters. As a result, a coherent strategy for sustainable security needs to be devised by the EU and U.S. working in tandem with states in the region, especially those seeking Euro-Atlantic inclusion. 
Unfortunately, the EU has treated the Black Sea states beyond Romania and Bulgaria differently from the western Balkans, which have been offered the prospect of EU accession provided that they fulfill the required membership criteria. By contrast, the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) has not offered the prospect of entry to the remaining East European states. Without more effective incentives for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus, especially the prospect of eventual EU membership, the ENP is in danger of lacking sufficient momentum and incentive to promote structural reforms and substantial foreign investments. 
Meanwhile, NATO may be willing to enlarge eastward but two factors will need to be determined before decisions on including any of the other Black Sea countries is finalized. First, there must be a commitment by candidate states, their political elites and publics to NATO membership. And second, there must be a commitment by the Alliance that Black Sea inclusion is in the strategic interests of all NATO and EU allies regardless of Russia's opposition. In the long-term Black Sea inclusion in both NATO and the EU will be an important strategy for protection against expansive Russian policies that challenge and undermine Euro-Atlantic interests.
                    [post_title] =>  Importance Of Black Sea For Allied Security 
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                    [post_content] => By Alba Cela
After the news of the girl that was brutally massacred and found in pieces at the lake of Zall Herr, 41 pair of parents went to the National Morgue in Tirana to check whether this poor creature was one of their offspring. I find this to be the saddest aspect of the entire story. The girl is now dead and hopefully will be soon laid to rest in earth's lap. The 41 parents who did not recognize her chopped face will proceed slowly on their Golgotha paths, to seek relentlessly their lost children. No one will hear their pangs of pain, until another day another person will be found dead and they will rush again to see if they can release their heavy cross from their old shoulders that bear the weight  of someone else's crime.
Who are these lost children and why can't they be found? Who is doing anything to help these parents who have done nothing to deserve their hardest punishment: the loss of a child?
Questions like these come to mind when I see the tearful sister on TV wondering weather this massacred girl is her sister who was forced to prostitute after being raped inside her own family.  The girl's disentangled body parts are the metaphoric evidence of our own society coming apart due to the hardest economic and social chaos and the political authority's incapacity to come to terms with crime's far reaching grip. We could not help the girl to survive her destiny. Who knows if we can help these parents to survive their reality?
                    [post_title] =>  The 41 Golgotha-s of one massacred girl 
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                    [post_content] => by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, 
Member of the Executive Board of 
the European Central Bank

Keynote Speech at the Bank of Albania 6th International Conference "Regional Financial Market and Financial Stability. A Concept between National Sovereignty and Globalisation".  Tirana, Albania 30 October 2006 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bank of Albania and the organisers of this event for their invitation. The central theme of this conference - regional financial integration between national borders and globalisation - is familiar to the ECB and to the central banks of the member states, for institutional and historical reasons. 
From an institutional point of view, I would like to recall that the mission statement of the Eurosystem includes the promotion of European financial integration, which plays an important role in the transmission and implementation of the single monetary policy for the euro area. Furthermore, according to the Treaty, the ECB and the National Central Banks of the Eurosystem have the task of contributing to the smooth conduct of policies of the authorities in charge of prudential supervision in order to monitor and safeguard financial stability. 
From an historical perspective, several EU countries experienced in the past some of the macroeconomic challenges that are now relevant in south-eastern Europe, like coping with capital flows while opening and integrating their economies. Any economic region has its own peculiarity and we cannot stretch similarities between the EU in 1980s and 1990s and south-eastern Europe today. The situation in the region is much more complex and, to a certain extent, similar to that of other emerging market economies. 
I would like to start by addressing some of the specific features of financial integration in south-eastern Europe before addressing the main challenges of monetary policy and financial stability in the region, adding a few personal thoughts on what I think are the priorities for policy makers in a context where national boundaries tend to wane. 
1. Financial integration in south-eastern Europe 

Let me summarise very concisely some peculiarities of the process of financial integration in south-eastern Europe. 
1. Over the last decade, the financial sector has converged towards a universal bank-based system, which is largely foreign-owned with, in particular, a strong presence of EU financial institutions. Capital flows channelled through the banking sector have been fostering rapid domestic credit growth in almost all countries. By contrast, the non-banking sector, security and stock markets play only a marginal role in financial intermediation. 
2. The presence of foreign banks is associated with a more stable lending environment, as well as better governance and risk management, which has been supported by the process of convergence of domestic banking supervisory standards to the EU regulatory framework. Financial integration with the EU is very similar to the one experienced in the new EU member states. Empirical evidence on transition economies shows that foreign ownership leads to greater efficiency in the banking sector, which translates into a lower cost of capital.1 
3. Financial deepening and improvements in the institutional environment have preceded the full opening of the capital account, which seems to be the best approach to financial globalisation. According to recent research, the establishment of minimum conditions in terms of financial market development, institutional quality, governance as well as macroeconomic policies allows developing and emerging economies to better reap the benefits of financial globalisation.2 A growing body of academic literature confirms that the development of sound and deep financial markets and institutions promotes economic growth.3 
In spite of these developments, financial deepening and convergence of institutional and governance standards to best international practice is still far from being completed in south-eastern Europe. As with any other transition and catching-up process, the path towards a new equilibrium is fraught with risks and presents a number of outstanding challenges. These challenges may be broadly classified under three general headings: institutional, macroeconomic and financial stability.
As regards institutional challenges, legislative reforms are still unfinished and, as already noted, important segments of the financial market - such as securities markets - are in several cases missing or underdeveloped. Above all, it is important to recognize that it is not legislation alone that really matters, but the actual implementation of reforms. A weak judiciary system, weak property rights, ineffective contract enforcement and corruption are all factors that hamper an efficient development of bank and financial intermediation and hinder long term lending to the corporate sector. I will not further delve into these issues, but this does not - by any means - diminish their importance.
I will instead focus on the issues that are closer to the concerns of central bankers, namely macroeconomic policy and financial stability.

2. Monetary and macroeconomic policy challenges 

The main task of monetary policy is to ensure monetary stability. Both economic theory and past experience show that monetary stability is the primary and most appropriate objective of monetary policy. This is the rationale for establishing independent central banks with a clear mandate for maintaining price stability. Central banks that are protected from political pressures will not sacrifice the long-term objective of price stability to obtain transitory short-term gains. 
Monetary policy frameworks in south-eastern Europe range from inflation targeting and independent floats to hard pegs in the form of currency boards. Over the last years, these monetary frameworks have been put to test by large capital inflows, driving rapid credit growth and domestic demand in the region. While this has recently led to some inflationary pressures, overall inflation has in general been contained. The main impact has been on the external balance, with capital flows constituting a major factor underlying the widening of current account deficits. 
Large external deficits pose a challenge for the implementation of monetary policy by increasing the risk of abrupt adjustments and large exchange rate volatility that may impair monetary stability. The choice of the exchange rate regime has important implications on the room for manoeuvre of monetary policy.
Let me start with fixed exchange rate arrangements. Several countries in the region have opted for pegs or tightly managed floats with the euro, as an attempt to anchor inflation expectations, following hyperinflation. This has proved to be quite successful. Over the medium to long run, purchasing power parity conditions should ensure that inflation rates in these countries will converge to that of the euro area - allowing for possible divergences due to the Balassa-Samuelson effect. In practice, however, over the short to medium run, convergence does not necessarily occur as the business cycle of these countries is not fully synchronised with that of the euro area, and the monetary policy of the euro area is not necessarily the optimal one for countries pegging to the euro. As a result, some countries in the region have recently seen real interest rates at levels close to zero, or in some countries, even in negative territory, fostering credit growth, domestic demand and thereby contributing to widening current account deficits.  
It is well known that with an exchange rate target and an open capital account, monetary policy cannot use the interest rate instrument to contain credit growth and demand pressures. This is why prudential and administrative measures have been occasionally used to limit credit growth. However, as the past experience of EU countries shows, these measures risk being circumvented in the medium run by borrowing through non-bank financial institutions or by direct borrowing from abroad. Thus, these instruments only represent a second-best policy. This leads to the conclusion that to ensure monetary stability under fixed exchange rate regimes, monetary policy strongly needs the support of fiscal, structural and income policies, also to keep external deficits sustainable in the long run.
In countries with more flexible exchange rate regimes, monetary policy is in a position to dampen domestic demand pressures, thereby ensuring price stability and contributing to lower external deficits, by raising domestic interest rates. However, authorities have been quite hesitant to fully use the interest rate instrument to this purpose. Indeed, despite strong growth, real interest rates have been declining also in these countries, albeit from different levels. Exchange rate considerations and the possible impact of significant exchange rate volatility on growth and current account developments have been the main reason for this cautious approach. Moreover, authorities have been concerned that a rise in interest rates may attract additional capital inflows, thereby increasing the potential for sudden reversals that may lead to excessive exchange rate volatility and hinder the achievement of price stability. 
Although I understand these concerns, the choice of the exchange rate regime is essential to allow for monetary policy autonomy. But this also means that this autonomy has to be used to achieve price stability. Prudent fiscal and income policies as well as structural reforms can make a major contribution to monetary stability also under an inflation targeting framework and policy makers should be called upon to make this contribution. 
A further issue to be assessed is: How much should we be concerned about the rise in current account deficits? This question is not easy to answer as the assessment of the sustainability of large current account deficits and capital flows in emerging markets is not straightforward. Large current account imbalances per se are not necessarily "bad" and may well be the result of the convergence process. According to standard economic theory, it makes perfect sense for a developing or emerging market economy - with a relatively low level of capital endowment and high productivity growth - to borrow in the international markets in order to finance investment needs, and to smooth consumption. In practice, however, we see that several emerging markets - and here I refer in particular to the South-East Asian economies - have become net capital exporters, which does not match at all with the theoretical prediction. This is also in sharp contrast with the current situation in south-eastern Europe as well as in the new EU member states. 
How to reconcile then the economic theory with this multifaceted economic reality? The quality of financial institutions is key to answer this question. In south-eastern Europe, financial integration with the EU improved access to credit for consumers and firms. On the contrary, weaknesses in financial sector corporate governance in South-East Asia contributed to the financial crisis of 1997-98 and, more recently, to consumption credit booms and busts, resulting in a low capacity to absorb foreign capital. In the case of China the lack of market-driven financial institutions - coupled with the lack of a social safety net to provide for health care, education and pensions - may explain the build-up of excessive precautionary saving. Hence, in both South-East Asia and China, financial sector reforms should contribute to the reduction of current account surpluses. 
In any case, the risks attached to large external imbalances in south-eastern Europe should not be underestimated. In this respect, it is interesting to note that according to recent empirical evidence - over the past 35 years - the fastest growing developing countries have proved to use less foreign capital and experience lower current account deficits. At the same time, those fast growing countries have also been absorbing more foreign direct investment.4 Foreign direct investment, which is a relatively stable source of capital and aims at upgrading the productive capacity of the host countries, seems therefore to be associated with superior macroeconomic outcomes. 
The other types of capital flows may not necessarily entail negative consequences, but surely come with higher risks, in particular if they lead to excessive consumption and asset price bubbles. Therefore, reducing large imbalances and ensuring that they are financed through less speculative capital flows - such as FDI - should help to increase the resilience of the economies of south-eastern Europe.  

3. Financial stability 
challenges 

In addition to the macroeconomic challenges I have just referred to, large capital flows and fast credit growth pose a series of risks for financial stability. When assessing these risks, one has to take into account that this rapid acceleration in private sector credit growth reflects to a large extent a "catching-up" effect, as all countries in south-eastern Europe had - at least until a few years ago - a very low level of financial intermediation. However, empirical research confirms that "rapid" credit growth is one of the predictors, but does not necessarily lead to financial turbulence. Thus, we may never know ex ante the actual risk that a certain rate of credit expansion may entail for financial stability, but past experience calls for close monitoring of credit growth developments.
In south-eastern Europe, we can identify at least three sources of risk, which deserve close monitoring. First, there is the perception that too large a share of credit finances consumption rather than investment, creating the risk of over-borrowing by households that have little experience in managing their debt. Second, rapid credit growth makes it difficult to assess credit quality. The large volume of new loans tends to depress non-performing loan ratios in the short term, due to the fact that potential portfolio quality problems usually materialize with a significant lag. Moreover, rapid credit expansion may also entail lower vetting standards, thereby resulting in lending to less creditworthy customers. This may backfire, as the resilience of loan portfolios to economic downturns remains untested. Finally, the high share of foreign currency denominated or indexed loans in banks' portfolios points to the risk of building-up large currency mismatches in the non-financial private sector. To the extent that domestic borrowers do not earn foreign exchange income, as it is often the case, the unhedged foreign exchange risk becomes an important part of credit risk. In Asia, the surge in foreign currency denominated short-term external debt in the first half of the 1990s left the countries of the region exposed to exchange rate risk. When the external value of their currencies dropped, the external debt expressed in domestic currency terms and as a share of GDP mounted, leading to the insolvency of unhedged borrowers and contributing to the severity of the 1997-98 crisis. 
All these risks call for strict vigilance by authorities in charge of banking supervision. I understand that the central banks charged with this responsibility in the region are fully aware of the risks and have been taking concrete measures. However, what I want to stress tonight, as my final remark, is the importance for the supervisory authorities to take into account international financial integration on their daily activity. Where large subsidiaries of foreign-based banks play an important role in the banking sector of the host country, with a potential systemic impact, the case for co-operation, exchange of information and co-ordination between the home and the foreign supervisors is very strong. Of course, the implementation of common standards and regulations facilitates the task of supervisors in the home as well as the host country. Therefore, beside the general call for creating and promoting institutional arrangements, which ensure the independence, accountability and sound internal governance of supervisory authorities, financial integration poses the additional challenge of co-ordinating supervisory activities at a supra-national level. 

4. Conclusion 

I started this talk with a comparison between the challenges in south-eastern Europe today with those of emerging market economies and those experienced in Europe in the past decades. The quality of institutions and economic governance is crucial in explaining different macroeconomic outcomes. Nonetheless, similar challenges lead to similar policy prescriptions for monetary policies and financial supervision. I have brought to your attention two cases where financial integration limits the scope of action of policy makers: the impact of capital flows on domestic macroeconomic policies and on financial stability. The prescription, as regards the macroeconomic sphere, is that monetary policy should remain primarily geared towards the achievement of price stability. In countries operating hard pegs or tightly managed float regimes, monetary policy has a more difficult task and should be supported by appropriate fiscal, income and structural polices to achieve its objective. In countries with more flexible exchange rates, the greater autonomy of monetary policy has to be used to focus on the inflation target. 
Finally, financial stability concerns arising from rapid credit growth and currency mismatches require strong vigilance by independent and accountable supervisors. Since the source of this credit growth is beyond the reach of national authorities, there is a strong need to promote the co-ordination of supervisory activities at an international level. 
Thank you for your attention.

References
Fries S. and A. Taci (2004). "Cost Efficiency of Banks in Transition: Evidence from 289 Banks in 15 Post-communist Countries", EBRD Working Paper No. 86, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, London, April. 
Grigorian, D. A. and V. Manole (2002). "Determinants of Commercial bank Performance in Transition: An Application of Data Envelopment Analysis", World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 2850, World Bank, Washington DC, June. 
Kose, M.A., E. Prasad, K. Rogoff and S Wei (2006). "Financial Globalization: a Reappraisal", IMF Working Paper 06/189, International Monetary Fund, Washington DC, August. 
Levine, R. (1997). "Financial Development and Economic Growth: Views and Agenda", Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 688-726, June. 
Prasad, E., R. Rajan and A. Subramanian (2006). "Patterns of International Capital Flows and Their Implications for Economic Development", paper presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Economic Symposium, Jackson Hole, Wyoming August 25, 2006. 
Wachtel, P. (2001). "Growth and Finance: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It", International Finance 4:3, pp. 335-362.
                    [post_title] =>  Monetary and Financial Stability: Challenges in South-Eastern Europe 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-10-27 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2006-10-27 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => TT-Could you please introduce yourself and the organization that you work for?
AA-my name is Alex Anderson, director of the Kosovo project of the ICC. The ICC is an international non-profit organization composed mainly of former statesmen and state women. We work through field based analysis on conflict situations, produce reports that reflect what is going on in the various fields of conflict. For instance we have an office here in the Balkans, a full office in Kosovo, Prishtina and I have a colleague who works in Belgrade, we have thankfully phased out a number of other offices which I think its good news for the Balkans. We work in a variety of other conflict areas. 
TT- So when you move out, that is good news for the country?
AA-Yes, definitely. (laughs) Also, it is an organization with finite resources. If we want to open up an office in an area where either a crisis has just blown up or where its expected. Somewhere like East Asia where we have potential for a crisis. For example some years ago we opened up in Seoul, South Korea. From that office we cover the Korean issue, but also the wider region, the relationships between Japan, Korea and Taiwan. And this is just an example of what we do. And of course when we do open up we have to realize that we are a $12 million, we are not certainly going to sprout another few million dollars , its always a job maintaining that, so we have to close up where we need to close up. For example we are asking ourselves now, will we need to produce another report on Macedonia, maybe we won't but we'll see. 
TT- Coming back to your discussion today, I think it was one of the most pragmatic ones. You took a realistic approach upon the violence might erupt and that Kosovo is still very fragile and brittle and there are reasons to expect unrest in Mitrovica. Does the ICC have a reasonable prediction that there will be a crisis in Kosovo if the status is proclaimed whether its independence, conditional independence or what have you? 
AA- Well, we don't want to be a Cassandra just for the sake of it. And also I think its important to reflect that as an organization with an established field presence in Kosovo and a voice that is very listened to, for a small place like Kosovo which is concentrating day by day so feverishly on the issue of status that some sort of prediction form us can actually tip the balance.
TT-Like a self fulfilling prophecy? 
AA- Yes that sort of thing can very easily happen. Looking back lets say over the last couple of years there have been situations when we thought the risk of violence was very high. For example the tension in the lead up to the indictment of former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj was very real. There was a very real risk that some of the armed groups that were basically the KLA back in 1999, to which younger generations attached themselves and the younger generation is more militant than the KLA generation which is already 8 years older. That situation could have gotten completely out of control especially in West Kosovo. It didn't thankfully. So we have had times when there was a very high risk of something going very wrong and we came through with Kosovo Albanian society learning some very important lessons abut itself in the process. However if you look back a bit further into the March riots of 2004 it was such a shock to everybody including some of the people who were charged for inciting the groups. For instance we talked to veteran leaders who told us "We have tried to incite people to come demonstrate all the time but they don't and then there I suddenly 5000 of them behind me and 5000 in the front and they are out of control and they start to burn churches." So I have heard recently one Kosovo politician wrap it up very nicely: "In this country to be there is no number between 0 and 100. Albanians are either loyal, orderly patient or not and it's very difficult to gage between these two polarities so therefore the political class in Kosovo is very nervous about its own population. It does not quite understand the population. It feels it has to keep making promises about Kosovo status. As I was saying today Kosovo's top leaders have got into addressing their own population what is going to come, what sort of independence and when it is going to come and maybe in a too-heightened and artificial way they have taken a statement of aspiration from the contact group and converted into a promise and that is dangerous, raised expectations too high. They have done it also to try and head off but in the process, I think, they have shown up some of their lacks. I think this is a political generation that is much focused on the wrapping up of the businesses of the war, on proclaiming things then actually doing the job of managing and this is one of the problems that Kosovo has got. I think it has got a political generation that does not really have a managerial essence. One looks rather hopefully for a younger more technocratic generation though I do not see presently room for them. Now the atmosphere in which politics is done may undergo quite a drastic change come status, Kosovo's political system is going through some change especially the LDK. Once the independence issue is going to be removed, settled, done by hopefully some time not too far next year. This will get into the context of politics. It will become much more about the everyday bread-and -butter. Long term, there needs to be an injection of vision in Kosovo's politics. Kosovo Albanians' imagination tends to run out at the moment of independence, beyond that there is just a blinding white light, no pragmatic plan on what do we do in 2008 and moving forward in 2009.
TT- Well taking a lead from one of the things mentioned in the conclusion as "economics above politics", there was mention of economic strategies and issues. How do you see this development? From being a pure 100% political sensitive issue into  a more economic problem?
AA- I hope we can get to that soon. But we have to deal with status first. For example one of the panelists was regretting the way that UNISEK and Ahtisaari handled the economic negotiations about the mines of lignite. Now that is very difficult without status. Another example is in Mitrovica, where we have a fellow NGO, the European Stability Initiative that claim that we have to sort out the economy first and that this in itself will unite the two halves of the city. I don't think either of those two views are fully realistic. You have to sort out basic political questions first. In the forming of new countries it is always the national issue first, the economic issue, the figures and numbers later. 
TT- One of the very interesting scenarios that you pointed out for discussion was a situation in which the Security Council does not completely endorse the Ahtisaari plan. What if we have a situation similar to Iraq, the US going forward without a UN mandate? Do you think that could happen?
AA- These are very last resort solutions.  Let's hope that we don't have to face them. Lets work towards having a situation in which the Security Council can speak with 1 voice, can provide an authoritative foundation for the creation of the new Kosovo state. As it looks now, it is unlikely that the Security Council will say the word "independence" in its resolution. What the resolution should do in the minimum is to wind up UNMIK, endorse both Ahtisaari package of whatever has been agreed on minority rights, decentralization, protection of Serbian Orthodox sites, etc and of course endorse the new international presence, the purpose of which should be ultimately to try to monitor and guide Kosovo towards normal statehood within the EU. You have to have a goal for an international presence and I think the EU goal is the only feasible and credible one to get Kosovo going. But as far as possible plan B-s and C-s are concerned, these are very second best solutions. It will be much more difficult and it will be difficult in any case to secure the semidetached Serb north of Kosovo in any case even with consensus and authority of the UN Security Council to define and independent Kosovo within its present borders. And of course that will be much more difficult if you don't have a full consensus about the Kosovo solution. The US of course is looking very much to Europe and the European Union for taking the responsibility of Kosovo post-status. It would serve no purpose for the US to simply unilaterally step in, the European is going to spatter all apart unable to have consensus within itself to provide the EU mechanisms with which to secure Kosovo post-status.
                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo towards normal statehood within the EU 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-10-20 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2006-10-20 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Albert Rakipi
Attempts to think critically and debate publicly the nature of the relationship between Albania and the European Union are most necessary at this juncture of Albania's efforts to integrate.  In the last fifteen years and especially in the last five or six years, the role of the EU in Albania's political and economic transition has taken such an important weight that debating that role is almost unavoidable.  
Lately, a new idea has been introduced in the market of ideas regarding the role of the EU in Albania's democratization.  Its partisans propose a soft Euroscepticism, or "Eurodoubt" as a viable and useful alternative approach towards the EU.  This article claims that such an approach is the wrong idea in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It does so by analyzing the role of the EU as an agent of political legitimacy for the Albanian political system and its role as a state-builder in postcommunist Albania.  Finally, the article considers the need to shift the debate towards increasing local ownership of the process of integration as the most useful way to fulfilling the goals the country has consensually agreed upon.

Euroscepticism and its Albanian variety
Euroscepticism is a trend of thought and political action that emerged soon after the beginnings of the European project.  It takes its origin from the United Kingdom and consisted of opposition towards British membership in the EC.  Later on, the agenda of British Eurosceptics became longer and more sophisticated in its opposition towards the common market, the euro, and the deepening of EU integration processes.  At its root stands a strong almost instinctive doubt towards the success of the European project as well as a fear towards all supranational forms of government.  From Britain, Euroscepticism became a considerable force in other West European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and others, often conditioning the integration processes of these countries in the EU.
While Euroscepticism may not have been the primary reason for the failure of the French and Dutch referendums last year, it certainly was important in the Norwegian and Swiss rejection of EU membership or in Britain's refusal to join the Schengen Agreement.  Euroscepticism is now present in a number of ex-Eastern Bloc countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and ever Croatia.  Although these "eastern" and "western" varieties are held in common by the opposition towards EU or specific EU policies, their substances are different.  Czech President Vaclav Klaus uses the old rhetoric of dissidence against over-bureaucratization against the EU while most other "eastern" Eurosceptics smack of old-fashioned nationalism.
Coming back to the recently-articulated Albanian version of Euroscepticism, let us examine the thesis of its partisans.  The overarching argument is that the processes of EU integration and democratic consolidation are not parallel processes and sometimes even contradict each other.  In other words, the country's integration efforts are in contradiction with its efforts to democratize.
While Albanian Eurosceptics are not explicitly against EU membership, by putting the unequal sign between democratization and integration and coming out in favour of democratization, they implicitly urge the public to put integration 'in the backburner' if not to forget it entirely.  
This type of Euroscepticism is different than both the "western" and "eastern" variants we described above.  In Britain, Euroscepticism did not come out of intellectual acrobatics but out of a genuine age-old British distrust of the world outside of the British Isles and especially of the old continent.  It existed as an approach albeit in different shape even before the European Communities and was quickly adopted as a political programme once the EC became a reality that Britain had to deal with.  Further, in Switzerland see European Union membership in terms of the traditional security choices the Swiss have made while the relationship between democracy and membership is a non-issue.
In its "eastern" strands Euroscepticism is unconnected with democratization either.  As a matter of fact, they have seen the prospect of membership and EU conditionality as a powerful factor that 'conditions' or 'ensures' the success of democratization.  Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romaniaơll of these countries consolidated democracy only after the prospect of membership became a powerful pull-factor.
At its roots, Euroscepticism is mainly a phenomenon of industrialized countries from Britain to the Czech Republic while in the "economic periphery" of the Union it is mostly fueled by nationalistic fears.  What should happen in Albania where, differently than in other East European countries, the EU has an unprecedented state-building dimension?

The EU Agenda as a State building Agenda
Albanian Eurosceptics maintain that in 1992 when EU-Albania relations were non-existent, the country was able to have free and fair elections.  Since then the country's relationship with the EU has become increasingly deeper while levels of democratization have made step back.  Seeing a causal relationship between the two processes, the Eurosceptics conclude that the more efforts Albania makes to integrate, the farther away it slips from democratic consolidation.
But, the empirical evidence is lacking.  The 1992 elections were about changing the political system and not just rotating governments.  On the other hand, despite the failures of the last fifteen years, the democratization process has moved forward as one can see even from the marks Albania gets over time from prestigious institutions such as Freedom House.  
The EU has the opposite effect on the Albanian political system than the one claimed by the Albanian Eurosceptics.  First, it strengthens Albanian democracy by providing a source of political legitimacy.  EU conditionality has 'forced' the political establishment to get back to the democratic rules of the game whenever they have strayed too far from them.  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 erodes the minimal consensus necessary for democracy.  That perception is independent of EU and would remain true even without the country's European perspective.  It is thanks to EU and other actors' intervention that consensus has been reestablished at critical junctures in Albanian politics.
Second, the EU is building or rebuilding state institutions which works in favour of democratic consolidation.  In 1997, Albania resembled the Hobbesian state of natureسuffice to recall the absence of a key element of the state, the prison.  In 1997, Albania had a seat in the UN General Assembly but no prison.  The absence of prison does not only mean that there were no people behind bars, but also no police force to arrest evildoers, prosecutors to build a case, judges to condemn them and so on.  
In 1997 the EU build a prison in Albania.  Ever since, it has built and it continues to build courthouses, customs houses and others not only as mere buildings but as symbols of the reborn Albanian state.  Democracy cannot function beyond the pale of the law.  And it was the EU that is helping to bring the law back into Albanian lives.

Capacity and Will
Instead of doubting Europe in a country where there is no room for doubt, it is imperative to open the debate on local ownership of EU integration.  The EU integration agenda in Albania is perceived as something that comes out of Brussels rather than the agenda of the country's economic and political development.  This agenda is not the 'homework' that Brussels hands out to the Albanian government but that which Albanians expect from their state.  It is the agenda that will make a well-functioning state that hands out public goods in accordance to rule of law and the common will expressed in free and fair elections.  Isn't the 'Brussels agenda' and the 'Albanians' agenda' one and the same?
We have accepted democracy as the ideological pillar that will sustain the Albanian state.  Others before us have shown the virtuous link between EU integration and democratization.  Need we reinvent the wheel?
                    [post_title] =>  Albanian Euroscepticism? - The wrong debate in the wrong place at the wrong time 
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                    [ID] => 100454
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2006-10-13 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2006-10-13 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
A landmark conference organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Balkan economic development, regional cooperation, and international integration was held in Washington on 5-6 October. The event generated substantial interest among the policy and business communities.
The western part of the Balkan peninsula stands at an important crossroads between the past and the future. The one remaining status issue between Kosova and Serbia is rapidly approaching resolution by international actors. As a consequence, it is now clear that regional collaboration, business investment, economic progress, and eventual European Union assimilation are the most important challenges facing the entire region.
The Washington conference assembled several senior officials from the region, including Bosnia- Hercegovina's Prime Minister, Kosova's Deputy Prime Minister, Montenegro's Economic Minister, Slovenia's Economic Minister, and other officials from Greece and Serbia. U.S. and EU officials were also in attendance, including the Assistant Secretary for Europe in the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Western Balkans Director in the European Commission.
Even more significantly, the presence of representatives from U.S. business and major financial institutions, economic analysts, and NGO leaders also underscored that it was time to look ahead to promote self-sustaining regional development.
The CSIS conference focused on five sets of issues that are fundamental to the region's progress: the political and legal framework, infrastructure development, trade barriers and opportunities, the business environment and investment promotion, and banking and financial sector reform
Several recommendations were generated by the conference in a number of key areas. Three will prove the most significant. First,  a regional free trade agreement needs to be finalized by the end of the year through an enlargement and modernization of the CEFTA (Central European Free Trade Area). The highly successful Nordic Council can serve as a valuable model for the entire Balkan area. 
The European Commission is pushing for a free trade agreement between all non-EU states in the Balkans to replace the multitude of confusing bilateral arrangements currently in place. The EC also seeks to increase assistance for small businesses and encourage other initiatives for the free movement of labor and capital.
Second, the regional energy market must be expanded with the involvement of multinational energy companies. The Balkans can benefit from regional linkages and from the transit of oil and gas from the Caspian basin to the EU. And the region will need to be fully integrated with the EU's Internal Energy Market in all key sectors.
And third, all West Balkan countries need to create more favorable conditions for foreign direct investment. By working with neighbors, removing trade barriers and customs backlogs, and devising a regional investment framework, each country can become a hub for commerce and communications that can attract foreign business. 
Many local leaders now understand that the western Balkans is a significant market of over 25 million people on the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Together with the East Balkans and Turkey the market exceeds 120 million. Needed however are the structural and legal conditions that would significantly stimulate the developmental process.
The EU approach is rational and should not be seen as a substitute for Union entry. An economic boost around the region will help the advocates of West Balkan incorporation in the Union and undercut those who claim that the EU's absorption capacity has been exceeded. Pro-enlargers can argue that Balkan leaders are applying European standards in preparation for eventual EU integration.
The stage is now set for the next phase of Balkan development, where economic cooperation in areas such as trade, energy, communications, and infrastructure runs parallel with the process of "Europeanization." In sum, the CSIS conference has highlighted the imperatives of economic cooperation and business investment and generated positive recommendations for both government and business. "Independence without economic borders" should become the regional slogan.
                    [post_title] =>  West Balkans in the Spotlight 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-10-06 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Sali Berisha

I  feel immensely indebted to  the Council of Europe for the continuous support to Albania. Council of Europe was the first international institution I visited in 1992, only a few weeks after I was elected President of Albania, asking your assistance for our project of building a democratic society based on the rule of law, upon the ruins of the most Orwellian dictatorship Europe had known. Since then the Council of Europe has always been by our side.I am deeply moved and proud to speak before you, all dear friends with whom I have had the opportunity and the privilege to debate and defend the democratic values and principles we hold in common. This enriching experience inspired and empowered me to lead the efforts of the Albanian citizens to vote out one of the most kleptocratic regimes of modern times, which was installed in Albania.  

Moving toward  a new European reality
I believe in your memory still linger on images of past unpleasant events and unhappy news about my country. I stand before you today to assure you that Albania has buried those events in its past and is swiftly moving forward toward a new and European reality.
Last year, overcoming the autocracy of country's kleptocratic regime, Albanians succeeded to produce a peaceful rotation of power. They voted in scores to tear down the wall of corruption, organized crime and poverty which was thrusting them away from the democratic world. The Council of Europe Resolution on Elections in Albania and its monitoring of last year's elections were a valuable encouragement and assistance to all Albanian voters. My Government took office pledging to restore the rule of law - an the essential condition for guaranteeing fundamental rights of citizens - fight with zero tolerance organized crime, uproot the kletpocratic system, and consolidate democratic institutions, as the foundation of all other reforms. A year ago, more then two thirds of all court decisions were not enforced, while the index of law enforcement in the country was amongst the lowest in the world. Since then, firm and fair application of law, enforcement of all court decisions and abrogation of hundreds of unlawful decisions, have made law prevail throughout the country. During past years, Albanians suffered more than many other people from organized crime, which due to its symbiosis and collusion with politicians and public officials in all levels of government, become so powerful that was practically the real power behind government decisions, thus managing to make Albania a major trafficking territory.Facing such reality, we adopted only one stand: zero tolerance towards crime. A year later, I am happy to inform you that thanks to the courage and high professionalism of our police forces and other law enforcement agencies and with the excellent cooperation of law and police agencies in other countries, more than 33 major criminal groups and organizations have been cracked down; hundreds of their members and all their bosses have been brought to justice, while their assets worth millions of euros have been seized and confiscated. In a drive to curb criminal trafficking, the parliament enacted a three year ban from our waters on speed boats, which were widely used for drug and human trafficking.  As result of these efforts, according to the International Center for Fight Against Organized Crime based in Bucharest, drug trafficking routes have moved outside Albania.  Albania is today a safe country and it is widely perceived as such. The fact that during the summer 30 percent more foreign tourists visited Albania is a clear indication of this new reality. 

Energetic measures to overcome corruption 
In past years, corruption in Albania developed into a kleptocratic system. According to international reports bribing and illegal payments that Albanian citizens and businesses paid to officials in exchange for the very services and rights they were entitled to have freely were estimated at around 1.2 billion euros. Country's customs and justice system were amongst the more corrupted in the world, while the state capture was a wide phenomenon.Fight against corruption - the cancer that weakened and drained the body and the soul of my nation - has been another major priority for the Albanian Government. We have initiated thorough energetic measures to overcome corruption. As part of these measures:
ՠwe adopted a small government structure and put the government on diet, thus replacing the large and beefed up administration we found;
ՠwe instituted new administrative and ethical standards aiming to prevent use of public money for private benefits;
ՠwe decreased by 40 percent all administrative expenses, most of which saved by simply ending the mismanagement and abusive use of public funds by the administration;
ՠwe amended the law on the conflict of interest. While previous administration was built on the conflict of interest, today there are no reported cases of such conflict by any public servant or official;
ՠwe amended the law on public procurement. As result, 92 percent of goods and services are procured through open bidding compared to a mere 25 percent a year ago.
ՠParliament approved a law on whistle blowers and denouncers of corruption, which offers them special protection under law and rewards them with 6 percent of the recovered funds.
Our fight against corruption, smuggling and fiscal evasion has given significant and encouraging results. Thus:
ՠrevenues from tax collection have increased by 24 percent from the forecast, which allowed us to have a supplementary budget in June;
ՠcost of procurement has decreased by 25 percent for the same goods or services as before. 
ՠas I mentioned before, the administrative expenses of the public administration have decreased by 40 percent.
ՠbribing has also declined significantly.
Corruption is a cancer for the society. We have given a firm blow to the klecptocratic system we inherited and are continuing our efforts with zero tolerance for uprooting completely this harmful phenomenon. 

Creating a favorable business climate 
Creating a favorable business climate and making Albania the most attractive country for foreign investments is our Government's main objective in the economic domain.
To this end, alongside our efforts to restore and consolidate the rule of law, we have embarked on a truly fiscal revolution. Our goal is to implement a flat-tax, at the lowest rate in Europe. So far, we have considerably lowered all taxes. According to the KPMG ranking, in 2006, Albania was the country with the highest percentage rate of tax reduction in the world. In addition to fiscal measures, we lowered 33-35 percent the price of electricity for business; cut in half the cost of business registration and reduced the time required for business registration from 42 days to only 8 days.A thorough deregulatory reform aiming to widely liberalize the licensing and administrative business procedures is underway. Last but not least, the Government has launched a new initiative - Albania 1 Euro. From now on, investors from your countries can enter Albania paying only 1 euro at the border; register their business paying 1 euro, or rent for 1 Euro for 99 years the land necessary for investment in productive activities. Mines, hydropower plants, railways will be given out to investors for 1 Euro. A full range of other services will also be offered with the price of 1 Euro. I would like to use this opportunity to kindly ask you to encourage investors in your countries to consider the opportunities and potentials that Albania offers. Albania 1 Euro is our promise to them. In cooperation with the Council of Europe, Government has also embarked in meaningful reforms in the field of decentralization, education and other sectors, such as property reform and information technology. "Albania in the age of internet" is our new effort to boost the IT penetration in the Albanian society.As a result of all our round reforms our economy is performing well, is growing. This year we expect to have a significant growth estimated at least 6 percent. By the end of this year, Albania will hold local elections. The government is determined to take all the measures and make every effort to ensure that these elections are free and fair. I would like to ask the Assembly to monitor our elections.

Albania's western vocation
On 12 June 2006, Albania signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. Ratification of this Agreement by the European Parliament, in the beginning of last month, was the ultimate recognition of Albania's western vocation and the common values that Albania shares with your nations. At the same time, it was the very appreciation of all 25 EU countries for the reforms undertaken by the government that I chair, and in general the appreciation for Albania's overall peaceful transformation during the past 14 years. During this period, Albania has changed from the most totalitarian communist country of coerced atheism and hyper-collectivisation into a country with consolidated political pluralism, remarkable religious pluralism and tolerance, with a flourishing private sector that counts for more than 80 percent of the country's total production and with an income per capita that has increased more than 11 times in 14 years.  Albanians marked these achievements due to their great and unwavering efforts, but also due to their generosity and exceptional solidarity. In this endeavours they greatly benefited by the overall assistance of your governments, your nations and the taxpayers of your countries. The assistance and the support of the Council of Europe has played a great role to this end, and we remain always grateful to you.
Seizing this opportunity, I would to reassure you that for my government the Stabilization and Association Agreement is the most significant contract of my nation with the member states of the European Union that constitutes the roadmap for Albania's full integration in the EU. It is for this significance that I kindly ask you to positively persuade your parliaments to ratify it as soon as possible. For 14 years Albania has build and retained an excellent and loyal partnership with NATO and the USA. Our armed forces are undergoing a deep transformation which aims to build a modern and professional army. Our soldiers are serving alongside NATO units in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and, in coalition with the United States, in Iraq.
My government is determined to take all necessary reforms and pay every price to deserve the invitation to join NATO in the first enlargement summit. Albania's membership in NATO is the most secure future for Albania and her citizens. The support of your governments and your parliaments to this process would always be highly valued and appreciated by my nation. The tragedies, wars and cruel dictatorships that the people of the Balkans experienced during the later part of the last century did not extinguish their aspirations to freedom, human dignity and integration into the EU and NATO. In a matter of few years, the Balkans leaped from the age of violent confrontations, wars, ethnic cleansing and blind nationalisms, paralleled only from those of East Africa, into the age of friendly political, economic and military cooperation and of irreversible regional and European integration. 2006 is an historical year for the peoples of the Balkans. They are today more united then ever in their European project.
Two important countries of the region, Rumania and Bulgaria, will become members of the European Union on the 1st of January, 2007. Croatia has opened its membership negotiations with the EU. Macedonia was given the status of EU candidate. Albania signed its Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU. The SAA negotiations were opened with Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Republic of Montenegro proclaimed its independence. Kosovo is moving towards finalization of its status as a free and democratic European country.

The final status of Kosovo
A few months ago I visited Kosovo. With great pleasure I witnessed there that no other country has changed more than Kosovo in the past 7 years. Out of the scorches and ashes of hundred of thousands of burnt houses in its towns and villages, from the rivers of tears, enormous human sufferings and blood, out of the mass graves, the citizens of Kosovo rose like phoenix. With the precious help, generosity and extraordinary solidarity from your nations and governments, they built anew hundred of thousands homes, schools, kindergartens. They held fair and free elections. They built, with the assistance of the best western expertise, efficient democratic institutions and established the rule of law. I was particularly gratified to witness in my meetings with the common people from all ethnic origins and their political and religious leaders their firm will and enthusiastic efforts to built a European Kosovo, where all citizens are equal before the law. I was witness to the commitment and determination of the Albanian majority to forgive, but not forget, to respect and guarantee the freedoms of all the minorities and Serbs in particular, to respect their religious and cultural heritages and their languages.  
In the past century, Kosovo was the very heart of the Balkans crisis. I believe that a fair and just solution of the Kosovo issues, in respect of the will of the Kosovo people, is closely linked to the stability of Albania, but also other neighbors - Macedonia and Montenegro - as well as the stability of the region.
Regrettably, despite of all the changes that have occurred in Belgrade after the fall of the Milosevic regime and despite of all fundamental differences between the current Serbian leadership and yesterdays Serb communist nomenclature, still the ghost of the freater Serbia persists to be there and lack of realism still dominates Belgrade's stand towards Kosovo. As a witness to the Balkans developments during the last two decades, I would like to point your attention to the fact that there are no essential differences between the position adopted in the Serbian constitution in the 1980s and the present Serbian constitutional scenario of 2006. I would also like to remind you of the fact that in the years 1991-1995, Belgrade's only option on the Kosovo issue was its partition drawing up maps that they changed every three months. Still today, in 2006, partition of Kosovo remains Belgrade's only option for the solution of this crucial question of the Balkans.
Yet, I am deeply convinced that changing the existing international borders in the Balkans bears the danger of awakening the old conflicts with severe consequences for the region. Furthermore, more than 90 percent of Kosovo's population is Albanian, to whom Kosovo has been their home since the very beginning of time. Fancying its partition with the aim of creating a pure ethnic country, in a region where such homogeneous countries do not exist, would not only unhelpful, but also dangerous.
Albania has adopted and maintains a realistic stand for the solution of the final status of Kosovo. We have fully supported the mission of President Ahtisari and the Contact Group.We believe that the final status of Kosovo must guarantee the rights and freedoms of the Serbs and all other minorities in that country; it must guarantee full and effective implementation of the decentralization process in compliance with the European Chart on the Local and Regional Authorities; it should ensure full respect for cultural and religious heritage; it should endorse the expressed will of the Kosovo people for independence.
I think that the independence of Kosovo is essential to its economic and social development and crucial for its stability and the stability of the entire region. The independence of Kosovo will provide a permanent answer to the fluidity of the Albanian factor in the Balkans. This is why, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro share similar views with regard to the final status of Kosovo.
Furthermore, I believe that the independence of Kosovo would contribute to the stability of Serbia, as well, as it will help Serbia to depart from its past, marginalize its radical forces, speed up its demilitarization, thus helping Serbia to integrate in the Euro-Atlantic institutions and catch the future this country deserves. 
Nonetheless, due to the absence of realism in Belgrade, an agreement between Pristina and Belgrade seems illusive. That is why I believe that a the only alternative remaining is an imposed agreement, as has always been the case with all important agreements in the history of the Balkans during the past 150 years.
At the same time, I remain deeply convinced that Albanians and Serbs must follow in the great tradition of the European nations and start a new chapter of good and friendly neighborhood and cooperation to the benefit of our common European future.

This speech  was delivered  by the Prime Minister Sali Berisha  at  the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe October    3rd     2006
                    [post_title] =>  Changing Albania 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-10-06 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Albert Rakipi
In March 1997 Dutch ambassador Jan de Marchant et d' Ansembourg assured Albanian authorities on behalf of the European Union that "Albania is part of the great European family". Situated in Europe's backyard, the small Balkan country was facing the most difficult challenge of its modern history. After the anarchy of the pyramid schemes, law and order was returning thanks to European assistanceطhich was precisely what the Dutch diplomat was referring to.  The multinational operation force code- named ALBA was composed almost entirely of troops from EU member states.  The successful operation was largely a European endeavor, - design, military contingent, technology, diplomacy- however it failed to be an EU collective security action. As the multinational  forces started  to be deployed in Albania, local citizens noticed that instead of the yellow starred flag of the EU, the European soldiers  raised their own national flags؇reek, Italian, Austrian, Spanish or Portugueseدn the territories that their national Governments had already agreed upon.
 Although this Albanian example may be insignificant in the larger scheme, it serves the purpose of illustrating the enticing possibilities and the practical impossibility of a successful European collective security system that would emerge from a Common Foreign and Security Policy.  On the other hand, the attempts towards CFSP as the most significant element of EU deepening are a test of the survival of the European project and the strengthening of EU itself.  In more than a decade and a half since the end of the Cold War, we have witnessed a dynamic process of enlargement and deepening of the great European project through the membership of new states especially in the 2004 big bang, and through the adoption of a common market and currency.  Looking at these processes, there is no doubt that the European worldدr, in the words of Robert Kagan, the Kantian worldةs becoming increasingly more real.  If the deepening of the European project continues at such a pace, the strategic weight of Europe would rise considerably and so would its contribution to global peace and development.
When Albanian citizens in March 1990 took to the streets in order to claim back their right to a normal life with the motto "We Want Albania to be like Europe," the perception of Europe was a mythical one.  According to Helene Ahrweiler,1 this is common to all Balkan countries including the ones that have been members of the EU for a long time now.  However, fifteen years later Europe and the European Union have gotten closer to constituting a "real world", while Albania's European perspective has become the driving force behind the process of state and regime building.  At the society level, during the last five years,2 the EU has topped the list of countries/organizations with which the government ought to have strategic relations.  At the elite level, it would be useful to look at the debate on the proposals for UN Security Council reform and the potential role of the EU in order to note Europe's metamorphosis from a "Kantian world" to a real one even for countries that are at the periphery of the EU.  Although Albania may carry little weight, its voting patterns mirror European ones.3 And, in the context of competing German and Italian proposals for UN reform, the dilemma of Albanian administrations may have been solved through a common European proposal. 
The need for a strategic role for the European Union and especially on UN reform follows quite naturally from the European project and the values that it upholds.  While the process of reform and the future role of EU present a difficult dilemma for countries like Albania, the dilemmas and responsibilities are even greater for the historical members of the EU and the EU itself as a global player.
From a theoretical and practical perspective is it possible and at the same time useful for the EU to possess a single seat on the Security Council since its reform is being considered?
 Having a single seat means possessing a single voice.  As such, a single vote in the Security Council would be the crowning achievement of the European projectشhe large member states would have to forego their seats and find the mechanisms of harmonizing foreign policy. But, it is too Kantian an idea to be realistic although it inspires the romantic love that may one day carry it to fruition.  At this stage, no one can seriously contemplate France with its Gaullist heritage or Britain with its soft Euro skepticism to give up one of their most prized foreign policy possessions, UNSC seats, in favor of as vague and altruistic a reason as EU CFSP.  No major EU member is ready yet to give up the holiest domain of national sovereigntyئoreign policyإspecially since it is unclear what they would give that up for. 
Secondly, the idea of   a single European seat is not a utility maximizing solution.  From a Realist perspective of international relations, by gaining a seat and giving up several European states' seats, Europe as a whole would have less weight in the Security Council.  And, if EU member states do achieve a common position in foreign policy, would they not be better positioned to project that common position through a caucus of permanent Security Council members?
However, despite the fact that a single European seat at the UN Security Council- is not possible and may not even be useful, the projection of power by the European World in UN reform is indispensable for global governance in the twenty first century. The job of figuring out how to turn that dream into reality, is one of the most difficult yet rewarding challenges facing European policy-makers.

The Author is Chairman of Albanian Institute for International Studies ( AIIS) . This  article is part of  an edited version of an essay to be appear  in the fall issue of Europe's world
1 Helene Ahrweiler " The making of Europe," Nea Synora" Athens 2002
2  See Tirana Times vol. 2 No.52 2006   at www. tiranatimes.com  or see AIIS,  Rethinking European Integration, AIIS: Tirana 2005  or at aiis-albania.org.
3 And, when they do not, as it has happened several times in the last fifteen years, it seems strange enough.  Most have considered such exceptions as mistakes that are not congruent with Albanian interests.
                    [post_title] =>  EU single seat in the Security Council: too Kantian to be loved 
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            [post_date] => 2006-11-24 01:00:00
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            [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
Western officials have assumed that Russia will accept the majority decision by the Contact Group and the UN Security Council in support of Kosova's de jure independence. However, concern is now growing in Washington that the Russian regime may veto the entire process.
Moscow is not only pushing for an indefinite delay of decisions on Kosova's status, but publicly opposes any solution that is imposed on Belgrade. Moreover, it is claiming "inalienable rights of state sovereignty" for Serbia and opposes Kosova's membership in any international organizations, including the UN.
Moscow is seeking several Western concessions in return for its neutrality over Kosova. First, it wants Western acquiescence that it will be the primary security provider in the post-Soviet region. Second, it is pushing for a halt to further NATO expansion eastward. And third, it seeks to minimize U.S. military involvement among Russia's neighbors. 
Moscow will also use Kosova as a precedent along Russia's borders. In recent months, the Kremlin has become more aggressive toward its most vulnerable neighbors, especially Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. The Kosova solution may embolden Russia to conclude that it has greater international legitimacy in supporting territorial separatism elsewhere.
In Ukraine, Putin is heating up the issue of the Crimean peninsula and encouraging the Russian majority to ignore the authority of the central government. With deep divisions in Kyiv, the Russian administration aims to extend its influence by playing the separatist card. Such a policy will also gain Moscow bargaining chips with the U.S. in future regional disputes, generate anxiety among other neighbors, and keep Ukraine tethered to Russia.
In Moldova, Russia has increased its pressures to steer the pro-Western government away from its aspirations for NATO accession. During the past year, Moscow has cutoff energy supplies and imposed embargos on Moldovan exports to Russia. It also backs the Transnistrian authorities and their pursuit of a separate state that could one day merge with Russia. 
However, Moscow has not openly recognized Transnistrian independence as it seeks to manipulate the issue to keep the Moldovan government off balance. Its priority is to keep Moldova out of NATO by maintaining the threat of separatism rather than fully realizing it.
In Georgia, the Kremlin has also imposed trade sanctions and energy embargos and supported referenda on independence for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As with Moldova, Moscow will not support Georgia's division outright, as it prefers to maintain pressure on the current government until it falls into the Russian orbit and surrenders its Western aspirations.
While the U.S. and most of EU states seem committed to Kosova's independence, they will need to bargain with Russia over its stance on final status. The fundamental error was made a decade ago when Russia was included in the Contact Group at a time when its power was in serious decline. And the West will now have to pay the consequences of raising Russia's international stature.
Although Washington is unlikely to yield to all of Moscow's demands in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, it may decide to acquiesce to some of Russia's regional policies by muting its criticism of the Kremlin and tempering its support for further NATO enlargement.  
Of course, any perceived U.S. appeasement of Russia's neo-imperialism will send negative reverberations throughout Eastern Europe. In the long-term, the most effective way to stifle Russia's ambitions is to partially step back when necessary, for example when negotiating over Kosova, and then take the offensive for further NATO enlargement when Kosova is resolved.
Kosova leaders must also remember their strategic allies long after independence is achieved. When the Russian authorities seek lucrative business deals in a sovereign Kosova, officials should understand the Kremlin's political calculations and remember its objectives. Russia cannot be a genuine ally of any European state as its goals primarily serve Moscow's expansionist interests and counter those of an expanding Europe and an enlarging NATO.
            [post_title] =>  Russian demands over Kosova 
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