Close cooperation with the USA and NATO

By Sali Berisha Ten years have passed since the March of 1996, when we together here in Tirana launched the process of the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial. This, was our common answer to the new security challenges that our region

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Albanian economy: advantages and incentives

By Ardian Fullani Recently Albanian economy has reached a commendable macroeconomic equilibrium, sustained by an economic growth of 5-6 percent, low inflation levels well contained within a 2-3 percent band, and continuously shrinking budget deficits. It is my pleasure to

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How much do we need foreign schools?

By Lutfi Dervishi In the media frenzy that ushered in the new academic year, the silence that shrouded the founding of the “Peter Mahringer” Austrian School in Shkodra brings to mind an expression of Bernard Shaw, “Sometimes reporters fail to

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Kiosk Universities-Out of Question

By Milazim Krasniqi Estimates reveal that the number of private universities in Kosovo, taking into account the very aggressive, constantly in-the-face advertising for them, particularly by electronic media, is the highest as against all the other countries of the region.

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Five years after September 11th

By Janusz Bugajski Five years after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the United States is still dealing with the aftermath. Political leaders remain torn between two policies to combat international radicalism: aggressive engagement and painstaking coalition building.

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Does Fatos Nano want the Presidential Office or the Leadership of the Socialist Party?

By Tirana Times Editorial Staff A year ago, when Fatos Nano resigned from the leadership of the Socialist Party, few believed that the man that led the Albanian left through good times and bad would quit active politics forever. His

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Much ado, for 1 Euro

By Ilir Ciko The latest “Albania 1 Euro” proposal created an unnecessary debate among economists who struggled to argue about the cons and pros which this proposal would generate for the Albanian economy. Given the lack of long term vision

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VMRO model and SP

By Ilir Kulla When the right wing Macedonian party VMRO-DPMNE (Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), went over to the Opposition, very few people thought it would make a quick come-back. There were also rumors for a long time afterwards

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Kosova’s final status ritual

By Janusz Bugajski The status of Kosova cannot be resolved between Prishtina and Belgrade. Unfortunately, Belgrade refuses to admit that it is not a relevant factor in Kosova’s future and as a result international actors are conducting an elaborate diplomatic

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                    [post_content] => By Sali Berisha
Ten years have passed since the March of 1996, when we together here in Tirana launched the process of the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial. This, was our common answer to the new security challenges that our region faced after the fall of the iron curtain, namely the war, ethnic cleansing and massive exodus of the population caused by policies of nationalistic dictatorships, but also our common answer to the new threats associated with the cold war arsenals, weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism. 
Ten years later, our region has changed more than any other. It has emerged from the age of conflicts and hostility to the age of cooperation and regional and Euro-Atlantic integration. Still, even after ten years, unresolved issues and international terrorism make the security of our region fragile.
Facing our common security challenges successfully requires close cooperation between our countries. It requires the coordination of our defense and security priorities, policies, and strategies, the exchange of information, as well as common actions based on regional multinational structures. We remain convinced that only by employing such regional approach and through a permanent and close cooperation with the USA and NATO we are going to overcome today's global challenges.
During these ten years, the SEDM process remains one of the most successful regional processes. It has strengthened our cooperation and capacities in the field of defense and security through the promotion of good neighborly relations and joint initiatives. 
Based on our common Euro-Atlantic values, we are working together to perform our duty in the global fight against terrorism, as this was expressed also with the deployment of the SEEBRIG Headcounters in Afghanistan. 
On the other hand, the experiences gained through the SEDM various forums have offered us a great deal of help in reshaping and modernizing our defense sector as well as in the process of integration into NATO. This is why Albania advocates strongly for the intensification of our cooperation within the framework of SEDM. 
Albania has left behind the transitional period and entered a new phase in her relations with the Euro Atlantic Community and the countries of the region. Due to the success of the reforms undertaken by the government as regards the consolidation of the rule of law, democracy and market economy, the fight with zero tolerance against organized crime and other major reforms, Albania signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. 
The achievements in the framework of Membership Action Plan as regards political and economic reforms as well the modernization and building of a professional defense sector is turning Albania's NATO membership into a tangible reality. We remain committed to make all efforts, undertake all reforms and pay every price in order to deserve the invitation to join NATO at the first enlargement Summit. We see NATO membership as the most secure future for Albania and her citizens. 
_________________
The speech of Albanian PM  Sali  Berisha at  SEED ministerial Meeting
                    [post_title] =>  Close cooperation with the USA and NATO 
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                    [post_content] => By Ardian Fullani
Recently Albanian economy has reached a commendable macroeconomic equilibrium, sustained by an economic growth of 5-6 percent, low inflation levels well contained within a 2-3 percent band, and continuously shrinking budget deficits. It is my pleasure to emphasize that the Bank of Albania and its policy has been rightfully credited and earned accolades by established foreign and domestic institutions for its notable role in such accomplishments. Monetary policy has been designed and implemented in line with midterm country's macroeconomic program. With specific focus on price and financial stability

Economic growth 
After the significant electricity shortages at the end of 2005, it appears that traditional growth promoting industries like services (tourism) and construction are growing at a stable pace, contributing at a sustainable economic growth. Building upon these developments as well as other positive indicators, we expect the economy will grow at a solid rate of 5-5.5 percent. The main challenge remains ensuring sustainability of these growth rates, even higher in the long run. I believe that respective Albanian authorities have already identified the major priorities of these challenges which fully converge with Bank of Albania views. Just to remind you I would briefly summaries some of these priorities. Building new, preferably alternative, energy sources and improving the efficiency of the existing ones. I will put at the top of the list. In our view, sufficient and reliable energy supply remains a main concern to achieving economic growth. Providing a solution to this problem is a priority in the verge of an ever increasing global demand and energy prices. Speeding up the privatization process of the remaining state assets is another important step forward. Special attention should be paid to structural reforms, particularly property rights and legal framework. In our opinion services, construction and in particular agriculture will remain driving forces of the GDP growth in the coming years. 
Therefore I would strongly agree with any initiative that encourages FDI's in these sectors through attractive laws and other measures. I believe FDI's are very important for providing long term stability of the foreign sector. Moreover the productivity growth that usually follows FDI's inflows will play e significant role in reducing current account deficit. Our economy needs more foreign direct investments hence Country Credit Ratings constitute a chief priority for our economy. It is my belief that FDI's represents a regional rather than an individual challenge for the South East Europe. Countries in the region must coordinate their efforts toward creating a regional market. Regional infrastructure projects will significantly increase attractiveness and competitiveness as well as international financial market awareness toward our region. It will improve confidence and provide necessary economic incentives to enter in the region leading to higher FDI's inflows for each economy.

Inflation 
Our economy has experienced a relatively long period of stable prices. Annual inflation figure as measured by the consumer price index, for the last 12 months is reported at 2.4 percent. Both monetary and fiscal policies have been important factors in keeping inflation low. However, recently inflation pressures have accelerated. The fast growth of credit to economy, the steep increase of oil prices, administrative increase of energy prices, as well as other risks have the potential to create inflationary pressures and pose risk to elevate inflation expectations. Bank of Albania will take all necessary actions to ensure an inflation rate of 3 per cent with a tolerance band of Ѡ1 percent, in the short and long run.  

Interest rates 
During the recent years interest rates have dropped reflecting the ease of monetary policy. This has been a general trend for all financial assets either in Lek or foreign currency. On average banking system applies 9.7 percent for loans in domestic currency. The yield of 12 month Government securities dropped at a minimum of 5.74 percent in June 2006. However, following the last decision of the Bank of Albania and latest trends in global markets, a modest increase in interest rates has been observed during the last three months for both domestic and foreign financial instruments. We expect this trend to persist within the next 6-12 months. 

Banking system
The Albanian banking system continues to expand and consolidated, it is solid, consolidated and fully capitalized. The system consists of 17 banks, of which only 3 are entirely domestically owned. Banking network has been extended continuously including remote areas. Banking products increased in number and improved in quality. Entrance in the market of important European financial groups created a better competitive environment and further enhanced efficiency. The expansion of lending portfolio and more competitive lending rates has deepened financial intermediation. Latest data show that in June 2006, the assets of the banking sector reached 60 per cent of the Albanian Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Rapid changes in the banking system in light of credit boom, and global market financial integration impose the need for higher standards of transparency, accountability and governance from the banking system itself. Not only with regard to Bank of Albania, but public as well. Banks should behave responsibly and must integrate the stability of the entire system into their utility function.

Financial System reforms.
Since years the banking systems has been in a constant process of transformation. The Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) marks a significant moment in this process. On behalf of the Bank of Albania I would like to thank IMF and WB, for their excellent efforts on this professional and transparent financial certification of the Albanian Financial System. 
Bank of Albania remains very much focused in fulfilling the recommendations of the FSAP following the priority and institutional hierarchy. 
ȠBank of Albania has increased the access and investment opportunities of commercial banks in the securities market.
ȠThe draft on Banks Law is completed 
ȠAutomated clearing house system is operational. 
ȠThe number of electronic transfers has increased significantly. There is concrete evidence that shows a continuous reduction of cash economy. 
ȠBank of Albania has extended its supervisory authority over all non-bank financial institutions that operate within the economic territory of the Republic of Albania.
ȠSupervisory Board of the Bank of Albania has further increased the transparency of its decision making process. Minutes are released regularly and Bank of Albania website provides fresh info on daily activity. 
ȠThere is significant progress on establishing the Credit Information Bureau. We hope by the end of next year that will be fully operational.
ȠLast but not the least I would stress out that we have already presented a detailed action plan for the remaining part of the FSAP recommendations.  
Designing and implementing monetary policy has become more challenging. Globalization in particular has exposed our economy to foreign shocks. In addition policy actions of ECB and FED, exert their impact on Albanian economy mainly due to high extend of currency substitution.Rapid growth of lending activity is the most notable development among domestic factors. According to our figures over the last two years credit to economy has expanded by an equivalent of 10-12 GDP percentage points. At this rate it is expected to reach 18-20 percent of GDP at the end of current year. Is worth mentioning that approximately 30 percent of the outstanding credit represents consumer credit, moreover 75 percent of the outstanding stock is loaned in foreign exchange currency.
This represents a very important development and deserves scrupulous attention. Our main concerns relate to inflationary pressures and non-performing loans that such credit expansion might generate. 
In the light of these developments Bank of Albania assessed that existing stance of monetary policy was not providing enough stimulus to curb aggregate demand. Therefore in July 2006 Bank of Albania decided to shift the course of monetary policy by raising the base rate (7 days repo rate) with 25 basis points. We are happy to observe that market is reacting following our decision. However based on our short term inflation forecasts and in presence of several risks, some of which I already explained above, Bank of Albania perceives that inflation pressures for the next 12 months remain elevated. Currently we are cautiously evaluating the extend of market response and assessing whether further action is needed.  
Simultaneously Bank of Albania is becoming increasingly concerned regarding the quality of loan portfolio. The accelerated pace of credit expansion, is posing challenges to both banks and to supervisory authority. The response to these challenges will aim at achieving macroeconomic stability, by means of a well capitalized banking system. With this goal in mind, the Bank of Albania, as the supervisory authority, has intensified the dialogue with the banks in order to find an adequate consensus for: setting realistic objectives of annual activity growth; containing the credit expansion and maintain good credit portfolio quality; strengthen the internal control and risk monitoring systems; and monitor carefully the capital indicators.
                    [post_title] =>  Albanian economy: advantages and incentives 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-09-24 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Lutfi Dervishi
In the media frenzy that ushered in the new academic year, the silence that shrouded the founding of the "Peter Mahringer" Austrian School in Shkodra brings to mind an expression of Bernard Shaw, "Sometimes reporters fail to make the distinction between a bicycle accident and the collapse of a civilization." There can be shortcomings in any comparison, but the founding of the first foreign school by a Western European country, ever since the time of the French Lyceum in Kor衬 certainly deserved far greater media coverage, locally and nationally, both as an item of news and as an opportunity to open a debate on the usefulness of such incentives. The Austrian school, "Peter Mahringer," is a five year school (3+2), bilingual (German-Albanian), for Information and Communication Technology (TIK), where there will also be a focus on learning English. On the Website of the Ministry of Education, there is ample information on what will be achieved through this school. 
Pupils are qualified through three years of vocational schooling, focused on practice, as computer technicians (electronic data processing). The school's diplomas will be recognised in Austria, and subsequently in all the EU countries. (The idea to create this school was first raised during a visit to Albania of the Austrian Minister of Education Ms. Elisabet Gehrer, in November last year).
Businesses in Tirana are always complaining about the lack of technical specialists and managers on the market. Foreign companies, especially banks are always advertising vacancies in the newspapers for computer experts. The market in this field is empty, but what is of even greater importance for the present and future is the fulfilment of the growing demand on the home market and the possibilities of penetrating the European labour market. The founding of this school, once again emphasizes the need for education to gravitate more towards secondary vocational schools, to increasingly narrow the gap between theory and practice, so that a pupil does not go to school merely to obtain a diploma, but to acquire a more clearly orientated and secure future. Today, there is talk about the initiative, "Albania in the era of the Internet," - the founding of the "Peter Mahringer" school is an outstanding event, because the pupils who go through this school are eligible for a market, (technology of information), which grows by the hour, and for which the economy of the country will always have a great need. The founding of this school in Shkodra is also an opportunity to encourage the debate, at local and national level of the indispensability of more schools like this one in Tirana and other cities of the country too.
                    [post_title] =>  How much do we need foreign schools? 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-09-15 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Milazim Krasniqi
Estimates reveal that the number of private universities in Kosovo, taking into account the very aggressive, constantly in-the-face advertising for them, particularly by electronic media, is the highest as against all the other countries of the region. 
Christened with all kinds of illustrious names and boasting qualities that leading world universities like Oxford or Cambridge would be envious of, the new private universities of Kosovo have become an integral part of Kosovo's paradoxes. For the first time the ads for these universities are a serious challenge to the record that advertising of concerts by visiting Albanian Diaspora pop groups, has held for years. The prices commanded to attend these universities are another expression of Kosovo paradoxes, because they are mind-spinning for low budget families or the unemployed. 
It appears that the Ministry of Education lacks any clear stand in relation to the aggressive advertising or the open examinations organized by these universities for student admittance in exchange for astronomical charges. 
The liberalization of granting work licenses should be accompanied by the activation of  an accreditation agency but this has not been done. However this is indispensable for the full and professional valuation of a school of higher education. The valuation, on merits, of the potential of each university to produce top level graduates; the valuation of the study programs and of the working conditions in these universities on the whole, is the only valid test that would indicate whether or not each of these universities offers adequate services to provide higher education. It is also indispensable that the branches opened adequately meet the requirements of the labour market and do not create disloyal contention between the private universities and the public University, because in this case, all you are doing is producing new contingents of unemployed. Following the successful elections that were held at the public University of Prishtina, the Education Ministry now has more time available to look into regulating the situation regarding the private universities. And this is more than urgent, because the machinery that churns out the advertising for the private universities, with unbridled competition and in very bad taste, runs the risk of upsetting the equilibrium of public university education. The truth is that Kosovo needs several private universities, staffed by a qualified professorship, with advanced study programs, it needs branches of higher schooling that the public university does not provide. 
But Kosovo definitely does not need kiosk Universities which are only designed to replace the bankrupt supermarket or swimming pool complex businesses that sprung up like mushrooms after the rain all over the country and which later on went bankrupt and collapse because of dishonest competition. The aggressive advertising of private universities forewarn the same epilogue in this field too, if the required government measures are not adopted to lay down the rules of the game.
                    [post_title] =>  Kiosk Universities-Out of Question 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-09-08 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
Five years after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the United States is still dealing with the aftermath. Political leaders remain torn between two policies to combat international radicalism: aggressive engagement and painstaking coalition building. At the same time, the sources and manifestations of Islamist terrorism are growing and new dangers are looming from "rogue states" that challenge American primacy.
The Bush presidency based its credibility on eliminating terrorism and ensuring America's homeland security. But its success is coming under increasing scrutiny. The White House finds itself embattled by several domestic and foreign policy challenges. Three major issues preoccupy U.S. citizens and the approval ratings of both the President and the Congress in handling them has plummeted well below 50%: the war in Iraq, illegal immigration, and the state of the economy.
Over 2,600 U.S. soldiers have perished in the Iraqi guerrilla war and over 10,000 have sustained injuries. Although the scale of casualties has not reached that of the Vietnam war, the inability of the U.S. coalition and Iraqi military to eliminate a brutal insurgency is becoming evident to growing numbers of U.S. citizens. Many now question the wisdom of the Iraqi intervention and critics believe that it has further aggravated terrorist threats and anti-American sentiments. Calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops are escalating.
Even in combating the terrorist threat at home, an issue on which the President has based his leadership credentials, public trust in the administration is slipping. The government's inability to track and deport illegal immigrants has raised fears of terrorists crossing into the U.S. with impunity and questioned the commitment of the administration to border security and homeland defense. 
The slow reaction of the federal government to the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans a year ago highlighted the country's lack of preparedness for a major disaster. The Department of Homeland Security is viewed by many commentators as a large, wasteful, and often incompetent government bureaucracy.
In addition to Iraq, two other international crises are brewing, over Iran and North Korea. Tehran and Pyongyang are developing nuclear weapons and there is little that the "international community" can do to stifle them. The UN Security Council is unwilling to impose meaningful sanctions because of opposition from Russia and China. Some policy advisors have urged military strikes against both regimes, but Washington is hesitant to act unilaterally against governments that could destabilize the Middle East and the Far East, while alienating its European and Muslim allies.
Iran wants to be recognized as a regional leader and is fixated on developing nuclear capabilities to match its strategic aspirations. North Korea is desperate for regime legitimacy and is using the nuclear threat as political blackmail. Both crises will preoccupy the last two years of the Bush administration. If America does not mobilize effective international action against both regimes, Israel and Japan may take matters in their own hands and precipitate regional conflagrations that will inevitably draw in the U.S.
All these issues impact on American politics and damage the chances for many Republicans in the congressional elections in November. President Bush himself will not be affected, as he cannot run for a third term in 2008. The only factor that may keep the Republicans afloat in November is the division and indecision of the Democrat opposition. 
No credible leader has emerged within the Democratic Party to effectively challenge administration policy and mobilize the nation. And among sizeable sectors of the population the Democrats continue to be perceived as ambivalent on questions of national security. 
If a major new international crises were to materialize or another terrorist outrage were to rock the U.S. the incumbent administration would likely benefit as citizens invariably rally around their leaders. Five years after September 11th the "war on terrorism" has clearly not been won either at home or abroad.
                    [post_title] =>  Five years after September 11th 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-09-08 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Tirana Times Editorial Staff
A year ago, when Fatos Nano resigned from the leadership of the Socialist Party, few believed that the man that led the Albanian left through good times and bad would quit active politics forever.  His resignation on September 2005 was seen as temporary or a tactical withdrawal in order to make a comeback at a more opportune moment.  One of the scenarios talked about was a return to politics after the possible loss of local elections by the Socialist Party.  According to this scenario, Nano would blame the new leadership of the SP and especially its young Chairman, Edi Rama.  Since Nano had created the precedent of leadership rotation after a loss in elections, the victory of the governing majority in the elections should have triggered Rama's resignation or increased pressures within the party for him to step down.  Rama is particularly vulnerable to such a defeat since he is also mayor of Tirana municipality.  
Yet, local elections have not taken place, the new leader of the Socialist Party has not lost any important political battles and Nano is already back in the limelight.  He has accused Rama of ineffective opposition to the present government although there has been no public test as yet of his ineffectiveness.  According to Nano, Rama is following Berisha's heavy-handed style of leadership within the SP.  Since the accuser has been unable or too lazy to elaborate on his accusations, they remain unfounded on hard facts or deductive argument.  But the rich political CV of Fatos Nano shows that he has quit the party twice and both times was able to comeback.  This is the third attempt, but circumstances have changed.
Since his resignation, the ex-Chairman of the Socialist Party has not been present in Albanian politics.  His chair as Member of Parliament remained empty and he was missing from the extra-parliamentary give-and-takes of political life as well.  It was as if he never existed.  Yet talk of his comeback as future President of the country never subsided. So, does Nano want to be President or leader of the Socialist Party?
Parliament will have to choose the new President next June and it seems unlikely he will come from the ranks of the center right coalition. The eighty four votes needed seem to necessitate a consensus with at least a faction of the 'united opposition.'  Will Fatos Nano provide that faction?
In order to be president, Nano need not seek the leadership of the Socialist Party.  All he needs is his own vote as a member of parliament, that of his followers in parliament and the blessing of the ruling majority which is one or two votes shy of the magical number 84.  The pie is large enough for both sides: if Nano becomes President, he can come back with the laurels of a "father of the nation" while Berisha dodges the bullet of early parliamentary elections.  Yet, the right-wing laurels would not fit well the traditional leader of the left.  This proposition is too unethical even for the strange habits of Albanian politics.  Nano would need a sizable backing from a considerable segment of the present opposition in order to become president.  In other words, he needs to dominate the socialist caucus and deny the presidential office to any candidate that does not get his approval.  
But, if Nano can go so far as to act as the referee deciding the presidential game, than why should he not attempt to get back the leadership of the party?  That way he would come to power not as a symbolic head of state but as a Prime Ministerشhe most important seat of power in the Republic.
In both cases Nano will need to dominate the socialist parliamentary group.  Whatever the early moves of his comeback, the real battle will be for the hearts and minds of the socialist members of parliament.  That is, Nano's reentry in politics will be a battle for the SP leadership that may harm the party's chances in the upcoming local elections and splinter its electoral message or the party itself.  We have to wait and see.
                    [post_title] =>  Does Fatos Nano want the Presidential Office or the Leadership of the Socialist Party? 
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                    [post_date] => 2006-09-01 02:00:00
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                    [post_content] => By Ilir Ciko
The latest "Albania 1 Euro" proposal created an unnecessary debate among economists who struggled to argue about the cons and pros which this proposal would generate for the Albanian economy. Given the lack of long term vision on Albanian economic perspectives, the debate needs to be focused on these perspectives and not miss the point.
The 1 Euro proposal is not an idea of Mr. Berisha, - neither is it new. Promotions aiming to attract investments, both domestic and especially by foreign sources, have been used in many transition countries in the past and often they have been successful. Albania is not an exception. The Albanian legislation is considered to be very supportive for the promotion of foreign investments and even more generous in this aspect as compared to other countries in the region. By the same token, similar promotions have been used in the past and thanks to their success some hundred million Euros have been injected in the Albanian economy and as a result, more than ten thousand Albanians find themselves employed at fruitful partnerships between private investments and public properties. No matter that today that exactly such successes in the past have been a preferred target for political criticism.
If it is true that in other countries in the past and in Albania as well, such methods for investments promotion proved to work, then there should be no question on their validity for the future. Whilst it is useless to debate on the ownership of such ideas, which are explained in details in every undergraduate microeconomics textbook, the key point with the 1 Euro idea at this moment is not in what it brings, but in what it is missing.
This because businesses in Albania have repeatedly said that their problems have nothing to do with the costs of registering a business, nor with the costs of physical entry to Albania, nor with the high cost of land or water. The problems of Albania are those which everybody foreign or not knows: lack of secure electricity supply, inadequate infrastructure, lack of water, lengthy and bureaucratic procedures, weak capacities of public administration and even worse of political parties, uncertain land ownership, non-performing and deformed market institutions mainly due to existence of artificial monopolies and (wrong) state interventions in the market, in addition to the corruption which is invisible and everywhere found. All these problems are the main theme of every international report on Albania, including reports prepared by the Albanian Government.
Under such conditions and constrained by limited budget, every government has to set priorities for intervening in the market. If aiming to make any correction at all, every step made must take in consideration the real needs the private investors have in Albania; otherwise everything would be just waste of efforts. In other words, not 1 Euro nor a 1 cent incentive - but even paying foreign investors to come to Albania simply won't work if they will not be sure if tomorrow they'll have 10 or 15 hours electricity supply.
The latest proposal on 1 Euro package is missing the real debate with what problems businesses have to invest in Albania. All such promises were part of the electoral promises that brought victory to the DP in the last elections and most of them were part of the government's program which is approaching its first year of implementation. Sadly, on all such promises, very little if anything at all has been achieved. You could just travel from Shkoder to Saranda to observe how many hours per day of electricity supply receives the national economy or try to get a birth certificate and see how much time, efforts and money is wasted. More than enough to understand that whilst others are progressing ahead, we stay in stand-by position and in some aspects, regress. Another example: although much has been said about monopolies, they are still alive and perhaps even in better shape than a year ago. Because for a careful analyzer it is not difficult to find out that not only promises are not maintained, but in cases such as monopolies, there is clear evidence for the consolidation of new monopolies of different types, which today dominate the Albanian market.
For this reasons the 'new reform' 1 Euro doesn't bring anything new for the Albanian economy but it sounds more as the latest invention which is expected to fascinate and make us forget about past promises on monopolies, corruption, electricity, land for emigrants, VAT and tax reductions etc. And as such it is not difficult to imagine that a few months later it would be followed by some other promises. Sort of like offering electricity for 1 Euro or anything else that may be thought up by a state which continuously reinvents the wheel on paper but forgets to do the basic things which the people demand of it.
                    [post_title] =>  Much ado, for 1 Euro 
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                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2006-09-01 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2006-09-01 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Ilir Kulla
When the right wing Macedonian party VMRO-DPMNE (Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), went over to the Opposition, very few people thought it would make a quick come-back. There were also rumors for a long time afterwards that the VMRO-DPMNE was heading towards disintegration. It is a fact that the moral and political cost for the VMRO was very high. It had managed a country, which from an important period of stability and economic prosperity had slid into a situation of armed civil and military conflict and had then slunk away, its tail between its legs, following the Ohrid Agreement and its loss in the 2002 elections. 
Such names as Lube Boshkovski not only disappeared from the political scene, but they even ended up on trial for war crimes at The Hague. The several months long conflict bore an exceptionally heavy cost for the none to wealth pockets of  the Macedonians; about 1.5 billion dollars, from which a good part was spent on buying tanks and helicopters from the Ukraine. But the situation change very swiftly.
Following the withdrawal of its leader Lubco Georgevski, the VMRO-DPMNE, restructured and purged the whole party, from the leaders in the centre down to the base. Nikola Gruevski, who was elected Chairman and came as former Finance Minister in the  VMRO Government focused on stimulating and supporting new and young figures, who, not only had sound moral integrity, but were financially supported by the party to improve their qualifications, with Masters Degrees and specialization courses in the West. The results were not late in showing. Two years after the VMRO had gone over to the Opposition, the process of structuring and modernizing had progressed a great deal. In the local elections, the VMRO won the municipality of Skopje and four years later, it won the general elections, returning to power. Irrespective of the fact that the governance of the Left wing was successful in general, once again the young and fresh team Grueviski lined up in the elections, arose more trust in the people and swept this party back into office in neighboring Macedonia. 
In the Socialist Party of Albania, following the resignation of Mr. Nano, the former founding leader and Prime Minister of the country and of the left wing Majority, a young politician was elected Chairman of the SP, up until that time a successful administrator of the Municipality of Tirana. However, straight after his election, the vital process of the reform of the Socialist Party was bought to a halt and the conservative course within the SP hardened even further. Apart from the Chairman, the majority of the other members of the leading structures of the SP are still the same much consumed figures of the past eight years of socialist governments. This raises serious question marks about the ability of the Opposition to make itself credible to both the Internationals and the local public if it decides to line up a new governing team made up of the consumed political figures of the SP. Perhaps the example of the VMRO in the neighboring country of Macedonia is of value for the Albanian Opposition too as a successful model worthy of copying.
The author is an independent annalist 

                    [post_title] =>  VMRO model and SP 
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                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2006-08-18 02:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
The status of Kosova cannot be resolved between Prishtina and Belgrade. Unfortunately, Belgrade refuses to admit that it is not a relevant factor in Kosova's future and as a result international actors are conducting an elaborate diplomatic ritual prior to recognizing Kosova as an independent state.
The ritual consists of three elements: negotiations, pressures, and promises. The objective of the ritual is also threefold: to demonstrate that Kosova's independence is the only viable option; that Serbia has participated in the process, and that the outcome is internationally legitimate.
Negotiations are conducted to show that at serious dialogue is underway. Pressures are exerted on both the Serbian and Kosovar sides to continue talking. Promises are given that willingness to compromise in the non-status discussions on decentralization and minority rights will be rewarded. 
The only surprise in this process is that the Serbian government believes that it can affect the outcome through intransigence and threats. Such tactics play into the hands of international mediators who simply underscore that Serbian leaders are living in the past and out of touch with reality.
However, if Serbia were to boycott the status talks then it would lose all international credibility. Serbia's best option would be to recognize Kosova's independence in return for concrete benefits from the EU, NATO, the U.S., and other major international players.
This is not a question of "selling out" Kosova, as it is not Serbia's to sell, but of conducting a rational cost-benefit analysis. Belgrade's openness to Kosova's independence would greatly raise Serbia's international status. It would open up investment possibilities and contribute to transforming the country from a Balkan problem to a Balkan pivot.
Prime Minister Kostunica's assertion that Serbia will never give up Kosova is a self-defeating political tactic Moreover, Kostunica's threat that Kosova's independence would bring the Radicals to power also has the reverse effect. EU and U.S. leaders are not impressed by the message that if Serbia does not get what it wants then it will destabilize itself and start another war. Such a scenario could actually lead to the loss of even more territory.
Even while it faces the inevitable, Belgrade engages in a "propaganda of success" campaign for its domestic audience and claims that its position has impressed the international audience. The Serbian government is also engaged in an amateurish media offensive in the West by demonizing Albanians as "Islamic radicals" who will allegedly create a "terrorist state" in Europe. Such disinformation will further stiffen U.S. resolve that Serbia is manipulating the specter of international terrorism for its own political ambitions.
Serbia is not Russia and being a lightweight on the international stage it cannot claim that Kosova is another Chechnya and be allowed to swallow the territory and eradicate the independence movement. If Serbia's only contribution to the global anti-terrorist campaign is to distract attention by claiming that the most pro-American population in the Balkans are actually anti-American terrorists then Belgrade's credibility will plummet. Indeed, by demonizing Albanians as Islamic extremists, Belgrade is deliberately damaging relations between moderate Muslims and Christians.
For international representatives, Kosova's status is to be resolved this year. Once the Contact Group confirms its agreement over the political solution, then the UN Security Council will vote for a timetable of supervised independence. UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is likely to recommend independence, arguing that because the two sides cannot reach a compromise while urgent decisions need to be made, the only durable option is independence based on the principles of self-determination.
China will abstain and Russia will not vehemently oppose the initiative but will seek to use the Kosova case to its own advantage in the South Caucasus. Russia's alleged Slavic Orthodox solidarity with Serbia exists in the realm of myth. Throughout history Muscovy has been primarily concerned with projecting its own great power ambitions regardless of temporary alliances and it is time for Serbia to face this reality as well.
                    [post_title] =>  Kosova's final status ritual 
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            [post_author] => 68
            [post_date] => 2006-09-29 02:00:00
            [post_date_gmt] => 2006-09-29 02:00:00
            [post_content] => By Sali Berisha
Ten years have passed since the March of 1996, when we together here in Tirana launched the process of the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial. This, was our common answer to the new security challenges that our region faced after the fall of the iron curtain, namely the war, ethnic cleansing and massive exodus of the population caused by policies of nationalistic dictatorships, but also our common answer to the new threats associated with the cold war arsenals, weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism. 
Ten years later, our region has changed more than any other. It has emerged from the age of conflicts and hostility to the age of cooperation and regional and Euro-Atlantic integration. Still, even after ten years, unresolved issues and international terrorism make the security of our region fragile.
Facing our common security challenges successfully requires close cooperation between our countries. It requires the coordination of our defense and security priorities, policies, and strategies, the exchange of information, as well as common actions based on regional multinational structures. We remain convinced that only by employing such regional approach and through a permanent and close cooperation with the USA and NATO we are going to overcome today's global challenges.
During these ten years, the SEDM process remains one of the most successful regional processes. It has strengthened our cooperation and capacities in the field of defense and security through the promotion of good neighborly relations and joint initiatives. 
Based on our common Euro-Atlantic values, we are working together to perform our duty in the global fight against terrorism, as this was expressed also with the deployment of the SEEBRIG Headcounters in Afghanistan. 
On the other hand, the experiences gained through the SEDM various forums have offered us a great deal of help in reshaping and modernizing our defense sector as well as in the process of integration into NATO. This is why Albania advocates strongly for the intensification of our cooperation within the framework of SEDM. 
Albania has left behind the transitional period and entered a new phase in her relations with the Euro Atlantic Community and the countries of the region. Due to the success of the reforms undertaken by the government as regards the consolidation of the rule of law, democracy and market economy, the fight with zero tolerance against organized crime and other major reforms, Albania signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union. 
The achievements in the framework of Membership Action Plan as regards political and economic reforms as well the modernization and building of a professional defense sector is turning Albania's NATO membership into a tangible reality. We remain committed to make all efforts, undertake all reforms and pay every price in order to deserve the invitation to join NATO at the first enlargement Summit. We see NATO membership as the most secure future for Albania and her citizens. 
_________________
The speech of Albanian PM  Sali  Berisha at  SEED ministerial Meeting
            [post_title] =>  Close cooperation with the USA and NATO 
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