The quiet before the next storm: So glad they are “over”

By Alba ȥla The local elections had such a strong grip on everybody’s life in Albania that once done it feels like a heavy weight is lifted from our shoulders. For weeks the news, analysis, comments, predictions, estimates, controversial debates

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From Farce to Tragedy: Sunday’s local elections

Nothing could have been more telling, of the problems that hampered Sunday’s local election, than the image of a frazzled Sali Berisha struggling to work out which box in which to put his voting papers. Amid scores of microphones and

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Kosova’s Final Steps to Independence

By Janusz Bugajski The Ahtisaari plan for Kosova launches the aspiring state on the road to independence and sovereignty. However, statehood will not be obtained overnight. The process will take several months to complete and the Kosovar leadership must remain

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The Ghosts of Communism

It is clear that Sunday’s local elections are likely to be flawed. Throughout the campaign there have been numerous incidences of irregularities that do not bode well for the integrity of these elections. Take for example, the electoral lists. In

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Local government elections: Make way for decency

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

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Kosovo, struggle for democracy

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

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Special Comment: Ahtisaari, No Serbian Sovereignty No Independence

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

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Bringing Albania to the age of technology

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

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Kosova After Final Status

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

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The importance of family reputation in Albanian political life

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

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                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
The local elections had such a strong grip on everybody's life in Albania that once done it feels like a heavy weight is lifted from our shoulders. For weeks the news, analysis, comments, predictions, estimates, controversial debates monopolized the plethora of televisions. I did not dare to switch on the television for fear that some wildly hypnotized politician would step out of the screen as in a horror movie. My favorite serial shows were substituted by non-stop talk shows examining in detail over and over again the minute features of every possible scenario and commenting on everything about the candidates from their personal record to their hair color. The closer we got to the elections the uglier the battle became. Personal photos of the Tirana mayor that should have never been published froze the attention of all age spans. Secret CIA reports were published that showed to the people how their minister was implicated in crime. Was this real? How are we to see these people after this battle? Will we forget everything that was shown under the wise mantra of our most populist politicians "Do not confuse truth with electoral truth"?
Election Day was naturally the apex of this process. Reporters and analysts with heavy insomniatic eyes were glued once again to the screen wishing for every potential miracle to get them the results as fast a possible so that they could feed their own interpretation to the public. Dazzled by an eventual fear and the news that the ink was not working, Albanians waited in line to vote in front of slow-motion commissioners in order to cast their token of political freedom.   A white night followed with confusing exit polls and marginal Cassandra voices predicting Apocalypse. Most of the people woke up in order to get started on a new work week. Hopefully free from the overwhelming posters that marked the landscape, free from the electoral noises and songs filling the streets, disrupting their thought process. The entire campaign seemed to be led in this direction: Look, listen, don't think! Emblazoned with scandalous claims and respective accusations, devoid of substance of projects, of concrete plans, a campaign of militants for militants. Hence, aggressive like a grip in the throat. I am under no illusion that is over. Contestations of the results started even before February 18, 6pm, the official closing time of the ballots. The incidents that characterized that day, though not major, will be subject of debates and conflicts yet to come. The televisions will continue to reflect, highlight and eventually worsen every controversy. The newspapers will still fill their front pages with photos of the runners for weeks to come.  Nevertheless, there is an air of liberation. The posters look defeated and out of place. They have finally lost the glorious importance of visual manipulation. The song that was blasted from all cars claiming back a lost city weeps in silence.  Another storm is in the making. The SP leader has often mentioned the preparations for elections if the opposition wins the majority of the national vote this time. Albania has yet to agree on how it will elect the next President. A peaceful settlement like that of 2003 seems unlikely with the heightened tones of hostility between the two sides and the fragmentation of the opposition. The latter though in a coalition is under the perpetual threat of l'enfant terrible, Fatos Nano. 
But until then there is a temporal calm. Thus enjoy it before this one is over too. I for once am glad that the elections are over. 
                    [post_title] =>  The quiet before the next storm: So glad they are "over" 
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                    [post_content] => Nothing could have been more telling, of the problems that hampered Sunday's local election, than the image of a frazzled Sali Berisha struggling to work out which box in which to put his voting papers. Amid scores of microphones and television cameras, Berisha attempted to look triumphant as he placed his vote, while an official desperately tried to prevent him from putting it in the wrong box. Like a kind of slap-stick humour, Berisha smiled, looked confused, moved to the next box, smiled again, looked confused again, moved again etc, until finally he managed to get them in the right ones. It was an impression that characterised the events that were to unfold throughout the day. 
My own experience of the poll largely consisted of accompanying my husband and mother-in-law as they cast their votes in a primary school in Myslym Shyri in the late morning. As we made our way up there, the streets were notably quiet as they continued to be throughout the day. Once at the polling room, and poking my nose inside, I was immediately struck by what had so confused Berisha earlier in the day. Examples of the four voting papers were pasted on the wall above their respective boxes. They could hardly have been more similar in colour; of the four, three looked to me like two shades of green and one more reddish green. And it wasn't just me. As I watched the voters move from the booths to the voting boxes, confusion spread across their faces. A rather frazzled official then tried to assist with colour recognition as people lunged towards the incorrect box. It would be interesting to know just how many votes were cast in error.
The process in the booth was unbelievably sluggish. With only two voting boxes available, the line moved excruciatingly slowly, and we were there at least 45 minutes despite the fact that we were fifth in line when we arrived. Problems with the voters' lists also slowed down the process. In some areas the lists didn't arrive until late in the morning and in others there were errors in the lists themselves. Berisha was not the only high-profile voter who encountered difficulties on the day. LSI leader, Ilir Meta, was also faced with confusion when he turned up to vote, in front of the cameras, and his name could not be found on the list in his district.
In terms of the wait, we certainly did better than most. When we returned home later in the day, there were three booths in our small street with a crowd outside each. The placing of these booths was also somewhat bizarre; one was in an empty shop, one in an internet caf顡nd the other in the bar at the corner. Given the small size of the shop and the internet caf鬠the bulk of those waiting had to do so outside. It was hardly the sign of a well thought out voting process.
The lines near our apartment lines were moving no faster - and indeed, probably more slowly - than those we had encountered earlier in the day.  Each time I checked outside the window, it seemed that it was largely the same people crowded around the doorway. While they closed sometime after 7pm, more than an hour after the designated closing time, it is unlikely many of those waiting were able to vote. As we saw on reports on television throughout the day, people in some areas of the country had been waiting for up to four hours to vote. 
Despite the long waits, however, the fact that some voting centres were closed while so many people were still voting was wrong. Although this happened quite some time after the 6pm closing time, the majority of those voting had been waiting from well beyond that time, given the delays the process had already encountered. It was an error of the process, not the electors, so the process should have been adapted to the wishes of the latter. 
This is not to say that there weren't valid concerns about the legality of some of those votes placed later in the day. Numerous reports have emerged in the weeks leading up to the elections of fake birth certificates circulating that would be used as identification by voters on Sunday in order to vote twice. The concern that there was straightforward vote rigging going on was heightened by the footage of a rather guilty-looking Deputy Minister of Interior, Ferdinand Poni  - the person responsible for the election process - in a private kancellari, with a swathe of official looking documents, busy photocopying them.
The danger of vote rigging was exacerbated during the day by the reports that the ink being used with which to indelibly mark voters' thumbs could be washed off immediately with a bit of raki. A friend of mine showed me his completely clean thumb just a couple of hours after he had voted. The possibility of double-voting was therefore made even more likely. This 'fly-by-night' ink was another in the series of those euphemistically termed 'irregularities' that occurred on the day.
Then the counting startedŠand stoppedŠand started againŠand stopped againŠTensions rose, confusion spread, and annoyance and irritation turned to anger. The coverage by very late evening was showing lots of shouting, pushing and shoving in various voting centres around the country. By Monday it was the dramatic scenes of a fight in a voting centre in Gjirokaster that were dominating the news of the counting process. The tensions over the counting process - that is still not finished even as I write on Thursday morning - culminated in the violent episode in Ndroq, outside Tirana, that left one commissioner fighting for his life in hospital on Wednesday night. 
From Berisha's attempt to vote in the morning - as farce - the seriously defective process ended in tragedy.
These may have been the 'most expensive' elections in post-communist Albania, as Berisha declared somewhat disingenuously on Sunday, but they were certainly not 'the best ever organised' ones that he also claimed them to be. Having witnessed the state election in 2005, which of course had its own difficulties, it was clear that Sunday's attempt had gone considerably more awry. It is sad to see the country take this step backwards, when it so desperately needs to take one in the other direction.
                    [post_title] =>  From Farce to Tragedy: Sunday's local elections 
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                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
The Ahtisaari plan for Kosova launches the aspiring state on the road to independence and sovereignty. However, statehood will not be obtained overnight. The process will take several months to complete and the Kosovar leadership must remain patient, consistent, and determined on the road to the final destination.
The Ahtisaari plan effectively removes all Serbian jurisdiction over Kosova, terminates the UNMIK mandate, establishes a provisional European Union and NATO supervisory mission, and legitimizes Kosova's steps toward statehood. The latter will be strengthened through the passage of a Kosovar constitution, the creation of state symbols, and Prishtina availing itself of the right to join international organizations including the UN.
Ahtisaari and all members of the Contact Group, except Russia, are determined to maintain a tight timetable with regard to the status decisions. They will therefore not tolerate obstruction and boycotts by Serbian officials with whom much of Europe and America are fast losing patience.
The next steps for Kosova envisage a series of discussions on the Ahtisaari plan between political leaders from Prishtina and Belgrade. These are to take place in Vienna by the end of February. There will be no acceptance of major changes but some adjustments and compromises will be pursued especially regarding the rights of the Serbian minority in Kosova.
Sometime in March, the finalized document will be presented to the UN Security Council for approval and for the passage of a new resolution. Washington and the EU capitals are calculating that despite its tough rhetoric in support of Belgrade, the Russian regime is likely to abstain rather than veto a UN resolution. 
The UN statement is likely to be neutral, neither recognizing nor forbidding Kosova's independence and sovereignty. It would thereby allow Prishtina to declare independence and petition for recognition from individual governments.
Thus far, the reactions of the Kosova leadership has been measured and sensible. Above all, the population of Kosova must avoid any instability and violence as this would play directly into the hands of Belgrade. One major reason why the Serbian government has tried to delay the status process is to provoke an Albanian overreaction that would allegedly prove that Kosova is not prepared for independence.
Serbian government reactions to the Ahtisaari plan have been confused and fearful. While President Boris Tadic at least displayed the courage to meet with Ahtisaari and reject the proposal, outgoing Prim Minister Vojislav Kostunica remains in a state of psychological denial. 
Kostunica's party has even made it a condition for forming a new government that the coalition break off relations with any state recognizing Kosova. Kostunica's infantile and isolationist reaction indicates that Serbia's real national interests take second place to Serbia's mythic interests.
In reality, the Serbian population in Kosova has probably gained more than any other small minority in Europe from the status process. 5% of the citizenry will benefit from extensive decentralization and self-government, disproportionate representation in the national parliament, close ties with Serbia, and far-reaching cultural and religious protection supervised by the international community.
Regional reactions to Kosova's coming independence will place Serbia in an even more difficult position, especially if Belgrade is serious in severing official ties. Albania will undoubtedly recognize the new state, Macedonia has expressed its acceptance of the Ahtisaari plan and Bulgaria is likely to follow suit. Montenegro and Bosnia-Hercegovina are unlikely to object as each is seeking progress toward EU entry. Serbia may be left far behind the integration and growth process if it isolates itself from the region.
If officials in Belgrade simply cannot accept having any role in Kosova's independence, maybe the best solution is not to have a functioning government while statehood is gained. In this way, it can be claimed that noone will be held responsible in Serbian historiography. Again, this may be another myth. In reality, all high officials will be held responsible for delaying the inevitable and thereby obstructing Serbia's integration in the European mainstream.
                    [post_title] =>  Kosova's Final Steps to Independence 
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                    [post_content] => It is clear that Sunday's local elections are likely to be flawed. Throughout the campaign there have been numerous incidences of irregularities that do not bode well for the integrity of these elections. 
Take for example, the electoral lists. In one incident last week, it was reported that some 47000 people were registered twice on the voting lists. That is likely to be simply the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to these lists that have been so rife for manipulation in every election in Albania in recent years. Albanians still lack the clear and accurate residential records that would allow the post to arrive effectively, let alone guaranteeing the accuracy of the electoral voters' lists. And it doesn't seem as though much has been done to rectify that situation in the lead up to these elections, as little was done in the lead up to the national elections last July. 
Then there are the birth certificates that people use for identification purposes on polling day. In a move the government claimed would simply make it easier to acquire a birth certificate, the application procedures were significantly loosened a few weeks ago, creating the potential for even more 'irregularities' come election day. Previously it was possible to acquire a certificate for someone else, provided one was in possession of their passport. The passport photo could then be checked with the photo to be placed on the certificate. Having removed the requirement to have photo identification when applying for a certificate, the government has created the possibility for people to acquire a number of certificates with the same photo but different names. There are already reports of people with numerous certificates around Tirana. 
In both of these examples of flawed democratic processes - the voters lists and the birth certificates - there is a degree of straightforward lack of competence on behalf of the authorities in charge, mixed with the potential for outright manipulation. At the same time, these two examples are symptoms of the larger issues that Albania faces on its road to better democratic processes. These issues have to do with notions of democratic citizenship that may or not take hold in Albanian politics and society. 
Of these notions is the right to choose to participate, or more importantly not to participate, in party politics. It was a characteristic of the countries of Eastern Europe during the communist period that political participation was enforced. Whether it be May Day parades or Party Congresses, in an authoritarian context people were obliged to not only turn up but to cheer for whatever cause or person was being paraded. In other words, these activities involved not only forced presence but forced exuberance. In the main, people participated as such out of fear of the consequences, and of course at that time the consequences could be dire indeed. 
Despite the fact that it is now 16 years since the end of communism in Albania, it seems as though these practices have continued. I was concerned to discover from two friends of recent instances during the election campaign in which they or members of their families have been forced to attend political rallies in much the same way as occurred before. On both of these occasions, ministerial employees - from directors to administrators - were required to leave their work and attend a political rally. In the process, whole government buildings were emptied of their employees who went to fill up the hall of a conference room to cheer an election candidate or a member of his party in front of the media. And there was little choice in the matter. It was made clear to those who present that to refuse to attend would be a direct threat to their job security. In a context in which there is little by way of job security in any case, government employees are easily manipulated: a situation that is obviously being exploited by those in power.
Once employees had arrived at these rallies, the only admissible behavior was to smile and clap. One friend who found herself involved in this process told me of her concern at having been seen by one of her directors to be laughing at the ridiculousness of the spectacle in which she was involved, who responded by glaring in her direction. In other words, the demands on her behavior, and her fear of the results of not behaving in the correct fashion, were palpable. Inappropriate behavior would be noted and there would be consequences. The parallel to the communist period is obviously clear and highly disturbing. 
This parallel is heightened by the reports in various newspapers of children being taken out of their regular classes to attend rallies. Although one report in Gazeta Shqiptare pointed to this use of children in Democratic Party rallies, it is unlikely that it is only occurring on that side of politics. Footage shown on Fixs Fare last week of Edi Rama on the hustings, showed him surrounded by school-age children at a time in which they clearly should have been in school. 
On Sunday, all eyes will be on the electoral process itself and the degree to which that process is flawed. But it is important to remember the wider context in which this flawed process is occurring: one in which broader democratic processes and concepts of citizens' rights are evidently struggling to take root in Albanian politics. Without those broader concepts and processes - such as one's right to choose not to participate in party politics and keep one's job - it is unlikely any election in Albania, now or in the future, will adhere to the forms of transparency and fairness necessary to consider it truly democratic.
                    [post_title] =>  The Ghosts of Communism 
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                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-02-09 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
Out of all political science quotes worth to remember, a particular one from Hobbes stands out: "Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Hobbes was referring to the jungle of personal interest in which man would live had he not agreed to consent on a common regulatory body, the Leviathan. The state in other terms, would not change the nature of the human being but simply subordinate it to rules for the protection of life and property. The pursuit of happiness, this idyllic clause and the last island populated by idealists, was added later. Little did Hobbes know that people later would return to his state of nature, which he inevitably loathed, and look at it as a rather interesting alternative. The last exercise in pre-Hobbesian thinking can be seen in last weeks' Tirana Times. The editorial, which I would humbly nominate for the first prize in radical realistic thinking, was spectacularly named after a Nietzsche-an parabola. "Make way for the beasts with red cheeks." The article analyzed the noise surrounding the current Albanian electoral battle and judged all concerns about the negative aspects of the as na෥ and hypocritical.  The author is relieved that the society once identified the offenders of the code of conduct "does not wield a sword to execute its will" and thus punish the culprits. For a society which long ago lost its sword to apathy and political extremism, I don't see how that would be possible. The consequences of such a loss are not something to be grateful for but to correct as soon as possible. In a normal state the vote would correct everything but throwing out the wastrel. It is precisely the abnormal context in which our voters are forced to choose between evil and evil that makes this analysis obsolete (besides alarmingly poshy and arrogant for daily consumption!) It is all very fine and brilliant to make such a trendy styled plea for realism, quite a refreshing note to all the "liberal dogma" breadwinners. However, the normality of accepting the ridiculous state of Albanian politics and shrouding it in the comfortable cloak of "that's the way things are!" is still to be argued by the author. In my opinion, what the editors of the Albanian dailies, or at least the articulate and intelligent ones, are trying to expose is not so much the evil but the absurd, the ridicule.  The absurd is far more harmful than the petty evil of personal interest. The absurd is a concept that can be applied only in the aggregate level to our political and social system. A system that brings nausea rather than the emblazoned "pre-Magna Carta excitement mixed with shame".
Lest take a final look at the very core of this editorial's thesis: "Politics should resemble the state of nature!" Well it often does, worldwide. But should it? Once we step in the realm of normative thinking we should at least acknowledge that we cannot denominate all the die-hard idealists who argue for a better conduct as na෥ or hypocritical. After all I think personally think it is very na෥ to see the common declaration of our politicians as counterevidence of their madness. It is also na෥ to say that the politicians of today are men who understand freedom and lead a society of free men. Our politicians lead a society of blind men. Yet, I wouldn't be at pains to describe this editorial as na෥. Because, I may as well have misunderstood everything. The last sentence finishes off this display of brave yet scary anarchic thoughts with a smooth lacquer of cynicism directed at the figure of the General Prosecutor. With a surprisingly childish irony (untypical of the rest of the article at least) the author drives home the point he has been trying to make all the way through, an unquestionable legacy of the one-man solution syndrome shaping his beliefs. Otherwise he would have said: we have a justice department to take care of justice. Hence, the personal attack on Sollaku (one-man-blame; one-man-retribution). What he unfortunately achieves though is the demise of the trendy edifice of his argument which is shattered under the hidden agenda of the article. A pity for such a hard-boiled sincere attempt!
                    [post_title] =>  Local government elections: Make way for decency 
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                    [ID] => 101384
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-02-09 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-02-09 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => Timothy Kenny writes for Tirana Times
PRISTINA, Kosovo - What to do about this dusty Balkan backwater is a problem that's nearing the end of its diplomatic rope in European talks.
Kosovo remains a difficult, ungainly issue for the West. I lived there from May 2002 to March 2003, training journalists. I have returned to Pristina since then and kept up with friends and developments.
UN diplomat Martii Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president who has arrived at an impasse in talks between Serbs and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, is expected to begin shuttle diplomacy between Belgrade and Pristina, Kosovo's capital, in February 2007. He'd like to kickstart into action 10 months of talks about Kosovo independence.
 But Ahrisaari's diplomatic woes - which may eventually force him to drop the problem of Kosovo independence into the lap of the UN Security Council - is not the real worry that lies ahead for the province. Clearly, some form of independence for Kosovo will come eventually. 
What's more troubling is whether Kosovo's cultural mindset, weighed down by tradition and family alliances, will allow democracy to take root in the near term or decades from now. Kosovo is a secular Muslim society where few but the elderly regularly visit the mosque. Religion or government are not the glue that binds this place together; extended family does. 
What does democracy and self-rule mean for a society in which the clan holds more importance than city government, where room for compromise is constrained by social order and an unforgiving past?
Consider the following:
* Seven years after NATO bombing put an end to Serbian rule in Kosovo, cuts in electricity and water remain common. In Pristina, a city of some 300,000, people continue to put up with the inconvenience of intermittent electrical power as if it were no more important than a missed newspaper delivery. In Western Europe or the United States - even in Romania where I lived as a Fulbright scholar in 1991 - the public outcry over such bureaucratic incompetence would force a resolution of the problem. Kosovars grouse but take no action.
* During my first winter in Pristina, with snow falling and the temperature hovering around 20 degrees one January day, I asked the office maintenance man at if he was going to sprinkle salt on our icy steps and sidewalk. I had managed to safely get inside without falling, but barely.
 "Salt?" he said. "Is that what you do in America? Put salt outside on the steps?"
 "Yes," I said, "so people don't fall down and hurt themselves."
 "I see," the maintenance man said. "But why?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders. It made no sense to him to salt a community walkway. It was outside the bounds of his property and sense of responsibility.
*In Taslixhe, the upper-middle class section of Pristina where I lived, mothers scolded their children to stay away from an open sewer pipe that spewed foul-smelling waste onto cobblestone streets. The pipe remained broken for several months before a road crew patched it; the fix lasted five weeks before the problem returned.
The health hazard was still in evidence two years later when I returned to my former neighborhood of late model cars, well dressed residents and elaborate brick houses overlooking distant mountains.
Citizens of successfully emerging democracies in Eastern Europe - and I know scores of them - have bought into the notion that civil society is crucial to nationhood. Kosovo has not yet done so. 
Kosovars are certainly capable of eventually fashioning an independent future free from oversight by the European Union or the UN. But Kosovo can expect tough going in its transition to democracy. Until it establishes a broader sense of itself, an identity that can overcome the population's inherent suspicion of outsiders and its staunch reluctance to abandon traditional thinking mired in retaliation, Kosovo will struggle with the demands of democracy.
What it means to be a Kosovar today does not hold out the best hope for democratic success. Kosovars are capable, intelligent and hard working. Their commitment and generosity to family is widely known. Their way forward to true independence is not yet clear, however. 
The province's successful future will emerge when ordinary Kosovars begin to live as if their country shares common goals, a place where being responsible for constructing the greater good starts by demanding the repair of a broken sewer line or salting an icy winter sidewalk.

[Timothy Kenny, a former newsman, non-profit foundation executive and Fulbright scholar, is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut.]
                    [post_title] =>  Kosovo, struggle for democracy 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-02-02 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-02-02 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By  Albert Rakipi, Ph.D

The Ahtisaari plan that will be unveiled today in Belgrade and Prishtina has been a public secret for a few days now. In its substance, the plan aims to invalidate the 1244 UN resolution which has provided the framework for state building in Kosova since the end of the 1999 intervention. Although the plan was motivated by the need to find a final solution to the Kosova issue, it seems quite possible that it creates a transitory phase to an eventual final solution or an independent and sovereign Kosova. According to the plan, Kosova will be able to enter into bilateral relations with other countries and to apply for membership in international organizations eventually including the United Nations. It precludes Serbian sovereignty over Kosova without explicitly mentioning the term "independence". Nevertheless, the prerogatives of the young entity from international relations to state symbols and the creation of a protection force that will lead to an eventual NATO-trained army predict the creation of an independent state. The plan will allow Kosova to declare independence and seek international recognition through a bilateral process.
On the difficult issue of Serbian minority, the plan allows a large autonomy for the Serb enclaves, dual citizenship for its people, extraterritoriality for Serb cultural and religious monuments and the possibility of financial aid from Serbia through Prishtina to the enclaves.
Finally, the third actor or the international community will retain strong oversight capacities through the creation of a EU office that will be able to veto legislation, remove elected politicians that are deemed an obstacle to the "peace process", and supervise the judiciary and the police.
These three dimensions of the plan (road to independence, role of internationals and minority rights) show that the plan does not contain a clear design for the final status of Kosova. Instead, it represents a major but transitory effort. The issue is: How long is transitory? The answer to that question will say a great deal about the future of Kosova and the region.
Although Ahtisaari is scheduled to listen to the remarks of Prishtina and Belgrade, it is quite possible that the plan will be non-negotiable. It is also unlikely that its substance will change much prior to the vote in the UN Security Council. Kosova's legal framework will be based on the plan's three dimensions while the workings of the future state machine will exhibit the positive and negative characteristics that the dynamics between these three dimensions create. Here we propose several considerations from a security and development perspective on the likely effects of the plan. 
To what extent the design of new Kosova presented today will allow for further progress in the state building process? Despite some progress under resolution 1244, the resolution and its legal and political arrangements have turned into an obstacle for further progress on this regard. However, the new resolution that may be passed by the UNSC based on the Ahtisaari package is unlikely to create the necessary space for tangible progress. The coming resolution creates the premises of independence without securing the thing in itself. But only international recognition of Kosova's independence will open the way to further progress by solving a festering political problem, assigning responsibilities, and invigorating the nascent institutions of the fledgling entity. In its potential impotence, the new resolution may risk to resemble 1244 with some cosmetic changes such as dropping the elephant UNMIK for the more agile EU Office. 
Secondly, a particularly large devil seems to hide in the details of how the mission/office of EU with its wide mandate will accommodate Kosova's institutions in order to secure the inner workings of the state machinery and strengthen Kosova's institutions. It is here that the springs of the machine may crack or break under the cumbersome deadweight. To what extent can regime legitimacy be strengthened under the conditions of unclear lines of responsibility or governance vs. diffidence? Will Kosova's elected leaders mind their constituencies or respond to the judgment of the internationals? The mandate of the EU in Kosova seems to replicate the Bosnian case. That is troubling for two reasons. First, it did not work in Bosnia. Second, in Bosnia at least it responded to a multiethnic reality which demanded some kind of arbitrage. That is not the case in Kosova. Kosova may be a weak state but it is a unitary one as well according to the reality on the ground. Imposing failed multiethnic solutions on a unitary entity risks importing all of Bosnia's post-Dayton troubles with none of the gains.
The second point regarding the role of the international community in post Ahtisaari Kosova is linked to the legitimacy of the democratic system there. A large or powerful mandate for the next "governor" of Kosova leaves little space for local actors to struggle for legitimacy, share responsibility and wield power in the way their electorates mandate them to. In such a cumbersome power arrangement, it will be all too easy for local elites to shift responsibility or blame or both on the outsiders. In such a situation, it will be difficult for Kosova's people to judge who is right and the blame may be laid on the wrong doorstep.
The third dimension of the Ahtisaari plan or, to state it differently, the West's Balkan project, is linked to the support given to multiethnic states in the region. Although the details will likely be made clear today, it seems certain the Serb minority will be offered a great deal of autonomy, institutional and financial links to Serbia and extraterritoriality for its cultural and religious monuments. While the intentions of Mr. Ahtisaari are noble enough, such an approach may actually undermine the very multiethnicity it wants to uphold. 
The wide autonomy offered to the Serb minority has little to do with the decentralization and devolution of power from central to local government a successful process in neighboring Macedonia among others. Instead, the Serbs are being given their own kind of autonomy different from other areas in Kosovo which may discourage their participation in Kosovar institutions and encourage them to look for their future in Serbia as opposed to Kosova.
Despite claims to the contrary, in today's Balkans minorities are proving an advantage for new democracies in the region. This is so in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia. It may prove to be so in Serbia as well. The way in which the ethnic majority behaves towards minorities is a litmus test for its democratic credentials. It is obvious that the international community is fearful of how Albanians will behave towards Serbs in the future. That is why it is taking double measures to avoid any unpleasant surprises on this regard.
Until now, with a few notable exceptions the representatives of the Serb minority in Kosova have boycotted Kosova's democratic institutions under the benevolent guidance of Belgrade. Despite efforts by the Government of Kosova to channel aid to the Serbs through its own institutions and control Belgrade's financial life support to the Serb minority, the aid has continued to flow unregulated and undisturbed. This has inched Kosova closer to a territorial division especially in the northernmost Serb municipalities.
Moreover, despite prompt action on providing reconstruction aid for damaged Serb monasteries which should serve as a source of viability for the new state, the extraterritoriality element contained in the plan puts state and religious institutions in a competitive plane rather than a harmonious one.
The minority deal envisaged in the plan may harm future peace and multiethnic co-existence in Kosova. It may make the process of reconciliation more difficult than it ought to be thus endangering rather than promoting peace and stability. While we have to acknowledge that we are speculating for as long as the plan is not yet public, the elements that have already been linked are not encouraging. 
Last but not least, it is important to enquire about the effect of the Ahtisaari plan on the Balkan Order. It seems likely that all countries in the region minus Serbia will support the plan which is very encouraging. The region is starting to speak the common language of Euro-Atlantic integration. But, for as long as the plan and the new UNSC resolution will remain within the formula "no Serbian sovereignty over Kosova bout no sovereign Kosova", Kosova's relations with its neighbors may remain at the state that they are now. This means that the region will have to postpone its sigh of relief over a stable Balkans for some time to come. Of course, this will have an impact on the efforts to create a new image for the region, its market and development potentials. 
If the Ahtisaari plan will create a new transitory phase on the way to Kosova's final status, this phase has to be as short as possible. Secondly, any uncertainties in the plan that subvert clear lines of responsibility and harm Kosova's state building process need to be cleared up. There is little doubt that the new Kosova state will be weak for some time no matter how perfect the Ahtisaari deal may be. A flag and a seat at the UN General Assembly are not enough to build a proper European state. But the issue is to avoid creating a failed state "with our own hands" before it has even a fair chance to show what it can become.
                    [post_title] =>  Special Comment: Ahtisaari, No Serbian Sovereignty No Independence 
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            [7] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 101315
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-02-02 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-02-02 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Sali Berisha
As some of you may know, Albania is a very young nation, the youngest in Europe, with almost half of its population under the age of 25. This represents one of my country's greatest assets and unique advantages. Indeed, the young generation is Albania's greatest hope for the future. 
Each time I address a young audience, I ask my self the same questions: How to bring Albania to their age? How to make the country as energetic, vibrant and full of hope as they are? The same answer comes always to my mind: Invest in their education, bring Albania to the age of technology, promote a digital life, create a strong information society. 
It is for this reason that my Government has launched the initiative Albania in the Age of Technology as a top priority of its agenda. 
This initiative, along with the rule of law and liberalization of economy, is a fundamental condition for the success of other economic and social reforms. It is also the only way to gain the time our nation lost during the communist regime.
As part of this initiative, my government intends to achieve:
 Expansion of Internet penetration and broadband connection to every household in the country. In this regard, we are closely collaborating with large technological companies to increase the number of PC penetration in Albania, granting over 250,000 ADSL ports free of charge, launching WiMax services, while also seeking to overcome technological challenges such as the last mile for broadband penetration. In addition, we will provide every Albanian child and young with a computer. 
 Heavy investment in eGovernment services from eProcurement to eTaxes. We are increasing the adoption of collaboration tools, digitalization of the system of archives and utilization of advanced database systems.
 Establishing a favorable legal and taxation environment for foreign direct investments with a particular focus on attracting major technological corporations. The government is prepared to grant concessions and physical assets such as real estate to corporations willing to participate in the development of the local technology sector. 

Bringing Albania to the age of technology is a crucial condition for achieving transparency on all governance processes, increasing accountability and enabling citizen participation in policymaking. It is also an effective mechanism to boost our efforts in fighting corruption, modernizing education and improving tax and custom administration. Fulfilling these objectives will not only strengthen our democracy, but it is a sure path to shorten our process of European integration.
The evolution of the Albanian society into the digital age represents the standing ground for the advancement of all social, political and economic reforms. The potential impact of a digital life, in many ways, reminds me of the transformational role that the Reformation had on the European society which made the Bible accessible to everyone. Similarly, technology will make information and knowledge accessible to all in Albania.
Allow me to conclude my remarks with a personal experience. 28 years ago, as a young medical doctor who had just completed his residency in France, I came back to Albania with a lot of ideas for research in my field. As I began my research work in a modest laboratory, I met a British gentlemen - not sure if he was a Scot - who had brought with him an Apple II computer. (My apologies to Microsoft, but as you know the computer was not running on the DOS system.) With my small team of researchers, we managed to program the computer in Fortran. The presence of this small computer enabled us to complete an original research study in hermodynamics, which was first published in London and later in many scientific journals of the world. So, this computer fundamentally changed my life.
As such, this experience shaped my belief that technology is the best way to change my nation and advance my country, to make up for lost time and to reach new horizons.
                    [post_title] =>  Bringing Albania to the age of technology 
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            [8] => WP_Post Object
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                    [ID] => 101269
                    [post_author] => 68
                    [post_date] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Janusz Bugajski
As the moment of truth approaches for Kosova, it is time to look at the impact that international decisions will have for the future of the Balkans. In sum, the U.S. and the EU will need to balance the potential instabilities arising from Kosova's final status.
UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari is presenting his report on Kosova to the Contact Group. His likely solution will be "supervised independence," whereby NATO and the EU will control Kosova's security and international relations while Prishtina will assume most other governmental functions.
Ahtisaari's proposal is likely to separate independence from sovereignty, in that Kosova may not be afforded full statehood and will not automatically gain a UN seat. The calculation is that Russia will approve if sovereignty is not made explicit. The UN Security Council will not pass a resolution to recognize Kosova as a sovereign state but will leave such decisions to individual countries.
Supervised independence with precise roles for NATO and the EU, will be acceptable to most Kosovars. However, international recognition as a sovereign state remains the key variable. Without the prospect of statehood, the possibility of instability in Kosova may escalate.
The U.S. will probably act with like-minded allies to formally recognize Kosova as a sovereign state. Other powers would then follow suit, including most EU members and the Muslim world. Russia would be unable to extract significant advantages by further postponing Kosova's statehood.
The biggest question for the Balkans is which scenario will prove more destabilizing: Kosova's independence and sovereignty or its maintenance as a non-sovereign entity. In sum, which is the more dangerous prospect: a Greater Serbia or a pan-Albania?
Following international acceptance of Kosova's statehood, Belgrade will vehemently complain but its case will be weakened by several factors. Serbia lost Kosova seven years ago when NATO intervened to prevent the genocide of the Albanian majority by the Milosevic regime. A state that planned to murder and expel its own citizens and lost a war in the process is not entitled to keep former victims and their territory within its borders. 
The international recognition of Kosova will simply ensure de jure what has existed de facto since 1999 under a UN and NATO umbrella. Moreover, the Kosovar population is entitled to have their status defined and secured so democratic construction and economic development can proceed with the prospect of eventual EU and NATO entry.
Serbia can no longer launch military attacks or use nationalist militias against its neighbors. Cutting off relations with major European states will be counter-productive for Belgrade. It would further retard Serbia's EU and NATO prospects, undermine relations with immediate neighbors, and create a rift with Washington, which has been highly supportive of Serbia's international integration.
A second scenario, in which Kosova's statehood is denied, will prove more threatening to regional security. The credibility of political institutions in Prishtina that the U.S. and the EU have spent years constructing would evaporate as public frustration and political radicalism would delegitimize the government and provide new opportunities for irredentist militants.
Extremism in Kosova could destabilize several neighboring states. Continuing ambiguity over statehood would discredit democrats and encourage radicals to undermine Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia by launching new guerrilla movements, challenging the integrity of state borders, and provoking inter-ethnic conflicts.
The credibility of international institutions would be sorely tested by a new Balkan insurgency. NATO's military presence, which has been steadily scaled down, would need to be reinforced and the U.S. and its allies could be faced with a major foreign policy failure if any Balkan state begins to unravel. Years of political and economic investment would be wasted and anti-Western groups could exploit the crisis to undermine trans-Atlantic unity and European stability.
Given a choice between statehood with institutional supervision on the one hand, and state failure with regional conflict on the other, there is only one realistic option for Kosova's final status.
                    [post_title] =>  Kosova After Final Status 
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                    [post_date] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2007-01-26 01:00:00
                    [post_content] => By Nicola Nixon
During the 1990s, all the European post-communist countries made a great display of rejecting 'communism'. This took different forms in different countries but there are certain similarities across the board. For example, in most former communist countries, notions of women's equality were rejected in favour of a return to 'traditional' family values; the upshot of which has been a massive reduction of women's involvement in the public sphere, particularly in politics, and Albania is no exception. Gender equality was therefore dumped. Notions of collectivity such as cooperative organisations or even sometimes simply 'cooperation', were similarly jettisoned, as tarnished with the brush of Marxist-Leninism. 
Yet in all cases, this was largely window-dressing. Many of the underlying social habits that had been formed during and due to communist authoritarianism, in particular countries, slipped through the net and are still making their presence felt in contemporary societies. In Albania, one of these is the significance of family background as the basis for reputation in public life. Rather than notions of individual merit, family reputation can clearly be seen as a dominant force in public political life, all the way to the top. And it is this which provides the context in which to understand Sali Berisha's rather shocking attack on Edi Rama at last week's opening of the DP local election campaign.
During the communist period in Albania, 'biografi' - one's family's reputation - was everything. The Party, through the secret services, maintained a grip on people's actions and words through collective punishment of one's family. And this didn't have to mean one's immediate family. The actions of one member could resonate out to one's cousins, aunts, uncles and other distant relatives. It was one of the more sinister ways in which totalitarian power was maintained. For example, if someone escaped Albania or committed a 'crime against the state' such as criticising the state openly, their entire family would be punished through numerous means. Among these, beyond imprisonment, were forced relocation of whole families to isolated regions, the reduction in employment or study prospects, and the reduction and careful monitoring of family movements. I have heard numerous stories that start with such statements as; "I couldn't go to university because my cousin was imprisoned", "My movements were monitored by the sigurimi because my uncle got out to Greece" etc. In other words, individual worth was judged on the basis of one's family background. While those at the bottom end of the rung were therefore constantly concerned with what their family members were doing, those at the top were constantly monitoring and judging their actions on that basis. 
This concept is ever-present in Albania today and constitutes, to my mind, one of the most dramatic ways in which Albanian society is still living, in a sense, in the communist period. Family reputation remains one of the strongest points of judgement of a person rather than an assessment on the basis of his/her actions. It is very common to hear the pronouncement of one person in the public eye on another, starting with, "Well, his father wasŢ, "Her family has an excellent reputation etc." This deeply ingrained societal tendency accounts in part, of course, for the high degree of nepotism in such things as employment in Albania.
If family reputation - as a collective entity - is everything, then of course scandal within any family taints all members of the family in the public eye. Given that the denigration of one's family background is likely therefore to have an effect on public opinion in Albania, it is not so surprising to read that the brunt of Berisha's attack on Rama had little to do with Rama's performance in public life, but more to do with scandalising his familial reputation. "When Edvin was young," stated Berisha to a packed audience of DP supporters and the media, "he ruined the wedding of his brother. Broke everything and destroy the ceremony. He was telling him why did you take my wife." Relevance? An internal family scandal that denigrates Rama's reputation more effectively than anything he could say about his political actions. Berisha went on to mention Rama's divorces and insinuate that Rama carries on 'orgies' with public money. One can hardly be the member of a 'normal' family if, as Berisha proposed, "he is neither a man nor a woman". But the key statement, that evidences this ongoing obsession with family reputation was when the Prime Minister suggested that Rama "doesn't have a family because he doesn't believe in it."
To the outside observer, the first impression of these and the numerous other strange things that emanated from Berisha that night is that they simply represent a lack of political maturity. But what I am suggesting is that these comments represent something considerably more sinister: the ongoing use of authoritarian forms of political power, that have their roots in the communist system, in contemporary Albanian political life. And until such time as there is a serious assessment of the forms of social and political power that operated during that system, and a rejection of those rather than the superficial rejection of 'Communism', they are likely to continue to dominate Albanian political life and hinder its development.
                    [post_title] =>  The importance of family reputation in Albanian political life 
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            [post_date] => 2007-02-24 01:00:00
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            [post_content] => By Alba ȥla
The local elections had such a strong grip on everybody's life in Albania that once done it feels like a heavy weight is lifted from our shoulders. For weeks the news, analysis, comments, predictions, estimates, controversial debates monopolized the plethora of televisions. I did not dare to switch on the television for fear that some wildly hypnotized politician would step out of the screen as in a horror movie. My favorite serial shows were substituted by non-stop talk shows examining in detail over and over again the minute features of every possible scenario and commenting on everything about the candidates from their personal record to their hair color. The closer we got to the elections the uglier the battle became. Personal photos of the Tirana mayor that should have never been published froze the attention of all age spans. Secret CIA reports were published that showed to the people how their minister was implicated in crime. Was this real? How are we to see these people after this battle? Will we forget everything that was shown under the wise mantra of our most populist politicians "Do not confuse truth with electoral truth"?
Election Day was naturally the apex of this process. Reporters and analysts with heavy insomniatic eyes were glued once again to the screen wishing for every potential miracle to get them the results as fast a possible so that they could feed their own interpretation to the public. Dazzled by an eventual fear and the news that the ink was not working, Albanians waited in line to vote in front of slow-motion commissioners in order to cast their token of political freedom.   A white night followed with confusing exit polls and marginal Cassandra voices predicting Apocalypse. Most of the people woke up in order to get started on a new work week. Hopefully free from the overwhelming posters that marked the landscape, free from the electoral noises and songs filling the streets, disrupting their thought process. The entire campaign seemed to be led in this direction: Look, listen, don't think! Emblazoned with scandalous claims and respective accusations, devoid of substance of projects, of concrete plans, a campaign of militants for militants. Hence, aggressive like a grip in the throat. I am under no illusion that is over. Contestations of the results started even before February 18, 6pm, the official closing time of the ballots. The incidents that characterized that day, though not major, will be subject of debates and conflicts yet to come. The televisions will continue to reflect, highlight and eventually worsen every controversy. The newspapers will still fill their front pages with photos of the runners for weeks to come.  Nevertheless, there is an air of liberation. The posters look defeated and out of place. They have finally lost the glorious importance of visual manipulation. The song that was blasted from all cars claiming back a lost city weeps in silence.  Another storm is in the making. The SP leader has often mentioned the preparations for elections if the opposition wins the majority of the national vote this time. Albania has yet to agree on how it will elect the next President. A peaceful settlement like that of 2003 seems unlikely with the heightened tones of hostility between the two sides and the fragmentation of the opposition. The latter though in a coalition is under the perpetual threat of l'enfant terrible, Fatos Nano. 
But until then there is a temporal calm. Thus enjoy it before this one is over too. I for once am glad that the elections are over. 
            [post_title] =>  The quiet before the next storm: So glad they are "over" 
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