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Showing posts from December, 2006

Christmas Greetings

Our Man in Tirana is taking a break for a couple of weeks, though there may be one or two postings between now and the new year. Thanks to everyone who has read, linked and commented over the past year. Happy Christmas. Happy New Year. I will be back in early January. Until then, here are some pictures of the Christmas decorations in the city.

Pace Notes

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is the latest institution to express concern about the state of political life in Albania. The Council adopted a draft resolution on Albania last Wednesday which addressed, among other things, democratic reform. These are some excerpts from the resolution: 4. Albanian political life is plagued by confrontation and obstructionism. The poor political climate is delaying reforms, in particular in the field of election legislation and the media, which are urgently required in view of the forthcoming local elections scheduled for January 2007. A bi-partisan agreement reached on 30 August 2006 with international assistance was warmly welcomed but has yet to be implemented. 7.1.1. The Assembly believes that the Albanian authorities should in particular continue to improve the accuracy of civil registers and voters' lists and develop a uniform system of addresses for buildings; new identity documents should be introduced; the excessive

Christmas Tree


In an earlier post I noted a resolution from parliament calling for the opening up of files from the communist era identifying those who collaborated with the regime. Since then, a number of bills have been brought before parliament, and it seems likely that at some point next year one of these bills will become law. However, not everyone is pleased with the prospect. Karolina Risto in a report for Balkan Insight discusses concerns about the process raised by a number of individuals and NGO's in Albania.

Battle of Words

The Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, issued a public statement on Tuesday responding to some of the claims made during the recent dispute over the planned local elections. Responding to Edi Rama's claim that it was Albania's international partners who wanted a postponement, Berisha said that during his meetings with officials from these partners none of them, with no exception, has asked [for] the postponement of the elections and the unconstitutional extension of mandates, but on the contrary have clearly demanded respect for the Constitution concerning office terms and elections date." Regarding the dispute over the election lists, Berisha asserted that in two thirds of the country and in ninety per cent of Tirana the lists were compiled and the certificates issued by municipalities under the control of the Socialist Party. The Prime Minister also published the text of a letter to Rama, which was a response to an earlier public letter to him from Rama. I have not been abl


Just for a short time it seemed as if we were making progress. While the two main parties, the ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the opposition Socialist Party under Edi Rama, were not able to reach an agreement on the date of the local elections, both had indicated that they would accept the decision of the President, Alfred Moisiu. The President subsequently announced that the elections would be held on Saturday 20 January. Yet this week the process fell apart once again. On Monday, the Socialist Party's National Assembly met and decided to boycott the elections. The Party claimed that, in the absence of reform of the electoral role, it would be impossible to hold free and fair elections, and called on the government to postpone the elections in order to accomplish the necessary reforms. According to the International Herald Tribune , the Socialist Party also accused the government of distributing fake birth certificates - used for identification purposes

Christmas Lights

The European Trade Center is dressed for Christmas. PS If anyone at Raiffeissen is feeling full of Christmas spirit please feel free to send me gifts for advertising your bank.

Europe's Rough Corner

The New York Times has named Albania as its Budget Destination of the Year. Matt Gross, the paper's frugal traveller, whose piece on Tirana was published a few months ago, writes this time about his trip to the South of the country, taking in Gjirokaster, Sarande and Butrint.

Global Corruption Barometer

Transparency International just released their 2006 Global Corruption Barometer . This is slightly different from the Corruption Perceptions Index released in November. The Index draws on data from experts in the field in each of the 150 countries surveyed, as well as public surveys. The Barometer is based exclusively on a public survey commissioned by TI and carried out in 60 countries. The aim is to understand how ordinary citizens perceive corruption and the impact of corruption in their own lives, and in public and political life. This year for the first time Albania was included in the GCB and the results, as with previous reports and surveys I have mentioned, is not encouraging. 66% of those surveyed in Albania claimed to have paid bribes in the last 12 months. Of the other countries in the survey only Cameroon comes close to this figure with 60%. Only two other countries score higher than 40%. Strangely, though, Albanians seem to be reasonably happy with the government's

Misery for Albania's Child Workers

From a slightly unusual source, this article deals with the problem of trafficking in children . The reporter can't spell Elbasan and he thinks it's a village, but apart from that it's an interesting article - assuming he has checked the rest of his facts more carefully. There is more information on the conference he refers to in the article at the CoE website .

Skanderbeg Square

The reconstruction work around the Square is continuing with the sunken garden area immediately behind the statue of the man himself currently being redeveloped.


The Central European Initiative (CEI) was in town last month. At the start of November the CEI Parliamentary Assembly met. Last week we had the CEI Youth Forum in Durres, the Economic Forum and the Heads of Government meeting. Thankfully, the delegations from the 18 member countries have not yet reached that level of self-importance that requires 30 car motorcades so the traffic was no more chaotic than usual. Apart from a few posters, and some extra security there were very few signs of their presence. Why where they here? According to their website , The CEI was established in 1989 as an intergovernmental forum for political, economic and cultural co-operation among its Member States. Its main aim was to help transition countries in Central Europe come closer to the EU. In the second half of 1990’s, the extension of its membership to South-eastern and Eastern Europe refocused its priorities on countries in special need. One of CEI’s objectives is to bring the countries of Central