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In the News

An article by Erion Veliaj of Mjaft giving his - very critical - perspective on Albania under Prime Minister Berisha for an American audience.

A couple of reports from the US and the UK concerning visa and immigration issues affecting Albanians.


Anonymous said…
Just another young commie whining about an old commie!
ak said…
Fully agree with Sokol.

The two stories decsribed in the papers are very sad. Especially the second one. Immigration or visa procedures are very humiliating. Ask any Albanian who had to apply for a visa at any embassy and listen to what humiliatiom they have to go through. And when refused, anger and frustration add up to humiliation. When this means interrupting your studies, it means ruining your life.
I never understood why every country is so strict on visas. My husband is Albanian, and even I got humiliated at my own embassy trying to proove that it's not a sham-marriage (why would ANYONE get married to an Albanian?!). It's that nasty bit of Western Snobbery people who actually live in the west never get to see.

The real crooks, though, are rich, they don't have to go through all that s**t, they can provide bank-statements and even foreign passports. It's the normal, harmless, absolutely not criminal little man who is punished for the terrorist's actions.
Anonymous said…
I totally agree with Veliaj!

Bush is not pro-Berisha though. He/his administration has criticized him many times. They just had to be more reserved during the visit.

Last night, in the news i heard that 3 days after Bush left Berisha fired 129 agents of the secret service. Oh, and this week in Belgrade there is a modern arms fair...
Anonymous said…
"Sokol said...
Just another young commie whining about an old commie! "

Are you talking about Veliaj? WHen did he become a commie? He was born in the 80's! (..scartches!)

Anyways, the article is very well written and about time someone published something so americans can read the trueth, even though its on a very liberal blog and the people who should read it, won't. If Berisha 1 was a blend between inexperienced youth and flagrant corruption, Berisha 2 is a blend of flagrant corruption and dictatorial henchmen. Albania will suffer a lot to get rid of this man and his cadres. He surrounds himself with yes-men from all corners of the world. Unfortunately even some who pretend to be intellectuals and writer wannabes are constantly seen at Berisha's side. The opposition is still seen as RED by the North American Albanian Emigres where Berisha still has a lot of support dispite Rama's best efforts to break away from the past once and for all and to unite it before the next election (something which has to be done, if they stand a chance of winning even a minority gov't).
ak said…
I think some of you are confusing the critics to the article with vouching for Mr. Berisha. These are two very different things. I believe that Mr. Veliaj is bulding a political satus-quo for himself, preparing his descend into politics. And there is nothing bad about this, it's just that the way he is choosing to do so, it seems to me, is somewhat inappropriate. On the expenses of Albania's reputation abroad, not that we have a good reputation to defend already.

Anyway, the visas problem is more important I think. I know people who had to go to Western Europe for urgent medical reasons and could not obtain permission. This is tragic.
Anonymous said…
It's about time someone said something true about Berisha, who unfortunately represents politics in Albania right now. Personally, everytime I see him on TV (which is a lot, even though I am only in Albania about 1-2 times a year) I feel like he is mocking every Albanian. He destroyed our country in 1997, was as close to becoming Enver Hoxha as anybody else, was personally responsible for the loss of many Albanian lives... and then he was chosen to lead our country again a few years later. I cannot believe this has actually happened.

I also cannot deny the fact that Albania has changed so much for the better. I have seen some great signs of improvement there, roads are being built, businesses are growing, quality of life is improving. All these things are very exciting, but still, can anyone please tell me why is Berisha still around?
Anonymous said…
I’m sure some of the facts presented here are correct. The article does not mention where we come from, does not hold accountable the whole political class in Albania, it only points the finger on what Berisha (Albnia’s present Premier) did. I’m not a supporter of Berisha, but how easy should the transition to a democratic system exactly be? The fact, there was a war in Kosovo, that did not come as a result of whatever weapons ended up there from Albania. It is well known how Miloshevic was treating the Albanians in Kosovo long before 1997. In regard of the President Bush’s visit, well, that’s not up to Berisha it was clearly a visit for the people of Albania. There isn’t a part of Bush’s visit where he praised Berisha’s government.

Berisha was capable of being elected, that’s where the focus should be. The author is shifting his responsibility toward others. Why are people still electing politicians like Berisha? Can people simply elect who they want? Who would be right? Why the previous government could not hold the power any longer? I’m sure the corruption did not start nor is going to end with Berisha. No economy at all, after the communism. Political affiliation for anybody, I mean anybody! Would mean hope (such as job placement and other economical outcome) for who’s left in Albania to be “so called” political supporters.

Let’s not forget around one million Albanians were forced to emigrate during the last sixteen years. The only answer is expected to come from that part of the population, where most of the revenue comes from, and pretty soon will be counted for support in the political arena in Albania.
Anonymous said…
OMIT, I haven't said it enough lately. You're doing a great job with your blog. As always:
unbiased, very realistic, accurate, and funny. Keep it up!
Anonymous said…
People, plz...that Berisha is a bad seed and compared only to Essad Pasha Toptani or Hamza in Kastriot's time, everyone knows. He not only, did all that Veliaj underlined in his article but is going to do a lot more before he's done with the country. Unfortunately there is no opposition to him right now. The left wing is struggling with its past, the far right is content as long as their companies are untouched and their pockets are filled and none of the reforms carried out by Berisha2 touch any of their businesses. The emigres are out of touch with political realities and the few that study the situation and offer neautral advice are quickly dismissed by militants of both camps.

The reality is that Albania will suffer for years and decades if it doesnt break away from its past. And by its past I dont just mean Communism, I mean Ottomanism. Many East Central European countries suffered communist regimes, however, look where they are now. It was our fate to suffer under an eastern regime, such as that of the Porte, and we are still paying the price for it with Otomman politicians and politics. Unless we break away from it altogether, the west will never take us seriously.

I welcome criticism of the goverment, of any government, and what veiliaj has done is not non-albanian, for whatever his reasoning might have been. That's a step toward shedding away the Otoman umbrella that has grasped teh country for centuries on end.

That's all I have to say on this topic.

On a more lighter note, I'm off to Cuba for a week, enjoying the beaches at a tropical resort. Let me know, when Club Med finishes construction in Albania, so I can come for a visit (that is if Club Med ever builds a resort there!)
I respected Mjaft! and Veliaj in the past because I believed that what they were doing was a noble cause, but I'm saddened to see that Veliaj is doing nothing more than try to pave his way for his entry into politics. I don't care about Berisha or Rama or Nano or any politician for that matter, since they're all full of sh!t, but this article was a clear political attack at Berisha, rather than portray what the real situation in Albania is like.

I see the following issues with the article:

1. The outlet where it was posted

Huffington is known for her anti-Albanian feelings. If someone cares to research some of her previous comments, you'll see all the anti-Albanian venom that comes from her. With that in mind, I don't see what Veliaj was trying to achieve by being a mouthpiece for Huffington. What he writes are internal problems, nothing to do with the US, Bush, Huffington or whoever.

2. The title of the article

The eye-catching title has nothing to do with the article. Bush did not receive a warm welcome because Bush was being lenient towards Berisha. In fact, dare I say that most of the people who took to the streets to greet Bush are not sympathetic to Berisha. So Bush doesn't have to doubt the sincerity of the warm reception he got, unlike what Veliaj suggests. As I said this is a clear political attack and it has nothing to do with Bush's visit.

3. The article lies, and quite blatantly

Let me start by saying that I don't think that Berisha has many flaws, and things in Albania are VERY FAR from where they should be, but that doesn't mean that we have to exagerate and lie. Albania is far from a dictatorship, whichever way you slice. Saying that we are the closest example to Chavez's Venezuela is denying reality. Berisha got elected by the people who were fed up with the corrupt socialist govt. Odds are that the same people will vote for the socialists the next time around, since this time they will be fed up with the democrats. And despite Berisha's desire to be in control of everything, whoever thinks that he is acting as a dictator is out of touch with reality. And I don't think for a second that if what the article writes is true, people would put up with it. No one is that naive anymore. And even if everything that Veliaj writes were true, there are other modern day dictatorships in Europe which are far worse than what he describes. How come that Veliaj forgot about Belarus, where Lukanshenko wins by more than 80% of the vote and civil liberties and freedom of speech are minimal, or Russia, where Putin is a semi-God who sends troops to disperse peaceful opposition protests. I have no problem with criticizing the Albanian govt, because it deserves to be criticized, but for the leader of an organization that takes pride in being about the so called truth, to write blatant lies such as these is hypocritical.

4. Foreign investment and support for Albania is discouraged

According to Veliaj, foreign investors are being suffocated by the govt and the US should reconsider its support for Albania. Great, just friggin' great. You might not like the current administration, even though it was democratically elected, but to call for withdrawal of foreign support is absurd. Does Veliaj know that outside investment and support also benefits the common citizen. That unemployed family man, who can barely make ends meet, might be able to get a job exactly because of say USAID. He doesn't really care if the govt is also benefiting from the same thing. I'm tired of these people who are opposed to the current administration and whose solution is to completely isolate it. What about collateral damage? Who will take care of people who don't have to eat? I doubt that Mjaft! will provide for all the families who are to lose everything if Albania is shunned by the Western world.

5. Veliaj shows his opposition to the Kosovo war

No one will think of what happened in Albania in 1997 as smth positive; no one! But at the same time, most people see the fact that some of the guns ended up in Kosovo as a positive thing since it enabled Kosovo people to mount a resistance, albeit modest, against the Serb brutality. Veliaj claims that Berisha ignited that war, and according to him it was a negative thing. Nevermind that the war in Kosovo was started by the Albanians there, but HOW CAN ONE SHED A NEGATIVE LIGHT ON THIS WAR? It was a just war. Most of the Western world thinks so, but no Veliaj. If that hadn't happened Kosovo would be exactly where it was 10 yrs ago. There would be no talk even about autonomy, let alone independence. I'm very disheartned by Veliaj's comments. I bet that A. Huffington would be happy to read this coming from a person who claims to have Albanians' best interest at mind.
Oops! In point 3, I meant to say that I DO think that Berisha has many flaws. I wrote "I don't think" by mistake.

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