EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Political feuding virtually paralysed the Albanian government
in the first half of 2002, until the European Parliament brokered an agreement
between the main political parties which led to the election of retired army
general Alfred Moisiu as the consensus choice for president. Although the
73-year-old Moisiu leans to the right, he has pledged to represent all
Albanians equally. After a long period of confrontation, the country entered a
phase of political dialogue. The opposition Democratic Party (DP) ended its
boycott of local government institutions and began to work with the ruling
Socialist Party (SP). In August 2002 parliament voted in a new Socialist-led
government with the SP chairman, Fatos Nano, as Prime Minister for a third
time. By early 2003, however, this unusual consensus appeared to have
unravelled, returning politics to its more normal fractiousness. Political
tensions are expected to rise as October local elections approach.
Albania's key foreign policy goal remains membership in the European
Union and NATO. Preliminary negotiations with the EU on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement
began in February 2003. Albania is trying to play as neutral a role as possible in the ethnic
problems in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia, and is seeking to establish normal relations
with its Slav neighbours.
In June 2002 the pretender to the royal throne, Leka Zog returned to Albania
after 63 years in exile. With no political role, Leka is keeping a low profile. Albanians appear
largely indifferent to his presence and his desire for a referendum on restoration of the monarchy.
Although the political climate is calmer, and stability has
been restored to most of the country, grave social and economic problems could
become tomorrow's political problems if left un-addressed. Albania's
institutions are weakened and the reform process greatly hindered by endemic
corruption and an inefficient public administration. Other negative factors
include an increase in organised crime, a weak judiciary, high unemployment,
low production, severe environmental problems, and an ongoing energy crisis.
The government shows no signs of seriously tackling corruption or backing down
in its confrontational stance with the media.
While a degree of political, economic and social progress is clearly evident
in Tirana and the major central and southern towns, the North remains largely unaffected.
There the lack of infrastructure and investment, combined with extreme poverty, is producing a
constant migration, which in turn fuels the trade in human trafficking and contributes to the
lagging social and economic development.
To the Albanian government:
1. Fulfill the undertakings on electoral reform given to the
opposition and the international community in 2002.
2. Prioritise development of the deprived rural areas,
especially in the North, by:
(a) creating a specific agency for economic development in the
North, based in Shkoder, to assist rural mountain communities advance from basic subsistence
to commercially oriented enterprises;
(b) directing more international funding to the Mountain Areas
Development Agency (MADA), to enable it to continue its work in remote rural
areas beyond 2007, when its six-year mandate is due to expire;
(c) creating financial incentives to stem the migration of
educated people from rural areas and to encourage professional people, such as
teachers, to work in rural districts; and
(d) including minor rural roads that connect remote villages
with main regional centres in infrastructure planning.
3. Strengthen environmental monitoring and public awareness of
local environmental issues.
4. Take firmer action against corruption and organised crime
(a) strengthening the institutional structures necessary for
implementing the Law on Money Laundering;
(b) establishing a fully financed and well-publicised witness
protection system; and
(c) making serious efforts to control border crossings.
5. Encourage local officials to cooperate with those assigned
to collect and dispose of weapons.
6. Cease harassment of independent media, and ensure that Albania
meets it international obligations on freedom of speech.
To the European Union and the wider international community:
7. Continue to condition aid and the conclusion of an EU
Stabilisation and Association Agreement on the Albanian government following
policies of institutional reform and responsible regional politics.
Tirana/Brussels, 11 March 2003