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Albania: The State of the Nation 2001


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This report describes the current situation in Albania, paying particular attention to relations with the country’s Balkan neighbours, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The recent upsurge in fighting in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia and in Macedonia has damaged the reputation of all Albanians in the region and has once more raised the spectre of a Greater Albania. Consequently, the Albanian government has been at pains to stress that it does not support the ethnic Albanian insurgents and wishes to see the territorial integrity of Macedonia upheld. To this end, Tirana has requested NATO’s assistance to secure the Albania-Macedonia border, and has called for a solution to the crisis through dialogue.

The Socialist-led government in Tirana has a difficult task to convince the international community that it is striving to contain and minimise ethnic Albanian irredentism without being seen by Albanians themselves as jeopardising broader national interests. At the end of 2000, Premier Ilir Meta made an historic visit to Kosovo in a bid to promote Albania’s growing socio-economic interests in the province and to strengthen ties between Tirana and the Kosovo Albanian leadership. In January 2001, diplomatic ties were restored between Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This move was criticised by many Kosovo Albanians as premature; it reinforced their perception that the Albanian government’s commitment to the so-called “national question” is feeble.

This report pays particular attention to Albania’s relations with Greece and the sensitive position of the ethnic Greek minority—the only minority of any significance in Albania. Attempts by Greece to draw the Greek minority into playing a bridge-building role between the two countries are proving very problematic. Some Albanians are concerned that Greece is using the minority to increase the Hellenisation of southern Albania while some elements within the minority accuse Tirana of ignoring minority demands, trying to steal minority lands, and attempting to force them to become Albanians.

Domestic politics are dominated by preparations for the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for 24 June 2001. The ruling Socialist Party faces damaging splits in its four-year old coalition, and the main opposition Democratic Party is trying to reinvent itself in order to survive. While the domestic security situation has visibly improved, organised crime—primarily internationally-based—has worsened considerably over the past year. It has become increasingly sophisticated and more difficult to identify, and Albania requires greater international assistance to combat it.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Albanian Government

1.Continue to take a responsible position on issues affecting ethnic Albanians living outside Albania, in particular with respect to the inadmissibility of changing borders by threat or use of force.

2.Scrutinise all aspects of the electoral procedures in the ethnic Greek districts of southern Albania, especially Himara, prior to the June Parliamentary elections, in order to ensure fairness and so avoid repetition of the tensions that resulted from the October 2000 local elections.

3.Establish a National Drug Centre to coordinate information and research and become the focus of a national anti-drugs strategy for government, non-governmental organisations, and the media.

4.Implement a public awareness programme, particularly in rural areas, to inform girls and young women of the dangers of acccepting dubious offers of marriage or jobs abroad and of the real dangers of the human trafficking business.

5.Extend the UNDP pilot project for weapons collection in Gramsh throughout the country.

To the International Community

6.Pay closer security attention to the fund-raising and other activities of the Albanian (including Kosovo and Macedonian Albanian) diaspora in the United States and Western Europe. 7.Help fund, equip and train a special mixed EU/Albanian border police to combat the smuggling of illegal goods and people into Albania.

8.Use diplomatic pressure to encourage countries of origin of illegal emigrants from Albania to sign repatriation agreements with Albania.

Tirana/Brussels, 25 May 2001




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