Two Different Agendas—Enough to Make an Indian Summer in Albanian Politics

Two Different Agendas—Enough to Make an Indian Summer in Albanian Politics 

Tirana Times -

By Albert Rakipi 

Almost a year after its ascent to power, the government of Prime Minister Berisha has formulated a clear and vigorous agenda for economic development. It seems that for the Albanian economy, the summer was all good news. In the last two months, the government gave the green light to a number of road infrastructure projects. An American company won the bid for one of the most important projects—the Durres-Morina road that will link Kosova to Albania’s long-forgotten North and the port of Durres. It is reasonable to assume that this road will end the isolation of the North from the rest of the country as well as stimulate trade exchanges between Albania, Kosova and, eventually, Serbia. 

But the development agenda of the government does not end here. The World Bank will finance six thousand secondary (rural) roads throughout the country. A number of projects in the energy field aim to turn Albania from a chronic importer to a net exporter of energy. Laws are being conscientiously drafted to stimulate foreign direct investment. And, the last initiative coming out of the Prime Minister’s Office, “Albania One Euro,” is an indication of the government’s seriousness in this regard. Although much debated by the opposition and others, other initiatives have targeted civil service corruption in order to make business licensing, customs and other state-run services more efficient. The most drastic effort is the Law on Conflict of Interest that forbids the employment of relatives of ministers and other officials in customs or the tax offices. Within a single year, the government has made a veritable effort to create a dividing line between the public and the private spheres—a line that had long since disappeared during the previous socialist governments. 

Given the political will to change things for the better, it is no surprise that the European Union decided at the beginning of the summer to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania as a clear indication of encouragement. The government has definitely shown that things can change in the fight against corruption and organized crime which are the two primary concerns of EU. 

But in Albania politics can act as the cold front that turns the sunny weather into freezing rains. As the warm August news continues to flow from the executive, the deep freeze may just be around the corner. The last session of parliament and the conflicting political interpretations of the events surrounding those chaotic last moments of the legislature pf 2006 do not augur well. The opposition does not recognize the two media regulatory bodies elected from the ranks of the mightily objective civil society and it has threatened of a civil boycott of all its elected officials in local governments throughout the republic. A festering conflict between the executive and the High Council of Justice has also forced the Prime Minister to think “every minute of every day” how to change the composition of the highest governing body of the judicial hierarchy. Moreover, President Moisiu will have to soon take the most important decision of his time at the helm of our brittle state: he has to decide on following the recommendation of parliament to fire the General Prosecutor. As all important decisions, this is a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” although given the current political climate, he may well be more damned if he doesn’t. 

This stormy political agenda may well trump the government’s economic initiatives. Given the difficulty of finding that mythical golden line of compromise under normal conditions, the present political scene ought to give pause for thought to any enthusiastic investor. 

Both agendas—the economic and the political—anxiously wait for September. In September the new session of parliament in which the opposition will declare that it will not recognize the upcoming elections coincides thru good fortune with the first “Business Roundtable with the Government of Albania” organized by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In September too Albania will host the Central European Initiative (CEI) Forum on Renewable Energy Sources. But, as the businessmen sit around the round table and discuss forecasts, budgeting, competitiveness, and government spending priorities, they will do well to keep an eye at the TV monitors to follow the first session of parliament. Because it will be in parliament and not in Sheraton Tirana Hotel and Towers that the economic forecast for 2007 will be most accurately portrayed.