Is Albania a third world country

The Third World of Europe

Albania has not really recovered from the horrors of the Hoxa regime and speculative capitalism for a select few under the Berisha presidency.
I'm sitting in an oasis with palm trees, oleanders and a swimming pool. It's warm in summer. But I know that this oasis - the Rogner Hotel - is located in the capital of one of the visibly poorest countries in Europe: I'm once again in Tirana, the capital of Albania.
I have just finished a two hour taxi ride through town and around Tirana. Tirana is beautifully situated, surrounded by mountains, with a lot of shady avenues and hundreds of street cafes. But it is a city with a terrible housing substance, with very bad streets, and above all with an endless amount of rubbish, rubbish and rubbish on the streets, in the middle of the apartment buildings.

Playing in the trash

It is often a third world in the first world that one encounters here. Albania has not yet really recovered from the horrors of the Hoxa regime and speculative capitalism for a select few under Berisha's presidency. I know that many are trying to give this country a minimum of stability and get the economy going. But I don't really understand why, for example, not here in the capital, but also in the other cities of the country that I have visited many times, are concerned with this immense pollution, this incredible neglect of public space, the communal areas and To make places disappear - level by level.
I know there are probably more pressing problems, but this visibility of the trash between which children play, play, and adults walk to and from shops and to and from sparse work that needs to be addressed . Not least in order to give the Albanians themselves more self-esteem and to draw attention to the fact that care and attention to public space are also part of a modern society.
The Hoxa regime probably drove out much of this sense of responsibility by making the collective absolute and by completely negating the private. But it is important to find a balance here and I think that the city administration, but also the state, should tackle the fight against the pollution of the cities and the countryside in addition to the fight against corruption and crime.
To establish this here was of course not the purpose of my trip to Tirana. On the contrary, I have come to Albania once again to take part in an event organized by European social democracy together with the Albanian social democratic movement, consisting of a socialist and a social democratic party.

Modern party structure in the Balkans

This time, one of the seminars dealt with the question of how modern parties should organize themselves in the future, because the Balkans - and the parties in the Balkans are at stake here - need a modern party structure in order to develop and develop.
The Social Democrats are called upon to help their sister and brother parties. And there are also quite a few recent successes. The social democracy in Croatia as a whole, but recently also in the capital Zagreb, was able to bring home a great success - similar to the social democratic parties in Bosnia: Lagundja has with its movement as one of the few, if not the only, slightly larger supranational and non-ethnically oriented party can win in the last local elections. And the Democratic Party in Romania, despite strong efforts by the ex-communist party under Iliescu, was able to grow in the capital Bucharest and is now also the mayor of this city.
So one should not be unhappy about certain developments in social democratic parties in this region. But successes are not there to rest on their laurels and miss or oversleep reforms, but rather to actively promote reforms. We must also try to get young people interested in politics. Abstinence, especially among young people, is something that is certainly not good for democracy.
And so we discussed together in Tirana how we can increase the attractiveness of the parties: prevent corruption and get young people enthusiastic about the parties in order to ultimately consolidate democracy, especially in the Balkans.

Balkan Hearing

But the Balkans have not only occupied me these days in Albania itself, but also in Brussels - especially in the last few weeks after my return from my visits to Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia.

A hearing took place in Brussels on June 21, at which not only Commissioners Schreyer and Patten, but also Hombach, the head of the Stability Pact, Kouchner, the head of UNMIC in Kosovo, and others tried to present their positions and their commitment for the Balkans to manifest. And indeed: the seriousness with which Budget Commissioner Schreyer and Foreign Policy Commissioner Patten approach the stabilization in the Balkans, the commitment of Hombach and von Kouchner are certainly remarkable.


Even though Kouchner, in his highly publicized, expressive way, belittles the problems that still exist in Kosovo today. Of course, he is right when he points out that the UN administration and EU engagement in Kosovo are only a year old, that by and large there is peace and that the Albanians are doing well for the first time in a long time. they are in the process of building a society without being permanently under pressure and oppression by Milosevic. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the repeated attacks against the Serbs keep the region tense. And that the elections, which are to take place in the autumn and which will be characterized not least by isolation and aggressiveness towards the Serbs through abstention from voting on the part of the Serbs, will not be very meaningful.
I also believe that there is a certain understaffing in some areas. There are very few people who manage the actual reconstruction in Kosovo, who are driving the economy forward, who are also supposed to tackle the issue of privatization.
Certainly, the glass is half full or half empty - that is one way of looking at things. It should not only lead us to complacency, but should also see us committed to improving things, in particular to ensure security through more qualified police, but above all by strengthening the judiciary.
Kouchner agreed with me on this point that there is still some catching up to do, although he was able to prove by figures that there has been a significant increase in the number of available judges in Kosovo in recent times and that there is good reason to hope that a minimum Jurisdiction in Kosovo will soon be established. I hope that this will also result in a minimum of legal security for everyone, for the majority, but also for the various minorities.

The question of money

Another thing that came up at this hearing in Brussels was the question of how much money we should make available for Serbia - in the event that the Milosevic regime should someday be overthrown. The World Bank confirmed that the estimates that the Commission has made on the basis of its financial perspectives are quite realistic.
I myself still believe that it is absolutely important to send clear signals - to the opposition, but also to the population. The EU must not only find big words when it comes to bringing about changes in Serbia, but it should also provide financial means to start reconstruction immediately after the political changes.

That was also the subject of the conversation I had a few days ago with the leader of part of the Serbian opposition, Djindjic. Djindjic is a very civilized politician, although he can certainly be blamed for several mistakes in the leadership of the opposition. But of course he has a partner or adversary in the opposition: Vuk Draskovic, who is very difficult to act.

Too weak opposition

The conversation with Djindjic was marked by resignation. Of course, who is not desperate in the face of the ever new development of the authoritarian and dictatorial behavior of Milosevic. Who is not desperate about the rigid and bureaucratic attitudes of some European institutions when it comes to concrete help for the opposition forces in Yugoslavia.
But every time I meet one of the leaders of the opposition, I keep having doubts as to whether these are really the right people who can actually manage to overthrow Milosevic. We still have to live and work with those who are in these positions, and we have to draw on those who most closely match our ideas in terms of content.
In the past few days I was particularly impressed by a conversation I had with two students from Yugoslavia on the sidelines of the hearing in Brussels. With tears in their eyes they told me of Milosevic's new intentions to threaten the opposition and especially the young students who are organized in OTPOR with heavy fines through a so-called anti-terror law. It is unbelievable how a man and his clique turn the thumbscrews step by step in order to remain in power, to pocket enormous sums of money themselves and to ruthlessly betray their own people. But they can do it, not least because the internal opposition is extremely weak and divided.

Too many words

In any case, I felt very helpless towards these two students who had to return to Belgrade a few days after our conversation. Because there is no place for them at European universities, for example. On this point, too, it is again evident that there are more words than deeds that we have to offer those in Serbia and Yugoslavia whom we should actually support with all our strength. Because actually we should have a great interest ourselves in ensuring that many young people at our universities get to know our way of thinking, our attitude, our anti-nationalist attitude, that they are trained to create a new economy, a new society in this Yugoslavia as quickly as possible. building a new culture. Unfortunately, the sanctions are often handled in such a way that the bureaucratic elements are in the foreground and not the political objectives.
I also argued in this direction during a conversation with Foreign Minister Vedrin during our stay in Paris on the occasion of the French Presidency. And Vedrin has promised me that he will endeavor, especially on the basis of the deliberations and decisions at the Feira summit, to achieve a greater differentiation of the sanctions in order to target those we wanted to hit and not those whom we really wanted to hit didn't want to help.

Pro forma summit?

The French Presidency has also proposed holding a new Balkan summit. However, I still cannot quite see the purpose and aim of such an event. Especially not when the French Presidency has great doubts as to whether it makes sense to put the funds proposed by the Commission for a Yugoslavia after Milosevic.
Both Vedrin and the minister responsible for budget issues answered our budget coordinator and myself that the Commission's estimates are very global, that we do not have precise figures, that we do not know how much the European Investment Bank will finance. It is therefore not to be assumed that the Council, i.e. the governments, will support the Commission's statements and proposals.
I think that is sad and ultimately irresponsible, and I hope that there will still be some way of reconciling foreign policy statements and budgetary positions. In any case, from my point of view, the French Presidency, with its commitment in the Balkans, should succeed in achieving the unity of words and deeds that is necessary in foreign policy in general, but certainly also in the Balkans. In any case, the tears in the eyes of the students I spoke to shouldn't let us get back to business as usual. Instead, we should try to do everything possible to free the population from a power-hungry dictator who is holding an entire region in suspense.

Foundations for a modern Albania

Here in Albania, on the fringes of the conference mentioned at the beginning, it was of course also about Kosovo. But my stay also gave me the opportunity to meet again with some Albanian politicians whom I have known for a long time: Fatos Nano, the President of the Socialist Party, Sginda Genushi, the President of the Social Democratic Party and some MPs and ministers, among them the Foreign and the interior minister.

A few days earlier I had the opportunity to invite the Prime Minister of Albania, Iljia Metha, to dinner in Brussels. Iljia Metha was in Brussels with his new, young transport minister to discuss some infrastructure projects with the European Commission.

A capable government team

Many, including myself, were afraid some time ago that Fatos Nano, who was once party chairman and prime minister and is now the great opponent of Berisha, would radicalize the socialist party again after his re-election as chairman. We feared this particularly at the time when Fatos Nano was pushing for his opponent at the party congress, Prime Minister Majko, to resign and be replaced by Illia Metha.
But at least externally and through some conversations that I have had on the sidelines these days, it has been shown that the duo Fatos Nano and Illia Metha form a thoroughly correct and moderate team that aims to lay the foundations for a modern Albania.
Anyone who knows the history of this country, before and of course during the all too long regime under Hoxa, knows that this is not an easy task. In any case, I hope that this small country, which Austria also helped to achieve independence at the end of the last century, not only maintains inner peace, but also experiences a slow economic upswing on the basis of a real economy.

Solving the refugee question

On the fringes of my stay in Tirana, I also met an Austrian who, on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior, is trying to find arrangements for Albania, Italy and Greece in order to resolve the refugee issue amicably. It is also about the fact that Albania would have to undertake to take back refugees who are illegally apprehended outside Italy.
Albania itself, however, again needs the assurance that it will be able to bring those refugees who move illegally to Albania back to those countries, especially to Greece, which these refugees are only too happy to allow to travel to Albania. There are a lot of Kurds, Turks, Chinese and people from many other countries who enter the country illegally and from Albania try to get to Italy by smuggling and to reach the coveted Schengen country there.

Common European Migration and Refugee Policy

There are certainly many tragic fates hidden behind these streams of refugees. Most recently, a terrible incident in Dover, where dozens of Chinese people who had already traveled a long way, were found dead in a van, showed the dramas that are taking place in this regard.
Many dramas come to an end in the Balkans, some only really begin here. In any case, it is once again clear that Europe must not stop halfway, but must develop a common migration and refugee policy. The Balkans in particular, their fragmentation, their poverty and their “openness” to cross-border crime show us how important such a European policy would be.
Tirana, July 2, 2000