1. Georgia: BRUTALITY IN THE NAME OF GOD
by Zurab Tchiaberashvili
2. Bulgaria: FIGHTING AGAINST CRIME TO ATTRACT INVESTMENTS
by Peter Karaboev
3. Macedonia: ELECTIONS MAY DEEPEN CRISIS
by Zvezdan Georgievski
4. Poland: MINISTER WITH A STICK IN HIS HAND
by Aureliusz M. Pedziwol
5. Albania: DO ALBANIANS LOVE DICTATORS!?
by Slobodan Rackovic
On July 10, 2002, 10
to 12 unmasked people burst into the Liberty Institute, one of the most
prominent NGOs in the field of human rights in Georgia. The intruders brutally
beat Levan Ramishvili, the director, and five other members of the Institute
(a female secretary among them) and they seriously damaged computers and
other equipment. The intruders divided into groups and simultaneously rushed
into every room. At the time of the attack, Levan Ramishvili was meeting
with Council of Europe experts, who witnessed the whole attack but fortunately
were not hurt. The beaten people were taken to a hospital.
The violence surprised neither Liberty Institute members nor Georgian society since the very risk of defending freedom of religion in a post-totalitarian society is quite real. The hostility started in 1999, with the beating of members of “non-traditional” religious groups, the term Georgian state officials use to call Jehovah’s Witnesses or Baptists. The aggression then turned against Catholics and other “traditional” religious groups, and later against human right activists defending freedom of religion.
During the two weeks before the July 10 attack, Guram Sharadze and Vakhtang Bochorishvili, members of the Georgian Parliament, and Vasili Mkalavishvili, a radical priest expelled from the Orthodox Church of Georgia at the beginning of the 1990s, demanded to ban the Liberty Institute. On July 8, an aggressive mob of about two hundred people gathered in front of the Liberty Institute’s office, calling its members “betrayers of Georgian traditions and Orthodoxy.”
The aggression against the Liberty Institute increased after head-to-head TV debates on July 3 during which Levan Ramishvili called Guram Sharadze “fascist and chauvinist,” and asked him to tell the public in more detail about his KGB ties during the Soviet era. Sharadze in turn accused Ramishvili, the Liberty Institute, NGOs, pro-western political parties, and democratic forces in general as corruptors of Georgian traditions and culture and destroyers of Georgian statehood.
Liberty Institute members are sure that the use by Sharadze or Mkalavishvili of ultra-nationalistic rhetoric was intended to create a favorable atmosphere for the July 10 violence and attack on Liberty Institute offices. Still, it is misleading to call the ten to twelve very well-trained attackers, who acted in silence under the orders of a clear leader, an aggressive mob. Liberty Institute members suspect that the intruders were not simply Sharadze’s supporters, but governmental agents ordered to attack with cruelty.
The Liberty Institute is known not only for its activity in defending human rights, but also for its involvement in an anticorruption campaign. Its critique of government officials often provokes a hostile reaction from authorities. As civic groups became more critical of the government of Georgia, there was a “coincidental” increase of direct violence against religious minorities, the independent media, and NGOs.
On July 12, representatives of Georgian and international non-governmental organizations, foreign embassies, and the Council of Europe, as well as some journalists and MPs, held a meeting and signed a joint declaration condemning the violent attack on the Liberty Institute. The declaration states that President Shevardnadze and his government promote such violence by doing nothing to stop nationalist hysteria in Georgian society. In a separate letter to the President, eleven international NGOs working in Georgia urged the Georgian government to improve the atmosphere for human rights NGOs.
Those who are known to the public as organizers and performers of previous assaults on religious and civic groups were not punished. According to representatives of Georgian civic groups, using extremists to label civil rights activists as “protectors of anti-national, anti-orthodox sects,” “CIA agents,” and “servants of the hidden interests of the West,” the government is trying to divert public attention away from its failure to carry out democratic reforms, to fight against corruption, and to bring to an end to police brutality and other abuses.
It is interesting that on the second day after the assault, David Soumbadze, the DCM of the Georgian Embassy in the U.S., speaking on behalf of the Chief of Staff of President Shevardnadze’s office, provided Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty with the following explanation of what happened:
The motive of the attack had nothing to do with the work of the Liberty Institute. The head of the Liberty Institute, Ramishvili, was involved in an automobile accident yesterday with a car from the Ministry of State Property. Although no one was hurt in the accident, the passengers from both cars got into a fight. Therefore, the President’s office felt that the motive for the attack was in “retaliation” for yesterday’s scuffle. It was a criminal, not a political act.
As for the Apostolic Autocephal Orthodox Church of Georgia, officially it remains silent, but local priests openly express their support of Guram Sharadze in his attacks against religious minorities and human rights activists. The Church is trying to lobby in favor of a law on religion, which would practically secure the status of Orthodoxy as the State Religion. On March 30, 2001, under the Church’s pressure, the Parliament of Georgia amended Article 9 of the Constitution so as to require that the relationship between the State of Georgia and the Apostolic Autocephal Orthodox Church of Georgia be defined by Constitutional Agreement.
• • •
In early July, the UK newspaper The Daily Mirror published the following advice to any readers planning a trip to Bulgaria:
Crime rate: With the return of democracy in 1989 there was the inevitable growth of the ‘Mafia’ muscling in on protection rackets, drug smuggling, and organized car theft. But as a tourist you are unlikely to come across any of these unsavory characters. In Sofia and on the Black Sea coast beware of pickpockets and never leave anything unprotected on the beach (Western T-shirts and Nike trainers are particularly sought-after).
Sounds familiar and acceptable for the Balkans and at the same time frightening for the “common” Westerner. For the Government of the former King Simeon Saxecoburggotsky, it is disappointing. He came to power exactly one year ago with brave promises for order and security. Moreover, the Ministry of Interior planned to make the country a regional center for cracking down on organized crime, thereby boosting Bulgaria’s image and drawing fresh foreign investment. There have been successes in the fight against trans-national crime and trafficking, but it is still sometimes dangerous to travel on Bulgaria’s highways at the height of the tourist season.
The Bulgarian police force’s leader, Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boiko Borissov, is the most popular professional and is even considered to be the best politician in Bulgaria. So what is the problem? Part of the answer is related to the poor performance of the government and parliament dominated by Simeon’s Party, as well as to the lack of good and workable laws, the lack of funds, the decade-long tradition of corruption, and the well established (and well protected) trafficking channels for drugs, money, goods, and people.
During the one-year of the government of the Simeon II National Movement (SND), crime dropped by 7 percent and the number of resolved criminal cases increased by 2.5 percent, according to Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov on July 20, 2002. The Interior ministry report for the first half of 2002 states that crime fell by 5.3 percent and solved criminal cases increased by 0.6 percent as compared to the same period in 2001. But at the same time, Petkanov didn’t have an answer as to why none of the laws drafted by the Ministry of Interior failed to pass through parliament.
The fight against crime has not improved according to the leadership of Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which is in a strange position of acting as an opposition force while having two key ministers in the Government and a number of high positioned public servants. Party spokesmen Angel Naidenov claims that the reported drop in crime rates is largely due to a drop in petty theft, while serious crime has increased by over 70 percent. The shadow economy, which ranges between 25 and 50 percent, still determines the rules of the Bulgarian economy, he said. Governance by the SND-led coalition has caused deep disappointment and dashed expectations for improvement in Bulgarian society. “We have every reason to talk about a strong influence of various group and private interests, manifest both in the making of laws and in the performance of individual departments,” Naidenov said.
A total of 295 organized criminal groups (OCGs) were identified in Bulgaria in 2001, having 1,720 members in total, including 164 foreign nationals. According to the Interior Minister report released in late May, most of these groups employed threats involving explosions and kidnapping to coerce people into making transactions or to derive benefit. Other OCGs specialized in procurement for prostitution and the smuggling of women. A still smaller number of groups engaged in drug trafficking. Relatively few organized criminals specialized in financial, tax, and customs fraud or other economic crimes last year. One hundred and three OCGs were uncovered and neutralized in 2001, the minister said, and charges were pressed against 722 members of such criminal organizations.
The only real success — or rather a promising decision — was a 3-year contract with the British consultancy group Crown Agents to help in managing Bulgarian customs and reforms in the system. This is considered to be extremely important, since a huge part of local organized crime financing comes from illegal traffic (according to unofficial sources, the total is more than 1 billion USD per year.) In mid-April, just six months into the contract, Crown Agents proposed that a separate investigating unit to be set up. Its report draws attention to the lack of an adequate system for collecting and analyzing information on people who have violated or are suspected of having violated regulations. The existing database includes only cases in which investigators are interested at the moment and often contains information that has no bearing on the cases. There is no system for collecting such information. Crown Agents also proposed in this report that the bodies dealing with intelligence and investigation should be united into a single entity, led by the interior ministry and the customs agency.
Crown Agents also proposed extending the prerogatives of customs officials so they could investigate, detain, question and search suspects. The preliminary investigation of a crime currently rests with the police, and more precisely with the National Service for the Fight Against Organized Crime, over which customs has no control. Crown Agents wants customs officials to be granted the rights to conduct operational and investigating activities in close co-operation with the Interior Ministry. The fight against smuggling attracted most of the criticism of the report. The report noted that information couldn’t flow freely between the various units of the customs system. It recommends that customs officers should be allowed to detain suspects, carry out preliminary investigations, introduce mobility to the check-ups, and co-operate with Bulgarian trade associations.
While customs reform potentially has a number of funding sources, like the EU, IMF, and World Bank programs, there is a serious problem with funding for domestic police. The Chief Secretary Boiko Borissov said on June 30, 2002, that the ruling Simeon II National Movement has been dragging its feet over extending funds to the police. During its first year in power, the ruling party had not provided a single vehicle nor even an alcohol-testing device for the country’s police, Borissov said, while the Interior Ministry’s budget for 2003 to 2005 has been cut. The Bulgarian public expects results in the fight against crime, Borissov complained, but the police cannot achieve anything with bare hands.
Another problem lies in the poor judicial system, considered to be among the most corrupt institutions in Bulgaria. Thousands of criminals are walking free and committing crime after crime because the prosecution or court is too slow in concluding cases. This concerns the whole spectrum of the courts — from petty crime to the traffic of drugs and human beings. Recently, the Simeon II National Movement supported the amendments to the Judiciary Act proposed by the cabinet in the Parliament. One of the amendments deals with divesting prosecutors of immunity, including the Prosecutor General, the only completely untouchable public servant in the country (his seven-year term is two years longer than that of the President of Bulgaria). Another amendment restored the country’s National Investigation Service in an attempt to make the country’s judicial system more efficient in fighting rampant crime and corruption, which is seen by many as the main obstacle to economic reforms.
While facing serious problems at home, Bulgaria scores success abroad. From June 10 through July 10, 2002, 2.306 kg of drugs and 1.574 metric tonnes of precursors were captured with Bulgarian participation in an international operation aimed at preventing drug trafficking along the Balkan route. On the Bulgarian side, the operation involved the Customs Agency, the
National Service for Organized Crime Control, the Border Control National Service, and the Interpol National Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior. The operation was carried out jointly with Germany’s Customs Criminal Service (ZKA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Association (DEA).
Three months earlier Boiko Borissov said that the DEA and FBI would open an office in Sofia in recognition of Bulgaria’s key role in cracking down on drug trafficking. Bulgaria, which is on the so-called Balkan route for drug-smuggling from Asia into western Europe, says it seized 2 kg of narcotics, including 1,500 kg of heroin, in 2001 in 60 cases of illegal trafficking, most of it at the Turkish border. Bulgaria’s contribution has been highly appreciated because the country seizes 70 percent of drugs destined for Western Europe, Borissov said. Bulgaria's leading role in cracking down on illegal drug trafficking along the so-called Balkan route has turned the country into a key ally of the United States, said the head of the Office of International Operations at the DEA, Michael Vigil, winding up a three-day official visit in late May. According to DEA statistics, Bulgaria had seized 3.5 metric tonnes of heroin in the past two years. The country’s special services are among the most professional and committed to their work in the fight against drug trafficking in the region, said Vigil.
DEA’s Sofia bureau will be the first office of a U.S. law enforcement agency in Bulgaria. Former Interior Minster Bogomil Bonev held talks with FBI chief Louis Freeh in 1998 about the FBI opening an office in Sofia, but so far the idea has failed to materialize. The FBI has offices in Athens and Budapest that are responsible for Southeast Europe. The DEA and Bulgarian police have cooperated for years exchanging tips about drug trafficking but finding a suitable building to accommodate the office in Sofia may be difficult, because security precautions there are tighter than those applied for the U.S. Embassy building in the center of the city.
Borissov is fighting another notorious group in Bulgaria ? Bulgarian banknote forgers, who according to Interpol are the world’s best at their trade. According to the director of Interpol’s Bulgarian bureau, Peter Hristov, Bulgaria trails only Columbia in the quantity of forged money output, and the quality of its banknote counterfeiters is unrivalled internationally. On June 20, 2002, at the 2nd Balkan conference on currency counterfeiting organized by the Sofia-based International Banking Institute, the bureau said an increasing number of domestic organized crime groupings are turning to business for the circulation of forged money. Fake money printing operations discouraged plans to introduce licensing requirements for the import of machines and other equipment that can be used to print fake notes.
Happily no terrorist acts or preparations for such acts have been detected in Bulgaria. No information is available indicating any involvement of international terrorist organizations in bomb attacks perpetrated or attempted in this country, Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov said in late May. A Bulgarian anti-terrorism bill has been drafted as part of Bulgaria’s efforts to step up participation in the international crackdown on terrorism following the September 11 attacks on the U.S. The bill will contain a government-approved list of people and companies suspected by the U.N. Security Council of being linked with international crime organizations, people wanted by states with which Bulgaria has signed respective crime-busting accords, and people who have been convicted on terrorism charges or are under investigation of such charges. Under the draft, orders issued by the Interior Minister to block the bank accounts of individuals suspected of financing terrorist organizations will not need a court approval. The bill will also empower the Interior Minister to suspend for up to three days transactions suspected to be related to terrorist activities or, in certain cases, to freeze assets for up to 30 days.
Bulgarian-based organized crime groupings have a limited capacity for operating on an international scale, Petkanov said. Their international ventures primarily involve support for drug smuggling to several European countries, such as Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, development or participation in cross-border networks for trafficking in women, the operation of rings of smuggling stolen vehicles, and printing and transfer of counterfeit banknotes. Still Bulgaria is a relatively secure place in the Balkans taking in mind such places as Kosovo. You can plan a vacation on the Black Sea coast, as hundreds of thousands of tourists are doing this summer. It’s worth it, even if it may cost you your unattended Nike trainers.
• • •
Scarcely two months before
parliamentary elections in Macedonia, set for September 15th, the political
situation in a country that faced war only last year is, to put it mildly,
complicated. As citizens fear that the upcoming elections will start new
inter-ethnic incidents, even armed conflict, political analysts predict
that Albanian politicians, who are now divided between two strong political
blocs, will play the key role in the composition of a new government.
One side is the Party for Democratic Integrity led by Ali Aheti, the founder and leader of the National Liberation Army, the UCK of Macedonian Albanians, and a man who is blacklisted and forbidden to have any financial transaction in the USA. His associate is Abdurahman Aliti, leader of the Party of Democratic Prosperity, one of the signatories of the Ohrid Agreement, which stopped ethnic conflict in Macedonia last summer and secured wider rights for Albanian minority in Macedonia. He is joined also by Kastriot Hadji Redja, head of the National Democratic Party, who is also on Bush’s black list.
The other side is led by Arben Djaferi of the Democratic Party of Albanians, and also one of the signatories of the Ohrid Agreement. Since Ahmeti changed suits and is now propagating
social democracy as his political view, the Democratic Party of Albanians has once again taken over the role of main radical, with its leader Djaferi saying that the Ohrid Agreement is only one stretch of the road towards final achievement of Albanian ideals.
On the Macedonian side, the general impression is that the ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE (Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity), which is strongly tied to organized crime and completely shaken with numerous scandals, has come to terms with a likely election defeat. Still, its main opponent, the Social Democrat Union of Macedonia (SDSM), has failed to use these weaknesses. The heralded broad opposition coalition has shrunk to only two parties: the SDSM and the weak Liberal-Democratic Party (now with only one MP). The SDSM meanwhile issued less-than-cautious statements that they would never form a coalition with Ali Ahmeti (currently the most popular politician among Macedonian Albanians). SDSM leader Branko Crvenkovski also rejected any coalition with Djaferi’s party because of alleged involvement in organized crime and because former Macedonian UCK commanders hold high positions in his party. The Social Democrat Union is creating further obstacles with vengeful statements saying that the prisons will be full of VMRO-DPMNE thieves.
Between the ruling VMRO on the right and the left opposition SDSM, there is no third political power in Macedonia, only minor parties that have never succeeded in uniting into a center position. In this situation, it is hard to imagine the composition of a future government.
A further obstacle clouding the forecast is the fact that for the first time in Macedonia a proportional system will be used in the elections that has no threshold for entrance into parliament. This model, according to Professor Ljubomir Frckovski, will create more parliamentary parties, which will further complicate the procedure of forming a new government and inhibit any government in leading the country. It also means that the office of president will become more important. Professor Dmitar Mircev concludes that these elections will bring nothing new besides preparations for another election next year.
During these political games, real problems are pushed under the carpet. There are not many politicians who focus on economic problems, which would basically unite the Macedonian multi-ethnic community. There are many problems pertinent to all ethnic groups, says Emilia Simovska from the Institute for Sociological and Political and Legal Research in Skopje. She deems fear of election violence as the most important problem, immediately followed by poverty.
While preparing a government strategy for the fight against poverty, it was discovered that 24.6 percent of all Macedonians fit the category of poor. Trajko Slavevski, professor at the Faculty of Economy and national coordinator for preparation of strategy for the fight against poverty, says that poverty rate in Skopje is bigger than average and is biggest in rural areas. The poorest ethnic group is the Roma. A declining standard of living is reflected in analyses that compare the current situation to that of three years ago: bread is 26 percent more expensive, milk 11 percent, egg prices have risen 24 percent, and electricity 9 percent. A four-member family, after spending its average salary on food, has only three percent left for other basic needs of rent, electricity, and clothing. In other words, for an average salary people today can buy 36 kilos of bread less than they could three years ago.
This year, out of 50,000 active Macedonian firms, over half (almost 30,000) have blocked accounts. The small increase of GDP in 1999 and 2000 was cut short by last year’s war. Today there are about 360,000 unemployed people in Macedonia (between 32 and 33 percent). Among the unemployed are both Macedonians and Albanians, as well as Vlachs, Serbs, and Roma.
Contrary to these indications, the main issues of the election campaign are whether to allow a bi-lingual or tri-lingual passport, whether ethnic Albanians will be proportionally represented in the Macedonian Football Association, and so on. If generally new elections signify a way out of a political crisis, Macedonia may easily be an exception in this case. New elections may sink Macedonia into a deeper one.
• • •
Arrogant and quarrelsome.
Ambitious and responsible. Both phrases well describe the new Polish finance
minister. But this time, Professor Grzegorz Kolodko (born 1949), usually
very eloquent, if not talkative, opted for silence; ten quiet days elapsed
from the moment he started his second term as deputy minister for the economy
and Minister of Finance of the 4th Republic.
An old maxim says that silence is golden. But if the minister of finance is silent, it means that every minute has its own, sometimes very high price.
Poland Is No Mexico, No Russia, and No Argentina
Kolodko’s silence “has the
power of a clear verbal intervention against the currency market,” noted
Dariusz Filar, the main economist of the Bank Pekao SA, in the Warsaw daily
Rzeczpospolita. For some, it was a terrifying long period and they did
not hold out: “as a consequence the exchange rates of zloty to dollar and
euro declined by 4 percent each,” remarked Filar.
The professor did evidently know how the finance markets would interpret his silence. “It appears that he estimated correctly the psychical resistance of markets,” said a bank expert, praising Kolodko. Filar got the impression that “after the initial reactions, the investors realized the absence of a substantial likeness between today’s Poland and Mexico from 1994, Indonesia from 1997, Russia from 1998, or Argentina from 2001, and simultaneously became convinced that the new minister would make no actions that could generate such likeness.”
Who thought opposite evidently has a short memory. Kolodko was already the head of the Ministry of Finance from 1994 to 1997 and already then he made himself known as a man who is surely very quarrelsome but responsible. He knew to hold the finances of state with an iron fist albeit with some lapses.
Continuation Instead of Revolution
As the minister began at
last to speak, however, the general astonishment set in. The professor
clearly declared that he is not going to orchestrate any revolution. In
key areas he wants to carry out the same economic policy as before. Kolodko
does not want to have combat with the central bank, as he did in his first
term (with National Bank of Poland Chief Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz). The
minister is against any limits on his independence, and he also doesn’t
accept an expanded role of the Council for Money Politics — a body that
decides about monetary policies, especially interest rates — a proposal
supported by the peasant parties. He also does not think that it would
be a good idea to correct the state budget by an import-tax, even if just
one year ago that tactic was one of the most important medicines on his
prescription list. The professor did not speak about the necessity of the
devaluation of the zloty, as he did some weeks ago. Truly, he does not
need it. The polish currency naturally came to the limit that the minister
had drawn earlier — thanks to his silence — and also through developments
on the world market, where the dollar lost quite a bit to the euro. While
scientifically he was engaged with the problems of macro-economy, as a
practitioner he is going to stress activities in the micro zone. He wants
to insert “a stick into the ant-hill, but not between the spokes of the
spirit of enterprise.”
On his banner he wrote a new motto. In his first term his maxim was the slogan, “Production up, inflation down!” Now there is no need to decrease inflation (in June it was lower than in the Euro-region), and some people (including the members of the cabinet of Leszek Miller) think that it is even worth it to twist it up. The new minister of finance, however, believes that economic problems are solved more easily if the inflation rate is low.
Packet of Extraordinary Activities
So, the professor’s
phrase for the year 2002 (and following) runs: “Production up, unemployment
down!” The battle against unemployment is for him the most important task.
For this purpose he is preparing a “packet of extraordinary activities,”
such as “cancellation of debts,” “tax credits,” “tax awards,” and “bank
re-guarantees.” These are the most important and concrete, although until
now very foggy proposals, that the new minister has brought.
Not only did representatives of the ruling Alliance of Democratic Links (SLD) express their support for some ideas of the professor, but also politicians of the right party Law and Justice (PiS) and the further right party League of Polish Families (LPR) did. Of course, there were also many critical voices, but in most cases they maintained that Kolodko had kept his enunciations to a very high degree of generality.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Nevertheless no one
can now determine, if his proposals are good or bad. All have to wait for
concrete facts: the projects of new laws.
Let us take for example the “tax credit.” This Kolodko concept is addressed to new, small, and middle-sized enterprises, which create new job places for a maximum of fifty people. In the second year of their activities, promised the minister, they would not need to pay corporate income tax (CIT) ? the repayment would follow within the next five years and additionally according to already reduced rates. But he did not say whether there would be any interest (or how high). Beyond it one should expect many abuses, warn commentators and entrepreneurs.
The last objection is raised against all ideas of Kolodko. Say the critics, “If the minister wants to cancel the debts, then what sense does it make to pay credits back?” Besides, it is unfair to the enterprises that pay back their obligations honestly. The same goes for the “tax award.”
But really only the politicians of the Polish Peasant party, which is co-governing with SLD, and in the opposition the populist Samobrona (Self Defense) party, are disappointed.
Even Economics Minister Jacek Piechota, who first had threatened to resign as he heard the word “Kolodko,” signed his “packet of extraordinary activities.”
Point of Seating
So it appears that
it is not so important for Poland if after Professor Grzegorz Kolodko comes
Professor Marek Belka (as in 1997), or after Belka, Kolodko again (as in
2002) even though Belka is doubtlessly a liberal, and Kolodko has always
declared himself on the left. But as very a good theoretically and practically
prepared economist, he cannot pretend not to see any threats. Besides,
as rightly noticed one of the commentators, he cannot afford any irresponsible
steps, since a crash would mean the end of his career.
Ahead of journalists, trade unionists, and employers, and even before the watchmen of the polish currency (members of the Council of Money Policy), there appeared not the expected scholar, eager for economic experiments, but rather a responsible politician, someone who is not going to damage what already works, but who wants to repair what is damaged. He has ideas and he knows how to advocate them. If he takes a stick in his hand, then it is not to thrash someone on their back, but to stir them up.
The new minister Kolodko differs from the old minister Kolodko, who did not miss the opportunity to exploit any occasion, not even to hit the female chief of the central bank. Famous became his words: “One has to tear down her head. The inflation, that is, not the lady president.”
So it was finally confirmed that in Poland the successive ministers of finance could be very reluctant towards their predecessors, propagate revolutionary ideas, and announce a turning point. But if they already sat in the ministerial chair, the practice forced them to follow a very different set of principles, regardless of which part of the political spectrum they came.
It is quite simple: the point of view depended mostly on the point of seating.
• • •
If for the decades
after World War II Albania was under the sign of communist dictator Enver
Hoxha, the end of the last and beginning of the current century will be
marked by his student Fatos Nano, who will soon be again Albanian prime
Political veteran Fatos Nano is only 50 years old, but everyone describes him as a “political Methuselah.” During the past 22 years, this small, chubby man hasn’t left the head position of the Albanian Socialist Party (born from Enver’s Work Party) and has already been Albanian prime minister four times. Even more interesting is that these terms were under various social systems.
Almost 50 years of communist government ended with him as Albanian prime minister in 1990-1991. The Albanian president at that time was Enver’s closest associate, Ramiz Alija. After the changes, Nano ended up in prison because the court — orchestrated by his enemy
Sali Berisha (the self-proclaimed destroyer of communism who had been the personal physician of both Enver Hoxha and Ramiz Alija) — sentenced him to 12 years of prison!
The charge was that during his time as prime minister, Nano stole humanitarian aid from Italy. It was never found out whether the accusation was true. What is known is that
Gianni De Michelis, the former Italian foreign minister, was put on trial in his country for the same crime. Nevertheless, Nano continued leading his party from jail, and was freed thanks to the armed break-in of his associates in the spring of 1997, at the time of the bloody turmoil created by the collapse of pyramid savings institutions.
Nano’s comeback was spectacular. At the early elections the same year, on 30th June, Nano’s party won two-thirds majority in the parliament of 140 seats. Prior to that feat it had only been a weak opposition to the powerful Democratic Party led by Berisha. Nano could choose whatever he wanted, but decided to go for the office of prime minister instead of formal head of state, where he placed non-partisan Rexhepi Mejdani, who ran out of a five-year term during the previous month and was replaced by the retired general Alfred Moisiju.
Then came Nano’s unexpected actions, one after another. Already in 1998 Nano, left his office, giving it up to the young Pandeli Majko and saying that he would turn to his career as university professor. Afterwards he sat twice more in the hot seat, habitually exchanged with “young lions” from his own party ? Majko and Ilir Meta ? who both became his enemies. He finally saw that he would like to become Albanian president, which would probably make a good topping for his rich political career. However, when everyone expected him to be president the international community intervened citing the principle which says that party leaders cannot be heads of states. It was more than a clear message for egotistical Nano as well as for his eternal rival Berisha that the time for old politicians has gone and that they should cede their places to young and capable reformers. However, Nano doesn't want to quit just yet.
Thanks to the power of old communist politicians in the 119-member Main Committee of Socialist Party, several days ago Nano managed to change the party statute forbidding double functions, allowing him again to become prime minister. To make the paradox even greater, it was thanks to his initiative that the article stating that functions of prime minister and party leader were mutually exclusive came into the statutes in the first place.
Today the same Nano, master of political games, claims that the combination of these two functions will enable his party to be more efficient in implementing reforms in one of the poorest countries in Europe.
“This important decision means that the Socialist Party will continue governing the country with more resolution and with better results than ever before,” said Nano after his idea was supported by the leadership of the Socialist Party. In the same institution, Nano is fighting against a group of young socialists led by Pandeli Majko and Ilir Meta,
It is Pandeli Majko, current prime minister, who will be the new victim of Nano’s absolutist politics. He didn’t spend much time as prime minister — he only came to his office in February 2002 and is already considering resignation. At the session of SP Main Committee, his party didn’t get favorable marks, which means that he will have to give up his office to someone else — to none other than Fatos Nano. If Nano manages to gain support in the parliament, it will be his fifth term as prime minister.
Fatos Nano is unstoppable on the Albanian political scene and he can do whatever he likes. Upcoming events will show how much it will last and whether the young generations of socialists and other Albanian politicians will allow it. There is no doubt that Nano’s moves are weakening the Socialist Party, leading to inter-party struggle, so it is possible that the price will have to be paid at the next parliamentary elections. The opposition, especially the strong Democratic Party, is demanding early elections more and more. The international community does not support Nano’s experiments, with the rising attitude that old politicians from both the government and the opposition should go into retirement. It is the general opinion that the unhealthy rivalry between Berisha and Nano is dragging the country backwards and slowing down the implementation of needed reforms. Fighting within the Socialist Party and between government and opposition has slowed down international aid to Albania, inhibited government reforms, and obstructed efforts to build more ties between the EU and one of the poorest European countries.