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Albania Essay, Research Paper

Albania, one of Europe’s smallest countries, is situated in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. It has a 360-km (225-mi) coastline on the Adriatic and Ionian seas and is bounded on the north by Yugoslavia, on the east by Macedonia, and on the southeast by Greece. The Albanians’ name for their country, Shqiperi, which means “eagles’ land,” aptly suggests Albania’s isolated, rugged terrain and its strongly independent people. In the 1990s, after more than four decades of Communist rule, Albania began the process of moving from a one-party dictatorship to a multiparty democracy and from a centrally controlled economy to a free-market system.

It is hard the world financial history would find a case like Albania s where the collapse of the pyramid scheme endager savings of the greatest part of Europe s poorest population. It is hard it finds a bankruptcy which so totally threaten the state s finance. Only the iceberg banking part of the usuries is made evident and its dimensions seem catastrophic. Some $250 million were frozen at their banking accounts and they belonged only to two foundations and that is something more than 50 percent of the money circulated in the arteries out of the banks for the economy. It is not known how much of the money circulating in all the country – wich is some $1.5 billion – has conquered the under-water part of the still undiscovered pyramid scemes.

Even though President Sali Berisha claimed victory in the elections, which many international observers said were marred by serious voting violations, he banned an opposition rally today. Many of those who defied the ban, including elderly men and women who were near the square, were beaten with truncheons by riot policemen as horrified election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe looked on from a nearby hotel balcony. Several men stood near the square with blood running down their faces. About a dozen opposition leaders were beaten and hauled into police vans at the steps of the Palace of Culture. Most of them were later released from police cells, but the deputy leader of the opposition Socialist Party, Servet Pellumbi, remained in detention, and the general secretary of the Democratic Alliance Party, Arben Imami, was reported to be in serious condition in a hospital. The violence today was the worst since a stormy election that experienced election observers said was the worst they had seen in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since the end of Communism. ‘I have never seen the totalitarian face like this, people being beaten, cameras taken,’ said Yuraj Atabaki, an observer from the Netherlands who has monitored nine elections in the region since 1991. About 40 of 53 observers sent by the O.S.C.E. said they had witnessed basic electoral abuses at the polls. More than a dozen of the observers signed a statement saying the election did not meet international standards for free and fair elections. Many ballots were altered and invalidated so as to favor Mr. Berisha’s Democratic Party. They said the presence of armed policemen and what were thought to be plainclothes secret policemen at polling stations changed the tense pre-election atmosphere into one of intimidation and coercion on election day.

When it comes to democratic elections, justice and freedom of the press, Albania has not fared well under President Berisha. But under the tutelage of the World Bank and the United States Treasury, a kind of capitalism — awash in corruption — has taken hold. The southern region of Albania has become one big bazaar. There are probably more Mercedes that pound the rutted roads — per capita of population than many other places in the world. In a field outside the seaside town of Durres, hundreds of new and secondhand Mercedes, BMW’s and fancy Volkswagens await buyers. The asking price for a new Mercedes stolen from Italy or Germany is $10,000 cash.

He passed a law late last year that barred some prominent opponents from running because of their Communist past even though he was a senior Communist Party official himself. He criticized the opposition party as a ‘red front,’ and banned its final campaign rally here. Albania has one, state-owned, television station and no private radio. Independent journalists and politicians are harassed. Mr. Berisha’s most charismatic opponent is in jail on what many believe to be trumped-up charges. Albania conducted parliamentary elections in May, which were rigged by the Democratic Party and boycotted by the major opposition parties.

Last months armed riots all over the country brought the number of the killed persons to approximately 2, 200 and the that of the heavy injured one to 8, 000. While Enver Hoxha (the exe- comunist dictator) produced some 700, 000 bunkers and every mountain in the country was opened through by creating some 2, 500 tunnels and later filled them with an unimaginable arms arsenal. Berisha (the exe-postcomunist dictator) during his five years of democracy instead of bunkers created a gigantic economic pyramid which absorbed from the poor Albnians not less than $1.2 billion and reconpensed them with the same amount of weapons.

Government and Democratic Party buildings set ablaze in towns and cities accross the country. People blame government for the lose of their money because the president and the prime minister were assuring the people that they were safe and clean. And many Albanians claim that senior officials profitied from their links with the pyramid schemes. The prime minister was suspected to be behind one of those schemes. Also it is no secret that the investment firms sponsored government poster campaign and that the DP (the governing party) used pyramid_scheme money to finance last May s controversial elections.

The police waded in with truncheons, feet fists among the demonstrators.

The result of this chaos and anarchia resulted in empty prisons, burned schools and half of the navy defected to Italy. Thieves have looted the national museums and defaced ancient ruins. children are armed. Still Berisha sited in his presidential palace in the dusty capital, giving orders to his loyalists in the secret police, who patroled the city on rusty tanks with the confidence only AK-47 can provide. One thing is clear: He would rather sit atop a pile of rubble than relinquish power.

It was not supposed to be this way. In 1991, the former cardiologist, an unknown apparatchik with a big medical reputation, from the mountainous north dazzled Washington with his charisma, linguistic ability and, above all, his anti-Communism. The fact he has studied abroad – a privilege granted very few Albanians – and headed the Communist Party cell in his hospital was of little import. As one Berisha supporte in the State Department put it, This guy really wants to help his country.

So he did; and details like judicial procedure, separation of powers and political dialogue were not going to get in his way. Step by step, Berisha, 51, a ruddy-faced man with darting blue eyes and a frequent down-at-the-mouth grimace, seemed to show his true autocratic instincts by assuming control of the police, the secret police, the judicary, the media and – since last spring fraudulent elections – the parliament. By May 1996 Albania had become a corrupt on-party state under a flag of democractic blue rather than Communist red.

It is perhaps not suprising that Berisha chose this path. How could he know any other way? Nor is it a suprise that his fellow Albanians, long customed to a paternal leader, accepted it. Shocking and disapointing, however, was the West unconditional praise and supprot for Berisha as the savior of the Balkans long after he had revealed his authoritarian face. The European Union, for example, provided more aid per capita to Albania tah to any other Eastern European Country, even as Berisha was imprisoning opponents and harrasing media. The United States has given $219 million in aid since 1991, turning a blind eye to police violence and political trials. Only after the 1996 elections did the Clinton Administration take a critical stand by condemning the fraud and calling for new elections.

Percieved strategic interest drove this policy. First, Albania offered a useful military outpost in the southern Balkans, especially during the war in Bosnia. Berisha cooperated by opening Albania s ports and airstrips to NATO use and housing C.I.A. planes for reconnaisance flights over Bosnia. Second United States and Western Europe saw neighboring areas of Kosovo, with a large Albanian majority, and Macedonia, with a large Albanian minority, as the real danger spots in the region. the West feared that the Bosnian conflict would spread south, wich could draw in Greece and Turkey – both members of NATO. To avoid this, a Faustin deal was made: Berisha pursued moderate politics in kosovo and Macedonia and was left to run Albanias he wished. In agreeing to this deal West abandoned the effort to estabilish democracy in Albania. By watering only one poltical force – Berisha s Democratic Party – it left Albania s sapling democratic institutions to die in the Mediterrianean sun.

The result of this shortsight policy is obvious. The spark for current crisis wasa the collapse of the get-rich-quick pyramid schemes. But the fuel was Berisha s disregard for the rule of law and persistent human rights abuses over the past six years, with the acquiescence of the West. The uprising s beggining was not an organized rebellion but a violent outcry: a Kalshnikov primal scream expressing forty-five years of humiliation and six years of deceit.

Ultimately, a Marshall Plan is needed to put Albania back on track. But unlike in the past, Western support must be conditioned on strict human rights guarantees, such as the establishment of independent courts, a free media and depoliticized police. Assistance of any sort – economic aid, political support or an international intervention – without these guarantees will ignore the problems that got Albania and the West into this jam in the first place.

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