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Albania: New Government Pledges Anticorruption, Pro-Economic Focus

The Albanian parliament has approved by majority vote the new Socialist cabinet chaired by four-time Prime Minister Fatos Nano. Nano is pledging zero tolerance for corruption and an emphasis on rejuvenating the economy.

Tirana, 1 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The Albanian parliament yesterday voted in a new Socialist-led government. For the fourth time, the prime minister is Fatos Nano, chairman of the Socialist Party. Nano becomes the third prime minister in less than a year in Albania.

The 140-strong parliament approved Nano's broad-based cabinet by 81 votes. Both of Nano's predecessors, Pandeli Majko and Ilir Meta, hold key posts in Nano's government, with Majko as defense minister and Meta as deputy prime minister.

In a speech to parliament, Nano pledged zero tolerance for corruption, smuggling, and crime and said he will work to rejuvenate the economy. "The government I am honored to chair commits itself to fully mobilize all resources and capacities to involve the country in a process of deep transforming reforms. The government will decisively respond to the requests and nationwide aspirations for a qualitative governance producing measurable results. The government will punish pitilessly the corruption and the abuse with public funds. The qualitative improvement of the country's economic development will be an essential priority of the new government," Nano said.

Nano invited the opposition to participate for the sake of national interests. "We welcome the contribution of the opposition to fasten all standard reforms regarding justice and domestic security institutions, for this is the only way to guarantee the elimination of the political influence on those institutions, increasing the chances and the common constitutional responsibilities to strengthen the authority of law," Nano said.

Nano reconfirmed a regional-oriented approach to Kosovo, saying Tirana's relations with Kosovo "will not be structured on a narrow Albanian point of view, but in the large framework of regional and Euro-Atlantic cooperation among populations, countries, and the Balkan self-governing units."

Nano also vowed his government will last to the next general election, due next year.

Former Albanian President Sali Berisha, leader of the main Democratic opposition, criticized the quality of the ministers in the new cabinet. "Have a look at this cabinet," Berisha said. "This is an ensemble of greed. Their poorest member is Pandeli Majko..." Nano took over as prime minister after Majko resigned last week to end months of interparty bickering.

But the head of the second-largest parliamentary faction of the Democrats, Bamir Topi, greeted Nano's invitation to cooperate with the majority. "I sincerely would like to give a positive public answer to the public invitation Mr. Nano addressed to the opposition for including its experts in the discussions of the major national problems," Topi said.

Former deputy prime minister, Social Democrat Skender Gjinushi, appeared to be insulted by the exclusion of his political group from the government. "The chosen time, momentum, and ways to create a new government were against and still are against the stability of the government, independently of the demagogy which is trying to justify those changes," Gjinushi said.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Albanian political analyst Lazer Stani of Tirana questioned the ability of Nano to confront the challenges facing the country. "Fatos Nano is not a new prime minister. In my opinion, he has not proven himself to be a statesman. He is someone who has not shown the proper responsibility to fulfill all the difficult missions that the governing of Albania requires, especially at this moment," Stani said.

Stani said Nano must deal with such difficult challenges as organized crime and widespread political corruption, which have put Albania on lists as one of the world's most corrupt states.

Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta was asked whether Albania plans to continue its membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. "In its foreign policy, the new government recognizes all the obligations of former cabinets. Also, I want to make clear that the membership of Albania in the Islamic-nations organization is a precondition for our membership in the Islamic Development Bank, where Albania has its share of projects," Meta said.

Meta reiterated Nano's conviction that the time has come to speed up Albania's integration into Europe. Meta said Albania has already ratified the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, while some current European Union member states (such as France and Belgium) and other countries seeking full membership (Latvia, Turkey) have not yet ratified the document.