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Balkan Report: November 19, 1999

19 November 1999, Volume 3, Number 48

Moves For Change In Albania's Democratic Party. Changes are underway in Albania's leading conservative party. These could prove a first step toward renewing the party and overcoming the polarization between the Democrats and Socialists that has characterized political life for most of the past decade.

A number of prominent politicians from the opposition Democratic Party (PD) announced on 9 November that they will form a group called the Democratic Alternative within the party. They seek to challenge the dominant position of PD leader and former President Sali Berisha. They also want to promote democracy within the party and to increase the PD's standing in the eyes of the voters. The group includes eight of the Democrats' 27 parliamentary deputies.

The Tirana daily "Koha Jone" quoted unnamed members of the group as saying that they will push for an extraordinary party congress soon. The move by the eight comes just over one month after Secretary-General Genc Pollo challenged Berisha for the party leadership at a national congress. Pollo withdrew his candidature shortly before the vote, however, saying that he had received threats against himself and his family. The proposals now put forward by the eight are similar to the ones that Pollo advanced before the congress.

Unnamed party officials supporting the reformers told "Koha Jone" that they intend to change the platform, statutes, and leadership of the party. They plan to achieve their aim by winning grassroots support from the rank and file.

It remains unclear if the challenge will succeed, but the reformers are already hard at work. They have begun to collect signatures at local party meetings throughout the country. The statutes stipulate that one-quarter of the PD members or the members of its National Council must request the holding of a congress.

"Koha Jone" also noted that the reformers have held frequent meetings with former Democratic Party members who previously quit the party because of Berisha's ever-growing authoritarian style. Since 1992, when the Democrats won parliamentary and presidential elections and put and end to the rule of the former communists, the PD has lost many of its co-founders and prominent leaders. Some of them founded a smaller, liberal-oriented center-right party, the Democratic Alliance. It is now in the Socialist-dominated coalition government. Others, like the young and energetic former party leader Eduard Selami, have retired from politics for the time being.

Selami has warned that the Democrats will isolate themselves if the party fails to reform from within. One of the eight reformers--legislator and former Foreign Relations Secretary Eduard Demi--takes a similar view. He told the "Albanian Daily News" that the PD is losing popular support. Demi stressed that it needs to change from within and to regain the "respect and credibility" it once enjoyed from the electorate. Demi said: "We want to gain back the people's belief in the PD in order to win the next elections," which are due in 2001. He added that the party is suffering from a "veil of ridicule that covers the PD in the eyes of the international community." By this he meant the frequent criticism by international officials of repeated parliamentary boycotts by the PD legislators and their lack of constructive participation in the drafting of new legislation.

The daily noted that the conflict between the reformers and the Berisha supporters became public when the former refused to boycott a parliamentary session in early November, at which the cabinet of newly-appointed Prime Minister Ilir Meta faced a vote of confidence.

This was a bold move, but the eight will need to win sufficient support from within the party or face the same fate as other Berisha challengers have in the past. Jemin Gjana, who is the pro-Berisha leader of the Democrats' parliamentary group, said that "those who do not see themselves in one party may join another party...or they can found a new party."

Another Berisha spokesman told the "Albanian Daily News" that the party leadership will exclude those deputies who attended the recent parliamentary session from running as Democrats in the next elections. He added that the eight "have excluded themselves by disobeying the leadership's orders [and by] caring only for their own interests."

Demi, however, countered that the party may only expel members who break with the party's political principles. He argued that "by attending the session, we respected our party's political line.... We expressed our opinion, and none of us approved the program of the Socialist Party government." He added that the harsh reaction from the party leadership "is emotional, and it comes out of desperation."

Another supporter of the reformers, Tirana mayor Albert Brojka, recently told Vienna's "Die Presse" that both Berisha and Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano are responsible for the polarization of Albanian political life. Brojka said that the two share a "communist mentality," and that time has come for younger people to come to the fore. (Fabian Schmidt)

Closing A Chapter On The Albanian Pyramid Schemes. Many of Albania's current troubles date from the collapse of get-rich-quick pyramid investment schemes in the spring of 1997. While the psychological, social, and economic damage resulting from the implosion may take years to overcome, the issue of the pyramids' assets may soon be settled.

Farudin Arapi is the government-appointed chief auditor, whose job includes selling off the assets of seven fraudulent pyramid investment schemes. He told "Zeri i Popullit" in Tirana on 9 November that his office will begin the process of paying money to cheated investors during the course of the month. The collapse of the pyramid investment companies, which paid huge interest rates by playing fast and loose with the deposits of new investors, triggered large-scale riots in the spring of 1997. This in turn led to widespread anarchy, the looting of military bases and arms depots, and the resignation of the PD government. To many observers, it appeared that most of Albania's progress since the fall of communism was destroyed in a few short weeks.

The Socialist-dominated coalition, which won the subsequent elections, appointed Arapi to track down and sell off the remaining assets from the companies. The first creditors to receive some of their money back will be those who paid into the five smaller schemes, whose assets have already been almost completely sold. To date, Arapi's office has successfully sold between 80 and 90 percent of the assets of those companies. The creditors will receive their share of the proceeds proportional to the size of their investments.

Compensation for the creditors who invested into Albania's largest pyramids--VEFA and Gjallica--will come later, however. Arapi noted that his office has been able to sell only between 40 and 50 percent of the assets of these two companies.

Arapi's discovery of the whereabouts of the assets did not come easily. He pointed out that investigators were able to track down money originating from three of the pyramid schemes in bank accounts in Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, and Italy. He did not elaborate. Arapi's office received substantial assistance from the New York-based auditing companies Deloitte & Touche, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The total revenue from the sale of assets is around $8 million, not including the unspecified sums found in the foreign bank accounts. Creditors are believed to have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the schemes. (Fabian Schmidt)

General Naumann Says Europe Must Learn From The Kosova Crisis. Germany's General Klaus Naumann played a key role in the NATO campaign that forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to stop his violent crackdown in Kosova. Now retired, Naumann says that Europe has a lot of work to do if it wants to be a serious player in future crises.

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 8 November from Washington that U.S. officials are not impressed by many of the capabilities the Europeans displayed during the springtime campaign. Four days later, the daily quoted Naumann in Essen as agreeing that Europe must put its house in order before the next conflict comes along.

The former general noted that the Europeans spend only 60 percent of what the Americans do on defense, but still manage to support 50 percent more military and civilian personnel. They nonetheless achieved only 10 percent of what the Americans did in terms of fighting capacity. He said that this much change quickly and on a European level, rather than on a national one.

His main argument is that European militaries must become leaner and more efficient. The kind of units that they field must be modern, specialized, and geared to the kind of threats that Europe is likely to face in the coming years. These include challenges emanating from terrorists and "premodern" rogue states, as well as from "modern and postmodern" sources of trouble.

A key area that Europe must attend to is modernizing its information gathering and communications. In this and in other fields, a division of labor between European countries is the only realistic approach, Naumann argued.

Going beyond purely military concerns, the former general stressed the Europe must learn to speak with one voice in foreign and security policy if it is to be taken seriously. It must also be prepared to use all means at its disposal, including military ones, to deal with crises. Naumann argued that both sticks and carrots are an integral part of crisis management, and that governments cannot afford to neglect one or the other. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations Of The Week. "I don't believe that the Interior Ministry will discover who tried to kill me." -- Independent Bosnian Serb journalist Zeljko Kopanja, who was the victim of a car bomb explosion in Banja Luka. He survived the attack but lost both his legs. Quoted in "Globus" of 12 November.

"I believe that Slobodan Milosevic himself is behind the attempt to kill me. [Bosnian Serb] Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said the same thing.... In our newspaper ["Nezavisne novine"], we have mentioned top officers in our articles about war crimes. This implicates the top command structures in the Army of the Republika Srpska and the Yugoslav Army General Staff. This also implicates Slobodan Milosevic, all of which interests the Hague tribunal." -- Kopanja, in the same article.

"I think that one and the same people ordered all of these unsolved murders in the Republika Srpska." -- Former Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, also cited in "Globus."

"The Serbs lose in war what they have achieved in peace." -- Historian Latinka Perovic, to RFE/RL's Omer Karabeg in a recent, rare interview. She was a prominent leader of the liberal wing of the League of Communists of Serbia, whom Tito purged in 1972 in favor of conservative former Partisans. Many observers feel that this marked the end of the last serious attempt at the reform of the Serbian party from within. Her remarks are a riposte to a famous comment by nationalist writer Dobrica Cosic, who said that the "Serbs lose in peace what they have won in war." The Karabeg-Perovic interview will be the subject of a longer article in an upcoming issue of "RFE/RL Balkan Report." (Patrick Moore)