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For information - not an official document

No. 53/99
Press Release


At the 22 July Friends of Albania (FOA) meeting in Brussels, interested governments and international organisations reviewed Albania's reform and development program in the aftermath of Kosovo. The FOA called for reinforced efforts to accelerate Albania's democratic and market reform and underscored the vital importance of strengthening public security and the fight against crime and corruption. They welcomed the return of the Democratic Party to Parliament and urged all Albanian political forces to work constructively together.

The Friends of Albania, an open-ended and informal group of interested Governments and international organisations, met at international level, in Brussels on 22 July, under the joint Chairmanship of the European Union Presidency and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, to discuss recent developments in Albania, and to review progress in implementing the Albanian Government?s Reform Programme since the Group last met in Vienna on 24 February 1999. The Albanian Foreign Minister, Mr Paskal Milo, accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Public Order and the Deputy Minister of Justice addressed the meeting.

The FoA expressed their high appreciation for the responsible and cooperative stance of the Albanian Government throughout the Kosovo crisis. They paid special tribute to the generous humanitarian response of the Albanian people, at collective and individual level, in giving refuge to over 450,000 displaced Kosovo Albanians.

The FoA welcomed confirmation at the meeting of the Government of Albania?s continuing commitment to its reform objectives, but concluded that progress was still insufficient, particularly in the law and order and anti corruption areas, on which their 24 February meeting had also focused.

The FoA recognised that the Government?s reform agenda had inevitably suffered as a result of the refugee emergency. They stressed, however, that early and concrete actions were now required, if Albania was to reap the benefits of peace and international goodwill, in terms of increased investment and accelerated international integration. Albania must not fail to take advantage of this historic ?window of opportunity?.

The FoA welcomed the Government?s intention to introduce a new State Police Law to restructure and professionalise the force. But concern was again expressed at the continuing problems of violent crime, illicit trafficking, illegal weapons, and the failure of the justice system to prosecute known criminals. It was recognised that considerable effort was now being mobilised by the new Public Order Minister, and this was strongly welcomed. The FoA stressed that the high expectations raised must not be frustrated.

The FoA welcomed the decision of the Democratic Party to end its one-year boycott of the Parliament, and appealed to all political parties to start working together, for the good of Albania.

The FoA noted that corruption and smuggling remained a critical problem, depriving the State of revenue, discouraging investment, and creating distrust between the citizen and State. The drafting of a revised Civil Service Law, providing for a professional and depoliticised Civil Service Commission was welcomed, and the Government was urged to implement it before summer. A number of reforms were noted in the Judiciary, as was the adoption by Customs of an anti-corruption and anti-smuggling Action Plan, with the assistance of the European Union?s CAM-Albania Mission. The FoA stressed the need for maximum transparency and accountability in the winding-up of the Pyramid Investment Schemes.

The FoA welcomed the improvement in Albania?s macro-economic performance, whilst expressing disappointment at the slow pace of privatisation, and failure to create an environment conducive to increased investment. Concern was also expressed at frequent delays in implementing donor projects, and the lack of managerial capacity in ministries to absorb and administer much of the increased international assistance.

The FoA launched urgent appeals to the international community for assistance in tackling the dangerous proliferation of mines on Albania?s northeastern border, and for support in establishing a destruction facility for the large quantities of unstable ordnance at storage sites throughout Albania.

The FoA reiterated their readiness, at international and local level, to continue their cooperation with Albania in pursuit of its reform objectives. They stressed that primary responsibility must, though, rest with the Albanian Government itself to take more concrete and determined action to tackle the outstanding problems, particularly on the law and order front, identified at this and earlier meetings.

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