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The seedy, possibly criminal, behavior of many of Albania's MPs is disturbing and does not bode well for democratic development. It is a widely held view throughout Albania that all parties have MPs with links to organized crime and accept money from organized crime. This is a very troubling phenomenon that we and the international community will have to address at some point in the future.

 

 

 

 

US embassy cable - 09TIRANA552


CRIMINALS MAKING THE LAWS IN ALBANIA\'S PARLIAMENT


Identifier:  09TIRANA552
Origin:  Embassy Tirana
Created:  2009-08-13 13:53:00
Classification:  
Tags: PGOV KDEM KCRM ASEC PHUM PREL AL  

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DE RUEHTI #0552/01 2251353
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8396
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 3586
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE IMMEDIATE 2527C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TIRANA 000552
 
SIPDIS
 
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2019
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, KCRM, ASEC, PHUM, PREL, AL
SUBJECT: CRIMINALS MAKING THE LAWS IN ALBANIA\'S PARLIAMENT
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN L. WITHERS II FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d
).
 
 1. (C) Despite the relative calm on Election Day, it has
very much come to our attention that there is a strong
undercurrent of people tied to organized crime that
participated and/or were involved in possibly manipulating
the June 28 elections.  The three major parties, the
Democratic Party (DP), the Socialist Party (SP) and the
Movement for Social Integration (LSI) all have MPs with links
to organized crime.  While Post cannot legally prove these
links, the conventional wisdom, backed by other reporting, is
that the new parliament has quite a few drug traffickers and
money launderers.  During the electoral campaign, one
politician, Alex Keka, a local head of the Christian
Democratic Party (CDP) in northern Albania, was even killed
by a car bomb.  Keka was suspected of being involved in the
trafficking of arms and narcotics.  (NOTE: Keka was not
running for Parliament, although other members of his party
were. END NOTE).
 
Law Breakers Turned Law Makers
------------------------------
 
2. (C) Some of the more noteworthy MPs with ties to organized
crime are:
 
-- Tom Doshi:  An SP MP from Shkoder, Doshi, singled out in
the Human Rights Report for physically assaulting a
journalist in the Sheraton Hotel, was a key figure in
financing SP electoral efforts.  He is known as the richest
MP, with a declared fortune of more than $15 million and is
also suspected of trafficking narcotics.  Doshi served in the
previous parliament as a DP MP, before switching sides to the
SP shortly before the election.
 
-- Lefter Koka:  Representing LSI from Durres, Koka is a
member of perhaps the most notorious organized crime family
in Albania, with ties to narcotics and human trafficking and
other illicit activities.
 
-- Sokol Oldashi:  Olldashi, the current Minister of Public
Works, Transport, and Telecommunication and DP MP from Fier,
is suspected of smuggling goods and narcotics.
Circumstantial evidence links Olldashi and Fatmir Kajolli in
Fier to Minister of Justice Enkelejd Alibeaj in a scheme to
release prisoners from jails to act as electoral bullies.
 
-- Lulzim Basha:  According to one SP source, FM Basha, who
represents the DP in Elbasan, was involved in facilitating
the release from prison of a notorious criminal in Elbasan in
return for support from the criminal\'s family.  Relatives of
the criminal promised to \"organize\" people in Elbasan to
support Basha.  The criminal was released on June 29, the day
after the elections.
 
-- Paulin Sterkaj:  The 48 year old DP MP from Shkoder is a
former professional wrestler with little to no formal
education.  Sterkaj was previously in the SP and has been
accused by a former friend of murdering a politician in
Shkoder a few years ago.  Sterkaj claims to have business
interests in oil, restaurants, and construction, but little
is known about his activities.
 
-- Gramoz Ruci: SP MP and party General Secretary, Ruci has
long-standing ties to narcotics traffickers and organized
crime.  Ruci has also been banned from entering the U.S.
since 2005 due to a permanent visa ineligibility.
 
3. (C) Comment:  Post is not sure which tack the ODIHR report
on the Albanian elections will take once released, but it is
widely accepted locally that many MPs posing as \"businessmen\"
are in fact strongly suspected of having ties to organized
crime.  These individuals are now MPs, have immunity under
the law, and are responsible for making the laws that will
propel Albania toward further Euro-Atlantic integration.  The
seedy, possibly criminal, behavior of many of Albania\'s MPs
is disturbing and does not bode well for democratic
development.  It is a widely held view throughout Albania
that all parties have MPs with links to organized crime and
accept money from organized crime.  This is a very troubling
phenomenon that we and the international community will have
to address at some point in the future. One bright spot,
however, is that there are a few MPs who have begun to
recognize that Albania should not have such
characters represented in its parliament.  How long it will
take though to remove these ruffians from power though is
another question.  After all, money is the lifeblood of
politics, and in a poor country with no campaign finance
 
TIRANA 00000552  002 OF 002
 
 
transparency or tradition of small donors supporting their
favorite candidates, criminals are an easy source of campaign
funds.
WITHERS

 

 

US embassy cable - 09TIRANA686


BERISHA: FLIRTING WITH GREATER ALBANIA?

Identifier:  09TIRANA686
Origin:  Embassy Tirana
Created:  2009-10-15 09:16:00
Classification:  
Tags: PGOV PREL PINS KV AL  

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DE RUEHTI #0686/01 2880916
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY  ADX C58E71/AMG4474)
R 150916Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8529
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000686
 
SIPDIS
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (TEXT - PARA 7)
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2019
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINS, KV, AL
SUBJECT: BERISHA: FLIRTING WITH GREATER ALBANIA?
 
Classified By: Ambassador John L. Withers II for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).
 
1. (C) Summary: A series of public comments by Prime Minister
Sali Berisha since August about \"uniting the Albanian nation\"
have caused concern throughout the region.  While the
government assured Post that it had no intention of seeking
the territorial unity of Albania and Kosovo, an early October
op-ed by a media commentator close to Berisha calling for
just that added fuel to the fire.  In a private meeting with
Berisha, the Ambassador warned the PM of the dangers of such
statements and urged him to use his October 6-7 trip to
Pristina to clarify Albania\'s position.  Subsequently, in
public statements during his trip to Pristina, Berisha stated
unequivocally that Albania respects Kosovo\'s territorial
sovereignty and that Albania and Kosovo are \"one nation, but
two states.\"  He stressed that any integration of Kosovo and
Albania would be in harmony with the ideals of integration
into the European Union. While some critics see more devious
designs behind Berisha\'s initial comments, most believe they
simply reflect Berisha\'s clumsy attempts to become the \"Elder
Statesman\" of the regional Albanian community.  One good
side-effect of the incident is a renewed effort by FM Ilir
Meta to improve relations with Serbia.  End Summary.
 
\"ONE ALBANIAN NATION\"
---------------------
 
2. (U) In early August, Berisha took his first probing steps
into the waters of Kosovo politics when he met with the
leaders of two Kosovar political parties and signed
memorandums of cooperation with them. The parties - the
Alliance for Kosovo\'s Future (AAK) and the Democratic League
of Kosovo (LDK) - were both seen as rivals to Kosovo Prime
Minister Hashim Thaci\'s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK).  In
light of the upcoming local elections in Kosovo, some critics
cried foul and blamed Berisha for taking sides in Kosovo\'s
politics.
 
3. (SBU) PM Advisors have told Poloff that Berisha sees
himself as a type of mentor or elder statesmen for Albanian
politicians in Kosovo and Macedonia.  According to these
advisors, the PM is intent on playing a balanced hand in
Kosovo\'s politics and thus, Berisha was obviously stung by
critics\' complaints.  Many believe a controversial mid-August
interview given to a Kosovar media outlet was an attempt by
Berisha to answer these criticisms.  In the interview, he
stressed that he is open to cooperation with any and all
political parties in Kosovo.  However, he went on to call for
the \"union of the Albanian nation and the removal of the
consequences of its unjust division.\"  He laid out his desire
to remove all barriers to the freedom of movement of goods
and people across the Albania-Kosovo border and to harmonize
all legislation between the two countries so that an Albanian
from Albania and Kosovo \"truly feel one.\"
 
4. (SBU) The Serbian government immediately protested
Berisha\'s comments as provocative and \"a violation of the
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of
Serbia.\"  On August 19, then-Albanian Foreign Minister Lulzim
Basha officially replied to Serbia\'s complaints, noting that
Berisha\'s comments did not have to do with the territorial
union of Kosovo and Albania, but with the European Union
ideals of integration.  The MFA also privately assured Post
that there had been no change in Albanian policy on Kosovo
and its respect for Kosovo\'s sovereignty and territorial
integrity.
 
\"TWO SEPARATE STATES\"
---------------------
 
5. (U) In September, Berisha continued his meetings with
various political parties from Kosovo, including the New
Alliance for Kosovo (ARK) and the Liberal Party of Kosovo
(PLK).  He also announced his intention to visit Pristina on
October 6-7.  The trip was Berisha\'s first to Kosovo since it
declared independence, and some have criticized the visit as
belated.
 
6. (U) In the lead-up to Berisha\'s visit to Pristina, Blendi
Fevziu, a well-known pro-government commentator rumored to be
very close to Berisha published an op-ed in a pro-government
newspaper criticizing the taboo against speaking of \"Greater
Albania.\"  He went on to state that the unification of Kosovo
and Albania are inevitable and he urged Albanians to not fear
championing unification.  An op-ed of this nature from
someone close to Berisha on the eve of Berisha\'s trip to
Kosovo caused some concern.
 
7. (C) In a private meeting with Berisha on October 5,
Ambassador Withers raised these concerns.  He noted that the
Serbs are particularly sensitive to any suggestion of a
\"Greater Albania\" and that raising this issue would
complicate our efforts to advance peace and stability in the
region.  The Ambassador urged Berisha to use his trip to
Kosovo to clarify Albania\'s support for Kosovo\'s sovereignty.
 Berisha responded that his public comments had been
misunderstood and that he had never called for unifying the
states of Albania and Kosovo.  His concept of unity could
only be realized in the context of both states\' integration
into Europe.  In a separate meeting, FM Ilir Meta stressed
that Albania\'s policy toward Kosovo\'s sovereignty and
territorial integrity had not changed.
 
8. (U) During Berisha\'s visit to Pristina, Berisha was
careful to stress in public statements that Albania and
Kosovo are one nation, but two states, and that Albania did
not seek to unify its territory with Kosovo\'s.  In an
interview with a German newspaper, Berisha stressed that
ideas of a \"Greater Albania\" are \"old and archaic.\" He went
on to state \"close cooperation between two states does not
mean unification.\"
 
COMMENT
------
 
9. (C) Although this most recent revival of Greater Albania
seems extinguished for now, speculation is rife as to
Berisha\'s motives.  Some claim it was a trial balloon to test
international reaction.  Others say it was a response to
recent harsh treatment of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia
(refs) and to recent Greek minority demands for more
privileges.  Socialist Party member and former Foreign
Minister Kastriot Islami claimed Berisha is competing with
Skenderbeg for the title of Albanian national hero.  Others
argue that having achieved NATO membership and Kosovo
independence and having put Albania on the road to European
Union membership, Berisha has no great achievements left
except the unification of Albanians under one state.
 
10. (C) More plausibly, several advisors to Berisha have told
poloff of Berisha\'s desire to play the role of elder
statesman and to reach out to Albanian politicians throughout
the region.  PM Advisor Glori Husi noted Berisha\'s desire to
use ethnic Albanian links throughout the region as a catalyst
for regional integration with Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro,
and even Serbia, and in this way to bring the region closer
to the European Union.  Yet when the maladroit formation of
this policy caused fears of \"Greater Albania\" among
neighbors, the Berisha government found itself backpedaling
and justifying.  One good outcome from this misunderstanding
is a renewed initiative by new Foreign Minister Ilir Meta to
reach out to Serbia.  During an October conference in
Hungary, Meta met with his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic
and held a joint conference in which he announced that
Jeremic had invited him to pay an official visit to Belgrade,
which Meta had accepted.
WITHERS

 


US embassy cable - 09TIRANA727

(C) DEMARCHE ON IRANIAN ACTIVITIES IN ALBANIA


Identifier:  09TIRANA727
Origin:  Embassy Tirana
Created:  2009-11-10 15:56:00
Classification:  
Tags: PREL PGOV PTER IR AL  

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FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8583
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3600
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITYC O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000727
 
SIPDIS
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, IR, AL


SUBJECT: (C) DEMARCHE ON IRANIAN ACTIVITIES IN ALBANIA
 
REF: EUR/SCE-TIRANA NOVEMBER 10 EMAIL
 
Classified By: DCM Deborah A. Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
 
 1. (C) On November 11 DCM delivered reftel points to Deputy
Foreign Minister Edith Harxhi.  Harxhi agreed fully with U.S.
concerns regarding proposed trade and cultural agreements
between the governments of Iran and Albania and direct
commercial air traffic between Tehran and Tirana.
 
2.  (C) Deputy Minister Harxhi assured the DCM that Albania
will not sign the cultural or trade agreements with Iran.
She also said that the MFA will weigh in with the Albanian
Civil Aviation Authority against approval of direct flights
between Tehran and Tirana.  Harxhi said that the flights
cannot commence without MFA concurrence, and assured DCM that
such approval will be denied.  According to Harxhi, Albanian
Airlines is expected to present a proposal on the flights
soon, at which time she said the approval will be denied.
 
3.  (C) COMMENT: Iran\'s new activism in Albania is worrisome,
particularly in light of the country\'s weakened coalition
government and the open desire of certain new ministers (e.g.
Minister of the Economy Dritan Prifti) to utilize their
positions to replenish their personal coffers.  This makes
them vulnerable to Iranian emissaries with plenty of cash on
hand.  We need be in no doubt about Deputy FM Harxhi\'s
assurances to oppose Tehran\'s new initiatives.  Nevertheless,
we will have to remain vigilant against continued Iranian
attempts to establish footholds in Albania.  END COMMENT.
 
 
 
WITHERS


US embassy cable - 10TIRANA86

COURT NULLIFIES ALBANIAN-GREEK SEA AGREEMENT

Identifier:  10TIRANA86
Origin:  Embassy Tirana
Created:  2010-02-12 12:38:00
Classification:  
Tags: PREL PGOV AL  

VZCZCXYZ0006
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DE RUEHTI #0086/01 0431238
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8816
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE IMMEDIATE 2555
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 3611
C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000086
 
SIPDIS
C O R R E C T E D COPY TEXT
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, AL
SUBJECT: COURT NULLIFIES ALBANIAN-GREEK SEA AGREEMENT
 
REF: 2009 TIRANA 271
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN WITHERS FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d).
 
1. (C) Summary:  On January 26, the Constitutional Court in a
9-0 opinion ruled that the April 2009 treaty between Greece
and Albania regarding the southern coastline was
unconstitutional.  The opinion has not yet been released, but
the Court said in a statement that it found \"substantive and
procedural\" problems with the agreement.  The 9-0 opinion was
surprising as things are rarely unanimous in Albania, and the
GOA had strongly and publicly defended the treaty when it
first came under public fire.  A Greek diplomat said he was
\"disappointed\" in the ruling and suggested some \"quid pro
quo\" would be in the works as Albania still needs Greece for
many of the issues it is trying to tackle.  End summary.
 
2. (C) On January 26, the Constitutional Court in a 9-0
opinion struck down Albania\'s April 2009 treaty with Greece
regarding the southern coast of Albania.  The treaty, which
was signed last April in Tirana, came during the first visit
of a Greek PM to Albania since 1992, and was as praised by
the Greeks as it was panned by the Albanian media (reftel).
Nearly every day since the treaty was signed, left leaning
Gazeta Shqiptare published articles condemning the treaty,
labeling it as biased, unfair, illegal, and unconstitutional.
 The opposition Socialist Party then asked the Constitutional
Court to review the treaty.  The Constitutional Court, it
seems, agreed. However it has not published its reasoning
yet, saying only that \"procedural and substantive\" issues
were violated by the treaty. Most observers expect the
Court\'s opinion to be published next week.
 
3. (C) Dr. Albert Rekipi of the Albanian Institute for
Strategic Studies blamed the lack of GOA transparency for the
dim view of the treaty.  Rekipi said the GOA tried to ram the
treaty through parliament and did not solicit support or
advice from the opposition on what he termed a \"national
issue, Albania\'s land.\" He also questioned whether or not the
MFA even had the necessary experts to negotiate such a
treaty.  Rekipi said the 9-0 ruling was extraordinary as the
court rarely rules unanimously on anything.  The highly
unusual nature of the ruling has bred enormous speculation.
Another observer suggested that the Court had to have had the
clearance from PM Sali Berisha to make such a ruling since
the terms of a few judges on the court expire soon and they
would not want to jeopardize future appointments from the PM
by going against Berisha\'s will. One long-time expat legal
expert told PolOff that a 9-0 ruling by the court against the
treaty \"is inconceivable\" unless the court received at least
tacit approval by the GOA to reject the treaty.  Grumblings
over the treaty have also been heard from the military.
Observers widely speculated that the treaty was a quid pro
quo for Greek support for NATO and the Stabilization and
Association Agreement (SAA).
 
4. (C) Ioannis Vikelidis of the Greek Embassy told poloff
that the Constitutional Court\'s decision was \"disappointing,\"
adding that, from his point of view, the Greeks reached a
binding agreement with Albania.  However, Vikelidis said the
Greeks will respect the ruling of the Court.  He said the
Albanian negotiators were the \"cream of the crop\" for Albania
with legal, maritime, and military experts on hand during the
negotiations and therefore if a new agreement must be
reached, the Greeks would likely insist on a new composition
of the Albanian side.  He also vaguely suggested a \"quid pro
quo\" for Albania, remarking that Albania has many issues on
its plate that require  Greek assent and/or assistance.  He
also pointed out that the Albanian side has not ratified the
treaty concerning Greek cemeteries in Albania either, despite
having had plenty of time to do so.  (NOTE: The cemeteries
would be for the remains of Greek soldiers killed in Albania
during WWII.  END NOTE).  He also lamented the role of the
media in the process, noting that it has fanned the flames of
discontent and reported irresponsibly on this matter.  He too
expected the opinion to be released in a few weeks, ample
time he said, for some \"cooking\" of the opinion.  He
questioned the precedent and example Albania is setting,
saying that it should honor its agreements. Former Greek
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who was FM at the time of
the treaty negotiations, said publicly that the annulment of
the treaty was sought by \"extremist\" groups and said SP
leader Edi Rama joined those groups in opposing the treaty
and therefore bears some responsibility for this decision.
 
5. (C) Responding to the Court\'s decision, Deputy Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister Ilir Meta affirmed the
government\'s respect for the Court\'s decision, and the GOA\'s
intention to respond to the Court\'s arguments once the full
 
decision is released.  Further clarification on the sea
borders with Greece and Montenegro remains a high priority
for the GOA as it is a step towards Albania\'s EU membership,
according to Meta.  Meta also commented on the importance of
Greek-Albanian relations, saying Greece remains one of the
principal supporters of Albania\'s European integration and
visa liberalization processes.  Meta also cited the almost 1
million Albanians who live in Greece, and Greece\'s \"firm
support\" for Albania,s NATO membership.
 
6. (C) Comment:  Last spring it seemed the Greeks and
Albanians had ironed out all their differences.  With the
visit of then-PM Karamanlis and the signing of the sea and
cemetery agreements, it seemed a new day had dawned.  Ten
months later, with one agreement declared unconstitutional
and the other not ratified, the two sides appear to be back
where they where they were before, suspicious and untrusting
of one another, yet needing one another as well.  The Court\'s
9-0 ruling is a rare show of harmony in this otherwise
rabidly partisan political environment.  Numerous observers
have told Post that the GOA was caught off guard by the
public backlash against the treaty, and may have nudged the
Constitutional Court towards rejecting the treaty as a way of
limiting the domestic political damage, while at the same
time saving face with Greece. Vikelidis was clearly miffed
during the meeting and his tone was ominous as he pointed out
that Albania still needs Greece for many things it is trying
to achieve.  How this will play out is uncertain right now,
but it seems that the Albanian-Greek relationship is back to
where it usually is: tense and complicated.
WITHERS


US embassy cable - 09TIRANA812

BERISHA VS. RAMA: NO END IN SIGHT


Identifier:  09TIRANA812
Origin:  Embassy Tirana
Created:  2009-12-18 15:00:00
Classification:  
Tags: PREL PGOV PINS KDEM PHUM AL  

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3605
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2549
C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000812
 
SIPDIS
 
C O R R E C T E D   C O P Y  (GARBLED TEXT)
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/18/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PINS, KDEM, PHUM, AL
SUBJECT: BERISHA VS. RAMA: NO END IN SIGHT
 
Classified By: BY CDA DEBORAH A. JONES, REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d).
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY: After three weeks of increasingly sharp
rhetoric and provocative actions, neither Prime Minister
Berisha nor opposition Socialist Party (SP) Chairman Edi Rama
appear willing to enter into dialogue with one another or to
extend any kind of olive branch in an effort to end the
current political impasse.  On the contrary, both sides
appear to believe that they are winning, and see concessions
or dialogue as unnecessary or signs of weakness.  In the past
week, rhetoric and threatened actions have only intensified,
with the GOA increasing pressure on prominent businessmen
closely tied to Rama and threatening impeachment proceedings
against him, and Rama threatening to continue demonstrations
into to 2010 \"leading to Berisha\'s removal from office.\"  It
is still unclear at this point whether either Rama or Berisha
have a real strategy going forward, or whether both are
simply improvising tactics as they go along with no clear
goal in mind.  Although the political stalemate appears
likely to continue for the foreseeable future, most observers
discount the possibility of political violence or civil
unrest.  END SUMMARY.
 
Both Sides Upping the Ante. . .
-------------------------------
 
2.  (C)  Almost immediately following the SP\'s November 20
demonstration, at which the SP first began calling for early
elections, PM Berisha ordered his Democratic Party to sharpen
political rhetoric at all levels in its verbal attacks on the
SP (led by the PM himself, who in a fiery speech in
Parliament named numerous SP MPs and SP-linked businessmen as
members of a \"builders mafia\").  At the same time, the GOA
has put pressure on many of Rama\'s major financial backers
through stricter enforcement of tax and building codes,
including the partial demolition by construction authorities
of a building owned by the brother of an SP MP.  (NOTE: The
GOA claims that the structure was built illegally.  END
NOTE).  On December 8, the GOA staged a large rally,
ostensibly to mark the 19th anniversary of the founding of
the student movement that eventually toppled the communist
government in 1991.  However, DP MPs told PolOff that the
primary goal of the rally was to \"show GOA resolve\" in the
face of SP protests and calls for early elections and prove
to the SP that the DP/GOA could itself stage large rallies in
Tirana.
 
3.  (C) For its part, the SP has also upped the ante in
recent weeks, largely dropping previous calls for opening
contested ballot boxes from the parliamentary elections and
instead calling for early elections and vowing to topple the
Berisha government via these early elections.  The new SP
motto in recent weeks has become \"Open the Boxes or Leave!\"
The SP has also sharpened its rhetoric against PM Berisha in
recent weeks, engaging in a tit-for-tat exchange of petty
insults and charges of corruption with the DP.  On December
14, Rama told an SP rally in Durres that SP protests will
continue into 2010, leading to \"Berisha\'s removal from
office\" (presumably via early elections). The SP boycott of
parliament, now in its fourth month, shows no sign of ending
soon, with observers from all sides telling PolOff that the
boycott could easily last for many more months, if not until
the 2011 local elections.  During a December 9 meeting with
Ambassador Withers, Rama expressed the view that the SP\'s
boycott and protest strategy was becoming increasingly
effective in putting pressure on the PM.
 
4.  (C) During a December 16 meeting with PolOff, Erion
Veliaj (head of the SP allied G-99 party and very close to
Rama) told PolOff that GOA efforts to pressure Rama\'s
financial backers are taking a toll, claiming that Rama\'s
finances were drying up as SP-linked businesses pull back
support.  However, Veliaj added, Berisha\'s attacks had also
convinced Rama that the boycott and protest strategy was
gaining traction, with Rama believing that Berisha\'s
steadfast refusal to open the ballot boxes means Berisha has
something to hide.  Veliaj said that even if Berisha were to
make real concessions at this point, Rama would likely press
ahead with demonstrations and stronger calls for early
elections in the belief that \"the SP has no other option.\"
 
 
. . .But to What End?
---------------------
 
5.  (C) What Rama actually hopes to achieve from his \"boycott
and protest\" strategy remains unclear.  Rama and his
supporters continue to claim (as they have from the
beginning) that the boycott and demonstrations will continue
until the GOA agrees to numerous demands, including opening
contested ballot boxes from the parliamentary elections in
order to fully investigate alleged electoral fraud.  The GOA,
for its part, says it will meet any and all SP demands except
the opening of ballot boxes, claiming that to do so is
illegal (a view ODIHR informally agrees with).  (COMMENT: The
SP claims of fighting for \"transparency\" are almost certainly
disingenuous.  Numerous sources have told PolOff that opening
the boxes would likely prove nothing, but would in fact
expose many minor irregularities such as missing voter
signatures from some voter lists that while having no effect
on the election outcome, would serve to cast doubt on the
election results and back up SP claims that the parliament
elected in June is \"illegitimate\".  The sad fact is that much
if not most electoral fraud committed during the
parliamentary elections was done via SP-DP collusion at the
expense of the smaller parties.  Observers from all sides,
including the SP, have told PolOff that the SP cannot expose
serious DP electoral fraud without also implicating itself,
and that the call to open the ballot boxes is little more
than a red herring.  END COMMENT).
 
6.  (C) Former Foreign Minister and SP MP Kastriot Islami (a
critic of Rama\'s) told PolOff that Rama has two goals: to try
and take power via early elections; and/or find a way of
strengthening his position as he approaches what is certain
to be a tough re-election campaign for Mayor of Tirana in
2011.  DP MP Ilir Rusmajli agreed in part with Islami\'s
assessment, saying that calls for early elections are mainly
red meat to fire up the SP base and that Rama has no
reasonable expectation of ever actually getting to early
elections.  Rusmajli claimed Rama\'s main goal is to obstruct
the work of the parliament and create a crisis atmosphere in
order to damage DP election prospects in 2011.  Islami
lamented to PolOff on December 15 that no matter Rama\'s real
goals - whether early elections or a stronger position for
2011 or both - no one, be they the international community or
PM Berisha, can or will deliver on them, meaning Rama will
either push harder and risk a more dangerous political crisis
to achieve them, or face an embarrassing defeat.
 
7.  (C) It is also unclear what Berisha\'s goals and strategy
are at this point.  Numerous sources have told PolOff that
since the November 20 SP rally, Berisha appears to be fueled
by little more than rage at the SP and Rama over calls for
early elections and Rama\'s refusal to end the boycott.
(NOTE: Berisha\'s reaction is all the more curious in that for
nearly three months, the PM largely avoided provocative
language or actions in response to the SP boycott, with the
GOA mainly sticking to legalistic arguments as to why ballot
boxes cannot be opened, and avoiding the personal attacks
that have figured prominently in DP rhetoric in recent weeks.
 Nevertheless, Berisha is well-practiced in the art of slash
and burn politics, and all too often his default response to
pressure is to try and destroy his opponent.  END NOTE)  DP
MPs told PolOff that many in the DP believe the DP\'s
relatively low-key initial reaction to the boycott only
encouraged the SP to become more aggressive in its demands.
Islami speculated that Berisha perhaps hopes to cut off
Rama\'s bases of support by going after SP-linked oligarchs
and wealthy SP MPs in an effort to weaken Rama.  Rusmajli
essentially confirmed this view, telling PolOff that Berisha
sees the SP today not as the SP of old, but as a party
dominated by builders and other businessmen that control Edi
Rama.  Rusmajli speculated that Berisha was going after these
businesspeople \"because they dominate Edi Rama.\"
 
Internationals To the Rescue?
-----------------------------
 
8.  (C) During a December 11 dinner with PolOff and an OSCE
rep, two SP MPs close to Rama insisted repeatedly that the SP
and DP cannot resolve this stalemate on their own and that
intervention by the internationals was the only solution.
When asked what the SP hoped to achieve by internationalizing
the dispute, neither MP could answer.  In a separate meeting
with PolOff, Kastriot Islami agreed, saying that Rama and
some around him have deluded themselves into believing that
international intervention could somehow lead to early
elections or other major concessions to the SP by Berisha.
Islami claimed any hint of impending intervention will only
cause Rama to become even more intransigent, as Rama would
see this as legitimizing his \"obstruct and boycott\" campaign.
 
 
Little Fear of Violence, but Political Stalemate Continues
--------------------------------------------- ----------
 
9.  (C) Observers on all sides dismissed fears of widespread
civil disorder or violence resulting from the political
standoff.  Both Rusmajli and Islami told PolOff that Rama\'s
ability to cause instability is limited in that SP actions
and protests are not gaining any following outside of the SP
base.  Both agreed, however, that continued demonstrations
and the boycott could cause an ongoing political crisis and
stalemate.  In recent weeks the SP appears to have backed off
of plans to order SP-led municipalities to shut down services
to the public out of fear of public backlash or possible
criminal prosecution.  And so far, none of the oft-rumored
\"provocations\" by the SP in hopes of prompting an
overreaction by the GOA or police have come to pass.
Nevertheless, with neither side willing to ratchet back
rhetoric, and SP demonstrations taking place nearly daily, it
would only take one incident to potentially touch off a
physical confrontation between the two parties.
 
COMMENT: Albania\'s Two-Man Political System
-------------------------------------------
 
10.  (C) The current standoff is an unfortunate but
predictable result of the Electoral Code passed nearly one
year ago, which effectively sidelined nearly all of Albania\'s
smaller political parties and created a de facto two party
system.  But because Rama and Berisha so dominate their
respective parties, Albania has become in effect less a
two-party than a two-man political system, with the entire
structure held hostage by the whims and emotions of Sali
Berisha and Edi Rama.
 
11.  (C) COMMENT CONT\'D: At this point, neither side appears
willing either to ratchet back tensions or make the first
effort towards real dialogue.  Although it is unclear whether
either Berisha or Rama have any real long-term strategy, both
appear to believe that they are winning and thus see no need
for concessions or dialogue.  It is possible that after a few
more weeks of flailing away at each other, both Rama and
Berisha will get winded and become more open to finding a
resolution, although the opposite case - that tensions will
continue to go only higher with both sides escalating the
dispute - is probably just as likely, at least in the short
to mid term.  In a recent development, Foreign Minister and
leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) Ilir
Meta said publicly on December 17 that a meeting between
Berisha and Rama would be \"positive.\"  We do know that Meta
has disagreed privately with the current trajectory of the
political dialogue.  We should be under no illusions that the
dispute will burn itself out anytime soon.  Bare knuckles
politics is the Albanian norm, and both sides appear, at
least for now, to have painted themselves into respective
corners via their rash actions and harsh rhetoric.


JONES

 

 


US embassy cable - 10TIRANA65


PRESIDENT TOPI: PRESSURE ON INDEPENDENT INSTITUTIONS GROWING


Identifier:  10TIRANA65
Origin:  Embassy Tirana
Created:  2010-01-29 10:45:00
Classification:  
Tags: PGOV PREL PHUM PINS PINR KJUS AL  

VZCZCXRO1265
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTI #0065/01 0291045
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291045Z JAN 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8787
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3609
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2553
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0858
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITYC O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TIRANA 000065
 
SIPDIS
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2020
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, PINS, PINR, KJUS, AL
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT TOPI: PRESSURE ON INDEPENDENT
INSTITUTIONS GROWING
 
Classified By: Ambassador John L. Withers, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
 
 1. (C) During a January 27 meeting with Ambassador Withers,
President Topi expressed deep concern over mounting GOA
pressure on independent institutions, including Office of the
Prosecutor General, the intelligence service, the media, and
the courts.  Topi said the opposition boycott of Parliament
was holding up much-needed judicial reforms - reforms that
need 84 votes to pass in the parliament.  Topi also lamented
the \"absence of a professional political opposition\" in
Albania, saying that he cannot take on the role himself.
Topi said his ability to mediate the ongoing political
standoff between the GOA and opposition Socialist Party is
limited because the ruling Democratic Party (DP) will not
accept Topi as a mediator.  Ambassador Withers said he shared
Topi\'s concerns over pressure on independent institutions. He
told Topi that Topi and other Albanians must stand up and
speak out on Albanian democracy to a much greater extent than
at present.  The international community can support Albanian
actions, but cannot speak on behalf of or in place of the
Albanians themselves.  The Ambassador also underlined the
strong U.S. support for the upcoming Council of Europe effort
to mediate between the GOA and SP.  END SUMMARY.
 
Pressure on Institutions \"At Maximum Level\"
-------------------------------------------
 
2.  (C) President Topi opened the meeting by thanking the
Ambassador for U.S. assistance with the floods in northern
Albania.  Topi said that theAbassador\'s trip to survey
lodafce ra lng with Topi had provided \"
scooia oost to the victims of the floodn. h
mbassador aid the U.S. would look atwy oprovide
futer assistance if needed.
 
. (C) Topi saidta political pressur\"e on independent
instituin hs\" reached a maximum level,\" including
inreased r\"essure on the Presidency itself.  Topi said he
would continue to \"carefully press\" his message of tee
importance of independent institutions.  Later  in a quiet
pull aside following the meeting, Topi urged the Ambassador
to meet \"one on one\" with Prosecutor General Ina Rama,
telling the Ambassador that \"Mrs. Rama needs the support.\"
Nevertheless, Topi said that in the absence of an active
opposition, he is limited in what he can do to defend
independent institutions, adding \"the President cannot play
the role of the opposition.\"
 
Draft Intel Law a Throwback to Hoxha Era
----------------------------------------
 
4.  (C) Topi echoed the Ambassador\'s concerns about the draft
Intelligence Law, adding and said the \"reformed\" intelligence
service envisioned in the draft reminded him of Albania\'s
much feared communist-era Sigurimi.  However, Topi admitted
that his office has yet to receive a copy of the draft and
has yet to formally review the entire law.  Topi said that he
had done his utmost since his election to defend the
independence and professionalism of the intelligence service,
and said he would insist on having a say on the draft bill.
 
Judicial Sector Reforms Stalled
-------------------------------
 
5.  (C) Topi said that much-needed judicial sector reforms,
as well as key nominations to the High Court and other
courts, are being held up by the SP boycott of parliament.
Topi said that because most laws affecting the judicial
sector require a 3/5 majority in the parliament, passage of
key reforms was impossible while the SP boycott continues.
Topi added that although approval of High Court judges
requires only a simple majority vote, he is reluctant to
submit nominees for approval until the SP returns to
parliament, as Topi wants the SP to be part of the approval
process and wants to avoid the appearance of only one party
approving nominees to the High Court and Constitutional
Court.
 
6.  (C) Topi agreed in principle to the Ambassador\'s
suggestion that Topi form a bi-partisan judicial commission
that would help select the most highly qualified people to
fill a number of upcoming vacancies on the High Court (2
vacancies) and Constitutional Court (6 vacancies).  He also
agreed, albeit reluctantly, with he Ambassador\'s support for
 
TIRANA 00000065  002 OF 002
 
 
the COE proposal to facilitate discussions between the DP and
SP to end the boycott, which calls for the President to
mediate.  He complained, however, that the DP did not want
him involved, but backed off a bit when the Ambassador
pointed to his constitutional role in such matters.
 
7.  (C) COMMENT: Topi echoed many of our concerns about the
Intelligence Law and independent institutions, but, as has
often happened in the past, said he has little power to
change the political dynamic or defend institutions against
the encroachments of the PM.  Nevertheless, Topi\'s concerns
over political pressure being placed on the Prosecutor
General and SHISH should not be discounted - Topi is
well-connected in both institutions, and he retains
considerable constitutional authority over the judicial
sector, prosecutors and SHISH.  Topi has in the past at times
worked effectively to protect his own interests and
prerogatives in the judicial sector and SHISH, although it
remains to be seen whether he will be able and willing to do
so this time.  Topi\'s support for a bi-partisan commission to
assist with the selection of judges is a positive sign, and
one we should encourage.  With so many openings on the High
Court and Constitutional Court in the coming months, Topi\'s
willingness to fight, along with a judicial commission that
lends weight to the judicial selection process, could prove
key in fending off any attempt by the PM to stack the two
courts with cronies.  As for the boycott, the EU Ambassadors
will demarche Topi on January 29 with a message very similar
to that of the Ambassador\'s.


WITHERS

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (7 posted)

avatar
Benn 03 September, 2011 06:30:48
US embassy cable - 09TIRANA511

INTERNAL SP RUMBLINGS ON EVE OF GATHERING

Identifier: 09TIRANA511

Origin: Embassy Tirana

Created: 2009-07-28 08:41:00
Classification:
Tags: PGOV KDEM PREL AL

VZCZCXRO7929
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTI #0511/01 2090841
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 280841Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8353
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE IMMEDIATE 2521
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 3580C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TIRANA 000511

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2019
TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, PREL, AL
SUBJECT: INTERNAL SP RUMBLINGS ON EVE OF GATHERING

Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN L. WITHERS II FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d
).

1. (C) Summary: On July 28, in anticipation of the Central
Election Commission (CEC) announcing the results of the last
three regions, Tirana, Fier, and Shokdra on July 27, the SP
will convene to determine its next steps. Mayor of Tirana
and SP Party Chairman Edi Rama told Ambassador that the SP
will enter Parliament, but will continue to voice its deep
concerns about the election process. Other sources have said
that in tomorrow,s assembly, Rama will state that the
elections were irregular, manipulated, and the SP does not
recognize their results. Regardless, the SP will enter
Parliament (i.e. no boycott) but will press for early
elections, according to Rama. One SP strategist said Rama
made all the wrong moves in the elections, but agreed that
his grip on the party remains strong, despite the public
grumbling from some members. According to another, the two
major reasons for the SP loss were the failure of the SP and
LSI to enter a coalition together and weak candidates, many
of whom appeared to have only one qualification for office:
loyalty to Rama. End summary.

2. (C) On July 28, the SP will convene in anticipation of the
the Central Election Commission\'s (CEC) certifying of the
three final districts, Tirana, Fier, and Shkoder on July 27.
The other nine regions have had their results certified
previously. This assembly, according to SP MP and strategist
Ben Blushi, will help determine the SP,s next steps in the
electoral process. Blushi and most other observers Post has
spoken with, including Electoral College judges, agree that
the elections will be over on by August 1 in accordance with
the Electoral Code statute that gives parties five days after
all the districts are certified to appeal the distribution of
the mandates by the CEC. (Note: Albania has a regional
proportional system so votes are allocated accordingly. End
note.) The assembly will open with a speech by Rama in which
he will outline his plans and then a discussion will ensue
and finally the SP will vote on how to move forward. Usually
in these sessions, according to Blushi, the media is present
for the opening speeches and then asked to leave once they
are completed, however Blushi said he will urge for full
media coverage throughout the meeting. (Note: The assembly
is composed of the SP MPs and representatives from the
regions. End note.)

3. (C) Blushi told Poloff on July 25 that the main item of
discussion for the SP assembly is whether or not to not
recognize the election results and/or boycott the new
parliament. In a meeting with Ambassador on July 27, Rama
said that the SP will enter Parliament, but will continue to
make its complaints about the process known. Post has also
learned that the main points of Rama,s speech will be that:
the elections were irregular and manipulated, the SP does not
recognize their results but the SP will be present in
Parliament (i.e. no boycott) in order to investigate the
\"crimes\" of June 28, and finally the SP will demand early
elections in order to restore \"legitimacy\" to the Parliament.
The Assembly will probably vote for whatever outcome Rama
desires since, according to Blushi and others, Rama has
installed a large majority of loyalists in the SP.

WE LOST THE ELECTION
--------------------

4. (C) Speaking more generally, Blushi said that the
elections are over and the SP should accept its loss and move
on. He did not think that the appeals for Fier, Berat, and
other regions would have had much of an impact; the SP simply
lost the election. He cited two major reasons for the SP
failure: candidates and coalitions. Many of the candidates,
the vast majority of whom were selected personally by Rama
with little or no consultation, were not suitable for office
and their only qualification was a loyalty to Rama, according
to Blushi. He lamented several of the so-called \"thug\" or
\"bodyguard\" candidates such as Tom Doshi from Shkoder and
other questionable candidates in Lezhe and other areas. He
said that the SP cannot tolerate such individuals in its
party and by doing so it has taken the party back twenty
years. He said Doshi told Rama that Rama cannot resign as
Chairman since Doshi had invested EUR 500,000 on the election
in Shkoder and he wants this money back. Blushi said the
money spent was to no avail.

5. (C) While the candidates are important, the main failure
was in the SP\'s coalition, according to Blushi. He said
Rama,s unwillingness to negotiate with LSI\'s Ilir Meta
virtually assured a defeat for the SP and the left. (Comment:
Meta also did not indicate that he was willing to negotiate

TIRANA 00000511 002 OF 002


with the SP. End comment.) As many observers have noted, a
combined SP-LSI coalition would have won handily. Blushi
added that the lack of a coherent platform did not help
matters either; senior SP strategist Kastriot Islami agreed
with this in a separate meeting and added that Rama made all
the wrong moves in this election.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT CHAIRMAN OF THE SP?
----------------------------------------

6. (C) Finally, Blushi said that the SP will likely convene
again in August or September in order to resolve the
Chairmanship issue. According to SP rules, if the Chairman
loses an election, he must resign. However, Blushi and
others suspect that Rama may be planning to declare the
elections stolen so that he will not be forced to resign his
seat as Chairman, since he did not lose, but rather was
\"robbed.\" Adding some credence to this scenario is the fact
that most of the assembly members were largely handpicked by
him and will support whatever Rama decides. Blushi demurred
when asked about potential challengers to Rama, however media
have reported that Blushi himself, former Finance Minister
Arben Malaj and others may challenge Rama. Blushi, Malaj and
others have made very public statements against Rama and the
SP electoral strategy. Despite these names, Islami said there
are no real viable candidates right now in the SP to
challenge Rama and offered that former PM Fatos Nano, who is
vacationing in Greece, is waiting for the party to
self-destruct. For his part, Rama told Ambassador that he is
in no danger of being unseated as SP chairman.

7. (C) Comment: We are relieved that the option of a
Parliamentary boycott appears to be off the table. Such a
move would have likely had very negative ramifications for
the SP and Albania. As the rumblings within the SP grow
increasingly louder, it will be interesting to see how the SP
Chairmanship issue is resolved. Rama seems confident about
retaining this role and no serious challengers seem to have
come forward to campaign against him, despite the fact that
more than a few SP members are pointing the finger at Rama
for the SP loss. His tight grip on the party may allow him
to hang onto power. August will continue to heat up as the
SP moves forward.


WITHERS
avatar
Peter 03 September, 2011 06:33:05
US embassy cable - 09TIRANA585

ECONOMY STILL GROWING, BUT CAUTION IS KEY

Identifier: 09TIRANA585

Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2009-08-28 15:25:00
Classification:
Tags: ECON EFIN EINV PGOV AL

VZCZCXRO3645
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHTI #0585/01 2401525
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281525Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8426
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 3588
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2529
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0839
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITYC O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TIRANA 000585

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2019
TAGS: ECON, EFIN, EINV, PGOV, AL
SUBJECT: ECONOMY STILL GROWING, BUT CAUTION IS KEY

Classified By: Charge d\'Affaires Deborah A. Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Against all odds, the consensus view
among economists is that the Albanian economy will post
positive growth for 2009. Although the GOA\'s projection of
4.8 percent growth for 2009 is almost certainly too high,
Ministry of Finance economists privately say that the economy
will nevertheless grow by 3 percent this year. The IMF
recently upped its forecast to .08 percent. Albanian Bank
Governor Ardian Fullani told journalists August 26 that
Albania had withstood the worst of the financial crisis but
the GOA\'s expansionary policies are a serious potential risk
to economic stability. Economists are concerned about the
anticipated 2009 budget shortfall of $150 million and how
Albania will fare without IMF oversight. The GOA publicly
projects overly optimistic budget and spending targets which
may create long-term difficulties. END SUMMARY.

ALBANIA BUCKS THE TREND
-----------------------

2. (SBU) In a recent conversation with the Ambassador,
Central Bank Governor Ardian Fullani characterized Albania\'s
economy as \"steady but shaky.\" In July the IMF raised its
projection for Albania\'s 2009 GDP growth from 0.4 percent to
0.8 and has told Post it may raise its projection even
further if excessive summer rain
results in strong agricultural output in the autumn.
Speaking to journalists on August 22, Finance Minister Bode
said that Albania had \"weathered the test\" of the financial
crisis, and reiterated the GOA\' projection of 4.8% growth in
2009. However, economists in the Ministry of Finance believe
that three percent is a more realistic target. Fullani has
publicly noted a recent increase in bank deposits and bank
credits, but has warned that unemployment will likely
continue to rise. Fullani also held a press conference
August 26 and said that Albania had seen the worst of the
financial crisis, but cautioned that the GOA needs to respect
budget deficit targets and must draft a 2010 budget that
reflects a commitment to maintaining macroeconomic stability.
He also noted the World Bank\'s warning that remittances will
continue to fall globally during 2009, and he cautioned that
the rise in unemployment in Italy and Greece will likely make
remittances from those countries less stable. (Note:
Remittances account for
roughly 9.5 percent of Albania\'s GDP. End Note).

THE INCREASING DEFICIT
----------------------

3. (SBU) A major concern for Fullani is the GOA\'s ability to
raise financing to cover its deficit and the size of the
deficit it plans to run in 2010. According to sources at the
Ministry of Finance, state revenues in 2009 are projected to
rise by only 8%
(significantly less than the projected 15 percent rise in
revenues), potentially resulting in a budget shortfall of
approximately USD 215 million. While it is likely that the
GOA will be able to cover its 2009 revenue shortfall with
revenue from privatizations, privatization is not a long-term
solution for financing the deficit. Fullani
warned that in 2010 the government may have to seek
alternative sources to finance the deficit. Slowed GDP
growth in 2009 and 2010 will result an increase in certain
key ratios, such as Debt/GDP and Deficit/GDP. This could
effect Albania\'s credit rating from Moody\'s, which could make
it more difficult for Albania to secure
financing in 2010. There may be additional privatization
opportunities that could boost revenue, such as granting
various concessions, but development spending
and capital expenditures may have to be cut.


GOA HALTS TENDERS; ADMITS LACK OF CASH RESERVES
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) At the request of Minister of Finance Ridvan Bode,
in July the Government announced that it will freeze
all future tenders for 2009 and that only the
Council of Ministers will have authority to launch new
tenders. While the official purpose of this decision is
\"to increase the effectiveness of current contracts in
public projects,\" many critics read this as the government\'s
first acknowledgment of Albania\'s economic difficulties and

TIRANA 00000585 002 OF 002


the state\'s overspending. For the foreseeable future, the GOA
is likely to use concession agreements in place of tenders.
The GOA also admitted privately this week that it lacks
emergency reserves to deal with the H1N1 virus and other
potential crises.

5. (C) COMMENT: While the GOA will certainly face a budget
shortfall between now and the end of 2009, most observers
believe that the shortfall is manageable and can be overcome
through a mix of delayed spending and targeted budget cuts.
More worrisome is the 2010 budget. Without IMF oversight,
the Ministry of Finance will be more susceptible to pressure
from the Prime Minister and others to put out an unrealistic
budget for 2010, with overly optimistic growth and revenue
forecasts that will leave the government with little wiggle
room in the event revenues and growth fall short. Although
the GOA should have the cash needed to make it through the
end of the year, the lack of emergency cash reserves shows
that the GOA is only one crisis away from a serious budget
crunch. It is imperative that the GOA base its 2010 budget
on reasonable growth and revenue projections in light of the
uncertain economy.


JONES
avatar
Acca 03 September, 2011 06:35:06
US embassy cable - 09TIRANA596

GOA STRUGGLING TO PLAN FOR H1N1, PAY FOR VACCINE

Identifier: 09TIRANA596

Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2009-09-02 14:57:00
Classification:
Tags: AMGT CASC KFLU PINR PREL AL

VZCZCXRO7090
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8437
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITYC O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000596

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/01/2019
TAGS: AMGT, CASC, KFLU, PINR, PREL, AL
SUBJECT: GOA STRUGGLING TO PLAN FOR H1N1, PAY FOR VACCINE

Classified By: Charge d\'Affaires Deborah A. Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d)

1. (SBU) Summary: As of September 1, there have been 30
confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu in Albania. The GOA\'s slow
response has hindered its ability to procure the H1N1
vaccine. Lack of funds for the purchase of a sufficient
number of vaccine doses and failure to plan weaken Albania\'s
overall preparedness to contain the virus should a
significant outbreak occur. Both UNICEF and the World Bank
have expressed wiliness to assist Albania. During an August
28 meeting with the Director of the Institute of Public
Health, USAID and the Embassy were asked to provide
assistance. Health officials remain concerned about the
potential for a major H1N1 outbreak following the opening of
school on September 15, and education officials have hinted
publicly that middle schools would be closed if necessary.
END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) A total of 30 cases of the H1N1pmed in Albania since July fficials,
200 doses of Tamiflu in swith
an additional 8,500 doses on order. TaQiflu is available in
local pharmacies but at a hQgh price.
3. (SBU) The GOA is negotiating directly with pharmaceutical
companies to purchase the vaccine. WHO Representative Anshu
Banerjee told Ambassy Offs that GlaxoSmithKline has been
\"responsive.\" However, Albania is considered a low priority
for pharmaceutical companies because of its small population.
Dr. Banerjee also said that WHO will distribute the vaccine
to poor countries but that Albania most likely will not
qualify due to its income level. With GDP per capita of
approximately USD 3,700, Albania is not among the poorest
countries in the world.
4. (SBU) UNICEF has agreed to procure the vaccine for
Albania if WHO provides technical specifications and if GOA
makes a formal request for assistance, which it has not yet
done.
5. (SBU) The government has said it believes the flu is
widespread and is now focusing its efforts on vaccination
procurement and on establishing intensive care units at
hospitals. At an August 28th meeting with USAID and Embassy
representatives, Bejtja asked for assistance with vaccine
procurement and the procurement and furnishing of suitable
intensive care units for hospitals both inside and outside
Tirana.
6. (C) The GOA must identify USD 3 million in its budget to
pay for the 300,000 doses of vaccine that it wants to order.
With the projected 2009 revenue shortfall, the GOA is unable
to tap its contingency fund. While GOA officials say funds
will be available in the 2010 budget, the peak flu season
begins this fall and next year\'s budget funds are not
expected to be available until February or March. The GOA
has the funds to purchase 40,000 doses of vaccine now, which
health officials claim will cover those most at risk from
H1N1 virus.
7. (C) Comment: The 30 H1N1 cases to date have been
relatively mild, with most patients recovering fully. Only
one serious case of the virus has been reported in recent
days. The number of confirmed cases is low because, in large
measure, detection and confirmation efforts are limited. In
containing the virus, the GOA faces two hurdles: a lack of
funds to purchase needed vaccines and bureaucratic delays in
initiating preparedness plans and treatment. Health officials
are aware of the potential vulnerability and have started to
step-up their planning and public education programs.
Increased press reporting, which is generally critical of the
government\'s efforts, may also spur the government into
action.

JONES
avatar
PL 03 September, 2011 02:15:52
US embassy cable - 09TIRANA599
UNGA 64: ALBANIA'S GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Identifier: 09TIRANA599
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2009-09-03 14:50:00
Classification:
Tags: PREL UNGA PGOV AL

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8441
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0841C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000599

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/SCE; IO/UNO (SUN); EUR/PGI (ELDRIDGE)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/03/2019
TAGS: PREL, UNGA, PGOV, AL
SUBJECT: UNGA 64: ALBANIA'S GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

REF: SECSTATE 90254

Classified By: CHARGE d'AFFAIRES DEBORAH JONES FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND
(d).

1. (C) On September 2, Poloff delivered reftel information to
Saimir Repishti, Director of the UN Department at the MFA.
Repishti thanked us for the information and said most of
Albania's UNGA goals meshed with those of the U.S. He then
provided us with a general overview of Albanian objectives
for the 64th UNGA as outlined in the speech PM Sali Berisha
will give, which Repishti had the lead in drafting. According
to Repishti, Berisha's speech will begin by emphasizing
Albanian support for and trust in the UN. However, the
speech will also contain a piece on the importance of UN
financial and organizational reform, with an emphasis on the
need for reform of the Security Council. In particular,
Berisha will discuss Albania's wish to increase UN efforts in
peacekeeping and "peace-building". The Director mentioned
Albania's efforts in this regard with over 100 troops in
Afghanistan and 63 in Chad.

2. (C) Berisha will also discuss the importance of making
efforts to mitigate climate change. Albania supports the
idea of reaching a global agreement on climate change by the
end of the December 2009 UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen. On human rights, he
once again welcomed U.S. participation on the Human Rights
Council and said that Albania will continue to maintain the
same positions it has had in recent years. He added Albania
will run for the Human Rights Council for 2014-2016.
Repishti noted a particular interest in poverty and food
security, and was very interested in the Secretary's
Ministerial Event on food security, adding that Berisha will
mention this issue in his speech. Berisha will also cover
conflict in the Middle East, the financial crisis, current
developments in Albania, and Kosovo,s independence.
Finally, he said that the Albanian mission to the UN is
working to obtain a meeting between PM Berisha and President
Obama.

3. (C) Comment: The GOA's goals largely track closely with
ours for UNGA, and Repishti seemed very receptive to our
message. Berisha's speech currently does not seem to have
any surprises in it, although the OSCE/ODIHR report on the
June 28 parliamentary elections has not yet been released.
Post has heard that it could be released on or about
September 14, and depending on its contents could vary
Berisha,s remarks slightly. The GOA will also be bringing a
new FM to UNGA this year as LSI leader and former FM Ilir
Meta was announced as the new FM on September 3. Septel will
take a closer look at the new FM. Typically, the GOA ranks
fairly high in voting with the U.S. and it does not appear
that this year should be any different.
JONES
avatar
LL 03 September, 2011 02:17:09
US embassy cable - 09TIRANA602
SURPRISE TOP BRASS SHAKEUP: MILITARY CRIES FOUL
Identifier: 09TIRANA602
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2009-09-08 05:23:00
Classification:
Tags: PGOV MARR KDEM AL

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8442
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RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
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RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UKC O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000602

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/03/2019
TAGS: PGOV, MARR, KDEM, AL
SUBJECT: SURPRISE TOP BRASS SHAKEUP: MILITARY CRIES FOUL

REF: IIR 311241Z AUG 04

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Deborah Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d)

1. (U) On September 2, President Topi's office announced
several dismissals and appointments in the top ranks of the
military. Current commander of Naval Command Captain Kristaq
Gerveni was appointed Deputy Chief of the General Staff
(DCHOD), a position that has been vacant since July, when
previous DCHOD BG Dushku was appointed Commander of the
multinational Southeast Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG). Rear
Admiral Kudret Cela was appointed to replace Gerveni as
commander of Naval Command. Brigadier General Vladimir
Qiriazi was dismissed as commander of Logistics Command and
appointed deputy commander of Joint Forces Command. No
appointment was made to replace Qiriazi at Logistics Command.

2. (C) In the press release, President Topi claims to have
made these appointments at the request of the Minister of
Defense. Several of Post's contacts in the Ministry of
Defense (MoD), including Chief of the General Staff (CHOD) BG
Maksim Malaj, have told Post they had no previous knowledge
of the reshuffle. Indeed, BG Malaj expressed his outrage
that he was not consulted on any of these appointments.
While the President is Commander and Chief of the Albanian
Armed Forces (AAF) and has the right to dismiss and appoint
whomever he wants, it is unusual that he would do so without
consulting the military at all.
3. (C) Several aspects of the appointments cause concern.
First, Captain Gerveni is filling a position usually filled
by a Brigadier General (Rear Admiral) or higher. While a
very able officer and supportive of reform, Gerveni was not
on this year's list for promotion. (Note. There are
unconfirmed rumors that he is being rewarded for his
successful negotiations with the Government of Greece over
the demarcation of the shared sea border. The agreement is
believed to have helped convince Greece to ratify Albania's
NATO membership. End Note.) Gerveni will be commanding a
Naval Commander (Rear Admiral Cela) who outranks him.
Admiral Cela has not had a command position since
approximately five years ago, when he was dismissed from this
same position for unknown reasons (speculation revolved
around disputes over illegal construction or property
disputes - see reftel).

4. (C) Most disconcerting, BG Qiriazi's reassignment is an
obvious demotion to a position normally filled by a colonel
in a command that is likely to be dissolved in the near
future. Several sources in the MoD, including the CHOD, have
speculated that the demotion is punishment over a property
dispute. The property, in downtown Tirana, is home to the
Dinamo Soccer Stadium and is owned by the military. Sources
claim that someone close to the Prime Minister, President
and/or Minister is seeking to buy this property, but that
Qiriazi has refused to sign papers deeding the property to
private hands.

COMMENT
-------

5. (C) As commander of Logistics Command, Qiriazi's support
for demilitarization will be missed. However, more
concerning is the lack of transparency in these appointments,
their possible punitive nature and potential links to
corruption. Unfortunately, it is still common practice
throughout the Albanian Government for appointment decisions
at every level to be made unilaterally from the top without
consultation, a practice which inhibits the development of a
professional cadre of civil servants and military officers.
JONES
avatar
David 03 September, 2011 02:19:00
US embassy cable - 09TIRANA618

SP INSIDER: NO END IN SIGHT TO BOYCOTT; DISCUSSES NEW CABINET

Identifier: 09TIRANA618

Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2009-09-11 13:12:00
Classification:
Tags: KDEM PREL PGOV PINS AL

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2531
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0842
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITYC O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TIRANA 000618

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2019
TAGS: KDEM, PREL, PGOV, PINS, AL
SUBJECT: SP INSIDER: NO END IN SIGHT TO BOYCOTT; DISCUSSES
NEW CABINET

Classified By: CDA Deborah A. Jones, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Ben Blushi, Socialist Party MP and member
of the SP's ruling body (and prominent critic of SP
Chairman Edi Rama), told PolOff on September 11 that Edi
Rama will try to sustain the SP's boycott of
Parliament until PM Berisha agrees to negotiate with Rama
over SP demands. In blasting the boycott, Blushi said it
undermines Albanian democracy and Albania's image as a NATO
country. While he and other SP deputies may defy Rama and
enter the Parliament,
they are likely to be expelled from the Party in doing so.
Rama's tactic is to become PM via a peaceful "color
revolution" ala Ukraine or Georgia. Blushi also said several
cabinet nominees had no idea they were even being considered
for cabinet posts
until the nominations were made public. Interior
Minister-designate Lulzim Basha would use his job as Interior
Minister to push for EU visa
liberalization and to position himself to run for Mayor of
Tirana in 2011. END SUMMARY.

It's All About Me
-----------------

2. (C) Blushi, who has been Edi Rama's most vocal critic
from within the SP since the June elections, said Rama will
continue the boycott until PM Berisha enters into
negotiations with the SP over a list of eight SP demands
(demands that have been made public) that the SP says must
be met as a condition for ending the boycott. Blushi
derided many of the SP demands as totally unreasonable,
particularly the requests for the formation of an
SP-dominated parliamentary committee to investigate
allegations of electoral fraud as well as the demand that
all parliamentary committees have equal SP and DP
representation. Blushi said Rama was also seeking
unspecified "political guarantees" from Berisha that would
secure Rama's role as Tirana's main power broker. At the
end of the day, Blushi said, the SP boycott of parliament
has less to do with parliament than with Rama's role as
Mayor of Tirana.

3. (C) Blushi said that because Rama is not in Parliament
he has little to lose by continuing the boycott. Blushi
claimed that Rama sees the legislature as a weak rubber
stamp body for the PM, and thus does not believe that even
a long-term boycott will damage democracy or stability in
Albania or impede the work of the government. Blushi said
Rama cares only about his own role as Mayor of Tirana and
SP Chairman, and claimed that Rama is using the boycott in
part to force PM Berisha to give unspecified "political
guarantees" to Rama in order to secure Rama's position as
Tirana's main power broker. Blushi said the coalition
between Berisha's Democratic Party (DP) and the Socialist
Movement for Integration (LSI) means the SP no longer
controls the Tirana city council, effectively stripping
Rama of his ability to control building permits in the city
and cutting Rama off from his base of support among
Albania's prominent construction companies and builders.

To the Barricades!
------------------

4. (C) Blushi said Rama has deluded himself into thinking
that the only way the SP can take power is via a "color
revolution", ala Ukraine or Georgia. Blushi said Rama
envisions using massive, but peaceful, demonstrations to
force PM Berisha to resign, and has even ordered brightly
colored scarves for protestors to wear. Blushi said few SP
members would likely follow Rama onto the streets for mass
demonstrations (an observation echoed by numerous other
observers) and ridiculed Rama's planned revolution as
little more than a fantasy. Blushi said Rama at this point
sees no point
in taking part in the 2011 local elections, and will
probably push for an SP boycott of the elections
altogether.

Blushi Urges Internationals to Speak Out
----------------------------------------

5. (C) Blushi said recent comments by the OSCE, EU and UK
Ambassadors in Tirana that "the opposition belongs in the

TIRANA 00000618 002 OF 002


Parliament," were helpful, but not strong enough to
influence Edi Rama. Blushi said Rama and others in the SP
were waiting for the U.S. to speak out, and said only a
statement by the U.S. could push Rama into ending the
boycott. Blushi dismissed the idea that a boycott of
parliament is an internal political dispute, saying that an
extended boycott will undermine both democracy and
stability in Albania, set a negative precedent for the
future, and hinder Albania's EU aspirations.

6. (C) Blushi said that eventually he and a small group of
other SP Deputies might break ranks with Rama and enter the
Parliament, but admitted he and the others are
reluctant to do so just yet. Blushi said anyone who
defies Rama by entering the Parliament will be expelled
from the SP. Blushi said "nearly everyone" in the
25-member SP's ruling body (known as the Chairmanship or
Presidency) privately opposes the boycott, but only a
small handful have condemned it publicly. Blushi said he
and others opposed to the boycott would hold a small rally
on the evening of September 11 to publicly call on Rama to
end the boycott.

Nominees Caught by Surprise; Basha for Mayor?
---------------------------------------------

7. (C) Blushi said several of PM Berisha's picks for
cabinetposts had no idea they were even being consideredfor cabinet positions until Berisha publicly annouced his
nominees on the evening of Septeber 9. Blushi said he
met with Defense Minister-esignae Arben Imami only two
hours before Imami's omiation was announce d publicy ad
that Imami hadno inkling he was even beingconidere for
a cabne t post. Blushi said sevrlohr pcks wer alsQ
caught totally off guard.
. C lusi sai current Foreign Minister ndItro
initrnoominee Lulzim Basha was piced or Intro
iiter both to promote EU vis ibealzation an oposition Basha for a run or Myro Tirana in 2011.
Blushi said PM Berisawns hsown Democratic Party and
not Foreign inistrnmne Ilir Meta to get credit for
visaliberalization hus partially explaining why Bash
will go to MoI. Blushi said Basha will also us his
position at the MoI to position himself fora run for
Tirana Mayor in 2011. Blushi said Beriha appears to be
grooming Basha - at least for nw - to become the next DP
leader.

9. (C) COMENT: As Rama's leading critic within the SP,
Bluhi certainly has reason to paint Rama in the worst
possible terms. But Blushi is a serious and wellrespected
politician, not given to hyperbole or xcessive spin. He
has positioned himself withinthe SP as the leader of the
anti-Rama faction, uging Rama to accept the fact that the
SP lost th parliamentary elections and move on. Blushi's
caim that Rama has no incentive to end the parliametary
boycott anytime soon tracks with what Post as heard from
numerous other sources, and Rama hs in the past used the
threat of street demonstrations and boycotts to try and
attract the attention of the international community and
force concessions from the Berisha government. At this
point, the danger of large street demonstrations is slim,
but the boycott is likely to continue for the time being.
At some point, the boycott will become a serious impediment
to the functioning of the Albanian government, as the
DP-led majority lacks the 84 votes necessary to pass
certain key pieces of legislation. END COMMENT.





JONES
avatar
Nn 04 September, 2011 01:15:34
The highly unusual nature of the ruling 9-0 has bred enormous speculation.
Another observer suggested that the Court had to have had the
clearance from PM Sali Berisha to make such a ruling since
the terms of a few judges on the court expire soon and they
would not want to jeopardize future appointments from the PM
by going against Berisha's will. One long-time expat legal
expert told PolOff that a 9-0 ruling by the court against the
treaty "is inconceivable" unless the court received at least
tacit approval by the GOA to reject the treaty. Grumblings
over the treaty have also been heard from the military.
Observers widely speculated that the treaty was a quid pro
quo for Greek support for NATO and the Stabilization and
Association Agreement (SAA).
total: 7 | displaying: 1 - 7

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