Monday, June 18, 2007

Albanian Press Pessimism

The Memorandum of Understanding for Trade Liberalization and Facilitation is one of the most successful steps in the context of the Southeastern European Stability Pact. Especially the underdeveloped countries in the Balkans, like Albania, will be pushed toward infrastructural and economic integration through regional FTAs. Albanians are becoming more politically active. As President Bush's walk in downtown Tirana he saw signs that read "Active Citizenship!" The country's free press is so open that it tends to play down the recent developments, forgetting how things were during the communist years under Yugoslav rule. So open, in fact, that people are becoming too pessimistic about the post-Yugoslav zeitgeist. The economy is focused on import substitutions to protect industry, and exports only primary goods like livestock. Press pessimism is warranted, but Albanians are yearning for state planning again. Still, one tenth of the population still lives on $2 a day or less. Unemployment stands at 15% Business permits take more than a month. President Bush visited Albania to put a word in for Kosovo's independence, and the pessimistic press had reported that his watch was stolen during a meet-and-greet. The White House denies this happened. At any rate, Albania will be lucky if it can join NATO, and even luckier if it will join the EU. At this point, sadly, it's not even a "potential candidate" like the other countries in the Balkan region are.

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