Albanian Daily News
Opening of Albania office in Kosovo demanded

Feb 11, 2000

TIRANA - Chairman of the ruling Socialist Party Fatos Nano returned home on Thursday, after a visit to New York where he met with senior United Nations officials requesting them to allow an Albanian government presence in Kosovo.

A press release from the Socialist Party press office said that Nano met in the UN headquarters vice-Secretary General James Prendergast to discuss the latest development in Albania and the Balkans.

Nano requested that the UN, which is administering the war-torn province through the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), approve the opening of a liaison office of the Albanian government in Prishtina.

"Albania’s presence in Kosovo would aim to establish a joint front against crime and illegal traffics with UNMIK, and would step up trade and cultural relations (between Kosovo and Albania," Nano said.

Prendergast stopped short of responding positively to the Albanian request, but he acknowledged the influence of Tirana over its Kosovar ethnic kin. "You have influence over Kosovo-Albanian leaders," he said. "You should convince them to block and condemn the violence, that is making the international community lose confidence (in ethnic Albanians)."

The government is waiting for the go-ahead of the United Nations in order to open its representative office in Prishtina. The personnel of the office has been already appointed, but no response from UN has arrived yet.

Albania is trying to shake off the bad image of recent years turmoils, and it gained international sympathy for its handling of the Kosovo crisis when half a million refugees where warmly received by the three-million local population. In the aftermath of the crisis the government is pushing hard its policy of regional integration, trying to get as much investment aid in the framework of the Stability Pact for south-eastern Europe, heralded as the new Marshall Plan.

However it seems that the euphoria of the first moment has vanished, and pledges may barely translate into cash. "It is very important that international (donors) projects and initiatives for the region don’t delay," Nano told Prendergast.

"Many Balkan leaders are western-minded and they should be supported," Nano said, referring to the risk that economic instability may bring to power nationalist leaders, similar to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

The UN official agreed with Nano: "The only prevention to crisis is democracy, pluralism, and economic development."

Original article