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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  

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

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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DE RUEHTI #0727 3141556
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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
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 2544
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0853
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
ZNY CCCCC ZZH (CCY AD220671 MSI9076-695)
O 121238Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
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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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8687
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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

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