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Koha Digest # 144

Front Page: NEW YORK - THE SQUARE OF THE ROUND TABLE


Date: 9 April 1997

EDITORIAL

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

by VETON SURROI

As I was preparing myself for the coming Albanian-Serb round table to be held next week in
New York, I was thinking of the deeply incrusted historicism in our collective mind, in fact
the need to treat every political problem as a gesture that will become part of history. It is
nothing new, this is how we were brought up for years, when we were taught about the
historical Meetings (in capital M) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Moreover, it is not linked only to the communist education, there is pre and post history. As
for example, we still consider as history the letters that an Albanian leader has sent to
different Conferences at the beginning of the century, when Albania's borders were set, to
later find out that these letters have had only one destination, the files. Or, in the
post-communist history, I remember how the meeting of the then leader of the Albanian
opposition and the leaders of what was then known as "Albanian alternative" was called the
Second Lezhë Assembly, the Prizren League, the first unification of Albanians after
Skënderbej, and who knows what else.

In fact, it was a meeting, as hundreds of others that take place. The same is the case,
nowadays, prior to New York. Many think that this will be the historical meeting that will
undo the Kosovar knot and many will be missing only the black&white photographs that will
seal in our memories the moment when the fate of this area was solved. Or to use terms as
"New York's Kosova" or "Dayton Bosnia".

Exaggerated, as exaggerated is the implication that the speeches to be delivered at the round
table, will be delivered to the domestic public opinion, expecting this opinion to react
spontaneously with "..did you see what this guy told them..." For people used to historicism,
maybe the lack of big words means the failure of the Conference. In this plane I don't expect
this Conference to escape big words. But, what I am interested about is whether the element
we are not used to will be there: the political technology, an imaginary list of different steps
that should lead towards negotiations, the Albanian-Serb agreement and the full expression of
the will of the people of Kosova. In the Balkans, it is very hard to find this approach. This is
probably why this meeting will take place in New York, where issues of political mechanisms
are routine.

And, what contradiction to the introduction of this text, maybe in New York there will be a
historical turning point: to understand that same as in construction the one ordering the

The weekly Koha (The Times) was published in Prishtina (Kosovo) between 1994 and 1997. Edited by Veton
Surroi, a young Kosovar journalist and one of the pioneers of democratisation in former Yugoslavia, Koha
soon became a symbol of quality among the region's media. In 1997 it started to be published daily under the
name of Koha Ditorë. W ith the kind permission of Mr. Surroi, Koha digests were originally posted on
http://koha.estudiosbalcanicos.org.
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project is initially interested in the foundations of the house not in the way the roof will look
like, in the same way in politics and our problem, that it is much important to express
ourselves about how will we achieve our democratic aspirations of the citizens of Kosova,
and not what these aspirations are like.

What are these aspirations like - no trip is necessary to find this out. It is something that any
child in Kosova can reveal.

KOSOVA

THE NEW YORK ROUND TABLE

by BESIM ABAZI / Prishtinë

After the two announced Albanian-Serb meetings were postponed,


it finally came out that the round table to be held in New York
on 7-9 April, remained the most serious and important initiative.

As such, it also became object of different conversations and


speculations. Initially, it was planned as a round table in which
problems in education and health-care would be discussed, and
then gradually came to a stage in which even more serious issues
would be opened. Moreover, the Albanian side declared that "...it
was unnecessary to discuss about separate issues, including
education, for in those cases agreements in principle have been
reached, but can't be applied in practice because of the Serbian
obstructions..."

The speculations increased as different voices and rumors coming


from the Serbian side stressed that New York will be the place
where concrete problems and the status of Kosova will be
discussed. Thus, on this plane, Dragoljub Micunovic from the
Democratic Center and following an incognito visit to Prishtinë,
declared that "New York will be the place where the final status
of Kosova will be discussed" and added that "Albanians have
already created a unique platform, according to which although
they opt for the independence of Kosova, they would also agree
to the status of the Republic and even the autonomy". This is why
he made a "call to the Serbian side to meet and agree upon a
unique platform".

The representatives of both sides started the consultations on


the unique standpoints. The discussions arose in Kosova
especially after Demaçi published his political project on the
creation of a confederation he calls Balkania and the
announcements that he will present this option in New York. The
project which was accepted by his PPK in principle, was harshly
criticized by some Albanian political parties. The comments were

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ranging from "Demaçi is trying to save the Albanian cause which
is rolling down, even if it takes his own sacrifice" to "This
project is contrary to the 1991 Referendum". Demaçi and his
people replied that the last accusation has no grounds, because
who ever remembers the question asked in the referendum, it will
become evident that there was an option for Kosova to get into
federal/confederacy links with the units of the former
Yugoslavia". However, the others replied that independence
excluded the other links, and added that Balkania is not
achievable first of all, because Serbia would more easily agree
to the independence of Kosova than the confederalization of
Montenegro".

Anyhow, as it regards the first matter, Demaçi eliminated all


doubts in a press conference when he declared that he would not
present Balkania in New York, because in a meeting that he
summoned and chaired, "an agreement was reached about the unique
platform to be presented in New York". The "consensus" was
confirmed by the other Albanian participants in these talks.
LDK's vice-chairman, Hyseni, declared after the meeting that "all
of us were engaged in favor of a just and durable solution of
Kosova's problem. Mahmut Bakalli stressed that "different
modalities for reaching the independence of Kosova were presented
on this occasion".

An attempt of the Serbian Resistance Movement (SRM), to gather


the Serb participants of this meeting, organized in the Deçan
Monastery, failed. This incited the leader of the SRM, Moma
Trajkovic, to declare that "...this proves that there is no
platform, there is only a minimum stand, because there are no
national forces in Serbia that would agree to the solution of the
Albanian-Serb relations within the Republic of Kosova". Trajkovic
had also declared that his party would participate in New York,
however the organizer has informed him that he could only submit
a written statement. Anyhow, the SRM has held a closed meeting
with the representatives of the Serbian political parties of
Kosova, including the SPS branch in Kosova, which proves the
importance they give to the dialogue for the solution of Kosova's
problem.

But, the chosen moment for the talks is disputable. There are
quite some opinions stating that Albanians are going to these
talks with "broken wings" because of the situation in Albania,
which have apparently made the Serbian side rush into these
talks. Trajkovic considers that the position of Albanians has
been affected and that now their requests are more realistic.
"Albanians have had their state since 85 years ago, but have not
made it strong yet", is something that he considers supports the
opposition to the Republic of Kosova, because "...how will we
Serbs live in an Albanian state that has no tradition? Who would

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guarantee us our civil rights, when such an old people like the
Albanian has not yet strengthened its state", further adding that
the solutions in this part of the region stand not on the
creation of new states, but the democratization of the existing.

"Thus, all of us should make efforts to have Albania as an


advanced and democratic state. What is happening there, will only
have repercussions for Yugoslavia and all of us living in
Kosova", concluded Trajkovic.

It seems though that things have gone into a new direction after
SPS declared that "its representatives will not go to New York".
It's decision was followed by a harsh criticism against the
Serbian political forces that will be in New York. They were even
accused being "traitors to the Serbian interests".

The Albanian side, on the other hand, considers that the absence
of the SPS will not "weaken" the role of this meeting. Albanians
believe that this step was actually pre-electoral marketing.
Agani considers that "this step is not that surprising, knowing
that SPS has its own problems to participate in the meeting.
First, it is facing a difficult situation, because a new balance
has been established in Serbia, and SPS has since long been used
to the dominant role and finds it hard to adapt to the new
circumstances. Second, since the initiative for this meeting was
made by the opposition, it is deliberately stalling the matter".
However, said Agani, "we didn't determine ourselves based on the
Serbian political movements".

Whatever the case, the seven Albanian representatives went to New


York at least in a gesture of good will, regardless of the fact
that they "were not expecting something extraordinary" from it.
The New York meeting will be a place for them to express their
arguments for future political solutions, but will not be the
final conversation". The viewpoints of both sides could and
should be presented and then will probably be evaluated by "Uncle
Sam" that will probably give them the final image, after having
thoroughly looked through all the proposals.

INTERVIEW

Fehmi AGANI, Vice-Chairman of the LDK

INTRODUCTION TO TALKS ABOUT KOSOVA

Interviewed by ARBËR VLLAHIU / Prishtinë

KOHA: It seems that the New York round table is accompanied by

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many contradictions. Do you perceive this as a simple political
dialogue that obliges no party or the beginning of the Albanian-
Serb negotiations?

AGANI: Being a round table, the talks in New York have no


obligatory character. But, realistically, this is a confrontation
of opinions, a presentation of demands but since it also will
take place in the serious presence of the Americans, this is an
attempt to incite the international subject, in this concrete
case the USA, to eventually undertake an initiative to find a
solution for Kosova. This can be considered as an introduction
to more serious Albanian-Serb talks on Kosova.

KOHA: It seems that a consensus among Albanians has been reached.


Does this mean that there could have been different options
presented by Albanians in New York?

AGANI: No. I think that it is not adequate to say that a


consensus was reached in that meeting, because the presented
opinions were so similar, not to say identic, that there was no
need for coordination or harmonization. It is clear that
Albanians in New York will present one only demand - independence
of Kosova. This would include the ways of realization, the
phases, etc.

KOHA: Yes, but the rumor is that a compromise was reached between
independent Kosova open towards Albania and Serbia and Balkania.

AGANI: I again would say that this is not a compromise. This is


an unanimous opinion expressed among the participants of the
round table. At first sight, one could think that there is a
difference between independent Kosova and Balkania, however
Demaçi said that his concept of an eventual confederation is
grounded on the independence of Kosova. Therefore, independence
is the main issue and we needed no compromise on this.

KOHA: But, do you think that Balkania can incite the curiosity
of the organizers or the other participants?

AGANI: It can incite the interest of the international subjects,


not as a confederacy but as an attempt to seek solutions within
Yugoslavia. I don't believe the interest would be long-lasting.

KOHA: LDK has changed the composition of its New York team. Your
member was replaced by Mark Krasniqi from the Albanian Christian-
Democratic Party of Kosova. Is this a matter of principle or as
strengthening the LDK option?

AGANI: No change occurred in fact. LDK had no need to strengthen


its concept, because what we are defending is actually the

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standpoint of all political parties and all subjects that will
participate in this meeting, therefore we needed no other help
from the outside.

KOHA: Do you believe that New York could bring in something


concrete?

AGANI: I don't expect any big concrete things from this meeting,
but there is a primary advantage: first, that we can present
arguments on our demands to the Serbian side and secondly, to
convince Americans that we have a serious approach towards the
solution of our problem and thus we incite their engagement
eventually in a concrete initiative.

When it comes to concrete initiatives, despite the understanding


and support we find in Europe, we believe that it is USA's
initiatives that would guarantee a better result.

KOHA: Do you see that the Albanian-Serb contest could find a


compromise solution and what compromise would be acceptable in
New York?

AGANI: Naturally, negotiations and talks can't evade compromise,


but this shouldn't imply the retraction of both sides, but rather
finding a reasonable solution, and since we are convinced in our
just demand, we believe that it is not hard to find a solution
such as independence with all the restrictions that we have put
to it; by treating the other ethnic communities as equal, or
stating that Kosova will be open to all, including Serbia so it
can not only achieve its cultural and historical values but also
its actual interests.

KOHA: SPS has confirmed that it will not participate in new York,
whereas the opposition declared that it "will reduce the level"
of its participants. What will the Albanian posture be?

AGANI: We would be happier if SPS participates in New York. But,


we can't make any movements according to their moves, knowing
that all political postures in Serbia are taken based on their
electoral needs. We can't do this. It's non-participation in the
New York round table is also linked to its internal problems.
First, it faces difficulties, because a new relation of forces
has been established in Serbia and SPS finds it very hard to
accommodate in new conditions after dominating for so long.
Second, it seems that the initiative for this meeting came from
the opposition and the SPS is thus stalling with its decision.
Having in mind the per-electoral marketing, it is also evading
it. We are not determining are posture based on the movements of
the different Serbian political parties.

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KOHA: Then how valid are these talks if the main Serbian party
is not there?

AGANI: This is not a negotiation and no decision is expected in


New York. The presentation of our standpoints will be serious
regardless of SPS' participation. "Zajedno" shouldn't be
underestimated as well as the other political parties. They
should also be given a chance to see and evaluate the offered
postures and the reasonability of our demands.

INTERVIEW

Drago HIBER, author of "Zajedno's" proposal on Kosova

TWO OR THREE DAYS ARE NOT ENOUGH

Interviewed by GJERAQINA TUHINA / Prishtinë

KOHA: Sometime ago, you proposal on Kosova was published in "Nasa


Borba". Could you tell us some more details about it?

HIBER: This is my personal standpoint, regardless of my party's


postures. I can tell you what are the latter. First, we are
conscious of the seriousness of the problem as it is today, and
we believe that should be our starting point. By all means,
repression in Kosova should stop. The second point that is
undisputable is that talks or dialogue should start where all
relevant political and non-political factors of Serbia and
Yugoslavia, including representatives of the Albanian people
should participate there. Dialogue is necessary not only for the
solution of the problems, but also for their identification. We
believe that dialogue should be unconditional. Any conditioning
closes the possibilities for the solution of any problem.
Dialogue without conditions implies the participation of all
people, all groupings and political parties, options and ideas.
Naturally, there is only one limit in that kind of dialogue, and
this is that there is no space for those who are not in favor of
a peaceful solution of the problem. The third point is that we
believe that the Albanian people should have all the rights as
the other people. This statement doesn't mean escaping the
problem with phrases on "the highest standards of human rights".

This means that the forms where these rights should be


accomplished will be determined later. I am against the initial
talks on the police or the political and territorial
organization, because this will only reduce the chances for a
real dialogue.

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KOHA: What do you mean when you say human political rights?

HIBER: These imply the possibility for all collectivities for


political expression. This includes political self-organization,
political leadership to a certain extent and within one system
shared by all.

KOHA: Your common platform represents the minimum of consensus


of the coalition parties. Tell us what are the differences
between parties in this respect?

HIBER: It is true that this is a consensus of coalition parties


and in each consensus there are differences between the subjects
that are part of the coalition. There are differences in ideas,
methods and ways of solving the problem. But, consensus is on the
problem and the need for its solution, that is important. The
second issue is that this should be solved in dialogue and the
third issue is that the individual and collective rights should
be respected.

KOHA: The Civic Alliance of Serbia (GSS) will participate in New


York.

HIBER: Yes, Mrs. Pesic will be there on our behalf.

KOHA: Is she familiar with the other participants and is she


satisfied with their level?

HIBER: The list of participants has been unclear and it suffered


changes a couple of times. The level of participants is hard to
agree upon. Formally the high level doesn't also mean the high
level of presentation of political options. We don't know whether
the ruling parties in Serbia will participate, because we keep
receiving contradictory information. Anyhow, conversations make
sense, even if they are absent.

KOHA: Do you think this will be only a presentation of postures


or can decisions also be made?

HIBER: I believe it is very hard to solve something serious in


New York. Unfortunately, this is not the place where a solution
can be found. This is the third meeting this foundation
organizes, and Vesna Pesic has been our representative all over.
Now the list of Serbian participants has expanded. Anyhow, we
don't consider ourselves a Serbian party, but rather a civic
party - and our name proves this. This will be a meeting of
people that will have legitimate and extreme viewpoints. It is
hard to foresee that a real consensus can be reached in two or
three days. I fear the inflated propaganda this meeting is
accompanied by and the high expectations people have, because if

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there are no results, then this can cause misbelief and
disappointment in the coming dialogues. In conclusion, I am not
sure that all invited will attend the meeting, and I am not
convinced that the conditions are fulfilled to find a way to
solve the problems.

KOHA: What reflection will this meeting have among the Serbian
political specter? Will Kosova be on the agenda of the coming
elections?

HIBER: I am sure that it will be. I will give you a concrete


reply to your question. Prior to the meeting, both sides tried
to agree upon separate but unique standpoints. I believe this is
wrong, because it is undisputable that there are differences
among participants of both sides. I don't think that any of the
sides will come out with a completely unique stand. But, if all
issues are presented clearly, then this will be an important step
towards the future solution.

KOHA: Does "Zajedno" have a common platform for the solution of


Kosova's problem and will this be presented in New York?

HIBER: No, there is no common platform that has been made public.
Not because, in principle, there are disagreements among
partners, but because it is very unlikely to expect an opposition
partner to have a clear and precise state platform. Kosova is
a complex problem. It is a problem of collective and individual
human rights, but it is also a state problem. An opposition
grouping should not be expected to come out with clear ideas on
this. It is in no position to solve the problem, but the New York
talks will help "Zajedno" observe the seriousness of the Kosova
problem. It is no secret that opposition parties had different
viewpoints on Kosova in the past. When the problem is discussed
as a whole then the differences are more easy to identify. And,
dialogue should then serve as a way to come to the joint
solution.

KOHA: Do you think that after New York this issue can become a
long-term process and could there be a mediator to it?

HIBER: I wish New York were the beginning and the opening path
towards new meetings that will lead to the solution. In regard
to the third party, at the beginning I said that there should be
no conditions. Opposing the participation of a third party is
also a condition. GSS has nothing against the participation of
a third party, if this can help dialogue and finding a solution.
I have no right to talk on behalf of the coalition partners, but
I can tell you that this was a topic of discussion that preceded
the publication of our program declaration and we haven't
excluded this possibility.

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KOHA: What do you think about Demaçi's Balkania?

HIBER: It is an interesting idea, but it is hard to talk about


it having in mind that it is a state platform. I believe that
the GSS can't make any statements in that regard. I can say that
it is one of the possible ideas which is legitimate as one of the
starting points to undo the "Kosova knot".

KOHA: Could there be any reflections of the situation in Albania


on New York?

HIBER: I hope its influence will not be determinant nor too big.
The starting point for all participants is the situation in
Kosova and not Albania. This is why the events in Albania should
not have any influence of the solution that we should find
regardless of Albania. I hope the people in Albania will find a
way out towards democratization which is necessary not only for
them by also the people in FRY.

KOHA: Would you add anything else?

HIBER: I wish to state that GSS is in favor of a solution that


would maximally satisfy all participants. And this, in principle,
means the respect of human rights of all and all groups, as well
as a better life for all.

ALBANIA

THE FORMULA OF SALVATION

by RIFAT BUZUKU / Vienna

Exhausted as never before, the former chancellor of Austria Franz


Vranitzky, showed up in front of the journalists on April 3. But,
his mind was still vigorous. This was the third time he met with
the European top politicians, engaged in saving Albania. By all
means, a difficult task, especially for only one man, Vranitzky,
who voluntarily gave up of his premier's post and chairmanship
of the ruling party in Austria.

Albania represents for Vranitzky, as for the whole world, a


sample sui generis. There is no war there, there are no borders
between the parties in conflict, there is no confrontation of
different confessions; but, there is an unprecedented anarchy
that threatens to drown a European state, of ancient traditions
and culture. Vranitzky knows this and is doing all he can to
prevent its disintegration.

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He took the first step on March 15, when he met with the Albanian
authorities and rebels on a ship in the Adriatic. Then he
presented his project for the salvation of the Albanians to the
OSCE, a project that was adopted by the UN Security Council on
28 March.

Thus, by taking over the role of the savior of Albania, Vranitzky


got activated for the third time, without wasting time and on 2
and 3 April, he gathered the most important European volunteers,
those who proved to be ready to contribute to Albania's
salvation, in Rome and Athens.

Following these meetings, although they took place outside


Albania, Vranitzky conveyed the message of hope in Hofburg on 3
April: "Europe will build a new Albania". On 7 April, a European
delegation went to Tirana in order to identify the long-term and
urgent needs of the country. About 200 European experts will
settle close to Tirana and their task will be the reorganization
of the societal and political structure of the state.

Besides this, the international protection forces will contribute


to the revitalization of the economy and the establishment of
order in Albania. According to Vranitzky, this will be done on
a step-by-step basis. First, the Rinas airport, the ports of
Durrës and Vlorë as well as the roads Tirana-Vlorë and Tirana-
Durrës will be highly secured. However, Vranitzky claims that
order can be restored only when all the regional roads are put
under control, which will also be done step-by-step. Thus, he
believes that the savage feelings of Albanians will be calmed
down.

The armed Albanians represent a threat not only for the local
population and the members of the international protection
forces, but also for the ambience - say the European officials.
This is why they have to be disarmed. But, how? Berisha has
lately been declaring to the press that Albanians have special
links with the arms, and that they can be taken away from them
only with patience or after some time. However, this statement
made by Berisha was immediately denied by the international
mediator. Vranitzky said that the representatives of the rebels
said that they will hand in their arms as soon as Berisha leaves
his post". But, says Vranitzky, it is not in the competencies of
the OSCE to ask for Berisha's resignation. But, his other answers
imply that Berisha has become a black spot not only in
Vranitzky's eyes, but also of the other international
representatives'.

This is the reason why none of the foreign diplomats wants to


meet with him. They'd rather to meet with Fino. In fact, Berisha
has become the 1991 Ramiz Alija: he has gone back at least six

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years!

People are surprised to see what Berisha is doing or is planning


to do. They ask themselves aren't his movements leading towards
civil war? Is he willing to go as far as to keep his post even
if his control doesn't go farther than Tirana? If Berisha's
persistency is grounded on this supposition, then Fino will not
tolerate for long this situation. There is no doubt that there
is a strong struggle in the political backstage of Tirana.
Foreign observers are very much concerned about the formation of
different armed groups and the communications stating that SHIK
has been officially disintegrated, that lists for new arrests are
being prepared, as soon as order is established. A Dutch analyst
says that for the time being, Berisha's agents are quiet, but
chances are that they will use the arrival of the foreign forces
in Albania and make a series of unpredictable arrests.
Vranitzky must know them all. This is why he relies his trust on
Fino and the strength of the international protection forces. The
fate of Albanians depends on these forces. Vranitzky is now at
the expectation to see whether "his" forces will be able to
persuade Albanians to hand-in their weapons. It is a matter of
stomach and strength. So far, Albanians had been dominated by the
stomach, always.

Anyhow, the OSCE mission will disembark in Albania with a


promising recipe. In Athens, he set the adequate diagnosis for
Albania, which can be healed with three medicines: the
distribution of humanitarian assistance, the reinstallation of
order and the arrival of international aid.

Vranitzky said that all of these three points will be seriously


considered by the international community, whose representatives
are expected to meet in Rome very soon. Vranitzky wishes to use
this meeting as the place where he will discover his formula and
save Albania. He has already reached an agreement with Dutch
foreign minister Van Mierlo, Fino and Greek foreign minister,
Pangalos.

At the end of the meeting with Vranitzky, Van Mierlo and Fino,
Pangalos said that the international community will help Albania
to normalize the economic development and celebrate new
elections. As sign of good will, Greece granted a very favorable
loan to Albania, worth 136 million DEM. But, unfortunately, this
sum is not enough to close down even one of the many holes the
country has. Maybe this can be done only by Vranitzky, former
banker and a long-time premier of industrialized Austria.

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ALBANIA

TO GO OR NOT TO GO TO ALBANIA

by ARJANA LEKA / Tirana

It is 7 p.m. and as we hear the well known sign of BBC in


Albanian, first shooting is heard on the outside. "This is London
speaking, broadcasting in Albanian". Shooting. There is no more
passers-by on Tirana's streets. BBC's largest audience in the
world is in Tirana.

Even the censorship office in the capital of Albania is also


listening to BBC. The censorship office has nothing to do. Only
one newspaper is published in Tirana, "Rilindja Demokratike", the
ruling party's organ. The party that pretends not being in power
any longer. Other newspapers are closed-down. They have refused
to publish anything under censorship, but even if the latter is
lifted, God knows when will they restart again. The journalists
feel threatened.

The lack of newspapers has been replaced by gossip or a kind of


oral journalism that has more to do with folklore than
journalism. Nothing is true in Tirana and everything is true, at
the same time. Hotel Rogner, that used to serve as a kind of
tribune for journalists who would come to bring or get
information, was closed down for them since "some unidentified
people" beat the director of the largest daily in Albania. When
a couple of days later, a group of unidentified people threatened
to burn-down Rogner and the American Embassy, no one took that
seriously. But when, what is ironically called "Austrian land",
i.e. the Rogner, became actually the ring, the managers opted to
close the doors.

BBC informs that there is another meeting on Albania going on in


Europe. "To go or not to go to Albania - this is the question".
The phone rings and my friend ironically comments: "How many
other meetings will be needed to send the soldiers that will
protect the assistance worth 2,3 million ECU?"

"I have the feeling that they have already spent the double only
in hotel and plane fees", I say to him. He replies: "It's their
money. We are to blame ourselves for our fate". Radio London
talks now about Kosova, meanwhile the shooting in the periphery
of Tirana increases substantially. In fact, it happens every
night. As soon as the curfew starts. Then, it stops.
On the streets, we can all hear the noise of the armored vehicles
and police cars, that try to prove to the citizens that the state
is still functioning, at least in Tirana. People have become used
to this ritual and seem not to be impressed with what is going

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on.

Usually, the armored vehicle is surrounded by police cars. But,


last Sunday, the citizens of Tirana witnessed almost an absurd
scene, which is nonetheless hard to forget.

A column of six or seven cars were beeping in the middle of


Tirana's main boulevard. All thought that it was an urgent case
rushing to the hospital, or a police patrol column. In fact, it
was none of them. It was a wedding. To be more precise, those
were six Mercedes Benz. The seventh vehicle was a tank that was
doing its routine patrolling in the middle of the day. "Wedding
in Times of Armored Vehicles", García Márquez would say.

No one invites you to dinner in Tirana nowadays and neither can


you invite someone to dinner. Restaurants, cafes, and even hotels
close down at 7 p.m., even earlier. Discotheques are a luxury
that one can't even think of. It is the time of talks about
flour, visas to Italy and Greece, the prices of the Kalashnykov
and the "Simonova" rifles.

The news on Albanian TV have started. Berisha, exhausted, meets


with Fino on his way back from Rome. Was it Berisha or his
shadow? SHIK's chief, who has so far resigned ten times,
according to the gossip, talks about the huge plot against
Albania organized by the foreign intelligence services, which at
the end comes out to be the Greek chauvinist circles. The solemn
tones of the MPs that actually accuse America as much as they
accuse Greece, are altered by the voice of one of the MPs that
says: "...the truth is that the enemy gave us 5 years of time,
the enemy even gaves us money for our reforms, army, and secret
police". Another one reminds us of the situations in which Enver
used to discover plots of the domestic and external enemies.
Anyhow, the evening goes on. If you have a phone at home then
other news can come to you. 18 people were killed in Fier in a
clash provoked by a band of criminals. A whole village attacked
a band of criminals that killed the oldest man in town.

From the other side of the Adriatic comes a shocking news: an


Albanian ship, not even good for museums, carrying 100 people,
drowned in the Adriatic, following a mistake of an Italian patrol
boat that was forcing it back. The news starts with the
information on the 36 survivors, not to say that the other 64
were killed. It happened exactly as Irene Pivetti, former speaker
of the Italian Parliament, wanted it to happen. Maybe as a reward
for the fact that 50 and more years ago, Albanian peasants,
instead of throwing Mussolini's soldiers to the sea, hosted them
in their homes and saved them from the executions by their ex-
allies, the Germans. They even saw them off to Italy, with tears
in their eyes.

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It is late and now one can try and read something. Ismail
Kadare's "The Wrong Year", that had never been read as a shocking
futurology, but as a historical and symbolical piece of work, is
now in fashion. Nevertheless, a friend recommends me to read "The
Plague" again. Isn't there something similar between Tirana and
Oran? They are both closed towns. But, I don't know why I prefer
"The Tartars' Desert" by Buzati. I see myself as sergeant Dogo,
who just keeps waiting while leaning on his window-frame.

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