Monday, April 14, 2008

Dateline: Tirana

Back again in the Albanian capital, which inevitably limits the opportunities to blog, since Internet access can be rather sporadic.

Things continue to improve in this country, though as always the bad cars and bad roads leave your heart in your mouth when travelling more than a few miles from Tirana. Even in the few months since I was last here, there is visible progress, with new construction proceeding at a breakneck pace. There is, despite the general poverty, a certain optimism, after all where else would someone build a hotel underneath a large electricity pylon and simply call it "The Hotel Eiffel"?

Even two years ago local entrepreneurs struggled to find capital for even the most basic investments, now it is clear that a tipping point has been reached and there is certainly the beginnings of large scale investment in tourism. Albania may have a frankly scary reputation, but in general, the population is well educated and thinking, and this gives hope that they will follow their professed path: not to a Greater Albania on the Model of Greater Serbia and all the other failed Balkan "Greater" states, but rather the idea of European Albania- where borders are not the issue, but the right to live your life in your own way is what truly matters.

An ethnic Albanian friend of mine is from Macedonia, and over a drink he talked about Macedonia as being very much his country.

"You know", he said "I would probably fight to prevent the absorption of any part of Macedonia into Albania. We Albanians are all rather different, despite our strong common links of language and history".

Yet even as the Albanians lift themselves out of poverty and oppression, the murderous tyrant, Robert Mugabe, continues to defy the demands of his people for change in Zimbabwe. The atmosphere in Harare is said to be despairing. I just hope that those Zanu-PF thugs responsible for the latest violence end up being defeated, however the craven behaviour of Thabo Mbeki makes me fear not just for the future of Zimbabwe, but for South Africa itself.


Anonymous said...

Cicero, what is worrisome is what happens next door in that unpredictable zone called Kosovo. The problem is that if "Greater Albania" comes up in the debates, it could destabilise the gains Tirane has made. Remember, Albania is more than Tirane, and also, Albanian politicians of various persuasions have been known for pushing nationalistic agendas for short-term political gain. Possible tinderbox. I'd sooner invest in Serbia -- which will boom soon.

Cicero said...

Serbia is not likely to boom for as long as they refuse to face facts and to work with the European Union- unfortunately, since I speak as one with a strong interest in the recovery of Serbia.