Albania in the Context of the European Economic and Political Crisis

Bulqiza is one of the first sites of struggle in Albania after the crisis but not necessarily related directly with the crisis. 25 miners entered in a hunger strike in July of 2012 demanding investments inside the galleries of the mines, an increase of wages, safe conditions of labor and the lowering of the retirement age. The first reaction of the government was that this has to do only with the contracts between the workers and the company. The workers managed to get an increase in wages but now the mines risk of being closed completely because they’re exploited viciously without improving their conditions. I’ve participated myself in their protest on the 1st of May and in other occasions but no one shows attention to a group of 150 protesters desperately in need of solidarity, differently from what happened in Spain when the miners from the North came to Madrid to protest.

Another strategic sector for the Albanian economy is the Electricity. Based on the instructions of IMF and WB, which later called it a history of success, the distribution of electricity was privatized in 2008-9 to a company called CEZ which is a Czech company. But the company increased by almost 200% the price of electricity, paid ridiculously high wages to its own directors, reduced the labor force, didn’t invest on the technology and started billing families (1500 by now have denounced cases like this) for a quantity of electricity they didn’t consume. The losses in the system since 2009 have increased to 50% of the electricity that is distributed, most of it because people can’t pay the bills. The debt accumulated by Cez is around is 360 million Euros.

This same company is one of the 3 that operate also in Bulgaria where massive protests started in February of this year. But the Albanian government removed the license to CEZ in January and in a sense nationalized it. It’s interesting the response of Czech Republic to this case. They said that the Albanian government is seriously risking its integration in Europe by these practices. The irony is that the distribution of electricity right now is managed a lot better than before, although it’s the corrupted government who is doing it.

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