Friday, November 12, 2010


The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the current political situation in Albania in view of the decision of the Council of Ministers of 8 November 2010 to abolish the visa regime for the citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the conclusion of unsuccessful negotiations between the Democratic Party (DP) and the Socialist Party (PS) by the intervention of the European Parliament (EP). The most interesting and relevant parts of the comprehensive analysis entitled »Has Sali Berisha privatised state institutions« are given below.


The EU has corrected its mistake from 2009 when it failed to abolish the visa system for the citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, although these two countries were not in a worse position than Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, which had the visa regime abolished less than a year ago. The freedom of movement is one of the primary human rights and the ambition of the EU is to become the leader in respecting and protecting human rights, so this decision basically fixes the injustice that has been inflicted upon the citizens of these two countries. However, the EU hasn’t abolished visas for the citizens of Kosovo yet and so Kosovars are at the moment the most isolated nation in Europe.

The current government of Albania, represented by its prime minister Sali Berisha (PD), is by all means trying to take all the credits for the visa abolitions and, by doing so, to take any public attention off the unsuccessful negotiations between the Democratic Party (PD) and the Socialist Party (PS) that have been led by the intermediation of the European Parliament and Eduard Kukan, the President of the Delegation of the EP for South Eastern Europe and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia.


Crime and corruption still represent the cancer of the Albanian society. Prime Minister Sali Berisha is attacking corruption more than others, but only as regards its consequences, not its origins. According to Transparency International for 2010, Albania’s corruption level (2010 corruption perception index) was rated by the 87th place among 178 countries, together with India, Jamaica and Liberia (in 2008 it was on the 85th place). Transparency International personally addressed Prime Minister Sali Berisha in writing concerning different forms of corruption and pressures exerted by the authorities.


The malfunction and non-efficiency of the institutions of the Albanian state is very illustrative in the case of Energy Regulatory Authority (ERE), which obviously doesn’t carry out its responsibilities and competencies that have been entrusted to it according to the Law with the aim to promote the free competition in electric energy sector, protection of the interests of consumers and the supervision of consistent law enforcement of all the procedures for transparent electricity purchases for covering the losses of the Albanian energy system by the recently privatized public company named OSSH (Operatori i Sistemit te Shperndarjes).

Regardless of the fact that it was the Energy Regulatory Authority ERE (Enti Rregullator i Energjise) that created the legislative framework and the rules in 2008 and 2009 which shall regulate the operation of OSSH after its 76% privatization of previously state distribution by the Czech company ČEZ Group, and regardless the circumstances that all five ERE commissioners were appointed by the Albanian Parliament, especially by the members of Berisha’s Democratic Party, it is nevertheless ERE’s disinterest and inefficiency in carrying out basic functions that is the obvious example of this state institution’s malfunctioning.

A very obvious case is the Electricity Supply Tender from September 2010 for covering the losses in the Albanian distribution system by the OSSH sh.a. that meanwhile renamed itself into ČEZ Distribution. After the investigation of the of the best bidder selection procedure several irregularities and infringements have been determined and also some obvious violations of the accepted Rules and procedures for procurement of electricity from OSSH sh.a., which had been accepted by the ERE in May 2009 particularly with the purpose to avoid possible misuses. Despite the fact that ERE took a clear stand during the privatization of OSSH sh.a. that all the procedures by OSSH sh.a. concerning the purchase of electric power for covering the losses in the distribution system should be carried out “fairly”, “transparently” and in compliance with applicable laws and best practices, considering in particular also the fact that the costs of such purchases are fully pass-through and charged upon final consumers by increased applicable tariff. Regardless of this duty, ERE was obviously not interested in the consistent observation of such standards in practice. Despite the fact that in this case such public tender directly affects the tariffs of electric energy for final consumers in Albania, ERE didn’t deal with the transparency of the procedure and the consistency of the before mentioned rules for such purchases of electric power irrespective of the obvious violations, but it obviously tolerated even the disrespect of its own procedure rules. According to the local Albanian media (“Monitor” magazine, November 2010, p.8) ERE approved the submitted tender results by OSSH sh.a., despite established obvious and transparent procedure violations, which creates a reasonable doubt in the independence and credibility of decisions reached by this state institution and also justifiably raises questions regarding the possibility of corruption. In addition, ERE with such “paper-tiger” activity is disabling competition development on the Albanian market and is at the same time enabling the possibility for high earnings of some companies and all of this at the expense of the consumers, i.e. the Albanian citizens. The analysts are warning that the losses in the Albanian distribution network reach around 30% of the entire annual consumption and this cost is paid directly by the Albanian citizens, amounting to over 100 million € annually in absolute terms.

The analysts consider, based on several negative effects on the development of Albanian electric power market, as well as consequently negative effects to the whole Albanian economy, but most of all the inadequate final consumer protection, who bear the whole financial burden because of the inefficient business activity of ERE, that a strong monitoring over ERE should be established in order to determine all the irregularities that have been present in its activity for a longer period of time. Because of the complexity of the problem and high financial funds it is crucial to assure a consistent effective fulfilment of all statutory powers and the responsibility of ERE as an independent state regulatory institution, as well as to assure a satisfactory transparency of its activities, including the fact that the impartiality and efficiency of the monitoring be controlled by the EU institutions in addition to the police and the prosecutor’s office in order to determine the responsibility of certain ERE Commissioners and the role of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. Because of the evidenced irregularities of the before mentioned Tender from September 2010, which were, as the local media reports, admitted also by ERE, it is consequently obvious that the tender should be annulled and a new one announced, which would be carried out lawfully and transparently. The Albanian parliament should be furthermore forced to initiate a procedure for the election of new ERE Commissioners.

The international IFIMES institute will continue to research and analyze the work of individual institutions of the Albanian state and all further procedures which will be undertaken in ERE, and to inform the Albanian and international public on the developments.


At the last Parliamentary Elections the Democratic Party (PD) of Sali Berisha won most seats, promising the citizens to reduce crime and corruption, to strengthen the economy, achieve democratic development and speed up the country’s accession to the EU.

However, two years after the election, the situation regarding crime and corruption is much more different. Even the analysts who are closer to the Albanian right-wing politics consider that not enough has been done. Several ministers of the Democratic Party, as well as the family members of Sali Berisha’s family were engaged in corruption affairs.

If Albania wishes to become a member of the EU it is very certain that the State authorities will have to act fully lawfully, including the independent regulatory bodies being automatically excluded from the political sphere, as it is the case with ERE, which affects the reputation and position of Albania in the EU circles.


The current situation in Albania is connected with the announced local elections in spring 2011. The goal of the Democratic Party is to improve its position before the upcoming local elections showing the citizens its main merits for visa abolition and by that diminishing the significant contribution to the abolition of visas for the citizens of Albania that has been made by former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Vice Premiere Ilir Meta (LSI). Also, the Democratic Party will continue to confront the Socialist party in order to mobilize their electorate before the local elections.

The international IFIMES institute considers that in the politically polarized Albania (between the Democratic and the Socialist Party) the Movement for the Socialist Integration (LSI) as the third largest Party plays the key role in keeping the high political level and representing the interests of Albanian citizens at home and abroad. The analysts have emphasised that the role of Ilir Meta as the Minister of Foreign Affairs was a key one in the construction of a positive and progressive image of Albania last year in the EU and in the world. Sali Berisha and Edi Rama do not have the moral nor the political rights to destroy that image.

The problem of Sali Berisha and the Democratic Party is that they don’t have a full, detailed and a coherent political platform to solve problems which Albania is facing. Instead, Berisha has offered the voters phrases that incarnate communism, but in fact Berisha is doing everything to remain in power and he doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is necessary to that end. His marketing abuses are all affecting the divisions between Albanians. Berisha is acting as if he was in a fierce battle of the dilemma: communism or democracy?

The IFIMES international institute considers that it is not reasonable that Sali Berisha should spend so much energy on confronting other political parties and their leaders, i.e. on topics that no longer play any role in Albania. The changes in the domestic and foreign politics are visible. Albania is changing, only Sali Berisha (PD) and Edi Rama (PS) have stayed the same.

The local elections in May 2011 will show if the Albanian citizens are tired of divisions and confrontations and if they are going to pursue their future with the political parties that offer consistent and progressive politics that can leads Albania forward, not backward.
Ljubljana, 12 November 2010

Commissioner Malstrom visits Tirana

Visa Liberalization: Fears of asylum invasion from Albania and Bosnia in European Union countries

November 12, 2010. "The European Union fears invasion of Albania and Bosnia, which would seek asylum in European countries, after the facilitation of visa waiver" Just noted noted today, the Internal Affairs Commissioner of the EU, Cecilia Malstrom, who visited Tirana. Michele Cercone, in addition, said today in an interview on «Gazeta Shqiptare", it has removed this fear:

"The EU has set up a special monitoring mechanism is to keep the situation under control to prevent misuse of the possibility of free movement," notes the newspaper.
During the meeting today with PM Berisha and other member of cabinet, Malstrom calls Tirana to monitor this process and if it will be observed distortion will submit timely report to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. According to Malstrom, EU will take all necessary measures to prevent the influx of Albanians and Bosnian asylum-seekers without any real reason.

"The previous process of liberalization of visas for the countries of Western Balkans, we observed an increase in the flow of asylum seekers from the countries concerned. This is a major problem for all EU member countries and there is an alarming trend even now"

Update: Greece and Albania, continue without any "official" border

Gazeta Shqip "Missing" the agreement of the border land with Greece

After cancellation of naval agreement, now land border, "is lost" the protocol Albanian jurists of international law, stated that this agreement can not be discussed, as was declared null by the Constitutional Court

After two weeks, the Albanian diplomacy through a delegation to be headed by the secretary general of Foreign Ministry Gazmend Turdiu,who will negotiate with the Greek side agreement on delimitation of the waters, and some other issues related to border issues between the two countries.

Diplomats with knowledge of the old Greek-Albanian relations and especially experts in border issues, said that this time, the negotiation is extremely difficult. This becomes even more difficult by the current context of the allegations by media, following the collapse of the Constitutional Court of the agreement reached about a year ago between the two parties, which agreement was appealed and caused a tremendous public response.

While Albanian jurists of international law, stated that this agreement can not be discussed, as was declared null by the Constitutional Court.

Sources from the Foreign Ministry, to announce that preparations for this confrontation with the Greek side are launched. While diplomats have expressed their reservation, that in this case of Albania, has trouble finding a professional expert on the issue of sea shelf, as in the first rounds of negotiations between Athens and Tirana, the Greek side rejected the booking from side of Italian experts specialists.

Lack of information about the existence in the ministry a copy of the agreement gave the Greek side, has caused serious concern, raised in the form of an alarm within the staff close to the line departments. Likewise, it is known that along with this copy of the draft, a copy of the response required from the Greek for official Albanian question "whether Albania and Greece are at war or not, the answer, according to diplomats, even from a former Foreign Minister of Albania, was affirmative. However, concern about finding or not this draft, is not yet officially present writes today "Gazeta Shqip".

Former head of the OSCE: "Yeah, I support "Greater Albania"

Walker in Prishtina to support Albin Kurti

The Skopje media today, the Albanian-speaking and Slavophones, have a prominent place to the statements of William Walker, former head of the OSCE mission in Kosovo in 1999, to support the union of Kosovo with Albania.

According to William Walker, the people of Kosovo and Albania have to jointly face the future.

"Sometimes I think the idea of consolidation is good, other times I'm not too sure. However, I believe that people on both sides have reasons to address this issue. A large portion of the people of Kosovo and Albania are thinking about a common future.

If you believe people are that such a step would be for their own good, then why do not they? "Said Walker, during an interview to "Top Channel TV".

The former head of the OSCE was in Pristina, in Kosovo to support the party of "Self Determination" of Albin Kurti, which promotes the idea of union of Kosovo with the Albanian state.

The Skopje in talking about the proposals of the designer idea of the Natural Albanian, Koço Danaj, proposing the federalism of FYROM and the annexation of the ethnic Albanian part of the Albanian state.

According to a report of the Skopje 'Sitel', the Danai proposes changing the current form of the Skopje state "by passing a Federation under the Ohrid Agreement, which is still in power, while the state of Skopje is finished.

"So first step is to federalism and the subsequent merger with Albania Koco Danaj has proclaimed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Did Albania breach NATO security?


The majority coalition in Albania's parliament is upset at the opposition for going public with information suggesting Albania sold secret NATO information.

By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana


Mark Ndreca of Albania's Department of Security of Classified Information. [Erl Murati/SETimes]

Recent claims by Albania's opposition that the government sold classified NATO information to Russia and Serbia have put authorities in Tirana in an unenviable position.

"The Albanian secret service (SHISH) head Bahri Shaqiri reportedly told a closed-door parliament meeting that NATO is alarmed".

While SHISH didn't publicly deny that characterisation, the parliamentary majority coalition began blaming the opposition for making the issue of Shaqiri's testimony public.

NATO's office in Tirana did not issue a comment, but former US Ambassador to Albania John Withers described situation as "complex".

Albania has been a member of NATO since April 2008, and the institution responsible for maintaining the security of Alliance information is the Department of Security of Classified Information (DSIK).

SETimes sought an explanation from DSIK's Director for Vetting and Central Registration Mark Ndreca.

SETimes: How is NATO classified information received, administrated and distributed? How do you ensure information is not leaked?

Mark Ndreca: The mutual exchange of information between Albania and NATO has been an ongoing process. It is based on specific and well-defined legal standards. Of course, in order to ensure the security of this information, it has been necessary to have in place a legal framework on classified information. All our legislation is based on the standards of the document of NATO security policy.

SETimes: Who has a right to access NATO classified information, and what procedures govern the process?

Ndreca: A person needs to fulfill certain criteria, and one of these is being equipped with adequate security certificates. Everyone who needs to know classified secret information needs to receive a security certificate. Naturally, the certification of the public administration is a dynamic process, conditioned by the need of the institutions to have access to information at a certain point of time.

There are a number of people who have already had access to NATO classified information due to the nature of their work. Our department gives out the certificates.......... continues.......

Romania’s Hungarians Cautious About Dual Citizenship

The 1.5-million-strong Hungarian minority obtained new rights to obtain Hungarian passports this week – but so far few have taken the plunge.

Marian Chiriac

Members of Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority started registering for dual Hungarian citizenship this week – but the pick-up rate for applications has been slow.

Starting on Monday, the three Hungarian consulates in Romania have received applications from members of the 1.5-million-strong minority, but only about a thousand had applied by Thursday.

Most were from Miercurea Ciuc, in southeast Transylvania, where around 1,000 Szeklers - another name for the Hungarians - showed interest in obtaining dual citizenship.

But in Transylvania’s main city of Cluj, which Hungarians call Koloszvar, there were only around 50 applications and in the capital, Bucharest, only two.

Hungary adopted legislation in May making it easier for the 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians outside the country to obtain dual citizenship. Most live in Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

"The issue of dual citizenship is not yet of major interest for most Hungarians,” Zoltan Sipos, 30, a journalist at a Hungarian newspaper in Cluj told Balkan Insight.

“But more people will apply for dual citizenship in future if they find a good reason to do so,” he added.

Sipos, who obtained Hungarian citizenship in the early 1990s, said he never used his extra passport to settle or work in Hungary.

“It wasn’t of interest for me. I would still be Hungarian even without the Hungarian citizenship,” he said.

For many ethnic Hungarians in Romania, possessing Hungarian citizenship is a matter mainly of symbolic importance. Both Romania and Hungary are members of the European Union and NATO.

“There are some advantages associated with Hungarian citizenship,” said an ethnic Hungarian artist in Romania who did not want to be named.

“Hungarians can more easily obtain a US visa than Romanians and their youngsters have better access to research grants and study opportunities.

“People who have worked in Hungary are also entitled to better pensions compared to those from Romania,” the artist added.

About 7 per cent of Romania's 22 million citizens are ethnic Hungarian.

Some parts of the community, especially the 600,000 Szeklers, have long campaigned for an autonomous region in Transylvania, which became part of Romania after Austria-Hungary lost World War I.

Romanians seem indifferent to the issue of dual citizenship for Hungarians. “It’s their right,” says Viorel Popa, 38, a graduate in history in Bucharest.

“We gave ethnic Romanians in Moldova the same rights a few years ago; it’s the right of kin-states to offer those rights to people of the same origin.”

Bucharest officials also have no issue. “We have no objections to the Hungarian law making it easier to grant Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad," President Traian Basescu said.

Orikum a dangerous situation, residents clash with police

Albanian Update- Is tensioned again the situation in Orikum, 20 km from Vlora City where residents during the protest for properties clashed with police. Chaotic situation during the political intervention, where people responded with stones, bottles and strong stuff.

Unlike the recent protests, this one today has degenerated into the use of violence, residents of Dukati an Orikum have blocked the road at the bridge Vlore-Himare - Orikum.

Subsequently, numerous forces polices, about 200 effective of special forces, to come from Fier Police District station, have intervened to unblock the road. At this point, people have started to shoot with stones and bottles enforcement.

In addition of confrontation are accompanied at police station, 10 of the protesters, while other protesters are drawn to the center of the Dukati to make a decision regarding the near further.

Police have announced that three effective, were injured by stones that are thrown at them by residents, while below the bridge is found a crate of bottles filled with Molotov explosion.

In early October, after several days of protests and attempted a meeting with the head of the municipality, residents spoke with the problem of ownership.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Government: No conditions for K. Serbs to vote

10 November 2010 Source: B92
BELGRADE -- The Serbian government decided today in a phone meeting that the conditions are not present for Serbs in Kosovo to take part in elections there.

A file photo of a Serbian government meeting (Beta)
A file photo of a Serbian government meeting (Beta)

The voting is organized by the Kosovo Albanian authorities and has been scheduled for December.

A statement from the government in Belgrade this Wednesday said that a dialogue on the future of Kosovo acceptable to both sides was necessary.

"It is necessary to find a sustainable and lasting solution to the question of Kosovo and Metohija through dialogue as soon as possible," read the statement.

The government also said that the solution must lead to a historical reconciliation of the Serb and Albanian people and secure lasting peace, as well as the EU perspective of the whole region.

As for the announced elections, the government statement said that "the conditions are not present for Serb residents of Kosovo and Metohija to participate".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Gazeta Shqiptare": Extremists protest at front of' the Albanian Embassy in Athens

November 10, 2010

"The evening of November 4 in front of the Embassy of the Republic of Albania in Athens, organized a rally that lasted several hours by Greek groups, anti-Albanian organizations in Northern Epirus, under the leadership the so-called "Neolea Vorioipiroton", "Youth Northern Epirus", which in Albanian translates as "Rinia vorio-epirotase" », writes in edition of the Albanian newspaper 'Gazeta Shqiptare'.

"With banners and Greek flags in their hands, asked the Albanian government to take urgent steps to solving the murder of Aristotle and Gouma provide immediate solutions to the problems plaguing the Greek minority in our country".

As reported by the media in the neighboring country, this rally was also attended by New Democracy, Pasok and LAOS.

At the end of peaceful assembly, served by the organization Youth of "Northern Epirus' written petition addressed to Prime Minister Sali Berisha, the President of the Albanian Republic Bamir Topi and the Albanian Parliament.

The written protest accused Albania, among others, for a project - platform designed to off-localization of areas where the Greek minority resides.

The protesters warned that if this situation continues in Northern Epirus, it will continue their protests.

'Gazeta Shqiptare' in possession of the letter of protest, which begins with a fair trial of Aristotle Goumas.

Then, in paragraph 2 states:

'In respect of the rights associated with minority language as follows
the national ratification of the Convention for the Protection of Minorities:

The establishment of the Greek language as the official language in public administration at minority areas so that public documents be drawn up in Greek.

Creating public Greek schools.

The right to education, training and education in mother tongue language at all levels and in all levels of education.

In paragraph 3 of this protest is the excerpt:

"Prohibition of acts against the Greek minority and the seizure of land belong to the Greeks, according to the original documents."


The mayor of Himara Vasilis Bollano, continues to be pesequted by albanian atorney under accuse for the signin roads in greek leanguage in Himara Municipality. Just this time, according to the newspaper "Gazeta Shqiptare" it remembers the albanian government that the tabeles during the Tirana Roads, may cause new accuse by penal code of albanian state. Does know this fact the Top Attorney of Albania Ina Rama?

Montenegro: Albanians in the referendum for secession

November 10, 2010

Referendum in which the Albanians in Montenegro should indicate if they live in a common state with their country, proposed by the Director of the Albanian Institute for Regional Prognozes, Koço Danaj.
It held that the possible ignorance of the authorities on the problems facing the Albanian minority in Montenegro could strengthen support for secession from the country and establish a joint Albanian state.

Speaking even in the Podgorica daily newspaper, Vijesti, the Danaj mentioned in the list of so-called '"Natural Albania" and as noted, the positions enjoy broad support among the Albanians of Montenegro, despite attempts by some politicians to minimize the issue.
"There is only one way for Albanians in Montenegro, to support our party. And this is a referendum, "said Danaj.

Koço Danaj was a consultant to three prime ministers of Albania and is now the director of the Institute for Regional Prognozes, based in Tirana last week announced a controversial plan-platform for Greater Albania, writes today Skopjan ireporter '.

The implementation of this platform has the name "Natural Albania", according to Danaj, will be held in 2013 in which year Albania will join in 7 different stages of the Kosovo territories Vardarska western region of northwestern Greece, the Serbian Presevo valley and part of Montenegro.

Bulgarian spy services intercept PM assassination plot

A conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister of Bulgaria has been intercepted in its planning stage by the country’s intelligence services, according to information published yesterday in the Bulgarian press. The Sofia-based 24 Chasa daily alleges that Bulgarian intelligence agents were able to intercept telephone conversations leading to a meeting of conspirators, which took place four months ago. The meeting, held at the luxury King George Palace Hotel in downtown Athens, Greece, was reportedly attended by several Bulgarian “participants [who] came onboard yachts, accompanied by numerous bodyguards”. The meeting centered on plans to fund an operation to “eliminate” Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, of Bulgaria’s conservative GERB party, who has led the country since the summer of 2009.

According to 24 Chasa, participants at the meeting pledged the sum of €400,000 to fund the assassination of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, a country that has been a member of the European Union since 2007. If the paper’s allegations are true, this would be the third known plot to assassinate Borisov, who was Bulgaria’s Interior Secretary and the Mayor of Sofia before assuming Prime-Ministerial duties in 2009. Earlier this month, Borisov revealed during a television interview that Bulgarian intelligence had intercepted a 2005 telephone conversation between individuals in Amsterdam, Holland, and Milan, Italy, discussing plans to assassinate him. Bulgaria’s Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for political security, and the country’s National Intelligence Service (NRS), have refused to comment on 24 Chasa’s allegations, though a press statement said security measures to protect the Prime Minister had been

Albania and Bosnia Visa Rules Eased

The European Union decided on Monday to lift visa requirements next month for travelers from Albania and Bosnia who have biometric passports with a digitally recorded photograph.

The move is intended to encourage democratic reforms in the Balkan nations, but the bloc warned that restrictions would be reimposed if rules on border controls and passport security were abused. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Europe and asylum policies are strained by an influx of refugees.

After visa requirements for citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia were relaxed, asylum applications from those three Balkan countries grew significantly.

Some European governments feel that because of corruption and weak institutions, Albania and Bosnia, which would like to join the union, cannot cope with issues likes illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

Bus Drops Off Cliff In Albania, Killing At Least 8 People

TIRANA, Nov 9, At least eight Albanians were killed and five were in a critical condition after their Greece-bound bus fell off the road into a 100-meter precipice in southern Albania, China's Xinhua news agency quoted police and witnesses as saying.

Firefighters, policemen and special elite police troops rushed to the scene of the accident and were trying to overturn it with two cranes to help get out the survivors. Witnesses said they heard people crying out for help from the carcass of the bus as the rescuers were approaching and while they were trying to get them out.

"Eight people died after the bus of the Durres-Athens route fell 100 metres off the road. Five people are in a life-threatening condition while 36 are out of danger," police spokesperson Kleida Plangarica said shortly before midnight on Monday.

Speaking from the scene of the accident, firefighter chief Shkelqim Pashaj confirmed eight had died an hour before midnight on Monday when the search and rescue operation ended. Unofficially, more were believed dead.

The driver of the bus, a Greek citizen, whom the passengers described as talking all the time on his mobile phone while driving, had been taken to hospital but was not in a life-threatening condition.

"The injured passengers at the Fier hospital blame the driver for the incident, saying he was drunk," a reporter at the hospital said. "The mother of two twins aged six has died." However, Greek media reported a punctured tire was to blame for the accident.

Of the 1.2 million Albanians working abroad in search of a better life, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 work and live in neighbouring Greece, a European Union member. Most travel cheaply by road, including the area where the route zigzags uphill and downhill along the mountainous area of southern Albania.

Greece had offered to help treat the wounded at its hospitals across the border from southern Albania.

Fourteen people died after their minivan swerved off the road in the northern mountainous area of Puke in mid-July.