DUBLIN — Before his recent resignation, outgoing Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern prefaced the annual St. Patrick”s Day pilgrimage to the White House by predicting “a hard year” ahead for the Irish economy. The banking crisis and credit crunch in the United States, as well as the falling dollar, worry Irish policy-makers. Ireland has 25 percent of its trade in dollars and has bet much of its recent economic boom on a 12 percent corporate tax rate — an enormous incentive for U.S. multinationals such as Intel and Microsoft to run pan-European operations out of Ireland. Google has the headquarters of its European and Middle East operations in Dublin. “The company is very pleased with how the Dublin operation continues to develop,” a Google spokesman said.
TIRANA — “It has been a long time coming, but Albania is ready to rejoin the West. In truth and in spirit, it never left,” Tirana’s Catholic Archbishop Rrok Krol Mirdita said in an interview. Muslims are the majority, but Albania is a country split four ways confessionally — between Sunni Muslims, Sufi Muslim Bektashis, Catholics and Greek Orthodox. There’s two ways tribal split as well, with northern Ghegs and southern Tosks making up most of the country’s roughly 3 million population. But all Albanians now seem to be pulling one way politically after the recent declaration of independence by Kosovo, where the majority of the population is Albanian. A Kosovar delegation visited recently to discuss forming a common market between the two states. Despite Kosovo’s supervised independence precluding unification with Albania, the latter”s Minister for Economy and Energy, Genc Ruli, stated that a free Kosovo “paved the way for a common market […] and coordination of economic policies with Albania.”