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Albania

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  ALBANIA

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
28,748

Population
3,510,484

Capital
Tirana

Currency
Lek

President
Alfred Moisiu

Private sector
% of GDP

45%

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Background:
In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents. International observers judged local elections in 2000 to be acceptable and a step toward democratic development, but serious deficiencies remain to be corrected before the 2001 parliamentary elections

Update No: 065 - (26/09/02)

The Albanians had the most extremist regime in the entire communist world, excepting possibly Kim Il-Sung's in North Korea and Ceausescu's in Romania, Pol Pot's in Cambodia being in a league of his own! Enver Hoxha, the long-time strongman, was an ardent Stalinist who said in the 1970s that when he went to Beijing in 1952 he could already "smell the whiff of revisionism in the air," a prescient experience given what he would think of Deng and post-Deng China. But then Mao himself warned of the ubiquity of ' capitalist-roaders" around him.
Hohxa would be apoplectic at later developments in his own socialist paradise. The 'whiff of revisionism' by the 1990s had become a stench. Indeed the Albanians abandoned socialism and became capitalist-roaders by and large, when they finally had the opportunity.
Some bitterly regretted it by 1997 when a series of financial pyramid scams collapsed, taking away people's savings at a stroke. Times were very hard and Albania was still the poorest country in Europe.

Recovery at last
But 1997 was the nadir. By 1999 recovery was under way, greatly helped by the Kosovo War, which put Albania on the map and attracted enormous international aid to cope with 250,000 refugees. NATO forces were using Albania as the springboard for attack in Kosovo. Hundreds of NGO personnel were stationed there. Albania had made a decisive turn to the West.
Annual growth in the 1999-2002 period has averaged 7%, with remarkable low single figure inflation per year. The economy is now no longer a complete basket-case and Moldova, not Albania, is at the bottom of the European league.

Socialists benefit
The Socialist Party was in power when the turn-around occurred and has been the great beneficiary, winning re-election last year. The leader of the conservative opposition, Sali Berisha, realises the strength of their position and has made a deal with them allowing Alfred Moisui, an ex-military man into the vacant presidency recently.
Continuing along the same path is a bipartisan policy today in Albania. There is no alternative but plumping for the West.

Keeping terrorism at bay
The Albanians have scored brownie points with the US for wholesale cooperation over arresting and handing over terrorists, several al-Qaeda suspects turning up in Tirana recently, the capital of the only predominantly Moslem country in Europe. Certainly it was believed that the Taleban used Albanian ports for their illegal traffic in drugs from Afghanistan.
The events since 9:11 have helped resolve a tense situation in Macedonia last year and maintain an uneasy peace subsequently. Ethnic Albanian rebels there disbanded their militia and opted for peace. But the Albanian government was urging Skopje to show restraint, criticising it for threatening to arrest Ali Ahmeti, an Albanian leader there, and for other 'extremist' actions. The government has since been replaced in elections. The Albanians are now the region's strongest foe of extremism. Hohxa must be turning over in his grave.

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AGRICULTURE

Albania to conclude agri privatisation in 2003

The privatisation process of enterprises in Albania's agricultural system is slated for conclusion by the end of next year. Consequently, more than 70 per cent of facilities of former agricultural enterprises have been sold so far, sources from the ministry of agriculture and food reported, quoted by the Albanian Daily News.

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FISHING INDUSTRY

Albania joins sea-sharing neighbours in AdriMed project

Albanian government sources have announced that Albania has joined the AdriMed project, which promotes cooperation in managing fish resources in the Adriatic. 
Slovenia, Croatia and Italy, with initiated and financed the project, as also a part of the venture, the Balkan Times has reported.

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Prevent buys textile firm, pledges major investment

Prevent signed a contract on the purchase of Bosnian textile company, Kimo, for a price of one convertible mark recently.
Bluebull reported that besides taking on 1.3m convertible marks of the Bosnian firm's debt, the Slovenian maker of car seat covers has promised to invest four million convertible marks in the troubled company over the next three years.

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FOREIGN LOANS

Albania to benefit from Greek Balkan reconstruction plan


Athens extended the range of its ambitious Balkan Reconstruction Plan with the signing of a bilateral agreement with Albania in late August. The agreement is worth some 50m Euros for the period from 2002 to 2006, New Europe has reported.
For the most part, the plan envisions high-priority infrastructure projects in the cash-strapped Balkan nation, as well as improvements in the power supply network. Other projects include education, health and civil servant training programmes, Athens News Agency reported.
"Greece, with this specific agreement proves, in practice, its affinity with the Albanian people. In terms of geography, we are two neighbouring people that live together; it does not matter which of the two is more prosperous. What does matter is the consolidation of peace and friendship, security and stability, as well as the fight against terrorism," Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Andreas Loverdos, stressed following the signing in Athens.
The Greek minister's comments also stressed the fight against terrorism and organised crime. He said these issues now rank as a priority goal for the entire Balkan region. For his part, Albanian Economy Minister, Arben Malaj, expressed his thanks for the support Athens has shown, while noting that cooperation between the two countries will continue to grow. He believes this will have positive repercussions for the substantial number of Albanian nationals having crossed into Greece over the last decade.

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