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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: 073 - (27/05/03)

Alarm at Belgrade developments
The Albanians have still not recovered from the news out of Serbia about the assassination three months ago in March of its leader. Premier Djindjic was highly esteemed in Albania as a reasonable and honest man, doing a good job in difficult circumstances. With him in charge in Belgrade there was little risk of any repetition of the Kosovo war of 1999, when ethnic Albanians were the target of Serb paramilitaries and spontaneous ethnic cleansing by local Serbs.
The Albanians fear a Serbian army take-over and a new attempt to oust the Albanian Kosovars. That would mean Albania having hordes of refugees as in 1999 and a disruption to their successful recovery from dictatorship and civil war.
The new government of Premier Zoran Zivkovic is doing well in calming the situation and putting down the rogue elements - so far.
The US is also very committed now to Albania, which has been immensely helpful in the anti-terrorism campaign, handing over suspect terrorists, who congregate in what is the one European country with a largely Islamic identity. Tirana has been keen to reshape the image of Albania abroad, which is as a nest of gangster elements and ideologues or extremists.

Economy recovers
Actually, the Albanians did very well out of the 1999 war, obtaining huge amounts of aid and playing host to personnel from the international agencies who raised standards and expectations, especially in Tirana. From being in profound disarray in the 1990s beforehand, the 1999 war marked the moment when recovery commenced.
Growth of GDP of 7% per annum or more has become the norm, coupled with low, if not negligible, inflation. The country has really turned around and is no longer the poorest in Europe. That distinction is now the possession of Moldova.
The population is becoming more sophisticated, less likely to fall victim to dubious pyramid financial schemes, whose collapse wiped out the savings of many in the mid-1990s. Gangsters are still there; but many have departed for Italy and Britain, or further afield to the US. The creation of a civil society is under way, with an independent rule of law in its early stages. But it is, indeed, still early days yet.
Although improvement has been made in human rights areas, Albania's record still remained poor last year. "The overall performance of law enforcement remained weak," stated the US government's 2002 annual human rights report. There are elevated levels of violent crimes and popular distrust for law enforcement. Many of the crimes and killings that occur are results of gang violence or "blood feuds," some of which have their origins generations ago and are little or nothing to do with organised crime. The law enforcement officials are rarely trained well and sometimes are even the ones to commit the human rights abuses. 
Albania does receive international aid, and it is even specifically geared towards police reform. "Because of political pressure, intimidation, endemic corruption, bribery, and limited resources, the judiciary was unable to function independently and efficiently," the report said. Also not up to par are the conditions of jails and prisons. A major problem is overcrowding in the jails, even though recent jails have been built.  The Albanian government is hoping to soon join NATO and the European Union (EU), and is trying to combat the problem it has with organised crime, corruption and people trafficking.

Greater Albanian nationalist kept out
One blow struck for stability, has been the decision to keep the suspected leader of the underground organisation, the Albanian National Army (AKSH), out of Albania, the Macedonian national, Gafurr Adili, a Swiss resident. 
The AKSH, which aims to unite all Albanian - dominated areas of the Balkans into one state, has claimed responsibility for several outrages and attacks against the security forces in Macedonia and Kosovo. Tirana is not at all interested in such a pipedream, a Greater Albania, Adili was firmly shown the exit door.

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Albanian premier inaugurates building of new airport

Prime Minister Fatos Nano attended the ceremony to inaugurate works on building the international airport of Kukes on 10th May, ATA News Agency has reported. 
"This airport is of great importance for the development of the country and the northern region as it creates direct possibilities for the development of the northern zone of Albania," said Nano. 
He especially thanked the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is financing the building of this airport with an amount of US$14.2m. 
Also referring to his visit to Malesi e Madhe, where he inaugurated various infrastructure projects, the premier said that "these projects are part of the investment the government is making in the country's northern zone to bring it closer to Tirana, to bring Kukes closer to Tirana, Pristina and further afield." 
He also said that the work of the construction of the new international airport in Kukes will create possibilities for new jobs and improve welfare for the inhabitants of the surrounding zone. 
Meanwhile, he added, the airport will also serve to increase free movement of people and goods. 
Afterwards, Nano and the head of the UAE delegation, Colonel Ahmad, laid the foundation stone that officially marks the beginning of works for the construction of this important project. 
The work will last for 20 months and will be conducted by the Kuwait company, Al Kharaf.

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Representatives of major Iranian firms visit Albania

Representatives of the 22 largest Iranian companies have visited Tirana to expand their trade cooperation with the Albanian businessmen, Albanian TV has reported. Iran represents one of the countries with the biggest economic power in the Middle East. 
The Albanian National Union of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Iranian embassy organized an Albanian-Iranian business forum in Tirana. Businessmen interested in building material, bathroom material, electric medical equipment, drugs, clothes, foodstuffs, industrial products, steel products and petrochemical products took part in the forum.

Bosnia, Albania sign free trade agreement

The minister for foreign trade and economic relations in the [Bosnia-Herzegovina] Council of Ministers, Mila Gadzic, and Albanian Foreign Minister Ilir Meta signed a bilateral free trade agreement in Sarajevo on 28th April, BH Radio 1 has reported. 
After the signing ceremony, Gadzic said that with this document both states confirmed the intention to cooperate actively and take an active part in the regional integration processes.

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