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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: 072 - (17/04/03)

Alarm at Belgrade developments
The Albanians have been shocked by the news out of Serbia. 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.
With his assassination in March everything is in the melting pot again. 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 US, however, is 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. 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 and the issue of human trafficking. 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 trafficking.

Greater Albanian nationalist kept out
One blow struck for stability, however, was 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 president thanks Italian counterpart for cooperation, aid

President Moisiu has said that Albanian-Italian relations are excellent. "We thank Italy for the support that it has given to Albania in all fields, particularly at our most difficult moments," the president said, recalling some of the Italian missions, such as Alba, Pelican, and others, Albanian Radio has reported. At a meeting with his Italian counterpart, President Moisiu called for continuity in Italy's support and aid in areas linked to Albania's integration into Euro-Atlantic bodies. 
Italian President Ciampi said that Italy would give full support in this process, particularly during the second half of the year, when Italy would take over the EU presidency. The consolidation of the institutions in Albania, Ciampi said, will increase not only the confidence of the Albanians in them, but also the assistance of the international community. 
They also discussed the implementation of the Corridor 8 project, to which Italy will make a special contribution, and the greater participation of the Italian investors in Albania's economic life. 
The two presidents spoke about the developments in the region. They emphasized Albania's negotiating ability and its constructive role in the Balkans. On the issue of Kosovo, Ciampi said that there was no going back and that the people of Kosovo deserved broad self-governance. 
President Moisiu also had a meeting with the Italian Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini. Fini said that Albania had left its most difficult period behind. Italy, he said, appreciates Albania's efforts for its integration into the Euro-Atlantic bodies. "We are aware of your progress and this has increased our confidence in your abilities," Fini said. "During its six-month EU presidency term, Italy will demonstrate its support for this process" he said. "We thank you for your serious fight against the trafficking of illegal immigrants. This has contributed to the friendly relations between our two countries. In view of this we are thinking about the liberalization of the visa regime and the prolongation of the residence permits for the Albanians living in Italy." 
President Moisiu expressed his appreciation for Italy's offer of support. He called for the participation of the Italian investors in the fields of tourism, privatisation, energy, and other important sectors. 

Albania, Bulgaria sign cooperation agreements

Prime Ministers Simeon Saxe-Coburg of Bulgaria and Fatos Nano of Albania conferred on 26th March at the start of an official two-day visit by the Bulgarian head of government, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers said in a press release posted on its web site. 
The two countries also signed agreements on cooperation in trade, transport and education. The two prime ministers reviewed the development of bilateral political and economic relations. Paying special attention to regional infrastructure projects, they stressed the importance of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. VIII (Brindisi-Durres-Tirana-Skopje-Gyueshevo-Sofia-Plovdiv-Burgas/Varna-Poti-Batumi) and the AMBO Trans-Balkan pipeline project linking the Bulgarian port of Burgas to Vlore on the Albanian Adriatic coastline. The sides stressed their Euro-Atlantic orientation and their support for international counter-terrorism. 
Organized crime in the region was also discussed, according to the press release. At their plenary talks, the Bulgarian and Albanian delegations considered steps to invigorate economic and trade relations in areas of shared interest and discussed measures for enhancement and encouragement of bilateral cooperation on a regional basis and within the context of the two countries' EU integration. Bulgarian Deputy Economy Minister, Sofia Kasidova, and Albanian Economy Minister, Arben Malaj, signed a bilateral Free Trade Agreement...
Bulgarian Transport and Communications Minister, Plamen Petrov, and Albanian Transport and Telecommunications Minister, Spartak Poci, signed an Agreement on International Intermodal Carriage of Goods. Bulgarian Education and Science Minister Vladimir Atanasov and his Albanian counterpart Luan Memusi signed an agreement on reciprocal recognition of certificates of education and academic awards...

Albanian premier, Saudi Arabia's prince discuss bilateral contacts, investments

Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano, during talks held on 6th April with the Prince of Saudi Arabia, the billionaire businessman al-Valid Bin-Talal, emphasized that "Albania is transformed to a country with high pace of economic growth and an attractive market for foreign investors, especially in regard to tourism, power, banks, infrastructure and services," ATA News Agency has reported. 
Prime minister spokesperson Aldrin Dalipi announced that Prime Minister Nano briefed his interlocutor on developments of the country, political stability and deepening of reforms, as well as on numerous probabilities Albania offers to investments in different domains, including tourism and privatisation of strategic sectors. 
"Bilateral contacts are to be intensified, in order to identify other cooperation fields, as well," Nano was quoted as saying. 
Prince al-Valid Bin-Talal, in his address, confirmed that "Albania has become an attractive country for foreign investors." Further on, he announced "he will send a group of experts to delineate the projects and investments of the group he represents". 
Prince al-Valid Bin-Talal is either a prominent political personality, or a very important international investor. He is the president of Kingdom Holding and one of the main shareholders of City Group. 
During his visit, the prince also held talks with President of the Republic of Albania Alfred Moisiu and Deputy Prime Minister, also Foreign Minister Ilir Meta.

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Foreign investments plummet in Albania

Foreign investments in Albania fell to US$100m in 2002 - less than half of the figure for the previous year, the Balkan Times reported, quoting figures published by the Finance Ministry. The drop was credited to the delayed privatization and a deficiency of plentiful deals.

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