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Albania

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ALBANIA


  
   

Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 4,695 4,100 3,800 114
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,380 1,340 1,220 123
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Albania

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
28,748

Population
3,582,205

Capital
Tirana

Currency
Lek

President
Alfred Moisiu


Private sector
% of GDP
45%

 

Update No: 088 - (27/08/04)

Albania seeks to compensate political prisoners
The Albanian government has passed a law which it hopes will settle once and for all the vexed issue of compensation for former political prisoners. Thousands of Albanians were jailed, tortured and executed under the communist government of Enver Hoxha, which ruled the country for more than 40 years. 
Hoxha, the most unrepentant Stalinist dictator, passed away to join Uncle Joe in the sky in March 1985, the very month Mikhail Gorbachev became first secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and, as it so happens, the last one too, which would have made Hoxha see red.
The political prisoners were released and pardoned more than a decade ago; but many have yet to receive anything at all. 
Burrel prison is a small ramshackle building on a hilltop some two hours drive from the Albanian capital Tirana. Its very name fills former political prisoners with dread. For many years this is the kind of place where those deemed a threat to the communist state were sent to serve their sentences.
Just how many is a matter of dispute, but at least 6,000 and possibly as many as 25,000. Among them are two men, Adem Allci and Agron Kalaja. Between them they spent 48 years of their lives in prison. Their crimes: spreading propaganda and opposing the collectivisation of Albania's farms. 
That may sound harsh, but another man spent several years inside for simply owning a cassette by the British singer Joe Cocker. 
Adem says: "This is nothing but a graveyard and it took the best years of my life. I was here for 28 years, my family as a whole spent a total of 100 years here. Can you imagine how many families were affected? Some of them don't even know where the bodies of their loved ones are.'' 
Under the Communists, political prisoners were a source of free labour, often worked to death. They worked in the factories, in the fields, in the mines. They even built Tirana's sports stadium. Many died from hunger and exhaustion. But those that survived are not broken. They are angry. 
They have staged several protests in the capital Tirana. Many are still waiting for compensation promised them 10 years ago, when a law was passed which entitled them to $30 (£16) for every day in prison. 
The problem, says the country's Finance Minister Arben Malaj, is that Albania is too poor to pay them. "The compensation they're asking for amounts to $1.2bn (£658m)," he said. "That's an impossible amount for the Albanian budget.'' Under a new law, the government is instead offering them a pension worth a maximum of $50 (£27) a month. 

Nano the lucky?
What makes the former prisoners even more angry is that Prime Minister Fatos Nano and other senior figures have received compensation. 
Mr Nano spent a spell in prison in the 1990s when he was convicted for corruption. That conviction was later overturned, Mr Nano took his case for compensation to court, and won. 
More than a decade after communism, Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. 
And those who were released from jail at the start of the 1990s are some of the worst off. They walked out of the prison gates penniless, often traumatised by the experience. The lucky had extended family to help them out. 
Back at Burell Prison one cell has been turned into a museum. Filthy mattresses line the floor, the names of the dead are listed on the walls. 

Albanian Prime Minister Invites Austria To Take Part in Major Sell-Offs 
Albania's Prime Minister Fatos Nano has invited Austrian companies to take part in the ongoing privatisation of the country's strategic sector, Nano's press office said in a statement. Nano, who went on a two-day visit to Austria in early August, met Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel. 
The Albanian government's sell-off programme for the country's strategic sector includes the privatisation of the power utility KESH, fixed-line monopoly Albtelecom, insurer INSIG, oil refiner and oil products distributor ARMO, oil extraction company Albpetrol, and oil fields services company Servcom. 
The two officials discussed also the bilateral economic relations, as well as co-operation in tourism, healthcare, defence, and education. 
"Raiffeisen Zentralbank [which bought Albania's largest commercial bank Savings Bank in December last year] is a proof of this new reality," Nano said, adding that the bank's presence in the local market will have a further positive impact on the local economy. 
Austria backs also energy and water projects in Albania. Schuessel reconfirmed Vienna's commitment to back Albania's EU integration. 
"I guarantee that Austria will be among Albania's main supporters in its EU integration," he said in a statement after the meeting. "Soon we will meet with EU authorities to present our support," he added.
Nano took part in a forum on stability in Southeastern Europe in 21st century, to be held in Salzburg.

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ENERGY

EBRD helping generate electricity for Albania


The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is lending Korporata Elektroenergjetike Shqiptare (KESH), Albania's state-owned power utility, 40m Euro (US$49.5m) to help improve power supply for residents and businesses across the country.
The 15-year loan will enable KESH to finance the construction of a new oil-fuelled thermal power plant in Vlore, just off the Adriatic coast in south-west Albania. With an expected production capacity of up to 135MW, the plant will help diversify electricity supply in a country which is currently 95 per cent dependent on hydro-power, which has lead to erratic supply patterns.
The loan builds on the success of 54m Euro in loans by the Bank to KESH in 1999 and 2002 to help it restore some existing generation and reduce losses by improving transmission and distribution networks, but also to improve management of the sector.
Under the co-management contract introduced and administered by the bank as part of the 1999 loan, the Italian utility Enel has been assisting KESH to overcome various sector problems.
As a result, Albania has been making progress to end an electricity crisis partly created by excessive demand resulting from the illegal use of electricity, non-payment of bills, and tariffs below full cost recovery.
The timing is now right to address the supply imbalance. Anthony Marsh, director of Power and Energy at the EBRD, said the project will help reduce Albania's reliance on hydro power while making it more efficient, ensure a reliable and continuous supply of electricity for the country, and reduce Albania's dependence on electricity imports to manageable levels.
It will also help Albania meet a requirement for joining the Union for the Coordination of Transmission of Electricity (UCTE), an association of west and east European transmission-system operators promoting the reliable operation of electricity networks, of which it must be a member if it is to be a real player in the southeast Europe regional integration process.
The total project cost is estimated to be up to 110m Euro, which will be financed in cooperation with other institutions including the World Bank, European Investment Bank and KESH, New Europe reported.

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FOOD & DRINK

Albanian starts olive oil exports

Albanian olive oil will be exported for the first time to Switzerland, ATA News Agency reported recently. 
Sources from the Agricultural Business Council said that the first supply of 2.5 tonnes of oil will be exported to Switzerland by Shkalla company. Foreign experts of the agricultural industry at various international fairs, hold the oil produced by the company in high esteem for its original flavour and quality. The olive oil industry in Albania meets currently only 8% of the market demand, with the remainder being imported, a main cause of high prices in the niche market.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Third mobile telephony operator to enter Albania

A third mobile telephony company in Albania, Eagle Mobil, will enter the market by the beginning of 2005, sources within the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications announced. Lack of capital for the purchase of technology seems to have thwarted plans for the presence of a competitor that would trigger a decrease in the tariffs of the other two companies currently operating on the Albanian specific market, Vodafone and AMC, New Europe reported recently.
The Telecommunications Adjustment Enterprise had approved the third mobile communication permit for "Eagle Mobil" company by mid-March, paving the way for the implementation of GSM mobile telecommunications network by Albtelecom on the basis of the business plan drafted by this company.
During the first stage, some €20m will be invested in extending the mobile network to western Albanian lowlands as well as several important cities where the subscriber numbers are put at 100,000. This new operator aims to enter the market as soon as possible, seeing this as an advantage in the competition with the other two mobile telephony operators. Eagle Mobile, is expected to operate at lower tariffs than the other two companies.
According to sources with the Ministry of Transports cited by ATA, the telecommunications market has seen solid development over the past years. Among 85 operators acting in the communication services, two of them, AMC and Vodafone total over 1.200.000 subscribers. The digitalisation rate has surged to the extent of 99% and by year-end, it is expected to reach hundred per cent numbers.

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