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Albania  

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ALBANIA


  
  



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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 6,124 4,695 4,100 109
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,740 1,380 1,340 120
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Area (sq.km)
28,748

Population
3,544,808

Capital
Tirana

Currency
Lek

President
Alfred Moisiu


Update No: 095 - (31/03/05)

Still staunch for 'Iraqi Freedom'
The recent announcement that Albania -- a small country with limited resources -- was sending an additional 50 well-trained troops to Iraq came as a surprise to some observers. But it really should not have surprised anyone. "The surprise is not in Albania's decision to send more troops to fight for freedom in Iraq. The surprise would have been if Albania did not," says Fatos Tarifa, the ambassador of Albania to the United States.
Albania was one of only four countries to send combat troops during the operation "Iraqi Freedom." Albania is probably the most pro-American country on Earth. It showed its support of the United States early, when it initially sent 70 commandos to join the Coalition of the Willing's effort to bring peace, stability and free elections to Iraq. These new troops bring a total of 120 Albanian soldiers serving in Iraq. From a country with only 3.5 million people, the troops represent the best Albania has to offer. 
Unlike people in other countries in Europe and elsewhere, the Albanian people have not forgotten what it is like to live under tyranny and repression. The Albanians for more than 40 years were held in thrall by the repressive forces of the communists, living like prisoners without rights in their own country. It was to the United States that freedom-loving Albanians looked for inspiration during those dark years, and the Americans did not let them down. "We Albanians are a nation of freedom fighters who know something about living under oppression," Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano wrote in a letter to President Bush. "That is why we wholeheartedly support the American-led effort to free the people of Iraq. And though we are a small country with a small military, we are proud to stand side by side with our allies in the fight to end the reign of terror in Baghdad." 
Europe is a small place and it is hard not to run into history there. It is also hard to avoid the historic contributions of the United States in the defence of freedom and liberty on the continent. There are cemeteries throughout Europe -- in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg -- containing the remains of American soldiers who died in battle to free Europe in two world wars. 
Although it is not fashionable to talk about it, the face of Europe would indeed be much different today were it not for the Americans who died storming the Normandy beaches. Were it not for the Americans, there is a good chance there would be no France, nor a United Kingdom nor a Belgium, as we know them today. Were it not for the United States it also is very possible no Balkan countries would be free. 
Upon committing Albania to the Coalition of the Willing, Prime Minister Nano urged his fellow European leaders to visit Normandy "to see for themselves what the United States has been willing to undertake in the name of freedom. We should all visit Normandy. We should pay homage to those brave Americans who stormed ashore at Omaha Beach and gave their lives for the freedom of others. The wonder of it is that the Americans are willing to do it again," Mr. Nano said. 
And of course, it was the U.S.-led effort of NATO to rein in Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo that proved to the world that, in the name of freedom, the United States was willing to fight for the freedom of the oppressed, regardless of religious belief. 
So it is with Iraq. The importance of the American-led effort to liberate Iraq and establish a democratic government for the first time in this country's history cannot be underestimated. It is not the first time the United States has faced suicide bombers trapped in a cult of death. The Japanese kamikazes sought to do to the Americans toward the end of World War II what the terrorists are attempting in Iraq today. The kamikazes failed then, the terrorists will fail now. Japan became a democracy and so will Iraq.
But then there is China.
Throughout the Cold War Albania had a close relationship to China. A relationship which gave that country a foothold in Europe and still continues today.
Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and Prime Minister Fatos Nano respectively met with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on March 26th to discuss bilateral relations. During the talks, President Moisiu said Albania and China have good political relations and a vast potential for economic cooperation. He encouraged more Chinese investments in his country. 
Prime Minister Nano said there are favourable conditions for bilateral cooperation in such fields as trade, culture and education, particularly trade. 
The two leaders both told the Chinese foreign minister that Albania supports the Anti-Secession Law passed on March 28th by China's National People's Congress to prevent Taiwan's secession from China and will continue to stick to the one-China policy. Albania will not have any official ties with Taiwan, the two leaders pledged. 
For his part, Li thanked the Albanian government's support for China's efforts for achieving national reunification and said China will make joint efforts with Albania to boost bilateral cooperation.

Albania hopes to join EU in 2014, says PM
Albania hopes to sign a stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union this year and to join the 25-member bloc in 2014, Prime Minister Fatos Nano said in Paris in mid-January with AFP.
"The European Union is evolving and today seems more favourable to receiving new members. In 2014, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which seems a perfect date for a new enlargement," Nano said. 
The Albanian prime minister met with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and French President Jacques Chirac, for talks aimed at strengthening bilateral ties. Nano lamented France's paltry investment in Albania. Currently the only significant project, worth €75 million (US$97.8m), is the construction of a Club Med resort village in the southern Albanian town of Saranda, which is expected to open in two years.

The key Kosovo question
On the future of Kosovo, the Albanian prime minister said the UN-run province bordering his country, formerly part of Serbia, should eventually become an "independent state". Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, which Belgrade considers unacceptable. 
Talks on Kosovo's final status are expected to start this year under UN auspices, but the international community has been insisting that Belgrade and Pristina first have dialogue on practical issues. 
In the short term, Nano said the UN administration in Kosovo should be modified to be "less international and more European". He called for an "EU administration for Kosovo that would make current integration strategies in the Balkans more coherent." 

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BANKING

CB issues licence to Union Bank

Albania's central bank said recently that it issued a preliminary banking licence to Union Bank, the country's third private bank, New Europe has reported.
Union Bank has to complete its infrastructure and start operations within 12 months before getting the final licence, the central bank said in a statement. All commercial banks should have a basic capital of 1bn lekas (US$10.6m or 8.2m Euro), a request that was revised and raised recently from 700m lekas. Sixteen other commercial banks - two Albanian and 14 foreign - are operating in the country. Most banks came to Albania in the aftermath of the 1997 collapse of a pyramid investment schemes that led to the fall of the government.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Tirana and Ljubljana sign science cooperation agreement

Albania and Slovenia have signed an agreement on cooperation in science, which will provide the framework for cooperation between scientists from both countries, the Slovenian Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology said, STA reported.
The accord was signed in Ljubljana on February 23rd by Albanian Minister of Education and Science, Luan Memushi, and, Jure Zupan, the Slovenian minister of higher education, science and technology. Albania is the last country of the Western Balkans to sign such an accord with Slovenia. Slovenia has actively participated in the creation of special measures for the integration of the Western Balkans in the European research framework, the ministry said.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Turkish PM visits Albania

Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently paid a two-day visit to Albania to focus on strengthening political and economic relations and regional stability, the Albanian government's press office said, New Europe reported.
Erdogan, travelling with about 100 businessmen, met with his Albanian counterpart, Fatos Nano, President Alfred Moisiu and parliament speaker, Servet Pellumbi. He also addressed Albania's parliament. Both Turkey and Albania are courting membership in the European Union and the leaders discussed their integration efforts. They also signed an agreement on air and sea cooperation, the statement said. "Such a visit is expected to mark an important moment in the further relation of our two countries," the statement read. Turkey has been an important political and financial supporter and partner to post-communist Albania offering assistance in areas including army reform.

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