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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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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Alfred Moisiu


Update No: 093 - (28/01/05)

PM visits France
Premier Nano is concerned to raise Albania's profile on the world stage. A Francohile, on January 18th Nano travelled to Paris for a visit aimed at discussing with the French leadership bilateral relations and Albania's role in the stability of the Balkans region. During the two-day visit Nano met French President Jacques Chirac, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and Senate president Christian Poncelet. 
"Albania is playing a role of moderator in the region and it has decided to follow that path and become a factor of peace and stability in the Balkans," Nano said. The Prime Minister also met French Industry Minister Patrick Devedjian to discuss French investments in Albania.
Nano's long-term plans include Albania joining the EU. But that will have to wait until Croatia has joined first, if not a few others too. For Albania was until recently the poorest country in Europe. Now after several years of its GDP growing by 7-8% per year, it is no longer that.
The turning point came with the Kosovo War in 1999, when it gave invaluable assistance to NATO forces, becoming an ex officio member. International aid flowed freely to deal with the more than 240,000 refugees from the conflict, nearly all of whom have since returned home. But relations with neighbouring Serbia and Macedonia, both with large ethnic Albanian minorities, remain hugely sensitive.

Albanian and Macedonian leaders in key meetings
Hence the importance of another set of meetings. Macedonia is a vital partner for Albania, having an even large Albanian minority in its population than does Serbia in percentage terms. Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski's two-day visit to neighbouring Albania was appropriately his first official trip abroad since taking office late last year. Arriving in Tirana on 12th January, he met with President Alfred Moisiu, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and Assembly Speaker Servet Pellumbi. 
Regional issues and ways of boosting co-operation between Skopje and Tirana were the focus of the talks. Buckovski and Nano both agreed that economic co-operation should be the main priority for bilateral relations this year. They expressed satisfaction with the level of co-operation between their interior ministries in preventing transborder crime. They also agreed to work together to resolve pending border issues, such as borderlines that split villages or individual family properties. 
"We requested Albania's assistance in the definition of the border between Macedonia and Kosovo. For this we would need also the support of UNMIK and the government in Belgrade," Buckovski told reporters during a joint news conference with Nano, adding that the issue should be resolved before any decision is reached on Kosovo's final status. 
Welcoming Buckovski's initiative, Nano said UN resolutions for Kosovo should serve as the basis for resolving any border problems. He also emphasised the importance of US and EU participation in the process. 
The dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter's constitutional name was also discussed, with Buckovski receiving assurances from Nano that Albania is ready to assist with efforts to reach a solution. Moving beyond such issues would "contribute to the stability and the Euro-Atlantic integration" of countries in Southeast Europe, Nano said. 
Albanian-Macedonian relations are "excellent" and an "example for the whole region," the prime ministers said. 
During his meeting with Buckovski, Moisiu praised Macedonia's democratisation process and its accomplishments in building a multiethnic society. He emphasised the importance of bilateral agreements on economic issues, free trade, and energy, as well as the two countries' joint efforts towards completion of Transport Corridor 8 and the AMBO oil pipeline. 

Missiles seized in Albania
In a disturbing development which shows how indispensable is close cooperation between the Albanian and Macedonian authorities, Albanian police have arrested four people smuggling in surface-to-air missiles allegedly destined for Albanian separatists in Macedonia. The seizure in Albania of three shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles allegedly destined for Albanian separatists in Macedonia has sparked fears of a brewing security threat in the region.
The SA-7B Strela missiles were intercepted on 13 December. They are believed to have originated in Bosnia or Serbia and may have been destined for Macedonia, where ethnic-Albanian insurgents fought a brief war against the authorities in 2001. Albanian police arrested four people - Sokol Mujaj, Ilim Isufi, Armir Troshani, and Mentor Cani - in possession of the missiles shortly after they entered the country from Montenegro. Bajram Ibraj, director-general of the Albanian police, said, "Four men were caught travelling with the missiles on the Rinas-Vlora road, in a van belonging to a company dealing in sausages. This was a police operation prepared in advance. We are still investigating the origin and destination of the missiles, and our counterparts in Montenegro are also investigating." 
Security sources said that an Albanian separatist group operating in Kosovo and Macedonia is believed to have ordered the missiles. The deal was allegedly brokered by a Bosnian national, who sourced the weapons from a group with links to Islamist and criminal networks. The Russian-made Strela and other surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) pose a significant threat to both civilian and military aircraft. Similar shoulder-launched missiles were launched - unsuccessfully - against an Israeli airliner in Mombasa in 2002 and a more advanced version, Strela 3, hit a DHL cargo plane on approach to Baghdad airport in 2003. According to IWPR's security source, ethnic Albanian extremists in Macedonia have dramatically stepped up military activities in the last three months. They have attempted to obtain SAMs from several sources, possibly for use against surveillance drones and Macedonian attack helicopters. There has also been an upsurge in recruitment, local and international funding and the purchase of medical supplies. The source also claims that insurgent radio communication networks silent since 2001 have recently been heard making test broadcasts.

Unfinished political business
Tension has been rising in Macedonia since mid-November, when up to 300-armed ethnic Albanians appeared in the village of Kondovo near Skopje. The men have since taken control of the village, digging trenches apparently unhindered by security forces. Their intentions are unclear, as are their loyalties. The Interior Ministry has dismissed the men as a group of criminals, while speculation in the local press says they are Islamists linked to a foreign-funded madrassah or religious school in the village. Some local sources claim they are simply unemployed men airing their frustration with the leader of the Albanian party now in the country's governing coalition, Ali Ahmeti, over the poor state of the economy. 
Whatever the explanation behind the Kondovo incident and the arms intercept, analysts warn that the combination of unfinished political business, porous borders, weak law enforcement and a plentiful supply of weapons continues to pose a threat to the stability of the Balkans. However, international attempts to step up efforts against organized crime in the region, including arms trafficking, are bearing some fruit. The announcement of the missile seizure came during a regional conference in Tirana, hosted by Albania's ministry of public order, on tackling small arms and light weapons trafficking in south-east Europe. The conference was organized by the Southeast European Co-operation Initiative (SECI), a Bucharest-based centre for regional co-operation on organized crime, and was attended by law enforcement officers from around the region. 
As well as SECI, there are numerous police training, liaison and assistance schemes in the region run by Interpol, the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the EU. It is clear, however, that the task of combating arms trafficking is huge. One conference delegate, who did not want to be named, pointed out that as no Balkan country grades its criminal intelligence according to the reliability of its sources, it is hard for SECI to assess it. "The idea of doing serious analysis of criminal organizations - the kind that would allow one to take down a whole network rather than just individuals - is also new," he added. Not only is there considerable mistrust between different national police forces, there is also limited co-operation between the various law-enforcement agencies within the same country.
Yet many southeastern European countries are working to limit the trafficking of weapons through their territory, partly to meet strict membership criteria laid down by the EU, and also to show the West that they are serious about tackling organized crime gangs. There is no doubt that Albania and others in the region are making progress, but the improvements sometimes run in parallel to criminal activity that allegedly reaches the highest levels of government. Erion Veliaj, leader of the Albanian civic protest movement Mjaft! (Enough!), told IWPR, "Everything the government doesn't traffic itself, it intercepts to impress the international community."
Earlier in 2004, Premier Nano was accused of facilitating the trafficking of arms to the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, on the strength of allegedly incriminating conversations he had in 1997. He subsequently said that assisting the KLA was morally justifiable. "[Nano's] Kosovo trafficking admission proves people at the top of government know how to traffic arms, and so it may have happened in other incidents. I've seen Albanian-made Kalashnikovs in Rwanda with my own eyes," said Veliaj. Moving weapons, drugs, human beings or contraband across Balkan borders is slowly becoming a riskier business, but it will be many years before trans-national criminals decide that the likelihood of being captured and successfully prosecuted outweighs the attractiveness of illicit profits.

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Macedonian, Albanian premiers agree to step up economic ties, discuss Kosovo

Macedonian and Albanian Prime Ministers, Vlado Buckovski and Fatos Nano, stressed, following their meeting in Tirana recently, that 2005 would definitely be a year of intensified economic cooperation between Macedonia and Albania. Buckovski opted for Albania as his first destination following the start of his term in office as prime minister, paying a visit to Tirana at the invitation of Fatos Nano, Macedonian Radio reported. 
Their meeting focused on the joint efforts for NATO accession and Macedonia's support for Albania in its bid for a Stabilization and Association Agreement [SAA] with the European Union and in the subsequent phase of preparing for application.
Kosovo was also an inevitable topic. The two interlocutors agreed that a mutually acceptable solution must be found with the help of Brussels and Washington. The solution must comply with Belgrade's position and the aim must be stability in the region.
Democratic authorities with whom we can have dialogue have now been elected in Kosovo, Prime Minister Nano said. 
The two prime ministers have voiced satisfaction with the good cooperation between the two countries' Interior and Defence Ministries in curbing border crime and securing the border.
It has been acknowledged that 2005 will definitely be a year of economic cooperation. To this end, organizing economic forums and meetings of the relevant ministries, chambers of commerce and businessmen have been planned.
Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, who had a private dinner with Defence Minister, Pandeli Majko, after his arrival, was welcomed the following morning with full state honours.
The Macedonian delegation, which also included Deputy Foreign Minister, Fuad Hasanovic, met Albanian Assembly Speaker, Servet Pellumbi, and President Alfred Moisiu.

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Albania receives World Bank loan

Albania received a loan worth US$10m (€7.5m) from the World Bank to help improve the country's education, health and social services, the finance ministry said recently, cited by New Europe.
The loan was the last in a series of three since Albania launched in 2001 its three-year National Strategy for Social and Economic Development, focused on much-needed structural reforms. The third loan "will continue to support the NSSED by building on the progress made thus far and by further consolidating and strengthening the reform programme," the World Bank said. Albania must pay back the loan in 20 years, with a 10-year grace period. Albania's 3.1m people are among Europe's poorest, with an estimated 25% living below the poverty line, according to the US's Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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