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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: 104 - (01/01/06)

Albania has been doing remarkably well of late for a country renowned for being the basket-case of Europe. For decades it was under communist dictator, Enver Hoxha, who died in early 1985, just as arch revisionist, Mikhail Gorbachev, came to power in the Soviet Union, with momentous consequences for all.
Communism duly fell in Albania and led to developments that would have appalled Hoxha. Indeed he must be turning over in his grave. He visited China in 1952; he commented later that already back then he could smell revisionism in the air. He was prescient, as it so happens. But, if he came back to his own country he would find it in a stench of capitalist-roaders and Western dupes.
Albanian politics in the 1990s and beyond was dominated by the struggle between two figures, the 'conservative' Sali Berisha, who was actually no more conservative than Margaret Thatcher when in power from 1991 until 1997, and the 'socialist' Fatos Nano, in power from 1997 until earlier this year, who was no more of a socialist than Tony Blair. Berisha is now back at the helm, having won the election in early 2005.
Last time he presided over a financial crisis, in which many lost their life-time savings as a series of pyramid banking scams collapsed, 'the unacceptable face of capitalism,' as another British prime minister, Edward Heath, once put it. 
Nano presided over a more successful side of capitalism, as Albania benefited hugely from the aftermath of the Kosovo War, with international aid, credit and helpers of every kind pouring in. Its image as a haven of bandits and the like began to change, although alas there are still plenty of them around.

Albania PM has talks in Rome on EU membership path, Kosovo 
Berisha is bent on taking Albania into the European Union (EU). He met with a senior Italian official on November 30th for talks on his country's path to EU membership and upcoming negotiations on the future of Kosovo. 
Berisha also discussed foreign investment during his meeting in Rome with Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini. Berisha talked about "the specific needs to re-launch the process of moving closer to Europe and to develop the economy" with a view to creating "a favourable picture for foreign investments in the country," the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 
Fini said he hoped Albania would push forward with reforms to align it with "European standards." Fini added that transparency and "certainty about the law and solution of current commercial disputes" would offer the strongest encouragement to Italians to invest in Albania, the ministry said. 
A report from the EU's executive office in November called for Albania to improve media freedom, independence of the judicial system, enforcement of property rights and accelerate the fight against corruption. 
Albania is eager to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement - most likely by July 2006 - which would set it on the road to joining the EU 
The ministry said the two men also discussed Kosovo, but gave no details. 
Tirana backs Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian community in its aim to achieve independence from Serbia. Serbia wants to retain some formal control over the province. 
U.N.-mediated talks on resolving the dispute are expected to start in January. 

Italy-Albania. Urso great investment potentialities
Deputy industry minister, Adolfo Urso, took part with the Albanian premier, Berisha, in the works of the economic forum: "Growing Albania: innovation, competitiveness and business," in the premises of the Italian institute for foreign trade (ICE). Urso said that Albania offered great investment potentialities and the Italian enterprises should profit of them giving the go ahead to the relations with this country. 
"In the last ten years the image of Albania in Italy was not one of the best ones and Italian enterprises had abandoned this country favouring other countries of the Balkan area. Small and medium enterprises in Albania were 4,600, today they are 380. But after this long stall we think a new phase of development will take place granted by the new Berisha's government" Urso said. 
According to Urso the three big strategic sectors in which it is easy to invest are: infrastructures (in particular the so-called corridor number eight, which was excluded from the EU priorities and was reinserted thanks to Italy's efforts) the energy sector and the tourist sector. During an aside at the ceremony Urso and Berisha signed the agreement that allowed the San Paolo Imi group to acquire 80 per cent of the capital of the Italian-Albanian bank. According to Urso this purchase would allow a great Italian bank to have a capillary presence in Albania and to support the Italian enterprises that want to work in that country and the Albanian enterprises and the Albanians who work in Italy and want to invest their earnings.

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New procedures for Albania airport

The National Air Traffic Agency (NATA) of Albania has signed a further modernisation contract with Aeronautical Services and Procedures (ASAP) to provide NATA with GNSS procedures at Mother Teresa airport at Tirana, New Europe reported.
Once completed, operations at the airport will be independent of outages of the navigational aids situated at the aerodrome. The Managing Director of ASAP said, "This is a significant step forward for Tirana airport and will further ensure the continual operation of the airport in all weather conditions." The general director of NATA said, "Airlines operating into Tirana can expect in the future a considerable saving in track miles flown and a reduction of the number of diversions or delays due to any failure of the Tirana VOR/DME."

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Sanpaolo to buy 80% of Albania's BIA

Sanpaolo IMI SpA bought an 80 per cent stake in Albania's Banca Italo-Albanese (BIA) for US$40.8 million from Capitalia SpA and the government of Albania, which both hold 40 per cent, New Europe reported.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will keep its 20 per cent stake, Sanpaolo said in a statement. Sanpaolo will also pay out the profits that BIA will make from now until the deal, which is pending regulatory clearance, is closed, it said. 
BIA, which is the fourth largest bank in Albania, booked a net profit of US$3.2 million in the first half. The agreement was signed during a bilateral Foreign Trade summit in Rome between SP-IMI Chairman, Enrico Salza, and Albanian Finance Minister, Ridvan Bhode. Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, and Italy's Deputy Industry Minister, Adolfo Urso, also attended the signing. Urso said, "The agreement grants a big Italian bank a deep penetration of the Albanian market, providing for greater support to Italian businesses operating in Albania, as well as Albanian counterparts and Albanians working in Italy and wishing to invest back in their home country."

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Free trade agreement increases exports

Albanian and Macedonian business cooperation, the impact of the Free Trade Agreement as well as the expansion of trade exchanges in different sectors of the economy between the two countries were discussed in a meeting consisting of participants from Albania and Macedonia, New Europe reported.
The Director for WTO Relations at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy, Adriana Civici, said that the Free Trade Agreement with Macedonia had a positive impact by increasing Albanian exports which ran higher than imports. During the meeting, the participants expressed their belief that the continuation of the foreign trade liberalization process will have an impact on products manufactured for production and export, as well as in trade balance.

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