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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: 113 - (26/10/06)

Two things dominate any state's existence, the need to enhance its prosperity and well-being generally - and the need for its security. The second is in a sense more vital than the first. Without it all bets on the former are off.
Albania has been doing well on both counts recently. The most promising thing for its security is that the US has become a whole-hearted supporter of Albania joining NATO. Another is that the prospects on Kosovo are promising.

NATO membership beckons
The United States has supported Albania's, as well as Croatia's and Macedonia's, commitment to become a full member of the Euro-Atlantic community. In May, Vice President Cheney visited Dubrovnik, Croatia, where he met with Prime Minister Ivo Sanader as well as Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski of Macedonia (since ousted), and Prime Minister Sali Berisha of Albania. 
"It's very important -- both for NATO and the EU -- to take in new members," Cheney said at the meeting in Dubrovnik. "Those who aspire to join and rejuvenate such organizations," he continued, "help us rededicate ourselves to those basic fundamental values of freedom and democracy that are a very important part of our collective security arrangements." 
In 2003, the United States and Croatia, along with Macedonia and Albania, signed the Adriatic Charter. The charter reaffirms each country's commitment to strengthening its institutions in order to join NATO. It also reiterates the United States' intention to continue assisting the countries in implementing necessary reforms.

Albanian PM says Serbia unrealistic, must give up Kosovo 
Albania's prime minister said on October 10th that an independent Kosovo would contribute to Serbia's stability and said Belgrade's opposition to independence for the breakaway province was unrealistic. 
"Despite all the changes that have occurred in Belgrade since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic's regime, still the ghost of greater Serbia persists ... and a lack of realism still dominates Belgrade's stance toward Kosovo," Prime Minister Berisha told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 
The United Nations has administered Kosovo since 1999, when NATO air strikes drove out Serb troops who had carried out a bloody crackdown on the province's independence-seeking Albanian majority. 
Albania has been the biggest supporter of Kosovo's independence, leading to frosty relations with Serbia. Tirana has, however, always said it has no territorial claims and does not intend to change its border. 
"Rest assured, in Pristina they all hope to join Brussels. I have not found a single person there who wants to join Albania," Berisha said, alluding to the capital of Kosovo and the seat of the European Union. "The only thing we can do is to abide by the will of these people who want to have an independent state integrated into Europe." 
Ethnic Albanians insist they should not be under Belgrade's authority. Serbia, as well as the Serb minority in Kosovo, say Kosovo is the heart of Serbia's ancient homeland and should remain within its borders. 
The United Nations hopes to resolve Kosovo's status by the end of the year, but talks have stalled with both sides unwilling to compromise on their demands. 
"I believe that independence of Kosovo would contribute to the stability of Serbia, marginalize its radical forces," Berisha said. "Due to the absence of realism ... the agreement between Pristina and Belgrade is elusive." 
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic has warned independence for Kosovo without Serbia's approval could spark war in the Balkans, and instead suggested Kosovo should have full autonomy. 
Belgrade and Serb leaders in the province worry about the safety of Kosovo's 100,000 Serbs, most of whom live in small, scattered enclaves. Few of the 200,000 Serbs who fled Kosovo during and after the 1998-99 war have returned.

The Western route 
As regards its well-being, Albania has shed its stigma of being the poorest country in Europe, growing at over 7% per year, with foreigners and foreign funds transforming the economy.
But it is still of course a very poor country. While the country wants to become Western, it is easier said than done for a nation than an individual. People leave in droves - of course for the West.
The number of Albanian illegal immigrants who attempt to enter Greece and who pay considerable amounts of money to compatriots to transport them to the heartland of the country, has increased. 
Their traffickers await them on Greek territory with stolen, rented or with their own cars near the borders, where the illegal immigrants pass through unguarded entry points.
In many cases, police and border guards give chase and quite a number of traffic accidents have occurred during the pursuit.

EU, US urge Berisha to implement reforms
It is hardly surprising if the West is convinced that a lot more has to be done. Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his new cabinet took office in September amid international calls for the country to move ahead with needed changes, in particular a strengthened fight against corruption.
The EU and the United States welcomed the appointment of the new government in Albania, headed by Democratic Party (DP) leader Sali Berisha. The cabinet was sworn in on September 11th after receiving parliamentary approval the day before. "The EU welcomes the conclusion of the election process in Albania, which has resulted in the first peaceful transfer of power since the fall of communism,'' the presidency of the EU said in a statement. It urged lawmakers to begin implementing changes meant to "direct the country towards integration into Europe" -- particularly, boosting the rule of law and moving ahead with electoral reform. While the EU backs the reform efforts, the key for success "is in the hands of Albanian authorities," the statement said. 
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, meanwhile, spoke to Berisha. He called for implementing anticorruption measures and empowering state administration. 
Through its deputy foreign secretary, Senator Robert Antonioni, EU member Italy formally invited Berisha to visit Rome to meet with counterpart Silvio Berlusconi. "Italy remains a strong and a long-term partner of Albania for its development, implementation of reforms and Euro-Atlantic integration," Antonioni said in Tirana. 
The United States, through Ambassador Marcie Ries, greeted the "successful parliamentary elections and the power shifting transition," which she said demonstrates the progress of democracy. Her comments came during a meeting with Berisha, during which she presented him a message of congratulations from US President George W. Bush. 
According to a White House press release, Bush told Berisha that his country should be proud of the peaceful transfer of power. He called on the new parliament and government to move forward with anti-corruption efforts and with creating a better business environment. He also thanked Albania for its contribution to the global war on terror. 
Berisha, meanwhile, has already met with World Bank experts to discuss the country's further economic development. At a seminar in the coastal city of Durres, he urged the Bank to assist the cabinet in implementing its programmes, including the key objective of fighting corruption. 

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Albania-Bulgaria sign memorandum for oil pipeline 

Bulgaria and Albania have signed a memorandum of cooperation for the construction of the US-backed AMBO oil pipeline, totalling 917 kilometres in length and responsible for carrying 750 barrels per day from Burgas to the port of Avlona, Italian News Agency ANSA reported on October 4th.
Albania's annual profits from the pipeline are seen reaching US$40 million per year. According to the initial planning, the pipeline will cross the above areas: Qafe-Thane, Perrenjas, Librazhd, Elbasan, Cerrik, Fier, Novosela and reach the port of Avlona. Due to environmental concerns, government sources suggested that the pipeline's final destination will be Porto Romano area and not Avlona.

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Germany to extend 13.5m Euro in financing to Albania 

Germany will extend 13.5 million Euro in low-interest loans and grants to Albania in 2006 to assist the financing of ongoing and new projects, news website said on September 21st.
The funds will be spent on projects for economic development, as well as projects in the sectors of energy and water supply and sewerage. The financial package is to be extended under a bilateral programme for economic and technical cooperation in 2006. In the week starting September 11, 2006, Germany and Albania signed a 2.1 million Euro agreement for support of Albanian experts in drafting project studies.
German state-run development bank, Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau (KfW), will extend a further 18 million Euro to Albania in 2006.

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Albtelecom deal still alive

The Albanian government said it will seek talks with Turkey's Calik Enerji concerning a renegotiated agreement on the privatisation of 76% of Albtelecom, reported. 
Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, and his cabinet had earlier wanted to annul the 120m Euro contract with the Turkish company, which won an international tender sealed by Albania's previous Socialist government. However, the Berisha administration now appears ready to renegotiate some terms of the agreement, rather than initiate a brand-new tender. Local media reports suggested the change in position followed Berisha's recent visit to Turkey, where he met with Calik Enerji's president, Ahmet Calik. 

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US company to build highway in Albania 

Albania has awarded a contract worth US$317 million to a US company to build a stretch of highway that will connect Albania with neighbouring Kosovo, People's Daily Online cited the government as saying on September 29th.
Bechtel International Inc, based in San Francisco, will build the 55 kilometre, four-lane road segment, which will include a six kilometre tunnel, the government said in a statement. The stretch of the road to be built by the US company is part of a larger 170 kilometre highway to Kosovo, it was reported. Officials said the new road will be funded from the country's coffers and also with loans from international financial institutions.

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