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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)

Books on Albania

Update No: 125 - (25/10/07)

Coming in from the cold
Albania is in an extraordinary situation. It was for long something of a joke country. It was the poorest country in Europe for decades, run by a demented communist tyrant, Enver Hoxha. It had previously been ruled by a bandit by the name of King Zog, who fell foul of Mussolini in 1939. 

The Italians made a mess of the invasion. They had to be rescued by the Germans, an intense vexation for Hitler, who then had to deal with the even more trying matter that arose after Mussolini had invaded Greece and been seriously mauled by the Greeks.

The Albanians' misfortune post-war was to be rescued from the fascists by the communists, and not even ones in alliance with Britain, (the Yugoslav Partisans next door). Indeed nothing showed more how archaic was the Hoxha regime than the fact that it took the UK as its main enemy. At first this had a basis in fact. There was the Corfu incident in 1948, when a British warship violated Albanian waters, followed the next year by an actual invasion by 600 UK Special Forces, that was aborted by Kim Philby, the key communist spy within British intelligence, alerting Tirana via Moscow of what was afoot. They were all killed.

The regime took umbrage at everything the British did after that. When Hoxha shot his own prime minister in the 1980s, he explained that it was because he was a British agent!

There was paranoia towards the rest of the world throughout the Hoxha years. Even China joined the USSR as a revisionist power in his eyes. With the collapse of communism all that has now changed. The prelude to it in Albania was the death of Hoxha in March 1985, exactly when a certain Mikhail Gorbachev became First Secretary. Hoxha would have turned over in his grave at what that portended. 

The US axis
Relations are now much better with Italy. So are they with the US. Indeed, they are very cordial with the latter, the saviour of the Kosovar Albanians in 1999. Bush paid a visit to Albania, earlier this year that was the first by an American president. 

Bush's visit was in part to express his gratitude to a nation that has, not only firmly supported his administration's policies, but even gone so far as to accept eight former terrorism suspects who were unwelcome everywhere else. There is a murky side to this, however, which deserves to be ventilated. 

The Uighur angle
Albania has cooperated with the United States in foiling terrorist attacks on US targets and has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, but in accepting the five Uighurs, - Muslims from northwestern China, and an Uzbek,an Egyptian and an Algerian, it has performed a service that no other ally would do. 

While the Bush visit was a gesture of thanks from a great, rich nation to this small, poor one, it has been a far from ideal new home for Akhdar Qasem Basit. He was picked up in Pakistan, and the story he tells is one of government repression in his Chinese home province of Xinjiang, police harassment in central Asia, and physical abuse and mental anguish while imprisoned by the Americans in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But even after that,he says that the past year of freedom in Albania was his worst. 

He and four fellow Uighurs are housed in the Albanian national refugee camp, outside the country's modest capital, Tirana. 

Basit, who is 32, spent four years in the US military prison at Guantanamo, and was sent to Albania only days before a refugee status hearing in a US court that his lawyer is convinced, would have ended with his release to live in the United States. Basit has no connection of any kind to Albania, no knowledge of the language and no desire to be here. But no other country will admit him, other than China, where he fears being thrown into prison if he returns. He said that during his incarceration at Guantanamo, from June 2002 until his arrival here in May 2006, he was treated harshly, though not tortured. He said he was beaten, slapped around and kicked. But he said he was kept going by the fact that he knew he was innocent, and that his captors were American.

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