Books on Albania
% of GDP
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In 1990 Albania ended 44 years of xenophobic communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven difficult, as corrupt governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, a dilapidated infrastructure, widespread gangsterism, and disruptive political opponents.
Albania has long been thought of as a freak country. Actually it is one of the most beautiful in Europe, with a magnificent climate, warm but never getting too hot, given its mountainous and hilly topography. It is merely a matter of time before it becomes a great tourist attraction.
That has been prevented of late by its well-deserved reputation for gangsterism and kidnapping. It is worth giving a historical survey to see why things may shortly change.
The country was ruled in the interwar period by highland chieftains with resonant names like King Zog and his son, Leka. The last reigned as an infant for a few months in 1939 before Italy under Mussolini invaded and occupied the country. He is still alive and attempted a comeback in an election in 1997. But he made the mistake of standing as a prospective premier, clearly wanting to be a king. Despite his pedigree and majestic height of 6ft 9ins, he failed to impress his subjects-to-be with his hereditary right to rule. He came nowhere in the election.
In the interim between the infant Leka and the events of 1989, the Albanians were ruled for fifty years by the communists. This meant in effect the personal dictatorship
of Enver Hoxha, an extraordinary character, perhaps the most extraordinary the communist world threw up. He kept his country in virtually complete isolation. It became the poorest in Europe.
Albania had a severe crisis in the 1990s, with a financial crash in mid-decade. The population took a while to understand the rules of the capitalist market-place. Thousands lost their savings in pyramid investment schemes. But from the turn of the millennium it has done well, compared with its bleak past. GDP has been rising by 7-8% per year, albeit from a very low base. The Albanians are no longer the poorest people in Europe. That dubious distinction now belongs to the Moldovans. The Socialist Party is benefiting, in power since 1997, and was re-elected comfortably in 2001. Tirana is 100% behind the US anti-terrorist campaign, having no truck with ethnic Albanian secessionists next door in Macedonia and Kosovo. The last thing the Albanians want is a war of any sort. With Milosevic gone there is no reason to quarrel with the Serbs.
The Albanians blotted their copybook, however, with the French and the EU by supporting the US over Iraq. Indeed they have even agreed with the US not to extradite Americans to the International Criminal Court.
The two leading premiers of the PS government have been Pandeli Majco (now defence minister) and Fatos Nano, the current holder of the post. Both are very highly regarded in Washington, which sees Albania as its closest ally in the region, now that the Turks have refused cooperation over Iraq. The grimness of the Hoxha years have made the Albanians no friends of dictators.
Update No: 085 - (01/06/04)
The Socialist Party chairman, Fatos Nano, replaced Pandeli Majko in July 2002 to become Albania's third prime minister in less than a year. His appointment followed months of feuding in the party.
Nano was no stranger to the post, having served as prime minister three times, including stints in the Communist era. He was jailed in 1993 on corruption charges, along with other ex-Communist leaders.
On his release, Mr Nano became prime minister under a Socialist-led coalition which swept to power in 1997 in the wake of severe unrest caused by fraudulent get-rich-quick schemes. He resigned in 1998 after anti-government protests.
On appointing his government, Nano promised to tackle corruption and speed up economic reforms which were hampered by political deadlock.
Albania hopes to sign an association accord with the EU as soon as possible but was told in early 2004 that there will have to be greater progress on political and economic reforms before that can happen.
Opposition supporters gathered in Tirana in February 2004 to demonstrate against the government's failure to improve living standards and to demand Nano's resignation. But he is a survivor. He remains the PM.
The public broadcaster, Albanian Radio and TV (RTSh), operates national radio and TV networks. It faces competition from private stations, which have mushroomed since the late 1990s. Some 75 private TV channels and 30 radio stations were on the air by 2001.
Political parties, religious groups and state bodies are not allowed to own private TV and radio stations.
Many viewers can pick up Italian and Greek TV via terrestrial reception. Radio services in Albanian from the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale, Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America are available on FM or medium wave (AM).
Sensationalism is often the norm in the print media. Political parties, trade unions and various societies publish their own newspapers; dependence on outside revenue tends to limit their objectivity.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Macedonian, Albanian foreign ministers discuss economic cooperation
Foreign Minister, Kastriot Islami, met in Skopje recently with Macedonian Foreign Minister, Ilinka Mitreva, ATA News Agency reported.
According to the Foreign Ministry's Press Office, Islami stressed the need for increasing economic cooperation between the two countries. The two agreed that Session Two of the Joint Commission on Economic and Trade Cooperation be implemented as soon as possible and that the realization of Free Trade Agreement should continues to be monitored through meetings of the joint commission.
They also agreed to step up procedures to prepare for the signing of several bilateral agreements, such as two agreements on water economy, the agreement on tourism, facilitation of citizens' free movement and other agreements.
Macedonian acting president receives Albanian foreign minister
Macedonian Parliament Speaker, Ljupco Jordanovski, received Albanian Foreign Minister, Kastriot Islami, who was on a two-day official visit to Macedonia, MIA News Agency reported.
The two interlocutors discussed the improvement in cooperation between the two neighbouring and friendly countries, especially in the fields of economy and security, as an incentive for accession to EU and NATO. Jordanovski, stressed that both countries have good relations but greater efforts should be put in to the realization of Corridor 8 and AMBO oil pipeline, which are projects of strategic importance for the regional countries.
Furthermore, Minister Islami congratulated Jordanovski on the successful presidential elections, announcing that Albanian Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, would visit Macedonia after the establishment of the new government.
The Albanian foreign minister confirmed the intention of the Albanian government to sign a cooperation protocol with its Macedonian counterpart in the EU accession process as well as a more intensive cooperation at a parliamentary level.
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