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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: 103 - (28/11/05)

OSCE offers assistance to Albania for electoral reforms 
The chief of the European democracy building organization met with Albanian authorities on November 17th to push for electoral reforms after a critical review of the country's July parliamentary polls. These brought a sea change in Albania's politics.
For over a decade the political scene in Albania was dominated by the struggle between Fatos Nano, leader of the Socialist Party, and Sali Berisha, leader of the centre-right forces in the Democratic Party. The defeat of the Socialists in July after eight years in power has changed all that. 
Berisha is back in harness where he was in 1997 when a financial collapse caused his eviction, while Nano has met his own quietus. Eight years is a long time in politics, especially in a poor country, ravaged by problems. There was considerable growth on his watch, GDP rising by 7-8% per year. But in a traditionally bandit nation this has only aggravated the ills of crime and corruption. 
The successful smugglers and the like live mainly abroad off their ill-gotten gains, while the bulk of the people languish at home.
Christian Strohal, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was on a two-day visit to Albania to offer assistance to the Balkan nation's election authorities, government, parliament and political parties. Strohal met with Prime Minister Berisha. 
"We are here to discuss the recommendations we have made to assist all political factors in Albania to move forward and to create an inclusive process for completing reforms," said Strohal, director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. 
A report released earlier this month from ODIHR, which led the main international monitoring mission at the July 3 polls, said the parliamentary vote complied only in part with international standards. 
It called for improvements in the administration of polls and voters lists. It also said lower-level voting commissions gave priority to party interests rather than fully respecting the law. 
The counting of votes often took longer to complete than allowed by law and political parties' spending reports should be made public, according to the report. 
Albania was also urged to increase the number of women in parliament and their participation in public life and to improve voter registration among national minority populations, particularly the Gypsy and Egyptian communities. 
Electoral authorities took weeks to declare that a coalition led by Berisha's Democratic Party had won the July poll, giving it control of 80 seats in the new 140-member parliament. 
The Socialist Party won 42 seats. 
The new Albanian parliament has already created a special commission to investigate allegations of voting fraud made by opposition Socialists. 

New premier performs?
His promise to rid Albania of corruption has redeemed Sali Berisha politically. He now needs to deliver. It may not have been exactly smooth, but for the first time since the fall of communism power in Albania has changed hands peacefully. 
That is great news and Western representatives have therefore been right to offer the new prime minister, Sali Berisha, praise and promises of support since his Democratic Party (PD) and its right-wing allies were sworn into government on 11th September.
But as we report, even though it was largely violence-free, the election that returned this former president to power "complied only partially" with international standards, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a reminder of the deficiencies of Albanian democracy. And even though calm and relatively uneventful, the legal wrangling that followed the July poll - as well as the refusal of Berisha's arch-rival Fatos Nano to concede defeat gracefully - serve as reminders of the country's turbulent election past. Indeed, when ex-Prime Minister Nano declares that "the elections are politically unacceptable and the legitimacy of the winners is limited," he has a point, at least in the strictest sense.

Nano's doubtful legacy
Still, Nano is hardly the person to preach about electoral legitimacy, for whatever dirty election tricks and downright illegal means Berisha has resorted to during his long journey through the country's troubled post-communist era, Nano has been no stranger to any of them either.
More importantly, Nano, who earlier in September also resigned the leadership of the Socialist Party, bequeaths Berisha a country riven with problems. Today's Albania may be a more orderly place than it was in 1997, when power changed hands amid country-wide unrest and a total collapse of authority. It may even, on the whole, be less poor and less miserable. But one thing seems clear: it is also far more corrupt, even though in this small country, corruption and dishonesty have ever been widespread.
According to a World Bank report published earlier this year, the level of corruption in Albania has increased by 300 per cent since 1997. 
International police officials have estimated that the value of drugs passing through Albania each year is now about two billion euros (US$2.4 billion). Corruption, now routinely described as "endemic," costs the country some US$1.2 billion in lost revenues, the report claimed. 

Berisha announces efforts to step up fight against illegal trafficking
Prime Minister Sali Berisha is well aware of why his long-time rival bit the dust. He is making the campaign against crime and corruption a top priority. 
He announced on 17th October new measures to strengthen the fight against illegal trafficking. Following a cabinet session, Berisha stressed the government's commitment to a policy of zero tolerance regarding trafficking and organised crime. 
He also announced a three-year ban on the private possession of speedboats and other watercraft commonly used for human trafficking. A special interdepartment committee for combating trafficking was formed on the same day, headed by Interior Minister Sokol Olldashi. 

Anti-corruption drive
So far, Berisha has made all the right noises, identifying corruption and the inadequacy of the country's institutions as key problems. Throughout his campaign and since his victory he has maintained that fighting corruption, enhancing the rule of law, and establishing the basis for more successful economic development will be his priorities. When asked how he would deal with Albania's organized-crime bosses, Berisha pledged to put them all behind bars. In a reference to the Nano government, many of whose members were themselves seen as corrupt, Berisha claimed that there would be no conflict of interest in his government. 
He has even made some of the right moves on the corruption frontline. A week before his cabinet was to be presented to the parliament, he ordered his nominee for the culture and tourism portfolio to sell his stake in a motel.
Though highly welcome, moves like that should be considered as barely even equivalent to the opening salvo in the all-out war on organized crime that Albania needs. The opening campaign should perhaps be tough shock therapy followed by a sustained offensive on vested criminal interests. 
This, of course, is easier said than done in the best of circumstances - and Albania's capacity to wage such a war on crime is perhaps feebler than in any other European country. Its law enforcement is (and is widely seen to be) incompetent, politicised, and - even - pervaded with tribal rivalry. Berisha himself and many of his aides are themselves, in some senses, spoiled goods. These are no virginal newcomers yet to muddy their hands in the messy business of politics; and it is not unreasonable to assume that in a country blessed with more political choice many of them would now be regarded as hopeless have-beens.
Many of his aides have also been willing participants in Albania's unhappy post-communist clash between its two main political blocs, its rival clans, and even between much of the north and the south of the country. Berisha himself bears primary responsibility for the developments leading to the 1997 collapse of the country. It is for reasons like these that some Berisha's moves against corruption and organised crime, if he indeed makes them, will immediately be interpreted as revenge, narrowing his room for manoeuvre even further.
For those reasons too many of those who in July voted for Berisha and his allies may not be enthusiastic supporters, but perhaps above all, desirous of change after eight years of Nano's socialism. Still, Berisha won and it can reasonably be assumed that Berisha's victory was to some extent secured not by his past, but by his pledge to fight organized crime. Berisha's background may be rather different from those of the Georgian and Ukrainian presidents, Mikheil Saakashvili and Viktor Yushchenko, but he now finds himself in a situation that bears many similarities with Georgia and Ukraine immediately after the revolutions. Like Saakashvili and Yushchenko, Berisha has a mandate to carry out far-reaching reforms - and to fight organized crime and corruption in particular.
He may also wish to consider what lessons can be learned from the experience so far of Yushchenko and other leaders of former communist countries to whom electorates looked to rid their societies of corruption. One is, of course, that leading by good personal example is always smart. Another, perhaps of critical importance, is the issue of timing: a good time to start taking the rule of law utterly seriously is always now - and the best of all good times is in the first month in office. An electorate's stock of patience runs out quickly, especially in a new and unstable democracy. 
Berisha's credit with his own electorate is rather limited, though his majority in parliament should at least provide him with enough stability for him to be able to act. But given Albania's history of extra-parliamentary political struggle, Berisha may need to be able to show concrete results soon if his coalition is to survive long enough to leave a mark.

An artist becomes new leader of the Socialist Party of Albania
The political beneficiary of the fall of Nano looks likely to be Tirana's rather eccentric Mayor, the 41 year old, Edi Rama, formerly an artist by profession. On October 9th he reached a surprise victory when he won the elections for leader of the Socialist Party of Albania. Rama won by a landslide against his rival, the ex-President, Rexhep Meidani, during the extraordinary congress held on the heels of the resignation of Nano.
Rama won with 297 votes against 151 received by Meidani. His victory came despite the fact that the ex-leader Nano had clearly stated his opposition to the candidacy of Rama just two days before the vote. He did not have sufficient self-knowledge and cunning to realize that his opposition probably sealed Rama's victory.
Now the socialists are looking to Rama as their man to lead their opposition with the simple goal of getting power back. The socialists have already declared their intention to keep the current centre-right government from fulfilling its four-year term in power.

Short biography of Edi Rama
Edi Rama (born in 1964) is an Albanian politician and artist. Since October 2000 he has been the mayor of Tirana, Albania's capital.
Rama was active during the anti-Communist revolution, while being a professor at the Academy of Arts of Tirana which was something of a political centre. In 1992 he penned an anti-Communist book called "Refleksione" (Reflections) together with his long time friend Ardian Klosi. The book was condemnatory of Enver Hoxha's regime and provided insight into emigration, economics and the future of Albania. 
With the advent of democracy and the multi-party system, Rama was disappointed with the Democratic Party because of its corruption. He criticized Sali Berisha's regime intensively, while following his career as an internationally recognized visual artist.
Then, in 1997, state security agents beat Rama until he was nearly dead. After a long recovery he emigrated to Paris. Then when he returned to Albania for his father's funeral in 1998, Nano asked him into his government as Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. As Minister some of his first steps were the opening of movie theatres to show Hollywood movies in order to help overcome people's mental isolation from the rest of the world.
Then in 2000, Rama ran as an independent candidate in the Tirana Mayor race, but always with the support of the Socialist Party of Albania. He won 57% of the votes.
Shortly after his election as Tirana Mayor, Edi Rama's house came under fire from an unknown gunman on November 9th, 2000, but Rama escaped the attack unscathed.
In 2003's elections for Tirana major, Rama was able to win another mandate. At the same time he began to get more involved in the political life of the Socialist Party of Albania. In December of 2003 he became a member of the party's hierarchy.
It was during that same year that he also competed for the first time against the then leader, Fatos Nano. However, elections proved a disappointment, with only a modest number of votes being cast for him. All the sweeter to win the crown at last, which makes him the likely next premier of Albania.

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Privatisation agenda for the Albanian Power Corp

Director General of the Albanian Power Corporation (KESH), Fatmir Hoxha, declared recently that he had received a study by Lahmeyer International, a German consulting company, proposing the split of the corporation into smaller companies to further its privatisation, AENews reported.
According to the Lahmeyer study the initial stop-on-route to the privatisation of KESH foresees splitting the Corporation into smaller companies specialised in generation, transmission and distribution of energy. Then later it will be decided if these smaller KESH companies will be partly privatised, given under concession or completely sold. The Albanian energy system has an installed power production level of 1200 Mega-Watt, sourced mainly from hydropower sources. The average annual production-quota is estimated at five billion kWh. Currently, annual energy supply is estimated at seven billion kWh. The government has not yet reached an agreement, however, the sale and distribution sectors in the major cities are expected to be among the first in the list of privatisations.

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Italy grants Albania new road loan 

For the construction of the main road in south of Albania, Italy has granted Albania 18 million Euro (US$21.6 million) loan, the Albanian Transport Ministry said on November 2nd, New Europe reported.
Albania is working to update its outdated road network, which has had trouble coping with the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that have been brought into Albania since the fall of communism in 1990. The loan signed on November 1st will be used to rebuild an existing segment and a new part of the 22-kilometre (13.7 miles) road between the towns of Lushnja and Fier, south of the capital Tirana.

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