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Albania  

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ALBANIA


  
  

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
28,748

Population
3,544,808

Capital
Tirana

Currency
Lek

President
Alfred Moisiu


Update No: 112 - (26/09/06)

The direst dictatorship in Europe
There is no doubt that the Albanians are scarcely able to believe what has happened to them over the last twenty years. It is indeed an extraordinary story. Their then dictator on January 1st 1986, Enver Hoxha, (who died in March of that year, the fateful month that saw Gorbachev assume full power in Moscow) was an ingrown fanatic, convinced that all the other communist countries had sold out to Western imperialism, including the Chinese, where on a visit as early as 1952 he smelt the 'whiff of revisionism in the air.' 
The Great Helmsman himself was convinced that he was surrounded by closet 'capitalist-roaders,' unlike the stalwart Hoxha. The joke is that they were both right. 
Albania had the purest and the direst communist regime in the world, unless one counts the dotty North Korean affair as one, which it only nominally was. Then came the harvest of the Gorbachev moment in world history, in 1989-91, which even Albania could not resist. 

The Tirana-Washington axis
Albania applied for NATO membership in 1992 - when Sali Berisha, the leader of the conservatives and the country's first non-communist president, strengthened ties with Washington. The momentum stalled, however, when Berisha refused US advice concerning a 1997 pyramid scheme crisis a scam that led to his government's ouster. 
It is an irony that Hoxha's shadow should appreciate that the successors of his own communists, the Socialist Party, who came to power in that year, were the most faithful followers of Washington's advice ever afterwards. For two four-year terms they ruled the country, greatly assisted in their re-election by the Kosovo War of 1999. The Tirana-
Washington axis was born at last, with no doubt Hoxha turning over in his grave.

The Western route 
Albania 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. People leave in droves.
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.
Albanians now dominate Soho London's vice industry, 75% of it, as in many of western Europe's more prosperous big cities. The gangster types emanating out of Albania are descendants of ages of brigands, incredibly tough and brutal beyond belief with tribal codes of silence, loyalty and blood revenge, which sets them apart.
The Western route is to be followed - but with their own unique tribal interpretation of it.

Berisha recidivus; NATO for 2008 
Berisha is now back in charge, after being re-elected last year. Since becoming prime minister in July 2005, he has sought to rebuild the relationship with the West. 
He announced on 4th September that he has hired former US Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, as an adviser to the government on issues including NATO membership, fighting corruption and tackling organised crime, said Berisha's spokesman, Neritan Sejamini. Under the agreement, Ridge will make occasional visits to Albania, but will work primarily from the United States. 
Ridge's main priority will be to help Albania meet its goal of joining NATO in 2008, Berisha said. "Ridge will assist and advise the Albanian government on the issues which are the top priority for every government in the world: the country's security," he explained. 
Tirana signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU in June, but obstacles remain in areas such as the economy, infrastructure and the fight against crime. 
Ridge, who was in Tirana, said it would be a privilege to work for the Albanian government. "I am ready to support the needed changes that Albania has to do in order to become a NATO member and a global partner in the international economy. I believe these goals may be achieved and I am looking forward to starting to work together with you on their realisation," Ridge said. 
In March, he held talks with Defence Minister Fatmir Mediu, Interior Minister Sokol Olldashi and Minister of Public Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications Lulzim Basha. One of the issues discussed was the management and control of borders. 
Ridge, 61, cut short his second term as Pennsylvania governor when US President George W. Bush appointed him to co-ordinate homeland security after the 11th September 2001 attacks on the United States. Named head of the department a year later, he stepped down in February 2005. 

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ENERGY

British firm to explore for oil in Albanian waters


Albania signed on September 4th a £14 million (20.73 million Euro) deal with Britain's MedOil PLC for oil exploration rights in its Ionian and Adriatic Seas, Ireland Online cited the ministry of economy, trade and energy as announcing. 
MedOil, a London-based oil and gas exploration company working mostly in the Mediterranean and North Africa region, will carry out exploration in three stages in the Ionian Sea from the Karaburun Peninsula to the southernmost town of Saranda, and in the Durres area in the Adriatic Sea, according to a statement. The contract will be prolonged to 20 years if exploration comes out positive and a well has to be drilled. Albania produces about 350,000 tonnes of oil annually.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Bilateral ties discussed with Albania PM 

Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, received his visiting Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha on September 13th for a meeting and official dinner, during which they discussed bilateral relations and also the Greek minority in Albania, news agency ANA reported. 
In statements afterward, Karamanlis said the meeting had been interesting and constructive and had helped foster better understanding of the positions of both countries on various issues. "The prospects for our relations are great and I am satisfied, because recently we confirmed our will to make further use of these possibilities," he told reporters. 
The Greek premier said that there had been significant progress in trade and economic ties, military and police cooperation between the two countries, while he emphasised the signature of an agreement on energy issues between Greece and Albania during Berisha's visit. In addition to the problems of the Greek minority in southern Albania, the two men also discussed problems faced by Albanian immigrants in Greece and those of Greek businesses operating in Albania.
Karamanlis emphasised that Greece supports Albania's course toward EuroAtlantic structures, to which it attaches great importance: "We are ready to assist our neighbouring country in the effort to carry out the necessary reforms and commitments to the EU it has undertaken," he stressed. Discussion during the dinner between the two premiers focused on regional and international issues, such as that of Kosovo, which Karamanlis described as important for peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
For his part, Berisha thanked Greece for its support of Albania's efforts to "realise its European vision" and for the Greece's contribution from the 1990s until the present day to Albania's efforts to become a democracy based on a market economy and to join the EU and NATO. The Albanian premier stressed that the meeting had been marked by a spirit of understanding and determination to further promote relations in economic cooperation, military cooperation, education and culture and cooperation between legislative and executive organs.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Renegotiation of Albtelecom's sale with Calik Energy 

Albania will renegotiate the privatisation of state phone company Albtelecom with a Turkish consortium after an international audit showed defects in the previous contract, the prime minister said on September 13th. Sali Berisha's Democratic Party-led government cancelled the contract with the Turkish Calik Enerji Telekomunikasyon AS consortium claiming irregularities in the sale through an international tender. Calik was awarded the contract earlier that year. "Ahmet Calik (the Turkish company's main shareholder) has shown a clear will to renegotiate," Berisha said, New Europe reported.
Tirana chose auditors Deloitte Czech Republic to investigate the sale of 76 per cent of Albtelecom to the Turkish consortium by Albania's former Socialist government for 120 million Euro. Calik Enerji was the only international company that bid for Albtelecom. Ten other companies - from Slovenia, South Korea, the United States, Kuwait and Ireland - had expressed interest earlier but they did not submit bids. 
Albtelecom, which the government valued at about 145 million Euro in January 2004, is the only fixed-line telephone company in the country and it can also operate a mobile phone network.

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TRANSPORT

Road network plans pick up speed

The building of the Rreshen-Kalimash road section which lies on the 170 kilometres stretch between Durres and Morine in Albania will be included in the tender, which will be part of a programme to build new roads and modernise existing ones, Italian News Agency ANSA reported recently.
According to an article in Il Sole 24 Ore, the works on the 58-kilometre-long road section will cost US$250m and will be entirely financed by the Albanian government. The project will also include the construction of a five-kilometre-long tunnel and several viaducts.

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