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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)

Books on Albania

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
28,748

Population
3,544,808

Capital
Tirana

Currency
Lek

President
Alfred Moisiu


Update No: 111 - (25/08/06)

The Heart of the Matter
This is the title of one of Graham Greene's 'entertainments,' like Our Man in Havana. Greene was a sympathiser with communism from the Catholic point of view of liberation theology and a friend and admirer of Fidel Castro, now on the way out.
Nobody on the bien pensant left ever made such a fuss of Enver Hoxha, the former communist dictator of Albania. He was the dottiest communist leader of all, outside Kim il-Sung of North Korea.
One of the many problems of communism is that it was feckless towards the environment. Its main ideology was Historical Materialism after all. But it was always keener on History, which it thought was going its way, than the infinitely tedious Matter of the habitat.
Together with a deep level of public poverty, Albania duly has appalling pollution, which it is now seeking to reduce. 

Albania seeks to reduce pollution
It has now drafted a new national strategy for lowering the amount of pollution in the country. Priorities include improving air quality, protecting water sources and forests, and promoting recycling.
"In the last years, the environment in Albania has been damaged, leading to a bad impact on peoples' lives," Environmental Minister, Lufter Xhuveli, said. The new strategy is expected to help remedy the situation, he added. 
According to Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, Tirana is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. He urged state institutions and local authorities to work together to clean it up. "The problem of the environment is not an issue of a certain institution, but a problem affecting all … everyone has to make their own contribution," Berisha said. 
He urged the ministry of education to review textbooks and see that they include sections on protecting the environment, and promised the government would take additional steps. 
However, it will be a few years before the new national strategy is actually put into action. Its objectives are to be implemented starting in 2010, so several more years of pollution are consequently inevitable. 
A major contributor to the pollution problem is the large number of cars, most of them old. According to official estimates, there are more than 200,000 cars on the road now, a figure that is rising by about 10,000 annually. About 40,000 of these cars still use leaded petrol. In addition, Albania has a large blackmarket in unregistered stolen cars from other countries, which the official figures will not have picked up
More than 80 per cent of cars are diesel-powered. If not maintained properly, diesel engines emit large quantities of microscopic particles, called PM10s, which can lodge deep in the lungs and are carcinogenic. The WHO limit for PM10s is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air, but at one central Tirana crossroads, the 24-hour average exposure was 483 micrograms, with peak-hour levels far higher. 
According to reports, traffic-related pollution has increased death rates in parts of the capital by 20 per cent in the last ten years. 

Ban on smoking 
Everything in Albania still has a political angle, as in the days of Hoxha of yore. Former Prime Minister, Fatos Nano, who lost the last elections in 2005, was known for his smoking habits. Meanwhile, the new Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, proclaiming himself a penitent smoker, has approved an even harder draft-law to ban smoking. A nail in the coffin of Nano, or perhaps his medical salvation?
The Government of Albania approved recently a draft-law to ban smoking in public areas like bars and restaurants, the Prime Minister's office has announced. The law is intended to lower the number of smokers in a country that is known for having one of the highest rates of smoking in Europe.
Current legislation forbids smoking in public offices, schools and hospitals, but not in bars or restaurants. The new draft-law restricts fines to 500 US dollars for the owner of the bar or restaurant where smoking takes place. 
The former government had "forgotten" this draft-law for several years, while last year anti-tobacco NGO's had accused the tobacco industry of corrupting the government.
Meanwhile, in separate legislation, the Albanian Parliament has approved a hike of the excise duty for tobacco and coffee. 

Concerns over political conflict in Albania
The latest events on Albania's political scene could harm the country's integration into the European Union, said Robert Hand, a senior staff advisor at the US Helsinki Commission.
In an interview with Radio Voice of America on August 3rd, Hand underscored that the political battle between the authorities and the opposition could affect the ongoing reforms in Albania. He called on the country not to waste energy on setting out control on institutions but to contribute to institution-building.
Hand said he was well aware that the Prime Minister Sali Berisha should keep up the fight against corruption. However, he needs to ensure that political effects of this process be precise. EU senior officials will visit Albania in the coming days to discuss the latest developments in Albania's political scene and no doubt see for themselves just how real the anticorruption campaign really is.

Albania (for a moment) in the forefront of the anti-terrorist struggle
There have been misunderstandings between the Prime Ministers of Albania and Kosovo, Sali Berisha and Agim Ceku, over China's request for extradition of Chinese Muslims.
China urged Albania to extradite five Chinese Muslims (Uighur minority group), saying that they are terrorists, not political refugees. The United States recently released the five men from its prison at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba. They arrived in Albania recently seeking asylum.
The Albanian government has said it will process the men's asylum applications according to local and international law. That decision has upset China, which says the men were part of a separatist group fighting to create an independent Uighur homeland in Xinjiang province, (which in china-speak equates with terrorist).
Tirana's daily Gazeta Sqiptare quotes Kosovo's PM Agim Ceku as saying the Bejing-Tirana rift could harm the Kosovo status process. Ceku fears that China, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, might veto any decision or hamper the status process.
Berisha, on the other hand, stressed that the United States has voiced firm guarantees that there will be no problems over China's veto-rights.

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We reproduce last month's issue in lasting tribute to a great Albanian, whose career explains much of his country's recent history:-

Death of a hero
A helicopter transporting Albania's former Deputy Prime Minister Professor Gramoz Pashko to Italy crashed into the Adriatic Sea on July 17th. Pashko was a leading figure in bringing to an end the socialist dictatorship in 1990-91.
Professor Pashko was one of the founders of the ruling Albanian Democratic Party, a rector at New York University in Tirana, a former economics minister and Deputy PM.
The crash of the Albanian helicopter with six people on board, including ex Deputy Prime Minister Gramoz Pashko, is a motive for fresh attacks between Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Chief Prosecutor Theodhori Sollaku. 
Theodhori Sollaku is expected to present a report on the case before the Parliament. The newspaper points out that the report supports the opposition's accusations the Albanian Interior Ministry hid the results of the interior investigation, according to which the crashed helicopter was mended with second-hand parts.

Profile of Pashko
It is worth dwelling on the deceased's role in Albanian history for a while. In early 1990 Pasko, an economics professor at the early age of 35, called for an end to one party rule at considerable personal risk.
For the regime of Ramiz Alia, successor to that of Enver Hoxha, had declared its refusal to follow the trend of revolution in 1989. Indeed, Albania was so isolated that it might have seemed feasible to continue state socialism indefinitely. Under Hoxha ties had been broken with Tito's Yugoslavia, the USSR and post-Maoist China (where he correctly, as it turned out, "smelt the whiff of revisionism in the air" as long ago as 1952). For a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall the Party of Labour and its brutal secret police, the dreaded sigurimi, continued to tyrannise the people. 
But the economy was deteriorating so badly that a new course obviously had to be set and foreign help attracted. Inevitably this meant via liberalization and an opening up to the world. Prossor Pashko, with the authority of being the best-trained economist in Albania, declared that the economy could no longer sustain itself. 
He forged with Sari Berisha, the present premier, the Albanian Democratic Party in 1990, the first independent party since the mid-1940s. Berisha is a Moslem from the north; while Pashko was from a Greek Orthodox family in the south - a good combination in a country with 70% Moslems and 20% Greek Orthodox to appeal nation-wide. Pashko, indeed, was the grandson of the Patriarch of the Albanian Orthodox Church, persecuted under communism, but now undergoing a great revival.
With his moral authority to add to his professional competence, he was also an outstanding orator, who in Tirana and Vlore, the southern port he represented as an MP, would address large spontaneous rallies, a very novel phenomenon in Albania. A direct democracy was being born.
Fluent in English, Pashko was the very man to persuade the world, and more particularly the Greeks, to accept the democratic changes under way in Albania. The Democratic Party won the first democratic elections in 1991 and Pashko became economics minister and deputy premier under Berisha, but definitely the brains in the new administration. 
The economy was then in free fall. But he laid the foundation of a stable economy, which is now bearing fruit. His one mistake was to adopt shock therapy, which for a while compounded the dire situation. 'Shock therapy' was then all the rage as a nostrum disseminated by the monetarists, as in Russia. But it at least made the transition to capitalism irreversible, which is why it was adopted in Moscow too.
He addressed the transition to a market economy with gusto, despite innumerable social and economic problems. He fell out with Berisha over his authoritarian style and resigned. Industrial failure culminated in a breakdown in law and order in 1997, when a vast pyramid financial scheme scandal broke out. A disillusioned populace voted the Democrats out in that year, voting in the former Socialists, who had, however, reformed themselves. They benefited hugely from the Kosovo War, as foreign aid and credits and foreign personnel poured in. The economy began to grow at around 7-8% per annum, the Socialists being re-elected in 2001.
Pashko had returned to academic life, holding posts in Scotland, the US, Italy and Greece. In 2000 he was made Rector of New York University in Tirana, where he nurtured a new generation of Albanian intellectuals, scholars and professional people.
Berisha made a comeback last year, but Pashko this time stayed in academia though still a very well-known and much-liked figure in Albania, a brilliant raconteur, especially with a glass of his favourite whisky in his hand. His loss for the Albanians is irreparable.

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FOREIGN LOANS

EBRD grants 8m Euro loan to Euromax 


Albanian consumers are expected to gain more access to a wide variety of good quality food products at competitive prices following an eight million Euro loan by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to Euromax Shpk, news website reporter.gr said recently.
The loan will shortly be followed by an equity investment. The combined financing package will help the company strengthen its financial resources and build five new large supermarkets in Albania's main cities. The company plans to build three supermarkets in Tirana and is considering the construction of further outlets in Skhodra, Vlora, Korca and Fieri in 2007, thus creating the first supermarket chain in the country. EBRD is the largest single investor in Albania, having committed more than 314.7 million Euro in 24 projects. The bank has invested more than 4.2 billion Euro in 293 projects across in the agribusiness sector.

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