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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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Update No: 118 - (29/03/07)

Albanian parliament approves government reshuffle
Albania's National Assembly on March 19th approved the reshuffle in the PM Sali Berisha's Cabinet, made exactly a week earlier. The shake-up in Sali Berisha's government came just a month after the ruling Democratic Party (DP) had suffered major losses in local elections, when the socialist opposition bloc gained victory in Albania's largest cities, including the opposition leader Edi Rama's victory in the capital, Tirana. 

Weeks after these setbacks, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has decided to make some key changes to his government. Describing the move as a bid to galvanise Albania's reform process, Prime Minister Sali Berisha proposed a reshuffle of his cabinet on March 12th. The changes are also intended to broaden the ruling coalition and help ensure that it has the 84 votes needed when Parliament elects a president in June. 

Gazmed Oketa has been appointed as new Deputy Prime Minister, Bujar Nishani is the new Minister of Interior, Ilir Rusmajli is the new Minister of Justice, Ili Pango is the new Minister of Tourism, Culture & Sport, Majlinda Bregu took up the post of Minister for European Integration - all members of Sali Berisha's Democratic Party.

Nard Ndoka, the leader of Democratic-Christian Party, was appointed as new Minister of Health. Unlike other nominees whose election was hailed by the ruling coalition only, Ndoka garnered full support both by the ruling and the opposition lawmakers. Appointing Ndoka as health minister means adding eight votes to the coalition's majority. 
The opposition strongly criticized some of the newly elected ministers, especially the new Interior Minister Bujar Nishani. The opposition lawmakers blamed Nishani of improper conduct and inappropriate stands toward the opposition.

President approves the reshuffle
President Alfred Moisiu had seven days to decree the new members of the government. It is the first reshuffle since DP came to power after winning the July 3rd, 2005 parliamentary elections. It had spent eight years in opposition. 

Berisha's government now has support from 80 of the 140 deputies in Parliament, a number that falls short of the 3/5ths majority needed for some laws, including approval of a new president. 

Direct presidential election suggested
The incumbent, Moisiu, was selected after a compromise between the majority and the opposition in 2002, leading Albanians to refer to him as the "consensual president." However, hopes of a similar deal this time around appear dim. 

Berisha has proposed DP's Bamir Topi as a possible choice for president. "I think the president has to be a popular figure and I think that Topi is the most appropriate. He has a long political career to carry this duty," the prime minister said. 
However, the opposition baulked, saying it can negotiate with the majority only if the prime minister resigns. 

Berisha says the time has come to consider having the people, rather than Parliament, elect the head of state. This, however, would require changes to the constitution. 

The Albanian-Croatian axis
Albania is hoping for NATO membership next year and signed a Stabilisation and Accession Agreement with the EU last spring. 

Albania and Croatia are to strengthen their relations, leaders from the two countries said in Tirana on March 16th. Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and visiting Croatian President Stipe Mesic said their two countries have already enjoyed a very good relationship. 

The two countries are struggling to join the NATO and are parties to the Adriatic Charter, which they signed, along with Macedonia, with the US in 2003 to facilitate their entry into the club. 

Berisha also expressed the hope that Croatia's experience in implementing the EU's Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) would benefit Albania. 

Croatia has already begun entry talks with the club, a few steps ahead of Albania which just signed the SAA pact with the EU last June.

New oil pipeline from the Black Sea to the Adriatic
Meanwhile the business of government goes on. A major energy project is afoot across the Balkans.

Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria have agreed to build an east-west oil pipeline from Burgas to the Albanian port of Vlore. The 556-mile pipeline is also due to be completed in 2010, costing an estimated US$1.2 billion.

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ENERGY

More gas terminals, power plants will be built

Albanian authorities have defined three areas in southwest Albania for the construction of gas terminals and power plants, B92 reported on March 7th.
The project is aimed at becoming a transit point for international gas networks and to overcome a power crisis in the former communist country. Three companies will build terminals for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, on areas covering 60, 120 and 30 hectares around Vjosa River in Fieri district, about 100 kilometres southwest of Tirana, the government said in a statement. 
Swiss EGL, Dutch-based Trans European Energy and international consortium ASG Power SA have been authorised to build the terminals and power plants, and were expected to apply soon for construction licenses, officials said. The projects will supply Albania with power, as well as providing gas and power through international connections to the European grid. Authorities could not say exactly when the projects would start, or how much investment they entailed. The ASG Powers SA, based in Lugano, Switzerland, and Trans European Energy would likely start their projects this year, said Gjergj Bojaxhi, vice minister of Trade, Industry and Energy. EGL was more interested in building a gas pipeline, he said. Albania has suffered power cuts during post-communist period since 1990. Last month the Albanian Electro-Energy Corp, known as KESH, signed a 92 million Euro contract with Italy's Maire Engineering SpA to build a 100 MWh oil-based thermo-power plant in Vlora, 140 kilometres southwest of Tirana, completing it in two years.

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FOOD & DRINK

FAO to finance Food Safety and Agro-Industry

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will intervene with concrete projects for development of agriculture and agro-industry in Albania, sources were cited by website reporter.gr as revealing. 
Minister of agriculture, food and consumers' protection Jemin Gjana discussed the continuation of FAO projects and the implementation of a new project worth US$ five million in the sector of food safety during a meeting in Tirana with FAO representatives. Minister Gjana pointed to the importance his ministry attaches to food safety in the country, assuring FAO representatives of a concrete cooperation in implementation of this new project.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Business council in cooperation with Turkey

Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, and his Albanian counterpart, Besnik Mustafaj, participated at a meeting of the Turkey-Albania business council on February 9th, TurkishPress.com reported. 
Addressing Turkish and Albanian entrepreneurs, Gul was cited as saying that the economic relations between the two countries was good, but added that it could further improve. Gul noted that businessmen had an important role to play in improving economic relations, but acknowledged that there were tasks which needed attention of the respective governments first. He also called for a quick adoption of a free trade agreement between the two countries, pledging that the Turkish Parliament would pass the agreement within two to three weeks, it was reported. For his part, Mustafaj was cited by the website as saying that Albania needed foreign investments and that his country could learn from Turkey's experiences regarding the issue. "We have to take example of a country like Turkey which issues investment licences in just a week. This vision of state which overcame bureaucracy and prevented corruption serves all society and businessmen," he was quoted as saying. Foreign Minister Gul was later received by Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and separately met Albanian Parliament Spokesperson Jozefina Topalli. 

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FOREIGN LOANS

World Bank gives 60m Euro loans to Albania 

The World Bank said on February 23rd that it had approved two loans totalling 60 million Euro to Albania. The resources are intended for traffic infrastructure and assistance in land reform, AENews reported. 
A 25 million Euro loan will help the Albanian government complete and maintain a 16-mile segment of the 105-mile road linking the Albanian port city of Durres with the Morine border crossing point to Kosovo, according to a World Bank statement. Another loan of 34.96 million Euro is to be used for a land reform project, assisting Albanian authorities to improve the land administration and management by public entities and individuals. The growing transport demand in Albania reflects the structural changes in the economy and changes in trade flows in the region. However, the quality of road infrastructure compares poorly to regional comparators. Lack of maintenance has contributed to the deterioration of the network and increased the costs for road users. Road accidents are a serious and increasing public health issue. Poor transport infrastructure is negatively impacting the standard of living of the Albanian population. To resolve these problems, the Government of Albania has recently adopted the Albanian National Transport Plan, and confirmed that the Durres - Milot - Morine corridor is its foremost priority.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

A 12.5% stake in AMC may be sold to Cosmote

Greek mobile operator Cosmote's 82.4 per cent-owned subsidiary in Albania is interested in buying 12.5 per cent stake in AMC, Greek mobile operator at a reasonable price, AENews reported. 
Cosmote would buy this stake at a reasonable price, as Cosmote also owns 97 percent of Cosmo-Holding Albania, which in turn controls 85 per cent of AMC. In 2006, AMC had a customer base of about one million and recorded sales of 151 million Euro.

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