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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: 121 - (27/06/07)

Bush urges independence for Kosovo 
President George W. Bush is quite different from his father. He believes in bringing things to a head. He said as much to Putin at the recent G8 summit in Germany, saying: "It is time to bring things to a head over Kosovo." He might have added over missiles and anti-missile shields too 

He visited Albania on June 10th, getting a hero's welcome as the first American president to visit this Balkan nation. He said on arrival that there cannot be endless dialogue about achieving independence for neighbouring Kosovo, which US-led NATO forces liberated from Milosevic-led Serbia in 1999. "Sooner rather than later you've got to say 'Enough's enough. Kosovo's independent,'" Bush said during a news conference with the prime minister of the tiny, impoverished country.

Bush's press for statehood was aimed at Russia and others that object to Kosovo's independence. Standing alongside Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Bush said any extension of talks on Kosovo must have "certain independence" as the goal. Russia, an ally of Serbia, contends independence for Kosovo would set a dangerous precedent for the world's other breakaway regions, in several of which Russia is the prime organiser and sponsor, so is hardly disinterested - indeed it is a thinly disguised threat. Serbia also opposes statehood for Kosovo, which it sees as the heart of its historic homeland.

The US and key European countries that support Kosovo independence are trying to narrow differences with Russia over the future of Kosovo, which has been administered by the UN since a 1999 war between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian rebels. The U.N. Security Council is divided over the issue.

In May, the US and European nations introduced a revised UN resolution supporting independence for Kosovo under international supervision, but it was immediately rejected by Russia - which hinted it would veto the measure.

The new draft addressed Russia's concern that Kosovo's multiethnic character is preserved, but left out Russia's main proposal for new negotiations between the province's majority ethnic Albanians, who demand independence, and its minority Serbs, who want to remain part of Serbia.

"I happen to believe it's important to push the process along," Bush said. "The time is now. ... Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will be moving hard to see if we can't reach an agreement. If not, we're going to have to move. Independence is the goal."

Nevertheless, at the eight-nation summit in Germany on June 7th, Western leaders bowed to Russian demands to delay a U.N. plan to grant independence to Kosovo later this year. The question is that Kosovo may just declare its independence unilaterally.

Robin Shepherd, a senior fellow on European issues with the London research centre Chatham House, said Bush couldn't visit Kosovo so soon after the summit. "Politically, it would be very dangerous. But he can go into Albania, and from there calm fears, both in Albania and across the border, in Kosovo." Exactly what he hopes he has accomplished. 

Albania for NATO membership
In response to Albania's push for NATO membership, Bush said additional political and military reforms were needed before that could be considered - something the country's leaders said they understood.

"We are determined to take any decision, pass any law and undertake any reform to make Albania appropriate to receive the invitation" to join the Western military alliance, Berisha said. He added that 93 percent of his country's people support NATO membership for Albania.

Bush said he commended Berisha on Albania's progress on reforming its defence forces and meeting performance-based standards required for membership. "I look forward to welcoming you sometime into NATO," he said.

The love-affair with America goes on
There is no more popular country than the US in Albania. the Bush visit was the biggest day for it since it broke with communism.

When Bush arrived to begin his brief visit, the hills overlooking the capital boomed as military cannons fired a 21-gun salute, and thousands gathered in a downtown square on a brilliantly sunny day to see him and first lady Laura Bush. Huge banners proclaimed "Proud to be Partners" and billboards said "President Bush in Albania Making History." Red-white-and-blue paper top hats with stars on top were passed out to well-wishers.

Albania has such an affinity for America that it issued three postage stamps with Bush's picture and the Statue of Liberty, and renamed a street in front of parliament in his honour.

Bush said he was proud to be the first sitting American president to visit. "I love to come to countries that are working hard to establish institutions necessary for democracies to survive," he said.

But he said additional political and military reforms were needed, along with more progress in fighting organized crime and corruption. Berisha said he understood and is committed to making the changes. "We're committed to help you," Bush said.

In saluting Albania's democracy, Bush praised it as a country that has "cast off the shackles of a very oppressive society and is now showing the world what's possible."

During the visit, Bush met with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and greeted troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Albania recently decided to triple its deployment in Afghanistan to 140 troops. It also has about 120 troops in Iraq - a presence that Moisiu says will not end as long as Americans are engaged there.

Bush also had lunch in Tirana with the prime ministers of Albania, Macedonia and Croatia, which hope to join NATO next year.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

An economic cooperation accord reached with Poland 


Polish Economy Minister, Piotr Wozniak, and visiting Albanian Minister of Economy, Trade and Energy, Genc Ruli, signed an agreement on June 4th on economic cooperation which will boost development of cooperation in industry, power and mining sectors and in tourism between the two countries, New Europe reported. 
Under the signed accord, the two countries will set up a mixed commission to prepare proposals aimed to further develop bilateral cooperation. Both ministers stressed that bilateral turnover is very modest. Last year, Poland exported to Albania goods worth 5.6 million Euro, chiefly agricultural and food products as well as electro-engineering and chemicals products. Imports closed at 800,000 Euro and focused on wood and paper products and products of light and chemical industries. Ruli said that Albania is one of the best tourist regions in the world but added that the country also has visible shortcomings in its road and telecommunications infrastructure, stressing that Albania is offering its land for investments while its parliament is working on a draft law to allow the sale of land to foreign investors. The minister invited Polish capital to invest in Albania's fuel sector and to cooperate in the power industry.

Italy agrees to defence cooperation deal

Albanian President, Alfred Moisiu, recently met with visiting Italian Defence Minister, Arturo Parisi, to deepen and intensify their defence cooperation in the future, fast-tracking Albania's entry into the NATO, AENews reported. 
During the meeting, Moisiu acquainted Parisi with the progress that the army made in fulfilling the requirements for NATO membership. "We highly appreciate Italy's help in modernizing and transforming the Albanian Army through its specialized technical and logistical assistance," he said. Moisiu said he hoped the Albanian army's efforts in meeting NATO standards would culminate in an invitation to the club's membership in 2008. For his part, Parisi expressed Italy's full support for Albania's NATO bid.

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FOREIGN LOANS

International investment, loans secured to rebuild Albanian port

Albania plans to modernise its biggest port Durres which is responsible for almost 65 per cent of the country's import and export trade. To make Albania's main port of Durres one of the major points of trade, as well as a gateway to the region and beyond, the international community has approved almost 40 million Euro for the port's reconstruction, AENews reported. 
Minister of Finance, Ridvan Bode, and EBRD representative in Tirana, Murat Yildiran, signed an agreement for a 14 million Euro loan. The 15-year-long loan, with a three-year grace period and low interest, is just part of the 40 million Euro invested by the EU, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Albanian government. The plan for the port includes building a new passenger terminal and improving other infrastructure. The three main components of the project are new investments, rehabilitation and general construction supervision. The port reconstruction is expected to be completed by 2010. Durres is also important to the tourism sector. It is considered as Albania's gateway for the arrival and departure of ships carrying goods and for passengers as it is connected daily with ferries to the Italian ports of Bari and Brindisi. 

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TOURISM

Big plans for tourism, but outlook is poor 

The plans and hopes of Albania's conservative cabinet for the current summer tourist season are ambitious despite the grim realities of what is effectively a virgin destination, dpa reported. 
Tourism Minister, Ylli Pango, said that one million foreign tourists - 100,000 more than in 2006 - were expected for the first time ever on the country's coast. Albania only opened up to foreigners in the mid-1990s after five decades of an isolationist communist regime. 
In a bid to lure more guests, Albanian authorities recently passed a law setting up special tourist service bureaux in centres such as Durres, Vlora, Saranda and Velipolja and are planning to scrap a 20 Euro border-crossing fee. Speaking at the presentation of the tourism offer of Durres on May 31, President Alfred Moisiu said that Albania planned to rake in 800 million Euro, though acknowledging that "much needs to be done" to improve services. Albania offers beautiful beaches, untouched by the boom which draws millions to other emerging destinations as Bulgaria, Montenegro and Turkey - but it offers little beyond that, as even on mostly empty beaches the rare tourist must wade through piles of garbage. Local authorities often seem disinterested in the tourism business - for instance, despite trying for years, the French giant Club Med has still not managed to erect one of its villages on Albania's stunning southern coast.

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