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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)

Books on Albania

Update No: 120 - (30/05/07)

Jewel on the Adriatic
As a small country, which was long considered something of a joke on the world stage, Albanians like to be taken seriously. But at least Albania is exotic. It is in fact a very beautiful mountainous country with a marvellous coastline on the Adriatic, which will one day attract as much attention as Montenegro is doing now.

The world knows that Albanians were ruled for years by King Zog, which sounds out of a fairy tale. In fact his original name was Ahmed Beg Zogu. He was the interior minister, controlling the police, who staged a coup in 1924. He became president, but then fancied himself as a king, which he duly became in 1928. 

After Italian and German occupation in the Second World War, Albania fell into the clutches of the communists, more specifically into the hands of Enver Hoxha, a sinister buffoon of a dictator, a sort of Albanian synthesis of Mussolini-cum-Stalin. It languished as the poorest country in Europe. Hoxha duly expired as if on cue in March 1985, as Gorbachev gained full power. 

Albania obeyed the dictates of the Zeitgeist again in ridding itself of communism and embracing a wild West capitalism in the 1990s. An Albanian pyramid scheme gripped the population, who lost most of their savings in 1997. Everything seemed ruined.

But then came the war over Kosovo in 1999, from which time things have decidedly improved. Western aid and aid personnel abounded. GDP has risen by an average 7% per annum and Albania is no longer the poorest country in Europe; that is now Moldova.

Bush to make historic visit to Albania 

The White House has confirmed that President George W. Bush will visit Albania on June 10th. He also plans to visit the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Bulgaria, after attending the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany from June 6th to the 8th. 

It is the first visit by an American president, the leader of the western world after all, whatever one may think of him, to Albania and conveys great symbolism. Albania has arrived.

Bush plans to meet with Albanian President Alfred Moisiu and Prime Minister Sali Berisha. According to Moisiu, the visit carries great symbolism. A superpower, he said, is building reciprocal respect and collaboration with a small country such as Albania. "This shows proof of the great values of American democracy, which remains an inspiration," the president said April 26th during a meeting in Tirana with the former Supreme Commander of the NATO Allied Forces in Europe, General Wesley Clark. 

Berisha said he considers Bush's visit as a high point in the excellent relationship between Albania and the United States. "Since Albania's independence, in the most critical moments of national liberty for Albanians, the United States has played the role of helping to save rights and freedom," he said. 

He also referred to the situation in neighbouring Kosovo. "The dreams of Kosovo's Albanians for their free, democratic and independent state find understanding in the administration of President George W. Bush." 

The United States has also supported Albania's NATO ambitions. In April, Bush signed into law a bill reaffirming his country's support for the NATO accession of five countries - Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia and Ukraine. 

The NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007 also opens the door for the extension of new US military assistance to the countries next year. U.S. officials and diplomats have encouraged Albania's acceptance into NATO in 2008. 

Albania, meanwhile, has contributed troops to the U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since February, the country has had 120 non-combat troops, stationed at the Mosul Airport. In December 2006, Albanian Defence Minister Fatmir Mediu said Albanian troops would stay in Iraq as long as U.S. forces remain there. 

Bush, as we have seen, will be the first US president to visit Albania. In 1999, President Bill Clinton scheduled a visit to Tirana, but it was cancelled. Two US secretaries of state have visited Albania - James Baker in 1991 and Colin Powell in 2003. 

EU against early elections in Albania 
The European Union is against holding early elections in Albania, as political stability is crucial to the country's integration into the European structures, a senior EU official said on May 2nd. 

"Albanian needs a period of stability in order to achieve its ends of joining the EU," Helmu Lohan, the head of European Commission in Tirana, said at a news conference. 

Albania is going to elect a new president in the coming month. 

The Democrat-led ruling coalition has chosen Bamir Topi, vice- president of the Democratic Party, to run for the post, while the Socialist-led opposition threatened to go to early polls if the next president does not come from the opposition. 

The Albanian president is elected by the parliament, where the ruling Democrats coalition holds the majority of the 140 seats. A candidate with over 84 votes wins the office.

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