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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


Update No: 132- (01/06/08)

The historical hinge
Albanians are particularly concerned at the moment with Serbia. It is vital that the moderate, liberal Serbs prevail and constitute the government. Such seems to have happened. They have to maintain the fiction that Kosovo is part of Serbia for evermore; but they know that this is nonsense. 

It is a curiosity that the Serbs have made their creation myth a major defeat, the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds in 1389, when they went down to the Ottoman Turks in Kosovo. Interestingly (and you would never hear this in Serbia), the army defeated that day was made up of Hungarians, Serbs and a substantial proportion of Albanians under their princes, the whole under the command of a Hungarian prince. 

This meant subjugation for centuries (perhaps twelve to fifteen generations) for the entire Balkans, including Albania, to the Ottomans. The Albanians adapted by becoming 70% Muslim, as did of course the Bosnian Muslims. They have paid dearly for it of late. So have the Albanian Kosovars. Milosevic and two fugitives from justice still abroad in the region, Karadzik and Mladic, were the villains here. 

The war over Kosovo in 1999 has seen the real creation of a new Albania, resurrected from dire decades of a wretched communist dictatorship and a hangover from it through the 1990s, when 'shock therapy' proved shocking, but hardly therapeutic. NATO troops stationed there swept the brigands road-blocks away, and helped to establish at least a start-up version of the rule of law. 
The international organisations that came to town then brought new skills and plenty of aid money, which triggered a boom, bringing GDP growth of 7% per annum subsequently. Albania is no longer the poorest country in Europe.

Into the EU
It is naturally hoping to complement this performance by joining the EU. 

Much will depend here on how fare the Croats and Serbs in Brussels, although the Croats are far ahead of the field in terms of adhesion to the essential EU norms of orchestrating national law, to fit EU membership. Serbia is a more complex candidate. Success for them would more or less ensure Albania's entry too. 

The heart of the matter – crime
But there is one most important condition. Albania sorely needs to improve its record with regard to crime and corruption. As a traditional country of banditry in its mountainous fastnesses, it will be difficult to make progress here. The criminals are highly elusive. The EU has everything to fear from them. Already they infest Italy and account for 75% of the vice industry in London. 

Hardened by survival under communism with its secret police forces and gulag prisons, the West is regarded as a soft option by comparison. Brussels is quite right to sound the alarm here, particularly after its mistake of admitting Bulgaria and Romania too early to membership, both of them ‘unreconstructed’ arenas for corruption at every level of state and business activity. 

Premier Sali Berisha knows full well that a cleaner slate in Albania is a top priority for his EU ambitions to be realised. A cardiologist by training, he knows this is the heart of the matter, but whether he or another can effect that, is unknown. 

Into NATO?
Tirana was hoping to be invited at least to join NATO at the April summit in Bucharest. This was not to be.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Berisha he was pleased with Albania's progress, but said more work was needed on judicial and electoral reforms beforehand. Berisha promised to push forward with the reforms. Although Croatia is widely seen as ready to join the alliance, diplomats have raised doubts about Albania and Macedonia. 

"I assured the (NATO) ambassadors that our reforms in Albania are irreversible and clear progress will be seen in the weeks and months to come," he said. He warned that the snub in Bucharest was "an unhappy signal," but said Albania would continue to push for membership. "We will persist in our project until we realize it," he said. 

Berisha said he would likely send about 50 Albanian officers to help train the Afghan army in response to a NATO request, adding to about 140 soldiers his country currently has serving with the allied force there. 

He said Albania was also going to send about 60 soldiers to join an EU peacekeeping mission preparing to deploy to Chad to protect refugees from Sudan's Darfur region.

Gentile Saviours
Albania deserves credit for its record in saving its Jews in the Second world war. A conference about the rescue of Albanian Jewry during the Holocaust took place on May 20-21.The gathering, sponsored by the Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar-Ilan University; the Department of History of the University of Tirana; and the International Institute for Holocaust Research of Yad Vashem, was held in Albania's capital, Tirana.

Jews in Albania were saved by the citizens of the mostly Muslim country, which sheltered them and gave them refuge.  "Albanian Jewry is the only Jewish community in Europe whose numbers even grew under German occupation," according to Prof. Dan Michman of Bar-Ilan University. "Yad Vashem recognized 63 Albanians as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’, a record number bearing in mind the number of citizens of Albania and the number of Jews living in its territory."

The complete story of the Jews of Albania has not yet been comprehensively studied due to the political and cultural closure of Albania, before the collapse of the Iron Curtain in the country in 1990. Participating in the conference were researchers of the Holocaust and historians from Israel and Albania, Italy, Germany, the United States, representatives of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the World Jewish Congress.

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