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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: 129 - (28/02/08)

Tadic victory ensures peace
There is no doubt of the biggest issue of the day for Albania - the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, that duly happened on February 17. The victory of incumbent President Tadic in Serbia ahead of it on February 3 at least ensures a peaceful resolution of the problem.

Tadic, like any Serb leader, is opposed in principle to secession of the largely Albanian-populated province. But he is also opposed to the use of force to prevent it, which ardent nationalists in Serbia are not. There will be no re-run of 1999.

Contingency plans to help Kosovo 
Albania is not, curiously enough, keen to absorb Kosovo, aware perhaps of its appalling economic problems. There are also those who think Pristina is more dynamic and therefore would be a continuing challenge, to Tirana within the same nation state. But it is concerned to help its kith and kin for all that. On Feb 17th not only in Albania and Kosovo itself, but throughout Europe and America, indeed wherever Albanians are exiled as students or immigrants, the celebrations took to the streets with carloads of cheering supporters, their cars and themselves wrapped in Albanian flags. 

Albania has drawn up plans to help Kosovo counter any blockade Serbia might impose, in response to the declaration of independence by its southern province, Albania's prime minister said on January 30. Sali Berisha said Albania would open up road, sea and air links for the breakaway province. "We have a plan to react in case of a Serbian blockade in order to diminish the consequences of it in Kosovo," Berisha said in an interview during a visit to Brussels. He said the plan included granting Kosovo use of Albanian airports, the seaport of Durres and securing the road from Kosovo to the Albanian coast. 

Serbia strongly opposed Kosovo's separatist plans. Negotiations failed to resolve the dispute about the postwar status of the territory, which has been under U.N. administration since the end of the 1998-99 war between Kosovo rebels and the Serbian military. 

Berisha said resolving the question of Kosovo's status was crucial for stability in the region, but he appealed to the Kosovo Albanians not to antagonize Serbia or the Serb minority living in the province. "Albanians must be very cautious, self-restrained, not triumphalist, because it is very important for Kosovo to remain a multi-ethnic society," he said. "Albanians call on (the Kosovo) Albanians to decide quietly, to avoid any kind of provocation, any kind of extreme actions." 

No Greater Albania, Berisha insists
Berisha dismissed the concerns of some in the region that Kosovo's breaking away from Serbia could one day lead to it uniting with Albania, forming a state that would also seek to bring in Albanian-speaking areas of neighbouring Macedonia. "I'm deeply convinced that Albanians in Kosovo are very, very serious in their independence project," he insisted. Berisha said Kosovo's priority was joining the European Union, not Albania. 

"I don't see a possibility (of union with Albania). Albania, for its side, is decided to fully respect the international borders of Kosovo; there isn't any hesitation on that." He said Albania would seek close economic ties with Kosovo, but also with other close Balkan neighbours, such as Montenegro and Macedonia. 

Possible NATO entry
Berisha was in Brussels for talks with the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Albania is hoping to receive an invitation to join the military alliance along with Macedonia and Croatia at an April summit in Bucharest, Romania. 

"Our expectation for the Bucharest summit is to have the invitation for the NATO membership and I am mostly confident," he said. 

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 before the summit. 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 a snub in Bucharest would be "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 E.U. peacekeeping mission preparing to deploy to Chad to protect refugees from Sudan's Darfur region.

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