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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: 162 - (24/11/10)

EU Progress Report positive
There is no doubt about the biggest issue in front of the Albanians – EU membership.

Amid celebrations around the country for achieving visa-free status earlier in the month, the Director for Enlargement in the Western Balkans, Pierre Mirel, presented the EU Progress Report on Albania to Prime Minister Sali Berisha on November 9th.

The report gave the country credit for the work achieved on legislation, the economy, and implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

The report also praised Albania's constructive role in "maintaining regional stability and fostering good neighbourly relations with other Western Balkan and EU countries".

But there are still specific difficulties
However, the EU did not grant Albania candidate status, citing a number of problems and issues the country must resolve.

In particular, more progress is needed towards compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria. According to the report, problem areas include the "effectiveness and stability of Albania's democratic institutions, notably parliament".

The report pointed out the confrontational nature of the current political dialogue, and the need for electoral and judicial reform. There also needs to be improvement in the "implementation of legislation and policy instruments in the field of human rights and protection of minorities".

Other specific actions that need to be taken include the adoption of pending laws requiring a reinforced majority in parliament, the appointment of an ombudsman, the implementation of an orderly hearing and voting process in parliament for constitutional and high court appointments, and the maintenance of a national strategy on property rights.

The fight against corruption and organised crime must also be more effective.

One immediate challenge Mirel underscored is the political stalemate arising from the contested June 2009 general elections. The Socialist opposition has made it clear they won't vote on any government initiative stemming from the EU report unless the transparency of these elections is resolved.

Analysts agree the government and the opposition must concentrate on reaching a consensus concerning the parliamentary deadlock.

"I want to guarantee the Albanians that I will make all attempts to co-operate with the opposition", Berisha said on Tuesday. It is in "the vital interest of Albanian citizens to build the European ideal in Albania … All the defined priorities and all shortages noted in this report will be transformed into priorities of my government during the months … and the year to come."

Ermelinda Meksi, a member of the Socialist opposition, former minister of integration and head of the parliamentary commission on integration, seemed sceptical.

"How can one get candidate status without meeting the Copenhagen criteria?" she asked, adding that Albanians should not lose sight of that in the visa liberalisation celebrations.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fuele noted that the main challenges to Union integration "lie in Albania itself. I hope Albania will find the political determination necessary to ... build a true democratic society, with a strong market economy and a body of legislation fully aligned with that of the EU," he said.

But does the political will exist? "Aspirant countries must develop the capacity to assume fully the obligations of membership by satisfying the political and economic conditions required. That is non-negotiable," Atalanta Pasko, a publisher and a journalist, told SETimes in Tirana.

Yet politicians in Albania don't want to change, Pasko said. They get involved in politics expecting to get "enormously rich. This is a reality we live on a daily basis. They are not able to push the country forward and respond with laws and implementation of the laws to the needs of the country."

Russia might include Albania in a gas pipeline project that rivals a US and EU-backed one
Russia's deputy foreign minister says Moscow might include Albania in the South Stream gas pipeline, which will carry Russian gas to southeastern Europe.

Vladimir Titov says Russia will consider extending the planned pipeline to the small Balkan country, according to an Albanian government statement. Albania is not currently linked to any international gas pipelines.

Titov spoke after talks on November 12 with Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

South Stream will deal a blow to the rival Nabucco pipeline, which is supported by the U.S. and the European Union.

Austria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Croatia have signed onto South Stream, which will lead under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. The joint venture between Russia's Gazprom and Italy's Eni will open in 2015.

 

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