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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: 164 - (26/02/11)

A wave of political unrest and corruption in Albania is further dashing the country’s hopes of joining the European Union.

On January 21, supporters of the opposition Socialist Party protested against official corruption and electoral fraud outside the office of Prime Minister Sali Berisha's office. A group of 200-300 people attacked police outside the premier's office, first with sticks and umbrellas, and later with cobblestones. The police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, then guardsmen from the courtyard of the premier's building shot live rounds into the crowd, killing three. A fourth man died in hospital two weeks later. Berisha blamed Socialist Party leader Edi Rama of staging a coup, while Rama said the crowd was provoked by the police.

The riot was sparked by built-up rage over corruption in government and the results of the election in 2009 that gave Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democratic Party a second four-year term by a narrow margin. In 2009, the Democrats won 70 seats in the 140-seat parliament and teamed up with the Socialist Integration Movement Party of Ilir Meta.

International observers said the elections fell short of international standards and the Socialists insist their votes were stolen. The opposition boycotted parliament last year and ordered a vote recount, but the government burnt the ballot papers in January. At around the same time, a video emerged that showed Meta discussing business favours with the economy minister and the Socialists called for the government to quit.

After the fierce crackdown on protesters in January, the European Union told Albania's government and opposition to urgently "restore calm and full respect for public order and rule of law".

As an applicant for EU membership, Albania must meet Brussels’ demands of 12 points to gain membership to the bloc, the most important of which being a commitment to democratic cooperation and fighting corruption.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's envoy, Miroslav Lajcak said, " I made it clear that the European future for Albania depends very much on whether the political leaders choose to do what we ask them to do, and do it now.”

As things stand, Albania is too divided to give the EU the show of good intentions it's looking for. Albanian prosecutor Ina Rama is now investigating the deaths of the four protesters shot in January and the opposition’s conduct, but even though he has issued arrest warrants for six chiefs of the republican guardsmen, Prime Minister Berisha and the police have refused to execute them.

However, Albania’s parliament is hanging individuals out to dry in an effort to deflect attention away from the country’s violent political wrangling. On February 16, parliament lifted the immunity of former deputy Prime Minister Ilir Meta to allow prosecutors to investigate the corruption charges against him. Backhand deals at the highest levels in government have been the main stumbling block in Albania’s bid for EU membership and pointing the finger at Meta is a useful way of showing the EU it can meet at least some of its demands.

That’s unlikely to be enough. Corruption is rife across all of the Balkan countries hoping to join the EU and those states aren’t often looked at in isolation due to the region’s history. Even though Albania belongs to NATO, unless its political situation stabilises, the EU will continue to see it as a ‘sick’ country that it can’t afford to heal.

 

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