Republic of Albania
Republika é Shqipërisë
FLAG: The flag consists of a red background at the center of which is a black double-headed eagle.
ANTHEM: Hymni i Flamúrit (Anthem of the Flag) begins "Rreth flamúrit të për bashkuar" ("The flag that united us in the struggle").
MONETARY UNIT: The lek (l) of 100 qindarka is a convertible paper currency. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, 50 qindarka, and 1 lek, and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 leks. l1 = $0.00970 (or $1 = l103.07) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; International Women's Day, 8 March; Independence Day, 28 November; Christmas Day, 25 December. Movable Islamic and Christian religious holidays include Small Bayram, Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, Great Bayram.
TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.
Albania is situated on the west coast of the Balkan Peninsula opposite the "heel" of the Italian "boot," from which it is separated on the sw and w by the Strait of Otranto and the Adriatic Sea. It is bordered on the n and e by Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia, and on the se by Greece, with a total boundary length of 720 km (447 mi). Comparatively, Albania is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland, with a total area of 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi) and extends 340 km (211 mi) n–s and 148 km (92 mi) e–w. Albania's capital city, Tiranë, is located in the west central part of the country.
Albania is predominantly mountainous, with 70% of the territory at elevations of more than 300 m (1,000 ft). The rest of the country consists of a coastal lowland and the lower reaches of river valleys opening onto the coastal plain. The Albanian mountains, representing a southern continuation of the Dinaric system, rise abruptly from the plains and are especially rugged along the country's borders. The highest peak, Mt. Korabit (2,753 m/9,033 ft) lies in eastern Albania on the Macedonian border. The most important rivers—the Drin, the Buna, the Mat, the Shkumbin, the Seman, and the Vijosë—empty into the Adriatic. Albania shares Lake Scutari (Skadarsko Jezero) with Serbia and Montenegro, Lake Ohrid (Ohridsko Jezero) with Macedonia, and Lake Prespë (Prespansko Jezero) with Macedonia and Greece.
Albania has a variety of climatic conditions, being situated in the transition zone between the typical Mediterranean climate in the west and the moderate continental in the east. The average annual temperature is 15°c (59°f). Rainy winters (with frequent cyclones) and dry, hot summers are typical of the coastal plain. Summer rainfall is more frequent and winters colder in the mountainous interior. Annual precipitation ranges from about 100 cm (40 in) on the coast to more than 250 cm (100 in) in the mountains.
The mountainous topography produces a variety of flora and fauna. The dry lowlands are occupied by a bush-shrub association known as maquis, in which hairy, leathery leaves reduce transpiration to a minimum. There are some woods in the low-lying regions, but larger forests of oak, beech, and other deciduous species begin at 910 m (2,986 ft). Black pines and other conifers are found at higher elevations in the northern part of the country. There are few wild animals, even in the mountains, but wild birds still abound in the lowland forests.
Deforestation remains Albania's principal environmental problem, despite government reforestation programs. Forest and woodland account for about 38% of the country's land use. Soil erosion is also a cause for concern, as is pollution of the water by industrial and domestic effluents. While Albania has a comparatively small amount of renewable water resources at 26.7 cu km, 99% of its urban population and 95% of its rural population have access to pure water.
Albania produced 2.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2000.
As of 2003, about 3.8% of Albania's lands were protected by environmental laws. As of 2002, there were over 3,000 higher plant species (flowering plants only), 68 mammal species, and 193 species of birds. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 1 type of mammals, 9 species of birds, 4 types of reptiles, 2 species of amphibian, and 17 species of fish. Endangered species include the Atlantic sturgeon, Mediterranean monk seal, and the hawksbill turtle.
The population of Albania in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 3,170,000, which placed it at number 131 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 8% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 27% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 98 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be 0.9%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 3,509,000. The population density was 110 per sq km (286 per sq mi).
The UN estimated that 42% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.03%. The capital city, Tiranë, had a population of 367,000 in that year. Other important towns and their estimated populations include Durrës, 113,900; Elbasan, 97,000; Shkodër, 90,000; and Vlorë, 85,000.
The population increase in Albania has been exceptionally rapid by European standards. The birthrate, despite a decline from over 40 births per 1,000 of population in the 1950s to 19 in 2000, remains among the highest in Europe. The high birthrate is partially attributed to the ban on birth control during the communist era; as of 2006, the use of birth control remains low, with only 15.3% of married women reported to use contraceptives. Another contributing factor to the population growth is the increase in life expectancy to an average of 74 years of age.
In the 19th century, Albanians emigrated to other Balkan countries (Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece), and to Egypt and Russia. During the first decades of the 20th century, emigration—for economic reasons—was primarily to the United States (largely to Massachusetts), Argentina, Australia, and France. Emigration following World War II occurred on a very limited scale, mainly for political reasons. Between 1945 and 1990, Albania remained virtually isolated from the rest of Europe. In the early 1990s, about two million Albanians lived in Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia).
In 1997, rebel fighting and an Italianled multinational force of 6,000 foreign peacekeeping troops prevented thousands of Albanians from fleeing into Greece or Italy. After the 1999 peace of Kosovo, government control of migration flows was absent. By 2004, approximately 25% of the total population, or over 35% of the labor force, emigrated. Of the approximately 900,000 emigrants, most reside in Greece (600,000), Italy (200,000), Western European countries, the United States, and Canada. Since the 1990s, migration has been five times higher than the average migration flow in developing countries. Included in this flow was a significant "brain drain" of scholars that became a "brain waste" as they became underemployed in their country of destination. Albania's net migration rate, estimated in 2005, was -4.8 migrants per 1,000 population. Remittances from Albanians working abroad amounted to $780 million in 2003.
During the NATO air strikes of 1999, Albania hosted 465,000 refugees from Kosovo. Adoption of the Kosovo Peace Plan on 10 June 1999 prompted the return of an estimated 432,500 refugees to Kosovo from Albania. At the end of 2003, there were around 300 refugees in the country, mainly Albanians from Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as citizens from Iraq and Turkish Kurds. By the end of 2004 Albania's refugee population had declined to just 51.
Between 1992–2003 approximately 6,000 foreigners entered Albania as migrant workers employed mainly in construction, trade, service, and education sectors. Around three-fourths of them came from Turkey, China, Egypt, other Arab and Islamic countries, and European Union (EU) countries.
Generally regarded as descendants of the ancient Illyrians, the Albanians make up about 95% of the population. Ethnic Greeks comprise as much as 3% of the populace. Other groups, including Roma, Vlachs, Bulgarians, Macedonians, and Serbs, make up the remaining 2%. The Albanians themselves fall into two major groups: the Ghegs in the north and the Tosks in the south, divided by the Shkumbin River. The Greeks are located primarily in the south.
Albanian (Shqip), an independent member of the Indo-European family of languages derived from both ancient Illyrian and ancient Thracian, has been greatly modified by Latin, Slavonic, Greek, and Turkish influences. It was not until 1908 that a common Latin alphabet was established for Albanian. In addition to letters of the English alphabet, Albanian uses the diacritics ç (representing the sound of ch in church ) and ë (the sound of i in dirt ). Other unusual letter values are c (the sound of ts in gets ), x (the sound of ds in woods ), xh (the sound of j in jaw ), j (the sound of y in yet ), q (the sound of ky in stockyard ), and y (the sound of the German ü ). There are two distinct dialects—Gheg, spoken in the north, and Tosk, spoken in the south. During the period between World Wars I and II, Gheg was officially favored as standard Albanian; after World War II, because the principal leaders of the regime were southerners, the Tosk dialect became the standard and is currently the official language. Greek is spoken by a minority in the southeast border area. Vlach, Romani, and other Slavic dialects are also spoken by minority groups.
In 1990 and 1991, official opposition to religious activities came to an end, and churches and mosques that had been closed under the communist regime were selectively allowed to reopen. Albania is now a self-proclaimed secular state; however, the 1998 constitution calls for freedom of religion. It is estimated that 30–40% of the population actively practice a religion.
Historically, Islam has been the most prominent religion of Albania. In the total population, the percentage of Muslims remains stable at roughly 65–70%, including Sunni Islam and members of the Bektashi school (Shia Sufism). Since 1925, Albania has been considered the world center of the Bektashi school. The Bektashi school represents about 25% of the nation's Muslims. About 20–25% of the population are members of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (Albanian Orthodox) and about 10% are Roman Catholic. There are several small Protestant groups.
Geographically, most Muslims are found in the center of the country, with a few groups to the south. Citizens in the south are mainly Orthodox while northerners are generally Catholic. The Greek minority in the south is Orthodox. The four main groups of Sunnis, Bektashis, Orthodox, and Catholics have maintained a heightened degree of social recognition and status due to their historical presence within the country. The State Committee on Cults regulates relations between the government and religious organizations and keeps statistics on groups that contact the Committee for assistance. Registration or licensing is not required for religious organizations.
Many roads are unsuitable for motor transport; bicycles and donkeys are common. There had been virtually no private cars in the country, but they have become more common since the opening of the borders. In 2002, there were 18,000 km (11,185 mi) of roads, of which 7,020 km (4,359 mi) were paved. One of the many recent infrastructural projects was the construction of a 241 km (150 mi) four-lane highway linking Durrës with Greece, via Pogradec and Kapshtica.
Railroad construction began in 1947, and lines in 2001 had a total length of 447 km (228 mi) of standard gauge track. Narrow gauge rail includes the Durrës-Tiranë, Durrës-Elbasan, Ballsh Rrogozhinë, Vorë-Shkodër, and Selenicë-Vlorë lines. In 1979, Albania signed an agreement with the former Yugoslavia to construct a rail link between Shkodër and Titograd; the link was opened to international freight traffic in September 1986.
Albania's rivers are not navigable, but there is some local shipping on lakes Shkodër, Ohrid, and Prespë. Coastwise vessels link the ports of Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë, and Shëngjin. Durrës is the principal port for foreign trade. The merchant fleet of Albania in 2005 consisted of 25 vessels of 1,000 GRT or over, all cargo ships, totaling about 40,878 GRT. A freight ferry service between Durrës and Trieste was inaugurated in 1983.
In 2004, there were an estimated 11 airports, three of which had paved runways, and one heliport (as of 2005). Flights from Tiranë's international airport connect the Albanian capital with Athens, Belgrade, and Switzerland (the latter route opened in June 1986). In 2003, a total of 159,300 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
The Albanians are considered descendants of ancient Illyrian or Thracian tribes of Indo-European origin that may have come to the Balkan Peninsula even before the Greeks. Although several Greek colonies were established along the coast, the hinterland remained independent. An Illyrian kingdom was formed in the 3rd century bc, and even after it was conquered by Rome in 167 bc, some mountain tribes were never subdued. Among them were the Albani or Albanoi, whose city Albanopolis was mentioned in the 2nd century bc by Ptolemy in his Geography. Later, while nominally under Byzantine rule, Albania was raided by Slav invaders in the 6th century and was annexed to Bulgaria in the 9th century. Temporary inroads were made by Venice, which established coastal colonies, and by the Normans, who seized Durrës in 1082–85. Albanian expansion took place under the Angevin kings of Naples in the 13th century, and again under the Serbs in the 14th century. Shortlived independent principalities flourished during the second half of the 14th century.
Turkish advances, which began in 1388, were resisted from 1443 to 1468 by Gjerj Kastrioti, better known as Scanderbeg, the Albanian national hero, but by 1479 the Turks attained complete control of the area. Over the succeeding centuries, Islam spread throughout most of the country. Turkish rule continued through the 19th century, which saw an intensification of nationalistic feeling, often erupting into open rebellion. In November 1912, during the First Balkan War, the National Assembly convened in Vlorë under the chairmanship of Ismail Kemali and proclaimed Albania's independence. The proclamation was supported by Austria-Hungary but opposed by Russia, Serbia, Greece, and Turkey. At a conference in London in 1913, Albania's national boundaries were established—they have remained virtually unchanged since that time—and the nation was placed under the tutelage of the great powers. Albania then became a principal battleground during World War I. By the time the war ended, portions of Albania were under Italian, French, and Yugoslav control.
Albania again asserted its independence in 1920, and a provisional government was established, as the Italians and French withdrew. Following a period of unstable parliamentary government (1921–24), Ahmet Zogu, the chief of the Mat district, seized power with Yugoslav support. He proclaimed Albania a republic in 1925, with himself as president, and a kingdom in 1928, with himself as King Zog I. A series of concessions to Italy made Albania a virtual Italian protectorate, and after Zog was forced into exile in April 1939, Italy occupied Albania, uniting it with the Italian crown. During World War II, Communistled guerrillas under Enver Hoxha resisted Italian and German forces. The Congress of Permeti (24 May 1944) formed Albania's provisional government, naming Hoxha as premier; the congress banned the return of former King Zog, and called for a constituent assembly to meet after the complete liberation of the country. In November 1944, the Hoxha government was established in Tiranë.
The constitution of 1946 declared Albania a people's republic. Early close relations with Yugoslavia were abruptly severed when the Soviet-Yugoslav break occurred in 1948. Partly because of fundamental differences with Yugoslavia, whose borders included about 1.7 million Albanians, and partly because of ideological divergences, Albanian-Soviet relations worsened at the 22nd Communist Party Congress, and the USSR severed diplomatic relations with Albania in December 1961 and evacuated its naval and submarine bases at Vlorë.
Relations with Communist countries other than China worsened during the 1960s, as Albania ceased to participate in the activities of the Warsaw Treaty Organization by September 1968 following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. With Yugoslavia, however, there were signs of rapprochement; an Albanian-Yugoslav trade pact was signed in 1970, and trade between the two nations consequently flourished. Gestures were also made to improve relations with Albania's other neighbor, Greece.
Albania's relations with China, its ally and supporter since 1961, seemed to cool somewhat after 1971. China's détente with the United States ran counter to Albania's policy of opposition to the USSR and the United States. China's assistance to Albania ceased when the United States denounced the overthrow of China's "Gang of Four" in October of 1976.
On 28 December 1976, Albania adopted a new constitution that formally established Marxism-Leninism as the dominant ideology and proclaimed the principle of self-reliance. The following year, Albania broke off most of its links with China and accused it of "social imperialist" policies, and in 1978 trade relations were also suspended. In 1983, however, Albania received a Chinese delegation to discuss the resumption of trade relations. Meanwhile, relations with Yugoslavia worsened following the riots by ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia's Kosovo province in March 1981; Yugoslavia charged that Albania had instigated the protests, and Albania accused Yugoslavia of ethnic discrimination. (Nevertheless, as of 1987 Yugoslavia was Albania's main trading partner, and Albania's first rail connection with the outside world, the Shköder-Titograd link, was opened in 1986.)
Internally, Albania seemed to be locked in bitter political conflict as the 1980s began. Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu, relieved of his defense portfolio in April 1980, died in December 1981, an alleged suicide. A year later, Hoxha charged that Shehu had been working for the US, Soviet, and Yugoslav secret services and that Shehu even had orders from Yugoslavia to kill him. Western and Yugoslav press accounts speculated that Shehu had favored an opening to the West and had been executed in the course of a power struggle. Throughout 1981–83, an extensive purge of those even remotely connected with Shehu was conducted. This was in keeping with previous purges in the 1950s of those sympathizing with Yugoslavia, in the 1960s of pro-Soviet officials, and in the late 1970s of pro-West and pro-China policymakers. On 25 September 1982, according to Albanian reports, a group of armed Albanian exiles landed on the coast and was promptly liquidated. Hoxha alleged that they had been sent by Yugoslavia.
Hoxha died on 11 April 1985 and was succeeded as first secretary of the Workers Party by Ramiz Alia, who had been chairman of the presidium of the People's Assembly since 1982.
In the mid-1980s, Albania took steps to end its isolation. In 1987, it established diplomatic relations with Canada, Spain, Bolivia, and the Federal Republic of Germany. In August 1987, Albania signed a treaty with Greece formally ending the state of war that had existed between the two countries since World War II.
As unrest spread in the late 1980s through Central and Eastern Europe in opposition to long-lasting Communist dictatorships, economic hardships in Albania grew ever deeper. Albania's political leadership had to open up more diplomatic and trade relationships with Western nations as the only available source of potential assistance. At the same time, internal unrest and a search for alternative democratic political solutions led by 1990 to mass protests and calls for the government's resignation. Thousands of Albanians wanted to emigrate in spite of imposed restrictions and became refugees housed in foreign embassies waiting for ships to take them abroad, particularly to Italy. President Ramiz Alia initiated the process for reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States, discontinued since the 1939 annexation of Albania by Italy. Restrictions on travel abroad were eased and religious practices allowed for the first time since their prohibition in 1944.
President Berisha and his Democratic Party pushed hard for radical reforms to create a market economy and democratic institutions internally, while bringing Albania back into the international mainstream after half a century of isolation. By the end of 1993 barriers to foreign trade had been removed, the Albanian lek made fully convertible, inflation brought under control, the serious productivity decrease halted, and an anticorruption drive mounted. The privatization of the economy had been successfully initiated, particularly in the agricultural sector, with 90% of land distributed to private farmers. Most subsidies were ended except to large industrial enterprises, which still wait for foreign investments that are not yet coming to the unstable Balkan area. The Communist Party government still intended to maintain both its control and its socialist system while allowing for some democracy. But it was not to be, and by December 1990 the opposition Democratic Party was formed. On 7 February 1991, some 8,000 students went on strike in Tiranë demanding economic changes and the government's resignation. In the face of persistent unrest, President Alia scheduled multiparty elections for 31 March 1991. Even with the Communist Party still in control, the Democratic Party managed to win 75 of the 250 People's Assembly seats (mostly in urban areas) with 160 seats won by the Communist Party. Ramiz Alia was reelected president and a still all-Communist Council of Ministers was appointed under Prime Minister Fatos Nano. By June 1991, continuous unrest forced Alia to agree to a first coalition government between its Communist (renamed Socialist) Party and the new Democratic Party. The latter withdrew from the coalition government in December 1991 charging the majority Socialists with preventing any reforms. President Alia then called for new general elections on 22 March 1992, which gave the Democratic Party a majority of seats (92 of 140). Sali Berisha was elected president with Alexsander Meksi his prime minister. Under Berisha, Alia and Nano were arrested and tried for corruption and abuse of power. They were sentenced to long prison terms, but were released within a few years of their convictions.
In foreign relations, Albania, under Berisha's leadership, tried to balance the internal pressure to assist both the repressed Albanian majority in the Kosovo region of Serbia towards its independence, and the sizable Albanian minority in Macedonia to obtain human and political rights. Albania's Western trade partners realized its internal economic and humanitarian needs and have been generous with their assistance that, between mid-1991 and 1993, has amounted to $1 billion, mostly from European Union countries led by Italy. The United States and Albania also developed very close relations. Albania requested membership in NATO and, even though rejected, continued its cooperation with NATO. Because of its own border problems with Greece, Albania supported the independence of Macedonia and was one of the first nations to recognize Macedonia in spite of Greece's refusal to do so. Albania, a majority (70%) Muslim country, joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference mainly to gain some economic support. Albania also hosted Pope John Paul II's visit in April 1993, having established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in September 1991, and intensified its traditional good relationship with Italy, whose annexation of Albania in 1939 is by now only a faint memory.
In 1994, the border disputes that have occurred since the creation of Albania flared into violence as Greek and Albanian border guards fought against each other in sporadic clashes. Greece expelled over 1,500 Albanians working in Greece without permits.
Albania's borders also became critical in 1994 as smugglers attempted to evade the embargo imposed on Serbia in consequence of its participation in the war in Bosnia. Fuel was shipped into Albania through the ports of Durrës and Vlorë and then taken by tanker truck inland where it was transported via Lake Shkodër into Montenegro and then into Serbia. Because the oil was legitimately imported into the country it was subjected to import duties, which provided in excess of $22 million in tax-revenue for the Albanian government in 1994.
Domestically, Albania began to see the beginning fruits of its painful transition to a market economy as consumer goods and cafe-filled boulevards began to appear for the first time in post-Communist Albania. While wages remained low in comparison with other European countries, living standards were still higher than they had been under Hoxha's Stalinistic economics.
But Albania's efforts to integrate itself into modern Europe suffered a setback when a new constitution, strongly supported by President Sali Berisha, was rejected by voters in November 1994. It would have created a stronger executive and, as a prerequisite for entry into the Council of Europe, would have made Albania a signatory to international human rights treaties. Albania eventually did win acceptance to the Council of Europe in July 1995.
While Albania's parliamentary election in May 1996 returned President Berisha to power, the election was marred by reports of widespread electoral fraud committed by Berisha's Democratic Party and its allies. International observers in Albania to monitor the election confirmed these reports. While the United States and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe expressed private concern over the election tampering, they did not publicly demand that new elections be held. For days after the election, police used truncheons and tear gas to disperse crowds protesting the election fraud and jailed major opposition leaders. In October of 1996 the Democratic Party again won a landslide victory in local elections, but the party was again charged by international observers and opposition parties with massive electoral fraud.
Perhaps the best indicator that the Democratic Party was not as popular as elections indicated came in response to the collapse of several "pyramid schemes" in late 1996 and early 1997, in which at least one-third of the population had invested approximately $800 million by late 1996. Not only were these schemes a dubious investment value, but they had retarded the development of the legitimate Albanian economy by draining money away from legitimate investments, as even banks offering 16% annual interest had trouble attracting new deposits.
Rightly or wrongly, most Albanians identified the government with the pyramid schemes. It was widely believed that the government had used funds provided by the schemes to finance its campaign and that government ministers were involved with starting and running the schemes. The government's own belated actions in reaction to the pyramid schemes, freezing their assets and arresting fund managers, only further infuriated investors because it reduced the already slim chances of seeing a return of any of their capital.
Anger over the collapse of the funds initiated the violence that followed throughout the winter and spring, releasing pent-up frustration that quickly spun out of government control and into anarchy. Protests in Tiranë in January 1997 calling for the resignation of the government were peaceful, but in provincial areas Albanians began destroying anything associated with the government and the Democratic Party, including courthouses, police stations, municipal buildings, and property belonging to state-owned industries. Violence was particularly serious in the southern port city of Vlorë, home to many of Albania's smugglers and drug operators who invested heavily in the schemes. Government officials and soldiers were expelled from most of southern Albania, as citizens (mostly gangsters and smugglers armed with weapons from government stockpiles and even with MIG aircraft from a captured military base) took control of the area.
The government attempted to stop the protests by cracking down on opposition groups and protesters. Curfews were imposed, as well as restrictions on the right of assembly and the press. Major opposition leaders were secretly arrested and imprisoned and the offices of the nation's major opposition newspaper were torched by plainclothes security officers. A military force dispatched to return the south to government control was unable to dislodge the rebel hold on Vlorë.
At the appearance of government impotence in the south, order broke down throughout Albania, and the looting went completely beyond control. Not only were food and goods looted from government and industrial facilities (as well as weapons from government armories), but university libraries and cherished cultural monuments were destroyed by rampaging crowds.
President Berisha eventually accepted the creation of a coalition government with the aim of restoring order and ending the widespread prevailing anarchy. At Berisha's request a "voluntary militia" was created, and Tiranë returned to government control. However, it soon became apparent that the militia was composed mostly of members of the secret police (which Berisha had promised to dissolve) and Berisha loyalists, creating great mistrust among the opposition members of his cabinet.
As the violence came closer to the Albanian capital, there were calls for an international peacekeeping force to restore order. In April, a 6,000-member peacekeeping force led by French and Italian troops was deployed to patrol the countryside and restore order so the country could hold new elections. While the deployment of these troops put an end to the violence that had rocked Albania for over three months and had cost almost 150 lives, the massive looting and destruction left the country in tatters, and the pillaging of government armories meant that nearly every household had an automatic machine gun.
The identification of the Democrats with the corruption of the pyramid schemes hurt them badly in the July 1997 election, and the Socialist Party and its allies won an overwhelming victory. Nano, who had regained control of the Socialist Party after his release from prison, became prime minister. President Berisha resigned, and the Assembly elected Rexhep Mejdani, of the Democratic Party, as his successor. In November 1998, many of the principles embodied in the country's 1991 interim constitution were given permanent status when a new, Westernstyle constitution defining Albania as a democratic republic was approved in a nationwide referendum.
Albania was thrust into the international spotlight by the Kosovo crisis in the spring of 1999 as approximately 440,000 Kosovar Albanian refuges fled over the border to escape persecution at the hands of the Serbs after NATO began launching air strikes against Yugoslav military targets in March. Albania served as an outpost for NATO troops. The influx of refugees further strained Albania's weak economy, and millions of dollars' worth of aid was pledged by the World Bank, the European Union, and other sources. By the fall, most of the refugees had returned to their homes, but Albania's struggle with poverty, crime, and corruption continued.
In October 1999, Socialist Prime Minister Pandeli Majko, appointed a year earlier, was ousted after losing favor with senior party leaders; he was replaced by another young, Western-leaning politician, Ilir Meta. Meta immediately moved to modernize the economy, privatize business, fight crime, and reform the judiciary and tax systems. In January 2001, Albania and Yugoslavia reestablished diplomatic relations that had been severed during the Kosovo crisis.
Fighting between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanian rebels—largely from the former Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK)—in the northwest region of Macedonia around the town of Tetovo intensified in March 2001 (it had begun in 2000). Fears in Macedonia of the creation of a "Greater Albania," including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia, were fueled by the separatist movement. On 13 August, the Ohrid Framework Agreement was signed by the Macedonian government and ethnic Albanian representatives, granting greater recognition of ethnic Albanian rights in exchange for the rebels' pledge to turn over weapons to the NATO peace-keeping force.
General elections were held in June 2001 and were won by the Socialist Party once again, taking over half of the 140 parliamentary seats. In the elections, the Union for Victory, a coalition of five political parties, came in second. As of September, a coalition government was in place. Meta listed European integration and an end to energy shortages as his priorities. But by December, the Socialist Party was plagued by a rift between Meta and party chairman Nano, after Nano accused Meta's government of corruption and incompetence and demanded that the cabinet be restructured. On 29 January 2002, Meta resigned after failing to resolve the split in the party. Pandeli Majko became the country's new prime minister, but feuding in the Socialist Party leadership continued. In June, parliament elected former Defense Minister Alfred Moisiu as president, replacing Mejdani. His election came after days of political infighting, during which Nano and Berisha were barred from running. In the end, both Nano and Berisha backed Moisiu as the sole consensus candidate for the position. And in August, Nano became prime minister for the fourth time after the Socialist Party decided to merge the roles of prime minister and party chairman.
In November 2002, NATO announced that of 10 countries aspiring to join the organization, 7 would accede in 2004, leaving Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia to wait until a later round of expansion. In January 2003, Albania and Macedonia agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic sphere, so as to prepare their way to NATO and EU membership. Also that month, the EU and Albania began Stabilization and Association Agreement talks, seen as the first step toward EU membership.
In the spring of 2004, the failure of Nano's government to bring about economic and social improvements for the everyday Albanian led to opposition staged demonstrations in Tiranë asking for his resignation. However, general elections were held, as scheduled, in the summer of the next year. The Democratic Party of Albania (PD) emerged victorious taking 55 out of 140 seats, while its allies took 18 seats. In spite of having this slim majority in the People's Assembly, the prime minister could not be nominated for another two months due to political wrangling and accusations of rigged elections. Finally, on 3 September 2005, Sali Berisha was nominated as prime minister by president Moisiu. Berisha assured the people he had learned from his past mistakes and pledged to reduce corruption and taxation, improve the economic and social environment, and make progress towards EU and NATO integration.
Under the 1976 constitution, Albania was a socialist republic. Legislative authority was vested in the unicameral People's Assembly, elected every four years from a single list of candidates. In elections held 2 February 1987, 250 deputies were elected by 1,830,653 voters, with no votes cast against and one vote invalid. Voter participation was allegedly 100%. Suffrage was extended to men and women from the age of 18 and was compulsory. The 1976 constitution specified that "the rights of citizens are indivisible from the fulfillment of their duties and cannot be exercised in opposition to the socialist order."
Through most of the 1990s, Albania's government was based on the 29 April 1991 Law on Constitutional Provisions that established the principle of separation of powers, the protection of private property and human rights, a multiparty parliament, and a president of the republic with broad powers. After defeating a proposed constitutional measure in 1994, Albanian voters approved a new constitution in November 1998 giving the Albanian government a shape more like those of Western nations. Many provisions of the 1991 interim constitution were made permanent in the new document, which guaranteed a number of basic rights, including religious freedom, property rights, and human rights for ethnic minorities. After being cut to 140 members in 1992, the unicameral People's Assembly was expanded to 155 in 1997; it was subsequently reduced to 140 once again. Of these members, 100 are directly elected and 40 are elected by proportional representation. The president is elected by the People's Assembly for a five-year term, and the prime minister is appointed by the president. A Council of Ministers is nominated by the prime minister and approved by the president.
Alfred Spiro Moisiu, of the Socialist Party, was elected to a five-year term as president by the People's Assembly in June 2002. Sali Berisha, who served as president between 1992 and 1997, was appointed to the prime minister post by Moisiu, after his party—the Democratic Party of Albania—won the general elections in July 2005.
Before the 1990s, the only political party was the Communist Party, which was founded in 1941 and has been known officially as the Workers Party (Partija e Punes) since 1948. As of November 1986, it had about 147,000 members, as compared with 45,382 in 1948. The Albanian Democratic Front was the party's major subsidiary organization; other subsidiary groups included the Union of Albanian Working Youth and the Women's Union of Albania.
Under the 1976 constitution, the first secretary of the Workers Party was commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The constitution described the Workers Party as the "sole directing political power in state and society."
The primary political parties include the Democrats (led by Sali Berisha), a Western-style conservative party; the Democratic Alliance, a breakaway group of Democrats still largely allied with them; the Socialists (led by Fatos Nano), composed largely of former Communist Party members; and the Social Democrats, a Western-style progressive party largely allied with the socialists.
Although in the early years of post-Communist Albania there were genuine ideological differences between the parties, such distinctions have now blurred. Even the Socialist Party, composed largely of former Communists, has called for budget cuts and an IMF-backed austerity program. As of the election of 4 July 2005, seats in the unicameral National Assembly were distributed as follows: the Democratic Party of Albania (PD), 55; the Socialist Party (PS), 40; the Republican Party (PR), 11; the Social Democratic Party (PSD), 7; the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), 5; and other, 22.
Albania is divided into 12 regions (qarqe), 36 districts (rrethe), including the city of Tiranë (or Tirana), 65 cities and towns, and 309 communes (as of 2002). All subdivisions are governed by people's councils. The councils direct economic, social, cultural, and administrative activity in their jurisdictional areas and appoint executive committees to administer day-to-day activities.
International observers deemed local elections held in 2000 to have achieved a certain level of democracy, but identified irregularities that need to be addressed in reforms in the Albanian electoral code. The third round of local elections held on 12 October 2003 did not address these irregularities. Several international organizations noted that international standards for democratic elections have not been met. Partial runoffs were held in November and December, following a boycott by the Democratic Party commissioners. The distribution of votes at the local level was as follows: the Socialist Party of Albania (PS), 34.6%; the Democratic Party (PD), 32.2%; the Social Democratic Party (PSD), 5.3%; the Republican Party (PR), 3.3%; and the Agrarian Environmental Party (PAA), 3.2%.
The judicial system includes district courts, six courts of appeal and a supreme court, or Court of Cassation. The district courts are trial level courts from which appeal can be taken to a court of appeals and then to the Court of Cassation. At each of the three levels, the courts are divided into civil, criminal, and military chambers. Justices of the Supreme Court serve for seven years.
There is also a Constitutional Court (also known as the High Court) with jurisdiction to resolve questions of constitutional interpretation that arise during the course of any case on appeal. In a 1993 decision, the Constitutional Court invalidated a law that would have disbarred lawyers who were active during the Communist era, and ordered the lawyers reinstated. Justices of the Constitutional Court serve a maximum of nine years.
Parliament appoints the seven members of the Court of Cassation and five of the nine judges on the Constitutional Court, with the rest appointed by the president. A Supreme Judicial Council appoints all other judges. In 1992, the Supreme Judicial Council began to remove judges who had served under the former Communist regime.
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the system is plagued by a lack of resources and trained staff, and is subject to political pressure, intimidation, and corruption.
As of 2005, the Albanian armed forces were in the midst of a major restructuring to be completed by 2010. The new army was to consist of five divisions and a commando brigade of three battalions. In 2005, Army personnel numbered more than 16,000 and were armed with 373 main battle tanks, 123 armored personnel carriers, and 1,197 artillery pieces. The Navy had an estimated 2,000 active personnel and was equipped with 20 patrol/coastal vessels, 4 mine warfare and 2 logistical/support vessels. The Albanian Air Force totaled 3,500 active members and had 26 combat capable aircraft, including 15 fighters and 11 fighter ground attack aircraft. The 2005 defense budget totaled $116 million.
Albania, a United Nations member since 14 December 1955, belongs to numerous specialized agencies, such as FAO, IAEA, IFAD, ILO, UNESCO, WHO, WIPO, ICAO, WMO, the World Bank, IFC, IMF, and the WTO (2000). Albania was originally a member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CEMA) and the Warsaw Pact, but in 1968 it formally announced its withdrawal from both (it had ended participation in CMEA in 1961). The country is a part of the Central European Initiative, the Agency for the French-Speaking Community (ACCT), and one of 12 members of the Black Sea Cooperation Zone. Albania is part of the Council of Europe, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Federation of Trade Unions, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
In November 2002, NATO announced that Albania would have to wait until a later round of expansion to join. As of 2003, Albania had applied for membership in the European Union, although it was not among the 13 candidate countries from eastern and southern Europe being considered for the next round of accession. However, in January 2003, Albania and the European Union began Stabilization and Association Agreement talks, which were regarded as the possible first steps toward EU membership.
Albania joined the OSCE 19 June 1991. The country also participates in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the NATO Partnership for Peace, and the Adriatic Charter (2003). In May 2003, Albania and the United States signed a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations. Albania was one of four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom (2004), a US initiative in Iraq.
In cooperation on environmental issues, Albania participates in the Basel Convention (hazardous waste), the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, the Montréal Protocol (ozone layer protection), and the UN Conventions of the Law of the Seas Climate Change, and Desertification.
Albania has always been an underdeveloped country. Before World War II, there were only a few smallscale industrial plants and only a few of the larger towns had electricity. Subsoil resources were potentially rich, but only coal, bitumen, and oil were extracted—by Italian companies. Transportation was poorly developed. Stockbreeding contributed about half of the agricultural output; by 1938, tilled area represented only 23% of the agricultural land. Forests were exploited and reforestation neglected.
After the war, the Communist regime pursued an industrialization program with a centrally planned economy. Development projects received priority, especially mining, industry, power, and transportation. Consumer goods, agriculture, livestock, and housing were relatively neglected. By 1950, Albania had its first standardgauge railways, a textile combine, a hydroelectric power plant, a tobacco fermentation plant, and a sugar refinery. Mineral extraction, especially of oil, chrome ore (the main export product), and ironnickel, was increased. Land cultivated under crops or orchards expanded by over 70% from the 1950s to the 1980s. Although collectivized, farmland was again privatized in 1992 and distributed to peasants. But despite significant progress, living standards in Albania were still among the lowest in Europe. When central planning was abandoned, there was no mechanism to take its place, and GDP fell 45% during 1990–92. It rose by at least 5% in 1995, however. After prices were freed, the inflation rate shot up to 226% in 1992, but dropped to 86% in 1993. Consumer prices and unemployment mounted rapidly in 1994.
More trouble followed in 1997 with the countrywide collapse of financial pyramid schemes. The resulting chaos left the government paralyzed, and over 1,500 Albanians died in the ensuing violence that swept the country before an international peacekeeping force restored order. More economic hardship struck Albania in 1999 as the country received 450,000 Kosovar refugees. Western aid helped the Albanians manage the influx.
As Albania entered the 21st century, its economy had begun to improve. Inflation remained low, the economy was expanding at a rate of approximately 7% a year, and foreign direct investment was growing. Economic growth came largely from the transportation, service, and construction sectors. The state was privatizing industries, and as of 2002, nearly all land in Albania was privately owned. However, the country's transition to a free-market economy did not come without difficulties. Unemployment remained high, and the economy remained based on agriculture (around 50%). Crime and corruption were problems, as were governmental bureaucratic hurdles that hamper business activity. The country's infrastructure was still outmoded and in disrepair, and in dire need of funding. Severe energy shortages caused blackouts and were responsible for small businesses failing; in 2003, the country was increasing its imports of electricity.
In 2001, Albania joined Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro (Yugoslavia) in creating a Balkan free trade zone. Tariffs on selected goods were to be eliminated under the agreement. In September 2000, Albania joined the World Trade Organization, signaling its commitment to the process of economic reform.
By 2003, and 2004, Albania would register some of the highest rates of growth in Europe (around 6%), with a nominal GDP of $7.83 billion in 2004. Most of this growth was fueled by an expansion in the services, construction, and transport sectors, as well as by remittances from abroad (a common growth generator in developing countries, especially those that border developed economies), domestic demand, and private investment. The inflation rate in 2004 was 3.2%, the foreign currency reserves rose to $1.244 billion, while its fiscal deficit declined to 4.9%.
The EU remains Albania's main trading partner, with Italy and Greece taking the lion's share. Although exports have been growing steadily, they have been outpaced by the increase of imports. Thus, in 2004 exports totaled $. 6 billion, while imports marked $2.2 billion. Albania's main exports are textiles, footwear, mineral products, and metals; its imports include agricultural products, metals and minerals, and machinery.
Albania has enjoyed a relatively stable environment in the early years of the 21st century, its economic growth has been steady and strong (the GDP is projected to grow in 2005 by 6%), and its moves towards a functional market economy have been courageous. However, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe and remains subject to political instability and economic downside risks, such as shortages of the electricity supply and possible delays in the privatization of large enterprises.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Albania's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $18.1 billion. However, Albania has a large gray economy that may be as large as 50% of official GDP. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $4,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 6%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.5%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 23.6% of GDP, industry 20.5%, and services 55.9%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $889 million or about $281 per capita and accounted for approximately 15.6% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $342 million or about $108 per capita and accounted for approximately 5.4% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Albania totaled $3.89 billion or about $1,229 per capita based on a GDP of $5.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.5%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 62% of household consumption was spent on food, 13% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 10% on education. It was estimated that in 2004 about 25% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.
The labor force numbered an estimated 1.09 million in 2004, excluding 352,000 emigrant workers. For that same year, agricultural workers accounted for an estimated 58% of the country's labor force, with those in the private nonagricultural sector accounting for 20% and those in the public sector accounting for 23%. In 2004, Albania's unemployment rate was officially put at 14.4%, however the actual unemployment rate may be in excess of 30%. When communism was abandoned in favor of a free-market economy in 1991, a transitional dislocation of workers and resources took place, resulting in an estimated unemployment rate of 40% in 1992. In 2001, the unemployment rate remained high, up to an estimated 30%.
In 1991, workers were granted the legal right to create independent trade unions. The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH) was formed as the umbrella organization for several smaller unions. The rival Confederation of Unions, closely tied to the Socialist Party, operates mostly as a continuation of the state-sponsored federation of the Communist era.
As of 2005, all citizens had the right to organize and bargain collectively, except the military and civilian employees of the military. About 20% of the workforce was unionized, but that number is shrinking. Generally, labor unions in Albania operate from a weak position, and those unions that represent employees in the public sector usually negotiate directly with the government. In addition, little privatization has occurred outside the retail and agricultural sectors and few private employees are unionized.
The minimum work age is 14, with restrictions placed on employment of those under 18 years old. Children between 14 and 16 years old may work parttime. Although the labor code sets the maximum workweek at 40 hours, the actual workweek for many is six days/week. There is no legal minimum wage rate for workers in the private sector, although government workers, 18 years of age and older, were paid a minimum wage of about $118/month in 2005, which does not provide a decent living wage for a family.
The enforcement of occupational health and safety standards and regulations is the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor and Equal Opportunities. However, what regulations and standards that do exist are generally not enforced. In addition, the law provides no remedies for workers who leave the workplace because of hazardous conditions. The enforcement of the labor code is severely limited by the Albanian government's lack of funding.
In 2004, about 58% of the economically active population was engaged in agriculture, compared with 85% before World War II (1939–45). Although Albania's mountainous terrain limits the amount of land available for agriculture, the cultivated and arable area was about 21% of the total (578,000 hectares/1,428,000 acres) in 2000. Nearly two-thirds of the population is rural, and agriculture provided 25% of value-added GDP in 2003.
The first collective farm was created in 1946, but collectivization did not move forward on a large scale until 1955. By early 1962, 1,263 collectives included about 2,000 villages and covered almost 80% of the cultivated area. Consolidation reduced the collectives to 1,064 by December 1964. State farms, meanwhile, had expanded and by 1960 they accounted for about 12% of the cultivated area. By 1964, only 10% of the cultivated area was privately farmed, and by 1973, 100% of the agricultural land was reported as socialized, either in collective or state farms. Collective farm consolidations and mergers reduced their number to 420 in April 1983, including "advanced type" cooperatives. The cooperatives accounted for 74% of total agricultural production. By the mid-1980s, the number of collective farmers was about 800,000.
After the government abandoned central planning, the economy collapsed from the void. The decline saw the agricultural sector shrink by 21% in 1991, but agricultural production rebounded in 1992 in response to the privatization of cooperative farms and the elimination of fixed pricing. The number of tractors increased from 359 in 1950 to 4,500 in 1960 and to 12,500 in 1991; 7,915 were in service in 2002. In 2002, irrigation systems covered 59% of the cropland. Artificial fertilizers supplied to farms rose from 8,000 tons of active substance in 1960 to 99,900 tons in 1978. However, fertilizer use fell from 145 kg per hectare in 1983 to about 5 kg per hectare in 2002.
Wheat is the principal crop; corn, oats, sorghum, and potatoes are also important. Greater emphasis is being placed on the production of cash crops—cotton, tobacco, rice, sugar beets, vegetables, sunflowers, and fruits and nuts. FAO estimates of crop output in 2004 (in tons) included wheat, 300,000; corn, 200,000; sugar beets, 40,000; vegetables and melons, 679,100; potatoes, 175,000; grapes, 80,000; oats, 15,000; and oranges, 2,200.
The major problem of Albanian animal husbandry has been a shortage of fodder. As a result, livestock numbers remained virtually constant or increased very slowly in the postwar decades. When central planning was abandoned, uncertain monetary and credit policies caused inflation to soar, which eroded export earnings. Albania, which had been a net exporter of food products, became heavily dependent on food aid. Sheep, originally the most important livestock, numbered 1.84 million in 1946 and 1.8 million in 2004. Additional estimated numbers of livestock for 2004 included poultry, 4,300,000; goats, 1,030,000; cattle, 700,000; hogs, 109,000; and horses, 65,000. Estimates of livestock products in 2004 include 900,000 tons of cows' milk, 70,000 tons of sheep's milk, 65,000 tons of goats' milk, 39,000 tons of beef and veal, 8,500 tons of pork, 12,000 tons of mutton and lamb, and 25,800 tons of eggs.
Fishing is an important occupation along the Adriatic coast. In 1958, a development program for inland fisheries was begun, and the results were improved exploitation and conservation as well as increased fish reserves and catches. Annual fish production was estimated at 3,560 tons in 2003 of which 65% came from marine fishing. Exports of fish products amounted to almost $13.5 million in 2003.
Forests cover 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres), or about 36% of the total land area. As a result of exploitation, erosion, and neglect, about 70% of the forested area consists of little more than shoots and wild shrubs, and exploitation of the remaining accessible forests exceeds optimum annual limits. Roundwood production in 2003 totaled 296,000 cu m, with about 56% used for fire-wood. Between 1971 and 1978, 65,310 hectares (161,380 acres) were forested, compared with a total of 61,900 hectares (153,000 acres) for 1961–70.
After the abandonment of central planning in 1992, Albania's mineral industry was marginal, with technical difficulties contributing to the decline. Nearly half a century of self-imposed isolation during the Communist era crippled the industry with a shortage of capital, aging and inadequate machinery, over staffing, and environmental damage. In 1995, the government adopted a law to privatize the mineral industry, and administrative preparations for privatization began in 1996.
Mineral deposits traditionally associated with Albania included chromite, copper ore, and nickeliferous iron ore. From the late 1970s through 1990, Albania was the principal chromiteproducing country in Europe; the country often ranked second in the world in exports and third in production. In this period, exports of chromite, ferrochromium, and petroleum refinery products constituted the country's chief sources of foreign exchange. For much of the 1990s, the chromite mining and processing industry paralleled the country's moribund economy.
In 2003, chromite production was 220,000 metric tons, down from 300,000 in 1996. The most important chromite mines were at Katjel, Mëmlisht, and Bulqize, in the upper reaches of the Drin River. A chromiumore enrichment plant was put into operation at Bulqize in 1972. In the 1980s, chromite production amounted to more than one million metric tons per year.
In 2000, the government awarded Hayri Ogelman Madencilik, of Turkey, a longterm concession to upgrade and operate the Kalimash mining and beneficiation complex, and to develop mines at the Perollajt and Vllahane deposits in the northeastern part of the country.
Copper ore concentrate production was 8,691 metric tons in 1999, the last year for which there is any data, according to the US Geological Survey. Copper was mined at Pukë and Rrubig, where the ore was concentrated and smelted. The deposits near Kukës were the richest in Albania.
Production of bauxite in 2002 totaled 71,312 metric tons and was estimated at 229,317 metric tons for 2003. Bauxite deposits were found mostly in central Albania, east of Tiranë, as well as in the northern alpine region, near the border with Serbia. Bauxite reserves were estimated at 12 million tons, with the largest deposit at Daijti. Because of a lack of domestic refining capacity, bauxite was exported.
Albania was one of the few countries producing natural asphalt, mined at Selenicë. All production of asphalt and bitumen in 2002 totaled 4,200 metric tons.
Albania has both thermal and hydroelectric power stations to generate electricity, but the latter are more significant and have the greater potential. Total power production increased from 85 million kWh in 1955 to 578 million kWh in 1967, and to 4.9 billion kWh in 1985. In 2004, electricity generation was 5.68 billion kWh. In 2002, 13% came from fossil fuels, 87% from hydropower, and none from other sources. In the same year, consumption of electricity totaled 5.286 billion kWh, with total capacity at 1.671 million kW. Rural electrification was achieved in 1970.
The 24,000-kW Shkopet plant and the 27,000-kW Bistricë plant became operational in 1962. A 100,000-kW thermal plant at Fier went into operation in 1968, and the Mao Zedong hydroelectric plant was completed in 1971. The "Light of the Party" hydro-electric plant on the Drin River, with a total installed capacity of 500,000 kW, began operations in 1978. The seventh five-year plan (1981–85) provided for construction of a hydropower station at Koman, also on the Drin, with a capacity of 600,000 kW; the first two turbines were installed there by early 1986.
Petroleum production has become significant. Crude oil out-put rose from 108,000 tons in 1938 to 870,000 tons in 1967, and 3,500,000 tons in 1985. In 2002, production totaled 6,360 barrels per day. Oil refineries are located at Ballsh, Stalin, Fier, and Çerrik. Albania also produced 1.77 billion cu ft of natural gas in 2002. Sizable coal deposits were discovered near Tiranë in 1969.
Before World War II, industry was confined to a cement plant at Shkodër and to small-scale flour-milling, food-processing, cigarette-making, and fellmongery (processing animal hides). In 1937–39, industry's contribution to the GNP was only 10%, by far the lowest in Eastern Europe. There was virtually no export of industrial products. After the war, the government emphasized industrial development, primarily development projects. Gross industrial output increased annually by 20% during 1951–60, by 12% during 1961–70, by 9% during 1971–80, by 5% during 1981–85, and by 3% during 1986–90. The socialized sector accounted for over 95% of gross output by the late 1950s and 100% by the 1970s. The industrial labor force, which virtually tripled between 1946 and 1960, continued to increase rapidly during the 1960s and, in 1994, 15% of all wage and salary earners were employed in industry (including mining).
Industrial production fell 44% in 1992 and 10% in 1993, but by 1995 industrial productivity was growing at a rate of 6%. Privatization was proceeding slowly, with joint state-private ventures planned or sale of state enterprises at auction. In 1994, over one-half of the nonfarm workforce was employed by the state. As of 2002, the industrial sector accounted for 27% of GDP. Major industries include food processing, textiles and clothing, lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, and basic metals. Albania has two oil refineries, with a capacity of 26,000 barrels per day in 2002. In 2001, the government privatized a brewery, distillery, dairy, and pharmaceutical company, and planned to sell the Savings Bank of Albania and INSIG, the state-owned insurance company. The construction sector showed potential for growth in 2002–03, as the country had a housing deficit and existing housing is old and in poor condition.
While the importance of agriculture in Albania's economy has decreased, other sectors (such as services, transport, and construction) have benefited from investment in 2004. The telecommunications industry in particular has grown substantially due to significant inflow of capital from two new mobile companies. Tourism, the only sector to register a net positive trade balance, has the prospective of becoming one of Albania's main growth engines. Another sector that has good future prospects is mining—due in part to increases in the price of raw materials. In addition to these developments, there are plans for a 1600-acre Energy Park at Vlora. This park is supposed to respond to Albania's energy shortages by means of large foreign direct investments. To date, 80% of Albania's GDP is generated by the private sector.
The main scientific organization, the Academy of Sciences (founded in 1972 and located in Tiranë), has a scientific library and numerous attached research institutes dealing with various aspects of agriculture, fisheries, and veterinary science; medicine; natural sciences (biology, computer science and applied mathematics, energetics, nuclear physics, hydrometeorology, seismology, and geology) and technology (oil and gas geology and technology, industrial projects studies and design hydraulics, metallurgy, mining, roads and railways, chemistry mechanics, minerals, building technology); and the food industry. The Geologists' Association of Albania, founded in 1989, has 450 members (as of 1997).
The University of Tiranë, founded in 1957, has faculties in natural science, medicine, and mechanics and electronics. Its Natural Science Museum has exhibits relating to zoology, botany, and geology. Luigi Gurakugi University of Shkodër, founded in 1991 and based on the former Higher Pedagogical Institute founded in 1957, has a faculty in natural sciences. The Agricultural University of Tiranë, founded in 1971, has faculties in agronomy, veterinary science, and forestry. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 19% of college and university employment. The Fan S. Noli University in Korçë was founded in 1971 as the Higher Agricultural Institute and renamed in 1992. The Centre for Scientific and Technical Information and Documentation in Tiranë was founded in 1981.
In 2002, high technology exports amounted to $2 million, some 1% of the country's manufactured exports in that year.
Wholesale trade became a state monopoly in 1946. Initially, private retail trade played an important role, but by 1970 trade was fully socialized. By December 1990, retail units had been privatized again. All price controls were eliminated except on a few consumer items and monopolycontrolled products.
Shops in Albania are generally small, but department stores and a few larger supermarkets with limited stocks have been established in Tiranë, Durrës, Korcë, and other larger cities. Consumer cooperatives conduct trade in the rural areas. Albania has a small, but growing, advertising sector.
Albanian business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. Shop hours are Mondays and Tuesdays, 7 am to 2 pm and 5 to 8 pm, and other weekdays, 7 am to 2 pm. Many shops are open seven days a week, since there is no legislation regulating shop hours. Before 1 January 1959, all sales were for cash. Since then, date limited consumer credit was sanctioned, but most transactions are still in cash.
Before World War II, about 50% of the exports consisted of the entire production of chrome ore and crude oil and some timber; the balance consisted of agricultural goods and fish. Good grains, sugar, and coffee made up about 20% of the imports; textiles, about 24%; and paper, machinery, chemicals, leather, metals, and
|Italy-San Marino-Holy See||334.8||623.8||-289.0|
|Serbia and Montenegro||10.5||10.3||0.2|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
oil products, about 53%. As the value of imports almost tripled that of exports, the deficit was met largely by Italian loans. Italy received two-thirds of Albanian exports and supplied Albania with up to half its imports. Under the Communist government, foreign trade became a state monopoly. The volume of turnover increased substantially and the structure and orientation changed radically.
As of the year 2000, Albania was running a trade deficit of $814 million (US dollars), a considerable increase since the 1990s. The expansion in imports was largely due to increased domestic demand for foreign goods, as well as increased demand for electronics. Between 1950 and 1967, trade volume increased six fold, to l1,043 million in 1967. Total trade volume (imports plus exports) rose 49% between 1966 and 1970. In 1960, trade with the socialist states accounted for about 90% of total trade; the Soviet share of this was half. Political and economic differences between Albania and the USSR resulted in suspension of aid to and trade with Albania. In 1961, 54% of total foreign trade was with the USSR and 7% with China; by 1964, trade with the former had ceased entirely, while trade with China had risen to 55%. After the Albanian-Chinese split in the late 1970s, economic contacts with China ceased. Talks aimed at renewing trade between the two nations were held in 1983, resulting in trade agreements worth about $5–7 million.
In 2000, Albania exported leather products, apparel, footwear components, tobacco products, and metal ores. The production of chromium ore, formerly an integral part of the Albanian export schedule, has plummeted in recent years. Imports in 2000 included raw materials, machinery, transportation equipment, fuel, minerals, metals, and foodstuffs. Albania exported its goods primarily to Italy, Greece, and Germany. The chief sources of Albania's imports were Italy, Greece, Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Albania's exports was $340 million while imports totaled $1.5 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $1.16 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that in 2001 Albania had exports of goods totaling $305 million and imports
|Balance on goods||-1,336.3|
|Balance on services||-82.9|
|Balance on income||170.4|
|Direct investment abroad||…|
|Direct investment in Albania||178.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-22.5|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||…|
|Other investment assets||-71.6|
|Other investment liabilities||116.7|
|Net Errors and Omissions||147.4|
|Reserves and Related Items||-98.1|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
totaling $1.33 billion. The services credit totaled $534 million and debit $444 million. The IMF attributes the fall in exports in recent years to a decline in industrial production. Recent increases in imports were due to increased domestic demand for imported goods, in addition to large increases in electricity imports. Remittances from abroad have improved Albania's balance of payments.
The Communist regime nationalized all banking and financial institutions in 1945 and established the Bank of the Albanian State (now simply the Bank of Albania), which became the bank of issue. The bank also controlled foreign transactions, helped prepare financial plans for the economy, accepted savings deposits, financed economic activities, and performed other banking functions. An agricultural bank was created in 1970 to provide credit facilities for agricultural cooperatives.
On 10 August 1949, the Directorate of Savings was established to grant loans and to accept savings deposits in branches throughout the country; the system has grown steadily ever since.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Albania decided to develop a market economy. The banking system changed to meet the demands of a free-market economy. However, in October 1996, the Islamic Conference's financing arm, the Islamic Development Bank, made a $12 million loan to Albania. The logic of the government's Islamic focus is unclear.
The government's position has been weakened considerably as a result of the collapse of four of the country's major pyramid investment schemes, leading to anarchic, nationwide demonstrations by furious investors. In January of 1997, a 20,000-strong crowd marched on Skanderberg Square, where it demanded that the government guarantee all deposits in the companies. Notable pyramid investment companies included VEFA, Kamberi, Populli, Xhaferri, Gervnasi, Gjallica, and Sudja.
The informal financial market has absorbed millions of dollars of savings and remittances in recent years (estimates run as high as $1 billion), at the expense of the country's inefficient and uncompetitive banking sector. The pyramid investment schemes attracted hundreds of thousands of depositors—local estimates put participation in the companies at about 75% of all households—by guaranteeing to pay high interest rates on cash deposits within a short period of time.
Much of the blame for crisis rested with the government, whose policy towards the companies was not simply cavalier but actively encouraging. It did not pay attention to requests made by the central bank governor to regulate the pyramid schemes more tightly.
The privatization of the three state-owned commercial banks has long been advocated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The government has privatized the Rural Commercial Bank and the National Commercial Bank, and is working towards privatizing the Savings Bank of Albania, which holds nearly 80% of all Albanian bank deposits. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $997 million. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $2.7 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 10.82%.
Insurance was nationalized by the Communist government after World War II. Under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, the program is administered by the Institute for Insurance, created in 1950. Half the profits are earmarked for the state budget, the other half for a reserve fund. In 1990, income from social insurance contributions totaled l967 million. Total expenditures—for temporary disability, pregnancy, childbirth, rest home stay, and pensions—were l1,440 million. In 2002, Albania's parliament passed a law to privatize the insurance agency, hoping to create a competitive industry.
Albania began its transition from a centrally planned economy to a market driven economy in 1992, after GDP had collapsed by over 50% in 1989. The government elected in 1992 set in motion a series of aggressive economic reforms to light the path towards a market economy. Among the reforms were price and exchange regime liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a rigid income policy. Stalling progress in 1997 was followed by a resumption of growth the next year.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Albania's central government took in revenues of approximately $1.9 billion and had expenditures of $2.3 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$417 million. Total external debt was $1.41 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, general government revenues were l153,197 million and expenditures were l187,109 million. The value of revenues was us$1,093 million and expenditures us$1,335 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = l140.15 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by
|Revenue and Grants||153,197||100.0%|
|General public services||48,983||26.2%|
|Public order and safety||11,944||6.4%|
|Housing and community amenities||9,021||4.8%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||2,609||1.4%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
function were as follows: general public services, 26.2%; defense, 4.0%; public order and safety, 6.4%; economic affairs, 15.0%; housing and community amenities, 4.8%; health, 7.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.4%; education, 10.2%; and social protection, 24.7%.
As of 1999, personal income is taxed in six brackets, from 5–30%, with 5% starting at an income of about $86/month, and the 30% rate, plus a flat fee of about $45, applied to incomes over about $1,030/month. The corporate income tax rate is 25%, applied equally to both domestic and on income earned in Albania by foreign-owned companies. Tax preferences previously accorded foreign investors—a four-year tax holiday, and up to a 60% reduction on income from reinvested profits—were removed for future foreign investors on the advice of the IMF and World Bank. There is property tax on agricultural land and buildings. Indirect taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) applied to businesses with annual turnover exceeding five million lek (about $43,000), small business taxes, and excise taxes on tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks, coffee, gasoline products, perfumes, and deodorants. The VAT rate is 20%. Small businesses with annual turnover of less than two million lek a year pay a yearly lump sum ranging from 15,000 lek to 100,000 lek. Businesses with turnover in the range of two million lek to five million lek pay a 4% of turnover tax. Exports are exempt from both excise and VAT. Financial transactions are exempt from VAT, and liquefied gas is exempt from excise.
Under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Trade, the general directorate of customs and duties administers customs regulations. With certain exemptions, all goods are subject to duties ranging from 5–10%, depending on product type. Having become a member of the World Trade Organization in September 2000, Albania is working with Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro to create a regional free trade zone.
Prior to 1990, no foreign capital was invested in postwar Albania, but various communist states aided the Albanian industrialization program, supplying credit, machinery and equipment, and technicians. Prior to 1961, assistance by Sovietbloc technicians in geologic surveys, construction, and operation of factories was vital to Albanian economic growth. Following the Soviet suspension of credits, withdrawal of technicians, and elimination of trade, China increased its activity in all these areas. In 1978, China terminated all its economic and military cooperation with Albania and the following year Albania was for the first time without any foreign assistance. In the 1980s, some economic assistance was provided by the FRG.
After the fall of communism, foreign investment was encouraged and 149 joint ventures were agreed upon. A $10 million Coca-Cola bottling plant set up in 1994 outside of Tiranë (directly employing about 100 people), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and a local Albanian company were early ventures. In 1995, Albania concluded a bilateral investment treaty with the United States. At the end of 1995, foreign investment was projected to rise to about $600 million, with about one-half of that coming from Italy. However, the prospects for foreign investment dropped sharply in 1997 in the wake of the violence and property destruction that followed the collapse of the pyramid schemes in which many Albanians had sunk their savings. The violent removal of the Prime Minister in 1998 and the influx of Kosovar refugees in 1999 were added deterrents to foreign investment. From 1997 to 1999, foreign direct investment in Albania averaged only $44.57 million, but in 2000 the rate of inflow tripled to $143 million and then in 2001 to $181 million. The rate of investment decreased slightly in subsequent years, but rose again in 2004, reaching $300 million.
In 2003, the UN Development Program assisted the Albanian government in setting up the Investment Promotion Agency (ANIH) that replaces the Economic Development Agency. Previously, the government had put few restrictions on foreign investment, but had offered no tax or financial incentives beyond national treatment. There are initiatives aimed at attracting foreign investment, but as of now they remain unimplemented or in the planning stage.
While the climate for investors has definitely improved over the past years, there are still a number of inconsistencies that make the investment process rather cumbersome. Thus, the physical and financial infrastructure still requires considerable development, there are frequent shortages of power and water in certain areas, corruption remains a major concern, and the rule of law (especially in questions regarding property ownership) is not as strong as it should be. In 2005, Albania had one of the lowest rates of foreign investment in Europe.
Albania formerly had a state-controlled, centrally planned economy, with emphasis on industrial development and socialized agriculture. Under Workers Party directives, shortterm and long-range plans were formulated by the Economic Planning Commission, a government agency. By the mid-1980s, the economy was virtually under complete state control; enterprises were either directly owned by the state or managed through cooperatives.
From 1951, Albanian economic development was directed by five-year plans, most of which stressed heavy industry. A sweeping economic reform program was announced in 1992. It called for widespread private ownership of farmland, state-owned companies and housing, and the removal of trade restrictions and price controls. Yet after nearly a decade of post-Communist rule, Albania remains by far the poorest country in Europe. For much of the 1990s, economic reforms were stifled by rampant corruption. Only after the collapse of pyramid investment schemes did the situation begin to improve. Nevertheless, Albania relies heavily on foreign aid and seeks to secure more funding for infrastructure improvements.
Economic development in the early 2000s was stimulated by the construction and service industries: the lack of housing under communism led to a demand for new housing construction, and the development of tourism in Albania's seaside resorts has fueled the service sector. The country is undergoing an economic restructuring program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. A three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program with the IMF was negotiated in 2002, in the amount of some $38 million. In 2003, Albania entered into negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a Stabilization and Association Agreement.
By 2005, Albania was still one of Europe's poorest countries. Although the economy has registered significant growth rates in the past years, it is lagging behind its neighbors. Unemployment is rampant at 15% (with other estimates placing it at 25%); half of the population is engaged in agriculture, while a fifth is said to be working abroad; the export rate is growing but is still too small; imports are growing at a fast pace and are coming mainly from Italy and Greece—money for those imports are provided through foreign aid and from the money sent home by Albanians working abroad.
In 1947, the first law providing benefits for disability, old age, survivors, and retirement was introduced. Current pension law sets retirement age at 60 for males and 55 for females, with 35 years of contributions. Mothers with six or more children are eligible at age 50, with 30 years of contributions. The amount of the pension is up to 75% of average net wages during 3 of the last 10 years of employment. Disability pensions provide as much as twice the basic pension or 80% of the last average wage. Employers' contributions are 26% of payroll. Additional sums are provided by employees and by the state budget.
Unemployment benefits introduced in 1993 require at least one year's contributions, and a willingness to undergo training to be eligible. The employer, at 6% of payroll, makes contributions. A flat rate for benefits allows for a minimum standard of living. A program of Family Allowances fully funded by the government was introduced in 1992. Maternity and sickness benefits are also provided, and were last updated in 2003. In 1996/7 the pyramid saving scheme scandal wiped out about 60% of private savings. The scandal coupled with the influx and maintenance of Kosovo refugees, undermined public confidence and trust in the government's ability to deliver public services. Corruption remains another major barrier. Social assistance and social welfare systems are in need of fundamental reform.
Albania's constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex. Roughly half of the labor force is comprised of women. The Labor Code incorporates the principle of equal pay for equal work. Women remain underrepresented in higher positions and often are underemployed. Women have equal access to higher education, many obtaining professional positions in the medical and legal fields. However, discrimination in the workplace continues. Abuse, trafficking, and violence against women and children remain significant problems. Albania is a source country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Domestic violence and sexual harassment are prevalent, and are largely unreported. In 2004, in some regions of the country, women are still considered chattel.
Religious tolerance is prevalent, and the constitution provides for coexistence between ethnic groups. The Office of National Minorities was established to monitor Albania's minority issues. Nevertheless, societal discrimination against Roma, the Egyptian community, and homosexuals persists. Blood feuds, or violent rival factions, contribute to an atmosphere of fear in some areas.
Health care facilities in the 1990s were substandard and much of their equipment obsolete. In 1992 Albania had 16 hospitals, with 14,000 beds. In 1996, hospital beds declined to 9,600. In 2004, there were an estimated 139 physicians and 404 nurses per 100,000 people. There is a medical school in Tiranë (part of the Enver Hoxha University) and some Albanians receive medical training abroad. Tertiary care, available mostly in Tiranë, includes a teaching hospital, an obstetric and gynecological facility, a facility for treating respiratory diseases, and a military hospital. Albania's health care system was strained by the admission of as many as 500,000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo in the spring of 1999.
The general improvement of health conditions in the country is reflected in the lower mortality rate, down to an estimated 6.49 deaths per 1,000 in 2000, as compared with 17.8 per 1,000 in 1938. In 2005, average life expectancy was estimated at 77.24 years, compared to 38 years at the end of World War II. Albania's infant mortality rate, estimated at 21.52 per 1,000 live births in 2005, has also declined over the years since the high rate of 151 per 1,000 live births in 1960. Albania had high immunization rates for children up to one year old: tuberculosis at 94%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 99%; measles, 95%; and polio, 99.5%. As of 2002 the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at less than 100. The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease, trauma, cancer, and respiratory disease.
During World II, about 61,000 buildings of all types were destroyed, including 35,400 dwellings. Housing was generally primitive in rural areas and poor elsewhere. After the war, housing continued to be a problem for a variety of reasons: primary emphasis on industrial construction, shortages of materials and skilled labor, and lack of or inadequate assistance for private building. Moreover, the increase of urban population worsened an already desperate situation. Consequently, new housing construction was concentrated in Tiranë, Vlorë, Elbasan, Shkodër, Durrës, and Korçë, as well as in other industrial and mining sites.
According to the results of a 2001 census, there are about 520,936 residential buildings in the country containing about 785,000 dwellings. Most of the existing stock (29%) was built 1961–80. About 27% of all units were built before 1945. Only about 120,000 (15%) units were built 1991–2001. About 30% of all dwelling spaces (over 50% of urban units) are block flats that were constructed and owned by the government during the Communist era. (Most public housing was privatized during the period from 1992–93.) In 2001, there were 253 dwelling units per 1,000 people and an average of 1 household of about 4.46 people lived in each occupied dwelling. About 13% of all dwellings were vacant in 2001.
A 1998 Household Living Condition survey indicated that about 74% of rural households did not have an indoor toilet and 54% did not have access to running water. In comparison, 18% of urban households were without an indoor toilet and 5% lacked running water. The survey also indicated that about 95% of all units were owned by an occupant. The most common form of housing construction is a concrete frame filled with brick or block infill. Tiranë is the largest urban settlement and the site of 17% of the country's housing units (over 134,000 units in 2001).
The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 98.7%, with 99.2% for males and 98.3% for females. Public expenditures on education were estimated at 2.6% of GDP in 2003.
Preschool training for children ages three through six is common but not obligatory. The basic educational program lasts for eight years (ages 6 to 14) and is divided into two cycles of four years each. In 2003, the average enrollment for primary school was about 95%. The pupil to teacher ratio for primary school was at about 21:1 in 2003. Secondary education consists of a four-year program. Vocational programs of three to five years are also open to students who have passed their basic educational requirements. Enrollment in secondary school was at about 77% in 2003. The academic year runs from October to June. The educational system is regulated through the Ministry of Education and Science.
Institutes of higher learning include two agricultural schools, one institute for fine arts, one institute of physical culture, and three teacher-training institutes. In 1957, the Institute of Sciences was elevated to university rank, and Tiranë State University became the first and only institution of university status in Albania. It was later renamed Enver Hoxha University of Tiranë. In 1971, two more universities were founded—Universiteti I Koree and Universiteti Bujguesor I Tiranes. In 1991, the University of Shkodër was established. Approximately 16% of the adult population was enrolled in tertiary education programs in 2003.
The largest library in Albania is the National Library in Tiranë (1922) with over one million volumes. The University of Tiranë library has 700,000 volumes. Tiranë also has several university libraries with specialized collections, including the Higher Agricultural Institute Library (126,000 volumes) and the Fine Arts Institute Library (40,000 volumes). Albania's Public Assembly maintains a library of 41,000 volumes, also in Tiranë. Public libraries exist in many communities with notable ones in Elbasan (284,000 volumes), Shkodër (250,000 volumes), Durrës (180,000 volumes), and Korçë (139,000 volumes). The Albanian Library Association (ALA), the nation's first and only national association for libraries and librarians, was established in 1993.
The principal museums are the Museum of Archaeology, the Fine Arts Gallery, the Museum of the Struggle for National Liberation, the Natural Science Museum, and the National Historical Museum, all located in Tiranë. There are some 30 provincial museums, among them the Berat Museum, known for its collection of historic documents; the Museum of Architecture in Berat; the Onufri Iconographic Museum, located in Berat's main castle and housing a distinguished collection of medieval icons; the Museum of Education in Elbasan; the Museum of Albanian Medieval Art in Korge; and the Shkodër Museum in Shkodër, a historical museum tracing Albanian culture to the Neolithic Age. The cities of Berat and Gjirokastër, the first dating from antiquity and the second from the Middle Ages, have been designated "museumcities."
In 2003, there were an estimated 83 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 98,500 people were on a waiting list for mainline phone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 358 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
Radio and TV broadcasting is governed by the National Council of Radio and Television (NCRT), a seven-member bipartisan body elected by the Parliament. There are at least 17 radio stations (13 AM and 4 FM). As of 2005, there were three television broad-cast stations. The Albanian Radio and Television (RTSh) was the sole public broadcaster in 2004. About 30% of the station's budget comes from the government and the station tends to devote most of its coverage to government concerns. Television was introduced in 1961, color broadcasts in 1981. About 80% of the population rely on television as a primary source of news and information. In 2003, there were an estimated 260 radios and 318 television sets for every 1,000 people.
There are several daily newspapers published in Tiranë. In 2002 the four major ones were Koha Jone (Our Time, circulation 400,000); Zërii Popullit (People's Voice—circulation 105,000), published by the Socialist Party; Rlindia Demokratike (The Democratic Revival—circulation 50,000), published by the Democratic Party; and Bashkimi Kombetar (circulation 30,000), published by the Democratic Front. There are about 200 publications overall, including daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and pamphlets. At least 18 papers and magazines were published in Greek, with primary distribution throughout the south. Albanian Newspaper (circulation 30,000) is published in Italian and Albanian Daily News is a daily paper published in English. Agjensia Telegrafike Shqiptare (Albanian Telegraphic Agency) is the official news agency.
Though the law protects freedom of speech and press, nearly all news stories are designed to suit the publisher's political and economic interests. The Albanian Telegraphic Agency is the primary news service.
In 2004, the country had about 455 Internet hosts. In 2003, there were 11.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 10 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet.
Trade unions in Albania were prohibited until 1991. Before 1991 the official trade unions of the country were responsible for promoting the production goals of the country's Communist government. In 1991, independent trade unions were established to promote the rights of workers. The Union of Independent Trade Unions is the most important umbrella trade organization. Other trade unions operate in the defense, agriculture, food processing, and mining sectors of the economy. The Chamber of Commerce of the republic of Albania promotes the economic and business activities of the country in world markets. Other chambers of commerce are located in Shkodei, Durrës, and Gjirokastër. The Foreign Investors Association promotes foreign investment within the country. The Albanian Consumers Association is based in Tiranë. There are a number of national professional medical organizations, such as the Albanian Medical Association and the Albanian Dental Association. The Organic Agriculture Association was established in 1997 and Tiranë is the site of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe.
The Open Society Foundation for Albania is a nonprofit organization established in 1992 to encourage the process of the democratization of Albanian society. It is sponsored in part by the SOROS Foundation Network, a fund established by American philanthropist George Soros.
There are a number of youth organizations in the country. The Albanian International Youth Committee (AIYC) serves as the major nongovernmental youth platform that encompasses several different youth and student organizations. It is supported by the Albanian Youth Federation (AYF) and seeks to represent the views of organized Albanian youth. A youth scouting movement (Beslidhja Skaut Albania) is active in the country. The World Organization of Scouting opened a national chapter in Albania (Beslidhja Skaut Albania) in 2005. There are also organizations of the YMCA/YWCA.
The Red Cross and the Red Cross Youth have active chapters in the country. There are also chapters of the Lions Club and Kiwanis International.
Albania was once the most inaccessible country in Eastern Europe, with tight entry regulations keeping most Western visitors out. In the early 1980s, persons explicitly forbidden to visit the country were US citizens, Soviet citizens, and full bearded men. However, since the advent of democracy, Albania has slowly become accessible to the outside world. Tourists from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and members of the European Union and the EFTA no longer have a visa requirement. Upon arrival a three-month entry level visa is issued, which can be extended. Citizens of other countries must obtain a visa prior to arrival from the nearest Albanian embassy. In promoting travel to Albania, the official tourist agency cites the Adriatic beaches, especially at Durrës, Vlorë, and Sarandë, and the picturesque lakes. The most popular sports are football (soccer), gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball.
In 2003, there were 557,210 visitor arrivals; tourists spent a total of $537 million. Hotel rooms numbered 4,161. The average length of stay was about three nights.
In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Tiranë at $205. Other areas were estimated at $106 per day.
Much Albanian popular lore is based on the exploits of the national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (known as Scanderbeg, 1405–68), who led his people against the Turks.
Ahmet Bey Zogu (1895–1961), shepherd, military commander, minister of the interior, and premier, was elected first president of the new republic in 1925; in 1928, when Albania became a kingdom, he ascended the throne as Zog I. After Italian forces occupied Albania in April 1939, he fled the country, dying in exile in southern France. Two major political leaders were Enver Hoxha (1908–85), postwar Albania's first premier, minister of foreign affairs, and defense minister; and Mahmet Shehu (1913–81), who replaced Hoxha as premier in 1954, when Hoxha became first secretary of the Workers Party's Central Committee.
Albania's written literature of a nationalist character first developed among Italo-Albanians in Calabria in the mid-19th century and among the Albanian intellectuals in Constantinople in the second half of the 19th century. Naim Erashëri (1846–1900), Albania's national poet, belonged to the Constantinople group. His most highly regarded works are Bagëti e Bujqësi (Cattle and Land), Histori e Skenderbeut (History of Scanderbeg), and a collection of short poems, Lulet e Verës (Spring Flowers). Kostandin Kristoforidhi (K. Nelko, 1827–95) translated the Old and New Testaments into Albanian and compiled a standard Albanian-Greek dictionary. Faik Konitza (1875–1942), prewar Albanian minister to Washington, edited a literary review, Albania, which became the focal publication of Albanian writers living abroad. Gjergj Fishta (1871–1940), a Franciscan friar who was active in the nationalist movement, wrote a long epic poem, Lahuta e Malcís (The Lute of the Mountains), which is regarded as a masterpiece of Albanian literature. Bishop Fan Stylian Noli (1882–1965), a political leader in the early 1920s, was Albania's foremost translator of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Cervantes, and other world classics. Lasgush Poradeci (1899–1987) was a highly regarded lyric poet. Ismail Kadare (b.1926), winner of the Booker International Prize and candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, takes as his subjects contemporary Albanian society, the communist regime, and Albanian old traditions (kanun ). Kadare's works include Gjenerali i Ushtrisë së Vdekur (The General of the Dead Army ) and Pallati i ëndrrave (The Palace of Dreams ).
Albania has no territories or colonies.
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