Albania

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ALBANIA

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS ALBANIANS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Republic of Albania

Republika é Shqipërisë

CAPITAL: Tiranë

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.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

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) ns and 148 km (92 mi) ew. Albania's capital city, Tiranë, is located in the west central part of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

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 riversthe Drin, the Buna, the Mat, the Shkumbin, the Seman, and the Vijosëempty 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.

CLIMATE

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.

FLORA AND FAUNA

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.

ENVIRONMENT

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.

POPULATION

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 200510 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.

MIGRATION

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, emigrationfor economic reasonswas 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 19922003 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.

ETHNIC GROUPS

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.

LANGUAGES

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 dialectsGheg, 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.

RELIGIONS

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 3040% 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 6570%, 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 2025% 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.

TRANSPORTATION

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.

HISTORY

Origins and the Middle Ages

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 108285. 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.

From the Ottomans to Independence

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 establishedthey have remained virtually unchanged since that timeand 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 (192124), 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.

Under Communist Rule

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 198183, 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.

Democracy and a Free-Market Economy

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 rebelslargely 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.

GOVERNMENT

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 partythe Democratic Party of Albaniawon the general elections in July 2005.

POLITICAL PARTIES

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.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

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%.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

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.

ARMED FORCES

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.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

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.

ECONOMY

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 extractedby 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 199092. 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.

INCOME

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.

LABOR

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.

AGRICULTURE

In 2004, about 58% of the economically active population was engaged in agriculture, compared with 85% before World War II (193945). 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 cropscotton, 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.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

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

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.

FORESTRY

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 196170.

MINING

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.

ENERGY AND POWER

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 (198185) 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.

INDUSTRY

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 193739, 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 195160, by 12% during 196170, by 9% during 197180, by 5% during 198185, and by 3% during 198690. 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 200203, 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 miningdue 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.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

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 198797, 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.

DOMESTIC TRADE

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.

FOREIGN TRADE

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

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 447.1 1,863.8 -1,416.7
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 334.8 623.8 -289.0
Greece 57.4 373.5 -316.1
Germany 15.3 105.4 -90.1
Serbia and Montenegro 10.5 10.3 0.2
Austria 5.5 30.1 -24.6
Turkey 3.7 122.3 -118.6
Macedonia 3.0 5.5 -2.5
Russia 2.3 52.7 -50.4
United States 2.3 18.6 -16.3
France-Monaco 2.1 20.3 -18.2
() 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 $57 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.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

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

Current Account -406.8
    Balance on goods -1,336.3
      Imports -1,783.5
      Exports 447.2
    Balance on services -82.9
    Balance on income 170.4
    Current transfers 841.9
Capital Account 157.0
Financial Account 200.6
    Direct investment abroad
    Direct investment in Albania 178.0
    Portfolio investment assets -22.5
    Portfolio investment liabilities
    Financial derivatives
    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.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

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 depositorslocal estimates put participation in the companies at about 75% of all householdsby 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 depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $997 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $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

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 expendituresfor temporary disability, pregnancy, childbirth, rest home stay, and pensionswere l1,440 million. In 2002, Albania's parliament passed a law to privatize the insurance agency, hoping to create a competitive industry.

PUBLIC FINANCE

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%
   Tax revenue 103,162 67.3%
   Social contributions 24,920 16.3%
   Grants 4,119 2.7%
   Other revenue 20,996 13.7%
Expenditures 187,109 100.0%
   General public services 48,983 26.2%
   Defense 7,537 4.0%
   Public order and safety 11,944 6.4%
   Economic affairs 28,080 15.0%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 9,021 4.8%
   Health 13,719 7.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 2,609 1.4%
   Education 19,034 10.2%
   Social protection 46,183 24.7%
() 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%.

TAXATION

As of 1999, personal income is taxed in six brackets, from 530%, 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 investorsa four-year tax holiday, and up to a 60% reduction on income from reinvested profitswere 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.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

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 510%, 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.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

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.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

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 Greecemoney for those imports are provided through foreign aid and from the money sent home by Albanians working abroad.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

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

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.

HOUSING

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 196180. About 27% of all units were built before 1945. Only about 120,000 (15%) units were built 19912001. 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 199293.) 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).

EDUCATION

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 foundedUniversiteti 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.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

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."

MEDIA

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 Voicecirculation 105,000), published by the Socialist Party; Rlindia Demokratike (The Democratic Revivalcirculation 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.

ORGANIZATIONS

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.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

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.

FAMOUS ALBANIANS

Much Albanian popular lore is based on the exploits of the national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (known as Scanderbeg, 140568), who led his people against the Turks.

Ahmet Bey Zogu (18951961), 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 (190885), postwar Albania's first premier, minister of foreign affairs, and defense minister; and Mahmet Shehu (191381), 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 (18461900), 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, 182795) translated the Old and New Testaments into Albanian and compiled a standard Albanian-Greek dictionary. Faik Konitza (18751942), prewar Albanian minister to Washington, edited a literary review, Albania, which became the focal publication of Albanian writers living abroad. Gjergj Fishta (18711940), 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 (18821965), a political leader in the early 1920s, was Albania's foremost translator of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Cervantes, and other world classics. Lasgush Poradeci (18991987) 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 ).

DEPENDENCIES

Albania has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Destani, Beytullah (ed.). Albania and Kosovo: Political and Ethnic Boundaries, 18671946. New York: Archive Editions, 1999.

Elsie, Robert. Albanian Literature: A Short History. London, Eng.: I. B. Tauris, 2005.

. Historical Dictionary of Albania. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 2004.

Frucht, Richard (ed.). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABCCLIO, 2005.

Green, Sarah F. Notes from the Balkans: Locating Marginality and Ambiguity on the Greek-Albanian Border. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Hall, Derek R. Albania and the Albanians. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

Hoshi, Iraj, Ewa Balcerowicz, and Leszek Balcerowicz (eds.). Barriers to Entry and Growth of New Firms in Early Transition: A Comparative Study of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Albania, and Lithuania. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003.

King, Russell, Nicola Mai, and Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (eds.). The New Albanian Migration. Portland, Ore.: Sussex Academic Press, 2005.

Marx, Trish. One Boy from Kosovo. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

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ALBANIA

Republic of Albania

Republika é Shqipërisë

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Albania is located in the southwestern part of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by the Yugoslav republics of Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia, and by Greece and the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Albania has an area of 28,748 square kilometers (11,100 square miles), making it slightly smaller than Maryland. The capital, Tiranë, is situated in the west-central part of the country near the Adriatic Sea.

POPULATION.

The population of Albania was 3,510,484 in July 2001, compared with 2,761,000 in 1981. Population density averaged 111 inhabitants per square kilometer (287 per square mile) but nearly two-thirds of the population were concentrated in the west, especially in the Tiranë-Durrës region. Density there reached 300 inhabitants per square kilometer (777 per square mile). In 2001, the birth rate was 19.01 per 1,000 population while the death rate equaled 6.5 per 1,000. Albania had one of the most youthful populations in Europe, with 30 percent below the age of 14 and just 7 percent older than 65. The population growth rate in 2000 was comparatively modest, at only 0.88 percent, and the emigration rate stood at 3.69 per 1,000. Since the collapse of communism in 1989, many Albanians, allowed to travel abroad for the first time, have left their impoverished country for western Europe, mostly for Italy, Greece, Switzerland, and the United States. The emigration rate has declined from a previous rate of 10.36 in 2000, however.

There are 2 major Albanian ethnic subgroups with distinct dialects: the Gegs in the north, and the Tosks in the south. The Gegs account for more than half of the population, but the Tosks have been traditionally in control. The Tosk dialect of Albanian is the official language. Albanians account for 95 percent of the population, Greeks for 3 percent, and Vlachs, Gypsies, and Bulgarians for the other 2 percent. Albania is predominantly rural, with about 59 percent of the population living in the countryside (1999). The population of the capitalTiranëis 312,220 (2000); other cities include Durrës, Elbasan, Shkodër, and Vlorë.

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Albania is Europe's poorest country; its annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was about US$1,000 in 1997, more than 10 times lower than in neighboring Greece. Liberated from Turkish domination in 1912, the country endured periods of anarchy, autocratic rule, and foreign occupation before being taken over by communists in 1944. Until the collapse of communism in 1989, Albania was ruled in international isolation by a rigid Stalinist regime. All economic activity was nationalized and the production of consumer goods and the development of the infrastructure were neglected while heavy industry was stressed. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, market reforms have taken a foothold and a privatization program has been in place since 1992, when the pro-market Democratic Party formed a cabinet.

Reforms have been slow, however, and the economy shaky as a result. Particularly disastrous was the 1997 collapse of several financial pyramid schemes ) that wiped out the life savings of half of the Albanian population, causing violent riots. The democratic government was toppled, and foreign investors fled in panic. The Kosovo refugee crisis of 1999 dealt another heavy blow. Albania has been plagued by corruption and inadequate reporting; the flow of goods crossing the frontiers has remained largely unknown, and tax collection rates have been unsatisfactory. Organized crime and the trafficking of drugs and stolen cars from western Europe are a major social problem.

The socialist government, in office since 1997, has curbed crime, strengthened customs inspections, improved tax collection, and carried on with privatization. Some 420 comparatively larger enterprises were put on the market after restructuring , including Albpetrol (oil and gas and pipelines), Albakri (copper mining), Albkromi (chrome), Telekom Shqiptar, and the Albanian Mobile Phone Company. Many state-held assets were liquidated. Stable and independent government institutions were still a dream in 2000, however, although younger technocrats had been involved in decision-making and a more informative economic database was created.

In 2000, the Albanian economy grew by 7 percent, although it started from a low base. The currency was stable, inflation was only 2 percent (in 1999), and money transfers from Albanians abroad fueled a house-building boom. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cautiously praised the authorities for progress in structural reform and their commitment to reducing poverty. Foreign investments in 2000 reached US$143 million (up from US$43 million in 1999), a Greek-Norwegian consortium bought the first mobile-phone network, a Greek-British consortium bought the second mobile-phone license, and corruption diminished.

Poverty is still pervasive and the country is burdened by a large foreign trade deficit (US$690 million in 2000). Among the government's concerns are the improvement of agriculture and the obsolete road network, encouraging private enterprise, and liberalizing foreign trade. The opening up of free trade zones to attract investors is expected to be supplemented by an improved legal environment, a financial sector restructuring, and a strengthening of law and order (safety is still a big concern in Albania). Heavily dependent on foreign economic aid, in 1997 the country received US$630 million in financial support and a US$58 million poverty reduction and growth facility (loan) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the European Union (EU). No considerable funding has yet been received from the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe, a regional initiative backed by the EU and the United States. Albania has not yet started negotiations to become a part of the EU, which insists that more substantial reforms are needed before talks could start.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral (1-house) 155-member parliament. The president is the head of state, but the prime minister is the executive head of government. The 2 major parties are the left-of-center Socialists (reformed communists) and the right-of-center Democratic Party. In the 1997 elections, the socialists won 101 seats, blaming Sali Berisha, the first post-communist president, and his democrats for the financial pyramid scams, economic chaos, rampant corruption, authoritarianism, and fraud. The socialists, whose power base lies mostly in the south, formed a coalition with the center-left social-democrats (8 seats), the small, predominantly ethnic Greek Human Rights Party (4 seats), and the smaller centrist Democratic Alliance (2 seats). They have a chance of remaining in office at the election in mid-2001. The democrats, whose power base is mainly in the north, retained 27 seats in parliament.

In early 2001, the state's role in the economy was diminishing, but the government was still highly centralized and financial resources were concentrated at the national level. In an attempt to attract foreign investors, Albania planned to create free-trade zones and companies operating in them would be exempt from import duties and a value-added tax (VAT) but not from taxes on profits. In order to curb the budget deficit , the government nearly doubled the VAT to 20 percent and increased excise taxes in 1997. The tax share of GDP was set to 22 percent in the 2001 budget, close to the norm for other economies making the transition from a communist to a market system. Albania had a foreign debt of US$820 million in 1998, which was not considered disproportionate.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Albania's infrastructure is far below the standards of other European countries. There are 18,000 kilometers (11,250 miles) of roads, of which 5,400 kilometers (3,355 miles) are paved, and rapid expansion in private car ownership (prohibited in communist times) has placed a great pressure on the network. Since the Kosovo war in neighboring former Yugoslavia, NATO has rebuilt the Albanian roads it used, and western governments have offered funding for several construction projects. One of them runs north-south from the border with Montenegro via Shkodër, Durrës and Vlorë to the Greek frontier (requiring US$94.8 million for its completion). Another runs east-west from Durrës via Elbasan to the Macedonian frontier (costing US$155.9 million). Albania has received US$108 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB) for completion of the Durrës-Kukës highway and other segments.

The railroad network has 447 kilometers (277.7 miles) of single track, not connected to the railroads of any neighboring country and in poor condition. Thirty-eight kilometers (23.6 miles) of the Durrës-Tiranë line were under renovation in 2000. Two seaports are located at Durrës and Vlorë. Albania's only international airport, Rinas, is located outside Tiranë and has 1 runway and a small passenger terminal.

Albania's power system has 1,670 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, of which 1,446 MW is in hydropower plants (the country's mountainous terrain is favorable for that type of power) and 224 MW in thermal plants. A quarter of the energy is lost due to technical inadequacies, and blackouts are still frequent. Often, electricity reaching consumers is not paid for (70 percent of the clients refused to pay their bills in 1997). A particular concern is the theft of electricity by bypassing meters. The power utility, Korporata Elektroenergjitike, is still in state hands but is scheduled for privatization in 2001. A loan of US$30 million from the World Bank, US$12 million from Exportfinans of Norway, and US$1.2 million from the Chinese government helped Albania repair its electric grid in 2000.

The telephone system is obsolete, with 42,000 main lines in 1995 (11,000 telephones in Tiranë). In 1992, rioting peasants cut the wire to about 1,000 villages and used it to build fences. There were 3,100 mobile phones

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Albania 36 217 109 0.0 1 3.6 N/A 0.24 3
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Yugoslavia 107 297 259 N/A 23 1.9 18.8 7.65 80
Macedonia 21 200 250 N/A 15 1.5 N/A 4.40 30
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

in 1999, with coverage limited to the main cities. In 2000, the privatization of the mobile phone company, Albanian Mobile Communications (AMC), was completed, and the sale of the fixed-line operator, Albtelekom, was set for 2001. A consortium of Vodafone (UK) and Panafon (Greece) won a mobile telephony license in early 2001 for US$38 million.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

Albania's economy remains predominantly agricultural, and in 1999, the contribution of agriculture to GDP was 53 percent, up from 32.3 percent in 1989. Industry's share slipped from nearly 45 percent in 1989 to 26 percent in 1999, because of the collapse of loss-making state-run factories and the return of many workers to farming. The percentage of the population engaged in agriculture reached one-half by 1997. In 1998, 27 percent of the farms were engaged in subsistence farming which means they did not sell their goods to the marketand only half used machinery. Prior to 1991, services were underdeveloped, with virturally no tourism and rudimentary banking and retail sectors. New service industries such as tourism and banking started to develop in the 1990s, mostly with foreign investment, but suffered in the 1997 financial collapse. The shrinking Albanian industry is based on local natural resources, notably oil, lignite, copper, chromium, limestone, bauxite, and natural gas.

AGRICULTURE

In 1992, peasants took control of formerly collectivized land and livestock. Many collective farms (farms held by the state and worked by citizens) were looted, orchards were cut down for firewood, and agricultural output collapsed by almost half. Much of the irrigation works and greenhouses of the communist regime were looted. Under private ownership, agriculture picked up and by 1995, production was above the 1990 level. Serious problems facing farmers are the lack of technology and the tiny size of land holdings. In 1999, 42 percent of farms used animal and manpower alone. Self-sufficiency, forced on farmers by the communist prohibition of private trade, is high. In 1999, 48.5 percent of farm households bought no outside food. International lenders, such as the World Bank, the EU, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have financed repairs and drainage projects, but the consolidation of small farm plots into larger and more efficient units has been slow. Albania imports basic foods (worth Lk3.8 billion in 1999, up from Lk3.7 billion in 1998), yet agriculture provides the livelihood for the majority of the population. Crops include wheat, corn, olives, sugar beets, cotton, sunflower seeds, tobacco, potatoes, and fruits. The livestock population was estimated in the early 1990s as including some 500,000 cattle, 1 million sheep, and 170,000 pigs.

INDUSTRY

Mining, metallurgy, food processing, textiles, lumber, and cement were among the leading industries in Albania under the communist regime, when heavy industry was a priority and some factories were capable of exporting. Until 1961, most equipment was supplied by the Soviet Union and then by China until 1978. After 1989, the sector declined due to the lack of new technology and financing and the dilapidated condition of the factories. In the 1990s, plants and equipment were destroyed and sold for scrap, or fell into disuse, unable to compete with cheaper imports that came with trade liberalization. A revival of chromium, steel, and cement industries came with the increase of foreign investments in 2000. Some new equipment was purchased in the West for a cigarette-making plant in Durrës and for a manufacture of underwear in Korçë. Construction, especially in housing, was the main factor for investment growth.

Mining is a large (but shrinking) sector of the economy, given the rich deposits of bauxite, chromium, nickel, iron, copper ores, and petroleum. The export of raw materials is crucial for foreign exchange earnings. In the 1980s, Albania ranked third worldwide in chromium ore production. Output plunged 3 times to 157,000 tons in 1997, because of the weakening of domestic demand in addition to the closing down of loss-making industries, the lack of capital, high costs, problems with the electricity supply, and the economic chaos of 1997. Albania's output of copper was reduced from 1 million tons per year in the late 1980s to 25,000 tons in 1997. Iron-nickel mining collapsed in the early 1990s with the closing down of the steel works of Elbasan, its main client, but was revived in 2000 due to Turkish involvement at the plant. Coal and petroleum output and petroleum refineries production have also declined in the 1990s due to their inadequate technology.

SERVICES

Albania's banking system under communism was state-run and underdeveloped. By the early 1990s, the 3 major state banks were cash-strapped due to irrecoverable loans to loss-making industries. Since then, almost all banks (except the largest one, the Savings Bank) have been privatized, most in the form of joint ventures with foreign partners, including the Italian Albanian Bank (IAB), the Arab Albanian Islamic Bank (AAIB), and the Dardania Bank (DB). The sector has been plagued by a lack of capitalization and a lack of experience and technology. Little long-term investment credit is available, and debt collection is uncertain. The 1997 financial pyramids collapse annihilated US$1 billion in savings and only US$50 million seemed recoverable by 2000. To relieve the situation, the Bank of Albania (the central bank) imposed restrictions on banks (including credit limits and minimum interest rates) that additionally contracted the credit market. Albanians became extremely cautious in depositing money in the banks, and private sector investment started to rely on financing through family, friends, and partners. Larger companies transferred funds abroad and Albanian banks came to rely on short-term deposits and lending to selected customers for short-term trade financing. The privatization of the remaining state-owned bank, the Savings Bank (SB), was delayed in 2000 due to improperly audited accounts and was rescheduled for June 2001.

Albania's tourist industry is in an embryonic stage. There are few foreign visitors to its picturesque Mediterranean shore because of the lack of adequate infrastructure and fears for personal safety. A few modern hotels appeared in 2000, backed by foreign investment, but revenues were weak. With the privatization of retail businesses in the early 1990s, the sector was characterized by a large number of small family retailers. The quality of service was still rather poor because of the low household income and the subsistence farming of the majority of the rural population. In 1999 and 2000, the retail and hotel industry had a modest boom due to the presence of foreign troops involved in the Kosovo war.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Albania depends on imports for most of its consumption. It was not able to produce enough exports to offset its large trade deficit of US$814 million in 1999, a huge sum for the size of the economy. This trade deficit may create serious problems for Albania in the near future. A major contribution to offsetting the deficit are money transfers from Albanians abroad, which grew from US$324 million in 1999 to US$531 million in 2000. Raw material exports are also crucial but gradually shrinking. Exports are declining, particularly in minerals, contributing only 8 percent of domestic exports in the last quarter of 1999, down from 45 percent in 1998. Re-exports of goods processed in Albania for manufacturers abroad increased mostly in textiles and footwear but also in electrical appliances, foods, and metal products. In the last quarter of 1999, they contributed 70 percent of total exports, a 29 percent increase from the last quarter of 1998. Exports by the tobacco industry were down by almost a third in 1999 from 1998, and other agricultural exports were hit by drought. The EU countries are Albania's chief trading partners, notably neighboring Italy and Greece, partly due to subcontracting for Italian and Greek manufacturers drawn by cheap local labor. Other significant trading partners include Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and the United States. Albania joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000 and is committed to trade liberalization and reducing tariffs on imports. In 1999, the EU promised Albania preferred trade status and reduced some tariffs on Albanian exports.

MONEY

After the economic collapse of 1997, the monetary policy of the Bank of Albania was tightened and the regulation of the financial sector was improved. The currency was stabilized and kept under control. The exchange rate of the lek shifted from 179.06 per US$1 in

Exchange rates: Albania
leke per US$1
Dec 2000 146.08
2000 143.71
1999 137.69
1998 150.63
1997 148.93
1996 104.50
Note: Leke is the plural of lek.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

1997 to almost 140 per dollar in 2001. New legislation included a law on bank deposit insurance and the setting up of a credit information bureau, an investment advisory office, a mediation office for commercial disputes, and an agency for the execution of bankruptcy and other related court decisions. Nevertheless, banking is not efficient, and the economy is still cash-driven. There is no formal equities market in the country as the Tiranë Stock Exchange (scheduled for privatization) is trading in Albanian treasury bills only.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

Poverty in Albania is widespread due to limited job opportunities, low income, and limited access to basic services such as education, health, water, and sewerage. Under the communist regime, employment was almost total, and the government provided some livelihood for nearly everyone. In the 1990s, the collapse of the state-run farms and industrial enterprises, unemployment, organized crime, and corruption generated widespread new poverty along with numerous illicit fortunes. Many families came to rely on transfers from family members abroad as 25 percent of working-age Albanians emigrated, only a fifth of them legally. More than 17 percent of the population lived under the poverty line in 2000, and 90 percent of the poor live in rural areas. Sixty percent

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Albania N/A 916 915 842 795
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Greece 8,302 9,645 10,005 10,735 12,069
Macedonia N/A N/A N/A N/A 1,349
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000;
Trends in human development and per capita income.

of those heading poor households are self-employed in subsistence farming. The situation is worse in the north, where many rural families own less than 0.5 hectares. In Tiranë, there were about 800 street children in 2000 and child laborers numbered between 35,000-50,000 as need forced them to leave school early. Drug abuse, prostitution, trafficking in women, and child abuse have all increased with the economic hardship of the 1990s.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The Albanian labor force numbered 1.692 million (including 352,000 emigrants and 261,000 unemployed) in 2000. The private sector had between 900,000 and 1,000,000 workers, mostly in agriculture and small shops and enterprises. The unemployment rate was 18.2 percent in 2000, but unemployment in the rural regions, particularly in subsistence farming, was not reflected in this figure. Minimum wages are US$50 per month, insufficient to provide a decent standard of living. Many Albanians work with outdated technology and without adequate safety regulations. Workplace conditions are generally poor and often dangerous. The workweek is 48 hours, but hours are set by individual or collective agreement. Under the communist regime, unions were government-controlled and independent unions only emerged in 1991. The Independent Confederation of Trade Unions, with an estimated 127,000 members, was formed as an umbrella group for most branch unions.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Albania 62 3 13 3 10 5 4
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Serbia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Macedonia 33 5 15 6 9 9 23
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The Confederation of Trade Unions represents school, petroleum, postal, and telecommunications workers and has 80,000 members. Union membership declined after 1997 because of the expansion of the private sector (few of its workers have unions). Labor disputes have been often confrontational and passionate.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

168 B.C. Romans take over Illyria (comprising most of present-day Albania).

1000s A.D. Illyria becomes known as Albania; feudal agriculture develops and Adriatic cities become centers of commerce.

1388. Ottoman Turks invade Albania and subdue it by the early 16th century.

1500s. The Ottomans convert many formerly Christian Albanians to Islam. The feudal economy remains unchanged into the 20th century.

1878. Albanian nationalism grows and the Prizren League is organized in the present-day Kosovo province of Serbia to work for national independence.

1912. Albania is liberated from the Ottomans. The European powers recognize its independence but leave nearly half of the ethnic Albanians outside its borders.

1919. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson vetoes the partition of Albania among its neighbors following the end of World War I.

1925. Albania is taken over by a dictatorship and gradually turns into an Italian protectorate.

1939. Italian troops occupy Albania at the start of World War II.

1944. Albanian communists take over and impose Stalinist economic rules, which last until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.

1990. A multi-party system is allowed as thousands of Albanians try to escape the country by fleeing to foreign embassies in Tiranë.

1991. The first multi-party elections are won by the reformed communists, while the opposition Democratic Party wins 75 seats in the Assembly. Massive labor unrest topples the government.

1992. Elections are won by the democrats, and economic reforms and liberalization gain momentum. Elections in 1996 leave the cabinet in office but the opposition voices fraud accusations.

1997. The collapse of pyramid schemes causes violent riots. The government is toppled and the socialists (re-formed communists) return to power in early elections.

1999. More than 400,000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo flood into Albania.

2000. Albania joins the World Trade Organization.

FUTURE TRENDS

With its economy reviving from the collapse of 1997, Albania remains essentially a developing country requiring heavy investment for its modernization. Without significant progress in coping with crime and weak state institutions, its internal stability is not yet guaranteed. Reforms are needed to enforce democracy and develop favorable conditions for foreign investment. Albania has strong potential for growth due to its youthful population and the large number of guest workers , many of whom may return with capital and know-how once domestic conditions improve. Proximity to Italy and Greece, abundant natural resources, and potential tourist attractions are additional factors that may encourage development. EU membership is not yet an issue for Albania, but with the accession of Balkan neighbors, its chances will grow.

The Socialist Party is expected to stay in power after the election in 2001 and GDP is likely to keep its growth rate of 7 percent driven by the privatization of power, the Savings Bank, hotels, and other government assets. Inflation will be low and unemployment will gradually decline, but many Albanians will continue to support their families by working abroad. Import dependency will diminish as domestic industry slowly picks up and the development of tourism and increasing money transfers may alleviate the trade deficit situation. However, Albania will remain dependent on international aid for the foreseeable future.

DEPENDENCIES

Albania has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Albania. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Background Notes: Albania. <http://www.state.gov/www/background_notes/albania_9903_bgn.html>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Albania. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/2001/europe/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.

Vickers, Miranda. Albania: From Anarchy to a Balkan Identity. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Valentin Hadjiyski

CAPITAL:

Tiranë.

MONETARY UNIT:

Lek (Lk). One lek equals 100 qindarka. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 qindarka and 1 lek, and notes of 1, 3, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 500 leke.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Textiles, footwear, asphalt, metals and ores, oil, fruits, tobacco, semiprocessed goods.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Machinery and equipment, foods, textiles, chemicals.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$10.5 billion (2000 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$310 million (2000 est.). Imports: US$1 billion (2000 est.). [The CIA World Factbook estimates that exports in 1999 were US$242 million while imports were US$925 million.]

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Albania

PROFILE
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
MILITARY AFFAIRS
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the September 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Republic of Albania

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 28,748 sq. km. (slightly larger than Maryland).

Cities: Capital—Tirana (600,000, 2005 est.). Others—Durres (200,000, 2005 est.), Shkoder (81,000, 2005 est.), Vlore (72,000, 2005 est.).

Terrain: Situated in the southwestern region of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is predominantly mountainous but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea.

Climate: Mild, temperate; cool, wet winters; dry, hot summers.

People

Population: (2007 est.) 3,600,523.

Growth rate: (2007 est.) 0.529%.

Ethnic groups: (2004 est., Government of Albania) Albanian 98.6%, Greeks 1.17%, others 0.23% (Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Balkan Egyptians, and Bulgarians).

Religions: Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi) 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, and Roman Catholic 10%.

Languages: Albanian.

Health: (2007 est.) Life expectancy—males 74.95 years; females 80.53 years. Infant mortality rate—20.02 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: Adopted by popular referendum November 28, 1998.

Independence: November 28, 1912 (from the Ottoman Empire).

Government branches: Executive—President (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative—Unicameral People's Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor—140 seats (100 members elected by direct popular vote; 40 by proportional vote; all serve 4-year terms). Judicial—Constitutional Court, High Court, multiple district and appeals courts.

Suffrage: Universal at age 18.

Political parties: Democratic Party of Albania (PD); Albanian Socialist Party (PS); Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI); Albanian Republican Party (PR); Demo-Christian Party (PDK); Union for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ); New Democracy Party (PDR); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Social Democracy Party (PDS).

Economy

Real GDP growth: (2006) 5%.

Inflation rate: (2005) 2.4%.

Unemployment rate: (2006) 13.8%.

Natural resources: Oil, gas, coal, iron, copper and chrome ores.

Geography

Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, Macedonia to the east, Serbia (including Kosovo) to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest. Western Albania lies along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea coastlines. Albania's primary seaport is Durres, which handles 90% of its maritime cargo.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY

Over 90% of Albania's people are ethnic Albanian, and Albanian is the official language. Religions include Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi), Albanian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.

Scholars believe the Albanian people are descended from a non-Slavic, non-Turkic group of tribes known as Illyrians, who arrived in the Balkans around 2000 BC. After falling under Roman authority in 165 BC, Albania was controlled nearly continuously by a succession of foreign powers until the mid-20th century, with only brief periods of self-rule.

Following the split of the Roman Empire in 395, the Byzantine Empire established control over present-day Albania. In the 11th century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus

made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and to its people.

The Ottoman Empire ruled Albania from 1385-1912. During this time, much of the population converted to the Islamic faith, and Albanians also emigrated to Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. Although its control was briefly disrupted during the 1443-78 revolt, led by Albania's national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, the Ottomans eventually reasserted their dominance.

The League of Prizren (1878) promoted the idea of an Albanian nation-state and established the modern Albanian alphabet, updating a language that survived the hundreds of years of Ottoman rule despite being outlawed. By the early 20th century, the weakened Ottoman Empire was no longer able to suppress Albanian nationalism. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence and the Great Powers established Albania's borders in 1913. Albania's territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania among its neighbors.

During the Second World War, Albania was occupied first by Italy (1939-43) and then by Germany (1943-44). After the war, Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha, through a combination of ruthlessness and strategic alliances, managed to preserve Albania's territorial integrity during the next 40 years, but exacted a terrible price from the population, which was subjected to purges, shortages, repression of civil and political rights, a total ban on religious observance, and increased isolation. Albania adhered to a strict Stalinist philosophy, eventually withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and alienating its final remaining ally, China, in 1978.

Following Hoxha's death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of Communism in 1991, Albanian society struggled to overcome its historical isolation and underdevelopment. During the initial transition period, the Albanian Government sought closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms, including a multiparty system.

In 1992, after the sweeping electoral victory of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha became the first democratically elected President of Albania. Berisha began a more deliberate program of economic and democratic reform but progress on these issues stalled in the mid-1990s, due to political gridlock. At the same time, unscrupulous investment companies defrauded investors all over Albania using pyramid schemes. In early 1997, several of these pyramid schemes collapsed, leaving thousands of people bankrupt, disillusioned, and angry. Armed revolts broke out across the country, leading to the near-total collapse of government authority. During this time, Albania's already inadequate and antiquated infrastructure suffered tremendous damage, as people looted public works for building materials. Weapons depots all over the country were raided. The anarchy of early 1997 alarmed the world and prompted intensive international mediation.

A UN Multinational Protection Force restored order, and an interim national reconciliation government oversaw the general elections of June 1997, which returned the Socialists and their allies to power at the national level. President Berisha resigned, and the Socialists elected Rexhep Meidani as President of the Republic.

During the transitional period of 1997-2002, a series of short-lived Socialist-led governments succeeded one another as Albania's fragile democratic structures were strengthened. Additional political parties formed, media outlets expanded, non-governmental organizations and business associations developed. In 1998, Albanians ratified a new constitution via popular referendum, guaranteeing the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights and religious freedom. Fatos Nano, Chairman of the Socialist Party, emerged as Prime Minister in July 2002.

On July 24, 2002, Alfred Moisiu was sworn in as President of the Republic. A nonpartisan figure, he was elected as a consensus candidate of the ruling and opposition parties. The peaceful transfer of power from President Meidani to President Moisiu was the result of an agreement between the parties to engage each other within established parliamentary structures. This “truce” ushered in a new period of political stability in Albania, making possible significant progress in democratic and economic reforms, rule of law initiatives, and the development of Albania's relations with its neighbors and the U.S.

The “truce” between party leaders began to fray in summer 2003 and progress on economic and political reforms suffered noticeably due to political infighting. The municipal elections of 2003 and national elections of 2005 were an improvement over past years, adding to the consolidation of democracy despite the continued presence of administrative errors and inaccuracies in voter lists.

In 2005, the Democratic Party and its allies returned to power, pledging to fight crime and corruption, decrease the size and scope of government, and promote economic growth. Their leader, Sali Berisha, was sworn in as Prime Minister on September 11, 2005.

Since the election, Prime Minister Berisha's government has made the fight against corruption and organized crime its first priority and has begun administrative and legal reforms toward that end. This brought repeated clashes with the opposition, which condemned the government's approach as unconstitutional and an attempt to undermine independent institutions. Both sides remain combative over a range of political and substantive issues.

Another politically contentious process was the pre-electoral period prior to the 2007 local elections. Although the February 18, 2007 local elections were generally peaceful and democratic, over-politicized debate during the preceding months resulted in procedural and administrative problems during the conduct of the elections. A major positive step forward was the performance of the police force.

The fragility of the Albanian electoral system was tested again during the parliamentary by-election in zone 26 (Shijak) on March 11, 2007. The leftwing opposition parties withdrew their commissioners from the polling stations and the counting center, in spite of prior concessions from the Central Elections Commission (CEC) to the opposition's demands. Opposition commissioners left and took with them one of the seals that mark the ballots. By midday, the opposition candidate also announced his withdrawal from the parliamentary race. However, the right of citizens to vote prevailed and the process continued thanks to the technical arrangements of the CEC. The only visible sign of violence was the wounding of a Democratic Party commissioner, who was fired upon by a militant.

Both elections were an indication of lack of political will to cooperate and of the imminent need for a comprehensive electoral reform of the present Albanian electoral system.

On July 20, 2007 President Bamir Topi was elected within Parliament after six members of the opposition coalition broke ranks to vote for his candidacy. Out of 90 deputies present at the session, 85 voted for Topi, while Neritan Ceka, head of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, won five votes. Topi, 50, a former agriculture minister, now succeeds President Alfred Moisiu for a five-year mandate.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The unicameral People's Assembly (Kuvendi Popullor) consists of 140 seats, 100 of which are determined by direct popular vote. The remaining seats are distributed by proportional representation. All members serve 4-year terms. The Speaker of Parliament (Jozefina Topalli) has two deputies, who along with eight permanent parliamentary commissions assist in the process of legislating Albanian affairs.

The President is the head of state and elected by a three-fifths majority vote of all Assembly members. The President serves a term of 5 years with the right to one re-election. Although the position is largely ceremonial, the Constitution gives the President authority to appoint and dismiss some high-ranking civil servants in the executive and judicial branches, and this authority can have political implications. The President is also commander in chief of the armed forces, and chairs the National Security Commission. The current President's term expires on July 23, 2012.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by a simple majority of all members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister serves as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), which consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister, decreed by the President, and approved by a parliamentary vote.

Albania's civil law system is similar to that of other European countries. The court structure consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, and multiple appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members appointed by the Assembly for one 9-year term. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and consists of 11 members appointed by the President with the consent of the Assembly for 9-year terms. The President chairs the High Council of Justice, which is responsible for appointing and dismissing other judges. The High Court of Justice is comprised of 15 members—the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the High Court, the Minister of Justice, three members elected by the Assembly, and nine judges of all levels elected by the National Judicial Conference.

The remaining courts are divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. There are no jury trials under the Albanian system of justice. A college of three judges, who are sometimes referred to as a “jury” by the Albanian press, render court verdicts.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

Pres.: Bamir TOPI

Prime Min.: Sali BERISHA

Dep. Prime Min.: Gazmend OKETA

Min. of Agriculture: Jemin GJANA

Min. of Culture & Tourism: Ylli PANGO

Min. of Defense: Fatmir MEDIU

Min. of Economy & Energy: Genc RULI

Min. of Education & Science: Genc POLLO

Min. of Environment, Forests, & Waters: Lufter XHUVELI

Min. of Finance: Ridvan BODE

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Lulzim BASHA

Min. of Health: Nard NDOKA

Min. of Integration: Majlinda BREGU

Min. of Interior: Bujar NISHANI

Min. of Justice: Enkelejd ALIBEAJ

Min. of Labor, Social Issues, & Equal Opportunity: Koco BARKA

Min. of Transportation: Sokol OLLDASHI

Governor, Bank of Albania: Ardian FULLANI

Ambassador to the US: Aleksander SALLABANDA

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Adrian NERITANI

ECONOMY

Albania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. According to the Bank of Albania, per capita income was U.S. $2,883 in 2006. The official unemployment rate is 13.8%, and 18.5% of the population lives below the poverty line according to the World Bank's 2005 Poverty Assessment. Almost 60% of all workers are employed in the agricultural sector, although the construction and service industries have been expanding recently, the latter boosted significantly by ethnic Albanian tourists from throughout the Balkans. The GDP is comprised of agriculture (approximately 24%), industry (approximately 13%), service sector (approximately 39%), transport and communication (12%), construction (11%), and remittances from Albanian workers abroad—mostly in Greece and Italy (approximately 12.8%).

Albania was the last of the central and eastern European countries to embark upon democratic and free market reforms. Further, Albania started from a comparatively disadvantaged position, due to Hoxha's catastrophic economic policies. Transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-orientated system has been almost as difficult for Albania as the country's communist period.

The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program meant to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity.

Results of Albania's efforts were initially encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew, and Albania's currency, the lek, stabilized. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania's opening and liberalizing was better than expected. Beginning in 1995, however, progress stalled. The collapse of the infamous pyramid schemes of the 1990s and the instability that followed were a tremendous setback, from which Albania's economy continues to recover.

In recent years the Albanian economy has improved, although infrastructure development and major reforms in areas such as tax collection, property laws, and for improving the business climate in general are proceeding slowly. Between 2003-2006, Albania experienced an average 5.5% annual growth in GDP. Fiscal and monetary discipline has kept inflation relatively low, averaging roughly 2.5% per year between 2004-2006. Albania's public debt reached 57.5% of GDP in 2006, and the growing trade deficit was estimated at 25% of GDP in 2006. Economic reform has also been hampered by Albania's very large informal economy, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates equals 50% of GDP.

Albania's trade imbalance is severe. In 2006, Albanian trade had U.S. $3.1 billion in imports, and U.S. $790 million in exports. Albania has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Macedonia, Croatia, UNMIK (Kosovo), Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia, and Moldova. In April 2006, these bilateral agreements were replaced by a multiregional agreement that entered into force in May 2007 and that is based on the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) model. However, combined trade with all these countries constitutes a small percentage of Albania's trade, while trade with EU member states (mainly Greece and Italy) accounts for nearly 68%. U.S. two-way trade with Albania is very low.

In 2006, U.S. exports to Albania totaled $46.6 million. U.S. imports, during the same time period, totaled $3.44 million, making the U.S. the 17th overall trade partner of Albania. However, there are some discrepancies between U.S. and Albanian trade figures. Major U.S. investment to date has been limited to large-scale infrastructure contracts with the government; Lockheed Martin and Bechtel are principal U.S. participants. The Albanian Government signed a FTA with the EU as part of its Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations. The interim agreement entered into force in December 2006, and it foresees a duty-free regime for almost 90% of agricultural and industrial products. On the fiscal side it will also significantly reduce revenue collection.

Albania is trying to attract foreign investment and promote domestic investment, but significant impediments exist. The Albanian Government faces the daunting task of rationalizing and uniformly applying business laws, improving transparency in business procedures, restructuring the tax systems (including tax collection), reducing corruption in the bureaucracy, and resolving property ownership disputes.

Business growth is further hampered by Albania's inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure. The capital, Tirana, and the main port of Durres, generally receive electricity most of the day, but constant power outages plague every other major city, small town, and rural village. Although recent steps have been taken to improve the transportation infrastructure, Albania has a limited railway system and just one international airport. Because of the mountainous terrain and poor road condition, overland goods transport is arduous and costly.

MILITARY AFFAIRS

Since the fall of communism in Albania in 1991, the country has played a constructive role in resolving several of the inter-ethnic conflicts in south central Europe, promoting peaceful dispute resolution and discouraging ethnic Albanian extremists. Albania sheltered many thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 conflict, and now provides logistical assistance for Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. Albania is part of the international Stabilization Force (SFOR) serving in Bosnia, and Albanian peacekeepers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the international stabilization force in Iraq. Albania has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. policy in Iraq, and was one of only four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Albania continues to work with the international community to restructure its armed forces and strengthen democratic structures pursuant to its NATO Membership Action Plan. NATO members continue to encourage Albania to address military reforms that will bring it closer to membership. Since 1999, Albania has spent approximately $108 million annually on military expenditures, roughly 1.35% of its GDP. According to Government of Albania projections, military expenditure will reach 2% of GDP in 2008. With bilateral and multilateral assistance, the Ministry of Defense is transitioning to a smaller, voluntary, professional military, and reducing the vast amounts of excess weaponry and ammunition that litter the country and pose a significant public hazard and proliferation risk. The Albanian Government and the international community are working together on a project that will make Albania a mine-free country by 2010. Most high-and medium-priority mine clearance has been completed in the mined areas of northeast Albania, a legacy of the 1999 Kosovo crisis.

Albania and the U.S. enjoy a military partnership and are signatories to treaties including the 2003 Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations and the 2004 Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, which defines the status of American military troops in Albania and further enables military cooperation. In May 2003, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and the U.S. created the Adriatic Charter, modeled on the Baltic Charter, as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country's NATO candidacy. In spite of strong EU objections, Albania also signed in May 2003 a bilateral agreement with the United States on non-surrender of persons, based on Article 98 of the statute of International Criminal Court.

In 2004 President Bush authorized the use of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program funds for projects in Albania, marking the first time such funds are used outside the former Soviet Union. With this funding the United States is assisting the Government of Albania with the destruction of a stockpile of chemical agents left over from the communist regime. Under this program, Albania became the first nation in the world to complete destruction of declared chemical weapons holdings under the Chemical Weapons Convention in July 2007.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Albania is currently pursuing a path of greater Euro-Atlantic integration. Its primary long-term goals are to gain NATO and EU membership and to promote closer bilateral ties with its neighbors and with the U.S. Albania is a member of a number of international organizations, as well as multiple regional organizations and initiatives, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the UN, the Stability Pact, the Adriatic Charter, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In June 2006, Albania and the EU signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first step to EU membership, which will focus on implementing essential rule of law reforms and curbing corruption and organized crime.

Albania maintains generally good relations with its neighbors. It reestablished diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia following the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, and maintains excellent relations with the Republic of Montenegro, which gained its independence after the dissolution of the Serbia and Montenegro union in 2006. Although the final status of Kosovo remains a key issue in Albanian-Serbian relations, both nations are committed to achieving a peaceful resolution. Albanian, Macedonian, and Italian law enforcement agencies are cooperating with increasing efficiency to crack down on the trafficking of arms, drugs, contraband, and human beings across their borders. Albania has also arrested and prosecuted several ethnic-Albanian extremists on charges of inciting interethnic hatred in Macedonia and Kosovo. Tensions occasionally arise with Greece over the treatment of the Greek minority in Albania or the Albanian community in Greece, but overall relations are good, and Greece maintains the public image of being a strong proponent of Albania's eventual integration into the EU and NATO.

U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS

Albania enjoys friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with the U.S. Pro-U.S. sentiment is widespread among the population. Even while the U.S., which had closed its mission to Albania in 1946, was being vilified by communist propaganda during the Hoxha regime, ordinary Albanians remembered that Woodrow Wilson had protected Albanian independence in 1919. Albanians credit the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 with saving thousands of Kosovar-Albanian lives, and they greatly appreciate the U.S. Government's commitment to resolving the status of Kosovo. In 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations; the Adriatic Charter; and an Agreement regarding the non-surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. strongly supports Albania's EU and NATO membership goals. Working towards NATO membership, the U.S. and Albania signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, an important step in strengthening bilateral cooperation and enhancing security, peace, and stability in the region. Since FY 1991, the U.S. has provided Albania with more than $550 million in assistance, not counting U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food aid. The aid has served to facilitate Albania's transition from the most isolated and repressive communist state in Europe to a modern democracy with a market-oriented economy, and to support long-term development. In 2006, the U.S. gave over $24 million to Albania under the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act program. Albania was among the first countries selected to participate in the Threshold Program under the Millennium Challenge Account, winning a grant of $13.8 million. In September 2006, Albania began implementation of the program, which targets two critical stumbling blocks to development—corruption and rule of law. Despite daunting problems at home, Albania has wholeheartedly supported the U.S. in the global war on terrorism by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with possible links to terrorist financing, expelling extremists, and providing military and diplomatic support for the U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Albania has played a moderating role in the region and has fully supported UN mediation efforts in Kosovo.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

TIRANA (E) 103 Rruga Elbasanit, APO/FPO 9510 Tirana Place, Dulles Va 20189, 355-4-247285, Fax (355) (4) 232-222, Workweek: Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm, Website: http://tirana.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Brenda James
AMB OMS:Bridget Kissinger
DCM/CHG:Stephen Cristina
ECO:Robert Newsome
FM:Allan Mitchell
MGT:C. Wakefield Martin
POL ECO:Paula Thiede
AMB:John Withers II
CON:Abigail Aronson
PAO:Leigh Rieder
GSO:Jeff Patmore
RSO:Leonard Patrick
AID:Edward Landau
CLO:Michelle Olson
DAO:Brian Moore
FMO:Robert Gresbrink
IMO:Randal Meyers
IRS:Kathy Beck (Resident In Paris)
ISSO:Paul Berry

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 20, 2007

Country Description: Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Europe, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania's economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities.

Entry and Exit Requirements: A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. A traveler does not have to obtain a visa prior to entering Albania. An entry stamp will be issued at the point of entry that is valid for a stay of up to 90 days for a fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. For stays exceeding 90 days, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania's web site at www.albaniaembassy.org. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania's web site at www.albaniaembassy.org for the most current visa information.

Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad.

Safety and Security: Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Recently, travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affair's Internet site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: According to the latest State Department assessment, Albania is rated “high” for crime, although the official crime statistics recently released by the Albanian State Police indicate a slight decrease in violent crimes. Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last year there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pickpocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pickpockets.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or viathe CDC's web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor repair. Traveling throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. According to recent police statistics, the majority of fatalities in country were caused by vehicle accidents. The poor traffic conditions are caused by lack of traffic police enforcement, traffic lights, and general infrastructure. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable.

Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by Albanian carriers, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations.

Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers’ checks can be changed at banks in larger towns.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.

Persons violating Albania's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Albania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355) (4) 247285; fax (355) (4) 232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov.

International Adoption

October 2006

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Albania is the Albanian Adoption Committee, located within the Ministry of Justice.

Albanian Adoption Committee
Bulevardi “Zhan d’Ark,” No 2
TIRANA
Tel: +355 (4) 227 487
Fax: +355 (4) 226 465
Website:
www.komitetibiresimeve.com.al
(Albanian Language only)

Adoption Procedures: Individuals may not deal directly with the Albanian Adoption Committee or with individual orphanages or biological parents. The Albanian child must have a certificate from the Albanian Adoption Committee stating that s/he is adoptable. This means that the child has been in an orphanage for at least six months with no contact from his/her biological parent(s), and that the orphanage has been unsuccessful in placing the child with an Albanian family. The prospective adoptive parent(s) may not go to an orphanage to select a child without authorization from the Albanian Adoption Committee. (Authorized local adoption agencies, i.e., International Children's Alliance, or Bethany Christian Services, can contact the Albanian Adoption Committee to obtain authorization for the prospective adoptive parents to visit an orphanage). In general the Committee will propose a child whom the prospective adoptive parent(s) may accept if they wish. In addition, the final court decision and the child's travel documentation cannot be issued until 14 days after the court date.

The child must remain in Albanian during these 14 days, although s/he may reside with the adoptive parent(s) during that time. Please remember: when traveling back to the U.S., your newly adopted child may need to obtain a transit visa. If the country of transit requires a visa for Albanian nationals this process can take up to one week. (Note: this procedure is separate from the U.S. immigrant visa process.) Therefore, prospective adoptive parent(s) should be prepared to arrive in Albania a day or two before the court date and to remain afterwards for approximately three weeks.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Under Albanian law, prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 18 years older than the adopted child. Both married and single prospective adoptive parents are permitted. Note: Under U.S. immigration law, at least one parent must be 25 years old or older (at least 24 years old at the time he or she files the advanced processing application and at least 25 years old at the time he or she files the orphan petition.)

Residential Requirements: There are no residency requirements for U.S. citizens wishing to adopt a child in Albania.

Time Frame: Prospective adoptive parents should expect a time frame up to six months after a child has been identified.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: All adoptions must be processed by an adoption agency accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee. Currently, two U.S. adoption agencies have been accredited. Both agencies are listed on the U.S. Embassy website: http://tirana.usembassy.gov. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services.

Adoption Fees: Adoptive parents can expect to pay three different fees. The agency fee, which may differ depending up on the adoption service provider selected, but is between $10,000 to $11,000. In addition a fee of $1,000 must be paid to the Albanian Adoption Committee. A fee of $500.00 must also be paid to the orphanage where the child lived prior to adoption.

Adoption Procedures: Individuals may not deal directly with the Albanian Adoption Committee or with individual orphanages or biological parents. Prospective adoptive parents may not go to an orphanage to select a child without authorization from the Albanian Adoption Committee. Only authorized adoption agencies, may contact the Albanian Adoption Committee to obtain authorization for the prospective adoptive parents to visit an orphanage. An Albanian child must have a certificate from the Albanian Adoption Committee stating that s/he is adoptable. This means that the child has been in an orphanage for at least six months with no contact from his/her biological parents, and that the orphanage has been unsuccessful in placing the child with an Albanian family. The Committee will propose a child whom the prospective adoptive parents may accept if they wish. After a child is matched with a parent the Albanian Adoption Committee forwards the proposed decree to the Albanian court that will hear the case and set a final hearing date. At the end of the final hearing the parent is awarded custody of the child but may not physically removed the child from Albania until 14 days after the approval of the decree.

The child may reside with the parent(s), however, during this waiting period. The Adoption Committee will also start the process of securing a passport and birth certificate immediately after the final hearing.

Required Documents:

  • A written request clearly stating the reasons why he/she/they want(s) to adopt a child.
  • Adoption application. The form is called Preliminary Application for International Adoption. The agency facilitating the case will provide the form to the prospective adoptive parents.
  • Birth certificate, marriage certificate of the adopting parent(s). Divorce decree and former spouse's death certificate, applicable.
  • Police records of the adopting parent(s) (prospective adoptive parents) must have a clean police record. The Adoption Committee will not allow a parent with a criminal record to adopt a child.
  • Personal, family, and social information on the adopting parents (usually included in the Home Study).
  • Medical information on the adopting parent(s). Medical information is addressed by a physician that is contracted by the adoption service provider in the U.S.
  • Home Study completed by a social worker).
  • Financial statement from adopting parents.
  • Warranty deed (the Albanian Adoption Committee requires evidence that prospective adoptive parents own their own home).
  • Reference letter from adopting parent's employer.
  • Family and home pictures.

All the above-mentioned documents are submitted to one of the adoption agencies accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee.

Embassy of the Republic of Albania

2100 S. Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 223-4942 or (202) 393-2396
Fax: (202) 628-7324.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy:
Rruga e Elbasanit, No. 103
Tirana, Albania
Tel: +355-4-247-285
Fax number: +355-4-374-957
E-mail address:
[email protected] gov

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Albania may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

ALBANIA

Compiled from the October 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Albania


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 28,748 sq. km. (slightly larger than Maryland).

Major cities: Capital—Tirana (700,000). Others—Durres (400,000), Shkoder (81,000), Vlore (72,000).

Terrain: Situated in the southwestern region of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is predominantly mountainous but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea.

Climate: Mild temperate—cool, wet winters; dry, hot summers.

People

Population: (June 2002 Institute of Statistics est.) 3,129, 000.

Growth rate: (2001 est.) −-0.88%.

Ethnic groups: (2004 Foreign Ministry and Institute of Statistics est.) Albanian 98.6%, Greeks 1.17% (Note: The 1989 census, the last official census to record ethnic data, listed the ethnic Greek population at 2%; estimates by the Greek community itself place the number as high as 10%.), others 0.23% (Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Egyptians, and Bulgarians).

Religions: Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi) 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, and Roman Catholic 10%. (Greek Orthodox percentages would conform to the percentage of the ethnic Greek population.)

Official language: Albanian.

Health: (2001 est.) Life expectancy—males 69.01 years; females 74.87 years. Infant mortality rate—39.99 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: Adopted by popular referendum November 28, 1998.

Independence: November 28, 1912 (from the Ottoman Empire).

Branches: Executive—President (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative—Unicameral People's Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor—140 seats (100 members elected by direct popular vote; 40 by proportional vote; all serve 4-year terms). Judicial—Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, multiple district and appeals courts.

Suffrage: Universal at age 18.

Political parties: Albanian Republican Party (PR); Albanian Socialist Party (PS); Democratic Party of Albania (PD); New Democrat Party (New DP); Liberal Democratic Union Party (PBL); Movement of Legality Party (PLL); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ).

Economy

Real GDP growth: (2003) 7%.

Inflation rate: (2003) 2.4%.

Unemployment rate: (2003 est.) 15.8%.

Natural resources: Oil, gas, coal, iron, copper and chrome ores.


GEOGRAPHY

Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, Macedonia to the east, and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo) to the north and northeast. Eastern Albania lies along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea coastlines. Albania's primary seaport is Durres, which handles 90% of its maritime cargo.


PEOPLE AND HISTORY

Over 90% of Albania's people are ethnic Albanian, and Albanian is the official language. Religions include Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi), Albanian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.

Scholars believe the Albanian people are descended from a non-Slavic, non-Turkic group of tribes known as Illyrians, who arrived in the Balkans around 2000 BC. Modern Albanians still distinguish between Ghegs (northern tribes) and Tosks (southern tribes). After falling under Roman authority in 165 BC, Albania was controlled nearly continuously by a succession of foreign powers until the mid-20th century, with only brief periods of self-rule.

Following the split of the Roman Empire in 395, the Byzantine Empire established its control over presentday Albania. In the 11th century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and to its people.

The Ottoman Empire ruled Albania from 1385-1912. During this time, much of the population converted to the Islamic faith, and Albanians also emigrated to Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. Although its control was briefly disrupted during the 1443-78 revolt, led by Albania's national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg, the Ottomans eventually reasserted their dominance.

In the early 20th century, the weakened Ottoman Empire was no longer able to suppress Albanian nationalism. The League of Prizren (1878) promoted the idea of an Albanian nation-state and established the modern Albanian alphabet. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence. Albania's borders were established by the Great Powers in 1913. Albania's territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania among its neighbors.

During the Second World War, Albania was occupied first by Italy (1939-43) and then by Germany (1943-44). After the war, Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha, through a combination of ruthlessness and strategic alliances, managed to preserve Albania's territorial integrity during the next 40 years, but exacted a terrible price from the population, which was subjected to purges, shortages, repression of civil and political rights, a total ban on religious observance, and increased isolation. Albania adhered to a strict Stalinist philosophy, eventually withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and alienating its final remaining ally, China in 1978.

Following Hoxha's death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of Communism in 1991, Albanian society struggled to overcome its historical isolation and underdevelopment. During the initial transition period, the Albanian Government sought closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms, including a multiparty system.

In 1992, after the sweeping electoral victory of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha became the first democratically elected President of Albania. Berisha began a more deliberate program of economic and democratic reform but progress on these issues stalled in the mid-1990s, due to political gridlock. At the same time, unscrupulous investment companies defrauded investors all over Albania using pyramid schemes. In early 1997, several of these pyramid schemes collapsed, leaving thousands of people bankrupt, disillusioned, and angry. Armed revolts broke out across the country, leading to the near-total collapse of government authority. During this time, Albania's already inadequate and antiquated infrastructure suffered tremendous damage, as people looted public works for building materials. Weapons depots all over the country were raided. The anarchy of early 1997 alarmed the world and prompted intensive international mediation.

Order was restored by a UN Multinational Protection Force, and an interim national reconciliation government oversaw the general elections of June 1997, which returned the Socialists and their allies to power at the national level. President Berisha resigned, and the Socialists elected Rexhep Meidani President of the Republic. Between 1997 and 2002, a series of short-lived governments succeeded one another. Fatos Nano, Chairman of the Socialist Party, has been Prime Minister since July 2002.

During the transitional period of 1997-2002, Albania's fragile democratic structures were strengthened. Additional political parties formed, media outlets expanded, non-governmental organizations and business associations developed. In 1998, Albanians ratified a new constitution via popular referendum, guaranteeing the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights and religious freedom.

On July 24, 2002, Alfred Moisiu was sworn in as President of the Republic. A nonpartisan figure, nominally associated with the Democratic Party, he was elected as a consensus candidate of the ruling and opposition parties. The peaceful transfer of power from Meidani to Moisiu was the result of an agreement between the parties to engage each other within established parliamentary structures. This "truce" ushered in a new period of political stability in Albania, making possible significant progress in democratic and economic reforms, rule of law initiatives, and the development of Albania's relations with its neighbors and the U.S.

Nationwide municipal elections were held in October 2003. Although a significant improvement over past years, there were still widespread administrative errors, including inaccuracies in the voter lists. The "truce" between party leaders began fraying in summer 2003. Progress on economic and political reforms suffered noticeably during the latter half of 2003 because of political infighting. However, in December 2003, Prime Minister Nano reasserted his leadership of the ruling Socialist Party and appointed a new Cabinet.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The unicameral People's Assembly (Kuvendi Popullor) consists of 140 seats, 100 of which are determined by direct popular vote. The remaining seats are distributed by proportional representation. All members serve 4-year terms. The Speaker of Parliament (currently Servet Pellumbi) has two deputies, along with 13 parliamentary commissions, to legislate Albanian affairs.

The President is the head of state and elected by a three-fifths majority vote of all Assembly members. The President serves a term of 5 years with right to one re-election. Although the position is largely ceremonial, the Constitution does give the President authority to appoint and dismiss some civil servants in the executive and judicial branches. The current President's term expires on July 23, 2007.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by a simple majority of all members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister serves as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), which consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the President.

Albania's civil law system is similar to that of other European countries. The court structure consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, and multiple appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members appointed by the Assembly for one 9-year term. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and consists of 11 members appointed by the President with the consent of the Assembly for 9-year terms. The President chairs the High Council of Justice, which is responsible for appointing and dismissing other judges. The High Court of Justice is comprised of 15 members—the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the High Court, the Minister of Justice, three members elected by the Assembly, and nine judges of all levels elected by the National Judicial

Conference. The remaining courts are divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. There are no jury trials under the Albanian system of justice. A college of three judges, who are sometimes referred to as a "jury" by the Albanian press, render court verdicts.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/11/05

President: Alfred MOISIU
Prime Minister: Fatos NANO
Dep. Prime Min.: Namik DOKLE
Min. of Agriculture: Agron DUKA
Min. of Culture, Youth, & Sports: Blendi KLOSI
Min. of Defense: Pandeli MAJKO
Min. of Economics: Anastas ANGJELI
Min. of Education & Science: Luan MEMUSHI
Min. of Energy and Industry: Viktor DODA
Min. of Environment: Ethem RUKA
Min. of Finance: Arben MALAJ
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Kastriot ISLAMI
Min. of Health: Leonard SOLIS
Min. of Integration: Ermelinda MEKSI
Min. of Justice: Fatmir XHAFA
Min. of Labor & Social Issues: Engjell
Min. of Local Authority & Devolution Ben BLUSHI
Min. of Public Order: Igli TOSKA
Min. of State for State Reforms: Marko BELLO
Min. of Territory Regulations & Tourism: Bashkim FINO
Min. of Transport & Telecommunications: Spartak POCI
Dir., Albanian State Intelligence Service: Kujtim HYSENAJ
Gov., Bank of Albania: Shkelqim CANI
Ambassador to the US: Fatos TARIFA
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Agim NESHO


ECONOMY

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. According to the World Bank's November 2003 Poverty Assessment, average per capita income was U.S.$1,230 in 2002. The official unemployment rate is 16%, and 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. Two-thirds of all workers are employed in the agricultural sector, although the construction and service industries have been expanding recently, the latter boosted significantly by ethnic Albanian tourists from other parts of the Balkans. The GDP is comprised of agriculture (approx. 34%), industry (approx. 13%), service sector (approx. 32%), and remittances from Albanian workers abroad—mostly in Greece and Italy (approx. 21%).

Albania was the last of the central and eastern European countries to embark upon democratic and free market reforms. Further, Albania started from a comparatively disadvantaged position, due to Hoxha's catastrophic economic policies. Transition from a centrally planned economy to a market orientated system has almost been as difficult for Albania as the country's Communist period.

The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program meant to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity.

Results of Albania's efforts were initially encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew, and Albania's currency, the lek, stabilized. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania's opening and liberalizing was better than expected. Beginning in 1995, however, progress stalled. The collapse of the infamous pyramid schemes of the 1990s and the instability that followed were a tremendous setback, from which Albania's economy continues to recover.

Within recent years, the Albanian economy has improved, although infrastructure development and major reforms in areas such as tax collection, property laws, and banking are proceeding slowly.

Between 1998-2002, Albania experienced an average 6.2% annual growth in GNP. Fiscal and monetary discipline have kept inflation relatively low, averaging roughly 4.2% per year between 2001-2003. Albania's public debt reached 67% of GDP in 2002, and the growing trade deficit was estimated at 22% of GDP in 2002. Economic reform has also been hampered by Albania's very large informal economy, which the IMF estimates equals 50% of GDP.

Albania's trade imbalance is severe. In 2002, Albanian trade was U.S. $1.8 billion in imports, and U.S. $350 million in exports. Albania has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Macedonia, Croatia, UNMIK (Kosovo), and Bulgaria. FTAs with Romania, Bosnia, and Moldova are at various stages of approval. However, combined trade with all these countries constitutes a small percentage of Albania's trade, while trade with EU member states (notably Greece, Italy, and Turkey) accounts for nearly 75%.) U.S. twoway trade with Albania is very low. In 2003, U.S. exports to Albania totaled $9.7 million making it the 183rd overall destination for U.S. exports. U.S. imports, during the same time period, totaled $4.3 million, making Albania the 177th overall source of U.S. imports. Major U.S. investment to date has been limited to large-scale infrastructure contracts with the government. The Albanian Government is currently negotiating a FTA with the EU, as part of its Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations, which, when it comes into force, could significantly reduce revenue collected.

Albania is assiduously trying to attract foreign investment and promote domestic investment, but significant impediments exist. The Albanian government faces the daunting but essential task of rationalizing and uniformly applying business laws, improving transparency in business procedures, restructuring the banking and tax systems (including tax collection), reducing corruption in the bureaucracy, and resolving property ownership disputes.

Business growth is further retarded by Albania's inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure. The capital, Tirana, generally receives electricity most of the day, but constant power outages plague every other major city, small town and rural village. Although recent steps have been taken to improve the transportation infrastructure, Albania has a limited railway system and few domestic airports. Because of the mountainous terrain, goods traveling overland must spend hours traversing the relatively sparse network of switchback roads, many of them of poor quality, to reach destinations that are relatively close.


MILITARY AFFAIRS

Since the fall of Communism in Albania in 1991, the country has played a constructive role in resolving several of the inter-ethnic conflicts in south central Europe, promoting peaceful dispute resolution and discouraging ethnic-Albanian extremists. Albania sheltered many thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 conflict, and now provides logistical assistance for Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. Albania is part of the international Stabilization Force (SFOR) serving in Bosnia, and Albanian peacekeepers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the international stabilization force in Iraq. Albania has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. policy in Iraq, and one of only four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Albania continues to work with the international community to restructure its armed forces and strengthen democratic structures pursuant to its Membership Action Plan. At the June 2004 Istanbul Summit, NATO encouraged Albania to continue making progress towards membership. Since 1999, Albania has spent approximately $108 million annually on military expenditures, roughly 1.35% of its GDP. With bilateral and multi-lateral assistance, the Ministry of Defense is transitioning to a smaller, voluntary, professional military, and reducing the vast amounts of excess weaponry and ammunition that litter the country and pose a significant public hazard and proliferation risk. The government continues efforts to collect from civilians the weapons that were seized during the chaos of 1997. The Albanian government and the international community are also working towards making Albania a mine-safe country by 2006. The heavily mined areas of northeast Albania are a legacy of the 1999 Kosovo crisis.

In May 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations. In May 2003, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and the U.S. created the Adriatic Charter, modeled on the Baltic Charter, as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country's NATO candidacy. Also in March 2004, Albania and the U.S. signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, which defines the status of American military troops in Albania and further enables military cooperation.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Albania is currently pursuing a path of greater Euro-Atlantic integration. Its primary long-term goals are to gain NATO and EU membership and to promote closer bilateral ties with its neighbors and with the U.S. Albania is a member of a number of international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the UN, the Stability Pact, the Adriatic Charter, and the WTO. In February 2003, the EU opened negotiations with Albania on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, with an initial focus on implementing essential rule of law reforms and curbing corruption and organized crime.

Albania maintains generally good relations with its neighbors, and has or is seeking FTAs with all the Balkan countries. It re-established diplomatic relations with the Former Republic of Yugoslavia following the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Although the final status of Kosovo remains a key issue in Albanian-Serbian relations, both nations are committed to achieving a peaceful resolution. Albanian, Macedonian, and Italian law enforcement agencies are cooperating with increasing efficiency to crack down on the trafficking of arms, drugs, contraband, and human beings across their borders. Albania has also arrested and prosecuted several ethnic-Albanian extremists on charges of inciting interethnic hatred in Macedonia and Kosovo. Tensions occasionally arise with Greece over the treatment of the Greek minority in Albania or the Albanian community in Greece, but overall relations are good, and Greece is a strong proponent of Albania's eventual integration into the EU and NATO. Albania recently upgraded the railway between the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, and Albania's northernmost major city, Shkoder, to improve trade. Italy, Greece, and Turkey are Albania's largest trade partners.


U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS

Albania enjoys friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with the U.S. Pro-U.S. sentiment is widespread among the population. Even while the U.S., which had closed its mission to Albania in 1946, was being vilified by Communist propaganda during the Hoxha regime, ordinary Albanians remembered that Woodrow Wilson had protected Albanian independence in 1919. Albanians credit the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 with saving thousands of Kosovar-Albanian lives.

In 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations; the Adriatic Charter; and an Agreement regarding the non-surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. strongly supports Albania's EU and NATO membership goals. Working towards NATO membership, the U.S. and Albania signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, an important step in strengthening bilateral cooperation and enhancing security, peace, and stability in the region. Between 1991 and 2003, the U.S. has provided $358.62 million through the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act for Albania's humanitarian needs and economic and political transformation. In 2004, the U.S. will give over $28 million to Albania under the SEED program. On September 30, 2004, Albania was selected to participate in the FY 2004 Threshold Program under the Millennium Challenge Account, which may help Albania implement programs targeted toward two critical stumbling blocks to development—corruption and rule of law.

Despite its daunting problems at home, Albania has wholeheartedly supported the U.S. in the global war on terrorism, by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down suspect Islamic NGOs, expelling Islamic extremists, and providing military and diplomatic support for the U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. On October 20, 2004 President Bush authorized for the first time the use of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program funds outside the former Soviet Union. Under Nunn-Lugar the United States plans to assist the Government of Albania with the destruction of a stockpile of chemical agents left over from the communist regime.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

TIRANA (E) Address: 103 Rruga Elbasanit; APO/FPO: 9510 Tirana Place, Dulles Va 20189; Phone: 355-4-247285; Fax: (355) (4) 232-222; Work-week: Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm; Website: www.usembtirana.usia.co.at

AMB:Marcie Ries
DCM/CHG:Steven E. Zate
POL:Todd Robinson
CON:TDY CONS Jennifer Noronha
MGT:Richard H. Morgan
AID:Harry Birnholz
CLO:Adrienne Scherger
DAO:Gregory Crabtree Cdr. USN
ECO:David Schroeder
FMO:Donna Edmonds
GSO:James K. Jenkins
IMO:VACANT
IPO:Michael Meaux
ISSO:Michael Meaux
PAO:Gregory Kay
RSO:Stephen DeWitt
Last Updated: 10/28/2004

The U.S. Embassy is located at 103 Tirana Rruga Elbasanit, Tirana; telephone: [355] (4) 247-285; facsimile: [355] (4) 232-222.


TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 17, 2004

Country Description: Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is slowly transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Europe, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. The security situation throughout Albania also has improved, though it remains somewhat unstable in certain areas, particularly in the north. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania's economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities. The capital is Tirana.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport is required. A traveler does not have to obtain a visa prior to entering Albania. An entry card will be issued at the point of entry that is valid for a stay of up to 30 days for a fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. An extension of up to 60 days (90 days total) may be obtained by applying at the local police station. For stays exceeding 90 days, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy website at http://www.usemb-tirana.rpo.at. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars.

For additional information, please contact the Embassy of the Republic of Albania at 2100 "S" Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel.: (202) 223-4942 or (202) 393-2396; Fax: (202) 628-7324. Albania also maintains Honorary Consulates in Louisiana at 701 Poydras St. Suite 4200, New Orleans, LA 70139, tel.: (504) 596-4229; in Massachusetts at 140 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 02210, tel.: (617) 482-6262; in North Carolina at 130 Canter Lane, Pinehurst, NC 28374, tel.: (910) 690-8471; and Texas at 20682 Sweetglen Dr., Houston, TX 77365-6385, tel.: (281) 345-9599.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated special procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship to the person traveling with the child and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian embassy or consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information on dual citizenship, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/law/citizenship.html.

Safety and Security: Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal gangs continue to operate in all regions and corruption is pervasive. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees to areas north and east of Shkoder (with the exception of cities along the national road) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.

Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana – where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, do sometimes occur, particularly in the early morning hours.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Albania has a high crime rate, with instances of armed robberies and assaults. Carjackings are a matter of some concern, especially for drivers of four-wheel drive and sport-utility vehicles. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime is common in Shkoder and frequent in other towns in northern and northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, street crime is fairly common, and occurs particularly at night. Criminals do not deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but criminals seek targets of opportunity and select those who appear to have anything of value. Pick pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pickpockets.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities: Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physician before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased.

Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Moreover, many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: None

Major roads in Albania are often in very poor repair. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares.

Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/travel/abroad_roadsafety.html.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Albania by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Customs Regulations: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found here.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in Albania are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Special Circumstances: Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html, or telephone the Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living in or visiting Albania are urged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. The U.S. Embassy in Tirana is located at Rruga E Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 247285, fax (355)(4) 232222. The U.S. Embassy website is: http://www.usemb-tirana.rpo.at.

International Adoption

June 2001

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Overseas Citizen Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1996: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Albanian orphans adopted abroad—7; IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Albanian orphans adopted in the U.S.—0
FY-1997: IR-3 Visas—12,
IR-4 Visas—0
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas—10,
IR-4 Visas—0
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas—12,
IR-4 Visas—0
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas—22,
IR-4 Visas—0

Albanian Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Albania is the Albanian Adoption Committee.

Albanian Adoption Procedures: Individuals may not deal directly with the Albanian Adoption Committee or with individual orphanages or biological parents. The Albanian child must have a certificate from the Albanian Adoption Committee stating that s/he is adoptable. This means that the child has been in an orphanage for at least six months with no contact from his/her biological parents, and that the orphanage has been unsuccessful in placing the child with an Albanian family.

The prospective adoptive parents may not go to an orphanage to select a child without authorization from the Albanian Adoption Committee. (Authorized local adoption agencies, i.e. International Children's Alliance, or Bethany Christian Services, can contact the Albanian Adoption Committee to obtain authorization for the prospective adoptive parents to visit an orphanage.) In general the Committee will propose a child whom the prospective adoptive parents may accept if they wish.

In addition, the final court decision and the child's travel documentation cannot be issued until 13 days after the court date. The child must remain in Albania during these 13 days, although s/he may reside with the adoptive parents during that time.

Please remember: when traveling to the U.S. with your newly adopted child, since the child is an Albanian citizen, s/he will need to obtain a transit visa from the embassy of the country of transit in order to be permitted to travel through. The Albanian government cannot issue this transit visa until the child is issued a travel document (such as a passport). In many cases the transit visa application may take several days to process. (Note: this procedure is separate from the U.S. immigrant visa process.) Therefore, prospective adoptive parents should be prepared to arrive in Albania a day or two before the court date and to remain afterwards for 15-17 days.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Under Albanian law, prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 18 years older than the adopted child. Both married and single prospective adoptive parents are permitted. Note: Under U.S. law, at least one parent must be 25 years old or older.)

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: All adoptions must be processed by an adoption agency accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee. Currently, two U.S. adoption agencies have been accredited:

Bethany Christian Services
901 Eastern Avenue, NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503-1295
Tel: (616) 459-6273;
Fax: (616) 459-0343

International Children's Alliance
1101 17th Street, NW, Suite 1002
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: (202) 463-6874;
Fax: (202) 463-6880
[email protected]

Doctors: The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Albania.

Albanian Documentary Requirements:

  • A written request clearly stating the reasons why he/she/they want(s) to adopt a child
  • Birth certificate, marriage certificate of the adopting parent(s), divorce decree and former spouse's death certificate as applicable.
  • Police records of the adopting parent(s).
  • Personal, family, social and medical information on the adopting parent(s).
  • Home Study (An evaluation study on the adopting family made by a social worker)

All the above mentioned documents are submitted to one of the adoption agencies accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: An Albanian child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Albanian Embassy in The United States: Embassy of the Republic of Albania, 2100 S. Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, Tel: (202) 223-4942.

U.S. Embassy in Albania: U.S. Embassy Tirana American Embassy (Tirana), Rruga e Elnasanit 103 Consular Section, Tirana, Albania Department of State, Tel: (011)(355)(4) 247-285 Washington, DC 20521-9510, Fax: (011) (355) (4) 232-222.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Albania may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Albania. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, telephone: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

views updated

Albania

Compiled from the October 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Albania

PROFILE

GEOGRAPHY

PEOPLE AND HISTORY

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

MILITARY AFFAIRS

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 28,748 sq. km. (slightly larger than Maryland).

Cities: Capital—Tirana (600,000, 2005 est.). Others—Durres (200,000, 2005 est.), Shkoder (81,000, 2005 est.), Vlore (72,000, 2005 est.).

Terrain: Situated in the southwestern region of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is predominantly mountainous but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea.

Climate: Mild temperate—cool, wet winters; dry, hot summers.

People

Population: (June 2004 Institute of Statistics est.) 3,129,000.

Growth rate: (2001 est.) -0.88%.

Ethnic groups: (2004 Foreign Ministry and Institute of Statistics est.) Albanian 98.6%, Greeks 1.17%, others 0.23% (Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Egyptians, and Bulgarians).

Religions: Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi) 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, and Roman Catholic 10%.

Language: Albanian.

Health: (2001 est.) Life expectancy—males 69.01 years; females 74.87 years. Infant mortality rate—39.99 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: Adopted by popular referendum November 28, 1998.

Independence: November 28, 1912 (from the Ottoman Empire).

Government branches: Executive—President (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative—Unicameral People’s Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor—140 seats (100 members elected by direct popular vote; 40 by proportional vote; all serve 4-year terms). Judicial—Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, multiple district and appeals courts.

Suffrage: Universal at age 18.

Political parties: Albanian Republican Party (PR); Albanian Socialist Party (PS); Democratic Party of Albania (PD); New Democrat Party (New DP); Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI); Liberal Democratic Union Party (PBL); Movement of Legality Party (PLL); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ).

Economy

Real GDP growth rate: (2005) 5.5%.

Inflation rate: (2005) 2.4%.

Unemployment rate: (2005) 14.2%.

Natural resources: Oil, gas, coal, iron, copper and chrome ores.

GEOGRAPHY

Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, Macedonia to the east, and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo) to the north and northeast. Eastern Albania lies along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea coastlines. Albania’s primary seaport is Durres, which handles 90% of its maritime cargo.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY

Over 90% of Albania’s people are ethnic Albanian, and Albanian is the official language. Religions include Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi), Albanian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.

Scholars believe the Albanian people are descended from a non-Slavic, non-Turkic group of tribes known as Illyrians, who arrived in the Balkans around 2000 BC. Modern Albanians still distinguish between Ghegs (northern tribes) and Tosks (southern tribes). After falling under Roman authority in 165 BC, Albania was controlled nearly continuously by a succession of foreign powers until the mid-20th century, with only brief periods of self-rule.

Following the split of the Roman Empire in 395, the Byzantine Empire established control over present-day Albania. In the 11th century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and to its people.

The Ottoman Empire ruled Albania from 1385-1912. During this time, much of the population converted to the Islamic faith, and Albanians also emigrated to Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. Although its control was briefly disrupted during the 1443-78 revolt, led by Albania’s national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg, the Ottomans eventually reasserted their dominance.

The League of Prizren (1878) promoted the idea of an Albanian nation-state and established the modern Albanian alphabet, updating a language that survived the hundreds of years of Ottoman rule despite being outlawed. By the early 20th century, the weakened Ottoman Empire was no longer able to suppress Albanian nationalism. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence and the Great Powers established Albania’s borders in 1913. Albania’s territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania among its neighbors.

During the Second World War, Albania was occupied first by Italy (1939-43) and then by Germany (1943-44). After the war, Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha, through a combination of ruthlessness and strategic alliances, managed to preserve Albania’s territorial integrity during the next 40 years, but exacted a terrible price from the population, which was subjected to purges, shortages, repression of civil and political rights, a total ban on religious observance, and increased isolation.

Albania adhered to a strict Stalinist philosophy, eventually withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and alienating its final remaining ally, China, in 1978. Following Hoxha’s death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of Communism in 1991, Albanian society struggled to overcome its historical isolation and underdevelopment. During the initial transition period, the Albanian Government sought closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms, including a multi-party system.

In 1992, after the sweeping electoral victory of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha became the first democratically elected President of Albania. Berisha began a more deliberate program of economic and democratic reform but progress on these issues stalled in the mid-1990s, due to political gridlock. At the same time, unscrupulous investment companies defrauded investors all over Albania using pyramid schemes. In early 1997, several of these pyramid schemes collapsed, leaving thousands of people bankrupt, disillusioned, and angry. Armed revolts broke out across the country, leading to the near-total collapse of government authority. During this time, Albania’s already inadequate and antiquated infrastructure suffered tremendous damage, as people looted public works for building materials. Weapons depots all over the country were raided. The anarchy of early 1997 alarmed the world and prompted intensive international mediation.

A UN Multinational Protection Force restored order, and an interim national reconciliation government oversaw the general elections of June 1997, which returned the Socialists and their allies to power at the national level. President Berisha resigned, and the Socialists elected Rexhep Meidani as President of the Republic.

During the transitional period of 1997-2002, a series of short-lived Socialist-led governments succeeded one another as Albania’s fragile democratic structures were strengthened. Additional political parties formed, media outlets expanded, non-governmental organizations and business associations developed. In 1998, Albanians ratified a new constitution via popular referendum, guaranteeing the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights and religious freedom. Fatos Nano, Chairman of the Socialist Party, emerged as Prime Minister in July 2002.

On July 24, 2002, Alfred Moisiu was sworn in as President of the Republic. A nonpartisan figure, he was elected as a consensus candidate of the ruling and opposition parties. The peaceful transfer of power from President Meidani to President Moisiu was the result of an agreement between the parties to engage each other within established parliamentary structures. This “truce” ushered in a new period of political stability in Albania, making possible significant progress in democratic and economic reforms, rule of law initiatives, and the development of Albania’s relations with its neighbors and the U.S. The “truce” between party leaders began to fray in summer 2003 and progress on economic and political reforms suffered noticeably due to political infighting. The municipal elections of 2003 and national elections of 2005 were an improvement over past years, adding to the consolidation of democracy despite the continued presence of administrative errors and inaccuracies in voter lists.

In 2005, the Democratic Party and its allies returned to power, pledging to fight crime and corruption, decrease the size and scope of government, and promote economic growth. Their leader, Sali Berisha, was sworn in as Prime Minister on September 11, 2005. Since the election, PM Berisha’s Government has made the fight against corruption and organized crime its first priority and has begun administrative and legal reforms toward that end. This brought repeated clashes with the opposition, which condemned the government’s approach as unconstitutional and an attempt to undermine independent institutions. Both sides remain combative over a range of political and substantive issues.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The unicameral People’s Assembly (Kuvendi Popullor) consists of 140 seats, 100 of which are determined by direct popular vote. The remaining seats are distributed by proportional representation. All members serve 4-year terms. The Speaker of Parliament (Jozefina Topalli) has two deputies, along with 13 parliamentary commissions, to legislate Albanian affairs.

The President is the head of state and elected by a three-fifths majority vote of all Assembly members. The President serves a term of 5 years with the right to one re-election. Although the position is largely ceremonial, the Constitution gives the President authority to appoint and dismiss some high-ranking civil servants in the executive and judicial branches, and this authority can have political implications. The current President’s term expires on July 23, 2007.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by a simple majority of all members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister serves as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), which consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the President.

Albania’s civil law system is similar to that of other European countries. The court structure consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, and multiple appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members appointed by the Assembly for one 9-year term. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and consists of 11 members appointed by the President with the consent of the Assembly for 9-year terms. The President chairs the High Council of Justice, which is responsible for appointing and dismissing other judges. The High Court of Justice is comprised of 15 members—the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the High Court, the Minister of Justice, three members elected by the Assembly, and nine judges of all levels elected by the National Judicial Conference. The remaining courts are divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. There are no jury trials under the Albanian system of justice. A college of three judges, who are sometimes referred to as a “jury” by the Albanian press, render court verdicts.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 5/18/2006

President: Alfred MOISIU

Prime Minister: Sali BERISHA

Dep. Prime Min.: Ilir RUSMAJLI

Min. of Agriculture: Jemin GJANA

Min. of Culture & Tourism: Bujar LESKAJ

Min. of Defense: Fatmir MEDIU

Min. of Economy & Energy: Genc RULI

Min. of Education & Science: Genc POLLO

Min. of Environment & Waters: Lufter XHUVELI

Min. of Finance: Ridvan BODE

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Besnik MUSTAFAJ

Min. of Health: Maksim CIKULI

Min. of Integration: Arenca TROSHANI

Min. of Interior: Sokol OLLDASHI

Min. of Justice: Aldo BUMCI

Min. of Labor & Equal Opportunity: Kosta BARKA

Min. of Transportation: Lulzim BASHA

Governor, Bank of Albania: Ardian FULLANI

Ambassador to the US: Aleksander SALLABANDA

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Adrian NERITANI

ECONOMY

Albania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. According to the Bank of Albania per capita income was U.S. $2,550 in 2005. The official unemployment rate is 14.2%, and 18.5% of the population lives below the poverty line according to the World Bank’s 2005 Poverty Assessment. Almost 60% of all workers are employed in the agricultural sector, although the construction and service industries have been expanding recently; the latter boosted significantly by ethnic Albanian tourists from throughout the Balkans. The GDP is comprised of agriculture (approx. 24%), industry (approx. 13%), service sector (approx. 39%), transport and communication (12%), construction (11%), and remittances from Albanian workers abroad—mostly in Greece and Italy (approx. 14%).

Albania was the last of the central and eastern European countries to embark upon democratic and free market reforms. Further, Albania started from a comparatively disadvantaged position, due to Hoxha’s catastrophic economic policies. Transition from a centrally planned economy to a market orientated system has been almost as difficult for Albania as the country’s Communist period.

The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program meant to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity.

Results of Albania’s efforts were initially encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew, and Albania’s currency, the lek, stabilized. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania’s opening and liberalizing was better than expected. Beginning in 1995, however, progress stalled. The collapse of the infamous pyramid schemes of the 1990s and the instability that followed were a tremendous setback, from which Albania’s economy continues to recover.

In recent years the Albanian economy has improved, although infrastructure development and major reforms in areas such as tax collection, property laws, and banking are proceeding slowly. Between 2001-2005, Albania experienced an average 5.8% annual growth in GDP. Fiscal and monetary discipline has kept inflation relatively low, averaging roughly 2.5% per year between 2003-2005. Albania’s public debt reached 55% of GDP in 2005, and the growing trade deficit was estimated at 21.8% of GDP in 2005. Economic reform has also been hampered by Albania’s very large informal economy, which the IMF estimates equals 50% of GDP.

Albania’s trade imbalance is severe. In 2005, Albanian trade was U.S. $1.8 billion in imports, and U.S. $350 million in exports. Albania has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Macedonia, Croatia, UNMIK (Kosovo), Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia, and Moldova. In April 2006, these bilateral agreements were replaced by a multiregional agreement based on the CEFTA model. However, combined trade with all these countries constitutes a small percentage of Albania’s trade, while trade with EU member states (notably Greece, Italy, and Turkey) accounts for nearly 68%. U.S. twoway trade with Albania is very low. In 2005, U.S. exports to Albania totaled $23.3 million. U.S. imports, during the same time period, totaled $6.3 million, making the U.S. the 17th overall trade partner of Albania. Major U.S. investment to date has been limited to large-scale infrastructure contracts with the government, but there is increasing interest on the part of U.S. companies for further investment opportunities. The Albanian Government signed a FTA with the EU as part of its Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations, which will significantly reduce revenue collection as tariffs on EU imports drop.

Albania is assiduously trying to attract foreign investment and promote domestic investment, but significant impediments exist. The Albanian government faces the daunting but essential task of rationalizing and uniformly applying business laws, improving transparency in business procedures, restructuring the banking and tax systems (including tax collection), reducing corruption in the bureaucracy, and resolving property ownership disputes.

Business growth is further hampered by Albania’s inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure. The capital, Tirana, generally receives electricity most of the day, but constant power outages plague every other major city, small town and rural village. Although recent steps have been taken to improve the transportation infrastructure, Albania has a limited railway system and just one domestic airport. Because of the mountainous terrain, goods traveling overland must spend hours traversing the relatively sparse network of switchback roads, many of them of poor quality, to reach destinations that are relatively close.

MILITARY AFFAIRS

Since the fall of Communism in Albania in 1991, the country has played a constructive role in resolving several of the inter-ethnic conflicts in south central Europe, promoting peaceful dispute resolution and discouraging ethnic Albanian extremists. Albania sheltered many thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 conflict, and now provides logistical assistance for Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. Albania is part of the international Stabilization Force (SFOR) serving in Bosnia, and Albanian peacekeepers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the international stabilization force in Iraq. Albania has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. policy in Iraq, and one of only four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Albania continues to work with the international community to restructure its armed forces and strengthen democratic structures pursuant to its Membership Action Plan. NATO members continue to encourage Albania to address military reforms that will bring it closer to membership. Since 1999, Albania has spent approximately $108 million annually on military expenditures, roughly 1.35% of its GDP. With bilateral and multi-lateral assistance, the Ministry of Defense is transitioning to a smaller, voluntary, professional military, and reducing the vast amounts of excess weaponry and ammunition that litter the country and pose a significant public hazard and proliferation risk. The government continues efforts to collect from civilians the weapons that were seized during the chaos of 1997. The Albanian government and the international community are working together on a project that will make Albania a mine-safe country by 2007. Most high- and medium-priority mine clearance has been completed in the mined areas of northeast Albania, a legacy of the 1999 Kosovo crisis.

Albania and the U.S. enjoy a military partnership and are signatories to treaties including the 2003 Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations and the 2004 Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, which defines the status of American military troops in Albania and further enables military cooperation. In May 2003, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and the U.S. created the Adriatic Charter, modeled on the Baltic Charter, as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country’s NATO candidacy.

In 2004 President Bush authorized the use of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program funds for projects in Albania, marking the first time such funds are used outside the former Soviet Union. With this funding the United States is assisting the Government of Albania with the destruction of a stockpile of chemical agents left over from the communist regime. The project is scheduled for completion in spring of 2007.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Albania is currently pursuing a path of greater Euro-Atlantic integration. Its primary long-term goals are to gain NATO and EU membership and to promote closer bilateral ties with its neighbors and with the U.S. Albania is a member of a number of international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the UN, the Stability Pact, the Adriatic Charter, and the WTO. In June 2006, Albania and the EU signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first step to EU membership, which will focus on implementing essential rule of law reforms and curbing corruption and organized crime.

Albania maintains generally good relations with its neighbors. It reestablished diplomatic relations with the Former Republic of Yugoslavia following the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Although the final status of Kosovo remains a key issue in Albanian-Serbian relations, both nations are committed to achieving a peaceful resolution. Albanian, Macedonian, and Italian law enforcement agencies are cooperating with increasing efficiency to crack down on the trafficking of arms, drugs, contraband, and human beings across their borders. Albania has also arrested and prosecuted several ethnic-Albanian extremists on charges of inciting interethnic hatred in Macedonia and Kosovo.

Tensions occasionally arise with Greece over the treatment of the Greek minority in Albania or the Albanian community in Greece, but overall relations are good, and Greece is a strong proponent of Albania’s eventual integration into the EU and NATO.

U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS

Albania enjoys friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with the U.S. Pro-U.S. sentiment is widespread among the population. Even while the U.S., which had closed its mission to Albania in 1946, was being vilified by Communist propaganda during the Hoxha regime, ordinary Albanians remembered that Woodrow Wilson had protected Albanian independence in 1919. Albanians credit the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 with saving thousands of Kosovar-Albanian lives.

In 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations; the Adriatic Charter; and an Agreement regarding the non-surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. strongly supports Albania’s EU and NATO membership goals. Working towards NATO membership, the U.S. and Albania signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, an important step in strengthening bilateral cooperation and enhancing security, peace, and stability in the region.

Since FY 1991, the U.S. has provided Albania with more than $550 million in assistance, not counting U.S. Department of Agriculture: (USDA) food aid. The aid has served to facilitate Albania’s transition from the most isolated and repressive communist state in Europe to a modern democracy with a market-oriented economy, and to support long-term development. In 2006, the U.S. gave over $24 million to Albania under the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act program. Albania was among the first countries selected to participate in the Threshold Program under the Millennium Challenge Account, winning a grant of $13.8 million. In September 2006, Albania began implementation of the program, which targets two critical stumbling blocks to development—corruption and rule of law.

Despite daunting problems at home, Albania has wholeheartedly supported the U.S. in the global war on terrorism by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down NGOs with possible links to terrorist financing, expelling extremists, and providing military and diplomatic support for the U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Albania has played a moderating role in the region and has fully supported UN mediation efforts in Kosovo.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

TIRANA (E) Address: 103 Rruga Elbasanit; APO/FPO: 9510 Tirana Place, Dulles Va 20189; Phone: 355-4-247285; Fax: (355) (4) 232-222; Workweek: Monday–Friday, 8:00am-5:00pm; Website: www.usemb-tirana.usia.co.at.

AMB:Marcie B. Ries
AMB OMS:Margaret Cottrell
DCM/CHG:Stephen Cristina
DCM OMS:Brenda James
POL/ECO:Paula Thiede
CON:Alma Gurski
MGT:C. Wakefield Martin
AID:Edwards Landau
CLO:Acting CLO Anila Germenji
DAO:Shaun Hollenbaugh
ECO:Robert Newsome
FMO:Al Gorriaran
GSO:Jeff Patmore
IMO:Randal Meyers
INS:Paul Berry
IRS:Kathy Beck (resident in Paris)
ISSO:Randal Meyers
PAO:Stephanie Wickes
RSO:Stephen DeWitt

Last Updated: 1/29/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : January 19, 2007

Country Description: Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania’s per capita income is among the lowest in Europe, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania’s economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities.

Entry and Exit Requirements: A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. A traveler does not have to obtain a visa prior to entering Albania. An entry card will be issued at the point of entry that is valid for a stay of up to 30 days for a fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. An extension of up to 60 days (90 days total) may be obtained by applying at the local police station. For stays exceeding 90 days, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania’s website at www.albaniaembassy.org. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania’s website at www.albaniaembassy.org for the most current visa information.

Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad.

Safety and Security: Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal gangs continue to operate in all regions and corruption is pervasive. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees to the administrative districts of Malesi E Madhe, Shkoder, and Tropoje (with the exception of cities along the national road) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Albania has a high crime rate, with instances of armed robberies and assaults. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana—where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, do sometimes occur, particularly in the early morning hours. Carjacking still occurs but with less frequency than in the past. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime is common in Shkoder and frequent in other towns in northern and northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, street crime is fairly common, and occurs particularly at night. Criminals do not deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but criminals seek targets of opportunity and select those who appear to have anything of value. Pick pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pickpockets.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Posts in countries that have victims of crime assistance programs should include that information.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Major roads in Albania are often in very poor repair. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections.

Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Albania’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania’s Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers’ checks can be changed at banks in larger towns.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration/Embassy Location: Americans living or traveling in Albania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 247285; fax (355)(4) 232222. The U.S. Embassy website is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/.

International Adoption : October 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Patterns of Immigration: Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Adoption Authority: The government office responsible for adoptions in Albania is the Albanian Adoption Committee, located within the Ministry of Justice.

Albanian Adoption Committee
Bulevardi “Zhan d’Ark,” No 2
TIRANA
Tel: +355 (4) 227 487
Fax: +355 (4) 226 465
Website:www.komitetibiresimeve.com.al (Albanian Language only)

Adoption Procedures: Individuals may not deal directly with the Albanian Adoption Committee or with individual orphanages or biological parents. Prospective adoptive parents may not go to an orphanage to select a child without authorization from the Albanian Adoption Committee. Only authorized adoption agencies, may contact the Albanian Adoption Committee to obtain authorization for the prospective adoptive parents to visit an orphanage. An Albanian child must have a certificate from the Albanian Adoption Committee stating that s/he is adoptable. This means that the child has been in an orphanage for at least six months with no contact from his/her biological parents, and that the orphanage has been unsuccessful in placing the child with an Albanian family. The Committee will propose a child whom the prospective adoptive parents may accept if they wish.

After a child is matched with a parent the Albanian Adoption Committee forwards the proposed decree to the Albanian court that will hear the case and set a final hearing date. At the end of the final hearing the parent is awarded custody of the child but may not physically removed the child from Albania until 14 days after the approval of the decree. The child may reside with the parent(s), however, during this waiting period. The Adoption Committee will also start the process of securing a passport and birth certificate immediately after the final hearing.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Under Albanian law, prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 18 years older than the adopted child. Both married and single prospective adoptive parents are permitted. Note: Under U.S. immigration law, at least one parent must be 25 years old or older (at least 24 years old at the time he or she files the advanced processing application and at least 25 years old at the time he or she files the orphan petition.)

Residential Requirements: There are no residency requirements for U.S. citizens wishing to adopt a child in Albania.

Time Frame: Prospective adoptive parents should expect a time frame up to six months after a child has been identified.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: All adoptions must be processed by an adoption agency accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee. Currently, two U.S. adoption agencies have been accredited. Both agencies are listed on the U.S. Embassy website: http://tirana.usembassy.gov/

Adoption Fees in Albania: Adoptive parents can expect to pay three different fees. The agency fee, which may differ depending up on the adoption service provider selected, but is between $10,000 to $11,000. In addition a fee of $1,000 must be paid to the Albanian Adoption Committee. A fee of $500.00 must also be paid to the orphanage where the child lived prior to adoption.

Documentary Requirements:

  • A written request clearly stating the reasons why he/she/they want(s) to adopt a child;
  • Adoption application. The form is called Preliminary Application for International Adoption. The agency facilitating the case will provide the form to the PAP;
  • Birth certificate, marriage certificate of the adopting parent(s). Divorce decree and former spouse’s death certificate, applicable;
  • Police records of the adopting parent(s) (PAPs) must have a clean police record. The Adoption Committee will not allow a parent with a criminal record to adopt a child.;
  • Personal, family, and social information on the adopting parents (usually included in the Home Study);
  • Medical information on the adopting parent(s). Medical information is addressed by a physician that is contracted by the adoption service provider in the U.S.
  • Home Study completed by a social worker);
  • Financial statement from adopting parents;
  • Warranty deed (the Albanian Adoption Committee requires evidence that PAPs own their own home);
  • Reference letter from adopting parent’s employer;
  • Family and home pictures.

All the documents are submitted to one of the adoption agencies accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee.

Embassies in the U.S.: Embassy of the Republic of Albania; 2100 S. Street, N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20008; Tel: (202) 223-4942 or (202) 393-2396; Fax: (202) 628-7324.

U.S, Embassy in Albania:
Rruga e Elbasanit, No. 103
Tirana, Albania
Tel: +355-4-247-285
Fax number: +355-4-374-957
E-mail address: [email protected]

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family.

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Albania may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Tirana. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

views updated

ALBANIA

Compiled from the September 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Republic of Albania


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

28,748 sq. km. (slightly larger than Maryland).

Cities:

Capital—Tirana (700,000). Others—Durres (400,000), Shkoder (81,000), Vlore (72,000).

Terrain:

Situated in the southwestern region of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is predominantly mountainous but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea.

Climate:

Mild temperate—cool, wet winters; dry, hot summers.

People

Population (June 2002 Institute of Statistics est.):

3,129,000.

Growth rate (2001 est.):

−0.88%.

Ethnic groups (2004 Foreign Ministry and Institute of Statistics est.):

Albanian 98.6%, Greeks 1.17% (Note: The 1989 census, the last official census to record ethnic data, listed the ethnic Greek population at 2%; estimates by the Greek community itself place the number as high as 10%.), others 0.23% (Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Egyptians, and Bulgarians).

Religion:

Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi) 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, and Roman Catholic 10%. (Greek Orthodox percentages would conform to the percentage of the ethnic Greek population.)

Official language:

Albanian.

Health (2001 est.):

Life expectancy—males 69.01 years; females 74.87 years. Infant mortality rate—39.99 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Government

Type:

Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution:

Adopted by popular referendum November 28, 1998.

Independence:

November 28, 1912 (from the Ottoman Empire).

Branches:

Executive—President (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative—Unicameral People's Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor—140 seats (100 members elected by direct popular vote; 40 by proportional vote; all serve 4-year terms). Judicial—Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, multiple district and appeals courts.

Suffrage:

Universal at age 18.

Main political parties:

Albanian Republican Party (PR); Albanian Socialist Party (PS); Democratic Party of Albania (PD); New Democrat Party (New DP); Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI); Liberal Democratic Union Party (PBL); Movement of Legality Party (PLL); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ).

Economy

Real GDP growth (2003):

7%.

Inflation rate (2003):

2.4%.

Unemployment rate (2003 est.):

15.8%.

Natural resources:

Oil, gas, coal, iron, copper and chrome ores.


GEOGRAPHY

Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, Macedonia to the east, and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo) to the north and northeast. Eastern Albania lies along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea coastlines. Albania's primary seaport is Durres, which handles 90% of its maritime cargo.


PEOPLE AND HISTORY

Over 90% of Albania's people are ethnic Albanian, and Albanian is the official language. Religions include Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi), Albanian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic.

Scholars believe the Albanian people are descended from a non-Slavic, non-Turkic group of tribes known as Illyrians, who arrived in the Balkans around 2000 BC. Modern Albanians still distinguish between Ghegs (northern tribes) and Tosks (southern tribes). After falling under Roman authority in 165 BC, Albania was controlled nearly continuously by a succession of foreign powers until the mid-20th century, with only brief periods of self-rule.

Following the split of the Roman Empire in 395, the Byzantine Empire established its control over present-day Albania. In the 11th century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and to its people.

The Ottoman Empire ruled Albania from 1385-1912. During this time, much of the population converted to the Islamic faith, and Albanians also emigrated to Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. Although its control was briefly disrupted during the 1443-78 revolt, led by Albania's national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg, the Ottomans eventually reasserted their dominance.

In the early 20th century, the weakened Ottoman Empire was no longer able to suppress Albanian nationalism. The League of Prizren (1878) promoted the idea of an Albanian nation-state and established the modern Albanian alphabet. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence. Albania's borders were established by the Great Powers in 1913. Albania's territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania among its neighbors.

During the Second World War, Albania was occupied first by Italy (1939-43) and then by Germany (1943-44). After the war, Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha, through a combination of ruthlessness and strategic alliances, managed to preserve Albania's territorial integrity during the next 40 years, but exacted a terrible price from the population, which was subjected to purges, shortages, repression of civil and political rights, a total ban on religious observance, and increased isolation. Albania adhered to a strict Stalinist philosophy, eventually withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and alienating its final remaining ally, China in 1978.

Following Hoxha's death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of Communism in 1991, Albanian society struggled to overcome its historical isolation and underdevelopment. During the initial transition period, the Albanian Government sought closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms, including a multi-party system.

In 1992, after the sweeping electoral victory of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha became the first democratically elected President of Albania. Berisha began a more deliberate program of economic and democratic reform but progress on these issues stalled in the mid-1990s, due to political gridlock. At the same time, unscrupulous investment companies defrauded investors all over Albania using pyramid schemes. In early 1997, several of these pyramid schemes collapsed, leaving thousands of people bankrupt, disillusioned, and angry. Armed revolts broke out across the country, leading to the near-total collapse of government authority. During this time, Albania's already inadequate and antiquated infrastructure suffered tremendous damage, as people looted public works for building materials. Weapons depots all over the country were raided. The anarchy of early 1997 alarmed the world and prompted intensive international mediation.

Order was restored by a UN Multinational Protection Force, and an interim national reconciliation government oversaw the general elections of June 1997, which returned the Socialists and their allies to power at the national level. President Berisha resigned, and the Socialists elected Rexhep Meidani as President of the Republic.

During the transitional period of 1997-2002, a series of short-lived Socialist-led governments succeeded one another as Albania's fragile democratic structures were strengthened. Additional political parties formed, media outlets expanded, non-governmental organizations and business associations developed. In 1998, Albanians ratified a new constitution via popular referendum, guaranteeing the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights and religious freedom. Fatos Nano, Chairman of the Socialist Party, emerged as Prime Minister in July 2002.

On July 24, 2002, Alfred Moisiu was sworn in as President of the Republic. A nonpartisan figure, nominally associated with the Democratic Party, he was elected as a consensus candidate of the ruling and opposition parties. The peaceful transfer of power from President Meidani to President Moisiu was the result of an agreement between the parties to engage each other within established parliamentary structures. This "truce" ushered in a new period of political stability in Albania, making possible significant progress in democratic and economic reforms, rule of law initiatives, and the development of Albania's relations with its neighbors and the U.S.

The "truce" between party leaders began fraying in summer 2003. Progress on economic and political reforms suffered noticeably since the latter half of 2003 because of political infighting. Nationwide municipal elections were held in October 2003. Although a significant improvement over past years, there were still widespread administrative errors, including inaccuracies in the voter lists.

The July 3, 2005 general elections were considered a step in the right direction in terms of Albania's consolidation of democracy. The Democratic Party and its allies returned to power in a decisive victory, pledging to fight crime and corruption, decrease the size and scope of government, and promote economic growth. Their leader, Sali Berisha, was sworn in as Prime Minister on September 11, 2005.


GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The unicameral People's Assembly (Kuvendi Popullor) consists of 140 seats, 100 of which are determined by direct popular vote. The remaining seats are distributed by proportional representation. All members serve 4-year terms. The Speaker of Parliament (currently Jozefina Topalli) has two deputies, along with 13 parliamentary commissions, to legislate Albanian affairs.

The President is the head of state and elected by a three-fifths majority vote of all Assembly members. The President serves a term of 5 years with right to one re-election. Although the position is largely ceremonial, the Constitution does give the President authority to appoint and dismiss some civil servants in the executive and judicial branches. The current President's term expires on July 23, 2007.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by a simple majority of all members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister serves as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), which consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the President.

Albania's civil law system is similar to that of other European countries. The court structure consists of a Constitutional Court, a Supreme Court, and multiple appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members appointed by the Assembly for one 9-year term. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and consists of 11 members appointed by the President with the consent of the Assembly for 9-year terms. The President chairs the High

Council of Justice, which is responsible for appointing and dismissing other judges. The High Court of Justice is comprised of 15 members—the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the High Court, the Minister of Justice, three members elected by the Assembly, and nine judges of all levels elected by the National Judicial Conference.

The remaining courts are divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. There are no jury trials under the Albanian system of justice. A college of three judges, who are sometimes referred to as a "jury" by the Albanian press, render court verdicts.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 9/19/2005

President: Alfred MOISIU
Prime Minister: Sali BERISHA
Dep. Prime Min.: Ilir RUSMAJLI
Min. of Agriculture: Jemin GJANA
Min. of Culture & Tourism: Bujar LESKAJ
Min. of Defense: Fatmir MEDIU
Min. of Economy & Energy: Genc RULI
Min. of Education & Science: Genc POLLO
Min. of Environment & Waters: Lufter XHUVELI
Min. of Finance: Ridvan BODE
Min. of Foreign Affairs: Besnik MUSTAFAJ
Min. of Health: Maksim CIKULI
Min. of Integration: Arenca TROSHANI
Min. of Interior: Sokol OLLDASHI
Min. of Justice: Aldo BUMCI
Min. of Labor & Equal Opportunity: Kosta BARKA
Min. of Transportation: Lulzim BASHA
Governor, Bank of Albania: Ardian FULLANI
Ambassador to the US: Agim NESHO
Permanent Representative to the UN, NewYork (Acting): Agim NESHO


ECONOMY

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe. According to the World Bank's November 2003 Poverty Assessment, average per capita income was U.S.$1,230 in 2002. The official unemployment rate is 16%, and 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. Two-thirds of all workers are employed in the agricultural sector, although the construction and service industries have been expanding recently, the latter boosted significantly by ethnic Albanian tourists from other parts of the Balkans. The GDP is comprised of agriculture (approx. 34%), industry (approx. 13%), service sector (approx. 32%), and remittances from Albanian workers abroad—mostly in Greece and Italy (approx. 21%).

Albania was the last of the central and eastern European countries to embark upon democratic and free market reforms. Further, Albania started from a comparatively disadvantaged position, due to Hoxha's catastrophic economic policies. Transition from a centrally planned economy to a market orientated system has almost been as difficult for Albania as the country's Communist period.

The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program meant to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity.

Results of Albania's efforts were initially encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew, and Albania's currency, the lek, stabilized. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania's opening and liberalizing was better than expected. Beginning in 1995, however, progress stalled. The collapse of the infamous pyramid schemes of the 1990s and the instability that followed were a tremendous setback, from which Albania's economy continues to recover.

Within recent years, the Albanian economy has improved, although infrastructure development and major reforms in areas such as tax collection, property laws, and banking are proceeding slowly. Between 1998-2002, Albania experienced an average 6.2% annual growth in GNP. Fiscal and monetary discipline have kept inflation relatively low, averaging roughly 4.2% per year between 2001-2003. Albania's public debt reached 67% of GDP in 2002, and the growing trade deficit was estimated at 22% of GDP in 2002. Economic reform has also been hampered by Albania's very large informal economy, which the IMF estimates equals 50% of GDP.

Albania's trade imbalance is severe. In 2002, Albanian trade was U.S. $1.8 billion in imports, and U.S. $350 million in exports. Albania has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Macedonia, Croatia, UNMIK (Kosovo), and Bulgaria. FTAs with Romania, Bosnia, and Moldova are at various stages of approval. However, combined trade with all these countries constitutes a small percentage of Albania's trade, while trade with EU member states (notably Greece, Italy, and Turkey) accounts for nearly 75%.) U.S. twoway trade with Albania is very low. In 2003, U.S. exports to Albania totaled $9.7 million making it the 183rd over-all destination for U.S. exports. U.S. imports, during the same time period, totaled $4.3 million, making Albania the 177th overall source of U.S. imports. Major U.S. investment to date has been limited to large-scale infrastructure contracts with the government. The Albanian Government is currently negotiating a FTA with the EU, as part of its Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations, which, when it comes into force, could significantly reduce revenue collected.

Albania is assiduously trying to attract foreign investment and promote domestic investment, but significant impediments exist. The Albanian government faces the daunting but essential task of rationalizing and uniformly applying business laws, improving transparency in business procedures, restructuring the banking and tax systems (including tax collection), reducing corruption in the bureaucracy, and resolving property ownership disputes.

Business growth is further retarded by Albania's inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure. The capital, Tirana, generally receives electricity most of the day, but constant power outages plague every other major city, small town and rural village. Although recent steps have been taken to improve the transportation infrastructure, Albania has a limited railway system and few domestic airports. Because of the mountainous terrain, goods traveling overland must spend hours traversing the relatively sparse network of switchback roads, many of them of poor quality, to reach destinations that are relatively close.


MILITARY AFFAIRS

Since the fall of Communism in Albania in 1991, the country has played a constructive role in resolving several of the inter-ethnic conflicts in south central Europe, promoting peaceful dispute resolution and discouraging ethnic-Albanian extremists. Albania sheltered many thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 conflict, and now provides logistical assistance for Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. Albania is part of the international Stabilization Force (SFOR) serving in Bosnia, and Albanian peacekeepers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the international stabilization force in Iraq. Albania has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. policy in Iraq, and one of only four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Albania continues to work with the international community to restructure its armed forces and strengthen democratic structures pursuant to its Membership Action Plan. At the June 2004 Istanbul Summit, NATO encouraged Albania to continue making progress towards membership. Since 1999, Albania has spent approximately $108 million annually on military expenditures, roughly 1.35% of its GDP. With bilateral and multi-lateral assistance, the Ministry of Defense is transitioning to a smaller, voluntary, professional military, and reducing the vast amounts of excess weaponry and ammunition that litter the country and pose a significant public hazard and proliferation risk. The government continues efforts to collect from civilians the weapons that were seized during the chaos of 1997. The Albanian government and the international community are also working towards making Albania a mine-safe country by 2006. The heavily mined areas of northeast Albania are a legacy of the 1999 Kosovo crisis.

In May 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations. In May 2003, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and the U.S. created the Adriatic Charter, modeled on the Baltic Charter, as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country's NATO candidacy. Also in March 2004, Albania and the U.S. signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, which defines the status of American military troops in Albania and further enables military cooperation.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

Albania is currently pursuing a path of greater Euro-Atlantic integration. Its primary long-term goals are to gain NATO and EU membership and to promote closer bilateral ties with its neighbors and with the U.S. Albania is a member of a number of international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the UN, the Stability Pact, the Adriatic Charter, and the WTO. In February 2003, the EU opened negotiations with Albania on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, with an initial focus on implementing essential rule of law reforms and curbing corruption and organized crime.

Albania maintains generally good relations with its neighbors, and has or is seeking FTAs with all the Balkan countries. It re-established diplomatic relations with the Former Republic of Yugoslavia following the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Although the final status of Kosovo remains a key issue in Albanian-Serbian relations, both nations are committed to achieving a peaceful resolution. Albanian, Macedonian, and Italian law enforcement agencies are cooperating with increasing efficiency to crack down on the trafficking of arms, drugs, contraband, and human beings across their borders. Albania has also arrested and prosecuted several ethnic-Albanian extremists on charges of inciting interethnic hatred in Macedonia and Kosovo. Tensions occasionally arise with Greece over the treatment of the Greek minority in Albania or the Albanian community in Greece, but overall relations are good, and Greece is a strong proponent of Albania's eventual integration into the EU and NATO. Albania recently upgraded the railway between the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, and Albania's northernmost major city, Shkoder, to improve trade. Italy, Greece, and Turkey are Albania's largest trade partners.


U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS

Albania enjoys friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with the U.S. Pro-U.S. sentiment is widespread among the population. Even while the U.S., which had closed its mission to Albania in 1946, was being vilified by Communist propaganda during the Hoxha regime, ordinary Albanians remembered that Woodrow Wilson had protected Albanian independence in 1919. Albanians credit the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 with saving thousands of Kosovar-Albanian lives.

In 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations; the Adriatic Charter; and an Agreement regarding the non-surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. strongly supports Albania's EU and NATO membership goals. Working towards NATO membership, the U.S. and Albania signed a Supplementary Agreement to the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, an important step in strengthening bilateral cooperation and enhancing security, peace, and stability in the region. Since FY 1991, the U.S. has provided more than $531 million in assistance—not counting U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food aid—to Albania to facilitate its transition from the most isolated and repressive communist state in Europe to a modern democracy with a market-oriented economy, and to support long-term development. In 2004, the U.S. gave over $28 million to Albania under the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act program. On September 30, 2004, Albania was selected to participate in the FY 2004 Threshold Program under the Millennium Challenge Account, which may help Albania implement programs targeted toward two critical stumbling blocks to development—corruption and rule of law.

Despite its daunting problems at home, Albania has wholeheartedly supported the U.S. in the global war on terrorism, by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down suspect Islamic NGOs, expelling Islamic extremists, and providing military and diplomatic support for the U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. On October 20, 2004 President Bush authorized for the first time the use of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program funds outside the former Soviet Union. Under Nunn-Lugar the United States plans to assist the Government of Albania with the destruction of a stockpile of chemical agents left over from the communist regime.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

AMB:Marcie B. Ries
AMB OMS:Margaret Cottrell
DCM/CHG:Steven E. Zate
DCM OMS:Frances Youmans
POL/ECO:Todd Robinson
CON:Alma Gurski
MGT:C. Wakefield Martin
AID:Harry Birnholz
CLO:Adrienne Scherger
DAO:Shaun Hollenbaugh
ECO:David Schroeder
FMO:Al Gorriaran
GSO:Jeff Patmore
IMO:Michael Meaux
INS:Craig Carter
ISSO:Michael Meaux
PAO:Roxanne Cabral
RSO:Stephen DeWitt
Last Updated: 11/21/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

September 21, 2005

Country Description:

Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is slowly transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Europe, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania's economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. A traveler does not have to obtain a visa prior to entering Albania. An entry card will be issued at the point of entry that is valid for a stay of up to 30 days for a fee of ten euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. An extension of up to 60 days (90 days total) may be obtained by applying at the local police station. For stays exceeding 90 days, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy website at http://www.usemb-tirana.rpo.at. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars.

For additional information, please also contact the Embassy of the Republic of Albania at 2100 "S" Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel.: (202) 223-4942 or (202) 393-2396; Fax: (202) 628-7324. Albania also maintains Honorary Consulates in Louisiana at 701 Poydras St. Suite 4200, New Orleans, LA 70139, tel.: (504) 596-4229; in Massachusetts at 140 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 02210, tel.: (617) 482-6262; in North Carolina at 130 Canter Lane, Pinehurst, NC 28374, tel.: (910) 690-8471; and Texas at 20682 Sweetglen Dr., Houston, TX 77365-6385, tel.: (281) 345-9599.

Dual Nationality:

The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian embassy or consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad.

Safety and Security:

Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal gangs continue to operate in all regions and corruption is pervasive. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees to the Administrative districts of Malesi E Madhe, Shkoder, and Tropoje (with the exception of cities along the national road) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or, for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime:

Albania has a high crime rate, with instances of armed robberies and assaults. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana – where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, do sometimes occur, particularly in the early morning hours. Carjackings still occur but with less frequency than in the past. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime is common in Shkoder and frequent in other towns in northern and northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, street crime is fairly common, and occurs particularly at night. Criminals do not deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but criminals seek targets of opportunity and select those who appear to have anything of value. Pick pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pickpockets.

Information for Victims of Crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Health Information:

Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Major roads in Albania are often in very poor repair. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Visit the website of the country's national tourist office at http://www.albaniantourism.com.

Aviation Safety Oversight:

As there is no direct commercial air service between the United States and Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Special Circumstances:

Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations.

Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in Albania are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Children's Issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.

Registration/Embassy Location:

Americans living or traveling in Albania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Rruga E Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 247285; fax (355)(4) 232222. The U.S. Embassy website is: http://www.usemb-tirana.rpo.at.

International Adoption

June 2001

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Availability of Children for Adoption:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1996: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Albanian orphans adopted abroad -7; IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Albanian orphans adopted in the U.S. - 0
FY-1997: IR-3 Visas - 12;
IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 10;
IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 12;
IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 22;
IR-4 Visas - 0

Albanian Adoption Authority:

The government office responsible for adoptions in Albania is the Albanian Adoption Committee.

Albanian Adoption Procedures:

Individuals may not deal directly with the Albanian Adoption Committee or with individual orphanages or biological parents. The Albanian child must have a certificate from the Albanian Adoption Committee stating that s/he is adoptable. This means that the child has been in an orphanage for at least six months with no contact from his/her biological parents, and that the orphanage has been unsuccessful in placing the child with an Albanian family. The prospective adoptive parents may not go to an orphanage to select a child without authorization from the Albanian Adoption Committee. (Authorized local adoption agencies, i.e. International Children's Alliance, or Bethany Christian Services, can contact the Albanian Adoption Committee to obtain authorization for the prospective adoptive parents to visit an orphanage.) In general the Committee will propose a child whom the prospective adoptive parents may accept if they wish.

In addition, the final court decision and the child's travel documentation cannot be issued until 13 days after the court date. The child must remain in Albania during these 13 days, although s/he may reside with the adoptive parents during that time. Please remember: when traveling to the U.S. with your newly adopted child, since the child is an Albanian citizen, s/he will need to obtain a transit visa from the embassy of the country of transit in order to be permitted to travel through. The Albanian government cannot issue this transit visa until the child is issued a travel document (such as a passport). In many cases the transit visa application may take several days to process. (Note: this procedure is separate from the U.S. immigrant visa process.) Therefore, prospective adoptive parents should be prepared to arrive in Albania a day or two before the court date and to remain afterwards for 15-17 days.

Age and Civil Status Requirements:

Under Albanian law, prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 18 years older than the adopted child. Both married and single prospective adoptive parents are permitted. Note: Under U.S. law, at least one parent must be 25 years old or older.)

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys:

All adoptions must be processed by an adoption agency accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee. Currently, two U.S. adoption agencies have been accredited:

Bethany Christian Services
901 Eastern Avenue, NE
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503-1295
Tel: (616) 459-6273
Fax: (616) 459-0343

International Children's Alliance
1101 17th Street, NW, Suite 1002
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: (202) 463-6874
Fax: (202) 463-6880
[email protected]

Doctors:

The U.S. Embassy maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Albania.

Albanian Documentary Requirements:

A written request clearly stating the reasons why he/she/they want(s) to adopt a child

  • Birth certificate, marriage certificate of the adopting parent(s), divorce decree and former spouse's death certificate as applicable.
  • Police records of the adopting parent(s).
  • Personal, family, social and medical information on the adopting parent(s).
  • Home Study (An evaluation study on the adopting family made by a social worker)

All the above mentioned documents are submitted to one of the adoption agencies accredited by the Albanian Adoption Committee.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

An Albanian child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Albanian Embassy in the United States:

Embassy of the Republic of Albania; 2100 S. Street, NW; Washington, DC 20008; Tel: (202) 223-4942

Additional Information:

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult BCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

Questions:

Specific questions regarding adoption in Albania may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Albania. For further information on international inter-country adoption, contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-7000, visit the State Department home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov, or send a nine-by-twelve-inch, self-addressed envelope to: Office of Children's Issues, 2401 E Street, N.W., Room L127, Washington, D.C. 20037; Phone: (202) 736-7000; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Albania

Culture Name

Albanian

Alternative Names

The international terms "Albania" and "Albanian" are based on the root *alb-, *arb-, which also is the source of the word Arberesh, which is used to describe the Italo-Albanians of southern Italy. That root also appears as *lab- in Labëria, referring to the southern Albanian region from Vlorë southward to the Greek border, and *rab- in early Slavic, as in raban, rabanski ("Albanian"). Also related to this basic root are the Turkish and Greek words for Albanians and the Albanian language. Albanians now use the designation shqiptar ("Albanian") shqip ("Albanian language"), and Shqipëria ("Albania").

Orientation

Identification. According to the Austrian linguist Gustav Meyer (18501900), shqip ("Albanian language"), shqiptar ("Albanian"), and Shqipëria ("Albania") are related to the Albanian verb shqipoj ("to speak clearly") and shqiptoj ("to pronounce") and can be linked to the Latin excipio and excipere ("to listen to, take up, hear"). The Albanologist Maximilian Lambertz (18821963) preferred a connection with the Albanian shqipe or shqiponjë ("eagle"), which is the symbol of Albania. The latter explanation may, however, simply be a folk etymology or constitute the reason why Albanians identify themselves with the eagle.

Albanians can be divided into two cultural groups: the northern Albanians, or Ghegs (sometimes spelled Gegs), and the southern Albanians, or Tosks. The geographic border between the two groups, based on dialect, runs roughly along the Shkumbin River, which flows through the central town of Elbasan to the Adriatic Sea. All Albanians north of the Shkumbin, along with the Albanians of Montenegro, Kosovo, and most of Macedonia (FYROM), speak Gheg dialects with their characteristic nasalization. All Albanians south of the Shkumbin, including the Albanians of Greece, southwestern Macedonia, and southern Italy, speak Tosk dialects with their characteristic rhotacism. Although dialect and cultural differences between the Ghegs and Tosks can be substantial, both sides identify strongly with the common national and ethnic culture.

Location and Geography. Albanians live in ethnically compact settlements in large areas of the southwest part of the Balkan peninsula, primarily in the Republic of Albania with its centrally located capital city of Tirana and in the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. The Republic of Albania, which houses only about 60 percent of all the Albanians in the Balkans, is a mountainous country along the southern Adriatic coast across from the heel of Italy. Among the minority groups living with the Albanian majority are ethnic Greeks, Slavs, Aromunians (Vlachs), and Rom (Gypsies). Albania is bordered to the north by the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, which has an approximate 10 percent Albanian minority living in regions along the Albanian-Montenegrin border. The Montenegrin towns of Ulcinj, Tuz, Plava, and Gucinj were traditionally and are still inhabited by Albanians. To the northeast of the Republic of Albania is Kosovo, still a de jure part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Kosovo, which the Kosovo Albanians have declared to be a free and sovereign republic and which the Serbs insist must remain an integral part of Serbia, has about 90 percent Albanian speakers and 10 percent Serb speakers, with minorities of Turks, Rom, Montenegrins, Croats, and Cherkess. The Albanian enclaves of Presheva (Presevo) and Bujanovc (Bujanovac) are in southern Serbia, not far from Kosovo. To the east of the Republic of Albania is the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, one-third of which, along the Albanian border, has an Albanian majority. The central Macedonian towns of Skopje, Kumanovo, and Bitola have sizable (15 to 50 percent) communities of Albanian speakers, whereas the western Macedonian centers of Tetova (Tetovo), Gostivar, and Dibra (Debar), along with the Struga area, all have an Albanian majority. The Albanians in Macedonia represent about 30 percent of the population, although there are no reliable statistics. The Albanian minority in Greece can be divided into two groups: those living in villages and settlements near the Albanian border and the largely assimilated Arvanites who populated much of central and southern Greece in the late Middle Ages. The Albanian language, known there in Albanian as arbërisht and in Greek as arvanitika , is still spoken to some extent in about three hundred twenty villages primarily in Boeotia (especially around Levadhia), southern Euboea, Attica, Corinth, and northern Andros. Southern Italy also has a substantial Albanian minority, known as the Arberesh, who are the descendants of refugees who fled from Albania after the death of Scanderbeg in 1468. Most of the Arberesh live in the mountain villages of Cosenza in Calabria and in the vicinity of Palermo in Sicily. In addition to these traditional settlements, there are large communities of Albanian emigrants in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany.

Demography. There are an estimated six million Albanians in Europe. The 1991 census for the Republic of Albania gives a total population of 3,255,891. In addition there are about two million Albanians in Kosovo, about five-hundred thousand in the Republic of Macedonia, and about one-hundred thousand in Montenegro. It is estimated that about one-hundred thousand people from the traditional Italo-Albanian communities in southern Italy can still speak Albanian. Figures for Albanian settlements in Greece are unavailable because the Greek government does not acknowledge the existence of an Albanian minority there. All these figures are estimates and fluctuate because of the extremely high birthrates of Albanians and the high level of emigration from Albania and Kosovo. An estimated three-hundred thousand emigrants from Albania now live in Greece, and about two-hundred thousand reside in Italy. In addition, there are about two-hundred thousand Albanians, mostly from Kosovo, living in central Europe (mainly Switzerland and Germany). In the last ten years, Albanians have emigrated to most other countries in Europe, as well as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Albanian language, shqip , is Indo-European, although it is not a member of any of the major branches of the Indo-European family. Despite its Indo-European affiliation and presence in the Balkans since ancient times, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact ancestry of the Albanian language because of the radical transformations that have taken place within it through the centuries. Among these transformations has been a substantial reduction in word length and extreme morphological alterations. Whether the Albanian language stems from Illyrian or Thracian, both, or neither is a matter of contention. The theory of the Illyrian origin of the Albanian people is the one most widely accepted in Albania and has been raised to the level of a national and state ideology. There is little evidence to prove or disprove this theory, since little is known about the Illyrian language. Since ancient times, very substantial strata of Latin and of Slavic and Turkish have been added to Albanian, making the older strata more difficult to analyze.

Albanian is a synthetic language that is similar in structure to most other Indo-European languages. Nouns are marked for gender, number, and case as well as for definite and indefinite forms. The vast majority of nouns are masculine or feminine, though there are a few neuter nouns. The nominal system distinguishes five cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and ablative; the genitive and dative endings are always the same. Attributive genitives are linked to the nouns they qualify by a system of connective particles. Albanian verbs have three persons, two numbers, ten tenses, two voices, and six moods. Unusual among the moods is the admirative, which is used to express astonishment. Among other particular features of Albanian and other Balkan languages are a postpositive definite article and the absence of a verbal infinitive. Although Albanian is not directly related to Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, or Bulgarian, it has much in common with all those Balkan languages after centuries of close contact.

The regional variants of spoken Albanian differ such that verbal communication between uneducated speakers of different dialects can be difficult. To overcome these problems, a standard literary language, gjuha letrare , was agreed on at an orthography congress in Tirana in late November 1972 and has been in use for the last three decades in virtually all publications and in education throughout Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. This Standard Albanian is based about 80 percent on Tosk dialect forms, reflecting the structure of political power at that time in communist Albania. The subject remains controversial, with northern intellectuals having reopened in recent years the possibility of reviving a literary standard for the Gheg dialect. The gjuha letrare seems to be a widely accepted standard and probably will survive the current turmoil.

Most Albanian speakers in Albania are monolingual, although in view of the strong cultural influence of Italian television, Italian is widely understood along the Adriatic coast. Greek not only is spoken by members of the Greek minority in southern Albania but also is understood by many Albanians near the Greek border. Most Kosovo Albanians speak and understand Serbo-Croatian. Ironically, because the Belgrade authorities willfully destroyed the Albanian-language educational system in Kosovo in the mid-1980s, an increasing number of young people there, educated in "underground" schools, no longer speak and understand Serbo-Croatian.

Symbolism. The national and ethnic symbol of the Albanians is the eagle, which was used in that capacity in the earliest records. The eagle appears in a stone carving dating from 1190, the time of the so-called first Albanian principality, known as Arbanon, and was used as a heraldic symbol by a number of ruling families in Albania in the late Middle Ages, including the Castriotta (Kastrioti), the Muzakaj (Myzeqe), and the Dukagjini. A black double-headed eagle also was placed by the national hero Scanderbeg on his flag and seal. This form of the eagle, deriving from the banner of the Byzantine Empire, has been preserved as an ethnic symbol by the Arberesh of southern Italy. In the late nineteenth century, the double-headed eagle was taken up by the nationalist movement as a symbol of resistance to the Ottoman Empire and was used on the banners of freedom fighters seeking autonomy and independence. The current flag, bearing this black double-headed eagle on a red background, was officially raised on 28 November, 1912 to mark the declaration of Albanian independence in Vlorë and has been used since that time by the Republic of Albania and by Albanians everywhere as the national symbol.

In Albanian oral literature and folklore, the eagle appears as a symbol of freedom and heroism, and Albanians often refer to themselves as the "Sons of the Eagle." The popularity of the eagle among Albanians derives from the similarity between the words shqipe (eagle) and the terms for the Albanian language, an Albanian person, and Albania.

Another beloved symbol is the Albanian prince and national hero Scanderbeg (14051468). His real name was George Castriotta (Gjergj Kastrioti). Sent by his father as a hostage to the Turkish Sultan Murad II (ruled 14211451), he was converted to Islam and, after being educated in Edirne, was given the name Iskander (Alexander) and the rank of bey. In 1443, after the Turkish defeat at Nish by John Corvinus Hunyadi (13851456), Scanderbeg abandoned the Ottoman army, returned to Albania, and embraced Christianity. He took over the central Albanian fortress of Kruja and was proclaimed commander in chief of an independent Albanian army. In the following years, Scanderbeg successfully repulsed thirteen Ottoman invasions and was widely admired in the Christian world for his resistance to the Turks, being accorded the title Athleta Christi by Pope Calixtus III (ruled 14551458). Scanderbeg died on 17 January 1468 at Lezha (Alessio), and Albanian resistance collapsed a decade afterward. In 1478, his fortress at Kruja was taken by the Turks, and Albania experienced four centuries of Ottoman rule. For Albanians, Scanderbeg is the symbol of resistance to foreign domination and a source of inspiration in both oral and written literature. It is common in the homes of Albanian families living abroad to find not only an Albanian flag but also a bust or portrait of Scanderbeg.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Albanians are a native Balkan people, although their exact origin is unclear. The national ideology insists on an unequivocal ethnic relationship with the ancient Illyrians. As little is known about the Illyrians and there are no historical records referring to the existence of the Albanian people during the first millennium c . e ., it is difficult to affirm or deny the relationship. Albanians entered postclassical recorded history in the second half of the eleventh century, and only in this age can one speak with any degree of certainty about the Albanian people as they are known today. In his History written in 10791080, the Byzantine historian Michael Attaleiates was the first to refer to the Albanoi as having taken part in a revolt against Constantinople in 1043 and to the Arbanitai as subjects of the duke of Dyrrachium. Similarly, the historian John Scylitzes refers (ca. 1081) to the Arbanites as forming part of the troops assembled in Durrës by Nicephorus Basilacius. It can be assumed that the Albanians began expanding from their mountain homeland in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, initially taking possession of the northern and central coastline and by the thirteenth century spreading southward toward what are now southern Albania and western Macedonia. In the middle of the fourteenth century, they migrated farther south into Greece, initially into Epirus, Thessaly (1320), Acarnania, and Aetolia. By the middle of the fifteenth century, which marks the end of this process of colonization, the Albanians had settled in over half of Greece in such great numbers that in many regions they constituted the majority of the population. Despite these extensive settlements, the Albanians, largely a herding and nomadic people, do not seem to have created any substantial urban centers. There were no noticeable Albanian communities in the cities of the Albanian coast during the Middle Ages. Durrës was inhabited by the Venetians, Greeks, Jews, and Slavs; Shkodra, by the Venetians and Slavs; and Vlorë, by the Byzantine Greeks. It is estimated that a considerable proportion of Albanians were assimilated by the time of the Turkish invasion; in other words, the Albanians had been largely marginalized in their own country. Only during the Ottoman period did they began to settle in towns and acquire some of the characteristics of a nation rather than those of nomadic tribes.

National Identity. Until the nineteenth century, collective identity in Albania, as elsewhere in the Balkans, was defined primarily by religion, reinforced at the state level by the Ottoman precept of the millet : To be of the Islamic faith was to be Turkish, and to be of the Orthodox faith was to be Greek. There was little room in either culture for the rising aspirations of Albanian nationalism during the national awakening ( Rilindja ) in the second half of the nineteenth century. During this period, nationalist leaders began to understand the divisive effects of religion among their people. The nationalist statesman Pashko Vasa (18251892) proclaimed in a widely read poem: "Albanians, you are killing your brothers, / Into a hundred factions you are divided, / Some say 'I believe in God,' others 'I in Allah,' / Some say 'I am Turk,' others 'I am Latin,' / Some 'I am Greek,' others 'I am Slav,' / But you are brothers, all of you, my hapless people! .... Awaken, Albania, wake from your slumber, / Let us all, as brothers, swear a common oath / Not to look to church or mosque, / The faith of the Albanian is Albanianism!" The last line was taken up by Albanians everywhere as the catchword of the nationalist movement that led to independence in 1912.

Ethnic Relations. The Balkan peninsula is inhabited by a multitude of ethnic groups, and relations among them have never been good. Exacerbated nationalism and age-old rivalry for territory and supremacy have always created ethnic tension. This is especially true in regions with mixed settlement patterns, where ethnic groups are not separated by clear-cut political borders. While ethnic relations between Albanians and Greeks along their common border have improved substantially over the last decade, that cannot be said of relations between Albanians and their Slavic neighbors in the former Yugoslavia. In Kosovo, the Albanian majority was reduced to the status of an oppressed colonial people after the Serb conquest of the region at the beginning of the twentieth century. The open conflict that broke out in 1997 was, however, not initially one between Kosovo Albanians and Kosovo Serbs but between Kosovo Albanians and a hostile Serb regime in Belgrade. Relations between Albanians and Macedonians in the western part of the Republic of Macedonia have been tense since the declaration of Macedonian independence and the downgrading of the status of Albanians there to that of a "national minority."

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The traditional architecture of Albania almost disappeared during the Stalinist dictatorship of 1944 1990. The old towns and bazaars of Tirana and many other urban centers were demolished and replaced by socialist prestige objects or uniform housing blocks. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, virtually all the churches and mosques were razed or transformed beyond recognition. The Catholic cathedral of Shkodra, for instance, was transformed into a sports hall with a volleyball court, and that of Tirana into a movie theater. With the exception of Berat and Gjirokastër, which were declared museum cities, little of the traditional flavor of Albanian towns can now be found. Most of the older public buildings that survived the communist period in Tirana, such as the main government ministries and the university, date from the Italian period (1930s1940s). The main thoroughfare of Tirana from Scanderbeg Square to the university was constructed by the Italians as a symbol of Italian fascism. The lack of zoning regulations led in the 1990s to chaos in construction and the use of space, destroying the little that survived the communist regime. Old villas have been demolished, and most parks and public gardens disappeared under a myriad of kiosks and cafés.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. After half a century of Stalinist dictatorship, food culture is virtually nonexistent. For decades, there was little on the market beyond basic staples, and today, dire poverty has left most Albanians with little more to eat than bread, rice, yogurt, and beans. In as much as it has survived at all, Albanian cuisine is meat-oriented. Traditional dishes, which usually are reserved for guests and special occasions such as weddings, are easier to find among Albanians living abroad.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Despite their poverty, Albanians are exceptionally generous and hospitable. A person invited to dinner will be given enough to "feed an army," even though the host may go hungry the next day. It is not unusual for an Albanian family to spend a month's salary to feed a visitor. Meals for guests or for ceremonial occasions such as weddings usually involve copious amounts of meat, washed down with Albanian raki , an alcoholic beverage. Animals were formerly slaughtered and roasted on a spit for religious holidays such as the Muslim celebration of Great Bayram and the Christian feast days of Saint Basil on 1 January, Saint Athanasius on 18 January, Saint George on 23 April and 6 May, Saint Michael on 29 September, Saint Nicholas on 6 December, and Christmas on 25 December. These customs have largely died out, although some regional dishes have survived. The Orthodox of southeastern Albania still eat qumështor , a custard dish made of flour, eggs, and milk, before the beginning of Lent. During the annual spring festival ( Dita e Verës ), in central Albania on 14 March, the women of Elbasan and the surrounding regions bake a sweet cake known as ballakum Elbasani . Members of the Islamic Bektashi sect mark the end of the ten-day fasting period of matem with a special ashura (pudding) made of cracked wheat, sugar, dried fruit, crushed nuts, and cinnamon.

Basic Economy. Until 1990, Albania had a centralized socialist economy dominated by agricultural production on state farms. Food was in short supply, and despite communist propaganda, the country never attained self-sufficiency. While Albania still has a large rural peasantry, traditionally over 60 percent of the total population, most families in the countryside can do little more than feed themselves. Some farming surplus has reached urban markets in recent years, but food imports remain essential.

Land Tenure and Property. Albania is a mountainous country with an extremely high birthrate, and there is not enough farmland. Agriculture was reprivatized in the early 1990s after the fall of the communist regime, and many properties were returned to their former owners. Most families, however, received extremely small plots barely large enough to survive on. Property disputes are common and have been a major cause of blood feuding. Although most political parties have strategies for the further privatization of industry and nonagricultural land, many problems remain.

Commercial Activities, Major Industries, and Trade. Aside from agricultural output, Albania is a major producer of chrome. There are also significant deposits of copper and nickel and some oil. The country is still reeling from the radical transformation from a socialist to a free market economy, and commercial activity has not attained its potential. Virtually all the major industries went bankrupt and collapsed in the early 1990s when a free market economy was introduced. Some mines, chrome in particular, are still in production, but most have stagnated under pressure from foreign competition. Among the few sectors of the economy that are doing well is the construction industry. Domestic building materials are now widely available on the local market and increasingly on foreign markets. The European Union is the major trading partner, with Italy, Greece, and Germany leading in imports and exports. The national trade deficit has been compensated to some extent by foreign exchange remittances from Albanian emigrants working abroad.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Under the communist regime, which called for absolute equality and the rule of a single working class, there were in fact three social castes. The ruling caste was composed of the extended families of politburo members and related communist families and clans. The majority of the population was in the working class. The lowest caste consisted of once prosperous farming families, the precommunist middle class, and opponents of the regime. Many of those families were sent to the countryside into internment or internal exile and were denied access to many professions and to education for their children. This caste system broke down with the fall of the communist regime and has been replaced by a system where status is determined exclusively by wealth.

Political Life

Government. The Republic of Albania is a parliamentary republic with a democratic constitution that was promulgated in 1998. Political turmoil has continued since the ousting of the authoritarian Berisha regime in 1997, and there is little sign of consensus or cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties. Political tension remains high.

Leadership and Political Officials. The current president, Rexhep Meidani, is a former university professor from the ruling Socialist Party. The government coalition, now under the leadership of Prime Minister Ilir Meta, is dominated by the Socialist Party. Former president Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party continues to lead the opposition.

Social Problems and Control. Public order broke down in 1997 as a result of a lack of political and economic planning. During the spring of 1997, arms depots were plundered throughout the country; as a result, crime became a major problem. Since the 1997 breakdown, there has been a substantial degree of taking the law into one's own hands. However, this is not a new phenomenon but part of Albanian tradition. For centuries, it was not the central government but Albanian customary or traditional law that governed social behavior and almost every facet of life in northern Albania. This customary law is widely respected today. In its definitive form, the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini had chapters covering church; the family; marriage; house, livestock, and property; work; transfer of property; the spoken word; honor; damages; crimes; judicial law; and exemptions and exceptions. It was strictly observed by the tribes of the northern highlands and had priority over all other laws, ecclesiastical or secular. With the help of this ancient code, the highland tribes were able to preserve their identity, autonomy, and way of life under the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. Some aspects of the Kanun may appear harsh to a modern observer. Vengeance, for instance, was accepted as the prime instrument for exacting and maintaining justice. This led to blood feuding that decimated the northern tribes in the early years of the twentieth century and that is again a major problem of social life in northern Albania.

Gender Roles and Statuses

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Albania is a patriarchal society based on male predominance. Women are accorded subordinate roles. The communist Party of Labor did much to emancipate women during a revolutionary campaign in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but many of the gains of that social revolution have been reversed since the introduction of democracy and a free market economy. Old traditions have revived, and despite legal equality and acceptance in the workforce, women have much less representation in public life than they did under the former regime.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages in Albania are socially and legally restricted to heterosexual couples. They often are arranged at an early age in the countryside, traditionally by the parents of the groom with the help of a matchmaker rather than by the couple. Remaining unmarried is looked on as a great misfortune. In some mountain regions, the bride was stolen from her family, that is, spirited away by an armed bridegroom or by his male relatives and companions. This usually symbolic though occasionally real theft of a bride was also a common custom among the Italo-Albanians of Calabria. In other regions, it was customary to purchase a wife. In zones such as Mirditë and the northern mountains, the father, brother, or another male relative of the bride still presents the groom with a bullet wrapped in straw. The new husband is thus free to kill his wife with the approval of her family if she proves to be disobedient.

Albanian weddings are impressive festivities. They are virtually the only popular celebrations observed today and thus are taken very seriously. Whole villages and, in towns, hundreds of people may be invited to take part in a wedding banquet. The celebrations can last several days. Traditionally, weddings take place during the full moon to ensure offspring. Monogamy was always the rule in Albania, but polygamous marriages existed up to the beginning of the twentieth century in some areas, particularly if the first wife was not able to bear a son. Live-in concubines were not uncommon in the mountains up to World War II. Albanian women were as a rule faithful to their husbands. Since a wife was considered the property of her husband, adultery amounted to theft. Thus, cases of adultery were punished severely under traditional law. Premarital and extramarital sex was more prevalent in the northern highlands, the part of the country with the most rigid moral code. Divorce is now a common phenomenon.

Socialization

Child Rearing and Education. Albanians have always lived in a world of extreme hardship and deprivation. Underdevelopment and a high incidence of infant mortality have been compounded by warring and blood feuding that at times decimated the male population. Reproduction, as the key to survival, therefore took on a more elementary significance among Albanians than it did among neighboring peoples. Even today, Albanian birthrates are significantly higher than those anywhere else in Europe. As in other third world cultures, it is believed that the more children, especially male children, one raises, the more security one will have in one's old age. A childless marriage is considered a great misfortune, and a woman living without a husband and children is inconceivable.

Given the extremely patriarchal nature of Albanian society, greater importance is attributed to the birth of sons than to that of daughters. Even today, pregnant women are greeted with the expression të lindtënjëdjalë ("May a son be born"). In Mirditë and the mountains of the north, the birth of a son was marked by rejoicing throughout the tribe and the firing of rifles. It was often the custom in the north of Albania for a woman to be wed officially only after she had given birth to her first son. In Berat, the main beam of a house was painted black at the birth of a girl as a token of the family's disappointment.

Male children generally were better treated, for instance, by being better protected against the "evil eye." As the Kosova scholar Mark Krasniqi (born 1920) points out, boys are given names such as Ujk ("Wolf"), Luan ("Lion"), and Hekuran ("The Iron One"), whereas girls are named Mjafte ,or Mjaftime ("Enough"), Shkurte ("The Short One"), Mbarime ("The Last One"), and Sose ("The Final One").

Religion

Religious Beliefs. Albania is on the border dividing three religions: Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, and Islam. According to the last reliable statistics on religion (1942), among a population of 1,128,143, there were 779,417 (69 percent) Muslims, including the Bektashi; 232,320 (21 percent) Orthodox; and 116,259 (10 percent) Catholics. One can estimate today that approximately 70 percent of Albanians in the republic are of Muslim, including Bektashi, background; about 20 percent, mostly in the south, are Orthodox; and about 10 percent, mostly in the north, are Catholic. In 1967, all religious communities were dissolved when a communist government edict banned the public practice of religion. The law was rescinded only in December 1990 during the collapse of the regime. Despite the return of religious freedom, there seems to be more interest in the revival of Christianity and Islam among foreign missionaries and groups than there is among Albanians. Albanians have never had a national religion with which to identify as a people. For the last century and a half, national (ethnic) identity has predominated over religious identity, and this is unlikely to change in the coming years in a small and struggling nation surrounded by hostile neighbors. Organized religion still plays only a marginal role in public life. Religious fervor is extremely rare, and religious extremism is virtually unknown.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The foundations of a national literature were laid in the second half of the nineteenth century with the rise of a nationalist movement striving for Albania's independence from a decaying Ottoman Empire. The literature of this so-called Rilindja period of national awakening was characterized by romantic nationalism and provides a key to an understanding of the Albanian mentality today.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Catholic education facilities set up by the Franciscans and Jesuits in Shkodra under the auspices of the Austro-Hungarian Kultusprotektorat paved the way for the creation of an intellectual élite that produced the rudiments of a more sophisticated literature which expressed itself primarily in poetry. The culmination of Albanian literature before World War II appears in the works of the Franciscan priest Gjergj Fishta (18711940), once lauded as the national poet. From 1945 to 1990, for primarily political reasons, Fishta was ostracized from the Albanian literary world and the mention of his name was forbidden.

Virtually all prewar Albanian literature was swept away by the political revolution that took place during and after World War II. Most prewar writers and intellectuals who had not left the country by 1944 regretted their decision to stay. The persecution of intellectuals and the break with virtually all cultural traditions created a literary and cultural vacuum that lasted until the 1960s and whose results can still be felt.

With Albania's integration into the Soviet bloc during the 1950s, Soviet literary models were introduced and slavishly imitated. Writers were encouraged to concentrate their creative energies on specific themes, such as the partisan struggle of the "national liberation war" and the building of socialism. Despite the constraints of socialist realism and Stalinist dictatorship, Albanian literature made much progress in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the best examples of creativity and originality in Albanian letters then and now is Ismail Kadare (b. 1936), the only Albanian writer with a broad international reputation. Kadare's talents both as a poet and as a prose writer have lost none of their innovative force over the last three decades. His influence is still felt among the young postcommunist writers of the 1990s, the first generation to be able to express itself freely.

Bibliography

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Durham, Edith. High Albania , 1909 (reprint 1970, 1985).

Elsie, Robert. Anthology of Modern Albanian Poetry: An Elusive Eagle Soars , 1993.

. Albanian Folktales and Legends , 1994.

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. Studies in Modern Albanian Literature and Culture , 1996.

. Kosovo: In the Heart of the Powder Keg , 1997.

Gjeçovi, Shtjefën. The Code of Lekë Dukagjini , translated by Leonard Fox, 1989.

Jacques, Edwin E. The Albanians: An Ethnic History from Prehistoric Times to the Present , 1995.

Kadare, Ismail. The General of the Dead Army , 1986.

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Newmark, Leonard. Albanian-English Dictionary , 1998.

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and James Pettifer. Albania: From Anarchy to a Balkan Identity , 1996.

Zymberi, Isa. Colloquial Albanian , 1991.

Robert Elsie

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ALBANIA

Republic of Albania

Major Cities:
Tiranë, Durrës, Shkodër

Other Cities:
Berat, Elbasan, Gjirokastër, Korçë, Vlorë

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated January 1995. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

Albania is a country in the midst of tremendous change. From 1944 until 1990, Albania was a hard-line communist state whose leaders effectively sealed the country off from the rest of the world. The fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe in 1989 led to dramatic political changes within Albania. Massive anti-government demonstrations in 1990 forced Albania's communist leadership to make dramatic concessions, including renouncing its monopoly on power and agreeing to hold democratic elections. Democratic elections swept the communists from power in March 1992. Albania is now a democratic nation and is slowly opening itself to the outside world. The country faces many daunting challenges, among them a collapsing economy, grinding poverty, and social unrest.

MAJOR CITIES

Tiranë

Tiranë (Tirana) is the capital of Albania and its largest city, with a population of over 245,000. Founded by a Turkish pasha in 1614, Tiranë became a crafts center with a lively bazaar. In 1920, the city was made the capital of Albania; Italianate government buildings went up in the 1930s.

The general atmosphere of Tiranë is reminiscent of 19th-century European living.

Most of Tiranë's housing consists of loose-brick apartment buildings. There are many narrow streets with old adobe one-story homes between them. Most of the city's housing is in poor condition.

Food

The local food supply has been inadequate by Western standards in availability and variety; however, there have been marked improvements recently. Availability of vegetables and fruits is seasonal, but prices for most items are relatively low. Local salt, sugar, rice, flour, cooking oil, and other basic items are now usually available. Milk, eggs, and good quality meat are often scarce. Soft drinks, bottled water, fruit juice, several varieties of imported beer, wine, and spirits are available.

There are several "supermarkets" in Tiranë but their stocks are usually quite limited. Locally produced wines and spirits are available.

Clothing

You will need the same kinds of clothing worn in the Mid-Atlantic. Winters are shorter and milder, and summers are longer and hot. Local ready-to-wear clothing is not of Western standards.

Albanian women usually wear skirts, trousers, or culottes, and sometimes shorts.

Supplies and Services

Supplies: Western-quality toiletries, cosmetics, and soaps are expensive, and limited in supply. American cigarettes are available but cigars are not. Local pipe tobacco is not to American taste.

Basic Services: Dry-cleaning is available but generally not up to Western standards. Local shoe repair also does not meet Western standards. Dressmakers are available; however, quality material is not. Beauty parlors and barber shops are substandard in cleanliness.

Religious Activities

The newly established Interdenominational Protestant Assembly holds English-language services. The call-to-worship at the mosques is in Arabic, but the services are in Albanian. Masses at the Catholic and Albanian Orthodox churches are held in the Albanian language. In a few cases, Orthodox services are held in the Greek language.

Education

The Tirana International School, a private nonprofit institution that opened in September 1991, offers high-quality education in English for elementary students from 5-12 years of age. The enrollment for the school has been increasing since 1991.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Tourist areas in Albania include two " museum cities "Berat and Gjirokastërand archaeological sites at Apollonia, Butrint, Durrës, Bylis, and Koman. There are also several medieval castle ruins of note.

Durrës

Durrës, with a population of approximately 85,000, is located west of Tiranë and is Albania's second largest city. The city's origins date back to roughly 627 B.C., making Durrës one of Europe's oldest cities. Today, it is Albania's principal seaport. Most of Albania's imports enter through Durrës. Several industries are located in the city. These industries manufacture cigarettes, leather products, rubber, and plastics. Durrës location on the Adriatic Sea has led to the development of a large shipbuilding industry. An extensive railway system links Durrës to Tiranë and the cities of Lezhë, Shkodër, Elbasan, and Vlorë.

In 1991, Durrës was a point of departure for 18,000 Albanians who fled the country's dismal economic and social conditions. Many of these persons sailed across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

Recreation

Although Durrës is an ancient city, it has suffered many severe earthquakes and was invaded and conquered repeatedly over the centuries. Consequently, much of its ancient architecture has been destroyed. However, visitors can still view remnants of the towns ancient walls. These walls were built during various periods by the Romans, Turks, and Venetians. An amphitheater built by the Romans in the second century has also been partially excavated and is open to tourists. North of Durrës, it is possible to visit the remains of the Porta Romana, a sixth century Roman fortification. Only a small section of its brick walls and a gateway with two towers remain standing.

One of Durrës primary attractions is the Archaeological Museum. This museum offers visitors an informative look at the history of the city. Each room in the museum is dedicated to a particular historical period. Prehistoric and Greek vases and coins can be viewed, along with artifacts from the Roman, Koman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Turkish periods. Outside of the museum are displays containing fragments of Greek and Roman sculpture.

Entertainment

Entertainment activities within Durrës are very limited. South of the city, many visitors flock to the beautiful beaches located on the Adriatic Sea. Several hotels on the waterfront offer excellent views of the Adriatic Sea and the surrounding area. Durrës is Albania's principal holiday resort.

Shkodër

The city of Shkodër, with a population of approximately 84,000 is located in northwestern Albania on a plain surrounded by high mountains. Like Durrës Shkodër is an ancient city whose origins can be traced to the first millennium B.C. Throughout history, Shkodër has been occupied at various times by the Illyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Bulgars, Serbs, Turks, and Austrians. In the 19th century, the city became an important Roman Catholic religious center. Jesuits and Franciscan convents, schools, libraries, and churches were constructed. Following the communist takeover of Albania in 1944, the city became a center of resistance to the communist campaign against religion. Many Roman Catholics still live in Shkodër today, along with a large community of Muslims and a small minority of Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The city has always been one of Albania's major cultural centers. The country's first printing press was established in Shkodër in the 16th century. Also, Albania's first theatrical productions were performed in the city in the 1800s. Several noted Albanian artists have lived in Shkodër, including the poet Migjemi and Kolë Idromeno, a noted painter, architect, and photographer.

Shkodër is the main economic and marketing center of northern Albania. The city exports the grains, fruits, potatoes, and tobacco grown in fertile regions nearby. Several manufacturing industries are located in Shkodër. These factories produce processed foods, copper wire products, and textiles. Many of these factories are powered by a large hydroelectric plant located near the city.

Recreation

Shkodër has museums and mosques that are of interest to visitors. Many museums in Shkodër are located in old houses, which give visitors a flavor for the architecture of the city. The Migjeni House Museum honors one of Albania's famous poets and features personal mementos and manuscripts of Migjeni's work. Another museum, The Folk Museum, has been established in one of the city's largest houses. The museum offers beautiful displays of regional costumes and paintings of Albanian artists Kolë Idromeno and Simon Rrota. One of the city's principal mosques, the Mosque of Mehmet Pasha (Lead Mosque), is open to visitors. The interior of the mosque, with its grill-covered windows and beautiful frescoes, is of particular interest.

Enver Hoxha Street, one of Shkodër's main thoroughfares, attracts many visitors. Shops on this street are adorned with displays featuring objects from all over Albania. An exhibit on Enver Hoxha Street showcases products made and used by past and present residents of the city. The products include costumes, old weapons, fine jewelry, embroidered goods, and items made of wood, reeds, and straw. For those who want to learn about the life-styles of average Shkodër residents, Enver Hoxha Street offers a valuable educational experience.

OTHER CITIES

A city built on the slopes of Mt. Tomorr (2400m) and surrounded by fig and olive trees, BERAT is widely known as Albania's "Museum City." It has also been called the "City of a Thousand Windows" in reference to the many large windows of the cities red-roofed houses. The history of the site dates back to the 6th century BC, when it was home to the ancient Illyrian Dasaretes tribe. In the 9th century the town was captured by the Bulgarians, who renamed it, Beligrad (White City), from which the present name is derived. The museums, mosques, and monuments of Berat tell the stories of subsequent conquests and the will of the city to survive.

The Fortress of Berat, though considerably damaged, is still one of the most magnificent historic sites. Nearly the entire population of the town was able to live within its walls during times of distress. During the 13th century, nearly 20 Christian churches and one mosque were built inside. Those that remain include the Orthodox Cathedral of Our Lady, the Church of the Holy Trinity, the Church of St. Michael, and the Church of the Evangelists. The Church of St. Mary of Vllaherna includes 16th century mural paintings by Nikolla, son of Albania's most famous medieval painter, Onufri. The Church of St. Theodore, located near one of the fortress entrances, has wall paintings by Onufri himself.

Art history buffs will want to visit the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which has been meticulously restored and now houses a museum dedicated to Onufri. Works by Nikolla and other painters are also displayed, as are several icons and other religious artwork and crafts. A copy of the Berat Gospels (4th century) is here too. Points of interest in Mangalem include the Muslim quarter, the Leaden Mosque, the King's Mosque, the Bachelor's Mosque and Alveti Tekke, a small shrine where Islamic sects like the Dervishes once practiced.

Berat has a population of about 37,000 inhabitants and is 76 miles southeast of Tirana.

The city of ELBASAN is located in central Albania on the shores of the Shkumbin River. It was founded by the Ottomans in 1466 as a military base. It has since developed as a trading center for the corn, olives, and tobacco grown near the city. Elbasan is the home of several manufacturing industries. The industries produce oil, cement, and soap. The population of Elbasan is predominantly Muslim and numbers approximately 85,000.

Nestled on the eastern slope of the Gjere Mountains, GJIROKASTËR is one of southern Albania's smaller cities. During the Ottoman Turks occupation in the early 1800s, Gjirokastër became the home of the Turkish grand vizier, Ali Pasha. Pasha's palace, constructed in 1811, is still in existence today. The city was also the birthplace of Enver Hoxha, Albania's communist leader who died in 1985. Several factories in Gjirokastër produce chemicals, cigarettes, tobacco, shoes, and leather. The city is noted for its yogurt, cheese, and hashaf, a dish consisting of junket and figs. Gjirokastër has a population of 22,000.

KORÇË is located in southeastern Albania and is nestled in a fertile mountain valley. The city was a major trading and commercial center during the 17th through 19th centuries. During World War II, Korçë was occupied at various times by the Italians, Greeks, and Germans.

Today, the city is a productive agricultural center for the wheat, apples, grapes, and sugar beets. In addition to agriculture, Korçë has several small industries. These industries manufacture beer, carpets, and knitted products. Korçë has a population of approximately 62,000.

The southern city of VLORË is Albania's second largest port city. The city was established by the Greeks around 400 B.C. Throughout history, Vlorë has been occupied by the Romans, Normans, Byzantines, Venetians, Serbs, Turks, Italians, and Germans. The former Soviet Union modernized and upgraded the city's port and used it as a naval base. Several small industries are located in the city. These industries include an olive-oil refinery, a distillery, and a fish canning plant. The city's primary attractions are the Archaeological-Ethnographic Museum and the Museum of Independence. Vlorë's population, which was composed of Muslims, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, is approximately 71,000.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

The Republic of Albania is a small country located on the coast of southeastern Europe. It occupies an area of approximately 11,097 square miles, slightly larger than Maryland. Albania is bordered on the north by Serbia and Montenegro, on the east by Macedonia, on the south by Greece, and on the west by the Adriatic Sea.

A little over 20 percent of Albania is flat to rolling coastal plain, poorly drained in some areas. Most of the country consists of hills and mountains, often covered with scrub forest. Major cities are located in the coastal plain or in the larger upland valleys. Primary rivers are not large and flow generally east and west. The only navigable river is the Buene (Bojana), which forms the outlet for Lake Scutari along the Albanian border with Montenegro.

Coastal areas of Albania enjoy a Mediterranean climate. Summers are dry and hot, while winters are mild and wet. Most of Albania's rainfall occurs during the winter months, although severe thunderstorms are common during the summer. Interior portions of the country experience a cooler, rainier climate. Heavy snows and bitter cold are prevalent in mountain regions.

Population

The estimated population in Albania in 2001 was 3.5 million. Approximately 95 percent of the population are ethnic Albanian. Albanians are divided into two distinct groups. Northern parts of the country are inhabited by Gegs, while southern Albania is home to the Tosks. Both groups of Albanians have similar dialects, social customs, and religion. Greeks comprise three percent of Albania's population. Small minorities of Macedonians, Roma (Gypsies), Vlachs, Bulgarians, and Serbs reside in Albania.

Albania had declared that it was the first official atheist state in the world. The government banned all public religious services in 1967. All churches and mosques throughout the country were closed. In 1990, after several antigovernment protests, the Albanian government reinstituted the right to religious expression. Traditionally, about 70 percent of Albanians were Muslim, while approximately 20 percent were Eastern Orthodox Christians and about 10 percent were Roman Catholic. However, decades of official atheism distorted these historical percentages. Following the collapse of communism, a religious revival of sorts began, with many evangelical Christian denominations gaining new adherents.

The national language of the country is Albanian, with Tosk as the official dialect. Greek is also spoken.

In 2001, the estimated life expectancy at birth was 69 years for males, 75 years for females.

History

Throughout its history, Albania has been invaded and occupied by various foreign powers. The Ottoman Turks governed Albania from 1478 until 1912, bringing with them their Muslim faith. In 1912, Albania declared its independence from Turkey. The new country was admitted to the League of Nations in 1920 and remained independent until Italian troops invaded during World War II.

In 1943, Italy surrendered and withdrew its forces. They were quickly replaced by German troops. Small partisan groups, led by the communist National Liberation Front (NLF), launched a guerrilla campaign to oust the Germans from Albania. The Germans finally retreated on November 29, 1944. Albania was independent once more.

A provisional government was set up under the leadership of General Enver Hoxha. The United States and Great Britain formally recognized the new government with the understanding that free elections would be held. Instead, Hoxha consolidated his control of the country. On January 11, 1946, Albania became a republic with a communist government closely tied to the Soviet Union. The United States and Great Britain responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Albania.

By 1960, Albania's close relationship with the Soviet Union had soured. Albania's leaders believed that the Soviet government under Nikita Krushchev was turning away from strict communist doctrines. They also resented Soviet interference in Albania's economic and internal affairs. Tensions between the two nations reached a breaking point in 1961. The Soviet Union and Albania severed diplomatic relations. Also, Albania ordered all Soviet troops and naval personnel to leave the country.

Albania soon embraced the world's other communist nation, the People's Republic of China. By late 1961, the Chinese had provided massive amounts of military and financial aid to Albania. China quickly became Albania's staunchest ally and benefactor. This close relationship began to unravel in the early 1970s. Albania strongly criticized China's decision to improve relations with the United States as an affront to Marxist-Leninist traditions. China responded by drastically reducing all trade and financial assistance. In 1978, the Chinese informed Albanian officials that because of Albania's continued hostility toward its policies, China would end all trade and economic aid. Diplomatic ties were not severed, although relations between the two countries are tense. China and Albania agreed to resume trade in 1983.

In April 1985 Enver Hoxha, Albania's leader since 1946, died. He was replaced by a longtime protege, Ramiz Alia. Alia continued Hoxha's isolationist, anti-Western policies. However, Albania's hard-line government would soon be touched by the winds of reform sweeping Eastern Europe.

Massive antigovernment protest erupted throughout Albania in 1990. Seeking to end the unrest, Alia issued a number of reforms. Albanians were granted the freedom to travel abroad and a restoration of the right to practice religion, which had been abolished in 1967. Despite these changes, many Albanians remain unsatisfied or have left the country. Chronic food shortages, rampant crime, and government corruption remain a problem. In early 1997, Albania dissolved into chaos when financial pyramid investment schemes collapsed and wiped out the life savings of thousands. Irate citizens blamed President Sali Berisha for the collapse of the popular schemes and took to the streets, looting stores, homes, and armories. Thousands fled the country. The situation improved later that year, with the help of 6,000 UN-backed foreign troops to restore order.

Government

At the present time, Albania's governmental structure is undergoing many changes. Massive antigovernment protest erupted in Albania during 1990 and early 1991. In response to the unrest, the communist Albanian Workers' Party decided to give up its 45-year domination of Albania and allow other political groups to exist. The Albanian Workers' Party renounced its Marxist doctrines.

On March 22, 1992, Albania held national parliamentary and presidential elections. The Communist Albanian Workers' Party, which had renamed itself the Albanian Socialist Party, was trounced by the opposition Democratic Party (DP). Following the elections, Democratic Party leader Sali Berisha was sworn in as Albania's new president on April 9, 1992. President Berisha is Albania's first non-communist leader since the end of World War II. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, the DP won 122 of 140 possible seats, but in the 2001 elections the Socialist Party gained a parliamentary majority.

The flag of Albania is red with a black two-headed eagle in the center.

Arts, Science, Education

All children ages seven through 15 receive primary education at government expense. Secondary education is available in professional and vocational schools. In 1995, there were an estimated 1,782 primary schools with over 550,000 students.

The University of Albania and the Albanian Academy offer opportunities for higher education.

The estimated literacy rate in Albania is 93 percent.

Commerce and Industry

Albania is considered to be one of the poorest counties in Europe. The economy has been stagnant after years of outdated economic practices and an unwillingness to seek financial help from other countries. The Albanian government has begun to implement various reforms to spur economic growth. In July 1990, the government gave up sole control of Albanian industries and allowed private citizens to start their own businesses. However, the government stipulated that owners of private businesses could only employ members of their immediate family. In mid-1992, the new Albanian government implemented a series of measures in an attempt to improve the economy. Unemployment benefits were cut dramatically and price controls on most essential commodities were removed. The result led to anti-government sentiments among many Albanians. However, the economy improved after 1993. In 1995, the government began privatizing large state enterprises.

Albania has a very small industrial base. Its main industries include cement, textiles, oil products, and food processing. The government is in the process of developing Albania's chemical and engineering industries.

Rich mineral deposits can be found in Albania, especially chromium, coal, oil, chrome, copper, and nickel. Many of these deposits lie undeveloped. In recent years, the Albanian government has intensified its efforts to exploit the country's mineral wealth.

Because of its rugged, mountainous terrain, Albanian has limited arable land. Most of the suitable farmland is located along the Adriatic seacoast. Over one-half of Albania's work force is engaged in farming. Principal crops include wheat, corn, cotton, fruits, vegetables, and tobacco.

The majority of Albania's trade is with European countries. Italy and Greece are the major trading partners. Other trading partners include the U.S., Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Albania imports large amounts of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, machinery, and iron and steel products. Its primary exports are petroleum products, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, metal ores, and asphalt.

Albania's estimated purchasing power parity of its gross domestic product (GDP) was $10.5 billion dollars in 2000, or about $3,000 per capita. The unit of currency is the lek.

Transportation

In 1998, Albania had approximately 11,460 miles (18,450 kilometers) of roadway. Most mountainous regions, however, have poor roads that are unsuitable for cars. Since February 1991, the Albanian government has allowed private citizens to have their own vehicles. Bicycles and donkeys are common forms of transportation.

Regular flights are available from Albania's capital, Tiranë, to Belgrade, Zurich, Berlin, Budapest, and Bucharest. The Greek airline, Olympic Airways, offers a weekly flight from Athens to Tiranë. In 1990, Albania opened its airspace to all foreign commercial airlines.

Because of its location on the Adriatic Sea, Albania has several excellent deep-water ports. The main ports are located in the cities of Durrës, Vlorë, Shengjih, and Sarande. Also, a passenger ferry service is available from Durrës to the Italian city of Trieste.

It is possible to travel around Albania by rail. Railroads connect the cities of Tiranë, Durrës, Shkodër, and Vlorë. Another rail line is available between Durrës and Titograd, Montenegro.

Communications

Albania's main radio station is Radio Tiranë. Foreign broadcasts are available on shortwave frequencies in 18 languages, including English. Seventeen AM and five FM stations carry domestic radio programs.

Regular television programs became available in 1971. There are nine television stations in the country.

Telephone service in Albania is inadequate. In 1997, the country had only 87,000 telephones. Some small villages may not have telephone service.

Internet usage is limited but available via internet cafes or by contracting with one of the seven available Internet Service Providers.

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

The most direct and frequently used route to Tiranë is via Zürich or Rome. Alitalia operates one flight daily between Rome and Tiranë. Swiss Air has several flights weekly to Zurich. For travelers arriving via automobile, the recommended route is from Greece via Ioannina or Kastoria. Ferry service is also available from Bari and Trieste, Italy, to Durres, Albania, which is about 45 minutes by car to Tiranë.

There are no restrictions or controls on the import of pets into Albania at this time. A quarantine is not required for pets, and there is no fee for incoming pets. However, travelers coming to Tiranë with pets should insure that shots are up-to-date and their animals are in good health, as veterinary care is not always up to U.S. standards. All pets should be neutered, if desired, before coming to Albania. Very limited dog and cat food and pet supplies are available on the local market. Pets transiting European capitals (such as Rome) to and from post must comply with health standards for those countries.

Travelers are advised to exercise caution and avoid crowds due to security problems. All American citizens in Albania are strongly urged to register at the U.S. Embassy located at Rruga e Elbasanit 103, Tirana.

The monetary unit in Albania is the lek. Albania is a cash economy with virtually no acceptance of credit cards.

Albania uses the metric system.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 2 Albanian New Year's Day

Mar. 22Nevruz

Mar/Apr.Western Easter*

Apr/MayOrthodox Easter*

May 1May Day

Nov. 29Albanian Independence Day

Nov. 29National Liberation Day

Small Bajram* (end of Ramandan)

Great Bajram* (Feast of the Sacrifice)

Dec. 25Christmas

*variable

RECOMMENDED READING

Amery, Julian. Sons of the Eagle. Macmillan: London, 1942.

Bethell, Nicholas. The Great Betrayal. Hodden and Stoughton: London, 1984.

Biberaj, Elez. Albania. Boulder, CO:Westview Press, 1989.

. Albania: A Socialist Maverick. Westview Press: Boulder, 1990.

Logoreci, Anton. The Albanians: Europe's Forgotten Survivors. Victor Gollancz: London, 1977.

Nagel's Encyclopedia Guide. Albania. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group, 1991.

Pano, Nicholas C. Albania. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Pettifer, James. Blue Guide: Albania. A&C Black, London, 1994.

Pipa, Arshi. Albanian Stalinism. E. European Monographs: Boulder, 1990.

. Contemporary Albanian Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Sinishta, Gion. Banishing God in Albania: The Prison Memoirs of Fr. Giacomo Gardin, S.J. Translated from ITA. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988.

Sjoberg, Orjan. Rural Change and Development in Albania. Bolder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

Smiley, David. Albanian Assignment. Chatto and Windus: London, 1984.

views updated

Albania

1 Location and Size

2 Topography

3 Climate

4 Plants and Animals

5 Environment

6 Population

7 Migration

8 Ethnic Groups

9 Languages

10 Religions

11 Transportation

12 History

13 Government

14 Political Parties

15 Judicial System

16 Armed Forces

17 Economy

18 Income

19 Industry

20 Labor

21 Agriculture

22 Domesticated Animals

23 Fishing

24 Forestry

25 Mining

26 Foreign Trade

27 Energy and Power

28 Social Development

29 Health

30 Housing

31 Education

32 Media

33 Tourism and Recreation

34 Famous Albanians

35 Bibliography

Republic of Albania
Republika é Shqipërisë

CAPITAL: Tiranë

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.

1 Location and Size

Albania is located in southeast Europe on the west coast of the Balkan Peninsula opposite the “heel” of the Italian “boot,” from which it is separated by the Strait of Otranto and the Adriatic Sea. It is bordered by Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece, with a total boundary length of 720 kilometers (447 miles) and a coastline of 362 kilometers (224.9 miles). Albania is slightly larger than the state of Maryland, with a total area of 28,748 square kilometers (11,100 square miles). Albania’s capital city, Tiranë, is located in the west central part of the country.

2 Topography

Albania is mostly mountainous, with 70% of the territory at elevations of more than 300 meters (1,000 feet). The rest of the country is made up of a coastal lowland and 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, Mount Korabit (2,764 meters/9,068 feet), lies in eastern Albania on the Macedonian border. The most important

GEOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Geographic Features

Area: 28,748 sq km (11,100 sq mi)

Size ranking: 139 of 194 Highest elevation: 2,764 meters (9,068 feet) at Mount Korabit (Golem Korab)

Lowest elevation: Sea level at the Adriatic Sea

Land Use*

Arable land: 20%

Permanent crops: 4%

Other: 76%

Weather**

Average annual precipitation: 118.9 centimeters (46.8 inches)

Average temperature in January: 7.3°c (45.1°f)

Average temperature in July: 25°c (77°f)

* Arable Land: Land used for temporary crops, like meadows for mowing or pasture, gardens, and greenhouses.

Permanent crops: Land cultivated with crops that occupy its use for long periods, such as cocoa, coffee, rubber, fruit and nut orchards, and vineyards.

Other: Any land not specified, including built-on areas, roads, and barren land.

** The measurements for precipitation and average temperatures were taken at weather stations closest to the country’s largest city.

Precipitation and average temperature can vary significantly within a country, due to factors such as latitude, altitude, coastal proximity, and wind patterns.

rivers include the Drin (the longest river, 285 kilometers/177 miles), the Buna, the Mat, the Shkumbin, the Seman, and the Vijosë, all of which empty into the Adriatic. Albania shares Skadarsko Jezero (Lake Scutari—the largest lake, 385 square kilometers/149 square miles) with Montenegro, Ohridsko Jezero (Lake Ohrid) with Macedonia, and Prespansko Jezero (Lake Prespe) with Macedonia and Greece. The lowest point of the country is sea level at the Adriatic Sea.

3 Climate

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 are colder in the mountains. Annual precipitation is 118.9 centimeters (46.8 inches), ranging from about 100 centimeters (40 inches) on the coast to more than 250 centimeters (100 inches) in some areas in the mountains.

4 Plants and Animals

The mountainous landscape produces different zones for flora (plants). The dry lowlands are occupied by a type of plant growth known as maquis, made up of shrubs with hairy, leathery leaves. There are some trees in the low-lying regions, but larger forests of oak, beech, and other deciduous species begin at 910 meters (2,986 feet). 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.

5 Environment

Deforestation remains Albania’s principal environmental problem. Forest and woodland account for 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.

Albania produced 2.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources in 2000.

As of 2003, about 3.8% of Albania’s lands are protected by environmental laws. Of Albania’s 3,000-plus plant species, 17 were endangered as of 2001. As of 2006, threatened animal species included 1 type of mammal, 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.

6 Population

Albania’s population in 2005 was estimated at 3.17 million. Average population density was 114 persons per square kilometer (295 persons per square mile). Tiranë, the capital and principal city, had a population of 367,000 in 2005.

7 Migration

Emigration following World War II (1939–45) has occurred on a very limited scale, mainly for political reasons. Between 1945 and 1990, Albania was virtually isolated from the rest of Europe. Many ethnic Albanians live in Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Italy, and Macedonia.

By the end of 2004, there were only about 51 refugees remaining in Albania. As of 2005, Albania had an estimated net migration rate of -4.8 migrants per 1,000 population.

8 Ethnic Groups

Generally regarded as descendants of the ancient Illyrians, Albanians make up about 95% of the population. Ethnic Greeks comprise as much as 3% of the populace. Other groups, including

Gypsies, Vlachs, Bulgarians, 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.

9 Languages

Albanian (Shqip) is an independent language of the Indo-European family of languages. It was not until 1908 that a common Latin alphabet was established for Albanian. There are two distinct dialects: Gheg, spoken in the north, and Tosk, spoken in the south. During the period between World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939–45), Gheg was officially favored as standard Albanian. After World War II, because the principal leaders of the regime were southerners, Tosk became the standard. Greek is spoken by a minority in the southeast border area.

10 Religions

Historically, Islam has been the majority religion of Albania. Today, Albania is a self-proclaimed secular state that allows freedom of religion.

In the total population, the percentage of Muslims remains stable at roughly 65% to 70%, including followers of Sunni Islam and members of the Bektashi school (Shia Sufism). Since 1925, Albania has been considered the world center of the Bektashi school.

About 20% of the population are members of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (Albanian Orthodox) and about 10% are Roman Catholic. There are a few small Protestant groups.

The 1998 constitution calls for freedom of religion. The four main religious groups—Sunni, Bektashi, Orthodox, and Catholic—maintain a higher degree of social status due to their historical presence within the country.

11 Transportation

Many roads are unsuitable for motor transport. Bicycles and donkeys are common. In 2003, there were 18,000 kilometers (11,185 miles) of paved road. The railroads had a total length of 447 kilometers (228 miles).

Albania’s rivers are not navigable, but there is some local shipping on lakes Skadarsko, Ohridsko, and Prespansko. Durrës is the principal port for foreign trade. In 2001, the merchant fleet consisted of seven vessels. In 2004, there were eleven airports, three of which had paved runways. Tiranë’s international airport connects Albania with major cities throughout the world. In 2003, a total of 159,300 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.

12 History

Origins and the Middle Ages The Albanians are descended from ancient Illyrian or Thracian tribes that may have come to the Balkan Peninsula even before the Greeks. An Illyrian kingdom was formed in the 3rd century bc and conquered by Rome in 167 bc. Present-day Albania was raided by Slav invaders in the 6th century ad and taken over by Bulgaria in the 9th century. Some independent kingdoms existed briefly during the second half of the 14th century.

From the Ottomans to Independence By 1479, the Turks gained complete control of the area. Over the following centuries Islam spread

throughout most of the country. Turkish rule continued through the 19th century. However, during this period nationalistic feelings grew, and often erupted into open rebellion against the Turks.

In November 1912, the National Assembly proclaimed Albania’s independence. However, Albania became a principal battleground during World War I and by the time the war ended, portions of Albania were under Italian, French, and Yugoslav control. Albania again asserted its independence in 1920. A government was established, as the Italians and French withdrew.

In 1925, after a period of instability, Ahmet Zogu seized power. In 1928 he declared Albania a kingdom and crowned himself King Zog I. However, Italy invaded Albania in 1939, and Zog was forced into exile. Italy occupied Albania during World War II, but communist-led guerrillas under Enver Hoxha resisted Italian and German forces. With the defeat of the Italians and Germans in World War II, Hoxha established a new government based on communist principles.

Under Communist Rule The constitution of 1946 declared Albania a people’s republic. Over the following decades, Albania became more and more isolated from both the West and the other communist countries. Albania allied itself first

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Name: Sali Berisha

Position: Prime minister of a republic

Took Office: 3 July 2005

Birthplace: Vicidol, Albania

Birthdate: 15 October 1944

Education: Studied medicine at the University of Tirana

Spouse: Liri Rama, a pediatrician

Children: Daughter Argita and son Shkelzen

Of interest: His political career began in the early 1990s when he turned a student uprising into a nationwide anti-Communism movement.

with the former Soviet Union, and then with China. As the 1980s began, Albania was locked in a bitter internal conflict. Officials who favored increased relations with the West were executed or purged from the government. During this time, Albania was known as the most rigidly communist country in Europe.

On 11 April 1985, Enver Hoxha died. He had ruled Albania with an iron fist for four decades. After his death, Albania took steps to end its isolation, but was still ruled by the communists.

Democracy and Free Market By 1990, internal unrest led to mass protests and calls for the government’s resignation. After multiparty elections in 1991, a coalition government was formed between Albania’s Communist (renamed Socialist) Party and the new Democratic Party. New general elections on 22 March 1992 gave the Democratic Party a majority of seats (92 of 140). Sali Berisha, a cardiologist, was elected president.

Berisha pushed hard for radical reforms to create a market economy and democratic institutions after a half century of international isolation. By the end of 1993, barriers to foreign trade had been removed and relations with other nations had been strengthened. Albania joined the Council of Europe in 1995.

In late 1996 and early 1997, several pyramid-scheme investment funds collapsed. (Pyramid-scheme investment funds accept money from investors, but do not actually invest the money. Instead, they use money from new investors to pay interest due to earlier investors.) Many Albanians believed that the government had used funds provided by the schemes to finance election campaigns. Anger over collapse of the funds led to violence and looting in southern Albania. When the government failed to bring the area under control, order broke down throughout the country and looting occurred nationwide. Berisha accepted the creation of a coalition government to restore order. As violence came closer to Tiranë, France and Italy provided 6,000 peacekeepers to patrol the countryside and restore order so that new elections could be held. The ruling Democratic Party lost its parliamentary majority in June 1997 to the Socialist Party (the former Communist Party), which elected Rexhep Mejdani as president.

In 1998 a new, Western-style constitution defining Albania as a democratic republic was approved in a nationwide referendum. In spring 1999, the crisis in neighboring Kosovo sent hundreds of thousands of refugees into Albania, causing an economic crisis. Aid was provided by international sources, and most of the refugees returned home by the fall. In January 2001, Albania and Yugoslavia reestablished diplomatic relations, which had been severed during the Kosovo crisis.

Fighting between ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanian rebels, largely from the former Kosovo Liberation Army 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.

In June 2002, parliament elected former defense minister Alfred Moisiu as president. In August 2002, Fatos Thanas 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, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced that it would accept seven new members in 2004 of the ten countries aspiring to join the organization. This left three—Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia—to wait until a later round of expansion. In January 2003, Albania and Macedonia agreed to improve cooperation between their two countries. They hoped this would prepare them to join NATO and the European Union (EU). In September 2005, Sali Berisha was selected as prime minister. He pledged to reduce corruption and improve economic and social conditions.

13 Government

Through most of the 1990s, Albania’s government was based on the 29 April 1991 Law on Constitutional Provisions. This law was enacted to provide a transition from a communist form of government to a democratic one. It established the principle of separation of powers, the protection of private property and human rights, a multiparty parliament, and a president with broad powers. In 2002, Alfred Spiro Moisiu of the Socialist Party was elected president, and Fatos Thanas Nano (also of the Socialist Party) was named prime minister that year as well. However, in 2005 the Democratic Party of Albania won the general election. Therefore, President Moisiu appointed Sali Berisha (former

Yearly Growth Rate

This economic indicator tells by what percent the economy has increased or decreased when compared with the previous year.

president and member of the Democratic Party of Albania) to the post of prime minister.

Albania is divided into 12 regions (qarqe), 36 districts (rrethe), 65 cities and towns, and 309 communes.

14 Political Parties

In the elections held in 2005, leading parties were the Democratic Party (PD), with 56 seats in the Assembly; Socialist Party (PS, the new name of the Communist Party), with 42 seats; the Republican Party (PR), with 11 seats; Social Democratic Party (PSD), 7 seats; Social Movement for Integration (LSI), 5; and other parties, 19 seats.

15 Judicial System

The judicial system includes district courts, six courts of appeals, and a supreme court, or Court of Cassation. The district courts are triallevel courts from which appeal can be taken to a court of appeals and then to the Court of Cassation. There also is a Constitutional Court that has authority over how the constitution is interpreted.

16 Armed Forces

In 2002, the estimated strength of the Albanian armed forces was 27,000. This number included 20,000 in the army, 2,500 in the navy, and 4,500 in the air force. As of 2005, the armed forces were being restructured following the 1999 crisis in neighboring Kosovo. Defense spending in 2005 totaled $116 million.

17 Economy

With the end of communist rule in 1992, farmland was returned to private ownership. But despite significant progress, living standards in Albania are among the lowest in Europe. When socialist-style central planning was abandoned, there was no alternate system to take its place. After falling 45% during 1990–92, Albania’s gross domestic product (GDP) began to improve in the mid-1990s and into the 21st century. Inflation remained low, the economy was expanding at a rate of approximately 7% a year, and foreign direct investment was growing. By 2002, nearly all land in Albania was privately owned.

The country’s transition to a free-market economy did not come without difficulties, however. Unemployment remained high. Agriculture, once accounting for around 50% of economic activity, had declined to 23% by 2005. Crime and corruption were problems, as were governmental bureaucratic hurdles that hindered business activity. Severe energy shortages caused blackouts. In 2003, the country was increasing its imports of electricity.

The nationwide collapse of pyramid investment schemes in 1997 and a large influx of refugees from Kosovo in 1999 imposed burdens on the Albanian economy.

18 Income

Albania’s gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $18.1 billion in 2005. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.5%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 25% of Albania’s population had incomes below the poverty level.

19 Industry

Major industries include food processing, textiles and clothing, lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, and basic metals. Industrial production fell 44% in 1992 and 10% in 1993, but by 1995 it was growing at a rate of 6%. The return of business to private ownership is proceeding. In 2001, the government privatized a brewery, distillery, dairy, and pharmaceutical company. In 2005, industrial production accounted for an estimated 19% of the overall economy.

20 Labor

When communism was abandoned in favor of a free market economy in 1991, a temporary disruption of workers and resources took place, resulting in an estimated unemployment rate of 40% in 1992. By 2004, the official unemployment rate was 14%, but the actual unemployment rate was estimated at 30%.

Components of the Economy

This pie chart shows how much of the country’s economy is devoted to agriculture (including forestry, hunting, and fishing), industry, or services.

In 1991, workers were granted the legal right to create independent trade unions. All citizens have the right to organize and bargain collectively.

The minimum work age is 16. Minimum wages were approximately $118 per month in 2004, which does not provide a decent living wage for a family.

21 Agriculture

About 46% of workers are employed in agriculture. Although Albania’s mountainous terrain limits the amount of land available for agriculture, the cultivated and arable area was about 26% of the total in the mid-1990s. By 2005, arable land was just 20%. Albania claims to be 95% self-sufficient in food production. Nearly two-thirds of the population is rural, and agriculture provided 23% of GDP in 2005.

Wheat is the principal crop, and corn, oats, sorghum, and potatoes are also important. Greater emphasis is being placed on the production of cash crops, such as cotton, tobacco, rice, sugar beets, vegetables, sunflowers, and fruits and nuts. Estimates of annual crop output

Yearly Balance of Trade

The balance of trade is the difference between what a country sells to other countries (its exports) and what it buys (its imports). If a country imports more than it exports, it has a negative balance of trade (a trade deficit). If exports exceed imports there is a positive balance of trade (a trade surplus).

include 272,000 tons of wheat, 206,000 tons of corn, 40,000 tons of sugar beets, 640,000 tons of vegetables and melons, 162,000 tons of potatoes, 70,000 tons of grapes, 13,000 tons of oats, and 14,000 tons of sorghum.

22 Domesticated Animals

The major challenge for Albanian animal husbandry (raising of livestock) has been a shortage of feed. The estimated number of livestock in 2004 was 1.8 million sheep, 4.3 million poultry, 1 million goats, 700,000 cattle, 109,000 hogs, and 65,000 horses. The estimated livestock products for that year 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.

23 Fishing

Fishing is an important occupation along the Adriatic coast. 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 that year.

24 Forestry

Forests cover 1,046,000 hectares (2,585,000 acres), or about 38% 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. Roundwood production in 2000 totaled 443,000 cubic meters (15,644 cubic feet) with about 73% used for firewood.

25 Mining

Mineral deposits traditionally associated with Albania include chromite, copper ore, and nick-eliferous iron ore. In 2003, chromite production was 220,000 tons. Copper ore concentrate production was 9,000 tons and production of bauxite was 5,000 tons. Albania is one of the few countries producing natural asphalt. Production of asphalt and bitumen in 2002 totaled 4,200 metric tons.

26 Foreign Trade

Albania exports leather products, apparel, footwear components, tobacco products, and metal ores. The production of chromium ore, formerly an important export product, has plummeted in recent years. Imports include raw materials, machinery, transportation equipment, fuel, minerals, metals, and food.

Italy, Greece, and Germany are the major destinations for Albania’s exports. The chief sources of Albania’s imports are Italy, Greece, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Macedonia.

27 Energy and Power

Albania has both thermal and hydroelectric power stations to generate electricity. In 2004, electricity generation was 5.68 billion kilowatt hours. Most electricity comes from hydropower, with the remainder from fossil fuels.

Petroleum production has become significant in Albania. Oil refineries are located at Ballësh, Stalin, Fier, and Cërrik. Production totaled 6,360 barrels per day in 2002.

28 Social Development

The Act on State Social Insurance provides benefits for disability, old age, survivors, and retirement. Unemployment benefits were introduced in 1993.

Albania’s constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, and women make up roughly half the labor force. However, as of 2004 women were still considered property in some regions of the country.

Selected Social Indicators

The statistics below are the most recent estimates available as of 2006. For comparison purposes, data for the United States and averages for low-income countries and high-income countries are also given. About 15% of the world’s 6.5 billion people live in high-income countries, while 37% live in low-income countries.

IndicatorAlbania Low-income countriesHigh-income countriesUnited States
sources: World Bank. World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2006; Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2006; World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.
Per capita gross national income (GNI)*$5,070 $2,258$31,009$39,820
Population growth rate-0.4% 2%0.8%1.2%
People per square kilometer of land114 803032
Life expectancy in years: male71 587675
female77 608280
Number of physicians per 1,000 people1.3 0.43.72.3
Number of pupils per teacher (primary school)21 431615
Literacy rate (15 years and older)98.7% 65%>95%99%
Television sets per 1,000 people318 84735938
Internet users per 1,000 people24 28538630
Energy consumed per capita (kg of oil equivalent)674 5015,4107,843
CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)1.25 0.8512.9719.92
* The GNI is the total of all goods and services produced by the residents of a country in a year. The per capita GNI is calculated by dividing a country’s GNI by its population and adjusting for relative purchasing power.
n.a.: data not available >: greater than <: less than

29 Health

In 1992, Albania had 16 hospitals. In 1993, there were also almost 1,000 health centers staffed by primary care physicians and nurses and more than 2,300 walk-in clinics staffed by nurses or midwives. In 2005, there were an estimated 1.3 physicians and 4 nurses per 1,000 people. There is a medical school in Tiranë (part of the Enver Hoxha University), and some Albanians receive medical training abroad.

In 2000, the mortality rate was an estimated 6.49 deaths per 1,000 people. Average life expectancy was estimated at 74 years. Albania’s infant mortality rate was estimated at 20 per 1,000 live births.

The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease, trauma, cancer, and respiratory disease.

At the time of the 2001 census, there were about 520,936 residential buildings in the country containing about 783,640 dwellings. As of 1998, 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. In 2001, about 30% of the dwelling spaces were block flats constructed and owned by the government during the communist era.

31 Education

Preschool training for children ages three through six is general but not obligatory. The basic compulsory school program, extending for eight years (ages 6 to 14), combines practical work with study. Secondary education lasts from three to five years, depending on the type of school attended. These include comprehensive and vocational schools as well as schools specializing in the arts, sports, and foreign languages. The student-to-teacher ratio as of 2006 was 21 to 1 for primary education and about 17 to 1 for secondary schools.

Other institutes of higher learning include two agricultural schools, one institute for fine arts, one institute of physical culture, and three teacher-training institutes. All institutions of higher education have a combined enrollment of 30,000 to 40,000 students. The University of Shkodër was established in 1991.

The adult literacy rate was estimated at 98.7% in 2004. Public expenditures on education were an estimated 2.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

32 Media

Most communications organizations are owned and operated by the state. In 2003, there were an estimated 83 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people, with 98,500 people on a waiting list for service. Some villages do not have telephone service at all. Seventeen radio stations (13 AM and 4 FM) were operated by Radiotelevizioni Shqiptar (Albanian Radio and Television-RTVSh). As of 2000, there were 2 national and 50 local television stations. In the same year, there were 1,000,000 radios and 700,000 television sets.

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. About 15 Greek papers and magazines are distributed, primarily 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 biased toward the political and economic interests of the publisher.

As of 2004, Albania had 455 Internet hosts. There were an estimated 11.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people.

33 Tourism and Recreation

Albania slowly became accessible to tourists following the advent of democracy. In promoting travel to Albania, the official tourist agency cites the Adriatic beaches, especially at Durrës, Vlorë, and Sarandë, and the picturesque lakes. In 2003, 557,210 foreign tourists visited Albania.

The most popular sports are soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball.

34 Famous Albanians

Much Albanian popular lore is based on the exploits of the national hero Gjergj Kastrioti (known as Scanderbeg, 1405–1468), who led his people against the Turks. Ahmet Bey Zogu (1895–1961) was elected first president of the new republic in 1925. In 1928, when Albania became a kingdom, he ascended the throne as Zog I. Two major political leaders were Enver Hoxha (1908–1985), postwar Albania’s first premier, minister of foreign affairs, and defense minister; and Mahmet Shehu (1913–1981), who replaced Hoxha as premier in 1954.

Naim Erashëri (1846–1900) was Albania’s national poet. His most highly regarded works are Bagëti e Bujqësi (Cattle and Land), Histori e Skenderbeut (History of Scanderbeg), and a collection of short poems called Lulet e Verës (Spring Flowers). Kostandin Kristoforidhi (K. Nelko, 1827–1995) translated the Old and New Testaments into Albanian and compiled a standard Albanian-Greek dictionary. Faik Konitza (1875–1942), prewar Albanian minister to Washington, D.C., edited a literary review, Albania, which became the most important publication for 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.

35 Bibliography

BOOKS

Elsie, Robert. The Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folklore. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Lear, Aaron. Albania. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 2000.

Marx, Trish. One Boy from Kosovo. New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 2000.

Mead, Alice. Girl of Kosovo. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2001.

Wright, David K. Albania. Chicago, IL: Children’s Press, 1997.

WEB SITES

Country Pages. www.state.gov/p/eur/ci/al/. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

World Heritage List. whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/al. (accessed on January 15, 2007).

views updated

ALBANIA

Compiled from the October 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.




Official Name:
Republic of Albania




PROFILE
GEOGRAPHY
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 28,748 sq. km. (slightly larger than Maryland).

Major Cities: Capital—Tirana (700,000). Others—Durres (400,000), Shkoder (81,000), Vlore (72,000).

Terrain: Situated in the southwestern region of the Balkan Peninsula, Albania is predominantly mountainous but flat along its coastline with the Adriatic Sea.

Climate: Mild temperate—cool, wet winters; dry, hot summers.


People

Population: (July 2003 est.) 3.4 million.

Growth rate (2001 est.): -0.88%.

Ethnic groups (Oct. 2003 est.): Albanian 95%, Greeks 3%, and others 2% (Vlachs, Roma, Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Egyptians and Bulgarians).

Religions: Muslim (Sunni and Bektashi) 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, and Roman Catholic 10%.

Official language: Albanian.

Health (2001 est.): Life expectancy—males 69.01 years; females 74.87 years. Infant mortality rate—39.99 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: Adopted by popular referendum November 28, 1998.

Independence: November 28, 1912 (from the Ottoman Empire).

Branches: Executive President (chief of state), Prime Minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative—Unicameral People's Assembly or Kuvendi Popullor—140 seats (100 members elected by direct popular vote; 40 by proportional vote; all serve 4-year terms). Judicial—Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, multiple appeals and district courts.

Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at age 18.

Main political parties: Albanian Republican Party (PR); Albanian Socialist Party (PS); Democratic Party of Albania (PD); New Democrat Party (New DP); Liberal Democratic Union Party (PBL); Movement of Legality Party (PLL); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ).


Economy

Real GDP growth: (2002 est.) 5%.

Inflation rate: (2001 est.) 2%.

Unemployment rate: (2003 est.) 16%.

Natural resources: Oil, gas, coal, iron, copper and chrome ores.


GEOGRAPHY

Albania shares a border with Greece to the south/southeast, Macedonia to the east, the and Serbia and Montenegro (including Kosovo) to the north and northeast. Eastern Albania lies along the Adriatic and Ionian Sea coastlines. Albania's primary seaport is Durres, which handles 90% of its maritime cargo.




HISTORY

Scholars believe the Albanian people are descended from a non-Slavic, non-Turkic group of tribes known as Illyrians, who arrived in the Balkans around 2000 BCE. Modern Albanians still distinguish between Ghegs (northern tribes) and Tosks (southern tribes). After falling under Roman authority in 165 BCE, Albania was controlled nearly continuously by a succession of foreign powers until the mid-20th century, with only brief periods of genuine self-rule.

Following the split of the Roman Empire in 395, the Byzantine Empire established its control over presentday Albania. In the 11th century, Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus made the first recorded reference to a distinct area of land known as Albania and its people.

The Ottoman Empire ruled Albania from 1385-1912. During this time, much of the population converted to the Islamic faith, and Albanians also emigrated to Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey. Although its control was briefly disrupted during the 1443-78 revolt, led by Albania's national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeg, the Ottomans eventually reasserted their dominance.

In the early 20th century, the weakened Ottoman Empire was no longer able to suppress Albanian nationalism. The League of Prizen promoted the idea of an Albanian nation-state and established the modern Albanian alphabet. Following the conclusion of the First Balkan War, Albanians issued the Vlore Proclamation of November 28, 1912, declaring independence. Albania's borders were established by the Great Powers in 1913. Albania's territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson dismissed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania amongst its neighbors.

During the Second World War, Albania was occupied first by Italy (1939-43) and then by Germany (1943-44). After the war, Communist Party leader Enver Hoxha, through a combination of ruthlessness and strategic alliances, managed to preserve Albania's territorial integrity during the next 40 years, but exacted a terrible price from the population, which was subjected to purges, shortages, repression of civil and political rights, a total ban on religious observance, and increased isolation. Albania adhered to a strict Stalinist philosophy, eventually withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact in 1968, and even alienating its final remaining ally, China.

Following Hoxha's death in 1985 and the subsequent fall of Communism in 1991, Albanian society struggled to overcome its historical isolation and underdevelopment. During the initial transition period, the Albanian Government sought closer ties with the West in order to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms, including a multiparty system.

In 1992, after the sweeping electoral victory of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha became the first democratically elected President of Albania. Berisha began a more deliberate program of economic and democratic reform, but progress on these issues stalled in the mid-1990s, due to political gridlock. At the same time, unscrupulous investment companies defrauded investors all over Albania using pyramid schemes. In early 1997, several of these pyramid schemes collapsed, leaving thousands of people bankrupt, disillusioned, and angry. Armed revolts broke out across the country, leading to the near-total collapse of government authority. During this time, Albania's inadequate and antiquated infrastructure suffered tremendous damage, as people looted public works for building materials. Weapons depots all over the country were raided. The anarchy of early 1997 alarmed the world and prompted intensive international mediation.

Order was restored by a UN Multinational Protections Force, and an interim national reconciliation government oversaw the general elections of June 1997, which returned the Socialists and their allies to power at the national level. President Berisha resigned, and the Socialists elected Rexhep Meidani President of the Republic. Between 1997 and 2002, a series of short-lived governments succeeded one another. Fatos Nano, Chairman of the Socialist Party, has been Prime Minister since July 2002.

During the transitional period of 1997-2002, Albania's fragile democratic structures forged ahead. Additional political parties formed, media outlets expanded, non-governmental organizations and business associations developed. In 1998, Albanians ratified a new constitution via popular referendum, guaranteeing the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights.

On July 24, 2002, Alfred Moisiu was sworn in as President of the Republic. A nonpartisan figure, nominally associated with the Democratic Party, he was elected as a consensus candidate of the ruling and opposition parties. The peaceful transfer of power from Meidani to Moisiu was the result of an agreement between the parties to engage each other within established parliamentary structures. This "truce" ushered in a new period of political stability in Albania, making possible significant progress in democratic and economic reforms, rule of law initiatives, and the development of Albania's relations with its neighbors and the U.S.




GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The unicameral People's Assembly (Kuvendi Popullor) consists of 140 seats, 100 of which are determined by direct popular vote. The remaining seats are distributed by proportional representation. All members serve 4-year terms. The Speaker of Parliament (currently Servet Pellumbi) has two deputies, along with 13 parliamentary commissions, to legislate Albanian affairs.

The President is the head of state and elected by a three-fifths majority vote of all Assembly members. The President serves a term of 5 years with right to one re-election. Although the position is largely ceremonial, the Constitution does give the President authority to appoint and dismiss some civil servants in the executive and judicial branches. The current President's term expires on July 23, 2007.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and approved by a simple majority of all members of the Assembly. The Prime Minister serves as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), which consists of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and other ministers. Members of the Council of Ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and approved by the President.

Albania's civil law system is similar to that of other European countries. The court structure consists of a Constitutional


Court, a Supreme Court, and multiple appeal and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members appointed by the Assembly for one 9-year term. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities. The Supreme Court is the highest court of appeal and consists of 11 members appointed by the President with the consent of the Assembly for 9-year terms. The President chairs the High Council of Justice, which is responsible for appointing and dismissing other judges. The High Court of Justice is comprised of 15 members—the President of the Republic, the Chairman of the High Court, the Minister of Justice, three members elected by the Assembly, and nine judges of all levels elected by the National Judicial Conference.

The remaining courts are divided into three jurisdictions: criminal, civil, and military. There are no jury trials under the Albanian system of justice. A college of three judges, who are sometimes referred to as a "jury" by the Albanian press, render court verdicts.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 1/6/04


President: Moisiu, Alfred

Prime Minister: Nano, Fatos

Dep. Prime Min.: Dokle, Namik

Min. of Agriculture: Duka, Agron

Min. of Culture, Youth, & Sports: Klosi, Blendi

Min. of Defense: Majko, Pandeli

Min. of Economics: Angjeli, Anastas

Min. of Education & Science: Memushi, Luan

Min. of Energy and Industry: Doda, Viktor

Min. of Environment: Ruka, Ethem

Min. of Finance: Malaj, Arben

Min. of Foreign Affairs: Islami, Kastriot

Min. of Health: Solis, Leonard

Min. of Integration: Meksi, Ermelinda

Min. of Justice: Xhafa, Fatmir

Min. of Labor & Social Issues: Bejtja, Engjell

Min. of Local Authority & Devolution: Blushi,

Ben Min. of Public Order: Toska, Igli

Min. of State for State Reforms: Bello, Marko

Min. of Territory Regulations & Tourism: Fino, Bashkim

Min. of Transport & Telecommunications: Poci, Spartak

Dir., Albanian State Intelligence Service: Hysenaj, Kujtim

Gov., Bank of Albania: Cani, Shkelqim

Ambassador to the US: Tarifa, Fatos

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Nesho, Agim


ECONOMY

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an average per capita income of U.S. $1,000. The official unemployment rate is 16%, and 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. Two-thirds of all workers are employed in the agricultural sector, although the construction and service industries have been expanding recently, the latter boosted significantly by ethnic Albanian tourists from other parts of the Balkans. The GDP is comprised of agriculture (approx. 34%), industry (approx. 13%), service sector (approx. 32%), and remittances from Albanian workers abroad—mostly in Greece and Italy (approx. 21%).


Albania was the last of the central and eastern European countries to embark upon democratic and free market reforms. Further, Albania started from a comparatively disadvantaged position, due to Hoxha's catastrophic economic policies. Transition from a centrally planned economy to a market orientated system has almost been as difficult for Albania as the country's communist period.


The democratically elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program meant to halt economic deterioration and put the country on the path toward a market economy. Key elements included price and exchange system liberalization, fiscal consolidation, monetary restraint, and a firm income policy. These were complemented by a comprehensive package of structural reforms, including privatization, enterprise and financial sector reform, and creation of the legal framework for a market economy and private sector activity.


Results of Albania's efforts were initially encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew, and Albania's currency, the lek, stabilized. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania's opening and liberalizing was better than expected. Beginning in 1995, however, progress stalled. The collapse of the infamous pyramid schemes of the 1990s and the instability that followed were a tremendous setback, from which Albania's economy continues to recover.

Within recent years, the Albanian economy has improved, although infrastructure development and major reforms in areas such as tax collection, property laws, and banking are proceeding slowly. Between 1998-2000, Albania experienced 7-8% annual growth in GNP, although growth has slowed more recently; in 2002, it was estimated at 5%. Inflation in 2002 was approximately 6%.


Albania's trade imbalance is severe. In 2002, Albanian trade was U.S. $1.8 billion in imports, and U.S. $350 million in exports. Albania has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Macedonia, Croatia, UNMIK (Kosovo), and Bulgaria. FTAs with Romania, Bosnia, and Moldova are at various stages of approval. However, combined trade with all these countries constitutes a small percentage of Albania's trade, while trade with EU member states (notably Greece, Italy, and Turkey) accounts for nearly 75%. The government is currently negotiating a FTA with the EU, as part of its Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations, which, when it comes into force, could significantly reduce revenue collected.


Albania is assiduously trying to attract foreign investment and promote domestic investment, but significant impediments exist. The Albanian government faces the daunting but essential task of rationalizing and uniformly applying business laws, improving transparency in business procedures, restructuring the banking and tax systems (including tax collection), reducing corruption in the bureaucracy, and resolving property ownership disputes.


Business growth is further retarded by Albania's inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure. The capital, Tirana, generally receives electricity most of the day, but constant power outages plague every other major city, small town and rural village. Although recent steps have been taken to improve the transportation infrastructure, Albania has a limited railway system and few domestic airports. Because of the mountainous terrain, goods traveling overland must spend hours traversing the relatively sparse network of switchback roads, many of them of poor quality, to reach destinations that are relatively close.




MILITARY AFFAIRS

Since the fall of Communism in 2001, Albania has played a constructive role in resolving several of the interethnic conflicts in south central Europe, promoting peaceful dispute resolution and discouraging ethnic-Albanian extremists. Albania sheltered many thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 conflict, and now provides logistical assistance for Kosovo Force troops. Albania is part of the international Strategic Force serving in Bosnia, and Albanian peacekeepers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the international stabilization force in Iraq. Albania has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. policy in Iraq, and one of only four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom.


Albania was not invited to join NATO during the latest summit in November 2002, but continues to work with the international community to restructure its armed forces and strengthen democratic structures pursuant to its Membership Action Plan. Since 1999, Albania has spent $42 million annually on military expenditures, roughly 1.5% of its GDP. With bilateral and multi-lateral assistance, the Ministry of Defense is transitioning to a smaller, voluntary, professional military, and reducing the vast amounts of excess small arms, light weapons, and ammunition that litter the country and pose a significant public hazard. The government continues efforts to collect from civilians the weapons that were seized during the chaos of 1997.


In May 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations. Also in May 2003, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and the U.S. created the Adriatic Charter, modeled on the Baltic Charter, as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country's NATO candidacy.




FOREIGN RELATIONS

Albania is currently pursuing a path of greater Euro-Atlantic integration. Its primary long-term goals are to gain NATO and EU membership and to promote closer bilateral ties with its neighbors and with the U.S. Albania is a member of a number of international organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the UN, the Stability Pact, the Adriatic Charter, and the WTO. In February 2003, the EU opened negotiations with Albania on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, with an initial focus on implementing essential rule of law reforms and curbing corruption and organized crime.


Albania maintains generally good relations with its neighbors, and has or is seeking FTAs with all the Balkan countries. It re-established diplomatic relations with the Former Republic of Yugoslavia following the ouster of Slobodan Milosovic in 2000. Although the final status of Kosovo remains a key issue in Albanian-Serbian relations, both nations are committed to achieving a peaceful resolution. Albanian, Macedonian, and Italian law enforcement agencies are cooperating with increasing efficiency to crack down on the trafficking of arms, drugs, contraband, and human beings across their borders. Albania has also arrested and prosecuted several ethnic-Albanian extremists on charges of inciting interethnic hatred in Macedonia and Kosovo. Tensions occasionally arise with Greece over the treatment of the Greek minority in Albania or the Albanian minority in Greece, but overall relations are good, and Greece is a strong proponent of Albania's eventual integration into the EU and NATO. Albania recently upgraded the railway between the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, and Albania's northernmost major city, Skoder, to improve trade. Italy, Greece, and Turkey are Albania's largest trade partners.




U.S.-ALBANIAN RELATIONS

Albania enjoys friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with the U.S. Pro-U.S. sentiment is widespread among the population. Even while the U.S., which had closed its mission to Albania in 1946, was being vilified by Communist propaganda during the Hoxha regime, ordinary Albanians remembered that Woodrow Wilson had protected Albanian independence in 1919. Albanians credit the U.S. bombing of Serbia in 1999 with saving thousands of Kosovar-Albanian lives.


In 2003, Albania and the U.S. signed and ratified a number of agreements, including a treaty on the Prevention of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Promotion of Defense and Military Relations; the Adriatic Charter; and an Agreement regarding the surrender of persons to the International Criminal Court. The U.S. strongly supports Albania's EU and NATO membership goals. Between 1991 and 2003, the U.S. has provided $358.62 million through the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Act for Albania's humanitarian needs and economic and political transformation. In 2004, the U.S. expects to give over $28 million to Albania under the SEED program.


Despite its daunting problems at home, Albania has wholeheartedly supported the U.S. in the global war on terrorism, by freezing terrorist assets, shutting down suspect Islamic NGOs, expelling Islamic extremists, and providing military and diplomatic support for the U.S.-led actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Tirana (E), Tirana Rruga Elbasanit 103 • Dept. of State, 9510 Tirana Pl., Washington, D.C. 20521-9510, Tel [355] (4) 247-285 thru 89, Fax: 232-222.


AMB: James F. Jeffrey
AMB OMS: Linda Nicholas
DCM: Elizabeth W. Shelton
POL: Thomas Vajda
ECO/COM: Kirsten A. Brooks
CON: Donald L. Moore
MGT: Richard Morgan
GSO: James K. Jenkins
RSO: Michael C. Ranger
IPO: John F. Kane
DAO: CDR Robert Gail
ODC: MAJ Michael D. Zabrzeski
PAO: Gregory W. Kay
AID: Harry Birnholtz
AGR: Holly Higgins (res. Sofia)
FAA: Greg Joyner (res. Rome)
DEA: James Soiles (res. Athens)

Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003




TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
June 25, 2002


Country Description: Since the 1991-1992 period of political upheaval and the serious civil disturbances in 1997, Albania has been in a period of economic transition and steady recovery. Albania ranks among the countries with the lowest per capital income in Europe. The security situation throughout Albania remains somewhat unstable. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, and though EU market integration is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities. The capital is Tirana.

Entry Requirements: A passport is required. An entry card will be issued at the point of entry for $10.00 (U.S.) that is valid for a stay up to 30 days. An extension up to 180 days may be obtained by applying at the local police station. For stays exceeding 180 days, The Ministry of Interior accepts extension requests. There is also a departure fee of $10.00 (U.S.), payable in U.S. dollars or local currency (lek).


For additional information, please contact the Embassy of the Republic of Albania at 2100 S Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 223-4942; Fax (202 628-7324. Albania also maintains Honorary Consuls in Louisiana at 701 Poydras St. Suite 4200, New Orleans, LA 70139 (504) 596-4229; in Massachusetts at 140 Northern Ave., Boston, MA 02210 (617) 482-6262; and Texas at 20682 Sweetglen Dr., Houston, TX 77365-6385 (281) 345-9599.


In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.


Dual Nationality: In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. The Albanian government considers any person born in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. Male Albanian citizens are subject to the compulsory military draft regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian embassy or consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information on dual citizenship, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer. A useful Albanian government website in English is at http://www.mfa.al.

Safety and Security: Organized criminal gangs are endemic to all regions, and corruption is pervasive. The U.S. Government maintains security procedures regarding the travel of U.S. Government employees to areas north (north and east of Shkoder) of Mamuras (with the exception of cities along the national road) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. In most cases, traditional police assistance and protection is minimal. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers.


Crime: Albania has a high crime rate outside Tirana with instances of armed robberies, assaults, and bombings. Carjackings are a matter of considerable concern, especially for drivers of four-wheel drive and sport-utility vehicles. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime is common in Shkoder and frequent in other towns further up north and throughout northwestern Albania. Throughout the country, street crime is fairly common, and it occurs particularly at night. Criminals do not deliberately target U.S. citizens, but criminals seek targets of opportunity selecting those who appear to have anything of value. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pickpockets.


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.


U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://www.travel.state.gov.


If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.


Medical Facilities: Medical facilities and capabilities are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physician before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications.


Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services such as medical evacuations.


When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that U.S medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Moreover, many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.


Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international traveler's at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Condition/
Maintenance:
Poor
Rural Road Condition/
Maintenance:
Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance:
None


Major roads in Albania are often in very poor repair. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is particularly dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on the roads through the mountains in Northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they may be unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost wholly without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections.


For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Albania driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Albanian National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at: [email protected]

Please see also road safety information from other sources in Albania.


Aviation Safety Oversight: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at tel. 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at tel. (618) 229-4801.


Customs Regulations: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.


Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs in Albania are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available.


Special Circumstances: Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html, or telephone 1-888-407-4747.

Registration and Embassy Location: Americans living in or visiting Albania are urged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security within Albania. The U.S. Embassy in Tirana is located at Rruga E Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(42) 32875, fax (355)(42) 74957. The U.S. Embassy website is: http://www.usemb-tirana.usia.co.at.