Released by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs.
Official Name: Republic of Albania
Area: 28,750 sq km, slightly larger than Maryland.
Cities: Capital -- Tirana (est. pop 312,220); Durres (100,405), Elbasan (87,711), Shkoder (82,097), Vlore (71,089).
Terrain: Mostly mountains and hills; small plains along coast.
Climate: Mild temperate; cool, cloudy, wet winters; hot, clear, dry summers; interior colder.
Population: 3,413,904 (1995 est.).
Population Growth Rate: 1.16% (1995 est.).
Ethnic groups: Albanian 95%; Greek 3-4%; other 1-2%.
Religions: Muslim 70%; Orthodox 20%; Catholic 10%.
Languages: Albanian (Tosk is the official dialect), Greek.
Education: Years compulsory -- 9; Attendance -- 96.6% in urban areas, 41.1% in rural areas; Literacy -- 72%.
Health: Infant mortality rate -- 28.1 deaths/1000; Life expectancy: male -- 70, female -- 77.
Workforce: 1.5 million, total. Agriculture 60%; Industry and Commerce 40% (1987).
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Constitution: An interim basic law was approved by the People's Assembly on April 29, 1991; a draft constitution was rejected by popular referendum in the fall of 1994 and a new draft is pending.
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 (parliament); Judicial -- Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Appeals Courts, and District Courts.
Subdivisions: 36 Rreths (districts).
Political parties: Democratic Party (PD); Socialist Party (PS, formerly Albanian Workers Party); Republican Party (PR); Unity for Human Rights Party (PBDNJ, Greek minority party); Social Democratic Party (PSD); Democratic Alliance Party (PAD); Balli Kombetar (BK, National Front); National Unity Party (PUK); Social Democratic Union Party (PBSD); Christian Democratic Party (PCD); Democratic Party of the Right (PDD); Agrarian Party (PA); Ecology Party (EP); over 20 other parties registered.
Suffrage: Universal and compulsory at age 18.
GDP: $2.35 billion (1995 est.).
GDP growth rate: 11% (1995 est.).
Income per capita: $660 (1995 est.).
Inflation rate: 1996 -- 17-20%; 1995 -- 6%; 1992 -- 225%.
Natural resources: Oil, gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron, nickel.
Agriculture (55% of GDP): Wheat, corn, potatoes, sugar beets, cotton, tobacco.
Industry (16% of GDP): Textiles, timber, construction materials, fuels, semi-processed minerals.
Trade: Exports (1995) -- $205 million. Major markets: Italy, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary. Imports (1995) -- $679 million. Major suppliers -- Italy, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece.
Exchange rate (Jan 1995): 110 lek (L) per US $1.
U.S.- ALBANIAN RELATIONS
The Government of Albania made tremendous progress in overcoming years of Stalinist totalitarianism, economic ruin and isolation. In 1992 and 1993, under the programs of President Sali Berisha and the Democratic Party, Albania sought to establish the rule of law and institutionalize respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in nearly every corner of society. Western observers have called for continued progress, especially in the areas of the judiciary and the free press, and the focus of U.S. policy toward Albania has been to encourage this reform and democratization.
For 45 years, Albania was one of the most closed and tightly controlled countries of the world, a one-party state ruled by a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. During 1990, restrictions on travel abroad were liberalized, the ban on religious practice was amended, and multiparty elections were scheduled. In 1991, the Albanian government freed its political prisoners and made progress toward greater respect for human rights. Newly formed opposition parties won approximately one-third of the seats in the People's Assembly in the 1991 legislative elections. Following these reforms, the U.S. reestablished diplomatic relations with Albania in March 1991, and the U.S. Embassy in Tirana opened on October 1, 1991.
Since 1991, the U.S. Government has provided over $200 million to support Albania's political and economic transition. Assistance program initially consisted primarily of humanitarian assistance (food aid and medicine) and emergency supplies (fertilizer and school textbooks), but now focuses more broadly on transforming economic and political conditions.
Although relations with Albania remain good, they have cooled since May 1996, when international monitors observed serious irregularities in Albanian parliamentary elections, including intimidation, manipulation, and ballot fraud. Concern over the flawed elections has resulted in a thorough review of assistance projects in Albania, including military and assistance programs.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador - Marisa R. Lino
Deputy Chief of Mission - Robert F. Cekuta
Political Officer - Lynn Gurian
Economic/Commercial Officer - Frank Yacenda
Consular Officer - Susan Lively
Administrative Officer - Ellen Sullivan
Public Affairs Officer - Charles Walsh
The name Albania is derived from an ancient Illyrian tribe, the Albanoi, from which many Albanians are thought to be descended. The Albanian name for their country is Shqiperia. Historically, Albania has been a nation subject to foreign domination except for a brief period of independence from the Turks 1443-1478. After the upheaval of World War I, Albania was re-established as an independent state largely through the efforts of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the Paris peace conference, and remained independent until Italy invaded the country in 1939.
After Italy's surrender in 1943, German troops occupied the country and were challenged by the communist-dominated National Liberation Front (NLF), which gained control in November 1944. Yugoslav communists were instrumental in establishing the Albanian communist party in November 1941, and the NLF regime became a virtual satellite of Yugoslavia until the Tito-Stalin split in 1948. Albania's hard-line brand of communism led to growing difficulties with the Soviet Union under Krushchev and came to a head in 1961 when the Soviet leaders openly denounced Albania at a party congress. The two broke diplomatic relations later that year. However, Albania continued nominal membership in the Warsaw Pact until the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
In 1945, an informal U.S. mission was sent to Albania to study the possibility of establishing relations with the NLF regime. However, the regime refused to recognize the validity of prewar treaties and increasingly harassed the U.S. mission, so it was withdrawn in November 1946. The U.S. had no contact with the Albanian government between 1946 and 1990.
During the 1960s, China emerged as Albania's staunch ally and primary source of economic and military assistance. But the close relationship faltered during the 1970s when China decided to seek a rapprochement with the U.S. After years of rocky relations, the open split came in 1978 when the Chinese government ended its aid program and terminated all trade. Enver Hoxha, leader of the Albanian Communist Party, decided to pursue an independent, isolationist course. The result was financial ruin for Albania.
By 1990, changes elsewhere in the Communist Bloc began to influence
thinking in Albania. The government began to seek closer ties
with the West in order to improve the economic conditions in the
country. An interim basic law was approved by the People's Assembly
in April 1991, and the country is now working to draft a new constitution
outlining the structure of its new democratic government.
The collapse of communism in Albania came later and was more chaotic than in other Eastern European countries and was marked by a mass exodus of refugees to Italy and Greece in 1991 and 1992. Attempts at reform began in earnest in early 1992 after real GDP had fallen by over 50% from its peak in 1989.
The democratically-elected government that assumed office in April 1992 launched an ambitious economic reform program 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. Most prices were liberalized and are now at or near international levels. Most agriculture, state housing, and small industry have been privatized. Progress has continued in the privatization of transport, services, and small and medium enterprises. In 1995, the government began privatizing large state enterprises.
Results of Albania's efforts have been encouraging. Led by the agricultural sector, real GDP grew by an estimated 11% in 1993, 8% in 1994, and over 8% in 1995. Most of this growth occurred in the private sector. Annual inflation dropped from 250% in 1991 to single digits, although this may rise again due to continued deficit spending. The lek stabilized. Albania is no longer dependent on food aid. Farmers' small plots are being intensively cultivated, there are large numbers of new shops in the cities, and rural-to-urban migration is underway. The speed and vigor of private entrepreneurial response to Albania's opening and liberalizing was better than expected.
Relations with Albania's foreign commercial creditors are improving following a mid-1995 debt reduction agreement in which Albania, with World Bank assistance, wrote off its ruinous short-term commercial debt. Debt reduction should improve Albania's access to international commercial lending and increase its attractiveness to foreign investors.
The need for further reform is profound, encompassing all sectors of the economy. However, reforms are constrained by limited administrative capacity and low income levels, which make the population particularly vulnerable to employment loss, price increase, and other actions which negatively affect income. Albania is still dependent on foreign aid and expatriate remittances from abroad. Large scale investment from outside is still hampered by poor infrastructure, lack of a fully functional banking system, untested or incompletely developed investment and tax laws, and an enduring mentality that discourages bureaucratic initiative.
The government has followed an expansionary fiscal policy resulting in an unsustainable budget deficit. Unemployment remains high, particularly in the cities and the northern districts, where there has been little economic activity except smuggling.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Albania's 1976 socialist constitution was declared invalid in April 1991, and an interim constitution was adopted. The country remains without a permanent constitution; a draft constitution was rejected in a November 1994 referendum.
Principal Government Officials
President - Dr. Sali Berisha
Prime Minister - Aleksander Meksi
Foreign Minister - Tritan Shehu
Ambassador to the United States - Lublin Dilja
Ambassador to the United Nations - Pellumb Kula
President and Cabinet
The Head of State in Albania is the President of the Republic. He is elected to a five-year term by the People's Assembly using secret ballot, requiring a two-thirds majority of the votes of all deputies. The next election is expected in spring of 1997.
The President has the power to:
--guarantee observation of the Constitution and all laws;
--act as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces;
--exercise the duties of the People's Assembly when the Assembly is not in session;
--appoint the Chairman of the Council of Ministers (prime minister).
Executive power rests with the Council of Ministers (cabinet). The Chairman of the Council (Prime Minister) is appointed by the President, ministers are nominated by the President on the basis of the Chairman's recommendation. The composition of the Council must finally be approved by the People's Assembly. The Council is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs.
The cabinet consists of sixteen ministers and nine state secretaries. The Social Democratic Union Party heads one ministry, and the Republican and Christian Democratic Parties hold state secretariats.
The Kuvendi Popullor, or People's Assembly, is the law-making body of the Albanian government. There are 140 deputies in the Assembly, of which 115 are directly elected by an absolute majority of the voters and 25 are chosen by their parties on the basis of proportional representation. The Assembly has fifteen permanent commissions, or committees. Parliamentary elections are held every four years.
The parliament which emerged from flawed elections in May 1996 was led by the Democratic Party, which occupied 122 of the 140 seats. The Socialist Party won ten seats, but only one renegade party member occupied his. The ethnic-Greek-dominated Unity for Human Rights Party won three seats, and the right-wing Republican Party and Balli Kombetar hold the remaining five.
The Assembly has the power to:
--decide the direction of domestic and foreign policy;
--approve or amending the Constitution;
--declare war on another state;
--ratify or annul international treaties;
--elect the President of the Republic, the Supreme Court, the Attorney General and his or her deputies;
--control the activity of state radio and television, state news agency and other official information media.
The judicial system is administered by the Ministry of Justice, which supervises the organization and functioning of the courts. Reforms in 1990 re-established the Ministry of Justice (the Minister being empowered to overturn court rulings), and guaranteed defendants the right to an attorney. Further reforms were undertaken following international criticism of the unconstitutional removal of the President of the Court of Cassation (supreme criminal court) in 1995.
The court system consists of a Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation, appeals courts, and district courts. The Constitutional Court is comprised of nine members; five elected by the People's Assembly, four appointed by the President. The Constitutional Court interprets the Constitution, determines the constitutionality of laws, and resolves disagreements between local and federal authorities.
Albanian court verdicts are rendered by a college of three judges; there is no jury trial, though the college is sometimes referred to in the Albanian press as the "jury".
Albania is divided into 12 prefectures. Prefects are appointed by the Council of Ministers. Each prefecture comprises several districts (Rreths), of which there are 36. Each district has its own local administration, and governor. District governors are elected by the District Council, whose members are selected from party lists made public to voters before local elections, on the basis of proportional representation. City mayors are directly elected by voters, while city councils are chosen by proportional representation.
Albania's defense forces consist of 72,500 persons in uniform (60,000 army; 10,000 air force; 2,500 navy); the defense expenditure for 1995 was estimated at 5,100 million lek. The paramilitary forces numbered 13,500 (including an internal security force of 5,000 and a people's militia of 3,500). There is universal male conscription under which men serve for 12 months. Military ranks were approved by the People's Assembly and re-introduced in 1992.
U.S. address - Suite 1000, 1511 K Street N.W., Washington, DC 20005; Telephone: 202-223-4942; fax: 202-628-7342
Albanian foreign policy has focused on maintaining good relations with its Balkan neighbors, gaining access to European security institutions, and securing close ties with the United States. The Government of Albania is very concerned with developments in the ethnic-Albanian province of Kosovo in neighboring Serbia, particularly in the post-Dayton agreement period. While maintaining a responsible and non-provocative position, the GOA has made it clear that the status and treatment of the Albanian population in Kosovo is a principal national concern. Governmental and public support for Kosovar leader Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) remains strong.
Bilateral relations with Greece improved dramatically since 1994. In 1996 the two countries signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship and discussed the issues of the status of Albanian refugees in Greece and mother-tongue education for the ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania. The situation of the Greek minority in southern Albania is calm. Albanians have done a great deal to assure the minority's rights, but more could be done, particularly in the area of education.
Tirana's relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) remain friendly, despite occasional incidents involving ethnic Albanians in the FYROM. A principal point of contention is Skopje's opposition to an Albanian-language "university" in the Macedonian town of Tetovo. Tirana remains convinced that a stable FYROM is essential to stability in the Balkans and has repeatedly encouraged the Albanian minority's continued participation in the government of FYROM. The GOA has been supportive of the presence of U.S. troops in the UNPREDEP contingent stationed near the FYROM's border with Serbia.
Through FY 1996 the U.S. has committed approximately $219 million to Albania's economic and political transformation and to address humanitarian needs. This figure comprises about ten percent of all bilateral and multilateral assistance offered since 1991. Italy ranks first in bilateral assistance ($421 million) and Germany third ($117 million). The EU has given about $664 million since 1991 and pledged $175 million during 1996-1999 under the PHARE program.
In FY 1996, the U.S. provided $21 million through the Support
for East European Democracy (SEED) Act, down from $27 million
the previous year. The $30 million Albanian-American Enterprise
Fund (AAEF), launched in 1994, began making loans to local businesses.
AAEF is designed to harness private sector efforts to assist in
the economic transformation. U.S. assistance priorities include
promotion of agricultural development and a market economy, advancement
of democratic institutions, and improvements in quality of life.
U.S. programs no longer include humanitarian assistance.
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