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Albania


Geographic position and climate

Balkan MapThe country covers a total of 28,748 squared kilometers (11,000 squared miles). The 70% of the country is covAlbania is located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. It borders the Republic of Montenegro (287 km), the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of (Fyr) Macedonia in the north and northeast (151 km), and Greece in the south and southeast (282 km). It has access to the Adriatic and Ionian Seas in the west with a coastline length of 476 km (296 mi). From the Strait of Otranto, Albania is less than 72 km (45 miles) from Italy.ered by mountains and high hills. The average high about sea level is nearly 708 m and the highest mountain is Korab situated next to the border with Macedonia, 2.753 metres (9.032 ft). The climate on the coast is typically Mediterranean with mild, wet winters and warm, sunny, and rather dry summers.Inland conditions vary depending on altitude, but the higher areas above 1.500 m/5.000 ft are rather cold and frequently snowy in winter.

Population

Albania has a population of nearly 3.3 million inhabitants and more than the half of the population lives in the villages and in the rural areas. The republic of Albania has mostly a homogeneous ethnic population. Albanians form 95% of the population, Greek minority forms 3% and the other 2% is composed by Vlachs, Romas (Gypsy), Montenegrins, Macedonians, Bulgarians.

Capital and Principal cities

TiranaTirana capital of Albania since 1920. Population is 763,634 inhabitants (2011 estimates).

Durres main port of the city. Population 265,330 inhabitants.

Shkoder biggest center in northwest Albania. Population 217,375 inhabitants.

Korce biggest center in southeast Albania. Population 220,438 inhabitants.

Vlore biggest center in southwest Albania. Population 184,279 inhabitants.

Language

Albanian is a language of the extensive Indo-European family and is thus related to a certain degree to almost all other languages of Europe. At the same time, Albanian shows no particularly close historical affinity to any other language or language group within the Indo-European family, i.e. it forms a language group of its own. Albanian is considered to have evolved from an extinct Paleo-Balkan language, usually taken to be either Illyrian or Thracian. Besides the Albanian language, most of the people of Albania are fluent in Italian, Greek and well-versed with English as well.

Flag

Flag of AlbaniaThe official flag of the Republic of Albania is a black two-headed eagle centered on a red background. The emblem on the Albanian flag is derived from the medieval Coat of Arms of Gjergj Kastrioti ( known as Skanderbeg ) who led an Albanian revolt against the Ottoman Empire resulting in their brief independence from 1443 to 1468

Political System

Albania's political system is a presidential parliamentary democracy. The Parliament of Albania consists of a unicameral assembly known as the 'People's Assembly' or 'Kuvendi Popullor'. The assembly has 140 seats; 100 are elected by direct popular vote and 40 by proportional vote for four year terms. The People's Assembly elects the President for a five-year term. The President of the Republic is the Head of State and represents the unity of the people. He has general powers as Commander-in-Chief of the army and Chair of the National Security Council. He is also the head of the High Council of Justice. The Judiciary Power is on the hand of the High Council of Justice, Constitutional Court, High Court and other courts as well as the Prosecutors Office. The president has a great power over the judiciary process in Albania, heading the HCJ and appointing judges of all courts. The president of the republic appoints the prime minister on the proposal of the party or coalition of parties that has the majority of seats in the Assembly. The Executive branch of government is maintained by the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister.

Economy overview

Bank of AlbaniaAlbania is following the road to a more open-market economy. Macroeconomic growth averaged around 6 % in the period from 2004 to 2008, but declined to about 3% in 2009-11. Inflation is low and stable. The government has introduced measures to reduce crime and has implemented a fiscal reform package to improve the economy and attract foreign investment.

Twenty per cent of Albania is fertile, arable land. It has untapped natural resources (including chrome — one of Albania's most important sources of hard-currency income) and a strong human resource base (a young population and a national literacy rate of 99.1 per cent). The median age is 30.4 years as of 2011 and 47.8 per cent of the workforce is employed in agriculture, with the rest in industry and services (2010 est.). As of March 2012, the unemployment rate officially stands at 13.3per cent

Although agriculture is Albania's largest sector - it accounts for about one-fifth of GDP - it is yet to modernise and small landholders predominate. This has caused inefficiency in the agricultural industry and, in addition to energy shortages, has stalled foreign direct investment (FDI) - the lowest in the region. The Albanian Government has developed a new thermal power plant near Vlore and plans to upgrade transmission lines between Albania and Montenegro and Kosovo to help relieve the energy shortages. Fiscal and legislative reforms have also been introduced in an attempt to improve FDI. Using EU funds, the government is upgrading the country’s poor national road and rail network, another long-standing barrier to sustained economic growth.

Albania's main industries include food processing, textiles and clothing, lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, mining, basic metals and hydropower. Export commodities include textiles and footwear, asphalt, metals and metallic ores, crude oil, vegetables, fruits and tobacco. Albania remains an extremely poor country by European standards, with 12.5 per cent of the population living below the poverty line (2008 est.) and public debt at 59.5 per cent of GDP in 2012 which is just short of its legal limit. Around 8 per cent of Albania's GDP (2010) results from remittances from Albanians working abroad, mostly in Greece and Italy. Workers' remittances and foreign aid are expected to continue to offset a widening trade deficit.

Whilst the Albanian economy has been partially sheltered from the global financial crisis, the impact has materialised in a slower economic growth. Strong trade and banking sector ties with Greece and Italy make Albania vulnerable to future spillover effects. Greece's economic crisis has already prompted some Albanian workers to return home, resulting in a decline in remittances.

Short History

The first historical trace in Albania goes back to the prehistoric era some 300,000 years ago. Starting in the 7th century BC, Greek colonies start rising up along the Illyrian coast, and for the next several centuries the Illyrian tribes dominated the region. It wasn't until the 1st century BC that the Roman army defeated the Illyrians, ending their independence. The Romans ruled here until 395 AD when the empire was divided in two parts and the area of present-day Albania was put under Byzantine command. Under the Byzantines, Albania endured raids by different barbarian tribes such as Visigoths, Huns, Ostrogoths, Avars, and Slavs that destroyed and weakened the empire. In the mid 800s the Bulgarian Empire took over, and the area of eastern Albania became a valuable cultural center.

Shqiperia Mosaic

The Bulgarian Empire declined in the late 13th century and Albania was integrated into the Serbian state. The Ottomans took control in 1385 with the Battle of Savra, and aside from a brief interruption during the Gjergj Kastrioti Scanderbeg uprising (1443-1478), they ruled for 500 years. In this period many Albanians reached notable rankings within the Ottoman government, remaining highly active and faithful during the Ottoman era. By the end of 1800s the nationalism movement has started and the Albanians began to fight for their independence. By the end of the 19th century many revolts were organized, and the Albanian National Awakening took place, but it wasn't until the Balkan War of 1912 that the Albania was proclaimed independent. As Albania began to establish its new boundary lines and put together a government, World War I interrupted their efforts, and political turmoil overwhelmed the country.

Prince William of Wied, who was ruling the Princedom of Albania, left the country during that war to serve in the German Army, and never returned to claim his position. Albania was consequently divided among Italy, Serbia, and Greece, and as World War I came to an end the country was still without a recognized government. Albania struggled to regain independence. In 1920 Italians troops left the country and the United States intervened in support of Albania's independence, which ultimately led to the League of Nations accepting Albania as a full member. In 1924, Ahmet Zogu was elected president with dictatorial powers and formed an alliance with Italy, and established good relations with Benito Mussolini.

The parliament in 1928, proclaimed Albania a Kingdom with Zog as appointed King. In 1939 Mussolini’s army invaded Albania, eradicating King Zog. This put Albania as one of the first nations occupied by the Axis Powers during World War II, and what ensued was a tug-of-war between Italy, Germany and Greece. By the war's end in Albania some 30,000 residents were dead, 200 villages totally destroyed and around 100,000 left homeless. In this state, Communists quickly took power in Albania, and isolated the country from the rest of the noncommunist world. This lasted until the early 1990s when most of the Communist doctrine collapsed across Europe. Albania took this moment to completely abandon its long-time Communist rule in favor of democracy and a move into the 21st Century.

Blessed with many natural resources, Albania has (for the most part) remained somewhat isolated from the world because of its mountainous topography and the policies of its former hard line government. However, in 2009 the country joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and is currently applying for EU membership.

Tourism to Albania has increased in recent years, and this comes as no surprise due to the country's pristine beaches, impressive mountain ranges, delicious cuisine, and genuine hospitality. Albania’s capital, Tirana, is host to a vibrant nightlife, while the countryside has become more and more popular for the foreign tourists. Albania was considered one of the top ten countries in the world to be visited in 2011.

Currency

The lek/ë (sign: L; code: ALL) is the official currency of Albania. It is subdivided into 100 qindarka/ë, although qindarka are no longer issued.

For the exchange rates refer to BOA (bank of Albania, click to open link in new window).

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