Country profile





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Formal Name:

Republic of Albania (Albania in short form)

Term for Citizens:



Main Towns:

Tiranë (Capital 600,000), Shkodra (98,000), Durres (130,000).

Independence day:

November 28, 1912 is a national holiday celebrated as Liberation Day


Lek (pl., leke) = 100 qindarkas; average exchange rate in 2000 was i US$ = 143.71 Leke or 1 EURO = 132.72 Leke.


Black, two-headed eagle centered on a red field. Albanian (Tosk is official dialect, Geg also a much-used variant), Greek.

Fiscal year:

Calendar year.

Total area:

28,750 square kilometers (land area 27,400 square kilometers); slightly larger than Maryland.


Southeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea and the eastern part of the Strait of Otranto, opposite the heel of the Italian boot; between approximately 40° and 43° north latitude


3,42 m (2000, EIU estimate), growth rate 1.1 percent (1999). Birth rate 27 per 1,000 population, death rate 4per 1,000 population. Total fertility rate 2.4 children per woman. Infant mortality rate 26 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth 65.9 years for males, 72.3 years for females.


A little over 20 percent is coastal plain, some of it poorly drained. Mostly hills and mountains, often covered with scrub forest. The only navigable river is the Bunë.


Mediterranean in the coastal plain, mcuh harsher in mountainous areas. Mild temperate; cool, cloudy, wet winters with a January low of 2-12°C; hot, clear, dry summers with a July high of 28°C; interior is cooler and wetter. Driest months July and August, 32 mm average rainfall. Wettest month, November with 211 mm rainfall.


Land boundaries total 720 kilometers; borders with Greece 282 kilometers; border with former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 151 kilometers; border with Serbia 114 kilometers; border with Montengro 173 kilometers; coastline 362 kilometers.

Ethnic Groups:

Albanian 90 percent, divided into two groups: the Gegs to the north of the Shkumbin River and the Tosks to the south. Greeks probably 8 percent, others (mostly Vlachs, Gypsies, Serbs and Bulgarians) at least 2 percent.


In 1992, an estimated 70 percent of people were Muslim, 20 percent Orthodox, and 10 percent Roman Catholic. In 1967 all mosques and churches were closed and religious observances prohibited; in December 1990, the ban on religious observance was lifted.


Free at all levels. Eight-grade primary and intermediate levels compulsory beginings at age six. Literacy rate raised from about 20 percent in 1945 to an estimated 75 percent in recent years. In 1998, primary school was attended by 93 percent of all school-age children, and secondary school by 70 percent. School operations were seriously disrupted by breakdown of public order in 1991 and the social turmoil in 1997.

Health and Welfare:

All medical services are free. Six months of maternity leave at approximately 85 percent salary; noncontributory state social insurance system for all workers, with 70-100 percent of salary during sick leave. Pension about 53 percent of average salary. Retirement age 50-60 for men, 45-55 for women. In the early 1990s, the health and welfare system was adversely affected by economic and social disintegration.

Political Parties:

The Republic of Albania is a parliamentary democracy governed by a left-of- center coalition led by the Socialist Party of Albania (SPA), also comprising the Democratic Alliance (DA), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Agrarian Party (AP), National Unity Party (NUP), Party of Democratic Unity and Prosperity (PDUP), and Union for Human Rights (UHR). The government came to power after a parliamentary election in June 1997, and the SPA won most seats in the local elections of October 2000. The Prime Minister, Ilir Meta (SPA), took office in October 1999 and again in September 2001. The SPA chairman, a former prime minister, Fatos Nano, in effect shares power with Mr. Ilir Meta.


Until April 1991 single-chamber People's Assembly with 250 deputies met only a few days each year; decisions made by the Presidium of the People's Assembly whose president is head of state, and Council of Ministers; from April 1991, interim constitution provided for president who could not hold other offices concurrently; People's Assembly with at least 140 members was the legislative, Council of Ministers is the top executive organ.


As of September 2001: agriculture and food; culture, youth and sport; defense; education and science; finances; foreign affairs; economic cooperation and trade; health; environment protection; public economy and privatization; justice; labor and social welfare; public order; local givernment and decentralization; public works and turism.

Administrative Divisions:

Country is divided into 12 preferctures.

Judicial System:

Supreme Court, elected by People's Assembly, also district and regional courts


Between 16,000 and 21,000 kilometers of road network suitable for motor traffic; 6,700 kilometers of main roads. In the mountainous north, communications still mostly by pack ponies or donkeys. Private cars not permitted until the second half of 1990; bicycles and mules widely used.


Total of 543 kilometers, all single track, 509 kilometers in 1.435-meter standard gauge; thirty-four kilometers in narrow gauge. Work on the Yugoslav section of the fifty-kilometer line between Shkodër and Titograd was completed in late 1985; the line opened to freight traffic in September 1986.


Scheduled flights from Rinas Airport, twenty-eight kilometers from Tiranë to many major European cities. No regular internal air service.


In 1986 Albania had twenty merchant ships, with a total displacement of about 56,000 gross tons. Main ports were Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë and Shëngjin. Completion of the new port near Vlorë by early 1990s will allow a cargo-handling capacity of 4 million tons per year.

Armed Forces:

In 1991 the People's Army included ground forces, air and air defense forces, and naval forces and comprised about 48,000 active-duty and 155,000 reserve personnel. Under a ten years programme, army is to be re-organised firts and then the armed forces are to be brought up to NATO standarts.

Defense Budget:

Albania increased defence expenses from US$ 40 million in 1999 to alomost US$ 60 milion in 2000. In the same time it cut the army at seven divisions an a comando brigade totaling 30,000.

Frontier Guards:

About 7,000 members organized into several battalion-sized units.

GDP at al:

3.8 billion in 1999 (nominal USD), US$970 per capita, an increase of 7.5 percent from the previous year. Real Annual GDP Growth is calculated at 7.3% in 1999. Private sector share of GDP is 75% in 1998. Foreign Direct Investment per Capita is US$ 12 (nominal USD in 1999). Annual Inflation -1% (1999).

Government Budget:

Revenues US$2.3 billion; expenditures US$2.3 billion (1989). Note: Albania perennially ran a substantial trade deficit; government tied imports to exports, so deficit seems to have been greatly reduced if not eliminated.

Labor Force:

1,138 thousands (1999); agriculture, fishery and hunting about 778 thousands, minning, prpcessing and construction about 116 thousands, transport and telecommunication about 30 thousands, other services abot 62 thousands and education, health and other budgetary about 172 thousands.



Arable land per capita is the lowest in Europe. Self-sufficiency in grain production achieved in 1976, according to government figures. A wide variety of temperate-zone crops and livestock raised. Up to 1990, Albania was largely selfsufficient in food; thereafter drought and political breakdown necessitated foreign food aid. Agriculture is the largest single sector of the Albanian economy. The feudal system that operated before the second world war was abolished by the communists, who introduced an inefficient form of collective farming. Terracing, irrigation, drainage and desalination projects in the 1970s and 1980s resulted in a near doubling of arable land compared with 1950; however, few collective farms were mechanised, and althaugh members' household plots achieved much higher yields, they were restricted in area to 0.1 ha. Whereas most other communist states allowed households to retain their own farm animals, livestock in Albania was confiscated and integrated into communal herds. Farm households took control of land and livestock as soon as the comniunists' grip on power loosened at the beginning of the 1990s. Collective farm buildings were damaged or lost in the wave of wanton destruction that followed, and orchards were hacked down for use as firewood or for makeshift construction. In 1993 there were only 3.2m fruit trees (apples, pears, peaches, figs and citrus), compared with 8.3m trees in 1990; the vineyard acreage was reduced to one-third of its level in 1991. Nevertheless, the gross output of agri- culture, forestry and fisheries in 2000 was 58% above its lowest point in 1992. This may not quite equal the volume produced by the quasi-state collectives of the 1980s, but inefficient crops grown for self-sufficiency, such as rice and cotton, have been eliminated, and more fodder is grown because livestock is privately owned. However, the sector remains inefficient by foreign standards because it is overstaffed. As opportunities for non-farm employment are created, agriculture will continue to supply the domestic market with foodstuffs, but should find specialist export markets for medicina! crops, wine and olive oil. Its very backwardness could become an advantage because its low use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers could tap into the burgeoning Western market for organic foods. Pressed into costly grain self-sufficiency under the communist leader, Enver Hoxha, Albanian agriculture has already begun to diversify - it now satisfies only about half of national cereal consumption - but the lack of agricultural equipment and transport to markets, along with inadequate irrigation, were only being addressed in the late 1990s. A survey conducted in 1999 showed that 42% of farmers still tilled their land with the aid of anirnal and manpower alone. Peasant self-sufficiency, forced on collective farmers by the communist government's prohibition of private marketing, remains high: the 1999 survey indicated that almost half of farm households never bought arable or animal produce from outside.

Land Use/Ownership:

Arable land 21 percent; permanent crops 4 percent; meadows and pastures 15 percent; forest and woodland 38 percent; other 22 percent. Land ownership is highly dispersed. The privatisation process has left land ownership highly fragmented. The 1999 survey showed that there ivere 466,766 holdings with an average area of 4.1 ha, of which 1.8 ha was agricultural land, 2.2 ha forest and 0.1 ha either built on or in other use. The process of registration of title has led to a large number of disputes, especially in the northern and central uplands, because of coilflicting claims over assets previously held on quasi-feudal terms. Fewer registration problems have arisen in the south and the littoral plain, where ownership had been decided before the second world war and much land had been reclaimed in the communist period, having had no owner before collectivisation. The IMF's requirement, introduced in February 1998, to facilitate the functioning of a land market by universal land registration has largely been satisfied, but it has had adverse social consequences because discrimination against "outsiders", even those settled for two generations, is creating a class of landless peasants.


Main industries in early 1990s were food products, energy and petroleum, mining and basic metals, textiles and clothing, lumber, cement, engineering, and chemicals.Industry has accounted for a steady 12% of GDP in each of the years 1994-99. Albania's historical dependence on mineral extraction is owing to substantial commercially exploitable reserves. Chrome, copper and nickel deposits have long been opened up, but equipment and mining methods are now antiquated and many workings have fallen into desuetude. Whereas mineral exports other than fuel constituted 24.7% of 1995 exports, they were only 7.3% of 1999 exports, a fall from US$50.6m to US$20m at current prices.

Natural Resources:

Chromium, coal, copper, natural gas, nickel, oil, timber

Foreign Trade Balance:

The trade deficit is structural. There was only a low level of foreign trade in the communist era, as Albania's policy of autarky limited exports to small volurnes of raw materials that would generate sufficient foreign exchange to cover essential imports. In the early 1990s the collapse of the communist-hlock trading system, the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, or Comecon), which had been the destination for most Albanian exports, compounded by disruption caused by civil unrest at home, pushed exports of goods below even this low level. Current-account convertibility and the abolition of import quotas, plus hunlanitarian aid, rapidly increased imports. By 1996, according to figures frorn the Bank of Albania (BoA, the central bank), Albania had a trade deficit in excess of US$700rn. Household demand for consumer goods that cannot be satisfied by domestic suppliers, given the parlous state of Albanian industry, and equipment purchases as industry gradually re- tools, have drawn in imports well in excess of exports. The imbalance is structural and will remain high for some time. The narrowing of the deficit in 1997-98 was largely attributable to reduced irnport demand during civil unrest. It has since widened and in 2000, on the basis of figures for January-September, it was expected that it will exceed US$700m again, as in 1996.
The structure of exports has changed. Chromium was Albania's largest export in the communist era, when the country ranl ed as one of the world's five largest chrome producers. The increasing depletion of the best reserves and unrest in mining areas has led to a sharp decline in chrome, copper and nickel exports. A substantia1 upturn is likely following foreign investment in mines and processing plants.

Trade (export vs imports):

Italy (67 % vs 37.6), Germany ( 6.4$ vs 5.5$), Greece (14.4 vs 28.2%), East European countries, and China.