Home to both Mother Theresa and the great 15th century hero Skanderbeg, Albania is located in Southeastern Europe bordering the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea, between Montenegro and Kosovo in the north, Macedonia in the east and Greece in the south.
Albanian history and culture is fascinating. Butrint, one of the world's archeological wonders - and a UNESCO World Heritage site - in the south of Albania provides a glimpse of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods - all atop a cliff overlooking Corfu.
Throughout the transition period Albania has been faced with a number of extremely complex challenges in order to establish stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law and human rights as well as to operate a functioning market economy and to cope with competition and market forces.
Albania has enjoyed a high sustained rate of economic growth over the past several years, averaging about 5–6 per cent per year, placing Albania into the group of countries with a high Human Development Index (HDI).
Albania represents a considerable market in the region due to several agreements on free trade with neighbor countries and European Union, as well as an attractive investment destination.
Albania: Basic Data
|Land boundaries||Total: 691 km (Greece 212 km, Kosovo* 112 km, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 181 km, Montenegro 186 km)|
|Capital||Tirana (418,495 inhabitants)|
|Provinces||12 (Berat, Diber, Durres, Elbasan, Fier, Gjirokaster, Korce, Kukes, Lezhe, Shkoder, Tirane, Vlore)|
|Constitution||Approved by referendum and promulgated in 1998|
|Population||Total 2.8 million; 49.8% Female and 50.2% Male (2011 Census)|
|Annual pop. growth||-0.001% / -2,942 inhabitants (2014, INSTAT)|
|Mean / Median age:||Total: 35.2/33.5 years; Female: 35.9/34.7 years; Male: 34.6/32.3 years (2011 Census)|
|HDI||0.716 (2014 Human Development Index value, UNDP)|
|Life expectancy at birth||Female: 80.3 years; Male: 76.4 years (2014, INSTAT)|
|Total fertility rate||1.78 births per woman (2014, INSTAT)|
|Ethnic groups||Albanian 82.6%;Greek 0.9%; Roma 0.3%; undeclared or unknown 15.5% (2011 Census)|
|Religion||Muslim 56.7%, Catholic 10.0%, Orthodox 6.8%, Believers without denomination 5.5%, Atheist 2.5%, Bektashi 2.1%, Other 0.2%, undeclared or unknown 16.2% (2011 Census)|
|Languages||Albanian 98.8% (official), Greek 0.5%, Other 0.6%, undeclared 0.1% (2011 Census)|
|EU status||Candidate country, 2014|
|Labour force||1,256,858 (2014 Labour Force Survey, INSTAT)|
|Income Level||Upper middle income|
|GDP per capita||$4.619; Growth rate: 1.9% (2014, World Bank)|
|Inflation rate||1.6% (2014, World Bank)|
|Unemployment rate||17.3% (aged 15-64, Q2 2015, INSTAT)|
|Budget||Revenues: 366.7 billion ALL (26.3% of GDP)
Expenditures: 438.8 billion ALL (31.5% of GDP)
(2014, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Albania)
|Public debt (% GDP)||71.6% (2014, Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Albania)|
|Main issues||EU accession; Comprehensive institutional, political, economic approximation, in line with the chapters of the Acquis; Disparity reduction|
|Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)||Refugees: 104
Stateless persons: 7,443 (2014, UNHCR)
|Terrain||Mostly mountains and hills; small plains along coast|
|Natural resources||Oil, gas, coal, bauxite, chromite, copper, iron ore, nickel, salt, timber, hydropower, arable land|
Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 but till the end of the First World War, the country was attacked by neighboring countries.
In 1925, the Constitutional Assembly declared Albania a Parliamentary Republic and Ahmet Zog was elected President of Albania. However, he had so much power that the Republic functioned as a Presidential one. After three years Ahmet Zog was declared the King of Albania, receiving the royal title "Zog I".
After eleven years of monarchy the country was occupied by Mussolini’s forces in 1939, and ending the monarchy. In 1943 the armies of Hitler occupied the country. The resistance against foreign invasion was known as the Anti – Fascist National Liberation front. The Communist party took power in November 1944, when the foreign armies were expelled. Shortly thereafter, a totalitarian regime was established under the communist leader Enver Hoxha.
For about 50 years the regime practiced self-isolation, leaving the country in great economic poverty when it finally emerged from isolation in 1991. The principle of self-reliance applied by the Communist regime prohibited foreign loans, credits and investment.
Although Albania has progressed well since the fall of the Communist regime. However the country faces a number of challenges.
The overall unemployment rate rose to 18% in 2014 and 1 in 3 young persons are unemployed. Women’s rights are marginalized and although their participation in the labor market, average salaries are 18% lower those of men. The wage gap in rural areas is double that of urban areas representing the generally marginalized situation of the rural population. Agriculture accounts for 20% of GDP and half of total employment. The low share of employment in other sectors is a concern for diversified growth and employment. Environmental protection has not kept pace with economic growth.
Low levels of governmental resources are currently invested in early education, preventing disease and primary health care, social care and child protection services resulting in high degrees of child mortality and social exclusion extending into the spheres of the economy and governance and rule of law.
Governance and rule of law is a priority of the government as the lack of coordination between ministries and departments, limited technical capacities, high staff turnover, and fragmented ways of providing services all affect the speed at which legislation and regulations are implemented. The judicial system in Albania is still characterized by limited accountability, poor inter-institutional cooperation and backlogs. . Civil society is under-developed, especially outside Tirana.
Demand for natural resources has caused significant damage: air pollution is a major concern in cities, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, while waste management is poor and the protection of soil, forests, freshwater and marine resources is weak.
Overall the most visible and pressing challenge for Albania is meeting the multi-sectoral requirements for accession to the European Union (EU). This is reflected in the sectoral and crosscutting strategies outlined in the National Strategy for Development and Integration
The country has made significant progress towards integration into the European Union especially in regards to meeting the political criteria and establishing stable institutions and thus guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, protection of minorities, regional cooperation and good relations with enlargement countries and EU Member States.
Albania has made progress in its democratic development since first holding multiparty elections in 1991.
European and Euro-Atlantic integration, along with rapid and sustainable growth remain the overarching goals for Albania.
On 18 February 2008 the Council adopted a new European partnership with Albania. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the country was signed on 12 June 2006 and entered into force on 1 April 2009.The EU-Albania visa facilitation agreement entered into force in January 2008.
Albania joined NATO in April 2009. Albania received the EU candidate status in 2013- a major step towards achievement of the country's European aspirations.
In 2014, the Government in partnership with a number of international and national partners, including UNDP, undertook a transformative Administrative and Territorial Reform which consolidated the country's 373 local government units into 61.This marked a milestone towards creating a local governance system which is critical for Albania's European Integration.
In 2016 the country received the European Commission’s recommendation for opening of accession talks with the European Union, in view of the progress in meeting the five key EU integration priorities.The recommendation comes as a result of many years of solid reforms undertaken by the Government and a large array of partners and a clear step forward on Albania’s European Union path.The Justice Reform was adopted by the Parliament of Albania in 2016, paving the way for a thorough and comprehensive reform of the judiciary to make it accountable, independent and transparent.