Albania: country overview21 August 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 12 February 2013
Albania is a potential candidate country for EU accession following the Thessaloniki European Council of June 2003. On 18 February 2008 the Council adopted a new European partnership with Albania.
Member of Schengen area: No
Political system: Republic
Capital city: Tirana
Total area: 28.748 km²
Population: 3.6 million
Albania, a formerly closed, centrally-planned state, is making the difficult transition to a more modern open-market economy. Macroeconomic growth averaged around 6% between 2004-08, but declined to about 3% in 2009-11, and 0.5% in 2012. Inflation is low and stable. The government has taken measures to curb violent crime, and recently adopted a fiscal reform package aimed at reducing the large gray economy and attracting foreign investment. Remittances, a significant catalyst for economic growth declined from 12-15% of GDP before the 2008 financial crisis to 8% of GDP in 2010, mostly from Albanians residing in Greece and Italy. The agricultural sector, which accounts for almost half of employment but only about one-fifth of GDP, is limited primarily to small family operations and subsistence farming because of lack of modern equipment, unclear property rights, and the prevalence of small, inefficient plots of land. Energy shortages because of a reliance on hydropower - 98% of the electrical power produced in Albania - and antiquated and inadequate infrastructure contribute to Albania's poor business environment and lack of success in attracting new foreign investment needed to expand the country's export base. FDI is among the lowest in the region, but the government has embarked on an ambitious program to improve the business climate through fiscal and legislative reforms. The completion of a new thermal power plant near Vlore has helped diversify generation capacity, and plans to upgrade transmission lines between Albania and Montenegro and Kosovo would help relieve the energy shortages. Also, with help from EU funds, the government is taking steps to improve the poor national road and rail network, a long-standing barrier to sustained economic growth. The country will continue to face challenges from increasing public debt, having slightly exceeded its former statutory limit of 60% of GDP in 2012. Strong trade, remittance, and banking sector ties with Greece and Italy make Albania vulnerable to spillover effects of the global financial crisis.
Source: Europa, The World Factbook