Europe

Albania country profile

  • 23 February 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Albania

Albania is a small, mountainous country in the Balkan peninsula, with a long Adriatic and Ionian coastline.

Along with neighbouring and mainly Albanian-inhabited Kosovo, it has a Muslim majority - a legacy of its centuries of Ottoman rule. Approaching twenty per cent of the population are Christians, divided mainly between the Orthodox and smaller Catholic denominations.

After World War II, Albania became a Stalinist state under Enver Hoxha, and remained staunchly isolationist until its transition to democracy after 1990.

The 1992 elections ended 47 years of communist rule, but the latter half of the decade saw a quick turnover of presidents and prime ministers.

Many Albanians left the country in search of work; the money they send home remains an important source of revenue.

FACTS

The Republic of Albania

Capital: Tirana

  • Population 3.2 million

  • Major language Albanian

  • Major religions Islam, Christianity

  • Life expectancy 74 years (men), 80 years (women)

  • Currency lek

Getty Images

LEADERS

President: Bujar Nishani

Image copyright Getty Images

Bujar Nishani was elected president by parliament in June 2012, replacing Bamir Topi when his mandate came to an end.

The main opposition Socialist Party boycotted the vote, and Mr Nishani was the only candidate put forward by the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha's Democratic Party.

Mr Nishani was the country's interior minister at the time of his election. He is a graduate of Albania's military academy and holds degrees in law and European studies.

Prime minister: Edi Rama

Image copyright Getty Images

Edi Rama became prime minister in September 2013, three months after elections in which his Socialist Party won a landslide victory that brought to an end eight years of conservative rule.

Mr Rama's main campaign pledges were to revive Albania's ailing economy, combat widespread corruption and crime, and speed up the country's integration into the European Union.

The election was closely monitored by the EU, which has twice rejected Albania's membership application and warned that the poll would be "a crucial test" for its further progress towards integration in the bloc.

His predecessor as prime minister, Sali Berisha, dominated the country's political scene for more than 20 years, but by 2013 the electorate appeared to have become tired of the lack of economic progress under Mr Berisha and his perceived failure to tackle organised crime.

MEDIA

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Albanians watching TV in Tirana's main square

TV is by far the most popular medium, but the internet is beginning to close the gap. The press and radio are smaller fry.

As well as TV networks run by public RTSH, there are two national privately-owned TVs, Top Channel and TV Klan, and scores of local stations. Two companies offer digital terrestrial (DTT) and satellite packages.

As well as national radios run by RTSH there are two national commercial networks and more than 60 local and regional stations. The BBC broadcasts on 103.9 FM in Tirana.

TIMELINE

1939 - Shortly before the start of World War II, Italy invades. King Zog flees to Greece.

1941 - Enver Hoxha becomes head of new Albanian Communist Party.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A view of the capital Tirana

1943 - German forces invade and occupy Albania following Italian surrender.

1944 - Germans withdraw after Communist resistance. Enver Hoxha installed as new leader.

1946 - Purges of non-communists from government positions.

1948 - Albania breaks ties with Yugoslavia; Soviet Union begins economic aid to Albania.

1955 - Albania becomes a founding member of the Warsaw Pact.

1985 - After ruling for nearly half a century, Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha dies.

1989 - Communist rule in Eastern Europe collapses.

1990 - Independent political parties formed. Albanians granted right to travel abroad.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Albanians celebrate joining NATO in 2009

1991 - In multiparty elections, the Communist Party and allies win 169 of the 250 seats, the newly-formed Democratic Party takes 75.

1992 - Democratic Party wins elections. Party leader Sali Berisha becomes first elected president.

1999 - Nato air strikes against Yugoslav military targets. In Kosovo thousands flee attacks by Serb forces. Mass refugee exodus into Albania.

2001 - Albania and Yugoslavia re-establish diplomatic relations broken off during the Kosovo crisis in 1999.

2009 - Albania officially joins NATO and formally applies for membership of the European Union.

2014 - The European Commission recommends Albania as a candidate for European Union membership.

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