Albania or more correctly the Republic of Albania is located on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. It is a small country with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines. Its interior crossed by the Albanian Alps. It shares land borders with Montengro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, North Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and  maritime borders with Greece, Montenegro and Italy to the west. The country has many castles and archaeological sites.

EU membership: It has applied for EU membership, but in 2019 agreement on the outline conditions before negotiations could begin with the EU about joining were still yet to be established. In 2009-10, people from five countries—Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro—won the right to enter the EU without a visa. But that doesn’t mean they are entitled to settle, work or claim benefits,” (‘Quitting dreams, chasing dreams’, The Economist 21st March 2105, p.24).

History

1997 Government collapseIn 1997 the collapse of several large Ponzi schemes in Albania precipitated mass disorder, the overthrow of the government [of resident Sali Berisha] and the deaths of 2,000 people (‘Financial fraud: Ponzis to punters’, The Economist 06th Feb 2016, p.49). It also had a direct effect in igniting the war in Kosovo. ‘Vehbi Alimucaj [of VEHA, the largest of these Ponzi or ‘pyramid’ schemes] was a symbol of Albania’s post-Soviet embrace of capitalism. The fall of communism had blown open the economy, people had money to invest and Mr Alimucaj—a businessman known as “the Pharaoh”—knew, or claimed to know, where to put it to work. Savers piled in, attracted by interest rates that looked too good to be true. They were: Mr Alimucaj was a fraudster and used the deposits of each new wave of investors to pay the dividends promised to previous waves. When his pyramid scheme and others like it brought down the Albanian economy in 1997 he was arrested and found guilty of stealing $325m from his fellow citizens, (‘Bagehot–Jeremy Corbyn, dodgy dealer’, The Economist 01st Oct 2016, p.31).

Population: 2006 The population was estimated at just over 3 million, with just over one third living abroad, mainly in the EU (600,000+ in Greece, 200,000+ in Italy, and 200,000 elsewhere) by The Economist (‘Good times, at last’, 28 Oct 2006, p.42).