Albania in the Context of the European Economic and Political Crisis

The Neoliberal Albania of post-1997 and The Economic Crisis

These are the main ideological constellations that have defined Albania since 1997. You should bear in mind that from then on nothing is done in Albania without proclaiming that it serves to the Albanian primary principle of European Integration. From the name of governments like “the Government of European Integration” to the ambassador of European Union giving interviews on the values of Albania and the values of creating a family, Europe remains the main ideological pillar.

As for the economy, the Socialist Party that ruled the country from 1997 to 2005, took the first measures to build a regulated market based economy. They introduced the first private banks, most of them were either Greek banks or administered from banks in Greece. Greece and Italy were the primary economic partners of Albania. Most of the foreign direct investments came from them. But these sectors have not been affected seriously by the global economic crisis since the Albanian economy is not very integrated in the global market and banking system.

The construction sector of the economy experienced a boom in a territory without any urban or rural planning whatsoever occupying 14% of the GDP. This continued till the global crisis hit (Tirana for example is a city where one can see the symptom of this kind of development). The construction business is considered by a political analyst as the second pyramid scheme that Albania has gone through, but its effects are to be seeing in the near future.

What really played a critical role in rescuing the Albanian economy were the remittances that came from diaspora. There are 700 000 Albanians living in Greece (4.4% of the Greek population) and 300 000 living in Italy, not to include the immigrants living in other countries. What Albania is experiencing now is an “exodus” of immigrants coming back. More than 40 000 immigrants have come back to Albania since the crisis affected Italy and Greece. Two weeks ago a 17 year old girl committed suicide. Her family was forced to return from Italy, she was raised there and wanted to study in Italy and couldn’t live in Albania. Many returned immigrants have tried to open small businesses but their businesses have gone bankrupt. The majority of them don’t have jobs. Their kids don’t speak and write Albanian properly. While they consume their savings, they hope that Europe will get back to its feet quickly so they can return back to immigration.

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