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Background: Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, but was conquered by Italy in 1939. Communist partisans took over the country in 1944. Albania allied itself first with the USSR (until 1960), and then with China (to 1978). In the early 1990s, Albania ended 46 years of xenophobic Communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. The transition has proven challenging as successive governments have tried to deal with high unemployment, widespread corruption, a dilapidated physical infrastructure, powerful organized crime networks, and combative political opponents. Albania has made progress in its democratic development since first holding multiparty elections in 1991, but deficiencies remain. International observers judged elections to be largely free and fair since the restoration of political stability following the collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997; however, there have been claims of electoral fraud in every one of Albania's post-communist elections. The 2009 general elections resulted in no single party gaining a majority of the 140 seats in Parliament, and the Movement for Socialist Integration (LSI) and the Democratic Party (DP) combined to form a coalition government, the first such in Albania's history. The Socialist Party (SP) has, in effect, boycotted Parliament since it convened in September 2009 and has called for investigations into alleged electoral fraud in the June 2009 elections. Albania joined NATO in April 2009 and is a potential candidate for EU accession. Although Albania's economy continues to grow, the country is still one of the poorest in Europe, hampered by a large informal economy and an inadequate energy and transportation infrastructure.
note: in 1989, other estimates of the Greek population ranged from 1% (official Albanian statistics) to 12% (from a Greek organization)
Religions: Muslim 70%, Albanian Orthodox 20%, Roman Catholic 10%;
note: percentages are estimates; there are no available current statistics on religious affiliation; all mosques and churches were closed in 1967 and religious observances prohibited; in November 1990, Albania began allowing private religious practice
Languages: Albanian (official - derived from Tosk dialect), Greek, Vlach, Romani, Slavic dialects;
Literacy: definition: age 9 and over can read and write; total population: 98.7%; male: 99.2%; female: 98.3% (2001 census);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $23.33 billion (2010 est.); $22.63 billion (2009 est.); $21.91 billion (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollarsAlbania has an informal, and unreported, sector that may be as large as 50% of official GDP;
GDP (official exchange rate): $11.8 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 3.1% (2010 est.); 3.3% (2009 est.); 7.7% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $7,400 (2010 est.); $7,200 (2009 est.); $6,900 (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 18.9%; industry: 23.5%; services: 57.6% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 12.5% (2008 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.2%; highest 10%: 25.9% (2005);
Labor force: 1.06 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 47.8%; industry: 23%; services: 29.2% (September 2010 est.);
Unemployment rate: 13.5% (September 2010 est.); 13.8% (2009 est.);
note: these are official rates, but actual rates may exceed 30% due to preponderance of near-subsistence farming
Budget: revenues: $3.205 billion; expenditures: $3.571 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: food processing, textiles and clothing; lumber, oil, cement, chemicals, mining, basic metals, hydropower;
Industrial production growth rate: 3% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 5.201 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 6.593 billion kWh;
note: 35% of electricity is lost in the system as a result of transmission inefficiencies and theft (2009 est.)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2009 est.);
Electricity - imports: 1.884 billion kWh (2009 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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(Democratic party organ), Tirana
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Organized crime syndicates are making a killing smuggling tobacco products, and the operations often fly under the radar of customs and law enforcement.
The recent mayoral election in Tirana has not only sparked controversy within Albania; it has jeopardized the country's chances of getting into the European Union.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is a proposed pipeline project to transport natural gas from the Caspian and Middle East regions via a new gas transportation route
Life for Albanians has been on a downward slide for a long time. The culmination of corruption, poverty and unrest came to a boil in recent demonstrations, costing three people their lives.