Introduction and Background
Neighboring Albania is a small Balkan country (4 million inhabitants) of a very unique history and language. Positioned in a very strategic place, the country has been subject to long periods of Roman, Slavic and Ottoman rule, despite the last century of independence. As a result of such cultural and religious geostrategic clashes between East and West, Albania has been considered an almost a “border” country. Unfortunately, after the Second World War, such a pattern was reinforced by the total self-isolation of the country from the rest of world for ideological purposes. The authoritarian regime of Tirana proudly proclaimed “We are neither Est nor West”, introducing the concept of a “buffer country” in between the “Iron Curtain”.
With the collapse of the “Berlin Wall”, Albania also entered a tumultuous rush towards pluralism and market economy, trying to somehow catch “the last train to Europe”. But this transition has not been easy. A lot of dramatic events happened during the 90s, including: 1 million people emigrated abroad, a collapse of financial pyramidal schemes, continuous social unrest, the war in Kosovo and refugee crisis, etc.
However, progress accompanied by ups and downs was experienced and still continues, with periods of up to 6% economic growth per annum. Since 2003 Albania has embarked on a resolute process of integration with EU and NATO. But, while the membership of the latter, has already become a reality, the process of European integration has been more challenging due to the desperate lack and urgent need for reforming legislation and state institutions, fighting corruption and organized crime, the formalization of economy and establishment of social justice and rule of law.
At present time the official national GDP of Albania is around 13 billion Euros, which is equal to-includes? the estimations of the extra-legal economy, too. This means that there exists a big gap between the energy of people and society and the actions of new laws and state institutions. The incorporation of the nation’s “frozen capital” and “hidden wealth” within the formal channels of economy represents one of the main challenges for Albanian society in the coming decade. But, the undertaking of such an operation requires new legislations along with physical documentation of the extralegal wealth.
What is desperately needed above all is promoting e new concept of social justice and good governance that inspires and encourages the excluded ones so as to consciously move them from an extra-legal status towards the rule of law. Therefore, such an operation must move from the big-scale national framework measures towards small-scale piloting projects, which inspire nationwide upgrading and integration programs.