Home of both Mother Theresa and the great 15th Century hero Skanderbeg, Albania is located in Southeastern Europe bordering the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea, between Montenegro and Kosovo in the north, Macedonia in the east and Greece in the south.
Albanian history and culture is fascinating. Butrint, one of the world's archeological wonders - and a UNESCO World Heritage site - in the south of Albania provides a glimpse of Mediterranean civilization from the Bronze Age through the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman periods - all atop a cliff overlooking Corfu.
Throughout the transition period Albania has been faced with a number of extremely complex challenges in order to establish stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law and human rights as well as to operate a functioning market economy and to cope with competition and market forces.
Albania has enjoyed a high sustained rate of economic growth over the past several years, averaging about 5–6 per cent per year, placing Albania into the group of countries with a high Human Development Index (HDI).
Albania represents a considerable market in the region due to several agreements on free trade with neighbor countries and European Union, as well as an attractive investment destination.
Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 but till the end of the First World War, the country was attacked by neighboring countries.
In 1925, the Constitutional Assembly declared Albania a Parliamentary Republic and Ahmet Zog was elected President of Albania, but he had so much power in his hands that, in fact, the Republic functioned as a Presidential one. After three years Albania Ahmet Zog was declared the King of Albania, receiving the royal title "Zog I".
After eleven years of monarchy the country was occupied by Mussolini forces in 1939, putting the end of monarchy. In 1943 the armies of Hitler occupies the country. The resistance against foreign invasion was known as the Anti – Fascist National Liberation front. The Communist party took power in November 1944, when the foreign armies were expelled. Shortly thereafter, a totalitarian regime was established under the communist leader Enver Hoxha.
For about 50 years, the regime applied the policy of self-isolation, leaving the country in great economic poverty when it finally emerged from isolation in 1991. The principle of self-reliance applied by the Communist regime prohibited foreign loans, credits and investment.
The most visible and the most pressing challenge for Albania is meeting the requirements of the European Union (EU) accession.
The country has made significant progress toward European Union (EU) integration, measured primarily in terms of meeting political criteria and establishing stable institutions that guarantee democracy, rule of law, human rights, protection of minorities, regional cooperation and good relations with enlargement countries and Member States.
Challenges related to social inclusion are intimately linked to Albania’s longer-term economic and social development goals, which are part of most of the sectoral and crosscutting strategies reflected in the National Strategy for Development and Integration.
While, growth has led to poverty reduction, disparities persist among regions of the country, with the mountainous areas in particular lagging behind.
Albania has made progress in its democratic development since first holding multiparty elections in 1991.
European and Euro-Atlantic integration, along with rapid and sustainable growth remain the overarching goals for Albania.
On 18 February 2008 the Council adopted a new European partnership with Albania. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the country was signed on 12 June 2006 and entered into force on 1 April 2009.The EU-Albania visa facilitation agreement entered into force in January 2008.
Albania joined NATO in April 2009. Albania received the EU candidate status in 2013- a major step towards achievement of the country's European aspirations.
In 2014, the Government in partnership with a number of international and national partners, including UNDP, undertook a transformative Administrative and Territorial Reform which consolidated the country's 373 local government units into 61.This marked a milestone towards creating a local governance system which is critical for Albania's European Integration.