Albania SSR Snapshot


Key Statistics

Population: 3,011,405 (Military Balance, 2014)

Capital: Tirana

Official Languages: Albanian

Major Ethnic Groups: Albanian (95%), Greek (3%), Other 2% (Vlach, Roma, Serb, Macedonian, Bulgarian)

GDP per Capita (current US dollars): 5,261 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

GDP per Capita PPP (current international dollars): 11,688 (IMF World Economic Outlook, 2015)

Security Sector Stats

Active Armed Forces: 14,250 (Military Balance 2015)

Police Force: 9,421 police employees and 279 civilian employees of which 695 (7.5%) are female(INTERPOL, 2011)

Small Arms: 451,000 government firearms and 270,000 privately owned firearms (Gun Policy, 2014)

Military Expenditure: 1.3% GDP (World Bank, 2013)

If you notice any information that needs to be updated in this SSR Country Snapshot, please let us know!

SSR Snapshot: Table of Contents

1. SSR Summary

2. Key Dates

3. Central SSR Programs/Activities

4. Key Funding Commitments

5. Major International Donors

6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders

7. Key Domestic Government Actors

8. Central Challenges

9. For More Information

1. SSR Summary

The Republic of Albania consists of 28,748km2  of hills and plains situated in Southeastern Europe, bordering the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, between Greece, Montenegro and Kosovo (UNdata). The population of Albania is slightly above 3 million citizen who, while mostly identifying as Albanian, are a mix of Muslims (70%), Albanian Orthodox (20%), and Roman Catholics (10%) (Area Handbook for Albania). Approximately 13% of the country lives in Tirana, the capital city of Albania.  The current President of Albania, Bujar Nishani, was elected on 11 June 2012 and the last parliamentary elections were held on 23 June 2013.

After the fall of communism in the early 1990s, Albania was restored to a capitalist republic, with the 1998 Constitution. Economic collapse and the chaos of the Kosovo War have spurred political and security reforms in Albania. In addition to domestic reasons for reform, Albania applied for EU membership in April 2009, to continue its engagement with EU and European institutions. Albania is likely to gain candidate status soon, provided it continues with key internal reforms (European Parliament News, 2012).

The main security priorities of Albania are concentrated on battling endemic criminal activity. Alongside criminal activity, many reforms and initiatives focus on crime across institutions in the government and public services, which includes but is not limited to the police, tax authorities, border control, and medical services. The period 1992-1996 was rife with pyramid schemes and money laundering conducted by official state banks that resulted in widespread financial and economic collapse in 1997 (Irrera, 2013: 4-5).

The main SSR programming in Albania comes as part of a wider set of reforms mandated and funded by the EU and international community. Funding and support is under the Stabilization and Association Program (SAP), which took over the Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development, and Stabilization (CARDS) in the aftermath of the 1997 crisis. The SAP provides a majority of the funding for security and policing reforms and helps reduce criminal activity. Additionally, anti-corruption efforts, including the Stability Pacts Anti Corruption Initiative (SPAI), have set much of the groundwork for reducing corruption and restoring faith in public institutions. These projects will fund operations until 2013 and likely to be continued and/or renewed, especially in light of calls to advance Albania’s EU membership status.

Albania has made substantial progress in reducing crime since 2002, thanks to international governance. Europol and other European and international agencies called on Albania to step up law enforcement, particularly on organized crime (World Bank, 2011: 38). This has included many legislative reforms, zero tolerance for crime, and the strengthening of the police. On the whole, crime rates have decreased — however; measuring performance on this issue is difficult, as many illicit activities go unnoticed, in addition to the widespread corruption of law enforcement and the judiciary (World Bank, 2011: 39-42). Many of the security related topics are also hotbeds for politicization between the ruling parties, stalling progress due to political deadlock.

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2. Key Dates

  • December 1990: The fall of communism in Albania.
  • 1997 Crisis: A series of pyramid schemes in Albania resulted in a financial and economic breakdown that collapsed many state structures, in addition to anarchical destruction of property. Subsequent administrations used the crisis to purge the police forces and security agencies in order to re-establish law and order and begin reforms. (Abazi et al. , 2009: 11)
  • January 31, 2003: European Commission begins preliminary negotiations with Albania on a Stabilization and Association Agreement. This agreement sets the priorities and funding that guides many of Albania’s current initiatives in fighting crime and reducing corruption.

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3. Central SSR Programs/Activities

 EU Community Stability Pacts Anti Corruption Initiative (SPAI)(2000-Present): This initiative helps support and co-ordinate anti-corruption policy by EU Stability Pact signatories. Alongside internal efforts to fight corruption, the Pact supports cross-border co-operation on anti-corruption programming.

ICITAP (US Department of Justice)(1997-Present): The International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) is a program from the US Department of Justice that supports border security, investigative capacity, and cross-border cooperation on issues of criminal justice. It has been helping Albanian police since 1997.

EU Stabilization and Association Process (SAP)(2007-2013): The SAP program helps further stabilize Albania’s transitional politics and economic climate, in addition to supporting institutional capacity and cross-border cooperation.

United Nations Development Programme Support to Security Sector Reform (SSSR)(2003-2008): Building on the success of the Small and Light Weapons Collection project (SALWC) in the aftermath of the 1997 Crisis, the UNDP SSSR project focuses on continuing to aid Albanian police through helping provide transparency and accountability. Additionally, the UNDP helps build community safety and public awareness.

Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilization (CARDS)(2000-2006): The CARDS programme was a wide-ranging set of reforms aimed at stabilizing Eastern European counties. An ad hoc evaluation of the CARDS Programme in Albania shows that the initiative was “moderately satisfactory” as a whole and able to establish some of the groundwork necessary for further reforms

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4. Key Funding Commitments

  • United Nations Development Programme Support to Security Sector Reform — Estimated total: US$3,885,426 (until the end of 2006, project duration May 2003 – May 2008) (UNDP, 2013)
  • Community assistance for reconstruction, development and stabilization (CARDS) (315.5 million EU)
  • EU Stabilization and Association Program (SAP) (€306 million for 2007-2013)

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5. Major International Donors

European Union: The European Union is the main donor and source of funds for political reforms in Albania and received a total financial aid of €94.5 million in 2012 (European Commission, 2013).

United Nations Development ProgrammeThe UNDP has provided funds for the SSSR programme in Albania to help foster civil society and community engagement in SSR issues.

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6. Major Civil Society Stakeholders

Albanian Helsinki Committee (AHC): Originally the Forum for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the AHC is one of the first non-government organizations created in Albania after the fall of communism. The main mission of the AHC is to support human rights and help improve the enforcement of laws in accordance with international agreements.

Albanian Center for Economic Research (ACER): Long established, ACER is a non-government organization that implements programs across many issue areas. This includes anti-corruption and governance support programs in addition to aiding wider political reforms and public awareness.

Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS): AIIS is an important body for policy advice for the government and government departments. Its specialty lies in international security issues, but also in domestic issues, including democratization and Security Sector Reform. 

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7. Key Domestic Government Actors

 Albanian State PoliceThe Albanian state police is one of the most important domestic stakeholders in fighting crime and corruption. While the police were part of the repressive regimes in the twentieth century, widespread reforms have helped clean up the force and allow for improvements into the future.

Ministry of JusticeAs the over-arching ministry in charge of combating crime, the Ministry of Justice is important for Albanian SSR. Its programs seek to continue the improvements in policy, legislation, and police capacity to fight crime and better integrate with the rest of Europe.

Albanian Anti-Corruption Initiative (part of the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative): The Albanian Anti-Corruption Initiative is the localized section of the over-arching regional anti-corruption initiative. This program is important in fighting corruption within Albania, harmonizing policy in the region, and aiding cross-border cooperation.

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8. Central Challenges

Regional Dynamics and Pressures: The regional dynamics of the Western Balkans are important from a security perspective. The declaration of independence of Kosovo and memories of the late 1990s conflicts still mars diplomatic relations between countries in the region. However, tensions have cooled down in the past decade and Albania is not likely to face military clashes, due to its connections with the EU (Abazi et al. , 2009: 9).

Endemic Crime: Since the lawlessness and chaos that followed the fall of communism, crime and organized crime rates are high in Albania. Acting as a hub for international crime, Albania is often cited for having porous borders for drug, weapon, and human trafficking. Some sources claim “50 percent of Albanian GDP comes from illegal activities ­— the drug trade, stolen cars, cigarette smuggling, and prostitution” (Irrera, 2013: 5).

Corruption: Corruption is extremely common in Albania, with 57.1 percent of individuals declaring the experience of at least one form of corruption in 2009 (IDRC, 2009: 3). Corruption drastically weakens the efficacy of government institutions and further disrupts the stability of Albania, due to widespread distrust of public institutions.

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9. For More Information

Abazi, Enika and Aldo Bumci, Enri Hide, and Albert Rakipi. “Security Sector Reform in Albania.” Initiative for Peacebuilding.  2009.

Abazi et al.  provide a nearly comprehensive examination of security sector reform actors, programs, and progress in Albania leading up to 2009. While covering the institutional issues, they also provide a useful set of critiques and arguments regarding the role of civil society and public opinion for security issues.

Hendrickson, Ryan C., Jonathan Campbell and Nicholas Mullikin. “Albania and NATO’s “Open Door” Policy: Alliance Enlargement and Military Transformation.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 19: 243-257.

Albania’s campaign to achieve NATO membership is a significant factor in the approach to SSR. This paper examines how Albania’s reforms align with pressures from NATO, including the modernization of military forces and efforts to combat global terrorism.

Irrera, Daniela. “Is Albania ready for Europe yet?” Jean Monnet Working Papers in Comparative and International Politics,  no.68. Jean Monet Centre, 2013.

This paper looks at the current stage of political and security reforms in Albania as it works toward EU membership. Examining the challenges of transforming the political class, crime, and corruption, Irrera argues that civil society and grass-roots reforms are the most effective means for succeeding in reforms necessary for EU advancement.

World Bank. “Governance in Albania: A Way Forward for Competitiveness, Growth, and European Integration.” World Bank Issue Brief, 2011.

This World Bank brief does not focus on SSR, but provides a useful background to political and economic reforms in Albania’s effort to join the EU and international trade. Included in the issue brief is a snapshot of the recent history of Albania, including the chaos of the late 90s and the crime fighting efforts in the 2000s.

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Centre for Security Governance

The Centre for Security Governance (CSG) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to the study of security transitions in fragile, failed and conflict-affected states, a process also known as security sector reform (SSR). A registered charity based in based in Kitchener, Canada, the CSG maintains a global network of research fellows from a variety of backgrounds, including practitioners, research analysts and academics, and partner organizations from the public and private sector engaged in SSR issues.

The CSG seeks to enhance the effectiveness of donor assistance and support to SSR programs through its research, events, training and direct policy advice. Committed to innovation, the CSG employs various technological tools to advance its impact and reach, most notably long-distance training and conferencing platforms. Supporting promising analysts and academics as well as advancing new ideas and approaches are also core values of the centre. Through its active engagement with SSR donors and recipients on the ground in fragile and conflict-affected states, the CSG endeavours to translate research, advice and training into tangible improvements in SSR policy and programming.