The Socialist Party of Albania won a clear victory in the June 2013 poll and, after eight years in opposition, it returned to power, replacing the centre-right Democratic Party of Albania. Albania became an EU candidate in June 2014, and is seeking to start EU accession talks in 2015. But for that to happen, reforms will need to accelerate. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that real GDP growth will pick up from an estimated 1.3% in 2014 to an average of 3% in 2015-16.
The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that repayment of long-standing arrears to businesses resulted in the budget deficit widening to 5% of GDP in 2014, from 4.7% of GDP in 2013. We expect higher tax receipts and fiscal tightening to narrow the deficit to 4.6% of GDP in 2015 and 3% in 2016. The public debt/GDP ratio is forecast to stabilise at around 70% of GDP on average in 2015-16.
Banking sector risk
The Bank of Albania (BoA, the central bank) may lower the repurchase (repo) rate further, from a record-low 2%, to stimulate lending. The BoA’s new governor, Gent Sejko, who was appointed in February 2015, will seek to rebuild trust in the bank following a scandal involving theft by the BoA’s staff.
The centre-left government led by the Socialist Party of Albania (SPA), which entered office in September 2013, has a large majority. This and the opposition’s decision to end its five-month boycott of parliament at end-2014 should increase political stability. Greater political stability will also improve Albania’s prospects of getting a date by end-2016 for opening EU accession talks.
Economic structure risk
The current-account deficit is large, albeit set to contract in 2015. Dependence on Italy and Greece constrains export growth
The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.
Tropojë District and cities of Bajram Curri and Lazarat (see Advisory)
Police assistance and protection is limited in Tropojë District and the city of Bajram Curri; incidents of carjacking have recently been reported in these areas. In and around the city of Lazarat, Albanian state police and armed marijuana growers have recently engaged in violent altercations.
Northeastern border with Kosovo
When visiting hill towns along Albania’s northeastern border with Kosovo, you should exercise caution and heed warning signs about unexploded landmines and ordnance from the Kosovo war of 1999. Demining operations are ongoing. This is especially important to note if you are hiking in the area.
Public security is usually good, particularly in Tirana. Petty crime (pickpocketing, mugging and bag snatching) occurs, particularly on public transportation.
Women in particular should exercise caution when travelling alone. Avoid secluded areas, parks, bars and restaurants in remote areas, especially after dark.Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.
Exercise caution in the northern districts of Has, Kukës and Tropojë. Criminal gangs operate along roads in remote areas, especially in the north and areas bordering Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia. Use caution in areas bordering Macedonia, as security is very poor.
Economic hardship and easy availability of firearms increase the risk of violent incidents, carjacking and acts of looting. However, these actions do not typically involve tourists.
Small explosive devices have been used in targeted attacks, including in Tirana in 2015. These incidents are normally attributed to internal disputes of a personal, business or political nature.
Demonstrations occur in many Albanian centres and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.
Travel by road can be hazardous and difficult. Road signage and road safety are poor. The presence of erratic and aggressive drivers also poses risks. Major roads are passable, but secondary roads are often poorly maintained. Use a four-wheel-drive vehicle, even in urban centres. In winter, you may encounter dangerous snow and ice conditions on poorly maintained mountainous roads in northern and southeastern Albania.
If possible, hire local drivers or taxis or use public transportation. Approved, privately owned vehicles, with drivers, can be hired for travel throughout the country. Pre-negotiate fares and schedules.
Wait for police to arrive if you are involved in a road accident, even a minor one.
Use only yellow taxis, which are normally parked at street corners in specific areas. Taxis only accept cash payment.
Car rental companies are available in the main cities and offer a variety of services and vehicles.
Travel outside the capital should be carefully planned and undertaken with the assistance of a reputable guide/interpreter or driver.
Buses, minibuses and trains operate between most major cities, but are unreliable and uncomfortable.
See Transportation Safety in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.
Landmines and unexploded ordnance from the Kosovo war of 1999 remain. These areas are clearly identified in Albanian as danger zones or are surrounded by visible tape. Remain on paved roads and avoid ditches, open fields and the shoulders of roads. While most tourist destinations are not affected, you should seek local advice on the presence of unexploded landmines.
General safety information
Exercise normal safety precautions. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and travel documents are secure at all times. Avoid showing signs of affluence and carrying large sums of cash.
Power cuts occur frequently throughout Albania, in remote areas as well as in main cities. For your safety, always carry a flashlight while walking on the streets. Make arrangements for your well-being during outages and verify the schedule of power cuts with local authorities.
Tourist facilities are not well developed, and many goods and services are not available.
Dial 129 for police..