wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
09TIRANA634 2009-09-22 14:35:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tirana
Cable title:  


pdf how-to read a cable

DE RUEHTI #0634/01 2651435
P 221435Z SEP 09
					  UNCLAS TIRANA 000634 



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) STATE 86401 B) TIRANA 408 C) TIRANA 409

1. Summary: Below is Post's response to ref A request concerning
information on the Albanian diaspora. End summary.

2. Albania is a country of approximately 3.6 million comprised of
ethnic Albanians (95 per cent), Greeks (3 per cent) and other
groups, such as Roma (Gypsies), Serbs, and Macedonians. While
Albania was isolated from the rest of the world from 1955 to 1991
during the communist period, when communism fell, the country opened
up and tens of thousands of Albanians living in Albania left the
country. One United Nations estimate states that one in five
Albanians left the country between 1990 and 2001. For many years,
there have been scores of ethnic Albanians living outside Albania in
neighboring countries, such as Macedonia, Greece and Kosovo.
According to various sources, over one million Albanians live in
Turkey, over 500,000 in Macedonia, 440,000 in Greece, 200,000 in
both Italy and the UK, and more than 100,000 in both the U.S. and
Germany, with nearly as many in Switzerland, and about 30,000 in
Montenegro. Albanians commonly joke that more Albanians live
outside Albania than in it.

3. These various groups range from newly arrived immigrants to
individuals and families who have lived in other countries for
decades, if not longer. They are often recognizable in their
various communities and have distinct political representation in
some countries such as Macedonia. Some of these groups at times
have relationships with entities in Albania. For example in 2001,
when fighting involving an ethnic Albanian separatist movement
erupted in neighboring Macedonia, the GOA supported greater rights
for the Albanian minority but condemned the rebels' violent tactics.
There are other more formal networks such as the National Albanian
American Council (NAAC), founded in 1996, which seeks to advocate
for Albanians and promote cooperation, peace, and democratization in
the Balkans. The regional focus that NAAC has reflects the fact
that ethnic Albanians are spread throughout the Balkan Peninsula.
One of the programs NAAC has is the Hope Fellowship Program, which
is conducted in conjunction with USAID. Through this program,
individuals from Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania participate
in study visits to the U.S. to learn more about advocacy,
democratization and other issues. The program targets people
between 18-45 years old, different ethnic groups, and women in
government institutions and/or civil society leaders. Its website
is Other such networks include GLOBALB and the NGO
MJAFT!, which has a network in London. MJAFT!'s network in London
has less than 50 official members, however it holds events for the
diaspora in London that attract many other ethnic Albanians.

4. As Albanian families are large in size, in many cases Albanians
abroad still have many relatives remaining in Albania, thus keeping
ties relatively close. In some cases the diaspora groups
participate in politics through fundraising in their current country
of residence. Remittances represent the largest influx of foreign
capital into the Albanian economy. According to data Post has
received, remittances amounted to 9.2 per cent of GDP in 2008,
although for the first quarter of 2009, remittances were down eight
per cent from 2008 to 196 million euro. Some remittances finance
construction and other business activities, but most are used to
help poor families meet immediate needs. Generally, remittances
seem to be the largest impact that the diaspora has on Albania. See
refs B and C for a closer look at remittances.

5. The diaspora community does invest in Albania, although it is
difficult to determine the scale of investment. Certainly Albanians
living abroad contribute financially to help relatives start
businesses and build homes, which also creates jobs indirectly by
increasing demands for other products. The future potential for
diaspora investment should be positive, however given the investment
climate, particularly with respect to private property, potential
investors are often scared away by what they (correctly, in many
cases) see as a less than ideal place to invest money.

6. The diaspora has some contact with the GOA officially. The GOA,
with its Brain Gain Program, co-sponsored by the UNDP, works to
engage the diaspora to contribute to Albania's development, by
seeking ways to entice qualified professionals to return to Albania.
The program is also creating an online database in which people can
join and formulating GOA policy toward the diaspora. The Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA) also has an office of Diaspora Affairs that
helps to coordinate policy. A number of Albanian-Americans are also
active in Albanian politics, with at least two serving in the
Albanian parliament. At least two other Albanian-Americans ran
unsuccessfully for Parliament in the June, 2009 parliamentary
elections. One of those candidates currently serves as General
Director for the state-owned electricity generator

7. The diaspora community does not seem to contribute significantly
in the fields of engineering, medical and educational institution
building, conflict resolution, peace building, and health. There
are individuals and groups that may work in this field, however.
Job opportunities in scientific fields are scant as is often the
salary, making it hard for people with advanced degrees in the
sciences to return and earn a comparable living to that in other
countries. In civil society and democratization, again the diaspora
seems to play more of a financial role than an advocacy role.
During the recent election period for example, leading politicians
of all stripes traveled overseas to gain money and promote

8. Post's POC for this issue is Michael W. Gray, Political Officer,
email, cell: 355-4-68-403-9059, office
355-4-224-7285 x3166.