Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the constitution of Albania and is generally well respected. A large majority of the population are Muslims, mainly Sunnis. The religious traditions are not strong and very few practice their religion.
The Albanians were Christianized during the Roman period, but during the Ottoman (Turkish) empire (1468-1912) many converted to Islam.
The dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruled the country from 1944 to 1985, tried to replace religious beliefs with communist ideology. In 1967, all religious practices were banned and Albania was proclaimed the world’s first atheist state. Mosques and churches were closed and rebuilt. After Hoxha’s death in 1985, several of them were returned to the original owners. The state is still secular.
In a 2011 census, almost 57 percent of the population stated that they were Muslims, 10 percent identified themselves as Catholics, and nearly 7 percent were Greek Orthodox Christians (including an Albanian Orthodox branch). The Orthodox are mainly found in the south, while the Catholics mainly live in the north. Just over 5 percent said they were believers without any specific religious affiliation and 2.5 percent were atheists. 2 percent belonged to the Sufic order bektashi (Sufism = Islamic mysticism). Just over 16 percent stated no religious affiliation at all.
In 2015, reports of trends towards radicalization came among young Muslims. According to a survey, the activities of up to 200 of the country’s 727 mosques would not comply with the rules established by the state authority for religious practice. In 2016, between 100 and 200 Albanian citizens were estimated to have gone to Syria to participate in the war there on the extremist Islamist group Islamic State (IS) side, according to Bertelsmann Stiftung (BSI).
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Albania, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Demonstrations against tax increases
Thousands of people are demonstrating in Tirana against the tax increases the government has introduced in connection with a loan from the IMF to help the country reduce the budget deficit and government debt (see March 2014 and May 2014).
Open quarrel during Rama’s visit to Serbia
One month late, Rama travels to Belgrade on his first visit to Serbia in 68 years by an Albanian head of government. During a televised press conference he happens to openly argue with his Serbian colleague Aleksandar Vučić about Kosovo’s position. Rama’s statement that Kosovo’s independence is an “indisputable fact” is dismissed by Vučić as a “provocation” and an attempt to humiliate Serbia.
Diplomatic dispute with Serbia
Albania is drawn into a diplomatic dispute with Serbia in connection with a European qualifying match in football in Belgrade. The match is then interrupted by a remote-controlled small aircraft with a flag depicting a “Greater Albania” thrown in over the stadium, triggering a rift between the teams and causing Serbian spectators to rush into the plane. The Serbian authorities accuse a group of Albanians, including Prime Minister Rama’s brother, of having ruled the plane from the honorary family. The Serbian government submits a protest to the Ambassador of Albania, saying that Albania is not allowed to join the EU. Prime Minister Rama postpones a planned visit to Belgrade for a few weeks until the uprising is over.
Large seizures of cannabis
The Interior Minister says that over the past six months, police have destroyed 102 tonnes of cannabis at an estimated value of EUR 6.4 billion, equivalent to about 60 percent of the country’s GDP. Albania wants to try to purge itself of the image as Europe’s largest producer of cannabis.
Pope’s visit draws huge audience
Pope Francis visits Albania and celebrates the country as an example of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox people welcome him. A major security push protects the Pope after a warning from Iraq that the ” Islamic State ” may have planned an attack.
Colleges close after suspicion of cheating
18 private colleges are closed with immediate effect and 13 others are not allowed to admit new students. According to Prime Minister Rama, these schools have issued an excessive number of diplomas, including to 900 foreign nationals, even though they have not been taught in languages other than Albanian. There have been suspicions for many years that many of the private colleges only functioned as “diploma factories”. In a few years they have issued 32,000 diplomas, of which one university has been responsible for half of them.
The number of municipalities is reduced
Parliament adopts a law that reduces the number of municipalities from 380 to 61. The government says that the intention is to strengthen municipal services in terms of health care, education and security. Three municipalities officially receive minority status, but the Greek population group’s party PBDNJ does not think that minority protection goes far enough. Opposition PD claims that the new municipal division contravenes the constitution and boycots the vote.
Albania is granted candidate status for the EU
Following four previous refusals, Albania gets the EU clear sign. Before membership negotiations can begin, Albania must implement a series of reforms, particularly in the administration and the judiciary, as well as increase efforts against corruption and organized crime, as well as for fundamental human rights.
Fire fighting in drug-producing village
For several days, police are fighting firefighting with drug breeders in the village of Lazarat, where large quantities of cannabis are grown completely open. Lazarat is estimated to have produced around 900 tonnes of cannabis annually worth around € 4.5 billion, which is almost half the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The police’s sudden response is believed to have been aimed at strengthening Albania’s ability to be accepted as a candidate country for the EU. After five days, the police take control of the village, destroy all crops, burn all harvested marijuana and seize weapons and ammunition. 14 people are arrested and 130 residential houses are searched.
IMF loans are granted
The IMF approves a $ 100 million loan to reform the Albanian financial sector. The loan will be used to reduce the country’s exposure to the global financial crisis.
The IMF calls for drastic reforms
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is concerned by Albania’s growing government debt and budget deficit. The loan body recommends that the government implement a series of reforms to bring the economy into balance, including several tax increases, measures to reduce the theft of electricity and raise retirement age from 60 to 65 for women and from 65 to 67 for men. The recommendations are a direct result of an agreement with Albania on a loan of EUR 331 million.
Regional cooperation against crime
The Government is inviting Greece and Italy to increase cooperation in the area of economic crime in the region. There is extensive drug smuggling and human trafficking between the three countries.
Measures to prevent theft of electricity
The government appoints a working group that is tasked with reducing the thefts of electricity. According to the government, well over half of the country’s electricity is stolen, either through thieves or because customers do not pay their bills. The government claims that 91 percent of private customers and 81 percent of companies owe electricity producers money.