Albanian expats leave Greece for better opportunities

A Greek 'Indignant' hold a pan during a protest in front of the Greek parliament for the fourth continuous week against the new austerity package.

JEREMY HOBSON: Today, Greek lawmakers begin debating the next round of drastic spending cuts deeded to secure more bailout funds from international lenders. And the people of Albania just to the north of Greece are paying particularly close attention.

The BBC's Balkans correspondent Mark Lowen tells us why.


MARK LOWEN: The rest of the world may look at Greece as in economic freefall, but for many years it's been an economic dream for thousands of Albanians. Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe and close to a million Albanians have fled across its southern border into Greece to look for work.

Like immigrants across the world, those workers send money back home. And in 2007 that money made up over 9 percent of Albania's GDP. But with Greece's economic problems, those remittances have dropped by a third.

Zef Preci is an economic analyst at The Albanian Center for Economic Research. He says as things get worse in Greece, Albania's economy will also suffer.

ZEF PRECI: What would be the consequence? In my judgement it would be Albanians looking for better opportunities to countries far away from western Europe.

There are few opportunities in Albania for returning migrants. And Preci believes the Greek crisis could lead to an exodus of Albanians beyond Europe's borders as they look for work in countries like Canada or South Africa.

In Belgrade, I'm the BBC's Mark Lowen for Marketplace.

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