Albania looks West for help in boosting oil output. But economic cooperation with other nations is not seen as shift in isolationist policy
Albania is to focus major efforts on boosting its largest and most profitable industrial sector -- oil. And it seems to be looking to Western countries that the government considers ``friendly'' for cooperation in the Adriatic nation's general development. In Albanian terminology, ``friendly'' means open to better economic relations without accompanying political ties of any kind.
As far as oil is concerned, the country, with 3 million people, has considerably more than it needs for itself.
Stalinist Albania reveals no actual economic figures, but estimates suggest that oil output is probably not greatly in excess of 3 million tons annually. But if Albanian technology were improved, and if potential importers were close at hand, production might be stepped up substantially.
After the nation broke relations with China in 1978, the Albanians made strenuous efforts to keep their oil industry going -- and to expand it.
In the late 1970s, Albania finished the refinery at Ballsh that had been started with help from China. It reportedly processes 1 million tons of crude oil yearly, twice the capacity of its three other refineries combined. An oil-lubricants unit is now being built at Ballsh.
Although the central planners' goals for output seem well beyond the industry's capability, oil performance is still impressive for a country of Albania's size and limited resources in other sectors.
Oil and oil derivatives account for 27 percent of current export. Italy and Balkan neighbor Romania are among the customers.
Albanian leader Ramiz Alia, during a tour of the southern oil fields that included Ballsh, revealed that no less than one-third of all capital investment in postwar industrialization had gone to the oil sector. But the thrust of his speeches to Albania's 40,000 oil workers was that still greater efforts from workers and specialists are needed. Such a push, he said, could bring the upturn that alone would help Albania acquire modern technology needed for further development.
Significantly, the visit to Albania in May of Bruno Corti, an Italian deputy foreign minister, covered talks on ``cooperation in [Albanian] oil exploration'' as well as what was called a ``clear opening'' to a big buildup in trade.
And this month Jean Michel Baylet, a French deputy foreign minister, is to visit Albania. Among those traveling with him will be industrial experts. It will be the first French government visit since 1946.
Greece is foremost among the countries that Albania regards as ``friendly.'' The warming of the frosty ties between the two countries was initiated by former leader Enver Hoxha, and its meaning was spelled out by him in the last of many volumes of political memoirs completed shortly before his death four months ago.
The book, ``Two Friendly Peoples,'' outlines the ``natural'' possibilities for good relations between Albania and Greece. In effect, the book spells out the terms on which Albania is prepared to pursue relations with other countries -- including Albania's rejection of foreign credits or loans. And it dismisses speculation that such relations signal a political opening toward the West.
Mr. Hoxha's firm line on the subject is currently being reaffirmed and stressed by his successor, Mr. Alia.