Albania, long regarded as Europe's poorest state, is poorly placed to cope with the flood of tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians who have fled across the border from the troubled Serbian province. The country has still not fully recovered from the anti-government uprising of 1997. The legacy of that period is continuing insecurity in some areas, where armed gangs operate - many with weapons looted during the unrest. The arrival of large numbers of desperate and dispossessed refugees could create a huge law and order problem.

Albanian policy has gradually shifted towards greater support for pro-independence Kosovars, but has not explicitly backed a break by Kosovo away from Yugoslavia. But as refugees poured into his country in April, Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said he now regarded independence for Kosovo as ďan option that can be discussed very clearly now."