Albania, officially known as the Republic of Albania, is a country in Southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west, and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72 km (45 mi) from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which links the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.
Albania is a member of the UN, NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Council of Europe, World Trade Organisation, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and one of the founding members of the Union for the Mediterranean. Albania has been a potential candidate for accession to the European Union since January 2003, and it formally applied for EU membership on 28 April 2009.
The modern-day territory of Albania was at various points in history part of the Roman provinces of Dalmatia (southern Illyricum), Macedonia (particularly Epirus Nova), and Moesia Superior. The modern Republic became independent after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in Europe following the Balkan Wars. Albanians had for almost five centuries been at the heart of a sprawling empire in which they enjoyed a privileged position as administrators and generals and in the diffusion of Ottoman culture throughout the European, Arabian and African continents. Albania became independent in 1912, and after World War Two became a Communist state under the authoritarian regime of Enver Hoxha, a period that lasted until 1991.
Albania is a parliamentary democracy with a transition economy. The Albanian capital, Tirana, is home to 421,286 of the country's 2,831,741 people. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania was chosen as the No.1 Destination in Lonely Planet's list of ten top countries to visit for 2011.