Why There Are No Albanian Mercedes in Epirus Anymore

The always excellent Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso has a piece up addressing the phenomenon of Albanians returning from Greece to Albania as a result of the former’s economic difficulties. By volume it appears to be a nontrivial occurrence:

According to a survey carried out by Usadis, paid for by the United States Department of State and the Albanian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, about 200,000 people in the past five years have left Greece to return to Albania.

And that is in a country with a population of, according to the World Bank, not even 3.2 million.

Structurally, this isn’t surprising; just take a look at the following chart:

Albania GDP Growth

And it also confirms with proper data what I had suspected on the basis of anec-data. I have family in Greece, from Epirus, just a stone’s throw from the Albanian border. Visiting as a child, it was something of an annual tradition to see how many Mercedes with Albanian license plates we could spot on the drive from Ioannina to the village in the Zagorochoria. Hitting double figures was routine. Back this summer for the first time in years, I was looking forward to flexing my plate-spotting muscles once again. And…we found nothing; there were no Albanian Mercedes to spot. Hell, there weren’t even Albanian Nissan Sunnys. My traveling companions and I speculated at the time that perhaps economic factors were at play, but it’s interesting (and, in the macro sense, saddening) to see some actual numerical validation.