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Albania - Government and Politics

ALBANIA WAS THE LAST COUNTRY in Eastern Europe during the early 1990s to undergo a transition from a totalitarian communist regime to an incipient system of democracy. Because Albania was isolated from the outside world and ruled by a highly repressive, Stalinist-type dictatorship for more than four decades, this transition was especially tumultuous and painful, making a gradual approach to reform difficult.

Following the establishment of the People's Republic of Albania in January 1946, Albania became a rigid police state, dominated completely by the communist party and by Marxism/Leninism. Although Albania operated under the facade of constitutional rule, the communist party, led by Enver Hoxha, who was also president of Albania, actually controlled all aspects of the political, social, and economic systems. Hoxha pursued a repressive internal policy, while at the same time implementing a highly isolationist foreign policy. His reliance first on the financial aid and political protection of a sequence of patron states, then insistence on Albania's economic self-reliance, and a highly centralized economic system caused Albania to lag far behind its neighbors in terms of economic development.

After Hoxha died in 1985, his hand-picked successor, Ramiz Alia, who became party leader while retaining his post as titular head of state (chairman of the Presidium of the People's Assembly), at first appeared to be carrying on Hoxha's tradition of hard-line policies. But it soon became clear that he was more flexible than his predecessor and was willing to institute badly needed political and economic reforms that attempted to prevent the country from collapsing into anarchy. These reforms, however, were largely cosmetic and insufficient to meet the demands of the growing radical elements in the population. By 1991, popular dissatisfaction with Alia's regime had mounted, causing considerable political instability and social unrest. The civil war in neighboring Yugoslavia (see Glossary) served only to exacerbate the growing political and social tension within Albania. Alia resigned following his party's resounding defeat in the spring 1992 multi-party election, and a new government undertook the task of building democracy in a country that for close to five decades had been isolated from the outside world, dominated by a highly repressive political system, and devoid of free-market, private enterprise.

<>Albania after World War II
<>The Hoxha Regime
<>Alia Takes Over
<>People's Assembly
<>Council of Ministers and People's Councils
<>Democratic Front
<>Union of Albanian Working Youth
<>Union of Albanian Women
<>United Trade Unions of Albania
<>Initial Stages
<>Human Rights
<>Further Moves Toward Democracy
<>Multiparty System
<>The Coalition Government of 1991


The communists gained a foothold in Albanian politics during World War II, when they became the founders and leaders of the National Liberation Movement (NLM), which came into existence during the Italian and German occupations. Hoxha, a former schoolteacher who became first secretary of the Albanian Communist Party (ACP) in 1941, was a prominent wartime resistance leader and was largely responsible for the success of the communists in achieving a position of political dominance towards the end of the war.

As leaders of the NLM, the Albanian communists were successful in arousing active opposition to the Italian army and, after September 1943, to the German army. Toward the end of the war, the communists worked unceasingly to ensure that they would exercise political power in liberated Albania. In October 1944, the renamed National Liberation Front transformed itself into the provisional democratic government of Albania, with Hoxha as prime minister. By the time German troops had withdrawn from Albania in November 1944, almost all organized resistance to communism had been crushed.

Albania - Albania after World War II

The People's Republic of Albania was proclaimed on January 11, 1946, by a newly elected People's Assembly. The assembly, which was elected in December 1945, initially included both communists and noncommunists. Within a year, however, all noncommunists had been purged from the assembly and were subsequently executed. The communists had a monopoly of power by the end of 1946.

The new regime acted swiftly to consolidate its position by breaking up the power of the middle class and other perceived opponents. The communist party tried before special tribunals those classified as "war criminals," a designation that came to include anyone who was unsympathetic to the new government. Members of the landed aristocracy and tribal chieftains were arrested and sent to labor camps. More than 600 leaders were executed during the new government's first two weeks in power. In an effort to strengthen its grip on the economy, the government promulgated a series of laws providing for strict state regulation of all industrial and commercial enterprises and foreign and domestic trade. The laws legalized the confiscation of property of political opponents in exile and anyone designated an "enemy of the people" and levied a crushing "war-profits tax" against the economically prosperous members of the population. As part of its program to nationalize industry, the government confiscated all German and Italian assets in Albania and revoked all foreign economic concessions. All means of transportation were also nationalized. As far as the peasantry was concerned, the new government was cautious. The Agrarian Reform Law of 1945 nationalized all forests and pasturelands, but landowners who possessed farm machinery were allowed to keep up to forty hectares for farming.

Albania - The Hoxha Regime

Hoxha was the most powerful leader in modern Albania, occupying at times the posts of prime minister, minister of defense, and commander in chief of the armed forces, while continuing to serve as first secretary of the ACP. He was head of state from 1944 until 1985. His main rival in the initial period of his rule was the minister of internal affairs and head of the dreaded secret police, KoÁi Xoxe. Xoxe was close to the Yugoslavs and was arrested in 1948 as a Titoist (see Glossary) following Albania's break with Yugoslavia. The next most influential political figure was Mehmet Shehu, who became prime minister when Hoxha relinquished this post in July 1954.

Hoxha's efforts to impose a rigid, repressive political and government structure on Albania met with little active resistance until the country's declining standard of living and poor economic performance led to such dissatisfaction that unrest began to spread in 1965-66. In response, the Hoxha government initiated the Cultural and Ideological Revolution in February 1966, which was an attempt to reassert communist party influence on all aspects of life and rekindle revolutionary fervor. By 1973 demands for a relaxation of party controls and for internal reforms were creating considerable pressure on Hoxha. The pressure led him to launch a series of purges of top cultural, military, and economic officials. In 1977, for example, an alleged "Chinese conspiracy" was uncovered, which resulted in the dismissal and arrest of several top military officials.

In keeping with its Stalinist practices, Albania's government pursued a rigorously dogmatic line in domestic policy, instituting highly centralized economic planning and rigid restrictions on educational and cultural development. In 1976 a new constitution was promulgated, the third such constitution since the communists came to power. The 1976 Constitution, which changed the official name of the country to the People's Socialist Republic of Albania, was little different from the 1950 version. It paid lip service to such institutions as the Supreme Court and the People's Assembly, but it affirmed the primary role of the communist party, known as the Albanian Party of Labor (APL) from 1948.

Whatever gains the Hoxha leadership achieved in socioeconomic terms were diminished by the sharp repression in all areas of life, and Hoxha's decision to keep Albania isolated retarded the country's technological growth to such an extent that it became economically inferior to all of its neighbors.

The early 1980s were marked by further purges in the government and party in preparation for the impending succession to Hoxha, who was in ill health. Although Prime Minister Shehu had been regarded as the second most powerful leader, especially because he had significant support in the police and military, Hoxha decided against naming him as his successor. Instead, Hoxha began a campaign against him, which culminated in Shehu's alleged suicide in December 1981. Hoxha then proceeded to arrest all of Shehu's family and supporters.

Albania - Alia Takes Over

Before Hoxha died in April 1985, after more than forty years as the unchallenged leader, he had designated Ramiz Alia as his successor. Alia was born in 1925 and had joined the Albanian communist movement before he was twenty years old. He had risen rapidly under Hoxha's patronage and by 1961 was a full member of the ruling Political Bureau (Politburo) of the APL. Hoxha chose Alia for several reasons. First, Alia had long been a militant follower of Marxism-Leninism (see Glossary) and supported Hoxha's policy of national self-reliance. Alia also was favored by Hoxha's wife Nexhmije, who had once been his instructor at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism. Alia's political experience was similar to that of Hoxha; and inasmuch as he appeared to share Hoxha's views on most foreign and domestic issues, he easily accommodated himself to the totalitarian mode of ruling. That he had managed to survive several waves of extensive purges bespoke his political prowess and capacity for survival.

The second-ranking member of the leadership after Hoxha's death was Prime Minister Adil «arÁani, a full member of the Politburo since 1961. Among the fifteen candidate and full members of the party's Politburo in 1985, nine were members of the postwar generation and most had made their political careers after Albanian-Soviet ties were severed in 1961. By late 1986, both the Politburo and the party's other administrative organ, the Secretariat, were dominated by Alia's supporters.

When Alia took over as first secretary of the APL, the country was in grave difficulty. Political apathy and cynicism were pervasive, with large segments of the population having rejected the regime's values. The economy, which suffered from low productivity and permanent shortages of the most basic foodstuffs, showed no sign of improvement. Social controls and self-discipline had eroded. The intelligentsia was beginning to resist strict party controls and to criticize the regime's failure to observe international standards of human rights. Apparently recognizing the depth and extent of the societal malaise, Alia cautiously and slowly began to make changes in the system. His first target was the economic system. In an effort to improve economic efficiency, Alia introduced some economic decentralization and price reform in specific sectors. Although these changes marked a departure from the Hoxha regime, they did not signify a fundamental reform of the economic system.

Alia did not relax censorship, but he did allow public discussions of Albania's societal problems and encouraged debates among writers and artists on cultural issues. In response to international criticism of Albania's record on human rights, the new leadership loosened some political controls and ceased to apply repression on a mass scale. In 1986 and 1989, general amnesties brought about the release of many long-term prisoners. Alia also took steps to establish better ties with the outside world, strengthening relations with Greece, Italy, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. A loosening of restrictions on travel and tourism resulted in a more promising outlook for Albania's tourist trade.

By the late 1980s, Alia was supporting a campaign for more openness in the press and encouraging people to talk freely about Albania's problems. As a result, controversial articles on a range of topics began to appear in the press. Not everyone, however, was happy with Alia's cautious program of reform. The entrenched party bureaucrats were worried that they would lose their powers and privileges and hence resisted many of the changes. Thus Alia's regime was not able, or willing, to attempt changes that would put an end to the repressive elements of the system.


Albania's communist party, in early 1992, was in a state of transition, and its future remained uncertain. Known from 1941 to 1948 as the Albanian Communist Party, from November 1948 as the Albanian Party of Labor (APL), and from June 1991 as the Socialist Party of Albania (SPA), the communist party was organized along lines similar to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The 1976 constitution recognized the special status of the APL, which controlled the political, cultural, and economic life in the country. According to the Article 3 of the constitution, the party is the "leading political force of the state and of the society." The party was organized on the principle of democratic centralism (see Glossary), under which the minority had to submit to the majority and could not express disagreement after a vote. The highest organ of the party, according to the party statutes, was the party congress, which met for a few days every five years. Delegates to the party congress were elected at party conferences held at the regional, district, and city levels. The party congress examined and approved reports submitted by the Central Committee, discussed general party policies, and elected a Central Committee. The latter was the next highest echelon in the party hierarchy and generally included all key officials in the government, as well as prominent members of the intelligentsia. The Central Committee directed party activities between party congresses and met approximately three times a year.

As in the Soviet Union, the Central Committee elected a Politburo and a Secretariat. The Politburo, which usually included key government ministers and Central Committee secretaries, was the main administrative and policy-making body and convened on a weekly basis. Generally the Central Committee approved Politburo reports and policy decisions with little debate. The Secretariat was responsible for guiding the day-to- day affairs of the party, in particular for organizing the execution of Politburo decisions and for selecting party and government cadres.

The Ninth Party Congress of the APL was convened in November 1986, with 1,628 delegates in attendance. Since 1971, the composition of the party had changed in several respects. The percentage of women had risen from 22 percent in 1971 to 32.2 percent in 1986, while 70 percent of APL members were under the age of forty. The average age of members in the newly elected Central Committee was forty-nine, as compared with an average age of fifty-three in the previous Central Committee. The new Central Committee elected a Politburo of thirteen full and five candidate members. In his speech at the Ninth Party Congress, Alia did not indicate any significant departure from the policies of Hoxha, but he launched a campaign to streamline the party bureaucracy and improve its efficiency. Alia urged that standards of cadre training and performance be raised in an effort to rid the system of bureaucrats who were so concerned with protecting their privileges that they blocked the implementation of new economic policies. The Politburo also instituted a policy whereby cadres in positions that were vulnerable to graft and corruption would be rotated on a regular basis.

At the Ninth Plenum of the Central Committee in January 1990, Alia announced further modest reforms. Meetings of all lowerlevel party organizations would be open to the masses; secretaries of party organizations could serve no longer than five years; one-third of the membership in state organs had to be renewed each legislative term; and at each congress of the APL a third of the delegates would be replaced.

These reforms, however, appeared to be ineffectual after Albania underwent radical changes in its political culture in 1990-91. As was the case in the Soviet Union and in other countries of Eastern Europe, attempts at cautious reform in response to unrest gave rise to widespread manifestations of discontent. On December 11, 1990, student protests triggered the announcement at the Thirteenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the APL that a multiparty system would be introduced in time for the general elections set for February 1991. Following the multiparty election in the spring of 1991, the APL, later the SPA, emerged as the dominant partner in a coalition government. The SPA was defeated in the spring 1992 general election, receiving only 26 percent of the vote.


The government apparatus, like that of the party, was in a transitional, reformist phase in early 1992. Following the upheavals of 1990 and 1991, which left the economy shattered, much of the country's infrastructure damaged, and parts of the education and welfare systems inoperative, the regime was becoming more democratic and more responsive to the demands of the Albanian people. This shift was reflected, above all, in the introduction of a new electoral system, which for the first time allowed people to choose among several candidates in electing representatives to the legislature. The organs of government described here were provided for in the 1976 constitution. However, changes were introduced in April 1991, when the People's Assembly passed the Law on Major Constitutional Provisions.

Albania - People's Assembly

The supreme organ of the state was, according to the 1976 constitution, the People's Assembly, a unicameral legislative body whose 250 members were elected for four years from a single list of approved candidates. All legislative power was vested in the assembly, which met twice a year for a few days. The People's Assembly had the authority to appoint commissions, to carry out special functions, and to conduct investigations. Between sessions the fifteen-member Presidium of the People's Assembly took charge. Proposals for legislation could be made by the Presidium of the People's Assembly, the Council of Ministers, or members of the assembly itself. In order for a bill to become law, a majority of the People's Assembly had to affirm support for it. Rarely did the assembly express anything other than unanimous approval for a bill. The chairman of the Presidium of the People's Assembly was Alia, who thus merged the functions of party and government leader in one person.

Albania - Council of Ministers and People's Councils

The Council of Ministers, formally approved by the People's Assembly, served as the executive branch of the government, taking charge of activities in the social, economic, and cultural spheres. The APL's Politburo actually chose the Council of Ministers, which in early 1991 consisted of twenty-one members. At the same time, some ministers were members of the Politburo, and all belonged to the APL. This fact enabled the party to exercise strong supervision and direction over the Council of Ministers, and, indeed, the council's main function was to ensure that Politburo decisions were carried out. The Council of Ministers was headed by a chairman, the de facto prime minister, who was chosen by the party leadership. In January 1982, Adil Carcani succeeded Mehmet Shehu as prime minister and was, in turn, replaced by Fatos Nano in February 1991.

People's councils, elected for three-year terms, were responsible for government at twenty-six district levels as well as regional and city levels. They maintained order, enforced laws, and were charged with protecting citizen's rights. The councils met twice a year for a few days, and between sessions their work was conducted by executive committees.

Albania - Courts

The highest judicial organ was the Supreme Court, whose members were elected to a four-year term by the People's Assembly in a secret ballot. The Supreme Court consisted of a chairman, deputy chairmen, and assistant judges and made its decisions collegially. Officers of courts at the lower levels--district and regional courts--were elected in a similar manner by people's councils. Trials were generally open to the public and were often held in places of employment or in villages in order to make them accessible.

After abolishing the Ministry of Justice in the 1960s, the Albanian leadership placed supervision of the country's legal and judicial system in the hands of the prosecutor general. Then in 1983, the Ministry of Justice's Office of Investigations, charged with investigating criminal cases, was placed under the direct supervision of the Presidium of the People's Assembly, ostensibly to make the legal system more responsive to the needs of the people. Whatever organizational changes occurred, the courts themselves had little independence in practice because of party interference in both the investigative process and court proceedings. In 1990 the Ministry of Justice was reestablished, with a mandate for supervising the courts and coming up with a program of judicial reform. As of early 1992, the creation of such a program was still underway.


According to Enver Hoxha, mass organizations were "levers of the party for its ties with the masses," and they carried out political, executive, and organizational work in such a way as to enable party directives to be correctly understood and implemented by the population at large. Because less than 4 percent of Albania's population belonged to the APL as of 1990, the leadership relied heavily on mass organizations to achieve political socialization. They were controlled by APL cadres and used public funds for their maintenance. However, by early 1992, the importance of these organizations had diminished because a multiparty system had been established and the public had the democratic means through which to channel their political expressions.

Albania - Democratic Front

Among the most important of Albania's mass organizations was the Democratic Front, which in August 1945 succeeded the National Liberation Front (previously the National Liberation Movement) as the party's most important auxiliary. As the broadest mass organization, the Democratic Front was supposed to give expression to the political views of the population and to carry out mass political education. The main tasks of this organization were to strengthen the political unity between the party and the people and to mobilize the masses in favor of the implementation of the APL's policies. Ideological indoctrination, the spreading of Marxist-Leninist ideas, was another goal of the front. The Democratic Front, as an umbrella organization for cultural, professional, and political groups, was open to all citizens who were at least eighteen years old. It was chaired until December 1990 by Hoxha's widow, Nexhmije, herself a member of the APL Central Committee.

Albania - Union of Albanian Working Youth

Described officially as the "greatest revolutionary force of inexhaustible strength" and a "strong fighting reserve of the party," the Union of Albanian Working Youth was another key organization for political socialization and indoctrination. The union operated directly under the APL, with its local organs supervised by the relevant district or city party committees. Founded in 1941, the union was considered one of the most important auxiliaries of the party. Organized in the same way as the party, the union had city and district committees, and higher organs, including the politburo and Central Committee. It was patterned after All-Union Lenin the Communist Youth League, known as Komsomol, in the Soviet Union. The more than 200,000 members of the union ranged in age from fifteen to twenty-five. The union was responsible for controlling all Pioneer organizations, which embraced children from seven to fourteen years of age; for implementing party directives among youth; and for mobilizing socalled volunteer labor brigades to work on special economic projects. Membership in the union was a prerequisite for those aspiring to a career in the party or state apparatus.

Albania - Union of Albanian Women

The Union of Albanian Women was another important mass organization. The union was headed in 1990 by Lumturie Rexha, a member of the Central Committee of the APL. Its tasks included controlling and supervising the political and social activities of the country's women, handling their ideological training, and leading the campaign for the emancipation of women. This campaign, initiated in 1966 by Hoxha, had considerable success in securing equal social and political rights for women. As part of the campaign, women from the cities were dispatched to rural regions to explain to the party's line on the role of women. By the late-1980s, women accounted for 47 percent of the labor force and about 30 percent of deputies to the People's Assembly. Women held responsible jobs at all levels of government and received equal pay in most jobs. Nonetheless, Albanian society remained behind the West in its attitudes toward women and had a long way to go to achieve total equality for women.

Albania - United Trade Unions of Albania

Founded in 1945, the United Trade Unions of Albania had tasks that were similar to those of the Democratic Front, but on a more limited scale. The organization's main goal was to carry out political and ideological education of the work force and to mobilize support for the implementation of the party line. The United Trade Unions of Albania consisted of three general unions: the Union of Workers of Industry and Construction; the Union of Education and Trade Workers; and the Union of Agriculture and Procurements Workers. The unions operated according to the principle that the interests of the workers and the state were one and the same. But toward the end of the 1980s, it became increasingly clear that workers no longer identified with the state. Growing disillusionment with social values was reflected in the significant increase in theft of socialist property, corruption, and violation of labor discipline.

Albania - MASS MEDIA

The mass media had long served as an important instrument for the government's efforts to revolutionize society along communist lines. One of the first acts of the communists when they came to power in 1944 was to seize control of the media, although formal nationalization of media operations did not occur until 1946. Thereafter the press, radio, and later television were used to justify communist rule and instil Marxist values in the population.

The press, radio, and television were also used to mobilize the population to support and participate in the implementation of regime programs, such as economic plans, antireligious policies, or campaigns to promote literacy. In order to appeal to the sentiments of the masses, much of the media's message had a nationalist content, evoking feelings of loyalty and pride associated with Albanian independence. The media also served to keep party and government officials in check through exposure of corruption and inefficiency.

The media were closely controlled by the party through the exercise of vigorous censorship until 1990, when the leadership began to moderate policies and to gradually allow for the expression of views that ran counter to the official line. Before 1990 all individuals who worked in the mass media, whether editors, film directors, or television and radio producers, were subject to strict party discipline and rigid guidelines.

The most important daily newspaper was Zeri i Popullit (Voice of the People), published by the party's Central Committee. As a result of the democratic changes that began in 1990, Zeri i Popullit lost its substantial circulation to the new, liberal papers that started to emerge. By 1991 several opposition papers had emerged, including the popular and outspoken Rilindja Demokratike. In response to the changing public mood, Zeri i Popullit dropped the hammer and sickle insignia from its masthead, along with the Marxist slogan "Proletarians of the World Unite." It then joined with opposition newspapers in the campaign to expose and denounce the corruption and privileges of the ruling elite.


Albania held out against political reform longer than any other country that had been considered as in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence, but significant indicators of change in the country's politics began to occur in 1989. Pressure for reform originated from several sources: the intelligentsia and university students; workers; Politburo members antagonistic to Alia; other East European countries; and institutions such as the army and security police. Alia gradually responded to these pressures, but in general the reforms he initiated were too little too late.

Albania - Initial Stages

In 1990 Albania had the youngest population in Europe, with the average age at twenty-seven, Albanian youth had been discontented and restless for some time before the regime began to make changes. Although efforts were made to keep Albania isolated from the rest of the world, television broadcasts from other European countries reached Albanian citizens, and the young could see "bourgeois" lifestyles and the political ferment that was occurring elsewhere in Eastern Europe. In addition, the working class was suffering the dire consequences of Albania's declining economy, and conditions were worsened by a terrible drought in 1989. In October 1989, workers and students in the southern district of SarandŽ staged protests against the regime's policy of work incentives, and several protesters were arrested. A more serious protest had occurred in May 1989 at the Enver Hoxha University at TiranŽ. At first students were simply demanding better living conditions, but their grievances soon acquired a more political character and were treated as a distinct threat by the regime. Although the protest eventually ended without bloodshed, it caused the regime to reassess its policy toward young people and to consider such measures as improving living standards and educational facilities in order to ease the discontent that had been building up among students.

Alia and his colleagues dismissed the Soviet Union's concepts of glasnost' (see Glossary) and perestroika (see Glossary) as irrelevant to the Albanian experience. Demonstrating his ideological purity, Alia claimed that communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because these states deviated from orthodox Marxism. At the Ninth Plenum of the party's Central Committee in January 1990, however, Alia announced some modest political reforms. In addition, he presented limited economic reforms that called for some management authority at state farm and enterprise levels and for improvements in wage and price regulations to increase the role of material incentives.

In general, Alia's reforms suggested that the party leadership was nervous and defensive, and Alia seemed anxious to convince the Central Committee that Albania should not follow the path of other East European countries. Albanian leaders seemed to fear that anything but very limited reform could lead to the social and political upheaval that had occurred elsewhere in Eastern Europe. But Alia's half-measures did little to improve the economic situation or to halt the growing discontent with his regime.

Some Albanian intellectuals, such as the sociologist Hamit Beqeja and the writer Ismail Kadare, recommended more radical changes, particularly with regard to democracy and freedom of the press. As their demands grew, these intellectuals increasingly clashed with the conservatives in the party and state bureaucracy. In October 1990, it was announced that Kadare, Albania's most prominent writer, had defected to France. The defection dealt a blow to Albania's image both at home and abroad, especially since the writer had sent a letter to Alia explaining that he had defected because he was disillusioned with the slow pace of democratic change in the country. The official reaction to Kadare's defection was to condemn it as a "grave offense against the patriotic and civil conscience" of Albania, but his work continued to be published within the country.

Albania - Human Rights

Albanian citizens had few of the guarantees of human rights and fundamental freedoms that have become standard in Western democracies. A large and very effective security service, whose name was changed in July 1991 from the directorate of State Security (Drejtorija e Sigurimit te Shtetit--Sigurimi) to the National Information Service (NIS), helped to support the rule of the communist party by means of consistently violating citizens' rights and freedoms. According to Amnesty International, political prisoners were tortured and beaten by the Sigurimi during investigations, and political detainees lacked adequate legal safeguards during pretrial investigations. Most investigations into political offenses lasted for several months. Such violations were described in Kadare's literary works.

Alia's regime took an important step toward democracy in early May 1990, when it announced its desire to join the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE--see Glossary), while at the same time introducing positive changes in its legal system. A prerequisite for membership in the CSCE is the protection of human rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee had severely criticized Albania for its human rights abuses in 1989, and in May 1990 the secretary general of the United Nations (UN) visited Albania and discussed the issue of human rights. The results of these efforts were mixed, but in general the leadership became more tolerant of political dissent.

Deputy Prime Minister Manush Myftiu announced in 1991 a long list of legislative changes that were designed to improve Albania's human rights record. Among the reforms were the right to a speedy trial, legal defense and appeal; the reduction of the number of crimes punishable by death; the right of all nationals to obtain passports for travel abroad; and the removal of loopholes in the definition of crimes against the state. The government also eased its persecution of religious practice and even allowed some religious activity and "religious propaganda". Restrictions on travel were liberalized, and the number of passports issued was increased significantly. In addition, foreign broadcasts, including those from Voice of America, were no longer jammed.

Albania - Further Moves Toward Democracy

The communist regime faced perhaps its most severe test in early July 1990, when a demonstration by a group of young people in TiranŽ, the nation's capital, led about 5,000 to seek refuge in foreign embassies. To defuse the crisis in July 1990, the Central Committee held a plenum, which resulted in significant changes in the leadership of party and state. The conservatives in the leadership were pushed out, and Alia's position was strengthened. Alia had already called for privatizing retail trade, and many businesses had begun to operate privately. Then in late July, the Politburo passed a law stating that collectivefarm members should be given larger plots of land to farm individually.

In a September 1990 speech to representatives of Albania's major social and political organizations, Alia discussed the July crisis and called for electoral reform. He noted that a proposed electoral law would allow all voting to take place by secret ballot and that every precinct would have at least two candidates. The electors themselves would have the right to propose candidates and anyone could nominate candidates for the assembly. Alia also criticized the bureaucratic "routine and tranquility" of managers and state organizations that were standing in the way of reform.

Despite Alia's efforts to proceed with change on a limited, cautious basis, reform from above threatened to turn into reform from below, largely because of the increasingly vocal demands of Albania's youth. On December 9, 1990, student demonstrators marched from the Enver Hoxha University at TiranŽ though the streets of the capital shouting slogans and demanding an end to dictatorship. By December 11, the number of participants had reached almost 3,000. In an effort to quell the student unrest, which had led to clashes with riot police, Alia met with the students and agreed to take further steps toward democratization. The students informed Alia that they wanted to create an independent political organization of students and youth. Alia's response was that such an organization had to be registered with the Ministry of Justice.

The student unrest was a direct consequence of the radical transformations that were taking place in Eastern Europe and of Alia's own democratic reforms, which spurred the students on to make more politicized demands. Their protests triggered the announcement on December 11, 1990, at the Thirteenth Plenum of the APL Central Committee, that a multiparty system would be introduced in time for the general elections that were set for February 1991. The day after the announcement, the country's first opposition party, the Albanian Democratic Party (ADP), was formed.

The Thirteenth Plenum of the APL Central Committee also announced an extensive shakeup in the party leadership. Five of the eleven full members of the Politburo and two alternate members were replaced. Among those dismissed was Foto Cami, the leading liberal ideologist in the APL leadership. Cami's ouster came as a surprise because he was on close terms with Alia, but apparently Alia was dissatisfied with his failure to deal with the intellectuals effectively.

The student unrest that began in TiranŽ gave rise to widespread riots in four of the largest cities in northern Albania. Violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces took place, resulting in extensive property damage but, surprisingly, no fatalities. Apparently Alia had given the police strict orders to restrain themselves during confrontations with demonstrators. However, Alia issued stern public warnings to the protesters on television, claiming that they had been misled by foreign influences and opportunistic intellectuals.

The crisis was analyzed in the Albanian press in an usually candid manner. On December 17, the Democratic Front's daily newspaper, Bashkimi, described what had occurred and then warned that such violence could lead to a conservative backlash, suggesting that conservative forces posed a real threat to the process of democratization in the country. The outspoken nature of the article, the first instance of open criticism of the security agencies, indicated that the government was prepared to allow intellectuals and reformers to express their views in the media. Later that month, the Council of Ministers set up a state commission to draft a law on the media and formally define its rights, thus reducing the APL's direct control over the press. The council also authorized the first opposition newspaper, Relindja Demokratike.

Another important sign of democratization was the publication on December 31 of a draft interim constitution intended to replace the constitution of 1976. The draft completely omitted mention of the APL. It introduced a system with features similar to those of a parliamentary democracy, while at the same time strengthening the role of the president, who would be elected by a new People's Assembly. The president was to assume the duties of commander in chief of the armed forces and chairman of the Defense Council, positions previously held by the party first secretary. Also on December 31, the government eased restrictions on private trade in the service and light industry sectors, indicating a general trend toward a less centralized economy.

In his traditional New Year's message to the Albanian people, Alia welcomed the changes that had been occurring in the country and claimed that 1991 would be a turning point in terms of the economy. But despite positive signs of change, many Albanians were still trying to leave their country. At the end of 1990, as many as 5,000 Albanians crossed over the mountainous border into Greece. Young people motivated by economic dissatisfaction made up the bulk of the refugees.

Albania - Multiparty System

Alia and his political colleagues did not respond to demands by reformers for a multiparty system until the pressure became too great to resist. After the government was finally forced to introduce political pluralism and a multiparty system, several opposition parties were created. The first was the Albanian Democratic Party (ADP), formed on December 12, 1990. One of the founders of the party was the thirty-five-year-old Gramoz Pashko, a physician and a former APL member and son of a former government official. The party's platform called for the protection of human rights, a free-market economy, and good relations with neighboring countries. At the end of 1990, the ADP started organizing rallies in various cities intended to help people overcome their fear of expressing political views after decades of authoritarian control. Thousands of people attended the rallies. The ADP supported the rights of the large Albanian population in Kosovo, a province in the Serbian Republic of Yugoslavia, and advocated a reduction of the length of military service.

By early February 1991, the ADP had an estimated membership of 50,000 and was recognized as an important political force both at home and abroad. The ADP was led by a commission of six men, the most prominent of whom were Sali Berisha, a cardiologist, and Pashko. Berisha, a strong nationalist, vigorously defended the rights of the Albanian residents of Kosovo, and Pashko was an outspoken advocate of economic reform. The party's newspaper, Rilindja Demokratike, was outspoken in its political commentary. Its first issue, which appeared on January 5, 1991, criticized the government very aggressively.

The second main opposition party, the Republican Party, headed by Sabri Godo, was founded in January 1991. The Republican Party, which soon had branches in all districts of the country, advocated a more gradual approach to reform than that espoused by the ADP. Several other opposition parties with reform platforms were formed; they include the Agrarian Party, the Ecology Party, the National Unity Party, and the Social Democratic Party.

Albania held its first multiparty elections since the 1920s in 1991. The elections were for the 250 seats in the unicameral People's Assembly. The first round was held in February and runoff elections took place on March 31, and a final round was held in April. Staff members of the CSCE observed the voting and counting of ballots on election day. They found that the process was orderly, although some complaints of irregularities were reported. The turnout was an extremely high 98.9 percent. The APL emerged as the clear victor, winning some two-thirds of the seats. The margin enabled it to maintain control of the government and choose a president, Ramiz Alia, who had previously been chairman of the Presidium of the earlier People's Assembly.

The ADP captured 30 percent of the seats in the People's Assembly, as opposed to 67.6 percent acquired by the APL. Although the APL bore the burden of being the party responsible for past repression and the severe economic woes of Albania, it nonetheless represented stability amidst chaos to many people. This fact was particularly true in the countryside, where the conservative peasantry showed little inclination for substantial changes in their way of life. Another advantage for the APL was its control of most of the media, particularly the broadcast media, to which the opposition parties had little access. It was therefore able to manipulate radio and television to its advantage.

Although many conservative leaders won election to the People's Assembly, Alia lost his seat. Alia had surprised many people by adopting a new, apparently pragmatic, approach to politics in the months leading up to the election. He had faced a serious challenge in mid-February, when unrest erupted again among students at the Enver Hoxha University at TiranŽ. Approximately 700 students went on a hunger strike in support of a demand that Hoxha's name should be removed from the university's official name. The demand was a serious attack on the country's political heritage and one that Alia refused to countenance. He resisted student demands and stressed the necessity of preserving law and order, thereby antagonizing those who had expected him to be more moderate.

In April 1991, Albania's new multiparty legislature passed transitional legislation to enable the country to move ahead with key political and economic reforms. The legislation, the Law on Major Constitutional Provisions, was in effect an interim constitution, and the 1976 constitution was invalidated. The words "socialist" and "people's" were dropped from the official title of Albania, so that the country's name became Republic of Albania. There were also fundamental changes to the political order. The Republic of Albania was declared to be a parliamentary state providing full rights and freedoms to its citizens and observing separation of powers. The People's Assembly of at least 140 members elected for a four-year term is the legislature and is headed by a presidency consisting of a chairman and two deputies. The People's Assembly elects the president of Albania by secret ballot and also elects the members of the Supreme Court. The president is elected for five years and may not serve more than two consecutive terms or fill any other post concurrently. The president does, however, exercise the duties of the People's Assembly when that body is not in session. The Council of Ministers is the top executive body, and its membership is described in the interim constitution. The law on Major Constitutional Provisions is to operate as Albania's basic law until adoption of a new constitution, to be drafted by a commission appointed by the People's Assembly.

The constitutional changes of April 1991 made it obligatory that Alia resign from all of his high-level posts in the APL in order to accept the post of president, and the amendments depoliticized other branches of government, including the ministries of defense, foreign affairs, and public order. The People's Assembly also gained regulation of the radio, television, and other official news media.

Albania - The Coalition Government of 1991

Prime Minister Fatos Nano, a moderate communist, did well in the spring 1991 elections, and he was able to set up a new government, which he established in February 1991. His postelection cabinet consisted mostly of new faces and called for radical market reforms in the economy. In outlining his economic program to the People's Assembly, Nano presented an extremely bleak picture of the economy. He said that the economy was in dire straits because of the inefficiencies of the highly centralized economic system that had existed up to that point, and be advocated extensive privatization as a remedy. He also announced government plans to reform and streamline the armed forces.

Nano's twenty-five-member cabinet and his progressive economic and political program were approved in early May 1991. But the outlook for his administration was clouded by the fact that a general strike had almost completely paralyzed the country and its economy. Indeed, the situation became so dire that Nano was ousted and a "government of national salvation" was created, in which the communists were forced to share power with other parties in the executive branch for the first time since the end of World War II. The new government, led by Prime Minister Ylli Bufi, was a coalition of the communists, the ADP, the Republican Party, the Social Democratic party, and the Agrarian Party. It took office in June 1991.

Just days later, also in June 1991, the Tenth Party Congress of the APL took place in TiranŽ. Delegates voted to change the name of the party to the Socialist Party of Albania (SPA) and elected a reformist leadership under Nano. Former Politburo member Xhelil Gjoni gave the keynote address to the congress. He openly attacked the late dictator, Hoxha, and even went so far as to criticize Alia. His speech was a milestone for the Albanian communists and signified the end of the Stalinist line pursued by the party until that time. The new program adopted by the party stressed the goal of making a transition to a modern, democratic socialist party.

Alia also gave a speech at the party congress, in which he, too, sanctioned a significant reform of the party. But it appeared as though he were under a political shadow. By July 1991, he had come under severe attack from various political quarters. Serious and highly damaging allegations were made by several of Alia's former associates. One detractor charged that Alia had given orders for police to fire on unarmed demonstrators in February 1991, and others openly questioned his claims to have started the process of democratization in Albania. The campaign against Alia was apparently designed to discredit him and force him to step down.

In response, Alia made a great effort to portray himself as a real reformist. In early August 1991, he addressed the nation on television to talk about the attempted coup in the Soviet Union. He said that Mikhail S. Gorbachev's ouster only encouraged all kinds of dictators and he deplored the actions of the selfdeclared Soviet State Committee for the State of Emergency. The subsequent defeat of the Soviet coup was described by Alia and others as a victory for the forces of reform.

An earlier sign that the government was making an attempt to break with the nondemocratic traditions of the past was the announcement in early July that the notorious Sigurimi, the Albanian secret police, had been dissolved and replaced by a reformed security organization. The new institution, the National Information Service (NIS), was to be far more attentive to individual rights than its predecessor had been. The move to disband the Sigurimi and form the NIS coincided with a steep rise in crime and a wave of Albanians fleeing to Italy, an exodus that the NIS was unable to stem. The refugee problem reached epidemic proportions in August 1991, with 15,000 Albanians seeking asylum in Italy; most were later returned to Albania.

In many respects, Alia was a political survivor. He had managed to remain a key political figure throughout several political crises. Although he had some genuine concerns for stability and continuity, he was not inflexible. He changed in response to the circumstances and accommodated the demands of the reformers. Nonetheless, with Albania in the throes of a grave economic crisis, Alia had to face challenges that he could not surmount. After the collapse of the coalition government in December 1991 and the ADP's landslide victory in the spring 1992 general election, he resigned as president on April 3, 1992. On April 9, the People's Assembly elected ADP leader Sali Berisha as Albania's new head of state.


Historically, Albania's foreign policy objectives have not been far-reaching. Ideology has not been a driving force in determining Albania's relations with the outside world. Rather, its main concern has been to preserve its territorial integrity and independence. The strategy pursued by Enver Hoxha was to rely on alliances with communist states that could give Albania large amounts of foreign aid and at the same support his regime. His successor, Alia, modified this strategy by pursuing a more varied foreign policy, reaching out to a number of Albania's neighbors.

Albania - Shifting Alliances

Several factors contributed to Albania's foreign policy, but nationalism was probably the single most important factor. Albanian nationalism had developed over years of domination or threat of domination by its more powerful neighbors: Greece, Italy, and Yugoslavia. The partition of Albania in 1912, when Kosovo and other Albanian-inhabited territories were lost, left the country with a deep sense of resentment and hostility to outsiders. Traditional fears of being dismembered or subjugated by foreigners persisted after World War II and were aggravated by Hoxha's paranoia about external enemies.

To offset the influence of Yugoslavia, Hoxha made an effort to improve relations with the Western powers, but was largely unsuccessful. Following the 1946 purge of Sejfulla Maleshova, the leader of the party faction that advocated moderation in foreign and domestic policy, Albania's relations with the West deteriorated, and both the United States and Britain withdrew their foreign envoys from TiranŽ. Albania's application to join UN was also rejected (Albania did join the UN in December 1955). Hoxha made peace with Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia's president, and in July 1946 signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Aid with Yugoslavia. Yugoslav influence over Albania's party and government increased considerably between 1945 and 1948. Yugoslavia came to dominate political, economic, military, and cultural life in Albania, and plans were even made to merge the two countries.

Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Cominform (see Glossary) in 1948 gave Hoxha an opportunity to reverse this situation, making his country the first in Eastern Europe to condemn Yugoslavia. The treaty of friendship with Yugoslavia was abrogated; Yugoslav advisers were forced out of Albania; and Xoxe, the minister of internal affairs and head of the secret police, was tried and executed, along with hundreds of other "Titoists." As a result of these changes, Albania became a full-fledged member of the Soviet sphere of influence, playing a key role in Stalin's strategy of isolating Yugoslavia. In 1949 Albania joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance ( Comecon--see Glossary) and proceeded with a program of rapid, Soviet-style, centralized economic development.

TiranŽ's close relations with Moscow lasted until 1955, when the post-Stalin leadership began pursuing a policy of rapprochement with Yugoslavia. As part of the de-Stalinization process, Moscow began to pressure TiranŽ to moderate its belligerent attitude toward Yugoslavia and relax its internal policies. Hoxha managed to withstand this challenge and to resist the pressure to de-Stalinize, despite the fact that the Soviet Union resorted to punitive economic measures that caused Albania considerable hardship. In 1960 the Soviets attempted to engineer a coup against Hoxha, but were unsuccessful because Hoxha had learned of their plans in advance and had purged all pro-Soviet elements in the party and government.

By 1960 Albania was already looking elsewhere for political support and improving its relations with China. In December 1961, the Soviet Union, while embroiled in a deep rift with China, broke diplomatic relations with Albania, and other East European countries sharply curtailed their contacts with Albania as well. Throughout the 1960s, Albania and China, countries that shared a common bond of alienation from the Soviet Union, responded by maintaining very close domestic and foreign ties. China gave Albania a great deal of economic aid and assistance, while the latter acted as China's representative at international forums from which the Chinese were excluded. Although TiranŽ's break with Moscow had been very costly in economic terms, Albania made no effort to reestablish ties with the Soviet Union. In an address to the Fifth Congress of the APL in November 1966, Hoxha made it clear that Albania intended to stay close to China.

The 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, however, marked the beginning of a gradual estrangement between Albania and China, primarily because Hoxha realized that an increased Soviet military threat could not be offset by an alliance with a country that was far away and militarily weak relative to the superpowers. Hoxha sanctioned a cautious opening toward neighboring countries such as Yugoslavia and Greece, although he continued to be concerned about the domestic effects of moving too far from foreign policy that excluded all countries except China.

Another cause of the estrangement was the realization that Chinese aid was not enough to prevent Albania from having serious economic problems. Albania's experience with financial assistance from communist powers from 1945 to 1978 had begun to make it wary of becoming so dependent on any outside entity. A chill in relations with China began to occur following the death of Mao Zedong in September 1976, and in July 1978 China terminated all economic and military aid to Albania, an action that left Albania without a foreign protector.

In the late 1970s, Albania embarked on a policy of rigid self-reliance. Having broken ties with the two leading communist states, Albania aspired to total economic independence and declared itself the only genuine Marxist-Leninist country in the world. The government was actually forbidden to seek foreign aid and credits or to encourage foreign investment in the country. Hoxha rigidly adhered to Marxism-Leninism, seeing the world as divided into two opposing systems--socialism and capitalism. But he also led Albania in a two-front struggle against both United States "imperialism" and Soviet "social-imperialism." For example, Albania refused to participate in CSCE talks or sign the Helsinki Accords (see Glossary) in 1975 because the United States and the Soviet Union had initiated the negotiating process.

Albania - Changes in the 1980s

Hoxha had basically used the threat of external enemies to justify a repressive internal policy. His primary goal was to stay in power, and an isolationist foreign policy suited this goal. But some members of the APL leadership began to question the efficacy of such a policy, particularly in view of its adverse economic consequences. At the end of the 1970s, Hoxha was pressured into sanctioning a cautious effort to strengthen bilateral relations with Albania's neighbors, in particular Yugoslavia. Bilateral cultural contacts between the two countries increased, and by 1980 Yugoslavia had replaced China as Albania's main trading partner. In the early 1980s, however, Yugoslavia's military suppression of ethnic Albanians demonstrating in the province of Kosovo led to a chill in Albanian-Yugoslav relations. Approximately two million ethnic Albanians lived in Kosovo, and Albania supported Kosovo's demands that it be granted the status of a republic. Yugoslavia responded by accusing Albania of interfering in its internal affairs, and cultural and economic contacts were severely reduced. Trade between the two countries stagnated.

In the early 1980s, a diplomatic shift toward Italy, Greece, and Turkey occurred. In November 1984, Alia, as Hoxha's heir apparent, gave a speech in which he expressed an interest in expanding relations with West European countries. He noted that "Albania is a European country and as such it is vitally interested in what is occurring on that continent." Relations with Italy and Greece became noticeably stronger in the early and mid-1980s. In 1983 Albania signed an agreement with Italy on establishing a maritime link between the ports of DurrŽs and Trieste. The two countries also ratified a long-term trade agreement, whereby Albania would send Italy raw materials in exchange for industrial technology. Albania entered into a longterm economic accord with Greece in December 1984, and the two countries also signed a series of agreements on road transportation, cultural exchanges, scientific and technological cooperation, telecommunications, and postal services. Albania's closer relations with Italy and Greece caused Yugoslavia concern, primarily because it appeared preferable to Belgrade to have Albania isolated. But Albania worried that West European countries would allow Yugoslavia to dictate its policies if it failed to develop strong relations with other countries in the region.

Albania - Alia's Pragmatism

On succeeding to Hoxha's party leadership post in 1985, Alia reassessed Albania's foreign policy. He realized that it was imperative for Albania to expand its contacts with the outside world if it were to improve its economic situation. He was eager in particular to introduce Western technology, although limited foreign-currency reserves and constitutional bans on foreign loans and credits restricted Albania's ability to import technology.

Alia's public statements indicated that in pursuing his country's foreign policy objectives he would be less rigid than his predecessor and put political and economic concerns ahead of ideological ones. Thus, at the seventy-fifth anniversary of Albania's independence in 1987, Alia stated, "We do not hesitate to cooperate with others and we do not fear their power and wealth. On the contrary, we seek such cooperation because we consider it a factor that will contribute to our internal development."

In February 1988, Albania participated in the Balkan Foreign Ministers Conference, held in Belgrade. The participation was a clear sign of a new flexibility in Albania's foreign policy. During the 1960s and 1970s, Albania had refused all regional attempts to engage in multilateral cooperation, but Alia was determined to end Albania's isolation and return his country to the mainstream of world politics. This new approach entailed an improvement of relations with Yugoslavia. Indeed, Alia apparently realized that Albania had nothing to gain from confrontation with Yugoslavia over the Kosovo issue, and he ceased endorsing Kosovar demands for republic status in his public statements. The government's conciliatory approach to Yugoslavia was expressed fully in a declaration by Minister of Foreign Affairs Reis Malile at the conference. Malile said that the status of Kosovo was an internal Yugoslav problem.

Trade and economic cooperation between Albania and Yugoslavia increased greatly toward the end of the 1980s. But Kosovo again became a source of tension when the Yugoslav government imposed special security measures on the province and dispatched army and militia units in February and March 1989. These actions resulted in violent clashes between Yugoslav security forces and the Albanian inhabitants of Kosovo. Albania denounced Yugoslavia's "chauvinist policy" toward Kosovo and noted that if the oppression continued, it would adversely affect relations between Albania and Yugoslavia. For its part, Yugoslavia threatened to close down Albania's only rail link to the outside world, a move that would have caused great hardship to Albania. In December 1989, a Yugoslav newspaper reported alleged unrest in northern Albania; President Alia denounced this report and similar ones as a foreign "campaign of slander" against Albania. He denied reports of unrest and said that Yugoslavia was trying to stir up trouble to divert attention from ethnic troubles in Kosovo.

By the late 1980s, Albania began to strengthen further its relations with Greece. The substantial Greek minority in Albania motivated Greek concern for better communications with Albania. It was especially important for Greece that Albanian nationals who were ethnically Greek should be allowed to practice the Greek Orthodox religion. Greece offered Albania hopes of economic and political ties that would offset the deterioration in relations with Yugoslavia. Albania and Greece had already signed a military protocol on the maintenance and repair of border markers in July 1985. In August 1987, Greece officially lifted its state of war with Albania, a state that had existed since World War II, when Italy had launched its attack on Greece from Albanian territory. In November 1987, the Greek prime minister visited TiranŽ to sign a series of agreements with Albania, including a long-term agreement on economic, industrial, technical, and scientific cooperation. In April 1988, the two countries set up a ferry link between the Greek island of Corfu and the Albanian city of SarandŽ. In late 1989, however, their relations began to worsen when some Greek politicians began to express concern about the fate of the Greek minority in Albania, and a war of words began. This hostility marked a sharp departure from the trend over the past decade.

Albania's relations with both Turkey and Italy improved after the death of Hoxha. In May 1985, Prime Minister «arÁani sent a message to the Italian prime minister, Bettino Craxi, stating that he hoped cooperation between the two countries could be increased. In late 1985, however, there was a slight setback in Italian-Albanian relations when six Albanian citizens sought refuge in the Italian Embassy in TiranŽ and the two countries found it difficult to settle the dilemma. The six were allowed to remain in the embassy until Albania finally gave assurances that they would not be persecuted.

An important step toward ending Albania's isolation and improving its relationships with its neighbors was TiranŽ's offer to host the Balkan Foreign Ministers Conference in October 1990. The conference was a follow-up to the Belgrade conference of 1988 and was the first international political gathering to take place in Albania since the communists came to power. The conference came at a good time for the Albanian leadership, which was attempting to project a new image abroad in keeping with the democratic changes beginning to take place within the country. For Albania it was an opportunity to increase its prestige and boost its international image in the hopes of becoming a fullfledged member of the CSCE. In fact, the latter aim was not achieved by the conference, and it was not until June 1991, after a visit by CSCE staff members to observe Albania's first multiparty elections, that Albania was accepted as a full member of the CSCE.

Albania - Albania Seeks New Allies

By the mid-1980s, Alia recognized that in order to ameliorate Albania's serious economic problems, trade with the West had to be significantly expanded. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was on the top of the list of potential economic partners. In 1987 Albania established diplomatic relations with West Germany, after first dropping claims for war reparations. Albania hoped to obtain advanced technology from West Germany, along with assistance in improving its agricultural sector and modernizing its transportation system. In November 1987, Albania signed an agreement with West Germany, which enabled it to purchase West German goods at below market prices; and in March 1989, West Germany granted Albania 20 million deutsche marks in nonrepayable funds for development projects.

Albania initiated discussions with many private Western firms concerning the acquisition of advanced technology and purchase of modern industrial plants. It also asked for technical assistance in locating and exploiting oil deposits off its coast. But the problems for Albania in pursuing these economic aims were considerable. The main problem was Albania's critical shortage of foreign currency, a factor that caused Albania to resort to barter to pay for imported goods. Tied to this problem was the economy's centralized planning mechanism, which inhibited the production of export commodities because enterprises had no incentive to increase the country's foreign-exchange earnings. An even greater problem until the 1990s was the provision in the 1976 Albanian constitution prohibiting the government from accepting foreign aid.

In addition to paying more attention to Albania's close neighbors and Western Europe, Alia advocated a reassessment of relations with other East European countries. A more flexible attitude was adopted, and relations with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria significantly improved in the late 1980s. In June 1989, the East German foreign minister Oskar Fischer visited Albania; he was the first senior official from the Soviet bloc to visit the country since the early 1960s. Alia personally received Fischer, and a number of key agreements were signed that led to expanded cooperation in industry and the training of specialists. By 1990 long-term trade agreements had been signed with most East European states. The Comecon countries were willing to accept Albania's shoddy manufactured goods and its low-quality produce for political reasons. After 1990, however, when these countries were converting to market economies, they no longer had the same willingness, which made it considerably more difficult for Albania to obtain much-needed foreign currency. The Albanian media, nonetheless, greeted the revolutions in Eastern Europe with favor, covering events with an unusual amount of objectivity. The government in TiranŽ was among the first to attack Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and to recognize the new government in Romania. As far as the Soviet Union was concerned, however, Albania continued to be highly critical of its former ally and denounced Gorbachev's policy of perestroika. Apparently Albania was also concerned about what it saw as Soviet support for Yugoslavia's handling of the Kosovo issue. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union continued to call for improved relations with Albania.

Albania's attitude toward the United States traditionally had been very hostile. Relations with Washington were broken in 1946, when Albania's communist regime refused to adhere to prewar treaties and obligations. Alia showed a different inclination, however, after a visit to TiranŽ in 1989 by some prominent Albanian Americans, who impressed him with their desire to promote the Albanian cause. In mid-February 1990, the Albanian government reversed its long-standing policy of having no relations with the superpowers. A leading Albanian government official announced: "We will have relations with any state that responds to our friendship with friendship." No formal contacts between the United States and Albania existed until 1990, when diplomats began a series of meetings that led to a resumption of relations. On March 15, 1991, a memorandum of understanding was signed in Washington reestablishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. United States secretary of state James Baker visited Albania in June 1991, following the CSCE meeting in Berlin at which Albania was granted CSCE membership. During his visit, Baker informed the Albanian government that the United States was prepared to provide Albania with approximately US$6 million worth of assistance. He announced that the United States welcomed the democratic changes that were taking place in Albania and promised that if Albania took concrete steps toward political and free-market reforms, the United States would be prepared to offer further assistance.

Alia's pragmatism was also reflected in Albania's policy toward China and the Soviet Union. The Albanian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs made an official visit to China in March 1989, and the visit was reciprocated in August 1990. On July 30, 1990, Albania and the Soviet Union signed a protocol normalizing relations, which had been suspended for the previous twenty-nine years. The Soviet-Albanian Friendship Society was reactivated, and Alia met with the Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, when they were both in New York to visit the United Nations in September 1990. No longer were the United States and the Soviet Union considered to be Albania's most dangerous enemies.

Alia's trip to the United Nations was the first time that an Albanian head of state had attended an official meeting in the West. The purpose of the trip was to demonstrate to the world that Albania had a pragmatic and new foreign policy. While at the United Nations, Alia delivered a major foreign policy address to the General Assembly in which he described the changes that had taken place in Albania's foreign policy and emphasized that his country wanted to play a more active role in world events. In his address, Alia discussed the ongoing efforts of the Albanian leadership to adjust the external and internal politics of Albania to the realities of the postcommunist world.

The internal politics of Albania, driven by a collapsed economy, social instability, and democratic ferment, portend continued changes in the institutions of government in the early to mid-1990s and in the relationship between the country's leaders and its citizens.

* * *

Materials on Albania are not as readily available as those on other countries in Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, a few useful monographs on Albanian politics and government have appeared. The Albanians: Europe's Forgotten Survivors, by Anton Logoreci, and Socialist Albania since 1944, by Peter R. Prifti, both of which were published during the 1970s provide useful accounts of political developments in Albania since World War II. Albania: A Socialist Maverick, by Elez Biberaj, offers a more up-to-date picture of the political scene in Albania, pointing out the positive and negative aspects of the changes taking place there. Among the more useful articles on Albanian politics is Biberaj's "Albania at the Crossroads," which analyzes political events in 1991 and offers a perspective on what might be expected for Albania's future. Also of value are the regular articles on Albanian politics by Louis Zanga, appearing in the Munich weekly Report on Eastern Europe, published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

CITATION: Federal Research Division of the
Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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