Albania Geopolitics (2015)

By | December 15, 2021

Since the Second World War, Albania has been characterized by a Stalinist, isolationist and anti-revisionist communist regime. Observance and political practice put Albania in sharp contrast to the official Soviet doctrine adopted since 1956 by the then secretary of the Communist Party of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev, making the Hoxha regime a unique case in Europe. Since the end of bipolarism, the country has faced a long and troubled period of transition during which it has tried to open up more and more to the West by orienting its foreign policy towards the countries of Western Europe and the USA. The process of rapprochement aimed at full inclusion in the main international organizations. A fundamental step was taken with the entry into NATO. European Union (EU). On the bilateral level, the country has privileged relations above all with Italy, which constitutes a natural outlet for commercial exchanges and is the adopted homeland of a large Albanian community. The link with Rome also serves to consolidate and expand relations with the rest of Western Europe.

The Albanian institutional system is characterized by a unicameral parliament, with 140 seats. The president of the republic, currently Bujar Nishani (in office since 24 July 2012), is elected for five years and has ceremonial duties, while executive power is entrusted to the prime minister, appointed by the president and confirmed by the majority of the parliament. Starting from 15 September 2013, the government is led by the former mayor of Tirana Edi Rama, appointed after beating the historic Albanian leader and outgoing premier Sali Berisha in the electoral round. The executive can count on a large parliamentary majority thanks to the alliance between the Socialist Party (Spa) and the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) of Ilir Meta which, together, control 84 seats out of 140. For Albania political system, please check

Defense and security

The entry of Albania into NATO in 2009 (together with Croatia) represents the highest point both of Albanian foreign policy and of Albania’s relations with Western countries. Since the fall of communism, the country has contributed to the NATO mission for the stabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sfor) and provides logistical assistance to the mission in Kosovo (Kfor). It offered protection and refuge to thousands of Kosovars during the conflict of the late 1990s. The strategic alliance with the United States was consolidated by Albanian participation in US-led operations in Afghanistan (since 2001) and Iraq (2003). In Afghanistan, Albania participated in Enduring Freedom with a contingent of 290 units as part of the NATO ISAF mission. organized crime and the Salafist and jihadist recruitment networks of the Islamic State in the Balkans to fight in Iraq and Syria.

Albania and relations with the EU

One of the main objectives of Albanian foreign policy is the rapprochement with the European Union. Since 1992, immediately after the end of the communist regime, Tirana has opened contacts with the EU by signing a first agreement on trade and cooperation. In 2001, Brussels began negotiations for the signing of a stabilization and association agreement (SAA) with Tirana, at the height of the stabilization and association process (SAp) foreseen for five countries of south-eastern Europe, including Albania itself.. The agreement was signed in 2006 and entered into force on 1 April 2009, while in November 2010 the EU approved the visa abolition system for Albanian as well as Bosnian citizens. status of candidate country for entry into the European Union during the European Council of 26-27 June 2014. This is an important political success for the country of the two eagles, especially after the cold shower of December 2013, when some members of the Union (Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany and France) had made negative recommendations, with which these members decided to once again postpone the official start of accession negotiations with Tirana.

The challenges of the Rama government

In September 2013, the new executive headed by the former mayor of Tirana Edi Rama officially took office. The action of the new socialist government was immediately characterized by a redefinition and reorganization of the national political-administrative structure aimed at improving transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of resources. The long-term objectives of the Rama government are the same (not achieved) of the former premier Sali Berisha: fight against organized crime and endemic corruption, serious implementation of economic and social reforms, useful for lowering the national public debt which weighs on for 71, 7% of GDP. However, their delayed implementation has led the Albanian opposition to severely challenge the economic policies adopted so far by the executive in office due, above all, to the rise in electricity costs and the increase in taxation. In foreign policy, however, the Rama administration aims at strengthening ties with the European Union and normalizing relations with the countries of the Balkan region after the tensions that have arisen over the nationalist project of ‘Greater Albania’ – or the creation of a state that gathers all the Albanian peoples of the neighboring states – relaunched by Berisha during the 2013 election campaign. Albania, a drone flew over the Belgrade stadium waving the flag of ‘Greater Albania’. This new episode therefore risked triggering another diplomatic incident,

The increased role of Albanian organized crime

In the decades post-transition Hoxha, Albania experienced the development of some criminal phenomena and the proliferation of illegal organizations dedicated, above all, to drug trafficking and the prostitution of young clandestine women. The causes of these phenomena are partly linked to the strategic geographical position, partly to the lack of control of the local authorities over the territory. By virtue of this deficiency, the Albanian mafia has easily managed to control large parts of the territory by bending them to its clandestine trafficking. It is estimated that much of the heroin and cocaine – the latter coming from South America – that enters Europe transits through the Balkans and more precisely from Albania. In fact, located on the route that leads from the east to the west, Albania is a sort of hub for the flows of illegal migration, drugs, weapons and prostitution – today the most lucrative activity for the Albanian mafia – to Italy and, from there, to the rest of Europe. The ability of the Albanian mafia to be well rooted in neighboring territories by virtue of privileged contacts with other illegal organizations such as the Turkish, Russian, Montenegrin mafias and the New Sacred Crown united in Italy also contributed to this criminal success.

Albania Geopolitics