Written by Foreign Policy

U.S.-Albania Relations, 1990-1992: America’s Promotion of the Democratization of Albania

By Elez Biberaj

The early 1990s, a critically important period in Albania’s contemporary history, ushered in dramatic changes in Albania’s relations with the United States, which eventually would transform the two countries’ relationship from erstwhile enemies to strategic partners.  After a long absence of contacts, in 1990 Albania suddenly became the focus of high-level American attention. With rising public discontent against Ramiz Alia’s regime and the outbreak of anti-Communist demonstrations, the United States seized the opportunity to effect change in what was Europe’s last Stalinist country.  The United States’ objectives were clear:  to induce, through a variety of means, including Voice of America (VOA) Albanian-language broadcasts, Europe’s last Communist dictatorship to undertake much needed democratic and economic reforms; and assist the Albanians to lay the groundwork for a peaceful democratic transition that would help Albania assume its rightful place among free and democratic nations. 

Background

The troubled history of American-Albanian relations after the Communists seized political power in Tirana at the end of the Second World War is well known.  Suffice to note that from 1946, when the United States withdrew its diplomatic representation in Tirana after Enver Hoxha’s government refused to adhere to prewar treaties and obligations, until 1990, the two countries had no formal diplomatic contacts. Throughout this period, the two countries maintained diametrically opposed views on most important issues, and the Albanians were subjected to daily anti-American diatribes.

Hoxha imposed on his people a totalitarian, Stalinist system, pursuing a policy of terror and coercion that resulted in gross violations of human rights and the elimination of all internal opposition to the Communist regime.  He skillfully employed alliances with, in turn, Communist Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and finally the People’s Republic of China to ensure vital foreign economic assistance that helped him consolidate his regime.  While in the wake of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953, other Soviet bloc members gradually experimented with economic and political reforms, Albania’s regime became harsher, with the Communist Party effectively controlling all aspects of life. Albania entered a period of unprecedented international isolation after its break with the Soviet Union in 1960 and alliance with distant China, maintaining very limited contacts with the outside world.  The regime fostered a siege mentality, claiming that the United States and Tirana’s former Soviet bloc allies were determined to destroy Albania, the only “true” socialist state in Europe. By the mid-1970s, Hoxha became disillusioned with Beijing’s policies, particularly China’s rapprochement with the United States, and publicly denounced the post-Mao leadership for allegedly having betrayed Marxism-Leninism. Predictably, Hoxha’s defiance led Beijing to end its alliance with Tirana.  Albania embarked on a policy of self-reliance, which seriously retarded the country’s economic development.[1]

In the early 1950s, the United States and Britain made efforts to overthrow Hoxha’s repressive regime by training and parachuting émigré fighters into Albania in the hope of organizing a popular uprising. This policy was aimed at helping the Albanians regain their freedoms and roll-back Soviet influence in a region of strategic importance to the Western alliance.  But these half-hearted efforts failed, thanks in part to the betrayal of the plot by senior British intelligence official and Soviet agent, Kim Philby.  Philby shared the details of the operation with the Soviets, who in turn informed the Albanians.  Most of the fighters were either captured or killed.  These ended hopes of Albania’s early liberation from the Communist yoke.

Following these aborted attempts, the United States and its allies ceased their support of Albanian émigré groups’ resistant activity.  But while it gave up on efforts to overthrow the regime, Washington’s policy objectives were clearly defined and publicly enunciated: encourage Albania’s independence from Moscow and promote internal liberalization.  There was a realization that these objectives could not be effectively promoted in the absence of diplomatic ties.[2]  To this effect, in the late 1950s, the United States expressed its willingness to extend recognition to Hoxha’s government.  Although there were signs that Tirana desired to resume ties, the Albanian government was not forthcoming, continuing instead with its anti-American posture. Tirana’s break with Moscow in 1960 renewed Western interest in the tiny Balkan country. The United States was prepared to offer Albania – as it had done in the case of Yugoslavia after Tito’s break with Stalin – substantial economic and political assistance.  These efforts, however, were rebuffed by Albania.  The ruling Communist Party continued to exercise iron control over the public sphere, enforcing Hoxha’s personality cult, prohibiting any criticism of the regime, and denying the population any free information.  Albania seemed immune to reformist trends, when other East European countries were embracing them. Despite the repressive nature of the Albanian regime, at certain critical moments, such as after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and Tirana’s break with Beijing, the United States made overtures to Albania.  Albania’s reclusive and paranoid regime rejected these overtures and showed no interest in resuming ties until April 1990.

The United States and its policies were consistently vilified by Hoxha’s regime. During this long period of a lack of diplomatic ties, the VOA’s Albanian Service was the only means by which Washington could emphasize the traditional friendship between the American and Albanian peoples.  Through its broadcasts, the Albanian Service attempted to debunk the claims of the official Tirana propaganda machine that the United States was hostile to Albania’s wellbeing and national aspirations.

            Albania’s atrocious human rights record and the terrible suffering of the Albanians had been well documented by Albanian émigrés as well as international human rights organizations.  However, during the high of the Cold War, higher priority was given to diminishing Soviet control and influence in Albania than in promoting regime change. The United States and its European allies had welcomed Tirana’s break with Moscow, which contributed significantly to Western interests in the Balkans.  Regime excesses during Albania’s Cultural Revolution, including the abolition of religion by law, did not attract much attention.  Although Hoxha had instituted the most repressive regime in Eastern Europe, Western policy gave short shrift to the promotion of democracy and the protection of human rights, giving precedence to Albania’s strategic importance and anti-Soviet stance.   As part of President Lyndon Johnson’s policy of building bridges with Eastern Europe, in March 1967 the United States lifted curbs on travel to Albania, which were imposed in 1952. And in April 1973, in a major policy address delivered at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Rosh said the United States was prepared to respond to an Albanian expression in resuming ties.[3] But Tirana continued to view the United States as its main enemy, jointly with the Soviet Union. With Tirana’s defection from the Soviet bloc, withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, and rejection of Western overtures to normalize relations, Western capitals adopted a benevolent attitude toward Tirana’s government and made no serious efforts to encourage a regime change in Tirana and end the suffering of the Albanian people.  Against this sort of political and international backdrop, Albania simply fell from the America’s radar screen.[4]

Alia’s Cautious Reforms

Ramiz Alia’s accession to power after Hoxha’s death in 1985 was seen as a hopeful sign that Albania would finally embark on the road of reforms.  Indeed, Alia began experimenting with new approaches in an attempt to revitalize the economy and tackle growing social problems.  While Tirana was one of the harshest critics of perestroika and glasnost, there were signs that Alia was grudgingly emulating Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies.  Gradually Alia put his stamp on the country’s politics, revising some of Hoxha’s more radical policies, introducing small but potentially significant innovations, expanding relations with other countries, and advocating an Albanian-style glasnost campaign.  Arguably sluggish economic performance, the widening gap between Albania and its neighbors, rapid population growth, and increasing social pressures were forcing Alia to loosen some of the party’s severe controls over the society and modify the excessively rigid centralized economic system. Alia attempted to dilute the widespread popular discontent with a package of economic and political reforms.

The United States expressed willingness to resume ties with post-Hoxha’s Albania.  Washington was concerned that Hoxha’s death would offer the Soviet Union an opportunity to achieve its objective of normalizing relations with Tirana and Albania’s eventual reincorporation in the Soviet bloc.  The deteriorating situation in Kosova, which threatened the broad American interests in Yugoslavia’s unity, stability, and development, was another important factor.  While there was no evidence that the Albanian government was instigating unrest in Kosova,[5] there was concern that Moscow would attempt to take advantage of growing ethnic strife and political instability in Yugoslavia to extent its influence in the Balkans and perhaps gain access to naval bases in Albania.

After Hoxha’s death, senior American officials reiterated Washington’s view that “should Albania indicate an interest in resuming relations with us, we would be prepared to respond.”[6] A VOA editorial, reflecting the views of the U.S. government, issued on Albania’s 75th anniversary of independence on November 28, 1987, welcomed Alia’s efforts to end the country’s extreme isolation, adding, “The U.S. welcomes these moves by Albania to open up to the outsides world.  We have made it clear that Americans would be prepared to respond, should Albania indicate an interest in resuming relations with the U.S.  In the meantime, while the U.S. must deplore the repressive nature of the Albanian government, we also congratulate the Albanian people on the strong national spirit that led to their independence in 1912 – and that offers hope of an Albania that can be both independent and free in the future.”[7] The United States expressed public support for Albania’s gradual expansion of relations with the outside world.  Welcoming Tirana’s announcement that the Albanian Foreign Minister would attend a Balkans foreign ministers’ meeting in Belgrade, the State Department said this was “a step in the right direction.”  A senior American official indicated the United States would respond “positively” to any interest on Albania’s part for the normalization of ties.[8]

The collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the end of the Cold War had an immediate impact onAlbania.  The regime, isolated and unable to address daunting economic and social challenges, was now faced with increased domestic and external pressures to implement fundamental political reforms.  The dramatic changes in Eastern Europe caused the United States to review its posture toward Tirana.  While in the past Washington was willing to reward Albania for its independent stance toward Moscow, which was in line with the U.S. and NATO’s strategic interests, now the United States saw no reason to reach out to Europe’s last Stalinist regime. Communist Albania’s strategic importance had evaporated overnight with the end of the Cold War and the approaching disintegration of the Soviet Union. On the occasion of Albania’s national day, on November 28, 1989, VOA aired an interview with James W. Swihart, director of East European Affairs at the State Department. Swihart said the United States did not see “huge obstacles” to the establishment of diplomatic relations with Albania.[9] Swihart’s lukewarm call for the resumption of diplomatic ties reflected the new political reality in Eastern Europe. 

            Before 1990, Albania had not been a significant American foreign policy issue. Shortly after Ceausescu’s demise, however, attention turned to Albania.  Many observers were making parallels between Albania and Romania. The question was no longer will the Albanian regime fall but when will it fall and how violent will it be.  U.S. officials predicted that Albania’s upheaval was likely to be violent.[10]  In a February 1990 assessment, the CIA noted, “The Albanian military and security services have often demonstrated a ruthless loyalty to the dictates of the party; they will repress dissent in 1990 with the same verve as in the past.  This promises to make the showdown, when it comes, a Romanian-style bloodletting.”[11] An editorial in The New York Times put it this way: Albania “is the last remnant of an expiring old order in Europe.  And there are no walls high enough to keep its people from grasping truths that in time will surely set them free.”[12]  Indeed, unlike other East European countries, Albania’s Communist regime did not renounce terror as an instrument of control.  As late as 1989-1990, young Albanians were being shot and killed while attempting to flee the country to Yugoslavia or Greece.

In early 1990, after years of disastrous policies pursued by Hoxha’s repressive and inward-looking regime and with increased international attention focused on the most repressive regime in Europe, Albania seemed ripe for change.  Many Albanians found subtle and sophisticated ways to urge reforms. In January 1990, the Yugoslav press reported unrest in Shkodër, claiming that “extraordinary measures” had been introduced in the northern city.[13]  The information from Albania was so tightly controlled that Western media outlets were unable to confirm reports of unrest.[14]  It was only months later that that reports were confirmed that demonstrations had indeed taken place in mid-January 1990 in Shkodër.[15]

There were clear indications that the social compact that had ensured the regime’s survival was eroding rapidly, and that Alia was willing to compromise the regime’s long ideological stance to stay in power.  This became evident at the 10th plenum of the Central Committee, in April 1990, when Alia announced some important policy changes.  He called for the normalization of U.S.-Albania relations.  He said that Albania had not imposed political conditions on the establishment of relations but insisted that Albania had to be “accepted as it is.”  He added that, “The choice of social systems is a sovereign matter for every people, and no one has the right to interfere in this matter.”[16]

Washington’s reaction to Alia’s speech was mixed.  Some members of Congress welcomed Alia’s overtures.  Senator Dennis DeConcini, the Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Steny Hoyer, Co-Chairman of the commission, issued a joint statement welcoming Albania’s decision “to join the community of nations,” and expressing the desire to visit Tirana.[17]  Reaction from the State Department was less enthusiastic.   Margaret Tutwiler, the State Department spokesperson, said the United States was ready “to pursue discussions” toward the resumption of diplomatic relations, but emphasized that the next move was up to Albania.  Asked why Washington wanted to establish diplomatic ties with a reclusive and repressive regime, Tutwiler said, “I don’t believe I came out here and said we did want them.  I said that the door is open; that’s all I said.”  She noted that the United States continued to regard the Albanian regime as repressive.[18]  Disappointed by the slow pace of reform and suspicious of Alia’s intentions, the United States was now reluctant to normalize relations.

In May 1990, the Secretary General of the United Nations Javier Perez de Cuellar paid a widely publicized visit to Tirana.[19] On the eve of de Cuellar’s visit, the Albanian government announced its desire to join the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE).  Albania had been the only European country to boycott the CSCE in 1975 when the Helsinki Final Act was signed. Many foreign journalists, including VOA’s Laura Silber, were allowed to visit Tirana for the first time.  At a news conference, Alia complemented the VOA reporter on “her energetic work.”[20] In talks with de Cuellar and interviews with visiting foreign journalists, Alia and other senior officials made it explicitly clear that while the government will implement “democratic” reforms, the Communist Party had no plans to give up its monopoly on political power and permit the creation of other political parties.

While Alia reached out to the West, he faced a serious dilemma:  fulfilling the majority of the CSCE membership criteria was inconsistent with Albania’s one-party state. The U.S. Helsinki Commission welcomed Albania’s announcement, but spelled out in detail the steps that Albania had to take to gain membership in the CSCE:  implement fully all the commitments contained in the Final Act and other CSCE documents; respect the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression, association, and assembly; freedom of movement; protection of minority rights, and free flow of information.  The Commission added that Albania would have to accept “the concepts of political pluralism and the rule of law, and to that end move toward free elections and undertake necessary legal reforms.”[21]

Alia’s reforms were quite significant in Albania’s context, but in a larger context and in view of the democratic changes sweeping across the former Eastern bloc these were indeed minimal reforms.  In addition, Western governments were understandably suspicious about the sincerity of the Albanian leaders, who only months earlier dismissed with contempt criticism of Albania’s atrocious human rights situation.[22]  With their contradictory public statements, Albanian officials further did not contribute much to improving Tirana’s image.  In early June 1990, after Albania was granted observer status to the CSCE, Sazan Bejo, a Foreign Ministry official, told reporters in Copenhagen that there was no need to hold free elections or introduce a multi-party system since “everyone in Albania supports the government and there is no opposition.”[23] And in an interview with C.L. Sulzberger, a retired columnist for The New York Times, Alia said Albania would carry out democratic reforms, but emphasized that it would preserve its Marxist-Leninist system.[24]  Such contradictory pronouncements led many to characterize Alia’s reforms as a diversionary tactic.  Many observers believed Alia’s small overtures and openings to the West were aimed at arresting the country’s economic collapse and preserving the APL’s rule.  But the opening up led to an increase in Western influence, which rapidly eroded internal security and the Communists’ hold on power.

De Cuellar’s visit was followed by another high-profile visit – that of Congressman Tom Lantos and former Congressman Joe DioGuardi.  This was the first U.S. official delegation to visit Tirana since the departure of the American diplomatic representatives in 1946.  Lantos was a harsh critic of Yugoslavia’s repressive policies toward ethnic Albanians, and this may have been a factor in Tirana’s decision to allow him to visit.  Lantos was told by Alia that Albania was interested in reestablishing diplomatic ties “as soon as possible.”[25]  In an interview with VOA after his visit to Tirana, Rep. Lantos said Albania needed to implement the same reforms as the Eastern European countries.  He said, “A multiparty system should be created in Albania, the press should be free, and the Albanians should enjoy freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and freedom to travel abroad.  These are necessary changes if Albania wants to be included in the Helsinki process.”[26]

In the past, Washington had appeared willing to restore relations with Tirana’s government without preconditions.  By spring 1990, however, America’s position had evolved significantly.  The United States now saw an opportunity to promote political and economic changes that would end Albania’s long Communist nightmare.  Albania had finally become an important part of Washington’s vision of building, what President George H. Bush had called, “a Europe whole and free.” Applying lessons from the revolutions in the other East European countries, Washington began to articulate a clearer policy, assuming a more direct and prominent role in efforts to influence internal developments in Albania.  Working closely with its key European allies, the United States intensified pressure on the regime, and predicated the restoration of diplomatic relations and support for Albania’s membership into the CSCE with progress toward political pluralism. The U.S. decision to introduce conditionality in its policy toward Albania was aimed at encouraging Albania’s reformist forces and promoting democratic change.

The State Department and the National Security Council at the White House were responsible for the formulation of the policy toward Albania. However, influential members of the United States Congress – Rep. Tom Lantos, Sen. Dennis DeConcini, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Sen. Claiborne Pell, and Senator Bob Dole – also played a critical policy role.  They began to focus on Albania, providing forthright support to calls for democracy and freedom.  And the Albanian-American community effectively lobbied the administration and the Congress for support and played a pivotal role in elevating the Albanian cause. Community activists used a variety of tactics and media outreach to pressure policy makers.

Washington responded to Alia’s overtures with a two-pronged approach – a policy similar to the package of “sticks and carrots” that had been so successfully employed a year earlier in other former East European countries.  It agreed to open a dialogue, and American and Albanian diplomats held several informal meetings during summer and fall. While agreeing to engage the Tirana government, the United States was not prepared to reward the last Communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe with a full normalization of ties without the implementation of fundamental political reforms. Secretary of State James Baker, in public testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June 1990, bluntly laid out the conditions that Albania had to meet if it wished to join the community of free nations: progress toward political pluralism, full respect for human rights, release of political prisoners, free elections, and the implementation of reforms that would eventually lead to the creation of a marked economy.[27] Despite his public statements about Albania’s democratization, Alia, however, was not willing to implement fundamental political and economic reforms.  He was interested in reforming rather than changing the system. His domestic policy initiatives and calls for restoring relations with the United States were grounded in self-preservation.  Alia continued to respond to demands for change with insufficient measures.

On July 2, 1990, Albanians began storming Western embassies in Tirana.  Within days, some five thousand Albanians sought asylum in the embassies. The embassy events, which sent shock waves throughout the system, were a clear indication that the slow disintegration of the Albanian regime was picking up steam.  Although the government was still in control and had at its disposal many means of coercion, its power was slipping away.  Alia’s calculus was that his strategy would succeed because he believed the Communists retained sufficient popular support to weather any near-term pressure while the economic reforms he had introduced would give results.  However, the embassy events provided clear evidence that Alia’s strategy of controlling the pace of reform and maintaining one-party rule was not sustainable. 

 The July 1990 events captured the world’s attention, and the regime faced unprecedented domestic and international pressures.[28]  More than any other development, the embassy events exerted unprecedented pressure on the government and exposed the fallibility of the Communist regime.  But these events also showed that Albania was not yet ripe for a regime change.  Although years of disastrous policies pursued by Tirana’s highly repressive and inward-looking regime had caused widespread disillusionment and disaffection, no organized opposition had emerged.  The agreement to let the refugees depart was not delayed just because of the Albanian government’s handling of the issue, but also because Western embassies in Tirana delayed issuing the visas to the refugees.[29]  Western governments were reluctant to accept such a large number of refugees.  Some were hoping that the refugee crisis would serve as a catalyst for a general upheaval.  Had there been open support for those who sought asylum, it is questionably that the regime could have survived the July 1990 shock and humiliation.  The regime did not tumble because no leaders emerged to take advantage of the rising discontent, articulate opposition demands and lead the masses.

A delegation of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, led by Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-Arizona), was allowed to visit Albania duringAugust 19-21, 1990.  The Commission described the situation in Albania “as glaringly out of step with the rapidly developing process of democratization, political pluralism, the rule of law and free market economies that is taking place throughout Europe.”[30]  In an interview with VOA’s Albanian Service, Senator DeConcini said that since Albanian authorities had failed to implement “real reforms,” the U.S. Helsinki Commission had urged the State Department to oppose Albania’s request for membership in the CSCE at the organization’s upcoming summit in Paris in the fall 1990.  The Senator said, “The Albanian authorities had not yet concluded that they had to implement fundamental reforms.  Therefore, we will continue to exert pressure on them to respect human rights.”[31]

            The embassy events and the government’s response had a chilling effect on those advocating change. In a speech at a government organized rally on July 13, 1990, Xhelil Gjoni, who had emerged as the number-two man in the Albanian hierarchy and was viewed as a hard liner, said Albania and “its people’s power are unshaken by degenerate people who abandon their homeland, or by anybody else.  They are not Albania; they are not the people.”[32]

The Role of the Voice of America

            During the long period of Albania’s self-imposed isolation and absence of diplomatic ties with the United States, the Voice of America was essentially the only contact between the two peoples and the two countries.  Through its broadcasts, VOA gave Albanians hope that they had not been forgotten and expressed America’s commitment to one day see Albania join the ranks of free and democratic nations. The VOA also played a major role in bridging the gap between Albania and the United States.

The VOA has the distinction of being the longest, continuous international Albanian-language broadcaster.  The first Albanian broadcast was on May 13, 1943.  Albanian broadcasts were dropped at the end of the war, and then resumed on May 13, 1951 and have continued uninterrupted ever since. The Albanian Service has been a protagonist in the most remarkable chapters of the post-World War II history of the Albanian nation. VOA broadcasts had a multiplicity of purposes. In accordance with its Charter, VOA’s mission was to serve as a trusted source of reliable news and information, present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions, and present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively.

            Albania’s unique circumstances forced the Albanian Service to assume the role of a surrogate communicator.  Thus, from the very beginning, an important objective of the Voice of America was to help information-deprived Albanians keep their hope alive and encourage the implementation of fundamental political and economic reforms that would bring Albania a step closer to the European mainstream. By 1989-1990, VOA had succeeded in breaking the Communist regime’s information blockade, and had gained prominence as a credible, alternative news source for information-deprived Albanians.  VOA served as a significant agent of change by successfully challenging the regime’s monopoly on news and information and promoting the ideals of a free, pluralistic, and democratic society.  The Albanian Service targeted the urban, educated classes, whose loyalty and reliability were critical to the regime’s stability.

VOA provided extensive coverage of Albanian domestic events as well as cross-reporting of developments in Eastern Europe.  VOA broadcasts emphasized the contrast between political and economic reforms in other East European countries and Alia’s policies. Through careful gleanings from the Albanian press, VOA identified and highlighted reformist measures and statements.  By May-June 1990, VOA was able to conduct in-depth telephone interviews with opinion makers in Albania.   For the first time, officials and intellectuals with liberal, reformist inclinations were willing to express views which went beyond what were the standard Communist Party talking points. Through a careful gleanings from the Albanian press, particularly Zëri i Popullit, Drita, Zëri i Rinisë, Rruga e Partisë, and Probleme Ekonomike, VOA attempted to identify reformist measures and statements and highlight the intellectuals calling for change. The list of reformers was dauntingly short, but it was bound to expand.

Through direct telephone interviews, VOA engaged members of the political, economic, and intellectual elite on politically sensitive issues and thus attempted to frame the political debate in Albania: What were the benefits of the recently introduced political and economic changes? Did these reforms go far enough? Would they adequately address the country’s problems? Was Albania really different from other former Communist countries? What were the obstacles to the establishment of a multi-party system? Could Albania join the Helsinki process without fulfilling most of the CSCE membership criteria which was inconsistent with Albania’s one-party state? These issues were discussed with prominent intellectuals, writers, and journalists, including Ismail Kadare, Gramoz Pashko, Hamit Beqja, Fatos Nano, Aleks Luarasi, Luan Omari, Arben Puto, and Besnik Mustafaj. By providing news and information that was empowering, and engaging members of the political and intellectual elite on politically sensitive issues, VOA was able to some extent to frame the political debate in Albania.

            The period following the storming of foreign embassies in Tirana was marked by a backsliding of Alia’s managed reform process, intimidation of intellectuals, and increased international pressure on Tirana. Government actions had a chilling effect on those advocating change, which was also reflected in the reluctance of many intellectuals to talk to VOA. In the weeks following the embassy events, VOA aired a series of interviews with recent refugees, focusing on Albania’s political and economic crisis, the human rights situation, and prospects for fundamental reforms.  The refugees offered new political insight and analysis of the true state of affairs in Albania. All dismissed Alia’s reforms as window dressing and expressed pessimism for a peaceful transition to democracy.  Almost without exception, the refugees criticized the intellectuals for not taking a more independent stand.  Many of the refugees offered unrestrained criticism of Kadare, Albania’s most prominent writer and an advocate for the democratization of the country.[33]

The refugees’ anger against Kadare seemed somewhat misplaced, since the writer, as early as October 1989, had clearly positioned himself in favor of reforms. In a favorable review of Neshat Tozaj’sThikat [Knives], a novel about secret police excesses and hideous crimes committed against innocent people, Kadare had urged the authorities to improve the human rights situation, arguing that only thus could Albania forge ahead.[34] He had also challenged the party’s tight control over writers and artists.[35]  And in an interview published in March 1990, Kadare broke many political, historical, and literary taboos.  He urged the intellectuals to take active part in the democratization of the country’s life.  He took to task his colleagues who were not willing to participate in the democratization process, saying they were exaggerating the risk of possible retaliatory actions by those in power.  Kadare added that, “…no intellectual can consider himself honest if he does not do something, as much as is within his power, for the democratization of life.  Democracy, culture, and justice are among a nation’s most fundamental values and everybody must do his utmost to cultivate them and ensure they prevail every day and every hour.”[36]

In its broadcasts, VOA’s Albanian Service had provided extensive reports on and about Kadare, which included coverage of Kadare’s pronouncements, Western press reports, and reviews of his books published in the United States. On the other hand, VOA reported that many in Albania and abroad had come to view Kadare as the most viable potential opposition leader – an “Albanian Vaclav Havel.”  But Kadare was unwilling or unable to take on this role.  After his defection, Kadare maintained that people expected too much from him and that he was “tortured” by those who compared him with Havel.[37]

In the wake of the embassy events, there was a clear backsliding of reforms and it appeared that party conservatives had gained the upper hand.  But VOA continued to test the waters, making every effort to reengage Tirana’s intellectuals, journalists, and scholars.  In an interview broadcast on August 2, 1990, Fatos Nano, then an economist with the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and professor at the University of Tirana, was asked to respond to comments in the West that the reforms underway in Albania were “too little, too late” and that more “radical reforms” were necessary.   He responded by saying that these were “cautious” measures that guaranteed that the process of reforms was irreversible, and that they would be followed by other measures.  He said the Albanians were thirsty for progress and committed to see their country join the ranks of “the community of civilized nations.”[38] Nano’s interview was followed with a remarkable interview with Tirana University Professor Aleks Luarasi, aired on August 23, 1990.  After the first question about his assessment of a decree that had been approved by the People’s Assembly on July 31, Professor Luarasi was asked piercing questions: Do you think that the Party of Labor will give up its monopoly on power? Will the authorities permit the creation of other political parties in the future?  Professor Luarasi handled the questions very skillfully.  He responded that President Alia had made it clear that other parties will not be allowed.  Asked how Albania will be able to meet the necessary conditions to join the Helsinki process, he answered that the West had now made political pluralism a precondition for Albania’s membership in the CSCE – a fact which may not have been widely known in Albania.  He emphasized that until now the idea of political pluralism had not been embraced.[39]  The implication was that the regime might be forced to change its decision soon.

On September 23, 1990, VOA broadcast an interview with Ismail Kadare.  It was the most powerful and courageous public statement from inside Albania in support of the country’s democratization. Kadare said the democratization process involves the entire nation and to succeed it needs the support of all segments of society.   He expressed optimism that the Albanian nation was ready and willing to embrace democracy and take its rightful place in the family of European nations.[40]

In September 1990, Alia travelled to New York to attend the UN General Assembly session.  In his address to the UNGA, Alia denounced what he referred to as “outside interference in Albania’s domestic affairs.”  He said, “The arrogance inspired by the policy of strength, which is reflected in the continuation of attempts at imposing various models, standards and schemes of political or social developments on others has not been overcome.”[41] Alia also travelled to Boston, where he visited with the Albanian-American community.

In his speech, Alia assured Albanian-Americans that the measures he had introduced were not inspired by developments in Eastern Europe and indicated that changes will be implemented cautiously.  He said, “There is one thing that we must bear in mind:  We are not in a hurry, because equilibrium must be preserved.  Otherwise, there are dangers.  It must also be kept in mind that the people understand these measures correctly, and that the leadership and the masses are in agreement.”  Alia referred to the embassy asylum seekers as “wild boars” and “immature people.”[42]

Less than a month after Alia’s visit to New York, Ismail Kadare announced that he had asked for political asylum in France. Kadare’s defection shook the foundations of Albania’s political systemand inspired intellectuals to act.  It was also a major blow to Alia personally, shattering the illusion that the intellectuals were solidly behind him. In an attempt to temper rising opposition, at a Central Committee Plenum, held on November 6-7, Alia announced a series of reforms, including measures to strengthen the rule of law, separate the party from the state, ending the Communist Party’s monopoly on power, but stopped short of introducing political pluralism. 

The Transition to a Multi-Party System

In early December 1990, student demonstrations broke out at the University of Tirana, propelling Albania to the top of the international agenda.  The students’ initial demands were economic, but soon they focused on calls for political pluralism.  With growing support for the students and fearing a popular uprising, Alia rejected the use of force to suppress the demonstrations and agreed to permit the establishment of opposition parties.  Albania was finally on the threshold of a dramatic political transformation.

Because of the harsh repressive nature of its regime, Albania was the only East European country which was not able to develop an opposition movement before the collapse of the old political order.  Moreover, unlike in other East European states, lack of contacts and presence in Tirana had prevented the United States from identifying, engaging, and cultivating relationships with individuals – potential agents of change – that could assume positions of responsibility once the country embarked on the road of democratic change.  Before the student demonstrations, there were no high-level defections from the regime. 

Immediately following the student demonstrations, Albania witnessed the creation of several non-Communist political parties, whose platforms called for the establishment of a Western-style democratic system based on the rule of law and respect for human rights, a free and independent media, a market economy, and a reorientation of Tirana’s foreign policy toward the United States and Europe. Almost immediately, the Democratic Party emerged as the most important party and Sali Berisha as the main opposition leader. The leadership of the emerging opposition forces was a combination of former communists and regime supporters, liberal democrats, students, and a small number of people who had been imprisoned for anti-regime activities.  Untried and with no experience, opposition leaders faced inordinate difficulties. Their understanding of democracy and the rule of law were rudimentary at best.  It was clear that the emerging leadership elites would desperately need assistance and guidance in their uphill battle to force the Communists to relinquish power.

Prior to the December events, Albania had rarely been the focus of high-level American attention.  Now, the United States saw its first, real opportunity to significantly influence the course of events in Albania.  Washington adopted a tough line, sharpening its criticism of the government, calling for a peaceful and orderly transition of power, expressing support for the emerging democratic opposition, and demanding the unconditional release of all political prisoners.  American actions and statements were coordinated with European allies and carefully calibrated to have the greatest impact on developments in Albania.

            The student demonstrations were followed by widespread violence and a dangerous breakdown in governance and authority. There were reports of violent demonstrations, acts of vandalism, and attacks against government forces and installations in Shkodër, Elbasan, Durrës, and Kavajë.  Troops and tanks were deployed to quell the unrest.[43] The popular desire to settle score with the Communists was enormous.  There were legitimate fears that this would propel Albania into civil war.  Through their public pronouncements, U.S. officials attempted to exert a moderating influence, emphasizing national reconciliation and the need for Albanians to put their tragic past behind them and embrace democratic principles.

As Communists and the emerging opposition battled for control and with Albania facing economic meltdown, political collapse, and a real threat of descending into a civil war, the issue of normalizing relations with Tirana suddenly became an urgent matter for those shaping Washington’s Albania policy. There was strong opposition within the highest echelons of the State Department to the immediate normalization of ties with Tirana because of Albania’s terrible human rights record.  Key State Department policy makers, including Dennis Ross, Director of Policy Planning and an aide to Secretary of State James A. Baker, and Richard Schifter, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, advocated postponing the resumption of relations until Albania had made significant progress toward democracy, arguing that Washington would have little leverage with the Albanian government once official ties were restored.  This position was apparently also endorsed by Lawrence S. Eagleburger, the Deputy Secretary of State.  In a television interview on December 15, 1990, Eagleburger said, “What we are seeing is the Albanian Government and the Albanian nation finally moving in the direction that we have seen take place in other parts of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.  It is too slow.  The Albanian Government is going to have to change and change substantially and we want to see that process take place.”[44]  But others urged immediate recognition, arguing that this would significantly increase Washington’s leverage, strengthen Albania’s democratic forces, and speed up the transfer of power. Albanian opposition leaders as well as prominent Albanian-American personalities weighted in, urging the United States to restore ties. The Albanian Democratic Party leaders played a major role in convincing Washington on the urgency of an immediate restoration of ties.  Berisha was explicit in arguing that the normalization of ties “would surely strengthen democratic forces in Albania.”[45]

After a break of more than fifty years, the United States and Albania restored diplomatic relations on March 15, 1991. The State Department ceremony, chaired by Assistant Secretary of State Raymond G.H. Seitz, was carefully organized to ensure that the Communists could not take credit for the diplomatic recognition.  The White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater emphasized that the United States viewed the establishment of diplomatic relations with Albania as “an opportunity to support democratic reform in that country.”[46]  In a highly unusual but significant move, Democratic Party leaders Sali Berisha and Gramoz Pashko were invited by the Department of State to attend the signing ceremony and to meet with senior U.S. officials.  This was the first face-to-face contact between the two opposition leaders and American officials.[47] While Albania was officially represented by its Foreign Minister, Muhamet Kapllani, American attention was focused almost exclusively on Berisha and Pashko.

            In the wake of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the United States was now in a position to provide forthright and effective support for the cause of freedom and democracy in Albania. The American vision of Albania was one of a country with a pluralistic system with full respect for democratic norms.  There was a widespread belief that only a quick transfer of power to a post-Communist government would put Albania on the path of democratic transition and economic recovery. A diplomatic delegation was dispatched to Tirana to prepare the ground for the opening of the U.S. embassy. The Communists continued to control the state television, radio, and most of the print media. On the eve of the first multi-party elections, March 31, 1991, VOA expanded its programming, adding a breakfast show. VOA went to great lengths to ensure that it represented views across the political spectrum.  But, of course, VOA reporting was critical of the APL and sympathetic to opposition forces.  VOA emphasized pro-democracy efforts and made a strong effort to provide coverage of opposition groups in the run-up to the elections, thus in a way becoming the voice of the democratic opposition. The Democratic Party-led opposition received open support from Western governments and prominent personalities.  Observer delegations from the United States, including a large U.S. Helsinki Commission delegation,[48] and other Western countries arrived in Tirana.  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent an open letter of support to Sali Berisha.[49]

Unlike the swift revolutions in other former East European communist countries, the transition in Albania devolved into a protracted struggle between the Communists, who continued to control all levers of power, and the fledgling opposition. Albania failed to make a clean break with its Communist past in its first contested elections, on March 31, 1991, in which the Communists emerged victorious.  But despite their election victory, the Communists faced daunting challenges and their support collapsed rapidly under opposition and international pressure.  In early June 1991, the Communists were forced to enter into a coalition government with the opposition and agreed to hold new elections within a year.

The United States had laid out strict conditions and had effectively used its leverage in dealings with the Albanian Communist government.  The establishment of the coalition government, in which the Democratic Party-led opposition received seven posts, was seen as a significant step in Albania’s tumultuous and protracted transition.  In recognition of this progress, the United States endorsed Albania’s full membership in the CSCE, and Secretary Baker visited Tirana on June 22, 1991. Baker’s visit was clearly intended, as the Secretary of State emphasizes in his memoirs, to use American prestige “to prod the Albanians toward democracy and free markets.”[50] To this end, Baker expressed support for the democratization process; extended America’s moral and political backing to the democratic opposition – noting in his speech before the Communist-dominated parliament that he was visiting at Berisha’s invitation; and pledged economic inducements if the country’s political leadership continued to take concrete steps forward in implementing political and free market reforms. More than 200,000 Albanians gathered in Tirana’s main square to give Baker a massive and highly emotional welcome.  This outpouring of genuine affection for America and the hope that the United States would help Albania out of its dire situation was perhaps best reflected in this slogan, “Welcome Mr. Baker! Albania Has Been Waiting for You for 50 Years!” In the midst of this huge outpouring of affection and huge expectations, the Secretary of State told the Albanians gathered at Skenderbeg Square that, “America is returning to you!,” “Freedom works!” and “You are with us and we are with you!” In his speech before the People’s Assembly, Baker urged Albanians to put the vestiges of communism behind them.  He emphasized the imperative of the peaceful settlement of disputes, adding that in “the new Albania” there was no place for violence, intimidation, and the use of force. “Let us see an end to all fear in Albania.  This is a new Albania, and you are members of a new Europe.”[51]

            Although the Communists were forced to compromise and agree to a coalition government with the opposition, they still retained substantial power.  They continued to exercise indirect control and influence.  U.S. officials recognized that the Communists remained a serious obstacle to democratic reforms. In his talks with Alia and other senior officials, Baker emphasized that Albania needed rapid changes, arguing that the country could not afford any delays. Addressing deputies from both sides of the aisle, the Secretary of State said that Albania’s emerging political order had to reflect full respect for human rights; democratic control of repressive security organs; a free and pluralist media; the rule of law; democratization at every level of government and society; and the holding of fully free and fair elections at both the national and local levels.  “Here, as in America, democracy must be not only an ideal – it must be a reality.  In this endeavor, as long as you are true to these principles, we will stand with you…”[52]

            Baker announced that the United States would grant Albania $6 million in humanitarian aid. He held out the prospect of further assistance as an incentive to affect fundamental changes, which included taking concrete steps in building democratic institutions and a market economy. While reaction to Baker’s visit was overwhelmingly positive, many Albanians were disappointed that the Secretary of State had not come with a Marshall Plan for Albania. Perhaps it was to be expected that given their country’s dire situation, the Albanians would have unrealistic expectations of what the United States was prepared to do for their country.  Although Baker and other U.S. officials had attempted to introduce a sense of realism and keep Albanians’ expectations low, opposition leaders offered triumphant messages of hope and promises of U.S. foreign assistance, thus further increasing those expectations.[53]

The Communists, who seemed humiliated by Baker’s open support for the opposition, launched a well-coordinated campaign to belittle the results of the visit.  They underscored what they characterized as the low amount of assistance being provided by the United States, contrasting this with the much higher dollar value of the assistance offered by Italy.  This was perhaps best reflected in a Zëri i Popullit headline: “Six million dollars for three million Albanians!”[54]

            Baker was visibly overwhelmed by the reception.  According to one of his top aides, on the plane returning from Tirana Baker ordered the implementation of new programs, “along with the instruction that he would tolerate no delay in implementation.”[55] In the wake of Baker’s visit, the United States launched a set of assistance programs, which were implemented during the period leading up to the March 1992 elections.  These focused on sustained democratization:  strengthening parliament and developing impartiality in the functioning of the political system; promoting democratic culture; helping with political party development; training in election techniques and the general workings of democratic elections; experts to help draft a new constitution and develop a functional, post-Communist legal system; and providing support for an independent media.  Washington also dispatched an economic assistance mission to assess Albania’s needs and to assist the authorities to design a strategy of economic recovery. In addition, the United States mobilized international support and was instrumental in Albania gaining membership in the IMF and the World Bank.

            The opening of the U.S. Embassy in Tirana in October 1991 represented a significant milestone in bilateral relations.  The small group of American diplomats, led by Ambassador William Ryerson and his deputy Chris Hill, played an extraordinary role in promoting Albania’s democratization process and in helping Albanians craft a transition plan.  In an interview with VOA following his confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Ambassador Ryerson stressed Washington’s view of a speedy transition to a market economy and the development of democratic institutions.[56]  While continuing to engage President Alia and other leading Communist officials, American diplomats focused their activities on helping the fledging democratic opposition. Baker, in his meeting with opposition representatives during his June 1991 visit to Tirana, had urged them openly to unite to defeat the Communists in the next elections. American diplomats as well as representatives of the International Republican Institute, former Congressman Jack Buchner and Mary Catherine Andrews, and the National Democratic Institute, Thomas Melia, helped the opposition develop a coherent strategy to oust the Communists from power, providing pre-election support, civic education, party training, and technical assistance.  They also worked to foster cohesion among opposition ranks and reconcile fractions, parties, and groups.[57]

            In the period leading to the elections of March 1992, the Albanian government announced a paper shortage and most of the opposition newspapers could not be published.  There was concern that Communist control and manipulation of the media and as a result VOA intensified its Albanian broadcasts. The U.S. Embassy in Tirana had urged VOA to increase its broadcasts, emphasizing that there was a need “for the impartial coverage VOA gives to events within Albania.”   The Embassy said “there is a tendency by some to try to exploit the economic and social mess here (the direct result of a half century of Communist mismanagement and mis-investment) and to place the blame for it (incorrectly) on a few months of government by a coalition.  The opposition will need all the help it can get in exposing this for the lie that it is, and utilization of increased hours and broadcasting on frequencies that would reach more people here would be of great value.”[58] The VOA added a special 30-minute morning broadcast. While VOA went to great lengths to ensure that it represented views across the political spectrum, its reporting was critical of the Communists and sympathetic to opposition forces.  With the Communists still controlling and manipulating the media, VOA made a strong effort to provide coverage of opposition forces, thus in a way becoming the voice of the democratic opposition.

            American support for the Albania opposition was clear.  This was reflected in statements by senior State Department officials, the American Embassy in Tirana, and members of the U.S. Congress.  In an interview with VOA, Senator Bob Dole said it was “simple and clear” that, “If democracy wins in these elections in Albania, our relations will be strengthened and developed very rapidly, but if democracy does not win, many doors will be closed for Albania in the United States.”[59]  Other prominent lawmakers expressed similar sentiments in interviews broadcast by VOA’s Albanian Service.

The Democratic victory in March 1992 signaled the end of Albania’s long Communist nightmare as well as the beginning of a new and very special, strategic relationship between Albania and the United States. Successive American administrations have pursued a consistent policy toward Albania.  America’s vision of Albania has been one of a stable, prosperous, and democratic country with full respect for democratic norms and processes.  Albania has been treated as an important part of Washington’s concept of building a Europe whole and free.  American policymakers have made it clear that it is in the U.S. national interest to see Albania firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic community. While the bilateral relationship has experienced dramatic transformations, the U.S.-Albania dialogue continues to be focused essentially on the same issues as three decades ago: the need for genuine democratization and strong democratic institutions, the rule of law, good governance, and clean elections.

During the last three decades, the United States has been the most important and impactful promoter of Albania’s democratization, providing substantial diplomatic, political, economic, and military support.  As Albania faced the danger of military confrontation with Serbia in the 1990s, Washington forged strong military ties with Tirana.  Albania became a key American partner in the Western Balkans and played an important role in the U.S. strategy of containing the armed conflicts in former Yugoslavia and promoting regional peace, stability, and prosperity.  Washington was the driving force behind Kosova’s liberation and independence from Serbia and Albania’s accession to NATO. President George W. Bush choose Tirana, in 2007, to announce U.S. support for Kosova’s independence.  After Kosova’s declaration of independence, the United States undertook a major diplomatic offensive to encourage other countries to recognize the new state.  The U.S. also played a key role in the resolution of the ethnic conflict in North Macedonia, which has led to a significant improvement of the status of Albanians in that country.

In the wake of these momentous events and for the first time in its history, Albania no longer faced a real, external threat to its independence and territorial integrity. Kosova’s independence, Albania’s membership in NATO, and the increasing empowerment of Albanians in Macedonia and Montenegro, gave Albanians throughout the region a new sense of confidence and unprecedented security.  Long known as the underdogs in the Balkans, the Albanians had never been in a more favorable geopolitical position.

Albania has become a staunch American ally. Tirana’s foreign policy interests have largely aligned with those of the United States in the Western Balkans: regional political and economic cooperation, the consolidation of Kosova’s statehood, integration of the countries of the region in Euro-Atlantic institutions, and full respect for minority rights.  Albania has been widely praised for its significant contribution to regional stability. Albania has also been very supportive of the U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and joined the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.  The two countries also share the objective of countering Russia’s malice influence and growing destabilizing efforts in the region as well as China’s use of it growing economic power to gain political influence.

During the last three decades, Albania, as well as Albanians in Kosova, Macedonia, and Serbia, has been the focus of considerable attention by Washington.  This has been reflected in regular delegation exchanges, close coordination, and cooperation on various issues of mutual interest, and high-level visits to Tirana. Albanian representatives have had relatively easy access to American policymakers. They have enjoyed bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress.  The most prominent Senators and Congressmen have been supportive of Albanian causes.  And President Joe Biden has had numerous personal contacts with Albanian leaders and is intimately familiar with Albanian issues, particularly Kosova. The strategic partnership between the United States and Albania has transcended changes in each country’s governments.  Albania has enjoyed bipartisan American support. Albania’s major political forces were and are strong proponents of deepening the relationship with the United States.  Albania is one of the most pro-American countries in the world.

While providing support aimed at bolstering Albania’s stability and prosperity, the U.S. has not hesitated to openly call out failures to abide by democratic norms, efforts by the executive to influence or control independent institutions, attacks on the media, election irregularities, and failure to tackle pervasive corruption.  American policymakers and representatives have often been frustrated with the inability or unwillingness of Albanian politicians to find common ground on truly important issues, live up to their commitments and back their statements with concrete actions. There is a huge gap between rhetorical declarations of support for much needed fundamental reforms and actual commitment to reforms. While providing frank criticism of backsliding, the United States has been engaged in a sustained manner in helping Albania confront those challenges. 

Building a viable democracy in Albania remains an important American foreign policy objective.  The United States has been forthright in its support of Albania’s democracy as well as in its criticism of democratic failings. Given the special relationship between the two countries and the highly favorable opinion that Albanians have of America, there is no other country that is in a better position than the United States to help Albania on its democratic path.  The U.S. has the leverage, credibility, and ability to exert positive influence and help Albanians shape a future that fosters an inclusive political process, the rule of law, and effective and accountable governance.

There is no question that since the demise of Communism, Albania has undergone profound transformations and has made great strides in building a functioning procedural democracy and institutionalizing democratic freedoms. Tirana’s profile in the region has been elevated, turning Albania into an increasingly constructive regional player. Nevertheless, three decades after the fall of Communism and after a series of parliamentary elections, there is much that is tentative and fragile about the quality of Albania’s democracy. Albania’s stability and democracy continue to be undermined by the fierce competition between the country’s two largest political forces and their inability to abide by democratic rules, along with poor governance and daunting social and economic challenges.

            The United States has made substantial political and economic investments toward Albania’s democratic development.  Yet despite this unwavering U.S. commitment, Albania’s future democratic development and prosperity will depend on the ability and willingness of its political leaders to put aside their narrow interests.  For in the final analysis, it will be Albania’s leaders who must take responsibility for tackling the myriad uncertainties and daunting challenges that their country faces and build a viable democracy that the Albanian nation has so long aspired to achieve.

Director

Eurasia Division

Voice of America


[1] For a review of Hoxha’s domestic and foreign policies, see Elez Biberaj, Albania and China: a Study of an Unequal Alliance (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986) and Albania: A Socialist Maverick (Boulder: CO: Westview Press, 1990).

[2] Draft Paper Prepared by N. Spencer Barnes of the Policy Planning Staff, “Considerations of Policy Toward Albania and Bulgaria,” U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960,Vol. X, Part 2, Document 31. http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v10p2/d31.  See also Operations Coordinating Board Report, “Operations Plan for the Soviet-Dominated Nations in Eastern Europe,” July 2, 1959, in FRUS, 1958-1960, Vol. X, Part 1, Document 18.  http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1958-60v10p1/d18.

[3] Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Would Discuss Amity with Albania,” The New York Times, April 5, 1973, p. 3.

[4] A January 1975 State Department memorandum noted that, “We have publicly said that we are ready to talk about resuming diplomatic relations, but Tirana is harshly negative.  We propose to leave the initiative for the time being with the Albanians.”  See “Memorandum From the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Springsteen) to the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft), January 23, 1975, in FRUS, 1969-1976, Vol. E-15, Part 1, Document 12, http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76ve15p1/d12.

[5] A CIA report in August1987 termed Serbia as the instigator of the ethnic tensions in Kosova and accused Belgrade of using “the ethnic strains as a pretext to reassert control over the Albanian-dominated province.” While the Yugoslav government blamed Albania, the CIA report said, “…we have no solid evidence that Tirana is instigating Albanian separatism in Kosovo by providing arms, funds, or any training.”  See Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Intelligence, Yugoslavia: Ethnic Tensions Still High in Kosovo, August 20, 1987, http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC-0000372029/DOC_0000372029.pdf, p. 4.

[6] U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. Policy toward Eastern Europe, 1985 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986), p. 6.

[7]“Albanian Anniversary,” VOA Editorial, 0-02793 (2AL81), November 28, 1987.

[8] Interview with Thomas Simons, VOA Albanian Service, February 4, 1988.

[9] Interview with James W. Swihart, director of East European Affairs at the State Department, VOA Albanian Service, November 28, 1989.

[10] See Robin Wright and Doyle McManus, “Albania, Last of Stalinist States, May Fall Next,” The Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1990, p. A8.

[11] Central Intelligence Agency, Director of Central Intelligence, Outlook For Eastern Europe in 1990, Interagency Intelligence Memorandum, NI IIM 90-10001, February 1990, http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000265642/DOC_0000265642.pdf, p. 36.

[12] “The Last Domino,” The New York Times, January 26, 1990, p. A30.

[13] A.D., “Revolts in Albania,” Politika (Belgrade), January 11, 1990, p. 4. “Harsh Security Measures Are Reported in Albania,” The New York Times, January 13, 1990, p. 7.

[14] See David Binder, “Westerners Discount Reports of Unrest in North Albania,” The New York Times, January 31, 1990, p. A12.  Binder quoted Western diplomats and people who reportedly had traveled recently to Albania as saying there had been no demonstrations in Shkodër.

[15] Jonathan C. Randal, “Hard-Line Albania’s Fear of Falling,” The Washington Post, April 2, 1990, p. A1, A16.

[16] See Alia’s speech to the Tenth APL Central Committee plenum on April 17 in Zëri i Popullit, April 21, 1990, p. 3.  See also “Albanian Leader Seeks to Restore Ties With U.S., Soviets,” The Washington Post, April 20, 1990, p. A21; and David Binder, “Hard-Line Albanians Signal Desire to Resume Ties,” The New York Times, April 20, 1990, p. A7.

[17] “Helsinki Commission Chairmen Welcome Albania’s Announcement on Diplomatic Ties; Request Permission to Visit,” CSCE News Release, April 20, 1990.

[18] Norman Kempster, “Ready to Resume Albania Relations, U.S. Says,” The Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1990, p. A7.

[19] David Binder, “Perez de Cuellar Visits Albanians,” The New York Times, May 12, 1990, p. 6.

[20] David Binder, “Albanian Leader Says the Country Will Be Democratized but Will Retain Socialism,” New York Times, May 14, 1990, p. A10.

[21] “Helsinki Commission Welcomes Albanian Desire To Participate in Helsinki Process and Improve Human Rights Record,” U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE News Release, May 10, 1990

[22] In a December 1989 report, the Minnesota Lawyers Committee released what was dubbed as the most comprehensive and objective study of the violation of human rights in Albania.  See Minnesota Lawyers International Human Rights Committee, Human Rights in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania (Minneapolis, MN, 1990).

[23] Quoted in The Financial Times, June 7, 1990, p. 14.

[24] C.L. Sulzberger, “Albania and America: Talking Again,” The International Herald Tribune, June 29, 1990.

[25] Frances d’Emilio, “Albania Seeks Full U.S. Diplomatic Links,” The Washington Post, May 31, 1990, p. A34.

[26] Interview with Rep. Tom Lantos was aired on June 16, 1990.

[27] VOA Albanian Service, June 13, 1990.

[28] A VOA editorial, reflecting the U.S. official view, noted that, “The U.S. understands that several changes have been made recently in the Albanian government, including the removal of some opponents of reform.  The U.S. hopes these changes will lead to needed political reform in Albania, so that the Albanian people can join the rest of Central and Eastern Europe in moving toward freedom and democracy.” “Albanians Seek Freedom,” VOA Editorial, 0-04172, July 11, 1990.

[29] “Albania Says West Causing Travel Delays,” The Washington Post, July 9, 1990, p. A16.

[30] “Helsinki Commission Delegation Visits Albania, Establishes Dialogue on Human Rights,” U.S. Helsinki Commission, press release, August 22, 1990.

[31] Interview with Senator Dennis DeConcini, VOA Albanian Service, September 16, 1990.

[32] Xhelil Gjoni, “As Always – Like a Fist Round the Party,” Zëri i Popullit, July 14, 1990, pp. 1-2.

[33] The Western media reported that the opinion of the embassy refugees was predominantly negative toward Kadare.  Some “scoffed at the mention of Kadare’s name,” identifying him as too close to the regime.  See Mary Battiata, “After Refugees Have Gone, Questions About Albania Remain,” The Washington Post, July 23, 1990, p. A13.

[34] Ismail Kadare, “‘Knives’: An Important Novel in the Albanian Literature,” Drita, October 15, 1989, p.11.

[35]Ismail Kadare, “Literature and Today’s Society,” Drita, November 19, 1989, pp. 5-6.

[36] Interview with Ismail Kadare by Chief Editor Remzi Lani, “Literature, Time, and Albanian Civilization,” Zëri i Rinisë, March 21, 1990, p. 4.

[37] Ismail Kadare, Nga një dhjetor në tjetrin [From One December to the Other] (Paris: Fayard, 1991).

[38] Interview with Fatos Nano, VOA Albanian Service, August 2, 1990.

[39] Interview with Aleks Luarasi, VOA Albanian Service, August 23, 1990.

[40] Interview with Ismail Kadare, VOA Albanian Service, September 23, 1990.

[41] ATA in English 0800 GMT, 29 September 1990, in FBIS-EEU-990-190, October 1, 1990.

[42]Bashkimi, October 3, 1990, p. 1.

[43]Teddie Weyr, “Troops, Tanks Deployed To Stop Albanian Unrest,” The Washington Post, December 15, 1990, p. A13, and David Binder, “Protests Against Communists Continue in Albania,” The New York Times, December 16, 1990.

[44] David Binder, “Restore Ties With Albania, Opposition Urges U.S.,” The New York Times, December 26, 1990, p. A5.

[45] Ibid.

[46] “U.S., Albania to Resume Diplomatic Relations After 52 Years,” The Washington Post, March 13, 1991.

[47] State Department spokesman Richard Boucher emphasized that “leaders of the democratic opposition in Albania had urged Washington to resume ties [with Albania] as soon as possible.”  Ibid.

[48] The U.S. Helsinki Commission delegation to Albania consisted of Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-Arizona), Representative Robert Dornan (R-California), Representative Bob McEwen (R-Ohio), Representative Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico), and Representative Clay Shaw, Jr. (R-Florida) as well as a number of Helsinki Commission and Congressional Staff, including Bob Hand.  Hand, a leading expert and author of numerous reports on Albania and the Balkans, has the distinction of having observed Albania’s 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2001, and 2005 elections.

[49] President Carter’s letter to Berisha was broadcast by VOA’s Albanian Service on March 29, 1991, in its 2:30PM show.

[50] James A. Baker, III with Thomas M. DeFrank, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), p. 484.

[51]Ibid., pp. 484-86. 

[52]Bureau of Public Affairs, The U.S. Department of State Dispatch, Vol. 2, no. 26, July 1, 1991, pp. 466-67.

[53] Robert L. Hutchings, American Diplomacy and the End of the Cold War: An Insider’s Account of U.S. Policy in Europe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. 262.

[54] Zëri i Popullit, June 23, 1990.

[55] Hutchings, American Diplomacy and the End of the Cold War, p. 266.

[56] Interview with Ambassador William Ryerson, VOA Albanian Service, November 28, 1991. The transcript of the interview also appeared in Agjencia Telegrafike Shqiptare, Buletini i radiove te huaja ne gjuhen shqipe, no. 594, November 29, 1991, pp. 1-3.

[57] National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Briefing Report for the Albanian Elections, March 22 and 29, 1992 (Washington, D.C., 1992), and The International Republican Institute, Trip Report: Albania Staff Mission, 9-16 December 1991 (Washington, D.C., 1991).

[58] Message from Ambassador William Ryerson faxed to the U.S. Department of State, the United States Information Agency, and VOA, January 12, 1992.

[59] Senator Bob Dole’s interview with VOA was republished in Tribuna Demokratike, March 21, 1992, p. 1.

(Visited 8 times, 1 visits today)