Recent History of Albania, since 1989

Administration . In 1989-1991, Albania changed from a People's Republic to a multiparty democracy. Free elections were held in 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2005. Ramiz Tafe Alia, head of state since 1982, presided over the transition. The office of president was held by R.T. Alia 1991-1992, by Sali Ram Berisha (PDS) 1992-1997, by Rexhep Kemal Mejdani (PSS) 1997-2002, by Alfred Spiro Moisiu (non-party) since 2002. In 1997 the Albanian government abruptly resigned and the country briefly descended into chaos.

Foreign Policy . Albanian relations with Greece, in the years when Albania went through a transition from a Communist state to a multiparty democracy, went through a low because Greece accused the Albanian authorities of putting pressure on the ethnic Greek minority in Albania; Greece also had to take a large chunk of the wave of economic refugees leaving Albania. In 1997 the Albanian government took steps to protect the cultural tights of the country's ethnic Greek minority (MAR).
Albania was concerned about the cancellation of Kosovo's autonomy within the Republic of Serbia (Yugoslavia) in 1988 and about the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Albania's concerns were focussed on Kosovo, a region with a majority Albanian population, and on Macedonia which has a significant Albanian population element. An (ethnic Albanian) Kosovo Liberation Army had begun to fight Serb control in the province in 1996; the Yugoslav (Serb) army took on the challenge and in 1998 launched a campaign of ethnic cleansing, causing a mass exodus of refugees. The war was ended with NATO intervention in 1999, and Kosovo returned to autonomous status.
In 2001, the Republic of Macedonia went through a brief conflict where the (ethnic Albanian) National Liberation Army faced Macedonian forces. The NLA was disarmed by NATO forces.
Since 1991, the EU and Albania have established a partnership manifest in a number of agreements signed.
In 2003 Albania joined the Coalition of the Willing and sent troops to Iraq. In 2007, U.S. president George W. Bush visited Albania.

Political History . Albania, economically underdeveloped and politically isolated, entered a political crisis in 1987 the magnitude of which best can be measured by the numbers of refugees who took desperate steps in order to flee the country.
Transition to a multiparty democracy in Albania was more challenging than in other European Communist countries, because Albania previously had little experience with democracy, because the country had been politically isolated, because the education level of Albanians was lower than that of Poles, Czechs and Russians, because many Albanians were attached to premodern traditions.
Albania developed into a two-party-system, represented by the Democratic Party (PDS) and the Socialist Party (PSS). Political associations, however, often follow the dialect / tribal lines of Tosk or Gheg.

The Economy . By 1989 Albania was regarded the poorest country in Europe. The policy of turning Albania into an industrialized nation through a planned economy had created industries which were not internationally competitive, and in many cases, by 1989, crumbling. The country, during the 1970es and 1980es, due to the rise in oil prices (Oil Crisis 1973-1981) and the confrontational course with both the capitalist west, neighbour Yugoslavia and the Soviet bloc, had to keep imports at a minimum, which negatively affected her economy. From 1989 to 1992 the GDP fell by over 50 %. In 1992 the government began implementing a policy of liberalization of the economy, in 1995 a policy of privatization. The Tirana Stock Exchange was opened in 1996.
From 1990 to 2000, prices increased 20-fold. The collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997 caused social unrest.
Albania is an exporter of chrome, copper and nickel ores.

Social History . According to the 1989 census, Albania had 3.18 million inhabitants; Jan Lahmeyer gives an estimate of 3.49 million for 2000. In the late 1980es and early 1990es Albania experienced a mass exodus of economic refugees, mainly to Italy and Greece; in 2001 Greece alone registered 443,500 Albanian residents, over 10 % of the total population of Albania.

Cultural History . Albanian athletes participated in the Summer Olympics of Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. So far, no Albanian ever won a medal.