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
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 (see Ethnicity,
ch. 2). 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.
Data as of April 1992