Albania opens up, but to what future?

by Marten van Heuven

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One year after its first democratic elections in March 1992, Albania stands on the threshold of promising reform. Albanians are held together by strong cultural links and a historic social code. Yet a long history of domination by outsiders raises the question whether Albania is capable of independent national existence. Moreover, the country has yet to face the reckoning with a past in which Albanians committed terrible injustice against other Albanians in the name of communism. The energetic new leadership of Albania faces the daunting task of economic reform and reconstruction. A key hurdle will be to prioritize the foreign assistance that will be a crucial element for Albania's future. This future lies in the context of the region where Albania is located. It is threatened by the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. The danger of conflict in Kosovo is that it would engulf Albania and put its future at risk. American policy can help by optimizing coordination of foreign assistance and by including Albania in regional planning for security and development of the Balkans.

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