chapter  6
Albania and its struggle to consolidate democracy
Pages 23

Introduction Nearly 20 years ago, Albania managed to find an end to one of the longest isolationist regimes in Europe. The law ‘On the Main Constitutional Provisions’1 was the first institutionalized attempt to create a framework for democratic institutions. Constitution making in Albania appeared to be a difficult process especially when considering that, after the downfall of the 1996 draft constitution in a popular referendum, the new democratic constitution entered into force only on 28 November 1998. Legal reform advanced with the promulgation and codification of legislation regulating newly established economic and social relations. Internal reforms were coupled with political efforts to open up the country to the international community. Pro-integration approaches were characteristic of post-communist governments. In 1991 for the first time diplomatic relations between Albania and the European Community were established. The country benefited from financial assistance in the framework of the PHARE programme (Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Restructuring their Economies) and established economic cooperation with the Community by signing the Trade, Commercial and Economic Cooperation Agreement in 1992. In July 1995, Albania became a member of the Council of Europe while in April 2009 Albania adhered as a member with full rights to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In April 1997, after a series of political crises in the Balkans, the EU Commission introduced the Regional Approach to the countries of South-Eastern Europe (SEE). This initiative aimed at monitoring the compliance by SEE governments with basic Western standards of democracy and human rights (Vachudova 2003: 147). In the same line, in 1999 the European Union initiated in Cologne the Stability Pact for SEE, which constituted a long-term conflict prevention strategy.2