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For most of the post-war period, under Enver Hoxha, Albania had one of the most repressive and insular Socialist regimes in the world. After the collapse of the dictatorship, Albania embarked on a radical program of privatisation and de-regulation, coming within inches of an economic and political meltdown in 1997 triggered by the collapse of government-supported, get-rich-quick pyramid schemes. The Kosovo refugee crisis in 1999 once again exposed the weaknesses of Albania's state institutions and infrastructure, creating a chaotic and insecure environment across much of the country.

ICG established a field presence in Albania in June 1998, tasked with identifying ways in which the international community can best support efforts to tackle the country's most pressing problems: its crumbling state structures, the lack of security, rampant corruption, and large-scale weapons and drug trafficking. A further focus for ICG's work is Albania's evolving role in the Balkan region, especially in regard to the manifestations of Albanian nationalism and pan-Albanian aspirations.

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