U.S. President Woodrow Wilson advocated for an independent Albanian state at the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919. Shortly thereafter, on July 28, 1922, the United States and Albania established diplomatic relations for the first time when Maxwell Blake, the American Commissioner in Albania, extended written notification of the recognition of Albania by the United States to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania.
U.S.-Albanian diplomatic relations were suspended in 1939 when Albania was occupied by Italy (1939-43) and Germany (1943-44) during World War II. After the war, Albania saw 45 years of isolation and underdevelopment under its communist leader. With the 1991 fall of communism, the Albanian government sought closer ties with the West to improve economic conditions and introduced basic democratic reforms. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Albania were restored in 1991. In 2015, we signed the U.S.-Albania Strategic Partnership to reflect the close partnership between our countries and expand our cooperation to the benefit of both nations.
The United States and Albania commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Albania relations in 2022. Despite interruptions to those relations over the past century, our two countries forged strong bonds, overcame conflict and hardship, and emerged as close allies and friends. With this history in mind, we look toward the future and all that we can accomplish together over the next century. Our two nations are rooted in a shared commitment to democratic values, peace, and economic prosperity, which are the foundation of this enduring partnership. The themes of the 100th anniversary reflect these priorities: Friendship, Democracy, Defense, and Business.
- Over the past year, the Albanian government has proven itself again as a strong partner by supporting the relocation of Afghans.
- In 2022, the United States extended the validity of the B1/B2 visitor visa for Albanians from three to ten years.
- In 2021, the U.S. and Albania signed an MOU to protect Albania’s cultural property against looting and trafficking.
- Our 2015 Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the United States and Albania was grounded in shared democratic values, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.
- The United States provided humanitarian aid to the Albanian Red Cross and UNICEF after the 2019 earthquake, sent fire-fighting experts to help during the 2021 wildfires, and provided more than $4.4M in COVID-19 assistance for vaccine rollout, risk communication, and community engagement.
- Albanian scholars and students have researched, taught, or studied at U.S. universities through the Fulbright Program in Albania, founded in 1991. American scholars and students have traveled to Albania for research and teaching projects. In 2021, 91 Albanians came to the United States through the Department’s Private Sector Exchange Visitor Program (BridgeUSA). A 2019 MOU jointly funded the Fulbright Student Program, expanding scholarships for Albanian students to pursue master’s degrees in the United States.
- Since 2001, the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) has provided $1.28 million to fund conservation and protection of significant structures and archaeological objects in Albania. In the wake of the November 2019 earthquake, AFCP has focused on restoring historical monuments in Albania, including castles and city walls in Durres and Preze, which were completed and celebrated this year to honor the 100-year anniversary.
- Since 1992, the United States government has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to Albania to support political pluralism; civil society; effective local governments; independent media; the rule of law; the energy and health sectors; free-market economic systems; and sustainable economic growth, including through the development of tourism and micro-enterprise partnerships.
- One pillar of the strong bilateral relationship is a shared commitment to democracy. United States’ support will continue for Albania’s justice reform, civil society, media, and electoral process.
- Albania’s participation in the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy in Washington, DC in December 2021 contributed to promoting stronger democratic institutions.
- U.S. assistance programming is helping Albania improve government transparency and accountability, strengthen justice institutions in serving the public, increase the capacity of civil society, and counter corruption, all contributing to its EU accession path.
- U.S. programming supports a free press in Albania built on high-quality investigative journalism, which is vital to a thriving democracy. We are investing in training and in boosting media literacy to expand public transparency and broaden citizens’ knowledge of the issues that impact their lives and livelihood.
- The United States and Albania share a strong military partnership and commitment in NATO, which Albania joined in 2009.
- Between 2003 and 2013, nearly 4,000 Albanian troops worked alongside NATO forces as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Albanian and U.S. forces stand beside each other in NATO’s KFOR mission in Kosovo too.
- Albania was one of the first countries to welcome over 2,500 Afghan evacuees after the Taliban’s takeover in 2021. The U.S. government and American NGOs recognized the Albanian government’s contributions in providing safe refuge to those in need.
- In 2021, Albania helped to host Defender Europe 21, which integrated approximately 28,000 U.S., Allied and partner forces from 26 nations in nearly simultaneous operations across training areas in more than a dozen nations from the Baltics, to Africa, to the critical Black Sea and Balkan regions. The exercise was so successful that Albania will once again host portions of Defender-Europe 23 next year.
- Albania was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 2022-2023. Albania’s priorities in the Security Council include addressing global crises, encouraging peaceful conflict resolution, partnership, and mediation. Albania and the United States are co-penholders at the UNSC on Ukraine issues.
- U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) established a forward-based Special Operations Forces headquarters in Albania this year, with the full support of the Albanian government and Albanian military.
- U.S. European Command (EUCOM) is assisting Albania to develop its NATO capabilities. A team from the US Army’s 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) is living and training alongside the Albanian Land Forces to accelerate these efforts.
- In October 2020, the United States and Albania signed a Memorandum of Economic Cooperation (MEC). On the same day, Albania signed an agreement with American infrastructure company Bechtel, for the long-planned Skavica Hydropower Project, launching the project in October 2021. This milestone marks a promising future in the United States’ and Albania’s growing economic relationship. The MEC also facilitated an agreement between Albania and U.S. energy companies, ExxonMobil and Excelerate Energy to import U.S. liquified natural gas to Albania through an LNG terminal in Vlora, which will be used to generate energy not only in Albania, but also to meet energy needs across the region.
- Bilateral trade between the United States and Albania was $162.2 million in 2021, up 47% from the previous year. S. exports are up 61% and Albanian exports are up 30% compared to 2020. U.S. foreign direct investment also reached a new high in 2021. Prosperous times lie ahead for American investors as Albania demonstrates its advantages as an investment destination.
- The American Chamber of Commerce in Albania (AmCham Albania), established in 2000, is increasing bilateral trade, promoting foreign investment in Albania, and burnishing the Albanian business image in U.S. and international markets through 220 active members representing the most productive and successful businesses in Albania.
- In 2022, Albania and the Jones International Group signed an MOU on secure digital networks.