Albania Emerging

June 16, 1991

It is premature to call Albania post-Communist. But Albania has chosen that road, with no going back. It is where Hungary was two years ago. Conflict may be inevitable among the old Communists who thrived under the 41-year tyranny of Enver Hoxha, the Communist reformers who seek to save the apparatus by humanizing it, and the outright anti-Communists. But Albania's place in Europe under the Adriatic sun is now assured.

The election March 31, before the opposition was formedproduced an illusory Communist victory. Now a general strike has brought down the regime created then. So the Communist president, Ramiz Alia, appointed a Communist cabinet minister, Ylli Bufi, premier of a coalition government that is half-Communist and contains the main opposition Democratic Party and independents.

The Communist party that long monopolized power changed its name from Labor to Socialist, repudiated the memory of Hoxha and charted a reformist course under the sacked prime minister, Fatos Nano, a 38-year-old economist.

All this is to prepare for parliamentary elections next year in which the transition is bound to be completed. President Alia must in fairly short time fall victim to the process he allowed to begin.

So if not yet post-Communist, the new government is charting post-Communist policies. Not only is ruthless Stalinism thrown aside with statist economics, so is Albania's isolation. Visits by Italian and German foreign ministers stamp some sort of credibility on the Bufi government, and will help it to open a window to the West. Albania and Italy equally have an interest in stopping the panic of Albanian refugees across the Adriatic.

The U.S. restored relations with Albania in March and should be in position to help the inevitable to happen as painlessly as possible. It is time for the Free World to spread the welcome mat and encourage the final cross-over.

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