Multidimensional Relations Between Italy And Albania

Italy, the genetic and cultural inheritor of the great Roman Empire has had a deep and lasting influence on humanity both during its glory days and after the decline of the Empire. Albania on the other hand, a lesser known and a small country somewhere in the Balkans has been attached to Italy through the umbilical cord of history. Illyricum, as the Romans referred to Albania in their hay days, is still attached to Italy using history, economic interests and most important of all, sentiments of a common inherited culture.

With a history spanning more than two millennia, the relations between Italy and Albania are truly multidimensional in every sense and meaning and keep evolving seamlessly in various directions with the passage of time.  Even the violent upheavals of the two world wars could not shake the strong edifices of culture, co-operation, history and sentiments that tied Albania and Italy. Therefore, there is a multifaceted relation between Italy and Albania which is very interesting on various fronts ranging from economic cooperation to cultural ties and a golden future age.

Modern History

Although Albania has been connected to Italy during the Roman times, with the Illyrians and Italiotes being the principle people who populated Albania, it is in the recent history that we find both the countries establishing a strong bilateral bond.

It began in 1912 when the Kingdom Of Italy proclaimed its staunch support for the Albanian Independence. And this is when formal relations between the two countries were established, and they were interlocked with each other with a bond of common interests. The Italian Protectorate was established over Albania which lasted from June 23rd, 1917 until the summer of 1920, when the Vlora war fought between Albanian nationalists ended the Italian Protectorate.

King Zog I of Albania’s rule that began from 1924 was met with Benito Mussolini, who was a figurehead of Fascism for the world, but a great ally for Albania. The Italo-Yugoslav relations fostered the rise of King Zog I in 1925 and 14 years later, Mussolini helped Albania in the building of various infrastructure projects as well as many initiatives for the economic development of the country. This laid down the basis for economic cooperation between Italy and Albania in the post World War-II world. In fact, the National Bank of Albania was established in Italy and therefore had its headquarters based over there.

Economic Cooperation

Today, Italy stands as the main export partner of the Balkan state with an unbelievable 42.8% of their total exports and also the prime import partner with a total of 33.4% of imports coming from Albania. Italy has helped Albania with a lot of economic aid in the past to enable it to implement its various socio-economic programs.

As both the nations share a common maritime border, they both support the Euro-Atlantic integration and also lets them create and operate the EEZ or the Exclusive Economic Zone between them.

Cultural Ties

The cultural ties between Italy and Albania run deep down in the annals of history. The presence of the Roman Empire in the territory today is known as Albania influenced the country’s culture irrevocably.

Today, most of the Albanians consume Italian pop-culture such as TV, literature, films, etc. apart from the larger global pop culture that is ever pervasive. Not only regarding the audio-visual culture but can also see Italian influences on Albanian fashion which go as far back as the middle ages and the early twentieth century.

This cultural exchange was made by a phenomenon which was carried out merely by the physical presence of Italy in Albania and Albanian immigrants in Italy. Given that Italy was Albania’s cultural and economic ‘caretaker’ in the early twentieth century, it helped Albania embed visible elements of the Italian culture in its own.

Albanian diaspora in Italy also played a big role in transmitting Albanian food and style in Italy. Albanians form one of the major immigrant groups to settle in Italy for economic reasons. However, Italy is the destination of choice not just for economic reasons, but also because both the countries have a strong cultural affinity and bond.

Towards The Golden Future

Even after the devastation of the war, Italy has constantly worked hard to maintain peace and stability in the Balkans. Albania has played a pivotal role in Italy’s effort to keep the Balkans stable and continues to cooperate in various spheres of local geopolitics.

During the devastating Yugoslav wars that lasted from 1991 to 2001, Italy was a key player to send its armed forces to bring peace to the region as fast as possible.

Even today, Italy and Albania continue to cooperate with each other regarding economy, politics, culture and other spheres of bilateral relations to maintain.

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