A Reluctant Gesture: The Establishment of Canadian-Albanian Diplomatic Relations

By Triadafilopulos, Triadafilos | East European Quarterly, September 1997 | Go to article overview

A Reluctant Gesture: The Establishment of Canadian-Albanian Diplomatic Relations


Triadafilopulos, Triadafilos, East European Quarterly


Introduction

Canada established official diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of Albania on September 10, 1987. Although Canada had recognized Albania in 1959, relations between the two countries had been limited. This situation was in large part dictated by Albania's self-imposed isolation. However, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Albania's approach to Canada shifted. Albanian diplomats worked towards improving relations with Canada and other countries in the West. Canada, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), respected leader in the United Nations (UN), and close ally to the United States, was highly regarded by the Albanian leadership. Unlike Britain, the United States, and West Germany, Canada had no outstanding grievances with the Albanian government. Canada had also exhibited flexibility in its relations with communist states. Thus, Canada was courted by Albanian diplomats before any other Western state.

This article examines the process which culminated in the establishment of Albanian-Canadian diplomatic relations. I shall argue that changes to Canadian foreign policy introduced by the Trudeau government in 1968 were instrumental in delaying Canada's diplomatic initiatives in Albania. Specific areas under consideration include: (1) Canada's shift away from an active, internationalist diplomacy to a restrained policy driven by specific "national interests"; (2) the Trudeau government's indifference towards the recommendations of Canadian diplomats, and disdain for the diplomatic process generally; and (3) the lack of consensus between diplomats who continued to endorse an activist foreign policy, and civil servants and politicians at the Department of External Affairs.

Canada's approach to Albania was representative of a general trend in Canadian foreign policy during the 1970s and early 1980s. It was during this time that Canada relinquished its function as a "Middle Power," a designation which reflected its capabilities as well as its demeanor. Instead, the Trudeau government adopted a modest, self-interested approach to international affairs. This study supports the view that the Trudeau policy underestimated Canada's influence and ability to shape events in the world. Rather than playing an active part in Albania's attempts to improve relations with the West, Canada abdicated its potential role to others. Thus, Canadian policies were often contradictory, and diplomatic initiatives were repeatedly ignored by officials in Ottawa.

Initial Contacts: 1964-1967

Albania originally expressed interest in improving its relations with Canada on May 21, 1964. On that day the Albanian Ambassador to Cuba, Mr. Josif Pogaci, met with Canada's Ambassador, Mr. Leon Maynard. Ambassador Pogaci expressed his country's desire for a "normalization" of relations. Ambassador Maynard responded by stating that, although the possibility of an exchange of diplomatic missions was remote, commercial relations were possible. Though nothing came of this meeting, the very fact that it took place is of interest. A brief review of Albanian international relations between 1948-1961 may help to put this development into perspective.

Albania had been an important Soviet satellite since 1948. Support from the Soviet Union was instrumental in transforming Albania from an underdeveloped agrarian country to an agricultural-industrial state.(1) However, relations between the two countries deteriorated soon after Stalin's death in 1953. By December 1961, all Soviet economic and military assistance to Albania had been suspended.(2) The schism was due in part to the de-Stalinization process initiated by Nikita Khrushchev. Albania's leader, Enver Hoxha, had been an enthusiastic proponent of Stalinism. Khrushchev's conciliatory gestures to Yugoslavia also raised suspicions in Tirana. Yugoslavia had pursued a policy aimed at absorbing Albania into the Yugoslav Federation in the years between 1946-1948. …

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