Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Albania timeline

A chronology of key events:

1939 - Shortly before the start of World War II, Italy invades. King Zog flees to Greece.

Supporters of late Communist leader Enver Hoxha at his grave, 2003
Some still revere Communist leader who ruled with iron fist
Born in 1908
1944: Became prime minister
Died in 1985

1940 - Italian army attacks Greece through Albania.

1941 - Enver Hoxha becomes head of new Albanian Communist Party.

1943 - German forces invade and occupy Albania following Italian surrender.

1944 - Germans withdraw after Communist resistance. Enver Hoxha installed as new leader.

1945 - Tribunals begin against thousands of "war criminals".

1946 - Purges of non-communists from government positions.

1948 - Albania breaks ties with Yugoslavia; Soviet Union begins economic aid to Albania.

1950 - Britain and US back landings by right-wing guerillas, who fail to topple communists.

1955 - Albania becomes a founding member of the Warsaw Pact.

Isolationist state

1961 - Albania allies itself with China, after Soviet Union breaks diplomatic relations over ideological rift.

Tirana skyline
Capital city became a magnet for incomers in the 1990s
Founded in 17th century
Became capital in 1920
Population: 353,000 (official estimate)

1967 - Violent clampdown on religious activity. Albania declared the world's first atheist state.

1968 - Albania withdraws from Warsaw Pact over Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.

1978 - China ends economic and military aid to Albania after relations become strained by China's reconciliation with the US.

1985 - Hoxha dies, replaced by Ramiz Alia.

Political upheavals

1989 - Communist rule in Eastern Europe collapses. Ramiz Alia signals changes to economic system.

1990 - Independent political parties formed. Albanians granted right to travel abroad. Thousands try to flee through Western embassies.

Thousands more seize ships at port and sail illegally to Italy.

1991 - In multiparty elections, the Communist Party and allies win 169 of the 250 seats, the newly-formed Democratic Party takes 75.

General amnesty for political prisoners. First opposition newspaper published.

Alia re-elected president. Prime Minister Fatos Nano resigns after protests at economic conditions and killing of opposition demonstrators.

New government headed by Vilson Ahmeti.

1992 - Democratic Party wins elections. Party leader Sali Berisha, a former cardiologist, becomes first elected president. Aleksander Meksi is prime minister.

1993 - Ex-communist leaders, including Fatos Nano and Ramiz Alia, convicted and jailed for corruption.

Anger on streets

1994 - National referendum rejects new constitution which opponents said allowed president too much power.

1995 - Alia released from prison following appeal-court ruling.

1996 - Democratic Party general election victory tainted by accusations of fraud.

1997 - Leka, son of late King Zog, returns from exile in bid to take throne. Referendum on restoration of monarchy fails. He is accused of trying to stir up an armed insurrection and flees back into exile.

Refugees from Kosovo cross into Albania during 1998 conflict
Kosovo Albanian refugees poured across the border into Albania

Fraudulent pyramid investment schemes collapse, costing thousands of Albanians their savings and triggering anti-government protests.

Up to a million weapons are looted from army stores as angry mobs take to the streets.

Government resigns and Socialist-led coalition sweeps to power. Fatos Nano, now released from prison, returns as prime minister.

Sali Berisha resigns as president in wake of financial crisis, succeeded by Socialist leader Rexhep Mejdani.

Convictions of communist-era leaders overturned.

1998 - Escalating unrest in Kosovo sends refugees across border into Albania.

September - Violent anti-government street protests after prominent opposition Democratic Party politician, Azem Hajdari, shot dead by unidentified gunmen.

PM Fatos Nano quits. Former student activist, Pandeli Majko, named as new prime minister.

Refugee influx

1999 - Nato air strikes against Yugoslav military targets. In Kosovo thousands flee attacks by Serb forces. Mass refugee exodus into Albania.

October - Majko resigns as prime minister in October 1999, after losing Socialist Party leadership vote. 30-year-old Iler Meta becomes Europe's youngest prime minister.

2001 January - Albania and Yugoslavia re-establish diplomatic relations broken off during the Kosovo crisis in 1999.

Leka, son of ex-king Zog
Son of former king fled in 1997, returned after 2002 amnesty

2001 April - UN says thousands of Albanians are being poisoned by fatal toxins in their environment, urges international community to help.

2001 July - Ruling Socialist Party secures second term in office by winning general elections. PM Meta names European integration and an end to energy shortages as his priorities. Meta heads a new coalition government from September.

2001 December - Rift widens between Meta and his Socialist Party Chairman Fatos Nano. Nano prompts three ministers to resign and blocks the appointment of their replacements.

2002 January - Meta resigns as prime minister after failing to resolve party feud.

2002 February - Pandeli Majko becomes premier and forms new government as rival factions in Socialist Party pledge to end infighting.

2002 June - Parliament elects Alfred Moisiu president after rival political leaders Nano and Berisha reach compromise, easing months of tension.

Royal family returns from exile.

Port, Durres, Albania (2004 picture)
Founded by the ancient Greeks, Durres is Albania's main port

2002 August - Fatos Nano becomes prime minister after the ruling Socialist Party decides to merge the roles of premier and party chairman. It is Nano's fourth time as premier.

Steps towards EU

2003 January - Albania and EU begin Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks, seen as possible first step in long road to EU membership.

2004 January - Day of mourning declared after at least 20 people die when the boat on which they were trying to cross to Italy illegally breaks down in mid-Adriatic.

2004 February - Opposition stages angry demonstration in Tirana to demand Mr Nano's resignation and protest against government failure to improve living standards.

2005 September - After two months of political wrangling, former president Sali Berisha emerges as the victor in July's general election.

2006 April - Parliament imposes ban on speedboats in coastal waters in bid to crackdown on people and drug smuggling.

2006 June - Stabilisation and Association agreement signed with EU.

2007 June - President George W Bush becomes the first US leader to visit Albania, highlighting its position as a close ally of Washington.

2007 July - Parliament elects ruling party chairman Bamir Topi president, after three failed rounds of voting made a snap election look possible.

2008 March - Defence Minister Fatmir Mediu resigns over arms depot blasts that killed 16 and damaged Tirana airport.

2009 April - Albania officially joins NATO and formally applies for membership of the European Union. Albania is not expected to join the EU until 2015 at the earliest.

Berisha re-elected

2009 July - Sali Berisha's centre-right Democratic Party wins parliamentary elections by a narrow margin.

2009 November - Opposition Socialist Party begins series of demonstrations in Tirana in protest against alleged vote-rigging in the 2009 election.

2010 May - Socialist leader Edi Rama calls for a campaign of civil disobedience to continue until government agrees to a partial recount of 2009 election.

2010 November - European Union rejects Albania's request for EU candidate status, but eases visa requirements for Albanians.

2011 January - Deadly clashes leave four anti-government protesters dead in demonstration about corruption and alleged election vote rigging outside the prime minister's office in Tirana.

2011 February - Parliament strips former economy minister Dritan Prifti of his immunity from prosecution over the corruption allegations. Former deputy prime minister Ilan Meta is already being investigated over the deal to build a power station. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

2011 December - Former intelligence chief Ilir Kumbaro, wanted on torture charges in Albania, jumps bail and goes missing in London, where he had been hiding under a false name since 1996.

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Compiled by BBC Monitoring

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