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How to cite:
Aliaj, B.; Bejko (Gjika) , A.; Dhrami, K.; Shutina, D. (2024): Country Profile of Albania. Hannover. = ARL Country Profiles. https://www.arl-international.com/knowledge/country-profiles/albania/rev/4054. (date of access).



Albania, situated on the Balkan Peninsula in Southern Europe, boasts a striking geography. To the west, it features a lengthy coastline along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. It shares its northern border with Montenegro and Kosovo,* while Greece lies to the south, and North Macedonia to the east. 75% of the territory is mountainous. Albania is also rich in lakes and a dense river network, including the Shkodra Lake, the second largest in Southern Europe, and Prespa, the highest tectonic lake on the Balkan Peninsula. The Drini River holds the distinction of being the longest river system in the country, covering a total length of 282 kilometres. Additionally, the Vjosa River, celebrated as one of Europe’s last living wild rivers, meanders through Albania approximately for 190 km. 

Albania's total land area spans 28,728 square kilometres, with approximately 18% of its territory designated as protected areas. Within the country, there are a total of 801 designated protected areas, encompassing two UNESCO Natural Heritage sites, two scientific nature reserves, 14 national parks, 23 natural reserves, and six protected landscapes.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244 and the International Court of Justice Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence. 


As of 1 January 2023, Albania’s population was estimated to be approximately 2,761,785, down from the 2011 census figure of 2,821,977 (INSTAT, 2023). The population of Albania has seen a declining trend since the early 1990s, primarily due to factors such as outmigration and a decreasing natural birth rate. In 2021, Albania experienced a negative natural population increase of −3,296 inhabitants, marking the first time this occurred.

According to INSTAT estimations as of January 2023, the urban population in Albania has been steadily increasing, exceeding the total rural population since 2008. In 2021, approximately 63% of the total population lived in urban areas. 

Albania is linguistically fairly homogeneous, with ethnic Albanians making up the majority of the population. The official language of the country is Albanian, which is declared as the native language by a significant majority, accounting for 98.76% of the population. 

In terms of ethnicity, the 2011 official census reported that 97.8% of those who disclosed their ethnic identity identified as Albanian, constituting 82.58% of the overall population. The remaining 2.3% of those who disclosed their ethnic identity identified with other ethnicities, making up 1.9% of the total population. 

Albanian is the official language of the country. There are also minority languages officially used in some local government units. Among these are Aromanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Gorani, and Roma.

Political, legal and governance: form of government, EU policy status

Albania’s governance and political system are defined by the 1998 Constitution, and it operates within the framework of a parliamentary democracy with a clear separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches (Constitution of Albania, Article 7). The president represents the unity of the Albanian people in the country and abroad as the head of state and is also the commander-in-chief of the military (Article  86.1). The prime minister of Albania (Kryeministri) is the head of government. The prime minister is appointed by the president after each parliamentary election and must have the confidence of parliament to stay in office (Article 96). The Council of Ministers is responsible for carrying out both foreign and domestic policies. It directs and controls the activities of the ministries and other state organs. The Parliament of Albania (Kuvendi i Shqipërisë) is a unicameral legislative body. It is composed of 140 members elected to a four-year term on the basis of direct, universal, periodic, and equal suffrage by secret ballot (Article 64).

Albania follows the civil law tradition, with its legal system based on the French law system. The country maintains a three-tier, independent judicial system governed by the Constitution and national legislation enacted by parliament. Key judicial institutions include the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Courts of Appeal, and various District Courts (Articles 124-147).

 The country’s aspiration for EU membership reflects its commitment to aligning with European democratic and legal standards. Albania, along with other Western Balkan countries, was recognised as a potential candidate for European Union (EU) membership during the Thessaloniki European Council summit in June 2003. In 2009, Albania officially applied for EU membership, and achieved candidate status in June 2014. In April 2018, the European Commission recommended opening accession negotiations with Albania. In July 2022, the Intergovernmental Conference on accession negotiations took place with Albania, and the Commission initiated the screening process. 


General information

Capital Tirana
Population of the capital (2020) 2,845,955(EUROSTAT)
Surface area (km2) (2020) 28750 (World Bank)
Total population (2020) 2,837,849 (World Bank)
Total population (2010) 2,913,021 (World Bank)
Population density (2020) (inh./km2) 103.57 (World Bank)
Degree of urbanisation (2015) 39,73% (European Commission
Human development index (2021) 0,796 (HDI)
GDP Current data can be found here: World Bank
Unemployment rate (2019) 11,47% (World Bank)
Land use Current data can be found here: European Environment Agency
Sectoral structure Current data can be found here: CIA The World Factbook

To ensure comparability between all Country Profiles, the tables were prepared by the ARL.

Administrative structure and system of governance

The Republic of Albania has a governance structure consisting of three levels: central, regional (county or qark), and local (municipalities). 

The decentralisation process in Albania has been influenced by the prospects of European integration and the potential benefits associated with it. Over the past two decades, progress in decentralisation has been gradual, with moments of increased focus and effort. The initial wave of decentralisation reforms can be traced back to the adoption of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. 

Key developments during this period include: (i) The principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government were integrated into the Constitution of the Republic of Albania in 1998. This constitutional recognition laid the foundation for decentralised governance. (ii) Albania formulated a National Strategy for Decentralisation in 1999. This strategy outlined the country’s approach to devolving powers and responsibilities to local authorities, aligning with European standards. (iii) Two crucial laws were enacted in 2000 to facilitate the decentralisation process: Law no. 8653/2000 ‘On the Administrative and Territorial Division of Local Government Units in the Republic of Albania’ and Law no. 8652/2000 ‘On the Organisation and Functioning of Local Government’. 


2014 marked a significant ‘second wave’ of decentralisation in Albania, focusing particularly on administrative and fiscal aspects (Toska/Bejko 2018). The Albanian government initiated a territorial and administrative reform (TAR) in 2014, driven by the primary goal of enhancing the delivery of services to its citizens. This reform reshaped Albania’s administrative divisions and resulted in the following changes: 

Administrative organisation

  • Following the TAR, Albania was administratively restructured into 61 municipalities. These municipalities were formed through the amalgamation of 373 local government units, comprising 308 communes[AG1]  and 65 municipalities. The 61 municipalities represent the first tier of local government, established in accordance with Article 5/2 of Law no. 139/2015 ‘On local self-government’. 
  • Each municipality is further divided into administrative units, of which there are 373 in total. These administrative units consist of towns and/or villages, with a total of 74 towns and 2,972 villages across the country. 
  • The second tier of local self-government, which comprises 12 counties (qarks[1]), remained unchanged. Counties serve as the second-level units of local self-government, in line with Article 5/4 of Law no. 139/2015 ‘On local self-government’. 
  • Tirana, as the capital and largest municipality, operates within the same decentralisation framework as the other municipalities, emphasising uniformity in the decentralisation process[2] ((Toska/Bejko 2019).

The reorganisation of local governance into 61 municipalities in Albania was a significant governmental reform that laid the groundwork for further improvements in local governance and the deepening of decentralisation. Several key policies and laws were drafted and approved in support of this reform:

  • Crosscutting Strategy for Decentralisation and Local Governance 2015-2020: This strategy, drafted and approved, outlined the direction for decentralisation and local governance over a five-year period, providing a framework for implementation.
  • Law no. 139/2015 ‘On Local Self-Government’: This law transferred new functions to municipalities, expanding their responsibilities and authority in local governance.
  • Law no. 68/2017 ‘On Local Self-Government Finance’: This law addressed the financial aspects of local self-government, providing guidelines for local governments to manage their finances effectively.
  • Law no. 106/2017 ‘On some Amendments and Additions to Law no. 9632 (of 30.10.2006)’, ‘On the Local Tax System’ (as amended).


In the context of local self-government in Albania, the first and second levels of governance require the establishment of both a representative body (Municipal/Regional Councils) and an executive body (Mayor/Head and the Board of the Regional Council). These bodies are elected as per the rules outlined by the Electoral Code of the Republic of Albania and serve four-year terms, similar to central-level elections, with a maximum of three consecutive mandates. 

The representative body of the region is formed by representatives from the elected bodies of the constituent municipalities, as provided for in the Constitution and Chapter XIII of Law no. 139/2015 ‘On local self-government’. The regional council head and board are elected by the regional council as provided for in Chapter XIII of Law no. 139/2015 ‘On local self-government’.


Several decentralised agencies of line ministries are present and provide services at the regional level; the boundaries of their catchment areas vary. The prefect is the highest representative of the central administration at the regional level (corresponding to the boundaries of the qarks). The prefect’s institution serves a variety of purposes, such as representing the central government at the regional level, ensuring the compatibility of regional and local actions with national law and policies, making sure that the regional and local response is coherent and effective, bringing the government closer to its citizens and building trust and acceptance. 

Regarding the structure of the territorial units, based on the Nomenclature des Unités Territoriales Statistiques, Albania is organised into:

  • one statistical territorial unit corresponding to NUTS 1 (Albania);
  • three statistical territorial units corresponding to NUTS 2 (3 macro-regions);
  • 12 statistical territorial units corresponding to NUTS 3 (12 qarks). 

It is important to note that the three macro-regions at the NUTS 2 level are primarily for statistical planning purposes and do not hold specific competences or have appointed or elected leaders. The 61 municipalities in the country represent the Local Administrative Units (LAU) and play a crucial role in local governance and service delivery.

Alongside the abovementioned territorial units, Law no. 102/2020 ‘On regional development and cohesion’ divided the country into four development regions. These regions are designated for development reasons and are not administrative units; as laid out in Article 4, they are ‘territories for which the National Policy on Regional Development and Cohesion is designed, implemented, and evaluated’ (Imami/Bejko 2023). The reform on regional development aims to achieve:[3]

  • more balanced social, economic, and sustainable development, as well as territorial cohesion within the Republic of Albania; 
  • a reduction in the disparities among and within the developing regions and an improved quality of life for all citizens; 
  • increased competitiveness of development regions by enhancing their innovative capacities, assessing and making maximum use of their natural resources, human resources, and economic features; 
  • a strengthening of the specific identity of the development region; and 
  • support for local self-government units in supra-local, cross-regional, and cross-border cooperation towards the social and economic development of development regions. 

System of governance and powers 

Albania’s political landscape has been shaped by its unitary parliamentary republic system since the adoption of the 1998 Constitution, which was amended on 13 January 2007. The legislative branch of Albania, known as the National Assembly (Kuvendi i Shqipërisë), consists of 140 members. This unicameral body is responsible for defining economic, legal, and political relations in Albania; preserving Albania’s natural and cultural heritage and its utilisation; and forming alliances with other nations. It is also responsible for electing the President and the Prime Minister. Members of the National Assembly are elected through a democratic process. 

 The president embodies the unity of the Albanian people within the country and abroad, serving as both the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the military. The prime minister (Kryeministri) leads the government and is appointed by the president following each parliamentary election, contingent upon having the parliament’s confidence to retain office. Responsible for implementing foreign and domestic policies, the Council of Ministers directs the activities of ministries and other state organs. 

 Albania operates within the civil law tradition, with its legal system founded on the French law system. The nation upholds a three-tier, autonomous judicial system governed by the Constitution and national legislation enacted by the parliament. Key judicial entities include the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Courts of Appeal, and various District Courts.  

Local governance in Albania is based on the principles of decentralisation of power and local autonomy, as outlined in Article 13 of the Constitution. The fundamental building blocks of local governance are the Local Government Units (LGUs), encompassing counties (qarks) and municipalities. At the municipality level, local governance is exercised through the municipal council. This council serves as a deliberative body, and its members are elected through direct universal suffrage for a four-year term. The executive authority at the municipal level is held by the mayor. Both councillors and mayors are elected by citizens through a direct and universal suffrage process, ensuring representation at the local level. The most recent local elections took place on 14 May 2023. Counties (qarks) in Albania play a minor role in subnational governance. It is important to note that counties are not fully self-governing entities, as they are not based on direct universal suffrage. Instead, they derive their authority from the constituent municipalities. Each county is represented by a county council (këshilli i qarkut), which comprises representatives from elected municipal organs. The number of representatives is determined in proportion to the population of each municipality, ensuring a fair distribution of influence. Municipal mayors are always included in these county councils, and additional members may be appointed from municipal councillors. Albania’s governance structure is based on the principles of democracy, decentralisation, and local autonomy. The National Assembly serves as the legislative powerhouse, while LGUs, consisting of municipalities and counties, are essential in implementing local policies and fostering cooperation between local and national authorities. 

The local self-government units in Albania have the following rights and responsibilities: 

the right to and the responsibilities of self-governance; the right to own property and the associated responsibilities; the right to collect revenue and make expenditures and the associated responsibilities; the right to conduct economic activities and the associated responsibilities; the right of cooperation; rights as a juridical person, etc. 

Counties (qarks) shall guarantee the development and implementation of regional policies and their harmonisation with state policies at the regional level and any other function conferred upon them by law. The county shall exercise any functions delegated to it by one or more municipalities within its territory by agreement and shall exercise the powers delegated by the central government. 

[1] In English usually translated as counties but not to be confused with development regions which are not administrative units.

[2] For a quick profile of the municipality of Tirana (and all other municipalities in Albania), consult the Municipal Profile Cards as presented in http://financatvendore.al/pub/profiles.

[3] Source: http://rdpa.al/ligji-per-zhvillimin-rajonal-dhe-kohezionin-2/?lang=sq 

Figure 1: Administrative Structure of Albania

Figure 1: Administrative Structure of Albania

Figure 2: System of powers of Albania

Figure 2: System of powers of Albania

Spatial planning system

Historical overview

The planning system in Albania has paradigmatically changed since the Second World War, and even more so in the last decade, with a shift from the urbanism approach to a comprehensive and integrated system. The evolution of the planning systems can broadly be categorised into three distinct periods:

Centralised urbanism (1950-1993)

While the institutionalisation of planning in Albania had already started during the 1930s with the first visions for city development and blueprint plans developed by Italian architects with King Zog’s support, academics commonly agree that the planning system in Albania was first established in the 1950s, with the approval of the first planning legislation in 1958 (Aliaj[PL1] [AG2]  et al. 2009). The legislation focused on land use and the protection of agricultural land, regulating and restricting urban expansion to rural land through the ‘yellow line’. During this period (until 1990), Albania was under a communist regime, therefore all land was state-owned. Pursuant to industrial development in the 1970s, new cities were designed, and the planning focus shifted to the ‘preparation and implementation of regulatory plans for cities and villages’, as well as setting general rules for development: setback distances, urban standards, etc. Planning practice during this period took a heavily functionalist and rationalist approach, with a strong Soviet influence (Allkja 2020).

The urbanist/transitional phase (1993-2009)

 The end of the totalitarian regime in Albania opened the path for significant transformations after the 1990s. In 1993 and 1998, new laws on urban planning were introduced, focusing predominantly on building regulations and spatial organisation within urban areas, with the same ‘urbanist’ approach as the previous period (Toto 2019). A set of planning instruments, including the Main Regulatory Plan, Partial Urban Plan, Yellow Line, Suburban Line, and Masterplans, were established. These instruments maintained a high level of rigidity and hence overlooked two critical developments in Albania: the proliferation of informal settlements in suburban areas due to internal migration, and the privatisation of public properties. Despite this, the era was characterised by a technocratic and standardised approach, defining precise norms and standards for various aspects of urban planning (Dhrami 2020). Municipalities lacked the capacity to properly implement the planning law and instruments, and the system slowly became corrupt, with high intensities being encouraged in city centres, and even more informal dwellings in city peripheries. In 2000, this was accompanied by a territorial reform and constitutional change, establishing a two-tier local governance structure – 12 qarks and 373 municipalities and communes. (Allkja 2020).

A comprehensive, integrated spatial approach (from 2009)

The Comprehensive Planning Approach came to the forefront with the enactment of Law 10191 on territorial planning in 2009. It represented a paradigmatic shift in the scope of planning, in horizontal and vertical integration, and in stakeholder involvement. The law was slightly amended resulting in the present enactment of Law 107/2014, titled ‘On territorial planning and development', together with its accompanying regulations. This process ran in parallel with another territorial and administrative reform, which amalgamated the 373 municipalities and communes into 61 municipalities (Toto 2019)

Legal basis/constitutional framework

Albania’s spatial planning system is primarily regulated by Law no. 107/2014 ‘On territorial planning and development’ and its three main by-laws: 

  • DCM 408 of 13 May 2015 ‘On the approval of the territorial development regulation’
  • DCM 686 of 22 November 2017 ‘On the approval of the territorial planning regulation’ 
  • DCM 1096 of 28 December 2015 ‘On the approval of conditions, regulations and procedures for the use and management of public spaces’


Spatial planning authorities

National level

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy is the key authority responsible for overseeing spatial planning at the national level. Previously this role was carried out by the Ministry of Urban Development, which was established to support and foster the new planning reform initiated in 2011, and was later abolished in 2017.

The National Territorial Planning Agency (NTPA), established in 2009, serves as the main institution at the central level to coordinate the local and national tiers of planning, while providing assistance for local planning and ensuring compliance with legislation and regulations. 

The National Territorial Council (NTC), a collegial entity composed of ministers of ministries which have territorial influence and led by the prime minister, is the institution responsible for approving plans of national and local importance. 

The National Agency of Territorial Development serves as a secretariat to issue and monitor special permits for areas of national importance, or strategic territorial investments.

Local level

Municipalities are responsible for all planning processes within their territory, including developing the main planning instruments (the General Local Territorial Plan and local detailed plans), integrating planning and other sectorial policies, issuing building permits, etc. Nevertheless, municipalities must consult the NTPA on all GLTPs, which must be approved by the NTC (national level) before they can be implemented. This is to ensure that national priorities are not overlooked at the local level. 

Qarks are the second level of local governance, with limited responsibilities for planning processes, mainly focused on consultations, the integration of spatial proposals within bordering municipalities, etc.

Planning activities at all levels have a binding character and both vertical and horizontal coordination is mandatory and supported through the NTPA.


Spatial planning instruments

At the national level, the General National Territorial Plan (GNTP) sets the framework for national spatial development for the next 15 years. It defines general land use categories (mainly urban, infrastructural, agricultural, natural, and water), proposes transport networks, sets up how environmental protection areas will be integrated with other land uses, addresses coastal challenges, etc. The content and process for elaborating the GNTP is regulated through the Territorial Planning Regulation. Currently, the ‘Albania 2030’ GNTP is in force. The GNTP makes clear reference to several European directives and legislation. The participation process is encouraged, with at least three mandatory public hearings during the analysis, visioning, and proposal stage. The GNTP is drafted by the ministry responsible for planning and approved by the Council of Ministers.

The National Detailed Plan for Areas of National Importance is an instrument that regulates the property relations and infrastructure investments in specific areas designated by law as being of ‘national importance’. These plans are similar to detailed local plans, but due to their strategic importance, they are approved by the NTC.

National Sectoral Plans are drawn up by line ministries for the purpose of the strategic development of one or more sectors that have a strong connection to territorial development, such as: protection from natural disasters, climate change, industry, transport, agricultural development, etc. These plans are not mandatory and may cover the whole country or certain areas. Some examples of such plans include: the Integrated Cross-Sectoral Plan for Tiranë-Durrës, the Integrated Cross-Sectoral Plan for the Coast, and the National Sectoral Plan for Tourism in the Region of the Alps.

Sectoral Qark Plans are similar to National Sectoral Plans, but may be drawn up by the qark council when municipalities lack the capacity to develop General Local Territorial Plans. There are no registered cases of such plans to date.

The General Local Territorial Plan is the main (binding) instrument for planning at the local level for the upcoming 15 years, drafted by the municipality and approved by the municipal council and the NTC. It sets out all investments and development rights for the municipal territory, indicates future land uses, densities, development priorities, investment budgets, etc. The preparation of a GLTP is a coordinated effort between all local (and regional) stakeholders and usually includes numerous public hearings. Currently 60-61 municipalities in Albania have approved a GLTP. Usually, the process of drafting the GLTP takes six months to a year, while the approval stage may vary. The GLTP contains six core components: a territorial strategy (including a detailed analysis, visioning, and an action plan); a General Proposal Plan, including all transformations; the Local Regulation, including a zoning map and development passports; a Capital Investment Plan; the strategic environmental assessment; and a GIS-based package of maps. These plans are mandatory.

Local Sectoral Plans are instruments that may further detail the GLTP for a specific sector, such as climate, energy, transport, green areas, etc. They may cover the whole municipal territory or certain areas within it, and may be mandatory or not, depending on the type.

Detailed Local Plans are masterplans focused on specific areas, as designated in the GLTP. These areas are earmarked to be redeveloped or transformed in terms of land use, or are programmed to receive major public investments, or their layout is to be restructured. The process aims to achieve a proper and fair redistribution of the property values for current landowners after the development process, and includes them as actors in all stages of the drafting of the DLP.

All levels of planning (general national, sectoral, local plans) have a similar content and structure:

  • Detailed spatial analysis (and metabolism analysis)
  • Strategic visioning
  • Spatial proposals / investments, etc.
  • Action Plan for strategic investments
  • Maps and GIS database
  • Environmental assessment

The GLTP package may include more documents, such as:

  • Priority Investment Plan 
  • Regulation for Urban Planning and Development
  • Passports with development indicators for the entire local area (and detailed zoning map)

Interdependencies and mutual influences

The planning system is envisaged in a way that national policies and strategies guide regional and local planning efforts. Local plans should not only be consistent with higher-level plans, but also with strategic decision-making in adjacent municipalities. The NTPA is the institution that is responsible for this vertical and horizontal coordination and may approve the permissibility of a local plan only if the coordination has taken place.

All planning instruments, decisions and data are published in the National Planning Registry, and on the planning e-map, which is maintained and unified by NTPA and is publicly accessible by all.

Spatial planning in Albania is a dynamic and evolving discipline, reflecting the country’s transition from a centralised planning system to a more decentralised and democratic approach.

Practical examples of planning processes

In the wake of the legislative changes in planning in 2009, Albania’s planning process has undergone a transformative shift, embracing a plethora of innovative methodologies and approaches. These approaches are underpinned by core principles such as integration, coordination, comprehensiveness and sustainability, all of which are at the forefront of the conceptualisation of planning instruments. 

A striking example of innovation can be observed in Tirana, where the municipality is exploring land value capture mechanisms as a means to finance public infrastructure projects. One such mechanism is the imposition of an 8% infrastructure impact tax on new construction projects, calculated based on the market value of the development. It is noteworthy that developers are required to prepay this tax. 

Another noteworthy mechanism in play is the application of a 3% social housing tax, as mandated by Law no. 22/2018 on social housing. This tax is applicable to developments within residential construction areas exceeding 2,000 square metres. Given this threshold, Tirana stands as the primary beneficiary of this tax, as it hosts the most extensive housing projects in the entire country.

These innovative fiscal mechanisms exemplify the municipality’s proactive approach to financing public infrastructure. However, there are pertinent issues associated with these instruments, related to transparency, social equity, etc. 

Since the reform, many further priorities influencing spatial aspects have come to the forefront. The Green Agenda for the Western Balkans sets forth the priorities in terms of depollution, the mitigation of climate change effects, decarbonisation, the protection of biodiversity, etc. There is a series of instruments that need to be developed at local and national level, which have a robust spatial dimension, but were not included in the respective plans. Some of these include: the Disaster Risk Reduction Plans at both levels; the Climate Plans and Strategies at both levels; the Green Action Plans and Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans at the local level; energy efficiency plans at the national level, energy labelling at the local level, etc. These instruments need to be properly coordinated with the planning documents and sound decisions need to be made in case there is a subsequent need to revise them to better adapt to resilience / adaptability criteria.

Use of ‘soft planning’

The planning system is vastly regulated and institutionalised in Albania, mainly as a response to the previous planning system, which had a more ‘laissez faire’ approach and produced vast inefficiencies and disparities in terms of spatial development. Nevertheless, the current structure allows for soft planning processes, as long as they are in line with strategic framework instruments. For example, communities may come together to design a unified plan for their neighbourhood, in accordance with the GLTP. However, such initiatives rarely occur, as national and local authorities still face difficulties in coordinating and implementing the plans and instruments currently in place.

In any case, each planning process is preceded by a strategic visioning process, which aims to look at the ‘bigger picture’ and set the directionalities of interventions, rather than specific blueprint plans. Moreover, the plans, even though long term in duration, are conceived as dynamic documents, so that they may be revised periodically, upon the request of the municipality. The revision process may be lengthy if the required revisions are of a strategic impact, or shorter if the revisions are mostly localised. 

Influence of EU legislation and policies

The initiation of urban and regional development and planning policy in Albania was catalysed by the launch of the National Strategy for Development and Integration 2007-2013 (NSDI I). This strategy underscored the significance of mitigating regional disparities, which were viewed as hindrances to the nation’s overall progress. It pledged to establish a streamlined and inclusive planning and building permit system, as well as a unified policy framework for the socio-economic advancement of the administrative regions (qarks). These efforts aimed to consider the distinct developmental requirements of each qark, with a particular focus on providing substantial assistance to underprivileged areas.

In 2009, the approval of Law no. 10119 ‘On territorial planning’ had the aim of establishing an entirely new planning system reflecting a more spatial, comprehensive, and integrated approach, typical of Western European countries. The GNTP makes clear reference to several European directives and legislation as well – mostly in the environment and transport sectors. 

Moreover, the EU’s Cohesion Policy has played a pivotal role in funding infrastructure and development projects. There are recurrent attempts to set up a regional planning scheme, to encourage a place-based approach to development and social, territorial, and economic cohesion within regions. The Regional Development reform attests to this.

Aside from the above efforts, the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) funds projects aimed at improving regional development, transport, tourism, sustainable communities, and environmental protection. These funds support Albania’s efforts to modernise and enhance the spatial planning systems and capacitate local governments.


Spatial planning challenges and policy debates

Despite progress, Albania faces several spatial planning challenges. One prominent issue is informal urbanisation, particularly in the suburban areas of major cities. Informal settlements often lack proper infrastructure and services, posing significant social and environmental challenges. Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach, involving regularisation, infrastructure development, and social inclusion.

Although the swift advancement in local general plan development is notable, challenges persist in terms of effective implementation. The expedited pace at which these plans were formulated, alongside the reliance on outsourced processes and the utilisation of subpar information, has yielded plans over which municipalities exert minimal control and that exhibit notable deficiencies. Given that municipalities are obliged to align the issuance of building permits with local general plans, they are now compelled to commence the revision process for their local general plans. This entails rectifying errors and addressing the identified gaps to ensure robust and compliant planning documents.

A notable absence of synergy among various sectors, particularly during the execution phase, is apparent. Despite the recognition of sectoral conflicts within territorial plans and the existence of regulatory policies aimed at mitigating these conflicts, practical implementation paints a contrasting picture. In practice, the short-term gains associated with investments in the construction, energy, and infrastructure sectors frequently overshadow the consideration of socio-environmental impacts. Typically, the resolution of sectoral conflicts tends to occur retrospectively, after the fact.

Although it is regulated by law, still there is insufficient actual participation and transparency in planning, which poses significant challenges, particularly in terms of establishing democratic legitimacy and ensuring accountability. Moreover, the majority of inputs and perspectives from citizens and other stakeholders tend to surface exclusively during formal public hearings. Often, these inputs revolve around individual and private concerns, primarily related to the implications of the plan on personal property, or they emerge as immediate reactions to plan presentations. The existing participation practices lack mechanisms for documenting the progression of concerns raised by the public to the point where they can be specifically or broadly addressed. This deficiency diminishes citizens’ confidence in the participatory processes.

Figure 3: Planning system of Albania

Figure 3: Planning system of Albania

Important stakeholders

Institution/ stakeholder/ authorities Research field/ Competencies/ Administrative area
National Level
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy The key authority responsible for overseeing spatial planning at the national level. Previously this role was carried out by the Ministry of Urban Development, which was established to support and foster the new planning reform initiated in 2011, and was later abolished in 2017.
The National Territorial Planning Agency (NTPA) Established in 2009, the agency serves as the main institution at the central level to coordinate the local and national tiers of planning while providing assistance for local planning and ensuring compliance with legislation and regulations.
The National Territorial Council (NTC) A collegial entity composed of ministers of ministries whose remit has a spatial dimension. It is led by the Prime Minister and is the institution responsible for approving plans of national and local importance.
The National Agency of Territorial Development Serves as a secretariat to issue and monitor special permits for areas of national importance, or strategic territorial investments.
Local Level
Municipalities Municipalities are responsible for all planning processes within their territory, including developing the main planning instruments (the General Local Territorial Plan and local detailed plans), integrating planning and other sectoral policies, issuing building permits, etc. The NTPA must be consulted on all GLTPs, which must be approved by the NTC (national level) before they may be implemented. This is to ensure that national priorities are not overlooked at the local level.
Counties (qarks) Counties or qarks are the second level of local governance, with limited responsibilities for planning processes, mainly focused on consultations, the coordination of spatial proposals with bordering municipalities, etc.

Fact sheets

List of references
  • INSTAT (2023): Population of Albania on 1st January 2023. Available at: https://www.instat.gov.al/en/themes/demography-and-social-indicators/population/publication/2023/population-of-albania-on-1st-january-2023/ (15 September 2023). 
  • Aliaj, B.; Dhamo, S.; Shutina, D. (2009): Midis Vakumit dhe Energjisë (Between Vacuum and Energy). Tirana. [PL1] 
  • Allkja, L. (2021): Unravelling the Complexity of Europeanization in WB from a Spatial Planning Perspective – The Case of Albania, published in Governing Territorial Development in the Western Balkans, Challenges and Prospects in Regional Cooperation, Springer.  [PL2] 
  • Dhrami, K. (2020): Reinventing zoning through operational morphology – Innovative form-based codes for efficient territorial subdivisions and enhanced normativity in complex urban systems.
  • Toska, M., Bejko, A. (2019): Decentralisation and Local Economic Development in Albania. In: Annual Review of Territorial Governance in the Western Balkans, I, 53-68. DOI: 0.32034/CP-TGWBAR-I01-05.[PL3] 
  • Toska, M., Bejko, A. (2018): Territorial Administrative Reform and the Decentralization Strategy – Progress towards the Desired Objectives after a Governing Mandate. In: Annual Review of Territorial Governance in Albania, I, 69-83. DOI: 0.32034/CP-TGAR-I01-05.
  • Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) (1998): Constitution of the Republic of Albania. Text approved by referendum on 22 November 1998 and amended on 13 January 2007. Translated under the auspices of OSCE-Albania. Available at: https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/3/2/41888.pdf (30 September 2023).