3. Cultural and creative sectors
Last update: January, 2022
Albania has a total of 2028 cultural monuments89, including mosques, Muslim quarters, Orthodox and Catholic churches, convents, Shia Tekke, Byzantine walls, Roman, Illyrian and other remains, representing a coexistence of peoples for over three millennia. Certain caves also fall under the jurisdiction of the Institute of Cultural Monuments, based on the Council of Ministers’ decision Nr. 451/1993.
The Regional Programme on Cultural and Natural Heritage in South East Europe of the Council of Europe in 2003 had 3 components: The Integrated Rehabilitation Project Plan/Survey of the Architectural and Archaeological Heritage, Ljubljana Process: rehabilitating our common heritage and Local Development Pilot Projects (LDPP)90.
The Cultural Heritage Act Nr. 9048 approved on 7/04/2003 was the legal framework covering all activities in relation to preserving, promoting and managing the Albanian national heritage. On 27/07/2006 certain amendments were made by Act Nr. 9592, which introduced the National Committee of National Heritage as an advisory body. The Committee consisted of senior officials directly responsible for the promotion of cultural heritage in Albania. Article 17 provides for the establishment of a National Council for Restorations to grant permission for restoration of cultural heritage buildings and monuments.
After successes with the National Park of Butrinti, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sport established seven more Archaeological Parks in Albania to further promote the historical and cultural heritage and provide sustainable development for the local economies concerned.
In 2005, the government approved the Strategy and Action Plan for the Development of Tourism based on Cultural and Environmental Tourism, aiming to rediscover Albania's cultural and historical identity and to take action to better protect, manage and promote its national patrimony. It is based upon the UNESCO report on "Cultural Patrimony in South - Eastern Europe: Albania" (No:3 : May 2004). The strategy was supported by UNDP's Support to Eco and Cultural Tourism Development Programme (2006-2009), UNESCO's Centre for Restoration of Monuments in Tirana (June 2005 -November 2009) and other initiatives related to the further safeguarding and promotion of the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Albania.
After 4 years of major restorations were completed in 2015, the Archaeology Museum in Durres re-opened, and the national Programme for Cultural Heritage 2013-201791 outlined 16 points, including building a plan for the restoration and revitalization of some important monuments of late historical heritage such as the National Theatre, which was later demolished by the government in 2020.
The Law on Cultural Heritage and Museums 27/2018, among others, sets up rules on the trade of cultural assets and free movement.
In 2019, the Institute of Monuments “Gani Strazimiri” and the Agency of Archeological Services merged to form the National Institute of Cultural Heritage92 based on the Decision by Council of Ministers Nr. 364, date 29.05.2019 “For the Functioning and the Activities of the National Institute of Cultural Heritage. Based on in its status93, the Institute’s main focus is tangible heritage research, preservation, promotion and also rescue and prevention activities for cultural heritage. The Institute also sets the criteria for archaeological research, reviews the technical documents in relation to the process and supervises and monitors the development of projects, depending also on the decisions of the decision making bodies. The National Institute of Cultural Heritage also maps, updates and publishes the Digital Platform for Archaeological Activities in the Republic of Albania. The Regional Centre for Conservation and Restoration functions at the Institute and its main activities are: informing and updating restorers and licensed subjects, drafting and implementation of qualification programmes for specialists in the field of tangible culture heritage.
Also, in 2019 the Albanian Ministry of Culture, with the support of the Albanian American Development Fund, prepared the National Park of Butrint- Integrated Management Plan (2020-2030)94.
Open source databases have been created including “Preserving Tirana”, “The Albanian House” and “Preserving the Western Balkans”. Often the reason for the degradation and demolition of these homes is that the inheritors do not have the wealth or status of their ancestors along with factors of multiple ownership and migration leaving them neglected and unrestored. There is also a difference between the assessments of institutions and the community on heritage that has led to conflicts95. The case of the National Theatre clearly showed this difference, leading to the country’s longest-running civil society protest lasting over 2 years, until the theatre’s ultimate demolition in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. This came despite being listed by Europa Nostra among the seven most endangered monuments in Europe. It’s demolition was first suggested in 2002 by then Mayor Edi Rama, but was overturned through petitions submitted by artists and intellectuals to the Prime Minister of the time.
The Legal Regulatory Framework96 for cultural heritage is based on Decisions by the Council of Ministers, the Code of Behaviour, National Legislation, International Legislation (for the accession of the Republic of Albania to the European Convention for the Protection of Archaeological Heritage revised and in the Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage), Manuals and Policy Documents, Strategy, and other legal acts.
The Annual Report 202097 from the National Institute of Cultural Heritage outlines the developments for legal acts, approved and in process, European and National projects for cultural heritage such as EU4Culture, Interreg IPA CBC Italy- Albania- Montenegro 2014-2020, Programme of 100 Villages, Balkan Mediterranean 2014-2020, IPA 2017 Action Programme for Albania, Integrated Urban and Tourism Development Programme, Educational Programmes, etc. Collaborators and supporters for 2020 include the European Union - Office of European Delegation in Albania, UNOPS- The United Nations Office for Project Services, UNESCO- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, AADF- Albanian American Development Fund, CHWB- Cultural Heritage without Borders, TIKA- Turkish Agency for Collaboration and Coordination, KOASH- Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania, TAP- Trans Adriatic Pipeline AG, FSHZH- Albanian Fund for Development, AKPT- National Agency for Territorial Planning, and FAU- Faculty of Architecture and Urban Development.
A 213,260 Euro project supported by UNESCO was approved in 2019 to be implemented by the Ministry of Culture over 26 months by conducting a community-based inventory of intangible cultural heritage in Albania98. The National project has since formally recognized traditional dances, livestock migrations and craftwork in the national inventory. This came after the 2018 UNESCO inscription of “Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle” as Serbian intangible cultural heritage, led many in Albania to point to their own tradition of singing epics to the Lahuta not being recognized.
Based on the Annual Report 202099, the main challenges for the National Institute of Culture Heritage in 2021 are the lack of legal acts in accordance with law nr. 27/2018 “For Culture Heritage and Museums”. This has disrupted the normal activities at the institution, such as a lack of Decisions by the Council of Ministers for the procedure of declaration of cultural interest and public competition. Also, there is a lack of legal basis for the relevant fees for project applications, licenses, archaeological monitoring, project drafting, observation, etc. Regarding the budget, there is a lack of funds for implementing the drafted projects for the 2021-2023 Project Budget: culture heritage endangered by outdoor climate, strengthening of the human resources in the field and financing of the IPA projects.
In 2020, the Authority of Audiovisual Media (AMA) and the Ministry of Culture signed an agreement for funding, about 60,000 euros, for audiovisual projects promoting Albanian culture heritage.100
While heritage development has generally been good for tourism and economic activity, there are concerning issues such as ongoing construction of a bypass road in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Gjirokastra, despite a call in June 2021 from UNESCO101 for its urgent suspension to assess the risk to the city. At its 44th session in China in July, the World Heritage Committee said it “urgently requests the State Party [Albania] to halt construction” until a monitoring mission is able to visit and assess whether the project has or will cause any damage to the city’s “Outstanding Universal Value”.
In September 2021, archaeological work began in Durres to study the Roman period and locate the ancient hippodrome from 1600 years ago, after approval from the Institute of Archaeology and the Ministry of Culture, with volunteers and students of the "Aleksandër Moisiu'' University in Durrës invited to join the excavation. Reconstruction work in Durres has come under fire at times for not respecting legal procedures, as Albanian law requires that construction in archaeologically rich areas be monitored by professional archaeologists.
Last update: January, 2022
Archives and libraries
The Albano-Balcanological collection of the Albanian Literature Commission began as a joint Albanian and Austrian institution established in Shkodra in 1917102. The National Library in Tirana was the country’s first public and non-religious state institution, founded in 1920. After WWII, public libraries opened in smaller urban centres. The first documented effort to create a Central Archive is the decision dated 02.01.1932 of the High State Council, to review the draft-regulation for the registration of important events.
Private collections from this period103 and earlier were mostly destroyed by circumstances or confiscated by the government by 1950.
In 1947, the Documentary Archive of the Institute was created at the Institute of Studies, followed by The Central State Archive (AQSH) in 1949, established as a central body under the Institute of Studies, by the Council of Ministers Order Nr. 21/ 08.06.1949. The Central State Film Archive was founded on 10 April 1947. In 1948 the decree was passed whereby copies of all books published in Albania were obligatorily sent to the National Library, making it also the archive of all publications in the country. This has been amended several times and exists today as the Law on the Compulsory Donation of Books, approved in 1992 and ensuring 5 copies of each title printed are given to the National Library. By 1957 the first University Libraries were opened.
The first 2-year part-time training course was opened in the National Library in 1969, and continues to attract new librarians today. In addition to providing the basic skills to future librarians, the course publishes and distributes various training handbooks, classification tables, and other professional materials, including the journal Library Bulletin (Buletini i Bibliotekave) which is published twice a year.
There is a Parliament archive from 1991, which currently includes all acts, laws online104, a Presidential archive from 1993, the Centre of Official Publications105 - the largest online archive for all government documents, and several ministries and other public institutions have digitized archives, increasing access to information.
The Library Act Nr. 8576, approved on 3/02/2000, provides the legislative and the institutional framework relating to the funding and management of public libraries in Albania. The Law provides for the functioning of libraries as a unique national network and also considers them to be an integral part of the national system of information. The Law recognises the particular responsibility and role of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, at the time, to provide strategies and policies for the development of the national system of libraries, regardless of which other authority or agency is responsible for them.
According to Library Act Nr. 8576 03/02/2000, Article 14, amended on 8 April, 2004 by Act Nr. 9217, Article 5, provides for the establishment of the National Council of Libraries as the advisory body to the Minister. It provides advice and recommendations related to the training of librarians, infrastructure needs of public libraries, as well as setting the norms and rules regarding the standardisation of library services in Albania. The National Council of Libraries assists the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to draft and implement strategies and policies, as well as to follow the activities of the libraries nationally.
The National Library106 in Tirana, which celebrated its 100th anniversary, has increased its online digital collection, and the National Film Archive107, established in 2006, also a subordinate of the Ministry of Culture, has successfully restored several films and improved digitization, cataloguing and promotion of Albanian films.
There are municipal libraries, university libraries, and others at The Centre for Openness and Dialogue at the Prime Ministry, the Academy of Sciences, while the Arts University Library contains 35,000 volumes. In 2019, Tirana municipality operated 8 libraries, but not all municipal units were administering a library. From 2017-2019, seven of the eight libraries were updated.
The INSTAT 2020 Business registry lists 37 companies under “libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities”.
Based on the proposal from the Minister of Culture, the Council of Ministers decided108 to establish the National Book and Reading Centre in 2019, which previously was a department within the Ministry of Culture.
Also, the Centre for Diaspora Publications at the Ministry of Diaspora for the school year 2019-2020, distributed 12,000 educational books in the Albanian language in 19 different countries109.
In 2020, the e-Albanica Digital Library contained 154 books (1873- 1944); 127 collections of Albanian retrospective magazines, mainly of cultural character (1883-1944); 123 antiques (1473-1800); 178 manuscripts (1106-1945); 78 maps (1560-1800)110.
Last update: January, 2022
The performing art in Albania are also known as “scenic/stage” or “interpretive” arts. From 1960-1996 “The People's Artist” was an honorary title for outstanding art performers, created "in order to encourage the creativity of artists for the further development of our art by creating works of high artistic value, which reflect the heroic past of our people, its historic victories, its glorious work in building socialism as well as helping the communist education of the working masses", affirmed by Law Nr. 3171, Dated 26.10.1960. The Merited Artist was a second-level award. Neither were awarded after 1991, but replaced in 1996 with “Grand Master of Work”, and again as "Grand Master" after a 2001 amendment of the 1996 law.
A new Law of Theatre was created in 2000, replaced by Law Nr. 9631/2006 on Performing Arts, and then both replaced by a new Law on Arts and Culture, Nr. 10352/2010111. In covering performing arts, music and circus, it outlined the following institutions: National Theatre; National Theatre of Opera, Ballet and Folk Ensemble; National Cultural Centre for Children and Puppet Theatre; National Centre of Art and Culture; National Gallery of Arts; National Circus; and National Comedy Theatre. In 2014 the National Centre of Art and Culture dissolved into the administration of the Ministry of Culture. Also that year, the National Comedy Theatre was closed and reopened as the National Experimental Theatre.
There have been many concerns form performers regarding their pensions, and the Ministry of Culture has drafted a bill for changes to the “Pensions of some complex artist professions” 2017112, specifically for state but also private employed performers of ballet, circus, opera, musical theatre, state ensembles, wind instrument orchestras, choirs, etc.
The Albanian Arts University, founded in 1966 as an Academy, has a Department of Music and stage Arts, and there is a public School of Ballet (Shkolla e Baletit), however there has been a continuous increase in private schools, businesses and not for profit organisations that preserve and promote diverse genres of performances.
The largest quadrennial performing event in the country is the Gjirokastra Festival which began in 1968, and it promotes mainly traditional dance, music, costumography etc., and takes place in the heritage castle of Gjirokastra.
The Albanian Dance Theatre Company was the first independent contemporary dance company in Albania founded in March 2000. Since its establishment, the company has had at least one new production every year. The National Centre of Mediterranean Theatre has contributed to Albanian theatre for over 20 years through international events such as the International Theatre Festival in Butrint and recently promoted their documentary “Future Begins Today” supported also by the Western Balkans Fund. Many performances are often held at heritage sites including the ancient theatres of Butrint, Apollonia and Bylis and castles of Gjirokastra and Shkodra. Since 2017, Reja (Cloud) Fest has hosted hundreds of performers in music, dance and other activities as well as training sessions and lectures, at the Cloud installation in the centre of Tirana. Other civil society organisations active in the performing arts are the Albanian Association of Contemporary Theatre, MAM Foundation for Contemporary Arts, DoArt, etc. Tirana has also restored the communist era amphitheatre by the artificial lake for various singing, dancing, theatre and other performances administered by the Agency of Parks and Recreation of Tirana Municipality.
A new multifunctional centre ArTurbina, a revitalization project, opened on July 2th, 2018. ArTurbina is a modern, multifunctional art centre. Its name is related to the origin of this building as a Hydro Turbine Laboratory during the communist regime. The new theatre has two stages, one with 400 seats and another with 150 seats, both with the latest technology.
In April 2020, Europa Nostra placed the National Theatre in Tirana on the top 7 list of most endangered heritage sites113, and in May 2020 the building was demolished after a two-year debate and protests to conserve and protect it, and Europa Nostra condemned the brutal demolitions. Many are looking forward to the new theatre. Another new building opened in 2019 in Tirana, Air Albania Stadium, rebuilt on the same site after demolition of
Dinamo Qemal Stafa Stadium, and available for various performances.
During the Covid 19 pandemic, even though the re-opening at reduced capacity of theatres and cinema, etc. was good news, the private sector considered this an unfair situation in relation to publicly funded institutions, like The National Theatre of Opera, Ballet and Folk Ensemble which receives the largest budget from the Albanian Ministry of Culture. Compared to other subordinate institutions, the private sector depends heavily on audience ticket sales. Throughout the summer of 2020, fall and winter, the artists, institutions, and organizations of cultural events continued online. The Albanian Ministry of Culture and its institutions organized several online events in opera, music and theatre. On February 10, 2021 the Online International Theatre began, with 20 participating teams and the support of the Ministry of Culture, National Theatre, Tirana Municipality, and Raiffeisen Bank.
Last update: January, 2022
- Law Nr. 9807, date 20.9.2007 for some changes to Law Nr. 7892, date 21.12.1994 “For Sponsorship”
- Public Institution budgets are created and administered based on the Law and Decision by Council of Ministers Nr. 432, date 28.06.2006 “For creation and administration of income, generated by budgeting institutions” and other guidelines by the Minister of Heritage and Finance.
- Law nr. 7961, date 12.07.1995 “Working Code of the Republic of Albania”, changed
- Law nr. 90/2012 “On the organisation and function of state administration”
- Law nr. 87/2016, “On accession of the Republic of Albania to the European Landscape Convention”
- Law nr. 8561, date 22.12.1999, “On expropriation and taking for temporary use of the private property for public interest”;
- Law nr. 102/2014, “Customs code in the Republic of Albania”, changed
- Law nr. 9154, date 6.11.2003, “On Archives”
- Law nr. 9632, date 30.10.2006, “On the system of local taxes”, changed
Last update: January, 2022
Among the main developments in the cultural arts and creative industries has been the incorporation and use of new technology, data collection and statistics. The National Strategy for Culture 2019-2024, mentions the establishment of a Centre for Research of the Cultural and Creative Industries. Its purpose is to centrally organize training and research, fundraise for the implementation of local and international projects, create a central statistical system for data on the culture and creative industries in Albania, collect and publish cultural data from all public and private actors, create promotional platforms for cultural tourism, etc.
Last update: January, 2022
Books and press
The Business Registry 2019 from INSTAT119 lists 276 active in publishing activities, an increase from the previous two years. The number of actual companies publishing books is higher due to small scale, mixed activity printing companies. According to artists, there is a lack of research and publications for the arts as of 2021120.
There is a 20% VAT on printing, where in Europe the rate fluctuates between 4 and 6%. There is 0% tax on book sales. Sales of books have shown decline in Albania during economic or political crises. The rise of e-books and technologies has also presented challenges to publishing houses.
In 2020, the highest increase in prices for cultural goods and services was 'Books' by 2.1%, according to INSTAT 2020 Culture Statistics.
The Tirana International Book Fair takes place every year in November with participants from around the world, presenting the latest publications in Albania and translation from Albanian into other languages. Books in all genres from around the world are translated and published in Albanian.
Last update: January, 2022
Audiovisual and interactive media
The Cinematography Act Nr. 8096121, approved on 21/03/1996, was a challenge to the existing system of the state-owned film industry, and encouraged prospects for the development of this industry in Albania. The Law provided that one per cent of the income resulting from the selling of tickets must be invested to support Albanian films produced by the National Centre of Cinematography (NCC). Film producers were expected to direct 20% of their income from selling films to cinemas or TV companies to the NCC. This commitment was not always realised by the film producers due to certain reasons.
In 2007 the Albanian Audiovisual Media Authority was created and was authorized to control content, issue fines and suspensions. In 2013 the law Nr. 97/2013 on “Audio visual media in the Republic of Albania” came into effect. By 2018 the Government set out to amend the laws 97/2013 and later 9918/2020122 in what was known as “the anti-defamation package”. The Albanian government continued to push for the amendments despite criticisms from civil society, the OSCE and the Venice Commission Opinion Nr. 980/2020 of 19 June 2020. The new provisions aimed to grant the Albanian Media Authority the power to adopt restrictive measures, including the forced removal of content. In 2021 the ruling Socialist party was accused of filling the Media Authority with party loyalists123, and The Delegation of the European Union in Tirana requested the postponement of the election of the President of the Audiovisual Media Authority.
The INSTAT 2020 Business Register lists 266 companies involved in motion picture, video & television, sound recording and music production, 202 companies involved in printing and reproduction of recorded media, and 187 companies in programming and broadcasting.
In 2020, from the age group 16 - 74 years, 72.2% of the population use the Internet, of which 88.2% use it every day. From this age group, 98.8% of individuals access the internet through mobile/ smart phones. While 24.4% and 7.2% of the target population uses the internet through laptops and tablets. 93.9% of individuals that have interacted with public authorities through the internet are satisfied with the services offered.
Last update: January, 2022
With original elements, Albanian music is a fusion of Southeastern European music including heavy eastern influences from the Ottoman Empire. Under Hoxha's regime, music emphasized patriotic devotion to the party, and since the 1990s has looked increasingly outward for international influences. Albania has a classical music tradition and several well-known operatic singers with world fame, while modern pop, hip-hop and rock music feature common elements found in mainstream music, and electronic music is very popular as well.
Epic poetry through song is characteristic of Northern traditions with lyrics often carrying moral and social values, often accompanied by the lahuta and çifteli, one and two stringed instruments, as well as woodwinds like the clarinet. Softer polyphonic sounds are characteristic of the south, while violins and guitars are more common. Folk iso-polyphony was inscribed in 2008 on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005).
Since 1990, the diversity of music genres and private businesses in music production and promotion has increased in the country. Besides regular complaints from the artists for not receiving support from the public institutions, the sector has had large support from private businesses and the media.
The Albanian Ministry of Culture and its subordinate institutions support several traditional, classical, instrumental and contemporary music events and festivals and has signed cultural agreements with other countries in order to organize collaborative and exchange events. Also, the Arts University and the Musical Professional High School (Liceu Artistic) organize and host many musical events.
Some popular music events in the country with or without public institution support are: UNUM, Turtle Fest, Mik Fest, Kala Fest, Guitar Festival, etc.
Last update: January, 2022
Design and creative services
Since 2013, Tirana Architecture / Design Weeks (TA/DW), organized by Polis University, work to promote the exchange of knowledge between professionals at both the national and international level in order to increase the public’s interest in architecture, art, and design as disciplines that are closely connected to the contemporary development of cities.
In 2016 the Albanian Ministry of Culture began the Artistic Competition "The storytelling of legends through graphic novels" which has continued under different themes for several editions, increasing the diversity of social groups involved and the promotion of new artistic genres.
Small businesses are active in providing diverse design and creative services.
Last update: January, 2022
Cultural and creative tourism
Albania has a total of 2028 cultural monuments, preserved heritage sites and monuments, diverse cultural influences, along with the ability of many locals to communicate in several languages, making cultural tourism a good fit. According to the National Institute of Statistics, Culture statistics data124, the number of visitors to monuments of culture, castles, museums, archaeological parks, and other sites in 2016 increased by 17.5 percent from 2015. Visitors to museums, castles, monuments and archaeological parks had surpassed 1,000,000 visitors in 2019 with about 55% of those being foreign visitors, dropping to about 10% in 2020.
IntoAlbania is a tourism development project funded by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and The Embassy of Sweden in Albania. IntoAlbania.com has strategic partners including the Ministry of Culture of Albania and the Ministry of Tourism and Environment of Albania. The 3-year programme, which started in 2017, aimed to generate an economic benefit of $16.3 Million, an increase of over 60.000 visitors and create 670 new jobs125. It combines an Internet Platform and Smartphone Application, Modern Digital Technology on Key National Museums and a Character Hospitality Model with Selected Hospitality Providers.
On 22 December 2018, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the Albanian Ministry of Culture and the municipality of Korça inaugurated the new Gjon Mili Museum, occupying the Romanian Building, one of the most iconic buildings in Korça. The investment of 425,000 Euro was part of TAP’s social and environmental investment (SEI) programme. Gjon Mili (1904-1984) was a pioneer in the use of stroboscopic instruments to capture a sequence of actions in one photograph. He is most famous for his images that captured Picasso drawing with light.
There have been and still are many grants supporting tourism and development promotion in Albania from the European Union implemented also by Regional Cooperation Council, including several routes such as Routes of the Olive Tree126.
As can be seen from the Table below, the 2021 net income for travel and tourism in Albania for the first 6 months of the year was 3 times higher compared to 2020, since the expenses decreased compared to previous years.