A Brief History of the Administrative-territorial Organization in Albania

1912 – 1924

Upon the proclamation of independence from the Ottoman Empire, the Albanian government adopted the administrative organization laid forth in the law “The Appropriate Code of Civil Administration in Albania” that entered in effect on November 22, 1913. According to this law, the country was divided in prefectures headed by the prefect; sub-prefectures headed by the sub-prefect, and krahina headed by the head of krahina. The government established eight prefectures: Berati, Dibra, Durrësi, Elbasani, Gjirokastra, Korça, Shkodra and Vlora.

1925 - 1945 

The organization and functions of the local governments were defined by the “Organic law on municipalities” that entered in effect in 1921 and later by the Civil Code approved in February 1928. The base local government unit was the village headed by the oldman (kryeplaku), who was elected by the village inhabitants. Municipalities were established in towns or rural centers with more than 200 families. The municipality was led by the municipal council elected for a three-year term by the citizens. The municipality was headed by the mayor that was elected by the people, as well. In 1928, the government added the commune as a local government unit.  The commune included several villages and was led by the head of the commune alongside with the commune’s council that was comprised of the villages’ oldmen.

The sub-prefecture
was an administrative-territorial unit with civil administration functions. At various points in time, the sub-prefecture was called the district (rreth). The prefecture was the largest local government unit headed by the prefect, who was appointed by the Minister of Internal Affairs and approved by the President of the Republic, later the King. The prefect held executive functions. The prefecture and the sub-prefecture were not associated with any elected structures. The prefecture’s Administrative Council was comprised of the heads of prefecture’s departments and by few (as a rule, two) members elected by the people for a two-year term. The Administrative Council was approved by the Minister of Internal Affairs.

In 1927 Albania was divided in 10 prefectures, 39 sub-prefectures, and 69 ‘krahina’ with 2351 villages. In 1934 there were 10 prefectures, 30 sub-prefectures, and 160 communes with 2351 villages. In 1940 there were 10 prefectures, 30 sub-prefectures, 23 municipalities, 136 communes, and 2551 villages.

1945 - 1992

Starting in 1945, the administrative organization of the country changed many times in terms of structure and the number of units for each structural unit. In 1945, the government kept the administrative division in 10 prefectures and 61 sub-prefectures, but abolished the communes and municipalities. In 1946, a new administrative structure was put in place with 10 prefectures, 39 sub-prefectures, and a partial introduction of the locality. In 1947, the locality took precedent as a local government unit and replaced entirely the communes. Thus, the country was organized in prefectures, the districts (rrethe), localities, cities, and villages.

In 1953, the region (qarku) replaced the prefecture. This new administrative division included ten regions: Shkodra, Tirana, Durrës, Elbasan, Vlora, Berat, Korça, Gjirokastra, Dibër, and Kukës. The law mandated the election of the Zone’s People’s Council. The regions included 26 districts and each one of the districts included three or more localities.

In the mid-50s the government applied a new administrative-territorial organization in four regions (qarqe): Elbasan, Gjirokastër, Korça, and Shkodra, with 3-4 districts (rrethe) each. Berati, Durrësi, Fieri, Kukësi, Kruja, Lushnja, Mati, Peshkopia, Skrapari, Tirana, Tropoja, Vlora, and the city of Tirana were defined as districts. The rest of the local government units included localities, villages, and towns.

In July 1958, the government abolished the regions (qarqet) and delineated 26 districts (rrethe). The city of Tirana preserved its status as a separate district. Based on this new administrative organization, there were 26 districts, 203 localities, 2655 villages, 39 towns, and some of the towns included several neighborhoods.

Starting in 1967, a new local government unit appeared: the unified village. The unified villages could be comprised of several villages next to each other or several villages that were geographically dislocated from each other. This was due to the organization of the state agriculture enterprises as unified villages coincided often with the borders of the state agriculture enterprises. In 1968, Albania was divided in 26 districts, 437 unified villages, 2641 villages, 65 towns, and 178 town neighborhoods.

In 1990, there were 26 districts, 539 unified villages, 2848 villages, 67 towns, and 306 town neighborhoods. Tirana includes three rayons and each one of them was comprised of several neighborhoods.

Starting in 1945, the people’s councils elected by citizens for a three-year term were established at all levels of the local government units:  villages, unified villages, localities, towns, districts, and regions. An executive structure was put in place in each of these units under the supervision of the people’s councils. In villages and unified villages the head and secretary of the people’s council carried the executive functions; at the district level these functions were carried out by the executive committee (komiteti ekzekutiv). This committee was elected by the people’s council, but was also considered as a local unit of the state administration, thus reporting both to the people’s council and the central government.

1992 - 2013

In 1992, the Council of Ministers introduced changes to the administrative-territorial organization of the country, based on the article 1 of the law nr.7572, dated June 10, 1992 “On the organization and the functions of the local government.” This law prescribed for 36 districts, 44 municipalities, and 313 communes. Local councils were established at the municipality and commune level with members elected by the citizens. The mayors and the heads of the communes were also to be directly elected by the people. Later, the law nr.7608, dated September 22, 1992 “On the prefectures” mandated the establishment of 12 prefectures as units headed by the prefect who is appointed by the Council of Ministers. A prefecture included 2 – 4 districts (rrethe).

During 1992 – 2000 several partial changes to the administrative-territorial organization of the country took place but without any major structural changes. In 2000 Albania had 36 districts, 65 municipalities, and 309 communes. In 2000 the law nr.8653, dated July 31, 2000, abolished the districts (rrethet) as administrative units and re-established the regions (qarqet). Starting in 1992, the municipalities are established only in towns. In few exceptions they might include a town and few villages. The communes, as a rule, include only villages. In few exceptions a commune might include a town. 

Albania has currently 12 regions (qarqe), 308 communes, and 65 municipalities.

Some main features

While analyzing Albania’s the administrative-territorial organization after 1945, one could note the following:
  • The number of the prefectures/regions has remained more or less the same (10 to 12). The increase of this number by two prefectures/regions does not constitute an essential change in the prefecture/region’s functions and their reach. 
  • The introduction of the regions in 2000 implied the abolishment of the prefectures as territorial units. But, the prefect remained the representative of the Council of Ministers at the region’s level.
  • The number of unified villages, towns, communes, and municipalities has changed significantly for a variety of reasons. In the ‘70s and ‘80s there were 400 of such local government units. In the ’80s and ’90s their number grew drastically. This was often due to the dissolution of the former agricultural cooperatives and state enterprises.
  • The number of districts for nearly 40 years stayed more or less the same. In the last decade, that number grew with ten new districts. This reflects growing trends of self-governance, but does not necessarily reflect the development of the districts. The increase in the number of districts that brought about the shrinking territory of the districts, in particular of the smaller and new districts, often had a negative impact in the districts’ capacity to implement their mission. This led at the end to the abolishment of the districts as local government units.

facebooklogo     youtubelogo

Technical Secretariat

Bulevardi “Dëshmorët e Kombit”
Tirana, Albania

Tel: +355 42 277561