A return to normal relations between Albania and West Germany may be even closer than Albanian leader Enver Hoxha's retirement. Both sides have been putting out feelers for some time. Early this month, it has been learned, contacts developed into very hush-hush meetings here between officials from Bonn and the Albanian capital, Tirana.
There were two sessions, each of two hours, and the talks are to be resumed early in the new year. Both sides declined to give details. While the Albanians emphasize that the talks are preliminary and low-level, they nonetheless obviously attach serious importance to them.
The stumbling block in relations with Bonnhas been Albania's claim to wartime reparations. Italy paid war damages and relations were resumed in the 1960s. But West Germany has always rejected the claims.
Now, however, the Albanians have apparently dropped use of the specific term.
''We don't talk about it in that way any more,'' an official says. ''Negotiations with Bonn are on the basis of 'normalization' of relations and the settlement of problems left over by the war.''
Albania's Constitution bars foreign aid, grants, or credit from any quarter. But, if the sensitive reparations issue were by-passed, a valuable door could be opened to a formula for technical and other support from West Germany for Albania's current efforts, not only for further industrialization but to modernize.
Return to diplomatic ties between West Germany and Albania would leave Britain the only major European Community member without ties with Tirana.