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Joint statements of Foreign Minister Kotzias and the Foreign Minister of Albania, Ditmir Bushati, following their meeting (Foreign Ministry, 21 March 2016)
N. KOTZIAS: Good morning. I must say that today, which, for our Ministry, from the standpoint of our internal operation, is a difficult day, it is a great pleasure to have my friend Ditmir in Athens.
I welcome his visit to Athens as a follow-up to my own visit to Albania. Ditmir is a friend of Athens, both from the standpoint of our relations and due to the fact that he lived here, with many friends, he studied European Law, and he knows our city well.
Since our last meeting – at which we agreed that we must meet more frequently – we have stepped up the relations between our two Ministries. Our Secretaries General met recently.
We want to resolve the problems that come from the past. We want to resolve them creatively, to the benefit of both sides and in cooperation with our societies, so that we can deal more with what we can do for the future and how we can upgrade the Balkan region overall.
As you know, since the 1990s we have had a friendship agreement, which we want to renew; we want to upgrade it and put a number of issues into it.
My colleague and I talked at length about matters confronting our diplomacy, and I think that we have made a good start towards seeking solutions on matters of mutual interest, as well as towards promoting solutions on issues that have to date been the subject of disagreement or divergence.
We also talked about Albania’s course of accession to the European Union, about the implementation of the five points that have been set by the Commission and the Council.
We talked about the importance and the rights of the Greek minority in Albania, just as we talked about the importance of our Albanian fellow citizens here in Greece: bridges of friendship and understanding between the two countries.
We talked about the economic relations of the two sides, and we will continue our discussion this afternoon. And we will also continue it in the immediate future. We have found common codes of communication, criteria for the solution of our problems. Our criteria are international law, European culture, and the needs of our peoples as well as our states.
Once again, Ditmir, I want to welcome you. You are always welcome here in Greece, and we are pleased that we can have creative discussions, because the work and duty of Foreign Ministers is not to list problems, but to solve them. Thank you again for coming today, on a beautiful day, and for coming with your wife, who, from what I know, is very familiar with Greece, having studied in Thessaloniki.
D. BUSHATI: Thank you. Thank you for the welcome. I would like to start by expressing my condolences to you on the death of one of your most distinguished diplomats, your late Ambassador to Spain, who was also, at one time, the Ambassador to Albania. I express my condolences to his family and his colleagues.
As my counterpart Nikos said, today we had the chance to discuss – apart from issues that concern our region, security issues, refugee issues, issues concerning strengthening cooperation in the security sector – bilateral issues, as well. I believe that there is mutual understanding with regard to the different nature of the problems we are facing in the context of Greek-Albanian relations. These are issues of grave importance that have been bequeathed to us by the past, but also issues that concern our common future.
We have endeavored to prioritize these problems and discuss, first, the philosophy of the manner in which to solve them, the parameters of this solution and the foundation on which we will base ourselves, because our countries are neighbouring countries, they are strategic partners, they are members of NATO, they are countries that share common interests in the Mediterranean and the Balkans. And, naturally, it would not be odd to say that that the solutions we are seeking are based on international law and the European spirit.
Moreover, I believe we are headed towards the finalization of the mechanism through which we will try to resolve these matters, not simply through frequent meetings on the level of Ministers, Secretaries General and existing committees, but through the renewal of an institutionalized joint platform.
We are committed to creating this mechanism, at the soonest possible time, so that any obstacles to our common course – whether they be from the past or of the present – can be dealt with by us, with an eye on the future, and so that we can resolve them one at a time and conclude on a package agreement.
We will thus encourage the development of Greek-Albanian relations, as Nikos said. The duty of Foreign Ministers is not simply to identify problems. I can say that there is no taboo in our relations. Our relations on an institutional level and on a personal level are very good.
Even when we look at issues from different points of view, we see that all of the matters must be settled – not just the ones of grave historical importance, but also current issues. They have to be settled so that we can free up the positive energy between Greece and Albania.
I believe that we are both clear. A more consolidated relationship between Greece and Albania will have a positive impact on the present situation prevailing in the region.
We talked about Albania’s European perspective. I have said repeatedly, and I highlight now what I have said in Albania’s Parliament, in the meeting with the President of the Hellenic Republic. We thank Greece for the assistance it is giving us on our European course. We will never forget the fact that Albania was granted candidate-country status during the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union, even though, following the Lisbon Treaty, the role of the Presidency is limited. But we are grateful that we were granted the status in question during the Greek Presidency, and from that perspective we will do more positive work and we will resolve the problems one by one. Thank you.
JOURNALIST (“EFIMERIDA SYNTAKTON”): Mr. Minister, we heard general declarations, but we didn’t hear anything specific. Are there specific differences, at this time, that we are working to resolve, like the EEZ issue, for instance? Do you have anything specific to tell us on that? Has there been any progress? Thank you.
D. BUSHATI: I don’t think there is any doubt about the following: Just as there are issues on which there is full agreement, there are also issues on which we are at the stage of sketching out a solution. A solution based on international law and mutual benefit. In public opinion, there is often talk of those issues on which we haven’t managed to find solutions, but not so much is said regarding the issues that unite us.
Regarding the issue you mentioned, it is true that this issue is part of a discussion of principles regarding how it can move towards resolution and what mechanism we need to find so that we can resolve this issue in accordance with the institutionalized rules of international law.
It is in our interest as well as Greece’s for us to move forward on this issue. It is an issue that concerns our future. It is an issue that is part of the broad range of important plans that will be implemented by the European Union in the Adriatic-Ionian region, in the sector of economic development and in the energy sector.
The issue of the EEZ and the continental shelf would be a good chance for us to free up positive energy so that we could make possible the implementation of these European plans. From this podium, I have spoken of the sea as an area of potential, as a point of contact, and not as a zone that separates us.
Across the range of issues we discussed today, we conversed in this spirit. In the spirit of finding a mechanism, without imposing on one another, in full understanding. And I believe that when we have found a solution, there is no doubt that we will announce it publicly.
N. KOTZIAS: Foreign Ministers are for resolving problems, not for announcing their thoughts. There are those who misunderstand this, because they think that the function of Foreign Ministers is to make statements to the media from morning to night.
What we agreed is that there is a mechanism, there is a method for resolving any problems that might arise in a manner that serves everyone’s interests.
This method, this mechanism makes us optimistic.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Foreign Minister of Greece, I would like to ask whether Greece, whether and when you will take to Parliament the annulment of the state of war between the two countries.
Mr. Foreign Minister of Albania, I would like to ask whether Albania will open its borders and how it will be able to assist on the issue of refugees, to alleviate, as much as possible, what is happening with the refugee crisis in Greece.
N. KOTZIAS: Greece is not at war with Albania. This is shown by the 1987 statement from the Ministerial Council, it is shown by Albania’s membership in NATO, it is shown by the Friendship Agreement of 1996.
If there are legal issues that, for the Albanian side, require further recasting, as I said, there is a mechanism and a method for all the issues to be resolved.
With regard to the refugee issue, I don’t think we should see it as a problem in the relations between Greece and Albania. Don’t forget that Greece is hosting 650,000 Albanians. So Albania, too, has extensive experience of the movement of populations. And I think that the spirit in which we dealt with the problems then is the spirit in which Albania is confronting the current problems; problems which, based on the logic of the agreement in Brussels, should be curbed and not grow, and thus not provoke fears that Albania will suffer the same problems.
I think it is in our thoughts to develop the cooperation between the Interior Ministries, between our police directorates. This is another sector in which the Foreign Ministers will contribute towards better cooperation between other institutions of the Greek and Albanian public sectors.
D. BUSHATI: Regarding the question you raised, I can say that Albania will honor all of the commitments it undertook as a candidate country for accession to the European Union – I am referring to the commitments of last October – so as to contribute, with the capabilities it has, with the limited economic resources it has, to resolving the problems of the refugee crisis in the framework of a common European solution.
Albania has shown resolve in this direction, and since the beginning of this year we have strengthened our cooperation, especially with Italy, in order to avoid or to avert the side effects the refugee crisis might have with regard to irregular migration issues, which in previous decades were a social burden for the Mediterranean and our countries: Albania, Italy and Greece.