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Joint statements of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos and Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati

Friday, 07 February 2014

venizelos_alvanos_ypex E. VENIZELOS: It is a great pleasure to welcome my dear colleague the Foreign Minister of Albania, Ditmir Bushati, to the Foreign Ministry, this time on the bilateral level.

I participated with Mr. Bushati this morning in the Intergovernmental Meeting of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative, which was chaired by Albania, and we then participated in the Conference on the European Union Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, which we want to transform into a macroregion, so that it can gain the development advantages offered by the macroregion institution.

But our meeting now was devoted to our bilateral relations. Greece and Albania are strategic partners. We are two friendly and allied countries.

We are pleased that Albania is participating in NATO, and we support our neighbouring country’s European perspective. We would have liked to have already seen Albania gain candidate country status for accession to the EU.

This wasn’t feasible at the European Council of this past December, but we are pleased because we will be returning to this issue during the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and we would like to believe that it will be feasible by the end of June.

We believe in the European perspective of all the countries of the Western Balkans, and we want to help decisively in that direction.

There is a list of issues that we are discussing, that we are working on, and on which we are ready to take the final, decisive steps, so that there can truly be a firm frame of reference that will help us to develop our cooperation, because there are very close economic and social ties between the two countries.

We were very sincere and direct in discussing these issues. This meeting of ours comes after many previous meetings on the level of Foreign Ministers, but also important are the talks we had with the Prime Minister, with Mr. Rama, with Deputy Prime Minister Peleshi.

I will also have the opportunity, in a relatively short time, to visit Tirana again, within the framework of my tour of the Western Balkans, in the capacity of Presidency of the Council of the European Union, so I believe that, there, we will have the opportunity to make official much of what we discussed today with Mr. Bushati.

I want to thank him for his visit, for the very good meeting we had on Adriatic-Ionian issues, on the multilateral level, and for the sincere talks we had on the bilateral level.

And I ask that he convey to Prime Minister Rama, to the Albanian government, to the Albanian institutions and the Albanian people, the Greek people’s feelings of friendship.

D. BUSHATI: Good evening to everyone. I am happy to be here in Athens today. I had the opportunity to feel, to enjoy, the sincere hospitality and reception of the President of the Republic, Mr. Papoulias, of Prime Minister Samaras, and, of course, of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos, with whom, from the moment I took over as Foreign Minister, we have laid a bridge of cooperation, discussing many issues that concern our bilateral relations.

Before I go onto issues that we discussed with frankness, with sincerity, and in a spirit of friendship, I would like to express the Albanian government’s spirit of solidarity with the residents of Kefalonia and Ithaki, regarding the difficulties they are facing today due to the earthquake.

I would also like to thank the Greek government for its cooperation within the framework of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative (AII) and the creation of the macroregions, in the context of which eight countries – four EU member states and four who aspire to membership in the EU – agreed on what we will call the “Athens Declaration” – which we, too, approved, as the country chairing the initiative – which will determine the cooperation of the eight countries participating in this initiative, so that we can promote this cooperation on the implementation of the macroregion policy. So that we can encourage regional cooperation, the process of further enlargement of the EU with new countries of the region, and, without a doubt, so that we can utilize the EU mechanisms, including the economic mechanisms linked with the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative and many other initiatives in the Mediterranean. Convinced that the sea is a common space that we should exploit and use to the benefit of economic and social development – not just of our countries, but of the whole region.

I was able to congratulate Mr. Venizelos on the priorities of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union, on the clarity with which Greece looks forward to EU enlargement, and on the fact that this year is the Mediterranean year. Due to the Hellenic Presidency, our actions are coordinated and well organized, so that each country can find itself in this programme within the framework of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative.

I expressed to my counterpart Mr. Venizelos, as well as to President Papoulias and Prime Minister Samaras, the Albanian government’s clear will to discuss and deal with the issues that still need to be resolved and will have a direct impact on the lives of citizens and also impact and contribute to the strengthening and further consolidation of Greek-Albanian relations.

There is a golden opportunity for us to refer to these issues: the fact that both countries characterize their bilateral relations as strategic and existential relations. We are neighbours who have shared a lot of happy times and difficult times. We are participating together in NATO, we are working together and gratefully accepting Greece’s expertise in the processes for our accession course to the European Union.

We are two countries that belong to western civilization, and we look at the resolution of our issues based on the principles of international law and in a spirit of good neighbourly relations.

Finally, allow me to refer to Mr. Venizelos’ tour of the Balkans, in the context of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European union, elements of which we had the opportunity to discuss during our meeting. We very much appreciate this tour, and we see it as clear proof of the efforts toward enlargement of the European Union, which is the only secure path for the Balkans.

I thank you once again for the hospitality, for the frankness of our talks, for the open talks we had.

JOURNALIST: My question is for both Ministers. I would like to ask whether you  discussed the issue of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and whether you discussed energy cooperation issues.

E. VENIZELOS: Our energy cooperation is very, very close. Greece and Albania are two countries that are playing a decisive role in the new pipeline, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline. The TAP, as I had the chance to discuss with the managing director of the TAP joint venture company – which is constructing the pipeline – is a very important investment for both Greece and Albania.

Moreover, geology itself unites us on many issues, in the sense that the geological structures indicate that there are hydrocarbons that can be exploited in both Albania and Greece.

With regard to the EEZ, you know that a bilateral agreement was signed in 2009 on the delimitation of the maritime zones – not just the EEZ, but also the territorial waters and the continental shelf. Our goal is for the ratification process to be completed. We have the will to proceed, based always on the International Law of the Sea, conventional and customary.

I am optimistic. I believe that these procedures will be completed relatively soon, and that we will show the high level of our cooperation and our common belief in what Mr. Bushati called western civilization, which naturally includes a very specific perception of international law and good neighbourly relations.

D. BUSHATI: Regarding the first question, I would like to add something to what Mr. Venizelos said. But I would like to mention that we see the pipeline as a further potential – not just as a bridge linking the Adriatic and Caspian seas, not just so that we can have greater energy security in the region, but a great opportunity and potential for the development of other sectors of the economy as well; sectors to which we see the energy sector as being of vital importance.

Albania is situated in a unique geographical position. We do not see the TAP as an end in itself. In fact, we also support the other natural gas pipeline, the IAP. We want there to be an axis, within the framework of the AII, of multilateral cooperation in all directions. And in this context, our cooperation with Greece and Italy is of decisive importance.

Regarding the other question, you are aware of how the issues have developed with regard to both Greece and Albania, the internal processes of my country, it is very clear to public opinion. But what is important is that we have the will to look to the future and discuss the issue on the basis of the fundamental principles of international law and on the basis of mutual interest.

I said earlier that I don’t say this for rhetorical reasons, but if we refer to our history – to the history of the past – the sea, historically, was a single, common space and a point of reference for western civilization. Our relations with the west were often shaped via the sea. Albania and Greece are no exception.

JOURNALIST: Did you discuss the functioning of bilateral committees and the matter of place names?

E. VENIZELOS: In the context of the agreement on friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation, there are bilateral committees that will be activated. I imagine that issues such as water resources, transport are appropriate and necessary as the subjects of these bilateral committees.

As for the issue of place names, yes, we want this issue to be handled with the aim of reaching a definitive solution; a solution within the framework of international law and good neighbourly relations; a solution that does not create problems for everyday citizens – a solution that makes their lives easier, without there being any misinterpretation or any misunderstanding in relation to the high level of our good bilateral relations and the implementation of international law and good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

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