by Aggelos Skordas
In view of his forthcoming visit to Crete on Thursday evening, where he and his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias will discuss all bilateral issues between his country and Greece, Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati appeared before the Albanian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Although the main issues in the committee’s agenda were unrelated to Bushati’s visit to Greece, the opposition strongly criticised Edi Rama’s government for the cancellation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreement between Greece and Albania, signed in 2009 by Prime Ministers Kostas Karamanlis and Sali Berisha. Opposition Democratic Party of Albania MP and former Foreign Minister Tritan Shehu accused the current Albanian government of destroying the country’s relations with its neighbours.
“The EEZ agreement was reached in accordance with international standards. You have to sign a new agreement. You, due to your adventurism, are destroying relations with neighbouring countries”, Shehu highlighted while addressing to the Albanian Foreign Minister. “Standards of the Greek-Albanian EEZ agreement were antinational”, Bushati replied. In May 2014, Rama administration unilaterally cancelled the 2009 agreement defining the maritime borders between Greece and Albania as well as the two countries’ EEZ, accusing the previous government of “treason”. Albanian Constitutional Court’s rapporteur on the cancellation was the former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri, appointed by Rama and now accused of connections with the major Albanian-Catanian drug trafficking cartels. Since then, it has been repeatedly claimed that Turkey was behind deal cancellation.
Exiting the Albanian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ditmir Bushati highlighted that bilateral dialogue has encountered difficulties, but Tirana remain committed to continuing dialogue with Athens, as the two countries still need to solve a series of issues.
“This is a dialogue that has difficulties. The positions are clear. We are close to finding solution on several issues. These are not negotiations but a discussion being held in a format that is recognised and being applied around the world. There is a commitment by the Albanian government for a more active role, to be more open to Greece. These issues have been made public several times by me and the Greek counterpart. That is why we have decided to have this dialogue”, he said adding that some issues are still considered hot, and concern consular topics, minority rights and the role of Albanians living in Greece. “We are ready to find the best solutions. I do not think it will be a brief dialogue. But I express my willingness to continue it. Though, there are issues that require time”, he concluded.