This article has been written for Albanian Free Press newspaper and www.afp.al
By Alfred Peza
Truth be told, Ilir Meta has been proven to be very careful when it comes to exerting his post as President of Republic, in his relations with the governing majority. Besides the refusal to decree the new head of the secret services proposed by PM Rama and the refusal to decree a bill voted by the Socialist Party, the rest of these 6-7 first months as president have been normal in terms of institutional relations. But, what ruined this current state of affairs was the issue of negotiations which is expected to lead to an agreement between Albania and Greece for the solution of almost all the historical problems between the two Balkan neighbors. The cause relates to the request that the minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati has sent to the President of Republic, Ilir Meta, where he demands authorization to start official talks with the Greek side. For more than two and a half years now, experts of the foreign ministries of both countries have been engaged in talks concerning all issues. This was also the reason for the meetings held in Crete and Korça in the presence of minister Bushati and his counterpart, Kotzias.
But, a few days after Bushati’s request for Meta, the bitter humor dominating inside the premises of the Presidency has first come out in one media and then in all others, turning into a topic of debate. Initially, media supporting the opposition and the presidency, alluded that through the ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government was trying to bypass the head of the state, without whom this agreement cannot be finalized as he has omnipotence over these issues.
But, what had happened in fact and what was the essence of the conflict?
Under the Constitution of Albania, the President of Republic has a role in International Agreements that the Republic of Albania negotiates and signs with other countries. The agreement which is being attempted to be signed with Greece is of an immense importance, not only as a result of history, complexity and public sensitivity, but also as a result of a previous agreement that was signed by Berisha’s government and which was abolished by the Constitutional Court in 2010.
In its final ruling, this court said that the Albanian delegation was not granted omnipotence by the president of the time, Bamir Topi, considering it as a threat to the powers of the head of the state. The lack of omnipotence, the court stated, is against the internal constitutional and legal framework and as a result, this incompatibility also affected the essence of the agreement that the state entered with the Greek side, considering it as anti-constitutional.
But, six years later, in 2016, a new law was adopted concerning international agreements (no. 43/2016), which specifies that in a process such as the one with Greece, the President of Republic grants his authorization for omnipotence to the minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Foreign minister did make the request to the president, asking him for an authorization in the negotiations with the Greek side, but in his response, the President of Republic pointed out three findings:
First of all, according to Meta, Bushati’s request does not clearly determine the scope of the negotiations for which authorization for omnipotence is requested.
Secondly, this request doesn’t specify the composition of the negotiating team and that this team is suggested to have a broader representation than merely be comprised of representatives of the ministry of Foreign Affairs or those who have been involved up to this phase.
Thirdly, more information is required on issues concerning the standards and methodology that will be used by Albanian negotiators, who need to submit an official document on everything that has been agreed so far in principle with the Greek side.
The President delivered a press conference on this issue, where he admitted that his role is not just to have the “omnipotence” in this process, but also to grant authorization in a process where he demands a more proactive role until the process is finalized.
“I didn’t want to make the letter of the president public and this is normal, but I have been forced to do this due to the suppositions and misunderstandings and I don’t want to become part of speculations or populism or even part of undeserved responsibilities in the future concerning an issue which may not head in the right direction”, Meta threatened.
The reaction of the Foreign ministry was calm and neutral: “We are revising the letter of the President of Republic, in response to the request sent by the ministry for authorization in starting negotiations with the Greek side for the delimitation of sea spaces between the two countries. We will respond to the issues raised by the president institutionally.
The minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs is engaged to continue the talks and consultations with the President of Republic on all issues concerning this process. The process that has started with Greece is complex, it requires composure, maturity, institutionalism and not the projection of a state of abnormality that does not exist”, said the spokeswoman of the Foreign ministry.
According to the government, the President controls the process in three key moments and his concern is greater than it should be: First, at the moment when omnipotence is granted to the minister of Foreign Affairs. Second, before the agreement is signed and it goes to Parliament for ratification. Third, when the document has been ratified and is sent to the head of the state to sign it into a decree.
Critics say that the government is trying to keep this processdiscreet, without making it transparent and that behind this, in the worst scenario, there’s some bargaining at the detriment of Albania, while in the best scenario, attempts are being made to take political credit for the success of this agreement with our neighbors who are members of the EU and NATO.
On the other hand, the noise being made by the President, taking an institutional issue out of the state and the government’s office, seems to be the opposite of what the government is doing according to its critics.
The best thing would be that each institution acts according to the role that the Constitution and law have assigned to them in this process, in order for merits, criticism or responsibility to be divided proportionally in the end.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Albanian Free Press’ editorial policy