Rhodes, September 12, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Mr. Bushati, how important was today’s conference for you, for Albania and the region?
The conference is twice as important, because of the topics that it included and secondly, due to the presence of a group of countries which have a legitimate interest on the developments in the Mediterranean and here, I refer to EU member countries such as Greece, which is hosting the conference, or Italy and EU associate member-countries, such as Albania, but also other countries which are members of the Arab League or in the Persian Gulf. As far as we’re concerned, this is one of the mottos of foreign policy: locked in the Balkans and open in the Mediterranean. As a result, every incentive in the Mediterranean which helps stability, security and makes the Mediterranean an economically developed area, is in line with our foreign policy objectives.
A few days ago you were in Bratislava where you participated in the EU’s ministerial meeting. Have there been developments between Albania and the EU, particularly in relation to the integration of the country?
On September 8th, we held the Stabilization and Association Council, which is an annual event, where Albania and the European Union sit together to discuss the progress made in terms of European integration, but also to identify the steps which facilitate the implementation of the necessary reforms for this process.
In July, Albania passed a very important constitutional reform, which relates to a drastic change of the judiciary system. As we know, the reform in the judiciary system is key for all the reforms concerning the rule of law. It is key, first of all for democratic development; it helps strategic investments in Albania; but it is also important for our European path.
Let me remind you that this reform was one of the key priorities set out by the European Commission for Albania’s integration process and with the ratification of the constitutional package in parliament and the start of the implementation of this reform, it is reasonable for us to expect a recommendation by the European Commission, which would give the green light to begin accession talks.
Last year you participated in a meeting between Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and FYROM. What are your expectations and what can you expect from a future meeting that will soon take place in the same format? Do you think such a format makes the divisions between the countries less important and would you agree for this format to include Turkey in the future?
Last year, the four countries that you mentioned, sat and discussed the challenges that related to migration, because Greece was much affected by the migratory influx, but other countries too, which were part of this meeting, had gone through similar experiences. The idea of this meeting was to better coordinate the joint efforts of all our countries, but also to send a message of unification to the European Union and other key players that such unprecedented crises since the Second World War could only be addressed through understanding and agreed actions by more than a small group of countries.
Of course, these four countries are linked together by topics which go beyond migration; and in case we need to discuss wider topics, there are other important players in the region, such as Turkey, which you mentioned.
But, for the time being, this incentive which launched last year, must start and yield concrete results in the domain of migration. We also had a meeting on a level of interior ministers and police commissioners to coordinate all efforts in the domain of migration. It is time to see what we can improve and what action plans could make this incentive more concrete.
Albania has good relations with FYROM and Turkey. Recently, Albania faced a domestic political crisis. What is your assessment on the consequences of the attempted coup in Turkey and could there be consequences for the region?
The situations that Ankara and Skopje are going through are not similar. I would like to remind you that the political difficulties that neighbouring Skopje is facing relates to the political contest and the need for a better cross ethnic climate and the need to speed up several important processes that concern democracy and the rule of law.
These are processes which affect other countries of the region, including Albania. As far as the political situation in Ankara is concerned, Albania has condemned the failed coup attempt and has always been in favor of solutions that are based on the democratic legitimacy. But, on the other hand, in the Council of Europe ministerial, which was held about the developments in Turkey, I stressed that we strongly believe that the consequences after the coup d’etat would be addressed in compliance not only with the constitutional obligations that Turkey has, but also international engagements, European standards and the European Convention of Human Rights.
Mr. Minister, as an observer of relations between Greece and Albania, I’ve noticed that these have improved significantly. Given that Albania will hold elections next year, I would like to know if some of the unresolved issues between the two countries will be part of the debate, and the debates concerning the coalitions that will be formed?
Greece is a good neighbouring country and a strategic partner to Albania. We’re joined together not only by geography, but also by history and the common future of the two countries. It is in the best interest of both countries to continue and breed good relations and solve all disputed and pending issues in the spirit of trust and mutual respect and in compliance with international law.
With my good friend and colleague, Nikos Kotzias, we have agreed on a platform of cooperation in terms of the issues that need to be addressed and a group of experts from both sides are in constant communication to explore the best way on how to overcome situations which in the past, may not have been that pleasant; and on the other hand, how to offer the best solutions to make relations between Greece and Albania sustainable.
In every society, in Greece, Albania, but in other European countries too, I believe, during pre-electoral or electoral campaigns, there are times when the situation becomes very heated and particular individuals or marginal parts of our societies attempt to occupy the public debate with different issues and with a nationalist rhetoric which I don’t think is embraced by the majority of people in Albania and Greece.
I don’t think nationalism in Greece targets Albania and I don’t think that nationalist rhetoric which some in Albania may have in mind, may automatically target Greece and the Greeks. I believe that our countries, being two NATO member-states, have the necessary maturity to move forward by always solving those issues that sometimes seem to create a gridlock for the solid relations that Albania and Greece have.