Foreign Ministers of Albania and Greece meet in Tirana

Foreign Ministers of Albania and Greece meet in Tirana

Tirana, 6 June 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Edison Kurani

Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias arrived on Monday (06.06) to Tirana for a two day visit in an effort to normalize relations with Albania regarding several issues which remain pending due to disagreements.

Mr. Kotzias faced a tense situation near the Foreign Ministry’s building, as a number of supporters of what is known as the Tcham issue, had gathered in a rally.

The Tchams’ protest

The participants were well organized. They had microphones and megaphones with them and blocked “Gjergj Fishta” boulevard where the Foreign Ministry is located.

Police was positioned in front of the protesters, but did not prevent the protest.

Due to the situation being blocked, there were slight efforts by the Foreign Ministry to unblock the street.

This was not achieved and the Greek delegation didn’t use the main entry, but the side one of the Foreign Ministry, where there was no presence of protesters.

The protest was led by “Tchameria” organization and the leader of PDIU, Shpetim Idrizi who is also vice speaker of parliament.

Protesters launched slogans such as “Albania in the EU, lift the veto”, “Our mother Tchameri wait for us”, “Abolish the war law”, etc.

Meanwhile, during the whole time, besides the chants, there were also patriotic songs for the Tchams in the background.  These songs were even heard within the Foreign Ministry.

Police didn’t confirm if the protest was lawful and if a permit was taken for it.

The meeting and the press conference

Kotzias met with Bushati and their delegations for nearly an hour. They also had a tete a tete meeting.

The meetings were held without the media presence.

Afterwards, the two ministers came out for a press conference where each one held a short speech and then answered to the questions addressed by two Greek journalists and two Albanian journalists.

It was clearly seen by Kotzias and Bushati’s declarations that there was a great will to normalize relations, but at the same time a lack of tolerance to solve the issues as soon as possible.

Irony and discontent against the media were not spared during this press conference by Albanian Foreign Minister Bushati.

Courteous declarations were also present between the two ministers.

What’s more important is that it was clear that both governments have a will to address issues in a European way.

Bushati

In the joint press conference, minister Bushati said that several topics were discussed with Mr. Kotzias. Above all, the War Law, which Greece hasn’t yet abrogated, properties of Greeks and Albanians, the graves of the Greek soldiers and sea borders.

“We have exchanged several ideas in order to head toward a joint platform to address bilateral issues which are on the table and I’m glad I can say that we have agreed for a joint mechanism, which will gather periodically to discuss all issues”, Bushati said in the press conference that IBNA followed.

Stopping on the demands of Tchams for the recognition of their rights, among which the lands for which they claim that the Greek state has robbed them, Mr. Bushati said that Albania doesn’t have territorial claims against Greece. “We don’t have territorial claims against Greece. For us, this is an issue of human rights which has several components, the freedom of movement, right of property, the right to respect the Tchams fallen in Tchameri”, Mr. Bushati said.

Bushati also spoke of a memorial for fallen civilians. This is the first time that Albanian authorities address such request. This request comes as a result of the fact that Kotzia’s package of proposals includes the request to honor Greek soldiers killed during the Second World War.

“In the ideas exchanged with my friend, Kotzias, I noticed that there are many things in common and a will to move forward. We have agreed on a guide map”, Mr. Bushati said. “With Greece, – he added, – we have a strategic partnership, but also a great potential which we can exploit”.

Kotzias

The Greek Foreign Minister was inclined for the disagreements between the two countries to be addressed as soon as possible. For the first time he talked about a quick solution of the “war law”, when he said that “we will find a solution which satisfied both sides”.

The Greek Foreign Minister also made a clarification of how Athens sees this issue: “Greece believes that with the declaration of the Council of Ministers in 1987, we are not at war. This is true. The Friendship Treaty of 1986 is also true. Albania’s integration in the NATO and its EU accession perspective makes us friends and partners. If the other side has doubts as to whether we are or not at war, then this will be part of the discussions and I believe that we will find a solution which will satisfy everyone”.

As far as the Tchams are concerned, Kotzias also talked about addressing this argument in a fair way. Kotzias became the first Greek minister who made a clear division between Tchams who collaborated with the Nazis and those innocent civilians. “We know that there is a Tcham population that lives in Albania and we are hoping for them to benefit from the integration. But there are also several Muslim Tchams who are Greek citizens”.

Meanwhile, as far as Albania’s EU integration is concerned, Mr. Kotzias said that there is no Greek veto, but only support. He gave assurances that Albania will not prevent Albania in its European path.

“This is our joint philosophy, because we must address our existing problems and look into the future. We are thinking of solving them through culture, dialogue and understanding, thus through European culture. Dimitri’s proposal for a road map and a timeline is supported by the EU instruments and we must uphold this to an institutional level. We must solve problems of the past and proceed with the accession of EU member countries in the Balkans”, Kotzias said.

Mr. Kotzias also made a clarification. He said that the stances articulated by him are different from what the ministry that he leads issues.

***

Meeting between Bushati and Kotzias was the second one in a few months in Tirana.  The same as last time, this meeting didn’t bring anything concrete either. However, it seems as if there was a serious effort by Athens and Kotzias was well prepared for his visit, armed with a package of proposals to address the problems between the two countries.

But the tension during the visit caused by the protest in front of the Foreign Ministry, Mr. Rama’s strong declarations and the anti-Greek climate which has become more intense in the recent days in Albania, especially on the media, didn’t help in appeasing the climate between the two countries, in spite of the courteous declarations for excellent relations which Kotzias and Bushati didn’t spare.

On the other hand, the meeting clearly showed that “Kotzias” package did not receive any clear answer from Tirana and no deadline was given as to when the disputes between Albania and Greece would be put to an end. /balkaneu.com/

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