OP/ED: Road to The Hague leads Albania to… Europe

OP/ED: Road to The Hague leads Albania to… Europe

By Renato Lekka*

The decision of Greece and Albania to take their differences to The Hague for an international dispute shows the way for how transnational problems can be solved. A road of respect and mutual understanding, a road of solidarity. The government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the government of Edi Rama came to an agreement to resort to The Hague.

The agreement between Greece and Albania, to appeal to the Hague Tribunal for the determination of maritime zones, is a positive development in bilateral relations. And it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the most important after the signing of the Friendship Pact, by the then President Kostis Stefanopoulos, in 1996 in Tirana. As both the political class and the journalistic world are aware of, the agreement on the EEZ signed in 2009 was in any case dead after its rejection by the Constitutional Court of Albania, and there was no chance it could be included in the talks for a settlement.

At this point it would not be negative to emphasize that the Greek side is also improving its image internationally, as a country that seeks and can settle outstanding issues with its neighbors on the basis of international legality. Of course, Albania has won more as it received praise from its partners, waiting for a date to be set for the start of negotiations for its accession to the EU.

Turkey remains the unknown factor, because what has not been clarified is whether Prime Minister Rama received Erdogan’s OK to agree or put the interests of his country first, which is none other than its European perspective. It is a matter that will be seen in the future and he will be judged on it. Albania and the Albanian people are always looking for European integration. It is a great desire and a chronic diplomatic strategy. It makes sense to complain when you go to a negotiation – of which The Hague is a part – as you never take or lose it all.

Lawyers, internationalists, diplomats, experts in the Law of the Sea, will be called upon to defend the positions of their countries in pursuit of the best result. There is something equally important in the agreement on the EEZ: the approach to such a crucial issue can and must “unlock” Greek-Albanian relations, creating a favorable climate for the settlement of other outstanding issues, which remain stuck.

I would like to see Tirana and Athens begin the resumption of relations in the interest of both peoples. The opportunity must not be wasted. At the same time, the current delay in accession talks with Albania jeopardizes the European Union’s credibility in the Western Balkans. Albania deserves to move forward on its path to EU membership. Its overall reform efforts in recent years, especially in the field of justice, must be respected, as well as the Commission’s positive assessment. The country has a long way to go but it has made tremendous strides over the years. On the other hand, we must add that Albania must make efforts in various areas in order to meet all the conditions set out in the Council conclusions./ibna

*Renato Lekka is the Editor-in-Chief of the TV station Action24, a journalist in the newspaper “To Pontiki” and a member of the Athens Daily Newspaper Editors Association