President’s Papoulias visit doesn’t manage to resolve delicate issues between Albania and Greece

President’s Papoulias visit doesn’t manage to resolve delicate issues between Albania and Greece

Tirana, November 4, 2013

By Edison Kurani

IBNA SPECIAL REPORT/ President of Greece, Karolos Papoulias started on Sunday, November 3 a three day visit to Albania. After a meeting with the Greek minority, Mr. Papoulias started on Monday an intensive agenda of meetings with the highest authorities of the country. The meetings didn’t bring any concrete results.

The Albanian side demanded the abrogation of the war law, the recognition of the state of Kosovo and for the border practice of stopping Albanians born in Greece, if the name of the birthplace has not been written like it’s known in Greece (for example, Thessalonica in Albanian documents is written Selanik, Kastoria, Kostur, etc) to be put to an end. The Greek side had another agenda in Tirana.

The sea border was the main demand that the head of the Hellenic state had toward Albania. This demand received a cold answer by Albanian authorities: “The agreement has been abrogated by the court, let us start the negotiations from the beginning”.

This way, with two different agendas without any common elements between them, it was clear that the visit of president Papoulias didn’t bring any solutions. This also triggered criticism against Athens due to Papoulias’ disregard toward the demands of the Albanian side, by not willing to mention any of them.

“This and that”

papulias ibna4

The demands of the Albanian authorities have been constantly addressed toward Greek officials. A few days ago, deputy Prime Minister Venizelos was asked the abrogation of the war law with Albania, but Venizelos said that this has been done. He said: “Greece has announced peace with Albania following a decision of the Council of Ministers in 1987”.

This didn’t satisfy the Albanian side, because the same request was repeated with Mr. Papoulias. The head of the Greek state faced the old demand of Albania in the meeting with his counterpart, Bujar Nishani.

Mr. Nishani demanded the abrogation of the war law that exists with Albania since 1940. This request was to be followed by another declaration: “Relations between Albania and Greece will not be dominated and will not be determined by the problems of the past, but by the joint future. The spirit of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, Good Neighboring Relations and Security must define and guide cooperation between our two countries”.

The problems of the past were at the focus of the demands that the Albanian president submitted to the Greek counterpart.

“I demanded from the Greek Parliament to abrogate the war law which is still in power and which is holding under seizure the assets of the Albanian citizens in Greece and the abrogation of all the laws that emanate from it and which are against article 15 of the Treaty of Friendship”, said Mr. Nishani for journalists in the joint press conference with Mr. Papoulias.

This was not the only demand of the Albanian president. Nishani has also expressed his “concern for the failure to solve the issue of toponyms, which is becoming an obstacle for the free movement and services that relate to the legalization of other documents”. On the other hand, the president who was elected with the votes of the majority which is now in opposition, also demanded the recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, as Greece is part of the 5 out of 28 EU member countries which has not recognized the second Albanian state in the Balkan.

Papoulias keeps quiet about the war law and the “Tcham issue”, Rama and Meta keep quiet too

Contrary to the deputy prime minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, president Papoulias preferred not to mention the two issues that authorities of Tirana insist on resolving, the war law and what is known by the resolution voted in Parliament as the Tcham issue which must be resolved. In his declarations, Papoulias didn’t mention any of these points.

Even prime minister Rama and speaker of parliament, Ilir Meta didn’t say anything on these hot points in their press declarations. The Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati was absent in today’s diplomatic agenda, as he was in France in official meetings along with the Minister of Integration, Klajda Gjosha.

Sea border between the two countries, Greece is determined to close this issue

The sea border between the two countries remains an issue to be resolved. Like Mr. Venizelos a few days ago, president Papoulias too showed the determination of Athens to close the issue of the sea border with Albania. Greece wants to review several technical aspects of this document, which for the Albanian side is considered as invalid according to the decision of the Constitutional Court which overthrew the agreement signed by the government of Sali Berisha with the Greek government.

President Papoulias offered a solution in the framework of the incentive of the European Union for 2014: “The integrated sea policy will be a priority for the EU presidency in the first half of 2014 which will be presided by Greece, and also for the Italian presidency which will replace it”. Mr. Nishani has also talked about this argument: “Our side is ready to find a joint solution with the Greek side in compliance with International Law and the domestic legislation of each country”.

Papoulias talks about the integration of Albania

Next year will be a very important year due to the fact that Greece will take over the EU presidency in the first half of 2014, but also due to the ambition of Albania to advance in the process of EU candidacy.

In this framework, Albania recognizes and values the support of Greece in the Euro-Atlantic integration of Albania, especially in the process of NATO accession. President Nishani admitted that Tirana has expectations from Athens to help Albania be granted the EU candidate status in December of this year.

As far as the issue of integration is concerned, president Papoulias has had a meeting with the speaker of parliament, Ilir Meta. Following this meeting, Mr. Papoulias said that, “Albania part of the EU will be a contribution not only to peace and stability in the region of Western Balkan, but also beyond this”.

The Tchams had great hopes on Papoulias, they feel disappointed

shqiperia-cameria

The visit of the Greek president was accompanied with a protest organized by political forces that support the Tcham community. In front of a number of supporters, mainly Albanians of Tchameri, “Tchameria” association and Party for Justice, Integration and Unity held a peaceful protest chanting slogans such as “Abrogate the war law”, “Solve the Tcham issue”, etc.

In several occasions, the organizers said that they had high hopes on Mr. Papoulias, but added that with his the Greek president disappointed with his silence in Tirana. The politicians who held speeches also recalled a declaration made by Mr. Papoulias 20 years ago, where according to them, he had said that pending issues between the two countries should be discussed in 20 years time.

The head of PDIU, Shpetim Idrizi said that the protest was not against Papoulias, but “against the Greek policy, which Mr. Papoulias has represented, albeit in a moderated way”.

“Our protest is held to recall the fact that we exist and that the Tcham issue exists. Our protest is for good neighborly relations, which are built based on dignity and reciprocity”, said Mr. Idrizi.

Mr. Idrizi addressed to the Greek president in front of protestors with these words:

“Mr. Papoulias is our fellow countryman, a Tcham orthodox. He’s a living witness of the genocide which has been perpetrated on his brothers. He knows better than us that we haven’t cooperated as a community with the invaders. He knows this, because he has fought alongside Tchameria battalion”, said Idrizi amongst others in the long message for the Greek president.

Idrizi made a concrete proposal:

“The solution to the Tcham issue is very simple in the legal aspect. The war law should be abrogated, because we have not been engaged in a war with anybody. The 1981 act on war refugees should have been implemented even for Greeks with non Greek origins. This would offer us the possibility to return to our lands, to regain citizenship and denied rights the same as other war refugees”.

On the other hand, a letter has been sent to the Greek president by Artur Dojaka, head of the People’s Alliance, part of the left wing majority that governs the country today. He believes that the strategy of silence followed by Greece about the Tcham Issue has been wrong and has not functioned.

The letter suggest that “time has come for Greece to see reality as it is. Let us separate once and for all from the problems of the past, facing them and solving them”.

Minority and emigrants

papulias ne tirane

The Greek president also talked about the Greek minority, which he considered as crucial in the links between the two countries. “Greeks of Albania are the most powerful part of the Albanian politics, economy and society. We all agree that their rights must be fully respected. On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of Albanian emigrants that live and work in Greece are also a powerful bridge which connects the two countries”, said Mr. Papoulias after the meeting with the Albanian president.

Economic issues between the two countries

Albanians and Greeks have an early history and a rich tradition of cooperation and solidarity, as two neighboring countries which come from ancient times. The presence of the Greek minority in Albania and the Albanian community in Greece has strengthened these ties, also due to the fact that they have further enhanced human relations.

It’s a known fact that Greece is the biggest trade partner of Albania. Albania imports many goods from Greece and exports a lower amount. In this point, the interest of the two countries is the same. Greece has an advantage, because a lot of revenues enter the country.

Figures that talk a lot

Economic relations and trade exchanges between the two countries have seen a significant growth. As far as investments are concerned, based on the country of origin, Greece holds an important position in terms of foreign direct investments in Albania, with an average of 558 million Euros a year.

The level of cooperation and commercial exchanges has seen a growth in 2008 and 2009, to be followed by a relatively stable phase of exchanges as a result of the economic crisis.

A considerable number of Greek companies, around 300 of them, have invested in several sectors of the economy, namely in mobile communication, banking system, construction, services and industry.

According to the official data from the Albanian government, in 2012, the volume of trade amounted to 480 million Euros, while from January to August 2013, the trade volume amounted to 250 million Euros.

The two presidents focus on the economy

papulias ibna7

Albania is a country with functional democracy and political stability, with a dynamic economy, which managed to endure the economic and financial crisis relatively well. Albania is also an attractive country with many possibilities and legal infrastructure which favor foreign investments. Based on these arguments, Albanian authorities believe that the country offers a friendly climate for investments.

To discuss about the economic situation between the two countries, on Monday, the embassy of Greece in Tirana organized an Albanian-Greek round table on energy and economy. Present in this meeting were the presidents of both countries. Ambassador Rokanas said that the aim was to encourage cooperation between Albania and Greece in the domain of investments and trade relations.

The president of Albania, Bujar Nishani stopped on the TAP-Trans Adriatic Pipeline project.

“Albania is ready to collaborate with Greece on issues that relate to the implementation of the TAP project on the field”. Nishani suggested that, in collaboration with other countries of the region, the Project for the Adriatic-Ionian Corridor should be prepared and implemented.

The Greek president, Papoulias declared that he wants the bilateral relations between the two countries to move forward. “Let us push forward the relations between Greece and Albania. Let us base them on elements that join us. This is in the interest of both our countries, but also of the region”, said the Greek president. /ibna/