UK’s support for Albania’s EU bid to continue despite Brexit
- Brexit doesn’t mean that we will be retreating to our island,’ British ambassador says at AIIS event
By Ledion Krisafi
TIRANA, March 15 – The United Kingdom’s support for Albania’s EU integration process will not diminish after Brexit, said British Ambassador to Albania Duncan Norman, at an event organized by the Albanian Institute for International Studies (AIIS) and the British Embassy in Tirana.
“UK is not getting anywhere after Brexit,” said Ambassador Norman, “we are here to stay”.
He said that UK is leaving the European Union, not Europe, and that his country will continue to work closely with Western Balkan countries.
In 2018, the UK will host the next summit of Western Balkan countries, a continuation of the Berlin process.
Asked if this position is contradictory because while the UK is leaving, it supports Albania and other Western Balkan countries to become part of the European Union, the British ambassador said that this is not the case, because what is good for the UK is not the same with what is good for Albania.
He stressed the fact that the Western Balkans is a very important and strategic region for the European Union and it should be taken very seriously. UK will continue to support and finance reforms in Albania and the other countries of the region.
“Brexit doesn’t mean that we will be retreating to our island,” said the British ambassador.
Asked about the political crisis in Albania and the opposition’s protest, Norman said that UK hopes that there will be fully participatory elections. He recognized the difficulties to every elections run-up in Albania.
“The most important thing of all,” he said, “are free and fair elections”.
Asked about the economic relations between the two countries and the British investors in Albania, Norman mentioned Shell and Vodafone as big British investors in Albania.
But, he said that in order to become attractive to foreign investors and to attract serious investments, Albania should make a lot of changes. He mentioned the judiciary system as one of those changes, in order to have a really free judiciary system and political stability.
By mentioning Byron’s voyage, Norman said that the United Kingdom has a deep connection with Albania, which will not alter after Brexit.
But he addressed the reputational issue of Albanians in the UK. He said that more than half of the cocaine in UK is controlled by Albanians and Albanians make up a considerable part of the prisoners. For these reasons he announced that the British diplomatic personnel in Albania will be augmented in order to cooperate more closely with the Albanian government to tackle these problems.