Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 15, 2019 10:24

Albania-Greece negotiations on pause due to deadlock

Story Highlights

  • Another reason Katrougalos mentioned when asked on the progress of Albania-Greece negotiations and the interrupted dialogue, which had taken off when former Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias were in office, was that the Greek government was expecting a clearer answer on greek minority issues.

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TIRANA, Mar. 14 – The Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos said in a radio interview on Thursday that negotiations between Greece and Albania on a number of important issues have slowed down also due to Albania’s deadlock – something official Athens takes in consideration.

Another reason Katrougalos mentioned when asked on the progress of Albania-Greece negotiations and the interrupted dialogue, which had taken off when former Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati and former Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias were in office, was that the Greek government was expecting a clearer answer on greek minority issues.

He mainly referred to two laws related to the minorities’ property protection at the front of the Himara coast and the right for self-declaration that they are part of the Greek minority.

“For the moment, we’ve received some answers from the Albanian side, there is a “fusion” of negotiations, but it is premature to say there will be a positive or negative result,” he said.

Katrougalos added the Greek side wants to see an improvement of bilateral issues between the countries and for Albania’s EU path to open.

Up until last July, Athens and Tirana were conducting a number of head-to-head meetings through Kotzias and Bushati, in order to reach agreements on a number of open-ended issues between them, accumulated through the years.

Agreements were actually reached on building cemeteries for the Greek soldiers who died in Albania during WWII, the apostille stamps, while the abrogation of the War Law with Albania is still expected by Athens. Meanwhile, the Greek side removed any possibility that the Cham issue would be on the table for discussion, while retaining rights to negotiate greek minority issues.

Nonetheless, the issue that was most debated by political actors from all sides of the spectrums, experts and the public opinion alike was a new maritime border deal between the countries and the lack of transparency that accompanied the negotiations between Bushati and Kotzias.

The negotiations to reach a new maritime border agreement that would finally divide the naval space shared by the countries were promoted publicly by both Greek and Albanian Prime Ministers Alexis Tsipras and Edi Rama, despite the lack of information on the negotiators and the non-functionality of Albania’s Constitutional Court under the ongoing justice reform process.

The functionality of a Constitutional Court is particularly important concerning the maritime border deal, since the previous one – negotiated by then ruling Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Sali Berisha – was rendered useless by Albania’s Constitutional Court for violating the country’s interests and the constitution.

In context of Albania’s frozen Constitutional Court under the lack of judges and prosecutors, President Ilir Meta had stated that no agreement would be decreed on his side without a court, only to have Rama disagree about its necessity in ratifying the deal.

However, Rama and the Socialist government have had to face many challenges in addition to the Constitutional Court freeze, including the massive university student protests last December which forced him to reshuffle a big part of his government cabinet, among whom Bushati, and the opposition protests which have, as of late, left the parliament without a functioning opposition.

However, asked concerning the division of territorial waters between the countries, Katrougalos said this is the one issue that will be finalized despite the progress of negotiations, as confirmed by Tsipras himself, part of a similar negotiation that will take place with Italy and Egypt as well.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 15, 2019 10:24