Editorial: Returning to the real agenda of Albania -Kosovo relations: start with respect.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 14, 2020 10:12

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  • This persistence was again on display when Rama swiftly opposed the 'Albanian macro-Schengen' expression of PM Kurti with the awkward firm declaration: There is no Albanian macro-Schengen without the regional mini-Schengen."

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It was supposed to be a symbolic visit marking the first visit to another state from the new Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti. However the press conference at the end of the meeting between the two premiers revealed the real degree of existing tensions in the bilateral relations, especially in the political field. The unfortunate trend of bypassing institutional relations in favor of personal ties has generated a climate of distrust and often even of disrespect between leaders. The behavior of PM Rama in this visit, standing somewhat between subtle arrogance and ‘benevolent’ paternalism fitted right into this background.

In addition the visit also highlighted what experts have been shouting for long now: that economic and cultural cooperation are not even stagnant, they are regressing. The decision of the two Prime Ministers to establish an inter-governmental committee that will examine the 

implementation of the existing 77 bilateral agreements seems like an exercise in futile bureaucracy. The lack of ‘teeth’ of these agreements is so clear and obvious and has been meticulously reported. It is a bitter irony that the only functioning case of bilateral agreements is 

the exchange of ‘gas’ used by police forces to disperse protesters of the opposition in Tirana, which was vehemently criticized in the Albanian public opinion.    

The other decision , to continue with the fanfare-filled joint governmental meeting, this time next month in Shkodra, is just a sad prolongation of the populist show, which is favored by both these Albanian political actors, for different reasons.

It is indeed perplexing and frustrating to try and understand the dynamics behind this existing tension between Albania and Kosovo.

One major reason stands in the continuing refusal of Tirana to respect in full the fact that Kosovo is an independent state the only one with the authority and legitimacy to fend for itself. By inserting himself, uninvited, in the process of dialogue and reconciliation between Serbs and Albanians with the sole purpose of buying political capital to spend abroad, the current PM has done significant damage to the relations with Prishtina. Political leaders in Kosovo, in a rare show of unison, have expressed discontent and even 

ire to the positions of Rama. This has happened both in the cases of Rama speaking on behalf of Kosovo, and recently in the framework of the so called mini-Shengen initiative which Kosovo refuses to partake. 

There is a real, pragmatic and natural agenda of topics, issues and actions between Albania and Kosovo due to the fact that they both seek a European future on top of sharing their national identity. This real agenda of collaboration should include the concrete measures to stop the trade wars in the border, to revitalize the cultural exchanges and harmonize a series of strategic plans. However this agenda is hijacked by populism, often on both sides, but in the last years mostly on the side of Tirana. By replacing this real agenda with a fake ‘strategic agenda’ of regional cooperation, where the minimum preconditions are not met, the insisting of PM Rama on the mini-Shengen idea is only  the lack of progress on both.  

This persistence was again on display when Rama swiftly opposed the ‘Albanian macro-Schengen’ expression of PM Kurti with the awkward firm declaration: There is no Albanian macro-Schengen without the regional mini-Schengen.” 

His argument that Serbia and the West would cry out ‘greater Albania’ is unfounded at least for the West which has consistently supported the deep collaboration of Albania and Kosovo without any reservations.

Albanian leaders on both sides of the Morine border but definitely starting in Tirana at the Prime Minister’s office , need to return to the path of the pragmatic agenda if they really seek progress in the bilateral relations. The political class of Tirana needs to let go off its unnecessary and ill-thought paternalistic stance towards Kosovo and start to build proper institutional links in order to dismantle personal relations that carry no benefit and no sustainability for all the other citizens.

They can start by showing respect and humility, both of which were sadly missing from the side of the host in this first visit of the new Kosovo Pm to Tirana. 


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 14, 2020 10:12