"Albania´s bilateral relations: foreign policy challenges and opportunities"

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 15, 2020 13:36

Introduction to the Publication:

"Albania´s bilateral relations: foreign policy challenges and opportunities"

By Author: Dr. Klaus Fiesinger

Southeast Europe and especially its part of the so-called "Western Balkans" is in public opinion generally regarded as a key geostrategic region, but still also perceived as some area of remaining open or hidden local tensions and neighborhood-conflicts due to the continuity of diverse political or religious identities, ideologies and interests. Such obvious political or mental factors, mainly caused by partial still existing intolerant mind-set, misperception and prejudice-pattern, could lead to some further stagnation or delay of some necessary reconciliation and cooperation process and could over this provoke the danger of maintenance or recurrence of populism or nationalism. In consequence such a possible scenario would have decisive influence on regional stability of the "Western Balkans".

 

Basic precondition for development and peace in that fragile region are communication and cooperation between all relevant Western-Balkan-6 neighbor-states (WB-6), such as Albania, Serbia, North-Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as it is manifested and proclaimed in the "Berlin-Process" agenda. Such an interactive approach obviously corresponds to the renewed "Enlargement-Strategy" of the European Commission from February 2018, to guarantee  the "EU-Thessaloniki-promises form 2003", if the Western Balkan States are really ready to solve their problems in a cooperative consensus also by themselves in "Regional Ownership".

 

According to the processes of political decision-making there should not be any doubt about the fact, that constructive neighborhood-relations and regional cooperation of the WB-6-states need as basic pillars mutual understanding and widely common interests. Some necessary meaningful prerequisite and precondition for these both pillars are own political strategies and capacities of realizing them, the knowledge about ideas, interests, strategies and tactics and political assertiveness of the competitor-countries in the near neighborhood and furthermore the awareness about mutual perceptions or misperceptions in order to avoid wrong conclusions and negative consequences. Misunderstanding and misperceptions cause the deepening of narrow-minded fixed prejudices and mental barriers and evoke distrust, enmity and conflicts instead of trust and partnership as relevant components of development, stability and peace. The perception of reality is not automatically the reality itself. 

 

Some analytical survey of perceptions of political stakeholders as well as of citizens of the countries is even more necessary and inevitable by considering the fact, that the paramount approach of the "Berlin-process", which remains a decisive catalyst of regional cooperation and EU integration,  goes beyond of mere governmental interactions and recommends some interrelation and connectivity of all relevant socio-political stakeholders including civil society and the NGO-sector. 

 

In this context the following publication about "Albania´s bilateral relations: foreign policy challenges and opportunities" gives some very interesting findings on historical, political, economic and social issues of Albania to its neighbor-countries and is exemplified by three comprehensive analytical case-studies about Albania´s relation to Serbia, Kosovo and North-Macedonia.  

 

The case-studies refer not only to the different governmental decision-making processes but contain also some remarkable survey of carefully measuring, analyzing and interpreting the perceptions of Albanian citizen about these bilateral relations with Serbia, Kosovo and North-Macedonia. Such an approach intends to inform policymakers and to identify gaps and fields of intervention, if reasonable and required. 

The answers reveal a complex overview of judgements, expectations and interpretations of via opinion-polls asked citizen about policy and population of their neighbor-countries and about foreign policy of Albania itself.  Taken together the results of the people´s opinion point clearly out the importance of economic priority according to all neighborhood-relations in order to establish or to enlarge regional stability and prosperity including the protection of the interests of Albanian communities, living in the region. 

 

The following study, elaborated from scientific researchers of the "Albanian Institute for International Studies" (AIIS) and supported by the Tirana Office of Hanns-Seidel-Foundation-Office in Albania (HSF), offers a profound insight picture of all relevant aspects of the just mentioned neighborhood relations.  The reports include expert papers, that do both: stock-taking and analysis of problems and potential challenges for the future from the Albanian perspective. 

 

The publication gives insofar evidence of a comprehensive and detailed data-based research in order to improve better knowledge and understanding of the "voice of the people". 

It should therefore be observed as excellent and precious contribution to some constructive public debate and scientific discourse about the current dimension and future options of foreign Albanian policy and even more about the public interest to that policy, which is especially related to Western Balkan regional connectivity and cooperation issues. 

Some key results of the survey according to the mind-set of the Albanian population give good news that the overwhelming majority of Albanian citizen believe in a positive role of neighborhood relations despite of still existing cross-border problems and disagreements. 

 

The publication offers some unique independent expertise and analysis and will give concrete assistance to all relevant stakeholders in politics and science to draw conclusions from lessons-learnt how to deal with wrong myths and misconceptions.

 

Above all the study, especially the article of Albert Rakipi about relations between Serbia and Albania as the "two key states with regard to security, stability and development of the Balkans" provoke encouragement and optimism for the region. Albania and Serbia, starting from 2014 are trying to open a new chapter on inter-state relations. The study of Rakipi profoundly analyzes the current progressing inter-state relations and illuminates the potential impact that the deepening of bilateral Albanian-Serbian relations may have on the issue of the whole reconciliation processes in the "Western Balkans".

 

The publication can be regarded as some continuation and consolidation of some previous AIIS-HSF-elaboration about "Rethinking Albania´s Foreign and regional Policy, a study to assist strategic planning for the future of foreign policy" from the year 2018. 

The implementation timeline of the following study including the collecting of relevant facts, opinions and perceptions and including the evaluation of samples and exploration of general pattern of behavior in political and strategical dimensions, focusing from Albanian point of view to Serbia, Kosovo and North-Macedonia, took place from July to November 2019. 

 

The draft publication of the study was presented in the AIIS-HSF scientific conference entitled "Albania in the region: policy, perception and outlook" on November 26, 2019, primarily aiming at discussing the role of perceptions towards foreign policy commitment in regional context. The event was attended by a high-ranking audience, composed of political decision-makers, representatives of ministries and media, experts, researchers and students from academia, universities and think-tanks:  all of them with strong affinity to the topic. 

 

It should be emphasized at this point, that the elaboration of this study fully corresponds to the intention and function of the project activities of the Hanns-Seidel-Office in Tirana, which has been established in 1992 and which was celebrating in the year 2017 its 25th project-anniversary.

 

Among some wide range of multi-sectoral seminars, workshops and conferences according to current socio-political matters and other intra-state related topics, such as referring to the sector of "Justice and Home Affairs", HSF in Albania from the very beginning was intending to support also cross-border-activities of regional scope. Such activities have been already conducted in project sectors of municipality-, border-police-, university- and diplomatic academy-networking, to improve mutual understanding and tolerance, to reduce mental barriers, misperceptions and harmful prejudices, to foster bilateral or multilateral network in the state sector as well as on NGO-level and to contribute  in this respect to development and stability in South-Eastern-Europe. 

 

Aware of that long-term processes, which need assertiveness, patience and strength, Hanns-Seidel-Foundation-Office in Tirana together with its local partners and friends in Albania will continue this future-oriented project-approach of interregional dialogue and cooperation.   

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 15, 2020 13:36