Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the first Albanian-Montenegrin intergovernmental meeting in the city of Shkodra:
It is – not because this must be said just for the sake of the protocol, but because in it there is great truth – a great special pleasure to be together at the first intergovernmental meeting between the Republic of Albania and Montenegro here in Shkodra, a city and a capital that blends together the best and historic, cultural and natural landmarks of our two countries as a clear testimony to the long-standing neighbourhood and friendship.
I take a very special pleasure at pointing out that good neighbourly ties with Montenegro are the finest example of fraternal relations between the neighbours. We are happy to share the border with you. We are also happy to witness all your extraordinary progress and efforts which have radically transformed Montenegro into a reference model for everyone in every respect.
The two countries have established a very good political dialogue and both countries are jointly heading straight for the irreversible path towards the full Euro-Atlantic integration. I am particularly pleased to be given the opportunity to express through action the whole respect for you by unreservedly supporting Montenegro’s NATO membership process. Even the most sceptical ones can now see that Montenegro’s accession to the Alliance has contributed to strengthening the stability in the region and consolidating the Euro-Atlantic perspective of its nations.
I am pleased that we are here together, not due to the fact that this is the format of the first high-level session between the governments of the two countries, but for the opportunity this format provides us to deepen the cooperation, materialize many and very important aspects of this cooperation and further strengthen the Albanian-Montenegrin ties as relations of special importance.
When we met in Podgorica last April, when we jointly announced the decision to hold the first session of our two governments, we both emphasized the importance of developing the great the cross-border potential that Albania and Montenegro share. It is a prosperous area that connects the countries and connects our fates and is not only the common geography, but also the material and spiritual heritage we feel obliged to preserve, to develop as a space of prosperity for the citizens on both sides of this border and as a model of cross-border cooperation, why not, for the whole region.
Today we are interconnected like never before. But today, we are also more aware than ever before that this interconnection offers huge yet still untapped potential. It is time to address these potential and make the best out of the exchange of ideas and experiences and join our forces, starting not only with the opening of new border crossing points, which marks an important success ahead of this meeting, but also a broader basis to implement the cross-border development plans and continuing to highlight and exploit the great economic and tourist values that carries the whole area we share.
Most recently, following the Montenegro’s lead in developing tourism and by communicating with leading investors already operating along your coastline too, we’ve heard them more than once stressing the need to expand their investments into our side of the border and to harmonize more government capacities, municipal capacities, economic and natural capacities of both countries. In order for all the tourists who are already heading or better say an increasing number of tourists will keep on heading towards this area, with Montenegro being a familiar landmark, they can take advantage of a much larger and highly lucrative space, which would of course provide mutual benefits.
Whenever visiting Shkodra, we have been all given the opportunity to grasp that we actually find ourselves in a space which has been always perceived as an interaction space. It is not uncommon to hear the Montenegrin language being spoken in restaurants, public spaces, or in tourist attractions as a result of traditional trips and exchanges between the citizens on both sides before the old regime closed the border and separated us, while such a tradition is being renewed in everyday life in the form of interactions and common communications within a space where the border between us is a convention for the citizens on its both sides.
You might know better than me that how many citizens from Shkodra and all over Albania often travel across the border to Montenegro throughout the year and the tourist season in particular. This is our citizens’ everyday life and it is up to us to build on this everyday life and further advance projects, which strengthen our ties and enhance the economic development opportunities and improve well-being of our people.
Albania and Montenegro are blessed with fantastic natural wonders. Although two tiny countries, they are both home to magical itineraries stretching from the coast to the mountaintops. Joint promotion efforts of the trans-border areas in particular, harmonized environment protection policies and rational exploitation of the tourist potential by making use of our fabulous beauties would allow us not only to increase the capacity to attract more tourists by intensifying their presence in still unexplored destinations.
I am very pleased we have easily found a common language to encourage cultural exchanges between our two countries. These are totally natural exchanges, but which always need government support. The book fairs on both sides of the border are now a common event in terms of their frequency. However, the power of the impact of the culture we share in its many elements are a reason for us to do more in order to pass on this precious legacy and shared value to the younger generations.
Of course a lot remains to be done when it comes to promoting the bilateral trade exchanges, which we should acknowledge that the current figures do not reflect the close relation and interactions among the ordinary people and the huge potential of both countries. The movement of goods, their certification, and balanced presence of investments are some of the areas we together can do more about. Together we can also identify and create incentives for both sides, first and foremost by removing the non-tariff barriers, which often pose a serious problem to exporters and importers on both sides of the border and discourage further development as the real trade potential would allow for.
I am very pleased that this joint government session will be followed by a business forum, an event due to take place within the framework of this important meeting and it is up to us to us to ensure that the desire and the interest of companies for the Albanian and Montenegrin market translate into support and concrete incentives for them.
The signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the respective Chambers of Commerce and Business is also a good step in this direction, as it is, I believe, the agreement between the Albanian Investment Development Agency and the Montenegrin Agency for Investment Promotion, which can do a lot together by sharing information and developing joint packages for interested investors on both sides of the border. As I said, we are seeing an ever increasing interest and it is up to us to find all ways to address it properly.
I am very pleased to point out the existence of an irreplaceable historical bridge between us, which fortunately, for both countries is seen as a great asset, the bridge of ethnic minorities. There is another fantastic example of coexistence between us. With the adoption of the Law on Minorities, Albania finally gave the Montenegrin minority the status and the value it deserves by law, although the Montenegrin minority has always had its position and value and it has never encountered the slightest problem in the cooperation and coexistence with the Albanians.
I would like to express full respect, which is never too much to be repeated, for the growing interest you, the President, our dear friend, Milo Đukanović, and your government have been showing in Montenegro’s ethnic Albanians. I am proud of their very positive role in Montenegro and their clearly approach to the progressive forces, which seek Montenegro’s full integration in the whole Euro-Atlantic space and the continued support they have rendered to the President, not merely as the person, who fully deserves their support, but for what he has represented with dignity since the process of independence and then in the process of NATO membership, which resulted particularly difficult in relation to the situation within Montenegro.
I am hopeful that the legitimate demands from Albanians in Montenegro, in accordance with your country’s constitution and international standards, will be always taken into consideration.
There are a lot of things to say at a meeting between Albania and Montenegro and in our region in particular it is not common at all for everything to be positive and we risk of being seen as if we are meeting just to please each other. But there are no open issues between the two countries.
I would like to conclude my speech by highlighting the important chapter of cooperation under the Berlin Process and the major projects under the regional cooperation programme, including the construction of the strategic the Adriatic-Ionian highway project which enjoys strong support from both sides. We are also engaged in an intensive lobbying process to support implementation of the Adriatic-Ionian pipeline so that both Montenegro and Croatia directly benefit from the Trans-Adriatic pipeline in terms of energy, regional sovereignty, but also in strengthening the regional capacities.
I will conclude being convinced that all ministers here have great opportunities and, of course, the burden of a common interest to develop cooperation in every respect, including economy and security, on which for we are strengthening the cooperation to safeguard our border against any flows of illicit activities.
Remarks by Prime Minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković:
Honourable Prime Minister Rama,
Honourable cabinet members,
Ladies and gentlemen!
PM Rama, dear Edi, I would like to thank you for the welcome speech.
It is a special honour to address you on the occasion of the first joint meeting of the governments of Montenegro and the Republic of Albania. During the official visit to Montenegro on April 3, 2017, Prime Minister Rama declared “when I visit Montenegro, I feel like home.”
I feel the same here in Shkodra today. The fact that this is actually the first session the Government of Montenegro organises with some other country clearly confirms our friendship, the unbreakable ties between our peoples and the determination to continue to foster good neighbourly relations. Since last year, we are allies within NATO, which is another quality of our relations
Since last year, we are allies within NATO, which is another quality of our relations. Should the European Union membership be specifically emphasized as a top priority not only for Montenegro, but also for the Republic of Albania and other Western Balkan countries? Serious attention has been placed on our region and its European perspective during this year, including the European Commission’s strategy on the Western Balkans, the enlargement package, the most recent EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia and the London Summit. We are really pleased about an increasingly intensive dialogue between the EU and the Western Balkans.
There are still mixed feelings and opinions on the outcomes of this dialogue about the enlargement dynamics and whether a lot more can be done. I am convinced that a lot more and better things can be done, but we should focus on what we can do on our own and do our home works in best interest of democratization of our own homes.
I would like to congratulate Albania on the European Union’s decision to set a date for the start of the accession talks, being profoundly confident that the country will press ahead with the far-reaching reform efforts to attain European standards and values. I would also like to confirm the readiness of Montenegro to support the accomplishment of common integration goals and share its experience. For six years, as far as we are in the process of membership negotiations, Montenegro has opened 31 negotiating chapters, while the two have been temporarily closed. It is statistics, but behind that which there is a lot of work done and a lot of work needs to be done.
We have strengthened and improved our capacities, which is one of the greatest values of this process, and would have long-term positive effects. But we shouldn’t forget why we are part of the European Union integration process. It is not simply to become a member state, but to join the bloc’s values, which we normally share. We should look ahead to ensure a better future for our citizens. This should be done and we can do it together.
Therefore, in addition to EU membership and cooperation within the NATO Alliance, a special importance in our country’s important foreign policy, as I have said earlier, is placed to the development and strengthening of our neighbourly relations, which is also necessary for the purposes of regional stability and prosperity, especially when we face political and economic challenges almost on daily basis.
I would like to highlight the cooperation among the countries of the region within the Berlin Process. We are pleased that this initiative, launched by Germany in order to develop the region and improve the progress of the Western Balkan countries towards membership in the European Union, remains largely focused on concrete assistance to our countries in implementing key projects in transport and energy, which will contribute to the individual and the overall development of the region.
We are obliged to use this development opportunity, embedded in the wider European context, and permanently position our countries on the main European infrastructure map, because our citizens deserve better than the Balkan shortcuts and dead ends.
In addition to cooperation within regional projects, it is particularly important to develop cooperation at the level of the two countries. Montenegro and Albania have excellent relations and numerous opportunities for their further strengthening.
Continuous and high-quality communication between the authorities of the two countries resulted in today’s signing of several agreements, as well as agreements on intensifying cooperation where necessary and useful, namely in the fight against cross-border crime and mass migration, use of EU funds for the modernisation of border crossings, administration, education, science, tourism.
We must work hard to advance the economic cooperation between Montenegro and Albania, especially considering the great potential of many sectors of the economy that can be better utilized in the coming period.
The geographical proximity and the similar economic structure could greatly contribute towards a stronger connectivity between our two economies and the unimpeded implementation of the activities under the allocated projects. A joint business forum is scheduled to take place following this meeting to materialize the ample cooperation potential. Therefore it is very important to show determination to improve economic indicators and launch joint projects in the field of energy infrastructure, as the most visible bilateral cooperation indicators that have not fully reflected the good political relations between Montenegro and Albania to date.
We are aware that good road infrastructure links are key to the movement of the Western Balkans-made goods and services. While good electricity connectivity is indispensable both for future investments in the energy sector and for free energy exchange in our region, from which each country will in particular reap clear financial and strategic benefits.
the opening of a border crossing Tuz – Baize, modernization and expansion of the infrastructure in the border crossing point of Sukobine – Muriqan would provide opportunities to fully exploit the cooperation capacities between the two economies, enhance the tourist potential of both countries, advance the trade exchange and ensure better utilization of our ports’ capacities. This is particularly true in the context of the Adriatic-Ionian highway project, which is of vital importance to our two countries.
We should also work on further advancing the interstate accords which would legally regulate the trans-boundary water management, increase hydropower potential and strengthen cooperation in the field of judiciary, security and border police.
Montenegro is committed to participating in the regional projects adopted in the Trieste Summit. We will also keep on implementing activities referring to the documentation on the infrastructure priority projects and work hard to make the most of the grants under the Western Balkans investment framework, so that during the London Summit, on July 10 this year, we will make use of the grants for their implementation.
As for the regional cooperation and development, I think we should point out the regional project on setting up the South-East Europe International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST), a rare project in the region, which would significantly impact on social and economic development of countries in the region, reverse the brain drain and promote development of contemporary medicine.
Republic of Albania is one of the signatories of the Declaration signed at Cern on 25 October 2017. Advancing the scientific cooperation on implementation of bilateral scientific projects would provide for the enforcement of the provisions of the Agreement on Scientific and Technology Cooperation between Montenegro and Albania, signed in 2008, and thus will create the conditions for the exchange of researchers, with special focus on young researchers, their cooperation and networking, as well as the possibility of joint applications in terms of earning European, international and regional funding.
I would also like to underline the wealth that exists between our countries – our peoples living in one and the other country, as minorities, and in fact I would say, as citizens – Albanians in Montenegro and Montenegrins in Albania – which are one of the most important links between the two countries. Albanians in Montenegro are citizens who contribute to the progress of the country, actively participate in achieving strategic priorities, and are a factor of stability and building of a better future for the country. Just as Montenegrins in Albania are citizens who contribute to its progress and social and political life by preserving their identity and tradition. Certainly, we can always strive for the better and the efforts of our governments should continue to be directed towards achieving the guaranteed rights of minorities in line with international standards.
The deputy prime ministers and the cabinet members will provide more details on the concrete fields we need to strengthen cooperation and make progress. To conclude, I would propose and invite everyone to work together to implement all bilateral agreements we will sign today in order to ensure that we can verify and take stock of the accomplishments during the next joint session of the governments of Montenegro and Albania.
My honourable friend Edi, I would like to once again thank you for the kind words and warm welcome.