Published on : 27 September 2017

Albania-Kosovo, accelerating the common agenda of the two governments

Prime Minister Edi Rama welcomed today at the Palace of Brigades the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj and the accompanying delegation. After the military reception ceremony, a head-to-head meeting was held followed by a bilateral meeting between the two delegations and the inaugural meeting of the commission for organizing the Nationwide Year of Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg under the chairmanship of the two prime ministers.

The meeting was concluded with a joint press conference of Prime Minister Rama and Prime Minister Haradinaj: 

 

Prime Minister Edi Rama: The first visit outside Kosovo of Prime Minister Haradinaj here in Albania is a significant gesture that I particularly appreciate, but it is also a clear sign of our inalienable interaction. In reiterating once again to the Prime Minister the special pleasure for his visit, and by underlining all our support to Kosovo’s government program and to its ambitious objectives, which hopefully will enable us to make up for lost precious time in the last period, I want to underline that following today's meeting I am hopeful of the necessary acceleration of the common agenda of our two governments.

There is no doubt that the steps taken to date in the context of overcoming barriers of various kinds that have hindered and continue to hinder the full integration of our two countries in a process of final facilitation of relations of all kinds, are a premise but not yet a solving platform. Therefore, in particular the 4th meeting of the two governments on 27 November in Korça, will focus precisely on making up for lost time.

Today, we have agreed to focus on areas where a process has started, but where progress has been far from being sufficient.

First, in facilitating administrative procedures for citizens who work, study or live on both sides of the border, in terms of what should be the simplest thing but which has been complicated for years and still is, free movement in the borders where the citizens of Albania and even more the citizens of Kosovo encounter an absurd wall. We want to demolish this wall together in order to kick off next year with a symmetrical border, similar to the borders between European Union countries, a European border for Albania and Kosovo where controls of course will not be completely eliminated but they will be so rare that many may happen to not be controlled at all throughout their lives, as is the case with borders in the European Union.

Also, the equivalence of diplomas and the facilitation of access to the labour market, which cause today difficulties to young people on both sides of the Albanian mountains.

Secondly, we have a full agreement that the unification of our market should precede the model of a regional market unification. In an open contradiction with all the voices and with all conspiracy theories for the regional economic zone, I want to underline that Albania and Kosovo have all the possibilities to be the model that precedes with their example the creation of the regional economic zone. What is there to discuss, if we reject this idea, if trade relations in the region cost the region's enterprises 3800 years of waiting per year in the customs? Within these 3800 years of waiting per year, calculated by the World Bank, there are dozens, if not hundreds of years of waiting for Albanian entrepreneurs who want to move on this side or from that side to here or there.

Today we have agreed to close a well-studied and well-programmed process of customs union at the Port of Durres. The port of Durres is not only the official port of Albania. It is also the port of the Albanians of Kosovo. It is the port that should be turned into unified customs of Albania and Kosovo. It is unfair, dishonest, and above all it is unjustified that Albanian entrepreneurs who bring goods to Kosovo through the Port of Durres are controlled twice and face two procedures with two customs officers. We have agreed to finalize this in the 27 November meeting. Our finance ministers have received clear instructions and have fully agreed that the process has been delayed without any solid justification.

Third, Albania and Kosovo should jointly benefit from the opportunities offered through the Berlin Process and IPA funds. Today we have specifically talked about the role that foreign ministers undertake in this process, so that through our national coordinators in the Berlin Process we can again be exemplary from the benefits of the process, not just as separate states but as two states strategically interested to work together.

We have also agreed to begin putting an end to the story of the unreasonable spending of our budgets, to keep separate diplomatic headquarters and consular representative offices. For what reason? We have talked about a joint action plan for building an Albanian real estate fund in Europe, starting from the capitals of European diplomacy, to be expanded a little bit further. An Albanian real estate fund that will be a common asset of both states and at the same time provide the Albanians with an address.

Kosovo has a number of challenges ahead of it, from the EU integration process to the relationship with NATO and the establishment of the Armed Forces. I cannot but reassure the Prime Minister of Kosovo today that Albania is ready to support all the solutions that are in favour of Kosovo, and further promote its Euro-Atlantic journey. As a guarantor, Albania is ready to be part of the solution of the problems Kosovo faces. Our diplomacy has been and will be even more active for Kosovo's international recognition in the membership in international organizations.

What I believe is important to note is that Albania has supported and will support with all its power the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, being clearly on the side of Kosovo, in order to find a realistic solution and a final liberation of Serbia itself from the obsession of the past that holds Serbia hostage and hinders the final recognition of Kosovo by Serbia.

Of course, we see with concern – I’ve shared this also with the Prime Minister - the demarcation issue with Montenegro, where it is necessary to find the way to accelerate the final solution of a stalemate that is creating not little problems with the international community which, in our common view, has been and remains the main guarantor of Kosovo and of a process where Kosovo should have increasingly more friends and where it should not lose even one single friend.

In concluding, I am very pleased that today, together with the Prime Minister, we have launched the process of preparing Skanderbeg's Year as a state-consolidating initiative for Albania and Kosovo, as an inspirational initiative for the future, and not as a reason for the costumes of the past.

Many thanks for being here today with us Prime Minister!

You said yourself that this is your home, and you are even a resident of Unit Nr. 5 in Tirana, where we have Pandeli Majko as MP. But as long as we are two states, we have the obligation to carry out all ceremonies required by the protocols, and it is neither casual nor excessive that we have welcomed you here in this important building for our history, in order to give a very clear signal of the respect and at the same time of the great appreciation we have for the way Kosovo has been developing in all these years as a reality that tells everyone that the sooner the process of recognitions is concluded, the better it will be for everyone!

 

Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj: Prime Minister and my friend Edi, thank you!

 

Kosovo and I are every now and then, not only conscious, but we feel good that we have never been alone throughout the entire Kosovo’s journey in the various stages. Understandably, Albania, our Albanian brothers and sisters have stayed with us, and we still feel it today.

We are delighted to have Albanians as very valuable allies in the journey of our country. We belong to the world lead by America, but we are also very determined to make our journey to the EU together, Kosovo with Albania. Kosovo is a new family member, but it is a responsible one. Kosovo, the people of Kosovo, have been showing respect for communities living in Kosovo. We are ready to extend this respect to all our neighbours.

The challenge of our journey as a state is now what the Prime Minister mentioned earlier, that of the border crossing, which we will transform into an ordinary crossing as it happens among EU countries, so that we won’t have to undergo double customs procedures in Durres and our citizens won’t encounter administrative obstacles because a diploma or certificate is incompatible with the other. In this regard, I want to say that we can feel Albania, we can feel the government of Albania, the Prime Minister and his care towards Kosovo in the processes going on in the region.

We welcome the joint meeting of the two governments on 27 November in Korça. I believe that until this meeting, we will have a common agenda for something that makes us very proud, and I congratulate you on this great and good idea for the Albanians, Skanderbeg’s Year, but also in order to find mutual actions that not only help us by perpetuating the "who we are, who we used to be", but especially for the actions that improve the lives of our citizens everywhere in the homeland, not just in our lands but also wherever Albanians live.

Once again, thank you very much Edi!

 

RTK: I have a question for both prime ministers. Normally, when two prime ministries meet, people expect big things. However, you mentioned some of the shortcomings regarding the full accomplishment of the agreements reached so far between the two states. Prime Minister Rama, you have recently promoted the so-called co-governance philosophy, while Prime Minister Haradinaj, keeps taking Albania and Albania only as a benchmark. Does that mean that these agreements between the two governments will also have the relevant legal support? Second, can we move towards a common governance to avoid all the costs you have just mentioned? Thank you!

Prime Minister Rama: I did not understand quite well this issue of legal support, but I assure you that there is nothing illegal in this effort because there cannot be and, furthermore, when we have here the Prime Minister of Kosovo who is part of a glorious history which began as an illegal assassination and turned into a liberation movement legitimated with the freedom and independence of Kosovo. Of course, I know that people expect great things. I believe that every great thing is achieved by doing something small every day. There are many small things that would have done a great thing today, had we been much more focused and much more determined to do the small things, for let's say it, diploma equivalency is something small, but when diplomas are not equivalent, eventually it becomes a big problem. It is very little thing that the border between Albania and Kosovo becomes at least like the border between Switzerland and Italy, or Germany and France, not as the border between Kukës and Tropoja, but it is not so and it is a major problem for all those who encounter that wall. It is also a small thing that the Port of Durres is the only entry for entrepreneurs who bring goods to Pristina, but it is not done and that is a big problem. So, there are so many of these things that ultimately make what we call national unity, and which, unfortunately, we commonly imagine as another war, which is nothing more than a daily struggle to unify a common space, where the fact that there are two states, two governments, cannot in any way constitute the least obstacle for those living on both sides of the border. I believe that the initiatives are simple, but the problems that are solved through these initiatives are really big problems. Of course, we will not stop here because our aspiration is to make this space a completely unified space - this is out of question - but a unified space in the 21st century, given that both the Albanians of Albania and the Albanians Kosovo have in hand an inalienable and irreplaceable instrument to make statehood, which is the instrument of European Union integration.

Prime Minister Haradinaj: I share the same opinion. If a citizen of Pristina has a deadline in Tirana at 12 o'clock, he does not know when to travel to Tirana because he doesn’t know the situation at the border and vice versa. If this does not apply, then I can talk, if we say that there are about 3800 years of waiting for businesses and hundreds of years of waiting for Albanian businesses, unfortunately this is also happening to citizens. We have been waiting for many years to be open among us. We should not wait any longer. I am really encouraged by the willingness that this will happen in a certain timeframe, as it was announced, in the beginning of the coming year. I will celebrate it. I think it's a celebration.

Top Channel: Prime Minister Haradinaj, a few days ago President Alexander Vucic seemed alarmed at the UN when he called on UN countries not to vote for Kosovo at UNESCO because, according to him, there is information that Kosovo has the votes to enter UNESCO. Does Kosovo have the votes to enter UNESCO?

A question for Prime Minister Rama, what have Albania and the Albanian diplomacy done so that the first failure for nearly two years with UNESCO will not be repeated? Thank you!

Prime Minister Haradinaj: Kosovo is a true and valid UNESCO member because it has a lot of cultural heritage that is truly diverse, so there is extraordinary cultural diversity, just as in Albania. Whenever Kosovo's membership in UNESCO happens, what will win is the precious cultural heritage which is not just of Kosovo’s, but of the whole world. So we are working on membership. I cannot exactly tell how the procedures will continue. If we are to join this year, it would be a victory, I say, of the cultural heritage of the world. If not, we will join in the next stage.

Prime Minister Edi Rama: I have said, whenever I was given the opportunity in the meetings we had with the current President and the Prime Minister of Serbia, that personally I cannot understand the logic of the Serbian refusal to Kosovo joining UNESCO. I cannot understand the logic because if cultural heritage and cultural monuments in Kosovo have a special importance for the Serbs, then they should be the first to hurry and put this legacy under protection through UNESCO, in a country where Albanians govern despite of their willingness, and a new, sovereign and independent state was created. I don’t understand! Who is to lose in this case from this process? Frankly, in my view Kosovo loses less than Serbia because we know what UNESCO is, and we know what it is for. Serbia needs it to be in Kosovo to defend what they call their cultural heritage. Of course, UNESCO is important for Kosovo in view of all recognition and integration processes of the state of Kosovo in organizations, institutions, etc., but it is an absurd Serbian attitude. I’ve shared this with the Serbian President who follows in real-time the political life in Albania and Kosovo, and I am convinced that today he will give an answer to this in the following hours. If he didn’t, I’d be encouraged that he is reflecting. With regard to the vote, nobody in the democratic world, when the vote is secret, can say there are votes. You have seen, not in just one case, that whoever says they have the votes, they don’t have them all in the secret ballot. So it's not a matter of "you have them or not".

TV 21: The demarcation issue was mentioned here. I have a question for Prime Minister Haradinaj and for you, Mr Rama. Mr Haradinaj, the day before, Montenegro's representatives said that the demarcation issue is done for them. What is your plan for this issue? Mr Rama, what is your support in this regard?

Prime Minister Haradinaj: Kosovo has a good tradition of cooperation and good feelings with the people of Montenegro. To be honest, in the last 20 years, the people of Montenegro have not been embarrassed with Kosovo, with the Albanians even in times of crisis. But Kosovo has been very cautious in the key moments of Montenegro, including independence, and also in other moments, and we are happy about the successes of Montenegro. The issue of Kosovo-Montenegro border-marking is a situation where Kosovo is proceeding in accordance with its own rules, in accordance with its political obligations. When we have a new situation, we will surely turn to the neighbouring country; therefore, when we have a clearer picture of our findings. Until then I believe that we can all convey the message that our interest is to strengthen these good relations with Montenegro.

Prime Minister Rama: At this point, I want to be open and honest. Kosovo's interest is the quickest solution to this problem, which has become a stalemate in the relations with the international community. Of course, there is a natural physiological process of transition from opposition to government. So, I believe the Prime Minister needs some time to part with his opposition stance in this problem. Just as I would not want to see the former Prime Minister of Kosovo going to an opposition position in relation to an issue on which he has agreed and for which he has even blamed the current opposition. It is a problem, which is not a problem of Montenegro; it is a political problem within Kosovo and it will be solved by Kosovo in view of its future. Regarding what the Prime Minister said about Montenegro, I can only reinforce it, saying that Montenegro is an indisputable friendly country and Albanians have had excellent relations with its people. Albanians have saved Montenegro twice in the best sense of the word, and they are there as a guarantee factor for the whole process Montenegro has entered with an extraordinary courage, with an extraordinary leadership, as an inspirational model of what a very small country can do when it addressed to its dignity at times of historic crossroads.

Thank you very much!

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