A joint annual meeting between the governments of Kosovo and Albania took place in the city of Elbasan today. The joint session was co-chaired by Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, and it was attended by the cabinet members of the two governments.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, seventh intergovernmental session, Prime Minister Edi Rama said:
Welcome! Hello everyone! Thank you! We would have wished to welcome you on a sunny day, but I wish this rain and all the issues we will examine today are a good omen.
As always, it is a pleasure to be together. This is the seventh meeting of the governments of Albania and Kosovo and we gather today after an immensely challenging year due to the pandemic, but also after delivering on a significant number of areas on which we have agreed previously.
We have signed a considerable number of bilateral agreements and implementation of several of them is already underway. A part of them have been implemented, whereas enhancing efforts to implement other deals and creating full synergies between the two countries in all areas is the challenge we now face.
I am convinced we will bring our cooperation closer to the citizens of our countries, and we will take free movement, employment and interaction to a whole new level.
I am glad that we are jointly committed to lifting the temporary residence permits, to opening the joint border crossing point in Shishtavec, Kukes, and to regulating the local border traffic regime.
In the meantime, today’s agreement also streamlines the procedures for every applicant to automatically obtain a permit to stay, which is a natural thing, yet it took us to sit and materialize it on a joint document.
On the other hand, we will also create favourable conditions for citizens on both sides of the border, granting them access to the labour market, taking another step towards gradual unification of the markets of both countries in a single space, with Albanians being able to work, study, create families, access every possible public service and retire by benefiting any contributions or social rights regardless of their geographical location, either in Albania or Kosovo.
Mutual recognition of the social insurance contribution, which is part of this package and which sends a significant message on guaranteeing the freedom of every Albanian or Kosovo citizen to choose the country they would wish to live and work on each side of the border, but also ensure free movement unhindered by bureaucracy.
Under a special agreement, the two countries commit to automatic recognition of the university diplomas in the very near future. The verification process will be carried out electronically and a long procedure of bureaucratic documents is ultimately removed.
It is an innovative agreement and its success would definitely form the basis for automatic recognition of the higher education diplomas issued by all countries in the region and beyond.
Cooperation in education, science and innovation has been seen by both governments, since the very onset, as a top priority and it is our duty to prepare for deepening this cooperation as an urgent need to strengthen our human capital.
Implementation and materialization of the European Union’s investment plan in the Western Balkans by joining forces and minds to jointly draft and prepare quality projects with a significant impact on both countries is another top priority.
Once construction work on Tirana-Rinas-Durres railway begins, we will also sign a Memorandum of Understanding, as we already agreed during the previous meeting, to immediately embark on the feasibility study regarding construction of the railway between Durres and Prishtina.
It is a long-time dream and ambition steadily expressed by the governments on both sides of the border, but we rightly feel a sign of relief today for the fact that we are taking another step and we are confident that depending on quality of this feasibility study, we will be able to jointly present the project and access funds under the EU investment package.
On the other hand, we are fully aware of the need to open the markets and boost economic and trade interaction on both sides of the border.
We are also aware that a good part of this problem has to do with the administrative barriers, mostly part of an bureaucratic indulgence and inclination to “no” rather than an objective reason not to proceed and further unblock interaction in order to fully integrate our markets and make full the interaction between our institutions in view of a total freedom of movement.
That’s why I am very glad that we are finally signing the agreement to simplify and streamline customs procedures and goods control regulations, an agreement that was preceded by three important documents of practical value signed a day ago by the General Directorates of the Customs Administrations of both countries. The three documents are designed to unify the border crossing procedures and enforce implementation of the transit procedures based on the risk profiles.
In the last few years, we have made significant efforts to align our foreign and security policies and we already have a solid framework to further strengthen our political and diplomatic cooperation and enhance the number of our joint diplomatic missions.
This has actually been one of the discussions about which we have stricken a chord and fully agreed together with the Prime Minister and in addition to complete resonation, which has never been a big deal in none of the previous joint meetings, we can now fully afford to open up much more spaces that the consular services take place in shared buildings.
This would create a unified address for all the citizens of both countries currently living abroad, but, on the other hand it would also rationalize spending, because such way we will pay less to share same spaces and we can therefore invest more in delivering on activities designed to tackle of the needs of our Diasporas.
Close coordination among us is essential and I am convinced that the accords we are about to sign today are not just the next agreements along the line of a series of documents that won’t remain at the Greek calends, so to say, but they are agreements based on a common conclusion that today, more than anything else we need to embark on swift implementation of the measures, already clear to everyone, so that from agreement on paper we move to another reality when it comes to free movement of people, goods, services and capital and so that the common space be really a common one in terms of interactions in the reality of the everyday economic, social and cultural life.
What we are about to finalize today, after having agreed on it during the previous Prishtina meeting, is creation of the Intergovernmental Coordinating Secretariat, which will oversee in details implementation of the signed agreements and will report at the relevant offices of both prime ministers on any problem that may pop up in the process, so that we can deliver on what we have been lacking in the past, namely the interaction speed to produce tangible results.
It has never been an issue of political readiness, but an issue unfolding as part of bureaucratic implementation of this readiness, so that all the agreements we have signed are translated into tangible results and into totally new realities.
Once again, I would like to point us something that has been a sort of common denominator at all talks I have had with (PM) Albin and I am very pleased that what we have been forwarded to sign at this meeting is somehow an initial expression of this and I very much hope more readiness will follow to fully implement what we agree together.
Today we are not merely attending a meeting, always with its symbolic significance, but we are attending a session on concrete accomplishments and concrete tasks materialized under concrete agreements.
I am convinced that if we keep working with the same spirit we have been working to prepare this meeting, totally focused on its results, in the next joint session we will see concrete results, not just statistics, but concrete outcomes of the real interaction among folks, enterprises and interest groups, cultural communities and so on and so forth.
Before I give the floor to the Prime Minister, I would like to share something that will certainly make you happy just by hearing about it.
In the last cabinet meeting we agreed to prepare and complete the unified alphabet book next year, a jubilee year to celebrate Albania’s independence anniversary.