1-Tirana, the center of world diplomacy
During July Tirana was visited by the German chancellor (the first one to officially visit Albania), the head of the European Parliament Martin Schultz and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the Greek minister of Foreign Affairs Nikolaos Kotzias.
Even though these might be normal diplomatic visits, programmed a long time ago, the fact that they happened in one month made Tirana the center of attention for world and regional diplomacy.
The official visit of Ms. Merkel was important for two reasons. Firstly, it strengthens relations between Albania and Germany (even though she is in her third mandate as chancellor, Merkel did not undertake a visit in Albania in the past) and intensifies the Berlin process, which enters the next phase of the Vienna Summit on August 28, a process that aims to bring closer countries of the Western Balkans, by increasing mutual economic, political and infrastructural ties ahead of the countries’ EU integration.
In this occasion minister Bushati received an indirect response from Ms. Merkel. As we reported the previous month, the minister included in his agenda of official visits outside the country an unofficial request to every EU country, to clearly set the priorities Albania needs to fulfil in order to open accession negotiations between the EU and Albania.
We criticized this initiative because it did not give results and the minister did not receive an answer to his question. Secondly, the question was posed to the wrong interlocutors as for the process of integration in the EU the community’s institutions are the ones to decide, such as the European Commission. The latter, based on EU law, even though it is composed by members proposed from EU member states, it is an independent institutions and its members act on behalf of the EU, not member states.
This is what Merkel emphasized during the jouin press congerence in Tirana with Prime Minister Rama, when she said that regarding the opening of accession negotiations it is not she who decides but the Commission. At this point it would be useless to continue with verbal requests that Albania is making to different European capitals during official visits of our minister of Foreign affairs.
Secondly, a sort of priority was nonetheless revelied from the requirements that Albania needs to fulfil in order to open accession negotiations, and that is the justice reform. Merkel and Nulan as well as Schultz stressed the importance of this reform.
The government promised a year ago that the reform would be ready in September, but recently Rama postponed the deadline to October or November. We are late.
The head of the European Parliament Martin Schultz declared that the expectation of the Albanian government to open accession negotiations in the second half of 2015 is impossible even though he emphasized the good will of the Parliament to deliver a positive judgement for the reforms undertaken by Albania, without the ‘’blessing’’ of which the Commission can not open negotiations. Merkel also emphasized the practical implementation of the reform, not just its design in paper.
Looking at this panorama, it is difficult to say that negotiations for membership might start before 2016. It should be noticed that differently from other high European representatives that emphasized technical issues and economic ones that have a mutual interest, the American side focused on the fight against extremism and political decriminalization that Albania needs to undertake.
2- The art of negotiations, how to balance Greece’s generosity
The visit of the Greek foreign minister Nikolaos Kotzias in Tirana meant a step forward in the relations betweent he two countries. First of all, the Greek side, differently from the previous government retreated from the stiff position related to the disagreement of the maritime border and the continental shelf as well as the exclusive economic area between neighbours. The two ministers agreed to create a special commission to review this issue and in case there will be no agreement, the will to solve this through mechanisms offered by international law will be there. This testifies to a reflection of Greece and its implementation of international norms, because as we mentioned in the last two reports, the treaty for the maritime border was not in power not only because of the decision of the Albanian Constitutional Court but primarily because both countries did not exchange the ratified treaties.
Howeverm this is a progress for Albania because the Rama government in this way received a concession for this old request. Another step was the fact that even though during June the ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece condemned with severe tones the appointment of a Cham representative as deputychairman of the Albanian Parliament, during the visit of Kotzias this topic was not discussed, at least in public. There is optimism also regarding the abrogation of the state of war law with Albania on the Greek side. Even though not specifically expressed Kotzias implied that Greece should not be a hostage of past mistakes. Minister Bushati during an interview also stated that he expects developments in this regard from the Greek side. There is something concrete happening. But we shall wait and see to judge,
Since the spirit of this meeting was amcable and promising compared to the visit of Venizelos in Tirana more than a year ago, the Cham issue was also left untouched, therefore the Greek genocide towards Albanians from Cameria, which is officially recognized by Albania through a resolution of the Parliament. Relations between the two countries will continue to be filled with doubts and historical prejudices unless the Greek sides acknowledges this. Maybe it is not smart for Albania to insist in this issue, since there are concrete issues at stake. Depending on the products of the topics agreed upon the genocide card csn be used as a strong pressure from Albania. This is not to say that Albania should change its diplomatic course and turn to nationalistic tones. However, without trying to be prejudicious all this sudden ‘’kindness’’ seems like a ‘’Trojan horse’’. We say this because there is a risk that next to the impression that Greece will be profuse and altruistix there might be a well calculated diplomatic tactic of the Hellenics. Since Greece is promising many things to Albania (it even promised to consider recognizing Kosovo’s independence) Albania needs to give something in return (this might be related to the maritime border), at the end of the day the art of negotiations means that the middle way is found when both sides move from their original positions. Until now Greece has moved, but Albania not yet.
Therefore the Cham card in general (including acknowledging the genocide and not only properties) as well as the fact that the Albanian Orthodox Church is run by a Greek priest, are chess moves that should be played carefully to balance the fictive idea that Greece is making concessions to Albania. These cards can be played at the right moment, in private talks between sides and not necessarily in public, where they might turn into boomerangs. These might lower the stakes for Kotzias.
On the other hand, the latter showed how much Greece has done for Albanian immigrants. This is also part of the strategy to create a feeling of blame. So, we have to be grateful to them and give a part of the continental shelf because of this. It would be appropriate that in front of such declarations, when in public, the Albanian side emphasizes the immense contribution of Albanian workers in the Greek economy (let us not forget who build all the equipment for the Athens Olympic Games in 2004). In order not to create a disbalance and feeling of inferiority which automatically increases the Greek stake. This is a declaration minister Bushati should have reacted to!
In his famous book Diplomacy, in one of the first meetings Kissinger had with Mao Tse Tung in the reapproachment between US and China the latter said: ‘’You see how easy it is to be friends with me!’’. Kissinger interpreted this as a coded threat that implied: ‘’Better don’t try to deceive me’’. This lecture is valid even today.
3-The first effects of the law on Foreign Service
On July 22 it was notified that the President of the Republic decreed the appointment of Bardhyl Cenaj as Ambassador of Albania to Israel. This appointment was done at the beginning of the year by the Prime Minister, but at the time the President blocked it. In our reports from the beginning of the year we analysed also this case. The President reflected upon his illegal stance of not decreeing with the argument that the government was obliged to conduct previous consultations with him regarding the appointment of the ambassador. From an observation of his CV, based on the previous law that contained a strict hierarchy of conditions to become ambassador, Mr. Canaj would not fulfil the criteria, since during his diplomatic career he was only First Secretary in Egypt and atache in the embassy in Israel. With the new law, which left space for subjectivism, where it should be proved that the candidate has dealt with international relations in the last 10 years (this is evidenced by the Ministry that proposes him). Mr. Canaj’s appointment falls within the law. This is the second case since the law entered into force, after the decree on Fatos Reka, Ambassador in Macedonia, where we might evidence the tendency of the government to appoint ambassadors on preferential rather than professional criteria. Differently from Mr. Reka, that holds at least the grade counceling Minister, the same thing can not be said for the diplomatic experience of Mr. Canaj. With his appointment it was confirmed what we were afraid of, that interpreting in general and subjkective lines, someone who has dealt with international relations in the last 10 years, would suffice to make him/her an ambassador. But working with international relations does not make one necessarily a diplomat. A professor of international law for instance, despite his knowledge of the field, has academic tendencies, not managerial ones, as it is required for an ambassador. These qualities are nurtured while in the Foreign Service and in diplomatic headquarters, not in ‘’international relations’’, which is a wide concept. This situations makes it clear why this clause was included in the law in a haste, without prior consultations with experts and interest groups.
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