Speech by Minister Ditmir Bushati at the Albania–Montenegro Intergovernmental Meeting in Shkodër, 3 July 2018 - Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs
Postuar më: 03/07/2018

Speech by Minister Ditmir Bushati at the Albania–Montenegro Intergovernmental Meeting in Shkodër, 3 July 2018

Honourable Prime Ministers,

Honourable colleagues Ministers,

Firstly, I am happy that we managed to make the first intergovernmental meeting between our two countries possible and secondly, that this intergovernmental meeting is being held in Shkodra, in this inter-linking city for economy, culture and people between both sides of Lake Shkodra and across the Adriatic.

Starting from the excellent example of good neighbourly relations enjoyed by Albania and Montenegro, but also from the concrete results of the joint meetings with Kosovo and Macedonia, today we are convinced that expanding such meetings with the other countries of the region is the most effective instrument in interdisciplinary treatment of bilateral and regional cooperation issues.

This meeting between the two governments of Albania and Montenegro is in the wake of a tradition of cooperation we have established only within a few years. For the last four years, we have been having an intergovernmental meeting with Kosovo annually, in the framework of a strategic partnership covering all areas of policy-making. In December last year, we held the first intergovernmental meeting with Macedonia, orienting our cooperation towards a common Euro-Atlantic perspective and infrastructure connectivity.

Likewise, the two trilateral formats: Albania – Serbia – Italy and Albania – Montenegro – Croatia focusing on political cooperation and security are a platform for political dialogue and regional security. In this spirit and in view of a safe, peaceful and democratic region, we play a proactive role within the four-party meeting between Albania – Greece – Bulgaria – Macedonia.

The extent of cooperation with neighbours in the political, security and economic and development sphere is part of our coherent approach to neighbours and to the regional cooperation as a whole.

This inherent value of our foreign policy, which was notably recognized in the conclusions of the European Council a few days ago, was unwaveringly demonstrated through our support for Montenegro’s accession as the 29th member of the North Atlantic Alliance.

Our countries belong to the same Adriatic security space. Our joint energy projects like IAP, as a Trans-Adriatic Pipeline segment, contribute directly to energy security and our future. Consequently, it requires our commitment as first-hand beneficiaries.

There is no doubt that interaction within NATO and the progress towards the EU approaching makes our two countries direct contributors to the region’s long-term security and prosperity.

We meet today only one week after the green light given by the European Union member states to open accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia in 2019. This decision of the EU member states gives us the responsibility to deepen the reforms and at the same time to immediately start preparations for the opening of negotiations.

In this context, exchange of experiences with regard to the negotiation process with Montenegro is of special importance. The bilateral cooperation agreement in the field of European integration constitutes a good basis for this cooperation both politically and technically, needed for the new phase of the process ahead of us.

But, among us, as two neighbouring countries with countless potential but also with small markets and cultural proximity, we must orient ourselves towards a common development perspective based on cross-border cooperation.

This is the right time for the Adriatic space to be transformed from a space of security and political cooperation into a development space. The common cross-border area is in fact our greatest asset.

Lucia Nadin refers exactly to this space in the preface of the Statutes of Shkodra when she writes that “Shkodra was a city that did not stretch directly over the sea, but it connected with it through the river system and its lake; from the outskirts – and ever further from the most inner areas – goods and raw materials loaded in the ships came to the sea; the ships anchoring to its harbour carried commodities and manufacturing products to be exchanged with domestic ones.” In this landscape of regional economic development centre, perfectly harmonious with the cultural and economic landscape of the 14th-century Mediterranean cities, trade relations and economic interconnection with the nearest neighbours constituted a special part.

Today, as in the past, this space intersects our water and natural resources, human potentials and unique cultural heritage: all three deserve more attention within the framework of joint bilateral strategies but also in view of economic transformation of the Balkans launched by the European Commission in February this year, as well as within the Berlin Process Connectivity Agenda.

Our infrastructure connectivity is numerous: Shengjin, Velipoja, Ulqin and Budva should connect with each other to transform the Adriatic into a developed coastline and tourist attraction. Our Alps, now transformed into an annual and preferential destination, are assets that constitute an untapped development potential for both countries; and more recently, the lake’s space which invigorates the cities and communities of our countries on both sides of the border.

Our two governments have worked intensively in recent months in this regard, which made possible the opening of the Joint Border Checkpoint Zogaj – Skje. This investment will foster the communication of the inhabitants in the area and represents a real opportunity for the development of tourism.

We are negotiating with the European Union that through IPA CBC Albania-Italy-Montenegro, we will guarantee a funding of about EUR 7 million, which will serve to set up the necessary infrastructure for the actual start of circulation in this area.

In this context, the opening of the other border checkpoint Pulaj (Albania) – Sveti Nikola (Montenegro) will serve to increase the circulation of people along the Adriatic coast. I avail myself of this opportunity to point out that Albania has completed its work on its territory for another border checkpoint, Grabon – Zetrijebacka Cijevna, which we hope to become operational as soon as the Montenegrin side closes infrastructure works on its territory.

Besides the circulation of people, our two parties remain committed to facilitate the flow of goods. The border customs checkpoint Hani i Hotit – Bozhaj is expanding, along with the border checkpoint Muriqan – Sukobina which we intend to do the same thing, making it functional as a border customs checkpoint.

Another priority is the connectivity of Ulqin to Velipoja through a new border checkpoint on the Buna River. This investment will reduce the pressure on the current Muriqan border checkpoint by improving the joint tourism, offered by the two countries.

Also, joint study and concrete actions to enable sailing on the Buna River, through the inclusion of the communities living along the river into a joint tourist offer, would transform this space into an important tourist and developmental extension between the two countries and the entire region.

Improving the interconnectivity between our countries in the region is not only a complementary objective but a determinant factor in the success of our cooperation within the framework of the Berlin Process Agenda.

Indeed, our major efforts and engagements are at the forefront of promoting the multiple ties and the well-being and progress of our two peoples.

Albanians in Montenegro and Montenegrins in our country are two unifying segments that cement friendship and orient the close interaction between our societies. For our part, the recognition of the Montenegrin minority and its rights through the new Law on National Minorities constitutes a qualitative step based on the best European practices in respecting the right of this minority and other national minorities in our place.

Albanians in Montenegro have constantly and firmly testified their Euro-Atlantic orientation in favour of their country of residence. They have been and will remain constructive factors in the important Euro-Atlantic processes of Montenegro. We welcome every step taken by the Government of Montenegro aimed at meeting the demands of the Albanian population in conformity with the Montenegrin Constitution.

Referring to the Agreement within the governing coalition, we are pleased to note the fulfilment of the following three points: i) The approval of the Urban Area Plan for the Municipality of Ulcinj; ii) Full Municipality Status for Tuz; and iii) Adoption of amendments to the Law on Minorities and Freedoms, specifying the use of Albanian language and national symbols. We encourage the continuation of the work to implement other measures of the 13-point plan in this regard.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate the full commitment of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in view of the fulfilment and implementation of the commitments undertaken during this meeting.

Thank you!