Ditmir Bushati throws light on topics under discussion on talks between Albania and Greece; Greek Foreign Ministry rejects Albanian claims of ‘Cham’ issue in their bilateral talks

Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati, stated that at a hearing session with Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs “the process of talks with Greece is neither easy nor wrapped up; it is a process that is taking place on the basis of the key principles dictated by international right, the European spirit and the need to find solutions that will be acceptable to the sides”.

Bushati threw light on bilateral talks with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Kotzias. The minister went on saying: “We have not finalized the issue of sea and land border regime, issues that have been inherited from the past and consigned to oblivion”. He also underlined that prior to the meeting he had briefed the President on the steps that were likely to be taken in principle, assuring that the Albanian side would stick to the constitution.

Furthermore, the minister informed the committee of a working site the Albanian government has opened with Greece, citing the agreements on border pyramids and border incidents management. We are also working towards a joint border regime management as those in place with other neighboring countries.

With regard to the cemetery, minister Bushati noted that the team of the Ministry of Defense experts which is drawing on international practice is being assisted by a US government expert in similar cases involving the people disappeared in conflicts. ”The whole process will be jointly concluded by Albanian and Greek experts”, minister pointed out.

Minister Bushati also focused on current issues discussed with the Greek side, such as the apostille stamp or the rights and facilities for as many as 500 thousand Albanians living in Greece. ”With regard to the apostille stamp, in our view as long as EU members such as Germany, Italy, Belgium or Spain do not use it, it makes no sense for Greece to use it in relation with us”, Bushati highlighted.

Other issues under discussion with Greece are mutual recognition of driving licenses as well as the social and health insurance contributions of Albanian community in Greece.

With regard to the issue of textbooks, minister Bushati said that a joint task force has been set up. It is about to complete elimination of references with negative connotation from the textbooks adapting them to the standard of the Council of Europe, which include Albania and Greece among their member countries.

Albania has been quite clear on the Cham issue: “We hold firm on border inalterability”, the minister added. According to him, “we do not have any claims about the borders, and therefore condemn any claim from certain segments of Albanian society. The Greek government has taken the same stand which we have fully endorsed. This issue should be resolved in compliance with the human rights convention”, Bushati stated.

The chief of Albanian diplomacy has fired back at the allegations that Albania sat down at the table of negotiations under the pressure of EU integration. “We have sat down at the negotiating table quite composed, analysing one by one all the stupid mistakes made in the past”. He added as well: ”We are working towards a new partnership document, which will set the course for Albanian-Greek relations opening up a new prospect, particularly in terms of economic cooperation and beyond”, Bushati concluded.

“The war law”, according to Bushati, “is in place and requires certain internal procedures by the side of Greece to be abolished, because Albania does not have one in relation to Greece”. Rama-led government is the first that has put great effort into getting that war law scrapped.

However, Greece’s foreign ministry strongly rejected claims by Albanian officials that the issue of Cham Albanians is being discussed between Greece and Albania as part of the bilateral talks to resolve open issues between the two countries. “We categorically refute statements by Albanian officials on the alleged inclusion of the ‘Cham’ issue in the talks between Greece and Albania. Besides, the willingness of the Albanian side to include it is one thing, and being actually accepted for discussion is quite another”, the foreign ministry announced.

“We call on the Albanian side not to raise issues that are that oppose the frank and constructive dialogue in progress. A dialogue that helps, thanks to the efforts of both sides, to significantly improve the climate in Greek-Albanian relations that has already yielded results, for the mutual benefit of both countries and their citizens”, it added.

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