Greece and Albania willing to agree on maritime border

18/12/2013

Signing a border demarcation agreement is in the interest of both countries and peoples, officials said.

By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 18/12/13

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Albania Foreign Affairs Minister Ditmir Bushati (right) greets Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos in Tirana. [Albania Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

Albania and Greece are signalling their intention to demarcate their Ionian Sea maritime border in a way acceptable to both countries, following the rejection by Albania's Constitutional Court of the demarcation agreement signed in 2009 by the countries' foreign ministers.

Albania's Socialist-led government, which had opposed the agreement when it was an opposition party, said it wants to move Albania ahead on the path of EU integration, and is aware it must find a common language with Greece.

"We want to address all issues with courage based on the legislations of the respective countries, the established principles of international law and best practices. Our aim is the EU," Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said.

Greek officials said they are willing to review the technical issues on the level of technical committees, and see two options ahead.

"The option of international law and European practice, and then there is the option of challenging international law and European practice. Albania says that it is a country ready to accede to the EU. We support Albania's European prospects. We want to provide know-how and assistance, but there are certain self-evident preconditions," said Evangelos Venizelos, foreign minister of Greece.

The process to find an acceptable solution was prompted by Venizelos' visit to Tirana in mid-October when he met Bushati, Prime Minister Edi Rama and President Bujar Nishani.

Greece President Karolos Papoulias soon followed suit and visited Tirana last month to discuss the issue with Nishani.

"Our side is ready to find a common solution with the Greeks in accordance with international rights and internal legislation of each of our countries," Nishani said after the meeting.

Experts said an agreement is in the interest of both countries and peoples and needs to be re-negotiated from scratch at any cost.

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"The new agreement should be reached with the consent of both sides and prior to being signed and approved by parliament, the secretariat on the UN conventions on the sea should be consulted," Qazim Tepshi, former Albanian ambassador to Greece, told SETimes.

But some experts also cautioned the agreement should not be rushed despite the obvious benefits of improving bi-lateral relations and regional stability.

"The agreement requires time and multi-faceted expertise, and even international understanding. In order for this issue to benefit all sides, i.e., other countries of the Ionian and Mediterranean area, consultation with Italy, Turkey and the US is also necessary," Lisen Bashkurti, director of the Diplomatic Academy in Tirana, told SETimes.

What should Albania and Greece do to demarcate the maritime border to the satisfaction of both sides? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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