Analysts see significance in Rama's planned visit to Belgrade

13/08/2014

Albania announced the first visit by its head of government to Serbia in over half a century.

By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 13/08/14

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Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama will visit Serbia in the fall. [AFP]

Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama's planned visit this fall to Serbia to meet with Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic will be the first high-level visit by an Albanian head of government to Serbia in 68 years.

"We have welcomed the Prime Minister Rama's initiative to meet his Serbian counterpart. This visit is more than a symbolic gesture. The region is at peace now, but what is needed is the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law," Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said.

The last such visit was in 1946, when Enver Hoxha visited Belgrade.

Another sign of warming relations was the meeting between Albania President Bujar Nishani and Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic during the regional summit in Croatia last month.

Relations have been stable but at a low intensity, said Bojan Elek, a researcher at the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy.

"Since 2000 when the democratic changes were made in Serbia, there have been only 11 bilateral agreements signed between the two countries. At the same time, Serbia and Bulgaria, another neighbour, signed 33 agreements. This suggests that there is room for deepening the co-operation," Elek told SETimes.

Stabilising relations will be the safest and shortest way to the EU, said Arian Galdini, honorary president of the Forum for Democracy and Ethics in Tirana.

"In the history of Europe and even in the beginning of the EU, we find the most inspiring example in the history of France and Germany. The economy and the politics have all the instruments and the content to build a stable peace in the Balkans," Galdini told SETimes.

"Our relations are not where they should be. Not all the potential, resulting from the further consolidation of the bilateral co-operation, is tapped," Ditmir Bushati, Albania foreign minister, said.

Rama and Vucic became prime ministers by scoring convincing electoral victories, said Spiro Koci, Albanian ambassador to Austria, who also served in Serbia. "A special merit goes to the EU. This is a great achievement and even the internationals use it as an example for the other regions where the situation is alike," Koci told SETimes.

Officials said, meanwhile, the two countries are making strides by also initiating citizen-to-citizen contact. Earlier this month, Serbian youth joined Albanian youths at the Beograna conference in Tirana.

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"The most-debated topic of this conference was education, a concerning problem all over the Balkans. We focused on the specific problems, the needs and the practical solutions about education in both countries," Joleza Kokam, head of the Socialist Party Youth Forum, told SETimes.

Conference planners will organise another gathering in Belgrade next month.

Correspondent Ivana Jovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

How will improved Serbia-Albania relations help stabilise Southeast Europe? Add your thoughts in the comment section below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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