Presidenti i Republikës së Shqipërisë

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Statement by the President of the Republic of Albania, H. E. Mr. Bajram Begaj

Hello everyone!

To start with, allow me to thank in this joint press conference, my host and friend, the President of the Republic of Croatia, Mr. Zoran Milanović, for the warm welcome he gave me and the accompanying delegation.

Thank you Zoran!

After Kosovo, this is my second visit abroad as the President of the Republic of Albania, which for me is quite significant and of great importance.

My visit to Croatia is important concerning the relations between the two countries, both in the context of regional developments, as well as within the framework of European developments and beyond.

I had the pleasure of having a long, special and friendly conversation with President Milanović, where the main focus was to further strengthen bilateral cooperation, Albania’s European integration agenda, as well as regional developments.

We shared the common view that today Albanian-Croatian relations are at their best, thanks to the excellent historical and traditionally friendly relations between our two countries and our two peoples.

They are based on the foreign policy priorities of our two countries and the common vision for the Western Balkan region.

The strategic partnership agreement signed between the two countries has given a new dynamic to the relations between them.

Last year, our relations celebrated their 30th anniversary and I assessed that in these three decades, we have created a capital which is quite good for political, diplomatic and economic cooperation.

We shared the conviction that despite the excellent level of bilateral political relations, as far as the tendency and trend of growth of economic and trade relations is concerned, there is still much to be done in terms of economic cooperation between the two countries.

There is no lack of legal framework, so I assessed that in this regard, we should do something more.

I assured President Milanović that Croatian investments and projects in Albania are welcomed, especially in the field of energy and tourism, where Croatia has an extraordinary experience, as well as in other fields such as infrastructure, agriculture and other fields of mutual interest.

For a better interconnection between the two countries with a direct impact in the field of tourism, we shared the opinion that the time has come to have a direct airline between the two countries or an interconnection between the ports of the two countries.

I appreciated that in the relations between the two countries, in the historical and traditionally friendly relations the Albanian diaspora, the old and the new diaspora, in Croatia has played an important role.

Historically, when I say old diaspora, I refer to the Arbanas of Zara (Zadar), settled in the Croatian lands more than 300 years ago, who, thanks to the support given by the Croatian authorities, have preserved their language, traditions and culture up to now.

Whereas the new diaspora, consisting of Albanians who have come from all the Albanian territories of the region, has found a second homeland here in Croatia, which has created the conditions for a life full of dignity and representation even at the highest political levels.

I feel proud to listen that the Albanian community in Croatia is considered a constructive and dedicated part of Croatian society.

Today, this community is represented by an Albanian MP, so thank you dear MP, for the public profile of this community.

We appreciated that a soon reaching bilateral agreement on social insurance, will have a greater impact on strengthening the friendly relations between our two peoples.

Naturally, our conversation was also focused on regional cooperation, also within the framework of the European integration of Albania.

In the latter, I appreciated that Croatia in this regard, can serve as a model, as a very good example for Albania and I believe also for other countries in the region.

I congratulated President Milanović on Croatia’s membership in the Schengen area and the Euro, as the only country that has achieved both at the same time, on the same day.

I expressed my gratitude for the attention and for the special help that Croatia has given and is giving to Albania’s European integration process.

As an initiator of the EU-Western Balkans Summit in 2000, Croatia has been and still is a good advocate and great supporter of the enlargement and membership process of the countries of the Western Balkan region.

I assured my friend Zoran, that Albania and its institutions are committed to successfully fulfill the necessary reforms, by informing him on the concrete results and the expectation regarding the second intergovernmental meeting between the EU and Albania.

I also underlined that Albania is a reliable European partner in terms of its common foreign and security policy.

President Milanović assured me that Croatian support, experience and expertise will not lack along this journey.

Focusing on regional cooperation, I particularly appreciated the full support that President Milanović and the Croatian institutions have given to Kosovo, both in the framework of the recognition process and that of its membership in regional and international organizations, but also for the liberalization of visas, a success that was recently achieved.

In the framework of regional cooperation, I appreciated the role of Croatia and Slovenia in the Brdo-Brijni process, as the only platform that has brought them together continuously, has given voice to all the heads of state in the region to proceed with ideas and their attitudes towards the European Union.

I expressed the belief that in the future, this platform should continue with the full support of President Milanović.

Also, as two NATO member countries we shared the opinion, that our joint role and commitment to security and stability in the region is and remains very important.

In this perspective, we underlined the common interest and the need for coordination between us, so that Kosovo also becomes part of this Alliance as soon as possible.

Regarding Kosovo’s full membership in the Alliance, I am on the same wavelength as President Milanović, who has assessed that Kosovo is not biased towards NATO, nor the EU.

I expressed Albania’s support for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue mediated by the European Union and supported by the United States of America, underlining that the unreserved and rapid implementation of the agreement reached in Ohrid on the European plan, will pave the way for the normalisation of relations and then a final, legally binding and internationally recognized agreement, focused on mutual recognition between the two countries.

This would serve the region, but not only.

The latest geopolitical developments, following the unjustified Russian aggression against Ukraine, make our regional cooperation on security issues, including cyber and hybrid attacks, even more important.

Albania is steadfast in its support for Ukraine through its role in the United Nations Security Council.

I thanked President Milanović for the support that Croatia gave to Albania’s candidacy for the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2022-2023 term, as well as I assured him of the support that Albania will give to Croatia’s candidacy for the non-permanent member in the Security Council for the 2030-2031 term.

And last, but not least, to follow up this very significant conversation we had today, I invited President Milanović for a state visit to Albania, at his convenience.

This agenda will be indispensable to advance our very successful relationship and cooperation.

Thank you!