Prime Minister Edi Rama today received the visiting Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Luigi Di Maio. An agreement was signed after the bilateral meeting on establishment of Joint Standing Committee between Albania and Italy.
Following are the press statements by Prime Minister Edi Rama and Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio:
PM Edi Rama: Good afternoon!
We just concluded a fraternal meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, a friend – I speak will full conviction – a precious friend of Albanians and Albania, who despite the extremely busy time he has still found time and opportunity to revisit Albania following the previous visit last December, about which I would recall for everyone and reiterate that I would like to thank and express gratitude for standing by us at one of the hardest moments in our history in the wake of the tragedy on 26 November last year.
I can’t help but in addition to thanking him, I would like to express again the most profound gratitude to the friendly Italy, the Italian government, the Italian people and especially the fantastic Italian Civil Defence crews that acted with lightning speed to our plea for help and were immediately deployed to the disaster-struck area, bringing hope and rescuing human lives.
On the other hand, I can’t also help but gratefully also recall the direct involvement of our friend, Luigi di Maio, and the Prime Minister Conte, to drum up incredible support for Albania at the International Donors’ Conference in Brussels, where Italy delivered not only on words, but also deeds being at the forefront of the friendly country that lined up alongside Albania.
We today share also the experience the whole world is sharing, the extraordinary experience that is challenging whole world, the fight against the invisible enemy, COVID-19 virus. I would also like to thank the Minister for his readiness to be completely open and willing to assist in the efforts to provide the vaccine, for which the whole world has been set in motion, and the EU has been set in motion. As I have explained before, the countries are also creating partnerships and Italy thanks to this very special relationship it has with Albania, but also thanks to Prime Minister Conte and Foreign Minister, stands with us, just like the EU stands with the Western Balkans, so that the countries in our region do not lag behind primarily in gaining access to the vaccine for the health personnel, and then, as soon as possible, for the teachers, policemen and entire population.
With the Minister we also discussed the important issue of the cooperation. Albania-Italy Strategic Partnership Declaration was signed ten years ago today, an important milestone on the way to strengthening our bilateral relationship. We are seeking to further institutionalize this partnership by promoting dialogue on specific topics, and the topic we will be working on immediately is the partnership on the Balkan investment plan, which comprises three main pillars: transport and infrastructure, energy and digitalization. Italy possesses valuable expertise in the international arena regarding the first two main pillars and Italy is ready to stand by us. So, sooner rather than later, together with the Minister, we will also determine our strategic partners on this path that will assist us through their expertise with projects and in the efforts to absorb this EU fund.
And the last but not least, I would like to personally thank the minister, because, even though I have no reason to forget the commitment of his predecessors in this position, he is really committed not only politically, not simply institutionally, but also personally to be an excellent advocate of the European integration of Albania and the Western Balkans which is part of the strategic vision of the Italian government.
We talked about this station too, where things are complicated for the time being, as you have been already informed, due to an impasse between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, while the negotiating framework with both countries is being discussed at the EU level.
Italian FM Luigi Di Maio: Thank You Mr. Prime Minister!
Thank you Edi!
Today I had a very cordial and constructive meeting with my friend, Prime Minister Edi Rama, with whom we have a stable relationship. Last year, as you said, I was here in Tirana, shortly after the earthquake, to offer Italy’s support. At that moment we couldn’t imagined that a new tragedy would struck both our countries and the world just few months later.
The fight against COVID-19, which requires joint efforts, confirmed again, if necessary, how strong is the friendship between Italy and Albania. We gratefully welcomed Albania’s assistance during the darkest days of the pandemic in Italy, and when necessary for Albania we also dispatched a team of Italian health operators. The damage our societies and our economies have suffered didn’t stop us in doing that.
The two countries have established strong economic trade ties as demonstrated by the fact that Italy is the top supplier of Albania. However, the consistency of relationships in our relationships is such that we can and should do a lot better. That is why I am especially pleased to announce that today we signed a statement to set up a joint economic commission, which will set up a forum for dialogue and exploration of trade and investment opportunities for both our countries, as well as for to address and resolve critical and problematic points in bilateral relations and those in the economic context in particular.
It is certainly a particularly promising framework on infrastructure also thanks to the plan to modernize transport sector as adopted by the Albanian government, which is part of the cooperation vision for economic development and investments in the Western Balkans that was unveiled by the European Commission in October.
Another aspect related to the strengthening of our economic and trade relations, to which we put our hearts, is that of the dissemination of the Italian language in Albania. Therefore, we hope for a greater presence of Italian education in Albania, perhaps even extending the Italian language teaching to technical and professional institutes. Such a decision would be in line with the constant expansion of economic cooperation between the two countries and the presence of an extensive network of Italian firms in Albania.
The stability of our bilateral relations is widely reflected also in the international and multilateral cooperation. As already known, Italy has always stood by Albania on its journey towards integration into the European Union and strongly supports the path of courageous domestic reforms launched by Tirana to this end.
Our efforts in this respect will be consistent. The nearest goal is to work together so that the first intergovernmental conference with Albania and North Macedonia is called. Despite the current suspension, we will push for this conference to be held as soon as possible. Despite the suspension of this issue at the General Affairs Council, we are committed to delivering on our goals within the European Union so that the intergovernmental conference is held, that is, the only path to the enlargement of the European Union with Albania.
With the Prime Minister we also discussed other issues concerning the pandemic, the cooperation on the vaccines, as well as the investments so that our countries sidestep the current economic hardship, which is being experienced by whole world precisely because of what happened due to the COVID pandemic. To this end, we are ready to work together on the design, planning, opportunity to track and investment plan in the Western Balkans in favour of cooperation of our enterprises, including the public ones, in the health plan for vaccines, as we said, by looking together towards a future, which will be a bright one if we walk together this path that separates us from normalcy.
I would like to conclude with a sentence for the Albanian friends – although I am not good at all at speaking Albanian the way the Albanian Prime Minister actually speaks Italian. “United” – this is for the United Europe – so it is a wish we can extend one another for an European future.
23 January 2021Long-promised road to Mount Tomorr taking shape gradually