By Gjergj Erebara
Albania’s President on Friday signaled continuing reluctance to give the government the authority to negotiate a sensitive maritime border agreement with Greece – despite fears that delays could affect the country’s EU membership prospects.
Albania President Ilir Meta on Friday met parliament’s foreign affairs committee, seeking more talks on the government’s request for authorization to negotiate a new maritime border deal with Greece.
A press release after the meeting said the President had “informed MPs of his stance on this issue, emphasizing that achieving a fair and sustainable agreement requires the collaboration and seriousness of all institutions”.
Earlier, his spokesperson denied that by refusing to grant the government authority to negotiate a deal, the President was attempting to disrupt negotiations between the two sides.
Albania’s Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati, and his Greek counterpart held two preparatory meetings last year on resolving relations between two countries, some of which are decades old and very sensitive, including the maritime border and the property rights of ethnic Albanians, known as Chams, expelled from Greece at the end of the Second World War.
On February 14, Bushati asked Meta for authorization to negotiate the sea border. After holding consultations with former presidents, however, Meta requested further clarification on February 20.
The government said it had met this request this week, but the President is still holding out.
The opposition centre-right Democratic Party wants the country to go to an international court to resolve the issue and is already accusing the government of planning a sell-out on the sea border.
The government sees resolving the matter as urgent, however, as the European Council is expected to discuss relations with Balkans later this month, and the outcome of the talks with EU member Greece could affect a possible decision to open EU membership negotiations.
Meta was elected President last year by the votes of the Socialist Party. However, his party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI, now led by his wife, Monika Kryemadhi, went into opposition in last year’s elections.
Relations between Meta and the Socialist-led government remain difficult. He has refused to appointment a new head for the secret services since the previous head resigned last October, for example.