Thursday, January 23, 2014

Albania and Kosovo form strategic partnership

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23 January 2014

Kosovo and Albania signed an agreement for co-operation and strategic partnership, enabling the two governments to implement joint political, socio-economic and cultural policies.

The two countries also signed separate agreements to implement specific economic, energy and legal, transportation and infrastructure projects complete with specific deadlines.

The agreements prepare the grounds for both countries to finalise EU integration, said Klajda Gjosha, European integration minister of Albania.

"Albania and Kosovo will walk this road together," Gjosha told SETimes.

Next, the governments will meet to develop specific strategies and plans in the respective fields, Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said.

"Relevant ministries will assume responsibility to oversee the implementation of the decisions taken at the governments' meetings. We will also create joint commissions in various fields, with special emphasis on joint economic commissions," Thaci said.

Analysts said both countries' economies will benefit by becoming complementary and competitive.

"The Western Balkans countries should learn from the healthy relations between Kosovo and Albania that function on the basis of joint interests and for the benefit of citizens of both countries. Good neighbourhood policy is a European value and as such it should help the entire region move forward for good," Abit Hoxha, a senior researcher at the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, told SETimes.

Officials said the strategic partnership seeks to facilitate trade, transportation and infrastructure, but also energy, with special emphasis on including Kosovo in the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline gas project.

A new energy agreement was reached to build a 110-kilowatt transmission line as part of an effort to create an energy highway between the two states, following a similar agreement last month to build a 400-kilowatt power transmission line.

Officials said they will emphasise efforts to aid Kosovo's participation in the regional and global initiatives, and will co-ordinate attempts to gain more diplomatic recognition.

Part of the agreement concerns support for advancing the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

The two countries also discussed the possibility of opening joint diplomatic-consular representations.

Officials also said co-operation in the judiciary and in security matters will focus on intensified exchange of information and experiences to combat corruption and trafficking.

Another agreement specified delivery of Albania's translated EU legislation to Kosovo, and creation of a joint technical commission for translation of EU legislation.

Gjosha said the working groups that will work with Kosovo representatives to assist in harmonising legislation with that of the EU have already been established.

"Albania passed this process earlier and has a lot of experience to give," Gjosha said.

Co-operation is welcome but EU integration reforms have to be done individually by each state, said Enri Hide, a professor at the European University in Tirana.

"[O]ne of the conditions for EU integration affecting foreign policy is a having a good neighbourhood and no problems with the neighbours, something Albania should be proud of, while Kosovo has provided strong evidence of political will because of the agreement with Serbia," Hide told SETimes.

EU integration is much higher on the agenda than any other form of joint Kosovo-Albania actions, Hoxha said.

"If one looks at the border mechanisms and other institutional co-operation, it is all within the European spirit of co-operation," Hoxha said.

The two governments also decided to finance the completion of the Presevo hospital in southern Serbia and supply medical equipment, and to create a development fund for the Albanians in the Presevo Valley.

"Albania and Kosovo, our two governments, are determined to move ahead together to exploit all the possibilities," Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama said.

How will the agreement help both countries integrate into the EU? Share your opinion in the comments space.

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