If We Don't Want Plenipotence to Be Impotent
By Alqi Koçiko
Albanian Daily News
Published February 15, 2018
Albanian government's official request for granting plenipotence to launch Albania-Greece bilateral negotiations on pending issues that are currently on the table, such as the agreement on the maritime border, the abolition of Greek war law etc, arrived yesterday on the table of the President of the Republic.
As we already know, bilateral talks at foreign ministers' level are ongoing between the two countries. But it is clear that plenipotence granted by the head of state is a constitutional obligation.
It was precisely the decision of the Albanian Constitutional Court that annulled the maritime pact in 2009, the one that defines the lack of plenipotence from Albanian delegation's part, as one of the reasons for that agreement's annulment.
While the till now bilateral negotiations, the friendly and constructive meetings and the predisposition to overcome old and new Albanian-Greek disputes have been welcomed in and out of the respective countries, it seems that the moment has arrived for all sides to calm down and let enthusiasm or accusations to the public opinion and the media. Moreover, an error-based experience like that of 2009, especially in relation to the maritime border, should be translated into lessons.
Are we learning these lessons?
So far, there are a few moments that need to be highlighted. Firstly, it turns out that the head of state has received a governmental request of plenipotence for the Albanian delegation, which lacks the names and concrete functions of the members. It seems as if the President is simply asked to notarize a "blank document" for an agreement where the head of the Albanian state has nothing to do with.
Secondly, the absence of a representative of the Presidency in the respective delegation, when this institution is required to seal such an important agreement, lacks seriousness.
Thirdly, it seems like the parties are in such a hurry to conclude the maritime border agreement, that it doesn't smell right. Let's not forget that if neighboring Greece has about 6,000 islands and hundreds of thousands of miles of coastline, our coastline is one of the biggest assets we have. It is no secret that precious hydrocarbon reserves have been discovered in the Ionian subterranean, and they constitute the real interest of neighbors, not a few meters more or less of territorial waters. Apparently the information that the Albanian side has on these reserves and their concrete location comes from articles and pieces of media information, as our side has failed to conduct research. If this is true, it would be useful for our state to gather maximum information in this regard, before we go on and seal an agreement of these dimensions.
Albania, already a NATO member country, is at a delicate stage in its path to EU integration. The nearest station is the hope of opening accession negotiations in June this year. Along this journey we need the approval of all EU member countries, and of course Greece's. But ours is a long travel, and we should not have any illusions. If we, along the way, drop like an unwanted weight a piece of territory here, some sea space there, a concession here and bits of (what is left of) our integrity further on, in the end there will be not much "Albania" left to join EU.
The presidency in the meantime announces that the head of state has started consultations once it has received the government's request for the grant of plenipotence. He has sought the opinion and experience of his predecessors, and of course that of constitutionalists and experts. Certainly he will consult the relevant legal basis too.
I believe it is not a bad move, on the contrary. After all, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, this is one of those times when carefulness and non-excitement is the only way to end the job quickly. And well.