Open Diplomacy, Without Prejudices
By By Leonidha Mertiri
Albanian Daily News
Published July 20, 2016

In one of the seasons of the Conference of Ambassadors, held these days by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs with heads of Albania's diplomatic and consular missions in the world, the word of Deputy Foreign Minister Selim Belortaja grabbed the attention of local and international participants.

I've known him for a long time and to me, he always appeared as a different voice in diplomacy. The peculiarity is in the emphasis that he places on the need for fresh, open, productive diplomacy without prejudices. This is neither a coincidence nor the first time that Belortaja displays his opinion. Time after time he made clear this kind of diplomacy in front of routine, formal and rigid practices. This has been the topic of our previous articles, published by this paper. 

But, the speech in the conference provided him with the opportunity to present in a more complete, compact and argumentative way his outlook on the aforementioned issue.

Let's stop in some moments of this presentation, by giving our judgment on them.

It is clear that our diplomacy is led by some specific priorities. Even our strategic partners are defined. But neither this cliché on division was not foretold, static, remaining hostage to this cliché and division into good and bad partners.

This sort of stereotype becomes a commodity for idle people and diplomats that lack ideas, who want to save themselves the trouble and to study the opportunities that the dynamic of political developments offers from time to time.

Political correctness shouldn't kill dynamism and flexibility that are really needed in modern diplomacy.

In the meantime, the cliché makes you more likeable to your bosses, strategic partners and most of all it creates no trouble. Thus, as the reality shows, this kind of format helps the diplomat to survive. What he highlighted above clearly appears in political geography, or in the relationships with specific countries and actors. The selection of partners cannot be fixed while priorities are the result of realistic analyses.  Truth to be said, this is a partnership due to our national interests, obligations that derive from the mission of diplomacy, our Constitution. In other words, our strategic partnerships were not foretold or coming from nowhere. They come from our national interests.

This becomes clearer in terms of relationships with 'third parties'. This is a new notion that is now part of the diplomatic language. As it seems, this takes into consideration not only states but also non-states actors, who even if they aren't first grade partners, they affect the region and consequently our country with their power and background.

What risk would pose to Albania the meeting of the economic inter-governmental commission that Russia is insisting on? This commission didn't gather for four or five years. The meeting doesn't mean that it forces or side to annul or revise its political stances on the Russian aggression in Crimea, on the Ukrainian crisis, on Russia's role in Syria, or on the open flirt with Serbia and its movements in the region, especially the 'anti-Kosovo' agenda.

Economic dialogue as in the case of the above-mentioned commission would open a canal of communication on other issues. In the end, the mission of diplomacy is to open and not to close. As it is known, diplomacy is the most important instrument for the foreign policy of a country.

Let's continue further.

What would cause the opening of an office of representation in Iran, even if it had a limited function on economic cooperation?  In brief, why everywhere we always are the last with our movements?

Meanwhile, the entire developed world is hurrying to build economic ties with the giant potential of Iran. When it comes to third actors we highlight:

Firstly: in many cases, we consider them as bogeys and we talk only about their threats or risks thus, making this a fastidious and unproductive refrain. We forget that this terrain provides more opportunities and not only threats and risks.

Secondly, we treat relationships with them as will or unwillingness. This isn't real politics, because, despite our wish, those actors are present both in our and the region's politics. Therefore, they aren't a choice. They are an acting reality despite our wishes.

Third, they really are part of our tables. They can be found in the tables of our strategic partners like NATO, the European Union (EU), OSCE, etc.

Let's take another example.

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) is a multilateral forum for dialogue and consultation on political and security-related issues among Allies and partner countries. But only a few know that not only Russia but even Serbia are members of EAPC. Serbia also has the status of observing member in the Adriatic Charter. 

Deputy Foreign Minister Selim Belortaja shares a different opinion on this classification.

His vision seems to be clearer while he praises the fact that the geography of third parties is not that strict.  Their geography should be considered in terms of dynamic and movement. Why? The influence of some actors vanishes into thin air while others take the spotlight.

Let's take China's case. Its clearly increasing role even in our region cannot be ignored. When we mention China or other powers, of course, it is necessary to carefully pursue the balance amidst the geostrategic and pragmatic interests of both sides. 

Both sides are connected, but again, we cannot remain hostage to fear, geopolitical invasion, or to profit related euphoria. As we mentioned, countries like Iran and its extraordinary energy potential cannot be ignored. Even other countries of the Gulf or the entire Africa, which was described as a defining potential on the economic development for the next 20 years by Italian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Paolo Gentiloni during the Conference of Ambassadors.

The question that arises is: What does our practice with third parties lacks?

Firstly, our presence in this countries. More concretely, the Albanian Embassy in China remained for seven months without an ambassador. The latter has to be a personality of high qualities that can be found within the Foreign Ministry staff. 

Yet, based on our experience in diplomacy, it's obvious that in such case, the most important coordinator for the strategy on bilateral relations is absent. It seems that his appointment will wait due to normal procedures until the acceptation of credentials. If we follow this line of thought, there is no Albanian representation in Iran, even though this country opened its embassy in Tirana since years.

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