In fact, I did not want to talk about my visit to Greece, to respect the visit of the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Mrs. Laura Boldrini, who just gave a speech here in the Parliament.
But listening to the ‘Doctor’ (former PM Sali Berisha) as he talked about history, and to other debates today, a part of which were full of speculations, disinformation, and lies about the visit of the delegation of the Albanian Parliament to Greece, which was led by me, I feel an obligation to talk about this issue, encouraged also by what Mrs. Boldrini said.
In her message, Mrs. Boldrini said very clearly and straightforwardly: “Europe needs Albania as an important partner in the stability of a region which passes through dangerous tensions and nationalist confusion.” These words were spoken a little earlier through a direct message by one of the personalities of Italy and Europe in this Parliament.
Because of my political experience in the international relations, I have to say that after such a long time, the main thing that Europe, America, NATO, and the democratic world needs from Albania is in the first place, its ability to be a factor of stability in this historically troubled region.
I support the policy of “zero problems” with neighbors as a goal at least, because it seems to me practically impossible to have no problems with neighbors. I don’t expect to have problems with New Zealand or with Australia because they are not neighbors.
Certainly, we will have some problems with neighbors, because we have problems even with Kosovo on trade, on different issues linked with different interests, and we always try to resolve them.
As a politician I have three main goals: Albania’s stability, Albania’s EU integration, and Albania as a factor of stability in the region. This means good neighborly relations and Albania as a good example of regional cooperation. And I believe that these three are closely linked with each-other.
I was looking forward to this visit to Greece, despite the fact that I had not requested it. Greece has not been in a stable economic situation, or even a stable political one. Its parliaments have been changed continuously. We were sure that an official visit had to be done at present, as well as when our hosts will have more opportunities to discuss all issues of comprehensive cooperation in the future.
I am very happy about this visit, which happened during a moment which is not very positive in regards to the atmosphere, statements, and counter-statements of different political and public factors. And I believe that the Albanian delegation led by me as the Speaker, did a very good job to reach those goals that the Albanian foreign policy has.
I heard other lawmakers here say that I did not bring up the Cham issue. Not only this, but I heard some say that the Speaker has a different approach from the Foreign Minister of Albania, Mr. Ditmir Bushati. All this is speculation. I have a different approach from the Foreign Minister of Greece. My statement in response to the question of the Greek journalist after my meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister was very clear: on the Cham issue we have a different approach. In fact, my answer was diplomatic, because my approach is the opposite compared with that of the Greek Foreign Minister.
Besides this, I want to express my regret for something which is being repeated here, as if I said that the Cham issue is an issue which belongs to the past, in other words, that it is not a current issue and as such, it is an issue which must not be resolved.
I have made it very clear that in the old history of relations between the two peoples which are dominated by co-existence and co-living, there are also some wounds which hurt even when one caresses them, let alone when one scratches them, just like wounds in a human body. I have said it very clearly that these wounds need to be cured and we should cure them carefully, gently, and constructively, so they hurt as little as possible, and so we don’t create new ones. Because this is a great challenge in the relations between Albania and Greece and in the relations of Albania with other regional countries.
And this is not all, because I said that the Cham issue is the deepest wound in the history of relations between Albania and Greece. As such, in my view, it needs another climate in which all can work constructively.
We also know that another important problem, even though in my view we don’t feel any threat from Greece, has to do with the fact that the war law is still in power there. This is paradoxical because we are both NATO member countries and Greece has supported Albania’s membership in NATO.
This issue, and others, such as, the property rights of Albanians who used to live in Greece and have been deported from Greece, have been raised in an official way in every meeting and conversation. Fortunately, there is the good will to listen, despite the different reactions for those issues which have been discussed continuously by our foreign ministers, so, at diplomatic levels.
I was not in Greece to do negotiations on these issues or other issues inherited from the past. This was an official visit. Our goal was first and foremost to create a constructive climate, because I can tell you with deep conviction that what has hindered the solution of many issues, which both confidentially are considered as paradoxical, are the electoral campaigns in Greece and Albania. Often, the climate is affected by the campaigns which put the governments in difficult positions to take wise decisions.
I believe that the governments which will come in the future in Greece, perhaps will not be so positively disposed to cure these wounds faster. I have noticed a very positive will in the current Greek government for many issues, especially about the integration of emigrants. These steps were not taken by any other government before. I have noticed a constructive will to advance in a stable way towards the improvement of relations between our two countries.
Therefore, I believe that what we need at present is a constructive climate with each-other here in the parliament, for issues in regards to relations with neighbors, including Greece, and we must give up the efforts to turn these issues into issues for the next electoral campaign. Personally I do not intend to do this thing and it seems to me useless, because I think that the important thing for all Albanians, especially for the Cham community which lives in Albania and whose rights have been denied violently, is to regain these rights, which are fundamental human rights.
I believe that we must walk in a wiser way even for this issue, as the most difficult issue, because there is no political force at present in Greece which is willing to discuss it. An exception is maybe the Golden Dawn, with members of which I have never met and I don’t intend to meet as Parliament Speaker. For this reason, I believe that in this regard, we must treat relations with all neighbors, and not just with Greece, very responsibly, just like the Foreign Policy Committee does especially when there are no cameras around.
We must not forget the message that Mrs. Boldrini just gave us here, in our Parliament, just a few hours ago: “Europe needs Albania as an important partner for the stability of a region which passes through dangerous tensions and nationalist confusion.” Albania does not have an interest not to behave in a European way even when EU country members don’t want to do this, because in order to solve such issues, we need the support of the EU and all the other international partners. And they are going to give us this thing when they see that we are raising our problems in a constructive way. It’s not enough to have the right on your side. It’s also very important how one presents his request about this right.
I believe that in our relations with Greece, in our relations with other countries, it’s very important to behave in a European manner.
We must present this case in the right way, not as a challenge to Greece, not through a rhetoric to denounce Greece, because this does not help us and this will not resolve this issue. This cannot be resolved in a one-sided way because we would have resolved it long ago!
This issue needs dialogue, understanding and trust that must be built daily. These means must not be killed, even unintentionally, or because of impatience rightly felt by many representatives of this extraordinary and valuable community, or because of the “patriotism” of the rest of us who have a different origin. We don’t have a Cham origin but we are from Skrapar, Tirana, and other areas. We must not forget that relations with Greece are and must remain vital for Albania. Even Enver Hoxha, the dictator of Albania who isolated the country from the entire world and who fought with the Greeks in 1949, in the end left a book behind entitled “Two Friendly Nations”.
Therefore, I think that all of us in this room must raise our level higher and must show that we must win our rights and not lose them. We must not behave in a revanchist way.
Those who have this kind of attitude, let them attack me because this does not bother me at all!
I met with Dukanovic in 1997 and I was attacked because I met “Milosevic’s man”. I am proud for what I did later with him about the relations between Albania and Montenegro. I helped the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and I have not asked for praise or medals about this. In fact, when I was offered a medal I did not accept it because I felt that what I did was my duty. But after Kosovo got liberated, I have done everything to improve Albania-Serbia relations and Kosovo-Serbia relations, even though I have been attacked.
I have been accused that I have unilaterally removed visas with Serbia. We did this because we showed that we are one step forward.
I have been accused just for going to Presevo accompanied by a Serbian Minister and I did not care because this was a very positive thing, so that Albanians can go there unaccompanied by anyone.
I want to tell you all that if in our domestic policy, each of us is allowed to make a mistake, because this is a mistake which costs each of us personally, or a certain political group, in the foreign policy, the mistakes, emotions, haste, and desire to be in the news, even for a short moment, or even worse, to avoid the attention from another issue and move to a different one, even when this is of a “patriotic” character, all can bring long-term consequences which the citizens and people will suffer much more than the politicians.
Therefore, I think that we must keep these things in consideration. I respect the opinion and ideas of each of you. I sometimes have heard crazy statements, such as Arta Dade is “Greek” as well, besides Mr. Dule, Mr. Tavo, and Mr. Angjeli, and in fact, many other members of the delegation as well. We are not surprised. These are reminiscences which come from the past. I think that we must look forward to the future, and must address each-other constructively and we must do the same with the neighbors. In this way, we will have the strong and resolute support of NATO, the EU, and with the good will of all, we will win our rights and I believe that this is the only way to win them. In foreign policy, results are important, not rhetoric.