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Albania’s Topi praises Turkey’s ‘constructive role’ in Balkans

April 7, 2012
Albanian President Bamir Topi (Photo: Today’s Zaman)
Albania’s President Bamir Topi has praised Turkey’s role in the Balkans and said the bilateral relations, already strong, should be further consolidated. “I think that Turkey is in a position to play a very constructive role in the Balkans. And in fact, Turkey has been playing such a role,” Topi said in an interview with Today’s Zaman in İstanbul. Topi, decorated with an honorary doctorate by the private Aydın University on Thursday, described the bilateral relations between Turkey and Albania as “perfect.”

“Our political relations are extremely good; as leaders, we reciprocate visits,” he said, recalling that he as president has paid two official visits to Turkey. Noting that there is remarkable cooperation also in the field of economy, Albanian leader stressed that his country welcomed the Turkish investors as “friends,” and said: “Since the early 1990s, Albanians have been coming to Turkey. These visits are mainly held for trade purposes but Albanians also visit Turkey for education and health purposes as well. It is a pleasure for me to see and say that there are a lot of Turkish investors in Albania in a large number of fields, including energy, telecommunication, infrastructure, university and other education areas, industry, tourism and mining.” “Turkey is a strategic partner for Albania. We are grateful to Turkey for its support. Everything is going well in bilateral relations; we just need to consolidate them further. I do not think there is a big problem in the bilateral relations that needs to be fixed. The governments have done their parts; now it is time for the private sectors to do theirs,” said Topi.

Turkish schools make huge contribution

Referring to the contribution by citizens of Balkan origin in Turkey to the improvement  of bilateral ties, Topi also praised schools sponsored by the Turkish entrepreneurs in Albania. “The schools make a huge contribution to our relations. The young Albanian people love these schools. The Albanian education system is perfectly implemented and followed there. In this sense, their contribution is great. They are making a huge contribution to the enhancement of relations between the two countries,” he said.  Turkey and Albania also share aspirations of joining the European Union. Albania, a candidate to join the European Union since 2009, failed to receive candidacy status in December 2010, due to a political row in the country. Albania is not expected to join the EU until 2015 at the earliest.  In response to a question as to whether Albania would become an EU member before Turkey, President Topi said: “We want to make progress along with our friends; hopefully, this is what will happen. We have ties of brotherhood. We are pleased with the progress and success of each other. I believe that we would make great achievements together.”

Asked whether Serbia, given candidacy status by the EU early this month, could block progress in Albania’s membership process, Topi said: “No. As Albania, we have made great achievements and progress towards EU membership and this would have nothing to do with another country. It is not possible for any Balkan country to impose preconditions on becoming an EU member. The membership criteria of the EU are clear.”

The Albanian president also dismissed prospects that Serbia’s candidacy could harm Kosovo’s EU membership chances.  “Since 2008, Kosovo has been an independent state. There are ongoing talks between Kosovo and Serbia backed by the US and the EU. I do not think that the candidacy status of Serbia would affect Kosovo’s membership bid in the EU because the whole process is advancing under the supervision of the EU. And it is a fact that the [independent] status of Kosovo is irreversible. Nobody has the right to block the EU membership bid of its neighbor. Serbia was given candidate status after long deliberations. And there are now chances for Kosovo to initiate a stability and association process with the EU. These are important steps that bring us closer. I believe that we need a modern way of thinking in the Balkan countries, which have suffered extensively in the wars in the past,” Topi said.  Asked what Albania’s eventual membership in the EU would mean for Albanians, spread across six different countries, he said: “I believe that a greater European Union is the best option for Albanians that would bring all of them together. The citizens of a member country in the EU will become free citizens of Europe.”

From → Albania, News, Opinions, Turkey

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