Albanian PM denies expansionist ambitions

"Our project is a Greater Europe with Serbia and Albania. A Greater Albania is an obsolete myth that has nothing to do with us," Albanian PM Edi Rama has said.

Source: B92

In a statement for B92 TV, he added that there was no proof that a policy was being advocated in favor of this expansionist project that would include parts of Albania's neighboring countries.

"Show me at least one proof of that in my career or in the career of any Albanian politician that would support they stood for a Greater Albania."

The Albanian prime minister also said he was surprised that someone in Serbia could be provoked by his position that Kosovo was independent. Ethnic Albanians in this Serbian province in 2008 unilaterally declared independence, which Serbia rejected as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"I find it fascinating that this can provoke you," he revealed, and added, "It is not something I dreamed up. It is the reality. Many countries that Serbia cooperates with recognized Kosovo as an independent state."

When he called on Serbia to do the same during a news conference on Monday with his host, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, the latter reacted by saying it was a provocation and a breach of protocol, and said Serbia considered Kosovo a part of its territory.

In his statement for B92, Rama reiterated that this was "the reality that Serbia should recognize."

He then said that he was "convinced that Albania and Serbia can open a new chapter in mutual relations," and that this was the reason he traveled to Serbia as first Albanian prime minister in 68 years.

"Clearly we don't have to agree about everything. There are things over which there are differences. Of course, Serbian positions should also be taken into account," said he.

Asked "what he would tell citizens when he visits the Preševo valley" - i.e., the municipalities in southern Serbia with an ethnic Albanian minority - and whether that message would be that they are "citizens of Serbia or something else," Rama said Albania "completely respects Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

He also advised "leaving the past behind and realizing that our future is Europe," adding that "we are not enemies, our enemies are public debt, unemployment, isolation."

Rama's trip here was originally planned for October, but was postponed after a series of incidents that started when a Greater Albania map was flown on a drone above the pitch in Belgrade during a Serbia vs. Albanian UEFA football qualifier.

Commenting on Rama's visit, MP of the ruling SNS party and chair of the Serbian Parliament Committee on Kosovo and Metohija Milovan Drecun told B92 TV late on Monday that "it was expected it would go as the prime minister of Albania said, to set the road to the future, hand in hand, and for our children not to suffer because of it."

"However, after this kind of incident it is evident that our roads are different," Drecun observed, and added that Rama's decision to speak about Kosovo as an independent state was an example of Greater Albania pretensions.

"Rama was not here to establish a new kind of cooperation but to encourage the Albanian corpus with another type of ideaa. Albania's policy and its prime minister are stepping outside the framework of the region's efforts to move towards the EU, they are clearly putting the brakes on the region's road towards the EU," he stressed.

According to Drecun, Rama's rhetoric was "premeditated, as was the drone incident":

"He spoke about the inevitability and reality of Kosovo's independence, while the inevitability is that Serbia is a member of the United Nations and that biggest UN member states have not recognized Kosovo."

Still, Drecun saw a step forward being made in the relations between the two countries, by means of establishing direct dialogue. For that reason he believes the visit was "very important."

"It seems to me Albania is entrenched in the position that Serbia should give up on Kosovo and Metohija to stabilize the region. Unilateral acts of secession are not the road toward stabilizing the region. We should now see the second part of his visit, in Preševo, and see reactions of Albania in the coming period," concluded Drecun.


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