Prime Minister Edi Rama has appealed to Western Balkan leaders to reject influence from outside powers and keep their faith in terms of joining the European Union, ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Albania.
In comments to the Financial Times at the weekend, Rama said Albania will “never give up on Europe and the EU, whatever the shape of the EU in the future.” He told the paper that it is frustrating to wait but added that unnamed outside influences “can bring money, investments, maybe even caviar but they won’t be able to bring what you need to build a functioning free country.”
He took a dig at other European countries and said that “today, our problem is not Balkan nationalism, it is EU nationalism. What is keeping us [from joining the EU] is the influence of EU nationalisms on the political life of the important EU countries.”
“Albanians have their own disappointments with Brussels, but this doesn’t change the conviction that we have to be there,” he said. “We’ve consumed all the love stories before, and the marriages,” he said, perhaps referring to communist relations with Russia and China.
“We’re looking for a new marriage, not for old ones. But of course, this kind of marriage is difficult.”
On the issues facing the other regional hopefuls, Rama said the Bosnians “cannot decide on anything,” the Montenegrins “are still under the illusion they can enter the EU next year,” and Kosovo is held back “because of problems with Serbia,” adding that issues can be better addressed if people sit down and talk.
His comments come prior to an official visit from Erdogan who will address parliament on Monday. Turkish influence in Albania is continuing to grow and has even resulted in Albania’s complicity in “extraterritorial abductions” of Turkish citizens who are alleged to be Gulenists.
Concerns have already been raised in Brussels over the influence of Erdogan amongst the Western Balkan six.