Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama met with his Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis in New York yesterday on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly.
Their first meeting since Mitsotakis came to power in July seems to have fallen short of any major development, their comments suggest, particularly regarding the opening of EU accession talks with Albania.
Rama had nothing to say on their talks, briefly writing on Facebook that he had “a friendly introduction and an open discussion” with the Greek counterpart.
Mitsotakis wrote that they talked about Albania’s steps toward meeting the EU conditions:
“We discussed Albania’s accession path and steps towards meeting the conditions set by the EU, focusing on the issues of the Greek ethnic minority.”
Albania is looking forward to a positive vote on opening accession talks with the EU by all countries at the October meeting of the European Council.
Like every other EU member state, Greece has e veto power in the Council. Three weeks ahead of the decision, it seems that the Greek government has no clear position regarding Albania next step in the EU integration process. Although chances for a Greek veto are very low, public statements by the new Mitsotakis government are worrisome for Albania’s EU integration.
In yesterday’s meeting Mitsotakis underlined the “issue of self-determination for the ethnic Greek minority” and its property rights in Albania, according to Greek government sources cited by eKathimerini, while Rama said his government was ready to work on issues of interest to both countries.
Mitsotakis has also kept a similar approach before when he was in opposition and as prime minister.
Two weeks ago, he reportedly stated that Greece will not support EU accession talks with Albania until it shows “tangible” results in its treatment of the Greek ethnic minority.
The statement marked a change in the Greek foreign policy toward Albania, after the center-right government of Mitsotakis replaced the socialist government of Alexis Tsipras in July.
When he was in opposition, back in March, Mitsotakis reportedly said he wanted to send a “clear message to the Albanian government, […] that it is not possible to start the process of Albania’s EU accession when there is absolutely no respect for the rights of the Greek ethnic minority.”
His comment came following reports that the Albanian government had prepared a draft-law that would allow for the expropriation of land to be used for strategic investments. The initiative would have also affected the Greek minority, which comprises about 2% of the Albanian population. The Albanian government later withdrew from the initiative.