Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Greek leadership receives Albanian President Topi

Albanian President Bamir Topi, currently in Athens on a three-day official visit, was received on Monday by Greek President Karolos Papoulias, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Talks between Papoulias and Topi covered the gamut of Greek-Albanian relations and regional issues, such as Kosovo, the FYROM 'name issue', Turkey's EU course and the Cyprus problem.

Papoulias stressed that talks between them had confirmed the strategic importance of Greek-Albanian relations and ascertained that these were at a high level. He underlined Athens' steadfast support for Albania's European and Euro-Atlantic prospects, saying this would contribute to the stability of the western Balkans. He also praised Albania's progress toward this goal and expressed hope that Tirana would be able to meet all the criteria for joining Euro-Atlantic structures.

Papoulias highlighted the fact that Greece was the top investor in Albania and the country's second-largest trade partner, adding that he was closely monitoring the progress of the country's ethnic Greek population in order to work together with Albanian authorities on any problems that might arise.

He also pointed to the presence of hundreds of thousands of Albanian guest workers in Greece that were helping the neighbouring country's economic growth and fuelling the Albanian economy with the money they send back home.

In statements after his meeting with Papoulias, the Albanian president thanked him for the positive part he had played in the development of Greek-Albanian relations and in the gradual improvement of the standing and the legalisation of Albanian migrants living in Greece through a series of presidential decrees, in addition to an agreement for improving the education of Albanian children in their native tongue.

Topi also referred to regional affairs, saying that independence for Kosovo would contribute to a final peace settlement for the region and would be a valuable contribution to peace. "Kosovo, Albania and Serbia all saw their future within the European family," he added.

Finally, he said that he had invited Papoulias to visit Albania, and that the Greek president had promised to carry out the trip very soon.

Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (L) shakes hands with visiting Albanian President Bamir Topi outside the Maximos Mansion government house in Athens on Monday, Nov. 26, 2007 / G. ANTONIOU.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Albania's president said Monday that an independent Kosovo would contribute to peace and stability in the Balkans and Europe.
During a visit to neighboring Greece, President Bamir Topi said he had discussed Balkan issues, including the status of Kosovo, with President Karolos Papoulias.
Topi said afterward that granting Kosovo independence «would bea valuable contribution toward the final peace in the region.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since a NATO-led bombardment in 1999 halted a Serb crackdown in the southern province, which is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. On Monday in Austria, international envoys were making a final effort to get Kosovo and Belgarde to agree on the province's future status.
Topi said the future of the western Balkans lies firmly in Europe.
«I believe, and I am convinced, that the region of Kosovo and Albania, but also Serbia, see their future in the European family,» Topi said.

The two presidents, who have little real power, strove to patch up relations strained two years ago when Papoulias cut short a visit to Albania after protesters gathered outside his hotel. Relations between Greece and Albania have been strained periodically since the 1990 fall of communism in the tiny Balkan country because of perceptions of racism and xenophobia in Greece, and over the status and treatment of hundreds of thousands of Albanian immigrants. On Monday Papoulias, who was Greece's foreign minister in the late 1980s and mid-1990s reiterated Greece's support for the «European and Euro-Atlantic perspective of Albania,» which aims to join NATO and the EU. Up to 1 million Albanians live in Greece, many of them without proper immigration status, while Greece is the biggest single investor in Albania.