Albania Moves to Strengthen its Role in Region

Albania’s Foreign Minister Ilir Meta has announced that the country will soon open an embassy in Sarajevo, the latest sign that Tirana aims to take a larger regional role, following its entry into NATO.

“Taking into account Albania’s increasing role in the Western Balkans, our government has decided to soon open the Albanian embassy in Sarajevo,” said Meta during a recent meeting with his Slovakian counterpart Miroslav Lajcak.

“This step is a clear sign of the attention that Albania pays to Bosnia-Herzegovina and its perspective for the whole region,” Meta added.

During an official visit in March, Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his Bosnian counterpart, Nikola Spiric agreed to improve economic and diplomatic relations and work jointly towards faster membership in the European Union.

The two premiers also signed four bilateral agreements – on police cooperation, readmission of illegal immigrants, customs and travel between the two countries.

Tirana, together with Croatia, was accepted as a full member of NATO at the Alliance’s Strasbourg meeting in April 2009.

Albania-Serbia relations have also enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts in recent months, despite holding completely opposing views on Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence.

After a meeting with representatives of the Serb minority in Kosovo in late December, Berisha announced a 400,000 euro grant to the community of Gracanica, a ethnic Serb enclave in central Kosovo.

Berisha held a joint meeting with Slobodan Petrovic, head of the Serbian Liberal Party in Kosovo, where he expressed his government’s desire for improved ethnic relations within Kosovo.

The Albanian premier also announced that he had invited Serbian President Boris Tadic for an official visit to Albania and the two governments were working out the details.

“President Tadic and I value developing the relationship between our two countries in order to open a new chapter,” Berisha said during the press conference. “President Tadic is welcome in Albania and I must say we are working on his coming visit, an invitation which he has gladly accepted,” Berisha added.

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