Albania–Greece relations

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Albanian-Greek relations
Map indicating locations of Albania and Greece

Albania

Greece

Albanian–Greek relations refer to bilateral foreign relations between Albania and Greece. Due to the strong presence of Albanian communities in Greece and the Greek communities in Albania, and the frequent high-level contacts between the governments of Albania and Greece, the two countries today enjoy warm diplomatic relations. Both countries are members of many international organizations, including the Council of Europe and NATO, and share common political views about the Balkans and the world, with Greece being a strong supporter of the EU candidacy of Albania, by proposing the "Agenda 2014" for boosting the integration of all the Western Balkan states into the European Union. Under the Greek EU Presidency, Albania, on 24 June 2014 was granted the official EU candidate status which coincides with the 10th anniversary of the "Agenda 2014". Greece is also Albania's top investor and main trading partner, and along with Italy, Greece strongly supported Albania's NATO entry. The governments of the two countries cooperate in many fields, from market and energy, to military, tourism and culture, with large projects such as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and the Hydroelectric power plants. The Greek government also is one of Albania's largest donors and the main foreign donor of the National Theater of Albania.

Modern diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1971 and today are regarded as good.[1]

History[edit]

Foreign Minister of Albania Edmond Panariti and Foreign Minister of Greece Dimitris Avramopoulos in October 2012.

After Albanian declaration of independence in 1912 land division between Albania and Greece was finally solved under the force of the Great Powers (Austria–Hungary and Italy) with the Florence Protocol. Relations did not improve until 1939 with the occupation of Albania by Italy. Greek and Albanian forces came into conflict during the Greco-Italian War even though during the Axis Occupation of Greece the Greek and Albanian resistance groups were in close contact and even exchanged information about the Nazi occupation forces.[2]

Following a freeze lasting more than 30 years, the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in 1971, at an instance where economic cooperation and strategic calculations made Enver Hoxha and the right-wing Greek military junta of 1967–1974 explore paths of cooperation.[3] Today, both nations have described their relations as 'excellent' with Albania considering Greece one of its 'strongest and most important allies', as both are NATO member-states and are enjoying close relations nowadays.[4]

Overview[edit]

Albania maintains an embassy in Athens and consulates in Ioannina and Thessaloniki. Greece maintains an embassy in Tirana and consulates in Gjirokastër and Korçë.

Modern relations[edit]

After the fall of communism in Albania in 1992, a large number of economic refugees and immigrants from Albania (and other formerly Communist countries including Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia) arrived in Greece, mostly as illegal immigrants, to seek employment. Albanians in Greece comprise 60-65% of the total number of immigrants in Greece. According to the 2001 census, there are officially 443,550 holders of Albanian citizenship in Greece.[5][6]

Bilateral relations and cooperation[edit]

The two socialist leaders of Albania and Greece in 2011, Edi Rama and George Papandreou

The relations have significantly improved since 1991; Greece and Albania signed a Friendship, Cooperation, Good Neighborliness and Security Agreement on 21 March 1996. Additionally, Greece is Albania's main foreign investor, having invested more than 400 million dollars in Albania, Albania's second largest trading partner, with Greek products accounting for some 21% of Albanian imports, and 12% of Albanian exports coming to Greece, and Albania's fourth largest donor country, having provided aid amounting to 73.8 million euros.[7]

Greece is a staunch supporter of the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Republic of Albania, and since Albania's NATO entry in May 2009, Albanian-Greek relations have been developing on all fronts. The relations, particularly after the election victory of Edi Rama in 2013, have seen massive improvement and warming of relations between the two nations[8]for a short period of time, with the Albanian Chief of Foreign Policy, Ralf Gjoni, describing the diplomatic relations between two countries as "excellent". However, during the year 2014, only a year after Rama's election, Albania and Greece relations deteriorated and became increasingly strained, due to Rama's refusal of the the agreement that defined the Maritime borders and set the Exclusive Economic Zone between the two countries, which Albania's previous government signed with Greece in 2009.[9] Despite the difficulties in the relations between the two countries, Greece, is regarded as Albania's most important European Union ally and partner.[10]

Both states are co-operating in many fields, such as political, judicial, energy and tourism. There are regular high-level visits between the two countries, and frequent contacts between the two countries' governments, parliaments and the local authorities on various matters concerning individual sectors and mutual interests. Big projects currently in running between the two countries include the touristic development of the Ionian coastline shared between the two countries, and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Official meetings between the two governments and the parliaments are frequent and the armies of both states are conducting co-training in a regular basis as part of the NATO training programme for the modernization of the Albanian Army Forces.

Under the Greek EU Presidency, Albania, on 24 June 2014 was granted the official EU candidate status which coincides with the 10th anniversary of the "Agenda 2014" proposed by the Greek Government for boosting the integration of Albania and all the Western Balkan states into the European Union.

Bilateral agreement on maritime borders[edit]

The Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and the Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha signed the agreement in 2004 for the protection of their maritime borders allowing the two countries to further enhance their cooperation on the economic aspect. Following the agreement Kostas Karamanlis expressed his firm support for the integration of Albania in the European Union together with other Balkan countries.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]