As Kosovo commemorated its thirteenth anniversary of independence, its new prime minister, Albin Kurti told Euronews that if a referendum was held on the unification of Albania and Kosovo, he would vote in favor.
“I believe that independence also implies the independence of independence. So we can join the federation, either with Albania or [the] EU… Once we have a strengthening of the state of Kosovo, once we can do it in a peaceful and democratic way, I think I would vote in favor (in the referendum), ”said Kurti.
In response to these comments, Taulant Balla, general secretary of the ruling Albanian Socialist Party, told Euronews Albania that any unification with Kosovo will only come when these two countries begin the path to EU membership.
“These types of concepts become part of the European integration processes. Albanians on this side of the border and on that side of the border will unite on the road to Brussels, “said Balla.
However, former Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko was unequivocal.
“Such stories must end,” Albania told Euronews in an interview on Friday.
His message to Kurti was to take care of his immediate priorities rather than igniting talking points that could be problematic.
“These discussions would create problems with the international acts that guarantee the stability of Kosovo, I mean the acts that guarantee the presence of NATO in Kosovo and the Ahtisaari Package. Meanwhile, more importantly, a prime minister cannot hint at a different status, because Kosovo is still in the process of being recognized by other states, ”Majko said.
EU enlargement efforts
Albania’s efforts to join the bloc have been ongoing for two decades and the country is currently waiting to begin accession talks. While Kosovo’s journey in this process began in 2012 with the visa liberalization dialogue, Kosovo remains the only country in the Western Balkans with such movement restrictions in the EU.
Albania’s Minister of State for Relations with Parliament, Elisa Spiropali, said that this is an issue that requires inclusive dialogue and cooperation.
“We have expressed our willingness to understand, as well as our willingness to dialogue, to approach, not only the legislation but also the memorandum of cooperation, starting with education, health and everything else, because one thing is clear: Albania and Kosovo must come closer at all levels and must cooperate as two countries that share a common goal, ”said Spiropali.
During the socialist leadership, Albania has held at least six intergovernmental conferences with Kosovo and signed dozens of cooperation agreements, but, to date, these agreements have not brought any radical change in relations between the two countries.
For the Democrats, who have led the opposition since 2013, Kurti’s statement was not ignored. Genc Pollo, a former deputy prime minister, said he received the referendum’s declaration as “hypothetical,” as neither country currently has plans to hold such a vote.
“Kurti said that ‘in case’ a referendum was held, he did not say that he was going to hold a referendum, he would vote in favor and any Albanian could have said it very well. What I do know is that Albin Kurti has his main focus on internal questions of reforms and necessary measures. We wish him all the best in his endeavors, ”Pollo concluded.
‘Europe would face a nightmare if the Balkans go crazy’
When Albania was due to hold its parliamentary elections in 2017, the country’s socialist prime minister, Edi Rama, in an interview with Politico.eu, also drew attention to the issue of a national unification between Albania and Kosovo.
Prime Minister Rama said that a union between the two cannot be ruled out if the prospects for EU membership for the Western Balkans fade, further saying that “Europe would face a nightmare if the Balkans go crazy.”
Kosovo, which declared its independence on February 17, 2008, after an armed conflict with Serbia, has its constitution forbidden to join another country.
Serbia, on the other hand, does not recognize the independence of Kosovo and has sanctioned it in its constitution as a territorial part of itself.
Kosovo analyst Jusuf Thaci says Kurti does not see unification with Albania as a priority, at least not during his first term as head of government.
“First of all, Kosovo has to deal with a number of internal problems, then it is the dialogue with Serbia, and only after these problems are addressed, and after the full sovereignty of Kosovo is achieved, I believe that unification it could be a topic of discussion in coordination with Albania and its partners, through democratic manners, ”said Thaci.
But political analyst Ermal Hasimja said the key component is the elimination of customs. And this is something that should happen before any referendum and that depends on both Rama and Kurti.
“Albania and Kosovo will mutually benefit if they agree [the] free movement of goods. It is ridiculous that countries like France and Germany, which have always been at war with each other throughout their history, have no border or customs, and Albania and Kosovo, which are part of a nation, should be separated by a border. ” Hasimja told Euronews Albania.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism