Greek prime minister praises Albania’s EU integration steps

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DERVICAN, Albania — The Greek prime minister on Thursday offered his country’s full support for neighboring Albania’s efforts for greater integration with the European Union.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the Greek minority in southern Albania, the first by a prime minister to Albania’s ethnic Greek minority areas since his father Konstantinos Mitsotakis traveled there when he was prime minister of Greece 31 years ago.

Relations between Greece and post-communist Albania have been strained at times, in large part due to minority rights and the sizable Albanian community in Greece.

Referring to the right to self-determination, Mitsotakis called for full respect for the Greek minority, saying that “in the framework of its rapprochement with Europe, it is Albania’s obligation to fully respect your rights”. levels and protection of property rights.

Last summer, Albania launched full membership negotiations with the bloc.

Mitsotakis met with the local Greek minority community in Himara on the Albanian Riviera, then would travel to another southern commune, Livadhja, before concluding a day trip in Dervican, where most of the Greek minority reside.

The exact size of the Greek minority is unknown. They refused to participate in the last census 11 years ago.

Both Mitsotakis and his host counterpart, Edi Rama, said the Greek minority is the link between the two countries.

After the overthrow of the communist regime in 1990, an estimated 600,000 Albanians crossed into Greece.

“As all Greek governments are with you, the Greek government is always with you. “This is what we have to do and what we will do,” Mitsotakis said.

EU member Greece has long supported Albania’s desire to eventually join the 27-nation bloc.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced that the government will renovate Dervican’s small square and name it after Mitsotakis’ late father, and will also place his bust there.

Another point of contention between the two countries was the dispute over maritime borders in the Ionian Sea.

Tirana and Athens signed an agreement to define maritime borders in 2009, when Albania was now ruled by the opposition Democratic Party. Rama’s Socialists, however, challenged the deal in court, claiming it cost the country 225 square kilometers (86 square miles) of territorial waters.

The Albanian Constitutional Court annulled the agreement nine months later, finding it unconstitutional.

A few years ago, Tirana and Athens agreed to take the dispute to the Netherlands-based International Court of Justice. This has not happened yet.

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