Albanian Daily News
No to lifting sanctions against Serbia; corridor VIII priority

Feb 16, 2000

There are some countries that want to ease the sanctions against Serbia, while some others want to lift the embargo established by the international community, because of the economic and trade losses, said the Albanian Prime Minister, Ilir Meta, who highlighted that such an endeavour is a threat to the stability of the Balkans and all south-eastern European countries.

In an interview with the independent daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" on Tuesday, the Albanian premier elaborated on the latest Summit which included some regional countries involved in the Stability Pact, pointing out, among other things, that as long as Slobodan Milosevic is at the head of the Yugoslav government there will be a permanent crisis in the region. He underlined that only sanctions can serve to weaken his regime, and to achieve this goal these sanctions should be strengthened, not relaxed.

Regarding relations with Macedonia, the number one of the Albanian government said he had requested from his counterpart, PM, Georgievski, a quickening of the implementation of regional projects under the framework of the Stability Pact, in particular that for Corridor VIII, while he insisted on the implementation of a joint agreement on the free interim border movement of citizens signed two years ago between Tirana and Skopje.

Meta accepted that his Greek counterpart, Simitis, opposed the free movement of people between neighbouring Albania and Greece, something aspired to by Tirana, but, according to him, this was linked to certain international obligations of Athens.

Following is what the Albanian premier, Ilir Meta, told "Gazeta Shqiptare":

- What are the reasons that some Balkan countries have given for the easing of sanctions against Serbia and for the opening of the River Danube?

- I hold that certain governments of the regions, which have expressed themselves for the lifting or easing of the sanctions against Serbia, undertook that step because they are motivated by mere pragmatism, the bulk of which is the economic and trade losses they are suffering because of the embargo established over Yugoslavia by the international community. 

The Albanian stance has been clear cut: we are of the opinion that no-one should be led by short-term pragmatic interests, rather each country in the region should consider the fact that as long as Slobodan Milosevic is in power in Belgrade, there will be a tense situation in the region, and peace will not reign. The image of the whole region will be damaged and Milosevic’s regime in Serbia will pose a permanent threat in the whole region of south-eastern Europe.

So any tolerance shown to Milosevic’s regime, if these pragmatic concepts are taken into account, would damage the long-term interests of the stability and security in the region. Having said this, we are determined to maintain the sanctions, which should be more effective with the aim of weakening Milosevic’s regime.

- How much were you supported in your endeavours to boost sanctions against Serbia at a time when most of the countries are for easing them?

- I would say that the above issue did not become controversial, rather it was an expression of the stances of all the countries in the framework of the recent developments in the south-eastern Europe, including Yugoslavia.

After all, I hold that this is not a question to be decided at a round-table of the South-eastern European countries.

- What was the gist of the cooperative programmes you discussed with the Macedonian and Turkish premiers?

- I discussed with the Macedonian premier, Georgievski, about support to be given to the development of the Albanian seaport of Durres within the framework of the Stability Pact, and certainly to increase its capacity because it is not a port that serves only Albania but the whole region, and especially the development of Corridor VIII.

At the same time, I agreed with him on the question of the railway network of Corridor 8 as one of the priority questions to help the development of the infra-structure of the two countries and of all the region. We aim at its financing in two stages. In the meantime, the improvement of the link of the power systems of the two countries is a priority, and Albania has introduced two projects so far, and these are priorities in the Stability Pact.

Furthermore, I requested from Georgievski the implementation of the agreement on the free cross-border movement of citizens signed two years ago.

Regarding the talks with the Turkish premier, Bulent Ecevit, we discussed cooperation between the two countries, and he confirmed his visit to Tirana within a month.

At the meeting with the Romanian premier, Isarescu, the establishment of a joint economic and cultural forum to operate between the two countries was agreed on.

- Why did you found opposition from (the Greek premier) Simitis on the free movement of people between the two countries?

- I presume that his opposing stance is not linked to the lack of will and desire of his government on this question; rather it is linked to certain international obligations of Greece within the framework of the European Union and the Schengen system.

So, apart from the paragraph proposed by us, it was concluded that the countries should respect the international obligations, particularly Greece.

Original article