Published on: 04 December 2017

Interview of Minister Bushati for Voice of America


Intervistë e Ministrit Bushati për Zërin e Amerikës

VOA: Albania says it expects next Spring an invitation to join the European Union. Senior European officials, I mean Commissioner Hahn, insist on the need to achieve some objectives before the opening of the talks, such as the vetting, or the fight against organized crime. Taking into consideration the corruption in the country and that justice reform is still in its beginning phase, are you optimistic that Albania will receive an invitation to start accession talks with the European Union this spring?

Ditmir Bushati: We expect 2018 to be a decisive year in terms of the European perspective of Albania and to be crowned, of course, with a decision by EU member states to start membership talks with Albania. Of course, the justice reform, Vetting law, and how the Vetting law will be implemented, is the top priority. However, we are also focused on implementing key priorities that are related not only to the country's progress towards the Union European, but also to the process of democratization. Here, I want to highlight the fight against organized crime, the fight against corruption, consolidation of achievements in public administration and respect for fundamental freedoms and fundamental human rights. As the implementation of the vetting process has started, we expect that at the beginning of spring we have tangible results, as regards high levels of judiciary and prosecution. We hope this serves as a good basis for other levels of judiciary and prosecution. So, I believe it is quite possible that 2018 will be crowned with this decision-making and Albania will show concrete results in the justice reform and in the fight against corruption and organized crime, as well.

VOA: Focusing on the fight against organized crime, this year marked a decrease in cannabis planted areas, while this year, tons of marijuana are seized by Albanian and Italian police. Last, there is the case of former Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri, who is suspected of being linked with one of the drug trafficking groups. High levels of police are under investigation as well. To what extent do these accusations damage the image of Albania?

Ditmir Bushati: First of all, if there is an accusation, is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove the charge in the justice institutions. I believe that here is measured the political will of the ruling force, in this case, of our political family, to create the right conditions for the judiciary to give their verdict on this issue. To this point, there is nothing that can be related to the image of the country, as long as in any democratic system, charges are raised by the prosecution and then the court has the final say. Now we need to pay attention to the elements related to trafficking, not only to cultivating. We need to provide a clearer economic perspective, especially for those rural areas, of which this phenomenon has been more noticeable.

VOA: Mr. Bushati, in the last few weeks you have started a new dialogue process with your Greek counterpart, Mr. Kotzias, to solve various issues between the two countries. Then, you came up with a joint statement emphasizing that essential steps have been made on perennial issues which are important to both sides.

Ditmir Bushati: We covered all the issues that date back from World War II to the present. I believe we are on a better path than we were. There will be another round in January, this time in Albania, where we will continue the discussions we have had, especially during the last meeting in Crete.

VOA: What are some of the essential steps and what are the issues to be discussed?

Ditmir Bushati: It was not an easy process, of course and still it is not. It takes time. Not all issues have the same complexity, and consequently, the solution provided to some of these issues may be more difficult. It is important that almost all issues have some sort of agreement which needs to be cleansed from our round table of bilateral issues, in the figurative sense. It is also necessary that discussion on these issues, the categorization of baskets on a theme that we have considered it in the past, be on the right track. But it cannot be said that today, there is an agreement for all kinds of issues that are at stake. This is why we are still careful in communicating with the public.

VOA: Mr. Bushati, what are, most specifically, some of the most difficult issues you are discussing with your Greek counterparts?

Ditmir Bushati: I believe that it is quite clear to the public that historical issues carry a certain sensibility to the parties, such as the issues related to the delimitation of the shelf and the exclusive economic zone. A better definition of the border regime, which must exist between Albania and Greece, is an issue that requires special attention from both sides.  We are working in this direction.

VOA: Mr. Bushati, let's draw attention to economic diplomacy. In terms of corruption in Albania, the property issue has not been resolved yet. What measures can be taken to attract investors, and even keep them? There are many cases when investors come to invest in Albania, but they leave because they encounter these unresolved obstacles.

Ditmir Bushati: First, it is not my intention to provide a reality that does not exist. However I must say that corruption is not a mere phenomenon of transition societies, such as the Albanian society, and countries are measured by how they fight it. There are indicators. One is international transparency, in which Albania has made progress in recent years. Another one, to assess the business climate, is the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, with which Albania has also made some progress in recent years. Is this the reality we would like to be in and are we satisfied with this? Of course we are not happy; but I can tell you that in Albania, there are people who come to invest. The Diaspora comes and invests in Albania and brings a new entrepreneurship culture, as there may have been cases where people have faced obstacles or bureaucracy, or even corruption. That is why Albanians, gave us this June, a clear mandate to fight these phenomena more firmly.




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