Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has apologized to his Greek counterpart, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, for comments he made about Greece. Rama accused Greece of “cheating” to enter the European Union.
The comments were made just hours before the two leaders were scheduled to meet. Mitsotakis is visiting Albania’s capital, Tirana, for the EU-Western Balkan summit.
The Greek-Albanian diplomatic relationship is complex. The two share certain cultural affinities but have also been divided by several pervasive and enduring issues.
The Albanian prime minister’s comments
The Albanian prime minister made the derogatory comments toward Greece during an interview with the European news site Euractiv. Rama claimed that Greece had cheated to pass the EU integration process.
He told Euractiv that “We should not forget that the integration process is an individual-based, merit-based process. We have to fulfill homework criteria standards, and it’s not an exam to be cheated. Even, even if the professors are very inclined to give you a way out. It’s in your best interest that you get this exam right.”
Rama added that it was important for EU aspirants not to “cheat a lot as some neighboring countries did in the past.” When asked who these neighboring countries were, he named Greece.
The Albanian prime minister apologized to his Greek counterpart during their meeting on Tuesday.
Rama told Mitsotakis “I’m sorry for something I heard, that I said some strange things about Greece, about how it achieved some things – we’ll go back to the time of Troy maybe – but it’s not something about the present and it was in no way about today’s Greece.”
“You know I’m a Socialist but I don’t hide that for me you are the best Greek Prime Minister,” Rama added.
Mitstotakis thanked Rama for the apology and for welcoming the Greek diplomatic delegation to Tirana. “Thank you Mr. Prime Minister. It is my pleasure to be in Tirana and – as I said at the meeting – it is great that the EU-Western Balkans Summit is taking place here in Tirana,” Mitstotakis said.
“There is a very strong bond between our two countries. We can do a lot more, not only in minority issues. I believe that we are close to solving the issue of the delimitation of our maritime zones. There is great understanding between our teams and much that can still be done on the financial front as well,” the Greek prime minister commented.
Με τον Πρωθυπουργό της Αλβανίας @ediramaal συζητήσαμε για όλες τις πτυχές των διμερών σχέσεων και εξετάσαμε τρόπους περαιτέρω ενίσχυσής τους. Η Ελλάδα στηρίζει σθεναρά την ευρωπαϊκή προοπτική της Αλβανίας. https://t.co/hSiGgacDsz pic.twitter.com/fUAERmVWzJ
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) December 6, 2022
Diplomacy between Greece and Albania
Several points of tension exist between Greece and Albania that have prevented the two countries from enjoying an entirely friendly bilateral relationship. These mostly concern territorial demarcations.
For years, Greece and Albania have failed to reach an agreement on their maritime boundaries. The issue has yet to reach a resolution despite the involvement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The treatment of Greek minorities, especially within Epirus, a mountainous region that is divided between Greece and Albania has been another source of tension. The killing of Konstantinos Katsifas, a Greek Albanian national, by Albanian special forces in 2018 led to a further deterioration of relations.
On the other hand, Greece and Albania have shared long periods of cultural exchange which could form foundations for better bilateral relations. For example, a large diaspora population of Albanian origin lives and works in Greece.