After spat, a warming of ties

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s visit to Athens went largely unnoticed by the local media, a fact which demonstrates that tension in bilateral ties has abated as the two governments are looking at warming relations. Sure, both sides raised their issues but fell short of any provocation. And, for the first time, an Albanian premier did not raise the issue of Albanian Cams. Berisha has left behind the Greek bashing of the 1990s. After a period of self-criticism, he has returned with progressive ideas on minority rights and relations with Greece. Greece’s stand has been quite reserved – and rightly so. That said, the government should have been swifter in sending him an invitation to visit Athens, as Berisha expressed his wish to be the first premier to make an official visit to Greece after his election. That did not happen and Berisha ended up traveling to Ankara and Rome first. Berisha’s satisfaction was evident in the reports of Albania’s pro-government press. He believes that his visit dispelled the negative impressions of times past, while marking the inauguration of a strategic partnership. It should be reminded here that bilateral ties were damaged last November when the Greek president called off a visit following demonstrations by Albanian Cams. Berisha acknowledges Greece’s backing of Albania’s EU ambitions. He also acknowledges Greek investors are a tonic for the country’s economy. Greece is the biggest foreign investor in Albania but the flow of money has seen a serious drop recently, prompting Berisha to call for renewed investment on more favorable terms. There were no winners and losers in this meeting. The aim was not to solve problems but to bolster cooperation between the two countries. Recent developments show that the two governments have made a significant step in that direction. Athens must follow up with a visit by Costas Karamanlis to Tirana.