On Sunday, September 18, the Embassy of the Republic of Albania to the US and the Center for International Development at Harvard University hosted a panel discussion, "Albania and Diaspora: A New Communication" with the Honorable Ditmir Bushati, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania.
Following the panel, Minister Bushati sat down with CID Events and Outreach Manager Andrea Hayes and discussed the panel, the Albania diaspora, and other foreign policy topics.
What are your impressions from this panel?
We had the opportunity to discuss the need to further streamline cooperation between the Albanian state institutions and our diaspora, especially here in the U.S. We are going to organize in November the first ever Diaspora Summit and we have set out relevant policy documents and areas of cooperation. There are many success stories, and we need to build on that in order to structure the cooperation between Albanian state institutions and our diaspora in different aspects.
As you know, the Center for International Development has worked for some time now to emphasize the benefits of engaging the Albania diaspora with social and economic development in Albania. How do you see the relevance of this type of work for the Albanian government and the Albanian community, especially here in the United States? How do you see Diaspora's contribution to Albania?
This is very important for us, especially if one takes into account that one-third of Albanians are living abroad. The Albanian community in the US is quite solid in terms of knowledge, expertise, but also financial resources. There have been several waves of migration to the United States and now it’s time to consolidate the bridges between Albania and our diaspora for the sake of social and economic development and transformation of the country. I would like to commend the work done by CID’s team of experts. Their expertise has been really valuable for the work we are doing in defining the areas of cooperation with our diaspora but also by looking into successful models of cooperation that other countries have implemented.
Panel: Ermal Frasheri, CID Research Fellow; Min. Bushati; Alma Jani, International Organization of Migration in Albania; and Mark Kosmo, chairperson of the Massachusetts Albanian American Society.
In November, the Albanian government will hold its first summit on diaspora. What are your expectations for that event?
It is going to be the first time policymakers and representatives from different Albanian institutions will sit together with diaspora representatives from more than 38 countries around the globe. We want to be able to cluster our interplay in different areas of cooperation that we will jointly define based on the policy document that is anticipating the summit. Our ultimate goal is to transform this initiative into a sustainable form of cooperation with government institutions. We want to transfer the ownership of this initiative to diaspora representatives themselves and have them initiate this event next year. We would like to come up with concrete ideas and projects, and then see how these projects are implemented. So the key message during the summit will be “participation, participation, participation” of Albanian diaspora in the democratic and socioeconomic development of Albania.
What are some of the main foreign policy issues that Albania is facing currently?
The main foreign policy issue is related to the EU accession process. This is not a classical type of foreign policy issue, because in the case of Albania and southeast European countries, it’s also a question of national priority, because it has to do with the democratic credentials and socioeconomic development of the country. As you might be aware, Albania is an EU candidate country, and with the reform path, especially in the rule of law related areas, we expect the European Commission to come up this fall with a recommendation for the opening of accession talks. This would be a defining moment for Albania, because it will give us a positive sign towards the opening of accession talks. And when I speak about recommendation for opening of EU accession talks, we speak about a complicated process where the country is going through a very serious set of reforms.
What have been some of the major achievements and challenges to the accession process?
Albania is in better shape if one assesses rule of law related reforms. Albania is projecting democratic stability in the region. Security-wise, it is a pivot in Adriatic Europe, often acting as a mentor for other countries that aspire to join NATO. Albania is a promoter of reconciliation in our region, and it’s also a promoter of flagship infrastructure and energy projects that would connect the region and people in the region.
You have been active in promoting Albania abroad, especially with regard to investment opportunities. How do foreign partners see the potential of Albania?
The potential is there. The process of accession into the European Union is moving ahead with all relevant economic rule-of-law related reforms. As a consequence the business climate is improving. Also, geography has been very generous with Albania, in terms of clear access on the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Through our constant engagement with regional and EU partners but also international financial institutions, we have managed to make of Albania an epicenter of the connectivity projects that will be implemented under the framework of the Berlin Process1 in our region.
You will be in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly (Sept. 19-26). What can you tell us about the discussions that you will be holding with your colleagues and partners there?
The menu of discussions is indeed very rich this year due to the many crises we’re facing around the globe – terrorism, migration, economic crisis. And as it happens, the UN General Assembly is an ample opportunity to take part in many regional initiatives and important summits, but also to meet bilaterally with lots of colleagues. My goal is, of course, to advance Albania’s agenda in terms of EU accession process, but we will have, also, an opportunity to discuss security issues, especially in the migration, terrorism, radicalization nexus. Albania has invested a lot over the past few years on dealing with these challenges and we can already measure some success we would like to share with partners and allies.
1Berlin Process: a process launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to enhance regional cooperation through flagship projects and help accelerate the integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union.