Hahn on talks between Greece, Albania: ‘I regret my words were misunderstood’

European Commissioner for neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations Johannes Hahn on Friday expressed “regret that his words were misunderstood” when asked to comment on his earlier statements about the talks underway between Greece and Albania.

Speaking during a joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama after their meeting in Brussels, Hahn stressed that the process was taking place on a bilateral level between Greece and Albania, without any faciliation by the Commission, and “is simply about a clarification of the borderlines”.

The Commissioner referred to the European Union’s decision in its Western Balkans strategy in February to not accept any new member-states with any kind of outstanding conflict with a neighbouring country. This had triggered an acceleration of negotiations in some countries to resolve disputes, Hahn said, citing the example of the Prespes agreement between Athens and Skopje to resolve the name issue.

“In the same spirit, Albania is in negotiations with Greece and this is something that has to be done on a bilateral level and is happening on a bilateral level, without any kind of facilitation by us,” he added.

He noted that these talks were “simply about a clarification concerning the borderlines – nothing more, nothing less – and I think this is not a big deal. I am confident that in a couple of weeks this can be done.”

Responding to the same question, Rama said that the two sides, for him, “are finding solutions in the best interests of their own country and own people.” He said the two sides had “made a lot of progress” with issues that covered 70 years of history, from the war law to the matter of maritime delimitation.

“These are tough issues and we are confronting them with a spirit of openness and a will to resolve,” he said, while noting that the two sides were not yet there. “What we want is to transform this into a momentum of dramatic change for the future and to pass from history that has always been an impediment [to] a history of strategic partnership between Albania and Greece. I am 100 pct confident that when the results will be finalised and clear to everyone, whoever [makes accusations] of betrayal on both sides will be shamed by public opinion.”

Hahn and Rama met to begin preparing for the start of EU accession talks with Albania before June 2019.