ZAGREB, July 19, 2018 – Cooperation between Croatia and Albania is constantly improving and the main precondition for its significant expansion is better transport connectivity, from the implementation of the Adriatic-Ionian motorway project to the introduction of ferry services and direct flights, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and her Albanian host President Ilir Meta agreed at talks in Tirana on Wednesday.
“We should strengthen our cooperation that is already fruitful but there is great potential in the two countries for its further development,” said Grabar-Kitarović, who is on a three-day visit to Albania.
There is mutual interest in closer cooperation in fields such as energy, road and railway transport, tourism, agriculture and food industry, IT and military industry, said the Croatian president.
The main precondition for a closer cooperation is transport connectivity, including the completion of the Adriatic-Ionian motorway project, the introduction of a ferry service to connect Rijeka and Durres, and the introduction of direct flights between Zagreb and Tirana.
President Meta said that the two countries’ relations should be raised “to the level of a strategic partnership.” “We have many interests in common, notably in tourism, energy and infrastructure,” he said, underlining the construction of the Adriatic-Ionian motorway and the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline (IAP), which would connect to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Those corridors would make our ties even closer, said the Albanian president.
Trade between Croatia and Albania in 2017 amounted to 61.47 million euro, almost 20% more than in 2016. Croatian exports accounted for 55.3 million euro of the amount while imports from Albania totalled 6.2 million euro.
President Grabar-Kitarović recalled that Croatian companies such as Končar, Crosco and others had participated in major projects in Albania, such as the reconstruction of the port of Durres, the construction of the Tirana-Podgorica power line, and the construction of power plants.
The two presidents also discussed the problem of pollution of the Adriatic Sea, which is particularly visible in the winter months due to winds and sea currents.
Grabar-Kitarović underlined the strategic importance of protecting the Adriatic, considering the great dependence of the Croatian economy on tourism. She also said that the chapter on environmental protection in Albania’s EU accession talks was one of the most complex ones and expressed readiness for Croatia to help Albania with that burning issue. She said that the two countries would work on that also with the help of the UN Development Programme.
Albania wants to meet the necessary conditions and apply the necessary standards to solve the problem of pollution of the Adriatic. This is the beginning of our long cooperation on that issue, said Meta, noting that he also wanted Montenegro to join in the process.
Meta thanked Grabar-Kitarović for Croatia’s great support to Albania on its journey to the EU, underlining the long-standing friendship between the two countries and noting that the Croat and Albanian ethnic minorities in the two countries were a major link between the two nations.
Grabar-Kitarović said that the Albanian minority in Croatia served as an example of successful integration and was an important element of Croatian society. She also recalled the contribution of the Albanian community in Croatia’s struggle for independence. “Of the 18,000 Albanians who lived in Croatia in 1990, 2,500 were volunteer fighters in the Homeland War. Unfortunately, 87 were killed, 386 were severely wounded and 37 are still listed as missing,” she said.
Meta congratulated Croatia on “the exceptional success” of the Croatian national football team at the World Cup in Russia, adding that the team’s success was important not only for Croatia but for other countries in the region as well.
Albania is to host a meeting of the Brdo-Brijuni Process in 2019.
Grabar-Kitarović invited her host to pay an official visit to Croatia. In January this year, the Albanian president paid a working visit to Zagreb.
On Thursday, the Croatian president will meet with Prime Minister Edi Rama and Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci. She will also visit Durres.