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09 Apr 12

Albania's Berisha Courts Turkish Alliance

As the government of Sali Berisha continues to be shunned by the EU for its poor rule of law record and pervasive corruption, Tirana turns to its former imperial ruler for support.

Besar Likmeta BIRN Tirana
Sali Berisha and Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in Ankara on Thursday, April 5, 2012

During a two-day visit to Turkey on Thursday and Friday, Berisha met Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recaps Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

In Ankara Berisha signed two diplomatic agreements, further strengthening cooperation between the two countries, while the Turkish premier promised to boost investments in Albania.   

“Albania is Turkey’s strategic ally in the Balkans,” Erdogan told a joint press conference.  “Currently trade between the two countries is valued at $400 million… and we intend to boost Turkish investments that have already surpassed one billion dollars,” Erdogan added.  

Berisha otherwise underlined that Turkey had played an important role for peace and stability in the Balkans in the past two decades, while their view on the region’s future were identical.

“Respect for current existing borders is in the best interest of the nations in the Balkans,” Berisha said, adding that Albania would support Turkey’s bid to join the UN Security Council.

“Turkey will play a very important role in the highest international forum,” Berisha added.

Albania declared independence in 1912 during the First Balkan War, following the sudden collapse in Europe of the Ottoman Empire, the precursor state to the modern Turkish Republic.

But Albania has been stuck for the last two years in the EU waiting room, failing to progress further toward accession due to a divisive political crisis at home and a reputation for corruption.

Tirana first applied for EU candidacy in April 2009. Its bid was turned down for the second time last October owing to the crippling political crisis that has brought reforms to a standstill.

The European Commission said not enough progress had been made in political dialogue or in the fight against organized crime and corruption and it rejected the bid for candidate status for a second year in a row last November.

With Brussels showing increasing skepticism about Albania’s ability to undertake reforms, Berisha has increasingly turned his eyes east, seeking new investments and allies.

Last month he visited Azerbaijan, where Berisha sought investments in Albania’s oil sector and support for the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline project, which passes though Albania.

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