Tirana, 11 November 2011 – At the end of his five-day journey through the Western Balkans, State Secretary Wolfgang Waldner visited Albania and held working meetings with Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Foreign Minister Edmond Haxhinasto and representatives of the socialist opposition. In the framework of an international conference organised by the Albanian Council on Foreign Relations and the Albanian Foreign Ministry, Waldner held a keynote speech describing Austria’s policy for the Western Balkans with a focus on the European perspective of the entire region.
The meetings in Tirana were held against the background of the most recent EU progress report which diagnosed a slow-down in Albanian reform policy. Waldner commented: “The country has lost valuable time because of the two-year blockade in the Albanian parliament. We are thus pleased to see that the opposition has returned to parliament, which is the heart of democracy and driving force behind the reform process. We hope that the politicians will soon bring the country back on track on its course towards Europe”, the State Secretary said and added that basic political consensus was a prerequisite for Albania’s European perspective. “The dialogue between the big political parties and reaching a basic consensus in fundamental issues are fundamental European values. We welcome the indications that tensions are being eased”, the State Secretary said referring to the opposition’s return to parliamentary work.
The bilateral relations between Austria and Albania have traditionally been very good and friendly. Austria is the third biggest foreign investor in Albania and plays an important economic role in the country.
During his visit to Albania, the State Secretary also visited some development cooperation projects co-financed by Austria, such as a gender equality project managed by the United Nations in Kukes. Waldner was particularly impressed by the neurosurgical department of the University Hospital of Tirana that was co-financed by an Austrian soft loan.
At the end of his one-week tour to the Western Balkans, Waldner opened a Viennese concert in Tirana. “During my journey I noticed the people’s wish and determination to become part of a unified Europe. Austria will continue to support the countries of this region powering every way it can, employing all means available to us for helping our neighbours in South-East Europe to reach their goal of EU membership, albeit all the parties involved are very well aware that there is still a long way to go”, Waldner concluded.
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