“Albania would be more than happy to share its experience with Ukraine on the European Integration process issue,” Dr. Shpresa Kureta, Ambassador Resident of the Republic of Albania to the Republic of Poland and Ambassador Non-resident to Ukraine said, answering the question of The Day. The Albanian state has been a NATO member for nine years and is currently recognized as an official candidate for accession to the European Union. Ukraine has something to learn from this small Balkan country, which in recent years has completely got rid of totalitarian past and is moving fast and confidently along the Euro-Atlantic path. In recent years, Ukrainian-Albanian cooperation has intensified, but what needs to be done is much more than what has been done.
Madam Ambassador, a draft free-trade agreement between Ukraine and Albania is under discussion. Do Albanian entrepreneurs have plans for what they will bring to Ukraine? And what Ukrainian goods do Albanians want to see in your market?
“At first I would like to thank you for your attention and the opportunity you are giving to me to communicate with the Ukrainian audience. I am pleased to note that the last-years communication and exchanges between the two countries are becoming better and better. There is a very good cooperation and communication at the political level, and efforts are being made by both sides to identify areas of interest for the intensification of concrete engagement. In this context, economic cooperation and trade exchanges undoubtedly have a special place. For this purpose we are working on the preparation of the first meeting of the Joint Commission, based on the Agreement on Economic and Trade Cooperation between the two countries, a meeting which, among others, will create the opportunity to discuss and identify the areas and products of greater interest for cooperation and exchanges between the parties. It is also expected that the issue of Free Trade Agreement will be discussed, with the aim of closing the negotiations and signing it.”
Three years ago, first charter flight from Ukraine went to Albania. Have guests from Ukraine become visible on the Albanian tourism market?
“Thank you very much for the question and I am very happy to talk about this topic, as things are going very well in this regard. Ukrainian citizens increasingly are choosing Albania as a touristic destination. The establishing of the direct charter lines between the two countries is a very positive development, which has directly influenced the increase in the number of tourists. I would also like to mention the facilitation of the movement as a result of the elimination of the visa regime by the Albanian side for the Ukrainian citizens since 2011 and the signing of the visa free regime agreement for the Albanian citizens to Ukraine, during the visit of Minister Klimkin to Tirana, in November 2016. This is also a very positive development to bring the two peoples and our two countries closer to each other.”
Unfortunately, Ukrainians know very little about Albania and Albanians, and this is all from stereotypes of the time of the USSR. Does the Albanian side have a plan for the development of Albanian-Ukrainian cultural cooperation to overcome the outdated ideas about your country?
“One of the issues we are working on, is undoubtedly the increase in the exchange of information in all areas. What you say is true on both sides. Even in Albania there is little information about Ukraine and it is necessary to intensify efforts to exchange more information. Actually, it is easier than ever, with the tools and techniques available to make this possible. Also the increase of exchanges and contacts – the Ukrainians visiting Albania and the Albanians visiting Ukraine – are an important asset in the progressive change of this situation. Also, the design and implementation of certain projects for the promotion of tourism, cultural exchange, art, education, etc. remain important goals in our work. I take the opportunity to mention another very important asset in the relationship between our two countries, which is the Albanian community, living in Ukraine for more than 200 years.”
We see that in recent years the relations of our two countries are deepening. Are negotiations being conducted on the opening of the embassy of Albania in Ukraine and the Ukrainian one in Albania?
“As I mentioned above, I am very happy to see that things are moving in the right direction between the two countries and many things have happened, which are certainly preparing the ground for concrete developments and exchanges between us. This will surely bring to our agendas and in our working tables the issue of raising the level of mutual representation and the opening of embassies in our capitals.”
The Day’s FACT FILE
In the early 1990s, Albania put an end to 46-year communist rule and established a multiparty democracy. Albania joined NATO in April 2009 and in June 2014 became a candidate for EU accession.
Dr. Shpresa Kureta, a Senior Foreign Service Officer of the Republic of Albania, at the rank of Minister-Plenipotentiary, on April 29, 2014, was nominated Ambassador Resident of the Republic of Albania to the Republic of Poland and Ambassador Non-resident to the Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia, Republic of Lithuania and Ukraine.
From January 2014, until assuming her responsibility in Warsaw, in September 2014, Ambassador Kureta has served as Director for Regional Affairs and Neighboring Countries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the same time she was appointed National Coordinator of Albania at the Central European Initiative (CEI), from May 2013. Ambassador Kureta has been Director for Southeast Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from August 2009. Prior to assuming that assignment, she was the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) Coordinator, at the Department of NATO, from March 2006 to August 2009. As MAP Coordinator, Ms. Kureta coordinated the work of different ministries and agencies involved in MAP process, on drafting and monitoring the implementation of the MAP document, exchanging of information and prepared reports for the Prime Minister Office, as well as prepared meetings of the Interministerial Committee for Integration and meetings of the Working Group.