Interview of the Chairman of Freedom Party, Mr. Ilir Meta, for “Independent Türkçe”

Interview of the Chairman of Freedom Party, Mr. Ilir Meta, for “Independent Türkçe”


Mr. Meta, you have returned to active politics after you have performed the duty of President of Albania. You are in opposition today. What are the basic political values and principles defended by the Freedom Party of which you are the leader? Let’s start with a short summary if you want…


The core values of the Freedom Party are centered around three main pillars. In the first place is to revive democratic institutions through free and fair elections. We want the Constitution and the laws of the country to be observed.


Secondly, by eliminating the oligarchic system in the economy, the establishment of the free market order and the principle of equal opportunity comes from the beginning. This is important because we accept development, a better and fairer income distribution and a higher quality of life, along with better education and health services for citizens, to stop the tragic population decline the country is experiencing.


Finally, we can say that as a member of NATO, to accelerate the integration of the country into Europe and strengthen its contribution as a factor of peace, stability and development in the region and beyond.


We also care about bilateral relations and participation in regional and international organizations in this perspective. The main cause of the Freedom Party is the strengthening of national identity, language, cultural and historical heritage, which can be considered a valuable contribution to common European values.



Albania serves as a bridge in the region. A bridge between the West and the East on its scale. In the light of this historical role, are there any diplomatic efforts or initiatives that you think will reinforce Albania’s position, taking into account the Covid-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions that the world has experienced recently?


There are many processes, initiatives and platforms that are already operating, especially the Berlin Process. These strengthen multi-faceted cooperation and changes in the region. Moreover, regional initiatives are underway that enable to increase relations between the region and the countries around it.


But in my opinion, the main issue is the nature of participation in this type of process. In other words, what you add to these and what you offer as a country from the economic, social or security aspects.


For example, if you organize the economy around a handful of oligarchs, you can’t contribute much to the economic development of the region. Again, if you cannot prevent the decrease in the 25-30 percent band of the country’s population in the last 10 years, you will have a serious failure to ensure social development for your own citizens.


If your country is constantly getting worse in the corruption index ranking, you have failed to create an investment climate. If money is laundered in the country and various smuggling activities find a safe haven, for example, then you are harming it, let alone participate in common security.



With the decrease in population, I understand that you are sensitive to the preservation of the demographic structure. Let’s talk about the last migration agreement between Tirana and Rome. Considering that this agreement allows Italy to send about 35,000 illegal immigrants back to private camps annually and there are significant criticisms around this agreement, what are your thoughts on the possible consequences?


Italy is a strategic partner of Albania and a close friend in difficult times. Therefore, I always support the strengthening of cooperation with Italy at all levels. Regarding the last migration agreement, first of all, the transparency dimension of the issue is missing.


Likewise, it is obvious that the Albanian Prime Minister has an authoritarian attitude. Because he doesn’t care about his internal reflections and the local capacity of the country to deal with such a complex operation. Of course, there is also a legal dimension to the business. Especially the rising sensitivities from Brussels in this regard are quite worrying.



While the issue is open from Brussels, I would like to talk a little about Albania’s European Union (EU) membership. Do you think the perspectives that Albania will one day become a full member of the EU are convincing? Moreover, do you find the EU sincere in its commitments to Albanians in general?


Albania’s European integration has been my polar star throughout my political career. I contributed to this in all the public duties I assumed.


Albania was one of the first countries of the region to start relations with the EU. However, today it is one of the last countries in the region within the scope of relations with the EU. Progress towards EU membership in the last 10 years has been minimal.


The sweet-speak demagogy of the Prime Minister and his government presents EU integration as a matter of purely geopolitical decisions, demonstrations and masks. No, it’s not. EU integration is essentially about reaching certain standards and completing reforms for this cause.


However, we are actually finding behind in areas where we need to meet and reform standards. We are at a stage where democratic institutions are eroded, an oligarchic system is established in the economy, starting from free and fair elections, and the law, property and other rights of our citizens are not protected.



Greece also has a shadow in Albania’s relations with the EU. Many titles can be counted, especially claims for compensation based on maritime border disputes and the rights of Çam Albanians that were usurped. What do you think about this ongoing tension between Albania and Greece?


What is particularly sad is that the issues of different origin and structure are actually labeled as “tensions between countries”. Let me clarify.


As President, I have been interested in the maritime borders issue for a very long time. I indulged the current government to treat the Constitution, legal procedures, laws and public with a sense of transparency.


The government did none of this. In addition, he took an issue-situation, which is a title of bilateral negotiations with Greece, to the International Court, making things even more complicated than I think.


As for the issue of Pine Albanians… This problem is a problem arising from history, especially the Second World War. I think we have all the opportunities and tools to solve this issue at once. I believe that our interests and cooperation potential with Greece are greater than resistance to leave the issue unsolved.



Let’s continue with the “Open Balkans” initiative as we move over the ready EU line. There were also those who called the project “the alternative of the EU”, and those who described it as “the ghost of Yugoslavia”. Kosovo Albanians and Bosniaks in particular opposed the initiative – suggesting that Belgrade could allow it to dominate the region. What is your opinion?


For my part, I see the Open Balkans as a diplomatic extremism. An initiative that is unrealistic. Moreover, not to mention the deficiency of the ability to realize the possible consequences.


The Berlin Process is an already existing regional collaboration and integration format. I believe that it is a manifestation of not being able to contribute sufficiently to this process and not being able to support it properly.


On the other hand, I do not exclude the possibilities of the hidden agenda, such as diverting the region from the path of integration with Europe, etc. I am pleased that the Berlin Process has recently been on track.


In addition, I hope that the EU will be sensitive to protect this process and will participate in projects that aim to remove all non-physical obstacles on the -connection, integration, cooperation – that are important for six states in the Western Balkans.



So, what is your assessment of the current Albania-Kosovo relations? As you know, in the north of Kosovo, there have been some attempts of Belgrade to be vicious in recent months, and there have been crises in the region, including international actors. How can the Tirana-Pristina duo be better coordinated?


Tirana and Pristina have a long way to go at points of mutual communication and cooperation. Rama chose a father’s understanding rather than partnership in his relations with Pristina leaders.


He was often aligned with the interests of Belgrade and tried to impose certain positions on Kosovo leaders in this direction. He did not make an effort to understand Pristina’s concerns and demands.


Attempting to achieve a plus point in Belgrade or certain international factors cannot be an excuse to ignore the legitimate concerns in Pristina. Regarding multi-faceted bilateral cooperation with Kosovo, we need to throw away some shows and masks and do much more than that.


We have to do much more in terms of integrating and complementing our economies and infrastructures.



At this point, I wonder about your attitude towards the ideal of “national unity”. Do you think the concept of “national unity” in the context of Albania-Kosovo relations is still current and valid?


As Albania and Kosovo continue to choose integration with Europe as their “national goal”, the importance of the borders between will decrease. Moreover, our economies and infrastructures will be integrated with each other.


In this way, I think that we can evolve into a European society where all ethnic groups are/can be involved, where the living standards of every citizen improve and where we preserve and develop our national heritage.



Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti is a prominent figure in regional politics. How would you interpret the leadership of Prime Minister Kurti and the current course of Kosovo under his administration?


Those who can make the best use of Prime Minister Kurti are the citizens of Kosovo, who consistently choose him as the leader of the government of a state that faces many tests.


I am very happy that Kosovo strengthens its young state and its international situation, consolidates the public order, improves the economy and succeeds in improving the daily life of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity.


A key challenge for Kurti and the Kosovo government is the negotiation process with Serbia, which is facilitated by the EU and supervised by the US.


I have full confidence that the Kurti government will be able to achieve concrete results in this process. Because I know that he and his government will take into account the moral stance, ability and cooperation and coordination with our partners such as the EU-US.



What can Albania do in this sense, how can it help Kosovo?


As I just mentioned, despite the significant progress in cooperation at the bilateral level in recent years, we can do much more in our multi-directional cooperation.


We need to collaborate more in areas such as implementing signed agreements and adding more concrete content to them, completing energy and infrastructure connections, facilitating trade and further integrating our economies.


A special area where we need more cooperation is undoubtedly foreign policy and diplomacy. Here, I would like to see more effective efforts from the Republic of Albania to support the participation of Kosovo – including NATO – in regional and international organizations and the recognition process.



Mr. Meta, the Albanian population in the Presheva Valley of Serbia has also been looking for recognition and autonomy within Serbia for a long time. We witness that blood pressure increases from time to time in this region. What do you think Albania should do to support the rights and expectations of the Albanian community in the Presheva Valley in practice?


Wherever they live, it is Albania’s constitutional responsibility to support the rights and demands of Albanians – of course, this includes Albanians living in the Presheva Valley.


I think the issue of minority rights is never a matter of numbers or percentages. More, it’s a matter of democracy and human rights standards in a country. I always believed it. What could be the moral standard of not respecting the same rights of citizens of other countries living within its borders, when claiming rights for a country’s citizens beyond its borders?


It’s a matter of reciprocity, but more importantly, it’s a matter of honesty of standards. Therefore, I expect the rights of Albanians in the Presheva Valley to be fully addressed and respected by the Serbian authorities.



The Albanian factor is the strongest factor in the Western Balkans. I would like to ask you about North Macedonia after Albania and Kosovo. Two separate Albanian candidates will compete in the upcoming presidential elections in North Macedonia. Likewise, for the first time in the transition period until the elections, an Albanian politician took the country’s Prime Minister’s seat. How do you read the strategies of the Albanian community in North Macedonia?


The acceptance of Albanians in the Republic of North Macedonia as state-founding elements has been permanent since the Ohrid Agreement. I joy observe the appointment of Albanian representatives to the highest positions of the state.


I also look forward to the upcoming presidential election and hope that Albanian candidates will receive the support of both Albanian and Northern Macedonian voters.


This would be an important indication that the politicals in North Macedonia aspire to go beyond ethnic representation and that they have reached full maturity in serving all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, while facing the challenges of economic development, social development and EU integration.



What kind of roadmap should the Albanian state draw relative to the Albanian community in North Macedonia?


I envision the role of the Republic of Albania here in two-way: to ensure that the rights of Albanians in North Macedonia as a state-founding community are fully respected, and secondly, to ensure that Albanian representatives make valuable contributions to ensure that North Macedonia reach EU standards in the fields of politics, economy and human rights. This is also a way to increase peace, stability and development in the region.



How do you view Albania’s relations with Turkey? There are very strong historical and cultural ties between the two countries…


Albania-Turkey relations are based on a very long tradition of cooperation, history and culture. Based on these ties, we can further develop and strengthen cooperation in both bilateral and multi-party areas. There is huge potential for this.


Albania and Turkey share many common values as two peace-loving nations. Turkey’s role in Kosovo’s independence is greatly appreciated. As NATO members, our joint contributions to peace and stability have meaning beyond our region.


On the economic plan, Albania is Turkey’s second largest trading partner in the Western Balkans region. Turkey indicates the presence of Albania’s economy in all sectors.


I believe that there is a lot more we can do together, especially in areas like construction, energy and manufacturing. The increase in contact between people and our cultures will also give tremendous momentum to the possibilities of cooperation of the two nations.



Mr. Meta, let’s examine the Albanian diaspora. Albanians constitute a strong diaspora in America and Europe. What do you think is the function of the diaspora in the national development schematics? Moreover, how do you think the Albanian diaspora can be further included in national democratic processes?


The Albanian diaspora is a national value and should be treated accordingly. Albanians have been successful wherever they choose to live and work. Their entrepreneurship, academic achievements and achievements in the field of sports are very motivating and gives pride to every Albanian.


In addition, they have made significant contributions to the economic recovery of our country. The amount of foreign currency they brought, the skills they offered and the businesses they opened played a big role. I supported the idea of creating a diaspora network almost two decades ago.


The most basic service for Albanians living abroad is to give them the opportunity to vote and therefore allow them to participate in the political, economic and social life of their homeland.


In this regard, the diaspora can be part of the decision-making process and can make many decisions of its own will. Especially recently, this would be an important step in this period when failed state policies have encouraged hundreds of thousands of Albanians to migrate from the homeland and risked the resilience of the country’s demographic structure.


I strictly support any initiative that will prompt the Albanian diaspora to participate in national development processes, including digital platforms.