Speeches and publications


“Western values and the Western Balkans”

Ambassador of Republic of Albania in Croatia, Ilir MELO

“Shqip” daily Journal, November 6, 2014

In reflection of events in Ukraine, Robert D. Kaplan publishes on March 14, 2014, in Forbes magazine, the article “Crimea: A revenge of geography?”

While enjoying a wonderful article, however the question that troubles is: “Is exactly the right moment of whether to treat the relationships between fundamental concepts as geography, geopolitics and Western values when fresh scenes where so shocking in the Crimea, or when the future seemed more threatened than ever”?

With a cautious approach is understandable that the Ukrainian case is a complex reality that combines principles, concepts and global dynamics of historical, economic and cultural dimensions. For the finding of a durable solution in Ukraine is a need for fundamental discussions.

In his article, Robert D. Kaplan defines a hierarchy of three concepts and interactive dynamics in historical aspect and future prospect. In historical perspective, the main issue can be identified in easily distinguishable concepts: geography, followed by geopolitics, while in modern times is increasingly gaining ground the shared values and the international law.

Avoiding any impetus for theoretical discussions on political and historical concepts, i would like to highlight the closing conclusion of Kaplan: “Issues like .... human rights and international law can and should triumph over geography. But this happens only if geopolitics becomes part of the strategy of the West”.


Moving to a new level, naturally one can ask the question: How is refracted in the Balkans the Robert D. Kaplan's conclusions? More specifically, how geography, geopolitics and international law intervene in the region that so much is portrayed as an “international balance disrupter” or where dramatic historical events have unfolded.

In the eyes of Kaplan, geography has been historically decisive in the developments in the Balkans. A group of people who shared a small and difficult territory, historically involved in dramatic events of occupations and recapture of territories, which produced frequent changes in the regional political map. This situation has continued in recent history and it seems just as common in the region, as the widespread of mutual traditions in arts, culinary or traditional musical epic motives of each country.

Geography and relations with neighboring countries have determined the current extent of Albania. Geography has influenced the modern Croatia, as well has determined the long-standing goal of Serbia to have a maritime corridor.

But, if you try to analyze the geopolitics and the Balkans, the situation crosses the line where explanations remain incomplete and not exhaustive. Geopolitics has always been the region uninvited guest. Being a region located “in the suburbs” of large empires (Roman, Byzantine, Austro-Hungarian), between East and West, as well as a region where the biggest Christian religions (Catholic and Orthodox) met and with the Muslim religion, the Balkans has always suffered the decisions based on geopolitics, without ever being able to greatly influence on those decisions. In overall, the global geopolitical dynamics have not been in tune with geopolitical developments of the region itself.

If we talk about global values and international law, the region seems more eroded than anything else. In a stubborn challenge to these values, 100 years ago, from this region began the First World War. Even subsequently, the region remained victim of his curse: produce more history than is able to consume. In less than two decades ago, the region became a witness of apocalyptic genocide. About 1 million Albanians were forcibly expelled from their historical homes in Kosovo.

Despite the difficult historical heritage, the practices that prioritize standards and international law in resolving issues between countries are gaining more and more “regional citizenship”. Just a few months earlier, Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ditmir Bushati, in particular highlighted the role of international law when it states, for a sensitive bilateral issues with Greece, that “We have found common ground in principle to consider the issue of toponyms as a matter of clear technical character ... which ... will be addressed in accordance with international standards, thereby respecting international law ... “.


Today the situation is hopeful. Western Balkan countries, at different distances, are set to shared values and respect for international law. There are two basic directions: EU and NATO. But until the full involvement in the EU and NATO, the region has a relatively long trip, not very long in terms of time, but very difficult to overcome themselves. Meanwhile, the relationship between geography, geopolitics and Western values will produce interesting realities, which would at least resemble the regional historical clichés.

Regional geopolitical scene is depicted by a complex dynamic. In the region member countries of NATO and the EU, a member of NATO with the status of candidate country to the EU, countries aspiring to join NATO and the EU and a country that seeks EU membership co-exist. So it seems that most of the region has embraced Western values that rely heavily on two main pillars: NATO and the EU. Less the historical and political traditions of the region and more the access to NATO and the EU seems to be the key of solving the puzzle of which countries will lead the region towards Europe in the future.

Europe has historically defined the developments in the Western Balkans. Currently, Western values are bed where the future Western Balkan will emerge, becoming a full and integral part of the European family. The future belongs to the countries and peoples that make these values part of their democratization developments. Nowadays it seems clear that common Western values and a respectful attitude toward international law will crown the new leaders in Western Balkan.

Borrowing the words of Robert D. Kaplan, the future of the Western Balkans can be drawn in favor of those countries of the region that will prioritize the human rights and international law upon the decisions based on geography and this will be successful only when we will make the Euro-Atlantic integration as part of our common regional geopolitics.



Remarks by Ambassador Melo's on the occasion of 70th anniversary of Croatian-Albanian Association

Dear Ambassador Deponte,

Dear Ambassador Andrlić

Dear participants,

First i would like to thank Ambassador Deponte, for the invitation and to congratulate both for the excellent level of relations between the two countries, partly due to its contribution when she served as ambassador in Zagreb.

To participate in the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of Croatian-Albanian Association is as exciting as it is encouraging. This association has made a valued contribution to the strengthening of friendship between our two peoples and its activity has long been led by a distinguished personality, as Professor Stipčević.

Dear participants,

The theme, chosen wisely, is provocative in the sense of historical reflection and at the same time stimulating and encouraging in the sense of the future. In my view, "Friends are always together" summarizes everything found in the plasma of relations between our two countries. In reality, I distinguish to truths: the historical one - two friendly nations, and its present and the future reality - together.

To be friends is necessary to have a history in between and friendship between our two peoples is historical. This friendship is nourished by old discussions about the Illyrians and further, in the 18th century, with the poet and cleric Andrija Kacic Mioshic, who has written about Skanderbeg, to come in the last century with the bright image of scholar Milan Shuflaj, called by one researcher as "the martyr of Albanology" and nowadays honored professors Zef Mirdita and Alexander Stipcevic.

To this friendship is joined  also the contribution of the Albanian community living in Croatia. During a visit in Tirana, January 2014, Croatian Prime Minister Milanovic said that "we know more about Albanians throught Albanians living in Croatia". This friendship has had its highlighted moments and the contribution of Albanians in the war of two decades ago in Croatia, is in the honor of the two nations.

But being together requires something much more than history. Being together implies strategic interests and common visions; requires shared commitment to global and regional issues; seeks cooperation for the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the world; requires commitment and dedication to peace, security and sustainable development in the region; requires teamwork; requires joint investments and all the above we have, therefore we together along the path of the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Albania and Croatia are both member countries of NATO and develop a relationship of partnership not only in bilateral terms, but also in the regional context. Political cooperation is excellent levels, while the economic cooperation should be further developed and consolidated. The strengthening of economic cooperation and increase trade exchanges remains a common challenge for the future. Energy, tourism, transport, agriculture, culture and art are some of the important areas of cooperation. Croatia and Albania are part of two strategically important regional projects: Pipeline IAP, as part of TAP pipeline and the Blue Corridor, which will connect with roads of European standards both our countries.

Croatia is the newest member of the EU, while Albania has received status as a candidate country. European integration is a priority area of bilateral cooperation. Exchange of experience is at the center of European Partnership Agreement between the two countries. According to the Prime Minister's Rama "Croatia is a landmark ... a partner in the region, with which we want to strengthen ties as much." And together we will increasingly strengthen ties.

Albania considers Croatia an important partner not only in bilateral terms, but also regional terms, considering it a key actor on developments in the Western Balkans, because the future of the region's is European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

The future of the Euro-Atlantic region is only enriched if Tirana and Zagreb will strengthen cooperation in the best interest of countries, security, stability and sustainable development in the region.

Albania and Croatia, as two countries of a region that is still remembered for the fact that it has produced more history than has been able to consume, have quite common strategic interests. The two countries develop a proactive diplomatic action in terms of geopolitical and geo-economic interests are complementary.

In a regional vision, Albania-Croatia relations can be considered as a relationship of particular importance and this axis of cooperation is increasingly expected to have greater weight and a determining role in regional strategic developments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by emphasizing that the two truths mentioned in start- friends and together – are mixed in the great truth that underlies the relationship between the two countries. Friendship helps the two countries to walk along the European path of the future, while being together fosters a healthy friendship between our two peoples.

Thank you.


Tirana-Zagreb, near and far...

Tirana and Zagreb are in a geopolitical relatively short distance, almost neighbors if this cooperation fundament is designed in the light of European and global developments. But the importance of this axis is multiplied in the context of regional perspective of Western Balkans.

The future of the Euro-Atlantic region will be enriched if the segment Tirana-Zagreb is shortened in the best interest of the countries, peace, stability and sustainable development in the region and beyond.

"What if you could combine the rugged beauty you’d find on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast with the ruins of an undiscovered Turkey or Greece, all wrapped in the easygoing nature characteristic of rural Italy — at a fraction of the cost? Turns out you can, on the coast of Albania". This is how touristic Albania is described by Tim Neville in the prestigious “New York Times”, when suggested as the fourth most interesting place from an overall of 52 to be visited during 2014.

Neville comparison is appropriate and true, it reflect an organic reality which connects those countries in the same geographical stretch, in the past somewhat dramatic history and in the future of the same values and standards.

But let's take a slight abstraction and in the neatly and artistic description of Neville replace the natural and geographic context with the political and international relations matter. Surprisingly, this comparison is even more true, realistic and adequate. Italy, Greece and Turkey are strategic regional partners to Albania, and Croatia, a country that has just been made ​​a member of the European Union, developing excellent relations with Albania, based on a collaboration that extends into many areas, highlighting the EU integration.

By focusing on the relations between Albania and Croatia is easily ascertainable that they have an impressive dynamics, are multidimensional and in their history doesn’t preserve pending or unresolved matters. Political Cooperation has a satisfactory level of intensity, but the economic cooperation lags behind. While official visits are extended to all levels, including an active parliamentary diplomacy, trade flows should have higher volume. Albanian exports have increased in the last year, while Croatian direct investment should be increased and more diversified. These are just a few aspects of bilateral cooperation to show that the potential is huge, remaining a challenge for both countries.


Two countries develop comprehensive relations in the field of security and defense, as well as recently signing of the agreement in Tirana Police Cooperation and Security only consolidates cooperation in the field of rule of law and security. Between the two countries, in the past two decades, over 40 agreements have been signed and others are in the process.

Cultural cooperation has a diversified background, helped by contributions from Andrija Kačić, Milan Šuflaj, as well as support from Albanians living in Croatia.

Cooperation as both member countries of NATO is very good. Croatia is a country of the Western Balkans, EU member and as such has a history of success and encouragement in the process of EU integration. Furthermore, both countries have important responsibilities and contributions to the region and all these make the relationship between them, in terms of bilateral and regional cooperation tends naturally towards a preferential relationship.

In a regional vision, Albania-Croatia relations can be considered as a relationship of particular importance and this axis of cooperation is increasingly expected to have greater weight and a determining role in regional strategic developments.

In the course of history, geopolitical distance from Tirana and Zagreb had sharp turns. However, at the moment it seems that this is the optimal distance to consolidate long-lasting and constructive relationship in the view of the mutual interest.

Relations between the two countries develop under a dynamic that places them sometimes nearer and others far, according to projections on the political and economic priorities of the time. The two countries are distant related to Brussels; Croatia is already a member, while Albania has received candidate status, while they are very close as member countries of NATO.

Far because the lacking of direct flights, but close for belong in the same region, which, as a dynamic common market, offers attractive prospects for foreign investment, or a region with a future strategy within the Adriatic-Ionian Macro Region.

Away toward a common energy security, but both are approaching through IAP project, within the TAP pipeline.

Near because the coast consistently unites us as natural continuance and tourists easily continue the journey to Albania, but away because common regional approach to tourism is only the first steps.

Near because the two countries have been engaged in Afghanistan, but far because regional cooperation, to have a global approach as pro-active as possible is not still where it will be desirable.

If we analyze the history of the two countries one can find other examples of this game: near and far, but one thing remains certain that the future will be closer and closer.

During the official visit of Croatian Prime Minister Milanović in Tirana, Prime Minister Rama stressed that “... Croatia is a landmark ... an inspiring example ... a partner in the region, with whom we want to strengthen the more links ...”.


2 August 2014, “Shqip” Newspaper

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