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Italy-Albania – Bonino in Tirana, political talks, economic and cultural cooperation

A mission to Tirana for Foreign Minister Emma Bonino to reinvigorate Italy’s already excellent relations with Albania. A packed diary of meetings for the Minister, who on Wednesday 9 October 2013 will be seeing her Albanian counterpart, Ditmir Bushati; the Premier, Edi Rama; and the Speaker of the Parliament, Ilir Meta.

On Wednesday afternoon she will be meeting the Mayor of Tirana. Minister Bonino will also be taking part in a round table with members of the Albanian and Italian communities, and will meet Italian entrepreneurs based in the country.

The agenda

The issues on the agenda include bilateral relations, with the focus on Expo 2015 (Albania was one of the first countries to confirm its participation); the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project; cooperation in the arts and in disseminating the Italian language; and development cooperation. Minister Bonino will also be discussing European and regional issues, such as Albania’s accession to the European Union, “neighbourhood relations” and the EU strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian region.

International topics for discussion include cooperation in the NATO context. Albania is a participant in the “EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region”, which Italy launched in 2010 along with Greece and Slovenia. The strategy provides an added impetus to the European integration of the Balkans.

Bilateral relations

Turning to bilateral relations, Italy is Albania’s first commercial partner. Trade reached nearly 2 billion euros in 2012, and in the first quarter of 2013 amounted to 972 million, a year-on-year increase of 5.94%.

Cultural cooperation and the dissemination of the Italian language, which is spoken by about 66,300 students, continue to thrive, as does development cooperation. Over the last decade, Italy’s Directorate General for Development Cooperation has allocated over 300 million euros in aid to Albania.

Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline

Albania also plays a leading role in Europe’s energy strategy. The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will carry gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, crosses Albanian territory. The TAP project, deemed by the EU to be “of common interest”, envisages a pipeline of about 800km, of which 117 underwater, with an initial capacity of 10 billion cubic metres per year and the potential to reach 20 billion. The gas will reach Italy through Turkey, Greece and Albania.