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On April 25th, 2016, the Ambassador of Greece in Albania, H. E. Mr. Leonidas Rokanas was the Keynote Speaker of the Open Forum hosted by the University of New York Tirana (UNYT). As part of a continuous collaboration between the Greek Embassy and the Albanian academic institutions on the region’s European integration process, the speech of the Ambassador Leonidas Rokanas for this forum addressed the topic of “Hellenic – Albanian Relations and Current Challenges in the Region”.

Mr. Ambassador at the beginning of the lecture, the import shall see, made a brief analysis of geopolitical strategies of Greece and Albania options in the current complex globalized world system. Especially in the Euro-Asian area, referred to the countries of the Western Balkans into European and Euro-Atlantic system and related options (democracy and protect human and minority rights, open, but social market economy and so on).

The speech of the Greek Ambassador Leonidas Rokanas developed in the following four major areas:

1.European Integration:

He developed the basic objectives and the European project achievements, emphasizing the safeguarding of peace to the continent stability and prosperity, which the Greece during the presidencies of seeking for the Western Balkans.

He emphasized the leading role of Greece in European integration efforts, in particular the Western Balkan countries, stressing that the Greek EU Presidency in 1994, 2003 and most recently in 2014, demonstrating the importance that Greece attaches yield and politics enlargement and the benefits of new members.

Specifically as to Albania, he noted that Greece believes deeply and is aimed at European integration, which is in line with positive dynamics and prospects in bilateral relations and would also contribute to consolidating the area of peace and stability.

It reiterated its firm and consistent support given by Greece to the European perspective of Albania, epitomized the performance of candidate country status to Albania during the Greek Presidency in 2014. They recalled a similar critical support that country has provided us and for integration of Albania into NATO in 2009.

He also stressed the importance of accelerating the neighboring country’s efforts – towards the fulfillment of the five key priorities and criteria set for the start of accession negotiations – on the necessary reforms, notably by completing the reform of justice and solving the property issue.

2.Economic, social situation / crisis

Analyzed the consequences of the social, economic crisis in recent years, particularly in European countries and in the Balkans subsystem

He referred to relevant reforms promoted by the Greek government as well as the process of evaluation is in progress and the completion of which will mark the return of our country to a path of economic growth, with beneficial effects for Albania.

Underlined the importance of bilateral economic relations, stressing that Albania operate more than five hundred major Greek businesses, providing thousands of jobs. He also stressed that in our country, regardless of the economic crisis, over time – with the exception of 2011- remains first financial investor in Albania

He noted that this was the case despite the adverse economic environment and financial problems rule of law in Albania. He also noted that 1/3 of Albanians residing in Greece, and many of them thrive and sending important remittances for the Albanian economy.

He stressed the importance of the energy sector and the assistance of Greece to upgrade the geopolitical role of Albania through participation in joint strategic projects, such as TAP, which will have multiplier effects on growth and employment, both for Albania, as and for Greece.

3.Refugee / immigration crisis:

He referred extensively to manage unprecedented migration, refugee flows, which Greece accepted and what is commonly accepted, could not be addressed by any state separately, since the refugee is global and pan-European character.

He also stressed that the contribution of Greece, is exemplary, based on principles of humanism, solidarity and fair sharing of the burden and difficulty and should be an example for other member states and candidate-EU members, some of which they prefer to respond to the crisis, raising walls and closing their borders.

Finally, he referred to the recent EU-Turkey agreement on the management of refugee flows and the relative decline of these and the unabated vigilance of the Greek state apparatus.

4.Security challenges:

He referred to the threat of terrorism / extremism and radical action of the Islamic State and the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, highlighting the interconnection of organized crime and terrorism.

He noted the efforts of Albania to address this threat with preventive measures, stressing the importance of fighting organized crime in the country, which is associated with the implementation of important reforms (reform of the judiciary, fight against corruption, legalization of political system etc.)

The Greek Ambassador, answered all questions asked by students and professors UNYT about what the EU to tackle refugee-immigration crisis as consequence management level (eg the breakdown by Member must do EU -Member) and stabilization of the situation in the source of crises (Syria, Libya, etc.), addressing nationalist outbursts in Greek-Albanian relations, etc.

At the end of the speech, the Ambassador Rokanas answered the UNYT Students and Professors’ questions by emphasizing on the role of the education in general and that of higher education in particular in shaping the future of the Albania. The Ambassador noted that Albania is a country aspiring to join European Union and in order to foster its democracy; its society should promote the national values and priorities through giving voice to all groups and institutions.