Albania and Greece relations – What citizens think – Webinar organised on 29 June 2021
On 29 June 2021, the Open Society Foundation for Albania (OSFA) in cooperation with the Hellenic Foundation for Europe and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) organised an online webinar with the aim of presenting the findings of the Albania – Greece Survey Report, Citizens' perceptions on cooperation between the two countries.
Relations between Albania and Greece remain a complicated riddle. The two neighbouring countries have extensive historical, economic and social ties. They participate in the same geopolitical sphere and mainly agree on the expanded agenda for the region, focusing on democratisation, economic development and strengthening the rule of law, with the fundamental aim of Balkan integration into the European Union.
OSFA and ELIAMEP joined forces for the implementation of a research study that aimed at analysing the social attitudes of Albanian and Greek citizens have about each other and how these thoughts can facilitate or hinder the construction of a closer partnership between the two countries. The joint research project included two joint parallel opinion polls conducted in Albania and Greece, being implemented by the Tirana based Data Centrum Research Institute and the Thessaloniki based University of Macedonia's Public Opinion Research Unit. More information on the study can be found by clicking here.
The activity served to discuss the findings of the study, especially with the prospect of increasing the level of trust between the two societies and strengthening the basis of a future partnership. The first session was dedicated to the welcoming remarks and presentation of the most important main findings by representatives of ELIAMEP and OSFA, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania and the Embassy of Greece. A separate and registered intervention was carried out by Mr. Nikos Dendias, Greece's Minister for Foreign Affairs, which you can find here. In the second session, a panel of experts discussed in details the study's findings and how perceptions and attitudes shape bilateral relations and the legalisation of domestic policy in each country.
The welcoming remarks of Mr. George Pagoulatos, the General Director of ELIAMEP and Mr. Andi Dobrushi, Regional Coordinator for the Western Balkan Foundations & Executive Director of OSFA, reemphasized the importance of trust and good relations between the two neighbouring countries in increasing understanding between them. Mr. Pagoulatos presented the maritime agreement between Greece and Albania as a good example of how issues can be resolved in the context in moving towards European integration of Western Balkan countries. Mr. Dobrushi emphasized that the historical relationship between the two countries becomes increasingly contemporary and has improved, as Greece has played an important role in Albania's transition process. Therefore, this relationship must become stronger, both between governments and among people, as diplomatic and political relations remain on the test and in a state of nearly permanent instability. Both speakers concluded in the result that perceptions and stereotypes presented especially in the media must be overcome in order to build a positive agenda for a progressive European future.
Mr. Alexandros Bouzis, Chief of the Office of Public Diplomacy at the Greek Embassy in Tirana, evaluated the study as a useful tool for facilitating work that can be carried out in the diplomatic field. According to him, the interconnected human factor dominates over the political and diplomatic factor through social exchange between the two countries.
Mr. Maklen Misha, Adviser to Albania's Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, estimated that relations between the two countries have a tremendous transformation and progress compared to the past. Relations have grown to become more pragmatic and rational than emotional.
Mr. Ioannis Armakolas, Senior Research Fellow, Head, South-East Europe Programme at ELIAMEP, and Ms. Alketa Berzani, former Executive Director from the Data Centrum Research Institute, presented the main findings of the study and how perceptions and attitudes shape bilateral relations and the discourse of domestic policy in each country.
Mr. Angelos Athanasopoulos, Editor-in-Chief on Politics at To Vima newspaper, referred to problems affecting bilateral relations, which need to reach a compromise at the political level.
Recently, Mr. Blendi Kaisiu, Assistant Professor at the University of Antioquia, Colombia, emphasized the media's influence on relations between the two countries. He considered that the media could play a more important role in a better reflection of the political dimension in relations between the two countries, but especially by reflecting more interaction at the social and human level.
All the panellists discussed the findings of the study and their implications, especially with the prospect of increasing the level of trust between the two societies and strengthening the basis of a future partnership. Following questions presented by the online audience, the panellists also explored the implications of Greek positions for the EU enlargement process, not only for Albania, but the entire Western Balkan region. All panellists concluded that relations between the two countries have improved with graduate steps compared to 20 or 8 years ago when the last similar study was conducted. Minority-related issues are being transformed from problematic issues to improving perception and discussing solutions for them, while stereotypes and misunderstandings are still present. This occurs especially through the influence of politics, media and social networks, which must be faded and replaced with real stories that currently occur in relations between Albanians and Greeks.
For more information on the event, you can consult the invitation and agenda, the bios of the speakers, the presentation of Mr. Ioannis Armakolas and Ms. Alketa Berzani here. A video summary of the activity findings can be found at the end of the announcement. The executive summary of the study can be consulted in English and Albanian. The findings of the full study can be consulted in English, Albanian and Greek. For more information, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.