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Intervention of H.E. Vilson Ahmeti at the April 2022 Balkans Leadership Conference

Dear participants.

The holding of this meeting in Tirana has special importance. The troubling situations that Europe and the world are going through today, especially in this period of armed conflict in Ukraine, dictate more effective reflection and cooperation in our region. In this point of time, our countries in the Balkans must be more attentive to solving the difficulties caused by this general crisis.

The economic difficulties of our countries brought about by the rising prices of many goods, especially fuel, gas and electricity, call for fast and efficient analyses and measures.

Every country in our region faces a lot of economic and geostrategic problems.

Today, the economic cooperation of the Balkan countries takes on a special importance.

This cooperation must be very efficient, especially in the trade of goods and products that these countries produce and trade between them.

Surely, we have economic cooperation agreements among ourselves, but now it is required that these agreements be as practical as possible and provide quick and efficient solutions.

I think that from this point of view they should be reviewed to maximize their productivity.

The basic food products that our region possesses need to be distributed among our countries at best possible. And if this is the case, both their quantity and price should be taken into account.

I think our countries and relevant governments, should open and expand the areas of cooperation and that of each other’s private business to facilitate and stimulate the interest of our private companies to ensure the transaction of products; especially their transport. In the area of cross-border cooperation between our countries, the engagement of government bodies to facilitate the differentiation of taxes for the movement of products can be of special importance and have a positive effect.

In the midst of the European energy crisis, the cooperation of the Balkan countries is of special importance. As countries which use water resources in generating electricity, we can cooperate in exploiting them as efficiently as possible. I want to bring to your attention one case of this cooperation.

It is known that Lake Ohrid is a major source of water power in the region. Through the Drini River, it supplies an energy water cascade to Northern Macedonia and Albania. If this energy source could be used more efficiently, it would create additional energy for power generation.

Joint studies and cooperation between our two countries, for the acceptable and efficient regulation of the water level in Lake Ohrid, would create a greater hydropower potential. We have an agreement between our countries – the one inherited from the former Yugoslavia, that defines the maximum and minimum water level of Lake Ohrid.

In the condition of the energy crisis and its resultant high prices, there is room to review this agreement, for a period of time, to enable an increase of Drin River inflows. This requires the level of Lake Ohrid to be reduced to the minimum possible technical levels.

Certainly, an agreement between the two countries on the level of experts is needed for a lower level (the minimum permitted) of Lake Ohrid.

Of course, this requires a joint study by both parties and agreement on mutual interests. For example, the hydropower gained (increased amount of water from Lake Ohrid) can be compensated for with the power supply.

Increased inflows of Drin River would enable additional electricity generation capacity to the respective hydropower plants.

A joint bilateral analysis and action would be useful and beneficial to both.

To reduce as much as possible the consequences of the food crisis that may knock on our doors tomorrow, I think that cross-border cooperation to facilitate the exchange of goods and fresh and processed food products, would have a positive effect.

Facilitating the movement of these products in these areas would enable an increase of supply, with more products for these regions. There are many agricultural and livestock products that would stimulate food production in these areas through a more open market.

Today, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline passes through the Balkans, transporting gas to Italy and beyond. Since its design, this pipeline has no outlet for the supply of the Balkan countries, where it flows. I think the time has come for this gas to be used by these countries as well. In this case, a joint study between these countries at the technical level to designate the minimum needs and the future needs for gas of each country is of primary importance. After a full technical investigation, it can be negotiated with the TAP managers to get a certain quantity of gas for the Balkan countries. This of course requires a comprehensive study and argumentation to the TAP authorities.

I think that the cooperation between the Balkan countries should take a higher technical, scientific, economic and strategic level, not only on the level of facilitating the movement of goods and people, but also cooperation in the field of production and service capacities, as in the case of joint ventures of production, services and utilization of natural resources capacities. The actualization of such agreements between the Balkan countries will be a positive achievement and action.

 

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