Speech of Minister Bushati at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Thank you, thank you Huang
I am really honored to be here today and share some thoughts about my country, Albania, about our strong relations with China, about the situation in the region, in southeast Europe, and the world we live in and of course about shared responsibility to make it a better place for all.
Let me start by first defining what China means to us, Albanians.
To start with, China represents one of the few civilizations that has blossomed uninterruptedly for about 5 millennia. Its contribution to mankind is essential and undeniable. There is no area of humanity without the contribution of your great civilization.
Secondly, China was and is Albania's friend. I will mention something from my personal experience. I was born on 1977. It was the end of a period when China was Albania's main sponsor and friend. Economic aid meant that for several years our economic progress was due to China's generosity. Cultural exchange programs made it possible for hundreds of Albanians to study in China and, on a side note; Albanian movies became popular so much so that even after 4 decades Albanian movies and actors of that time are being remembered in China.
Not long after that, our economy collapsed and together with that the whole house of cards of a system that failed to meet the most basic needs of Albanians.
Almost 40 years later, and here I am as foreign minister speaking in one of the most important think tanks in China about our relations.
But there is one fundamental thing that has remained and survived the upheavals of time and political shifts, that has nurtured the renewed links we have built nowadays:
the respect for each other’s culture and
the friendship between people that goes beyond politics.
Albania is a small country in South East Europe, with a population roughly the size of Lanzhou. Our history is one of resilient and development of our identity.
Since 1990’s, change and reforms have been the key words and continuous economic and social progress has been the outcome. In a quarter of century Albania has already profoundly changed, transformed and developed even though the road to progress has not been without bumps.
Albania today is a fast developing country. As NATO member state has reinforced the contribution to regional security and, most importantly, Albania is nowadays a candidate to the European Union and it’s expecting to start accession negotiations.
In short, during the past quarter of century Albania has reinvented itself.
We might not be leading the charts in terms of GDP growth; especially this is difficult to end EU confront to China, or other Asian countries, but as master Lao Tzu put it: “an ant on the move does more than a dozing ox”.
In this context, I would say that my country is on the move. But it is not only Albania that has changed – the wider region has too. What was only a decade ago the most troubled part of Europe, plagued by wars and mistrust, is nowadays becoming gradually a successful story of regional cooperation.
In a little more than a decade, South East Europe is healing the wounds of the past, has built a dense network of bilateral and multilateral regional initiatives (some 75 of them) that bring hundreds of people from our countries at different levels every week to work and decide together.
All countries of the region seek to integrate into the EU. We are reviewing history, books and different narratives and are teaching our youth the importance to look forward and build our common future through joint efforts.
To put it differently, we are in the final face of transforming ourselves from former enemies into neighbors. This is particularly true, when one looks at the relations between Albanians and Serbs or if one analyze the progress that has been made between Serbian and Kosovo in the normalization process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Several major events have marked the world in the course of the last two decades and one of them is the fast economic development in parts of the world. In this respect, China’s has simply been spectacular.
In a matter of few decades, China not only has defied time by driving world growth, but it has managed to bring out of the poverty more than 500 million people.
China has also reviewed and increased its bilateral ties with Southeastern European countries. No one is surprised today to see Chinese operators interested to invest in the region’s infrastructure projects, with the aim to create a network of ports, logistics centers, and railways to facilitate trade and make it easy for Chinese products to access the European market. Rather, everyone is today convinced that closer commercial ties between Europe and China reveal the incredible potential of a transcontinental trade route linking these two huge markets.
This is the context that underpins the foundations of our friendship.
Our financial, economic, trade relations and the technical and cultural cooperation with China have particularly intensified in the recent years. One simple fact says it all: China is today the 2nd trade partner of Albania. Important Chinese economic actors are accessing the Albanian investment marked and have been welcomed.
We are developing high-level exchanges and our cooperation has further and quickly extended to finance, sports and culture. Bank of China and the Bank of Albania have signed the Chinese yuan / Albania lek bilateral currency swap arrangement agreement. In November 2014, the first Confucius Institute in Albania was inaugurated in the University of Tirana.
Yet, the potential is much higher and Albania is very interested to explore every possibility to improve trade and support Chinese investments. This is one of the key messages I conveyed here with my esteemed interlocutors during this visit: we can and should enhance cooperation by bringing our relations to higher levels.
We are also very interested to boost cooperation and exchanges in the field of agriculture and water management, and, in particular, explore the possibility of exporting Albanian agricultural products in China. In this context, the signing of agreement or protocol to reduce the timing of the quarantine by the Chinese customs authorities to Albanian goods would greatly facilitate this process.
Beyond the bilateral framework, we remain fully engaged to exploit to the best extent the Initiative 16+1 and the project "Belt and Road", which aim to improve transport and trade through the Eurasian landmass, across the Bosporus reaching the Balkan Peninsula as a concrete means to boost connections with Europe and the Middle East.
For Albania the 16+1 platform is an excellent example of complementary relations between European Union in one hand and China on the other.
We look forward to concrete results and mutual benefits through genuine collaboration in economy, tourism, infrastructure, renewable energy, culture, educations, etc.
Let me, in concluding, share a few thoughts on the international situation. According to a proverb, “coming events cast their shadows before them.”
This is definitely true for the world we live in today, which is marked by accelerated globalization and multipolarity. The world is developing in many respects in a faster way than our ability to grasp, analyze and respond to events.
The world order seems yet in search of a balancing point. We can notice how some international institutions that were born during Second World War, do not provide satisfactory answers to the challenges posed by the 21 century.
Several international crises have shown today that the international community is fragmented and this has seriously eroded its ability to collective response.
The continued war in Syria, the endless instability in Iraq, the chaotic situation in Libya, Yemen and Somalia, to mention only these cases, have endangered world peace either through the unparalleled rise of the international terrorism and its disastrous consequences or the huge migration crisis and its enormous pressure on Europe, which is still to be fully resolved.
This situation has put special pressure on our region as well, as we have seen with the so called Balkan migration route during the first half of this year.
Despite the severity of this multi-crisis situation, one cannot fail to notice that the world has been rather slow to respond and for quite some time its means of response have been ill-adapted.
We should draw the right conclusions and prepare for future challenges. This is why we think that we need to reinforce international institutions responsible for peace and security primarily the UNSC; we need to increase international development, extend trade relations, fully implement the Paris accord on Climate change and unite in our shared responsibility to preserve world peace.
The history of Europe has clearly demonstrated that only through close cooperation and shared values, the prospects of war, which have dominated world history for centuries, become firmly obsolete. Albania is fully determined to be a net contributor to this concept.
I thank you for your attention!