Q&A: Emigration is a regional issue and long-term effort is needed to address it, says Croatian Ambassador to Albania Zlatko Kramaric

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 18, 2023 11:49

Q&A: Emigration is a regional issue and long-term effort is needed to address it, says Croatian Ambassador to Albania Zlatko Kramaric

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  • Tirana Times interviews the Ambassador of Croatia to Albania, Zlatko Kramaric, on Croatia’s decade in the EU, relations with Albania and Western Balkans integration prospects.

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Tirana Times interviews the Ambassador of Croatia to Albania, Zlatko Kramaric, on Croatia’s decade in the EU, relations with Albania and Western Balkans integration prospects.

Q: Albania and Croatia enjoy a very good bilateral relation with collaboration in many fields. How do you find the relations at the moment of time and what are your target objectives to expand them? 

A: I have been the ambassador of Croatia in Albania for more than three years, and I would have to slowly start summarizing the results of my diplomatic activities. And it is not a phrase at all when you state with resignation that some things have been done, but that there was a possibility to do even more! However, something must be left for those who will come after us. The only thing I am convinced of is that upon my return to Croatia, I will be an excellent promoter of Albanian interests in my country. Finally, this is my obligation and my debt to my many Albanian friends. Admittedly, I believe that the Albanian side will also have enough understanding towards my plans. But let me answer your question: it is really not easy to say which field of cooperation should be a priority. If you ask me, all fields should be 'opened' (energy, tourism, transport connections, sports, culture... .), and everything will, in the end, depend on people and their willingness not to give up on this cooperation. Although, I must say that it would be a great sin if these good political relations of ours were not further refined.  

Q: Croatia will celebrate its tenth anniversary of EU membership this year and has also entered into the Eurozone. What are your personal reflections of these achievements? How has Croatia changed as an EU member state?

A: The EU has made it possible for us to be no longer just an ordinary copy of the original liberal democracy. Joining the EU marks a definitive end to the practice of imitation policies.  Croatia's entry into the EU in many details reminds me of the events of 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall. Just like that historic year, so also in 2013, when Croatia became a full member of the EU, I could imagine myself in a different, better world than the one in which I live. lived until then. I believe that this feeling was shared by the majority of Croatian citizens. That 2013, just like 1989, is a unifying moment of hope for me! There is no doubt that these are the years that had an unlearning effect on the formation of citizens. or, as the Bulgarian philosopher Ivan Krastev beautifully defines it: freedom was no longer just a political term. However, hope is often the source of subsequent frustrations! And the very existence of these 'disappointed hopes' show the intensity of the changes in my country after its entry into the EU! Daily life in the new, European circumstances requires the citizens of Croatia to change their habits, their behavior. ., because if we really want Croatia to be a serious, European society, which consistently follows all liberal-democratic values ​​(rule of law, media freedom, market economy, fight against corruption, nepotism...) then we must behave responsibly.

Q: One specific aspect of our bilateral relations but also of Croatia engagement in the region is the assistance for the process of EU integration. What are our views of the current status of the process for the WB6 and for Albania in particular?

You are right, Croatia is very involved in reform processes in more or less all WB countries. Namely, institutional help is necessary, in all segments. judiciary, public administration. media, education, sports, economy. energy, agriculture, tourism...
In short, stability in the region is very important to Croatia, and stability is only possible if all countries share the same value system... That, among other things, means that it is not possible to have a different attitude towards the war in Ukraine. Russian aggression, sanctions policies...
And that is one of the reasons why we are skeptical about the OB project
it is not possible to be small for the EU values, and have little understanding of Russian politics... that is, after all. and the question of morality, solidarity, respect for international conventions. If these elements were ignored, then the world would turn into chaos, which we should not allow.
This is the reason why small nations/states must insist on respecting these mentioned values, and insisting on these values ​​represents their strength and role in today's world.  I do not want to speculate about the speed and depth of these processes. I can only speak in principle about how painful all reforms are and how difficult and slow people change their habits. But politics must first of all sensitize the public about the necessity of reforms, it must additionally educate the public and clearly tell its citizens that these reforms are the conditio sine qua non of their better future, that without these reforms there is no progress in Albanian society, that the alternative is poverty and uncertain future...
The sincere political will of all actors and positions and the opposition, decent capacitation of Albanian institutions, constant media presentation of all elements of the negotiations are necessary prerequisites for a successful and relatively quick conclusion of the negotiations. Of course, the readiness of European politics and the EU must find adequate answers to the most important topics of today, from energy issues, through climate change, to topics related to uncontrolled migration, demographic policies... There must be mutual trust.  

Q: The countries of the WB 6 are facing high degrees of migration, brain and care drain. Croatia has also had a similar experience in the recent past. What are the lessons learned that can serve as suggestions to manage and reverse this demographic drain?

A: The population census (it was carried out in 2021) shocked the Croatian public. Namely, that census showed that in the period between 2011 and 2021, 10% of Croatian citizens left the country. We are talking about the most powerful part of the population, young and educated people. There is no doubt that Croatia's entry into the EU in 2013 significantly contributed to this trend, which does not necessarily have to be negative a priori. Therefore, it is a great responsibility for this and all future governments (problems of economic migration cannot be solved overnight) to find adequate answers in order to slow down these trends, or stop them completely. Slovenia is a good example! 

I see that it is also a big problem in Albania. Ultimately, this is a problem that all Eastern European countries face. A good part of the 'third world' is moving towards Western Europe. Therefore, it is very important that the countries of Western Europe are involved in solving this world problem. If this problem is ignored, then those countries will find themselves in great difficulties. If the solution to the problem is delayed, then the consequences can be catastrophic! And no one will gain after that. We will all lose! We have to understand that these people are not just cheap labor, with whom powerful industrial countries exclusively solve their problems.
Therefore, it is necessary that in those parts of the world where wars continue, they end as soon as possible. Likewise, an adequate response must be found very quickly to the dramatic climate changes in the world, which is one of the causes of increased poverty in certain parts of the world, central Africa, parts of Asia...  It is important that we are not overcome by 'demographic panic'. Namely. it can generate a whole series of negative political processes in society. suspend democratic processes, provoke bad relations...  

Q: Education is a key investment for the development, integration and for enhancing European values. What are some of the relevant developments in education in the case of Croatia that have served the European perspective and then consolidation of the country?

A: For relatively small countries, such as Croatia and Albania, education is the key to most problems. Investing in education is the best possible policy. And that fact should be respected by all Albanian/Croatian political elites. And these local elections of yours are an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that. Educated citizens guarantee the stability of the society, its dedication to democracy, European, universal values... I can notice with many of my Albanian friends that they highly value the importance of education, many of them send their children to the best European schools, universities... And that is commendable! Of course, that is only the first step, the second would be for them to return to Albania after completing their education and transfer and apply their knowledge in their own country.
And this means that Albanian society must also develop in that direction, and it must modernize, it must follow dominant trends in all segments of life.  

Q: Regional cooperation is also a high relevance issue and Croatia is part of the Berlin Process. What are your expectations for the next Berlin Process Summit that will be held in Tirana this year?

A: I think that this summit, which will be held in Tirana, is a great chance for Albania. This will be a great opportunity to demonstrate to the European public not only the existence of a strong and sincere political will, but also the ability and willingness of all its institutions to fully accept and implement all proposals and suggestions of European institutions. Of course. before that, Albanian institutions must offer valid foundations for all those master projects.  

Namely, it must always be kept in mind that the Berlin process offers a whole series of financial opportunities, which should certainly be used wisely, for the benefit of the citizens of Albania! But what is most important here is the awareness that we Europeans do not live in a post-conflict world, so in that context regional cooperation is one of the very important components of the 'new' world.  However, Europe must also think carefully about what and how to proceed, whether it is possible and in what format to legitimize the interests of Ukraine, Moldova, Albania...  


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times April 18, 2023 11:49