Minister Cowen in Rome for EU Ministerial Troika with Albania
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D., visited Rome today for the EU Ministerial Meeting with Albania. The EU Troika of the Italian Presidency, represented by Foreign Minister Frattini, Ireland, as next Presidency in the first half of 2004, and the Commission met with an Albanian delegation headed by Prime Minister Fatos Nano. The Albanian delegation also included Foreign Minister Marko Bello and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Integration, Ms. Ermelinda Meksi.
The Troika meeting was part of the continuing high level political dialogue between the EU and Albania which is currently negotiating a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union. Ministerial meetings with other countries of the Western Balkans will be held in the coming months, with Ireland participating in the Troika as the incoming EU Presidency. Relations with the Western Balkans will be an important EU foreign policy priority during the Ireland's Presidency. Minister Cowen visited the region in May to meet political leaders in advance of the Presidency and to discuss the central role of the EU in the consolidation of peace and stability in the Western Balkans following the conflicts of the 1990s.
Today's talks covered the development of the EU's relations with Albania and progress in the difficult and wide-ranging reform process in the country. Minister Cowen led the discussion on Albania's relations with neighbouring states in the region. He stressed the positive role which Albania is playing in helping reduce continuing political tensions in the region on a number of outstanding issues, including the situation in Kosovo. He assured Prime Minister Nano that the EU would continue to work closely with all parties in the region to overcome the legacy of conflict, to build democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law and to promote economic development.