Italy FM visit Albania to exert soft pressure on finalizing bilateral migrant deal

Rome: During a visit to Albania on December 22, Italian foreign minister and deputy prime minister Antonio Tajani said that there was “optimism” for reaching agreement on a migrant deal between Rome and Tirana, which currently is under debate at Albania’s Constitutional Court.

Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani has conveyed Rome’s “optimism” to Tirana on an agreement concerning migrants signed in November between Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Albanian counterpart, Edi Rama.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is currently held up in Albania’s Constitutional Court, which was called upon to examine the wording of the deal following two appeals filed by the center-right opposition.

Passing the MoU is key for the advancement of Italy’s migration policy under Meloni’s leadership.

The opposition had filed the appeals, saying that an agreement of this scope would have to include the granting of territorial sovereignty, which would require additional authorisation from the president.

This is particularly in regard to the planned construction of two migrant reception centers on Albanian soil, which would also be used for deportation and repatriation activities by Italian authorities.

Albania’s Constitutional Court will rule on the matter by March latest — but a decision is expected already to be made in a session scheduled for January 18. Albania’s prime minister has repeatedly said that he is confident that the constitutional court will rule in favor.

The Italian Chamber of Deputies meanwhile is expected to begin debating the bill for the ratification of the MoU while still waiting for a decision to be issued by the Albanian Constitutional Court, after Italian President Sergio Mattarella authorized its presentation at the parliament.

Following what was referred to as a “long and positive” discussion in Tirana, Tajani said he had not asked “for any assessments on the outcome” of the court’s ongoing evaluation of the minutiae of the MoU.

“It is not our responsibility to exert pressure or to interfere,” Tajani said, adding that “Italy respects the court’s decision. If it is in favor, then we will proceed.”

“I want to be optimistic, hoping that there will be a positive response within a short time,” he concluded, noting that if successfully enacted, the MoU would exemplify “good collaboration between European countries.”

However, Tajani also used to the power of soft diplomacy during the visit, reminding his Albanian counterpart of “Italy’s firm commitment to supporting the quickest possible entrance by Albania into the EU.”