Regional Cooperation
2nd MORE Report: I. Mitsotakis’ first visit to Albania

Unfortunate statements, apologies, and the bad weather
mitsotakis algree
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Greece & Cyprus

Short Background

It was the first visit undertaken by a Greek prime minister to Tirana in 13 years, and took place within the framework of a European Union – Western Balkans Summit, the first such event held in a candidate country. Coincidentally, the last visit by a Greek premier to the Albanian capital was in 2009, the day before Albania submitted its application for EU membership. The presence of Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Tirana was intended to serve a twofold purpose: encouraging Albania’s European perspectives, and promoting a further improvement in bilateral relations.

However, the visit was “overshadowed” by an interview published in Euractiv on the same day in which the Albanian premier, Edi Rama, appeared to say that Greece had “cheated the EU” for many years both before and after it joined the Union. Rama apologized to his counterpart for his comment during their bilateral meeting. Bad weather prevented Kyriakos Mitsotakis from visiting villages where members of the Greek minority live.

These issues gave rise to SYRIZA, the main Greek opposition party, accusing the government of "dangerous communicative management" in Greek foreign policy.

Media Coverage

Due to the EU-Western Balkan Summit and the first visit of the Greek Prime Minister to Albania after 13 years, the event received adequate coverage over the media, but the approach was different for each outlet.

Greek Media focused on Rama’s interview prior to the visit, the cancellation of the visit on villages of Greek minority by Mitsotakis, and the Turkish influence, and only some of them emphasized on the actual outcomes and what that means for the political landscape on the wider region.

On the other side, Albanian Media focused on the maritime zone issue and the optimism to find a positive solution for both sides.

During the reporting, researchers identified crucial misleading and fake news spreading by the news outlets, which lead the general public in a different direction than what has been actually discussed. Thus, the media failed to report and provide useful information to the citizens, regarding the significance and meaning of the event. Therefore, that lead to an unnecessary political debate and dispute among the political parties that was far from the actual issues.

In the MORE Report you can find alternative proposals from the researchers for the coverage of respective issues by the media and journalists.

Key Takeaways

  • Once Tirana’s EU negotiations began, the political leaderships in both countries intensified their efforts to improve bilateral relations and to gradually settle bilateral issues. Mitsotakis’ visit to Tirana in early December, the first by a Greek PM to Albania in 13 years, was part of these efforts.
  • Edi Rama made unfortunate statements, which were wrongly interpreted by the Greek media and opposition parties, and for which he apologized. The Greek political leadership stayed on script, stressing its strategic choice of supporting Albania’s EU accession process.
  • However, oversimplified and derogatory analyses in the Greek press continue to fuel distrust of the Albanian side and ignore the progress made by Albanian society and politics.
  • Media on both sides continue to focus with near obsession on the delimiting of the maritime zones. While the issue clearly has to be resolved—and before the conclusion of Albania’s EU accession talks, to prevent it being exploited politically by factors on both sides—, the legal route agreed by both sides is the most appropriate way to do so.

This executive summary of "Mitsotakis’ first visit to Albania" is part of the 2nd Media Observatory Report (MORE). MORE is part of ALGREE project and aims to highlight through recent case studies how media, which influence and shape public opinion attitudes, fail to provide accurate information and a good understanding of the improved bilateral relations at the level of official politics and the societal bonds that exist and remain at the context of misconceptions and prejudices.

Read the Report here!