Regional Cooperation
2nd MORE Report: II. Dendias in Tirana once again

Turkey as a third factor in Greece - Albania relations
dendias tirana
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Greece & Cyprus

Short Background

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias visited Tirana in mid-December as part of a mini-tour of the Western Balkans. It was the third time Dendias had visited Tirana and he met with both his counterpart, Olta Xhaçka, and PM Edi Rama. Public statements by both FMs reflected a very positive atmosphere and their press conference concluded without incident—unlike their press conference of May 2022, which was overshadowed by a statement about the Chams made by Xhaçka.

According to the Greek media, the only fly in the ointment was Albania’s purchase of three Turkish Bayraktar drones a day before Dendias’ arrival in Tirana and two before the Greek PM’s visit to the South of Albania (see below for more on this). Interviewed for Euractiv on the same day, Albania’s former PM Sali Berisha reinforced the dominant belief in Greece that Ankara was behind the annulment of the 2009 maritime sea borders agreement between Athens and Tirana.

Media Coverage

The visit received good coverage by the Greek press. However, once again the Albanian – Turkish relations were part of the equation. On the one hand, FM in his statements focused on the EU path of Albania and the importance of this decision that led to “a series of parameters” that serve the basic EU narrative, while Greek Media reported stories highlighted Dendias’ discontent with Rama having contracted to buy three Bayraktar drones from a Turkish company and the role of Turkey in the bilateral relations.

The purchase of Bayraktar drones was also a crucial part of Albanian Media reporting. Moreover, they prioritized the delimitation of maritime zones and focused on Dendias emphasizing the importance of respect for International Laws as the basis for resolving bilateral disputes.

Moreover, Berisha’s statement on Euroactive about the Turkish “interference” to cancel the 2009 Greece-Albania maritime deal has been highly discussed and commented on by the media in both countries. The interview and interpretation of both languages differ and leave space from media interpretation that leaves question marks on what has actually happened.

Key Findings

  • Albania and Turkey have longstanding relations and are NATO allies. Tirana has every right to pursue military agreements with any country that serves its own national interests. Of course, its European perspective will also be judged on its alignment with relevant EU decisions in foreign and defense affairs. In this respect, unlike other Western Balkan countries whose leaderships habitually cultivate anti - western sentiment, Albania remains fully aligned with its NATO / EU rights and obligations.
  • Greece has made a strategic choice, also in accordance to its own national interest, to support Albania’s European perspective. Consequently, in its public statements, Greece’s political leadership needs to highlight the benefits of this perspective for its relations with Tirana and the Western Balkans. Good and honest relations with Albania do not require Tirana to choose between allies and partners. Greek officials should not undermine the progress made in bilateral relations by insinuating that Albania’s relations with Turkey are aimed against Greece.
  • Media in both countries need to be more cautious when reporting on statements by officials and take care not to unquestioningly reproduce narratives that undermine bilateral relations. Instead of focusing on pending issues alone, the media could highlight issues that are paving the way towards stronger bilateral relations; issues of this sort relating to the environment, energy, economy or tourism are typically raised by officials in both countries, but rarely feature in media stories.

This executive summary of "Dendias in Tirana once again" 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.