On 24 January 2020, AIE’s President Nikola Dobroslavić, also President of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County, received an official visit by AIE’s Vice-President Aldrin Dalipi, in his quality of President of the Tirana Region (Albania). The joint meeting was held at the Ranjina Palace in Dubrovnik and focused on past and future cooperation between the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and the Tirana Region.

“I informed my colleague Dalipi about the position of the Dubrovnik-Neretva County and the whole of Croatia on the opening of EU membership negotiations with Albania. We think that the EU should extend negotiations also to the other so-called potential candidate countries and to Northern Macedonia as well” said President Dobroslavić. “Unfortunately, this decision has not been made yet, but we hope that there will be positive developments after the meeting between EU leaders and the Western Balkan countries is held in Zagreb in May. Albanian regions can contribute to accelerating Albania’s path to the EU. Regions have to cooperate, to come up with proposals and solutions. We got through a long preparation for joining the European Union, it was not easy, but it is good that we went through it, because that is why we are a better country today”.

The presidents also discussed about road connectivity, emphasizing that connecting the countries on the Adriatic-Ionian highway remains a priority. “Our program is to build a high-speed rail on the Italian coast of the Adriatic Sea and on the eastern side of our coast, connecting with the Adriatic-Ionian highway. You know that we insist on the completion of the A1 Croatian motorway so that it reaches the city of Osojnik, but we also want the motorway to go through Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. Today Colleague Dalipi said that they, for their part, are preparing projects, following the agreement of all the countries involved” President Dobroslavić said.

Discussions also covered other common challenges including ways to improve coastal waste management and the measures that both Croatia and Albania have taken in order to meet and keep up with European environmental standards, as well as crisis management with reference to the devastating earthquake that hit Albania last November and how it was dealt with by Albanian authorities.

Administrative capacity building was also touched as a topic of cooperation. President Dobroslavić expressed his readiness to assist the Albanian regions in meeting the requirements for EU membership in this field. The presidents agreed on organising study visits where a delegation from the Tirana Region could spend a period in Dubrovnik in order to learn at first hand about how counties, cities and municipalities.

President Aldrin Dalipi thanked Mr. Dobroslavić and his associates for their hospitality, pointing out that the visit is a sign of gratitude for the long-standing cooperation between Tirana and Dubrovnik. He added: “I would like to congratulate President Dobroslavić on his re-election in the Committee of the Regions and to thank him for the assistance he has provided us so far through his work in the CoR. Also, President Dobroslavić expressed his solidarity soon after the terrible earthquake of last November. We have cooperated a lot so far, Tirana and Dubrovnik have long had strong ties, and your experiences are important to us now, as we strive to open EU membership negotiations. thank you for your support in this matter”.

At the end of the meeting, President Dobroslavić handed President Dalipi a copy of a 15th century letter that Albanian national hero Skanderbeg sent to the Republic of Dubrovnik. “We have known for a long time about the cooperation between Tirana and Dubrovnik. This letter is a physical evidence of how intense the cooperation between the Republic of Albania and the Republic of Dubrovnik was at that time and that our cooperation has been going on for several centuries,” he said. Mr Dalipi welcomed the gift with great wonder and gratitude, pointing out that he was honoured to receive it and that it will be exhibited in one of Tirana’s museums.