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27 August, 2002
Athens extended the scope of its ambitious Balkan Reconstruction Plan to Albania on Monday, signing a bilateral agreement here with the neighboring state to the northwest worth 50 million euros between 2002 and 2006.
The plan mostly envisions high-priority infrastructure projects in cash-strapped Albania, including improvements in the power supply network, but also funding for education, health and civil servant training programs, among others.
"Greece, with this specific agreement proves, in practice, its affinity with the Albanian people.
In terms of geography, we are two neighboring peoples that live together; it does not matter which of the two is more prosperous. What does matter is the consolidation of peace and friendship, security and stability, as well as the fight against terrorism," Greek deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos stressed afterwards.
The Greek minister emphasized the fight against terrorism and organized crime in his comments, saying it now ranks as a primary goal for the entire Balkan region.
"...wherever there is organized crime in one Balkan country, there is a problem for the entire Balkans. That's the reason why we decided on the creation of a center for the prevention and eradication of organized crime," he said.
On his part, Albanian Economy Minister Arben Malaj thanked Athens for its support, while expressing a hope that bilateral cooperation will continue to grow, a fact he said will have positive repercussions for the large number of Albanian nationals that crossed into Greece over the past decade in search of a better future.
He also said the two countries' bilateral cooperation - a more-or-less model for SE Europe - should be better promoted by the mass media on both sides of the border.
The high-profile agreement's signing came as several opposition party figures here and a portion of Albania's press vigorously criticized Athens for the mile-long lines of cars and coaches waiting to enter Greece from Albania at the only two borders posts between the two countries.
Thousands of Albanian workers in Greece that were recently granted residence and work permits -- as well as many ethnic Greeks of southern Albania -- took advantage of the August holiday season to return to their homeland, causing an unprecedented bottleneck at the frontier.
The Greek government, though, warned that as a signatory Schengen Pact nation all necessary border checks must and will be implemented, along with stepped up vigilance to prevent drug and weapons smugglers from taking advantage of the late summer traffic. Additional staff, however, has been dispatched to the border with order to accelerate procedures, reports state.
Moreover, Athens and Tirana are in the final stages of opening another two customs posts on their mostly mountainous border.
Albanian PM Nano holds talks with Greek Deputy FM Loverdos:
Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano, during talks he had here on Monday with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos, referred to what he termed the mature relations between the two countries and governments as shown by the calm manner with which they handled the problem created at the Greek-Albanian border due to the great number of Albanian immigrants returning to Greece following their holidays in Albania.
Nano also congratulated the Greek government for its successes in the struggle for the eradication of terrorism. He further referred to his country's European orientation and asked for Greece's help for the speeding up of the procedures for the signing of an Albania-European Union association agreement.
Source: Athens News Agency