Former Albanian Minister of Education and Sport (2013-2019), Lindita Nikolla, who was elected president of the Albanian Parliament at the parliamentary elections in April 2021, was invited by National Council president Irene Kälin (The Greens, AG) for an official visit to Bern on 14 June. The visit was an opportunity to exchange views on cooperation between the two parliaments, Albania’s EU integration process and the current situation in the Western Balkans.

Bilateral relations and cooperation

Irène Kälin described the official visit as important in view of the close and fruitful relations that have existed for several years between the two parliaments in the area of parliamentary technical cooperation. Since 2019, the Swiss Parliamentary Services (SPS) have been providing support to the Parliament of the Republic of Albania in the field of civic education, public relations and overall parliamentary supervision. This support is part of a cooperation project by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). As Albania is a priority country for Swiss cooperation, Ms Kälin welcomed Switzerland's continuing support for the Albanian parliament under the new 2022-2025 programme, in addition to its projects supporting local government, civil society and the private sector in Albania.

Ms Nikolla thanked Switzerland, the second largest donor country, for its more than 30-year support of Albania, as well as for its intervention and rapid assistance to her country during the earthquake in November 2019 and the pandemic.

EU integration

Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, Ms Kälin said that the EU had to rethink its accession procedure, especially with regard to the Balkan countries. She asked Ms Nikolla about Albania's expectations of the 23 June meeting of the EU heads of state and government in Brussels and to what extent the membership applications of Ukraine and Moldova were changing the situation for the Western Balkan countries. Ms Nikolla replied that EU integration remained Albania’s ‘Plan A’, which is supported also by the opposition in Parliament. She further said that her country was striving to fulfil the tasks set by the EU with respect to this integration procedure, particularly in the fight against corruption and organised crime, through introducing far-reaching reforms. Irene Kälin reiterated Switzerland's support for Albania in the EU integration process.

Situation in the Balkans and Albania’s relations with its neighbours

Ms Nikolla spoke of Albania's leading role in the cooperation between the Western Balkan countries, which is based in particular on its good relations with neighbouring states. Albania is nurturing good neighbourly relations as part of the EU integration process. The Berlin Process, a political initiative launched by Germany, has evolved into the Open Balkan Initiative, which implements instruments already existing within the EU. Ms Nikolla said that the Albanian people supported this initiative and that a meeting between the heads of state and government of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia had taken place on 8 June.

In response to a question from the president of the Council of States, Thomas Hefti, about the relationship between Albania and Kosovo, two young countries with their own particular characteristics, Ms Nikolla replied that they were two states but one nation.

Albania’s experience in the UN Security Council

The president of the National Council asked about Albania's experience as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period 2022–2023, particularly with regard to how the Albanian parliament is involved in Security Council matters. Ms Nikolla replied that the Albanian foreign minister reports to Parliament on the work of the Security Council. She said Albania had wanted to make implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a key theme during its membership of the Security Council before Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Albania has led initiatives within the Security Council to have the Russian aggression recognised as a violation of international law.

Photos of the official visit

Instagram video of President Lindita Nikolla