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President Meloni’s press statement with the Prime Minister of Albania

Monday, 6 November 2023

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for being here.
It is not by chance that Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania has come back here to Rome only a few weeks after his last visit. I am very, very happy to be here with him today to announce a very important memorandum of understanding between Italy and Albania on the management of migration flows. This agreement enriches the historical friendship, as you know, the deep cooperation between our two nations. Ours is a strategic partnership developed through not only excellent trade relations (Italy is Albania’s largest trading partner and our trade exchanges are worth around 20% of Albania’s GDP), but also exchanges between our communities in Italy and Albania, intense cultural and social relations and the very close cooperation that already exists in the fight against all forms of illegality, with a significant presence of Italian public security forces and judicial officers in Albania. 

The agreement we are signing today adds another element to further enrich this cooperation.

When we began discussing this with Prime Minister Rama a few months ago, we started from some underlying considerations that we share and that you are very familiar with: mass irregular immigration is a phenomenon that the European Union, the Member States of the European Union, cannot deal with alone and, from this point of view, cooperation between EU Member States and what are, for now, non-EU countries, can play a decisive role. This is why we said to ourselves that it would be good to strengthen and revitalise this cooperation.

So, we have worked together on an agreement that strengthens precisely this kind of cooperation and that essentially has three objectives: to fight human trafficking, to prevent illegal migration flows and to only take in those who truly have the right to international protection. What does this agreement consist of? This agreement entails Albania giving Italy the possibility to use certain areas on Albanian territory to establish, at its own expense and under its own jurisdiction, two facilities to set up centres for the management of illegal migrants. These facilities will initially be able to take in up to three thousand people, who will remain in the centres for the time it takes to quickly carry out the procedures to process their asylum applications and, if necessary, for repatriation purposes.

This obviously means a maximum of three thousand people at any one time but clearly, using the accelerated procedures that, thanks to this Government, allow for applications to be processed in 28 days, as I see it, once this project is fully up and running, these figures can be considered monthly, meaning the total yearly flow can reach up to 36 thousand people.

I also want to say that this agreement, this possibility, does not concern children, pregnant women and other vulnerable individuals.

As I was saying, these centres will have Italian jurisdiction. At the port of Shengjin, Italy will take care of disembarking and identification procedures and will establish a reception centre there to carry out initial screening activities. In another area further inland, it will establish a second facility (based on the ‘CPR’ - detention centres for repatriation - model) to carry out the subsequent procedures. With its police forces, Albania will help with security and external surveillance of the facilities. 

The MOU we are signing today clearly sets out the political and legal framework for this new collaboration of ours. The agreement will then have to be followed by all the consequent legislative measures and the necessary work to organise these facilities on Albanian territory. We expect these centres to be operational by next spring, so by spring 2024.

I would like to say that I am very satisfied with the work we have done. I wish to once again thank the Prime Minister, my friend Edi Rama, as well as the Ministers who are here today, the Ambassadors and the departments that have worked on this project. I would also like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Minister Tajani, who was unable to be here today, for the work they have done.

I consider this a European agreement. What I want to say is that this agreement shows it is possible to cooperate on the management of migration flows, comprehensive cooperation is possible, and that we can and must cooperate in particular with nations that are indeed European.

With this I want to say that Albania has confirmed it is not only a friend of Italy’s but also a friend of the European Union too. Despite not formally being a member of the European Union yet – as you know, Albania is a candidate country for European Union membership – it behaves precisely as if it were already a de facto EU Member State. 
This is one of the reasons – but not the reason - why I am proud of the fact that Italy has historically always been one of the greatest supporters of Albania, and the Western Balkan countries, entering the European Union.
As you know, I don’t like to call it ‘enlargement’; I like to call it ‘reunification’: I don’t think the European Union is a club, I don’t think we are the ones to decide who is European and who isn’t. I believe the Western Balkans are to all intents and purposes European countries, that Albania is to all intents and purposes a European country, and this is why, from the beginning, we have always firmly supported this reunification process.

This is another reason why I think that today’s agreement is very important, but also because it is an innovative solution that shows how cooperation and friendship can also give rise to new ideas, and I am confident that, going forward - because I know we will do this well, we will do this in the best way possible - it can also become an example and a model for other cooperation agreements of this kind to follow. 

So, thank you, Edi, and thank you very much to everyone. Thanks to Albania for this important page about strategic cooperation, about a historical and solid friendship of which we are very proud.

[Courtesy translation]