Determination of the sea border between Albania and Greece in the Ionian was further stalled after Albanian President Ilir Meta refused a request by the Albanian government to authorise talks. 

“The request doesn’t clearly define the object of negotiations for which the authorisation is requested,” Meta said in a statement, demanding furhter information on the government’s objective and strategy. Meta, former leader of the Socialist Movement of Integration party, which is now in opposition, become president last year and his tenure is seen as a counterpoint to the left-wing government of Edi Rama, which has tried to thaw relationships with Greece, hoping that this will improve Albania’s chances of becoming a member of the European Union. Talks between Greece and Albania have been overshadowed by criticism from the opposition, accusing Rama of “selling out” the country, but Ilir Meta was adamant that this is not why he refused to grant authorisation. “The aim of the president has not been and is not to play politics with such a serious and delicate issue,” he told a press conference on Tuesday. 

The issue in question – the delimination of continental shelf, is one of the key matters that have been plaguing Greek-Albanian relations for years. The two countries signed an agreement in 2009, which gives Greece the right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, miles from the baseline of its coastal state (from 6 nautical miles that it had been thus far), but the Albanian Constitutional Court annulled it in 2010 after finding it in breach of the constitution and international norms.

It is believed that  the agreement was the product of Greece strongholding Albania to accept an unfair deal,  by threatening to block Albania’s European integration. When the two countries resumed talks, Greece practically acknowledged the unfairness of the previous agreement and is considering to allow Albania to expand its territorial waters to a maritime area north of Corfu, while at the same time securing that Greek waters will expand to 12 nautical miles.