Visit to Albania, 30 March 2011
"We have held constructive discussions on the Action Plan prepared by the Albanian government to address the priorities of the November 2010 Commission Opinion on Albania. I would like to commend the efforts made by the Albanian government in preparing the action plan and thank them for organising this seminar to discuss the proposed measures. I would also like to thank the Albanian authorities for their general openness to the suggestions and recommendations of the Commission.
I would like to commend the inclusiveness of this seminar, which has brought together all main stakeholders and experts in Albania on the different topics. I also welcome in particular the readiness of political representatives of all sides to engage in discussions on sometimes difficult topics in a constructive manner. It is encouraging that all sides recognise the role of the Opinion 12 Key Priorities. This is an important element of consensus in Albania. Addressing the recommendations of the Opinion on Albania is essential as they provide guidance to the country on how to move forward on the EU integration path. The Commission remains committed to the European perspective of Albania.
My presence here this morning testifies this commitment and our belief in the potential of Albania. The High Representative Baroness Ashton and her envoy Managing Director of the European External Action Service Miroslav Lajcak, from their side, aim at helping to solve the present political stalemate. The political stalemate must be resolved. This is the shared responsibility of the political leaders in Albania. That is what the citizens of Albania expect and they are right. Democratically elected representatives must act as such: represent the people and find democratic compromises. Addressing the key priorities relating to the political aspects is essential because the political stalemate constitutes a serious obstacle to the fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria and it is holding back important reforms needed for progress towards the EU. Our focus on the post-Opinion process represents an indispensable part of the way forward. In that respect the atmosphere that has prevailed at the seminar in the last two days is encouraging. I invite both sides to use this opportunity to promote constructive political dialogue among the different parties and to improve the functioning of Parliament, and to move Albania decisively and jointly forward on the road to the EU.
I urge all sides to extend the constructive and consensus-based approach to the preparations of the upcoming elections. Free, fair and transparent elections are a key democratic right for all Albanian citizens. Albania cannot miss the opportunity to demonstrate that it is conducting elections in line with European and international standards. Constructive cross-party cooperation in implementing the recommendations made by the ODIHR to improve electoral practice is key for success and could provide an opportunity towards bringing the political stalemate to an end. There needs to be decisive action taken in the short term to relieve the political deadlock. If no solution is found, the Commission will not be able to make a positive assessment of Albania in our next Progress Report. Not only would Albania not move forward on the EU path along with other Western Balkan countries but may fall behind its fellow EU aspirant neighbours; It is now high time to bring EU rapprochement back to a prominent place on Albania's political agenda. The Opinion's recommendations, and in particular the 12 key priorities, provide clear guidance on how to achieve this. Working towards Albania's EU integration should be seen as a national objective. This is the only way for Albania to attain the ultimate objective of EU integration. In this instance, the political leaders need to reach out to each other and put the interest of the country above all other considerations.
In summary, I think I can say that with today's seminar we have hopefully started something that will bring about, through inclusiveness, close cooperation of political stakeholders in Albania on the post-Opinion process and in particular on the 12 Key Priorities. Political representatives from both sides have shown their commitment to EU integration and their willingness in principle to engage on the difficult reforms ahead. I very much hope that the good spirit of this seminar can be transferred to other fora including to the Albanian Parliament. This could be the basis for measurable progress and results on the EU integration path. It is important that political discussions on the way forward continue and the process is inclusive and substance-driven. That has been the shared understanding reached in my today’s meetings with PM Berisha and the leader of the opposition Mr Rama. I also had a very fruitful meeting with President Topi during which I appreciated his continuing commitment to Albania’s European perspective to the benefit of all citizens of the country. The Commission will continue to be engaged with the parties and accompany the process. We shall also continue providing guidance and assistance to Albania in addressing the key priorities. But I cannot stress enough that the responsibility for implementing the proposed measures lies with Albania. Hopefully this process will mobilise the necessary energies –which exist in the country among the Albanian people – to bring about our joint objective of European integration."