Tirana (24 March) - European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn visited Tirana on 23 and 24 March.

During his visit to Albania he co-chair together with Prime Minister Edi Rama the fifth round of the High Level Dialogue between EU and Albania aimed to intensify Albania's work on the key reforms necessary for the next stage of country's EU integration process. In Tirana Commissioner also met with President Nishani, Speaker Meta, Prime Minister Rama, opposition leader Basha as well as civil society and business representatives. 

Following the High Level Dialogue he said to the media:

'Good afternoon, we have just held the fifth round of the High Level Dialogue on Key Priorities. This is yet another confirmation of our commitment to continue working with Albania on its EU-integration.

Today we have reviewed Albania's plans to implement the key priorities necessary for the next stage – the opening of accession negotiations. We have taken stock of developments since our October Progress Report, with a particular focus on the rule of law which remains a key issue.

I note with satisfaction that the government has a clear understanding of what it needs to do to achieve concrete results under each key priority, based on the concrete steps and measures that were identified during the meeting of the Joint Working Groups on the key priorities that took place on 5 February. Let me give a few examples:

- It is important that Albania pursues a comprehensive, inclusive and consistent justice reform process which is essential to increase public trust in the judicial system.

- There is a need for a serious and coherent policy in the fight against organised crime and corruption, with a decisive action leading to proactive and efficient investigations, prosecutions, and final convictions.

- It is essential to continue enhancing the efficiency and independence of the public administration. Full respect of the applicable legislation needs to be ensured as regards personnel movements.

I have underlined that EU integration needs to be an inclusive process; I know that there is a broad consensus here on Albania's EU integration future and I call on the government and opposition to work together constructively in a spirit of compromise to make it happen. Let me say that the increasingly confrontational political climate damages Albania's image and may put at risk the reform process.

I note with satisfaction that the Parliament adopted legislation providing for the establishment of the National Council for European Integration; it now needs to be formally established and start working in view of strengthening the inclusiveness of the reforms in the country; this will be a key development for consolidating consensus over Albania's EU-reforms and to ensure the energies of all stakeholders, including civil society, are channelled into the process.

Let me add that the five Key Priorities cannot and should not be seen as isolated from the overall process of EU-integration. Work on economic reforms and on approximation to EU legislation and standards need to proceed in parallel. This is not only essential for the accession process, but also for economic development and job creation, and for better living conditions for the Albanian citizens, resulting for example from improved environmental and food safety standards.

I firmly believe that Albania's future is within the EU and I remain strongly convinced of Albania's capacity to tackle its EU integration challenges. Success will depend on Albania's resolve to continue with reforms in inclusive way and make them irreversible. Let me reiterate my and the Commission's commitment to continue helping Albania to move closer to the EU. I am aware of the importance of this goal for Albania and for its citizens, but the way to get there is equally important and should be used to achieve a solid state of preparedness for the eventual EU-membership.'

Read the Joint Conclusions of the fifth High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities

2nd Joint Working Groups on the Key Priorities