EU pushes decision on Albania membership talks for 2019

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 27, 2018 10:04

EU pushes decision on Albania membership talks for 2019

Story Highlights

  • For Albania’s Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, the country “has already entered the irreversible path towards the EU accession process,” while the opposition argues the talks will be again postponed in 2019.

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TIRANA, June 27 – The foreign ministers of European Union member states spoke in favor of opening accession negotiations with Albania, but postponed the necessary unanimous decision to start them until June 2019, expecting further progress from the country in the justice reform and the fight against crime and corruption.

The decision came as the result of a compromise that took hours to reach among the majority of countries, which openly support the accession negotiations, countries such as Germany, which sought a conditioned process and countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, which, initially, sought an unlimited deadline extension.

Although this is not an optimal decision for Albania, as experts have pointed out by this time next year the EU Council will have brand new representatives that might lean even more on the populist side, the government in the country regarded it with optimism.

For Albania’s Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, the country “has already entered the irreversible path towards the EU accession process,” while the opposition argues the talks will be again postponed when June 2019 comes.

The Minister of State for Europe at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany Michael Roth, however, simply described the decision as a compromise solution, saying “Albania must meet certain preconditions to open the negotiation chapter” and that “this can be a pragmatic way to overcome the Council’s disagreement.”

 

The EU Decision – homework not well done

Valuing the progress made by Albania “in particular for the five key priorities, the Council agrees to respond positively to the progress made by Albania and to determine the path to starting talks in June 2019,” said the ministers’ decision.

“Specifically, the Council stresses Albania’s critical need to further consolidate the progress made on judicial reform, in particular through re-evaluation, and to provide other tangible results in the fight against corruption at all levels, in the fight against organized crime, especially drug cultivation and trafficking, while preserving and deepening the current reform momentum,” the decision clarified for Albania’s case.

This process includes further steps in the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors, especially by closing up all priority files and finalizing the establishment of the new independent judicial institutions, as predicted in the constitutional reform.

In the same context, the ministers seek the final establishment of special bodies, such as the Special Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Structure and the National Bureau of Investigation, which were already supposed to be functioning in the country.

Similarly, the strengthening of concrete results in proactive investigations is needed, as well as penal proceedings and final punishments in the fight against corruption and organized crime, including those in the highest level of government.

According to the EU Council, progress in these fields should be closely monitored by the Commission, which will then give its assessment on the basis of its annual report.

“The Council reminds the decision to open negotiations with Albania will be subject to the completion of national parliamentary procedures and European Council endorsement, and will be shortly thereafter followed by the first intergovernmental conference by the end of 2019, depending on the progress made.”

 

Reactions at Home – FM Ditmir Bushati thanks the European Union

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati gave a press conference shortly after the publication of the Council’s decision.

According to Bushati, the decision is a recognition of the country’s reforms, which “will surely need to be further deepened in the coming days and months. We will sit with the European Commission throughout the preparatory process without losing time, so that next June will find Albania in a more solid position in meeting all the obligations related to Albania’s EU membership.”

Prime Minister Edi Rama said, through a Facebook post, that “after 72 hours within the EU’s internal waves, Albania managed to get an entry date for the EU. The results of our reforms had even the most skeptic among us to recognize Albania’s and Macedonia’s merits. A difficult battle was won, the war continues.”

Democratic Party opposition leader Lulzim Basha also reacted through a Facebook post, in which he said the EU will uphold a negative stand in 2019 also.

“The opening of negotiations with Albania was postponed for another year. Crime and corruption are holding our future hostage. Without fighting crime and corruption, the 2019 decision will be as refusing as it was today. Now is the moment for a great turn that will save our country and our European future,” Basha’s  Facebook post read.

 

Internal EU debates – three stands on Albania and Macedonia

The Luxembourg meeting saw the General Affairs Council member states divided in three main fonts concerning the opening of negotiations for Albania and Macedonia.

At the end of the meeting’s first part, Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzias said “there are two groups. One that represents the majority, with 25 countries supporting the opening of negotiations by the summer of 2019, and three other countries, France, Denmark and the Netherlands, who think we should push the process. But pushing this European process means pushing the stability and security of the whole region,” Kotzias said.

France’s stance has been influenced by a number of factors. On the one hand are those related to the internal situation, as nearly half of the French political forces and the overwhelming majority of public opinion are against the idea of ​​enlargement. On the other hand, is the idea of French ​​President Emmanuel Macron, who declared his goal is to reform the EU itself, ahead of its enlargement.

Before the start of the meeting, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok reiterated the hesitant stance of his country.

“The two countries have made progress, but it is not enough, concrete results are needed in corruption. It is important that both countries have shown perseverance in the fight against corruption, but we have to see even more results,” Blok stated.

Germany, on the other hand, although conditionally, is in favor of opening accession talks with Albania and Macedonia and called on France and the Netherlands to join the rest of the member states also in favor.

“Sustainable democracy and peace in the Western Balkans play an important role for us all in the EU, which is why we greatly appreciate the efforts of both states to strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption,” said Roth.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 27, 2018 10:04