Joint press conference of Prime Minister Edi Rama and the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, in Brussels:
Commissioner Johannes Hahn: We both agreed that the June conclusions by the General Affairs Council and, so to say, endorsed by the European Council are a major step forward in the European integration process of Albania. They have set out a clear path leading towards the opening of the accession negotiations between the European Union and Albania in June 2019, provided of course the process of reforms continues at a good pace as this has been the case so far.
I think it is important to highlight that we are now at the beginning and I will be in Tirana next Thursday to start the preparatory work for this. And this is a very challenging ambition, comprehensive work where we have to look in all different areas which are covered by the chapter 35. So, the screening process is a must, it has to be done and depending on the quality of the work we will be able to say whether the negotiations afterwards are faster, or less fast. So I think whatever can be done in the next couple of months is already relevant for the quality and the speed of the discussions afterwards.
We have agreed that our teams should start work immediately even before the summer break to work on all of these in order to guarantee a sound and full analysis of the situation.
The Council has also noted and fully recognized that advancing the justice reform further is crucial, both for continuing the vetting process but also by advancing institutional restructuring in this sector as foreseen by the constitutional reform that was agreed unanimously by the Parliament.
The same expectation remains in the area of fighting corruption at all levels and organized crime. I also asked the Prime Minister to continue actions leading to a decrease of unfounded asylum applications from the Albanian citizens in the EU member states, but I would also like to use this opportunity to commend the country and its leaders for the activities and the actions they have taken during the previous months and years in order to really have a decline of asylum applications, which indeed was the case.
I welcome the commitment of the Prime Minister Rama and his government to continue achieving all these crucial objectives. On my side, I reassured the Prime Minister that the Commission will continue to assist the country in implementation of its reform agenda and at the same time, the Commission, as it has been already said, will start the preparatory work for what is necessary to have a smooth future start of the accession negotiations, as we have outlined the time perspective for next year.
So therefore I will travel to Tirana next Thursday to provide the government with an overview of further steps the Commission intends to undertake in this regard. Therefore I am looking forward to discuss more details next week in Tirana, meeting, as I said, the Prime Minister again, the government, leading figures from the administration, but also, if there is time, I will try to reach out to the opposition, because, once again, we are talking about a national goal which needs the support of everybody in the society, in order to achieve the goals which are shared by everybody in the Albanian society. So it is about a strong, let’s say, clear and united goal of all different stakeholders in the society.
This is what counts so once again, like always, it was a fruitful meeting and we will further intense the level of our cooperation.
Prime Minister Edi Rama: Thank you Commissioner. It was really a special pleasure to see you after the Council’s decision and talk together about putting in motion the whole process of preparations, the analytical process that will start immediately.
I am very thankful that you will visit Tirana in the few coming days to kick off and practically transform these 12 months into 12 months of very hard work in order to be absolutely ready once the negotiations start formally and to do exactly what you said, gain more time by preparing much better.
I want also to underline that it was for us really a very important endorsement made by the Commission, but not only since it was very important to us to see 25 countries fighting all together to recognize the merit of Albania and at the same time to see them at the end being more reluctant to join and practically come out with a good compromise, making sure we don’t lose any minute and allowing them at the same time deal, let say, in a more reasonable way with their own public opinion back home.
Finally, I would like to underline that we are absolutely ready for this analytical process and we are absolutely keen to start in all directions keeping in mind that it will be a very tough and hard work and all steps will need major efforts.
So again I want to welcome you in Tirana in the coming days along with your team and sit together to push forward this agenda of integration that is so crucial to our country, so crucial to our region and so crucial for Europe itself.