EU unanimous “Yes” to opening accession negotiations with Albania

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s public message following the European Council’s decision to open the accession negotiations with Albania: 

Today Albania was given the go-ahead to open the membership negotiations with the European Union! Finally, because I swear to God, it had become a little stale with constant delays and with every sort of unfounded excuse. But we don’t get tired, nor we defer on our insistence, and although this world has never easily orbited around Albanians, Albania will never lose any battle or war, even the battle against the oldest of viruses in our state’s organism that we should ultimately destroy through patience and modernizing reforms; neither the battle against the archaic virus of prejudices of certain foreigners and neighbours towards us, a prejudice we will gradually eliminate through our truths and patience; nor the war against the new virus that is tormenting whole world and which we will repel and ward off through the strength of our resistance and multiplied patience …

The “Yes” vote was unanimously backed by the 27 EU member states. The European Union’s waiting groom has been finally opened at a cursed time when our own homes’ doors have been closed down. Albania entered a new phase of its history, right in the midst of an ongoing world war that nobody knows when it will be over. The today’s news is a good, though a delayed one, not because of us, that we never wasted a single day working and doing homework, just as if we had been given the ‘YES” vote since we deserved it. But we will equally go on with doing all our homework, not because we are asked to do so by those who finally said YES to us, but because this is our ancestors’ testament and the debt we owe our children. We won’t cease fulfilling and doing every homework until we are given a go-ahead to the large living room of the house of the European Union, where our children will eventually play with the Europe’s children at the very same playground and where the remains of our Renaissance men and heroes will finally rest in peace at the Europe’s heroes cemetery, where our wonderful red and black flag of Gjergj Kastrioti will fly among the equals.

Yet to reach there, we still face an uphill road and the work needed to be done is still tremendous. We would not celebrate even if this long-awaited and fully deserved ‘Yes” was to find us at a peacetime. Because it is just one celebration in my mind, that of liberation from this invisible enemy that has ferociously attacked us! Today I live every day precisely for that day, that great day of liberation, when we would made it to survive this war, by reducing at any cost the loss of lives and alleviate pain and its great sufferings thanks to our popular resistance! I want that day be a day of tears of pain for those who couldn’t make it to survive the wounds inflicted by the enemy’s assault and tears of joy for saving thousands of lives thanks to the great national and human solidarity of the united Albanian family that kept the enemy away!

I want that day be the great day of a national and civic awareness about strength and grace of the Albanian spirit that is being challenged hard in this war, which, I am increasingly more confident will make us stronger and better country and nation! Join me and be confident about this, keep faith and be patient dear brothers and sisters and in this daunting real-world challenge let’s  together see not only the darkness of this cursed time we are living through, but also the light this darkness has brought; the light reminding us that we are all alike, regardless of religion, province, ideas or social status; we are inseparable from each other in this homeland, as long as we live and breathe and it can’t be other than members of the same Albanian family, which that today, when we are forbidden to live the way we are used to live daily, we are given the opportunity to realize how much for no reason we complain in our daily lives. Let us see in this darkness the light that reminds us of how short and precious life is and how vital it is to understand each other’s worth, and how much time and energy vanities take in our daily lives. Let us see through this darkness how precious the light of family and common life are in our homes, that we so little appreciate it as an invaluable gift in our daily lives, and so much do we take it for granted, forgetting to be grateful and care over and over to feed it with energy. Let us see in this darkness the light which helps us to clearly see how great our patience of impatient Albanians can be to withstand tremendous difficulties; how strong the will of the Albanians, who cannot come together to achieve a common, goal can be; how great is the reserve of our energies and solidarity as a nation and Albanian people!

Brothers and sisters, the unanimous “Yes” of the 27 EU member states follows another significant and meaningful “Yes”, that of the Donors’ Conference in Brussels on Feb 17, when the European Union, together with many other nations, gave us the significant sign of a respect that transcends charity; respect for Albania, the people of this country and our great, serious, and constant efforts to make Albania a respected state in the family of European states. I have received many congratulatory messages from foreign counterparts and friends for the restrictive measures we have taken, the speed we have acted with, and the way we are fighting this war! I am confident that with the contribution of each and every one Albania will come out proud and victorious in this war and respect for this country and our state will keep growing after this war. But this will be just the outcome and the goal of the war we are waging on daily basis, not for the sake of the world, but for ourselves, not for the sake of the EU, but for Albania, not to earn respect of the foreigners, but to primarily deserve the respect of our children for the way we fought this war! I beg your pardon for my frequent and renewed appeals; I ask your forgiveness for often strong-worded messages; I ask your pardon for constantly reminding you of the sheer malevolence threatening us if we are to show utmost caution every second! I don’t want to annoy you, I don’t want to make you feel bored, I do not want to scare you at all, but I have to persevere with frequent communications with you, because I want to convey you how deeply worried I am about each and every one of you! More than never before, you are my family and I would do everything I would normally do for my own family for all of you!

Today I have given my approval for the disbursement of the wartime financial support for all of those among you who experience the greatest distress of all of us, the employed or self-employed in a small business that have stopped working, families surviving on social welfare benefit or the state-assisted jobless people! According to state registries, the amount of monthly salaries declared by the small business operators is estimated at around 731 million lek. But listen carefully: The only salary often declared by the small business operators is that of the family head, usually declared at the threshold of the minimum wage. The shortest and easiest path for us to say in this case is that we will provide the  family head the minimum monthly wage he himself has declared and so that we would have been correct given the register of salaries declared by those who today cannot go to work as their businesses have been shut down because of the stay—at-home orders. So, the salaries declared by the small business operators in the country amount to 710 million lek. We will allocate this amount of 710 million lek and, according to the law, we would settle the liability. But there is an Albanian folk saying: one is entitled to benefit something by law and tradition. So we know that there are many self-employed families, with the family head declaring his own monthly salary only being the most typical example, while he declares his wife as an employee without pay! The law stipulates it, but what about the tradition in this war? Because we all are members of a big family and we cannot be satisfied with the arithmetic of the number of self-declared employees, who are not working today due to the stay-at-home orders. That’s why we will go beyond this figure to make sure that every family cell in this country, which are not working normally and are not being fed normally since the small business operators have been shut down, face no shortages, without of course being granted what they would have been making at peacetime, but what we all as a big family can do to help them during this wartime! That’s why we will pay the wartime salary to both the family head and his wife! In this way, every registered, non-paid, self-employed family member in a small business will receive a wartime salary and the amount of 710 million lek to settle the salaries declared by those whose small businesses have been closed down, will increase to 1. 57 billion lek! In other words, the government will grant small business twice the amount declared as peacetime payments, thereby compensating all small business employees who cannot work today because of the war, regardless the fact that many of them are registered as unpaid employees in their family business! These are 60,440 people that we will not leave alone.

In the meantime, the amount the Albanian state pays to low-income families receiving social welfare benefit in peacetime is estimated 340 million lek per month! If we continue to pay this amount we simply abide by the law, but we would fail to abide by the tradition.

We know that a member of these really needy families, during peacetime, tries to earn a living and provide for the entire family by taking up illegal jobs in the black labour market! Therefore, in order to abide by both the law and tradition, we will distribute to families involved in the social welfare scheme twice the amount we provide them in peacetime! So the social welfare payment during the war for the 70,000 families on the state aid register will double!

We will also double the unemployment benefits for all those registered as unemployed. We will double the unemployment benefit too! Because, it is not the time to look at the law and make strict calculations.

Dear friends,

The motto “You Will not be Alone” is not merely a nice-sounding slogan, it is not just a nice-sounding song, but it is the profile of the government I head and it is the guiding principle in my daily life when coming across the people’s woes and plight! I want everyone in worst situation amid this problem befalling every Albanian family is not felt alone and abandoned to his fate. So, today than never before it is the day when we should stand by and closer to those most vulnerable and in need! We can do nothing when death takes any of us. And today, as the whole world is experiencing the daily nightmare of the death knocking on the door of everyone through this lethal aggression, there is only one way out: block all roads to death so that it doesn’t knock on all doors, otherwise, if we are to let it move unimpeded  we will be losing our beloved people, just as it is happening in other countries. But exactly because we are a smaller nation compared to many other nations in terms of population, we should do whatever it takes so that we suffer the least possible losses in this war! Luxembourg is a much smaller country in terms of its population, but it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet suffering a lot more than we do, just because it failed to act and take the measures we took on time!

Luxembourg has a population of over 600, 000 people, but 875 persons have tested positive for the coronavirus and 8 of them have died! There are no families under a social welfare program and face no food shortages or vital problems of any kind, but the case in this war is not about being wealthy, but it is about how you fight and how much you resist. In a war like this, the strategy of measures and not the number of soldiers is the one to decide its fate; the result of the war is decided by the time when measures are taken; the power of solidarity of citizens with the state, which should be as a single united family in this war, where each acts in unity with the common rule! And that’s why, among other things, in this Albanian family war, as a state, a nation, a government made a single body, 123,000 families more in need than others in this country need help!

A person can survive without any food for 20 days even he was to live without meeting anybody for 20 years!  But the special support for these 123,000 families is not because they would starve, neither they would die of fear and would take on the streets to escape death, but this help is provided because of vital need for them not to be abandoned and left alone in this war, so that they do not feel spiritually encouraged to fight and resist in this war just like everyone else within the big and united Albanian family! By doing so only we will not only emerge subdued, but we will become better and stronger, as a nation and as a state once the normal life resumes after liberation of Albania, which will start to negotiate its membership with the most honourable European Union,  the big family of the nations of the United Europe.

The God of Albanians is great!

May God bless you all!