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Commission praises #Albania as good neighbour

| October 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

Albania is making good progress on its path towards European Integration, and a key contribution towards this end in recent months has been the determination of the Albanian authorities to tackle the problem of unjustified asylum applications to the EU’s member states. At the the Stabilization and Association (SA) Committee meeting between Albania and the European Union last week in Brussels, the European Commission praised Albania’s efforts in respect of regional co-operation stating that good neighbourly relations are an essential part of Albania’s strategic partnership with the EU. Albania is already fully aligned with and playing a positive role in the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, writes James Wilson.

This was the 8th annual meeting of the SA Committee, and it was jointly chaired by Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania Eralda Cani , and Director for the Western Balkans in DG NEAR of the European Commission Genoveva Ruiz Calavera.

The meeting reviewed the most important developments in EU-Albanian relations over the past year, covering subjects such as the rule of law, the reform of public administration, trade, economic development, agriculture and fisheries, industry, the internal market, information society, social policy, transport, energy and the environment. The Committee also assessed the implementation of the EU’s financial assistance to Albania.

The European Commission’s report on progress in all areas was positive; they stressed that there was still a need to deliver tangible results against performance indicators for the reform of the judiciary, such as the vetting of judges and prosecutors. Other key priorities requiring sustained efforts included the fight against corruption and organized crime, especially the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis, public administration reform and the protection of fundamental rights.

Albania is already a member of NATO and has been a candidate to join the EU since June 2014; it is one of six countries in the Western Balkans waiting to join the EU. The European Parliament’s Rapporteur on Albania, Knut Fleckenstein, who travelled to Albania in September expressed his confidence that the European Union would give the green light to opening negotiations with Albania on its EU accession in June next year. “The parliamentary group that I represent, as well as that of the European People’s Party, are supporters of your (Albania) path to the European Union and the opening of accession negotiations,” Fleckenstein said whilst in Tirana.

I also spoke this week with Charles Tannock MEP the Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the British Conservatives in the European Parliament and the Parliament’s Rapporteur for Montenegro, who said: “Albania is clearly making an effort under its new government to do their necessary homework towards being in a position to open negotiations for eventual EU accession like many of its more advanced already engaged in the process such as Montenegro and Serbia. One of the principle challenges will be the fight against corruption, organised crime and the rule of law and independence of the judiciary and this political priority is well understood in Tirana. Albania must also play a constructive role in the region, in particular with regard to the stability of neighbouring Macedonia where there is a large Albanian minority. Lastly I welcome the fact that Albania which is a full member of the OIC has aligned itself with the European Union position in key votes in order to avoid any conflict with EU CFSP and CSDP policies.”

The Albanian Socialists under Prime Minister Edi Rama won an absolute majority in the 140-seat parliament last June. This is the second term of the Socialist Party in power, and  the government programme for this term in office is mainly focused on economic growth, attracting more FDI, increasing employment, creating more jobs and generally improving the lives of ordinary Albanians. The government is also proceeding with comprehensive judicial reform and fighting corruption, which are key targets towards realising the charismatic Prime Minister’s aspirations to open formal EU membership negotiations.

The key criteria for Albania’s EU membership include the need for stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities. The country must have a functioning market economy capable of withstanding free and fair competition in the EU’s single market, and the ability to implement the obligations of EU membership. Last week’s SA Committee meeting in Brussels marked an important positive step in the process of Albania’s European Integration by benchmarking the development of regional cooperation and the steady positive improvement in good neighbourly relations.

The European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee will hold their inter-parliamentary meeting in Tirana later this month, and I spoke to Eduard Kukan MEP a member of the Delegation who commented on the European Commission’s findings: “I always encourage my Albanian partners to keep up with the integration agenda. I agree with the Commission’s assessment that there has been good progress and positive developments in this agenda. I hope that we will also receive a positive assessment on remaining issues related to implementation of the justice reforms. In such a case, I think, the new government has a good chance for opening the accession negotiations.”

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