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Majlinda Bregu: European membership perspective is the only guarantee of peace in the region

In an interview for Tanjug, Majlinda Bregu, Chairwoman of the European Integration Committee (EIC) of the Parliament of Albania, talked about the relations between Serbia and Albania, inter-parliamentary cooperation, the Berlin process and the road towards the EU membership of the Western Balkans countries.

Tanjug: How would you assess current relations between Serbia and Albania?

Majlinda Bregu: At least, they are not the old relations between the wolf and the sheep. Frankly speaking, even in situations where there was a kind of mistrust. So, there is already a noble line of communication, such as the meetings that happened between the prime ministers, for example. I remember that during the first visit of our prime minister to Serbia, I was thinking that it is a good sign of the regional cooperation.

Western Balkans could became an uninterested area for the common market or the European Union only if we continue to produce problems, disputes and bad faith. I think that by being small market economies we need to develop. We need to improve the relations between us, as well as infrastructure which is important for people but also for trade. When it comes to the European perspective, I think that this is one of the most important elements that should be developed.

The road to the European membership is going to be a long one for all the countries of the region, but what is up to us is that we should not make it more difficult by threatening each other with the old nationalistic language. The only guarantee for Western Balkan countries’ and for peace in the region is to choose a view and a perspective of the European membership. We all know that peace between our countries is fragile and that it does not need much fuel to add to the fire. An example was the football match.

Tanjug: Your party is associated member of EPP. We know that Serbian Progressive Party has applied for the membership. Do you think that SNS will become a member of EPP?

 MB: That is not a thing that I am going to comment. It is not up to Democratic Party of Albania as a member of EPP to judge on the further membership of other parties in EPP family. I guess it is up to EPP to evaluate all their prerequisites and conditions for a party to be a member of EPP.

Tanjug: What is your opinion about the inter-parliamentary cooperation between the parliamentary committees for the European integration of the two countries?

MB: We have had really good discussions in our forum – COSAP[1]. Believe it or not, there are more than 15 forums of parliamentary co-operational discussion in the Western Balkans countries. I am pretty confident, not even myself, that anybody could name all of them.

Last year we did not succeed to make Kosovo a permanent member of the COSAP because colleagues from Serbian parliament did not vote for it. Frankly saying, I do not see a reason why it is happening today while Serbs and Kosovars are developing a dialogue between them and with Brussels. I think that one of the ways of keeping and developing good relations between Serbia and Kosovo is also the COSAP forum. It is a fora where all the parliamentarians of the region could discuss freely even problems that arise and that way they even could help their governments to develop and improve the dialogue that is already in place which is a condition for Serbia as well. I feel really bad that until today Kosovo is not participating in this forum due to the “no” vote of the Serbian colleagues. I really would like to call to their logic. I do not think that Serbian part could suffer from the participation of Kosovo in the COSAP.

The second thing is that we all together, the parliaments of Western Balkans, proposed last year to the Berlin process, to French Senate, to open a forum for parliamentary discussions within the Berlin process.  Within the Berlin process, governments are meeting, NGOs are meeting, and the only missing part is the parliamentary discussion. That was my idea supported by all the colleagues, but we did not succeed. Because of that we should all work together and hurry to make it possible to happen in Rome next year. It is completely stupid to leave the parliaments out from the most important process where the Western Balkan countries are trying to cooperate.

Tanjug: You just mentioned the Berlin process. How would you assess the achieved goals and what do you think it will happen after the process reach its end in 2018?

MB: When the Berlin process was introduced, everyone was puzzled what will happen after the process – will it really shake the perspective of the enlargement and the European perspective of Balkans, and if so, how? I was thinking back in that time, and I am still wondering, why it was such a wonderful idea politically expressed but really with less financial contribution behind it. That means that only few projects could be delivered and financed. All the money is coming from the funds which are already in place – IPA. It is not that there is another fund or loans by the European banks or by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that were devoted to the development of the Western Balkans countries.

I would expect a kind of refreshment of the way how the economic perspective of the region is developed. I would expect for example a refreshment of the CEFTA agreement for the region by introducing new incentives for the countries and for the exchange of the commerce between businesses and people. I would expect the European Commission, IMF or EBRD to find new ways or loans for development of this region. Otherwise the Berlin process will remain only a very nice and beautiful political willingness to see how the countries could progress. But in the real and concrete terms of strengthening the relations between the countries of the region by strengthening the economy pillar, I am afraid that what has happened so far was not enough.

Tanjug: Do you think that Albania could learn something from Serbian opening of the negotiation chapters or that Serbia could learn something from Albanian experience with the EU?

MB: I will never prejudge any good experience that comes from a country that has more hours of a nightmare than another one in the process of European integration. It is always good to help the others to spend less days and nights in this process by offering any good experience or expertise regard the EU. I think that we are on the same boat, but the level on it is different. Serbia has opened negotiations by now. Last week I asked in Brussels the European side, the European Commission and the European Council, to prepare action plans for chapters 23 and 24 for Albania irrespective of the level that the country has in the European Integration process. I think we should try to think over it, not only the European side who is on the safe side, we are those who are really in need for moving forward, to find new ways and to shake up the certainty that is present in Europe through their documents, files, matrixes or whatever they produce or the steps they are taking with our countries.

I do believe that we all have good and bad experiences from which we can learn from each other. I think that judiciary reform that Albania has voted is one of the hardest reform that a country could have, not Albania, but a European and the countries in the region, considering the current political situation. This might be a good example to share experiences. Serbia now has opened chapters 23 and 24, it will go through constitutional changes that we voted two months ago. Who knows? Serbia is a country that has already negotiations opened, we do not. But still, there is a progress happening. The last one might even be unlucky because it is waiting on the long list but it has the latest developments or requirements or benchmarks, as Europeans like to call them.

I believe the future is only one. As far as we are committed to the European perspective all the doors should be opened for the exchange of expertises and good or bad experiences.

[1] Conference of Parliamentary Committees for European Integration / Affairs of the Participants in the Stabilization and Association Process


Author: Nikola S. Ristić