Osmani: Albania’s European path: Making significant progress and ambitious for more

Ditmir Bushati; Photo: European Union

TIRANA – The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, Ditmir Bushati, in an opinion published by the “The Parliament Magazine”, an EU politics magazine covering European Parliament news, opinion and comment, emphasizes that “EU policymakers should be in no doubt about Albania’s commitment to open accession talks.”

“Albania can be considered a regional leader, and we believe that we deserve fair recognition for our record of progress,” Albania’s diplomacy chief states.

Since the European Commission published its long-awaited strategy that asserts that EU membership of the Western Balkans is in the political, security and economic interests of the European Union, Bushati explains that this is an historic opportunity.

“For more than 20 years European leaders have talked about their support for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. We are encouraged that the time to put these words into action has now arrived. We all have a responsibility to make this part of a broader pro-European agenda to build a stronger, united and more democratic European Union, as set out by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union speech last September,” Bushati noted.

He emphasised that there should be no doubt about Albania’s commitment.

“We are determined to turn this opportunity into reality. We understand that the EU expects concrete results from us and that the process of assessing these results will be tough but fair, and based on merit. We welcome this,” the Minister said.

He also added that there is a strong consensus among Albanian citizens to join the EU and show that 80 per cent of Albanians see their future as part of Europe, with shared values and a common respect for the importance of the rule of law, citizens’ rights and good governance.

The Minister reminded that the EU is Albania’s biggest trading partner accounting for €2.82bn of Albanian exports and that it has an excellent cooperation in the field of security, border enforcement, the fight against organised crime, international terrorism and the management of migration flows, adding that the Albania’s foreign policy is in full alignment with the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

“Our government is making steady progress in all the five areas Brussels has specified as prerequisites before accession talks can be opened: administrative reform, protection of human rights, the battle against corruption, reform of the justice system and tackling organised crime,” he noted.

Bushati also mentioned the reform of the judicial system which radically changed the constitution and established a new vetting procedure for the judiciary.

“This reform has also had a direct impact on our fight against corruption and organised crime. We note with some pride that the model for this which we, with EU advice and assistance, developed two years ago is now being proposed for all the Western Balkan countries, albeit in a less comprehensive form,” he said.

“In this respect, Albania can be considered a regional leader, and we believe that we deserve fair recognition for our record of progress,” Bushati pointed out, adding that the accession negotiations can themselves act as an important catalyst to accelerate reform and embed it in society when the perspective of membership is clearly seen by the citizens as something that is more than a dream.

“The negotiating process will give us this encouragement to keep up the momentum towards even greater integration and bring our citizens closer to Europe,” Bushati said, noting that there is much to be done over the next few months.

“We welcome the fact that Bulgaria has made enlargement a key priority for its EU Council Presidency. We will have the opportunity to explore this at a Western Balkans summit Sofia will host in May. By the European Council meeting in June, we are confident we will be able to make our case, convert the sceptics and advance to formal negotiations,” he concluded.