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BSC Leaders Meetings Tirana: No more missed opportunities for the EU integration

Photo: BSC

TIRANA – Under the title “Albania and the Western Balkans in the EU by 2030: Tackling the Obstacles Ahead”, the third in a series of BSC Leaders Meetings events took place in Tirana, Albania on Friday, May 17, 2024.

The panel discussion hosted distinguished speakers such as Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania, Prof. Dr. Daniela Schwarzer, Member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, Majlinda Bregu, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council and Vessela Tcherneva, Deputy Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. Nikola Dimitrov, the president and co-founder of the Balkan Center for Constructive Policies – Solucija and former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, moderated the discussion.

Srđan Cvijić, the president of the International Advisory Committee of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, made opening remarks by saying that the BSC Leaders Meetings are a place to discuss major foreign and security policy issues. “This one is dedicated to the momentous shift in the EU’s approach to enlargement and the palpable goal of having some, if not all countries of our region, in the EU by 2030. Regional cooperation is the key and that’s what we are doing here today.,“ Cvijić concluded.

Andi Dobrushi, the director of Open Society Foundations – Western Balkans, joined Cvijić in welcoming the participants and attendees of the event. He was looking forward to a fruitful discussion by sharing his belief that the BSC Leaders Meetings panel debate will help evaluate opportunities and challenges Albania is facing on its trajectory towards the EU.

When asked about his predictions on Albania’s EU membership by 2030, Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama said that “this continent is in front of a very difficult democratic winter.” However, “there is much more openness for the EU enlargement and we have to do our part of the work. Albania will be inside the EU as integrated part of it without being members.“ Rama concluded that we have the control of the future, not the past. “We have to see the past with the eyes of the future, not the future with the eyes of the past,“ he explained.

“Both sides missed the opportunity to move forward and this is why there is skepticism regarding the EU integration in the region,“ Daniela Schwarzer from the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board said. “We need a gradual approach to the EU integration. The European growth plan is good step forward but candidate countries should go through the rule of law transformation,” she explained and stressed that the mere fact of having QMV disciplines the EU member states to deal with the matter more seriously.

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council Majlinda Bregu said that “Learning by doing is going to be the name of the game when it comes to the region entering the EU Single Market.” She also added that 54% of Balkan citizens believe they will enter the EU, however, in Serbia the support to the EU integration is only 35%. “We should hurry and prepare our countries for the EU membership, instead of waiting for the EU,“ Bregu explained.

While moderating the panel discussion. Nikola Dimitrov said that a success of one would become success for all. “We desperately need good news in the region,” he explained.

Vessela Tcherneva shared her thoughts by saying that when there is talk about qualified majority voting in enlargement, it is usually an excuse not to proceed with enlargement. “Albania has a very good chance to be a front runner if it wanted to. A lot of that will depend on their ambition,“ she added.

“Alignment with CFSP will not be an option any more,” stated Tcherneva while Bregu and Schwarzer agreed, adding that it is likely there will be no funding (including from the EU Growth Plan) if candidate countries don’t comply with RoL and EU CFSP.

The panel discussion was followed by an engaging Chatham House debate “Bilateral Disputes and EU Enlargement: A Consensual Divorce“ that was built upon the conclusions of the latest BCSP and Solucija policy brief of the same title.

 

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