Thank you very much. I only want to complement what you have heard already and I would like to also draw your attention to the fact that Albania is the country that not only had to suffer the pandemic but was faced with an earthquake right before the pandemic hit. So the challenges are exceptional in Albania, maybe even higher than anywhere else in the region.
And still today we have been able to see that Albania is delivering on its promises and delivering on the criteria to be able to start the first Intergovernmental Conference. This is something which is very important and should give a very clear sign to everybody that Albania is not only able to but actually is delivering on the ground, be it on the rule of law reform, be it in other areas. And of course in our discussion, the justice reform and the rule of law were the key issues and there I can already echo our common assessment, which is that with the vetting process going ahead very strongly, with the appointment of the judges at the High Court, with the appointment of judges at the Constitutional Court, we are there.
So on our side, the assessment we are giving to our Member States is that everything is met for the first IGC.
Now of course, the other big issue that we have been discussing, was the COVID crisis and in the COVID crisis, as you have seen in the first wave, we have already mobilised significant support to the Western Balkans, including to Albania.
We have also mobilised a very important plan, Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, and I am very happy to hear that Prime Minister Rama is considering it to be an important element. This is not only for the mid-term, long-term development of the country, but also I consider it to be our contribution to the post-COVID economic recovery. Because we need to design the economic recovery together. And Europe wants to be part of the economic recovery of the Western Balkans and Albania. And this is a very strong message everybody should understand.
Now of course nowadays everything is about vaccines, it’s not about masks anymore, it’s not about ventilators anymore, it’s not about the financial support but the availability of vaccines. As you have seen, our Member States are also struggling to get sufficient vaccines for their citizens and their people. We are not forgetting about the Western Balkans or other neighbouring countries. We are working very hard, night and day, to get the vaccines to these regions. For us it is a priority.
We are working not only ourselves but also through the COVAX initiative and through other initiatives as well. I am also very happy to tell you that there will be a first delivery through the COVAX initiative already this month from AstraZeneca to Albania. And we are working also for the other countries, not only through COVAX, but through our own initiative and our own solution as the European Commission to bring the help, quickly, to the people because we care.
Finally, of course, we took stock of the implementation of the Association and Stabilisation Agreement and there progress is very visible and touchable. And I am very happy to see how we implement this agreement, brings us closer to each other in the economy but also in our societies.
And one last word about the elections. Albania has parliamentary elections in April, so we have also touched a bit on this issue, where we expressed our hope that the elections will be free and fair and we will have a first big proof of the functioning of the Albanian democracy and that after the elections we can very quickly continue working.
And something I would want to underline. We have encouraged the Albanian authorities not to stop working during the campaign or for the campaign, because delivering on the ground on the reforms has been the crucial point through which we have managed to convince our Member States to support opening the accession negotiations for Albania. So the track record in the fight against corruption and organised crime should be enriched and we encourage the Albanian authorities to press even harder, no matter that there are elections coming up.
- Publication date
- 1 March 2021
- Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations