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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article16 January 2020Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Remarks by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi at a press conference with Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama

Check against delivery! Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for having me today in Albania. This is the second stop in my first trip outside the European Union member states. For me, it was a priority to come here very...

Remarks by Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi at a press conference with Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama

Check against delivery!

Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for having me today in Albania. This is the second stop in my first trip outside the European Union member states.

For me, it was a priority to come here very early on in the mandate to reinforce our support for Albania and also to reinforce the geopolitical nature of this new Commission.

As you know, for us, enlargement and the Western Balkans is a priority. We want to increase our presence here. We want to have more influence here. We want to be an even more important partner for this region and for this I will be working very hard and tirelessly with the Prime Minister to make this happen.

We still consider the report of the previous Commission on Albania to be valid. So we still consider Albania to be ready to open accession negotiations and we would be working to make this a reality still before the Zagreb summit of May 2020.

The Commission will come with a set of new proposals based on three pillars. The first will come already this month, this is going to be a new methodology when it comes to the handling of the accession negotiations. We have to understand that the failure in October to open the accession negotiations was also related to concernsfrom some Member and we have to look very carefully into these concerns.

And we are ready to work together with our friends here and also our Member States to find a solution that will create a new opportunity for us to move forward with the enlargement process.

In the methodology we will try to come up with a new approach that will be based on four principles, four principles that should be working both for the accession countries but also for the Member States.

First of all, the process would have to be more credible. It has to be more politically driven as well and it has to be more predictable. And for me, it is also a priority to make it more dynamic.

So we are putting together a proposal that will deliver that.

The second pillar is to be able to start the accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia this year, still before the Zagreb summit. We are working on this with the Prime Minister, but also with the Member States.

And then the third pillar will be the Zagreb summit, where we hope to come forward with an economic development plan for the whole region to be able to speed up the building of a solid and resilient economy and bring these countries much faster, much closer to our own standards.

In this context, of course, it is crucial to continue with the reforms that are ongoing already in Albania. Today, the Prime Minister announced a new element, which I welcome very much.

It is an absolute necessity not only to continue the reforms, but once we have opened the negotiations, you will see that even more dynamic reforms are going to be necessary so that you can reap the benefits of a more dynamic negotiation methodology. Therefore, I welcome the government's commitment in that regard.

We need all political parties in Albania to help us turn this into reality. It is clear that without the support of all parties in the Albanian politics it is not going to be possible to make progress. And I will be reaching out today also to the opposition to help us make it a success and to use this opportunity once the accession negotiations have started.

I also welcome the considerable progress that has been achieved in the justice reform. I think that the vetting process has shown a major commitment, not only that, but the determination to implement the reform that was decided. I also very much welcome the agreement of yesterday on the electoral reform, this is a very important milestone as well. These are all very good news.

However, we of course still have challenges ahead of us. We still need to do a lot to fight organised crime, corruption. We need to ensure and improve the state of the rule of law. We need to work on this together and I hope to count on the cooperation of all political parties in that regard.

I have also some good news, which is that given the very good performance of Albania in relation to the use of pre-accession funds. I have been able to request from the European Parliament – which is the budgetary authority – to release €28 million as a so-called performance reward, which should be with you very soon. I have positive news from the Parliament side, still they need to run their own processes to be able to approve that but the proposal is already with them and it should be coming soon.

Lastly, but most importantly, let me talk a bit about the earthquake and the donors’ conference.

First of all, let me present my condolences to those who have lost family and friends. Let me reassure you that we are standing by Albania and we will continue to help in whatever way we can.

We will organise a donors’ conference in February together with the Prime Minister on the 17 February in Brussels. Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, will be hosting and opening the conference.

We attach great importance to the donors’ conference. We will be reaching out to all UN members, but also all the international financial institutions and international organisations to come and contribute. And we plan to contribute with a significant contribution ourselves.

We talked with the Prime Minister about our announcement of €15 million that this Commission has presented already at its first college meeting. I understand that the implementation of that contribution has really started. And we will see to it that it will be there very quickly on the ground and helping people on the ground instantly.

From here, we are going with the Prime Minister to do Durrës to visit the sites so that I also get my personal impressions of what has happened. And we will continue today with meetings with the President [of Albania, Ilir Meta], also with members of the opposition, so I am reaching out to Albania with these messages.

Prime Minister, once again, thank you very much for having me.

Thank you very much for inviting me.