Dear Chairwoman of the Council,
Dear Deputy Chair,
Colleagues and friends,
This second Summer School on European Integration is happening in a context which looks much more optimistic than when the School was launched.
In the last two weeks, many good messages came towards Albania. During the informal summit of Prime Ministers of the Western Balkans in Durres last week Commissioner Hahn has reaffirmed that the European Commission is ready to consider the next step in terms of EU integration, as soon as vetting provides its first tangible results, and there is a clear progress on all five key priorities.
I just returned from Brussels, from the annual conference of all EU Ambassadors, during which High Representative Federica Mogherini clearly marked Western Balkans as one of the few main priorities of EU foreign policy.
It is important to hear yet again that European Union is dedicated to finish the inclusion of the region in its core, once these countries are ready.
However, equally, and I would say even more important is full dedication of Albania to finish the process of reforms, not primarily because that will bring the country into the Union, but because reforms will bring the quality of life of the people of Albania closer to the European level.
This process is not about declarations, and words, and wishes. It depends on determination to change, to modernise so that there is true rule of law, social safety and care for all in the society, that economy creates opportunities for all who want to work, and that people can live their life in peace and dignity.
What I have just seen in Brussels last week is Europe with renewed self confidence and ready to counter challenges coming its way, be it migration or Brexit or new reality in the international politics.
Albania is also in a very good moment with many potentials. Justice reform, the most demanding and complex reform of all, is now finally to be implemented, with vetting starting in less than two weeks, formation of new institutions including Special prosecution for corruption and organised crime hopefully by the end of this year. Parliamentary elections are behind us, new government will be sworn in soon, and will have clear responsibility for the developments in the next four years.
For opening of negotiations, coming months will be crucial. It is clear what needs to happen when it comes to five key priorities, but in particular with all aspects of the rule of law, especially in fight against organised crime, including eradication of the cannabis cultivation and trade.
Albania is currently going through a period of institutional transition. We are looking forward to the new Assembly to convene and to start working with the new government. There are still some uncertainties about the changes being introduced regarding coordination mechanisms for European integration, and I will be having numerous meetings in the coming days so that we understand and agree how the work on European agenda will be organised and coordinated. I am certain we will all cooperate to make sure that the current transition sees not only continuity, but also strengthening of inclusiveness and expertise that will match the intensity of the work to come.
The accession process, and good governance behind it, will require increasingly higher levels of technical capacity and dialogue within society.
To translate it in simple language: people need to understand why certain reforms are necessary, how they will be conducted, how much they will cost but also what they will benefit from them. There must be a much greater impact on their everyday life when we talk about judiciary, environment, agriculture, food safety, economic investments, social services, education, infrastructure, public finances and the ways peoples tax money is spent.
For all of this to succeed two things are crucial:
European integration cannot be achieved without the whole country, be together for change. Albania doesn't have the luxury to waste talent and potential. The entire country needs to move together. Elected representatives, public servants, journalists, formal and informal parts of civil society all have a role to play.
This is why the European Summer School is a great instrument to strengthen expertise and build EU-related networks. You here today – coming from public administration at central and local level, NGOs, academia, media, and the business community – are different but equally crucial parts of the EU integration process.
I am very happy the EU Delegation is supporting the Summer School for a second year. I also want to thank the Council for its determination to draw up a programme of the highest quality and to turn this summer school into a long-term institutional investment.
In the next 5 days many technical terms will be thrown at you, but you should never forget that behind "chapters of the acquis", "approximation" and “benchmarks”, lies the chance to change the life of Albanians for the better, for ever.
It is both very complex and very simple at the same time. It is complex because it means literally the overhaul of the entire system, and this is very demanding. It is simple because this is the choice Albania made three decades ago, and there is only one direction, and that is to move forward. To work, to learn, and to change.
Albania is worth all your energy and dedication. This is a task of your generation, and we will do everything to help you.
I wish you a great week!