Speech by the High Representative/Vice – President Federica Mogherini at the event "Albania: Committed to the Reform" at the European Parliament
Brussels, 20 March 2018
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Grazie Davide [Sassoli (MEP)], Grazie Presidente [of the European Parliament Antionio Tajani]. Ma un "grazie" particolare vorrei rivolgere a Ditmir [Bushati, Foreign Minister of Albania] ed Edi [Rama, Prime Minister of Albania] per essere qui perché credo che non sia soltanto un appuntamento importante come altri, ma è un appuntamento che arriva in un momento particolare.
Now I switch to English. I want to start where Edi concluded. Not only the integration process of Albania into the European Union, but the integration process of the entire Western Balkans into the European Union is not a favour we make, it is a matter of self-interest for the European Union itself. I know that in these times we talk a lot about geo-strategic, geo-political competition in the Western Balkans. I think I spend most of my time with the friends in the Western Balkans and visiting the region. There is not one single week without a meeting dedicated to one of the six partners we have in the Western Balkans. It is also the only place in the world where only the European Union can make the real difference.
Do we want to exercise this power or not? That is the question that is on my desk every single day. And I think this is the question that will come on the desk of the Parliament, of the Council, of the Commission in the months to come.
And it is also the first chance we have, as a generation, to have an integration process after the many different waves of what we usually call "enlargement". I do not like the word enlargement because it assumes that there is a centre that gets bigger - I think it is a matter of re-uniting our continent. But it is the first wave of integration in the European Union that goes back to the DNA of the history of the Union - peace and reconciliation. It is not just about economy, it is not just about security, it is not about spheres of influence, it is about bringing and consolidating peace and reconciliation in a region that a few decades ago - my generation remembers it well, previous ones even better - were at war or were isolated from the world. So is it the European Union's DNA in question here? Are we able to consolidate not only security, not only economic development, but also peace and reconciliation in our continent? And I think not only we can, but we have to and it is in the self-interest for the European Union and the European Union citizens to do it. Are we going to do it tomorrow? It is going to be quite a long process. Edi said it very well: "Not ready yet".
But let me say very clearly: I see in the Western Balkans, I see in Albania - because now we are talking about that - in these years a determination, a dedication, a feeling of being European that goes beyond the Eurovision Song Contest. And that is a desire, an aspiration, an identity as Europeans and as being part or aspiring to be part of the European Union. We in the Union need this energy. We need people, citizens, institutions, politicians, political parties that say in huge numbers: "We want to be in. We need to be in". We need it exactly because of the current political trends in Europe. I believe we need that kind of energy, this pro-European energy inside the Union exactly to remind ourselves what it is about, because you realise what is there from the outside sometimes better than from the inside. We need it.
And I have seen Albania in these years doing incredible things. Edi was talking about the Justice Reform. Well, we have accompanied it locally, here in Brussels, I would say, day by day - not us alone, but mainly us. And it is true: we have worked on this together and we have achieved the results, you have achieved results, I believe, because we have been working on this together, as well as on other things. It is not because Ditmir is here, but Albania is not only a NATO ally, but it is also the country, together with Montenegro, in the region that is one hundred per cent aligned to our Foreign and Security Policy, which is not irrelevant. It means that, from the Middle East, to Africa, to Korea, to Russia, we are one hundred per cent on the same side, when it comes to votes in the international organisations, when it comes to, for instance, the fact that Albania is contributing to two of our European Union military missions, in Mali and in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We are already doing things together as if; not exactly as if, but on Foreign and Security Policy, I can tell you, it is really an example. And we are about to finalise an agreement between Albania and Frontex, I believe the first one of this kind in the region. They are all good examples of things that have moved in the right direction. And I could continue, because the fields where reforms were done are huge and many, but I stick to these two elements: the Foreign and Security Policy and the work you have done on the Justice Reform.
I believe it is quite clear, as Edi said, you see the problems that are still there and you know and we know it is a process. It is not that you are ticking the boxes and once you have ticked the boxes it is done and you forget about it. It is a process. The vetting system: you are entering a phase that is already producing results. The war against organised crime - that by the way is a war that many other countries, including some Member States, are doing at different stages - you know it is a process.
What is the right approach towards the problems? First, to recognise that there are problems. Second, to work together to solve them and to get the results and to keep and to consolidate the results. So the problem that I think we have on the EU institutions' side now is this. It is like riding a bike. You do not stand still. Either you more forward or you fall. Do we want to move forward? Are we ready to move forward? Because I believe it is correct to say that the risk of not moving forward could be falling. And Albania falling, or the Western Balkans falling, is definitely not in the interest of the region. It is definitely not in the interest of the European Union.
This is very clear for me. In the Western Balkans I have learned things can go very well very quickly, or very bad very quickly. Things just happen like this and then it is very difficult to rebuild. I think the choice we have in front of us now, as institutions, is clear: that of not losing the result of years of common work, that of making progress consolidated and irreversible, not losing, not wasting the opportunity we have. And I think the moment is now.
So I conclude by saying that I believe – in any case this is my political objective in these three, four months to come, to be very concrete – first, to have an unconditional positive recommendation by the European Commission on Albania - not only on Albania but here we talk about that - and, second, to have the Council deciding in June to open the negotiation talks. And then we start.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I152781 [min 30:35]