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This week, our vision of a truly united Europe comes one step closer. EU Member States set out a clear path towards opening accession negotiations with Albania in June 2019. This is thanks to the impressive progress Albania achieved over the last year – not only on its path towards the European Union, but to improve the daily lives of its people.
We want to congratulate the Albanian people and institutions for the results achieved. A new chapter of our common work begins today: the European Commission immediately started preparations, and we trust that you will also keep the same impressive resolve and hard work.
Progress in the area of justice reform is visible, and it has already made a tangible and positive difference. The vetting system, which is at the core of justice reform and includes re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors, is producing first results. This required political courage and unity in the country. Constitutional amendments were unanimously adopted to enable a package of judicial reforms back in 2016. This is not simply a legal transformation, but also a societal one. You have new tools to hold your leadership accountable, in the area of justice but also in other fields.
The more Albania delivers on its people's needs and demands, the more it will advance towards membership to the EU. You have made a conscious choice: more than 80 per cent of Albanians support the European project. And we really need your enthusiasm and dedication to the European project.
Now it is time for Albania to build on the progress made and continue working with the same determination, particularly on judicial reform and the fight against corruption and organised crime. The work in the year to come is an investment in your EU integration. Every step counts. Walking this path does not only allow you to open negotiations, but to do so in the most effective way. The moment when negotiations formally open, you will already be running.
This will be a year of work for the EU as well. The Commission has already started the necessary preparatory work towards June 2019, including among others the future negotiating framework. Everybody has a role to play in this historic process. All political groups and parties, local authorities and civil society must work together more than ever to prepare for opening accession negotiations and take full ownership of this process.
The doors of our Union are open. Your path towards the European Union has become irreversible. It is now up to you to walk forward on this path towards a future of common prosperity and security. It is the free and sovereign decision of your people – of no one else. Our common dream of a united European continent lies in your hands.
Federica Mogherini is the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission. Johannes Hahn is the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.
Note: The op-ed was published by the Albanian daily Panorama on June 29, 2018.