European Union External Action

Albania: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the joint press conference following the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Council

Brussels, 01/03/2021 - 16:05, UNIQUE ID: 210301_17

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Prime Minister [of Albania, Edi Rama], Commissioner [for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi],

I am very happy to welcome Prime Minister [of Albania, Edi] Rama here in Brussels for the 11th Stabilisation and Association Council with Albania that we have just held.

Before going into the details about this [Stabilisation and Association] Council, let me stress the following important messages.

First, Albania is a key partner of the European Union, a reliable security partner and in many respects a role model in the region.

Albania is now consistently 100% aligned with our European Union foreign policy decisions. In doing so, it sends a strong signal of your commitment to the European Union accession and serves as a positive example for the region. Because we cannot say the same thing for all the countries in the region.

On the other hand, the European Union is Albania’s strongest partner. And we will continue accompanying you on your European path.

We provided and are providing unprecedented support in tackling the consequences of the earthquake, the coronavirus pandemic or on green recovery.

Today’s Council was an opportunity to take stock of our relations and the implementation of the necessary reforms.

Talking about reforms, we commended Albania for its determination to advance with the reform agenda and for the results achieved so far – in particular in the area of the rule of law.

We want to encourage Albania to continue with this. Reforms are important in your European efforts but even more importantly, they are key for the modernisation of the country and for the benefit of your people.

We are in the context of upcoming parliamentary elections, and in this context, we stressed the need for all to ensure that candidate lists are comprised of people with integrity.

This is key to demonstrate the country’s commitment to fight corruption. And the fight against corruption is one of the key criteria in the accession process and essential for every functioning democracy.

Regarding elections, we have also a message to all political leaders and parties in Albania: European integration should be a shared national objective, which requires the commitment of all sides to constructive political dialogue.

Excessive polarisation is not a sign of democratic maturity; it does not serve the country because it hinders the progress and is definitely not in the interest of citizens.

Finally, we are looking forward to holding the first Inter-Governmental Conference as soon as possible after the approval of the Negotiating Framework, and in line with the conditions for holding the first IGC [Inter-Governmental Conference] as set out in the Council conclusions of March 2020, already one year ago.

Thank you for your attention.

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Q. You raised the issue of the forthcoming elections. According to the OSCE report, several irregularities have been registered in the previous elections such as pressure on the voters, use of public administration and vote buying. Prosecution of vote buying is a pre-condition of last year’s Council Decision on Albania and also reflected in recent amendments of the AFET committee in the European Parliament, referring to the fact that those alleged cases have not reached court. Do you share this concern of the European Parliament and the Member States and have you hear any guarantees from the Albanian government today that those irregularities will not be repeated again in the general elections of the 25th of April?

With respect to the elections, we understand that the practical preparations for the forthcoming elections are well under way. We have encouraged the Prime Minister [of Albania, Edi Rama] to further follow up on all the aspects covered by the OSCE and ODIHR recommendations as well as [those of] the Venice Commission. About the specific issue of vote buying to which you made a reference, let me just say that the last report of the Commission on Albania highlighted the importance of a swift and transparent investigation of alleged electoral violations - alleged.

Also, the March 2020 Council Conclusions underlined that the initiation of proceedings against those accused of vote buying is one of the issues that will have to be reflected in the negotiation framework for the accession negotiations with Albania. This is the formal position of the Council and the Commission.

Q. I would like to know if you have discussed in any shape or form the possibility for Albania to start the first intergovernmental conference before North Macedonia, which was the other way around until a few months ago.

Well, there is not yet a date for the intergovernmental conference. We have been discussing about it and expressed our wish that this [intergovernmental] conference could take place as soon as possible. But for the time being, there is not a fixed date. Because despite the fact that Albania has been doing a lot of progress, some Member States consider that it is still needed to advance more before calling for this [intergovernmental] conference. But I am confident that it will take place soon, as soon as possible.

Q. On the issue of defence. Can you confirm that the United States have submitted a request to participate in one of the PESCO projects, if so can you tell us a bit more about it?

About the US participation in PESCO, you know that recently we have finally reached an agreement in order to make possible the participation of third countries in PESCO. If the US want to participate in a PESCO project, I think it is a good idea, it is good news, but if you want to confirm something that the Americans have decided, the best thing to do is to ask them.


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