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Edi, Mr Prime Minister, first of all, it has been really a pleasure for me to welcome you and all the delegation here in Brussels for what I found an excellent meeting we had today. It was not coming as a surprise, because we worked so much and so well together in these last months in particular. It was very important to have this common exercise of assessing where we are today.
First of all, we have commonly underlined that we both remain committed to Albania's EU integration process. On the European Union's side, this is a commitment that also translates into the determination to accompany and support this process and it is very clear to us, the European Union, that Albania remains firmly committed to its EU reforms agenda.
We have welcomed and commended the adoption last July of the constitutional amendments on the justice reform. One of the most important, if not the most important reform, carried out in the enlargement countries. This reform is a milestone on Albania’s EU path. I had the chance of saying at your Parliament a few months ago and obviously for me those words stay in my memory and also in the practice of our daily work.
We are convinced that this reform will be transformative for other areas too. It will contribute to creating a more predictable and transparent environment for business and investors. In this way, it will help us increase our economic relations that are already very intense, very good but, we believe, have still a potential that can be exploited.
It is for this reason that for the European Union it is so important that this priority, these reforms, started and also why we see that these reforms enjoy high level of popular support in the country. I believe Albanians see very well that it is in their interest and the interest of the country to move forward.
We believe that political parties have now the responsibility to ensure a swift implementation of the justice reform they, themselves, adopted by unanimity in Parliament, by approving now the relevant implementing legislations and by launching the procedures for the vetting process. And we are willing and ready to support Albania in the implementation phase.
Today, we also had the opportunity to discuss important steps forward on others issues, in particular other issues related to rule of law, starting from the fight against organised crime and corruption. And all these positive developments that we recognised, welcomed and commended will be reflected in the work ahead of us in the coming months, in particular in view of the upcoming progress report - not only these positive developments that have already taken place, but also the determination we have seen today to continue on the implementation of them.
Let me also say, two last points that are equally important for us. First of all that Albania is continuing to play a very important, constructive, regional role, promoting cooperation in the Western Balkans. This is something we appreciate a lot and that we encourage a lot and we discussed also the regional situation. I commended the full alignment of Albania on all foreign and security policy issues which is something that all EU Member States appreciate enormously.
We have good outcomes on our talks on the EU integration process, we have also good work that is ongoing on the foreign policy files, on the regional files. This is why I started by saying that today we had a really excellent meeting and Edi, and all your delegation, I would like to thank you very much for that.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I125800
Q. On the mood in the Council regarding the recommendation to start the negotiations.
A. Well, I will not, for sure, prejudge discussions and decisions the Council will have to enter after a recommendation. There is a sequence here that we have to respect, not only for institutional duties but also for political wisdom, but I would say two things. One, the Council already last year stated and I think you have, or you will have in a moment, our joint press release that reflects this clearly, the Council already underlined that judicial reforms remain key to further forward movements on Albania's EU accession process. This was the statement of the Council last year, so it is clear that as we share the fact that it was a key element, a milestone on the EU accession process of the country and that we welcomed and commended the fact that the process started during the summer with an impressive vote in Parliament, with an impressive vote on constitutional reform, this is quite clearly an indication of the political direction we are recognising. I cannot prejudge decisions of the Council, but I see that we defined as key the judicial reform and the judicial reform has started in an impressive way during the summer with an impressive political courage and determination if I can say so.
And this is the second thing I would say: I was addressing the Albanian Parliament in spring in a time when the issue was, let say, the object of a rather tense dispute exactly because not only was this a priority for the Union, but as we said, this was clearly a priority for the Albanian people and I think that all parties, all institutions in Albania showed at the end of the day the wisdom and the determination and the political courage to engage in a difficulty process with a unanimous vote. This is why I referred, a few minutes ago, to the responsibility that these same parties and these same institutions now have to fulfil the expectations that they have created with their people on the fact that the reforms will be implemented. If we will see the same level of determination and courage and coherence, consistency, I think we will continue on the extremely positive path that we have experienced in these last months. I have said clear words on the way ahead while I was addressing the Parliament; those words stay in my head, in my mind and also in my political work in the months ahead.
Q. On the level of corruption and organised crime in Albania.
A. On organised crime, corruption, including the issue of drugs, obviously this is an issue that Albania has to tackle – it is not only Albania that has this issue to tackle and resolve. But what I see is a strong determination to do it, to tackle this and the work, as Prime Minister mentioned, is ongoing, so for sure it is an important issue, and for sure it is an important issue that we put in our common work, in our common efforts to improve the situation and this is extremely relevant, not only, and I would even say, not so much, for the EU accession process but mainly for Albania and the Albanian citizens who, as I mentioned, I think, have all the rights to live in a country that is free of this kind of experiences that have been very relevant in the past and we see the trends moving in the right direction.
Q. On why should Albania enter the EU.
A. I would say three things: security, for sure, also because it is Europe, it is all countries bordering with European Union's countries, it is inside the Union and outside the Union. So, security-wise, we need the stabilisation, the peace and reconciliation process to get rooted into the European Union's framework. Seen from the EU's interest, strategic interest, the security. Second, we share the same geography as we have seen extremely well last year during the refugees crisis. Sharing the same geography we also need to share some policies in order to manage what happens in the region, the geographical region we share. Third, but not less important for the European citizens, economy. The trade, investment links we have with the region, all of the Western Balkan countries, Albania in particular, is extremely important and the potential is still huge to be used to its full. So it will be, reciprocally, as we say, mutually beneficial, in all these three sectors, for sure, seen from the European citizens' interest perspective.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I125803