Prime Minister Edi Rama’s press statement on Berlin visit conclusions:
I am communicating with you immediately after the visit to Berlin, which this time was of a special importance due to the historic moment for Albania, but also for the incredible responsibility and the necessity of establishing as many contacts as possible so that our messages were delivered to as many directions as possible. To this end, we have met not only the Chancellor, the President of the Bundestag, members of the Bundestag Committee on European Affairs, but also individual members and groups from the various factions of the Bundestag.
I believe that the meeting with the Chancellor and the joint press conference, the content of which you already know, represents a significant moment of my visit, which provided us the opportunity to directly and openly exchange our opinions on the Progress Report, the results as part of the preparation process for opening the accession negotiations and fulfilment of the preconditions, which, as the Chancellor called them, are actually part of the integration process and the relations with the European Commission leading to the positive recommendation.
At the meantime, we engaged in a fairly long conversation about the region, the latest developments in the region, the situation in all countries in the region and, of course, about the June prospect, taking into account that we will first go through another crucial stage in Sofia, where the EU-Western Balkans summit will take place in the presence of heads of state or government from all EU member states and hosted by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
I believe the visit could be considered successful in terms of achieving the objectives we had set and I am confident that at the end of this visit all stakeholders have now a more detailed and fuller understanding of the position Albania finds itself in today and the full legitimacy of our request that the Commission Report receives support of the government and the German parliament.
Of course, your questions are the most important part and I am ready to provide answers to all of them.
Mr. Prime Minister, did Chancellor Merkel mention Saimir Tahiri by name or former position?
PM Rama: With the Chancellor we talked and went over details of all aspects of the Progress Report, progress in addressing the five priorities, the progress of judicial reform in particular and certainly the progress with the vetting process, which, as you all already now, represents a crucial moment and receives special attention from all and from the German Chancellery itself.
Mr. Rama, you just described your visit to Germany as successful as it accomplished all your objectives, however, prior to your landing at Rinas airport, the German MP, also the chairman of the Bundestag Committee on European Affairs, Mr. Gunther Krichbaum during your meeting in Berlin he has personally told you that the European Commission’s recommendation was premature and that Albania’s reforms and the progress made so far were not enough to open the accession talks in June. How did you respond to Mr. Krichbaum?
Mrs. Merkel also mentioned a number of preconditions during the yesterday’s press conference in Berlin. Which are these preconditions, Mr. Rama?
PM Rama: I will begin with the important part of the question over Mrs. Merkel. The preconditions she spoke about are exactly the preconditions that make up the entire process leading to the Progress Report, if you have carefully listened to her remarks. So, she did not talk about any of these preconditions. Of course, during the bilateral talks we have touched upon each of these preconditions. When I said the visit was successful in relation to our objective, I should clarify that our visit’s objective was not to receive a public “yes” from the Chancellor or Germany, because this was to be expected only by those who have no idea about the way this process works. While to us, since we clearly know how the process works, it has been absolutely clear from the outset that the visit aimed at explaining all aspects and providing information on each aspect in view of preparation of the opinion about which the Chancellor herself said it will take its time until the right moment when she will make her formal decision.
As for what you are saying about Mr. Kirchbaum, I can say he didn’t tell me that, but it doesn’t surprise me. This is the way he thinks and he is one of hundreds of Bundestag members. So, his opinion weighs, but it doesn’t take me by surprise and it is not a reason to decrease my sense of satisfaction from the outcomes from this visit.
First of all, if I may, this is the first opportunity we communicate together since April 17, so allow me to modestly express my congratulations to you and all other actors, including the opposition, for receiving the recommendation to open the accession negotiations. My question is – citing your remarks at the two most recent press conferences with Mrs. Mogherini and Mr. Tusk – we have received the most important certification from the most merciless Commission when it comes to assessing technical issues and we now are in the field of playing politics, with countries having their own internal dynamics and not only. You are this state’s mandated ex officio to win this political game, if I may say so. Do you guarantee you will win this political game and Albania opens negotiations in June?
PM Rama: I guarantee we will do whatever we can. If we talk about Germany, I am now a lot more optimistic than I was before leaving on visit to Berlin. As for the opposition, during the hearing at the Committee on European Affairs I regretfully found out that all issues that are not part of the Progress Report were merely an interpretation in German of what we are used to awkwardly listen being said here in Albanian. This is the role the Albanian opposition has played to date making use of the ever steadily few contacts in the international arena to convey and tirelessly export the daily smear and turn it into a into one a barrier that doesn’t allow Albania to be seen by everyone for what it is at the moment and that the Progress Report to be read by everyone not based on the prejudices and falsehood the opposition has constantly propagated in foreign languages.
Mr. Prime Minister, the media in Tirana has provided various reports on your meeting at the Bundestag Committee on European Affairs. Could you objectively name the reservations expressed by various actors and factors in the Bundestag about Albania? Have you made any commitment to deliver on certain tasks by June?
PM Rama: No reservation was expressed there, since the meeting’s format was as such allowing me to provide an overall overview and then the representatives of all parliamentary groups were given the opportunity to pose questions about aspects and details about the actuality in Albania and I have provided answers. To tell the truth, I heard no final consideration or attitude from any of those I met with. I can tell you the atmosphere has been quite positive. The readiness to listen out attentively has been more apparent and all groups have, without exception, respected my presence, for which I have expressed my thanks at the end of the meeting, which lasted far longer than the time it had been scheduled for. A hearing with the Germany’s Defence Minister was set to take place at the Committee after my presentation. The Defence Minister in fact, very kindly sat down and assisted in the last part of the questions and answers session, giving me the opportunity to hold a through and exhaustive conversation. So the atmosphere in Berlin is positive. Of course we have plenty of time ahead to continue this communication process and, of course, as I have said, decision-making for Albania, except some certain individuals, for their own understandable or incomprehensible reasons, will be closely related, not just to what Albania has done, but also to the internal dynamics of the German parliament, which in my view is a dynamic that does not seem to be an obstacle.
Have you already started thinking about the negotiating team? I mean, will you go to the European Council with an already established negotiating team in June, or this team will be created at a later time?
PM Rama: We won’t be going to the European Council. The European Council is made up of the leaders of the EU member states who make the decision. Once the member states make a decision and if Albania receives a green light to start preparations to open the accession talks then we will begin building a negotiating team we are ready for.
Did the talks in Berlin focus also on economic issues and is there any concrete reform in this direction? Secondly, I will cite news reported by Reuters news agency suggesting you are playing the Muslim radicalisation card and the increase of the Russian influence in the Balkans should the EU were to turn its back on Albania.
PM Rama: I have played no cards, I have just provided an analysis I believe it takes no great science to explain and I think anyone who deals with the geopolitics can explain it.
As for the first question, a part of the meeting with the Chancellor – not with the Bundestag Committee – focused on Albania’s economic development and of course on the ways and potential to further strengthen the bilateral economic and trade ties.
Apart from Germany, France is also another sceptical country. Is there any planned visit and meeting with President Macron?
PM Rama: Allow me to, once again, reiterate. Germany has never been and is never a sceptical country. Franca is not sceptical too. Germany and France are the
Germany and France are both the two major and strong pillars of the European Union project and the drivers of the spirit of the founding fathers of the EU. Both in Germany and France there are anti-European forces and individuals, within their parliaments too. There are also sceptics within their governing majorities, but this does make neither Germany, nor France part of the sceptical countries. Of course, either France or Germany and other countries that shoulder the burden in this process are in a situation where they should face these forces, should cope with a non-positive enlargement spirit, and a non-optimistic spirit for Europe which all make the June decision-making a much bigger process than the weight of the opening of the negotiations of Albania or Macedonia has in the context of united Europe.
Receiving recommendation to open the EU accession talks is one of most significant events for both Albania and Macedonia. This is a milestone in the history of both countries. It is a tremendous great leap forward for our country, but, in the context of the united Europe, this is a minor event. Therefore, the fact we face these difficulties in this process is not related to the importance of these events to the future of today’s Europe, but it is related to the fact that there are factions and groups that governing political parties and leaders should take into account and deal with them.
Do you plan other trips to certain European member states even ahead of the Sofia summit?
PM Rama: Such discussions are held not only during trips and visits, but also via direct telephone communications. Such communications take place every day. We will keep on moving this process forwards steadily. Therefore, the Berlin visit agenda included more extensive activities and at the end of the day this is a process that for me personally and for us is highly motivating and in a way attractive to us, because we have already received the EC certification. Now the question is to win time and not to leave any time gaps, because the fact that Albania will open the accession negotiations is now undisputable. The problem is not to cause further delays that in a way could make us loose the momentum the recommendation has provided.
Mr. Rama, is it true that the Belgian Prime Minister has asked for Albania’s support to Belgium’s goal to become a United Nations Security Council permanent member in exchange of his country’s vote for Albania’s bid to open the negotiation? There have been a number of media reports on this issue and that’s why I’m asking you.
PM Rama: These are disproportionate decisions in terms of their weight and I assure you Europe doesn’t work like this. As for the vote for Belgium, this is a settled issue between us and our Belgian friends since the previous UN session in New York. The Commission’s recommendation for Albania was not a topic for discussion at that time.
I have a question over the fact that your visit to Berlin was extensively covered by the media there. Tagesspiegel has actually reported an episode at the meeting with the Bundestag members. Actually you Mr. Rama have firmly distanced yourself from the Albanian media which insulted the German MP Krichbaum and you provided explanations over the situation?
PM Rama: As for the daily Tagesspiegel, I know well what it is. I have had many contacts with the Berlin media. I have given more media interviews than ever before, not just because of the importance of this moment to Albania, but also for the great media interest. With regards to what you are asking, I have explained from the outset that the whole story told here in Tirana and then translated into German and sent to Berlin and retold again in German is merely a story of Tirana’s “cauldron of rumours.” This is what I have said there and of course I have also explained how this cauldron works here in Tirana. Yes, I have said all these. I have pronounced the word “kazan” (cauldron) in Turkish and I have tried to explain it in English since I don’t know its equivalent in German.
I actually wanted to ask you about the equivalent word for “cauldron” in German, Mr. Rama, because, referring to my first question too, Deutche Velle has reported that during your visit to Germany you have been asked that former Interior Minister Tahiri should be handed over to justice.
Have you been asked for such thing during your meetings?
PM Rama: A question on the matter and our position in this process was actually addressed during the meeting at the Committee on European Affairs. In its essence, the question has to do with the exported mud and the deformed story that has been told there. But we were on a visit to Germany and not to Venezuela, and no one there asks us to capture someone and send to justice because everyone in Germany knows this is a matter of justice.
Thank you very much!