Published on : 11 October 2017

Gentiloni: The time is ripe to open EU - Albania negotiations

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni: Good day everyone! Mr Prime Minister, dear Edi, I believe that this meeting is the first bilateral visit abroad of the Albanian Prime Minister after he was reconfirmed, and I take this opportunity to congratulate him on this reconfirmation.

Of course, Albania and Italy are not just two close countries, but they are linked by a deep friendship, bound by extraordinary cultural relations. Prime Minister Rama knows Italy very well; he speaks Italian. We know Albanian reality as extraordinary neighbours.

We discussed how we can strengthen our bilateral relations on the basis of these relations as excellent neighbours. In the cultural context, it is very important for us that the knowledge of the Italian language and culture, which is so strong in Albania, is consolidated. In economic terms, Italy is the main trading partner of Albania. We have an exchange of 2.3 to 2.4 billion euros between our two countries. There are more than 600 Italian companies working in Albania. We discussed the possibility to intensify these relationships even more. Italy imports many goods from Albania. We can do more, even with regard to the presence of medium and large Italian enterprises in the country. We also have a very active cooperation in the field of justice, security and police against organized crime, against drug trafficking, against the risks of security as a result of terrorism. Our justice systems collaborate to enhance their quality. There is also an active cooperation between our courts. These two chapters of the fight against criminality and the quality of the justice system, are some of the most important chapters in the discussion with the European Union to begin the journey of Albania's accession.

So, economic cooperation, trade cooperation that can be fostered, relations in the fight against organized crime and in the field of court activity which can be strengthened, early cultural links and on our part, the great appreciation for the path that Albania has walked under the leadership of Edi these years.

A path that enjoys also the perspective of the European Union, a perspective that Italy certainly intends to foster and a perspective that is crucial to the welfare of the Western Balkans and in general of our region because, in the end, good relations between Italy and Albania are very important as they contribute to the stability, peace and dialogue throughout the region. A region that in the last twenty years has passed from crisis and major tensions to a path of development and cooperation. We met in Trieste a few weeks ago, in the framework of the so-called Berlin Process between the Western Balkan countries and the European Union countries. The stability of this region is a valuable asset for all of Europe and the Mediterranean which we cannot lose. So I am happy that this meeting between Italy and Albania will give rise to a new impetus not only for our bilateral relations but also for the contribution that our two countries can provide to the stability in the region.

Once again, thank you for your visit! Thank you Edi!

Prime Minister Edi Rama: Thank you! First of all I want to say that it was not only a pleasure, as always, but also a great honour that I was received today in this fantastic place reserved for special friends. This makes this moment even more exciting and this first visit abroad since the new government started work, even more significant. Of course, Italy is not just and only a strategic partner for Albania; it is also a country that we feel very close in all respects and which has given and continues to give Albania a lot on its difficult path of change and the transition from a crazy dictatorship to a European rule of law. I would like to underline the great importance we attach to this strategic partnership, because Italy is not only important from the point of view of bilateral relations, but also in the regional perspective it has played a very important role to advance the Berlin Process, and our meeting in Trieste was really a moment that gave a new impetus to this process.

Of course, Italy is a key partner on our path to make Albania a safe country, a country of law, and I want to publicly thank the Prime Minister, the beloved friend Paolo, for the assistance in the field of security, especially in the fight against the phenomenon of the cultivation of cannabis and the victory over this phenomenon, but also in the field of justice especially aimed at advancing a justice reform that is one of the pillars for the Albania of the future, as well as for the accession to the European Union.

There is no doubt that the spectacular result against the cultivation of cannabis, which will become known in the coming days thanks also to the visit of the Italian Minister of Internal Affairs, is one of the many results of these years which can be considered as the fruit of cooperation and assistance of Italy.

In economic terms there is no doubt that much has been done, but there is a great potential to do even more and I am convinced that based on today's meeting and on what we discussed, we can embark on a common path to take in 2018 a step forward and to look more at the big Italian companies, which can learn from all those companies already operating in Albania. I believe that even with regard to cooperation in the field of railways and renewable energy there is much to do with major Italian public agencies.

Last but not least, I certainly want to conclude with what Italy has done and does for Albania at the European level and with regard to the support to Albania and the Albanians to be part of this family, because Italy has always been and remains Albania’s biggest advocate at the European headquarters. We strongly believe that we have done everything to open negotiations, everything that has to do with what we have been assigned as homework, and I am sure that with the help of Italy in the first place, but also of other countries, the things that have been done can take the proper importance to further advance this process and open accession negotiations next year. For this, Italy deserves all our gratitude and I believe that such friendly attitude is due also to the fact that many Albanians today contribute to the Italian economy, contribute to the participation in the Italian society as good citizens of Italy.

Thank you!

Prime Minister Gentiloni, the Albanian government has fulfilled all the tasks assigned to it for EU accession. Italy is one of the leading European Union countries. When will these negotiations begin?

Question for Prime Minister Rama: What are the new measures for foreign investors? Why should Italian and other investors come to Albania and in what areas should they operate?

Prime Minister Gentiloni: I believe that time is ripe for the opening of negotiations between the European Union and Albania, so, starting with the first discussion we will hold at the European Council in December and especially later in 2018, there are some crucial deadlines that we need to work on in order to have an outcome. Albania has made tremendous steps forward also in sectors where there has been a great deal of attention from the European Union.

The European Union has an interest not only on Albania but also on the Western Balkans region, to keep open the accession perspective. After a difficult time in the European Union, where for the first time a referendum was held last year, by which one of the member states decided to leave the EU, a recent conviction was registered to push forward the European Union. This conviction cannot be pursued seriously but through maintaining the path of EU accession open to some countries, of which, of course at least as far as Italy is concerned, Albania is definitely fundamental.

I have to say that I am confident that this will not remain just a point of view of my country, but it will be transformed into a perspective on which we can work with other European leaders in order to really set ourselves the target to have an outcome starting next year.

Prime Minister Rama: I believe that Italian companies that already operate in Albania can be the best witnesses of the reason why there is not only room for many other companies, but also the reasons for investing in Albania. Albania is a country where the workforce cost is still very low compared to Italy, where the fiscal system – and I say in the presence of the Prime Minister, – is far more favourable than in Italy and where we certainly have the advantage that our people speak Italian as a second language, we have a youth that fits very quickly with the needs and rules of enterprises and where, once again, in the presence of the Prime Minister, there are no trade unions yet that can create problems.

The perspective for EU accession has been opened also to other countries, but without going any further to when and if the Western Balkan countries are to be accepted, there is Catalonia and especially the United Kingdom. Yesterday, President Macron said that perhaps Brexit will not be implemented completely. What are your expectations?

Prime Minister Gentiloni: I believe that as far as Brexit is concerned, decisions are to be taken by the British people who have actually decided with the referendum of June 2016. But in politics you never know. Today, the European Union fully respects the decisions taken by the United Kingdom with a democratic referendum, and it is actively engaged in difficult negotiations, as you know, to determine the ways of implementing Article 50 of the Treaties, namely, the exit of the Kingdom United. Regarding the situation in Spain, I believe that there is certainly concern in the Italian public opinion as well. It is fundamental that the constitutional framework and the Spanish laws are respected. And the call for dialogue which I share, to avoid escalations which would be unjustified and dangerous, should be within a framework, and this framework is what the Spanish constitution and the respect for the rule of law and of the laws of Spain dictate. Outside this framework, it is difficult to call for dialogue, no matter how understandable this call is. Therefore, respect for the Constitution and the law and in this framework, dialogue and no escalation.

Thank you!

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