Posted: 29. June 2018

The new phase on the road to EU membership begins, the 12-month screening steps

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at meeting with ambassadors and European integration structures at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs:

 

First of all, thank you very much to all of our friends who are here represented by the ambassadors and very special thanks goes to the ambassador of the European Union, who has best embodied all this joint effort, with everyone having done even more than it would have been enough to say “we did our part.”

I would like to particularly point out what our Greek and Italian neighbours did during the 72 hours of stormy debate, firs in Luxembourg and then in Brussels. They literally did nothing less than what we would have done if we were to attend the meeting. But we were right there thanks to the extraordinary commitment of these two friends. It was a tremendous help both for us and our neighbour, the Northern Macedonia.

I am extremely pleased today that we finally overcame a pretty delicate moment, since, although everyone, not only the European Commission and our country’s partners, but also the most sceptical ones had all acknowledged and recognized that Albania has made more progress than any other country in its bid to open the accession negotiations, we still risked ending up without an agreed text.

You all know that no agreed text was in sight just two hours before a final decision was made due to the internal dynamics at the negotiating table, with 25 EU member states firmly uniting, not only formally, but also determined to support the immediate opening of the accession talks and three other member states adopting a different position for reasons we are familiar with and which we fully understand.

On the other hand, there really is a difference between the immediate opening of negotiations and the opening in 12 months’ time and we cannot hide this fact, but such a difference is much more formal than it seems at first glance, for the simple reason that even if hypothetically opening the negotiations was immediate, we still would need a preparatory period, the so-called “screening” of the process, which would take a certain time normally ranging from 6 to 12 months.

The fact that the accession negotiations are set to open after 12 months, but meanwhile the Commission will start the screening process immediately represents the fullest and most welcome understanding on our part for all the EU member countries that, on the one hand, they can solve the problem with their public opinions and on the other hand, they allow the process to start immediately and in the meantime we can build up the whole structure of negotiations and deepen our reforms in all detailed directions already well-defined on the Council’s agreed text.

I am also extremely pleased that despite the huge internal difficulties the European Union faces today and despite the different approach adopted by some countries, the agenda of Europeanization and integration of the Western Balkans in the European Union has not been left behind. This is of fundamental importance to us because we, both Albania and Macedonia, have shown how important Europe is, not just in history, or in everything that has been done over all these years, but there are two distinct areas that have been pointed out at all meetings and talks we have had.

The justice reform, unique in the entire process of European integration of all member states, widely recognized as a model that should be further extended throughout our region, a radical reform bearing considerable cost of various natures, for which we risked the governing coalition itself; but on the other hand, an example, which is probably not quite parallel, because it is perhaps even more radical when it comes to the importance of Europe in this area, the fact that our neighbours agreed to change the country’s name.

Imagine for a moment as if one of the member states – and I joked about it with one my counterparts – was to be asked today to change the name of the country in order to join the EU. It is unimaginable and inconceivable. Some of your countries not only they will refuse to change their name in order to become part of the EU, but they may seek to change the name to the EU itself.

This is an extremely important moment to us.

I believe in the spirit of cooperation and a sort of team that has been created among the ambassadors of the EU member states, the EU Delegation representatives, who have been highly motivated and totally committed to doing their best, and the whole team of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, which will be now intensively involved in this process. This stage of the process needs for both sides to deepen the cooperation and needs us to deepen the cooperation within us, within the state’s and the government’s structures, because the process is incredibly sophisticated and involves extremely complicated mechanisms the European Union can create only and need a truly extraordinary work to meet deadlines and fully address the issues of the process.

I don’t really know whether to laugh or cry at hearing people saying that “Europe has imposed 13, 12 or seven conditions.” Europe has actually imposed no conditions, but it has merely highlighted all the conditions associating the process during this stage. I and the Montenegrin Prime Minister could not help but laughing when discussing the five priorities and he said: “Wait a minute. We already negotiating with the EU and we currently face 94 conditions and once these are met, other 124 conditions will be imposed.”

This is most normal thing in this process and people should understand it is not a matter of other specific conditions. The process is all about a matter of full alignment in every aspect of the organization of our state to match with the organization of a state in the parameters of a EU member state.

What we are asked to address over the next 12 months is in line with our program of reform efforts and commitment to press ahead with the implementation of far-reaching reforms. The European Commission and the European Council ask nothing more than we planned to do even Albania would have failed to secure a date to start the accession talks after 72 hours of the stormy debate.

We would have kept on implementing the vetting process no matter whether a date was set or not.

We would have continued to fulfil the constitutional obligations to establish the new justice bodies, including the special Prosecution Office, SPAK, and the National Investigation Bureau no matter whether a date for accession negotiations was set or not.

We would have kept combating crime and corruption.

None of these would have stopped should the negotiations were opened immediately, or if opening the negotiations was to be refused in a 12-month period.

None of these would have stopped because, after all, what all Albanians should understand is that this process is not for Europe, it is not to please Brussels, or to indulge the “whims” of The Netherlands, France, Germany, or anyone else. This process is for our children, to build a European state right here. This process is done first and foremost for ourselves and then as a contribution to a large family like the European one.

The negotiations are not important just to join the European, Union but they are important because through the process of negotiations we will deepen the process of building a European state. They are important to what happens here with the rule of law, the efforts to meet the standards in all sectors, what happens here with the administration and so on.

What I have kept insisting on, either in joint meetings with the EU leaders, or during the bilateral meetings either in corridors or over the phone, was telling them that what they were about to provide us was indeed a prescription for a new cure our organism needs to fully recover and once this prescription was provided they could send in their inspectors to check whether we have taken the medication properly and whether the medication was providing the desired effects.

This is the process, which is inalienable and irreplaceable as we can’t move it forward on our own. We lack the capabilities to carry out this modernization process. In this respect, the process is unique and extraordinary in terms of its values and exhausting in terms of its pressure.

We haven’t lost 12 months. These will be 12 months of hard work, which would have been done even if the text was to decide for the negotiations to start today. But we have an agreed text which allows us to do our job and allows all the countries which were worried about a public reaction over immediately opening the negotiations with Albania and Macedonia to do their job and say “No”. This is all!

It is a compromise approach of the political subjectivity of the member states, following the report of the technical objectivity by the European Commission.

I don’t want to stretch my speech further, because I believe we will have the chance to talk about what has been opened up as a prospect of opportunities but also as a multifaceted problem, but concluding I want to express special thanks to the four persons, the two women and the two men who represent us and who have played a key role and have been really instrumental in the entire extraordinary diplomatic effort we have been making over these months.

I think it would be appropriate that I, Ditmir and the four abovementioned people were to join forces and write a book “Europe-Europe” and it would be a miracle in terms of the episodes and curiosities about what happens in Europe’s corridors regarding the bloc’s enlargement. The four really deserve the Prime Minister’s Medal of Gratitude during this perhaps unrepeatable period in their diplomatic career.

I would like to invite first the one who served on the hardest front of the war, in The Hague, our ambassador to the Netherlands, Adia Sakiqi. Then, I would invite the ambassador serving in the friendliest part of the front, in Brussels, Ambassador Suela Janina. Then I would invite the two ambassadors on both sides of the front of the United Europe and who have experienced this process in our micro-world, as if it was the preparatory phase of the first post-World War II meeting between France and Germany, Ambassador Kuko and Ambassador Tola.

I believe that if we were to pick one of the four to address this meeting tonight the choice would be the golden mean, or our ambassador in Paris, who bore the heaviest burden in terms of the communications, SMS exchanges, interactions, translations, messages, transcript of encrypted messages, analyzing the intensity of handshaking across those military parades where Le Grand Tour de France mixed with Le Grand Reve de l’Albanie.

With this micro-celebration of the best virtues and the best qualities of our diplomatic corps, with the four ambassadors best embodying them and making us feel good that we have people of their carat serving in our missions in important European capitals and thanking once again all European counterparts who are attending this event, I believe this meeting ends at the right moment and it will be followed by a meeting that is being held by the European Commission with the governments of Albania and Macedonia to start the preparatory work and screening process and with the delegations due to intensively involve in this process.

Thank you very much everyone!