Prime Minister Edi Rama met with High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. After the meeting, Prime Minister Rama and the EU High Representative Mogherini released a joint press statement:
Prime Minister Edi Rama: Good evening! First, I publicly thank the High Representative of the European Union for coming back to Tirana, because this is the expression of a particular attention and ongoing support on her part and the EU, in this time of challenges, and at a moment when the fate of the negotiations with the European Union is decided by the start of the implementation process of the judicial reform with the enforcement of the vetting law.
For this reason, this visit is more important than those on ordinary days, when the presence of our strategic partners is always important, and therefore our conversation was as always friendly, direct and concrete.
We absolutely agreed that in the meantime work on five key priorities should continue intensively, as those are priorities that will accompany us even beyond the opening of negotiations. We are convinced that what we have begun to do with the Commission in technical terms is not lost time, but by entering into a process of joint work that makes us buy time in relation to negotiations, it comes at the right time and will undoubtedly be a successful collaboration, which will prove that Albania is ready to negotiate membership.
We talked also regional issues, but we will continue discussing them during our working dinner. Taking into account the burden of the day and the Balkan emotions accumulated from this morning, I considered it appropriate to divide this conversation into two parts, and discuss more comprehensively about the region at the table of the traditional Albanian hospitality.
EU Higher Representative: It is a pleasure for me to be back in Tirana exactly one year after my last visit. And in this time Albania has achieved a lot, in particular with the ground-breaking unanimous adoption of the justice reform. And major importance of this reform was acknowledged by the European Union last year with the decision by the European Commission to recommend the opening of negotiations, subject to progress in the implementation of the justice reform, in particular “vetting” and continuous progress in all five key priorities. This includes also fight against corruption and organised crime, and in particular cultivation and trafficking of narcotics. My message here today is this, that on the European Union side we are ready as we were last year to be credible and open negotiations in the moment when the implementation of the justice reform and in particular “vetting” starts in Albania.
So now the ball is in your court. We are ready to do that, we are keen to see the pace of these reforms and this progress to continue. And I have been very clear in my meetings today.
I met the Speaker of the Parliament, political groups, the opposition leaders - in saying that those who seek to delay or dilute key reforms are putting the European Union integration agenda at risk. And in my meeting earlier on with students in University here in Tirana, I got the clear impression that the people of this country clearly want the country to join the European Union and the European Union is ready to be serious and consistent on this opening of negotiations.
I was also clear that boycott of the Parliament means blocking the establishment of the vetting Commission, and de facto stops Albanian progress toward the European Union - and this in a moment where the country has the real possibility to move forward on its European Union path.
I pass this message very clearly, I know that today there were signals of opening of political space for dialogue inside the Parliament and outside the Parliament, I hope that this space can be used to make progress on this path.
I said also publicly before, in presence of the Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, the European Union door is open for Albania and we are looking forward to welcoming you in the Union, and negotiations can start in the moment when the justice reform is started to be implemented.
I also believe that it is crucial to prepare the elections next June in a free and fair manner. The time that remains, these few months, can be used to implement some of the ODIHR recommendations, and the European Union will be ready to accompany and support this process with all possible means.
As the Prime Minister mentioned, we will discuss further the regional dynamics, the role of Albania in the region, responsibility of Albania in contributing to regional cooperation, but also good neighbourly relations and the need to avoid any kind of inflammatory rhetoric that we see, is always potentially spreading in the region; also in this the region is very much European I would say. Actually, not only Albania but the whole region. But here this requires a special dimension. Albania has an important role in the region, and we will continue to discuss this over the continuation of our meeting.
I would like to finish these short remarks by thanking first of all the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, all the institutions I have met, the political leaders I have met but also, if you allow me one final word on colleagues - both Albanian colleagues in Brussels and European Union colleagues here in Tirana - for the very hard work they have done over this year and they continue to do in these weeks and in the months ahead, hopefully to accompany this process further. They have my full confidence and support and thanks to their dedicated and committed work that we managed in this year to reach this important step and I believe the Albanian leadership, all of it, will be able to avoid wasting an opportunity and gather, as you managed to do last July, to bring this country inside the European Union.