Published on : 17 April 2017

The boycott of parliament distances Albania from the EU

Press Statement of Prime Minister Edi Rama and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel:

 

Prime Minister Rama: Good afternoon! It is a special pleasure and an honour to welcome today a special friend, the Foreign Minister of Germany Sigmar Gabriel. I take this opportunity to thank him publicly for the time he took to come to our country, and for his continuous contribution to Albania in support of the Berlin Process to enhance regional cooperation, and the role of Albania in this context, and obviously in support of Albania’s European Integration process.

We are very grateful to Germany, to the German government, to the Chancellor and the Foreign Minister for the special contribution to the transformative reforms in our country, and obviously to the justice reform. A support which has been expressed, and even more clearly reflected in the German expertise and assistance to strengthen public administration, the rule of law, and also for projects in infrastructure, energy, vocational education and beyond.

I had the opportunity to inform the Foreign Minister on all the steps that the Albanian government has undertaken to fulfil the priorities for the accession to the European Union. Also, I informed him on the challenges that we face, starting with the very important challenge to begin implementing the Vetting in order to free our justice system from corrupt judges and prosecutors, and to give the European Union, our friends and partners the clear message that Albania is ready to start negotiations for EU membership.

Of course we talked about the region. We listened very attentively to the considerations of the German Foreign Minister after his visit to Serbia and Kosovo, and we shared views on the further progress of a historical process that has begun in the region, the Berlin Process where Minister Gabriel is playing a special role so that the next meeting in Trieste will be a fruitful meeting, in the wake of the previous meetings held in Berlin, Vienna and Paris.

Finally, we reconfirmed our willingness to go further with the reforms, to continue being next to Germany on the path of common challenges, and to do everything to have the European perspective affirmed in Albania and in the region, and also to keep away third actors who seek to benefit from the vacuum, and who are not related to Albania's European perspective.

Thank you very much Minister for everything you and your government have done and do to support our country, which has a special and old friendship with Germany. I believe Albania is the only country where the goal scored by the German national team goal against the Albanian national team was cheered on by all Albanians in one of the qualifiers where Germany risked not to be admitted unless it won the match with Albania. So back than we agreed that you beat Albania and go to the final.

 

Sigmar Gabriel: Dear Prime Minister!

Ladies and gentlemen!

I cannot say whether there should be a limit to the friendship between Germany and Albania. In terms of football, we can just cheer on our teams. I have a problem with this in my family. My wife cheers on Bayern Munich, and I cheer on Werder Bremen. It's a competition similar to that between you and Mr Basha, real that strong.

First of all, many thanks for your very friendly hospitality! We met almost 5 weeks ago in Berlin. I think we've discussed a variety of topics that have a great importance for the further development of your country. First of all, what I’m saying here in Tirana is not just my personal view, but the view of the federal government, the view of Chancellor Merkel.

We are both members of the Social Democratic party, and it can be often interpreted as our common view in this regard, but let me underline once again that this is a position of the federal government, which is quite clear about what it should happen here and in the Western Balkan countries.

Let me say that with regard to the Western Balkan countries, we are convinced they can walk on their path towards the European Union. The force of the European Union to create and offer the prospect of EU integration remains the same. We feel in some way forced to create opportunities to accelerate and facilitate this path.

Secondly, we all know that Albania and other Western Balkan countries cannot become members of the European Union tomorrow as this path required them to meet a number of prerequisites. But the federal government thinks that in the period between today and the EU membership, we can do much more for the socio-economic development of Albania and other Western Balkan countries. Because, if politicians are clear that every path takes its time, we must not think that people are eternally patient, and at some point we must however explain them and somehow show them the path that leads to this destination. It is a path worth committing. We must do more in terms of economic growth. And we must do more also in terms of social security, and for this purpose the federal government is of the opinion that a greater commitment is required.

We’ve been asking ourselves since long, why it is so difficult to accelerate or implement infrastructure projects such as replacing power plants, or improving and implementing various infrastructure projects that would be beneficial to many countries in the region such as Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and other countries. We can say that we have seriously taken note of everything Prime Minister Rama has said with regard to the initial enthusiasm of the Berlin Process, but there is some doubt related to the slowdown of this process.

So, in view of the European Union Council of Foreign Ministers, in view of the next meeting in Trieste, we want to make it clear again where we can help, and that this help can be sometimes of a financial nature. Meanwhile, Albania has made it clear to us that there are some technical shortcomings in order to realize these projects. We feel honoured to give our contribution in this regard.

The third point is to encourage governments in the region on their path towards the European Union, and not to paralyze the reforms already initiated. Sometimes it's hard to do this as they often affect certain interests, yet there are no other alternatives but the reforms. For example, with regard to the justice system, or the fight against corruption or organized crime throughout the region, there is no alternative but the reforms.

We have been extremely pleased that the amendments to the Constitution and those required to put on the right track the reform of the justice system here in Albania, have had the consensus of all political parties. It was a quite positive sign. Precisely at this moment, when it comes to the implementation of reforms in the justice system, or the Vetting process, we’re concerned when the country is divided into two parts, namely, when the deputies who have been elected to do their work in parliament boycott it. This is not something acceptable or understandable by us. And let me repeat that this is not my personal opinion, but it is the federal government’s opinion, of the federal Chancellor who represents the CDU / CSU in Germany, who have also written a respective letter here in Albania.

So, initially, we can only appeal for the return of the opposition to parliament. Second, implement the Vetting process and the justice system reform. If the opposition has concerns about free and fair elections, it has a chance to make sure and have free and fair elections. We are willing to help with this. We can bring more electoral observers, discuss further on how to shape also the financing of electoral campaigns, but this can be discussed in parliament, not in the tent. Therefore, we urgently advise to end this parliament boycott in order to move on with free and fair elections.

If elections are boycotted, or if the country goes through a chaotic situation, of course we cannot have consensus on this, and we cannot provide support. As a politician, each of us must take decisions that sometimes must overcome our personal interests, putting in the foreground national interests. At the end you will need to decide on the interests of citizens. I think that the main interest of the citizens of your country is to continue on the path towards the EU. Those who boycott parliament distance the country from the EU, in addition to prejudicing the interests of the citizens. It will therefore be of utmost importance that the opposition returns to parliament, have the reform of the justice system implemented, and organize a free and fair election process, the conclusion of which will show the result.

Processes across Europe are based on some very simple principles. First, the limits for politicians are set by the laws and by the Constitution. Why do people want to go to Europe? Because Europe is a synonym for rule of law, the force of law and not the law of force. Secondly, the principle of democracy is based on the fact that those who are in minority can accept the majority because somehow they hope that they also will eventually become the majority. Just like Edi Rama who was in minority, while now he is the ruling majority. So, it precisely this that represents the principle of European democracies.

I believe that it is important to stick to this principle, although we as social democrats in Germany have experience in this regard. Sometimes we did not have the best preconditions, and the best preconditions have to be considered for the development of the country.

Germans want to help and accompany you on your path, provided that all political forces are actors in the country's development. And we want to encourage you in this regard.

 

Prime Minister Rama: Many thanks for the clear and concise presentation of the German government. We will certainly be able to overcome this moment and to continue on our path.

Many thanks!

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