Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama delivered at the interpellation in Parliament:
I received a request for an urgent interpellation by Mr Nard, Mr Vangjel, and several other gentlemen, among whom the reader of the interpellation, Mr Ben.
But apparently, the urgency has nothing to do with the issue for which I was called here, urgently. I’m saying this because the written request for interpellation has a premise that is logically wrong. I’m not calling it a lie because actually the premise is false, and it shows at least that Mr Nard, Mr Vangjel and the other gentlemen, including Mr Ben, at the best of times, have no knowledge of the integration process, therefore, are ignorant about the process, as the presentation which Mr Ben just made evidenced. That’s why I’m saying this.
In the request for interpellation it is clearly written: “The EU Council of Ministers didn’t set any date for the opening of negotiations, due to the failure to comply with the 5 criteria”.
You don’t need to be an integration specialist. You just need to be informed a little bit about the process, and even if you’re not informed, just read before coming here so that you can understand that what I quoted is an eloquent expression of the ignorance of the groups that required the interpellation. First of all because nobody was expecting any date by the European Council, not even the European Commission that gave a positive recommendation with condition, neither were we who have been very clear about this condition which was and remains one: the start of the enforcement off the Vetting law.
All Albanians know this now, even those of the opposition who are not here in this room, except for the great Sali and the greenest one in the yard of this desperate opposition, filled with resentment and venom, who have come together on this day to make an interpellation. There is just one condition: the Vetting!
This condition has been told very clearly also by Commissioner Hahn, the chief of the European diplomacy, the EU Presidency through Minister Lajčák, the EU Ambassador to Tirana in a 1-hour long interview during which she kept repeating: the vetting. Also the French Minister for European Affairs, no earlier than yesterday, and the State Secretary of Germany for European Affairs, told: “start enforcing the Vetting law, so that we can take into consideration the official opening of negotiations”.
So, what is the reason for this urgent interpellation? For we cannot justify them here with mistranslation, given that there is no chance to mistranslate except when you haven’t either read, as is the case here apparently, or you don’t want to understand.
Normally, the gentlemen must be aware that the European Council has not drawn any conclusion for the enlargement policy this year, and it has nothing to do with Albania, but it has to do with the veto that Austria decided in the case of Turkey that, along with other aspiring countries, is part of the enlargement package. Although the Council did not draw any conclusion, there was a declaration of the EU Presidency.
In justifying their ignorance, and being sympathetic towards the anger that makes you blind, as it has made blind Mr Vangjel, Mr Nard and also Mr Ben, let’s just abide by what has been written which, I repeat, is impossible to mistranslate to such point of distress that makes you come up here and accuse the government of Albania, the way only the courtiers of our opposition can do, either big or small, of the fact there is no date.
Everybody knows that since we got the recommendation by the European Commission in November, it has been very clear and I’ve said it, the Foreign Minister has said it, the Minister of Integration has said it, all of us together have said that a date will be set provided that the Vetting law starts being enforced. This is a condition. What date are those who come here looking for?
They want to change their fate on the day of the coming elections by coming here and holding us accountable for a date about which they have no idea what it is. But it’s not this the greatest misunderstanding of this emergency which is in fact only their emergency, that makes them rush here and compete with the great Sali about who’s the fastest to get out the mud of resentment and despair. An eager competition to blame on our government all the bad things, without wanting or trying to look at the simple reality of things.
The biggest misunderstanding here is that they connect the date to the five criteria. Actually, they’re also part of the same desperate attempt. No, it’s not a condition, they’re five. Not, five, they’re six, actually they’re seven, but if we count also cannabis, they amount to 17.
Actually, if it were for Mr Vangjel, Ms Nard and Mr Ben, I would conclude here. But it is worth explaining once again, not for them but for the public that the five key priorities are not conditions but five criteria which nobody has expected from Albania to fulfil exhaustively until the meeting of the Council. They’re five criteria that will accompany us not only throughout the negotiations, but probably also after the membership. Why?
Because today, Romania and Bulgaria that are members of the European Union, unlike all other member states, are obliged to wait every year a report by the EU. The report is made precisely about one of the key criteria: legality. But those who write, but don’t read, cannot know this. They only repeat themselves, and know nothing about the things they say. How could Mr Nard, Mr Vangjel and Mr Ben know that the EU approach towards the enlargement process has changed since 2011, by imposing precisely these criteria?
Romania and Bulgaria have been members since 9 years now, and they still wait for the report assessing their progress in the implementation of the justice reform. 9 years!
Meanwhile, there’s a chart of the European Commission, which is easily comparable among all the countries in our region, including Montenegro that is still negotiating, Serbia that is negotiating, and Albania that hasn’t started negotiations yet; this chart shows, neither more nor less, that because of the reforms it has done, Albania is today absolutely at the same level. And if we refer to Justice Reform, and look at the respective reports on Montenegro and Serbia with regard to some aspects, for us the negotiation process that is related to chapters 23 and 24, which are the justice chapters, the process has basically started from the point of view of the implementation of the requests of the process.
And to come to the literal translation of what the European Commission and the EU Presidency have said – not the Council as you have written over there; you must learn that the Council doesn’t draw any conclusion – the Commission says: "Albania has continued to make steady progress towards the fulfilment of all five key priorities for the opening of accession negotiations."
The Commission says: "The reform of the public administration continued to be implemented consistently. Work towards establishing sustainable data associated with proactive investigations, prosecutions, convictions in the fight against corruption and organized crime has continued and continues."
Taking into consideration the above progress in fulfilling the key priorities, and depending on a reliable and tangible progress in the implementation of judicial reform, and in particular the revaluation of judges and prosecutors – the Vetting, therefore, the condition – the Commissions recommends the opening of negotiations.
Regarding the five priorities, which they have no idea what they are, firstly, the Public Administration Reform continues to be defined as a sustainable success and with significant positive result - the Commission says. And I won’t be reading the whole thing.
Whereas, when it speaks about Justice Reform, it reiterates the full implementation of the reform, mainly of the law on the vetting of judges and prosecutors.
With regard to the fight against corruption, we hear here every Thursday Mr Sali, Mr Ben and Mr Vangjel speaking about Albania as a corrupt African dictatorship. But what does the Commission say?
The Commission says: "In the fight against corruption, it was recognized a consistent positive trend over the years in creating the history of the results in combatting these criminal acts."
Coming to the fight against organized crime. Surprisingly the Commission, unlike Mr Nard, unlike Mr Vangjel, unlike Mr Ben, unlike Mr Sali, says: "Achievements made within the fight against organized crime, particularly in combating drug trafficking, considering the ongoing modernization of the State Police."
Let’s continue with the economic criteria. Even with regard to this criterion, the country has been assessed for the progress made in developing a functional market economy. Progress was marked in improving the budget balance, the fight against informality, reforming the electricity sector, accelerating economic growth, and in terms of an improved situation of the labour market.
You can ask Ms Vengjel, how much indulgent the European Commission is when it comes to economy. He can tell you what they did to Greece, and what they do to every other country when it comes to economy.
In the final statement - a statement that they have not read, - it says: "Member States welcome the major steps taken by Albania, noting the sustainable progress our country has made in relation to the five priorities."
They want the date, but all they are worried about is the election date because they think they’ll go there proudly, by showing how much mud they have thrown against the government, in competition with Sali. It’s such an eager race, that we cannot tell who’s Mr Ben, who’s Mr Sali, who’s Mr Vangjel, who’s Mr Nard, for all of them take part of this mud.
Albania - the Commission says - has made clear progress in the third consecutive year, but also compared with countries in the region that are part of the enlargement package. Furthermore, EU member countries support the European Commission's recommendation to start negotiations, hence, to set a date, with the understanding that Albania will start to implement the Vetting law. What more do you want?
Do you want a date? Let’s start implementing the Vetting law. Do you want a date? You’ve got time here to deal with me, to deal with the government. Address to the members of the Constitutional Court who can today pave the way for having a date set.
Do you want a date? If you want a date to open negotiations – for you don’t have to worry about the other dates; they’re ahead of us, and we’ll see all of you together face the people – come here, and don’t lie, that’s the least you can do. At least don’t lie here, don’t tell the Albanians stories because, first, there’s no chance Albanians will buy them, and second, your only consuming each other in this race about who throws more mud against the government.
In conclusion, Mr Ben, member countries have done also another thing. They’ve removed Albania from the deadline of spring 2018, which is the deadline to reconsider the whole enlargement package, and they’ve said that they wait any moment for the Commission to come back with a report that tells the Council “the vetting law is being implemented. The current implementation is sufficient, please give the date”.
Do you want a date? This is the date. As for the rest, we’ll be here.