Speaking in front of Parliament today, Prime Minister Edi Rama once again denied the fact that the EU Foreign Council has formulated five key priorities that are a condition for the opening of negotiations.
The Member States support the continuation of the negotiations for the membership with the understanding that the vetting law is implemented. As the way in which the negotiations have been opened in Montenegro and Serbia shows, these five priorities are accompanying until the moment of membership. They are not conditions, but priorities that the country needs to fulfill. The condition is the vetting. [The priorities] are the drivel of your inconsolable despair, you have become unhinged from logic, to throw each day dirt, lies, accusations with the hope that the Albanians will believe you.
Earlier, during an event hosted for foreign representatives on December 13, Rama had stated that “Albania chooses its own negotiation date,” suggesting that as soon the opposition would “choose” to pass the vetting law (which in fact is currently under review at the Constitutional Court) he could just give Brussels a ring that Albania is “ready.”
But unfortunately for Prime Minister Rama, the EU Foreign Council was very clear in its language, and not at all “unhinged from logic”:
The Council takes positive note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with Albania, subject to credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the justice reform, in particular the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors. Recalling its earlier Council conclusions, including those of December 2015, the Council reiterates that a sustained, comprehensive and inclusive implementation of all five key priorities has to be ensured before the opening of accession negotiations. The Council invites the Commission to report on Albania in addition to the Enlargement Package and will revert to Albania once sufficient progress has been made.
It is true that the judicial reform and the passing of the vetting law are a condition, but so is the “sustained, comprehensive and inclusive implementation of all five key priorities.”
All five priorities – judicial reform, decriminalization, electoral reform, corruption, and organized crime – are not be issues to be resolved during the negotiation process “until the moment of membership,” as Rama incorrectly claims. They need to be “ensured before the opening of accession negotiations.”
It seems unlikely that the EU Council of Ministers will today change the language of these conclusions out of a desire to accord to Prime Minister Rama’s view of things.
It should, however, be noted that the above-mentioned conclusions are part of a comprehensive review of the current enlargement of the European Union. They were never officially adopted by the EU Foreign Council, because Austria, supported by the Netherlands and Bulgaria, vetoed the continuation of negotiations with Turkey. Nevertheless, the conclusions “received the support of the overwhelming majority of delegations in the course of the deliberations on [Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process].”
This means that this issue remains to resolved today by the EU heads of state. If the they again fail to reach consensus to adopt the conclusions about EU enlargement, the precise conditions and priorities that Albania will need to fulfill in order to open accession negotiations will remain unclear and thus open to wild imagination of any politician.