Vlahutin: Coming Months Crucial for EU Accession

During the opening of the Second EU Summer School, EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, having returned from the annual conference of EU ambassadors in Brussels, made several remarks that appear to be a departure from her otherwise smooth talking about the Rama government.

Either because of Brussels slowly waking up to the reality of the Albanian political situation, or in an attempt to distance herself from a regime that has shown decidedly autocratic tendencies, her speech included thinly veiled criticism of the way in which the Rama government has dismantled the Ministry of Integration and Social Welfare, both important recipients of EU funding over the last four years.

Ambassador Vlahutin started with “good news,” while emphasizing the five key priorities

In the last two weeks, many good messages came towards Albania. During the informal of Western Balkans prime ministers in Durrës last week Commissioner Hahn has reaffirmed the Commission is ready to consider the next steps in terms of European integration as soon as vetting provides its first tangible results and there is a clear progress on all five key priorities. […]

For the opening of negotiations coming months will be crucial. I think it is known to everyone what needs to happen when it comes to five key priorities, but in particular regarding all aspects of the rule of law, especially in fight against organized crime, including eradication of the cannabis cultivation and trade.

She expects vetting to start in two weeks, in spite of several aspects of the vetting still being appealed at the Constitutional Court, and High Court and Constitutional Court that are both understaffed and overworked.

I would say that also Albania is in a very good moment. Justice reform, the most demanding and complex reform of all, is now finally to be implemented, with vetting starting in less than two weeks. Formation of new institutions including special prosecution for corruption and organized crime hopefully by the end of this year.

The elections, Ambassador Vlahutin continues, also provided clarity about who will be “responsible” for EU integration in the coming years, in spite of Prime Minister Edi Rama constant attempts to set up a straw man in the form of “co-governance with the common people:

Parliamentary elections are behind us, a new government will be sworn in soon, and we’ll have clear responsibility for the developments in the next four years.

She then moved on to the changed brought on by the new Rama government, pointing out the “uncertainties” that come with the demolition of the governmental architecture through which EU integration was handled in Albania, namely through the Ministry of Integration, which will now cease to exist.

Albania is currently going through a period of institutional transition as well. We are looking forward to the new Assembly to convene and to start working with the new government. There are still some uncertainties about the changes being introduced regarding coordination mechanisms for European integration, and I will be having numerous meetings in the coming days so that we can understand and agree how the work on European agenda will be organized and coordinated. […]

Ambassador Vlahutin then basically launched a strong criticism of the past (failed) efforts of the Rama government to actually justify any of the reforms it implemented under the “excuse” of EU integration – an argument he often uses to pass contentious legislation – by failing to argue for them publicly and clarify to Albanian people their importance or necessity. In other words, Ambassador Vlahutin chastized Rama’s absence of accountability

I hope that you will see it very soon, but the accession process and good governance behind it will require increasingly high levels of technical capacity and dialogue within society. And to translate it in very simple language: People need to understand why certain reforms are necessary, how they will be conducted , how much they will cost, but also how they will benefit from them. There must be a much greater impact on everyday life, when we talk about judiciary, environment, agriculture, food safety, economic investment, social services, education, infrastructure, public finances and the ways people’s tax money is spent.

For all these things to succeed, two things are crucial. First is clear political will of those who govern, and who are by far most responsible for the future results, but also, of all who have been elected to represent the people of Albania across the political spectrum. They are elected to serve the interests of the people, and for the interest of this nation they should all invest in political dialogue on the most important national priorities. Good politics means competition in ideas, best policies, and sound solutions. No private or group interest can be more important than the interest of your country.