German Foreign Minister Visits Tirana: EU Membership Wholly Dependent on Reforms

Last week, German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas visited Tirana on an official visit, as part of his Balkans tour. Maas met his homologue Ditmir Bushati, whereas later on, he will meet with Prime Minister Edi Rama, opposition lead Lulzim Basha, and representatives from the Vetting Commission.

In a joint press conference with Bushati, Maas stated that the reforms each country implements will be the ones to determine EU membership, and that negotiations wouldn’t be opened in June 2019 just in order to respect the timeline:

The EU Member States have made it clear that June 2019 will not automatically mean opening accession negotiations. The criteria for this are clear and known. There should be steps taken for other results on reforms to convince the skeptics in that process. Ultimately, what will be decisive is whether or not governments have managed to meet the conditions set for membership, and this will only be possible if the reforms for more democracy, rule of law, and better governance will progress determinedly.

Regarding Albania, Maas said that reforms must continue and that Germany would support Albania in that path:

The fact that accession negotiations with Albania may open starting from 2019 shows appreciation for all the attempts that have been made until now. The Justice Reform, in particular, was and still is, in my opinion, a meaningful step forward. We expect further progress on this path. We expect to see visible successes, especially with regards to the fight against corruption and organized crime.

When asked about the Kosovo-Serbia negotiations, the German minister opposed the territory exchange proposal as a possible solution for the countries’ conflict:

Germany recognized Kosovo as a multi-ethnic state, based on the Ahtisaari plan. The attempt to modify borders, precisely in order to eliminate this ethnic diversity has been, in the past, a source of endless suffering. That’s why I consider these ideas not only little effective, but as risking of opening many old wounds in the region.