In his first visit to Albania, EU commissioner for Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi reiterated the European Commission’s strong support for the EU enlargement and specifically for opening EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
Following his visit to North Macedonia on Wednesday, today Várhelyi met with Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania, President Ilir Meta, Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci, and opposition parties headed by Lulzim Basha.
Speaking on the future of EU enlargement and expected revamping of related mechanisms following France’s insistence, he stated that the new methodology will make accession talks “more credible, predictable, political and dynamic”.
The new methodology will predict a mechanism that would allow the EU to suspend or reverse the membership process for members or candidate countries that fail to keep up with EU norms.
The commissioner praised Albania’s “good progress in reforms”, particularly regarding the justice reform. He added that this year the government will be able to implement projects amounting to €28 million in IPA funds, and urged it to deliver more concrete results.
Rama and Várhelyi visited earthquake-hit areas in Durres, on which the European Commission has announced an international donors’ conference on 17 February in Brussels.
In a press conference with Rama, Várhelyi welcomed the recent agreement between the opposition and majority on electoral reform, but underlined the need for progress in the fight against crime and corruption:
“I welcome yesterday’s agreement on electoral reform. These are all good news but we have challenges lying ahead of us. We need to work hard on fighting organized crime and corruption,” he stated.
President Ilir Meta thanked the EC for the post-quake assistance with €15 million and the February donors’ conference. Meeting the Bundestag conditions should be Albania’s path towards opening EU talks, Meta told Várhelyi.
In their meeting with opposition parties, Lulzim Basha also underlined the importance of the German parliament’s conditions for opoenign talks with Albania. He reiterated that the approval of electoral reform should be followed by elections.
France has demanded the EU to reform accession procedures, while the Netherlands has sought concrete results in the fight against organized crime and corruption for Albania. In addition, in November the German Bundestag presented more conditions for Albania before EU accession talks could begin.
Prime Minister Edi Rama has blamed the EU for failing to open talks with Albania. He has repeatedly and firmly stressed that his government has met all necessary conditions, but accession talks did not start due to EU’s internal problems and skepticism.