Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that the EU is working to remove all barriers so that Albania can participate in its first intergovernmental conference by the end of the year.
This morning, von der Leyen met with Prime Minister Rama and President Ilir Meta in Tirana. Later she travelled to Kruja, where she visited a new school destroyed by the 2019 earthquake and rebuilt with EU Funds.
After the visit, she gave a joint press conference with Prime Minister Edi Rama, where von der Leyen said she hoped the first intergovernmental conference with Albania would happen soon.
Still, when asked if the EU is considering decoupling Albania’s EU accession path from North Macedonia, von der Leyen did not answer the question.
In June this year, the General Affairs Council of the EU failed to reach an agreement on starting EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia made a unanimous decision of the 27 ministers of foreign affairs impossible, which also penalized Albania. The former two countries have been at odds over language and cultural issues.
To date, Bulgaria has not changed its stance on the issue.
During her speech, von der Leyen mentioned that Albania has received €250 million in pandemic relief. She also congratulated Albania for its inclusion in the EU’s digital vaccination certificate, although the passport does not recognize Sinovac, nor Sputnik—two vaccines that have been widely available to Albanians.
Von der Leyen departed Albania this afternoon for Skopje. She will be in the region until Thursday, visiting Kosovo and Montenegro tomorrow, and Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina on Thursday.
The tour comes one week ahead of the EU-Western Balkans summit that will be held in Brdo, Bosnia, on October 6. The summit will focus on EU integration, COVID-19 recovery, and the European Union’s €30 billion Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.