From: Bledar Qalliu
Varhelyi, Rama Urge Albanians to Be Patient over EU Accession   

Albanians should show “strategic patience” towards the European Union and their government while they wait for the country’s advancement in the EU accession process, according to European Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

Rama quoted Varhelyi’s former boss, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, when said during their press conference in Tirana on Thursday that Albanians “should have strategic patience” before the country eventually moves forward with EU accession talks.

Varhelyi agreed, adding that he is doing all in his power to accelerate the process and have Bulgaria convinced to lift their veto on North Macedonia, which is also blocking Albania.

In case talks are not launched during the French presidency of the EU within June, Rama assured that he will ask for Albania to be decoupled from North Macedonia.

The EU official stressed that the start of negotiations was not that important but that EU accession was, and therefore Albania and the EU should work to improve the situation on the ground in the country instead of worrying about the process.

Asked by journalists whether he and the EU were fooling around with Albanians, considering that since 2014 when it was granted candidate status, Albania has not moved in the EU path, despite repeated positive recommendations by the European Commission for the EU to start accession talks, Varhelyi said his role was to promote Albania’s achievements while the final decision stood with each EU member state.

Both Rama and Varhelyi stressed several times that they hoped for the start of EU accession talks to be decided by the leaders of EU countries in June.

Another topic discussed was the construction with EU funds of the “Corridor 8” highway connecting Albania with North Macedonia. The European Commission is working to have it included in the European roads networks, so that the two countries could apply for European funds to build the corridor.

Varhelyi visited some buildings in the main student residential area in Albania that were reconstructed with EU funds under the Economic Investment Plan – a robust plan to support road and railway connections in the Western Balkans, renewable energy, waste management, private sector, competitiveness and innovation.

Rama said Montenegro could join the next Open Balkan summit in Ohrid, North Macedonia, on June 9-10, considering Prime Minister-designate Dritan Abazovic’s positive stance toward the initiative. He stressed that with or without potential members Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia, the initiative launched by Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia will advance.