Our Special Priority, Reestablishment of Political Dialogue
By Genc Mlloja
Albanian Daily News
Published February 8, 2018
"Albania has all the possibilities to increase the walking speed, but this calls for consolidated political will. The EU wants to see deeper, comprehensive and convincing reforms in decisive fields, especially for securing functional democratic institutions and rule of law," has said Albania's President, Ilir Meta.
In an exclusive interview with Albanian Daily News on Wednesday, the President praised the new strategy for the Western Balkans adopted by the European Commission, which was made public last Tuesday, for what he called the 'lucidity and magnitude' with which the EU considers the Western Balkans. "This strategy and the Sofia Summit testify that the region is among the priority strategic issues of the EU in the strategic, political, institutional, economic and civil aspects," he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Meta was confident that Albania has all the possibilities to increase the walking speed in its EU drive, but drew the attention that it called for consolidated political will. "As President of the Republic, I would call for a careful, attentive and rational reading of the strategy by all the political and institutional actors to prioritize the actions which should be undertaken to achieve as soon as possible the opening of the accession negotiations with the EU," he said.
Referring to Kosovo, he expressed the confidence that its leaders and people should continue the implementation of the agenda of the European reforms with patience, maturity and responsibility, giving priority to key issues linked with the soonest visa liberalization and implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
In a comment on some remarks of Greek President Pavlopoulos made a few days ago, Albania's counterpart drew the attention that they were not in syntony with the latest public messages and engagements of the Foreign Ministers, Bushati and Kotzias. "Naturally, there might also be certain issues on which we can share different stances, but this does not mean to lose calmness in the communication with each other and to affect the thorough and vital cooperation for both our countries and people for this reason," said President Meta in the interview which follows:

- Mr. President, the European Commission has just published the enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans. But while the EC considers this document as a great encouragement for a quicker rapprochement of the region with EU, the remarks on the current situation which speak of "state capture, including links with organised crime and corruption at all levels of government and administration, as well as a strong entanglement of public and private interests," speak of regress instead of progress. How do you read this report?
- In the first place, I want to appreciate the lucidity and magnitude with which the European Union considers the Western Balkans. This strategy and the Sofia Summit testify that the region is among the priority strategic issues of the EU in the strategic, political, institutional, economic and civil aspects.
I believe that the clarity of the current view in the region has led to the equilibrium of the decision to be more attentive and engaged with a concrete action plan for each country. This is an encouraging approach as long as our countries have chosen to join the Union to become equal and dignified partners for the application of the standards of living, laws, democracy and development.
The closer this relationship becomes the shrewder is the assessment, and the country progresses much more. I maintain that this strategy is encouraging and creates a very good balance between the identification of the threatening dangers and the necessity to intensify the relations of the EU with the six countries of the region.

- Since September last year the President of the European Commission, Juncker notified that there would be a favoring of Serbia and Montenegro in the integration process as compared with the other Balkan countries. How do you consider the fact that these two countries have a concrete membership timeframe while Albania is not included in this package?
- I think that the European Commission reconfirms through this strategy two fundamental pillars of the integration process: firstly, the perspective for full membership, and secondly, it secures an individual deserved process with regards to the closeness to the standards of the European co-existence. Having said this, our enthusiasm and impatience to traverse as quickly as possible this journey is legitimate, and in the current context, I hold that it is an asset which deserves to be appreciated.
Albania has all the possibilities to increase the walking speed, but this calls for consolidated political will. The EU wants to see deeper, comprehensive and convincing reforms in decisive fields, especially for securing functional democratic institutions and rule of law. Quoting the report which says: "...ensuring constructive dialogue across the political spectrum, notably within the parliaments..." it is clear that the reestablishment of political dialogue takes special priority.
As President of the Republic, I would call for a careful, attentive and rational reading of the strategy by all the political and institutional actors to prioritize the actions which should be undertaken to achieve as soon as possible the opening of the accession negotiations with the EU.
Likewise, I underscore the importance of maintaining the coherence between the engagement statements and the action plans to secure seriousness and credibility for the implementation of the reforms. Credibility is the key word of the new enlargement strategy being indispensable to be achieved in relation with citizens as well as our institutional partners.

- The authorities of Kosovo have made restraint reactions, and to some extent even skeptic ones on the strategy. They notice that Kosovo is evaluated in an asymmetric way and that this strategy does not offer a clear European perspective for Kosovo. How do you explain this contrast between the enthusiasm of Tirana and the displeasure of Prishtina?
- Initially, I want to note that Kosovo has many things to be proud of in this tenth anniversary of the Independence. The progress of Kosovo in all fields is evident, including even its European and Euroatlantic integration processes.
The governing authorities in Kosovo and all its citizens have made their wise choice to follow this road, and this is very important, which, I would say, is crucial to make irreversible these processes.
I think that our Kosovo brothers should continue the implementation of the agenda of the European reforms with patience, maturity and responsibility, giving priority to key issues linked with the soonest visa liberalization and implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
I trust in the courage and capabilities of the leaders of Kosovo to make possible these developments as I believe in the good will existing in the European Union for the realization of the promised engagements as soon as progress is achieved.

- In the meantime, how much could the bilateral relations with Greece endanger the opening of Albania's accession negotiations when the President of Greece, Pavlopoulos, threatened and conditioned this process with specific problems of the bilateral relations a few days ago?
- I want to underline that these statements are not in syntony with the latest public messages and engagements of the Foreign Ministers, Bushati and Kotzias to release new positive energies in the relations between the two countries by handling obstacles of the past with restraint and constructiveness.
The spectrum of the cooperation between the two countries is universal having an extraordinary importance not only for our countries but, on top of all, for our people and citizens.
Naturally, there might also be certain issues on which we can share different stances, but this does not mean to lose calmness in the communication with each other and to affect the thorough and vital cooperation for both our countries and people for this reason.
Partnership is not simply a concept and a document, but, in the first place, it is a communication way based even on mutual respect.




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