The Task of Our Generation
By Romana Vlahutin*
Albanian Daily News
Published February 24, 2018
Tomorrow's visit by President Juncker to Albania, just two weeks after the announcement of the Commission's Western Balkan Strategy, is clear evidence of the European Union's strong commitment to the region. Equally clear is that the people of Albania have made a choice to align the country with the EU standards and to bring it into the Union as a full member. We witness the same powerful will as 27 years ago when students marched for freedom under the slogan "We want Albania to be as all of Europe".
The Western Balkan Strategy gives an unambiguous and concrete perspective for EU integration for each and every one of the partners, whose progress will strictly depend on their ability to deliver. And we need to be clear: there are no shortcuts or bypassing of essential reforms. There is still a lot of work to be done, difficult decisions to be made.
In this regard, implementing reforms in the area of rule of law, fundamental rights and good governance remain the most important goal for Albania and the rest of the Western Balkans. Albania has already made significant progress on a number of reforms, particularly with Judicial Reform, but the hope and the trust in the sustainability of this change has to be strengthened through daily and tangible implementation.
Citizens are at the centre of this transformation, and the European Union has offered six flagship initiatives to support it, from redoubling the efforts in the rule of law and engagement on security and migration, to enhancing social and economic development, connectivity, digital agenda and good neighbourly relations. The list of tasks is long, but the essence of it is simple: ambition to improve the quality of life of people in Albania and the entire Western Balkans, day by day.
Citizens of Albania demand to be respected, protected and given a fair chance to use their talents and their knowledge. Elected officials should view these demands as the strongest form of scrutiny and monitoring.
This needs to be complemented with the constructive engagement in the democratic process between the majority and the opposition in a common and united front on the priority given to EU integration. As stated by President Juncker at the Strategy's announcement: "with strong political will, real and sustained reforms, and definitive solutions to dispute with neighbours, the Western Balkans can move forward on their respective European paths. Whether this is achieved will depend on their objective merits".
We are all Europeans, we share the European identity, values, history, and culture. However we still have to bring the Western Balkans into the European Union, not in a faraway future, but in our time and on the basis of serious, concrete, and committed work. We owe it to our parents. We owe it to our children. But above all we owe it to ourselves, to who we are and how we want to be remembered - as the generation that completed the monumental task of making Europe whole, free and at peace.
*Ambassador, EU Delegation to Albania