Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama made an emotional plea for Brussels to commence talks in terms of Albania’s membership in the EU, saying this was warranted given the “huge transformative measures” taken in both countries.
Speaking at a conference on Monday (26 February), he said he “did not understand the reluctance” of some member states to start talks, adding “We are not asking to become members of the EU today or tomorrow but simply to commence negotiations and put us on the same path as other accession states.”
His comments come days after Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that the Commission will soon recommend, most likely by the summer, that member states begin accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.
Hahn said: “We believe both countries have made important reforms in the past, and are thus qualified for this step.”
Rama, commenting on Hahn’s words, said the EU “should be more generous” in acknowledging the “stunning and transformative” changes and reforms which have taken place in his country.
Addressing the Balkans Investment Summit organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London, Rama said, “Both Albania and Macedonia have more than done their homework and the reform efforts in areas such as the judicial system have been immense.
“It is too easy to talk about corruption and organized crime but the reforms that have taken place are very courageous and I would like to see the same, which is not the case, from some ‘old’ member states.”
He added that giving the green light to accession talks would help boost investment, and interest, in both countries, and would also “make Europe a safer place.”
Rama’s speech comes with the country currently unusually high on the EU agenda. He was in Brussels just before Christmas for pre-accession meetings with senior EU political figures including European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his council counterpart Donald Tusk.
The six Western Balkans countries were represented at the London conference by their head of government, with Rama for Albania; Denis Zvizdic for Bosnia and Herzegovina; Zoran Zaev for Macedonia; Ramush Haradinaj for Kosovo; Dusko Markovic for Montenegro and Ana Brnabic for Serbia.
The event aims to bring together the region’s leaders and potential investors from across the world for a discussion of ways to attract larger support from the private, financial and public sectors for the infrastructure projects in the Western Balkans.
Moscow sees the EU’s approach towards Balkan countries as instigating tension. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that countries like Russia, China and Turkey want to work in the region on an “open, constructive basis, but we see attempts by the US and the EU to introduce anti-Russian elements in its Balkan policy,” he said. According to the minister, Russian diplomats never tell their counterparts that they shouldn’t make friends with the West. “But Washington and some European capitals send their emissaries to the Balkans with a specific message: ‘Do not be friends with Russia; refuse cooperation with it in all possible areas.’”