EU-Albania: Press remarks by High Representative Josep Borrell at the press conference after the Stabilisation and Association Council
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I am very happy to be here in Albania. It is my third visit to Albania as High Representative of the European Union, but today is a unique opportunity because it is for the first time in history of relations between Albania and the European Union, that we held the Stabilisation and Association Council in Tirana.
Normally, these important annual meetings take place in Brussels or in Luxembourg. But today, we are here, in Tirana, to show to the Albanian people that the European Union is coming closer to you.
With this, we are sending, we want to send a clear and strong political signal of the commitment of the European Union to Albania’s path to be a member of the European Union.
And we use the Stabilisation and Association Council as the most important institutional interaction between the European Union and Albania.
With this kind of meetings, we take stock of the progress in preparations for the membership, we review what has been done, we discuss where more efforts are needed and what is the work ahead.
And the main message from this Council meeting is our unequivocal commitment to the European Union integration of Albania. We see and welcome Albania’s clear strategic direction towards the European Union.
We are working together on Albania’s integration on all strands – from accession negotiations to concrete initiatives such as your participation in our [EU] Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions or [in] the European Diplomatic Academy, which I launched last year.
I want to recognise and clearly say that this country has demonstrated a strong commitment to necessary reforms and achieved important milestones, in particular in the area of justice. Albania has implemented a comprehensive justice reform, which has been advancing steadily. And this is a clear opportunity now to move forward: Albanian institutions should speed up reforms, building on the massive support of the Albanian people for the European Union integration.
We had the opportunity to welcome the announcement of the Prime Minister [of Albania, Edi Rama] that the golden passport scheme will not be pursued. And we addressed many other issues during our meeting, in particular the strong polarisation of the domestic political environment and many other issues, which Commissioner [for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Oliver] Várhelyi will address in more detail.
This meeting takes place in a very challenging and new geostrategic reality caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. But at the same time, it – this event - made the European Union more united and brought the European Union and Western Balkans closer together.
This is a critical moment of truth. In this critical moment of truth, Albania has showed a true European spirit. Not only in solidarity with Ukraine, but also by acting fully in line with our European Union’s foreign policy.
And you continue [your] 100% alignment with foreign policy decisions of the European Union, including the response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Albania has also used its position in United Nations Security Council to take a clear stance in defence of the international rules-based order and of the United Nations Charter.
This clearly has illustrated and underlined the quality of Albania as a reliable security partner.
At the same time, it makes Albania a target of hostile actions from abroad. And that is why, we are committed to continue supporting Albania in this regard.
We are working on a number of actions to help boost Albania’s resilience – against hybrid threats, in the area of cyber security, information manipulation and protection of critical infrastructures.
We have already taken quick action and responded fast after the massive cyber-attack last summer.
We have included all Western Balkans countries in our policies on mitigating the negative impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Yes, because this war has been sending shockwaves around the world, affecting many countries around the world, and in particular the Western Balkan countries. For that we have to mobilise urgent support.
The [European] Commission’s President [Ursula von der Leyen] - I want to remind it - announced concrete support in the energy field when she was here in autumn – €80 million. The relevant paperwork now has been already finalised [and] signed this morning and will become available soon.
We believe that, with that, we support Albania in facing these challenging times.
And it is good to know that we can count on our partners – especially the candidate countries like Albania, with their accession reform efforts and 100% [European] attitude in the area of foreign policy which is a clear signal of your European will.
Thank you very much, Prime Minister.
Link to the video: https://video.consilium.europa.eu/event/en/26740
Q. In a few days, you are going to have a meeting with Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti and President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vučić and it is expected that we could have a potential agreement. How much do you expect for a concrete agreement to be achieved? And what is going to be the standing of the European Union after that? The second question is specific to the two EU representatives: what is the standing of the European Union vis-a-vis the [former] Albanian leader of the opposition Sali Berisha, who was designated persona non grata by the United States and the United Kingdom?
On the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue: on 27 February, we had a High-level meeting in Brussels - which I hosted - together with President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vučić and Prime Minister [of Kosovo, Albin] Kurti, and both agreed that no further discussions on the European Union’s proposal were needed. This means that we considered the text of this agreement closed. And I thank you, Prime Minister [of Albania, Edi Rama], for your nice words about this agreement and for the encouragement to continue working in that direction.
Certainly, this agreement brings a lot of hope for the normalisation of relations between Pristina and Belgrade. But one thing is an agreement, and another thing is how and when to implement it. Because there have been agreements in the past that have never been implemented, and this cannot be again the same thing. We are currently working not on the agreement itself, which has already been agreed, but on the implementation. And this implementation is [defined] in an Annex, that is fully an integral part of the agreement in itself, that will make the parties to ensure the same understanding of the timelines and modalities: when and how to implement the agreement. Both parties have to agree also on that.
It is an agreement that brings the relations between Kosovo and Serbia – once it will be adopted – that will put their relations on a new [and] more sustainable basis, ensuring that the Dialogue will continue with a trajectory towards a comprehensive normalisation instead of constant crisis management. Because since I took office in Brussels, I have been in constant crisis management between Kosovo and Serbia. Now this has to be over, and we have to implement this agreement.
Certainly, I hope that, on Saturday [at the next High-level meeting of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue in Ohrid, North Macedonia], both parties will come with a constructive approach, with the will to engage, to agree. I insist: not on the agreement itself, which has already been agreed, but on the implementation modalities and timelines. If this happens, then I think that the Western Balkans will celebrate a big step forward towards the European Union path for all the Western Balkans.
[On your second question] From our side, the only thing I can say is that decisions on sanctions [are taken] by the Council, that is a part of our Foreign Security Policy. But as far as I know, I do not have any information about any proposal to sanction any Albanian citizen.
Q. You spoke about a polarisation of the political climate in Albania. Is Brussels concerned at the time where two months before the elections, the major opposition party is not yet registered with the Central Election Commission to participate in the elections of 14 May, for both internal and external motives?
I think it is not for me to comment on ongoing internal legal procedures. I think that we are fully convinced that these legal procedures belong to the Albanian bodies to decide.
We think that the elections will be conducted in accordance with international standards.
Link to the video: https://video.consilium.europa.eu/event/en/26740