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Statements of Foreign Minister S. Lambrinidis and Foreign Minister of Italy, F. Frattini (Tirana, 12.09.2011)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Moderator: Thank you very much for joining us in the EU Info Center. Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis and Franco Frattini are here in the framework of their European mission. They will make a few remarks and, at the end, we shall take briefly a couple of questions focused on this visit. Thank you.

S. LAMBRINIDIS: Thank you. Dear friends, Franco Frattini, my trip to Albania comes at the most critical juncture for Albania’s path towards European integration. It is clear from the meetings that we had, excellent meetings, that Albania’s European future remains one clear goal unifying the Albanian Government and main opposition party. Most importantly, as we were told by everyone, it is the unifying objective of the vast majority of the Albanian people. We are here presenting the European Union, but we are also here to present Italy and Greece as two strong supporters of Albania’s European path, as friends and as neighbours. The message that we send is that this is the turn for national unity in Albania towards the European path. Now that the elections are completed, that the Parliament opened and resumed its full and constructive work, we feel that the focus should be on the twelve priorities. We feel the focus should be on European integration, electoral reform, parliamentary reform, human rights and minority rights, the issue of combating organized crime and of promoting transparency, the proper functioning of the Parliament, these are only few of those twelve priorities and we are very pleased that everyone we spoke to emphasized the will to focus on them and to promote solutions that are consistent with the European path of Albania. Proper laws and the proper application of proper laws, requirements that the European Commission has emphasized in its reports and that the Council of Ministers, to which we belong, has also placed great emphasis. Dear Friends, let me close by saying the following. We in Europe, we Foreign Ministers, we European Commission are firmly of the belief that Albania has all the necessary capabilities and ability to meet the high standards required for opening all accession negotiations. In 2003, during the Thessaloniki Summit, the process and the hope for our entire region began. The achievement by Albania of the visa-free status, for which Franco and I so much worked to support, the entry into NATO, proves that a political system that works together can achieve great results for Albania and for our region. The process ahead of you is no doubt very difficult. It requires rigorous preparation, constructive cooperation between political forces, consensus building. But we, here, guarantee to you that we will be on your side in these reforms. And we will support all the great effort ahead of you to achieve your dream and our dream. Thank you.

F. FRATTINI: Thank you very much. Dear Friends, ladies and gentlemen, I have not much to add to what Mr. Lambrinidis said. Stavros and I have been meeting political leaders, the President of Republic, and our intention is to continue to support the country we love. The last time I have been in this very room, it was in my capacity of Vice President of European Commission, to launch the visa facilitation and visa liberalization process. And thanks to the common efforts, European efforts and Albanian efforts, Albanians were in the condition to get a tremendously important achievement, freedom of movement. We want to add Albania in Europe, not for the sake of Brussels, but for the interest of Albanians. And unfortunately, we have a lost year behind us; now we have to regain ground. National interest of Albania is to become, as soon as possible, a member of the family. The normal functioning of the Parliament, the proper equilibrium between majority and opposition, the high ranking appointments are all elements that will be proving extremely useful, if not absolutely necessary to this. If political commitments - and we heard, Stavros and I, all the political leaders reconfirm their political commitment – are not reflected into deeds, into action, there will be nothing to positive to say in the next report. And this is exactly what we want to avoid with our visit today. Many clear points are already there: 52 recommendations on how to reform electoral law put forward from the OSCE and from the Council of Europe. Is it possible to implement these 52 recommendations and to have an agreed proposal on electoral reform? I think, yes. Is it possible to convene, as soon as possible, a new meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on European integration? I think it is possible. Is it possible that both parties, majority and opposition, agree on the appointment for example of the ombudsman which requires a qualified majority, yes, it is within reach. So, I made just two examples, but that means Albania needs a political pact for Europe like the one it had during the NATO accession process and it was a very successful pact. This political pact would not be dictated by us, by Europe, it would be dictated by Albanians, but if that happens, sure Albania would have a very important chance to become as soon as possible, as I thought and Stavros thought, member of the European Union.

Moderator: Thank you very much. We have very few minutes, so we shall take, briefly, two brief questions.

JOURNALIST: A question to both Ministers. What are the chances for Albania for the forthcoming progress report to receive a positive answer in relation to the application for candidate status, and more effectively Mr. Frattini already mentioned that you have already had the confirmation or re-confirmation of the political parties that they will cooperate. However, the question remains that, what sort of assurances or guarantees have you received from the leader of the opposition?

F. FRATTINI: This is the substance of a political decision. What is important is that majority and opposition cooperate on the normal functioning of the Parliament. We cannot of course give you guarantees on a positive report in September, October or in December, in view of the European Council. All will depend on the deeds, on the results, on the concrete achievements. I mentioned three things, appointment of ombudsman, restarting the functioning of the Parliament, convening a new meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on European integration. If there is political will, all these three things can be done in time to be reflected in the report of October or, at the latest, in the European Council in December. We met Mr. Rama, who said, he will be cooperating on the proper functioning of the Parliament. We will see and we hope.

S. LAMBRINIDIS: I think I want to repeat what Franco Frattini said, in terms of the guarantees. There is no guarantee for anything, for any country in this process other than one, that the criteria are the same, there are no special, if you like, criteria, the Copenhagen criteria apply equally to everyone. There are no special criteria, different criteria or tougher criteria for Albania. Now, the European Commission will be following very closely the application of all twelve criteria, and will report to us, the Council of Ministers. There is no question, and this is what the Ministers found in June, that there has been a delay in the past months in terms of the application of these criteria. So, as Franco Frattini mentioned, it is the time now to begin immediately, not picking and choosing, every single criterion is equally important, but at least moving forward on some things that are crucial and a consensus could be developed. Now, in a democracy there are always different opinions, that is what a democracy is all about; but at this juncture, it is extremely important to stop pointing fingers and to try, if possible, to give hands to each other, because indeed there is no time to lose. All political parties and the Albanian people are united behind the European path; we are united in terms of supporting that path. The reforms in every field will be judged and they will be judged fairly, and we look forward, in a few months’ time, we hope to be able to be much more optimistic about this process.

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