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EU-Albania: 2nd High Level Dialogue progress and commitment to EU integration

European Commission - MEMO/14/163   06/03/2014

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European Commission

MEMO

Tirana, 6 March 2014

EU-Albania: 2nd High Level Dialogue progress and commitment to EU integration

Tirana, (6 March) - Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle visited Albania on Thursday for another round of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities. This is what he said to the media following the meeting:

"Good afternoon, today we held the second session of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities. This confirms our commitment to work together in the process of Albania's EU integration, enhancing its chances for success.

As I said here last November: our reaction to more efforts from your side is more engagement.

Inclusiveness is essential in the process. I have stressed that the currently increasingly confrontational political climate may put at risk Albania’s achievements as the Member States will look closely at how the government and opposition interact and at the results of this interaction.

As I am convinced that both, government and opposition, remain committed to the national objective of European integration, I would like to call both to demonstrate a spirit of compromise and inclusiveness in view of working efficiently together to address Albania's EU integration challenges.

Last year the EU Member States recognised Albania's achievements and gave the country a real perspective to progress towards the candidate status. It is now up to Albania to maintain and increase the reform momentum and address a number of challenges in the areas under the key priorities, with particular attention to the rule law. The fight against corruption and organised crime and the judicial reform are of the utmost importance.

The reform of the public administration, enhancing the respect for human rights, including of the Roma, anti-discrimination and property rights are also important.

Today we have managed to achieve 5 things during a good open and frank discussion. We have reviewed the progress in these 5 areas.

First, we have taken stock of the actions taken by Albania since the previous meeting, as well as Albania's plans to continue addressing its challenges in the short to medium term.

Second, we have also discussed Albania's Roadmap to address the 5 Key Priorities. The Roadmap covers an ambitious reform programme and I am confident that with continuing commitment and determination it can be of help in taking forward Albania's EU agenda. Implementation is the key.

Third, we have agreed on the importance of inclusivity not only vis-a-vis the opposition but also the civil society on EU accession related issues and the idea of setting up a mechanism of consultation with civil society which was already agreed in the 1st High Level Dialogue.

Fourth, we agreed on the text of the joint conclusions of the 2nd High Level Dialogue.

Fifth, we preliminarily agreed to meet in June for the 3rd High Level Dialogue.

In conclusion, I firmly believe that Albania's future is within the EU and I remain strongly convinced of Albania's capacity to tackle its EU integration challenges. The European Commission and I will continue helping Albania to move towards that goal."

Joint Conclusions of the second High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities

1) Prime Minister Edi Rama and Commissioner Štefan Füle chaired the 2nd Meeting of the High Level Dialogue (HLD) on the Key Priorities between Albania and the European Commission on 6 March 2014. The plenary session included the participation of Government Ministers, as well as of an extended participation of the opposition through the chair of the parliamentary committee for European integration, Ms Majlinda Bregu, and two additional Members of Parliament.

2) The meeting welcomed the Parliament Resolution on EU integration unanimously voted in November 2013 which demonstrated the existing political consensus. Implementation of commitments undertaken by this resolution is essential. In this respect, Commissioner Füle stressed the importance of ensuring coherence and an inclusive approach to all reforms undertaken by Albania by taking into due consideration the country's EU agenda. The systematic consultation and involvement of the Parliament, as well as of other stakeholders, in the reform process is key.

3) The 2nd meeting of the HLD takes place after the December 2013 Council, which "welcomed the adoption by Albania of the relevant key judicial, public administration and parliamentary reform measures with cross-party consensus as well as the successful conduct of the parliamentary elections in June". The Council also welcomed "the further action taken in the fight against corruption and organised crime, the commitment of the new government and commends its intensified efforts in these areas and encouraged the authorities to maintain this new momentum". The Council decided to "examine, on the basis of a report to be presented by the Commission, continued implementation of anti-corruption and judicial reform strategies and of recently adopted relevant legislation as well as a continued trend of pro-active investigations and prosecutions, including in the area of organised crime". It added that, "on the understanding that Albania continues to build on the encouraging progress made so far", it "looks forward to a decision regarding granting candidate status to Albania in June 2014, subject to endorsement by the European Council".

4) The meeting agreed that it is therefore essential that Albania continues to deliver on its reform efforts and continues to present evidence of the results achieved with a focus on the rule of law, including the fight against corruption and organised crime. Commissioner Füle welcomed Albania's continuing progress in EU-related reforms in the past period, and underlined that joint constructive work of government and opposition notably in Parliament is key to consolidate and further strengthen these efforts. In this respect the Commissioner stressed that confrontational politics do not help the EU integration process. The Commissioner also recalled the importance EU Member States attribute to a culture of cooperation in Parliament that would allow a sustainable reform process. As regards the functioning of the country’s independent institutions he stressed that both opposition and government should show moderation and ensure full respect of applicable legislation and its principles. The Commissioner welcomed actions taken in the framework of the government's plan of action on the fight against corruption and organised crime, such as the broad consultation of the anti-corruption strategy conducted in December and the setting up of a network of anti-corruption contact points, the signature of the operational agreement with Europol, and ongoing important work on police reform. He also welcomed the focus on adopting the secondary legislation for the Civil Service Law.

5) Commissioner Füle welcomed the draft Roadmap on the 5 Key Priorities as a well-structured document with realistic timelines. He stressed the importance of giving particular attention in the coming months to ensuring its solid and timely implementation, notably as regards short-term measures in the area of the rule of law including the fight against organised crime and corruption.

6) Commissioner Füle underlined that the Commission stands ready to support Albania with expertise and financial support.

7) Prime Minister Rama confirmed his government's commitment to further strengthen the considerable progress achieved in EU-related reforms, in particular to continue the implementation of reforms in the area of the rule of law, including anti-corruption policy, judicial reform, and fight against organised crime. Prime Minister Rama expressed the confidence that the continued implementation of key reforms constitutes a sound basis for the decision regarding granting candidate status to Albania in June 2014. He also confirmed his government's commitment to create a strong link between economic governance and the rule of law leading to a more transparent business environment. In this respect he welcomed the increased focus on the side of the EU to economic governance issues.

8) The Albanian Government confirmed its commitment to a constructive and sustainable political dialogue with the opposition which is vital for the sustainability of the reform process. In this context, the Albanian Government views the HLD as a useful instrument whereby Albania and the EU take stock and review the progress made by the country in a framework of comprehensive discussions.

9) Commissioner Füle welcomed the commitments of the Albanian Government to ensure the smooth implementation of the Civil Service Law in the same spirit of dialogue and cooperation that led to its adoption in May 2013; to finalise the anticorruption strategy and to start taking determined steps for its implementation in view of improving the overall efficiency of action in this area; to engage with the Venice Commission in view of the process of reforming the judicial system and to ensure smooth implementation of legislation in this area; and to intensify the fight against organised crime through targeted activities and reinforced coordination among law enforcement bodies.

10) The government remains committed to the involvement of civil society organizations and groups in the reform process. For this purpose, the Roadmap on the 5 key priorities has been shared with civil society actors and organizations for their comments and suggestions. The mechanism of consultation with stakeholders, which was agreed at the 1st High Level Dialogue meeting, needs to be set up , building on some initial steps taken. This broad consultation process will contribute to consolidate the nationwide consensus on EU integration and would provide a framework to channel expertise and energy within Albanian society into the policy making and implementation.

11) To prepare for the next meeting of the HLD foreseen for June 2014, it was agreed for contacts on working level to intensify and reports on the implementation of the roadmap to be provided by the Albanian side on a regular basis. Albania will provide input in view of the Commission's next Report. Commissioner Füle underlined that in this period Albania should continue delivering concrete results as regards all five Key Priorities, with particular focus on anti-corruption, organized crime and judiciary reform.


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