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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Statement on the situation in Albania
Plenary Session of the European Parliament
Strasbourg, 15 February 2011
President, Honourable Members. Thank you for inviting me to speak on Albania this evening.
Although on the European mainland, Albania was isolated for a large part of the 20th century. However, Albania is now open and accessible. It has become a country with a European perspective. Today, Albania is stuck in a political crisis.
The developments in Tirana on Friday 21 January 2011 were tragic. The increasingly bitter, political stalemate has resulted in four needless deaths.
The tone in Tirana needs to change. The dangerous downward spiral must end.
The political crisis must be resolved. This is the shared responsibility of the political leaders in Albania. That is what the citizens of Albania expect. And they are right. Democratically elected representatives must act as such: represent the people and find democratic compromises.
Mr Chairman, if the solution to the crisis lies in domestic hands, we as outsiders must do all we can to help facilitate such a solution.
EEAS Managing Director Miroslav Lajčák visited Tirana twice to meet the President, the Prime Minister and the leader of opposition.
His messages, on behalf of HR/VP and myself, were clear:
First - Stop the violence, and investigate the events of 21 January correctly. These investigations should be conducted by the judicial authorities, without political interference.
Second – Stop the verbal abuse and the implicit and explicit undermining of State institutions.
Third – Get the political dialogue back on track. Acknowledge that you have a shared responsibility to secure a more positive future for Albania. In the near future, this means jointly ensuring the conduct of free, fair and transparent local elections.
Fourth - Begin the important task of implementing the twelve priorities outlined in the 2010 Commission Opinion. The government and the opposition must do it together.
The reactions of the political leaders and the general public, to Miroslav Lajcak's visits were encouraging and positive, respectively. There is some momentum, which can and should be used to turn the crisis into an opportunity.
The two Albanian leaders welcome the attention given to them, but they are stuck in their own internal impasse. But EU goodwill and assistance cannot replace dialogue between the leaders.
We can help to bridge the gap through our active engagement. However, we cannot do so before both sides signal a genuine willingness to put the European future of Albania above party politics and personal mistrust.
There is no space for "cherry picking". Albania must meet all of the Copenhagen criteria including interactive, political dialogue and functioning Parliament or nothing.
The following is on the table for Albania:
These twelve priorities include, among others, improving the functioning of democratic institutions and the political dialogue, the rule of law and reform of the judiciary, the fight against organized crime, and the protection of human rights.
These twelve priorities and the Copenhagen criteria are not just exercises for the politicians. Rather, they bring clear, measurable benefits for citizens. Albania's politicians urgently need to put the interests of Albania's citizens first.
Let us turn these priorities into a European framework to address the current political challenges in Albania.
For this reason, I sent a letter to Prime Minister Berisha, one week before the January demonstrations, where I set out a "road map" – based on these twelve priorities - to help Albania emerge from the current impasse. We all witnessed the tragic events that ensued.
It is not too late. If we receive irreversible signals that there is a mutual willingness to use this European framework to gradually overcome the political stalemate and the recent crisis, then we will respond positively.
The European Parliament also has a vital role to play. You as politicians, you can send a clear message to politicians. A clear, united message from this house, and the whole European Union, with the readiness to engage, would cause all in Albania to reflect upon the best course of action.
Let me use this opportunity Mr President, Honourable members to call on the Prime Minister of Albania Mr. Berisha to create a truly inclusive political environment in Albania. Other political forces and civil society organizations would gain from the benefits of European integration.
Let me also call on the Leader of the Socialist Party Mr. Rama to ensure that his party is a truly constructive opposition. One which enjoys the benefits, but also the responsibilities of this inclusive political environment we wish to see in Albania.