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European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania

Press point/Brussels

17 September 2013

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome Prime Minister Rama to Brussels. Let me congratulate you once again for your election.

The Albanian people have given your "Alliance for European Albania" a clear and strong mandate. And I believe that your visit so soon after your appointment is a clear signal of your personal commitment to Europe and also to the reform agenda.

Today we had a very fruitful meeting. Above all, we took stock of the new government's reform plans in key areas, and we discussed the next steps in the EU integration process of Albania.

Let me be clear on the strategic perspective: Albania's future is in the European Union. I am confident in Albania's potential and its capacity and commitment to fulfil the criteria and make progress, step by step, on its European path.

Indeed, Albania has already made progress towards this aim, delivering solid reform results over the last 12 months. Furthermore, the June parliamentary elections were carried out in an overall smooth and competitive way. I hope this momentum is sustained so that we can move into a higher gear soon.

I also stressed to Prime Minister Rama that European Union integration needs to be a real national effort and an inclusive project - not just for this or that party. It is very important for the credibility of the process that it appears with a broad consensus as a national project, because it is not just a traditional, diplomatic negotiation process. To a large extent it is a transformational project that needs the involvement, not only of the government, but of the state institutions, of the social partners, of the society, namely for the modernisation. I was happy to listen to the Prime Minister on this, because he also agrees that this is part also of the modernisation agenda that the country has to go through and that is, in fact, a very important priority. That is why I believe that continued commitment, and I know that the Albanian citizens are very supportive of European integration, and constructive political dialogue are essential for Albania's success. There is indeed a high consensus on European Union integration among Albania's citizens and they rightly expect their politicians, their leaders, to work jointly towards achieving that goal.

Of course, in a democracy, we know that there are different points of view, it is a competition, but it is not in contradiction with the fact that on some very important national issues, including the European path, there can be a sustained and broad consensus.

I therefore encourage the new government, but also the opposition to build on the last, positive developments and cooperate constructively, to ensure that the country continues to deliver results under the key priorities that were identified in the 2010 Opinion of the European Commission.

There is an area that requires particular attention, the respect for rule of law, including the fight against corruption and organised crime. There is no time to lose and reforms must continue and even accelerate – not to do the European Union a favour - but to do the Albanian citizens a favour, to deliver results to the Albanian citizens.

Albania has also achieved much on the economic front in the past years. Nonetheless, the Albanian economy remains vulnerable. Structural reforms are necessary to ensure long term growth and improve the business and investment environment.

Finally, we also spoke about the regional environment. I think it's critically important a constructive approach of Albania to the regional environment and integration as well. We in the European Commission believe that it's an historical opportunity for Albania and all that region of the Balkans this European path.

The European Commission is very determined to work in this direction and we remain committed to supporting Albania in its aspiration to see the future of security, stability and prosperity.

You can, Mr Prime Minister, count on a steadfast friend and partner. I thank you for your visit to Brussels.

Thank you for your attention.

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