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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

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

Press point

Tirana, 30 June 2014

Thank you very much Prime Minister,

It is a pleasure to be in Tirana. I am very happy to be here today to warmly congratulate Prime Minister Rama and all the Albanians on the decision of the European Union to grant the status of candidate country to Albania.

The granting of candidate status, which the European Commission had recommended, and was now accepted unanimously by the European Union and confirmed in the last European Council at Heads of State and Government level, is a decision that is certainly a major success for Albania. But it is also good news for the entire region of South Eastern Europe. It shows that the enlargement process of the European Union is credible and dynamic; and also that the European Union sticks to its strategic commitments: We move ahead when our partner countries deliver.

Thank you Prime Minister for your extremely kind words to myself – you may consider me a friend of Albania -, to my colleague in the Commission Štefan Füle and to the European Commission as a whole. We have been always on your side and I believe we will continue to be. I remember when I received you in September in Brussels. You came to Brussels very soon after the election, and I told you that I believed that it was possible to achieve that goal of candidate status, provided Albania made the necessary steps. And as we are seeing now, you have done it. So we are also fulfilling our part of the deal.

So let me congratulate the Prime Minister, his government, but also all political forces who contributed to reaching this important moment. And let me above all congratulate the people of Albania! This is your collective success!

Candidate status recognises the commitment and actions demonstrated by the government in the recent months, to pursue the process of European Union-related reforms in the fight against corruption and organised crime and judicial reform, as well as the substantial work achieved by Albania over the past years.

And once again I want to thank you Prime Minister because you are highlighting, rightly so, that it is a national task. Of course in democracy political parties are very important, but I believe this task of European integration and the historic dimension it has here in Albania should be seen as a consensus. So even beyond the political parties that can give, of course, their proper contribution to this modernisation process.

Today I had a very fruitful meeting with Prime Minister Rama. We shared the joy of Albania having achieved a further step on its European path. And we discussed the next steps that are important in the process and the challenges that lie ahead for Albania.

I am confident that entering this new chapter will provide an additional incentive to Albania to tackle these challenges with vigour and determination.

I have stressed to Prime Minister Rama that to move further on its European integration path, Albania will need to continue and intensify a systematic approach to reforms. Albania should focus on the key priorities identified, with particular attention to the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime, and the reform of the judiciary. I am glad to see that the Government shares these priorities.

To succeed, European integration needs to be an inclusive process where the entire Albanian society plays a part.

I know the overwhelming majority of Albanian citizens see their future in the European Union.

Therefore I encourage both government and opposition to build on the positive spirit of the candidate status and to cooperate constructively, to deliver the results which their country expects, and which their people deserve.

Albania's future lies within the European Union. I really believe that is going to happen. The question is how you can achieve all the results needed for that to materialise. There should be no doubt about that, and last Friday's decision proves this. It's a matter of credibility and coherence. And you can count on the European Commission to continue supporting Albania in its efforts to achieve that historic goal. You can also count on the European Union support for your efforts and everything you are doing for the stability of the region. We very much welcome your initiatives, Prime Minister - for instance, the fact that we have now decided to meet with the Prime Minister of Serbia.

It's more than symbolic. We are now in this region and we should not forget that 100 years ago First World War stated here. And the fact that now this region is in peace, even if still some work has to be done to consolidate democracy and the rule of law, the simple fact that we are here living in peace it's a major achievement.

Some days ago, I was with all Heads of State and Government of the European Union in Ypres, Flanders, in Belgium, to commemorate and evoke the First World War. And there we were, from the Prime Minister of Britain to the Chancellor of Germany, greeted by the people there. And that's why I really have a great passion for the European Union.

The European Union is a story of peace of former enemies, which were killing each other. What happened in the First World War 100 years ago was really a tragedy. Or in the Second World War and afterwards, as we have been seeing here in this region. And now people are voting and discussing around the table, instead of killing each other. They are voting in the European Parliament elections and we have some arguments but they are peaceful discussions around the table.

And this is why what you can do in the region it's also very important. And we are partners for that, and in fact we have discussed with the Prime Minister some ways of supporting this support.

The European Commission will continue working closely with Albania, providing assistance to your country to address your European integration challenges, knowing well that this was your national sovereign decision, that, in fact – if we can also say it – that even without European integration it would be in the interest of Albania to have a modern rule of law country, with a clear, functioning separation of powers, with an independent judiciary and success in the fight against corruption and organised crime.

So it is your national decision, we are imposing nothing, it's important to be clear on that. What we want is to be your partners in this process, knowing well that by reinforcing the future of Albania we are also reinforcing the stability of the region and also our own stability in the European Union.

I thank you for your attention.

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