Albanian leaders hail EU decision on starting accession talks

Albanian leaders hailed here on Tuesday the unanimous decision of the European Union (EU) member states to start accession negotiations with Albania.

In a video conference on Tuesday, the bloc’s General Affairs Council gave a green light to the opening of EU membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia.

Via a Facebook video-message, Prime Minister Edi Rama hailed the decision, saying that Albania entered a new phase of its history in the midst of a “world war”, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

The unanimous Yes of the 27 EU member states, Rama underlined, comes after another Yes from the Donors Conference held in Brussels on Feb. 17, when the EU, along with many other countries, gave Albania support for its reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of the November earthquake.

Albanian President Ilir Meta welcomed the EU decision, saying “it clearly confirms Albania’s European perspective.”

“Not a minute should be wasted to implement as soon as possible any of the conditions that precede the intergovernmental conference on starting chapter negotiations,” Meta said in his Twitter message.

Parliament Speaker Gramoz Ruci called the decision a major historical event for Albania, North Macedonia and the whole region.

“The Albanian Parliament is proud of the contribution and legitimacy it gave to this long and difficult process, which finally found the support and consensus of all member states,” Ruci said.

Lulzim Basha, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, welcomed the decision, underlining that “it is in Albania’s hands to fulfil the conditions in order to go through with the opening of the negotiations.”

On Tuesday, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi announced via a Twitter post the decision and congratulated both countries, saying that “this also sends a loud and clear message to Western Balkans: your future is in EU.”

During his visit in Tirana on Feb. 3, David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament (EP), said the EP strongly supports the opening of Albania’s accession talks with the EU.

In October last year, the bid by Albania and North Macedonia to open EU accession negotiations was blocked due mainly to France’s opposition, when Paris justified its decision with the need for the EU to develop a new accession methodology.

At the Munich Security conference held in mid-February this year, French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that France’s position would depend on the report from the European Commission.

Earlier in March, the European Commission reaffirmed its recommendation for opening the accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

Albania applied for EU membership on April 2009, and has since June 2014 been an official candidate for accession to the EU.