Albanian President: Europe is the remedy for the “Balkan mine”

Albania is in the crossroads of reforms and stability regarding the desired European Union membership, the common challenges with Italy ranging from controlling illegal immigration, membership in the European Union as the only perspective to avoid the return of ethnic conflicts of the past to Balkans.

Albania’s new president, Ilir Meta, former prime minister, foreign minister and Socialist Movement for Integration founder , spoke for the Italian daily “La Stampa” at the edge of his first official visit to the country during which he met with the high authorities of state, President Mattarella and President of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrin. In the background, the strategic relationship between the two nations, united by much more than the opposite coasts of the Adriatic Sea, is due to the fact that a considerable part of the Albanian diaspora lives here, as the number of Italian pensioners transferred to Tirana for economical and social reasons is increasing.

Mr. President, how is the process of Albania’s accession to the European Union and what are the reforms you have undertaken?

President Meta: Following the positive recommendation of the European Commission to open membership negotiations, following our general elections and the government, we began implementing the new justice reform. Now we hope that the EU will soon provide the decision for opening of the negotiations.

Why is it important for Albania to join European Union ?

President Meta: Because we are Europeans, we are a country and an European nation. For many decades we have been one of the most isolated countries in the world and consequently the most isolated in Europe. The country’s aspirations for a European future are still very strong . We want a future of prosperity and peace for Albania, but also for the whole region, and the only thing that can unite us in a future cooperation is the common European perspective. Europe is the common prospect of all the countries in the region. If this perspective were to fail, our countries would drown into the old problems of nationalism and the borders between states, turning into a past that was not that peaceful. This argument also demonstrates the importance of enlargement of the European Union and our integration.

According to a Transparency International study of 2016, Albania is rated third in Europe for corruption of its political class. Among the most important reforms initiated by the Tirana government in the framework of EU membership is justice: What are you concretely and specifically doing about corruption?

President Meta: I believe that corruption must be fought through the country’s judicial system. For this reason, we are working to have an integrated and trustworthy system. And our reform began by verifying the figures of the justice system, prosecutors, deputy prosecutors, judges. It is a strong reform that goes in the direction of transparency and is strongly supported by the European Union and the United States, but also by civil society and the media. We hope that with the implementation of the vetting, already started, we will soon have strong and reliable institutions in the fight against corruption and illegal activities in the country. In this way, not only will we strengthen the law and institutions, but we will also create a good business environment for foreign investments.

What if the EU accession process is exceeded? Are you afraid that younger generations of Albanians will be disappointed, like it happened in Turkey?

President Meta: This will not be the case of Albania, we would always like to be the gate of Europe. Of course, there is little dissatisfaction with the fact that it is claimed to speeding up the process, but everyone can understand the real difficulties. And the problems that Europe is facing in these years do not help: the economic crisis, migration, terrorism. However, Europe is our only aspiration./ 

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