The EU has been urged to start accession negotiations with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as soon as possible,Ai??writes Martin Banks.
Speaking at a conference on Monday (26 February), Albaniaai??i??s Prime Minister Edi Rama (pictured) made an impassioned plea for Brussels to commence talks, saying this was warranted given the ai???huge transformative measuresai??? taken in both countries.
Saying he ai???did not understand the reluctanceai??? of some member states to start talks, Rama added: ai???We are not asking to become members of the EU today or tomorrowAi??but simply to commence negotiations and put us on the same path as other accession states.ai???
He was addressing theAi??Balkans Investment Summit organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London.
His comments come days after Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that the Commission will soon recommend, most likely by the summer, that member states begin accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia.
Hahn said: ai???We believe both countries have made important reforms in the past, and are thus qualified for this step.ai???
This was seized on by Rama who said the EU ai???should be more generousai??? in acknowledging the ai???stunning and transformativeai??? changes and reforms which have taken place in his country.
Rama told the conference, ai???Both Albania and Macedonia have more than done their homework and the reform efforts in areas such as the judicial system have been immense.
ai???It is too easy to talk about corruption and organized crime but the reforms that have taken place are very courageous and I would like to see the same, which is not the case, from some ai???oldai??i?? member states.ai???
He added that giving the green light to accession talks would help boost investment, and interest, in both countries,Ai??and would also ai???make Europe a safer place.ai???
He stated: ai???So I am today appealing toAi??the European Commission: if you donai??i??t want to give us more money that is ok but please show us more generosity.ai???
Rama affirmed his governmentai??i??s unwavering commitment to move ahead with the European integration reforms.
Ramaai??i??s speech comes with the country currently unusually high on the EU agenda. He was in Brussels just before Christmas for pre-accessionAi??meetings with senior EU political figures including European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his council counterpart Donald Tusk.
Rama and JunckerAi??met in Tirana, the Albanian capital on Sunday and afterward Juncker lauded the Albanian government for delivering progress in its European integration reform efforts.
ai???Albania does not cease to accumulate progress since it has embarked on many structural reforms in many areas. The progress is impressive and it will convince the European Commission to recommend opening of the accession talks,ai??? Juncker said.
ai???Contrary to what we read everywhere, the Commission and myself did not say that Serbia and Montenegro would necessarily be members of the EU in 2025,ai??? Juncker told reporters in Tirana. ai???The 2025 date is open to all candidate countries,ai??? he said.
The six Western Balkans countries are represented at the London conference by their head of government, with Rama for Albania; Denis Zvizdic for Bosnia and Herzegovina; Zoran Zaev for Macedonia; Ramush Haradinaj for Kosovo; Dusko Markovic for Montenegro and Ana Brnabic for Serbia.
The event aims to bring together the regionai??i??s leaders and potential investors from across the world for a discussion of ways to attract larger support from the private, financial and public sectors for the infrastructure projects in the Western Balkans.
The initiative is part of a series of summits devoted to those countriesai??i?? development and EU perspective.
The conference comes ahead of the decision on the Commissionai??i??s recommendations to open the negotiations with Albania and following the publication of the new enlargement strategy.