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Mazi: "EU integration - a long, complicated, difficult journey"

  • 8/3/2021 9:24 AM
Mazi: "EU integration - a long, complicated, difficult journey"

Negotiations of 35 chapters with the EU, with the European Commission, will be quite difficult, complicated and long. This is what the chief negotiator of Albania, Zef Mazi, said in an interview for JavaNews.

Mazi emphasized that our country's journey to become part of the European family has started since 1992. But, as he says, every expectation has a limit.

"Albania's request for the EU to approve as soon as possible, without hesitation, the negotiating framework for Albania and the date for the first Intergovernmental Conference is quite justifiable," said Mazi.

"It seems that Albania started the road to the EU yesterday. This is not true. I am giving some facts. The journey started in 1992 and it is not a race between states, the one who reaches the finish line is the first! The basic, old, unwavering principle of the EU is the merit of every candidate. This is the basic criterion, on which the candidates are evaluated. There is no other written criterion for "group merit", "group of states" or that "states entering a group" added Mazi.

He also stressed out that membership in Euro-Atlantic structures has been the main interest and unwavering, political, geostrategic, national objective of Albania since 1992. In this competition with the EU it was NATO that won! Negotiations of 35 chapters with the EU, with the European Commission, will be quite difficult, complicated and long. The EU legislative body is several hundred thousand pages. It covers the whole package of a state, all spheres of life.

The chief negotiator of Albania, Zef Mazi stated that the main pillars for membership are: the strengthening and stability of democratic institutions, the observance of fundamental rights, the rule of law, the strengthening of a functioning market economy, and a considerable number of other areas, spread over 35 chapters. 

'Albania applied for EU membership in April 2009. In October 2013, the European Commission recommended that Albania be granted candidate status, depending on some measures needed in the context of key reforms to be undertaken by the country. The European Commission's 2013-2014 Enlargement Strategy Paper identified five key priorities to be addressed before accession negotiations could be opened. In May 2014, the Government of Albania approved a concrete progress plan to structure Albania's efforts to meet these five priorities. In June 2014, the Government approved the National Plan for European Integration for the period 2014-2020. Albania was granted EU candidate status on June 27, 2014.

In April 2018, the European Commission emphasized the recommendation to open membership negotiations with Albania. This became a reality two years later, on March 26, 2020, 11 years after the application. European leaders finally approved the decision to open membership negotiations with Albania. The Commission was asked to submit a report on a number of requests to be addressed by Albania prior to the holding of the first Intergovernmental Conference. This will be the technical opening of negotiations with the EU. Albania met all the requirements, including: the Constitutional Court became fully functional, the Supreme Court and the National Bureau of Investigation as well as the special institutions for the fight against corruption and organized crime for almost two years are fully operational and have records, high and visible achievements. The vetting process is advancing, justice reforms is moving at same pace.

In October 2020 the Commission approved the enlargement package. But North Macedonia was blocked by Bulgaria. As a result, unfortunately, Albania is also blocked from this. In short, this is the path from 2009 to the present.

"Enlargement is coming and in the eyes of the people it is becoming something more and more abstract. The EU must find the strength to rise above petty interests, above nationalist, political elements, to move away from narrow views. The EU should see enlargement to the Western Balkans as a geostrategic investment. How can there be a stable, strong and united Europe without the Western Balkans. To me it is quite clear, I can not," said Mazi adding that the failure to reach a consensus, the failure to take a decision on the first Intergovernmental Conference for Albania is not good, it is causing damage to the credibility and predictability of the entire enlargement process. It does not make sense not to retaliate against a partner like Albania that has met all EU requirements and is ready to move forward,' said Mazi adding that even the good neighborly relations and regional co-operation remain key issues in the enlargement process. This should not become a precondition for the commence of negotiations. Albania has nothing to do with the conflict between the two neighbors and very good friends of our country.

There are bilateral issues should not undermine credibility and what is expected of the enlargement process. Albania is committed and to keep up implementing reforms, meeting all criteria, and expects the implementation of the EU principle "on the basis of merit". The EU must honor its commitments, maintain its transformative power in the region by encouraging the reform process.

The question is right: how long will we wait? Every expectation has a limit. Albania's request for the EU to approve as soon as possible, without hesitation, the negotiating framework for Albania and the date for the first Intergovernmental Conference is quite justifiable. I note that prosperity, security, economy, freedoms, tourism, transport, etc., in the EU are linked to the countries of the Western Balkans. The benefits of the EU must be clearly communicated to people in EU countries.

I hope, albeit quite cautiously in my expression, that this decision will be taken within the Slovenian Presidency. Enlargement is a top priority for Slovenia. The same was true of the German and Portuguese presidencies. In the largest political-economic project in Europe after the Second World War, the EU has asked and wants Albania to be part, to give its modest contribution. With the Western Balkans in the EU, the latter, its member states will become and will be stronger players in the international arena. The expansion process must regain all the lost dynamism, the machinery must be restarted and set to motion,' concluded Mazi.

/Klara Ruci/