Press Conference of Prime Minister Edi Rama and ambassador of the European Union to Tirana, Romana Vlahutin, after submission of the Progress Report on Albania:

EC progress report, appreciation for reforms. Ready to go on with integration reforms:


I was pleased to meet the Ambassador of the European Union who submitted me the European Commission Progress report on Albania for this year, assessing the reforms carried out over a year. According to the new assessment methodology applied for the first time this year, the report assesses also the readiness of the countries, and in this case of our country, for membership.

From a synthetic point of view, I would like to underline that as far as the political criteria is concerned, the report appreciates the willingness and continuation of efforts to undertake and implement reforms.

For us it is clear, and this progress report confirms it that the road to launching negotiations passes through judicial reform, which remains today the greatest challenge not only of this the ruling majority, but of the Albanian society and of our state on the road towards accession to the European Union.

Therefore, I believe that both for its importance and complexity, it deserves to be addressed firstly as a finding on priority two which assesses the good performance in the preparation of judicial reform and the commitment to provide a comprehensive and deep reform. I underlined this for all those who intend to say the opposite and are actually missing in this national call to implement this reform of national and historic importance for our country.

The progress report recommends as a priority the timely completion of the comprehensive reform in justice, which means, in my view, that if the reform in justice is concluded without wasting valuable time and is addressed vigorously in the coming months, then our road to negotiations is open.

On the other hand, the progress report makes clear that this is closely related to the consolidation of the results, where a special emphasis is put on investigations, judgments and penalties, i.e. the whole of the judiciary chain in Albania.

As far as we are concerned, we look neither at this reform nor at any other reform we have undertaken as a task imposed to us by Brussels, but as a task we have to accomplish for our children, for the next generation, who cannot inherit a rotten judicial power, the corruption of which has repercussions in every sphere of life in the country.

With regard to the other priorities, the Commission has positively assessed the reforms undertaken. We are happy about this fact, but our attention, our will and our determination to advance all these reforms is our choice, not an imposition of Brussels or of anybody else.

Going back to the first priority - I started with second priority, because it emphasizes the key to the process which is justice reform - we note that our commitment to close an era in a discredited, unprofessional, politicized and corrupted administration, and to and open the era of building a professional and independent administration has been clearly appreciated in this report, where the good performance and the solid reform of the public administration reform have been underlined. This actually makes of this priority, the highest rating priority, in addition to rejecting all accusations and systematic slanders in this direction.

However, we are far from being satisfied with the way the public administration works today, and our ambition is to have this administration prepared, qualitatively increased, so that it can both cope with the paramount necessity of Albanian citizens to have a worthy service by the public administration of this country, and face successfully the not easy process of negotiations with the European Union.

With regard to the third priority, the report assesses the progress made so far with the anti-corruption measures. But we are fully aware that anti-corruption policies, as well as the implementation of the reform and anti-corruption measures require results related once again to the investigation, trial and punishment at all levels, which takes us back to the key word related first of all with justice reform.

The implementation of judicial reform will open a completely new stage, creating the conditions to have reliable and qualitative investigations, fair trials and sentences deserved at all levels, and particularly at senior levels.

There is an assessment for the fourth priority which I want to emphasize, because here I see a clear and meaningful answer to every accusation and systematic slander against the State Police and against the achievements in combating organized crime, and as the report underlines, especially in the attack to drug trafficking. But even here, we are rightfully required to go further in order to have consistent results in the investigation, trial and punishment. So, once again we go back to the key word, justice reform, as a precondition to ensure stability and progress in all aspects of state-building and the consolidation of the rule of law in Albania.

With regard to the fifth priority, the report assesses the legislative standard for the protection of fundamental rights as broadly in line with European standards, but has noted for the umpteenth time in over umpteenth years the need to address the property issue. This government is proud to be the first to address this issue, the same way as we have addressed every problem inherent in every sector, with vision, determination and justice.

The property reform has been submitted to the parliament. Its conclusion in time will mark a clear separation from the past, which has left on our shoulders mountains of files for trial in the Court of Strasbourg who has been sending us for years hefty invoices, which are costs that Albanian taxpayers have to pay on behalf of the short-sighted policies and governments without vision, without will and without any sense of justice we had until June 2013.

As far as freedom of expression is concerned, the positive performance of last year continues constantly and uniformly, but we are rightfully required to put more attention to it in order to ensure the independence of the regulatory authority and of the public broadcaster. A public broadcaster or a channel of public information, which is hostage to the past and to the inertia of the past, which we have accepted on behalf of the demand for consensus, is seen today as a real obstacle, and we cannot talk today about the scandalous conditions of the ART. We will act immediately and appropriately.

I won’t dwell on our foreign policy, security and defence, which continue to be highly rated and in line with European Union requirements. In fact, we see this as a unification with the EU, in a framework of values and standards with which Albania has been identified since a long time. Our role in regional cooperation is an important point of reference and partnership with the European Union.

We see with pleasure that the report has assesses positively the situation of the country in terms of macroeconomic stability, and in particular the operation against informality and reforming the tax system, which are two very important aspects of the hard, tenacious and still unfinished work that we have done.

We are aware and committed to addressing the issue of public debt, and to continue making progress in the field of energy. In both these aspects we have undertaken deep and bold reforms, which fortunately have been supported by the public, although usually depicted by the "media swamps" of those who have a direct interest and who are directly affected in their interests by these reforms.

The joint conference with the IMF finished a few minutes ago. The agreement signed to continue the program with the IMF is the most obvious and meaningful answer to all those who know only way of mudslinging, slander and accusations, whether related to income, or related to taxes, investments, debt or economic growth.

These last days, starting from mid of last week until today, have not been very positive for the economy. On one hand we have issued a Eurobond and have received a response beyond expectations by the international financial markets, as result of the confidence that Albania has created in these markets, with these reforms.

The Eurobond has enormously facilitated our position to continue with reforms. On the other hand we have a deal with the IMF – contrary to the slanders, accusations and mudslinging that those of the "media swamps" have been saying for many days - without tax increases, but, on the contrary, with tax breaks for a certain number of businesses that are the lowest part of the whole pyramid of contributors, without reduction of public investments, i.e. without touching the capital, in addition to continuing gradually the reduction of debt and improving drastically the deficit, which is not very sensitive or vulnerable to the public, but it is important for the macroeconomic stability.

We are not a country that is negotiating with the European Union, but suffice it to have a look at the progress report on the region and see a very simple example. Albania is on the same level. So, given that it is only a candidate country, despite the priorities and data given by this report, it cannot result as it might result. If others have opened negotiations for membership, they are not any centimetre ahead of us, but we are on the same level, with the only difference that our justice reform is in the embryonic stage. We need to move forward with it, pass it, and then there is no doubt that we will open for ourselves, we will open for our children, the path of negotiations in the European Union.


EU ambassador, Romana Vlahutin: 


Hello! I was pleased to give the Prime Minister the 2015 report on Albania, which was adopted earlier today.

The European Commission is very grateful to the authorities and all citizens of Albania for the contribution they have given to the process. I want to thank you because you have followed the process so well and still continue to follow it.

If I had to sum up the report with a phrase, I would say something that you have heard from Commissioner Hahn - this is a very stable progress Albania that has made with regard to the key priorities that will lead to the opening of negotiations for membership.

There has been no pause, there has been no going back on the efforts made to implement the reform agenda for the EU, and we congratulate you on this commitment.

A series of reforms have been undertaken, which are still continuing. This is a very demanding and comprehensive process, and we still have some very serious challenges ahead.

In terms of positive developments, I would like to mention some of them, such as the progress made in public administration, the adoption of new territorial and administrative division, the decentralization strategy, the approval of the strategic framework and action plan for the fight against corruption, good international cooperation in the fight against drugs and drug trafficking, reform for public financial management, energy market regulation, actions taken against informality.

The report clearly recognizes the significant progress made by Albania in regional terms, on education, transport, energy and infrastructure. Also progress is seen in the improvement of economic growth and macroeconomic stability. Inflation has remained low.

I would like to emphasize the fact that we highly appreciate the consistent support of Albania and Albania’s rapprochement to the EU in terms of foreign policy and security in the EU. We see Albania as a strong partner for us.

This report shows clearly that the most important thing is to reform the judiciary. If the list of challenges is read carefully, it is clear that the majority of the key priorities has to do with the rule of law and with the functioning of law and of the judicial system. Special importance is given to the need to have a reliable history that means investigation, prosecution and of course punishment of those who deal with organized crime and corruption at all levels.

Priorities regarding the future have been clearly identified. As I mentioned, it is the successful adoption of the whole package of the judicial reform, and it will be key to a positive opinion on the opening of negotiations in the future, of course, in addition to having a stable history. Secondly, it is the full implementation of the civil service legislation and of course a strengthened management of public finances. Thirdly, a more systematic approach to the protection of fundamental rights, especially those related to domestic violence, to the criminal system, the protection of Roma children, and of special importance is the regulation of property rights.

In addition to the 5 key priorities, it is very important to conclude the adoption of legislation that has to do with the integrity of persons or individuals seeking to hold a public office, and you need to make sure that you will follow all the recommendations of the OSCE / ODIHR on elections. With regard to economic governance, a great work must be done for fiscal consolidation for the business climate and in formal economy. As I said, we have seen everything you have done and we support you in this regard.

Also, in order to improve the competitiveness of Albania, very important investments must be done in human and physical capital. You are not alone in this. You should know that the EU has substantial IPA funds to help.

We hope that this report will serve as a useful tool to measure the required progress on the path towards the EU. This is an ongoing job, but the ultimate goal is clear, the objective is that Albanian citizens are required to have European standards for their future in the European Union. For this, some key and difficult decisions are required in the future, but also great responsibility of all those who participate in the decision making process.

Overall, this is a good report, much has been done, and much remains to be done, so let's move forward now and pass to the next stage.

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