Joint press conference by Acting Minister Cakaj and the Czech counterpart Petříček

Speech by Acting Minister Gent Cakaj
Greetings to everyone!
First, a thank-you goes to Minister Petříček for his collegial and fully cooperative spirit.
As well as being evidence of the excellent relations established between the Republic of Albania and the Czech Republic, this meeting indeed heralds the opening of a new chapter of opportunities for cooperating in a number of areas, ranging from politics to economy.
Actually, the Czech Republic and Albania are strongly related to the Euro-Atlantic values.
The Czech Republic has been supportive of the path to Europe that Albania has walked, and together we are part of a number of security missions in the framework of cooperation within NATO.
My colleague Petříček and I spoke about the bilateral relations, insisting that our excellent political communication be translated into closer economic cooperation. I have expressed appreciation for the contribution made by the Czech Republic to the ‘100 villages’ Programme, and at the same time, we have underlined the need for more specific projects in agriculture and tourism, being conducive to an increased number of investors, as well as the development of all the economic indicators characteristic of our market.
Likewise, we spoke about the development across the region, the need for developing a solution to all our bilateral issues, and making an active contribution to stability and peace in the region, in relation to which Albania has continuously played its positive role.
We also spoke about Albania’s EU perspective and integration, and the need for having the accession negotiations open this coming June.
I am quite thankful to, and on behalf of the Albanian institutions, express appreciation for the support the Czech Republic has offered for negotiations to start this coming June.
We have embarked on the process relating to the analytical examination of the EU legislation. We have met all the Council’s requirements, and expect a positive recommendation to be written by the European Commission for launching the negotiations, and of course, we count on the Member States’ political support so as to make a reality of our project.
We also spoke about our multilateral commitments, putting a special focus on expertise sharing necessary for us to deliver on our commitments in chairing the OSCE in 2020. As you already know, we are now part of the Troika. We are committed to communicate with a number of States with a view to strengthening our technical expertise so that the Albanian Chairmanship of OSCE in 2020 is an indisputable success story.
Likewise, with reference to our more general and long-term commitments, we spoke about the need for supporting Albania’s nomination as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2022.
On this occasion, too, I would like to thank my friend and colleague Petříček for their unstinting support for Albania’s ambition to ensure its presence in the international organizations.
Once again, Minister, you are always welcome to Albania, and I remain hopeful that this positive atmosphere of the meeting will be translated into more constructive commitments, and into an approach of more intensive cooperation in the upcoming period.
Thank you very much! The floor is yours.
Speech by Minister Tomas Petříček
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first thank you for your hospitality.
I had a wonderful day in wonderful Tirana.
I am pleased to say that relations between the Czech Republic and Albania are excellent. Albania is an esteemed friend and partner in Europe, in NATO, and in the other organizations.
Alongside the excellent political cooperation, we are keen to see a closer economic cooperation between our two countries.
Last year saw a nearly 30-per cent expansion of our economic cooperation, and this is indicative of the great potential for closer economic cooperation in the future.
There has been great interest on our part in tourism in Albania. Additionally, Albania is becoming an increasingly popular destination, drawing Czech tourists, as well. I hope that this is going to continue.
Likewise, there is great potential for cooperation in the sector of agriculture, for instance, for investments in joint ventures, in agro-processing, and in citrus-fruit growing. These are the areas in which may expand our cooperation so as to achieve tangible results, as soon as possible.
We also spoke about the European integration issue, on which the Czech Republic has always given its support for the enlargement process. We consider the EU enlargement to be one of the greatest successes of the European Union, and of course, we support Albania’s ambition to have accession negotiations launched this coming June, and we will be supporting you before our partners in the European Union.
Regarding multilateral relations, the Czech Republic will cooperate with Albania in the framework of the OSCE.
Hence, we hope to strengthen cooperation in the area of security, and our cooperation as partners for common contribution to security and stability across Europe and the region.
Thank you so much for your attention.
I would like to finish by once again confirming that the Czech Republic is likewise willing to assist you with its experience gained from their accession negotiations in 2004.
This year we will also be celebrating the 15th anniversary of membership in the European Union, and hope that Albania will be a partner country, to us, in the European Union as of the moment it becomes part of it.
Thank you very much!
Questions asked by journalists
Question: Mr. Acting Minister Cakaj, the elections to the European Parliament will be held in May. Is there a risk that, due to these elections, decision on opening negotiations with Albania is put off to autumn, as the European Commissioner Hahn, too, declared a few days ago?
Second question: Yesterday, your Greek counterpart declared that the Maritime Border Agreement with Greece has been delayed due to the political situation. When are negotiations between Tirana and Athens due to start?
Answer by Acting Minister Cakaj: First, we do not have any institutional communication that the Council decision on opening negotiations in June will be postponed; on the contrary, in the Council’s last conclusions about enlargement it is underlined that a decision will be made in 2019. If, due to technical and internal reasons of the European Union, the decision on the possible launching of negotiations is put off, this is an issue on which I cannot make a comment now. However, what I can say is that, irrespective of the postponement of the publication of the Progress Report, due to the electoral situation in the European Union, we do not so far have any signals that such postponement will also be reflected in the postponement of the political decision on the possible start of negotiations.
What I can say about what concerns our challenge is for us to receive a positive recommendation from the Commission for the start of negotiations, and hope, and this is more important than the date of the decision, that the Member States’ willpower builds on the considerations given by the Commission.
With regard to the second question, we remain in the meantime committed to see settlement of all open issues in all the countries across the region, and further contribute to our policy of ‘0 problems’ with the neighbors, given that this is dictated by the regional interest, as well as the need for European integration.
Question for the Czech Minister: Last week you had a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and as far as I know, the Netherlands and France are the two countries, which are strongly against the accession of new member states to the European Union. Do you think that it is likely that the whole process for the accession of Albania, as well as of the other countries, will not be made possible?
Question for Acting Minister Cakaj: Do you think that here, in Albania, it is likely that, if the process stops, people will change their mind, and will be against accession to Europe, because they will be tired out from these very long negotiations?
Answer by the Czech Minister: First, the Czech Republic has always supported enlargement. Presently, it is supporting Albania and North Macedonia, as partner countries, with which we would like that negotiations on accession start. We supported this last year, as well, and I believe that in the June 2019 Council meeting we will succeed in having a consensus on the start of negotiations. I have spoken with a number of partners in the European Union about the accession negotiations.
I have tried to have them know the importance of a positive decision to the peoples of these countries, because there is considerable support by the population, both in Albania and North Macedonia, for integration in the European Union.
I believe that there are two aspects of enlargement on which we have to fulfill our promises. On the practical aspect, I have mentioned the fact that in recent years Albania has carried out a number of reforms, especially in the judiciary, and the tasks assigned to Albania have been accomplished for the most part. Therefore, the precondition for launching the negotiations has been met.
In addition, in April, I will be going on an official visit to France, and I will discuss with my French partner, as well. I am keen on creating a positive atmosphere for the June Council meeting, so that a positive decision on launching the negotiations is made.
Answer by Acting Minister Cakaj: Thank you very much for your question. First, a preliminary explanation, and perhaps it is too political. Here we are not talking about the accession of new members to the European Union, but, instead, about proceeding with the process of negotiations with the new members. This means that the European Union may have forms of how to gain strength from within, and in parallel, confirm to the new members its willingness to be enlarged.
The process of the start of negotiations is not an act of accession, but, actually, an expression of willingness to continue the reforms in the course of the accession process. Here I would like to point out that there are two factors: one factor concerns reforms in Albania, which are screened by the European Commission, and the other concerns the process of reforms across the European Union, which oftentimes impacts on the dynamics of enlargement, as well.
In recent times, it is perhaps typically being talked about tiredness due to enlargement; however, such tiredness due to enlargement of the European Union is in no way being manifested in any tiredness for the people of Albania and the Albanian institutions to take their reforms further ahead.
It is very important for us to carry on with the positive agenda concerning the reforms, and remain hopeful that the Members States of the European Union will respond positively to the progress made in Albania throughout this period. It is beyond any doubt that, despite dilemmas lasting but a moment and the occasional doubt, we remain the most pro-European community in the region, and we will continue to remain as such, translating such pro-Europe cooperation into a momentum and an opportunity for internal reforms, and a long-term commitment in order to join the European family.

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