German ruling coalition to decide on accession talks with Albania only after Commission progress report is published

Berlin, Germany | 02 Apr 2019 (Tirana Echo) – Germany’s ruling CDU/CSU conservative coalition will decide on EU membership talks with Albania only after the European Commission publishes its progress report later this spring, despite the party stance against further enlargement of the union.

The statement has been made by the new CDU/CSU Rapporteur on Albania to the German Bundestag Katrin Staffler, who sits on the Bundestag Committee on European Affairs and comes as Albania celebrates 10 years of signing a Stabilization Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU.

Staffler told Deutsche Welle in an interview that despite a recommendation by the Commission last year to start accession talks with Albania, the small Balkan country still has a lot to get fixed before it can be ready to enter the EU.

We have to wait for the new progress report by the Commission before we can make any premature promises, and then we can decide. The EU is above all a congregation of basic common values such as rule of law, fight against corruption and some basic rights we guarantee to our people. I believe that as long as we don’t see progress in such areas, we should not talk of a timeframe and we should make no promises for accession talks.” said Staffler.

The new Rapporteur on Albania to the Bundestag said the new reform of the justice system in Albania has advanced, however, the new vacancies must be filled with competent people.

Despite the principled position of the ruling CDU/CSU coalition against any further enlargement of the European Union for the next 5 years, Staffler said in principle, her coalition sees Albania “in the European Union, if it fulfills the conditions.”

Since February, Albania has been crippled by political crisis and weekly protests called by opposition parties, which have withdrawn their 56 MPs from Parliament, in an unprecedented move which has prompted the Central Elections Commission to fill the vacated seats with candidates from electoral lists who break party ranks.

Opposition Democratic Party and the Socialist Movement for Integration accuse the ruling socialist PM Edi Rama of corruption and links to organized crime, and demand his resignation and the establishment of a technical government which will take the country to early elections.

However, PM Rama has refused to stand down, arguing the opposition is scared of the justice reform which is expected to send several corrupt politicians behind bars.

Following the unprecedented decision by opposition parties to abandon parliament, which may take the small Balkan country into an unknown spiraling political crisis, the United States and the European Union called on individual opposition MPs to reject their party leadership line arguing the extreme decision would “undermine the basic principles of democracy and subvert the important progress Albania has achieved on rule of law and responsible governance.”

European Union leaders agreed last June to start membership talks with Albania and Macedonia within 2019 if both small Balkan nations show substantial progress in their crucial rule of law reforms under way.

While Macedonia has agreed to an historic name change deal with Greece into ‘North Macedonia’ opening the path for NATO membership and accession talks with Brussels, it is yet unclear whether member states will agree to formally opening accession negotiations with Albania which needs to get its act together in fighting endemic corruption and political links to organized crime.

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