Tirana, Albania, Apr 23 (Tirana Echo) – Belgian prime minister Charles Michel told his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama in Tirana today that his country will decide in June on EU accession talks with the small Balkan country, while urging Albania to do more on curbing illegal migration.
Migration, asylum seekers and EU agenda were top of the discussion agenda, according to Michel’s official website.
“We have agreed to keep a close dialogue with PM Rama to encourage developments on the decision to be taken in June. I cannot tell our official decision at this point, but Belgium will express itself in June.” – said Charles Michel during a press conference with Edi Rama this morning in Tirana.
Michel referred to the positive recommendation by the European Commission on opening accession talks with Albania. The final decision rests with EU member states during their upcoming European Council meeting in June.
Albanian prime minister Edi Rama said “Albania deserves a positive decision on opening accession talks. We are naturally conscious that accession talks are not the end of our efforts, but the beginning of a new phase of long work. We are confident that during such efforts we will have the support of Belgium and other European partners.”
Rama and Michel talked also on migration issues where Belgium is particularly sensitive, given the illegal migration of Albanian national to EU countries and the large Albanian community in Belgium.
Last week, Belgian Secretary for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken said in Tirana that the number of Albanian asylum seekers in the EU member countries has been falling. Meeting with Albanian deputy Interior minister Rovena Voda, he said that both sides will collaborate in order to address a number of issues that concern the two countries, but mainly concerning illegal migration and asylum seekers.
Although the Albanian prime minister Rama did not talk about migration, his Belgian guest did not skip the hot topic of bilateral relations.
“We have also talked about an important challenge in our bilateral relations, important also for the EU, which is the issue of emigration and our partnership in migration issues. I want to emphasize that the efforts made under the authority of PM Rama to have a qualitative and sincere partnership over migration, are appreciated. Belgium considers Albania a safe country of origin and it is important to work together in giving encouraging messages to stop any forms of illegal migration,” said Michel during his press conference.
The statement confirms previous requests by Belgium over a tougher stance by Albanian authorities to crack down on criminal gangs involved in illegal smuggling of human beings.
The latest Eurostat data show that during 2017, Albanians still remained high on asylum seeking applications, with France taking over Germany with the highest asylum request rate of Albanians in Europe. Last June 31 Albanians were repatriated from France and Belgium to Tirana with several other flights continuing from other EU states. During 2016 alone, around 50,000 Albanians sought asylum in Germany, most fleeing poverty and lack of work in their homeland.
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