Former Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati considers a meaningless excitement the debate on the 15 conditions for Albania’s path towards EU, which were set out through the resolution approved by various parliamentary groups in the European Parliament.
According to Bushati, Albania will have democratic conditions throughout the period it will negotiate with the European Union, until it becomes a full member. But for the development of the First Intergovernmental Conference with the EU, according to the former minister, certain conditions must be met, such as Electoral Reform, the functioning of the Constitutional Court, the High Court, the review of media legislation in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, reduction of the phenomenon of asylum seekers, progress and functioning of specialized structures in the fight against corruption and organized crime. According to him, Albania should draft an action plan for the fulfillment of the above tasks.
“There is an incomprehensible excitement about the Resolution adopted by the European Parliament, which emphasizes the fulfillment by Albania of the 15 conditions set by the Council of the European Union before the Intergovernmental Conference. The same can be said for the debate on Albania in the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs.
It must be said that every member of parliament or political group in the European Parliament has the right to make a political assessment of Albania. But, in the legal sense, the European Parliament has no competence to determine and enumerate a list of conditions or homework for the start of negotiations. This is a competence of the EU member states, which decide unanimously on the proposal of the European Commission. The European Parliament has several times adopted Resolutions in support of the visa liberalization process with Kosovo, but EU member states still have not made a final decision.
In the case of Albania’s accession, the European Parliament will have its say at the time of the review of the Accession Treaty, as it has said in the case of the review of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Of course, the concerns raised by MEPs should be clarified and addressed in a state, diplomatic and parliamentary way.
If our political groups do not “export” the politics of the day to the respective political groups in the European Parliament, a good part of these concerns are easily addressed. This lesson, unlike us, some countries in the region have learned over time. Because unlike the European Commission and member states, MEPs do not have expert groups to verify field reforms. Well, the point is elsewhere. Therefore, we should not confuse the order and role of any European institution in the process of Albania’s EU membership, with the continuation of the fulfillment of homework.
The start of the negotiations is preceded by the preparation from the European Commission and the approval by the EU member states of the “Negotiating Framework”. This document sets out the principles, essence and procedures on which the whole process will take place. The member states have defined a catalog with several tasks, whose the way of addressing by Albania should be reflected in the document of the “Negotiating Framework”. While the Commission will interact with member states to approve this important document, we should not wait. But we must also prepare our negotiating framework, which will serve as a guiding platform in this process, accompanied by the strengthening of administrative and financial capacities. In this document, we need to address both the main concerns and the tasks imposed by the EU member states, proving responsibility, political will and clarity on the difficult path of reforms we need to undertake. This document must undergo a real political and social consultation and discussion.
The First Intergovernmental Conference, which symbolizes the start of the process, will serve as a platform of confrontation between the two “Negotiating Frames”, that of the EU and Albania. The First Intergovernmental Conference is related to the fulfillment of some tasks imposed by the EU member states on Albania. Duties related to Electoral Reform, the functioning of the Constitutional Court, the high Court, the revision of media legislation in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the reduction of the asylum phenomenon, the progress and functioning of specialized structures in the fight against corruption and organized crime. The European Commission will report to the Member States again on the fulfillment of these tasks. We need an action plan for the fulfillment of the above tasks. The plan should be public, address the institutional responsibility of the actors involved in the process, and be timely.
The next stage is the review of the compliance of legislation and institutional framework, where Albania will present plans to achieve compliance progressively. Once this review (‘bilateral screening’) has taken place, the European Commission shall prepare a review report for each cluster, which assesses the state of the legal order compared to that of the EU, the level and plans for full compliance, such as administrative capacity and institutional framework. The European Commission presents to EU member states what is otherwise known as the “screening report”. If member states consider that Albania is not ready to take on the commitments stemming from the negotiating chapter, they set certain conditions to be met for the opening of the chapter. In this case, the Commission must again present to the EU member states a report on the fulfillment of the preconditions for the opening of capital negotiations. After reviewing and approving the report by the member states, Albania is invited to present the negotiating position for the chapter. Meanwhile, member states approve the EU’s negotiating position for the chapter.
Only after the exhaustion of the above steps is the Intergovernmental Conference on Opening the Chapter held, where the parties confront their negotiating positions. If in the EU negotiating position for the chapter it is specified that the level of Albania’s compliance with the European standard (‘acquis’) is satisfactory and that it is not necessary to conduct further negotiations, then the negotiations for the chapter are temporarily closed. Practice shows that in most cases, the EU sets out certain conditions that must be met by the candidate country in order for the negotiations to be considered closed. In this case, the same procedure and scheme of cooperation is repeated, as in the conditions for the opening of the chapter, between Albania, on the one hand, and the European Commission of the member states, on the other hand. Also, the closing of each chapter is done through the organization of the Intergovernmental Conference.
Negotiations conclude with an agreement between Albania and the EU on all chapters. Until such a thing is formally declared by the leaders of the EU member states, it is possible to reopen the chapters in cases when the undertaken commitments are not fulfilled, as the whole negotiation process takes place on the basis of the principle “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”. With the closing of the negotiations, the possible date of accession to the EU is set.
After the closing of the negotiations, the Treaty of Accession is signed by the parties. The Accession Treaty will have to be ratified by the Albanian Parliament, the European Parliament and all national parliaments of the EU member states. As there are countries that submit the Treaty of Accession to the popular referendum, the practice so far shows that the candidate country does the same.
After the ratification procedures are completed, the country officially becomes a member of the EU.
I hope that the above explanation will help to some extent to understand that democratic conditioning will accompany us at every step of the European integration process. For example, Montenegro began negotiations with the EU in 2012 and has temporarily closed only 3 chapters in 8 years. Serbia began negotiations with the EU in 2014 and has temporarily closed only 2 chapters in 6 years. The limited progress on reforms on the one hand, and the lack of optimism about the enlargement process on the other, speak clearly.
With the newly approved methodology, in case of non-compliance with the standards, the process can freeze, return to the starting point and the funds allocated by the EU can be suspended. We must not feed on any illusions that the EU membership process will be easy. Every step we take requires consensus from EU member states. Therefore, we cannot claim quality and pace of reforms without political cooperation and institutional understanding.
We need to get out of the labyrinth of self-deception that does not produce tangible results and each of us contribute according to the responsibility that belongs to us, for a Pact for Europe, where we define once and for all the pillars and rules of political behavior for this vital process for the fate of country. We need ownership for reforms!/ibna