By Plator Nesturi
The long process for the opening of the negotiations with the EU continues. Until the Sofia summit, which will discuss the future of the Western Balkan countries, we’re expecting to see many intensive developments which will determine further progress. For Albania, there are still obstacles, which are not caused by Brussels, but by individual EU member countries, where France and Germany will have the last say. Nevertheless, it is now clear who is in favor and who is not. The EU president Tusk arrives today in Tirana. Tusk will hold a tour in Balkan countries, like Mogherini did a week ago. Tusk’s stance will not come as a surprise. The president of the European Council backs the decision of the European Commission to recommend the opening of accession talks for Albania and Macedonia. Meanwhile, we have also seen the German MP, Krishbaun, who is the chairman of the parliamentary committee for integration in the German parliament, emerge. Krishbaun is of the opinion that it’s still early to open negotiation talks with Albania and that the recommendation given by the European Commission is not enough. Nevertheless, Merkel will decide for this. This is the reason why PM Rama will travel to Berlin on Thursday to discuss on this issue along with the German chancellor.
It’s hard to predict Albania’s progress in the process of negotiations. Krishbaun MP points out the high level of crime and corruption. According to him, there should be an assessment of the measures taken by the Albanian government on the recommendations made by the EU and Germany before. His stance prompted much debate in the Albanian media and a cause for political accusations. PM Edi Rama accuses Basha of having used his influence to damage the country’s interests.
Moving on, besides demands to assess the achievements that Albania has made to deserve the opening of negotiations, there are also stances that are driven by the skepticism of enlargement. A clear example for this was the French president Macron, who made it clear that there needs to be an internal reformation of the EU before it is enlarged. This was reflected by yesterday’s decision to change the scheme of financing for particular countries. Thus, the countries of Eastern Europe who used to benefit a fund, which they spent to bring their standards closer to the older members of the EU, will see a shrinking of these funds. The level of GDP for each country will no longer be considered when allocating the funds. Instead, they will be assessed based on the problems that they have, the level of unemployment and the measures that they take to improve their economies. This way, an important part of the funds that were going to be allocated for Eastern European countries, will now be allocated for Italy, Greece, Spain and the south of France. These changes represent a negative sign of what we are expecting to see. The EU countries don’t seem to want to spend more money for other countries in the process of enlargement, but they will focus, first of all, in the improvement of their economies. This skepticism that follows the damage caused by the economic crisis, Brexit, but also rumors to reform the EU structures, comes at an inappropriate moment for our expectations.
What’s happening within the EU and the relations that the EU has with some of its member countries, are not like they used to be. Many member countries have lost faith on Brussels’ bureaucracy and this has also been reflected on the elections which have taken place in many countries and the new political configurations that have been shaped. All of these have led to positions which have not always been in harmony with the position taken by the EU’s leadership.
All of these years, most senior EU officials have been focused on the countries of Western Balkans and they have continued to insist on the enlargement of the Union, despite the protest of individual countries.
All of these differences that exist in the position taken by EU officials and individual states are known, therefore we need to wait and see if the Commission’s recommendation for the opening of negotiations will be accepted or whether accusations will once again be addressed against Albania and Macedonia that there’s still a lot to improve in order for them to move on to the next level. At the end of the day, these are the countries that will decide. The European Commission only offers a positive recommendation.
However, the progress that we make as a state should not be made for the sake of the international community and for the sake of obtaining a positive recommendation. First of all, this progress is something which should be felt by Albanians. The success should be measured, first of all, by the country’s economy, the drop of unemployment and the improvement of living standards, with institutions that serve the citizens and with a justice system that functions.
The opening of negotiations still remains a rebus. Of course it is welcome, but we should be aware of the fact that this will not be an easy test. First of all, we need to be clear on the fact that we have not done a lot to catch up with EU standards and secondly, we should also be clear of the current situation surrounding the EU. Nevertheless, the result will still have an impact on internal developments.