Germany, EU call on Albania to continue reform progress

Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, right, welcomes, his German counterpart Heiko Maas during their meeting in Tirana, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Hektor Pustina)

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister on Wednesday called on Albania to work hard on its reforms so as to convince all European Union members to launch membership negotiations next year.

Heiko Maas, visiting Albania’s capital, said that the EU members have made it clear that the target of June 2019 does not mean talks will automatically start then.

In June this year the bloc’s member states agreed to open membership talks with Albania and Macedonia next year if the two nations continue with reform progress.

Maas said that the bloc needs to see concrete results in the consolidation of the rule of law and independence of the justice system.

“The criteria are clear: there should be steps taken for other results on reforms to convince the skeptics in that process,” Maas said at a news conference.

“I am optimistic we will move ahead,” he said, stressing that Germany and other EU members consider European prospects for the Western Balkan countries “not only real but also necessary.”

His Albanian counterpart, Ditmir Bushati, said the country already has started the process with Brussels and added that he considers Germany’s assistance as “precious, irreplaceable.”

Maas considered Albania’s vetting of judges and prosecutors “a giant … achievement that sets criteria beyond your country.”

“We are aware that the process of reforms is painful and will run into obstacles. But it will be worth it for everyone at the end of the day and the prospects of membership are nearer than ever. I do hope we shall reach it together,” Maas said.


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