After denying for half a year the reality of the five key priorities that have to be fulfilled in order to open EU accession negotiations with Albania, EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin has finally acknowledged in public what her colleagues in Brussels and Strasbourg have tried to communicate to Albania for months.
Responding to a question regarding the possible opening of accession negotiations during an interview with Deutsche Welle, Ambassador Vlahutin declared:
You know that we never speak about a precise timeline, but about what should be done for Albania has been explained in the decision of the European Commission. The recommendation for the opening of the negotiations depends on credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the judicial reform, especially the vetting of the judges as well as the five key priorities: the battle against corruption, organized crime, the empowerment of the judiciary, public administration, and the protection of human rights, including the Roma and anti-discrimination policies, as well as the implementation of property rights.
This is the first time that Ambassador Vlahutin takes away any uncertainty about the conditionality of the EU accession process for Albania. In December 2016 she still remained vague, suggesting that “[t]he five priorities will continue to remain with us until the end. […] So there needs to progress, a little bit but apparent.”
She also failed to correct Prime Minister Edi Rama when he openly declared:
Albania has today received a positive recommendation for the opening of the [EU accession] negotiations without conditions and only with the understanding, quite naturally, that until the moment we start working at the negotiation table, the implementation of the judicial reforms continues uninterruptedly.
It appears that Ambassador Vlahutin’s turn to clarity has been stimulated by a recent joint statement of the EU and EU member states, where the conditionality of the opening of EU accession talks with emphasized.
Meanwhile, MEP Knut Fleckenstein has declared that accession talks with Albania need to be opened this year.