During his stay in Tirana, the High Representative of the European Commission, Josep Borrell had the opportunity to give an interview to TV Klan.
Borrell guarantees that the screening process will be completed within a few weeks and he says that within this year Albania will negotiate the first chapters with the EU, chapters related to justice and security.
He refuses to speak about political developments in the country, but as far as the elections are concerned, he thinks that they should definitely meet the standards to be certified.
The High Representative of the EC denies that the financial support for Serbia is greater than that for our country and supports this in numbers.
Elja Zotka: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview together and why the time is so short. You gave some answers in the press conference, but I believe that there are still issues for which you can give an answer to the Albanian public. The first question is related to the integration process. You certainly cannot give a date when Albania can finally join, but you can give an answer, I believe, when Albania can open its first chapters? How do you see the progress of the screening process?
Josep Borrell: It is clear that the decision to open negotiations that was taken last July has given new momentum and impetus to the accession process. Now is the screening process, which tries to identify which are the specific policy areas where work should start. It is a matter of days or weeks, very soon, when this review process will end and the member states will decide from which chapters, we call them chapters, or political areas, the negotiation will start.
Elja Zotka: Within this year?
Josep Borrell: Sure.
Elja Zotka: Of course, you clearly said at the press conference that you don’t want to comment on the political developments in our country, but I want to ask you, is Brussels concerned that this is exactly the situation that the largest party in the opposition is going through, and makes democracy in Albania more fragile?
Josep Borrell: Look, you understand that they have to be very careful when they have to comment on internal political dimensions or processes, especially the legal dimension. I hope, and I am sure, that Albania has the capacities and resources to conduct the next elections in accordance with the highest international standards.
Elja Zotka: The European Union is one of the biggest financiers of the Justice Reform. Even in the press conference it was mentioned, the results it has given, high exponents connected to the government are already in front of justice, but I wanted to know, in fact, with a series of accusations that the opposition in Albania accuses SPAK, that is a special structure for the investigation of high officials, which is dictated by Prime Minister Rama. Likewise, such an accusation also comes about the judiciary, but from the opposition that it is influenced, and this has also been shown in the decision-making on the internal issue for the largest opposition party in the country, for PD?
Josep Borrell: What I can tell you is that in the field of justice, Albania has made excellent progress. Everything related to the Justice Reform is progressing rapidly and well. This is one of the chapters of reforms where Albania has achieved very good results. I don’t know about specific cases, but in general the Reform of Justice, the independence of the judiciary is one of the areas where Albania is doing very well.
Elja Zotka: There are two other issues that were more or less touched upon in your statements with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister gave you a guarantee that he will not advance with the golden passport project, while he thanked you for the recommendations that the EU Office in Tirana has given for the fiscal and criminal amnesty. I wanted to know if the Albanian government, until now Mr. Rama stated that he has reflected on these recommendations and they have been taken into account, if there will be a draft, which will not receive the approval of the EU and the government will advance with the draft its fiscal amnesty. What will be the position of the European Union?
Josep Borrell: We heard from the prime minister that he has finally abandoned the issue of golden passports, something that we as the European Union advised him not to continue doing. Some member states have done it, but we have considered this as a practice that should not be continued and we are happy to learn that Albania will not do such a thing that has been done in member states before. As for the fiscal amnesty and the fiscal procedure, I was Secretary of State for taxes in Spain and I know it, I know that it is something that appears from time to time and we think that this practice should be treated very carefully. We have talked with the Albanian authorities in order to examine why and how this can be implemented. We hope that whatever decision is made will be consistent with our practices and in particular with the international rules governing these types of proceedings. It’s very sensitive and we hope that everything is done very much in line with how we understand it.
Elja Zotka: Last question. There is a general perception of the Albanian public that Brussels holds the summits in Tirana, as it did the last summit in December, but takes the finances to Belgrade, takes them to Serbia. Is there a difference in EU financial support between Albania and Serbia? They are more inclined to support more projects in Belgrade than in Tirana…
Josep Borrell: Look, if I know the numbers well, I’m answering this question by heart. In 2007, the amount of financial support for Albania from the European Union was around 1.5 billion. So, we are by far the biggest supporters of Albania. And in these difficult times when the consequences of the shock of Russia’s war against Ukraine are affecting everyone around the world, especially the Western Balkans and especially in the field of energy, we are offering a great support to Albania. Just today we announced that 19 million Euros have been promised and more will follow. Therefore, I think that the European Union should be recognized as the most powerful financial supporter of Albania for many years.
Interviewed by: TV Klan journalist, Elja Zotka