Varhelyi and Borrell in Tirana; Rama: Not to “Golden Passports”, but to fiscal amnesty

15:35 16/03/2023

After the strong opposition encountered in Brussels by the Albanian government’s initiative for “Golden Passports”, Prime Minister Rama, alongside the high representative of the EC, Josef Borreli and the Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, guarantees that it will not advance.

Borrell: We had the opportunity to welcome Rama’s statement that the golden passport scheme will not be pursued further and we have also addressed other issues, especially the polarization of the political environment in the country.

Prime Minister Rama: We have suspended the process until the position is clarified at the European level. We didn’t invent this, we got it from EU countries that have implemented it successfully. There is a case in the European Court. We will no longer bring this initiative to the table without seeing how the case will end in the European Court. If the European Court will decide against golden passports, this is a closed issue. If the European Court decides in favor, then of course each country will make its own choicee.

As far as the criminal and fiscal amnesty is concerned, and this is an issue seen with skepticism by the EU, Rama admits that the recommendations of European experts are being included in the government’s draft.

“We talked about fiscal amnesty, which is another topic. Our position is known, we greatly appreciate the commitment of the Commission and the delegation to provide us with expertise”.

It will also proceed with the initiative to legalize medical cannabis.

“We have completed the entire consultation process for medical cannabis. So we will continue in the Parliament, being very clear that the issue is not how we write it, but how we implement it, and for this reason, all the elements of monitoring have been well thought out, but of course it will be judged in practice”.

The two high representatives of Brussels came to Tirana to participate in the 12th meeting of the Stabilization-Association Council, which for the first time is not held at the house of the EU, in Brussels.

Both see this as an assessment of Albania’s progress and make it clear that the full membership process is not a matter of dates but of completed reforms.

Borrell: I want to accept and appreciate that this country has shown maturity in all reforms, especially in justice which has moved forward. Albanian institutions must speed up reforms.

Varhelyi: For talks and membership, everything depends on how quickly the conditions for membership from Albania are met. We do not work with deadlines because the work in the field cannot be achieved. This is a chewing gum for public debate.

Rama is proud of the results of the Justice Reform that he has placed in the dock of the accused and convicted and people connected to power.

Always unsatisfied with the financial attention that the EU has for the Western Balkans, Rama asks for more, even though he is grateful that Commissioner Varhelyi today came with the good news of funding for the European College of Bruges that in September he announces that he will open applications for students in Tirana.

Varhelyi: I am proud to announce that we will start the admissions process as early as September of this year. We need college and we will provide the funding for it. In the second half of this year, we will have major developments for Albania’s future in the EU.

Borrell: We need to urgently mobilize 80 million Euros of concrete support in the field of energy. It has been signed and this money will be made available very soon. It’s good to know that we can count on our partners.

Neither of the two senior EU officials agrees to comment on the political developments in Tirana as they see it as an internal matter.

Borrell: As for the elections, I believe it is not my place to comment. I believe that I am fully convinced that these legal issues belong to the Albanian state.

Prime Rama: It needs to be told to you. In Albania, we have always wanted to know what they think in Istanbul, Moscow and Beijing, now also in Brussels. You should say what you think.

Borrell: We believe that the elections are held according to international standards.

Asked if the European Union has in its plans a practice similar to the USA and Britain for declaring Sali Berisha non grata, Borrell denies it.

“From our point of view, the only thing we can say is that we take the decisions on the sanctions of the Council and these are part of the foreign and security policy, but as far as I know, I do not have any information on the proposal for sanctions on Albanian citizens”.

The high representative of the European Commission also spoke optimistically about reaching an agreement between Pristina and Belgrade at the next meeting this week of leaders Kurti and Vucic.