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02/03/2003 | CACTUS
This is a press release from the European Commission
Ceci est un communiqué de presse de la Commission Européenne
Romano Prodi
President of the European Commission
Albania's European destiny

Abanian Parliament
Tirana, 31 January 2003
Honourable Members,
It gives me great pleasure to be here in Tirana again and I thank you for
giving me the chance to address you.
Today is a very special day. After discussions lasting almost a year, we
have officially opened negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association
Agreement between the European Union and Albania.
The official opening ceremony has just taken place and we have agreed that
the first round of talks will take place on 13 February.
As you know, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement is the first step
down the road to Albania becoming a full member of the European Union.
Under the terms of this Agreement the parties undertake to put a series of
principles into practice. These range from respect for human rights to the
establishment of a democratic system based on the rule of law and its
observance, from the completion of a market economy to the fight against
organised crime and unlawful trafficking.
So this Agreement signals a major commitment for Albania, for its
institutions -- particularly its Government and Parliament -- and for its
people.
It is therefore up to all of you to support and maintain an undertaking that
must be shared and supported by all the political forces.
At the same time, you have before you a real opportunity to become part of
the Union. Europe will react to your efforts intelligently and generously.
Last Tuesday the Council held a keynote debate on the development of
relations between the European Union and the Balkans. I received a strong
and clear signal there from Europe's Ministers: the Balkans are an integral
part of Europe and the process of unifying our continent will be complete
only when the Balkan countries have become part of the Union.
You must now look ahead with confidence. You must lay the foundations and
create the basis for your future now. That future is not far off. It will
draw closer as you step up your determination and commitment to completing
the catalogue of reforms we have drawn up together.
A shared agenda for European integration
Historically and politically, Europe is now entering a new era.
The euro has just celebrated its first year of existence. And despite the
scepticism that greeted its birth in many quarters, everyone can see it has
become a fact of life. The vision of 12 countries in central, eastern and
southern Europe joining the Union has become reality. In Copenhagen last
December it was decided -- and, I must say, it was an historic decision --
to create a single Europe. We are now working to produce a constitution for
the new Union.
As I have just emphasised, this picture would be incomplete without the
Balkans.
>From the outset, the objective of European integration has always been to
encourage the institutions and policies of the participating States to
embrace shared values of freedom, security, justice and democracy.
At this point, I particularly want to stress the importance of commitment
and cooperation in justice and home affairs. This means Europe-wide
cooperation in police and judicial matters, on border controls and
migration. Cooperation in the fight against organised crime, trafficking in
drugs and human beings and money laundering is now a top priority for the
Union.
This becomes all the more crucial for our countries as we dismantle our
internal borders and freedom of movement becomes a reality where once it was
an abstract principle.
I stress this point because, unfortunately, in Albania these are still acute
problems. Together we must seize the initiative and set about solving them
with determination and commitment.
I personally believe that the Albanian people and their institutions will
meet this challenge successfully and will bring European standards to their
country. Commitment, determination, patience and realism are the
cornerstones of the strategy. And Europe will be at your side, with help,
support, advice and encouragement.
A regional process
The theoretical and practical objective of Europe's policy is the gradual
integration of the Balkans in the European area, as was formally confirmed
at Zagreb in November 2000.
The guiding principle is both simple and compelling. European integration --
with the countries in the area joining the Union -- is a shared political
objective and the Union undertakes to support and sustain this process by
encouraging political, social and economic reform in these countries.
One of the primary political objectives is to maintain a regional reference
framework within which the process can be supported. There are many ways in
which the destinies of the countries in the region are linked and
interdependent. The maintenance of the regional framework is the key to
preventing the new borders -- and here I am thinking particularly of the
countries of the former Yugoslavia -- from becoming new walls or fomenting
new tensions.
The overcoming of age-long divisions provides the momentum for the process
of European integration. I am always moved when I recall the image of the
French President François Mitterrand and the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
standing hand-in-hand at Verdun. That image sends out an extraordinary
message: Never again shall there be war between us. Never again shall war
drench the continent of Europe in blood.
At this point I would like to pay tribute to the vital role Albania has
played and is continuing to play, mediating and supporting regional
stabilisation with a great sense of responsibility.
This regional framework does not mean that Europe will open its gates only
when all the countries are ready to enter. Each country will be assessed on
the basis of the progress it has made, its respect for the political
criteria laid down at Copenhagen and its capacity to assimilate and
effectively apply Community law.
For this reason I urge you to be resolute on your journey down the road to
reform.
A strengthened partnership
The Albanian Parliament can and must play a central role during this
journey. The responsibility for transforming this country into a functioning
democracy, for developing a constructive attitude towards the great issues
of European integration and for identifying areas of real national interest
rests primarily with you.
I have already said this once but I will say it again. The Union will be at
your side. Today and in the future, dialogue must pave the way for
developing a closer, more transparent and more reliable partnership.
You should be fully aware that timescales and methods to be adopted for
integration are in your hands: ownership and responsibility are the key
words.
All the other countries shortly to become full members of the Union have
travelled down this road. There are no short cuts.
For our part, in the months to come we will try to make the best possible
use of the instruments that exist to assist the process of stabilisation and
association. If necessary we will of course fine-tune these instruments to
make them more efficient and responsive to the needs -- those needs we will
identify together in a joint workplan based on a common agenda.
And the success that I am sure will crown these efforts will also be shared
because we will have encouraged the principles and values of the Union to
take root in this region together. Because, with Albania's full
participation in the project of European integration, we will have made a
major contribution to the consensual and peaceful unification of the
continent of Europe.
And when Albania becomes a full member of the Union, for me it will be a
moment of intense emotion and great joy.
Thank you.

****************
Romano Prodi

Presidente della Commissione europea
Il destino europeo dell'Albania
Parlamento albanese
Tirana, 31 gennaio 2003
Signor Presidente,
Signor Primo Ministro,
Onorevoli deputati


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