EU accession negotiations with Albania and Macedonia have been postponed until June 2019. The European Block was divided in two groups, that of 25 countries pro-opening, and only 3 against – France, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
That was not what the people of both countries were expecting, although there has been a lot of scepticism by some European leaders. Both countries’ lobbying with sceptical EU members had been strong and hopes were great. But that was only the surface, what people heard from their own political leaders and some pro Europeans, who tried to appear optimistic, was very well the answer would be no.
It was to be expected. The EU has continued to demand from the Albanian government improvement of the legal state, war against organized crime and corruption, and the prevention of Albanian asylum seekers. The vetting process is the core issue, but it is progressing very slowly, No “big fish” in the net yet. Sometimes double standards are used in judgement. Unless the new institutions of the justice reforms are set up – the High Judicial Council, the High Prosecution Council and SPAK – the progress will remain insignificant.
Another handicap for the Albanian government is its incompetence in the fight against corruption and organized crime. Some unresolved issues, like the implication of high politicians in drug affairs, or the case of the former Head of General Prosecutor’s Office under investigation for closing many high-corruption files, have influenced greatly the decision of the EU Council to keep Albania on hold. This is an indisputable fact.
European Union officials are showing optimism and have expressed their pleasure that finally the EU is seeing some green light on the extension. The same optimism is noticed by the Albanian Prime Minister Rama, who spoke very positively about the decision of the EU foreign ministers. “Albania succeeded in receiving a date to enter EU’s door. The outcomes of our reforms made the most sceptical countries acknowledge our merits. We won a difficult battle, but the war is not over”, stated Rama.
But no one among Albanians celebrated the European Council’s “positive recommendations”. There was nothing to celebrate. Rama failed and together with him even those internationals, who appeared quite sure the EU negotiations would open. Only after the decision, PM Rama admitted that Macron had been clear since the very beginning he would say no, but had promised to think of another possibility. Even Merkel had said this would be a difficult month for Albania. But in the eyes of the public, the Albanian politicians never admitted the high risk. And EU officials responsible for accession negotiations continued to play such a farce, as well.
The European Council’s decision is a negative mark for the Albanian government. The EU is asking for a better progress towards integration, a difficult task set in front of whatever Albanian government is in power, unless the Albanian politicians change their mentality in leading the country. It’s hard to find a honest politician in Albania.
In the meantime, Johannes Hahn has stated that the preparations for the next year’s negotiations with Albania and Macedonia are starting. He was referreing to the start of the screening process, in which officials from the European Commission, Albania and Macedonia will compare the legislation of the EU for 33 political areas.
The situation is challenging for both countries. But while Macedonia is celebrating beforehand its membership in NATO this coming July, Albania’s disappointment with its own leaders and the Europeans, as well, is so great, they will be tired of waiting under false hopes for another more year.