March 2. 2024. 3:06

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Austria urges Albania to reform fundamental rights, and justice for EU path


Albania must continue reforms in the areas of fundamental rights, the rule of law and justice to make rapid progress on its EU path, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said at a meeting with his Albanian counterpart Bajram Begaj on Monday.

Albania was the first stop on Van der Bellen’s four-day Western Balkans trip that started on Sunday. He was accompanied by Justice Minister Alma Zadić and a business delegation with representatives of around 30 domestic companies.

“We would like to motivate and encourage Albania to continue the necessary reforms with commitment, especially in these areas, and to show visible results in order to make rapid progress on the EU integration path,” Van der Bellen said about Albania’s EU accession negotiations that officially started in July, APA reported.

This could also mean “refraining from one or the other project under discussion if it could otherwise become a burden on the credibility of the reform process,” Van der Bellen emphasised, pointing specifically to the so-called “golden passports” scheme, which was recently temporarily suspended after pressure from the EU.

The European Commission criticised Albania for a plan to grant wealthy foreigners Albanian citizenship, which since January comes with visa-free travel to the EU bloc.

The Commission also criticised Albania’s plans for a fiscal amnesty, though Tirana has so far refused to abandon them. The amnesty would allow up to €2 million to be deposited into Albanian bank accounts with few questions asked on the origin, in a bid to boost and stimulate the economy. It has been widely criticised by the EU, the IMF and other international stakehodlers.

On a more positive note, Van der Bellen praised Albania’s progress in the EU screening process and promised the country further support for becoming an EU member, for which Begaj expressed his gratitude, reaffirming “Albania’s determination to proceed rapidly with the necessary reforms”.

“Albania and Albanians have had a dream for 32 years to unite with the European Union,” Begaj said, stating he believed his country was “on a good track”. Albania applied for EU membership in 2009 with negotiations being formally opened in summer 2022.

Van der Bellen’s next stop is North Macedonia on Tuesday.

Commenting on both EU candidate countries, the chancellor said he wants to be a “door opener” for local entrepreneurs.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)