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Senior French Diplomat Harlem Desir Speaks to Media in Tirana

 "It’s High Time for France’s Highest State Officials to Visit Albania”

“France has supported the candidacy of Albania to become a candidate member to join the European Union in 2014 and I can say that from that time Albania has made a huge progress. Albania has undertaken many reforms and it is clear that the main goal of the country and its future is the membership to the European Union,” Mr. Desir declared

By Genc Mlloja & Denisa Hunci 

TIRANA – “It is very important to have high level visits from France’s highest state personalities to Albania given that such visits have been missing to this country. We are actually working on that. I can’t give you a date but I can say that Albanian Premier Edi Rama will visit France on July 4 where he will attend the Summit of Paris. On the sidelines of the Summit, Rama will have the opportunity to meet again France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Ministers but also the French President, Francois Hollande, and he can use such opportunity to renew his invitation to the highest state officials of France to visit Albania,” the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Mr. Harlem Desir told Chief Editor of Albanian Daily News Genc Mlloja during the press conference he had on Thursday at the premises of the French Embassy in Tirana. 

Mr. Desir paid an official visit to Albania on March 30-31 in the framework of the preparations of the Paris Summit on the Western Balkans. 

During the press conference, the senior French diplomat made a wrap up of his meetings with Albanian authorities while he also talked about the conference to be held in Paris where as he said the financing of projects approved in Vienna Summit will be discussed, but new projects for the Western Balkans will be also presented. 

Mr. Desir also highlighted the fact that France is willing to cooperate with Albania in various fields while he said that France will continue to support this Balkan country in its European Union path. His remarks at the press conference continue as follows:

There have been very important meetings, especially the meeting with the Prime Minister, Edi Rama in the framework of preparations for the conference on the European integration of the regional countries that will be held in Paris on July 4 this year. 

The relations between France and Albania are exceptionally good. Mr. Rama paid a visit to France last year where he was received by French Prime Minister Mr. Manuel Valls. Our relations, mainly the economic ones but also those in other fields such as security, European cooperation, have been further enhanced in the recent years. France supported in 2014 the candidacy of Albania to become a candidate member to join the European Union and I can say that Albania has made a huge progress since that time. 

Albania has undertaken many reforms, like the other countries in the region, and it is clear that the main goal of the country and its future is the membership to the European Union and this is even the goal of France. However, many other reforms need to be done but Albania is on the right track. 

The European Union has set five priorities to be met by Albania. We are working together even with other countries to help you fulfill such key priorities in the field of the public administration, fight against crime and corruption and the reform in the justice system. 

During my meeting with Mr. Rama, we had a very fruitful conversation in regard to the progress of the reforms currently being implemented and the future ones. On the other hand, he hoped that by autumn, Albania will have accomplished the electoral and other important reforms so that in the end of the year the European Commission may express a positive opinion regarding the opening of negotiations for Albania’s EU integration. This would enable Albania to enter a new phase, a phase that we strongly support. This will be the chance for Albania to open the new chapter in its path to EU, thus start the negotiations and work on the approximation of the legislation and the way how the public administration works in the EU member countries. 

The other priority that will be discussed in the conference of Paris is the development of the economic exchanges in the region and in the European Union countries. 

Paris Conference to focus on ongoing and new projects 

Another issue is the financing of the projects mainly in the field of transports, energy, etc., projects that should connect the six countries of the Western Balkans but also connect these countries with the European market. 

It is about projects related to the construction of railways, highways, electric energy networks, that is projects that will increase employment and also contribute to these countries’ economic growth and attraction of more investments. This conference is held after that in Vienna which was attended by all countries of the Western Balkans. Ten projects were approved in that conference. Now, in the Conference of Paris to be held on July 4, we will see how these ten projects can be financed but there will also be presented new projects. 

Another project is related to the youth, the opening of a regional office for the youth which will enable students from Albania, Serbia, etc., to study in other countries and vice versa. It will also enable the exchanges in all fields and have the opportunity to study in different countries while students will have the opportunity to benefit from different programs such as Erasmus. With Mr. Rama, we talked about the possibility of opening such regional office and to give the opportunity to thousands of students from the region to study in different regional countries. 

These were also some of the issues that I had the opportunity to discuss during the meeting that I had on Wednesday with the Albanian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ditmir Bushati who invited me to attend the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Western Balkans that took place in Durres. 

Also, I had the opportunity to talk about these issues even with the Mayor of Tirana. During the meeting with the latter, we also praised the very good cooperation that exists between the Municipality of Tirana with the Municipality of Paris and Lyon in different fields, mainly in transports and urban development. 

Progress in five key priorities crucial for Albania 

When asked in the press conference whether there is a date for the opening of EU accession negotiations between EU and Albania, Mr. Desir said that the European Commission is expected that in autumn of this year will make its recommendations that “we hope will be positive for Albania.”

“EC will base its recommendations on the way how Albania has progressed with the five key priorities. Our objective is to work all together so that the assessment of the European Commission will be positive. Albania managed to successfully obtain the EU candidate country status in 2014 and as I mentioned before, Albania has achieved great progress. Of course, many things still remain to be done. It is a guideline that has to be fulfilled and followed. In my meeting with Mr. Rama, I expressed my evaluation for his leadership, the reforms that he has undertaken, etc. We all know that reforms are sometimes difficult to be achieved but they have to be done. We also discussed the ways to accelerate the reforms, especially that in the justice system. It is a very complex draft law that we hope will be approved in near future. I also encouraged Prime Minister Rama to continue with the reform and I hope it will be approved soon so that the European Commission gives a positive evaluation. We support Albania in its EU path and we will work together in this regard.

I would also like to thank Albania for its cooperation with France in the field of security. As we all know, all the countries are facing the threat of terrorism and this is why it is so important to cooperate. 

France and Albania are also cooperating to prevent radicalism and this starts from the teaching of youth about the religion as well as the values of democracy. Albania and France have a variety of religions so our goal is to promote as much as possible the tolerance, openness and respect. And, the two countries are working on projects to promote such values,” Mr. Desir ended his statement. 

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