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Bushati: “Do not feed on illusions” – Seven steps towards the EU

Former Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati considers the debate on the 15 conditions for Albania’s path to the EU, which were extended through the resolution approved by various parliamentary groups in the European Parliament, a meaningless stimulus.

According to Bushati, Albania will have democratic conditions throughout the period it will negotiate with the European Union, until it becomes a full member. But, for the holding of the First Intergovernmental Conference with the EU, according to the former minister, certain conditions must be met, such as Electoral Reform, the functioning of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the review of media legislation in accordance with the recommendations of Venice Commission, the reduction of the phenomenon of asylum seekers, the progress and functioning of specialized structures in the fight against corruption and organized crime. According to him, Albania should draft an action plan for fulfilling the above tasks.

“There is an incomprehensible incitement to the Resolution adopted by the European Parliament, which emphasizes Albania’s fulfillment of the 15 conditions set by the Council of the European Union before the Intergovernmental Conference. The same can be said about the debate on Albania in the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs.

It should be said that every member of parliament or political group in the European Parliament has the right to make a political assessment of Albania. But, in legal terms, the European Parliament has no competence to define and enumerate a list of conditions or homework for starting negotiations. This is a competence of the EU member states, which decide unanimously on the European Commission proposal. The European Parliament has adopted several Resolutions in support of the visa liberalization process with Kosovo, but EU member states have not yet made a final decision.

In the case of Albania’s accession, the European Parliament will have its say at the time of the revision of the Accession Treaty, as it said in the case of the revision of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. Of course, the concerns raised by MEPs need to be clarified and addressed in a state, diplomatic and parliamentary way.

If our political groups do not “export” the politics of the day to the relevant political groups in the European Parliament, a good part of these concerns are easily addressed. This lesson, unlike us, some countries in the region have learned over time. Because unlike the European Commission and member states, MEPs do not have groups of experts to verify reforms on the ground. Well, the issue is elsewhere. Therefore, we should not confuse the order and role of any European institution in the process of Albania’s EU membership, with the continuation of homework.

STEP I

The start of negotiations is preceded by the preparation of the European Commission and the approval by the EU member states of the “Negotiation Framework”. This document defines the principles, essence and procedures on which the whole process will take place. The member states have defined a catalog with several tasks, the manner of which the way of addressing by Albania should be reflected in the document of the “Negotiation Framework”. While the Commission will work with Member States to approve this important document, we should not wait. But we also need to prepare our negotiating framework, which will serve as a guiding platform in this process, coupled with strengthening administrative and financial capacity. In this paper, we must address both the main concerns and the tasks set by the EU member states, proving responsibility, political will and clarity on the difficult path of reforms we need to undertake. This document should undergo a real political and social consultation and discussion.

Step II

The First Intergovernmental Conference, which symbolizes the start of the process, will serve as a platform for confrontation between the two “Negotiating Frameworks”, that of the EU and Albania. The First Intergovernmental Conference is about the fulfillment of some tasks set by the EU member states towards Albania. Tasks related to Electoral Reform, the functioning of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the review of media legislation in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the reduction of the asylum phenomenon, the advancement and functioning of specialized structures in the fight against corruption and crime organized. The European Commission will again report to the Member States on the fulfillment of these tasks. We need an action plan to accomplish the above tasks. The plan should be public, address the institutional responsibility of the actors involved in the process and be timely.

Step III

The next stage is the review of the compliance of the legislation and the institutional framework, where Albania will present plans to achieve compliance progressively. Following this review (‘bilateral review’), the European Commission will prepare a review report for each group, assessing the state of the legal order relative to the EU, the level and plans for full compliance, such as administrative capacity and institutional framework. The European Commission presents to the EU member states what is otherwise known as the “review report”. If the member states consider that Albania is not ready to take on the commitments deriving from the negotiation chapter, they set some conditions that must be met for the opening of the chapter. In this case, the Commission must again submit to the EU Member States a report on the fulfillment of the preconditions for the opening of capital negotiations. Following the review and approval of the report by the member states, Albania is invited to present its negotiating position on the chapter. Meanwhile, member states adopt the EU ‘s negotiating position on the chapter.

Step IV

Only after the exhaustion of the above steps was held the Intergovernmental Conference for the Opening of the Chapter, where the parties face their negotiating positions. If the EU negotiating position for the chapter specifies that Albania’s level of compliance with the European standard (‘acquis’) is satisfactory and that no further negotiations are necessary, then the chapter negotiations are temporarily closed. Practice shows that in most cases, the EU sets certain conditions that must be met by the candidate country in order for the negotiations to be considered closed. In this case, the same procedure and scheme of cooperation is repeated, as in the conditions for the opening of the chapter, between Albania, on the one hand, and the European Commission of the member states, on the other. Also, the closing of each chapter is done through the organization of the Intergovernmental Conference.

HAPI V

The talks end with an agreement between Albania and the EU on all chapters. Until this is officially stated by the leaders of the EU member states, it is possible to reopen the chapters in cases where the commitments made are not fulfilled, as the whole negotiation process takes place on the principle “Nothing has been agreed. until everything is agreed. ”With the conclusion of the negotiations, the possible date of EU accession is determined.

Step VI.

Following the conclusion of the negotiations, the Accession Treaty is signed by the parties. The accession treaty will have to be ratified by the Albanian Parliament, the European Parliament and all national parliaments of EU member states. While there are countries submitting the Accession Treaty in the popular referendum, the practice so far shows that the candidate country does the same.

Step VII.

Following the completion of ratification procedures, the country formally becomes a member of the EU.

I hope that the above explanation will help to some extent to understand that democratic conditioning will accompany us in every step of the European integration process. For example, Montenegro started negotiations with the EU in 2012 and has temporarily closed only 3 chapters in 8 years. Serbia started negotiations with the EU in 2014 and has temporarily closed only 2 chapters in 6 years. The limited progress of reforms on the one hand and the lack of optimism for the enlargement process on the other speak clearly.

With the newly approved methodology, in case of non-compliance with the standards, the process can freeze, return to the starting point and the funds allocated by the EU can be suspended. We should not feed on any illusion that the EU membership process will be easy. Every step we take requires consensus from EU member states. Therefore, we can not claim quality and pace of reforms without political cooperation and institutional understanding.

We need to get out of the labyrinth of self-deception that does not yield tangible results and each of us contributes according to our responsibility, to a Pact for Europe, where we set once and for all the pillars and rules of political behavior for this vital process for the fate of the country. We need ownership for reform!

source:Albaniandailynews

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