Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth visited the Albanian capital Tirana on 19 – 20 December. As well as holding political talks with Prime Minister Edi Rama, Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati, European Integration Minister Klayda Gjosha and members of the parliamentary committee on European affairs, he also had numerous meetings with civil society representatives.
“Justice reform was a milestone”
In his talks and in his statements to the press, Minister of State Roth reaffirmed the perspective of closer ties with the EU for all countries in the Western Balkans and praised the good work of the Albanian Government:
We note and acknowledge the great progress Albania has made towards closer relations with the EU in 2016. The decision on judicial reform was a milestone on this road. Of course, it still has to be implemented, but the Albanian Government has assured us that it will act with determination to advance judicial and other reforms. I’m very optimistic. But these major programmes require broad consensus and constructive cooperation between the Government and the Opposition. The Opposition is thus called upon to remove the obstacles to the implementation of what’s known as the Vetting Law. This is a vital building block in the judicial reform, from which all citizens of Albania will profit.
At a panel discussion with young people and during a reception for civil society, Roth encouraged his audience to play an active part in the EU integration process.
“The EU is above all a community of shared values. That’s why technicalities are less relevant than transforming society as a whole. That’s why it is so important for young people to get involved. For you are the ones who are shaping not only your country’s future but also Europe’s future.”
The Berlin process for regional cooperation
The German Government attaches particular importance to regional cooperation, and has thus established what is known as the Berlin process. This focuses on improved cooperation on specific projects in the fields of business, energy and infrastructure.
Exchange and reconciliation are also key issues. Minister of State for Europe Roth therefore also paid a visit to the new established Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), together with Social Welfare Minister Blendi Klosi.
“My French counterpart Harlem Désir and myself have supported the RYCO from the outset. I hope that it will now prove possible to implement projects quickly. The RYCO will no doubt contribute to further reconciliation and better exchange in the region,” Roth said.
Roth also seemed impressed with the work of a newly established commission to confront and examine the Communist dictatorship in Albania. As he commented, “it is always painful to confront and examine one’s own history, but ultimately a society emerges strengthened from the process. Broad societal consensus will foster cohesion and advance reconciliation within society.”
“A model of religious diversity”
Roth met with Albanian religious leaders for lunch before his departure. During the meal he stressed that:
“There is no doubt that Albania is a role model when it comes to religious diversity. The Albanian system shows how well interfaith dialogue can work. The religious communities in Albania live out the virtues of dialogue, understanding, cooperation and solidarity.
This is very encouraging to see at a time when religion is repeatedly misused to foment hatred, and is a cause for optimism.”
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Speech by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, “Youth and Integration - Young people's perceptions on EU integration challenges”Youth and Integration – Young people’s perceptions on EU integration challenges”