With the 28 EU member states’ decision to open accession negotiations with Albania in 2019, the country has taken a significant step towards EU membership. The government is implementing important reforms, above all in the judiciary. During his meeting with Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ditmir Bushati, Maas stressed the overall importance of the region:
EU enlargement, as well as stability and development in the Western Balkans, are in the strategic interest of the EU, particularly in times of crisis and conflict. If we do not engage, others will seek greater influence there – namely, China and Russia.
He also emphasised that Albania is an anchor of stability in the region. That is why Germany is working hard to promote the country’s prospects for accession to the EU and to support its continued efforts towards reform.
Important reforms for drawing closer to the EU
Albania has achieved a great deal of progress in recent years, particularly regarding its judiciary and the rule of law. Heiko Maas commented: “We are aware that implementing reforms has required an impressive amount of political effort; your country has shown great courage and determination in an environment that was not always easy. Albanians can take pride in this.” He went on to say that the decision to open accession negotiations next year is also a result of this effort. Maas explicitly assured Albania of Germany’s support as it travels the path to EU membership. He also appealed to all political actors in Albania to maintain their support for the current reforms.
Germany is one of the largest and most important donor countries of Albania. The Federal Government is supporting the transformation to a stable and democratic system based on the rule of law in both Albania and the region. Albania is also a partner country of German development cooperation. These efforts focus on the supply of water and energy, waste water disposal and waste management.
Together with the Albanian Government, Germany is also helping to promote the growth of a social and ecological market economy. Support is provided to rural and agricultural firms in the form of loans, subsidies, further training and consultancy. Furthermore, funding is being increased for urgently needed vocational schools and a functioning waste management industry.