Tirana, October 8th 2009 – "The Western Balkans and their rapprochement with the EU are and will remain the core elements of Austria’s foreign policy," emphasised Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger on the occasion of his visit to Albania. "The region is currently going through an important stage of stabilisation. We must not allow ourselves to cherish any illusions: the path of reform that is being faced by the individual countries is neither short nor easy. Great reform efforts are still required. Today’s visit is therefore also designed to offer encouragement. Indeed, Austria will continue to be a reliable companion and advocate within the EU. We believe that stability in the Balkans means extra stability for us, and increasing prosperity in the Balkans will open up markets for our business," Spindelegger went on.
During his visit to Tirana Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger met with President Bamir Topi, Prime Minister Sali Berisha, his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta and the Minister for Reform, Genc Pollo. He also had a meeting with Edi Rama, Lord Mayor of Tirana and leader of the country’s largest opposition party. Spindelegger also visited two projects showcasing Austrian Development Cooperation in Albania, the waterworks and the Austrian school in Shkodra.
"Albania has taken impressive reform steps in recent years. Now these reforms have to be consolidated and further developed," emphasised Spindelegger. The Minister pointed out that there was a particular need for reforms in fields such as the rule of law, justice and the fight against corruption. “In this area there can be no trade-offs or compromises for Albania. European standards will have to be fully complied with if Albania does not want to miss out on rapprochement with the EU,” stated the Minister.
"All political forces must know that there is no alternative to the European path of reforms. The elected parliamentary parties will need to reach a basic domestic consensus on this. A slackening of the reform efforts in parliamentary work is in nobody’s interest. The government and the opposition should therefore meet halfway and establish a stable basis for dialogue," stressed the Foreign Minister, referring to the continued boycott of parliament by the largest opposition party following the controversial parliamentary election.
Spindelegger underlined that the EU, in turn, must keep the EU perspective alive and credible: "The EU should not make an exception as regards Albania. The Albanian application for accession should therefore be referred to the Commission as planned. There is no good reason why this procedural step should be delayed in the Council. However, in return, we expect Albania to do its homework and continue its reform efforts in the field of visa liberalisation, among other things," concluded the Foreign Minister.
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