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Albanian PM plays down hopes of start to EU accession in March



Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he was “expecting nothing” from a summit in March at which EU leaders are due to return to the issue of enlargement and his country’s accession to the bloc.

“Let’s not speak about dates and months. March does not exist,” he told journalists in Brussels when asked about the prospect of the European Council meeting in March giving the green light for the accession process for Albania and North Macedonia to begin.

Rama was in the European capital to attend a donors conference to raise funds for the reconstruction of parts of the country following an earthquake in November that killed more than 50 people. Asked to comment on the block placed on further EU enlargement by French President Emmanuel Macron at the December meeting of EU leaders, Rama declined to engage in criticism.

“I truly think of him as a great friend of Albania and myself and he showed it when we had this tragedy,” he said referring to the earthquake. He added that French troops had done a “fantastic job” rescuing victims from the rubble.

And Rama acknowledged that Macron had legitimate arguments on changing the enlargement process. Macron had branded the scheme for EU hopefuls “bizarre.”

“I cannot say that he’s not right when he speaks about the need to reform the European Union, when he speaks about the need to make the enlargement process something that is practical, that is tangible, that is accountable,” he said, referring to the French president’s demand that the enlargement process must be reformed before new countries could be accepted into it. Rama acknowledged though that the halt on Albania’s accession had been “a political earthquake,” stressing the judicial reforms that the country had already made.

Earlier this month, Paris signaled its support for a reformed accession process that addresses Macron’s complaint that it should be easier to eject accession countries from the process even if they backslide on EU requirements.

Asked whether he shared Macron’s view that some leaders have been hypocritical on enlargement — making comments in public not in line with what they said in private — Rama also adopted a diplomatic tack. “I’m much taller than him but I’m the prime minister of Albania, he’s the president of France. He can really afford to say everything he thinks about his colleagues but I can’t.”



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