Monday, 27 September 2021, Brdo
Address of President Xhaferi at the Western Balkans Speakers' Meeting
“The Role of Parliaments in Restoring Confidence in the EUEnlargement Process”
Dear President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Zorčič,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to express my gratitude to our host for holding this meeting within the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and to the Republic of Slovenia for continuously being our strong supporter in the efforts for membership in the European Union. Let me wish successful work to the present and the future, French Presidency.
I am convinced that at today's meeting we will reaffirm the commitments we jointly took on during our last meeting at the Summit organized by President Sassoli –that we will work dedicatedly on strengthening and advancing our parliamentary democracies and our role as institutions for inclusive inter-party dialogue; on building consensus on key European reforms and contribute to reconciliation, peace and stability in the region.
We are aware that the European Union is currently facing many challenges related to the reform of institutions and its future functioning, which should make it stronger, more competitive and more secure in the global world. Part of that is the enlargement Process with its new methodology, which is expected to contribute to a more effective negotiation process, in which we, as candidate countries will be continuously accountable for the results achieved at a high level, while the member states would have an argument before their domestic public to defend the position on the need for future enlargements with new member states, since we are aware that there are divided opinions on this issue.
As a country, we have already commented on the methodology – we believe it will give a greater political dimension to the process, it will make it more dynamic, more predictable and credible, and of course, it will have greater credibility if it pays regard to the merit based system and the fulfillment of promises given by the European side to the candidate countries for the implemented reforms. In this context and with that belief, we have made a series of reforms in the past few years in the area of the rule of law, judiciary, fight against organized crime and corruption, in the security sector and media freedom. We have overcome the long-standing dispute with the Republic of Greece and we previously signed the Agreement with the Republic of Bulgaria. These state steps would not be a reality if there was no constructiveness and political dialogue in the Assembly, since many of the necessary legal solutions required the provision of a two-thirds majority vote. All parliamentary parties united in their adoption, aware of the weight and responsibility they assumed, but nevertheless, convinced that in this way they implement the will of our citizens, that is, the fulfillment of the reforms for opening the next phase of the integration process – the beginning of the negotiations to the full membership in the European Union.
Unfortunately, at the moment, the newly imposed dispute with the Republic of Bulgaria, puts us politicians in an unfavourable position to seek and provide our citizens with a reasonable explanation – that there is a new request which was not part of the previous requests for setting a date for the start of negotiations; requests we worked on devotedly and tirelessly due to the promise that after their realization, the long-awaited date for the start of negotiations will follow. We are making every effort, but given the fact that recent polls and our direct contacts with citizens indicate a great deal of disappointment and disbelief that this process will ever have a successful end and that there will always be new demands – enthusiasm from both citizens and politicians may subside.
Open issues are resolved only through mutual trust, mutual dialogue, understanding and respect. We sincerely welcome the efforts of the previous presidency to lay certain foundations on which we can continue to overcome the problem, and the Slovenian presidency as well. It is clear that the solution to this problem will affect the resolution of other open issues in the region and therefore, if the long-term European perspective of the region is a common end goal of all stakeholders – exceptional and comprehensive diplomacy, tact and pragmatism are needed. At the same time, we hope the political crisis in Bulgaria will be overcome as soon as possible. As a country, we continue the reform process with the new “Europe at home” Agenda, in order to establish the European values and standards at home, in our institutions and society, and to improve and facilitate the lives of our citizens. The Legislature, as before, will continue to review and adopt the foreseen reform legislation, taking into account the promotion of transparency and accountability of the Assembly, with greater involvement of the civil sector. However, we need a positive impulse in this process, especially for solutions which are not always popular with the public, solutions which would be more easily accepted if future membership in the European Union were an obvious and natural result.
I believe that the message from the recent Prespa Forum Dialogue in Ohrid that "the Western Balkans is the missing puzzle for completing Europe" will be the guiding star that will lead to the completion of the puzzle.
Thank you for your attention!