Special report/ Austrian, Czech and Slovenian FMs Pledge Support for Albania's Launch of Accession Talks with EU

The foreign ministers of Austria, Alexander Schallenberg, of Czech Republic Jakub Kulhanek and of Slovenia Anze Logan paid a one- day visit to Tirana during which the main agenda was the meeting and talks with Albania FM Olta Xhacka on Sunday.

A press release issued by the foreign ministry said the ministers' visit to Tirana is an indication of their support and that of the countries they represent for Albania's EU membership.

"Albania has come a long and difficult way to meet the conditions and requirements by overcoming many challenges," said Xhacka, who appreciated the support of friends and partner countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

"We have high expectations that the Council will agree to approve the negotiating framework and to hold the first EU accession Intergovernmental Conference with Albania within the first half of the year," the minister said during the joint press conference on Sunday.

The press release said the three EU ministers assessed that Albania has done everything expected and that it is the EU's turn to take its step.

"Albania has come a long way, has undertaken many reforms, has done its homework and is ready to open negotiations in June. There is no reason to delay this process," said the Austrian minister.

"It is quite significant that three EU Foreign Ministers have come to Albania to show their support for Albania's path towards the EU. I take this opportunity to appreciate all the achievements that Albania has made so far, especially in two areas: justice reform and the fight against corruption and organized crime," said the Czech minister.

"Albania fulfilled its task, now it is the EU that must stand by its words, it is the right time. The next presidency is that of Slovenia where enlargement and the WB issue will be on the top of the agenda, so Albania will have an active interlocutor; a very active interlocutor and supporter of the enlargement process," said the Slovenian minister.

After Portugal, Slovenia will take over the presidency of the EU Council for the next 6 months.

No mention was made if the issue of Albanian talks will be conditioned with those of North Macedonia as Bulgaria gives no signs of its veto which has to do with a bilateral dispute between the two countries. /argumentum.al