SEECP, commitment to deal with common regional challenges

Published on : 24 February 2015

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at the ministerial meeting organized in Tirana in the framework of the South-Eastern Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP):

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you here in Tirana, on behalf of the Albanian Government.

We regard the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process as a very important political platform to intensify dialogue in the region, to consolidate sectorial cooperation and advance the European integration of Southeast Europe by coordinating different ongoing processes of regional cooperation.

Southeast Europe has just left behind a first year since the beginning of the twentieth-century with no border conflicts in the region.

I think this is mainly because of our peoples’ aspiration to European integration, envisaged as a unique chance for a sustainable peace, prosperity and democracy. This means that we have no time to look back and are pressed to move forward, on the one hand by getting to a new stage the cooperation in the region and, on the other hand, by actively contributing in responding to new common challenges.

These are challenges deriving of threats from the ongoing conflicts near EU borders; challenges posed by terrorism fed by an infernal machine called ISIS, which have plagued peoples and areas in the Middle East and Africa. While an important challenge not so unconnected to the above is the organized crime and illicit trafficking.

Next to these security issues, there is a risk that our region’s economic gap between EU member states and non-EU member states widens further, making the prospect of EU integration process ever more distant. In the above-described context that means greater susceptibility to security threats that we are determined to prevent now and in the future. This is evident as a few of our region’s direct neighbors have been severely hit by the financial crisis.

In order to face these challenges it is of crucial importance to reinforce the security dimension of our regional cooperation.

Duly, our Joint Statement against Terrorism, that this meeting is going to endorse, emphasizes our commitments to further implement reforms, strengthen the rule of law, embrace youth cooperation, and improve economic development.

In the 2014 Summit, the Romanian Chairmanship rightly pointed out that Southeast European Cooperation Process was being revitalized and that we should work to make our region a credible partner for the European Union.

As the representative of the country that chairs this process in until June 2015, I enthusiastically agree and I would propose we add a next step.

Yes, firstly we need to ensure our position as a credible partner of the EU, but then we also should become a pro-active partner.

Europe is faced with economic, political and cultural challenges including racism, nationalism and xenophobia. In order to face those challenges efficiently, the European Union needs our region as much as our region needs the European Union.

The diversity of nations, ethnic groups, religions, cultures and beliefs makes South-East Europe a peculiar space, and if we succeed harmony, and prosperity within this diversity we would rejoice together the success of an important European endeavor.

In this context, Albania will continue to be a very committed partner of efficient regional cooperation and full European integration.

In this regard, during our chairmanship of the Southeast European Cooperation Process, we have been insisting on economy, energy and infrastructure, in order to reinforce existing initiatives that bring added value to our EU integration process, and also to bring forth new, flexible and efficient ways of multilateral cooperation in our region.

This is particularly important also in order to support the process started in Berlin last summer, as the most recent display of the existing political will in key EU member states to enhance cooperation in the region so that it may become a true region both in economic and political terms.

My government believes that the Berlin Process but also the relevant macro-regional strategies put forth by the European Union provide us with opportunities to improve connectivity within our region (especially in the Western Balkans) but also with the EU itself.

As such the Albanian presidency of the South-East Europe Cooperation Process will further engage in both diplomatic and political efforts in order to make the most of the political momentum that is now favoring regional cooperation based on concrete regional infrastructure and energy projects.

Last year we commemorated 100 years from a World War that sparked in our region to spread across continents heralding death and suffering hard to imagine for nowadays European young generations.

Precisely after 100 years, in another very peculiar time for the European continent, our region is passing through a unique positive momentum, which with the required determination can spark hope and a renewed perspective of prosperity to the European Union.

Albania is fully committed to facilitate, support and strengthen this positive momentum in our region, and to help unite our forces to meet the expectations of our peoples for a strong and united Europe. It is my firm believe that today that the European Union needs us as much as we need the European Union. And in front of the Union that is struggling with itself, we need to be united and we need to fight to make our voice heard and to show by example that we are ready to be part of a very common struggle. Without us, the Union is much more fragile and much more vulnerable and we should do our best to make it heard and to make it understood.

Again welcome and thank you very much!