25th March the European Union marks 60 years since the signature of the Rome
Treaties, the first step towards a united Europe. Since the birth of the
European Communities in 1957, the citizens of the Member States have enjoyed
six decades of unprecedented peace, prosperity and security. The contrast to the
first half of the 20th Century could not be greater. Two
catastrophic wars in Europe between 1914 and 1945 left millions dead, and a
continent devastated, divided and prostrate. For countries that had long been at
war, European integration has been the most successful peace project in
an economic agreement between six countries, the European Union has become a
vital power to preserve and strengthen the global order. The EU is the leading
foreign investor in most parts of the globe. We invest more in development
cooperation and humanitarian aid than the rest of the world combined. The European
Union is and will continue to be a strong, cooperative and reliable power. Our
partners around the world, and here in Albania, know what we stand for.
60 years, the European project has not only brought prosperity and peace to the
continent, but has changed the everyday life of Europeans. The Treaty of Rome
established a common market where people, goods, services and capital could
move freely. It has improved the living and working conditions of citizens and
reduced economic differences between regions. Europeans have formed life-long
bonds with each other and can travel, study and work across national borders.
6.5 million Europeans are currently working in another EU Member State. 1.7
million Europeans cross a border every day to work in another Member State. The
Erasmus programme, which also celebrates its 30th anniversary of
success this year, has benefited more than 9 million young Europeans.
health and environment of European citizens has also massively improved. Today,
European cities have among the lowest air pollution levels worldwide, largely
thanks to early bans on pollutants such as lead in petrol. It is thanks to EU
legislation that the use of plastic bags has been dramatically reduced, with a
direct and long-term impact on pollution in our seas. 96% of European beaches are
now clean enough to swim at.
inside the EU, it is often too easy to take those achievements for granted. But
here in Albania, where so many people are aspiring to, and deserve, the same
rights, safeguards and opportunities as other citizens of this continent, the success
and ambition of the European project strike as remarkable.
history of the European Union is also that of its relationships with partner
countries and especially its European neighbours. As the European Union was progressing,
the Western Balkans were radically changing their history. The EU has helped
their transition from day one and has constantly affirmed its unequivocal
support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans.
Albania, progress has been extraordinary. Ties between Albania and the European
Union have never been stronger and the country has never been that close to
joining the EU family and. As the High Representative/Vice-President Federica
Mogherini recently said to the students of the University of Tirana: the
European Union will not be complete until all the Western Balkans join the
community. EU leaders have unanimously confirmed this earlier this month. The
door to the EU is open. Last November, the Commission has recommended opening accession
negotiations, in view of the progress in meeting the five key priorities and
subject to credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the justice
reform, and in particular vetting. Now is the time for the Albanian leadership
to take their responsibility in implementing EU-oriented reforms.
Albania, and all over the world, European intervention stands for human rights,
sustainable development, inclusive societies, and fight against all
inequalities. We stand for better global rules. Rules that protect people
against abuse. Rules that expand rights and raise standards. Whatever events
may the future bring, one thing is certain: the EU will continue to put
international peace and security, development cooperation, human rights and
responding to humanitarian
crises at the heart of its enlargement, foreign
and security policies.
* Head of the European
Union Delegation to Albania