Poland Hopes EU Accession Talks Start This Year
By By Karol Bachura*
Albanian Daily News
Published May 26, 2018
Poland supports the EU enlargement. It is one of the most powerful and successful policies of the Union. Enlargement encourages long-term political stability, economic development, security and good neighborly relations in countries aspiring to join the EU.
We ourselves have positive experience. Poland went a long way from communism to democracy and from the centrally planned to the free market economy. The EU accession was not an easy process. The state, society, entrepreneurs, farmers, non-governmental organizations were involved in the pre-accession processes and they all made a huge effort, leading to a successful EU membership.
Enlargement policy is both a political and a technical process. Above all, it is about changing people's lives for the better thanks to reforms, modernisation, good governance, bringing economies and people together.
The changes await to be implemented in various areas: the rule of law, justice, fight against corruption and organized crime, strengthening democratic institutions, media freedom, public administration reform, as well as economic development and competitiveness.
Enlargement is a two-way street. Advancement in the process goes hand in hand with necessary reforms. We are aware that Albania has been making steady progress in the implementation of key reforms. We are ready to help you throughout this process by sharing our experience.
There is a momentum in the enlargement policy brought about by the Western Balkans strategy and the enlargement package published by the Commission on the 17th of April. Year 2025 was indicated in the strategy for frontrunners and potentially other countries. Setting a concrete date plays a positive role; it establishes certain perspective and mobilizes to pursue further reforms.
We look forward to accession talks with Albania and Macedonia to be launched this year. In 2018, we have to give the integration process a boost. If we miss this chance, the window of opportunity might close.
We must focus on building bridges among our countries, such as doubling funding under Erasmus+ programme or launching a pilot project in the area of mobility in vocational education and training.
The Commission's strategy published in February pays a lot of attention to the youth. Indeed, young people have a key role to play in the enlargement process. Their energy, openness and creativity is what Europe needs.
Connectivity projects in transport and energy are indispensable for the Western Balkan countries and for the whole Central and Eastern Europe. We need more highways and railway lines, pipelines and broadband to bring societies of the whole region closer. Connectivity has a human dimension as well; regional cooperation, good neighborly relations and reconciliation are of utmost importance.
Economic initiatives, including the Action Plan for Regional Economic Area agreed at the Trieste summit of the Berlin Process, are crucial both for integration and for development of infrastructure within the Connectivity Agenda.
Connectivity is also among the main goals of the Three Seas Initiative - a project aiming at significantly improving economic, energy and transport connections among the countries of Eastern and Central Europe located between Baltic, Adriatic and Black Sea. Once accomplished, the connections will boost the economies of the participating countries and of the EU as a whole. Currently, there are 12 countries of the region which belong to the Initiative. Should Albania join the EU, it could join the Three Seas Initiative and benefit from projects implemented as part of it.
Threats such as organized crime or terrorism know no borders, internal and external security is intertwined. More EU-Western Balkans cooperation on security issues and migration is necessary. The Commission's strategy provides a very good basis for this cooperation.
Albania is already our ally in NATO - the most important security format for Poland. In this context, we support Euro-Atlantic aspirations of all Western Balkan countries. It is important to be involved in NATO's partnership programmes. Poland's way to the Euro-Atlantic structures also started from partnership programmes with NATO, through full NATO membership in 1999 culminating with joining the EU in 2004.
We appreciate that Albania fully aligns with the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. Membership means supporting EU's policies.
The flagship project of the Polish MFA is Enlargement Academy for officials from the six Western Balkan countries. Its next edition is planned for September 2018 in Warsaw. The aim of this week-long interdisciplinary programme is to share our best practices and provide a networking space for civil servants from all the countries of the region.
We also organise bilateral annual conferences - the Skopje Conference; the Belgrade Conference and launched on 7th of May - the Tirana Conference This bilateral consultation forum of civil servants offers a unique opportunity to share with you Polish experience from the EU pre-accession period, when we were implementing the necessary reforms - the task Albania is performing today. I believe this format of cooperation at an expert level will help your country proceed with the negotiation process.
Poland has been invited to the London Summit of the Berlin Process. In 2019 we will organize a summit in Poland. In our view the Berlin Process plays a crucial role in bringing economies and societies closer together and encouraging reform. Poland appreciates its focus on connectivity as well as its versatile and multilateral format.
Nevertheless, the Berlin Process cannot be interpreted as an alternative to the enlargement policy, but a complement to the Commission's activity.
We are deeply convinced that all the European countries deserve to be included in the integration project. They would enrich cultural diversity of the EU, which is priceless.
The enlargement is a two-way process: there are conditions and reforms that the aspiring countries must carry out, and there is the readiness to welcome new members that the EU must display.
If these conditions are met, the enlargement makes Europe stronger. That is why, I am looking forward very much to the day when we welcome Albania and other Western Balkan partners in the EU.
*Ambassador of Poland to Albania