Zovko with AFET in Albania, discussing enlargement and visiting IPA projects
Tirana 25 May 2022,
A delegation of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament (AFET) is travelling through the Western Balkans. The MEPs have visited Albania and are having meetings in Montenegro. Patricipating to the mission is Željana Zovko, AFET Vice Chair. Zovko stated that on many occasions, the European Parliament has shown its support to the countries’ ambition to join the EU and the delegation aims to learn more about the reform progress and discuss the next steps on their European path.
In Tirana, the delegation met with President Ilir Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama, Minister of Interior Bledar Çuçi, Deputy Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Megi Fino, Minister of Justice Ulsi Manja and Speaker of Parliament Lindita Nikolla. “During these high-level meetings, we conveyed a message to our interlocutors that enlargement means full membership and that there is no ‘plan B’. This goal requires progress on both political level as in reforms on the ground. At the same time, we expressed the Parliament’s support to start the accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania and to safeguard the EU’s credibility.” Zovko stated.
On their way from Tirana to Podgorica, the delegation made a few stops to visit projects that were funded by the EU, including through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The ‘Sherif Dervishi’ School was reconstructed after the 2019 earthquake with support from the EU4Schools Programme, a plan to rehabilitate 63 educational facilities in the region. Next, the MEPs stopped at lake Shkodra, the biggest lake of the Balkans but threatened by pollution and negative impact of the population on the vegetation and aquatic fauna. Finally, the delegation was accompanied by the Albanian Deputy Minister of Interior Julian Hodaj for a visit to a border crossing point between Albania and Montenegro that was constructed via an IPA project.
Zovko, co-rapporteur for the IPA III report, welcomes to see the successful use of European financial assistance. During the negotiations of the newest generation of IPA funds, Zovko called for the increase of support to projects to protect nature and to build human capacity in the Western Balkans. “People need to feel at home in their own region and be able to find opportunities to thrive. By investing in education and vocational training facilities, the EU gives these people a chance to a prosperous future.” Zovko stated. Another point of interest for Zovko during her work on the IPA III report, was the necessity to invest in border controls and management. “unfortunately smuggling and trafficking of goods, weapons and people is still a common criminal activity in the Western Balkans. By developing a coordinated border management, the countries can protect their security and economic interests, contributing to a safer and more stable region.” Zovko concluded.
In Montenegro, the delegation will continue with their high-level meetings with political leaders, civil society and international community. The mission w
ill finish with a visit to the new Europe House.