Sat, 16 Oct 2021

TIRANA, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Visiting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said here on Tuesday that Albania's future is in the European Union (EU) and that the first intergovernmental conference between the two sides should be held before the end of this year.

At a joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, von der Leyen praised Albania's "successful" progress in its EU integration process and commended the country for having "clearly delivered what the EU has asked for," adding that now "it's the EU's turn to deliver."

Von der Leyen emphasized that both Albania and North Macedonia deserve to be in the EU. She said that the EU "will continue to stand by Albania and the Western Balkans" in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and for economic recovery.

She said that the EU has already donated more than 450,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Albania and confirmed that further such donations are scheduled.

According to von der Leyen, the EU has mobilized 3.3 billion euros (3.8 billion U.S. dollars) to support the region. Albania has received 230 million euros in grants and financing to help it deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

Rama said it was important for the European Commission to understand that Albania had delivered.

During her visit, von der Leyen also met Albania's President Ilir Meta.

Later on Tuesday, Von der Leyen arrived in Skopje, capital of North Macedonia following her visit to Tirana, the first stop of his three-day West Balkans tour.

"We are working hard with both sides and with Bulgaria in order to overcome this last hurdle," she told a joint press conference with Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev.

"There are really good ideas that are worth going in-depth that we overcome this last obstacle to start the first intergovernmental conference. Our goal is to start it with North Macedonia and Albania before the end of the year," she said.

The intergovernmental conference on the EU integration with both Albania and North Macedonia scheduled before the end of last year was delayed due to the veto by Bulgaria over its dispute with North Macedonia on the latter's national identity issues.

On Oct. 6, von der Leyen is expected to attend the EU-Western Balkans summit in Slovenia. (1 euro = 1.17 U.S. dollar)

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