German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called on Albania to intensify its reform efforts and offered further assistance to help the Western Balkan country eventually join the European Union.
However, on a visit to Tirana on September 19, Maas cautioned that there is no guarantee that talks will automatically begin as of the EU’s stated goal of June 2019.
In June 2018, EU members agreed to open membership talks with Albania and Macedonia in 2019 if they continue to make sufficient progress on reforms.
Maas told the Albanians that the EU must see substantial advances on the consolidation of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary system.
"The criteria are clear: There should be steps taken for other results on reforms to convince the skeptics in that process," Maas told a news conference. "I am optimistic we will move ahead."
"We will continue to support you in these reform efforts. Any potential blockade mentalities won't help anyone," Maas said.
He said Germany and other EU members consider the prospects for the Western Balkan countries to eventually join the bloc as "not only real but also necessary."
Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati said his country already has started the process with regard to the EU and that he considers Germany's assistance as "precious, irreplaceable."
The Western Balkan nations of Slovenia and Croatia have already joined the EU.
Based on reporting by AP and dpa