There is a good chance that Albania and North Macedonia will soon start negotiations on EU accession. The two Balkan countries have been candidate members for many years. Until recently, Rutte was fiercely opposed to EU membership of these countries, but he has now come back to that. There is also a majority in the House of Representatives in favor of EU enlargement. Albanian Prime Minister Rama will be in The Hague on Monday for dinner with Rutte.
“Albania has made huge strides,” said Rutte when asked about the problem of corruption in the country. Albania still dangles at the bottom of lists of countries with the least corruption in Europe. “We help,” says Rutte. “The Dutch are in Albania to advise how they can take the country further. We have been discussing corruption for years. Great strides have been made since 2014. The Public Prosecution Service, the National Police and the Marechaussee all work together with the Albanian partners.”
According to Rutte, Albania has cleaned up the judicial system considerably. For example, corrupt judges have been fired. “As a result, there are now many vacancies,” says Rutte. “People need to be trained: the Netherlands also helps with that. We’re not there yet. But the Netherlands is not perfect either.”
Albanian Prime Minister Rama acknowledges that his country still needs to take steps. “If we didn’t have problems with corruption, we would have said we want to join the EU now,” Rama said. “But we don’t say that because we know we still have a lot of work to do. There is no doubt about that. It is not a question of whether we join the EU next week or next month. It is about building a strong democracy, with the help of the Netherlands.”