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Debates
Thursday, 26 October 2000 - Strasbourg OJ edition

5. Action plan for Albania and the neighbouring region
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  President. – The next item is the report (A5-0287/2000) by Mrs Karamanou, on behalf of the Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs, on the Draft Action Plan for Albania and neighbouring regions [7886/2000 – C5-0305/2000 – 2000/2158(COS)].

 
  
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  Karamanou (PSE), rapporteur. – (EL) Mr President, the conclusions of the European Council in Tampere stress the need to cooperate with countries of origin and transit of migrants and refugees and, within this framework on the Council's instructions, the High-Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration has drawn up six action plans, one of which is the plan for Albania and the neighbouring region. Clearly, the basic objective of the plan is to stem migration towards the Member States of the European Union and repatriate illegal immigrants living in the Union. Most of the plan therefore contains measures designed to control and reverse migration flows.

Obviously cooperation with third countries may help eradicate the causes of waves of refugees and migrants but this does not mean that endeavours in this direction release the Union from its international obligation to protect those in need or to provide help to combat the causes of migration. Europeans would do well to remember that the wider the prosperity gap between the Member States of the Union and our neighbours, the greater the pressure to migrate. Border fortifications and repressive policing measures will not stem the tide of those seeking a share of the prosperity which we all enjoy.

Converting the Union into ‘Fortress Europe’ may put up the price charged by traffickers but, while there is no legal immigration route, it will not stop illegal entry, which is why we need to give Albania all the help we can in fighting poverty, improving the standard of living and employment prospects, setting up democratic institutions and strengthening respect for human rights, especially the rights of minorities, women and children.

There is an urgent need, following the recent attacks on the Greek minority in Himara, to promote democratisation measures and measures to strengthen institutions and respect for human rights in Albania. Our basic objective must be to speed up the rate of economic and social development in Albania and to foster its cooperation and peaceful coexistence with neighbouring countries. This is the only way of breaking the circle of poverty and violence which results in waves of immigrants and refugees. Choosing a preventative policy is not in keeping with the multi-sectoral analysis which should have informed the work of the High-Level Working Group or with the Tampere conclusions, which stress the need for absolute respect for the right to seek asylum based on the application of the Geneva Convention. Albania has little experience in questions of asylum and has not yet developed the mechanisms needed to examine applications for asylum and, therefore, cannot yet be considered a secure country for refugees; nor, according to the findings of the UN High Commissioner for refugees, is it economically, politically or socially able to shoulder such a burden.

Of course, the main problem at the moment is the fragile nature of the Albanian political system, the weak role of parliament, the poor state of the legal and judicial system and the lack of government administration and programming. The country is marked by a lack of security in many regions and high crime rates, especially in relation to the drugs and arms trade, which is why we expect cooperation with the Albanian government in applying the measures proposed in the plan to be particularly difficult.

Efforts are, of course, being made to improve the situation. However, as the recent municipal elections demonstrated, Albania, as it emerges from a long period of isolation, still has no democratic tradition and that is where efforts need to focus. Another problem is the integration, using specific means, of Albanians legally resident in the Member States. So bearing all these problems in mind, the proposals set out in my report include: gradual application of the measures proposed in the action plan, a study of the real needs, such as that contained in the first part, which indicates where the most urgent problems lie; for example, first the economy and democratic institutions need to be developed and infrastructures need to be created in Albania and then the Union can think about signing refugee and migrant repatriation agreements. I particularly stress the need to take steps to improve internal security, strengthen dialogue between European officials and local authorities in Albania and, as far as the Commission and Council are concerned, to promote specific action involving cooperation with the Albanian, Italian and Greek authorities.

At the same time, we need coordinated action, with the maximum cooperation of Europol, in order to put an end to trafficking and prostitution rings dealing in women and children and the actions of criminal gangs involved in trafficking in human beings, whom they then exploit through illicit employment and prostitution. Finally, I should like to state that I support the preparatory work to conclude a stability and partnership agreement between the Union and Albania.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR INGO FRIEDRICH
Vice-President

 
  
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  Pack (PPE-DE), draftsperson of the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I really must express my surprise that the Commission has allowed a high-level Council working group to do the work that it should, in fact, have done after Amsterdam. I think that this is a shame, although what the group has done is not wrong because it touches on the right problems and also tries to point out the right possible solutions. As Mrs Karamanou has already said, since the opening of the Iron Curtain, which was of course drawn particularly tightly around Albania, it has been one of the most significant countries of origin and transit for immigrants entering the EU. Obviously this creates problems.

However, we also have another problem in Albania. A considerable number of Albanians are leaving their homeland because of the instability in their country, because of the social difficulties and because of the pre-modern structures of society and family. They are leaving their country, and as they do so a part of the future of this country is lost.

We need to help to establish a situation in this country which will induce people to stay there, to ensure that security is guaranteed, that there are jobs there and that the people simply do not look for a way out. Of course, we also need to prevent Albania from becoming more and more of a trade centre for refugees, drugs and trafficking in women.

It is a country in which many are involved, in which many neighbours also get their hands dirty. That is why we need to help this country. We will do so as the European Union. We will train the police. We will help them with customs, but the problem is that so much is in a mess in this country that obviously progress is only very slow, despite some efforts being made by the government.

I should like to say just one thing, Mrs Karamanou: if Albania is not a safe country of origin and we treat Albanian refugees differently from others, then neither can Albania claim that it wants to enter into a stability and association agreement with us. It has not yet come that far, but I think that it has come further than you suggest. For me, Albania is a country to which we can send people back. People are not persecuted there. All is not yet rosy either, but it is better than you have described

 
  
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  Klamt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, the action plan states in its analysis that the status quo in Albania is worrying. The poor social, economic and political conditions combined with a lack of or insufficient legal certainty and organised crime are causing migration on a huge scale. Albania is a significant country of transit and origin for immigration into the European Union. On the other hand, positive efforts are being made to drive forward the democratisation process and to develop society, which we must and will support.

Restricting the number of immigrants coming into the EU from and through Albania is the main aim of the action plan. To achieve this, measures are needed which work in two different directions. Firstly, the positive forces in Albania need to be supported; secondly, legal instruments need to be created for immigration from this region, which restrict or stop illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings, as well as the diverse forms of crime associated with them such as illicit employment and prostitution.

We need preventative measures specially tailored to Albania, which will provide support for building or rebuilding the country so as to enable people to live in dignity in the region. Many reasons for emigrating, seeking asylum and taking flight would thus cease to exist. But what we need on the other hand are stringent, uniform legal instruments for immigration in the whole of the European Union. These legal instruments cannot, however, include provisions to legalise criminal actions. Gangs of smugglers do not provide a service, generously rescuing people from persecution by totalitarian states. Paid traffickers, most of whom are involved in large-scale, cross-border organised crime, make cruel profits out of the misfortune and hopes of the people concerned and do not provide magnanimous humanitarian services.

In this context, the proposal tabled by Mrs Schröder, to make EU aid available to the traffickers, must also be condemned as counterproductive and contemptuous of human life.

(Applause)

You, Mrs Karamanou, are certainly right because the traffickers are not the root of the evil. But the root of the evil is not the European Union either. The root of the evil are the conditions in the countries of origin. I welcome the action plan, but I cannot support what Mrs Karamanou says in her report because she does not describe the illegal crossing of borders as a criminal act and therefore says that it is legal. For us to tackle the causes, however, and not continue just to fight against the symptoms, we need to provide help in the regions concerned and we need to resolve the whole issue of immigration, asylum and war refugees in the European Union by coming up with solutions which do justice to the immigrants but also to the host countries.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Volcic (PSE).(IT) Mr President, unlike Mrs Pack, I am of the opinion that the more groups that are involved in Albania the better. The Committee on Citizens’ Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs constitutes a forum in which this issue should be discussed, because these are not issues that can be resolved instantaneously, but ones that we will perhaps be confronted with for decades to come.

It would, therefore, be valuable for the programme that we have before us, and which I feel Mrs Karamanou covers very well in her report, to be subdivided into measures that can be implemented swiftly, medium-term measures and those regarding a legacy of history that we have been combating for 500 years and which will persist for centuries to come. The legal instruments selected fall into the bracket of medium-term measures; the issue of a group of honest customs officials and unimpeachable judges is an economic issue as well, and one that will take decades to resolve.

Recently, we have, thank heavens, seen positive signals emerging from that part of the Balkans that has an indirect impact on Albania. The report mentions a remarkable fact – for reasons of brevity I will confine myself to talking about this point alone – which is to say that the action plan for Albania and the neighbouring countries was drawn up by a working party. Thus it is that documents have been circulating from one body to the next, and the European Commission, for example, refuses to make public the report concerning inter alia even the Customs Assistance Mission (CAM) established in Albania.

Here we have another danger linked to the Albanian question: suspicions are being aroused that someone wants to hide something, to cover up something that in fact does not exist. Anyone who knows anything about Albania knows that it is somewhat undiplomatic to name the players in public life there, as much can happen in dealings between countries in the throes of change and an industrialised world that has cast itself in the role of aid donor. But, Mr President, since everything concerning aid to the Albanians is, in fact, quite clear and transparent, I consider the publication of all the documents pertaining to it to be an act of political honesty, and one that would nip in the bud any self-interested speculation. The overarching issue is, of course, that of providing Albania with all the aid that we can, in order to combat crime and make peoples’ lives easier, thereby stemming emigration as well.

 
  
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  Paulsen (ELDR).(SV) Mr President, this is a very good report that is humane in intent, but the aim is nonetheless to stop the flow of human beings from and through Albania. The EU has adopted a rather sad refugee policy, which is largely based on the idea that we must close our borders. But how is this to be done? Why are people fleeing? Clearly, they are fleeing from oppression, terror and war, but they are also fleeing from chaos and poverty. Man’s longing for a better life tomorrow – a better life for himself, but perhaps above all for his children – is one of the very greatest and strongest driving forces.

We cannot simply attempt to shut out all those who try to get here. We need to find better methods. The hard method – the police – can be used when it comes to the trade in children and women and to slave labour. The tighter the borders we attempt to create, the more insane forms of refugee smuggling we shall see. Clearly, there is no instant solution to be found to the entire problem, but in the slightly longer term it is a matter of creating a world of reasonable justice, of security and of opportunities for the future. This applies both to the Albanian people and to the people of other areas who attempt, via Albania, to reach the land of milk and honey represented by the European Union.

Our forefathers went to the United States to create a life in freedom, as they believed. We are trying to stand in the way of those who are doing the same thing today. It is very sad to realise that, today in Western Europe, we are trying to create laws that would punish those who are hiding Anne Frank’s unborn grandchildren. It is quite incredible that we have reached this point.

Let us try to see the truth with open eyes. We shall never be able to live in peace and freedom and with prosperity and justice if we perpetrate this appalling injustice on the very closest neighbours of the European Union.

 
  
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  Sörensen (Verts/ALE).(NL) Mr President, Commissioner, the Greens of the EFA Group would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mrs Karamanou, on her report; which is very accurate. It is indeed the case that measures must be taken with regard to migration, more specifically forced migration, and that the causes must be tackled. I would particularly like to highlight the predicament of women and children in Albania. First of all, it is tragic how many young people disappear, are kidnapped and leave involuntarily, or sometimes voluntarily. There are no children’s rights in Albania, no playing facilities or women’s rights – there is a great deal of violence towards women in the family by the partner or husband – no animal rights and no human rights at all. The villages are ecological disaster areas: waste is dumped everywhere, the water is not always drinkable and electricity is deficient. The people are, of course, hopeful of better political representation but at present, many people still live in fear; fear of all kinds of things, fear of the outbursts of violence which flare up now and again. There is also a chasm between the donors, that is to say all of us, Europe and the United States, who give money, organise projects and such like, and the actual people in the field.

Another problem which I wanted to touch upon is the problem of the reception of Albanian victims of trafficking in women. Although they return to their country, there are no reception facilities for them. There is a reception facility at the ICMC for victims from Montenegro, among others, but not for Albanian girls who return from Italy, Greece, Germany, Belgium, etc. The appeal of the NGOs, of the women’s NGOs must be acted upon. There is also the threat that they will be picked up again by the traffickers and returned to the countries of destination.

New life must be injected into the economy and a sound ecological policy must be put in place. The issue of schools and child reception must be addressed. Aid must be granted to the people who work out there in the field, in NGOs. Positive things are being done, the IOM is doing sterling work, so are the European police services, and the KFOR is present, but the local population must also do their bit to develop their country. Persecutors must be punished. Mrs Karamanou, congratulations on the extensive, wide-angled approach in your report.

 
  
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  Theonas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, allow me to start by offering my warmest congratulations to our fellow member Anna Karamanou on the quality of her work and to highlight her comment that the action plan should focus on providing protection to persecuted citizens, who are subject to constant human rights abuses, and not on how to limit and stop migration towards the Member States of the Union.

We all know that Albania faces acute problems, both as a country and as a society. The economic, social and political conditions which prevail in Albania force its citizens to seek in migration literally the only possible hope of survival for them and their families. The situation was exacerbated when action by political forces lavishly supported by the European Union resulted in the pyramid scandal in 1997 and robbed the people of their savings and, at the same time, shattered any confidence in the structures and organisation of the Albanian state. This situation resulted in a popular uprising which basically abolished the Albanian state, causing huge security, political and economic problems for the Albanian people. Massive quantities of arms passed into the hands of uncontrolled gangs which soon set up as mafia-type organised criminal gangs.

The whole situation was made worse by events in Kosovo and the NATO bombings, which exacerbated the problems in the region. To turn a blind eye to this situation and to try and erect walls around your paradise, allegedly to protect it from desperate neighbours is both inhumane and short-sighted.

Obviously, everyone wants to live in their mother country, provided of course that they can live a secure and dignified life there. On the other hand, however, there is no force which can stop a desperate person. What we need to do is abandon repressive measures and move in two directions: first, by helping Albania to revive its economy and restore its population there and, secondly, to legalise the Albanian immigrants illegally present in the Union, instead of treating them like second-class citizens and slave labour, and to put them to work where we need them. There are jobs in Greece, for example, which, if the Albanian immigrants leave, will remain undone, mainly in the agricultural sector.

Let us make use of bilateral agreements to define jobs, periods of residency, places of residency, pay, hours, working and national insurance conditions clearly and legally, so that immigrants can prove their strength and help to improve our economies and build friendship and cooperation between peoples, rather than nationalist, cold-war aspirations.

 
  
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  Dimitrakopoulos (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to start by congratulating Mrs Karamanou on her work on what is in fact a very delicate and important matter. I think that we need to turn our attention to two – of many – basic issues. The first concerns structures and procedures in Albania and is even more important following recent events and incidents during the municipal elections, incidents directed mainly at the Greek minority living in Albania. What happened is proof positive that the European Union’s aim must be to establish structures which will ensure that democratic rules are respected and that the rights of minorities in Albania are recognised and respected.

The second issue is the really huge and complex issue of migration. It is a very important issue which is being shaped by historical, social, political and economic factors. Because the problem is complex, we need to respond to it with a complex policy, a policy which brooks no simplifications, a policy which will result in a new legal framework, because a legal framework is a constituent element of a state, but a legal framework which is dynamic and solves problems rather than confining itself to simple repressive action, even where they are the effects of application of the law.

I think that the time is now right to adopt and impose these measures. We have reached a stage where the conditions are in place and we all accept that if we do so we will be providing a huge service.

 
  
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  Keßler (PSE).(DE) Mr President, I welcome the fact that an action plan has been drawn up for Albania and I also welcome my colleague's – Mrs Karamanou's – committed report. On the basis of her analysis of the political and economic situation in Albania, it is possible for us to reach a better understanding of the causes of the migratory movements and to develop corresponding measures. I do regret, however, the fact that this action plan, and also the other action plans which have been drawn up, are characterised above all by measures aimed at control and repression. Albania is one of the poorest countries in the world and has itself taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees.

At present, there is a heavy stream of refugees returning which the lack of security, law and order is actually impeding. Some of the people being sent back have integrated well. Young people are having to interrupt their training and are facing an uncertain future. This is an ill-advised policy.

The reintegration of the refugees must therefore take place under safe and humane conditions. For this to be the case, it is absolutely essential to draw up plans for a coordinated repatriation operation and, above all, to involve non-governmental and international organisations.

I still judge the situation in Albania to be very serious because of the political instability, the disregard for laws and the extremely high levels of crime. Year after year, especially in summer, thousands of people risk their lives on their way to the EU. In so doing, hundreds of these refugees die at sea. We will never know the true death toll. Italy's 7 000-kilometre-long coastal border is difficult to police and offers gangs of traffickers, who proceed with remarkable contempt for human life, huge scope for their activities. Criminals, who exploit the refugees' affliction, must be punished. The toughest possible action needs to be taken against trafficking in human beings – in particular in small children – and the exploitation of people for illicit work and prostitution. But anyone who thinks that controlling the traffickers alone would contribute to stopping illegal immigration is mistaken. We need to step up the dialogue between the various negotiating and advisory forums and we need better coordination. Only in this way can we together contribute to combating the exploitation of refugees by traffickers.

The Community must support Albania in its efforts to strengthen the rule of law, and also, particularly where financial support is concerned – I should like to stress this – we must not leave Albania and the region to fend for themselves. Finally, I would take this opportunity to call on the Council once again to take steps to bring the policy on immigration, asylum and combating trafficking in human beings entirely within the Community system.

 
  
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  Vatanen (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, it is very important for the sake of European stability to assist Albania and its neighbouring regions. Helping democracy to take root and establishing the rule of law are vital. We cannot forget nations that are in distress: our duty is to support them to the best of our ability.

The action programme for Albania and its neighbouring regions will enable us to increase stability in the area. The main area of focus must not be how the flood of immigrants and refugees may be brought under control, but how conditions in the region can be improved so that people can stay in their homes. Albania, and Kosovo in particular, are not yet regions at peace, however, which means that the repatriation of refugees must take place in a controlled way, so that their safety is not jeopardised. The situation of the Kosovo Albanians has long been very difficult, and it is a great relief that, at last, their rights are being recognised. But it is just as essential to protect the rights of the minorities in Kosovo: the Serbs and the Romanies. It will be a long but necessary process to bring about reconciliation between the national groups. Only in forgiveness is there a revolutionary basis for building the future.

Economic growth enables difficulties to be overcome in crisis areas. It is not enough merely to pile up aid: we need enterprise at grassroots level and we need to encourage people to stand on their own two feet. People with the same business affairs in common are peacefully bound to one another. Money, as is well known, brings peace. The EU CARDS programme is of the utmost importance in this situation, as, without a system of administration that functions properly, nothing works. We must help them to help themselves. Right now the region needs a guiding hand. The EU, as a partner of the Balkans, has a huge responsibility for the future of the region. We must put an end to selfishness and see our destinies bound together.

 
  
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  Zacharakis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, when about two months ago I proposed that Paragraph 6 of the report should include a reference to the need to improve the security and protection of ethnic minorities and the rapporteur, whom I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate on her work, accepted my proposal, I was of course thinking of the generally poor record of this country in its dealings with minorities on its territory, especially the Greek minority.

However, I must admit that even I did not imagine that we would have such overwhelming confirmation quite so soon of the poor conduct of the Albanian authorities. Its undisguised violence and forgery at the expense of the Greek minority candidates and voters during the recent elections, as witnessed by objective official international observers, demonstrated that, unfortunately, Albania has little respect for even its most rudimentary obligations as it makes its way towards the European Union, at the very time when Albania itself is calling on the international community to intervene, including militarily, in the defence of oppressed Albanian minorities in third countries and demanding that all the human rights of Albanian migrants, including illegal immigrants, be guaranteed, a demand which we all feel it is advisable for us to attempt to satisfy, and rightly so.

Greece is a typical example; despite providing various forms of generous support to the post-Communist Albanian regime and receiving and welcoming thousands of Albanian immigrants and illegal immigrants, it must now watch as the large historic Greek minority in Albania is systematically persecuted and its rudimentary human, political and cultural rights are repeatedly violated.

All this and the unacceptable events in Himara give us cause, I think, to make a very careful assessment of just how able and willing Albania is to take on the accepted European criteria in the areas of human rights and democratic freedoms and, by extension, to modulate and adjust our general approach, our action plans and the various benefits which we provide this country accordingly until such time it revises its policy.

 
  
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  Lisi (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, I agree with Mr Dimitrakopoulos that the central issue in respect of the problems in Albania – be these of an economic, social or internal security nature – continues to be that of helping that country to reinstate the rule of law, bring security to the citizens, and restore the credibility of institutions and local administrations. Without this rise in the democratic barometer in that country, and in view of the latest electoral shenanigans and the denunciation of the gerrymandering that went on at that time, it is clear there can be no other way of ever resolving Albania’s problems.

I welcome the fact that the report at last takes into account and develops two points to which we Italians attach great importance. Firstly, an unstable Albania means instability in the Balkans and an unstable Balkans means instability for Europe. This is an awareness that we must all help to foster. Secondly, another reality is that the pressures brought about by migration and the fight against criminality, both of which originate in Albania, cannot be shouldered by Italy and Greece alone. I have heard many declarations of solidarity and willingness to help, but I must remind you that the only real solidarity shown so far has come from people living in border areas within Italy and by local institutions. I have seen no sign of this solidarity that is supposed to bind Europe, now that it has come to sharing the problems of another people.

However, what I cannot accept in this report, and I will state this quite frankly, is that it confuses cause and effect, which is to say it confuses a procedure for the carefully considered issuing of visas, and hence the possibility of migration, with a cause, that of illegal immigration. Things are completely the reverse, so let us not confuse cause and effect. Above all, I find it unacceptable and negative vis-à-vis Albania that we should in a sense intimate that illegal immigration could be tolerated. This is something of which Albania has no need. What Albania does need from us is tangible economic aid and genuine solidarity, but also a little firmness, because it must, with our assistance, go about reconstructing for itself a framework for the rule of law.

 
  
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  Posselt (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, for many people in the EU, Albania is far away, further than the back of beyond, and yet the Albanians are one of the oldest European civilisations. In the Middle Ages they fought against the Ottoman invasion and they defended themselves against them as Europeans until well into modern times. They have suffered particularly badly from European disregard. In the nineteenth century, better prospects were held out for all the Balkan nations at the Congress of Berlin in 1878. In Berlin, the Albanians were almost brushed aside from the table – their views were not taken into account – and in the twentieth century, they have suffered greatly under one of the most terrible ideologies of the twentieth century, namely under socialism and communism in a particularly brutal manifestation. That is why, today, we have a European responsibility for this European Albania. That is why I welcome the line taken in the report and the approach adopted by the action plan. However, we need to make absolutely certain that we do not operate double standards.

Much has been said here about minority rights. I should like to say that we are right to demand minority rights of the Albanians. But if we do so then we must also introduce them across the European Union. We have not managed to do this. We do not have any European standards on the protection of minorities. In all Albania's neighbouring countries – apart from Kosovo, where the Albanians are in a majority – we have Albanian minorities, and we can demonstrate here what the EU's standards on minorities are.

I should like to make a second point. Like Mr Lisi, I believe that we need to incorporate burden-sharing in our policy on asylum and refugees. But the problem is that we have fought for this very point, and neither in this House nor in the European Union have we achieved a majority in favour of a system of burden-sharing based on quotas. Precisely in the case of Albania we see that it can affect any Member State. That is why it is important for us not to spend any longer tinkering about with the symptoms, but for us finally to establish a policy on asylum and refugees based on solidarity, with fixed quotas and a stable system of burden-sharing, before catastrophe strikes.

 
  
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  Liikanen, Commission. – (FI) Mr President, the conclusions of the European Council at Tampere called for firmer external action in the area of legal and internal affairs. The action plan being discussed is a major measure to strengthen external action. The enormous institutional changes that came out of the Treaty of Amsterdam have had an impact on the way asylum and migration are dealt with. The Community can now respond to the demands of the European Council by making use of its new powers regarding foreign policy and its programmes connected with external relations. In connection with the Stability and Association process we are discussing issues of immigration with the Albanians as equal partners. There should be similar sorts of discussions going on in the region as a whole. Since 1991, Albania has been granted a total of 750 million euros in multi-sectoral aid within the framework of the PHARE programme. In the last two years the country has been granted an additional 250 million euros in humanitarian aid under the ECHO programme. Legal and internal affairs are an important element in the CARDS programme that followed PHARE.

We wish to emphasise in particular the fact that we fully support the comprehensive approach and aim on the part of the High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration to discover the real reasons for enforced movements of population. The General Affairs Council adopted the first five action plans last October, and they concern Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Morocco, and Iraq. The action plan for Albania and its neighbouring regions was adopted in June this year and it is thus the sixth in order. The European Council at Tampere urged the Council and the Commission to report on the progress of the Working Group’s work in December this year. The report will discuss the action programme for Albania and its neighbouring regions in detail. The draft is being discussed today in the Council. The Commission is playing an active part in compiling the report.

I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mrs Karamanou, and the whole Committee for this very thorough report and I hope that the Council will give consideration to the points of view expressed in it. I wish to raise three points for consideration, which the Commission regards as particularly important. Firstly, the Commission supports a balanced, impartial approach to the measures proposed and to their implementation. In this, we are of the same opinion as the rapporteur. Secondly, the situation seems to be excellent as far as the aims in the action plan for the year 2000 are concerned. The Commission has been involved in drafting the report on the implementation of the action plan. We also want to thank the Member States for their input with regard to this work. As I have already said, the Community aims to implement its aid programmes as efficiently as possible. This provides the focus for the work of the Union as a whole. Thirdly and lastly, the action plan and its way of implementation must be observed regionally. The Stability Pact for South-East Europe offers an excellent forum for this. The parties to the Stability Pact have already delivered several opinions along these lines. We may also adopt a more optimistic attitude towards the summit to be held next month in Zagreb.

 
  
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  President. – Thank you, Commissioner Liikanen.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today at 6 p.m.

 
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