Madam President, in this progress report Knut Fleckenstein managed indeed to include almost everything that is of great political importance to us, but I will also underline that Rama’s government has been undertaking a major round of reforms over the past years and some of the requested sectors have progressed. As a result, the European Council recognised these efforts, granting candidate status with a decision of June 2014. Such an action serves as an encouragement to step up the pace of the reforms and continue the high-level dialogue with the Commission.

The S&D as a political group has always been supportive of Albanian EU membership. However, allow me to underline that further steps should be taken with regard to reforming the judicial system, promoting structural reforms and economic governance, and improving the infrastructure for connectivity with neighbouring Balkan states. Also, special focus should and must be placed on the protection of minorities and on securing equal rights for them, on respect towards human rights in general, and on the efforts needed to achieve full reconciliation and good neighbourly relations with the Balkans.