History made as College of Europe set to open Tirana campus

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 9, 2023 12:55

History made as College of Europe set to open Tirana campus

Story Highlights

  • Bringing the third campus of College of Europe to Albania is another step in tying the country permanently to the West and changing perceptions about Albania among EU citizens, says AIIS’ Albert Rakipi.

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If Albania needed a sign that the European Union is still serious about its enlargement in the Western Balkans, it has received it in a special way: College of Europe, a renowned institution for training future European leaders, is set to open a campus in Tirana. 

Following a lobbying campaign by Albania's government, the European Union has announced that funds have been set aside for the project and the campus will open in Tirana in September 2023. 

The rector of the College of Europe, Federica Mogherini who is visiting Albania in order to see from up close the preparations for the launching of the College in Tirana, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Albanian Minister of Education Evis Kushi.

The memorandum provides for Albania to become a member in the Administrative Council of the College of Europe. Hence Albania becomes the very first among all the aspirant and candidate countries that will have a voice in the governance of the College of Europe.  

Likely to have a large impact on Albania’s future

Regional experts interpret this move as the bloc's endeavor to bolster its soft power in a strategically important area, but the impact on Albania itself will also be large and historic, according to Albert Rakipi, chairman of the Albanian Institute for International Studies.

College of Europe currently has two campuses, one in Belgium and one in Poland, and opening a third campus in Tirana is “extraordinary and historic” because it is another step in tying Albania permanently to the West, Dr. Rakipi said. 

"Bringing the College of Europe to Tirana means bringing the first truly Western post-university educational institution since the creation of Albania’s modern state. It is the biggest development of its kind in education in 100 years, and will have the same impact in Albanian history as the pre-WWII French Lyceum in Korca and Harry Fultz’s American school in Tirana,” Dr. Rakipi said.

He added that in addition to bringing a center of excellence to Albania, having a College of Europe campus in Tirana will also have an impact on the perceptions of EU citizens about Albania as more scholars and students from a variety of backgrounds attend classes and do research in Albania. 

"This is great for Albania and its European future. It is a historic achievement,” Dr. Rakipi said. "AIIS has been involved since the inception of the idea to bring the College of Europe campus to Albania and is happy to see the efforts have resulted in the idea becoming a reality."

A sign of EU attention to the region

College of Europe is headquartered in Bruges, Belgium, and has a second campus in Warsaw, Poland. Albania had been bidding to host a third campus after a proposal had been made by the Albanian government in December 2022 during the EU-Western Balkan Summit in Tirana, receiving support in principle by EU’s highest leaders.

The Tirana campus would be a regional center of EU learning but draw students from the entire continent.

"For me, this is a clear signal that membership is close and that is why I am very proud to declare -- and we have discussed it with the College of Europe, I hope that they will also process it -- that we will be able to start the admissions process as early as September of this year," EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said at a recent press conference, adding that all was now needed is a nice site for the campus in Tirana. 

The Albanian government has promised to provide a prominent space for the campus in Tirana, but it has yet to reveal its location.

Albania-EU leaders endorse

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has spoken highly of the move, calling it a “great gift” and something “exceptionally important and significant for us.” 

“After the Bruges college opened a campus in Poland in the 1990s to support those countries becoming members of the European Union, it is now going to open a campus in Albania,’’ said Mr. Rama, the significance being apparent.

Mr. Rama said back in December 2022, during the joint press conference with President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen that the government had officially proposed bringing the prestigious EU institution to Albania, receiving the first indication of support from EU’s leadership. 

Rector of the College of Europe Federica Mogherini, EU’s former foreign policy chief, also “welcomed the announced intention of the Commission to finance a new College of Europe campus in Tirana,” according to POLITICO. She added: “We are starting the preliminary work in view of submitting a detailed proposal.”

About College of Europe

The College of Europe is the world's first university institute of postgraduate studies and training in European affairs. It was founded in 1949 by leading European figures in the wake of the Hague Congress, which led to the creation of the European Movement. Its original campus is in Bruges, Belgium. A second Natolin (Warsaw), Poland campus of the college was established in 1992 ahead of Poland's accession negotiations with the EU. 

Tirana is now set to host the third campus of the venerated institution in the Western Balkans, hoping to speed up regional integration into the EU and to bring the same vision that it had in late 40s Western Europe and early 90s Eastern Europe. 

According to a ranking by POLITICO, College of Europe boasts the highest number of alumni serving as civil servants in the EU. Notable alumni include current Commissioner Margaritīs Schinas, along with former prime ministers Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark and Alexander Stubb of Finland. 

The university's funding is derived from a combination of sources, including the EU and various national governments, as per its own records.

Albania’s integration process into the European Union is moving forward but at a much slower pace than previous Eastern European entrants, causing growing frustration in the country. 

Albania applied for EU membership in April 2009 and was granted EU candidate status in June 2014. The EU held its first intergovernmental conference with Albania in July 2022, and Albania-EU negotiations for full membership are ongoing. The process is likely to take many years to complete. No firm timeline is available.  


Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 9, 2023 12:55