Albania candidacy hinges on reforms, elections

12/10/2012

The European Commission recommended giving Albania EU candidate country status, but with the condition that the country achieve progress in several sectors.

By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 12/10/12

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Albania needs to complete reforms before gaining EU accession. [Reuters]

Politicians and analysts lauded the European Commission's (EC) recommendation that Albania receive candidate country status, and said the country is able and willing to complete the reforms that stand in the way of EU accession.

According to the report, the status is subject to the completion of key measures in the areas of judicial and public administration reform and revision of the parliamentary rules of procedure.

When presenting the progress report on Wednesday (October 10th), EC Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule said that Albania "has made significant progress in delivering a number of substantial reforms and political dialogue in the country has improved considerably."

The country entered a two-and-a-half year political standoff in June 2009, after the opposition contested the results of the general elections and ended up boycotting parliament.

Organising the 2013 parliamentary elections under international standards is one of the main criteria Albania needs to fulfill to open accession negotiations.

"To open accession negotiations, Albania must fully deliver the 12 key priorities which deal with elections, rule of law, freedom and fundamental rights. In this direction, the 2013 parliamentary elections are considered as the principal test," Parliamentary Integration Committee Chairman, socialist MP Ditmir Bushati, told SETimes.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha described the report as a historical document, an achievement that makes every Albanian citizen a winner. He thanked opposition politicians for their contribution in achieving reforms and insured free and fair elections next year.

Opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama also lauded the EC decision, but he emphasised that opening accession negotiations hinges on the quality of future parliamentary elections.

“They say we have received a 'conditional' candidate status. I would like to specify there is no such a conditional status. They have not settled any conditions, but just some tasks to achieve. I hope the opposition will read the right way the progress report and fulfill its obligations," Democratic Party MP Tritan Shehuer told SETimes.

Former diplomat and political analyst Dritan Hila said the progress report conclusions reflect the real political and economic situation in the country.

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"Albania saw itself in the mirror regarding the deficiencies pointed out in the progress report, on the political and economical situation in the country," Hila told SETimes.

The process of electing the president, the slow progress of the reforms in the judiciary, the public administration being far from European standards and other deficiencies noticed in technical fields all require reforms to be in line with EU standards.

Aleksandër Çipa, head of the Albanian Journalist Union, said, however, that the conditional status is the official proof of meritocracy in Albania.

“The settled conditions compose a basic criteria against which political actors can not [plead] an innocent role any more," Çipa told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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