Experts are confident Albania will obtain EU candidate status


The optimism is based on the recent European Commission recommendation for candidate membership status.

By Erl Murati for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 16/06/2014


EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule (left) and Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama meet in Tirana on June 4th. [AFP]

Onlookers said they expect the European Council to follow a recommendation by the European Commission (EC) that Albania obtain EU candidate member status.

The EC issued a report stating Albania has made progress, but it recommended the country continue on-going reforms, improve its efforts against organised crime and nurture political compromise.

"Albania is on the right track," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule. "We confirm without any conditions or reservations the recommendation that the member states grants the candidate status to Albania."

Last December, the European Council did not grant Albania candidate status.

"This time around, the member states unambiguously declared Albania will have a very clear assessment based on the progress report that was recently made public," Klajda Gjosha, minister of integration of Albania, told SETimes. "I hope that the member states keep their promise like they declared in our bilateral meetings."

Gjosha said she is optimistic the results of the elections for European Parliament last month, which included a number of elected EU-sceptic candidates, will not impact the European Council's decision on Albania.

"[T]he first parliamentary session will convene in July, after the decision on candidate status for Albania," Gjosha told for SETimes.

The decision is likely because the EU is aware it will not be complete if the integration project remains half-way finished, according to Majlinda Bregu, chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on integration.

"This project means democracy, safety, civics, competition and challenge. But granting Albania candidate status is a late decision," Bregu told SETimes.

About 85 percent of Albanians support their country's integration in the EU, according to a recent poll by the Albanian Institute for International Studies in Tirana. "From the aspect of political relations with the EU, a candidate status will produce a positive psychological effect on Albania as it will bring the country to the antechamber of Albania's membership in the Union, thus making possible the receiving of the date for the opening of negotiations at another stage," Geron Kamberi, associate researcher the Albanian Institute for International Studies in Tirana, told SETimes.

But Kamberi cautioned specific country conditions, lack of internal political cohesion, and poor administrative capacity to move the process forward may slow down the integration process.

"If the entire political spectrum is committed to support the key reforms, the hurdles may become easily passable," he said.

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The expected EU candidate status will bring about a closer relationship with Brussels and will reflect an improvement of Albania's image and standing, according to Gledis Gjipali, executive director of the European Movement of Albania.

Gjapali said Albania will particularly benefit by using funds from the Pre-Accession Instrument (IPA) II until 2020, once it establishes and accredits institutions to manage the funds.

"The government should pay special attention to such institutions in order not to lose time and bring advantage to businesses, young professionals, farmers, and so forth, as soon as possible. But from the [overall] economic aspect, membership status will increase the foreign companies' and international organizations' trust in Albania, so they can bring much-needed foreign investments," Gjipali told SETimes.

What can Albania do to improve its chances to obtain EU candidate member status? Share your opinion in the comments section.

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