18th Oct 2019

Albania told to implement reforms before winning closer EU ties

The EU on Monday (5 May) said it was too early to set a date for the next step in Albania's EU integration process, demanding instead that promised reforms be implemented first.

"I do not think that we can take a precise engagement at this stage," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, referring to the formal step of giving Albania EU candidate status.

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First, Tirana needs to demonstrate it is implementing the reforms it has promised. It needs a "solid track record", Mr Barroso told journalists after meeting Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha in Brussels.

When the commission is "convinced that the reforms are consolidated, only then we will be in a position to guarantee the next step," he stressed.

Albania signed a pre-accession deal with the EU – a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) – in June 2006.

The next step in the country's EU integration process would be for it to apply for EU membership and subsequently be given the status of EU candidate country.

At this stage, only two western Balkan states – Croatia and Macedonia – as well as Turkey have the status of EU candidates.

Last week, Albanian opposition leader Edi Rama at a conference in Brussels called on his government to submit the official application for EU membership by September.

This would shift the country out of "this comfortable situation that is created by taking the European integration as something obvious, something for granted, as something that one day will come," Mr Rama said.

For his part, Mr Berisha admitted that the demands of the opposition as well as of "all Albanians" to see their country become an EU candidate as soon as possible were "legitimate", but refused to commit to a specific time-frame.

"I think that the process needs to be a convincing one for all [EU] member states, and for the commission, and I cannot say a [specific] date" for this, the prime minister said.

"All that I can tell you is that I will work hard to succeed as soon as possible," he added, underlining that his government had already made some progress.

Among other things, the EU is asking Albania to better fight corruption and organised crime, as well as to improve its judiciary and its administrative capacity.

EU split on Western Balkans accession

Europe's credibility is at risk in the Western Balkans, half its member states have warned - but EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Albania and North Macedonia unlikely to start accession talks soon.

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