News / Europe

EU Sets Albania on Road to Membership

FILE - European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele (L) attends a news conference with Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama, in Tirana, Albania, June 4, 2014.
FILE - European Union Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele (L) attends a news conference with Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama, in Tirana, Albania, June 4, 2014.
Reuters
— The European Union set Albania on the road to membership on Tuesday, granting the small Balkan state the status of candidate to join in recognition of recent reforms, while warning the government that progress was conditional on further efforts.

Years of political polarization have slowed democratic reforms in Albania and kept it behind some of its ex-Yugoslav peers. A change of government last September, though, opened the way for an EU-backed reform push.

“Albania is one step closer to the European Union. Another important milestone on the European Union path has been reached,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele told a news conference after ministers took the decision in Luxembourg.

Fuele praised Albania for its fight against organized crime, singling out a police raid on drug traffickers who produced marijuana on an industrial scale. But he said Albania faced major challenges ahead.

The decision, which must be confirmed by EU leaders at a Brussels summit on Friday, was the first major step on EU enlargement since European elections in May when Eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties performed strongly, a development which could slow further expansion of the 28-nation bloc.

A NATO member of some 3 million people, Albania will have to meet further conditions to actually start negotiations on entry, a process that aims to bring the candidates' laws in line with EU rules and can take many years.

It also will face reluctance among many EU members to further enlarge the bloc, fueled by concerns over economic costs, rising Euroscepticism and disappointment with democratic progress in two of the EU's newer members, Romania and Bulgaria.

As in those countries, corruption and organized crime are major problems in Albania where a police raid on a vast cannabis plantation was met with heavy weapons fire last week.

Underscoring caution in the EU, German State Secretary for Europe Michael Roth said joining the EU was not automatic.

“Albania made some progress in the fight against corruption and rule of law. But there is a clear expectation. Without democratic structures ... without an independent judiciary, without a fight against corruption, there is no EU membership,” he told reporters in Luxembourg.

No green light

“This isn't a green light for membership,” a diplomat from another EU state said. “Albania will have to make major reforms if it is going to progress.”

The Netherlands, Britain, Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Spain were the member states taking the toughest stance on demanding reforms from Albania, one EU official said.

In a statement, the EU said Albania had to address issues such as the use of fraudulent documents, money laundering, drug cultivation and human trafficking.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that, with the EU's decision, Albania had “regained its lost dignity in the eyes of international partners.”

“It was not an easy job, Europe is not a door that opens easily. After the (European) elections, things could have gone in another direction. The reason I am thankful to European leaders ... is that they stood by the project of Europe,” he told reporters in the Albanian capital Tirana.

A dispute between the Czech Republic and Albania that had threatened to hold up EU candidate status was resolved on Tuesday when Czech utility CEZ said it would receive 100 million euros [$136 million] in a settlement.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that before Albania could advance further in EU entry talks, it must remove problems in the areas of protecting basic union freedoms, the protection of investments and the rights of states.

Having shed a Stalinist dictatorship, Albania escaped the wars that embroiled its northern neighbors in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, but a chaotic transition to capitalism has left the country mired in poverty and corruption.

Of its western Balkan peers, Albania joins Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia as an official candidate for membership. Croatia and Slovenia have already joined the bloc and Serbia and Montenegro have both begun accession talks.

Macedonia's bid is hostage to a row with neighboring Greece over Macedonia's name. Bosnia and Kosovo have yet to be granted candidate status.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (1)
Comments
     
by: MikeD from: Toronto
June 24, 2014 4:27 PM
Kosovo has already began accession talks since it is within Serbia. They are better off with Serbia rather than playing the puppet as a defacto state. Their seccession from Serbia was and still is illegal and baseless. The EU cannot have different rules for Crimea in Ukraine and Kosovo within Serbia. If the EU were to grant accession status to Ukraine tomorrow, would they not include Crimea?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid