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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid