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Albanian Parties Reach Compromise on Judicial Reform

FILE - U.S Ambassador to Albania Donald Lu speaks at a civil society rally in Tirana, July 19, 2016.

Albania's governing and opposition parties compromised on sweeping judicial reform Wednesday, ending a deadlock that risked blocking the Balkan country's move toward European Union accession talks.

The reform package was aimed at overhauling the judiciary to make it independent, capable of fighting endemic corruption and ending impunity for politicians.

The deal followed 18 months of talks with European Union and U.S. officials. The United States had warned of "severe, long-lasting" consequences from Washington if politicians failed to pass the reform.

Parliament will vote on the reform Thursday.

A candidate to join the EU since June 2014, NATO member Albania needs to do more about crime and corruption, public administration, and human and property rights, but reforming the judiciary is the EU's top priority.

The deal had been held up over the role EU and U.S. officials would play in a body that will vet judges and remove corrupt ones. The opposition party had argued that was a breach of sovereignty.

Political analysts say many politicians were reluctant to vote in a reform that could see them face arrest.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said that he wants the reform to "have teeth" and that the EU will see how it works before recommending the start of accession talks.