08 Nov 10

Albania Political Crisis 'Thwarts' EU Candidate Status Bid

As the European Commission prepares to decide on Albania’s bid for EU candidate status, experts with knowledge of the report note that the drawn-out political crisis has blocked the country dead in its tracks.

Besar Likmeta

“It’s very unlikely that the commission will recommend candidate status for Albania,” said Gledis Gjipali, the executive director of the European Movement in Albania, EMA, a think tank that monitors the country’s progress toward the union.

Candidate status is the next step in Albania's EU integration process, and will lead to accession negotations with the bloc.

“There are problems with the lack of political consensus, the lack of reforms, and little has been done to reduce widespread corruption,” Gjipali told Balkan Insight, adding: “The political crisis has hampered reforms because there has been no consensus in parliament.”

The German Press Agency dpa, which saw drafts of the Commission's decision, reported that the body is unlikely to grant candidate status to Tirana when it releases the progress report on November 9, citing concerns over political infighting.

A policy paper published by EMA on Friday puts forward two scenarios for the Commission's decision and they are both negative.

In the first scenario the Commission recommends candidate status for Albania but not the opening of accession negotiations, while in the second scenario candidate status is denied and the Commission proposes a transition period until a new evaluation is carried out in the future.     

Gjipali explained that Albania would have to wait at least a year for a new opinion.

Albania has faced political deadlock since the country's June 2009 parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Sali Berisha from the ruling Democratic Party and opposition leader Edi Rama of the Socialists have been locked in a stalemate over the results of the elections, which Berisha's party narrowly won.  

For the better part of the past year Socialist MPs boycotted parliament and even held a 21-day hunger strike in front of Berisha’s office to demand a recount. Since their return to the assembly the Socialists have refused to vote on any legal initiative proposed by the government that requires more than a simple majority.

Berisha’s Democrats maintain the 2009 polls are the best elections the country has ever held and a recount is impossible because the opposition has exhausted all legal appeals.

Albania applied for candidate status in April 28, 2009 and on November 16, 2009 the European Council asked the Commission to prepare its opinion on the country’s readiness to embark on the EU accession process. 

The basic conditions for EU integration include stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy and the rule of law, respect for human rights, the protection of minorities and the existence of a functioning market economy. 

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