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Praising its progress, the European Commission on Wednesday recommended that Albania receive EU candidate status subject to completing key reforms ahead of the 2013 elections.
“Albania has made significant progress during the last year, notably on stronger cross-party agreement on the European Union reform process,” the EU Enlargement Commissioner Stafan Fule said.
“In view of this progress, the Commission recommends that the Council should grant Albania the status of candidate country subject to key judicial and public administration reform measures being completed, and the parliamentary rules of procedure being revised,” he added.
The head of Albania’s parliamentary commission on EU integration, Ditmir Bushati, said the welcome recommendation was an incentive for the country to move forward with a cooperative political climate ahead the 2013 parliamentary elections.
“This is a carrot that we are receiving from the Commission; however we have to wait for the opinion of the [EU] member states in December, as they will make the [final] decision,” Bushati told Balkan Insight.
Member states of the European Union will debate Albania's candidacy during the next meeting of the EU Council of Ministers.
If Albania does receive EU candidate status, it will need to show further progress and implement further reforms to move on to the next stage and open accession negotiations.
According to a Commission memo, Albania will have in particular to demonstrate sustained implementation of commitments already undertaken and complete all remaining key priorities which have not been met in full.
“The focus should be on the rule of law and fundamental rights, while sustainable political dialogue will remain essential for a successful reform process,” the memo said.
“The conduct of the 2013 parliamentary elections will be a crucial test in this regard and a pre-condition for any recommendation to open negotiations,” it added.
To keep its reform policy credible for investors, the government must find common ground with the IMF and look for a new arrangement, experts say.