Books on Albania
No: 162 - (24/11/10)
EU Progress Report
There is no doubt about the biggest issue
in front of the Albanians – EU membership.
Amid celebrations around the country for
achieving visa-free status earlier in the
month, the Director for Enlargement in the
Western Balkans, Pierre Mirel, presented
the EU Progress Report on Albania to Prime
Minister Sali Berisha on November 9th.
The report gave the country credit for the
work achieved on legislation, the economy,
and implementation of the Stabilisation
and Association Agreement.
The report also praised Albania's
constructive role in "maintaining regional
stability and fostering good neighbourly
relations with other Western Balkan and EU
But there are still specific
However, the EU did not grant Albania
candidate status, citing a number of
problems and issues the country must
In particular, more progress is needed
towards compliance with the Copenhagen
political criteria. According to the
report, problem areas include the
"effectiveness and stability of Albania's
democratic institutions, notably
The report pointed out the confrontational
nature of the current political dialogue,
and the need for electoral and judicial
reform. There also needs to be improvement
in the "implementation of legislation and
policy instruments in the field of human
rights and protection of minorities".
Other specific actions that need to be
taken include the adoption of pending laws
requiring a reinforced majority in
parliament, the appointment of an
ombudsman, the implementation of an
orderly hearing and voting process in
parliament for constitutional and high
court appointments, and the maintenance of
a national strategy on property rights.
The fight against corruption and organised
crime must also be more effective.
One immediate challenge Mirel underscored
is the political stalemate arising from
the contested June 2009 general elections.
The Socialist opposition has made it clear
they won't vote on any government
initiative stemming from the EU report
unless the transparency of these elections
Analysts agree the government and the
opposition must concentrate on reaching a
consensus concerning the parliamentary
"I want to guarantee the Albanians that I
will make all attempts to co-operate with
the opposition", Berisha said on Tuesday.
It is in "the vital interest of Albanian
citizens to build the European ideal in
Albania … All the defined priorities and
all shortages noted in this report will be
transformed into priorities of my
government during the months … and the
year to come."
Ermelinda Meksi, a member of the Socialist
opposition, former minister of integration
and head of the parliamentary commission
on integration, seemed sceptical.
"How can one get candidate status without
meeting the Copenhagen criteria?" she
asked, adding that Albanians should not
lose sight of that in the visa
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan
Fuele noted that the main challenges to
Union integration "lie in Albania itself.
I hope Albania will find the political
determination necessary to ... build a
true democratic society, with a strong
market economy and a body of legislation
fully aligned with that of the EU," he
But does the political will exist?
"Aspirant countries must develop the
capacity to assume fully the obligations
of membership by satisfying the political
and economic conditions required. That is
non-negotiable," Atalanta Pasko, a
publisher and a journalist, told SETimes
Yet politicians in Albania don't want to
change, Pasko said. They get involved in
politics expecting to get "enormously
rich. This is a reality we live on a daily
basis. They are not able to push the
country forward and respond with laws and
implementation of the laws to the needs of
Russia might include Albania in a gas
pipeline project that rivals a US and
Russia's deputy foreign minister says
Moscow might include Albania in the South
Stream gas pipeline, which will carry
Russian gas to southeastern Europe.
Vladimir Titov says Russia will consider
extending the planned pipeline to the
small Balkan country, according to an
Albanian government statement. Albania is
not currently linked to any international
Titov spoke after talks on November 12
with Prime Minister Sali Berisha.
South Stream will deal a blow to the rival
Nabucco pipeline, which is supported by
the U.S. and the European Union.
Austria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia,
Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Croatia have
signed onto South Stream, which will lead
under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. The joint
venture between Russia's Gazprom and
Italy's Eni will open in 2015.