By Erl Murati
Political parties have come out swinging after Albania was denied EU candidate status again.
The opposition sets the responsibility for the failure this month on the ruling democrat’s lack of efforts to curb crime and corruption, while the government blames the lack of consensus by the socialists in parliament.
“This is an unprecedented case, where a country has been denied EU candidate status for three years in row. The reason is corruption, crime, poverty and bad governance. The responsibility is of the government,” Paskal Milo, former foreign minister and leader of the Social Democracy Party of Albania, told SETimes.
EU General Affairs Council welcomed Albania’s progress in the reforms at its December 10th meeting, but said there needed to be further progress on judicial reform and public administration for candidate status to be granted.
“Strengthening the independence of the judiciary, its efficiency and accountability, the fight against corruption and organized crime, as well as protection of minorities, are all key areas which are at the very core of the country’s path towards the EU,” Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Cyprus’ foreign affairs minister, whose country holds EU presidency, said.
Albania applied in April 2009 to receive EU candidate status, and since then has struggled to obtain a positive answer from Brussels.
“The European Union demands reforms. The opposition is holding hostage three main reforms in the parliament, the judicial reform, the one on public administration and the parliamentary reform,” Tritan Shehu, a democrat MP, told SETimes.
“The opposition does not vote on these laws and is sacrificing Albanians’ aspirations because they think the government might take credit for EU candidate status. They are politically using the integration, but they will get punished by the electorate. They will stay in opposition even after 2013 parliamentary elections,” Shehu said.
Leonard Demi, head of Parliamentary Committee for Security and democrat MP, said that the opposition is not reflecting EU demands.
“Brussels has suggested continuously for a pact within the two main Albanian political forces to ease Euro-Atlantic integration. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called all political parties to co-operate in the judiciary, but the opposition did not reflect in this direction,” Demi told SETimes.
But Valentina Leskaj, Socialist Party MP, said there is not equal responsibility for the lack of EU candidate status.
“Albania has … only four priorities fulfilled, the ones related to the opposition. Meanwhile, the other eight, which are exclusively a government’s responsibility, didn’t have a positive evaluation. Nobody believes fairy tales about the opposition’s responsibility. Is it the opposition’s fault that corruption is flourishing in the country?” Leskaj told SETimes.
The political sparring follows a two-year boycott of parliament by the Socialist party, which ended in October of last year.
“The two main political parties [the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition Socialist Party] have remained stuck to their positions despite their declarations on the will to overcome the deep division between them,” Genc Mlloja, a former Albanian diplomat, told SETimes.