Germany urges Albania on judicial reform, key to EU step

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday called on Albania to pass a judicial reform package, considered fundamental to convince the European Union launch membership negotiations.

Steinmeier, who is to visit Tirana Tuesday, was quoted by the Albanian Mapo daily newspaper as calling on all political forces “to take over overall state responsibility and approve the reform at the parliament without delay.”

“Two years ago Berlin was involved in granting the candidate status to Albania,” Steinmeier said.

“The European Commission has made one thing very clear: It may give the recommendation for the launch of the membership negotiations in (the) autumn only if the justice Reform is approved by the Albanian Parliament in a near future,” he wrote. If not, he added, “Albania’s hope for launching membership negotiations will be moved again to a faraway distance.”

The parliament faces an end-of-month deadline to pass the package ahead of the European Commission’s autumn report, diplomats have said.

Despite disapproval from the opposition Democratic Party, the United States and the European Union have called on Albania to complete the passage of the judicial reform as the key to fighting corruption at all levels, especially in the judiciary.

Washington and Brussels experts have been directly involved in drafting and processing the project that also has been reviewed by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Following last week’s failed meeting of the two main political leaders — Prime Minister Edi Rama of the governing Socialist Party and Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha — Washington accused the opposition Democrats of showing no flexibility to reach a consensus.

The 140-seat parliament needs two-thirds of the vote to pass the package as it includes some constitutional amendments — numbers that cannot be achieved without the opposition Democrats.

“The moment of decision has arrived,” wrote Steinmeier, urging Albanian political leaders “to show their leadership force to the benefit of their country and to the interest of Albania’s European prospects.”