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EU Chief Calls On Albania To Reform

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Sunday called on Albania to pass a key judicial reform, considering it a decisive step for the country as it strives for EU membership.

The main opposition Democratic Party is resisting the approval of a final draft package that should be passed by the end of the month to convince Brussels to authorize membership negotiations and also is key to fighting corruption at all levels, especially the judiciary.

A statement from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s press office said that it’s “essential for the country’s next step towards integration with the EU.”

Earlier this week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland told Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha that the package was “a top priority in U.S.-Albanian relations and for Albania’s progress toward the EU.”

This week, the EU’s top official for enlargement, Johannes Hahn, also urged Albania to complete the reforms if it wants to launch full membership talks with the 28-nation bloc.

The EU and the U.S. have helped Albania draft the reform package and their ambassadors in Tirana have been directly involved in the process and make regular visits to top political leaders.

Albania’s 140-seat parliament should pass the package with at least two-thirds of the vote needed as it includes some constitutional amendments.

After getting candidate status from Brussels two years ago, Albania, a NATO member since 2009, expects to launch full membership talks this year on the condition that the legal package is approved and implemented.

Democrats’ leader Lulzim Basha and his governing Socialist Party counterpart, Prime Minister Edi Rama, were expected to meet Monday.

Mogherini said that the package, which also reflects recommendations made by the Venice Commission, is fully in line with European standards.

“It can be the start of a new chapter of our shared history. It can open the way for a new beginning, and this is why we expect all political forces to use tomorrow’s final round of consultations to endorse the proposal,” Mogherini said.

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