European Commission gives Albania green light to start talks on joining EU

Lithuania to become 19th euro member, adopting currency on January 1st

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fühle (left) attends a news conference with Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama in Tirana on Wednesday. The European Commission recommended Albania be granted candidate status to the European Union. Photograph: Arben Celi/Reuters

EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fühle (left) attends a news conference with Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama in Tirana on Wednesday. The European Commission recommended Albania be granted candidate status to the European Union. Photograph: Arben Celi/Reuters

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 01:00

The European Commission moved forward with integration plans yesterday, giving the green light to Albania to commence EU accession talks and permitting Lithuania to join the euro.

During a visit to Albania by EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Füle, the commission announced that Albania should be given “candidate status”, despite the opposition of some member states.

Albania applied to join the EU in 2009, but it has been blocked on several occasions amid concerns about its commitment to fighting corruption and overhauling the judicial system.

Concerns raised

Northern countries including Britain, the Netherlands and Germany have raised concerns about Albania’s suitability to join the EU.

Mr Füle said he was encouraged by the commitment demonstrated by Albania on reform efforts and “the continued political will to act decisively in the fight against corruption and organised crime”.

“Based on our findings, we confirm without any doubt, with no conditionality or any reservations, the recommendation that the member states grant Albania candidate status,” he said, adding that enlargement “has been and is one of the priorities of the commission”.

The recommendation to grant Albania candidate status will go to member states for approval, and could meet resistance from countries such as Britain, which have called for a curb to inter-EU migration.

Meanwhile, EU economics and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn yesterday announced that Lithuania had fulfilled the criteria for joining the euro, with the Baltic state set to adopt the single currency on January 1st.

“We have examined Lithuania profoundly, thoroughly but fairly,” the commissioner said. “Lithuania’s ability to grow and prosper in a sustainable manner once it joins the euro area has been an essential element and integral part of our assessment.”