Albania has been granted official European Union candidate status by the European Council. The United States welcomed the decision in a statement released just after the decision, saying:
The United States congratulates the people of Albania, and welcomes the June 27 decision by the European Council…. We salute the dedicated, hard work present and previous governments have invested to reach this important milestone…. Albanians should be proud of this success.
Now the next phase of institutional and legislative reform work lies ahead. As State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said on June 27, “Albania’s political parties, whether in government or in opposition, will need to continue to work together to advance their country on the path to European Union membership.”
In announcing Albania’s candidate status, the European Commission also stressed the need for reform: “Albania still needs to meet key priorities, with particular focus on administration and judiciary reform, [the] fight against corruption and organised crime and fundamental rights… Moreover, a constructive and sustainable political dialogue will remain essential to consolidate and continue reforms.”
Indeed, Albania is in 116th place, of 177, on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index and, among Western Balkans countries, ranks second lowest in Freedom House’s Nations in Transit assessment of performance in countering corruption. As the country steps up reforms in order to meet EU standards, it must intensify the fight against crime and corruption by strengthening its law enforcement agencies and judiciary, promoting judicial accountability, and cracking down on fraud, money laundering, drug cultivation and human trafficking, the EU said in a statement.
EU Membership is a process that usually takes years. Fellow-Balkan country Croatia first applied for EU membership in 2003 and only was admitted in June 2013.
The United States will remain committed to offering our full support as the Albanian people pursue their chosen path towards a prosperous European future.