Albania should join the European Union “within the next ten years”, PM Edi Rama said in an interview broadcast on euronews on Wednesday.
Rama was in Brussels for two days of talks with senior EU officials. He was sworn in as premier on Sunday after winning a parliamentary election on June 23rd.
A key part of Rama’s campaign centred on forging deeper ties with the EU.
“We made a lot of progress, but there is a lot to do. and I very much hope that within the next ten years, this ambition will be accomplished and that Albania will be a full member of the European Union,” Rama said.
The European Commission has laid out 12 key priorities that Tirana must focus on if it is ever to join the bloc.
Steven Blockmans, the head of foreign policy unit at the Centre for European Policy Studies, said that “tangible progress has been made.”
“They now have a new ombudsman, which was required. They have scrapped parliamentary immunity and they’ve adopted an administrative courts law,” Blockmans said.
Other issues to address include strengthening the rule of law and property rights, as well as fighting against organised crime and corruption.
Blockmans warned that even with further reform, Albania’s bid to join the EU may win little support with member states.
“Albania being the single most corrupt in Europe, according to Transparency International, one of the poorest countries in Europe. It will have problems in facing some of the more vaguely formulated requirements by the European Commission,” he said.
“Politics seems to be embroiled with organised crime. This casts a dark shadow over the ambition of Albania to join the European Union. It is certainly perceived as such in the capitals of the member states.”
When asked by Euronews how exactly he would clean up Albania’s image, Rama provided few details.
“It’s very clear. Those who got in got in through a path of modernisation. So we need to modernise. We need to modernise our institutions; we need to modernise our services; we need to modernise our ways of communicating. We are ready to do it and we will do it,” he said.
In October, the European Commission will deliver its next assessment on aspiring candidate countries such as Albania.
Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the EU executive, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that Tirana could achieve candidate status – the last step before full membership – by the end of the year.