Albania has formally applied to join the European Union. Prime Minister Sali Berisha took the step in a meeting with outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency until this July.
The European Commission had urged the Albanians to wait until after their parliamentary election this June. The bid follows fellow Balkan state Montenegro’s, and may be followed by Serbia this year. Brussels said that polls in post-Communist Albania have never been certified free and fair. As one of the poorest countries in Europe, Albania needs to fight organised crime and corruption more, and needs stronger administration and courts, a November report said. Its prospects are also affected by some EU members’ reluctance to take in still more members. Acceptance of a country’s candidacy needs all of them to agree.