Montenegro Expected to Get EU Nod, Albania Progress Slow, Reports Say

The European Commission is expected to approve Montenegro’s bid for European Union membership next week, while it is set to reserve its judgement on Albania, the German Press Agency dpa reported after seeing draft papers.

The commission, the EU’s executive, is tasked with checking whether applicants to the bloc are sufficiently stable politically and economically, respect human rights and are capable of applying the bloc’s wide-ranging set of laws.

Drafts of the commission’s annual report on enlargement policy, due out on November 9, state that Montenegro’s democracy ‘is largely in line with European principles and standards,’ and its legal framework on human rights ‘broadly corresponds to European and international standards.’

Reuters reported that the draft report shows that Croatia is in the final stage of entry talks with the EU, though the commission did not give a date for when negotiations might end.

For Albania, the judgement is less positive due to lingering political infighting that has led opposition socialists to boycott parliament after contesting the results of June 2009 elections.

‘The effectiveness and stability of democratic institutions is not sufficiently achieved. Parliamentary institutions and procedures do not function properly,’ the commission paper notes.

Both countries are judged to be ‘functioning market economies,’ but are expected to be told they need ‘considerable’ or ‘very significant’ efforts to get in line with EU standards on key issues such as environment, justice, agriculture, fisheries and intellectual property.

The drafts contain no conclusions, but officials told dpa that on the basis of these assessments, the commission is likely to say that Montenegro is fit for EU accession negotiations while the opinion on Albania will be postponed.

Montenegro, a tiny country of 650,000 people which became independent from Serbia in 2006, asked to join the EU in December 2008.

If positive, next week’s commission assessment would represent a small step towards membership. EU governments would then have to grant Montenegro official candidate status and subsequently agree to start membership talks, which normally last at least 5 years.

The reports on Albania and Montenegro will be part of an annual assessment exercise involving all EU hopefuls, also including Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Turkey and Iceland.

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