Albania hopes to join EU in 2014, says PM

20th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 19 (AFP) - Albania hopes to sign a stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union this year and to join the 25-member bloc in 2014, Prime Minister Fatos Nano said Wednesday in an interview with AFP.

PARIS, Jan 19 (AFP) - Albania hopes to sign a stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union this year and to join the 25-member bloc in 2014, Prime Minister Fatos Nano said Wednesday in an interview with AFP.

"The European Union is evolving and today seems more favourable to receiving new members. In 2014, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which seems a perfect date for a new enlargement," Nano said.

The Albanian prime minister was due to meet with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier on Wednesday and with French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday, for talks aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

Albania had been expected to sign an association agreement with the EU in 2004, but several European institutions balked, saying Tirana had not done enough to launch key political reforms and fight organized crime.

For EU officials, the agreement also depends on the holding of free and fair legislative elections in Albania, expected to take place by July this year.

The poor Balkan state has had difficulty organising elections since it emerged from one of Europe's most isolated communist dictatorships in the early 1990s.

International observers noted serious deficiencies in parliamentary elections in 2001, and municipal elections last year were embroiled in allegations of vote-rigging.

Nano insisted that efforts to stamp out corruption and organised crime were stepped up last year, with adoption of new anti-mafia legislation and a purge of the police force that saw 600 officers sent before the country's courts.

On the future of Kosovo, the Albanian prime minister said the UN-run province bordering his country, formerly part of Serbia, should eventually become an "independent state".

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority wants independence, which Belgrade considers unacceptable.

Talks on Kosovo's final status are expected to start this year under UN auspices, but the international community has been insisting that Belgrade and Pristina first have dialogue on practical issues.

In the short term, Nano said the UN administration in Kosovo should be modified to be "less international and more European".

He called for an "EU administration for Kosovo that would make current integration strategies in the Balkans more coherent."

Nano, who was also scheduled to meet with France's junior industry minister Patrick Devedjian during his stay in Paris, lamented France's paltry investment in Albania.

Currently the only significant project, worth EUR 75 million (USD 97.8 million), is the construction of a Club Med resort village in the southern Albanian town of Saranda, which is expected to open in two years.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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