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Nov 06, 2007 15:19 EEST
November 6 (SeeNews) - EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on Tuesday urged Albania to do more in fighting corruption and organised crime, two major obstacles on the country's path to the EU.
After signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), the gateway to EU accession, Albania has made progress concerning public administration, democracy and the rule of law but “much more should be done in terms of fighting the corruption and the organised crime,” Rehn told a news conference on the progress of the Western Balkans towards the EU held in Brussels.
Rehn said that Albania, like all the other EU-aspiring Balkan countries, has “a broad political consensus on EU accession”. Albania signed the SAA in June last year. The country has been widely criticised by international donors and institutions for its failure to fight corruption, organised crime and illegal trafficking. Corruption watchdog Transparency International said in a report that last year Albania led the list of countries in terms of the number of bribes sought by police or other officials. Two out of three respondents said they had given at least one bribe in 2006.
Last month Albania's Deputy Transport Minister Nikolin Jaka and six other government officials were arrested on charges of corruption.
“However, democratic culture and in particular constructive dialogue between parties needs to be developed to enable the political system to function effectively and transparently. It is important for Albania to complete the long overdue electoral and judicial reforms which are currently being discussed,” the Commission said in its 2007 progress report on Albania.
The external deficits of the impoverished Balkan country has widened further, mainly due to difficulties in the energy sector, the report stresses. The power shortages, which last winter were up to 20 hours a day and this summer up to 15 hours a day “hold back the development of a private sector that can make sustained contribution to the country's economic development” the report said.
Albania signed the SAA in June last year.
Albania will receive a total of 219.9 million euro ($319.82 million) by 2009 under the EU-funded Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) programme. This year the impoverished southeast European country will get 54.3 million euro under IPA .
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