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Edi Rama; Juncker

EU chief assures Albania of bloc’s ‘continued support’ for EU membership

Albania is about to replace Britain in the EU after Brexit as Brussels Eurocrats told the country it has its “continued support”.

Published: July 6, 2017, 10:03 am

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    The ex-communist country became a candidate for membership in 2014, but current member states are questioning the wisdom to allow new countries into the 28 member union, as Albania has so far failed to meet a series of requirements needed for an accession.

    But Jean-Claude Juncker wants the Albanian government to achieve membership status. In a letter to the Prime Minister Edi Rama, the European Commission President said: “Albania is a very important partner for the EU and the European Commission looks forward to continuing the close cooperation on preparing Albania for further advance membership of the European Union.”

    Albania held a parliamentary election on 25 June. The election was originally scheduled for 18 June, but was pushed back seven days following a prolonged political crisis.

    Juncker’s comments come just months after he had warned over instability and the prospect of war in the Western Balkans.

    The country is one of the poorest in Europe with extremely high unemployment rates. The European Parliament has twice rejected full membership, and warned Government leaders that the 2017 parliamentary elections in June must be free and fair before negotiations could begin.

    In Albania alone, there are over 15 mafia families that control organised crime, while more than 95 per cent of Albanians agree with EU integration.

    This month the British daily, the Observer reported that Albanians were one of the largest groups of illegal immigrants in the UK: “Officially, the UK is home to about 20 000 Albanians. But more are known to have entered, having pretended to be Kosovans fleeing the war in Yugoslavia.

    “The UK is the ultimate destination for younger Albanians, who come from a country where 70 percent of the population is Muslim and the medieval code of kanun holds sway in rural areas. This decrees that spilled blood must be paid for with spilled blood, a stipulation that, down the years, has resulted in hundreds of tit-for-tat murders.”

    According to the British National Crime Agency, it was increasingly concerned about violent Albanian criminal gangs gaining a foothold in the country, The Guardian reported.

    Interpol reports that the Kosovo chapter alone runs heroin markets in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Norway. And Italian mobsters are said to hate dealing with the Albanians because they’re too violent and too unpredictable. Clearly Juncker does not feel the same.

    Since the birth of the Islamic State, a significant number of foreign fighters have been recruited from the Western Balkans, including from Albania which is a majority Muslim country.

    Italian daily La Repubblica reported in January that the terrorist threat for Italy did not come from the desperate migrants seeking a better life but on the contrary, from Albanian villages “which have raised ISIS flags”.

    The report focussed on villages bordering with Kosovo, and quoted a source from the Italian intelligence services as saying, “this is a powder keg […] Italy is an exposed country”.

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