It’s Final: No Opening of EU Accession Negotiations

The European Council, consisting of the heads of government of EU countries, failed to approve yesterday the conclusions on EU enlargement. Austria blocked the complete enlargement package because of the inclusion of Turkey, which it, together with the Netherlands and Bulgaria, wanted removed from the final document.

Even though the conclusions were not formally adopted, the European Council stated that is fully supports the findings in the document that was drafted by the Foreign Council of the EU, but, again, failed to gain unanimous support because of Austria’s veto.

From the text of the conclusions, it is clear that besides the implementation of the judicial reform, the EU has imposed five key priorities on Albania, “a sustained, comprehensive and inclusive implementation” of which “has to be ensured before the opening of accession negotiations.”

These are the five key priorities:

  1. Implementation of the judicial reform and the vetting law;
  2. Fight against corruption, especially high-level corruption;
  3. Fight against organized crime, especially cannabis cultivation and trafficking;
  4. Implementation of the decriminalization law;
  5. Electoral reform according to OSCE-ODIHR recommendations and free and fair elections.

Beyond the wordplay engaged in by both Prime Minister Rama and EU Ambassador Romana Vlahutin, that these reforms are to be implemented before the opening of accession negotiations, means de facto that they are conditions.

Political news website Politico argues that although Albania may join the EU in the long run, this will not happen before 2025, still two election cycles away.