Albania upbeat on
tourism, but justice reform delays EU talks
Send a link to a friend
[March 03, 2017]
By Marc Jones
(Reuters) - Albania expects another surge in tourists this year and the
economy is making progress but Economy Minister Milva Ekonomi says it is
reform of the justice system that is holding back European Union
"If we are to have a future within the European Union, we are very aware
that there are key priorities and one of the key priorities is justice
reform," she told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday, adding that
most citizens and businesses also saw it as a "must".
Albania is expected to grow a respectable 3.8 percent this year
according to forecasts from the International Monetary Fund but the
country is facing a political deadlock over justice system reforms ahead
of parliamentary elections in June.
Several thousand members of the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and its
lawmakers are camped out in an 800 square meter (955 square yards) tent
in front of Prime Minister Edi Rama's office in a row over the running
of the upcoming elections.
The DP are demanding a technocrat government be brought in to oversee
the elections, but Rama claims it is a ploy to stall justice system
reforms aimed at fighting corruption and that the EU wants them finished
before accession talks start.
DP lawmakers are required to vote on the tandem measure of vetting
judges for the changes to be finalised and their tent protest and
absence from parliament effectively prevents that.
There had been hopes that EU negotiations could have started this year
but the timetable is now far from certain. "This is a process right now
it is not any more a fixed date," Ekonomi said.
"You need to verify you have done some steps in a good quality and a
good manner. If we are doing well our duties on justice reform we are
there. I hope it will be as soon as possible," she said.
GROWTH PICK UP
On the economy more generally, Ekonomi agreed with the IMF that growth
will pick this year but that more needed to be done. The
Washington-based fund has urged Albania to clear delayed payments and
collect more revenue from oil and property taxes.
[to top of second column]
A view of a beach in the Orikum near the city of Vlore, some 180 km
(113 miles) south of Albania's capital Tirana, June 10, 2009.
Tourism, though, is upbeat.
New weekly and twice-weekly flights from countries such as Poland, the Czech
Republic and Ukraine, and the fact Albania is holding this year's paragliding
world championships should help keep tourist numbers growing 15 percent this
Plans should also be finalised next year to develop a new airport in the
country's north and the tourist-popular south as well as new marinas.
But worries about neighboring Greece's future are once again a threat. Greece
has slipped from second to fourth in terms of Albania's trade partners in recent
years and 180,000 Albanian's have returned home from Greece.
It is still a major economic player in Albania, however.
"If they are going up, we are going up... If they are going down we are going
down," Ekonomi said, although deals to increase inter-Balkan trade means
Greece's troubles no longer have quite such a painful impact she added.
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.