Albania's polls a 'test' for its EU path

Legislative elections in Albania in June should be organised to European standards in an effort to overcome a long political impasse that has halted the Balkan country's EU accession bid, EU Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said here Tuesday.

"The EU considers it of crucial importance that the 2013 parliamentary elections are in line with international and European standards," Ashton told a Tirana news conference.

Ashton, who met Albanian President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Sali Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama, said the elections would be a "test" for Albania's bid to join the EU.

The EU foreign policy chief called for a "constructive dialogue" between Albanian political parties, which are mired in a dispute since 2009 polls between the ruling Berisha's coalition and opposition Socialists.

The dispute, over alleged vote fraud, has prevented parliamentary adoption of numerous reforms demanded by Brussels which has so far twice refused to give EU candidate status to Albania.

Bringing political stability in the country, as well as implementation of reforms, notably those bolstering the rule of law, are among the key conditions Brussels is demanding.

"We need to see a solid track of record especially in corruption and the fight against organised crime," Ashton said.

Ashton began her Balkans tour in Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic which gained candidacy status in June last year. From Tirana, she will visit Macedonia, an EU candidate since 2005.

Macedonia has yet to start accession talks with Brussels as its further EU and NATO integrations have been blocked by Greece due to more than 20 years of dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav republic.

Since Skopje proclaimed its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has alleged that its use of the name Macedonia could imply a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.