Some EU member states, led by France, are trying to thwart Albania’s EU membership dream after the European Commission recommended the opening of negotiations. Paris cited the Balkan country’s problems with organized crime and corruption as the main reason against the membership bid. The Financial Times reported in 2017 that there was no other country in Europe that grows more cannabis than Albania, adding that even Albanian authorities sometimes take part in organized crime, including judges and prosecutors.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama responded to the opposition to Albania’s EU membership by saying that “the European Union is absolutely unpredictable. Our efforts are not appreciated enough by the Europeans. We have become the plaything of European domestic politics.” Mr. Rama added that the fight against organized crime was an absolute priority for the country that is currently undergoing a judicial reform. The international community is having an expert group in Albania to assess the suitability of all 800 judges and prosecutors in Albania, including the requirement that lawyers disclose their assets. 40 senior judges and prosecutors have already been fired because they could not prove where their assets came from.
Albania has a high dissatisfaction rate and hundreds of thousands have left in the recent years. To that end, Jonila Godole, Director of the Institute for Democracy, Media and Culture in Tirana, explained that “the majority of the emigrants come from the Albanian middle class – they do not go because they are poor, but because they have no confidence in the state and society here.”