EU ministers back candidate status for Albania

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EU ministers have recommended granting EU candidate status to Albania, following positive recommendations from the Commission and the Parliament.

At a meeting of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 24 June 2014, Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos described the decision as "a message of friendship [and] cooperation to Albania, to the Albanian government [and] to the Albanian political system".

Greece currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the EU.

The initial recommendation came in the latest publication of annual "progress reports" for candidate countries by the European Commission last October.

However there was a warning that formal membership talks may not begin until the government in Tirana is seen to do more to tackle corruption and organised crime.

The recommendation of the General Affairs Council will now need to be formally endorsed by heads of state or government, in the European Council.

Elsewhere during the meeting of the council, ministers adopted a common position on the rules and procedures for the implementation of Article 222 of the Lisbon Treaty - known as the "solidarity clause".

This clause provides for the EU and its member states to act jointly in assisting another member state being the victim of a terrorist attack or other disaster.

The General Affairs Council - made up of Europe ministers from the 28 member states - prepares the ground for each European Council meeting, the next of which takes place later in the week in Brussels.

Although most of the "formal" elements of the European Council will revolve around a ceremony at Ypres to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of WW1, much of the summit will see discussions on the nomination for the next president of the European Commission.

Despite opposition from British Prime Minister David Cameron, most heads of state or government have indicated they will support the nomination of the EPP candidate, the former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

The public deliberations of the Council can be viewed here.

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