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Tuesday 17 October 2017

John Kerry urges Albania to push through judicial reforms

John Kerry (left) speaks at a news conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (AP)
John Kerry (left) speaks at a news conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (AP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Albania to enact a major package of judicial and legislative reforms.

Mr Kerry, returning to the US from a four-day trip to Germany, made a brief stop in the capital Tirana to urge the government and opposition parties to support the package, which is now pending in parliament.

He said the reforms would be a significant step forward in Albania's bid to join the European Union (EU).

The changes include the creation of an anti-corruption court and prosecutor's office as well as a national investigative body similar to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The US has provided 20 million dollars (£13.7 million) in assistance to support the reforms and another five million dollars (£3.4 million) is budgeted for this year.

After meeting Mr Kerry, President Bujar Nishani said he had assured him of "Albania's determination against organised crime and corruption".

Prime Minister Edi Rama said he expected the reforms to be adopted next month.

"I am very confident we shall do that and with the United States of America on our side there is optimism for success," Mr Rama said.

The pending reform package is the latest effort to clean up what was once one of Europe's most dysfunctional governments.

In December, Albania's parliament approved legislation barring people with criminal records from holding public office or most civil service jobs.

The new legislation gave three months to people currently in office or in most civil service jobs who have a criminal record to resign. After that, they will be dismissed.

Mr Kerry praised Albania for its efforts so far but reminded Mr Rama and his government that more must be done.

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