EU confident of association pact with Albania soon

TIRANA (Reuters) – The European Union said yesterday it was confident of signing an accord soon on closer ties with Albania after the newly installed Democratic Party government repeated its pledge to step up reforms. «I am confident that very soon we might come to a situation where we conclude the association negotiations,» said Reinhard Priebe, the EU’s western Balkans director, at a meeting with Albanian officials. Their talks focused on what concrete steps Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s government plans to take about fighting organized crime and corruption as well as solving property issues and improving the work of the customs administration. Albanian and EU diplomats said if the EU’s November regular report was satisfactory they believed there could be an agreement probably early next year. The EU launched talks with Albania on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the ante-chamber to EU membership, in January 2003 but they stalled because of a lack of reforms. «The new government has clearly said that signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement is its main priority,» European Integration Minister Arenca Trashani said.