Voting expected on judicial reform package in Albania

AP News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2016 1:37 PM
Voting expected on judicial reform package in Albania

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Voting is expected on a judicial reform package in Albania after the parliamentary speaker temporary postponed the balloting because of disagreement.

The reforms are considered key to convincing the European Union to launch membership negotiations with the Balkan country.

The reform package has been prepared over the past 18 months, but the government and opposition have been bickering over it.

The opposition Democrats party has opposed the measures put forward by the government and introduced a fresh demand Wednesday that angered Brussels and Washington.

The ruling Socialists will require opposition votes within the 140-member chamber if the bill is to pass.

After a delayed start of the session Thursday, Speaker Ilir Meta said voting for the reform package would be postponed for a few hours until a few details were cleared up.

After more than six hours of talks, U.S. and EU ambassadors in Tirana convinced opposition Democrats on a last contested issue, nomination of two panels on judges and prosecutors.

Meta, who offered his offices for the talks, hailed the deal as "a sign of maturity and unity" and called on political groupings "to normalize the process with unanimous voting at the Assembly."

Albania's judicial system has been criticized as corrupt and lacking professionalism. Changes being sought in the reform package include checking the incomes and property holdings of judges and prosecutors and their professional background, steps seen as helping to root out bribery.

Brussels has warned that failure to agree on judicial reform would end the possibility of launching membership negotiations with the bloc soon. Albania was granted EU candidate status in 2014.