EXCLUSIVE / The Dutch parliament has voted against a government proposal to grant Albania the status of EU candidate, preventing EU leaders from rubberstamping the proposal during a summit in Brussels on 19-20 December.

The Dutch parliament adopted yesterday (12 December) a decision which obliges the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to reject the European Commission proposal to give Albania EU candidate status.

The development is likely to inflict a heavy blow to the accession hopes of the Western Balkan nation, which according to the Commission has delivered on EU requirements and so should be granted the status of candidate country.

A spokesperson from the Dutch parliament told EurActiv that Rutte’s liberal VVD party (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) had voted against opening the door to Albania, while its coalition partner PvdA (Labour Party), affiliated to the Party of European Socialists, reportedly voted in favour.

Albania has a socialist prime minister, Edi Rama, who took office last September.

EU leaders take decisions on all matters concerning EU enlargement by unanimity. This means that Albania will have lost the chance of becoming a candidate country during the 19-20 December summit, as was expected.

Until recently, the Netherlands has also been an obstacle for Serbia to obtain candidate status.

The Hague also opposes opening the doors to Schengen membership to Bulgaria and Romania, in spite of the fact that the Commission considers that the two countries have met all conditions to accede to the borderless EU space.

This development is also likely to infuriate the European Parliament. Croatian MEP Nikola Vuljanić (GUE/NGL), the Parliament’s rapporteur for Albania, yesterday stated that the Council, where EU countries sit, should make Albania an official candidate for EU membership without delay, in recognition of its progress with reform. A resolution in that sense was passed on the same occasion [click here and go to page 208].

Speaking on Tuesday (10 December) in Strasbourg, following the presentation of the progress report on Albania, Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle said that 2013 had been a good year for the country.

He commended that both the government and opposition had cooperated to adopt a number of important legal acts in parliament, including the three measures that were required for the granting of candidate country status.

“We want Albania to continue delivering and we see the granting of candidate status as a further incentive for the country to continue its reform efforts,” Füle said.