Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina were criticised, with Milorad Dodik's moves called unacceptable
The European Parliament has strongly warned Albania its government needs to ensure parliamentary elections in June are “free and fair” before it can even start EU accession negotiations.
Fellow Balkan country Bosnia and Herzegovina, part of the former Yugoslavia, was warned in a separate meeting to “overcome its ethnic and political divisions”.
MEPs also urged the eastern European country to “remain united” throughout the EU membership application evaluation process “to prove it is a functioning state”.
Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be a successful candidate for EU membership until appropriate institutional conditions have been established
European Union report
The two former communist Western Balkan countries have faced a long road to become part of the bloc, with Bosnia and Herzegovina being recognised as a potential candidate country 14 years ago and Albania 17 years ago.
The former only submitted its membership application in February last year following slow progress largely due to not co-operating with the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
Albania applied for EU membership in April 2009 and it took until June 2014 for the European Council to endorse its candidate status.
What countries are in the EU?
Wed, September 14, 2016
In the wake of Brexit, we look at the 28 member states that are in the European Union.
1 of 29
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Countries that are in the European Union
Yesterday MEPs questioned Albania’s commitment to reforms the EU has said it needs to make to become a member.
A report said: “MEPs remain concerned about selective justice, corruption, the overall length of judicial proceedings and political interference in investigations and court cases.”
They added politicians welcomed progress on efforts to reform the judicial sector and said excluding those with criminal records from public office as well as re-evaluating judges, prosecutors and legal advisors are “promising steps forward”.
Rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein, said: “My resolution recommends opening EU accession negotiations with Albania when the implementation of this crucial judicial reform starts.
“It is important for Albania to maintain today’s reform momentum and we must be ready to support it as much as possible in this process.”
Albanian politicians became infamous after two had a punch-up in parliament
In the meeting addressing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s progress, MEPs were even more critical of their progress, with European Union Rapporteur Cristian Dan Preda, saying the country “needs to focus on reforms and avoid divisive topics that could delay Bosnia and Herzegovina’s advancement on the EU path”.
Last month the United States imposed sanctions on Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik for actively obstructing to implement the 1995 Dayton Accords that ended the more than three-year war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Martin Schulz (R) at a press conference with Albanian Speaker of Parliament Ilir Meta in 2015
Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Once praised as a democratic reformer, Mr Dodik oversaw the holding of a referendum in September on celebrating “The Day of Republika Srpska” on January 9 in defiance of a Constitutional Court ruling banning the vote for discriminating against non-Serbs.
US officials condemned the vote as breaching the rule of law and an attempt to undermine the peace accords.
The EU also opposed the referendum but said it would not place sanctions on Mr Dodik, however the move did not place the country favourably in the EU’s eyes.
Referring to Mr Dodik’s move, MEPs said the attempts by Republic Srpska – the autonomous Bosnian Serb half of the country established by the Dayton Accords – to “establish parallel channels of communication with the Commission” were unacceptable.
The report said: “Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be a successful candidate for EU membership until appropriate institutional conditions have been established.”
MEPs added the “fragmentation and politicisation of public administration” hampers reform and makes public service “cumbersome”.