Reuters International

By Benet Koleka

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albania's governing and opposition parties reached a compromise on sweeping judicial reform on Wednesday, ending deadlock that risked blocking the Balkan country's move towards European Union accession talks.

The reform package is aimed at overhauling the judiciary to make it independent, capable of fighting endemic corruption and ending impunity for politicians.

The deal followed 18 months of talks with European Union and U.S. officials. The United States had warned of "severe, long-lasting" consequences from Washington if politicians failed to pass the reform.

Parliament will vote on the reform on Thursday.

A candidate to join the EU since June 2014, NATO member Albania needs to do more about crime and corruption, public administration and human and property rights, but reforming the judiciary is the EU's top priority.

The deal had been held up over the role EU and U.S. officials would play in a body that will vet judges and remove corrupt ones. The opposition party had argued that was a breach of sovereignty.

Political analysts say many politicians were reluctant to vote in a reform that could see them face arrest.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said he wants the reform to "have teeth" and the EU would see how it was working before recommending the start of accession talks.

(This version of the story has been refiled to add first name of EU Commissioner in last paragraph)

(Reporting By Benet Koleka, Editing by Janet Lawrence)


 Reuters International