BRUSSELS, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) granted Albania candidate status Tuesday, setting the Balkan country on the path to membership of the regional bloc.
"Congratulations on candidate status just agreed ... (It is an) acknowledgement of reform efforts, encouragement for more," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule wrote on Twitter.
Albania first applied to join the EU in 2009, but has been rejected three times due to the slow pace of its economic and political reforms.
Last December, the EU postponed its decision on Albania's candidacy, seeking a longer track record in Albania's fight against organized crime and corruption.
Early this month, the European Commission recommended granting the status in a progress report.
According to the report, Albania has acted decisively in the fight against corruption and in structural reforms, important legislative reforms have been seen in the fight against organized crime, and investigations have yielded positive results in the fight against drug trafficking and other areas of serious and organized crime.