* Albanian parties join forces to pass EU-related laws
* Parties hope EU will consider candidate status this year
TIRANA, May 30 (Reuters) - Albania's government and opposition parties joined forces on Thursday to pass three laws the European Union recommended to help it on its long path towards candidate status.
In addition to the laws, the European Union expects Albania to hold a fair and free election next month and make progress in the fight against crime and corruption before it considers granting Tirana candidate status after rejecting it three times.
Along with Bosnia, Albania lags behind its Balkan neighbours in approaching EU membership. Croatia is set to become the 28th member on July 1, joining Slovenia, which is already in the bloc.
Tirana hopes the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will review Albania's bid this year in a progress report.
The laws parliament passed were a reform of its rules of procedure, a law on the Supreme Court and another regulating the status of civil servants.
The opposition Socialist Party agreed to vote with the government on condition the laws become effective on Oct. 1, when the new parliament emerging from next month's election will convene.
Ettore Sequi, the European Union's ambassador to Tirana, said approval was important because it showed polarised Albanian politicians had the capacity to work together.
The Democratic Party of Prime Minister Sali Berisha also approved an extension, until the end of the year, of a pardon for customs and tax debts, but the opposition did not support that, saying the move was being made for electoral purposes.
Elsewhere in the Balkans, Montenegro has begun talks on joining the EU, and Macedonia and Serbia are candidates for membership.
Reporting By Benet Koleka; Editing by Alison Williams