In this section you will find:
All the countries of the region that aspire EU membership need to fulfill their commitments in the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) and the Copenhagen Criteria of 1993.
The official starting point of applying for EU membership is the endorsement of the application by an aspirant country to the Presidency of European Union. The European Commission provides a formal Opinion (Avis) on the applicant country, recommending or not to grant the candidate status and open negotiations. Once the Council unanimously agrees a negotiating mandate, negotiations may be formally opened between the candidate and all the Member States. But, before negotiations start the applicant country must meet the EU accession criteria.
The so-called “Copenhagen criteria“, set out in December 1993 by the European Council in Copenhagen, require a candidate country to have:
- stable institutions that guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
- a functioning market economy, as well as the ability to cope with the pressure of competition and the market forces at work inside the Union;
- the ability to assume the obligations of membership, in particular adherence to the objectives of political, economic and monetary union.
In the Copenhagen criteria, the Madrid European Council, held on December 1995, added a fourth criteria requiring the candidate country to put EU rules and procedures into effect through the adjustment of its administrative structures. The importance of establishment of appropriate administrative and judicial structures is a precondition for the effective implementation of EU legislation.
Milestone of EU – Albania relation
16 March 2023– the 12th Stabilisation and Association Council meeting took place for the first time in Tirana
3 November 2022– the Berlin Process 2022 Western Balkans Summit is organized and the Western Balkan leaders sign 3 agreements
12 October 2022– The EC launches the Country Report for Albania and The Communication on EU Enlargement Policy
19 July 2022- Organization of the First Intergovernmental Conference
19 October 2021 – The Commission publishes the Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans and Turkey, and the respective country reports
6 October 2021 – The EU-Western Balkans summit in Brdo takes place where EU reaffirmed their support for the European perspective of the WB
15 September 2021 – IPA III covering the period 2021-2027 is adopted by the European Parliament with a total of 14 billion Euros for 6 WB countries + Turkey
5 July 2021 – The Berlin Process Summit is organized virtually
10 June 2021– Western Balkan leaders meet for Tirana Economic Summit
6 October 2020 – The Commission publishes the report on Albania and the enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans
July 2020 – The Commission introduces the draft negotiating framework to the Member States
6 May 2020 – The EU-Western Balkans Zagreb Summit takes place online, highlighting EU support for regional integration.
24 March 2020 – The European Council approves the opening of negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia.
2 March 2020 – Update on the Republic of Albanian Progress
2 February 2020 – The Commission presents the new enlargement methodology
17-18 October 2019 – Postpone of negotiation by the Comission
18 June 2019 – European Council decides to postpone the descision for opening of negotiations no later than October 2019.
29 May 2019 – EC launches 2019 Report for Albania and Western Balkans Enlargement Strategy.
26 June 2018 – The Council agrees to respond positively to the above progress made by Albania and sets out the path towards opening the accession negotiations in June 2019.
07 April 2018 – Launching of the 2018 Report for Albania by European Commission, and EC recommendation to the Council for opening the accession negotiations with Albania.
06 February 2018 – European Commission adopts its strategy for ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’
09 November 2016 – The EC launches the Country Report for Albania 2016
09 November 2016 – The EC presents the Enlargement Strategy for Western Balkans
30 March 2016 –6th meeting of High Level Dialogue EU-Albania in Tirana
24 March 2015 – 5th meeting of High Level Dialogue Albania-EU takes place in Tirana
29 September 2014 – 4th meeting of High Level Dialogue EU-Albania takes place.
24 June 2014 – 3rd meeting of High Level Dialogue EU-Albania takes place.
27 June 2014 – The Council of EU welcomed on 24 June, the Commission’s report of 4 June 2014 and, in light of its examination of Albania’s continued progress, decided to grant Albania candidate status, subject to endorsement by the European Council. The European Council meeting on 26-27 June 2014 decided that Albania was a candidate country.
06 March 2014 – 2nd meeting of the High Level Dialogue EU-Albania meeting addressing the 5 key priorities takes place
12 November 2013 – 1st meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities.
16 October 2013 – The Commission, based in the progress achieved recommends to the European Council the granting of candidate status to Albania and the country should continue to take action in the fight against corruption. This recommendation is included in the Development Strategy and Main Challenges 2013-2014.
12 December 2012 – The European Council welcomed the overall progress made by Albania to meet the 12 key priorities laid out in the Commission’s 2010 opinion. However, it will only grant Tirana candidate status once the EU executive reports that the necessary progress has been achieved in the areas of judicial and public administration reforms and revision of the parliamentary rules of procedure. “The successful conduct of parliamentary elections in 2013 will be a crucial test for the smooth functioning of the country’s democratic institutions,” the ministers noted.
10 October 2012 -The EC launches the Progress Report on Albania 2012,recommending that Albania be granted a conditioned EU candidate status.
12 October 2011 – The EC launches the Progress Report on Albania 2011, concluded that conditions for opening of accession negotiations have not yet been met.
10 June 2011 – The Albanian Government adopts the Action Plan addressing the 12 key priorities of the EC Opinion regarding the proper functioning of Parliament, strengthening the rule of law, accomplishment of the public administration reforms, fighting corruption and against organized crime, strengthening property rights, reinforcing the protection of human rights and improving the treatment of the detainees.
9 November 2010 – The EC delivers its Opinion on Albania’s Application for EU Membership, neither granting candidate status, nor proposing to open negotiations. The Opinion set out 12 key priorities to be addressed by Albania in order to mark progress in its European path.
8 November 2010 – Endorsement by the Council of the decision to grant visa liberalisation to Albanian citizens.
27 May 2010 – The EC adopts a proposal to enable citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina to travel to Schengen countries without needing a short term visa.
18 May 2009 – The first meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Albania.
28 April 2009 – The Albanian government submits its application for the EU Membership.
1 April 2009 – Entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA).
3 June 2008 – The European Commission (EC) presents the Roadmap towards visa – free regime setting 42 benchmarks to the Albanian authorities on the measures needed to be taken in order to grant visa free travel to its citizens.
18 February 2008 – The Council decision on a revised European partnership for Albania.
1 January 2008 – Entry into force of the Visa Facilitation Agreement between Albania and the EU.
January 2007 – Entry into force of the new instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA).
1 December 2006 – Entry into force of the Interim Agreement between Albania and the European Community.
12 June 2006 – Signature of the SAA between the European Communities and its Member States, of the one part, and Albania, on the other one.
1 May 2006 – Entry into force of the Readmission Agreement between Albania and European Community.
January 2006 – The Council decision on a revised European Partnership for Albania.
14 April 2005 – Signature of the Readmission Agreement between Albania and European Community.
June 2004 – The Council decision on a first European Partnership for Albania.
May 2004 – The European Council launches the TAIEX Programme for legislation harmonization by countries involved in the Stabilization and Association process.
21 June 2003 – The Thessaloniki Summit confirms the EU perspective of the Western Balkan countries well as the SAP as the policy framework of their EU course.
31 January 2003 – President of EU Commission, Mr. Romano Prodi officially launches the negotiations for the SAA between EU and Albania.
October 2002 – Adoption of the negotiating directives for the negotiation of the SAA with Albania.
June 2001 – The European Council invites the Commission to present draft negotiating directives for the negotiation of the SAA with Albania.
2001– The Commission recommends the undertaking of negotiations on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Albania.
2001 – First year of the implementation of the CARDS Programme, applied to all the countries part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
24 November 2000 – The Zagreb Summit officially launches the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP) for five countries of South-Eastern Europe, including Albania. The Summit underlines the connection between the progress in the countries of the region towards democracy, rule of law, regional reconciliation and cooperation on one hand and the prospect of possible accession to the EU on the other hand.
19 – 20 June 2000 – The Feira European Council states that SAP countries are “potential candidates” for EU membership.
1999 – Albania benefits from Autonomous Trade Preferences with the EU.
10 June 1999 – Adaptation of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe in Cologne. In the founding document, more than 40 partner countries and organisations engaged to strengthen the countries of South Eastern Europe “in their efforts to foster peace, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity in order to achieve stability in the whole region”.
3 – 4 June 1999 – The Cologne European Council reaffirms the readiness of the European Union to draw the countries of this region closer to the prospect of full integration into its structures. This would be done through a new kind of contractual relationship (later recognised as the Stabilisation and Association Process – SAP) taking into account the individual situations of each country, including progress in regional cooperation, and with a prospect of European Union membership on the basis of the Amsterdam Treaty and fulfilment of the criteria defined at the Copenhagen European Council in June 1993.
29 April 1997 – The EU establishes political and economic conditions to be fulfilled by these countries, as the basis for a coherent and transparent policy towards the development of bilateral relations in the field of trade, financial assistance and economic cooperation, as well as of contractual relations.
26 February 1996 – The EU adopts a Regional Approach to the countries of South-Eastern Europe.
5 November 1992 – Entry into force of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement between Albania and the European Economic Community. Albania becomes eligible for the EU PHARE Programme, an important step towards restructuring EU assistance to Albania in key reform areas.
11 May 1992 – Signature of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement between Albania and the European Economic Community.
June 1991 – Establishment of diplomatic relations between Albania and the European Economic Community.
The Berlin Process is an initiative aimed at stepping up regional cooperation in the Western Balkans and supporting the integration of these countries into the European Union. The Berlin Process started with the Western Balkans Conference, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted in Berlin on August 28, 2014, with the Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Economy from the Western Balkan countries. It was agreed in Berlin that the conference would serve as a framework for a period of four years, during which efforts will be made to make further progress in the reform process, in resolving bilateral and internal issues, and in reaching reconciliation between and within societies in the region.
The Process is taking place with support of the European Commission, international financial institutions and the Member States involved in the Process – Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. It is supplementary to the individual countries’ institutional EU integration process, based on the adoption of the acquis communautaire.
The Process’s connectivity agenda refers to linking the people (social dimension), economies (economic dimension) and states (political dimension) of the region. Within this agenda, the Process has thus far yielded initiatives and projects in the fields of transport and infrastructure, economic connectivity, youth cooperation and cooperation among businesses and among the civil societies of the Western Balkans. It also inspired intergovernmental cooperation through entities set up during its course: the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), the Western Balkans Chambers Investment Forum (WBCIF) and the Western Balkans Fund (WBF).
Alongside the meetings of the highest governmental officials (Western Balkan Summit Series), the Berlin Process encompasses the meetings of the representatives of regional civil society organisations (Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkan Summit Series), youth organisations (Youth Forum) and business associations (Business Forum). These issues were followed and advanced to the Western Balkans Summit in Vienna on August 27, 2015; in Paris on July 4, 2016; in Trieste on July 12, 2017 and in London on 9-10 July 2018, in Poznan, Poland on 4-5 July 2019 and a virtual meeting in Sofia in 2020. On 5 July 2021 took place virtually the Berlin Summit, hosted by the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and brought together the leaders of the Western Balkans and their counterparts from nine EU Member States, high-level EU representatives and the United Kingdom. The aim was to strengthen the regional cooperation of the Western Balkan countries and to foster closer ties with the EU. During the Summit, the Commission emphasized its commitment to support the region in its post-pandemic recovery through the Economic and Investment Plan.
Key Documents of Berlin Process
Declarations by the Chairs of WB Summits:
Declaration by the Chair of the Berlin Summit 2021
Declaration by the Chair of the London Western Balkans Summit 2018
Declaration by the Chair of the Trieste Western Balkans Summit 2017
Final Declaration by the Chair of the Paris Western Balkans Summit 2016
Final Declaration by the Chair of the Vienna Western Balkans Summit 2015
Final Declaration by the Chair of the Berlin Western Balkans Summit 2014
Other official documents:
Treaty establishing the Transport Community, Trieste 2017
Agreement on the establishment of Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), Paris 2016
Agreement concerning the establishment of Western Balkans Fund (WBF), Prague 2015
Agreement on establishment of Chamber Investment Forum, Vienna 2015
For more information please refer this page: The Berlin Process- Information and Resource Centre
Stabilisation and Association process with Albania
The Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) is the basic framework for the relations between Albania and EU. This process, which aims to contribute to political and economic stability in the region. It was launched in 1999 as a new approach of the European Union to the region of Western Balkans. For the first time, the new approach included the EU perspective of the countries of the Western Balkans. SAP has three aims:
Stabilisation and Association Agreement Useful Documents:
Stabilisation – Association Committee 2018
Stabilisation – Association Committee 2017
Stabilisation – Association Committee 2016
Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Albania, of the other part 2006
Interim Agreement on Trade and trade-related matters between the European Community, of the one part, and the Republic of Albania, of the other part 2006
Report on preparation for the negotiation of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania
EU financial assistance in Albania
Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans
The Economic and Investment Plan (EPI) is a long-term plan by the EU which aims to provide around 30 billion Euros for the Western Balkan between 2021 and 2027. The funding comes along with different ideas of its supposed impact in the region. The EU therefore articulated 10 flagships (topics) which can be brought down to four different main goals. Firstly, the EU aims to support the economy of the Western Balkan region which experienced another backlash during the COVID crisis. Therefore, it plans to strengthen the competitiveness of the private sector, to empower the youth and work on their integration into the job market. It secondly highlights the importance of a green and digital transition. This shall be implemented by, for example, supporting renewable energies, renovation buildings for a better living standard and less energy usage, improving the waste system, and extending digital infrastructure. Thirdly, the cooperation and connectivity within the region shall be strengthened by building new transition roads between its countries. Fourthly, the convergence to the EU is set into focus. The investment plan is seen as a support for the region as well as an instrument to bring the region and the EU closer together.
1. Instrument of Pre- Accession (IPA)
Since 2007, the European Union introduced a new instrument in the financial perspective 2007-2013, called the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). IPA is a single legislative framework replacing all the previous EU instruments and programmes supporting Western Balkans. It is applied to the EU candidate and potential candidate countries of the Western Balkan Countries (WB) and Turkey. Since its establishment, IPA has become the driving force to assist these countries in adjusting their system in compliance with the European standards and policies in their accession perspective. In this regard, IPA is an instrument that supports countries in meeting political and economic criteria and to approximate their national legislation with that of the EU. This crucial goal is being achieved through the institutional building, the preparation for the management of the EU funds and some mini structural funds.
IPA III (2021-2027) was adopted on 15 September 2021 by the European Parliament. It builds on the former IPA II (2014-2020) and helps to prepare partners for future memberships of the EU and promotes their accession process by providing EUR 14,162 billion for the period 2021-2027. This will be the final step of the adoption process of this instrument to support the candidate and potential candidate countries in key political, institutional, social and economic reforms. The beneficiaries are Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The main objectives of IPA III are: -Promote shared values; -Reforms to modernise society and economy; -Post COVID-19 recovery; -Alignment with EU rules and standards; -Long-term stability & prosperity for all. Therefore, it focuses on these areas:
-Rule of law & fundamental rights
-Strengthening democratic institutions and public administration reform
-Promoting economic governance and reforms towards competitiveness
-Sustainable economic recovery
-Environment, climate change
IPA II was built on the results already achieved by dedicating € 11.7 billion for the period 2014-2020. Beneficiaries of IPA II are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. Albanian Financial assistance under IPA II consists on a funding allocation of € 649.4 million for the period 2014-2020. The priority sectors for funding are:
- Democracy & governance
- Rule of law & fundamental rights
- Competitiveness & innovation
- Education, employment & social policies
- Agriculture & rural development
- Regional & territorial cooperation
IPA I was composed by five components following:
- Transition Assistance and Institutional Building
- Regional and Cross-Border Co-operation
- Regional Development
- Human Resources Development
- Rural Development
The beneficiary countries of IPA I were divided into two categories: EU potential candidate countries (like Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo) profit partially from IPA, currently from components I and II, meanwhile EU candidate countries (such as Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia and Montenegro) were eligible to profit from the five IPA components. The total pre-accession funding for the period 2007 – 2013 of IPA I was 11.5 billion Euro .
2. CARDS (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation)
The CARDS Programme was adopted in 2000, under the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP). It amounted 4.6 billion Euro directed to help the countries of the Balkan region in four areas:
- reconstruction, democratic stabilisation, reconciliation and the return of refugees
- institutional and legislative development, including harmonisation with European Union norms and approaches, to underpin democracy and the rule of law, human rights, civil society and the media, and the operation of a free market economy
- sustainable economic and social development, including structural reform
- promotion of closer relations and regional cooperation among countries and between them, the EU and the candidate countries of central Europe.
Albania became eligible for the EU PHARE Programme in 1992, with the signing of trade and Cooperation Agreement EU- Albania). It was designed to assist candidate countries in strengthening their institutional capacity and making them capable to meet the challenges of the EU membership. PHARE Programme paid a special focus towards strengthening the capacity of public administration. The total amount of PHARE Funds allocated to Albania for the period 1991-2000 reached 631.5 million Euro.
Key EU documents shaping relations between Albania and EU:
- EC, Enlargement Strategy Paper 2022
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2021
- EC, New Enlargement Methodology paper
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2019
- EC, Enlargement Strategy Paper 2018
- EC, Enlargement Strategy Paper 2016
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2015
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2014
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2013
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2012
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2011
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2010
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2009
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2008
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2007
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2006
- EC, Enlargement Strategy paper 2005
Key documents of the Albanian government:
National Plan on EU Integration 2022-2024 includes medium and long term measures, extending to 2023, in order for Albania to reach full legal approximation of the national legislation with the EU acquis and align all its sectors with standards set by the acquis chapters. The NPEI shall be revised annually and take stock of the progress achieved, not only in the approximation rate but also in the implementation of the approximated legislation. NPEI aims to coordinate this approximation process by defining priorities for acts to be approximated, ministries tasked with drafting/ revising the Albanian legal acts, degree of approximation, and dates of adoption and entry into force.
National Strategy for Development and Integration 2014-2020 (NSDI) Is the main national strategic document that supports the steady social and economical development of the country, by providing the accomplishments of the standards and the progress in the European integration process. NSDI 2015-2020 combines developing agents with the integration processes of the country, by summarizing the main national vision, priorities, and objectives. NSDI 2015-2020 is a key platform for the development plan of the country in 5 years (2015-2020). The NSDI consists of six priorities:
- European Integration
- Good Governance, Democracy and Rule of Law
- Macroeconomic and Fiscal Stability
- Increased Competition
- Human Development and Social Cohesion
- Steady Use of Resources
National Strategy for Development and Integration (2007-2013)
EMA’s analysis for European Integration process:
Other monitoring and analysis reports:
Other actors that monitor, analyze and report on the process of European Integration of Albania:
In this section you will find:
- Background Information about EU Visa Policy
- Chronology of the Visa Liberalisation Process of Albania
- Progress of Visa Liberalization Requirements
- Key documents of the Visa Liberalisation process
- EMA’s analysis
- Readiness reports submitted by the Albanian government
- The EC Assessment Reports on Albanian progress towards fulfillment of benchmarks embedded in the Roadmap towards visa free regime with Albania
- Other actors monitoring, analysing, reporting on such matters
- Useful links