Albania’s EU Membership Process

In this section you will find:

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Milestone of EU – Albania relations

27 June 2014 – Albania receives EU Candidate status.

12 November 2013 – The first 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.

 

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:

  • Stabilizing the countries of the region and supporting them to make the shift to a market economy
  • Promoting regional cooperation
  • Future perspective of EU membership

Stabilisation and Association Agreement

Upon the entry into force of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the political dialogue between Albania and the EU takes place within the structure of the Stabilization and Association Council (SAC) and other common joint structures. The Stabilization and Association Council meets once a year to perform an overall assessment of the SAA implementation and reviews any important issue arising within the framework of its implementation.

In addition, the political dialogue at parliamentary level between Albania and the EU also takes place within the framework of the SAA, which foresees the establishment of the Stabilization and Association Parliamentary Committee composed of members of the European Parliament and the Albanian Parliament.

How is Albania’s progress evaluated by seventh and eighth meeting of SA Council.

The eighth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 08 September 2016

The seventh meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 18 May 2015

The sixth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 12 May 2014

The fifth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 23 April 2013

The fourth meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 15 May 2012

The third meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 19 July 2011

The second meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 11 May 2010

The first meeting of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement – 18 May 2009

 

Stabilisation and Association Agreement  Useful Documents:

Recommendations of the Subcommittees 2015
Stabilization-Association Committee 2015
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

High Level Dialogue:

On 11 November 2013, the high Level Dialogue on Key Priorities was launched between Albania and the European Commission, with the participation of the Government, independent institutions and the opposition. The High Level Dialogue (HLD) platform constitutes an essential element to ensure an all-encompassing process and focus energies on the necessary reform for advancing the European agenda of Albania.

The sixth meeting High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities – 30 March 2016

The fifth meeting High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities – 24 March 2015

The fourth meeting High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities – 29 September 2014

The third meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities – 4 June 2014

The second meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities – 06 March 2014

The first meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities – 12 November 2013

 

 

Accession criteria

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.

EU financial assistance in Albania

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 (WBC) and Turkey. Since its establishment, IPA became 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 will be achieved through the institutional building, the preparation for the management of the EU funds and some mini structural funds.

IPA II will build on the results already achieved by dedicating € 11.7 billion for the period 2014-2020. Current beneficiaries 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
  • Environment
  • Competitiveness & innovation
  • Transport
  • Education,employment & social policies
  • Agriculture & rural development
  • Regional & territorial cooperation

IPA I was composed by five components following:

    1. Transition Assistance and Institutional Building
    2. Regional and Cross-Border Co-operation
    3. Regional Development
    4. Human Resources Development
    5. Rural Development

The beneficiary countries of IPA are 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) are 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:

  1. reconstruction, democratic stabilisation, reconciliation and the return of refugees
  2. 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
  3. sustainable economic and social development, including structural reform
  4. promotion of closer relations and regional cooperation among countries and between them, the EU and the candidate countries of central Europe.

3. PHARE

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 Progress Reports on Albania:



European Partnership with Albania:
European Partnership with Albania 2008
European Partnership with Albania 2006
European Partnership with Albania 2004
Council Regulation on the establishment of European partnerships in the framework of the SAA

Key documents of the Albanian government:

The National Plan on EU Integration 2016-2020 includes medium and long term measures, extending to 2020, 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.

Action Plan on Addressing the Short term Recommendations 2015  Following the European Commission Progress Report 2015 on Albania, the Albanian Government has prepared an Action Plan to address short-term recommendations of this report. This Action Plan will be monitored by the Board of European Integration, a body of the Albanian Government, established to monitor and support the process of European integration.

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:

 

Visa Liberalisation Process: 

In this section you will find:

  • Chronology of the Visa Liberalisation process with Albania
  • Key documents of the Visa Liberalisation process
  • EMA’s analysis on Visa Liberalisation process
  • 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 Visa Liberalisation process with Albania
  • Useful links

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Chronology of the Visa Liberalisation Process with Albania
30 May 2011 – EC presents its “post-visa liberalisation monitoring report“, assessing the progress made by the five Western Balkan countries in continuing the visa Roadmap reforms.

April 2011 – The Commission and Member State expert visit Albania to verify on continued implementation of the Roadmap benchmarks.

24 – 25 February 2011 – The EC presents its monitoring mechanism to the JHA Council assessing the implementation of measures taken by the Western Balkan countries during the visa liberalisation process.

15 December 2010 – Entry into force of the visa – free travel for Albanian citizens.

8 November 2010 – The JHA Council of EU votes pro lifting the visa regime for Albanian citizens. Meanwhile, Commission initiates a new follow-up monitoring mechanism to observe continued implementation of the Roadmap conditions as well as inflows of asylum seekers or illegal migrants.

6 – 7 October 2010 – The European Parliament vote in favor of lifting the visa requirements for Albania with 538 votes in favor and 47 against.

14 September 2010 – The EC presents the fourth Assessment Report which concludes that Albania has met the remaining open benchmarks and as the result the EC proposes the lifting of visa regime.

July 2010 – The EC introduces the legislative proposal to lift the visa regime with Albania based on the conclusions of the assessment report of the last experts’ missions.

27 May 2010 – The EC issues a legislative proposal suggesting visa – free travel to Albania on condition that the country would meet the outstanding benchmarks until the September Assessment Report.

19 April 2010 – The EC issues an updated assessment (fourth Assessment Report) for Albania, indicating substantial progress. Remains a limited number of benchmarks to be addressed.

January – February 2010 – EU experts carry out another a second field assessment in Albania for Block two and three of the Roadmap towards visa free regime with Albania.

27 November 2009 – The EC presents the third Assessment Report to the Albanian government.

16 July 2009 – The EC proposes to the EU Council of Ministers the lifting of the visa regime with Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

18 May 2009 – The EC presents the second Assessment Report to the Albanian government.

January – April 2009 – The EC and Member States carry out a field assessment in the Western Balkans on the progress in meeting the benchmarks.

24 November 2008 – The EC presents the first Assessment Report on Albanian progress towards meeting the benchmarks of the Visa Roadmap.

1 September 2008 – The Albanian Government submits the first Readiness Report, which measured the progress achieved towards meeting the Roadmap’s benchmarks.

3 June 2008 – The European Commission (EC) submits the Roadmap towards visa free regime to Albania, which presents officially a concrete step towards visa – free regime for the Albanian citizens. The Roadmap embedded 42 benchmarks divided in 4 blocks: Document security; Illegal migration including readmission; Public order and security; External relations and fundamental rights.

7 March 2008 – The EU Commissioner from Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council, Mr. Franco Frattini launches the dialogue towards visa liberalisation between Albania and the European Community.

1 January 2008 –
Entry into force of the Visa Facilitation Agreement (VFA) which marks the first concrete step towards a visa – free regime for citizens of the Western Balkan countries.

1 May 2006 – Entry into force of the Readmission Agreement between Albania and the European Community.
20 November 2006 – Opening of negotiations for the Visa Facilitation Agreement (VFA) and Readmission Agreement with the Western Balkan countries.

14 April 2005 – Signature of the Readmission Agreement between Albania and the European Community.

21 June 2003 – Thessaloniki Summit designs the perspective of Visa Liberalisation for the Western Balkan countries, including Albania.

Key documents of the Visa Liberalisation process with Albania

Readmission Agreement was part of the European policy for combating illegal immigration, adopted by the European Council. Such agreement involved reciprocal undertakings between the EU and Albania in the framework of co-operation over the return of illegal residents to their country of origin or transit.

Visa Facilitation Agreement (VFA) aimed at facilitating the movement of Albanian citizens towards countries of the EU. Main target of this agreement was the group of “agents of exchange”, which included members of official delegations, representatives of the business community, journalists, representatives of the civil society, pupils, students and university lecturers who travel for purposes of study and training, persons who participate in scientific, cultural and artistic activities, participants in international exhibitions, conferences, seminars, close relatives of migrants , spouses, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and their children, persons involved in sports and tourists. The agreement intended to provide for:

  • shortening the procedures for issuing a Schengen visa;
  • keeping the visa processing fee at the amount of Euro 35 for all Albanian citizens and waiving this fee for specific categories;
  • removing visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports;
  • the possibility of issuing long-term and multiple entry visas for categories of persons have frequent exchanges with the Schengen countries.

Roadmap towards visa free regime with Albania was the main strategic document between EU and Albania in the context of Visa Liberalisation. In this document were embedded 42 benchmarks, the fulfillment of which would have lead towards the lifting of visa regime. The 42 benchmarks were organised in 4 blocks:
1. Document security
2. Illegal migration including readmission
3. Public Order and Security
4. External Relations and fundamental rights

EMA’s analysis on Visa Liberalisation process:

  • Monitoring Report on the Visa Liberalisation Process with Albania – The End and the Beginning (October 2010)
  • Monitoring the Visa Liberalisation Process with Albania: What to expect when you are expecting? (May 2010)
  • Visa Liberalisation, Implications of a proposal (September 2009)
  • One year from the Visa Facilitation Agreement: What has really changed? (January 2009)
  • Scorecard on Visa Roadmap Implementation (16 November 2009)

Readiness reports submitted by the Albanian government:

First readiness report (September 2008)
Update report (12 January 2009)
Second readiness report (1 October 2009)
Updated second readiness reports (2 November 2009) and (16 November 2009)
Further measures, blocks 1 and 2 (29 January 2010)
Summary of achievements (February 2010)
Report on remaining benchmarks (25 June 2010)
The EC Assessment Reports on Albanian progress towards fulfilment of benchmarks embedded in the Roadmap towards visa free regime with Albania:

Assessment report on the fulfillment of the open benchmarks – 14 September 2010

Assessments report – 19 April 2010

Assessments report – 27 November 2009

Assessment report – 18 May 2009

Assessment report – 24 November 2008

Other actors monitoring, analysing, reporting on Visa Liberalisation Process with Albania


Balkan Trust for Democracy, German Marshal Fund
Citizens Pact – Serbia
European Citizens Action Service
European Stability Initiative
Europe Without Barriers

Group 484 -Serbia
International Organization of Migration (IOM)
Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM)
Delegation of the European Union in Albania
European Parliament
EU Justice ad Home Affairs Council
Ministry of European Integration
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Interior
State Police
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