On 9 November, the Commission adopted its 2010 Enlargement package. It comprised a Strategy paper, the Opinions on the membership applications by Montenegro and Albania and seven Progress Reports on the other candidate countries and potential candidates. On Albania, the Commission concluded that, while good progress was made during the last 12 months, further reforms are needed in a number of key areas, as set out in the opinion, before the country can be ready to start accession negotiations.
Ahead of the adoption of the Report, Commissioner Füle stated: "We share with Albania the common objective to welcome it one day in the EU family. Albania has come a long way already on the EU integration path. The road is long and difficult, and main challenges lie in Albania itself. I hope Albania will find the political determination necessary to overcome these obstacles and to build a true democratic society, with a strong market economy and a body of legislation fully aligned with that of the EU. This will allow us to meet our joint objective and to contribute to a better life for the citizens of Albania."
Albania has made progress towards fulfilling the Copenhagen political criteria. As regards the functioning of democratic institutions and the civil service, it has established a constitutional and legislative framework in line with European standards. The 2009 legislative elections met most international standards and were an improvement over past elections, even if some deficiencies were identified. Albania has in recent years strengthened rule of law, in particular by conducting legislative and institutional reforms of the judiciary and in the fight against corruption. Law enforcement bodies have been strengthened. The country's legal and institutional framework on human rights is largely in place and broadly corresponds to European standards.
However, further efforts will be required to address shortcomings in the political field. The effectiveness and stability of Albania's democratic institutions, notably parliament, is not sufficiently achieved. Political dialogue is confrontational and does not respect the democratic spirit, not least because of the political stalemate since the June 2009 elections. Shortcomings identified in the last elections have not yet been translated into an electoral reform, needed for upcoming elections. Public administration remains weak and politicised. A comprehensive and coordinated judiciary reform strategy is pending. Enforcement of rule of law remains deficient. A solid track record of effective fight against corruption and organised crime needs to be developed. Implementation of legislation and policy instruments in the field of human rights and protection of minorities is still insufficient.
Albania plays a constructive role in maintaining regional stability and fostering good neighbourly relations with other Western Balkan and EU countries.
Albania has taken important steps towards establishing a functioning market economy. To become a functioning market economy, Albania needs to further strengthen governance, improve the performance of the labour market, remove uncertainties in the field of property rights and step up law enforcement. Furthermore, in order to enable it to cope over the medium term with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, Albania needs to strengthen its physical infrastructure and human capital and pursue further structural reforms.
There is a good track record in the implementation of economic reforms and broad consensus on the fundamentals of economic policy. Albania achieved a degree of macroeconomic stability sufficient enough to allow economic operators to make decisions in a climate of predictability. The right macroeconomic policy mix in the past years generated growth rates exceeding 5% despite the crisis.
However, fiscal consolidation has been reversed recently and the high level of public debt remains a source of macro-financial vulnerability. A narrow export base and public investment have led to a significant and persistent current account imbalance. The existence of widespread informal work arrangements continues to severely distort the labour market and unemployment remains high, reaching 13% in 2009. Weaknesses in the rule of law hamper the business environment. Infrastructure requires further investment.
Albania has made significant efforts to align its legislation with the EU legislation, particularly concerning standardisation, competition and public procurement. The regulatory framework for business has been improved and further alignment achieved in the fields of customs and taxation. Considerable efforts were made to strengthen the fight against organised crime (in terms of legislative framework, investigative capacity, resources).
However, Albania still needs to make substantial progress in other fields such as, environment, intellectual property, transport, agriculture, food safety, social policy and audio-visual. Albania needs to demonstrate more concrete results in the fight against drugs, human trafficking and money laundering.
EU - ALBANIA KEY DATES
June 2000: The European Council states that all the Stabilisation and Association countries are “potential candidates” for EU membership
June 2003: Thessaloniki Summit; The EU perspective for the Western Balkans is confirmed.
June 2004: Decision on a first European partnership for Albania
June 2006: Signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
18 February 2008: Council decision on a revised European partnership for Albania
June 2008: The European Commission presents a road map for visa liberalisation with Albania
1 April 2009: Entry into force of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
28 April 2009: Albania presents its application for membership of the EU
8 November 2010: Council decides on lifting short-term visas for travel to Schengen countries
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