Albania applied for European Union membership on 28 April 2009. Officially recognised by the EU as a "potential candidate country", Albania started negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) in 2003. This was successfully agreed and signed on 12 June 2006, thus completing the first major step toward Albania's full membership in the EU.
Following the steps of the recently admitted Eastern European countries in 2004, Albania has been extensively engaged with EU institutions, and joined NATO as a full member in 2009. It has also maintained its position as a stability factor and a strong ally of Western Europe in the troubled and divided region of the Balkans.
Following its application for EU membership, the Council of the European Union asked the European Commission on 16 November 2009 to prepare an assessment on the readiness of Albania to start accession negotiations, a step in the accession process that usually takes about a year. On 16 December 2009, the European Commission submitted the Questionnaire on accession preparation to the Albanian government. Albania returned answers to them on 14 April 2010.
Candidacy status was not granted by the EU in December 2010 due to the long-lasting political row in the country. The parliament in August 2012 rejected a proposal to abolish immunity for parliament members, ministers and people in some other official positions. The EU required this to be abolished along with 11 other main issues, so candidate status was further delayed. However, in September 2012 a constitutional amendment was unanimously passed which limited the immunity of parliamentarians. In October 2012 the European Commission evaluated the progress of Albania to comply with 12 key conditions to achieve official candidate status and start accession negotiations. Four key priorities were found to be met, while two were well in progress and the remaining six were in moderate progress. The report concluded that if Albania managed to hold a fair and democratic parliamentary election in June 2013, and also implemented the remaining changes to comply with the eight key priorities still not fully met, then the Council of the European Union would recommended granting Albania official candidate status. The EU ambassador to Albania said on July 17 that Albania had met many of these conditions, and might be an official candidate by December 2013. On 16 October 2013 the European Commission released its annual reports on prospective member states which concluded that the Albanian election was held in an "orderly manner" and that progress had been made in meeting other conditions and as such recommended granting Albania candidate status. A decision on making Albania a candidate is expected to be made at the European Council in December 2013.
Chronology of the relations with the European Union
Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the EU and Albania. Albania becomes eligible for funding under the EU Phare programme.
Regional Approach. The EU Council of Ministers establishes political and economic conditionality for the development of bilateral relations.
The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) for five countries of South-Eastern Europe, including Albania.
Albania benefits from Autonomous Trade Preferences with the EU.
Extension of duty-free access to EU market for products from Albania.
Feira European Council (June 2000) states that all the SAP countries are "potential candidates" for EU membership.
at Zagreb Summit (November), the SAP is officially endorsed by the EU and the Western Balkan countries (including Albania).
First year of the new CARDS programme specifically designed for the SAP countries
The Commission recommends the undertaking of negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Albania. The Göteborg European Council (June 2001) invites the Commission to present draft negotiating directives for the negotiation of a SAA.
Negotiating Directives for the negotiation of a SAA with Albania are adopted in October.
31 January 2003
On 31 January, Commission President Prodi officially launches the negotiations for a SAA between the EU and Albania.
at Thessaloniki Summit (June), the SAP is confirmed as the EU policy for the Western Balkans. The EU perspective for these countries is confirmed (countries participating in the SAP are eligible for EU accession and may join the EU once they are ready).
Council decision on the principles of a revised European Partnership for Albania.
12 June 2006
The SAA was signed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg.
9 November 2006
The European Commission decided to start visa facilitation negotiations with Albania.
13 April 2007
The visa facilitation agreement was signed in Zagreb. The signing EUCommissionerFranco Frattini was quoted saying that this is the first step toward a full abolishment of the visa requirements and the free movement of the Albanian citizens in the EU.
1 January 2008
The visa facilitation agreement entered into force.
^Montenegro started negotiations in November 2005 while a part of Serbia and Montenegro (SiM). Separate technical negotiations were conducted regarding issues of sub-state organizational competency. A mandate for direct negotiations with Montenegro was established in July 2006. Direct negotiations were initiated on 26 September 2006 and concluded on 1 December 2006.
^Serbia started negotiations in November 2005 while part of SiM, with a modified mandate from July 2006.
^There will be no Interim Agreement associated with Kosovo's SAA.
^ abAlthough ratified by all EU member states, the entry into force of Bosnia's SAA has been delayed by the EU since Bosnia has yet to meet the preconditions set by the EU.
^Kosovo's SAA would be the first signed after the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, which conferred a legal personality to the EU. As a result, the agreement will be directly between Kosovo and the EU and will not need to be ratified by each member state individually.
On 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between Albania and the EU entered into force. Albania received a road map from the EU for further visa liberalisation with Schengen countries in June 2008. On 8 November 2010 the Council of the European Union approved visa-free travel to the EU for citizens of Albania. The decision entered into force on 15 December 2010.