Accession of Albania to the European Union
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Officially recognised by the EU as a "potential candidate country" in 2000, 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. Albania applied for European Union membership on 28 April 2009.
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. In 5 December 2013, an MEP meeting recommended to the Council to grant Albania candidate status without undue delay.
Chronology of the relations with the European Union
In 1992 a Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the EU and Albania was signed, and Albania became eligible for funding under the EU Phare programme. In 1997 the EU Council of Ministers established political and economic conditionality for the development of bilateral relations between Albania and the EU. In 1999 the EU proposed the new Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) for five countries of South-Eastern Europe, including Albania. Starting from 1999 Albania benefited from Autonomous Trade Preferences with the EU. In year 2000 duty-free access to EU market was granted for products from Albania.
In June 2000, during the European Council stated that all the SAP countries are "potential candidates" for EU membership. In November 2000, at the Zagreb Summit, the SAP was officially endorsed by the EU and the Western Balkan countries (including Albania). 2001 was the first year of the new CARDS programme specifically designed for the SAP countries. In June 2001 the Commission recommended the undertaking of negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Albania. The Göteborg European Council (June 2001) invited the Commission to present draft negotiating directives for the negotiation of a SAA. In October 2002 directives for the negotiation of a SAA with Albania were adopted 31 January 2003. In 31 January, Commission President Prodi officially launches the negotiations for a SAA between the EU and Albania. In June 2003 at the Thessaloniki Summit, the SAP was confirmed as the EU policy for the Western Balkans and the EU perspective for these countries was confirmed (countries participating in the SAP started to be eligible for EU accession and would join the EU once they would become ready). In December 2005 the Council made the decision on the principles of a revised European Partnership for Albania. In 12 June 2006 the SAA was signed at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg.
In 9 November 2006 the European Commission decided to start visa facilitation negotiations with Albania, and in 13 April 2007 the visa facilitation agreement was signed in Zagreb. The signing EU Commissioner Franco 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. In 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation agreement entered into force and in 7 March 2008 EU Commissioner Franco Frattini opened in Tirana the dialogue toward the liberalisation of the visa regime between Albania and EU. In 14 January 2009 the SAA ratification process by all the member states was completed and in 1 April 2009 The SAA entered into force. In 28 April 2009 Albania formally applied for membership in the European Union.
In 16 November 2009 the Council of the EU asked the European Commission to prepare an assessment on Albania's readiness to start accession negotiations. The Commission submitted the Questionnaire on accession preparation to the Albanian government.
In 14 April 2010 Albania submitted answers to the European Commission's Questionnaire, but candidacy status was not granted by the EU in December 2010 due to the long-lasting political row in the country.
In 27 May 2010 The European Commission proposed visa free travel for Albania. The adopted proposal will enable citizens of Albania to travel to Schengen countries without needing a short term visa. In 8 November 2010 the Council of the European Union approved visa-free travel to Schengen Area for Albanian citizens. In 15 December 2010 Visa-free access to the Schengen area entered into force and in 10 October 2012 the European Commission recommended that Albania be granted EU candidate status, subject to the completion of key measures in certain areas.
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. In 23 June 2013 Albania held general election, generally regarded as free and fair. 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. In 5 December 2013 in an MEP meeting it was recommended that "...the Council should acknowledge the progress made by Albania by granting it candidate status without undue delay." However, several states, including Denmark and the Netherlands, remained opposed to granting Albania candidate status, and at a December 2013 meeting the Council of the European Union put off the decision until June 2014.
State of Stabilisation and Association Agreement ratification
|Event||Macedonia ||Croatia ||Albania ||Montenegro [Note 1]||Bosnia and
|Serbia [Note 2]||Kosovo* [Note 3]|
|SAA negotiations start||2000-04-05||2000-11-24||2003-01-31||2005-10-10||2005-11-25||2005-10-10||2013-10-28|
|SAA/IA signature||2001-04-09||2001-10-29||2006-06-12||2007-10-15||2008-06-16||2008-04-29||(?) [Note 4]|
|SAP state ratification||2001-04-27||2002-01-30||2006-10-09||2007-11-14||2008-06-20||2008-09-22||N/A|
|entry into force||2001-06-01||2002-03-01||2006-12-01||2008-01-01||2008-07-01||2010-02-01||N/A|
|Notification of the EC of SAA ratification by:|
|Bulgaria||entered the EU later||2008-05-30||2009-03-13||2010-08-12||N/A|
|Croatia||entered the EU later||N/A|
|Cyprus||entered the EU later||2008-05-30||2008-11-20||2009-07-02||2010-11-26||N/A|
|Czech Republic||entered the EU later||2008-05-07||2009-02-19||2009-07-23||2011-01-28||N/A|
|Estonia||entered the EU later||2007-10-17||2007-11-22||2008-09-11||2010-08-19||N/A|
|Hungary||entered the EU later||2007-04-23||2008-05-14||2008-10-22||2010-11-16||N/A|
|Latvia||entered the EU later||2006-12-19||2008-10-17||2009-11-12||2011-05-30||N/A|
|Lithuania||entered the EU later||2007-05-17||2009-03-04||2009-05-04||2013-06-26||N/A|
|Malta||entered the EU later||2008-04-21||2008-12-11||2010-01-07||2010-07-06||N/A|
|Poland||entered the EU later||2007-04-14||2009-02-06||2010-04-07||2012-01-13||N/A|
|Romania||entered the EU later||2009-01-15||2010-01-08||2012-05-22||N/A|
|Slovakia||entered the EU later||2007-07-20||2008-07-29||2009-03-17||2010-11-11||N/A|
|Slovenia||entered the EU later||2007-01-18||2008-02-07||2009-03-10||2010-12-07||N/A|
|European Communities/European Union||2004-02-25||2004-12-21||2009-02-26||2010-03-29||(?)[Note 5]||2013-07-22||(?) [Note 6]|
|SAA entry into force||2004-04-01||2005-02-01||2009-04-01||2010-05-01||(?)[Note 5]||2013-09-01||(?)|
|EU membership (SAA lapsed)||(?)||2013-07-01||(?)||(?)||(?)||(?)||(?)|
(brackets): earliest possible date
N/A: Not applicable.
- 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.
- Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 108 out of 193 United Nations member states. The European Union remains divided on its policy towards Kosovo, with five EU member states not recognizing its independence. The EU launched a Stabilisation Tracking Mechanism for Kosovo on 6 November 2002 with the aim of aligning its policy with EU standards. On 10 October 2012 the European Commission found that there were no legal obstacles to Kosovo signing a SAA with the EU, as independence is not required for such an agreement, and recommended that negotiations commence once Kosovo had made further progress on four policy areas.
- There will be no Interim Agreement associated with Kosovo's SAA.
- Although 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.
Visa liberalisation process
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.
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- "SAA Agreement with Bosnia". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
- "SAA Agreement with Serbia". Council of the European Union. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
- "Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo" (PDF). European Commission. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- "EU starts the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations with Kosovo". European Commission. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2013-10-29.
- "Kosovo to negotiate on Stabilisation and Association Agreement". 2013-10-27. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
- "Kosovo Launches Crucial SAA Talks With EU". Balkan Insight. 2013-10-28. Retrieved 2013-10-28.
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- Albanian Ministry of European Integration
- Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- European Commission - Western Balkans: Enhancing the European perspective
- European Commission - Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2009-2010