Albania's Evolving EU Relationship
Albanian European Integration has to be understood as a process, evolving step by step. Each step has to be implemented properly. Progress achieved on the first step will enable the country to better perform with the requirements of the second step and soon. In the course of the process, Albania will have to implement fundamental, far reaching reforms. This would finally enable the country to fully participate in European integration, including rights and obligations. Such reforms are not only required by the European Union, but urgently needed for Albania as well.
Reforms will enhance trust in the Albanian economy and the political system. Experiences in the countries, having just entered the EU, demonstrate that the transformation of the economic and political system has remarkably benefited from EU association and pre-accession strategies. There is a German expression “der Weg ist das Ziel”, meaning “the road is the goal”. EU membership may be the final objective. Yet, it is the “European journey” that brings rewards.
Albania had already received Western assistance since 1991. In December 1992, the Agreement of Economic Cooperation and Trade (AECT) became the contractual framework, in which relationship with the EU and assistance from the EU could develop. The implementation of the Agreement and preparations for a second one were halted by the uncertain domestic political situation in the years 1996/97, however.
Albanian integration in the Euro-Atlantic System received new momentum by the Kosovo war. With the aim of promoting stability in the Balkan region, the so-called Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe was launched in June 1999, followed by the Stabilisation and Association process for the Western Balkan in the year 2000.
Albania has been a partner in both frameworks from the beginning. A Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between Albania and the European Union is in negotiation since January 2003. Negotiations have been largely completed in technical terms, yet some crucial political issues still have to be settled.
The technical management and coordination of the Integration process of the Republic of Albania in the European Union, is the mission of the Ministry of Integration and this is achieved through the approximation of the national legislation to that of the European Union, the drawing up of the policies of integration, the coordination of the financial assistance and the public information on this process. The Ministry of European Integration carries on these activities:
It coordinates and monitors:
- the preparations of the Albanian institutions and their undertaken commitments in the framework of the SAA -s process;
- the work between the line ministries and other central institutions to draw up National Plans in the European Partnership in order to fulfil the objectives defined in the framework of the European Integration process;
- the progress of the national legislation approximation process with that of the European Union, retaining close and regular institutional links with the line ministries and other central institutions. In addition, it helps the line ministries and other institutions to compile the required legislation with the aim to fulfilling the obligations arising from the Stabilisation-Association Agreement;
- the Community Assistance to the Republic of Albania (CARDS Programme, Neighbourhood Programme, TAIEX, and other assisting programmes that may be offered to Albania), under our country’s priorities, in the framework of the European Integration process. Also, MIE attends the signature of the financial assistance agreements of the European Union to the Republic of Albania in the framework of these programmes
- the methodological devices intending to facilitate the implementation of the sectorial reforms arising from the negotiation and SAA implementation;
- it draws up, in cooperation with line ministries and other central institutions, the National Plan of SAA implementation, and it also controls the implementation of this plan and other programmes related to the European Partnership.
- the compliance of the normative draft-acts proposed by the line ministries and other central institutions with the EU legislation, certainly reflected in the following reports, the approximating extent and the references to the relevant legislation and the Jurisprudence of the European Community;
- it confirms the translation of the basic documentation, indispensable for the approximation process of the national legislation to that of the European Union.
It participates in:
- the activity of the working groups, established by other state institutions, composing various programmes on the integration of the Republic of Albania in the European Union;
- it exchanges data and organizes periodical meetings at national, regional and international levels in the function of the European integration;
- it monitors and reports the implementation of the recommendations of the European Commission coming out of the common meetings with the European Union at other levels;
The Priorities of the Integration Process are:
· Political criteria
· Economic criteria
· Capacity to deal with the obligations of EU membership
Establishment of the diplomatic relations between Albania and the European Economic Community
Signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement – in the framework of the PHARE Programme
Endorsement of the regional approach by the General Affairs Council which laid down the EU political and economic conditions for the further development of the bilateral relations5/1999 EU proposes the new initiative: the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAp) Albania becomes part of the SAp and benefits from CARDS Programme (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation)
Starting of the feasibility study on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
|Adoption of the feasibility study by the Commission |
Albania’s inclusion into the Preferential Autonomous Regime
Endorsement of the feasibility report by the General Affairs Council
Introduction of duty-free for Albanian products in the EU market
Launching by the European Commission of the CARDS Programme for the South East European Countries for 2000- 2006
Conclusion of the Feira European Summit: All the countries involved in the process of Stabilisation and Association are “Potential Candidates” for EU Membership
Zagreb Summit. Intensification of EU-Albania cooperation
First Year of CARDS Programme implementation in the countries involved in the Stabilisation and Association process
EU Ministers endorse the European Commission Report on Albania and require from the Commission the preparation of the draft directive for the negotiation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) Establishment of the EU/Albania Consultative Task-Force
Adoption by the General Affairs Council of the draft directive for the negotiation of a SAA and the decision to open the negotiations for the signature of the SAA with Albania
31/01/2003 Official opening of the negotiations during the visit of the European Commission’s President Romano Prodi in Tirana
First round of negotiations for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement
Thessalonica Council Meeting reaffirms the integration perspective for the Western Balkans and confirms the high priority of the region in the EU’s agenda
Initialling of Albania/EU Readmission Agreement
The European Council launches the TAIEX Programme for supporting the harmonization of the legislation in the countries involved in the Stabilisation and Association Process
The European Council endorses the European Partnership Report and proposes to the Republic of Albania to draft a Plan, addressing the priorities of this document
Albania/EU Readmission Agreement signed in Luxembourg
Initialling of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in Tirana
Signing of the SAA and the Interim Agreement on Trade and Commercial Cooperation, in Luxembourg
Approval of the National Plan for the Implementation of the SAA by the Albanian Government
Adoption by the Council of the Regulation laying down a new Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). This financial Instrument simplifies and structures the EU foreign assistance during the pre-accession period. IPA substitutes the existing Instruments (PHARE, ISPA, SAPARD, CARDS) as from 1 January 2007
Ratification by the Albanian Assembly of the Interim Agreement between the Republic of Albania and the European Communities on Trade and Commercial Cooperation and the ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the Republic of Albania and the European Communities and its Member States
Approval of the resolution on SAA ratification by the European Parliament, which enables the ratification of the SAA by the 27 EU member states
Entering into force of the Interim Agreement between the Republic of Albania and the European Communities on Trade and Commercial Cooperation
The National Plan for the Implementation of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement 2007-2012 is approved with DCM no. 577
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the Republic of Albania on one part and the European Communities and its Member States on the other is ratified by 15 member States: Latvia (26 October 2006), Slovenia (12 February 2007), Slovakia (15 February 2007), Poland (15 March 2007), Sweden (21 March 2007), Hungary (23 April 2007), Spain (12 May 2007), Lithuania (17 May 2007), Ireland (31 may 2007) Luxembourg (4 July 2007), Great Britain (16 October 2007), Italy (16 October 2007) Estonia (18 October 2007), Holland (26 November 2007), Finland (29 November).