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Brussels, 8 October 2014
Key findings of the 2014 Progress Report on Albania
The Progress Report on Albania is part of the 2014 Enlargement Package adopted by the European Commission on 8 October. EU-Albania relations took a clear step forward in 2014 with the decision of the Council to grant Albania the candidate status reflecting the progress made by the country in European integration and in implementing the necessary reforms.
The European Commission concluded that Albania made further progress in fulfilling the political criteria, by continuing to implement and consolidate reforms in the rule of law area. In order to be able to move towards the opening of accession negotiations, Albania will need to undertake sustained efforts to implement reforms in key priority areas, with particular focus on public administration and judicial reform, the fight against corruption and organised crime and strengthening the protection of fundamental rights. A sustainable political dialogue and compromise-based and constructive work in parliament by both government and opposition remain important elements for a successful reform process.
Albania has made further progress towards fulfilling the Copenhagen political criteria for membership of the EU. Parliament consensually adopted a Resolution on European Integration and it endorsed a number of legislative measures relevant to EU integration, mainly in the areas of fight against corruption and organised crime. The reform of the public administration moved forward with the Civil Service Law coming into effect and the adoption of relevant implementing legislation. Albania engaged with the Venice Commission in view of strengthening the independence, accountability and professionalism of the judicial system. The accountability and transparency of the judiciary were improved, including through legislative amendments regulating the immunities of judges and prosecutors. The anti-corruption institutional and legislative framework was strengthened. The fight against organised crime shows a positive trend in a number of areas, such as economic crime, trafficking of human beings and drug-related crimes, including decisive action against the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis, which remains a serious concern, most notably through a major police operation in the village of Lazarat and in the north of the country.
However, a tense political climate impinged on parliamentary work, resulting in the main opposition party abstaining from and, since July, boycotting all parliamentary work. Government and opposition should take steps to restore political dialogue in the parliament.
Additional and sustained efforts will be necessary to fully comply with the political criteria. As regards democracy and the rule of law, it is essential to build on recent achievements and consolidate the reform momentum. Albania will need to vigorously pursue judicial and public administration reform. The fight against corruption and organised crime need to remain top priorities, with sustained and systematic efforts and consistent enforcement of legislation to fight corruption at all levels and combat all kinds of criminal activities. Existing obstacles to pro-active and efficient investigations need to be removed. Albania will also need to further develop the track record of investigations, prosecutions and convictions in these areas. Albania should continue acting decisively against cannabis cultivation, with police action being swiftly followed by effective prosecution. The legislative framework on fundamental rights and its enforcement will have to be improved overall. Measures should be implemented to enhance Roma inclusion and protect vulnerable groups. The protection of property rights needs to be further strengthened. A more constructive political dialogue will be needed for the reforms to be sustainable.
Albania preserved macroeconomic stability and has made some further progress towards becoming a functioning market economy. It should be able to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union in the medium term, provided that it accelerates structural reforms. The budget deficit and the public debt further increased. Albania should pursue fiscal consolidation efforts with a view to reducing the high public debt, while at the same time preserving room for growth-enhancing expenditure. In this context, the energy sector should be reformed and pension and tax administration reforms need to be implemented to lower the risks to public finances.
Economic growth slowed and the current account deficit remains large reflecting weak competitiveness. The production base requires further diversification and efforts are needed to create more favourable conditions for investment. Enforcing rule of law, fighting corruption, addressing uncertainties over property rights and strengthening regulatory and supervisory frameworks are key elements in this respect. Credit growth needs to be supported by payment of state arrears towards companies and by addressing the non-performing loans in commercial banks. Education and training should be further improved to address skills mismatches in the labour market.
Albania adopted a new National Plan for European Integration for 2014-2020 but increased efforts will be needed as progress has been moderate in improving Albania's ability to assume the obligations of membership by approximating its legislation and standards to the EU.
Albania will need to upgrade its preparation for implementing EU acquis, notably as regards intellectual property law, energy, environmental protection, transport, food safety, and consumer and health protection. Sustained efforts are needed to strengthen the administrative capacity for implementing and enforcing legislation and to improve transparency and accountability.
1999: The EU proposes the new Stabilisation and Association Process for countries of Southeast Europe
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 2006: The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU is signed
April 2009: The SAA enters into force. Albania presents its application for membership of the EU
November 2010: The Commission issues its Opinion on Albania's application for EU membership, including a set of 12 key priorities to be fulfilled in view of opening of accession negotiations
December 2010: Visa-free travel to Schengen area for citizens of Albania
June 2014: The European Council grants Albania the status of candidate country for EU membership