The report on Albania is part of the 2015 Enlargement Package adopted today by the European Commission. The European Commission concluded that Albania made steady progress as regards the political criteria, by continuing to implement and consolidate reforms in the rule of law area. In public administration reform, Albania has adopted key legislation and comprehensive reform strategies. In order to be able to open accession negotiations, Albania will need to implement reforms in key priority areas, mainly by finalising the comprehensive reform of the judicial system. Further tangible results are necessary in the area of rule of law, including progress with a view to establishing a solid track record of pro-active investigations, prosecutions and final convictions at all levels in the fight against corruption and organised crime. The protection of fundamental rights, including property rights needs to be strengthened. A more constructive cross-party political dialogue remains essential for the continuity of the EU reform process.
As regards political criteria, it is essential to build on the progress made and keep the reform momentum. The local elections in June were conducted without major incidents. In December 2014, the parliament adopted a resolution that engaged the ruling majority and the main opposition party in continuous constructive political dialogue, putting an end to the parliamentary boycott by the main opposition party. The reform of public administration advanced, with the adoption of the strategic framework and the adoption of a new Code of Administrative Procedures in line with European best practice. The new territorial administrative division has come into effect and the strategic framework for decentralisation has been adopted. As regards Albania's judicial system, an ad hoc parliamentary committee was established for a comprehensive and inclusive reform. Albania adopted a strategic framework for the fight against corruption. International police cooperation stepped up, in particular in fighting drugs production and trafficking.
For public administration reform, a functioning sector coordination and monitoring mechanism needs to be put in place, and preparations for the entry into force of the Code of Administrative Procedure need to be ensured. The financial and administrative capacity of the new local government units needs to be strengthened. In the area of rule of law, further tangible results are necessary. The next crucial steps for a comprehensive reform of the judicial system are the adoption of a new strategic framework followed by the drafting of the relevant institutional, legislative and procedural measures. Sustained and systematic efforts and consistent enforcement of legislation to fight corruption at all levels and dismantle criminal networks are key. Albania needs to demonstrate progress with a view to establishing a solid track record of pro-active investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in corruption and organised crime at all levels. The protection of fundamental rights needs to be strengthened, and the effective implementation of legislation and strategies on fundamental rights and its enforcement will have to be improved overall. As regards the right to freedom of expression, the Constitution and relevant legislation are in line with international human rights law. The overall environment is generally conducive to the exercise of freedom of expression, but better implementation of the legislation is needed. Measures should be implemented to enhance Roma inclusion and protect vulnerable groups. Enforcement of property rights remains to be ensured. The process of registering properties and of restitution and compensation for lost property are not completed. Efforts to bring legislation on juvenile justice in line with international standards should be enhanced.
Albania preserved macroeconomic stability and is moderately prepared in developing a functioning market economy. Some progress was made in improving macroeconomic stability, growth prospects improved and a public finance management reform is in place. However, significant challenges remain. Albania should in particular pursue fiscal consolidation, improve the budget management framework, tackle the high-level of non-performing loans and improve the business environment by strengthening the rule of law.
Concerning the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, some progress was made as regards education, transport and energy infrastructure. However, significant investment in human and physical capital is necessary to improve Albania's competitiveness. Albania should improve the quality of higher education and continue restructuring the vocational education and training, adopt and implement the national transport and energy strategies and lower non-tariff barriers to trade such as shortcomings in food safety.
Albania continued aligning its legislation to the requirements of the EU in a number of areas, enhancing its ability to take on the obligations of membership. The country is moderately prepared or has some elements of preparation in most areas, but is still at an early stage in the areas of freedom of movement for workers, agriculture and rural development, fisheries, justice, freedom and security, science and research, environment and climate change, and consumer and health protection.
Albania will need to make substantial efforts to upgrade its preparations for implementing the EU acquis. Albania should continue work on the development of the transport and energy network within the framework of the regional connectivity agenda. Stepping up the diversification of energy sources and the functioning of the electricity market are vital for economic development. The administrative capacity and professional standards of bodies charged with the implementation of the acquis needs to be strengthened and the independence of regulatory bodies safeguarded. Enhancing transparency and accountability, in particular ensuring the effective, efficient and transparent functioning of the public procurement system and public finance management, remains essential.
In the area of common foreign and security policy, the report notes that Albania aligned itself, when invited, with all relevant EU declarations and European Council conclusions. This trend of full alignment has been consistent for the past four years, demonstrating strong commitment by Albania to support EU stances on issues related to international peace and security.
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