Overcoming previous polarisation, the Parliament of Albania has adopted by unanimity constitutional amendments to launch a deep and comprehensive justice system reform and the exclusion of criminal offenders from public offices. In view of the next general elections to be held in 2017, Albania is expected to adopt in due time amendments to the electoral code and related reforms. These should address in particular the lack of impartiality and professionalism of the electoral administration. Adoption of the law establishing the national council for civil society provided the framework for more structured consultations with civil society organisations.
Albania is moderately prepared in what concerns the reform of its public administration. The implementation of more transparent recruitment procedures of civil servants, as well as the implementation of the public administration reform and public financial management reform strategies have continued. Further progress is key to consolidate achievements towards a more efficient, depoliticised, and professional public administration.
Albania's judicial system has some level of preparation. Constitutional amendments related to the organisation and functioning of the justice system were adopted. This paves the way for a comprehensive and thorough justice reform. Work on related implementing legislation also advanced: a law on the re-evaluation (vetting) of judges, prosecutors and legal advisors, as well as a set of key laws providing for the institutional reorganisation of the judicial structures were adopted. In addition, around 40 other legislative texts are at various stages of preparation. Further progress is needed to adopt and implement this legislation. Administration of justice continued to be slow and inefficient; corruption remained prevalent across the sector.
Albania has some level of preparation in the fight against corruption. A law on whistle‑blower protection was adopted. Prosecutors and police gained increased access to national electronic public registries, with a view to exchanging sensitive information and increasing the efficiency of investigations. Further progress is needed to establish a solid track record of investigations, prosecutions and convictions. More efforts are needed to tackle corruption at high level. Proactive investigations, systematic risk assessments and inter‑institutional cooperation need to be improved. Corruption remains prevalent in many areas and continues to be a serious problem.
The country has reached some level of preparation in the fight against organised crime. Some progress was made, in particular on identifying and destroying cannabis plantations. The police was modernised and international police cooperation intensified, especially with Europol. However, cooperation between police and prosecution needs to be further strengthened to dismantle criminal networks more effectively. The number of final convictions in organised crimes cases is still low, marking only a slight increase in recent years. Financial investigations related to organised criminal groups are not used systematically and effectively. The track record of freezing and confiscating illegally acquired assets remains very low.
The legal framework for the protection of human rights is broadly in line with European standards. Albania has ratified most international human rights conventions. However, enforcement of human rights protection mechanisms remains to be strengthened. As regards freedom of expression, Albania has some level of preparation / is moderately prepared. The overall environment is conducive to the freedom of expression, but better implementation of the legislation is needed. The independence of the regulatory authority and public broadcaster must be further strengthened, and transparency of state advertising in the media remains to be enhanced. Albania has taken measures to address the restitution of or compensation for property confiscated during the communist era. A new law providing for the setting up of a national mechanism for compensation is now in place. The process of property registration also needs to advance. Living conditions for Roma and Egyptians need to be improved. Additional efforts are needed to develop a track record of anti-discrimination cases. Institutional mechanisms to protect the rights of the child and to tackle gender-based violence remain poor. The legislation on juvenile justice remains to be brought in line with international standards.
Albania has continued to have a constructive and proactive role in regional cooperation and maintains good neighbourly relations in line with its commitments under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
Albania is moderately prepared in developing a functioning market economy. Some progress was made in improving the budget balance, fighting informality and reforming the electricity sector. Economic growth accelerated and the labour market situation improved, but unemployment is still high. Public debt is high and has not yet started decreasing, while the recurrent underexecution of government spending on investments persists. The financial sector is stable. However, the banking sector is still burdened with non-performing loans and credit is growing slowly. Business-relevant regulations are cumbersome and shortcomings in the rule of law continue to deter investments. The ongoing justice reform is expected to have a material impact on the business environment.
Albania has some level of preparation concerning its capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Some progress was made particularly as regards improving higher and vocational education. However, the quality of education needs to be raised at all levels to better equip people with skills and knowledge in line with labour market needs. Efforts have started for prioritising infrastructure investments, but gaps in transport, energy and digital infrastructure still hinder competitiveness and constrain trade. International trade is below potential and it is sectorally concentrated making the economy more vulnerable. Capacity for research, development and innovation remains low.
Albania continued aligning its legislation to EU requirements in a number of areas, enhancing its ability to take on the obligations of membership. In many areas, the country is moderately prepared, such as in financial control, or has some level of preparation, including in the areas of public procurement and statistics. Albania will need to continue its efforts as regards the overall preparations for adopting and implementing the EU acquis. It should continue work on the development of the transport and energy networks, also with a view to improving connectivity throughout the region. The administrative capacity and professional standards of bodies charged with the implementation of the acquis need 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. Albania has continued to fully align with all EU common foreign and security policy positions and declarations.
The number of unfounded asylum applications lodged by Albanian nationals to EU Member States and Schengen associated countries has remained high. Albania should take immediate and determined action, including in the framework of the post-visa liberalisation monitoring mechanism, to effectively address this phenomenon.
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
All these groups are considered under the wider "Roma" umbrella term under the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.