EU-Albania relations

  

Albania formally applied for EU membership in April 2009, but if its accession bid is to move forward it must tackle a number of issues: particularly political stability, economic reform and corruption.

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Overview

After World War Two, Albania became a communist state allied with the Soviet Union and then China, before pursuing its own form of autarchic socialism under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha.

Under Hoxha, Albania became one of the most economically underdeveloped countries in the world. In the early 1990s, a multiparty democracy was established – replacing decades of isolationist communist rule.

Albania is bordered by Montenegro and Kosovo to the north, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south. It has a coastline on the Adriatic Sea.

Ethnically, Albania is largely homogenous – over 95% of its 3.6 million inhabitants are ethnic Albanians. According to estimates, roughly 70% of the population is Muslim, 20% Albanian Orthodox and 10% Roman Catholic. The average age in Albania is just 29.

Despite undergoing a radical transformation since the communist era, Albania remains a very poor country. A recent Eurostat survey places it at the very bottom of Europe in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

EU relations since 1990

In 1992, Albania became eligible for funding through PHARE, the EU's main financial instrument to assist Central and Eastern European countries in the run-up to the 2004 enlargement. In 2001, CARDS replaced PHARE for the Western Balkan countries.

Since 2007, Albania has been receiving EU financial aid under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) for transition assistance, institution building and cross-border cooperation. IPA aid for 2008-2010 totals €245.1 million.

Albania's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) entered into force on 1 April 2009. Albania officially joined NATO on the same day.

In December 2009, the EU excluded Albania from the first stage of its visa liberalisation scheme for Western Balkan citizens. On 27 May 2010, the European Commission adopted proposals to lift the requirements for Albanian citizens once the country satisfies the remaining criteria – meaning that visas could be lifted by autumn this year (EurActiv 27/05/10).

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