Albania: First step towards EU membership

On 12 June 2006 Albania signed as the third Western Balkan state a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU. Negotiations on a similar agreement with newly independent Montenegro are underway.

At the meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Luxemburg on 12 June 2006 the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Albania was signed.  

 “The signature of this agreement is a milestone on Albania’s road to European standards”, said Austrian Foreign minister Ursula Plassnik.  Nevertheless, the country is still facing a difficult path of reform before EU accession can even be considered.  

The Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha called this development “the opening of a new horizon for the future of the Albanian people and the end of a 15 years long transition period”. 

The SAA, which is theoretically a first step towards EU membership, governs the relation between the EU and Albania, which focuses mainly on enhanced political and economic cooperation as well as the creation of a free-trade area within the next ten years.  Therefore, Albania has to push for reforms focusing issues such as press freedom, institution building, and respect for ethnic minorities or observing international standards in municipal elections.

After Montenegro regained independence after a historic referendum on 21 May 2006, the EU and its member states decided to develop sovereign and independent relations with the country.  Negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Montenegro – as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia – are underway.

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