EC Publishes Report on Albania, Recommends Opening Accession Talks

The European Commission published today the progress reports for Albania and six other countries who are working towards European Union membership.

The report assesses the progress made by Albania and other countries in the EU integration process during the last year.

Based on their findings, the EC recommends to the European Council to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

The Council is expected to make a decision after the German government gets Bundestag’s opinion in September. brings the main findings of the report on Albania’s progress, which are divided into three main sections: political criteria, economic criteria and EU legislation.

Political criteria

The report states that Albania has continued to make progress on its EU reform agenda. It further presents the political situation in the country, focusing on opposition actions: boycotting the parliament, relinquishing parliamentary mandates, not registering for the local elections, and disengaging from a bipartisan electoral reform despite the majority’s efforts. The report concludes that opposition parties should constructively re-engage in the democratic institutions.

As regards the public administration reform, Albania is “moderately prepared” to open negotiations. The government has continued its efforts in several related areas, resulting in some progress in the efficiency and transparency of public services. It has improved the regulatory framework and impact assessment of policies, employed more transparent recruitment procedures, and has strengthened merit-based civil service procedures. The report concludes that these achievement should be further consolidated, to ensure a more efficient, depoliticized, and professional public administration.

Albania’s judicial system also is deemed as having “some level of preparation”. The report lists achievements in this field: implementation of comprehensive and thorough justice reform has continued consistently, resulting in good progress overall; the new institutions of the judiciary have been established; the vetting process has advanced steadily, producing tangible results, under the monitoring of the EC. The report concludes that all these “concrete and credible results have substantially strengthened the sector and consolidated independence, impartiality, professionalism, and accountability of the judiciary.”

The fight against corruption and organized crime has also seen “good progress”, and Albania is deemed to have “some level of preparation” in this sector. “Good progress” was made in relation to the approval of legislation to fight corruption, as well as in investigating, prosecuting and trying high level corruption cases. The dismissals by the vetting institutions of magistrates is also included among achievements in the fight against corruption. The establishment of the specialized anti-corruption bodies (Special Anti-Corruption and Organized Crime Structure – SPAK, National Bureau of
Investigation – NBI) are expected to further strengthen the fight against corruption. The report concludes that “however, overall, corruption is prevalent in many areas and remains an issue of concern.”

The report notes that police operations to dismantle criminal organizations have been intensified, multiple arrest of leaders of organized crime were made, and “a number of important indictments and convictions took place.” The cooperation between the Albanian police and EU Member States has also intensified, resulting in several large-scale law enforcement operations.

Regarding the cultivation of cannabis, the Albanian government, “consistently for the past years”, showed a strong commitment to counter its production and trafficking, and cooperated with the EU in monitoring the situation on the ground and from the air. “In the past two crop seasons, aerial surveillance has certified that almost no cultivation of cannabis has taken place in Albania.” The report concludes that these steps represent tangible progress in meeting last years’ recommendations.

The European Commission emphasizes the need to tackle money laundering and confiscating assets stemming from crimes and other unjustified wealth.

The report assesses that Albania complies overall with fundamental rights but the overall implementation of related instruments need to be strengthened. Legal framework was improved in the areas of child’s rights and domestic violence, as well as social housing. Property rights need to be consolidated.

The legislation concerning the freedom of expression is conducive to the exercise of freedom of expression, but implementation requires further efforts.

With regard to good neighborly relations and regional cooperation, Albania has continued to participate actively in regional cooperation and maintain good neighborly
relations. Important steps have been taken to address bilateral issues with Greece.

With regard to migration, some progress was made in improving the institutional capacity on border management and asylum. The number of unfounded asylum applications lodged by Albanian nationals in the EU has decreased but remains high and requires continuous and sustained efforts, as well as to address the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors.

Economic Criteria

As regards the economic criteria, Albania has made some progress and is moderately prepared in developing a functioning market economy. Economic growth increased further and unemployment decreased but remains still high. Exports grew solidly and the current account deficit narrowed. The high public debt-to-GDP ratio continued to decrease but the pace of fiscal consolidation remained slow. Banks continued to reduce the number of non-performing loans and the use of foreign currency. The banking sector remained stable, though business credit growth did not pick up.

Albania has made some progress in terms of energy, transport and digital infrastructure development, but lack of productive know-how, low education levels and technology transfers hinder Albania’s competitiveness and integration into international value chains. Exports and regional integration are below potential.

Efforts to improve education and training show some results but reforms need to continue in particular to better address rural areas and vulnerable groups. Albania’s capacity for research, development and innovation remained very low.

The report notes Albania’s full alignment with all EU common foreign and security policy positions and declarations.

EU legislation

The EC states that Albania continued to align its legislation to EU requirements in a number of areas, enhancing its ability to assume the obligations of membership.

Albania will need to continue its efforts related to its overall preparations to adopt and implement the EU acquis. The country should continue work on the development of the transport and energy networks, and related connectivity reform measures, 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.

Public procurement system and public finance management in Albania needs to be more transparent, with higher accountability, effectiveness and efficiency.