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Albania and the EU
Drinos Valley near Gjirokastra. Photo: Alan Grant

Throughout the 1990s the European Union was above all a generous donor to Albania. Between 1991 and 1999 Albania received grants totalling around one billion euros from the European Union budget. This was one of the highest amounts of assistance relative to the Albanian GDP and included 256 million euros in humanitarian aid.

A new era started in June 2006 when Albania signed a Stability and Association agreement with the EU as a first step to a very different relationship: a candidate for EU membership.

In a document published in March 2008 the European Commission noted progress (Communication Western Balkans: enhancing the European perspective):

"Albania has continued to make progress in reforms and approximation to EU standards. It is implementing well its Interim Agreement under the SAA and is building up a track record.

Albania has maintained a balanced position on the Kosovo issue, thus contributing to the regional stability.

Political leaders in Albania have pledged to engage in a constructive relationship on key reforms. Electoral reform, particularly in view of the 2009 parliamentary elections, strengthening the rule of law, reform of the judicial system and the fight against corruption and organised crime are central. An improved climate in parliament will contribute to move forward on such issues."

The Albanian politics elite currently prepares for the next step: to submit an official application for EU membership. On Europe Day 2008 (9 May) Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the leader of the opposition Edi Rama both committed that despite substantial disagreements on domestic issues they would cooperate on this matter as a national priority.

May 2008

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