Albania’s EU Accession

Nearly twenty years into its EU accession bid, Albania reaches another junction where progress and gaps persist, needing vigilant reform momentum for advancement.
Enri
Written by:
Enri
EU and Albania

Albania’s Winding Road to EU Accession

Nearly 20 years since formally applying to join the European Union (EU), Albania is at a pivotal juncture in its accession journey. The past year has seen progress and persistent gaps as the Balkan nation moves towards alignment with EU standards.

With accession talks underway since July 2022, Albania has mobilized resources across institutions to engage in negotiations and actively prepare for further steps. However, continued reform commitment is required in areas like public administration, judiciary, fundamental rights, and battling corruption.

Key Political Developments

Polarizing rhetoric and personality-driven party divisions remain concerns on the political front, frequently causing instability. However, a large parliamentary majority in March 2022 strengthened consultation mechanisms between the executive and legislature regarding EU accession. Meanwhile, nationwide local elections in May were reasonably well-run but saw claims of vote-buying and undue pressure on public sector employees and voters.

Judicial Reforms Mixed With Delays

The judiciary has progressed following extensive post-communist justice reforms monitored by the EU, notably through fully staffing the Constitutional Court and empowering the Anticorruption Agency (SPAK) to investigate high-level graft robustly. But procedural delays, case backlogs, appointment holdups, and limited follow-up to prosecute criminal offenses revealed during vetting of dismissed or resigned magistrates remain persistent issues.

Rights, Minorities, and Data Protection

Fundamental rights protection needs more vigilant nationwide implementation while discrimination persists against marginalized groups like the Roma community. Personal data breaches have also occurred, requiring stronger legal safeguards, especially after recent cyberattacks impacted government databases.

Economic Resilience Amid External Shocks

Albania’s economy demonstrated resilience in 2022 despite spiraling inflation and energy costs triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with robust GDP growth. Reforms also advanced in priority areas like energy infrastructure, transport connectivity, digital governance, and education outcomes. But poverty, infrastructure gaps, and human capital deficits continue to hamper Albania’s convergence to EU development benchmarks.

Requirements for Accession

Open accession negotiations propel a greater impetus towards reforms, which Albania actively engages in, from taxation laws to regional development funds. To meet EU standards fully, sustained efforts are still needed in diverse spheres encompassing environmental standards, food safety regulations, public health policies, and maritime conservation. As talks proceed, Albania must also refrain from policy or legislative measures that contravene fundamental EU democratic norms.

Governments in Tirana must sustain reform momentum despite political cycles, given the long haul towards eventual accession. Lucid public communication regarding required changes also remains important for maintaining widespread support.

Perseverance as the Key

The accession process can often seem frustratingly slow for EU integration aspirants like Albania, especially when benchmarking regional peers. However, previous milestones prove that EU membership’s permanence inches forward with perseverance. So 2023 brings cautious optimism – cautioning that while Albania has progressed, the path ahead remains long.

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