17th May 2022

Albania takes first legal step to EU membership

  • Albania must make serious attempts to fight organised crime and corruption, Mr Barroso said (Photo: European Commission)

Albania's long journey toward EU membership received a boost over the weekend as the country signed a stabilisation and association agreement (SAA) with the EU after three years of preparations.

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn and foreign minister Besnik Mustafaj in Tirana on Saturday (20 February) signed the agreement, which is the first legal step to fully-fledged EU membership.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The SAA is a contractual economic and political relationship with the EU, which obliges Albania to adopt EU standards on a range of single market issues, to lift trade barriers and to co-operate with its neighbours.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who attended the signing ceremony, said "This is a huge step for Albania on the road to EU membership," but he added that much would depend on the actual implementation of the deal.

"This is no time to relax your efforts. The real work begins now that the agreement has been initialled. Albania has to establish a track-record in implementing this agreement, in order to move closer to the EU," the commission chief stated.

Albania must make "serious attempts" to fight organised crime and corruption, liberalise its economy, strengthen property rights and secure free speech, Mr Barroso said.

Albanian president Sali Berisha said "We regard this moment as an obligation as well as an opportunity. We are committed to implementing the agreement to make the nation's dream of integrating into the EU a reality."

The conclusion of the SAA talks come after three years of bumpy preparations by Albania, which is one of Europe’s poorest countries.

Croatia and Macedonia, which have meanwhile received official EU candidate member status, concluded the same agreement in less than a year.

Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina were the last two western Balkans countries to start SAA talks with Brussels last year.

EU lobbies Hungary to break oil sanctions deadlock

After the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's Budapest trip, Hungary suggested it wants EU funds to offset the extra costs from receiving different oil sources, and the increased energy prices the planned Russian oil embargo entails.

Political groups shun far-right pro-Kremlin MEP

French MEP Thierry Mariani from the far-right Identity and Democracy Group is spearheading a report in the parliament's foreign affairs committee. The socialists are boycotting it.

Far-right loners pose ever-bigger EU terror threat

Far-right loners radicalised online pose an ever-bigger terrorist threat in Europe in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, EU intelligence and police services have warned.


The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. EU to reduce size and scope of Mali military mission
  2. Band members testify about Bataclan attack
  3. German prosecutors want five years for alleged ex-Nazi guard
  4. UN urges Iran to halt execution of Swedish-Iranian academic
  5. EU: legal Russian gas payments possible, but not in roubles
  6. McDonald's to sell up and exit Russia
  7. Nordic nations to help Sweden and Finland if attacked
  8. Germany to reject EU green label for nuclear

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us