30th Mar 2023

Albania to file EU membership application

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha has said that his country would officially apply for EU membership on Tuesday (28 April), but accession is not expected for several years to come.

"We have made the important decision to submit the formal request to be a candidate country to the EU on April 28," Mr Berisha said during a televised cabinet meeting on Sunday, AFP reports.

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The decision had been taken "after consultation with European capitals which have supported Albania in this democratic step," he added.

"The lodging of papers will mark an important turning point for Albania which has committed to pursuing reforms on its path to [full] democracy ...Albania, formerly a country known for its high crime rate and corruption, has today become a country very attractive to investors and foreign tourists."

After a meeting between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Berisha on Saturday, the French presidency issued a statement in support of Tirana's bid.

"Albania will be a member of the European Union and France fully supports this idea," the Elysee said.

Albania will be the second country after Montenegro to file an EU membership application since December.

An ex-Communist state of around 3 million people situated in the western Balkans, Albania signed a pre-accession deal, the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), with the EU in June 2006.

Ratification of its SAA was completed in January this year, when Greece became the last EU state to approve the document.

The EU believes the country, which is among the poorest in Europe, has still a lot to do before it is worth of full membership.

In its last progress report in November last year, the European Commission noted that corruption and organised crime remained a "major challenge."

It also pointed to money laundering and drug trafficking as a "serious concern," and insisted on the need for a more efficient and independent civil service.

A long process

In any case, Tirana's membership application represents a small step on its EU road.

After Albania files the demand tomorrow, it will be up to EU member states to pass it to the commission for assessment.

The EU executive's assessment should then take at least a year, after which the bloc's member states are to decide by unanimity whether to grant the country the status of an EU candidate.

If Albania is granted that status, the EU candidate must then start accession negotiations chapter by chapter, with this process alone likely to take several years.

In the current political and economic context, the enlargement enthusiasm in EU capitals has been cooling down.

The purely technical step of member states passing the membership application to the commission took four months for Albania's neighbour Montenegro.

Podgorica filed its EU membership application in December and it was not before last week that the bloc's member states decided to proceed with the dossier.

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