Brussels, 8 October 2014
The European Commission has adopted its annual Enlargement package that contains the Enlargement Strategy and progress reports for the countries of the Western Balkans. This is last time under the mandate of the current Commission.
The Enlargement Strategy summarizes what has been achieved over the last 5 years in this area and outlines the key elements of the enlargement policy for the coming period. The progress reports for the seven candidate countries and potential candidates assess the work done by them over the last 12 months in order to advance the reforms and to continue with transformation in line with the EU criteria.
The Strategy and progress reports are published online here.
The European Commission’s Progress Report on Albania was published today, recommending the granting of European Union (EU) candidate status to Albania. The Report was brought to Tirana by EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
A press release issued by his office confirms that Füle is in Tirana today for the third round of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities for Albania. According to the same source, the High Level Dialogue will be held in the presence of key members of the Government as well as representatives of the opposition. Subsequently, Füle will have a meeting with civil society representatives. In remarks delivered yesterday at the Western Balkans Conference Vienna 2014, held under the auspices of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as part of its Chairmanship of the Central European Initiative (CEI), Füle said that the European door remains open for the Western Balkan countries. “We all agree that this is the only way to ensure stability and peace in this region of Europe plagued by conflict for far too long. The conditions for getting over the threshold are clear. It is now up to the political leaders to live up to the expectation their peoples have and implement the necessary reforms – not for Europe's benefit, but for the benefit of all citizens,” he added.
SMEI 3 (Support to the EU Integration Process Phase III) Technical Assistance Project in close cooperation with Ministry of European Integration and University of Tirana organized the International Conference on the "Approximation of Albanian Legislation with the EU's Acquis: Prospects and Challenges". Albanian Speaker of Parliament, Prime Minister, Minister of European Integration and EU Delegation's Chargé d'Affaires addressed the conference among other relevant representatives from academia and various institutions
Speaking at a conference Prime Minister Edi Rama said that in the same way it launched accession negotiations with Serbia, the EU should grant candidate status to Albania and liberalize visas for Kosovo for they deserve this. He said that the approximation of the Albanian legislation to the EU Acquis is not about simply making the Albanian laws look like the EU ones, but is rather a process of implementing the EU legal provisions in a reality that should become an integral part of the European reality. Rama said that differently from the previous government his cabinet sees the approximation as a law-enforcing process rather as a law-drafting one. In his remarks at the event, Assembly Speaker Ilir Meta called for the contribution of all political stakeholders to improve the Albanian legislation and bring it into line with the EU Acquis. Minister for European Integration Klajda Gjosha presented the Roadmap on the five priorities set forth by the European Commission in regards to Albania’s EU integration process.
Prime Minister Edi Rama met in Brussels with the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Štefan Füle, who welcomed Albania’s continuous commitment to carry out reforms linked to European integration.
He also praised the measures taken by the Albanian government to fight organized crime and corruption. He said he was certain Albania had all capacities to solve all European integration issues with determination. Füle also praised the government’s efforts for an all-inclusive approach to reforms based on constructive dialogue with the opposition.
Prime Minister Edi Rama met in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Addressing a joint press conference after the meeting, Merkel was hopeful about the possible granting of EU candidate status to Albania in June. She said that in June her government will receive a new report from the European Commission, recording the progress made by Albania in the meantime, and that they consider this matter from a positive viewpoint. She said to have shared this with Rama in the meeting, stressing that the EC Progress Report will be highly influential in this decision.
Merkel also spoke about a visit to Albania later this year. Rama said that the Albanian government is determined to press ahead on the path of reforms for the country’s EU integration, especially engaging in a real fight against corruption and organized crime and in favour of the rule of law.
He said that Albania would do its best to deserve the EU candidate status in June. Rama also underscored the need for increased economic co-operation between the two countries, stressing that a more considerable presence of German investors in Albania was needed.
Prime Minister Rama also met with the President of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert. He guaranteed Rama about Germany’s support in Albania’s integration path. He also praised the progress made by the Albanian government, mainly with the reforms in the war against organized crime and corruption. Lammert said that Albania belongs to the European Union. Rama met also with the Federal Minister of Economics and Energy and Vice Chancellor of Germany Sigmar Gabriel. He said that Germany will expand their economic presence in Albania though investments in sectors of common interest. Rama informed Gabriel about the Albanian government’s efforts to create a favourable climate for foreign investments, and at the same time invited German investors to expand their businesses to Albania.
Tirana (6 March) – Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle visited Albania on Thursday for another round of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities. This is what he said to the media following the meeting: “Good afternoon, today we held the second session of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities. This confirms our commitment to work together in the process of Albania’s EU integration, enhancing its chances for success. As I said here last November: our reaction to more efforts from your side is more engagement. Inclusiveness is essential in the process. I have stressed that the currently increasingly confrontational political climate may put at risk
Albania’s achievements as the Member States will look closely at how the government and opposition interact and at the results of this interaction. As I am convinced that both, government and opposition, remain committed to the national objective of European integration, I would like to call both to demonstrate a spirit of compromise and inclusiveness in view of working efficiently together to address Albania’s EU integration challenges. Last year the EU Member States recognised Albania’s achievements and gave the country a real perspective to progress towards the candidate status.
It is now up to Albania to maintain and increase the reform momentum and address a number of challenges in the areas under the key priorities, with particular attention to the rule law. The fight against corruption and organised crime and the judicial reform are of the utmost importance. The reform of the public administration, enhancing the respect for human rights, including of the Roma, anti-discrimination and property rights are also important.
Preparations have reached a milestone for a brand new macro-regional strategy to support cooperation among 8 countries in the Adriatic and Ionian region (Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia). Hosted by the Greek Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, a high-level Stakeholder Conference on the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region took indeed place in Athens on 6-7 February and marked the end of a wide consultation that has involved civil society and stakeholders across the 8 countries. Commissioner Hahn and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki joined Foreign Ministers from the countries involved. They currently form part of the existing Adriatic Ionian Initiative.
More than 500 representatives from the national, regional and local administrations, businesses, civil society, academia, media and regional associations contributed to the discussions in the conference. Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of Greece, opened the event.
This will feed into a formal proposal later this year from Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, for a tailor made strategy that reflects the needs and the capacities of the region. It follows a request from EU leaders in December 2012 to deliver the new macro-regional strategy by the end of 2014.
This is the first time in a macro-regional strategy that there has been an equal balance of EU countries (Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia) and non-EU countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia) working together to meet common challenges and build on shared strengths. Crucially in a region that has seen some of Europe's most serious conflicts, the strategy will help to bring the Western Balkans closer to the European Union. Its focus will be above all on blue growth, transport, sustainable tourism and protecting the environment. Through this, it will contribute to creating prosperity and jobs in the region.
Speaking ahead of the conference in Athens, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn commented: "We are at a crucial stage in our preparations for a tailor -made strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian macro-region. Thanks to the extensive consultation with its bottom up approach, it should focus on the precise needs and challenges of this part of Europe and the people who live here. With four EU members and four non EU countries the strategy will also contribute to the further integration of the Western Balkans by offering the chance to work alongside neighbours on areas of common interest. This is Europe's third macro-regional strategy, and we have learnt the importance of political commitment and of participating countries focusing their efforts in the macro-regional approach. This will be key to this Strategy's success."
Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries added: "As our Blue Growth strategy highlights, seas and oceans have the potential to generate huge economic growth and much needed jobs.
The Adriatic Ionian nations have already shown that they share the will to address the region's challenges together: since 2007 there have been 135 projects of cooperation on marine and maritime issues, worth almost half a billion in total. I am looking forward to the discussion with the Member States and stakeholders on how we can build on this success and give the process the push to overcome remaining challenges to ensure the most productive and sustainable use of what our seas and coasts offer."
The Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, adopted by the Commission on 30 November 2012, is integrated in the Strategy which will be structured around four key areas: marine and maritime growth, connecting the region (transport and energy networks), environmental quality and sustainable tourism. In addition, capacity building as well as research, innovation and small and medium side enterprises will inform the four key areas.
The stakeholder consultations were conducted between September-December 2013. Two countries, a Member State and a non-EU country, were responsible for coordinating the consultation for each of the 4 pillars: Greece and Montenegro on marine and maritime growth, Italy and Serbia on transport and energy, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina on environment and Croatia and Albania on tourism. From October 2013-to January 2014 a general on-line public consultation on the strategy was also launched by the Commission.
Under the leadership of Commissioner Johannes Hahn, a new approach for regions working together has been successfully developed. Macro-regional strategies assist countries in tackling common issues together such as pollution, crime, missing transport links and lack of competitiveness.
The European Council of 13-14 December 2012 formally requested the European Commission to bring forward an EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region before the end of 2014, building on the positive experiences of the Danube and Baltic Sea regions. The request by the European Council was subject to the evaluation of the concept of macro regional strategies, adopted by the Commission in June 2013 and endorsed by the EU Council on 22 October 2013.
These strategies are supported through Member States' regional funding allocation under Cohesion Policy, inter alia. In the case of non- EU members, pre accession funds (IPA) are available. The reform of Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 promotes this macro-regional approach and makes it easier to combine different European funds across borders and within projects.
Towards an EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region
Stakeholder Conference on the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region
Maritime Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Seas
In Brussels today, the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Štefan Füle, met with the Albanian Minister of European Integration, Ms. Klajda Gjosha, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Nasip Naco, and the Minister of Interior Affairs, Mr. Sajmir Tahiri.
The meeting provided an excellent opportunity to follow up on the topics discussed during the first meeting of the High Level Dialogue on the Key Priorities, which took place in Tirana on November 12th, 2013.
"I truly appreciate the initiative shown by ministers Gjosha, Naco and Tahiri, in coming to Brussels and continuing the discussions we had last week", said the Commissioner. "Their visit is yet another clear token of Albania's commitment to reform and EU integration.
After our discussion, I am convinced that Albania is taking the crucial steps needed to strengthen the functions of the democratic institutions, and to embark on a comprehensive reformation effort."
The Albanian Ministers reported on various short term measures in the area of the rule of law. They presented an updated action plan on the fight against corruption and organized crime, as well as the latest report on the actions taken in these areas. The Commissioner welcomed the developments, and pledged to keep the Member States properly informed of the progress, in view of the upcoming discussions on the Commission Council’s recommendation to grant Albania candidate country status.
Today, the European Commission adopted the 2013 national programme for Albania, under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). The 82 million euro programme will finance 19 projects tailored to the specific needs of the country, supporting reforms and investments in key areas such as governance, justice and internal affairs, transport, environment, employment and social inclusion, as well as agricultural and rural development.
"Albania has shown its commitment to the integration process, which was reflected by the recent Commission's recommendation to grant the country candidate status. Reforms, however, need to be sustained, and I am confident that this year's programme will help Albania do that, and bring positive change to the lives of its citizens", said Commissioner Füle.
As a strategic priority, the programme will help strengthen the independence and efficiency of the justice system, and improve the fight against corruption and organized crime.
The funding will support concrete reforms in the area of public administration, with the ultimate aim of increasing the trust of the Albanians in their own State administration.
Support will also be given to environmental protection, including the management of waste, which is one of the most important challenges Albania will have to cope with in the years ahead. Socio-economic development will be supported with dedicated measures to uphold SMEs, and to improve the performance of the government's labor and social policies.
The funding will further contribute to the country’s preparation for the future national management of EU funds for agriculture, and will finance small and medium scale investments to support farmers. Strategic infrastructure projects in rural areas will be implemented in order to rehabilitate the network of secondary roads and construct efficient water supply systems.
For the first time, the IPA annual programme includes a set of projects, which will be directly implemented by the Albanian administration through grant and procurement procedures, as soon as the country gets the green light from the Commission to manage IPA funds.
The latest Progress Report on Albania is part of the 2013 Enlargement Package adopted by the European Commission on the 16th of October. The European Commission concluded that Albania made good progress on its path towards EU integration, most notably by adopting measures identified as essential for granting candidate country status, and by continuing to implement reforms of the key priorities of the Commission's 2010 Opinion. Albania took the initial steps towards improving the efficiency of investigations and prosecutions in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
The 2013 parliamentary elections were conducted in an overall smooth and orderly manner. In view of this, the European Commission recommends that Albania be granted EU candidate status on the understanding that Albania must continue to take action in the fight against organised crime and corruption. In order to be able to move to the next stage and open accession negotiations, Albania needs to meet further key priorities, with particular focus on administration reform, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. Constructive and sustainable political dialogue will remain essential for a successful reform process.
IP/13/930: EU enlargement priorities for 2014
On September 17th, President Barroso invited Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, at the European Commission to discuss the next steps in the EU integration process.
They focused the country's commitment to reformation in the light of the EU integration process.
After the meeting, President Barroso stated: "Let me be clear on the strategic perspective: Albania's future is in the European Union. I am confident in Albania's potential and its capacity and commitment to fulfilling the criteria and make progress, step by step, on its European path."
President Barroso recognised that "Albania has already made progress towards this aim, delivering solid reform results" and he called for a "continued commitment, and I know that the Albanian citizens are very supportive of European integration, and constructive political dialogue". On the economic front, he said that "structural reforms are necessary to ensure long term growth and improve the business and investment environment."
Albania, along with other Western Balkans countries, was recognized as a potential candidate country for EU accession in 2003, and officially submitted a membership application in April of 2009. In October of 2012, the Commission recommended that Albania be granted EU candidate status, after the reform of key measures in the areas of judicial and public administration, and revision of the parliamentary rules of procedures.
Tirana (25th March) – The European integration process should stay on top of Albania´s domestic agenda, despite the upcoming parliamentary elections in the country, the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Štefan Füle. said on Monday. He was speaking at the "Just BE" conference about the advantages and challenges of Albania´s EU accession.
"I see this conference as an attempt to build a strong basis and even more active engagement after the elections, because the time has come for Albania to deliver on a number of the requirements. The time has come for this country to become a candidate country. The time has come for the citizens of this country to benefit from the opening of accession negotiations, and to be part of the enlargement mainstream in the Western Balkans” Commissioner Füle stressed.
Afterward, he launched an information portal for the EU Delegation in Tirana, which provides an open platform for all Albanians interested in factual information about Europe, and which offers the opportunity to follow and share information about what the EU does in Albania.
Commissioner Füle also met the Minister for European Integration, Majlinda Bregu, and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on EU Integration, Ditmir Bushati, to discuss the next steps in Albania´s accession process.
The Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Štefan Füle. visited Albania today to discuss the followup on the Council conclusions from last December.
During his stay in Tirana, he held meetings with President Bujar Nishani, Prime Minister Sali Berisha, and with the chairman of the Socialist Party, Edi Rama.
The Commissioner had open and frank discussion with the Albanian politicians about their priorities, and the country’s aspirations to EU integration. He stressed to his partners that candidate status for Albania is within reach, And that it is up to the Albanian politicians to make this a reality. Commissioner Füle reiterated that the Commission is determined to further strengthen Albania’s integration process towards the European Union. "Albania's entire process of EU-related reforms needs to be sustainable, inclusive and consensus-driven, for the benefit of all Albanian citizens," Commissioner Füle stated after his meetings.
The Commissioner underlined that the successful completion of parliamentary elections in 2013 will be a crucial test for the smooth functioning of the country's democratic institutions. He called on the politicians to deliver excellence in June elections, in line with international standards, and to improve the credibility and standing of the democratic institutions, and strengthen the accountability of politicians in the eyes of the Albanian people. The Commissioner discussed these issues with the diplomatic community in Albania, including the representatives of the OSCE.
The European Commission and the Albanian authorities will jointly organize a "Seminar on media freedom and freedom of expression in the framework of Albania's EU integration" on Wednesday, the 16th of January, 2013 at Tirana International Hotel.
The aim of the seminar is to bring the Albanian authorities, the media community in Albania, non-governmental organizations and the international community together, to discuss the key issues and identify measures to further enhance freedom of expression and media in Albania. To this end, the chair of the seminar will make operational conclusions which will be agreed upon with the Albanian authorities.
This seminar will take place in the context of the new approach to freedom of expression and media issues outlined in the Enlargement Strategy of 2011-2012, and as a follow-up to the 2012 Progress Report. The European Commission committed itself to increasing attention to these issues in the EU accession processm and to closely monitoring developments in this area. Accordingly, the European Commission is willing to strengthen its cooperation with the Albanian authorities, and to support efforts to reach the European standards in this field.
For further information find attached the draft agenda of the seminar at Draft-public-agenda-media-seminar.doc
Albanian citizens are to benefit from the EU's renewed financial support to the country's reform efforts. The funds will be used to address key priorities such as the reform of the judiciary, fight against organised crime, and the reform of the public administration system. They will also help improve Albania's transport infrastructure, modernise water and sanitation systems, and set up a range of services for social inclusion.
"For several years now, Albanian citizens have shown strong support for their country's accession to the EU. They know that their daily lives will improve while their country moves forward on the path towards the EU. Further progress will depend on Albania's capacity to strengthen this common national objective and deliver on reforms. The EU is committed to assisting Albania to achieve this goal, and I am confident that this year's programme will visibly encourage a sustained pace of reforms in the country", said Commissioner Füle.
The earmarked funding comes under the 2012 EU Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance Programme for Albania, and will be topped up with an additional €15 million of co-financing by the Albanian authorities.
The funding will finance projects in the area of justice reform, and will improve the performance of the Albanian State Police. It will help build the new courthouse in Tirana, and will restructure two border crossing points. Better financial and management control systems will be set up in the local and national authorities, improving the efficiency of financial inspections. This will directly contribute to an effective and transparent use of public funds by the Albanian government.
Infrastructure funding will be contributed to constructing the Rrogozhina bypass, thus improving road transport and safety. The programme will also help rehabilitate the sewerage system in Vlora, which the European Commission expects to benefit the tourism industry, in and around the sea-side resort.
For more information please check http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1198_en.htm?locale=en
Since 1999, the Friends of Europe annual European Policy Summit in the Balkans has brought together Prime Ministers and other high-level decision-makers, as well as policy experts and business leaders from Southeast Europe and the EU, to discuss accession negotiations, continuing political and judicial reforms, and the economic realities facing the region.
This year’s summit will get to the heart of the major challenges that still face the region as it moves ever closer to European integration. With Croatia preparing to join the EU on the 1st of July 2013, and with Serbia having gained candidate status earlier this year, and with accession negotiations being opened with Montenegro on the 29th of June 2012, much progress still needs to be made with regard to strengthening democracy and the rule of law, boosting the business environment, and improving the energy sector.
In previous years, speakers from the region have included Igor Lukšić, Prime Minister of Montenegro, Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of Albania, Stjepan Mesić, former President of Croatia, Boris Tadić, former President of Serbia, Hido Biščević, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), and Bakir Izetbegović, Bosniak Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Visit the programme page to learn more about this year's programme and speakers.
Commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Europe Department (DEU), the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, in cooperation with Ecorys Nederland BV and The Hague Academy for local governance will implement the MATRA Pre-Accession Training Programme (Matra PATROL) - Strengthening Institutional capacity in the Rule of Law - during the period 2012 – 2015.
This training programme aims to stimulate, support and contribute to the efficient implementation of the EU Acquis in the area of ‘rule of law’, and to strengthen relations between the Netherlands and the target countries by sharing the necessary knowledge and skills with policy advisors, members of the judiciary, and other civil servants.
Eligible countries are: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia (until Croatia accesses the European Union), Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.
The Netherlands Government will provide full fellowships to selected participants. Application is now open for the first series of individual training programmes in the year 2013:
Further information and application forms are also available at www.asser.nl/matrapatrol
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 is to be awarded to the European Union (EU). The union and its forerunners have contributed for over six decades to the advancement of peace, reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe.
The European Union has published the document
This report covers the period of October 2011 through September 2012. Progress is measured on the basis of decisions made, legislation , and measures implemented. The Commission has drawn detailed conclusions about Albania, based on the technical analysis of the progress made in the Country.
The overall conclusion for Albania’s progress states:
In view of this progress, the Commission recommends that the Council should grant Albania the status of a candidate country subject to completion of key measures in the areas of judicial and public administration reform and revision of the parliamentary rules of procedure.
The Commission will report to the Council as soon as the necessary progress has been achieved. In its report, the Commission will also take into account the commitment demonstrated by Albania to fight corruption and organized crime, including by pro-active investigations and prosecutions of such cases.
In order for the Commission to recommend the opening of accession negotiations, it would need to see sustained implementation of commitments already undertaken, and completion of the remaining key priorities which have not been met in full.
Particular focus is required on: conducting elections in line with European and international standards; strengthening the independence, efficiency and accountability of judicial institutions; determined efforts in the fight against corruption and organized crime, including pro-active investigations and prosecution; effective measures to reinforce the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination policies; and implementation of property rights.
The successful conduct of Parliamentary elections in 2013 will be a crucial test of cross-party commitment to the new electoral reform and a precondition for any recommendation to open negotiations. Sustainable political dialogue and continued efforts in all the areas covered by the key priorities will remain essential to implement reforms and secure Albania’s EU future.
The European Commission adopted its 'Enlargement package', a set of documents explaining its policy on EU enlargement, and reporting on progress achieved in each country on October 10, 2012.
This year's package includes the 2012-Enlargement-Strategy-Paper.pdf which lays out the way forward for the coming year, and takes stock of the progress made over the last twelve months by each candidate country and potential candidate country.
The package contains the so-called Progress Reports in which the Commission services present their assessment of what each candidate and potential candidate have achieved over the last year.