The EU promoted Albania from “potential candidate” to full “candidate” status last week, reflecting Albania’s progress toward implementing necessary reforms. The enlargement process is one of the EU’s most powerful policy tools, having helped many countries over the years transform into functioning democracies and prosperous societies.
From the fall of the Berlin Wall, the EU has promoted democratic transitions and market-oriented reforms to former communist states in Europe, offering EU access once applicant countries meet the required political and economic criteria.
EU relations with the Western Balkan countries occur within a special framework—the stabilization and association process—which is designed to stabilize the countries politically and encourage their swift transition to market economies; promote regional cooperation; and lead ultimately to EU membership.
Albania was recognized as a potential candidate in 2003, formally applied for EU membership in 2009, and just five years later, received candidate status, an important milestone on the path to eventual EU membership. “…the granting of candidate status to Albania is a clear testimony that the enlargement process is credible and dynamic, and that the EU sticks to its promises and commitments once the partners deliver on their reform homework,” said Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy.