Albania has made stride towards EU membership, but there is still a lot of progress to be made, according to the European Parliament.
Successive governments in the former Yugoslav republic have made EU membership a top priority, signing a Stabilisation and Association Agreement in 2003.
In order to be considered for membership, a lengthy process of negotiations takes place – between the European Union and a potential candidate.
These negotiations include virtually every aspect of the candidates laws, including crime and punishment, legal process, trade barriers, freedom of speech, and levels of corruption.
The country has a population of around 2.8 million, small relative to most European Union members.
The European Parliament must be satisfied that progress has been made in key areas, and will continue in others before a membership application will be considered.
Albania makes progress
In December 2010, the Schengen Zone EU members granted visa-free travel to the citizens of Albania, marking the way for freer movement of people.
The European Council gave a positive outlook on Albania’s progress, citing dealing with corruption, administration reform, and guarantees of rights as major areas that need improvement.
Specifically highlighted was the tendency of journalists to self-censor “who are sometimes physically obstructed from covering specific events, assaulted, or threatened because of their work”.
But the council did praise Albania for its commitment to fighting radicalisation and terrorism, and its efforts to prevent citizens leaving to join the so-called Islamic State. Islam is the largest religion in the country.
In a related development, the EU told Albania that it would help financially if migrants begin crossing the country. It is possible that a new route could open up through Albania as other Balkan countries have sealed their borders, and a deal with Turkey will begin sending migrants back from Greece.
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