Sumario: 28 April 2009, Brussels - Statement by Director-General for Enlargement Michel Leigh on Albania's application for EU Membership
"The Commission welcomes the application for EU membership presented by the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr Sali Berisha to the President of the European Council, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Today, Albania has reached a historical milestone marking the country's important engagement to common European values and fundamentals.
It is for the Council to decide on the way ahead. The Commission stands ready to prepare an 'Opinion' about Albania's application, should the Council invite us to do so.
Albania has continued to make progress on key political reforms and on its preparations for European integration. Since 2006, the trade-related provisions of the Interim Agreement have been implemented well. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) entered into force in April 2009. Albania has maintained a constructive and stabilising role in the region. It is now up to Albania to demonstrate its capacity to move to the next stage of EU integration, in particular by improving the rule of law. The holding of the parliamentary elections in June in a free and fair manner remains a key condition as well.
The European perspective of the Western Balkan countries, including Albania, is essential for the stability and the prosperity of the region and for the EU. By making solid progress in economic and political reform and by fulfilling the necessary conditions and requirements, the remaining potential candidates in the Western Balkans should achieve candidate status, according to their own merits, with EU membership as ultimate goal."
Albania is a potential candidate country for EU accession. It has implemented the trade-related provisions of the Interim Agreement under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union since June 2006. Following completion of ratification procedures, the SAA has entered into force on 1 April 2009.
The application for membership is submitted to the Council, which decides whether to initiate the procedure laid down in the Treaty and ask the Commission to provide its opinion on the application. In the light of the Commission's recommendation, the Council unanimously decides whether to grant candidate country status to the applicant country.
The 'Opinion' of the Commission assesses the applicant's fulfilment of the criteria for accession, including its ability to assume the obligations of membership. This means a thorough analysis of the state of play in EU related reforms. A country's satisfactory track-record in implementing its obligations under a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (including trade-related provisions) is also an essential element for the EU to consider any membership application.