STABILISATION AND ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT
Report from the Commission to the Council on the work of the EU/Albania High Level Steering Group, in preparation for the negotiation of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
||6 June 2001|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||12 June 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||20 June 2001|
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 3 July 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|Discussed in Council:
||15-16 June 2001 European Council
The Commission report
48.1 The report reviews the political and economic
situation of Albania and assesses its ability to implement the
obligations of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
It is based on the work of the EU/Albania High Level Steering
Group (HLSG) in preparing for the negotiation of a Stabilisation
and Association Agreement (SAA) with Albania and examines progress
made since the Commission's 1999 Feasibility Study.
48.2 The Commission notes that:
"Albania is one of five
countries in south east Europe participating in the EU's Stabilisation
and Association process. This process is designed to help bring
stability to the region by integrating each country into European
structures and by offering them the prospect of future EU membership.
The EU has been actively involved in supporting Albania's reform
efforts since 1991 and supports the priority which successive
Albanian governments have given to European integration. However,
in 1999 the Commission presented a Feasibility Study75
which concluded that, despite progress made, Albania was not yet
in a position to take on far-reaching contractual obligations
with the EU. The Council shared the Commission's view".
48.3 The main items covered by the report are:
- Political criteria:
democracy, the rule of law and human rights;
- Economic criteria:
the economic situation, fiscal sustainability, privatisation,
price and trade liberalisation; and
- Ability to assume the obligations resulting
from an SAA: these include Political Dialogue
with the EU, co-operation with other countries of the region,
free movement of goods and workers, Justice and Home Affairs,
other co-operation policies and the approximation and enforcement
48.4 The report acknowledges the progress Albania
has achieved in recent years in domestic reforms, including the
rule of law and market reforms. Ten years ago it was the poorest
and most isolated country in Europe. Early efforts to introduce
democracy and build a market economy were severely damaged by
the lawlessness and economic collapse which followed the failure
of the pyramid schemes in 1997.
48.5 Since 1997 major efforts have been made
to restore law and order, reform economic and social life and
open Albania to the region and the EU. In political terms much
has been done to ensure that elections can be run in accordance
with OSCE standards and that parliament and political life function
effectively. There has been a major overhaul of the legal system
and serious efforts are being made to align legislation with EU
standards. Economic decline has been reversed, Albania's trade
regime has been modernised and liberalised and in 2000 it became
a member of the World Trade Organisation.
48.6 The Commission comments that:
"Albania has continued
its policy aiming at improving relations with all its neighbours
and participates actively in the Stability Pact for South Eastern
Europe. This policy constitutes an important contribution to regional
48.7 However, the Commission says that:
"Despite the impressive
achievements of the last two years, many problems remain which
will make it difficult for Albania to meet the obligations of
a Stabilisation and Association Agreement and to deliver on the
commitments it would undertake. The main difficulties lie in the
functioning of the judiciary, widespread corruption, a large grey
economy and lack of capacity to implement laws."
48.8 The report concludes that Albania is not
yet ready for an SAA but that, if the current pace of change is
sustained, and if sufficient priority is given to strengthening
its administrative capacity whilst negotiating an SAA and during
the transition periods, considerable improvements could be made.
It notes that these agreements are designed to draw countries
closer to the EU. It recommends that the best way to maintain
the momentum of reform in Albania is to start negotiations on
an SAA and it proposes to submit a recommendation for a Council
decision to this effect in due course. The negotiations will,
of course, only be concluded when all the appropriate conditions
have been met.
48.9 The Göteborg European Council in June
endorsed this report and concluded that the Commission should
begin work on a negotiating mandate.
The Government's view
48.10 The Foreign Office Minister (Mr Denis MacShane)
"The UK welcomes this
report, which meets important UK objectives. It will encourage
Albania's European aspirations which we have strongly
supported while ensuring that she maintains her reform
efforts and that there is no dilution of the criteria for EU external
agreements. The report is an important step forward for the EU's
Stabilisation and Association Process, the policy framework which
brings the countries of South-East Europe closer to the EU. It
holds out the prospect of EU membership, once the Copenhagen criteria
have been met and regional co-operation satisfactorily established.
This offers a powerful incentive for change and should help foster
peace and stability in the region."
48.11 The Minister expects that, depending on
the continued pace of reform in Albania, the Commission may present
negotiating directives for an SAA with Albania by the end of this
48.12 We note the wish of the Commission and
the Council to encourage Albania to keep up the pace of change,
but we also note that it has a long way to go before it could
expect to be able to fulfil its obligations. We therefore consider
that the EU should be wary of encouraging, inadvertently, unrealistic
expectations of the time it could take Albania to qualify for
48.13 We now clear this document.
76 (20755) 13528/99; see HC 23-v (1999-2000), paragraph
12 (19 January 2000). Back