european integration of albania

Research question: How far away is Albania from becoming a member state of European Union? Albania has multiple challenges to achieve the full integrating in the European Union.

But, there are two major challenges; 1) the economic challenges and 2) the political challenges that are obligatory to its integration in the European Union. The economy is a challenge for Albania because the farmers industry and the food industries are underdeveloped, as a result does not meet the European Union standers to compete in EU markets.On the other hand, the political aspects are imperative, because the trust and the stability of the political system is a very important factor for European Union to give the membership to Albania. “The problem for Albania and other applicant states in the Western Balkans region is twofold.

First, attitudes to further enlargement have hardened. In short the environment in which enlargement is debated and framed has become much more brutal for all applicant states. EU conditionality penetrates deeper and deeper into domestic politics and make more and more demands on local policy-makers to deliver reform in advance of membership.In many respects the EU constitutes a classic ‘regime-maker’ and candidate state and SAP states ‘regime-takers’ in a classical construct of asymmetrical power relations.

The second problem is that all states in the Western Balkans region are contending with acute and fundamental difficulties in basic state building. ” (O’Brennan, 2009) The integration of Albania, in the European Union, rests on its ability to make radical changes to the economy and the government of the country.To be a member of the European Union, a country has to fulfill many requirements as they are noted on the membership requirements list. This means that any country seeking membership of the European Union (EU) must adapt “to the conditions set out by Article 49 and principles laid down in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on the European Union.

Important criteria were established by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and reinforced by the Madrid European Union in 1995.To join the EU, a new member state must meet three criteria: political criteria; stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for the protection of minorities; economic criteria; existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with pressure and market forces within the Union; acceptance of a Community acquis: ability to take on the obligations of the membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union. ” (Agenda Institute, 2007) Also, this is because “the EU is a highly integrated economic and political entity.If one of the member states runs into trouble, others will be affected as well.

Member states are closely bound together and countries with very different backgrounds will join the EU. It is considerably important for the EU to ensure that new member states uphold the principles and the values to which the EU and its members are committed. Hence, institutional quality criterion is a useful tool to satisfy this demand. ”(The Western Balkans Policy Review, 2011) According to the article titled “European Integration of Albania: Economic Aspects” written by Elke Theil, Albania has to make numerous fundamental changes to its economic reforms.

This will be the first step that can benefit their integration to EU. But also, According to the above author, countries that have made these changes in the past have been far more successful than countries that did not when they integrated to the EU economy. The author states that by doing this, Albania will gain trust in the economy and political arena. The author explains “EU membership may be the final objective.

Yet, it is the European journey that brings rewards” (Theil, 2004) Since 1990, Albania has tried to integrate to the European Union; however, many obstacles in its way.European Union’s attention was again directed towards Albania during the Kosovo war. This was because the European Union was promoting stability in the Balkan region. There were many pacts that Albania has participated at the EU Meetings.

Some of the pacts were; Stability pact for southeast which was launched in 1999; the second pact was Stability and Association process for the Western Balkan in 2000. However, these pacts were accepted, but many political issues were not settled during these pacts between Albania and EU. Many other countries and international organizations were supporting this, beside the European Union.Some of the countries were; United States, Canada, Japan.

On the other hand, some of the organizations supporting this pact were organizations like NATO, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. “All countries of the Southeastern European area are partners of the Stability Pact” (Thiel, 2004) and one of the members is Albania. Although the European integration it is difficult, with the assistance of European Union, Albania can progress towards the European Integration and the country can be more trustworthy for foreign investors to come and invest in Albania.But this has not been the case of Albania.

Many reforms in Albania are either not implemented or poorly implemented. This means that some reforms were started but not finished; as a result there are no positive developments on the country’s economy. On the other hand “The Stabilization Pact” was created to bring the western Balkan countries closer to the European Union, also possibility of EU membership. These conditions were accepted by all the western Balkans nations, including Albania.

This was a commitment by both sides; the European Union and the Western Balkans nations. The Union offers a prospect of accession, an assistance program to support that ambition, and preferential access to the EU internal market. The candidates, in return, undertake to abide by the Union’s conditionality and participate fully in the Stabilization and Association process. Performances are monitored in the annual assessment reports.

Point of reference is the so-called Copenhagen criteria. ” (Theil, 2004) This was a very good opportunity for Albania. Albania can sell its goods in the European markets. However, at the same time this is a challenge for Albania because would harm the small underdeveloped farmer and the food industry.

Albania is making baby steps towards European integration, but its progress should be steady in all direction in order to comply with the European Union’s standards. Market economy is introduced in Albania; however it is not working the way it should. For foreign investors to invest in Albania, it is not transparent enough to come and invest. (Theil, 2004) This is an issue with European Union Nations because they cannot accept a country that is not willing to make changes that are a must.

Albania submitted its application for EU membership on April of 2009. According to the Progress Report of 2009, presented by the Commission of the European Communities (CEC), Albania has faced challenges and has made significant progress in many aspects, but unfortunately, it has certain deficiencies in institutional development. ” (Western Balkans Policy Review 2009) Nevertheless, according to another article written by John O’Brennan; “From Stabilization to Consolidation: Albanian State Capacity and Adaptation to European Union Rules. ” Albanian integration to European Union shows that it is a long way from integration.

This is years after the signing of SAA in 2004.The author concludes that Albania constitute a “Janus-faced applicant state. This is because in one hand, Albanian legislature have accepted what EU has recommend and required to transport and implement them in Albania but, on the other hand, the implementations of these policies required by EU have been lacking. This is because of the many problems that have been recurring in Albania, from political polarization and the districted lack of political will.

(O’Brennan, 2009) The issue of the fractioned Albanian politics is the division between the Democratic Party and the Socialist Party. The janus-faced approach to European integration has been especially evident in the failure to deliver on commitments made on EU-related reforms, which have frequently been sacrificed on the altar of vicious local political squabbles, hindering the development of a rational and functional approach to policy. ” (O’Brennan, 2009) The author argues that, for Albania to move forward has to cut off the Janus-faced approach and fully get the benefits of the SAA and move forwards with the reforms that are necessary to reach the European standards.Nonetheless, this will not be an easy task; one impediment is the corruption problems that Albania is facing.

The current prime minister of Albania, Sali Berisha has started the radical reform to take out the corruption and economic development. This was due to the poor investment in Albania in the recent years. One of the changes made, corporate tax reduction from 20% to 10%. This reduction should invite more international companies to invest in Albania.

Also, Albania is attractive to investors because of its proximity to EU markets and its favorable climate. Nevertheless Albanian policy-makers point out that they are grappling with problems which are best tackled through improved macro-economic performance, consistently strong growth, a more effective regulatory climate and robust attacks on corruption. ” (O’Brennan, 2009) Therefore, changes made by Berisha’s administrations paid off; Albania received many aids from European Union. The most noticed aid received was the monetary fund to rebuild the infrastructure.

In the recent years, the European Union has demonstrated a greater preoccupation towards Albanian’s and European partnership. European Union efforts are all designed to support and enhance Albanian efforts in archiving it standards to European Union once. Yet, Albania faces qualitatively different and more challenging enlargements environment than previous members did. This is because of the problems that European Union had with previous eastern enlargements.

(O’Brennan, 2009) Yet, Albania has to stop having an ongoing struggle for power between the two major parties.This has been noticed in many other eastern countries, however, it has been more pronounced in Albania. For many years, Albania has been under the European Union Scrutiny; nevertheless still demonstrates significant deviation from European standards. “The fragility of Albania’s political institutions combined with identifiable patterns of ‘state capture’ has meant that the state, for much of the period under review, has lacked the capacity to tackle the deep-seated problems encountered during transition.

Notwithstanding those difficulties, however, Albania has gradually drawn closer to the European Union, and with more determined leadership begun to seriously tackle some of its most intransigent problems. ”(O’Brennan, 2009) This is a result of the rooted communist regime legacy. Other post-communist countries states have embraced the systematic transformation and gradual adaptation to the EU norms, Albania has remained trapped in unchanged negative cycle of centralization, politicization and incompetent management system. The EU has consistently identified Albania’s public administration as the weakest link in the country’s governance structure.

” (O’Brennan, 2009) On the other hand, the problem with the management is the high corruption, nepotism, clientelism, bribery and political militantism, rather than meritocracy or career development. As a result, changes in the government have resulted in administrative hurricane. Meaning that; all the staff hired by the previous political party, are fired and replaced with the current staff appointed by the current elected officials.As a result, massive changes in the staff, and lack of advancement.

This makes the changes of the government more risky. This is because people, who have a job today, know that when the new elected official comes they would be fired. This makes the staff more prone to corruption. In the recent year’s Albania has complied with the changes request by European Union SAA.

Albania has founded significantly easier to embrace EU economic norms than political norms. This is because the administration reform has been very difficult to change in Albania. the drive toward EU membership along with decisive domestic decision-making is helping to ‘consummate the restructuring or re-orientation of the candidate countries away from the dominant vertical power relations and power structures and clannishly clientelistic conceptions of the polity, towards more horizontally structured civil societies based upon limited government and the rule of law” (O’Brennan, 2009) The civil service is deeply compromised by politicization.Also, Albania has made more positive changes in the recent years that it has in the past fifteen years.

On the other hand, the agenda policy brief written by the Agenda Institute in 2007 titled “Towards EU Integration the Albanian Impasse” states that; Albania would have to accomplish the reforms required by the Brussels and define them as its political priorities. This is very important because without completing these requirements as stated in SAA, Albania cannot proceed to the next phase which consequently will lead to Albania’s membership in the EU. Issued two months after the publication of the European Commission Report and of the Enlargement Strategy this study deals with key elements of these documents, analyzing to what extent the recommendations produced therein are translated into priorities and tangible actions by the Albanian politics. ” (Agenda Institute, 2007) Albania, has a history of lack of political consensus, there is no political collaboration in Albania.

This is a deal breaker for European Union.According to the Agenda institute, Albania should be developing cooperation between the ruling parties and the opposite parties. These are crucial for the challenges that the country faces which are essential for the European Union integration. In 2007 for the first time, the report of the European Union was handed to the Albanian parliament.

Also, handling of the report to the parliament indicates that, it is far from adequate to handle major issues and solve them. The Albanian parliament is short staffed and has a limited budget.The government of Albania plays an important role in integration to European Union, but it is not the only actor. However, the government has to be the link between the opposition party, interest groups, communities and the civil society in the decision making process.

It is only this way that the European integration process, which is nothing else than bringing a country in the standards of the European Union, will allow the move to the daily needs of the Albanian citizens. The government has the responsibility to include all the stakeholders and the public opinion in an honest debate.Also, the Albanian government should work hard to build the administrative capacities in compliance with the Madrid criteria through a lawful and transparent recruitment of specialized staff in universities and prestigious institutions, providing for continues training schemes, implementing the civil service legislation, and more specifically implementing the Civil Service Commission and the Appeals Court decisions. On the other hand, the economic integration of Albania should be regarded as in compliance with the projections of the Albanian GDP components as the only real possibility to reach the European Union GDP.

Nevertheless, the Albanian economy has to be looking for ways to diversify its economy. Also, Albanian government should undertake legal, institutional and budgetary initiatives to develop market infrastructure as the only possibility for the development and modernization of the country. (Agenda Institute, 2007) According to another article written by the Western Balkans Policy Review, titled “EU Enlargement and Institutional Quality” It is very important that Albania makes the necessary changes in the political arena and the economical arena.This article states that; “The political vulnerability will hamper notably the integration of Albania, since Europe will not be happy to pay for our mess.

Hence, the political dialogue, a key European Partnership priority, needs to get back on track. ”(Western Balkans Policy Review, 2011) The other issue of Albania is the economic criteria. Albania’s economic performance has improved significantly. Privatization has been one of the main objectives of the government, with decline in the level of state ownership in economy, especially in the energy and telecommunication sectors.

In addition, the reform on tax administration has raised the overall degree of tax compliance, and has helped to decline informal economy. The deep global economic crisis was felt in Albania testing the macroeconomic balances. (Western Balkans Policy Review, 2011) This means that Albania has positioned the foundations for a good economic growth in the near future. The author concludes that Albania has to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria.

This will help make the EU “more homogeneous both economically and olitically” (Western Balkans Policy Review, 2011) One other perspective of the Albanian integration into European Unions is that of the citizens of Albania.According to the Albanian public opinion, 92 percent of the public supports the European Union Membership. “As noted by Dr. Tufa, the Albanians are people who always wanted to be part of what they belong to: the European family.

The data obtained from the respondents to the CES survey clearly confirm Dr. Tufa’s opinion and those of others in the Albanian elite. Ciburi-Kocibelli, 2012) Also, by many surveys done by different Gallup Europe, it shows that Albania approves the integration to the European Union. This also, lets to understand that many Albanian hopes that once Albania is part of the European Union, it would solve many domestic problems that face today.

One of the indications that show that Albania has improved , and will they have to be part of European Union is the mature way they have acted towards the liberalization of the visas.This means that people of Albanian who travel to any European Unions have had no incidents so far. “The fact that the great majority of Albanians have used the opportunity for visa-free travel in a mature, responsible way—possibly influenced by the bad experiences of neighboring countries and the Albanian government’s awareness campaigns in relation to free movement—demonstrates a strong understanding on the part of the Albanian people for implementing international law within the large European family. (Ciburri-Kocibelli, 2012) This means, with the willingness and hard work of Albanian people, the integration to European Union, should be at a nearby date.

In conclusion, we can see that, from three different perspectives European Union, scholars and the people of Albania, integration to European Union is highly desired.To join the EU, a new member state must meet three criteria: political criteria: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for the protection of minorities; economic criteria: existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to handle with pressure and market forces within the Union; acceptance of a Community acquis: ability to take on the obligations of the membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.However, archiving these marks it is going to be a great challenge that Albanian government is faced with. The Albanian government is responsible; to create and develop an economy that is competent with the European Union standards; be the link between the opposition parties, community, and interest groups.

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