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Deja Vu?

Another day, another report again. This time it is the European Commission's much leaked Enlargement Strategy and Progress Reports 2006. As usual with the EU it's a lengthy piece of work, but the key sections for Albania can be found in two places.

The Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006-2007 contains, among much else, the conclusions regarding candidate countries. Those concerning Albania can be found on pp 22-26.

The Progress Report on Albania on which the conclusions are based runs to 47 pages and covers political and economic matters and Albania's capacity to meet a range of European standards.

In an accompanying press release the Commission presents its key findings for each country. These are the key finding for Albania:

ALBANIA

Albania signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU on 12 June 2006. Signing this agreement represented an important step forward on Albania's EU path. Albania now faces the challenge of successfully implementing its SAA, starting with the trade-related provisions contained in the interim agreement, which enters into force on 1 December 2006.

Political criteria

Albania has made progress in several key areas. It has shown determination in fighting corruption. It has adopted a plan to fulfil European Partnership and SAA obligations and set up new structures to implement it. Albania has continued to contribute to stability in the region.

However, further progress is needed on co-operation between government and opposition to enable key reforms. Administrative capacity needs to be rebuilt following major staff changes and ministerial restructuring. Albania needs to make additional progress on political and judicial reform and human rights, as well as the fight against corruption and organised crime. The legal framework for media freedom needs to be improved and properly implemented.

Economic criteria

Albania has made progress towards being a functioning market economy. It has maintained macroeconomic stability, strong economic growth and low inflation. Fiscal consolidation has further advanced. Administrative barriers to market entry have been reduced.

Further reform is needed to enable Albania to cope with competitive pressures. External imbalances widened and exports remained very weak. Albania needs to address shortcomings in the business climate, especially poor infrastructure, to encourage economic development. Substantial work is needed to formalise the large grey economy.

European standards

Albania has made some progress on putting in place the structures and laws needed to meet European standards. Progress has been made in the fields of fighting organised crime and improving the administration of customs, competition, standardisation and statistics.

Pushing forward reform in areas such as public procurement, intellectual property, information society and media, SME policy, agriculture, fisheries and veterinary and phytosanitary control will now be important for successful SAA implementation.

Pre-accession assistance

The EU continues to provide technical and financial assistance. For 2006, €45.5 million pre-accession assistance is available for Albania.

Happy reading.

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