Albania is a candidate country following the Brussels European Council of June 2014.
The granting of candidate status was the result of Albania's reform efforts in recent years and acknowledgement of the EU for the efforts made and the progress achieved on Albania's accession road. The decision also provides encouragement to continue with existing reforms and embark on new reforms necessary to prepare Albania for the start of the accession negotiations later on.
A constructive and sustainable political dialogue will remain essential to consolidate and continue reforms. Candidate status does not mean that the EU will automatically start accession negotiations with Albania, which is a subsequent, separate step in the EU integration process, for which additional progress, in five key priorities, is required.
The candidate status nevertheless raises the relationship between Albania and the EU to a higher level: Albania will now receive invitations to Council meetings open to candidate countries. Its access to and cooperation with EU agencies will be easier — for example its participation in the Fundamental Rights Agency as an observer. Joint Committees between Albania and the Committee of the Regions as well as the Economic and Social Committee might also be set up.
The way forward
The European Commission will continue to work closely together with Albania to support its reforms and prepare it for the next step in the integration process, namely the opening of accession negotiations. The opening of negotiations depends on further concrete and sustainable reforms in Albania; agreement from all EU countries is also required.