Albania is a Candidate Country.
Relations with Albania and the other Western Balkan countries are anchored in the EU's Stabilisation and Association process – a framework in which the countries progress towards closer association with the EU with the aid of various instruments such as:
- an assistance programme (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance),
- technical advice,
- trade preferences,
- cooperation in fields such as justice and home affairs,
- political dialogue.
The countries following this process undergo a political and economic transition which prepares them for a new form of contractual relationship – Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) – with the EU. These agreements:
- focus on respect for democratic principles and strengthening links between the countries of the region and the EU single market,
- provide for the establishment of a free trade area with the EU,
- set out rights and obligations in areas such as competition and State aid rules, intellectual property and establishment, to allow regional economies to begin to integrate with the EU.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Albania was signed in 2006, and it entered into force in 2009. In 2020,the EU started the accession negotiations with Albania.
Chapter 8 of the Stabilization and Association Agreement deals with Competition and State aid. It affirms that the Candidate Country has to fully align its legislation with the EU acquis in the fields of Antitrust, Mergers and State aid. In addition, the Candidate Country must demonstrate that the Competition (and State aid) authorities are independent from influence of the government and are able to properly carry out efficient and effective enforcement activities.
The progress of the Candidate Country on its alignment with the EU acquis and the enforcement capacity and independence of its National Competition Authority is reported on annually in the Enlargement Package. The 2020 Enlargement Package for Albania can be found here.