One of the main forces driving Albanian politics remains the debate over joining the EU. Despite stark political differences, Socialist Party leader Edi Rama and opposition leader Lulzim Basha agree that joining the EU is a good idea for the country. Polling of Albanians suggests some ninety-seven percent of people in the Western Balkan country are in favor of joining the European Union. So why has the process stalled out for so long?
Albanian political forces seem to largely agree that the end goal of joining the EU has been a positive force for reform in the country. After all, democratic benchmarks need to be met before a country can join the Union, and making things look nice for Brussels has resulted in improvements for Albania, many political scientists argue.
Rama, for his part, has told reporters that he feels as though the country has done its duty in preparing itself for accession. He also didn’t suggest that he held any ill will toward the EU for the complicated political barriers that had made it difficult for Albania to get in. Speaking to reporters from Euronews Albania, he noted, “they don’t really have any problems with us, they have their own internal problems.”
There are a number of factors complicating the country’s accession to the EU. One of the main stumbling blocks they face is Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, who blocked the country from joining the EU in 2019. Macron, at the time, explained his reasoning by citing the number of asylum seekers entering France from Albania.
“How do I explain to my constituents that the country where most asylum seekers are coming from is Albania, yet many EU ministers believe that Albania is improving and that we should launch EU accession talks?” Macron told reporters, per Euronews.
It seems unlikely that Albania will be joining the EU anytime soon. For people living in the country, this is frustrating. After all, member nations have access to freedom of movement and commerce that is otherwise unprecedented on an international scale. Not to mention, holding out hope for accession is one of the main drivers for reform in a country that wants to move into a brighter future.
While the country might not be getting in any time in the immediate future, politicians and activists alike are hopeful that the end goal of joining will be enough to keep reform moving at a good pace and to keep corruption from seeping in at the highest levels of government.