Applications for EU membership are usually filed in coordination between the applicant country and the European Commission. Besides Albania, the only countries in the Western Balkans who have yet to file membership applications are Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Kosovo, which declared independence in February 2008, is a special case, as it has not been recognised by all EU countries.
Last December, Montenegro surprisingly filed a formal application for EU membership during the final days of the French EU Presidency, despite the fact that the subsequent Czech Presidency is more supportive of the Balkan country's accession bid (EurActiv 16/12/08). Montenegro's move was widely expected to encourage Serbia and Albania to follow suit by formally applying for EU membership too.
Taking advantage of the pro-enlargement Czech EU Presidency, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced last month that his country would present its European Union membership application before the end of June (EurActiv 10/03/09).
In an exclusive interview with EurActiv, Erhard Busek, special enlargement adviser to the Czech EU Presidency, recently confirmed that Tirana was preparing to file its application (EurActiv 17/04/09).
Albania is one of Europe's poorest countries, and faces an uphill struggle to join the EU. Brussels remains unconvinced of the West Balkan country's democratic credentials.