The Western Balkans are also strategically important for the EU, as they form the land bridge between NATO’s southeastern flank and Central Europe. However, it is becoming clear that, regardless of the current moment, there are still a number of challenges standing in the way of EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. This is evident in Albania.

 Albania celebrated a historic moment after almost three decades: in 2003, Tirana submitted its application for membership. In the days following the announcement, a larger-than-life EU flag adorned the government building in Tirana’s Skënderberg Square.

EU affinity is high in the country with 2.8 million inhabitants. According to the Balkan Public Barometer, 89 percent of Albanians evaluate EU membership as positive. In conversations with locals, proximity to the EU is assured, European shops cover the cityscape in Tirana, the euro is at least unofficially the second national currency.

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