SEATTLE — For more than 25 years, the European Union has been sending humanitarian aid to Albania, a country in the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. In 1990, Albanians saw the official fall of communism within their country, leaving Albania with an unstable economy and government. The accession of democracy in Albania was slow and while it increased human rights, it also increased the poverty rate.
After the revolutions of 1989, many communist regimes in Europe were overthrown. Seeing this, the European Union created the Poland and Hungary Assistance for the Restructuring of the Economy program, which was directed towards Eastern European countries.The goal of the program was to use European Union funding to create stable market economies in many central and eastern European countries that were previously communist.
In May 1992, Albania signed the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation with the European Union, becoming the first Balkan country to do so. This made Albania a beneficiary country and allowed the European Union to send funding and humanitarian aid to Albania.
Despite the humanitarian aid to Albania from the European Union, the government was still unstable. The socialist party, formerly communist, continued to try to regain power. This left Albania’s economy in disarray. Through most of the 1990s, Albania suffered from low gross domestic product growth, hitting an all-time low of less than 1 percent in 1997. This coincided with the Albanian Civil War.
In 2000, Albania became a potential candidate for the European Union. In April 2009, Albania officially applied for membership to the European Union and in November 2009 the European Union approved the application. In 2014, Albania officially became a candidate for accession into the European Union. Since then, the European Union has sent even more humanitarian aid to Albania. At this time Albania’s GDP was at an all-time high of 13.22 percent and the poverty rate was around 14 percent.
Though the European Union provides funding and humanitarian aid to Albania in many forms, one of the most common is to help with natural disaster relief. Due to torrential rain, flooding is very common in many parts of Albania. This causes severe damage to roadways and infrastructure, leaving many people without jobs or homes.
For the past few years, the European Union has been sending funds and volunteers to aid the relief efforts in Albania. Many European Union members, such as Bulgaria and Lithuania, have been lending support to Albania during times of increased flooding. The United Kingdom, before leaving the European Union, donated two large mobile bakeries and over 2,000 tons of protein biscuits. Most recently, in January 2018, the Europen Commision approved 160,000 ECU in humanitarian aid to Albania.
Though the government and economy still have room to grow in Albania, they are starting to stabilize. The GDP is not seeing such high fluctuations in recent years; it currently stands at around 11 percent. The poverty rate has not improved much, standing at 13 percent as of 2017. However, the European Union and Albania are making progress together and the humanitarian aid provided is effective. Albania is expected to join the European Union in the expansion of 2020.
– Courtney Wallace