Prime Minister Edi Rama, the leader of the Socialist Party (SP) and the former mayor of Tirana, successfully lead "The Alliance for a European Albania" (made by the SP and the Socialist Movement for Integration) to victory in the 23 June 2013 general elections. Since joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2008, Albania's chief foreign policy objective is EU integration. Albania submitted its formal application for EU membership in April 2009, and the process is ongoing, with a final decision by the Council of the European Union on Albania’s candidate status expected in June 2014.
Since 2010, as a result of a unanimous vote by the Council of the EU, Albanian citizens possessing biometric passports are able to travel throughout the Schengen area without a visa. Albania also maintains good relations with its neighbours and is a party to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).
Canada’s Ambassador in Rome is accredited to Albania, while a Consulate in Tirana, headed by an Honorary Consul, assists Canadian interests in Albania. Immigration and visa applications by Albanians are processed by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in the Canadian Embassy in Rome, whose staff members visit Albania periodically to interview candidates.
Edmond Haxhinasto, Albanian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport (then Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs) met with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird during a visit to Ottawa in May 2012. Minister Haxhinasto praised the excellent status of political and economic relations between Canada and Albania.
Since 2005, Albania has participated in the Canadian Military Training Assistance Program (MTAP), whose purpose is to provide language training for Albanian military officers in Canada. The programme (now called the Military Training and Cooperation Program, or MTCP) now provides 6 training vacancies annually for Albanian officers. Canada also provides assistance to Albania in an anti-personnel mine destruction program and has contributed expertise, training and $500,000 to help the Albanian military destroy some 10,000 tonnes of small arms and light-weapons ammunition.
The Albanian Investement Development Agency cites Canada as the largest foreign investor in Albania with $810 million in stock investment, mostly in the oil, gas and mining (copper, zinc, gold and silver) sectors. Bankers Petroleum, Petromanas Energy, Stream Oil and Gas and Tirex Resources are some of the largest Canadian investors in Albania. Canada’s exports to Albania in 2012 amounted to over $45 million, with machinery, iron and steel products, medical instruments and tools counting among the top exports. Canadian imports from Albania totalled $5.25 million, mainly in footwear, iron and steel products, apparel and grain.
To help protect and encourage two-way investment, the governments of Canada and Albania are currently finalizing a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).
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