CARDS is an abbreviation and stands for Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation. In general there are many assistance programmes for the Balkans and South East Europe. The CARDS programme was established with the Council regulation No 2666/2000 of December 5 in 2000. The overall amount which has been spent by the European Union till the starting process with the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) was about 6.8 billion euros by the end of 2005.
A key factor in the external relations of the EU is to promote stability, democratisation and peace to non EU member states such as Europeans neighbours. The European neighbourhood policy is an example for the co-operation between the EU and the neighbours of the Union. Therefore in European Union law a debate is going on that the EU needs to have a legal personality. The EU needs to have legal personality in the future because the EU has internal policies that could only be fulfilled with external measures or policies. The status right now is that only the EC has treaty making competences. Those competences at the status quo are rather limited. Art. 24 of the EU Treaty (Nice) allows the EU to establish Agreements which are binding on the member states and the institutions of the Union. Such Agreements are for example the European “new” neighbourhood policy, Agreements for pre-accession or Agreements with the so-called ACP countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries).
The Western Balkan falls into the category of the Accession Agreements, which means the goal is the accession to the European Union and the transformation of the legal system(s) according to the acquis communautaire. To obtain this goal the SAP is needed. Coming back to external relations, it is necessary to set up criteria that those countries have to fulfil. The Union on the other hand is not interested in importing “problems” into the Union. So what is important and in difference to other agreements like the COTONOU Agreement is that all these projects are established to prepare for membership. The Balkan states are given the opportunity and the chance to enter the Union but not as a bulk but step by step like it was discussed and adopted at the Thessaloniki summit of the European Council in July 2003. At the summit of Thessaloniki the EU formally incorporated “cohesion” as a guiding principle of the EU towards the region. To fulfil the mentioned goals under the SAP, CARDS was established to make it easier for the Western Balkan countries to achieve the mentioned aims.
I would like to focus on the CARDS programme in Albania and pick out a very interesting and important part of the European Union policy now and in the future, internal and with external measures: the protection of the environment and hazardous waste management.
 Council of ministers regulation No 2666/2000 under URL: http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/pri/en/oj/dat/2000/l_306/l_30620001207en00010006.pdf
 Austrian Commercial Chamber. Website on CARDS under URL: wko.at/eu/eic/cards.htm
 Craig de Búrca (2003) EU Law. Text, Cases, And Materials, 3rd edition; chapter on external law and external relations of the European Union.
 Problem in this sense means that the Union wouldn’t like to deal with problems like the non-functioning of the economy. Therefore the criteria are set up to solve these problems before the country enters the EU. Otherwise the EU has to spend much time in bureaucracy and diplomacy to solve difficult political, but rather often simple economic questions.
 European Union External Relations under URL: http://ec.europa.eu/comm/external_relations/index.htm
 European Stability Initiative. The Road to Thessaloniki: Cohesion and the Western Balkans. Paperprint from March 13th 2003. Berlin, Brussels, Sarajevo.