Since regaining independence in 2006 and becoming an official EU candidate country in 2012, Montenegro has undergone significant systemic reforms, mostly aligned with it's top national priority - the EU accession process. In the first years after 2006, the economy had relatively high annual growth rates, despite some serious setbacks in the years following the international financial crisis (2008), which led to a contraction of the economy in 2009 and 2012. A return to robust growth has been evident since 2013, while the annual real growth rate for the period 2015–2018 is projected at around 3.8%. EU accession is progressing under the Stabilization and Association Agreement signed between the EU and Montenegro in 2010. The National Programme of Accession to the European Union for the period 2014–2018 provides the strategic framework for alignment with the EU Acquis and for strengthening of the administrative capacity.