In a discussion of the draft 2016 Commission Report on Albania by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Members of European Parliament have stressed that “Albania needs to implement EU-related reforms credibly, and ensure that its June parliamentary elections are free and fair, if it is to start EU accession negotiations”:
MEPs welcome Albania’s progress on EU-related reforms and further efforts to reform the judicial sector, which is a key demand of Albania’s citizens and a factor in restoring trust in public institutions. While excluding criminal offenders from public office and re-evaluating judges, prosecutors and legal advisors are promising steps forward, MEPs remain concerned about selective justice, corruption, the overall length of judicial proceedings and political interference in investigations and court cases. […]
MEPs note that credible implementation of these reforms and holding free and fair elections in June 2017 could prove to be a key to advancing the EU accession process and starting negotiations.
The draft report, as well as the amendments proposed by Foreign Affairs MEPs, clearly show the internal debate within the European Union regarding the “five conditions” which caused much debate and confusion in Albanian politics. When the European Council eventually decided not to set a date to open EU accession negotiations with Albania, even though the resolution was never officially adopted owing to a veto of Austria.
The proposed amendments reflect this debate. The draft report of rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein (S&D) contains the following paragraph:
whereas Albania has made steady progress in its EU accession process; whereas further implementation of, inter alia, the judicial reform package, electoral reform and the so-called decriminalisation law is important in strengthening citizens’ trust in their public institutions and political representatives;
An amendment of MEP Eduard Kukan (EPP) proposes to strengthen this language to the following:
whereas Albania has made progress towards meeting the political criteria for membership and steady progress in the five key priorities for the opening of accession negotiations; whereas further implementation of, inter alia, the judicial reform package, electoral reform and the so-called decriminalisation law are indispensable in strengthening citizens’ trust in their public institutions and political representatives;
So whereas the left-wing MEP Fleckenstein speaks more generally of “progress” regarding the “accession process” and does not favor conditionality, the proposed amendment of conservative MEP Kukan reflects the “German” point of view, explicitly including the “five key priorities” and speaking about the “indispensibility,” and not mere “importance” of the judicial reform, electoral reform, and the implementation of the decriminalization law.
Liberal MEPs from the ALDE fraction, on the other hand, wanted to further specify the language of Fleckenstein’s report, singling out the vetting law as the most important of the entire judicial reform package. They also proposed an amendment in which the government and opposition are called upon to address the challenges “in a spirit of dialogue, cooperation and compromise.”
Several Greek MEPs, including those representing the extreme-right Golden Dawn, proposed various resolutions softening or scrapping any language in relation to Albania’s progress and calling upon Albanian government to respect (Greek) minority rights.