In his response to parliamentary questions of Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok has confirmed that the European Commission will address possible violations of the Stabilization and Association Agreement by the Albanian government.
Minister Blok declared:
“Our inquiry at the Commission showed that a possible violation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Albania, in relation to the construction of the new airport in Vlora and the establishment of Air Albania, will be considered in the framework of the entire evaluation of the extent to which Albania has conformed its legal framework to the EU acquis communautaire. The Commission will discuss these issues with the Albanian government in the framework of a planned, more extensive evaluation of public procurement and of the legal framework for free competition and state support in Albania in the coming months.”
However, even though the European Commission promises to “address” the “possible violation” with the Albanian government, this will not be done in the SAA Council. According to Blok, the Commission has not put the case on SAA Council’s agenda.
Another interesting aspect of the European Commission’s response to Minister Blok, which he communicated to Parliament, was its answer to whether there had been previous violations of the SAA.
“Our inquiry at the Commission showed that previously a complaint had been filed claiming that the SAA between the EU and Albanian had been violated in the field of public procurement and competition/state support. The legal service of the Commission investigated the matter. The conclusion of the investigation was that no violation of the SAA rules could be found.”
The complaint in question refers to the Special Law for the National Theater, which the European Commission actually found to breach the SAA. In a letter from September 7, 2018, the Commission declared:
“Article 74(1) [of the SAA] makes a reference to the desired objective of the parties to consider the opening-up of the award of public contracts on the basis of non-discrimination and reciprocity. In this context, the Special Law as adopted, which has envisaged a pre-selection of a contractor without an open tender, raised concerns as regards the respect of the above-mentioned principle of non-discrimination and of the other principles of EU public procurement, i.e. equal treatment, and open competition.”
Even though the word “violation” is not used, the Commission was very clear that should the Albanian government in fact implement the Special Law, that would be considered a violation.
As a result, the government reformulated the law, including an ad-hoc tender procedure, and pushed it through Parliament. However, the tender procedure envisioned in the law failed and the entire project is currently in limbo.