On the 3rd of April, the Council of Europe will hold a closing conference for the Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans that will take place in Tirana.
The Horizontal Facility project is a collaboration between the CoE and the European Union. It covers actions of the Council of Europe in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo.
The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 and has the principle aim to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law throughout its 47 European Member States.
The aim is to facilitate compliance with CoE and EU standards and recommendations on justice, the fight against economic crime, and combating discrimination against vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities and LGBTI+.
Issues addressed include safeguards against torture, human rights standards in the judiciary, justice system efficiency, and the accountability of the judicial system.
In terms of economic crime, specific objectives include political party funding legislation, improvements in the asset declaration system, AML/CFT legislation reviews, and better levels of prosecution in cases of money laundering and terrorism funding.
The project has also pushed for improvements in investigation and prosecution of hate crime towards LGBTI individuals, increased awareness on discrimination and related suffering, as well as strengthening the protection and rights of national minorities throughout the country.
Horizontal Facility actions address cross-cutting issues and works to engage civil society organisations to assist with its implementation.
According to a number of recent reports, Albania still has a lot of work to do when it comes to human rights. A report from the CoE found that minorities including Roma were still significant marginalised and discriminated against, living in poverty throughout most of the country.
In terms of LGBTI, whilst on paper their are laws to protect the rights of these individuals, in practice they are routinely ignored. LGBTI individuals routinely face verbal and physical harassment, discrimination, issues with employers and landlords, as well as even being publicly attacked by politicians.
Tackling economic crime still poses a big problem in the country and whilst again, there are laws in place, not only are these not enough, but they are rarely enforced. Prosecutions and convictions against those involved in financial crimes are few and far between.
At the upcoming closing conference, participants will be expected to present the results of the efforts they have taken in the last three years in all areas of the project. They will need to demonstrate the contribution of their actions to advancing reforms in key areas as well as to identify the remaining challenges that still need to be addressed.
Representatives of all the involved states will include policy makers, law enforcement authorities, and justice sector officials.
The next phase of the Horizontal Facility Programme and its Action against Economic Crime will start at the end of May 2019.
— Alice Elizabeth Taylor