The European Commission has stressed to the Albanian government the need for continuous efforts in the fight against corruption at all levels.
The 11th Subcommittee meeting on Justice, Freedom, and Security took place in Brussels on Wednesday and its purpose was to take stock of the progress that has been achieved by Albania over the last year. Also on the agenda was matters relating to the justice reform, corruption, money laundering, organised crime, and drug trafficking.
Following the meeting, a press release was issued that praised the government for action in a number of areas, whilst pressing the need for continuous efforts in others.
Whilst the Commission called on the government to consolidate against crime and corruption, it also commended them on the “tangible results achieved on the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis”.
This is despite the recent US State Department Report that named Albania as a “source country for cannabis” and “increasingly” as a transit country for harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
The report did note that there were a significant number of arrests in 2018 and that the institutions are moderately able to fight drug crime, but it also stated that “corruption at every level of government limits their overall effectiveness.”
The US State Department report added that “official corruption is pervasive and fosters an environment in which drug traffickers are largely able to operate with impunity.”
Praise was also levied against the government for “the steady progress achieved in the rule of law area”, again despite other reports including the aforementioned State Department report, calling it “weak”.
Reference was also made to the ongoing justice reform and vetting process, noting that it had “laid the foundations to consolidate a truly independent, impartial, professional, and accountable judiciary.” This is despite the judicial crisis the reform has led to– for more than one year Albania has no functioning Constitutional Court and High Court. Over 50% of all of judges and prosecutors vetted so far have either been removed, or quit.
It will take another eight years to complete the process and there are significant concerns about where and how adequately experienced replacements can be found in such a high volume.
In the meantime, there is no functioning Constitutional Court and High Court. The result is a backlog of cases exceeding 50,000- a third of which are human rights and property rights violations brought by citizens against the government. It seems impossible that either will function by the end of the year, and even if they do, it will need a minimum of 3-4 years for the backlog of cases to be cleared.
The PR did state however that police operations need to be duly followed up by investigations, indictments, and final convictions- a nod perhaps to the well documented lack of convictions in cases of money laundering and organised crime.
The Commission also asked the government to push further efforts for the effective implementation of primary legislation, and secondary legislation in the area of protection of minorities. This issue was highlighted by the Council of Europe, who called for better protection for Roma and other communities in the country.
The importance of addressing the recommendations of the Moneyval report on anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing was also mentioned.