Where Albania Stands on its 15 Conditions for Opening EU Accession Talks

When the European Commission decided to open negotiations with Albania for EU accession, it noted that there are 15 conditions that must be met beforehand. While Prime Minister Edi Rama has denied their existence, they are clearly stipulated in the official decision of the EC.

Exit will provide the list of the 15 conditions with an update on the progress towards each one.

Approval of electoral reform

On 5 June, electoral reform was agreed between political parties. After a series of missed deadlines and ongoing international intervention, the four members of the council reached an agreement. While approved in principle, it is expected to be opposed by the parliamentary opposition. Some have said that the ‘agreement’ is just an agreement that there will be no reform as nothing will really change.

Functioning of the Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court is dysfunctional and does not have the minimum quorum of six members to pass verdicts. Some members have been elected in total violation of the Constitution. The matter is currently with the Venice Commission, who, according to a leaked decision, agree with President Meta’s appointment of members and his complaints about the nomination procedure led by the Judicial Nominations Council. 

Functioning of the High Court

The High Court has been dysfunctional since 2019. Judge Ardian Dvorani, a former member of the communist judiciary whose term expired years ago, was removed from his post as acting Chairperson and the High Court in general last week, despite his own protests. The court is currently headed by a Chancellor while three of the new judges do not meet the basic criteria for the position of Chairperson.

Establishment of structures against organised crime and anti-corruption/functioning of SPAK

The Special Anti Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK) which will investigate corrupt officials, prosecutors and judges was established in December 2019. To date, they have not yielded any substantial or meaningful results.

Strengthening the fight against corruption and organised crime in cooperation with Member States and through the Action Plan for addressing financial crime

The Government has established a special police force that is supposed to target organised crime. The issue is however that this special police force answers only to the Ministry of Interior, is not supervised, and operates outside of the judiciary. They have the power to surveil, follow, intercept communications, detain, seize assets, and search anyone at any time, without the need for a court order. This in itself could be considered unconstitutional and brings into question the effectiveness and legality of such an operation.

Reduction of the number of Albanians seeking asylum abroad

The number of Albanian citizens seeking asylum in EU countries remains high. Albania is among one of the ten countries with the highest number of asylum seekers in 2019, ranking along with Iraq, Pakistan, Iran and Nigeria.

Review of the Media Law in line with Venice Commission recommendations

The Venice Commission called for the rejection of the media law saying it would have a chilling impact on media freedom. The Albanian government is yet to react and has not made any indication that it will revise the law in line with what the Commission has proposed.

Continuation of Justice Reform

Some 700 judges and prosecutors are yet to be vetted and around 90 resigned before being vetted. The process is far from over, has failed in many aspects, and appears to no longer be a serious priority of the government. Albanian citizens have little confidence in its independence or effectiveness. Multiple cases against dismissal are currently pending at the European Court of Human Rights.

Initiation and completion including first instance trials against senior officials and politicians involved in vote-buying

To date, no one implicated in buying votes, threatening voters, rigging elections has been prosecuted or convicted. In fact, one of the people appearing to collude with criminal gangs to rig the election, Damian Gjiknuri, sits as the head of the Committee for Electoral Reform. Prime Minister Edi Rama’s voice also appears on wiretaps dealing with vote-buying and voter intimidation and his response was that he “would do it again”.

Progress in public administration reform

While some online portals have been created and the Law on the Status of Civil Servants has been amended, it does not appear to have brought expected results. A UNDP survey for 2019 found that Albanians are generally underwhelmed by the performance of Municipalities.

Implementation of electoral reform

The 5 June decision is still under discussion and is far from being implemented. Even if it is approved, it seems unlikely that change would be effected before the 2021 elections, as it is more than likely that government and opposition will interpret the agreement in a widely different manner.

Decision on the legality of 2019 local elections

A decision on the legality of the 2019 local elections which saw the Socialist Party run largely uncontested, plunging Albania into single-party rule, has not been made by the Constitutional Court. This is due to the fact that it is still defunct.

Approval of bylaws on the Law on National Minorities

The approval of bylaws on National Minorities is still incomplete. Both the Council of Europe and the US State Department have called on the government to implement more safeguards for minorities.

Approval of the amendment of the Census Law

The Census Law is still being discussed and is expected to be made within this year.

Advancement of the property registration process

While the start of the property registration process started on 8 June in the south of the country, it is still in its infancy. There is still the issue of many citizens who were part way through the process of legalisation, having the process stopped and the governments demolishing their homes to make way for development.