Exit Explains: Albania’s EU Progress Report, What Message does it Give?

On Wednesday the European Commission published Albania’s progress report for 2020.

This year’s report is of special importance because the practical start of EU negotiations with Albania depends on it. In March 2020, the European Union decided to open membership negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, pending progress made in several areas. The beginning of practical talks for our country was conditional on the fulfilment of certain conditions.

The European Commission was tasked with monitoring progress in 15 key areas and then reporting on it.

So, what does the report say about the reforms made by the country?

In Thursday’s show ‘With a few words’ on Euronews Albania, Neritan Sejamini briefly explained the main findings of the report.

Electoral reform is considered completed.

In essence, the EC sought to implement OSCE recommendations. They agreed in the Political Council.

The international community’s position is that the Socialists’ unilateral changes to the electoral system have not violated OSCE requirements and are legitimate – even though they were adopted without consensus. In fact, the creation of the Political Council not only contributed to electoral reform but ended the political crisis.

For this reason, the role of the opposition should be appreciated: without its reduction in the Political Council, the progress report would have been much different.

Judicial reform is considered complete: vetting has continued, SPAK and BKH have been established, the Supreme Court has started its work but is not yet fully operational.

The report acknowledges the failure to establish the Constitutional Court but does not hold anyone accountable.

This attitude has allowed Prime Minister Rama to reiterate his excuses for the delay even in the presence of Commissioner Varhelyi.

Regarding the fight against organized crime, the report states that Albania has cooperated in successful international operations against drug trafficking. But the Commission ignores the state of organized crime in Albania, and the export of cannabis cultivation into Europe, contenting itself with some legal improvements and seizures of assets committed in recent months.

For the fight against corruption, the report suffices to assess the investigations of some judges excluded from vetting. The commission does not mention the lack of investigations and convictions for senior officials nor the increasing number of documented scandals involving the government.

Concerning freedoms, the Commission has taken for granted the government’s promise to rewrite the media law in line with Venice’s recommendations. In fact, the review should have already taken place. There are no assurances that it will be in line with the Venice Commission. Also, the report fails to acknowledge the worsening media climate in Albania in terms of political pressure, verbal attacks by Rama himself, lack of transparency, poor freedom of information response rates, and bad working conditions.

Similarly, the Commission takes for granted the promise of a law on the protection of minorities, as well as improving the implementation of property law.

The commission has ignored the condition to legally review the legitimacy of the 2019 local elections. The report does not mention this condition. The matter of the voices of senior PS officials and government members appearing on prosecution wiretaps in collusion with criminals and state officials to manipulate the elections and pressure voters has also not been addressed.

This issue is already forgotten by Albanian politics, so no one is complaining about this “forgetfulness” of the Commission.

The Commission has been generous in assessing the fulfilment of the conditions for the start of negotiations, positively rounding off all contentious issues.

Now, it will be the European Council that will decide in December whether to accept the Commission’s generous assessment or to be stricter in meeting the conditions.