We have come to a point where the internationals have implicitly accepted the failure of the Justice Reform and acknowledge the absence of any functioning rule of law in Albania. The severe impact of the Justice Reform on Albanian rule of law has had two specific consequences that have led, in turn, to its further collapse.
The first consequence has been deterioration of the role of Parliament. This is a direct result of internationals allowing the major political parties to strike deals outside of Parliament and recognizing these deals — which have no force of law — as somehow legitimate.
The first of such deals was the McAllister+ agreement from 2017, which introduced a slew of measures with no grounding in Albanian legislation and were presented to Parliament, under intense international pressure, as fait accompli.
The second deal again involved the Electoral Code and was negotiated earlier this year by the so-called “Political Council,” an ad-hoc body composed of government and opposition representatives with no legal or constitutional mandate, and whose decisions are legally non-binding: non-binding for the government and non-binding for the Parliament.
As Parliament only contains an opposition in name, the Rama government easily got approval for a number of legal changes without the consent of all members of the Political Council. The internationals expressed their “regret.” Indeed, without rule of law, regret is the only thing that remains.
An important factor in the decline of the role of Parliament as an independent constitutional institution. and thus the rule of law, is its abandonment by the opposition parties PD and LSI. Although the vacation of the opposition’s seats in Parliament was in part a response to the lack of agency Parliament had because of an EU accession process that continues to facilitate state capture by the Rama government, this has only led to a further weakening of Parliament now fully dominated by the ruling Socialist Party, and a “parliamentary opposition” without any real popular mandate.
The second deleterious consequence of the Justice Reform has been the collapse of the judiciary power, most noticeably the absence of Constitutional and High Courts, but also the gutting of the Appeals and lower courts as a result of the vetting, which itself is of a questionable legality.
As in the case of Parliament, the internationals have increasingly supported extra-constitutional “temporary” solutions such as using the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission as a de facto Constitutional Court. This became explicit when in recent days EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi called upon Parliament to wait with passing additional amendments to the Electoral Code until the Venice Commission answered a list of issues addressed by President Ilir Meta in a letter.
This “pragmatism” of the internationals in the face of state capture and collapse of the rule of law in Albania has led to increased removal of agency from Albanian constitutionally mandated institutions, and thus a severe decline of sovereignty of the Albanian state itself. Parliament has been replaced by informal talks among political “leaders” facilitated by foreign ambassadors and diplomats; the Constitutional Court has been replaced with the Venice Commission; legislation is imposed without parliamentary discussion under the banner of harmonization with the EU’s acquis communautaire; and control of the borders has been partially delegated to human-rights-violation-machine Frontex. Albania has become a de facto EU protectorate.
The internationals seem to imagine that with new “legitimate” elections (they didn’t care if the previous ones were illegitimate) and a complete Constitutional Court all of this damage will be magically undone. They are obviously completely mistaken — because they have become an intrinsic part of the problem.