From: Alice Taylor
Auditors to Scrutinise EU Support for Rule of Law in Albania and Region

The EU is set to face an audit which will determine whether its support for the rule of law has actually been effective in improving the situation in Albania and other Western Balkan countries.

The audit will be conducted by the European Court of Auditors and will see how effective the EU’s measures have been, considering that “Western Balkan countries are still facing issues concerning corruption and how their public institution’s function which hinders their accession to the EU.”

It will also cover North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Calling the rule of law a “fundamental EU value”, the Court will seek to ascertain whether the EU’s support is justified.

To join the EU, candidate countries must demonstrate their capacity to take on the obligations of EU membership, as set out in the 1993 ‘Copenhagen criteria’. The first of these criteria relate to the existence of developed, stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities. The speed of accession negotiations thus largely depends on progress made in this area.

Rule of law is a non-negotiable prerequisite for EU membership. Yet, Western Balkan countries are still facing issues concerning corruption and how their public institution’s function, which hinders their accession to the EU”, said Juhan Parts, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the audit.

Our audit will examine whether the EU genuinely helps them achieve progress in these fields so that they can soon be on their way to joining the Union.”

Earlier this year, the European Commission set forth 15 conditions that Albania must meet before being able to set a date for the first intergovernmental conference which marks the official start of accession negotiations. Just a few months later, in a progress report, they noted that most of the conditions had been fulfilled, with the exception of the formation of the Constitutional Court.

They committed one of the original conditions which was the initiation of charges against those involved in the electiongate scandal. Questions to the EU on why this was omitted remain unanswered.

In December, the Constitutional Court became functional via an unconstitutional process. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi then announced that all conditions had been met, despite issues like the “anti-defamation law” being brought in line with Venice Commission recommendations, and the legal action against those of being accused of electoral manipulation not being addressed.