The Dutch government has presented the parliament with a positive report on Albania’s fulfillment of conditions set by European leaders before it sits in EU accession talks. The parliament will have the final say on whether the country will support the start of talks immediately after the summit of EU leaders later this month.
The report presented to parliament on Friday relies on the European Commission’s positive report on Albania. In addition, it also includes the assessment of the Dutch government on all conditions and priorities Albania is expected to have fulfilled.
It lists 6 conditions considered to have been met: electoral reform, implementation of justice reform, establishment of structures for the fight against corruption and organized crime, stepping up the fight against corruption and organized crime, reduction of numbers of asylum seekers, and amendment of the media law in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
Regarding the electoral reform agreed between the ruling Socialist majority and the extra-parliamentary opposition, the report does not mention the later unilateral legal changes made by the majority in parliament, which the opposition claimed violated their agreement.
The status of the law censoring online media also remains unclear in the report. The European Commission has stated in its report that Socialist officials have promised not to pass it before it meets recommendations of the Venice Commission, while the Dutch government adds that “the law as presented in parliament is off the table”.
The majority passed the law in 2019, before the Venice Commission’s opinion, but the President vetoed and returned it to Parliament, where it is now waiting either to be amended or passed without changes. The Parliament has not amended the law since then, despite promises and the 1.5 years passed since it was returned to Parliament.
Other results expected from Albania, as laid out by the European leaders in March 2020, were included in the reports of both the European Commission and the Dutch government as “priorities” to be met in the future, after the start of EU talks in the first intergovernmental conference.
These priorities include: opening criminal cases against judges and prosecutors who failed to pass vetting, completion of trials against those accused of vote rigging, completion of trials against senior officials and politicians accused of corruption, a decision on the legality of 2019 local elections, adoption of legislation protecting minorities, and the census law.
In March 2020, the Council of the European Leaders decided to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. In the case of Albania it put forward a number of conditions before the first intergovernmental conference. Despite a positive report by the European Commission in October 2020, member states, including the Netherlands, did not agree unanimously that Albania had met the conditions.
The Dutch vote in the Council of the EU later this month will depend on the Dutch parliament.