From: Alice Taylor
Contradictions in the European Commission Over Albanian “Anti-Defamation Law”

The European Commission maintains that the scraping of the Albanian “anti-defamation” package is not a requirement for holding the first intergovernmental conference of accession negotiations.

Exit sent a number of questions to the Commission and European Parliament around the issue of the media law which, if enacted in its current form, would bring online media under the direct control of a state-appointed body.

Earlier this year, Exit asked Albania’s Rapporteur to the EP, Isabel Santos about the status of the law. She claimed twice that it has been withdrawn from parliament by the Albanian government. This is not true, and it still appears as active on the agenda of parliament. Santos refused to clarify her statement despite repeated requests for comment.

On this topic, the European Council said it was not their place to comment on the matter or conduct of Santos.

Exit then asked whether they accept that the draft law is still pending in parliament. They accepted that it was, thus contradicting Santos. They said, “the majority has given clear indications that it does not intend to pursue the adoption of this pending legislation and that it would comply with the Venice Commission’s recommendations if the legislation were to be adopted in the future.”

The law was passed by the Assembly, vetoed by the President, and then returned to the Assembly. If the Assembly votes on it again, it would become law without the agreement of the President. The government has made no attempt to formally or publicly withdraw the draft law.

The EC report from March 2020 states:

“Prior to the first intergovernmental conference, Albania should adopt…” It then lists a number of actions that must be completed, including “amending the media law in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.” It described this as an important priority.

The EC gave a previous statement to Exit whereby it said that: “The draft Media Law amendments were not among the list of conditions set by the Council in March 2020. As indicated by the Venice Commission, adoption of amendments to the Media Law is not necessary; but if any amendments were to be adopted, they should be in line with the Venice Commission opinion.”

The response given by Pisonero today contradicts that in part. She said:

“The adoption of amendments to the Media Law is not a requirement for holding the 1st IGC of accession negotiations. But if ever they were to be adopted our consistent position is that any such amendments should be in line with the Venice Commission opinion.”

When asked if the draft law meets international standards and EU values, Pisonero said: “We welcome the commitment by Albania that it will comply with the Venice Commission’s recommendations should it decide to pursue with amendments to the Media Law.”

Previously EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca has said that the law does not meet the freedom of expression standards and is not compliant with EU law.

“The European Commission had initially asked for these initiatives to be fully aligned with EU’s Audio-visual Media Services and e-Commerce directives. Although the major previous concerns related to the EU acquis appear to have been addressed, full compliance of the draft amendments with freedom of expression standards still needs to be ensured.”

Various other EU officials had also previously condemned the law, but have since scaled back on their criticisms and stopped mentioning it altogether.