Dutch MP Omtzigt Questions Foreign Minister Blok on Albanian Violations of SAA

On January 14, Dutch Member of Parliament Pieter Omtzigt asked Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok a series of critical questions regarding violations by the Albanian government of the Stabilitzation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union.

Omtzigt’s questions zoned in on several tenders reported on by Exit regarding the Vlora airport and Air Albania, both involving deals with Turkish companies “facilitated” by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for European Integration, Genc Pollo, had directed a letter to the European Commission addressing these two possible violations of the SAA. Omtzigt requested Minister Blok the response of the European Commission to be sent to Parliament.

Omtzigt also asked Minister Blok whether these tenders, which were held without public procurement procedure, violated the SAA, and whether he could give an example of “a single large project in Albania” in which procurement regulations had been properly followed.

In September, the European Commission openly criticized the Albanian government for its “special law” to grant Fusha shpk the construction of the new National Theater without public procurement.

In its letter of September 7, the European Commission stated:

Article 74(1) [of the SAA] makes a reference to the desired objective of the parties to consider the opening-up of the award of public contracts on the basis of non-discrimination and reciprocity. In this context, the Special Law as adopted, which has envisaged a pre-selection of a contractor without an open tender, raised concerns as regards the respect of the above-mentioned principle of non-discrimination and of the other principles of EU public procurement, i.e. equal treatment, and open competition.

In June 2018, Omtzigt was part of a Dutch parliamentary fact-finding mission in Albania, which was ridiculed by Prime Minister Edi Rama. Eventually, Dutch Parliament denied the Dutch government the right to vote in favor of opening accession negotiations that year. Dutch Parliament will vote again this year regarding the opening of the accession negotiations.

Minister Blok is expected to visit Albania today. As there is no Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, it is unclear whom he will discuss Albanian foreign policy with.