From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
EC to Investigate Possible Procurement Violations in Albania

Yesterday, the European Commission announced that they would conduct an investigation into Rama government procurements. In particular they would focus on those connected to the construction of the Vlora Airport and the formation of Air Albania.

MEP Paul Rubig of the European People’s Party (EPP) questioned what the EC thinks about the concerns raised in the media regarding allegations that Air Albania was created as a PPP outside of procurement rules. These, along with the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, oblige Albanian to open public procurements and to establish equal terms for European and non-European or Albanian companies.

In an answer on behalf of the EC, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn stated:

“The Commission is aware of complaints concerning the possible violation of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with respect to the construction of the airport in Vlora and establishing Air Albania airline. According to the SAA, the award of public contracts on the basis of non-discrimination and reciprocity, in particular in the World Trade Organisation context, is a key objective. The services of the Commission regularly underline this in their discussions with the Albanian authorities.”

The Commission added that their role is to monitor the development of the Albanian legal framework and to assess its compliance with EU rules.

They added:

“A broader and deeper assessment of the public procurement and competition/State aid framework in Albania is already planned through various technical engagements in the upcoming months.”

In terms of the Vlora Airport, the Albanian Parliament under instruction from Edi Rama passed an “extraordinary law” that allowed direct negotiations with a number of Turkish companies. Whilst the deadline for talks expired long ago, the government is yet to reveal the outcome.

It is speculated that this agreement may have violated current public procurement laws, PPP laws, and rules set by the SAA and World Trade Organisation.

In January 2019, Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt posed a number of questions to his Minister of Foreign Affairs, including “Can you give an example of a major project in Albania where the tender procedure has been carried out properly according to EU rules?” and “Can you indicate for Albania which obligations the country fulfills from the SAA agreement and which it does not?”

Omtzigt also asked; “How do you rate the fact that the government of Albania did not comply with the Stabilization and Association Agreement between the EU and Albania both in the construction of the new airport in Vlora and in the setting up of Air Albania, and that the cases had been directly dealt with by Turkish authorities and companies, an Albanian state-owned company and an Albanian company that was just nine days old when it was awarded and has no experience in aviation?”

In his response, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok confirmed that the European Commission would address possible violations by the Albanian government.

The Albanian government has introduced five laws which allow them to bypass the completion and allow direct procurement– something that is in violation of EU and WTO laws.

Other suspected instances of abuse include the demolition of the old theatre and the sale of public land to a private company which plan to develop it into towers and commercial centres.