From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
European Commission Recommends Opening of Accession Talks Following Delivery of “Tangible Results”

The European Commission has recommended that European Union accession negotiations be opened with Albania, following its increased efforts and delivery of tangible and sustainable results in the key areas identified in the Council Conclusions of June 2018.

The report speaks of “significant progress achieved” and that its initial recommendation to open accession talks, given in June 2018 still stands.

Areas that needed to be addressed by the Albanian government included the rate of asylum applications from Albanian citizens in EU Member States. The report noted that Albania has maintained its efforts to tackle unfounded asylum applications and that there had been a 17% decrease between 2018 and 2019 and a 26% decrease from 2017 to 2019. Last year there were 5,599 asylum applications in EU or Schengen states, down from 7,633 in 2017.

Between 2018 and early 2020, some 6,743 Albanian nationals were returned to the country, according to the Commissions report.

In terms of the Justice reform, the Commission said Albania delivered “concrete results in the continued implementation of the EU-related reforms. It added that the process is due to be concluded for non-magistrates by the end of March 2020 and that other magistrate candidates would be promoted from within the court system by the end of the first quarter 2020.

Albania is making progress to reconstitute the Constitutional Court following the vetting of its members and appointment of new members, according to the report. It also noted that the main steps for establishing SPAK had been completed by early 2019 and that shortlisted candidates were being vetted. 

“Tangible results” were observed in the fight against organised crime including police cooperation with EU member states and Europol on a number of “successful large-scale law enforcement operations” and the arrest of a number of members of criminal gangs. It stated that a “number of important indictments and convictions also took place, involving major organised criminal group leaders.”

The number of cases related to organised crime rose from 34 prosecutions in 2017 to 53 in 208 and 79 in 2019.

The Commission’s report also stated that the Albanian Parliament adopted the Moneyval Package in July 20189 aimed at addressing Moneyval’s concerns and recommendations on money laundering in the country.

Further action was needed on the matter of national minority rights and the Commission is also “closely monitoring the developments regarding the media law where the Venice Commission is expected to issue an opinion in March.”