From: Alice Taylor
European Parliament Adopt Resolution on Opening of Negotiations with Albania

The European Parliament said that “free and fair elections” are “fundamental” to the country’s EU integration.

MEPs adopted a resolution on Thursday regarding Albania’s progress with 581 votes in favour and 61 against.

In a statement published following the vote, MEPs welcomed Albania’s “clear strategic orientation and commitment to the country’s EU integration.”

They called for the formal start of accession negotiations without any further delay, due to “the complete fulfillment of the conditions set by the European Council.”

They added that “the Albanian general elections on 25 April 2021 will be key for the consolidation and renewal of Albania’s democratic process.”

MEPs warned that the elections must be “free and fair”.

On Thursday, EU Rapporteur for Albania, Isabel Santos was adamant that all conditions were fulfilled when questioned on specific points by Exit.

Exit asked regarding the failure to prosecute any high-level officials or politicians in the vote-buying election gate scandal. She said that the justice reform could be to blame and that the EU will closely monitor the vote-buying trials. 

“The judicial system has been through a very thorough reform, the judge’s mandates have been looked at and a number have resigned from their posts…there have been problems with the functioning of the justice system, postponements, difficulties, but the vote-buying trials will be closely monitored by us.”

This is despite the fact that if no high-level officials or politicians have charges against them, there will be no trials.

Santos added that vote-buying scandals were “no excuse for putting off the first intergovernmental conference.”

On the topic of the proposed anti-defamation law, she claimed it has been withdrawn by Parliament. 

“I was on the frontline in that battle, I was very clear that this is a red line that should not be passed. The government has withdrawn it from parliament.”

This is the first time any indication that it has been withdrawn from parliament. The Albanian government has not made any public announcement of any kind relating to the law, what stage it is at, or whether it is still being considered.

In December, it was known that the Council of Europe was reviewing the current draft of the law but that there were issues with its compliance with the Venice Commission.

Koloreto Cukali from the Albanian Media Council told Exit:

“The fact they didn’t manage to pass quality control, doesn’t mean they withdrew it. The process was kept so secret, we don’t know what stage it is at and we have had no public announcement or notification that it has been withdrawn.”

Furthermore, the refusal of President Meta to decree the law has not been accepted or refused by Parliament, meaning it is still in ‘limbo’.

Exit contacted Santos via email to ask where information that it was withdrawn from parliament came from, but so far she has not replied.