Scientific Report: Waste Management Law Damages Albania’s EU Aspirations

A report drafted by a group of Albanian and German scientists titled “Pros and Cons of Waste Import to Albania” concludes that the approval of the waste management law no. 92/2016, as proposed by the previous Rama government and rejected by the former President Bujar Nishani, would have damaged the country and thrown a wrench into Albania’s EU aspirations, because of its weak controls on hazardous waste.

The study, headed by environmental engineer Lulzim Baumann and supported by the Marion Dönhoff Foundation in Support of Science, Research and Friendly International Relations, is based on the law as presented by the Rama government, and which is expected to return to the parliamentary agenda in coming months, now hat the Socialist Party has an absolute majority.

The following is an executive summary of the report:

In early 2018, the Albanian Parliament is planning to take its final decision on the adoption the highly controversial “Draft Law on Waste Imports No. 92/2016”, which aims at allowing the import of certain types of waste into Albania.

In the course of interviews with a large number of experts of Albanian and international institutions it became obvious that at this point in time and with the current wording it is not recommendable to adopt DRAFT LAW No. 92/2016.

With the legal expertise of Transparency International shortcomings of DRAFT LAW No. 92/2016 were identified. In particular the articles on licencing, monitoring and penal provisions need urgent revision in terms of wording and content.

The control and monitoring systems necessary to enforce DRAFT LAW No. 92/2016 require further improvements, too, to ensure that no hazardous wastes enter Albanian territory under the guise of “secondary raw materials” – notwithstanding the overall positive new scanner technology at Durres Harbour. This became clear in consultations with the Center of X-Ray Technology at Fraunhofer Institute IIS as well as with representatives of the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the German Federal Agency for Environment (UBA).

From a microeconomic perspective, importing secondary raw materials might indeed help some recycling businesses to increase their production and create a number of jobs. However, from a macroeconomic perspective, due to a variety of unwanted side effects, DRAFT LAW No. 92/2016 is likely to lead to a decrease in the overall national employment rate and foreign direct investments and trade in other sectors (such as agriculture, tourism or even textiles). Instead of pinning unrealistic hopes on the import of foreign secondary raw materials, in the long-run it would be more sustainable to improve national raw material collection and separation at source.

At this point in time, adopting DRAFT LAW No. 92/2016 will most likely lead to an increase in illegal shipments of hazardous waste to Albania and will bring with it a high risk of providing organized crime and corruption with a golden opportunity. There is a high risk of increased health hazards by way of intoxications of soil, water and air, as an integrated waste management system is not yet in place in Albania (let alone the capability to manage an increase in illegally dumped hazardous waste).

To adopt EU legislation prematurely in the area of waste imports may turn out to be counterproductive: It is not only the EU Albania Report 2016 which concludes that Albania’s waste management situation is still fragile and that it lags far behind most EU countries. There is a high risk that the implementation of the EU principle of Free Movement of Goods with respect to secondary raw materials can make Albania’s compliance with two of its five key criteria for EU accession even more difficult, namely the “Fight against Organized Crime” and the “Fight against Corruption”.