David McAllister: The European Parliament’s report on Albania
The new European Parliament’s report on Albania looks at the Commission reports from 2019 and 2020, and comes two and a half years after the last report. It welcomes the strategic orientation and commitment of Albania to EU integration, supports the convening of the first intergovernmental conference without further delay, following the complete fulfilment of the conditions set by the European Council and the adoption of the negotiating framework by the Council.
Progress towards accession under the revised enlargement methodology depends on lasting, in-depth and irreversible reforms across fundamental areas, starting with the rule of law, the effective functioning of democratic institutions and public administration, and the economy. In this regard the judicial reform and stepping up the fight against corruption and organised crime, along with good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation are hugely important.
The general elections of 25 April 2021 will be key for the consolidation and renewal of Albania’s democratic procedures and structures, and the achievement of a higher level of political stability. Free and fair elections are fundamental for EU integration. The preparations for these parliamentary elections must take place in a transparent and inclusive manner.
Safeguarding the rule of law through a judicial overhaul and a steady and consistent prosecution of high-level corruption is paramount. Progress needs to be made in implementing the comprehensive judicial reform, underpinned by the vetting process and the establishment of the relevant institutions and specialised bodies. Albania must fight corruption at all levels of society, government and administration.
I urge Albania to swiftly adopt the five remaining by-laws to ensure full implementation of the 2017 framework law on the protection of national minorities and the related rights to self-identification, the use of minority languages where necessary at local administrative level and the right to co-education in minority languages. Albania should protect and promote the cultural heritage, languages and traditions of its national minorities, and provide dedicated media space in state and local outlets in minority languages.
The climate for the functioning of civil society in Albania needs to be improved. The authorities must ensure meaningful, timely and representative consultations throughout the decision-making process at different governance levels and to enhance the legal and fiscal framework, thereby improving the financial sustainability of the non-governmental sector.
The ongoing measures as regards migration, asylum and trafficking are welcome. I call for further progress to be made in considerably reducing irregular migration and the number of unfounded asylum claims by Albanian nationals, including arrivals of unaccompanied minors, in the EU Member States.
I welcome the commitment of the authorities to withdraw the proposed draft amendments to the media law, and fully implement the Venice Commission’s recommendations of 19 June 2020 on all future proposals. The initially proposed measures under the so-called ‘anti-defamation package’ are of concern. Any revision of the media and communication laws should take place in a transparent and inclusive manner.