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The honouring of obligations and commitments by Albania

Doc. 13586: collection of written amendments | Doc. 13586 | Final version

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ADraft Resolution

1Albania joined the Council of Europe on 29 June 1995. Upon its accession, Albania undertook to honour the obligations incumbent on all member States under Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe (ETS No. 1) with regard to pluralist democracy, the rule of law and human rights. In addition, it undertook to honour a number of specific commitments listed in Opinion 189 (1995) on the application by Albania for membership of the Council of Europe, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 29 June 1995. In conformity with the monitoring procedure, as established in Resolution 1115 (1997), the Assembly has regularly assessed Albania’s progress with regard to the honouring of its obligations and commitments.

In the draft resolution, before paragraph 1, insert the following paragraph:

"The Assembly welcomes the role of Albania as a factor for stability in the region."

In the draft resolution, before paragraph 1, insert the following paragraph:

"The Assembly welcomes the conclusions adopted by the European Council on 27 June 2014 to grant Albania candidate status and encourages the country to fulfill the key priorities."

2The Assembly welcomes the fact that Albania has recently made marked progress in honouring is obligations and commitments to the Council of Europe. It regrets in this context that many important reforms were delayed, or otherwise negatively affected, by the deep political crisis – including a de facto two-year boycott of the work of the parliament by the opposition – in the country following the 2009 parliamentary elections.
3The parliamentary elections in 2009 and, to a lesser extent, 2013, as well as the local elections in 2011, have underscored the continuing tense and polarised political climate in Albania, especially between the two main parties that dominate the political environment. The Assembly therefore welcomes the electoral reforms that have been implemented, in a generally consensual manner, to strengthen the electoral process and to address shortcomings noted during previous elections. With regard to electoral reform, the Assembly:

In the draft resolution, paragraph 3, after the second sentence, insert the following sentence: "However, the Assembly regrets that despite the next administrative elections being due in less than a year, in June 2015, the Albanian authorities have made no efforts to review the election legislation to address in a timely manner the Venice Commission recommendations, while three of the seven CEC membership positions remain vacant with no legal reason, hampering the body's functioning."

3.1calls on all political forces to agree on further electoral reform to address, in line with recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), the remaining concerns and ambiguities that make the election process vulnerable to possible misuse and obstruction;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 3.1, after the the word "further", insert the following word: "consensual".

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 3.1, insert the following paragraph:

"calls upon the political parties entitled by law to propose without further delay the candidacies for the three vacant seats in the CEC, for Parliament to appoint them in compliance with the legislation in force;".

3.2notes that the establishment of specialised centralised vote-counting centres has created long delays in the counting of votes, which can negatively affect public perception of the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections. The Assembly therefore recommends considerably increasing the number of centralised voting centres for future elections;
3.3notes that the election administration in reality remains divided along party lines, which hinders the effective and impartial conduct of the elections. It recommends that further reforms be implemented to ensure a genuine non-partisan election administration;
3.4emphasises that changes to the Election Code alone are not sufficient to resolve the recurrent shortcomings in the conduct of elections. This can only be achieved if the electoral reforms are accompanied by a change of attitude and practice of the main political stakeholders.
4The Assembly takes note of the parliamentary reforms that were consensually agreed upon between the ruling majority and the opposition with a view to ensuring the proper functioning of the parliament and fostering political dialogue. However, the Assembly underscores that constructive co-operation between the majority and the opposition, based on mutual respect for each other’s proper constitutional role and place in a democratic system, cannot be legislated via the rules of procedure alone. This also needs a change of attitude and the fostering of a culture of co-operation and democratic values by all concerned. In that respect, the Assembly regrets the continuing charged rhetoric and interaction between the opposition and governing parties. It urges the opposition not to resort to boycotting the work of the parliament or its committees and urges the ruling majority not to use its constitutional majority to bypass the opposition, and to seek consensus on important reforms whenever possible.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4, fifth sentence, after the word "It", insert the following words: "regrets the violence and threats on opposition members of parliament while it".

In the draft resolution, paragraph 4, after the fifth sentence, insert the following sentences: "The Assembly also urges the ruling majority to guarantee the parliamentary space and role provided by the Constitution to the opposition as well as the effective and unimpeded use of parliamentary oversight instruments, including parliamentary investigative committees. Measures should be taken to avoid violence and threats in the Assembly."

5The Assembly welcomes the diverse and pluralist media environment in Albania. However, it regrets that the media environment is heavily politicised, including in respect of the public broadcaster. With regard to the media environment, the Assembly:
5.1calls on all political forces to further reform of the public broadcaster with a view to ensuring its independence and impartiality and to adopt a new composition formula for the National Council of Radio and Television that will foster an independent and pluralist media environment;

01 October 2014

Tabled by Mr Oerd BYLYKBASHI, Mr Francesco Maria GIRO, Mr Pedro AGRAMUNT, Mr José María BENEYTO, Mr Hans FRANKEN

If adopted, amendment 19 falls.

Votes: 38 in favor 0 against 1 abstention

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.1, replace the words "adopt a new composition formula for the National Council of Radio and Television that will foster an independent and pluralist media environment" with the following words: "adopt consensually a new composition formula for the National Council of Radio and Television that will foster an independent and pluralist media environment, as well as to refrain from removing leading officials appointed by previous legislatures;"

01 October 2014

Tabled by Ms Valentina LESKAJ, Mr Petrit VASILI, Mr Pierre-Yves LE BORGN', Mr Ömer SELVİ, Ms Tülin ERKAL KARA

Falls if amendment 13 is adopted.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.1, replace the words "to adopt a new composition formula for the National Council of Radio and Television" with the following words: "for the implementation of the new law on audiovisual media in the Republic of Albania".

5.2urges the authorities to ensure that government advertising is not awarded to media outlets on the basis of political affiliation;
5.3welcomes the increased transparency of media ownership in Albania as a result of the establishment of the National Business Registration Centre;
5.4welcomes the abolition of prison sentences for defamation and the abolishment of special protection against defamation for specific categories of people. However, it regrets that defamation has not been decriminalised in its entirety, which can still have a chilling effect on journalists and lead them to practise self-censorship. It therefore calls on the parliament to fully decriminalise defamation in line with Council of Europe standards.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5.4, first sentence, after the words "sentences for", insert the following words: "insult and".

6In the view of the Assembly, a non-partisan and impartial civil service is crucial for the functioning of democratic institutions in Albania. The Assembly takes note of the delay in the implementation of the Law on the Civil Service, which provides inter alia for strict merit-based rules for the hiring and dismissal of civil servants. This controversial delay, together with the large-scale personnel changes at all levels of the civil service that were initiated when the new government came into power, are an indication of the politicisation of the civil service and attempts to bring it under party control. The Assembly regrets the politicisation at all levels of the civil service, and calls on all parties to refrain from action that undermines the effective functioning of government institutions and public trust in their impartiality.
7The Assembly welcomes the priority given by the new authorities to administrative–territorial reform and the strengthening of local self-government as a main pillar of the democratic consolidation of Albanian society. It welcomes the establishment of a parliamentary ad hoc committee, on the basis of equal participation of the ruling majority and the opposition, to prepare this reform. In the view of the Assembly, this should be seen as a signal that the authorities intend to draw up these important reforms on the basis of a wide consensus between the political forces in the country. In that respect, the Assembly regrets the decision of the opposition to boycott the work of this committee and urges them to reconsider their position. With regard to the planned administrative–territorial reform, the Assembly:

01 October 2014

Tabled by Mr Oerd BYLYKBASHI, Mr Francesco Maria GIRO, Mr Pedro AGRAMUNT, Mr José María BENEYTO, Mr Hans FRANKEN

Votes: 33 in favor 0 against 2 abstentions

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 7 with the following paragraph:

"The Assembly welcomes the priority given by the new authorities and the support expressed by the opposition to administrative-territorial reform and the strengthening of local self-government as a main pillar of the democratic consolidation of Albanian society. The Assembly considers that a comprehensive, inclusive and consensual administrative-territorial reform that encompasses both functions of local authorities and their territorial boundaries is a solid foundation for the further development of democracy in Albania. It welcomes the establishment of a special parliamentary ad hoc committee, on the basis of equal participation of the ruling majority and opposition, to prepare the administrative-territorial reform. In the view of the Assembly, this should be seen as a signal that the authorities intend to draw up these important reforms on the basis of a wide consensus between the political forces in the country. The Assembly takes note of the concerns voiced by the opposition on gerrymandering and other election-related malpractices in the re-districting prior to the 2015 administrative elections. In addition, while timely, there is concern that the reform was mostly focused on the administrative division of the country and less on the functional aspects of local self-government. As a result, this reform is controversial. In that respect, the Assembly regrets the decision of the opposition to boycott the work of this committee. With regard to the administrative-territorial reform, the Assembly:"

7.1welcomes the proposal of the authorities to reduce the number of local government units, with a view to ensuring stronger and more efficient municipalities that are viable units of self-government;

01 October 2014

Tabled by Mr Oerd BYLYKBASHI, Mr Francesco Maria GIRO, Mr Pedro AGRAMUNT, Mr José María BENEYTO, Mr Hans FRANKEN

Votes: 31 in favor 2 against 1 abstention

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 7.1, insert the following words: "but expresses its concern for the immediate reduction from 373 local government units to 61 and its potential impact on local democracy;".

7.2encourages the authorities to further develop a comprehensive strategy for the effective functioning of local government units, including on the financing of the services they are expected to deliver, with a view to reducing their dependency on the central government;
7.3recommends that the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of Local Government be amended to ensure the full accountability of mayors to their city councils;
7.4welcomes, and encourages the authorities to continue, the initiatives to ensure that the administrative–territorial reform is inclusive and consensual, not only between the ruling majority and the opposition, but also between central government and the local authorities concerned. In this context, it calls on the opposition to fully participate in the work of the ad hoc committee of the parliament on administrative–territorial reform.

01 October 2014

Tabled by Mr Oerd BYLYKBASHI, Mr Francesco Maria GIRO, Mr Martin FRONC, Mr Pedro AGRAMUNT, Mr José María BENEYTO

Falls if amendment 21 is adopted.

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 7.4 with the following paragraph:

"regrets the missed opportunity to ensure that the administrative-territorial reform is inclusive and consensual, not only between the ruling majority and the opposition but also between central government and the local authorities concerned."

01 October 2014

Tabled by Ms Valentina LESKAJ, Mr Petrit VASILI, Mr Pierre-Yves LE BORGN', Mr Ömer SELVİ, Ms Tülin ERKAL KARA

If adopted, amendment 16 falls.

In the draft resolution, delete paragraph 7.4.

8The Assembly is concerned that, despite numerous reforms, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary is not sufficiently ensured and that it continues to suffer from political pressure and interference. Further comprehensive reforms, including changes to the Constitution, to ensure the independence of the judiciary and an efficient administration of justice are urgently needed and should be a priority for the authorities. With regard to the reform of the justice system and the judiciary, the Assembly in particular:

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8, second sentence, after the word "comprehensive", insert the following words: "inclusive, consensual and transparent".

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8, after the second sentence, insert the following sentences: "The Assembly notes with concern that recent controversial changes to the legislation on the High Council of Justice and other important pieces of legislation on the judiciary were introduced in an expedited, non-comprehensive manner, without consensus and transparent consultations, as well as without seeking the advice of the Venice Commission."

8.1expresses its concern about the widespread and systemic corruption, at all levels of the judiciary, which undermines the efficiency and impartiality of this institution;
8.2encourages the authorities to reform the Supreme Court and High Council of Justice in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, especially with regard to disciplinary and appointment procedures;
8.3urges the authorities to revise the appointment and disciplinary procedures with a view to reducing their vulnerability to politicisation and political interference, which undermines the impartiality of the judiciary;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8.3, after the word “judiciary” insert the following words: “as well as to refrain from any action that could undermine the independence of the judiciary”.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.3, insert the following paragraph:

"urges the authorities to implement fully and without delays the Constitutional Court and other court decisions;"

8.4welcomes the close co-operation sought by the authorities with the Venice Commission in reforming the justice system and the judiciary and urges the authorities to quickly implement their recommendations.

In this draft resolution, paragraph 8.4, after the words "urges the authorities”, insert the following words: “to seek in due time its advice on all changes introduced and”.

9The persistent and endemic corruption at all levels of Albanian society undermines the country’s democratic and socio-economic development and is a major concern of the Assembly. In this respect, the Assembly regrets that, despite a recent increase in prosecutions, most indicators show that corruption has actually been increasing instead of diminishing in recent years, which indicates that measures and strategies to fight corruption have until now achieved only limited results. With regard to the fight against corruption, the Assembly:

In the draft resolution, paragraph 9, replace the words "despite a recent increase in prosecutions" with the following words: "despite an increase in prosecutions during the reporting period".

01 October 2014

Tabled by Ms Valentina LESKAJ, Mr Petrit VASILI, Mr Pierre-Yves LE BORGN', Mr Ömer SELVİ, Ms Tülin ERKAL KARA, Mr Şaban DİŞLİ

Votes: 34 in favor 1 against 1 abstention

In the draft resolution, paragraph 9, first sentence, replace the words "The persistent and endemic corruption at all levels of Albanian society" with the following words: "Corruption remains a concern which".

9.1welcomes the adoption of constitutional amendments and changes to the Criminal Procedure Code that limit the immunity of members of government, MPs, judges and high-level State officials, and allow for their investigation and prosecution without prior authorisation. It urges the authorities to swiftly adopt all further implementing legislation needed to efficiently enforce the constitutional amendments;
9.2calls on all political forces in Albania to show the commensurate political will to fully and effectively implement a coherent and effective anti-corruption strategy, and to make sufficient resources available for its implementation;
9.3regrets the recent developments which call into question the independence of the High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets. The Assembly calls on the authorities to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to this institution, which is an important instrument in the fight against corruption. In addition, it urges the authorities to ensure that all findings of violations of the Law on the Declaration of Assets are promptly followed up by the prosecution services;

01 October 2014

Tabled by Ms Valentina LESKAJ, Mr Petrit VASILI, Mr Pierre-Yves LE BORGN', Mr Ömer SELVİ, Ms Tülin ERKAL KARA, Mr Şaban DİŞLİ

Votes: 34 in favor 3 against 0 abstention

In the draft resolution, paragraph 9.3, replace the first sentence with the following sentence: "welcomes the recent amendments to the law on the declaration and audit of assets and prevention of public interest in exercising public functions, which aim to increase the transparency of public officials and to strengthen the institutional role of the High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets."

9.4welcomes the progress reported by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) with regard to the adoption of anti-corruption legislation and urges the authorities to ensure that this legislation is now fully and effectively implemented.
10The Assembly takes note of the high number of cases pending against Albania with the European Court of Human Rights. They have revealed a persistent and structural deficiency with regard to the enforcement of domestic court decisions and a lack of effective remedy. In this respect, the Assembly welcomes the recent adoption of an action plan to implement the general measures demanded by the pilot judgement in the case of Manushaqe Puto and Others v. Albania. It urges the authorities to explore all possibilities to reduce as much as possible the delay in the implementation of this action plan, as also called for by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 10, second sentence, after the word "decisions", insert the following words: ", including decisions of the Constitutional Court,".

11The Assembly welcomes the marked progress made with regard to strengthening human rights protection mechanisms in Albania, as well as the signing and ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210). It asks the competent authorities to take all appropriate measures to counter the recent increase in blood feuds and revenge killings, which are a cause for concern.
12The Assembly welcomes the efforts of the authorities to improve prison conditions and reduce overcrowding. However, it is deeply concerned by reports of ill-treatment of detainees by the police during questioning and by the appalling conditions in detention facilities in police establishments. It calls on the Albanian authorities to urgently remedy this situation.
13With regard to the protection of minority rights and combating discrimination, and recognising the overall improvements achieved in this respect, the Assembly:
13.1recommends that the Albanian Parliament adopt a more flexible and adequate system for the recognition of national and ethnic minorities;
13.2urges the parliament to adopt a comprehensive law on minorities;
13.3welcomes the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and encourages the authorities to consistently and coherently implement its provisions;
13.4regrets that Albania has neither signed nor ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ETS No. 148), despite this being an explicit accession commitment. The Assembly calls on the authorities to honour this accession commitment without further delay.
14The Assembly welcomes the active and effective role played by the national Ombudsperson in Albania. It calls on the authorities to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to his office to carry out its work and asks the Albanian Parliament to systematically and consistently place both special and statutory reports of the Ombudsperson on the parliamentary agenda for debate.
15Despite the progress achieved in the honouring of Albania’s membership obligations and accession commitments, serious concerns remain, in particular with regard to the impartiality of democratic institutions and the civil service, the independence of the judiciary and the fight against endemic corruption in Albania. Concrete action by all stakeholders, the authorities and the opposition is needed to ensure that all the membership obligations and accession commitments are fully honoured. In this respect, the Assembly emphasises that it is crucial that the many reforms and legislative packages that have been adopted also be actually implemented in order to effectively address the concerns noted by, inter alia, the Assembly. Against this background, the Assembly resolves to continue to monitor the honouring of obligations and commitments by Albania.