Following their visit to Albania from 26 to 30 October 2016, Andrej Hunko (Germany, UEL) and Joseph O'Reilly (Ireland, EPP/CD), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of obligations and commitments by Albania, welcomed the ongoing justice reform.
The co-rapporteurs applauded the adoption of the constitutional amendments paving the way for a thorough and comprehensive reform of the judiciary. Referring to Resolution 2019 (2014), the co-rapporteurs recalled that the insufficient independence and impartiality of the judiciary and the political pressure and interference had been longstanding concerns of the Assembly.
“The justice reform that addresses a longstanding desire by the majority of the Albanian people for justice that is accountable, independent and transparent, is also a major contribution to the fight against corruption and organised crime”, the co-rapporteurs said. “A swift adoption of the reform and its consequent implementation are now key factors for Albania and also important in view of the possible opening of EU accession negotiations”, they added.
The co-rapporteurs witnessed a tense political climate and stressed the importance of cooperation towards reforms in the interests of the people of Albania. “Political tensions ahead of the 2017 general election could hinder the implementation of structural reforms”, the co-rapporteurs stated. “The spirit of cooperation that led to the adoption of the constitutional amendments in July should continue in order to progress further with the reforms”, they added.
The co-rapporteurs discussed the preparation of the 2017 general elections and encouraged the political forces to work jointly towards the implementation of the outstanding OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.
In this context, the co-rapporteurs reiterated the concerns previously expressed by the Assembly with regard to the heavily politicised media environment, including in respect of the independence of the public broadcaster. They raised in particular the issue of the widespread self-censorship among journalists and deplored that editorial independence is often hampered by political influence.
Discussions also focused on the issue of property rights in the framework of the execution of the European Court’s pilot judgment concerning non-enforcement of domestic decisions awarding compensation for confiscated property, during which the co-rapporteurs referred to the Committee of Ministers’ decisions in this regard as well as the Venice Commission’s Amicus Curiae.
In Tirana, Mr Hunko and Mr O'Reilly met with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Justice and the Minister for Innovation and Public Administration. They also met with the Chairman of the Democratic Party, the President of the Constitutional Court, the Ombudsman, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Steering Board of the public broadcaster. They had meetings with representatives of NGOs, associations of former owners as well as with the international community. In parliament, they had discussions with the Albanian delegation to PACE, the co-chairs of the ad hoc Parliamentary Committees on Justice Reform and on Electoral Reform and with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Committee of Education and means of information.