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, have ended their fact-finding mission to that country as part of their regular monitoring visits.
The co-rapporteurs’ visit took place against the background of the Democratic Party’s protests and boycott of the work of parliament. The co-rapporteurs reiterated their support for freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest, but called upon political forces to refrain from inciting violence or engaging in violent action.
According to the co-rapporteurs, boycotting the work of the parliament can by no means be considered as a correct political strategy, as parliament is the appropriate forum for political forces to engage in a dialogue and try to find a way out of the current situation. “Albania needs both the majority and the opposition during the reform process,” the rapporteurs said. “Therefore, any boycott will have serious negative consequences for the country,” they added.
The co-rapporteurs are concerned about this increased political tension in Albania, which is hindering the positive impetus for reforms that they witnessed during their October 2016 visit. The expectations of the Albanian people for a thorough and comprehensive reform of the judiciary must not be frustrated. This ongoing reform will have far-reaching implications for the country, notably concerning the independence and efficiency of the justice system, the fight against political interference in the judicial process and the fight against corruption and organised crime. Judicial vetting is of the utmost importance for creating an independent judiciary and it is essential that the process continues without delay. “All political forces should refrain from hampering this important development,” the co-rapporteurs underlined.
In a related matter, the co-rapporteurs consider it essential that the so-called decriminalisation legislation is duly implemented. The cleansing of public office of any link with criminal elements is crucial ahead of the forthcoming June general elections.
The elections are approaching and it is crucial that all political forces engage in the preparation of the electoral process so that elections can take place as constitutionally foreseen. Some of the concerns and shortcomings expressed by the opposition regarding the electoral legislation and practice were reflected in previous PACE reports and need to be taken into account and addressed jointly by all political forces. “We reiterate that the main issue regarding elections in Albania is the lack of political will among the main political stakeholders to implement the Electoral Code in good faith and their desire to politicise the electoral administration,” the co-rapporteurs said. “We would welcome any proposal agreed by consensus, in line with European standards, that would increase trust in the conduct of the elections,” they added.
Convinced that a renewed political dialogue is essential to the continued stability of Albania's democratic institutions and to the effectiveness and sustainability of reforms, the co-rapporteurs stand ready to assist all political forces, if they so wish, to help ensure the smooth functioning of democratic processes.
In Tirana, Mr Hunko and Mr O'Reilly met with the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, the Minister of Justice and the National Coordinator against corruption. They also met with the Chairman of the Democratic Party, the Ombudsman and the Chairman of the Central Election Commission. They had meetings with representatives of NGOs, 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 Committee on Electoral Reform and with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Committee of Education and Means of Information, as well as the Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights.