The co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of obligations and commitments by Albania, Asim Mollazada (Azerbaijan, EC/DA) and Ionut Stroe (Romania, EPP/CD), have welcomed the progress made since their last visit, despite continuing profound political polarisation in the country. At the same time, they underscored the need for more consistent implementation of key reforms that have already been adopted.
Ending a visit to Tirana from 25 to 29 September 2023, the co-rapporteurs said: “While we welcome the clear commitment to strengthening Albania’s democratic and rule of law institutions, we are concerned that political polarisation in the country remains undiminished. Together with the fragmentation of opposition forces, this is undermining parliamentary oversight and the proper functioning of the system of checks and balances which are essential for Albania’s democratic consolidation.” They urged the relevant political forces to address this issue as a matter of priority.
Regarding the judiciary, the rapporteurs welcomed the completion of the new judicial map, and the fact that the vetting procedure is due to be completed well before the legal deadlines. They expressed their hope that the commitment to judicial independence and efficiency is maintained by all stakeholders even after these important reforms – which are being implemented with the assistance of the international community – have been completed.
The co-rapporteurs strongly welcomed that the Specialised Structure for Anti-Corruption and Organised Crime (SPAK) was now fully in place and functional, with tangible results, including on high-level cases such as the so-called ‘incinerator scandal’. However, they insisted these bodies should be provided with the resources they need to carry out their work. They expressed some concern at the relatively low monetary threshold of corruption cases being referred to SPAK, which they feared could inundate it at the cost of its capacity to investigate higher-level cases of corruption. In this event, the co-rapporteurs said, the monetary threshold should be raised.
They welcomed the willingness of the authorities to address minority rights, including in the context of the ongoing census, but expressed concern at the implementation of recent legislation and strategies. While the 2017 Law for the Protection of Minorities is generally seen as a major step forward, key implementing legislation is still missing five years after its adoption – which renders its implementation ineffective. This should be resolved without delay.
During their stay in Albania the co-rapporteurs visited Fier, Vlore and Himara to see at first-hand the results of the administrative territorial reform that aimed to strengthen local self-government in the country, as well as the situation of minority communities in these areas. While understanding the sensitivity of the situation in Himara – and explicitly not wishing to comment on ongoing developments– they called on all stakeholders to ensure that the principles of due process and the rule of law are fully respected.