The European Union Council of Ministers has decided to demand from Albanian authorities to insure sustainable dialogue with the opposition, warning that this is a crucial condition for the country to move toward EU accession.
The resolution approved in Brussels, alongside the points made public on the reform in the justice system and war against organized crime, also has several other points, which are seen by the EU as clear conditions for the advancement of Albania toward its aspiration for EU accession.
“The Council notes that consistent and constructive dialogue between the government and the opposition on EU-related reforms remains crucial to advance on the reform agenda to the benefit of the citizens, and move the country closer to the EU”, is stated on the point that talks about the dialogue of the sides.
The Council has also imposed dialogue on the electoral reform as a condition, appealing for it to be delivered through the consensus between majority and opposition.
“This will be of particular relevance also to finalize electoral reform, addressing outstanding recommendations by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, sufficiently ahead of the next round of parliamentary elections, to ensure they are conducted in line with the relevant international standards”, further states this point on the dialogue between government and opposition. Meanwhile, another point of the report talks about the relations between Albania and neighboring countries: “The Council welcomes Albania’s continued constructive engagement in regional cooperation and underlines the importance of ensuring good neighborly relations, which remain essential. Actions and statements which negatively impact on good neighborly relations should be avoided”.
It seems that the point above is the EU’s message about the constant aggravation of relations between Albania and Greece.
The other point of the resolution also talks about relations with the neighboring countries, seeking a treatment with standards of minorities. Therefore, the resolution also includes property rights. The resolution stops on the recent incidents in Himara, where owners of several homes and businesses, who were notified about their demolition, objected the government’s plan for a community project, which according to them damages these individuals.
“The Council reiterates the need for effective legislative and policy measures to reinforce the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination policies, including the equal treatment of all minorities and access to rights for persons belonging to them throughout Albania, as well as to efficiently implement property rights. In this context, the Council calls on Albania to address relevant legal gaps”.
The EU Foreign Ministers gathered in Brussels on Tuesday and approved the resolution on Albania. The EU believes that the opening of accession talks will depend on the concrete results of the five key priorities. The launch of talks will not be conditioned by the date, as the Commission may launch this process as soon as it notices progress in the criteria that it imposes.
Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia’s Foreign Minister said that the Council and Commission will closely follow the developments in Albania. “The first priority goes toward the application of the legislation and secondly, it goes toward respecting values, standards and principles including the holding of free and honest elections. We are ready to consider Albania’s progress at any moment when we see sufficient facts and proof of the progress”.
The Resolution of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union will receive the final approval by the Summit of the heads of the EU Governments, which gathers tomorrow on 15 December in Brussels.
The full resolution
The Council welcomes the major step Albania has taken through the pivotal constitutional amendments unanimously adopted in July 2016, by launching a process for thorough and comprehensive reform of the judicial system.
The Council takes positive note of steady progress towards fulfilling the five key priorities for the opening of accession negotiations and encourages Albania to continue work and consolidate the achievements.
The Council takes positive note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with Albania, subject to credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the justice reform, in particular the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors.
Recalling its earlier Council conclusions, including those of December 2015, the Council reiterates that a sustained, comprehensive and inclusive implementation of all five key priorities has to be ensured before the opening of accession negotiations. The Council invites the Commission to report on Albania in addition to the Enlargement Package and will revert to Albania once sufficient progress has been made.
The Council encourages Albania to pursue the comprehensive and thorough justice reform, aimed at increased professionalism, efficiency and independence of the judicial system, including the court system, including through carrying out the re-evaluation of all the members of the judiciary.
Justice reform remains key to the rule of law and could be transformative also for other areas.
The Council welcomes that a positive trend can be noted towards establishing a solid track record of pro-active investigations, prosecutions and final convictions in the fight against corruption and organised crime and stresses the importance for Albania to achieve tangible and sustainable results.
The Council underlines that Albania needs to intensify its efforts in these areas and ensure that results in the fight against corruption are achieved also at high level, as well as that more effective results in dismantling organised criminal networks and addressing drug production and trafficking need to be also progressively secured.
The very low level of convictions for organised crime offences, including in money laundering and human trafficking cases, remains an issue to be addressed with targeted measures, including strengthened police/prosecutor cooperation and appropriate financial investigations.
The Council notes progress in fighting radicalisation, extremism and terrorism and encourages to further pursue efforts. In order to support the implementation of judicial reform, the Commission is invited to intensify its technical engagement with Albania in the area of rule of law.
The Council reiterates the need for effective legislative and policy measures to reinforce the protection of human rights and anti-discrimination policies, including the equal treatment of all minorities and access to rights for persons belonging to them throughout Albania, as well as to efficiently implement property rights. In this context, the Council calls on Albania to address relevant legal gaps.
The Council commends the adoption by unanimity of a law “Ensuring the Legitimacy of Elected Persons, Nominated or Exercising Public Functions” and related constitutional amendments. Implementation of this framework, which provides for the exclusion of criminal offenders from public offices, is key to enhance citizens’ trust in political representatives and public institutions.
The Council reiterates that Albania should continue reforms aimed at increasing competitiveness and addressing informal economy and encourages Albania to further improve the business and investment environment and vigorously pursue fiscal consolidation.
The Council notes that consistent and constructive dialogue between the government and the opposition on EU-related reforms remains crucial to advance on the reform agenda to the benefit of the citizens, and move the country closer to the EU.
This will be of particular relevance also to finalise electoral reform, addressing outstanding recommendations by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, sufficiently ahead of the next round of parliamentary elections, to ensure they are conducted in line with the relevant international standards.
The Council welcomes Albania’s continued constructive engagement in regional cooperation and underlines the importance of ensuring good neighbourly relations, which remain essential. Actions and statements which negatively impact on good neighbourly relations should be avoided.
The Council also commends Albania’s continued full alignment with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.