|DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage||45.83 100|
|DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score||3.75 7|
- Civil society rating declined from 5.00 to 4.75 due to violence between protestors and security services in May, during the contentious demolition of the National Theater in Tirana, and in December, after a citizen was fatally shot by police for violating a COVID-19 curfew order.
- Independent Media rating declined from 3.75 to 3.50, reflecting the legal and rhetorical harassment of independent journalists by politicians and powers brokers, as well as intimidation and prosecution of journalists for allegedly spreading panic.
As a result, Albania’s Democracy Score declined from 3.82 to 3.75.
By Gjergji Vurmo
Albanian democracy struggled during 2020, with attacks on civil society institutions and independent media. The government moved forward with the vetting of judges and prosecutors, nominated the first judges of the Supreme Court, elected another three members of the Constitutional Court, and appointed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director and a functional Special Anti-Corruption Structure (SPAK). On March 25, the European Union (EU) Council decided to greenlight the opening of accession negotiations with Albania, conditional upon fulfilment of 15 conditions. However, the first intergovernmental conference did not take place in 2020 as many hoped, as the government did not meet conditions laid out by the EU, such as aligning media law amendments with the Venice Commission’s recommendations.
The political climate in Albania was tense in 2020. After the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) boycotted the parliament in February 2019, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary political actors (representatives of the boycotting parties)1 worked together to build consensus on electoral reform. Such consensus was reached on June 5, 2020 and further materialized with the legal amendments to the electoral code on July 23. However, the ruling Socialist Party (SP) further amended the constitution on July 30 and the electoral code on October 5—without consensus from the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI)— though they did not fully open party candidate-lists for parliamentary elections, a change that was supported by over 70 percent of the population.2 A joint report from the Venice Commission and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found that the SP’s amendments and electoral reforms were adopted hastily, and that “the constitutional amendments went against the most basic rules of democratic law-making.”3
President Ilir Meta became a more active political agent in 2020. His actions were unusual for the head of state, who constitutionally represents “the unity of the people.” In March, President Meta organized an antigovernment rally and accused Prime Minister Edi Rama of attempting a putsch through the justice system, links with international organized crime, and attacks on the constitution.4 Later, in view of the opinion of the Venice Commission, the Parliament dropped impeachment charges against the President.5
The Albanian economy suffered a sharp recession due to the impact of the November 2019 earthquake in the districts of Durres, Tirana, and Kruja, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, for which a state-of-emergency and national lockdown were declared.
The government took advantage of the pandemic to suppress civil society actions, restrict civil liberties,6 and pursue questionable legal initiatives that affected nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), without consulting civil society.7 The government showed a generally hostile attitude towards citizens’ activism, witnessed in the raids and demolition of the National Theater building in Tirana8 and the excessive use of force against protesters on several occasions. Restrictions related to the coronavirus seriously curtailed the general civic space and citizens’ rights, including the right to protest.9 Citizens and civil society activists faced hefty fines of up to 5 million Albanian lek ($44,770) for participating in public demonstrations that violated COVID-19 restrictions.10 The year ended with a wave of protests against police brutality that led to the resignation of the Minister of the Interior.1112
The government did not make progress in fostering a supportive environment for civil society. They ignored calls to improve the legal framework of public consultation and its meaningful enactment, and they persistently discouraged activism and participatory decision-making processes.13
Media independence declined in 2020, as the public choice for reliable independent media outlets was further restricted. A few economically and politically powerfully individuals control the media industry. Journalists routinely experience threats, intimidation, and attacks,14 and have thus been unable to provide counterweight to the shrinking civic space and declining democratic institutions. Defamation legislation and the government’s contracting of a private company (Acromax Media GmbH) to remove journalistic content online15 have further restricted the space for independent reporting.
Concerns over accountability, transparency and the capacity of local governing bodies to deliver quality services remained pressing matters in 2020. While the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted municipalities’ budgets, their spending and procurement procedures raised even more serious concerns of misuse and clientelism.16
Justice reform progressed smoothly albeit at a snail’s pace, as in previous years. The Appeal Chamber has unified the practices of the judicial vetting process, which has reviewed 286 dossiers out of nearly 800 prosecutors and judges in the Albanian judicial system. Three new judges were appointed to Supreme Court, and the parliament and president appointed another three members to the Constitutional Court, filling seven out of the nine total seats. However, the new institutions of the justice system missed an opportunity to show that high-profile politicians and officials will no longer enjoy impunity for wrongdoing. The SPAK transferred prominent cases of electoral fraud in the Durres 2017 election and the Dibra 2016 elections to local prosecutor offices, which have neither the resources nor the backing to bring to court high-profile political representatives. The Appeal Chamber of the SPAK returned the case of former minister of the interior Saimir Tahiri to the Court of First Instance for retrial.17 Additionally, the Court of First Instance in Tirana dismissed the case against the elected mayor of Shkodra, Valdrin Pjetri,18 who resigned after his criminal past was exposed a few days after his election.19
Worrisome trends were observed in relation to corruption. There is an alarmingly high level of state capture and business pressure on the government.20 Evidence from independent reporters suggests that lawmakers have tailored legislation to serve private interests of powerful individuals, and that laws are implemented in a biased manner. These challenges require deep structural changes and a reset of the anticorruption and integrity-building strategies in Albania.
On April 25, 2021, Albania will hold general elections that are significant for a number of reasons. The conduct of the elections will likely be crucial for Albania’s accession negotiations with the EU, while they will finally put an end to the opposition’s two-year boycott. However, the general elections will occur after the SP government’s introduction of unilateral changes to the constitution and electoral code. Furthermore, court cases against the SP’s 2017 electoral manipulation and SP officials’ cooperation with organized crime groups have not advanced in proceedings, which could suggest that wrongdoing will repeat in the 2021 elections.
- 1. In February 2019, Albanian opposition parties resigned en bloc from the parliament following the publication of wiretaps revealing that SP government officials and ministers had cooperated with criminal groups in vote buying. Opposition parliamentarians who relinquished their mandates were swiftly replaced by candidates who rejected their parties’ decision to resign. As a result, in the past two years Albania faced an unusual situation with a formal opposition in the parliament, and a political opposition parties outside the parliament, here called the extra-parliamentary opposition. See “Nations in Transit 2020 – Albania” available at https://freedomhouse.org/country/albania/nations-transit/2020.
- 2. “Albania: NDI public opinion research reveals how to strengthen public engagement in politics”, 18 December 2020. Source: https://www.ndi.org/publications/albania-ndi-public-opinion-research-re….
- 3. Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR on the amendments to the Constitution of 30 July 2020 and to the Electoral Code of 5 October 2020, approved by the Council for Democratic Elections at its 70th meeting (online, 10 December 2020) and adopted by the Venice Commission at its 125th Plenary Session (online, 11-12 December 2020), page 3 and 7. Source: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2020)036-e .
- 4. “Tiranë: Protesta e presidentit kundër qeverisë” (Tirana: President’s protest against the government), Ani Ruci, DW in Albania, 28 February 2020. Source: https://www.dw.com/sq/tiran%C3%AB-protesta-e-presidentit-kund%C3%ABr-qe…
- 5. “Kuvendi mblidhet në seancë plenare. Miratohet raporti final i Komisionit Hetimor për mosshkarkimin e Presidentit të Republikës” (Parliament in plenary session. Final report of the investigative Committee on the non-dismissal of the President of the Republic is adopted), Parliament of Albania 27 July 2020. Source: https://www.parlament.al/News/Index/10294
- 6. See media reports on the oilmen’s protest on 17 September 2020. Source: https://www.oranews.tv/foto-protesta-para-ministrise-se-energjitikes-po….
- 7. See “Request for a public hearing with CSOs representatives on the draft law on the registration of NGOs” (20 October 2020), available at http://resourcecentre.al/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Per-projektligjin-P….
- 8. See Ombudsman’s report on the illegal actions of the state police during and after the demolition of the National Theater, date 17 November 2020. Source: https://www.avokatipopullit.gov.al/media/manager/website/media/Rekomand…
- 9. See ETS No.046 “Withdrawal of Derogation contained in the Note Verbale No. 129/20 of the Permanent Representation of Albania, dated 24 June 2020, registered at the Secretariat General on 24 June 2020 - Or. Engl.” Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/search-on-reservations-and-decla…
- 10. Protestuan kundër planeve të ndërtimit të HEC-it të Skavicës, policia gjobit 10 milionë lekë organizatorët (They protested against plans for Skavica hydropower plant, 10 milion leke fine by police), Sami Curri, reporter.al 3 December 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/protestuan-kunder-planeve-te-ndertimit-te-hec-i….
- 11. “Albania's interior minister resigns after protests over fatal police shooting” Matthew Holroyd, 11 December 2020, Euronews. Source: https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/09/albanian-interior-minister-under-pr…
- 12. “Albanians protest after police shot dead a man for violating coronavirus curfew” Reuters 9 December 2020. Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-albania-protests/…
- 13. “Albania: Police attack and arrest journalists covering protests” IFJ (International Federation of Journalists), 16 December 2020. Source: https://www.ifj.org/es/centro-de-medios/noticias/detalle/category/press…
- 14. See DW footage of police violence against journalist Alfred Lela https://www.facebook.com/dw.shqip/videos/239362877391693/.
- 15. “A German company is responsible for the deletion of videos critical of the Albanian government” NetzPolitik.org 19 March 2020. Source: https://netzpolitik.org/2020/a-german-company-is-responsible-for-the-de…
- 16. “Map of Albania Oligarchs – Names of those who have received MILLIONS OF EUROS from Albanians’ taxpayers”, Albanian Institute of science (15 October 2020). Source: http://ais.al/new/en/joq-harta-e-oligarkeve-te-shqiperise-emrat-qe-kane…
- 17. “Apeli kthen për rigjykim çështjen ndaj ish-ministrit Tahiri” (Former minister Tahiri’s case returned at appeal chamber for retrial) Euronews Albania 26 June 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/06/26/vendimi-ndaj-ish-ministrit…
- 18. “Gjykata e Tiranës pushon çështjen penale ndaj Valdrin Pjetrit” (Tirana court dismisses penal case against Valdrin Pjetri), Edmond Hoxhaj Reporter.al 2 December 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/gjykata-e-tiranes-pushon-ceshtjen-penale-ndaj-v…
- 19. Albania Mayor Resigns as Drug Dealing Past is Exposed, Gjergj Erebara BalkanInsight 19 August 2019. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/15/socialist-mayor-of-shkodra-resigns….
- 20. See “State Capture Assessment Diagnostics in the Western Balkans 2020: Risks and Policy Options”, SELDI Policy Brief no 10, July 2020. Source: https://seldi.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/SELDI_Policy_Brief_State_C….
|Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches.||3.253 7.007|
- A highly polarized political discourse again dominated Albania’s political climate in 2020. Unlike in 2019, when the opposition took to the streets and abandoned the state’s institutions, efforts were made to restore institutionalized dialogue. The Political Council was established on January 14, 2020, gathering representatives of the ruling SP, the parliamentary opposition, and the extra-parliamentary opposition—representatives of the DP and the SMI who had boycotted the parliament.1 The main goal of the Council was to further the discussion on electoral reform through broad consensus among political parties and to shape agreements between parties to amend the electoral code.
- Following several rounds of negotiations, and with the support and mediation of international partners including the EU, the United States, and the United Kingdom, the Political Council reached an agreement on electoral reform on June 5.2 On July 23, the parliament voted to confirm the agreed upon amendments, which included changes to the regulation of the electronic identification of voters, the structure of the Central Elections Committee (CEC), the electoral college and appeal process, and other vote-process management and counting issues.3 However, on July 30, the SP majority in the parliament unilaterally adopted further amendments that were not agreed upon through the Political Council. International actors expressed disappointment that they altered the electoral rules without consensus, but emphasized that the June 5 agreement had not been breached.4
- A 2019 impeachment procedure against President Meta initiated by the SP concluded in July 2020. In line with Venice Commission’s opinion,5 the parliament found that the president’s alleged malfeasance did not necessarily warrant an impeachment.6 In March, President Meta accused the government of attempting a putsch and organized a rally to protest the SP’s actions.7 Harsh accusations were exchanged between President Meta and Prime Minister Rama throughout the year.8
- Accountability of the central government and the parliament remained weak, due to the lack of a functional Constitutional Court and a true parliamentary opposition. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic was followed by swift executive decrees, which were later confirmed by the parliament. In 2020, the government adopted the most decrees of any year on record. While most of them related to the emergencies brought on by the 2019 earthquake and COVID-19, the government pushed forward other policies, about which civil society actors voiced serious concerns.9
- Albanian authorities notified a derogation from the obligations under the Convention for the Protection of Human and Fundamental Freedoms when they instituted COVID-19 emergency measures that restricted civil liberties.10 However, even after they withdrew the derogation, the right to protest and assemble continued to be curtailed throughout the year.11 Civil society groups claimed that the government used the pandemic-induced state-of-emergency as an excuse to introduce unnecessary restrictions while circumventing the parliament.12 The Institute for Democracy and Mediation’s (IDM) report, “Audit of political engagement in Albania 2020,” found that while Albanians are highly critical of the parliament’s overall performance, they remain divided on its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.13
- In March, the Council of the European Union agreed to open membership negotiations with Albania, conditional upon fulfilment of a number of institutional changes related to electoral, judicial, and public administration reform, as well as improvements in fighting corruption and organized crime, and the strength of the country’s independent media environment.14
- Albania’s economy experienced two crises within a short time frame: the late 2019 earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted an economic decline of 7.5 percent and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) foresaw a real GDP growth of -9 percent decline.15
- 1. “Zgjedhorja”/ Formohet “Këshilli Politik”, Gjiknuri: Të gatshëm për rekomandimet e opozitës” (“Electoral Reform / ‘Political Council’ established, Gjiknuri: We are ready for opposition’s recommendations”) Top Channel, 14 January 2020. See https://top-channel.tv/2020/01/14/zgjedhorja-formohet-keshilli-politik-…
- 2. “Reforma Zgjedhore, arrihet marrëveshja mes palëve” (“Electoral reform, Parties reach an agreement”) A2CNN, 5 June 2020. Source: https://a2news.com/2020/06/05/keshilli-politik-a2-zbulon-ceshtjet-e-dak…
- 3. “Reforma zgjedhore/ Kuvendi miraton me 99 vota marrëveshjen e 5 qershorit” (Electoral reform / The parliament adopt 5th June agreement by 99 votes), Gjergji Mima, Albanian Telegraphic Agency – ATA, 23 July 2020. Source: https://ata.gov.al/2020/07/23/reforma-zgjedhore-kuvendi-miraton-me-99-v…
- 4. See statement of the Unite States Embassy in Tirana, available at https://al.usembassy.gov/u-s-embassy-statement-57/ and EU Delegation reaction on Twitter at https://twitter.com/EUinAlbania/status/1313181626642378759. Similarly, European Commission’s Albania 2020 Report noted that the July 30 “amendments that are unrelated to the implementation of the OSCE/ODHIR recommendations required further amendments to the electoral code which were discussed among parties in the Political Council, but without reaching a compromise before the Parliament voted on them on 5 October.” See European Commission (EC) Albania 2020 Report (6 October 2020) page 4. Source https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 5. See Venice Commission Opinion on scope of power of the President to set the date of elections (959/2019 - Albania), page 19. Source: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2019)019-e.
- 6. “Kuvendi mblidhet në seancë plenare. Miratohet raporti final i Komisionit Hetimor për mosshkarkimin e Presidentit të Republikës” (Parliament in plenary session. Final report of the investigative Committee on the non-dismissal of the President of the Republic is adopted), Parliament of Albania 27 July 2020. Source: https://www.parlament.al/News/Index/10294
- 7. “Në mbrojtje të Kushtetutës”, mesazhet që Ilir Meta dha në tubimin e 2 marsit” (Defending the constitution, Ilir Meta’s messages at the rally of 2 March) ABCNews.al 2 March 2020. Source: https://abcnews.al/ne-mbrojtje-te-kushtetutes-mesazhet-qe-ilir-meta-dha…
- 8. “President Meta and PM Rama exchange accusations over alleged criminal ties” EuroNews Albania 9 October 2020, Source: https://euronews.al/en/politics/2020/10/09/president-meta-and-pm-rama-e…
- 9. ““Të rrëzohet anti-KÇK” - Organizatat e shoqërisë civile thirrje parlamentit për reflektim” (Reject anti-KCK – Civil society organisations call on parliament to reflect), euronews Albania 4 march 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/03/04/te-rrezohet-anti-kck-organ…
- 10. https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list/-/conventions/treaty/0…
- 11. See ETC 046 “Withdrawal of Derogation contained in the Note Verbale No. 129/20 of the Permanent Representation of Albania, dated 24 June 2020, registered at the Secretariat General on 24 June 2020 - Or. Engl.” Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/search-on-reservations-and-decla….
- 12. See “COVID-19 in Albania: democratic governance put to the test” Redion Qirjazi & Alban Dafa, Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) 6 July 2020. Source: https://idmalbania.org/tales-of-region-albania/. See also “Shoqëria civile bën thirrje për qeverisje të përgjegjshme gjatë COVID-19” (Civil society urges for responsible governance during Covid-19), Nensi Bogdani, Reporter.al 6 May 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/shoqeria-civile-ben-thirrje-per-qeverisje-te-pe…
- 13. “Audit of Political engagement in Albania 2020”, a national survey implemented by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) with the support of the National Democratic Institute – NDI Tirana office. See ”Albania: NDI public opinion research reveals how to strengthen public engagement in politics”, 18 December 2020. Source: https://www.ndi.org/publications/albania-ndi-public-opinion-research-re….
- 14. See “Commission welcomes the green light to opening of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia”, EC 25 March 2020. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_20_519.
- 15. See EBRD Regional Economic Prospects” September 2020, page 3. Source: https://www.ebrd.com/cs/Satellite?c=Content&cid=1395293123517&d=&pagena…. See also, “IMF Growth Forecasts for Albania Decrease” Exit.al 29 September 2020. Source: https://exit.al/en/2020/09/29/imf-growth-forecasts-for-albania-decrease/
|Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process.||4.254 7.007|
- In 2020, Albania addressed part of the OSCE’s recommendations for improving elections. The passage of electoral reform, while partly positive, also included amendments that were added without the agreement of the opposition. Conclusions from the March EU Council meeting stipulate that prior to the first intergovernmental conference opening negotiations between Albania and the EU, “Albania should adopt electoral reform fully in accordance with OSCE/ODHIR recommendations, ensuring transparent financing of political parties and electoral campaigns.” Additionally, the negotiation framework, which had to be adopted by the Council, has to reflect that Albania has implemented the agreed-upon electoral reform and that the Constitutional Court has issued a final decision on the lawfulness of the June 2019 local elections.1 The Constitutional Court became functional in December 2020, after judges were appointed to fill seven out of the nine seats.
- On June 5, representatives on the Political Council2 reached an agreement to reform parts of the electoral code, which included: altering the CEC’s structure to include a regulatory group and appeals group, as well as a commissioner and deputy commissioner; creating a database for the electronic identification of voters, coordinated by the newly installed deputy commissioner; appointing vote-counting teams comprising two nonpolitical officers, monitored by political representatives; installing judges who have passed the vetting process in the Electoral College; depoliticizing election administration, to start after the 2021 general elections; adopting legal amendments in Parliament after the Political Council’s confirmation; and planning for the Political Council to address additional elements of the OSCE’s recommendations. Two addendums to the agreement stipulated that the request for a caretaker government and caretaker police chief would not condition the approval of the agreement, and that the parties did not agree on changing the electoral system.3
- The above points were translated into legal amendments, as per the terms of the agreement, and were finally adopted by Parliament on July 23.4 However, on July 30, the parliament adopted constitutional amendments that would seemingly allow for open lists of candidates, a widely popular proposal5 for which the social movement Nisma Thurje and part of the parliamentary opposition advocated.6 Although the extra-parliamentary opposition did not support this change initially,7 in September, the DP and SMI bloc unexpectedly proposed an amendment to fully open party candidate-lists. On October 5, the ruling SP amended the electoral code and in so doing, banned pre-election coalitions, lowered the threshold to enter the parliament from 3 to 1 percent, and allowed for a preferential vote on candidates while preserving the party-ranking of candidates as the primary criteria for being elected.8
- President Meta, returned the legislation to the parliament for reconsideration on October 23 and announced that he had submitted an urgent request to the Venice Commission to prepare an opinion about the changes to the electoral code.9 The SP majority, however, voted down the President’s decree on October 29, ignoring calls to wait for Venice Commission’s opinion in December, which eventually declared that the procedure for adopting the amendments to the electoral code had been extremely hasty.1011 Furthermore, the Venice Commission’s opinion underlined that “the constitutional amendments went against the most basic rules of democratic law-making.”12
- In line with the Political Council’s June agreement, the parliament elected on October 5 the new CEC commissioner from a list of candidates provided by the SP, and a deputy Commissioner from a list of candidates agreed upon by the opposition.13
- 1. See EU Council conclusions on Albania and North Macedonia (25 March 2020) page 5. Source: https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-7002-2020-INIT/en/pdf
- 2. The parliamentary opposition of the past two years refers to the group of parliamentarians from the DP and SMI candidate lists of the 2017 who rejected their parties’ call to resign from Parliament. For more details see “Nations in Transit 2020 Albania” report at https://freedomhouse.org/country/albania/nations-transit/2020.
- 3. “DOKUMENTI/ 12 pikat që nënshkruan palët për marrëveshjen e Reformës Zgjedhore” (THE DOCUMENT / 12 points signed by the parties for the electoral reform agreement) ABCNews 5 June 2020. Source: https://abcnews.al/dokumenti-kjo-eshte-marreveshja-e-nenshkruar-mes-pal….
- 4. “Reforma zgjedhore/ Kuvendi miraton me 99 vota marrëveshjen e 5 qershorit” (Electoral reform / The parliament adopt 5th June agreement by 99 votes), Gjergji Mima, Albanian Telegraphic Agency – ATA, 23 July 2020. Source: https://ata.gov.al/2020/07/23/reforma-zgjedhore-kuvendi-miraton-me-99-v…
- 5. “Albania: NDI public opinion research reveals how to strengthen public engagement in politics”, 18 December 2020. Source: https://www.ndi.org/publications/albania-ndi-public-opinion-research-re….
- 6. “Nisma Thurje 50 mijë firma për ndryshimin e sistemit zgjedhor” (Nisma Thurje, 50 thousand signatures for the change of the electoral system), Fjorela Beleshi, Ora News TV, 7 January 2020. Source: https://www.oranews.tv/article/nisma-thurje-50-mije-firma-ndryshimin-e-…
- 7. “Reforma zgjedhore, opozita e bashkuar kundër listave të hapura” (Electoral reform, united opposition opposing open lists), EuroNews Albania 8 January 2020, Source: https://euronews.al/al/politike/2020/01/08/reforma-zgjedhore-opozita-e-…
- 8. “Albania Parliament Forces Through ‘Unilateral’ Electoral Code Changes” Gjergj Erebara, BalkanInsight 5 October 2020. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/05/albania-parliament-approves-pm-ram…
- 9. See “Reason for returning the law no 118/2020 to the Parliament for review”, President of R. of Albania, 23 October 2020. Source: https://president.al/presidenti-meta-dekreton-kthimin-per-rishqyrtim-ne….
- 10. E. Code, premier ignores international calls for waiting, Eduart Halili, Albanian daily news 27 october 2020. Source: https://albaniandailynews.com/news/e-code-premier-ignores-international…; Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR on the amendments to the Constitution of 30 July 2020 and to the Electoral Code of 5 October 2020, approved by the Council for Democratic Elections at its 70th meeting (online, 10 December 2020) and adopted by the Venice Commission at its 125th Plenary Session (online, 11-12 December 2020), page 3. Source: https://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2020)036-e.
- 12. Ibid page 7.
- 13. “Ish-kryetari i KQZ zgjidhet Komisioneri Shtetëror i Zgjedhjeve” (Former chair of CEC elected as Election State Commissioner) A2CNN 5 October 2020. Source: https://a2news.com/2020/10/05/ish-kryetari-i-kqz-zgjidhet-komisioneri-s…
|Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups.||4.755 7.007|
- Legal initiatives diminishing the independence of civil society, measures restricting the right to assembly, and the government’s exploitation of the COVID-19 pandemic sharply weakened civil society and depleted civic space. Between March and July, over 100 citizens and activists were criminally charged for organizing or participating in illegal protests.1 Individuals were fined at times up to 5 million Albanian lek ($44,770),2 over 100 times the average salary in Albania.3 Police often used disproportionate violence when suppressing other civil society actions.4 These restrictions and penalties, the government’s control of media reporting, and a lack of accountability mechanisms on government action during the pandemic have discouraged the public from criticizing the government.5
- The government ignored most of civil society’s advocacy and policy recommendations and exploited the pandemic to strengthen its control of civic space. Because the pandemic more severely affected marginalized groups such as LGBTI+ people, civil society’s aid for those who were significantly impacted was vital.6 The government’s COVID-19 policies, however, granted police disproportionately stronger competencies which were abused on several occasions.
- Following more than two years of public support to protect the National Theater building in Tirana, at 4.30 a.m. on May 17, a large police force raided the building, dragging away two dozen actors and activists protecting the site. Before dawn, the building was demolished, sparking day-long protests in the city.7 Images of disproportionate and unnecessary violence8 by the police not only against artists, citizens, and protesters, but also against reporters covering the protest,9 prompted widespread criticism. The government ignored the criticism10 and even denied the veracity of events that had been reported.11 The national Ombudsman issued a detailed report of the illegal actions the police committed during and after the demolition of the National Theater, as well as a series of recommendations to prevent such incidents in the future.12
- On December 8, a police officer of the “Shqiponja” unit—a special unit of the Albanian State Police—killed Klodian Rasha (25) while attempting to stop him for violating coronavirus curfew.13 Public anger over Rasha’s death and other instances of police brutality resulted in numerous protests, which turned violent.1415 The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Albanian government to prevent further police violence and uphold the right to peacefully assemble.16
- The government lacks the political will to create genuine consultation processes and improve cooperation between state institutions and civil society.17 NGOs have identified their noninvolvement in policy-making as a main challenge to their work, alongside financial sustainability and concerns over the legal and fiscal framework for their operations.18 Cooperation with local and central government was rated as problematic, with 52% of surveyed CSOs declaring that they rarely cooperate, and another 27% that they have no cooperation at all with the central government. For the local government these figures stand at 44% and 13% respectively..
- According to the Tirana Court of First Instance, a total of 11,739 NGOs were registered by the end of 2019. The number of NGOs registered with tax authorities was 4,767 NGOs.19 However, some estimates claim that the number of active NGOs operating in Albania is much lower.
- The National Council for Civil Society has produced no meaningful actions to improve the environment for civil society actors. Authorities have increased control over NGOs’ operations through the adoption of antiterrorism and money-laundering legislation.20
- A group of NGOs raised serious concerns21 over the threat to their independence posed by draft legislation that would create a “central register of bank accounts,” as well as a proposed bill called the “Law on the registration of NGOs.”22 The Ministry of Justice consulted the group while writing the law, however, upon submitting the bill to the parliament, they ultimately ignored all of the organizations’ comments and recommendations. A broader group of NGOs requested that the parliamentary review of the draft include a public hearing, so that their recommendations could be heard.23
- 1. “Gjatë pandemisë, policia shpërndau nëntë tubime dhe procedoi penalisht 119 qytetarë” (During the pandemics the police dispersed 9 rallies and filed criminal charges agains 119 citizens) Entnela Ndrevataj, Citizens Channel 27 July 2020. Source: https://citizens-channel.com/2020/07/27/gjate-pandemise-policia-shpernd…
- 2. As of July 1, 2020: https://www1.oanda.com/currency/converter/
- 3. Protestuan kundër planeve të ndërtimit të HEC-it të Skavicës, policia gjobit 10 milionë lekë organizatorët (They protested against plans for Skavica hydropower plant, 10 milion leke fine by police), Sami Curri, reporter.al 3 December 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/protestuan-kunder-planeve-te-ndertimit-te-hec-i….
- 4. See media reports on 7 May 2020: citizens protests in support of National Theater building (Source: http://www.gazetadita.al/policia-shperndan-me-dhune-nje-proteste-ne-she…); 24 June 2020 environmental protests (Source: https://citizens-channel.com/2020/06/24/protesta-ne-mbrojtje-te-natyres…); oilmen protest on 17 September 2020 (Source: https://www.oranews.tv/foto-protesta-para-ministrise-se-energjitikes-po…) etc.
- 5. “E drejta e tubimit; standardet e dyfishta që fshihen pas luftës ndaj COVID-19” (The right to rally; The double strandards behind the war on Covid-19) Nensi Bogdani, Reporter.al 5 November 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/e-drejta-e-tubimit-standardet-e-dyfishta-qe-fsh…
- 6. According to Aleanca LGBTI’s study “Situation of LGTI community during pandemics Covid-19” (October 2020) only 1.7 percent of surveyed LGBT+ people had received state support during the pandemic, while the Alliance’s shelter program has helped offered home to 16 people and reimbursed another 28. See study available at https://www.historia-ime.com/lgbt/situata-e-lgbti-gjate-pandemise-rritj….
- 7. “Demolition of Albanian national theatre sparks angry protests” Benet Koleka, Reuters, 17 May 2020. Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-albania-theatre/d….
- 8. “Images of Police Violence after the Demolition of National Theatre” Exit.al 17 May 2020. Source: https://exit.al/en/2020/05/17/images-of-police-violence-after-the-demol….
- 9. See DW footage witnessing police violence against journalist Alfred Lela https://www.facebook.com/dw.shqip/videos/239362877391693/.
- 10. “Albania Govt Faces Backlash Over Police Force Against Protesters” Gjergj Erebara, Balkan Insight 21 May 2020. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2020/05/21/albania-govt-faces-backlash-over-p….
- 11. “Cila dhune policore” (What police violence?) Marxhan Daci, Faktoje.al 18 May 2020. Source: https://faktoje.al/cila-dhune-policore/
- 12. See See Ombudsman’s report (17 November 2020) at https://www.avokatipopullit.gov.al/media/manager/website/media/Rekomand…
- 13. “Shkeli orën policore, polici qëllon për vdekje të riun në Tiranë!” (He violated the curfew; Police kills the young man in Tirana), Shqiptarja.com 8 December 2020. Source: https://shqiptarja.com/lajm/tirane-nuk-iu-bind-urdherit-te-policit-qell….
- 14. “Shqiponja nën hetim nga SHÇBA” (Shqiponja police unit under investigation by SHCBA – Internal Affairs and Complaints Service), Dosja.al 18 December 2020. Source: https://dosja.al/shqiponja-nen-hetim-nga-shcba-rama-klodianin-se-kthejm…
- 15. “Albania: Police attack and arrest journalists covering protests” IFJ (International Federation of Journalists), 16 December 2020. Source: https://www.ifj.org/es/centro-de-medios/noticias/detalle/category/press…
- 16. Statement of CoE’s Commissioner for human rights “Albanian authorities must prevent further police violence and uphold the right to freedom of peaceful assembly”, 16 December 2020. Source: https://www.coe.int/en/web/commissioner/-/albanian-authorities-must-pre….
- 17. “Civil Society Participation in Decision Making in Albania” Blerjana Bino, Redion Qirjazi & Alban Dafa, page 7 (January 2020). Report prepared for Westminster Foundation for Democracy by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in Albania. Source: https://idmalbania.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CSO-Participation-in-….
- 18. See “Capacity and needs assessment for civil society organizations in Albania” Partners Albania for Change and Development (page 50-54), December 2019. Source https://partnersalbania.org/publication/capacity-and-needs-assessment-f…
- 19. See “2019 CSOs Sustainability Index – Albania”, July 2020 (page 2). Available at https://idmalbania.org/csosi-usaid-report-for-albania/.
- 20. See “Monitoring matrix on enabling environment for CSOs development, country report for Albania 2019” (page 13), Partners Albania, 7 August 2020. Source: https://partnersalbania.org/publication/matrica-e-monitorimit-te-mjedis….
- 21. See “Opinion on the draft law On the central register of bank accounts” and its impact on CSOs” (21 October 2020) available at http://resourcecentre.al/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Opinion_Projekt-Lig….
- 22. Draft law available at the public consultation portal https://konsultimipublik.gov.al/Konsultime/Detaje/297.
- 23. See “Request for a public hearing with CSOs representatives on the draft law on the registration of NGOs” (20 October 2020), available at http://resourcecentre.al/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Per-projektligjin-P….
|Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media.||3.504 7.007|
- Following several years of incremental decline, media independence was further limited in 2020.1 Reporters Without Borders’s (RSF) Press Freedom Index and the media freedom assessment by Article 19—both press freedom watchdogs—marked deteriorations in the country’s media landscape, which the government has increasingly sought to control.23 Political and economic elites and power brokers have captured the media industry and misused it for their own narrow interests.4 Smear campaigns,5 physical attacks on journalists,6 intimidation,7 and self-censorship occurred throughout the year.8 Threats, derogatory language against journalists persisted, and past attacks against journalists saw no convictions, according to the European Commission’s “Albania 2020 Report”.910 Politicians and powerful businessmen11 filed lawsuits against journalists on various grounds, including defamation.121314 These cases are known as “SLAPP suits,” or strategic lawsuits against public participation, and are wielded by powerful individuals to intimidate reporters and push them to self-censor.
- New antidefamation legislation was partially implemented in 2020. An amendment to the law on electronic communications entered into force in February,15 after Parliament rejected President Meta’s alterations to the bill.16 The Venice Commission subsequently prepared an opinion on the amendment to the law on audiovisual media, a part of the same legislative package,17 and declared that the law was not ready for adoption and would likely suppress free discussion and political speech online.18 Despite claiming openness to the Commission’s recommendations, the government did not withdraw the amendments to the law on audiovisual media, as requested by local civil society organizations, journalists, and international journalist associations. Draft amendments to the penal code from December would blur the definition of defamation and fine those convicted up to 4.5 million Albanian lek ($40,290).19
- In September, 16 Albanian media outlets created a self-regulatory body on media ethics based on the recommendations of the Venice Commission’s opinion on the law of audiovisual media.20
- The government took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to crack down on media freedoms, warning citizens2122 to “beware of the media.” The police submitted four court cases against journalists and media outlets for “spreading panic,” and the ministers of a parliamentary commission submitted a fifth.23 The pandemic’s economic toll also impacted the media sector: over 40 percent of reporters experienced salary cuts and 47 journalists lost their jobs, according to Aleksander Cipa, chair of the Union of Albanian Journalists.24
- In May, the government fined and proposed closure of the television channel Ora News TV.25 A few months later, the special prosecutor seized the premises of Ora News TV and Ora TV, alleging that the owner Ylli Ndroqi (alias Xhemail Pasmaciu) had profited from the drug trade.26 Lawyers of Ndroqi claimed the seizure was politically motivated. Despite the ongoing court case, both channels continued to critique the government throughout the year.
- The European Commission’s report recommended the government “ensure a policy of zero tolerance for intimidation and attacks against journalists, as well as for threats against the media, including in political discourse,” and strengthen “the protection of journalists’ labor and social rights.”27
- Journalists voiced concerns over the government’s illegitimate removal of audiovisual and journalistic content through Acromax Media, a private German company that claims to operate “digital rights management” and has ties to SP officials.28 RSF called the action an attempt to suppress independent journalism.29
- 1. A report by Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists added Albania to its list of countries of special concern. See “COVID-19 Worsening Environment for Media Freedom, Report Warns” Gjergj Erebara, BalkanInsight 29 April 2020: https://balkaninsight.com/2020/04/29/covid-19-is-aggravating-an-already….
- 2. “The Global Expression Report 2019/2020” Article 19. Source https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/GxR2019-20report.p….
- 3. “Informimi në rrezik, zyrat e shtypit prodhuese dhe shpërndarëse të lajmeve” (Informing is threatened; Government’s media offices produce and disseminate news), Mimoza Picari, Voice of America 14 January 2020. Source: https://www.zeriamerikes.com/a/5245243.html
- 4. See “Internet Governance in Albania and Its Role in Media Freedom” (page 40-41), Ermal Nazifi and Michael J. Oghia, BIRN Albania September 2020. Source: https://birn.eu.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Internet-Governance-1.pdf
- 5. “Protestë ndaj mesazheve fyese e kërcënuese ndaj gazetares Beti Njuma nga Kryetari i Bashkisë Tiranë!!” (Protest against threatening and derogatory messages of Tirana Mayor towards journalist beti Njuma) Albanian Media Council, 1 August 2020. Source: https://kshm.al/2020/08/17/proteste-ndaj-mesazheve-fyese-e-kercenuese-t…
- 6. “Sulmohet me eksploziv shtëpia e gazetarit nga Lezha” (Home of Lezha reporter attacked with explosives), Elvis Hila, Reporter.al, 30 October 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/sulmohet-me-eksploziv-shtepia-e-gazetarit-nga-l…
- 7. “Albanian PM and President Criticised for Attacks on Journalists” Alice Taylor Exit.al 30 October 2020. Source: https://exit.al/en/2020/10/30/albanian-pm-and-president-criticsed-for-a…
- 8. “Journalists critical to the Government and media organisations reported online harassment and smear campaigns against them leading more journalists towards self-censorship and some media towards closure of critical shows” – EC Report for Albania 2020, page 31. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 9. EC Report for Albania 2020 (date 6 October 2020), page 30. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 10. “Kërcënohet gazetari Artan Hoxha. Tregon mesazhin: S’do falim asnjë…” (Journalist Artan Hoxha threatened. He shares the message: we will not excuse anyone…), Opinion.al 13 February 2020. Source: https://opinion.al/kercenohet-gazetari-artan-hoxha-tregon-mesazhin-sdo-…
- 11. “Albchrome hedh në gjyq aktivistin për një status kritik në Facebook” (Albchrome takes to court the activist over a critical Facebook status) Gjergj Erebara 28 August 2020, Reporter.al. Source: https://www.reporter.al/albchrome-hedh-ne-gjyq-aktivistin-per-nje-statu…
- 12. “Gjyqi me Ramën – Ylli Rakipi akuzon Kryeministrin për presion ndaj gjyqtarëve” (At court with Rama – Ylli Rakipi acuses the PM of pressuring judges) Exit.al, 31 January 2020. Source: https://exit.al/gjyqi-me-ramen-ylli-rakipi-akuzon-kryeminsitrin-per-pre…
- 13. “Zyrtarja e Ministrisë së Mbrojtjes padit gazetarët dhe mediat pas publikimit të një artikulli denoncues” (MoD official sues reporter and the media following the publication of a denouncing article) Entenela Ndrevataj, Citizens Channel, 1 December 2020. Source: https://citizens-channel.com/2020/12/01/zyrtarja-e-ministrise-se-mbrojt…
- 14. “BIRN Albania Faces Lawsuit from Politically Connected Businessman”, BIRN Albania 3 December 2020. Source: https://birn.eu.com/news-and-events/birn-albania-faces-lawsuit-from-pol…
- 15. See Official gazette of R. Albania no 11, date 3 February 2020. Source: https://qbz.gov.al/share/F2Rs02j2SbOo-05sfa1mKg.
- 16. On January 12, 2020, President Ilir Meta returned the laws of the defamation package to the parliament for its reconsideration. See Decree of the President “ Reasons for the return of law no. 92/2019 “For some additions and changes to the law no. 9918 dated 19.5.2008, “On electronic communications in the Republic of Albania” as amended ” available at https://president.al/en/presidenti-meta-dekreton-kthimin-per-rishqyrtim…
- 17. See OSCE media Freedom Office tweet on 3 February 2020 available at https://twitter.com/OSCE_RFoM/status/1224315154457944064.
- 18. See Venice Commission “Opinion on draft amendments to law n°97/2013 on the audiovisual media service”, date 19 June 2020. Source: https://rm.coe.int/vc-opinion-albania-0620/16809ec9c9.
- 19. “Tjetër propozim antimedia, kërkohet mjegullim i kodit penal dhe rritje e gjobave për shpifje” (Another anti-media proposal, seeks bluring of the penal code and increase of fines on defamation) Gjergj Erebara, 3 December 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/tjeter-propozim-antimedia-kerkohet-mjegullim-i-…; as of July 1, 2020, https://www1.oanda.com/currency/converter/
- 20. “16 media shqiptare nisin procesin e vetërregullimit për gazetari etike” (16 Albanian media initiate the self-regulatory process for ethical journalism), Exit.al 30 September 2020. Source: https://exit.al/16-media-shqiptare-nisin-procesin-e-veterregullimit-per….
- 21. “Reporterët pa Kufij dënojnë sulmet e Ramës ndaj medias” (RSF condemn Rama’s attacks on media), Alice Elizabeth Taylor Exit.al 9 April 2020. Source: https://exit.al/reporteret-pa-kufij-denojne-sulmet-e-rames-ndaj-medias/
- 22. See the automated message at https://clyp.it/coqsary1.
- 23. “‘Shpërndarje paniku’: Policia përndoqi gazetarët pas tërmetit dhe COVID-19” (Spreading panic: The police persecuted reporters after the earthquake and COVID-19) Geri Emini, Reporter.al 20 July 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/shperndarje-paniku-policia-perndoqi-gazetaret-p….
- 24. See Interview with A. Cipa date 17 July 2020. Source: https://vertetmates.mk/cipa-media-pesoi-goditje-te-rende-nga-pandemia-m….
- 25. “Urdhëri për mbylljen e RTV ora ngre pikëpyetje mbi lirinë e shprehjes” (The order on closing Ora RTV raises question marks over freedom of expression), Elira Kadriu, Citizens Channel, 15 May 2020. Source: https://citizens-channel.com/2020/05/15/urdheri-per-mbylljen-e-rtv-ora-…
- 26. Albania Courts Seize TV Stations Owned by Govt Critic, Gjergj Erebara, BalkanInsight, 3 August 2020. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2020/08/03/albania-confiscates-two-tv-station….
- 27. See EC Report for Albania 2020, page 30-31. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania…
- 28. https://exit.al/en/2019/08/19/acromax-media-albanian-governments-tool-f…
- 29. “A German company is responsible for the deletion of videos critical of the Albanian government” NetzPolitik.org 19 March 2020. Source: https://netzpolitik.org/2020/a-german-company-is-responsible-for-the-de…
|Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities.||4.505 7.007|
- Following the opposition’s boycott of the 2019 local elections, good governance and accountability within local governments remained under serious threat. In all 61 municipal governments, 95 percent of council members and 60 of 61 mayors are members of the SP. The lack of political opposition in municipal councils and civil society in many small- and medium-sized municipalities to monitor local government institutions has thrown into question their capacity to act based on public interest.1
- Although all 61 municipalities have appointed coordinators for citizens to access public information, the implementation of the law on public consultations remains unsatisfactory.2 Under the framework of UN Development Program’s STAR 2 initiative, six municipalities have piloted integrity plans with measures to combat corruption at the local level.3
- The European Commission’s “Albania 2020 Report” noted that local governments lack sufficient funds and capacities to make decisions and implement effective policy. The implementation of the civil service law remains incomplete at the local level, and municipalities lack the capacity to deliver public services.4 Despite some improvement in recent years, municipalities’ collection of tax revenue dropped 16 percent from 2019, as local governments bore the brunt of the coronavirus’s economic fallout. Court rulings on the illegal dismissal of municipal staff further increased local government debt.5 According to the Commission’s report, municipalities’ fiscal autonomy has been further weakened because their resources largely come from the national budget.6
- The lack of political opposition within local governments and the weakness of civil society have brought on a decline of local transparency and accountability and deteriorated the integrity of local budgetary spending and public procurement. According to the Albanian Institute of Science (AIS), an organization promoting transparency and accountability through open data, local governments commit the most abuse of public contract tenders. The AIS’s map of clients of Albanian municipalities shows those who receive public tenders and contracts through nontransparent tendering procedures, such as direct negotiation or negotiation without notice. Some companies have won between 70 and 95 percent of public contracts in municipalities including Gjirokastra, Mirdita, Vlora, Pogradec, and Durres.7
- 1. CSO Sustainability Index 2019 reported that CSOs are increasingly concerned about their treatment by local governments. See page 5 of the CSO SI 2019 report for Albania at https://idmalbania.org/download/8327/.
- 2. EC Report for Albania 2020 (page 12). Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 3. See IDM Albania notification at “Week of integrity” portal (6 February 2020), available at https://weekofintegrity.al/events/launch-integrity-plan-for-municipalit….
- 4. EC Report for Albania 2020 (page 12). Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania…..
- 5. “Bashkitë 'të zhytura' në borxhe, Tirana kryeson listën” (Municipalities drowning in debt, Tirana on top of the list), EuroNews Albania 29 october 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/10/29/bashkite-te-zhytura-ne-bor….
- 6. Ibid.
- 7. “Map of Albania Oligarchs – Names of those who have received MILLIONS OF EUROS from Albanians’ taxpayers”, Albanian Institute of science (15 October 2020). Source: http://ais.al/new/en/joq-harta-e-oligarkeve-te-shqiperise-emrat-qe-kane…
|Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions.||3.253 7.007|
- Despite progress with judicial reform, new judicial institutions—most notably, the Special Court against Corruption (SPAK)—have not yet restored public trust in the judiciary. While SPAK’s decisive work in prosecuting organized crime in cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies and its progress in prosecuting low- and middle-level officials are steps in the right direction, judicial independence is yet to be tested in grand corruption cases. SPAK has published charges against former prosecutor general Adriatic Llalla1 and has started investigating allegations of corruption in the high-profile waste-incinerators case2 and the opposition’s accusations that SP parliamentarian Ervin Bushati has hidden his assets.3
- Two cases of electoral fraud—one involving a criminal group in Durres who cooperated with SP representatives to buy votes in the 2017 general elections, and another centered on several senior SP officials in Dibra who manipulated election results in 20164—noted disappointing developments. The SPAK declared non-competence on the Dibra case thus transferring it to the local prosecution in Dibra who eventually raised charges only against four former low-profile officials. Although their investigation had confirmed that other defendants had participated in the electoral fraud, the local prosecution dropped the charges against them because the three-year deadline for prosecution had already passed.5 In the Durres case, the SPAK issued arrest orders for 22 low-profile polling-station commissioners (including two who were deceased). The Special Court subsequently declared non-competence and transferred the case to the local prosecutor and the Court of First Instance in Durres.6
- The Constitutional Court and Supreme Court remained blocked throughout 2020. The European Commission’s “Albania 2020 Report” noted that the Constitutional Court’s lack of a quorum, which prevented the issuance of rulings, diminished the legitimacy of the legal system and exacerbated the tensions between the government and the president.7
- The Constitutional Court filled seven of its nine seats in late December,8 and has decided on the admissibility of certain cases. The Court’s first rulings are expected in 2021. President Meta also appointed the three nonmagistrate members of the Supreme Court on March 11,9 empowering another chamber of the court system.
- The COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions affected the speed of the judicial vetting process. The “Albania 2020 Report” noted that a total of 286 dossiers have been reviewed by vetting bodies since the start of the program.10 The Independent Qualification Commission’s controversial confirmation Donika Prela as prosecutor in 2019 was overruled by the Appeal Chamber, dismissing Prela and silencing concerns about the integrity of the vetting process.11 A member of the Appeal Chamber, Luan Daci, was found guilty of forgery of documents and sentenced to six months in prison by SPAK. Daci’s sentence was later converted to a year’s probation.12
- Judicial institutions are yet to prove their independence in cases involving high-profile politicians and officials. The Appeal Chamber of SPAK returned the case of former minister of the interior Saimir Tahiri to the Court of First Instance for retrial.13 The Court of First Instance in Tirana dismissed the case against the elected mayor of Shkodra, Valdrin Pjetri,14 who resigned after his criminal past was exposed a few days after his election.15 The “Albania 2020 Report” recorded a high number of low- to mid-ranking officials charged for corruption, but no convictions of high-ranking officials. For Albanians at large, the lack of prosecution and conviction of high-profile politicians showed that corrupt politicians still operate with impunity.
- 1. “US eyes on SPAK over probe on high-level corruption” Euronews Albania 3 December 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/en/daily-news/2020/12/03/us-eyes-on-spak-over-probe….
- 2. “Arben Kraja për Euronews Albania: Kemi nisur hetim për inceneratorët” (Arben Kraja for Euronews Albania: We’ve launched investigations on the incenerators) Euronews Albania 22 October 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/10/22/arbren-kraja-per-euronews-…
- 3. “PD: Konfirmon SPAK, Ervin Bushati nën hetim për mosdeklarim të pasurisë” (DP: SPAK confirms, Ervin Bushati under investigation for failing to declare assets) ABC News 15 November 2020. Source: https://abcnews.al/pd-konfirmon-spak-ervin-bushati-nen-hetim-per-mosdek….
- 4. Përgjimet zbulojnë rolin e krimit të organizuar në blerjen e votave” (Wiretaps reveal the role of organized crime in vote buying), Reporter.al 30 January 2019. Source: https://www.reporter.al/pergjimet-zbulojne-rolin-e-krimit-te-organizuar…
- 5. “Dosja 184/ “Amnistohen” në Dibër, vetëm katër të akuzuar për shitblerjen e votës” (Case 184/ Amnesty in Dibra, only four prosecuted for vote bying charges) Keti Banushi, Ora News 18 December 2020. Source: https://www.oranews.tv/dosja-184-perfundojne-hetimet-te-pandehur-ish-sh…
- 6. “Dosja 339, GJKKO shpall moskompetencë për 20 komisionerët e arrestuar për zgjedhjet në Durrës” (Case 339, Special court against corruption and organized crime declares non-competence for 20 arrested commissioners on Durres elections) EuroNews Albania 30 July 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/07/30/dosja-339-gjkko-shpall-mos…
- 7. See EC Report for Albania 2020, page 12. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 8. “Sonila Bejtja betohet sot para presidentit Meta, si anëtare e Gjykatës Kushtetuese” (Sonila Bejtja takes oath at President meta as member of the Constitutional Court), Eufronews Albania 29 December 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/12/29/sonila-bejtja-betohet-sot-…
- 9. “Meta dekreton tre anëtarët e parë të Gjykatës së Lartë” (Meta decrees the first three members of the Supreme Court) Reporter.al 11 March 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/meta-dekreton-tre-anetaret-e-pare-te-gjykates-s….
- 10. EC Report for Albania 2020, page 5. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 11. “Shkarkohet Donika Prela, ish-drejtuesja e Prokurorisë së Krimeve të Rënda fshehu pasurinë” (Donika Prela Dismissed, The former head of serious crime prosecution hid her assets), Armand Bajrami, A2CNN 25 September 2020. Source: https://a2news.com/2020/09/25/shkarkohet-donika-prela-ish-drejtuesja-e-….
- 12. Anëtari i KPA-së, Luan Daci dënohet për falsifikim të dokumenteve (Vetting Appeal Chamber member Luan Daci convicted of forgery of documents), Edmond Hoxhaj, Reporter.al 1 December 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/anetari-i-kpa-se-luan-daci-denohet-per-falsifik…
- 13. “Apeli kthen për rigjykim çështjen ndaj ish-ministrit Tahiri” (Former minister Tahiri’s case returned at appeal chamber for retrial) Euronews Albania 26 June 2020. Source: https://euronews.al/al/aktualitet/2020/06/26/vendimi-ndaj-ish-ministrit…
- 14. “Gjykata e Tiranës pushon çështjen penale ndaj Valdrin Pjetrit” (Tirana court dismisses penal case against Valdrin Pjetri), Edmond Hoxhaj Reporter.al 2 December 2020. Source: https://www.reporter.al/gjykata-e-tiranes-pushon-ceshtjen-penale-ndaj-v…
- 15. Albania Mayor Resigns as Drug Dealing Past is Exposed, Gjergj Erebara BalkanInsight 19 August 2019. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2019/08/15/socialist-mayor-of-shkodra-resigns….
|Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives.||2.753 7.007|
- Serious corruption concerns persisted in 2020, with further evidence of state capture coming to light. Corrupt actors often go unpunished, as judicial institutions failed to successfully prosecute any high-level official or high-profile politicians. Critics voiced concerns about the government’s concealing of more than a dozen COVID-19-related public tenders worth millions of Euros.1
- Independent reports revealed evidence of state capture; lawmakers may have tailored legislation for private interests.23 The government and ruling SP majority in the parliament pushed forward laws that protect the interests of private individuals and their networks on several occasions.4 Officials who enable state capture and businesses that pressure public officials operate with alarming effectiveness in Albania as compared to other Western Balkan countries, according to an assessment by the Southeast European Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI).
- With high levels of monopolization in the country, antimonopoly legislation remains largely ineffective.5 The American Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Climate Index gave the Albanian business environment the lowest rating ever, due to the tense political climate, powerful monopolies, widespread corruption, and illegal trade.6
- The European Commission’s Albania 2020 Report noted that Albanian authorities progressed in combatting corruption, although corruption remains serious and pervasive.7 Some EU member states urged authorities to more decisively punish corruption at all levels.8
- Another prosecutor joined the SPAK in 2020, thus filling 13 out of 15 prosecutorial positions.9 The High Prosecutorial Council also appointed the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).10 The procedures to appoint NBI officers were launched immediately and are expected to conclude in early 2021.
- The Ministry of Justice—the national anticorruption coordinator—reported a relatively successful implementation of the anticorruption action plan during the first half of 2020, with 19 measures fully and 37 partially implemented (12 measures were not implemented).11 The dismissal rate of judges and prosecutors in the vetting process reached 62 percent. However, none of the dismissed magistrates were sentenced in 2020.12 A monitoring report by the Albanian Helsinki Committee underlined the Appeal Chamber’s positive role in unifying the practices of the vetting process, but called for greater transparency within the Independent Qualification Commission.13
- The Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) concluded that Albania has satisfactorily dealt with nine of the ten recommendations contained in the “Fourth Round Evaluation Report.” The remaining recommendation—related to transparency in the selection and appointment of members of the High Court of Justice and the timely evaluation of professional and ethical performance of judges—was partially implemented.14
Author: Gjergji Vurmo is Program Director and Senior Researcher on governance and EU integration at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) in Tirana, and a member of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG). He has over 20 years of experience with civil society networks and think tanks in the Western Balkans region working on good governance, EU enlargement, civic space, and security matters. Vurmo is author of several research studies and has reported on Albania for global reports, such as the Open Government Partnership (2013–18), USAID’s CSO Sustainability Index (2010–13), and Open Parliaments 2012 report. He has served as a steering board member of various networks of research institutes in the Southeastern Europe region (PASOS, BCSDN) and is a contributor on the Western Balkans region for various think tanks.
- 1. “Concern in Albania over String of Secretive COVID-19 Tenders” Fjori Sinoruka, BalkanInsight 7 October 2020. Source: https://balkaninsight.com/2020/10/07/concern-in-albania-over-string-of-….
- 2. “Tailor-made laws in the Western Balkans –state capture in disguise”, Gjergji Vurmo CEPS Policy Insights No 2020-12 / May 2020 (page 3-6). Source: https://www.ceps.eu/download/publication/?id=27562&pdf=PI2020-12_GV-Sta….
- 3. Other cases of tailor-made laws are referred to in a Transparency International regional research project on state capture in the Western Balkans. The report identifies Albania as the country with the highest number of tailor-made laws in the Western Balkans. See “Examining State Capture: Undue Influence on Law-making and the Judiciary in the Western Balkans and Turkey” Nieves Zúñiga, Transparency International December 2020, page 16. Source: https://www.transparency.org/en/publications/examining-state-capture
- 4. See “Examining State Capture: Undue Influence on Law-making and the Judiciary in the Western Balkans and Turkey” Nieves Zúñiga, Transparency International December 2020, page 17 and 18. Source: https://www.transparency.org/en/publications/examining-state-capture.
- 5. See “State Capture Assessment Diagnostics in the Western Balkans 2020: Risks and Policy Options”, SELDI Policy Brief no 10, July 2020. Source: https://seldi.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/SELDI_Policy_Brief_State_C….
- 6. Shqipëri: Bie ndjeshëm Indeksi i Klimës së Biznesit, sipas Dhomës Amerikane të Tregtisë (Albania: Significant decline of business climate index according to the American Chamber of Commerce), Ilirian Agolli, Voice of America in Albanian, 29 Jun 2020. Source: https://www.zeriamerikes.com/a/5481725.html.
- 7. EC Report for Albania 2020, page 6. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania…
- 8. “Shqiperia ende me ‘jo’, Holanda: I parakohshëm qëndrimi i KE se kushtet thuajse janë përmbushur (Still “no” for Albania, Netherlands: EC position that conditions are met is premature) https://a2news.com/2020/11/02/shqiperia-ende-me-jo-holanda-i-parakohshe…
- 9. “SPAK me 13 prokurorë, betohet Manjola Kajana” (SPAK with 13 prosecutors, Manjola kajana takes oath), High Prosecutorial Council, 14 July 2020. Source: https://klp.al/2020/07/14/spak-me-13-prokurore-betohet-manjola-kajana/
- 10. ” Aida Hajnaj zgjidhet në krye të Byrosë Kombëtare të Hetimit” (Aida Hajnaj elected as head of NBI) ABCNews.al 30 July 2020. Source: https://abcnews.al/klp-emeron-me-9-vota-pro-kryetaren-e-byrose-kombetar….
- 11. See “January June 2020 Monitoring report – Intersectoral strategy against corruption 2015-2023”, page 6, Ministry of Justice. Source: http://www.drejtesia.gov.al/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/MONITORING-REPOR….
- 12. EC Report for Albania, page 6. Source: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/albania….
- 13. “Vetting of judges and prosecutors” (page 6) Albanian Helsinki Committee 4 September 2020. Source: https://ahc.org.al/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/KShH_Raport-studimor-_-Ve…
- 14. GRECO Fourth Evaluation Round “Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors”—Addendum to the second compliance report Albania. Adopted on 25 September 2020. Source: https://rm.coe.int/fourth-evaluation-round-corruption-prevention-in-res….
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Global Freedom Score66 100 partly free