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Albania Satisfies Nine out of Ten GRECO Recommendations

Albania has implemented nine out of the ten recommendations laid down by the Council of Europe’s corruption, money laundering and financial crime arm, GRECO.

Previously, Albanian media including the government said that the report said that the fight against corruption in the country was “sophisticated” and “powerful” and that Albania was ready to open accession talks with the EU. In fact, the report says nothing of the sort and those words are not even mentioned in the text.

The Addendum to the Second Compliance Report assesses the measures taken by the authorities of Albania to implement recommendations issued in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report. GRECO concluded that Albania has “implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner, nine of the ten recommendations in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report.” The remaining recommendation has been partly implemented.

GRECO noted that a “vast judicial reform is ongoing” as is the vetting process. the High Judicial Council and the High Prosecutorial Council are operational and the functioning of the judicial administration is no longer in the remit of the Ministry of Justice. They claim that the politicisation of the appointment system of High Court Judges has been limited but the fact the court is still not operational, undermines the whole judicial system.

They said that assessing professional qualifications and assessing the integrity of candidates should be two separate processes. GRECO encourages the authorities to ensure the swift completion and effective implementation of the justice reform process to strengthen the fight against corruption in the judiciary.

The body also praised the adoption of the Code of Conduct for parliamentarians as well as the need to declare conflicts of interest. Also, they noted the process to ensure that contracts with third parties during the legislative process are reported and monitored. They encouraged Parliament to pursue its efforts in terms of asset declarations, ethics, and conflicts of interest.

The reported the satisfactory implementation of the following recommendations:

  • To further refine the criteria for assessing a prosecutor’s ethical qualities, in particular by ensuring that the criteria are objective and transparent;
  • To ensure protection against arbitrary intervention in the administration of justice, the extent of the right of the Ministry of Justice to examine the functioning of judicial services and court administration, as provided under Article 31 of the law “On the organisation and functioning of the High Council of Justice” be clearly defined; and that ii) the respective court presidents, including the High Court Chief Justice, be vested with the right to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges;
  • To ensure the “Ethics, mandate verification and continuous professional development Committee” under the National Judicial Conference fulfils its mandate and ensures, in a proactive manner, the enforcement of ethical rules; and that ii) guidance, counselling and mandatory in-service training be provided to judges on ethics, conflicts of interest and corruption prevention within their own ranks.
  • To create a mechanism for the “case by case” notification of conflicts of interest by members of parliament be established within the National Assembly and that the operation of this mechanism is subject to monitoring.
  • That the Code of Conduct for members of parliament, foreseen by the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, be elaborated and properly enforced; and ii) training, guidance and counselling be made available to deputies on issues such as the form, manner and scope of permissible contacts with interest groups and lobbyists, the disclosure of ad hoc conflicts of interest, ethics and corruption prevention within their own ranks.

The Albanian authorities have only partially implemented the following recommendation:

  •  To ensure that the selection and appointment of the High Court justices be made transparent and that the opinion of the judiciary (e.g. the High Council of Justice itself) be sought in those processes; and ii) the periodic evaluation of the professional and ethical performance of a judge is conducted promptly and that consideration be given to ensuring that the criteria for evaluating a judge’s ethical conduct are objective and transparent, with due regard to the principle of judicial independence.

In November 2019, Exit interviewed the Director of Greco, Gianluca Esposito who said that there can be no real or effective fight against corruption in Albania without an effective judiciary. He also said that laws are not enough on their own and that implementation and an end to impunity is key

“The government is going in the right direction but most importantly – and I am insisting on this – reforms are only any good if they are effectively and properly implemented,” he said.

“It is not enough to create a new institution or body to fight corruption or crime; they actually have to deliver on the tasks they are supposed to carry out,” he added.

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