The European Commission has concluded that Albania has made progress in several areas and met many of the conditions to start EU accession talks in practice.
The European Commission published the 2020 Progress Report on Albania on Tuesday.
Other conditions seem to remain unfulfilled before the Albanian government sits in the first Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) with the EU: the filling of seats at the Constitutional Court, the so-called “defamation law package”, legislation regarding the Greek minority and property rights.
Exit News brings a summary of the main points.
The European Commission found that amendments to the electoral code adopted by the Socialist majority on 23 July 2020 were in accordance with the 5 June 2020 agreement between the majority and opposition. It noted that on 30 July the majority also passed constitutional changes relating to the electoral system. These changes are unrelated to the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations and they require further amendments to the electoral code which were not agreed between the majority and opposition. Nevertheless, the Socialists passed the changes to the Electoral Code on 5 October. Despite the positive outcome of the agreement reached on 5 June 2020, the political dialogue in the country needs to be improved, in particular on electoral reform and its implementation.
The report concludes that Albania has met this condition, and is ready to start EU accession talks in the first Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC).
The Commission found that all new justice institutions are fully functional and operate effectively. The High Court started performing its functions. Important progress has also been made on the functioning of the Constitutional Court. The SPAK is fully functional. The vetting process has advanced steadily. It has resulted in 62% dismissals – mostly for issues related to unjustified assets – or resignations. Vetting dossiers in which the suspicion of a crime has emerged have been submitted to prosecution, including 10 former high-level judges of the High Court and Constitutional Court.
Albania is ready to start EU accession talks in relation to this condition.
Fight against Corruption
Albania has made good progress in the fight against corruption. While the number of ongoing investigations remains high, to date, final convictions in cases involving high-level officials remain limited.
Albania has fulfilled this condition and is ready to sit in the first IGC.
Fight against Organized Crime
In Albania there has been good progress in the fight against organised crime. Police have countered the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis. Efforts need to continue in tackling money laundering.
Albania has met the Council’s condition regarding this point and can start EU accession talks.
Efforts are ongoing to implement a comprehensive land sector reform and to consolidate property rights. The Law on the Finalisation of Transitional Ownership Processes was adopted, in accordance with Venice Commission recommendations. The registration and compensation processes continue.
Albania needs to swiftly adopt the remaining implementing legislation related to minorities. In December 2019, the Parliament adopted a new media law, which falls short of international standards and principles of media freedom. It is being revised in light of the opinion of the Venice Commission.
The EC found that Albania has made tangible progress on the implementation of public administration reform, including progress on regulatory impact assessments, in developing the legislative package related to policy planning, increasing the number of e-services and improving transparency in data collection and human resources management between central and local level. Efforts need to continue in this area, including with a view to adopting a salary policy for civil servants.
While GDP growth slowed down due to lower hydroelectric power production, other sectors performed well and unemployment continued to decrease to record lows. Exports grew solidly, and the public-debt-to-GDP ratio continued to decline but remained high during the reporting period. Banks continued reducing the number of nonperforming loans and landing to private sector picked up. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the structural weaknesses and its economic fall-out erases some of the progress.
Albania’s competitiveness is hindered by lack of entrepreneurial and technological know-how, a significant skills gap, weak institutions and low levels of investment and infrastructure quality.
Albania has continued to participate actively in regional cooperation and maintain good neighbourly relations.
Albania has improved its capacity on border management and asylum. The number of unfounded asylum applications lodged by Albanian nationals in the EU has decreased but remains high and requires continuous and sustained efforts, including addressing the phenomenon of unaccompanied minors. Albania has maintained its efforts to tackle the issue, and has strengthened dialogue and cooperation with the most affected countries.
The progress report will be used to schedule a date for the start of EU talks with Albanian in the first Inter-Governmental Conference. The only condition not fully met, according to the report, is the functioning of the Constitutional Court, which is in progress.