The Council of Europe’s Group of States against corruption (GRECO) has published today its Fourth Round Evaluation Report on Albania dealing with corruption prevention in respect of members of Parliament, judges and prosecutors.
GRECO acknowledges that, while detailed anti-corruption and conflicts of interest regulations are in place, the existing legal framework is highly complex, and its stability is undermined by numerous and frequent amendments which are often subject to contradictory interpretation. Additionally, the rules mainly focus on restrictions and prohibitions, to the detriment of public disclosure and transparency, which curtails their effect.
The Albanian judiciary, in particular, has been suffering from the low level of public trust and its position vis-à-vis other branches of power remains weak. The judiciary lacks control over the selection of the High Court justices, and the right to initiate disciplinary proceedings against district and appeal court judges belongs exclusively to the Minister of Justice.
Moreover, the National Judicial Conference – the principal judicial self-governing body – was not fully operational for years and this has had a negative impact on the selection, career progression, training, disciplinary proceedings against judges.
As concerns members of parliament, the openness and transparency of the National Assembly’s work is hampered by the lack of access to draft legislation before its formal adoption. The vulnerability of MPs to possible undue influence is apparent but is not subject to regulation.
The importance of having clear standards of professional conduct is not considered a priority, and a system for case by case notification of conflicts of interest does not exist. Most importantly, despite the largely praised amendments to the Constitution which had limited MPs’ and judges’ immunity, their implementation has been obstructed by the absence of corresponding amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code.
The implementation of the 10 recommendations addressed to Albania will be assessed by GRECO in the first half of 2016 through its compliance procedure.