Freedom House: Albania and Kosovo, partially free

Freedom House: Albania and Kosovo, partially free

Washington DC, January 28, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

In a year when freedom saw a fall for the ninth year in a row, Albania and Kosovo continued to be part of countries partially free.

In the annual report released by Freedom House organization, the evaluation on Albania has not changed, while Kosovo has registered progress, by being included for the first time among countries with an electoral democracy.

Level of freedom in Albania

Albania continues to have the same level of evaluation, scoring 3 points in the level of freedom in general on a scale from 1 to 7, where 1 is given to countries with a high level of freedom and 7 is given to countries with the biggest freedom restrictions.

Freedom House attributes the fact that the evaluation has not changed to a combination of institutional problems and positive reforms, which are in the initial stages.

“Of course, we would have liked Albania to have marked progress”, says Arch Puddington, vice president for research in this organization. He attributes the lack of progress to the history of the oppression of the totalitarian regime of Enver Hoxha, which according to him, was more oppressive than in other Eastern European countries. “I think that the country is trill trying to get out of this darkness, where it was immersed during Hoxha’s regime. This is why a little more time is needed. They have made important progress”.

The report underlines that the government led by PM Edi Rama, secured in 2014 the EU candidate status following three previous refusals and it has been praised for the measures taken against organized crime, the new law on the freedom of information and the law that concerns the process of consultation for the drafting of legislation and important strategies on policies.

However, says Freedom House, the country continued to suffer the consequences of political disputes, including the boycott of parliament by the opposition, the failure to punish officials and former senior officials accused of corruption and a legacy of political appointments of judges.

Puddington says that if Albania wants to become an EU member, it must boost efforts.

“But, one of the things that we have learned is that when a country becomes an EU member, it has the tendency of respecting democratic standards in a sustainable way. So, we’re hoping for Albania to attain this objective”.

Kosovo amid electoral democracies

Kosovo is considered as one of the countries with the biggest progress last year. For the first time, it became part of the countries considered as “electoral democracies” thanks to the elections and political rights.

Political rights scored 4 out of 5 points last year, thanks to the relatively successful June election and political agreement for the coalition government. As far as civil liberties are concerned, the evaluation remained unchanged, 4.

Freedom House says that 2014 marked a culmination of positive tendencies and besides the elections, the organization also noticed an improvement of political pluralism, relations between parties and responsibility of the government.

Freedom House praises the fact that PDK collaborated in order for the leader of opposition to become prime minister and that the government is being more and more transparent toward the public.

Puddington says that many countries like Kosovo which have a young democracy, have seen achievements.

“If a country marks an improvement, we recognize that improvement. If next year, things move in the wrong direction, if there’s a fall in the level of freedom, we will underline this”, says Mr. Puddington.

Speaking on the events of the recent days which were associated with acts of violence, he says that the aim of Freedom House is not to evaluate if the changes that have been made will persist from one year to another.

“We understand that there’s an element of fragility in the democracy of Kosovo today. Corruption has always been a major problem. As far as the acts of violence marked in the recent days are concerned, most of them relate to tensions between Serbs and Albanians of Kosovo”.

Mr. Puddington says that tension between Albanians and Serbs is something that needs to be addressed by the country’s officials. In fact, in spite of the recent improvements, the report says that the conditions surrounding Serbs and Islamophobic rhetoric were major concerns for 2014. Some of the incidents that are mentioned are the arrests of the Imams of Pristina, Pec and Mitrovica and the desecration of Serb Orthodox cemeteries. /ibna/