By Lulzim Basha
Leader of the Democratic Party of Albania
The 2014 progress report, which was officially delivered to me by the European Union ambassador to Tirana, doesn’t leave any room for dilemmas. The report is clear, objective and it addresses the concerns and problems that Albania has faced, a part of which have been denounced by this opposition on a daily and weekly basis.
The report also points out the negative developments since June, developments which have made it impossible for the report to have a single reference, a promise or suggestion for the opening of negotiations, while in June, senior EU representatives said in Tirana that the opening of negotiations within this year was possible if the priorities were met.
The report reflects the EU growing concern and that of the Albanian society and Albanians, about organized crime, corruption and economic crisis. The report denounces the conflicting spirit of the government, the violation of the Constitution, the rulings of the Constitutional Court which along with violence in parliament, have disabled the overseeing role of the opposition.
The report denounces the lack of consensus for the reforms, especially the territorial reform and other reforms in general. And today in the European Parliament, MEPs didn’t nail with their questions the EU enlargement commissioner, but they nailed Edi Rama for the penetration of crime inside parliament and high state administration, the failure to apply the rulings of the Constitutional Court, the control over independent institutions, the ruining of political consensus, the blows given to the free vote with the disgraceful purchase of votes in Korca and the fact that this crime received amnesty in parliament.
In contrast to other reports, the 2014 progress report expresses, for the first time, the concern over the failure to comply with the Constitution and rulings of the Constitutional Court. Therefore, the application of the law, which is the number one criteria to come closer to the European Union, has been stressed this time more than ever as a major problem for the country. To ask a government to respect the Constitution and the rulings of the Constitutional Court and rulings of courts in general only three months after the country was granted the EU candidate status, is alarming.
The report clearly states that the majority must take measures in order to fully respect the overseeing role of the opposition without any delays!
The evaluation of the parliament’s work starts with the resolution proposed by the opposition in November for the European integration and ends with the degradation in the use of violence in parliament, which led to the boycott of the opposition.
The report says that the consensus reached in parliament could not be overthrown by a unilateral Normative Act of the government, as it was the case.
As a result of this arbitrary action, the massive layoffs of civil servants amount, according to the figures offered by the authorities, to six thousand, while 2/3 of the rulings of the Court of First Instance are in favor of the people who were unfairly dismissed. The report demands the application of these rulings.
The report clearly states that the independence of institutions has been seriously threatened by the way that heads of these institutions, including the AMA case, have been discharged and appointed. The report also demands the reinstatement of all statutory functions and independence of institutions.
Crime and Corruption
The report says that the government has no strategic approach to fight organized crime in its territory and that organized crime is a big challenge for Albania. Besides the concern on corruption and the demand to fight it, there are also direct complaints such as the ones for public procurements. The report says that there’s a drastic increase of direct procurements, which means massive corruption with Albanian taxpayers’ money.
Alarming rise in the number of asylum seekers
For the first time since 2010, when Albanians were granted the liberalization of the visa regime, Albania is ranked second in terms of the number of asylum seekers. The number is two times more than last year, says the report. The report not only links this to the inadequate measures that have been taken, but also the economic criteria. INSTAT, controlled by the government, also admits the economic crisis. The progress report identifies reductions of liquidity, capital, money, fall in confidence in the economy, which means less lending, less consumption and a drastic rise of unemployed people.
The reform in the judicial system
As far as the reform in the judicial system is concerned, which is another key priority for the advancement of Albania toward the EU, the report says that there must be a constructive approach, with the cooperation of all involved actors, including the Venice Commission, etc. The report clearly says that the three laws which were urgently approved in the last parliamentary session, were fragmentary and they were made outside the inclusive process, without consults and by excluding international expertise.
The European Commission says that this must not be the example that must be followed, because the process must be consensual, all inclusive and certified by the Venice Commission and other European and American experts.
Freedom of the speech and the media
The government has failed in addressing the set priorities, says the report, but we know that behind this speech lie great problems that relate to the freedom of speech, freedom of media and this has a direct impact on journalists and their professionalism. The pressures that are exerted on them in different forms through or on media owners, have not passed unnoticed by EU observers.
The blockage of the local government
The government prevented local government to exert its legal powers, says the report. The report goes even further, by stressing that there’s financial discrimination of local government units on political basis and that transparency and planning for the funds allocated for local government units remains a challenge.
This report also talks about INUK (National Construction and Urban Inspectorate). It says that the Constitutional Court ordered INUK not to be involved in demolitions which interfere with the powers of local government and demands transparency in decision making. In fact, INUK decision making is similar to decision making of terrorist organizations.
Dialogue with the opposition is required
The messages for a deterioration of the political situation are clear. The report says that the government has a responsibility to offer the necessary conditions in order for the opposition to play its overseeing role in parliament. The application of the rulings of the Constitutional Court for the overseeing role of the opposition in parliament, is one step and the next step has to do with addressing the problem of violence against the opposition in parliament.
In order for the reforms to be sustainable and crucial, they must be all inclusive and consensual. There must be dialogue and consensus for the reforms that lead the country to the EU. We have often said to the majority that they can go to Brussels with the opposition and not against the opposition, with the Albanian citizens and not against their interests, with a Constitution and application of the law and not their violation.
The opposition is committed to meet the criteria
We praise this report and I express my engagement and that of the Democratic Party, on behalf of the opposition, to play our role in meeting objectives, in meeting the criteria which would open negotiations as soon as possible. We have demanded and demand the fulfillment of these criteria not only for the sake of the process, but because this country needs them. And we want the political elites not to be incriminated, to have a civilized political behavior and within the law, because we want and need a rule of law, where everyone is equal in front of the law and where the law and Constitution are applied the same for everyone and where they are not violated by the government and parliament.
We want division and balancing of powers and not their control and submission.
Consensus and all inclusiveness in key issues which relate to the consolidation of the state, was what the European Union reiterated. Economic freedom, respect of human rights and not violations of human rights.
Freedom of media, civil society and free and honest elections and not elections based on the notorious model of the purchase of votes which was seen by every Albanian in Korca.
Brussels was clear
Unfortunately for the country, the prime minister hid himself even today. He asked what the opposition wanted. He cannot read it on the report. His ears do not list what Brussels says and what his friend Fule told him from the European parliament, what MEPs told him and what the commission and opposition have told him and are telling him repeatedly.
The return of parliamentary life can only be done when Edi Rama, as the main responsible for this situation, reflects and apologizes for what he did to parliament, in order to create the necessary premises for an agreement between majority and opposition which would solve once and for all the issue of decriminalization of the parliament of Albania and the entire public administration, by dismantling the last screw of the mechanism that promotes traffickers, murderers and abductors from entering the parliament of Albania and state administration.
*The opinion of the author doesn’t necessarily represent IBNA’s editorial line