EU Critical of Albania’s Progress

05 November 2008 Tirana – A visiting EU official in Tirana has described Albania’s EU accession progress as “a half empty, half full glass,” after the publication the latest progress report.

The chief of a European Parliament delegation visiting Tirana, Helmut Lohan reiterated the call that Albania’s 2009 parliamentary election will be key to the country’s progress towards the union.

“The parliamentary election should be prepared accordingly and fulfill international standards,” said Lohan.

The European Commission acknowledges that the country has continued to make progress in democracy and rule of law. However, it is criticised for lacking dialogue between political parties. The proper functioning of state institutions also requires consolidation.

“Despite some progress, the fight against corruption and organized crime remains a major challenge”, report says. It says an overall anti-corruption strategy has not started, and emphasises that corruption “remains widespread and serious problem”.

The report adds: “Fighting corruption in the judiciary remains a key issue,” and it urges a thorough investigation of the explosion at an arms depot on March 15, which killed more than 20 people.

“Much work is needed on all aspects of the issue, including judicial accountability and transparency of political party founding,” the paper notes.

The report notes only limited progress in preventing money laundering, as well as the fight against drug trafficking, which “remains a serious concern”. Albania is lacking an adequate court infrastructure, the report says, stressing a “comprehensive reform strategy for the judiciary is missing.”
 
The report slams the attempt by the government to influence investigation of high level corruption launched by the Prosecutor General, in breach of the constitution and criticises a new draft law on the office of the Prosecutor General that aim to bring it under executive control.
 
“The lack of consultation over the initial drafting of the Prosecutor General law, which remains to be adopted, raised concerns about the independence of the
General Prosecutor’s office from the executive,” reads the report.
 
“On several occasions, the government attempted to interfere with ongoing investigations, in breach of the constitutional principle of accountability to law,” the report adds.
 
Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha described the report as objective.
 
“I am conscious that this report is an objective representation of the activities in Tirana this year, and if it was a bilateral agreement I would sign it in a second,” he said.  

Berisha, has come under strong US and European Union criticism over alleged attempts to put pressure on the Prosecutor General Ina Rama, who has been investigating corruption.

Rama has been launching probes into the March 15 blast and into corruption in the construction of the new Albania Kosovo highway, which have put her at odds with the centre-right government.

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