1. EXTRACTS FROM THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORTS ON ALBANIA (2005 – 2007) AND GRECO EVALUATION REPORT (2005) AND COMPLIANCE REPORT (2007) ON ALBANIA (PDF) download >>>
2. ANALYSIS ON ALBANIA BASED ON THE EXTRACTS FROM THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORTS (2005 – 2007) AND GRECO EVALUATION AND COMPLIANCE REPORTS (2005, 2007)
European Commission in its Progress Report (2005) underlines its findings from 2004 Report, that rule of law in Albania was weak, with corruption and organised crime considered as serious threats to the country’s progress. The Commission as well as GRECO states that, in 2005, corruption remains one of the main concerns in Albania, which also faces other types of serious criminality, such as organised crime.
In 2006, European Commission states that fight against corruption will require designing and adopting effective legislation for the required systemic reforms. It is pointed out that combating high-level corruption in rule of law bodies is hindered by a lack of strategy and of coordination between law enforcement officials and agencies.
Following year, the Commission repeats that corruption is widespread and a very serious problem in Albania, underlining that the efforts against organised crime are seriously hampered by corruption at all levels of law enforcement.
Capacities to Fight Corruption and anticorruption policies
In 2005, GRECO welcomes amendment of the provisions of the Criminal Code on corruption, while European Commission states that deficiencies in the implementation, enforcement and coordination of efforts to fight corruption remain. Moreover, it is pointed out that Albania should ensure that its Strategy and Action plan to fight corruption are realistic and precise, that they are adequately enforced and that the capacity to investigate and prosecute offenses is in place.
European Commission, in its Progress Report (2006), notes as a positive development setting up of an Anti-corruption Task Force, highlighting that the existing Anti-Corruption Monitoring Group merged into the Department of Internal Administrative Control. The Commission stresses that some legislative measures designed to combat corruption are rejected by the Constitutional Court following concerns on individual rights, and that implementation of GRECO Evaluation Report recommendations has been limited.
Following year, the Commission welcomes drafting of a new anti-corruption strategy for 2007-2013, however, noting that government’s new anti-corruption strategy does not include sufficiently concrete objectives and indicators. It states that the institutional capacity to investigate and prosecute corruption is strengthened by setting up a new task force against corruption and economic crime in the prosecution office, by setting up of a special anti-corruption section of the police, while highlighting that prosecutors, judicial police and judges are trained on anti-corruption legislation. In conclusion, it is pointed out that the progress is limited in implementing a second set of GRECO recommendations, while anti-corruption investigations led to the arrest of a number of high-level officials.
International Conventions and obligations
In 2005, European Commission highlights that Albania ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption, the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, the UN Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime and signed the UN Anticorruption Convention. Furthermore, the Commission states that implementation of these conventions requires new legislation, while GRECO notes that according to the Constitution international conventions, which are ratified, are directly applicable in Albania even without a specific law transposing them into national law.
The Commission, in its Progress Report (2006), states that Albania participates in two regional anti-corruption initiatives – the Council of Europe GRECO and Stability Pact Anticorruption Initiative, underlining that new legislation is required for Albania to implement the Civil Law Convention on Corruption and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, the UN Anticorruption Convention and the UN Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime provisions on corruption.
Next year, the Commission notes, as a positive development, implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime provisions on corruption in national legislation. Furthermore, it points out that Albania aligned its Criminal Code with the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, on the other hand it is pointed out that Albania did not fully aligned its Civil, Commercial and Administrative Codes with the Council of Europe Civil Law Convention on Corruption.
In its Progress Report (2005), the Commission states that, regarding judiciary, there is little progress in promotion of the status and independence of judges, with existing low enforcement of judgments and lack of transparency. It stresses that the competence of the Ministry of Justice inspectorate should be restricted to purely administrative matters in order to prevent it to be perceived as a threat to the independence of the judiciary and that better remuneration and job security would render the judicial system less vulnerable to corruption. In conclusion, European Commission underlines that Albania should make further determined efforts to prevent the obstruction of investigations by identifying and prosecuting those responsible for corruption related to the drugs trade in particular in the judiciary.
European Commission, in 2006, states that the proposed new Law on the Judiciary does not address three long-standing shortfalls: improving the independence and constitutional protection of judges, improving the pay and status of the administrative staff of the judicial system and the appropriate division of competences between the judicial inspectorates of the High Council of Justice and the Ministry of Justice. The Commission concludes that the number of disciplinary procedures against corrupt prosecutors is an indicator of the scale of corruption, however it states that it can be perceived as a positive signal that steps are taken to combat it.
Following year, the Commission repeats that the respective competences of the judicial inspectorates of the High Council of Justice and the Ministry of Justice need to be clearly defined, underlining that judiciary continued to function poorly due to shortfalls in independence, transparency and efficiency, while legislation planned to address these issues is delayed as well as measures to strengthen the judiciary against corruption. Furthermore, European Commission emphasizes that government measures to combat corruption in the judiciary led to continued conflict between the executive and the judiciary, concluding that there is no change in the rate of disciplinary procedures against corrupt judges and prosecutors.
In 2005, the Commission notes that significant progress is made in the fight against corruption within the police, underlining that some progress is achieved regarding the effectiveness of the state police by the strengthening of departments dealing with organised crime and corruption and by prosecuting and dismissal of police officers for corruption. However, European Commission is of the opinion that Albania has considerable room for improvement in legislation, management, infrastructure and international co-operation related to police work.
In 2007, the Commission underlines that investigation and prosecution of cases of corruption in the police are not sufficiently determined.
Public Administration and Business Environment
In 2005, the Commission and GRECO underline that local and regional levels of public authority should be addressed in Albania’s fight against corruption by increasing the scope of the Action Plan on the Prevention of and Fight against Corruption. Furthermore, the Commission states that there are persistent allegations of the unlawful privatisation of properties where the restitution process is not implemented, concluding that the lack of stable land rights hinders economic development and increases corrupt practices and that the absence of an administrative registration and licensing process inhibits enterprise creation.
The Commission, in its 2006 Report, states that steps are taken to increase the transparency of the public administration, nevertheless, pointing out that political appointments of civil servants remain as a source of concern. Moreover, the Commission expresses, again, its concerns over a weak legal environment – such as a lack of clearly defined property rights, poor infrastructure and widespread corruption which continue to hinder the business climate. The Commission concludes that the government addressed corruption by reducing the role of the state in the economic life of the country, through reducing central administration staff and trough simplifying administrative and licensing procedures, however, it emphasizes that despite determined government action, much needs to be done to combat corruption.
Next year, European Commission repeats that political appointments of civil servants remain as a source of concern, underlining that recruitment and promotion need to be regulated by objective criteria, and that a clear distinction between the political and administrative level needs to be observed, while GRECO notes that the authorities are in the process of preparing a strategy for decentralization and local governance. European Commission perceives as a positive development the establishment of a new joint investigative unit to fight economic crime and corruption, however, pointing out again that uncertainty about property rights and a high level of corruption and inadequate infrastructure continued to hinder economic development and investment. In conclusion, it is underlined that arbitration and appeals facilities, which are available to the business community, are ineffective and open to corruption.
In 2005, the Commission states that the public procurement legislation is fundamentally different from EU legislation, with the framework that is complex and inconsistent and therefore difficult for procuring entities and other stakeholders to interpret, and with the lack of clarity that leaves room for corruption. In addition, it is pointed out that there are no efficient and independent review procedures especially since there is neither an independent body for complaints, nor a provision enabling an appeal to a court after the exhaustion of the administrative procedure; and that there are insufficient investigation and criminal prosecution of procurement – related offences – often due to political influence and corruption. At last, the Commission calls the authorities to take radical measures to prevent irregularities and to prosecute fraud and corruption at all levels.
Following year, the Commission states that there is limited progress in the field of public procurement and that this progress is attributed to organisation of the Public Procurement Agency. Moreover, it repeats that the current public procurement legislation neither provides a specific criterion to identify abnormally low offers nor allows use of the most economically advantageous offer criterion, and that in the absence of an independent body for complaints, efficiency and independence of the review procedures cannot be guaranteed.
European Commission, in its Progress Report (2007), welcomes adoption of the new public procurement legislation, measures to strengthen the independence and transparency of the Public Procurement Agency and the appointment of a public procurement ombudsman. However, it stresses that further alignment is required in all areas of public procurement, emphasizing that the impartiality of review procedures can not be guaranteed since the Public Procurement Agency remains responsible for decisions on complaints. In conclusion, the Commission states that the administrative capacity of all dealing with public procurement needs to be strengthened to ensure that Albania can properly implement the new public procurement legislation and that the proper records are required in order to monitor enforcement of the new law.
In 2005, European Commission emphasizes that effective enforcement of legislation in this area is aggravated by corruption, organised crime and the large informal economy with its high level of cash transactions, and therefore it underlines that Albania’s success in dealing with money laundering is obviously linked to progress in these areas. In addition, GRECO points out that during the last three years, no cases on money laundering connected with corruption are tried and that there are no specific guidelines for the Financial Intelligence Unit or the reporting entities on the detection of corruption.
The Commission states, in is Report (2006), that there is limited progress in the fight against money laundering, with limited capacity to implement money laundering legislation and with economy which is still largely cash-based and thus particularly vulnerable to money laundering. Moreover, it is pointed out that the level of reporting and sequestration is very low and that no steps are taken to increase the operational independence of the Financial Intelligence Unit from the Ministry of Finance. The Commission concludes that preparations in the area of the fight against money laundering are at an early stage, as to date there has not been a single prosecution for non-reporting.
Following year, the Commission welcomes revision of the Law on money laundering and setting up a joint unit to investigate and prosecute financial crime, however emphasizing that the law is not yet in line with the acquis. The Commission stresses, again, that the level of reporting and confiscation remains very low and does not reflect the level of cash entering or leaving the country and no sanctions are applied for non-reporting. In conclusion, GRECO states that no concrete measures are reported with a view to establishing guidelines on detection of corruption for persons and institutions with a duty to report suspicious transactions in the area of money laundering.
Conflict of interests
European Commission, in its Progress Report (2005), greets adoption of new conflict of interest legislation, while GRECO notes that the crucial issues identified by the Albanian authorities requiring further work were harmonization and standardization of the conflict of interests’ definition and concept, expanding the scope of conflicts of interests to all public officials and institutions and defining the responsible authority of the conflict of interests.
In 2006, the Commission states that the Law on Conflict of Interest is amended to address practical problems resulting from the implementation of the existing law, underlining that the High Inspectorate for Disclosure and Verification of Assets intensified its activity and that officials of the inspectorate are authorized to investigate bank accounts of officials outside the country.
Following year, European Commission notes that the law on conflicts of interest needs to be further clarified, underlining that a proposed change to the parliament’s rules of procedure to allow its members’ immunity to be lifted on a case-by-case basis is adopted, in addition GRECO notes that the Law on ethical rules in public administration applies to all categories of public officials. In conclusion, the Commission states that the High Inspectorate for Declaration and Audit of Assets made progress on enforcing asset declaration obligations, however emphasizing that it lacks mechanisms to investigate declarations.
Free access to information
In 2007, European Commission states that improvements in the legal framework to allow free access to public information are needed.
Financing political parties
In 2007, the Commission stresses that no legislation exists to allow enforcement of the constitutional obligation for political parties to make public their sources of finance, underlining that much work is still needed regarding transparency of political party funding.
Customs and Taxation
The Commission, in 2005, notes that some measures to address the issue of corruption and other criminal activities within the customs service are taken, namely, a Code of Ethics is adopted for all officials, however it is underlined that further efforts are needed to fight corruption in customs, to prevent customs officials getting involved in illegal activities and to ensure that any criminal activities are duly prosecuted. In conclusion, it is emphasized that fight against corruption needs to be pursued and reinforced in order to achieve nondiscriminatory application of tax laws.
In 2006, European Commission notes that substantial staff changes are made to address corruption in the tax and customs services where the problem was most severe, namely, large-scale dismissals was undertaken to regain control of departments where corruption was widespread. Moreover, European Commission welcomes the increase of the basic salaries – which is assessed as a positive step towards tackling administrative corruption. However, regarding taxation, it is pointed out that new laws limit employment guarantees to staff, making them more vulnerable to outside pressure and that further alignment with EU legislation and best practices is still needed.
Competition and State aid
In 2005, the Commission emphasizes that in order to ensure open, transparent and competitive operating conditions for companies an overall understanding of the principles of competition need to be increased and efforts are needed to ensure that competition issues are covered by consistent and complementary legislation. Finally, regarding state aid, it is pointed out that the adoption of the Law on State Aid is a positive step, where the legal framework and its implementing regulations needs to be reviewed and improved and that an operationally independent State Aid Authority should established.
European Commission, in its Progress Report (2006), notes that some progress can be reported in the area of anti-trust, as the Competition Authority issued regulations and explanatory guidelines on the control of concentrations, immunity from fines and horizontal and vertical agreements and it started to assess mergers and acquisitions notified to it. However, the Commission notes that it is not clear to what extent the Competition Authority may work independently, while, on the other hand it greets the establishment of a State Aid Commission as the decision-making body in the area of state aid.
Next year, the Commission repeats that the government approved a national competition policy document to serve as a guide for the establishment of free and efficient competition in the market. However, it is emphasized, again, that the Law on Competition is partially compatible with the acquis and that it is not clear to what extent the Competition Authority may work independently. In conclusion, European Commission highlights that there is good progress in the area of state aid, since the State Aid Department became independent in its reporting to the State Aid Commission.