Nations in Transit 2017 - Albania
|Publication Date||3 April 2017|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2017 - Albania, 3 April 2017, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58f74fe411.html [accessed 27 June 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Regime Classification: Transitional Government or Hybrid Regime
Nations in Transit Score (1 = Most Democratic, 7 = Least Democratic)
Score Evolution: No change
NIT Country Rank: 14/29
|Freedom in the World Status:||Partly Free|
|Press Freedom Status:||Partly Free|
|Net Freedom Status:||n/a|
|National Democratic Governance||4.50|
|Local Democratic Governance||3.50|
|Judicial Framework and Independence||4.75|
|National Democratic Governance||4.25||4.25||4.50||4.75||4.75||5.00||4.75||4.50||4.50||4.50|
|Local Democratic Governance||2.75||2.75||3.00||3.25||3.25||3.50||3.50||3.50||3.50||3.50|
|Judicial Framework and Independence||4.00||4.25||4.25||4.25||4.75||4.75||4.75||4.75||4.75||4.75|
NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. If consensus cannot be reached, Freedom House is responsible for the final ratings. The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s).
No Score Changes.
By Besfort Lamallari
Albania was at a crossroads in 2016, forced to choose whether to continue its historical legacy of corruption and organized crime or to make a radical break and live up to the aspirations of its people for a state that will meet European Union (EU) standards. On 22 July, after 18 months of intensive technical work and strained political negotiations, the Albanian parliament passed in a unanimous vote an ambitious set of constitutional amendments on judicial reform. The amendments, and related laws enacted in the second half of the year, are aimed at curbing corruption, organized crime, and political meddling in the judiciary. The political consensus behind the amendments was forged through intense pressure from Albania's international partners, and implementation of the reforms will be a truly formidable challenge for the country's divided political leaders.
Despite police raids and crackdowns, financiers and traffickers managed to extend their cannabis plantations across the country, taking advantage of poor farmers and corrupt state officials. The problem seems deep-rooted in the country's weak economy, youth unemployment, and widespread corruption. Dismantling cannabis cultivation will therefore require complex and unwavering measures, both in the short- and long term, that go beyond the unproductive accusations traded over the left-right political divide. Overall, Albania still has a poor track record in investigating, identifying, prosecuting, and convicting key figures in drug trafficking and other organized crime activities. The "decriminalization" law passed at the end of 2015 has had only minor results in removing incriminated officials from public office and has not yet made a dent in the problem of state infiltration by organized crime.
The ad hoc parliamentary committee on electoral reform failed for over a year to put together an Electoral Code that would comply with OSCE recommendations and international standards. Long-standing electoral concerns, such as allegations of vote buying, pressure on voters, and violence, were repeated in the year's two local by-elections in Dibra and Kolonja municipalities, held in September and November, respectively. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 18 June 2017 and will be a crucial test of the decriminalization law adopted in December 2015.
Precarious working conditions for journalists in Albania leave them vulnerable to pressure from political and private interests. While media played a crucial role in exposing corruption and official malfeasance, the forced resignations of a number of journalists over investigative programs demonstrated the continued problem of political pressure on the media.
On a more positive note, civil society groups and activists showed increased vibrancy, organization, and engagement in voicing their concerns about different social and political issues, such as the construction of hydro-power plants on the Valbona and Vjosa rivers and the import of waste for the recycling industry. They exerted pressure on policy and decision-makers through meetings, petitions, lawsuits, court filings, and peaceful protests. Although only a few of these initiatives produced concrete results in 2016, they showed civic engagement in government and gave voice to citizens' concerns.
Outlook for 2017: Implementation of justice reform will be at the top of the government agenda with new institutions expected to be established by spring 2017, which will require drafting and enacting more than 40 new justice-related laws. Those who oppose the justice reform will likely intensify their resistance. The June 2017 parliamentary election will contribute to the tension, as political leaders will be engaged in negotiations over preelection alliances while also trying to revise the Electoral Code at the last minute. On 9 November 2016, the European Commission issued a positive recommendation for Albania to open accession negotiations with the EU, but this is conditional upon tangible progress in implementation of the justice reform, in particular, the vetting of judges and prosecutors. Furthermore, to formally open accession talks, the country will need the unanimous support of EU member states.
National Democratic Governance:
On 22 July 2016, the Albanian parliament adopted a long-awaited set of constitutional amendments aimed at reforming the justice system in a unanimous vote of all 140 members. Only through intense pressure from the European Union (EU) and the United States was the political consensus reached to achieve this historic break with the past. The constitutional amendments will enable an overhaul of the process for reevaluating, or "vetting," judges and prosecutors, and a broader institutional reorganization of the justice system (see "Judicial Framework and Independence"). Following the amendments' approval, the parliament passed a set of seven priority laws urgent for the implementation of justice reform. Some 40 additional justice-related laws were still being prepared at year's end. The political consensus held further to pass (by 122 votes) the important bill on the specialized institutions in the fight against corruption and organized crime, or SPAK.
Despite the apparent consensus, negotiations over the judicial reform package were characterized by political grandstanding and maneuvering between the main ruling Socialist Party (PS) and the opposition Democratic Party (PD), accusing each other of alternately undermining the reform and attempting to capture the new justice system. PD's frequent amendments, and their rejection of compromise proposals from the U.S. and EU senior officials and diplomats, put the opposition leadership into conflict with Albania's international partners while also fueling internal disputes. PS's seemingly more comfortable position, on the other hand, was disrupted by the firm request of its junior partner, Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI), that the reform be approved only by consensus. The repeated calls by LSI head Ilir Meta for PS to avoid pressure and arrogance during the negotiations peaked with his threat to resign as Assembly Speaker if PS passed the reforms unilaterally.
The painful process of achieving consensus for the constitutional amendments had wide-ranging political effects. Since then, the relationship among the governing parties has been marred by insecurities, prodding, and indecision on whether to run together for a second mandate in 2017. Prime Minister Edi Rama of PS did strengthen his relations with his other ally in the parliament, Party for Justice, Integration and Unity (PDIU), by offering them more posts at the level of deputy minister and general director. But two former PS members of parliament (MPs), Ben Blushi and Mimoza Hafizi, announced in October their departure from the PS parliamentary group and subsequently presented their new political party called Equal List, or "Libra." Another new party targeting disappointed voters, "The Challenge for Albania," was announced at the same time by Gjergj Bojaxhi, a former independent candidate for mayor of Tirana in the local elections of June 2015.
The political consensus, however, did not last till the adoption of the judicial reforms themselves that were enabled by the amendments. The crucial "vetting law," governing the process of reevaluating judges and prosecutors, was adopted with 88 votes from the ruling majority only. The opposition PD and Union of Judges immediately challenged it in the Constitutional Court. The court denied PD's request in December (see "Judicial Framework and Independence"). Also in December, PD challenged another important piece of the justice reform package, namely, the law on "the governing bodies of the justice system." The court's decision was still pending at year's end.
An undercurrent running through the political discourse on justice reform involved the related issues of "decriminalization" (removal and prevention of people convicted of crimes from holding public office using legislation adopted in December 2015) and the continued spread of cannabis cultivation. Accusations of links between government officials and organized crime kingpins continued throughout 2016, especially during the collection and publication of the decriminalization self-declaration forms, where a number of MPs and mayors from all sides were shown to have had problems with the justice system. In May, allegations of a nexus between organized crime and politics reached a climax when a local official in Saranda was named by the Greek police as head of a major drug trafficking ring. Greek media claimed that the "Escobar of the Balkans" had strong connections with Albanian politicians. Before the allegations came to light, the official was holding public office despite having been arrested by the State Police in 2006 on drug trafficking charges.
The urgent issue of organized crime was also made manifest in the area of cannabis cultivation. Two and a half years after the start of a government crackdown, drug dealers managed to plant at least 2.4 million cannabis seeds across the country, and to traffic across Albania's borders tons of marijuana worth billions of dollars. The opposition has accused the prime minister and interior minister of protecting drug lords in exchange for illicit proceeds and support. Domestic experts and EU representatives consider the spread of cannabis a national concern with significant repercussions for agriculture, labor markets, social stability, and criminalization of the economy and society, not to mention Albania's international reputation.
In December 2015, the Assembly agreed to consider a reform of the Electoral Code to fulfill the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR final reports on the 2013 general elections and 2015 local elections. But one year later, and with only a few months until the June 2017 parliamentary elections, the process has failed to cross from political debate to concrete results. The only change in 2016 was when the Central Election Commission adjusted the allocation of MP mandates in light of demographic shifts in the country, decreasing by one each the number of MPs for the Kukës, Korça, and Berat municipalities and adding them to Tirana (two) and Durrës (one).
In December 2015, an ad hoc Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform was established, with 10 members from all parliamentary groups, including 2 co-chairs appointed by the ruling majority and the main opposition party. Political parties, civil society election watchdogs, and three former presidents voiced a number of proposals: the depoliticization of electoral administration at all levels, introduction of electronic voting and ballot counting, enabling Albanian citizens abroad to vote, and increased transparency in political party finances. The proposal by LSI head Ilir Meta to introduce open lists of candidates met with opposition from his former ally, ex-prime minister and ex-PD leader Sali Berisha, and some PS MPs. Calls from smaller political parties for changes to the present proportional system and financial support from the state budget were not even considered.
A total of 57,018 citizens in the northeastern municipality of Dibra elected a new mayor on 11 September following the dismissal and arrest of the former mayor, a PS member who in May was shown in a news report on local television soliciting a 20-year-old woman for sex in exchange for a promotion. Based on the monitoring of the by-election by civil society watchdogs, such as the Coalition of Domestic Observers (KVV) and Coalition for Free and Fair Elections and Sustainable Democracy (KZLN), although the voting and ballot-counting processes were orderly overall, the electoral campaign was spoiled by allegations of vote buying, pressure on voters, and other incidents such as threats and physical assaults. In its statement, the OSCE Presence in Albania underlined that it shared the concern of the Central Election Commission (CEC), which was also raised by independent monitors, about the replacement of over 98 percent of polling station commissioners the day before the elections. The surprisingly high presence of MPs from both sides in this poor municipality underscored the domination of the electoral process by political parties rather than the candidates themselves. The ruling coalition's candidate, Muharrem Rama, won by a notable margin with 56.3 percent of the vote, or 4,162 more votes than the opposition candidate, Sherefedin Shehu. Voter turnout was reported as 60 percent.
Following the unexpected death of the mayor of Kolonja, a much smaller southeastern municipality, around 50 percent of eligible voters turned out on 20 November to elect their new mayor. The left-wing candidate, Ilia Stefo, won with an advantage of around 2,000 votes over his rival, or 62.86 percent compared to 37.14 percent of the votes. A violent incident and allegations of vote buying were registered during the campaign.
Albania's civil society is experiencing an awakening. Throughout 2016, citizen movements, activists, online social networks, civil society organizations (CSOs), business associations, ad hoc initiatives, and ordinary people, all unaffiliated with political parties, became more active and vocal about various social, economic, and political issues. They voiced their concerns through discussions with policymakers, proposals for legal amendments, calls for swift approval of the justice reform, petitions to the president, requests filed with the Constitutional Court against certain legal initiatives, protests, and even clashes with the police.
Active groupings included the Alliance Against the Import of Waste protesting waste imports for the recycling industry; environmentalists, kayakers, jazz singers, journalists, and local residents protesting the construction of hydro-power plants on the Vjosa and Valbona rivers in Skavica and Rukaj, respectively; the #ProReformës initiative, a group of civil society representatives in support of the adoption and implementation of the justice reform; the "For the University" and "shqipON" movements that, among other issues, protested in January against the lack of justice over the killings of four protesters in 2011; #Thurje Initiative, a civil society group promoting increased civic engagement; and the informal groups "Citizens for the Park" and "Plant Your Tree," which opposed the construction of a children's playground in Tirana's Artificial Lake Park area. Despite meager media coverage, protests were organized also by Tirana taxi drivers and Ballsh Oil Refinery and Fier bypass workers, who expressed concerns, respectively, about informal working conditions and unpaid salaries. Some of these initiatives had policy impact. The president decided to return to the parliament the law allowing imported waste for recycling purposes, which had provoked numerous protests by civil society activists and forced the ruling coalition to postpone its revision until next year.
According to the latest CSO Sustainability Index, the legal environment and financial viability of civil society organizations improved slightly in the last year. However, other indicators assessed remained the same, namely, organizational capacity, infrastructure, advocacy, and public image. In April, the parliament passed a bill on volunteerism seeking to give a legal status to voluntary work in order to foster civic participation, enhance solidarity, and improve community life.
The business community is also an active part of Albania's civil society. Business associations, traders, workers, and self-employed professionals were active during the year through protests, petitions to the president, and requests to the Constitutional Court. In March, the court ruled to abolish a number of provisions of the amended law on fiscal procedures following a request by the Association for the Protection of Markets and Traders. In July, the court rejected an article of the amended law on the collection of social contributions and its supplementing governmental decision on the basis of a request by the National Chamber of Advocates. The repealed provision had tripled the reference wage for self-employed professionals.
In October, a week after receiving a joint request from 18 business associations, the president returned to parliament a new law on chambers of commerce that required mandatory membership in the Public Chamber of Commerce. The business associations had argued that this was a return to Communist practices of compulsory membership. Earlier in February, the Foreign Investors Association of Albania had also lobbied the parliament against the bill.
Like other states in the Balkans, Albania has been affected by radicalization and violent extremism. Dozens of Albanian citizens (the exact numbers are contested) have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. Civil society organizations, local religious leaders, and researchers are engaged in research and awareness-raising campaigns to better understand violent extremism and its prevention. With the aim to encourage further work within local communities on countering violent extremism, the EU Commission launched a call in July for proposals in this area with a total budget of €670,000.
Albania's media sector faced significant if not novel political pressures in 2016. Investigative stories and those critical of the authorities often resulted in repercussions for individual journalists. The sector is vulnerable due to weak financial sustainability and a high rate of informal working conditions for many journalists. There were a number of legislative proposals affecting the media discussed and even passed through the parliament in 2016, but they did not make it to law.
Presently, an estimated 5,300 people work in the media industry in Albania, of which 2,300 are journalists. During a hearing of the parliamentary committee on media, the head of the Union of Albanian Journalists, Aleksandër Çipa, reported that 95 percent of media employees are not paid on time, and 30 percent had not received their salaries for the last three to four months. Informal work and a lack of collective contracts are considered the biggest labor issues in the industry.
At least three journalists faced humiliating treatment and unfair dismissals due to their work in an Albanian media environment where the editorial line is largely determined by the economic and political interests of media leaders. Alida Tota, editor-in-chief of A1 News TV, was dismissed in August after trying to broadcast a secretly recorded video on the death of a 17-year-old worker, Ardit Gjoklaj, in a recycling plant at the Sharra landfill in Tirana and the miserable working conditions there. The mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, had earlier promoted the landfill's conditions. In October, the show Publicus on Vizion Plus TV was pulled off the air after broadcasting another investigation into the recycling plant at the landfill entitled "The Deadly Mound." In the face of accusations that he had censored the show, Veliaj publicly challenged any journalist to prove his involvement in the cancellation.
Another editor-in-chief, Mentor Kikia, announced via Facebook in September that he had been discharged from the position he held at Top Channel TV for nearly 16 years. He wrote that his critical views and articles published elsewhere were verbally but not formally given as reasons for his dismissal. In September, Ada Eqimi won a case against her former employer TV Klan in Tirana District Court. The court found that she was sacked after defying the editor-in-chief's order to insert images inconsistent with the content of the news.
In June, the American Hospital sued journalists of Shëndet+ newspaper on claims of having damaged its image through the publication of an article referring to patient complaints about the poor quality of food and hygiene in the hospital. A few months later, the plaintiff's attorneys filed a motion with the court to remove the article from the internet until the final decision. Journalists saw the request for temporary removal as an attempt at censorship, and the judge denied the request. The case remained open at year's end. In December, a journalist from TV Klan's investigative show STOP was charged with corruption after secretly filming the purchase of a Vespa motor scooter from the State Reserve in an effort to document corruption.
A number of legislative initiatives affecting journalism and the media were stalled during the year. In April, the president returned to the parliament amendments to the media law specifying the election of the Public Broadcasting Service (RTSH) General Director with a simple majority of members of the board of directors in the fourth round. The president argued that using a simple majority for the election of the director but a qualified majority of two-thirds for his/her dismissal would de facto mean electing someone whom the ruling majority could preserve in office without challenge. The Union of Albanian Journalists had earlier called on the president not to sign the amendments for the same reason.
An e-commerce draft law, particularly article 17 specifying the liability of service providers for information they store, sparked concerns about editorial autonomy and fears of censorship on online media platforms. The act is aimed at transposing the relevant EU Directive into Albanian legislation but has yet to pass in the parliament.
A proposal from a PD MP aimed at filtering online comments, which has been on hold since the beginning of 2015 amid controversy, is soon to be reviewed by the parliament. The proposal had been awaiting the decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Delfi AS v. Estonia, which in June 2015 confirmed the liability of an online news platform for its readers' offensive comments.
In May, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of a controversial request to repeal Paragraph 3 of Article 62 of the media law, which had imposed media ownership limitations for national commercial broadcasters. An earlier attempt by a PS MP to revoke all limitations on media ownership had been quashed in 2015 by the parliamentary committee on media after it came under strong criticism from domestic and international actors. In its November progress report, the European Commission recommended alignment of Albania's ownership limitations with international standards.
In terms of the justice reform, journalists, opinion-makers, and politicians reacted negatively to two provisions in the draft laws, namely, Article 13 of the special anticorruption prosecutions office and Article 6 on the prosecutor's office, which provided for prison terms for journalists who influence prosecutors on specific cases. Calling the articles serious threats to media independence, the journalists' associations met with the chair of the ad hoc parliamentary committee on judicial reform and agreed to a revised version of both articles that no longer specified prison terms for journalists.
In February, local television outlets protested new tariffs set by RTSH and approved by the media regulatory authority (AMA) for broadcasting in digital networks. Following the shutdown of analog broadcasts, all local television channels are required to join the RTSH digital networks on the basis of a monthly fee of around $1,167, and $2,335 for those operating in the areas of Tirana and Durrës.
Local Democratic Governance:
An administrative and territorial reform in Albania in 2014 shrunk the number of municipalities and communities from 373 to 61, and gave more powers to mayors and budgetary resources to municipalities. With implementing legislation adopted only in December 2015, this year was supposed to be for implementation of decentralization, but the reforms progressed slowly and without the projected efficiencies.
A mission of the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities that visited Albania in February reported that implementation of the decentralization reform had been moving slowly, with mayors elected in June 2015 confused about their new competences in addition to such inherited problems as the lack of human and financial resources. The 61 newly established municipalities continue to face financial burdens despite an increase in local government budgets up to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2016, an increase of 0.4 percent. An audit revealed that the 12 largest municipalities had some $163.1 million in debt, 78 percent of which belonged to Tirana.
The territorial-administrative reform has failed thus far to produce its proclaimed goal of reducing expenses. The projection was to reduce personnel expenses by 60 million euros, but in the first half of the year wage-related expenses actually grew by 35 percent, while public investments shrunk by 41 percent. The Minister of State for Local Government explained the wage-related increase by arguing that around 8,000 central government employees are now working for the municipalities for the delivery of a number of services the municipalities did not previously offer. Experts pointed out that even this figure was far from the stated objective of reducing personnel by 25,000 positions. Meanwhile, the ombudsman, in a monitoring report covering 51 of the new municipalities, found that a total of 3,059 local government employees had been dismissed, in most cases unfairly as proven by court decisions in their favor.
The Council of Europe mission in February noted that political patronage was used for electoral support, and reporters of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) have pointed to allegations of bias, opacity, and political favoritism in the process of grant-making by the Regional Development Fund, which is essentially managed by the left-wing central government. BIRN showed that out of 99 projects financed in 2014-15, only 7 went to right-wing municipalities. For instance, Shkodra, the largest municipality in the north and a PD stronghold, received only 0.73 percent of the total amount of grants awarded by the Regional Development Fund.
Nevertheless, preparation of a new draft law on local government finances is ongoing to accommodate the decentralization of some services and their accompanying expenditures. In July, the country started the second phase of the Support to Territorial and Administrative Reform (STAR2) project aimed at supporting the 61 new municipalities by strengthening institutional and administrative capacities, improving service delivery, and increasing public participation in decision-making. The $8.2 million project will be implemented over three and half years.
Judicial Framework and Independence:
In the early hours of 22 July, after 18 months of intense technical work and strained political negotiations, the Albanian parliament unanimously passed a set of 46 constitutional amendments needed to support reform of the judicial system. The radical reform that should follow is intended to address pervasive corruption in the judiciary as well as strengthen its independence from organized crime and political meddling.
Implementation of the adopted constitutional amendments now requires the drafting and enactment of 40 new justice-related laws, in addition to the 7 priority laws already adopted in 2016. These priority laws include the law on the temporary reevaluation of judges and prosecutors ("vetting law"); law on the organization and functioning of the institutions specialized in fighting corruption and organized crime (Special Prosecution Against Corruption, or SPAK); law on the conditions of service of judges and prosecutors; and law on the reorganization of the judicial structures, including the Prosecutor's Office, the Constitutional Court, and the governing organs of the justice system.
The "vetting law," approved in August by a qualified majority of the ruling coalition, specifies the reevaluation of all judges and prosecutors, including their advisors and assistants, based on checks of assets, background (for connections with organized crime), and professionalism. PD immediately challenged the law in the Constitutional Court, arguing in part that performance of the vetting by institutions under government control rather than independent bodies violated the separation of powers. The court denied PD's request in December, drawing in part on an amicus curiae opinion of the Venice Commission. In December, PD also challenged the law on "the governing bodies of the justice system," arguing against the formula for the parliament's selection of members of the Prosecution Councils and Supreme Judicial Council. The court's decision was still pending at year's end.
The justice reform package includes a series of reconstructed and new judicial institutions to be set up by spring 2017 that are intended to ensure independence, functionality, and accountability, and, particularly, to combat corruption within the judiciary and among state officials. The High Judicial Council (HJC) and the High Prosecution Council will stand at the apex of the judicial and prosecutorial apparatuses. Corruption, organized crime, and other criminal offenses committed by current and former top-ranking officials will be investigated and adjudicated by special prosecutors in specialized courts. A Special Prosecutions Office, including a subordinate investigative unit, will be independent of the Prosecutor General. Prior to their appointment, all special judges and prosecutors will have to pass a review of their assets, background (i.e., potential ties to organized crime), and will consent to periodic reviews of their financial accounts and personal communications. A High Justice Inspector will verify complaints against judges and prosecutors at all levels, investigate any misconduct by them, as well as inspect all courts and prosecution offices. All candidates for the top judicial positions will come under the scrutiny of the Justice Appointments Council. To reestablish the proper functioning of the rule of law, independence, and public trust in the judiciary, a reevaluation mechanism has been introduced. In collaboration with the International Monitoring Operation, an Independent Qualification Commission and an Appeal Chamber will operate for five and nine years, respectively, to ensure that the assets, background, and proficiency of all civil servants in the judicial sector are in compliance with the law. Also, two Public Commissioners will represent the public interest in the reevaluation system.
The reform has already had an effect on the selection of judges in one international forum. On 6 October, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recommended that the Assembly reject all three candidates for Albania's seat on the court. The committee argued that the national selection procedure had not been in line with Albania's newly adopted standards and those of the Assembly.
The judicial reform is intended to respond to a corrupt and inefficient judicial sector. Pervasive corruption within the judiciary, as well as in the healthcare sector, was highlighted by the latest report of the U.S. Department of State as the most pressing human rights violations encountered by Albanian citizens. These problems are made worse by an endemic culture of elite impunity. In October, the head of the Gjirokastra Court was suspended by the High Council of Justice following publication in the media of an audio recording suggesting he had solicited a woman for sex in exchange for a positive ruling on her case. In December, the Durrës Appellate Court released on probation Lulzim Berisha, leader of the notorious Durrës criminal gang, who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2014 for the murder of five people and the creation of an armed gang.
The inefficiency of the legal system in settling disputes and challenging regulations, and problems with independence, place Albania 120th out of 140 countries in judicial independence, according to a World Economic Forum study. A project initiated in 2013 by USAID/JuST and the OSCE Presence in Albania with the aim to increase the efficiency of trials has shown some success in the pilot courts of Korça, Kruja, Puka, and Tropoja municipalities. The project was spurred in part by an OSCE study showing that almost half of court hearings were unproductive, i.e., lacking any arguments, documents, evidence, or additional motions filed with the court. Another study found that only 9 percent of the sample cases were finished within the legal deadline of 30 days by the Administrative Court of Appeals, and that the average duration of trial sessions was 343 days. First-instance administrative court proceedings were reported as being slightly faster, with 16 percent of cases concluded within 30 days, and an average duration of 135 days for all studied cases. Reduced staff, functioning with almost half the judges stipulated by law, and lack of electronic case registers, databases, and websites are among the problems hampering the work of these courts.
At year's end, 488 applications from Albanian citizens were waiting to be heard by the ECtHR. Many concern the right to a fair trial, lengthy proceedings, and non-enforcement of final court decisions, in particular, cases involving restitution of property, a long-standing and pervasive problem affecting a significant part of the population. Four related cases concerning property inheritance concluded by the court in March-April 2016 resulted in $25 million in rulings against the state. One of the four protesters killed in the 21 January 2011 demonstration filed an application with the ECtHR in 2016. An important pending case involves family members of the victims of the deadly Gërdec ammunition dump blast in March 2008.
The ombudsman and Albanian Helsinki Committee have repeatedly raised the issues of treatment of mentally ill detainees, violence, and prison overcrowding. In June, the Helsinki Committee stated that 165 individuals in need of treatment in specialized institutions were being held instead in prisons and detention centers.
The fight against corruption is at the core of the justice reform package passed in 2016. The laws on vetting and "organization and functioning of the institutions specialized in fighting corruption and organized crime" (commonly called the Special Prosecution against Corruption, or SPAK) are the primary new mechanisms against economic and political corruption as well as the influence of organized crime in the judiciary and beyond. The vetting law is aimed at cleansing the justice system through a detailed examination of the assets, professionalism, and possible ties with organized crime of all judges, prosecutors, and candidates for posts in the new judicial system.
The second initiative, SPAK has a broader anticorruption goal. It aims to investigate and adjudicate all corruption and organized crime offenses by former and current senior officials, including political leaders. All SPAK magistrates will be thoroughly vetted prior to their appointment and subject thereafter to periodic financial examinations as well as inspections of their communications. The Special Prosecutions Office, including its supporting investigative unit, will be independent of the General Prosecutor. The new independent investigative unit, National Bureau of Investigation (BKH), is modeled after the American FBI, and its experts will be trained at the latter's academy in the U.S.
The so-called decriminalization law adopted in December 2015 is intended to facilitate the removal of incriminated individuals from public office. Pursuant to the law, officials submitted self-declaration forms in 2016 that were then referred to the Prosecutor's Office for review by its Integrity Verification Office established in March. The self-declaration forms revealed that at least 10 MPs, split equally between the left and right parties, and 5 PS and PD mayors had problems in the past with the justice system, meaning they had been arrested, prosecuted, or convicted for various offenses. In response to media allegations of lack of full transparency by some of the declared subjects, the mayors of Kavaja and Tepelena claimed that they had not been aware of the criminal sentences against them. After the General Prosecutor accused two MPs and the mayor of Kavaja of lying about their pasts and hiding their criminal records, the Central Election Commission decided to dismiss them from office.
Several other public officials were suspended or forced from office due to corruption allegations in 2016. In May, PS MP Koco Kokëdhima was removed from office after the Constitutional Court found that one of his companies had benefited from public funds while he was an MP. In July, a High Court judge, Majlinda Andrea, was suspended from duty following a prosecution inquiry that revealed she had taken €50,000 through her spouse for a positive ruling on a case being tried by the court. In September, the former PD minister of labor and social welfare, Spiro Ksera, was sentenced by the Tirana District Court to 20 months in prison on abuse of office charges.
On 2 June, the parliament adopted a new law on whistleblowers that covers public- and private-sector employees. The law specifies new procedures for investigating disclosed misconduct in the workplace, while also offering protection from any form of retaliation against whistleblowers.
Since February, Tirana police officers have been patrolling with cameras installed on their uniforms as part of a project aimed at curtailing bribery and other misconduct, which will expand to other cities in the future. Bribery has been a major and persistent concern in Albania, particularly among traffic police.
Corruption distorts Albania's economy. In January, the International Monetary Fund representative in Albania told the magazine Monitor that a number of taxes and regulations had been changed to fit the interests of a small number of beneficiaries at the expense of others. Despite years of mutual accusations across the political divide over corrupt and failed policies, Albanian citizens continue to pay the highest prices in the region for oil and international flights. A recent assessment of the national integrity system by Transparency International noted several media allegations of corruption and gross mismanagement revolving around the lucrative business of concessions and public-private partnerships, notably, in the healthcare sector.
A report issued in 2016 by the United Nations Economic Committee for Europe found that "every consignment entering or leaving Albania" was being charged a scanning fee, not only at the port of entry or exit but also at the point of destination, and even at destinations where no scanning took place or where there were no scanners installed. The report called this an unacceptable practice that created "an effective tax not based on law." The Ministry of Finance, however, claimed that the government is unable to cancel the fee because the cancellation would cost Albania over €300 million in arbitration due to a concession the government signed in 2011 with the company Rapiscan.
The government made a similar argument following numerous protests by civil society activists urging the government to stop the construction of 11 hydro-power plants (HPP) on Valbona river and the cancellation of three concessionary agreements concerning the HPPs signed by the former and current government. Environmentalists have warned that the HPPs will cause irreparable damage to the Valbona Valley, also known as the "Albanian miracle of the Alps."
AUTHOR: BESFORT LAMALLARI
Besfort Lamallari has completed an MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Oxford, and is currently carrying out research on organized crime and terrorism.
1 Fatjona Mejdini, "Albania MPs Finally Adopt Judicial Reform," Balkan Insight, 22 July 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-parliament-passes-with-unanimity-the-judicial-reform-07-22-2016
2 "Albania 2016 Report," European Commission, 9 November 2016, http://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_albania.pdf
3 Edison Kurani, "Special anti-corruption structure in Albania," Independent Balkan News Agency, 7 October 2016, http://www.balkaneu.com/special-anti-corruption-structure-albania/
4 "Rama: PD nuk e do reformën. Basha: Prishët konsensusin" [Rama: PD does not want the reform. Basha: You broke the consensus], Mapo, 4 April 2016, http://www.mapo.al/2016/04/rama-pd-nuk-e-do-reformen-basha-prishet-konsensusin/1 ; "Basha: Rama e tha vetë, kërkon të ketë në dorë sistemin e drejtësisë" [Basha: Rama said it himself, wants to have justice system in his hands], Shqiptarja, 10 May 2016, http://shqiptarja.com/politike/2732/basha-rama-e-tha-vete-kerkon–-te-kape-sistemin-e-drejtesise-355665.html
5 Fatjona Mejdini, "Albanian Democrats Reject US-Backed Judicial Reform", Balkan Insight, 13 July 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-democrats-say-no-to-u-s-high-diplomats-over-judicial-reform-07-13-2016; Fatjona Mejdini, "Albania's Democrats Risk Testing America's Patience", Balkan Insight, 18 July 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-s-democrats-risk-testing-america-s-patience-07-16-2016 ; "Debati i plotë pa media në PD, çfarë ndodhi mes Bashës, Bregut, Patozit dhe Selamit" [Full debate in PD without media, what happened between Basha, Bregu, Patozi and Selami], Panorama, 20 July 2016, http://www.panorama.com.al/reforma-debate-ne-mbledhjen-e-pd-se-4-debutete-dalin-kunder-bashes/
6 "Meta says the justice reform should be adopted only by consensus", Albeu 14 July 2016, http://english.albeu.com/news/news/meta-says-the-justice-reform-should-be-adopted-only-by-consensus/251837/ ; Koha Jone, "Ilir Meta: LSI do ta votoj Reformën, por duhet konsensus ose iki si kryetar" [Ilir Meta: LSI will vote the Reform, but consensus is requires or I quit as Speaker], Koha Jone, 21 July 2016, http://www.kohajone.com/2016/07/21/ilir-meta-lsi-do-ta-votoj-reformen-dhe-do-te-jap-doreheqjen-si-kryetar/; "Meta: Jo reformë me presione e shantazhe" [Meta: Not a reform with pressures and blackmailing], RTK, 21 July 2016, http://www.rtklive.com/sq/news-single.php?ID=87511
7 Lajmi i Fundit, "Rama flet për aleancën me Metën: LSI të vendosë do vazhdojë majtas apo do 'rimartohet' me PD" [Rama speaks about the alliance with Meta: LSI should decide whether to continue left or "remarry" PD], 10.2016, http://lajmifundit.al/2016/10/rama-meta-lsi/
8 BalkanWeb, "PS afron PDIU, ja postet që jep në rang drejtorësh" [PS brings PDIU closer, here's the posts at director's level], 27.08.2016, http://www.balkanweb.com/site/ps-afron-pdiu-ja-postet-qe-jep-ne-rang-drejtoresh/ ; Koha Jonw, "PDIU merr një tjetër post në qeveri, Vjollca Braho emërohet zv/ministre e Mirëqenies Sociale [PDIU gets another post in government, Vjollca Braho appointed deputy minister of Social Welfare], 20.10.2016, http://www.kohajone.com/2016/10/20/pdiu-merr-nje-tjeter-post-ne-qeveri-vjollca-braho-emerohet-zvministre-e-mireqenies-sociale/
9 Top Channel, "Two former Socialist MPs form new party, "Libra"", 11.01.2016, http://m.top-channel.tv/lajme/english/artikull.php?id=18386
10 Albanian News, "New Political Party, "Challenge for Albania" Created, 20.10.2016, http://www.albaniannews.com/index.php?idm=9079&mod=2
11 "Albanian parliament adopts first crucial justice reform law," BNE IntelliNews, 30 August 2016, http://www.intellinews.com/albanian-parliament-adopts-first-crucial-justice-reform-law-105055/
12 Sonila Mehmeti, "DP takes vetting law to Constitutional Court: It provides for govt. control on newly-created bodies", Albanian Telegraphic Agency, 05 October 2016, https://www.ata.gov.al/en/dp-takes-vetting-law-to-constitutional-court-it-provides-for-govt-control-on-newly-created-bodies/?doing_wp_cron=1477940363.2788100242614746093750
13 "Albania: Amicus Curiae Brief for the Constitutional Court on the Law on the Transitional Re-evaluation of Judges and Prosecutors (The Vetting Law)," Venice Commission, 12 December 2016, http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2016)036-e; "Constitutional Court refutes PD's request for cancellation of vetting law," Exit, 22 December 2016, http://www.exit.al/en/2016/12/22/constitutional-court-refutes-pds-request-for-cancellation-of-vetting-law/
15 Gjergj Erebara, "Pesë të majtë dhe pesë të djathtë me precedentë penalë në parlament" [Five of the left and five of the right in parliament with criminal precedents], Reporter.al, 20 May 2016, http://www.reporter.al/pese-te-majte-dhe-pese-te-djathte-me-precedente-penale-ne-parlament/; Aleksandra Bogdani, "Pesë kryetarë bashkish të PS dhe PD pranojnë problemet me drejtësinë" [Five PS and PD mayors admit problems with justice], Reporter.al, 20.05.2016, http://pushtetivendor.reporter.al/pese-kryetare-bashkish-te-ps-dhe-pd-pranojne-problemet-me-drejtesine/
16 "Drug kingpin allegedly linked to Albanian government," Ekathimerini, 10 May 2016, http://www.ekathimerini.com/208511/article/ekathimerini/news/drug-kingpin-allegedly-linked-to-albanian-government
17 "Albania: Opposition accuses Interior Minister of protecting 'Balkan Escobar,'" OCCRP, 17 May 2016, https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/5238-albania-opposition-accuses-interior-minister-of-protecting-balkan-escobar
18 "Italian Guardia di Finanza, joint PR with Albanian police on cannabis plantation", Top Channel, 07 October 2016, http://top-channel.tv/lajme/english/artikull.php?id=18219&ref=ml; "Albania: Cannabis Production Far From Coming to an End," OCCRP, 05 July 2016,https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/5441-albania-cannabis-production-far-from-coming-to-an-end; "Hash and Burn: Albania seeks to contain the spread of cannabis plantations," The Economist, 24 September 2016, http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21707556-albania-seeks-contain-spread-cannabis-plantations-hash-and-burn ; "Le rotte della droga fra Puglia e Albania: una guerra quotidiana" [The drug routes between Apuglia and Albania: a daily war], LeccePrima, 06 August 2016, http://www.lecceprima.it/cronaca/lecce-albania-sequestri-stupefacenti-6-agosto-2016.html
19 Ornela Liperi & Blerina Hoxha, "Ekonomia shkatërruese e hashashit; 10 problemet që po sjell" [The destroying economy of hashish; 10 problems it brings about], Monitor, 10 September 2016, http://www.monitor.al/ekonomia-shkaterruese-e-hashashit-2/ ; "Ekspertët njëzëri: Jo ekonomisë së hashashit, të ndalet sa më parë" [Experts in unison: No to the economy of cannabis, must stop as soon as possible], Monitor, 22 October 2016, http://www.monitor.al/ekspertet-njezeri-jo-ekonomise-se-hashashit-te-ndalet-sa-pare/ ; "BE: Po monitorojmë situatën e trafikut" [EU: We're monitoring the trafficking situation], Klan TV, 19 September 2016, http://tvklan.al/be-po-monitorojme-situaten-e-trafikut/ ; "Kukan: Drug trafficking remains a huge problem for the country", Albeu, 03 October 2016, http://english.albeu.com/news/news/kukan-drug-trafficking-remains-a-huge-problem-for-the-country-/262675/
21 "KQZ miraton ndryshimet, shtohen 2 mandate deputetësh në qarkun Tiranë dhe 1 në Durrës" [CEC approves changes, 2 MPs mandates added to the region of Tirana and 1 in Durres], Mapo, 3 December 2016, http://www.lapsi.al/lajme/2016/12/03/kqz-miraton-ndryshimet-shtohen-2-mandate-deputet%C3%ABsh-n%C3%AB-qarkun-tiran%C3%AB-dhe-1-n%C3%AB
22 "Vendim 110/2015" [Assembly: Decision 110/2015], Kuvendi, 21 December 2015, https://www.parlament.al/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/vendim-nr.-110-dt.-21.12.2015.pdf
23 Everest Dedaj, "Komisioni – Reforma Zgjedhore, PD kërkon votim dhe numërim elektronik, PS: Duhet garanci"[Committee – Electoral Reform, DP demands electronic voting and counting, SP: Safeguards required], OraNews, 17 May 2016, http://www.oranews.tv/vendi/reforma-zgjedhore-pd-kerkon-votim-dhe-numerim-elektronik-ps-duhet-garanci/; "Electoral Reform, SP: Emigrants, Part of the Process," Albanian Daily News 28 September 2016, http://www.albaniannews.com/mobile/news_info.php?idm=8624; "Appeal for a Comprehensive Electoral Reform," KZLN, 21 January 2016,http://www.kzln.org.al/docs/Electoral_Reform_CFFE_21.01.2016.pdf; Opozita, "Tre ish-presidentët letër Kuvendit e komisioneve të posaçme: Ja tre kërkesat tona" [Three former presidents' letter to Assembly and ad hoc committees: Here are our three requests], 06 May 2016,https://opozita.com/2016/05/tre-ish-presidentet-leter-kuvendit-e-komisioneve-te-posacme-ja-tre-kerkesat-tona/
24 Ilir Meta, "Populli te votoj me lista të hapura kandidatët" [People to vote candidate with open lists], Koha Jonë, 26 January 2016, http://www.kohajone.com/2016/01/26/populli-te-votoj-me-lista-te-hapura-kandidatet/; Miral Sheme, "Listat e hapura i japin mundësi votuesit të zgjedhë deputetin" [Open lists enable voters to elect the deputy], Shekulli, 31 January 2016, http://www.shekulli.com.al/p.php?id=381423
25 "Partitë e vogla kërkojnë ndryshim të sistemit zgjedhor, kërkesat në OSBE" [Small parties demand change of the electoral system, requests to OSCE], Shekulli, 06 February 2016, http://www.shekulli.com.al/p.php?id=384753
26 "Pjesëmarrja në zgjedhjet për kryetar të bashkisë Dibër" [Participation in the election of the mayor of Dibra], Central Election Commission, http://www.cec.org.al/Portals/0/Documents/CEC%202013/zgjedh_pesshme/dibra/pjesmarrja/160911%20-%20DTI%20-%20pjesmarrje_20-00_f.pdf; Fatjona Mejdini, "Albanian Mayor Arrested Amid Sex Scandal", Balkan Insight, 17 May 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/mayor-in-albania-got-arrested-over-sex-scandal-05-17-2016
27 "The Comprehensive Reform a Necessity The Electoral Administration should be freed from the Influence of the Political Parties", KZLN, 15 September 2016, http://www.kzln.org.al/index.php/en/statement/207-the-comprehensive-reform-a-necessity-the-electoral-administration-should-be-freed-from-the-influence-of-the-political-parties; "Partial elections for the mayor of the municipality of Dibër: Final Monitoring Report", KVV, 27.09.2016, http://www.zgjedhje.al/uploads/File/2016/CDO-FinalMonitoringReport-MayoralElectionsDiber-27-09-2016.pdf
29 "Pjesëmarrja në zgjedhjet për kryetar të bashkisë Dibër" [Participation in the election of the mayor of Dibra], Central Election Commission, http://cec.org.al/Portals/0/Documents/CEC%202013/zgjedh_pesshme/dibra/rezultati/tabela-diber.pdf,http://www.cec.org.al/Portals/0/Documents/CEC%202013/zgjedh_pesshme/dibra/pjesmarrja/160911%20-%20DTI%20-%20pjesmarrje_20-00_f.pdf
30 "Nishani dekreton datën për zgjedhjet në Kolonjë: Me 20 nëntor zgjidhet kryebashkiaku i ri" [Nishani sets date for new elections in Kolonja: new mayor to be elected November 20], Mapo, 13 October 2016, http://www.mapo.al/2016/10/nishani-dekreton-daten-per-zgjedhjet-ne-kolonje-me-20-nentor-zgjidhet-kryebashkiaku-i-ri/1
31 "Partial Elections Held in Kolonja, Turnout 49.6%", Albanian Daily News, 21 November 2016, http://www.albaniannews.com/index.php?idm=9676&mod=2; "Ilia Stefo Elected New Mayor of Kolonja," Albanian Daily News, 21 November 2016, http://www.albaniannews.com/index.php?idm=9679&mod=2
32 Fatjona Mejdini, "Albania's new protesters give parties cold shoulder," Balkan Insight, 24 February 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/protests-thrive-in-albania-02-23-2016
33 Benet Koleka, "Albanians protest law allowing refuse imports for recycling," 1 October 2016, Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/albania-protests-waste-idUSL8N1C64N1
34 Fatjona Mejdini, "Jazz singers add voices to Albania's green protests," Balkan Insight, 07 October 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-singers-eco-protest-against-government-10-06-2016; "Kajakërs nga Europa, protestë në Tiranë për lumin Vjosa: Jo ndërtimit të HEC-it" [Kayakers from Europe protest in Tirana for Vjosa River: No to the construction of HPP], Shqip, 17 May 2016, http://www.gazeta-shqip.com/lajme/2016/05/17/kajakers-nga-europa-proteste-ne-tirane-per-lumin-vjosa-jo-ndertimit-te-hec-it/; "Ndërtimi i hidrocentralit të Skavicës, banorët në protestë, kundërshtojnë qeverinë" [Construction of Skavica's hydroplant, residents in protest, oppose government], Standard, 10 April 2016, http://www.standard.al/2016/04/10/ndertimi-i-hidrocentralit-te-skavices-banoret-ne-proteste-kundershtojne-qeverine/ ; "Protestë kundër ndërtimit të HEC-it" [Protest against the construction of HPP], Vizion Plus, 11 April 2016, http://vizionplus.al/proteste-kunder-ndertimit-te-hec-it/
35 "Ambasadori i SHBA paralajmëron: Pasoja negative për liderët që nuk e votojnë reformën!" [USA Ambassador warns: Negative consequences for leaders who do not vote the reform], BalkanWeb, 19 July 2016, http://www.balkanweb.com/site/ambasadori-i-shba-paralajmeron-pasoja-negative-per-lideret-qe-nuk-e-votojne-reformen/comment-page-3/
36 "Grafiti me politikanët, i riu: Ja pse pikturuam Ramën, Metën dhe Berishën me kallashë" [Graffiti with politicians, the youngster: This is why we painted Rama, Meta and Berisha with Kalashnikovs], BalkanWeb, 22 January 2016, http://www.balkanweb.com/site/grafiti-me-politikanet-i-riu-ja-pse-pikturuam-ramen-meten-dhe-berishen-me-kallashe/ ; "Protestuesit e 21 janarit kërkojnë drejtësi" [January 21 protesters demand justice], BotaSot, 21 January 2016, http://botasot.info/shqiperia/505833/protestuesit-e-21-janarit-kerkojne-drejtesi/
38 Ilirian Agolli, "Protestë e ekologjistëve në Parkun e Tiranës" [Ecologists' protest in Tirana's park], VOA, 28 February 2016, http://www.zeriamerikes.com/a/eljan-tanini-protesta-erjon-velija/3211744.html
39 Albanian Daily News, "Taxi Drivers Protest: Informality must come to an end", 09.03.2016, http://www.albaniannews.com/index.php?idm=4865&mod=2 ; BalkanWeb, "9 muaj pa marrë pagat, naftëtarët e Ballshit protëstë para kryeministrisë. Gjiknuri: Kompania falimentoi, jo faji i qeverisë" [9 months without receiving wages, oilmen of Ballshi protest in front of the PM's office. Gjiknuri: Company bankrupted, no government's fault], 19.05.2016, http://www.balkanweb.com/site/9-muaj-pa-marre-pagat-naftetaret-e-ballshit-proteste-para-kryeministrise-gjiknuri-kompania-falimentoi-jo-faji-i-qeverise/ ; NeoAlb "6 muaj pa marre pagat, protestojne punetoret e "By Passit"te Fierit" [6 months without receiving wages, workers of Fieri's By-Pass protest], 07.06.2016, http://www.neoalb.com/aktualitet/6-muaj-pa-marre-pagatprotestojne-punetoret-e-by-passit-te-fierit/
40 Invest in Albania "President Nishani Blocks Law on Waste Import", 14.10.2016, http://invest-in-albania.org/president-nishani-blocks-law-on-waste-import/ ; Albeu "Ligji i mbetjeve/ Shalsi: Do shqyrtohet në janar, të hapur për propozime" [Waste Law/Shalsi: It will be reviewed in January, open for proposals], 22.12.2016, http://www.albeu.com/shqiperi/ligji-i-mbetjeve-shalsi-do-shqyrtohet-n-janar-t-hapur-pr-propozi/277778/
41 "The 2015 CSO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia," USAID, https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1861/Europe_Eurasia_CSOSIReport_2015_Update8-29-16.pdf
42 Sonila Mehmeti, "Law on volunteering, Vasili: Initiative contributes to strengthening of society," Albanian Telegraphic Agency, 28 April 2016, https://www.ata.gov.al/en/law-on-volunteering-vasili-initiative-contributes-to-strengthening-of-society/
43 "Gjykata Kushtetuese shfuqizon "super – gjobat" për bizneset dhe burgun për kuponin" [Constitutional Court repeals "super-fines" for businesses and imprisonment for the tax receipt], Klan TV, 3 March 2016, http://tvklan.al/gjykata-kushtetuese-shfuqizon-super-gjobat-per-bizneset-dhe-burgun-per-kuponin/
44 Rabeta, L "Gjykata Kushtetuese rrëzon ''kontributet'' për profesionet e lira" [Constitutional Court turns down "contributions" for freelance professions], Shqptarja, 14 July 2016, http://shqiptarja.com/Aktualitet/2731/gjykata-kushtetuese-rr-zon–-39–-39-kontributet–39–-39–p-r-profesionet-e-lira-365704.html
45 Monitor, "18 shoqata biznesi, kërkesë Presidentit: Mos e dekreto ligjin për Dhomat e Tregtisë, po kthehemi në kohën e Bashkimeve Profesionale" [18 business associations, request to the President: Do not decree the law on Commerce Chambers, we're going back to the time of Professional Unions], 11 October 2016, http://www.monitor.al/18-shoqata-biznesi-kerkese-presidentit-mos-e-dekreto-ligjin-per-dhomat-e-tregtise/
46 Top-Channel, "President Nishani returns law for commercial chambers", 19.10.2016, http://m.top-channel.tv/lajme/english/artikull.php?id=18302
47 Urim Shera, "FIAA calls for review of draft law on chambers of commerce," Albanian Telegraphic Agency, 18 February 2016, https://www.ata.gov.al/en/fiaa-calls-for-review-of-draft-law-on-chambers-of-commerce/
48 For one set of estimates, see "Foreign Fighters: An updated assessment of the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq," The Soufan Group, December 2015, http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/TSG_ForeignFightersUpdate3.pdf
49 "Radikalizmi fetar: Moshat 18-30 vjeç në zonat rurale më të rrezikuara" [Religious radicalization: Age-group 18-30 in rural areas are most at risk], Shqip, 11 July 2015, http://www.gazeta-shqip.com/lajme/2015/07/11/radikalizmi-fetar-moshat-18-30-vjec-ne-zonat-rurale-me-te-rrezikuara/; "Conference discusses community involvement in countering violent extremism," TiranaTimes, 14 October 2016, http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=129522
50 European Commission, "Calls for proposals & Procurement notices: Civil society countering violent extremism, Albania", 01.07.2016, https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm?ADSSChck=1468323767530&do=publi.detPUB&page=2&searchtype=QS&orderbyad=Desc&orderby=upd&aoref=152207&nbPubliList=15&userlanguage=en
51 Zina Tosku, "Komisioni i medias, Çipa: 95 % e punonjësve në media marrin me vonesë pagat e tyre" [Media's Committee, Çipa: 95 % of employees in the media receive late payments], Albanian Telegraphic Agency, 16 February 2016, https://www.ata.gov.al/komisioni-i-medias-cipa-95-e-punonjesve-ne-media-marrin-me-vonese-pagat-e-tyre/
52 Gjergj Erebara, "Mayor accused of censoring Albania TV report", Balkan Insight, 10 October 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-s-capital-mayor-accused-of-censoring-tv-show-10-10-2016
53 Gjergj Erebara, "Albanian investigative TV show shutdown criticised", Balkan Insight, 18 October 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/media-watchdog-condemns-albania-censorship-case-10-17-2016
54 "Kur e vërteta të kushton me vendin e punës! Mentor Kikia shkarkohet nga 'TCH': Ja shkrimi që më hoqi si kryeredaktor" [When the truth costs the job position! Mentor Kikia dismissed by 'TCH': Here's the article that discharged me as editor-in-chief], Sot, 21 September 2016,http://sot.com.al/aktualitet/kur-e-v%C3%ABrteta-t%C3%AB-kushton-me-vendin-e-pun%C3%ABs-mentor-kikia-shkarkohet-nga-tch-ja-shkrimi-q%C3%AB
56 Elona Tereziu, "Scandal: Millions of Euros for the dialysis, while patients bring meal and bed sheets with them", Shendeti, 26 April 2016, http://shendeti.com.al/the-scandal-millions-of-euros-for-the-dialysis-while-patients-bring-meal-and-bed-sheets-with-them/
57 Gjergj Erebara, "Spitali Amerikan kërkon censurimin e investigimit të Shëndet+, gjykata e rrëzon" [American Hospital demands censoring of the investigation of Shëndet+, court turns it down], BIRN/Reporter.al, 12 October 2016, http://www.reporter.al/spitali-amerikan-kerkon-censurimin-e-investigimit-te-shendet-gjykata-e-rrezon/
58 "Skandal/ Gazetari i emisionit investigativ "STOP" akuzohet për korrupsion, ja vendimi" [Scandal/Journalist of the investigative show "STOP" accused of corruption, here's the charges], Sot, 14 December 2016, http://www.sot.com.al/aktualitet/skandal-gazetari-i-emisionit-investigativ-stop-akuzohet-p%C3%ABr-korrupsion-ja-vendimi
59 "Nishani kthen ndryshimet në ligjin për mediat: Cenon pavarësinë e RTSH" [Nishani return amendments in the media law: Impinges independence of RTSH], Lapsi.al, 1 April 2016, http://www.lapsi.al/lajme/2016/04/01/nishani-kthen-ndryshimet-n%C3%AB-ligjin-p%C3%ABr-mediat-cenon-pavar%C3%ABsin%C3%AB-e-rtsh
60 "Gazetarë shqiptarë të shqetësuar nga ligjet e reja për median online" [Albanian journalists concerned about the new laws on online media], Shqiptarja, 1 April 2016, http://shqiptarja.com/Media/2710/gazetar–shqiptar–t–shqet-suar-nga-ligjet-e-reja-p-r-median-online-349722.html
61 "Komente mbi Projekt-Amendamentet e Ligjit për Tregtinë Elektronike" [Comments on Project-Amendments of Electronic Commerce Law], Albanian Media Institute & Open Society Foundation for Albania 7 March 2016,http://www.osfa.al/sites/default/files/osfa_dhe_inst_medias_komente_mbi_ndryshimet_e_lte-se_25_3_16_0.pdf
62 "Konsultim publik për projektligjin 'Për disa shtesa dhe ndryshime në ligjin nr. 10 128, datë 11.5.2009 "Për tregtinë elektronike, të ndryshuar'"[Public consultation on draft-law "For some additions and amendments in the law no. 10 128, date 11.5.2009 'On Electronic commerce,' changed"], Ministry of Innovation and Public Administration, http://www.inovacioni.gov.al/al/legjislacioni/konsultim-publik/konsultim-publik-per-projektligjin-per-disa-shtesa-dhe-ndryshime-ne-ligjin-nr-10-128-date-11-5-2009-per-tregtine-elektronike-te-ndryshuar/konsultim-publik-per-projektligjin-per-disa-shtesa-dhe-ndryshime-ne-ligjin-nr-10-128-date-11-5-2009-per-tregtine-elektronike-te-ndryshuar1458251048
63 "Programi i Punimeve të Kuvendit (17 tetor – 25 nëntor 2016) Shih Projektakti Nr.2" [Assembly's schedule (17 October – 25 November 2016) See draft-project no.2], Parlament.al, [https://www.parlament.al/download/programi_i_punes/PROGRAMI-I-PUNES-Periudha-17-tetor-deri-25-nu00ebntor-2016.pdf ; "Case of Delfi As v. Estonia", ECtHR, 16 June.2015, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-155105
64 "Gjykata Kushtetuese shfuqizon nenin 62 të ligjit për mediat audiovizive" [Constitutional Court repeals article 62 of audiovisual media law], Opinion.al, 13 May 2016, http://opinion.al/gjykata-kushtetuese-shfuqizon-nenin-62-te-ligjit-per-mediat-audiovizive/; Besar Likmeta, "Gjykata Kushtetuese i hap rrugën 'monopolizimit' të transmetimeve TV dixhitale" [Constitutional Court opens the way to 'monopolization' of digital TV broadcasts], Reporter.al,13 May 2016, http://www.reporter.al/gjykata-kushtetuese-i-hap-rrugen-monopolizimit-te-transmetimeve-tv-dixhitale/
65 European Commission, "Albania 2016 Report", 09 November 2016, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_albania.pdf p.22, 43
67 Valentina Madani, "Ndikimi te prokurorët", hiqen nenet për dënimin me burgim për gazetarët" ["Influence on prosecutors", provisions on punishment of journalists with imprisonment removed], Gazeta Shqiptare, 2 September 2016, http://www.balkanweb.com/gazetashqiptare/ndikimi-te-prokuroret-hiqen-nenet-per-denimin-me-burgim-per-gazetaret/
68 Elona Gjylmi, "Dixhitalizimi, TV lokale kundër tarifave stratosferike të TVSH-së" [Digitalization, local TVs against TVSH stratospheric tariffs], Shqiptarja, 19 February 2016, http://shqiptarja.com/media/2710/dixhitalizimi-tv-lokale-kund-r-tarifave-stratosferike-t-tvsh-s-342955.html; "AMA vijon konsultat informuese me operatorët e allotmentit Tiranë-Durrës për procesin e digjitalizimit" [AMA continues informative consultations with operators in the Tirana- Durrës allotment], AMA, 07 September 2016, http://ama.gov.al/category/veprimtari/takime-pune/
69 "Conclusions fo the fact-finding mission in Albania (24-26 February 2016)", Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, 24 March 2016, https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?p=&Ref=20160324-wienen&Language=lanEnglish&Ver=original&Site=COE&BackColorInternet=C3C3C3&BackColorIntranet=CACC9A&BackColorLogged=EFEA9C&direct=true;
70 Ministry of Finance, "Budget 2016", http://www.financa.gov.al/al/raportime/buxheti/buxheti-ne-vite/buxheti-2016
71 Blerina Hoxha, "Flluska 150 milionë euro e borxheve bashkiake, kryeson Tirana" [The EUR 150 million bubble of municipal debts, Tirana leads], Monitor, 20 August 2016, http://www.monitor.al/flluska-150-milione-euro-e-borxheve-bashkiake/
72 "Dështon reforma territoriale, rriten shpenzimet për paga me 35%, investimet ulen me 41%" [Territorial reform fails? Wage costs increased by 35%, investments decreased by 41%], Monitor, 04 October 2016, http://www.monitor.al/deshton-reforma-territoriale-rriten-shpenzimet-per-paga-35-investimet-ulen-41/
73 Monitor, "'Loja" me punonjësit vendorë, shtohen 8 mijë të rinj, por duhet të largoheshin 25 mijë" ["The play" with local employees, new 8 thousand added, when 25 thousand should have been cut], 05.10.2016, http://www.monitor.al/loja-punonjesit-vendore-shtohen-8-mije-te-rinj-por-duhet-te-largoheshin-25-mije/
74 "Raport i veçantë "Pushteti vendor pas reformës-territoriale administrative dhe rregullimi i marrëdhënieve të punës" [Ombudsman, "Special report "Local governance after the territorial and administrative reform and regulation of work relations], Ombudsman of Albania, 06.2016,http://www.avokatipopullit.gov.al/sites/default/files/ctools/css/Raporti%20Pushtetit%20Vendor.pdf
75 Wienen, J "Conclusions fo the fact-finding mission in Albania (24-26 February 2016)", 30th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities – 22 to 24 March 2016, http://www.coe.int/t/congress/newssearch/Default_en.asp?p=nwz&id=7865&lmLangue=1
76 Anila Dushi, "Shkodra jashtë "Rilindjes urbane", merr më pak fonde se Maliqi dhe Roskoveci", BIRN/Reporter.al, 19 August 2016, http://www.reporter.al/shkodra-jashte-rilindjes-urbane-merr-me-pak-fonde-se-maliqi-dhe-roskoveci/
77 "FMN zbardh 5 kërcënimet fiskale: Ecuria e dobët e të ardhurave dhe kompensimi i ish pronarëve, kryesore" [IMF reveals five fiscal threats: Poor revenue performance and compensation of former owners, major], Mapo, 24 February 2016, http://www.mapo.al/2016/02/fmn-zbardh-5-kercenimet-fiskale-ecuria-e-dobet-e-te-ardhurave-dhe-kompensimi-i-ish-pronareve-kryesore
78 Gjergji Mima, "Shqipëria nis fazën e dytë të Reformës Administrativo – Territoriale" [Albania starts the second phase of the Territorial-Administrative Reform], Albanian Telegraphic Agency, 14 July 2016, https://www.ata.gov.al/marreveshja-me-undp-cuci-reforma-territoriale-shume-eficente-ia-dolem/
79 Fatjona Mejdini, "Albania MPs finally adopt judicial reform," Balkan Insight, 22 July 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-parliament-passes-with-unanimity-the-judicial-reform-07-22-2016
80 "Albania MPs back vetting judges and prosecutors," Balkan Insight, 31 August 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-passes-the-draft-that-vets-judges-and-prosecutors-08-31-2016; "Unilateral approval of vetting law brings back political deadlock," Tirana Times, 31 August 2016,http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=128900
81 Sonila Mehmeti, "DP takes vetting law to Constitutional Court: It provides for govt. control on newly-created bodies", Albanian Telegraphic Agency, 05 October 2016, https://www.ata.gov.al/en/dp-takes-vetting-law-to-constitutional-court-it-provides-for-govt-control-on-newly-created-bodies/?doing_wp_cron=1477940363.2788100242614746093750
82 "Albania: Amicus Curiae Brief for the Constitutional Court on the Law on the Transitional Re-evaluation of Judges and Prosecutors (The Vetting Law)," Venice Commission, 12 December 2016, http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2016)036-e; "Constitutional Court refutes PD's request for cancellation of vetting law," Exit, 22 December 2016, http://www.exit.al/en/2016/12/22/constitutional-court-refutes-pds-request-for-cancellation-of-vetting-law/
84 Fletore Zyrtare, "Për disa shtesa dhe ndryshime në ligjin nr. 8417, datë 21.10.1998, "Kushtetuta e Republikës së Shqipërisë", të ndryshuar. [Official Gazette: "For some additions and amendments in the law no. 8417, dated 21.10.1998, "Constitution of the Republic of Albania," as amended], QBZ, 27 July 2016, http://www.qbz.gov.al/botime/fletore_zyrtare/2016/PDF-2016/138-2016.pdf
85 Parliamentary Assembly, "Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights", Council of Europe, 06.10.2016, http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=23038&lang=en
86 "DOKUMENTI/ Këshilli i Evropës: Pse i refuzuam kandidatët e qeverisë shqiptare për gjyqtar në Strasburg" [Document/ Council of Europe: Why did we reject the Albanian government's candidates for the seat of Strasbourg judge], BalkanWeb, 07 October 2016,http://www.balkanweb.com/site/dokumenti-keshilli-i-evropes-ja-pse-refuzuam-kandidatet-e-qeverise-shqiptare-per-gjyqtar-ne-strasburg/
87 "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Albania," U.S Department of State, http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapper
88 "2015/16 Report: The State of the World's Human Rights," Amnesty International, p.63, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2016/02/annual-report-201516/
89 "Gjirokaster Judge suspended after sex scandal," Top-Channel, 28 October 2016, http://m.top-channel.tv/lajme/english/artikull.php?id=18359
90 Exit.al "Dossier "Lulzim Berisha" Passed to Tirana Prosecution", 06.01.2016, http://www.exit.al/en/2017/01/06/dossier-lulzim-berisha-passed-to-tirana-prosecution/
91 Klaus Schwab, "The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016", World Economic Forum, p.93, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/gcr/2015-2016/Global_Competitiveness_Report_2015-2016.pdf
93 "Vlerësimi i afateve ligjore në shqyrtimin gjyqësor administrative dhe dorëzimin e vendimeve" [Evaluation of legal deadlines for judicial review and delivery of decisions], Infoçip 05 June 2016, p.61-62, http://www.infocip.org/al/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/vleresimi-i-afateve-ligjore-ne-gjykimin-administrativ-INFOCIP-web.pdf
94 "Press Country Profile: Albania," European Court of Human Rights, 1 January 2017, http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/CP_Albania_ENG.pdf
96 "Vrasja e pazbardhur e 21 Janarit; familjarwt i drejtohen Strasburgut" [Undisclosed killing of January 21; families head to Strasbourg], Panorama, 05 July 2016, http://www.panorama.com.al/vrasja-e-pazbardhur-e-21-janarit-familjaret-i-drejtohen-strasburgut/
98 Ilirian Agolli, "Tiranë: Gjendja në burgje, dhuna dhe mbipopullimi" [Tirana: Prison conditions, violence and overcrowding], Voice of America, 5 October 2016, http://www.zeriamerikes.com/a/totozani-wilton-burgjet/3537790.html
99 "AHC requests from the Strasbourg Court an effective solution for the interruption of inhuman and degrading treatment of citizens remanded to 'Compulsory medication in a medical institution,'" Albanian Helsinki Committee, 13 June 2016, http://ahc.org.al/ahc-requests-from-the-strasbourg-court-an-effective-solution-for-the-interruption-of-inhuman-and-degrading-treatment-of-citizens-remanded-to-compulsory-medication-in-a-medical-institution/; "KShH: Askush nuk ka të drejtë të mos zbatojë vendimet e gjykatës për mjekim të detyruar" [AHC: No one has the right to refrain from implementing court decisions for compulsory medication], Historia ime, 30 May 2016, http://historia-ime.com/2016/05/30/kshh-askush-nuk-ka-te-drejte-te-mos-zbatoje-vendimet-e-gjykates-per-mjekim-te-detyruar/
100 Gjykata Kushtetuese, "Njoftim për Mediat" [Press Release], 25.10.2016, http://www.gjk.gov.al/web/NJOFTIM_P_R_MEDIAN_1299_1-1.php; Mejdini, F "Albania MPs Back Vetting Judges and Prosecutors", BalkanInsight, 31.08.2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albania-passes-the-draft-that-vets-judges-and-prosecutors-08-31-2016
101 Ambassador Donald Lu, "Remarks by Ambassador Donald Lu at the Open Government Partnership Event", U.S. Embassy in Tirana, 23 March 2016, https://al.usembassy.gov/remarks-ambassador-donald-lu-open-government-partnership-event-march-23-2016/
102 "Njoftime për Shtyp" [Press Release], General Prosecutor of the Republic of Albania, http://www.pp.gov.al/web/Prokuroria_e_Pergjithshme_krijon_strukturen_per_zbatimin_e_ligjit_Per_dekriminalizimin_926_1.php#.V0CDKiN96Rs
103 Gjergj Erebara, "Pesë të majtë dhe pesë të djathtë me precedentë penalë në parlament" [Five of the left and five of the right in parliament with criminal precedents], BIRN/Reporter.al, 20 May 2016, http://www.reporter.al/pese-te-majte-dhe-pese-te-djathte-me-precedente-penale-ne-parlament/; Aleksandra Bogdani, "Pesë kryetarë bashkish të PS dhe PD pranojnë problemet me drejtësinë" [Five PS and PD mayors admit problems with justice], BIRN/Reporter.al, 20 May 2016, http://pushtetivendor.reporter.al/pese-kryetare-bashkish-te-ps-dhe-pd-pranojne-problemet-me-drejtesine/
104 "Decriminalization, Kavaja Mayor Elvis Roshi Resigns," Albanian Daily News, 31 May 2016, http://mobile.albaniannews.com/news_info.php?idm=6311; "Tërmet Peçi i dënuar për falsifikim dokumentesh në 2004, s'e deklaroi në KQZ" [Tërmet Peçi convicted of forging documents in 2004, did not declare it at CEC], Shqip, 07 June 2016, http://www.gazeta-shqip.com/lajme/2016/06/07/termet-peci-i-denuar-per-falsifikim-dokumentesh-ne-2004-se-deklaroi-ne-kqz/
105 Fatjona Mejdini, "Albania sacks MPs and mayor for hiding convictions", BalkanInsight, 29.12.2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/two-albanian-mps-and-a-mayor-dismissed-from-office-12-29-2016
106 "The Constitutional Court rules against Kokedhima," Albeu, 09 May 2016, http://english.albeu.com/news/news/the-constitutional-court-rules-against-kokedhima/244304/
107 Edison Kurani, "Member of the Supreme Court in Albania escapes from the country," Independent Balkan News Agency, 18 July 2016, http://www.balkaneu.com/member-supreme-court-albania-escapes-country/
108 Edison Kurani, "Minister in Albania is sentenced to imprisonment for the first time in 25 years of democracy," Independent Balkan News Agency, 16 September 2016, http://www.balkaneu.com/minister-albania-sentenced-imprisonment-time-25-years-democracy/
109 "Ligj Nr. 60/2016 Për Sinjalizimin dhe Mbrojtjen e Sinjalizuesve" [Law No.60/2016 On Whistleblowing and the Protection of Whistleblowers], Assembly of the Republic of Albania, 2 June 2016, https://www.parlament.al/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/ligj-nr.-60-dt.-2.6.2016.pdf
110 Fatjona Mejdini, "Albania hopes cameras will make police behave", Balkan Insight, 04 February 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/albanian-policies-try-body-cameras-02-03-2016
111 "Reinke i FMN: Disa taksa janë ndryshuar për një numër të vogël përfituesish, në barrë të të tjerëve" [Reinke of IMF: Some taxes are changed for a small number of beneficiaries, at the expense of others], Monitor, 14 January 2016, http://www.monitor.al/reinke-fmn-disa-taksa-jane-ndryshuar-per-nje-numer-te-vogel-perfituesish-ne-barre-te-te-tjereve/
112 "Bileta me 4 euro; Vera e "çmendur" ajrore në Europë, vetëm në Shqipëri çmimet fluturojnë 300 euro" [4 euro flight ticket; "Crazy" air summer in Europe, only in Albania prices fly to 300 euro], Monitor, 29 July 2016, http://www.monitor.al/bileta-4-euro-vera-e-cmendur-ajrore-ne-europe-vetem-ne-shqiperi-cmimet-fluturojne-300-euro/ ; "Përse Shqipëria ka çmimet më të larta të karburanteve në botë" [Why Albania has the highest oil prices in the world], Lapsi.al, 18 January 2016, http://www.lapsi.al/lajme/2016/01/18/p%C3%ABrse-shqip%C3%ABria-ka-%C3%A7mimet-m%C3%AB-t%C3%AB-larta-t%C3%AB-karburanteve-n%C3%AB-bot%C3%AB; "Opposition leader reacts about oil price, blames government," Top-Channel,16 January 2016, http://top-channel.tv/english/artikull.php?id=16066
113 Adela Halo, Megi Llubani, "National Integrity System Assessment: Albania 2016," Transparency International, p. 93, https://www.transparency.org/whatwedo/publication/national_integrity_system_assessment_albania_2016; Gjergj Erebara, "Biznesi i artë i koncesioneve shënoi rekord të ardhurash në 2015-ën" [The golden business of concessions scored record revenue in 2015], BIRN/Reporter.al, 15 August 2016, http://www.reporter.al/biznesi-i-arte-i-koncesioneve-shenoi-rekord-te-ardhurash-ne-2015-en/
114 "Regulatory and Procedural Barriers to Trade in the Republic of Albania: Needs Assessment," UNECE, 2016, p. 59 https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trade/SCTCS_2016/All_study-Albania-complete-withCommentsIntegrated_WEB.pdf
115 "Skanimi doganor, i paligjshëm. OKB: Qeveria ta heqë menjëherë" [Customs screeing, unlawful. UN: Governemnet should repeal it immediately], Top-Channel, 22 June 2016, http://top-channel.tv/lajme/artikull.php?id=329639