CoE's Anti-Corruption Body Acknowledges Progress in Albania, but Calls for Further Action
Albanian Daily News
Published July 12, 2018
In a report published today, the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) acknowledges the progress made by Albania in implementing its recommendations to prevent corruption in respect of parliamentarians, judges and prosecutors, but it also calls for a number of improvements and for the pending reforms to be completed.
In its report, GRECO concludes that Albania has so far fully complied with four of the 10 recommendations it issued in its evaluation report in 2014. The other six recommendations have only been partially implemented (see also the French version of today's report).
GRECO welcomes as an important step forward the adoption in April 2018 of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, covering issues such as conflicts of interest; accessory activities; gifts; and post-employment restrictions. Conflicts of interest must be declared by deputies as they arise and a procedure is also set out to ensure that contacts of deputies with third parties during the legislative process are reported, recorded and made public.
However, GRECO regrets the lack of clarity about the enforcement of these rules and sanctions in case of breach, which are not mentioned expressly in the text of the Code of Conduct, and underlines the need for an enforcement mechanism, including sanctions, to make the code effective. The National Assembly is planning to develop guidelines to cast light on the rules contained in the Code of Ethics, but they are yet to be adopted. Awareness and training of deputies on these rules are still being defined.
The report also acknowledges as a positive step that the periodicity of checks of deputies' declarations of assets has been shortened and that they are published on an official website.
In respect of judges, a vast judicial reform is on-going since 2014 and so is a vetting process for judges with a view to fighting corruption in the judiciary. GRECO welcomes that, as part of the reform package, the role of the President of Republic has been limited to the formal appointment of High Court judges on proposal of the High Judicial Council, composed of a majority of judges elected by their peers.
Other positive developments, once the reform has been completed, are that the functioning of judicial administration is no longer to be within the remit of the Ministry of Justice, but of the High Judicial Council; and that the High Judicial Council is to be responsible for establishing ethical standards and monitoring them.
GRECO considers another positive step the creation of the independent High Justice Inspector as the authority responsible for dealing with complaints, investigating violations and initiating disciplinary proceedings against all judges, although it notes that the post remains to be filled. On the other hand, GRECO regrets the persistent delays in the periodic evaluations of judges.
Insofar as prosecutors are concerned, the report notes progress in the legal framework for their evaluation, which is now to include more criteria connected to integrity and ethical standards, although the High Prosecutorial Council, which is to be responsible for evaluating prosecutors, has yet to be established.
Finally GRECO asks the Albanian authorities to provide an update of progress in implementing the outstanding recommendation by 31 March 2019 at the latest.