Albania holds peaceful local elections amid political turmoil

June 2019
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Albania holds peaceful local elections amid political turmoil. Albania held its municipal elections on June 30 despite President’s decision to cancel the vote and a boycott by the main opposition parties who had previously relinquished from their parliamentary mandates and didn’t register any candidates for municipal elections. Albania’s centre-right opposition has led protests since mid-February demanding a new general election, accusing the government of links with organized crime following the publication of wiretaps allegedly revealing the involvement of criminal gangs in vote-buying. The Central Election Commission decided in favour of holding municipal elections, confirmed also by Albania’s top legal institution on election issues (Electoral College). The five judges ruled unanimously that a small political party, which had asked to deregister based on President’s action, must take part in Sunday’s vote. President ordered the postponement of the elections for 13 October by issuing a new decree, but the government has ignored this, while the US and several EU countries have supported holding the elections on their due date of June 30. Albania’s parliament has started the procedure to oust the President for violating the constitution with his attempt to cancel municipal elections. The vote is seen as a key test of democracy and the capacity of the political elite in Albania to solve problems in a peaceful manner, at a time when the country expects to obtain a date from the EU to launch accession negotiations in October.


Parliament adopts the “Moneyval” legislative package

June 2019
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Parliament adopts the “Moneyval” legislative package. In an effort to address Moneyval recommendations from December 2018 and consequentially strengthening money laundering and terrorist financing prevention regime in Albania, the Parliament adopted five laws on 17 June 2019.

Namely:

  • Law “On some amendments and additions to the Law "On prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing";
  • Law “On some amendments and additions to the Law "On measures against the financing of terrorism";
  • Law “On administration of seized and confiscated assets”;
  • Law “On some additions and amendments to Law “On National Business Centre` as amended”;
  • Law “On some additions and amendments to the Law "On Procedures of Taxation in the Republic of Albania` as amended”.

These legislative changes provide inter alia more transparency on beneficial ownership, including requirements for opening a bank account for all taxpayers’ natural and legal persons, subjects to VAT registration, regardless of the turnover realized, and non-profit organizations registered according to the legislation in force, and declaring it to the tax authority. Furthermore, the Agency for the Administration of Seized and Confiscated Assets has now a statutory recognition under the organic law. This has strengthened its mission and mandate in management of all assets in Albania including the assets for which the preventive seizure measure is set under Chapter VI of the Criminal Procedure Code and those confiscated by a court decision pursuant to Article 36 of the Criminal Code which are the proceeds of criminal offenses or predicate offences.

These legislative changes have reflected recommendations provided by the European Union and Council of Europe Horizontal Facility Programme for the Western Balkans and Turkey “Action against Economic Crime in Albania” (AEC-AL).


European Commission recommends accession negotiations for Albania

May 2019
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European Commission recommends accession negotiations for Albania. Albania has continued to make good progress and demonstrated its continuous determination to advance on the EU agenda. This was one of the main findings included in the 2019 European Commission Progress Report on Albania. The Report highlights that Albania has delivered tangible results, notably on the conditions set in the Council Conclusions of June 2018 for the opening of accession negotiations, in a polarised political climate.

Regarding the country`s judicial system, the implementation of justice reforms have continued consistently, says the report laying the foundations for substantially strengthening the sector and consolidating independence, impartiality, professionalism, and accountability. Concrete results have been achieved in the re-evaluation of all judges and prosecutors. The Commission also notes that the institutional restructuring of the judiciary has continued as well. New bodies for the independent self-governance of the judiciary were established, triggering the subsequent formation of specialised judicial and investigative institutions to counter organised crime and corruption. The Commission also highlights the determined efforts in establishing a solid track record of proactive investigations, prosecutions and convictions in the fight against corruption and organised crime.


Parliament approves amendments to law on police personnel vetting

March 2019
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Parliament approves amendments to law on police personnel vetting. Parliament approved the amendments proposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs on the law on the vetting in the Ministry’s subordinate bodies. According to the Minister of Internal Affairs, the amendments were designed to produce a speedier and more resolute process, while also reducing the latter’s financial costs.


Chair of SP Parliamentary Group calls for stricter rules on political parties’ finances

March 2019
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Chair of SP Parliamentary Group calls for stricter rules on political parties’ finances to avoid ‘suspicious funding’. Socialist Party Parliamentary Group Chair called for amendments to the law on political parties to avoid what he said was the suspicious funding received by the Democratic Party by Russian sources, amounting to over $1 million. Moreover he called on Tirana prosecutors to fully shed light into this affair. In addition, he called for the harshening of criminal sanctions on the crimes against police officers.


Albania made little progress

March 2019
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Albania made little progress but on the right path toward thwarting money laundering and financial crimes in 2018, according to U.S. State Department’s 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. The Report’s Volume II on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes says the Government of Albania made no significant progress toward thwarting money laundering and financial crimes in 2018: “Albania remains vulnerable to money laundering due to corruption, growing organized crime networks, and weak legal and government institutions. Recent justice reforms, vetting of judges and prosecutors for corruption and ties to organized crime, and the creation of a police task force targeting organized crime activities have created a positive trajectory for Albania to address money laundering and financial crimes”.


Parliament extends the mandate of the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform

January 2019
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Parliament extends the mandate of the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform. Parliament has prolonged the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform activity until 21 February 2019. Electoral reform will be part of the evaluation of Albania with regard to the possible opening of EU accession negotiations and Albania is expected to fully implement all OSCE/ODIHR recommendations before the local elections which will be held on 30 June 2019. Good international standards suggest that amendments to the electoral legislation should be enacted at the latest six months prior to elections.


New Transparency Report Gives Albania a poor score

January 2019
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New Transparency Report Gives Albania a poor score. Transparency International published the results of its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2018 ranking Albania at place 99 among the 180 countries and territories included in the index. Albania has the worst score among the Balkan states, closely followed by Kosovo* and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. Albania scored 36 out of 100 points, registering a drop of two points from the 2017 rating and a drop of three points from 2016. Transparency International spokesperson for the Balkans, Lidija Prokic says its score raises concern about the country's further progress, but added that with the ongoing vetting of judges in the country and anti-corruption institutional framework almost complete, it remains to be seen if its institutions will deliver on expectations in the coming year.


Major cabinet reshuffle after anti-corruption protests

December 2018
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Major cabinet reshuffle after anti-corruption protests. Prime Minister Edi Rama has sacked half of his cabinet in response to the massive student protests. Thousands of students seeking a reduction of fees and a doubling of the university education budget have been protesting since early December and have rejected any dialogue with the government unless their demands are fully accepted. One of the triggers for the student protests is alleged corruption in the education bureaucracy, as well as protests following revelations of allegedly illegal bids, such as the Outer Ring Road Tirana Tender, which involved several shell companies registered in tax havens in the US state of Delaware and Seychelles Islands.


High Judicial Council and High Prosecutorial Council established

December 2018
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High Judicial Council and High Prosecutorial Council established. Following the election of its members, the High Prosecutorial Council and the High Judicial Council were established on 11 and 12 December 2018. The formation of the Councils marks a crucial step in the implementation of the justice reform. The Councils reached some important decisions regarding the Albanian judicial system in their first two meetings. Among them are the initiation of procedures for the establishment of the Special Prosecution Office and Special Court against Corruption (SPAK), tasked with investigating and adjudicating high-level cases of corruption and organised crime, as well as appointments to vacant seats in regional courts to fill the vacancies resulting from the dismissal of judges through the vetting process.