President, Honourable Members,
I would like to thank the Rapporteur, Mr Fleckenstein, for his input and coordination efforts, which resulted in a very balanced text. The resolution not only captures the progress that Albania has made over the past months, but also the challenges that lie ahead in order to move the country closer to the EU.
I particularly welcome the emphasis that this resolution places on the reform of the justice system. This will help to embed the rule of law in the country. Strengthening efficiency and professionalism throughout this sector, while striking the right balance between independence and accountability, is a key challenge.
As the resolution also emphasises, the preparatory work carried out so far on this important dossier is rather solid. Political parties should now engage in a decisive constructive dialogue and finalise the reform. This is a long overdue development that is in the interest of all citizens; adopting the judicial reform is a crucial opportunity for the country as a whole, which is too precious to be the subject of any party political manoeuvring.
I expect constructive cross-party cooperation from both the ruling majority and the opposition as this reform should be seen by all political actors as a Win/Win opportunity. The “last mile” is always the hardest, especially when we are in a final stage of a very comprehensive and thorough reform process. But this is a path worth completing. I made this point very clearly during my recent visit to Tirana for the High Level Dialogue on the Five Key Priorities for the Opening of Accession Negotiations (29-30 March).
Let me also point out that, beyond judicial reform, the resolution also provides a clear review of progress on other rule of law matters, in particular on the fight against organised crime and corruption.
Albania needs to demonstrate further progress with a view to establishing a solid track record of investigations, prosecutions and convictions in the fight against organised crime and corruption at all levels. High level corruption needs to be tackled more effectively; the same goes for the challenge posed by organised crime. More results are needed to dismantle organised criminal networks that operate locally, regionally and globally.
I also would like to commend the emphasis that the resolution attaches to a number of processes that fall outside the scope of the Five Key Priorities, but are nevertheless crucial to consolidate the credibility of the state and its institutions. Albania urgently needs to finalise the reform of the electoral system, aligning all the relevant legislation to the recommendations issued by the OSCE-ODIHR.
Moreover, integrity throughout the public sector needs to be further strengthened. A lot has been achieved already through ongoing Public Administration Reform. In addition, the process of the so-called decriminalisation needs to advance. Both civil servants and elected officials should be subject to the scrutiny mechanism foreseen in the law and sanctions applied whenever necessary.
The Commission maintains its strong commitment to support Albania’s efforts to advance further on its path towards European integration.
Thank you for your attention.