TIRANA – Mr. Knut Fleckenstein, MEP and the European Parliament’s standing rapporteur on Albania, visited Albania this week with the hope of encouraging the political parties to vote in support of the long-planned judicial reforms. The visit of the Member of European Parliament in Tirana, came immediately after the invitation of the Speaker of Albanian Parliament Mr. Ilir Meta, in order to provide a joint meeting to find a solution to the approval of the justice reform by consensus on 21 July 2016.
Fleckenstein, who has been the EP’s Rapporteur for Albania since 2014 and led an annual report on the country’s progress before, has been very supportive of the opening of accession talks between the country and the European Union. During his most recent visit, he aimed to point out how the judicial reform at hand is an essential part of the five key priorities which the EU expects the country to fulfill before it will open negotiations over Albania’s accession to the EU.
Mr. Fleckenstein held meetings with high profile members of the three main political parties in Albania – the Socialist Party (PS), the Democratic Party (PD) and the Socialist Movement towards Integration (LSI). The European deputy has met with the head of Parliament, Ilir Meta, as well as with the leader of opposition party, Lulezim Basha (of the Democratic Party). Finally, Mr Fleckenstein held a press conference in the European Union delegation headquarters in Tirana. In each of the latter, he was adamant in stressing the need for members of the three camps to work together so that a comprehensive judicial reform could be executed by end of the week. The MEP, together with MEP Kukan, both encouraged the need for a compromise between members of the government and the opposition in order to find a reliable direction for the judiciary reform. “We strongly encourage the political leaders in Albania to continue their talks in a spirit of goodwill, considering the main purpose of this reform, the creation of a reliable, independent and efficient justice in Albania,” closing statement of two MEPs Eduard Kukan and Knut Fleckenstein.
MEP Knut Fleckenstein emphasized the importance of this reform and added that the reform in justice is a priority, for which he and EU expect the Albanian Parliament to vote on justice reform. He furthered clarified that this expectation is shared from the whole European Parliament and not just of a party in the European Parliament. Fleckenstein added that this is a crucial time for further accession dialogue, while he stressed the need to understand who is “PRO” and who is “against” the reform. EP’s Rapporteur for Albania underlined his hope in a vote “FOR” to the justice reform.
However, the popular judicial reform has been facing an impasse in the country. An important issue in the deadlock that has resulted from the judicial reform is the international monitoring of the verification process of the legislature. Fleckenstein supported the role of the international operation in this process by stating that this would not affect or diminish the power of Albanian authorities on the matter. On the contrary, the MEP has stated that international interference would simply enhance the credibility of the aforementioned reform in the eyes of the Albanian public as well as those of the European community. Additionally, the judiciary reform has also faced criticism by the opposition who demanded that an amendment be made to the amendment to include electoral justice reform. However, according to Fleckenstein, the two – whilst important – should not be linked.
According to MEP Fleckenstein, this reform is essential to Albania’s progress towards integration in the European union as well as to the citizens of Albania. A comprehensive reform of the judiciary would guarantee ‘a more independent and efficient system of justice.’ Fleckenstein emphasized how the reform would benefit the Albanian people by offering a more transparent and egalitarian system. In recent press conferences he has shown his opposition to the current judicial system as it allows for an unequal political influence on the part of enterprises and businessmen. The reform is being promoted as an essential pillar towards the fight against corruption and organized crime in the country. Moreover, the judiciary reform is meant to help Albania’s business environment as it will attract investment and thus make the economy more credible and competitive in a European market in the future. According to the MEP, this is not simply a change of the law in Albania, but rather it considered as very important, since if the implementation of this reform will be done properly, then there will be a substantial change to the country, for which the EU official really hopes that this change will begin on Thursday.
To conclude, the MEP has been vocal about his support for the progress of this legislative reform and believes that only by passing it will there be an efficient, independent and credible judicial system in Albania. The Albanian rapporteur has detailed that the coming vote on the legislature will show who truly supports the reform and who doesn’t. He hopes that this will provide clarification and, according to Fleckenstein, if the political parties cannot come to an agreement, a referendum on the issue should ensue. A vote on the constitutional changes to the judiciary will be held in Parliament on Thursday 21 July 2016 on the judiciary reform and 94 votes are needed for it to pass the floor.
Kora RULI & Inva NELA, EWB Albania Correspondents