Washington, DC | 15 March 2019 (Tirana Echo) – The US Department of State has slammed Albania on pervasive corruption in all branches of the government, but has praised authorities on its internationally backed justice reform which is expected to clean up the country from its corrupt judges and prosecutors.
In its latest Human Rights Report for 2018, the US State Department has said that human rights issues in Albania included pervasive corruption in all branches of government and that impunity remained a problem.
“Prosecution, and especially conviction, of officials who committed abuses was sporadic and inconsistent. Officials, politicians, judges, and persons with powerful business interests often were able to avoid prosecution.“ says the report.
However, Washington has pointed out that the highly controversial reform of the justice reform backed by the US and the EU, has started to give its first results.
“In response, authorities have undertaken an internationally monitored vetting of judges and prosecutors, and have dismissed a significant number of officials for unexplained wealth or ties to organized crime.” points out the report.
The United States is highly involved in Albania’s democratic development and one of the main sponsors of its fight against corruption and organized crime, constantly urging the small Balkan country to clean up its act and prepare for EU integration.
The report has confirmed that a number of government agencies investigated corruption cases, but limited resources, investigative leaks, real and perceived political pressure, and haphazard reassignment system hampered investigations.
Albania hopes to start membership talks with the European Union this year conditional on tangible results of its justice reform and particularly the vetting process which is kicking out many corrupt judges and prosecutors from the system.
During the next few weeks, a Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Offfice (SPAK) and a National Bureau of Investigations (BKH) are expected to be erected to go after high profile political corruption and organized crime.
Since last month the country has been marred by protests by opposition parties which gave up their parliamentary mandates, accusing socialist PM Edi Rama of links to criminal networks, vote buying and of capturing the justice reform to serve his own interests.
Although the opposition’s unprecedented decision has been widely condemned by the West, they demand the resignation of PM Rama and early elections.
However, the government says opposition representatives are scared of prosecution and are trying to obstruct the US & EU backed milestone reform which is expected to turn the page in Albania’s pervasive corruption.
Last year, US sent Albanian-American Prosecutor Gjon Juncaj said “there’s no honor in Albania’s low level justice system which has caused hundreds of Albanians citizens to leave their country in recent years.”
Juncaj who works for OPDAT, the US legal affairs mission designed to help Albania in its justice and anti-corruption affairs, said he felt ashamed from the lack of honesty in Albania’s justice.
EU leaders agreed last June to start membership talks with Albania providing the small Balkan nation shows substantial progress in its crucial reform of the highly corrupt justice system.
Brussels has hinted that several member states, notably Germany, France and the Netherlands are reluctant to grant the green light and agree to formally opening accession negotiations with Albania which needs to get its act together in fighting endemic corruption and break close political links to organized crime.
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