Albanian Parliament Approves Partial ‘Vetting’ Structure Amid Opposition Boycott

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Empty seats left by opposition parties at the Albanian Parliament are expected to fill up in coming weeks.

Tirana, Albania | Tirana Echo – Albania’s Parliament has approved last night three out of six names needed for the establishment of the ‘Vetting’ Ad-Hoc Committee which is to scan proposals for the people who will execute the first phase of Albania’s crucial justice reform.

With only the votes of governing majority, Albania’s Parliament approved Ulsi Manja (SP), Vasilika Hysi (SP) and Luan Rama (LSI) as the majority’s proposals for the membership of the Ad-Hoc parliamentary body which will decide on the names to fill up the first ‘Vetting’ structures which will start scanning Albania’s prosecutors and judges eligible for the new justice system.

Opposition parties which are currently boycotting parliament, did not propose any names, insisting on their demand for the resignation of PM Rama and the creation of a technical government. The first vote in parliament was already postponed once due to the opposition’s boycott and lack of names for the vetting structures.

Without the other three names proposed by the opposition, the Ad-Hoc committee cannot perform its tasks, which indicates that Albania’s justice reform process enters a new phase of impasse, practically blocking the next steps of justice reform.

The names which were first scanned by Albania’s Ombudsman had to undergo another filtering process by an International Monitoring Operation under the direction of the European Commission. Out of 84 proposed names by the Ombudsman, the IMO vetoed 17 of them, sending back to the Ombudsman only 67 candidates.

It is now up to the Parliament of Albania and its half crippled committee to approve the candidates and enable the first vetting bodies to be constituted.

However, without the opposition in Parliament the process cannot move forward and Albania risks its EU membership bid which has been conditioned on the implementation of justice reform.

The IMO has repeatedly said it is there only to monitor the process, not to take decisions, but its unclear mandate and several public discussions over its role in Albania’s selection of judges and prosecutors has raised questions worried Albania’s politicians who fear the reform of its highly corrupt justice system may be bias or hijacked for political purposes.

The debate has caused several strains within the country’s governing coalition partners with Albania’s newly appointed Minister of Justice Petrit Vasili, also vice chair of the junior governing coalition partner Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) pointing out that the current International Monitoring Operation Board which is to monitor the Vetting of judges and prosecutors in Albania, has been erected in an unconstitutional manner.

However, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has said the opposition fears justice reform and desires the blocking of the vetting process.

Sincere respect for any normal person protesting, but not for the organizers of a protest which sees the boycott of the parliament as an instrument to block the vetting process. Let them prove the opposite – let them protest, let them boycott the parliament, but let them send 3 people representing them at the committees” – said Rama n February.

However, the European Union has highlighted the Commission’s recommendation to responsibly follow up on this crucial reform.

“I believe our message is clear. This is a vital process to open the door to the accession negotiations of Albania with the EU. Albania needs to show credible and tangible progress in the implementation of the justice reform, in particular the re-evaluation of judges and prosecutors (vetting),” – said IMO chief EU director Genoveva Ruiz Calavera earlier in February, hinting that any shortcomings in the next phases of justice reform will impact Albania’s bid to join the European Union.

Albania has officially entered a period of institutional crisis as the deadline for political parties to register at the Central Election Commission for elections has now passed, with all opposition parties staying out of the registration process, while no political talks have been fixed between government and opposition to end the country’s political deadlock.

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