Info Session – Measuring progress: Reforms in the field of Rule of Law in the European integration process framework, 1 June 2024

On June 1, 2024, the European Movement in Albania (EMA), in collaboration with the Academy of Political Studies (ASP), held an info session in the city of Berat to address the latest developments in the European integration process in Albania, mainly in the rule of law, as well as the involvement of non-state actors and the challenges that arise from this very technical and long process. Representatives of civil society, local government, academia and more, actively participated in this session.

Gledis Gjipali, Executive Director of the European Movement in Albania, began his opening remarks by pointing out that Albania, after successfully completing the screening process of all chapters of the EU acquis in November 2023, the next step is the review of three Roadmaps, two of which are related to Chapter 23 and 24, namely the Roadmap for the Rule of Law and the Functioning of Democratic Institutions, and finally the one for the reform of Public Administration. The drafting of these roadmaps facilitates the process, as they present the main priorities to be fulfilled by the Albanian government in these areas. Thus, the Rule of Law Roadmap extensively addresses subfields such as justice reform, the fight against corruption, fundamental rights, the fight against organized crime, migration, asylum and visas. Concrete measures have been taken and are expected to be implemented in these areas. Gjipali mentioned here the justice reform implemented since 2016 by which some laws and legal procedures have been amended in order to enhance the justice system as a whole and to provide it indivisibly to all Albanian citizens. Gjipali stressed the significance of the independence and integrity of judges and prosecutors in the protection of the rule of law and the fight against corruption. After this phase, Gjipali clarified that the negotiations will be opened with the holding of an intergovernmental conference where the first objectives that the Albanian government must continuously fulfill will be set, and Cluster 1 – Fundamentals will be the first to be opened for negotiation. The reforms for the chapters of this cluster are inherent in this key moment for Albania in which the European Commission confirmed the application of the new Growth Plan for the countries of the Western Balkans with a total budget of EUR 6 billion. Each state of the Western Balkans must show readiness to implement reforms after confirming the relevant Reform Agendas, otherwise the funds are allocated to another state that is performing better. Hence, Gjipali underlined that the inclusiveness of various actors, mainly civil society, will bring about the successful completion of all stages of the negotiation process.

Erjon Tase, Executive Director of the Academy of Political Studies, also addressed the recent developments in the framework of the rule of law, drawing attention to the first grouping of conditions that is first and foremost related to the implementation of the justice reform, the functioning of the bodies against corruption, reforming the election law, as well as protecting freedom of expression. He focused on the latter, commenting that the pluralism of media freedom will further increase if the measures provided for in the Rule of Law Roadmap are implemented. The safety of journalists and the trial of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are necessary to be implemented in practice according to European standards, so a more structured dialogue with the media can be established. Tase pointed out that a particularly important concern is the participation of civil society in the negotiation process through the Partnership Platform for European Integration (PPIE) as one of the main mechanisms where non-state actors can be directly engaged by joining the 33 Discussion and Consultation Roundtables for each chapter of the acquis, which also provide the opportunity for open dialogue to take positions and recommendations. In conclusion, Tase recognised the essential role of civil society actors, since the continuous consultation and monitoring of reforms through reports and recommendations produced by them brings continuity in the implementation of reforms and the improvement of public policies.

The participants in the session showed interest in Albania’s progress in fulfilling the criteria for Cluster I and in the perspective of the country’s membership in the European Union within the year 2030. They also express their willingness to contribute to the Discussion and Consultation Roundtables, aiming to join those that coincide with their field of interest and expressing their readiness to share their experience and suggestions for the progress of the rule of law in the country.

*This info session takes place within the framework of the “Building Partnership on Fundamentals: Empowered CSOs in the EU  accession process” project, with the financial support of the European Union – IPA Civil Society Facility 2021, which is implemented by the European Movement in Albania and in cooperation with the Academy of European Integration and Negotiations (AIEN), Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) and the Center for Transparency and Freedom of Information (CTFI).