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Frederica Mogherini during the press conference in Amsterdam
In a remarkable statement on November 14 at the EU–Albania Stabilisation and Association Council (SAC), High Representative Frederica Mogherini showered praise on the government only a month after a half-hearted intervention into the “special” law for the National Theater, which seriously threatened the very principle of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
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Mogherini praised the Albanian government on the “impressive process” on “consolidating the rule of law,” whereas all indicators the past year have seen a worsening of the rule of law in Albania, including the eradication of the Constitutional Court, massive delays in the justice reform, political capture of the Prosecution Office, and a paralysis of the High Court.
The High Representative then went on to mention “some good and very concrete results” of the justice reform:
For instance, the substantial prison sentences for the members of an important criminal organisation by the Serious Crimes Court yesterday are a vital sign of determination to ensure a solid track record on organised crime.
Meanwhile, two former Socialist MPs, Arben Çuko and Arben Ndoka, were released yesterday from pre-trial detention in spite of charges for corruption. On November 14, the same day as Mogherini’s statement, the Appeals Court in Vlora acquitted former Socialist Vlora Mayor Shpëtim Gjika from falsifying documents and abuse of office. Meanwhile, several other high-profile investigations of former Minister of Interior Saimir Tahiri and Durrës mayor Vangjush Dako remain stuck at the Prosecution Office.
The justice reform has as target to establish an independent judiciary that could take on corrupt politicians. So far, there is nothing to show for.
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Perhaps the most curious statement of Mogherini was the following:
We agreed that sustained and constructive political dialogue continues to remain essential for Albania to fully address this reform agenda that is relevant for the European Union, but also for the citizens of the country and we expect all political parties to work in this regard.
It is remarkable that “they” (i.e. the government and Mogherini) “agreed” on the need of “sustained and political dialogue,” while the opposition, including the chairman of the SAA commission in Parliament, Genc Pollo, had not been invited. Parliament is currently de facto boycotted by the opposition, after the government undertook a series of unilateral moves that seriously undermined the credibility of the justice reform.