Honored and distinguished participants,
Thank you for inviting me to participate and address this conference that holds a great importance. It is a real pleasure that in my capacity as the newly appointed Albanian National Coordinator on Anti-corruption, I have the opportunity to share and discuss with you the Albanian perspective on tackling and combatting corruption, but most importantly by doing so from the lenses of the 4th round of GRECO evaluation. As you might know, only 2 weeks ago, during the spring plenary session of GRECO, the 4th round of evaluation for Albania was adopted. The recommendations of this round come at a very specific momentum; the Government of Albania has shown its strong commitment and is undertaking first steps in establishing solid grounds for the fight against corruption in all fronts. To illustrate the latter, according to the latest amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code, adopted by the Parliament in mid-March 2014, the so called “anti-corruption package”, corruption cases of high level officials, local elected persons as well as judges and prosecutors will now be dealt by Serious Crime Prosecution Office and Serious Crime Court.
The new Albanian Government considers that the reason why the vast majority of the electorate voted for a change is also related to the need to curve corruption among government officials as well as among judges and prosecutors. There is no doubt that rule of law, fight against corruption and abuse of power is exactly what the citizens of Albania had in mind when they did cast their vote.
It is the conviction of the new governmental majority that in order to fight corruption at all levels, the parliament and its members should be the first one to give a positive example. They need to increase their proactive role in disclosing conflict of interest cases, the transparency not only of their assets, but also of their political and lobbying activity within the legislative branch. In this framework, the Government of Albania, welcomes the GRECO recommendations related to disclosure of MPs assets’ by making them public, effective and frequent auditing of assets as well as the requirement to legally regulate aspects with regard of lobbying.
All our efforts against corruption will be meaningless without the involvement of the judiciary. It is of outmost importance rooting out corruption and creating a strong, effective judiciary, which has the ability to play its vital role in bringing corrupt officials to justice.
However, it is unfortunate noticing that according to all opinions polls the court system is considered as one of the most corrupted segments of the state. Needless to state that without a professional, committed and clean judicial system, fight against corruption will be actions never materialized. In the past two decades, the judicial system has totally failed to be self-regulate and further to self-clean its ranks from corrupt judges. In many cases of disciplinary actions or even dismissal brought before the High Council of Justice, the judges’ members of the Council have protected their fellow judges. I do not exaggerate stating that in its current stage, the Albanian judiciary looks like a corporation where the interest of its members outrights the public interest and the political will of the new Government to put the fight against corruption on the top of its agenda.
To reform the judiciary under these conditions and with conventional means is not easy. This is especially true bearing in mind the need to preserve its independence from undue interference of any kind. However, the new parliamentary majority in Albania has the will to engage in deep and comprehensive reform of the judicial system with the full engagement of the healthy segments of our judiciary as well as the assistance of our international partners, one of which is naturally CoE with its instruments like GRECO.
The Government of Albania is in process of designing and undertaking sectoral reforms in order to create the necessary political climate to fight corruption at all levels.
First, the police need to be given the training, the resources and, - above all - the authority, the political backing to investigate corruption no matter where the trails lead.
Second, prosecutors must work cooperatively with the police, must avoid political entanglements and must bring strong, professional cases against the bosses as well as the foot soldiers.
Third, judges shall be responsible to convict the guilty and to pass sentences that are commensurate with the crimes committed.
In this framework, the Government of Albania, congratulates the actions taken by the Prosecutor’s General Office in designing a new code of ethics for prosecutors, in line with international standards, a reflection of one of the GRECO’s recommendation of 4th round.
The efforts of the new parliamentary majority to reform the judicial system will try to use the best European practices to break the wall of cronyism and corporatism of the Albanian judiciary in order to assure that the judiciary is free and independent from corruption and other illegal influences and that true justice is delivered to the citizens.
As simple as it sounds, it gets far more complex in real life and in Albanian context. We are aware that bribes are offered, and we know judges are also threatened. When judges and prosecutors are threatened, the Government will be there to provide them with whatever protection is needed.