The OSCE has highlighted the fact that “the fight against corruption remains one of the main challenges for Albania” despite apparent government attempts to improve the situation.
In the annual report to the Permanent Council, seen by Exit, the OSCE Presence in Albania stated that: “In 2018, Albania fell eight places in the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International”, noting that assessment on the level of corruption in the public sector was further corroborated by assessments issued by foreign and local business associations”.
Another cause for concern was media freedom. The report detailed how there were “cases of violence against journalists” during the reporting period. It also referred to Albania dropping seven places in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index that observed “attacks on the media from both the government and organised crime reach and unprecedented level in 2018.”
They also mentioned the so-called “anti-defamation package” that the OSCE Office for Freedom of the Media was involved in reviewing. The Albanian government has ignored their suggestions in the latest draft and the OSCE has said it hopes the law will align with European standards on media freedom. They add that they hope “further discussions and improvements” are introduced before a vote takes place.
The Presence wrote that the current political crisis are “expected to affect the Presence’s operating environment” explaining that political division could obstruct some of its programmatic work, “particularly in terms of its support to the electoral and justice reform”. Considering this “polarized political environment”, the Presence said its involvement in the consolidation of Albanian democracy is “key”.
Unfortunately, the report did not mention the halted investigations into the allegations, supported by prosecution wiretaps, that members of the government, including the Prime Minister Edi Rama colluded to buy votes and threaten voters in 2016 and 2017 elections. Nor did it mention that one of those implicated in the electoral crimes is sitting on the board of the Electoral Reform Committee.
The Opposition have been adamant that true electoral reform can only take place when those involved in electoral crimes are not involved in the reform process, have been prosecuted, and Rama steps down. After that, they have called for a snap election.
Also omitted from the report was the incident where OSCE Ambassador to Albania, Bernd Borchardt was filmed sticking his finger up at female protesters in the center of Tirana. This week President Meta declared that Borchardt was no longer welcome in the Office of the President.