NEAR’s Director General Christian Danielsson speech on anti-corruption at Tirana University

NEAR’s Director General Christian Danielsson speech on anti-corruption at Tirana University

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Tirana, 16/11/2016 

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today.

We are gathered to kick start a very important initiative in the delicate field of the fight against corruption.

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today.

We are gathered to kick start a very important initiative in the delicate field of the fight against corruption.

I would like to talk to you about three issues:

  1. Why we believe that the fight against corruption is crucial
  2. Why is the judicial reform important to tackle the problem, also in light of the COM (conditional) recommendation
  3. What are our overall expectations for the future.

Why the fight against corruption is crucial

Let me be clear, no effort shall be spared to develop policies and concrete actions to eradicate corruption. This is a scourge that affects directly the life of citizens in many regards. Ultimately, corruption is a theft from you, from all Albanian citizens.

If affects the functioning of the public administration and the quality of services. It has a detrimental effect on the economy. So this means in concrete terms less schools, less hospitals and less jobs.

The cost of corruption is enormous: it costs even in the EU an estimated 1% of the GDP.

Eradicating corruption is a complex endeavour. It is primarily a challenge for the citizens and the institutions of Albania, but these are not alone in their efforts. The EU and, more broadly, the rest of the international community is supporting Albania in this fight. We need to stand united against corruption and share the burden.

This requires means, political willingness from amongst the competent authorities of course, but also determination from those who are ultimately exposed to it as potential victims, from ordinary citizens, to students, entrepreneurs and so on. 

Furthermore, fighting corruption in Albania is also essential to move the country forward in the Enlargement process.

With this in mind, I welcome very much the launch of this twinning project, which will be developed in cooperation with Germany and Austria. This provides an example of how European cooperation and partnership advance concretely and with determination to bring positive change, for the benefit of all citizens throughout Albania.

The project was designed to support to the formulation, coordination and also concrete implementation of anti-corruption policies. I warmly commend the initiative and I also call for more action.

Our assistance is in fact much broader. There are indeed 10 million EURO of financial support in the pipeline for the implementation of the inter-sectoral strategy against corruption. Such support targets specifically all operational aspects related to prevention, repression, and awareness-raising.

There are in the equation also those who actually benefit from extensive presence of corruption in the system; those who by profession object the rule of the law and live by the rule of the money: organised criminal networks.

This is why I hope that progress continues steadily in the fight against corruption and more broadly on strengthening the rule of law chain in Albania.

Why judicial reform is key, also in light of the COM (conditional) recommendation

The judiciary has often proven to be the weakest link in the rule of law chain.

Last week the Commission, with its yearly report, issued a conditional recommendation to open accession negotiations with Albania. I am sure you are all aware as this decision was extensively reported and debated by local media.

The recommendation is subject to credible and tangible progress in the implementation of justice reform, particularly through the vetting of judges and prosecutors.

We expect that the architecture of the judiciary in the country is restructured in ways that can allow the establishment of a fully independent, accountable, efficient and impartial system. A system in which everybody can truly rely. A system that performs well its crucial role of representing a pillar of the state.

But change will not only happen through better legislation and institutional restructuring. Clearing the ranks of the judiciary from those that were corrupt or have developed links with organised criminal network is key. To this end, the re-evaluation of all judges and prosecutors is an inescapable step to make so that professionalism can eventually be secured across the sector. 

Beyond the justice sector, it is important to continue the consolidation of the fight against corruption and the prevention of conflict of interest across the public service. I would like to take this opportunity to express support to the work carried out in this area by the High-Inspectorate of Declaration and Control of Assets and Conflict of Interest (HIDAACI).

Overall expectations for the future

Delivering on this is crucial for the rule of law and therefore was kept at the core of the Commission perspective engagement for the months to come with a clear conditional link of our recommendation.

So, summing up, the message by the European Commission for Albania in the latest Enlargement Package carries acknowledgement of the steady progress made thus far by the country, while at the same time brings in its essence clear responsibilities for domestic authorities to continue delivering with concrete implementation. This requires political determination and the continuation of an inclusive process, to which political actors contribute responsibly.

We expect that progress continues. The recommendation is meant as an encouragement to produce timely results.

When it comes to more effective fight against corruption, results are expected also beyond the reform of the justice system. Areas of particular concern in Albania, that we aim at tackling also with this project, among others include: party financing, de facto impunity for high level officials, undue influence of private business interests on political decision making and on rule of law operators.

In parallel, the EU will provide support to civil society to increase public awareness and consolidate the citizens’ first line response against corruption.

Civil society and media have an important role to play in preventing and fighting this widespread phenomenon, denouncing, monitoring public services, raising public awareness. Civil society must be part of a sustainable and long term solution for this challenge and the role of youth and universities is particularly crucial in this endeavour. Equally crucial is having an environment where freedom of media can flourish, and where investigative journalism is promoted.                                                                                                 

Corruption is crime, whatever the level and the magnitude is.

We stand by your side in finding the proper way to fight this challenge, as we stand by your side in the broader efforts to secure socio-economic stability, boost development, entrench the rule of law and bring Albania where it belongs, to be fully member of the European Union.

Thank you.

About the author

Detlef Kreutzer

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