June 5th, 2019
This newsletter is drafted independently by an editorial staff appointed by the Democratic Party of Albania in response to the growing interest from international partners and organisations on democracy and rule of law standards in the country.

To read DPU's previous editions follow link.


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POLITICAL CRISIS
Seventh Opposition national rally: crowd bigger than before.

Under the motto "For a European Albania " and "Rama Go! (Rama ik!)", the Albanian Opposition Coalition held its 7th national rally in central Tirana, on Sunday afternoon, June 2nd. Compared to previous rallies, a record high number of participants turned out.  

Opposition leader Basha addressing the rally, called “the popular union of June 2nd the largest union of those Albanians who fight for a European future for their country; of those Albanians that seek to resolve the crisis through a transitional government and free  elections; of those Albanians who are struggling to have the same rights as any European citizen. We ask nothing more, but we will not accept anything less than the values that unite us: democracy, rule of law and equal justice for all”.

There were tensions between fringe groups and the riot police especially in front of the Parliament building. Police responded to firecrackers with water cannon and teargas. Basha, during his speech, repeatedly called on the crowd to avoid confrontation with police. 

PUBLIC PERCEPTION

Opinion poll: Opposition coalition consecutively ahead of the ruling party. Majority believes elections will be postponed.

Albanian Television Ora and Italian IPR marketing company published, on May 30th, the results of a national survey relating to the political positioning of Albanian electorate ahead the incoming local elections.

The survey states that 51.5% would vote for the Opposition coalition, and 44.5% for the Socialist party.

53.5% also believe that elections shall be postponed, with 47.4% stating that the socialist majority shall not enter into elections vs. 38.6% stating that it should. 

60.6% would consider the local elections to be neither valid, nor legal, if they are held on June 30th without the opposition taking part in them.

38.9% evaluate negatively Rama's government vs. 32.2% that evaluate it positively (10% don't answer, 18.3% nor positive/nor negative).

For the full survery results, click here.

CORRUPTION
Public tenders’ abuses reach record high levels while national economy deteriorates due to increased taxation and bad fiscal policy.

The Supreme State Audit report for 2018 shows that the total amount of misused public money reached the record level of 1.7 billion Euros. Of which 587 million Euros relate to public tenders. The report focuses on apparently abusive Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that are awarded through non transparent & non competitive procedures with little value for money. A limited number of government backed oligarchs, and ruling party MPs, have won government contracts to the tune respectively of 263 and 82 million Euros mostly through direct assignments. 

Read more.

CORRUPTION

National Theater demolition project has been resuscitated by a government decree. 

While the Government had given assurances to the international community that the very controversial project has been annulled, a Council of Minister decree adopted in early April and published in June (Official State Journal, June 3rd, 209 - here) opens the procedure for the demolition and high rise development of the most expensive real estate area in Tirana.

The tender procedure seems skewed in favor of Fusha ltd. The company was the direct beneficiary of the project, by mean of a Special Law that was deemed unconstitutional and in violation of the Albania - EU Stabilization Association Agreement.  

Fusha ltd. would be given public land (that developed would bring ca 150 Million Euro profit) in exchange of investing in the construction of the new Theater, which costs would be, by seemingly inflated prices, appx. 30 million Euros.

The President of the Republic returned the law to parliament twice (here).

A civil society movement for the protection of the existing historical National Theater building, a protected site, has been formed. They ahve been protesting daily, in front of the Theater, for the last 18 months.

The case has acquired notoriety with international media reporting on the case. EU politicians have called it a test case for Rama's commitment to the European integration (interview). The DP has opposed the project since day one as unconstitutional, corrupt and white elephant (click here for DP arguments).

CORRUPTION

The "Milot-Balldren" highway scandal: a 'free' tunnel and a PPP worth 250m€.

The Milot – Balldren highway contract represents the umpteenth scandal of the Rama government. It relates to a hugely overpriced project given to government cronies with no competitive procedure. 

The construction project of this 17km long highway segment, is located in the north-east area of the country. It was awarded in the form of a PPP contract after an unsolicited bid from ANK, a small construction company owned by a former Socialist MP.

Albeit ANK has a declared capital of 4 million € in assets, it has been awarded a 15 years contract worth 256 million €. 

The contracted amount of the Milot – Balldren highway segment is largely over-priced with 14.2 million € per km, corresponding to more than the double of World Bank references for such infrastructural projects of 6 million € / per km (here). In addition, the proposed annual maintenance costs for this 17km long segment equals 12.5% of the total Albanian public fund for the maintenance of 3.800 km public roads.        

Beyond the costly and non-transparent selection procedures, other suspicions arise after assessing the correspondences between public officials and ANK representatives. In the initial project application, ANK had proposed to build one sole tunnel of 850m worth 17 million €. After public authorities recall to the company that state standards for such highway require two separate parallel tunnels, ANK appear to have answered that it will comply to this requirement without any financial change to the initial proposed budget.

External links

"In Albanien herrscht ein ideales Umfeld für die organisierte Kriminalität. Das Land ist gefangen im Drogengeschäft, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, June 1st, 2019.


"The European Commission, which recommended the opening of negotiations for Albania's EU accession, assesses in its progress report of this week that police operations have intensified. [...] However, this assessment is in contradiction with US State Department [reports]. [...] High unemployment and a weak rule of law have created an ideal environment for organized crime. [...] Without the co-operation of a corrupt police, smuggling would not be possible."
 

"Albaniens Premier Rama auf nationalistischem Kurs", Der Standard, May 29th, 2019

"Rama is not only a nationalist, but also acts increasingly as an authoritarian. In the press freedom ranking of Reporters Without Borders, for example, Albania recently dropped seven places to 82nd place in international comparison. The attacks of the government and organized crime groups in 2018 have reached unprecedented levels. Reporters Without Borders reported insults, death threats and reports against journalists who were supposed to intimidate them. Rama himself had called journalists "garbage."
 
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June 2019
Democratic Party of Albania. 


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Democratic Party of Albania · Selia qendrore PD · Blv. Zhan d'Ark, No.11 · Tirana 1001 · Albania

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