Albania has a built a record of competitive elections, though political parties are highly polarized and often focused on leading personalities. Civil liberties such as religious freedom and freedom of assembly are respected. Corruption and organized crime remain serious problems despite recent government efforts to address them, and the intermingling of powerful business, political, and media interests inhibits the development of truly independent news outlets. The Romany minority continues to face discrimination in education, health care, employment, and housing.
- Beginning in July, the parliament passed a series of laws and constitutional amendments designed to reform the judicial system. The most controversial law, under which judges and prosecutors will be vetted for possible corruption and links to organized crime, was upheld by the Constitutional Court in December after a challenge by the opposition Democratic Party (PD).
- In November, the European Commission recommended that the European Union (EU) formally open accession negotiations with Albania once it has made tangible progress in implementing the judicial reforms, particularly the vetting process. The European Council accepted the recommendation in December.
In July, Albania’s parliament passed the first in a series of laws and constitutional amendments aimed at overhauling the courts and justice system. The ruling Socialist Party (PD) pressed ahead with the reforms through the end of the year, as the effort was a key condition set by the EU for the opening of membership talks with Albania. However, the opposition PD sought to block many of the changes, arguing that they were unconstitutional. The most controversial law called for the evaluation of current and prospective judges and prosecutors based on their professionalism, moral integrity, and independence from the influences of organized crime, corruption, and politics. The PD and the union of judges challenged the so-called vetting law before the Constitutional Court, but the court upheld it in December, citing in part an endorsement from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.
The current government has taken some steps to improve politicians’ accountability for corruption and other abuses. A law passed in December 2015 banned individuals with criminal records from holding office, and officials submitted self-declaration forms in 2016. The Central Electoral Commission voted in December to dismiss two members of parliament and one mayor for hiding their past criminal convictions. Another lawmaker had been removed by the Constitutional Court in May due to a conflict of interest, and a whistle-blower protection law was adopted in June. According to a 2016 survey on corruption, while the general perception of corruption in state institutions remains high, the share of those reporting an actual experience with corruption—being asked to pay a bribe—decreased from 57 percent in 2010 to 44 percent in 2015.
Political Rights 28 / 40 (+1)
A. Electoral Process 8 / 12
A2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?
B. Political Pluralism and Participation 13 / 16
B2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
B4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
C. Functioning of Government 7 / 12 (+1)
C2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
C3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?
Civil Liberties 40 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief 13 / 16
D2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
D4. Is there open and free private discussion?
E. Associational and Organizational Rights 9 / 12
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?
E3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?
F. Rule of Law 9 / 16
F2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?
F3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights 9 / 16
G2. Do individuals have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
G3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
G4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?
Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Albania, see Freedom in the World 2016.