Albania. Parliament adopted a series of constitutional
amendments in July with the aim of reducing the political
influence over the judiciary and combating corruption and
organized crime. The reform package was a key condition of
the EU for Albania to start membership negotiations. It was
adopted unanimously after 18 months of negotiations in which
the Democratic Party, which is leading the opposition, has
long opposed foreign experts to participate when judges are
appointed. After mediation by the US and the EU, and the
threat of withdrawing the country's candidate status in the
EU, agreement was reached. Despite this, the opposition
subsequently appealed against the legislative changes, but
the Constitutional Court finally approved them in December.
countryaah, the current population of Albania is 2,877,808.
The second royal wedding in Albania's history was held in
October, when 34-year-old Crown Prince Leka married actress
Elia Zaharia. The semi-official wedding ceremony was
conducted by the mayor of Tirana, while representatives of
both Muslim and Christian communities gave their blessing.
Leka is an adviser to the Foreign Minister. The only royal
wedding held in the country was when Leka's grandfather King
Zog married in 1938, a year before he was expelled from
power and the monarchy in practice ceased.
Around 20,000 Albanian Catholics participated in the
Blessing of 38 Catholics executed or tortured during the
Communist era, between 1945 and 1985, in November.
Representatives of the Vatican also attended the ceremony,
in a cathedral in Shkodėr.
The June 2013 parliamentary election was a stinging
defeat for Sali Berisha’s Conservative coalition, falling
from 46.9% of the vote to 39.4%. The Social Democratic
coalition, in turn, went from 45.3% to 57.6% and Socialist
Party chairman Edi Rama became new prime minister and
inaugurated in September. The Socialist Party itself got
41.4% of the vote.
One month after his deployment, Rama carried out a
comprehensive restructuring of the police to cope with the
rapidly rising crime. All police chiefs in the country's 12
administrative regions were replaced.
In October, the European Commission presented its annual
report on potential new Member States, highlighting
Albania's successful holding of the June parliamentary
elections. The Commission then recommended that the country
be granted "candidate status". However, several states -
including Denmark and the Netherlands - were opposed, so the
decision was postponed. In June 2014, it was then decided to
accept Albania as a candidate member.
During the periodic review of the human rights situation
in the country conducted by the United Nations Human Rights
Council in September 2014, Albania agreed to enter the
International Convention on Disappearances into its
legislation and agreed to take measures to reduce
discrimination against Roma and the Egyptian minority
community in the country. Albania had a long tradition of
discrimination against the Roma in particular.
Freedom of expression was under intense pressure due to
self-censorship in the media and threats by the government
towards media and journalists. In June, journalist Aurora
Koromani had to have police protection after she wrote about
IS 's recruitment of volunteers in the country. Several
other journalists applied for asylum in the EU and Norway
because the authorities were unable to protect them.
Many Roma, Egyptian immigrants and young people were
unable to earn an income that gave them access to social
housing. At the same time, many Roma were not allowed to
legalize their housing on the basis of the new 2014 Housing
Act, which allowed the authorities to level "illegal
housing" with the land. In July 2015, 70 Roma families
confiscated their land and removed their houses prior to new
road construction in Tirana.
A parliamentary commission published in June 2015 a
report documenting widespread corruption in the police and
judiciary. But corruption is also widespread among
politicians. Among other things. there were persistent
reports that Prime Minister Edi Rama had received DKK 2
million. US $ in bribes. In November, the European
Commission demanded that Albania take serious steps to
protect human rights, implement judicial reforms and fight
corruption and organized crime before opening negotiations.
In December, 50,000 in Tirana demonstrated against the
corruption in government and rising poverty.
The right wing conducted protests against the government
in February-May. It claimed that government members were
involved in the ever-expanding production and trade of
Canabis, demanded the departure of several government
members and the introduction of an electronic electoral
system for the June parliamentary elections. In March,
Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri and three other ministers
resigned because of the growing political tension. The
crisis was only resolved in May, after the opposition was
given a newly created post as Deputy Prime Minister and 6
ministerial posts in the sitting government, as well as the
introduction of an electronic voter registration system.
In April 2017, Parliament elected Ilir Meta as president
with 87 out of 140 votes. The opposition boycotted the vote.
The June parliamentary elections were won by the ruling
Social Democracy, which went up 9 seats to 74, while the
right-wing Democratic Party went back 7 seats to 43. The
leader of Social Democracy, Edi Rama, then formed government
with himself as prime minister. An important reason for the
Social Democratic victory was the government's economic
policy in previous years, which had increased economic
growth from 0.5% in 2013 to 3.5% in 2016. The government had
also initiated a normalization of relations with Serbia. In
2014, the Prime Minister visited Belgrade, the first
Albanian state visit in 70 years.