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BIRN: The procedural tricks of the socialists raise concerns about the transparency of the Assembly

BIRN: The procedural tricks of the socialists raise concerns about the

The socialist majority voted on Thursday in the plenary session, with 68 votes in favor and 21 against and 2 abstentions, the draft law that paves the way for the demolition of public properties for private interests.

The entire parliamentary process of legal changes in the normative act of 2008 entitled "On the privatization and granting of use to commercial companies and state institutions of enterprises or special facilities..." was contested by the opposition as non-transparent and clientelistic.

The initial initiative of the deputy Eduart Shalsi, which aimed to transfer the function from the Ministry of Finance to the ministry responsible for the Economy, was transformed headfirst into the Economy Commission on Wednesday, giving the green light to the exchange or demolition of public properties in cases where the latter hinder private projects.

The proposals came from MPs Blerina Gjylameti and Alban Xhelilaj and were not subject to public or institutional consultation, and were not published on the official website of the Assembly until the day of voting in the session.

Despite the opposition's insistence on withdrawing the bill and subjecting it to a preliminary consultation, the socialists did not back down.

Yes, the voting of this draft law is not the first parliamentary process contested as irregular.

A few weeks ago, a very important draft law making substantial changes to the law on "Protected Areas" was changed at the last minute without consultation and without transparency according to a draft proposal that the government brought to the parliamentary committee on Productive Activity and the Environment .

Civil society organizations were called to the hearings for an initial draft of the deputies and not for the final version that was approved in the Assembly.

A tactic followed by socialist MPs that seems to play with the limits of the law, but which clearly does not aim to be transparent and avoids the involvement of interest groups, the general public and other institutions, has been followed in other draft laws during the months of last.

For experts, these practices show a lack of responsibility of the institution of the Assembly, a violation of regular parliamentary procedures and cast doubt on conflict of interest or other lobbying related to the legal changes passed in this way.

Afrim Krasniqi, director of the Institute of Political Studies, an organization that monitors the work of the Assembly, told BIRN that, "these initiatives that are presented as initiatives of deputies, have not met the minimum standards of accountability and public transparency".

"We are dealing with initiatives that are suspected to be in conflict of interest, suspected to be products of lobbying and financial interests of certain groups and that have clearly violated parliamentary procedures," he added.

According to Krasniqi, a normal, democratic and transparent procedure would have to go through the phase of consultation with the public and the institutions.

Referring to the latest draft law that paves the way for the demolition and exchange of public properties, he believes that consultations should have been made with all the institutions involved in the specific case such as; The Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Justice, or the institutions that deal with ownership issues, but also the partner organizations of the European Union, which cover these issues.

"The fact that every actor has ignored it has exceeded the limits of what is called the arrogance of the government and is related to electoral interests", emphasized Krasniqi.

While Gjergji Vurmo, director of programs at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, IDM thinks that the Assembly is facing important challenges that are precisely related to the increase of law-making integrity.

"Currently, the most important challenges for the Albanian legislature are two; firstly, increasing the accountability of the institution and the integrity of the process within its primary function, that of lawmaking, and secondly, strengthening parliamentary control over the executive," he told BIRN.

The first challenge, according to Vurmos, "clearly has to do with one of the "tricks" used over the years even before to 'traffick' without consultation and out of public attention certain provisions in the laws to serve dubious interests" .

Vurmo believes that this problem would be avoided with legal changes that sanction public consultation and for the initiatives of deputies, and further a more transparent procedure for the drafting of laws by the government.

IDM has requested the addressing of this 'legal gap', demanding that, 'amendments by deputies must also be subject to public consultation'.

On the other hand, IDM recommends that, "to prevent custom laws, the regulation of the Council of Ministers should be revised to integrate elaborate provisions that increase the integrity and transparency of the drafting process of draft laws and draft decisions.

"As currently this very important process is 'regulated' only with a half provision which sanctions only one principle (completely wrong in this case) - that of confidentiality", concluded Vurmo. Reporter.al



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