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Albania Ruling Party Postpones Controversial Lustration Legislation

After an EU intervention, ruling Socialist Party MPs postponed the approval of legal changes that critics claim are intended to target former President Ilir Meta for alleged collaboration with the Communist-era intelligence service.

MPs from the governing Socialist Party on Monday decided to postpone approval of changes in two laws intended to ban people from running for parliament who collaborated with the Communist-era Sigurimi secret service after an intervention by the EU’s ambassador to Tirana.

The legal changes would have imposed extra checks on MP candidates in future elections. But critics suspect they were intended to target former President Ilir Meta, a leading opponent of the Socialists.

The Socialist Party made its proposals for the legal changes last year, following an announcement by the state institution that looks after the Sigurimi archive that it has found proof that “I.M., a high-level official” collaborated with the Sigurimi.

The Socialists claimed that Meta denounced his university dormitory roommate to the Sigurimi for an attempted escape from Albania. Meta denies the allegations.

Claiming to have been scandalised by the discovery, the Socialists said that the country needs to change the Law on Political Parties and the Law on the Integrity of Elected Officials in order to bar Sigurimi collaborators from the country’s political scene.

On Monday, a letter sent by the EU’s ambassador to Tirana, Christiane Hohmann, to the head of the parliamentary commission on laws, Klotilda Bushka, a Socialist, urged MPs to take extra care to ensure that the changes fully respect EU standards.

“I would like to suggest that the Committee on Legal Affairs, Public Administration and Human Rights ensures that the current legal initiatives are fully compliant with key principles and criteria underlined by the Venice Commission,” Hohmann letter reads.

The Venice Commission, a Council of Europe advisory body on constitutional law criticised in 2009 an attempt by then Prime Minister Sali Berisha to ban several types of Communist-era officials from holding public office, arguing that it was too wide in scope and procedure.

Albania has not undergone any lustration process even though it had one of the most repressive Communist regimes in Eastern Europe until 1991.

More than 6,000 people were killed or died in prison or labour camps during the 45 years of Communist rule, while some 34,000 were imprisoned as enemies of the regime.

Communist-era archives are currently closed for scholars and the wider public and access to them is strictly controlled.

The country’s political class has generally agreed that the archives should be kept secret indefinitely to protect social stability, a stance that has the consequence of leaving Communist-era crimes uninvestigated.

Source : Balkaninsight