Discussion Forum – Open dialogue with civil society and young people on integration issues with a focus on justice and the rule of law

On May 8, 2024, the European Movement in Albania, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice in the context of Europe Day, organised a discussion forum in the premises of Tirana International Hotel, with the theme “Open dialogue with civil society and young people on integration issues with a focus on justice and the rule of law”. The focus of this forum was the discussion on the country’s reforms related to the process of Albania’s integration into the European Union, to promote open dialogue and cooperation between state institutions, civil society actors and young people, and media freedom.

Gledis Gjipali, Executive Director of the European Movement in Albania, in his introductory speech, articulated a vision of the relationship between the European Union and Albania, highlighting the main role of the rule of law and the active engagement of civil society. Gjipali added that the European Union represents not just a political and economic alliance, but a community based on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. He stressed Albania’s journey towards European integration as not just a bureaucratic process, but a deep commitment to common values and aspirations. Further, he added that this stands as a cornerstone in a just society, promoting stability, economic development and the protection of individual rights. Also, the Executive Director underlined the indispensable role of free and independent media in supporting democratic principles and promoting informed public discourse. He clarified that a media landscape is essential for keeping power in check, maintaining transparency and ensuring the dissemination of diverse perspectives essential to a well-functioning democracy.

Blerjana Bino, the Executive Director of SCIDEV in Albania offered an overview to the audience and the panel on media freedom and the safety of journalists as essential processes for European integration, as well as the vital role of civil society and the empowerment of young people in shaping the future of Albania. She outlined that improving the Albanian state should be centered on taking proactive measures to support the free media and to acknowledge the value of free expression. Bino clarified many challenges faced by journalists in the media landscape of Albania. Therefore, she highlighted the urgent need for joint efforts to overcome these obstacles, creating a society where journalists can work without fear, and where the voices of all citizens can be expressed freely. In her speech, Bino mentioned that the key element is structured dialogue. Albania has currently fallen into the “difficult zone” in terms of the quality of journalism compared to other countries in the region. She added that legal intervention, both for state and private institutions, requires long-term changes to improve the current environment for journalism and create a safe working environment for young journalists today. Bino concluded by highlighting that despite the obstacles that lay ahead, civil society’s tenacity and young people’s resolve to defend freedom of expression will win out.

Elira Sylshabani, student of Law at the University of Tirana and one of the co-founders of the student organization MELIUS, in her speech she outlined the issue of Albania’s membership in the EU from two essential perspectives: first as a law student and as part of the new generation that is experiencing the current challenges of the labour market. Elira pointed out the critical aspects of this process, describing the challenges and opportunities it brings for young people. She focused her attention on the need for deep reforms in the education system, emphasizing the need to adapt education to the demands of the changed labour market and to facilitate the European integration of the country. Through her own experiences and dialogue with peers, Sylshabani highlighted the value of young people working together to address issues and have an impact on Albania’s EU accession process. She conveyed a call for joint commitment and active participation of young people in the debate and the European integration process of the country.

Tedi Dobi, The Deputy Minister of Justice in Albania offered some reflections on the country’s progress toward EU membership. Dobi started his speech with a brief history of the creation of the EU, its enlargement and the relationship with Albania over the years. During the speech, Dobi pointed out that already with the conclusion of the screening process, the areas where more detailed and immediate intervention is required have been identified. They are divided according to priorities, where reforms mainly in the field of the rule of law, covered in Chapters 23 and 24 of the EU acquis, will have priority. In this context, Dobi showed his determination in the continuity and implementation of the necessary reforms to meet the standards of the European Union. He stressed that progress in these areas is essential for the European integration of the country and for the improvement of state governance.

The participants discussed with interest and willingness to continue cooperation on the path towards membership in the European Union. They expressed deep reflections on the challenges encountered during this long trajectory, focusing on the importance of continued implementation of reforms, particularly in the field of justice. They emphasized the need for full independence of executive institutions to ensure the independent and effective functioning of the judiciary system. Special attention was devoted to raising awareness among citizens regarding freedom of speech and media, highlighting the importance of protecting these fundamental freedoms and fighting against any form of censorship or external pressures.

Finally, the participants agreed on the importance of transparency in the financing of political parties, as a critical step towards more integrated and fair governance. *This discussion forum takes place within the framework of the project “Building Partnership on Fundamentals: Empowered CSOs in the EU accession process”, with the financial support of the European Union – IPA Civil Society Facility 2021, which is implemented by the European Movement in Albania and in cooperation with the Academy of European Integration and Negotiations (AIEN), Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) and the Center for Transparency and Freedom of Information (CTFI).



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