Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
The Republic of Albania is a parliamentary democracy. Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral People's Assembly (parliament), which elects both the prime minister and the president. The prime minister heads the government, while the presidency is a largely ceremonial position with limited executive power. The government generally respects the human rights of its citizens. However, there are problems in some areas, including widespread corruption, poor prison and pretrial detention conditions, security force abuse of prisoners and detainees, and human trafficking. The government exercised measures during the year that undermined the independence of key institutions such as the judiciary, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the media.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The top U.S. priorities for promoting democratic principles and practices in the country are strengthening rule of law and anticorruption efforts. The United States also promotes effective, accountable, and independent democratic institutions. Key areas of U.S. focus include reducing opportunities for bribery, building oversight and audit capabilities; increasing capacity to investigate and prosecute corruption and financial crimes; empowering civic groups, associations, and media to scrutinize government operations; and reforming the judicial system by increasing accountability, transparency, and independence. The United States also prioritizes the fostering of political participation and combating trafficking in persons. The United States encourages the democratic process by supporting an electoral observation mission, and by providing financial assistance to NGOs that advocate policy initiatives ranging from women's rights and judicial reform to environmental issues. U.S. priorities are in line with the goals of the European Union.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
Promoting the rule of law in the country is a primary U.S. concern. U.S.-sponsored rule of law programs aim to increase accountability and transparency in 10 district and appellate courts by introducing case management systems, court monitoring, surveys, publication of judicial decisions, and training of court administrative personnel. Improving the criminal justice system's ability to prosecute organized crime, corruption, and human and narcotics trafficking is another area of emphasis for the United States. U.S.-funded programs support efforts to propose and review criminal law-related legislation; train judges, police, and prosecutors; and offer expert assistance in establishing more effective law enforcement structures. The United States gears its assistance toward building the skills and establishing the procedures necessary to improve investigation and prosecution of complex financial crimes, money laundering, and corruption. A U.S.-supported international consortium of 35 organizations facilitates U.S. coordination with a wider range of organizations involved in criminal justice work. In addition, the United States makes public statements promoting democracy and human rights and encourages others to do the same, as well as engages frequently with government officials.
U.S. assistance continues to support additional anticorruption and accountability efforts. In October 2008 the Government of Albania signed an agreement to participate in the second phase of a US assistance program focused on reducing corruption. This stage aims to reduce corruption through more effective criminal investigations and preventive reforms in tax administration, business licensing, and building permitting services. The program's first stage ended in November 2008. An ongoing priority is the establishment and training of specialized anticorruption units in major cities. The units are composed of prosecutors, police officers, customs officials, and tax investigators that investigate and prosecute economic crime and corruption. In order to promote accountability, the United States funds a governance program that promotes effective city-level tax collection, public asset management, and public-private partnerships on local economic development plans.
Fostering participation in democratic life is crucial to U.S. efforts in the country and is a centerpiece of U.S. programming. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 2009. In support of the parliamentary election process, the United States provides assistance for domestic election observation, including a parallel vote tabulation, multiple public opinion polls and surveys by domestic NGOs. The United States also engages with civic groups and media organizations to enable them to work more effectively.
To combat human trafficking, the United States supports two large and comprehensive programs with a concrete focus on preventing human trafficking and protecting those affected by it. One program is carried out by awarding sub-grants to local NGOs, coordinating efforts of local actors, and improving data collection and analysis on trafficking in persons. The purpose of this program is to support policymakers in trafficking prevention and victim protection. The second U.S.-funded program supports efforts to identify and support children at risk and child victims of trafficking. The program works to improve mechanisms for child victim protection.