Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Albania MPs Vote to Form Civil Society Council

MPs from the ruling parties have voted to set up a National Council for Civil Society in a move to include NGOs in the decision-making process - but opposition MPs have withheld support.
Fatjona Mejdini
 Non-governmental organizations are expected to choose 13 representatives to the council | Photo: Albanian parliament.
Albania's parliament has voted to set up a National Council for Civil Society in an attempt to create an organized structure that includes the voice of civil society in the policy-making process.

The parties forming the ruling majority in parliament voted on Thursday to pass a law on the creation and functions of the council, which will be an autonomous advisory structure working closely with Council of Ministers.

Non-governmental organizations are expected to choose 13 representatives to the council while 13 others will be senior members of government and one other will came from the business community.

The structure will be led by the Minister of Welfare and Youth. The vice-chair of the council will be chosen from the representatives of civil society.

The law on the council requires the body to meet at least three times a year. Members are not going to get paid.

The government says it is a way to institutionalize collaboration with civil society in order to promote democracy and raise transparency in decision-making.

However, opposition MPs did not support the initiative, claiming that the draft prepared by the government shows that it wishes only to control civil society.

Opposition Democratic Party MP Albana Vokshi, chairwoman of the parliamentary commission for social issues, told BIRN that her colleagues refused to vote the law after their proposals were not taken into consideration.

Vokshi said also the draft did not include suggestions coming from civil society and the Ombudsman's office, although they were invited to give their opinions about the draft in a commission meeting.

"It is clear starting from the title of the law that this council doesn't belong to civil society. This is a National Council for Civil Society, not a council of civil society," she said.

The vice-chair of parliament's commission for social issues, the Socialist Party MP, Klodjana Spahiu, confirmed that the law passed in parliament without major changes and the suggestions of the civil society in the commission phase.

"The law was passed... from the draft that the government sent us," she said.

The Ombudsman had asked for the minister of social welfare not be chairman and for the body to have its own budget and place of work.

The director of the Albanian Helsinki Committee, Vjollca Mece, told BIRN that she appreciated the initiative - but also had some objections about the government's draft.

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