US embassy cable - 06TIRANA740

BERISHA VS. SOLLAKU: ONE ROUND IN A BROADER BATTLE

Identifier: 06TIRANA740
Wikileaks: View 06TIRANA740 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2006-07-13 05:10:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV PINR PHUM AL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTI #0740/01 1940510
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 130510Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4549
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 2945
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 2738
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0679
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 5309
RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0456
RUEHSQ/AMEMBASSY SKOPJE 4135
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 2787
RUEHVB/AMEMBASSY ZAGREB 2960
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3284
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2176
RUEHPS/USOFFICE PRISTINA 3442
C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000740 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/SCE (MBENEDICT) 
NSC FOR BRAUN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2016 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PINR, PHUM, AL 
SUBJECT: BERISHA VS. SOLLAKU: ONE ROUND IN A BROADER BATTLE 
 
REF: TIRANA 436 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR MARCIE RIES.  REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  SUMMARY. A Parliamentary investigative committee 
looking into allegations of incompetence and misconduct 
against Prosecutor General (PG) Sollaku has issued a report 
claiming evidence of serious misconduct and recommending not 
only that President Moisiu dismiss the PG, but that criminal 
proceedings be brought against him as well.  Minority members 
of the committee attacked the constitutionality of the 
commission itself and other procedural matters, but did not 
address the specific findings of the majority regarding 
Sollaku's culpability. Under the rules of Parliament, any 
measure sanctioning an individual must be voted on by secret 
ballot; simple adoption of a report, however, can be done by 
open vote. The opposition has insisted on a secret ballot, 
and this issue must be resolved before the final vote takes 
place on July 24.  The report must be approved by the full 
Parliament before being sent to the President, but given the 
Government's strong Parliamentary majority, the outcome is in 
little doubt.  What is uncertain is President Moisiu's 
action; most are betting that he will not dismiss Sollaku, in 
part due to concern over PM Berisha's efforts to consolidate 
executive power at the expense of Albania's 
constitutionally-mandated independent institutions, and in 
this case of his own prerogative over appointment of the PG. 
The opposition is using this imbroglio as part of a campaign 
to show that Berisha has not changed and is engaging in a 
campaign to take control of Albania's independent 
institutions.  Berisha certainly gives them plenty of grist 
for their mill.  We expect the political temperature here to 
remain pretty high until the situation is resolved.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
2. (SBU) On May 2, Parliament approved the formation of a 
committee to investigate alleged violations of the law on the 
part of Sollaku in the execution of his duty as the PG (see 
reftel).  The commission was presented with 83 specific cases 
to investigate and was given two months to complete its work. 
It was composed of 13 members, seven from the ruling 
coalition and six from the opposition.  Opposition members 
tried to block the formation and the work of the committee, 
charging that its formation was unconstitutional.  The 
Constitutional Court ruled that the opposition members who 
brought the suit had no standing in the case. 
 
3.  (SBU)  Despite a boycott of the commission's work by 
opposition members in the final days, on July 4 it released 
its final report, which included the expected recommendation 
that the PG be removed from office.  The report also called 
for prosecution of Sollaku for violations of the law and 
misconduct.  It was read before Parliament on July 11 and 
must now be voted by the full Parliament (50% plus 1 vote, or 
82 members) before being sent to the President who, under the 
Constitution, has the final say.  (As noted reftel, the 
President may discharge the PG, on the recommendation of 
Parliament, for violations of the Constitution, for serious 
violations of the law during the exercise of his duties, for 
mental or physical incapacity, or for acts and behavior that 
seriously discredit prosecutorial integrity and reputation.) 
 
4.  (SBU)  Parliamentary rules require that the report be 
voted by Parliament within 20 days of its presentation, and 
the final vote was scheduled for July 24.  Under the rules of 
Parliament, however, votes pertaining to individuals must be 
conducted by secret vote.  Based on this, the opposition has 
demanded that the acceptance vote for the Sollaku report be 
conducted by secret ballot.  The majority has countered 
saying that this is a procedural matter involving simply the 
acceptance of a committee report (thus no secret vote) since 
the President has the final say on whether the PG stays or 
leaves.  The last dispute over secret voting brought 
Parliament to a standstill.  It is likely the opposition has 
a similar plan in mind in this instance.  There are rumors 
that the opposition is trying to convince some MPs of the 
majority to vote against the report to embarrass the 
Government.  The opposition is also reportedly seeking to 
deny a quorum to vote on the report by convincing members in 
the governing coalition not to come to the floor.  Both 
tactics are unlikely to work. 
 
5. (SBU)  Charges brought by the governing coalition majority 
in the commission's report fall into four broad categories: 
 
--  Failure to pursue serious criminal cases, or improper 
suspension of such cases. 
 
--  Improper appointment of prosecutors. 
 
--  Failure to pursue cases brought by the State Audit 
Office, members of Parliament, or other sources, including on 
public tenders (non-criminal cases). 
 
--  Failure to disclose wealth/property. 
 
6. (SBU)  The views of the opposition were not included in 
the final report and were released separately to the public 
on July 10.  The opposition attacked the constitutionality 
and functioning of the commission itself, but did not address 
any of the specific findings of wrong-doing on the a part of 
Sollaku. The opposition report called on the President to 
reject the report of the majority on the grounds that the 
commission did not complete the work it set out to do (not 
all of the 83 cases brought before the commission were 
investigated) and failed to complete its work in the allotted 
time (the final report was released two days after the 
deadline).  The minority also complained that the functioning 
of the commission did not conform with either Albanian law or 
internationally-accepted norms. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
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8. (C) IS SOLLAKU GUILTY?  It is hard for us to evaluate 
fully the findings in the commission's report.  While many of 
the charges are grave, serious observers agree that the 
Government only came close to making a convincing case on two 
minor charges -- failure to declare properly ownership of an 
apartment and failure to vigorously pursue a well-known case. 
 Sollaku, in the testimony before the commission, denied all 
allegations of wrong-doing.  In testimony, an open letter to 
Parliament, and a 50-page document sent to MPs and the 
President, Sollaku systematically refuted all charges on 
legal and factual grounds.  (It is worth nothing that some of 
the charges included in the final report were added during 
the course of the commission's work, including after the PG 
testified.)  In our view, even if Sollaku committed the 
errors noted above, these do not meet the rigorous standards 
spelled out in the Constitution for dismissal. 
 
9.  (C)  WHAT IS BEHIND THE MOVE AGAINST SOLLAKU?  The 
opposition has charged that the move to remove Sollaku is an 
attempt by the DP to bring one of Albania's 
constitutionally-created independent institutions under the 
purview of the Prime Minister, and that it is part of a 
 
larger pattern.  In fact, shortly after assuming office, 
Berisha attempted to put his own person at the head of SHISH 
(Albanian Intelligence), another appointment controlled by 
the President.  The ruling DP is engaged in efforts to 
replace two members of the High Council of Justice, which 
will fill one of the vacancies on the Central Electoral 
Commission (CEC).  With arguably three of the four current 
members of the CEC already in its pocket, the DP could 
reverse the SP majority on the CEC created while the 
Socialists were in office. 
 
10.  (C)  Perhaps the PM is not orchestrating a consistent 
campaign to undermine independent institutions, but he has 
handed the opposition a ready-made public relations issue on 
a silver platter.  Berisha and Parliamentary President 
Topalli say they have told the Socialists that they could 
name Sollaku's replacement, that the DP has no candidate in 
waiting.  Obviously, the opposition neglects this point in 
its propaganda.  But even if the offer has been made, it is 
also not surprising if the opposition views it with some 
skepticism. 
 
11.  (C)  There are two potential ways to interpret the 
Berisha Government's actions, which skirt the edges of 
democratic process:  The opposition interpretation that his 
instincts are authoritarian and his chief objective is 
winning the local elections.  Or, the DP version that he is 
driven to govern Albania effectively, sincerely desires to 
rid the country of organized crime and corruption, and chafes 
when bureaucratic hurdles or less-than-efficient prosecutors 
general impede his progress.  Given the win-lose, 
hard-scrabble Albanian political environment which shaped 
him, as well as his controlling, even micro-managing 
personality, it is not surprising the PM is making various 
efforts to assert his control over different government 
entities, replacing Socialists with his supporters.  Indeed, 
the SP in its day also liberally exploited the patronage at 
hand.  The Constitutional Court and the President, two 
institutions provided by the Constitution to balance the 
power of the Government, have blocked the Government in 
several instances and appear about to do so in the case of 
the PG. 
 
12.  (C)  WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?  It is almost certain 
that Parliament will pass the full report on July 24, sending 
the recommendation that Sollaku be dismissed and investigated 
for criminal conduct to President Moisiu.  Most, including 
we, are betting the President will not dismiss Sollaku, 
either because the charges have not been proven, or because 
he is concerned with Berisha's intentions, or both.  If this 
happens, the Prosecutor General could continue with his work 
(with the same non-communication between his office and the 
PM's as now) and the situation could bump along.  The 
(recently united) opposition has scheduled the first of what 
may be a series of street protests for July 12 in Tirana's 
Skenderbeg Square, aimed at highlighting the "undemocratic 
and heavy-handed tactics" of the ruling party.  Even if the 
demonstration is not exceptionally large, it will certainly 
raise the political temperature. 
 
13.  (C)  Both we and the EU have told both sides that their 
approach to politics as a zero-sum game is damaging to their 
country and its future prospects.  We will be watching the 
situation very carefully over the coming days to determine 
whether more vigorous international diplomatic intervention 
is needed. 
RIES 

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