In March 2020 the EU undertook to open accession negotiations with Albania. As a candidate country, Albania needs not only to reform its judiciary, fight organised crime and corruption and ensure respect for human rights but also respect EU animal welfare rules. The situation with regard to this last point is particularly alarming, as can be seen from the cruel treatment meted out to stray dogs. The mayor of Tirana recently ordered another mass sterilisation; however, this in fact amounted to a mass slaughter. In public institutions the animals were not sterilised but killed by acid injection, and the bodies were disposed of on the municipal waste heap. Thousands of stray dogs are likely to have died in this cruel way in recent years. These crimes committed by the state have been substantiated on many occasions by means of videos, photos and witness testimony provided by animal rights defenders. Albanian civil society protesters against the government’s inhuman methods are harassed and animal protection campaigners muzzled.
1. How will the prospects for the start of accession negotiations with Albania be influenced by the fact that Albania appears to lack any kind of minimum animal welfare standards and ignores the protests of its own people?
2. What support or measures to improve the situation of stray animals in Albania exist or are planned by the Commission?
The EU legislation on animal welfare sets out the minimum standards for the protection of farm animals and animals kept for scientific purposes . The Commission monitors the alignment of Albania’s legislation with the EC law in this area, notably through the policy dialogue in the context of the EU-Albania Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The Commission assesses regularly the situation in its reports on Albania, the latest of which was issued on 19 October 2021(1).
Under the existing EU animal welfare legislation, the welfare of dogs is regulated only in limited circumstances, in particular during transport in connection with an economic activity. Any remaining aspects concerning the welfare of dogs, including stray dogs, is subject to Member States’ national legislation.
Although the welfare of stray dogs is not governed by EU rules, some concrete actions have been and are still undertaken by the Commission. In particular, the Commission supports the work of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on guidelines for the control of stray dog populations(2). Albania is a member of the OIE.
In addition, within the framework of the OIE Regional Platform on Animal Welfare for Europe(3), the Commission is assisting OIE member countries in the Balkan region, including Albania, to achieve compliance with the standards set-up by the guidelines.