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Dear Minister Gjonaj,
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to discuss how important the High Judicial Council and High Prosecutorial Council are to the success of Albania's justice reform. The crucial steps of the past months, including the establishment of the two Councils, have shown that the reform is delivering and is irreversible. I am glad that we have moved on from having to defend the reform, to discussing its actual implementation and, in particular, how the EU can support it.
The justice sector is at the very core of European Union support to Albania and its reform is a key priority for EU accession. The need to consolidate progress in this area was also stressed by the Members States in last June's Council conclusions. This political importance is therefore reflected in the prominence given to justice and rule of law in our financial support: nearly 100 million euros over the last five years.
With the Cross sector justice reform strategy and its Action Plan, the needs of the sector have been identified by all concerned institutions. The strategy targets the goals to be reached in all aspects of the reform and identifies actions and institutional responsibilities for progress. Your institutions are at the heart of achieving several of these goals, including strengthening the independence, efficiency and accountability of the justice system institutions.
The EU currently provides support through three major instruments: the International Monitoring Operation supporting the vetting process, EURALIUS providing a consolidated support for the reform and the justice institutions, and PAMECA supporting the prosecution services.
Furthermore, in cooperation with the Council of Europe, the EU supports the justice sector through the Horizontal Facility, assisting in a number of areas linked to the rule of law, and to the quality and efficiency of justice.
EURALIUS is already helping the new Councils in the current "start-up" phase. It is important that all institutions coordinate their actions in this regard, not least on the activities to be conducted together with the School of Magistrates.
But, as important as this support is, we are not stopping here.
We are ready to launch a flagship justice support programme, which includes a very significant component on Justice Sector Budget Support. These resources – 34 million euros over the next 3 years – will provide funds directly to the budget of Albania.
If results are achieved in the implementation of the Justice Strategy – for example on securing new premises, and an upgrade of its training activities, for the School of Magistrates – EU funds will be made available to the budget as a contribution to these efforts. This applies to all other institutions which contribute to the implementation of the reform.
This new support will deliver the capacity building and technical assistance which we are preparing with the Ministry of Justice as coordinator. Now is the moment to define your needs and put forward proposals for support.
I have had the opportunity before, but I want to reiterate today my sincere congratulations to you for having reached this point, having the councils established and in full action. This only strengthens EU's commitment to support Albania in building an independent, efficient and quality judicial system which delivers justice to all Albanian citizens.