Multilateral Relations

The implementation of the justice reform must continue with more determination than ever

Tirana, Albania, 28/05/2020 - 14:18, UNIQUE ID: 200528_6
Op-Eds

By Genoveva Ruiz Calavera

Director for the Western Balkans at the European Commission and Chair of the International Monitoring Operation (IMO).

 

After years of hard work in building solid foundations for an independent, accountable and truly impartial judiciary in Albania, there is only one way to ensure the full implementation of the justice reform in Albania: moving forward, for the benefit of the Albanian citizens!

This reform was adopted by the Albanian Parliament with unanimous vote of all political forces. It was clear from the outset that this was a difficult reform, that it would affect vested interests and that, because of its complexity, it will take time before it delivers results. Yet, they all recognised that this reform was very necessary, and they also knew it was fundamental for the future of Albania.

In the current crucial phase for the progress of the country on the European integration path, this reform must not be undermined by various attacks. This is not a time to derail the reform and its many achievements to date, such as the establishment of all new judicial institutions, which have been functioning well already for some time. The vetting process has continued progressing steadily as well, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hearings. The latest appointment of three new members to the High Court has allowed the court to achieve the necessary quorum to start resuming its main functions. The new specialised bodies in the area of anti-corruption and organised crime have started to operate. The High Prosecutorial Council has elected this month three additional prosecutors of the Special Prosecution Office, filling 12 out of the existing 15 positions. These important results must be acknowledged, preserved and built on.

The current investigation in the case of one of the members of the Appeal Chamber and the subsequent suspension from office, should not be an excuse to attack the judicial reform – it should rather be seen as the most concrete evidence that the system has started to function effectively.

Concerning this case, the International Observers deployed by the International Monitoring Operation have thoroughly overseen the selection of the members of the vetting bodies, fully honouring their constitutional and legal obligations, based on the information put at their disposal within the timeframes foreseen by the law.  The International Monitoring Operation indicated to persons submitting allegations that could have criminal relevance, that those need to be addressed to the competent judicial authorities in Albania. And this is precisely what has happened in this case.

Without prejudging the final outcome of this investigation and the follow up in Court, it is exactly in these difficult cases that an independent justice system is tested in showing that nobody is above the law, not even the members of the vetting bodies. This is the true merit and value added of a functioning judiciary in a democratic society based on the rule of law, which confirms that citizens now have the appropriate structures in place so that allegations of corruption or misconduct can be properly investigated.

The months ahead will be crucial in the context of the opening of EU accession negotiations and the continuous implementation of the judicial reform will be key. And this is not only about getting the technical work done, it’s about political commitment. That’s why all actors in Albania need to continue guaranteeing the necessary political conditions for the reform to unfold smoothly. There is no ground for putting in question the fundamentals of the reform process, however difficult and, yes, at times challenging it may be.

Clear and concrete achievements in the implementation of the justice reform must continue now with more determination and commitment than ever. These are decisive times for advancing the European aspirations of Albania and its citizens. The EU is firmly committed to support this process so that the people of Albania can benefit from the reform and take pride in its achievements, as the country advances on its European integration path.

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