- Published: June 1, 2017
Team leader: Dr. Agnes Bernhard
Responsible at the IRZ: Nathalie Herbeck, Flé Touré
This project has been implemented since September 2014 under the leadership of the IRZ. The junior partners in EURALIUS IV are the „Center for International Legal Cooperation” (CILC) from the Netherlands, as well as the „Agency for Economic Cooperation and Development” (aed) from Austria. The project volume amounts to around EUR 4 million and the initial duration of the project totals 40 months until December 2017.
The seventeen-member project team constitutes international and Albanian lawyers working together. According to the project contract, the beneficiary institutions are:
- the parliamentary „ Ad Hoc Committee” tasked with the implementation of judicial reform
- the Ministry of Justice
- the High Council of Justice
- the Supreme Court
- the Public Prosecutor’s Office
- the School of Magistrates
- the Bar Association and the Chamber of Notaries
The project continues the work of the three previous projects, in which the IRZ was involved as a junior partner in Phases I and II.
Since the European Council granted Albania the status of an EU accession candidate in June 2014, both the EU and US Department of Justice, represented in Tirana by the US Embassy, have significantly advanced the judicial reform together with the Albanian partners. The EURALIUS project experts have been involved in this reform process as closely as possible in the relevant parliamentary committees from the outset.
An important precondition for the implementation of the judicial reform was fulfilled this summer: The draft legislation for constitutional amendments to all the justice chapters, which was prepared by project experts over many months and was assessed by the Venice- Commission of the Council of Europe, was passed unanimously by the Albanian Parliament. This was preceded by months of political discussions about the constitutional amendments. Prior to its submission to parliament, EURALIUS IV cooperated intensely with the parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee and its working groups in the preparatory phase. The Ad Hoc Committee was entrusted with the creation of the statutory preconditions for the judicial reform and was specially created for this shortly after the start of the project in winter 2014.
The constitutional amendments relate to the organisation of the judiciary and its processes, and thereby create the precondition for drastic restructuring and new organisation within the justice system. Around 40 further statutes, in which the project also cooperated on a large scale, still have to be passed by parliament to achieve this. This is a continuous process and will be pursued further in 2017.
In view of the progress made with the judicial reform, the IRZ consortium will more than double the size of the team of experts on site from 2017 onwards at the request of the EU Tirana Delegation, with which the IRZ concluded the contract for this project. The aim of this significant increase in capacity is to manage the implementation of the judicial reform even more intensively than in the past. In this context, the main substantive focus will above all concentrate on monitoring the establishment of new judicial institutions and measures to establish capacity for existing and new institutions. In addition, the project will also continue to provide intensive legislative advice, as in the past.
A further milestone on Albania’s path to the EU is the recommendation of the EU Commission, made in November, to commence accession negotiations with Albania under certain circumstances.
In addition to the focus on the implementation of reforms, the project has already achieved a large proportion of the aims provided for in the components listed below. The individual components are as follows:
Judicial Reform and Organisation of the Ministry of Justice
The main objective of this component is to support the Albanian public authorities in implementing the judicial reform strategy. Here, the priorities are the independence, transparency and efficiency of the judiciary, as well as harmonisation with the EU’s acquis communautaire. The judicial reform was passed in the autumn.
High Council of Justice and Supreme Court
The activities of this component aim, firstly, to support the High Judicial Council in its efforts to ensure that the decisions with regard to the status, selection and nomination of judges are based on objective, transparent criteria in conformity with EU standards. Furthermore, the independence, transparency and effectiveness of the Supreme Court are intended to be strengthened. In this way, it is intended to ensure that the constitutional functions as a controlling institution in relation to lower instance courts are safeguarded along with uniformity of jurisdiction.
Criminal Justice System and Public Prosecutor’s Office
This component aims to reform and harmonise the statutory foundations in criminal law as well as the international cooperation in criminal matters, to bring them into conformity with EU legislation and to harmonise them. In addition, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is to be advised with regard to professional issues, and the internal organisations developed further.
This component focuses, firstly, on reducing the duration of proceedings and backlogs, and, secondly, on strengthening the staffing and court administration, as well as on developing the courts to become service providers. Particular attention is paid here to case management and the nationwide electronic data and file administration of the courts.
Independent Legal Professions and the School of Magistrates
In this component, the intention is to advise the Bar Association and the Chamber of Notaries in the sphere of disciplinary procedure, on a code of ethics and with regard to training for lawyers and notaries. Furthermore, the so-called State Commission for Legal Aid as well as civil society organisations providing legal aid are also to receive advice with regard to legal aid. The School of Magistrates will benefit from the project through the further development of training activities for judges and public prosecutors.
The judiciary in Albania is strongly political and it also remains to be seen in the light of the parliamentary elections which take place in 2017 how the implementation of the judicial reform will progress. The IRZ consortium will continue to make an extensive contribution to the implementation of reforms locally with a team that has been doubled in size.