- Published: June 1, 2018
Team leader: Dr. Agnes Bernhard
Responsible at the IRZ: Nathalie Herbeck, Anastasia Schmieder
Since autumn 2014, the EU funded project “Consolidation of the Justice System in Albania” (EURALIUS IV/EURALIUS IV – 2017) has been implemented under the leadership of the IRZ. Consortium partners are the “Center for International Legal Cooperation” (CILC/the Netherlands), and the “Agency for Economic Cooperation and Development” (aed/Austria). 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.
The aim of the project, which is to finish at the end of February 2018, is to support the current judicial reform and its implementation in Albania. After the contract was amended, the project volume now amounts to around EUR 5.6 million. The budget increase was initiated by the contracting party, the Delegation of the EU to Albania, to facilitate more in-depth support for the reforms through a larger team of advisors on site in Tirana since early 2017. Currently, more than 20 international and national fulltime legal experts, including the project management team, are involved in supporting the reform efforts. As in all EU projects, the work on site is accompanied by short-term experts.
According to the project contract, the beneficiary institutions comprise the Ministry of Justice, the Parliament, the High Council of Justice, the Supreme Court, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the School of Magistrates and the Bar Association and the Chamber of Notaries. The new legal institutions, established after the constitutional amendment was passed in the summer of 2016, will join in successively.
The EU has maintained relations with Albania since 1992. In 2008, the EU and Albania signed the financing agreement for the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA – IPA II since 2015). In the current EU budget, the IPA II programme for Albania for the period 2014 to 2020 has a total financial volume of around EUR 650 million. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Albania entered into force in April 2009. In June 2014, the EU granted Albania candidate status in recognition of reforms that had been initiated. In view of the accession, the EU is calling for a reform of the judiciary, among others, which the IRZ has contributed to considerably as part of the EURALIUS IV project since the autumn of 2014.
The main objectives of the reform are to fight corruption more effectively and to increase the independence and efficiency of the judiciary. The reform efforts include seven pillars of reform: the Constitution, general jurisdiction, criminal jurisdiction, legal training, the independent legal professions, the fight against corruption and finance.
In the first phase of the reform, the EURALIUS IV project team prepared an analysis of the current situation of the judicial system. Based on this, a strategy paper was developed including an action plan aimed at addressing the deficits identified in the analysis. Shortly after the start of the EURALIUS IV project, the Albanian Parliament set up a judicial reform commission with long-term project experts represented in working groups on various legislation projects.
From autumn 2015, the expert groups and Parliament worked on a comprehensive package of around 40 statutes including the constitutional amendment. The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe was involved in the constitutional amendments and the drafting of the law on screening the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Vetting Law, see also above under “Legal Policy Starting Point”).
The draft legislation for constitutional amendments of all the justice chapters, which EURALIUS IV contributed to over many months and was assessed by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, was passed unanimously by the Albanian Parliament on 22 July 2016. The new Constitution paved the way for a profound and comprehensive judicial reform, initiating a restructuring of the whole court and judicial system.
The constitutional amendments largely relate to the Constitutional Court, the courts and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Between August 2016 and mid-April 2017, the Albanian Parliament passed several legislative packages, including the so-called Vetting Law, the law on the organisation of the Constitutional Court, the status act for the judiciary and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the law on the organisation of the court system and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Civil Procedural Law, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Criminal Code, as well as a Code of Administrative Court Procedure. Other changes include the reorganisation of the Ministry of Justice, the areas of criminal justice and the fight against corruption.
The reform package passed thus far is a milestone for Albania in the direction of EU accession and has advanced reform efforts considerably.
The follow-up project EURALIUS V, which is due to start in 2018, was promoted by the IRZ as the leader in the autumn of 2017. Early 2018 IRZ has been awarded the contract. The IRZ will be involved substantially in the implementation of the judicial reform with an enlarged team of experts for another three years.
In future, the main focus will be on implementing the reform, whereby monitoring the establishment of new judicial institutions and measures to develop capacities for existing and new institutions will be of central importance.