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Albania - annual report 2017

Published: June 1, 2018
Presentation of the Handbook on lodging Constitutional Complaints in Tirana:  Dr. Arta Vorpsi, legal consultant at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania; Professor Dr. Jan Bergmann, President of a senate at the Higher Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg; Dr. Vitore Tusha, judge at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania; Frank Hupfeld, IRZ (from left to right)
Presentation of the Handbook on lodging Constitutional Complaints in Tirana: Dr. Arta Vorpsi, legal consultant at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania; Professor Dr. Jan Bergmann, President of a senate at the Higher Administrative Court of Baden-Württemberg; Dr. Vitore Tusha, judge at the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Albania; Frank Hupfeld, IRZ (from left to right)

Legal Policy Situation

In June 2017, parliamentary elections were held in Albania. Prime Minister Edi Rama, who had been in office since September 2013, was reappointed. The elections were preceded by a political crisis lasting several months. The opposing PD party (Democratic Party of Albania) and their supporters occupied an area in central Tirana for several months to express their discontent at Rama’s politics and to force the government to resign prematurely. Reasons for the protests included parts of the planned judicial reform, an EU precondition for starting accession negotiations with Albania, which was granted official EU-candidate status in 2014. Approved by passing the amended law for the constitutional amendment of Albania in summer 2016, the Albanian judicial reform strategy covers almost all of the judiciary. However, the focus is on the so-called screening of judges and prosecutors. The newly adopted Vetting Law (reliability screening) is intended to establish the personal suitability and income situation of the judicial officers and whether or not they have connections with organised crime. This is an important aspect of the government’s plan to strengthen the confidence of the population in the government and the judicial system, which has been damaged amongst other things by widespread corruption.

Overall Concept

The IRZ has been advising Albania on reforming and consolidating the rule of law since 2000 and has conducted events in this context in the fields of the organisation of the judiciary, legislation as well as basic and further training for lawyers. This took place both in direct cooperation with institutions such as the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the School of Magistrates and within the framework of EU-funded projects. Often, specific areas that could not be covered by the EU projects were picked up or developed further by the bilateral cooperation. In the past, the IRZ has been part of the EU judicial reform projects EURALIUS I and EURALIUS II and took the lead in implementing the follow-up project EURALIUS IV (see also under EU projects) since September 2014.

In recent years, the main focus of the IRZ’s cooperation with Albania was on administrative jurisdiction, which was introduced in Albania in 2013. Another component of in-depth consultation by the IRZ is the constitutional complaint, which was newly introduced in 2017. A handbook on the constitutional complaint was developed in German-Albanian co-authorship in 2017. It provides a practical overview of how the constitutional complaint is classified legally as well as concrete schemes for examining the same. In the future, it is intended to serve as a reference book for the current judiciary, the Bar and future colleagues in their day-to-day practice.

Foci of Activity 2017

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

Administration of Justice

Public Law

European Union Funded Project

EU Grant Project: Consolidation of the Justice System in Albania (EURALIUS IV/EURALIUS IV – 2017)

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.

Outlook

The IRZ will continue its cooperation with the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the School of Magistrates in Albania in 2018. Especially with regard to the newly introduced constitutional complaint, further on-site training events are planned. The penal system could form a new field of activity in 2018.

Furthermore, the IRZ will implement the IRZ-led EU project “Consolidation of the Justice System in Albania – EURALIUS V”, which will run for at least 36 months.